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.

ATL Day 2 (11)

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!

ATL Day 2 (19)

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:

dreamover-3.jpg

And that pretty much sums up the entire experience.

Ashram Life

What’s happening to me? I’m out in, like, nature. I’ve found that if I’m outside in the late Fall heading into winter, there are fewer bugs. Except for the almost moth attack when I did that workshop upstate, I’ve been pretty a-okay with nature. So on a weekend in November, I took myself up into the Catskills to Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch.

The Catskills? Isn’t that where all those resorts are? Yes, it was exactly like Dirty Dancing except more in the middle of nowhere on a higher further mountain without dancing dirtily and with more vegan options, though Dirty Dancing did have watermelon, and the ashram did not.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

The ashram was offering a workshop on santosha, which is contentment. I’ve been wanting to continue my education in yoga philosophy, and I also wanted to go somewhere. Perfect fit.

I drove up on a Friday. It was sunny. There were snow squalls in the air that didn’t touch the ground. I was happy I’d worn my big red coat.

Side note: I have a NEW big red coat! It’s much like the last one only the hood has a faux-fur rim and is removable. Who would remove such a fashionista accessory?

I checked in at the main building where there was a very happy statue of Swami Vishnudevananda sitting outside with a pumpkin. This was a good sign. Also a good sign were the heated floors. In a place where you have to take your shoes off, heated floors are everything.

Guided by someone on staff, took my several bags for a two and a half day stay up a very steep hill to find my mini apartment. These digs were nice! I’m maybe mid-maintanence. Hence, the several bags whereas I’m sure other people brought a backpack. However, this apartment was nicer than I thought. It had two chairs, a kitchenette, a bedroom with two fluffy beds, and a bathroom. The shower was small for even me, but I didn’t care because this was modern living and there were no bugs. There were probably bugs in the summer. November is where it’s at! Or when it’s at, I suppose. Also where it’s at is baseboard heating. Mine was cranked up when I got there, and what a blessing for later on when the sun would go down.

From my front porch, I could see mountains rolling and rolling. After settling in my stuff and eating some snacks I’d packed (one of the several bags!), I took a walk all over the grounds. In my big red coat and snow boots, I stayed mostly warm hiking all up and around the hills and paths. There was a rather steep path down into the woods that I found following a sign for a temple, but I backed away. I didn’t want to die alone in the woods on my first day at the ashram.

Life at the ashram is regimented but also relaxed. I’d gotten there in time to walk around and then change in time for afternoon yoga. I settled in with my mat and found that they begin in savasana. I can get behind that. I lied down and let the relaxation begin. Then I heard the instructor say we’d be going through breathing and movements for the next two hours. Two hours? That’s part of the regimen. Two hours of yoga in the afternoon followed by dinner. Ah, okay, so it’s like to get to dinner, we get through two whole hours of yoga. Got it. I could do that.

The yoga they do at the ranch is not the kind of yoga that I particularly like. It’s a lot of the same pose held over and over again. Each asana is separated by a savasana. I’m used to the flowy kind of yoga. Which means this yoga was the yoga I needed, so I did it, and I found myself liking it. Sometimes not liking it. Then liking it again. They do headstands and other inversions as part of every practice. I don’t do headstands because of fear of everything, so I didn’t do them, but I did the prep for them. The instructor was really encouraging. The prep steps to headstand are very specific, and with the first four, he was like, We can all do this. He was right, so I did those first prep moves for that practice session and for all the others the rest of the weekend, and I got better at them each time. That’s what happens when you have yoga twice a day for two hours each. Yes, that’s right, four hours of yoga daily. Who’s in heaven now? Or nirvana? Or, well, you know.

So after that we had dinner, and meals turned out to be my favorite part of the weekend. I know, me and food, yes, I eat five times a day. I take that for granted, yo. Over at the ranch, they eat twice. That’s it. Two times a day. They have a brunch and a dinner. And that’s why I bring snacks everywhere. However, that’s not what was my favorite part. My favorite part was before every meal, everyone stands around the food holding hands in a circle and we all sing Hare Krishna and then they ask these questions to which everyone responds jai and then they say something else and the only word I understand is “cooks” and we all clap and then everyone gets to eat. This description does not do it any justice. It’s the most joyous ritual, and I kind of want to do it every time I eat now, but again, the five times a day, that’s time consuming.

The food was delicious and mostly vegan. There was soup with every meal. There was a lot of greens. Tea for every meal. Vegetables and a salad for every meal. Just delicious. Delicious. Delicious.

After dinner, anyone who was new to the ashram could go to the orientation. First, we learned that ashram means house in the woods. This made complete sense. Then we learned about the legacy of Swami Vishnudevananda and his teacher Swami Sivananda. I got some of this, but by this time, I was nearing tired, so a lot of it went over my head. We then learned about the schedule. Our days would be regimented, but also relaxed. Again, it’s a difficult concept to explain, but it works.

