oh baby, i was bound for mexico.

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I’ve been home two weeks and just managed to get my suitcases off the floor. All of my clothes from the trip have been washed and dried several times; I put some back in the open-face suitcase just so it looked a little fuller, the rest have formed a nice body pillow on my bed. It’s like I can’t mentally let go of this trip. I feel that if I really unpack, put my clean laundry away and store all of my tiny, TSA approved toiletries, the experience is over. I can’t deal.

In my mind, I see the low, burnt, orange peel of a moon that guided us from Alexandria to Shreveport, through to Dallas and on to the bright, freshly squeezed sun of Cancun, and I smile. I should have known that the rare moon symbolized how unique and unpredictable the trip was going to be. The group trip, my first real trip with more than my family and a few friends, to Tulum, Quintana-Roo was new nostalgia, permanent memories that have only crossed me in my dreams ever-so often, but not quite enough.

Last night I stuck my mouth under the cool faucet for a rinse after brushing my teeth, a feeling I reveled in like never before. We couldn’t do that in Mexico, not where we were (though I wouldn’t recommend doing that anywhere. I think my stomach is still pissed for the few sips that seeped in.) That refreshing swish reminded me of how easy we have it in America, the simple luxury that is pure drinking water; we’re spoiled. The word germophobe seems like the most asinine term in the dictionary; we know nothing of germs, disease, or real poverty here. In Tulum, I had to wipe and throw my toilet paper in the trash, as there is no real sewage system. As you can imagine, this wasn’t pleasant for the first day or so, but we all got used to it. Well, kind of.

The simple act of being unable to flush my poop humbled me, though I was humbled over and over throughout the trip, and thought constantly of how I hoped my attitude towards the place I call home would change.I am here to say, my perspective has been thoroughly and forever reshaped; the United States, and the people in it, will never be the same in my mind. It’s one thing to read about countries like this, it’s another to see it; while we definitely do have an impoverished, homeless population here, the face is totally different from the one I saw in Tulum.

Our Riviera Maya AirBnB surpassed spectacular, though I wasn’t positive I was going to feel that way getting there. I’ll admit it, I was being judgy. After arriving in Cancun, we had to find transportation to our home in Tulum, which was about an hour or so away – technically two but there is one speed in Mexico and that is fast: the speech, the food, the taxis. All the speed of light. We drove through Cancun in all of its over-sized, Americanized, touristy glory. We drove past dwarfing entrances to exclusive resorts, spas and – what I assume to be – rehabilitation centers. And then, just as I was nodding off, weary from thirty hours or so of awakeness, we entered Tulum.

The roads were dirty and only lightly peppered with people, a sight I am always happy to see, especially when traveling; crowds aren’t really my thing anymore. We zoomed through what I mentally labeled “Bohemia” and eventually slammed in to the residential area that backed up to the jungle – yes, you read that right. I didn’t know what to think, so I surveyed the area in a decaffeinated haze: overcast sky, trees everywhere, many stray dogs. Isn’t it supposed to be sunny? Where’s the beach? I was promised beach!!! A faint stench in the air filled my nose – trash and salt, mostly – not a great smell but my senses adjusted quickly. Late twenties early thirties men stood at all levels, working on various houses. Some looked on with friendly faces, others whistled, while the rest just stared and laughed at the group of Americans trying to count pesos. – We didn’t get very good at this until the third day of the trip. And by we I mean everyone else, because I would just melt in to a weeping, margarita puddle every time we had to figure out what we owed. I learned I am not good with currency exchange.

Our host greeted us a few minutes later and upon opening the door to the casa we could only stand with our jaws on the floor or meander around in wonderment. The house was three stories high, ground floor hosting two more than reasonably sized rooms, a large kitchen and dining space, and a patio/swimming pool to boot. Second floor was the master suite, which include a giant office/multimedia room, and the top floor was designed for open-seating and hammock swinging. We were in paradise, and we hadn’t seen the beach yet!

I immediately tossed my bag on the floor and began exploring the house…the massive, amazing space I’d only seen in my dreams or magazines on airplanes. Our host, a lovely Scottish chap, completely designed the place himself and lived a few doors down in an equally impressive casa. I could do nothing but drink it all in; two hours in to Mexico and I’d already mentally filled half of a notebook with observations.

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third story swingin’

 

After we’d settled in to our spaces, the seven of us set off in search of tacos, because what else would we want after landing in Mexico? We found tacos, we found the best tacos straight out the gate at a little hole in the wall, La Chiapaneca. I think everyone was picturing dinner at a beautiful, patio-style restaurant with a menu pages and pages long. Instead, the seven of us huddled around a table just big enough to fit us all, were served drinks with no ice and ordered tacos by the plate, which were served plain. I was so excited I got to decorate my own tacos with: hotter than hell Habanero sauce, cool jalapeno sauce, lettuce and sliced radishes. I was in taco heaven.

I promised myself I would eat fifteen tacos on the trip, though only made it through five; I had to branch out and try some other things. Authentic Mexican fare was just too good to pass up.

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Other fresh delicacies that couldn’t be missed? Local markets that were filled with amazing fruits and vegetables that we would eventually chop up and snack on all week.

I have to take the time to mention the freaking spectacular mojitos at a local bar named Batey’s (Ba-tay.) Seriously, if you’re ever in the area, this is a must. We were ushered in by the friendliest staff in town and served mojitos so fresh I looked around for a mojito tree. The large glasses of the sweet drink were packed with homegrown mint, fruit of your choice (I chose watermelon, for the first few)and completed with a raw sugar cane. Can you say perfection? The evening was just beginning as our first round of drinks arrived and Maria and her husband – a 60+ professional flamenco dancer/guitarist duo – took the stage. We were entertained by the charming couple for a few hours; long enough to catch a thick buzz that would lull me in to the sleep of the dead.

