Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Another Christmas has come and I am up to my usual celebratory ways: sleeping in late, eating yummy food, watching movies and visiting with loved ones. That is the way I celebrate, oh and there will be champagne later...which is a great tradition too.

Last night, I took myself to the Plaza Hotel after watching thousands of frantic shoppers running up and down 5th Ave looking for the right gift to buy family and friends. So many people run at this frantic-fast pace and I feel like a boulder in the river that they rush past while my life and pace is slow. I used to be one of those people running here and there and I think I was seeking perfection. What I discovered is that it doesn't exist. There is no need to live at that pace. That is not the way of this world. At least, it helps no one to live at that pace...especially me.

In the cupcake shop yesterday, people were sometimes jolly, but most were irate that we sold out of product. Pity really. I had one woman screaming at me on the phone, using the "F" word because she didn't place a special order and I did not have her Red Velvet cupcakes. That is the spirit of Christmas? I tried to offer her other suggestions, even a Red Velvet cake, but this information seemed to fuel her hostility. It is the getting trapped in the one vision and not allowing what is presented to choose and shift directions. I mean, she told me she was going to a party and wanted the cupcakes but a cake (which cost less than the dozen of cupcakes she wanted) looked more holidayish and could be enjoyed by more people and yet it did not fit into her vision, so she became upset. That seems foolish to me. Instead of choosing the cake, she hung up on me. Another customer over-heard my end of the discussion and he bought the cake with a smile. People, really....let's pull it together!

Working in retail is only for the very strong or those with very bad karma. I haven't decided which one applies to me. Sometimes I think I must have been very, very bad in a past lifetime because I keep putting myself into this retail world. Or maybe I am strong. Who knows.

The Christians are not the only ones who are full of bad behavior. I had a Jewish woman call and yell at me because of the price of our Chanukah donuts and delivery cost. Three times she called to let me know how upset she was; she wanted to fight. Luckily I learned a lot of excellent listening skills at the Boca Raton Whole Foods Market and I was able to defuse the situation. I said, "Mrs. Cohen, if you keep calling me just to fight, I am more than happy to accommodate you. However, if you would like me to move forward and place your special order before the bakery closes I suggest you let me get back to my business. Let me remind you, you are under no obligation to purchase our products and if you are dissatisfied, I suggest you find another doughnut retailer for your Chanukah needs." This put her in her place and settled her right down.

There are seven nights and days of doughnuts for the Chanukah customers. Oh goodie.

I earned my twenty dollar dirty martini at the Plaza Hotel last night. And it tasted damned good too. After my drink, the sun had set and Christmas lights were in full glory. Shops closed and the exhausted retail staff finished up as they readied themselves to go on their merry way.

I strolled down 5th Avenue, now less crowded, looking at all the windows and I must say, the windows at Bergdorf Goodman were the most spectacular. The theme was the seasons but all decorated in winter white and all that sparkled and glittered. It is breathtakingly beautiful and if you have a chance to check it out, do it. You won't regret it.

Enjoy your holiday today and let's try to remember to be kinder to one another. This is the very least we can do.

Ho ho ho and all that jazz
And so much love,
All the way from over here...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I'm so lucky. No broken bones. Must be all the yogurt I eat or green vegetables. No matter what the cause, I feel like there are some powerful forces looking out for me.

The gray rainy New York skies remind me of Seattle as I convalesce with movies and tasty snacks. But with so much time on my hands and mediocre movies from the library, I am led to thoughts of my life, particularly the question of what am I doing? I have this quality about myself to push and push life uphill and for what? What is the reason why? I say I want to write, yet I don't write. I say I want to get out of the cupcake world and yet I stay.

My words and thoughts do not match my actions.

Grey skies are melancholy and I wonder if I will ever get my act together...but who has their act together? Everyone has something they are dealing with. And I do not feel like I am exceptional with my load. I guess I would like some kind of break. Like a blessing from above, to come into my life....some sort of good fortune dropped into my lap.

And what if I have that right now? What if this little, boring, uninteresting cupcake job is a stroke of good fortune? I mean, I can eat all the overly sweet cupcakes I want. Isn't that a good thing? No. Life is short and you should eat dessert first, but dessert should be something tasty that you love and I do not love these cupcakes.

Each deep breath I take reminds me of my good luck that my ribs are merely seriously bruised and not broken. Perhaps this is god's good grace. This is the gift and the pain a reminder of luck and all that I do have. And how I wished I had health insurance and paid time off to cover my medical bills and recovery time. But that's not how America works. What a sad state we live in here in the USA.

And yet there is much to be grateful this year, and not that it is just coming to an end. There were a lot of scares this past year, too much time spent in hospitals, many prayers answered and a lot of personal risks taken.

Who knows what the next year will bring. This last one has been exciting and unpredictable. Let's hope there is grace, kindness, love and abundant sunshine in our next forecast.

So much love,
All the way from over here....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Skating Under The Full Moon

Last night it happened. The moon was at its fullest and positioned the closest it would be to earth for the next year. It was a perfect cold winter's night, a mere 28 degrees Fahrenheit (that's -2.22222 Celsius for my Italian scientist readers) and it was the night I would break in my new ice skates at Bryant Park.

I bundled myself up in many, many layers to protect from the blowing wind. Undershirt, thermal turtle neck sweater, a cotton turtle neck sweater over the thermal, a layer of fleece on my upper body and below I layered two pairs of long johns (one cotton, the other polyester) heavy denim jeans, one pair of wool socks and thick cotton socks over them followed by the usual scarf, hat, gloves, and leather jacket. I decided against my long winter coat because I wanted freedom of movement on the ice and I have yet to purchase a winter waist coat.

My skates arrived in the mail the day before and I was like a kid at Christmas unwrapping the package to reveal the brand new, never worn leather ice skates that were from some old ice rink. They fit perfectly. I felt conflicted about my decision to spray paint them silver. The skates were nude with a black stripe down the back and since they were vintage, they were super cool looking. They even had the size in white on the heel of the boot, but that went away with a few strokes of my black sharpie.

Keep them nude, I decided as I packed my bag and headed to the G Train to take me to the 7 and Bryant Park. The sun set as I arrived at the winter wonderland. Christmas lights, holiday music, specialty shops and hot cocoa fill the block and a half park behind the NYC Public Library. It is a magical experience.

The line to enter the ice rink snakes around specialty kiosks and word spreads down the line that we should be inside in less than two hours! I had forgotten that there might be a wait but had nothing else planned and the time passed quickly. Ahead of me was a family of four from Pittsburgh who make the pilgrimage every year to go holiday shopping in the city. As we were in line, they called all their friends back home and retold the days events of shopping at Macy's, the over-priced lunch they had and now waiting for two hours to go ice skating at Bryant Park.

I tuned them out and visualized the skating lessons I'd watched on YouTube earlier in the day. It had been over ten years since I was on the ice and I thought a few pointers would be a good idea. Like a professional basketball player shooting hoops in his mind, I visualized myself easily skating around the rink, taking quick-quick steps, keeping my feet togethere, doing the cross-over steps around the bend and working towards the center to practice backwards skating.

Time flew by and by six PM I entered the rink. The place was packed with mostly teenagers and preteens unsupervised by parents. I'd forgotten that might be the case since the ice rink was free of charge...the only one in the city that was free. Never mind the kids, my first task was to get my skates sharpened since they were dull and had never been used before. Check. Done. Next, get a locker to stash stuff. Done. Time to hit the ice.

By six fifteen I was on the ice, wobbling as I remembered how to stand. I stayed close to the edge until an inner voice said to me, "Linda, you know how to skate, so go skate already!" And I did so. No sooner had I made it around the rink once did an announcement come on instructing all the skaters to leave the ice for cleaning.

We all skate off the ice and I marveled as the Zamboni performed its circular dance twice aroundd the ice. Piles of ice shavings melted away making a smooth surface which instantly refroze from the dark, cold night.

Fifteen minutes later and I'm one of the first back on the ice. As the others piled on, I enjoyed the fresh ice to practice skating backwards and was in heaven. The children filled the ice rink and more and more people piled on the ice making it a sea of black coats and hats. Most of the skaters were inexperienced and grabbed on to anyone one near them to prevent them from falling which caused both people to go down.

One young woman did just that as she skated in the wrong direction head onto to me. I caught her and we embraced like old lovers. She apologized and I told her we were lucky! She agreed and skated on her way.

More and more people entered the ice and it became harder to skate because I was too worried about the other skaters and what they were doing. I skated a few more times around and decided that maybe I should take a break for a couple of hours and come back once the kids cleared out. I over heard several groups of kids that said they had to leave at seven. Plus the mood hadn't risen yet. I wanted to skate under the moon!

My last time around the rink I thought to myself how great it was that I was skating and hadn't fallen. Good for me! Just then, a kid wizzed by pushing me and I fell face down, flat on my face. The wind was knocked out of me and I heard a clear snap as I landed on the ice. People gathered around me asking if I was okay but I didn't realize they were talking to me. I was in another place...a place of red pain that filled my body.

