How Bubble Tea Leads to Love

In Argo Tea on the first floor near the back of the Flatiron Building. Its nose points towards Madison Square Park near the intersection of West 23rd Street, 5th Avenue, and Broadway. The first full day of Autumn is clear, warm, and breezy. Sweetened coconut milk bubble tea chills in a domed plastic cup.

Had to troubleshoot a non-working power strip strapped in under the table. Three outlets in a row were cold. I looked underneath the other end of the table. The power button was off. Click. Power button now red. I now have juice flowing into my computer.

Ten years in IT troubleshooting pay off in real life with one, simple question: “Is this thing on?” Kind of like when you learn calculus in high school, but real world problems boil down to, “Does this add up? What can you take away – How much – and still be left with enough to give you what you need?”

Questions like these lead to interesting stories, unexpected results, and memorable experiences. A lot flows from them. Sagas. Adventures. The search for riches, whether material or spiritual. All, like those in the Hellboy series by Mike Mignola, willing to sell their souls to find their purpose in life and to play a powerful, decisive role.

Yet in their desires to destroy others, they can only destroy themselves. Unable to control or contain the raw power. The bigger the seekers become, the harder and wider they self-destruct. Only in romance stories do protagonists become larger than themselves and life all because of love.

Hate falls in upon itself utterly. Not a trace remains visible. Hate may rise again and powerfully so, only to devour itself again in the  process of its Becoming. Not so with Love.

Love inspires. Love grows. When one wants Love returned and it is not, then the Soul withers itself unto its Death. A truly Loving Soul fades away, the daisy blossoms remain white and the grassy fields, untouched.

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An Evening of Eddie Izzard

The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY

The first time I discovered the ultra-talented Eddie Izzard, I saw two sketches on Youtube.com. The first was his Death Star Canteen sketch that ended his Circle tour in 2000; the second was the Cake or Death sketch that was part of the previous Dress to Kill tour. Eddie Izzard is the kind of funny where, once you saw him, you knew your life had been incomplete up until that point. That was true for me.

I learned about pre-sale tickets on Eddie Izzard’s Facebook page a couple of months prior to the show. This tour is Eddie’s second go-round for the Force Majeure tour in the United States. We saw him perform this tour for the first time at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in January 2014.

I happened to be online at the time that the notice went up. I immediately went and bought two tickets. For the first time ever, I had front row center seats to a gig for $85 a seat. You cannot get anything out of the balcony in a New York City theater for $85.00. I saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Belasco Theater in New York City. We had last row seats for $66.00; front row Hedwig seats are $200 each. So to say I was pumped that we were able to afford these seats was an understatement.

Although we were close enough to get a good picture of him up close, I tried. All I got was an image of Eddie in a suit and heeled boots, his face awash in light. You could not make out any of his facial features at all. That was quite a disappointment, although the purplish lighting made for some very interesting color changes in my dress. My toenail polish should be coral and the pinks in my dress are actually yellow.

2015-08-31 21.37.10

Look, I could try and share some of the funnier moments with you. But I highly recommend that you go watch some clips. Some of my favorite punch lines and stories in the show include “Et voilà!”, a man trying to perform a burglary on a horse using dressage, Marc Antony as an urban planner with the imagined voice of a chicken, and Mr. Stevens breaking up a fight between God and Darth Vader in the Death Star Canteen with a wet tray stapled to his hand (homage to the Death Star Canteen clip that I shared above with you).

Eddie Izzard brings diverse elements to his comedy routine: religion, God and Jesus; his atheism; European, American, and English history; his experiences as a transgender person (although he previously used to call himself a transvestite); as well as every day things. He can bring the most absurd elements together and weave them into a story. Izzard makes noises and poses and dances and wriggles on the stage as he weaves his funny tales. He often refers back to earlier jokes whether they were just said or from prior tours.

