Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bow Bridge, Two Ways

There are three spots that I like for photographing Bow Bridge in Central Park.  I hit two of them up last Saturday...

Bow Bridge, Central Park by Nancy Lundebjerg on

Bow Bridge, Central Park (2) by Nancy Lundebjerg on

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cleaning (as if someone else might have to)

These Shoes were made for Walking by Nancy Lundebjerg on

It started with the shoes in the corner of the bedroom, continued through three closets, two dressers, and the desk in my office at work, a huge chest in my living room, a small filing cabinet, and the front hall closet. Next stop is the storage room that I haven’t visited in at least 5 years. Some might call this spring cleaning but for me it’s more episodic and usually sparked by something like being annoyed enough by the pile of shoes in the corner to find them a home.

As always happens during one of these all too rare bouts of purging, I think about the family cleaning events as parents, aunts, and grandparents moved on and it’s not like I’m alone in that regard. I was having dinner with a few friends last week and we were swapping our caregiver cleaning stories. I found that my late father’s desire to hold on to his power tools was matched by my friend’s father’s desire to bring them all with him to his new assisted living facility. She showed us pictures of his work room and I must admit that my brother’s task was a wee bit easier given the smaller workroom that he was dealing with. Even though the space was not large, I somehow ended up with a drill in my apartment (never used) and two to donate with my father getting to keep one. I also have his hammer and a ruler. The hammer is spattered with paint and the head may be a little loose but I think of my Dad every time I use it and could not imagine purchasing a shiny new one. The ruler is an artifact in my curio cabinet – along with the rotary phone from my parent’s bedroom. Items with no current purpose that make me smile.

Manhattan Bridge by Nancy Lundebjerg on

Moving my aunt out of her apartment was easier if no less daunting. I (her legal guardian because of geography) had reached the point where I couldn’t maintain her at home given her advanced dementia and so I undertook the hunt for a quality nursing home that she could afford and that would take her (yes, I just said “would take her”, it’s a thing). Having found one, there was the task of cleaning out her apartment. My sister, niece, and I found that she had a closet filled with lightbulbs ordered from some charity that obviously had figured out that the person on the other end of the phone was good for a dozen lightbulbs every month or so (beware the telemarketer and your older loved one). There were bricks in that closet – from where and for what we still do not know. She also had a cedar chest (made by my grandfather) filled with old ConEd bills. That chest was the mother lode for all the bills that had populated the box and suitcase that followed her around the apartment in my early days as her caregiver that were filled with new AND old bills.

My earliest days as a temporary solution dispatched by my mother started with the checkbook – specifically, helping to get the bills paid. I would sit down and sort through her papers looking for the ones needing to be paid. We would talk about why she had old bills and every time she would tell the story of an epic battle with ConEd that she won because she saved her bills. I would quietly slip some of the old bills into my bag in the hopes of reducing the paper mountain. I never made a dent because of that cedar chest and its bottomless capacity when it came to replenishing a suitcase and box with old ConEd bills.

Mostly, there was stuff that my Aunt no longer needed. These were the signposts of a life well lived. The deed to her house on Fire Island – lovingly built and long since sold, formal wear and purses from her life as a casualty insurance broker (family lore has it that she was the first woman VP at her firm), artwork and mementos, and photos. To put the meaning of this day a bit more bluntly, we pulled apart the threads of her life. We made decisions that she was not able to make – donate, throw away, some family member will want this. No arguments because it was not our stuff nor was it our childhood memories or the fabric of our parents lives and she was already moved to her next abode. On that day, it was just an apartment to be cleaned and readied for the next tenant.

Sam Jones BBQ - Smoking up the Big Apple by Nancy Lundebjerg on

Back to my own story, the last place I hit (so far!) – the front hall closet – brought me full circle to the over a decade that I spent as my aunt’s caregiver. There was her life – stowed neatly in a box and in a bag. At least it was her life as lived through my caregiving experience. Multiple copies of the guardianship paperwork, a binder filled with the application for Medicaid, a set of files on the nursing home application, another set of files on the nursing home search, and her advanced directive. There were taxes and bank records and small boxes dating back to 1993 filled with canceled checks.

After a long Sunday afternoon with a small shredder, my life as her caregiver was reduced to four tall kitchen garbage bags stuffed with confetti, a carefully saved original death certificate, and the memories of me being her caregiver as opposed to her being my Aunt. And a heightened awareness of the question I had been mentally asking myself as I considered whether to keep, donate, or toss my own flotsam and jetsam while tearing through the nooks and crannies of my own life.

That question? If I were dead, demented, or physically incapacitated, would I want someone else to have to deal with this? It’s a tough but powerful question.

Frankly, I’m a bit worried that it’s caused me to be so ruthless about tossing that, at some later date, I will find out that I need something. Of course, I am still living in my apartment and so it’s still filled with art, mementos, kitchenware, furniture, and assorted household supplies. There are the cameras and a series of old laptops because I always seem to miss safe disposal day in Manhattan. There’s the stuff of my childhood including a ticket book from my first ever trip to Disney World ($6 in 1973!). The way I look at it, this letting go of stuff is an iterative process and so I’ll keep looking at things through the lens of would you want someone else to have to deal with it?

As for that pile of shoes that started it all? All the pairs now have a home and there was even room to add new red sneakers to the mix which are already becoming my go summer go to weekend shoes.

A post shared by Nancy Lundebjerg (@nlundebjerg) on

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cuban Cars

The Blue Car (reprise) by Nancy Lundebjerg on

Much has been written about the cars of Cuba -- there are about 60,000 of them on the island (Cuba's Vintage Cars Won't Join Rum and Cigars in the United States).   That they still run -- and in a lot of cases are as shiny as they day they rolled off the lot -- is a testament to the mechanical prowess of the Cubans who keep them running.  Today's post is a homage to one of those cars -- not the shiniest of the lot but a feast for the eyes on an early morning walk along the streets of Havana.

The Blue Car by Nancy Lundebjerg on

The Blue Car (reprise #2) by Nancy Lundebjerg on

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Expedition: Roosevelt Row (Phoenix, Arizona)

Flowers by Nancy Lundebjerg on

El Mac + Kofie (a collaborative mural)

I have sorely neglected this blog in favor of other platforms (Instagram, 500px) which are more focused on the photography than on the writing.  And, of course, there is the siren call of the likes and the shout outs that those platforms offer.  Mind you, if I were a character in that first episode of Black Mirror, I'd would be on the bottom of the social media heap.

Yesterday, I went on my second street art expedition of the year -- the first was in Las Vegas (more to follow from that one) and this one was to Roosevelt Row (#RoRo) in Phoenix.  The streets were mostly deserted (in some cases, wholly deserted) and I think I was the oldest person out doing a downtown street art crawl.  I did run across an older couple in an alley but he seemed pretty uncomfortable with the whole thing.  And the herd of high school students with teachers was either at the end of their expedition or stuffed after their impromptu trip to the ice cream parlor.

I was reminded that unlike New York City (where mural are a thing in Little Italy, Tribeca, Soho, Bushwick, etc), not many people are out walking.  This can be a little disconcerting -- even in broad daylight for someone who is used to navigating crowded sidewalks. Perhaps this will change as the new apartments being constructed all around the arts district come on line.  One can only hope.

The genesis of all these murals seems to be Paint PHX -- an annual street art festival since 2014.  It's a grass roots affair that, at times, has drawn over 300 artists to paint the walls, houses (yes, houses) and sometimes alleys of Phoenix.  I barely touched the surface in this walk.

The piece above is a collaboration between the street artists El Mac (Miles MacGregor) and Kofie (Augustine Kofie).