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Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

5 Nov
Fall in Indiana photo by MAG

Fall in Indiana photo by MAG

imageTwo weeks ago, J. and I went down to Indiana to help my 81-year-old aunt (who is in better shape than most people half her age) get her lawn/garden ready for winter. We arrived on Saturday and spent the weekend raking, mowing, eating great food, drinking wine, and solving the world’s problems (as we usually do). It was a wonderfully relaxing fall weekend at my favorite pastoral retreat.

J. and I returned to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon to find that the apartment above mine had been destroyed by fire that morning and that my apartment (and the one below me) had been rendered uninhabitable because of the water damage. By the time I arrived, the fire department had deemed the building safe enough to enter and allowed us to go in and assess the damage. My place didn’t look as bad as I’d feared it would, but I had no idea how much damage the water had actually done or how much I would have to replace. My main concern was my computer, which had been sitting on my desk and been plugged into a surge protector on the floor near the front windows where a good deal of water had flowed through.image

I called my insurance agent who told me that if I filed a claim it would result in a “bad mark” on my insurance history and would most likely result in them canceling my policy. I was advised to see if my neighbor had insurance (she didn’t) and file a claim through her company. At that point I started feeling panicked as I didn’t know was salvageable or where I would live.

And then good things started happening.

J. offered her second bedroom for as long as I needed it and we quickly stuffed my bedding in bags to be washed and dried. Since I’d been traveling that weekend, I’d packed most of what I needed on a daily basis, so it was easy to transport it over to J.’s for the week.

Thanks to a quick thinking police officer, who went in behind the fire fighters, my computer had been unplugged from the surge protector and didn’t appear to have sustained any water damage. That night, the owner of the building called to offer any and all assistance I needed (which included getting me a new apartment in the complex, waiving November’s rent, and offering to have the maintenance guys move my belongings to the new place). The Red Cross called and offered assistance in finding housing, replacing furniture, and anything else I might need to help deal with coping and resettling. They also gave me a helpful checklist of the people I needed to contact as I prepared to move, an explanation of the emotions I might feel as I dealt with the crisis (and reassurance that it was all normal), and a small amount of cash to help with the moving expenses. And later that week, when I took my coats to my neighborhood dry cleaners, the owner didn’t charge me for the additional chemical process needed to remove the smoke smell from fabrics and offered to have the coats delivered to my new place when I was ready.

For a week, I traveled from J.’s back to my place to clean and pack. I was still anxious about the move. I don’t like it when things are out of my control (but then, who does?) and I was worried that I would hate the new apartment. I posted an update about the situation to Facebook, and felt uplifted by the kind words and support that so many people offered. And I tried to push the fear of the unknown back by reminding myself of all the ways in which I was incredibly fortunate: I hadn’t lost much, and what I had lost, could be replaced. I would get to stay in the neighborhood I love. And I now had an opportunity to consolidate, clean and reorganize my things.

I was getting a fresh start.

Last Friday I moved into my new place (an apartment in the building behind my old apartment) and quickly unpacked and settled in. From the moment I began unpacking, I knew that this place was different from the last one; it’s better than the old space. It’s cozier, one flight up rather than two, has more storage space, and the floors are all wood rather than half wood half linoleum. Its warmth inspired me to pull out photographs and artwork that I’d kept in storage since I moved to Chicago and hang them on the walls. When J. saw it for the first time, she commented, “Your old apartment looked like an office, this one feels like a home.” image

On Sunday, after I’d unpacked the last box, I sat down at my computer and pulled up a link to a song that a friend from high school had sent me after I’d posted on Facebook. As I listened to the Indigo Girls cover Elton John’s classic, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” I looked around at my new digs and felt incredibly “[thankful] for the people I have found.”

And I was, once again, reminded of just what a beautiful life I have and how truly fortunate I am to live it.

 

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Girl on Fire

7 Aug
Chicago Arrival April 2013 - photo by MAG

Chicago Arrival April 2013 – photo by MAG

I love walking through fire.

My entire life has been about pushing myself toward the heat. I’m not one to cautiously put my hand out and gauge the temperature, instead, I’m the one who throws my shoes in the corner believing that I can walk on burning coals.

There have been a thousand times that I’ve made it part way across a bed of burning embers only to look down and realize I am walking on a surface that is literally hot enough to leave blisters. But at that point, I know I’ve gone too far to turn back and that my only choice is to stand still or keep moving.

I always keep moving.

In the past year, I’ve walked many barefooted miles on a surface as hot as July asphalt, and I’ve wondered just how hot it has to get before I’ll stop and grab my shoes.

In October, I left my teaching position to take a full-time job with a luxury retail department store. Many people thought I was crazy to leave teaching, but I knew, at the time, it was the right choice for me, and although I miss my students every day, I am not sorry I made the change.

In February, I applied for a sales job in Chicago and spent most of March driving back and forth for interviews.  At the beginning of April, I was offered the job, accepted it, sold my furniture, shed a good deal of my past, boxed what was left and moved – in two weeks.

