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.

Greenwich Village Wandering: Three Lives Bookstore

Photograph by poet Bob Holman

Mark and I used to frequently go into area bookstores when we lived in Cambridge, MA. Our two favorites were the Harvard Book Store, also in Cambridge, and Trident Booksellers and Cafe across the river on Newbury Street in Boston, MA. To give you an idea, the cities of Cambridge and Boston combined comprises almost the same square mileage as the borough of Brooklyn. We could walk and/or easily take public transportation between these and other cities.

Since we moved to my Long Island, NY hometown in September 2013, we have not been able to wander into any local bookstores to browse and buy books because there are none. Western Nassau County is only good for raising a family and sending them to school. Funk and art and cool are nowhere nearby. You have to travel by car, bus, or rail to find the cool spots.

After my writing critique group yesterday, I met up with my husband Mark near Christopher Square on our way to find a place to eat. From Christopher Street, we walked along Waverly Place. We happened upon Three Lives & Co. Books on the intersecting corner with West 10th Street.  The wide open doors beckoned, and so in we went.

The ten light, French doors to the quaint bookstore cut across the corner at an angle. The red of the doors is a stark contrast to the matte black exterior and the gold lettering of the name across the top on both sides. In the display windows and the walls inside were floor to ceiling books. We wandered around separately, meeting up occasionally to share the excitement of books that we came across.

Having made our purchase, we stepped outside and continued on our way. A joyful peace pervaded my spirit. Buying a book on Amazon will never be able to create this experience: the joy of touching and reading book covers, the excitement of exploring and of being exposed to new ideas, and the fervent looking forward of adding the next well-loved book to one’s collection.

Week 8 Artist Date: Solo Trip to NYC World’s Fair Site

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, NY, the New York State Pavilion got a fresh coat of paint and was being reopened for 3 hours only. I decided to make my artist date a solo trip via bus and to go look at the location.

The World’s Fair site is in the Fresh Meadows Corona Park. The bus ride to get there from my home included taking the N24 to Springfield Boulevard and then transferring to the Q88. I disembarked at the Horace Harding Expressway and 108th Street stop and walked the short distance to the park.

When I arrived around noon, I got at the end of the line:

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If you laid down a Z, I was on the line at the top beginning start of the Z. In the distance, you can see what looks like the end. There was a lot more zag to come, but this was all I could see from the end of the line in the parking lot next to 56th Ave.

As I stood in line, I saw Terrace on the Park was overlooking the park. I hadn’t thought about that place since the last time I was there: in 1989 for my senior high school prom. I remember looking out over the park during twilight that evening and seeing the park, but I do not remember seeing the World’s Fair grounds, which I most certainly would have if I looked out. I remember it being a cloudy evening, but you wouldn’t have been able to miss the buildings. In the foreground is a small animal farm at the park with some llamas.

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At first, I was all about taking pictures of the line as I progressed. At this point, I think I’m half way through the Z. The line snakes to the right because of a small circle with a fountain in the middle.

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On the other side of that picture was more line that was as long as what I had already waited on.

At this point, I am wondering whether I should just get off the line, walk around, get ice cream, and take pictures. I decide to stay in line. Even if it took a couple of hours, I would still get a chance to go inside.

Even after I went the length of that line as I well, it only to got me to a bridge that I still had to cross while waiting in line:

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Just on the other side of the bridge was a grove of pink and white blossomed cherry trees under which five sets of bridal parties were getting their wedding pictures taken:

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From that same point, I took a picture of the pavilion. I didn’t find out until later that the line went on the opposite side of what I was seeing:

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When I finally got to stand in line next to the pavilion, I still couldn’t see the end of the line:

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I heard at least one person talk about the history of these towers. At the very top were two observation decks. Just below was an eatery. The lowest tower had an office for Governor Rockefeller:

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Although the pavilion and towers were rusting and in obvious decay, they still take impressive photos:

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At the end of the line, two men in hardhats were talking to people in the groups they came in.

“How many?” asked one of the men.

“One”, I said.

He pulled a ticket off a roll and handed it to me. “Hold onto this number. When your number is called, go to the entrance and get your hat.”

I stared open mouthed at the ticket I held in my hand.

“And how long do you think that will be?” I asked, too shocked to get angry with him.

“About two hours,” he said.

I walked away in shock. I had waited in line two hours only to be told that I had to wait for my number to be called.

I waited in line for two hours only to get this lousy souvenir:

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I had not had lunch yet and still had a number of things to do that day. I abandoned any further plans. Ice cream cones had been calling me from ice cream trucks.

On my way to the ice cream truck, I saw this amazing view:

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On the plus side, I made both bus connections within a minute or two of getting to the bus stops. I busted through some old fears about traveling around Queens by myself. I saw the 1964 World’s Fair remaining structures up close. All in all, I had a great artist date for week 8.



