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My Hurricane Irene Recap

28 Aug

Post-Hurricane Irene in BrooklynI didn’t feel the earthquake last week, and I was completely ignoring everything about Hurricane Irene. I just thought that by the time it hit New York, all it would amount to was heavy-ish wind and rain. I was even planning to go to yoga in Manhattan on Sunday, thinking that it would be cozy to be inside in class as the rain and wind swirled outside. And so, I totally tuned out all news of all things Irene.

Until Friday morning. When I was leaving my apartment I ran into my neighbor who told me that our local Key Food was sold out of water. Then at work, I started seeing pictures of the storm system and how big it was, and heard that it was “the size of Arizona.” And my co-worker who is from Florida told me that the reason you need gallons of water is so you can flush the toilet if your water supply goes out. So I made plans to do some hurricane preparation shopping after work.

First, I stopped at the Duane Reade near my office, assuming that Manhattan stores would be better stocked than the ones in Brooklyn. They still had plenty of water, but they were already sold out of flashlight batteries. Then I headed home to Brooklyn to get rain boots. Another co-worker had pointed out, “If there’s a hurricane, boots aren’t going to help you,” but I was more thinking that if the streets remained flooded afterwards, I didn’t want to be stranded in my apartment for days with nothing more waterproof than Converse.

I was hoping that the bigger Key Food farther away from where I lived wouldn’t be sold out like the one near me, so that was my next stop. But when I arrived, Hurricane Irene seemed like even more serious of a threat. I got the last grocery cart, which two people then tried to wrestle away from me. The bread shelf was totally empty. There was no more skim milk. And they, too, were sold out of batteries. I got non-perishable food and the Glade candle that smelled the least bad and stood on line, when a voice came over the loudspeaker, “Cashiers, thanks for rocking it today! It’s been busy and you’ve been doing a great job, and we’re gonna keep it going ’til the break of dawn!” which united all the customers in laughter, who had only moments before been trying to steal grocery carts from each other (me). Trudging home, I sustained hurricane injuries 24 hours before the storm was due to hit from carrying heavy grocery bags so much farther than usual: a muscle that felt pulled in my left arm, and big bruises on both legs where the bags hit with every step.

The only thing I hadn’t been able to find was batteries, and when I got to my building, a neighbor I’d never seen before was in the lobby. Like a battery angel, she asked me if I needed some, and gave me her extras.

My last stop was Starbucks to get decaf coffee beans ground because I did not want to go through forced withdrawal during a natural disaster. Since they were going to be closed for two days they were giving away tons of free food, and I got enough reduced-fat coffee cake to last a week.

On Saturday, my uncle called to say that he wasn’t worried about me surviving the storm, he was worried about me surviving Starbucks being closed for the weekend. Then I made one last trip to a (non-corporate) coffee shop, and hunkered down for the duration.

Despite my plans to watch the Netflix I’ve had out for eight months and organize my finances (perhaps cancelling Netflix would be a sound financial decision), I got sucked into watching six hours of hurricane coverage. The last news I saw at 11pm before going to sleep was to brace for the storm which would arrive overnight, the worst would hit between 8am and 10am, and it was slow-moving so it would be over us all day. When I woke up in the morning, it was all over.

Hurricane Irene was a lot like I remember Hurricane Gloria: a lot of hype, watching hours of hurricane coverage on the news with my family (though this time I was watching it while on the phone with them), and then it passed without much fanfare. After Hurricane Gloria, I walked around my yard taking pictures of fallen tree branches for my fifth grade photography class, and today I walked around my neighborhood taking pictures of fallen tree branches for my blog. After Hurricane Gloria was over I went to the birthday party of a girl in my class, and today I ventured out to find an open coffee shop (which I did!), and without subway service to Manhattan, went to a Brooklyn post-hurricane yoga class that was much-needed, since I’m still sore from carrying hurricane supplies and sitting in front of the TV for so many hours.

