Things Break

Today I was thinking about how much pressure I put upon myself prior to six months ago. Everything was career driven, money driven, over driven, and nothing was ever enough. I always felt that I had to have more, do more, and be more.

When I had to leave NYC due to Covid-19, and needed to self isolate for two weeks in a strange place, knowing next to no one, I had to let go of the previous 30 plus years of this mode of thinking, doing and being. It was a tremendous shock. There are days I now no longer recognize myself, but I’m glad. I believe that several life changes due to Covid-19 have been positive and for the better.

Now when things happen that are annoying, or need to be dealt with, I deal with them or do them, but not in the same way, or feeling the same way about it. I take the pressure off myself, and off of the other things, people, and situations I am dealing with.

I had a very annoying thing happen over the weekend. The bathroom toilet broke, and I needed to call someone in to fix it. This happened very late on Saturday. The toilet won’t flush, and therefore, water won’t circulate to flush material down and out. I remembered something odd along the way that my father once taught me. If the toilet doesn’t flush, take a bucket, fill it with tap water from the bathtub, and pour it into the toilet, which in effect, flushes it. I did this, and it worked.

I was on the phone this morning with the super in the building, and when he could not fix the problem, he called the plumber…who did not call back until late in the day, indicating that he could not show up until tomorrow morning. He said, “Can you live with this not being fixed until tomorrow?”

Old self would have been flipping out angry, insisting that it be fixed then and there. New self said, “I can live with this being fixed tomorrow, but I will not live with it beyond tomorrow morning.” I could be angry, but what’s the point, beyond wasted energy? I emailed the managing agent to tell him about the delay, and said it needs to be fixed tomorrow.

Another thing I have noticed, regarding the simplification of Covid-19 life, is that there is now no excuse to avoid writing – either this blog, or the book I have been working on. When my work is done, I’m able to open up the laptop, to write, network and enjoy. I’m treating this extra time as the gift it is, for I have no idea if or when life will ramp up and rev up once again. I don’t want to return to a high-powered life, which in reality, was an empty and draining life. Instead, I’d like to continue living an enriched, enjoyable life – one that remains an excellent blend and balance of social, work, and creative endeavors.

Fortune Cookies

I once had a co-worker who had a quirky and fun sense of humor. During the course of working together, we would compare fortunes we cracked open, which came from the cookies that were delivered with our orders of Chinese food. We’d decide whether the fortune was “cubicle worthy,” meaning, if it would earn a place of honor by being scotch-taped to the wall of our respective cubicles.

After I moved on to another employer, I cracked open a fortune that read, “Horses start, but thoroughbreds finish.” I smiled, and thought of my friend as I took a piece of scotch tape, and pasted the fortune onto the side of my cubicle.

I thought about him the other day when I cracked open the first fortune cookie I saw in my takeout bag. I removed the food from the bag, and discovered a second cookie hidden beneath a container of rice.

The fortunes seem a bit profound, but comforting, in considering Covid-19 and the past few months. There are moments when I feel scared, but I also feel optimistic in the moments of taking pleasure when I’m able to experience it.

The fortunes read, as follows:

“Great things happen when men and mountains meet.”

“He who laughs, lasts.”

May we all face our respective challenges with mirth in the days and weeks ahead.

Bandshell Concert

This afternoon I made the trip back to the hometown where I grew up, and the first stop was a park that I used to visit with my mother, all the time. At the end of the park is a beach, and that is the first place I walked to.

The beach has largely eroded, but in its place, a dock is extended, with several benches to sit. I walked to the other side of the dock, and saw the second part of the beach. One morning, years ago, my mother and I were there, and a pair of swans had wandered onto the sand. I had a small bag of chips and began to feed the chips to the swans. One of them became greedy, and snapped the bag out of my hand. I cried, more frightened of the size of the swan, than caring about the chips.

I continued on my walk and encountered a place I had totally forgotten about: the bandshell where local concerts took place. I was thrilled to rediscover this spot, and share the photograph, above. I have such a good memory of a concert here.

