Friday, November 30, 2012

Facing My Own Intolerance

I'm not as tolerant as I wish I could be in this city of so many different cultures. A stop at a market for pears and kiwis turns in to a horrifying walk among row after row of buckets and tanks filled with live fish, eels, frogs, crabs and turtles without their shells. I want to scream and yell and jam my fists in to someone's face, screaming at the cruelty.  Instead, I leave  in tears, my heart aching for these and all the creatures we humans treat with such disregard.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sweet Ride on the Subway

I'm constantly breaking the unspoken rule of not speaking and making eye contact with anyone on the subways.

This morning, an elderly lady sat across from me, her three shopping bags nestled on the seats beside her.  Each time the train stopped, her bags slipped down the seats and she had to scramble to grab on to them, to keep them from hitting the person a few seats over.

I tried not to giggle out loud, but she was so cute in her predicament.  She heard me laugh and looked up and at this point, it could have gone two ways:

1. She scowls at me, asks me what the $&^#) my problem is, picks up her bags and moves to a different part of the train;

2. She smiles sweetly, opens one of her bags and pulls out a container of pastries and offers me one.

To my delight, she smiled sweetly and shared her fluffy, buttery, calorie-filled delights.

We didn't speak, just smiled at one another in between bites of the tasty morsels, wiping the icing sugar from our black jackets.

I finished, sipped some water, and sat back as the fat hit my bloodstream and made a big beeline for the upper part of my right leg's inner thigh.

I watched her, as she ate tiny morsels, smiled a large toothy grin, wiped away crumbs and emptied container after container of sweets.

For the next twenty minutes, she ate six puff pastries, two donuts, one box of canolies and two containers of a treat I couldn't identify.

The woman sitting next to me commented that the woman was going to choke or get fat or both, but I ignored her nasty comment, thinking that her opinion labels her as anorexic or bulimic, but either way, an unhappy women jealous of this stranger's childlike and so open delight.

I found myself having several simultaneous reactions to her open, childish enjoyment.  I wondered if she was starved for nourishment other than for the body. If she was in a bad marriage, had lost a loved one, had children who no longer spoke to her, was suffering financial hardship... Then I wondered if perhaps she herself was perhaps bulimic or anorexic or a binge eater.  Then I stopped trying to figure her story out and just sat back, returning her quiet smiles with smiles of my own, and taking in the giddiness of her features, light blue eyes twinkling, icing sugar and crumbs gathering in her lap.

When my stop came, I stood up and waved goodbye to her.  She handed me the last puff pastry in a tray of eleven empty spaces.  How could I refuse?  With the sweet treat in my hand, I literally skip home, her childlike enthusiasm and innocence awakening my own inner child and reminding me to spend more time feasting on the delights that surround me.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving morning greeted us with bright sunshine and 53 degrees.  Taz is visiting, and we spend the morning in Manhattan, watching bits of the parade, enjoying the views of the large balloons that we'd seen being inflated the night before.

We then made our way to the Bronx (accidentally, as I put us on the wrong train), and eventually out to the Rockaways, by subway and by bus.

On Rockaway, we walked the beach to a section I'd never been to, and Taz got to view first hand the destruction to the homes and businesses.  Houses were tilted sideways, brick, metal and concrete strewn across the front yards.  

The most eerie thing I saw was the complete front and side missing from one house, exposing a dining room table perched precariously and hazardously, and a hall closet with the door open, showing a row of jackets still limp on their hangers.

Trash littered the front sidewalks, but just a fragment of how it was last week, and a white film of dust covered the streets, sidewalks, cars, houses, trees, shrubs.

As we made our way back down the street, I noticed brightly painted wooden stars nailed to telephone poles.  Someone had painted these wooden stars and written words on them, including love, hope, kindness and faith.

After walking the beach, with its hazard of destroyed houses, perched like crazy Coney Island rides in the sand,  and passing through quiet, dark streets, these bright beacons dotting the horizon were like an oasis for the soul, bright lights filtering through the shadows imprinted on the heart after viewing such devastation.  Symbols of hope...

We ended our Thanksgiving Day by volunteering with New York Cares, providing dinners to residents.  The large canvas tents kept people warm with a cornucopia of heaters, a welcome retreat for those still without power and electricity.

Food donated by Fairway, other nonprofits, businesses and individuals, was dished out by volunteers.  Rows of tables were lined with large pans filled with turkey, ham, pasta, stuffing, vegetables, rice, beans, corn, lasagna, cranberry sauce and pie, cake, muffin, juice, water, coffee and soda.