During his Stripped tour, he talked about animals and religion in different ways throughout the show until they all ended up on Noah’s Ark for the final sketch. Izzard does this with each and every tour. He excels at creating different characters who then have a conversation with each other. No comedian would be good unless they brought a bit of physical humor to their show, and Izzard is no exception. At one point, he mimed moles digging a tunnel and kept it going to see how long people would keep laughing. He stops and mimes writing on his hand when the audience doesn’t laugh or laughs in weird places. All of this just goes into that brain of his. He tweaks his tours as he goes along to gauge audience reactions and build up the best set he can.

Eddie Izzard is one of my favorite comedians of all time. I highly recommend you check him out. Youtube.com is a great place to start.

Winter Birthday Shenanigans

I’m not sure I can call them shenanigans at this stage in my life since it didn’t involve wackiness or enough alcohol to lead to my stripping naked in public. Not that I’ve ever done that, but you know. Shenanigans.

My birthday celebrations on Friday revolved around two of my favorite things: food and museums (but not museum food, which often leaves a lot to be desired).

I went out the day before and picked up bagels from A&S bagels in Franklin Square, NY, along with plain Philadelphia cream cheese, and Nova Scotia lox. My lovely husband went to get fresh Starbucks decaf coffee for me because I don’t have any at home. He also made our bagels sandwiches for me.

Breakfast - NY Style!

Coffee, even decaf, is a treat for me, so I don’t stock it up. Otherwise, I would drink it. All of it. Every last drop. After breakfast, we hopped the train to NYC and took a subway uptown to W. 83rd Street. From the west side of Central Park, we walked through snow covered hills. I was so excited!

Walking through Central Parking

Walking through Central Parking

The beauty of Central Park in winter with all of nature covered in snow is breathtaking.

Central Park, upper west side, covered in snow

Central Park, upper west side

Erroneously, we headed South for a bit and had to backtrack. Without the help of GPS in my phone, that could have been a lot worse than it was. We didn’t really lose much time. Before long, we were at my favorite museum in NYC: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The El Greco exhibit was running through February 1st, and it was a great excuse to go back. What we noted about his works is that El Greco paid a great deal of attention to a figure’s face, hands, and feet, but other details were not so refined. Here is a snap of one of my faves that was on display:

El Greco painting

El Greco painting

We also saw an exhibit called Death Becomes Her about women’s mourning garb through the 18th and 19th centuries. As you descended down these stairs, classical music could be heard piping up through and up from the exhibit in the basement, giving me chills and causing intense emotions to arise and make me feel like crying.

2015-01-30 11.38.24

Around the perimeter of the room, quotes from women about mourning were being projected onto the walls. This one made me laugh out loud. It disrupted the mood a bit, but I could not help myself – especially the end bit – “or what it is”. I also took a few photos of some of the lovelier mourning gowns.

2015-01-30 11.40.52

Exhibit: Death Becomes Her 2015-01-30 11.44.02 2015-01-30 11.40.33

I could take a thousand pictures of all the wonderful items in the museum that left an impression on me, but I will leave you with these three  – a sculpture by Degas that was even more wonderful to see in person and two works by Tiffany.

Rodin's Girl Statue Tiffany Stained Glass Tiffany Stained Glass

The cool thing about the Degas sculpture is that her blue ribbon was made of satin and the skirt was made of a pleated mesh metallic-type material. The touch of fabric on the metal sculpture gave the girl a sense of life about her, as if she was going to hop off the stand and start dancing. The Tiffany stained glass photo on the right was actually a fountain with running water right behind the plants. A beautiful little oasis.

After The Met, we took the subway downtown to the Union Square area for lunch at ABC Cocina, one of a number of restaurants in NYC by Michelin chef Jean-George Vongerichten. I really wanted to go to ABC Kitchen, a sister restaurant of his that runs directly behind ABC Cocina behind a glass wall. But I could not get a reservation until 2:30pm so I decided to book my birthday lunch for Cocina instead.

