Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Right Foot---Day 5: The Tempest and The Coupon

Tonight, on the A Train home from work, I saw an ad for Barnes & Noble Bookstores. The ad read:

“O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is. O brave new world

That has such people in’t!”

---William Shakespeare, “The Tempest"

Apparently, Shakespeare never rode the A Train.

Actually, these words, uttered by the character of Miranda in The Tempest, are NOT meant to signify the beauty of the world as much as they are meant to show the naïveté of Miranda. The characters she calls “goodly” are really not all that great.

But apparently, the Barnes & Noble Corporation doesn’t get the context---nor the irony of putting this particular gem on the A Train, whose cars are where the local bums go to sleep at nights.

Oh, I’ve learned the hard way to scope out the car in advance. A friend of mine once told me a story about his sister visiting NYC. They were waiting for the A Train and noticed that most of the cars were packed, except for one.

“Oh, that car’s practically empty!” she cried as she dashed towards the vacant car knowing she would get a seat.

“Okay,” he snickered as he followed her across the platform. “But you’ll see why.”

The doors of the train opened and the smell of unwashed homeless immediately tore thru their nostrils.

Ten minutes after they got off the train, they still had the smell of pee on their clothes.

Frankly, if I’m on the A Train and look around me and think, “How many goodly creatures are there here…” Well, I’m just as deluded as the over-sheltered Miranda.

However, as a waitress, there is no danger of that. Waitresses have learned thru years of lousy treatment not to trust people. In fact, we’re often shocked at kindness. Even hold it suspect.

“Those people were really nice. What the hell do they want?”

Once, I told my manager at work to look at a particular blog post I wrote. The next day he said to me, “Wow. You seem really nice on your blog. Like a nice person.”

“I AM a nice person!” I replied. “I’m a completely different person outside of this job. You can’t be nice here. They’ll eat you alive!”

Tonight, I waited on what seemed to be a lovely couple. French. Old. Really old. I'd say close to ninety. They each ordered a glass of wine and the all-inclusive Prix Fixe special. Things seemed to be going along swimmingly. They were happy with everything. Having a very nice vacation in America. Smiled. Seemed to be having a pleasant, relaxing evening.

At the end of the meal, he asked for the check. When I went back to pick up the check, the man had laid a coupon for 15% off next to the check.

"Oh," I explained, "I'm sorry, but the coupon doesn't work for the special. You can use it for the wine, but the special is already a special."

The man instantly became irate. Started asking me where it said on there that he couldn't use it on the special.

'Well, it says right here, 'Some restrictions apply'"

"Some restrictions!" he screamed. "What are the restrictions? It doesn't say the restrictions!" he screamed as he pointed his arthritic finger at the coupon.

"Well, it also says on the special menu, 'Not to be combined with other offers'".

This seemed to send him into a rage. "You're crooks!" he yelled at me with his French accent. "CROOKS!!!"

"Sir, I'm just the server. It's the company policy."

"You're crooks! All of you! I'm never coming back here again!"

I was this close to saying, "Are you going to live that long?"

Of course, when I told this story to my manager and another server and uttered my imagined response, they immediately cracked up laughing. I was told I was "on fire tonight".

Luckily, I have a manager who appreciates my sometimes twisted sense of humor. Luckily I HAVE my twisted sense of humor. Some nights, it's the only way I can get thru the evening without going postal on the joint.

Of course, I knew this man wouldn't leave a tip. And he didn't. No big surprise. Old French Man was determined to hang onto that six dollars one way or another.

But anyone willing to use the last precious days of his Golden Years to yell at a waitress over a possible six dollar savings was not my type of person.

I can't imagine being an old person like that. Sure, waitressing may have taught me some mistrust---but it's also taught me to appreciate the good times.

Tonight, as I ride the train home, I set to work on a short sketch for a local theatre company. Fresh from work, I pull out that snarky, doubting side of me and add it to the sketch. Ninety year-old French man may still have have his six dollars---but I have him and every other crazy, angry and/or miserable person I've ever met to draw upon as material.

