Unauthorized Recap of Unauthorized Banksy

The one story that sticks out to me about Banksy was the auction-house piece that shredded itself. That’s fun. I can appreciate graffiti; I’ve been on several do-it-yourself-graffiti-walking-tours in both the U. S. and Canada (I love Canada!). Interestingly, an indoor exhibit can take graffiti from the outside and hang it in a way that it glows from within. It was pretty neat.

You get one guess as to what happened when B and I first got to the exhibit. Like, aside from here’s my ID and vax card. If you guessed that I had to find a bathroom, you are correct. Bathrooms—not just for hiking. This meant careening through two floors of the exhibit, trying not to look at anything so that I would later be surprised by what I saw when I came through the second time to actually see it.

Back to the beginning! There was art. There were very long explanations in teeny tiny writing that we took pictures of to later read. Those pictures are still lingering on my to-read list. In addition to reading, there was watching. Like the Van Gogh exhibit, there was a room of animation. This room was small (a little too small to see what was going on the whole time) and it came with warnings about flashing lights. It was pretty cool, though, because it was as if we were in a subway car and got to travel throughout the world and fast forward through time. The rooms afterwards each had a theme and many included art with a quirky slant. My favorite collection is all about Disney called Dismaland. As a former cast member, I thoroughly approve of every single idea that comes across in Dismaland. Y’all don’t know the half of it.

Phone booths are fun.

Also, a lot of the work tugs at humanity’s collective conscience. War is bad. How people treat other people is bad. People are awful. And also, there’s hope. That’s the gist of the messages. On top of that, there was a small section about CCTV. We turned a corner and, oh, hello, we were on screen. I wish I could say this is the first time I was caught off-guard in an exhibit by realizing we’re being watched and recorded all the time, but it was not. (Let’s remember the Whitney).

After the exhibit, B and I walked aimlessly, winding up really far downtown. She suggested heading to Washington Square Park. That park was alive! Every fourth table was selling some sort of marijuana. In between were artists and musicians. There was a poet offering to write a poem or sell you a penis-shaped candle. (This could be my new endeavor depending on how lucrative this kind of waxing poetic is, and someone should really revoke my writing privileges after that pun).

Then out on the sidewalks, more graffiti, the uplifting kind. I love this city.

We Made A Friend In Bushwick

An art opening? Yasss! My friend’s first art opening? Yasss! Yasss!  In Brooklyn so I can swing by and scoop up my Brooklyn friend to come along? Yasss! Yasss! Yasss!

In Bushwick on a Friday night? Eh, not so much yasss as welp, it’s surely worth it to go to a public place and look at art and chat with friends. Plus, planning it out, I found a garage nearby to not worry about parking. I also texted my brother: Walking two blocks in Bushwick, okay? His answer: Yes, walk fast.

I. Love. Brooklyn.

My brother used to teach in Bushwick before it started to become the up and coming creative and lively neighborhood it has started to grow into. That means he saw some things. Thankfully, the things he saw we did not see as S and I careened around the streets of Brooklyn, looking for this parking garage, finally finding it on the street where its address was not.

Perhaps you’ve heard—me and car stuff do not go together. As soon as I pulled in, I got the nervous sweats. Doubling my nervous sweats was the guy who was waving me forward towards him instead of directing me behind the SUV that had pulled up in front of me.

I rolled down my window and said hi. He responded with, Do you remember where you picked it up, sweetie?

NOTE: I’ll say it right here right now. We were all in a casual setting, and this guy oozed genuine niceness. He wasn’t being condescending, and I don’t mind someone like this calling me sweetie.

Think of it this way:

When pandemic hit, I gave my classes my Instagram account so I could communicate with them on InstaLive when we were banished from campus because no one had a plan. They showed up, and some still stick around. In that time after the semester ended, though, one of the geniuses started replying to some of my stories. I didn’t recognize who it was, so I asked, Do I know you? He responded, Yes i was in your class. I replied back, Oh, that’s right, I hope you’re doing well. To which he replied, It’s all good Sweethearrrrrrttttt. To which I responded, Professor works better than sweetheart. Then I immediately blocked him.

See the difference?

Anyway, back to the parking garage where I’m working up a good pit sweat.

The guy says, Do you remember where you picked it up, sweetie? He starts pointing to the back of the garage and says something about right around the corner. Then he must see the puzzlement on my face because he stops, then does a double-take, and then? He punches my arm. No joke, like we’ve been friends for years and he’s realizing a mistake. He says, Oh, man, this isn’t a Zip Car!

I was like, Nope, this is my car.

He was like, It looks like the zip cars, okay, okay. And then he asked me to wait while he took care of the people in front of us. Then he came back over and asked to see my reservation. Then I had to find something in my email—began the heavy sweats when I couldn’t find it right away—and in that time, he took a liking to us.

He told S to get out of the car so I could park it against a wall. Then he told both of us and the couple in front of us about the importance of the ticket. Take the ticket. Take a picture of it. Put it in a safe place. Do not lose the ticket. If you do, it’s a five hour ordeal with the DMV to prove the car is yours. Do. Not. Lose. The. Ticket. I went to put the ticket in a safe place, and he yelled, Take a picture! I got all frazzled, took the picture, and then put the ticket in a safe place. Then he told S and me to follow him towards the back of the garage.

There were found a smashed up Jetta. Someone had run a stop sign and plowed head on into his wife’s car. She was fine, and he already had a new car. We also learned his birthday was soon as was the Puerto Rican Day Parade. One of the cars was going to be in it. Something was happening in Florida. Some of the garages got cars stolen. He takes care of his garage and none of that nonsense would happen here.

It was a lot to take in. We both thanked him, and as we started to walk out, I gave him my keys and a small tip.

TIP: I learned this from the wasband—tip your valet on the way in. It’s always stuck with me. I did it automatically.

He said he didn’t work for tips but he’d take it. Then he was like, Take a picture of my number! That’s me! I’m Eddie! Take a picture! I did and was instructed to call him when we were heading back so he’d have the car ready to go when we got there. See? Tip ahead.

Bushwick was safe. The few blocks we walked were filled with murals on buildings, a small restaurant decorated with album covers, and small shops with creative names along every street. The city was alive, and it felt so thrilling to walk and take it all in.

S found a wall that had been spray painted No Regrets and was like, Want a picture with it? I said sure, and so she directed me in what turned out to be a quick and fun photo shoot. Scroll through real quick to get the animated version. You, too, can have a photo set like this if you hang out with the best people like I do.

We found Gallery Petite. Art on the walls! A video piece! There were also pickles and brownies! Wine, too! This was an event! The artists were there, and the curator handed me the brochure of descriptions, so BG, S, and I went around looking at titles and materials. Then S pointed out to BG, Hey, your collage is upside down! That’s the fun thing about surrealist collage art—sometimes interpretation is far from the original intent. Also, S has a keen eye; I hadn’t noticed. BG said he thought it was really cool that it happened that way and he liked that it had happened.

His four collages hung on one wall as one master piece of collage-hood.

Collages by Brian Geraghty

There was a pineapple painting on the opposite wall that I really enjoyed plus a photograph that caught my eye. S enjoyed a painting on wood and then realized, Oh, that’s a skeleton. That made it a little sad. Heh heh. Art is fun.

Then people showed up, like in a mass. We made our way to the sidewalk for conversation. Talked art. Talked poetry. Talked people we know. Talked some baking (because S makes the best desserts, and BG was amazed that someone could make peppermint patties). Then BG popped in and out, chatting it up with people looking at his art, and S and I people watched and did a final stroll through the artwork when more people spilled onto the street. This is the kind of event I enjoy the most—do your own thing inside and outside and talk about all the things you love with easygoing friends.

Both S and I had to work in the morning, so we headed out with a final hug for the artist. Out on the street, I called Eddie the Garage Guy, and he said he’d have my car ready. Then S and I stopped for a moment so I could find the ticket. The very important ticket. It wasn’t in my wallet. I gave it to S to look again. It wasn’t in my bag. It wasn’t in my pockets. It wasn’t anywhere. She was like, You have the picture, right? I was like, Yes. She was like, Well, he said the picture would be good enough. I agreed, but then I also felt like I was disappointing Eddie the Garage Guy. I’d lost the one thing he’d told me to hold most dear.

When we got to the garage after a regaling discussion that revealed I know nothing about ice cream trucks and racism (apparently Good Humor wasn’t always so good), my car was there, facing out, lights on, ready to go. We wandered in, and Eddie the Garage Guy called out, Go get in! You’re all set!

The ticket thing was now a non-necessity. I think this was because we’d seen him only two hours ago, and we all knew who the car belonged to. I tipped him again (the rest of the tip! this is how it works!). S’s door was locked, so he joked, I thought you wouldn’t be coming back! We all had a good laugh because his laugh was infectious, and then he was like, Honey, you have my number now. I was like, Yes, I sure do. He was like, I like you two, so you need anything—tires, parking, anything—you can call me, and I’ll make it happen. I thanked him profusely, and then we were off, out of the garage, careening around the streets of Brooklyn once again.

Have you seen this ticket?

About the ticket. I never found it. Here’s what I think happened. I think it got wrapped up in the first tip I gave him, and he’d been holding the other half of it, so he didn’t notice what I’d done. If I hadn’t taken the picture of it, it would have been in my wallet. Instead, it’s out there in the ether, incredibly important and simultaneously unnecessary. This is art. This is life.

And also: Congratulations, BG!

Lost In Brooklyn

Way back when the weather went back and forth between freezing and not–kind of like what it’s still like right now–I went to see S. She was like, I have to go to this printing shop. I was like, let’s do it. She was like, it’s a bit of a walk. I was like, Yesssss. She was like, no, really, it’s a mile and… I was like, the longer the better let’s goooooo.

Can you tell I’d had enough of inside?

It wasn’t nature walking. It was sidewalk walking. Crossing streets walking. Dodging people rushing the other way, including children on scooters with their mother not caring that their children were literally aiming for oncoming pedestrian walking. That is a very specific kind of walking, I suppose, but it was there. It was all there.

There was no snow fort to climb over at each corner. There were no large puddles of leftover mystery moisture. It was brisk when the sun went in, and that offered relief from the over-doing-it all-out sort of foot race I’d turned our walk into.

Then we got to one of those corners that isn’t simply two streets crossing each other but it’s a web of weirdness. You can’t tell which light is for who. There are crosswalks that seem to link one side of the street with a cloud by way of the sewer. You know, those places where you have no idea who decided it was a good idea to make all roads lead to that one point where nothing special lives except for confusion. We got out our phone maps. We walked a little. We checked the map. We walked a little. We checked the map.

S realized: We overshot it. I was like, Yassss.

If you can’t tell, I was really enjoying the walk outside not in my house.

We double backed and found the shop and it was small and about a billion degrees so I waited outside. The scooter children wheeled by followed by their mother who clearly saw them making pedestrians jump out of the way and said absolutely nothing. When S was done, we headed to Starbucks because I had points that I didn’t want to lose. (If you don’t know what that means, I feel sad and need you to contact me so I can explain the wonders of free things).

At the Starbucks, my first notion was, This music is too loud. My second notion was, I am an old lady. I ordered a tall Emperor’s cloud green tea and asked to use my points. After a short wait, one of the baristas practically had to shout to get my attention, and then asked, Did you want a regular tea or a latte? I was like, Just a hot tea. Then the manager called me over to the register and explained that she had to scan my app again because the wrong amount of points were taken. She said the points would show up later and the drink was on her. I thanked her, and then realized my whole use-them-or-lose-them points issue had not been resolved. Also, this debacle proves that am not an old lady and the music was indeed too loud.