Today I have more canned food on my shelves than I would care to eat, a really stinky Glade candle smelling up my apartment, enough water to flush a toilet, and I have to put my AC back in, because I figured that having it in was like having your window open during a hurricane. But I’m from Westchester and I heard from my Dad that the Hudson River overflowed and there is a lot of damage in his town, not to mention all the other places that were severely impacted. So while I don’t know how long I can eat canned tuna and I’m questioning the practicality of my radio battery purchase, I’m thankful that I was prepared but didn’t need to be, and only faced minor inconvenience and not major devastation.

In Memory

23 Jul

“…I have trouble accepting the fact that you’re gone…so I won’t.  It’ll be like…we went for a while without seeing each other…I miss you.”  -DMX

An old friend of mine died in a tragic accident recently.  I hadn’t seen him for years, but at one time he was a big part of my life.  We were last in touch over six years ago.  Since then, I’d think of him from time-to-time, but even when I wasn’t thinking of him, he was still there.  In my memories and my experiences, in the ways he’d encouraged me and inspired me, in who I’d been and who I’d become.  And I just knew it.  He was there.  Somewhere.  And this gave me stability and security and comfort.  It gave me grounding, just that he existed.  That he had been there in the past and he was there now and he would be there in the future.

And when he died, I felt the balance of the world shift.  Even though he wasn’t in my day-to-day life, I felt the emptiness where he used to be.  That person with those specific traits and mannerisms and qualities and quirks no longer exists.  And without him here, a part of me, the part that existed only in relation to him, in interactions with him, is gone, too.  For me and every single other person whose life he touched, that piece of ourselves that was connected to who he was in the world is gone.

It’s too big to even comprehend really.  It hits me in waves and flashes.  Not all at once.  Because that would be unbearable.  The loss I feel, the emptiness where he used to be, is tremendous.

I Wrote Love Letters to Corey Haim in 1987

15 Mar

Corey Haim in “Lucas”

When I was in 6th grade, I saw the movie “Lucas” and fell in love with Corey Haim. One of my best friends, Gillian, loved Corey Feldman.  I remember that year, wearing two different color GAP t-shirts layered, with the sleeves rolled up so both colors showed, and two different color pairs of GAP socks also layered and color-coordinated with the t-shirts, hanging out at Gillian’s house, quoting “Lucas” and “The Lost Boys.”  We’d walk to the Paper Shoppe in town after school and before jazz dance class at the VFW, and buy Pop Rocks or Candy Dots or Big League Chew chewing gum and most importantly, issues of BOP magazine so we could read about the Coreys.

On the back of my bedroom door, I had a taped-up collage of pictures ripped out from BOP, of Corey Haim who I wanted to date, and Alyssa Milano who I wanted to be. And also a few of Kirk Cameron, my back-up boyfriend. We read that the Coreys and Alyssa hung out at a place called Alfie’s Soda Pop Club where they served New York Seltzer, so we’d buy Raspberry or Black Cherry or Vanilla Cream New York Seltzer after school at Amjo’s Deli, and eat Hostess Choco-Bliss-es and sip our sodas while walking home on a spring afternoon.

Another one of my friends wrote a fan letter to Alyssa Milano and got a glossy autographed headshot back in the mail, and that gave me the inspiration to write to Corey Haim. So I wrote him letters, at least 12 of them. I poured my heart out, and wrote about being upset that my parents were divorced, and how it was hard for me that my Mom was dating, and about how alone I felt, and like no one understood me. Sitting in my bedroom, I wrote long letters on pages and pages of blue stationery with matching envelopes, and I sat in front of the TV in the family room sealing them, addressing them, and licking stamps.

I never got a letter or a glossy autographed headshot back in the mail, but that was OK. Because at 11-years-old, while I was writing to Corey Haim, I felt like he would understand me, and like I was less alone. And so although he never knew it, he helped me get through some painful middle school times, by giving me a reason to put my BIC ballpoint pen to sheets of blue paper, and write out my thoughts and feelings.

