It is 11pm. A family gets on the D train, all dressed up and heading to wherever home is.
They are quiet, the two children indulging in sleepiness.
The young boy sits by his dad near the window and before the father is even done adjusting to sit, the boy leans into him. They wiggle and maneuver until the child, legs curled on seat, head resting on dad’s stomach is comfortable. They are a pair in matching dress pants and leather shoes.
The even younger girl, sits with her mother and tries to imitate her sibling, but with no train wall to brace her feet against, it isn’t quite as graceful. She keeps having to switch position as the tulle skirt of her dress slips along the smooth orange seat. She is so tired that she sleeps through all her own movement.
This little family makes me so happy in their dress clothes and warm winter coats. I don’t know what kind of evening they are coming from, but it reminds me of the New York City version of when my family would get all dressed up to go see a holiday musical. The magic of a special night together. Feeling all grown up, staying up late, and beautiful in fancy clothes.
This family speaks Spanish to each other as they head uptown. The woman makes eye contact with me and we smile across the aisle. She knows I have been watching her little ones doze off.
Is this a family that will be in danger in the coming months? I am not sure. I don’t know this particular family’s story, but there are so many like them that may need protecting. My heart is prepared to stand up, support, and help in whatever way it can, but have I taken the responsibility of gathering the tools I will need to make this desire into a reality. What exactly is at stake? What resources will be needed to make sure these children grow up in love and safety?
The mom eventually picks up the daughter and cradles her child on her lap between two arms. Dad supports her stretched out feet with one hand. For many stops they hold this position, without letting go of the magical night they have created together.
Rocking thoughts is a serious of short observations made on the New York subway. An interesting cross section and environment that is truly and as much this city.
I have not spoken out, during primaries or general debates, on my own personal thoughts and feelings. I have posted articles and shown my approval for the posts of friends and family when I agreed. I have played the opposite side, when I felt it needed support, especially as a theater artist and dramaturg in charge of a political show. I was happy to do it, even when it seemed impossible. But I want to voice my most powerful feelings and show my support for a woman I both admire greatly and question often.
The following is one moment that sums up my personal feelings toward this election. Debate 4.
She walked out on that stage in a blinding white suite, straight line of buttons. My heart swelled. To see her, a her, on that stage. I think she deserves to be president. You could say I trust her too much. But I do, I trust her, in spite of the mistakes she has made and some things that I will not over look and do not agree with, I trust her. After all the research, viewing, and discussion it still comes back to my gut feeling. She might break my heart, but she wouldn’t be the first politician and she won’t be the last. I want her to have her chance and I personally believe that she deserves that chance. She has proven to me standing on numerous stages, sitting in countless interviews, as the knowledgeable, controlled person the likes of which I have rarely seen before, that she does.
I will not deny that when I see her it is the woman inside me that swells, it is an emotional reaction. Until watching her on that stage, I never realized the great weight upon me. The awareness that there has never been a woman president of this country. For someone who studies, challenges, and cherishes history as much and as often as I do, isn’t it strange how for so long I must have noticed this fact without questioning. A part of me must have not wanted to acknowledge it, and yet another part must have been screaming that it is wrong. Wrong that half the population of this country has never had representation as head of state. I didn’t know it was screaming until the tears of pain and fear welled up, seeing it so close, so achievable, and equally still so far. I didn’t know how oppressed I felt in this regard, until I saw her female form on that stage, with such strength, and womanhood. It sounds silly and still unbelievable….there might, just might, be a woman as our next president. And not just any woman. A woman who is truly qualified, as qualified as any woman or man, and more than most of either in my opinion.
When I see and hear Trump I feel like less. I’m not debating this. I am telling you how I feel. He brings back some of the men I have met along the way, in college, working in restaurants, on the subway. The man who treats me as an object, because he sees me as one. To be compared with all the other objects. Just another man of those who have caused the sexual trauma I am forced to deal with every day. I don’t want to feel this, but it is a reality that I have worked hard to overcome.
I try instead to dream of and fight for a world where people feel safe. Where all people feel safe. Right now I am most concerned with people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, women, and immigrants. These are people I love, whether I know them or not, but it does help that I am close to so many of them and that they have taught and challenged me to be better, truer, more outspoken, helpful, and honest.
As I watch the debate I oscillate between longing that this election will break through that ceiling we always talk about, and fear of the disappointment of being sent back to the normality of objectification. To be prodded, slammed, wrapped, and shoved as a woman in this country. With people I love even more threatened than I.
