My brother has a knack for gardening, and I have a knack for letting plants die, and we found ourselves among flowers and history several times this summer so far.
Clark Botanic Gardens is small, yet easy to get lost in. Several times my brother mentioned how the map is not to scale. I did look at the map quite a bit, thinking maybe this would be the day I could understand spatial relationships, and then I gave up when I noticed something gross on my hand and used the map to wipe it off while doing what any normal adult would do—shouting, Ewww, grosssss, get it offffff.
Also gross was a dead bird we found on a pathway that my brother thought had been killed in a sacrificial ritual because it looked like it had no head. I suggested that animals could have eaten it, and he suggested that animals would not be so precise. Neither one of us got a real good look at it, so let’s call this debate a draw.
Other than gross, the gardens were pretty. There was an apiary (but I didn’t see any honey for purchase, which was a bummer). There was a gazebo. Then paths wound around paths, and we saw art and flowers. A man with a camera and a large beard who referred to himself as Santa Claus ran into us several times, and each time he pointed out the turtles. One time he shouted at us across a pond about the turtles. Sure enough, there were turtles we would have missed otherwise. We also saw a rabbit and monarch butterflies. We started to see the same plants over and again, we realized we made our way around several times, just in different ways. There was also art, and we all know how I love public art.
You know where else there are gardens? Connecticut. We drove out to the Mark Twain House where there is also the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, and Stowe kept pristine gardens.
Let’s take a side note here about how I have misconceptions about history while my brother is a history teacher. You may all recall the There Are Two Hoovers incident, which garnered a full on facepalm. This time around, I kind of eased my way into the misconception: I know that Harriet Tubman and Harriet Beecher Stowe are two people, but sometimes I think of Harriet Tubman when I hear Uncle Tom’s Cabin, even though Stowe wrote it, and also, Stowe was a white lady, and sometimes in my mind (like always up until I saw the Stowe house) she’s black.
Perhaps my brother is now beyond facepalming at my historical inaccuracies because there was no shout or self-flagellation that occurred. A bit of a head shake. Perhaps because I was already shaking my head in my own shame already.
Anyway, we started with Twain. There’s a building that serves as a museum to show a Ken Burns film and a panel exhibit of Twain. Something I re-learned: Samuel Clemens named himself after a nautical measurement. Something I learned for the first time: Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was terrible at inventing things. He tried a printing press and a memory game among other things, and they were both not good and sent him into debt. It’s a good thing the world loved him because he went on a talking tour to earn money to support his family.
His house is large. He had several children, but still, large. It’s also very ornate, each room with wood carvings and stenciled wallpaper. He had fancy fireplaces installed throughout the house, too. He clearly built the house he dreamed of owning when he’d had very little growing up.
The tour guide knew a lot. We heard so many dates and facts. When someone asked a question, she always had an answer. That means, on top of knowing the script for the tour, she has additional knowledge rolling around in her Twain synapses. It’s impressive. It’s one thing to memorize a script, but to be able to also offer answers to questions you don’t know are coming is super neat.
Once we got back to the museum part, we finished watching the Ken Burns film we’d seen only part of and then headed to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House across the yard. It’s literally a few feet away. Once that tour started, we quickly learned that the Stowe family lived there first. Twain build that monstrous house in her backyard. They were all friendly, so it wasn’t a big deal, but still—that massive thing going up behind such a regular-sized house had to be a bit of a headache at times. Stowe was happy to have this smaller house; she, too, at one time had a massive house and decided it was too much.
Her house has many of her own paintings. It also has plants. It also has her paintings of plants. She was really talented. During this tour, a family of four joined us, and one of the daughters had completed a school project on Stowe, so she knew a bunch of stuff. The tour guide was very attentive towards her because of this, which was nice because it made the tour simple and a bit slower than that face-paced-facts-in-yo-face of Twain. Something I re-learned is that Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Something I learned for the first time—well, we already know but I’ll say it again—Stowe was a white lady.
Another side note: I mentioned this to my mom, and she said, You know what? I think I thought she was black, too. So there. We’re all not on top of our history at all times. Why do so many women have to be named Harriet? And by so many, I mean two. These two in particular. It’s very confusing.
One room that makes you go, Oh my, is the one with all the memorabilia about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. While the book was meant to rail against slavery and racism, it inspired plays and movies and adaptations and toys and knickknacks that were very racist. It reminded me of when we went to a museum that had a sign that there would be racist images in a particular exhibit, and we were like halfway through and were like, there’s no racist stuff her, and then we turned a corner and saw a huge propaganda poster that used the word Jappy, and we were like, oh, yes, there it is. What we’re learning is that a lot of history is racist. And also, the Hoover incident occurred during the same adventure.
At the end of this tour, we went into the small museum gift shop and wrote a note on a community paper about the experience. I wrote that it was inspiring. Stowe lived a long life of writing and art, so of course, that’s inspiring. Also inspiring are her gardens. The flowers are so vibrant, and they made me almost want to plant some of my own. Almost, but not quite. I’ll leave the pretty plants to my brother.
