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A Praying Mantis and a Penny

Walking from the subway station at East 116th Street and Lexington Avenue, we came upon a penny. I picked it up. Into my pocket it went. Two seconds later we saw a praying mantis. Unlike the ones on TV of green color, this praying mantis was white. She came on to my leg. I picked it from my leg and set it on the patch that contained a tree. I could have set it on the flowers that were being sold on the street, but the vendors would not have appreciated my action and they would have killed her outright, and they would have asked, “what the hell are you doing to my flowers – if you’re putting bugs on them, buy them!” And I wasn’t interested in buying. All this happened in 3 minutes, and it took place at East 116th Street and Lexington Avenue. We have wildlife in the ghetto. And a penny. That I kept. The mantis, she’s still trying to camouflage herself in the concrete jungle.

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Reflections

Wedding Planning Tales

ACTION-PLANATHON DAY TWO

As opposed to Day One, which happened yesterday, but I’ll write that one later.

The day started by me calling in sick. Important, stuff. The wedding industrial complex hasn’t yet figured out that a lot of people are working during “working” hours.

It’s 9:30AM, Heather and I had to get up finally. She had a strawberry pop tart. I had chocolate cereal with banana slices.

At 10:15AM, we boarded the 6 Subway Train to go all the way to Brooklyn Bridge station, the end of the line, that’s 18 stops in 29 minutes from 116th Street.

10:49AM  We walked to the Office of the City Clerk building to get our marriage license. Location: 141 Worth Street, short walking distance from one of a handful of treasure troves, the Brooklyn Bridge. As we walk we see people spruced up. It’s a building of marriage. The attendant at the desk is smiling and asks us how we can be “assisted.”

“We’re here to pick our marriage license.” I show him the application paper with the confirmation you get when you apply online.

“Ah lovely. Wonderful, and I see that you applied online. Good for you. It’s much quicker that way. Ok, I just need your ID. Ok, two states I see, Pee-Ay and N-Y. Ok, here’s your number. You may have a seat over there. Watch for the screen in the waiting room and just go to the desk that corresponds your number.” As this is not the Divorce Hall, he must love his job, everybody’s smiling and mostly everybody’s dressed up. Women in their wedding dresses, men in their suits, the invited guests in cocktail attire and their coats in their arms—it was cold outside. More women in designer high-heels, great sexy stockings showing. Men in their spiffy cufflinks, handsome as hell. And we were in our sneakers and jeans!

“Thank you.”

We had A053. The screen had A046 on.

The seats were comfy, nicely padded, but not many were sitting. Some couples were getting their pictures taken in front of the City Hall wall picture, it’s a picture of…City Hall. The gorgeous French inspired, built-in-1803 New York City Hall is blocked to traffic and so what the City Clerk Office has done is put in a huge wall picture inside the building. So you can get a picture with your spouse-to-be right in front of said building inside the comfort of warm and the guarantee of a sunny day as the picture was taken on a crisp early summer day; though I must say that New York is famed for blue skies; it’s those skyscrapers keeping the clouds away is what I was told as a little one.

11:15AM  A053 shows up on the board. “Go to Gate 7” it says. We go to gate 7. The seating in front of the counter is comfortable as well. They really want to make it a pleasant experience. The lady behind the counter has a smile. She says, “Hi. May I have your ID’s and code please.” Our application arises before our eyes on a screen facing us, the same stuff I put on two days ago in the comforts of home, parent’s names and country of birth, Heather’s side has California & Pennsylvania. I’ve got El Salvador & Nicaragua. We got Central & North America covered.

“How will you be paying?” She asks.

“Credit Card, Visa.” I give it to her. Hey, I get points on my New World Points card, no I didn’t use the Chase one as I’m keeping track on a separate card, courtesy of BOA, and yes, no annual fee on that too.

“$35”

I sign the receipt. We sign the proxy document that they keep. Then she gives us the marriage license document that our minister Cheryl M Walker will help us fill out at All Souls with our signatures and our chosen witnesses, Sharon (Maid of Honour) & Alex (Best Man).

11:30AM  Time to leave. As we part the building, the magic of happiness does not cease to amaze me. Like I said, it’s not the Divorce court. The building has a nifty chapel too. I tried to peek in but Heather said I shouldn’t because I’d be interrupting someone’s wedding and I didn’t want Karma to get mad back at me, so I listened to her, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the chapel was elegant and refined, secular but with more than just a hint of civil service – this was the nicest bureaucratic building I’ve ever been into in my life. The windows had linen curtains. The upholstery of the waiting sofas was clean and was cushy. How about the bouquets for sale? They had the flower arrangements in state-of-the-art glass encasings for show. Did I mention the gift store too? Yes, they have NYC things, but not tacky; in fact, they have a super-classy, Art-Deco set of salt-n-pepper shakers, with The Empire State as salt and The Chrysler as pepper, I thought of someone to give this as a gift to, and of course if you preferred pepper for your Empire State, you would not have made a faux pas, for whose to say it isn’t spicy.

