The Hurricane

“The hurricane came and went.”

It’s the first line to a story I once wrote shortly after Hurricane Frances. It was 2004 and I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time- a pot head Pakistani whose answer to our relationship problems was to take more MDMA, and who wouldn’t listen to me when I continuously told him that it was over. It was one of the most life changing hurricanes of my life. I had just returned from my first ever trip abroad, to Nicaragua, the land of my ancestors. In three weeks, I met a ton of new family members and learned how differently people live in other countries. I also met a man who made me realize how desperately I needed to get out of the relationship I was in. A man who we hired to drive us around the country. A man who happened to be in an unhappy marriage. I was 20.

That summer changed my life. I can’t say that Hurricane Andrew changed my life quite as much. I was only 7 years old that August of 1992 when the relentless 100+ mph gusts of wind knocked over my favorite tree in the front yard. But I still remember that night pretty vividly, considering it was twenty years ago. My parents hid my brother and I in the tiny closet of our one bedroom duplex. I had a lunchbox full of snacks. Fruit by the foot, gushers, possibly even a Lunchables. I read Archie comics with a flash light and my father stood guard in the room, walking out the front door every so oft to see what was going on outside. When the sky finally cleared up, it was beautiful outside. Blue skies everywhere. And we were without power for two weeks – which meant camping in our living room with no a/c and having cook outs with the neighbors on a daily basis. It changed my life too. It taught me not to fear nature. It taught me to care for my neighbors. And I started a new school that September and my life changed yet again.

I’m writing this sitting in my living room in a small apartment on South Beach, Miami, and my life is much different from those first two hurricanes. I’ll be 28 in another week and a half, and i’m pregnant with my first child – a statement and a reality I still don’t quite believe. My husband (surprise number two!) is contentedly slumbering in our bedroom. He is tall and freckly and has gorgeous eyes and a deep voice but an incredibly kind smile. He loves me more than i’ve ever known was possible. I still don’t know where he came from, but I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I accept his love and reciprocate it as best I can. My life is very, very different these days.

This is our first hurricane together and we’re as prepared as is necessary for a Category 1 storm. We’re not scared or worried. We have bigger concerns right now – like where we’re going to be living past August 31st. Our lease will be up and we haven’t found a new place to sublet. We were supposed to move away, but things are moving a bit slower than expected so we don’t know quite when we’ll be leaving. It’s strange to have “adult responsibilities” and “adult problems” and to, well, be an adult.

I’d heard tell from other “adults” that it would just sneak up on you but that you’d never really accept it. I guess that’s just how it is. I don’t even really know if being pregnant and married and living on our own and all that makes us adults. Maybe it has more to do with how other people perceive us. You start getting treated differently once you’re married and pregnant. Maybe that’s what being an adult is.

But that’s besides the point. The point is there’s a hurricane a-brewin right outside my window. I hear the gusts slowly picking up and then waning again. The rain drops sprinkle on our window and then pour down and then dry out. Life is changing. The hurricane brings with it new chapters, unavoidable rites of passage, place markers we can go back to when recounting our lives. Andrew, Frances, and now Isaac. I’m looking forward to it.

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Song of the Day: Cat Power “He War”

I saw Cat Power about 6 or 7 years ago perform here in Miami at the old I/O Lounge (now The Vagabond). She (Chan Marshall) performed maybe 2 or 3 complete songs during her hour and a half long on-stage breakdown. It was a bizarre thing to witness. My friends and I were big Cat Power fans and we’d heard some vague rumors about Marshall being a bit shy and awkward during performances, but we quickly realized those rumors were fairly downplayed. She started off  alright, but quickly got distracted when she realized/decided that her guitar was out of tune. She asked for help from audience members and a couple of guys went up to help her out. It probably ate up about 30 minutes, the lot of them standing around trying to perfectly tune her guitar strings. Eventually I think she switched over to the piano and had a similar fit about that. She finally began to play again toward the end of her set, when the club actually began playing music over her to stop her from going on. It was pretty unfortunate since it seemed she had finally gotten into her zone. Still, the few songs she did perform to completion were fantastic. I would pay money to see her again.

