Archive for August, 2010

A Lot Can Change in a New York Minute


I’ve lived in New York now for more than nine years. It’s one of the biggest cities in the world, and yet as I walk its streets everything seems familiar. It still amazes me that my casual pedestrian commutes take me past Radio City Music Hall, Broadway, and the Empire State Building. Just another day.

But even more so, I’m in awe of how quickly this city changes. Nine years of walking these streets, and I still discover new things. The Bank of America Tower at Bryant Park used to be home to a questionable Dunkin’ Donuts where I’d meet a friend for breakfast (and once had an awkward confrontation with a homeless man toting a garbage bag).

Last week I stumbled on  a gorgeous wood-paneled lobby in an office building in the West 50s. Has that always been there? Did I just miss it before, or has this city, once again, recreated itself overnight? I suppose it’s like that with people. How much do I miss about the people I meet as I get stuck in the rhythm of my daily routine?

I’ve also realized so many places here are like pinpoints on a map, marking moments of my life on the streets of this city. Mileposts that mark significant changes, yes, but even more lovely perhaps are the little memories that have made my time here… well, mine.

Like Tompkins Square Park, where my infatuation with New York matured into a life-long love affair.  The park was the start of many a “Carrie Bradshaw day,” begun with coffee in hand watching the dogs play, followed by a walk through the Lower East Side wearing red ballet flats and a silk scarf in my hair.

Or Rockefeller Park, my favorite urban oasis of which no one has heard, where a completely new dream for my life was birthed, and where I returned a year later to celebrate its fruition.

A stoop in the West 50s, between 9th and 10th, where I paused to weep, unable to walk further in that moment, desperate for a place of solace in the city that never sleeps.

My earliest days here were spent far downtown, weekends dedicated to eating Cosi salads and buying theatre tickets on a plaza that no longer exists; in the shadow of buildings that collapsed so quickly, so shockingly, to the ground just weeks after I moved away from them.

Sometimes the changes to the city make me sad. My old block in the East Village was filled with empty storefronts the last time I visited. The city must have finally closed down that cafe at which I ate breakfast nearly every Saturday, despite my better judgment after their “extended vacation” — which I accidentally discovered was due to “persistent rodent violations.” But it gives me all the more reason to pause and remember. And to recognize how I’ve changed.

I’m so grateful I haven’t remained the same for the last nine years. I don’t suppose I can expect New York to do so, either. We all grow up some day.


The Best 24 Hours of 2010 (So Far)

I’ve been thinking about a running list of “reasons I want to go back to Ireland,” which reminded me:

I never told you about the best 24 hours of 2010. So far. It all started 36 hours prior…

Monday, April 26, 10PM, London: I read on The Swell Season’s Facebook page that Glen Hansard, my all-time favorite musician and mascot for the kind of passion with which I want myself and those around me to live, is playing a solo gig in Dublin. On Wednesday. In less than 2 days.

10:45PM: After several IM, in-person, and phone conversations, with me asking, “Exactly HOW crazy do you think it would be for fly to Dublin, like tomorrow…?” I booked a ticket to Dublin on RyanAir. Um, no, it was not £5. The gig was at a private club in Dublin, so I couldn’t get tickets, but was assured by several friendly Dublin-based Glen fans on Facebook that I’d have no problem getting in.

Tuesday, April 27, 9AM, still London: I wake up ridiculously joyful. I turn 31. I find out that the Glen Hansard show is sold out. I receive this news via phone from the only non-lovely Dubliner I will encounter in the next 36 hours. I proceed to celebrate a lovely birthday with lovely friends and am surprised by a VERY lovely homemade cake. I cry a little. Happy tears, shocked at how deeply I love this new branch of my global family. Blessed.

Wednesday, April 28, 11AM: I arrive in Dublin. See lovely airport stories here.

1PM: Armed with an email from an Irish friend-of-a-friend in the know, I stroll up to the Odessa Club. It’s closed. I ring the buzzer. I enter, no one’s there. No one’s even around. “Hellooo…?” I wander around until I find someone. The following dialogue enuses:

JS: Hi! I’m here about the Glen Hansard show.
Odessa Club guy: It’s sold out.
JS: (smiling broadly and twirling hair) Yes, I know, but I was just wondering… What’s your name? Peter. Well, Peter, here’s my story… did I mention it’s my birthday?

1:10PM: Peter acquiesces. He puts my name on the list and says the bouncer will let me in “if there’s room.” I remind him that (I honestly said this) I’m “narrow.”

1:15PM-5:45PM: I fall in love with Dublin, helped along the way by St. Stephen’s Green, a charming used bookstore owner, and Terry.

7:00PM: I have a pint of Guinness at the pub around the corner from the Odessa Club where my friend of a friend said I might find someone trying to sell tickets. I don’t, but I do learn from the bartender that Glen DJs here on Fridays. I write my adventure manifesto, gearing up to have a great night even if I don’t get tickets. I promise myself I won’t cry if I don’t get in. I wipe a tiny tear away at the thought.

