Outdoorsy Part IX: Not Getting Lost At Caumsett

You know how hiking became the thing to do over the summer? Apparently, people hike year-round! I know! I’ll give you a moment to take that in.

That’s how I found myself all signed up for a guided hike in September, which is the dividing line between summer and autumn, and which is also the time of year I climb into a cuddly winter coat (I’ve got a big red coat that someone once referred to as wearing a sleeping bag, and he’s totally right).

I met up with the Captain at Caumsett. I did not wear a big red coat. After a slew of texts the night before about what to wear, I went with new leggings, high socks, hiking boots, and layers on top. I did not wear a hat though I brought one along with extra socks and sneakers and an extra shirt. I did not bring extra underwear, though now that I think about it, that’s not a bad idea. I also had snacks. Capt. had on like a hoodie. I was overprepared for this summer-into-autumn weather.

Side note: I don’t usually wear leggings. I find that they make me look like I have quad-butt, you know, like when you have visible panty line and it looks like you have four buns instead of two. These leggings were a bit thicker, so avoiding quad-butt seemed to work out, but they also have pockets that I think were made for taller people even though the leggings were supposedly my size because my phone was down by my knee instead of at my thigh. Is that normal? Legging wearers, lemme know.

It was windy and overcast, which meant I was cold at first. We stood in one place waiting to see if we could find the hike leader. We’d decided to try a guided hike because the last time we were at Caumsett, I was all, Let’s go that way, and we wound up on that path that I can describe only as a real life rendition of that pig head in Lord of the Flies. If you haven’t read that book, then first, for shame!, and second, it’s kinda buggy. There’s also a wild boar. In the book, not at Caumsett. At Caumsett, there are trails that we figured the good folks at the Long Island Green Belt Trail Conference would be able to show us through.

We found the hike leader easily. Then a small group gathered. Then we were off. And when I say we were off, I mean like warp speed off. These people walk like they are on a mission. I was fine; all the working out and walking I do had prepared me for this moment of power hiking. I mentioned to Capt, This is a moderate walk? He was like, the hikes have only two labels: easy and moderate. I was like, Oh, then yes this makes sense.

Our hike leader immediately took us to places we hadn’t seen. We were around and through fields and woods. Then we were at the beach. Then we were on a small path deep in the woods where we all had to walk single-file. That’s when I realized, wow this really is a hike hike. Not like a walk in the woods. Several times over the summer I had found myself in this position—realizing in the middle of doing something what I was actually doing. I think it’s better that way. You can’t be afraid of something you’re completely oblivious to, amirite? (I’m probably wrong, but let’s just go with it).

The grounds were gorgeous. The sun came out. There were times where we were protected from the wind, so I was not freezing. It still amazes me how we can be in the woods and then at the beach. Nature. Kinda magnificent.

I was, however, in need of a bathroom. This should come to no surprise. When we were about to come through mile five, two women veered off. Capt overheard that they were going to the bathroom. He was like, we should go with them. I was like, Are you sure? My bladder was like, Why the heck are you asking? Capt was like, yeah. I was like, But we’re cutting it short. My bladder was like, I’m going to let loose if you follow the group back into the woods again.

So off we went, chatting with another hiker about her excursion last year to Nepal where she hiked to the base of Mt. Everest. This is the benefit of hiking with a group. You get to meet neat people. She also informed me that if ever there’s an older woman in the group, I can guarantee a veer off towards a bathroom at some point. Good to know!

The veer off was at a good time, too, because my lunch was back at the car. Apparently, if I’m not sweating or peeing, I’m eating. I’m very primal, y’all. Since I’d gone grocery shopping the day before right after teaching yoga outside when it was like 40 degrees and I couldn’t feel my feet, I’d bought a lot of soup. Now that the sun had come out, I was eating soup and running from yellow jackets in weather not meant for soup. And that’s Autumn.

Art, Books, Friends, Go

Remember when I was inside a museum? Guess what. I was inside another museum! Art and writing have always coincided for me, so getting back into the groove of visiting museums and galleries is getting my writing brain back into gear. All art one art.