 

“He War,” off the You Are Free album, was a tune I used to listen to over and over my senior year of high school. I don’t ever listen to enough Cat Power these days.

Song of the Day: Matthew Dear “Monkey”

Yanked from the Village Voice

I was driving eastbound on Killian Drive this morning, the rising sun’s rays forcing me to squint as I sped past slow drivers and yellow lights, when I noticed this song blasting from my radio’s speakers. I’ve heard Matthew Dear‘s Black City album in its entirety before, but almost always, I end up finding myself only listening to select tracks and basically ignoring the rest. (What can I say? I’m sometimes a creature of habit.) This was one of those tracks I somehow missed. Maybe it sounded too much like the rest of the album to really cause it to stand out for me. Maybe I was just crazy up until now. Whatever the case, this song is all about swaying back and forth, hips and arms and wrists and knees and head, following the path of the music. When you let it take over, it’s impossible not to realize what an incredibly fun song this is.

 

And FYI, for you local Miamians reading this, if you’re a fan of the song (and/or a fan of Matthew Dear), he’s got two upcoming gigs in town! The first is for the Viva Music Party (during WMC), on March 23rd at the Shelbourne. The second show will be over at the Electric Pickle on April 20th (giggle), so watch out for those tickets!

In related music news… two other shows you might not want to miss are Broadcast at Bardot on March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day!) and Four Tet, also at Bardot, on March 23rd (coincidentally the same night as Matthew Dear’s Viva show).

I’ll be posting more show announcements soon as WMC approaches!

A Return To Poetry

Last year, I challenged myself to write one haiku a day on Twitter in honor of the O, Miami Festival. For those who missed out, O, Miami was a celebration of poetry throughout Miami-Dade county. P. Scott Cunningham and all others who worked so diligently on the festival brought some fantastic poets from all across the country to come and read and participate in events. There were various open mics, poem drops (bits of poetry on paper dropped from helicopters in public spaces), even poetry recited via megaphone in a Ferrari. In short, it was inspiring to know how many people enjoyed poetry and how many more were finally being exposed to it, myself included.

I’d never been much a poet. I’m still not much of a poet. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love it as a creative outlet. During one of my many “change of majors” moments in college, I seriously considered becoming a Creative Writing major with a concentration in poetry. But it didn’t happen and here I am at 4am again wondering about the possibilities to be found in poetry.

So instead of over-analyzing all of this to death, I began to write some poems today. Truth be told, they weren’t anything i’d want to brag about. 2 simple poems, non-rhyming, crude. Still, this is the creative proses. I get that.

So here’s my attempt to get back into the poetic swing of things.

1. Haiku of the Day – Round 2. I tweet more than is probably healthy. I get that this makes me a geek and/or any other potentially negative label in the eyes of some, but I happen to enjoy it. As such, I know that doing my haikus on there makes it much more likely that i’ll stick to the project than on any other medium. If you haven’t already begin following me on Twitter, feel free to do so @PrisKillingly. Maybe i’ll even write you a haiku if you request it!

2. A presentation of my favorite pieces of the month on March 1st. Aside from the haikus (which i’ll have to also keep in a separate word doc so it doesn’t get sucked in to oblivion), i’ll be writing more in my notebooks, revising a little bit each time. My biggest issues have to do with being able to edit and revise my work without killing the essence of the original point. 5 poems doesn’t sound like much, but to write 5 really fantastic poems takes time, i’d imagine. Unless of course you’re just that lucky. Regardless, in order to keep myself legitimate on this project, i’m going to need to really be on the ball about this. I’ll attempt to make a few updates here and there with some works in progress in the meantime.

I’m really looking forward to challenging myself again. I spent the first month of the year in a bit of limbo, trying to decide what to do with myself without actually doing much (good times aside, of course). I want to shift my focus back to my work now that we’re in February. I have plans for a few other projects, but would rather not overwhelm either of us.

For now, here’s a poem by Allen Ginsberg to get the creative juices flowing…

Those Two

That tree said
I don’t like that white car under me,
it smells gasoline
That other tree next to it said
O you’re always complaining
you’re a neurotic
you can see by the way you’re bent over.