Check out the site for pictures to the restaurant. I ❤ the decor, that the kitchen was open and part of the floor plan adjacent to the bar, and the hunky bartender! I ordered a spiced cider toddy that was delightful, scrumptious, and strong.

Spiced cider hot toddy

We ordered gooey ham and cheesy bites (yes, that was actually the description on the menu), sweet potato empanadas, a meat board, and crispy fish tacos. My favorite were the tacos and the ham and cheesy bites. I would go back, but next time I’m hoping to make it to ABC Kitchen, which serves non-GMO, antibiotic free foods.

The next museum we visited was The Rubin Museum of Art, a museum dedicated to Himalayan/Asian art. Two exhibits were of interest: an exhibit of Francesco Clemente, an Italian painter and sculptor, of his paintings and sculpture with Indian influences; and an exhibit called The All-Knowing Buddha, which displayed 54 panels that illustrate how to meditate. Also at this museum was a Tibetan Temple room, replete with ornate decorations, incense, and chanting monks.

Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without some celebratory dessert. For me, that means ice cream! We were only a few blocks away from the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (Yes, it’s really called that) in Sheridan Square, so that is where we went.

Mark and I ordered two versions of the same ice cream gobbler: mine was pumpkin and his was apple.

Pumpkin Gobbler

But they were both delicious! By the time we were done, we were full and exhausted, so we headed back home to start rewatching the Babylon 5 sci-fi series that was my favorite series at one time.

I had a great day in a great city with a wonderful man eating fantastic food and seeing inspirational artwork. I grinned like a madwoman all day long.

Not that I’m complaining. 😀

Visit to 9/11 Memorial in NYC

Ever since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001, I have been unable and unwilling to visit the site. I knew that visiting would be highly emotional, and I both wanted and didn’t want to be with other people when the tears came.

When a couple of friends from Providence, Rhode Island visited and planned to go to 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, I knew it was time to go. I took the train to Brooklyn and then the 4 train to Wall Street. After a short walk, I met up with my friends by one of the fountains at the park that sits atop the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. (I’ll get to why the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is underground in a bit).

Trees fill the park amid two deep fountains and the entrance to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in front of the new 1 World Trade Center tower. The fountains did not burst up into the sky, but fell down into the ground like waterfalls against smooth marble walls. In the center of one fountain contained a smaller square opening where water continued to fall. Amid all the newly planted trees that stands one tree that was the only remaining tree on the property to survive the attacks. A guide told us that the tree had been removed from the side, nurtured, and then replanted.

1 World Trade Center 9:11 Memorial Fountain 1 9:11 Memorial Last Survivor Tree 2

The building to buy the tickets and enter the museum seems small. However, that’s not the museum; not really. One of the guides told us that the support wall was preserved as a national historic monument. When that happens, the laws say that the public is required to have access to view it. As a result, they decided to build the entire 9/11 Memorial and Museum around this wall and the public right to view it.

After entering, we took one set of stairs into what you first think is the basement. On the right side of the stairs, two huge steel beams sit powerfully aside a large picture of the World Trade Center North and South towers.

9:11 Memorial WTC Beams & Photo 9:11 Memorial WTC Beam

I felt a sense of both awe and sadness that stayed with me. We walked down a hallway that played recordings of people talking about the events that day while faces caught in gaping amazement at the Towers as they burned were projected onto marble masts that dotted the hallway. The combination of the audio and visual memories brought up such emotion. I cried, asked for a hug from my friend, and held on.

We descended another set of stairs that brought us deeper into the museum. On our way down, we paused on a landing where we were able to get a bird’s eye view of the last remaining support wall, steel beams from the North Tower where the plane hit on Floors 96-99, and the last support beam from the former site.

9:11 Memorial WTC Last Wall Standing 9:11 Memorial North Tower Steel top side Flr 96-99 9:11 Memorial North Tower Steel sign 9:11 Memorial Last Support Beam

Along the second half of the staircase was a cast of part of the Survivor’s Staircase, one pair of the ground-level escalators in one of the buildings.

