Blue

I sat on my bed, cross legged, painting my wings blue.  The wings are already blue, the section lines that make them butterfly wings, like stained glass panels, are black, and they must be black for me to be the Blue Fairy.

The Blue Fairy shows up at Gepetto’s, where he is praying that the puppet he made would be a real boy.

The other good story about things becoming real is the Velveteen Rabbit.

Or maybe all stories are about things becoming real.

I sat in Hayden Planetarium, where I had once attended “Grunge Laser 3-D,” and whispered into my niece’s ear.  She was in my lap, wiggling, becoming bored with an IMAX 3-D show about birds and flight.  “I’m gonna take off my glasses,” she said.

From the moment I found my first niece, and hugged her up in Penn Station, my anxiety was turned way down.

I had a moment at the Natural History Museum, in the basement, when I thought I had lost my medicine, but only that one rough moment, one I was able to breathe through.  Manhattan, a big museum, a basement: all things I love, and also things that sometimes amplify and inspire my panic attacks.

Constant hand-holding, lurching a kid onto my hip (they are all really too heavy to hold now), hugs, and what I realized was a near-constant touching the tops of their heads, combing back their blonde hair with my fingers.  I think it was very, very good for my nerves.  Though none of them are actually biologically related to me, all my nieces are as blonde as I was, not brunette like their mothers.

“Look at those!  That’s amazing!” I whispered.  We saw devil rays leaping out of the water, flying for just a moment, splashing down.  Rays are dear to me.  I only knew them to fly underwater, not out of it.

“I’m scared,” another niece said.  “Don’t drink!  Don’t have more than one drink!”

“It’s okay,” I said.  “I’m a grown-up, and I will be very responsible.”  I was very responsible.

“Sometimes I get very scared and I feel like I am drowning in a huge ocean,” another niece said.

“It’s okay.  I get scared like that, too.”

My back hurts on one side.  I would say it was lifting and carrying heavy kids, but actually it is probably my work bag.  I won’t carry a backpack because they are not elegant.

We rode the subway.  A la Louis CK, I crouched down.  “If you get lost, you stay in the station, and we’ll come back for you, or you get off at the next stop, and we will get you there.  It’s easy to find people you lose on the subway.  The train only goes two ways.”  I pointed.

The Blue Fairy has no back story.  She appears, animates a puppet, gives him a stern moralistic mission: brave, truthful, unselfish.  Then you will become real.

After a variety of adventures, Pinnochio dies trying to save his father’s life.

Blue Fairy returns, and resurrects Pinnochio.  Instead of reviving him, he is resurrected, a real boy, with soft elbows instead of hinged joints, soft hands instead of comical, blocky white gloves, a short, snub nose, and a belly as soft as the whale’s.

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Summer Sunset

It was dusk it was too cold to swim.  The Atlantic is always too cold.  I unzipped my dress, pulled it off, made a pile.  The section of the water I chose was between two rock fingers that measure the beach, black rocks with signs that, in the day, you can see say, “Do not climb.”  That section was occupied by one other woman, with long hair, who went far out, and floated back in.  So I felt safe.  I stepped in, my feet, ankles, calves, adjusted from wading, but then the waves came to take more, they push, as I step out, and flinch, and flinch.  The water is dark, diluted ink.  I can see, still, occasionally, my feet, or some rocks.  Why did I go in?

The sea to the west was a sheet of gold flexing like a million soft seeds and it wasn’t enough to look at it like it was a painting.

The difficulty is my waist.  I never think I can make it, the cold cinches, snaps on that delicate skin, but then I have made it, and the last part is a drop, to my shoulders, and I’m in.

I swim breast stroke, upside-down hearts, or a couple of crawl pulls, elbows back, throw shoulders forward.  I tread water, slowly beat arms and legs to stay right where I want to be.  The other woman did headstands, her legs and feet kicked up cockamamie, held a second, fell.

