Arachnid Florida

Florida has bugs. Lots of them.

So, people. Be glad I’m not dead. I headed out the door this morning for a run, and my eye caught some spiderwebs glistening in the sunlight. I made a note to try to take some photos when I got back.

I risked my life taking these pictures. I had to put the camera lens up against the webs. The webs billowed when the wind blew and the silky strands stuck to the camera. I was terrified the web would wrap around me, then the spider would finish cocooning me and finish me off for dinner.

I’m not sure what kind of spider it is. As you can see, it’s pretty ugly, but it didn’t seem to mind posing for the photos. It spun some beautiful webs, too. Maybe if I sit underneath them, the spider will spin lovely adjectives about me.

Heebie-jeebies. I still have them.

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Florida Morning

I don’t remember being this excited about driving through fog. The entire state is pretty much flush with the ocean, and it’s as if the clouds settle down upon the sea and peninsula, and they’re still asleep as some of us rise from our slumbers around 6am. We drive through the mist. Our commute parallels the state of our brains that early in the morning.

It’s a patchy fog, which means we get moments of clarity among stretches of translucence. The car’s headlights call out these early morning spirits, amorphous beings, gossamer souls who only evaporate as the dawn breaks.

Going north from Green Cove Springs on Highway 17, I cross a bridge over Black Creek. The dew point is no match for the water’s temperature, and maybe the span of the creek instantly dissolves the fog that tried resting on the glassy surface. The creek clears out a vista to the east, where the sun slowly unseals itself from some low clouds on the horizon.

I see it now; this morning belongs to me. I emerge from the hour, the fog, the eerie whispers. I settle into the heat, the humidity; and the sun begins its arc through the day. I am not melting. I won’t disappear.

Rest Assured

I’m having a good time in Florida. The weather started off a bit cool, but it’s warmed up rather nicely. It’s been a little jarring coming back to this reality.

I’m having a good time in Florida. I’m staying at Jenny’s for this short season. Her generosity has meant so much to me the 18 years we’ve known each other.

I have a lot to catch up on.

I’m fighting feeling overwhelmed.

And maybe a little angry.

I’m having a good time, though.

Not Final

Dear New York,

I love you.

You hardly noticed me, if at all.

Jersey gave me no warning. My heart fluttered when I saw your skyline nearly seven years ago. The snowy February spectacle proved more a winning distraction than to the tunnel and even the traffic. I don’t remember the other two very well or at all, and I’m pretty certain we passed through the Holland Tunnel, and I definitely know traffic teemed that mid-afternoon.

You welcomed me by leaving me to discover and explore by myself. You somehow sensed my curiosity, and you let me have free reign. How else are you supposed to control 8,000,000 people in such a small area? Everyone fends for themselves. They either find a way to thrive or they wither away. They become stronger and more confident or falter and fade.

It wasn’t a steady climb, dear beautiful City. I stumbled a few times, as you may recall, but you knew it had to be up to me to pick myself up and brush myself off. In some relationships, that might be negligent, but here, with you, it is wise and as loving as you can possibly be. You made like you didn’t care whenever I did something stupid or collapsed into bed after a long night.

Perhaps you didn’t care. It was difficult to tell.

It’s not like I needed the coddling.

You’re gruff. Dirty. Unsympathetic. Ever taller buildings eaving the sky I was so used to being open and wide.

You’re exciting. Your seas of people course vitality through your veins, with all these buildings like buttresses providing support and harnessing energy like a living, hydroelectric dam.

I can see from a mile away how unpredictable you are.

You seemed to mock me those times when I woke up after only three hours of “sleep,” giggly, hive-ridden, pathetic. Were you disappointed? You didn’t show it. You’d probably let me keep behaving like that until I destroyed myself. Population control.

You made me miss my family. You made me long for old friends and familiarity. You invited me to join you, and I hesistated at your frigid darkness and semiannual allergens; your extended winters and sloggy summers; your hipster neighborhoods and shadowed alleys; your people, everywhere, all the time; your strangers with furrowed brows and vapid stares, to and from work, the daily grind; your inclusion singled me out.

That aloneness, City? Best thing you did for me.

I fell in love with writing – look at this blog!

I lived for the weekends – Saturdays – if only to have the entire day to have you all to myself. A different attitude inhabits the city throughout the week. Not that isn’t fascinating, not that I couldn’t find inspiration, not that it’s any less beautiful or taxing or oppressive, because you’re the same thing all the time: ebbing and flowing; bringing in driftwood or a fresh tide; washing away dregs or rose petals.