Some may call it one issue voting, but I would not vote for any woman, after all I know the gamut of female leaders in my history brain, and I certainly know they can screw it up and be just as corrupt as any man. Just female is not enough. But yes, it does draw me to Clinton. I would still vote for her if she was a man, and Trump were a woman, or if either of them looked or identified in any infinite number of ways. I have taken their words and while neither is perfect, I refuse to support the language of hate and violence. I don’t see this as a vote for the lesser of two evils, I see this as a choice for a woman I have watched try, fail, try again, learn, lie, admit mistakes, deny, grow, promote causes I believe in, and speak with an awkward kind of love for a world I too believe is possible and desperately want to see realized.
Thank you for reading. Happy Election Day! Stay safe.
Things to consider as a NYC voter: http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-be-better-nyc-voter/
On my flight I think of the 49 people that were gunned down at a night club in Orlando. I am only just reading the reports that I will continue to pour over. It will be a constant reminder throughout my experience in Pittsburgh. While I won’t be sharing my private thoughts, musings, and angry statements about this tragedy, they were there, interspersed with my sense of the city, clouding my eyes literally and figuratively.
It is beautiful flying amidst two layers of white clouds with a solid powder-blue slit balancing in the middle. We are flying between two sheets of paper. I can’t see earth at the moment. A powerful experience being separated from the surface that allows me to live, move, and wonder every day. The landing a blessing. Water like mirrors the sky gazes into. The rich, golden land illuminated by the sun that can’t be seen, but shows all. I land grateful that I spent the hesitant money on a flight.
Waiting for my sister to arrive, in an airport void of departures for the rest of the night. If an airport could be a ghost town, this is it. Yet I have the company of the night workers, emptying trash, sweeping up bits and crumbs of food, taking supplies back and forth; each set to his or her own task. So focused.
Day 1-Good morning Pittsburgh!
I already love all your yellow bridges. Simply put, they make me smile. Eating my just-right biscuits and gravy, an ice coffee by my side, as I sit on a stone wall in a patch of sun overlooking the river. I see stadium, hotels, roads, and parking garages past water and bridge.
I downloaded a free walking tour from the Robert Morris University website, in preparation for this trip. It teaches me about the competition between Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. A strike. The attempted assassination of a man who was anti-labor, but also a major philanthropist in Pittsburgh and other cities, providing art and building.
The voice of Mark Houser focuses in on the architecture of downtown, telling me to walk into the gorgeous Union Trust Building, with circles up to the the ceiling. It becomes my favorite, inside and out, brought to us once again by that Frick guy. Appreciating lobbies is not something I would have thought to do, but this tour is full of useful information.
Standing in the middle of PPG Plaza surrounded by plate glass, turreted towers inspired by Westminster, and in all the dazzle I almost miss the oldest building in Pittsburgh. A squat stone mansion, small, but proud as on its first day of being.
Enjoying a dark chocolate iced latte from Nicholas Coffee Company, housed in yet another ancient stone building.
I hand the cashier two fives,
she hands me back one of them,
“I thought it was $6.48?” Turns out that was the previous order still on the register screen.
She laughs. Who would pay that?
Explaining in New York that wouldn’t surprise me.
She finds this amusing, and so do I.
I sip and watch Market Square swirl around me. I walked through this same square without knowing in the early morning and it was practically empty, but with the work day underway and lunch breaks going on this is a place full of human energy.
This guide even makes me laugh as he talks about eyeball statues, the Pittsburgh accent and intriguing stories. His love of this city is palpable and I am grateful that such an opportunity is free to anyone that has a smart phone and access to the internet.
A picture says it all on this lovely ride up Mount Washington, in a creaky old tram.
The Phipps Botanical Garden.
So much color and variety, explanation and creative design. I’ve never seen so many interactive elements at a place dedicated to plants, and it is more accessible than any conservatory garden I have experienced.
A fountain with buttons to push so that you can control the different water effects yourself.
A market of fake fruit and vegetables to learn with.
A butterfly room, a wishing well.
A fish tank, hut, and masks in a room dedicated to the environment of the Congo.
Machines turn out to be an art to boil water or move a train in the most complicated, intricate fashion.
An outdoor garden with sprinkler, watering cans, signs saying “water me!,” a mini play house, a fort building area, which would be incomplete without the array of wet, dirty, tired kids who were all tricked into a day of learning that was the most fun.
I gape in the orchid room at those delicate creatures. A friendly worker so intoxicated by his work among the gardens, that he has little concept that most people don’t care about the drama of having to move a sprinkler. The two older ladies walk away from him, but I enjoy the simple insider tid bit, into his side of this magical world.
