Tag Archives: nyc

My Marathon – Part 2

Sunday, November 2… Race day.

It’s just about a quarter of 11 in the morning, the sky is a pale blue and dense with puffy, white clouds. I’ve been sitting in a heated tent for three hours, waiting for my wave to start and now out of it, I’m cold. I’m bundled in mismatched pieces of clothing that have been picked from the Goodwill bag under my bed and I look a bit like a ragamuffin. But I’ll be tearing this extra layer off soon anyway, so it really doesn’t matter. This is assuming I make it to the starting line.

I’m sprinting through a field in the start village at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, in a state of panic that after five months of training and three thousand dollars of fundraising, I may have messed this up. “I need to find orange,” I say to three volunteers standing in a huddle, shivering, but still smiling. “I’m supposed to be with orange and I’ve been waiting in green.” I think they must be wondering how it is that I’ve been standing in line for ten minutes with the wrong color group. On marathon day, this is no small detail. “That way,” one points. “You’re fine,” another one says, as if she can hear my heart beating out of my chest. In another minute I’m in a mass of runners on the left side of the upper deck of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, waiting for the cannon.

I take a relieved breath and laugh to myself that it’s a small wonder I’ve made it here. Aside from the color mishap, what was to have been a restful pre-marathon week was hardly that. With my childhood best friend Diana, in town from LA, family flying in from Florida, race day logistics to map out with them and whatever friends would be coming to cheer, miscellaneous details I’d had worked out but were somehow still hanging over me, and worst of all, the sore calf that had me worried I might not be able to even make it through half the race, I was running on far less sleep than I should have been. But not enough sleep is a norm for me, so yes, of course I’ve made it. I have just enough time to ask a woman to get a pre-race shot of me, and then I hear the announcer over the loud speaker. “Runners are you ready?” I am ready for sure. A moment later, we hear the cannon. And we’re off.

My only memories of ever being on this bridge are from childhood, when we would go to visit family on Staten Island, and of course, they are from within a car. To be underneath this great piece of architecture, on foot, so small, is surreal. And as I settle into these first few minutes, in silence, wide-open sky surrounding me, I say to myself, “This is it. You’re running the New York City marathon.” And I can’t help but smile. And considering what it is that I am doing, and the nerves that had rattled me only days before, I’m completely calm. I’m here and I know what I need to do.

We reach the downhill of the bridge and people are passing me on both sides. Swarms of them. I want to race ahead, but I can hear my coaches’ advice and remember that this early in, I still have hours to pass them, and I will. I’m feeling warm and think it’s a good time to strip my extra hoodie, and as I do, I notice my ponytail is loose, and that my hair is slipping. I try looping the rubber band around again to no avail, and realize the one I happened to grab while getting ready, is overstretched and pretty much useless. Having no spare, and knowing I cannot make it the rest of the race with my hair falling from the bundle atop my head, I start weighing my options, and before long, I begin to notice, amidst the light scattering of litter along the road, every few minutes, there is a hair tie. I’m hardly thrilled at the idea of stopping to pick one up, but after passing half a dozen of them, I think this might just be the answer to my conundrum. Just before mile six, I do so; problem solved.

I’m now running behind a guy who is wearing a shirt with a dedication on the back that says: In Memory of Baby Daniel. I get choked up, thinking of this little one; and of how lucky I am to be here, healthy and strong. But with this swell of emotions, my breathing becomes labored. So I veer away from him and turn my focus to the street numbers, knowing that I will see my first cheerleaders very soon.

I spot the C-Town grocery store up ahead on the left. My family is to be two blocks up from it, and I’ve been told, I will probably see them before they see me. When I notice that, on our pre-determined corner, there’s a water station (as we had discussed there might be) I know instead, they will be waiting two more blocks beyond that, as per our [very detailed] plan. When I see them—my mother, my sisters Gabriela and Kristina, my Aunt Dorothy and my cousin Katherine—it is exactly how I dreamed it would be, and I bolt to them with open arms, to hug and kiss each of them. And as I run off, they cheer for Tough Cookie which I’ve emblazoned on the back of my race singlet as a thanks to my mother who taught me to be one. On this day, I hope I am making her proud.

