Archive for musings

Happy Mother’s Day

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 05/12/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

First thing after work on a Friday, I went and deposited my rather paltry paycheck before running to a corner store to get my mom a bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day. I won’t lie. Mom and I have had our differences. It’s normal for family, especially in these trying economic times. But weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that I couldn’t even get my mother flowers for mother’s day. Somehow, that didn’t turn out to be the case.

I don’t want to talk about why. That’s not important. What is important is that when it comes down to it, my mother is the only mom I’m ever going to have. In the grand scheme of things, she assumes a place in my world that cannot be duplicated or replaced. I can only hope to make her proud someday.

I came home with said bouquet, and mom brought out a vase she’d been saving for the occasion. In true mom fashion, she knew at least one of the family men was going to get her some flowers. Yet it turned out her crystal vase was so huge, dad and I decided to go out and get her a second bouquet .. and a third one.

I’ve got some pictures of the end result. I don’t think the pictures do justice to the sheer size of this floral arrangement, but the cheer that it brought to the home and to my mother was totally worth it. It also helps that I used to work at a garden center in Oregon, so I sort of knew what to do with the flowers once we got them into the apartment.

At any rate, this is a gorgeous Sunday. Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, to all the mothers I know and all the mother’s I’ve yet to meet.

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Too Sick to Write or Too Sick Not To?

Posted in The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/07/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

A funny thing happened to me in bed two nights ago.

And this is the point where you roll your eyes and ask, “Are you serious?”

Considering that I am now recovering from a cold, I couldn’t be more serious if I tried. Post nasal drip has a way of embarrassing a young writer even in front of the characters in his or her head.

The best part is I then get to put the “Snotgate” incident in one of my other short stories for fun. Quick, what are some original descriptors for “a big ole strand o’ snot?” 😉

The best part I can say about being sick (other than the fact that I am being taken care of at the moment by a very sweet and sexy girlfriend) is that I come up with arguably some of my most insane or brilliant writing ideas when my brain is being turned into “Grey-Matter Stew.”

Why is this the case? I have no idea. It can be argued that some of the most brilliant creative minds in the history of art were some of the most wounded or “ill.” Van Gogh wanted to give his girlfriend a new earring for Christmas once, right? The only problem was the earring was his actual ear. Other than that, kudos to him for his insane passion and devotion – the SAME madness, one could argue, he applied with frantic candor to his famous works of art. Who could look at “Starry Night” and NOT know that this man, brilliant as he was, had some issues? Do you think Munch painted “The Scream” because he was a “happy-go-lucky chap?”

Could “mind altering conditions” of insane variety be responsible for other creative masterpieces? Of course they could! Nobody can argue that Earnest Hemmingway and Virginia Wolf weren’t perhaps some of the most mentally unstable people of the 20th century. There isn’t anyone who would say that Walt Whitman was the most “well-adjusted” fellow, even though some of his poetry is considered worthy enough to be included in classical education curriculum.

And I don’t know what to tell you all about musical names like “Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix,  Radiohead, Prodigy, and Lords of Acid.”

And if you think cinema is getting out of this blog piece unscathed, I got two words for you. Star Wars.

Enough said.

So what am I, an aspiring writer with a penchant for horror and action adventure stories going to contribute with my own illness-inspired insanity?  I won’t really know until enough people read my writing and take a shining to it. (“Heeeeere’s Johnny!”) What I can tell you is that at roughly two in the morning, my fever-melted brain decided to cogitate on the way that the plot of my “ancient Chinese action/adventure-horror” manuscript was evolving. Maybe it was time for me to play “chapter and paragraph” Jenga in order to make sure that two story arcs were unfolding in an interesting and creative enough way so that when the final chapter of the first half of my book was written, everything could come together in one exciting “KABOOM” moment.

And what the hell, you might ask, would constitute a “KABOOM” moment for a bunch of action heroes, mythical monsters,  and their supporting characters in Ancient freakin’ China? Don’t bother asking Marvin the Martian. He isn’t writing this book.

I don’t want to give anything away. But I will say that I can write a hell of a sword fight scene now that I’ve read a book on Chinese sword fighting techniques AND I’ve had a couple of beers.