The skating guards cleared the crowd and helped me up speaking to me like a child saying, "Your alright. You're a big girl. It will be okay." I asked for help getting up and they escourted me off the ice. Maybe I just had the wind knocked out of me. If I sat down for a bit I was sure I'd feel better.

Each breath in was a sharp pain and I quickly realized that I'd either broken a rib or at the very least bruised had bruised my ribs. Slowly I pulled myself together to gather my things and start the trek home to examine my injuries.

It was six fifty PM. I got in nearly a half-hour of skating! Clutching my side, struggling to hold my skates, the security guard told me there was no reentry once I left the rink due to the huge crowd, but if I skated during the weekdays I could return after exiting. I clutched my side all the way home and watched the moon rise above my house as I got home. It was a beautiful moon, full and bright on the clear, cold night.

I'm hoping my cracked rib will be healed before the last day of skating on Januarye 25th, 2009. WebMD says it takes about six weeks for a cracked rib to heal and if I keep a low profile, rest, take my deep breaths and follow the doctor's orders, I should be back on the ice before the last skating session.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Gigerbread House

I wrote and posted this piece a year ago on the Patsycat Cafe, my old blog, which I took down. But someone found it and commented that it should be read by others. So since I am laid up again from my ice skating injury, I decided to post it again.

So much love,
All the way from over here....


I'm still out sick from work. I took in my Kitchen Aid mixer into work because they are making gingerbread houses today for our big event tomorrow and I haven’t been able to buy one yet for the store.

What’s the event?

Build and decorate your own gingerbread house with all natural and organic edible candies and treats.

Very cool…bring the kids, spend an afternoon and have some hot coco or mulled cider, snack on the candies while you are decorating…good old-fashioned clean fun for the whole family and all for one low, low price!

Life works in such funny ways…you see, this awesome event failed to make it onto the calendar and I talked about it in the store meeting and so team members have been talking it up and I’m out sick for a week so the team is going to have to pull together to put this event together.

So I took my mixer in so they could make the gingerbread. I created the house templates and gave some direction and then quickly realized that I really feel much better when I’m at home. I mean, I feel so much better than yesterday but I’m not ready to be working again.

But one thing I did notice is that I have been really lonely. I didn’t think so because I’ve been on the phone a lot, but I’m missing human contact…face to face conversations. And being with other people is so critical for me or else it leads to loneliness which leads to depression which is not a place I’m going…but I did notice what was missing. This is progress. I can be rather self-unaware at times.

I mean I’ve been in my house sick since last Sunday. Today is Friday. Thank god I’ve been taking baths because without other people around, I can start to smell pretty bad. And in my past it would have happened as “missing time”….

Here’s the good news: Yes, I’ve been sick but this is the first time I’ve let people know how sick I am and I have accepted help from my neighbors like plates of food and visits. This time I haven’t awakened not known what day it is because it’s been a couple days that I’d been sleeping in and out of illness. When you’re home sick alone it can do a number on your mind…especially if you are prone to think about the future in any way….you know….find the spinster lady in her house with the cats….but they find her because of the smell?

I know, crazy…and my point is that I didn’t go there! This is good news! I am recognizing how dependent I am on other people….this has been a big issue for me because I am so goddamned independent! I can hear all my past boyfriends shouting out with glee, “FINALLY! SHE GETS IT!!” I think I’ve been a bad girlfriend.

Please accept my apology gentlemen. I am sorry. I know I’ll do better this time. I promises.

You know, there’s a lot I don’t understand about men but my teachers come in all forms. For example, Nick at work has really taught me a lot about men. I’ve told him so too. He told me really early in our working relationship that he needs to be needed. I didn’t understand because I hated that the team members needed me for so much stupid shit! I thought being needed is good, yeah, sure, but to what point? How much “being needed” is good for a person?

That being my perspective, I didn’t quite understand his need to be needed but I put the information away somewhere in my brain and some time later I noticed that our relationship changed. When we first started working together, we were close but I noticed us drifting apart. I found some of the things he did irritating and I didn’t understand his behavior at work….and then I got really involved in a new project which excited my soul and I drifted further and further away from my regular duties and into my new life.

I started missing Nick and when we were connected and I remembered his need so I started to look for ways he could help me. I asked first for a little favor and his spirit light right up. It was then that I saw how he responded when he was needed. It is as if being of service to another is the greatest gift he could give someone.

I started asking for more and more help and we became closer than we had ever been. Our friendship grew to such a level of trust that I knew that if I needed something, away from work….like if my car broke down, I could call him. That’s such a great feeling! Not only did we become great friends and coworkers, I got a hell of a lot more shit done because he wanted to do it and the sense of security has been very freeing. Bingo. Surprise. Stability can be freeing. That’s the real lesson I am learning today.

So what am I doing today during my final convalescing time besides reflecting on men (naturally…they are so intriguing…) and snacking, napping, resting, listening to music…and…wishing I could go for a swim?

I am making a gingerbread house.

But I’m not decorating it with candy.

I’ve got another idea….

I got a lot of drugs I’m not on any more…you know…pharmaceuticals… good shit too, baby. I can’t sell them on the street and it seems like a waste to flush them down the toilet and they have so many pretty colors and shapes...

I got a hot glue gun but I'm gonna use royal icing in case of emergency. You can't take a pill with the hot glue, but just in case I decide I need to go back on Lexapro, I can still take it.

I got a lot of time on my hands.

This is gonna be one hell of a holiday season! Feeling stressed out? Stop by my place and help yourself to my gingerbread house. The little yellow ones are Valium! Pudgy white ones are Xanax (or vitamin "Z" as I like to call it.)Help yourself! Anyone out there who has some high blood pressure, please help yourself. Feeling really anxious? Have a Clonzapam! I got 'em all, baby!

I love entertaining.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brrrrr.....snow's a coming!

It is winter in New York. Christmas lights are up and the temperatures are a dropping! We're supposed to have snow on Sunday. Let's hope that we do! I love snow! And what I love just about as much as snow is ice skating!

NYC is known for skating in Central Park or at Rockefeller Center, but there are lots of other places to skate too that cost next to nothing ($4 for all day) to free (Bryant Park!) So my latest mission is to buy my own skates and hit the ice.

Now, I'm no Tanya Harding, but I used to be able to hold my own, back in the day skating around the pond in our old neighborhood. I loved winter when all the ponds froze. The neighborhood kids would discuss if we thought the ice was solid enough to skate on and then somebody would have to test the ice for thickness. To test ice, you need a brave, skinny kid and from there you add more kids and weight.

Everyone was silent when the reluctant tester took their first steps onto the ice, listening to hear if there is a slow creaking of the ice or a fast, hard cracking sound. The ice tester stops to listen if the ice is giving a little to the weight or if it is breaking. If it's breaking and your fast, you can make it back to shore without falling in, but if you slip? You are screwed! But when you're 14 years old, you take those kinds of risks.

And if it had been snowing, then we'd have to shovel all the snow off the pond before skating and you gotta do a good job too to not leave any holes or dents in the ice or else you'll fall or trip over them with your skates. And watch out for tree branches that have froze into the ice too, they can mess you up! There's no Zamboni here!

Skating under the moonlight was one of my most favorite memories as a kid. The silence of the night, crispness of the air and warming up rewards of building a fire and making hot cocoa is what I remember most fondly about winter in Pennsylvania. I am so excited for my first winter in New York. I'm probably the only person in the city who feels that way, too!

I've ordered my long johns, and I've got a big warm coat, but I think I'll need to find something less blanket-like to be on the ice, but if I layer up good under the jeans, I might be fine in my latest leather biker jacket (with the symbol of the Illuminati painted on the back!)

So if I'm not writing, look for me on the ice. If all goes well, I may be skating by Sunday! Look out Tanya!

So much love,
All the way from over here....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Release Forms

I just received release forms for my poem "Beloved" which will be published in a poetry anthology early next year. I'd forgotten about my contribution and thought the project was either lost or it was forgotten; something to not get off the ground. So I will begin 2009 with publication.


It is a rainy Sunday morning in Brooklyn and I have the house all to myself for the first time since I moved in. I've had the pleasure of sitting on the couch (which I don't usually get to do) and free-range of the kitchen.

I think I'll spend the day looking for a new place to live. These sorts of things shouldn't be something that one is allowed to do every so often, but rather every day. I especially miss cooking.

Off to Craigslist!

So much love,
All the way from over here....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Hope

Much of my life in New York has been centered around waking up early to get ready to serve the cupcakes. I am hoping to change the focus back to writing soon. I've moved to a less busy shop, at my request, so I can have more time for writing, walking, talking on the phone and general socializing. I believe this is happening which makes me feel much brighter.