Who's the richer now?

My Right Foot: Day 4: En Pointe

“En pointe” is French for “on point”. In ballet terms, it means the actual dancing on the tips of ones toes.

I did not study dance as a child. I remember telling my mother several times that I wanted to dance. But she was a single, working Mom and only had so much time to lug me around to so many activities and back home again.

Or perhaps I just seemed content enough to dance around the house, free-form to whatever music was playing.

In school, I picked up bits of dance steps from friends who were allowed the luxury of formal classes. I still remember the week I spent agonizing over the time-step. An older girl named Mary was a trained dancer and tried to teach me and a few other girls this signature tap step.

The next day, I saw her at a play rehearsal. “Did I get it right?” I asked and did my demonstration.

“Well…no. Not quite,” she answered back. And, once again, gave me another lesson at the side of the gymnasium.

Day after day, I would find her doing homework on the gym floor and beg her for an evaluation.

“No. But it’s almost there,” she would patiently explain and try to instill the rhythm in me once again.

Finally, one day, I spotted her in the hallway on the way to a class. I dropped my books to the floor and said, “Okay----I think I got it this time.” And gave it my best shot.

“Yeah! That’s it! You did it!”

By that evening’s rehearsal, I had forgotten it again.

You would think this week-long master class to learn a simple step would have deterred me from future dance studies. But no. If anything, it taught me that I could do anything if I really set my mind to it.

Eventually, I went on to actually study dance---tho, like Zelda Fitzgerald, a bit too late in life to become a prima ballerina. But I didn’t care. I just loved to dance. Can’t say I’m the sort of person who gets up and dances at the clubs on a Saturday night. That’s mostly just young women shaking their hips in search of a mate. But pretty much any other sort of dance piqued my curiosity. I studied jazz, ballet, tap and even a bit of modern dance. I’ve also been known to do a mean Charleston at weddings, should a good jazz band be booked for the reception.

But over the past few years, with money and time at a premium in NYC---I slowly drifted away from dance classes. Even the free classes offered with my gym membership just didn’t fit in with my work schedule. I’ve had to settle for workouts at my gym with some ballet exercises at the barre in the stretch-out room beforehand.

Today, I whip out a videotape I own called “The Ballet Workout” and pop it into the machine. Within moments, I’m instantly taken away to my wonderful classes at Ballet Arts in Minneapolis where I studied with some amazing teachers who would spend entire classes completely focused on the exact position of my elbow. It was intense---and for an hour and a half, I was able to put everything out of my head except the exact position of my hip in the rond du jambe.

Ballet teaches discipline and fortitude. And being “en pointe”, a feat that seemed staggering in the beginning---eventually became a natural progression of all the hard work I’d already done.

Today, I regress to mere slippers as I attempt to re-train my body in preparation for a ballet class next week. At first, it seems sad to me that all that hard work went to waste. But as I continue dancing along to the tape, I realize two things:

First, that while going back to ballet is certainly not as easy as getting back on a bike---it’s also not as difficult as the first day I showed up at a ballet class with nothing but my socks and a dream.

Second, that while I may have lost my discipline for the dance, I’d certainly utilized that discipline in another area of my life---writing.

Though my pointe shoes may remain in the closet for a few more months, I have a trunk load of written material I need to start submitting.

I sit down at my desk, wipe the dancer’s glow from my forehead, pop open a bottle of water and begin to write some query letters.

Today, I put on my writer’s pointe shoes and make my first valiant effort in almost a year at submitting again. I put all thoughts of rejection letters out of my mind and simply focus on the position of my fingers over the keyboard. The letters come easily because I’ve already done all the work. Just like dance, I decide, it has to be a natural progression.

In one way or another, I’m determined to be “en pointe”.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Right Foot: Day 3: Memoirs of a Midget

I stumbled across this amazing little volume a while back at a book sale. Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare. The title of the book was obviously an eye-catcher. This particular book was a fifth edition printed in 1922---the first edition having been printed a year earlier.

It’s not what you might think.