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Our first morning in Tulum was cloudy and gorgeous. I was surprised when a cool breeze hit me in the face as I walked up the steps for an early swing in the hammock. Everyone else slept while I took in the quiet sounds of morning. I rocked back and forth and thought about how just hours ago I’d been on American soil, feeling overwhelmed by the arrival and passing of summer. Life is constantly pushing us forward, and sometimes, rather quickly.

Through my contemplation, I heard the arrival of the men building new houses in our neighborhood. I heard one talking loudly, a voice so close I thought he was behind me. I said, “Hola,” to the faceless voice and heard nothing, then out of nowhere, a tiny hat and pair of dark brown, smiling eyes popped up over the edge of the house and the voice greeted me, “Hola, senorita.” I smiled back, waved and headed down the stairs as the hat disappeared.

Other voices were exchanging random dialogue as I meandered back in to the house in search of coffee. Here’s a thing about Mexico that I don’t like: instant coffee. Though I didn’t understand why then, it has donned on me since that instant coffee uses less water for preparation; makes perfect sense now, though I still don’t enjoy it. To satiate my coffee craving (craving = addiction) my loving boyfriend and his sweet sister took me to find a cup of hot coffee. We walked through the quiet streets scouting out potential supper spots, noting where to rent bicycles, and who had the best vegetarian menus. I popped in to a few small Bodega in search of “non-preparado” coffee, with no luck at all. They really drink this shit like this?! Impossible! I’m coffee snob, no matter what country I’m in.

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the perfect macchiato. i’m still drooling. 

 

The night before, on our short trek home, Krishna pointed out a little spot, Burrito Amor. I made a mental note that we should try it out, “how bad could it be? The word ‘burrito’ is in the name!” I’m so happy I love burritos so much and can be lured in so easily; it was hands-down the best decision of the trip…well, maybe. There, Neil found an iced coffee, Krishna an iced latte and a hot macchiato and a bag of coffee the size of my forearm for me. I was so so so pleased that I didn’t have to “suffer” through instant coffee for the rest of the trip. We brought burritos home for everyone, which we quickly consumed before heading to the beach.

Here’s where the trip becomes one long series of sunrises and sunsets for me. I don’t remember much of the details of each day because I was in such bliss. Our cab ride to the beach filled me with such wild anticipation, like I’d never seen a beach before or something; really, it was slightly ridiculous, but I didn’t care. The beach, any beach at all, is instantly my happy place. There’s something about the cohesiveness of it all: the sights, the sounds, the smell. I take it all in for as long as I possibly can, like a vitamin. This beach, Tulum, was no different; in fact, it was more.

FullSizeRender.jpgWe were dropped at a public beach, which if you’ve ever been to Pensacola or Destin, is beautiful but slightly overwhelming because of the crowds, nearby resorts, etc.

This beach was completely untouched, and I mean that when I say it. No resorts, no restaurants, no nothing aside from the small tiki bar that was serving up coconut drinks and fresh fish all day; talk about glorious. Upon walking up, it took everything in me not to drop my things and immediately run in to the water like a child. Sand, whiter than snow, ocean, bluer than any ink or paint I’ve seen on a palette. I close my eyes and think of it now and all I can do is sigh. How something like that can seem ordinary to anyone is beyond my comprehension.

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The next few days were filled with long strolls through the jungle of Tulum to get from point A to point B, separate cab rides since vans were hard to come by, and random explorations of different parts of the city. I ate gorgeous fresh food, drank exotic coconut drinks and slept better than I have in years. It was equal parts vacation and work and I loved it. Working for your fun is totally worth the semi-headache.

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 I’m really a mermaid.

 

I think my face was actually in water more than it was out and I’m pretty positive my hair was only dry while I was sleeping. I snorkeled in a cave! A CAVE! I did yoga in the middle of the jungle, taught by a woman who spoke more Spanish than she did English and then, I snorkeled some more. I felt like a living mermaid the entire trip and really gained some perspective about what’s been going on in my life and the world around me. It’s easy to feel small when you’re floating above a stingray that could cover you like a blanket.

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post snorkel snap

 

 

Mexico, for me, was about understanding that we need less than what we have and that we should be thankful every damn day that we’re immeasurably blessed with more. Growing up, I always stayed in resorts and had every little thing handed to me when I wanted it. I adored traveling that way, but even then I felt like I was missing part of the puzzle of these amazing places I was experiencing, and I was. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world, but I’m glad to have to opportunity to immerse myself in different cultures in a fresh way.

One thing I can’t get over: when we went grocery shopping, we filled an entire basket full to the top with all kinds of things I knew we’d never eat in four days. What would have cost $150+ here was a whopping $70 there. I think about this every time I go to Wal-Mart/Target/wherever now. There were people just waiting for us to leave so they could go through our trash to see what could be salvaged. Could you imagine doing that? I know habits can’t change overnight, but this part of the trip humbled me in a way I can’t explain, and I am definitely making a conscious effort to clean my plate when I eat.

I realize I’m leaving out so many parts of this excursion of a lifetime, but I couldn’t possibly write it all down without it being lengthier than it already is. Tulum will always be this dream trip, where I swam with exotic fish while holding hands with the love of my life. It will be me looking over my shoulder on the ride back to the shore and seeing the Mayan ruins staring back at me. It will be the schoolkids buying tacos and ice cream from the cart outside their playground. It will be the long walks to nowhere and back, in the sun and in the shade. It will be sunsets, sunrises and the freedom, promise, and gratitude of more.

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coconut dreams at the dive

 

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happiness is real. 

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more. 

 

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until we meet again…

silent as the grave

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I didn’t realize I’d been silent here for so long. I’ve had plenty in my head, just no real will to write it down and I don’t know why.

