don’t worry about it

yesterday morning i was almost to the stairs to go underground when i realized i forgot my wallet. i quickly turned around and jogged all the way down the block back to 41st avenue. i got about halfway back to my apartment where the man sits in the morning on the brick planter in front of his building.

“good morning,” he says every morning when i pass. “have a nice day.”

i always smile and return the sentiment.

i had already passed him on this day i forgot my wallet, and here i was passing him again.

“you forgot something?”

“i forgot my MTA card.”

“oh here, let me give you some cash.”

“oh, no, i can’t.”

“don’t worry about it,” he said pulling out a wad of cash from his pocket.

he handed me a $20. omg.

i thanked him after he wouldn’t let me refuse, told him i’d get him back tomorrow morning, and was quickly on my way back to the subway station.

this morning i left a little earlier and stopped at the ATM to pull out $20 to pay him back. as i approached his building i noticed he wasn’t sitting in his usual spot. i put the 2 10s the ATM dispensed back in my wallet and figured i’ll see him tomorrow, hoping he won’t think i took off with his $20.

halfway down the block almost to the subway stop, i’m somewhere in my head.

“hello, how are you today?” are the words that interrupt wherever i was.

i look up, there he is walking with a newspaper and a brown bag presumably with his breakfast inside of it.

“oh!” i pull out my wallet and start to unzip the compartment holding the cash.

“don’t worry about it, just go to work!” he tells me.

tomorrow morning i’ll try again.

superstorm frankencane

from my apartment in queens, it was just a big storm. a tree branch at the end of my street fell. it was a large branch, but the soft wood didn’t seem to do any damage. i broke off several pieces, brought them upstairs and put them in water. here are a couple of small pieces.

we never lost power, but it did sound like we had a ghost in the apartment. the wind howled and the walls creaked. sometimes it seemed like the roof might come off, but i never felt scared or unsafe.

millions of people were not so lucky. some lost power for several days. some lost their homes to fire, flooding, or wind. some lost loved ones, children even. total devastation. unfathomable devastation. the kind that leaves people without words to describe it.

some people are still without power a week later. then there’s the gas shortage, lost wages. total crisis. and the election, god. it will never end. there can’t be a single person who isn’t ready for it to be over. and the coming nor’easter. what horrible timing.

i went to a halloween party friday evening. on the train i saw the man with no legs scooting himself across the train car with his coffee can full of change. i held back tears, but it wasn’t easy. it was a painful reminder that things were not so great for many before this disaster.

quite remarkable is how efficient the MTA and NYPD were. and how civilized most people were. but as jon stewart pointed out, they were just functioning the way they were designed or expected to (competently). still, i’m grateful and impressed. it could have been an even bigger disaster. of course, it hasn’t completely unfolded yet. and they are still recovering bodies. more people will probably die of hypothermia. and there are people stuck in powerless buildings who can’t get out. what will happen to them?

here are some useful links for volunteers and donations.

also this video is pretty powerful.

growing plants

sedum seiboldii, or october daphne.

it was just a little thing when it was given to me by someone who thought it was going to die. nice, right? but hey: one person’s trash, another’s treasure. it has thrived on my terrace! i’m hoping the clippings i cut will root so i can plant them and keep them inside. more plants! i need something to balance all the aloe, it really goes crazy.  the other plants are thriving as well.  last week i moved one of the small pots with aloe right outside our door to put some life at the entrance.

it is a nice welcome home.

today, i moved a larger pot out to the first landing.  we’re lucky to have a stairwell with a skylight, seems like a waste not to have any plants growing.

it looks a little diminutive, but it will be basking in the soft light from the skylight and welcoming us home while it grows.  better than the empty space, and it sort of distracts from the dreadful paint job on the wall.  (i also scrubbed the stairs, because that’s not been done (maybe) ever.)

so, we’ll see how they all fare.  the bigger issue is finding some more pots, because there is always more space to fill with life.

