Outdoorsy Part IV: Caumsett As An Adult

Fifth grade meant an overnight field trip to Caumsett. Sixth grade meant an entire week of overnights to Ashokan. Bits and pieces roll around in my brain, both trips melding into one because they both concerned nature and both made me feel awkward. To be fair, everything made me feel awkward. To be fair, lots of things still do.

Here’s what I remember that I’m pretty sure is Caumsett.

  • Sitting in a big room with a fireplace, listening to a man in a thick off-white crocheted sweater who was holding a replica of a baby alligator
  • Being on the beach, watching the man, who had black curly locks to his shoulders, lick his finger and smear a rock, and then show how the rock became paint
  • Going outside in the dark, sitting on the grass, looking up at the stars as the man shone a super-powered flashlight up to point to each one as they made constellations–and then hearing the story of how the stars were made:
    • Something about a dark blanket being put over the earth, probably because humans were doing something terrible, or maybe the animals were being naughty. Then the birds flew up and tried to take it down, creating holes because their beaks weren’t strong enough to pull it. The holes allow light to come through. These are stars.
      • Recently, I wrote a poem trying to express this sentiment. I don’t think it comes across at all. I don’t think the poem has any birds in it.
  • Ticks. Grassy land has ticks. Let’s all be aware of the ticks. They can cause disease. If you see a tick, light a match, blow it out, put the tip to the tick, burn it, lather it in Vasoline, and then pluck it out with long tweezers.
    • This means that I’ve known about ticks since I was in fifth grade, so everyone can stop telling me about the ticks. They are the reason I haven’t ventured into nature all these years. (Okay, one of the many reasons).

Up until recently, I thought of Caumsett as a magical land, far far away, nestled in my childhood memories somewhere between coloring a Snoopy cartoon in kindergarten and receiving a dictionary on graduation night in the sixth grade. It was a place of wonder in nature far out there.

Then my brother brought up riding in Caumsett. I was like, What do you mean? He was like, I ride my bike there. I was like, What are you saying? He was like, You do know Caumsett is on Long Island, right? I was like,  ? ? ? ?  He was like, Caumsett is on Long Island; you can drive there. I. Was. Floored.

It’s taken a few years more, but I’ve found a hiking adventure buddy willing to put up with my tiptoeing into the land of tick-infested-tall-grasses and penchant for needing snacks and clear path to a bathroom wherever we go. I’m a fortunate gal.

Sidenote: I’m now incredibly aware that my first question to anyone whenever they ask me to go somewhere is, What about bathrooms? I have no idea when this new habit started, but I think it’s a pandemic thing. I drink a lot of water. I have already peed in one plastic container out in a park because there were no bathrooms. I’d do it again. However, I’d rather do it in a toilet, unless that toilet is the equivalent to the Trainspotting bathroom. P. S. The bathroom at Robert Moses comes pretty close to that one. Now this sidenote has taken a turn towards full tangent, so let’s get back to Caumsett, A Childhood Jaunt Turned Adult Realness.

We met at Caumsett after my GPS took me past it. Getting there proves to be an interesting venture because you get to a point north on Long Island until you need to go across this little two lane thingamajig out in the water. Then you wind around and there are mansion-like houses and then the park that the GPS doesn’t recognize. I found the bathroom. Best bathroom I’ve seen in any park hands down! (See? Bathroom Awareness is a thing). Then I handed the Captain the map and was like, This piece of paper means nothing to me.

By the way, I call him the Captain after one of his characters in a story he was working on. Also, he can kayak, so, he’s like a captain for real.

Sidenote that literally just popped into my head: When I was planning my wedding, we found a guy who was a captain with whom I became obsessed. I totally wanted to have the ceremony officiated by a captain. That captain was busy the day we planned to get married. Then that captain kept emailing us about how he might be able to work it out. He had two weddings planned that day already, but he for some reason became reverse- obsessed with us. We stopped answering his emails and settled on Judy. Judy was the best. And now I’m divorced. Not Judy’s fault. The End.

The captain took us into the walled garden and remarked at how the garden didn’t really have much color. Being the height of summer, I suggested that maybe there were more bloomy things happening in the spring.

Out of the garden, we walked past the horsefly dragonfly things that I literally gasped at. We found raspberries. Okay, he found raspberries. I was like, Those are raspberries!?!? I see them all the time! Can they be eaten? He was like, Yes, you can eat a raspberry. He plucked a red one, washed it off with his water, and ate it. I was astonished. It’s as if I were back in fifth grade seeing the magical land of Caumsett for the first time.