Writeous Chicks Is Now On Twitter!

7 Sep

I joined Twitter after having resisted it for a long time and it is SO FUN!  Follow me & Writeous Chicks here:

http://twitter.com/writeouschick

Look forward to seeing you on Twitter, tweet tweet!

xoxo,

Jen

Writeous Chicks is on Facebook!!!

25 Aug

Hey Y’All!

Exciting news – Writeous Chicks now has a brand-new Facebook page!!!  Check it out and become a fan of Writeous Chicks!  Please tell your friends and help me spread the word!  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Writeous-Chicks/28237322605

Many thanks!

Walking Home

21 Jul

This weekend, I went home to my Mom’s house to see my sister who was visiting from LA.  I arrived in the 2 square mile town I grew up in the suburbs of New York city right before the sun set on Saturday evening.  My sister wouldn’t arrive for another couple hours and I was feeling rather agitated from life, so I decided to take advantage of the last dusky hour of the day by going for a walk around my town to soothe and quiet my mind.

My slow sweet walk home started off by winding my way to the park.  As I approached the field, I heard blaring pop music ala Jesse McCartney “Leavin'” and saw families with young kids set up on towels and blankets speckling the grass, facing an inflatable movie screen.  Behind them was one of those inflatable castles that you jump on and can’t manage to not fall down on, with squeals of fun drifting over the castle walls, and tables set up around the periphery of the track, offering, I imagine, food & drink.  An overly tan woman was standing at the entrance of the park smoking a cigarette, and I asked her what the occasion was, and she told me that it was “Family Fun Night,” which happens once a year.  I grew up in this town my entire life and I don’t remember there ever being a “Family Fun Night,” and it seems strange and sad to me that there are now new rituals that I am not a part of, that are not a part of me.  Giggling high schoolers stand near the tables, on a break from manning them perhaps, and I don’t recognize them at all.  Even the kids I babysat for are now in college, or already graduated, and it is possible that these laughing kids weren’t even born until after I graduated from high school 15 years ago.  A banner hangs draped over the street in front of the other entrance to the park, proclaiming, “Congratulations Class of 2008!”  The town doesn’t belong to me anymore, like it did in the days when I knew everyone I passed in the streets, when I was the class being celebrated, and I realize I had to give it away to newcomers who now own it.

I walk half way around the field towards the hill on the opposite side that leads up to the high school, and move through at least half a dozen memories on my way there, and I feel like this town is full of my dormant memories, lying there sleepily, waiting to be remembered, waiting for me to walk through them and bring them back to life with my presence.  This is the field where the home football games were played and I remember being on the kickline, dancing our half-time routine to “Move This” by Technotronic, and being a cheerleader at a freezing November game, wearing my sweatpants under my cheerleading skirt, shivering, and taking them off only at the last minute before assuming my place in front of the field with the other cheerleaders.  I remember the March snowstorm that caused the Model UN to be canceled my senior year, when I had finally been made a committee chairperson, and instead of spending the day debating global issues in a high school classroom, we grabbed our sleds and skidded down the snowy hill, and then all went to the diner in town for hot chocolate with whipped cream, some of the boys smoking Marboro Lights in the booths and maybe I’d take a drag if I felt like it, back when you could still smoke in diners.  The sledding hill is right next to a row of silver metallic bleachers, where the June before, at the end of my junior year, I played drunk Truth or Dare with friends, which led to me kissing a boy who would cause lots of trouble.  Or maybe it was me who would cause all the trouble…

This is the field I graduated from high school on, and threw my cap up in this air, after I spent the day at Rye Beach with my best friend, and my cheeks were pink and my hair was straight-ish from the salty air, and my Dad snapped a picture of me walking down the aisle waving confidently, staring directly at the camera, so sure of myself, and all the possibilities that lay ahead.

