Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Mist is an Embrace

The mist is an embrace.

Its cooling arms surround you, and the grass taps your skin with its pointed-tipped fingers. Your jeans, like a sponge, absorb the chilly dew, and the damp seeps into your bones as you lie there, looking up, up into the gray whiteness where uncertain shapes and irregular patterns are conceived and grow and dance and tire and lessen and disappear, but perhaps they never did at all. Perhaps they are simply imaginary children of your mind and your eyes, encouraged by the blank slate of thick earth-bound cloud all around you.

You breathe in, and the cool droplets of mist tickle your nose. A hearth fire smolders nearby. You smell the deep smoky scent as it wades through the fog to reach you, and now in the gray and the white you see an old stone cottage, squat little chimney puffing pillowy billows, a pie cooling in the window.

The sharp cry of a crow pierces the fog, and the cottage fades as a thick forest appears, twisted branches mingling with mystery, sparks of light flashing from behind clumps of leaves – fireflies, or fairies? – and you smile as they tease you with their little points of light at unpredictable intervals and locations.

The blades of grass poke at your skin, and the forest dissolves into a wide moor, stretched out before you, and purple with heather which rustles and sways in the breeze. A speck in the distance grows larger and becomes a horse at full gallop with a man on his back, and as they near you, you see that the horse is a rich chocolate and the man is clad in tall boots, breeches, long black coat, and he slows to canter, trot, walk, stop, and then raises his gloved hand to tip his brimmed hat as he parts his lips and smiles at you.

Now it is the gray whiteness once more, but the sigh that spills out from within you is one of contentment, for, be there or be there not cozy cottages or enchanted forests or gallant equestrians, there is that enthralling mist, gently covering you and holding you close. And you know that the one who, through the mists of time, imagined you into being is the one who now surrounds you with that embrace.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Rainy Day

Sometimes the rain is silver. It happens every so often when spring has grown old, but her quick leap from immaturity to adulthood went by unnoticed until one morning you wake up under your blankets, damp and disgusting from the sweat that has snuck up on you, and the next few seconds are a mighty battle to release your limbs from the mess of linen tangles. Upon freeing yourself, you immediately bind up your hair in an awkward knot to keep it off of your nearly feverish neck. Neglecting your slippers, you stumble into the kitchen, and the draft in the hallway and the cool linoleum that kisses the bottoms of your bare feet are suddenly blessings, ignored at best, despised at worst through the dragging winter months. Out of habit you fill the kettle and light the burner, and though you are aware of the irrationality of consuming anything hot, the taste and familiarity of the tea trumps the oppressiveness of the heat, and you pour your cup in defiance of all things rational.

Then the thunderstorms begin, and the day is dark and gray, and the patches of brown earth in the city landscape become verdant sponges, and you glance out at the sidewalks and see a man in a baseball cap, swaggering along with just a T-shirt and jeans to protect him from the deluge that is cascading from the sky.

The day wanes on as you sit and stare at your computer screen, knowing that you have something to accomplish but forgetting what exactly, and the thunder growls, and the draft in the hallway angrily slams shut the bedroom doors and throws the stack of newspapers and bills on the kitchen table into turmoil. You snap your laptop closed and, ignoring the mess of papers on the floor, you rush to the window, puddles of seemingly infinite depth now forming in the potholes of the street and in the uneven spots of the sidewalk where one slab of concrete has rippled higher than another at the permeating force of great tree roots. Tree branches sag with the out-pouring of the sky, their leaves now a striking shade of green, and as the water rapidly pools and collects on them, spilling off in drops even thicker than before and plummeting nobly to the ground, you feel the corners of your mouth rise, slightly, slowly, your eyes widen and grow brighter, and soon the thongs of your flip-flops are nestled between your toes, and you pull open the front door, clutching the metal knob in your hand as a gust of humid air, saturated with the scent of wet pavement, wet dirt, wet cars, wet everything, greets you and lures you out into the wetness. Now you are covered, refreshed in the heavenly bath, clothes heavy and sagging like the branches of the tree. You look up and see a break in the blanket of clouds above, and streams of filtered sunlight mingle with the water, and the orange of the sun and the gray of the atmosphere blend together in a visual harmony of hues, and the edges of the clouds are fringed with platinum, and the brick of the buildings is infused with gold, and the rain, as it rushes down from exalted places and coats the earth below, is silver.

May in the City

There is something so romantic about walking through the city on a warm, blustery day in May, with your shoulder bag lightly thumping against your leg and loose strands of your hair teasing your face, having unleashed their long pent-up energy. Due to the wind rushing through the screen in your bedroom this morning, throwing about your gauzy white curtains in mad and wild raptures, and due as well to the thick gray blanket of cloud that has rolled itself out between sun and earth, it is a day that you expected to carry with it a certain chill, and so you layered yourself in a light jacket before heading out, uncertain if that even would be enough. But now, as you walk up and down the busy avenues, you pause and step to the side, not wishing to invoke the important fury of the tourists and businessfolk and homeless people around you, and you gladly free youself of your jacket, peeling it off and slinging it over one arm. There is a humidity in the air, and the balmy breeze evokes a sense of excitement and mystery, and the gothic buildings, only just speckled throughout the city, are now accentuated and seem to have multiplied, and the presence of their dark facades seems to spill onto the streets a sense of foreboding – delightful foreboding – romantic foreboding, with those tourists and businessfolk and homeless people apparently oblivious, rushing about with their briefcases, plummeting through intersections at red lights as cars and buses hurtle towards them, or lolling about with heads tilted upwards, bumping into each other and stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to raise a fancy black telescopic lens to their eye. Oblivious they may be, but they are part of the scene, clopping along at an amazing rate in heels that cannot be classified as “high” but rather monumental, sitting on the corner and rattling a coffee cup with a thin layer of change at the bottom, chatting away animatedly on a cell phone in languages you should have been able to understand if you had retained anything from school, arguing with each other in languages you never knew existed, nursing $5.00 cups of coffee, swinging monstrous bags that read “Saks” and “Macy’s,” calling to their beaming children who stumble along with monstrous boxes that read “Build-A-Bear.” And you are part of the scene too, and you wonder if anyone observes your actions as you wander into the park with your romantic cup of tea and your romantic apple with the sticker still on it, and, either ignoring the mild spitting of the sky or welcoming it as another bit of romance, you select a table and chair and pull out your journal and begin to write.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Manhattan New Year's Eve

“Our goal is to get on TV,” we decided as my two visiting friends and I emerged from the mouth of the subway station and burst forth into Times Square on the morning of December 31. Though the streets and sidewalks were not yet jammed with the adrenaline-high New Year’s tourists hoping to get as close a glimpse as possible to the legendary falling ball, there were certainly glimpses of what was to come. Little groups here and there had already begun setting up camp in choice spots throughout the square, armed with snacks, beverages, blankets, and, as I found out later from a fellow subway passenger’s newspaper, adult diapers. Just about every which way we turned there were reporters from news shows both big and obscure, and soon enough we came across a man with a CNN-marked camera and a woman, who may or may not have looked familiar, holding a microphone and preparing to be filmed. Coolly, casually (we didn’t want to look desperate or anything), we wandered into the path of the video camera, only to be immediately obstructed by some rather more obvious TV hopefuls who began jumping about and screaming as soon as the reporter woman began her report. We stayed calm, resisting even the desire to pull out our tacky 2008 flashing glasses. Instead, we smiled timidly in the direction of the camera, gave a little wave or two, and hid behind the jumping screamers.

Leaving Times Square, we set off to further explore the city. I was the tour guide, a role which few people who know me may completely trust me with, but as these two particular friends of mine happen to be about as laid-back as I am, not to mention that they really had little choice in the matter, we all accepted my position with sufficient approval.

I had been in the big Macy’s store just last week with my parents during their Christmas visit (we had been quite surprised then at the excessive number of levels that Macy’s has), and as two of our current party needed a post office, Macy’s was the logical place to go. It would also have been the logical place to go if we had needed new wigs. Plus, I wanted to show my visitors the quaint, old-fashioned escalators. So, in we went, and then up, up, past the arm-and-leg-priced fur coats and the trendy accessories, past the children’s area with a whole section devoted to “High School Musical,” up to the top floor and the post office, and then down, down past the signs for various eating establishments located within the store, down to the ground floor where, our business accomplished, we promptly exited the largest store in the world.

On something of an afterthought, I led us into Bryant Park. I knew that the charming little Christmas booths were gone, but we were passing by anyway so in we went. The large Christmas tree in Bryant Park was a gift from Canada, and I recalled and shared that little fact when we noticed two Canadian Mounties standing in front of the tree and taking pictures with various tourists. As we stood admiring the tree and talking about Canada, a man with a Polaroid camera approached us and asked if we wanted our pictures taken with the Mounties! Few could resist such an offer. Thus we each wound up with a nice souvenir of Bryant Park and its friendly visitors from up north.

We wanted to see the Plaza Hotel up by the southern end of Central Park, and we were to pass by Trump Tower on our way. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that an average citizen could actually enter Trump Tower, but when one of my friends suggested it, in we went. While inside, we occupied ourselves with going up the escalators as far as they could take us, and then going back down again. Unlike Macy’s, there were no old-fashioned escalators, but, also unlike Macy’s, there was a rather cleverly designed waterfall flowing down an inside wall of the building. Though we would have liked to have seen Bill, from the first season of “The Apprentice,” back when people watched it, our visit to Trump Tower was not the disappointment that our visit to the Plaza Hotel turned out to be. Alas, the latter was closed for renovations, and we couldn’t go in.

We decided to walk through Central Park to get to a subway station on the southwestern side of it, and I found again, as I have found before, the juxtaposition of bold city skyscrapers and calming park trees a most intriguing visual arrangement. After traversing the park, we took the subway downtown, intending to visit the site of the World Trade Center, and, as we exited the subway station, I made full use of my innate sense of direction as well as my expert map-reading skills to lead us in exactly the opposite direction from which we originally wanted to go. I realized things were not going as planned when we found ourselves at the edge of the Fulton Fish Market, but by that time the lure of the quaint and picturesque wharf, as well as that of a woman throwing flaming torches into the air, was too much, and we continued on our eastward walk, pausing to snap a few shots of said fire-juggler.

I had been to this area once before, a few months earlier, in the heat of a late summer’s day while I, at my brother’s encouragement, stepped out in almost unprecedented boldness and independence to explore Manhattan by myself. Though the Fish Market had made an impression on me back then, it was nothing compared to what my friends and I now saw, as the sun dipped down, hesitantly approaching the horizon, casting its late afternoon brilliance upon the harbored ships and dockside buildings as they in turn threw their shadows far behind them. And there was Brooklyn just beyond the water, and that great bridge, stoic and silent, coolly illuminated by that falling winter sun. We lingered there, glad for the mistake that led us east instead of west. As we reluctantly left to head south, we noted with appropriate amusement a lit Christmas tree, hoisted high and tied up in the ropes of an old-fashioned ship.

Our next stop was Battery Park, and we walked all the way down, which wasn’t too far, except that at this point we were sufficiently tired, and that led to giddiness. So the tiredness and giddiness, coupled with the ridiculously strong, icy wind that had just begun, understandably made the walk a little bit more laborious than perhaps it might have been otherwise. On the way, we saw a helicopter land, and, our imaginations taking hold of us, we decided that surely someone famous, perhaps Hannah Montana her very own self, was disembarking from that helicopter and heading to Times Square to perform. Our visions were shattered when we drew closer to the landing site and saw a sign that read “Helicopter Tours.” Oh well.

We reached Battery Park and were again duly impressed with the beauty graced upon the scene by the sinking sun. Perhaps a little too impressed, because, after taking myriad photos of the silhouetted Statue of Liberty, trying to capture it as best as I could, I had the rather uncomfortable sensation of fried eyes.

My tour guide skills were again tested as I led us in circles around the park, attempting to find the subway station, which turned out to be exactly where I thought it wasn’t, and we eventually wound our way up to Rockefeller Center where we, ornamented with our previously mentioned tacky 2008 flashing glasses, got in a very slight bit of trouble by a police officer because we were sitting against a wall and eating cheesecake. He seemed reluctant to chastise us for sitting there, and we were happy to oblige him and eat our cheesecake standing.

It was somewhere near 7pm, and we, being the wild and crazy kind of girls that we are, unanimously voted to go home. We spent the rest of the night eating (stir-fry, cheese and crackers, cookies), drinking (sparkling grape juice, tea), watching Dick Clark’s show on TV, and laughing at nothing in giddy exhaustion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I want to be a part of it: New York, New York!

I could go into great detail about my job and my Big Apple experiences so far, but as hundreds of things have occurred which have left their imprints on my mind without being of great significance to most people who might read this, I won’t. I have, however, included here below a few little snippets.

Bundled and clutching my borrowed umbrella, I walked from the bus stop to the crosswalk, where my light was red, and as I waited, I considered the many amusements of my day. It was dark, cold, and wet, but I was in a good humor and close to home. A car drove by and splashed a bit of water close to my feet. Cautiously, I stepped back. A bus approached, and as the front wheels rumbled by, I stepped back even further. Sure enough, the splash was bigger, and as I congratulated myself on having narrowly avoided a minor soaking, the back wheels rolled into that very same puddle, and a tidal wave of water rose viciously into the air, smacking me first clear in the face, then pummeling every part of me from my neck to my feet. I was wet. Immediately, I erupted in a rather giddy solo of high-pitched giggles, and I looked around to make sure I had no audience. I also spit. I mean, I didn’t want any street water festering in my mouth.

I have decided that interesting things happen when I am late to work. Don’t assume this means that I make it a habit of being late to work – it’s happened only twice thus far, but both of those times I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it was worth it. My first late-for-work experience happened one Saturday when it seemed that someone had decided it would sure as heck be super fun to play around with the subway trains instead of letting them stop at their normal stops and come as regularly as they normally come. No, really, the subway construction folks were just doing their jobs and repairing some tracks or something, so I can’t complain. Coming back to the story line, I had waited about half an hour for the number 5 train, only to find that I had to transfer to the number 2 almost immediately, and then eventually transfer back to the 5 if I ever wanted to arrive at my destination. It was on the number 2, which I do not normally take, that the Interesting Thing happened: I heard a woman speaking Romanian on her cell phone. Having just spent three years in Romania, I had been open of ear and eager of mind to find Romanian speakers in New York City, but to no avail until this very moment. As I usually am not inclined to initiate dialogue with absolute strangers, I stood there, nervously, as well as impertinently, eavesdropping on her conversation (because I could), and frantically working up the courage to talk with her when she finished. Finally, my opportunity arrived when, after a couple more phone calls, she closed her cell and dropped it into her purse. “Sunteti din Romania sau Moldova?” (“Are you from Romania or Moldova?”) I asked. Smiling and clearly surprised, she said that she was from Romania and asked about my own country of origin. When I responded with “Sunt americanca” (“I’m American”), she again adopted the look of surprise at finding an American who had somehow or other learned the Romanian language. She was actually from Bucharest, which is where I lived, and after chatting a bit on the 2 train, we then got off to switch to the 5, chatted some more, realized that the 5 was not coming to that station, got back on another 2 train, chatted some more, got off again, and parted ways. I was 20 minutes late to work.
That was Saturday. Sunday I was off, and then Monday I ran into the exact same problem. I went through most of the same rigmarole, and when I finally got back onto the 5 train for the last leg of my commute, two loud hip-hop-looking guys with a stereo jumped on the train and started shouting for us to pay attention, as we were, according to them, about to see a pretty darn great show. Turning on the music, they then started dancing. Alright, I thought, they’re going to dance around a bit. That’s nice. I watched with modest curiosity. And then the Interesting Thing took place: they began flipping and jumping like a couple of kernels of popping corn up and down the aisle of the train car! No one was standing in that part of the car, but there were plenty of people sitting, and I was certain that one of the entertainers would kick someone in the face by accident, or land flat on someone’s lap, and all of us wide-eyed passengers pulled in our feet to be on the safe side, but no one was so much as grazed. Towards the end of their show, just to be sure we were truly impressed, they each grabbed each other’s legs, forming a circle, and rolled down the aisle till they were just about to hit one of the poles… and then they rolled around it. Again, I was 20 minutes late to work.

“Caroline Kennedy is here doing a book signing,” I found myself explaining to quite a few customers who wondered why we had closed off a section of the store to their perusals. This explanation was met with various reactions:
“Oh, really? No wonder there are so many people here!”
“*%@#! Every time I come to this store there’s a *#$@ book signing!”
“Who’s Caroline Kennedy?”
Despite the more negative comments, I decidedly enjoyed the event and got something of a kick out of one particular suggestion, offered by a little middle-aged woman with some kind of accent that made it just hard enough to immediately comprehend what she wanted:
“I tell you my name, an’ you tell Mrs. Kennedy. She know me. Maybe she be surprise to know I here. But I know her. An’ then I can go to front of the line.”
Nice try.

Were I a cartoon character, my eyes would probably have been bulging out of their sockets. On this quest to catch a glimpse of the legendary Saks Christmas windows, my brother and I had gotten sucked into a teeming, sardine-can mass of humanity, positively violent with Christmas Spirit, demonstrated by such joyful remarks as “Quit pushing!!” and “Why don’t you #$@* move already??” Jostled and squeezed and feeling closer to complete strangers than ever before, we edged our way through the crowd, laughing and endeavoring to come up with a parody to the song “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” (substituting “Chaos” for “Christmas”), at which we partially succeeded. Finally at the end of the window display, we rounded the block to get back to my sister-in-law. Miraculously, her pregnant cousin had taken her little daughter and my little niece through the same crowd and had come out unscathed.
Ah! Christmastime in the city!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The news is still spreadin'...

The next day, Tuesday, started out with another trip into the city to fill out paperwork at my new place of employment. It was more or less pouring, so my sister-in-law loaned me her umbrella. I had planned to go shopping after the paperwork-filling-out was done, and thus I was still clad in my open-toed slides and my one nice pair of pants. To spur me on in this endeavor was the new-found knowledge, conferred upon me by one of the bookstore managers, that open-toed shoes are a safety hazard on the job, as heavy stacks of books are known to fall directly and purposefully on bare toes.
I had been under the impression that if a clothing store was located on 5th Avenue, it was necessarily pricey, and thus I was mildly shocked to be referred to H&M on that same avenue for good finds in nice pants.
I was still, keep in mind, wearing my open-toed slides as I entered the store, and I felt on the silly side anyway, being surrounded by so much trendiness. Head as high as it could go without actually staring up at the ceiling, I glided as trendily as possible from clothing rack to clothing rack, looking for the perfect pair of inexpensive pants. Balancing purse, newly attained Bookseller’s Handbook, and several articles of leg-wear complete with hangers, I made my way to the busy changing rooms.
A certain word or comment, said in the right way, can either give you a happy lift or plant a little seed of grumpiness in your mind, and I found that the fellow to whom I handed the three rejected pairs of pants accomplished the former, to his credit. I honestly have no recollection of what exactly he said, but I remember that it was something rather nice and cheerful, and I left changing room number one and headed to the second floor with, if not an actual smile on my face, at least the attitude of a smile on my face.
My shopping goal was to purchase two pairs of pants and, of course, a new pair of non-sneaker-but-equally-comfortable shoes. By this time I had found a pair of “probably” pants, and searching around on the second floor gave me nothing more certain, except the thought that the employee at changing room number two was not so happy-lift-giving-inclined as the employee at the previous changing room, so I bought the first pair of pants, left, and wandered off in the vague direction of the Manhattan Mall.
Suddenly, I was struck by the feeling that I had forgotten something. I studied my burdens with scrutiny:
-Bookseller’s handbook;
-H&M bag with newly purchased pants….
No umbrella. Of course I had left the umbrella somewhere – those rainy day accessories are not known to stick with me for long. I’ve left them in classrooms, on public transportation, probably just about anywhere that you might rest an umbrella for a moment or two. But where had I left it this time? Considering that the umbrella was not mine, I was most anxious to retrieve it, so I mentally traced back my steps and zeroed in on the little office in the basement of the bookstore where I had been filling out paperwork. Thankfully, I got it back with little hassle, and I continued my walk towards the Mall.
On the way, after buying some drug store trail mix to stave off whatever hunger headache might rise up to blight my shopping extravaganza, I stopped into a couple of small shoe stores and found, while not appropriate shoes, at least some jovial sales people, thank goodness, as were most of the sales people I encountered through the course of the day.
I never made it to the Mall, but I certainly walked far enough, having mistakenly remembered that it was about 5 avenues in the opposite direction from where it really is located. But I did eventually find another pair of pants at Old Navy, and a pair of shoes at K-Mart, of all places. I go into the middle of New York CityFifth Avenue, Broadway, Times Square – and I wind up buying shoes at K-Mart and eating trail mix from a drug store.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Start spreadin' the news....