I told people I’m going to stay at a cottage at Heckscher State Park, and several people responded with, Oh, camping! To which I responded, Do you know me at all? It’s a cottage. Not even a cabin. Cabin implies more woodsy. It’s a cottage—a one-bedroom, one-indoor-bathroom, living-room-kitchen-area with a screened -porch, an outdoor deck, a firepit, and a 30-second path to the beach on Nicholl Bay. This is also known as Heaven on Long Island.
Because I received the DEC grant through the Huntington Arts Council, I marked this weeklong stay as the time to get my writing done. It was also a time to not be on any social media, not talk to anyone, read a whole lot, and not think about any responsibilities (except for daily necessities like washing dishes, and now I am more grateful for my dishwasher).
The morning before heading out, I bought almost all my groceries for a week during which I was nicely scolded at the grocery store because I’d let an elderly lady who had been waiting on the adjacent line to go ahead of me. The cashier pointed out the arrows on the floor and explained how they like to keep it that way. I understand avoiding chaos, but also, no one was behind either one of us, and when I told the woman to go ahead of me, the scolding cashier was not yet done with the person checking out. I explained none of this and simply said, Okay I gotcha. Then I was feeling dumb because I had so many bags, and how could one person have so many bags, and attachment and possession are so un-Zen-like and this is why the world is a hard place.
Clearly, I needed this retreat.
After realizing that bags are necessary to carry linens and food, I got excited and off I went! I got to the park and couldn’t find where to check in, and my phone service kept cutting out. So back to being anxious, thinking I’d have to spend the week in the parking lot in my car with my too-many bags. I remembered a sign for camping and cottages I would see walking, so I went that way. I found the check-in office. The guy had heard my message and called me back but the phone service hadn’t allowed for me to get the call. He said it wasn’t my phone—the service was wonky that day around the park. Once again, excited to be there.
Finally, I got to my cottage by the sea. Very English-Moorish with wild flowers and wild plants. I unpacked and walked to the path that would take me to the beach. I stopped short and literally gasped. That first view of the water from the path, whoa.
I then went food shopping for a few extra things and returned for some more beach walking in the evening. I was the only one on the beach. Then I went inside and started to read a book as the skies grew dark. I’ll repeat, this is heaven.
Rain stormed in overnight and the morning still had a drizzle mist. I figured I would walk the path I knew so that in case rain stormed in again, I’d know how to get back. Then I got really excited on my walk, so I explored the loop path I don’t really take to the interior of the park. It’s all connected and very difficult to get lost. Even I did not get lost.
Everything soaked through because I’d been out for so long. My sock were gross. Then I couldn’t figure out the shower. I also can’t really explain it. It’s a standing shower and there are drains and there’s water that comes out of the shower onto the bathroom floor whenever I showered but not a lot of it, and I wound up showering kind of in a corner all week, but I was okay with that because it was a comfy shower with plenty of hot water. (Here I will remind y’all that I recently became a full professor). The rest of the day was misty, which wasn’t an issue since the rest of my activities were indoors—I wrote poetry and submitted poetry. Then I read some more. Beach walk at night—all by myself. I could get used to this.
Rain had stormed again, and it was still going in the morning. I wrote and edited some creative nonfiction pieces. By the time I finished that, the sun came out. Sun’s out, guns out! A bit over-zealous, forgetting that clouds went away at peak sun time and it was not the usual morning walk, I went on a mission to find the boat launch, which I could never find when walking. This mission took me onto streets and through camping (there’s actual camping in tents at the park, which I did not do because the park has indoor cottages). I found the boat launch which also has a kayak launch. Some guy was funnily cursing as he got into a kayak. Then, after what seemed to be a long production in doing so, asked, Hey how do I know when to come back? The kayak guy was like, Don’t worry if it’s a few minutes late. The other guy was like, I don’t think I’ll be late because I’m already fucking tired! Heh heh. I did see him start to paddle out, and he had a friend paddling behind him, so I think he made it out at least past the No Wake zone.
When I got back to the cottage, I downed several bottles of water. I was soaked, this time with sweat, which should not be a surprise to anyone. I also had bug bites from walking on grass. Actually, I didn’t walk. I kind of galloped across, like a high-knee combine drill, to avoid any chance of ticks. The park has signs posted about ticks maybe every twenty feet. The grass I walked across was low, but other bugs presented themselves and bit me up. Basically, I was a sweaty, itchy, fulfilled mess. I showered in the corner, wrote and edited, and then took a walk to the beach in the evening. Then my flip flops broke on the way back. I didn’t really use flip flops on the beach, so it wasn’t too much of an issue to chuck them.
Day 4: A Mini Sibling Adventure!
My brother visited, arriving on his bike at my cottage right after I’d gotten back from a park walk. I showed him the path to the beach, and he stopped short as soon as he saw the water. I know! Then he went to ride for ten miles while I did some writing. The most challenging part of his visit was figuring out which parking field was where. Even looking at a park map did not help. However, by luck or something like it, when I pulled my car around to where I thought he’d be, he appeared in a lot, waving to me. We did it! Sibling magic. We went to the beach, which we have never done together ever. We witnessed a life guard watch two people out in the water on jet skis. My brother kept wondering what he was watching for, and I guessed that it would be to see if they needed help since they were out there floating and not jetting or skiing. When the lifeguard was satisfied that no one was going to drown, he passed by us and asked if we were planning a vacation because he overheard talk of Harry Potter. He, too, is a Harry Potter fan. He said he’s 28 but loves it. I was like, Harry Potter is for everyone, and all adults are big children anyway.
