Summer in the city…

…means Cleavage, Cleavage, Cleavage!  Hehe.  Hello, world.  As usual, it’s been a while since my last posting.  But this shouldn’t feel like confession.  Plus, I’m pretty sure no one’s listening (I mean, reading).  We keep trudging along, rolling along… merrily, merrily, merrily.  Life is but a dream.

Life is strange.  You’re here one minute, gone the next.  You’re planning your day in the morning, and before you know it, it’s night and you’re laying out your plans for the next morning.  We’re rarely standing still.  It’s scary to know you have nothing to do but wait.  What are we waiting for?  My cousin made me aware of this recently.  She said, “Today, I’m going to enjoy doing nothing, because I rarely get the time to do that.”  My god, she’s right, I thought.  When do we ever set aside time to do nothing?  We may end up doing nothing on any given day, but we hardly plan for it.  On most occasions, it feels like time wasted.  But why is that?  Why do we feel the need to “fill time” with something productive?

On Friday, my girlfriend and I visited the Edward Kennedy Institute.  On Saturday, I posted pictures of our trip online, and spent the majority of that day constantly checking to see if anyone had responded to the post.  I don’t know why I did that, except that maybe I couldn’t think of anything better to do.  I didn’t gain any new insights from people’s replies, didn’t make or strengthen existing connections, didn’t add anything to the human experience.  It was just something to do.  And as my eyes strained from the glare of the computer or phone screens, I could almost physically feel time slipping away.  Like it was leaking from an unsealed crack.

Today is Sunday, and I can’t help thinking about tomorrow and work and traffic.  But today’s not over, and I’ve already accomplished a little.  These words, for example.  They weren’t here but twenty minutes ago.  And that’s something, for me.  It means effort.  The difference between this and a blank screen… I’ve been struggling a lot with writing, lately.  Wondering if I burned out or stopped caring or never really had a chance.  What I do know is that I feel happy now, and a sense of accomplishment at getting even this far.  That’s got to count for something.

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Reflection on Time Spent Away from the Big Apple

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I’ve been living in Quincy, MA for the past eight months, almost.  The greater part of my thirtieth year has been spent here, in this historic city that birthed two of our founding fathers.  Honestly, I don’t think about that fact, most days.  Most days are spent preparing for the next day, preparing for work, for survival.  So what’s changed since I got here?  What’s so different between living in New York and living in Massachusetts, anyway?

Not much, really.  There are still rent and the bills to pay, after all.  They just get delivered to a different zip code.  We have Chinese food restaurants, pharmacies, clinics and barber shops.  I’m not using cash as often, I find.  Doing the laundry still sucks.  And watching Jeopardy, when we have good reception, is still a reliable guilty pleasure.

I’m back to driving regularly, and not loving it.  Sadly, another similarity between the two states is bad traffic.  I miss my folks.  I wish they were a 20- minute instead of a four hour ride away.  I miss mom’s cooking.  I miss the corner bodegas and loud, drunk, party animals disturbing the peace at two in the morning.  I miss the uncensored dramas unfolding on Roosevelt Avenue or just about any block in Jackson Heights.  I miss the domino games amidst bachata and Johnnie Walker and bad Spanish soap operas.

I like my job here.  Well, I like it better than the one I had back on Wall Street (where I was not making Wall Street money).  I like living close to the shore and catching the sun rise on the way to work.  I love the trips to the supermarket with my girl.  The nightly ritual of watching old episodes of The West Wing, imagining having a smart, charismatic, sophisticated, enlightened, compassionate and empathetic leader once more.  I love our crazy cat and the fact that she never tires of the game “chase the string”, or anything else we might be holding.  And I like living across the street from a park and basketball courts, where on any given day (like today, for example) you can catch a full-court battle amongst fiercely competitive locals.

It’s not Queens.  It’s Quincy, and also beautiful.

A Start

I joined a writing club, then quit before sharing anything.  Hell, I quit before officially meeting anyone from the group.  It was ideal that I get to the meeting place by car, but I’m a shitty driver and the GPS on my phone had me entering and exiting the highway various times.  At one point I was to do a u-turn.  No thanks.  I u-turned right back into my driveway.  I had broken the first rule of Writing Club:  Make it to Writing Club.

