Measure of Existence (Apparently, A Tribute)

Two or three weeks ago, I planned to do two things and wound up doing four. Happy to take myself into the city to see art and exhibits and make myself think.

For the past week, I’ve had a stress headache because COVID 19 has taken over the world. It has shut down the city and the suburbs.

So here’s a way to get out of your head if not out of the house. I’m going to remember my experience in a way that might let you live it for yourself. (My creative writers and my lit readers would be very excited that I’m practicing what I preach about second person pov). And away we go.

It’s the first time you’re using the MTA app’s eticket for your train ride into the city. You don’t have any idea if you need to leave it open, leave your phone on, if you can use other apps. You brought your charger in case your phone died on the ride but also you charged it until the minute you left the house even though it was already at 100% and you thought somehow it would suck in some energy reserves. You are in a car with the bathroom because nine times out of ten, you manage to sit in the car with bathroom. You activate your ticket only to realize there’s like a quiz to take to make sure you mean to activate your ticket, and really, this is not the kind of decision you thought you’d have to make, so now–as usual–you’re breaking out into the nervous sweats. Then the conductor comes by and barely says anything to you because your little eticket is flashing pretty colors. You let your phone sleep as you read your book that you started a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten back to because all those papers and meetings. You change trains and your eticket continues to work as you continue to read. You stop sweating. Sweet relief.

You take a walk downtown to find the David Zwirner Gallery. You already missed the doppleganger exhibit, so there was no way you were going to miss the Doug Wheeler one. You walk down and across and down and across and finally get to the street where the gallery is, and there are other people trying to find the same gallery because there are a lot of choices of doors. The sun is out and it is windy and the galleries are by the water so you are a little chilly as you try to choose the door that will get you to the exhibit. It’s kind of like Let’s Make A Deal for the art world.

The couple with the stroller ahead of you have chosen the correct door, which means they win! Which means you win because you get to see the artwork, too! The exhibit on view is a light exhibit. It looks like this.

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And maybe that looks interesting but also some may ask, Why did you walk all that way on a windy day to see a framed box of light? Then you realize that this photo does the exhibit no justice. Here’s what it looks like again:

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Ahhh, an entire lit up room wall thingie of light! It’s pretty groovy. You walk up to the light to see where it’s coming from. The wall curves under the floor. The light emanates and radiates from all around the wall that seems to be attached but also not attached to anything. You stay for at least twenty minutes, watching people look at the wall.

When you decide you have seen enough of the light wall, you leave the gallery and see a sign for Basquiat. The other side of the sign says Warhol. Go you must. So instead of keeping with the plan to go straight to the museum, you head over to Taglialatella Gallerieson 10th Ave. Your first fun find there is Einstein. He’s got a good message.

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You go inside for the Basquiat, but before you even get to that, you’re floored. They’ve got Keith Haring. They’ve got a bunch of sparkly silkscreens from Russell Young. There are artists with names like Jerkface and Mr. Brainwash. And then you turn the corner and Good God! It’s a Lichtenstein! (That’s for your brother). You do find the Basquiat and the Warhol, and you bask in their artistic genius. (For more about your experiences with Basquiat and Warhol, you can go here ).

Because you’re so close to it, you head up onto the Highline. It’s got free public art! And RuPaul!

You realize that it’s cold up here on the Highline, so you walk quickly. The sun comes out, and you slow down to bask. The sun goes back in, so you pick up the pace. Some young woman runs up behind you, calling out, Hey excuse me! You turn and see she’s holding out a $5 bill. She says, You dropped this. You say, Oh, hey, thanks! She runs off, and you almost skip the rest of the length of the park because there’s still human kindness in this world.

So happy are you that you overshoot your landing and get down off the Highline around 14th when the Rubin is on 19th. Then? You. Get. Lost. You look at street signs, expecting to see numbers and instead you see the word Washington or something. What is this non-numbered sign all about?

You decide to walk away from the water. Two reasons that will help: 1. it’s warmer away from the water. 2. it’ll take you closer to 7th, a cross street. Your spatial ineptness is in full swing, but this decision makes sense a little at least.