We found a building that was maybe called the garage house. It looked abandoned but some sort of unit was chugging along inside the first floor. I wanted to climb the steps to the top, but I thought better of it, figuring if any of those large bugs came at me, I’d fall to my death while trying to swat them. Capt decided to give it a shot, so afterwards, I did, too. I expected great views, but mostly, I could see only the other part of the building and lots of trees.

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We went around the building out to the back and Oh. Meee. Oh. Myyy. I grabbed my head, both hands on either side, stunned. The hill we were on was high and rolled down to a pond. Beyond that, the water went out way back to meet the sky. I couldn’t stop saying how pretty it was. Then from behind, I heard, You’re looking at Connecticut. An older man and a woman arrived behind us. I was like, Connecticut is beautiful!

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Then Capt and I walked down the hill. I stopped to look back. (I did not turn into a pillar of salt. That’s a joke for all you myth-joke-enthusiasts). Up on the hill, the house reached towards the sky behind it. I did a happy dance. Everything kept being pretty.

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Except the bugs. The dragon horse fly things that I’d panicked about before flew around the path by the pond. There were dozens of dozens. I repeated aloud many times, They aren’t real. They aren’t real. They aren’t real.

See? This is why I’ve always turned down offers to go hiking and camping. I know myself. For anyone who’s a nature person, like a real true camper hiker one with nature person, my behavior isn’t cute. It’s juvenile and annoying. I can’t help it. It’s my reaction to all things creepy and crawly. I don’t think these things will kill me, but I also don’t like them.

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There weren’t too many in the little path under the trees to the water, so we went there and watched some fish jump up through the surface and splash back down. There were birds. There were flies. Capt talked about the British. This is very similar to the conversations I have with my brother when we go on Sibling Adventures. He tells me the history of a place, and I respond with, I totally did not know that.

We walked the rest of the path down to the beach. [They aren’t real. They aren’t real.] Yet again, Long Island does its thing. We were in the woods. Then we’re at the beach. How does that even happen? It gets me every time.

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This beach has rocks because it’s the North Shore. That means it was time for the second installment of Christina Skips Rocks. Capt skipped a few, one leaping no less than five times before going under. I basically threw a rock into the water. Then he showed me how to hold it better. I held it differently and instead of kerplunking straight down, it went diagonally into the water, splashing straight to the bottom. He suggested I do a windup like a pitcher in baseball and then was like, Just throw it, like a ball. Explaining that when I throw things, they don’t go where I want them to, I threw a rock into the water as if I were throwing a ball. He was like, Yeah, so you do have the power to throw. That was never the question. I’m quite mighty. I simply have no skillz in aim.

I tried a few more times. I managed to throw a rock straight behind me onto the sand. Then I threw one in the opposite diagonal, which I have no idea how that happened because if my momentum is going left, how does the rock go right. Then I did another and it almost skimmed the water before drowning. The beach has many rocks. We could have stayed all day. Instead, I was like let’s do those little rock tower things.

The proper term is cairn. He’d never built one. I was surprised because he’s been on rocky shores all his life and can skip rocks. How could he never have built one? So we built them. Mine wobbled until I realized my bottom rock wasn’t built for foundation work. He built a mini-fort because he understands rocks.

In the shade, we took a break so I could eat a snack and we could both look at maps I’d bought from the Greenbelt hiker people. They are more maps with lines that I don’t quite understand. We also watched a few people arriving to enjoy the beach in beachy ways like tanning, picnicking, and swimming. One woman lay belly-down on a boulder in the water and made swimming motions with her arms and legs. This is my kind of swimming and next time, I’m going to suit up and dive in. Only I’m not going to do that because now I’m remembering there are animals in the water and so no thanks.

Capt was like, I think the path goes up there. I was like, there are people on the beach that way, so there must be a path there, too. He decided to follow my suggestion and keep walking on the beach. After a really really long walk and still not arriving to where the people were, I was like, You should know that when I make a suggestion that concerns anything about directions or spatial situations, you need to veto it. He was like, Good to know. We finally came out to some fisherman road that people drive on and took to walking it back.

I thought I didn’t like the big dragon horse flies, but I started wishing for them as we made our way down this new path. It was like walking through a wall of gnats. We didn’t stop waving our arms the whole time. We stopped to put on another layer of deet to no avail. He veered us off to another path under different trees. For a few moments, it was better, but then, flies flies flies. So. Gross.

