Archive | July, 2009

‘Dive In’

29 Jul

I usually keep my posts relatively on topic, sharing volunteer stories and whatnot, but I felt compelled to share some song lyrics from the latest Dave Matthews Band album, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King. I was at their second show last week at Jones Beach, and hearing the song ‘Dive In’ live, at an open-air ampitheatre that sits in on the water, drove the lyrics home and so, I’m sharing them with you now. There’s never one explanation for a song, so you take what you want from it; for me, I see it as incredibly ironic, touching on people’s sense of naivety. All of these things are going on in the world- hunger, global warming- and a lot of people are existing peacefully under the assumption that someone else addressing these issues, so they don’t have to worry. The future will work itself out. Enjoy the endless summer and rising waters, everything is being taken care of by those qualified to take care of it all… I like to think that part of this website is addressing the fact that people should help where they can, if they want to see a change in the world around them. Or at the very least, acknowledge that the world isn’t perfect, and certain things that need repair can’t be fixed solely by the government and its money…and in some cases, the damage done is irreparable.

If you haven’t picked up the album yet, you should. It’s one of their best studio albums (in my opinion)… You can listen to the song ‘Dive In’ here on YouTube.


I saw a man on the side of the road
with a sign that read ‘will work for food’
Tried to look busy, ’til the light turned green

I saw a bear on TV and his friends were all drowning
cause their homes were turning to water

A strange, kinda sad, big old bear
surely would happily eat me
he’d tear me to pieces that bear

Wake up sleepy head
I think the suns a little brighter today
Smile and watch the icicles melt away and see the water rising…
Summers here to stay, and all those summer games will last forever
Go down to the shore, kick off your shoes, dive in the empty ocean.

Tell me everything will be OK if I just stay on my knees and keep praying
believing in something
Tell me everything is all taken care of by those qualified to take care of it all.

Wake up sleepy head
I think the suns a little brighter today
Smile and watch the icicles melt away and see the waters rising
Summers here to stay, and that sweet summer breeze will blow forever
Go down to the shore, kick off your shoes, dive in the empty ocean

One day, do you think we’ll wake up in a world on it’s way to getting better?
and if so can you tell me

I have been thinking that lately the blood is increasing
the tourniquets not keeping hold in spite of our twisting
though we would like to believe we are
we are not in control
though we would love to believe


Wake up sleepy head
I think the suns a little brighter today
Smile and watch the icicles melt away and see the water rising…
Summers here to stay, and those sweet summer girls will dance forever
Go down to the shore, kick off your shoes, dive in the empty ocean.


Breakfast at St. John the Divine

20 Jul

What: Serving breakfast to homeless and hungry

Where: St. John the Divine, Morningside Heights, through New York Cares

When: Sunday, 9-11am

I had never been to St. John the Divine before this Sunday, and was shocked when I arrived at the address and saw an enormous, beautifully ornate cathedral in the middle of Morningside Heights. I arrived right on time, and the kitchen was already bustling with volunteers and church staff, so be prepared to dive right in (after washing your hands and putting on an apron, hairnet and gloves, of course). Some people were doling out bowls of fruit cocktail, others were cutting bread. My task was to pour cans of orange juice into a big jug, ice it down, and then fill up cups. Obviously this wasn’t brain surgery; it was, however, the perfect job for an early Sunday morning after a very late Saturday night. While some people were finishing the breakfast preparations, others were  starting on lunch, which is served at 12:30pm, and making take-away brown bag meals for later.

While filling up the juice, a regular volunteer gave me a few tips about the people who come for breakfast; some of them are HIV positive, others may be sick with a flu. It’s important to remember to keep everything covered; after filling a tray of juice cups, I had to stack another tray of juice on top. This way, if someone sneezes or coughs into the juice, at least the entire supply isnt contaminated, just one tray. If you’re given the job of serving the bread, feel around with your hand before breakfast starts to see which breads are soft; some people can’t chew hard or crusty breads because they have no teeth, or what’s left of them aren’t in great shape. Also, know which bread has raisins: it’s a hot ticket item. Unfortunately, a lot of them have illnesses that go untreated, because they don’t have access to healthcare or money for a medication they may need. This particular morning, a man fainted while we were getting ready to serve. They gave him some juice and a cold compress until the ambulance arrived; a lot of people said that he probably had diabetes but didn’t know, and had a drop in blood sugar that caused him to faint. Maybe he was just hungry, or the heat got to him. I’ll probably never know.

