Monday, November 23, 2009

Boston Cream Dream

A brisque, blustery Monday morning commute and New York seems too sleepy to notice itself. I’m on the very edge of myself, eyes open and making every street mine. For the first time in weeks, I notice my own breathing and I feel ready for the day, for the week, for the everyday task, for the…moment. I skipped my pre-planned, pre-packaged breakfast in favor of the donut cart. A donut cart that sits right outside my office – I normally walk by it every day with my head down, having consumed a very calculated, cost-efficient and healthy breakfast with the occasional exception of those really painful, come-to-soon mornings that happen sometimes. Always, when I do default to the cart, even when I order, I keep one earbud in to block out the noise of the world. The guys inside are always nice and smiling – and they always give me 25 cents off. But when I stop there it’s almost like some kind of mini failure representing my entire life and career- failure to plan, to watch what I eat, to resist un-meticulous impulses, to spend a limited amount on breakfast. Today, the wind is out on the town, kicking up skirts and driving up hair like a kid on a sugar high, and I feel right there with it… moving alongside instead of towards the long months of winter and work ahead represented by my sleek black office building. It, by the way, looks rather shiny and nice today. (If it were a person, I think I would tell it so.) I’m not waiting for my future today. Not today. I’m living in it. When people ask what I want to do, I say I want to help people. Its not really that simple…but then again it is. Today I don’t ask myself any questions, like other days. And I refuse to give answers. What are you doing with your life? What are you doing for the world? Why are you doing X, Y and not Z? Your hardest does not change the world, why are you not trying harder? No comment. Cuz I’m still writing the press release. Today, I take both my earbuds out. I say “how are you doing” and I mean it. I order a Boston Cream. They say smiling “we havent seen you in a while. Good to see you” (and I believe they mean it). $1 instead of $1.25 today. Big smile. “Have a great day”. Oh I will. Its no Mahatma Ghandi. Its no sustainability in Africa. Not today. Just one, small, happy exchange and a Boston Cream. But maybe on some microscopic, low-frequency wavelength – the world felt it. Maybe not. But I will say, this one hell of a Boston Cream.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

If you've never seriously considered therapy, then you just need more of it than the average person

Sometimes, you dont know that you're good at. Sometimes you dont think you can do what you know you can. Sometimes you think if everyone is lying to you, then you're the biggest liar of all. Sometimes you decide on exactly what you will say to every single person who supported you in the case that you might let them all down. Sometimes you feel confident that you might very well ruin everything you touch. Sometimes you get to work early and you actually care that absolutely no one will notice. Sometimes any lives you may have touched, any path you may have altered, don’t matter enough to stand judgment when you call them up one by one to the stand in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes you realize you may be singing a whole octave lower than the song you wrote yourself requires. Sometimes you notice you’ve let your parents problems right on in to your own life, welcoming them at the door with a plate of fruit and cheese and those little non-recyclable appetizer plates that could be single-handedly responsible for global warming. Could you be responsible for global warming? Or maybe just global boring. Is it you, your parents, society or your health insurance provider that expect you to be such a healthy, well-balanced yet wildly successful and shiny-bright human being? Some days, when you go to lock your apartment door behind you, making a mental note to buy Drano, and dig for your keys in a bag full of crumply receipts you haven’t yet logged in your checkbook, you definately know its not all about you. No one has to tell you that. If it was all about you, they would leave the subway doors open the extra 3 seconds so you could safely slip on the train, as opposed to jamming your right shoulder in the doors with unfettered determination not to let life leave you behind. And some mornings, a lot like this one, you get tired of shoving your way into your future in favor of standing alone on the platform, watching the overcrowded train pull away toward success, faces smushed up against the glass. And then its “This train is delayed because of train traffic ahead. Please…be patient.”

Sometimes you spend all your time waiting for always – which will be, well, never. So you’ll just have to leave a voicemail on your own machine and plan to pick it up tomorrow when you’ve had a better nights sleep.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How to make a Thursday from scratch.

I want to sleep through this day. Let the night come without me noticing. Let the bars open without me hearing. Let the year close over my head, the winter come under my feet, the future slip in my front door and remove the tea kettle from heat. I’m awake but not yet waking. The subway doors close, the train moves and I hang on, just barely, with two fingers.

When will I rise in steamy glory with each morning when it comes? When will I close my teeth on each moment as it passes in saying “Yes, yes, I’m sure of it.” When will I know more than I wish away? When will I keep my life clean, like an open house in a brand new neighborhood? When will I sponge away the worry to make room for grace? When will I vacate my own front row to make room for others? When will I know I've mattered? When will I like what I've written?

One more startover today, because Im starting over. One more day 1. And one of these weeks I’ll make it to day 4. Wont that be nice, Dear. Mine, a life of day 1's. Nothing clean, nothing paid down, nothing well-slept or fully-explained. I will continue to flow and never ebb, move close and never excuse myself, hold tight and never breathe, make messes but never sense. The way I love you now, you’ll never quite be able to remember in detail. The life I’ve cooked up like bacon in a hot greasy skillet wont ever be accurately described in the New Yorker. Sometimes I pull it behind me naked through Union Square and never say sorry, because I am usually not sorry. But today, I just want to sleep through it. One more startover. Starting tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

>>>>>>>

So you're running. Into the wind. On New York City's east side. In the pouring rain. Well after sunset.
Why you decided to go for a run on a wintry night in the ceaseless rain and a whipping widowy wind you cant remember now. Your shoes fill with icy rainwater as you pad through street puddles and the rain collects like ice cubes in the heels of your shoes. The wind blows your hood around behind you until it quickly grows heavy with rainwater. Theres no one on the street, no boats on the east river, only silhouettes in their cars racing the weather toward home. A muddy construction cone drowns in the middle of the sidewalk. You are 2 miles from your apartment with only black puddles in between. The river stalks you alongside the path, angry and irritated into dirty black peaks by the heavy rain and wind. The streetlights thin as the path pulls away from Alphabet city and dips underneath the skeletal unberbelly of the Williamsburg bridge. The park gates are chained. The public restrooms padlocked. The skyline blotted out. The street-size path flooded from side to side. The FDR highway throwing sheets of water over the fence on the path as speeding cars hit puddles in the road. And thats the only sound you can hear against the beating of the rain.
You've worn multiple layers. Water-resistent, weather-friendly, non-cotton polar layers made out of material that apparently costs $50 a yard. Every layer is backed up by another layer underneath it until you feel like a big rubber chewtoy instead of a night jogger. But tonight, the rain is too much for your careful wardrobe weatherproofing. Within 10 minutes every last layer is soaked to the skin - and that special-non cotton material retaining icy cold water like the titanic. Everything sags - wet, heavy and freezing -- all over your body, held damp against your warmest crevaces. When a solitary streetlight casts your long shadow in a puddle as you pass, you can see the steam that is rising from the back of your neck in the reflection. It rains harder. Harder until the driving water is pouncing with a splash off your chest and into your eyes. You run faster.
Somewhere near the third mile, you notice that the hot pumping of your muscles is creating a paper-thin envelope of warmth around you. This is how you are moving through the universe. How you are navigating the weather of your life. The freezing, hypothermic rain of failure and doubt completely surrounding you in spandex layers, stretched close accross your pounding heart, just waiting to get an icy bite into your bones. And you realize that its only you thats keeping you warm. The raw friction of your body burning toward a full-out sprint and laboring for oxygen thats keeping you from shivering. Your expensive layers that made you feel good enough about going out into a rainy night were never any help at all to keep it out. And once you realize this, there is only one thing to do. Just dont stop running.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Married with children: Sitcom or Epic Journey?