To return to my sister in time, I ask the two people at the ticket desk if I need exact change for the bus and how much….they don’t know, they’ve never been asked that question and have never taken the bus. Luckily their manager knows…..yes exact change. $2.50. On the bus back it is mostly students heading into the downtown area or people who get on in the neighborhoods I passed through on my walk. This morning it was an hour walk, now it is a 10 minute drive.
Sitting in Point State Park to finish my time. Bikers, people walking or running, in the still early morning. The large, circular fountain crashes continuously. Freight trains roll by along one side of one river, with the homes and apartments of Mt. Washington looking on down the incline still running along. The other river hosts the Carnegie Science Center and Heinz field all in red lettering. It is difficult to tell in which direction the rivers run. Amidst periodic sun and dark clouds there is distant thunder. This is a spot that tells so much, hugged from all sides by those signature yellow bridges.
6.20 The Master said, “To know something is not as good as to have a love for it. To have a love for something is not as good as to find joy in it.”
He clarifies what qualities are most important in the individual.
4.1 The Master said, “A neighborhood suffused with a humane spirit [liren] is beautiful. How can a man be considered wise when he has a choice and does not settle on humaneness?”
12.16 The Master said, “A gentleman helps others realize what is good in them. He does not help others to realize what is reprehensible about them. A petty man is just the opposite.”
He comments on wealth and poverty, something so central to the history of humankind. He opening voices his admiration for others.
(part of) 4.5 The Master said, “Wealth and eminence are what people desire. If you cannot acquire them by proper means, you should not accept them. Poverty and lowly position are what people despise. If you cannot avoid them by proper means, you should not reject them.”
6.11 The Master said, “What an extraordinary man was Hui [Yan Hui]! Living in a shabby neighborhood on a bowlful of millet and a ladleful of water—most people could not have endured such misery, but Hui did not let it take anything away from his joy. What an extraordinary man was Hui!”
The way in which Confucius refers to himself was fascinating to read. Did he know how his words would inspire cultures, governments, individuals, thousands of years after his death? He can be guarded, but in the moments he reveals himself it is striking, and I for one couldn’t help but feel a great deal of affection for the speaker.
5.26 Zilu said, “We would like to hear what you would like to see yourself accomplish.”
The Master said, “To give comfort to the old, to have the trust of my friends, and to have the young seeking to be near me [huaizhi].”
7.19 The Governor of She asked Zilu about Confucius, and Zilu gave no answer. The Master later said to Zilu, “Why didn’t you simply say that he is the sort of person who forgets to eat when pursuing a question, who forgets to worry when suffused with joy, and who does not note that old age is coming?”
He is demanding when it comes to being a leader. Giving recommendations so many could learn from.
13.13 The Master said, “If you know to correct yourself, what difficulty will you have should you decide to serve in government? If you do not know to correct yourself, how can you hope to correct others?”
2.13 Zigong asked about the gentleman [junzi]. The Master said, “He first puts his words into action. He then lets his words follow his action.”
He observes about life and death.
11.2 Jilu [Zilu] asked about how to serve the spirits of the dead and the gods. The Master said, “You can’t even serve men properly, how can you serve the spirits?”
“May I then ask about death?”
“You can’t understand life, how can you understand death?”
The Analects gave me new ways of looking at the world around me, and defined things I did not know were already a part of my life. These did not feel like orders or requirements, but helpful suggestions. I can imagine that each reader would be touched by different passages at different times in life. Some things were beyond my comprehension, others rung true for the present. And every once and awhile a phrase would grab me and never let go of its mystery.
9.28 The Master said, “Only in the deepest winter do we realize that the pine and cypress are the last to shed their leaves.”
For more information on this series of posts focused on the reading of different religious texts see my original post Reading Religion Part I: The Quran.
Today I saw a man walking by my bedroom window
He was tall and without physical sight (that’s not to say he didn’t have another form of sight).
A little girl sat firmly on his shoulders, still and at ease. Quiet or jabbering in the way only little girls with eager pigtails know how.
A dog wandering out in front, back and forth, no need for a leash.
The man gets nearer to the edge of the sidewalk taking slow, cautious steps.
He comes to the dip where cars cross over the curb for gas and with his eye-stick he can notice immediately the small plunge. He feels to his left, then right in a large arc.
Where am I?
Finding the nearby curb he gains spacial awareness once more. In to the middle of the sidewalk he pitter patters, as a focused tap dancer.
The girl is still squat, unaware there ever was a dilemma.
The dog notices and follows over to once again lead the way like a chariot horse with no reigns.
It all happens naturally, not asking for attention.
As they onward march a large group passes around them with an individual looking back in awe at this trio, but the man doesn’t see this awe. Does he know it?
Is this what his each day passes as? Or is this an exceptionally challenging outing with no other alternative?
My sight can’t be pulled away from the three getting by with little of it.
I watch what he can’t and know HE can teach many.
The room is spacious, beach side, tranquility, when slider doors open making the sheer white curtains billow in and out to a living room of light blue, green, and cream. Two twin beds support us in our stay. It feels of a steady rocking and small chirping sounds. A large yacht, on its own, anchored in the cove. I saw some children who call this island home, playing in the sand. With a big hello and wave, we greet each other. Walking this place I am lucky to inhabit for a few days.
Sunset and Cocktails:
Through the clouds an absolute red sun sets with even darker hues wafting out. Waves crash on the jagged rocks a quick jump, but a tedious climb away. A home sits atop natures walls, tamed on top of power.
Surrounded by the open wall-windows,
the kind of furniture that makes one belief life is lying down,
a fountain in the entryway that provides a constant gurgle to the ocean rhythm. Temperature cool and welcoming.
This house breaths with the sea and a kind woman is eager to comfort her guests and the village her resort resides in. Where to begin and end? After reading ‘A Small Place’ by Jamaica Kincaid I wonder what the answer is for the people of this island.
A toast, a dinner, a few silly dances to live band, and rather abruptly the quietude of the room. The heavy sleep only waves can bring.
The morning opens the same soothing crib sounds of the ocean. The yacht has gone and there is smoke tinkling out of the top of the hill. A little pool of water is cupped in a basin before each doorway here. Washing the sand from the feet of those who stay.
All the Knowledge a Jeep Ride can Bring:
Cruising, bumping, shaking through the roads of Antigua, our guide Travis is the expert at multitasking. He teaches out of passion this place he has always known.
We know English is the supposed language, but then why can’t we understand it? He explains the “lazy creole” or “lazy English” and how words are abbreviated to make them faster. I get it now as he gives an example, but I still can’t understand when our guides speak to each other.
So many small villages, close together, but each with their own small businesses and convenient stores.
Travis has a passion for the plants and animals.
We touch cotton and cattle tongue, smell lemon grass, taste tamarind.
We see black pineapple being grown and sold…it isn’t actually black.
Mongoose were brought to the island to get rid of the rats, but the rats are nocturnal and the mongoose are not. Instead they ate the snakes, no snakes remain on the main island of Antigua.
How do you tell the difference between all the goats and sheep seen wandering about? Down is a sheep’s tail, up is a goat’s.
He points out a kind of spiky tree that was used to tie slaves to, as a form of punishment and torture.
There are so many churches in all shapes and colors and Travis tells us that the younger generation isn’t as religious as the old, but that many still go to church. He goes sometimes with members of his family, to different churches in different villages with different sets of beliefs.
The agave is so tall. It blooms only once and then fades away. But a second life is had when these large sticks are tied together to make floating rafts.
Evening Food and Music:
Our buffet dinner on the beach of the resort is a marvel. Fish with mango, beef, pineapple chunks on top, vegetable kabobs, ice cream cake, chocolate cake, piles of raspberries. A steal drum band plays and my sister can’t believe all these sounds, all this melody comes from drums and drums alone. They play everything from traditional calypso music to disney songs to a western opera medley.
Breakfast and a walk past more abandoned buildings, an old sugar mill, and off to the airport. Our driver speaks of Mt. Obama, the highest mountain in Antigua.
One local man spoke of it with pride: the mountain to remind the people of just how high they can go.
Another equally at home, with bitterness: Obama is not Antigua. Why must the country turn to America for inspiration, when its own history is full of leaders of more importance to this place?
The people in the car do not give an answer, but the thought has been lodged.
Do the seemingly crazy people come to New York or does New York just turn people seemingly crazy?
A man lies over the seats across from me on the train.
It appears as though he is incessantly chewing gum, but I never see anything in his mouth.
Sprawled out on his back,
with one arm he cradles his head,
the other lies over his hip,
or it rises up to flail about with intention.
He is conducting his imaginary orchestra.
I wonder what it sounds like….if that’s what he hears.
He looks up and around the cart and then itches the back of his neck under four layers of coat.
Rocking thoughts is a serious of short observations made on the New York subway. An interesting cross section and environment that is truly and as much this city.
I have recently been drawn to the writings of John O'Donohue, after a dear friend suggested I listen to his episode on the radio show 'On Being' with Krista Tippet. His words spoke to me and voiced things that I could have never expressed without his help. In honor of this holiday when many of us choose to celebrate our Irish heritage and history, I want to share a blessing he wrote.