For purposes of disguising the identity of persons from this real-life story, I will provide fictional names. I was in elementary school, and my best friend, Tammy, lived in a garden apartment one floor above a family dentist, his wife, and three children. One of the sons, Brian, was in Tammy’s class, but not in mine. I didn’t know it, but Brian had seen me one day with Tammy, and asked Tammy about me. So the next time I visited Tammy, she said to me, “Brian wants to ask you to go to his band concert at the bandshell! He plays the trumpet in the band.”

Tammy’s mother heard this and became excited about it. She offered to take us to the concert. Tammy’s mother, “Mrs. P.,” was the cool mom that everyone wanted to have as their mom. She would let us eat Oreos and drink Pepsi Cola, even for breakfast. She said to us, “Well, Brian has to ask her first, Tammy. Go downstairs and tell Brian to go outside, and that Yve will meet him there.”

So, that’s what happened. Mrs. P. made Tammy wait upstairs, and I went downstairs to see Brian. There was a little brick wall where the kids would go to sit and talk, and that is where I spoke to Brian. It was pretty simple. He said, “I’m in the school concert tonight, do you want to come?” I said “Yes,” and don’t remember much else about it. The next thing I remember was going back upstairs to Mrs. P. and Tammy. I think the concert was that same night, so we most likely had dinner, which was usually Ellio’s frozen pizza and more Pepsi Cola.

Mrs. P. brought a blanket to the park, as all of the other concertgoers did, and spread it out on the lawn, in front of the bandshell. The sun had set, and the concert began. I don’t remember much about this either, but I will never forget the jacket that Brian was wearing. It was a red and white striped jacket, reminiscent of a singing member of a barbershop quartet. Tammy said, “There’s Brian,” and I said, “Yeah,” with a sigh, and that was it. I don’t recall ever talking to Brian after that concert. Not too long after that, his family moved a few towns away, and I never saw him again.

Settling In

It’s been almost a week since being home. I’ve continued to work remotely, and in between that, I’ve begun the process of stripping down and cleaning out my apartment.

I didn’t retrieve all of the mail right away, but after two days, I asked my neighbor to bring over the bag of mail. The photo, above, is what remained of essential mail after six months. It’s surprising to see how much (or how little) was accumulated. To sort through all of it, I put on Amazon music, poured a glass of wine, and shredded the junk mail. A glass of wine and music makes even the most mundane task a pleasant one.

Magazines are not essential, and therefore, I didn’t photograph them. There are either five months, or six months, of magazines to read, depending upon when they arrived while I was away. I subscribe to: Entertainment, Foreign Policy, Fortune, Southern Living, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Writer’s Digest. It looks like the subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Food and Wine lapsed, as there weren’t any in the stack. I look at the magazines and think about how much space they take up, and what a frivolous waste they probably are.

However, there is one magazine feature I look forward to every month, and that is, Rick Bragg’s essay on the final page of Southern Living. There are always one or two lines of prose that I wish I had been clever enough to write, myself.

I spent two hours cleaning out one of my bedroom closets this afternoon, which is something I would have wanted to do six months ago. My goal is to clean out all five closets over the next few weeks. It’s amazing how much wasted energy goes into worrying about cluttered space. There’s always the thought of, “I really need to clean this.” Now I realize that today is the day to clean this. There’s no more arriving home at seven o’clock at night, after work, too tired to do anything.

One of the things I learned, over the past few months, is what a pain in the backside it truly is, to tote belongings from place to place. There’s nothing more that I want to carry around. If anything, there is far less I want to carry around physically, mentally or emotionally. This afternoon made a great start.

Tomorrow I will be going to the hometown where I grew up, to walk around, and to take photographs. I look forward to it, as it will be pleasant to walk around in cool weather. It may also spark more ideas for future posts.

Every day a new day, and a new page.