Thankfully, he can read a map and has a good sense of direction. We saw buildings. I get excited when I see buildings because that means we made it. Of course, I checked out the bathroom again, and we ate some more food. I kept happy dancing. The park is such a pretty place.

Then we hopped in our cars and drove down the road to Target Rock. There’s another history lesson here. Something about the British again. I’m pretty sure they would shoot at the big rock in the water for target practice. In the distance beyond the water, I was mesmerized by the smokestacks out in Northport. Something about smokestacks and electricity scaffolding sends me reeling.

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Also sending me reeling, in a different way, was when Capt was like, Oh, there’s a tick on my sneaker. He flicked it off. I jumped up yelling, Tick Check Tick Check! And then proceeded to scour every inch of cloth and skin I could see. No ticks. And that’s when my bikini top closure snapped in half and my top fell off. This is how I hike.

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We hadn’t visited Target Rock in fifth grade, so that was brand new. Caumsett now is a bit different from fifth grade Caumsett. The brick of the buildings, the red ink rocks, the tall yellowing grass, that’s all the same. Actually, it’s probably mostly the same. I’ve changed, not nature. I’m more inclined to actually go out into it. I actually enjoy it.

P. S. I wore knee high socks. Because of ticks. Quit your worrying.

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Outdoorsy Part III: Bear Mountain

About three years ago at Mind Over Madness: Summer Solstice Yoga In Times Square, I stood in a short line having arrived pretty early for my time slot to practice. Next to me and then in front of me and then behind me and then again next to me was a man who clearly was not there for yoga and was clearly high on something. I kept my nose in my book. Then a woman arrived behind me and wasn’t sure where to stand since this man was fidgeting between being in line and being on the other side of the barrier. I took my nose out of my book and stage whispered, I don’t think he’s on line. And that’s how I met my yoga gal pal. We chatted about yoga and working out and all other fun kinds of things. We put our mats next to each other and practiced together. We waved at ourselves as we were broadcast on the big screen overhead. We went through the yoga village together, and then we parted ways, saying that we’d get together again soon.

Big Screen

That was the year of my yoga teacher training. I had every intention of getting together again soon, but my hip labra had other intentions. Remember that time I couldn’t walk or sit up for two days?Yeah, that was fun. And then the next few years were all jacked up for various reasons including but not limited to death and disappearances.

This year is also jacked up (in case you haven’t noticed). I started having a really good year the second half of last year, and this year started out with such tremendous promise. Then the virus. Then the riots. Then the heartbreak. Then the descent into the deep dark times of Christina’s mind.

A really shining light are all the folks I know who radiate positivity. A lot of my yoga friends do just that. Scrolling through Insta, I saw my summer solstice yoga gal pal yet again posting something vibrant and fun, so I messaged her, told her I was down in the dumps, thanked her for being so positive all the time. She instantly messaged back–let’s get together soon.

Three years and a few rain dates in the making, we met up at Bear Mountain State Park. The sky shone gray, the mountain shone green, and we headed out to climb to the top. At first, we went down to go up, which we thought we had to do. Then we wound up on a road, so we went back to the parking lot booth attendant who pointed us in the opposite direction. I’ll reiterate that I’m directionally challenged and have no shame in it.

We had a choice of trails. We opted for the one where we wouldn’t have to bear crawl and scramble. This alternative is basically giant steps built into the mountainside. This is why the overcast sky was a plus. Climbing those steps in blazing sun would be more difficult. We climbed in humidity and heat, which was enough.

There were a lot of people on the trail in certain pockets, but for the most part, it was empty. Probably because we started out around 8:30 AM. This is my kind of hang. I love early. We took a little over an hour to get to the top. We’d stopped at certain points to look out over the landings and take in everything far and wide. The sun peeked out at times, so the rays came through like literal beams. Spectacular.

Then we made it to the top. Wind whipped up from time to time. Otherwise, it was so peaceful. Forget the mountain. We were on top of the world.

We sat for a while, and then it started getting crowded for real, mostly because it was getting to be later. Heading down, we encountered so many more people. It’s interesting sharing a path with people because some don’t want to lose momentum going up but going down is hard to stop momentum. We also noted the variety of clothing choices some hikers had made. I’m not sure why you would want to hike in a dress (my friend was like, It’s a photo op, and I was like, yeah you’re totally right). 