BG and I met at the Heckscher Museum of Art. We’d reserved our slots in advance. Also important to know: admittance was free! They took our temperature and opened the door for us to go inside. Then we saw the art. Most of the museum was artwork by local students. When I started commenting like, “This is eleventh grade” and “This is twelfth grade,” BG didn’t realize I was reading the descriptions. Then he was like, “Oh! Like these are literally students!” I was like, “Yeah, I wasn’t being judgey about their abilities.” We both agreed that these students are super talented. Also, their artist statements sound like they have been making art for the past two decades.

We were allotted 45 minutes to take in the entire museum, which is plenty of time for a museum of that size. I think we actually spent an hour inside anyway. There weren’t a lot of people, though the two of us managed to create a crowd as we got enveloped in conversation and someone on staff had to remind us to stay away from other people. We were acting like there was nothing wrong in the world even though we had masks on and had had our temperature taken.

Sidenote: I call this the abnormal. It’s not the new normal. There’s nothing normal about having to wear a mask in public and not be able to jostle your way to the artwork when someone tall is taking too long and refuses to move.

Sidenote to the sidenote: I didn’t jostle anyone. We simply got too close. However, in normal times, I may jostle a few people.

Sidenote to the sidenote to the sidenote: Jostle is a fun word to say. Go ahead and say it out loud. I’ll wait. Okay, done? Wasn’t that fun?

After the museum, it was gallery time. We headed over to B. J. Spoke Gallery, a haunt for us when we go to poetry readings. This time, it was all for the art. One of the newer artists is a collagist, and so is BG, so we dug her work a lot. The artist behind the desk told us about her own artwork when we commented on her photograph. She was like, “I snuck into that guy’s backyard to take that shot.” It was well worth it–some rusted out trucks in a yard filled with vibrant green grass entitled Retired. Loved it.

Up next, all the books. Book Revue has all of them. However, BG was like, “Food?” I was like, “I brought some.” He was like, “Really?” I was like, “I don’t go anywhere without food.” I grabbed my food and met him outside Burgerology where we also met up with VS and stayed for hours with the danger of people who don’t know how to parallel park always at our backs and falling leaves from the trees above landing in our laps. Worth it. P. S. the staff there worked their asses off, and their bathroom was immaculate.

Up next, all the books, round 2. Back up to Book Revue. An hour of book browsing and asking, “Hey have you read…”, “If you like that one how about….”, and “Did you see the new….” We devoted a lot of time to boxes of books that were 1 for $3 and 5 for $10. I found a novel I’ve wanted to read that my library always says is on the shelf but isn’t. Then I found another book by a poet I’ve wanted to read. I grabbed a third book, another poetry collection, because I liked the cover and the shape of the poems inside. This is definitely how you should choose books, covers and shapes. VS combined ours into 5 and then BG created his own little haul.

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The sun had begun to set, and it felt like one of those summer nights when the world is normal and you’ve done all the things you could possibly have wanted to do. With the crosswalk voice urging us to to wait and then move, we found our way back to the glitter of the parking lot and headed home. Summer days. Summer nights. Art. Books. Friends. Perfection.

Inside A Museum!! It’s Glorious!!

I had one of the best dates of my life back in February on Leap Day when I took myself into the city to go to a bunch of galleries, walk the High Line, and then visit the Rubin. It. Was. Glorious. And then the world shut down not even a few weeks later.

I’m happy to report I had another glorious art experience. The Nassau County Museum of Art opened, and I was INSIDE a MUSEUM again!! What’s better is that I went with my friend BG, and he’d never been there before, so it was as if it were the first time I was there, too. New eyes on new art. Hooray!

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Inside A Museum!

The main exhibit right now is Blue. I don’t know if I didn’t get the memo or if it was just coincidence (if coincidence is a thing) or maybe serendipity (which definitely is a thing) that almost everyone there but me was wearing some shade of blue. I was decked out in a brown skirt, purple shirt, and pink heart-shaped sunglasses because I’m an 11 year old.  I noticed the blue phenomenon when BG walked up to a painting, and I was like, You match! The security guard got a kick out of me, offering a chuckle behind his mask. Then I looked around the room–everyone was in blue. Such is life; I’m always the non-fitter-inner, and it’s taken me a while, but I’m super okay with that. Here are some shades of blue in the art.