9:11 Memorial Vesey Street Survivors Stairs2 9:11 Memorial Vesey Street Survivors Stairs

One wall opposite the staircase included a quote from Virgil amid bright blue tiles that felt like the one message of hope in the whole place. You could also see the bottom of the fountains above you, which were the footprints of the two towers where they used to stand.

9:11 Memorial Virgil Wall Quote

Around the fountains’ base were some memorabilia (I’m not sure if there a better word exists), such as the Ladder 3 truck and a section of the antenna from the North tower.

9:11 Memorial Fire Engine Ladder Truck Side 9:11 Memorial Fire Engine Ladder Truck Back 9:11 Memorial Fire Engine Ladder Truck Sign2

9:11 Memorial 1:20 of North Tower Antenna 9:11 Memorial Inside 1:20 of North Tower Antenna

Beneath one of the fountains was a moving museum. This simply means that you are to walk through the museum and exit the other side. We were not allowed to take photographs. The museum starts with a timeline of events beginning with the first plane hitting the tower in NYC and including the events at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. The timeline included writings, physical pieces of evidence of that day, and audio and visual recordings.

Shortly after walking into the museum, you hear the voice of an employee in the South Tower leaving a message for someone that a plane had hit the first tower and they were safe because they were in the South tower. The recording looped, playing in endless repetition. I cried thinking of this person and all the people who were affected that day.

One screen showed loops of video of first responders and people running around outside amid streams of falling paper. A team of ten firemen congregating in one of the Tower lobbies picked up huge amounts of fire hosing and proceeded to continue into the building. I felt like I was watching a horror movie where you know the bad guys are on the side of the door, and your mind cries out, “No! Don’t go in there! Go back!” Immediately, I knew that there was nothing to be done as the time had passed and these first responders gave their lives to try and save others. I felt sick to my stomach.

On another screen, a man talked about how his employees wanted to go back to work the next day, about how they wanted to rebuild the company, about how that made him feel, and how he had 700 families to support. He kept repeating, “I have 700 families. I have 700 families,” while he wiped away the tears that were pouring down his face. Just writing it here makes me cry. A quote on a wall said something to the effect of:

I didn’t want that day to end, as terrible as it was, because it was the last day that I got to share with Sean.

Another video showed a view of the South tower with a young man sitting in the lower left corner of the screen. Suddenly, the plane appears and slices through the middle of the South tower as the young man visibly reacts from the sound of it. I burst into tears.

While we were still walking through the museum, I reached my limit. I could look but not mentally, emotionally, or psychologically absorb all the detail that lay in front of me. After we exited the moving museum, we were let out in the area where the last support beam and the last support wall were. The support beam included memorabilia and testimonials to those who had died that day.

9:11 Memorial Last Support Beam Memorials 9:11 Memorial Last Support Beam Memorials2

I sat down on one of the many benches by myself and cried again. When we were done, we took the exit escalators up to the surface while taps played around us. I write this post as I sit in a doctor’s office waiting for my mother, and I want to cry again.

When I think, I mean really think and contemplate what happened on September 11, 2001, the tears cannot help but come. I cannot comprehend how anyone anywhere can conceive of such an evil plan, let alone carry it out. My heart goes out to all those lost that day and their families and friends.

I will never forget.

Remembering 9-11

On September 11, 2001, I went to work at a company that made stationary. In a semi-private room with stools at long wooden tables, the workers would fold paper according to a certain pattern. I was a relatively new addition to the team of women who performed these tasks.

Sometime after 9am that morning, someone said that a plane crashed in New York. Someone turned on a radio, and we sat at the long tables folding stationary and listening to the events in New York City unfold.

I was shocked. What the hell was going on? How could a plane crash into a building in New York City? New York City!

I strained to hear the details of what was going on while folding paper. I was the only New Yorker in the room. People around me listened in the way that people removed from a tragedy listen. I felt like my home was being torn apart, and it made me antsy. I felt more affected by the events than the people around me seemed to be. I felt a sense of terror, isolation, and aloneness.