The Lone Traveler

I want to mention something I saw yesterday afternoon when I was boarding the airplane for the second leg of the journey back. Everyone was standing in line to present their boarding passes, one by one.

One of the persons ahead of me was a young college student, carrying a few large bags. She was alone and afraid. She presented her boarding pass, but wasn’t moving forward. Instead, she stepped aside, and started to look back, as though she couldn’t believe that she was going to get on the plane.

The airline employee who took her boarding pass told her to keep moving forward, and that she had to get on the plane. She took her bags and started to wheel them ahead. Then halfway through the boarding gate, she stopped, pulled her bags aside, and I continued walking to board the plane.

Seeing the young person do this reminded me of how I felt six months ago when I left New York, just before boarding the plane. I began to cry when I recalled it, especially as I was now getting on the plane to go home. I looked back to see if the stranger I observed decided to continue to wheel her bags onto the plane, or if she left. I didn’t see her, and I don’t know if she got on the plane. I hope she did, because I thought of the following: if you keep looking back, you can’t move forward, and you might miss some really great experiences that could happen if you decide to stay home.

That being said, with Covid-19 being what it is, I can and do understand that it is completely frightening to get on an airplane now. But life does not stop, and it is meant to be lived. My feeling in traveling yesterday is that there was never going to be a good time to come back, so I picked the best point possible to do so, and went with it.

As to how it felt arriving at home?

The taxi driver dropped me off, and I stood outside for a few moments, looking up at my apartment. When I opened the front door and went into the lobby, I began to cry. By the time I reached the elevator, I was sobbing. I went upstairs and when I reached the front door, I rested my forehead against it, and said, “Thank you God, for getting me home.” Then I came inside. The act of closing and locking the front door, then taking off my shoes, felt like it always did, but felt different, too. It has been so long.

I could not sleep for a while. I decided to check if my internet cable connection was working, so that I could work in the morning, and it wasn’t available. So I called the cable service, and set an appointment. After that, I lay in bed, and listened to the sounds outside.

I did get the cable issue resolved, and worked for most of the day today. Tomorrow will be the first time I venture out for a long walk through the entire neighborhood, to see what’s happening. I was able to get out briefly today, and my first New York meal was Chinese takeout from a restaurant in the neighborhood.

As I write this, I still can’t believe I’m home. It’s the best feeling ever.

Travel Eve

In less than 24 hours I’ll be at the airport, and on the way home. Isn’t the day before travel that feeling of wanting to get absolutely everything done before heading out? I spent most of this morning moving to the new apartment and the rest of the day on errands, which still continue with laundry in the dryer.

I sit with a stack of magazines and realize there is no way it’s possible to read them before tomorrow morning, unless I sit up all night. When that happens, and before I throw them away, I read two articles from each one, instead of guilting myself for not reading all of them cover to cover. One of my co-workers asked me how I read a magazine, and I said, “Skip reading the table of contents. It’s a waste of time. You’ll wind up turning to the page you want and reading it anyway.”

If you are wondering how I feel about being on an airplane tomorrow, the answer is, I don’t know. The first part of the trip will be a small regional flight, a short layover, then a large airplane and longer flight, with more people. I checked in already, and arranged for a taxi from the airport. The airline acknowledged the check in by texting that the flight is very full and that if I want to change my flight, there will be no change fee. No. I will be sitting on the flight with a mask on and will not worry about someone sitting right next to me. I’m far more focused on the end result than I am on a full flight. I would not be surprised if there are other people who have been away for a few months already, and realize that it is time to head back, even if they don’t know what they will find when they get back.

I’m also heading back the way I headed out, which is, with a laptop, cell phone, chargers, and not much else. For the past few months I’ve been wearing a pair of sneakers from here, and placed my sneakers from NY in a plastic bag. I’ll wear them on the way home tomorrow, with the scarf I kept wrapped around my face when I flew from Atlanta six months ago. The scarf is washed, of course. I left it on a hangar and never wore it. I have been saving it for the trip home, in case I feel the need to wrap it around myself.