That was a few weeks ago.  Then at Book Club (a totally different club, I promise), I talked to a guy who turns out is part of the first club.  He encouraged me to try again, give it another go.  So I did, tonight.  I pulled out of our driveway, turned left on the busy intersection, merged onto the highway, and…missed my exit.  But it was okay!  I made the very next exit and, after a few loops (but no u-turns, whew!), found the meeting place.

I stood at a safe distance as I heard a round of introductions.  Almost immediately, a newcomer began to share his poetry with the group.  I cradled my small cappuccino (oh yeah, the meeting place was a cafe) and nestled into a corner of the room as the brave guy bared his soul to strangers.  After he was done, there was no applause but polite criticism.  The writer confessed to being a novice writer, and to a certain extent, a confessional poet.  He seemed insecure yet protective of his material, in a way that made me admire his courage more.

The ones giving feedback assured the writer it was not his life choices they were critiquing, only the technique, although it was hard to say if at the end of it he was convinced.  Who can say, really, whether we are not being personally attacked when one challenges our work?  It can certainly feel that way.  Anyway, I left the writer to ponder that over, if there was room to ponder.

The rest of my time in the meeting place was spent browsing the work of published writers (did I mention the meeting place was also a bookstore?).  Halfway between the Religion and Humor aisles (how nicely they converge!), I made a breakthrough.  I decided then and there, that what I need to write is not a group, but a space.  Well-lit.  Sparsely (or not at all) populated.  Conducive to lounging, and thinking.  And placing letters next to each other to formulate words.  Kind of how I’m doing now–Hey!

How’s that for a start?

Finding Inspiration In A New Place

Today is Sunday.  I feel hopeful.  After struggling with conflicting desires of wanting to write and unyielding inertia, desire won out and trickled onto the page, aiding me in my ever-expanding quest to write a third solid full-length play.

I’m a slow worker.  I’m a slow thinker.  I get distracted and discouraged easily and often.  I find it hard to concentrate.  I find myself wondering how I’ve ever committed to completing anything I found ultimately satisfying, and how to repeat that success.  I am beginning to believe that there is some magic involved.  But also, faith.

Since September 2017, I’ve been living and working in Quincy, Massachusetts.  I never dreamed of any circumstances that would cause me to leave my hometown in New York, but here I am.  I’m making a living, learning to grow with my partner, and willing myself to face everyday challenges at work.  So that we may continue to pay rent and call these four walls our home.  And fill it with food and other necessities.  And thrive, together.

Today I will write, because I believe in the story I’m trying to tell.  That’s all that should matter.  I have faith that I’ll finish it.

The Price of a Cup of Coffee

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Today, after work, I walked to a cafe I’d never been before, and bought a medium cappuccino.  I was waiting for a ride.  The coffee was about $5, (really $4 and change, but the tip jar dares you to keep it and not feel guilty about it afterwards).  Too much for coffee really, for me.  I’m used to brewing my own pot o’ joe at home, on my own time, gleaning pleasure from the waft of steam easing out of the spout.  It wasn’t too cold outside today, but the idea of waiting inside rather than out was alluring enough to make me part with one of the few dollar bills I’ve been carrying around lately.  (A side note about money:  I notice I’ve been using it less and less, relying on plastic to complete my transactions, from my weekly groceries, down to a bag of chips.  It’s not alarming, just something I’ve noticed).

I took my cup and sat down.  I didn’t bother to check where the sugar was.  I didn’t expect to taste anything besides hot.  For the first five minutes I didn’t even look at my cup.  I stared at the scene outside:  a busy intersection in a still relatively new city, the sky growing dark as the cars passed.  I noticed a bar across the street, which I’m sure to visit soon enough.  There was a restaurant, stores, and huffy pedestrians eager to reach home.  I could be one of them, only I was too far from the subway, to close to my ride.  What was I doing there?

I was drinking coffee.  Not drinking coffee.  Watching.  Waiting.  Anticipating.  Planning.  Planning my escape.  My next visit.  Tomorrow… And I was doing all of this Inside.  Shielded from the slight cold.  Protected from the darkness.  Accompanied by strangers, sharing the experience of lingering in a holding area.  A terrestrial limbo.  A white screen between then and later.

But why was I there?  Because it was warm.  Because it seemed inviting.  Because I had five dollars to spend.  On coffee.  But I realized something.  Something that has rung true for me before, and will ring true again in the future:  I didn’t buy the coffee.  Hell, I barely tasted it.  I was buying time.  I bought my right to sit there, in an occupied, well-lit place.  I bought the right to call myself a customer, and enjoy sitting in a comfortable chair for as long as it took for my ride to arrive.