The most striking pieces in the first room were by artist Antonio Santín. Three pieces looking like rugs, bejeweled and wrinkled up, dazzling and beaded. The claim on the placard was that they were each oil on canvas to which I replied, Nope, this is magic! I don’t know about painting or how paints work, so maybe someone with more expertise would understand how these paintings were made from oil on canvas and not a hot glue gun and a fabric store inventory. I’m convinced it’s magic oil on magic canvas, which makes sense because their descriptions compare them to flying carpets.

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Oil on Canvas with Magic

The next room had a punching bag hanging in the center. It had fringe and bedazzlement as well, a found/repurposed plus mixed media piece. My first instinct was, I wanna punch it. There was a little rope tied in a square around its base, indicating that maybe we’re not supposed to punch it. BG pointed out a sign that said Please do not touch. We agreed that punching would be a violent form of touching, so it was a no-go.

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However, that room also was full of magic in a different way: a surrealist piece that had children seemingly floating over mountains (by Christopher Winter called Huxley’s Guide to Switzerland) and other pieces that had glittery goodness. There was also a huge untitled piece that was clearly a cow print, and why it wasn’t simply called Cow we couldn’t figure out.

We then got into the section based on Wallace Stevens’s “The Man With The Blue Guitar” and exhausted our wows. There were instruments deconstructed and painted. And then, right there on a wall, was a Lichtenstein, so I immediately texted my brother a picture of it because, you know, Lichtenstein.

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Not the piano, the painting!

The second floor has smaller galleries, so there were signs about waiting for other parties to exit before you enter. We entered the first one, and I was highly disturbed by a photo of a girl sitting with an arm in her lap that was not attached to a body. The title was something like Girl with an Unattached Arm November something something (look up Andrew Sendor). BG suggested it was a story among the three photos–girl finds an arm, girl freaks out in Hallucination, girl has a dream to work it out. It was all a bit out there, and also very blue, and that’s what art is supposed to be. We hadn’t spent too much time in there, but apparently it was too much time for the couple who came barreling into the room after waiting in the doorway maybe one minute. Signs and Covid protocol be damned–they wanted to see the girl with the arm in her lap, I guess.

One of the other rooms had these ethereal blue hangings (cloth? paper? I don’t know because I’m not allowed to touch, or punch, things) with white silhouettes of people (the artist is Han Qin). One reminded me of that last scene in Ghost when all the demon souls come up and grab that terrible best friend, dragging him down to Hell. (If I just spoiled Ghost for you, for shame! You should have already watched that movie. Whoopie won an Oscar! And Patrick Swayze is in it). There was one in particular that I was like, I don’t like that one, and BG was like, it kind of looks like two people. And then it dawned on us at the same time: ohhhhh, that’s two people clearly having sex. So to be clear, the one I didn’t like was the sex one. Got it.

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This is not the sex one. Or is it? My camera doesn’t do it justice. Go see it in person.

Then there was the Buddhist room with shiny Buddhist pieces by Bettina WitteVeen and a poem. So that makes it two poems in one art exhibit!

The back room on the second floor usually shows films, but there were no films. We checked out some paintings by Andrew Calder, Robert Rauschenberg, and some others. Then we found the best title for a painting: Large Head of Vincent. Do you really need the visual? The title itself is worth the price of the art. (if you really need to see it, here ya go).

Art Museum July 31

We visited the gift shop, which seemed less cluttered than usual. Maybe Covid rules or maybe my misremembering. I asked the guy at the register if they’d been busy. He said they’d had some good days. A lot of people were coming in from the city, realizing that it’s not such a far leap. The musuems there are still closed, so this museum being open is a treasure.