So it is my promise that I will work on updating and writing more frequently. I apologize for my sporadic posts, but it has been a rocky transition for me in this cupcake world and if I can just get a sense of balance going, all will be well.

In the meantime, I will continue to take notes and fantasize about my new rock opera, Cupcake Hell and continue to compose the Butter Cream Blues in my head until I find a piano and a great bass player. I'm feeling the music in me wanting to come out!

But I will write more and soon too.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

So much love,
All the way from over here....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not time yet

As I adjust to the crazy world of cupcakes and this lifestyle of very early wake-up calls and Madison writing has been sparse. What I am writing is not upbeat but rather pensive and ponderous.

The time I find for writing is in the very early morning while waiting for the subway train. I eavesdrop on the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) workers and am intrigued by their lives down in the hole. That's what they call it, "Another day in the hole." Overnight construction crews finish up at 5 AM. I take the 5:01 train, so my ride is scattered with workers, tired from a long night of walking the rails repairing damaged lines, staying on their guard to not touch the live 3rd rail which will send 13,000 volts of electricity though the body for instant death.

It is another world at this hour of the morning and I feel privileged to witness it. The dichotomy of the ride to work from my poor, mostly African-American neighborhood to the heart of Madison avenue is startling. When I arrive at work the phone rings off the hook from frantic executive assistants panicked to get their emergency same-day delivery of cupcakes to Versce, Jimmy Choo, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Cartier, Tiffany's and every NBC executive at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The executive assistants think nothing about the same-day-delivery charge of $18 before the cost of the cupcakes. What matters is getting them their cupcakes before the time of the presentation or big meeting.

The sense of urgency is unreal and it is all just like the cupcakes...unhealthy.

I've asked to be transferred to another location and that will start in a week.

They're putting me at the Wall Street store. I'm sure there's no tension downtown in the financial district.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cupcake Conversations

I've been spending my time opening up a new cupcake store in Union Square, New York City and have been pretty focused on that and not writing. Next week I am opening up the flagship store on Madison Ave and 53rd street, right across from Cartier. Fancy Pants location for sure! A girlfriend asked me asking where the hell I'd been lately all I could say was, "Up to my elbows in cupcakes!" Literally.

In the failing economy, people take comfort in food and alcohol so business is booming. The flow of business is much like a stream that ebbs and flows busy for a little bit and then slow for a bit which makes for easy preparation for the next busy time. During this quiet time there is plenty to do such as restocking cupcakes, brewing coffee, or taking a break to taste the latest cupcake specials. It is during these times that the inevitable calorie discussion begin.

"How many calories you think this one's got?" 20 year old Mike from the Bronx asks in his thick accent. Gold chains layered around his neck dangling above the Red Velvet treat and his frayed skull-n-crossbones baseball cap is studded with rhinestones. I pray the subway dirt doesn't fall into the cupcakes

"Oh, that one's an easy 1250." Kate replies. She's a button-downed, clean-cut preppy-type girl in her late teens and training to open the new Stanford, CT. store next week.

"1250 NOTHING!" Mike says. "Girl, you off! That baby's gotta be 2K!" Mike is confident of his cupcake calorie guess and is passionate about winning any discussion.

Why are these kids discussing a calorie count of a cupcake?

On July 1st in New York City, a new law went into effect requiring all foods service establishments with 15 outlets or more that serve standardized portions (i.e.: McDonald's, Starbucks, Wendy's etc...) must provide the consumer with the caloric content of each item, in the same sized typeset as the menu items for the consumer so they can make an educated choice and perhaps a healthier selection. This law was passed on the coat-tails of the zero trans-fats allowed law which people are still upset about. God bless the people who can't live without Crisco for a day!

The company I am working for is small (8 stores today) and rapidly expanding in New York City, Connecticut, New Jersey, and soon Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and pretty much anywhere there is a hungry cupcake consumer. With continued expansion in NYC, the caloric count will be mandatory because the law is based on total number of outlets not just the outlets in the city. So they will be required to post on each sign the name of the cupcake and the caloric count.

These cupcakes are the size of a big man's fist! One bite into it and my teeth start to hurt from the intense sugar-shock! And it is fascinating to watch people shove them into their pie-hole without a second thought and then quickly order a second or third.

So the stand-around conversations are kind of like the "What time do you think it is?" game. That is a game where no one is allowed a watch or clock and you try to guess the exact time (using Price is Right rules of course...whoever guess is closest to the actual time without going over wins!) But in the "Guess the Time" game you have a chance of verifying answer. The time game strategy is all about mind-fucking your opponent by trying to out-psyche their guess. I am brilliant at this part of the game and Karen can attest to that. There have been many times when she's been right on the money but my questioning of her final answer and planting seeds of doubt are masterful. No one can deny that I love a good game and am quite competitive. Let's just call that a Leo thing.

The caloric count game is pure speculation. My original guesses began at 1500 calories a cupcake. I settled on this number after looking at the calorie counts of muffins for sale at Starbucks which are much smaller than the products we sell and average 400-600 calories each. Yikes! A breakfast treat with NO protein or any sustainable energy for 600 calories? NO THANK YOU! Before moving to New York, I regularly spoiled myself with a slice of Starbuck's lemon pound cake as a treat until I discovered that it too was close to 700 calories...and not all that satisfying. It was easy to release this habit.

NOTE: I do like this law because they have to list the calories on all the beverages that Starbucks sells too, which I think is a very good idea.

So now I am moving my cupcake guess closer to 2000 calories. The frosting is packed with sugar, butter and cream cheese not to mention the cake ingredients. Oh golly! I can hardly wait until the numbers are released.

But until that day, I say go ahead...have your cupcake and eat it too. The bliss in ignorance is Utopian. All will be revealed soon enough.

So much love,
All the way from the diabetes clinic,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Things I love

I love sunny days in Autumn witnessing the emerald leaves transform to ruby reds and shimmering gold. I love the first deep breath once stepping into the chilly outdoors before embarking on a long walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. And the awe inspiring views of bustling city-life happening all around, feeling connected to strangers, doing their best to live another busy day on planet earth.

So much love,
All the way from....

over here

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cupcake Confidential

It was not the early morning hour that she minded the most. She always awoke a few moments before the 4:30 alarm and quickly shut the clock off so not to disturb the light sleepers in the other bedroom. Pre-dawn was one of her most favorite times of the day. It was the hour that god listened to insomniacs prayers and if listening carefully, when answers given. There was a special silence that to the unaccustomed could cause terror. But this was what she loved. The quiet. Peace and quiet.

No, it was not the early hour she minded. She made peace with the hour before accepting the position at the cupcake shop. That was part of the job; part of the cupcake world she entered. Another world was awake at that hour getting ready for the day ahead. Construction workers, breakfast cooks, baristas, hospital nurses sleepily dressed themselves quietly leaving their homes to catch the first train of the day. Many worked two jobs, one early 6 AM to 2 PM the other 3 PM to 11 PM then rode the two trains home for a quick shower, rest before rising early to start all over again.

There was an unspoken, quiet understanding between the people on the early train. Her white face stood out at this hour. The working people were caramel colored. White faces didn't appear on the train for a few more hours, at least not until six-thirty.

It wasn't the was the rats.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dear President Bush

Dear President Bush,

Hi! How are you doing? Are you totally psyched that your term is almost over? I know when I was I college I couldn’t wait until the end of term, especially right before graduation. I can only imagine how ready you must be for this gig to be over! Heck, you’ve been doing it for almost eight years! Yikes! You could be a doctor by now!

Wow, I don’t how you keep up with all this crap they keep dropping on you when you’d rather be planning your farewell cruise or golf vacation or even the most excellent presidential library ever that your gonna build…wait a second, that’s Laura’s gig, right? The libraries?

Anyway, if I were you, I’d be totally bummed out that you gotta do this whole bail out thing. Its gotta be hard asking congress for money…harder than that time you had to call your dad after you smashed up your car and had all that blow on you and you were really f*cked up! Whoa dude that was not a fun night! So I bet this is like ten times harder than that, am I right?

There’s nothing more humiliating than having to ask your family, or congress, for money. Boy I sure know that one, which is why I’m writing you. You may not know it (‘cuz we’ve been a little out of touch lately and I’m totally sorry I haven’t written) but the last twelve months of my life have been quite a rollercoaster ride. Oh, I don’t want to go into all the messy details but just like AIG, I need to be bailed out too.

It’s obvious that you feel the pain that the average American is facing these days. My friends and I sure looked forward to that $600 stimulus check you mailed out a couple months ago and I practically sat by the mailbox waiting for it to arrive. When it never came, I called the IRS to see what was the hold-up. Turns out that I wasn’t getting a check. I guess all those mistakes I’d made on my taxes over the years have kept me out of the stimulus pool and I’m going to be paying off this debt for like the next ten years or more!