For the past four months, I’ve been living with J. in her beautiful Chicago digs while I’ve worked on getting settled in this amazing city.  I’ve found an apartment and will be moving in on August 15.  I sold my car and now enjoy all of the benefits (and challenges) of relying on the CTA, and I love it.  I’ve interviewed for a promotion, realized it wasn’t the right position for me at the time, and was relieved that it went to someone else (and thrilled about the person who was offered the position – truly the best candidate!).  I’ve been on a few dates, and made some new friends.

In other words, in one year, I’ve managed to change my entire life – again.

I realize I’m incredibly fortunate in the sense that I’m at a point in my life when, as a single woman with no dependents, I am completely and totally free to make choices about my life, my career and my living arrangements – income notwithstanding.  It’s not that my life is all sunshine and lollipops, there are plenty of challenges and frustrations, but I’ve come to realize that most of those are my own choice and that if I really don’t like what’s going on, I am free to make different choices.

Scary, but true.

For example, I made a conscious choice to rent a studio apartment rather than pay more for a one-bedroom.  My reasoning was not only that it would keep costs to a minimum, but also that I don’t actually want to acquire and maintain the furniture needed to fill a one bedroom apartment.  It feels odd to say that since I’ve lived my entire adult life in apartments that had “appropriate” furnishings, but once I’d asked what I actually want, I realized that I’d be happy with a convertible couch in a small space.

I’d rather spend the money on experiences rather than things – this time around.

In the coming months, I’m going to be setting foot on the coals again as I explore employment options. I know there is something out there that is a better fit than what I’m doing right now, but I know that in order to find it I have to exercise patience and persistence, and I have to be willing to take the chance that I might get burned in the process.

But I’ve found that anything worth having is worth the risk.

I haven’t given up on living in New York City.  Oh no.  In fact, this move to Chicago has made me even more determined to find a way to get to NYC.

But I’ve got some business to take care of, and a plan of action that I need to create.

Through patience and persistence

And with calloused feet.

I will arrive – eventually.

Christmas in New York (2012)

13 Nov

Saks Fifth Avenue, NYC – photo by NYC Insider Guide

I won’t be in NYC for Christmas this year, but professional changes are afoot and I’m closer to NYC than I’ve been since I started writing this blog – next year may just be the year!

Meanwhile, it’s time to pull together the yearly list of NYC Christmas happenings!

1. Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting – Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It’s the 80th tree to be lit in Rockefeller Square, and this year the tree will be lit with more than 300,000 energy efficient LED lights making the celebration both traditional and forward thinking!

2. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Rockettes kick off the Christmas season is high style!!

3. Department Store Holiday Window Displays 

Bergdorf Goodman holiday window – photo by Ricky Zehavi for Bergdorf Goodman

Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor  unveiled their windows on Tuesday, November 13.  Barney’s showed off their “Electric Holiday” video and talked with Sean James, Christie’s Vice President of Managed Services, about how they made the magic happen.  Macy’s and Henri Bendel revealed their windows on Thursday, November 15.  The grand prize goes to Bergdorf Goodman’s beautiful holiday windows inspired by the Great Gatsby and the “roaring 20s” era.

4. Holiday Markets, Shops and Fairs

As usual, there are a large number of wonderful places to buy unique holiday gifts in New York City!  Most of the markets and shops open up around November 14, and stay open until the end of December.

5. New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show

Within the enchanting setting of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, model trains zip over bridges and past replicas of New York landmarks made of plant parts such as nuts, bark, and leaves. Show favorites include the original Yankee Stadium, Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn Bridge.

This year visitors will get an insider’s look at how the replicas are constructed. Models in different stages of completion will show how a structure destined for the Holiday Train Show is framed and begins taking shape through the addition of plant material. Photos, interpretive panels, tools, and supplies help tell the story of how the magic comes together.

6. Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square

On Monday, November 26, 2012 the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District and presenting sponsor Time Warner will host the Thirteenth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square – New York City’s largest holiday festival! Winter’s Eve kicks off with a neighborhood tree lighting ceremony with world renowned singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, cast members of Avenue Q, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, WABC-TV’s Sade Baderinwa, and special guest Laurie Berkner from 5:00pm – 6:00pm. Winter’s Eve continues through the evening and features free entertainmentfood tastingsin-store activities and shopping around and about this colorful and vibrant neighborhood.

7. Macy’s 86th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade

The parade that needs no explanation!

8. New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop Gala

Towering 22 and 23 stories above the million or so partiers on 7th Avenue and Broadway below, the Sentry Center offers a commanding view of the incredible festivities in Times Square and the famous Times Square Waterford Crystal ball itself. You can watch the crowds as they gather in the streets outside while you enjoy an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, DJ dance music and of course, the view to end all views! At midnight the ball drop,fireworks and confetti will create the perfect backdrop scenery for welcoming in the New Year in Times Square.

I won’t be able to join in the festivities this year, but I remain optimistic that 2013 will be the year I celebrate Christmas in New York!

Happy Holidays to all!