After that was evening satsang. Satsang is meditation, chanting, singing, and listening to a talk. Swami Satyapremananda was there to give the talk the next day, so she discussed santosha a little bit during this session, too.

By the way, everyone there had a name like this. Not Swami, but the other very long name. They would say their names as if they were understandable and repeatable. The staff wears yellow, so if you can’t call out a name, you can at least tug on a yellow shirt for help. Also, fun fact, they are all volunteer, offering themselves up to karma yoga. What a life, for real.

Walking up the hill in the cold at night after satsang was exhilarating. I stopped at the top and stared at the stars. There are so many stars. So many. I went inside after a short while because it was, like 17 degrees out. I crawled under two blankets in my baseboard heated bedroom, read a little bit (still working on that Kerouac book), and fell asleep.

I woke up too early in the 4 AM hour. I was giddy, and I never sleep very well the first night I’m in a new place. I showered. I stretched. I had a little bit to eat, knowing I wouldn’t be eating until 10 AM. Then the bell outside gonged. It was finally 5:30. Time to head down the hill in the still very cold for morning satsang. Yeah, that’s right, we do that twice a day, too.

This weekend was special because it was the anniversary of Swami Vishnudevananda leaving his body. That meant that there would be a special ceremony during this morning’s satsang. How fortunate for me to be able to experience this. There was much of the same silent meditation and then chanting and singing. Then there were offerings. One of the staff members was carrying one of those industrial sized metal salad bowls around and handing out what I truly thought was salad. I mean, it was greens in a salad bowl. Turns out, it was flowers. Close enough. We all offered these flowers to the altar. Then there was a milk offering. Then there was another offering, and I don’t remember exactly what it was. All I know is that the ceremony went a bit long for my taste, but still, I’m happy to have experienced it. At the end, we were offered the leftovers from the offering, and they were, of course, delicious. This little morsel would tide me over until brunch.

Because first, yoga! Pranayama (breathing). Asana (poses). Savasana (resting). Two hours.

Then Hare Krishna Hare Rama jai jai thank you cooks, let’s eat!

I wound up writing a lot. I carried around a snack and my book wherever I went. This was partially so I would remember everything, but it was also because here I was, me, alone, not knowing anyone, in a very tight knit social situation. Yikes. Who even am I?

There was a nature walk at noon, so I took it. The walk included the very steep hill down into the woods that I’d skipped the day before. This was also a walk through real nature. there weren’t paths. There were markers nailed to trees and some planks for crossing treacherous places, but no real clearing of brush. This was nature nature. The staff guy said a few times, It’ll be a little muddy. To which someone answered, We’re yogis, it’s fine.

Flashback to Yoga Times Square when the dragon fly was flitting about and all the yogis were in awe, trying to take pictures of it, and I was dying inside, knowing that if it came near me, it would die outside, like a real death. So “We’re yogis” isn’t exactly a universal definition of being okay with nature.

However, there wasn’t a lot of mud. There was a lot of iced over leaves, which looked pretty cool. Some spots of large puddles. Mostly moss and woodsy-ness.

Then, because we’d gone down a hill, we were going to go up a hill. This hill was vertical. I shit you not. I found myself leaning forward for fear of falling backwards. Some people stopped along the way, and I knew if I stopped, I wouldn’t start again. So I got up that hill in one shot, one booted foot clambering over the next until the ground evened out. And when I was at the top, I moved over to the side, unzipped my big red coat because I was now sweating (if this surprises you, then you know nothing about me, for shame), and I kind of leaned forward to collapse my lungs so they could breath easier. I look up and saw another woman doing almost the same thing. She saw me and said, Oh thank God it’s not just me.  And as I watched everyone ahead of us not stopping, I answered, I work out every day, and I have no idea how any of them are still going. She was like, this is nuts. I was like, that was completely vertical. We agreed, gathered some oxygen, and then headed on the path to catch up.

We saw two temples in the course of the walk, and they were both gorgeous. We came out on top of and behind where the apartments and dorms were. I walked down to the main house to get water, and then I walked back up because there were 45 minutes before the santosha talk, and I needed to change because I was soaked. Worth every bead of sweat, for sure.

The talk on contentment continued where satsang left off. Swami Satyapremananda has this subtle kind of energy that melted into some funny moments and a lot of wisdom. One big takeaway was: Everyday do one thing you don’t want to do, and acknowledge its benefits; everyday don’t do one thing you do want to do, and acknowledge its drawbacks. Eventually, this leads to realizing that contentment is not based on satisfaction of the external world but being satisfied internally, and that leads to santosha. You’re welcome.

Then yoga time. Then eating time. Then bedtime.