The surf was gentle, only at just the right distance from the shore did you bob and progress a bit with the waves.  I swam parallel to the beach because I had heard that was safe.  I stopped and looked at the the sun’s work again, and it was not enough, just looking at the glittering, and behind it, the ashline of the sun, and the toys of Coney Island far off, mini 4th of July every day, winking, running, switching colors.

It was not enough to be in it, it was not quite enough.

I had to keep moving so the cold couldn’t grasp me, flowing arms and legs to tread water, or to make a meaningless line one way or another.

It was not enough.  Under the dark water, I pulled my swimsuit bottoms down my legs, and unhooked my top and ducked out of it.  I held my swimsuit in my hands and that was better.  I took more upside-down heart strokes and frog kicks, this swimming is natural to me, open, push, open, push.

I dipped my head back, which was another cup of cold, cold cap, but my hair had to be soaked with saltwater, too, with the sea.  I put my finger in my mouth for the salt.

I wove myself back into my swimsuit, which wasn’t easy, it floated around, too.  I swam up, and walked up, out of the water, wrapped myself in the sheet I brought to lie on.  I hadn’t bothered to bring a towel because I rarely swim at the beach.  The sheet was white, so I was a ghost, a little Gandhi style ghost.  The sheet wasn’t very absorbent, but it felt good to be wrapped.  The light was still enough to see the sand I walked on, the remaining light, and the far reaches of the light from the streetlights of the boardwalk.

I stopped at the steps to the boardwalk, wrung out my hair, put on my dress, and took off my suit underneath.  The public bathrooms close early at Coney Island, like 4 o’clock.  No one paid attention, anyway, there were only a few people going by.  New York City will let you smell like an animal who fears water, rant, stumble.

I didn’t want to do any of those things.  I wanted to push to keep my head just above the Atlantic, naked, and see the sun and the water in their last performance of summer as the lights of Coney Island held onto the 4th of July with sprinkles and sparkles.  And have no one see my head, and my kicks, except the other woman, and no one remark, except for the people who happened to walk by, and said, “People are swimming.”

Moves

IMG_3124J’ouvert was this morning at 6 am.  The beginning of the transplanted-for-weather-Carnivale here in Brooklyn.  Usually it began at 3 or 4 am.  Perhaps this is about slaves having to secretly celebrate.  J’ouvert means, “day opening,” or “I open.”

This year it was moved to 6, and accompanied by an even-greater police presence, and enormous lights.  People gather and throw powdered color at each other.  In the day, you might see someone who was there, with the white they are wearing showing streaks of orange or blue.  Every year a few people are shot, and this year, in spite of the security, a few people were shot again, just not at J’ouvert official’s spot, where the police prevented the carrying of large bags, alcohol, or weapons.  A couple of blocks away.

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I had this moment I didn’t care what was at the museums here, and I thought, this might mean I should leave New York.  I never wanted to be someone who walked through Grand Central unmoved.  Who found that beauty day-to-day, dull.  I don’t find it dull, but I don’t notice when traveling under it, it is just another stop.

It was a feeling much like the feeling I had in Kansas City my last year there.  I’ve done that.  I’ve done that, and done it well, and now there must be something else.

When I was in Kansas City, I sat in a car with a friend and told her I was planning to move back (home?).  I still felt guilty for leaving in the first place, and if we could still be friends the way we were, or how we were friends now, what with my visits, leaving and returning, I wasn’t sure, it was a lot to choke on.  Most of my most intense talks have taken place in cars.  Where we retreated to say what we had not been able to say.  Where someone said what had to be said before we could part.

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IMG_3129I ran into friends at the Whitney.  It’s a big city, but not that big.

There were big installations of sand and water and rocks to walk on, little huts and tents to peek in, and vats of foam blocks, tart hay, and books to step in, lie in.  Any art event that requires taking your shoes off excites me.

