Monday, December 26, 2011

A Man with a Name (though I don't know it)

A Man with a Name
(though I don't know it)

Sat next to him
on the Greyhound bus
from New York to Maryland.

He was concerned about the seat lights.
They weren't working at first,
but they lit up when we moved.

He had a textbook on his lap.
Read two or three pages.
We both slept for a couple of hours.

He got his Master's at Hopkins.
He didn't understand
why we had made a rest stop
when we were already running late.
The driver was fixing the sockets.

I stood up to make sure that everyone was there.
(A full bus makes it easy to check.)
He admired my caring.

The tiara on my lap - for a New Year's costume?
No, I'm bringing it home
for my 20-year-old brother.

Residency in D.C. following time at UCLA.
We talked about snow and snow days
and snowball fights.
I don't like snowball fights.
I pass it off on my pacifist streak,
but really, I just get scared.
I'm more okay with them now.

He mused upon a life
without constant studying.
I appreciate structure
and work-not-work

He grew up speaking English in Nigeria.
His accent is British-sounding.
We both sometimes say "gonna". I say "hon".

The moon was newly new
and we discussed a bit of religion.
He brightened up
when I mentioned singing in New York.
He was in a church choir once.
His family is very religious;
he is "not particularly".

The sun was at 10 o'clock, on our left.
We both got sunspots. I closed my eyes,
following the circles as they descended.

He likes shrimp and crabs
and doesn't like chocolate
or Ethiopian restaurants-
the bread is not his favorite.
White chocolate is good, though.

He approves of his sister's boyfriend,
not that either of them asked him.

I did not strike him as a New Yorker.
I extolled the subway for a while
and hoped that I would not turn
Apparently it takes about a year.

He grew to like the Ravens
but still finds the Orioles
not to his taste.

He likes performing facial reconstructions
because he is making a difference
one person at a time.

As a Senior Resident, he has both Christmas and New Year's off.

He is going to see two friends tonight,
home friends,
and family as well. We're both hungry.

I had already deemed him
"A man with a name
(though I don't know it)"-
but he told me his name before the bus stopped,
first name only,
and I told him mine,
and we shook hands.

We parted with well wishes,
and he's going to look up my choir,
although I don't know if he'll remember
how to spell it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Haiku: New Jersey to Port Authority

We speak haiku
and let the world keep turning.
Someone must witness.

Cultures are poems.
Some sing within the stanzas.
Others burst through the syllable count.

Counting syllables.
Possibilities expand
within a framework.

Religious frameworks
put the yoke of Heaven on
your back. Heavy wings.

Culture poetry.
I stay within the structure
afraid to lose rhyme.

Afraid to lose time
On the New Jersey transit,
I think, write, and sleep.

Earlier haiku

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Haiku: Port Authority to New Jersey

Waiting for New Jersey.
Adventurous bus station
music - exciting!

Bus station music.
I'm feeling adventurous
in transit to a home.

Bussing yet again.
My dad's an Aramean -
I'm still wandering.

Dad's Aramean.
New York New Jersey transit.
Ask for directions.

Suburban desert.
Miss Moses has a road map
leading to dinner.

More haiku

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Star-studded shoes

Star-studded shoes

I have a liking for long skirts
candlesticks and harmonies.
I also have a liking for these star-studded shoes.
Pink All-Stars they are,
paneled in stars that have caught
the rainbow
just waiting to let it loose
when I saunter down the street.
Now you just watch these star-studded shoes
walk up to that there bimah
and sing a song to God.
They'll do it.

-December 13, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My adventure in saying something to a stranger where I would normally not

So I walked into the subway.
There was this guy past the turnstiles with red hair and a beard.
A short beard, very short.
Reddish orange, the beard.
His red hair was down to his chin or so. Kind of curly, I think.
Well, it was just really cool. He rocked his red hair.
He stood
against one of the columns
in the middle of the Grand Central subway stop.
I took note-
-he had a bag that could have been luggage-
-maybe not, but what was he waiting there for?-
and passed by
almost got to the place where I would go down the stairs
thought for a bit
looked back at him
thought for a bit
then turned around, went up to him
said "Excuse me,
I just wanted to say that I  
appreciate your hair.
Have a good evening."
And he said
"Thank you"
in an pleasant smiled manner
(and an akin-to-British accent).
(Then I noticed that he was well-dressed and the accent made sense.)
And I skedaddled off and
went down the stairs.
I might have looked back once, I forget.
That was my adventure in saying something to a stranger where I would normally not.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Santas, and Other Causes for a Good Mood

I am in such a good mood.

1) babysitting
2) subway interactions
3) Santas Claus
4) buying Chunky Monkey ice cream
5) bananas on my door

     This was my second time babysitting two wonderful kids. There is a cat named Little Man. They (not including Little Man) ate tortellini, which happens to be one of my favorite foods. I played duck duck goose with the younger girl and some of her dolls and stuffed/beaned animals, and then we read The Berenstain Bears before she got in bed. The 10-year-old-boy and I discussed books - including our own aspirations (both of us are writing stories currently) - and played Scrabble. As I was washing dishes, I thought about how calm I felt, how calming this all was. I love being with kids. I love petting cats. I love bonding. Babysitting is being.
     The boy took out the second book in the Eragon series for me to read while he read before sleep, and the father had recommended a New Yorker fiction article by Nathan Englander. I read the article first and had just finished when the parents came home. Eldest will wait for next time.

