Sitting by the fire with my only family in the US, staring into the fire on a Fall evening, beers in hand and having laughs. Yet I felt for the rubber fast forward button on my imaginary remote. The intensity of this last few weeks of knowing I was about to go sliding into the next chapter, so much of me struggles to be in the present in these moments. I want to make it speed, flicker across the screen quickly and just get there already. The goodbyes or as people remind me “see you laters” are just more common in my life than I like at all. So instead of being in the moment I want to rip off the band aid. I stand up, sit back down. I am restless. I truly want to be here and soak this time up but so many thoughts race through.
Yet then my cousin gets up, who is like my little brother. Stands in front of fire and addresses the small group there. Some friends of his and my good buddy Dan. A little speech arises, he wishes me on my way and talks about how he sees me. Tears well in my eyes in the dark. I’m back in the moment. I don’t really know what to say but he knows I really appreciated that.
Later on I stand by the embers and so does my cousin. He looks at me, I see a thought pass through his eyes, and he looks away.
“What was that thought?”
“Nah don’t worry.”
“No, come on!”
“It wasn’t nice”
“I want to know even more now!”
“Well, I looked at you and thought, we are getting old.”
“We are!!” I chuckled.
“And I also thought, where did 14 year old you go?”
We stared into the fire, the night coming to an end and I was in the moment for now. Picking up the remnants of the cook out, we walked inside humming The Backstreet Boys.
I chose the path that takes me home to Australia. It took a while to realise that NYC was not a city I came to, for NYC. But for other reasons, and I do not feel like I am failing because I leave the big city of lights behind. If anything I take on a new chapter full of opportunity back in Melbourne as opposed to the dead ends that were in NYC.
I will be sad to say bye to my friends shortly, but these same friends are the ones who helped me see that going home is going to be the best way forward. And I am excited. Back into my industry of venue management and at the same time my writing is progressing wonderfully.
I printed my first book and it arrived in the mail. I opened it and held the physical being of my words and I was so proud. It was such a step into the next chapter of sharing my passion with the world. Do the things that make you happy and which then ripple out and make others happy. It’s a good way to be.
I sit and write this as I look over the Pacific Ocean in North California. It is chilly but sunny, there are two owls hovering like helicopters above, trying to eye out a mouse. The sun is dancing back at me from the water’s glassy top. The tall brown grass on the cliffs softens the dramatic jagged rocks below. And I am lucky to sit here and see this as I think about my way forward. I finished my job that sucked the life from me but where I met such wonderful souls. Was a good experience overall. And now I head back to NYC for a few more weeks before I bring myself and a few bags of NYC on a QANTAS jet across the seas. I will snap my fingers and will be in Australia, looking back at this moment while the sea roars below and will remember the salty smell as the deers bounce by through the grass.
Your colored crotchet blanket would lay over me, my fingers poking through the holes, pretending to be a spider wriggling. I’d be eating white bread and peanut butter sandwiches and I’d hear you in the kitchen on the phone speaking to a friend.
I was probably feeling a little indifferent and bored as a kid, waiting for my mum to pick me up from your house. But the peanut butter sandwiches always tasted better when you made them for me.
Bluey the Budgie would squeak in his cage down in the back living room, you would whistle to him.
You called us all “love” and it was true. Your life was about your family.
You were the best back seat driver ever. No one told you this at the time.
The plastic Christmas tree came out every year and having Christmas at your house was one of the highlights of the year and always ended in boogie board races in the pool with the smell of the BBQ.
When I returned from London as a young adult, after I had escaped life to accept I was gay, you walked up to me in the kitchen the first time you saw me and hugged me. And said “Love, I love you no matter what”. The first family of mine to do that.
You loved the midday movie.
You had one of the most wonderful smiles. And you gave it and had it the most with your family.
Roast dinners at your house were THE function.
Your soft singing showed your love, whoever you were nursing.
You were always waiting at the door for us when we arrived to visit.
When we left you stood at the door and waved and say “hooray!”
Your partner in crime Ed, left this world with you and your children sitting by his side. And you tried to keep going without him but it’s OK, life wasn’t the same.