As breakfast starts, tables are called up to the buffet line one at a time and everyone is served before anyone is called up for seconds. This morning the menu consisted of scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, assorted breads and bagels with jam and butter, hot oatmeal, and fruit cocktail. Not too shabby. It made me want to reconsider my own breakfast choices, which usually consists of Cheerios or a buttered roll from the coffee guy on the corner. After everyone is done eating, you’ll help break down the buffet stations and clean some dishes. A Sunday morning well spent, and I was in Sheep’s Meadow with my copy of New York Magazine before noon. Other things to know:

-Try to arrive a little early, before things start to get hectic. Wear sneakers-you’ll be in a kitchen.

-St. John the Divine has a rich history dating back to the nineteenth century, and has been host to many important services and performances, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Duke Ellington to the Big Apple Circus. You may want to take a peak inside the church itself after you’re done volunteering; it’s pretty spectacular. I posted some not-so-good iPhone pictures below.

– My New York Cares team leader, Debbie, was really accomodating and allowed me to sign in for a volunteer day that was already full online. She, along with the entire staff and fellow volunteers, are extremely helpful and friendly, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.

-Your patrons may ask for more than they are supposed to get,or try to barter more of their favorites onto their plate (ie-“How about instead of eggs, I get 6 sausages instead of 2?”). This isn’t allowed, as there is a certain amount of food that is supposed to feed everyone. Kindly tell them no. And Don’t Feel Bad; everyone who is there knows the rules.

-Hungry? A Seinfeld fan? Head over to 112th and Broadway (the cathedral is on 111th and Amsterdam), and check out Tom’s Restaurant, the iconic diner from Seinfeld. The sign is the same, but the inside has undergone major remodeling since the show. But don’t get too excited-it’s just a diner, not Le Bernardin.

Dog Walking with BARC Shelter

4 Jul

What: Walking dogs

Where: Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC), Williamsburg, through New York Cares

When: Thursday, 6-8pm

So, rule number one in volunteering to walk dogs: Try to avoid torrential downpours. I may have picked the worst day, in the worst 2 weeks of New York weather, to volunteer; however, rain or shine, the dogs need to be walked, so I’m glad I went. When you arrive at BARC in Williamsburg, you’ll be asked to sign in and fill out a waiver form (this only needs to be done your first time there). Once your New York Cares team leader arrives, you’ll split up into pairs and dogs will be brought out one by one. If the small dogs need to be walked, you and your partner will each be given a pooch. However, this shelter is known for having large breed dogs, so its likely that you’ll get a big dog to walk. It is for safety reasons that you’re paired up, in case the dog gets excited and you’re unable to control it; the hope is that between the two of you, there won’t be a problem. I walked a small poodle mix, Sasha, while my partner walked the cutest Jack Russell I’ve ever seen. After that, we were given a large labrador mixed breed named Al, who was the unfortunate dog that got caught in the downpour with us halfway through our walk. He didn’t seem to mind, nor did I, since I picked up a sweet, bright yellow poncho at Jack’s Dollar store on my way to the shelter. Other things to know:

-Dog Walking activities fill up fast on the New York Cares website. Lucky for you, BARC makes it really easy to volunteer directly with them, whenever you want, provided you’re 21 years old and it’s during their walking hours (9am-12pm, 5pm-8pm). Just walk in to the BARC Store (BQE Pet Supply), fill out a waiver and sign in. Check out their website for more information.

– Not a dog person? Not a problem. BARC also houses lots of cats that need to be petted, brushed, and socialized. You can come Tuesday-Saturday, between 12 and 5pm

-This is a great activity for those who can’t seem to find the motivation to get out of Manhattan and into Brooklyn. Williamsburg is a great area full of funky shops and awesome food. You can walk a dog while you check out the neighborhood. It’s a win/win..

-While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Williamsburg Waterfront; you’ll get a great view of the Manhattan skyline, and you can scope out a spot for one of eight consecutive (and FREE) concerts that will happen summer, starting July 12th, right there on the river. Click here for more details from

-For more dog walking tips, check out my previous post about volunteering at Animal Care and Control.

It's raining cats and dogs...