The rest of the day, I edited, wrote, read, and then walked the beach. At one point in the evening, I didn’t want to go back from the beach. It was well after 7 and with sunset at 8 something, I knew I’d had to go back because there were no lights. And also, night animals. I’d seen so many bunnies and chipmunks and birds during the day, and they’re all okay, but at night? I didn’t want to know.
I left the park to visit another park. Technically, it’s an arboretum. Bayard Cutting Arboretum is five minutes away, but also ten minutes away when you cannot find the entrance. I found the entrance and then got lost in a very manicured garden. I also got caught by the massive sprinkler, which felt good because the sun was beating pretty hot. I kept running into a woman who clearly was out for a relaxing walk alone, so I slowed down my pace and eventually lost her. And got lost again. You’d think in a place where you walk along the edge of the water you can’t get lost. Think again, friends. This is me.
When I got back to the cottage, I wrote and edited for several hours. Then I was like, I need to move, so I took an afternoon stroll to the beach. This is when I learned how strong the skin on the bottom of my feet is because without my flip flops in midafternoon, the brick path scorched and the sand charred. I burrowed my feet into the wetter sand nearer to the water for my walk and then hobbled back, doing that same high-knee tire run I’d completed across the grass the day before. Later that evening, after more reading and writing, the path and sand were cool. That’s how sun works.
I left the park to visit another park. Connectquot is hard to spell and about fifteen minutes away. Quick! Guess what I’m going to say next!
If you guessed I couldn’t find the entrance, you are correct!
The entrance has a big-ass sign right off of Sunrise, yet I somehow made my way to the street next to the park and drove quite a bit, wondering if I could loop around and get in. I can never loop around, so I don’t know why I thought it would work this time. After finding the entrance, I found my way into the park. Then I couldn’t find where the paths started. I wandered down to the river where all the geese were. Then I meandered over to some buildings. Then I saw a white blaze across a tree and knew I would be on the Greenbelt! Not to be confused with the Green Trail, marked in green. Got it? Greenbelt White Green Trail Green. At some points they cross. At one point, I was on the Yellow Trail and the Greenbelt.
This is the first time I’ve ever gone into the woods alone. I went on Saturday because I knew there would be other people there. I went super early because it was another searing day. It’s my kind of hiking because a lot of the beginning runs right next to a road and at a certain point there’s no way to go except straight ahead. Also, when I pulled over to the side for some shade on a bridle path, I took a quick screenshot of the map of the park so I’d have it if my cell service went out.
I wound up on the Green Trail by accident. I knew it would cross the Greenbelt again, so I kept following the green arrows. When a bunch of horses came around a corner, I pulled over to the side again and checked the map. The horse leader called out, Are you contacting Sputnik? I answered that I was just checking to see where I was. He asked where I was headed.
I had no idea. There was no actual destination. So I said, The green trail?
He was like, I don’t know about the colors.
Neither do I, sir. Neither. Do. I.
He followed up with, If you get turned around, the visitor center is back down this path. Make a left and a right and you’re there.
I thanked him. I don’t know left or right, but it was still helpful.
I got to a bridge. I looked at the map. I knew where I was. I did a victory dance and sang out, I got to the briii—iidge, I got to the briii—iidge. Getting to the bridge meant nothing. If you’ll recall, I had no destination. However, this felt like a defining moment. I’d accomplished something, like knowing where I was on the map. I then followed the Greenbelt. The path narrowed. I knew where I was and that I could take the path to the edge of the park.
And then there was a cat. A black cat laid flat out across the path. I looked around. No one else was around. I’m aware that a cat is not a wild animal—usually—which made it even scarier because why was this cat there? I asked it out loud, Why are you here, cat? This cat was going to be the downfall of my hike? I moved forward a little, and it looked at me. I moved back a little, and it ran away, under some brush. I called out, No low brush no high grass, cat! Because that’s how you get ticks.
Also, ticks cannot jump or fly, so you get them by standing where they are and having them crawl on you. This is what high socks are for. Despite the hot temps, I’d put on long pants and high socks. The pants also acted as a signal that I am a person in the woods, not an animal to be hunted, and also a way to find me if for some reason I wound up in a place where knowing my left from my right may be helpful and not being able to figure it out.
I kept going, passing the cat, through the woods. I hiked the fuck out of that trail! Then I finished my first water. I had another frozen water, which had been melting down on the outside pocket of my backpack. I was pretty sure it was making my back and booty wet, but that didn’t matter because the swass had been thriving since I’d passed the fishery near the end of the Yellow Trail. I took a moment to eat a snack. I looked at the time and how far I’d walked. I figured if I went to the end of the park, I’d have to use my pee spout—have spout will hike—and if I did that, there was a possibility I wouldn’t be able to get my sweaty pants back up, and I’d have to hike the rest of the way back sans bottoms, which is not good for avoiding ticks (though I’d still have the high socks, so maybe it would’ve been okay.
On my way back, two runners came barreling through. One was in a sports bra and shorts. The other was in shorts and a tee. They had nothing with them. There I was with my large backpack of pee spouts and food, and there they were, trail running almost naked. Nature is a strange place.