As I continue up through Brooklyn, along 4th Avenue, I stop three more times to meet people there to cheer me on; first my friend Emily from work whose head happens to be down just as I am passing, as she is about to sip her coffee. I surprise her. Then it’s Allie and Jamie and their new little bundle Sam who looks like a sleeping cherub, who I blow a kiss to, this the first I’m seeing him since his birth. And then it’s Lisa with Christina and Leroy. With these three, I jump around in a group hug, screaming and cheering. As I continue on, I see a woman with a sign on her back that says this is her 20th marathon. I think wow, and congratulate her as I run by. Then it’s a woman with a prosthetic blade from one knee down. Talk about believing in yourself! I speed up to meet her and I tell her she is awesome. And then I find my place on the left again where hands are out for high fives and people can see my name and shout for me. Their energy is the fuel that keeps me going.

Soon after entering Williamsburg, I spot a sign with big bold letters that reads GO DRE, and I think it must be for me, this my neighborhood. Sure enough, it’s another pair of friends, Aoife and Jeremy. They ask how I am, and I reply that my legs are a bit tired but that I’m having fun. To think I was feeling tired at mile 11. Ha! If only I’d known what was to come. I continue on, along this stretch that’s been a practice route throughout my training. I’ve just made my way through Greenpoint and here it is, the halfway mark.

I’ve been waiting to get here, to take from my shoelaces the twisted piece of plastic in which I’ve stashed two Tylenol. The pain in my calf has worsened, and my ankles are aching to the point that yes, physically, it would feel better to quit. But of course, I will not. I keep telling myself that I will rest when this is done, but that for now, I’ve still got some work to do. There’s a string of people waiting at the Port-o-Let but I need to pee, so I hop off the course and get into line. And once out of the stall, I grab a cup of water, swig the capsules back and return on my way. This pause, even the short three minutes that it was, is beyond painful to recover from, and I tell myself that from here on, I cannot stop again, except to slow for water, or of course, to say hello, should I see any more friends along the route.

The Pulaski Bridge is just ahead. And though I typically run on the pedestrian sidewalk rather than across its six traffic lanes, I know it well. It’s quick and easy, and will bring us from Brooklyn into Queens. As I round the bend onto 47th Road, my friend Greg is there and again, I stop for a hug. Every time I see a face I know, I’m uplifted. The reminder that so many people are behind me in this goal, is overwhelming. So on this momentary high, I trot along through Long Island City, and next thing I know, I see that we’re approaching the 59th Street (Queensboro) Bridge.

On the advice of a coach, I did a practice run over the bridge a month before. And, in all honesty, I really enjoyed it. The incline here is long but subtle, and the view of downtown Manhattan is stunning. So I wasn’t the least bit worried about running it on race day… Until earlier that morning, when I realized that it isn’t the bridge itself which people find so challenging, but that it comes at 15 miles into the race at which point many runners have been pounding the pavement  for two hours already. I wonder for a minute how I’ll fare, then shrug off my worry, sure I’ll be ok. I’ve maintained an easy pace since the start and the Tylenol from a couple miles before has begun to kick in.

Looking back, the 59th Street Bridge was one of my favorites parts of the race. There is no doubt that for a runner on marathon Sunday, the crowds are invaluable. They are there, along the lonely stretches, in between our family and friends, propelling us to go on. But for a mile, as we traverse the East River from Queens to Manhattan by way of this grand structure, they are absent, and the only sounds are those of our breath and our footsteps, and the footsteps of those around us. And it is peace, and a time to reflect on this goal, which we are about to accomplish.