Sweeping nostalgia and melancholy drown my coherent thoughts; heavy rain tends to encourage this. I unearthed some old writings today, by a click of dumb luck and I’ve been at the coffee shop reeling for the last hour or two.

As I sit here with my empty cup of lavender tea, I wonder: will I always handle self-reflection best with a pen in my hand? It’s like the feelings aren’t validated unless written by my hand. I must write all of my emotions down with whimsy, veracity and honesty so biting I won’t be able to help the eye-roll when I re-read my own words.

I’m thankful for the awful music and loud chatter in here, it’s aiding in keeping my brain at bay…the things I read today could really use analysis and this isn’t the place.

Or maybe it is. Until I can muster up the courage to summarize the things my eyes have seen today, I shall contemplate the various ways one could illustrate the phrase “silent as the grave,” because sometimes zipped lips are better than loose ones….ships sail longer that way.

The Anchor

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Well, well…I’ve managed to get my ass back in the chair long enough to shout at the rooftops, “I’M PUBLISHED!  WE DID IT!” My first novel is now available for purchase on Amazon, e-book format only. Wild, no?

you can buy The Anchor here.

I am more nervous now than when I hit “upload.” The idea of my closest friends and family, and complete strangers, reading the longest thing I’ve ever written is mind-boggling. What if they hate it? What if they love it? What if I didn’t say the right things, put the words together the right way? Well, it is what it is. 

I have made it abundantly clear, to myself and those around me, that I will more than likely never write something as fluffy and romantic ever again, though I’ve already written the first 10 pages or so of The Anchor’s intended follow-up. It was a wonderful process, one I’ve gushed about many, many times on this platform (please feel free to go back through archived stuff for gushiness concerning my first novel; it’s incredibly sweet.) I just feel like this project is so…bare; so reflective, open and completely honest about a time in my life that I tried to keep as private as possible; emotion hidden even from myself. I don’t think one feeling has been left out..that’s a lot of feels, y’all. Regardless of how ballsy and daring, I felt as though this project needed sharing, if only for the personal realization that I CAN do this. Aside for sharing my love for yoga and music, writing is what I want to do; I’ve finally landed on a niche.

I’m already working on my next project, and “far from romantic” is an understatement. I hope to release a brief synopsis within the month. I will once again relentlessly submit my words for representation, but I like the unconventionality of self-publishing.

Instead of leaving you with a blog-track, I’m going to leave this playlist here. I’ve always believed that books should have accompanying soundtracks because you hear music when you read; though you may not listen to music while reading, you may recall certain events when you hear certain songs. These “Honorable Mentions” are scattered throughout the novel and close to my heart. Please enjoy!

The Anchor: Honorable Mentions

Thank you to those who have continually read my blog, who looked at The Anchor before it was what it now and to my amazing counter-part who not only designed all of the fabulous artwork, but co-edited with me as well. I say we did pretty damn well for two “unprofessional” publishers.

I am so incredibly thankful for this writing life, regardless of how tired I am.

a little risk

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If you know me, you know that I am pee-in-my-pants-excited to say that as of Thursday, I’m a semi-self-published author. I am excited, really. But I also feel extreme relief.

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My writing is nowhere close to where it was when I started the Anchor, not even a little. I think I will dedicate my life to the darker side of writing, the creepy, the cringe worthy. I think stretches my imagination more, allowing me to focus on creating worlds people only dream of (or fear.) I feel so removed from the girl who started writing this sweet southern romance, though I appreciate and thank her for starting the project, she lit the fire. I still love the characters, they will always remain close to me. I am happy to finally feel confident enough to let them out of my brain and loose in the world. I spent the weekend wondering if I will feel this way with all of my characters? Forever tied to them but capable of healthy separation? Is that possible? As an artist, I wonder if I’ll ever move past what strikes and moves me, or if heavier things will always remain my inspiration; an answer I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to put to words.

This book changed me forever.

If you read any form of this book previously, I ask you to toss out what you remember or know, and read this book as wholly new, a separate piece from the thing before. Walter’s voice is so so sooooo different now. I was trying to work with three empty voices I couldn’t hear correctly instead of focusing on one; a trait of the times I suppose. I hadn’t quite found footing on independence in the beginning of this story, but once I grasped it, Bridget was able to find some freedom as well.I surprised myself with the changes I made to this book over the last few days/weeks. I left things in I probably shouldn’t have; everything is transparent. I’ve been dealing with that lately, what it means to have people read your work, even if it is complete fiction. I’m as open and honest as they come, but having someone read a larger piece of work means more room for criticism. Your work is a direct reflection of who you are and that’s completely frightening; not only are you subjecting and inviting others to see you, you have no choice but to see yourself. I’ve been working on my confidence with my words, but I wonder if my skin has been weathered enough.

Either way, I’m diving in. Larger than life thanks to everyone who has listened to me yap about this book for the last two years. Thank you for being supportive when all I wanted to do was ask about what sounded logical or “dude-ish.” Thanks for allowing me to be a complete zombie at work because I’d spent hours on my book the day before. Thanks for imagining these characters with me, and all of the others I’ve thrown at you since. I hope the new version of The Anchor finds you well.

This is nerve-wracking, but what’s life without a little risk?

Buy The Anchor

 

new york, new york.

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I can’t believe I haven’t posted since the new year. Life is an all-consuming swamp of a mess sometimes, an obstacle we have no choice but to find a way to get through.

A few weeks ago, Neil informed me that Lonely Planet was calling for submissions for a travel book. I immediately got to plucking at my keys, a sensation I haven’t allowed myself to feel since school started. I was hitting over 2000 words when it donned on me that the contest may have a cap on words. I checked and sure enough, a limit to 3000 words, which I scoffed at and immediately decided I’d just write the piece the anyway and see how far I’d go.