I did a happy dance when I made it back to the fishery. There’d been a few turns where I was like, Did I go this way or that way? However, I kept looking for the blazes and the arrows, and they guided me. Also, the happy dance was for the bathroom at the fishery. I’d made a really good decision to go back when I did because I really needed to pee and I did have a hard time getting my sweaty pants back up. All my clothes were simply wet pieces of cloth by that point. No shape. No form. Just swaddling for a hiker on a hot day.
Not long after that, I found the parking lot and stretched. Then I found a CVS where I got a bottle of orange-mango Body Armor for hydration and a Key Lime Kit Kat for a reward. I also bought a pair of flip flops for $2.99. Victory after victory.
After peeling myself out of the used-to-be-clothing, I took a corner-shower and sat with my writing. When I was done with that, I organized some of my digital music library. (iTunes, my phone, and my laptop are all different, and I’m trying to make them the same). Later on, beach walk. Later on, Netflix and Hulu because I’d finished all the books I’d brought to read.
Day 7: Enjoying Every Bit One More Time
A bit of rain came down in the morning, so I started with writing. Then the sun came out. I went hiking around Heckscher, once again forgetting it was later with stronger sun, but my sunscreen works really well, so while it was hot, I didn’t burn. I went to the beach and then more writing editing writing editing. Then to the beach. Then I did some packing.
Checkout was at 10 AM. There was a huge storm the night before that woke me up because it was so loud. The morning was so calm. I finished packing. I took a walk on the beach. The water was barely lapping. It was everything. I got back inside and saw a sizeable cricket right near the doorway. I yelled at it. It started to skitter. I crushed it with my new flipflop. I had a split-second thought to scurry it outside, but its movement was not towards the door. I’d been very nice to nature the whole week, and this bug was not where it was supposed to be. I’m very happy this happened on the last day because now I can never go back there.
Upon handing over my keys, the park guy told me that next year, they are renting for only weeklong stays instead of shorter ones. I was like, that works for me because I was here for a week. He asked me how I found it. I told him, It was a fantastic week.
Life at the cottage involved sweeping every morning. I finished reading three books and put a small dent in my Netflix queue instead of adding to my list, getting overwhelmed, and shutting it off to watch reruns of Guys Grocery Games—there’s no TV and no radio. Everything I watched and listened to was completely purposeful instead of mindless. I used the wifi mostly for writing and to access workout videos every morning. I wasn’t on Facebook or Instagram all week and it made a huge difference in time and energy. To pretend I know no one and have no responsibility to anyone or anything, every day reminding me that everything I do is actually a choice, was exactly what I needed to find some peace and calm again.
I had the thought, I could live here. I’d have to install a dishwasher and maybe figure out the shower so I wouldn’t have to shower in a corner, but otherwise, it got me thinking. Then again, I just had that light switch fixed and bought new air conditioners and had them professionally installed, so I’m pretty invested in my house for the next hundred years. If I moved to the beach, I’d be worried about hurricanes every day. An occasional visit and a round of pretending seems to be enough.
Because the art expo was during the day, BG figured I’d be up for it because it was well before my bedtime. Because it was at a brewery, I was iffy at first because I don’t drink and I don’t eat—I live on air—and I don’t like going to things where I’m not going to support the business. Then I realized, I could buy him a beer, so I was like, We’re doing this. Because MD has been trying to get us together to go to an outdoor summer concert and because there would be live music at the art show, I told her about it, and then we, all three, were finally in the same place at the same time in the blazing sun with creative minds all around us.
When I go to fairs, I want one of everything. My strategy, then, is to visit every table and then circle back. It works because I get to then figure out if I really, truly want something, and also I don’t need to carry it around with me. If it’s gone by the time I go back, then it’s not meant to be. Because I recently paid a pretty penny to have my kitchen wall light switch repaired for the third time in two years and bought two air conditioners and paid to have them installed and had my gutters fixed and cleaned, I can never move from this house. Therefore, I’m finally looking to decorate my living room wall. It’s a big empty space. Art can go on it.
I didn’t buy anything to go on the wall. Instead, I bought magnet art and a sticker. Baby steps.
The bathroom was inside rather than a port-a-potty. Bless you, Great South Bay Brewery. Y’all know how I rely on bathrooms, so in MD and I went as BG stayed at a table taking a survey about his life so he could buy a custom-made notebook. As soon as we got in the door, MD was like, Omigosh it’s that thing from that movie! Helpful. I was like, what? where? Off to the side beyond the bar was a Zoltar machine. I’ve seen them in real life before and had my fortune read by one with a few broken fingers. MD had never seen one up close, and so I was like, You’ve gotta do it, handing over a dollar to her as my gift of fortune. Zoltar is pretty loud as he moves his head and hands. This one has no broken fingers but even after the fortune card spat out, his hand kept moving, and it got a little creepy. The fortune was fun, and she got some lucky numbers out of the deal for the next PowerBall.
Before leaving, BG and I made one more lap and then asked the band for their name. They played covers from a variety of decades, and at one point, they were singing a song by Four Non Blondes and I literally thought the lead from the band was singing and had to look up to see if it was her. It was not. It was The Drinkwater Brothers. BG was like, what if they were the Drinkbeer Brothers, ’cause we’re at a Brewery.