Does that mean I encourage the ingesting of mind-altering substances whenever authors decide to sit down and commit their fingers to keyboard? No. Frankly, I think that ultimately sets a dangerous, self-limiting precedent, and it doesn’t give you anything interesting to say in those “twelve-step” meetings.  But I don’t discount the possibility that every once in a while, an artist’s body has to be pushed to some rather uncomfortable limits in order for their mind to shut down what’s not important. Once that happens, an artist can focus on the creative essence of their work, and they may come up with some interesting scenarios, ideas or techniques that they never would have pondered if their minds weren’t simmering in “Grey-Matter Stew!”

“Halleluyah. Holy shit. Where’s the tylenol?”

Living in the Surreal ..

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Life is surreal.

“Surreal” isn’t a term I really like. When I use it, I feel like I’m dumbing down a process through which some major epiphany has granted me the power to move on with my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life with a fresh, “up with people” perspective.

But if you had been in the neighborhood of 125th and Lenox in upper Manhattan at about a quarter to six this morning, life would have seemed pretty surreal to you too.

I was sleeping next to my girlfriend. She awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Everything seemed normal. She crawled back into bed next to me and we remembered that it was Sunday and that we really like snuggling together and talking under the covers during a lazy weekend. It helps us remember what matters, even if it’s just a moment in time.

Not five minutes after she came back to bed, a horrible sound of crunching metal and plastic erupted just outside the apartment. It seemed to rattle the bedroom window.  I didn’t know what the sound was. I wasn’t awake enough to make sense of it until a horrible screeching noise followed. Rubber scraped against asphalt, and the squeal seemed to echo into eternity.

“Jesus Christ!”

I think I might have said that twice. I said it once before we both sprang from the bed and ran to the bedroom window to see what had happened. Even now, the fucked up visual doesn’t make any sense without context. I said it again after I told my girlfriend that I had to go take a major piss.

Why I decided to go relieve myself at that moment is still a bit beyond me. All I remember is that I was nauseated, and I still didn’t understand what had happened.

I also recall my knees shaking like the leaves of a quaking aspen in the wind. I sat down on that toilet seat and put my head between my sweating hands. I might have stayed like that for minutes or hours. I didn’t really know or care.

Eventually, I stood up and washed my hands. Like some character out of the show Supernatural, I thought I smelled a Reaper in the air.

I was sure that death lingered close by, waiting to claim the lost soul of the victim of a freak accident.

“Jesus H. Christ!”

I got back to the bedroom and stood next to my girlfriend. She seemed more than willing to give me a blow by blow of what was going on out there.

“Nobody’s gotten out of either car yet.”

“Motherfucker.”

In all honesty, I don’t recall saying that last word. I don’t remember much of what was said after that. But as the haze and the shock of the accident seemed to lift from around us both, things started to fall into place. Out the window, on our side of the street, we only saw two cars. The first one was a silver Charger with its back turned to us like a wounded dog hiding its face.  The second car was sort of sitting to the right of the first. It was a green SUV that didn’t appear to have been even been scratched, at least not from our vantage point. The only thing that seemed to have happened, in fact, was that the SUV was nudged a few feet out of its parking spot.

It made no sense. Such a horrible crash followed by a rubber screech that lasted for at least three seconds just didn’t do … what we saw.

But time ticked by. Some of the neighbors from across the street turned on their bedroom lights and peeked outside like we were doing. Thanks to them, I felt a little better about being some sort of voyeur. The cops were on the scene immediately. The fire department came minutes later. EMT’s never showed. That struck us as odd until we came to the most important conclusion.

Nobody died.

I thought for sure someone was going to buy it. For about a nanosecond I was disappointed. I can’t lie. I’m a horror writer.

Then the stomach ache began.

About an hour later, all sorts of things had happened. The driver of the silver Charger, wearing a black shirt with green writing on it, angrily shouted into his cell phone that the car for which he was responsible was a “fucking wreck.”

“What de’ hell I’m ‘a do wid ‘dis shit?”

His friend, a shorter man with a grey tee shirt on, seemed to be the voice of reason.

“Look, dude, least you’re alive.”