But, such calm can only be for a short time, of course. Once off the bridge, we’re on First Avenue, and on marathon day, First Avenue is where the wild things are—people spilling out from the bars with pints in hand, cheering, hooting, howling. All along the route, strangers are calling my name, “Come on Dre,” “Keep it up Doctor Dre,” holding their hands out for more high fives. At 111th Street, I find another threesome of familiar faces cheering for me—Rachel and Craig, and Kim who’s crafted a sign that in our group hysteria I don’t even get to read. (Thanks anyway girl.) This time was the seventh that I’d stopped to meet friends, and still I’m not tired of it.

As I run off, waving goodbye to them, I realize that I’m now at a stretch where I might not see anyone else until the end of the race when I reach the bleachers where my family now waits. And this unfortunately, is probably where I need people the most. First Avenue is coming to an end and just ahead, there’s a small bridge that will bring us into the Bronx. It’s the Willis Avenue Bridge, and even though I’d known it was coming, I was not happy finally seeing it. It’s a fraction of the Queensboro, but the incline is immediate, and sharp, and my legs are screaming. But then out from the sidelines, just before I reach the start of it, one of my coaches catches a glimpse of my neon yellow singlet and runs up to me. “Hey sister,” he says, placing an arm around me. “You know where we are?” I nod my head. “Almost done?” He’s running with me and tells me, “After this bridge you’re at mile 20.” Ah yes, I think. Mile 20, where people ‘hit the wall.’ I have told myself that I will not, but of course, no one’s mind ever wants to quit, but sometimes, the body just can’t continue. With his arm still around me, he says to me: “This is what I want you to do. You’ve got six miles to go. For each one, I want you to think of someone and dedicate that mile to them.” I said ok, and that’s what I did.

The bridge was as awful as I imagined it would be upon seeing it; but when at the end, I heard a voice calling my name and saw another friend Laura waving from 138th Street, whatever pain I’d been feeling had—at least for a few moments—vanished. But soon enough I’m onto Fifth Avenue battling another long, slow uphill. At about mile 23, from the crowd along the sidelines, another coach spots me. “Go Team For Kids,” she yells. And then she runs up to me, and jogging at my side, she says, “I want you to Keep that pace!; Keep that pace!” And as I continue, I know if I am going to finish strong, I need to do just that. So as I move on to my next dedication, I say to myself, “Keep that pace. Keep that pace.” It’s mile 24 now. I think as far as I’ve come, what’s two more miles? So I’m racing along, and again from the sidelines, I hear my name. Surely, out of 50,000 I’m not the only Andrea… Probably not even the only [On-DRAY-uh], but somehow—maybe because I wanted it to be—I knew the call was for me. And there amongst the crowd, is Diana in town from LA with her sister, who by some crazy stroke of luck, just so happens to be passing though New York this weekend. I stop, this time for a hug and a picture, and then I continue on my way.

We’ve cut into the park from Fifth Avenue, and I can see Central Park South up ahead, and I know that just beyond, I’ll be approaching the finish. But I’m feeling weak, in need of one last push. Knowing that for sure, no one else I know will be waiting along the route, I move to the left and put my hand out. It’s high fives the whole way. I need them. “Go Dre,” one girl says. “You’re kicking this race’s ass!” …As if we’d been friends for years. Finally, I am rounding the corner, back into Central Park, and I remember that it is now time to go fishing. ‘Go fishing’ as my coach says—pick out a runner that’s fifty feet ahead and catch them. I’d spotted her minutes before— jet-black bob, hot-pink tank top. My eyes are on her but she won’t let up. On top of this, I’ve got nothing left. I’m well into the bleachers now, and having not seen my family, I’m assuming I’ve missed them. Then I hear my name, and when I turn, I see my sister in a ruby red pea coat, the rest of them jumping around her. I flash a smile and raise my arms out to wave. Well, I guess that was the boost that I needed, because when I turn my head back to the finish line, I’m passing the woman with the jet-black bob in hot pink. And then there I am, my arms raised high above my head, and I am crossing the finish.

Again, it felt like a dream. Except, that now, after 26.2 miles, from my hips to my feet, it feels as if my body is broken, and I am reminded that it’s real—that I have done it. I shuffle along with the rest of the crowd, more uncomfortable walking than I had been running. A few times I think I might keel over. “Move along,” they tell us, as runners behind us continued to pour across the finish. A volunteer drapes a medal around my neck, its weight pleasantly substantial. I stop for a few photos and continue on to where another volunteer wraps me in a HeatSheet. A few steps beyond her, another tapes this metallic cape that is supposed to keep me warm shut. I can exit the park here and find my family, but I want to visit my charity tent, even though it’s tucked a little further into the park and will take a bit of extra walking to get there. How I wish, at this moment, that I could fly.

I’m hobbling, (no joke, pulling one leg up by my pant), and a text rolls in from my cousin. 4:22:58. Awesome! Yes awesome, but I am puzzled, recalling that I had seen 4:46 on the clock. So, 4:46 was a minute past my goal time, but hey, I was still standing. I’d take it.  But 4:22:58… I’ll really take that… if I can!

Finally arriving at the tent, bundled now in a heavyweight cape and warm, I get to catch up with a couple of friends from my team. They explain to me how there were four clocks; one for each of the four waves. (Duh!) I was likely looking at the wrong one. So it was 4:23, which means I finished seven minutes earlier than I’d hoped, even with nine stops for hugs. I feel a current of pride run through me.

We sit together for a while, basking in the splendor of our collective achievement, recounting the highs and lows—the camaraderie on the course, the fans’ support, the aches, the pains, the wind! Then one of them asks: “So will you do it again? Without a minute’s pause I look up from my swollen feet and tell her no. “It was really hard,” I reply. “I did it. I can cross it off my list. And I’m so happy. But I think once is enough.” And she looks at me with a knowing grin and says, “Wait until tomorrow.”

Sure enough, when ‘tomorrow’ came, I knew immediately I wanted to do it again. I told my sister I imagine (having never been through it myself) that it’s like giving birth—utterly painful, but so worth it.

I went in to the race knowing that people have said running the New York City marathon was the best day of their life. Naturally, I wondered if I would think the same. It’s a big statement to say that a day—one particular day—is the best of your life. I think I was almost afraid to give this designation away. But for now, I think I have to agree. It was a day filled with so much joy; one that I look back on with such a happy heart. I am so thankful for every part of it—for my body that carried me, my mind that wouldn’t let me quit, for my family, and my friends, that came to be there with me, and for those that couldn’t be there, but still supported me; for my teammates and coaches that ran beside me; for this great city that was the greatest host, and for our beautiful earth, its blue sky and sun, and even for the wind.

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Moving Forward

September 11, 2014

Even as sensitive a person as I am, I’m always a little surprised that I still cry when this morning comes around; that for not having lost any loved ones and having merely been a witness, on this day every year, the memories still sit at the forefront of my mind. I suppose though, when the wound is so severe, the scars never really do go away. Thankfully, despite never forgetting, we do go on, tending to our busy lives—our current projects, and the tasks of the present.

One of my ‘current projects’ is training for this year’s New York City marathon. And one of my to-do’s for the day, was a long run. I’ve been lucky, with this summer’s unusually pleasant temperatures, to have logged most of my miles outside, but of course, I’ve had to rely on the treadmill here and there too. The treadmill has it’s plusses—the soft surface, no wind to battle—but for nine miles, it’s just boring. So it was my plan, leaving home this morning, assuming there would be no rain, that my long run would actually be a run home from work. Well, unlike the perfect blue sky we awoke to 13 years ago, the one this September 11th morning was overcast and gloomy. And all afternoon, the threat of a storm seemed to linger above us. But at 6:30, to my surprise and delight, the mighty sun had made its way out from behind the dense canopy of clouds. So I would get my fresh air.

But I couldn’t just bolt like that. See, these long runs, I’ve learned, require preparation. And the preparation requires focus, because if even only one thing is forgotten, I could be in for misery at some point along the way– say, for example, last month’s matching half-dollar size blisters, or the other day when I locked my keys inside my apartment and had to wait, sweaty and exhausted after a two-hour run, for my super to come and save me. So first, it’s a lengthy bandaging and wrapping of both of my feet; then, it’s securing my hair back with a strategic placement of bobby pins so to avoid annoying mid-run fly-aways. And then I have to gather my little pack of essentials—my headphones (must have music), ID (in case of emergency), handkerchief (because I always have the sniffles), energy chews (fuel for the journey), and of course keys. So, I went through the routine, did a double-check that I’d covered everything, and then I was off.

Outside, my mind quickly began to wander, assessing my latest aches and pains, mapping my route and water stops and where I’d be when darkness would fall. And in all of my thinking, ironically, I’d sort of forgotten the day, or that it wasn’t just any day, but 9/11. But then at around Gansevoort Street, the running path on the Hudson River Promenade juts a little further westward and the view of downtown Manhattan opens up. So out of nowhere, suddenly right in front of me, I see the Freedom Tower. And the sky, instead of its earlier, sad grey, was now the most beautiful backdrop, in swirls of pink and white and blue, like cotton candy. Almost instinctively, my arm went up in a fist, like a “woop woop” cheer. And then, worried someone might have seen it and misinterpreted it, I brought it down as quickly as it had shot up. Of course, I wasn’t cheering for the day, but that we’re still here, rebuilt, standing strong.

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I continued on my way as the sun set. And as I curved around the southern-most tip of the island to begin heading northward, I was stopped again, this time to see the tower aglow against the night sky, and to its right, the illuminations of the former towers, reaching upward. I know it sounds sappy, but it took my breath away.

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And then from the bridge, looing back at Manhattan…

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As I write this, again I think it’s strange, that after my morning in tears, as the day went on, I’d almost forgotten it was September 11th. I will never associate the word happy with this date, but on my run, I was glad to have been reminded of it again, seeing the Freedom Tower before me, and glad that instead of feeling sad, I felt propelled to move forward, with my head lifted, proud and strong.

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Afternoon in the Park

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Whenever I whine to my sister about distractions that seem to constantly be getting in the way of my writing, she says that if I want to really finish my manuscript—which I’ve been talking about and toiling over, for way too long now—I need to work like I’m on a deadline. I have to act as if I’m turning it in for a grade. And sometimes, I need to say no, even if I really want to say yes. Like this past weekend, Memorial Day weekend, the first weekend of beach season…where everyone in New York City gets out of town.

I got on the pale-skin bandwagon at least a decade ago, after years in Florida, striving to achieve a permanent honey brown. These days, I accept my naturally fluorescent-white complexion (that has only become more blinding by living in the north), and have gotten used to the ritual of tanning by way of a bottle. Still, a little Vitamin D will always do a body good, and who doesn’t love a day at the beach? So when my friend invited me to head out with her on Monday, I jumped. But then the scene of me standing on the rooftop, shouting that I have FINALLY FINISHED MY BOOK flashed in my head. And though I really wanted to say yes, I had suck it up and politely decline. Because as much peace as the beach is to me, the hot sun on my skin, the powdery sand the most comfortable bed, it’s a place to shut off and not feel guilty about doing so.

So I’d turned down Robert Moses, but I still needed a plan. Finally seeing sunshine after the long, grey, winter, almost overnight, the trees alive again with lacy leaves, the sky a comforting, chalky blue, I felt like I’d be sinning, staying cooped up inside my apartment, or anywhere inside for that matter. But ‘outside’ in New York City pretty much means a day at the park, and a day at the park—be it Central Park or Prospect Park, Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, or even Washington Square Park (though the bravery quotient in the squirrels there has me a little on edge)—means a day of napping in the grass. But then it came to me—Bryant Park. I’ve been there countless times for summer movies, and I tell myself I should visit more during the weekday lunch hour so to maybe find my husband, but I don’t think I’ve really ever given it enough credit. It really is a masterpiece, with the feel more of a classic garden than your typical city park. Aside from its central lawn, that is the only part of it I’ve really ever paid attention to, there’s a bubbling fountain, two grand tree allées, ping pong tables and Pétanque, a carousel, a reading room, and best… for a writer… café tables and chairs lined all along its promenade. So as my friend headed to the beach, I packed my bag…and headed for midtown.

When I arrived at the Bryant Park subway station, it being one I rarely travel through, I was clueless as to which staircase would lead me where, above ground. So I chose the nearest one, and lucky me, I landed in a quiet corner where an empty table was calling my name. I sat down and positioned my chair inward, so that just beyond the sprawling blanket of wild—or at least wild-looking—ivy in front of me, there was the lawn with families picnicking, children skipping, an intermediate yogi repeatedly practicing his headstand and tumbling; and bordering that, the park’s perimeter trees, behind which stands a wall of city buildings. The trees planted in Bryant Park are London plane trees, the same species in one of my favorite places in Paris, the Jardin des Tuileries. They can grow to be 120 feet tall. I sat under one so high I couldn’t see the top of it, I thought it must’ve been at least that. Tiny sparrows played in the shrubs, pigeons pecked at crumbs near my feet, and high above, a covey of others sang songs to one another from tree to tree, and zoomed in flight from lamppost to lamppost, making me jealous, wishing I too could fly. The sun peaked through the canopy of leafy branches, warming the shady ground where a father and son played chess, and two wrinkly, white-haired ladies gossiped with iced teas, and an odd couple walked hand-in-hand. I wrote, alone in my green corner, and in between words, would pick my head up to just watch, in awe of the beauty surrounding me, even despite the city bustling fifty feet away. It was perfect…

Almost perfect…

About an hour in, at one of my pauses, I noticed a man approaching my table. He was in his early 60s I would guess, dressed nicely, appearing clean. There was nothing about him that alarmed me. I figured he had a question; needed directions, or the time. After all, I am the one people pick out amongst a crowd at the post office to ask if I think their package has enough postage on it. I’m used to strangers. “I noticed you’re writing,” he said. “And I just couldn’t help but admire the magical quality you have, here on this beautiful day, working so peacefully. I used to write poetry and I know, sometimes you can be searching for the perfect word for hours, and it helps to just look into the distance.” Ok. Not what I expected, but he kind of nailed it! It was, in fact, a beautiful day, and the scene to me, did feel magical. “Yeah,” I said. “It’s really perfect.” And then I remembered his mint green pants and his fedora. I’d seen him earlier, walking around with a younger man at his side. Thieves? I reached, nonchalantly, down to my bag that I’d nestled in between my ankles, making sure it was still there; that his chit-chat wasn’t really a way of distracting me while his pick-pocket sidekick got to work. After years in New York, as sad a truth it is, you learn to watch out for this. But my bag was there. All good. “So are you writing poetry?” he asked. “A novel,” I replied. “Wow,” he said back with a bow of his head. “Great that you have a novel in you at your age. You’re not writing the sequel to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ are you?” Seriously? Never mind the fact that I’m pretty sure there’s already a sequel, and maybe even a third volume—Eewww!! Where was he hoping this would go? “No. I’m working on something of my own,” I replied with a disapproving shake of my head. After another two minutes of trying to engage me, he got the hint, offered his best wishes and finally parted.

A while later, a homeless lady came up to me asking for change, and then a toothless man asking to borrow my pen. Ok, fine. Minor distractions. Back to work. Then some time later, a pasty kid with a choppy Mohawk and an array of haphazardly placed tattoos and a pierced septum came up and introduced himself as an image consultant and tried to convince me to take his card. Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I think I’ll stick to the path I’m on…image wise. Soon enough, he noticed my disinterest and walked away and again, I got back to work. Then the man two tables down from me, who had been quiet and keeping to himself the whole afternoon, started rummaging through belongings he had stuffed into a collection of tattered, plastic grocery bags. And then he broke out in a fit of maniacal laughter. And that sent me packing.

I closed my notebook, happy with what I’d accomplished for the day, feeling ok to call it quits. It was six o’clock and I was hungry. I took a look around once more before leaving, and felt thankful—for the beauty surrounding me…and even for some of the crazy. I mean, after all, that’s New York.

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Keanu Forever

I think the first celebrity I ever saw face-to-face in NYC was Susan Sarandon. Or maybe it was Derek Jeter. Or was it David Duchovny? My point is that I’ve seen a lot of them. In fact just last night, I swear I was standing in line behind Toby McGuire at Shake Shack. Seeing celebrities is just a ‘thing’ when you live in New York City. It’s normal. No big deal. But– when you’re from out of town and you come to find yourself in close quarters with someone like Keanu Reeves, it is a big deal. That is precisely what happened last week to my little sister Kristina (always little, yes, even at 32), and I am cracking up.

It was Saturday night, we were out in Soho after dinner with our other sister and niece. It was late and after a number of drinks, we’d finally decided to call it a night. I was standing outside the bar chatting it up with some new friends and my sis runs out yelling, “Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh,” I just met and hugged Keanu Reeves.” 

“What?” I replied with a dubious half smile.

“Yes. Look inside,” she replied, pointing to the glass to show me that it was indeed him. He looked to be about 6′-2″ and though not the hot young thing we drooled over in our high school days when he was a major Hollywood heart-throb, he is still a pretty damn good looking fellow. 

So I asked her, “How did you hug him?” (I mean, who hugs celebrities?)

She began… 

“Well I saw him and I knew it was him but I asked anyway: “Are you Keanu Reeves?” 

“Uh yes. I’m Keanu Reeves,” he replied. (Can’t you just hear his voice?!)

Then she looked up at him and said, [brace yourselves]: “I really love watching your surfing movie.” Note here: she decides to mention a movie from…over 20 years ago! That would be fine if he had given up acting at some point during the twenty years. But no, he’s still around. Sure, not the it-man he once was (??) but yeah, he still pops up here and here. Another fun fact here is that my sister stands 5-‘1″ and she pretty much looks like a doll. Imagine this scenario.

So Keanu replies, “Ah, Point Break.” 

“Yeah, Point Break” she said back, gushing I’m sure. And then she continues: “I know you probably get this all the time, and I don’t want to harass you…but, can I hug you?”

And Keanu [the darling] replies, “Yeah, you can hug me.”

And so my sister hugged Keanu Reeves…in the middle of a bar in Soho.

In all the celebs that I have run into, I have never talked to one and I have certainly never asked to hug one. And to be honest, I don’t know if I would recommend that anyone else try this! But I think it is pretty rad that my sis did… and best, that she got a yes!

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Just Another Morning on the 1 Train

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For me, like for many New Yorkers, the subway ride is no great thrill. It’s part of the everyday routine, like getting coffee from the deli or taking a free copy of AM New York to skim through the latest news. Each time I step into the car with my fellow straphangers, I see the same advertisements and Poetry in Motion, I hear the same sounds, and know all the stops. I have to think that it must be for visitors however, a fascinating and sometimes even memorable experience, especially for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of public transportation. This past summer I couldn’t help but notice the throngs of curious tourists sitting around me speaking to one another in foreign sing-song, deciphering Manhattan street maps, soaking in the energy around them (and perhaps thinking we’re all rather crazy).

 

One morning I almost agreed.

 

The scene seemed ordinary enough, a typical Friday morning with a mix of locals and visitors on board the train together. The car I was in happened however to be uncharacteristically empty. Thus, most of us were seated and still there was some empty standing room. In the middle of the car there was a man in a wheelchair. He looked homeless, in heavy clothing that despite boiling temperatures seems to be normal for people living on the streets. He was slumped over, sleeping I supposed. Handicapped and homeless, I thought—pretty sad. The train zoomed along the tracks at a speed so fast it made me nervous. But before sweaty palms arrived I felt the pull of the breaks coming to my rescue. Comfortable once again, I began a silent hum to my ipod. Then all of a sudden I noticed the wheelchair rolling. Rolling, rolling and then crash—the edge of its right front wheel straight into the base of the row of seats across from me. And from his own seat, our homeless, handicapped co-passenger did a nose-dive straight for the speckled linoleum floor. Oh My God! I remember thinking, sure this same thought was going through everyone else’s mind too as I noticed each of their wide eyes and dropped jaws.

