Saturday, April 16, 2011

If you didn't know Easter was coming... you know. People in Astoria take their holiday decorations seriously. Take a look.

Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny and their picket fence

Some trees blossom, some ovulate.
The bunny glows and purrs electric at night.
Pretty impressive, right? Well, not all efforts pan out the same way.

Blue bunny

Ever since I stopped going to church a long long time ago, I only have vague notions of when religious holidays come around, besides Christmas. I only know it's Ash Wednesday when I see people walking around with black smudges on their foreheads, Yom Kippur and Ramadan when Jewish and Arab friends get grumpy, Passover when the same Jewish friends get picky about restaurants, and Lent when non-Jews or -Arabs talk about giving something up. So I'm thankful for the clues around the neighborhood, because I have been saying for years that I will go to church on Easter Sunday to hear some amazing organ music. Maybe I'll actually do it this year.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Springing Forward

The bare stick-planted yards of a few weeks ago have been blossoming the last few days, and walking Susie around the neighborhod has become a pleasant stroll instead of a 30-degree chore.

 Just as spring has arrived, some of the little employment seeds I've been sowing since I got back from the boat have begun to sprout too. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the spell of good weather we're forecasted to have this week will put my interviewers this week in very good moods. In the meantime, here are some recent pics of my toodling around.

On another happy note, I got a phone call from one of my former pro bono clients, a teenager from Ivory Coast whose application for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status I handled in 2008. In the months since I had last talked to him, before setting off on the boat, his English has improved so much that I almost didn't recognize him! I'd never heard him sound cheerful and relaxed in English, so it was a real treat to hear him talk about school and his part-time job. Then he said, "I called because it has been a long time, and I will always call you because I will never forget you!" Awww... Now that is something you don't hear from an investment bank and which makes being a lawyer completely fantastic. Thanks, Karim!  :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


This is my new neighborhood for a while. It is a big change from the boat in the Bahamas and certainly from midtown Manhattan and Chelsea, where I lived before moving onto the boat. Astoria, or at least my part of it, is full of small front yards with low fences, long alleys between and behind buildings that can conveniently cut short your walk around the block, the high rumble of the Amtrak passing overhead nearby, and the wind that rushes in off the East River around the Triborough Bridge. And of course, there are occasional Greek key symbols and sunburst motifs on window grills and front doors, not to mention a big, multiple blue-domed Greek Orthodox church.

It's been amusing photographing what people here do with a small front yard. There are religious icons...


...and animals.

Some are wild with growing things...

 ...while others are manicured or cemented.

Speaking of religious icons, Sunday afternoon, a police car and a snare drum came down my street and under my window, leading a procession of 25 black-clad people around a priest in white robes and a religious statue/shrine/altar. An eight-piece mini-marching band brought up the rear with a rendition of "Amazing Grace." I don't know what the occasion was. The banner, which read "I-Devoti di St. Giuseppe, Congregazione 1990," explained little.

Susie likes the neighborhood well enough: Astoria Park is pretty big and there is plenty of room to run during off-leash hours.  

Astoria Park is right by Hell's Gate, which is a notorious strip of the East River for its evil current. It's funny: I always used to like being by some body of water, but never felt any particular pull to *set out* on that water. That has completely changed now, and so when I walk by Hell's Gate and watch the current swooshing past, I feel a pang and take pictures of the sea where I see it now. I am blessed and I am cursed!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Culture Shock

I am back in NY, with no feasible plan to return to the boat, which is now sailing through the Bahamas with Evan alone. I am sad not to be with them anymore. But student loans must be paid and my dog must be looked after.

I got here only late Thursday night, but within the first 36 hours, I felt I'd been back for ages. I am trying to keep the sense of calm energy I have been carrying since I left Jentel and the Bahamas, but it is a challenge in this city. There are just so many people here and so much noise.

I did, however, have an unexpected moment of nostalgia in one of the most crowded places around: Macy's in Herald Square. Riding the old wooden escalators on my way to buy a new mattress, I suddenly felt thirteen years old again, the age at which I moved to New York from Los Angeles with my dad. For some reason, back then, quintessential New York was the wooden escalators at Macy's and revolving doors everywhere else.

Back outside on 34th Street, the perfumes and colognes and body odors of busy pedestrians mixed with the day's abnormally balmy air, dank subway drafts, and exhaust from honking traffic. I loved it. New York never fails to feel both completely new yet familiar every time I come back after having left it for a long while. It's like a very fast river that you can always count on to sweep you along with it. The challenge, though, is resisting the urge to fight the city's crazy current when you're tired. You just have to maneuver your way to the branches and rocks by the banks to rest against from time to time and watch, without anxiety or angst, the river sweeping past. My only fear is that this is only possible to do over the long term with the luxury of bottomless energy, patience, or money, or all three.

For now, though, I am simply enjoying the sunny hints of spring, reunions with much-missed friends, yummy and cheap Chinatown, and my own personal anchor of daily committed writing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bimini, the Bahamas

We left Miami in the dark at 3 am, the last of four sailboats heading about forty miles through the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream to Bimini, the Bahamas. Here are some pics of nautical and civil twilights and sunrise.


The crossing itself turned out to be a breeze. We had a perfect, light wind from the south, and we sailed for some hours without the engine, listening only to the boat's rushing with the chop-free water. Unfortunately, I had taken a Dramamine just in case I got seasick after being a mountain lady for a Wyoming month, and it knocked me out for most of the crossing. I did, however, wake up and stay up long enough to enjoy the royal blue of the Gulf Stream.

Then we arrived in Bimini!

After we cleared customs and immigration, Evan and I set out to explore the island. We passed up the opportunity to rent a golf cart for $60 a day and just walked around, taking breaks from the sun under shady trees every 1000 meters or so. Even so, our pace far outstripped the locals. They not only took frequent breaks under some shade, but they also walked extremely slowly when under the sun. Counterintuitive it might seem, but they weren't sweating nearly as much as we were.

Ah, cool relief...
What else? Evan and I feasted on delicious coconut bread, which is doughy and elastic and subtly sweet in a way that made me consider it a wild ancestor to French toast. We finally went swimming! We saw our first close-up wreck.

We learned about Ernest Hemingway's affection for the town--he lived here for several years and wrote about it in what was posthumously published as "Islands in the Stream." According to one talkative local, he was much loved there.
The hotel he stayed at (now gone)
I'm curious to read "Islands" now, to see what Hemingway loved about Bimini. After Evan and I spent a lovely few hours on the terrace of an empty restaurant in Porgy Bay called Sarah's, I have my own idea. Sitting on the shaded patio, looking at the green and blue striped sea, and the terns swooshing white and black, it was as though the coiled up noodle of my brain relaxed and dissolved into my blood, floating throughout my body, no longer trapper in my hard skull, feeling the cool breeze just on the other side of thin skin. Thoughts crossed unhurried, unwilled and completely free.

Here are some pics...more to come later.