Were we having an art experience?  I don’t know.  I didn’t think much about the tropics, or Eden (the respective titles of the pieces).  I felt joy at playing, and at seeing other grown-ups playing.  There were garments to take up and put on.  I pulled a red stream of plastic off the rack, and placed it over the top of a tent, where I liked it.  My feet had a lot of stuck-on sand.  Go back, the guards said.  Back: up through the centimeter-high stream on the white plastic squares, exiting that other way onto rock, instead of sand.

Art via my bare feet, on my back.  People love lying down at museums.  They just love it.  The vat full of hay smelled like the Renaissance Festival to me, that was the place we went that had hay.  And it does smell “sweet,” as the novels always say.

I climbed in the vat of books, and that was a funny Scrooge McDuck idea.  None of the books were anything in particular, not trashy, not classic, nothing, I didn’t recognize them.  They weren’t all that comfortable.

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I waited a while for the vat of foam pieces to open up.  A couple were in there.  When I stepped in, the man said, “Be careful.  It’s easy to fall.”  I sank in, and lay back.  I would like a bed just like it.  Crumbs from eating in bed would fall to the bottom!

There was a room with hammocks and Jimi Hendrix blasting.  Lie in a hammock.  In another room, more creepy sad ’60s images, but this time, blue beds and pillows to lie on.  Just lie there.  Put your back into it.

I had lost my friends, then I found them.  I recommended the stream and the shoe removal.

I had come to see the Calder mobiles in motion.  They “activate” them on the hour.  “Activate” is much too aggressive a word.  A man had a yard stick with white tape on the end.  He covered his shoes in blue hospital shoe covers, and a child said, “Why do you put those on?”

“To keep the platform clean,” he says.

He steps up onto the platform, walks over, and touches the yard stick to the mobile with the power and insistence of a parent cleaning the skinned knee of a child.  The mobile moved at the pace of a slow walk.  

Still, it was lovely, things were changing, changing in circles, and the shadows, especially, were change, were nothing, actually.  Were in space, at the moment they were, and then on, and on.

Some of them, the man “activated” with just his hand.

“They chose some of us for the training, the people at the institute, and if we did it okay, they let us do it,” he explained.

What should move must move, if only to tremble.

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I did not walk down for the West Indian Day parade today.  I got coffee a couple of blocks down, and there watched the men wear flags as capes, kerchiefs over their noses and mouths, the women with feather wings built as big and amazing as the Eiffel Tower, girls in tutus, women with garments that defied gravity, showing underboob or the whole naked side of each side of them, behind netting.  I heard the pounding bass from afar, and the man shouting on a mic, as they do, from a truck.  I didn’t feel I needed to be there.  I’ve been there.

The Whitney’s shows discussed were: Calder: Hypermobility and Helio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium.

 

Dream

I feel certain that my suffering is someone else’s fault, I just cannot settle on whose fault it is.

My sister and I decided to finally visit Walt Disney’s hometown. She had taken the day off work.  We didn’t have a plan.  I had a bad cold.  I drove her car because driving is one of her anxiety things.  “Let’s just go,”  I said, and we went.

I wish it were further away, it was only a couple of hours.

I believe the reason for my suffering is that not one of my roommates took out the trash during the three weeks I was gone, and when I opened the lid, there were wriggling and rice-shaped bugs, and I had to, for the third time this summer, slowly yank up the bag, tie it, carry the trash can to the bathtub, pour in an environmentally insensitive amount of bleach, turn on the tap, let it sit, dump it, dry it, replace it, bleach the bathtub.

I actually felt okay while doing this.  I had good rubber gloves.  It was the hating that I had to do it that made me suffer.

In Marceline, Missouri, the Walt Disney Museum is in the former Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe train station.  Every hour a train rattles the building as it breezes by.  It is the only thing rattling in Marceline.  The first thing we saw, driving in, was their incredibly sad, abandoned Sonic.

