Category Archives: Big City

New York City. She’s a rare thing.

The morning you move to New York City will be as distinct as the day when birds first learned it was in their blood to sing.

Oh, can you imagine what happened in the trees that day?

You’ll delight in the sounds of traffic that clutter in your ear lobes in the sort of way that children pile into snow forts with their gum drop visions of an endless snowball fight in tow.

You’ll have packed up all your bags with the things that can be carried.

What will be left?

A few stray hair pins in the corners of the room and all the things that break our hearts endlessly, because they promised to be fierce while they lasted but unfit for travel bags: the way she stroked your head before bedtime, the way he met you at the bus stop with umbrella in hand.

All the memories that left you thinking you were growing too big for this place; you were needing something New. Something New, Something New, Beyond Borrowed or Blue.   

You’ll have slung an over-sized black bag on your shoulder and found the right pair of shoes but, of course, this will be before you’re struck by the easy, breezy way high heels can bully an innocent pair of soles that have only proved they are good & reliable to you in the last 23 years of walking. And you’ll have tucked a line of Mr. Blue Eyes’ anthem into your back pocket, enveloped between metro card and a twenty dollar bill.

You’re going to be a part of it. New York, New York.

 …

New York City. She’s a rare thing.

She’s the girl who boycotted the senior prom. Long legs that her mama always called “them weeds.” Towel dries her bright red locks and lets them rest wild, refusing headbands and hats.

She wears knee socks in the winter and black leather in the summer. She’s got freckles in hidden places.

She leaves a trail of whispers wherever she goes. Solemn whispers coming down the alleyways. And some days you’ll love her, other days you’ll grumble at her—but every day you should marvel at a city that never knew to grow her name so big.

Marvel at her roots. The way she captures people at every fold of her avenues. The way she’ll never coddle you nor cradle you—but she’ll make you stronger than Boise ever could. She’ll make you stronger than Denver ever knew how.

 …

People will say to you, Canal Street. Ellis Island. The Strand.

They’ll rave about the Ritz. Union Square. Rockefeller Center when she’s all dolled up with tinsel and blush on her cheeks.

Me? I’ll tell you Wall Street after the business men have slipped from their desks. Lexington and Madison in the hours before the sun starts kissing every building on the block like the girl in eighth grade, so eager for every pair of lips a Friday night party could offer.

Find New York City while she’s tucking Fifth into sleep and ask her to tell you of the days when Chicago, Paris and her used to huddle close to the radio at 8pm. Of the days where Daddy would adjust the antennae of the radio,  San Franny resting on his knee, and Mama stroked the heads of DC and London as they snaked around her ankles.

“One day, you’ll grow up to be Big, Big Cities,” their Mama told them.

“DC, you’ll be the place for those who ache for politics. And London, you’ll be a bright spot though you’ll know a lot of rain. Paris, you’ve got love all up in your bones and LA, Mama always knew you’d be a glitz and glamour gal. Little Chi, my Little Chi, you’ll be the birth place of a thing called jazz. The world is going to love you so. And New York City, you, my dear, will be the biggest of them all.”

The Little Cities—all wrapped around their Mama’s prophesy—will nod in agreement over Little New York. Because that’s what you do when you love someone very much—you want the very best for them. The very, very best for them.

“Now my Little New York,” her Mama did say. “I’ll warn you now… You’ll have the days when you’ll wake up wishing you were called to be a song writer instead of the world’s most famous city, so that you could script the words that float from Chicago’s saxophone on the days when you wish Paris and London could make it home for Thanksgiving.”

“And New York, New York—you will never be easy to leave but people will leave you all the same.

In & Out, In & Out They’ll Go.

But you, your strong enough to take it.

People, dreamers really, will come to you with the most marvelous sparkle in their eyes. They’ll hitch hopes to your skyline. They’ll dance in your avenues. They’ll decide to never leave you and then stitch your name right into their legacy.

You, my dear, will see dreams come true on a daily basis; you’ll be the strong pair of arms that holds a Tiny World of Dreamers close at night. Not just any city can do that, not just any city.

 No one will ever be like you, my Little New York. I’ve always known it so.”

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams

I’d bring you sugar. You could borrow flour.

I am willing to travel across the country to show up at your door and tell you this: I’ve got camping gear.

Yes, that’s right. Camping Gear.

I know I have it somewhere cramped up in the attic. Wedged between a few lawn reindeer and some worthless pieces of junk that my father insists on classifying as antiques.

A tent. Two sleeping bags. That’s all we need right?

Can I have five minutes? I just need five minutes to find the dumb camping gear.

You are shaking your head. Like that won’t do? Like we cant pitch a tent somewhere between my backyard and yours and, for once, let Distance slip away before your hand slips from mine?

Target then. There is a Target right down the road. We could pile into the car right this second and be there before that little hand on your watch even laps the bigger one twice.

An air mattress. We’ll buy one. Blow that sucker up. I’ll even let you take the bed and I’ll sleep on the floor. Does that sound better than the camping gear?

Please don’t turn. Don’t walk away just yet. I have other ideas. Jeepers, I’ve been filling notebooks with all sorts of ideas.

You’re saying it won’t do any good to hear them. I know that. But could we just pretend for a moment that it might do us some good? That we might be capable of sticking our heads together and coming up with an excellent plan where Miles and Stones and Milestones wouldn’t get between us.

You know, it’s really easy to tap out how much I miss you over the phone. Tap. Tap. Tap. Done.

