Microblogging Part 2

I don’t know if this is a cop out, microblogging instead of blogging here. I’m writing. I suppose that’s all that matters.

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I’m sitting on this bench, my dad’s bench, right now with a stop-the-spread-of-COVID mask over my face and sunglasses on. I’m typing on my phone, something I rarely do to write, and I’m sobbing. The plus of masks is that no one knows you’re crying. Though it’s probably obvious. These are body wracking sobs. But I keep typing because somehow writing is going to make it okay. That’s not true. Nothing is going to make it okay. My wasband used to talk about losing a parent, how it changes you. The morning he left, one thing he wailed was, “and I’m still sad about my dad“. He’d passed years before. One night when my dad was in the hospital with a high fever, my wasband came into the bedroom in a sob. “I don’t want to make you upset but” he started crying. I took him into a hug on the edge of the bed. “It’s okay” I said. “You can be upset, too. You guys are buddies. “ “I’ve tried to keep thinking he’s going to make it, but tonight I really think he might not.” “I know, I know.” My dad made it through that night and the next few weeks. Now, my dad’s still gone. That’s how death works. It’s permanent. It changes you. It’s never okay. The life we live before we die is the main thing. That’s a dad phrase: that’s the main thing. Getting therapy when we need it. Facing terror when we must. Sharing our feelings and not apologizing for having emotions. These are the actions we can take so that the rest of what we live is worth the life we are gifted. #gettingthroughit #grief #heartbreak #gratitude #grateful #missyoudad #longisland #hendricksonpark #911survivor #september11 #endalz

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A little over two weeks ago, I shared this in my story with the eloquent caption, “ok fuck it. The bod is back and I’m shouting it out. I don’t care who sees. Quarantine, in this way, has been good to me.” I was coming off a night of no sleep. I’d been blindsided. I fell into despair pretty quickly. (I’m still climbing out.) Quarantine has not been good. It’s not good for humans. I lasted a bit longer in not climbing the walls because I’m an introvert. Yes, folks, I’m debilitatingly shy. This may surprise some people—most likely the people I thought about before saying “fuck it” and posting this. I’ve got a crowd of recent students still following, and who knows what they’re stopping to read. (And they’re amazing—as students and as human beings). But as I always say, I’m a person, too, not just a professor. So here’s me, being a person who’s lived her whole life not looking at mirrors. Avoiding any reflective surfaces. Right now I’m in the best shape of my life, and I still feel like hiding the chub. And it doesn’t help when people tell me I’m skinny. It doesn’t matter what you think; it matters how I feel. Which doesn’t make sense because how I feel is based on what I think people think of how I look. It’s a vicious cycle. I’ve been left. I’ve been lonely. I’ve felt insecure. Also, in my moments of feeling ugly and sad, I’ve seen the strength and perseverance of friendship in all its many colors. Though lonely and vulnerable, I feel loved. Knowing that, I can get through anything. #gettingthroughit #gratitude #grateful #heartbreak #grief #bodyimage #bodydysmorphia #friendshipismyfavoriteship #fitspo #microblogging #essayist #englishprofessor #introvert

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I met David and Stephanie right after @sip_this opened their doors, fliers in hand, talking all about the poetry scene. They welcomed Poets In Nassau quickly, truly welcoming the poets and writers to run amok on the mic. They opened their walls to artists (I was honored to have my work shown years ago and my brother’s just last year). They opened the floor to musicians and comedians and drag queens. Then there was that one time we won music trivia. And there were those many times we lost trivia. And there were all those days in between of first dates, writing meet ups, grabbing a snack and a chat with a friend. Sip This hasn’t simply supported the community. They’ve been the community, standing as the common thread among all walks of life locally and from afar. Anyone who walked through that door belonged just by being there. I am so thankful that this place has existed, and I wish everyone much light and love. #longisland #valleystream #sipthis #grateful #gratitude #gettingthroughit #Repost @sip_this with @get_repost ・・・ We regret to inform you that this Friday 6/26 will be our last night in operation. For nine years we have enjoyed serving you. We thought Sip This would last much longer and we, our staff, and our families, are deeply saddened by this outcome. That said, there are wonderful memories and friendships that will continue. We know our time here was not for naught. There is so much good that was created in our time at Sip This: new love, countless hours of fun, business deals, random connections, shared art, and community coming together through events we helped facilitate. If we don’t see you Friday (4pm to 11pm), we hope to see you again soon. Thank you for all the support. -David and Stephanie ✌🏼❤️☕️

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“Will this bring up sad memories for you?” L&B Spumoni Gardens—memories of that place for sure. She was referring to the time we went on July 4th with my dad. We stopped at L&B for pizza. Then we went to the pier for fireworks. There’s a photo I share often of me and my dad in which I’m holding a full cup of froyo and he’s holding the nub of an already eaten ice cream cone, which is from that night. It was so crowded, and at one point I was like, “Dad, I’m more comfortable if you walk in front of me,” and my other friend at that time said, “Don’t worry—I was watching him too.” Because it takes a village to raise a dad. I love talking about my dad and remembering him. Those are not sad memories. Today in the car, S added, “Sad memories or bad memories.” Because my wasband is from Brooklyn. L&B was part of my life with him and with the couple who went with us to the pier and whom we called our children because of our age difference. And even though they are gone from my life now, the memories don’t make me sad or feel bad. Sometimes I feel angry. Sometimes I feel nothing. And then sometimes, I smile. Moments are moments. If something is really really good in the moment, it’s a good good moment. Today was filled with good good moments, and even with a mask hanging off of my ear, for a small moment, the world was a normal, safe place. Thanks, S, for always making it seem that way. #friendshipismyfavoriteship #thankyouforbeingafriend #gettingthroughit #grief #gratitude #grateful #brooklyn #spumonigardens @lbspumonigardens @southpawsweets @candyisart

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It’s been three weeks and I found a new path—literally, it’s a path I haven’t seen before. It’s through the reeds away from the bay. One day I’ll take it; today was not that day. Today was the day I took two steps in, saw the bugs, and ran away. I’d like to think I’m not running away. I’d like to think that filling my days with walking and friends and writing is moving forward. Maybe it’s both. All I know is that it’s still hard, and I’m still sad, and when it’s nighttime and everything is quiet, my mind races through every struggle. After every struggle, I know there lies triumph. The other day, someone called me resilient. Then she said she wished I didn’t have to be. And that’s exactly the right thing to say. #gettingthroughit #grief #gratitude #grateful #heartbreak #alwayslookup #fitspo #longisland #longislandwriter #heckscherstatepark

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Microblogging And Essaying

The big news is I’m writing a creative nonfiction collection. I realized this when I started microblogging about two and a half weeks ago. In case you missed it, here they are.

