Saturday, October 11, 2008

McSorley's and German Film Makers

A friend of mine turned me on to She is a talented artist who decided to go west. Since she is 22 years old and not cynical, she signed up for couch surfing and made her way across country sleeping on stranger's couches with friends scattered in between for good measure. She stayed with us first on her journey and then kept us updated with her blog along the way. It was enough for me to go on the site and check it out.

So I started a profile without any real information and figured Mattie and I would fill it in later. A few days ago we got an email on CS from a 21 year old German boy who is in NYC with a friend shooting a low budget film and looking for a place to stay. Mattie and I arranged to meet them at the oldest and longest operating pub in NYC, McSorley's circa 1852. We were early, so we joined a California couple at a table and marveled at the history on the walls. From original New York Times front pages of the Titanic sinking and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to the wishbones that hang on the light fixture over the bar with 90 years of dust. The bones were from the chicken dinners of soldiers going off to World War One, they would put their bones on this light fixture and then take them off when they returned. The dust covered bones there today serve as a sort of memorial to the men who never returned home. McSorely's is a living time capsule, beneath the trendy exterior of the East Village lies a place the has kept the integrity of the era when the neighborhood was populated roughnecks and over crowded tenements.

We enjoyed the evening with the couple at the table until the two German boys came in excited and exhausted from a week's worth of shooting. They joined us at the table for a few beers and then they went back to work more and we went home to rest. When we got home we had already decided that the boys could stay with us until the end of October. We couldn't help but appreciate these young artists with their contagious enthusiasm. Not to mention most people who know me know that I have a special place in my heart for artists and Germans.

It was a night for appreciating something truly magical about a city where you can meet young people here for the first time in a place almost as old as this country.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Yesterday a good friend of mine told me that the baby inside of her died and today she must go to the hospital and give birth to a dead fetus. She was due in March and we had been exchanging playful emails about pregnancy for months. It was horrible news and I didn't know what to say. Sometimes even a wordsmith is speechless in other people's pain. So I told her I love her, I would be thinking of her and I am here. It was all I had to give.

I wish platitudes about loss were as simple as they sound, "time heals all wounds." I would be the first to use them when my friend tells me she lost the dream inside of her. Or when my young friend tells me how she lost her mom to an accident. Or my older friend called to tell me her daughter was killed by a drunk driver on the 4th of July. Or when my brother left his own child whom I love with every ounce of my being.

I have studied Buddhism over the years because I thought it would help me to distance myself from pain and suffering. However, life made sure that I would have my fair share of both. The times when I have convinced myself that I am above the pain are exactly the times when I would wake up at 3 in the morning in the presence of my own pain with no one to call. I could not escape those intense moments when the absence of that special someone enveloped me in grief.

I don't believe that you rise above loss with time, or that grief won't continue to creep up on you in those quiet vulnerable moments when you miss the one you lost. But I do believe that loss creates a wrinkle in time that disrupts our daily routines and opens the door to connections that were never possible before that moment. I know some people close down in this moment and let their grief swallow them whole and make an impression on everything they do. But when our hearts are shattered we have that much more surface space to deepen old connections and create new ones. It is in the times when our world is shaken to the core that we have the opportunity to open our core to the unknown. Just as grief will not lessen with a cliche, love will wait for us on the other side of the unknown.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hans Solo

When I was 5 years old my grandma asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween and I told her I wanted to be Hans Solo. This was not a shock coming from a tomboy with wild hair and scabs instead of knees. One advantage I had growing up poor was that I had a brother who was 3 years older than me. Since I didn't like to play with girl toys, I got to share toys with my brother: cap guns and cowboy hats for cops and robbers and plastic light sabers for Starwars, which usually ended with my brother kicking my ass.

My brother wanted to be Luke Skywalker, at the time I would have sworn he was much more akin to Darth Vader. My brother was fiercely emotional and equally discontented from the moment he arrived in this world. So Luke Skywalker appealed to his need to be saved from outside in. He longed for a secret code that would transform him from a scared little boy into a Jedi Knight. He wanted to ultimately to overcome his fear and be a hero that people could love instead of fear or ridicule.

By the ripe age of 5, I on the other hand, was okay with myself. I had a difficult home life and a strict church life, but I was easy going and likable. When I could not find love or attention in the traditional places, I found them in the gaggle of friends that followed me around the playground. I thought life was adventure and couldn't wait to go to school. I knew school would be this magical world with new people and friends. I was not disappointed, I learned all sorts of cool things like when the teacher told me to put my head down for talking, I could turn my head to the side and keep talking.

By the time I started school, my brother had already been held back a grade and was having a hard time making and keeping friends. Though he identified with Luke Skywalker, he never seemed to find the outside force that would make him whole on the inside and so his discontentment grew. Being a year older than most of the kids in his class meant he could use his size and strength to bully the other kids. Unfortunately this was not conducive to making friends, he had few tools to find love and friendship.

I never thought much about his perspective, because more often that not I was in the direct line of fire of his anger and emotional turmoil. I steered clear of him and grew leaps and bounds in school. I identified with my hero, Hans Solo because he was everything I knew I would be when I grew up. He had the coolest ship, a best friend by his side and he even got the girl. He always did the the right thing, not because he was a member of a society that bound him to honor, but because it was the right thing to do. In the meantime, he had as many adventures as Luke Skywalker, except he got to have fun, he got to drink with species from all over the planetary system, he got to learn what he was made of and he even got feisty princess who would love him for all time.

It is already October and Mattie and I are making plans to go to the Halloween Parade in the Village with some friends this year. I was thinking about being Hans Solo. Can you picture me, a woman with large breasts who barely broke five feet tall as Hans Solo? Well maybe I can be content in the knowledge that if anyone got to grow up and be Hans Solo, it was me. Except the subway is my ship, my best friend is a lot less hairy and every gay boy in Manhattan has a crush on my girl. It is a life that I am sure Hans Solo would appreciate as much as I appreciated his.