A small town without a Sonic, or a Dairy Queen, or a Tastee-Freeze.

The museum was well-made, well-written, well-kept, and after browsing the exhibits, as my sister was purchasing me a t-shirt because I was broke, the lady at the counter told us the Disney house was still there.  “Someone lives in it,” she said.

“Wow, who lives in it?”

“I do,” another woman said.  She’s the director of the museum.  “I have quite a muse,” she said.

My t-shirt has an inside-baseball kind of Disney reference.  You wouldn’t get it.

Walt Disney bought his parents a home in California, so they would be closer to him.  His parents had struggled financially, moved all over hoping for a better shot at making it.  They moved into the California house, he sent repairmen from the studio to work on the furnace, which his mother said was not working properly.  They did not fix it.  We know this because his mother died.  Whose fault was it?

The furnace maker.  The house seller.  The studio workmen.  The son.

My sister and I had ice cream at a place on Main Street.  Disney thought of Marceline as his hometown, and imagined Marceline’s Main Street when he envisioned the Main Street at Disneyland.  Actual Main Street in Marceline is like that of many small towns now, half abandoned.  Insurance agents.  Shops only sometimes open.

Did Disney have an idealized vision of this town?  He returned many times, once holding a movie premiere there.  Sure, he had an idealized vision I wish I could hold onto, as I get older, and idealized vision of something.  A place in my head that is both safe and exciting, inspiring and warm.  Don’t we still have room for idealized visions?

Here is the hagiography: he hung out under this tree. My sister and I kept calling it the “wishing tree,” but it is “the dreaming tree.”  We are wishers more than dreamers?  What is the difference?

You go see the tree.  There is a sign.

Okay, it’s not that tree.  That tree died.

It’s the second tree, but it was planted and blessed by a Disney descendant, and watered with water from Disneyland, so there.

As a child, trees were what I named.  I have never loved mountains or rivers or the ocean, only trees.  At the first home I remember, the tulip tree in the side yard.  At my elementary school, Agatha the crabapple (yes, I named them), Mary Ann, next to the creek.  There were river birches in the courtyard of my first apartment alone, and an oak behind my carriage house that was critical to my well-being.

Disney’s father did not think being an artist was a “real job.”  They did not get along well.

A fortune teller told Disney he would die at age thirty-five.  He didn’t, of course.  According to some sources, Disney refused to attend funerals, or to speak about death at all.  It’s hard to know about someone so famous, so mythologized.  The mythologizer becomes the mythologized.

We walked up to the tree.  Next to the special tree was a tree that had been cut down and chopped into firewood-sized pieces.  We were like, I guess we should touch it and wish something.  So we did.

Dreaming tree, not wishing tree, though.  Dreaming is without agenda, wishing is directive.  Dreaming tree.

How to Defeat Nazis, or, Haven’t We Done This Before Except the President Was the Good Guy?

Top Cottage was the little retreat FDR had built for himself, but only used a bit.  He had a few folks up there, a king and queen, sat with Winston Churchill and talked about the bomb.  Then he died.  FDR.  Though Churchill died, too, I’m sad to say.

They both could be assholes.  Complete assholes.  No doubt.

Not the type of assholes who lose all control of their faculties and blather to the public like confused toddlers.

I digress.

How could we be confronted with Nazis again?

May 8, 1945, V-E Day.

I went down to protest near T Tower last night.  I am working with my anxiety, I said to myself, walking through Rockefeller Center, and then decided to take half an ativan.  Manhattan.  Rush hour.  Protest.  It was asking a lot of my nervous system.  I allowed myself.

At 53rd and 5th, I was welcomed into the barricade by someone in a day-glo vest.  Then someone else offered me a poster board, and a marker.  I wrote on my pink poster.  We listened, cheering at the right moments, yelling the things we yell now.  It was supposed to be a protest in support of immigrants, but then the president defended Nazis, and the signs reflected either a focus on the already agreed upon issue, or a general anger.