Dreamer Profile: Laura Heineman

1 Dec

Detroit Night - Photo by Laura Heineman

(Editor’s note: Laura is not only an aspiring med student, she is also a talented Graphic Designer and photographer who writes the blog DetroitByBike, which details her bike trips around the Detroit area. She is also a true artist – as evidenced by the way she reshaped the questionnaire – and I love that!)

NAME: Laura Heineman

WEB ADDRESS/BLOG SITE: detroitbybike.com, lauraheineman.com

Mary,

You gave me this questionnaire to fill out. But I’m just not to good at filling out questions. So… here is my dreamer profile:

I don’t believe in regret in life. But I also believe that you need to be able to recognize when higher powers are trying to tell you something. About 2 months ago I randomly told a Doctor that if I could live my life over again I would have gone to medical school. I then told her that I was too old to go now. Her response was, “Just do it. I was 28 and a single parent when I went back to school and I did it. It’s hard but it’s worth it.” I had already committed to going back to school so I started looking into it. It turns out medschool was only going to be an extra 2 years of education when I broke it all down. Not a huge difference in the long term view of life. I talked with a few other doctors that I knew and they all told me the same thing. It’s hard, I’ll be putting my life on hold, but in the end it is worth it and I should do it. (It’s funny because I got exactly the same speech from all 3 of them, they also weren’t focusing on money, they all seemed to be happy and fulfilled in their careers.)

Detroit Lives! - photo by Laura Heineman

The things I would tell someone in this (especially if they were your students) are below:

-Get good grades. It sounds so trivial and stupid at the time but grades are a way of tracking your success and work ethic. It’s your proof to people. I didn’t always focus on my grades because I knew that I knew the topics so I was ok with working just hard enough and getting B’s. Fast forward to 10 years later and those B’s may be the thing that stops me from getting into medschool. Even though I believe I am smart enough, I didn’t put in the effort into the “society approved” way of saying that I’m intelligent.

-Believe in yourself. When I first started telling people that I was leaving a good job to go back to waiting tables so I could go to school I got a lot of really bad looks. This isn’t something we do in our society. Especially in our parents society. You sign onto a job and you work it for the rest of your life. Hopefully you work your way up. But since I have left my job, many random things have happened that I cannot believe are just chance. I like to believe this is life’s way of telling me I’m on the right track.

-Lastly, surround yourself with intelligent, inspiring people. Spend your time with people that lift you up. When I first told my family that I was going to attempt medschool at 31 they basically didn’t talk to me. I’m lucky that I have such good friends that pushed me to go for it. They gave me the little boost of power I needed to be able to believe in myself.

Detroit night park - photo by Laura Heineman

Christmas in New York (2011)

19 Nov

Photo by My Kind of Town.com

It’s time for Christmas in New York – again!

There are a lot of folks searching for information about Christmas in New York, so I thought I’d give a run down of what’s happening this year.  Last year, I wrote a Wish List of things I’d like to see, so this year I’ll continue the tradition and add some of the things that I didn’t include and a few new events!

Christmas List 2011

1. New York City Christmas Lights Tour.

This is a 3-6 hour fully customizable tour of the city’s Christmas lights.  The tour will be tailored to your group’s interests, knowledge of the city, native language, and even to where you want to be picked up at the start of the tour!

2. New York City Ballet The Nutcracker

“With Tschaikovsky’s incomparable score, hundreds of dazzling costumes, a one-ton tree that magically grows and grows, and a million watts of illuminated excitement, this traditional Christmas ballet is the definitive holiday must-see!” Tickets are $55-135, depending on performance and seats, and performances run November 25 – December 31, 2011.

3. Macy’s Holiday Window Display

This year Macy’s theme is “Make a Wish,” and features ornaments made by celebrities (on sale inside the store for $9.99 each with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Make a Wish Foundation). This year’s windows (designed by Paul Olszewski) will introduce the use of 3-D screens that do not require glasses in order for guests to view the images. The giant screen in Window 6 will allow visitors to make their own digital ornament and send it to their smart phone to be used as holiday wallpaper.

4. National Chorale Messiah Sing-in

With 17 conductors, 4 soloists, and an audience chorus of over 3,000, how can you go wrong with the Messiah sing-in?  You can’t.  December 20, 7:30 pm at Lincoln Center.

5. Brew York, New York

This really isn’t a “Christmas event,” but for those folks who love good beer, Chris O’Leary (a professed “beer geek” who lives in Brooklyn) provides a calendar of brew related events in the New York area.  His calendars are works of brew art, and run all year-round!

6. The Big Apple Circus

Ironically, this year’s Big Apple Circus show is called “Dream Big”! Flying through the air with the greatest of ease these acrobats, jugglers, and performers entertain audiences with their skill and talent for doing what most would consider impossible.  Designed to delight and entertain children of all ages, this show runs until January 2012.