This is where you can help me out. See, I need a bail0out of my own George. Won’t you help me out? Unlike AIG, I am paying off my debts off and working my tail off getting my life in working order again. If you bailed me out the same percentage that you cut AIG, like fifteen percent, that is a mere $15,000 and I’d be debt free! With you helping me out I would be less focused on making money and more able to assist my fellow Americans. See? It’s a win-win situation!

Fifteen grand doesn’t require approval from congress either.

You see, I am the future of America. I already have no money and a lot of skills and a slight drizzling of talent plus I am a fast learner and have boy I won’t repeat those credit card mistakes I’ve made in the past! No more charging for this gal! I know how to manage my money now and all I’m looking for is a little seed money to help me get out of this last glitch.
George, you don’t have to understand the reason why I’m asking for money or what I’m going to do with it…it’s just like the whole Wall Street situation. You don’t really need to know what is going on there either. It isn’t important. If it were, you would have done things differently from the start. Where we sit, right now, so close to the end of your term, what do you have to loose by helping me out? Why not pad the request with a few extra thousand dollars? For me? Please All I’m saying is now is the perfect time…I’d tell people you helped me and you’d be remembered as the beloved, kind president that you are!

You know, I’m a woman Mr. President, and if you help a woman out, maybe I’ll be inspired to vote for a woman Vice President? See where I’m going? Anything could happen once I am at that voting station. Heck, I voted for Geraldine Ferraro and she was running with WALTER MONDALE! What a geek he was! He wasn’t even a POW!

I know, I know, you don’t care about this stuff. You’ve got Senioritis. You’re itching to get out of office! So let’s not talk about my vote because we all know it doesn’t really matter anyway.

So I totally appreciate you taking the time to consider my request…it’d be so super cool if you could help a gal out. And this would be great for your image, but I won’t dwell. Just keep an open mind.

Mom says hi. She’s got another boil on her ass and she wanted me to come home and lance it for her but luckily I got called into work. Yikes! She says she’d love to see you come around for a visit sometime.

Other than that, everything else is cool with me. Stay your awesome self and enjoy your last few months in DC. Maybe I’ll be able to meet you in Cabo in the spring like we talked about at that last party. Oh, and be sure to have the White House Chef whip you up some chocolate pudding. I hear it is really tasty…better than a snack-pack! Remember that night? You were so HILARIOUS!!!

Okay, gotta go now. Hope to hear from you soon. Say hey to Laura and the Twins for me.

Linda S. Silberman

PS: If you wouldn’t mind throwing in an extra thirty grand for my sister’s student loans, that would be so sweet! Thanks!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Cupcake land isn't a piece of cake. On so many levels I've felt like I've taken a huge step backwards both financially and certainly professionally and for what purpose? What is the goal? Is it to serve tasty treats baked in paper wrappers? And at what cost? Does it matter at all if we move forward or backwards in life and who decides which is a forward movement?

A man came into the cupcake shop and asked me how I could work in such a place and not gain a lot of weight. I told him that I didn't know and he needed to check back in with me in a couple of months since I was new and have lost nearly 170 pounds. We'll have to wait and see.

I then said to him in a very joking manor, "It's like putting an alcoholic in a liquor store. It will certainly be exciting to watch!"

He said, "Well, I could never work in a liquor store!" and he grabbed his jumbo hostess cupcake stashed neatly in the crisp white bag and stormed out of the store.

Angry alcoholics are everywhere.

I'd forgotten how many alcoholics substitute candy and cakes for their bottle of bourbon or box of wine and that many of the cupcake clientele were also a bunch of drunks. Whoops.

Honestly, I think a good business plan for this rapidly expanding cupcake shop would be to select locations near upity AA meetings. Starbucks has the coffee program down but their pastry selections are really hit-and-miss.

I am also sure that my quick wit and many, many inappropriate comments will offend people for the rest of my days. My vision is to offend locally at first then expand to offend globally...preferably in writing!

But the real question is, what am I doing with my life? And if I am going to look at that question then I suggest you ask yourself too, what are you doing with your life? Does it matter at all what kind of work I do? Does direction matter? Do I need to move up or down or this way or that way?

Quite frankly, I can serve alcoholics a cupcake shop or behind a bar. If I did it behind a bar, I'd make a hellofalot more money...that's for damned sure!

My point to moving to New York was to write and create an interesting lifestyle and I like how "working for cupcakes" sounds but the reality of being on your feet for 8 1/2 hrs everyday after an hour-long commute from three trains and having to get up at 4:30 AM for said shift....well, it ain't glamorous and the worst part is that I have access to hundreds of cupcakes and I have no friends to bring them to in New York! That's what really sucks.

No. I'm not happy with this choice. But something will change. Either I will find another job (and I'm looking) or I'll get fired for pissing one too many alcoholics off. While I wait for something else to happen...maybe I'll stop pushing myself to know and simply enjoy the cupcake ride while it lasts.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AIG: Cupcakes and Idiots

The dirty blond woman in her late thirties dressed in a Donna Karan navy suit was not having a good day when she approached the counter and placed her order. The two dozen pink and white cupcakes would not ease her anxiety. I carefully hand selected and packaged her cupcake order. When handing her the credit card receipt, I sincerely said, "Have a lovely day."

"That's unlikely!" she huffed.

"Oh?" I asked genuinely interested.

"Yes." she said curtly. "I work for AIG as an attorney. I'm sure I'll be fired as the company goes bankrupt today. Don't you watch the news?"

"Oh no. I find it far too depressing. It's pretty bad today, huh?" I asked, referring to the wall street crash of yesterday. It was in all the morning headlines.

"Yeah it's bad!" she practically yells at me. My laissez-faire attitude fuels her anxiety.

"Well, you could always run a cupcake shop." I say cheerfully with a smile. "We're hiring and expanding."

"Ugh. No!" she sneers with disgust. "I am used to making real money!" She hastily grabs the cupcakes and storms out of the shop.

The money I make isn't real to her because it lacks a couple of zeros.

I am sure when she looses her Upper West Side apartment and her creditors come calling for the overdue balance on her American Express Card for all those sixty dollar cupcakes shes been impulsively buying to drown her sorrows, she may want to take a moment to reflect on an alternative lifestyle. Being an uppity cunt-bitch is great and all, but those who sneers down at lowly cupcake workers can't buy you points into heaven. Not that I believe in heaven, mind you, but I do believe that we create our own heaven and hell reality. And chasing the all mighty dollar for a corrupt insurance group who snags billions in profits and then screws the lawyers who made it all happen...well, it seems kind of like karma at work. Maybe there is a god.

And maybe she likes little pink cupcakes.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Friday, September 12, 2008

How the Universe Works

I've been listening to a lot of Esther and Jerry Hicks for some inspiration about the meaning of life and how this universe we live in works, because at times I seriously wonder what the hell it is all about and why I am here. Is it to serve humanity? Is it to serve the self? Is it to serve cupcakes?

What is the point of all of this anyway?

Esther Hicks channels a universal spirit or force they call Abraham. Abraham is the force that revealed the Law of attraction which is what "The Secret" is based off of. The Secret dropped Esther and Jerry for some legal reason...I love it when the new-agers fight over money...and the Hicks are still doing their own thing, which I have respect for. God bless them for getting out of the formula of "The Secret" which has a pretty good message overall, focus on what you want and that is what you'll attract. What I don't like about The Secret is that it focuses so much on material stuff. Visualize yourself driving the sports car and soon enough it will happen. If this were true than all the people visualizing bowls of rice in Ethiopia would be full of rice. I am sure starving people all over the world are thinking, feeling the desire of having food and still there is none available.

I'm obviously conflicted over this new-age theory. This topic came up this weekend with a friend of mine and we discussed, at length, how our thoughts attract certain elements in life. He is a scientist and I respect his logical approach to new-age mumbo-jumbo. He said how we can visualize a goal, a point in the future, and there are an infinite number of possibilities on how to reach that point, the question is which path will you choose?

Always the cynic and ever the skeptic, I decided to conduct an experiment on myself. At acupuncture yesterday, once I was comfortablly reclining in the chair and the needles were placed in my arms, legs and face, I relaxed taking deep breaths to center myself. Once I reached that place, I then practiced the techniques Esther and Jerry discuss; feeling the sensations down to the bones.

I felt it in my cells, my muscles, every fiber of my body the sensation of having a partner/boyfriend/man-thing...whatever you want to call it. A man. A big, tall strapping young man. I envisioned the feeling of having a boyfriend, us laying together in bed, laughing, my head on his chest post-coital, joyful, relaxed, loving.

it felt real in the chair. It was a lovely feeling. I didn't have a specific on how he looked or age, just that we were mutually attracted to each other and that we fit really well together. That's important to me, being six feet tall and all...I don't fit well with a man who's five foot four. At least I haven't in the past.