It was about noon, so we headed to Peekskill to a coffee shop that we couldn’t find. We found Bean Runner Cafe that had a back patio so we could eat outside. That was a score. Their menu is Olympics themed, and as we all know, I love me some Olympics. Another plus was that the other people on the patio finished up as we got our food, so we had the place all to ourselves. Another plus–the food and coffee were delicious.

Next door was Third Eye Arts Studio and Gallery.  We popped in, and the artist, Nadine Gordon-Taylor, showed us the artwork and said we could pull cards from her deck, too. This was our kind of gallery. Also, there was a Rumi quote on the door. Soooo much our kind of gallery. We each found a piece of art we loved. Then my friend pulled a card. The artist read what it meant. Everything about the card was everything we’d been talking about during lunch. Trippy.

Then I pulled a card. I’d been torn between two pieces of artwork. The card I chose was the other piece of art I’d been torn over. Trippy again.

We each got a piece of artwork plus a business card that had a mini version of the card art we’d pulled. This was a huge score. She’d told us how she had been running events in a loft for year that were now on hold. I told her I’d love to do a reading there, and so we all exchanged information. This is how to network during a pandemic. Hike up a mountain, go get coffee and lunch, and then stumble upon a groovy gallery.

In yoga, everything works out as it does. That’s all there is to it. So this day up on a mountain unfolded as a much needed perfect day for sure.

Outdoorsy Part II: Jayne’s Hill, Sibling Adventures Edition

Sibling Adventure Time!

On a previous Sibling Adventure, my brother and I thought we’d find Jayne’s Hill when we went to see some other hills. We didn’t find Jayne’s Hill. This time, the main mission was Jayne’s Hill. Again, we almost didn’t find Jayne’s Hill.

Jayne’s Hill is the highest point on Long Island. It’s in the middle of the woods up a rocky trail out in Huntington accessible by a park that has a dog park and also accessible at some other pathway somewhere else. I’m a wealth of knowledge concerning all things geography. The path is shared by horses, dogs, and hikers. And bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Also, I do not know why it is called Jayne’s Hill.

We figured we’d be able to meet up mid-morning, hike up, hike down, and be done by noon so that he could go meet his friend for lunch and I could meet T and D at the picnic tables next to the dog park for lunch, too.

We should have known this plan might have had some flaws when I was able to find the parking lot and he wasn’t. He called and was like, I’m in a parking lot with horses. And I was like, You need to go South or North or East or West, like keep going up or down the road you were coming from. Again, so helpful with spatial navigation. However, it worked! He found me, and we found the trail, and away we went!

Then we were done! After maybe ten minutes, we wound up walking in a circle back out to where we began. We had not gone up to any recognizable elevation. We looked at each other quizzically. Then we saw a sign that said Main Path. Oh! We hadn’t been on the Main Path. Let’s take the Main Path.

The Main Path was much like the short path we’d just taken, only steeper with more rocks and sand and dirt and ditches and mud and bugs. We spent much of the time swatting our arms in front of our faces even though we’d already sprayed on our bug spray. I was covered in layers of sun screen, bug spray, and sweat. And now dirt because that’s what sticks to you when you’ve slathered things on your skin.

We noticed that there were some signs and blazes, but none of them really told us where to go or where we might be headed. We’d read about following the white hashes, so we tried to do that. Every time there was a fork in the path, we took the one that seemed to go more up because Jayne’s Hill is up. You can’t get more up than Jayne’s Hill. How many times can I say Jayne’s Hill?

We found some fantastic views. We were up high. Like super high. We had to be close.

I mentioned that none of this path looked like the path the guy on the video took to get to the rock at the top. A PhD student put together a hike on Zoom for Walt Whitman Birthplace Association (you know, the place that named me Long Island Poet Of The Year? Yeah, them). I watched some of the hike to get the lowdown on Whitman–a quote from his poetry is on a plaque on a boulder at the top of the hill, and come to think of it, how did the boulder get up there? I guess nature put it there. Anyway, the hike we were on did not look like the hike the PhD guy was on.

Then suddenly we were down low and back in the dog park. We hadn’t seen Jayne’s Hill, yet we’d hiked for about an hour. This is why the path didn’t seem like the one on the video. It simply was not the one on the video.

There are a few maps near the gate of the dog park, so we checked those out. They were nearly indecipherable, but I took a picture of them because the sign said to take a picture of them. We headed back to the starting path to try again.