Walking up the hill and past the high school, I come to a patch of street that was my route home on my 5 minute walk from the pool to my house.  I walk through memories of me at 2 years old, toddling home from the pool with my Dad, when the pool passes were still small gold-colored pins you secured to your bathing suits, even before they were actual cards with photos in the corners.  We went to the pool together and I was walking around the edge of it with my Dad, clinging to his leg, and I let go for a second and then reattached myself, walking, walking, when I saw my Dad half-way around the pool, and looked up to see that I was holding onto to some other man’s leg, some man who was wearing a similar bathing suit and had the grown-up hairy legs of a Dad, but who was not my Dad, and I was mortified, and started to cry, and then walked home with my Dad down this street, properly reattached to right the person.

I walked this route home from the pool both summers that I worked there as a cashier, walked home daydreaming about the college lifeguard I had a crush on, who lifted me up in the water and splashed around with me in the pool once, or maybe twice.  Walked home this way in the rain, when the pool closed and I got to go to Red Robin or the movies with my friends, instead of sitting at the front desk making minimum wage, checking pool passes, and flirting with guys who were 3-10 years older than me, and sometimes who were my same age.  Walked home on so many summer nights like tonight, as the sun was setting, and life was nothing but potential.

I kept walking and came to the house I grew up in, which my parents sold 10 years ago.  The people who live there now renovated it is an understatement, so it is barely recognizable, except for a few details – the sqaure of land it sits on, the bamboo growing, unwieldy, in the backyard, the stone pathway around the side, past the garbage cans, the shape of the window in the front door…there is a stone wall the runs along the front of the property, and growing up, there were individual prickly bushes that grew small, hard red berries lining the back of the wall.  My sister and I would walk up and down the length of the wall which felt so high standing twelve inches above the ground, when I was five in my yellow and orange Kermit the Frog bathing suit, and my sister at age 2, in just her diaper.  Once my sister fell off the wall and didn’t even cry; she was more resislient than me from the beginning.  Today the bushes are so overgrown they have morphed into one giant growth that covers the stone wall completely, and there is not even a place to put your foot for one small step.  Behind the wall is a corner of my lawn where watching fireflies on a July night with the neighborhood kids was all the fun I ever needed.

I walked back to the place where my Mom now lives, through more memories, floating in front of the high school where we used to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights, waiting for some older kid to decide where the party would be, and then shoving $5 bills in the hands of another kid who had a fake id, and requesting a 4-pack of Bartles & James Very Berry wine coolers, or a 40 of Bud.  Past houses that hosted keg parties, remembering walking up the front steps in a new outfit from Express and bangs teased high with Aqua Net, a combination of giddy, and nervous, with anticipation.  Walking back and through and around and over myself at 2, at 5, at 10, at 17…

I feel so much longing for her, who I used to be then, all those years ago, before so so many disappointments and compromises. I miss her, and what she gave me – the giddy excitement of feeling electrifying alive, that is so hard to come by now; the ever-unfolding adventure of first-time experiences, and taking risks, and breaking rules, and getting away with it; the hope in, the belief that, the unwavering conviction, that everything is possible.

And walking through the air, thick with July humidity and a lifetime of memories, I try to pick up and salvage the pieces that I can, tuck them in pockets of my mind and my heart, and bring her back with me from my long walk home.

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

You Gotta Fight…For Your Right…To Paaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-tayyy

30 Apr

Carter just took a hit off his catnip cigar

Last night I went to a cat’s birthday party.  This wasn’t the first cat party I’ve been to.  It was my fourth.  Two of my friends throw birthday parties for their cats.  It’s kind of funny and kind of serious, kind of a joke but kind of for real.  It’s partly an excuse to get together with friends and partly, it’s somebody’s birthday that needs to be celebrated.

Last night was Carter’s 9th Birthday Party.  I’ve been to Carter’s 7th & 8th birthday parties, and also to Oliver’s 3rd. 