I went to the dentist yesterday for pre-trip maintenance and the hygienist asked me what I would do first upon arriving home. To her this means, if there is a place I want to go out to eat (no) or if I’m going to go into the city (no). I thought about it, and do know that I want to visit the place where I grew up, to walk around it, and to take photos to save.

I will miss opening the front door to the sun, every day. Even though it has been a hot summer, I have enjoyed seeing how beautiful it is here.

Moving

This morning, I began the process of cleaning out the beautiful Airbnb apartment I’ve been staying at over the past few weeks. I have lived in this part of the Chateau since the end of August. Before that, I spent a month in a different apartment at the same grand home.

I’d like to share with you the various places I have stayed for the past six months, culminating and leading up to the apartment rental I will move into on Friday, before returning to New York on Sunday.

  1. Crummy hotel I will not name herein, week 1. When I originally booked travel plans to come to the southwest, I did so on only a few hours of sleep the night before. I was originally supposed to book at a 4 star hotel, which I did…but for the wrong week. I cried when I discovered my mistake. I had just resigned from work, and did not want to book another expensive hotel stay to self-quarantine. So – crummy hotel it was, which wound up not being too bad, considering that I spent most of that first week in shock, holed up in the room which I did not leave, with CNN on for most of the time.
  2. Four star hotel, also not named herein, week 2. The second week of self-quarantining was different from the first, and felt like being in the movie, “Lost in Translation.” I stayed in the room most of the time, but watched less news. I couldn’t sleep most nights, so I found channels that were playing re-runs of “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” interspersed with viewing “My 600 Pound Life.” Coming out of shock, I began to plan finances to carry over staying in the southwest for at least a few months.
    The hotel ran a modified happy hour. No one was allowed to stay in the dining or bar area to drink, but they were allowed to pick up beverages to bring back to the room. I picked up 2 cans of Bud Light every night of that stay, with Doritos chips. Every time I see a can of Bud Light now, I think fondly of that week. By my last evening there, the hotel manager set up the viewing of a concert on a flat screen television and six of us socially distanced, listening to the music together. The manager told me that only 6 rooms were occupied for that entire week, including the one I was staying in. When I left that hotel, I felt like I was leaving home, all over again.
  3. My brother’s house, 1 month. My brother picked me up from the 4 star hotel on the morning of March 30, 2020. The first thing we did was drive to a Starbucks drive through for coffee. I broke down in tears, and so did he, when I told him my story of leaving New York. When we left Starbucks, he told me that he was hiring me as his office manager, for his business. As the business had already gone remote, we set up an office at his dining room table, laptops side by side, as he taught me Quickbooks, and various other business details I would need to know over the next several months. I agreed to live with him for 1 month only – healthy for him, newly engaged, and healthy for me, as I did not want to impose and still wanted to enjoy the privacy I had in being at the hotel. Toward the end of the month, his fiance’s cousin invited me to move in to her house, as a roommate.
  4. The cousin’s house, 2 1/2 months. This was not the best idea, although I tried to make the best of it. The cousin was a control freak, unhappy, and insisted on blasting cable news every single evening on a monstrous, theater sized flat screen television equipped with surround-sound. The last straw was being woken up several times at 4 and 5 in the morning by slammed doors. This culminated in a disagreement, in which I was told to leave if I didn’t like it. I said, “Well, since I like to sleep at 4 and 5 in the morning, which is normal, I’ll be looking for a new place to live.” When the cousin wanted to talk that night, presumably to “resolve differences,” I said, “You don’t want me here, I don’t want to be here and therefore, I’m leaving.” Which I did.
  5. 3 Star Hotel, 2 weeks. I chose to stay at this hotel, as it was mid-month – not optimal for renting an apartment, and with mid-month Airbnb stays a bit higher in price. I also chose this particular hotel because it had a kitchenette providing the ability to cook – something that I was continually hindered from doing at the cousin’s house. The hotel was located across the street from a great supermarket, and I enjoyed cooking during that stay.
  6. Airbnb stay, part 1, 4 weeks: I managed to put a dent in my car during the first day of staying at the Chateau, and despite the mishap, fell in love with my miniature apartment, with its door leading onto a beautiful shared patio. This apartment is where I launched my blog, jumpstarted my writing to include completion of two chapters of a book, and had the final call of closure in which I told my ex gentleman that I rented an apartment, and was staying for at least a year. I am glad that within a few days after the final call with the ex, I was scheduled to move on to the…
  7. Airbnb stay, part 2, 2 weeks. Because I booked a stay of over a month, the Chateau owner was kind enough to offer an “upgrade” for the last two weeks of the stay. The apartment is larger, has a modern kitchen, full separate bedroom, and access to all of the amenities. I will miss being there…the winding drive up the driveway, and the cautious ride down. I have loved arriving home in the evenings, and the solitude of being able to read a book or magazine without disturbance. In this final phase of my stay, I’ve enjoyed networking on Linkedin and connecting with my readers.
  8. New apartment, occurring Friday morning. I’ve rented a 1 bedroom that is a 2 moment drive from where I’m presently staying. This will be the first time I have rented solely from a floor plan, and without seeing the apartment itself first. I am trusting that I will be happy with it, as it’s on a second floor, with no one above me, and a balcony, to boot. There will be just enough time to drop off my things, clean on Saturday, and head out Sunday morning.