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One year ago today, I came back to life. I’d had my first cofeature back in March for B J Spoke Gallery where I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen and had known for over a decade. I became good friends with the co-feature, whose poetry was brilliant. A few months later, I was walking with Whitman. The open mic was fun. My reading made me feel energized. For the first time in a long time, I felt completely at ease, totally in control, and simply happy. I met people from far and wide; several still keep in touch. The band 1 Step Ahead played, starting with a few bars of Brown Eyed Girl since I’d referenced it in a poem. Then a few months later, I was named 2020 Long Island Poet of the Year for @waltwhitmanbirthplace . I am forever grateful for this day, this reading, and all the people in my life who have gotten me through and continue to. #poetsoninstagram #poetsofinstagram #longislandpoets #longislandpoetry #waltwhitmanbirthplace #1stepaheadband #walkingwithwhitman #bjspokegallery @b.j.spokegallery #gettingthroughit #grief #heartbreak #gratitude #grateful #longislandwriter

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Nature is a newish thing for me. I’ve always been scared of it—I’ve always been scared of everything. Something in my brain switched either off or on and I understand it more. I still jump at every sound. And also I stand in awe at the vibrant life that simply is. Here I am in nature in the summer wearing a fall jacket because nature does what it does. The heart wants what the heart wants. I feel silly and foolish for hurting, and also what a blessing to release what’s been stored there for so long. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been truly happy all this time. It means simply I’ve been both. Gleeful and awkward and laughing and wailing and always thankful for the wonders of this world. #gratitude #gettingthroughit #alwayslookup #grateful #grief #heartbreak #newyork #iloveny #ispyny

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Sometimes FB does nice things like this video of me and my brother. We weren’t super close growing up. We liked each other and had movies we like and still quote from. We liked some of the same music; he’s the reason I adore Def Leppard. Also, we made fun of our parents together. We never really hung out though. At some point in our youngish adult lives, we started to treat each other like real people. When I was married, I always made a point to invite him along on nonromantic fun excursions. Looking back on those years, I realize he returned the favor by calling me once a week. Our sibling adventures began before my marriage, continued during it, and keep going now. In the past weeks, this is the advice he’s given me: 1. Keep being yourself. 2. Keep your head up. I’m grateful to have a brother I can call my friend. #gratitude #siblingadventures #siblingbonding #bestbrother #gettingthroughit #grief #heartbreak #grateful #longisland #queens #siblingadvice #familyiseverything

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An Anniversary Of Me

One year ago today, I came back to life. I’d had my first cofeature back in March for B J Spoke Gallery where I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen and had known for over a decade. I became good friends with the co-feature, whose poetry was brilliant.
A few months later, I was walking with Whitman. The open mic was fun. My reading made me feel energized. For the first time in a long time, I felt completely at ease, totally in control, and simply happy. I met people from far and wide; several still keep in touch. The band 1 Step Ahead played, starting with a few bars of Brown Eyed Girl since I’d referenced it in a poem.
Then a few months later, I was named 2020 Long Island Poet of the Year for Walt Whitman Birthplace Association.
I am forever grateful for this day, this reading, and all the people in my life who have gotten me through and continue to.
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The Funny Things About Death And Grief

There’s a global pandemic happening. Alone in my home, I have a lot of time to think, and a lot of my thoughts have turned to my dad. He died two years ago. I had to look that up. Years are hard for me. Dates and numbers were his thing. I still might be wrong but I’m pretty sure it’s two.

This fog is the kind of fog I was in for the rest of that year and at least half of the next. In times of extreme stress, like when you’re banished from your job and the world shuts down and some of your friends are telling you how you might not be able to leave to get food soon, the fog can set in. The fog isn’t necessarily passive. Sometimes it’s more of an anxious brain scramble. This fog is part of grief. This pandemic is putting a delay on the life I really started to live beginning last June and really revving up in January and February (Long Island Poet of the Year! Oceanside Library Poet in Residence! I was dating and looking friggin fantastic in short skirts!).

Back when my dad was in the hospital, I would have the sudden thought throughout the day, What will it be like to think about him when he’s gone? I didn’t really think about it after his first stroke. Not after the many mini strokes. Only after the last one, the second major one, the one that sent him to critical care, the one that wasn’t funny anymore.

Strokes aren’t funny. Sometimes, though, funny things happen and funny things are said. Like the one time we were in the ER after a TIA, and I was standing bedside, clearly having been crying, and my dad looked at me and said, It’s gonna be okay kiddo. Never in his life had my dad ever used the word kiddo, let alone called me that. So I answered, Thanks, Pop!, which made my mother laugh so loud she shushed herself. This wasn’t the only time we laughed in an ER or intensive care. After my dad’s first stroke, he had a visit from a very close family friend, and they told each other dirty jokes, which led to riotous laughter (I thankfully didn’t witness the dirty part—that’s gross). The staff asked them to keep it down but also said it was nice to hear laughter for a change.

That first stroke was hemorrhagic. He’d been stroking for hours before he knew something was wrong. Only after did we know how long—he’d been at a street fair the night before and couldn’t remember how to get home. Someone who knew drove him home, not realizing that could be a sign of something wrong. The next morning he got up, got dressed, and started breakfast. My mom thought something was a little off. We went to the ER. This became serious when they said they were rushing him to another hospital that specialized in this kind of stroke.

My dad survived that stroke. He was in critical care for maybe a day. While there, he was very concerned about the Walk for the Poor. He was supposed to walk soon. What did all this mean for the walk. As usual he was concerned about other people.