And that’s where we found a sign that said Jayne’s Hill. This would have been very helpful had we seen it the first time around. What had happened was after we did the two minute walk in a circle, we were at an angle where we saw Main Path instead of Jayne’s Hill. Now that we skipped the walk in a circle, we found the sign. Hooray, we were going to see the highest point of LI after all. Also, the sign does not have an apostrophe, so maybe it’s supposed to be Jaynes Hill, but I’m not about to change how I’ve been writing it. And maybe the sign is wrong.

We came across a hiking man who seemed to be coming down from up high, so I asked him, Do you know if this is the way to Jayne’s Hill? He was like, I think so; I got up to the top and saw a giant rock and planned to ask my kids if I made it. I was like, Yes, congrats, that’s it! He was like, Thanks! Then he told us when we come to a blaze that has two hashes, take the one that’s higher up. Good to know!

Every time we came to a new blaze with a fork in the path, we took the one that was higher up. We were gaining momentum. We were fighting the bugs. We were drenched with sweat. We came across some pink spray-painted plants, and then some gnarly roots. We passed by high grass on the narrowest part, and I was making the kind of noises you make when you’re 5 and don’t like the taste of the medicine that will cure your ear infection (the bottle says it tastes like banana-strawberry, but really it tastes like chalky sidewalk). My brother was like, it’s grass. I was like, we have to do a tick check. He was like, yeah, okay, but it’s just grass.

Then we came to the steps. There are 43 steps to get up to the top, and so we climbed 43 steps. At just about the top, we saw the top of a round object. The boulder!

Sidenote: One of my favorite lines from any movie is the line from Shreck when Donkey says, “That is a nice boulder.” I laugh every time, and I don’t know why.

My brother was like, Go ahead, this is your thing. Awwww! Gleeful, I climbed the last few steps and made it to the top with him in close tow. There we were, finally at the top of the highest point of Long Island, Jayne’s Hill. There were Whitman’s words emblazoned on a plaque embedded into a large rock.

We stayed for a short while to take it all in and also to rest before the trek down. I’d texted T and D to let them know I’d be a few minutes late. Having taken the Main Path, we were a bit behind schedule.

A bit behind turned into a lot behind. You see, we had an easy time going up because the random man told us how to read the hashes. Going down, we got confused. Do we still follow the up, or do we now follow the down? Also confusing is the fact that the map, which I took a picture of as instructed, did not match anything in the woods. There were signs for trails like the Green Fence Trail and Kissenger Trail. The map showed Chipmunk Trail and Deep Laurel Trail. None of this lined up.

We walked in circles. We went up and down. We double-backed. At one point, my brother was like, There’s the parking lot. I looked to where  he was pointing down and over the side and was like, That is a parking lot, but it’s not the one where we parked. Then he was like, I think I hear a horse, so we must be close to the end. I was like, No, that’s a rooster.

Sidenote: As much as my brother loves being outdoors, especially riding his bike and taking stunning photos, he’s a city boy. He gives tours of NYC. So, like, horse versus rooster really isn’t something he would care too much about.

Then we found the neon graffiti. My left-right confusion kicked in. Which way do we go? Which way did we come from? We took one way, couldn’t find white blazes, and came back. We took another way, couldn’t find white blazes, and came back. Finally, I retraced the steps for maybe a third time and finally understood what he meant when he was pointing us in a different direction. I was like, Oh! We’ve gotta go up to go down again! He was like, Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying.

Still, I know the difference between neighing and crowing.

We made progress quickly until we came to a spot that had maybe five different paths to choose. Thank goodness I’d stopped that guy to ask directions at the beginning because I remembered this is where I’d asked him. We knew where to go. Then we found a tree we’d had to scramble over. And then, we found the path out of the woods, just in time for me to wave across the picnic area at T and D who’d started lunching, and just in time for me to run to the bathroom because for the last half hour, I’d had to pee so bad that three times I thought about poppin’ a squat despite the tick and bug infestation in the woods. (My brother: Why didn’t you pee before we started? Me: I did. My brother: Then why do you have to pee again? Me: I’m a woman.)

No ticks. All sweat. Lots of dusted up dirt. Some Whitman. Lots of good memories. Another sibling adventure day done right.