But I need 140 characters and then some kind of eternity to show you how it feels to know I won’t be seeing you soon. That it’s already been too long. I don’t think I like it very much, saying those kinds of things.

I. Won’t. Be. Seeing. You. Soon. It feels all kinds of awful rolling off the tongue.

This whole growing up thing, I don’t know how much I like that either. It would probably be easier, better, if the automobile had never been invented. Or buses. Or trains. Or any kind of thing that left us gripping a map and going separate ways.

Or cellphones. Or pens to write letters. Or stamps to mail them with. Or any kind of method that left us staying in touch without the touching.

If we never got the crazy idea that life would be bearable on different sides of the country or in separate parts of the world. That’d we’d be ok as pen pals or friends who only see each other once in a while. I’ll warn you right now: the Once shows up a lot more than the While. I’ve been waiting for you by the door.

I mean, Boston is pretty on you. You make Chicago look damn good. You wear San Diego like a scarf.  And I’m just a girl who got New York to coo in her ear louder than any other set of skyscrapers but I’m still not over the fact that we cannot just smack the cities together and play neighbors for a while.

I’d bring you sugar. You could borrow flour.

And we could stop talking about Growing Up as if he were a Lover, a tall and handsome Lover, who’s already broken our hearts six thousand times and yet we are still crawling back to try it out again.

You know, there are certain bones within me that want to see you fly, and find my wings too. And then there are other bones, the not so funny bones, that wish you and I could just find some moment to call our own.

A moment where we wouldn’t be leaving. Or walking. Or thinking at all.

No going. No planning. No growing at all.

It wouldn’t need to last long. A few seconds or so. Just long enough to believe that one day we’ll stop scratching this itch that tears the “You” from the “Me” and find ourselves sitting on some front porch with sweet tea in our hands saying things like this.

It was good to see the world. The Whole Wide World. We learned quite a lot, wouldn’t you agree? From all those Miles and Stones and Milestones between us. But look, look, we have finally found an Us and I don’t want to see it go.  Us. It tastes sweet, sweeter than anything I’ve tasted in a while. It tastes like some kind of tomorrow that I’ve been looking for.

So I’ll tell you one more time, I’ve got camping gear somewhere in my attic. It should  only take me five minutes to find it.

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Filed under Best Friends, Big City, Disconnect, Girl meets Boy, Hunger

And then a ballerina emerges from the crowd. Tattered shoes. Blistered feet. The Big City lifts her from the waist and she’s up, up, up. Kissing the Sky.

I have high hopes of one day being a car wreck of a romantic.

Of one day lending my heart out, as if it were a well-read library book, to someone who would have no choice but to rip the return date from the inner bindings because although he does not understand the way he feels, he cannot go a day without feeling this way. But before I could ever allow this Great Love to latch onto my limbs, I had to give myself to a First Love that has made its way into nearly every paragraph of every diary entry I have penned since the age of ten. 

While some young girls drew hearts around boys named Justin and stitched their first name to the last name of the boy beside them in math class, I scripted Love Letters to Concrete. Stenciled Hearts Around Skyscrapers. Stitched my own name into the Skyline of a City I prayed would learn my name and find the sound of it just too sweet to ever not repeat.

New York City. I will always believe that although the Big City may seem chaotic & busy & bursting with bustling adjectives, if you take the time to step away from it you will realize it is really One Big Dance. Some people wear tap shoes while others wrap silk ribbons around their ankles. And some even do the most remarkable of rain dances on bare calloused feet. Look closer. You’ll find the waltzing on Wall Street. Pirouettes Through Coffee Shops. And, if you are careful with your observations, you will find in every moment another ballerina finding the courage to run and leap into the arms of the Big City. Catching her at her waist and lifting her up to kiss the sky.

New York City. I’d tell any dreamer or realist alike to make some time to dance with her. I’d tell any soul, old or young, to bow & curtsie with the City’s Avenues and Bright Lights.

A friend of mine, who I swear might count the freckles on my arms when I am not looking, asked me today, “What will you write about now that you are no longer in New York City?” A very good question. A question I have asked myself several times in the past few days as the N scurried away from the Y and grew farther from the C. How a girl finds words after concrete. After subways. After the insomniac city.

But, despite geography, I still believe that this Big City will find her footing in every one of my sentences. This Concrete Jungle Will Still Be Planted Deep Within the Jungles of the Punctuation Before Me. Because New York City taught me a great lesson: that life is not a matter of being picky with footwear but of looking down at the shoes you were given and making the decision to dance no matter what. And isn’t that the reason we write to begin with? Or Create? Or Live? Because we never understood the life we were given but it seemed worth it to dance anyway. To Shuffle. To Trot. To Turn. To Leap. Even with blistered feet. Or worn soles.

I don’t need a point on a map to know there are some things we were never meant to understand, like a mysterious city that echoes your name like tap shoes taking to a wooden floor. That we never understand the things we see. The things we feel. The places we go. The hands we hold. But we still must see, feel, go, and hold. Regardless.

The Big City will teach you just this if you allow it to. That life is the water-color paints meeting paper. Life is the chocolate melting out in the sun. Life is the mud on the bottom of your feet after you have danced in the rain. Life is the watermelon dripping on your white shirt. Life is the remains of peppermint that you carried home on your lips the night you learned his were prone to chapping easily. Life is a tangle of Christmas lights, tethered and confusing but still a glowing swarm of elegance.