Outdoors in the sculpture garden were sculptures and large flying bugs that I was terrified of going up my skirt. All that hiking has really changed me, huh? Outdoors art is fun because you can get closer to it, and also, the sky.

The world is slowly coming back to life. I know, I know, everyone I talk to keeps telling me, Just wait until November. As if November is a definitive date of requarantining. It could happen before that. It could happen after that. It could not happen. Maybe a huge lesson here is that life is completely unpredictable, so while taking precautions and planning carefully are important, also important is now, this moment, and celebrating it in the ways we live. That’s what art does; it shows us all aspects of life, and we get to share it and enjoy it and think about it and explore it and then go home happy.

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FRIENDS!!!

 

Microblogging Part 3

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Making friends as an adult is not easy, especially for a socially awkward introvert who can’t walk into a room of people without hyping herself up.(You should see the hype routine). Looking back, I now know I lost a lot of my life and who I’d been while I was married. A lot of friendships changed—as they do anyway—and some of the closest friends I had then were his. I’d lost a group of artistic writer friends before him, and after him, I felt like I’d lost my best friend—because I had. Still, those friendships I’d seen as drifting away did come around. When my dad died, they were there. When my wasband left, they were there. Still it wasn’t the same because I’d changed. Climbing back out of the wreckage, I’ve made acquaintances and strengthened bonds that I thought were at first frivolous or forced. Then I returned to the writing scene. Then I returned to the social scene. I returned to live my life as a new person, backed by therapy and Buddhism. Then this workshop came along. Here was a monthly gathering for not only reading but creating. The pandemic hit a few months later and my upward climb to building all who I am plateaued. Then suddenly, a friend I’d grown close to decided to not be part of my life, and losing someone special when we’re in these strange times is a greater loss than usual. And then all the losses piled up at once. And also, so did my friendships. I would not be able to be living this life if I didn’t have the most wonderful people surrounding me with such generosity, kindness, and heart. I am an adult, and I’ve made new friends, the kind I can call in the middle of the night if I need to, and also the kind who wouldn’t be into that, and that’s ok too. People need people in all different ways. Sometimes when you’re lost and you don’t know where to find your tribe, your tribe finds you. I am so grateful for the friends I’ve had for decades and the new ones I’ve made and for this writing workshop that lifts my spirits with every single word. #gettingthroughit #grief #gratitude #grateful #heartbreak #friendshipismyfavoriteship #thankyouforbeingafriend #longisland #longislandpoetry #longislandwriter #southbaysundays #writingworkshop

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Here’s the sun and the clouds unfiltered. And now here’s me unfiltered: I once had a seven year friendship with an artist whose work stunned me. Through her, I met another poet, whose work was also stunning. Those years were filled with impromptu artistic salons, bridal showers and a wedding, long days of hanging out at the preserve, eating African peanut soup, yoga, and the tribulations and sagas of men. Then one of those sagas took a turn. For months, maybe even a year, she’d been seeing someone I’d dated that ended with him simply never calling me. It wasn’t the guy that shook me. It was the lie. It was the getting the email that said I need to tell you something and the story of how they were going to Venice because they were in love. It was realizing that all that time, I’d been the only one in the room who didn’t know. Maybe I knew on some level—found it odd that he’d show up in places where we were. Felt our friendship being strained by something I couldn’t figure out. That friendship ended abruptly. My poet friend then said if it truly was the lie, then I wouldn’t be speaking to her or anyone in their circle. And she was right. An entire world of artists cut out. I know I’m better for it, but to lose that much all at once devastates the soul. And now, it’s coming back to me, like all the other losses that continue to pile high, and so I walk, always looking up, continuing to go through to get through. #gettingthroughit #grief #gratitude #grateful #essayist #creativenonfiction #longislandwriter #nofilter #amwriting #grantpark #alwayslookup #lifecoach #lifecoaching #lifecoachingtips #reikipractitioner #yogalife #Buddhistlife