7. 28th Annual Tree Lighting – South Street Seaport

On Friday, November 25th, TODAY Show personality and fashion expert Jill Martin will host one of New York City’s most beloved holiday traditions, with a 40-foot tree serving as the centerpiece of a seven-minute “Sparkle at the Seaport” light show spectacular. Festivities will kick-off with performances by the Darren Wallis Jazz Trio and the Soul Tigers Marching Band. All-male barbershop chorus, The Big Apple Chorus, will perform seasonal favorites, and costumed characters will help Santa Claus countdown to the tree lighting ceremony. To round-off the evening, Ronnie Spector will give a special performance, making it a night to remember for the whole family.

8. Twelfth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square

Monday, November 28 at 5:30 pm (no matter what the weather!) stores, restaurants, cultural organizations and public spaces in the district will be buzzing with activities for both children and adults. At the same time, sidewalks along Broadway from Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle to 68th Street will be alive with performers, street musicians, jugglers, stilt-walkers and more, making for a festive fun-filled stroll through the streets of this dynamic Upper West Side neighborhood.

9. Union Square Holiday Market

Between November 18 through December 24, Union Square will play host to a holiday market with over 100 local vendors!  Hours: Monday – Friday, 11:00am to 8:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am to 8:00pm; Sunday, 11:00am to 7:00pm.

10. American Museum of Natural History’s Origami Holiday Tree

From November 19, 2011 to January 2, 2012 the American Museum of Natural History  displays the annual origami holiday tree.  This year’s tree decorations pay tribute to some of the largest and most impressive animals and inanimate objects found in the Museum halls through the art of origami.

I can’t be in New York City this Christmas, but my thoughts will be filled with all of the wonderful things to look forward to doing when my dreams come true!

Happy Holidays!

A Heart in New York

2 Oct

Photo by DMT

I’m so homesick for New York.

A few weeks ago, while dog sitting for a friend, I watched “Hitch” – and cried.  It wasn’t the heartwarming message about being yourself and trusting that the right person will come along and love who you are that made me cry [although, that is a legitimate thing to get teary about].  I cried because when Eva Mendes left her loft to go to work, I caught a glimpse of the cobblestone streets of SoHo and a painfully deep longing to be back in New York City ripped through me, again.

Subway platform. Photo by DMT

I’m homesick for the sound of the subway train cars pulling into the station, the woosh of the doors opening and closing, and the feel of being tugged forward in space as it moves forward toward it’s next stop.  I miss the way New Yorkers are able to create a discreet bubble of space, even on the most crowded subway car, by simply shifting their gaze and looking away from those immediately surrounding them.  D. once said that in a city of eight million, he loves the fact that he can still be a solitary man [and then added, “No Neil Diamond jokes, please.”].

I’m homesick for the way it feels to walk down streets bathed in sunshine on one block and shrouded in shade, the next.  I ache to feel the shift in seasons as the city responds to the earth’s rotation and adjusts.  I’ve always said that fall in Michigan is, perhaps, the most wonderful part of living in this state because the brilliant foliage highlights all of the natural beauty this state has to offer, but I’d trade it all, right now, to be experiencing the smooth slide from September into October in New York City.

I want to open my eyes and see the brilliant kaleidoscope of buildings, traffic, and people.  I want to listen to the cacophonous symphony of sounds that honk and beep and shout out the rhythm to the soundtrack of the city.  I want to feel the solid pavement under my feet as I bounce down steps that sink into the connective tissue that is the subway.  I want to breathe deep smell the scent of the city from the Hudson Bay all the way to Harlem. I want to wrap my arms around the city and pull it close enough to feel the pulsing, throbbing force that embodies all of my hopes and dreams.

I’ve been walking the streets of the city again, thanks to Google Earth, and as a result, my night time dreams are filled with vivid images of vintage clothing stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and small corner bodegas.  In my dreams the streets come to life; living and breathing, as traffic rushes by frantically marking the minutes with the constant clicking pulse of the cab drivers’ rooftop signs.  In Service. Dark.  In Service. Dark.

The other night I dreamed I lived in a huge apartment inside a building that seemed to soar through the sky.  One entire wall of my home was made up of floor to ceiling windows that let in light that illuminated every corner and warmed my face while I stood sipping my early morning cup of coffee.  Standing next to the windows, I could see the entire city waking up as the sun began to rise, its rays bouncing off of the steel and glass as it stretched toward the sky. I woke up smiling.

TriBeCa. Photo by DMT

I dream of spending Saturdays walking the High Line, the elevated 1.5 mile park that runs from the West Village through to Hell’s Kitchen.  Or browsing one of the Brooklyn Flea Markets looking for that “one of a kind” purchase that will turn a dumpy studio apartment into an avant-garde showcase of original flea market discoveries.  Or browsing the collections at the New York Public Library, then sitting down in Bryant Park with a cup of hot coffee and losing myself in a newly discovered literary treasure.

It’s not that I don’t love where I am right now, it’s that I can feel New York pulling me closer and my will to resist is weakening.  I know what’s practical, what’s rational, and what’s reasonable, but when the city begins to weave its seductive magic, I become helplessly tangled in its spell.

It’s not that I think I can move any faster than I am or make things happen any quicker than they already are, it’s just that the intense ache that occasionally pushes its way into my daily life, reminds me that the city’s out there – impatiently waiting – and that I need to take action and get myself moving in its direction again.