While I was in this feeling stage I said a little prayer to the universe:

Oh Powerful Universe, Infinite Light hear my prayer,
May this energy that flows through me, from the center of the universe through waves of energy through the top of my head down to the soles of my feet connecting me to this planet earth and returning back to source support me in this lifetime. May I find my mate who is out there looking for me and may we be joyfully together in loving energy that is for the highest good of all the people everywhere. Thank you god, spirit, ancient ones for your assistance. I am ever so grateful.
Ashey. Namaste.

In no time, my hour long acupuncture session was over. I had sat in that joyful, tingling, feeling sensation for an hour but it felt only like a few minutes. Smiling as I left my session, I felt great relief and let go of the prayer and visualization to allow the universe to go on its way.

I took the three subway trains to my new cupcake job on the Upper West Side and when I emerged onto seventy-third street, I had forgotten about my prayer. I attributed my feeling good from the acupuncture and didn't give my expiment another thought.

As I crossed Broadway walking towards Amsterdam Ave, a handsome, tall, very good looking young man was walking next to me. We had the same stride as we walked across the street and as happens sometimes in New York, we walked together in the same direction.

He turned and looked at me and said,"Damn! You're tall!"

I smiled and said, "Why, yes I am. So are you."

"Oh, I love a tall woman." he says...his dark brown eyes twinkling as he looked down at me.

"You know, I haven't had a girlfriend in over a year." he says.

"How is that possible?" I ask him. I really did find that hard to believe but it felt like he was telling the truth.

"I dunno...they all too little." and he gestures a height about mid-way to his chest. "I like a woman I can look in the eye." He stared and smiled hard at me.

Blushing I said, "A year is too long for a man like you to be without a girlfriend."

"You telling me?" he said.

The light changed on Amsterdam Ave and we crossed another street together, but I had to turn north to get to work.

As I turn to exit I say to him, "Hang in there...your girl is out there waiting for you too. I gotta go this way." I smile and cross seventy-third street to get to the cupcake shop.

He looked surprised and he may have thought I was trying to get away from him but I really did have to get to work. He kept walking east towards central park and I smiled for the rest of the day.

Yeah. The universe works fast.

Was he hitting on me? Probably. Why didn't I engage him more and give him my number or whatever? He was probably about twenty-six years old and was dressed in his grocery store apron. There is nothing wrong with me going out with a bagger or cashier or produce clerk from a grocery store, but in my recent history, it hasn't been a good match.

What I also find very interesting is that the men that have been attracted to me lately, or those who step-up and let me know are all between twenty-two and twenty-eight years old. Do I dive in and go for the young man? My friend who is also a physicist told me that I need to reach higher in my choices for men, but what if all that are attracted to me are hot, young grocery clerks? There don't seem to be any PhD. candidates looking for a cupcake queen! At least not yet. Do I go carnal for now? Does the morning conversation have to be intellectual? Can't it just be about the Yankees...damned Yankees... I still hate them you know. And why is it socially acceptable for an older woman to go out with younger men and why is it creepy if an older guy goes out with a younger woman? Such a double standard!

My point is that the universe is listening to my requests and paying attention, so I'd best wise-up and pay attention to what messages I am sending out there and seriously start receiving. And maybe I just give up my moral values for the grocery clerk. I know where he works and I think he gets off today around 2 PM. Maybe I need to go buy a couple of bananas before work!

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Green Tortoise Part XV

After hours on the side of the road, the diagnosis is complete. The bus has lost its leveling valve, the part that keeps the bus balanced and on its hydraulic system. We're assured that it isn't a safety issue, but until it is fixed we will be traveling on a tilted bus.

The passenger side of the bus is so much higher than the driver's side that if you place a can on the table on the passenger side of the bus, it will slide to the end of the table. Sleeping in the top bunks is not possible and if you are a senior citizen who likes to sleep in a lazy boy recliner, head propped up, you'll love sleeping on the big bed head pointing towards the passenger windows.

Because of this break-down, we have another change in our schedule. We'll be headed to Broadus Montana, population 430 for the fourth of July. Our bus parts will be express shipped to the tiny town and somehow, there will be a mechanic who will be able to install the parts to get us back on track.

And we hope they'll be able to check out the air conditioning system because that doesn't seem to be working anymore either.

It is day four of this fourteen day trip. Ten more days to go until we reach New York City. How will I make it? How will I endure these people, the damaged vehicle, and now no air conditioning?

Maybe I'll get off and catch a Greyhound bus...or if I can make it to Chicago I could grab a train to New York. Chicago seems far, far away from the Grand Tetons. And it is.

For now all I can do is load the gear back onto the bus as we head to our campsite for the night and make dinner.

Tonight we are having chili which is vegetarian. It is the first night we build a huge campfire and the entire group of us join together after dinner for toasting marshmallows and telling of ghost stories. The fire was much needed too. We were camping in high elevation and the nighttime temperatures drop down to 37 degrees fahrenheit (or 2.7 celius!)

In the morning we quickly make breakfast and pack-up our campsite for our next day's adventure in Yellowstone National Park...the part I'd been savoring since booking the trip. It is a three hour drive through the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone and we cross the Snake river several times as we climb to 8200 feet elevation on our leaning bus.

Yellowstone is scarred from a massive fire in 1988 that consumed 1.2 million acres of land or about 36% of the total area of the gigantic park. The fire was due to drought and was quite controversial since many people wanted it to burn out, rather than fight the fire. But it reached such magnitude that it was nearly impossible to extinguish. 25,000 fire fighters tried their best and it was lucky that only two perrished during the massive inferno.

Driving through the winding roads was like visiting a natural holocast. Charred tree bodies lay in the same direction as if an atomic bomb had been released instantly killing them. Twenty years later and the haunting remains move me to tears witnessing the sacrifice the trees made to allow new growth emerge in this massive eco-system.

Life exists after death. Many plants native to the area can only release their seedlings through fire. It is a natural act in the wilderness. I am reminded that through my most difficult moment; trial by fire, that I always emerge better, stronger, more alive than before.

Silence fills the bus for a long time as we quietly give thanks and honor the trees lost to allow the new growth in this magnificent land. The tree corpses lie in lush green foliage as if their dead bodies are fueling the new growth below.

We turned a sharp corner and enter into the land that was unharmed by this devastating fire. How does god decide that this tree is to die and this one to flourish? The contrasts is alarming.

The road twist and turns on our ride toward Old Faithful. Driver Dave drops us off a few miles from the actual site and tells us to walk their. The bus will meet us in the parking lot and we have only an hour and a half to complete the three mile hike at 8500 feet elevation to watch the gigantic geyser blow at 2:10 PM.

I hit the trail hard and fast. My determination to get there was not motivated by Old Faithful. There was a huge tourist area and I craved a good cup of coffee and prayed there would be cell phone reception of some kind and perhaps an outlet to charge my phone. And the honest truth is that I wanted an ice cream cone.

Judith, the sixty-four year old nurse from Australia, insisted on walking with me chattering the entire way. She is a good eight inches smaller than me and I have long legs and take long strides in my aggressive walks. Judith needed two steps for everyone of my one. I told her that I was not going to slow down and that she needed not to keep my pace but she insisted saying that she might be able to loose an extra stone (about 13 pounds) or two.

I droned out her rambling stories about her travels to Uganda, Tunisia, Mongolia, New Zealand. Why does silence make people so uncomfortable? Why do people need to always be chattering on about this and that?

"I can't imagine this will be any better than any of the geysers of New Zealand." She said. "Those are spectacular!"

We are less than half a mile to Old Faithful and I tell Judy that I must dash ahead for the restrooms. She understands as we part ways. I continue my pace to Old Faithful and pray for cell phone reception. Maybe my sister can find me a bus to get on in Montana. We'll be there in two days...maybe that is where I should get off.

Sadly, I have no reception at the lodge and did not bring my heavy laptop with me for the three mile hike.

I take this as a sign from God to continue on the trip and in good consciousness, I hated to waste all the money I'd spent on this trip to just abandoned it here in Yellowstone National Park.

Abandoning the idea, I find a spot on the benches that surround Old Faithful and await for him to blow. Hundreds of tourists join me for this event, everyone watching their watches to time the event. Steam builds and a small plop of water spits out sputtering puffs as Old Faitful teases the crowd like a stripper slowly pealing off a long red satin glove.

"Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!" a group of school children chant nearby. Nothing happens. Groans from the audience followed by laughter from the waiting crowd. Through the chuckles, Old Faithful blows.

It looks exactly like the pictures I've seen on postcards and in encyclopedias. The air is warm from the hot steam as a pure white stream of water shoots a hundred fifty feet into the brilliant blue heavens above. Ooohs and Aaahs are murmured by the tourists for the minute long display.

Everyone is a critic, even where natural phenomenons are concerned.

"That wasn't very high" said a woman with a Texas accent.

"We came all this way to see that?" a bored teenager moaned to her father.

"I've seen solar storms more impressive than that!" a man said. How I wished I could find him to ask him which solar storms he's witnessed. Did he see them first hand? I'd have to agree, that would be something to see!