When a second plane crashed, I started to panic, thinking of my sister S who lived and still lives in New York City. Then later, another crash at the Pentagon. I felt frantic, torn between an urge to do my work at a new job and a desire to flee the place immediately and run home to New York to be with my family.

With all the calls going into New York, the phone lines were jammed. After several tries, I was able to reach my sister who was working mid-town. She could see the smoke rising up from downtown, but she was far enough away not to be in imminent danger. If I didn’t go home, at least I could be a bit reassured that my family was safe.

The more I learned, the more shaken I became. The idea that thousands of people were murdered within a few hours on American soil by terrorists made me physically ill. People running down the stairwells. People doused by airline fuel and killed by falling debris. Firefighters and rescue workers flooding the area to do damage control and to save lives, some of whom died. People walking to get away from the disaster, deserting the downtown area.

September 11 is also my husband’s birthday. That night, we went to our go-to Chinese restaurant for dinner. The news was on the television. Staff and customers had their eyes focused on the TV. I couldn’t take it anymore. We had to get our food and leave. I cried before we even left the place. I couldn’t watch it.

Lives lost due to hatred. People just going to work, their futures cut short. Families devastated. I could barely handle it and I was over 200 miles away, my family was safe, and no one I knew was injured or killed. I couldn’t imagine what anyone in the area went through that day without feeling ill.

For many years afterwards, I refused to go to the World Trade Center area. The change in the skyline was a reminder that things changed. If you lived in NY, the World Trade Center Towers were one of the defining features. You knew where you were looking and what building it was.

On a high school trip into the World Trade Center, I remember taking the escalators up to the elevators. Our destination was the observation deck on the 102nd floor. You could walk right up to the thick glass windows that stretched from the ceiling down to the floor and beyond. Even though I was afraid of heights, I walked up to the glass and looked straight down. I remember standing there, the view, and the vertigo that kicked in. I walked back towards the center of the room and stayed far away from the glass, but I could still see the expanse of the New York City metro area, including Long Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

The NaNoWriMo writers critique group that I attend in NYC meets at the Whole Foods on Greenwich Street from which you can see the new World Trade Center. I still haven’t gone to visit, and I don’t think I will. The area has changed. We have changed. I am changed. I have no reason to go to the spot because I remember.

I remember what it looked like, how the site of the World Trade Towers made me feel. I was proud to be part of a beautiful city with impressive architecture and some of the tallest buildings in the world. I remember the view and the thick glass walls. I remember the helplessness, fear, shock, horror, disgust, anger, devastation, and the deep sadness.

I remember a floundering president who became galvanized, instituting world-changing policies and starting war in response to the tragedy. I remember a nation supporting one of its member states and its citizens rising to the occasion by giving support and offering to make personal sacrifices of their own rights in order to join the fight against terrorism. I remember New Yorkers focusing on the future, on rebuilding, on continuing with their lives as a big fuck you to terrorists. You won’t stop us. We will survive.

I remember that thousands of innocent lives were lost because of hatred. I remember heroes sacrificing themselves to save others. I remember the lives of the lost, and I remember the people who loved them. I remember love.

NYC Adventuring: Governor’s Island

One of my NaNoWriMo writers critique group buddies invited people to meet up on Governor’s Island, which off the southern tip of NYC and to the west of Brooklyn. Since I had never taken the train to Brooklyn, or the bus in Brooklyn, or a ferry from Brooklyn, nor been to Governor’s Island, I decided to make the trip. The near-90 degree weather made it impossible to refuse!

The LIRR from my town to Brooklyn was a decent ride. When I got to Atlantic Terminal, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Atlantic Terminal has a mere two tracks and is underneath a large mall. From the platform, you go up one story to street level. The terminal points to the intersection of 4th Ave., Atlantic Ave., and Flatbush Ave.

