Saturday, April 27, 2013

Here... there....

Here... in New Hampshire! Yes, the move is over. WHEW!

These past 2 weeks have been a blur of activity. So much packing, so much traveling, lots of painting, and finally, lots of unpacking. I'm dog tired so this little post is just to mention that I made it(!) and will have reports soon.

[Big grin goes here]

Monday, April 22, 2013


I drove the birds to NH this weekend. It was very difficult, intense, and in the end, magical.

It took all I had to go into their room Saturday night at 10pm to start rounding them up. The prospect frightened me. This has always been so when it comes to interfering with their lives. But one-by-one I snatched them up and put them in boxes. I'm sure it was stressful for them, but once I got started it went along pretty smoothly. They're pretty elusive little birds when they want to be and it was an effort to catch a few of them.

I had a couple escapees, and one would have been left behind had I not made a complete check of the apartment before heading off. There was much grumbling and flailing of wings but they settled down rather quickly when I turned the lights off. Almost the entire operation was carried out in the dark with the help of my flashlight, and given how boxes are strewed wall-to-wall around here as of late, the travail was accompanied by several bumps and stumbles.

I started at 10pm and thought it would take me an hour to get them in boxes. I didn't check the clock once I started--on purpose. I knew that if I did I could easily get frantic about how long it was taking. So I just kept focused, one bird at a time, and when finished, checked the hour. At that point I knew it would be later than 11pm--the time I had wished to leave town--but hoped it wouldn't be too much later. It was 12:30 am. Ah.... must accept. A couple of breaths, a scan of the apartment, and we were off. It was 1 am when the wheels were put in drive, loading the boxes of birds into the car had taken another half hour.

My sense of relief at this point was huge. I was just so relieved that all my birds were packed in the car and that we were off. It had seemed almost impossible in theory. A step at a time--a good rule to live by I think.

We were on our way! Made it to the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) and had travelled only a half hour's worth when there was a flutter of wings about. Yup, 3 little birds had decided they weren't tired and had forced themselves out of their nest. Oh boy. (In addition to the large boxes I also had 5 nest boxes--with tenants--which entryways I had plugged up with towels. Not well enough.) These 3 adventurers were a family: Mom, pop and fledgling. The fledgling had just come out of the nest last week.

Oh boy! Mind racing, "Is this just a single incident or am I going to end up with a car full of birds fluttering about while I try to drive!?" Single incident seemed controllable, a car full would have been embarrassing and made driving impossible. Fodder for movies ala "Bringing Up Baby".

Well, luckily, it turned out to be a single incident and I shared the cab with 3 lovely little lovebirds. One of them, the mom I think, made herself a bed in the blanket I had on the passenger side front seat. I don't know where daddy perched himself, but the fledgling made my trip!! This sweet little creature, with a natural propensity to fear me, came up to the dash board and looked around for a while. His next move was the cross bar of the steering wheel and he sat there riding the tide of my turns left and right for a good half hour. I was enchanted by this point. S/he was acting just like a handraised bird, and of course, I thought of Annabelle. I guess a half hour of steering wheel carnival time was enough for this darling and he proceded to climb my shirt up to the back of my neck and perched there another half hour preening the back of my head. Truly awesome. And it felt great!

By now the whole ordeal had transformed into something quite magical. The traffic was light at that hour. The stars were visible. I was being caressed by one of God's little creatures and the car was, relatively speaking, pretty quiet. Just an occassional squirmish now and then. How often does one get the opportunity to make a trip with a flock of birds?

We arrived at my house at 6:20 am, right on schedule--adjusted for the late start. I had calculated on the way up that if we arrived around this hour, I would probably be able to crash on the living room floor by 8 am and could recover and revitalize for 5 hours or so. It worked out just so.

The birds are temporarily in the guest bedroom because I discovered when I got there that the door to the entry-way addition is only a screen door. The temp when we arrived was 28F. No, doesn't work out. So on to plan C for housing. They won't be in there too long. It is now quite a priority to get their own castle worked out by the end of June, I hope.