That was the same concern he showed on September 11. After a day of almost dying, he was upset about the young firefighters he saw running into the building and up the stairs while he was making his way down and out.

The first stroke should have caused more damage. He had some sight problems and some cognitive stuff going on, but the sight returned quickly as did most of the cognitive stuff. We had a running joke that pre-stroke dad kind of walked offbeat to the beat of his own drum, so like, when he would knock over a cup of water, we would think, that’s not the stroke—that’s dad. It wasn’t a rationalization; it was simply reality.

Mini strokes are sneaky little buggers. They slip in and take away tiny pieces, but those tiny pieces aren’t apparent until much later. So right after a TIA, he could seem fine, and then a few weeks later, something would be suddenly and strikingly different. Like he once had a mini on Easter, so I brought him his Easter basket in the hospital. The next day, the basket was pretty much empty. He’d eaten all the chocolate. We laughed about it. He was still dad. A few weeks later, he couldn’t remember dates.

I lost my dad long before he died. Slowly, over the course of about 7 years, he was becoming someone who wasn’t the whole man. He never lost the capacity to recognize us. He lost the capacity to be independent. There were times I didn’t want to visit my parents because it made me sad. I’d feel foggy and sometimes I wouldn’t feel anything. Other times, I was the most upbeat person ever, tearing into the house, telling my dad to grab his coat because we were going out. He never said no. My dad rarely said no to anything. He loved going out, seeing the world, helping people, talking to people, and walking.

That man could walk! Everywhere. For however long. He’d be gone for hours, walking, stopping to talk to people, and walking more. Sometimes my mom would be out in town and she’d get so excited to see Joe Rau walking along the street. The two of them were always excited to see each other even while they lived in the same house.

After the last stroke, my dad was in the hospital a long time. In addition to his being mostly asleep, he got itchy. His skin was always sensitive, so whatever cleanser they were using made him red and inflamed and all he did was scratch. It was awful. He had some bad days when I’d go in for a visit and they’d tell me I should talk to the head nurse about what happened that day. I thought about what it would be like to not have him around, and it didn’t upset me. It was more of a statement instead of a question because it had no answer and simply was a thought in a fog of thoughts.

When he came out of the hospital, that statement went away for a while. He went into a rehab home, and he couldn’t walk. He also couldn’t swallow or talk much. Still, if I played Elvis, he found a way to slowly push out three words of In The Ghetto. He also was my teammate on holidays when we brought games, and he would look on intently and laugh and laugh. Whenever his mind would clearly wander, I’d hit him in the arm and say, Pay attention! And he’d laugh and pay attention for a while again.

The first night in the home, he got sick and went right back to the hospital. High fever. They thought he might not make it. And then? There was my dad laughing in the critical ER room when someone joked about him being high maintenance.

Then he kept getting sick. That happens when you have a feeding tube. He was back to the hospital and then back to the home. Back and forth and back and forth.

Then finally, we all decided this wasn’t a way to live. He got sick and didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, he stayed sick and stuck around for longer than anyone expected.

I no longer had to ask myself how I’d feel when my dad wasn’t there. It was real. I still felt nothing. We said our goodbyes, and my dad’s last gift to us was to not have a funeral or wake but to simply be cremated, easy peasy. That was it. I asked my mom if I could open her house for a few hours at the end of the week to avoid random people dropping by at all hours, and so we did just that. A few months later, my brother organized a lovely memorial tribute.

I won’t say I wasn’t upset. Of course I was upset. Still, the fog of all those years was constant grief—grief over losing my dad each time he had a stroke and came back a different dad. I’d get used to that new dad and I’d lose that version too. Constant grief lurked and grew, and I didn’t know it. I knew I was sad to see him sometimes, but I didn’t know the unfeeling was a real thing.

I’m grateful my dad isn’t here today living through these strange, fatal, uncertain times. If he were in a home, we wouldn’t be able to see him, and we wouldn’t be able to keep on top of his care, and I wouldn’t be able to play Elvis for him.

If he were living with my mom, the version of him before the last stroke but after several TIAs, I could imagine what it would be like. His face mask would always be on wrong. He’d probably have to try at least 20 different masks before he found one that didn’t irritate his skin. The mask elastic would get tangled in his glasses and he’d curse at his glasses and mask, and we’d probably laugh but then help, and then he’d laugh too.

Recently, a friend who didn’t know my dad told me he seemed like a happy person. He said, Whenever I see a picture of him, he’s got that same smile that seems so joyful.

And he was. If I manage to live my life with even a small fraction of my dad’s happiness, I’m one lucky person. CC875755-B6AB-47A3-91A2-74CC5FB3C97A

Still Here

I could write about the chaos of a semester that never ends. I could tell you about my Instacart freak out concerning lots of frozen broccoli. I could also discuss what it’s like to live alone and not touch anyone for months and feel like everything is okay until going out into the world and being shocked by the sun and the grass and realizing my brain has been coping but this situation is far from okay.

Instead, I’m going to write about how I’ve gotten to do all the things I usually do in person (like teach and workshop and write and practice yoga) from my office and my living room and my backroom that is now my yoga room. I’ve been able to see my mom and chat through a window and across a yard. I’ve seen my brother, too, both in person and through technology when he’s not big on technology. I’ve started to go out and take walks with friends. I’ve started a fashionable mask collection.

I’m still here, and I’m healthy. Actually, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for a while, and I know that’s probably not everyone’s experience, but it’s been mine. For that, I’m grateful. For all the things I’ve been able to do, I’m grateful. It’s these silver linings that make life still a wonderful and beautiful life.

 

Measure of Existence (Apparently, A Tribute)

Two or three weeks ago, I planned to do two things and wound up doing four. Happy to take myself into the city to see art and exhibits and make myself think.

For the past week, I’ve had a stress headache because COVID 19 has taken over the world. It has shut down the city and the suburbs.

So here’s a way to get out of your head if not out of the house. I’m going to remember my experience in a way that might let you live it for yourself. (My creative writers and my lit readers would be very excited that I’m practicing what I preach about second person pov). And away we go.