A few more turns and double backs, and you finally find The Rubin, your new home away from home. You are so thankful that you’ve found it because you’re super cold now and you have to pee really bad. They have a bathroom! You know that bathroom well because it’s the bathroom you brushed your teeth in when you slept there a few months ago. (Here, “slept” means “had weird half asleep dreams while half asleep writing them down only to find they make no sense and your handwriting looks like the writing you find in a journal kept by a murderer).

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You check in on your old friend, the Bodhisattva.

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Then you venture into the exhibit you’d been itching to see, Measure Your Existence. The main reason you wanted to see it is it has interactive components, and you love to touch things in a museum.

The first piece is a carpet of candy. You get to take a piece of candy. As the pile dwindles, the museum replenishes it. Measure the existence of candy.

You take some candy. You eat a piece of candy. You enjoy the candy. You enjoy the fact that you got to take something from the museum even more than the candy itself.

Then you come upon a wall of letters. Anyone can write a letter to anyone. You can seal the letter and address it. You can seal the letter and not address it. You can leave the letter open for other visitors to read. You read a letter. And then another. A lot of people have a lot of guilt and write a lot of letters apologizing. Some ask for prayers.

Then you see a little booth. You have to take off your shoes to go inside. You can write a letter in there, too, so you do just that. You seal it and address it. The museum will eventually send it.

When you emerge from the letter hut and put on your boots, you notice a woman sitting at the other writing desk, and she’s weeping. You teared up writing your own letter. You assumed a lot of people probably cry when writing. Here is the proof.

Around the corner you watch a snippet of a film about a guy calling different companies and talking to whomever answers as if he’s talking to his mom, and then he realizes his mom is dead. It’s subtitled. It’s a weird concept. You stop watching.

You then watch an animated film and listen to the meditative soundtrack. You’ve got those big headphones on again. You always wear headphones in some capacity when you come here.

Then you decide to shake hands with a bronze hand. You’ve seen it before and have not shaken the hand. Today is the day you shake the hand. It’s not creepy. But actually, yes, it is.

You think about going to see the Impractical Jokers movie but the movie times don’t jive with your train times. You walk back to Penn, taking in more art along the way.

You wind up waiting at Penn for half an hour, which gives you plenty of time to start worrying again about using the MTA app eticket. It also gives you time to read more of your book, and you get halfway through it.

Then about a week later, you get some mail that makes you smile.

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You know that the only true way to measure existence is in gratitude. You thank the universe for everything, every single thing.

Dreaming Under The Bodhisattva

Remember how I’m always finding ways to lie down in New York City? Like when I’ve done yoga in Times Square? Or like when I went to the sound exhibit at the Rubin Museum? I found another way to lie down for an even longer period of time. Again at the Rubin, but this time, at night. It’s a Dreamover, y’all! That means I slept over at the museum. Dreams. Come. True. But like, the goal kind of dream, not the kind of dreamy dreams you have when you sleep. Because if the dreams I had at the Rubin actually came true, we’d have problems. I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, getting to the Rubin from home meant a train and a walk. That meant taking as little as possible with me, which is a good thing. I mean, remember all the bags I took with me for two and a half days at the ashram? I’m moving towards practicing non-attachment for sure, and so I chose to take a large bag to carry my sleeping bag and a pashmina and slippers, and then a backpack for toiletries, a hat, a book, a pen, and a pillow. A friend offered to lend me a camping blow up thingie, but that didn’t pan out, so here I was with as little stuff as possible for a few hours of sleeping.

Side note: This sleeping bag is seeing more action in the past few months than it has in years. Remember Fishkill?

Nothing I carried was heavy, but everything was bulky. At the train station, I had to ride the escalator sideways with my backpack hanging on one arm and the sleeping bag on the other. Walking downtown, that sleeping bag was whacking into people as I glided down seventh. I can imagine what I looked like: a tiny woman carrying a backpack as large as a small child, wielding an overstuffed beach bag, careening across every street. After this whole experience, I kept saying that I didn’t see anything strange this trip into the city, and right now I’m realizing that I was the strange thing that happened.