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Outdoorsy Part I: Sunken Meadow

I’ve got a summer wish list that I’ve been checking things off of like a woman on a mission who must get all these things done before the bus explodes. You know, like Sandra Bullock in Speed but without Keanu Reeves and without a bus. The reason I’ve been mission-izing my wish list dawned on me in a moment of clarity while microblogging: I’m trying to prove that I can have a fun time on my own without the help of anyone else, thank you very much, so you [most recent guy who broke my heart] can suck it hard. This moment of clarity allowed me to discover the following:

  1. No one ever said I couldn’t have a fun time on my own or with someone. No one ever accused me of not being fun.
  2. I’m having a fun time, so trying to create vengeance through fun seems nonsensical, and takes some of the fun out of the fun.
  3. No one needs to suck anything, hard, soft, or otherwise.

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Most items on my wish list involve nature. I’ve never considered myself a nature girl. Here I am in the summer of quarantine, visiting every state park I can with a handy Empire Pass in my back pocket. Something about lockdown brings out the need for nature. Also, Long Island is beautiful, and I want to explore it, especially since travel is out of the question right now.

One of my friends used to work at Sunken Meadow State Park, and all during quarantine he’s been regaling me with these neat vignettes about his antics. What better guide to have? We met up in the parking lot with him driving around to get me and bring me to where I needed to go to start, which I told him was 85% going to happen (the %15 percent that I would wind up in the right place when there are lots of lots to choose from was generous). Then off we went, onto a trail and over a bridge and I stopped short.

It. Was. Gorgeous. The sky was overcast, and the clouds were moving grey, and the water was running right under us, and there were birds, and the mountain shone so evergreen (okay, it’s not a mountain. It’s a big hill. But maybe a mountain. I don’t know. I’m new to nature, remember).

We went up a path, found a picnic area, and went up another path, and then another kind of steep path. At the top of that one, he stopped and was like, Yeah, that hill deserves a break. Lungs pounding, I stopped too and was like, Thank you for saying that because I thought I was out of shape for a moment. He told me on the other side of the fence nearby was a hill called Cardiac Hill. So what did we just climb? I couldn’t figure out how it could be much different since the fence was simply separating us from the same mountain/hill/land-incline.

Then suddenly, I was walking on a ledge and then through a forest and we were in the woods, y’all. And then through the woods, up and down and on steep and narrow winding paths, I reminded him, If you encounter a really large gap, we’ll have to double back. Because, you know, I’m short, and I wasn’t about to leap over a gap when the landing was wide enough for only one of my tiny feet. Luckily, no leaping was needed, and we came to the bluffs, and we were at the beach.

So to recap: we were on a mountain => we were in a forest => we were at the beach.

How does this even happen? Whoever complains about Long Island needs to be dragged up Cardiac Hill and rolled down a beach bluff.

We got down to the beach, and he gave me options: walk back through the woods or walk on the beach. The beach! The beach! The North Shore beaches are rocky and narrow, and since I’m a South Shore gal, I don’t get enough of these other kinds of beaches.

Apparently, when you’re from the North Shore, you skip rocks. When you’re from the South Shore, you do something you call skipping rocks, but all you really do is throw a rock into the water and watch it sink. We tried this several times, my friend showing me form and flicking and finding of the good rocks, and me side-winding and twisting and tossing a rock into the water with very little hopping and a whole lot of going under without much fanfare.

Also along the beach were fishermen. Which meant I walked by a full fish dead on the sand. Also dead was a large crab thingamajig with a long pointy tale, drifting in the shoreline as if it were once alive and decided to be dead to freak me out.

See? I’m so one with nature, now.

Actually, I am somewhat proud of myself. When we finished that path, my friend was like, but wait there’s more! We went down into another part of the park where all these little hermit crabs crawled around, in and out of holes. Crabs walk sideways, y’all! Like, I know this, but like, now I really know it.

At that point, thunder rolled and a bit of a spritz started. He was like, Are you good with rain? I was like, rain doesn’t make me melt, so I’m fine except if there’s lightning. He was like, Yeah, if you see the hair on the top of my head start to rise up…, and I jumped in, Yeah, I’ll take cover, for sure. He stopped and was like, Or maybe you can tell me first as a warning. I make a great friend sometimes.

No lightning. No hair on end. No taking cover. Well, that’s not completely true. We went semi-covered in a semi-covert operation to get a picture of a bird that I decided I wanted to stalk. We’d been talking about a recent new story about a woman who got too close to a moose and was pretty much jacked up by the moose when she got too close. I think everything about that story is right. Leave the animals alone. Follow the rules. If you break the rules and annoy the animals, you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Okay, maybe you get upset, but you deserve it. A little over an hour later, here I am in marshy territory, sneaking all up in this bird’s business because I decide I want to be friendly with the animals instead of being grossed out by them (in my defense, both animals I encountered on the beach were dead, and that’s freaky). The bird kept flying away from me, and then I decided to maybe leave it alone before it went all Hitchcock on me.