I went over by 1080 words. They are all here and they tell the story of all the things Neil and I did in New York, give or take a few moments that I’m saving just for me.

It’s lengthy, it’s detailed, and pictures are included. Enjoy!

 

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“New York,” he says, “look at dates,” he says. I lift my eyebrows in disbelief – this relationship is so good, I can barely tell what’s real and what’s not most days. It’s no-shit that good and I am so over the moon that he loves to travel. When he said New York, I was apprehensive. Yes, I had previously, thoughtlessly, in passing, stated that I would love to see the city at Christmas time, that I’d never seen real, delicious, veloured snow and that NYC would be a dream during winter; I never expected that I’d actually get to take that trip. For the last decade, traveling has been done in my mind only. I relished the simple idea of getting to frolic around in snow in a big city, though as it turned out, NYC was as warm as New Orleans for our entire stay, not one little flake of snow fell, the entire point of the adventure; I can’t help but laugh at that. Lack of snow did not hinder our adventuring though; we created our own fun, we shaped our own experience.

Neil’s the kind of guy that puts a latte in my hands before I even realize I’ve got a caffeine-withdrawal headache and need a fix, so allowing me to not only entertain the idea of taking a trip to NYC, but plan one was like setting me loose in a Intelligentsia warehouse, blindfolded.

We booked flights, an excitement that I will most certainly never, ever tire from, made AirBnB arrangements and started dreaming about four days in New York. The possibilities were endless, though we just wanted to drink great coffee, eat inspiring food, and soak up the city’s diversity.

I researched, I Googled, I surfed, perusing the web for underground bands and secret eats. It just so happened that one of my favorite bands, Sleater-Kinney, would be performing at King’s Theater in Brooklyn the second night of our stay. My mom obliged tickets as an early birthday present; my head was spinning…this trip was shaping up in the most dream-like of scenarios.

Three weeks passed and it was time to roll out. I stuffed every piece of warm, black clothing I own in to my mom’s tiny little red carry-on, very neatly organized by day and outfit. Then I re-organized it. I panicked for days about having too many little bottles in my purse; I pouted about having to find a smaller bottle of perfume because it wasn’t sensible for me to bring the large bottle. I wanted to be sensible and sensational in New York.

I was too nervous to eat at 4:30a.m. before our flight, go figure. The delicious, greasy, perfect drunk-food omelets at City Diner went uneaten. This was my first major trip out of Louisiana in twelve years, my stomach was in knots.

Our flights were perfect, though it could have crashed and I probably would have died smiling. I was floating in the air with the love of my life and a few perfect strangers, heading towards adventure.

I knew I was in New York when I was nearly run over simultaneously by three giant men, eyes burning in to their giant spaceship phones. Note: Do not stand within fifty-feet of the restroom entrances at LaGuardia. You will be killed.

We grabbed our bags and called our first Uber; we live in the fucking future, people. I get it, this may not be revolutionary to you, but in Small-ish Town, USA, Uber is like having the Secret Service or one of the Jetsons come pick you up. Off to the Bronx! – SoBro to be exact. I didn’t know what to think or expect, I only have small clips in my memory from traveling here as a child. The buildings were so amazing and large; bigger than I remembered, even as a kid. I’d been to NYC before when I was seven. The most I gleaned from that trip was that I wanted Juniors cheesecake for every meal. I didn’t know what to look at first. I close my eyes and think of the moment we passed the bay and can still feel the faintest fluttering in my stomach. The feeling of being somewhere new, somewhere with people, places, and ideas so completely removed from everything you know…that’s humbling. I felt so human in New York, it was wild. Small town life is comparative to being under a looking-glass 24/7 so to be in New York, surrounded by strangers, was relieving.

We came in to our neighborhood and I immediately wanted to start snapping pictures, but I refrained. Yes, I wanted to capture images of every aspect of this trip, but I also wanted to make it a point to be present. We weren’t staying in a part of New York that gets very much attention. Nothing was glamorous about the area (aside from the fact that our AirBnB hosts were fabulous, successful artists of various types.) I took small videos here and there; I knew I’d regret not having more than just a still moment to reflect on. New York has such movement, I wanted to capture just a pinch of that whenever possible.

As we stood on the doorstep, waiting for our host to greet us I took snapshots in my mind of specific things: the tacky Santa, strung up with Christmas lights across the street, the poinsettias on the front steps, the sounds of taxis honking and the peaceful silence that followed. This part of New York had a quietness that I immediately appreciated.

We dropped our bags in our room, which was located inside a three story, eclectic-chic apartment; I feel like I should refer to it as a “flat,” it felt so cool. We were starving at this point. Awake and hungry from 4am-1pm is quite a stretch to go with minimal in-flight snack fair as sustenance. We wanted experience! And boy oh boy, were we ever in the right place.

For the first hour and a half of on our quest for food, we meandered around South Bronx, unable to land on a specific taste bud. Indian cuisine? Greasy Chinese? Pizza pie? We couldn’t choose! Eventually, my magnificent counterpart says, “Let’s go freshen up and get some Italian food. This is ridiculous.” I happily agreed, thrilled that we’d decided on a culinary selection – the battle during this excursion to make food selections was overwhelming. There are far, far too many options. — We made a mad dash back to the apartment, I swapped boots and spritzed while Neil changed shoes and put on his coat. Our second Uber arrived on time and we were off to Little Italy.

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Of course, this required more roaming around and more pointed decision making: which street? What pizza? Best sauce? OH GOD! Pizza is already a major food group in my life, how the people of New York make a “best” selection beats the hell out of me. Though now that I think of it, that is a committee I would happily and actively join. We settled on a delicious spot, RubiRosa. House wine and classic sauce for me, beer and vodka sauce for Neil. The slices were bigger than I could have hoped for! I only ate one slice at this particular restaurant, feigning fullness – and I was, but deep down, I wanted an entire pie. (I tallied up my slices, and at the end of the trip I’d done just that. Bravo.)

