December 31, 2010

A Quiet New York

For Christmas this year our Nonna and Nonno took my siblings and I to see the Nutcracker performed in the city. 

The six of us rose and donned formal attire and our long, black coats (you'd have thought we were going to funeral) and shuffled out into the car and into our (in)famous suburban- yes, the one I passed the test on- and into yet another surreal experience as I drove the sum and total of my parent's offspring off into the day- newly blanked in white by our recent eastern blizzard.

We "picked up" (so to speak) our grandparents and they drove us down into Manhattan. The roads have yet to be completely cleared of snow- great walls rise everywhere, and already-narrow highways are that much narrower. (Almost) everyone is wearing boots- I see a mother pick up her little girl (in tights and dress shoes) and carry her across the street. I smile. But by the end of the day I too would be carried.

On passing tennis courts on the West Side by the Hudson River Nonno told us, "This is the best place to play tennis in the city." Nonna proceeded to tell us how the city was going to black-top the red-clay courts and the community had risen up to save them and formed groups to take care of the clay. Later we passed another set of courts near an overpass and then we were told, "This is the worst place to play tennis in the city. Because you have all this noise around- it's like playing in Hell. While in  [another place] every 15 minutes you hear the bells in the church go off- so it's like playing in Heaven."

We pull into a parking lot near the Opera house and off we set- the eight of us. My sister and I all too soon come to rue with amusement our choice of (identical) dress heals. The snow is melting and at each crossing there are pathways carved into the dirty embankments- fraught with slush and great puddles. The first one we wade through- and my foot (and shoe) is made entirely wet. To avoid this mistake on the next crossing we go over the snow to avoid the puddles- but there one of Sarah's shoes comes off in the snow.

Inside the building we get our tickets and find our seats. Though the theater was sold out when we bought them, the storm has kept many people home and we ended up being able to move to better seats.

I dry my shoe off in the lady's room. There are many little girls. An older woman, short, Italian, red haired- having seen me earlier with Annie, asks, "Has she seen Sleeping Beauty?" "No," I answer, "but she has Swan Lake." "She should see Sleeping Beauty... and a Midsummer's Night's Dream... and Coppélia. Those are good for children." She says this emphatically- we smile at one another- she walks away.

The Nutcracker begins. Tchaikovsky! Costumes! Sets! The maids scurry about the kitchen- mice come piling out of cupboards and pots and pans. A laugh murmurs throughout the crowd. My little sister is smiling.

My favorite parts where when the snowflakes danced- their blue dresses shimmering- the light turning them golden- their endless fall to the stage floor. Then there was the waltz of the flowers- when the four manly bees tossed the 16 pink flowers back and forth between them. And the duet between the prince and princess! This was different than in other renditions of the story, for while having a child play the part of Clara they had her imagine (or dream) of herself grown up with the nutcracker- thus suitably introducing a romantic dance with two adult leads. It was perfect- "strong men dancing with beautiful women" (as my brother put it) - what could be better?

After the intermission a very Dickenish old-man (large jowls- wild gray hair, and spectacles) sat down in the chair behind me and proceeded to yell rather loudly and hoarsely at me if I leaned forward, obstructing his view. I watched the remainder of the show with my black glued to the chair. Still, his presence was not enough to break the entrancement spun by the dancers we watched. The snow fell. The couple was wedded. The vision faded- Clara awoke (wondering if it had all been a dream)- and we left happy.

We waited in line at the parking lot for our car to be ready. All the little children were having a snow-ball fight. 

We went to our favorite restaurant - Flor De Mayo. We ordered what we always order- chicken, rice, beans, maduros, and avocado-salad. It is one of my favorite meals in the whole world- and traditionally it is eaten by our family in silence. The food vanishes in moments.

Back to our vehicle- back into the snow. Jonathan helped us across puddles- straddling them with his long legs and helping us one by one leap across. At the next snowy abstraction he simply grabbed my sister and I by our wastes and twirled us around him to the other side (after ballets, we always feel a bit like twirling and leaping). We got caught a bit in the piles of snow- so the ballerina effect was slightly marred- but it was the thought that counted.

I have never seen the city so quiet. Every street was lined with cars walled in with snow- a good third of NYC's vehicles weren't on the road. All meter and parking restrictions are currently canceled. The trains are running 3 hours late. On some roads (which to my memory cars have never parked on) there are vehicles in odd positions- where it seems that drivers were caught in the blizzard and pulled over where they could- the snow burying them- and their cars still sit there, awaiting resurrection.

The snow smothers. It covers. It keeps. And all is quiet- and half asleep. We make our way back up to northern New York- we drop off our grandparents and I drive my siblings back to the warm of our home. And then we, too, sleep and dream.