No joke, by the time we finished with dinner, I was like, I need a rest. So I went up to my room, thinking I’d rest for half an hour and then come back down for satsang. The first part of that plan happened. Then instead of going back down, I showered so I wouldn’t have to shower in the morning and also because I’d sweat so much before and then did yoga on top of it, and so that wasn’t making for very aromatic armpits despite any kind of deodorant attempts. Then I climbed into my jammies and climbed under the covers and read the same sentence in my book over and over until I decided I needed to go to sleep for real instead of pretending to not be tired.

Sunday morning I felt like a million bucks! I got up before the bell gonged. I stretched, changed, packed a little, and then at the sound of the bell, I headed down to satsang. At the bottom of the hill, I got into a standoff with a cat. It wanted to go inside. It wasn’t supposed to go inside. I was trying to go inside without it following me, and that wasn’t working. My pleads of, No Kitty you can’t come in, fell on neglecting cat ears. Then I decided to try to trick it. I walked towards the front of the building, and the cat followed. Then I made a quick dash towards the back. Cats are fast. It literally got to the door right before I did. So then I did what any rational adult would do–I stood there and waited for the cat to become someone else’s problem. Sure enough, someone came down the hill and let the cat in. I followed and heard someone talking about taking the cat outside, and that’s what happened. Several times, the cat came in, and several times the cat was ushered back out.

Then it was satsang beginning with a very quiet meditation. I’ve been going to meditation sessions here and there, and several times, I’ve been meditating for a while and suddenly, I get one of those sleep jerks, only I’m awake. It’s been very trippy. I almost had that happen that morning, but meditation ended right before that. It was back to regular satsang, complete with a talk on santosha that involved the story of Elizabeth Taylor and that guy she married twice. It was a great story. We got a strawberry on the way out to yoga.

After yoga was breakfast where I chatted with two very lovely people. Then after breakfast, I went up the hill to get my bags, which I carried down the hill to my car. Then back up the hill to bring the linens back down to the main building. Then, quite content, it was time to go. I drove home with a full heart, and it still feels that way. Knowing that people devote their lives to work that will make the world a better place makes me content, for sure.

 

 

The One With The Win

This is a story of triumph. A story of perseverance and victory. Might I say, a story of pure bliss. And friendship, of course.

Not too long ago, S, R, and I visited the Friends apartments when they popped up on Mercer. We got our fill of wah-pah and pivoting. This was a moment between trivia jaunts.

We’ve been to Friends Trivia before. S has been to more than I have. Together, we tried our hand at Big Daddy’s trivia night. We also gave it a go at Sip This. Once there was one at a bar somewhere. We have placed, but we have not won. S carries the team. I have my expertise in Mockolate, one episode in a vast nine years of a series. I know my place–moral support.

When the chance at Friends trivia rolled around again, it was iffy because of schedules. The day before, we were like, okay let’s go. I grabbed tix online. Tickets came with a drink, so I could get my green tea on while trivia-ing.

I then thrust myself into study mode. I’ve developed a surefire way to look like a psychopath whenever trivia comes up about something I’m not very in-the-know about. I go online and write down things that could possibly be answers to other things. Which is everything.

The last time I did something like this, it was for Harry Potter Trivia at Sip This with SD. I chose to focus on important numbers. This strategy did not lead to victory. However, it did lead to me being the only person who knew Ginny Weasley’s jersey number. I told SD, just write down X because that number seems to come up a lot. And I? Was right! Heck if I know it now because this kind of cramming leads to remembering things only the night of.

So I wrote down things about each friend–relationships, how many episodes have their names in the title, nicknames, travel, apartment numbers, allergies, catchphrases. Looking back over the notes, some of it is illegible. I legit have no idea what I wrote. It could be Friends facts. It could be a recipe for stew. I do know the recipe for Rachel’s trifle. Or at least I did. During the trivia.

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Copious copious notes

Jam-packed with newfound knowledge and having watched two random episodes from Season 1, S and I met up at Ground Central, grabbed our drinks, and grabbed our seats. There would be five rounds. We would be the Chanberries. We were set.

Round 1’s first question was Who are all six friends?

I proudly wrote all six friends’ names without the help of S. Who’s carrying whom????

S looked at what I wrote and said, Stop it! You wrote Ross twice and forgot Monica.

Again, I know my place in this. I crossed out the second Ross and wrote Monica.

The rest of Round 1 I knew pretty well, too. This was encouraging.

Then came the between the rounds nerve-wracking activity of the lightning round. If your team scored the lowest in a round, one of the two of you had to answer three questions in 30 seconds to stay in the game. You weren’t allowed to pass, either. S and I were like, well we don’t want to do that, so we have to not lose a round. Anyone who had to do a lightning round lost and was out of trivia, which made me kinda sad because then they couldn’t keep enjoying the game. I like games! I want people to have fun!