Still, by some grand, understated miracle, I made some of the best friends of my life here. Though initially our common bonds were what we knew to be constant and secure, we also bonded through your uncertainty and change. My friends and I explored your streets together. We uncovered little treasures everywhere. We celebrated your seasons; we found fun ways to push through the winter: concerts, museums, bad made-for-tv movies at home with popcorn and cookies.

Once we got to spring, summer, and the first of fall, you couldn’t stop us. Nothing could. We walked and walked. We ate to our hearts’ content. We got wet in the river and at the beach. We roadtripped. We talked into the early morning. (But that also happened when it was cold.) We played hard on the weekends. Your street fairs, your protests, your smells, your music. The long hill on the west side of Harlem, leading up to Washington Heights.  The near-quarter-mile it is from 5th to 6th Avenue around Midtown. Your free hugs and headbands at Union Square. I got to know a lot of the little things about you, and maybe that’s why I love you.

You are one of the best friends of my life.

Almost seven years, City. I can’t believe it’s time to go.

I found a way to thrive. It wasn’t survival of the fittest where one king of the hill reigns. A lot of strangers still roam. I won’t get to know their names, but I discovered how to speak to them, regardless. I learned to look them in the eye and in that split second we understood how we are in the same moment, in the same place on this island stacked with concrete and masses of wandering bodies.

Sometimes, City, those connections last. And that’s what kept me going.

I used to thank my seminary students for “precipitating.” It’s going to rain tomorrow, my beloved. That’s got to be a coincidence, right? It can’t bring to full-circle the snowstorm that welcomed me. Your snow couldn’t keep me away, and now that I’ve been here a while and shown you what I’m made of, maybe you’re a little sad to see me go. I’m definitely not leaving as I came.

Thank you.

I hope you’re proud of me. It’s hard to tell.

I’ll come back, and we won’t do this again. I know my way around; I know what you’re about: I expect you to change. I’ll just pick up where I left off, both of us happy as can be. It won’t even feel like I was gone. I won’t forget the way you raised me, dear City. You absorbed me. I am yours.

I love you.

May

The Gun Show

She arrived at my apartment building Monday around 11am, all set to move the last of what I’d be putting in storage. I told her what boxes to move and where to move them. The boxes weren’t very light, and some of the items were awkward to carry, but she shifted them around with ease, like one of those Mensa puzzles, except for the very strong. When she flexes her biceps, I get scared.

I pretty much just sat around and watched.

Her help cut the time to about a third of what it would have taken if I did the job by myself. I wonder if I could contract her to other parts of the country whenever I need help moving.

She came to Becky’s apartment one evening at the beginning of this year. This is my first memory of interacting with her. I didn’t know much about her, except that she was friends with someone whom I was just getting to know, but I instantly liked her, and I knew I’d be seeing her more; making a new friend. She said as she left that night that it was good meeting me, and that I made her laugh.

She was there later that winter, the night of our church singles speed dating activity, when I decided, in a deli/bakery on the Upper East Side, to spill my feelings and experience about my biological father. She offered to hug me, but I declined and told her a hug would only make me cry. I think I was surprised or scared at how much trust I was giving. I definitely was amazed at how attentive and sympathetic those girls were.

It was fun listening to her sing a song she’d written for a friend’s birthday.

It was an honor to take part in a secret birthday scheme for her.

We went to Wicked once. It was the day I lost my job, and a friend won two tickets at the lottery and gave one of them to me. I knew of her personality and passion and pure and refined talent, and I knew I’d get to know more, and it was nice to have someone nearby while Elphaba and Glenda distracted me that night.

We also went running in Central Park. We got tired after a mile or so, then we wandered through the Ramble and some lady who’d already passed us twice gave us a thumbs up as she passed us again, then we sprinted the last 100 yards and a couple of guys complimented us on our strong finish. We high-fived each other’s awesomeness.

She translated a week’s worth of scripture lesson plans for Girls Camp into Spanish for me. It was probably in world-record time.

She’s quick to serve.

She has a strong sense of justice.

She’s always offering hugs, and she’s generous with her time. It has meant a lot to me.

She sometimes makes jokes that takes a while for people to get.

She’s righteous, but she can also drop it like it’s hot.

She’s all over the place. She’s perfect that way.

If she weren’t training for a marathon and didn’t know how to box, maybe I could kick her butt. Maybe.

