new york city

An Ode to NYC

Over the last few weeks, my words have been stagnant. Unavailable, I should say.

I’ve had ideas, yet their formation was distant, just slightly out of reach.
It took approximately 45 seconds on the subway for my words to come rushing back, fighting to be heard and written and that’s why I’m standing in a subway car, writing.
This city is magic.
It usually smells bad, it’s overcrowded, it’s nearly impossible to get anywhere by car, and there’s only a few days a year that the weather is pleasant enough to actually enjoy the entire experience of walking down the street.
But man, what it gives in place of all the above is pure magic.
It’s a city that never sleeps, meaning people don’t stop doing. People spend less time dreaming and more time exploring, demanding and making things happen.
Today, I overheard a woman talking about climate change and it threw me for a loop – I was shaken by how much we share this world, how much we intake all the same images and words and messages, and we all live our lives so, so similarly.
Oh man, this city is magic.
Today, the fog covered all the tops of the buildings, almost begging me to just focus on the here and now. I couldn’t see the soaring sky scrapers, I could only see the people who walked near me, on ground level.
I’m obsessed with the way that I’ve lived here for 7 years, and I know my way around, yet I’ll never stop finding new treasures, new ways, new adventures.
What could be more inspiring than sharing a city with thousands of souls, all sharing this city that has stories etched into every stone, a city in which every path is so beaten it’s already new again.
I’m in love – in love with a city that keeps giving me reasons to smile, that promises to never be boring or slow or tired. It promises to show up when I seek inspiration, when I seek different and unique and excitement.
And I know, I know one day I’ll leave this place behind, for another lover – a quieter world in which I can once again hear myself think. Expansive space in which my imaginary children can run and not get hit by cars or kidnapped by strangers. Somewhere I don’t silently curse all the way home from the supermarket, the bags not digging into my palms, because I’d be driving  and they’d be in the trunk.
But that’s tomorrow, and today is today, and the fog told me to stop trying to peek at what else is out there, what might be next, what else can I find.
Today, I still have a wealth of adventures and treasures, a world far from completely explored, new alleyways and tiny bookshops, people to observe, these busy streets are waiting for me to hurry down them, and watch, and write, and learn, and write.
Because man. This is a city of magic.


Fear, Potential, and Everything Else

Two days ago, a friend and I sat shoulder to shoulder on a pier looking out from Brooklyn, facing the Manhattan skyline.

It was night, so it was dark, but the air was balmy and it felt more like mid-summer than mid-September. It was quiet, but not empty. The jangling sound of dog’s leashes and the low murmur of conversation across the pier could be heard consistently. And the skyline, well, coming straight out of the skyline were two lights shining, dramatic against the dark sky, reaching up and up, reflecting on the clouds above it.

I don’t remember 9/11.

Something about that unsettles me a lot. I was here, but I wasn’t. I was alive, on earth, probably playing with dolls or something similarly inconsequential, while the largest terrorist attack occurred on U.S ground.

As an adult living in New York now, every year at 9/11, I go through the same emotions.

Horror, shock, and in a weird twisted way – guilt, because I feel horrible that it’s taken me this long to understand the gravity of that day.

Yesterday, I found myself reading things about 9/11 – particularly transcribed phone calls and voicemails left for family members of those who lost their lives on Flights 11 and 175. I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t stop reading, as nausea grew inside me, as my mind was literally begging me to stop.

When I was a kid, for some reason we had a VHS in our home of a documentary about 9/11. It was graphic and detailed and scary, and my mom had kindly asked of my older siblings that it not be shown to the younger kids. I don’t know if I begged, or if my older brother was actually out to traumatize me, but I have clear memories of watching that VHS over and over in our basement, terrified beyond words. That is where my 9/11 memories begin, at 7 and 8 years old.

“Don’t worry, Dad, if we go down, it’ll happen quickly.”

Those words were said from a son on a plane, to a Dad on the ground, over a voicemail*.

When I read that, my heart exploded in anger. I suddenly wanted to punch G-d in the face. I wanted to yell and scream, and at that moment, I had no clue.

I had no clue how we all just kept walking around in a world that is so clearly so deeply flawed and messed up, I had no clue how anyone could ever bring more children into this planet.