It’s the first time you’re using the MTA app’s eticket for your train ride into the city. You don’t have any idea if you need to leave it open, leave your phone on, if you can use other apps. You brought your charger in case your phone died on the ride but also you charged it until the minute you left the house even though it was already at 100% and you thought somehow it would suck in some energy reserves. You are in a car with the bathroom because nine times out of ten, you manage to sit in the car with bathroom. You activate your ticket only to realize there’s like a quiz to take to make sure you mean to activate your ticket, and really, this is not the kind of decision you thought you’d have to make, so now–as usual–you’re breaking out into the nervous sweats. Then the conductor comes by and barely says anything to you because your little eticket is flashing pretty colors. You let your phone sleep as you read your book that you started a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten back to because all those papers and meetings. You change trains and your eticket continues to work as you continue to read. You stop sweating. Sweet relief.

You take a walk downtown to find the David Zwirner Gallery. You already missed the doppleganger exhibit, so there was no way you were going to miss the Doug Wheeler one. You walk down and across and down and across and finally get to the street where the gallery is, and there are other people trying to find the same gallery because there are a lot of choices of doors. The sun is out and it is windy and the galleries are by the water so you are a little chilly as you try to choose the door that will get you to the exhibit. It’s kind of like Let’s Make A Deal for the art world.

The couple with the stroller ahead of you have chosen the correct door, which means they win! Which means you win because you get to see the artwork, too! The exhibit on view is a light exhibit. It looks like this.

Zwirner Gallery February 2020 (1)

And maybe that looks interesting but also some may ask, Why did you walk all that way on a windy day to see a framed box of light? Then you realize that this photo does the exhibit no justice. Here’s what it looks like again:

Zwirner Gallery February 2020 (6)

Ahhh, an entire lit up room wall thingie of light! It’s pretty groovy. You walk up to the light to see where it’s coming from. The wall curves under the floor. The light emanates and radiates from all around the wall that seems to be attached but also not attached to anything. You stay for at least twenty minutes, watching people look at the wall.

When you decide you have seen enough of the light wall, you leave the gallery and see a sign for Basquiat. The other side of the sign says Warhol. Go you must. So instead of keeping with the plan to go straight to the museum, you head over to Taglialatella Gallerieson 10th Ave. Your first fun find there is Einstein. He’s got a good message.

Free Art NYC February 2020 (4)

You go inside for the Basquiat, but before you even get to that, you’re floored. They’ve got Keith Haring. They’ve got a bunch of sparkly silkscreens from Russell Young. There are artists with names like Jerkface and Mr. Brainwash. And then you turn the corner and Good God! It’s a Lichtenstein! (That’s for your brother). You do find the Basquiat and the Warhol, and you bask in their artistic genius. (For more about your experiences with Basquiat and Warhol, you can go here ).

Because you’re so close to it, you head up onto the Highline. It’s got free public art! And RuPaul!

You realize that it’s cold up here on the Highline, so you walk quickly. The sun comes out, and you slow down to bask. The sun goes back in, so you pick up the pace. Some young woman runs up behind you, calling out, Hey excuse me! You turn and see she’s holding out a $5 bill. She says, You dropped this. You say, Oh, hey, thanks! She runs off, and you almost skip the rest of the length of the park because there’s still human kindness in this world.

So happy are you that you overshoot your landing and get down off the Highline around 14th when the Rubin is on 19th. Then? You. Get. Lost. You look at street signs, expecting to see numbers and instead you see the word Washington or something. What is this non-numbered sign all about?

You decide to walk away from the water. Two reasons that will help: 1. it’s warmer away from the water. 2. it’ll take you closer to 7th, a cross street. Your spatial ineptness is in full swing, but this decision makes sense a little at least.

A few more turns and double backs, and you finally find The Rubin, your new home away from home. You are so thankful that you’ve found it because you’re super cold now and you have to pee really bad. They have a bathroom! You know that bathroom well because it’s the bathroom you brushed your teeth in when you slept there a few months ago. (Here, “slept” means “had weird half asleep dreams while half asleep writing them down only to find they make no sense and your handwriting looks like the writing you find in a journal kept by a murderer).

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You check in on your old friend, the Bodhisattva.

Rubin February 2920 (13)

Then you venture into the exhibit you’d been itching to see, Measure Your Existence. The main reason you wanted to see it is it has interactive components, and you love to touch things in a museum.

The first piece is a carpet of candy. You get to take a piece of candy. As the pile dwindles, the museum replenishes it. Measure the existence of candy.

You take some candy. You eat a piece of candy. You enjoy the candy. You enjoy the fact that you got to take something from the museum even more than the candy itself.

Then you come upon a wall of letters. Anyone can write a letter to anyone. You can seal the letter and address it. You can seal the letter and not address it. You can leave the letter open for other visitors to read. You read a letter. And then another. A lot of people have a lot of guilt and write a lot of letters apologizing. Some ask for prayers.

Then you see a little booth. You have to take off your shoes to go inside. You can write a letter in there, too, so you do just that. You seal it and address it. The museum will eventually send it.

When you emerge from the letter hut and put on your boots, you notice a woman sitting at the other writing desk, and she’s weeping. You teared up writing your own letter. You assumed a lot of people probably cry when writing. Here is the proof.

Around the corner you watch a snippet of a film about a guy calling different companies and talking to whomever answers as if he’s talking to his mom, and then he realizes his mom is dead. It’s subtitled. It’s a weird concept. You stop watching.

You then watch an animated film and listen to the meditative soundtrack. You’ve got those big headphones on again. You always wear headphones in some capacity when you come here.

Then you decide to shake hands with a bronze hand. You’ve seen it before and have not shaken the hand. Today is the day you shake the hand. It’s not creepy. But actually, yes, it is.

You think about going to see the Impractical Jokers movie but the movie times don’t jive with your train times. You walk back to Penn, taking in more art along the way.

You wind up waiting at Penn for half an hour, which gives you plenty of time to start worrying again about using the MTA app eticket. It also gives you time to read more of your book, and you get halfway through it.