one of my favorite things about the apartment when i moved in to the space was all the plants.

so it looks a little different now, but the corner of the room is still full of life.  thankfully, my roommate who moved out left several of them. the large cactus in the center had been growing for 7 years!  i got a clipping from it, and it’s doing well. i got clippings of other plants too, so it’s just a matter of letting them grow. there’s something really gratifying watching plants grow. there’s also something really comforting about a space with lots of plants.

blindingly lustrous

someone jumped in front of the 7 train i was riding the other day in the middle of the afternoon.  i knew something was off when we arrived at the station.  the train was moving noticeably more slowly.  many of  people on the platform were looking at the end of the platform, usually everyone is looking straight at the train waiting for the doors to open.  when the train stopped, the doors didn’t open.  a minute later the train shut down and the conductor said there had been an incident.  anyone who’s lived in NY long enough knows that “incident” is a euphemism for suicide.  a couple of minutes later an MTA police officer walked by in a hurry.  a couple minutes after that the conductor came out of his closet (i was in the first car), and his walkie talkie said “there was a jumper”.  the conductor opened one half of a set of doors and exited the train.  we followed shuffling out at what would normally be the beginning of the platform only to see we were just further than halfway in the station.

it left me stunned and heavyhearted.  i feel empathetic for the conductor who witnessed the man jumping in front of the train he was driving.  what a horror.

the next day i saw this blurb “when do you really become a new yorker?”  most of the commenters say 10 years.  while i grew up in texas as a displaced new yorker, i’ve only lived in new york 2 1/2 years.  but in those 2 1/2 years, i’ve become a new yorker.  i’ve survived a nasty break up, had bed bugs and moved 7 times.  (3 manhattan addresses, 3 brooklyn addresses, and a queens address…plus a week on a friend’s couch.)  i spent a summer relearning how to walk after damaging my ligaments so severely, it was the worst injury the physical therapist’s office had seen all year.  now i can add the train incident to the list.  but does it matter how other people or i judge my new yorkerness?  maybe because i’m not jaded or totally nuts, i’m not yet a new yorker?

i was talking to someone i see from time to time who sweeps the sidewalk around grand central.  he told me when he was 5 or 6 growing up in brooklyn, he saw someone push another person off the platform into an oncoming train.  there was a program for troubled youth that sent him upstate to work on a farm for a week to help him.  while there, he saw someone stab someone else to death.  i mean, where does it end?  he also told me that the same day someone jumped in front of the 7 i was riding, another person jumped in front of the 4 at grand central.  statistically, the suicide by train only happens twice a week.

i have another friend who sends me quotes morning via text.  the morning after the 7 train “incident” this is the quote he sent:

“you can come out of the furnace of trouble two ways: if you let it consume you, you come out a cinder; but there is a kind of metal which refuses to be consumed, and comes out a star.”  jean church

new york has at times been challenging.  sort of an understatement, really.  it has made my appreciation for life more rich and deep than before.  (and made me less tolerant of people who whine and complain about things that aren’t such a big deal…i have to remember everyone has their own struggle.) i think that because i can appreciate it and not let troubles destroy me, i’ll be alright.  i may even be blindingly lustrous and sparkly when the journey is over.

holy shit i totally get it moments

i had this holy shit, i totally get it moment the other night.  i had eaten nothing but brown rice for a day and a half.

i moved into a really great apartment in queens at the beginning of january after being home for a month.  after living with a crazy women for a month and a half before that.  after staying on a friend’s couch for a week before that.  after staying on the couch at friends’ apartment for two months before that.  it was the same couch i’d been sleeping on for three and a half months.  i was on the tail end of healing from severely spraining my ankle.  i spent the spring lying on the sofa and visiting the physical therapist’s and the summer learning how to walk again.  sounds pretty terrible, but it was quite amazing.  exquisite even.  overall…i did have meltdowns.  it was the most painful physical pain i’d ever experienced and the biggest physical challenge.  ever.