We went up to Poughkeepsie yesterday. The early morning train on a Sunday surprisingly full and the twinge of fall in the leaves just outside the city, turning more and more colorful as we got farther north. By the time the train pulled into Beacon, my trench coat and downtown accessories had become completely obsolete. After sleeping off the fuzz from the house party in Harlem the night before, I suddenly woke up in upstate new York – and Manhattan sounded more like another native-inspired train stop among the trees than the spitting city I lived in.

We had come to visit family, family he hadn’t seen in many many years. No one recognized the driveway at first, but we figured we were in the right spot based on the yard sale of children’s toys, plastic vehicles and cartoon reading material haphazardly decorating the entire space of the garage– apparently the garage was reserved for children’s parking— all adults must park outside in the driveway.

We let ourselves in and were immediately greeted by a warm, very full house, teeming with nearly 10 busy young children and their very friendly parents, potato chips in every room and walls stocked solid with family photos. Now this was a family who prioritized just that. Immediately after a few friendly introductions we were plopped down on a lengthy blue courderoy couch in a darkisk den with a heavy maroon carpet, laden with years of big and little feet, knees, snacks, playthings – the weight of many a lifetime, started and passed, day by day over its maroon fibers. A countdown to Christmas ticked over the mantle. After shaking hands with several of the sons-in-law, I took off my brand new navy blue trenchcoast and settled in next to them on the couch to watch the Bills game in florescent green light from the TV – not much need to get to know someone when you have football, I mean really.
The afternoon progressed as such – children crawling in and out, on laps and under chairs, being cooed and sometimes scolded, the adult conversation spoken in a tone half an octive underneath that which is used for the children so that all of us, big and small, know when we are being spoken to and what jokes are not intended for us. I ate half a bag of potato chips, not because I was that hungry but because they tasted so good eaten one at a time. If you eat potato chips fast they are too salty. Thus nothing like a Sunday afternoon to eat your potato chips slow.

Ultimately, we watched the Bills deliver their usual turnover in the last few minutes that led to their usual loss, followed by the usual heartbreak and banter between football fans. The sun was setting, the children were taking it up a notch taking turns crying, running, sharing and refusing to share with one another. If youre not used to kids you have to watch your step as they are almost always underfoot. Their worlds quite simple and never peaceful - remove an item they are interested in and they scream. Give it back to them they are quiet until they want something else and then they scream. Lesson - constantly look for alternative things they might be intersted in. They never really stop moving and when there are many of them, its like a relay race - one rests for a quarter second while playing with something and the others take their turn to run and laugh and tumble around the house. They are always the loudest when fighting over and item of mutual interest among them - apparently possessions and envy are two values that even the youngest of the human species can appreciate.
While the whole situation had me practically seeing spots and counting the seconds on the clock as it lorded over the afternoon, their parents remained relatively cheerful. They had learned to have pleasant conversations with each other that are frequently but not permanently interrupted by scolding or holding or shooing or beconing to or dressing or undressing a child – like doing a job interview while on another phone call, or shaving your legs and flossing your teeth at the same time, kind of thing. Parenting is clearly about patience, but also about negotiation, especially among more than three kids all with their own agenda– “everyone who is sitting in their seat at the table gets a juice box”. I truly think parenting might be the most admirable and noble career path, especially if you get a good ROI out of it in a few happy, healthy young adults if they grow up to be relatively normal and without any prominent social issues.

Eventually we made our way outside to the back yard, flanked by pleasant smelling smoke from the meat cooking on the enoumous BBQ. The sun was going down between the skinny yellowing trees and I heard nothing when I listened. We stood over by the covered pool, which was collecting dead leaves in a tiny puddle drooping in the center.
“Do you want a house like this?” He asked.

Ha do I want a house like this. I had to think about it. Do I want a life like this? Do I?
Part of me said yes – the trees, the smell of barbeque, the silence when you listen for it, being flanked by family who loves you above all others. The other part of me said, only if in this, I find more than a few pieces of myself. When you wake up in the morning and you hear nothing out the window, do you rummage among your dishes just to find some clatter to drown out the voice in your head? Or do you fall slowly back to sleep for 15 minutes, feeling the warmth of the person next to you knowing that you love that person more than every other person you have ever loved, and that really means something. The spouse and the children, do they fill your life with the racket you left behind when you left the city or do they give you a reason to live in the first place? Do they fill your life with doubt or with joy, or both?

Do you have to fight for each one of those big loves in your life in order to stay with it and know its price? Should I lose him first before I decide I just cant live with losing him? Should we meet with sickness, discomfort, all kinds of noise, messes, diapers and, heck, just the pure pain of childbirth in order to know how far we’d go to protect that little life we've helped create? Is it because we created it that we love it, or is it an inherent beauty of human living? Is that the magic of family – some if it you choose and some of it you don’t, but at the end of the day there is always football. What should I fight for, what should I wait for and what should I hope for when I picture myself in my future adulthood?

We boarded the train home in the dark. I tried to sleep but fitfully, clinging to his arm and wondering what time I would make it to sleep once we got home, what would I do when I grew up that I could be passionate about, and how much did he love me before returning to my previous ponderings of family, sacrifice and choices. As the orange lights of the Bronx and upper manhattan bounced off the black of the Hudson, all these questions would have to wait. I would fight hard for the loves that needed fighting for when they needed it – and I’d leave the rest for after my midlife crisis… a crisis that I had decided to push back (lovingly) by at least five years.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Aruba: The sand that burns your feet

Aruba. The spread of shockingly aqua bathwater out against an almost colorless sand. The ripple of palmtree shadows on the sand as they ruffle in the wind. A nearly clear powder blue sky, at long last allowed to be as big as it really is with only that iridescent, blue speckled sea holding it back from falling off the edge of the horizon. Yep. Aruba. This is some boondoggle.
Im in a rubbery blue lawnchair in a ridiculous-looking, big, white, old-lady sunhat (hey, it works) with my laptop propped in my lap, sand grinding in between the keys as I type. Swathes of shiny, speckly-red American bathers lounge in the shade all around me as the early-afternoon sun moves away from us and out over the sea. I am alone and aware of it. I don’t feel like falling asleep in the sun. I don’t feel like dipping my thighs luxiouriously into the clear shallows. I don’t feel like going back to the very corporate air conditioning of my hotel room to face the mess I made of my suitcase the night before. So I pick up the book I picked randomly off the shelf in Portland, the one I have been putting off reading on the assumption that it will be cryptic, overly academic and completely lacking in human mystery – yet extremely beneficial to my overall knowledge of the world. Therefore I will get to reading it when I have more time and brainpower to spend – which will probably be never. But somehow I feel stupidly better just by owning it, kept next to my Kant collection, along with whatever’s in my 401k and a one way ticket to the English countryside. However, in this instance, the steaming sun and the sunscreen bubbling on my legs bores me more. No company (my boyfriend is at the business conference that brought us here), no phone service and my ipods out of battery. I got time. Might as well go for it. Concluding that I will swap it out for another once it makes me heavy-eyed, I reapply sunscreen until my shoulders shine and reposition myself on the chair to optimize my tan lines, before opening the book as if I were opening a glossyTown and Country on a weekend excursion to the Hamptons – with only half, airy interest.