A Jewish woman next to me said, “I’m afraid the media will make it look like we’re all like that,” she gestured to some T supporters waving an Israeli flag.  She turned over her sign and wrote on the back, another sentiment about immigrants.

I thought about how DT said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue.  He was in his building, and we were all on 5th Avenue chanting against him.

A reporter came by and interviewed the guy next to me.  The guy was a playwright, said his parents were immigrants.  I agreed to be interviewed, too.  The woman next to me was interviewed, explaining her passionate connection between what had happened to Jews then, and what was happening now.

The protest ended and we went to our subways like pool balls to pockets.

I didn’t really feel better, but I didn’t feel worse.

I had to walk twelve blocks to Grand Central.  I got a train home.  I meditated.  I ate pizza and salad.  I did some yoga for sore legs.  It felt good.

What do we do when Nazis march?  Where is Indiana Jones?

FDR had a cocktail.  He worked on his stamp collection.  He worried about his house catching on fire.  I mean his actual house.

The person who went to Top Cottage, only a month ago, seems like someone else now.  Every month now it’s like, “Was I ever so young?”  That I lived in the United States of no one had ever said “Grab ’em by the pussy” on tape and been elected president nonetheless?  That I lived in the United States of It’s Fine To Attack Veterans When You Yourself Have Never Been to War.  Or the United States of People of Mexican Descent Can’t Be Judges.

I got home today and had a cocktail, since that was what FDR would have done.

I then began itching, on the side of my left hand, on my knee, on the back of my shoulder, on my elbow.  I am bitten up though I hardly went outside today.  Just to and from buses and trains, and a little walking around campus.

I got my Hydrocortisone cream, 1% with aloe, and smeared it on each place that itched.

Not so very long ago (was I ever so young?) I eschewed any treatment for bug bites.  I would put ice on them, or pinch them for a second.  Why spend money on temporary relief?

There’s a lot to be said for temporary relief.

I was the only white person in my office today, and the only white person on the bus.  You ride this bus, Nazis! I thought.

I’m not sure bus-riding is an answer.

We protect the speech of “I think this,” but we do not protect “I’m gonna kill you.” Right?  “I’m gonna kill you” is illegal.  It’s enough.  We draw lines.

Stamp collection.  For me, stamp collection is “Call the Midwife,” the socialist wonderland where even the tragedies are deeply meaningful and never forgotten.

Seventy-two years.  That’s how long it’s been.  What is inside?  What stays?  People’s general affection for one another, people want to like each other, until they have gone without a lot, or suffered a lot.  Rare exceptions.

Commitment to forward progress, developing wider and wider groups of people willing to defend the racially oppressed, people with “weird” religions, people who can’t afford school, people who won’t express their sexuality the “right” way, or their gender the “right” way.  People who like to be in Times Square, or in the Ozarks, naked as the day they were born.  People who don’t learn quickly, or in the usual way.  People who don’t, for whatever reason, have penises.  People who don’t speak English.  People who can’t afford health insurance.

We are working on taking care of all these people, being responsible to each other, for each other, in awesome defiance of a president who, even with a Jewish daughter, can’t restrain himself from siding with anti-Semites.

Forward.  Resting.  Ignoring no celebration.  Forward another seventy-two.

And don’t forget to make your V-T Day plans.

We’ll write musicals about this.

Anxiety Goes to the Monastery

Photo on 8-4-17 at 8.41 PM

 

Oh.  That’s the problem.  Not the panic attacks, the anxiety, the what happened and didn’t in New York, the what does it mean to not be a New Yorker or to leave.  Not any of that.

My sister friend asked what I was afraid of, and I said, “I’m not worthy.”

Nuns again for the win. “You’ll take that to Kansas City, or New York, or wherever,” she said.  I knew, so much that I cried, because it sucked.