Then about a week later, you get some mail that makes you smile.

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You know that the only true way to measure existence is in gratitude. You thank the universe for everything, every single thing.

From Silence To Storytelling

These silent meditation retreats are becoming my everything. They come up exactly when I need them. I get exactly what I need out of them. The universe works if you let it. This most recent one was at Kadampa Massapequa, and it was a bit shorter, from 9:30 to 1ish. I had to move my car a few times because of timing and parking, but the breaks between meditation were a good time to do that. Plus, I like to walk outside during the breaks, and I found out that that’s what people do–they walk clockwise. And that’s what I’d been doing all along at all of my retreats. Clockwise walking. I didn’t choose it. I just did it. See? The universe. Also, breaks are a good time to eat, which I did. I brought snacks. What? Did you think I wouldn’t be carrying a bag of food around with me? The best part was seeing someone there I know from yoga and hearing that she came because she read about it in my newsletter, aka my Highly Infrequent Email list. Changing lives, people! Changing lives!

When I arrived, I saw that someone had already put a jacket on my seat. Yep, my seat. I go there only once a month, and I don’t have a membership, but apparently I’ve claimed a seat. So that was a reality check, realizing that I’ve created an attachment. This moment was like the moment in the airport when S and I were flying to ATL and I moved to the side after checking our luggage and before security so I could take off my coat and I said to her, I”m realizing I have an airport routine.

Side note: Delta owes me a ginger ale. It’s not their fault. It’s turbulence’s fault. We experienced a lot of bumps on the way home so all beverage service was halted and the flight attendant threw cookies at everyone on the way to her seat. My attachment to drinking ginger ale on a flight was tested, and I got through it. Sort of. Because I still think Delta owes me a drink.

Anyway, the point here is that self-realization is a good thing and realizing attachment leads to a chance to grow and become non-attached.  Which means I sat in a different seat instead of confronting the woman who put her coat on my chair. As if I’d actually confront a stranger. Or talk to one. But this was the point of the day–not talking. The seat I chose worked just as well as the other seat, and now I’m no longer attached to the chair, physically,  mentally, or spiritually. (I still want that ginger ale, though).

As an about-face, the next day was very chatty. I taught two yoga classes–my regular power hour at 9 and then a sub stint for a stretch and flow at 10:15. By the by, if you’re a lady, you can join me every Sunday at 9 for dancey-yoga. If you don’t want to be out of the house that early or you’re not a lady, then you can get your yoga on in semi-private or individual sessions. Also? Reiki. I’m available, y’all! After yoga, I headed out to Sip This to write with a poet friend. It was our first time writing together, so we actually wound up chatting more than writing, but I did draft a poem about dolphins and yoga that’s been floating around in my brain, so that made me super happy. Also, there was jazz, loud jazz, which made for a really groovy coffee klatsch.

Then off to Industry in Huntington for Mostly True Things, a storytelling game. I mean, does it get any better? It’s storytelling. It’s a game. I get to listen to people tell me stories and then I have the chance to win. The last time someone told me a story was at the Rubin, and it was bedtime. This time, I was not in pajamas. The four tellers were fantastic. I saw some poets I know, so we chatted about possible truth tellers and fibbers–only one person was telling a completely true story. I was wrong in my first guesses, but when it came time to make official guesses, I got it right.

I won a tote bag!

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All of this unfolded on the tail end of a President’s Week that put all previous President’s Weeks to shame:

Sunday: Yoga and South Bay Sundays Workshop–I love love love my group of writers. Some new faces appeared, and I love them as much.

Monday: Sit Around and Write. I wrote some poems!

Tuesday: Hair cut! I’m bald! Not really.

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Wednesday: Mr. Cheapos with my brother to sell CDs. I came home with fewer CDs. Does anyone want CDs? I also have a DVD of the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen classic New York Minute, featuring Eugene Levy.

Thursday: Writing editing cleaning cooking doing all the things one does to stay alive

Friday: Breakfast at Morning Rose Cafe with T and D. And it was delicious. And I shook and had a headache for a few hours afterwards because salt and sugar. Worth it for sure.

So a very fun week rounded out by a very fun weekend and how grateful am I to be able to live this life so fully!

I Want A Fog Machine

Poetry needs more fog machines. There. I said it. It cannot be undone.

Sometimes I think I’m going overboard with the astronaut ice cream, but now I’ve kind of got the reputation as that poet who gives away astronaut ice cream, so really, there may not be such a thing as too kitschy, too gimmicky. Maybe wearing a space suit, but even then, maybe not.

Crossroads Talent hosts a talent showcase every second Friday of the month. I know this only because someone from that group found me on Instagram and has been asking me for months to join the show. This past month, I was free the night of the event, so I said I’d do it.

Then it dawned on me that I should probably look up the show. I found disco lights, smoke machines, step troupes, and rappers. Some soul singers and some R&B singers. More rappers. Lots of fog.

Now I have no problem being the outlier in a lineup. I was, however, left wondering why this guy had consistently asked me to be part of the show when clearly I do not do anything anyone else does. Still, I’d committed, and so I went.

Off to the American Legion! DB and EA met up with me, and what we found was what I would call the equivalent of a fun school dance. There was a drum kit and guitars set up with flashy lights and the fog maker. There were chairs flanking a blank space that would no doubt be a dance floor. There were decorations for Valentine’s Day, and that’s when I realized, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day. And then there were donuts.

I don’t know how to describe the donut situation other than abundant. Just when you thought they were done putting out the donuts, there was another tray being set down. The donuts had not been on the clips I’d seen of the previous events; maybe they’d been hidden by the fog. In any case, a pleasant perk, for sure.

Everyone was so incredibly nice. Anyone involved in putting on the production kept making sure everyone felt welcome and supported. They asked the audience to crowd around the performers to show them love. Their kind of love showing and my kind of love showing are a little different because an audience five inches from a performer’s face seems more intrusive than loving, but still, most of the performers seemed to enjoy it. Some even asked for people to get closer. I stayed near my seat, but I did stand and clap and cheer. I loved how supportive everyone was of everyone else, especially for the performers who were 13, 14, and 15 years old. When I was that age, I wore mismatched oversized sweatpants and stayed in my bedroom listening to Paula Abdul and eating rice cakes while pondering all the ways I didn’t fit it in in life, so kudos to them for even stepping out into the world. I turned out pretty okay, though, because here I was, too.

The night kept going. The smoke machine kept billowing. There were some R&B singers and then a string of rappers followed by a Hawaiian dance group followed by another string of rappers. I don’t listen to rap all that much, but I do enjoy it from time to time. However, this was getting to be a lot. Also, some performers were leaving right after they performed, and I’m not a big fan of that. So after about two hours, I decided I’d had enough, and my posse of two agreed.

I took my name off the list, and one of the event planners told me he’d put me up next and I didn’t have to leave. That was really sweet, but then I’d stay even longer because I don’t leave right after performing. So I thanked him profusely, said I could come back another month, and then left.

What this group does for artists means a whole lot. There’s no place else I know of that invites people of every artistry of every age to do what they love to do for free and gives them donuts and a fog maker to boot. The world needs more of this kind of love.

 

Coca Cola And The Incomparable Celine Dion

When I asked about peaches, I found out about boiled peanuts. It’s a thing in Georgia. Also in Georgia, specifically Atlanta, are the World of Coca Cola and Celine Dion. While Celine is not always there, Coke is, and so S, A, and I visited both.

The World Of Coca Cola

The first thing we did was drink a small can of Coke. This was going to be a day of sugar shock.

We took the VIP tour. So that other visitors can’t tag along and listen, they give you headsets and the tour guide whispers into a mic so only the tour can hear. Most of what I heard translated in my mind into how Coca Cola has steadily earned world dominance. Why does Santa wear red and white? Coke. If that’s not domination, then I don’t know what is.

The first room we entered had memorabilia from across the globe throughout the decades. It was a lot of stuff. Then we watched a movie. It was people living their lives, and then they would drink Coke. I didn’t get it. I mean, who hikes up a mountain in the snow and then drinks Coca Cola at the top? No one is carrying that up a mountain, and water would be the drink of choice. Like, it really didn’t make any sense. At all.

We got to skip the line to meet the polar bear. This thing is not okay. I have a bit of an aversion to adult sized characters in big heads that don’t talk. Like, if you’re in costume and talk, that’s fine, but if you’re mute and make gestures, that makes me really uncomfortable, which is why I don’t go to Chuck E. Cheese (among other reasons). This fear may stem from the time Twinkie The Kid accosted me over at the A&P when I was little. I don’t remember much of the story, and I know I walked away with a Twinkie The Kid ring, but the ring wasn’t worth it.

Anyway, we took pictures with the scary bear just before it headed for break. It waddled away and was really creepy. Still, the pictures we took with it are priceless.

We learned about the creator of Coke and his secret recipe. We learned about how the formula is still secret, and the bottlers and distributors don’t know how to make it. We saw more advertising. We learned about different glass. Basically, anything you could possibly think of concerning soft drink supremacy was in this museum.

We saw the vault, y’all.

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Then came a moment I hadn’t ever thought I’d get the chance to experience. You know how I love the Olympics? Yeah, well, so does Coca Cola. They sponsor a bunch of sports, and the Olympics is one of them, so they have some torches on display. Then in a weird unsuspecting hallway, they have a locked cabinet of torches that we got to hold. I held an Olympic torch! My life is so complete!

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In addition to VIP badges, we also got VIP pins! Then into the tasting room we went! Sugar shock continues! The room is set up by continent, and there are several countries’ drinks to try out. We tasted Beverly from Italy first because we heard it was nasty. It was. Very. Nasty. Then there was some Germany drinks, and they were not nasty but also not great. One had a picture of an apple and something else with it, and that something else I’m pretty sure was not-great-ness. Africa had a lot of berry or juicy flavors. Super duper sweet.

We took a break from tasting and checked out commercials throughout the ages. I sang along with the I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke ad. It’s the only one I recognized.

Back to the tasting room! The South American ones were probably my favorite. I also like something from Japan. There was one, however, that made me make a face that I could feel was the face of pain and disturbance. I walked over to S and A who were still tasting in Africa and was like, China tastes like steak sauce. And clearly my face told the whole tale. While I didn’t receive a complete agreement, S was like, I can see how you’d think that. I was like, I don’t think that; I know that.

We finished up in the tasting room by drinking more Coke products from the do-it-yourself-mix-and-match machines. I didn’t mix anything, but I did try root beer for the first time. Interesting. I’ve also never tried Dr. Pepper even though I’ve visited the Dr. Pepper Museum. For someone who doesn’t drink sugary drinks, I do enjoy a good soda museum.

This was the day we also had Cracker Barrel, and I was able to use the last $1.03 I had on a Cracker Barrel Gift Card I’ve owned for maybe ten years. Basically, it was a joyous day of food and beverages.

The Incomparable Celine Dion

A drove us first to a closed down Italian place (booo!) and then to an open Italian place (yeay!) for dinner. Then a monsoon hit. Like rain puddles emerged in the restaurant. Then the monsoon died down a little, and we were on our way to see Celine. We listened to Celine in the car. Then we got stuck in Celine traffic. Everyone on the street walking to the arena was wearing some sort of sparkle or sequin ensemble. I’d gotten the memo and was decked out in a shimmery shirt. Because what else would one wear to see Celine Dion?

We arrived a little late because everyone in Atlanta wanted to see Celine. The upside was that A was able to point out the Olympic park and the Olympic rings. I saw them! In person! From the car, but still. It’s an Olympics Miracle!

For her first few songs, Celine wore an orangy sparkly gown. See? Glittering is the way to go. And every song was shout-singable. You know, like how you want to sing along but you can’t because you’re not Celine so you kind of shout the lyrics along with the melody? Yeah, we did a lot of that. I didn’t sit for most of the concert. I was that girl, dancing even to the slow stuff, even to the French stuff, even to the songs that aren’t really dancing songs.

The arena was loud. Probably one of the loudest concerts I’ve been to. So loud that Celine stopped and got weepy, thanking everyone for the applause. That cause what I could not believe was even louder cheering. The night was all energy.

Her last song before the we-know-what’s-coming encore was a medley of covers. Again, she wore a shiny get-up. I think there were four wardrobe changes, and during those changes, we watched videos of her dancing that also looked like perfume ads. That woman can move. Wow.

The encore was, predictably, “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme from Titanic, that really I’m not too much of a fan of. There were drones dancing around her as she sang and then she sent one off to fly away on its own. It was all very dramatic. Then she sang “Imagine.” I didn’t think she’d sing anything after her most sang song ever, but I was happy she did.

Everything Else

While soda and Celine were fantastic, seeing friends was the best thing we did. I met A’s husband and son for the first time. We checked out their digs, watched movies, and shopped at the local Publix where I got my hands on some boiled peanuts. Gotta say, they’re pretty okay.  I’ll go back to ATL any time for any of these things.

 

Dreaming Under The Bodhisattva

Remember how I’m always finding ways to lie down in New York City? Like when I’ve done yoga in Times Square? Or like when I went to the sound exhibit at the Rubin Museum? I found another way to lie down for an even longer period of time. Again at the Rubin, but this time, at night. It’s a Dreamover, y’all! That means I slept over at the museum. Dreams. Come. True. But like, the goal kind of dream, not the kind of dreamy dreams you have when you sleep. Because if the dreams I had at the Rubin actually came true, we’d have problems. I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, getting to the Rubin from home meant a train and a walk. That meant taking as little as possible with me, which is a good thing. I mean, remember all the bags I took with me for two and a half days at the ashram? I’m moving towards practicing non-attachment for sure, and so I chose to take a large bag to carry my sleeping bag and a pashmina and slippers, and then a backpack for toiletries, a hat, a book, a pen, and a pillow. A friend offered to lend me a camping blow up thingie, but that didn’t pan out, so here I was with as little stuff as possible for a few hours of sleeping.

Side note: This sleeping bag is seeing more action in the past few months than it has in years. Remember Fishkill?

Nothing I carried was heavy, but everything was bulky. At the train station, I had to ride the escalator sideways with my backpack hanging on one arm and the sleeping bag on the other. Walking downtown, that sleeping bag was whacking into people as I glided down seventh. I can imagine what I looked like: a tiny woman carrying a backpack as large as a small child, wielding an overstuffed beach bag, careening across every street. After this whole experience, I kept saying that I didn’t see anything strange this trip into the city, and right now I’m realizing that I was the strange thing that happened.

Anyway, into the museum!

As a crowd formed outside as we waited for the doors to open, a few dog walkers came by, and all the dogs stopped and wanted to go into the museum. Whatever energy was happening was already detectable. Then a few passersby asked what was going on. One woman behind me kept answering with “It’s a dreamover!” which lead to follow-up explanations until someone else simply started answering, “We’re dreaming with the gods and goddesses.” That answer seemed more sufficient for anyone who asked.

Finally, doors opened and in we went, sat at tables, and then got escorted to our artwork that we’d dream under. Everyone fills out a survey beforehand and gets art matched to them. And so I found myself in an alcove on the third floor–a place I’ve always found colder than the rest of the museum, and also the place I’d guessed I’d be–and my artwork was a bodhisattva with hands in a teaching position. Holding my place was a notebook, the agenda for the evening, and a slip of paper that explained why I was there: “We have paired you with a loving bodhisattva who offers you a teaching gesture, to support your deepening practice as a student but also the wisdom you have to give as a newly published author.

Yep, that’s the right piece of artwork for me.

I unrolled my sleeping bag, set up my pillow, put on my slippers, and sat. This was happening. The building carries sound, so I listened for a while and read the itinerary for the evening. There was going to be a lecture on dreams! I didn’t know that! Very cool. Then there would be breakout sessions! I didn’t know that! Very not cool for the socially awkward but here I was sleeping among strangers and only once did I think hey is this safe? and didn’t know the answer and did it anyway, so the breakout session was still on the list of things to do.

And then we’d get a snack!

And then we’d get a bedtime story!!

This was like kindergarten!!!

Once I was settled in, I met my nook-mate, a lovely woman who works in the arts. We chatted about creativity, and then she blew up her double-inflatable mattress while I sat on my cushy sleeping bag. My dream collector–the person who would be waking me up and asking me about my dreams–came over to explain my artwork to me. We talked about how it was perfect for me. She suggested I mimic the teaching mudra to see what the artwork was doing. (This is where I’ll tell you that I usually refer to mudras as Buddhist gang signs, which is probably not funny to Buddhists or the bodhisattva, so I didn’t say that joke there).

Dreamover (20)

Then I got up, realizing that, Hey, I’m in a museum! I can go museum-ing! And so I did. I walked up to the top floor and spiralled my way down. The only difference is that there were sleeping bags and mattresses and pillows everywhere. It was colossally strange in the most wonderful way possible.

I made my way down to the bottom floor theatre for the conversation between Tibetan Buddhist lama Khenpo Pema and Jungian analyst Patricia Llosa. I did that thing that I usually don’t like people doing–I sat right next to someone when there were clearly lots of empty seats elsewhere. I was kind of tired by this time–it was 9 PM, which is nearing my jammie-time, and also, I was focused on being able to see both people. Short gals gotta have a plan. The guy I sat next to didn’t seem to mind, and we chatted about what we were drawing. The screen on stage had a suggestion to draw our artwork from memory, so that’s what we were both doing. We both realized that we had very different pieces of artwork ,and they were both intricate, and neither of us excels at drawing.

After being welcomed and clapping for people who come back every year, the conversation began. It explored dreams from Eastern and Western perspectives, and it highlighted places where they converged mostly. There was a Q&A. This was an actual Q&A. It wasn’t like when I go to writing conferences and there’s a Q&A where people raise their hands and just talk without a question. There were actual questions!

That led to meditation. It was now almost 10 PM. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and then had a head jerk because I’d started to fall asleep. That happened two more times, not in the way it’s been happening during meditation because I’ve been falling deeper into the mind, but because I was sleeping, yo. Still, it was a good meditation session.

