Until we meet again

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I write this post with a heavy heart. My aunt Debby died on Thursday, peacefully, surrounded by family and friends.

I’ve known Debby—I called her Tanta—for about twenty years. She and my uncle Charles married in their 60s. We grew close and used to have lunch together on a somewhat regular basis. Gramercy Tavern, the Yale Club, and Sushi Yasuda were our mainstays.

Debby brought to our world a profound sense of the importance of family. Family came first for her in a way that, devoted as I am to my own, I hadn’t really experienced before. She broadened our definition of the word. To Debby, family included everyone in her close circle, blood relative or not, regardless of whether one’s official title had “step-” or “half,” “in-law” or “twice removed” in it.

When you’d talk to her she’d go through the list—asking how you were, and how your partner was, then your dog, and our mutual friends. Anyone you introduced to Debby became a mutual friend. That’s how she operated.

She asked about everyone not to make small talk, but because she genuinely cared.

She was warm and thoughtful, funny and kind, and one of the most loving people I’ve ever known. So devoted was she to my uncle Charles that she, a lifelong Yankees fan, switched to the Mets; in earlier days they’d go to Port Saint Lucie to watch spring training. She was an interior decorator for many years, worked on some of the high-end lounges that were part of NYC nightlife in the ’80s. She loved good food and nice things, her manicure was flawless until the end. She loved lions. She loved having people to her house for the Jewish holidays. And most of all, she loved the people in her life and always had the capacity to welcome more.

As you may know, I believe in some form of an after life. I understand how one might not, but I’ve had experiences too otherwise inexplicable for me not to believe. And that brings me comfort. That helps me through times like these, and I’ve had a fair amount of them.

I will miss you, Tanta. Until we meet again.

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The lazy Mississippi

IMG_5110If you are lucky enough to know what it means to miss New Orleans, then you likely recognize the area where I took this photo, Jackson Square. Yes it’s the heart of the Quarter and yes the Quarter is riddled with tourists but some of my closest friends who are not tourists live and love in this historic part of town.

If you pay attention to this blahg you may have noticed that, until today, I’ve posted quite minimally since 11-8. It’s been really difficult to do anything since then, and I’m one of the lucky ones. My life will not change dramatically because of what is going on in Mar-A-Lago on the golf course in D.C. But life, and any semblance of security that many of the people living in this country may have, has and will change dramatically, and this is what I now fight for every day.

But I digress. I have not written in FSP much because I’ve not really been inspired to do so, and now, having made my first trip of the year to New Orleans, I am inspired to do a lot.

This was my 13th visit to the city, and it was wonderful. I saw some of my favorite people and made new friends. I played among the Mardi Gras beads and stray cats that line the streets. I know that the city is far, far from perfect. I know its political and social and infrastructural problems are many. And I know that when I visit there, I feel creative and I believe a little bit more in the magic that I so want to believe in.

I love that, on this trip, I met a woman who has a pet pig, and that on hearing this, I asked , “Oh! Do you live on Frenchmen?” and she replied, “No, my pig doesn’t get along with the one who lives on Frenchmen.”

I love that I was invited to conflicting crawfish boils at 4pm Sunday, and that when I didn’t go to either because I wanted to stay in and write, no one questioned me.

I love that people I barely know and have not seen since last July remember that I’m “the one from New York who’s writing a book.”

Speaking of which, I’m almost done with said book.

This time around I didn’t feel sad leaving New Orleans, because I know that I will be back soon. I left there looking forward to my life and loved ones here. And I look forward to getting back to my life and dear friends there when I can.

Thank you all. You know who you are.

 

Keep calm and carry on

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I woke up around 5AM the other morning having just been told by someone in my dream that I needed to write this down and start a blog with it:

If anyone ever says here’s what to do if a bear starts to crawl out of the sand, listen to them.

So there you have it, folks, sound advice from the dream faeries.

Perhaps this was my subconscious reminding me that it’s been a long time since I’ve written in this thing. It has. I’ll probably write something on Friday, the 11th, as I do every year; I need to do something to acknowledge that day, many things, actually, and this is one of them.

My dreams have been very interesting since I started my meditation two months ago (two months! I’ve missed one session, by accident, and have not adhered exactly to the 20-minute mark on some, but for the most part I’ve been surprisingly consistent with it.). Oh … I finished a draft of my novel … absolutely just a draft, and a very rough one at that, but it’s a milestone. And in the days that I was working on the last couple of chapters, which are very strange ones, I had a lot of vivid dreams that related to them. I also experienced this odd coincidence: I was writing a scene that takes place on a block of West 9th Street and had just mentioned the address when my phone buzzed. It was a message from a friend I’ve not spoken with in years, who used to live in the same building where my story takes place, and she said, “Just heard a Leonard Cohen song that reminded me of you.”

Coincidence? Sure. But a cool one.

I was speaking with someone recently who said, “I wish I had a slightly less scientific mind, so I could leave a little room for magic.” Maybe I leave too much room for magic, I certainly could use a more organized, logical mind at times, but I appreciate my ability to embrace the unknown and believe in things beyond what we can actually see and hear and touch.

I’m working on cultivating a stronger sense of calm and clarity in my day to day life and in my relationships, and for the most part it seems to be working. I find that approaching things from a calm place makes the day-to-day crises less intense – makes them glitches, rather than crises. It’s like when you’re looking for your keys or your phone or whatever it is and you become frantic because you can’t find it, it will very likely take longer than if you take a deep breath, give yourself a few seconds to collect yourself and think … try it, it works. Chaos begets chaos; calm begets calm.

This is epitomized in a quote I found some years ago and have always loved, particularly the second sentence:

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.

That’s by the British writer/philosopher James Allen.

I’ll be back, Friday.