Another jaunt into the art world came in the form of another Sibling Adventure! When we last adventured, we cleaned up some garbage. This time, we planned for indoor activities. My brother’s school year finally finished, so I booked us tickets to the Nassau County Museum of Art. Because I’m now a full professor, I’m making more academic choices, which means I bought myself a membership to the museum that came with a membership to NARM, a reciprocal museum thingie that allows me to get into a bunch of other museums, too. So I didn’t actually buy art here. I bought the museum! This paragraph needs more hypertext, no?
The first part of the adventure was all about the unbearable New York traffic. My brother, who never runs late, was running a little late. I knew he thought he’d get to the museum from his house in twenty minutes. I also knew he didn’t realize traffic. I waited a bit and then went into the museum. The guy at the front said I could check in for both of us and he’d let my brother in later. My brother arrived after a 45 minute drive, all apologetic, and I was like, You were cursing in your car, weren’t you? He was like, No matter where I went, for no reason, no construction, I just couldn’t go anywhere. Yup, that seems about right.
Sidenote: Apparently, the traffic is due to not only those who usually take public transportation now driving cars but also more delivery trucks for more people shopping at home. Hey, everyone? Go back to doing things the way you did them please and thanks.
Before he got there, I got a bit taken aback by the number of people in the building. I didn’t feel unsafe—I’m not talking pandemic—I’m talking how usually I’m one of three people there. Instead, there was what seemed to be a field trip of teens roaming about. Also, there was a video shoot happening in one of the galleries. The guy at the desk was like, Gallery 1 is closed at the moment. Then another guy came over and was like, No, it’s not. So the first guy was like, Okay I lied, everything is open. Ha! The doors had been closed, but the people filming said patrons could come in while they were on break. There was equipment everywhere, so taking in the artwork from La Belle Epoque while navigating state-of-the-art video tech was quite the juxtaposition. Toulouse-Lautrec probably would have enjoyed it.
My brother found me outside Gallery 1 as I read about the art movement, and he was like, I want to see the Warhol.
Warhol again? you may ask. The answer is always, Yes, of course, Warhol again.
Up the winding stairs we went. Some of the artwork we’d seen in person before—the animals and some of the flowers. Some of the artwork was new to us: Mt. Vesuvius, portraits of characters using diamond dust, portraits of Jewish people, drawings of flowers, album covers.
Here’s a quote that sums up Warhol’s main pop aesthetic that made the two of us go, yeah wow:
Business art is the step that comes after Art . . . I wanted to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.
Then? Soup cans. Whoa.
In the midst of this Warhol extravaganza, a fire alarm sounded. It was one of those deafening, piercing alarms. We poked out of the small gallery we were in. A semi-frantic man was quickly walking through the hall. I gestured into the air and asked, This means we leave, right? He was like, yes, please exit now! Down the stairs we went and outside into the 100 degree weather. I entertained my brother with how I handle fire alarms on campus: I walk away from the building, and my students ask if they should follow me, and I ask, Do you want to be close to the building if it explodes?
After about ten minutes, the alarm had stopped and no authorities arrived, so back into the building we went, up the stairs, back to the Warhol. Then back down the stairs to finish off La Belle Epoque. We went to the back gallery and found a lot of Tiffany lamps. Fact: I didn’t know Tiffany lamps were named after a guy with the last name Tiffany. On the wall in the hallway hung a very detailed timeline. In very un-history-teacher-like-fashion, my brother did not read every single word of it. That proves that it really was a lot to take in. We did some scattershot observing, pointing out things we recognized. At the end of it all, he was like, Basically, a lot of stuff happened in a really short period of time. History lesson done.
At this point, Gallery 1’s doors were closed. I asked at the desk if it would reopen soon, and the guy was like, It should be open. I was like, The doors are closed. He went to see if either set of doors would be open, and they weren’t, and he was like, Sorry they haven’t told me anything different. I was like, I totally get it—there was a lot going on still. The gift shop was open, though, so back up the stairs we went. Because I bought a membership, I got a free poster. I really thought about what I wanted on my wall and also what meant something to me. I got the poster from Fool The Eye. It was between that and Energy: The Power of Art! The former won out because it may look better on my wall. Also, it may not go on the living room wall at all. I may move things around now that I’m staying in the house forever. The women at the register had a dandy of a time trying to ring it up until finally they were just like, Thank you very much for your support in being a member and we will figure this out later. Heh heh, they’re wonderful people at the museum. Also, “dandy of a time” is my new fun phrase.
Because our time schedule was off, we hadn’t eaten lunch and were starving. We found some shade and ate. Then I was like, We can drive up the hill or walk. My brother chose to walk, so in the 100 degree heat, we made our way up the road to the Manes Center for Pop Art.
The number one reason to see this exhibit together was to be able to say, Good God, it’s a Lichtenstein! in the same room at the same time. We checked out the Robert Indiana and Katz work along one wall.
Then there at the end, Good God, it was a Lichtenstein! Everything else paled in comparison.