Onto the breakout groups! So awkward. So so awkward. Our floor was not a talkative floor, and the leaders were not talkative leaders. However, once there were a few questions like how to remember our dreams and answers about dreams and emotions, it was pretty okay. Then right before we were done, the conversation turned towards lucid dreaming. Now this was getting interesting! But then the chimes chimed out. It was time for snacks!

The spread offered apples, clementines, chocolate star cookies, trail mix, cheese, and kettle corn. This was around 10:30 PM. Who eats kettle corn at this time? I’ll tell you who–a lot of people. It was a hot commodity. Also, we could choose from three kinds of tea. Rubin Museum, you get me, man, you so get me. I had a turmeric tea. Mmm, so good.

Also, that’s not my camera doing weird things. Everything was tinged orange. Again, Rubin: You. Get. Me.

I brushed my teeth in a museum bathroom. How many of you can say that?

When I came back to my sleeping bag, I saw a stack of cushions. One of the docents had left them. I thanked her, saying I’d use them if I needed them, but my sleeping bag was good so far. After laying there a while, reading the same Kerouac book I’ve been reading for what now seems like eight lifetimes (referenced in several of the posts linked above), I realized I could feel the floor with my entire body. I tucked those cushions right up under me. Yep, that docent knew what she was talking about. How thoughtful!

Then it was time for my bedtime story!

First, a side note: My morning meditation routine waxes and wanes between silent to sound. When it’s silent, I usually have a mantra. I don’t feel like I choose it. I feel like it chooses me. Something pops into my head, and I use it as a mantra for however long it lasts in my mind. For the past few weeks, I’ve been using I am not the body.

I tell you that tidbit to tell you this: My story was Vow of the Bodhisattva in which Loke enters a state of samadhi. As he senses his own organs and bones and then subatomic particles he states, “I am not this body. All that I believed was a solid mass is nothing but vibration.”

Let me repeat: Loke in my bedtime story says the line that has been my mantra for the past few weeks.

This was meant to be!

Then it was bedtime. The museum provided earplugs, so I put them in. Then I put a blanket over my head and snuggled down into my sleeping bag. I feel asleep for a few minutes or more because the next time I opened my eyes, the lights had gone out.

And then? Things. Got Weird.

At least one person was singing in his sleep. Someone was also talking in his or her sleep. I heard that with the earplugs in. I know it was real. I don’t know if anyone else heard it. Then I started wondering if anyone was going to start sleepwalking. There were stairs! This could be tragic!

Then I started worrying that I wasn’t going to fall asleep and then I wasn’t going to dream and then my dream collector would have nothing to collect and I’d be a big huge disappointment to everyone, especially the bodhisattva.

Then I talked myself off that ledge. No one would care if I dreamed or not. In fact, the cafe was open all night for anyone who had insomnia and wanted to have tea.

I took out the earplugs, realizing that they could be the reason I wasn’t sleeping. Then I fell asleep for a bit. Then I woke up, realizing I’d been dreaming. I reached out for my phone to get some light and for my notebook to scribble down whatever I could. And then this went on, repeating itself, me waking with a start each time, wanting to remember what I’d dreamed.

When morning came, I was awake already. I actually went to the bathroom at around 5 something, careful not to trample on anyone sleeping. I know I wasn’t the only one awake because I’d heard the bathroom door opening and closing, and I heard the elevator ding a time or two. The sleep singing had stopped hours before, which was kind of a bummer because it was kinda funny.

My dream collector found me lounging–they wake you by shining a light your way–and we chatted about my dreams. She wrote things down and asked me about emotions and colors. She also asked if I dreamed about or felt influenced by my art. Nope. My dreams? Were whacked out. When she left, I looked at what I had written. The act of writing them down made me remember them, so I hadn’t had to look at my notebook when she was collecting. That’s a good thing, too, because what I wrote down looked like a lunatic had found a pen for the first time and decided to scratch at some notebook pages for a while.

Here are my dreams:

  1. A man in a hoodie standing against a wall holding something important.
  2. People needing to know the hours that Disney is open.
  3. A mall kiosk lady walking around her kiosk in a mall.
  4. Looking for a place to sit in a restaurant/cafe that I realized was RollNRoaster in Sheepshead Bay but also it wasn’t exactly that place, and then a tall dignified African American woman is with a large family and she’s wearing a trench coat and green patterned dress, and she stands up and politely says, I’m not going to wait anymore.
  5. There’s a ship in a storm but it’s not a real ship or storm because it turns out to be a tv set that looks like the set of that sci-fi show about water with the guy who was in that movie with the big fluffy white flying thing.

And that’s that.

I meditated for fifteen minutes. Then I trekked down to the cafe for breakfast with my notebook so I could do my morning writing. (It’s all about the routine). There was quite the spread for breakfast, too, but mostly stuff I don’t eat. Basically, it was all carbs and dairy, so like, the opposite of my life. Dreamover (5)

I was hungry, though, so I had three mini-muffins, fruit from the top of a parfait, and trail mix that was still out from the night before. I had green tea that was so so good. There was also coffee, apparently, but that looked pretty scary.

When I was done writing and nibbling, I packed up my stuff. Then I went to the morning breakout group to discuss our experiences. Again, there was a lot of awkwardness. We went around and made a group poem. I liked that, of course! Once the leader read the poem, I knew it was one of those poems that would also work backwards. I’m in the homestretch of teaching two creative writing workshops, so hearing work read out loud and knowing how to revise it comes to me instantly. It’s a gift. I didn’t ask for that, though, because everyone loved the last line, and I wasn’t into speaking up because the mini-muffins were weighing heavily on my soul.

We all said our thanks and goodbyes–I thanked the docent who had left me the cushions–and then I grabbed my bags and headed down the spiral staircase one last time. At the bottom was a station where we could draw something, so I drew a flower.

Then I went out onto the streets of NYC early on a Sunday morning. They were practically empty, so I wasn’t hitting into anyone with my gigantic bag as I strode uptown towards Penn. Then passing by FIT, I saw this for what seems like the first time:

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And that pretty much sums up the entire experience.