The B63 bus stop was on 4th Ave. and Atlantic Ave. Nearby are two Islamic libraries and at least one halal market. As the bus rode up, I realized that I had lost my pre-loaded Metro Card and returned to the terminal to get another. I wrote it off as another person’s lucky day. After returning to the bus stop, I didn’t have to wait long until another bus arrived.

The ride down Atlantic Ave. was lovely. Tree lined streets. People and families from all walks of life. People friendly and chatting. The bus rode the crest of Boerum Hill. The view of the harbor became visible as we came to the bottom of the hill.

The bus left us about a block away from the ticket booth and the ferry. Boarding was relatively fast, but the trip was even faster. It could not have taken more than 5 minutes to pull into the dock on Governor’s Island. The views of the southern tip of NYC were fantastic.

View of NYC from the ferry to Governor's Island

View of NYC from the ferry to Governor’s Island

View of NYC bridges from the ferry to Governor's Island

View of NYC bridges from the ferry to Governor’s Island

Shortly after we docked, the Queen Mary 2, which was anchored across from Yankee Pier on the island, tooted her exceptionally loud horn.

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2

I met up with my friend, and we spent the afternoon writing on picnic tables and dodging sunlight.

You can either take your bike on the ferry or rent one from Blazing Saddles. Many Hasidic families came to the island, as well as families in general. I learned there were at least three food courts served by a number of food trucks. You can also rent multi-person pedaling carts with yellow canopies and child seats on the front. The gentle tinkling of bicycle bells and laughter joined us as we wrote the entire afternoon.

The weather was amazing! Close to 90 degrees, low humidity, and a lovely breeze made for one of the best days of the summer. By the time 4:30pm rolled around, I was ready to head home. I got on the 5pm ferry and made it in plenty of time to take the 6pm train from Brooklyn back home.

Taking a shower after a long, hot day and falling into bed were the last two things I did last night. I thought, “This is how it must feel after kids spend the whole day playing outside during the summer.” It can never be like it was back then, but yesterday came pretty close.

Overcoming Fears

My father used to say, “Don’t tell people to go to Hell. Tell them to go to Brooklyn.” He and my mother frequently told me how dangerous things were in New York. If you weren’t careful, people, places, and things all held the potential to rain terrible consequences on you. Any risk was too much. Avoidance and staying at home were preferable.

As you might imagine, I was miserable. Any time I thought of doing something on my own, all I could think about was getting hurt. The world was big and scary. With my return to New York this past fall, I have begun to shake off the fears of exploring in and around New York City.

Since I have been home, I have gone into Manhattan and taken the subway enough times to feel comfortable. With and without my husband, I have learned about areas and neighborhoods that I never explored in the past. My bus trip to the New York State World’s Fair Pavilion in April let me see new neighborhoods, meet new people, revisit a park that I had forgotten existed, learned geography in relationship to my home, and helped me start getting over my fear of New York City boroughs.

Today I drove via the Cross Bronx Expressway (CBE) to meet friends at the Crosstown Diner on Bruckner Boulevard for a quick brunch (yum!). Then I drove up the CBE to the Sprain Brook Expressway (SBE) to a Citizens Bank in Yonkers to close out a security deposit account for a former tenant. As I drove on the CBE, I saw parks with children playing and signs for the Bronx Zoo, a place I have never gone.

On my home way, I got on the SBE and saw two deer grazing by the onramp. The drive to the gym, which is generally in the direction of my home, was fast and easy. The best part of today’s drive was the bright, sunny weather, the warm winds, and the greenery.

Driving through new locations, seeing new topography and wildlife, and expanding my territory all drive me to explore new places. I feel invigorated and satisfied, even though I spent a large part of my day driving. Generally, I feel more confident exploring new places in the daytime by car because it seems safer for me than going by myself or exploring at night.

In the end, whether it’s by car or not, my exploring helps build my confidence to make decisions that involve an element of risk. Doing so on any day is a plus.