The adventure continues…

Spin The Bottle

On Saturday night I went to a post-dinner gathering, with a total of four people in attendance. We met for several games of cards and a few glasses of wine. When the wine bottle was empty, someone said, “Let’s play spin the bottle, but instead of kissing, the person picked will have to answer.”

I could see that this would quickly devolve into something embarrassing or a way to put someone in a very awkward position. So I said, “No. The only way we are doing this is if everyone in the circle has to answer the question that’s asked.”

That was agreeable to all, and the game began.

I asked someone, “What is something you did that you did not want your parents to know about?”

That person answered, “I filled a bucket with ice, put drinks in it, and drove around in my car, with my friends, getting drunk.”

My answer was, “I scheduled a business trip with a male friend when I was still living at home, and I didn’t want to tell my dad about it. So I moved out of his house and went on the trip, two months later.”

Another person said, “Well, I was in the car with my friend who had the bucket of ice, and we were drunk together.”

The game continued, with several off color questions being asked about sexual experience, relationships, and age. Although those questions and answers would be of interest to the reader, I won’t repeat those questions here, to protect my privacy and the privacy of my friends. If you’re curious…think about if you would want to post those items in a blog post or public forum. Would you?

Someone asked me, “If you could do anything for a job right now, what would you do?”

I said, “I’m already working on it. When I’m home, I’m writing. I’d be a journalist.”

The person asking said, “I’d be retired.”

Other answers were, “I’d be a shoe designer, I’d like to be rich, I would be a traveler.”

When I was asked what three wishes I could have if I could have anything, I said, “I’d be at home in New York, with everyone else at home or wherever else in the world they want to be. I’d turn the clock back to six months and before so that New York City could be what it was. I’d go see the Washington D.C. monuments at least one more time.”

I was also asked what I have not seen or done in New York City.

I haven’t visited the Statue of Liberty, although I was on a boat trip once that sailed around it, close up. Since it’s now closed due to Covid-19, I’ll need to wait for the in-person visit I’d like to make while at home.

After the game was over, one of the hosts said to me, “I don’t think you’re ready to stay in the southwest yet.” I said, “I’m not ready to go home, and I’m not ready to stay here, either. Now I feel like I’m from two places.”

Only time will tell, but no more games of “Spin the Bottle” for now.