I don’t want to cry because I miss New York City; I want to cry because I can’t believe I no longer do.

Let it Rain

27 Aug

City Hall Park - Photo by DMT

It looks like New York City is about to be hit by Hurricane Irene, and the prediction is that it’s going to be a huge hit on the costal areas.  So far, the subway system has been shut down, and authorities are urging people in low-lying areas to evacuate before the eye of the storm hits New York. Mayor Bloomberg has made it mandatory for those people living in Zone A to move into safer zones.

I’m a little concerned because D. and his family live in Zone A, but if I know my friend, I’m pretty sure that he’s stocked up on the essentials and is probably in a pub in a safe zone, having a beer – or two – while watching the progress on his computer, iPhone and a couple of televisions.  Hopefully he will check in after the worst of the storm has passed, and maybe he will even have some photos of Mother Nature’s Drama to share!

Meanwhile, for those who are interested, here is a link to the Livestream Video of mid-town Manhattan, and Amanda Marshall’s version of “Let it Rain.”

August 28, UPDATE:

It looks like Irene didn’t hit as hard as forecasters predicted she would, but she still managed to pack quite a punch!

Check out readers’ photos on the NY Times site – there are some amazing pictures of before and after the storm.

August 29, UPDATE:

D. checked in and said that although the storm was an inconvenience, he and his family are doing fine and their home and business – and the city – all survived the storm.

While I was concerned, I also had absolute faith in the fact that my friend – and my city – would weather the storm and bounce back with their indomitable spirit intact!

Now, if I just had some pictures…

Only in New York

20 Aug

Manhattan Skyline - photo by MAG

This blog celebrated its one-year anniversary last week, and I had hoped to mark the occasion by finishing up the entries about my trip, but that didn’t happen. So, today I am going to highlight some of the best moments of my trip.

I loved all of the unexpected adventures I had in New York – most were the result of getting lost because I didn’t follow directions, but then that’s the best way to experience things – organically.

St. Anthony of Padua - photo by MAG

Some of the best finds were the day I walked from SoHo to 27th & 5th and got lost not once, but twice!  That was the day I walked past The Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua on the corner of Houston and Sullivan and heard the most beautiful music floating out of the doors, into the street.  I wandered in and found the organist practicing for mass while the partitioners sat in the pews praying and chatting with one another.  There was something comforting about looking around and seeing generations of people gathered in a place that contains so much history; so many memories.

Not long after I left the church and ventured forth, I discovered the man cave of all man caves – Little Lebowski.  The funniest part of the whole adventure was that at the moment I was discovering it, D. texted me and asked where I was.  “I’m at 215 Thompson Street, do you know it?” I quickly replied.  “No, what is it?” he texted back. “Dude, it’s the Little Lebowski Shop!”  D. laughed and then asked if they give discounts for those of us who have been ordained as priests in the Church of Dudeism [both D. and I became Revs a couple of years ago, and we even have certificates to prove it].  I told him I’d go in and ask – so I did.

215 Thompson St. - photo by MAG

Roy, dressed in a bowling shirt and shoes, told me that he’d give me a 10% discount for being ordained as his eyes followed another customer out the door.  “But that guy,” he said disgustedly, “that guy doesn’t get shit!”  I gave him a puzzled look, and he explained, “He asked me for a discount, I told him no, and then he picked up a shirt and said he’d pay me $20.00 for it.  I told him the price was $25.00.  Damn tourists, they ruin the city this time of year, don’t you think?”  I bit my tongue and nodded slightly as I turned to survey the store.  Roy continued his hilarious running commentary by telling me about the history of the store, the movie and then offering suggestions about which t-shirt I should buy [I ended up with the one that has a picture of Walter, and the words “You are about to enter a world of pain”].  He gave me the discount and told me he’d give D. one, too, if he stopped by.

My next stop was the Museum of Sex on 5th Ave and 27th Street.  Talk about an interesting place!  The whole museum is full of..well…sex.  But it’s not just porn, there are floors dedicated to comics, magazines, sexual products, sexual history, and the entire top floor was dedicated to documenting the work of burlesque performers.  That was interesting because they don’t generally sit for still photos since their profession is about live performance, but this group of performers had collaborated with photographers to create still images that reflected the personalities of each individual performer.  Some of the photos were breathtakingly beautiful, and some were downright shocking, but all of them were uniquely informative.

Around the time I finished touring the museum, D. texted to say he might be able to break away from work and grab a cup of coffee.  When I told him I’d start heading back toward SoHo, he responded by telling me not to head back now since he wouldn’t be free for at least an hour – maybe two.  I texted back, “Well, I’ll be walking, and you know how I am about directions and focus!  Just text me and let me know if I need to hop the subway, okay?”  D’s next text earnestly asked, “Wow, are you afraid of the subway or do you just like walking that much?”  I laughed and replied, “A little of both, but mostly I love the freedom of being able to walk everywhere!”