There was magic on my way back to NY tonight too, but that will be the next post. I will say, being here in the apartment without the birds is lonely and almost surreal. We've had some wonderful times here, we have. It's so quiet at the moment and I keep behaving as if they are here--such forces of habit.

It is an enormous, gigantic relief to have them moved. It almost seemed impossible, but here we are, and I experienced a night I will never forget.

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's a big deal ...

It's a big deal, this move. A major life shift. So I've been wanting to compose a quick re-cap--just a very broad outline--on these past 35 years. It's a selfish exercise: I'm doing it for me. (And it's long.) I need the catharsis and to bear witness to (i.e. remember) this big chunk of living. For almost 2 years I wrote "morning pages" every morning. That is an exercise from "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron (I totally recommend it). Think of this as a slightly more structured morning page exercise made public. (Morning pages are meant to be private and not re-read.) So how did I get where I am now? ...

I came to NY because I had to. I'm returning to NH because I want to. The NH I'm returning to is not the same place I left 35 years ago: NH now recognizes same-sex marriage. Hallelujah! They're on the forefront. Who would have thought!?

The "reason" for moving here was to attend acting school. I attended for a short while, up to when the money ran out and I had to get a job. Looking back, I think it's just as well that it didn't work out.

My first years here were tumultuous, almost unbearably so at times. In my first year I came out of a very dark closet. So dark and deep. And it wasn't without a struggle.

When I was born, in 1956, I was a criminal--so said the law. Homosexuality was still illegal in 1956. The Stonewall Riots occurred when I was 13. It was not something we heard about. It was impossible to be out, and like so many others I lied and pretended. Sexuality, let alone homosexuality, was not discussed. But I knew who I was--inside--by the time I reached my mid teens. I had read a description of "homosexuals" in a book and realized, "That's me!" The only difference was that I didn't feel "perverted" or "deranged". I just felt like me. But I knew way before then about myself from the way I felt when I saw an attractive man. I always thought men were much more interesting--libido wise--than women. During my years here I have come to know of other gay men and women who I grew up with--and although we were classmates and friends, we never knew this aspect of each other. One of them also moved to NYC shortly after I did.

It cannot be overstated just how harmful the closet is. It is a devastating place, and by the time I'd reached my late teens I was in a very bad way. I had to do something. And that--minus all the details--is why I moved to NY. It wasn't easy. I knew no one here, and my first residence was the YMCA near Lincoln Center. That was short-lived, thankfully, as I'd been approached by a classmate about sharing an apartment in Germantown on the Upper East Side. I lived there a while--up to the breaking point: That night when I realized that if I didn't accept who I really was I was going to go insane. It was a cathartic and frightening experience. On the spot, I hurled myself out of bed and went out to a discotheque that I knew about. The Ice Palace, 57 West 57th Street. One where men danced with men, and held each other, and kissed. One that I'd been taken to once before by a kind man who had befriended me at church. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, these couples in love. I was one of a couple that night, for the first time in my life. He was Irish and ever so cute and handsome. And his apartment was in Queens, which is kinda funny when you think about it. I had my first intimate experience in Queens! And I was saved from insanity. The tumultuous times continued as I struggled to find myself and peace of mind.

The tide turned when I started a relationship with a very cute Texan working on his PhD in cinema studies at NYU. I learned a lot about cinema that year and we had a nice relationship. It brought some solidity and stability to my life. Alas, something was missing and I couldn't ignore it. That's when I started Bioenergetic Theraphy which is a Freudian offshoot with an emphasis on the body. It's a very interesting and intriquing theory and I read several books on the subject at the time. It came my way via a movement teacher at acting school. Curious about the exercises we had been doing I asked her what they were and she directed me to the book "Bioenergetics". I did 6 years of this psychotherapy. That was followed by 14 years with my "shrink" and he was pretty much a plain old Freudian psychiatrist. I cannot fathom where I might have ended up had I not undertaken this inner journey.