A year ago today you said goodbye to this earth and we said goodbye to you. My grandmother, my Nana Edith, you are missed. You will always be missed. And you were also my last surviving grandparent. The four of you make up me and I couldn’t be prouder.
He leant against the subway pole with his butt cheeks. Bent over slightly, holding a tattered notepad he furiously scribbled words. He had some dints in his shaved bald head, each with a story that we have no time for now. The crowd stood on each other, leaving room around him on the packed subway, all seeing a force field we do not. I don’t think he smelt but people would look at him and think he did. Two indifferent women held the subway pole with their back turned from him. Staring into their worlds far from here.
He began to hum a tune and sing his words. The rat tat tat from his pen on his old boot, in perfect rhythm rippled out to his body. His hips moved which moved the subway pole to the passion inside him. The women’s arms moved with the rhythm yet their worlds kept them hostage. Oblivious. No one looked up at him, and he didn’t look up from his notepad, pausing to scribble some words out and write new gospel over the top.
The doors opened and everyone pooled out, leaving him alone at the last stop. He was going to ride this passion all day.
When I write about this in a year, I will form the words better. When I talk about this with a dear friend in five years I will list the many ways you are who you are to me.
When your insides seem to be missing and you cant see through the film of tears in your eyes, where no way seems to be up, you still fell into my world. Offering your warmth and kindness with no question and as I sobbed you gave me that place to sob.
I type this on the train going away from Providence, Rhode Island and I just looked up the definition of Providence:
Providence is God, or a force that is believed by some people to arrange the things that happen to us.
I have been given providence. As always. This is all part of how it is meant to go. This place has been Providence for me. The air, the trees, the warm smiles of your friends and family and happy licks by puppies. The bleat of little Allan the sheep who I named, that echoed across the barn. Far from NYC where my world was in ashes. Getting out of bed when I hear the roosters, turn the coffee machine on then step outside to see the sun slowly brush-stroking the grass, the barn and flowers in gold. Then we jump on the ride-on-car-thing (I don’t know farm words for small vehicle that zips and dips), and run the dogs around this world. A spray of mud on my jeans, makes me feel more present. I wave to the goats as they run up to the fence as we blur by. My heart feels like it will all be OK.
It also is an honor to be nudging you and to see the way others see you and look to you. You are only just beginning and the story of Farmer You, from the faded photos of love of your farm you show me to the man who sits high on the tractor looking over his kingdom. You will be one to let others know true kindness, you will be one to show others they can be them and so much more.
Now as I am going down this steel river on my train towards NYC I am thankful to once again have been immersed in the green, tickled by bumble bees drunk in pollen from the sunflowers and having your strength and friendship sending me forward. Thank you.
The waitress walked towards us, no eye contact. She was having a rough day. Seated at the awkward table beside the serving counter, mum and I sat down and we were handed a thick bible of a menu. We both just looked at the specials, easier and less words. Quickly choosing some starchy dish we placed the menus down and sipped the water that had just splashed out of the iced jug from the distracted waitress.
Mum has a belief that she has nothing worth saying so conversation stops and starts with her. As her son, I have the gene that seems to have carried this trait. I fight it everyday. We all have something worth saying, especially to those who love us.
We sat in the diner on the Upper East Side, mother and son together on the other side of the world in NYC. She is visiting from her little island in the South Pacific. She never would have dreamed to come here to see me. But she was given the chance.
On Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend at the time surprised me by saying he would get flights for my mum and her partner so a little piece of Australia could come to me. I burst into tears when he told me in the street down in the East Village, it was incredibly sweet and generous. My mum could finally meet the man I loved and his kids. The reason I left my home in Australia for. And as a couple, slowly looking at forming a family unit.
Yet a few short months later he ended it suddenly. In my shock and grief the last thing I wanted was to have her come here, and see the huge hole that was now NYC to me. I couldn’t say no, of course they should come. That whole, “let’s make it an adventure that we originally didn’t foresee” but in the end she was coming for a funeral of the life I had. Though she was the sort of guest who didn’t know those who are no longer in my life. One who was attending the funeral, as a support.
