It’s only love, and that is all

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Alors. Right this moment I am feeling blissfully back on track following a week of derailment. I don’t often get sick (knock on wood, bad rice, etcetera) and I spent five days in bed with a fever and no appetite. Doctor ordered a CAT scan, all is fine, I’m better, but oy vey that was a rough one. And one that separated the wheat from the chaff, as traumas great and small always do. Thanks, you, for dog walks and beverages and making me eat and hanging out watching Le Mans whilst I wept on my fainting couch and all good things. And I can handle the bad things. I’ve told you this repeatedly and now I’m putting it in writing for my legions of readers (hello, you three) to note. So here it is, my pledge, I will weather the storms with you as you have and will with me and you’re stuck with me as your friend, manager, editrix, and Jewish grandmother. Put some sunscreen under that bike helmet.

Back in the music and art zone, which is where I need to be, always. Galleries Thursday eve, music last night, accompanied friend on photo shoots of the Empire State Building and the nether regions of Staten Island (beautiful [free] ferry rides there and back), and inadvertently bore witness to what could easily have been a reality show about horrid, coked up frat fellows and the wedge-heeled girls who love them on Friday night. From a safe distance. Keep your friends close and your amateur-hour-look-ma-no-hands-coke-binge-Skoal-packing dew schbags far, far away.

Happy Gay Pride to those who celebrate, embrace, and understand. If you don’t, please feel free to never read another word I write.

It’s a new dawn.

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Love somebody real

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I’ve cycled through the emotions this week – most of them – and while it’s been a bumpy ride I have managed to stay intact, productive even. I feel, as I said earlier, understood and appreciated for the things for which I’ve longed to feel understood and appreciated for a very long time. I’ve made some decisions that were out of character and the world hasn’t spun off its axis. I’ve been temporarily displaced from home for quite a banal reason, and in the course of this I’ve found safety and comfort. And trust. Lou and I very much enjoyed our vacation in the west village, our old stomping ground, his very first home in New York.

This has not been the epic week of art and music that last week was, straight through Sunday, but it’s been an important week in many ways. Trusting myself is a very good thing. Being able to pour my surplus of love and nurturing into the right people, as opposed to expending that same energy trying to get the wrong ones to see me as I am, has nourished my mind, heart and soul–three things that remained malnourished for decades. Cutting myself some slack and recognizing my limitations, allowing myself to say no to things that I needed to say no to, this is new territory for me. This is out of my old character and into my new. In time those who need to see this and are able to recognize it will. I am separating the wheat from the chaff.

This is a very self-indulgent piece, which was not what I’d intended. This is also the first time I am writing this on my iPad, and if I let autocorrect take over it would be the work of typewriter-banging monkeys.

The Vanishing Man did me such an enormous favor it’s hard to put into words. He freed me from his clutches and in so doing, he freed me from myself.

Hearts can heal.  This is to you – yes, you – you told me how similar you and the lovely twin are emotionally, how you’ve bonded over this fact and how comforting it was. She has found happiness, and so will you. I promise you. I promise.

Bright are the stars that shine …

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I have fallen head over heels in love with New York over the past week. Smitten. It’s been a week of music, art, friends, family, kismet, productivity, and optimism, and I am hellbent on savoring this feeling for as long as it may last. Because I know there will be dark times again, but this, my friends, is what life is about. This is what matters, and this is very much real. I used to think calm and happy were the exceptions – actually, they were the exceptions for many, many years. But I’ve always, I think, harbored profound optimism that things could and would get better. When my optimism first manifested, it was met with great resistance from people who very much mattered to me, some who still do and some who’ve gone the way of other toxic elements in my life. My tranquil state of mind was seen as contrived, fake, manipulative. And it is anything but.

I have thus far smiled more today than I have in a very long time.

A recap of events in random order: Sir Paul McCartney at the surprisingly beautiful Barclay Center, with, by sheer coincidence, seats in front of one of my dearest friends; Sir Alain Toussaint with unannounced special guest Dr. John at City Winery; a night of readings by three talented, smutty male writers; a long and good conversation with my father; a date with my mum, a pitstop at Moma, a gallery visit, a home cooked meal, new writing/editing projects, random encounters with a neurosurgeon, heart transplant specialist, and decorated war veteran. What matters most in all of this is the part that doesn’t cost a dime, and that’s the connectedness I’m feeling to so many people who understand me and appreciate me despite my many flaws. Forgiveness. It’s a beautiful thing. 

I’m overdoing it on the adjectives. 

The essence of everything I’m feeling right now is very much related to a conversation I just had with the ever-lovely Vanessa: while “they” say that people don’t change, the truth is that we can evolve, transform, metamorphosize into kinder, calmer, safer versions of ourselves. I’m catching a glimpse of this now, and I’m grateful for it. I think for many years I couldn’t get to this point because I didn’t really believe that it would be possible. I believed I was inherently bad and misunderstood, and I numbed myself to as much of the world as I could to keep my thoughts from spiraling downward. But I’ve somehow been lucky enough to surround myself with like-minded, kind people in the past several years, people who have my best interests at heart as well as their own, and who understand the language that I speak. So if you are reading this and feel alone, know that it needn’t be permanent. Forever is a very long time and the world is filled with beautiful souls who will wish the best for you sans ulterior motives. We’ve all felt betrayal; it needn’t darken our outlook on (wo)mankind, because the good are many and the future is bright.

Thank you, my friends. 

 

Across these purple fields

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When I reached the corner of 41st and Madison today, I saw a woman sitting in the street; she’d just been hit by a car, it seemed. She had her back to me and an umbrella over her head – it’s pouring rain in New York – so I couldn’t really see what she looked like. Her legs were crossed strangely and she was just sitting there, while strangers gathered around, talking to her and directing traffic. I was on a phone call and outside my destination, so I couldn’t really avoid the scene; it was incredibly upsetting. The vulnerability on display, the kindness of strangers – sometimes I feel too emotional for this world. Soon a firetruck arrived, followed by an ambulance, and after what seemed an exceedingly long time, they took her away. 

What made this especially strange was that I was already planning to write about what happened to me exactly two years ago today. 

In the winter of 2011 I fractured a tiny bone in my wrist – my scaphoid. I didn’t realize it for six weeks, six weeks during which I banged out a draft of a screenplay and downward dogged on a regular basis – something I doubt I’ll ever be able to do again. I wound up in a cast for a year – a series of casts, actually, as I had three surgeries on my wrist during that time. 

On June 7 I had my first (and, as it turned out, last) day of a class in midtown. I had an afternoon appointment with my wrist surgeon and in between I ate lunch in Bryant Park. It was the first hot day of the season – incredibly hot, and humid. I had enough time to walk to my appointment, so I began to head uptown after lunch. On the corner of 52nd and 5th I started to feel lightheaded. The subway was across the street and I decided to take it, but by divine intervention I didn’t make it. Instead, lights started flashing in my eyes and I realized something was not right at all. The last thing I recall is turning around, seeing a store and heading toward it to sit in the air conditioning. 

I came to surrounded by people I didn’t know; one person was behind me holding my head, someone was offering me water, someone else said, “You’re okay – you fainted but the ambulance is on its way.” I told them I had to get to my appointment and tried to get up, but they wouldn’t let me. I looked over at my purse and saw a puddle of what looked like Kool-Aid; when I asked what it was the person holding my head said, “We spilled something – don’t worry about it.”

This is hard to write.

This is what happened, I found out a few days later: some of the shop’s employees came back from lunch and found me standing in the doorway to the office, which was next door. Apparently I grabbed one of them by the arm and told him I didn’t feel well, and he told me to come in and sit down. He put his key in the door and I fell backwards through it. They stared at me for a second and blood started to pool around me. One of the guys who worked there was certified in CPR; he’s the one who was behind me with the compress on my head. I was out for a little over four minutes and it took the ambulance 15 to arrive. 

I remember the rest. The paramedics strapped me into the thing-they-strap-you-into and lifted me in. I asked them if I was going to die. They asked me all my pertinent info and compared it to my driver’s license. They asked me the date, the name of the President, and his predecessor; I made some sort of political joke because I was desperate to prove to the universe that I was okay and going to make it. 

My parents were flying back from France that night, so wouldn’t find out about this until the morning. My then-boyfriend came down to the hospital, though it was a while before he could see me. 

Once it was established that I was stable, I spent hours on a gurney in the hallway of Bellevue being hip checked by whomever passed by. At one point they wheeled me outside of an x ray room; a patient they were examining inside the room went into cardiac arrest and died. I heard them yell “Code Blue!” and a dozen people rushed past me into the room. I heard him flatline. 

Because it was a head injury, I spent the night in a room that had 24-hour supervision. My roommates were three men: one was a prisoner, handcuffed to his bed, with an attending cop stationed outside; one was a grandfatherly Latino on oxygen who kept asking for cigarettes and giving me sympathetic looks – he was very protective of me; the third was Mr. Singh, a Sikh who was yelling obscenities in Hindi all night long. He and I were separated by a curtain and the nurses kept shouting things like, “Mr. Singh, put your pants back on!” “Mr. Singh – that is NOT a bathroom!” I was on a Valium drip – Gawd I love those – and they kept upping the dose because having Mr. Singh as a roommate is not conducive to rest. 

One of the doctors who saw me was a young, cocky resident who was chomping on gum and trying to get me to confess to a drug habit that I did not have. 

The upshot of all this – a concussion and several staples in my head. The cut itself was fairly shallow. I had serious short term memory loss in the weeks that followed; as it turns out, the part of the brain that I injured is the part associated with communication and language. I forgot words. I forgot close friends’ names. I forgot who visited me and when. I couldn’t walk down the street by myself for many weeks. 

I sent this note around at the end of July:

Individual thank you calls forthcoming, but collective profound appreciation to all of my friends and family who’ve been so lovely and supportive in the aftermath of my accident. Feeling so much better in every way – and you were all absolutely wonderful during my time of many needs. Special thank you to Claudia , Mo and KJ for accompanying me to doctors’ appointments and acting as my short-term memory/balance when I had neither, and to Angel, Alyssa, Di, Erika, Sean, Suzanne, Vanessa, Christina, Linda, Tommy, Rachel, Cheech, Sherrie, Paul, and the folks I’m inevitably forgetting for visiting. Thank you always to Tara and Lisa for listening so well and so patiently.

I have the best friends in the universe. Truly. xoL

Wow. I’m glad I got this out. I really, really hope that the woman I saw today is okay, and that she has the guardian angels on her side that I did that day and still do. 

Remembrance of things past

ImageI remember the Summer of Sam. I was six, Julia turned ten, and though we never talked about such things around the dinner table, we joined the rest of the city and its outskirts in being choked by fear of this unknown menace. “We have to dye our hair blonde,” my sister told me; his targets were brunettes. 

I remember when Elvis died. I’d not heard of him before, to the best of my recollection. We were in Maine and stopped at an inconvenience store so my dad could get sodas. I got a plastic cup with Bullwinkle on it that would fair quite poorly later that day when carsickness kicked in. “Elvis Presley died,” he said when he got back into the driver’s seat.

I remember when John Lennon died. I was in fifth grade. Erika Levine returned the book on Capricorns to me.

I remember when River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, and Amy Winehouse died. 

The day the Challenger blew up was a snowday; I watched live on the tiny black and white Sony in my parents’ bedroom, on my mom’s side. 

It’s too soon to talk about 9-11. 

I’ve been to a fair amount of funerals, and I can recall almost all of the language used to convey to me who the guests of honor were. Jimmy was killed. Laura passed away. Granny was gone. I learned about Tim at a newsstand in Soho. I screamed and threw the Post on the ground; the shopkeeper told my boyfriend that it was fine, he’d pick it up. 

I remember not realizing Jonathan might be dead. I’d lost track of who he worked for. His “Portrait of Grief” is in my box o’grief in the other room, which is filled with news clippings, mass cards, photos, birth announcements, a receipt. 

This is not how I meant for this post to go, but this is how it’s going and so I will let it. 

So much more, so much more. 

I’m feeling strong and calm these days – I really am – but yes, the good ones can see the sadness waiting on the sidelines. I’ve lost a lot of people and I’ve lost a fair amount of myself in the process. But I’ve found so much more than I otherwise would have. This is why I give as much as I can to the people I care about, now. This is what sustains me. 

Tomorrow may rain

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…so I’ll follow the sun.

The summer of 1994 was the first one I spent living full time in Manhattan … and I hated it. I had been unceremoniously dumped by a boy I’d fallen in love with on first sight – on a train from DC to New York. We’d started talking as the train pulled into Penn Station and met later that night at a restaurant in Soho – Boom – I think it might actually still be there. We “dated” long distance for several months and had just come back from a vacation in Sedona, where his mother lived. She owned a bead shop and had befriended a group of Hopi Indians, with whom we spent part of the week. Sedona was beautiful; this relationship was not. And it ended shortly after we returned to the east coast. That summer I had a share in the Hamptons with two of my then equally miserable girlfriends and a group of people with whom we had very little in common. I lived on East 86th Street with a roommate and worked in ad sales for a now defunct women’s magazine. Suffice it to say, I had not yet found myself, and I was miserable. 

Nineteen years later, humidity notwithstanding, I love this town in the summer. Restaurant reservations are easy to come by. Warm weather makes me happy. Ish. Montauk is still pristine in parts and as I make my own hours I can escape the city during the week when the beaches are less crowded. In theory I can – I haven’t been there or to Fire Island in a couple of years, but maybe I’ll change that this year. The beach where I spent much of last summer did not fare well in the hurricane, so I’ll need to find a new one. I love the ocean, though it overwhelms and terrifies me; seeing the movie “Open Water” did nothing to assuage my fears. Neither did attempting to learn to swim in the Pacific last year. 

My nephew and niece have both asked me, separately, “Titi, why do you always look like you’re about to laugh and cry at the same time?” (Titi is short for Tia, which is Spanish for aunt; my Italian-Russian-Chinese-German nephew and niece speak Spanish.) I do often look like I’m about to laugh and cry at the same time, which can cause confusion. I need a more relaxed resting face — I’m expressive, I suppose. There’ve been a couple of instances when women have walked into public restrooms while I’m washing my hands and said things like, “Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you!” Once, while watching a friend play music in a bar, I turned around to see what was going on behind me and a frat boy type kicked my chair and said, “What was that look for?!” to which I protested, “It’s just my face!”

I’d be a terrible poker player. 

Lately people have been lamenting that this year is “flying by”. I don’t like thinking this way, because time moves at the same pace it always has, and the alternative to accepting this is much less appealing. My birthday comes at the very end of the year, and so I’ve had to stop putting so much stock in New Year’s/birthday resolutions. My family has always acknowledged Chinese New Year, which buys me at least another month. 

This time around my year began on April 1, which is when my mom and I took our trip to Budapest and Paris. April 1 was when I began to extricate myself from my most recent and least healthy relationship. I haven’t seen or spoken with that gentleman since then, and this is an absolute blessing (thanks again, sweet friend, for helping me through that; I would have made it through regardless, but you were so incredibly helpful and comforting through it all and for this, and more, I will always, always appreciate you). I am so much better now than I was on March 31. Despite however emotionally chaotic I might look and seem at times, the serenity I now feel is like nothing I’ve experienced before. A few weeks ago I ran into someone I hadn’t seen since my birthday, and he commented later that I seem completely different now, calmer and stronger. And that my eyes sparkle again. And yesterday at the office someone commented on my “positive aura” – not sure what that means exactly, but I like the sound of it. 

I’m figuring out, finally, how to stay in the moment. This has never been easy for me; like so many of us, I get caught up in regretting the past and worrying about the future. But now is all we have, and as Vanessa and I discussed, the better able we are to appreciate the present, the better equipped we’ll be when the present is difficult. Right now things are good. So I’m raising my (not proverbial) glass to NOW. 

Cheers.