Unexpected Graces: Everyday Magic, Day 970

Maybe it’s the late landing of spring, the convergence of personal history and life lessons, or just chaos and good timing, but I’ve been tripping into unexpected graces lately, small or big moments that surprise me with such joy, connection, beauty, even something akin to healing.

On our trip to Brooklyn, New York City, and New Jersey — aka the mothership for me — grace abounded, often like a slip of paper or wings at the edge of vision. The moment we emerged at a new subway stop for us in Brooklyn, staring blankly at the sun after eight hours of travel, backpacks and suitcase heavy, a kind sanitation worker walked over to me. “What you looking for, baby?” he asked. Sometimes it’s just tiny kindnesses that can steer a person the right direction.

Days later, sitting down with old family friends my brother and I hadn’t seen in 40-plus years, I felt enveloped in a bear hug of grace and gratitude, but then again, being with people who know you from before you were born can do that. Hugging my aunts hello, setting the table with my nephew, talking on the train with my brother were all imbued with a sweetness as well as so many conversations with family members, old friends, new pals, or strangers over Chinese food or bagels throughout that trip.

Back home, I found grace in the ground, digging in the soft dirt with my hands to make enough room for some pansies, and later hauling some trash from around the yard into the back of the pick-up truck, including a broken air-conditioner and lawn mower we’ve meant to get rid of for a long time. I also found grace in hearing from a long-lost friend, apologizing to someone I was a bit impatient with, laughing with a coaching client, saying some very hard things to someone without having them take off running, and listening to story after story about the lives of two friends who have died recently.

There’s many varieties of grace, such as the grace of the delicious when we shared exquisite desserts(no dairy, sugar, or grain) with dear friends at Cafe Gratitude in Kansas City. There’s the flowering grace of magnolias, out a month later than they were last year, smiling in their pink jackets all over town. There’s the  poetic grace of gathering at the river banks with an eclectic group of writers and naturalists for a reading celebrating the river, right in the middle of a fierce rowing competition erupting in cheers and the handing out of sandwiches.

I think of a moment at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, someplace we didn’t realize we were walking until we got there, our feet tired from days of putting on the miles. We climbed a steep hill, then sat on the winter-softened ground and looked toward the city. I held up a tiny hyacinth flower, thinking it would contrast nicely with the skyscrapers across the river, but what I see in the photo is what’s close up and arching over us: grace after grace after grace.

Brooklynisms, Lower-Manhattanisms, and Other Things Heard on the Street: Everyday Magic, Day 852

Roaming around Brooklyn and the city for about five days yields not just astonishing things to behold (two Chinese multi-generational bands jamming in a park where dozens of people play table-top games at high speed in between yelling in Catonese at each other) but also snippets of things people say to each other. Not knowing Catonese or any of the probably 22 other languages hummingbirding past us as we walked, I could only catch these intriguing phrases in English, some of which Ken, Ruth or I may have actually said but most of which we heard:

  • They’re taking over an area that used to be HORRRRible!
  • In Dublin, Van B and Van C are far superior to Van A.
  • I basically made it sound like you’re the only reason the city could sell the company, so you should thank me.
  • He’s turning into you.
  • ….Or like a passive aggressive British woman.
  • The thing about her is that I could actually feel her aura vibrating. It was that intense.
  • The Paris Metro is far superior to this subway.
  • Waiting for the bathroom is a fucking nightmare at this theater.
  • I could sell him anything if he’d just answer the phone.
  • They do the voices really good, but it felt bad anyway. I didn’t get anything out of it but squeaks.
  • It wasn’t just that the penis was elevated.
  • They’re great at growing rocks here.
  • Bagels are for losers.
  • I loved him but not really.
  • I’m like the healthiest person on the face of the planet because all I eat is Chinese food, that and some salad.
  • Person 1: Watch it! Person 2: I don’t have to watch it. You watch it.
  • The rats all know about the third rail. It’s passed down. It’s in their DNA by now.
  • Father to 5-year-old daughter: What did you see? Daughter: Money!
  • The olive oil cake is sublime.
  • You have to go down to go up.
  • Don’t open your mouth. The devil is going to trick you.

So I’ll close my mouth now and go find some Chinese food, that or salad.