It seems to me the 80s were different in this respect: I didn't know anyone who wasn't seeing either a psychotherapist or a shrink. Perhaps it's simply that I've lost touch, but it doesn't seem as common as it was. Most thankfully, those were the days before medication become the panacea for all things psychological. No. I had a plain old-fashioned talking cure and I am ever so thankful for it.

During those years I found a solid job and read, read, read and learned, learned, learned. My love and interest in piano was reawakened and I tackled it in earnest. I stopped dating. Had to take time to deal with all the baggage I was carrying around. I call it the period when I was in the closet with the door open. Heehee. So I had a second coming out around the millenium. And I came out for good that time! But going solo during that period is something I've often reflected on with the realization that it probably saved my life. From AIDS. I knew many people who died in those years. I finally managed to get my own apartment when I moved to Brooklyn, and really settled in when I found this place I am now leaving. Eventually I took the advice of all my piano teachers and started teaching too. Learned how to spin wool and weave. I knew how to knit and crochet already--learned that when I was a teenager. My latest big adventure is the cello and I'm loving it.

And here I am, practically on the eve of returning to New Hampshire. Until a few years ago I had no idea what my future would look like. Now it seems clearer. I think I'm going to like it at my new house.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

10... 9... 8...

Sunday... Monday... today... Down to the final week tomorrow. I'm feeling very happy this evening.

Yesterday was by far the worst day in moving related activity since this chapter began last October. Not the news of eviction (it was a mild eviction), not the daunting task of finding a home and obtaining a mortgage, not the scary task of finding a car and getting it past inspection and registered, not the arduous task of packing everything in boxes. The misery inducing task was: Dealing with a major telecommunications company on the phone. It boggles my mind that a business whose business is connecting people would have so much trouble connecting to people. It's a story of over-wrought automation and ineptitude--born of poorly managed girth and inadequate training, it seems to me. Oh my born days.

After filling in internet forms, receiving my order confirmation via email, accepting phone calls from "customer service", followed by three more phone calls in an attempt to iron out the discrepancies, it appears I will be connected to the internet next Friday at my new house. Praise be! Miracles do happen! It's done and over and if that's the extent of the bad stuff it's enough!

The cellar was my main focus today. That and the back yard. It is now all sorted into "keep", "toss", and "rummage". Rummage being the pile of stuff which I place out front next to the fence for passers-by to take. It's a fun activity. I enjoy seeing what's grabbed up and what doesn't get taken. I have several more boxes of stuff which I will place by the gate--at pace--over the next few days.

After removing one pile of stuff to the sidewalk this afternoon I found 2 metal curtain tie-backs that I dropped in the process. There were several stacks of stuff going on and I fumbled for a place to set them down, and in my desire to release this fidgety groping for a clear resting place, laid them on the bottom stair--I must get on with my work! Fine.

I spent the next half hour tackling the boxes (and boxes) of Christmas decorations. This produced hordes of rummaging fun. On my next trip upstairs ... and down I slipped on something just as I got to the bottom step. It threw me off balance and I tumbled over and sideways--almost a slow-motion sort of fall--and hit my chin on the large wooden crate at the bottom of the stairs. What the... ! I was thinking, "You're worse than a kid! Leaving things on the stairs like that, someone could trip and fall!" Ha! Glad to know I haven't lost touch. Nice to be young again. I had a good laugh.

Funny going through the Christmas stuff all laden with meaning, and beautiful to look at. In years past it might have been harder for me to send a lot of it to 'rummage' but I did well today and I credit that to the reading of Thich Nhat Hanh's books. It has made me realize that someone else enjoying these beautiful things is the same as me enjoying them. There is no difference. We are all one. And so it is much easier to let them go and let go of them.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In boxes...

