Thursday, June 27, 2013

When September Comes

Yesterday, I crossed the footbridge, waved to the crossing guard for the last morning. The school year is over in New York City and though I don't participate in the system, it defines my mornings, as yellow buses line up at the Quaker school, crossing guards usher us through the streets, and sticky-fisted children with humpback packs stomp and march the sidewalks at the very same time I trudge to the subway.

I'll see you in September, the crossing guard said.

It seems a long way away.

This morning, I walked the silence. The streets were different.  Less whir. A new hum whispered.

Over the weekend, I took a trip to Washington D.C. to visit a friend. It was quiet there and we had long conversations that traveled from room to room in the sun-stream of her apartment, then through the streets of her own neighborhood. 

It was not a trip to see the sights or pack in activities. More of a trip to see one another. As she suffers from a tremendous personal loss, she told me how she views things differently. The same job. The same friendships. The same romantic relationships. Before. And After They are not the same. They take on new meaning in light of what she has experienced. 

This is what I sense lately. The same streets feel different.

Change is constant.  But I find myself feeling that I want to hold on to the way things have always been and embrace what is new.

Is that possible?

When September comes, my walk to the train each morning will be just as it was yesterday, the last day, and, yet, it won't be that way at all.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

New York City, Intimate, Exposed

Standing on the subway this morning, scanning, as I always am, for the possibility of an empty seat, that sudden jerk movement upward that sends me flinging forward and down, I watched a stranger wipe tears from her cheek. I caught her eye for the briefest moment, then looked away. To allow her that.

This is something I have seen in New York City countless times.  Not exhibitionist emotion. Not like hand-hipped arguments on street corners, a woman cursing into her cell phone at 23rd and 6th. This is quiet grief. Loneliness. Hurt. The kind that should have been private but faucet-dripped, leaked past, through, where it should have stayed put.

I don't know if this happens everywhere. Maybe suburban tears sit beyond pristine lawns and closed curtains or at steering wheels in crowded strip mall parking lots. Maybe rural tears happen in the shield of sun cutting through crowded, thick brush and wood.  But urban tears are exposed and I have seen them as often as I have felt them suddenly well up, suddenly rush past orange cones and construction workers on concrete sidewalks, the back of my hand ripping across raw red cheeks, thinking, not here, not now, they will see. They will know. 

I remember my first job in New York City, an internship after freshman year of college at a lifestyle and sporting magazine. I was somehow put in charge of talking to restaurant managers about where to eat and drink during the upcoming US Open Tennis Championships, which sounds exciting, but got old quickly, day in, day out, interrupting busy hosts and hostesses during the rush of food service because restaurant managers don't answer their  telephones, do you want to be included in this epic page spread? I'd ask, and then announce the advertising fee and have to justify it with the circulation and the demographic and really, they were too busy, getting lunch out, too busy to talk to me, and why should they pay, really, for this nothing blurb?

I'd go back to the offices, usually empty-handed. I'd try to talk to the staff-writers and editors. I'd say, I could write a story on Agassi's forehand. Do you know Agassi? they'd ask.  I'd shake my head. They'd raise their eyebrows. I could write about the psychology and dynamic between figure skating partners. That's a great idea, how many figure skaters can you interview? Of course, none, none. So I'd be back at places like Le Cirque, restaurant managers suspicious and sighing, what is this magazine anyway?

I remember sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library eating my bagged lunch, in some mis-matching, crooked skirt and blouse combination that the Editor-In-Chief of Style had previously sneered at. I munched on the turkey sandwich my mother made me the night before, that I carried with me on the Long Island Railroad each morning, and I thought, despite everything, I work in the best city in the entire world.  No one knew me. They didn't see me. They didn't know. I could have been anybody.