On the final two walls were Rivers and Rauschenburg, both very interesting. Over the final piece, a light was flickering, which caused the piece to look different every moment. This seemed to be accidental, but also, it was like performance art. Like we were part of the art. That’s what I’d like to believe.
Shirley Chisholm was not a cowgirl. I first saw her name in the novel The Sellout by Paul Beatty where the main character refers to Shirley Chisolm’s smile. I pictured a woman in a cowgirl hat and spurs with a lasso and a smile. Fast Forward to Shirley Chisholm State Park being constructed and my mention of it to my brother during which I ponder the name, wondering aloud if she was really a cowgirl. You can guess his reaction—one of those face palms and a mini lesson about how everything with the name Chisholm is not related to herding cattle.
I Love My Park Day is an annual event that encourages people to help keep our parks beautiful. Luckily, some parks extend the day into two days, which meant my brother and I could go on a Sunday, and we headed to Brooklyn. Off the Belt Parkway, the park is several huge hills, all built on top of a former garbage dump (as my brother likes to say, Where they buried the bodies. And I don’t think he’s completely wrong).
We met up early so we could walk the trails before the cleanup. Actually, I arrived earlier than early because traffic on the Belt is unpredictable, so what I thought would take me 40 minutes took me 20, which rarely happens. My brother got there on time because that’s what my brother does, and off we went, up a hill and winding around and up another and winding around. Birds chirped. We saw a cat. We got to places in the park where all we could see was water and grass, as if we weren’t in the middle of a frenetic urban space. Pretty trippy. We made it to the top of a rather high path, checked out the views—we could see downtown Manhattan’s skyline—and wound our way back down. We then went to the other side of the park where we found paved paths and went up only a little so that we wouldn’t be late for signing in.
We found the parks people (rangers? guides?), signed in, and waited. Then we waited a bit more. Then I was like, Imma gonna have to use the port-a-potty. I’d checked it out before and decided it was a big fat no. However, I’ll take port-a-potty over days of agonizing UTI any time. Off I went, holding my breath, trying to not touch anything while having to touch things in the portable toilet. So. Gross. Wearing a mask has its advantages. A long time ago, I had to use a bathroom in the Bowery where I was at first mouth-breathing and then not breathing at all by the time I was done. Here, I realized, the smell wasn’t atrocious, and any time I did breathe, the air was mask-filtered. (To be clear—the park does a great job of keeping these things clean. They still skeeve me.)
After dousing myself with all kinds of sanitizer except for the official park sanitizer that smells like that Bowery bathroom and doesn’t fade away for a week, I hooked up again with the group that was still waiting and still growing. There were a bunch of families and two young men whom my brother told me were most likely there for service credit. He can spot em. My brother has run all kinds of service groups with his students. He’s a good egg.
The two park people (rangers? guides?) introduced themselves, told us a bit about the park, informed us about who Shirley Chisholm is (NOT a cowgirl), and then showed us the way to the shore. My brother and I walked with one of them, talking about how many state parks are in NYC (seven!) and how my brother is a history teacher and tour guide and how the park already looked so clean so what exactly could we clean up. When we got to the shoreline, we saw what we could clean up. The tide comes in. The tide goes out. Garbage gets left in the beach grass.
Everyone grabbed a bucket and some grabbers. I was in heaven. Grabbers! Such fun to use! Unfortunately, we were using them to grab garbage, and there was so much. At first glance, you may not see anything, but then, it’s everywhere. We dove in and found mostly bottle caps at first. That prompted me to proclaim no one should be allowed to drink out of plastic bottles. Then we found a lot of straws. That prompted the new rule of no straws allowed. Then we found a lot of vaping things, and I was all, vaping should be illegal. Then we found candy wrappers. I didn’t say no one should eat candy, but really, people should eat the bigger sized ones so that there aren’t so many little wrappers around.
Since we were picking through the beach grass, we had quite a time deciphering what things were. We got into a routine of poking, picking, and then often asking, What is this? Is this nature? Sometimes nature and garbage look similar. I found a few plastic bags. My brother found a tampon applicator and a glove. I kept getting more upset about the garbage. He was like, Sometimes it blows out of cans when it’s windy, and I was like, People are gross and shouldn’t be allowed to do anything!
Then the rain rolled in. The sky had been looking ominous as soon as we’d begun. The drizzle came. Then it ended. Then it came. Then it ended. Then it came once more. Then it ended as we finished up our bucket. Some families came back with eleven pounds of garbage. We had four. We won, I guess? Less garbage is better.
It rained. The weather report said the rain was going to stop by the time we got to Rockland Lake. It still rained. Before getting out of the car, I was like, I guess I’m finally going to use this poncho. As my brother enumerated all of his poncho complaints from the days he wore one at the Army Navy games, I unfolded a large piece of thin plastic from its plastic pouch. And kept unfolding. And unfolding. Then I thought I ripped it only to find, no, I had to unfold more. With every unfold, I shouted and laughed with glee. I was gonna wear a poncho! (Later on, my brother commented that he was getting a little worried about how giddy I was. He simply doesn’t understand the joy of life’s little pleasures).