This Week In Amazing: Miami Winter, Enchanted Santas, Impossible Missions, and the Spiders from Mars

If the first week of 2012 is any indication of what is to come this year, it may very well be the end of the world.

Alright, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but these first few days have been admittedly too much fun (if such a thing exists). It’s been deliciously cold out (cold for Miami, that is), so it’s been difficult not to be out and about. There were about 3 days in a row where my main mission was to find a good place with coffee and pie, a la Twin Peaks (holy crap someone get me this shirt!!). In between these days have been hang outs revolving around playing pool and watching movies. My pool game has sadly not gotten any better in the past few days, but I have to say it’s definitely improved in general over the past few months. As for the movies, we saw Young Adult a few nights ago (I’m still trying to write out my disappointment about this film in a separate post) and this past Sunday, I took my dad to watch the latest Mission Impossible film for his birthday. Maybe it’s because I didn’t exactly have high hopes for it, but MI4 wound up being exactly what it was supposed to be: mind-numbingly entertaining. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Simon Pegg, and hell, Jeremy Renner isn’t exactly hard on the eyes. See for yourself:

On top of all of this, there have been nature walks in parks (and almost getting pegged by the Frisbee golfers), my first time feeding my baby nieces (messy, to say the least), bonfires and barbecues in backyards (not to mention unpasteurized Gouda), drinks with the ladyfriends (at Fox’s, Mr. Moe’s, Sunset Tavern, Sandbar, and Titanic’s – all places I should be piecing together some reviews for soon), and the rediscovering of good music.

In particular, I’ve been indulging myself in a lot of Radiohead (the Com Lag and Airbag/How Am I Driving? EPs to be specific) and David Bowie (namely: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars). Getting lost in music again is inspiring me to bring back the old podcast, maybe even if it’s just mini-mixes for now. Will be trying to get something going for that in the near future.

Quite possibly the best night so far of 2012 though involved a trip to that Miami holiday staple: Santa’s Enchanted Forest.

Santa’s is the annual winter-themed carnival that graces Tropical Park from November to January. Like most Miamians, I’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest since I was a little kid – I’ve even got the Polaroids to prove it. Of course, back then it was much smaller and a lot less expensive. Nowadays, the roughly $27 entry fee gets you admittance into the park where you can indulge your inner child while walking past Christmas-y dioramas, watching acrobats and clowns and the occasional fire-breathing act, stuffing your face on elephant ears and other fried goodies, and riding everything from rollercoasters to ferris wheels to the infamous Himalaya (“Let me hear your screaaaaaam!” is a popular phrase you’re sure to hear if you happen upon this particular ride). While this was a place I used to absolutely love coming to as a kid, it was sometime around early adolescence that I decided I was “too cool” to keep going to such a “childish” establishment. Luckily, the older I get, the less I care about ever looking goofy or silly, so my friends and I revived this old tradition last year and have since come to enjoy it as one of our new winter traditions. This time around, we over-indulged in cotton candy and nachos, enjoyed defying gravity on numerous rides, and even made friends with some enterprising, traveling caricature artists. And of course, there are more details about all this, but for that you’ll have to wait til I jot ’em down in the book (wink, wink). Suffice to say that sleep has been lost, memories have been made, and plenty of cafe con leches have been drunk in between. So is the good life.

On a side note, I’ve got my first part-time gig going for the year and quite hopefully more work to come. If all goes well, I may be returning to the store to reward myself with this dress:

I’ve spent far too much time wearing the same tired old things. 2012 requires drastic wardrobe overhaul!

For now, it’s time to continue with the writing goals and see where the rest of the year takes me.

 

How was your first week of 2012?

If it hasn’t been spectacular just yet, start adding a little magic to your life. Take an alternate route home sometime. Talk to the stranger next to you. Do something completely unlike you. You might be surprised at how much these little details can alter the course of your day, your week, your year.