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wine and slice from RubiRosa

In Little Italy, we found cannolis that would change my life, that would make all other cannolis seem feeble and bland. We found two speakeasies, gold for those whom have never experienced such. The first, while offering an exclusive atmosphere fell short of my expectations; my writer’s-brain has a way of forcing me to be disappointed in experience sometimes, though thankfully, not often. The second stop – which will remain nameless, as to keep with the tradition – surpassed making up for the lackluster of our first attempt to be hip in New York.

My cousin, sous chef to the fabulous Rocco DiSpirito, recommended this place. She’s been in the city for a stretch and is a whiz on all things cocktail and cuisine, so she’s got the scoop on local gems, the shiny ones. She really knocked it out of the park on her first pitch. This place was everything. Some tall someone came outside to check IDs as space became available. He would come out, look at your license, walk back inside and return a few minutes later to escort you to the table – in our case, the bar. We watched the talented, what I can only call mad-scientists, work their magic. Effortlessly churning out one perfectly handcrafted beverage after the next, I was fascinated. Hand-carved ice, specialty ingredients, perfect glassware; not a detail was missed. There was a tangible energy flowing through this place, one we carried out and took with us as we tipsy ventured into Manhattan.

We emerged from a subway that spat us out at the foot of the Trump Tower, which gave us both a laugh. I spun around a few times, my jaw gaping awkwardly, I know. I felt smaller than microscopic, dwarfed by the size of these buildings, these monstrosities. I subconsciously became concerned for the sake of the architect and engineer’s mind; the amount of math and precision required to design such things completely baffles me.

Our directions were to meet my cousin at the Time Warner Center, a polished and impressive building. The second I laid eyes on her I began chuckling to myself. NYC is massive compared to where we’re from, the chances of seeing someone you know on the street is rare. To be able to see family and friends during our stay was remarkable to me, especially since this place feels so far away. I spent a portion of this trip thinking how interesting it must be to live in a place where it is truly peculiar to see the same person twice. I spent an even larger portion wishing that was so in the case of my hometown; familiarity, to it’s most extreme, makes us complacent, and often, less appreciative.

Jacquie took us to Clarke’s, where I was consumed with the buzz of local New Yorkers enjoying the holiday spirit. I took a survey: servers from other restaurants convened by the entrance to decompress after long shifts, stretches of long tables for large families littered the restaurant, small groups of friends huddled together over appetizers; this kind of life was wonderful to see. I was flushed from the walk, the wind, and my own tipsiness, but that didn’t stop me from giggling at everyone like a schoolgirl.

We ordered a hot, bubbly something for an appetizer and another round of drinks while browsing the detailed menu. I finally decided on the French onion soup, which was absolute perfection (despite my drunk taste-buds) and Neil, in true Bostonian fashion, order a lobster roll (to die for.) We laughed, we talked, we enjoyed. A friend of Jacquie’s joined us later and assisted in directing us back to the Bronx.

Note: Public transportation is totally acceptable. I have no idea what people are afraid of. It’s affordable and reliable (though be prepared for delays) and I am all about anything that keeps me from being behind the wheel.

“You guys came a long way, SoBro is so far!” Yeah, we didn’t quite realize that, but we didn’t care. We were seeing NY as never seen before.

After stumbling into the BnB with a bag of Dunkin’ Donuts for Neil, we passed out with a plan to be up and at it by at least 8a.m. and woke up to a glorious, IDGAF 10:30a.m. So far, so good.

First up on day two? Lunch in Brooklyn! This whole day revolved around our concert later, so we dressed for the day, called our faithful Uber and hit the road. The ride was…colorful. I didn’t expect to find myself feeling sick on the way to a day of adventure awesomeness, but there I was, crossing the bridge to Brooklyn, nearly throwing up in my purse in the Uber. I called to mind Ujiiy breathing and all was well; I suppose it pays to be a crunchy yoga girl every now and then.

Our intentions were to eat at that place that Jay-Z likes to eat at, but the line was completely wrapped around the building, so we opted for the place next door, Roomr. I was not sad or disappointed that I didn’t get to eat Jay-Z’s favorite pizza or drink Bey’s favorite wine. Roomr took forever, but it had killer tomato soup, ice-cold Coca-Cola in a bottle and flare, so we were happy.

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tom soup mmm

This day was so magical. I vividly remember walking through the streets of DUMBO, a suburb of BKLYN, feeling envious of its residents. I was blown away by the view of the Statue of Liberty from where we were standing, somewhere close to Pineapple St.

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[self-explanatory]

We realized that we’d been in New York for twenty-four hours without so much as one drop of coffee, and that was long enough for me. We’d conceded defeat on the snow, but coffee still needed conquering.

I’d made lists on lists on lists of coffee shops I wanted to try. I spent an hour researching my own Instagram to make notes on all the hot NYC coffee stops I needed to visit…there wasn’t enough time and my bladder wouldn’t have made it. Neil’s buddy Ned came to the rescue and recommended a place off of Pineapple St, Vineapple. I ordered an iced macchiato and thought the barista was going to flip on to his head. I still haven’t figured out if I ordered it wrong or if he’d never made one, life’s mysteries.

We sat and had a long chat with Ned, a theme of the trip I was noticing. Here we were, in the middle of a giant city with a million things to do, and all we wanted was conversations over drinks, the only thing I’m ever really interested in. There was a bit of familiarity in everything we did, despite the larger-than-life surrealness, and everything felt surreal. Traveling gives you that gift and wraps it up in a way nothing else can.