We came up on the boardwalk. We walked over two more bridges. We finished a whole lot of the park, which meant we’d finished a whole segment of the Greenbelt. The Greenbelt trailis 32 miles running north and south. In my days at Heckscher, I completed some of it. Now here I was at the other end, another segment complete. Is it possible to complete in one day? My Great Saunter experiences point to a big fat No for me.

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With sand in my shoes, wind in my hair, sweat on my skin, and a hum of sky in my ears, we finished the hike, regrouped in our cars, and called it a day.  A great day, for sure.

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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?

Summertime Still

My Brother Had An Art Opening

After years of hearing it suggested, my brother showed his art in a group exhibit at Sip This. The opening saw lots of family and also lots of sales. Hooray! You can still see Summer Landscapes but for only a short time. You can buy one of the few that are left on the walls, or you can contact the photographer if you’re interested in any other landscape photography. He’s got winter stuff. Spring and fall stuff. City stuff. Country stuff. Lots of gritty stuff. I’m not an agent. Just a fan. A friggin happy proud sis and fan.

 

Sip This Had A Birthday Party

Going 8 years strong, Sip This is a local community heaven. Sure, I know, it’s a coffee house, but really, it’s the place that’s been the hub of all things art, commerce, social, supportive, and whatever other kind of gathering you can think of. Love them!

My Longest Friend Had A Birthday

It’s Virgo season! S decided to celebrate her birthday with trivia. We headed to Juke Bar in NYC. It’s the best bar. They are super accommodating if you want to reserve a table (no minimum or deposit needed). They let you bring in food. They offer interesting cocktails. As for the trivia, ooh, it was a tight race. Because there were seven of us, we split into two teams: Team It’s My Birthday and Team It’s Her Birthday. Team It’s Her Birthday (which I was on) was leading by a point for two rounds. Then came a round about sandwiches and another about HBO that included a theme song from First And Ten that starred Delta Burke (which S knew. of course) and then a bonus question about harmonicas. Also, Ryan Sutter is not a hockey player. What all this adds up to is Team It’s Her Birthday tied for third. Team It’s My Birthday came in second and won a round of shots. A good day for a birthday. A great day for longest friends.

 

I Took A Defensive Driving Course

AAA offers an online course complete with videos of car crashes. I learned that I should be using some sort of pedal extenders because I’m under 5’5″. Also, they want me to move my mirrors. We are all apparently not using our mirrors in the right position. You know how long it took me to get them where they should be? Now they want me to rethink the whole positioning? That’s, like, rethinking who I am at my core.

Fun Was Had From City To Suburb

Line dancing has been iffy because of the weather. One night after the rain, they had a squeegee guy come out onto the concrete and mop up the puddles so we could dance! Otherwise, it’s been canceled. Sigh.

 

A bunch of poetry readings have been fun. I read at the Gazebo and made crazy poet faces. Then I dedicated an entire album on my FB writer page to crazy poet faces over the years. In addition to Gazebo readings, mine and others, I headed to others from Sip This (how many times can I say that in this post?) to Industry.

In watching news, I started watching the newest season of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. I also started Veronica Mars with EA; we also saw Hobbes & Shaw, which was not a work of cinematic genius but was a work of pretty things to look at. Here, things means Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. I am not ashamed. I’m still binging The Mindy Project. I’m watching Big Brother and enjoying the captioning as well as the Long Island / New Jersey accents.

[Click the pic.twitter.com link to see captioning at its comedic best].

Because Liberating The Astronauts won the SFPA Elgin Award last year, I’m committed to reading as many nominated collections as I can and voting this year. I bought six that really struck a chord with me, and as of yesterday, I finished reading all six. Hooray! Also, I met my Goodreads challenge already. That’s barely a dent in my TBR pile, but it’s still a dent. I’m back to reading books from Book Expo now.

I did some write-ups based on interactions from Book Expo that appeared on Book Riot. More to come! Also a piece about Whitman–yes another one–is about to come out. This one is about the exhibit at The Morgan Library, which also had an exhibit about Maurice Sendak that I didn’t write about because big costumes scare me and that’s pretty much what the whole exhibit was about.