Lessons in Becoming Unstuck

For my artist date this week, I went out on my own today, taking the bus to a place I have never been, to a place where I have never gone alone, and met new people. I am saving that post for tomorrow.

Whenever I am stuck, it boils down to one obstacle: a deep-seated fear. My adult life has been devoted to uprooting my fears so that I can move on. Luckily for me, a 2+ year stint with a therapist trained in ACT therapy, IFS, and EMDR helped me thaw a number of fears so that my real feelings could find natural expression.

In my family system, I was taught to fear a great many things: people, places, and experiences; things I could control and things I couldn’t; things inside myself and, especially, those from without.

My father used to say, “Don’t tell people to go to Hell. Tell them to go to Brooklyn.” Ask anyone in my family about the borough of Queens and the answer would boil down to, “Don’t go there. It’s dangerous.” Not – “Well, if you go here, you should be fine. Keep an eye out for this. Avoid this.”

The message I heard over and over again were, in essence: Trust no one. Go nowhere. Do nothing. I have lived my life in a terrified state. How could I not? A lot of health issues and my birth order contributed even more reasons for my family to be afraid for me.

But I have done a lot of fighting against it. The thing is, fear isn’t something you can fight against. Fighting feelings never works. Not for me, anyway.

This morning, I avoided my morning plans (shower, eat, write, and go) by helping my mother. When that was done, I missed the first bus I could take. And then I did it: I took my first step towards getting me unstuck.

Unstuck Step #1: I acknowledged that my plans scared me. I acknowledged that, by getting on the bus to start my adventure, I would be going outside my comfort zone and that it would be a bit scary for me.

Unstuck Step #2: I took one small step to remove an obstacle that stood in my way – I made a phone call to find out when my mother’s car would be ready. I have to run some health-related errands for her. One of my excuses not to execute my plan was that her car might be ready soon. So I called the shop and found out they would do more testing in the afternoon. Hurdle eliminated!

Unstuck Step #3: I got on the bus. Once my adventure started, I decided to read to pass the time. After a few pages, I put the book away and decided to watch the neighborhoods unwind by me.

Trees were out in full bloom today – white and pink cherry blossoms, flowering pear blossoms, and green shoots opening up on the ends of tree branches. In a tree grove I passed full of these blossoms, five wedding parties were getting their pictures taken. The day was mostly cloudy, but with enough sun coming through that I got my first bad sunburn on a cloudy day. Ever.

I enjoyed my day, with its treasures and warts, and learned (again) some important lessons:

Unstuck Lesson #1: Acknowledge all your fears.

Unstuck Lesson #2: Take a small step to move your plan forward.

Unstuck Lesson #3: NYC is awesomely huge. With this lesson come mini-lessons:

  • Try to learn about neighborhoods before you go so you can explore.
  • Use a backpack, not a purse.
  • Plan to stay the day.
  • Bring snacks & a bit of water.
  • Pack your go bag the night before.

With enough experiences like I had today, I am hoping that my unstuck lessons will become as deeply learned as the way I learned to be afraid. If that happens, I will have to find other interesting writing topics.


Creativity Conference Recap

On Friday night and all day Saturday, I attended the first New York City Publishing & Creativity Conference for Writers hosted by Tarcher LIVE, Tarcher Penguin, and True Directions.

Scheduled events included:

  • Panel: An Inside Look at Publishing, which included an agent, editor, publisher, publicity/marketing director, and author;
  • Talk by Tama Kieves on being and staying inspired;
  • Talk by Laurie Lamson. Top Tips from the Now Write! Experts;
  • Talk by Keith Ogorek: Four Words to Put Your Creativity to Work;
  • Panel: Building Your Platform/The Path to Publishing
  • Talk by Barbara Diane Barry: Painting Your Way Out of a Corner; and
  • Talk by Julia Cameron: Cultivating Your Creativity the Artist’s Way.

Both panels also included Mari Manusi, author of The Blood Coven series. She talked so fast, trying to give us as much information as possible. I appreciated her input on the panels. Not only did she give a lot of vital information, but she did it with enthusiasm.

We got plenty of breaks so we could buy books and get them signed. The swag bag included three books. I bought two books by Tama Kieves, The Artist’s Way Creativity Cards, and the Painting book by Barry.

During lunch break, I invited a fellow participant to lunch. She was meeting a friend but invited me along anyway. On our way outside, another participant met us on the way so we became a lunchtime foursome, which was great.

Interesting side note: One of the speakers said to me at my book signing: “I love your energy. I saw you sitting there at the back of the room.” This is not the first time strangers have said that to me when they meet me. I think part of it is that I smile and make eye contact. My unusual eyeglasses and jewelry, as well as my style, tend to set me apart and/or catch other people’s eye in a good way. I was thrilled to have my energy level validated like that.

By the time I took the subway to Penn Station, I was exhausted. I am not used to going all day, going through a lot of ups and downs, meeting new people, and putting myself out there in a professional way. Allergies were also a killer.