Walking up to the line was an act of humility and grace for both volunteers and residents.  All were met by Sally, a kind volunteer who offered napkins soaked in warm water as hand towels, a small gesture, but filled with love, providing warmth and dignity to the body and to the heart.

Plate after plate was filled, as hunger was satiated and a reprieve from the cold was offered, moments away from the stark reality of the vast amount of work still required to even begin the process of "recovery", never mind normalacy.

We sat with locals Christina and Stephen, residents who shared their table and stories of their experience, living through Hurricane Sandy.

Boarding the little orange school bus, a signature of New York Cares volunteer efforts, we joined about 20 other volunteers on the ride across the Manhattan Bridge and delivered food to the Bowery Mission.  Walking with volunteer Rick to the subway station, we parted with greetings of Happy Thanksgiving and soon landed in bed with full bellies and hearts overflowing with gratitude for the many blessings in our lives.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Favorite Christmas Carols

Walking through the subway stations this past week, I've heard Christmas songs being played on guitars, keyboards, a saxaphone, drums, horns, bells, a saw and tonight, a harp.

Two of my favorite Christmas songs are Little Drummer Boy and Feliz Navidad.  You can listen to them here.

My friend Kevin and I celebrate Christmas last year

Kevin's song: Christmas Lights by Cold Play

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fa La La La La!

 Happy Holidays!

Hello!  I hope that you've been bitten by the holiday bug and are enjoying all the delights that the Christmas season has to offer.

Thanks to those of you who wrote, asking if I'd fallen in to a vortex, since I haven't posted to my blog in nearly two weeks.  First, thanks for missing me.  Second, I have in fact fallen in to a vortex of visitors.  My boyfriend was here from Alaska this past week, and then a friend from California, and now my mom, sister and brother arrive tomorrow from Canada.  

It's been great to show off my neck of the woods, and I'm reminded of how overwhelmed I was when I first got here, by the sounds, the lights, all the people... when I see it in other's eyes.  It's amazing how I've grown accustomed to life in the city in just the eleven weeks that I've been here!

Life in The Big Apple continues to be great and to provide endless inspiration and delightful surprises.  I'm working to update my blog as quickly as I can, in between looking for work, so that I can maintain my reputation as one of Santa's little helpers, and to keep me from writing an autobiography on what it's like to be one of the city's homeless!

Thanks for staying tuned to Tina's Travel Tales, and watch for a backlog of stories and images soon!  

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Taz Arrives!

It's always an adventure here.

The F trains near my house are not working for the weekend, so I board a city bus and make my way to a train station near the Brooklyn Bridge, for the short ride to the Port Authority Bus Station in downtown Manhattan.

I get my bus ticket for the trip to Newark Airport, and explore the city for a couple of hours. It took me nearly four hours to make my way from Newark to Brooklyn when I arrived, so I leave plenty of time to meet Taz at his flight and I head out with four hours to spare.

To my surprise, the trip is less than an hour and I arrive at the airport three hours early.  How come I didn't know this option when I arrived?  Well, it's good to have figured this out now, so the trip from the airport and in to Brooklyn won't be as daunting for Taz as it was for me. 

We take a shuttle to our hotel and crash hard.  Waking early, we take the air train in to Manhattan, a fantastic exploration of the old warehouses and houses whizzing past our window as we race down the tracks, the Manhattan skyline appearing on the horizon.  We settle in to a wonderful lunch at a restaurant at the the 42nd Street terminal for couple of hours, explore a bit of Times Square area before heading to Brooklyn and to my home sweet home.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For Jack

He came in to my life with a wag of his tail.
His exhuberant bark lifting my spirits.
Together, we explored the neighborhood.
And one day at a time, I fell in love.
He had many people to walk him, but he was my only dog.

Jack, the little dog that I've been walking three times a week since I got here, was finally adopted today.  He'd been in the shelter nearly three months, and I knew this day would come.  In fact, I introduced him to the people who would become his new family while we were on a walk.  

 Now, while I can imagine the joy he will bring to these people, and they to him, I grieve this loss in my life.  The loss of my companion, the one thing I could count on in this city of strangers, of people coming and going, of my life without a schedule.  My time with Jack was filled with joy and it allowed me to feel a connection to this city immediately.  

I will always, always be grateful for this little, four legged bundle of joy that greeted me, kicked dirt up in to my shoes and pulled me along the streets as we walked and jogged and panted our way up and down, in and out and throughout the neighborhood.

If I'm lucky, I'll see him out with his family, happily tugging on the end of his red lead, in love with his people and they with him. I miss you Jack.