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Four weeks makes one month. No, I’m not over it. We are never over it. We get through. I’m not through yet, either. The other day I got angry at myself, thinking I’m overreacting. I wrote a list of recent losses. It went twenty deep and I hadn’t reached all the deaths yet. So no, I’m not overreacting. I’m grieving everything all at once, and that may be a silver lining. Go through it all at once so that when I’m through, I’m through. Which isn’t realistic. Things happen. Remember when the tree fell on me? I could have died, and I didn’t. Anyone can die at any time. People leave. Love changes, or maybe chemistry shifts. So when I go through to get through, that means everything. It means life. It means always moving forward into the sad and into the joy. It means taking chances knowing that hurt exists and could happen, and so does beauty and bliss. It means I am so grateful that I’ve found gratitude, truly and genuinely, and I know it’s real because blue skies make me tear up with awe, bunnies make me gasp and giggle, and a smile returned makes me believe the world is good and still can be a better place. I want to be part of that, and through this maybe I already am. #gettingthroughit #grief #gratitude #grateful #longisland #heckscherstatepark #alwayslookup #essayist #creativenonfiction #longislandwriter #fitspo #piyo #piyobod #ispyny #lifecoach #lifecoaching #lifecoachingtips #reikipractitioner #yogalife #Buddhistlife

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Today I made new memories. I went to this park once by myself. The second time I went was with someone, and it was my first time out in the world after quarantine started. I was freaked out by all the people living their lives. This had all been going on as I’d been holed up in my house for months. I felt safe only because who I was with made me feel that way. Today I went back a third time, found the long path around the lake, and walked that as well as some of the trails I’d previously taken. I was alone and felt safe because I finally remember my own strength. New memories to replace the samskara. New memories to build new neural pathways. I’ve become attached to the walking, which is the opposite of vairagya, or non-attachment. At the same time, walking is helping me practice Aparigraha, non-possessiveness, because slowly I feel the non-attachment to the brokeness emerge. This is the duality of yoga. This is the duality of life. Letting go of letting go. Going through to get through. The other side is more life of the same. Life doesn’t change. The true self doesn’t change. The only real change is how we choose to react. I’m making choices that work. I’m making choices that fail. Along the way, I’m learning and laughing and crying and being, and I’m so grateful for all of it. #gettingthroughit #grief #gratitude #grateful #essayist #creativenonfiction #longislandwriter #longislandyoga #longisland #longislandparks #hempsteadlakestatepark #fitspo #piyo #piyobod #alwayslookup #lifecoach #lifecoaching #lifecoachingtips #reikipractitioner #yogalife #Buddhistlife

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Microblogging And Essaying

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

 

The Funny Things About Death And Grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still Here

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

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

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

 

One Tale From The Crypt

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

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

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

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

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

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Not. Creepy. At. All.

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

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

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

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

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This is the face of fear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to recap, Halloween was awesome because:

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

Now that’s a good All Hallow’s Eve.

Marco! Polo! Pyramid!

As you may know by now, I was a contestant on $100000 Pyramid.

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If you know that, then you probably know I did not win $150000 and a trip, which is the most you can win. I also didn’t win $100000 or a trip or any combination of any numbers of moneys and trips.

However, I did win.
I won LIFE.

I got to play games during the audition process. I got to play games during the day we taped. I got to play games on television.

I got to meet Michael Strahan, make a weird face at him, yell Marco to his Polo, and also awkwardly pass him in the hallway not realizing it was him and having to go back to shake his hand only after everyone pointed out to me that I’d snubbed Michael Strahan.

I got to meet Katie Couric and Mario Cantone. These two people make me feel better about living in this world. They were so kind and so down-to-Earth and so into wanting to play a fun game and maybe even win.

I got to meet some incredibly fun and fabulous people. By the time we were ready to play for real, I’d gotten to know the casting team and the other contestants pretty well–as well as you can when you’re in a room for a day–and they are also people who make me feel better about living in this world.

It’s a very unique kind of joy that unfolds when you’re meeting people who love the same things you love when that love is something that not everyone gets to experience.

I lost a lot of rounds. I was nervous for months, thinking about how I may have looked sad or disappointed.