Getting out of the car, I draped myself and my backpack in plastic. The wind kicked up, and the plastic billowed all around me, and I laughed hysterically. I was like Glinda The Good Witch in my own plastic bubble, only instead of a poofy pink dress, I had on my hiking shoes and high socks. My hiking fashion is on point, yo. My brother opted for his orange rain coat. I have a matching one, but it’s too hot for summer attire. He took one look at me and was like, I don’t think I explained this park well. I understood why when we walked to the water. The path was paved and flat, and I was ready for the woods and the beach like on my more recent outdoorsy adventures. It didn’t matter. Hiking is hiking is walking is poncho-ing.
Clouds rolled over the lake. Purple flowers grew from the muck. We saw deer! When we first came upon them, one was on his hind legs, biting into some tree leaves. Then he stopped and stared at us as his deer friend did. We stared at them. They won the staring contest. We kept going and found a garden with a scary scarecrow. Like, scarecrows are supposed to be scary, but this one was jacked up scary. And then I found a flower that was glowing.
We made our way out of the unwoodsy park and towards the Edward Hopper House. I love Hopper’s stuff. I love the empty rooms, squares of light through door frames, lonely women in badly fitting outfits. I used to have a version of Nighthawks hanging in my college dorm room—the version where the people in the poster are James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and such. Why is that a thing? I don’t know what that’s a thing. Is that still a thing? College kids buying posters with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe? Anyway, Hopper. He’s great.
The woman at the Hopper House is also great. She was so welcoming. I think she was simply happy there were people there—it was us and another woman. A bit later, an older couple showed up, and though they hadn’t gotten tickets in advance, they were allowed in. We all had our temperature taken. The woman gave us some history of the Hopper family. When we got to a room that plays a film on a loop, she started it over for us and was concerned that we were not sitting to watch. It was a short film. We were fine.
Anyway, the exhibits were fabulous. A contemporary photographer found locations of Hopper’s painting subjects, and the photos and picture of the paintings were hung side by side. Hopper’s drawings and doodles were on display along with his paints and palette. A lot of the film and some of the drawings were about Hopper’s focus on water. I never think of him as an artist who painted seascapes, but apparently that’s half his career. I always think of the houses and rooms. My mom requested a postcard of a Hopper lighthouse; we found a bookmark instead. There was artwork inspired by Hopper. The second floor recreates his bedroom where the lighthouse light shines in at night and the Hudson is on view. The floors are magnificent.
The rain stopped by the time we were finished with the museum and said goodbye to the nice lady. We took a map of a walking tour of Hopper’s Nyack and went up and down the streets to find places he painted and views that inspired him. Then on the main drag, we went into a new agey shop (my brother was like, You can go in without me, and I was like, Really you’re not going to go in? He went in.) Then we found a bookstore, which meant we had to go into the bookstore. It was the kind of store where you can’t find anything but the guy at the counter would know exactly where it was. It’s also the kind of store that will bury you in books if there’s even a hint of an earth tremor or maybe a vibration from a large truck passing by.
While the museum taught me about Hopper’s history, my brother taught me about ice. That’s right. We had an impromptu chat while walking around the lake about the ice industry. This is what it’s like having a sibling adventure—you learn stuff. He told me he learned it because there’s a sign in the park somewhere that he read. Aha! So he doesn’t just know things. He reads them and retains them and then shares at pertinent moments that seem random. My fun facts usually are a bit more random, like Tesla had a thing for pigeons. And this is why we get along. Facts.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Team Joe Rau completed two walks this autumn and raised money for two fantastic charities.
The Long Island Heart Walk took us to the boardwalk at Jones Beach. This was super special since that’s where my brother used to take my dad for beach days. We arrived geared up for a Fall walk, and it turned out to be more like summer. First we checked out the shoreline. Such a pretty day for a walk. After walking around from booth to booth trying to win things (I won a hat! He one a keychain! Thanks, Chase Bank!), we walked over to the start line and waited. Then we waited some more. Then we followed suit with a slew of other walkers and unceremoniously began the walk before anyone cut the ribbon. We went around it, not through it, because we’re not dicks.
We pretty much started at the beginning of the boardwalk and walked under overpasses and to the far end. Does it surprise anyone that I was sweating profusely? No? Good. Because that’s exactly what I was doing. My brother was explaining why there was no breeze whenever I pointed out that there was no breeze. What neither of us could explain was why there was a prop plane flying a banner over the water, advertising the Heart Walk. I’m hoping it was a volunteer plane because that’s not why I’m raising money. There’s no need to fly a banner over where the people who already know about the walk are walking. (This is the same issue I have with charities sending me stuff in the mail asking for money after I’ve already given them money. Online. Stop killing trees and wasting postage on the money I’m raising for you please).
We came up to a point in the path where the boardwalk was kind of no longer a boardwalk. We saw people hiking up into the brush over a small hill around a turn where the path became unseeable unless you took the turn with them. We both realized at that point that we’d been walking for quite some time. The walk should have been three miles. We were already at two, which meant that we’d get another two walking back.
2 + 2 = 4
I. AM. A. MATH. GENIUS!
It’s at that point we decided to turn back, seeing that no one from the Heart Association was anywhere along the path to tell us when to turn around. I suppose they thought no one would go up into the brush. However, reaching the brush was still farther than necessary.
The silver lining here was the beautiful walk along the boardwalk. You just can’t beat Long Island beaches.