A little comfort, in the midst of chaos.  I bought an opportunity to sit down and breathe freely.  And I bought a medium cup of cappuccino, for the price of $4.62.  A bargain, wouldn’t ya say?

Settling In

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It’s been quite a while since I last posted.  The truth is I haven’t felt like a writer lately.  I haven’t felt much like anything these days.  Which is strange, considering the milestones I’ve recently reached, including turning the Big 3-0.  I don’t know if it’s burnout  or something else.

The picture above is of the Peabody Museum at Harvard.  My first visit (of many, I hope) to Cambridge.  I’ve been living in Massachusetts since September.  Miles away from the comforts of New York, and family.  But I’m making it work.  Surviving.  Eking out a living.  Paying rent.  Loving my girlfriend.  Not loving the subway system.  Adjusting.  Everything’s a process.  Everything takes time.  I’ve been struggling with issues of belonging, probably all my life.  Do I belong here?  Am I a writer?  Am I welcome?

That remains to be seen.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the perks where I find them.  Like the fresh brew of Bustelo.  An empty seat on the red line.  Pay day.  Lazy Saturdays on the couch.  All the Christmas shopping done…almost done.  Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

I’m making a life here.  It isn’t perfect.  I’ve had many setbacks.  But it’s getting better.

Why I Don’t Talk To Strangers

I don’t know what it is about me that draws women near, and for the wrong reasons.  They think I can save them.  This is not to say I’m a ladies’ man–don’t misunderstand me.  It’s just that, I don’t know, I guess in my efforts to appear open and friendly, they–women–think they can confide in me.  They tell me things I probably shouldn’t hear.  I do not mean to say I pose a threat (I have no interest in the information they reveal).  I don’t even know what to do with most of what I listen to.  I’m no therapist.  I’m hardly a good friend to those who claim to know me.  And yet I keep attracting them,  over and over, at any time of the day.  They see me in a quiet corner or seated in an unobtrusive couch and confuse it for a welcoming gesture.  I don’t mean to convey that I wish not to be bothered, but I’m not exactly spreading my arms out either.

Take, for instance, this girl I met last week.  She spotted me on my lunch hour out in a communal park, savoring the last bits of my peanut butter sandwich.  I guess she noticed the label on my laptop case because she asked me if I worked for Ms. Kajoshi.  When I nodded that I did, she took that to mean that I was inviting her to sit with me, and proceeded to ask a series of questions regarding the job environment and my boss’ personality.  Was she a hard person?  Was the job tough?  Was it difficult to move ahead?  I didn’t know how to answer, so I just sort of shook my head from side to side and kept eating.  Then her face contorted into this terrified expression that reminded me at once of the answer to the question which I posed to you at the beginning of this pondering:  What draws these women to me?  What makes them trust me?  No, no, I’ve got it wrong.  That’s not what her face made me think of when I stopped chewing long enough to really look at her.  The question I’d been striving to answer is:  Why do I listen?  Why do I stop and listen when I’ve got so many problems of my own?  Is it because I think I can actually help?  …or am I just lonely.

Well, it turns out her name is Erica and she’s just fled from an abusive relationship with two young children in tow.  She’s sought asylum in this big city with little money and limited opportunities to get ahead.  Very plainly she was communicating to me that she desperately needed the job, maybe even more than I did, or thought I did.  Suddenly I had a whole new set of problems to consider.  Where would Erica and her children sleep that night?  Where were they sleeping now?  She did mention staying in a shelter for the time being.  What did they have to eat?  They couldn’t have faired much better than what I was having at that moment.  I looked down at my sandwich and then back into Erica’s deep, beautiful, sea-green eyes.

“Are you hungry?”  She shook her head hurriedly and then cast a downward glance so pregnant with intent that made me immediately regret ever opening my mouth.  “No, thank you,” she said.  “I’m sorry, I’m bothering you.”

She stood up and then I stood up, not knowing if I was truly prepared to follow this through, no matter where it took me.  I’m not even sure if I remembered I had to be back at my desk in fifteen minutes.  She made a dismissive gesture with her hand which seemed to mean “don’t get involved”.  But of course it was too late