The Prompt: Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?
The question was intriguing. I took up the challenge. I don’t usually bother with daily prompts (this is the first time). I publish too much stuff already and more seems a bit of overkill. Still, this one caught my attention and I wondered what my search would unearth.
My desk yielded nothing useful. The first purse was equally coin-free. Finally, at the bottom of my bag, a quarter emerged.
It took 10 minutes to read the date on it. It turns out my eyes no long feel inclined to interpret tiny numbers. The coin — a shiny quarter — celebrates a glacier. It says glacier on it, so I know that much. Which glacier? I felt lucky to decipher the date. Anything more would be pressing my luck. My strained eyes draw a line in the sand at extracting any more information. I wondered where my magnifying glass had gone. It used to be on top of the desk … maybe it’s buried under several pounds of paper. Time may bring it to the surface. Or not.
A digression: I grew up in Queens, New York. One of the two or three major east-west arteries in the borough is Hillside Avenue. Even when I was growing up, it was a very busy road, full of cars, trucks and buses. I crossed twice every day, on my way to school and back again. I was hit by a small truck the corner of Hillside and 191st Street when I was 15. We didn’t have cell phones, so I had to beg the grumpy shopkeeper to let me call home so I wouldn’t have to limp up the long hill. I was obviously not going to die, but I was banged up. The driver had stayed around long enough to see me get up off the ground. I wasn’t dead, so he took off. Basic hit and run.
When my father got there, he wanted to know if I’d gotten the license plate number. I said no, I was lying on the ground, not a good angle. Dad was seriously pissed off that I didn’t get the number because, he said, I could have gone to college on the proceeds of a lawsuit. He never asked me how I felt or if I wanted to see a doctor. My mother — who never went to doctor for any reason at all — deduced that I hadn’t broken anything. Good enough, I guess. I limped off to take a bath, vaguely feeling there was something wrong with this picture.
That was in 1962. I was still in High School.
Glacier factoid: Hillside Avenue is where the foreward movement of the glacier that covered the region during the last ice age stopped. Was it a red light? Hillside Avenue, with its shops, bus stops and endless traffic was also, it would seem, a significant geological and archeological marker. Whenever something is being built along the road, the archeologists and other scientific hunters get to explore it first. They’ve found all kinds of artifact, bones of extinct ice age animals, other stuff. I haven’t heard about any mammoths, but I might have missed it. Just a quarter-mile from home. Weird.
2011: I wasn’t doing much. I’d had cancer the previous year. 2011 was a recovery year. I had a slough of despond from which to emerge and a lot of physical issues to deal with. I also had to come to grips with a significantly changed body. I took a lot of photographs that year and read a lot of books. That pretty much sums up that year. I only remember the pictures because it was a colorful autumn and I have pictures, some of my best foliage shots.
Summing up 2011: If I were going to give the year a title, I’d call it the year I didn’t die. That’ll do.
Glacial Moraine in Jamaica, Queens
Long Island and Staten Island are products of the last Ice Age when a continental glacier moved south bringing massive amounts of debris from New England. When the ice melted — at Hillside Avenue — the debris was left in huge piles. The hilly southern edge of the pile we call the terminal glacial moraine. Further south (below Hillside Avenue) the land becomes completely flat derived from smaller particles washed of the moraine. The plain was frequently flooded. Between these features, at the foot of the glacier, land is mostly flat but water is still channeled.
Streets like Hillside Avenue and Jamaica Avenue in Queens, and Hyland Blvd. in Staten Island became natural transportation corridors because the lay of the land made it natural.
My elementary school was on Jamaica Avenue. Mammoth bones anyone?