I made it back to SoHo around 7:30, and at that point, D. was able to take time for a dinner break, so we headed over to Mexican Radio where we had some excellent fish tacos and I got to try D’s Negro Modelo – two thumbs up!  After dinner, D. headed back to work and I walked from SoHo back to Jane Street.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - photo by MAG

I spent the next day wandering around the Upper East Side, and visiting the Metropolitan Museum.  I wasn’t up for the Alexander McQueen exhibit – mainly because I didn’t feel like waiting for hours in a line just to get rushed through the displays of his iconic designs.

One of my favorite exhibits at the museum was the exhibit of night photography.  My favorite was Alvin Langdon Coburn’s “Broadway at Night” [c. 1911].  Under the photo was a quote from Coburn that read, “It is only at twilight that the city reveals itself to me in the fulness of its beauty, when the arc lights on the Avenue click into being…”  Bernice Abbott’s photo “Nightview New York” [c. 1932] was also strikingly beautiful.

That evening I met D. for coffee and so we could say adieu since the next evening I had a ticket to tour the Manhattan bay by boat [thanks to D.’s eagle Groupon eye!] and wouldn’t be able to make it back to SoHo again.  When I ordered a decaf coffee, the baristo behind the counter told me they were out of decaf because they were about to close, but would I be willing to accept a decaf Cafe Americano? [or something like that, I think].  I asked him if it was the same, and he assured me that every cup of coffee was freshly made, then lowering his voice to a conspiratorial level, he confided, “Everything is made with love here. Well, except the green tea – that’s positively malevolent.”

D. and I laughed pretty hard as the baristo went to get our drinks.  It was kind of fitting that the coffee shop closed just as we were saying goodbye – no tears, no long drawn out promises to “see you soon,” just a quick hug and a smile, and then D. headed back to work and I headed off – in the wrong direction.   Fortunately, the wrong direction meant I came across Rice to Riches, and was able to pick up some mango rice pudding to take back to the hotel for a late-night snack.  And since J. loves the little portable plastic dishes the rice pudding comes in, I killed two birds with one stone!

My two favorite moments in New York came the next day when native New Yorkers proved their mettle.

The first moment occurred while I was walking up 7th Ave toward the fashion district.  As I approached a corner in Chelsea, I found myself walking behind a little old man wearing a grey windbreaker and a Yankees ball cap.  The old guy was kind of bent over, his eyes on the ground in front of him, and although he was shuffling, it was with purpose.  As we approached the other side of the street, I could see a Chelsea mom [you know the type, white polo shirt – collar up – jean skirt, Top Siders] and her two kids on the opposite corner.  The younger kid was blocking the old guy’s way, but the kid didn’t move and the old guy kept shuffling forward undeterred by the kid’s presence.  At the last moment, Chelsea mom grabbed the kid and pulled him out of the way, and the old guy shuffled by without even looking up.  Chelsea mom got huffy, turned toward the old guy and said rather loudly, “Well, you could have said excuse me!” And in true New Yorker form, the old guy turned his head slightly and shot back, “Fuck you!”

He didn’t miss a step.

The Harbor Tour boat - photo by MAG

The second moment occurred on the boat tour later that evening.  I was texting D. photos of the scenery we were passing, when D. texted back, “I must tell you, these are some pretty boring pictures you’re sending me.  The NYPD impound lot?  Brooklyn? Where’s the Manhattan skyline?”  I texted back that this was the Hidden Harbor Tour sponsored by the Working Harbor Committee.

Just as D. was lamenting the fact that he’d sent me on a tour of harbors rather than Manhattan, the tour guide started answering questions from the tourists sitting up on top of the boat.  The first question was whether or not terrorists could enter the U.S. via shipping containers.  The tour guide responded very seriously, “Well, if they do, they’re dead before the containers are opened.  Next question?”  I bit my tongue in order to hold back the laughter as I texted D. back and told him that not only was I enjoying the boat ride, but also that the answer to that question was worth the price of the entire trip.  D. responded, “Well, as long as you’re having fun…”  to which I replied, “Seriously dude, I’m going to have fun no matter where I am!”

Il Porto on Fulton Street - photo by MAG

After the boat tour, I stopped at Il Porto on Fulton Street and had a delicious salmon dinner while simultaneously looking at lower Manhattan and watching a soccer match on the bar television.  Heaven, indeed.  After dinner, I walked up Fulton to Nassau Street and caught the subway back to 14th Street. I walked now familiar route to my hotel where I packed my bags and prepared to depart early the next morning.

As the airport shuttle drove through the streets the next morning, I got a little teary.  I didn’t want to leave New York.  What I really wanted to do was go back to Michigan, pack up my things and just move, but common sense told me that was not a rational or reasonable choice, so I dried my tears and toughened up for the trip home. As I was checking my suitcase, the airline porter, a very kind fatherly man, asked me, “Why do those beautiful eyes look so sad?”  I was startled that he’d noticed, and the tears began to well up before I could stop them.

What could I say to that?  I wanted to let it flow and tell him how much I loved New York and how badly I was already aching to return, but that’s not something you say to strangers, so I took a deep breath and said, “I’m heading back to Detroit.”  He nodded knowingly as he handed me my boarding pass, and told me not to put my scarf in my suitcase because it would be cold on the plane.

