I cannot remain silent

23 Nov

I have a friend who works at Fox news, and we have frequently been in long conversations about the state of The United States. In many ways we are aligned, but in so many ways we stand on opposite sides, and it’s friends like him that make me want to be silent.

For he is symbolic of many people that I care about and love; people who I would never want to alienate in any way. And while privately, him and I can hear one another out, I know that when you put your voice out there, in the public, when you choose a side, not everyone will stand with you.

However, I have decided that I cannot remain silent and observe the heart of our nation being broken – for that is what is happening. We are splitting in two, and it is ugly.

Every day I ride the C train and transfer to the A – the train that, in a recent interview, Lin Manuel Miranda said when casting Hamilton he wanted it to, “”look like what you see when you get on the A train to go to work.”

The train is all colors and all languages. It’s crowded, uncomfortable, and every day I witness beautiful moments. People of different races, and classes, existing together, moving through the city, and dealing with one another.

The homeless quartet whose harmony was so unbelievable I thought they were lip-singing to a recording; the corporate-looking ,frat-dude who was the only person to hand money out to the clearly disturbed, deaf, beggar; the elderly man who offered a pregnant woman his seat; the young black girls sharing their man problems and the elderly white lady turning to me, saying, “getting old isn’t so bad,” while smiling at them.

These moments warm my heart because it’s why I chose to come back to the U.S. after years of traveling; it’s why I chose to live in New York. To be all together, standing there, all just trying to get where we want to go.

And, I cannot be silent while I watch the underbelly of hatred bubble up and blanket our nation.

I know it was there before; that our country was built on slavery; that racism and sexism have been threaded throughout every iteration of our government, but something has broken open. It’s being released and is poisoning our air.

It is all of the anger and fear that we have been carrying. It’s people whose insurance premiums have been too high, whose jobs have been lost. It’s small businesses who are being broken by their taxes, it is those who feel like what they believe in, “their America,” has been stolen from them.

It is the inability to relate – it is the image of a plane flying into a building. It is looking at the, “other,” while gripping onto whatever you got, screaming “don’t take this from me.” It is the hand reaching out, grabbing, and saying, “and that’s mine too.”

It is the digital revolution that has stormed into our cities and broken down our every system, so that even our communication has changed – for who talks to each other anymore?

It is egoism, it is feeling wronged, it is sexism, it is everything that sits within the shadows that we all carry and we cannot let those those win.

And, I don’t believe they can. For in every story there is always a time of darkness, a time when the demons and devils rise – when hell is not a concept but a reality, and all hope seems lost.

The fight seems endless, the light far, and yet, it is in the breaking open, the other side, at the end of the tunnel, when the light hits your eyes so bright that it blinds you.

So, friends, loved ones, I will keep talking, and standing for the light – and I will never go silent, until I am extinguished, for I am not afraid of the dark.

There’s still magic to be found

12 Nov

I don’t know what to say and most I know feel the same way. Some of us are silent, others are shouting, and most everyone is afraid. My Trump friends are elated, my Hillary friends are so angry their eyes are turning red, and the city of New York is openly weeping.

On Wednesday, I felt fear when I left work, and the streets were lined with police and protestors, and I felt the hum of violence in the air.

I don’t like being political because politics can be so petty. Two people, two parties, shouting at one another, trying to convince others to vote for them. As a student of history, as a Yogi, as a peace-believer and love-maker, this feels wrong to me; that when there are two sides the only result is a split, a divide that strikes through our systems in irreparable ways.

This goes against what I believe about people; that what sits within us is not so different no matter the nation or nationality. This belief was born when I went to Spain for the first time, at sixteen, and I stood on a beach with people from Italy, China, Switzerland and the US, and we were all teenagers who wanted to be liked – who wanted to explore, be kissed, to dance, get drunk and run the streets of the small town that we were visiting.