January 3rd was our first cold, winter day.

a winter day in miami that involved all of the following:

walking through trails branching off to faux crime scenes
taped off with beer bottles and condoms, and rusted tin cans
and plastic bags, now emptied of their important contents;
the good times that have been that have since been forgotten

plus it involved the desire to  discover new lands
my friend and I, walking sticks in hand,
seeking answers from within canopies of tropical trees
and from the ingestion of temperate remedies;
meanwhile, the palm fronds enjoying the brisk air under blue sky

and then working up an appetite
for a nice piece of new york style cheesecake,
strawberry sauce and whipped cream;
and she got the hot chocolate and I
bought a coffee with 3x the sugar
and half and half
and it felt good to enjoy the weather for once

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler (Living New Orleans – Part 1)

New Orleans. The Big Easy. The City that Care Forgot. Immediately upon arriving here, you pretty much begin to understand why this place has the nicknames that it does. New Orleans is quite literally unlike any other city I’ve ever been to. It’s been over 2.5 months into my travels, and it seems appropriate that this is where they would end (at least temporarily). People talk about New York being the city that never sleeps, but I can assure you that it is just as easy to never sleep in this town. 24 hour bars and a lack of open container laws, jazz music and hustling performers on the streets, obnoxious tourists attempting to re-enact Mardi Gras on a nightly basis, thousands of folks just trying to get by, and still not a day goes by that I haven’t heard someone bring up Katrina. I’m trying to find my place here, but I know it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. The people certainly don’t move as fast as NYC, but they certainly take care of their own in the same way. Since arriving, i’ve stayed with 3 different CouchSurfing hosts, all pretty fantastic people, each with their own stories about how they got here. The people, on the whole, are genuinely nice, which is, well, nice in itself. Strangers start up conversation, and not just because they’re drunk at the bar. This is certainly not Miami. On the whole, people are more than willing to point you in the right direction of whatever you might need. And there’s a small town feel because it is inherently a small town. The city proper, which is where i’m staying, only has a bit over 300k individuals. It’s no wonder i’ve already started running into people and recognizing people, and i’ve been just shy of a week! It’s bizarre, i’ll say that.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been to 7 different cities and slept on more beds and surfaces than I care to count. I’m not sure if I’ll actually be able to sustain myself here in New Orleans, but I’ve begun to hunt for jobs and hope that something pops up. Money is of course an issue, but hopefully won’t be for much longer. This is definitely a hustling city. Jobs are hard as hell to come by, especially the kind that i’m used to, in cushy offices. Service industry seems the best route to go, or so they tell me, so i’m basically putting my eggs in as many different baskets as I can. Everyone says I should at least stay for Halloween, and fingers crossed i’ll at least achieve that. But honestly, I really wouldn’t mind sticking it out here for at least a few months, maybe through next year or even past that. There’s something so alluring about this place. It has a different energy than anywhere else I’ve been. I’m an agnostic on the whole, but it’s like there’s magic in the air. Maybe it’s all the voodoo shops and the random pagan folks I’ve met and the enchantment of the above ground cemeteries. The night air just feels different. And every day i’m here, even if it’s a bit rough hunting down employment, I fall in love with something new. The houses, the architecture. The street cars, especially at night. The music, which i’ve only yet begun to hear. The whole concept of the Second Line. Like I said, there’s just an energy here that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Some people say this is the most unique city in America, and while I haven’t seen all of America yet, I’d say they were right in my eyes. There are plenty of amazing places in this country. I’ve been surprised at the things I’ve found on my journey thus far, changing my own misconceptions about what places were “supposed” to be like, allowing myself to get lost in foreign towns and then found again. If I was in love with travel before, I am basically feeling obsessed with it now. This is definitely going to be a lifestyle to maintain for the rest of my life. But for now, I’m courting New Orleans, or she is courting me. We dance a little and flirt a lot and man, does she like to buy me drinks. And even if I end up having to go back home and reassess for just a little while until things pick up, I can definitely see myself coming back.

But for now, as the French say, laissez les bon temps rouler!

From Morgan Avenue with Love (New York City Stories, Take 3)

(Continued from Part 2…)

It was goddamn hot when I woke up and the hangover just wasn’t helping.

“What happened last night?”