I couldn’t believe that it took me 22 years to reach that point of absolute disgust.

And for ten minutes, I sat seething, and I wrote words like this:

“What exactly is the point?

Some days are overflowing with meaning and purpose and you can see it all written across the sky. You can smell it in the air – it’s called beauty and growth.

Some days are just dry. They’re regret-filled, and maybe tear filled, or maybe just tired. They’re hard to get through, and they feel hopeless and pointless.”

And then I stopped writing, because I didn’t even feel like putting words in the world. Which is why I’m writing the rest of this this today.

I don’t have any answers, not a one.

I know that when I sat on that pier, in the dark night, I saw what I thought were two low-flying planes right over the skyline. My stomach clenched and I said “what the heck are those planes doing?”

And my friend showed me that they were helicopters. And I remembered me that helicopters fly around the city every single day, and we had already seen a whole bunch of them.

I was comforted for a moment, before I realized that one day, not all that long ago, for real, people looked up and wondered “what the heck is that plane doing?” and in the next moment, everything was lost.

It was just a normal September day.

I was watching the recordings of the live CNN coverage from that day, and I was blown away by the way that the anchors continuously discussed the first plane crash as a horrific accident, a horrible mistake.

We live in a world today that a horrific mistake would be assumed to be a form of terrorism, and that makes my stomach sick.

I live in a world that my stomach clenches in fear all too often. I spend solo subway trips examining every face, trying to find the one who would be willing to murder us. I look at the world with fear cloaked glasses, and it’s not just because I’m paranoid, it’s because thousands of people in this country, in the last 18 years, have woken up assuming today was going to be normal, and never saw the end of that day.

And I’m learning that to get through life on this planet, you have to ride out the fear, ride out the pain, and hold on to the days that make life feel like potential and goodness can’t be contained.

Because something else that happened this week is that I began teaching creative writing and debate, and I met a whole bunch of teenagers that made me smile for the future.

And that is what this life is about.

Big ideas, and growth, and kindness.

And the real question is, why did I feel like I had to write about this this week, when I actually spent a good amount of my week in a space of happiness?

So, I share this post, because evil and pain are intertwined with our lives, and not allowing ourselves to feel that pain is a disservice to ourselves and an injustice to those who have been lost.

But I pray for this for you, and for all of us: for days that are overflowing with meaning and purpose, when you can see it all written across the sky. You can smell it in the air – it’s called beauty and growth.


*I don’t know if these transcribed messages are verified and true, but even if they are not, the emotions and meaning are 100% representative of the truth.


Featured photo by me.


The People

Living in NY without a car, spending time on the subway is not a rare occurrence. No matter what, no matter how many times I’ve been on one, the subway is a surreal experience.
It’s a social experiment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with nobody recording the results.
The experiment: squeeze as many people as you can into a small space, speed them through a hollow cavity in a world of concrete, and deliver them to their destinations. See what happens between each stop.
The doors open, the doors close. A blind man appears at the door at a stop, his cane swinging, “what number train is this?” He repeats it until in unison, the passengers seem to all suddenly hear him and respond “the three!”
The door closes.
A woman, strong boned and straight-faced, an orange hard hat on her back, suddenly catches sight of a friend across the car and soon they are giggling like school girls.
A woman, who could be assumed to be a social worker, or maybe a teacher, sits scribbling notes on a yellow notepad. Her shoes are practical, her socks warm, but her hair looks recently done.
A woman sits next to her, a ponytail pulled back, eyeing the scribbles on the notepad the way we all study those alongside us, perhaps bored, perhaps reminiscing of a former job, or hoping for a future one. Perhaps the handwriting reminds her of someone she loves.
A small boy, fresh-faced and friendly, too new to the world to be afraid of it, waves and smiles at the passengers around him, pulling smiles from even the most exhausted.
A fidget spinner suddenly falls from a teenage boy’s hands, an older businessman sees it and turns to his friend “I must remember to buy that for my kid.”
An object that suddenly reminds me where I am, the harsh sound of it hitting the subway floor, the amusing realization that everyone around me knows what it is and that we all know someone who owns it.
That tiny toy that will be a memory in a week brought me closer in a moment to all the people in that rocketing metal room than anything else did before.
I looked at them all, really looked at them, at the old woman rolling her rosary beads between her fingers, muttering a prayer, at the hipster grinning at his phone, at the tired eyed couple who made each other smile, at the homeless woman with yellow socks, dirty from the universes she had traveled, and I realized that all of their journeys had brought them to the same place mine had. Each of them had been put on earth for a reason, and each of them were just as precious as the next.
The subway ads are calling to us, telling us what books we need to read and which food to order for dinner.  The poetry on the wall prods my mind to think poetically, the people are all so real, the train is so full of people living.
A subway car is a hub of humanity, a place where nobody speaks to each other but everyone sees each other. We move over a seat, stand up to allow a more worthy person to sit, doors open, doors close, the crowd changes. We all avoid eye contact but when we open our eyes to see, that day’s social experiment is complete.