She gave me sound suggestions for feeling my feelings and befriending them.  I knew it was all very true, very scary, and not at all what I wanted to do.

One part of my visit to the monastery is always raising the demons.  First I rest, then I feel great, then I raise my demons, and I gotta work with them, and it’s hard.

Usually I stay long enough to make peace with them, and leave in peace.  This time I left with my demons still actively eating at my stomach.  And ready to do some google searches for images of demons.  How do people

 

“I’m the only person to sit in your office who actually is unworthy,” I said, though I knew she would say, “No.  And you’re not unique.”

She meant that in a good way.

My anxiety is a dark slate blue and enormous, goes on forever.  It’s a black hole at my solar plexus.  I remember when I learned the sun would go out someday.  It was the first time I was really afraid.  It is negative infinity.  Its enormity means I am alone like last human on earth alone.  Last human in the universe alone.  Last human ever.

It sends out black insects that fill my mind and my heart and my lungs and I can’t see or think properly.

If you had meditated more.  If you were more friendly.  If you worked out.  If you did yoga every day.  If you ate more vegetables.  If you didn’t sneak out of work 10 minutes early.  If you didn’t spend so much money.  If you watched less TV.  If you called people you should call.  If you opened your mail.

Not thinking, though, she said, not storytelling, feeling.  Feeling and describing and holding.

I’m really good at thinking.  Really good.

My Christian tradition tells me that I am not in charge, that I am limited by my humanity.  I only have certain talents, a certain amount of time.  It tells me that shortened, broken, disastrous-looking things can move into resurrection.

That’s all very nice in theory.  I’d rather be perfectly happy all the time, never worry again about having a panic attack, or feel like I’m about to shake apart and burst with anxiety.

I’d rather be madly in love, have had all my dreams come true immediately, have yummy meals every meal, great exercise, a steady, rewarding career, and have already won a Nobel Prize for writing.  Yep.

How are you Christian and anxious?  How do you have a very deep and real faith, and still lose it all in terror?

It happens.  It happens just as much as it happens.

My sister friend said, “It’s because you want to be such a good person that you worry.  If you didn’t care, it wouldn’t matter to you.”

That does sound good.  But you don’t know me.

I leave work ten minutes early!  I ignore the trash hoping someone else will take it out.  I don’t open my mail because it scares me.  I buy things until my card gets declined because I’m too scared to keep track of my money.  I watch so much television.  No one watches more television than I do.  No one runs away from her problems more.

No one runs toward challenges that are too big, and too scary, in spite of having a definitively diagnosed anxiety disorder.  Why do I do that?  Of course I have to take medication to go into Manhattan.  IT’S MANHATTAN.

I’m a terrible, terrible mess who can’t remember anything good or nice she’s every done, and is convinced I have caused another round of wrestling with the black hole.

I’m not enough.  I don’t have enough, I can’t control enough, I can’t be enough.  I try, and I can’t, and it makes it worse.  I have to try, though, right?

Sister prayed with me and hugged me, and I returned to my room at the monastery.

I curled up in a ball on my bed.

I drew my black hole, many times.  I wrote for my demon.  Hello, my name is HELL.  Hello, I SUCK AT EVERYTHING.  Hi, I’m BROKE.  Good morning, I’m DESPONDENT.  Hello, there, I’m STRANGLED BY GRIEF.

Then I wrote something weird: “How brave are you?  I learn.  How smart are you?  I’m curious.”  I liked that.  That sounded right.

I folded it up, took it down to the chapel, put it on the altar.

I still felt awful.

I bought a vial of holy water.  To go.

I was not ready to go.  I felt shaky and exhausted, though I had slept and eaten.

I was supposed to stop, breathe, and then focus on a positive thought.

Had I felt and held my fear enough?

 

I was not enough.  My hunger to make myself enough only gets bigger and bigger.  It only raises the jumps every time I pass, and it doesn’t care if I fell, or if I fell twice.