Do you ever feel a bit silly when you’re improperly dressed? I don’t mean when you’re wearing a Hawaiian shirt at a business meeting or a ball gown at the beach; I mean when you’re, for example, wearing open-toed shoes on a chilly day in a highly fashion conscious city. Well, I was wearing open-toed shoes on a chilly day in a highly fashion conscious city, and I felt a little bit silly. There was not much to be done at that moment to prevent this minor fashion faux-pas, as I had suddenly been called into the city for an interview, and my only shoes were:
-tall, black winter boots; and
-open-toed black slides.
I might have worn the boots, but, due to their height and furriness, they looked awful with the particular pants I had on. The pants were another issue. When you’ve spent most of your life as a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, and when you’ve spent the past 3 years in the kind of work that would tame even the strictest of formal dressers into a casual denim loving fiend, you don’t have a whole lot of pairs of nice pants. Perhaps you have only one pair. And perhaps that one pair looks ridiculous with your tall, black winter boots. And thus I came to the conclusion that the open-toed black slides were the lesser of the two fashion evils.
Dressed and shod and bundled in my heavy winter coat (The coat, at least, I could be confident in. Probably the most fashion-conscious of all the girls with whom I had worked in Romania had told me on several occasions that “it makes me with the eye,” which, when translated a little less literally into English, means “I wouldn’t mind if I had one of those myself,” and so, if she had liked my coat, I could rest assured that it would do.), I made my way from the house in the Bronx to the subway, and then from the subway to 5th Avenue.
I was nervous. I’m usually nervous when I do new things, and job interviews fall under that category, but my nervousness was directed more towards the prospect of actually getting this job, rather than making a good impression at the interview. If I didn’t make a good impression, so be it. I may never see these people again, and I’d get another job somewhere. But if I did make a good impression, and if I did get this job, who only knows what sort of stupid things I may do while training? Might they regret hiring me?
All too quickly I forget the lesson that worrying will not add a single moment to my life.
As I sat with my potential supervisor while she went over my application, we considered how remarkable it was that:
-I had spent three years in Romania, and her best friend is Romanian;
-my former employer’s address is in Ramona, CA, and she, having lived in California, knows exactly where that is;
-we both live quite near each other in the Bronx; and
-she’s been to, and loves, Maine, my former residence.
By the end of my interview, I was hired as a bookseller in the middle of Manhattan.
Time to go shopping.