The book –“Africa Doesn’t Matter: How the West has failed the Poorest Continent and What we Can do about it” by Giles Bolton—turns out to be less boring than it is very simply direct in its message, one that crouches me over in my lawn chair to read better in a little slice of shadow. A message I immediately get: ‘why have you been waiting to so long to read this book? Because you were afraid to be reminded of what you know haunts the early mornings you have been sleeping through lately. What have you been doing for the world and what is your place in it?’
Fifteen minutes later I am doused in acute and almost painful awareness of the vast difference between where I currently sit in the world (on a beach chair at a tropical resort serenaded by chart-topping pop hits from the pool aerobics class somewhere behind me) and the places that I sit on (literally and figuratively), places that support my every move without any realization or graciousness on my part. The book addresses a few very big questions with the skepticism of an academic but without the pessimism of most academic theories. If so much of our taxes, charity dollars, 10k benefit races , foreign policies, public product awareness efforts and mental energy are going to the aid of the developing world, why are things not improving? If we cant possibly understand all the complex factors that contribute to third world crises (take your pick – HIV, malaria, national debt, famine, poverty and co.), then what can we understand? And why do we need to?
What is it that we give back to the developing world? Is it Bono, democratic dogma, P ditty posters, corporate responsibility (whatever that looks like) or foreign aid freckled like paintballs pointed in random directions by lobbyists, public sentiment and corporate agendas? Is it the tourism industry where we can enjoy foreign resources, accents and beaches without having to face any greater cost other than what we put on our Amex card? Aren’t our good intentions good enough? Can globalization be fair and still exist?

As they should, these questions lead to more questions - and I am sweating under my sunhat as I digest each crumb of knowledge (1 out of 5 African children will never reach the age of 5, hunger and simple malnutrition kill more people than all other diseases combined, and so on)– What about the first world has naturally pre-qualified us for a chance at a cleaner, longer, more resourceful life (Bronx-dwellers will tell you that even this is not gaurunteed, with or without social services and subsidized vaccinations). What would we as the first world have to give up if somehow we could extend economic and educational equity to the entire world? And would we give them up if we had the choice?

Some might ask (and many do), that confronted with the risks of foreign meddling, the innate complexity of international dynamics and the limitation of simplistic public awareness for the sake of optimism, who would be dumb enough to attack development? But with all that piercing human suffering, dedication, resilience, cruelty and livelihood all breaking through in every story you come across, how can you turn away? Once you know even just a paragraph beyond your basic CNN education of the mire of the international economics, policy and history that have created withering inequities and heartrending accounts of people just like you, only thumbtacked at birth somewhere else on the globe, why turn the page of your newspaper to keep your midnights from exploding with questions about where you sit in the pantheon of humanity and why. What would you do if someone switched those thumbtacks? Would you trade a whole week’s food of just one meal a day for you and your family to save up enough for a malaria mosquito net? If your life expectancy was thirty years and you spent most of it cleaning toilets or cutting salt in the heat, would you count your joys or your misfortunes, or would you just redefine your defition of joy? None of us made the world, but all of us live in it. Can I sit ankle deep in white sand and tell myself I owe nothing to the world and I cant change it enough to matter? What is it that I am so sorely missing, here sitting on a throne with a melting margarita in hand and letting that kind of logic keep me from looking down? Its not that I don’t have some sense of what I might see – its just that Im afraid knowing that once you look down, you might not ever be able to sit on that throne again without considerable discomfort. But is life better lived outside the palace doors?
It is a mistake to pity the developing world – intead, there is much to be admired, and supported at the same time. As that hot, raw humanity in every story keeps me in fiery pursuit of some kind of international work, what am I so afraid of discovering when I find it... and what is it that I’m so terrified I’ll be asked to give up? Perhaps it is not so much the rest of the world who needs my help, but me who is in desperate need of theirs. As I fold up my towel, I feel fairly certain that no amount of sleep will help this fever pass. Show me the road to riches and I’ll know which path isn’t mine. Africa or Bust.






Thursday, June 25, 2009

Business Trip

Midnight sunset over Chicago. The bigger the hotel room, the longer the walk to the bathroom to get water in the middle of the night, the lonelier the unworn bath robes in the closet make you feel. A hotel bar unvisited, its characters unrevealed, a hotel notepad unwritten on. A cocktail dress worn for (practically) nothing. A heart unexplored over a cab-view of the windy city. Like a stranded showgirl somewhere very far away from Vegas. I shut the curtains at 11:13 pm over downtown Chicago fronted by a flashing neon "Chicago" sign. If I had any sense of adventure I'd throw my heels back on and walk till I reached that sign. And inside I would find the stories that Im dying to write. Instead Ill use up the entire bottle of hotel shampoo and wait for my outlook to load. Then spend a little time worrying about the people that I love for various reasons before falling asleep with the lights on. Where's "home" when you need one.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chaos Casserole: Dreams with Holes that still Hold Water

Its almost my 25th birthday. Half of you are thinking "oh my god she is still a baby!". The other half are thinking, "damn we are getting old". I mean when did we get old enough for our car ensurance to drop? Who makes that executive decision that we are mature, old and responsible enough to do our own taxes instead of crashing our cars? Regardless, impeccably timed with this said birthday, I found my first broken vein in my leg, accompanied by a swath of quite unwelcome tiny spider veins on my previously unblemished thigh. This sent me into a frenzy of uncensored paranoia and overexaggerated despair. something, besides my brithday itself, reminding me that there were forces all around me moving me along in a direction I, excuse me, never agreed to go. And, it announced, it was taking my body with it, very much without asking. This realization, along with the lack of any ability to prevent this slow kidnapping of my youth, instantly unhindged me in the most unflattering way - I was beyond pacification, leaving a trail of feathers as I fluttered from person to person in my life asking them to somehow quell my panic while telling them at the same time that they couldnt possibly. This, as you can probably imagine, didnt go over so well, especially with those who had been rowing upstream against cancer all year. Most of them gave me a similar trying-not-to-look-annoyed look (this look can be also be effectively administered over the phone, by the way) and said.... "A vein." Ooooookay. "Yeah." says I. "With many many more to come, perhaps in torrents over the next few years!!!"
.....Was the answer. Somewhere deep down I know how silly it was. And how out of my control, either way. But somehow the symbolism of the find rose like the tide to my conciousness and suddlenly I was Paul Revere, riding like hell to deliver the bad news to myself as an unwelcome realization. "The denchers are coming! The vericose veins and the smile lines and the mortgages and the divorce lawyers and the viagra and the midlife crisis that never really resolve just become routine and your inevitable, undeniable end. They are all coming!" So I killed two birds with one stone and delivered the message to everyone I knew at the same time. And werent they just so grateful that I did!