Round 2 went okay, too. I knew some of the answers and others I had no clue. S knew everything. Everything! And then Round 3 and Round 4, too. By Round 5, I was like, this is going super well. She was like, you wrote down Yemen. Yes, yes, I had, and that was an answer. See? The studying of random things helps.  Other things I helped with : Gladys is the name of Phoebe’s artwork; Amy and Jill are Rachel’s sisters. There were no questions about Mockolate.

The last round came upon us. We were the high scorers, so we were automatically in the last round. The other two teams did a lightning round that was even more intense because it involved two teams and more time and back and forth questioning.

The final round involved Perfection. Remember that game with the shapes and the timer and the board that pops up and throws all the shapes out of their slots when the time is up? Yeah, so you had to do that game while answering trivia questions about Friends Thanksgiving episodes. And since S is the expert, she was the one who had to do this. S doesn’t like to be the center of attention, so this was an interesting turn of circumstances.

Oh. Wait. Perfection? Isn’t that what Chandler says to Jill Goodacre when they’re locked in the ATM when she offers him gum? That would be perfection. Right? Am I right? Hand on…. “Gum would be perfection.” I JUST LOOKED IT UP AND I AM RIGHT.

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge that I looked something up. A rare occasion.

But back to the trivia! S got every question right, including the question about what goes in Rachel’s Trifle–which I knew because that was in my notes–and she got some pieces into the game board. At one point, I did interject the very helpful advice, That piece doesn’t fit there, as she spent a good amount of time trying to place an octagon into a hexagon. I had a better angle on it. She had better trivia knowledge.

The next team went, and they got a whole lot of pieces in. However, they got fewer trivia questions right. Their last question was What dish was Chandler in charge of? S and I snapped a glance at each other right away.

The answer to that? Cranberries. Or, shall we say, Chanberries?

Which was our team name.

And The Chanberries won trivia!

After years of coming in second, S has won trivia. I told her she can never go to Friends Trivia again ever. Because, you know, winning.

We talked to the host afterwards about playing Perfection (the above clip never came up because I just realized it now, but I wonder if it was a subconscious choice). She said she wanted it to be an intense challenge. We were like, mission accomplished. Then S said to me she thought they should advertise it as Extreme Friends Trivia. Ha! Not a bad idea. It was the most intense trivia I’ve been to. This kind of makes sense because the guy over at GC is probably the most intense person I’ve ever met. So Extreme Trivia it is, at least in our minds, and we won it. Yeay!

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Longest Friends

Thanks, S.

Intentional

Back in February, I went to the Rubin Museum and offered up my intention to the wheel. It spiraled all the way up the stairs and into the ether. Then I took in the rest of the art. Whenever I go there, I wind up wearing headphones for something. The previous time, there was a lot of  headphones involved because it was an exhibit on sound. This time, I don’t remember exactly what I listened to, but I do know that afterwards, I went to the Spy Museum with S, where I again wore headphones, and I remember the reason for that–it was for a spy mission. Because we were spies.

My plan was to return to the Rubin when all these intentions would be part of an exhibit on the Power of Intention. Yet again, I found myself wearing headphones. I was listening to the audio for a video of violins being destroyed.

Also, apparently I wear only black and white when I go to the Rubin.

The intentions had me sitting for quite a while, feeling the need to read every last one of them. An incredible variety, for sure.

This time there was even more interaction, and we all know  how much I love to touch things! Like, not in a creepy way but in a museum kind of way. I love it second best to finding places to lay down in public. Again, not creepy.

I made a friend. This guy asked me to film him. I was like, Sure! not really knowing what the heck he was talking about. He led me to a rather dark corner of the museum. Because we were in the Rubin, where I’ve laid down with my eyes shut and listened to the Bardo Thodol with no one bothering me, following a stranger into a dark room was not creepy. It turned out to be spectacular. He stepped up to a large circle of fabric and became a master of light and sound. Again, mesmerizing. We did it once. He watched. He asked me to do it again. We did it again. He watched. He asked me to do it again, but this time, he wanted me to stand to the side of him. Okay, Spielberg, I’ll do it, but standing off to the side didn’t show anything at all. The effects happened only if you were standing in front of the screen. After three videos, he was satisfied, though I did see him back at it a few  more times, not recording, just making light and sound. And then I gave it a try. And whoa.

It’s Electrifying (AKA More Tesla Stuff)

Children at the museum! This was my first encounter with a school field trip at the Nassau County Museum of Art. I assume it was a class trip. There were children there. They were sitting in a semi circle. Then they scattered all around me, drawing. I love that they were taking in the art. This is what every day in school should be. Also, it should be noted on the website, something like: Hey Christina, You Will Awkwardly Encounter Children At The Museum Today.

Actually, the only awkward encounter was with the security guard who was standing beyond the semi-closed doors separating the entry lobby to the first gallery. I was like, Can I come through? He was like, Of course. As if the doors being almost-closed was completely normal. That’s when I saw the children. I didn’t gasp. At least I don’t think I did.

Anyway. Energy: The Power of Art! The artwork showed the abundance of forces in the world through visual art. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, a thingie that creates traveling light with a zapping sound, panels of iridescent fabric alongside panes of glass that I did not knock over at all. Some of it was abstract. Some of it was super realistic. Some of it had words in it, and I love a piece of art that incorporates words, especially when those words are by Rimbaud.

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The Delusion of Quixote by Scott McIntire

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Dancing on the Beach by Doug Argue– This is the one with the words!

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Road Trip 1 by Scott McIntire

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I made my own art!

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I was so excited about not breaking anything that I didn’t get the artist’s name. For shame!

There was a room dedicated to my boyfriend Tesla. That room was closed for a private event. Um, how about no? So I watched one of the documentaries in the exhibit, and by the time that was over, the room was open. Granted, everything in the room was stuff I’ve seen before because I’ve visited his lab at Wardenclyffe a bunch of times, but still, seeing it was a necessity.

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And then I saw my most favorite thing in the museum:

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I think that’s going to be the title of my next poem.

BONUS TIME!

And also, there was a cool exhibit a while ago and I just learned how to get videos to work on this blog, so here’s the cool thing I saw last time that is not about energy but  is about fooling the eye.  The artwork? Does not move. Or does it?

One Tale From The Crypt

Halloween is fine. I’m not big on dressing up, but I will if asked. A few years in a row, I’ve worn my Batman t-shirt to work. This year is the first year any of my students acknowledged it. Someone asked, “Is Batman your favorite?” I was like, “Yes.” Good talk!

This year, I had plans! DB asked if I wanted to go to a crypt in a cathedral. I was like, Why is that even a question? Of course, I want to see a crypt! Remember the catacombs? I like dark places under holy buildings. Totally my jam. Like, holy jam.

The weather decided to be Halloweenish all day–windy with a chance of trees falling on me, so I remained appropriately terrified all day (S texted me to ask if I had PTSD, and I was like, yes, yes I do).

I just realized–I don’t think I ever wrote about the time the tree fell on me at work. That’s the short version: A tree fell on me at work. I survived. No, I didn’t sue.

Anyway, the wind remained whipping well into the darkness when DB and I went to the cathedral. At the threshold, a woman greeted us and handed us each a bag. I thanked her and then said to DB, We can go home now because my night has already been made. A bag! I didn’t even know was in it! I was thrilled to simply have them give me a bag.

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Not. Creepy. At. All.

Then we checked in and the woman said to us, “Now you’ve been checked in; let’s see if you’ll be checking out.” Ah, ok. So it’s going to be that kind of night.

We sat towards the back of the church waiting for the group ahead of us to finish. Then we moved to the front where there was a screen and a handful of people clad in black roaming around, guiding people to seats in the dark. We then watched a film that was supposed to look old-timey. It was the story of a guy, Something Stewart, who basically owned Garden City. Then he died. Then his grave was robbed. Then eventually the widow tracked down his remains and had this cathedral built as a huge gravestone for him. She hid his remains so they couldn’t get stolen again. The end.

Then some guy basically pounced out from behind the screen to greet us, asking if we’d heard the bells tolling. Now I kind of expected that to happen because I’d heard a shout from the group ahead of us. The women in front of us, however, did not expect anything scary to happen, so they jumped, completely startled. Then one of them proceeded to take at least five of the same picture of everything we passed, so that slowed down our progress towards the crypt.

We were guided by another man who carried a lantern. We found the spiral staircase, and the three women freaked out about that. I don’t know if the stairs or the spiral was scary for them, but they were terrified. The staircase was really narrow and it was hard to see, but it was still kinda neat. Not as terrifying as, say, a gigantic tree falling down on  you. (That’s now my measurement of terror: tree tragedy).

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This is the face of fear.

At the bottom of the staircase was reason to be freaked out. A woman was sitting in a corner, wearing a black veil, praying loudly. There was smoke pumping in from the hallway. Now things were getting weird. The three women also freaked out more when the smoke machine made noise.

Next we met a statue of Mr. Stewart’s widow. It was surrounded by candles. We heard more about her efforts to find him. Then the guide was like, Oh, look, it seems like his funeral is about to start.

We walked to the other side of the room where there were mourners and chairs. DB and I sat in a back row and noticed the body in the coffin was totally a real person. We were like, he’s totally going to move. The guide narrated more but it was hard to hear because the widow with the black veil sat in the front row and started wailing, and the guy comforting her kept making snide remarks about the dead guy, which was really funny. Then, sure enough, that dead body moved. And sure enough, the three women somehow didn’t see that coming and shouted in terror. This? Was entertaining.

We then moved toward the hallway again, hearing more about grave robbers. As we entered the hall, we were greeted with two grave robbers trying to seem like they weren’t robbing a grave–which was super funny–and enough smoke to make your lungs simply stop working. Before that happened, we were ushered into a crypt where there was more smoke but I’m pretty sure it was real smoke because we were lighting candles.

This was nice. It was an interesting way to forget the spooky for a moment and light a candle for someone. My candle wouldn’t light. DB lit my match twice because that wouldn’t light at first, and then I tried five candles before getting one to catch. Then we stepped back to take in the glow. It was heavenly, which makes sense because we were in a cathedral.

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That woman who was scared and took a billion photos? Yep, that’s her. And now I look like the psychopath for snapping this.

On the way out, there was a basket of candy! This is how every mass should end! We took some pieces and put them into our bags. Then we found our way out by climbing up the creepy stairs outside. There was smoke drifting about as we ascended, and the wind was still whipping around. It was still Halloween and still super eerie and we still don’t know where this guy’s remains remain. However, I do know where all the candy went. Plus, there was more candy in our bags along with some pamphlets about the cathedral. Really, the contents of the bag weren’t as exciting as the act of getting the bag itself.

So to recap, Halloween was awesome because:

  1. Someone acknowledged my Batman t-shirt
  2. Bags
  3. Creepy crypt
  4. No tree incidents

Now that’s a good All Hallow’s Eve.

Retreating Out Of The Comfort Zone

Juxtaposition! Fun to say and a literary device that comes up in most of my classes. It means putting together seemingly unlike things to show how they go together in some way. Like Reference.com says a good example of juxtaposition is “Romeo’s description of Juliet in Act I, Scene 5: ‘It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night/ Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear.’.” I have no idea what any of that means, but let’s just say it’s helpful. Okay, I’m realizing that maybe I don’t know what juxtaposition is after all. Now’s a good time to remind everyone that I’m a teacher. Hence, the aforementioned classes. Hence, my current shame in not being able to explain the thing I constantly explain. [I’m tempted to go into a side note about APA citation, but that would turn into a tangent that probably won’t come back around to anything soon. I’ll save that for another time.]

So anyway, if you think of things that don’t seem to go together, you might say Me, Nature, and Anyone Under The Age Of Old. That means my weekend was one of juxtaposition. I spent Friday night and all of Saturday in nature with teens. Yes, I know, I’ll say it again: Me. Outdoors. Young people. I’m branching out, yall! Oh, gawd, branching out. That’s a pun! Paranomasia is the fancy word for punning. I’m a teacher!

If it seems I’m going nowhere fast with this, I concur. I’m still on a high from an incredibly delightful writers’ retreat I was invited to in Fishkill. The writers were in grades 9 – 12. The retreat was on camp grounds. The “what to bring” list included a sleeping bag and a flashlight. Ergo, the list may as well have included biggest fears. In the past few years, I’ve been liking nature more. I know, I’ve ranted about trees, but aside from trees, nature has been nice. I loved staying on the lake in Ohio. Granted, we were in a gorgeous house, but still, a lake is nature. I’ve been walking outside a whole lot. I sat on the ground when I was in yoga teacher training and we had lunch in the park. This is progress.

So I packed up my dad’s military sleeping bag, a flashlight, and a Kerouac book, and I drove up to Fishkill. I found the camp grounds. Shortly after my arrival, one of the chaperones also arrived. I got out of my car. Now that there was more than one person, a bear would have a choice.

The organizer who invited me showed up a bit later as the young writers arrived. They all had comfy blankets, big duffel bags, and smiles. We all made our way to the cabins. The teens were staying in bunks. The chaperones and I were staying a bit up the hill in a different building.

Buildings! Not tents! Buildings! This is my kind of being one with nature. Walls!

This building reminded me of college dorms. I chose a room with one bed because that’s all this gal needs. Roughing! It! And the room I chose had a moth in it that I found when I shifted the curtains. Now, I could have screamed. I could have taken my stuff and chosen a different room. I could have gotten in my car and drove home. Instead, I smushed it. Apologies to all my animal loving friends. Seriously, I’m sorry. It’s just that, well, it doesn’t belong indoors. I’m also more sorry because while I thought I’d killed it, I’d actually just maimed it, and one of the chaperones offered to come on in and finish it off for me, and I said, Sure, which meant omigod yes please god yes.

Then when I went to the bathroom, there was a daddy longlegs scurrying around. So I killed it. I know! I’m so sorry!

Side note: all this has happened since I realized I’m probably a Buddhist. Which I usually can’t spell right on the first try. My life has a lot going on right now, clearly.