So as we sit in this diner, our starch arrives, the weight of the plate thumped on the table . And she has seen me the last week and a half in a fog. She also sees me find the energy to look past the constant stab of a reminder, that instead of showing her Brooklyn Bridge, I should have been showing her how much of a cheeky and funny pair the kids are. How happy I was in the world beside the cheeky and warm man I stood beside. I look at my mum and know she she gets it. She is having a ball in NYC and sees her son being taken away in the sorrow.
“I’m sorry mum for not being so present, I want to be and I have so much guilt that I am not. I only have a few days to share with you here before you are leaving”
“Mate, don’t ever feel that way, it makes sense and I am glad to be here for you, even if no words make it better. Don’t ever feel that guilt. “
I write the above as to how I feel we both wanted to say to the other. It came out and stabs and starts, but that was the general vibe. And my eyes welled with tears. We have gone through a lot together.
I read her an email from one of my cousins who recently wanted to reach out for forgiveness. She said sorry for her part in the large pool of hurt that the religious world we came from held down on us, so many years ago. I can see that meant a lot to her too. And she was taken back to those years ago and went absent herself, as she repeats over and over her regret at the way things happened with her and my family. When it was her time for fog.
We eat our dinner, we talk about our worlds and sit up to focus more on our moment. We get less and less of them and I refused to be taken away by the fog.
The check comes, when mum is in the bathroom I do the sneaky pay the check. Getting mum dinner just always feels good.
We wave back at the waitress to say thanks as we leave, she didn’t look up.
We sit on a brick garden wall, on a street corner eating an ice cream. And take a photo. Enjoy the moment.
The cold clay was cut in the darkness, the steel spade lifting up the first clump. The sound of roots tearing, grass covered in the slumbering dirt. The pile began to grow, a small rough pyramid forming in the stillness. The weight on my heart grew. Each shovel cutting through the memories, each dig was making the hole inside me bigger. A bird chirped in the distance, dawn was approaching. The hole in the earth was shaped and deep enough, and I hear you arriving. I don’t look up, I don’t want to see your eyes. But I see your feet.
You let me dig the hole by myself.
You throw in the uncertainty, it drops straight down into the darkness. I then throw in never really feeling noticed, along with misunderstanding. I shake off the masks I wore.
More birds chirping and the first rays of the sun touch the trees above. I see out of the corner of my eye you release our dreams of the family we had. I then threw in some drawings the kids made for me, no longer will I ever get to be their father. More memories float down, they drip off my fingers. I choose to catch a few though, they can stay. Some thuds of hope are shed and the hole is now swimming with who us was. No longer moving, but limp layered us.
You pick up a spade, the one that I left for you. You didn’t even let us have a moment of silence. I picked up the other, and gently nudged the first crumbling clay and soil back in. You take a big chunk of dirt, and toss it in. The earth taking it back. I follow your lead. The light hits my face, my chest, my hands. It’s OK, the sun is still rising. I now look at the mound in front of me, covering the hole, the deep is unsettled but absorbing us. I feel you look at me, I do not look up. You wait, you want me to look at you. I do not look up. You sigh deeply, place the shovel down in the grass, then step away til I hear your footsteps no more.
Birds are chirping and I lightly touch the soil. My handprint appears and I stand up again. I turn away and look at the sunrise, hello my friend.
I wake up and its 5.30am and the cool light outside reminds me where I am. Brooklyn birds quietly tweet outside, the only noise in the stillness. My sleepy nook where I emerge everyday is a joy. I lift the eyelids inside my mind and immediately remember. He walked away from me. I was let go of, and sank deeper into my fog that met me a few weeks ago. The fog wasn’t so polite, but knew where my heart was more than I did. And made it harder to breathe without even introducing itself. I am not a lover of rudeness but it didn’t care. It carried in the sorrow and despair that I never let myself think about. What if me moving to another country and believing in love, didn’t work? The mist makes my heart condense, it feels harder and barely able to beat. Please be a morning fog, please warm up. I beg you fog, let him back in. Let me see him and feel his warm hand find me in the bed. What happened, fog why did you hide him? Why did he let go of my hand and not find our way out of the grey?