I love New Yorkers.

It’s taken me a long time to blog about my trip to New York.  I’ve been back in Michigan for two months now, and while life has been busy, I think I know why I’ve been reluctant to wrap this up.

It means things are going to change – again – but I don’t know how.

New York feels a long way away, and some days I am so homesick for it that it hurts, and other days I can set it aside and do things that I love so I don’t have to think about missing the city.

This weekend J. is in New York, and she’s been acting as my “supplier” as she wanders the city seeking out all of the restaurants she’s read about in Gourmet and/or Bon Appetite. When I saw the first photo she sent, I knew I was a goner.  It was a simple shot of a city corner, and my pulse quickened, my heart raced as I looked closely at the scene.

I love New York in a way that is not reasonable or rational, and no matter how long it takes or how many different avenues I have to take in order to get there – I am going to get there.

At the Strand Bookstore - photo by MAG

New York City will be my home.

New York City Rhythm

5 Aug

Corner Park - Photo by MAG

One Year to Move Soundtrack

One of the many things I loved about New York was that, contrary to popular belief, the city has a good deal of green space.  Neighborhoods have carved out small oasises where residents [and travelers] can sit and enjoy a little peace and quiet – relatively speaking.

When I awoke on Sunday morning, I realized that all of my best laid plans [see my pre-travel blog entries] were going to go astray since I’d overslept and missed out on my chance to attend mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It was at that moment that I decided to chuck the itinerary, and just “follow my bliss,” as Joseph Campbell would say.

I am so incredibly thankful I did.

Once I got ready and packed what I’d need for the day in my messenger bag, I headed out on foot to explore the West Village.  I needed caffiene and food, in that order, but I had no idea what was available, so I consulted my handy Urbanspoon app and found that there were no fewer than eight Starbucks stores within walking distance.  Once I had a cup of hot dark coffee in hand, I began narrowing my options for brunch.

Breakfast at The PATH Cafe - Photo by MAG

I finally settled on The PATH Cafe on Christopher Street.  When I arrived, around 10:30 am, the place was nearly empty.  I ordered and read the paper while I waited for breakfast to be delivered.  There was something decadent about sitting at the counter enjoying a lesiurely Sunday morning, and I decided that whether in New York or not, this needed to be incorporated into my weekly routine.

While  eating, I took a closer look at the artwork on the walls of the cafe, and noticed that the photograph to my left was not, in fact, a painting, but rather a photo of a painting on a garage door.  I asked the server about it and she informed me that the artist was Chris Sullivan,  an architectural photographer, and invited me to return to the cafe for her talk on photography later that week.  I made a note of it, and told her that if I was in the area, I would definitely drop by.

After breakfast, I wandered aimlessly up Christopher Street observing the scenery and checking out various second hand stores.  In one, I found a long-sleeved sheer black Banana Republic shirt.  I ended up paying $7.00 [plus the 8% New York city/state tax] for a shirt that had probably been originally priced at more than $30.00.  This confirmed, once and for all, that, thanks to my mother, finding deals is in my DNA.

I followed Christopher Street east to 9th Street, and then followed that to Broadway where I walked up to 12th Street and found Strand Bookstore.  I could have spent a week in that place, but I paced myself and left after…two hours.  I wandered up Broadway to Union Square Park and found an empty table behind a tent where a Motown Tribute group filled the air with the smooth, smokey sounds of their “Imagination [Running Away with Me].”

Around 3:00 pm, after having finished his day’s tasks, D. joined me at Union Square where we watched mandala artist,  Joe Mangrum, use his bags of colored sand to create an intricate and elaborate free-hand design on the pavement.  Since it can take more than six hours to create a design, donations are what keeps Joe afloat. So, I dug out the buck I’d won from D. the day before and tossed it in the can.

Central Park Pond - Photo by DMT

D.’s plan for the day was a trip to Central Park, so we hopped the subway and rode it up to somewhere around 57th Street.  With his wealth of knowledge about the history of New York landmarks and buildings, D. made an excellent tour guide [although, I think he was a little surprised by how fast I walked given that Detroit is the Motor City].  He even took a few pictures of the skyline from Central Park for me so that the shots would be sharp and focused.

After hanging out in the park for a few hours, D. had to move on to an evening dinner engagement, so we walked down 9th Avenue [through Hell’s Kitchen and past the Lincoln Center] and parted ways at 50th Street.

D. had recommended numerous resturants, but I didn’t find anything that appealed to me until I reached 36th Street, where I stopped and ate an amazing meal at a little Thai place called Aura.

Scallops with vegetables in a spicy jalapeno sauce - Photo by MAG

After dinner, I walked down 36th Street to 8th Avenue and caught the subway back to 14th Street where I successfully navigated my way back to the Jane – and my bed – where, exhausted by the many, many miles of walking I fell soundly asleep and dreamed of the city.

Show Me

23 Jul

The Gehry Building - Photo by MAG

One Year to Move Soundtrack

After my jaunt to Harlem, things calmed down a bit.  I think it might have been due to the fact that a real New Yorker took over the navigation duties and expertly guided me around the city.