Then in the season finale, there I was, smiling the whole time. Losing round after round, I laughed and smiled and laughed and smiled. Because it wasn’t losing. It was living.

I had my family and a friend there to witness every second. They brought snacks. They brought flowers. Friends who weren’t there sent texts, sent messages, and posted pictures of me on tv on their feeds. I heard from people I haven’t heard from in years. The next day at work, one of the office admins could barely contain her excitement because she watches the show and didn’t know I’d be on and she was so giddy about it.

I also made these faces.

The gratitude I feel still makes all my insides all gushy. I feel like I’m soaring every time I think about it, and even when I don’t. I’m walking around on a game show high that won’t quit.

Then in my writing for the sciences class, this happened:

Student: Professor, can I ask a weird question?

Me: Always.

Student: Were you on tv?

Me: Yes.

Other Student: Are you a vegan?

Me: Odd follow-up, but no.

Other students: What show were you on?

Me: Have you heard of $100000 Pyramid?

Most students: No.

Me: Well, [first student who asked] how did you know?

Student: My parents watch, and I saw you on the screen when I walked in.

Me: Oh, did you watch, too?

Student; No, I just saw you and left.

Me: Yep, that  sounds about right.

Moral of this story: Stay humble, bruh.

PS: My mom and brother got me Rice-A-Roni as a consolation prize because the 70s were sometimes better.

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PPS: Why is this post entitled Marco Polo? You’ll have to watch this little gem to find out.

Dance Your Ass Off

Years ago, S and I met Jean, and Jean changed our lives. Jean, if you don’t remember, was our dance teacher. Her  name was not Jean. Jean is the name S came up with when she was trying to remember her name, and it kind of stuck. Ahh, Jean.

The days of Jean eventually ended. However, the days at Jones Beach began. Nights, actually. There was free line dancing at the bandshell once a week. Then the consistent dancing faded away, and then the dancing stopped.

Basically, this story is exactly like Footloose only without Kevin Bacon and the Bible and everything else in Footloose except for the dancing.

I came across the bandshell calendar online the other day and there it was. Wednesday nights. Line Dancing. 7:30.

So on Wednesday at 7:30, I took myself on a dancing date. Muscle memory is miraculous (as are my mad alliteration skillz). I. Danced. My. Ass. Off.

I also made a friend, an older gentleman who turned to me after every dance and said, “You’re good!” At one point, he said it to the two women who had been following my feet, and then he leaned in and whispered something to one of them, and her face was partial shock and she laughed. I’m guessing he said something about my wiggle or my butt. I didn’t ask. He also pointed out to everyone around us how I could put so much energy into the dancing because I’m so young. To that I replied, “Yes, keep calling me young.” I don’t think he got it.

The two women who were following me were really fun. At one point, we wound up facing each other because they kept turning the wrong way, and we just laughed at each other. I tried to help the best I could by changing my spot to be next to them on the wall when they had no one to follow, but overall, I was there to learn, not teach. The “you’re good” guy told me I should be the teacher, though. I like to dance, but I’m not a dance teacher.

Funny, though. My yoga students also ask me if I’m a dancer. Hmm. Yep, I get it. I am soooo friggin graceful.

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Later on, when the dancers who dance year-round take to the floor without instruction and do all the more intricate dances I wish I could do, he found me again to let me know there would be more country line dancing soon. Then he left and came back with a flier for it. I thanked him. Now we’re, like, BFFs.

One dance that the dancers did without instruction is called “Toes.” Without instruction, I got out there and faked it hard. By the end, I almost got it. Almost. I think I got it more than I thought I did because one of the women who had been following me actually came out to stand next to me to see if she could pick it up. It’s not a difficult dance, but if you’ve never danced before, it can be difficult without instruction. I’ll probably spend more than a normal amount of time watching videos to see if I can get it right on my own. It’s in me somewhere. I’ve just gotta find it.

So now I’m readdicted. Every Wednesday evening, there will be a boardwalk and a bandshell and a step-together-step-scuff-step-together-step-pivot-cha-cha-rock-recover-clap-clap-clap.