Doors Of New York & Other Entryways To Other Dimensions: Everyday Magic, Day 381

We stepped out of the hotel a few days ago, glanced at a door together, and Lauren and I looked at each other, each pulling out a camera. We would and did take many photos of many doors throughout our wandering in the city, both of us dazzled by ornate stone carvings, archways with Hobbit-like wooden doors and other varieties of entry from the outside to the inside.

Why doors? Why not? I mean, they just grab your attention like the eyes that we see first when meeting someone new. And the doors of the city are so beautiful, sexy, intriguing and downright gorgeous, grabbing our eyes enough to make us continually fish out the camera.They’re also full and made of history and stories.

There’s also the mystery: what is behind that door? Who lives there? What is their life like? What could they be eating right now at the kitchen table while looking at the paper, or are they petting some spoiled kitty cats while complaining about the political landscape?

As for our landscape, we found doors of wonder in Midtown, near the Cloisters way up north, close to the Staten Island ferry at the southern tip of the island, in the East Village, in the West Village, in Chelsea of course (where the doors are especially well-appointed), and downtown, uptown and in between. We also found the entryway that leads toward a door we knew well: that of our father’s stamp store, located once in the subway arcade. No matter that it was locked and closed, mostly out of business since 9/11 (our dad’s store is just three blocks away). It’s home for us in some sense, and so I have many pictures of me standing under this sign. The stairs below this sign lead down to the small store with the stone floor that I once dove into at age five, leading my parents and me back up in a hurry to get Frankenstein-like stitches across my forehead.

As for other doors, and door-watching, there’s something very comforting and fascinating at once about looking for a beautiful door. It’s a way to mark where we are, to take in the wonders small and private or large and public. The art of the door also speaks to some longing for beauty in the everyday: a threshold we can cross from out to in or in to out, a small rite of passage in the ordinary that reminds us how so much of life is about such passages.

Step right over to the lovers of the doors of New York, and tell us when you see an entryway that makes you want to drop everything and walk closer.

I'm Walking, Yes Indeed: Everyday Magic, Day 379

Forest at Artie's Deli

So once again it’s New York City, and once again, it’s a walking marathon-frenzy-delight, this time with my sister Lauren, son Forest and niece Allison. Although we didn’t start until about 2 p.m. after we all traveled here and met in our hotel (located on Alec Baldwin’s block, so I keep rehearsing what I’ll say when I run into him) where we settled into rooms the size of matchboxes, we managed to get in about nine miles of the-world-changes-at-each-block travels.

Highlights of the day blur together somewhat, but here’s what stands out:

  • Climbing out of the subway at 79th and Broadway in a long orderly line with people from around the world to emerge into pouring rain. Laughing and running to the nearest store, we found ourselves in Filene’s Basement (always a good thing) where Lauren and I twirled umbrellas and sang to a Chinese woman, “We’re singing in the rain.” We were about to purchase said umbrellas when the rain stopped. “Forget that,” Lauren said, and off we went….through major puddles on our way to very big Jewish food for dinner.

    Allison with Mark, Who's Going Profession in La Cage Aux Folles Soon
  • “Yes, this!” Lauren said, pointing to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where the wait staff bursts into song on a dime. We sat on the end of a horse-shoe shaped arrangement of diner-like tables where the waiter would climb up next to us and belt out the likes of Frank Sinatra or Paul McCarthy/John Lennon tunes. Our waiter, the talented and lovely Mark, did a killer duet with a woman of “Seymour” from “Little Shop of Horrors.”
  • Looking for a place to rest tiring legs, we stepped into several different Starbucks in Chelsea, where we had whimsical conversations with friendly, handsome men of a certain country.
  • The lobsters at Chelsea market (pictures coming) as well as many manner of doorway (which we’re photographing today).
  • Wandering into a beautiful hotel, which shall stay unnamed, to lounge in the lounge. The secret to our success: acting like we were staying there among the sand-colored plush sofas and animal skin design fabrics in soft and tasteful lighting.
  • Sampling the wonders of the world along the way: White Castle hamburgers, New York pizza, the illusive search for the lobster-shaped pastry that resulted in getting some stale ones we shared with a homeless man, expert corned beef, and much more to come.