A few days later, as I was picking up the feathers i had lost and sticking them back on, I thought, hey this is ok. Time to bite the bullet, accept the inevitable and make ammends. Everyone gets older, wiser, happier even if you do it the right way. And nobody does it completely gracefully. Except maybe budhist monks. (And damn they must have some spider veins something awful from all that sitting still.) Its the best I can do to keep taking care of myself the best I can and the rest will have to be just the buildup on the side of a good tub of yogurt. This was my thinking anyway. I could do this. I could make the best of this. I wouldnt make it out alive but I could still do my best to at least show up at the door of my 30s someday with clean underwear and all my sweaters color coded. With this new philosophy I felt almost redeemed and pacified for the most part. And ready to face the weekend with fresh energy. Seeing that almost everyone I knew was out of town, it was the perfect opportunity to regain control of what I could impact, eat well, cleanse my life's palette, buy a few small things I still needed for my apartment, improve my posture, save my money, give my hair an olive oil treatment and color code my sweaters. All that and just generally make the best of the great life I did have. Good plan! I was so excited about the prospect of bringing order, peace and overall health back into my life that went on a sideways bindge after-work mani pedi with my girlfriends and brought in two bottles of wine that ended at last at 3:30am in the morning.

I woke up this morning with no covers, light streaming in and contacts curled up in my eyes. There was a plastic bag I had evidently placed next to my bed in case I had to throw up (always thinking, even while not thinking...although i apparently stumbled all the way into the kitchen to get this instead of pulling over the trash can that was less than three feet away from my bed...but regardless). With the yard sale of clothing, underwear, jewelry and electronics around my bedroom I was shocked i was able to remove my clothing without ending up in it. I was one ipod holder down but somehow still in possession of my ipod. And, as I rove around wiht one blind arm for my blackberry (which is three inches from the charger cord but not plugged in...clearly i had made a good geographic effort anyway) I pick up a voicemail confirming my appointment with a hair dresser in the west village, "hairdresser to the stars" with a quote from britney spears and Calvin Klein on his brochure, for 3:30pm. Now THAT will be affordable, Im sure. My calls to cancel the appointment are fruitless into the afternoon. And no website seems to exist that give pricing. I dont even remember if the appointment I had so magnanimously taken the liberty of making for myself is for color or a trim. Right around then my alarm goes off at full blast (in hitting snooze I had accidentally turned up the volume ten decibels). It is 7:45 in the morning. My un color coded sweaters are pulled out like the pork innards from my closed in some desparate late night (or should I say early morning) hunt for something SO crucial I cant remember what it was. Now THIS is what I call graceful.

So, instead of cleaning up, I simply sat down on the fold of my already wrinkled rug hunched against the sharp edge of my bed, turned my alarm down but left it blaring, unburied my laptop from underneath the wet towel i let sit on it all night and started writing this blog, still enjoying last night's wine, as it has been sitting in my mouth all night.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. Yes, I do have one last thing I would like to say to you. As I enter into adulthood, wether I have been sitting on its doorstep for 5 years or already cleaning its floors but havent known it, here is the biggest thing I have learned. Never stop trying to plug the holes...but always know your floor will always be wet. Seriously. For what I percieve to be the most important lesson Ive learned in early adulthood, and from what I keep observing as true throughout all the possible birthdays, it sure seems both random and pointless. But in everything you do ... work for world peace, solve the economic crisis, save the Siberian tiger, selflessly raise your family while you do someone elses finances all day, enjoy photography when you are not waiting tables, earn your yellow belt in martial arts, look for "the one" online or in seedy bars, whatever it is that you DO and no matter how successful or unsuccessful you are at it...you will always be doing it as if you were aiming for a beer can half a mile away with a colt .45 after 5 rounds of Wild Turkey. I mean life is so totally haphazard. And we are never prepared enough or sure enough of ourselves for it. And that is, like, somehow so totally ok. Since the thing about life is that no one makes it out alive, might as well ring 'er in ungracefully.

But thats the plugging holes part - you cant STOP trying to create your perfect life, stop trying to fight the aging process or stop trying to save the world. Just like you cant just stop wearing sunscreen. You cant stop chasing your dream even if you eventually realize its not really your dream. Because everybody needs things to DO, waves in the world to make, people to love even if you loose them in the end, one way or another. No matter how far on or off the mark your everyday or lifelong efforts might be, the world still knows YOU were here. Its your tree-trunk initials on the soul of the world and on the sould of everyone around you. How about that for immortality. And sometimes, if you look in the right places and in just the right light, you get to see the fruits of what you DO. And thats what keeps you going on, doing what you do. For the other times, like when you end up facedown on an unswept floor on top of sweaters that are not color coded in a heap on a saturday morning that was intended for order, well sometimes our spider veins get the best of us. Keep on trying trying to plug the holes, knowing their will always BE holes. Big ones. Like this morning. Me? I want the world. I want Africa, I want China, I want Peru. I want to help people across the world see themselves in each other. Somehow. Sometime. Thats what I want to DO. And Im doing it, in small ways, the only way I know how, hoping for days when I can DO that even more. But in the meantime, you could say Im still living my dream. But who put all these damn holes in it? :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Writer's Blo..g? Excuses for having nothing to say

I keep meaning to write a blog post. I really would like to get regular about writing this thing. Time managing, and all. And...its not like I dont WANT to write it. Its just that... I dont know what it is. But every time I carve out time to write a post, (a really really insightful one this time), I just cant think of anything truly interesting to say. Anything truly interesting that takes less than five minutes to read, that is. And if you can only think of interesting things that take longer than five minutes, then they are no longer interesting. True? I think so anyway. I thought of ten different topics sitting here staring at a cursor on an empty screen - the search for meaning in everyday life. The resounding truth of inevitable imperfection. Career - a calling or a copout? Why being in love deserves to be taxed just like beer and cigarettes. Airports (just airports. enough said). How I really believe (really) that entrepreneurshialism has the power to save (and brave) the world at large. Skinny jeans - they dont make us look skinny. All of these topics and more presented themselves to me for the taking. And yet not one of them seemed worth translating, even into a measely blog. Whether they reeked of Conde Nast (can blogs come with scratch-n-sniff perfume samples? because some of mine probably should), bordered on cynicism that is just trying to be cool, sounded suspiciously sentimental, or lily-leaped all over self-reiteousness in snow-white ballet slippers, none of them were worth pursuing. No offense, skinny jeans. And so, after fifteen minutes of my slotted "artistic" time elapsed, I found myself barbarously scratching off the dead skin on my right shin leftover from my sunburn two weeks ago while slurping cold bedtime tea and asking myself how long I had to sit here until I would be allowed to break into the no-transfat cardboard cookies I bought for four dollars more than delicious oreos. It was then that I decided to throw in the towel and call it a wash. Its a BLOG, not a term paper on French philosophy. Or a United Nations proposal for 2009 socio-economic development programs in 23 developing countries. Or even a self-help book (paperback, even). Better luck next time.
Until then....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hurry up and Wait

This isnt the best time to start a blog post. Round 11 on a Tuesday night in the middle of a week that should have been over more than a week ago. I could use a spot of sleep. Maybe one full day in the sun with no money to spend and nothing to keep clean. But if I waited for the best time to do things, the only doing I would be doing would be waiting...and thats not doing, now is it.