I knew I must have taken a detour before getting back to Brooklyn. I scrolled through the pictures in my camera. Abstract images of Times Square. Blurry cabs and swirls of neon and nearly getting hit by cabs and busses. Times Square is one of those amazing places you have to see at least once, but never really have to return to after. The enormity of the buildings and the chaotic rabble of tourists and Manhattanite yuppies can be a bit of a culture shock for those who’ve never experienced it. I know I couldn’t stop looking up when my 18 year old eyes first walked out of the Times Square subway stop. I had a similar reaction the first time I saw mountains (being from Florida, land of flat lands and more flat lands, I’m very easily impressed by even the slightest bump in the road, so you can imagine!)

But on my… what is this.. 6th? 7th time to New York? I’ve somehow always wound up in Times Square for at least a little while and while I appreciate the buildings and the warmth of those neon lights on a cold night (if you’re ever without a coat in NYC in Winter, I suggest standing underneath the lights of the McDonalds on 42nd Street as i’ve done in previous visits. Guaranteed heater!), I’m no longer awe-struck when I get in the thick of it. Add to that the barrage of street vendors trying to hock everything from knock off purses and NYC “artwork” to used bottles of perfume and “Tickets to Tonight’s Comedy Show (It’s Gonna Be A Great One!)” and you quickly begin to realize why the majority of New Yorkers steer clear of this area unless they have a reason. Overwhelming and unnecessary, especially when NY has so much more to offer in just about every other corner!

Another good reason to stop in Times Square, however, is if you’re already intoxicated and don’t want to go home juuuust yet. And so, a detour. A detour, alright. I’d spent a few hours in the company of one, Tyler Edwards. Tyler was a boy I’d met my last night in Philadelphia the previous year, a night that would prove to practically cause me to get kicked out of the house I was staying in, and it would’ve totally been my fault (but that’s a story for another day). He was tall and handsome and doing fairly well for himself – a young professional with a gym membership and a heavy interest in social media, though he himself doesn’t use it all that much (something I have yet to understand). I would be staying with him soon enough though, but you know, sometimes it’s late and you’ve had a few and you just can’t really wait.

Back in my stuffy Bushwick basement, I reached around the floor for my metal water bottle, unscrewed the top and drank the last bit of room temperature water. Where the fuck is the ibuprofen? I could hear CJ’s roommate upstairs, clacking away at her computer, on a work-related phone call, but still blasting some sort of indie Brooklynite music (possibly this?).

And then there it was again. Another wave of unrelenting heat. That suffocating heat. The only word I can think of that properly describes it is a Spanish word: desesperante. WordReference.com describes it as exasperating or distressing, but I feel like it’s not quite either of those.

I grabbed my iPod, scrolled through, found some Ramones, and remembered seeing the sign for Rockaway Beach on the MTA map. The mission for the day was clear: To get the hell out of the heat and on to the Ramones’ very own Rockaway beach!

For those who are unaware, Rockaway Beach is quite a hike from Bushwick:


See? The L to the A to the S.. and then, a walk either North or South to the beach (alright, so the quality of the image sucks. I never said I was a graphic designer). After over an hour of train time, I grabbed a quick grilled cheese from the Last Stop Shop and headed towards the boardwalk. It dawned on me then that I hadn’t actually brought a towel, so I tried haggling the asian man selling beach towels on the street. Obviously my haggling skills aren’t so great because he wouldn’t budge. I wound up settling on this tiny, pink hand towel for $1.25 which I suspect may have already been used. But it was fine. I could smell the ocean. Rock-rock-rockaway time!

Being from Miami, my visiting friends constantly remark about how beautiful our beaches are. This is something I know I take for granted. Walking on to the sand of Rockaway Beach, I really knew it. Bits of styrofoam cup here and bottle cap there and itty bitty bits of plastic and decomposing paper, a mine field of debris in need of much recycling (which does happen on occasion back home, but certainly not to this extent). Still, the beach was alive with dozens of locals sprawled out on bellies and backs; girlfriends in pale sundresses reapplying sunblock; portly guys with farmers tans looking self conscious without their shirts on; squealing 4-year olds running after each other without any particular reason; guys with gel in their hair, tossing a football around; a pair of older ladies sitting in their beach chairs looking on. I sat by a group of Muslim girls drying off but still fully dressed from head to toe. Even from the sand, you could see it was chock full of seaweed. Except you couldn’t really see in to the water, since it was kind of a dark grey color with dark green hues. Yup. Definitely not Miami. But then, wasn’t the point to get the hell out of there for a while anyway? I dove in.