Yes, it is indeed the memoirs of a midget---but it’s a novel written as a fake autobiography of a young midget woman discreetly referred to as Miss M.

The beauty of the language is arresting. You can just hear de la Mare’s delight in the English language as he crafted the lines:

“There was Adam Waggertt, it is true, the bumpkin son of a village friend of Mrs. Ballard’s. But he was some years older than I. He would be invited to tea in the kitchen, and was never at rest unless stuffing himself out with bread-and-dripping or dough-cake---victuals naturally odious to me; or pestering me with his coarse fooling and curiosity. He was to prove useful in due season; but in those days I had a distaste for him almost as deep-rooted as that for “Hoppy,” the village idiot---though I saw poor Hoppy only once.”

For a twentieth century writer to lay his fate at the feet of Dickensian prose in the flapper age is a twisted delight---and would be a surprise to any modern poet not familiar with his work.

Memoirs of a Midget is not only poetic in language, but quite a surprise in plot for a popular novel of 1921. You see, the said remembering midget, Miss M., becomes smitten with a full-size woman. From what I can tell so far, her affections are not returned and she is then pursued by a male dwarf---whose affections she does not return.

Not exactly your classic love triangle.

I chose this book from my shelf yesterday as I needed to get away from reading things I was “supposed” to be reading---newly published novels, historical books for research, and all the French literature I’m shoving into my brain. I wanted a novel that was to be read purely for the joy of reading.

Tonight, after work, I showed up at that weekly reading series for writers that always gives me the shivers.

Once again, I don’t want to go to the theatre this week. The private club-type atmosphere of the place is enough to make me want to hop on a train and go home to my comfy apartment and curl up in a warm bath.

But I force myself to be a Daring Girl and bring the book along as my armor.

I think one of the things about this group is that, due to my dread of submitting to them AGAIN, I have failed to develop an identity there. There, I am the shy girl. The girl who sits in the back and of the theatre and writes. I don't mind this activity, but it's not exactly all of what I am. And when forced into the social aspect of it---well, shy girl isn't very good company.

Tonight, I sneak in the back and open my book before the show begins. In reading Miss M.s delicate prose, I connect with the feelings of the midget---being on the outside looking in---or up, in her case. In our own way---aren't we all freaks?

Tonight, while my right foot led me here, Daring Girl stayed at home.

On the train home, I felt the rock in my pocket and began to write. Daring prose.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Right Foot---Day 2: Monet's Bookshelf

Since my last post, a few people have written wondering why I’m not feeling my old creative self. After all, in the past month alone I’ve written two short scripts, started rehearsals for a film I’m shooting, written quite a bit of a feature script I’m adapting from a novel I wrote, took on a job as a sketch writer for a series at a local comedy club, and started a food blog.

I don’t know the answer to that question except to say that it just wasn’t enough. What was missing was the sense of play.

I suppose it didn’t help that the lousy New York weather kept us all huddled up in our warm apartments. Yes, I read and watched films. Yes, I listened to music and occasionally even danced around my apartment to the dismay of my cat.

But it just wasn’t enough.

One of the elements missing was the thrill of doing things with my hands. And no, typing does not count.

So this morning, I woke up and looked at my bedside bookshelf---a small, yet sturdy, wooden book shelf I picked up at a Flea Market-type shop a year before I moved to New York. I had painted it white and a sort of slate grey-blue color after I brought it home. But, eight years later, it was in dire need of a new paint job.

For inspiration, I pulled some interesting books off my shelf and started to dreaming.

I’ve always loved the distinctive clutter of Vita Sackville-West’s writing desk in the tower at Sissinghurt.

The castle and its famous gardens are on my to-do travel list. The photo comes from a book called “Sissinghurt: Portrait of a Garden” by Jane Brown. One of my favorites to peruse when I’m feeling a bit misty for English Gardens and the sound of cicadas on a warm summer day.

But for a small bookshelf like this, I suppose I shouldn’t be too busy.

The bright yellows from a book called “Pure Style” would certainly add some sunshine at my bedside.

But perhaps, too bold.