Not that this is a story about reading comprehension, but here’s the follow up. The points never appeared back in my app, so I sent a message to customer service explaining exactly what happened as I have here (minus the music being loud). The response I got was this: We are sorry you experienced this. We have read your email very carefully. We are sorry you did not like the taste of your dragon fruit latte. Please be aware that this latte is a different amount of points from a regular tea. We will contact the store and give you your points back.

Let me point out their second statement: We have read your email very carefully. Really? Did I ever mention a dragon fruit something or other? I don’t even know if that’s a thing. I have no idea what they were talking about and I never tasted anything I didn’t like. I mean, in this instance. I’m sure I’ve tasted things in my life I haven’t liked. Like the first time I had cilantro. It was bad. Real bad. But I’ve grown accustomed to it, now. Anyway.

I was out! S and I took that long walk back, and it was a brilliant day of catching up. That’s why we’d totally missed the place the first go around. Walking and talking and feeling like the world was a normal place. That’s what friendship is all about. That and making fun of the response I got back from Starbucks because when I told S, she was like, You totally didn’t say any of that! Thanks, friend.

Microblogging Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

Coca Cola And The Incomparable Celine Dion

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

The World Of Coca Cola

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

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

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

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

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

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

We saw the vault, y’all.

ATL Day 2 (11)

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

ATL Day 2 (19)

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

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

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

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

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

The Incomparable Celine Dion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything Else

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

 

The One With The Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copious copious notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which was our team name.

And The Chanberries won trivia!

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

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

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Longest Friends

Thanks, S.

The One With The Pop Up Without A Ball Pit

S, R, and I visited Central Perk and the apartments nearby all in one place when we visited the Friends pop-up. No germy ballpit here! Instead, replicas of the Friends’s version of NYC.

Each friend had a dedicated section. Ross’s pivoting couch and comic book. Rachel and Monica’s purple door. Joey’s piled on clothes. Phoebe’s artwork. Chandler and Joey’s apartment. There was a wall dedicated to all the pets. And also, Central Perk.

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You could buy coffee at the end, but some of the coffee was sold out. Which never happened on Friends. But it doesn’t matter. Friendship is the point, right?

S, thank you for being a friend.

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Happiness Lies In Birthday Pie

Last year, I spent my birthday surrounded by color with S. A ball pit was involved. No surprise there.

Perhaps the surprise is that this year’s birthday did not involve a ball pit. Though it is ball pit adjacent, time-wise, considering that questionable zodiac excursion.

Almost-Birthday Birthday Gift From Me To Me

On Friday night, I took myself to a reiki circle. I felt like I was floating at one point. Ooh.

Museum Sans Ball Pit

My mom and I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and got lost pretty much all day. The guiding factor in every set of directions we received was to go right or left at the large column.

Never Enough Moon

I thought the moon exhibit was going to be that one tiny gallery the photography exhibits are always in. It was there for sure, but it was also sprawling across four other galleries! As if watching the moon landing 18 times at the Cradle of Aviation weren’t enough, we watched again. We also saw early drawings that mapped the moon and daguerreotypes that mirrored the moon. One gallery was devoted to an exhibit I had seen part of at the Whitney when I was sabbaticalling, and its inspiration led to some poems in Liberating The Astronauts. That was the room in which the Guardian of the Glass Case scolded me for touching the exhibit. I didn’t touch it. I tapped it. When he turned around, I touched it a lot. Like a lot a lot. So much so that my mom grabbed my hand and led me away, and in good timing because after that, the guy stared at me until we asked him where to get to the next gallery and got out of there. This outer space stuff is quite compelling.

Never Enough Rooftops

My mom has been a New Yorker her entire life and my birthday this year marked the first time she’d ever been to the roof of The Met. When we got up there, she kept asking me which way the park was and where 5th Ave was, and I was like, You’re asking the wrong child. My brother would know right away. I had no clue. I pointed to a building and was like, Well, that’s the Woolworth Building, right? And then I saw another building and was all, Or maybe that’s the Woolworth Building. Really, one of the many buildings had to be the Woolworth Building. Unless it’s no longer there. In which case, what the hell happened to the Woolworth Building?!?!