They say we wait, what, 75% of our lives is it? And I ask, you, what is it that is so damn important? I mean what, world at large, are we waiting for? For that great new job, waiting for "the one", waiting for the wife who wont nag, the divorce that will never end, the rain to stop, the morning to come, the workout to be over, the next thing to break just so that you can pick up the pieces. Maybe, I mean just maybe, we spend so much time waiting that we miss whatever is in between.

You are laughing now. You didnt need to read a blog to know that! The buddhists even built an entire religion around it. Unwrap your little soul from around tomorrow and set it at the foot of today. No more waiting to spring once you get what you've been waiting for. Should you not get what you waited for (or what you didnt wait for), you'll probably spend the rest of your life seeking it. That fiery Spanish flame, that autobiographic novel, that nobel prize for the half of the world you saved, that love you never fought for. You'll go looking for it, wont you, for years to come. In dark musty bars and in plastic dentist chairs, in carpeted cubicles and pretty much everywhere but crosswalks... Because no one really looks for anything in the middle of crosswalks, have you noticed? They are really only looking to get the other side. Maybe thats what is so great about that Beatles poster.
(I was kissed in the middle of a crosswalk once. And it was, well. Very romantic. Like most moments though,I eventually had to end up on the other side before the light changed.)

Today one of my best friends in New York got a call from one of the biggest agencies in the world. On her cell phone. On a Tuesday. The creative director had seen her self-made portfolio randomly online and he thought it was just amazing. He said he was coming to New York this winter. He'd love to meet with her. Of course he would. When the world calls, you dont send it to voicemail. It might not call you back.

But like I said, it won't do to sit at home waiting for it to call. Its not a very good prom date. If you wait for it, eating up that 75% like daily calories on a jelly donut, it wont ever call. Its when you're sitting there putzing your way accross the crosswalk, jaywalking eating an enormous deli sandwhich typing on your blackberry and reaching in your purse for your subway card, that is when life will call you up and say "So...whatcha doin?" "Um, what am I NOT doing?? Can I call you back?" you will answer. At that point, if you dont stop and look around and stop looking so hard for the other side, then you get hit by a taxi.

Dont wait for things to get better and dont wait for things to get worse. Dont wait for an engagement ring so that you can wait to take it off when he is not looking. I mean I think about it like this -chances are if you add up the time I spend waiting in line at H and M and at the post office, along with the time that we have spent as a family waiting for results from the oncology lab, then we dont have much of that 75% left. By that logic, Alec, you're screwed buddy, you've actually been forced to take out credit on waiting. That means you have a lot of crosswalks to stop in. A whole month of deli sandwiches. And a lot of love to fall in. And a lot of calls from the world to return.

I wake up a lot at night lately. Then I wait to go back to sleep. And while Im sitting there awake I look at my life--my job in this wierdly skinny glass building, my squished PB and J sandwhiches I bring for lunch that never get old, my family and their unfunny jokes that are much funnier than funny jokes, this tallish chap that I am, yeah, really in love with and this outrageous year in a New York crosswalk and I think, so am I, like, happy? Or something? Is this happy? Or is this some kind of misguided, urbanized manic depression in disguise? No, it sort of just stinks of happy. And if so, what is it that I am still looking for? Maybe happy is like those people I used to see in San Francisco who ride the bus all day... but dont ride the bus to get anywhere in particular.

So tell me. What are are you waiting for?

Monday, March 2, 2009

New York’s nuclear Winter: How one city wears the 2009 winter woes

The second day of March and no sun over the highrises for these New Yorkers. Only blowing snow with a sneaky, shifting wind and a loud Monday morning blizzard. Like the rest of the northern hemisphere waiting for spring to break and the first sign of life to stir from underneath the crust of the stock market, its still winter in every direction you look. Those of us who have jobs try not to complain. Those who dont are looking forward to warmer days. Pretty much everyone is waiting for the storm to break.

New York city is already a very different place now than it was one year ago when I first arrived with two suitcases and one shot-in-the-dark interview at L’Oreal. Corporate neon logos are burning out over Times Square. Downtown rush hour is thinner than ever – half of the train cars are in jeans. It seems the only people who don’t feel the wear are reality TV stars, and for good reason. Even Manhattan rent checks, signed in gold, are being forced to throw a few barrels overboard. The top of the world is crashing into the bottom. The bottom still keeping eyes upturned for a break in the clouds, ducking debris from the crumbling top. Whether you are working the bar in Prada shoes or watching the offices around your cubicle empty, the workforce has been forced to its knees. Not a good time to be in business. Or be president. Not even, some people are saying as they survey the ruins of their 401ks, a good time to be alive?

One year ago next week I came to the city. My life had no plot, my teenage story already undergone a center-stage, heart-searing climax and my protagonist looking for a scene change. One chapter to the next. One curtain call after another. And whoever said the sequel is never as good as the original doesn’t like the right kind of movies. New York to me then was an untamed jungle for an untamed heart – a world so far out of my reach that I could never again get bored with it wrapped around my fingers. I was both frightened, na├»ve and thoroughly broken-hearted…and I found that when you are any one of these three things, there is never a better time to do something so totally dumb and terrifying. I was ready to make myself and everyone who knew me ashamed and proud at the same time. Wether it was love that had let me down or I who had let it down – either way, I knew life would take me in and I was happy and confident that love would no longer recognize me if we ever crossed paths again. I'd gone away - and letting the old version of myself roll to voicemail. Looking up at a highrise on 5th avenue for my very first big-brand interview, I had felt I was at the feet of the world. What I didn’t realize that entire time was that it was the world who was at mine.

One year later under a fiery March blizzard as the Wall street heavyweights and corporate monarchies hunker down for the economic Battle of the Bulge and as we watch the snow cover the Brooklyn bridge and melt into the icy East river from our office windows, we know that history is in the process of being rewritten, borders redrawn and emperors brought to trial across this wintry economic landscape. This isnt a year that I’ve let pass me by. And it isnt one to laugh too loud at. Except when one has had one too many dirty martinis. In March I bought an airmattress to sleep on. In April I found a job. In May an apartment I still cant afford. In June my brother got cancer – and there isnt a month that passes that I don’t still grieve a little bit for that day it became official. In July I entered into my mid-twenties. In August, I took a breath, wondered what I was doing in New York and spent a sickening amount of money on shoes. In September I met the best kind of someone at the absolute worst time – and I still don’t know how such amazing things can be so completely random. (I asked a similar question the other way around when they told me that leukemia isnt genetic). In October I saved someone’s life – or my genetic material did anyway. In November I spent all month thanking whoever was telepathically listening for that scrap of matching genetic material. Starcrossed or just lucky? - you decide. In December I cried a lot – for better and for worse. In January I helped build a team and hoped they wouldn’t hate me. In February I decided I was both out of shape and in love – so I signed up for 3 days of kickboxing a week with a couple of ex-gang members who call me "Woman". And today on the second day of March I am right back to where I started – the world at my feet and me there at its, just waiting for spring.