However, the yellows reminded me of Monet’s yellow dining room at his home in Giverny.

I visited the historic home a few years ago on a trip to Paris. Giverny is but a short bus ride out to the countryside maybe 45 minutes outside Paris. Though photo-taking was not allowed in the actual house---the garden with its flowers and lily pad-filled ponds was fair game. One of my favorite photos from the whole trip was this shot I took of Monet’s green boat anchored in the lily pond and tucked behind some bamboo.

I loved the green-on-green look and pictured Monet gathering his paints and easel and setting up a work station in the middle of this beautiful pond.

The lime-yellow hue of his bedside table might work. Hmmm. I’d have to think.

I sanded down the old paint on the bookshelf a bit and dusted it off.

I looked around the general area of the bookshelf. My bed has a light maple frame and the bedding is generally light in color. On the other side of the bookshelf is a full-length mirror with a light wood frame. I could paint the frame if I wanted to, it’s an untreated piece just clamoring for some attention.

Ultimately, the fate of the bookshelf rests on this…

An old-time radio that normally sits atop the shelf at my bedside. Whatever I do, will have to go with this.

Tomorrow I’m off to the paint store.

Tonight I turn on the radio vintage radio and hear Verdi’s Quartet for Strings in E. It’s a bit fuzzy and bits of static hit the air as I walk past the window; and I’m sure I could simply go online and listen to a perfectly clear broadcast streamed directly thru my computer---but then, I wouldn’t get to see the glow of the old radio as its wires and tubes scrappled to bring me the distant sound waves pulled out of the air.

I listen to the scratchy quartet and eye photos of Monet’s garden, wondering what herbs I’ll put in my window garden this year.

My Right Foot: The George Washington Bridge

I have always been a creative person. I don’t think this makes me a better person. In fact, it often causes me to feel isolated both physically and mentally. Creation requires a certain amount of solitude. And with that solitude, a different way of looking at the world develops. A way that most people don’t quite understand. This is what causes that lovely “alone in a crowd” syndrome that often overtakes me. Sometimes it’s lonely; but most of the time, it’s pretty nice.

A lot of people think it’s hard to be creative---even some artists themselves.

A few years ago, I ran into an artist friend in my regular coffee shop early one morning. As usual, he was there with his coffee and art projects all spread out. He was in his late-fifties. A full-time, working artist. His work was in the Smithsonian and galleries all over the world. In the 70s, his work was featured in one the first issues of Andy Warhol’s magazine, Interview. I’d seen a great deal of his work both at the coffee shop and at his studio. I’d even purchased a few originals that particularly appealed to me. Just small pieces. He gave me hugely discounted rates---being that I was a waitress, and all. “Here,” he said that day as he pushed a pen and piece of drawing paper in front of me at seven o’clock in the morning, “close your eyes and draw an animal for me.”

“With my eyes closed?”

“Yes. Just put the pen anywhere you want to put it on the paper, think of an animal, and then close your eyes and draw. And don’t open your eyes till you’re finished.”

I thought for a moment, then put my pen on the paper, closed my eyes, and drew. Then I opened my eyes and turned the paper around.

“It looks like an anteater,” he said.

“Ya!!!” I clapped and smiled. “That’s what it is!”

And it was a pretty good anteater, if I do say so myself.

As we sat there drinking our morning coffee, he explained that people always talk about how hard it is to draw. How they can’t draw. How they have no talent. “But every little kid can draw. It’s only when you grow up that you develop inhibitions and lose that sense of play. I’m putting together a little show of these.” He took a long drag off his Marlboro and glanced down at the paper. “That’s a really good anteater.”

Recently, I realized that I’d started to lose that sense of play. Sure, it was still there; but sometimes, life just comes along. Work. Family. Laundry. Things just need to be taken care of. And, in New York City, the stakes are high. Most of the time, you’re just trying to make the rent and keep the apartment clean. Not much fun. And certainly, not inspiring.

For me, this wasn’t living. This was simply existing. Something had to be done.

