It’s All An Exercise in Dreaming
In which I consider the gifts of prolonged discovery, gratitude for minor inconveniences, motorcycle rides, dancing with strangers and, briefly, Trevor Noah.
How did you weather it? Friends asked, checking in on one another, as we do, post-Ida.
My story in response was, thankfully, a very sweet one to tell in the grand scheme of climate change grief. While the trees outside my bedroom window tossed themselves back and forth as if made of paper, I had spent the blue hours of Wednesday into Thursday waking on the hour to check in with The Jazz, who was stuck overnight for ten hours on a parked Amtrak just an hour outside the city.
At 8am, I wiped the sleep from my eyes and jumped in the car as soon the train doors unlocked, depositing The Jazz and his fellow passengers into a sunny and remarkably dry suburban New Jersey. Rolling up, I was pleased to play the role of hero with both a big smile on my face… and a flat tire in the back.
The trunk’s secret spare turned out to be useless, the metal so rusted around the bum tire that it was simply not to be dislodged by mere mortal hands. Dang. The Jazz cranked the car back down and the tire, back on the pavement, was now a deflated whoopie cushion.
All of this could have been a recipe for super-saturated grumpiness but instead somehow we made it light and breezy, rolling on rims to the nearest Goodyear, and whaddya know, once the tire was replaced, the mysterious, worrisome grinding that had long plagued my driving life was gone! Someone say “silver linings” and let us high five.
(Before I get too cavalier, allow me a pause to acknowledge the terror of New York’s subways under water, and the basement flooding that claimed the life of my Queens neighbors — not to mention in more vulnerable parts of the country. I do not mean to make light of the destruction and loss, but I do mean to, in a broader sense, make light. I hope you’ll understand my distinction.)
After a stormy week of multiple tough but ultimately managed miscommunications (the planets must have been pissed), shed tears, lost sleep and a literal tornado ripping through the Bronx, what a relief it was to fall back into New York’s resilient joy, where one can renourish themselves on the energy of discovery.
(A worthy aside on the topic of discovery: have you ever seen an owl’s legs?!)
And so, here is a weekend recap, as much for my own record-keeping as for anyone reading, that begins on Friday evening’s joy: communing with my good friend Tishon over dinner at an outdoor restaurant, in three scenes:
1. I handed Tishon a crinkled-up version of the unpublished — which just autocorrected to “unpunished,” which could be a synonym for “unedited,” which it certainly wasn’t but, as I’d soon learn, still a bit less “punished” than it’s most current form—manuscript he’d gifted me earlier in the season. The poems had been well-loved not only by my coffee (whoops) and my pen (intentional: many hearts and exclamation points), but also by The Jazz’s plant spritzing and the poor location of the plant-propping shelf on which I was storing them.
Forgive me, I’ve gotten side tracked again by one of my favorite sights: a lived in book. Here is the real story: after we’d long been sitting and our bellies had quieted, Tishon told me the tale of how the title of a section in the manuscript came to be scrapped. Emotionally invested, I fought — kind of hard—for its right to live.
It works like a gut punch, I said!
I know! Tishon said. That’s what I said!
But as the story unfolded I had to admit, the advice he had been given by two trusted sources did yield a much more subtle, nuanced, and dare I say brilliant approach.
What is critical to this story is that instead of outright telling me the change he made and what propelled it (which would squander the possibility of my experiencing the revelation for myself), Tishon let me come along on the journey of discovery with him as he unveiled each step of his process towards something far better than I would have ever dreamed up.
Light bulb! I internalized the learning, too.
2. This mirage of a man, who from the warm imagination of night emerged as an absolute vision, plucked from some old scene in the DR and dropped into my neighborhood. What you can’t see is the man’s movie star demeanor, nor the slow nod of his head, nor the cigar that might have actually been a woman, the way he caressed the air to bring it to his lips. (When I later showed The Jazz he watched for a split second before saying, oh yeah, I know that guy. Right, “guy.” Must have meant to say “apparition” or “myth.”)
3. Tishon gave me a lift on his motorcycle (he’s really cool, I know) around the block to my front door, and I was trying not to cut the circulation off at his waist as I let out a few whoops into the night! The way these New Yorkers drive, honestly, it was like evading death. Now I can’t help but wonder what 70 MPH feels like. I have also added “very brave” to my list of characterizations of Tishon.
Now catch a whiff of today. I was at Manhattan’s new park, Little Island, where my friend Sarah was staging the final run of her collaborative dance piece. Around the park, which boasts a surprising number of small but steep hills for its square footage giving it the feel of being nooked n’ cranied, dancers were planted in florescent athletic gear and sequins.
And since I caught the last performance, it is not a spoiler alert to tell you that the final act of the whole she-bang convened all of the dancers to trot forth from their various positions down to the outdoor dining area to shake their disco ball asses in moves that looked suspiciously like you and I could do them with some genuine practice, but actually on second thought you might be overshooting your dance capacities here, but still you do feel you could get there if you put in the time and some good effort, but also who cares because the effect is both enchanting and welcoming and you’re smiling at the perfect coordination and how they are all doing the moves in synch and would you look at that, you’re already kind of dancing, check out those toes!
What would you call this (sacred really) offering of participatory dance to absolute strangers? What would you call this offering of a (sacred indeed) sense of momentary liberation, inviting the strangers right here and now to step back into their bodies, and to do so in ways they would be too embarrassed to start on their own, out there like a form of divine madness in this simultaneously hyper-present public with the sun kissing their skin during an endless global pandemic where an 83 year old, masked dancer is like the energetic bunny leading the pack?
You’re right, it’s beyond words.
Anyway, it was just as joyous as you could imagine, with one of the dancers casting his arms up like spells, yelling I’m GOR-geous! in between instructions to the rest of us, struggling along but barking great laugher, to also join him in the scoop! And point! And turn!
The dance piece was about so many things, but for me it was so successful because of that wonderfully drawn out element of discovery. It is why questions are often better than lectures, though sometimes I forget that when I get too excited.
And just because what is New York without some glamor thrown in, I’ll share that I walked by Trevor Noah on the way out. He’s very tall!
In closing, I’ll end where I’m writing this. The two women on the bench next to me, where I am perched on the bike path, have recruited a stranger to pop open a stubborn bottle of rose Prosecco. They pour a glass each and settle in.
“Well,” one of the half of the girlfriend pair prepares to relish, “the story is, I’m not dating just one man…” and oh, yes, my smile is mischievous.
(Another discovery: Tishon asked me, did you start your blog to help distract you from writing your novel? Caught!)