I have always loved the anonymity of New York City, of Manhattan especially, of walking down the street, completely unknown, nameless, unmarked, and therefore, protected in my own coat of armor. But there are those private moments that become public. Remembering someone you've lost. Realizing you've been hurt or that you might have hurt another. New York City suddenly becomes too intimate. You are vulnerable inside it. The buildings are not tall enough. The crowds not thick enough. For a brief moment you are seen. You are known.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Summer Soon

Floating clouds and the bend of my arm here in the eyeless reflection.

For as much time as I spend in front of a computer or in a windowless office, shielded from sun, I'm always waiting for it, finding it, savoring it, when I can.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Naked Man Walking

Well, I have to share this story here because there's no other place for it to go.

Yesterday, while walking home from the train, I walked as I always walk, juggling too many bags, a new umbrella (with an arm strap!) slung over my shoulder because it decided to stop raining for a few peaceful moments. I crossed the bridge over the expressway, turned the corner, smelt the garlic and fish from the neighborhood seafood restaurant, passed the twin trees, and, there, approaching me from the opposite direction was a naked man. Naked man walking.

He was young -- I would guess in his twenties. He walked casually. He wasn't chasing after little kids or flinging violent slurred words at anyone. He was just walking, staring ahead with a blank, almost stoic, expression on his face and he happened to be very naked.

I didn't quite know what to do. It seemed inappropriate to hold up my phone and take a picture. He wasn't causing a loud disturbance so it didn't seem right to call the police. I really had no idea what to make of it, except to keep walking towards him, pass him, and wonder, did that just happen?

I decided it did. Because I heard a car door slam from the side of the road and a man appeared from the driver's seat and he said to me, I bet you weren't expecting to see that today.

And when I got to my street, I saw some angry elderly neighbor with her arms folded suspiciously surveying the situation from the corner, and a grumbling, puzzled father telling his young daughter to um, just go back inside please. 

So. Naked Man. Walking.

Why?  I'll never know.

Here are my hypotheses:

1. He was on a Mad-Men-Roger-Sterling-like acid trip.

2. He was part of an experimental art troupe.

3. He was the victim of an end-of-year graduation prank.

4. Following the example of hundreds of films, books, and sitcoms with coming of age stories, he was swimming in the crick naked, his so-called friends stole his clothes and ran off laughing, and he had to make the long journey home.

Care to take guess?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What's Up Wednesday #3

What I'm Reading

I just started Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, recommended by Beth Kephart, whose taste in books I trust implicitly. So far, and I am only a few chapters in, it's beautiful. Already there is a scene that haunts me, involving a crushed birds nest. It's one of those moments that is so richly drawn, I can see it, feel it, will always see it as if it happened to me. I'm hoping to learn a lot from this writer.

What I'm Writing

Finishing final revisions to RABBIT ISLAND and that's it. I've decided to take a break from writing anything new for the month of June. Then July will be dedicated to research for The Oyster Book before I dive into a draft in August. There are some short stories and essays I'd like to polish up and send out into the world.

What Inspires Me Right Now

The written words of others. As always.

What Else I've Been Up To

I thought maybe an instagram collage would help explain the days.

Yesterday, before attending a wonderful event about writing history for children (more on this later) I stopped in Washington Square Park. The fountain looks a bit like it's sprouting up into the sun.

Our summer CSA has begun, which means a summer full of fresh local greens and experimenting with unknown vegetables that over the years we've come to know a little better (kohlrabi, tatsoi, etc.)  These strawberries are actually from the farmer's market but I thought they were really beautiful.

Last weekend I went to the Belmont Stakes for the first time in many years. I loved the beautiful clothes and hats. After watching a few races, we left early, and did what my family does best: eat pasta at one of the local Italian joints with the best bolognese I have ever tasted. It turned out to be a good day.