It's been a good 2 days of boxing up books, sheet music, CDs and DVDs. Besides which, I managed to get some hours in at the loom and they were productive. This week saw a break in the granny square afghan but a slow down is expected until after the move. Will probably put some hook time in this week. Only three rows left!

The hallway outside my apartment this evening:

That accounts for approximately 75-80% of all the boxes I will take with me. All the books and media are now packed. A bit more china to go, some pots, pans, and cooking apparatus. Clothes--of which there will be not too much seeing how quite a bit of it has shrunk while hanging in the closet. Must be the high-humidity summers here. I can't think why they otherwise wouldn't still fit. ... Then there's the backyard furniture. Yes, a ways to go.

While packing books this afternoon I stumbled across some quotes I copied down. I used to often note favorite phrases and sentences as I read books. Here are a few of them ...

"Money's a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet" -- Henry James, Portrait of a Lady

"...that had the true refinement and perfect delicacy that in art, at any rate comes only from strength." Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

"Nacreous pearl light swam faintly about the hem of the lilac darkness; the edges of light and darkness were stitched upon the hills. Morning moved like a pearl-gray tide across the fields and up the hillflanks, flowing rapidly down into the soluble dark." --Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel

"October had come again, and that year it was sharp and soon; frost was early, burning the thick green on the mountain sides to massed brilliant hues of blazing colors, painting the air with sharpness, sorrow and delight--and with October." --Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel

(I absolutely, totally, loved Look Homeward Angel. Such poetic prose.)

Despite a day of packing, I was able to get in a very good practice at the cello tonight. The absence of books from all the shelves gave the room a new acoustics. A very nice quick-fade reverb, and it sounded great!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Right on track ...

Today marks the end of my daily commute to a job in Manhattan. There is much relief in this. As I have grown into my 50s (sorry, I meant 30s) and the number of commuters in my neighborhood have swelled in the 20-something age range, it has become more difficult to manage. Largely because there is only the one "L" train which connects north Brooklyn with Manhattan. Although it has been promised that service would improve--and maybe it has but it's hard to notice--the flood of new residents in Williamsburg and Greenpoint are outpacing those improvements it seems to me. The manic gentrification and growth of these neighborhoods continues unabated. But I didn't begin this post with the intention of kvetching so lets move on.

It's my last day of commuting because I'm on vacation for the next two weeks. During this time I will, at last, make the journey to NH. Next time I log into work it will be from my new home! My new commute will consist of climbing the stairs to the office.

This was a week of feeling like I was on speed. I knew the pace of activity--not just physical, but mental as well--would pick up as the big day approaches. Some of this found emotional release today. Nothing big, just short-ish, gentle weepy tears--much like a refreshing spring rain: Clears the air and makes things fresh again. Breaks and emotional pauses are a great way to correct one's pace and check in on reality, if you ask me.

There aren't too many very sad feelings, just a tinge now and then. I will see some dear people a little less often. The approaching move also floods my mind with recollections of moving here 35 years ago. Then of course, there are the intervening 35 years. A little bit like a roller coaster these big changes. I don't mind roller coasters: They can be quite fun with the right attitude. This one I'm on is a gentle roller coaster anyway with some pleasant thrills coming up.

Moving on... if I were still doing psychoanalysis I wouldn't be surprised to discover that a little bit of today's tears come from filing my taxes this afternoon. Egads!

So the hubbub continues, the excitement builds, the tears flow periodically. Right on track.

Speaking of roller coasters, I'm reminded about a great song by Matt Alber called "End of the World". Beautiful melody, lyrics, and singer (and ever so handsome!). I saw him live at Joe's Pub a few years ago. Nice.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Had to share ....

I couldn't resist sharing this video. Aren't parrots just the most amazing birds?

Metro driving ...

I drove into Manhattan twice this week--Wednesday and Friday--to bring books to The Strand. Having lived in this bustling city for 35 years, all the time observing the franetic street scene, I never would have imagined myself behind the wheel navigating Broadway from midtown through SoHo to the Financial District.