And that was what mattered. When other details fell into place, we learned that nobody, in fact, was dead. A third car was apparently involved in the accident. That unknown driver may or may not have been at fault for the entire catastrophe. We never really got to figure that much out.  A tow truck driver couldn’t even tow the silver wreck out of the way in one try. His truck’s hook lost its grip on the wreckage twice.

I grinned. And call me sadistic, but I was thankful I wasn’t going to have to figure out how to pay for THAT repair bill. The driver and his friend drank two cups of coffee purchased at the deli just below our window.

My girlfriend and I  went back to bed. We didn’t fall asleep right away, of course. We talked about the accident. We talked about how our weekend was going before the crash, and how it might go afterwards. Things like money and job woes don’t matter as much when you’re thankful just to be in one piece. That lesson sinks in deeper when you’re with loved ones.  The problems might not go away, but their importance in the grand scheme of the universe dwindles.

I just got through sending out something like 6 job aps. I took a break to watch a show. I thought about my latest submission of a short story to a magazine for consideration. My girlfriend’s out teaching a dance class. We still have lives to live and things to do to survive in this city. She still has to talk to her dad about her insurance costs, and I still want to start writing the latest chapter for my online serial. At least I know she’ll come home in one piece, and we’ll have an easier time figuring out how to scrounge up enough money for dinner together tonight.

There’s a cat purring in my lap too.

Surreal or serene? Take your pick.

Warrior of the Word.

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/03/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Sometimes a warrior just has to come home, throw their weapons in a corner, sink their tired, broken bodies into a chair and cry their eyes out.

 

Countless soldiers throughout history have probably done this. I know what we all see in the news when war heroes come home to their families. These survivors hug their spouses who’ve lived without their touch for years. They hug their children though they’ve missed precious milestones. Many people have moved on in their absence. Most have gone through their own trials and traumas. Still, everyone big and small feels that their story is the important one.

 

That’s just the human condition.

 

I’m guilty of this too. The good thing is I’m not alone. I’m about to tell you a story.

 

I’ve become a warrior of the word.

 

I know what you’re thinking. I sound like one of those nut jobs who quote the Bible and hurl Molotov cocktails into abortion clinics. If you’ve read some of my writing, you might think I’ve snapped and begun channeling one of my favorite characters.

 

“Pleasure to meet you. My name is Ezekiel.”

 

But that’s not the truth either. The reality may be just as difficult to fathom.

 

I moved back to New York two years ago. I had little money, a soaring credit card debt, and the wisp of a hope that I might get a job through a relative.

 

Time has a way of revealing one’s destiny. While I was putting interview clothes I couldn’t afford on a credit card, I was searching. I was waiting. I was hoping that I hadn’t wasted my time coming back home. I didn’t want a repeat of the six months I’d spent in Illinois trying to figure life out. That stretch of time saw me spinning my  wheels and not knowing how to make ends meet. Opportunities were few and far between. Though my best friend from college reached out to me and tried to help me out, I just wasn’t prepared for life in a Midwestern suburb. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. I failed.

 

Mental note. Don’t ever live in a suburb without a car or a license.

 

I came back home hoping that I wouldn’t go insane. I was a thirty something and living in a tiny apartment with my parents and my grown autistic brother.

 

If you’re doing a double take after that last statement, don’t worry. You won’t be the only one.

 

But times are tough for “thirty -somethings” these days. I’ve heard it all before. People in my generation with college degrees can’t even get into entry level retail work. I won’t even get into that hot mess. People have tough choices to make even though some of us just paid off twenty five thousand dollars in student loans. Sure, one could go back to school if one could somehow pay for it. Being out of college for more than a decade might mean your college credits mean nothing for all those associate’s programs.

 

There’s just one other hitch. Assuming that there are affordable school programs to attend, it pays to know which jobs aren’t being whittled down to nothing in this economy.

 

I was applying for a job in Portland, Oregon to work at a Sears as a clerk.  I applied online, landed the interview, and was asked to come in during a Thursday afternoon. The human resources recruiter seemed nice enough, but very sad and distracted throughout the conversation. After telling me that the original position was being whittled down from twenty hours a week to twelve due to “a major oversight,” he older woman turned to me and laid in on the line.