The process was fast and efficient, but it was also pleasant and more than decent, definitely fancy would be a word to use here. No wonder Las Vegas is losing to Gotham in the destination-wedding department…

11:35AM  After calculating the best route to our next destinations, we decide to take the 6 Train back up. Our quandary of decisions is which to go for first, the Florist, located on 17th Street & 6th Avenue or the Village Paper Party Store on 18 Greenwich Ave, which is also close to 6th Avenue and 9th Street. We figure it’s better to work our way uptown (north), but we’ve the florist appointment at Noon and the train is taking some time to move, for it’s the Brooklyn Bridge station, the end of the line of the 6 train. We decide to take action once we reach Astor Place, the station closest to the Paper Party store.

11:40AM  The train’s at Astor Place. We decide to get off to go to the Village Paper Party store. A bus would get us there in 5 minutes. No bus though. Cold. No one twisting the Village Cube, that’s how cold it was. We walk on 8th. The traffic’s going the wrong way, of course no bus. So we walk on 9th. No bus. Forget the bus. Just walk. Walk just ‘till the Village squiggly streets mess us up.

11:49AM We reach the Village Paper Party Store. I call the Ariston Florist to tell them we were running late, “but I’ll be there soon.” No problem, they say.

11:53AM  The owner of the store helps us find the magenta cocktail napkins we were looking for. Easy. And, I choose a sympathy card for our neighbor. Her husband, the famous Joe Cuba, who invented the New York Boogaloo has passed away. Yes, a music legend lived in our building, how about that! We get the card; we get the napkins; we pay with Visa; we stimulate the economy. We walk past Patchin Place, where Marlon Brando used to live. Yes, the Godfather, Guys and Dolls, The Wild One. Whaddya got? You got it. And across the street: the Jefferson Market Courthouse (built 1874 by Vaux & Withers), a gorgeous High Victorian Gothic building that used to house a market, most certainly a victory for architecture, and it’s now a library, open everyday but Sunday.

11:57AM  Time to run up Sixth Ave, otherwise known as “The Avenue of The Americas,” until you reach Central Park. But we only manage to run across the street for this time there’s a bus that’ll take us to 17th Street, the M6 respectively. Traffic tried to make us miss the bus by not stopping, we trying to catch that bus and “those annoying cars,” as Heather calls them trying to discourage us, as cars have the ability to be the way they are…

11:59AM  We get off the bus.

12:00PM  On time at Ariston’s. Location: 110th W 17th Street, at 6th Ave. Just in time. The appointment is with John Z. Great guy. We gave him our concepts. He said no problem. We gave him a budget. He gave us a bargain. We chose him. We gave him a deposit. I ran to get it a block away. Thank Goodness Chase is on every corner – we’re using Benjamins on this one to get a kool discount. Amen. The guests will love the flowers. I’ll love my masculine flower, as I requested. Heather and Sharon will adore their bouquets. Heather will get her Stargazer Lilies! Amen.

1:10PM  Time to go to our next appointment: Ribbon & Cord. Location: M & J Trimmings, 1008 Sixth Avenue between 37th & 38th Streets, a few blocks off the New MetLife building.

We decide to take the F or V trains, which conveniently run up (or should I say, below) Sixth Avenue. It’s only two stops as we get off at 34th Street, Herald Square, where Macy’s is.

1:25PM  M & J Trimmings is interesting. It is all about the ribbon and cords. Yes, a ribbon and cord store. In Manhattan? Where else?! The ceilings are high enough to accommodate about 6 thousand ribbons and cords. After about enough searching, we find the ribbon(s). Yes, we’re going with two for the cake, double colour too. You’ll like it. I promise. We also get the cord for the Hand-fasting Ceremony. A magick 54 inches. What is 5 plus 4? There you go. What is 3 divided by 3? There you go. What is 6 times 9? There you go. All using the 3 & 9. Magick all over. Learn numbers – they are good to you. “If you just believe…”

1:37PM  Time to run uptown again. Time for me to meet Jessica the Cake Baker personally, the one who gave the yummiest samples. We chose her best on the taste of the filling and cream. And the price.

Price has been good. More than two vendors have already told us, “You are getting married in March, which is not high wedding season, so prices are lower. And you also chose a Thursday, ‘cause we’re mostly booked for weekends...”

Well, we didn’t choose Thursday, we chose our anniversary date and that’s what Thursday did for the Fifth Day of the Third Month in 2009, in celebration of our First Decade together. Got that? But we are glad the way timing has helped prices as we stimulate the economy and are rewarded for doing so.

1:45PM  So we wait for five minutes on Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street, just across from the Bank of America Tower, the 2nd Tallest skyscraper in New York City. Can you guess what beauty is the First?

1:50PM  It’s still cold on Sixth Avenue. Our California relatives have much heart to come to New York in less than 2 weeks, but so do I, for my birth climate doesn’t include things like “wind chill”, “snow” or anything “freezing.”

The M7 Bus shows up finally. We take a seat and relax. Heather calls the cake place and asks for Jessica to “hold on for we are coming; we’re only 30 blocks away.” See Jessica had to leave by 2:30PM and we needed her to start&finish the business, well, the part about saying yes and accepting the terms, etc.

2:15PM  We arrive at Bakery Soutine, Location: 104 West 70th Street, at Columbus Avenue. Truly, Jessica of Bakery Soutine is sweet. She offered us Mocca Butter Cream filled Hazelnut Meringues that one patron said, “Do not eat those; you’ll be addicted for life.” Yes, well, Jessica was happy we chose her cake and like the clean money market moves, we got a discount as we chose to pay cash on this one – she was grateful we chose her. Heather gave her the ribbons and the master baker said, “Not a problem, we can do it.” We like to hear those words.

2:25PM  I was still enjoying the Mocca Butter Cream—see Jessica said, “Have some coffee while I type you an invoice.” I said, “How about a pastry?!” Her enthusiastic affirmative moved us right along in pleasantry. We agreed I’d give the rest of the payment next week, possibly Saturday, whichever was best and that a credit card may be used for final payment, which I found neat for I love getting my rewards, as you’ve blah blah blah heard.

2:35PM  Our stomachs have been growling but we have been ignoring them just so we finish this wedding-planner marathon day.

We step into the wild yonders of the Upper West Side, Columbus Avenue & 70th Street to be precise, a haven of restaurants; which to choose… I told Heather I needed my meat. She wanted meat. Meat is good. We love veggies too. We are proud omnivores.

2:43PM We only looked at the 5 restaurants on the Columbus Ave block between 70th & 71st Streets and choose the one on the corner, Lansky’s, Location: 235 Columbus Ave. Labeled itself, “Old World Deli,” it has a welcome ambiance, yes it’s a deli but it’s a restaurant with intimate tables; the seating is close, but it’s pleasant. They had burgers and that sold me, believe it or not! I wanted a meat I could hold with my hands and the buns provide great holding material. Heather had her favourite: Hot dog with Sweet Relish and 2 Potato Latkes with Apple Sauce. I had Mike’s Monster Burger with Sautéed Onions, Crispy Pastrami, Mushrooms, Vermont Cheddar, Lettuce & Tomato, and the thing also had meat too! It was a power burger. I was glad I did not order fries. My water got a bit cloudy as an onion fell into the glass as I was giving Heather a bite of my monster. I still finished the water. The busboy came to refill the glass, but he stopped and looked at the soiled glass and asked, “You’re having water?”

Yes, Onions fell into it; don’t worry, just give me another glass please. And he did. The place is great for locals and tourists. Steelers' Nation take note that this fine find has a specialty sandwich called, “The Pittsburgh Steeler,” which of course, has corned beef! Oh and there’s the Central Park Picnic Basket for $32 which includes 2 overstuffed sandwiches (looks like it can feed 4 people), a choice of 2 (of tomato salad, Cole slaw, German Potato Salad, Normal Potato Salad), plus 2 fresh fruit pies, 2 bottles of Dr. Brown’s Soda, with Pickles, Condiments, Napkins, Plates and Utensils – good enough to feed a Nation.

We were full with our burger & hot dog. The check came and Heather took the bill. I’m a lucky guy. Also a cheap date, no alcohol, but also no room in this belly. But who needs it when you’ve drank a lot the day before at a charity auction where Bill Clinton spoke, that’s another story I’ll tell later; he was great, a hero, for sure, and he talked our minister Forrest Church and his book “Love and Death”, and he talked about politics and why he supported Obama’s stimulus and many other things and he flattered; it’s…Clinton, end of story.

We were still full. Of Joy. Of accomplishment. Of fatigue. How many wedding-planning-birdies did we shoot on one day, in 5 hours? Who needs a wedding planner…

3:30PM  Time to go home. We decided now to take the 2 or 3 Subway uptown from 72nd Street, from where you can see several French Second Empire inspired apartment buildings, ah the voluptuousness of those Mansard roofs and plenty of peculiar cartouches, if you know what I mean…

3:40PM  Back in Harlem, Central that is, at 116th Street & Lenox Ave, otherwise known as Malcolm X Boulevard (or, even Sixth Ave, still!). As we get out a lady asks us, “Excuse me, where is Broadway?”

I point west, that way. But that’s a long walk in this cold. I’m assuming you’re looking for Columbia—unfortunately you took the wrong train; you needed the 1.

She says, “Great! I was at 96th Street and I was on the 1 and it stopped because of repairs they said so I saw the 2 and took it thinking it was faster and now here I am. So what can I do?”

Well, you can take that bus over there, the M116, it’ll take you to Broadway but only as fast as 106th Street, from there you’ll have to walk another 10 blocks. The easiest thing to do is go back on the 2 or 3 downtown and at 96th Street take the 1 going uptown, this time exiting at Columbia’s 116th.

She listened to the wisest option.

As we turn, we notice that our bus came just in time to take us home. That’s Instant Karma for you. “We all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun, yeah we all...” Yes, we usually end up walking those 3 long Avenue blocks because a bus doesn’t come at the time we want it to or just because we’re on the move that why wait for only three long avenue blocks, well, if it’s cold it’s not a bad idea, but who wants to wait in the cold, which is why we were so grateful for Karma. One hand washes the other. That lady went to her conference at Columbia. We got on our M102 bus and dropped us off virtually in front of home. Location: Lexington & 116th Street, Spanish Harlem, East Harlem, El Barrio, Spa-Ha, those are some of the names of our ‘hood.

Nearing 4:00ish. Ah, what a day.

4:01PM  Siesta time. In the bed. Yes. Lovely. It was less than a half hour though.

4:27PM  Heather had to prepare for her dear fashion-decorator-on-the-side-for-fun best friend Tanika, read below:

5:45PM  The saga continued as Heather went to meet Tanika in the Upper East Side to give her the details of our wedding as she has been selected Decorateur-in-Chief of our Reception Hall. From what I hear, she already has plans and she’s good with making short bills last a long way. The last bit of the budget.

Planning for a wedding is…planning for a big complicated complex expensive party... Or a good reason to run all over the city? Tiring, but lots of fun. And this is before the actual wedding. Now the suspense kills you. The ride is joyful, despite the running, maybe the running around is exciting, the choosing, the tasting, the wearing, the trying, the signing, the hearing, the listening, the drawing, the planning, the typing, the mailing, the writing, the following-up, the looking, the smelling, the feeling, the…feeling.

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Reflections

First Post

Today, I am birthed in a public sphere unbeknownst to me. After this post I will no longer be a blog virgin. I will have crossed a threshold. I always wondered what blogging is. How does it work? Why do it? I am now here to explore these questions. I am here to grow; maybe I'll find out what I really want to do when I grow up. I'll remember these pre-Thanksgiving Days as days of exploration. Our American Holiday of Thanksgiving is in the air and we just can't get enough of being grateful. So, I'm grateful to start this writing project of exploration in the global commons that my generation grew up with ("gen x", the internet).

There is a cold air in New York, the city I inhabit. I hear that this winter will be long and cold, just like the economic crisis as portrayed in the media, as felt by many of us who don't have jobs. Yes, I'm thankful I have a job. The rent will be paid first, the other bills next. We live in a world of numbers. Account numbers where dollars come out of and account numbers where dollars go into. Addresses and streets. All is measured. Even the pixels on this page, zeros and ones, and somehow it all stays in place, no matter what the economic crisis does, whenever it leaves, but it's just part of the cycle. Could one really learn without trying and failing? The baby had to move like a worm before figuring out how to crawl, and she had to fall before taking the first step. Just the same is our world. So many of our institutions are failing; well, then it's time to make them better the next time around.

Still, it's cold outside, and there's a homeless man on West 90th Street and another one on a street near you. And you've got to be thankful it's not you, but don't you wish he could have a warm home right now? Sometimes I wish I could do something grand like heal the needy, and then I realize that there will be needy always, but a helping hand I'll always have, so I've decided that tomorrow, I'm going to my church's feed the hungry program, called "Monday Night Hospitality" and help feed those who have not had a decent meal in days. It's the least I can do, at this point.

As I type, I can't help feeling that I'm on my journal. I write on one, with paper and with a pen. I've filled a few. They are private. This is public. Fear of exposure fills my mind, and yet, I keep on doing it. The saying of sticks and stones hurting bones and words not hurting may prove wrong, and for now, I'll just reflect on what I have done until my next post.

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Reflections