Anyway, into the museum!

As a crowd formed outside as we waited for the doors to open, a few dog walkers came by, and all the dogs stopped and wanted to go into the museum. Whatever energy was happening was already detectable. Then a few passersby asked what was going on. One woman behind me kept answering with “It’s a dreamover!” which lead to follow-up explanations until someone else simply started answering, “We’re dreaming with the gods and goddesses.” That answer seemed more sufficient for anyone who asked.

Finally, doors opened and in we went, sat at tables, and then got escorted to our artwork that we’d dream under. Everyone fills out a survey beforehand and gets art matched to them. And so I found myself in an alcove on the third floor–a place I’ve always found colder than the rest of the museum, and also the place I’d guessed I’d be–and my artwork was a bodhisattva with hands in a teaching position. Holding my place was a notebook, the agenda for the evening, and a slip of paper that explained why I was there: “We have paired you with a loving bodhisattva who offers you a teaching gesture, to support your deepening practice as a student but also the wisdom you have to give as a newly published author.

Yep, that’s the right piece of artwork for me.

I unrolled my sleeping bag, set up my pillow, put on my slippers, and sat. This was happening. The building carries sound, so I listened for a while and read the itinerary for the evening. There was going to be a lecture on dreams! I didn’t know that! Very cool. Then there would be breakout sessions! I didn’t know that! Very not cool for the socially awkward but here I was sleeping among strangers and only once did I think hey is this safe? and didn’t know the answer and did it anyway, so the breakout session was still on the list of things to do.

And then we’d get a snack!

And then we’d get a bedtime story!!

This was like kindergarten!!!

Once I was settled in, I met my nook-mate, a lovely woman who works in the arts. We chatted about creativity, and then she blew up her double-inflatable mattress while I sat on my cushy sleeping bag. My dream collector–the person who would be waking me up and asking me about my dreams–came over to explain my artwork to me. We talked about how it was perfect for me. She suggested I mimic the teaching mudra to see what the artwork was doing. (This is where I’ll tell you that I usually refer to mudras as Buddhist gang signs, which is probably not funny to Buddhists or the bodhisattva, so I didn’t say that joke there).

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Then I got up, realizing that, Hey, I’m in a museum! I can go museum-ing! And so I did. I walked up to the top floor and spiralled my way down. The only difference is that there were sleeping bags and mattresses and pillows everywhere. It was colossally strange in the most wonderful way possible.

I made my way down to the bottom floor theatre for the conversation between Tibetan Buddhist lama Khenpo Pema and Jungian analyst Patricia Llosa. I did that thing that I usually don’t like people doing–I sat right next to someone when there were clearly lots of empty seats elsewhere. I was kind of tired by this time–it was 9 PM, which is nearing my jammie-time, and also, I was focused on being able to see both people. Short gals gotta have a plan. The guy I sat next to didn’t seem to mind, and we chatted about what we were drawing. The screen on stage had a suggestion to draw our artwork from memory, so that’s what we were both doing. We both realized that we had very different pieces of artwork ,and they were both intricate, and neither of us excels at drawing.

After being welcomed and clapping for people who come back every year, the conversation began. It explored dreams from Eastern and Western perspectives, and it highlighted places where they converged mostly. There was a Q&A. This was an actual Q&A. It wasn’t like when I go to writing conferences and there’s a Q&A where people raise their hands and just talk without a question. There were actual questions!

That led to meditation. It was now almost 10 PM. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and then had a head jerk because I’d started to fall asleep. That happened two more times, not in the way it’s been happening during meditation because I’ve been falling deeper into the mind, but because I was sleeping, yo. Still, it was a good meditation session.

Onto the breakout groups! So awkward. So so awkward. Our floor was not a talkative floor, and the leaders were not talkative leaders. However, once there were a few questions like how to remember our dreams and answers about dreams and emotions, it was pretty okay. Then right before we were done, the conversation turned towards lucid dreaming. Now this was getting interesting! But then the chimes chimed out. It was time for snacks!