Let me just say, there are few things that are better for a hangover than jumping into a large body of cold water. It basically shocks you back into sobriety whether you like it or not (although this feeling doesn’t necessarily last once you walk out of the ocean. For that, I recommend Gatorade, preferably the orange flavor). When the afternoon began coming to a close, I did my best to dry off and change clothes and walked to the opposite end of the main road to a small 9-11 memorial park. It never occurred to me how many memorials there would be around the city, not just in Manhattan. Some boys were throwing rocks in the water. I watched the sun set (did I mention this would be a recurring theme in my trip? Probably.) and took the train back in to the main land.

Getting closer to Brooklyn, I called up my friend Ezra to meet me for a drink. He’d moved to the city just a few months ago and was still exploring, so we wandered around for a bit and wound up at Greenlight Bookstore and sat in (well, stood) on an open mic. Good poetry, great crowd, and this was the first of many moments on this trip that I would realize just how badly I need to get over my public speaking phobias (this should go under my next Things I’ve Learned On This Trip post).

Moving on… After a series of failed attempts at finding a bar that would take plastic, we settled on Canal Bar. It was $1 Cream Ale night, so I don’t have to go into specifics about what happened next. Our bartender, Jeremy (?) was the hipster with a heart of gold (skinny jeans and a flannel, easy on the eyes, but also genuinely friendly, warm smile and all – or maybe it was the beer keeping me warm… Damn.) We joined some of the regulars for a bit on the back patio, but the conversation got a little uncomfortable when this bald lummox of a man started getting a little too personal questioning Ezra about his Jewish heritage and debating the rights and wrongs of the state of affairs in the Middle East (or I might have just been drunk and heard wrong… I should add the “Drunk Disclaimer” to a good portion of my stories I think. Either way, he was dropping borderline racist sounding jokes here and there and I couldn’t be sure how much truth was behind them.) Suffice to say, we left a little after that – besides, we’d already had at least a $15 tab between the two of us with those $1 beers, and the occasional shot of Whiskey. Speaking of which, I had my first taste of Bushmill’s Black Bush while at this bad and I approve! Let’s hear it for discovering yet another bottle you don’t mind drinking from!

Oh! It’s also (very) worth mentioning (more worth mentioning than the bald lummox and possibly more worth mentioning than the Bushmill’s) that I had some of the BEST Mexican food I’ve had on my trip so far while at this bar. No, it wasn’t bar food and this was actually before i’d imbibed more than one can of Genesee Cream Ale, so I think it’s a pretty legitimate claim. The great thing about Canal Bar is that they have an absurd amount of local restaurant menus to get food delivered from. We opted for Oaxaca where Ezra got a few tacos and I happily devoured some enchiladas*. The other great thing about Canal Bar is they’ve got free popcorn, which we happily noshed on once our Mexi-goodness was all gone. All in all, a lovely night! I’m pretty sure I got rained on again on the way home, but the buzz of the beer and of the day were good enough to keep me toasty.

New York is like that. Some days and nights go without a hitch, but more often than not, they’re either remarkable or devastating. I’ve had my fair share of amazing NYC moments, which is what’s always kept me coming back to her, what’s always made me want to move there. This trip to NY was different though, rougher than before, for sure.  It’s not that she was a total bitch, although there were moments. But something was just different. I keep wondering if maybe it’s just me, growing up, being an adult in the city rather than a starry eyed girl of 18 or 21, with notions of excitement and romance keeping me heavily intoxicated. Either way, more on the “remarkable” and “devastating” nights coming up. Much sooner than you realize!

 

Note: It’s become apparent to me that there was something I completely forgot to mention about my 2nd day in NY – my visit to Ground Zero. I don’t know if that’s a very telling statement about how much 9-11 directly affected me. I don’t want to pretend that it completely changed my life, nor that it had no effect on me. Either way, I’ll considering saving that for a separate post.

* = It’s probably also worth mentioning that because I am a vegetarian, I can only ever comment on how good the vegetarian options are at any given restaurant.