Recent Reads

Summer is drawing to a close, and there are three full days of binge reading ahead, for those lazing about at the beach or in the air conditioning of home. It’s 106 degrees where I am today, with the weather service posting an excessive heat warning. I’ll be out and about in the air conditioned car soon enough, to run errands, but thought I’d share a quick post on what I’ve recently read.

I finished two autobiographies over the past two weeks. The first, “A Very Punchable Face,” by Colin Jost, is the author’s story regarding his growing up in Staten Island, NY. He describes his subsequent journey on the road to becoming a comedian, and eventually, the head writer of “Saturday Night Live.” Sometimes, when we think of famous people, we think that they are overnight successes. Not so. Colin Jost put in a tremendous amount of work, early on in his life, without knowing what was in store for himself later on. I had a soft spot for some of the passages in the book, which described experiences he had, growing up in and around New York City. I too have visited and experienced several of the places he describes in his writing, and it’s one of the first times I’ve been able to look back on those experiences during this time of Covid-19, in a positive light. I highly recommend this book.

The second autobiography I read was “The Answer Is…” by Alex Trebec. I enjoyed the writing style of this book, which is a series of interconnected essays regarding the author’s upbringing and journey through a lifetime of game show hosting. The author doesn’t apologize for what he perceives as “mistakes” in his life, and addresses all with humor, wisdom, and profound insight. In light of the author’s challenges in facing stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the writing may be perceived as poignant by the reader. I also recommend this book. It’s a quick read.

I love a good romance, and especially, the writing of Danielle Steel, one of my favorite authors. Her writing is a bit different than most: she utilizes far more description in her writing, interspersed with dialog. She is the only writer I have encountered who does this to the extent she does, and she is a master at it. Reading one of her books is equivalent to watching a movie. I find myself totally lost in the story as I envision it unfolding in my mind. I read her novel, “The Wedding Dress,” set mostly in California, with great absorption and interest. It’s a generational saga revealing the lives of a family that passes an heirloom wedding dress from one woman to the next. The dress is of design interest, but it’s the women, and their families, that make this a satisfying novel and quick read.

Covid-19, Six Months On

I haven’t posted over the past week, as I’ve buckled down at work. I want everything to be in place before I head home in 9 days. 9 days! I can’t believe it, but I do believe it.

I remember one of my first days at work almost 6 months ago. One of my bosses asked me if I was going to head back home in a few months and I said, “Maybe in September, but I don’t know, I have to see.”

Now that time is here, and not much has changed over the past few months, yet everything has changed.

What did not change is that things have been the same for me from March until now. Diligently wearing a mask in public. Staying home when not in the office. Limiting trips to the supermarket. Cooking food, as much as possible for the course of the week, to avoid eating out.

What has changed is my internal mindset – that I’m a lot stronger than I think I am.

I did have a moment today that upset me greatly. There was talk of gathering co-workers together for a lunch out, or for happy hour.

I went ballistic, internally, but kept my cool in responding. I feel that I am so close to the finish line in going home, that nothing, and no one, is going to stop me. At all. I wound up sending an e-mail stating in this instance, I am putting my life and my health first, and that I’m not willing to attend an event for the sake of socializing, or going out.

I wonder how many young college students are giving in to peer pressure when they are attending the parties that are causing fresh outbreaks of Covid-19. Perhaps two roommates are in their dorm room, and a third comes along to invite them to a party. I easily envision a scenario where one of the roommates who has been wearing a mask for months at home, and begins to take one along, is ridiculed by his or her peers, with someone saying, “No one’s going to be wearing a mask, come on, we’re only going to be there for an hour or two.”

I want to socialize as much as those college students do. There’s only so much time someone wants to spend at home cooking, reading, or binge-watching. There are moments I’m planning for the future, one which is fully vaccinated and Covid-19 free.

I know what the consequences will be if I become lazy, complacent and give in to taking off the mask at a time when it’s needed. Thinking, “It’s only for an hour or two, what does it matter?” is not possible for me. I’m not willing to take that risk, and I’m not willing to suffer the consequences.