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What lies below the surface

24 Dec

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour the Eastside Access, which is a huge public works project, building tunnels 120 feet below the surface in order to move people in and out of Manhattan.  It won’t actually be open until 2019.  I was able to visit as part of my work, since one end of the tunnel is behind my organization’s building, thus as part of a courtesy of having to deal with blastings and the whole building shaking on occasion, we get a tour on occasion.

The tour itself wasn’t all that exciting – I mean, you’ve seen one tunnel, you’ve seen them all.  Or something like that…

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BUT – it was pretty amazing to see this huge tunnel UNDERNEATH THE STREETS OF NYC.

LIKE – MIDTOWN NYC.  WHERE THERE ARE HUGE BUILDINGS!!!!!!!

The man kept saying that they tunnel celing was not holding up the buildings, that the street did that.  But….  I’m no engineer, but doesn’t the street hold up the buildings, and the tunnel hold up the street, so therefore…  ergo, the tunnel holds up the buildings?  Am I right, or am I right?!

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Well…  apparently not, according to mr. fancy-pants tour guide.

Oh, and we got to wear safety glasses, safety vests and hard hats.  Always a good time.

But, what I was most struck by is – how much must lie below the surface of this city that I have no idea is there.  No idea what lies below the surface.

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 I’ve been thinking a lot about what lies below our surface.  What is below what we see every day.

I spend a lot of time on the subway – Brooklyn to Long Island City, Brooklyn to Washington Heights, Brooklyn to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn to Lower East Side.  And that’s just for work.  Some people ride the subway in their own world, listening to their devices, plugged in-tuned out.  But me?  Oh, I’m that people-watcher.  Listening to conversations (sometimes known as eaves-dropping).  Spending lots of time listening, watching and seeing what is on the surface.  But do I really know what is going on?

Like all good New Yorkers, I have a therapist.  We spend lots of time figuring out what’s below my surface, things I haven’t wanted to look at.  Ever.  Gah, it’s that ugly, private stuff…. But there we are, exploring that.  Turns out I am full of cracks and far from perfect (I know that, but I don’t want anyone else to know).  There’s that whole – those-who-live-in-glass-houses-should-not-throw-rocks-bullcrap.  Whatever…..

And for most of my life, I have looked at others and judged them at face value.  Mostly this has happened with friends of mine who I think are pretty rad, and I think – wow, their lives must be pretty perfect.  Look at them in their great job, their great relationship, their great family.

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And then….when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

I sat with a friend a few weeks ago who told me tales of her father being an alcoholic.  Functional, but still….  And then another friend told me of her mother just not being part of her life from an early age.  These are friends who I envy their lives – their relationships, their jobs, their happiness.

Turns out, none of us have a perfect life.

Huh.

‘There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in’

-Leonard Cohen

So, I’m learning to go slowly.  To try to figure out what’s below the surface in others, in me, before I judge.

Or maybe….  Just let go of judging all together and just let the cracks be – because they let the light in.

Autumn in NYC

22 Sep

This weekend was one of those ones that make you glad you live in the Northeast…  I love the fall!  Instead of blabbering on about my weekend, I am going to tell the story with a photo-essay

Sunset over NYC skyline

Sunset over NYC skyline

Celebrating a friend's 30th birthday with a full moon birthday ride

Celebrating a friend’s 30th birthday with a full moon birthday ride

salsa and chips on pier 66 with a full moon rising

salsa and chips on pier 66 with a full moon rising

new work at 5ptz

new work at 5ptz

love warrior

love warrior

more love

more love

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pipe dreams

pipe dreams

take a bite out of the apple

take a bite out of the apple

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Sunday morning bike ride up through Brooklyn to Roosevelt Island

Sunday morning bike ride up through Brooklyn to Roosevelt Island

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Not pictured….

  • An amazing photo exhibit on the water front, all in shipping containers featuring photographers from all over.  Some of the images brought tears to my eyes.
  • A block party with the neighbors.
  • Farmer’s market with apples, swiss chard, delicata squash and cider donuts.
  • Some good walks in the sun, through the park, smiling at strangers – all of us rejoicing in the blue skies and beautiful weather.
  • Papusas from the Red Hook El Salvadorian food truck.

It was a good weekend.  

Have I mentioned how much fun this life is?

It’s the little things

11 Sep

Today was the first day of pick-up for my fall farm share.

When I walked up, the students told me about Delicata winter squash and swiss chard and about all the hot peppers that I could taste, right then and there.  If I dared.

Giving me the lowdown

Giving me the lowdown

After I got my bag of goodies, I watched the action.  Families and teachers coming up to get their goods.  Students talking about the produce.

'this here is swiss chard'

‘this here is swiss chard’

The farmer, a dear friend from college, connected with one of my schools.  A win-win situation – she sets up a CSA, students and families get access to great food.  I was just the middle-person.

A lucky middle-person at that

A lucky middle-person at that

As I laughed with teachers, students, my friend – a warm sense of contentment washed over me.  This is what it is all about.  

This life, this journey of ours, is all about those small moments of sharing a laugh, gasping over a hot pepper, making connections with people through a smile, a shared moment.  It is those moments that make it all worth while.

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What have been your little things lately?  Your moments?

One year here

6 Sep

All of a sudden it was July 31st.

Which meant that I had been here for a year.  Which meant that i made it through my first year of my new job.  And my first year in NYC.  And not just made it through, I had a ton of fun!  I never would have guessed that I would like it this much.

Here are some of the things I did this past year:

Long Island City

Long Island City

  • Found routines – like morning walks by the public housing building near my house and seeing all the Vietnamese residents doing exercises in the backyard – just like I saw in the mornings in vietnam
  • Roller derby in coney island
Coney Island Roller Derby.  We rooted for Brooklyn.  Naturally.

Coney Island Roller Derby. We rooted for Brooklyn. Naturally.

  • Learned the subway system (after some disastrous starts)
  • Biked out to Coney Island
Coney Island's kind of scary

Coney Island’s kind of scary

not sure what this ride was... well, I could imagine, but I don't want to ride it

not sure what this ride was… well, I could imagine, but I don’t want to ride it

  • Ate lots of good food — kind of like when I traveled.  Legit South India, Vietnamese, papusas (my new favorite!), tacos
  • Took a spanish class – and then forgetting a whole lot of it – but making some good friends in the class!
  • Put myself out there to make new friends and try new things (checking out live music, going dancing, joining groups) – which sounds like a small thing – but not being a joiner makes it hard!  But – happy to say, I have a group-ish of friends now, people I can call up to go out with, people I can go ride bikes with, people who will go drink mezcal with me (to read more about my new obsession, see below), people will want to go hiking
  • Discovered the craft beer scene in Brooklyn (luckily one of the really good bars is right near my house)
  • Also discovered that I am a big fan of tequila and mezcal drinks (NYC has no shortage of fancy cocktails — like the night I went to a bar focused on experimental cocktails and had some crazy tequila and mezcal drinks — all for the low low price of $16 each!)
  • Survived my second year of being car-free (last year probably doesn’t fully count) – though I do miss escaping out to the mountains.
  • Found places to get fresh veggies and good bagels and awesome coffee – and all those other things that make routine a good thing

And so much more….

 

So much fun to be had!

So much fun to be had!

 

When I was traveling, I was limited by time, but was free without a plan – so I would move on when I felt I was ready, when I wanted a new adventure.  Though there is still a fire inside of me, wanting to see the world, wanting to climb mountains and trek through foreign lands, there is still so much here for me to explore –  I feel like I barely touched the surface.  How fun – to know that I still have so much more to do here?

I am still grounded in knowing I am in the right place, at the right time.

Playground for adults

18 Aug

I’ve decided that NYC is just one big playground for adults.  Sure, there are jobs and Times Square (please make me never go back there) and plays and all the other stuff that tourists visit.  And then there is the fun for the rest of us!  It’s amazing really.

You want proof?  Let me share about my weekend….

Saturday, I went island hopping.

Yes, you read that right.  I went out to Governor’s Island – off the Isle of Manhattan.  You can take a ferry from Brooklyn or Manhattan – either way it is fun, mostly because you are riding on a boat.  And island hopping.

on the ferry to Governor's Island

on the ferry to Governor’s Island

We went out to the Isle of Governors because there was a fête  Yes, a party.  This party was the Fête Paradiso, a traveling festival with old-timey french rides and games.  Sound amazing?  It was.

French games

French games

 

old timey rides

old timey rides

 

But beyond the very cool rides and games were ….. the people!  NY’ers apparently have some time (and money) on their hands.  And when they hear about a party like this…..  they go all out!  And by all out, I mean — they were dressed to impress.  The roaring 20s were alive and well at Governor’s Island.

the fact that they had these clothes....  just waiting for this event

the fact that they had these clothes…. just waiting for this event

 

There was also food and wine (like any good french event) – we had a croque monsieur and some frites.

not sure who photo-bombed who's photo

not sure who photo-bombed who’s photo

Of course, there was time to wander the rest of the Isle – which had art and goats and chicken and a math exhibit.  I could have stayed there for days!

giant's hands

giant’s hands

But then — wait!  The weekend fun didn’t stop…..

Today, I took a 36-ish (depending on how many miles I rode while lost in Manhattan) mile trip up the the George Washington Bridge.  Wait, you don’t believe me?  Here’s proof.

the lighthouse

the lighthouse

 

.... and the bridge

…. and the bridge

How about them apples?!  I rode on the Hudson River greenway — no cars, just bikes, runners, roller-bladders (who does that anymore?!), and a few assorted others (tai chi, sword work, etc.).  It was pretty awesome…..  I know what I am doing next sunday!  I was home in time to hit up the farmer’s market, stuff my face to refuel from my 3-hour ride and chill out with some coffee.

 

I’ve decided that I do adore getting to play in this big ol’ playground!

 

Local wanderings

18 Jul
the name says it all

the name says it all

Last weekend, I spent an afternoon wandering Greenpoint with a friend.  Even though I am coming up on my one-year anniversary in NYC, there is still so much more to explore.  I am finding my way around these days, and can somewhat navigate the subway system, but there is still so much more to explore!

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One of my favorite things to do when traveling is just to wander around and see cities by foot.  I spent so much of my time in India, Vietnam and South America just wandering.  Visiting different neighborhoods, wandering into coffee shops, trying to get a glimpse of what life is like.  In NYC, it is no different.

But, one of the things that I particularly like to do in NYC is to check out all of the street art, as it is amazing, free and abundant!  And Greenpoint did not disappoint.  First off, it is on the water, which was pretty cool to check out.

the view from Greenpoint

the view from Greenpoint

And there were a bunch of abandoned buildings that were great tableaus for local artists.

greenpoint

Here are some more pictures from Greenpoint — come check it out!

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During my visit to San Francisco, I will be on the look-out as well.

Glimpses of humanity

30 Jun

As I pushed through the turnstiles, I saw the last lights of the train disappearing into the tunnel, the letter too distant to read. Was it the express or the local?  How quickly could I get to my next meeting?  It was one of those days when I wished I had an office, having spent the morning going from Chelsea to Midtown and now I was off to Crown Heights in Brooklyn before meeting a friend in Chinatown later.  My to-do list wasn’t shrinking as the day went on and I was just wishing for a few hours of focused work, which wasn’t about to come my way.

making my way through the city

making my way through the city

As I cursed just missing the train, I noticed a couple waiting near the rear of the station, surrounded by their bags.  I noticed the man first as he had his hair and beard dyed red in a typical fashion with some men in India.  While I observed their luggage surrounding them, I barely made note of it and walked further up the station to kill time waiting for the next train.

A few minutes later, that felt like an eternity as I paced back and forth, the local train rushed into the station.  I got into the last car and saw the couple running down towards the train.  The woman blocked the door as the man shouted ‘Brooklyn?  Nwerudadlfhod?’.  He shouted it again, looking around for a response.  One or two people nodded, having heard, and understood, Brooklyn.  But that other word?  Where else was he looking for?

Finally, another man said, ‘Nostrand?’, and the Indian man nodding emphatically   Ah, I sighed with relief, now I know where they are going.  Now I could help.

At each stop, the man looked around him and asked, loudly, ‘Brooklyn?  Nostrand?’, and though still difficult to understand, now I sought out his face, willing him to look my way so I could shake my head, ‘no, no this is not your stop’.  Instead, I made eye contact with the woman and shook my head with a smile.  She smiled back at me, understanding I was there to help.  At each consequent stop, she looked to me, knowing I was there to help.  Meanwhile her husband still searched around him, not connecting with any one person, yet still wanting help.

I wanted to waggle my head at her, in that Indian fashion, to have her know that I was someone she could trust.  I know you, I see you, I am here to help.  Eventually we got to their stop and several people indicated to them that this was where they needed to get off the train.  Off they went.  The woman smiled her thanks to me as the train pulled out of the station.

smiles from students in india

smiles from students in india

 

I sat back, relaxing on the rest of my ride, feeling the tiniest bit of community with those around me.  Though we hadn’t really connected, there was a crackle of connection in the air.  Several of us had helped that Indian couple, giving directions, reassuring them they were going to the right stop.  NYC is known for it’s tough exterior, the walls that get put up.  People live in their own worlds, headphones on, disconnecting to those around them.  But, moments like these, when humanity breaks through, it makes me love this city a little bit more.  Underneath it all, we all really do want to connect.