So this morning, I woke up with the idea that I was going to take a 30 Day Artist Retreat. No, I’m not going into the woods to write poetry. But I realized that I did need to devote time to that very important side of me; because frankly, it was starving. Artistic Scurvy, if you will. I had no idea what I was going to do about it when I woke up today. A beautiful, spring day and no plans whatsoever. I mulled over going to Chinatown, to Soho, to the Village, to Central Park, to a museum, to a concert, or just get on a train and see where it took me. But with the trains in my neighborhood under repairs this weekend, I decided I’d rather look a little closer. And then it came to me. The George Washington Bridge. I began to wonder---Can you walk across the bridge? Safely? Just walk across the Hudson River to Jersey?

I did a Google search. According to a website I found, yes indeed, you can!

Within fifteen minutes, I had packed a bag, grabbed a bottle of water, put on my walking shoes and headed out the door.

For you folks who want to try this at home: First, go to the Southbound Pedestrian and Bike Entrance somewhere around 178th and Cabrini.

I admit, I felt a twinge of nervousness as I headed up the ramp. That nervous feeling you get as you're about to head off into the unknown. I had no idea what was on the other side of the bridge. I looked across the Hudson. A few houses and a large apartment complex stood beckoning me from atop the bluffs. What WAS over there? I'd heard that cigarettes were cheaper in Jersey. In New York State, they are currently up to between $10 and $10.50 a pack. Maybe I was about to walk across the bridge for a pack of cheap cigarettes. Or maybe I would find something even more interesting.

Nevertheless, I was off on adventure.

To my surprise, loads of runners; bikers; and walkers, like myself; were peppered all over the pathway. It was comforting to see them there. Those irrational fears of encountering a psychopath who would push me over the railing could be set aside. Phew. Though the bridge itself is not for the faint of heart or those afraid of heights. The GWB (as it is known about town) began construction in 1927 and completed in 1931. It was designed not only to withstand the elements, but to flow with them. Vibrations from passing trucks go all thru your body. And when a gust of wind hits the bridge, there is a barely perceptible sway. But it's this marvel of construction that has made the bridge one of the sturdiest in the country.

Also, the most beautiful.

The scenery while crossing the bridge was (to use a highly overused adjective) breathtaking.

Signs all over the bridge declared that No Loitering was allowed in the walkway and violators would be prosecuted. But how could you NOT loiter? Sure, you didn't want to get in the way of bike traffic. But no one in their right mind could possibly walk this span of bridge without stopping to admire the view. Yes, suicides often occurred on this (and many other) bridges in New York City. But as I stopped to look at the view of the Hudson, I couldn't imagine anyone standing on this beautiful bridge with the world spread out like a beautiful wedding cake before them and even consider jumping into the water below. Surely, someone has come here after a particularly trying time and looked out onto the river and said, "You know, it's so pretty up here. Maybe life is worth living after all."

As I walked across the bridge, I thought about the day I moved to New York City. You see, my choice of activity today was not quite so random as you might think. Almost eight years ago, I came to New York City with a strong belief in my talents and a truckload o' shit. A filmmaker friend of mine had offered to drive the truck for me as he knew I didn't know how to drive. I offered to pay for the truck, the gas, all expenses and his plane fare back to Minneapolis. We had driven together on a film shoot out to Boston and New Hampshire a few years earlier and knew each other to be good road companions. As we drove across the George Washington Bridge, I remember him saying, "This is the ONLY way to enter New York City". I still remember the view. The Twin Towers were still there then. They would be destroyed by the terrorists just a few months later.

That day, we were running behind schedule and the sun was setting over the Hudson as we crossed the bridge, casting a red-orange glow over the amazing city I was about to jump right into with a few hundred dollars and a dream.

Almost eight years later, I find myself still struggling, but still writing. This morning, with a few years of NYC experience under my belt, I decided to start all over from the beginning. Leave, and enter the city the way I came in. A re-birth. I knew nothing else other than when I came back across this bridge, I would come back with a fresh attitude and maybe a pack of cheap cigarettes.