Subway interactions
     I have written about the subway before. There are many manners of riding on the subway. The headphone manner: you are not closed off from others through body language, but you make yourself separate, involved in a different world from the one around you, one that should only be intruded upon when necessary. The already involved manner: you are traveling with someone or someones - perhaps your child, your boyfriend, your posse - and are engaging in conversation or cuddling. The "I am trying to nap" manner - self-explanatory. The "When will this train get here?" manner. The vacant manner, common in the mornings and late at night. The similar-in-phenotype yet different-in-genotype preoccupied manner. The prayer manner, which, to an observer, seems similar to vacant and preoccupied and, probably, to "I am trying to nap (standing up)" if your eyes are closed.
     I frequent the roaming eyes manner: you are interested in other people in general, smile upon making eye contact if you overcome your shyness, ask questions, make comments, and engage in conversation on occasion, especially if you find yourself talking to someone who is not from New York. Yet I find that the "absorbed in your reading but can be interrupted" manner is often the most lucrative in terms of social interaction. My most involved and interesting conversations occur when I am studying Jewish liturgical sheet music. Tonight, I had a brief chat about my future after a young man noticed that I had a GRE book on my lap. I myself met a pianist on the way down from Washington Heights after I discovered that her book was Russian. (If you want my attention in a public setting, speak or read in Russian. I have been known to follow around Harvard tour groups in order to drink of it.)
     Subway interactions - so fun! Unless you step on someone's foot. Then you feel bad for a while.

Santas Claus
     On my way to babysitting, I noticed this man:
     Yes. Yes, that is Santa Claus.
     He was not the only one. And many of them were drunk, as another subway-goer commented. (Regardless, I saw one mother-and-child pair ask for a photo op. All the ones that I encountered were in good spirits!) I asked another Claus for some explanation, and it turns out that there was a SantaCon tonight. You show up with two cans of food while wearing a Santa Claus outfit at one of two starting places, and from there you head to bars around town who are also participating in a charitable project. I think that being a Santa Claus gives you leave to converse with other Santa Clauses. (Or should it be "Santas Claus", like "knights-errant" and "Brothers Grimm"?) Another tip for city interactions: anything that brings you closer together in dress, attitude, or other discernible quality also entails a sense of affinity that often can lead to conversation or at least a knowing smile.
     I found myself thinking about causes, and what you do while you are supporting a cause. I might flesh out these thoughts, but not right now.
     Here are some more Santas for you. I asked in advance before taking their picture. (The answer of the two who heard me was in the affirmative, in case you were wondering.)
   Thanks, Santas Claus.

Buying Chunky Monkey ice cream
     I had just babysat. I had money in my purse. I would have gotten a cone, but that place on Lexington was closed. Instead I went to the neighborhood convenience store and bought Chunky Monkey ice cream and two oranges. Need I say more?
     I think the two men who run the store recognize me each time now. I have demonstrated a seaweed habit and like to think that they have noticed.

Bananas on my door
     Last night was a long night for one that had a bedtime of eleven o'clock. I had reserved a place at a Chabad meal twenty blocks south of me. Services were to start at 6:30. I arrived perhaps ten minutes late - not sure, wasn't wearing a watch - and found a locked building and no doorman. I couldn't ring the bell. I waited for a good twenty minutes, sang to myself a bit, and watched a man try to cajole people into entering the fur-selling store next door. (Furs were on sale!) Perhaps I had accidentally headed to their office address instead of their religious-services-plus-dinner address. Regardless, I was short davening and a meal.
     Headed back north, stopping at two places of Jewish prayer on the way. Prayed at one - gorgeous, gorgeous sanctuary - but was kicked out very kindly when the building was to close. The second one I arrived at after services had finished. There were young adults milling and chatting in the entrance-way, but a couple of men that I asked could not point me to the sanctuary. They were there for a Manhattan Jewish Experience dinner. Had they prayed elsewhere beforehand? I do not know. I did not ask. A non-Jewish man who worked there was the one who told me services had finished, and who told me no, the room was closed, I could not go in and pray. I almost cried once I had left the building. Sometimes things hit me hard.
     I made my weary way back north. The doorman brightened my night, as he often does. I stayed downstairs for probably a good hour, our chatting punctuated by his occasional elevator calls. I lamented my unpreparedness for eating dinner in the apartment, and we discussed food, nutrition, and weight for a bit among other topics. Thank goodness, I had the basic Shabbat dinner elements of wine and two unbroken bread items, and later in the night I let him know that I had also discovered an apple and some yogurt and had enough for a veritable feast. (It turns out that pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese can be good even cold on bread.) So while I did not have food with company, I still ended my night with a more-than-sufficient amount of both.
     I saw him today on my way out to babysitting. We were both to be working until eleven o'clock.
     I came home to bananas on my door.
Filled with appreciation and awe that such people as he exist in the world, I ate one banana straightaway and have yet to touch the Chunky Monkey ice cream.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hamal'akh Hagoel Oti

(To listen, please go to the Songs page. Thanks!)

Shir Hama'alot of Seudah Shlishit

The prelude to the Grace after Meals for the third meal of Shabbat.

(To listen, please go to the Songs page.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Yedid Nefesh

First time putting a song online. Yedid Nefesh is traditionally sung on Friday nights, right as Shabbat is starting, and then sometimes again on Saturday nights, right before the end of Shabbat, with a different tune. I was going to use pictures from a walk I took once, but uploading takes a while, so instead you have the Hebrew text to look at if you'd like. (Slightly different Hebrew text from what I'm singing.)

(To listen, please go to the Songs page.)

It was especially good for me to have this prayer when I was on a train crossing Russia. The 1 (2) 3 1 (2) 3 1 rhythm matched the rhythm of the turning wheels perfectly.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One day, I set out to write.

Almost all of my drawing energy these days is going to illustrating a short story - initiative, concept, words, and direction by my friend Joel K., an amazing individual filled to bursting with talent and joy!

Here's one of the first attempts at the first page. (Hooray for left-handed redheads! Love you, Mom!) Currently working on coloring page 5.