Two years ago for Carter’s 7th birthday, his Mom (also known as my friend K), invited a couple of us humans over for take-out and Scrabble, because “Carter would’ve wanted it that way.”  I think I had a couple of sips of beer and I know I won at Scrabble, and Carter spent the night sprawled and spaced out on the easy chair, drunk on catnip and looking bored.

This year, Carter’s birthday party was highly anticipated.  He wanted to play Scrabble yet again (he never seems to get tired of it), and wine and cheese was on the program.  Some emails went back and forth between the hostess K, and the attendees, me and L (who is Oliver’s Mom) about what we were to bring.  L joked that she was going to bring a birthday hat to put on Carter’s head, and K responded to “bring it at your own risk.”  Carter has a good heart, but due to some early childhood trauma that took place before my friend K adopted him, he is emotionally unavailable.  Known in some circles (at his vet’s office) as “The Baddest Cat in Brooklyn,” Carter needs his own space and has some boundary issues, so getting too close to him is often a mistake.  Especially if you are holding a paper party hat aimed in his direction.

The past weekend, excitement was running high.  My friends L, K and I went out to a bar with some other (human) people for L’s (human) birthday, and there was much talk about Carter’s festivities.  K’s boyfriend wasn’t invited to Carter’s party for obvious reasons.  He wasn’t upset.  He is a Manly Man, and expressed his “disappointment” like this:  “If I told my friends I was going to a Cat Party, I would get punched in the face.”

This reminded me of when my boss asked me what I was doing for the weekend on a Friday afternoon in January.  Oliver’s birthday party was that night, so I told him I was going to a cat’s birthday party and he said:  “You must never speak of this again.”

The day of Carter’s party finally arrived.  I was unofficially bringing dessert because I unofficially bring dessert to almost every function I attend.  I may not be a Cat Person, but I am definitely a Dessert Person, and after work I went to Whole Foods to pick up some mini-vanilla cupcakes (because Carter would have wanted it that way). 

When I arrived at K’s there was a gorgeous spread of baguette and three different kinds of cheeses (cow, goat, and sheep), olives, little pickles, artichokes, tomatoes, and marinated white beans, and a bottle of wine.  Carter seemed quite pleased.  K told us how she had gone to a fancy gourmet market and the cute guy behind the counter was like:  “Is it a special occasion?” and she was all:  “Yeah, my friends are coming over we’re having wine and cheese and playing Scrabble and hanging out and, you know…it’smycat’sbirthday.” 

Oliver enjoying a birthday cupcakeOliver was also in attendance and he and Carter alternately ignored each other, played nice, and beat the shit out of each other.  L brought a gift for Carter (usually I bring gifts; I got Oliver two different kinds of Pounce® Treats in January, but I had an appointment after work and didn’t have time for a trip to the pet store, so I made due with just the cupcakes, and hoped that Carter would understand.  He did.), and he tore into the tissue paper and had a ball with the ribbon.  Jackpot.  A catnip cigar and a side of extra catnip.  Now Carter was ready to party.

It turned out that Carter was too tired to play Scrabble and wanted to talk about boys and watch American Idol, so that’s what we did.  Carter got wasted as usual and the cigar went right to his head. 

It was Neil Diamond Night on Idol and Carter was pretty bored, so it was an early night and we all turned in around 10:30.  I was glad the party wasn’t a rager, because I “spoke of it again” and told my boss that I had another Cat Party to go to, and it wouldn’t have looked good to come in late to work all hungover and shit today. 

'Dude, 9 is gonna be the best year ever.' -Carter B.I was about to drift off into sleep last night, full on cheese and baguette and micro-pickles and mini-cupcakes, when the phone rang.  It was K, calling to tell me that she was just washing the dishes when she heard a thud.  Carter had fallen off the easy chair.  I think he may have a problem.

 

 Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam