Sunday, September 22, 2019

Living on Faithless Street

Beef & Bean Rice Bowl 
Last night as I was riding my bike home from work near downtown Brooklyn I see 4 African American kids running from 2 Hispanic and 2 Middle Eastern men up the street.  I was stopped at the light with about 5 other bikers, all of them food delivery guys.  At first it looked as though the kids were playing and laughing, then I saw the faces of the men who were chasing them and they looked very angry. The light changed and all of us waiting were getting the picture of what was going on very quickly.  As we came upon the scene in the middle of the block, one of the kids stopped suddenly, turned and pushed the Latino that was right up on him and the man fell and hit the sidewalk very hard.  The kids laughed and when they saw he might be hurt one ran back to strike him.   The remaining kids began challenged the other men to fight.  A quick assessment showed 2 of the boys were very young, like possibly 10 or 11 and the others in their teens, very tall, but still looked under 18.  So when we all caught up, we stopped, each of us together now a wall of bikes facing the boys and this changed the outcome.  That became a real beautiful dark Brooklyn moment.  The boys didn't look at us but they were very aware that the 4 now became many.  One of the riders held his phone up like a weapon and called for the boys to stop, calm down.  He advised the man that fell who looked injured to call the cops immediately.  I yelled for the others not to hit the boys as they were under age and it would only be bad for the adults and another one of the drivers turned to agree with me.  He shouted, yes, it will only be bad for you.   During this exchange, the boy that was about to strike the man on the ground stopped and they all ran away again.  But even though the boys were halfway down the block after they saw that three of the bikers left, they decided to come back and try to take on the man that fell who was now back on his feet and yelling.  I positioned myself ready to escape quickly but held up my phone as if I was filming the boys as they approached and then they turned and ran away.  I watched them as they became smaller, still jumping and yelling down the street before putting down my phone.  I was too nervous to actually get it working in time, so it was a bluff.  Now those of us remaining seemed to separate as if before we had magically operated from one brain.  As the adrenaline wore off, we all came aware of our bodies again.   No one asked what happened but the men yelled to us 'they stole food from our shop, we caught them'.  And we nodded.  At the end, I was able to make eye contact with the injured Latino who was still breathing heavy and he looked at me in the eyes and said 'I caught him with the loaf of bread'.  I nodded again but when I heard it was bread I was a little upset that it was something so trivial.  But I also understand that at night in these businesses  if you allow something as small as theft to go on you could become a target and I see how it must have played out.  It was most likely a Middle Eastern run bodega with Mexican workers and it possibly got disruptive quickly so that they ran out of the shop after the boys after an altercation of some kind. When the man was struck, it became personal as the kids were going to attack him when he was down.  I've been in that position.

I shook my head and smiled at him, giving him my most sympathetic eyes hoping to lighten the moment and simply said 'they're assholes' before riding off.  I regretted not asking if he was okay but I was suddenly overcome with emotion and ended up crying through the next residential blocks.  I felt horrible at the potential for how childhood pranks can end up in very serious violence so quickly in the city.  I thought about where these men came from, their countries, possibly escaping violence and very familiar with territorial disputes. The hours they work, the seriousness and importance of holding on to everything they've worked for.  I thought about the kids, roaming the streets at night looking for trouble. Did they need the bread, were they hungry or more likely just entertaining their restless hearts.  Even though their behavior was illegal and abhorrent, they were still children.  What leniency do you grant them?  Suddenly in my mind I saw the situation as two entirely separate realities.  One where it was simply silly kids playing pranks and like in a comedy, the shopkeepers all running down the street in their aprons, waiving sticks, Benny Hill music playing behind.  But then another where everything seemed so void of anything funny. I saw real humility, the gravity of the situation, and was reminded of how cruel and dangerous the city can become so quickly.  

I also realized that this is my burden and gift in life.  I experience opposing  reactions to almost every situation.  Sometimes one eventually weights heavier and becomes truth.  Other times, I just land somewhere in the middle, confused.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

When I Die I May Not Go to Heaven

I went to the city to see Tanya Tucker at the Bowery Ballroom.  I was more thrilled to have dinner with my pal and enjoy lively conversation but was also a little curious to see what this woman had to say at this point in her career and life.  I tend to roll my eyes at Manhattan these days.  I still love so many parts of it but it is also a living showcase for stupidity.  Take these new sneakers.  Look closely.  These are new, distressed shoes.  And they're serious.  And they are expensive. Someone slap someone immediately for this nonsense.
Given the plethora of amazing dining spots in the city, my friend chooses her corner diner each time to meet. We've visited this place under a few different names, now the Kitchen Sink.  I like that a place tries new things and they seem to care.  Our water came in a nice cold glass bottle with added cucumber and mint.  And they used mason jars to serve which I thought was a nice touch.  They also put the fries in wax paper and a tiny fry basket, which is a cute idea. It doesn't take much for me to be impressed in casual dining settings.  The waitress was super sweet and the food is basic diner food but prepared with thought. 
When I visit my bud I just sort of role up on her, like in jump rope games. Literally, I just saw her walking by and ran to catch up and thus begun the night.  She doesn't say 'Hey hi, so nice to see you or hug like other folks.  She just starts talking as if time did not exist.  I actually love this.  Its like some type of space continuum.  It doesn't allow for social awkwardness.  You're already inline, you just have to maintain the conversation.  There is no beginning or end to any of it, until I'm on the subway going home thinking, wow, that was interesting. 
We kept it going up to and onto the Bowery Ballroom floor where we talked consciousness and simulated universe possibilities.  The opening band included Tanya's daughter Presley and who was entertaining but we agreed seriously needed a songwriter. There's nothing worse than terrible lyrics. But Presley had qualities that made her compelling, and a strong voice.  My advice would be to go solo.

And then Tanya came on stage and everything changed in the world.  I grew up knowing about how Tanya had come up at the tender age of 13 and took the country world by storm.  I read in the magazines when her whirlwind romance with Glen Campbell came off the rails.  I would file her in my brain as the young girl singer with a wild streak.  But she stayed out there, doing her thing, making records, making money, children.  I forgot about her.  Until now.  She sang some of her hits and filled the room with her essence.  That smelled of vodka, tequila and bad choices but also lots of personal, fun times.  She was alive but not living some stale memory, she was facing the world in some brave manner that seemed foreign to the setting.  She felt very real even if her version was as odd as anything.  She wore a mad hatter type hat, over pink hair, drank and told stories and rambled a bit.  She wore tons of makeup but her piercing blue eyes shone through the mascara out onto the crowd like sapphires.  More than that she somehow showed us where her voice comes from, like leading us through some shamanistic journey.  She sang songs that were written for her that became custom made for the night. 

Instead of putting some dumb broad on a pedestal that confesses 20 years after the fact that some guy showed her their winkie, this was a truly brave, strong woman that had lived through abuse and addiction, hard struggles as well as wealth and stardom but yet was here humbly laying down real work for us on a small stage and killing it.  She wasn't perfect or innocent, she just showed you who she was and sang.  That to me was more inspiring than any woman story I've heard this year.

Monday, September 16, 2019

You Know I Worship the Ground You Walk On

Alamo Drafthouse Citypoint Brooklyn
In recent years, on many a night and days, I hole up and listen to Linda Ronstadt albums on repeat.  Of course I've always loved her but it wasn't until now that I began to need to hear the cry and plea in her voice in order to get through my days.  Now to see the much anticipated biography, I see how even though she didn't write the songs, she carefully chose each one to fit her emotional climate at the time.  In that way she sang them so perfectly from the heart.   She is inspiring to me as she took her path without all the consideration and calculation of some female musicians in the present day.   Some women might find this opinion offensive but like many strong lesbians I've met, she thinks like men in the best of ways.  They don't overthink, they don't worry too much and they are able to 'do' without all the extra words needed for many woman, me included.  She was leading a band of men back when it was not common to have a female boss, but she just did it and wasn't apologetic.  She brought other musicians up and encouraged their growth, most of them men.  She also had strong female characteristics of keeping peace and not getting caught up in power.  She was a strikingly gorgeous woman without a huge ego, which is rare and was able to partner with equally gorgeous and talented women for musical collaborations. Every decision she made seemed to be driven by her love and interest in the arts,  showing a vibrant use of her soul.  I can't say enough about people speaking through their art especially in sad times. 
Parmesan Truffle PopcornImage result for linda ronstadt sound of my voice poster
I had a very sad few weeks that I'm still in and so I took my sad ass to this matinee showing and treated myself to a large Herbal Iced Tea and a giant metal bowl of Parmesan Truffle Popcorn.  I sat in the front row where the chairs recline and was smart to bring a sweater to cover myself like I was laying in front of my couch.  I really couldn't have been more comfortable and happy in those 2 hours.  When I left I felt I took a whole laundry bag full of motivation with me.  Oh I shoved it under the bed to use soon, I promise.

It's a sad story if you let it be but she tells it so full of hope and comedy.  At the end to see her now, unable to sing well, somewhat shaky but surrounded by so many friends who love her and of course all of us fans who adore her work, makes it much easier.  And what an inspiration on how to handle lemons in your life!  She humbled my whiny ass right down.  Fill it with humor and friends and don't feel sorry for yourself.  Be grateful for what you've accomplished and given and don't stop living.  I had a thought one night that I woke up and jotted down on my notepad.  Linda should write songs! When I woke up I realized what a wonderful idea and bonus for her fans if she chose to write lyrics for others to sing, maybe choosing a vocalist for each as she chose her songs.  If I could speak to her I would suggest it.  She is very well read and extremely intelligent.  She can no longer sing but obviously has so much more life in her.  It would be a new challenge.  I can only imagine she has closets full of interesting material for songs having lived that life. 

But for those of us less amazing, talent-less schlepps, I can only hope to find ways to contribute any worth I do have and sneak tiny morsels of happiness in along the way.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

You Can Still Change Your Mind

P left for yet another unannounced road trip out into that vast freedom infested unknown.  He is lucky in that he has a car that leads him to open space, other towns, out of the city, out of the reality of home base. Like the winding wheel, where he stops, nobody knows.  I get a little jealous but truth is that I'm happy for him, that he has the freedom to do that.  Me, I don't drive, don't have a car and that's why I take so many voyages of the mental variety.  I stayed in place and made this Veggetti in a tomato sauce and took multiple servings to work for consecutive days. 

I like to leave the gate open in relationships because I'd never want someone to stay out of an obligation.  I feel if you know you can leave and still decide not to, it's much better than being confined to laws and restrictions, guilt or commitment.  That's not to say marriage doesn't mean anything to me, but that is why I always feared it's formal ceremony.  It felt so rigid as opposed to my inner beliefs that the way to be together is to stay engaged, to never get complacent in a partnership or it becomes stagnant.  Not rely on a piece of paper but to keep working it like a dough. Whatever happens always feels like the right thing to me, until the day it doesn't, and then I guess you figure it out. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed

As I try to find my way in this Godforsaken new world where nothing is real and truth is optional, I try to see it as an opportunity for change.  Instead of feeling a sense of doom, I'm changing my view to a portal into another way of being, in doing, of living.  We allegedly have the power to change our perception of reality.  We create anxiety and worry in our own minds, like a greasy clog in a drain, stopping us from being able to experience peace in our souls.  Isn't that such an incredibly complex curse to realize all of our troubles could be of our own will?  It's a sick cosmic joke. But using potentially bad scenarios to make a positive change is a lesson I have relearned my entire life but never seem to keep it in practice for lengths of time.  How can we forget such important information? It feels as though the most important practices are the hardest to make stick.  Yet we so easily make the same mistakes over and over.  A frustrating painful reality. 
Weeks of not having a healthy sack of food to take to work made me realize I needed to try another method of preparing my lunch.  I started by making a double batch of brown rice.  I seasoned it well so that it had tons of flavor and could be exciting enough as a side.  Then I cut up and browned a batch of boneless chicken thighs into bite size pieces.  Vegetables and rice is no grand new idea but added fresh produce to the dish after the 2nd day proved to really perk it all up.  On this day I added steamed broccoli spears and fresh tomato to the existing mushroom, snow peas and onions.  Chili oil, a little sesame oil and we're back in business.  Then for dinner I fried up an egg before adding the rice to a sizzling hot wok.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

It Don't Come Easy, You Know It Don't Come Easy

Nothing feels easy this year.  Riding my bike is just a tiny bit less enjoyable and harder on the knees. Getting it up mentally so to speak for the same job every year is definitely a hardship.  I have found every creative way to consider the work interesting, but my spirit at this point is using it's entire life's breathe to shake my lifeless body out of it's apparent spiritual coma.  Coming home and whipping up exciting dinners afterwards is also feeling tiresome.  I need to elevate my cooking skills but it has not been the priority.
An egg cooked on low heat over a leftover pizza slice is still one of the most amazing breakfast ideas of the century. Especially this spinach mushroom slice with truffle oil and Parmesan. 

Its embarrassing to talk about my desire for change for so long that its only a reminder of just how hard I fail each year to make even the smallest adjustments to routines.  Somehow I did manage to begin regularly bringing my lunch to work, something I tried to do for years.  But I'll admit, the shift was forced because the food had become fairly inedible.  So unexpected happenings occur out of your control sometimes and strong-arm the shift.  One thing about change though is it's not guaranteed to look good on arrival.  It may suck so hard that it takes the life out of you for weeks.  It may bring you to your damned knees.  But any disruption to the flow imparts shifts and I guess you just have to have faith that with the right intentions, good will come of it.  Because what's the alternative?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Stir It Up!

If you have fresh vegetables, a quick stir fry is one of the best ways to enjoy them cooked.  There is an art to keeping that bite and freshness locked in, getting it plated well before anything starts to wilt.  Also seasoning your whole grain brown rice with a little butter or herbs gives the entire meal bonus flavor. This was so fresh with the tomatoes dressed in a little lemon and salt added at the very end, just enough to get warmed up and release some of that tang!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Yer So Bad, The Best Thing I Ever Had

I like the alcoholic's creed, live life one day at a time.  Any much thought beyond that lately is way too much to bare.  If I make it through each day, I've been successful. I try not to consider the next before it gets here.  On this day, I took cold sesame noodles to work.  Certainly not the best choice but better than what awaited me in the staff cafeteria.  Sometimes choice is the lesser of two evils.  Still gave me a freakin' headache.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Many Thangs is On My Mind, Words in the Way

Image result for tigers are not afraid
P went off on a road trip and I found myself with a day off and an amazing movie that I took in solo and in the early afternoon.  This movie has everything, Mexican cartel, orphaned children, ghosts,  an interesting lady filmmaker Issa Lopez, in the style of Guillermo del Toro, a personal favorite.

Sitting there in my choice seat, I ordered one of their fancy shakes and a bowl of Herbed Truffle Parmesan Popcorn and it was delicious!  This is one of those things that I never thought I would enjoy doing.  To take myself to the movies where I pick the flick and order exactly what I want.  It was fantastic actually. The movie was inspiring and I loved the child actors.  The dreaminess of the world they created was much better than expected. 
I got word around this time that my nephew was to do his 6th tour of duty and was being sent to Iraq.  Since then unfortunately another couple of his Apache pilots that were under his command in Fort Hood, were killed in Afghanistan. And this kind of news is frequent for him.  It's a reminder how families around the country are silently turned upside down constantly with worry and grief.   When you have the luxury of sitting in an air-conditioned movie theater these days (I feel it anyway), you feel a real privilege for the ability to tune out the problems of the world.  Here I was reclined in a giant seat, completely comfortable with good snacks and sweets, enjoying a wondrous freedom.  I remember being so awkward trying to express my thanks to him but also curious about what was appropriate to say, like what do real military want to hear from idiot civilians.  Very kindly he said that he wishes more people were educated on our ongoing conflict.  Sounded like they've all heard enough of 'thank you for your service' although he's super humble and kind about it.  Its hard for me to ingest let along understand the news especially military information, so instead I've been taking moments out during some of my various freedoms to give thanks to him and all our other soldiers out there. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

If You Want to Be Free, Be Free

Sometimes riding your bike in the city is nothing short of a large screen video game.  And this year they advanced the skill level to include these new Revel mopeds all over the road.  They're supposed to stay out of the bike lane but because it's basically the wild west in Brooklyn, they do as they please.  They're a step up from the motorized bikes that are mainly used for food delivery.  Those speed demons have raced up from behind at night so quickly that my heart about bounced right up through my throat.  There is nothing scarier than feeling a crash coming that you have no control over, when there is no time to react.  I'm sure they feel in control but caught by surprise, I'm apt to veer one way or another. They're dangerous. Many times they shut off their lights out in order to speed up their route and go the wrong way down a road.  If you ever see a husky Mexican tank coming right at you on a motorized bike at night, you'll know true fear.   At least you hear these new scooters, sort of.  It's a low buzz.  
In the end its a great thing for the city to have more options of getting around.  Uber and Lyft changed the game entirely.  The subway system and yellow cab drivers must have thought nothing would ever evolve to take their place.  So they did what people tend to do, take you for granted, take more from you while providing nothing in return.  Also, to believe they can not only continue their bullshit but get worse and no one will be the wiser.  In this respect, I commend any company coming into the competition for our loyalty.
I try to up my dinner, health and skill game level as best I can for myself and my mate.  This stuffed cold tuna salad with apple, chick peas and walnuts over dressed greens was my way of saying, hey, I appreciate you.  Not only that but I want to put nutrients in your body so you live longer.  I made it pretty because it's all another form of art to me and because food is like a little gift you give to someone.   I try to remember just like that airport saying, we know you have a choice in who you're flying with and I want to thank you for choosing me. 
In keeping with this healthy competition and range of choices we now have, people should be cognizant of their new options.  Traditional living arrangements may give way to new pairings or groupings soon.  What I envision is young (and old) people will choose whoever we want to share living quarters with for emotional, economic, practical and social reasons eventually.  We like to imagine leaving the city and living in a small house in a small town and continuing our low carbon footprint.  But sometimes I see living in one of those larger old houses with my sister, an elderly person, possibly take in a troubled teen or young mother and building a network of support under one roof.  Me and P talked about possibly housing single friends or family that maybe fell on their luck or just because it would be so cool.  Soon maybe this will be the norm.  Just like my visit to the city today where the bike lane was filled with normal bicycles but also included solowheels, monocycles, electric scooters, hoover and skateboards.  Opening up habitation options could really solve a lot of problems for people that don't fit into one mold.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Say My Name, Say My Name

There's a lady at work that calls me Sam but that's not my name.  She's 70 and looks about 55, very tall and thin and wears bright yellow Chuck Taylor high tops and lives in the nearby Red Hook Housing. She has one of those raspy sexy voices and sounds like she's lived through some very interesting times that I would have paid to have been in.  I have never corrected her because I love the name Sam and could so easily change myself to fit that name, happily so but especially since it's been about 7 years since she started calling me that.
Every so often I make these Baked Garlicky Fries because they are amazing and taste fantastic if you get the crisp just right.  When that happens, you never miss the actual frying part.  This was a good time.  The oven has to be very hot, but you can't burn them either, so after a bunch of times, I learned you really need to watch them and turn them and turn the pan during baking.  Be present.
Earlier that day I brought to lunch one of my left over Accordion Chicken Primavera breasts and boy was it such a treat in that environment.