 

Sadly…not one of us moved. In awe, we sat there horrified, frozen, unable to move, unsure of whether we should reach out and touch this weathered, soiled and yes, scruffy man who lay on the floor in front of us, likely hurt, possibly broken. (As I reflect on this, my words are painful to write. What kind of horrible human being am I? What horrible human beings were all of us?) But then, as if by way of divine intervention it was as if we were collectively pardoned. Right before our eyes, he was up off the floor and after a quick dusting off back to his seat good as new. You’d think after so many years in this city I would’ve known. He wasn’t handicapped at all. Just a smart dude who found a comfy place to sit!

 

 

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New York City Summer

 

Having spent the first eighteen years of my life in a sunny place called Cocoa Beach, I consider myself a warm-weather gal. As much as I’ve grown accustomed to the northeastern four seasons and developed a love for the falling leaves in autumn and the first flower blossoms in spring, I still prefer New York City summers the best. I might have something different to say once November rolls around but for now it’s all about my love of sunny days and warm temperatures, and all the goodies that come with.

 

Months ago I recall an afternoon in the office when to a co-worker’s mention of his excitement about the upcoming summer season I scoffed at him replying, “summer’s almost over.”

 

“The first day of summer isn’t until tomorrow,” he said back.

 

“Well it might as well be over,” I continued. “You know it’s gonna fly by.”

 

So here we are, less than a week from the official last day of summer and first day of autumn. Three months gone in a flash as I’d anticipated. I suppose we can continue along acting as if it’s still ‘summer’ as long as the warmer weather remains. We can wear cutoff jeans and sandals, we can picnic in the park on the weekends and we can dine at outdoor cafes and drink sangria. But that little voice will still be there whispering, “Get over it darling. Summer is over.”

 

It’s true. It’s been pretty much over for weeks now. I knew it the Tuesday after Labor Day when I walked past the neighborhood park and saw the community pool an empty concrete box, no blue, overly chlorinated water, no children screaming and stubbing their little toes. This morning my thoughts were centered on the leaves that were actually falling in colors other than green, and the children in uniform, marching to school with their backpacks. As I stand in my closet these days, I shake my head at the idea of wearing white jeans and think what a shame that I only wore that new sundress twice and won’t again until next year (if I even dare). I look at all the summer recipes I never made and remind myself of the approaching shift to stews and soups—the comfort foods of cold weather nights. I cross my fingers that the Italian ice stand will be open at least a few more weekends so that I can get another before it’s time for hot cocoa, and I think of the promenade of beautiful plantings along the West Side Highway and remind myself that I should get out for another few runs before the trees are leafless. I feel disappointment over the movies at Bryant Park that I missed and the concerts on the pier I didn’t get to.

 

But I think also about all the things I did get around to this year, like Fourth of July at the Jersey Shore (a.k.a. the new Riviera), a day of beach yoga and surfing, a pool party with friends, a few barbeques and plenty of summer evenings outside and good enough number of weekends in the park. I can even check the peach pie off my list as I finally got around to making one last week for a friend I’d been promising one to since last summer. Had it not been for the ever-faithful fruit stand in Chelsea I might’ve had to offer up my best, “Sorry—I promise I’ll make you one next summer,” as, though it seems hard to believe in New York City with grocery stores and gourmet markets on every other corner, I had to go on a wild goose chase to find a pie’s worth of ripe peaches. In Whole Foods I was actually told, “Well miss, you know, we’re starting to phase the peaches out.” Phase the peaches out—words a lover of summer never wants to hear and a sure sign the season is coming to a close.

 

There’s nothing quite like fresh peaches. There’s nothing quite like summer in the city.

 

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