that’s just my second year in new york.  the first year was way more intense.  bad relationship, bad job, bad break up, bed bugs, a summer of dodging nukes.  depressed cat lady roommate and inflated rent, horrid boss.  my god.

friends said “your are persistent”.  or am i just stubborn?  they said they would have come back home.  that thought never crossed my mind.  maybe it’s a bit of both.  or maybe i have will.  maybe i’m determined and resilient.  i think new york requires resilience.  maybe life does.  it’s a survival mechanism.

sometimes i do feel like a survivor.  like i’ve earned a badge.  i don’t need a badge, added character is a badge.

the summer with the bed bugs was the most traumatic for sure.  street cred bonus points.  mostly though, i feel grateful everyday that i’m up and walking around like i never damaged my ligaments so severely.  i feel grateful that i embraced the healing process and had the good fortune to be living on 82nd street between york and east end.  not only was it close to a fantastic physical therapist and lenox hill, but probably the best neighborhood to be while healing and learning how to walk in new york.  and i’ve sampled the neighborhoods.  on crutches.  sometimes in the rain.  wide sidewalks, friendly compassionate people, carl schurz park, the east river, the M31 and M86.  raul, the driver of the M31.

none of this was my holy shit moment, but that’s where i am.  it feels good to feel grateful every day for something.  the holy shit, i get it now moment relates to feng shui and macrobiotics.  i’ve often heard my teacher say, “the only lasting change comes from within.” and “empty vessels make the most noise.”  i always got it.  i always understood what he was saying, but i hadn’t really experienced it.  now i have.  and i’m sure i will continue with greater emptiness to have more holy shit moments.  and that’s exciting.

the follow up question to “what do you do?” is always, “so you can tell me where to put my couch?”  but it has nothing to do with your couch.  it’s about what’s going on inside you that’s creating the atmosphere where you live.  breath and blood, wind and water, feng shui.

here’s this great quote that jon sandifer posted the other day:

“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, or so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere through which we look – to affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts.” henry david thoreau

 

unsettling

while i was home last month in dallas, i didn’t see any suffering.  i did see opulence, mostly working holiday parties for the 1%.  otherwise i saw comfort amongst the 99%.  today on my way home from nolita on the D, a man was pleading for donations.  he was partially paralyzed on the left side of his body.  his left arm was practically useless and his left foot dragged as he made his was down the car.  a veteran from the 1st iraq war, he said the power at his home where he lives with his family would be cut off on monday and they need money.  it was heartbreaking.  assuming he is being truthful, how is it that in this country, veterans who fought in wars are suffering?

i transferred to the E and another man was carrying a small gift bag with handles.  he too was asking for money, and his gift bag sounded empty except for a few coins.  his story is different.  he’s homeless and staying at a shelter.  he has to bring his own food.  he was actually asking for money or food.  he said he’d changed his ways and just needed some help.  i felt so guilty sitting there with my bag full of organic beets, ginger, seaweed, and walnuts.  i thought for a minute about giving him one of my beets (i have 3), but once i gave a man a package of crackers on a train and he forcefully threw them at the girl sitting next to me.  that man couldn’t see very well and clearly wanted money even though he claimed to be hungry.  when i say homeless you might have an image of a disheveled vagrant in need of a shower pop into your mind.  he didn’t look like that, nor did the veteran, but that doesn’t mean he has a place to live.  the number of homeless people living in new york city alone is staggering.

i have no solutions to offer, but watching people suffer is unsettling.  i type this as i am just settling in to a new apartment, my 7th since i moved to new york two and a half years ago.  it seems totally unnecessary in a country filled with opulence.  maybe they should be at 57th and madison?  or on park ave?  or maybe those people ignore them too.  or others already have that market cornered.

when i got to my stop there was a homeless man sleeping at the top of the stairs.  i’m glad he had blankets and today was warmer than it was earlier this week.