An Uneducated Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time

I am not very cultured.

Let’s be honest. I’d like to think I am. I’d love to be a pretentious Broadway snob who knows her way around New York theatre and secret art shows in her sleep.
Alas, I am not.
I have been entertained by a record number of 2 Broadways, and 1 off Broadway.
Therefore, this review is thoroughly uneducated and one thousand percent based on how other peoples magnificent talent made me feel. Perhaps those of you who are equally uncultured will feel safe reading this, or at least relate slightly to the awe one feels when in the presence of Broadway stars.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It has been nominated for 6 Tony awards for it’s perfection, but really could have won an award just for having the longest name.
A name that I promptly forgot when purchasing tickets over the phone- The mysterious case of the dog in the night?
Yeah. Uneducated.
I thoroughly appreciate the professionalism of the man on the other side of the phone who, without laughter, just responded “So, two tickets to the Curious Incident?”
Maybe I’m not the only one who has made that humiliating mistake.
Although I couldn’t remember the name then, it’s going to be a long time before I forget it.
That’s because this Broadway show was memorable in all kinds of ways.
I am the kind of girl who firmly stands behind “read the book before you see the movie.” I tend to mock those who only watch the movie and dismiss the book.
Hypocrite that I am, I watched the Broadway before I read the book. I am ashamed, but I enjoyed every moment of  that Broadway, and I’m pretty sure that when I read the book this weekend, I’ll enjoy every moment of that too.
TCIOTDITN (much easier this way) was a story that didn’t just touch my heart, but it squeezed it with all its might.
To those of you who are even more unfamiliar than I am about this- the story is about a 15 year old autistic boy who is determined to find the murderer of his neighbors dog. As the story goes, it gets more complicated, and like in life, when he  goes looking he finds things he never wanted to find.
As I sat there in my seat, way too far from the stage (thank you $30 tickets!,) I saw all the children I’ve ever met who behaved like this boy. I saw all the humans in the world who have ever been misunderstood, overwhelmed,  or scared when working so hard to achieve their dreams. More than once, I saw myself.
The actor playing the main part Christopher, Tyler Lea, was magnificently talented. He not only took on the role of Christopher and played it seamlessly, he also took on the role of every single audience member, (and that audience changes every day) and played each part perfectly.
One of my favorite scenes was when Christopher was sitting on the train, speeding towards London. He explains how he is different than everyone else on the train because nobody else sees everything the way he does. They have the ability to look out the window, notice one thing and then get back to completely unrelated thoughts. He, on the other hand, looks outside and sees every blade of grass, every cow, every tiny detail until it overwhelms him to the point of wetting himself.
While I sat there thanking G-d that I can focus on one detail, and that I can look out the window and not become overwhelmed by the things I see, or more like the things I don’t see, I realized that maybe I don’t have it best.
How much am I missing? How much are we all missing? We are so caught up in ourselves, in our unimportant worlds, that we miss too much.
Living in New York makes that a very real realization.
There is so much in New York, and we do our best to avoid it all.
There are so many humans here that we forget how to be one.
Christopher came across challenges that always had to do with other people. He was happy with himself, he didn’t see anything wrong with him. He knew how to make himself happy, and what he wanted to do with his life, which is more than most adults can say.
His challenges were with people who were in too much of a rush. People who saw difference and couldn’t understand it, and therefore tried to avoid it. People who wanted to help him, but failed to realize that to help someone, you don’t do what you want, you do what they want.
This story is more than a good book, more than a mind-blowing work of art. It is a life lesson for all of us. This world is a scary, scary place, and so many of us are trying to create islands for ourselves, isolating everyone else; removing differences and avoiding those who make us feel like we need to work harder or change ourselves.