Our group finds our bus in the giant parking lot of Old Faithful and we receive more bad news. The Rainbow Gathering has gathered in Wyoming and somehow, our camping reservation has mysteriously disappeared. We are going to drive back to the Grand Tetons, a four and half hour drive from where we are now, to spend the night.


I Hate Wyoming! Fucking Hippies.

To be continued...

So much love,
All the way from here....

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cupcake Queen

I've returned to mainstream society and left the life of leisure. I now managing a cupcake shop, well, actually I am training to manage the shop but it is not much like working compared to the projects that I've done in the past.

While my new trainers were kind and gracious I felt as if I were letting them down because I understood so clearly what needed to be done and there was not much to teach me except how to work their register.

Quite frankly, I am very over-qualified for this position...I see that now, but the company is growing rapidly and this may be a good career move in the long-run. For now, I will stick with it and allow my mind to wander.

Perhaps some of the sugary pink frosting will inspire poetic prose to flow through my reluctant fingers....


so much love,
All the way from over here...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I know what I said...

I said that writer's block did not exist. I guess I was wrong. Its not that I can't write, its just that what has been coming out is such crap and I don't want you to I have to ride this wave.

Living in New York feels like I have come home. The streets are somehow familiar, as if I awoke from a dream and entered my life. Still the day to day routines haven't worked themselves out yet, but I am getting the hang of it all.

My world is so small in such a large city.

One of the first things I did when I got to New York was to join a writer's group...good thing I did that too or else I'd not be motivated to keep writing and all I really want to do is write. The writer's round is an open forum so you never know who is going to show up and share their work. This can be a great thing...and it is very risky too. Open forums invite all sorts of characters. Last week a homeless interracial lesbian couple came, complete with wheelchair and dolls. One was half-deaf, and I only knew because she asked me to read to her good ear, and she was also developmentally disabled somehow. She was present but she seemed to have an ear to another world where great mysterious things happened. Her specialty was writing romance science-fiction. I believe this is a new genre she is creating.

Her partner, a mere child of 18, was a poet. She proudly declared that she had many different personalities, several who are poets. I was honored to hear three of her other personalities poems. This was the first time I heard several different writing motifs from one person...but of course there was only one physical being reading. Several had written the works.

The couple talked about getting married and moving off the streets...have a place of their own to house the writings crammed in over-stuffed spiral notebook; their scribbled pages looked like wild cats begging to be set free from their paper cages.

How do you tell a crippled, deaf developmentally disabled lesbian that your not sure who her audience is for her sci-fi-romance novel?

The hardest part was that her pages were tighter and more concise than anything I'd written in the last three weeks which immediately brought me back to my ego. How sad that I feel so weak in my own talent that I compare myself to this woman who has struggled for so long and all she wanted to do was share her work?

Who was I to tell her that there was no audience for her work? What did I know? Perhaps there is a literary agent out there looking for that simple piece of lesbian-astronaut space love.

I do not know.

Perhaps I judge too quickly.

Oh Mighty Jesus,

Hey! How's it going? I can see you and your pop have been mighty busy with the republician campaign and all I can say is Good Work! Wow! I did not see that one a coming....pregnant teens forced to marry just in time for the election! Way to help the democratic party! Thanks for keeping your ears open for us liberals.

So, I got a little issue lately that I'm hoping to turn-over to you. Seems like I've been hastily judging myself and others lately out of feelings of insecurity and quite frankly, I don't like it. So baby Jesus...if you've got room for another item on your to do list, please add my name to help me let go of my fear of failure or whatever you want to call it...low self-esteem and move on with life!

But seriously Jesus....the multiple personality poetry was hilarious and I only wish I could have transcribed it or had a copy for reproduction...all in your name of course. Thanks for all the great tunes, the tasty snacks and refreshing water. It is so good for my skin and you know how I love to grove while I write. Peace. Ashey. Namaste.

Yes, turning it all over to god...that is the way to get out of this overly-critical space.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trader Joe's

Everyday grocery store shopping in Manhattan is like being in a suburban strip-mall just before Thanksgiving. No matter what time of day you choose to visit the local Trader Joe's, it is always packed with hungry consumers looking for outstanding products at outrageously low prices.

I've been a Trader Joe's faithful customer since they first arrived in Seattle about ten years ago. They call themselves a "Unique Grocery Store" and being a grocery store aficionado, I would have to agree. Where they lack in wow factor merchandising, they make up for in great prices on cheese, meats, wine, chocolate and just about every other good thing there is to eat. But those low prices justify the extra tossing of items into the cart and it takes a disciplined shopper to leave the store without spending a hundred bucks or more.

Once I've found a great store, I am a loyal, faithful shopper. When I lived in Elko, Nevada, I willingly drove five hours in one direction for a the closest TJ shopping experience. While living in North Carolina, I'd plan weekend excursions to Washington D.C. for grocery shopping and when I most recently lived in Florida, I was thrilled that TJ's finally made it south to Atlanta! On those trips I came prepared with cooler and ice packs to insure the quality of the products during my 9 hour drive home.

Now that I am living in New York, I had to go visit Trader Joe's first and only store in Manhattan. It is in Union Square, the place where artists, writers, musicians and the homeless hangout watching everybody do their own thing. It is a colorful place filled with sounds and smells. An organic market sets up in the square twice a week and business people stream out of the office buildings surrounding the two city block square. Whole Foods has a store in the same area across from the square and the park is packed with hungry people munching out of recycled cardboard boxes from noon until dusk.

As you enter the Trader Joe's one of the first things you might notice at the end of the first isle is a sign hanging from the ceiling with a big yellow arrow pointing down that reads, "12 items or less here." This is where the line starts for the registers. The line snakes through the isles and there are employees holding signs that read "end of the line".

It is a bit discouraging. My first few tries I abandoned my red basket running out of the store overwhelmed and intimidated by the weight of my basket and the length of the line. It took three visits before I mastered the art of shopping while standing in line. The trick is for you to enter the store, walk the produce isle, get what you need there and then hop in line! From there, as the check-out line snakes around the store, you jaunt off and pick up this and or that and return the items to your basket and the line. New Yorkers are pretty darned friendly and will typically hold your place for you as you do for them while dashing down the dairy isle in search of the quart of half-and-half or ever popular Greek yogurt. God forbid where we would all be in this day and age without Greek yogurt!

You know, you can make Greek yogurt for about a quarter of the cost with regular yogurt overnight. It is so simple. Just get a strainer and line it with cheese cloth or a paper towel or even coffee filters, then dump a quart of yogurt on top of it and place the strainer over a bowl to catch the dripping liquid. Let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, covered and by morning...voila! You have Greek yogurt! I keep the container it was purchased in and then put the yogurt back in it so I have an idea of the expiration date, and then away we go! I've purchased lemon yogurt and strained it for a delicious topping for desserts or fresh fruit. It is fantastic!

All Greek yogurt is strained yogurt, but people are lazy. In my case, I am living somewhere with a tiny kitchen and I get one little shelf in the refrigerator so I don't have the room to make Greek yogurt, but I think I'm going to start doing this again because Trader Joe's has the best yogurt in quarts for $1.99 that is worth waiting in line for 30 minutes. The good news is that Trader Joe's is opening a store in Brooklyn in the next couple of weeks and I am sure it will be a hit.

The best technique I've witnessed at Trader Joe's is going shopping with a friend. One of you stands in line with an empty cart, right when you enter, and the other goes off shopping returning to the cart when their arms are full. That's my current fantasy; go shopping with a cute guy...and a strong one who can carry the bags on the two train rides home from the store.

Urban life. How I love it.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Green Tortoise Part XIV

My hair is finally clean. My skin refreshed. Being clean never felt so good. I turn my head quickly and get whiffs of grapefruit and rosewood leaving a lingering trail from my dark brown locks. Ah, such luxury in the wilderness. How refreshing.

Across the parking lot, the wounded vehicle stands alone in the distance. She is broken. A giant red tool box sits open at her tail, parts spread out ready to be handed to the tour bus driver and now, mechanic , Driver Dave. His white legs stick out from the back of the bus as Rory, a blond haired blue-eyed nineteen year old British guy squats down handing tools as requested. Cassie is pacing. She walks thirty-six feet south to the end of the bus then stops, pivots on her right foot and walks the same distance back as she talks on her cell phone.

Driver Dave has been a professional driver with the Green Tortoise for more than ten years. Next month he turns forty and has decided this will be his last season on the road. Come the fall, he will be working out of the main office for the company trouble-shooting phone calls from drivers like Cassie. This is the last summer where he will be underneath a 26,000 pound vehicle in the parking lot of the Grand Teton's National Park.

The giant silver and green bus is really leaning to one side now. The passenger side is much higher than the driver's side. Driver Dave has propped a spare tire underneath the bus near where he is working to prevent it from crushing him.