Beyond that, I've been struggling a bit at work. I hesitate to write about my job here because I realize it's public but my boss and coworkers know my frustration and unhappiness. I've been working to change this part of my life, working very hard, and, while I sense a shift, I have yet to see a real change. Part of the hands-off approach I mentioned last week is letting go a bit, allowing the universe to decide what is best for me. I don't see this as giving up. I'm hoping that two years of hard work and persistence to make a transition will open the doors I've been banging at. It's summer. It's time to reassess, to step back and just be  for a while.

For more What's Up Wednesday, go here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Future

An interesting discovery in a public restroom and yet, there it was, reminding me that the future is only moments away, that we have the ability to see and control some of it, that it can be just as near as it is distant:

The Future

In the future about
in one second from
now I will be writing
this amazing poem. A cople
years from now I will
be a singer and 
a actress.

By: Willow

Also. I washed my hands before taking this photo.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do You Wanna?

I read from the grass and then from the bed, both times in the shadow of leaves, next to children's laughter. First the park, then in my apartment, up from the street, where summer floods from the fire hydrants and the blow-up bouncy castle is green and blue, matching my view from the ground.

My neighbor Leo has swim goggles wrapped across his forehead. Spy glasses, he tells me, and I have glasses that can read backwards, his friend chimes in because Leo has wanted me to meet her, his friend, my friend, I don't know how many times he has said this now, my friend, my friend, who I must meet.

Her brown bangs take off running above her eyebrows in a straight line, eyes huge as she surveys my apartment. Leo has flung the door open and soldiered in barefoot but she remains in the hallway, against the wall and tells me her name is Annique not Unique, she is very specific about that, and I wonder, still, how she spells it.

Their tongues are matching green and her shirt is stained the same as they each slurp from wooden sticks and when Leo's ice slides to the floor, before I can chime in that we haven't washed it, his dirt-stained hands are wrapped around the forest green chunk and it's back in his mouth, with Annique gasping, her head shaking at her friend, her friend, her friend.

They speak a language I know I used to understand because while I think to grab a paper towel for the green ice that now leaks across the floorboards, they are already, do you wanna, and the words are off running along side the excitement caught up in her shriek, hand in hand galloping down the stairs past walls that are covered in the dust of tire tracks from carrying the bicycles up and down.

They are off, our brief, necessary meet and greet now over, and I smile thinking of summer and ice melting at my tongue, palms sticky, shirt stained, running hand in hand, breathless with do you wanna?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's Up Wednesday #2

What I'm Reading

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. When my local used bookstore closed last spring, the owner let me take an entire tiny shelf of literary fiction paperbacks. I've slowly been making my way through them and only recently did I discover I actually owned this National Book Award winner from the year I graduated high school. It's beautiful so far.

Also, from that same stack, I just finished Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I knew nothing about the Vel' d'Hiv round up in France during World War II and I found the story absolutely fascinating.

What I'm Writing

The reason I've been missing in action from the blog is because I was finishing up revisions to RABBIT ISLAND for my agent. While the revisions were not extensive, I found I had to dig deep into the psychology of my characters in order to better understand some of the underlying emotions behind several conversations, story lines, and relationships. It turned out to be a tough pass. Now that they are turned over, I'll sleep well, gear up for another revision, if there is to be one, and continue dreaming and researching The Oyster Book.

What Inspires Me Right Now

The possibilities of summer.

What Else I've Been Up To

I've been in a sort of head fog these days, a bit distracted, nervous, preoccupied in spiraling thoughts, fidgety yet tired. In many ways, not myself.  On the actual side of things, there have been dinners with friends, plans with family, working each day, hoping for the right opportunities, writing and reading each night, and an unhealthy amount of viewing of Frasier reruns on Netflix. That cast of characters is really making me laugh.

Because I feel so tired these days, I think I'm going to experience a period of hands-off for a little while. A sigh. A release. Let the universe take over.

Beyond that, I'm dreaming of our upcoming trip to Ireland. And I hope one day this weekend, maybe Sunday, I'll wake up and go absolutely nowhere. That would be a beautiful thing.  

For more What's Up Wednesday, go here.