Rose-Colored Glasses

#18: write an email to a favorite author

After reading I Am the Messenger on the train a few weeks back, I was feeling so sunny and inspired that I went home to write a stream of consciousness to celebrate the experience.  I wrote the excerpt below:

I board the downtown C train and settle into my book.  The happy story offers up rose-colored glasses and the rest of the ride is like a sequence from Amelie - when the accordion music is light and dreamy.

A few stops in, a massive woman with a gentle smile and swishing blue dress wends her way over and settles into the corner seat next to mine.  She spills over into my space, but her easy presence and "this doesn't bother me if it doesn't bother you" attitude makes her proximity welcome and warm.  Our sides connecting, I can feel some of her good seep over as we ride together towards Brooklyn.

The conductor is making an announcement now.  Normally, the abrasive speaker is rattling and unwelcome, but his Latin accent sculpts and softens the words.  "This train is will be running express – express, express, express," he emphasizes and lists the next five stops.  He closes his announcement with, "this is a 'C like in Chocolate' train."  I pause my reading to look up at the speaker and confirm to myself that yes, that is the phrase he just used.

 Just then, a mechanic belch of noise comes from the middle of the train and I think the conductor must be ready to woo us again.  Music picks up and I realize it is a dance routine and watch for a moment while the teenagers prepare to perform.  It takes some time, so I resume the story in front of me.  It is only when I can feel all eyes in the car on the spectacle that I turn to see the tallest of the trio breaking out in fluid bursts of energy.  His rhythm is far beyond the music eked out by their machine.  His muscles are so tight and wound up, the movements release as if popping from a pressurized can.  His final move is a swing around the subway pole, all the way up to the top of the ceiling – a mesmerizing and wow-provoking performance. 

His sister is next and while her perfunctory, jumpy routine is nowhere near the awe-inspiring movements her brother just produced, watching him watching her with gushing pride is a show just as good as his first. 

The routine ends and the subway car erupts into applause – a rarity for any performance on these trains.  More people give money than I've ever seen and someone behind me says "that guy in the middle just gave them a $20."  Well worth it, I think, as I return to my story.

If watching To Rome with Love  was a candy bar experience, reading this book is like a Pinkberry Peanut Butter Sundae – it makes the whole world seem just right.

After searching the internet for contact information, I wasn't able to find an email address for Mark Zusak, but I was able to find a post box address.  This will do just fine, because I think I have just the right package to send to this esteemed author.  At first, I thought it would be fun to send this note with some rose-colored glasses, as I refer to them in the story.  However, at the store today I didn't find rose-colored glasses, but "I-Am-the-Messenger glasses," which - really - is what I was wearing during this experience anyhow.  Brilliant.  I'll send a card, the glasses and my little narration to Mr. Zusak with thanks for his inspiration.


Sharing the Love

#100: send a care package (drawn at random) to someone who follows this blog

In all fairness, I didn't draw this person at random, nor was what I sent "care package" in the typical sense, but I simply had to share one of my favorite new books with my sister.

I Am the Messenger is the story of Ed Kennedy, an Australian cabdriver who is generally stuck in the day-to-day. He's madly in love with his best friend, devoted to his dog and his main hobby is playing cards. One day, his life is turned upside-down when an ace of diamonds arrives in the mail.  Throughout the story, Ed must work his way through the diamonds, clubs, spades and most importantly, the hearts. 

The story is utterly endearing and the messages are sweetly subtle, allowing deep reflection on life while enjoying a thrilling plotline.  For me, reading this story allowed a great escape while also altering my perspective on reality.  It made me look at the world with more hope and more love.  There is great power in writing that moves the reader in such a way.

You'll see a bit more how it moved me in the next two posts, but you'll like to know that my sister finished the book the day after it arrived in the mail!

The What

#16: read What is the What

This powerful story by Dave Eggers was immensely thought-provoking and enlightening.  The substance of the subject is so heavy, that it feels cavalier to summarize it here.  I will simply say that while I already had deep admiration for the group of Sudanese refugees I knew in Utah, this account only reinforced and deepened my awe.  It is a remarkable story celebrating the strength of the human spirit.

The Dirty D.

#26: travel to Senegal

The Dirty D. - an questionable nickname for Dakar, given that it is one of the brightest and most beautiful places I've been.  Gorgeous ocean views abound as traffic glides along the Corniche, moving between Les Almadies with its massive statue saluting the African Renaissance into a buzzing downtown so full of life.  For me, Senegal was vibrant, relaxed, creative, colorful, warm, bright, welcoming - a brilliant mix of Arabic, French and indigenous culture.

Huge thanks to my dear friend Megan and other great hosts - Abba, Alison and Jill.  It was excellent to explore with them as we:

  • gallavanted in St. Louis
  • learned Sambar dance from a fantastic trio of teachers
  • wandered gobstruck through the fish market
  • picnicked at sunset by the lighthouse
  • watched the filming of Senegalese Baywatch
  • lunched at Chez Carla on Ngor Island
  • puzzled over the film Hyenes at Alliance Francaise and then dined on magnificent cheese and charcuterie
  • delighted in the beautiful murals on several buildings, giving life and warmth to the quartiers
  • enjoyed the personalized songs of the guitarist at L'Endroit
  • marveled at Patio's mirror dancing
  • cooled from the heat of Senegal in various beautiful pools around the city
  • refreshed with bissap after a morning of exploration on picturesque Goree Island


#39: try a new vegetable or fruit

In the immortal words of my nephew:

"If someone offers you a clementine or a pluot, always take the pluot.  In fact, if someone offers you anything or a pluot, take the pluot." 