Aside from the cityscape views, the artwork fell in line with an outer space vibe. I tried to figure out which orb was Earth and then what planets the other orbs were. Then I read the description of the exhibit and found that it didn’t necessarily replicate our solar system. So then I simply chose one as Earth.

Cramped and Loud and Awesome

Guitars. Drum sets. Pianos. Flashy sequined outfits. Psychedelic concert posters. Film footage of loud music in action. Cram it all into tiny galleries and you’ve got yourself a musical masterpiece. We didn’t get to see everything because every room was overrun by music fans. Still, we saw enough and got to listen to some dang good tunes.

Once we found our way out of the museum, mom hopped in a cab, and I walked down to  Pig N Whistle to meet up with S and R for a fun dinner. Along the way, I took in some public art and some sunny rays.

Bags and Dessert #1

And dinner was fun! S gave me back the bag I gave her for her birthday because, as you may recall, 82% of our friendship is giving each other bags neither of us wants to carry. To top off our dinner, the two of them sang Happy Birthday while the server set down a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a candle in front of me. No one really wanted to eat the ice cream, but S and I split some of it as R made the wise choice of not eating it at all.

Then to show how much they really care, they walked with me to Penn. Through Times Square. At night. On a Saturday. I mean, That! Is! Love!

A Healthy Interlude

I taught my regular Power Hour yoga class on Sunday morning. I was feeling a little icky from the ice cream, but a morning workout followed by the yoga turned that around. I thanked the women for showing up, explaining it was my birthday weekend, and they were all like, Awww, yeay! Because that’s how people react when you tell them it’s your birthday.

(Semi-Free) Lunch and Dessert #2

On Sunday, my brother and I went to my mom’s to have some Panera. They deliver! Not really. They use Door Dash to deliver, and they dashed out without any of the sides for our entrees. After five minutes on the phone with a manager who was “logging the incident,” I wound up with a free pick two in my future that I could pick up when I went to pick up my sides at a later date. Somehow it was impossible for them to simply have Door Dash bring the sides. Sides are complicated.

Then my aunt and uncle came over, and they sang Happy Birthday as I sat beneath the traditional Haphy Birthday sign (yes, that’s spelled wrong; a story for another time). Then we ate pie! Apple pie! And it was delicious!

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Dinner = Dessert #3

I didn’t eat a whole lot after that because I knew what was on the horizon. DB can make fire, so we made s’mores. They were the healthy kind because we used Trader Joe’s dark chocolate and Trader Joe’s marshmallows.

Fact: Trader Joe’s marshmallows do not roast in the same way other marshmallows do.

Fact: Chunks of dark chocolate do not melt in the same way thin milk chocolate does.

Fact: My s’mores are better than your s’mores.

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A Healthy Recovery

Sugar hangovers can last for a really super long time when your body isn’t used to sweets. My body was super angry, and the hangover is just about over itself now that it’s been almost a week. Yep, that’s what sugar does to you. To make the recovery sweet in that non-sugar way, at work on Monday, S handed over a basket of veggies she’d harvested from her garden! You know what helps a sugar shocked body settle down? A slow-cooker kale and celery frittata!

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I’m still celebrating, you know, but not simply for my birthday. Every day is a celebration. Every day is a good day. These have been good, good days, and I’m so thankful for every moment.

 

Your Horoscope: 12 Rooms & Cellophane

The plan was a fun one. S bought us tix to a limited-time pop-up museum down on Bleecker that was all about the zodiac. We are Virgos, truly, and the pics on Insta looked like a good time.

Then S got sick, so I was faced with possibly going to a pop-up by myself. Boooo. The whole point of a pop-up exhibit is to go with someone to see fun installations and maybe roll around in a ball pit and then make fun of each other when you get stuck. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Candytopia and The Color Factory. You may notice a trend that my fellow Virgo is my main pop-up go-to.