December 30, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [16]


dancers turn into swans

and fly into the sunrise-

we stick the remaining chocolates

into our mouths


December 26, 2010

Here I Am Again

I wrote this poem, one thought cascading into the next, sometime this past month as a song. I hope you can relate with its prayer for hope, healing, and solace, in Christ.

Here I am again
wanting you to hold these pieces together
here with trembling hands
and a prayer that's now or never

cause I know
this road is long
and I know this is just a song
but my heart is breaking
so right now
I'm asking you to carry me...

Here I am again
somehow cut my life line and hanging
Here with trembling hands
not strong enough to save me

so please, oh
reach down and save me
reach out
your arms embrace me
and keep me there
till all my fears are gone...

Here I am again
not knowing to where I've wandered
here with trembling hands
horrified at all that I've squandered

And I don't know
where I went wrong
but I know that
this heartache is strong
so, Lord-God
I'm asking you to wash me clean....

cause I know
this road is long
and I know this is just a song
but my heart is breaking
so right now
I'm asking you to carry me...

December 23, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [15]

red-herrings and white-lies

and sneakings and hidings

all to keep ignorance near!

oh, it's the most

deceitful time of the year!

December 16, 2010

Stealing (away) to Shop

In this mad rush to the finish line as my week of Finals draws to a climactic end- I have found it difficult to think much about Christmas. You're telling me that with five testing sessions, a concert, three papers, and a Design project due- the Christmas-Rush is supposed to overwhelm me? Please. Thinking about Christmas is a sweet break. Since tomorrow's my last day of tests and classes- and since I figured I  had done quite enough studying- I decided it was time to go have some fun and get things done- sibling-style.

So my brother Jonathan and I made our plans, grabbed the keys, said fond farewells to our parents, hopped in the car, and drove away. It was surreal- at least for my brother. I'm used to the driving away thing by now but this was the first time he was going out without our parents- and with just one sibling- with me.

We had shopping to do. Christmas shopping. We made five stops. I'm afraid I can't tell you where because my blog readers are also my family members. Christmas secrets- you understand.

He carried bags and offered me his arm. And once I opened a heavy door myself and, I must say, thoroughly shocked him. His insistent gentlemanlyness warmed my heart- (the men at my school have taught me the "first come first served" rule with doors- it is a rare occasion that a strong arm reaches out ahead of me and helps me out.)

We got our presents and chatted our chat and consulted and compared  and hummed our Christmas songs and when the clock struck the hour moved on to the second event of the afternoon: movie watching.

We felt like kids playing hookie- stealing away to watch a newly released film. We found our theater room- and it was empty.  Delight! freedom! my brother gave out a whoop and we went running through the rows and up and down the stairs in wild abandon. In the end we were joined by five other people. They got the top half of the theater- my brother and I claimed the bottom half.

The movie did not impress us (we spent a good deal of time on the way home discussing where the directors went wrong)- I believe our favorite part was the running and screaming,  (no, I didn't scream- that's artistic license there) and of course the mere *togetherness* of the whole afternoon.
On the way home, I didn't know which exit to get off at. My brother teased me about having lived  here for nearly ten years and still not knowing which exit I live off of.

We arrived home and got out of the car. There is yet snow on the ground. I am hoping it will  either stay as glowing- or else the ground be re-blanketed by another shower. The home lights twinkled at us- we came in and showed off our purchased wares... and some of them we simply hid.

Gogyohka-Thursday [14]


When I said "White Christmas"

I meant new snow-

deep, endless, and white.

Not 10-day residues.

December 13, 2010


Sometimes I feel like one of the ancient Egyptians- learning scientific principles by way of trial and error. We were consolidating our stashes of honey... and honey had solidified in one of the containers... and as you all know, honey liquefies when heated.
 So I put the container of honey in the microwave on top of wax-paper for twenty seconds. TWENTY seconds! (You should know I'd done this before and it always worked like a charm.)  
But evidently I'd always done it with a plastic container, 'cause I totally forgot about the metal ring around the top, (not to mention all the metallic coating on the inner cardboard sides...) and the next thing I knew I turned around and the wax paper had BURST INTO FLAMES!
 Yes, I started a fire in the microwave.
 So I wiped the wax-paper ashes out and gave the microwave a scrub down. It smelled perfectly toxic in there...
 Epic fail.