I shake my head laughing to myself as I return to the bus. God, this bus is just like the Malibu Stacey Funtime Camper; unreliable.

As one of the first passengers to return to the bus, I am assigned the task to keep everyone off the bus as they return from the showers. Cassie put the phone down for a second and tell us to start pulling luggage out of the cargo bay.

"This is not a good sign." I say to Val and she nods in agreement as we extract over-sized backpacks and duffel bags tossing them like professional airport baggage handlers to the side of the road.

A cluster of cumulonimbus clouds gathers in the west. I recognize them from white water rafting. It is the same storm we left behind in Idaho and it seems to be following us. The clouds are thick and heavy with chilling rain drops. As I lift and throw seventy-five pound bags, I ask God, out loud, why I decided to take this trip. This is a question I ask myself many times during the remaining ten days.

"There are worse places to be broken down, Linda." Donna says as she organizes the bags we toss out of the bay. She is a happy person by nature and the children mirror her cheery disposition. Although it is not enough to lift the mood to those of us who dread the thought of being broken down on the side of the road.

Most of the passengers have finished with their showers and are returning to the bus asking for information.

"Hey, what's happening?" Joe asks in his thick New York accent.

"The bus is broken, but I'm sure it isn't serious." Donna says confidently. "These buses have great mechanics in San Francisco and are well looked after." She explains to the children working to keep the spreading anxiety of the adults away from the children. She's been on six Green Tortoise trips so sshe has the experience to back-up her comments.

As Driver Dave emerges from below the bus, another tour bus, The Adventure Bus, pulls into the parking lot and slows down to a crawl as they drive by, staring at us like a side-show attraction. Driver Dave and Cassie sneer at the drivers of the Adventure Bus.

"Those guys think they're so cool." Cassie says. "Well, they're not."

Adventure Bus was started in 1997 by a group of former Green Tortoise bus drivers. Their tour bus interior is identical in design to the Green Tortoise but they are different. Unlike the Green Tortoise which pushes to have full capacity trips, the Adventure Bus limit on the number of passengers allowed on the bus, which is much lower than the Green Tortoise. The Adventure bus averages fifteen to twenty passengers per trip where as the Green Tortoise pushes for thirty-six passengers and has been known to regularly over-book trips. Carol shared a horror story about one trip she was on that had forty-four passengers!

Oh sweet Jesus! I felt crammed on this tour and our group was only twenty-seven. Forty-four people all on this one little bus? I asked where they all slept and Carol said t hey doubled up on the bunks above and were much tighter in the big bed.


To be continued...
So much love,
All the way know where...

Friday, August 22, 2008



take no photo

steal no glance

simply gaze

into my eyes

and witness

the beauty




Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kitty Kloset...

New York is filled with activities but meeting people here, like anywhere, is hard. New Yorkers are friendly and I've had many chats with strangers in the park, on the train, in cafes, but I haven't made any friends yet. Granted, I haven't been here long but I would like to meet some people who have shared interests.

I was chatting with a girlfriend about this and she suggested I do some volunteering and get involved with something. She said, "Find something that isn't repulsive to you and do it for a couple hours a week."

Good I took it.

I went to my resources for everything in New York; Craigslist. A lot of people hate Craigslist but it has been a good place for me....heck, I've been on job interviews, dates, found my writing group, found my apartment and even a new juicer (although I hate to add another to my scattered collection) all through Craigslist. Why not find my volunteering there too?

There are so many organizations where people need help and I considered several of them at The Lincoln Center, The Red Cross, Literacy Program, all sounded good but a bit daunting to me. Then I saw an ad for cat volunteers at a no-kill kitty shelter. This was sounding like something I could do, so I replied.

The non-profit organization is called Anjellicle Cats and is based out of Hell's Kitchen (which is right near the theater district.) Since this is a no-kill shelter, volunteers will go to kill shelters and rescue cats and kittens that are about to be put to death...often choosing the sick ones who aren't out in front of people and don't get adopted. Most of the sick kitties just have colds and that's how they come to us...yes, I am one of them now.

The kennel that I am volunteering at is in the back of a small pet shop on 49th street between 8th and 9th street. It takes me about 45 minutes to get there by subway...but that's how long it takes me to get just about everywhere because I'm living off a main line. The train I live near doesn't go into the city so it is always two trains just to get out of Brooklyn. I've gotten to know how the subways work pretty well for such a short period of time in New York.

This kitty shelter is more like a closet. New York is an expensive place to live and that is true for kitties as well as humans so I shouldn't have been surprised when I saw that the "shelter" was small. Not just small, but really, really tiny. It is about as big as an average bathroom. There are five cage where kitties who don't get along with others or who are sick are kept. Also the kittens are put in cages so they don't get stuck behind many of the small spaces in the tiny room.

Small is one thing, but is ridiculous. There are about fifteen to twenty cats living in this space. Those who aren't in cages are on the floor, on top of litter boxes, on top of storage bins, above the cages, underneath the cages...everywhere you look there is another cat. There are cats everywhere all craving attention and food, water, clean litter because no matter how often you change them, the kitties crave more.

When the door opens ten cats rush the door, some escaping into the pet shop which is the forbidden zone. There is a fat, healthy, happy pet shop cat and he has rule over the space which seems gigantic compared to where the kitties live. The shop owners are very stern about keeping the cats in the closet so the first task at hand is herding the cats back into the closet. Keep in mind these are not fat, suburban cats. These are New York City sleek city cats...skinny, long and limber. They are fast. But they listen too and I've found talking to them really helps them calm down and settle so I can give them what they want; clean water, fresh food and litter.

Next to the little room there is a tiny bathroom and my first shift alone, I let the cats run into the bathroom and sit on the cool tile floor while I swept out the cages and scooped dirty litter. I think they remember that, although I got busted big time by the pet shop boys. I was happy to take the heat for the kitties.

This week I kept the kitties in the closet and was dumping water dishes with small bits of kibble into the toilet before washing and refilling. As I did this, a rat swam up through the toilet pipes and out of the toilet to eat the food I was dumping. I screamed dropping the metal dishes and ran into the pet store to tell the guys and get help. When the three of us returned to the bathroom the rat was gone, hopefully back the way he came and the guys started flushing the toilets and opened the back of the tank to see if it was living there, but he was gone.

This experience showed me my ultimate NYC fear... a rat coming up through the toilet. I am lucky where I am able to manifest my fears almost immediately so to get them out of the way... at least that is how I am choosing to look at this situation. I have to look at it that way or else I'll make myself sick with worry and fear and I've got not time for that.

The pet shop guys kept asking me if I was sure I saw a rat. Oh yeah. I was sure. I've seen rats in the subways since I've moved here and I definitely know the difference between a rat and a mouse. This was no mouse. The experience left me shake and questioning if I'd picked the right volunteering opportunity for me. I mean, I didn't get any good loving time with the pussycats because there is too much to be done and the room is so tiny that I have a hard time breathing what with all the fur and fluff and dander everywhere. I was questioning if this was the right gig for me after the first time I went...the second time I had a rat encounter and I wondered again if I was doing the right thing.

A bit part of me feels like I am working off a karmic debt to Sing and Little Man, both of my cats who have run away. Naturally, I feel responsible for their actions. They were my responsibility and I was their owner. I made an agreement to care for these animals and I didn't do a very good job of it. It seems fair that I take care of these unwanted cats, scoop their poop, clean up their fur balls, wash out their water dishes, sweep the stray litter....

But is this what God has in store for me? Am I to be the kitties keepers? Perhaps I had a karmic agreement with Sing and Little Man and part of this arrangement was that they were to leave me. I don't know. What I do know is that if you are ever in need of using a bathroom and you are in Hell's Kitchen on 49th street between 8th and 9th, don't ask to use the toilet at Spoiled Brats Pet Shop. They would probably let you use it but you'll have to share the camode with some big city rats.

I wonder if volunteers are still needed at Lincoln Center?

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Green Tortoise Part XIII

Sitting in the egg shaped crimson compartment, the Tilt-a-Whirl went round and round and round until the world spinning by was a blur of colors perfectly smeared on a sky-blue background. Green leafy trees, white iron benches, yellow Chinese lanterns, summer clad tourists all blending together in perfect harmony. The old clammering diesel engine sputters black puffs into the sky and I am dizzy spinning round and round and round. Children's screams float through the air like brightly colored balloons. Flimsy metal bars sit loosely on their laps, bringing some sense of security. My skin feels sickly sweet from the cotton candy, waffle cones, funnel cakes saturating the air and I am transported in time and space, not thinking, just spinning, spinning, spinning until I am dizzy.

In the distance I hear words faintly saying, "Shit! Shit! Shit!"

The spinning continues round and round. "Shit! God Damned! Shit!" I hear louder. My eyes flutter open and I am in a foggy state, that place between dream time and human reality not knowing where I am. It is the wee hours of the morning. Stars brightly fill the big Montana skies as trucks whiz by our bus make up for lost time during daylight hours. We're stopped, parked on the side of the road.