Today will be a take it easier day, although the beautiful, sunny, warm spring weather is calling me to get out of the house.

Wendyyyyyyyyy….. go to the beeeeeeeeach……


Traveling Misadventures in NYC

Yesterday was one of those days that, if I had known what lay ahead, I would have thrown the covers over my head and not come out.

Well, except to pee. And eat. And write. Okay, okay! I lie. I would have gotten up, but I would not have gone into the city for my writing group critique.

Okay, okay! I would have gone into NYC for my writer’s critique group, but I have would have taken my mother’s car and paid for parking.

Yes, $100 worth of parking would have been worth sparing me an estimated 2.5 hours or more of traveling on buses and subway  cars.

The Hempstead line to Brooklyn was busing passengers between each town on the line and Jamaica, where connecting trains to NYC could be caught. Because I did not want to be late to my 3pm writer’s critique group, I decided that it would be ludicrous to wait 40 minutes for the next express bus.

I dragged my husband (poor hubby) onto two local buses for a 45 minute ride through Queens into Jamaica Center. Once there, we hopped on a train into Penn Station and then got on an A train down to Chambers Street. After 1.75 hours of travel, I made it to my group 30 minutes late.

I seriously must be getting my period soon because I got into two fights with car drivers who blamed me for doing things that were their fault (blowing a red light, signaling but not turning while I am trying to cross a street).

While at the critique group, I was the only person who neither found the character engaging or the story construction interesting. I tried to tone it down by telling the writer to dump a great big pile of proverbial salt on my head since I was disagreeing with everyone else. I am not sure it worked, but she didn’t seem fazed.

After the group ended early, Mark and I walked up Greenwich Street to 8th Ave and West 4th Street to eat at The Place. We’ve eaten there before, but I could not remember what I had. However, I remembered the decor, the service, and the quality of the food and drinks. This time, we skipped appetizers so we could feast and share desserts. A wise choice, indeed.

We walked to the nearest stop on W. 14th Street and got on an E train.

In the wrong direction.

We got off at the World Trade Center and opted to get on an A train to Canal Street in order to get a connecting F train through Brooklyn to Jamaica Station. That was 1.5 hour ride only to find out the next bus to Floral Park was not for another 45 minutes.

We opted to get into a cab and was driven by the newest cabbie who was also quite possibly a brand new driver. He drove very slowly compared to most NYC cab drivers, and he had some trouble following our directions because of a slight language barrier and possible new driver fear. On the plus side, he got us home safe and sound about 30 minutes later.

Mark and I promptly got ready and went to sleep. At 9:30pm. We were so beat!

Total trip time: 1.75 hrs+1.5+.5=3.75 hours traveling to and from NYC from Floral Park, which is 22 miles away. 22. Miles. Away. One. Way.

Yesterday made me realize how easy getting around I had it when I lived in Cambridge, MA. For those who know the Boston area, I traveled the equivalent distance of going from Boston to Framingham, MA. Or Boston to Danvers. Or to Rockland. There and back on buses and subway cars.

On the plus side, I got to see neighborhoods that I have never seen before. I got to eat great food. I walked around the city on a bright, sunny day with my husband. Most of all, I was bedazzled by the variety of neighborhoods, sizes and types of buildings, and the sheer size of New York City. Truly jaw dropping.

Artist Date Week 2

As I have previously mentioned, I am following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron because I am interested in addressing my creative blocks. One of our weekly tasks is to go on an artist’s date with ourselves. The date doesn’t have to be elaborate or require spending money. It means scheduling some time for yourself to do something fun.

Earlier this week, I bought a ticket to NYC Open Mic Joint, which happens every Friday night at Funkadelic Studios on W. 40th Street on the 5th floor. I took the train into Penn Station and went to Starbucks for a tea and a small snack. I ended up making small talk with a gentleman in line next to me. We sat at the same large table, and he struck up a conversation with me.

David and I share some life similarities, including at least one immigrant parent, we were both born last, we have much older siblings from whom we have felt distant, and being introverted people. After saying good-bye to David, I walked from W. 34th street to W.40th street.

I was unaware when I bought a ticket that Funkadelic Studios is a place where musicians can record studio time to practice. This open mic gives people the opportunity to practice routines in front of an audience. The tiny room packed a small stage, a drum set, a wall-mounted sound board, and seating for approximately 30 people. I heard music, comedians, and one woman who did spoken word, which is what I initially wanted for my date this week.

Most attendees were either teens or in their early 20s. One large group came together and cheered each other on. The host for the evening was a cool cat with black fedora, black suit and shirt, and long braids down his back with a sense of humor. He would join in at the end of a routine if the person was running over in their time slot in a way that worked well with the song/gig.

After 90 minutes sitting in an uncomfortable chair, I decided to leave and join my husband who was in the  West Village. Although I signed up for something not quite what I wanted, I had a good time. The energy of the crowd lifted my spirits and made me feel like I was out being a social person. It has been a long time since I felt that way.