These are tough days. I don’t blame the big brands for feeling sorry for themselves as lights go out all over New York city. And you cant blame the newspaper headlines when they too are running low on ink and out of advertisers. I like my job – but I still make sure I don’t keep more than one cardboard box worth of personal items at work. No one can say they feel like investing in anything except happy hour recession specials and what’s left of our futures. But then again – when you’re flying high its awful hard to find a good place to land. So you land right where you are. 24 years old and planless – worth nothing but what you can write your way in or out of. Or 21 years old and 150 days out of a stem cell transplant calculating the probability of relapse with every day that goes by ...because leukemia doesn’t always negotiate. Still, at the bottom of a recession there are less shadows to live in and fewer excuses to put anything off at all. In a universe that is flying away from its center by an accelerating number of Kilometers per second, every solar system becoming more and more isolated with billions of light years of empty space in between…and yet somewhere in all that space every once in a while, galaxies still collide. And I don’t know about you. But Im pretty much good with that. No time is ever a bad time to be alive. Especially if you’ve ever had to work as hard at it as one person I know.

So here’s to warmer days. And all the cold ones in between.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A note on life goals...

Work hard for what you want. Work long and hard - into the night and under the gun, overtime and under the wire, up an appetite and down a rabbit hole, towards what you want and away from what you used to. Work hard and don’t let anyone tell you how long to hold out for what you are so convinced that you really really want. And then, when the time comes, get ready to walk away. Leaving the all the unsigned papers and unfinished sentences and unclosed deals and unrequited hours just where they are. Give up. And give in to the next. Because life is all about unfinished business. The commission from one closed deal in life will give you the rolodex for the next unclosed one. If walking away is hard, then you know you’re walking away at the right time. When the time does come, turn away from yesterday’s paperwork and toast to tomorrow’s. Just make sure the wine is good.

Sometimes what you are looking long and hard for, is just what you need to start looking for something else.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday in the South Bronx: How wide is the Amazon?

Whatever you want to know about human nature, you can find in a three year old.

A cold morning in the South Bronx. My volunteer group was meeting at the MCDonalds right off the 4 train. I had wondered how a group of perfect strangers would pick each other out of a busy Satuday morning crowd at the local McDonalds. The second I stepped off the train into a sea of yesterday's wrappers and last week's brown paper bags to wait in a 20 minute line at McDonalds, I felt like an idiot for ever wondering. Being the first one there, I simply watched the door for the next white person.

We walked to the shelter - a transitional family shelter in the South Bronx with a makeshift preschool and possibly the most dedicated staff in all five boroughs. 5 white young professionals bundled to the teeth against a northern winter wind, we were such the bunch of stupid-eyed good-doers. Some of us were there because it made us feel better about ourselves, some of us out of some amount of guilt, some of us religious dogma and some of us just plain curiosoty...but all of us sincere in our ultimate desire to extend a hand to the swollen underbelly of society while not quite sure what it would feel like. You could call us naive, complacent or self reichious, or all the things that people say when well fed white people visit a place like this as if it were a petting zoo, but as for us five scrawny young city kids, I dont think any of those was the real reason we came.

The walk to the shelter wasn't extraordinarily long - mostly just sharply frigid and marked by one unbroken line of dog shit along the edge of the sidewalk- like breadcrumbs into the forest...except, you know, the urban version. Its too ironic to strike me as all that funny. But anyway.

Most of the shelter smells like souring bleach and other cheap cleaning agents. The walls are this moldy, yellowing green and it doesnt smell like there is a whole lot of oxygen in the air. The windows remind one of hospitals and public schools, except with, like, bars and stuff... But the warmth of the place is a relief after 10 minutes on the street. I imagine some of the famillies here feel similarly. Passing the family apartments, through some of the doors you can hear babies crying, low voices, the bangings and tickings of a saturday morning in a very small space. Some of the doors are solemnly silent.

The volunteer teacher from the center who has offered to come in and supervise during our dancing and singing class is slow moving, unsmiling and likes to talk about herself a lot not waiting for us to ask before sharing her ailments of the morning. She's one of those people who seem like they are carrying on more of a conversation with themselves that you are overhearing than directly addressing you. She makes sure we are all more than aware that she does not feel well and does not care what we do as long as we do not make any mess for her to clean up, because she is not even suppos'd to be here at all, thank you very much. When asked, she says her favorite animal was a fish. "They do not need cleaning up after." She settles in to her chair like a monarch. But around the sighs I can see real sincerity and even humor around her mouth. And her eyes smile proudly despite themselves when the kids come in.

The girls are between the ages of 3 and 5. Some of them look like newborns stuck in the bodies of 4 years olds. Some of them have faces that have seen more than the average 55 year old - which all shows aroung the eyes and the fragile skin around the mouth. There are shy ones and painfully loud ones, rambunctious ones and solemn ones. Some of them have distinct accents already, if you can imagine a South Bronx accent on the lips of a five year old. There are two big-eyed sisters, a brash, voicey little girl with big displays of personality, a serious-faced thin one, a wide-smiled brave one who practically looks like an adult already, a silent, dark-eyed observant one. Despite the haunting array of worry and wounded innocence in their eyes, there is almost no judgement, distrust or sadness there. These are the more sophisticated emotions that move in once self preservation overtakes the vulnerability of youth...after which it is only these emotions, along with distinct self definition, that can best combat the true meanness of the world.

As we start the class with a picture book crosslegged around the circle, we go around and say our names. They dont seem to notice how different our white suburban names are compared to their beautiful and hard to pronounce ethnic names, most often tagged with a nickname of one syllable repeated twice. They introduce themselves purposefully using their full names and punctuated with multiple nicknames. The older sister proudly introduces herself and then her little sister, finished with a nod as she repeats her own last name. The voice of the mother monarch supervisor carries sharply over the circle in gentle reprimand of the older sister who is puffed up with pride, "She's got a mouth too, y'know." Soon we've moved on to favorite animal imitations. The activity is slow to start, as we're crawling around on our knees pretending to be our favorite animals. Although strained at times, the parade of animal soudns and strange body movements are not altogether awkward. Only with young kids can you scoot around on your hands and knees braying like donkeys and shaking your invisible tails like madpeople without anyone looking at you wierd. The shy ones are now starting to look around a bit, look less worried. The social ones are getting wound up and crawling over each other. We the volunteers are encouraging them with dumb questions like "what sound does a lion make?" and big facial expressions. But soon they start to take the bait and really enjoy themselves. And thank God because we were beginning to feel completely rediculous. by the end of the animal dance, they are hanging on to our hands, asking us to watch them again and head butting each other happily. The sound of young girlish laugher is soon louder than the lion king soundtrack in the background. We break for snack.

Around the table, the girls personalities start to flow. They are enjoying our totally rediculous and yet attentive questions like, what is your favorite kind of snack, and is that apple juice good? The kind of questions you only ask little children in eggagerated voices. The kind to which you dont really care about the answer but just want the child to feel listened to. I wondered how often anyone asked these girls any questions solely to hear their answer.
"My daddy doesnt like granola bars." one of them stated.
"I dont got a daddy." said the loud one, casually, while biting satisfactorily into a mushy banana.
The adults involuntarily fell silent. The kids didnt notice.
"My brother likes granola bars when he comes home. He got in trouble so he has to stay at the rec center. And he comes home sometimes if he isnt in trouble with the rec. center again. But he always has to go back. He's been at the rec center a long time this time."
Another outspoken one, interrupts the flow of conversation to point at each one of the volunteers and say in a playful, smiling informative way, "you're white. You're white. and you're white."
The five year old sister with her small decisice chin reaches out a miniature sized paper cup to me. "Can my baby sister have more apple juice please?" She drinks a sip before proudly scooting it over to her three-year old sister. I got the feeling that at the ripe age of five, she had already done her share of mothering the big-eyed, shy little one next to her.
We pour more applejuices and hand out more banane halves. The loud one pauses unprompted in her display of talking over everyone else, to look up at the volunteer next to me, and say as if it had just suddenly occured to her, "You're nice."
The loud one without a Daddy looks down at her snack and stuffs a few more bites into her little mouth. She wipes her mouth with a stained pink flannel with big holes in the sleeves. Then she smiles. "My mommy loves me." I smile. "Yes, yes she does."