The spread offered apples, clementines, chocolate star cookies, trail mix, cheese, and kettle corn. This was around 10:30 PM. Who eats kettle corn at this time? I’ll tell you who–a lot of people. It was a hot commodity. Also, we could choose from three kinds of tea. Rubin Museum, you get me, man, you so get me. I had a turmeric tea. Mmm, so good.

Also, that’s not my camera doing weird things. Everything was tinged orange. Again, Rubin: You. Get. Me.

I brushed my teeth in a museum bathroom. How many of you can say that?

When I came back to my sleeping bag, I saw a stack of cushions. One of the docents had left them. I thanked her, saying I’d use them if I needed them, but my sleeping bag was good so far. After laying there a while, reading the same Kerouac book I’ve been reading for what now seems like eight lifetimes (referenced in several of the posts linked above), I realized I could feel the floor with my entire body. I tucked those cushions right up under me. Yep, that docent knew what she was talking about. How thoughtful!

Then it was time for my bedtime story!

First, a side note: My morning meditation routine waxes and wanes between silent to sound. When it’s silent, I usually have a mantra. I don’t feel like I choose it. I feel like it chooses me. Something pops into my head, and I use it as a mantra for however long it lasts in my mind. For the past few weeks, I’ve been using I am not the body.

I tell you that tidbit to tell you this: My story was Vow of the Bodhisattva in which Loke enters a state of samadhi. As he senses his own organs and bones and then subatomic particles he states, “I am not this body. All that I believed was a solid mass is nothing but vibration.”

Let me repeat: Loke in my bedtime story says the line that has been my mantra for the past few weeks.

This was meant to be!

Then it was bedtime. The museum provided earplugs, so I put them in. Then I put a blanket over my head and snuggled down into my sleeping bag. I feel asleep for a few minutes or more because the next time I opened my eyes, the lights had gone out.

And then? Things. Got Weird.

At least one person was singing in his sleep. Someone was also talking in his or her sleep. I heard that with the earplugs in. I know it was real. I don’t know if anyone else heard it. Then I started wondering if anyone was going to start sleepwalking. There were stairs! This could be tragic!

Then I started worrying that I wasn’t going to fall asleep and then I wasn’t going to dream and then my dream collector would have nothing to collect and I’d be a big huge disappointment to everyone, especially the bodhisattva.

Then I talked myself off that ledge. No one would care if I dreamed or not. In fact, the cafe was open all night for anyone who had insomnia and wanted to have tea.

I took out the earplugs, realizing that they could be the reason I wasn’t sleeping. Then I fell asleep for a bit. Then I woke up, realizing I’d been dreaming. I reached out for my phone to get some light and for my notebook to scribble down whatever I could. And then this went on, repeating itself, me waking with a start each time, wanting to remember what I’d dreamed.

When morning came, I was awake already. I actually went to the bathroom at around 5 something, careful not to trample on anyone sleeping. I know I wasn’t the only one awake because I’d heard the bathroom door opening and closing, and I heard the elevator ding a time or two. The sleep singing had stopped hours before, which was kind of a bummer because it was kinda funny.

My dream collector found me lounging–they wake you by shining a light your way–and we chatted about my dreams. She wrote things down and asked me about emotions and colors. She also asked if I dreamed about or felt influenced by my art. Nope. My dreams? Were whacked out. When she left, I looked at what I had written. The act of writing them down made me remember them, so I hadn’t had to look at my notebook when she was collecting. That’s a good thing, too, because what I wrote down looked like a lunatic had found a pen for the first time and decided to scratch at some notebook pages for a while.

Here are my dreams:

  1. A man in a hoodie standing against a wall holding something important.
  2. People needing to know the hours that Disney is open.
  3. A mall kiosk lady walking around her kiosk in a mall.
  4. Looking for a place to sit in a restaurant/cafe that I realized was RollNRoaster in Sheepshead Bay but also it wasn’t exactly that place, and then a tall dignified African American woman is with a large family and she’s wearing a trench coat and green patterned dress, and she stands up and politely says, I’m not going to wait anymore.
  5. There’s a ship in a storm but it’s not a real ship or storm because it turns out to be a tv set that looks like the set of that sci-fi show about water with the guy who was in that movie with the big fluffy white flying thing.