Back to the bug murders. There were only two. The next day, a tiny spider crawled into my bag before I could stop it, and I just left it. I also moved a spider off my desk in class today instead of smushing it. Progress. Again, back to the campgrounds–I got a tour of the buildings we’d be using, which were the meal hall and the music building, which was gorgeous. There was a planetarium next door. Heaven! And a pond nearby. More nature to get accustomed to, but since I’d stayed on that lake in Ohio, this was pretty much the same, only with less corn and more geese.

We had dinner and played ice breaking games. We wrote a little. I did my best to memorize names. Being in a room of strangers has never been my most favorite place to be, and so I did take a few moments to warm up and feel out the vibes. All the vibes were positive, for sure, but still, social awkwardness doesn’t simply fade away because you tell it not to come along to the writing workshop. There was the juxtaposition of me, young people, and nature happening all at once, so the awkwardness was going to be a factor. That’s just who I am. And also who I am includes letting it happen and then letting it go, which I did. I sat in awe of the camaraderie of these students and teachers who had spent an entire day at school doing school things and now were bounding around with so much energy and jazz. I felt so tired but their energy lifted me.

Also lifting my spirits was the promise of s’mores that came true right after ice breakers. I mean, this is what being in nature is about–putting sugar on a stick and making a sandwich with chocolate and sweet crackers.

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I went to my room after a short stint eating s’mores. Going back to my room proved to be another notch in my braving nature belt. I used my flashlight to find my way back. It was the kind of dark where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I went the wrong way at first and talked out loud to myself, instructing myself where to go and not to fall. I found my way to the right path and back to the right building. I heard all kinds of critters in the leaves, and there was a huge spider crawling up the side of the door, and I didn’t try to kill any of them. Because they were outside where they belong. But also because I didn’t feel scared of them. They were simply living, the same way I was simply living, and they weren’t trying to kill me, either. This is an example of Buddhism. (No it’s not).

Workshop day arrived! Up at 5 to meditate and yoga and then a walk outside at sunrise to the pond and back. Some of the writers were already up and about, some jogging, some writing, some doing homework. Talk about dedication. These are my people.

There was breakfast and then another walk and then, writing writing writing. My theme was spaces and places. We read some things. We wrote some things. We read and wrote some more. There was a lot of talking and sharing. There were breakout sessions and regrouping. Anything I suggested was met with such creativity and openness.

Then lunch time came. I ended the morning recapping that we’d discussed and wrote about physical and geographical spaces and places. After the break, we’d be going places in our minds. Oooh.

Upholding my promise, I started the afternoon with meditation. (Hello, Buddha).  This meditation began with one mat, one body, one room. At its height, it reached out to beyond the galaxies, beyond the universe. Then we all returned home to the mind and heart. I sent them off to write what the journey had told them to write, or to do whatever their sense of self desired. This twenty minutes of doing turned into almost forty by the time everyone reconvened. Oooh, meditation. That’s what it can do.

We spent the rest of the day by the pond. At one point, a scout group came trudging around the water, some scouts with large sticks twice their size in hand. They went into the planetarium while we stayed on the dock, creating and sharing. That’s right, we stayed outside. The entire afternoon in the sun that grew hot enough to warrant a strip down; I began the day in a scarf and a coat and a blanket wrapped around me, and I ended the day with all that tossed to the side. Fireflies and spiders crept about on the wooden picnic tables. Squirrels and chipmunks skittered and scattered. Crickets chirped the entire time.

The day had been one of those blurs, ending in a circle of summing up the experience while the sun went down. Everyone headed to regroup and work on writing while I headed to the hall to write a piece that had been in my queue for almost two weeks. Then there was dinner and then I realized I had to leave if I wanted to stay awake while driving, and if I didn’t leave, I’d have to stay in nature for one more night, which actually didn’t seem so bad after all. But I prefer my own bed so I said my goodbyes, gave some hugs, and left with all the feels. Feels of pride for having been way out of my comfort zone, feels of gratitude for having met wonderful and creative people, feels of inspiration for writing and reading. What good fortune that I got to have such an experience.

Juxtaposition, in apparently my own definition, shows the difference in things while simultaneously showing how they go together in some way. I’ve learned that me and nature have a pretty good connection once I settle in. I mean, I stopped killing things after the first hour. And me and the youth? Yeah, there was some solid common ground there, too. While this retreat was for them, I totally came out of it with fresh wisdom that I couldn’t have gotten any other way and wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Oh, and I got a shirt!

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The Universal Language of Poetry (And The Socially Awkward)

I was so fortunate to be asked to read for The Americas Poetry Festival of New York,  a series of multilingual poetry readings and talks across several days and venues. Also, I was included in their anthology. This is a happening. This is so me.

My reading was at the Consulate of Argentina in Manhattan. Ooh, how fancy does that sound? I know,right!

