“Mama Flan, Mama Flan, free samples!”

mama flan

Along with my most recent walk in Fort Tryon Park, today’s errand-running on Dyckman Street may become a favorite memory of the neighborhood. I was heading home, crossing Dyckman at Sherman, when I heard voices calling “Mama Flan, Mama Flan, free samples!” At first I didn’t believe my ears, since flan is one of my favorite desserts. I don’t think I’ve ever been offered a free flan sample out on the street before. But when I turned my head, I saw two young men sitting behind what looked like a flan stand. I walked up to them, and yes indeed, they were giving away free samples. One taste (or even the preceding hunch), and I knew that wouldn’t be enough, so I got a small flan, pictured above, to be savored and finished within the next two days.

This is the first time that I heard that sweet singsong here in Inwood/Washington Heights, the melody of people selling food and other goods outdoors, usually at a market, but sometimes just out on the street. It brings back memories I’m not sure I have–but sometimes those are the best because of their dreaminess. Whether or not the memories are of real things (and they may well be), the flan is real and delicious, and I may go back for more, if there’s time before I leave the country.

After turning the bend, I took a photo of Arden Street (my street for ten more days, but really six, since I’ll be at the ALSCW Conference for four of them). Fort Tryon Park is ahead, my building to the left, and Sherman Street behind. A little girl was skipping down the sidewalk, but she’s out of sight by now.

arden street

 

Kayaking Down the Street

kayaking

That’s an ambiguous title—”Kayaking Down the Street.” It could mean kayaking on the street, in the downward direction, during a flood, for instance. That’s not what I meant. I meant, instead, that right down the street from me there is kayaking. I took a stroll this morning to the Inwood Canoe Club, got in a kayak, and paddled off. Here’s a photo I took of the group that went just before me. My group went fairly close to the George Washington Bridge; we turned around when we reached a little stone peninsula.

Now, I don’t typically use the blog to talk about what I did this morning. But this morning’s kayaking merits an exception. To my knowledge, I have never lived in a place where I could walk a few blocks, step into a boat, and paddle off.

Also, it isn’t something I associate with Manhattan. Granted, there are paddle boats in Central Park, but that’s a different order of things. There, if you paddle a little ways in any direction, you’ll reach a shore. Not so with the Hudson, the waterway of regal barges. The Hudson tastes mildly of salt; freshwater and saltwater come together in its tidal estuary. The paddling is long and serene (with a wake now and then). The river stretches out of sight; the cliffs rise up on either side.

Also, one would imagine this as a tourist attraction with a high fee. No such goings-on here; the open house kayak  tours are free (with voluntary donations), and they draw people from nearby. Some come upon the place by accident and find themselves paddling a few minutes later.

I hope to do this many more times. It is one more semi-secret beauty of my neighborhood and the city. I am still amazed at the simplicity of it all, the ease of going out on the water.

  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

  • Always Different

  • Pilinszky Event (3/20/2022)

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     

    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

  • INTERVIEWS AND TALKS

    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.
     

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.

  • ABOUT THIS BLOG

    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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