And that’s that.

I meditated for fifteen minutes. Then I trekked down to the cafe for breakfast with my notebook so I could do my morning writing. (It’s all about the routine). There was quite the spread for breakfast, too, but mostly stuff I don’t eat. Basically, it was all carbs and dairy, so like, the opposite of my life. Dreamover (5)

I was hungry, though, so I had three mini-muffins, fruit from the top of a parfait, and trail mix that was still out from the night before. I had green tea that was so so good. There was also coffee, apparently, but that looked pretty scary.

When I was done writing and nibbling, I packed up my stuff. Then I went to the morning breakout group to discuss our experiences. Again, there was a lot of awkwardness. We went around and made a group poem. I liked that, of course! Once the leader read the poem, I knew it was one of those poems that would also work backwards. I’m in the homestretch of teaching two creative writing workshops, so hearing work read out loud and knowing how to revise it comes to me instantly. It’s a gift. I didn’t ask for that, though, because everyone loved the last line, and I wasn’t into speaking up because the mini-muffins were weighing heavily on my soul.

We all said our thanks and goodbyes–I thanked the docent who had left me the cushions–and then I grabbed my bags and headed down the spiral staircase one last time. At the bottom was a station where we could draw something, so I drew a flower.

Then I went out onto the streets of NYC early on a Sunday morning. They were practically empty, so I wasn’t hitting into anyone with my gigantic bag as I strode uptown towards Penn. Then passing by FIT, I saw this for what seems like the first time:

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And that pretty much sums up the entire experience.

Intentional

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Universal Language of Poetry (And The Socially Awkward)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Summertime Still

My Brother Had An Art Opening

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

 

Sip This Had A Birthday Party

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

My Longest Friend Had A Birthday

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

 

I Took A Defensive Driving Course

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

Fun Was Had From City To Suburb

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 Odds and Ends

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

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

 

 

Baseball, Art, and A Little Moon Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jen Stark’s work

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

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Alok Vaid-Menon

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

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

 

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

It’s Summer When

Yoga In Times Square Mind Over Madness. Done!

Summer Solstice in years past have been scorching hot. This year, monsoonish. The class before me got drenched in a downpour. My class saw some drizzling. I wore my socks for part of it. I got to lie down on my back in Times Square once again, and this time, it drizzled all over me, and somehow, that was magic. Catherine Cignac has the best sequences. I try to memorize them as we go so I can take them home with me and luxuriate in them. Another reason the rain was fantastic? No lines! I walked right up and went right in. No waiting around for anything. Somehow, the yoga village afterwards was jam packed, but otherwise, it was so spaced out and roomy. For FREE, we got mats from Aerie, water from Propel, tea from Pukka, and a bag to put it all in.

 

Kicking off a tour of all the museum exhibits I’ve been wanting to see. Done.

Who doesn’t love the 80s? The Nassau County Museum of Art has an 80s exhibition. I was all set for neon vibes all over. I didn’t much neon. Instead, I saw a lot of artists who died too young from AIDS. It was really depressing but also stunning. There was a Jenny Holzer, and I love her work because she uses a lot of words. Added bonus–my friend who met up with me told me about meeting Holzer and that was fascinating.

Bonus Bonus: We went to a bakery afterwards and I FINALLY TASTED RHUBARB and I LOVED IT.

 

Attendance at poetry readings. Done.

This past Monday saw no rain, which meant the Gazebo Reading was on! I went to listen to some good stuff and heard some good stuff.

Sunday before that, I read at Industry. This reading? My new favorite venue. I wanted to buy everything there. Sciency stuff. Quirky stuff. Artsy stuff. All my kind of stuff. Also, they had pretzels. Mmm, pretzels.

So the moral of this story is that everything I do involves some sort of food or beverage.

Happy Summer.