December 9, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [13]

I shiver

it is snowing

...just one more sip

of dark, dangerous

 mocha frappuccino

December 4, 2010

Mrs. inCredible

I have an amazing Asian Art teacher. We will call her Mrs. C. She's middle-aged and has children in grade-school. She always wears something pretty. She has longer hair- golden, with streaks of silver. She has a snappy, witty, no-nonsense teaching style. She's fair (and generous with the extra credit opportunities), and she packs her lectures. But what I particularly like about her is her smile.

Her smile makes mine. I walk into her class- just happy to be there- and begin to smile. Sometimes it's something I say (I usually manage to say something) and then her's lights up (mirroring, making, magnifying mine). Her eyes twinkle, her grin grows wide- mischievous in its irrepressibility. And my smile breaks anew all over.

I confess I make myself a nuisance in her class. I swear I only do it in hers (well, maybe a bit in Psych, too). But the class is so fascinating- it gets my mind going. I delight in the one class I have during the week in which I can learn- where despite apathetic fellow students I have a teacher who actually teaches. I revel in my fifty minutes.

I'm not sure how I do it. I have yet to figure it out. I comment- I ask a question- I misunderstand something- and somehow she finds it amusing. Annoying in an endearing way. I don't mean to be annoying. I know she likes me.

About a week into class I asked her if I was asking and answering too many questions. She told me I needed to figure it out by my "inner compass" and that my enthusiasm was something special- "You're great." I have tried to answer less questions- I don't know how successful I have been. But I try. Sometimes my hand begins to go up, and with a  sidelong glance at me Mrs. C's hand makes a small motion- and mine goes back down.

I often wonder what it is in my questions that strikes her so. Sometimes my questions are admittedly stupid (but who will ask the stupid questions if I don't?) But then sometimes they are very good. And I'm getting top grades. So I can't be that stupid.

The class likes me too. In a similar way- annoyed, yet endeared.

Part of our tests is a critique of one of the pieces of art we've covered over the section (India, China, and Japan). Before the test she tells us a list of 7-10  images from which she'll pick from- so we can be prepared to critique any of them. She rattles of the page numbers- and you better believe we pay attention.

One time, she began telling us at the end of a Friday class- but didn't finish. On Monday she began a new list and couldn't remember all the numbers she'd said previously. Well, I didn't want her to suddenly remember them on the test-day, so I filled her in, "78 and 76."

The class erupted. Murmurs. Indignation. Frustration- and, most strikingly, above them all drifted my name. They were, evidently, exasperated that I had reminded her.

But Mrs. C was as taken aback by the sudden out-break as I was and her eyes glanced at me in an amused, twinkling sort of way. So I was fine, despite being shocked at the reaction I had received. (I did need a little comforting- the girl next to me assured in a whisper that they liked me.)

I can hear her voice. "Come on, People!" She instills enthusiasm. She urges us to think. We give the answer. "Hello!" she cries out in triumph. My New Yorky teacher.

She told us this past week, "pretend this is the most important 50 minutes of your life." It wasn't a stretch for me. Of the semester? Of the week? Of the school day? I settled down more comfortably in my chair, letting my happiness suffuse over my face. She happened to be standing in front of me. Her grin grows wide. "You're killing me." she says.

Sometimes I wonder if I did something or other right- if this or that is ok. "You'll be fine."  she tells me. (One of the men in my class tells me I take things too seriously.) One time I doubted that the ancient Japanese knew about locks (they made massive grave mounds in the shape of a key hole). One time I thought a statue of Kannon (Kuan Yin) was a he. One time I asked for a date which was in our book. Another time I asked for a date that was not in our book. (Now she dates things for me on the board.) Once I made her do a double take when I told her the answer (she was looking for) to the type of art inspired by the natural catastrophes witnessed by the neolithic Japenese was sublime. (Yay for last year's World Literature teacher. She's deserves her own post.) Once I said something and all she said was, "I'm going to miss you." That made me happy.

She said it again Wednesday. One of the girls was making a deal about the Japanese gardens not having sand but... pebbles. Mrs. C was explaining there isn't much of a difference. It was becoming a class discussion on pebbles and how sand is created. I noted that California has large sand. She turned to me again, "I'm going to miss you.... but not yet!"

I'd like to think I brighten her day like she brightens mine. She asked to borrow my vocab sheet at the beginning of class. I reminded her to give it back- last time I'd lent it I never got it back. She would be sure to.

Class ended. And sure enough I saw her packing up her books shutting away all the papers in them. I went up to her and asked for my sheet back saucily. She smiles and grins at me and laughs and says something- I don't remember what- and goes looking for it.

I leave. I haven't told her yet. But when I registered (you remember me registering?) I signed up for her class next semester.

December 2, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [12]

tennis ball

fast careening

I wonder

about money and boys

and miss.