Sunday, January 24, 2016

Modern Day Explorer

   This morning I navigated across the Hudson on the Staten Island Ferry. I current the waters on that ship like a modern-day explorer. Except, instead of searching for a piece of mother nature to claim, I search for traces of connectivity within the human race- perhaps a strand of hope in the chaotic and yet fated, interactions of strangers.
   Inside the herd of bobbing heads crawling through the ferry gates, I spotted a bench against the cafeteria wall- sandwiched between two groups of business people. Within seconds of situating myself, two African Americans sat beside me. One was a man in his 50s, but seemingly in his early 30s, who carried a loud fuzzy speaker with pop dance music streaming through. His pregnant female crony looked about half his age, and sat bundled in her plush winter coat. Upon sitting down, the duo noticed a man Asian business suit stood up to leave the section.

   “That guy is racist.” The African American man mumbled.

    I looked him dead in the eye inquiring, “Are you sure? Maybe he just doesn’t like the music.”

   “I don’t know, it’s not like I was playing rap. Everyone likes this music,” he retorted.

   “You never know,” my words playfully dancing around his… “some people are plain weird and just don’t care for  music. I personally don’t understand those people, being a musician obsessed with sound, but unfortunately such people exist” and smugly I concluded, “I doubt that guy’s racist.”

   “Well, Okay, maybe he isn’t. But hear me out, here! I was in Western Beef and a woman behind the counter looks at me as if I shouldn’t be there. When I requested an Egg Clair, the woman said ‘we don’t make those.’  I told her last year the other owner used to make them for me. Then, guess what she said!? She said ‘Well, us white people have to stick together,’ and she went and made me one!”

   “Why would she say that? Some people are stupid and make irrelevant hurtful “us vs. them” commentary! The world sucks, my friend. Hey…” then I lowered my voice to a whisper as if telling him a huge dark secret, “being a woman, I used to be super sensitive to sexist commentary. But then I realized how angry I was all the time, you know?” Then a bit louder with passion and a scrunched up nose, “Assuming no one likes me? When in actuality that was wrong!  Moreover, think of this. This is important. Think about the beauty of us all. People don’t realize it, but the Creator is an artist! How boring would it be if there was only one super race? “

   “That’s so true! That’s interesting. I never thought of it like that,” he said with widened eyes and a big genuine smile. 

   His female crony who had just finished the meal she held in her lap interrupted briefly to ask him for his hot dog.

  “Yeah, I’m not going to eat it. You can have it. Ever since you got pregnant, your eating is out of control!”

   As she graciously took the tin foil covered hot dog, we all laughed.

  “I wish you could be a woman and experience being pregnant” she replied.

  “I do already,” he barked,  “Men experience it too by helping ya’ll.”

   I giggled to myself. I really adore the honesty, vulnerability and innocence of perceptions that differ from mine.

   For the rest of the Ferry ride we engaged in long discussions about the pains of being an artist, how important community is, and how wonderfully rude and ironically delightful New Yorkers can be.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Stephanie's Jacket

I knew that when I came back to New York, the coldness of the winter would numb me. I craved numbness as a physicality, to export me from the worries in my head and into a space of longing for my body. With the majority of LA's weather being dry heat, I had no need for armor. Yet, somehow my arms longed for dressing.
I had been as steadfast and vulnerable as possible in California, jumping over hurdles and taking on endless challenges - keeping my head above water was not easy in a new unknown land. California itself has been a sore spot for my family ever since my cousin Stephanie passed away in San Francisco a few years ago. Although I did not know her on the level I desired given the large age gap between us, she was filled with desirable qualities and an intriguing nature. Stephanie was a decade older than me when it happened. She was with her husband and friends heading out on a ski trip. She didn't want to go on that trip. Every little fiber of her being screamed to her not to be there. She didn’t listen to her whim, and when the bus hit their car, she was the only passenger who would pass away. In California I would come to feel that same feeling reverberating in the air; that whisper that said, "leave.” As each situation unfolded in the labyrinth of pretentious faces, rehearsed actors, and hungry con-artists, I felt my heart break a little each day. I knew what my heart wanted to do. It needed to leave. I also needed to listen to my body. I remember how cold it was in California when I left. It wasn't the type of coldness that numbs you. It was the type of coldness that makes you feel unnerved, teasing you with moments of dry heat and then chilling winds. When I first stepped back into my mother's house in Staten Island, I couldn't help but shed some tears. I felt the weight on my shoulders lift, a huge sigh of relief, and an impenetrable feeling of safety. My aunt, who lives nearby, was moving and she was finally ready to pass along some of my cousin's clothing. Amongst many of the articles was a long black peacoat with big shoulder pads and brass buttons. When I put the jacket on I felt a closeness to Stephanie, as if a piece of her heart lay within it. I learned from Stephanie there is no greater compass than the heart, and it's our job to protect it. Being cradled in her coat melted me in the frost-tipped gales. She was such a sweet soul; a sister soul to my own, who unfortunately never made it home.

"As sCaRed, as sillY, as joyous, as shameless, as VIBRANT, as DARK, as YOU can BE! Let it pour through you RESPECTFULLY, in the name of PEACE. We uphold TRUTH! To life a life as COLORFUL as you!" - Jaclyn Shaw ("Live Your Art" Movement)

Are you LiSteNinG??  Jaclyn Shaw's Music