I left anyway, with my pictures and the book I got, and the handouts, and my journal, and all my quotes from all the books I read.  And instead of watching TV when I got home, I would tell my parents what I had learned about myself, they would shrug reassuringly, like, definitely, we’ve all been there, and I would write a little, because that’s one way I can feel my right size, not so small I can go down the drain, or so big I will blow up.  Just right.

 

East to West

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Eleanor Roosevelt has one white rose on the desk she doesn’t use anymore, because she is dead.

My mother and I sat in the reconstructed saloon of a German family.  Her grandfather had taken his salooning skills all the way to Nebraska, others had stopped short of that.  Others had lived in Germantown, in New York City.  That’s far enough.  Germans took their whole family to the bar.  Everyone ate, the children drank kinder beer.  They brought in kegs, the wife made sausages and bread, everyone ate.

This was illegal: it was illegal for bars to be open on Sundays, although it was the only day people had off, the only day they could go to a bar.  There was a complicated system of it being illegal but okay.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s front door has a patch of stained glass in the center.  No one knows what it means.  I thought: Joseph leading Mary on a donkey, to Egypt.  Why did I think that?  They could have been going to Bethlehem, or it could be some other scene, entirely.  The Parks service, the historians, do not know what it is, or where it came from.

Our tour guide told us the Roosevelt historic site recently went through training on LGBTQ issues and what we know of Ms Roosevelt.

Another tour guide told us the ceiling is falling in, a little, in FDR’s childhood home, and the current and threatened funding cuts to the National Parks Service were threatening their ability to keep the site safe for future generations.

At the Morgan Library, we peered at J.P. Morgan’s Gutenberg Bible, and J.P. Morgan’s cicada brooches, made by Goths, around the year 500.  Cicadas disappear, seem dead and gone, but revive.

I saw the freak show at Coney Island.  It’s finally back.  “Three dollars,”the lady said, in front of the tent.  It was starting to rain.

I paid.  Cases on sawhorses, typed signs, dusty skeletons, taxidermy.  Then a lady who did that hollow-bottle-mix-up trick, halfheartedly.  More heartedly, she swallowed various swords for us.  I tipped her and she gave me a copy of her comic, which I began to read on the subway, and dissolved out of.

In Poughkeepsie, New York, we sat in the downstairs bar of an Italian restaurant, returning me to my vow to eat in a local Italian place everywhere I go.  A family, the family of our waitress, talked loudly and laughed.  “How long has this place been here?” I asked the waitress.

“Oh, a long time,” she said.  “Like ten years.”

I drank a glass of wine from a glass the size of my head and ate their specialty pizza.

A small child was put on the floor to practice walking.  All the child’s adults danced to “Friends in Low Places,” and looked hard at the child to make her dance, too.  She just looked back at them, confused.

“That’s a bad hotel,” our driver told us.  “Everyone there is on welfare.  And there is something in the air conditioner that stinks, like mold.  Everyone who goes there comes out smelling like that, it’s terrible.”

In the cab to the airport, to leave New York, our driver turned around several times, looking curious.  I don’t think he had enough English to ask what that sound was.
“Cat,” I said.  “I have a cat.”  My cat, in the carrier, was bitching and moaning as she usually does.

“Oh!” he said.  “Scared me!”

We were able to ascertain he had a dog, but not a cat.

He asked, “Where you going?”

“Kansas City,” I said.  “In the middle.  In the middle of the United States.  In the middle of America.”

“Oh.”

“Where are you from?”

“China.”

“What part?”

“South,” he said.

It seemed impolite to inquire further, as his English was a struggle.  It took us a while to figure out he was saying, “What terminal?”  Terminal B.

In Poughkeepsie, they have a long railroad bridge that has been turned into a pedestrian bridge.  The thing to do is just to walk it.  We didn’t.  I wrapped up my work, and packed my enormous summer visit bags, and went west.