Two weeks later, Team Joe Rau was in Queens for The Walk To End ALZ in support of the Alzheimer’s Association. We arrived and found parking because of the very uninterested volunteers pointing casually in the direction of parking lots. On the plus side, we found parking! On the negative side, the parking lot smelled like pee! We hurried away from there and on over to the grassy area to sign in.
We got bracelets, the kind that stick to the hair on your arms, and then got flowers to carry in honor of our dad and others. We got free snacks because that’s how the ALZ Association rolls–cereal bars and bananas all day, yo. We also took pictures in the photo booth.
We signed a memory wall. We checked out the giveaways and got free bags. Because I need another bag to put into one of my three large and overflowing bags of bags in my coat closet. My brother picked up some catalogs about Flushing. Then we went back to the pee parking lot to put our now filled bags in the car.
Back to the start line. There was a lot of storytelling and explaining about why we were there. The sun was out, shining and hot. I was ready to go. They were not as they talked more. Then we held up our flowers, and that made the waiting worth it. Everyone had flowers spinning in the wind, and it was so pretty. Then there was more talking until finally they cut the ribbon and off we went!
My brother and I aren’t speed walkers as a profession, but we could probably win an Olympic walking event. We caught up to the front pretty quickly. Leading us on the walk was a cheerleading squad. I appreciate pep, for sure! However, when you cheer about Alzheimer’s, even when it’s against ALZ, it still sounds wrong. Intention? Fantastic! Outcome? No thank you stop cheering about Alzheimer’s please.
We walked by the World’s Fair building and then around it, seeing it from an angle we’d never seen it before. Then we came upon the Unisphere. Yup, this walk was also pretty breathtaking. Everyone stopped to take pictures. The cheer squad climbed into a pyramid for photos. That’s when we made our move and lost them and headed to the front of the pack. We were not the first to finish, but we were some of the first. That’s when I took the worst finish line picture in the history of finish line photos. Then we got more snacks because the ALZ Association understands the power of food as appreciation. I got an apple. He got a bag of kettle potato chips. All was right with the world. When we got back to my brother’s place, we planted our flowers in his garden.
Because we have awesomely generous people in our lives, we raised:
$575 for the American Heart Association
$305 for the Alzheimer’s Association
If you are a generous person who missed our walks, you can still donate:
Serendipity has me featuring at a poetry reading at Sip This on October 15, which is my dad’s birthday. So while we’re not walking, Team Joe Rau will be on hand to collect donations for the Wounded Warrior Project. That’s an in-person donation collection, but feel free to donate online if you can’t make the reading and still want to donate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the prettiest sunsets and sunrises came through my window.
My cousins tackled the Ironman in Ohio, and I was there to watch. My part in this challenge was simple: do whatever they wanted me to do.
So my brother and I drove by corn fields upon cornfields to stand in the blazing sun for hours to catch a glimpse of them for 30 seconds. SO WORTH IT.
My brother and I drove back and prepared a barbecue, complete with decorations of congratulations. SO WORTH IT, especially since my brother has fire-phobia and the grill caught on fire when he was grilling so there was a lot of spatula waving and running away.
I cleaned the kitchen, and my brother threw out the garbage. I sat on the deck, and everyone went swimming in nature’s water where there were ducks and plants and other live creatures below the surface. We all laughed a lot. We all caught up a lot. My brother, my uncle, and I froze in the tundra of the lower level of the house.
My cousins asked me to sign my books they’d bought and brought. My cousin read a poem from the book, and then so did my brother.
There was some drinking, and I had half a sip of a kamikaze and remembered why they were so dangerous. Also dangerous is the incredible loyalty my family has towards me after this past year and a half.
There was a boat debacle in which my cousin needed to pull a boat with some water in it out of the water before it rained so there would not be more water in it. My brother was then enlisted to help, which entailed a lot of supervising. My other cousin then went down and practically lifted the boat all on her own. Then there was the need to flip it over. The rest of us stood above on the balcony, acting like Statler and Waldorf. The scene offered some great comedy for the family sitting on their deck across the lake from us.
There was a birthday celebration. More decorating. Some cake. There were early morning conversations over tea. There were loads of dishwashing in a dishwasher that fell out of the wall when opened.
There was also sightseeing. My brother and I hit up Columbus where we found:
A scrap metal horse and other large things. Ohio State campus is a city unto itself.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger statue. After driving in circles and not finding it anywhere, I pulled the car over and yelled at the map. That’s when my brother looked up and said, Hey, is that it? And it was! Hooray!
The World’s Largest Gavel. Under construction so I couldn’t get up on it, but I got up as near it as possible, and it was gavelicious.
Scioto Mile. This was like my brother’s Becket Shrine of Canterbury. We walked along the mile and found public art, which is, as we all know, one of my top ten favorite things in the entire world.
A deer on a bridge. Not much more to say about that.
The German Village. For us little Raus, this was heaven. We found The Book Loft, which has 32 rooms of reading pleasure. We also found Schmidt’s Haus Restaurant and Schmidt’s Fudge Haus, and it was like home.
Some photos courtesy of Anthony Rau
Back at the house, more swimming, more lounging, more laughs. I taught a quick yoga class. There was always something cooking or baking in the kitchen. We all had matching shirts.