In a bit of a drizzle, I made my rainy way to the Starbucks a block away from the consulate where an entire fleet of cyclists were at rest. I shared a table with a man and his helmet. Fact: he was not part of the fleet. He was a lone cyclist. I don’t understand outdoor sports done in the rain. This is why I don’t ride a bike anymore. Yep, that’s the reason.

Anyways, when the call time rolled around, I headed to the Consulate and arrived at the same time as a gentleman who came to listen. Interestingly, he greeted me in Spanish, and I replied in English, and then we were greeted by a man I’ll call the Silver Fox of Argentina who spoke to us both in English, ushering is into a room with couches where others waited.

Then several groups of people came in all speaking Spanish and went directly upstairs. The Silver Fox of Argentina seemed to know them. I wasn’t sure, though, because, you know, language.

Speaking of–let’s talk about my mad language skillz . I’ve got none. I’m like really super good at English, but other languages? My brain cannot compute. Nine years of Spanish education and the most I can say is Me llamo Cristina y no me gusts la basura. Loosely translated, that means They call me Christina Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. Or maybe it means something about the trash can. Either way, not very helpful for further conversation.

My senior year of high school was spent sharing a classroom with 8th graders taking Italian 1 because none of us seniors wanted to enroll in AP Spanish literature. In my one year of Italian, I learned quanianihai? Loosely translated: how many years do you have?

So here I am at the Consulate of Argentina, and the Silver Fox of Argentina tells us all in English that we can go upstairs now. We all go upstairs and the people in the little lounge at the top of the steps clearly know each other, but I can’t understand what they’re saying because they’re speaking in Spanish. Then in the auditorium through the double doors next to the lounge area are people hugging and greeting each other. In Spanish. Slowly, I’m realizing that I’m pretty much the only person here who is not speaking Spanish, and I have no idea what’s going on so I wind up texting a few people whose answers to me were to either yell Defect! or simply Que? Which loosely translates to K?

Now I could have asked someone who looked like they were in charge about what was going on. I could have gone up to anyone near the microphone set up or anyone adjusting the posters for the event to introduce myself and ask for the organizer. If you think all this sounds logical, FOR SHAME! You don’t know me at all. I mean, I can barely do that in a room of people speaking English. You think I’m gonna start introducing myself to people who are speaking a completely different language. Ha ha! I scoff at your confidence in my social abilities.

Instead, I did what any normal adult would do. I walked around like I was casing the joint until I saw everyone start to settle in.

Everyone sits down, so I sit down. Then several people go to the front of the room to start. And they start speaking in Spanish. It then dawns on me that I’m in the Consulate of Argentina and not only are the social conversations in Spanish, but the entire program is going to be en Espanol. Loose translation: in Spanish.

I understood every 8th word, like when they were saying the next reader’s country and name. I understood some of the poetry because that was read more slowly.

Then the poet from Mexico read a poem in English! Okay, now we were bilingual! Then he explained and read his second poem in Spanish. I’m not exactly sure what was going on because he had in his ear buds and carried his phone in his face and kept his eyes closed (ojos!) and bumped into people and things as he walked around and recited, but he didn’t bump into as many things as you may expect.

Another poet read poems in several languages. Okay, now we were multilingual!

My plan was to sit there until I heard my name. It was all I could do. A few poets later the stars aligned and I heard, Now is Christina Rau here?

Yes! I am! I am Christina Rau! I understand the words coming forth from your mouth, ma’am. Yes, that is me! I am here! Yes! My hand shot straight up and I may have jumped with glee. I didn’t have to figure out when I was going next after all.

I made it to the podium, and I could have said Hola or Buenos tardes, but instead I said Good evening because I didn’t want to give anyone the impression that I may be able to hold any kind of conversation in Spanish. I read my few poems without any commentary and then at the end when I could have said Gracias I said thank you and made my way to my chair.

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This lovely person in the crowd Instagrammed some of my reading. I’m still not 100% sure what she wrote, but I recognize my name and poetry, so I’m going to say it’s a-okay.

The director found me and showed me my poem in the anthology, handing  over my own copy. It’s a fabulous book!

Then a few more poets went and there were announcements and reasons to clap. I clapped because that’s what you do when an entire room claps. That’s also how The Handmaid’s Tale begins, but what’s a gal to do? Simply do what everyone else is doing and be okay with it.

All the readers were called to the stage for photos, and that I understood and was able to thank all the organizers who gathered around. Then we said we’d try to do something out  on Long Island. We spoke in English. And there was then wine and snacks, and I left because I don’t speak the language of alcohol anymore either.

On my way out, the gentleman who had walked in with me was also leaving. And in Spanish he wished me a good night (or cursed me out—I wouldn’t know the difference) and I said good night to him in English. Because nine years of Spanish taught me to stick with what I know.

Someone should probably point me in the direction of the Rosetta stone. Or a Spanish-English dictionary. I may not be able to wrap my brain around another language perfectly, but I can sure try.