 

“There are thirty, forty, even fifty year old people applying for entry level clerk positions with this company. We’ve got people with Masters Degrees and PHD’s who need this work, and we can’t do much for them. Let’s face it. The economy is in the crapper.”

 

After 14 months in the city, I was able to land a part time job as a book seller at a local Barnes and Noble. Since then, I’ve not been able to attain anything else.

 

I think it might be safe to say that for some, the economy STILL looks like something a toilet bowl cleaner ought to erase.

 

Life is funny. Promises are broken, constant effort feels more like the definition of insanity, and broke people start to quote musicians and philosophers as though looking for a reason. Life can feel like a cruel joke. Of late, it leaves me feeling a bit like those broken warriors.

 

Is there a reason to it all? Is life what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans?

 

I’m still struggling with that question.

 

On one hand, I would officially call myself an underemployed janitor for the local Barnes and Noble. I just happen to know a thing or two about a book.

 

Perhaps that’s because I’m writing them.

 

Writing has been an anchor for me since I reclaimed it more than a year ago. I might never be a real estate tycoon or win the lottery, but writing is something that I will be able to do no matter what my financial or family status. I won’t put the computer down unless it breaks. Even if that happens, I used to use a little something called a pen, and I used to put that object to another handy object called “paper.”

 

The things one learns in school really can make a difference.

 

Nobody talks to me for more than a few minutes without realizing I’ve got more sarcasm in my pinky then most have in their entire bodies. But I shudder to think what my life would be like today if I hadn’t started to write. I’m not always going to write short stories or books. I can’t imagine I will always show my words to people. But I’ve made a few good friends along the way. People have read my words. More will read them one day, and I may even be able to make a decent living because of it.

 

Life seems to be split down the middle of chaos. On the one hand, I don’t make enough money at my current job to scratch my testicles. But on the flip side, I write because I have the time and the imagination to come up with the stuff. Real life might not be glamorous, but it offers me a chance to experience love, hate, anger, euphoria, and all the other emotions that I can pour with such realism into each and every one of my made up characters.

 

Fate doesn’t normally interest me. I like to think that I am always in control of my own life. These last few years have been like a huge dose of humble pie. I’m not powerless, but curious things do happen when I allow myself to engage in what matters to me. In the last year, people have come to me that I did not expect. People have read my words, and some have been able to relate. A special someone has danced their way into my life.

 

Philosophical discussions of fate either annoy or terrify people like me. Maybe that’s why fate sneaks up on so many of us. It probably happens despite everything I believe, and all I can do is the best that I can until God or the universe reveals my purpose.

 

Until that happens, I’ll write, I’ll love, and I ride on the roller coaster that is my life. I can’t be the fatalist, but I can sure as hell strap in. Let other people deal when someone releases the fucking Kraken. I’ll write a book about it when it’s over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Pictures.

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/06/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I have gone picture crazy.

When I had some time on Tuesday (God that feels like it was so long ago), I ended up taking even more pictures. I might also have just run out of words this week. Two thousand words for my latest chapter in my online serial seems to have sucked sentences out of my brain.

Do yourself a favor. Play this Satriani song while you look. Just trust me on this.

I’m done now. Look … pretty 🙂

A Lot To Tell

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/18/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

And here we go! Follow the bouncing shuriken.

If you’re going to ask me “what’s new,” I’m going to answer you with the following sentiment: There’s a lot to tell.

I’ve found myself wondering why some people have a tendency to tell me that there “isn’t much to tell” when it comes to their own lives. I know this isn’t the case. For my short time on this earth, I’d like to think that I’ve learned some things about the complexity of life. I tend to want to hear people’s stories. If I’m asking you what you did before you came to work, for instance, I genuinely want to know what makes you tick.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that I interview people on the spot because I’m a writer and I want to secretly write them into my books. That isn’t the case for me. People’s motivations for getting up and being alive matter to me in the same way that mine do. I like to think that there are reasons for some of the crazy shit I end up doing. I believe that there are deep roots behind the emotions I experience when I run into an unexpected situation.

But maybe the real reason I’m writing this entry is because I can feel myself changing.

I don’t want to get lost in the crowd. I don’t want to be invisible or anonymous anymore. And part of the reason I don’t want these things anymore is because they no longer serve me.

It used to be a romantic concept for me to be the silent, wandering observer. In many ways, I still do that when the mood strikes me. If I want to think about the next few chapters of a book I am trying to write or edit, nothing does me better than to wander the streets of Manhattan and watch people. But I’ve been looking into people’s faces more and more of late. Instead of making up stories about them without their knowledge, I stare straight on and almost dare them to speak to me. I smile, I laugh, and I even interject myself into the occasional conversation about ice skating and coffee at a Starbucks just before I buy that white chocolate mocha and wander into the park.

That’s not the me that I am used to. If you want to know the truth, I haven’t done things like this since I was a very young kid.

I began to ask myself questions at the beginning of this week about how closed off I’ve been since I’ve moved back to New York City. In a city that seems to teem with life, how is it that I haven’t made new friends? Oh yes, it still appeals to me to some extent to keep myself a mystery; to hold onto the secrets of my sordid existence. But how secret is my presence on this planet going to remain if I’m busy trying to make a career out of writing? True, writers need a lot of alone time, and I finally seem to be able to get some when I need it. But people are social creatures, no matter how alone they wish to be. The art of being alone seems to manifest best when loners have the choice to reintegrate and be among others on a moment’s notice. Nobody can be truly alone, or they would cease to exist. If I wanted total Isolation, I could try something like solitary confinement, but I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t like it once I woke up from a twelve hour sleep.

Certain aspects about my history are still very difficult to reconcile. Integrating the lessons from my past with my progress toward my long term goals is still a challenge. But utter silence and self isolation both fly in the face of everything I truly know about myself. I can yammer with the best of ’em. I can hold my own in a political debate or a contest to see who can murder the most songs in a karaoke stand-off. Life is so damned funny to me these days that I stop every few minutes and laugh at nothing in particular.

How can I not explore social interaction when I have trained myself to read people so well? That’s easy. What I learned about people was how to read extreme, negative emotion. I can tell right away when someone is a bully, a sexual predator, a child abuser, or just not a nice person. But that’s a lot like a police officer who can spot a perp at 50 yards before he or she does anything to get themselves arrested. After decades of honing that skill, it’s become clear to me that it actually keeps me pretty separate from people. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s a fine thing to be able to tell these sick individuals apart from the rest of the populace if you mean to live another day on this planet or otherwise avoid trouble. I’ll neither understand nor accept child rapists, but I can spot them a mile off thanks to my past experience as a mental health professional. It helps to have a family member who was in law enforcement for more than two decades. But if you were to ask me if a woman was attracted to me, for instance, I’d say that more than half the time, I would give you the exact wrong answer.

So here’s to a new challenge for me coming in 2013. I haven’t waited that long to start the journey, but I’ll certainly continue it. The rule, if I want to call it that, is simple. I’ll hold my head up high, stop pretending that I’m invisible, and I’ll stop turning around and looking for trouble whenever I hear excited shouting in my own neighborhood. It seems simple, doesn’t it? Don’t think for a minute that this is not a major undertaking for me. But spending years in a shell after having been dealt a crappy hand by life has finally gotten old. I’ve already reclaimed writing as a part of my being. It’s time for the next step. It’s time to stop playing the social ninja.

Intent

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/10/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

It’s been a long time since you’ve all heard my dulcet tones. Time to correct that.

Follow the bouncing ball … never mind that there isn’t one 😛

They say that intent is everything. I have a habit of saying “they talk too much.” I mean, who the heck are “they?” anyway? Are these the illustrious Men in Black? Are Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith going to come up to me and blast me with a red light and erase my damned memory? Maybe if they show up, I can get them to erase certain parts of the last few weeks, up to and including Hurricane Sandy. Let’s just say I’d rather have been out  chasing the storm then dealing with my family that night.

But what I was thinking about on my walk through NYC today was intent. What are people’s goals when they get up late on a Saturday morning? It’s not too difficult to imagine that these, along with people, vary in so large a city as New York. Perhaps the young man with the leather jacket and the Elvis-like sneer to my right  thought he was going to score with the gorgeous brunette that’s at least six paces behind me (trust me, I spotted her blocks before he did).  Perhaps the older woman and her husband are on their way to a nice dinner followed by an off Broadway show. Little kids are on their way to Central Park with their tired but otherwise content mothers. The weather is nice, and we all might as well enjoy it.