I paused on the bridge for another photo. You see, as I walked towards the bridge, I began laying out my plan for my 30 Day Artist Retreat. I would write about the experience in my blog everyday---but what would be my theme? I remembered a photo I took with some black and white film years ago on an adventure day like today. I'd decided to walk around some railroad tracks all day and take photos. With no one else around, and wanting a picture of myself documenting that I was indeed there,I simply pointed the camera down and took a picture of my foot on the tracks.

So, this afternoon, as I crossed the GW Bridge, I pointed my camera down and took a photo of my right foot on the bridge. Not a thumbed-nose at the Daniel Day-Lewis film, it's just that my left foot was starting to get a small blister on my heel. So I took the picture of My Right Foot.

Later, I realized how appropriate as I was going for a Right Brain sort of thing over the next 30 days.

About twenty-five minutes later, I stepped off the bridge into New Jersey. And there it was---an Exit Ramp. Not even a gas station in sight at which to buy my discount cigarettes. I looked around for the most promising route and made my way off the highway by following a pair of twenty-something guys carrying some groceries home. The entrance to The Palisades was nearby and I remembered that this was the site of the old Palisades Park torn down in the early 70s. As I followed the pair of young men a few yards ahead of me, I noticed a tiny strip mall up ahead and went in that direction. But when I turned the corner, I discovered a gorgeous little...well, village. Small little shops and restaurants and cafes. The more I kept walking, I realized that I was in Fort Lee New Jersey. It was adorable! And full of interesting things at every turn.

One amazing spot was this memorial for veterans.

The walkway had small memorial stones listing the loved ones remembered for their service and lives.

I took photos and walked around for hours. One of my favorite sites was this rectory.

Though I remain a lapsed Catholic, I can still appreciate the beauty of the faith and the history of the church. The religious orders are not a mystery to me---I was practically raised by nuns. And writers often feel an affinity with the monastic life. Back in high school, as part of a religion class, we visited the convent of a contemplative order in St. Louis. We were told by the nuns that we were in for a treat and a great privilege. While our nuns were part of a more social order, the contemplative convent we were about to visit was full of nuns who never left the premises.


We were granted this great privilege because one of the girls in our class had an aunt in this order. That afternoon, we all piled into a vehicle we referred to as the "nun-mobile" and drove to the convent where we met our classmate's aunt. Well, meet is putting it a bit strongly. We saw her. Well, the shaded OUTLINE of her from behind a grill. She was in full-out nun regalia---long skirt, long habit and spoke to us softly from the shadows about her life inside.

She had been in the order for about 17 years at that point. She told us, in front of her niece, how just before she'd taken her final vows, she got to hold her newborn niece in her arms for the very last time. And then she put on that ring and was locked up behind the bars.

Well---those are my words. She seemed quite happy. What did she do all day? I asked.

"Well, we make the bread for the nearby churches and we pray for anyone who asks us to pray for them."

For this service to the community, they were given food, health care and a roof above their heads for life. In some ways, it seemed a bit too much. In other ways, not near enough. I remember we got to taste the bread. It was pretty good bread. A little dry, but then, it was meant to be washed down with the Blood of Christ.

As I walked the quaint little streets of Fort Lee, I did some contemplating of my own. Not about my past failures or the usual anxieties that often plague me after a hard week of waitressing---I just thought about what a beautiful day I was having. How much I missed having wonderful days like this. Walking. Thinking. Exploring. Feeling my creative juices coursing thru my veins. I felt good. Better than I had in weeks.

Now, on adventures like these, I'm always on the lookout for two things. First, a little spot I can call my own. It could be a bench or a coffee shop. A bookstore or a tree. Second, something my little brother and I used to refer to as a "thing-find". Not something you buy. Just something you find on the ground to commemorate your day. It could be an unusual looking stick or a bit of castaway treasure on the ground. You don't have to keep your thing finds forever. It's just the bits of things that catch your eye that you drag home in a knapsack to remember a lovely day. It also keeps you observant of the beautiful things around you.