5.35am and my alarm jabs me back to my room and I dont see the fog, but it drifts inside.
Seventy four percent of subway poles across NYC are anti-vaxxers,
based on a recent survey during the current measles crisis hitting the city. Subway
poles, who typically ride the subway most days and therefore exposed to this
ongoing crisis, were asked how they felt about the outbreak and what they were
doing to stay protected.
Some of the questions asked of them included “Would you
vaccinate due to the recent outbreak of measles?” and “Do you feel touch
contributes to the spread of common illness?”
Belinda, a pole on the F train, felt like she was targeted
and was simply another New Yorker going about her business, “Measles on me is
just hysteria. Come on, we are not part of the problem. It’s a myth!” She felt
like she was made to be part of the reason New Yorkers are in a panic, “I keep
to myself and yet I am supposedly the threat! How would you like it, to be blamed
or exposed as the problem? I refuse to accept vaccination as the answer!” Belinda,
along with some of her friends were going to an anti-vaxxer rally this Friday
The most interesting thing to come out of the survey was the
majority (74%) did not believe in taking a trip to their doctor to get the
measles vaccine. “Usually I cannot make the doctor, as the subway is my main
commitment, so I would rather not.” says Bastien on the 1, sometimes 2, train. “Also,
I have heard that vaccines are just a way for the rich to get richer and us
poles gain nothing but more grime”.
Local communities are banding together to talk to anti-vaxxers
such as poles and have even provided flyers with speaking points. How to approach a pole with the right body
language and how to not offend a pole,
seemingly unusual flyers to discover but communities are taking this very
seriously. Chantal from the West Village has successfully had some great conversations
with the ant-vaxxers. “I feel they remain calm and respectful just like me, we
ride the subway as fellow New Yorkers and I hope what I say to them really
makes them think on their journey home. We are one New York.”
New York City has recorded at least 423 cases of the outbreak
since October 2018 and there is no sign of this reducing. Public Heath emergencies
have been declared in both New York City and Rockland County.
A few subway seats who overheard the survey reportedly chimed
in and expressed their views which were not available at the time of printing.
#142 – Your Commute (where are the other #141 hacks?)
If you are like me, I dislike touching strangers. But we are made to in the dreaded concept of commuting on public transport. It has taken a year to perfect my commute where my introverted self is happy with my journey and I can pretend I am in a meadow. A smelly small meadow with super sad cows that stand sort of close but hey.
So here is my hack/advice for working out a happy commute:
Consider leaving earlier for work. I go to gym in the city early so I avoid the crush. I avoid the sad stares of people going to do their soul destroying work. Or if you can, leave just after majority of the dead souls have already headed to their fate. Plenty of room.
Choose your subway car. Choose which subway car speaks to you, and what ones have less people than others. People are stupid and all cram onto the one closest to where they entered the station from, or then the others who all plan to go to the carriage that gets them closest to their exit on the other end. But you, you choose the carriage that is less busy the whole journey on average. And not empty because someone has pooed everywhere.
Position of where you stand on train. Aim for a wall. A wall you can lean against then zone out from the world. Don’t take a seat unless you have broken your leg or have pants that keep sliding down. That leaves you open to looking like a dick who doesn’t stand up for someone who needs it and you have zoned out. Even if you don’t get to a wall at first, make your way there as people get off. You will get there, don’t worry. Then you feel you have your own fort, protected from thoroughfare and only half the amount of armpits.
Choose your connection carefully. For many months I was changing subway lines at the WRONG station. It took a friend to comment that you should take it several stops earlier and then my world changed. I had been fighting for prime position and lining up where the door will appear with many others. A few of us regulars would eye each other, without actually eyeing each other. After this advice, changing earlier meant that the train had not stopped at some of the major stations meaning, as per suggestion above, I found an empty wall and zoned out to my meadow. Do it.
I will add more suggestions as I go (I wont) and feel free to share your own.