Life is exactly what New York City seems like from a first glance. Crazy. Intense. Magical. Wild. Unreal. Big. Loud.

And then a ballerina emerges from the crowd. Tattered shoes. Blistered feet. The Big City lifts her from the waist and she’s up, up, up. Kissing the Sky.

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams

Show me a girl with pencil shavings on her forehead and an imaginary cousin by her side and I’ll show you a fireworks display more smashing than July 4th.

Picture a girl in elementary school, legs as thin and long like two yard sticks holding up a torso, anxiously rubbing pencil shavings onto her forehead in the girls’ bathroom before running out the door to meet her imaginary Italian cousin at ballet class.

It made me terribly uneasy to know that my peers got an entire holiday to put ashes on their foreheads and then proceed to whine about not being able to eat meat on Fridays.

I was envious that their mothers made them give up soda or that they wore white communion dresses and got a second middle name halfway through life.

And I was especially jealous that they had all these cool prayers to repeat as if each one were a secret pass code to a club I would never be invited to: The Catholic club.

I am convinced that a normal child would ask questions and then get over it. Embrace the nondenominational religion she was given.

Go back, reread several posts of mine, and then say this to yourself, “She was not a normal child.”

Hence my decision to rub the lead from my unicorn pencils on my forehead to blend in with my soot headed peers and then proceed to spend the next forty days grumbling the loudest over not being able to have soda or chocolate.

You don’t even like soda and you are allergic to milk chocolate,” I could remember my best friend saying to me.

She wasn’t Catholic, wasn’t getting ashes, wasn’t eating fish on Fridays and (GASP) didn’t care!

“You don’t understand, at least you still get to be Italian.”

And so, when refusing to talk to my best friend whose life was easier for being Italian or the God who made me into a pale mess of Irish freckles and German roots, I turned to Gabby.

My Italian cousin.

Had we been in the same fifth grade class I would have told you about Gabriella Vacaldo or you would have found her on my family tree. Gabriella was my Italian cousin and a star gymnast. She was the best in her class at pottery and she had long curly brown hair. Her parents gave her a cell phone at the mere age of 12 so she could call me anytime.

I imagine she would have called me all the time, if only she existed.

Yup, I made up a cousin in the fifth grade and I probably rubbed lead on her head as well. But in all fairness, everyone knows there is nothing cooler than having an Italian cousin to hang out with after school; at least there was nothing cooler at my lunch table.

So. as all the other kids scuttled off the black top at 3 p.m. to go play with Vinnie and Antonia, I was “making a call to Gabriella.” Translation: Lead head Hannah going off to play by herself, all the while kicking the dirt over the fact that she wasn’t Italian or Catholic. Tough. Life.

Both these stories fall into the chapters of my life spent trying to fit in. To fit the mold instead of break it. To make plea bargains with the gods of normalcy that they would remove any trait that was a) distinguishable b) unique c) quirky d) different, so that I could slide through life being happily ordinary and blissfully average.

We could very easily do this for the rest of our lives. We could an entire 365 days out of our years fitting in and never pouncing on any plan that might make us stick out from the crowd.

We just need to ask the question and then assume the role: Leader or Follower? Leader or follower, baby?

Take it from someone with experience, wads of it. I spent a good 76% of my life on the path to being a follower and there isn’t much excitement in it. The footprints to follow are already in place and it tends to get very boring, especially with huge ideas keep chit chattering in your head like gossipy freshmen. Someone did the something we dream of doing before us, yes, but do we really want to spend our lives playing in their shadows?

Wait, wait, wait.

Still one more option to hurl on the table. Before I sway you into being a leader. Yikes.

We could just wait until tomorrow instead of starting today. We could wait for a better time, a more manageable schedule, a better support team. But we might be waiting for a while. Waiting Forever. You cool with that? You down with being labeled as a time waster?

A dear friend of mine, and a huge role model to boot, sent me an article today that was all about the notebooks we keep, bursting at the spirals with brilliant ideas. Except, after a certain point, we can exhaust the world with our blabbering about this good idea and that amazing idea.

After a while we need to actually put the ideas into action. Become, as Katy Perry would tell us all, our own firework in this world. We only need to glance upward to see that a million others have already started bursting and they would never choose to sink back into line again.

It’s funny that she even sings those lyrics, to proclaim the fact that we are all fireworks. What a scary thing to be… it means we need to be willing to gear up for an explosion. It could be  fantastic but the thought of lighting the match is quite petrifying.

You see, that would be a point of no turning back. That would really set us apart from the rest of the world. That would really make us stand out.

And so we must ask ourselves if we are ready to swap out the firework display that has been playing in our minds for years for the real deal.

That could be a real risk.

But, secrets told: I want to be one of the ones shooting up in the sky and yelling back down to the hesitant ones on the ground, “Baby, get up here! It’s something worth living out loud!”

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Humanity, Passion, Thank You

And for a short fix of time, he and I were just two children sleeping in your arms, cradled by your transit line.

via weheartit.com

The lurch of the subway that followed closely after the full stop sent the sleeping child straight into my lap.

He did not move. He did not stir.

I looked around for a parent to step forward and scoop the child up in their arms, apologizing profusely as they moved the Sleeping One to the other side of the subway car.

No one stepped forward.

Three subways stops went by.

No. One.

On any other day I am certain I would have reached the panic-stricken stage after three or four stops, wondering how I could possibly parent an abandoned subway child.  But today I was tired. I was worn. And so I let the child sleep in my lap and I did not worry. I closed my eyes and I let the slow, steady movement of the subway lull my breathing into a synchronized rhythm with his.

And it felt good to be holding, stranger or not. It felt good to be held by you. And for a short fix of time ,he and I were just two children sleeping in your arms, cradled by your transit line. Pacified by your Watchful Eye.

Oh Big City, I was mad at you for a moment or two. I will be the bigger one and just go on and admit it.

She’s a lonely city,” a friend said about you from across the table the other night. We were talking behind your back, I will just admit it now. And I smiled at the sentiment.  To be very honest, I agreed with my friend. I didn’t even hesitate before I blurted out an answer that echoed in agreement.

And I was that close to saying it straight to your face, that some days I want to call you a lonely, cold, relentless city.

But just when I am about ready to do that, throw up my hands and surrender to a suburb, you take me back. You forgive my misconceptions and you show me just how capable you are of being a mother to me. You took a girl who is terribly homesick for her own mother and showed her, with great poise & grace, just how wonderfully you have mastered the Hold of all your people.

So I have been wrong. I judged you. I am a judger, it’s my personality makeup. A jumble of multiple choice questions pointed out to me in a scientific manner that I am prone to judging. And I took you, took one glance at the experience I was having with you, and I chalked you up to the concrete jungle that everyone assigns to you with such haste. I have yet to meet the Mother Who Loves Her Children With Concrete especially when She Can Love Them Better with Breathtaking City Sunsets & Brilliant City Sunrises.

I buried you in my own misconceptions and  resisted your coaxing me to just come rest in your arms for a little while. To put down the papers and domino chain of emails, each begging for a response, to come sit with you for a while and have you point out to me all the wonders of the people you have raised and the buildings you have raised up.

How did I not see it before? You are not loud, even though your people sometime are. You are not overwhelming, but your businesses are. You are not intimidating even if the company you keep just so happens to be. None of this concerns you.

You are more concerned with what matters in this lifetime and for that we are quick to think you are shallow, swallowing people whole with a Bait of Salaries & Spotlights. It could not be farther from the truth. You are more occupied with the task of watching over your Five Boroughs and all of their people: Manhattan, your oldest, Queens, the quiet one, the Bronx & Brooklyn, and Staten Island, your baby.

You are more concerned with welcoming in anyone who cries to come here, to see the ways in which the Broadway stage will sing to them or Central Park will stroll with them.

You are the careful caretaker to an army of Tall Buildings, and though you once wished they would grow to be NBA stars, they have done pretty well in their spots. They have delivered a great deal of goodness to a thousand businesses and a million business men and women.

Oh Big City of mine, It took a long, relentless day followed by a chilling but silent night to realize that you have only wanted to be an over-sized sweater to me, a place for me to fall into and find overwhelming comfort in letting you be some sort of “home” to me.

I have long labeled you as a heart breaker. You broke my heart when you made me leave, you broke my heart when you let me stay.  But you healed my heart in my stepping away from trying to hold everything that you hold in my own arms—the success, the prestige, the titles—and finally surrendering to the fold of your arms. The soft features in your Face. The soft sounds in your Voice; the ones that do exist beneath a storm of Car Horns & Sirens. “Take solace in me you,” you said.

I heard you.

“Take solace in me,” you whispered with the hint of a tune tied to the words.

My City. My Over-Sized Sweater Made From an Intricate Weaving of Ten Thousand Happenings in a Single Second. Singing Me a Lullaby, Rocking Me To and Fro on Your Transit Line that Cradles One Thousand Souls in One Single Sitting.



 

 

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams

Let’s Turn Our Lives into A Christmas Carol that the World Just Itches to Hear A Single Note of.

So I have been on Facebook for the past half hour and it is official. Facebook Official, if you will call it that.

There is no way to defriend your own self on Facebook.

Come on Mark Zuckerberg, how did you miss this one? There absolutely should be a “remove as friend” button on our own sites. I would adore the prospect of clicking it right now. Click. Click. Click. Friend. Defriend. Friend. Defriend.

The girl I have been for the past few weeks is no one that I would ever want to be friends with. I wouldn’t want to sit down and have coffee with her. I wouldn’t want to have a Skype date with her. I wouldn’t want to invite her into my home. I would very much delight in leaving her outside in the cold and watching her freeze her buns off as I sip my hot cocoa from the window of my third floor apartment. Ha ha ha! You lose! Ok. That was harsh, Hannah.

There comes a time and a place in all of our lives when we look in the mirror and we question who is posing on the other side of the glass. Not someone we know. Not someone we like. Not someone suitable for our friendship. But someone who seems tired and restless. Unhappy. Victimized.

And then we need to make a choice. Just like the Bachelor and all his friendly little reality star companions with their roses and shots of love, we too need to make a choice. Stay the victim or scream out the weakness.

There is a fine line between going through a tough time, having an off day, learning to wallow for just a little while and sinking the world with your Titanical tears.

You know what? We could cry So Loud right now. We really could. We could march right over to Central Park and have a festival of Cries & Whines & Shouts & Screams and maybe eventually we can even whine to the tune of Silent Night and have the Most Un Silent, Un Settling of Nights. But we won’t get anywhere in Wallowing. We won’t move a single step in Squeezing ourselves into Precarious Categories that keep us from our full potential. We won’t go stronger. We won’t make our lives the least bit longer.

A revelation came to me the other night as I watched the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center light for the very first time. Surrounded by half a million people, singing to Christmas carols that found as all with a memorization for their words, and looking up at the tree I began to cry. (I know, I know, Me crying? Say it ain’t so). I wasn’t crying over that moment. Nor the perfection of the season all around. I was crying because I had forgotten to say thank you. Night after night, age eight and upward, I would pray to the heavens that one day I could call New York City my home. While some girls wrote love letters to boys with braces, I wrote letters & symphonies & novels to this City.

And I am here now. Here Now. In the city who let me dream of etching my name upon its skyline for so long. And I never even thanked God. I never even said Thank You for making a dream of mine come true. For making my life into exactly what I asked it to be. Funny how we forget to say thank you. Funny how we forget a lot of things…

I may not know you. You may not know me. But I think you are strong, funny, endearing, resilient & capable. And don’t you forget that! I wish I could wrap up every one of those attributes and sneak them right under your Christmas tree right now and then beg you to open the presents up early.

Maybe you don’t even need those presents right now. But I certainly do!

We all need a reminder of this from time to time, that YES, life is hard. But We Are Kick Ass.

We were made for goodness. Sweet, sweet goodness. Oozing and dripping all over our lives just like the chocolate that trickled from my Max Brenner Chocolate Chai just the other day.

I was made for Skype dates with my best friends, near & far. Near & Dear. I was made for belting out an inconsistent tune to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You.” I was made for a big blanket under a string of Christmas lights, curled up as creations dance in my head like Sugar Plum Fairies. I was made for sneakers & barbels. Protein & Boxing Gloves. I was made for workouts & hard work.

I was not made to entertain guests like Doubt or Insecurity. I was made to build Gingerbread Houses with my Dreams & give Eskimo kisses with my creativity. To Go Snow Shoeing with Compassion & Sip Eggnog with my Love for Life. I was made to be an expert of wallpapering. Wallpapering my life with love letters, strangers, & simplicity. More importantly, wall papering the lives of others with Comfort, Kindness, Understanding & Companionship.

I was made for the Rudolph’s of this world, the misfits, the lonely, the stepped upon. They are the ones with the Bright Red Noses, the stories that my ears perk to hear.  They are the ones who light my way and I don’t think I will ever stop seeking them out.

I was not made for a single “un” word. Not Unstable. Not Unworthy. Not Unable.

But it is one thing to say these things, write these things, voice these things. We need to live these things. Live Out Loud. Live So Loud. Let’s Turn Our Lives into A Christmas Carol that the World Just Itches to Hear A Single Note of. A Single note is all it takes and then the world practically cries over good fortune that we actually came here to sing the whole song. The whole entire song. Yes. Oh yes, we were made to sing the whole entire song.

What were you made for?

P.S. Anyone up for a Skype date with some hot cocoa? I will bring the Holiday cheer…

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Happiness, Life Lessons, Love Is..., Love Letters, Uncategorized

Like Strings of Christmas Lights. Like Boughs of Holly. Like Fa La La La La, which an extra La to prove some point.

Some days my creative nonfiction techniques and fiction story lines get sassy together. On these days I think I write the best. Or at least I have the most fun.


I spent all day looking for the Bridge. You know the bridge, the purpose. A reason to sew this whole thing together without seeming too pathetic. A lot of us are building bridges though, scrounging up relevance so that we can pour our heart out onto a page and then feel more like Artists than People who wish for more “just seeing how you are doing” phone calls. Trust me, I am not the only one in this city keeping her eyes wide open for something to mention to someone who matters at the end of the day. I am not the only bridge builder.

So here it is: 2 minutes and 32 seconds. I thought you might want to know. That is the exact point. Right There. Two Minutes and Thirty-Two Seconds. Then hit the back button.

Thank me when you side swivel the drawn-out chorus on repeat. We all know that I would only listen to the first 43 seconds of the song if I had the choice. Some days I do . Lord knows, all I really need is the familiar bell sounds and the a capella of her voice. The rest is just gravy. But go back to the beginning at 2:32. You won’t get sick of the tune as quickly.

You know, for years she has been telling me that she does not want a lot for Christmas but this year I really get it. I really do. She and I are on the same page, I only want you too.

Don’t roll your eyes, I already pinpointed the spot in this letter where the first infamous rolling of the eyes would come in. At the very point where I mentioned Christmas. You want to say “too soon.” Might I remind you, this time last year I had the apartment fully decorated with a 5-pound box of cotton that turned out to be an obnoxious proponent in turning the bedroom into a Winter Wonderland. So don’t criticize me for starting the holiday season before Thanksgiving. Macy’s started first, so there.

I am sitting in a Starbucks window right now. It is the awkward spell of time between the briefing on food security and the Working Group for Girls meeting. I am choking back tears, sipping my Gingerbread latte, smiling at my red cup.

You want to tell me that I have cried a lot this year. I guess so. But welcomed tears, they are. Good & Welcomed Tears. Pampered by my eyelashes and cheeks, really. They are about as careful with the tears as an Italian Grandmother who hears you are hungry, or maybe a Greek one.

But oh yes, that song. Mariah. You think it is ridiculous already, the thought of me donning my snow-white ear warmers and combat boots that I have managed to fit into my Gap poster child wardrobe, tapping my feet at a busy intersection to commercial holiday music. But it is better than the Nutcracker, give me two more weeks for that one. And I bet you wouldn’t be so shotty if you knew it made me happy. That it makes me love the city a little more, to have a holiday soundtrack in the background.

Sure, there are days where loneliness is my only company. But Loneliness Is Not So Scary. Nothing to be afraid of. I am starting to see it is very much like when I used to connect my freckles with a Sharpie marker to make pretty pictures. Loneliness is a Connector between People. A feeling that freckles all of our timelines.

You’ll say I am pathetic for supporting such a capitalist cause like Starbucks but its the red cups at the holiday that make it all worth it. Every Bit of Capital. Because no matter where you find the red cup, you always feel like you are holding a bit of home between your hands.

This year they are harping on the notion of Strangers. Funny right, I thought that was my platform all along. Strangers is such a silly word. Silly before. Even Sillier After. Sometimes Sad. Sometimes. Sad.

I really want this to have a point. To prove to you that I am not just stringing together weak sentences these days. No, no, my sentences are strong. Like Strings of Christmas Lights. Like Boughs of Holly. Like Fa La La La La, which an extra La to prove some point.

So here it is: I am doing well, thank you. I am safe, thank you. The Bronx is not so bad, you should really come by sometime. The coffee is cheap, no coffee shops, but the coffee is cheap. I am taking care of myself. I am finding my way.

No, please don’t join the already assembled Chorus that is my mother, best friends, and a slew of others who believe that I need to do something for myself once in a while. I hope you know it too, putting myself on the back burner was the best thing I ever did for myself. One more stove top metaphor: I really believe that it is only when we put ourselves on the back burner do we find the real flame to life. I am helping people, and that is good. I really only need a hot cup of coffee and these ridiculously comfortable socks made for men who work in the cold all day. I wear them with everything, even under my dress boots. They make me smile.

And that is really the only point of this letter. The only Decent, Valuable, Valid Point. The Take Away. To remember to smile from time to time. Your smile is brilliant. da Vinci would have dumped Mona for a chance to use his palette on your smile. Seriously. The world misses it when it hides behind a furrowed brow.

So yea, scrap the Christmas song reference. Trash the mention of the Starbucks cup, and my pathetic mentions of loneliness and stove top metaphors.

And just smile. Would you?

Funny. This whole thing would probably be much more powerful knocked down from 1030 words to seven. Just Smile, you are doing just fine.

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Filed under Big City, Disconnect, Girl meets Boy

Becoming a “New Yorker”: Glass slippers don’t make for an easy morning commute.

The first time I attempted to be a real New Yorker I was nearly hit by a car.

For the longest time, looking like I belonged in New York City came with a belief in the practicality of impractical shoes while practicing a series of stony faces with “business” and “meeting in ten” written all over them. My knowledge of being a true New Yorker came with a belief in a fully stocked iPod, song after song serving as ammo to drown out the chaos around me, and a sense of indifference for my surroundings, as if the use of a Metro Card and hailing a cab was installed into my being.

So back to that time I was nearly road kill.

There I was, about the bridge the distance between 42nd and 43rd East, juggling all sorts of sophistication and city girl swagger along with my grande skim milk misto. Determined to abandon any 3rd grade instruction of looking both ways before crossing the street. After all, REAL New Yorkers do not look both ways. REAL New Yorkers don’t even flinch at dead bodies in the road.

Look serious. Have a mission. Stay focused. Head up. Chin up. Pensive, Hannah, pensive. Busy but sexy. Make the world believe you have everything. Strut and push to the front of this crowd. Strut, push, strut, push. Crap, don’t trip. Runway style. Total “Devil Wears Prada” predecessor.

Whoosh….

Ok. Look cool. You just nearly got pummeled by a car but stay cool. Everyone noticed but you will never see these people again. It’s o.k, you are fine.

If the judges of America’s Next Top New Yorker had seen this one they would have surely gawked at my performance.

A 3 from the Tyra of the show. A 2 from the Twiggy. A straight zero from the Janis Dickinson. A sympathetic 4 from the Nigel Barker of the show.

I may have interpreted the New Yorkers of this city all wrong. In trying to possess a certain exterior, I forgot about the interior. Correction: I sacrificed the interior.

I won’t lie to you. If you could look inside of me right this very second you would see it: I am falling apart inside. Nothing to worry about, it’s just that New York is a whole lot more glamorous and romantic when you visit at Christmastime or when you come for the day with friends and they don’t leave you standing alone on the platform.

New York City would be different, I am sure, if I had more than $25 in my pocket and I didn’t call the poorest congressional district in the nation “home.” New York City would be a different story if I was still comfortable with buying $7 jars of almond butter and if 4 floors of Forever 21 were still my mecca. If I had not sacrificed buying any clothing this year, because it turned out to be a want and not a need.

New York City is a different story for that fact that I shrink in stretching out my hand to a cute guy at a bar, introducing myself as a volunteer. A charity case. A girl you should probably buy a drink for, not because she is pretty but because she makes no money. On purpose.

I bet if I were to slide a Metro Card into the hands of Cinderella, she would feel exactly like me.

All dressed up but knowing that the clock will strike at midnight. And I will be plopped back in the Bronx with a pumpkin and a few mice.

I am practically drooling over the sound of a credit card swiping. I am on the verge of begging a tourist with a suitcase to let me show them a trick:

If I can prove that I can fit into your suitcase, will you take me home?

So I guess this is the point in my story where I know my shoe is lost. I have evidently lost something and I do not know just how I will gain it back yet.

But we forget a certain part of the Cinderella story, after the ball but before the grand shoe fitting. The In Between Time. Cinderella didn’t sit around and wait for the other shoe. She didn’t search frantically for it either. She went on cleaning, and sweeping. And Serving Others. Until everything fell into place.

She learned to live with one shoe on and one shoe off.

One foot in a world I have grown up knowing all my life, the other in a borough that challenges me every single day.

But here is my resolution: Instead of walking around uneven, I will take off my other shoe and walk barefoot for a little while. I will stop trying so furiously to be my illusion of a “true New Yorker” and start living like the 300,000 neighbors of mine who know the sound of poverty at the front door. The ones I came here for. I will take out the earphones, stop drowning out everything that I find hard to hear, look straight ahead with a smile on my face.

I will look both ways.
And then I will cross the street.

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Humanity, Life Lessons, Loneliness, The Tough Stuff

Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”

I learned at sleep-away bible camp in the 5th grade that God had messed up in making me.

One) It is beyond me why a bunch of camp counselors would make a bunk full of homesick, Bible-toting adolescents draw pictures of what they missed the most. Two) While others around me struggled to capture the soft features of their mothers and the shades and shadows of their fathers, I learned I was a real artist. But it was only because my bunk mates were drawing their families and I had drawn a bed. Drawing a bed is pretty hard to mess up.

As the pictures were hung up, one by one around the cabin, it was then that I saw how screwed up of a human being I really was. Susie’s family, Rachel’s dog. Alyssa’s teacher. Hannah’s bed. I contemplated taking a canoe out to the middle of the lake (even though I failed my swim test) and just waiting. Eventually some author would come along and write a book about me, place me in the character realm right next to the Grinch who stole Christmas and Ebenezer Scrooge. Two other individuals who didn’t know how to handle other people either.

Contrary to popular “Hannah Katy” rhetoric, I have a very hard time letting feelings show. I have never been a hugger, I am not used to being touched and (I will just admit it right now) I don’t like animals in the least bit. Believe me I tried to adore the furry friends on the front of folders in elementary school, it just was not happening. Phrases like “I love you” and “I miss you” often lose their way to detours put up by my own insecurities.

I sometimes wonder, if we were to read the description and qualifications of being a human off of Craig’s List, would we apply for the job? We would never be guaranteed to know if the position was short term or long term. We might find it appealing to experiment with abstract concepts of Love and Happiness and Loss, we might wonder why a position as extensive as this is unpaid. We would more than likely question why no manual exists to help us out when things fall apart. We might wonder why, when we grow older in the position, we will move miles and miles away from ones that we love. And we will label it life. And Living. And Becoming Masters of the Art of Missing Others.

I genuinely used to believe that I could skip this whole “missing” business, if I did not get too attached to anyone then I would never have to miss them. I could go on missing my bed, not my family.

We could get rid of missing each other altogether, why not do that? The whole thing is pointless. It’s hard. It’s not fun. It’s quite heartbreaking. But  it might be better to miss someone deeply then to miss out on ever knowing them, in fear that “Goodbye” might one day emerge from their lips.

Te Extrano, as the barbers across the street might say. I miss you. I miss you when the subway pulls up but you are not waiting alongside me to take the ride into Manhattan. I miss when the world falls asleep at night but I am used to your laughter as my bedtime story. I miss you when the coffee pot drizzles in the morning, when my “real laugh” comes out. I miss when you when I see a big white van and I think to myself: We should all be riding together in there again, singing songs about changing the world. I miss you when a little child asks to hold my hand; I gladly outstretch five fingers but I know your five fingers don’t stretch back.

I miss you as the leaves start changing their wardrobe, blushing a luscious shade of red before falling to the ground. I miss you as the world begins gathering closer, stores begin hanging wreaths before Halloween candy even leaves the shelves, and the holiday season tip toes towards us.

I miss you. And some days I want to take up topography so that I can rewrite the maps. Put Timid Towns of Massachusetts Next to Burly Boroughs of New York City. Draw the Confident Coast of Cali Next to the Vibrant Villages of South Africa and Peru. Take the Chicago Skyline and Sew It Right Above All Our Heads.

It does not work that way, in the same way that we cannot keep every person we love by our sides forever. My best friend gave me a card on the day I left for New York, it reads quite perfectly: “In the end, I think that I will like that we are sitting on the bed, talking & wondering where the time had gone.

You are There and I am Here and, as hard as it is, I will resist chopping off the T from There to place you Here. I am becoming fine with missing you, I even believe I am lucky to have you to miss. So maybe I don’t inherit your smile or words on a daily basis but I trust that someone else does, someone who might need it more than me right now.

I trust the world enough to know that we are separate for a reason. We go to our own corners of the world to spread Love & Influence. Compassion & Radiance. You take Chicago and I will take New York. We’ll all meet up somewhere in the middle, missing each other wildly, but with a collection of stories that we could have never found if we had chosen to never part.

From Worcester to South Africa, Chicago to Peru, San Diego to Lawrence and back to North Haven: Be safe. Be strong. Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Disconnect, For a Better World, Love Is..., Reality

The City is a Living Lullaby: Before & After. Me to We.

I have not needed a lullaby in seventeen years…

Last night the strident sounds of an insomniac city pulled at my eyelids and slid me into safe slumber. Those same sounds– the rhythm of a basketball dribbling in the distance & the tails of amplified conversations–  climbed through my third floor window shortly after the sun this morning. Oh, how I adore my new lullaby.

People ask for a paragraph synopsis of how my life is in the Bronx since moving here on Tuesday.  Well, in order to attempt to deliver justice in this description, Life needs to be personified. Perhaps she is a young girl, ready with a restless heart. You see, the only way to describe this experience to anyone is through imagining that Life is a living, breathing person.

Life snuck up from behind me and handed me a black Sharpie marker last week.

Here, here, take this,” Life says.

Why, what is this? What should I do with it?

Life rolls its eyes. “Draw a thick black line down the middle of me. From now on you are going to look differently at me, as if I am two people. One part of me exists as Before and the other now exists as After.

Before & After.

We all stumble into instances when we realize that we have crossed a threshold that will forever cause us to refer to life as Before & After. Before the Divorce. After the Break Up. Before the Car Crash. After the Degree. Some of us sink upon our knees and wish that the After had never come. Others embrace the change and hold hands with the After. Before suddenly seems so Young. Naive. Outgrown. Worn.

Our lives before a certain experience have great difficulty fitting all the emotions and thoughts that we pull from the trial or the stepping stone. And so we pack up our suitcases full of Awareness, Compassion, Understanding & Knowledge and we move over into the After.

For the longest time I heard the perfection in three letters, side by side: NYC. Automatically my mind would turn with 3,000 or so ideas. Broadway shows and fancy dinner parties. Devil Wears Prada Lifestyles & Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But over 300,000 New Yorkers live a lifestyle that consists of Poverty. Bills that cannot find the pathway to Paid. Schools that fall below state standards.

A lot of this poverty echoes in the place that is now considered my home: The Bronx.

I have long grown tired of people’s stagnant set of stereotypes that cover this borough like a thick layer of ashes: Guns. Food Stamps. Sirens. Fighting. Gangs. A place where your one hand belongs next to your pocketbook and the your eyes are meant to stare at the ground. And while the Bronx does certainly have crime and areas of urban decay, more than that, it has people. Beautiful People. Stretching Means to Make Livings. Learning English to Work in this Country. Taking Their Dealings and Dealing With It.

And what breaks my heart is this: We were all called here to live but no one ever wrote in the rule book that acceptance of how we make a living was necessary. Some people don’t know trust funds and others have been slammed by the “system” but can we turn our backs on those who are different from us? Just because we have More, if More is even a legitimate word… So what if we have more Paper Money, More Titles or More Security. I want More Simplicity, More Spirituality, More Connections with this City and the People Who Speckle Its Concrete.

My computer broke a few hours after arriving on Tuesday. A Large Crack Etched the Face of Her Screen. And normally I would cry and scream and need a new one immediately. But perhaps it should stay broken for a while, perhaps I need the simplicity that will come from not having this luxury. And my mom said it best, miles away but sitting next to my soul, “Better your computer be broken then your heart.” I am already learning, Mom. I want to take so much from this year… but all of the things, “for granted” is not one of them.

I am confident that these next ten months in New York City will mold my life like Play Dough. I am dedicated to a volunteer program centered on Community and Simple Living. I have close to 25 dollars a week for my own spending. I live by a food budget with three other individuals. And I am finding pretty quickly that this is not the Minority, but rather, the Majority. I will work within the community on a daily basis until I am meshed into the community. I am giving my Heart, my Gifts, my Talents and My Self to this year.

Before pulling up to our apartment, situated across from a discount grocery store and a barber shop, it was all about Me. Me Growing. Me Living. Me Loving. Me Wanting. Me Hoping. Me Dreaming. Me Stringing Together Lullabies To Put My Dreams To Rest At Night. But something happened… A shift took place… The ME grew restless suddenly and the M wanted to move away, sick of the E. And the so the E let it leave and set off on a quest for another letter to accompany its side. And oh, what goodness, a W showed up… It may have trailed off from another word: Wonder, Wild or Wisdom. But no matter its origins, it took its place next to the E and the WE was formed. More perfect than the Me. More fitting to be We.

We Grow. We Live. We Love. We Want. We Hope. We Dream.

We String Together Lullabies with Our Own Unique Sounds.

Share with me your Before & After Moments…

As a Drop A Love Bomb Partner, we have a new mission at hand. Please take a few moments to drop a love bomb… This mission is dear to my heart, seeing as I now have four familiar faces taking up the Chicago area. Miss you AVs.

Love Bomb Mission: Chicago Fire Department

Hey Team!

This week we are doing something just a tad different.

Typically we drop a Love Bomb on one person, but this week we are dropping a Love Bomb on the entire Chicago Fire Department.

Chris Wheatley, one of their firefighters, died in the line of duty on August 9th.

Nate and I would like for this Love Bomb mission to be two-fold:

1) To encourage, support and comfort the Chicago Fire Department as they’ve lost a brother in duty.

2) To thank the Chicago Fire Department for serving their community so faithfully.

As most of you know, Nate (@ItStartsWithUs) runs our parent organization, ItStartsWith.Us – their 15 minute mission for this week is to help out a service worker. Every now and then the ItStartsWithUs team helps us drop our Love Bombs, so I thought it would be awesome if we could do our part by supporting a service worker (a lot of them!) while we drop our Love Bomb at the same time!

You can leave a comment on the Chicago Fire Department’s blog here: http://cfdblaze.com/2010/08/cffu-local-2-tom-ryan/

Lauren

Much Love and Light from New York City,


30 Comments

Filed under Big City, Disconnect, For a Better World, Humanity, Simply Living, Uncategorized