Pinch me.

In a way, it's not as bad as it seems: When the streets are crammed with traffic it moves slowly and that makes it manageable. In another way--or two--it's just as bad as it seems. What I find the most difficult is learning the one-way streets, most especially in the Financial District: The tip of Manhattan. It's a labyrinth of narrow one-ways; streets criss-crossing in every direction. Some dead end and some leading to irreversable entrances. Oooooh. It took me over half an hour on Wednesday to figure out how to get to the entrance of the parking garage behind our building, and I almost managed to enter the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in the process.

I finally made it but then had to figure out how the garage worked. It's all so new to me. Turns out to be a pretty streamlined and easy system within the garage. I patted myself on the back for having made it from my apartment in Brooklyn to this garage with a stop at The Strand.

And that brings me to the second 'seems as bad as it looks' aspect of driving in NYC: Parking. There is only one word for it: impossible. To drop the books off I had to stop the car--obviously--but the streets around The Strand are "no parking" and I was told by the store's personel that the police do ticket there. I am quite relieved and happy to say that I managed to "stand" at the curb on the side of The Strand for over an hour all told and didn't get ticketed. Whew. Just plain nerve racking!

My neighborhood (as do most in the city) imposes what's called "alternate side of the street" parking. This rigmarole is implemented so the street sweeping machines can pass both sides of the streets twice a week. I must make sure my car is not parked directly in front of my apartment on Mondays and Thursdays between 9:30am and 11:00am. I must also ensure it's not parked across the street on Tuesdays and Friday between those same hours. So you can imagine the constant shuffle of cars.

Lucky for me I'm home during the day when many are gone so I can usually find a good place out front. But on Wednesday when I drove into the city* and got home late it was really hard to find a parking place. It took me at least half an hour. Tonight, on the other hand, I got lucky and found a spot right around the corner. Every time I park it an inner voice whispers, "I hope it's still here in the morning."

I'll leave driving over the Williamsburg Bridge for another post. Suffice it to say that the speed limit of 30 is apparently just a suggestion and cars actually fly across. Something I knew from the occasional taxi ride home. All made worse by the narrow lanes.

I'm glad I didn't get a car any sooner. The thought of 2 more weeks of moving my car twice a week--at the minimum--is plenty. Can I image what it would have been like to own a car these past 35 years? Yes indeed. Insanity!

* When New Yorkers who live in Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island say they "... are going into the city" they mean they are going into Manhattan.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Letting go...

That's not something I've ever been especially good at. Although, in fairness, I must say I cope better than I used to. Good-byes. Ouch. I much prefer "Au revoir". Yes, See you later.

I mourned for months when Annabelle died and threw myself into reading about the sacred and the meaning of life. Had to find a way to make peace with departure. I came to embrace the notion that the spirit of Annabelle was alive and well and that eventually we'd enjoy our company again.

Annabelle was my hand-raised lovebird. Until experienced it is hard to imagine just how kind, sweet, and gentle a little bird can be. Lovebird is no misnomer for these bubbling bursts of sweetness manifest: Whimsical, funny, and 100% charming. And so it broke my heart when she suddenly passed away some years back.

That I'm recollecting Annabelle this evening speaks to where my heart is at the moment. It was a day of good-byes. My last day of teaching (except for one make-up on Saturday). But I do have email addresses and phone numbers so I'll say bye bye to goodbye and hello au revoir.

It feels wierd knowing my students won't be back next week to show me what they've worked on. Doesn't feel real yet. I shall miss them. My life has been blessed by their company and presence, every one of them. It's been a joy, and at times an astonishment, to watch them grow and develop. That goes for the students who were no longer with me. I hope their lives will be filled to the brim, nay, overflowing! with the joy of making music. Most thankful that I've had the opportunity to try and nurture their spark of musical inquisitiveness.