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Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning

Month

October 2011

A Wish List For A Little Boy and A Getting Bigger Little Girl

When Lil A was still little, I wrote her a list of things I wished for her.  It’s one of my favorite lists ever.  Please read it here.

Now that there is another A, Mini A, or Little Mister as he is often called in our house, it’s time to write another such list.  This is meant for both kids. I wish for you both:

  • To cherish one another.  Full stop.  You will fight and be mean to one another, and say things you regret, but you are flesh and blood and forever connected to one another.  Do whatever you can to not take that for granted
  • To know a world where skin color really does not advantage one group over any other
  • To wonder how we in 2011 could have been so silly as to ever question someone’s right to serve their country because of their gender or sexual orientation
  • To live in a world where we value thoughtfulness and the quest for knowledge

To know that your very liberal soap-boxy mother actually has a sense of humor.  Even if I still make you eat your peas, brush your teeth, and do as we ask the FIRST time 🙂 (down girl…back to the poetic place…)

  • To float in the ocean and listen only to the birds overhead and the waves beneath you while doing so
  • To catch that fly ball
  • To get a B, or a C, or a D and feel compelled to give more not give up
  • To feel pages between your fingers that you want to turn – to lose yourself in a book
  • To know the satisfaction of writing an actual letter, and receiving one in return
  • To hear the voices – live or recorded – of your ancestors and feel a connection to them
  • To know that almost always, people around you are doing the best they can, and to have genuine senses of interest and empathy
  • To stand in Central Park in the middle of a snowfall, turn around 360 degrees and not see another living soul (except perhaps the person you are with)
  • To know that you are creators not just consumers
  • To master a musical instrument
  • To make and eat fresh pasta
  • To cry during a movie.  Loudly and uncontrollably
  • To meet and be with friends face to face more than online
  • To swim in a cool lake on a hot day
  • To appreciate the simple things
  • To know happiness and success are not necessarily functions of the size of your bank account
  • To fail.  It only makes the victories that much sweeter
  • To see art through your grandfather’s eyes and hear music through your other grandfather’s ears
  • To know how lucky you are to have three grandmothers who each in their own way will teach you to be sensible, lucky, quirky and generous
  • To stand among thousands of people in a huge arena and listen to your favorite bands live
  • To know that even when you feel stuck you have new places to go
  • To feel about someone else the way your parents feel about each other AND
  • To feel about someone else the way we feel about each of you.
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Weird Things People Pay For

I’ll confess. I tend to be a stress case. I think what makes me a stress case is that I’m not Type A…I’m Type A Minus. I need to achieve, I like to win, I relish the kill…but I do not relate to those true Type A folks who say they “cannot relax.”. I’m great at relaxing. I have no problem finding my way around a spa or sinking into a big chair and just sitting for a long long time. I’ve worked hard to perfect this skill, the ability to do very little and feel good about it.

However, the other day I met my match. I got reiki.

Oh it started all nice and zen-like. I arrived at a lovely spa, got my comfy robe, settled into a lounge chair next to a waterfall (in NYC!) and drank a cup of tea (I almost never drink tea…too whimpy**). After a few minutes of channeling my inner peace, I made my way to the reiki treatment.

It starts like a massage. There you are on the table, someone is talking to you about chakras and massaging your fingers and toes. But don’t be fooled – it’s a tease…all of a sudden it stops and damn if they don’t spend the next 55 minutes trying to make you crazy. Reiki, see, is the “gentle laying on of hands”…or not even…really, it’s the “let the reiki master move his /her hands just above your arms, legs, belly, head all the while moving your energy around.” Yes. It’s maddening.

After a few minutes of this you restrain yourself with all your might from shouting “Oh Christ, let’s just make this a massage and get on with it!”

And then you come back to the happy place.

See, people pay for this. And you know what, it’s worth every penny. What happens over the balance of that hour is you realize how all over the place you are. Or at least I realized that. Try thinking about very little in a dark room for an hour. It ain’t easy. But wow, when I was able to be fully present and just breathe it was enlightening. One hour like that shows you the power of focus and how easy it is to lose it. It was a great (and expensive) reminder of how nice it can be to be where you are rather than replaying the trials and tribulations of the day or doing nothing but fret about tomorrow.

I walked out feeling relaxed (after all, I had just spent an hour listening to monks chanting) and present. Reiki is not for everyone – some people would actually shout at the buddha zen reiki master to just “get on with the freaking massage!” but for me it was a shocking reminder of how easily we can waste time in places that don’t matter – yesterday or tomorrow rather than today. How interesting that being present takes work.

**I am trying to like tea. It’s no fun to be a hater.

The Ride Home

The sky is a cool dark gray mottled with patches of blue pink sunset.  Buildings define the view.

Walking briskly to my train I hear conversations in snippets:

"I really hate that about…"
"Dude, its $50 fucking K!"
"Real handbags, lady, real handbags…Chanel, Gucci…"
"Are you joining the revolution?"

A women in front of me appears to be wearing shih tzus on her feet.  Some would say boots.

On the walk to the train I bumped into (literally) 6 people.

Rats seen so far: 4

The train arrives.  Board.  Guy in Tom shoes reading Franzen…nope, likely Brooklyn bound.  Move fast to stand in front of seated 20-something girl in fake fur vest and Tory Burch flats…train heads south and yup, bingo!  She got off at Union Square and I scored her seat.  Style Profiling.