This story reminds me that it isn’t the way to go.
Avoiding other people is just another way to avoid ourselves, it gives us a way to pretend that we aren’t like each other, that we don’t face the same challenges or have the same flaws.
They may express themselves differently, but they’re all there.
During the show, questions built up in my head, and I imagined getting the chance to ask the actor all of them.
Then I did, a few minutes after the show, he was standing in front of me. All I did was dumbly hand him my playbill with a huge smile, at a loss for words. This man was a human. While he is more talented that I’ll ever be in thousands of ways, he was human, suddenly touchable, suddenly so reachable. In a moment, as he scribbled his name on my playbill, he transformed from Christopher to Tyler. Suddenly, he was just another human that I might have sat across from on the train, eyes to be avoided, a connection to be ignored.
I panicked in that moment, I couldn’t say my words, I couldn’t ask my questions- my questions were for Christopher, I realized, and he doesn’t actually exist.
Except that he does.
The character in the story who found a dead dog and faced countless challenges on his journey to find the killer may not breathe life-giving breaths. He may only live on the pages of a book, or through Tyler and any other actors who have given him life.
But he actually exists in all of us. We see him everywhere. Every child, autistic or not, has a Christopher inside of him. I have a Christopher.
I spend my days avoiding eye-contact, hoping that I can somehow disappear into walls when I see people I don’t want to talk to, avoid social interactions, and dream of an island that is all my own. Like Christopher.
Unlike Christopher, I fail to see the goodness in truly good people, I fail to see the intricacies and science of everything in life, I focus on small details instead of seeing big pictures.
I am less determined to eat a healthy breakfast than Christopher was to get to London. My obstacles are small in comparison to what he dealt with on that trip. I know because this magnificent show took me inside his head, made me feel claustrophobic and scared and overwhelmed. I never realized how much was going on around me, and how much there was to see.
As the stage walls moved in on Christopher, I felt myself holding my breath, pushing my feet into the ground as if I could push the wall further away from him.
I realized that while I sit in my $30 cheap seats, I couldn’t help Christopher with the stage walls pushing him toward the train tracks; but I could help the other Christophers. I could help myself.
It all starts with recognizing that there is a wall pushing me or you somewhere we don’t want to go. Then holding out my hand, or taking a hand, depending on what is needed in the situation, and shouldering the load.
I like to think I can get through my challenges alone. Somehow, the burden seems lighter if I don’t have to instruct others on how to carry it with me.
Christopher taught me that while being alone may seem ideal, in the really tough moments there are people who love you who want to help. Let them help you. Help others. Get into the minds of the people around you, look at what they need, and give it to them. Speak in their language. Don’t push your ideas onto others, and don’t punish yourself for being who you are.
This Broadway show is mesmerizing, eye-opening, and so important.
I was thrilled to be a part of it, to be in that room, connected with the hundreds of Christophers near me, connecting in unexpected ways with the Christopher on stage, being able to make the story my own and see how it was also everyone else’s.
I’m glad I went to this Broadway as uneducated as they come. I got the chance to see the story without any preconceived pretentious notions.
I got the chance to open my heart to Christopher, and his tale, and fall in love with every aspect of this show.
After the show ended, after a lot of people left, the lights went back down and Christopher came back on stage. He explained a math problem that he solved in middle of the show and couldn’t explain to the audience then. How much can we learn from people if we just slowed down a little bit? What if we didn’t always rush to our next destination, and gave people a chance?
You got me, Broadway. I have the fever.
PS. If you liked this uneducated review, I have officially started a pool, that is really empty, but really wants money. Feel free to sponsor as many of my future Broadway show tickets as you’d like.