 

Another fun thing I saw in the city was Bat Out Of Hell, the musical based on Meatloaf’s music, with much thanks to my friend DB for getting us comped tickets. While most of the music was Meatloaf, there were other surprises that were simply outstanding. Some of the plot and scenes and dancing didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t really care because it was so entertaining. Before the show, there was a huge half a head that needed to be inspected in Central Park.

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I finally got to see Long Island’s Best Wedding Band live! Sound Chaser played at an Italian feast nearby, so clearly they do weddings and more, and they were fabulous! Yeay! Also, my mom danced and some drunk dudes danced with her.

 Odds and Ends

I helped my brother build a shelf. The shelf fell apart. I’m writing a very strong letter because it couldn’t have been our fault. I used a power drill and everything.

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Some of the prettiest sunsets and sunrises came through my window.

 

 

Baseball, Art, and A Little Moon Magic

What do sports, sculpture, and Apollo have to do with each other? Easy. It’s how I summer.

Remember last year when my brother and I went to the Cyclones game on Seinfeld night and watched the Seinclones play? This year, we rooted for the Marble Ryes. And we took the same picture.

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Also included were: a Spare A Square face-off in which teams unrolled TP rolls by wrapping them around their partners; a Marble Rye Toss which was an egg toss using a loaf of marble rye; and an AssMan contest in which two grown men sat on balloons to pop them. Of course, there was an Elaine Dance Contest, and the woman who won was outstanding and not even in costume. She simply had the moves.

We’d sat next two a group of men, three adults and a child maybe around 5, and they left during the 4th inning with the oldest mumbling to me, I’m surprised we made it to almost the 5th. This little boy was happy when he was eating, so they got him a huge ice cream cone but didn’t get napkins, so he was covered in ice cream almost head to foot. Also making him happy was the destruction of four Fusilli Jerry figurines. Oh, the travesty!

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Outdoor art makes me happy. My photo-poet-stunt-team friend and I went to Old Westbury Gardens to take pictures. There were some creepy statues around for an exhibit about balance. Once was diving head-first into the lawn donning a bright blue swimsuit. It was weird. Some statues, however, were pretty like the dancer-inspired ones. There was also a marionette puppet thingie up in a tree. Looming. Like if it had been nighttime, it would have come to life and went all Blair Witch on everyone. Anyway, photos were fun, and I’ve got some new head shots along with some very fun vibes.

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Indoor art makes me happy as we learned when we first kicked off the summer at the Nassau County Museum of Art. Because I’m on the ‘Gram all the time now (seriously, I need to lock myself out of my account for a while), I caught a friend’s story that included a piece by the artist Jen Stark (which I found out only after DMing him and making him go through all his past posts until he found the one I was looking for). She had an exhibit at the Joshua Liner Gallery, so I went to that the day I had some time to kill before a focus group (one of my many side hustles). Right around the corner was the Heller Gallery that had very expensive glass pieces that I made damn sure not to bump into or knock over because this gal can’t afford broken artwork and also an exhibit called Collaborations with Queer Voices.

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Jen Stark’s work

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Mesmerized by the pricing, I didn’t catch the artist’s name.

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Alok Vaid-Menon

Also, I have a new favorite poetry reading series, and it’s at an art gallery called Industry. At the last reading, I found a friend.

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Fifty years ago, Apollo 11 touched down on the moon. On the exact anniversary at the exact time, the Cradle of Aviation Museum lowered a 1/3-sized replica onto their makeshift moon surface. Everyone there waved flags and cheered. It was quite the scene. Outside, there were moon buggies for children to ride around in and pick up fake space rocks. I was not allowed to ride the moon buggies. Sigh. However, I sat in a 70s-style living room to watch the footage of Armstrong stepping down. I also went into the IMAX theatre to watch CNN’s documentary on Apollo 11 with never-before-seen footage. This is proof of how much I love my mom; IMAX makes me dizzy as soon as I’m in the theatre, even with nothing on the screen. She was in heaven all day long. It was a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day after the actual day (yep, I give good presents). And now we’re members of the museum because we got discounted snacks if we joined.

 

Additionally, I melted during the heatwave with no A/C. It’s by choice. I don’t like air conditioning, so every summer, I debate about whether or not to put in my air conditioner. Last summer, it was hot three days, and I was okay. This summer, it was hot three days, and I walked around my house cursing at myself. So maybe next year, I’ll cave and put in my a/c. But then again, maybe not. Because this is how I summer.