Yet I’ve had conversations over the years about what the weekend means to people. I’ve had friends and co workers tell me that their weekends are meant to be “fun and games,” or that they plan on “partying hard.” The mentality here is something that I think Bill Cosby once spoke of in one of my favorite stand-up comedy routines. The “I’m going to go out because I deserve to go out, and dammit I’m going to have a good time” mentality kills me!  Hours later when they’re worshipping their toilet bowls after getting drunk and making assholes of themselves, this is what people call “having a good time.” Then I think about my weekends. I spend a lot of time writing, ruminating, and quietly walking the streets of Manhattan, watching people and pretty lights.  I used to think I was doing something wrong. I don’t think so anymore.

That hasn’t stopped me from feeling somewhat isolated of late. It can be a lonely experience to constantly loose myself in a crowd of strangers, shuffling to wherever the heck it is they’re going. Feelings of  “where’s MY special someone to hold hands with and enjoy Times Square,” are only a part of my range of emotions on this issue. As I was walking to Central Park this afternoon, I had to ask myself what my intent was. If you had asked me that question just before I left, I would have jerked my thumb back to the door of my apartment before turning around and giving the door a silent middle finger. Things at home have been … tense.

But intention is funny. The energy behind which an action is taken seems to make a difference. “What am I running from?” verses “Where am I running to?” are both legitimate questions as far as I’m concerned.  These are the questions with which I wrestle every single time I leave my apartment. Am I going to do the laundry to get away from my parents and my autistic brother who won’t stop babbling at top volume right outside my bedroom door as I try to write? Am I going for a walk in the city to get away from the stresses of work? Just what the heck am I trying to do every time I walk through Times Square and catch the eye of some young women?

What is the meaning of it all?

A great deal of that depends on perspective, of course. The glass is half empty for some, half full for others. Life is hard for some, and it is a breeze for other people. When I stop and think about this, natural curiosity begs me to wonder if I ever felt that life was a cakewalk? Have I ever felt like I don’t need to be afraid of people?

Can I ever walk through a crowd without eyeballing throngs of young men as though they are potential threats to my safety?

I’m not always sure this is possible. That I’ve even been trying to do any of the above didn’t become clear to me until today when I was walking toward Broadway for the umpteenth time this week. Glaring at groups of young men and balling up my fists in my pockets is common for me. That’s left over from having been mugged more than a decade ago. Curiously, that never happened in New York. But the surgery I needed to get rid of the formation of traumatic cataracts in both my eyes DID happen here. Not too long after, 9/11 ensued.

Life is replete with ironies, broken promises, and shattered illusions. The illusion of total control is one that I still cling to in more ways than I care to admit. But for today, I tried to let it go. For once in my adult life, I took a breath and slowed down. I didn’t walk with the usual breakneck pace of an angry business man on fifth avenue. I didn’t eyeball anyone unless it was to offer a grin (albeit a small one).  I didn’t snort in irritation when someone cut in front of me. There was no hurry. I had nowhere to go.

But when I have nowhere to go, I wind up somewhere special. How fitting. I happened upon a free Jazz Festival at Central Park. Thirty bands were all scattered throughout the park, and all of them were playing the same sets on the same list. Everyone who heard one band heard the same things that the other bands played, supposedly in the same order. I got to spend time listening to the smooth sounds of a band called “The Yes Trio.” They broke the rules for the final composition. They were supposed to play something called “Autumn In New York.” They played something completely random and improvised.

When I stared at people bobbing their heads in time to the beat, I smiled. Yet the moment I lost myself in the music as I stared at fire-colored leaves, my eyes began to burn. You don’t cry at the sound of smooth jazz unless you’re me. My bones became hollow reeds through which the music could flow. My chest became another drum for my hands.  I closed my eyes and felt safe for the first time since Sandy blew through my city and pissed off so many people.  This is what happiness is. My chest didn’t feel tight, my shoulders didn’t feel heavy, and I didn’t feel so alone anymore.  I was in a crowd of people who all felt the same way I did about the music. They, like me, felt free.

I didn’t expect that to happen to me today.

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