He is clearly enamored with this plum/apricot hybrid.

The Eternal Carnival

#15: read A Moveable Feast

Hemingway's account of working as a writer in 1920's Paris is a meandering, thoughtful reflection on his life among contemporaries Ezra Pound, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Ultimately, he calls it a work of fiction and writes in second-person, referring to himself as "you" throughout the book as though undergoing an out-of-body experience.  Rather than write a review here, I'll let you experience this novel if you're keen.

Instead, I reflected on how I might write about living as young professional in 2010's New York City.  If Hemingway nicknamed Paris A Moveable Feast,  I bestow upon New York the nickname of An Eternal Carnival.  It is a veritable three-ring circus with the creme-de-la-creme, the everyman and artists of all kinds moving across its stage.  As one enters the tent (ie: emerges from the subway) there is inevitably an act of wonder to behold - the filming of Hollywood's latest blockbuster or a street performer impersonating Michael Jackson.

New Yorkers walk quickly while attempting to dodge this never-ending circus.  One rarely gets bored on this walk, though you may look to be otherwise occupied.  You're still engaged just enough to dodge the next flyer being pushed into your hands or to pause and marvel at the gent walking 10 dogs at once.  Other times, you enter the glorious carnival and undertake activities that are "so New York" - the Silent Disco at Lincoln Center,a giant game of dodgeball on Governor's Island or a gallery stroll and dance party at an old public elementary school in Queens.

If his years in Paris gave Hemingway a moveable feast of dear memories, I can say without a doubt that New York is offering me a fill of my own.

Stay Rugged!

#5: run a 5K Rugged Maniac race


"Rugged Maniac is a 5K obstacle course race that combines the most rugged terrain and burly obstacles to allow those with a sense of adventure to define themselves, then bask in glory at a rocking after party!

Each Rugged Maniac features at least twenty obstacles constructed by an experienced crew of licensed contractors. These aren’t the pop-up kiddie obstacles you’ll see at other races. You’ll climb over walls up to 12’ high, crawl through mud under barbed wire, slide down a 50’ water slide, jump over fire and face many other challenges all while running through a combination of forests, fields, motocross tracks and ski slopes!"

Paying it Forward

#85: reverse pick pocket someone

While this particular event took place somewhat serendipitously, I'm counting the outcome as a completion of this goal as I may not have followed this course of action without it.

After a glorious 3 1/2 mile run in Central Park, I was winding my way home and spotted a few bills on the ground - picked it up and it was $16!  I looked around to see if anyone had dropped it and asked a couple close by if it was theirs.  After not finding the owner, and following the advice of my friend with whom I was speaking on the phone, I kept the cash and decided that I'd spread the good will.

To my good fortune, I found the Coolhaus truck just outside of Central Park at 80th Street.  This gourmet ice cream sandwich truck is one of NYC's best food trucks with ice cream flavors like fried chicken ice cream and salted carmel, smooshed in between snickerdoodle or velvet cupcake cookies.  I decided on Oreo Heckman in a Hotcake cookie.

efore heading to enjoy this deliciousness, I asked the sweet gal running the stand if she'd do me a favor.  She energetically agreed to my plan that the remaining cash should go toward paying for the next person's ice cream sandwich and then the rest to the tip jar.  It was fun to spread the luck and while I do feel sorry for the bloke who lost the $16, maybe he'll be the recipient of the nice gesture from someone who was the recipient of a nice gesture from someone who was a recipient of a free Coolhaus ice cream sandwich.

ice cream sandwich.jpg

A funny side note to this story is that I lost $15 during my first few months in the City.  I'd like to think that this was NYC's way of paying me back with interest - now you can cross this goal off of your list, Big Apple.




A Letter To Be Read on February 28, 2015

#2: write a letter to myself to be opened when 1001 days is over

The letter has been printed and sealed - ready to be opened at the end of this adventure.  Let the wild rumpus start, indeed!

In the letter are a few thoughts from the late Maurice Sendak in his utterly tender and heartwarming interview with Terry Gross last fall in Fresh Air.  He was 83 at the time of the interview and shared his thoughts on the remarkable nature of life - an inspiring perspective from someone who lived so honestly and fully.

"The fragility of life, the irrationality of life, the comedy of life.  [...] I wanted to live, as any human being does. [...] I'm not unhappy about becoming old.  I'm not unhappy about what must be.  It makes me cry only when I see my friends go before me and life is emptied.  [...]  There's something I'm finding out as I'm aging – that I am in love with the world. [...]  It is a blessing to get old.  [...]  I have nothing but praise now, really, for my life.  I'm not unhappy.  I cry a lot because I miss people.  I cry a lot because they die and I can't stop them.  They leave me and I love them more. [...] Oh God, there are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready. [...]  I'm a happy old man. [...]  I wish you all good things.  Live your life, live your life, live your life."

I first listened to this interview in March and was so touched by his reflection and perspective.  These words really stuck with me and offer such a lesson on aging with grace.  Thank you, Mr. Sendak.

Listen to the original interview here.