While I kept my eyes peeled for a potential thing-find or two, with Fort Lee's large Korean community, I decided to find a little Korean spot to call my own. A few blocks later, I found it at a place called School Zone, which offered Korean-style frozen yogurt in a Hello Kitty atmosphere.

It was cheery and bright and I went inside to discover that I was the ONLY white person in the joint. The place was filled with twenty year-old Korean girls both on staff and as customers. Poppy Korean music played and the delicate cadences of soft-spoken Korean girls filled the room. The yogurt was self-serve and I filled my cup with a sampling of Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry and Green Tea frozen yogurt.

I ate my yogurt and looked out the window at the sunshine. What a beautiful day. Could the weather be any more beautiful? I didn't think so. I was happy here. I'd even managed to find a 7-11 to buy a pack of cheap cigarettes. Only about two dollars cheaper, but I was happy I'd had such a lovely day.

I went into a Border's bookstore I'd seen a few blocks away from the yogurt shop. Borders sell these amazing little notepads with an elastic band that are the perfect size to fit in my apron pocket at work. When thoughts on a project come to me, I can simply whip out my notepad, make my little note, and get back to pouring coffee and telling people about the specials.

Unfortunately, this particular Borders was quite new and did not carry my favorite notepads. It did, however, have a book that caught my eye:

It was PERFECT for my day! The book is filled with amazing chapters titled, "How to Tell a Ghost Story", "Climbing", "How to Be a Spy", "Making a Willow Whistle", "Going to Africa", and "How to Paddle a Canoe". It was in the Bargain Book bin and I snatched it up.

As I stepped out of the Borders, I realized that the sun was starting to go down, and I should probably start making my way back across the bridge.

I got a little lost, but that was okay. That's part of the adventure. What wasn't okay was that I hadn't come across any good thing-finds. Fort Lee's cleanliness was going to be my loss. After about twenty minutes of wandering around, I finally saw the entrance to the Palisades Park a few blocks ahead and got my bearings.

A few minutes later, I stepped back onto the bridge.

I took a deep breath and left all my negative thoughts, disappointments and rejections under the freeway ramp. Surely, some homeless man will find them there and add them to his shopping cart and plastic bag.

This time, I was entering Manhattan with a belly full of Korean yogurt, a renewed sense of hope and a book that would tell me how to identify a porcupine footprint. I was all set!

The sun was setting on the Hudson as I crossed. Just as beautiful as I remembered it the first time.

I remember my heart had skipped a beat the first time I crossed seven years ago---more in fear than anticipation. But this time, I was excited to get back to New York City. To be a Daring Girl. To be creative. To play. To work hard. To live.

About half-way across the bridge, I looked down at the cement pavement and there it was. My thing-find. A rock.

Yes, the shape was smooth and interesting; but what was more interesting to me is exactly HOW did a rock get on the George Washington Bridge?

The river was hundreds and hundreds of feet below so it certainly couldn't have washed up. The other bits you see in the photo aren't rocks, but bits of plastic and rubber that fell off the bridge and the nearby cars. The sandy bed is surely from the dust of the tires traveling over the bridge---but just HOW does a rock get all the way up here? And not a bit of broken concrete rock---but an actual pebble that fit perfectly into the palm of my hand. I picked up the rock and measured how it felt as I rubbed it in my hand. Never was a rock designed that was so perfectly Zen and organic in my hand. Almost perfectly smooth except for a few tiny indented patches to give it a only-God-is-perfect-Turkish-carpet sort of sense.

I don't think I've ever fallen in love with a rock before. But I fell in love with this one and and nursed it in my hand all the way across the rest of the bridge. This was my rock. My lucky rock. I don't think I've ever had anything I actually felt was lucky before. Sure, there was the Lucky Green Bean about a year ago---but that didn't last. After all, it was just a green bean.

As I headed towards New York, the lights of Manhattan began to flicker and glow. Yeah, I knew it wasn't exactly for me. But if I could believe that a green bean could be lucky, I could surely pretend that the lights of Manhattan were welcoming me back home.

The sun went down behind the Jersey side of the bridge and I went home to begin my creative journey. Right foot first.