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not pictured: Lady Liberty (to the left)

As the sun was setting behind Lady Liberty, we started thinking about supper. Ned suggested a few places, to which we ventured and found hour long waits. We hadn’t planned for this, so instead of getting frustrated, we stopped at a soda shop to regroup. We were taken back in time to cuffed sleeves, brass taps and sundae dishes; Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain wasn’t our final destination, but did not disappoint. We tried calling a few more places, but eventually ended up calling a group-Uber to scoop us up and bring us to Flatbush Avenue for the show. An adorable couple, heading to a holiday party, joined in on our Uber fun. It took everything in me not to rob the woman of the delicious smelling casserole dish she was holding; I was hungry and knew it was filled with baked ziti. Really, the self-control I showed deserved a medal, it was homemade and smelled amazing.

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BKLYN Farmacy

We stepped out of the car and Google-mapped the venue. We were exceptionally far from where we needed to be, which meant we had a hike in front of us. I know it seems like we were unplanned and unorganized, but that was half the fun. This was a semi-whim trip and I ate it up. Vacations for as long as I can remember, traveling with family and the occasional friend, were non-stop scheduled, pages-long itineraries. Going with the NY flow was a dream.

We walked and talked, grabbed a slice at some hole-in-the-wall on Flatbush and walked some more. We walked through parts of NY I never envisioned. We saw the lighting of the Menorah near the Brooklyn library, we stopped for fresh coconut water and cane juice in Little Jamaica; the date-night stroll of our lives. When I thought I could walk no longer, Neil pointed out the gorgeous, sparkling sign of Kings Theater, we’d finally arrived.

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I was floored, humbled, amazed. We entered the theater, the Gothic, bright, intricately detailed theater that was a flutter with undercuts, tattoos and a whole lot of riot grrrl energy. I thought to myself, “this is what heaven must be like.” The thought was foolish, I hadn’t stepped inside to the main-stage yet. One half of a toe in and I instantly felt like a speck of stardust, floating among other flecks and constellations. This place boasted a vintage, an age and grace I can barely describe; a space so beautiful I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, my eyes the puppet, my brain the master.

This thought lasted right through the set, which was delivered in a phenomenal, forceful, Sleater-Kinney throat punch. It hurt so good. When the audience was convinced the show really was over, Carrie, Corin and Janet returned to the stage to entertain and entice us once more, with a traditional Hanukkah song followed by one of my favorite SK songs, Modern Girl. The trio bid their audience a final farewell, leaving us to float out  on our clouds, into the quiet Brooklyn night with quiet fires burning inside.

I am still on that cloud.

We ventured through Williamsburg, hoping to check out a bit of the scene. Black on black on black: miniskirts, crop tops, leather pants. Lines wrapped around buildings with laserbeams for lights and a thumping bass blasting. I’d clearly packed on point for the trip, I didn’t notice anyone wearing much color…I loved it. “The scene,” however, wasn’t for us, so we opted for taco truck tacos that were legit. Fusion food isn’t a thing we encounter often in our hometown, unless venturing to NOLA or whipping something up, so to be able to find jerk-style tacos, complete with sauteed plantains and avocado-jalapeno cream at 1 in the morning was wild. We meandered through the streets of Williamsburg, stopping for a hot, spiced beverage and a few kisses under the open sky.

Our final day was spent wandering the outskirts of Brooklyn with a childhood friend of mine. We started with a long subway ride to meet her, from South Bronx to Ditmas, another suburb of Brooklyn. Café Madeleine was first on the agenda, and wow, wow, wow! Legit nitro brewed coffee and a menu that would take days to choose from. My friend and her chap selected their usuals while we chose at random, our meals leaving us full to the brim, wanting to sample the entire menu though no room for it. From there, we hiked to and through Prospect Park. I was thrilled to see so many people out and about being active and creative. Running, jogging, walking, ice-skating, painting, posing…you name it, we saw it, with the gorgeous added benefit of a stunning overcast sunset.

The four of us walked back from the park, enjoyed more caffeinated beverages from a shop called Lark, and went our separate ways.

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aforementioned lattes from Lark 

Supper, as recommended from a friend, was at a small Italian pasta artistry, Epistrophy; what a gem. Handmade pastas and bread to die for, tucked in to a neatly wrapped, eclectic and compact restaurant feel. We were basically sitting on the stage, which I didn’t mind a bit, though I did catch myself wishing that there was a violinist playing something soft and sweet, just for us. We shared burrata cheese for our appetizer, which was served with beets and basil, a combination I was apprehensive towards but quickly gobbled up. Our entrees…..just the thought of our entrees has my mouth watering as I type this. I ordered the homemade gnocchi with a medley of mushrooms and white truffle oil. OHHHHHHHHMIgad. Neil went for the roast, which might as well have been butter it was so tender and delicious. I was too consumed wiping the butteriness off of my hands and lips to snap a picture of our dishes. OH FREAKING WELL.

New York is a metropolis for cuisine and fashion, if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re boring.

After, I thanked myself for being bright enough to only wear tights on this trip, as to make plenty of room for all of the deliciousness. We set off for Greenwich Village, in search of late night coffee and bad comedy. We found both and oh how I wished I had a week to stand in line for every comedy show that was hosted. Aptly referred to by locals as, “the Village,” this part of lower-Manhattan emits an addicting spirit of laughter, and definitely, debauchery. Had I known how sucked in I’d get, I’d have started here on night one and never left. I could feel kindred spirits all around me, the freedom in me, freedom that has been on the loose for a year or so now, I could feel that letting go in the company of fellow wild minds. I was blissed out to the max, caring less about the flat latte I was drinking and more about drinking up the experience. Neil and I bummed around the park for a while, watched a show or two, had a few beers and decided to roll out, in search of sights and more people watching.