Luckily, the only other person I know who has a focus group side hustle was willing to go with me because we were going to already be in NYC for a focus group.

Side note: If you didn’t know it, I’ve got a focus group side hustle. I go to focus groups where people ask me my opinion on things and I answer and they give me money. Yeah, I’m an influencer.

Side note: I know only one other person in the world who does this. I mean, clearly, there’s a realm of people who do, but DB is the first person I’ve met outside of a focus group who does it, too.

Anyway, so after focus grouping for over two hours about buying a lot of points to travel the world and being in debt for eternity, we walked down to Bleecker from the 40s because it was one of those sunny city days that had a breeze and didn’t get you sweaty until you stopped walking. If you think I was going to say one of those days when you don’t sweat, then you don’t know me at all. Shame on you.

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You can stay here for a zillion points that cost five trillion dollars.

We found the doorway to the zodiac thingie because there was a pink neon piece of paper with an arrow markered on it that said This Way To The Zodiac. Hmm, okay, helpful, but also, construction paper? Interesting start.

On the plus side, we were greeted immediately, asked our signs, and given glow-in-the-dark bracelets. Also, we got stickers! One each. I got a whale. He got a dolphin. We were encouraged to stick them on the wall of the second room and write a message. Fantastic!

Also a plus, the Pisces room caused some dizziness but it was worth it. There was a clear blow-up cushion thingie that I sat on for a while. On the floor was the Pisces sign made out of seashells which I thought wasn’t the greatest idea since seashells and shoes don’t make good friends. We didn’t step on them.

I think Leo was the jungle room. This room had great lighting and a bamboo chair that made me think of that time I was in McLean, Virginia, and I played that safari-themed mini-golf where a gorilla jumped out at me when I sat in a jungle chair like this one. Luckily, the budget clearly didn’t allow for things to jump out at me, so this experience was less scary. It made for some uber boss photos.

Then there was the Virgo room. It was purpled-black-light. You know those long lunch tables you see in school cafeterias? Yeah, so, there was one of those in there. Across the small room was a purple chair shaped like a hand. Then there was the word Virgo taped to the wall. And a lot of empty space. A lot of cellophane. A lot of hmmm that’s an interesting interpretation of a zodiac sign. And then more cellophane.

The most confusing rooms were towards the end. One was a white room that had a small white te-pee-like tent with a white shag rug and pillows in it. Next to the tent was a pail of soaps that were were free to take. I was like, You wanna go in? DB was like, Not particularly–do you think people have had sex in there? Hmm, possibly. There was a little sign that requested you take your shoes off before going in, so maybe people hadn’t stopped at their shoes. The other super confusing room had standing silhouettes of men holding cameras. They were wrapped in red boas. Yeah, I don’t know.

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Not to disappoint, one of the rooms had a ball pit. It was a sad little ball pit that I didn’t crawl into. That room also had cellophane walls. There was a cool take-off of a cereal box as artwork, though, so instead of crawling into the germ pit, I oohed and aahed at the artwork. When we went into the next room which was fire red and tiny, whoever was behind us had wandered into the ball pit and balls were rolling into the room we were in. We spent only a little time there as to avoid possible ball pit bacteria following us around. Also, I’m not sure how Capricorns, cereal, and ball pits are related.

Side note: When I crawled through the marshmallow pit at Candytopia, we were there practically on opening day, so that meant less of a germfest. As for The Color Factory, well, I loved that place so much that I willed away any possibility of catching typhus.

The pop-up was put together in under a week. It was up for five days. It supported local artists. The concept was fabulous. The execution reminded me of when I was in high school and each grade competed against each other for best decorated hallway. Aside from that, however, it was an experience that I’ll never have again, and I’m so grateful that S was willing to go and gave me an early birthday gift and that DB was willing to step in and didn’t ditch out once we started going through and saw all the cellophane and he even indulged me when I saw David’s Tea next door and bolted in to grab some.

So really, all this adds up to is:

it’s Virgo season and my birthday is soon. Yeay!