After I checked into my hotel, D. and I walked up 14th Street to visit the Apple Store.  In my neck of the woods, the Apple Stores all reside in suburban malls and are roughly the size of a one-bedroom apartment -in New York that would be two studio apartments.

When we reached the corner opposite the 14th Street Apple Store, I stopped walking and stared at it for a moment before looking back at D. and exclaiming, “That’sthe store? All three stories? Holy moly!”  I then did what any Apple-loving tourist would do – pulled out my iPhone and started snapping pictures of the building.

14th Street Apple Store - Photo by MAG

Once I’d shot as many pictures as I wanted, D. and I headed inside the massive store and he laughed as I ran up the stairs like a little kid on Christmas morning exclaiming, “Look at this!  They have a whole floor for their iPads!”  In a flash, I quickfooted it up another flight, yelling, “D.!  Look!  Another whole floor for their Genius Bar! Oh my gosh!”

I doubt that even Steve Jobs was this excited when he first viewed the 14th Street store.

I’m used to the way things are run at stores in Michigan, so one of the first things I noticed was that the store had no Concierege [the friendly Apple Store greeter whose job it is to warmly welcome customers].  When it became obvious that there was no Concierge, I was confused and immediately consulted my tour guide [who I tend to view as my own personal version of Wikipedia when it comes to all things New York] and asked, “Hey D., why don’t they have anyone greeting customers?”  D. looked at me and deadpanned, “Mary, New Yorkers don’t mess around when they shop.  A greeter slows them down – and pisses them off.”  I whipped around ready to earnestly defend the role, but when I saw the grin on D.’s face we both burst into laughter.

We then headed for the subway and took it all the way down to the Financial District.  On the way downtown, D. explained the layout of the city streets in a way that made so much sense that I would later use it with other New York tourists.  The avenues are laid out east to west [with 1st Ave. the farthest east], and the streets are south to north [1st St. is just north of SoHo], and the subways are laid out in numbers and letters.  I got the hang of the A, C, and E trains while I was there, the rest will have to wait until my next trip.

As we exited the subway station, D. said he had a surprise for me. Knowing that all of the surprises thus far had been landmarks that I’d wanted to see, I was excited to see what he had in store.  The moment I cleared the stairwell and set foot on the sidewalk, I saw it.

Rising out of the ground in a column of torqued silver was the Gehry building. As I my eyes climbed skyward to take it all in, the sight of finished building took my breath away. For a moment, I was overcome with emotion, and I let out a quiet, involuntary, “Oh!”

I’d been following this building’s construction for as long as I’d been walking my own path toward freedom.  And now, here it was.  Soaring toward the sky in a tower of glass and steel was the architectural representation of my own process of reconstruction; the physical embodiment of all of the obstacles I’d faced and doubts I’d overcome in order to move forward and hang on to my faith in my dreams.

I raised my eyes to find the top of the building as I fought to hold back the tears.

Spruce Street - 2009. Photo by DMT

I couldn’t see the very top of the building because it was shrouded in fog, but I could hear Mr. Gehry’s voice saying, “Architecture is a small piece of this human equation, but for those of us who practice it, we believe in its potential to make a difference, to enlighten and enrich the human experience, to penetrate the barriers of misunderstanding and provide a beautiful context for life’s drama.”

And I let the tears flow.

Standing nearby, D. reached out and put a supportive hand on my shoulder.  He’d been an integral part of this moment since he’d been the one who had taken pictures of the building’s progress and sent them to me.  With tears streaming down my cheeks, I turned and gave him a small smile, then took the camera out of my bag and began taking my own pictures in reverent silence.

When I was done, I brushed the tears from my face, turned to D. and said, “Okay, what’s next?”  He smiled and replied, “You’ll see!”  To which I replied, “You’d better not make me cry again. Seriously, dude.”

Spruce Street - 2011. Photo by MAG

We stopped at the Open Door, a gastropub on John St., where we recounted teenage adventures we’d had and D. tested my knowledge of 80s music by betting me a dollar that I couldn’t name the group that was singing a song that was playing [“C’mon Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners].  As D. handed over the buck he’d bet, I said, “C’mon man, I was in high school in the 80s!” He laughed and we proceeded to enjoy a wonderful lunch. I had a delicious Grilled Chicken sandwich with roasted red peppers, brie, and basil aioli on a ciabatta roll, and a fantastic beer that D. recommended [the name escapes me now].

After lunch, we walked down and explored Pier 17 for a bit before D. had to get home.  He walked me back to the subway station and pointed me in the direction of the 14th Street stop where I was planning to meet some former students for drinks.

Once I’d located Nikki, Brad, JD, we all walked over to a bar on 14th Street [again, the name escapes me] where we sat at a table on the sidewalk and enjoyed catching up on all of the adventures they’d had since graduating from school.  It was a wonderful evening, and as I headed back to my hotel I was ready for a good night’s sleep.

And that was just the first day!

Stay tuned for more adventures!

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