Also? Jazz. This girl is a wonder on the trumpet. You don’t even know.

Get her started on politics or capitalism or international affairs.

Ask her about the man she loves.

I said goodbye to her this morning. I hugged her with all the gratitude and love in my heart. I took her friendship, her listening, her loyalty and dedication to goodness, her humor, everything that is beautiful and true about her with the hugs she gave me. Hugs I could not decline.

So what if I cry?

Hardly Homeless

What I’ll miss: Living out of a box
It was green. It was cardboard. It sat on a shelf that was somewhere below the shelf with all the Harry Potter books. It held some of my pajamas for initially-spontaneous-then-turned-regular-which-actually-means-almost-nightly sleepovers.

Behind the middle medicine cabinet door in this apartment my tootbrush leaned inside a ceramic cup. I also kept a small tube of toothpaste with it.

Above the towel rack behind the bathroom door my green bath towel hung on a small towel hook. 

A bottle of shampoo rested on a bar in the shower.

A lot of my food was in the fridge.

I didn’t necessarily live there, but the actual tenants made room for me.

Because I wanted to be near them, as much as possible. My dearest friends.

Because we knew I’d be moving.

I miss them.

What I won’t miss: Paying rents when I have no income
It’s hard and expensive enough living in New York City: harsh, merciless, unsympathetic. When I lost my job, it became a little more difficult. I won’t miss how quickly my savings dwindled with every rent check, but I kind of fell in love with the struggle to survive, and even thrive here. I came to the city with no job, and I’ll leave the city the same way. People took care of me nearly seven years ago until I got back on my feet, and people were able to soften my fall over five months ago, even with as tough as I’ve become, up through now, as I depart.

Friends, thank you.

Band Log, 10/13/09

We laid our first track last night.

Beirut’s “Postcards from Italy.”

I brought my clarinet to practice. I hadn’t played in a long time. Our tambourine/vocal was ready. Our ukulele was ready. Our trumpet seemed to be coming down with a cold, but she said she was ready.

We started sometime after 9:30. We listened to the song once to remind us what it sounded like. We talked about parts.

We ran through it a few times, recording each take. We listened and discussed where to make adjustments.

I’d never approached a rehearsal so casually before, nor had I contributed to a song not really knowing my part the way I really didn’t know my part last night.

Final take: The ukulele starts her steady strum pattern. The vocal comes in, then the tambourine and clarinet provide percussion. The trumpet enters, then the clarinet joins as second trumpet. Ukulele solo. Trumpet interlude. Last verse with the three curly-haired band members singing with clarinet accompanying the ukulele first beat downstroke. Trumpet comes back, clarinet joins, ukulele returns to original strum. Trumpet drops out, clarinet fades, ukulele ends on the tonic.

We listened to the recording.

We sang, played, harmonized. We made music.

People, we’re not bad at all. AT. ALL.

We wondered why we hadn’t been practicing these last few months. I mean, dang.

Then we took a bunch of pictures to put on the cover of our, um, single.

Once editing is done, I hope to post the song for everyone to enjoy.

One of the sweetest moments of my life.

I’m really, really, really going to miss those girls. They have no idea.

Behind the Curtain

What I’ll miss: Voting
I know I’ll get to vote elsewhere, but my very first election experience was in New York City, for NYC officials. That won’t happen anywhere else. I mean, I’m blue (but more purple) and got to vote in a blue state; and maybe I’ll get to vote in a red state, and that would be cool, but I’ll miss those ancient machines and the musty smelling curtains, and the “ka-CHUNK!” when I pull the lever, and the awesomely diverse volunteers; and the possibility of getting an “I Voted!” sticker when I’m done, from a gay, non-Caucasian single mother. With no insurance.

What I won’t miss: Not voting
I didn’t like not being able to vote during such an exciting national election this last time. I guess this doesn’t apply only to New York, but it doesn’t mean I’ll miss it. At all. It could be fun to have people assume I’m another political party, though. Yay, democracy!

Reach

What I’ll miss: The skyline
No other city in the world has one as cool.

It just keeps climbing
piercing the sky
hoping heaven bursts
and quenches
upon hot steel beams
and steaming cement

What I won’t miss: Not seeing the stars
I’ve rarely seen a full sky of stars in the past seven years.

Ascending 4000 feet
Then
the mountains
extend my reach
to the dark velvet expanse
and its scattered,
infinite diamonds.