McDonalds should not be allowed on the subway.

We stop on the bridge and as we sit, we feel the bridge move up and down.  Suspended.

People read.  Most wear headphones.  Almost nobody talks.

A guy wearing Izod head to toe.  Really. Including his watch.  Spokesperson?

Hit home station and come up through the stairs.  No buildings block the sky.  A little quieter.  The smell of rotisserie chicken.  Walk home through tree-lined streets. But watch back as there have been about 5 incidents over the last several months.  Mostly at 2am but you can't be too careful.

Keys in door.  Hear the pitter patter of 3 year old feet race to the front of the house.  It's nice to be home.

Here's to life in the big city.

We Will Miss You, Brady

Our neighbor died this morning.  We woke up and saw three ambulances in the street.  He had cancer.  He was being treated.  We saw him walk to and from treatment.  That is one of the saddest parts.  He had to walk to and from.  That sounds hard to me.  But he was always upbeat.  He said he thought it was going well when it clearly wasn’t.  He reminded me of my maternal grandfather.  Something about his walk and his voice.  If my granddad were African American, he could have been Brady.

Avery knew him and she wanted to know what happens when someone “gets dead.”  Death and the concept of never seeing someone again are hard for a three year old.  But she asked, so we answered.

She wanted to know what type of plane one flies to get to heaven.  Is it a big plane?

She wanted to know if there is a lot of candy in heaven.  Of course there is.  Gumdrops and lollipops.

She wanted to know where he will sleep in heaven.  In a cozy bed?  In his own room?

She thought it was nice that he would meet Grandpa Thomas in heaven.

I know all the athiests out there think it’s silly to tell a child there is a heaven.  Well, I think they are silly for spoiling a child’s vision of a nice place with cozy beds, limitless candy and conversations with Grandpa Thomas.  Especially one where you can get there on a big plane.

We will miss you, Brady.

Why I Got My Tattoo

On June 21, 2000 I was walking home from work around 6PM.  As was my habit, I called my dad and we had a chat as I walked home.  He asked how my day was.  At the time I was working at a very fun online hip hop company.  Very fun except that we realized we had no business model and no chance of survival on our own, so one year after graduating from business school I was likely to be out of a job.  I had more than $90,000 of graduate school debt so living without a job in NYC was not a fun prospect.

I was stressed…STRESSED!  What was I going to do?  The bubble was bursting.  My world was going up in flames.

So that is what I told my dad.  At 28 years old with a degree from Harvard Business School, my life was in tatters and ruins.

The I asked "So, how are you?" and he said:

"Today was a good day.  I took a walk around the block."

He had cancer at the time.  Treatment was terrible and going for a walk was a big deal.  How's that for perspective.

We got off the phone and I got to thinking.  Whenever people asked how my dad was doing they always asked "How is his spirit?"  I suppose this is a relevant question for a priest but you hear it all the time.  People are sick.  How are their spirits?  Spirit matters.  Spirit keeps people positive.  Spirit keeps you moving in the right direction.  Don't forget about your spirit.

At the time, coincidentally (but maybe not really coincindentally…), I was standing in front of the Rising Dragon tattoo parlor on 23rd street.  So I walked in and said "I would like a tattoo that says spirit."

So right then and there, I branded myself for good with a symbol to always remember my inner being.  Ironically, I forget it's there at times (back right hip).  My daughter asked me about it the other day.  And after telling her "No way on earth will you even CONSIDER getting one before you are 21!" I told her I got it because my dad told me to. 

He saw it a few weeks after I got it, and after the shock and awe wore off, he decided he kind of liked it. 

I am looking for a clever, punchy last sentence here but am coming up short.  What I will say is, that was $55.00 well spent.

New Sensation

I like lists.  I LIVE for lists.  Most of my lists are in Excel.  I also live for Excel.  Recently I came across an old Excel file that had notes on things I'd experienced that were BIG.  We are talking major sensations.  Memories.  Things you re-tell at a bar over a great bottle of wine.  Some of which I never want to experience again, and others which I hope to get to again.  Here is what I found:

  • Singing on stage in front of several hundred people.  College. 
  • Winning a crew race where we were at least two boats behind, dead in the water, the odds on loser and yet…we WON.  We WON.  Man did that feel good.
  • Getting stuck under a raft in a moving river.  In Chile. 
  • Realizing at mile 13 that yes, I was going to finish that marathon.
  • Opening a mailbox to find that big envelope that you know says "you are in"
  • Rock climbing a perfectly vertical and seemingly perfectly smooth (i.e. nothing to grab) rock wall…and then falling.  Was on belay.  And apparently the instructor's object was to push us until we "fell"…never before have I been so in the moment.
  • Being told "You are no longer employed by this company" (Thank God, a near miss…was re-hired 6 hours later into a new role.  But oh, the drama of post-9/11 job cuts.)
  • Getting a tattoo (I consider this Big.  It will be with me forever.  I'd pondered it for years)
  • Seeing Paul McCartney…EATING DINNER TWO TABLES FROM US. Cheesy, perhaps.  But you know you would stare too.  I saw a Beatle.
  • Speaking to someone in the moment of death
  • Fear for my life
  • Looking down the aisle 🙂
  • Labor pains…let's all take a moment.

OK

  • It's a girl
  • It's a boy

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