"Urgh!" Cassie, overnight driver and professional babysitter, growled.

"SHIT!" she says in frustrated irritation. Hearing this brings me fully back to consciousness and I realize I am still on the Green Tortoise, sleeping snuggly between strangers. I lie still for a moment sad that the dream is over. The bus idles as another eighteen wheeler races passed us. Cassie checks her mirrors, takes a deep breath and turns the bus around again, spinning us back around to where we were just moments ago. She drives for a few quick miles, stops the bus again and switches on a light this time to read the handwritten directions again. Turns are highlighted in pink, roads are in yellow.

"I fuckin' did that!" she says with exasperation. "That’s it. I'm calling him."

"No! Don't wake him up!" the partiers say sitting together on the big bed behind the driver’s seat. Only a few were still awake at this hour, the others passed out in drunken slumber from strong cocktails served in blue plastic cups.

"No, screw you guys. I'm calling him." Cassie defiantly says.

I lean forward straining my ears to hear over the idling engine as Cassie tells the partiers to shut up as she picked up the walkie-talkie to ring Driver Dave who was sound asleep in the driver’s chambers in the back of the bus. No answer. She rang again.

Her tone changes from angry and frustrated to friendly and apologetic as Driver Dave finally wakes from his deep sleep. I readjust myself and Cassie lowers her voice so I cannot hear her at all.

“It’s okay. What’s up?” Dave says.

“Uh huh. Where were you?” He waits for an answer.

“Okay. Then what did you do?” He listens for a long time.

“Ummm, really? Weird. So then what?” He was as patient as she spoke for a while.

“Okay, okay. That’s okay. Then what did you do?” he probes.

“Alright. Did you add anything?” he asks. Add anything? What the hell? I thought we were just lost. What were they talking about? I leaned closer to the driver bunk to eavesdrop with more clarity. Maybe I didn’t hear him right.

“Did you add oil?” he asks. “Did it change anything?” he silently listens to the reply.

“Okay, but then you pulled immediately over, right?” he asks. “Why not!”

“I’m coming up.” He says and nearly as fast as he said the words, the curtain fly open from the sleeping cupboard and he swings his legs out hopping down gingerly stepping over sleeping passengers as he makes his way to the front of the bus where they hold conference in soft voices. Cassie turns the engine off and the big door swings open and they leave the bus.

A few minutes pass before they return inside the bus. Dave says, “It should be okay until morning.” and he steps over the slumbering passengers as he returns to his warm bed. Cassie fires up the engine confident of where we are headed and the miles fly back as we return to the road, full speed ahead. I fall fast asleep longing for carnival dreams on popcorn highways as the miles roll on under our big wheels.

In the morning, I wake up in the Grand Teton’s National park parking lot. Rumors are flying between the passengers when I returned from the out-house. Conversations clusters form around the prep tables as we make breakfast. What's going on? Were we lost last night? Yeah? I heard that we were but that the bus broke down, didn’t you hear that? Was the transmission out? Did you see anything leaking? What did you hear? When will the parities get up so we can get more details?

Esther groggily emerges from the bus rubbing her eyes. I asked her how she slept. It was the first night she chose to sleep in one of the top bunks which are suspended over the big beds.

“Terrible.” She said. “Is the water boiled yet? Is there tea?” she asks me. i know where everything is in the parking lot kitchen.

“Yeah it’s ready.” I say pointing to the hot water pitcher and open boxes of tea. “Why did you sleep so badly?” I ask as she dropped the tea bag in the orange plastic mug and poured the hot water for her brew.

“I kept falling out of the bunk. Like the bus was tilted.” she said. As she spoke I looked over at the bus and sure enough it was tilting hard to one side at a steep incline. Poor Esther kept rolling towards the floor of the bus and she had to hold on to the side to keep her from falling onto the sleeping passengers below.

Cassie typically sleeps in after we hit our parking lot destination but this morning she was up with us. She was going to go hiking through the Grand Tetons in a couple of hours and decided to sleep later since we were camping out tonight.

“What happened last night Cassie? Did you get lost?” Ryan laughs as he asks her. He is a buff Australian buck and he has a serious crush on Cassie. She pretends not to notice. All the young men have crushes on her.

“Yeah, but just for a little while.” Cassie said laughing at her mistakes from the night before. She is a junior driver with three years experience under her belt. This is her first time driving the Northern Crossing route and Dave is showing her all the tricks of the trip. Cassie is a pretty brown haired woman in her late twenties who graduated from college with an English degree and decided to become a teacher. She taught high school for a couple of years in the San Francisco Bay area. During her third year of teaching, she took the Green Tortoise down to Baja California and it changed her life forever. She fell in love with the bus, the lifestyle and culture. Then and there she decided what she wanted to do. She quit her teaching job and called the bus company owner convincing him to give her a job as a driver. He did. He hires a lot of people based on passion and not on driving skills. Those can be learned. He sent her to truck driving school to get her Class C license and she started accruing hours on the open road as an assistant driver. Cassie’s a tough girl from Montana, unafraid of the open road or the professional drivers who inhabit them. When she’s not on the open road she is a babysitter.

I think when she is on the road she is babysitting too.

Part of the attraction to taking a Green Tortoise trip is that they don’t drive just on the major highways. They plan trips taking the scenic route, even during the nighttime. Cassie missed a couple critical turns during the night. Anyone could have missed them since they weren't clearly marked. We only circled for an hour or so before getting the back on track. She won't make that mistake again.

Driver Dave gathers us around as we finish eating to tell us the day’s itinerary. After we clean-up we are headed to Jenny Lake for several hours of hiking. We can take a boat ride across the lake if we want or walk around the lake; it’s about four miles around. Turns out it's seven miles, but who's counting?

“What’s wrong with the bus?” someone asks.

“As soon as we know, we’ll let you know but for now we are going to Jenny Lake and then we’ll be headed to our campsite in the Grand Teton’s and on the way we’ll be making our first shower stop.” Dave says with a smile.

“Will there be hot water?” I ask still craving hot waters from the icy Salmon River the day before.

“Yes and you can get a clean towel for an extra dollar. The showers cost three or four dollars and the towels are extra.” He says. “But first we’re going to hike around Jenny Lake, okay?”

We cheer as we rush to clean-up the breakfast mess. Many of us are more excited about the shower than the hike and there is an enthusiastic chattering as we hurry cleaning up the breakfast tables and pack it all away.

Jenny Lake is beautiful. The mountains are full of late spring snow, the air is crisp and wild flowers are in bloom. Hundreds of tourists flock the lake and wander on the paths scaling mountain cliffs as white water crashes down from melting glaciers above. It is a beautiful place despite the crowds, all eager to have photos taken on big rocks and in front of natural waterfalls. I feel suffocated as there is chatter everywhere and I cannot hear the trees and rocks speak as I hike. I decide to take the boat ride across the lake hoping there will be less people there and am disappointed.

Having had the luxury of owning a VW Bus and the freedom to travel when I wanted, I avoided places with big crowds. My way of communing with nature is through silence and meditation. I absorb my surroundings grateful for the privilege of being allowed to witness the intimacy of the wilderness. But there is no silence in these woods. The trees creak as the wind causes them to sway. Birds chat back and forth with feathered friends about berries and beetle snacks. Squirrels cry out warnings to others to keep away from their secret stash. Blooming plants assault the senses causing emotional reactions from wild bergamot and clary sage. In the wild I am humbled to witness the raw beauty of nature and I am offended by the tourists who ignore the rangers’ requests to stay on paths, preserve the land.

I finish my hike and find a quiet place to eat lunch only to be disturbed by a fighting family from New Jersey. They fight like most families do, loudly. The teenagers want freedom from their middle-aged parents, the pre-teens want to run and play, the parents want everyone to get along and they express it all through yelling not listening to each other. How sad that they are oblivious to the beauty that surrounds them at that moment. Road trips are not for everyone.

I abandon my desire for peace, pack-up and head back to the information area where I people watch and have my first cup of good coffee in several days. Our group reassembles and we head out to our campsite, an hour drive away where hot showers await our arrival. I'm ready for this moment having prepared my day pack with all the essential supplies: exfoliating gloves, deep conditioning shampoo and conditioner, my favorite Aveda body lotion, Jojoba oil for my hair and skin, anti-frizz serum and styling gel, clean clothes complete with fresh socks. I splurge and pay for the fresh towel which is thick and absorbent. It is mid-afternoon and there is only a short wait for one of the ten stalls to open.

Oh Glorious God! Thank you for this most excellent of showers and may my skin be refreshed from the deep cleaning. Scrub all the dirt from my pores and keep the showers coming, Lord. Please forgive me for ever taking hot water and soap for granted and may I grow from this stench that now I release down the drain. Amen.

I pray unaware that my next shower wouldn’t be for another six days.

To be continued…