I had a secret agenda. I pulled up directions to 64 Perry St. and weaved my man through the streets of Manhattan. I felt chic, walking around in my all-black uniform and multi-colored hair. I didn’t feel like I stuck out like a sore-thumb or that anyone was giving a second thought to the blue pieces that framed my face. It didn’t phase the bar keep at The East Village Craft Beer Shop when I ordered a sour – which, I can’t remember – or when I was able to drink most of it (not all, those things fill me up!)

I led us along gorgeous Fifth Avenue and had to pause for a moment. This place seems untouchable, yet there I stood, moments of insecurity and uncertainty fleeing from my mind. I made it to and through New York with nothing but a few dollars in my pocket and my best friend by my side, proving anything in life is possible. After Neil and I stopped at another pizza shop, where we scooped up the last two slices of the night, I finally told him where we were going. He rolled his eyes at me and said, “come on.” More winding, another left, a few rights and whammo….I delivered us right to Carrie Bradshaw’s doorstep. I know, it’s dumb, but I had to see it. I wasn’t a fan of how women were often depicted in Sex & the City but I loved watching, thinking about what it would be like to operate life in a city that full of opportunity, love and surprise.

My phone died as I attempted to snap a few crappy pictures, of course. I laughed it off, wrapped my arm around my love and let him lead me out of Manhattan. – But not before we each had another slice of pizza pie and got lost riding the subway. I took my contacts out of my eyes and stuck them on the windows at one point I think. My eyes didn’t handle the wind between the buildings too well, and though I wanted to see things on the ride home, I also wanted to close my eyes and duplicate these beautiful images over and over and over.

Four days was a tease for two travelers looking to roam from corner to corner of unknown parts of well-known cities. All of the above could be summarized to the naked eye as not much, lackluster, unorganized, a waste of time, etc etc. Nothing I can tell you about this trip could ever adequately paint the colorful picture it was; images that are stamped in my memory forever. I will never forget waking up next to Neil in the late Bronx morning, thinking that I would happily wake up in a different adventure every day as long as he is by my side. I recharged up there, gained perspective that I needed. I will never be able to express how wonderful it was to be away, to feel the euphoria of leaving things behind and look towards something new, even if only for a moment.

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BKLYN, I’ll be back for you.

peace be with you. 

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Dear Person Reading this Blog,

It’s been a full year since I’ve written one of these, that is, a declarative commitment on social media. Last year, I openly committed to actively practicing gratitude throughout the year; a goal I believe I accomplished, though those sorts of things are a bit hard to judge.

I experienced divorce, loss of friendships (several) and loss of work. During/following that time, I think I actually came face to face with depression…something that overwhelmed me and dug me out and made me whole in a way I never thought possible. I kept thinking, “how am I going to stay positive and get through this?” I bounced back, experienced another round of harrowing and humbling adult experiences:  financial struggle and uncertainty, all while dealing with some unknown health issue that no doctor has been able to diagnose — I have wretched headaches for days on end on the left side of my head. All of these things still leave me somewhere between really feeling like I’ve got a grip on things and feeling like I’m eighteen, still clueless. REGARDLESS of these terrible things, I looked around and took deep breathes and smiled. I knew then and know now that the situation can almost ALWAYS be worse, and I am most fortunate that my circumstances never were. I had moments of making mountains out of molehills and alternatively, moments of complete nonchalance in chaos.

I think I’ve finally figured out how to balance myself, how to really pull myself out of a funk when needed and also, allow myself to wallow and watch copious amounts of Netflix when I need to. I learned how to turn my phone on silent and dive in to a book for an entire evening without Facebook or TV or any sort of media to interfere. It’s beautiful when you learn more about who you are…and like that person. It’s beyond important that we can look in the mirror and really love what we see.

I’ve learned to be at peace with myself; for that revelation, I am grateful.

2016 is going to be a much different year for me. my thoughts have turned to different things, heavier things that don’t concern me at all.

When Neil and I started dating I found out very quickly how like minded we are. I found out that we have almost exactly the same political and religious views, and almost (if not all) the same core values. This makes our relationship extremely easy — and also fun. We spend hours and hours driving around talking about this article or that blog or this documentary and it’s just thrilling! I didn’t know I was so passionate about some of these things.

I’d always categorized myself as skeptical, but I had no idea, until these conversations came up, that I’m partially a conspiracy theorist. I didn’t know that any time I read something or see something on the news, I’m automatically breaking it down, dividing the facts, sifting through what may have a little truth in it and what is definitely an elaborate fabrication.

I’m getting to a point, I promise.

Without going too deep, saving you from all of the millions of circular details of my analysis — I’m really doing you a favor — I think what it all boils down to for me is the attitude of humanity. I know I’m throwing a blanket over all of this, but for brevity it’s necessary. I think about religious groups and politicians, social media makers and the people who support it (I’m one of those people, to an extent) and what happens when all of those people get mixed together. It makes me sick. The attacks, the slander, the hardheartedness…it’s ruined humanity. It’s put more death in our lives, raised suspicions, placed blame where it isn’t needed; there are fingers pointing in every direction. And it’s killing us.

I feel like we’re restless, overly impatient with each other, with ourselves. How do we get beyond that without practicing peace?

Maybe it’s because I’m older and I read the news more and listen more intently and actually care what’s happening. I still don’t watch the news — first of all, I don’t have cable, and secondly, each channel feels no remorse for being outwardly biased, and that’s not real reporting. I have no desire to listen to a news anchor berate a college student for sport because she was nervous and obviously bad at math (and in way over her head.) I have no desire to hear Trump demean another woman, I don’t care that the Pope is on Twitter or that Mark Zuckerberg is selling his millions because he had a baby and is shockingly not a heartless dweeb like we all presumed.

I don’t care about any of that.