Once they've finished their snacks the girls are starting to run round the room once more - one of them has started the rest chanting with lucid joy at the sound of the words "Bar-ack O-ba-ma, Ba-rack O-ba-ma!" The superviser, now almost completely smiling and chatting as if she were one of the children turns to us, "We watched th' inauguration here on this TV. This one here," she motioned to the quiet one with the stewing, serious black eyes, "she sittin' still through the whole thing watchin', didnt make a peep or get up and run round, just watchin' it. And she were cryin' away right along with the rest of us adults. She knew, this one." Her face was round and cracked with visible pride.

The snack energized the bunch as we went straight into dancing and singing lessons. By now they were a pack of unfetered joy, a bouncing bunch of silly willies, hooping and giggling, and jumping and chasing - a couple of 3-5 year olds who forgot what their unchildlike lives looked like for the sheer childish joy of jumping over a dirty blanket made believe into the Amazon river. Swinging on our hands, showing off their dance turns, imitating the grace of the ballet leaps with a concentrated focus until their excitement got the best of them and they were dropping their arms with bounding leaps over the Amazon and rolling on the floor with laughter. They wanted us to watch over and over again, to clap for them and praise them by name in high pitched voices, to swing them up with our arms, to follow them out by the hand running from one side of the room to the other. We clapped until our hands hurt and cheered for every little awkward turn, and prompting their little steps on.

I recognized the sheer looks in the other volunteers eyes as we cheered our hearts out as if for the home team in fourth quarter of a playoff game - knowing the world never cheered them on, never watched them dance let alone teach them how, never called them out by name and said "look how special you are!" and knowing that some of them may never make it to the fourth quarter. And I ask you, as children growing up in safe neighborhoods with teachers who had soft hands and kind words, with futures as expectantly bright as ours and a world that looked forward to our expected success...how could we have danced better, learned faster, grew up nicer, achieved higher if no one ever clapped for us? Every mispelled word I wrote, every simple sentence I uttered, every lopsided pirouette I twirled and every 3/4 earned diploma I earned was celebrated by my parents, by my privelage and by the world at large. But these were the ring around the rosies that often went unheard. The lopsided pirouettes that went unfelt at the feet of the world. It wasnt the dance, or our questions, our clean smelling clothes, our lifting arms or even our kind voices that made every pair of little eyes shine. It was the sound of their own name, the force of five adult clapping hands saying nothing except that we were glad they were in the world. Congratulating them on being born and enjoying their presence as much as they enjoyed ours. In the spinning glee of the play scene, one of the quiet girls, while waiting her turn to dance accross the room, went from volunteer to volunteer hugging us with her little arms reaching around our thighs, her face upturned in pure affection and unrippling happiness. I clapped until my hands stung.

Then it was time to go. Time to clean up. A few tired and smiling mothers came all the way in to collect their child. They thanked us in exhausted, thick accents. We were sorry to see those little ones go. And just as fast as they came fully-lit into our Saturday afternoons, they were gone. Back to whatever it was that the world looked like for them on a January Saturday afternoon in a shelter in the South Bronx. Left alone, the five of us volunteers found it suprisingly awkward among us - five adults who had spent two hours crawling on our knees, twirling, singing out of key and honking like various kinds of jungle animals now found it strange to adjust to restrained, carefully selected adult speech and interaction. I caught myself about to clap girlishly in response to a joke - but opted instead to laugh in that contrived controlled way that adults laugh. Now, I reminded myself, the children are gone, its time to act like an adult again. However, Im fairly convinced that clapping is a much better method of self expression.

On our way out the door to a blustery afternoon, the leathery supervisor stopped us to chat for a few moments, this time with smiles and laughter around her rubbery lips. We thanked her for coming in for hte class despite not feeling well. "I love my babies. Thats the only reason I comes in here on dayz like this when I dont feel well." As we made our way toward the door, she stopped us again. "Thanks for coming in, y'all. Its good of y'all. They usually don gets to do much, mostly just hang round here, you know. We try to give em some play and some magic-ness here. A very good place to work. Very rewarding. We do what we can. Thanks for coming out." She was smiling with her whole face. We smiled back and filed out the door back to the street.

My dad always used to talk about volunteer work - you cant ever save the world, you know, but you have to start somewhere. I see what he means. We always want to clean up the world, change lives, do more, make more waves, eliminate the sea of pain that only gets wider once we make a commitment to start digging for it. In deciding to make tiny windows of face-time with the ugly side of privelage, its easy to become overwelmed by the angry sorrow that you might find there. Sometimes you might even realize that some people and some places dont need saving - that they might just even be happier than you are. Either way, you may realize that saving someone isnt the nicest thing you can do for them. The nicest thing might just be, by far, calling them by name and clapping for their stumbling ballet leaps over the Amazon. Bearing witness (of any kind) to their stories. Telling them one way or another that they matter to the world, a world who all day long tells them that they are everything but a gift to this planet. Isnt that all we as people ever really want anyway? And lets face it - we all need an Amazon river or two in our lives. Even if in the back of our minds we know (because the world keeps telling us) that its just a dirty blanket.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"There are thirteen million people in the world and none of them is an extra. They all are leads in their own story" - Synecdoche New York

Martin Luther King Day. Another snowy day in New York.

After nearly a week of impenetrable, nuclear winter complete with clear, frigidly empty skies and subzero, polar temparatures (and a positively suicidal windchill), heavy snows moved over the city. The storm bouyed the temperature into the low thirties and slobbered all over the sidewalks, while most New Yorkers took our very first breath in days.

After struggling back uptown in less than waterproof boots, at last I am free to settle into my weekly New York sunday afternoon-slash-holiday weekend, routine - rout through my refridgerator for anything that looks like less than a complete biohazard upon ingestion, put off washing my towels on the premises that the weather would most likely make the laundry room overcrowded and treacherous, and begin my weekly attempt to organize my life. The snow is that light, wet and incessant kind out my window - and it looks beautiful against the red brick of the surrounding apartment buildings.

I now ask myself -surely you do not plan to spend the entire day inside like a complete waste of life, now do you? There are errands to be run, money to be spent, caloriese to be burned and a never ending arsenal of housewares to be bought (Its amazing how, in a relatively small apartment that you rarely inhabit in favor of a multitude of other activities, you seem to always be in need of more and more housewares. How do you fit them, when do you use them and where do they go once you buy them? And why is it that every single weekend you are on another desparate hunt for a toilet brush and another cleaning apparatus? For now, this must remain a mystery.) Not having roused any response at all to this self questioning, I identify the top three reasons why I should leave the apartment ...and promtly prepare to dispute each one.

1) You really should get a run in, lest your few endorphins stay huddled in the pit of your pituitary gland and your breakfast go straight to your ass.