7:45PM: I arrive at the Odessa. I glance at the bouncer’s list and don’t see the handwritten name that Peter had added. I start to explain that I’d spoken to Peter, and he’d put me on the list if there was room, and the bouncer replies, “Ay, you must be Jennifer.” He flips to newly typed portion of the list, subheaded “Extra.” Mine is the only name on the list, with the note, “Please let this lady in if there’s room.”

7:50PM: I find a seat on a couch SO close that I have to be careful not to kick Glen when he arrives (around 9). I frantically text and Facebook that “I’m IN! I’m IN!” I thank God several dozen times. I play it cool, sipping my stout, while I squeal like a little girl on the inside. After 25 minutes of hearing some stories from a lone super-fan on my right, I meet two of Dublin’s loveliest boys on my left. They tell me they’d had a bet running about whether I was Glen’s girlfriend since I arrived. I never did figure out which one lost that bet, but I certainly won. They proceeded to extend the most lovely Irish hospitality (kindness and pints) for the rest of the night.

9PM-12AM: Glen plays. FOR THREE HOURS. Mostly off mic and without his guitar plugged in, sitting less than two feet from me. There’s really no describing it. Roughly 140 people in a room. Transcendent.

12:15AM: Paul and Eoin, new Irish friends, convince me I should get a photo with Glen, against my, “I don’t want to bother him,” protests. Paul snaps a shot.

12:16AM: We realize Paul didn’t actually press the button and no photo was snapped.

12:25AM: We try again. Eoin successfully snaps the photo. Glen stops to ask me my name, we chat for several minutes about New York, his Radio City gigs etc. I beam like a giddy schoolgirl.

2:30AM: I walk back to my hostel singing “Heyday” through the streets of Dublin.

The remaining eight hours included too little sleep, an early morning walk, a trip to the airport, and a huge revelation that if God cares enough about me to give me such a huge, joy-filled evening with my favorite musician, who KNOWS what He’ll do when it comes to the significant things in my life?

Coming or Going?

I love airports. Is that normal?

Complaining about air travel seems to be in vogue, but I get all tingly in the toes as a I wheel up to curbside check-in. I relish the fact I know the TSA regulations well enough to choose the “Expert Traveler” security line. I totally get the George Clooney character in Up in the Air. Miles make me happy, too.

I met friends arriving to JFK a couple weeks ago. Watching the passengers from the LAX flight pour into New York made for fascinating people watching. You should try it some time.

I’ve never really thought about the “arrival” bit of traveling before. I like the departure: the anticipation, the stepping into the unknown, the leisure of lingering in the terminal (or better, the lounge) waiting for your flight to depart. I’m sometimes excited to get back to New York. Sometimes. But when I decided to start traveling in March, a well-traveled friend told me, “People will say you’re getting it out of your system. But the wanderlust will only grow.” He was right.

For me, departing is like that rush of adrenaline you get when you stand on the edge of a diving board. You know, intellectually, what’s next. You’re going to splash into the water. (Or land at your final destination.) But you can’t predict the nuances of the journey; the surprises that linger down the next terminal’s corridors. The people you’ll encounter along the way.

In an ideal world, we’d enjoy all bits of the journey, right? That’s certainly my goal. I’m a little light on the journeys just now, with nothing remotely exotic on the near-future docket. But…

BUT. I know I serve a God who likes to shake things up, and I’ve already had a lot of interesting “travel moments” right here in Brooklyn. Have I arrived? Oh, no. But it’s a really easy flight so far.

This is My Heyday

I’ve recently made a radical decision to enjoy what I do for money and to commit to doing what I’m good at. It’s a process, one I’m working through to a soundtrack of lovely music such as this. And it’s a little scary. It’s a risk. A step of faith.

As I busy myself tonight writing other people’s projects (happily, and for money), I’m going to borrow Mic Christopher’s words to express a bit of what I’m thinking.

Best read while listening to Glen Hansard’s cover. Not every lyric speaks to what I’m feeling, but the song transcendentally does.

Three months ago I was walking around the streets of Dublin at 2AM singing these out. I’m going to give it a try tonight in Brooklyn. If I close my eyes…

This is my heyday, baby.

And I’m NOT going to be afraid to shout.

For the sun
For the light
For the ride and for the masters
We come to be kind
To be warm here and after
We’ve been out
But we’re back
Because we’re graced in these matters

And we’ll rise.
And we did a little love
But we walked
We make a sound for the mesto
Make a little call to the right
to the ball and to the mast-top
And we

We fool around now and again
We’re looking good
But just as friends.

And this is our heyday baby
And we’re not gonna be afraid to shout
‘Cause we can make our heyday last forever
And ain’t that what it’s all about
Oh living, in our own terrible way.

And we lack a little love, but a sign
A sign to get a little messed up
Picking up the rules, for the chimes
Making up minds and making it last us
‘Cause we live alone, and now we’re grown
And we know what we’re after
And we’ll rise


Where I’ve Been

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