I care about eating clean and opening my mind and my heart. I care about playing music and being in love. I care about graduating college and writing more novels and just living so loudly. I care about doing all of the yoga I possibly can and continuing to share my practice.

I care about peace.

I’m committing to spend the year 2016 breaking down what it means to practice peace and the challenges it brings: peace with my family and friends, peace with my enemies (there aren’t many) and most importantly, peace with myself.

Be gentle on yourself, you’re only human.

Peace be with you.

…and……ummm, you can have some also.

Letter #6 (Final)

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“I blew her up in that house years ago, Paige. I don’t understand how this could be happening now.”

I watched her face closely and could read unsure blame starting to pool in her eyes. Had she blacked out and done all of these things?

There was enough evidence all over the house and in our yard to prove that she had, but I couldn’t dream of it. Our creepy neighbor from across the street would later be the one convicted for the crime.

“It just can’t be possible….I dropped the match myself.” The whisper in her voice brought me back to present day, away from a memory I was only anticipating.

My mom was lost in thought, referring to her own nightmare of a story.

We were sitting over coffee a few hours later, attempting to rationalize all of the craziness, when the doorbell rang.

It was Kristyn. Right on time.

“Look, I don’t know what kind of sick, fucked up funny joke you think this is, but this accidentally came to my house. It was in my mailbox this morning.”

 

She handed me an envelope, addressed to me, but with Return to Sender stamped on it. Perfect.

Photographers were gathering in my front yard and I knew I needed to give them a minute to get a few good shots.I stared at her a moment too long, for flair, and closed the door.

That was the last time I would see Kristyn.

I presented the letter to my mom in quiet, calm hysterics, placing blame without actually accusing her. She was already thinking it, I just had to give her a nudge. It was important that this happened, otherwise Langston Gregory wouldn’t have gone to prison for torturing us and previously (coincidentally) sexually assaulting five other women in the early 90s.

Guess I have an eye for this sort of thing.

My mom was flipping through an old photo album now, looking at pictures of her mom; it looked like a collection photos from the Mayan Riviera. I knew all about that trip and what it had done to the grandmother I never got to meet.

After about an hour of convincing me she had nothing to do with sending Letter #6, I claimed fatigue and went up to my room.

Five days later it would start. First they’d search my house, based off an anonymous tip I’d paid a guy to make. This would push my mom to the front of the investigation, which I felt bad about, but knew she’d never be arrested for anything.

Gregory dropped something in my room while he was digging for my backpack; a small something that was overlooked. His house was searched and my DNA, Kristyn’s DNA and copies of every photo in that tiny little house in the woods were found in his garage.

Yes, it was all going to go off without a hitch.

I flung myself on the bed in total satisfaction. I’d nailed it, every last detail of this perfect fucked up story belonged to me.

I had to relive it in my mind just one more time before it was all over, before I let all the details of all the lies I told slip away. I couldn’t afford to have this much knowledge in the days that would follow.

I guess I should explain myself.

I never, ever get any mail and this upsets me to no end. There’s something exciting about receiving something from somewhere else; it’s an excitement I can’t explain.

Kristyn’s boyfriend was three years ahead of us and lived out of state — Colorado, to be exact — and would send her care packages and letters all the time; he was head over heels for her and it made me crazy. Crazy jealous.

When we were on the bike path that day, Kristyn had injured her head quite badly, from the exact fall I described. I didn’t want it to end like this for her, it wasn’t enough for her to just bleed out in bubbly, blonde glory. I made a hasty decision, hoisted her up as best as I could, and for three days, we trekked through the woods, bleeding and starving.

I came upon the little house I left her in, by luck only, and dumped her in. I made myself a little note of where we were in my notebook and moved on; I didn’t have time to sit and linger in the agony of my decision. I back tracked a few miles and left a few things to make it look like I’d been disturbed as well. Locked my bike around the tree, left a jacket and peeled an orange. After that, my first stop was the Park Ranger’s office to report what had happened.

I made everything look completely normal, really went method with it. I practically killed and starved myself for the exact wounds I wanted for when I told the story. I’d pictured it all up to this point.

I drove back and forth to Colorado every three months to feed Kristyn, making sure she could reach things just enough, though starve without dying. I would tell my mom I was going to look for her or train for marathons I never ran.

The important key to it all: I never let her story die. People were beginning to give up, but I couldn’t let that happen. That’s when I started sending myself letters in the mail.

I suppose at first it started as an innocent prank. I realized the third trip or so to Colorado that I’d gone too far and that I needed to wrap up this game.

My mom has said for years how much she wanted to go to New York and I wanted to give her that; the trouble was, it had to look correct. Mom knew all about the mail I’d been receiving and how paranoid I’d been over the last few weeks.

Didn’t I deserve a vacation after all of this hard work?

I dumped Kristyn’s weak body where she laid two years ago and left her to die, one last time. I shouldn’t have been shocked that she didn’t die; ever the survivor, that golden girl.

It didn’t matter now, I didn’t need her to die to remain in the light.

I stumbled my way through the woods and found a Greyhound station three miles from the mouth of the park. I got on a bus which took me to another bus station and so on until I eventually got on the train in Philadelphia. I rode it all the way to Manhattan. I meandered through the city for a few hours, had a slice and a beer, then decided I’d camp out in Sunnyside until my cash ran out.

I’d paid off quite a few people, which is why I picked NYC. People will do just about anything for money in that city so I took advantage. I needed:

  • Someone to lock me in a room for a week and starve me.
  • Someone to tip off the police about the locked room I was in.
  • Someone to help me plant all of the information the detectives would need.

I found all of those things easier than I could have imagined. Once the transactions were made, the whole thing was done and all I needed to do was wait, play my part accordingly.

You know, orchestrating this was expensive, yet less daunting a task as the charade went on.

People can be bought.

I think next time, though, I’ll just send myself cake.