2) You really must return the too-large trashbags you bought two weeks ago at the Duane Reade on 23rd and 3rd. Two avenues, $5.99. You do the math.

3) Since I already know you wont listen to my sound advice on reason number one, why dont you simply slip on down to the grocery store and pick up some pillsbury oven-bake sugar cookies for dinner on a snowy night?

My timely rebutal to all these very rational reasons were as follows:

1) The running paths will be putrid, the sun will be down in an hour (it takes me half that to cover every inch of skin with running gear) and there's nothing that ruins a holiday afternoon more than spandex. Endorphins are for wussies anyway.

2) 2 avenues, $5.99...arctic blizzard. Its a wash. Couple that with the collagen I'll loose prematurely from my lips and you are looking at a lifelong bad investment.

3) Thats the best suggestion I've heard all week. But do I know yet after 6 months how to use the oven in my apartment?

Ladies and gentlemen, have you reached a verdict. Yes, Mrs. chairman we have. In the matter of January New York Blizzard #2 versus Miss Kate "aka Lazy Ass" Harris, we rule in favor of the defendent. Going outside on this snowy day, would be exceedingly unwise and completely unneccsary, not to mention potentially hazardous to self and society at large. Case closed.

On this thickeningly snowy day, the citys windows have turned to spots of glow as the sun sets unseen over the island of Manhattan. Shipwrecked as I am in my apartment on such a day with two fellow sailor roomates and a fourth in the whine of the TV, I'm checking all the email that I havent opened in weeks. Many of these messages I like to think of as "post-leukemia mail" - letters from the home front. As the east coast family representative I get a large number of these emails as a part of the remote supporters email distribution list - alongside college roomates and extended family. I always recieve them with a considerable amount of emotion - like a wounded soldier getting letters from his squadrom mates from the heat of the front lines. And my emotions walk that same kind of line from out here on Martini Metropolis Island - flooded by the violence of those leukemia memories from just two months ago, guilty that the distance leaves my family tribe one less member strong...but silly with relief and puffed up with pride when I get to watch his progress from a distance through those email distributions. The emails together that make up the newest best seller from the western front - How my brother got his life back.
The first of these emails I open is from my lovely mother about my sister's birthday party and my aunts weekend visit, slow to open and heavy with picture attachements. Drowsily opening the attachments, I come upon the last picture - and I dump my peanut butter and honey sandwhich all over my pajama bottoms on my way out of the chair. Rushing to see what is the matter, my roomate is shoveling her laptop and afternoon snack out of her lap to respond to my shrieks, expecting to find some kind of epileptic siezure, a masked intruder or perhaps even that charcoal grey Marc by Marc Jacobs shift dress listed for 75% off. By the time she makes it to my bedroom door, however, all she finds is my unrecognizable form stooping over a teetering laptop dripping tears all over a keyboard that would be more than a little expensive to replace and laughing like an absolute lunatic. Im waving toward the picture on the screen in some kind of attempted explanation, alternating hands to point while the other is holding the tears out of my mouth. Baffled, she's searching the picture of my brother and Aunt smiling in the winter sun on my parent's front porch, desparately scanning for something out of the ordinary. Nearly a minute goes by and I cant stop laughing with all kinds of emotional liquids clogging up my ability to express my self properly. Finally I make my way to the floor, rubbing my eyes like a 5 year old, watching the snow sift through the skyline and shore up the weekend in the cogs and ruts of of the city.

"Good God above, Kate, what!!??"

Im pointing to the picture, like a lottery winner to the winning number on the screen.

"Eyebrows. He has eyebrows. Look at them. The color of his skin, look at it. And..." sniff sniff, "He has sideburns!!! Imagine that! Sideburns!"

Who was it that said.. its the little things in life.

Its clear to me now more than it ever has been. No Fate or God or living person...not even your dream... can give you a life. And they certainly cant give your life back to you. But they can give you a second chance. It doesnt matter where the chance comes from. What matters is only that you have the guts to take it.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Let it Snow: Blowing in 2009

Welcome back, Urban Cowgirls and Co.! Its January in the city!

Snow in New York City. I'm not sure there is anything -- no, I'm rather sure there isn't -- anything quite like it. It doesn't fall, it swirls. It doesnt stick, it slops. And it might be one of the only forms of weather in New York that doesn't smell.

This wintry day in this dozing but never asleep city on this over easy Saturday, I am in search of calm. Absolvement. Effortless existence. Peace of heart (I already found peace of mind last night over half a bottle of Jameson in a downtown dive bar). Yes, I'm rummaging through my closet for it. Scrubbing my kitchen sink in search of it. Scrouging around the basement laundry room with socks in hand waiting for it to sudse up. Sprinting to Brooklyn Bridge in the whirling snow to get to it. Finally, after my third cup of green tea with my blood sugar around my ankles, I'm hooding up and hitting the sidewalk on a determined mission to find it. Clearly, inner peace does not hang around New York apartments very often.

Unlike most places, New York does not get any quieter when it snows. Taxis still rush, salt-covered sidewalks crunch and your neighbors still march to the grocery stores to desparately hoard frozen shrimp and red wine. That serene feeling of inpenetrable safety that often fuzzes in over sleepy hometowns when it snows runs straight into the gutters with monday's spilt coffee in New York City. If anything, you're even more likely to get hit by a taxi or run into an ex on this kind of day. But at the same time, its kind of refreshing. It allows you to float the streets like some kind of hooded phantom, wrapped in layers and every inch of you covered from the wind, like some invisible, lucid presence moving through the city. So Im a tower of wool and down, weaving in and out of the grocery soldiers, on my own little wooly island, only moving. And underneath my scarf and hat I am smiling.

I arrive at my favorite cafe, find my favorite soup on the menu and my favorite spot by the window unoccupied with an unhindered view of 1st ave. By now this steady power sugar dusting of an urban snow storm has turned blowing, wet and foggy with snowflakes through the window. As I drip soup all over the counter, somewhere in between the tomatoes and the undercooked (but still so delicious!) green lentils, I bite into momentary inner peace. For a whole 20 minutes I haven't thought about the next 20. No horn honking can herd me home, no unhappy customer can rattle my ripple-less calm, no solitary meal can make me feel completely alone.

The dawn of a new year has come and gone in the mouth of crisis - an economy gone sour, an industry in crisis, a family in limbo and a life in jeapoardy. A grueling, messy and defining year it was - a year of guts and grime and so many come-to-jesus moments in between that forge new paths through the heart, in a place-here-on-earth kind of way. No pain could be less forgiving, no relief could be more perfect, no change more changed, no expectations less expected. No lesson better learned. No love less lost. The snowflakes are thick now, casting my own reflection back to me in the window as the street thickens. Nothing slows or stops, like it does in the movies. No sound is drowned out. And yet I'm suddenly swirling in stillness - one hooded sillouette in a shrouded snowy New York City window looking out on her life and sending 2008 off in a cosmic Thank You note addressed to fate. Of all the defining and already forgotten moments in 2008, only two footnotes will fit in that envelope. One life saved and two lives lived - both just a little bit larger before. And all the other lives that surround just the one - marching on toward 2009 like New Yorkers to the grocery in a snow storm - fiercly and with all the hope in the world to make it to the frozen shrimp coctail before close.