Some of us were more privileged than others, some of us more educated, some had happy families and others not so much, but in my heart I knew that we all strove for a similar thing – for the right to seek our happiness, the pursuit of it, no matter what it looked like on the outside; that was our youthful, motivating factor.

I have sat in shacks in Ecuador with families of 12, with 14 year old mothers, and I have stayed with friends in Colombia whose brothers were stabbed by gang members. I have spent days on farms in Bolivia, and  on small, impoverished islands where there are no options other than the sea. I have bused through Nicaraguan towns, and I have biked through the English countryside where I was the first American that some of the villagers had met.

I have lived in Illinois, Indiana, California, Colorado and New York – I have been both red and blue, and I  have always come to the same conclusion. That the ability to live a simple, peaceful life is the greatest gift of all. That fear is our greatest monster, and it’s one we cannot escape, and that people say they want, “change,” but to transform, to shift into a different way of being is never easy –  and is rarely peaceful.

That empathy is the alchemy to the world’s shadows, and so I will never stop listening, and traveling, and reading, and hearing both sides because I know beneath it all I am not so different from the other.

So friends, let us not fight hate with hate; let us not fall into despair because love does win, even the darkness. It’s the light inside of us and when it is ignited, we can let other’s ugliness enter it and they, too, will be warmed by our way of being – for there is still magic in this world.

On Wednesday, to soothe myself, I popped into my local bookstore because it’s the way that bookstores are supposed to be: warm, welcoming and well-lit. Unexpectedly, there was a famous female poet performing. She was speaking to the experience of womanhood, and when I looked into the audience I saw men, women and people of all colors, snapping their fingers, being moved by her words – funny, furious, violent and healing.

And I thought, no matter what anyone tells me, now, or in the future, if they say, “go back to where you came from,” I will smile and say, “okay,” because I’ll know that I am home.

 

 

 

Colombia

27 Oct

I can still taste Colombia – it’s Limonada de Cocoa – slightly sweet, sexy and a refreshing way to cut the heat. It’s blended mangos con agua with sugar, it’s lulo, a fruit that I had never heard of before until I arrived.

It’s Paisa breakfast, so hungover from Aguacaliente that I can barely keep my head up. It’s beans, rice, sausage and chicharron. It’s drinking straight from the bottle and salsa. It’s a man inviting me to dance, a caballero, with a two week old, whose wife is at home, as she should be – taking care of the bebe.

It’s him proudly showing me photos while giving me the eyes – always naughty, always dangerous and yet seeped in tradition, national pride. It’s knowing I could get stabbed at a soccer game, if I was a man who wasn’t wearing a millionarios scarf. It’s standing on the side of the road, waiting for the bus to come, hopping on as it almost stops and then listening to boleros for two hours, wanting to stuff cotton into my ears.

It’s going to the square with Fiorella and Marisa, while negotiating our way onto a boat and jetting off to Playa Blanca. It’s watching shirtless boys hang off the side of the boat, hoping to be taken away from what they were born to – creatures of the sea and island life; future fisherman with threadbare possibilities.

It’s going even further North, to ‘The Dream Hostel,’ and disappointing a man who I told to, “meet me there.” It’s making eyes, drunkenly, at Lancelot, the French bartender who had walked away from everything two years before. It’s going to a club, and standing on a wooden block, shaking, shimmying and observing who I’d want to give myself to.

It’s Raul’s green eyes, flashing, as he tells me, “tu estas loca,” and I laugh and ask, “por que?” and he grabs my hand and twirls me around because it’s Cartagena and we just won the game.

It’s being airlifted above the communas with the three Australians I was trailing because I was too afraid to take the subway alone. It’s going to an art museum that has three rooms, and laughing at myself for seeking culture.

Colombia is wild – it is better than culture, it’s untempered, natural beauty and as haughty  and crazy as the truly beautiful are.

It’s more than taste, that drips down your lips, it’s more than a, “feast for the eyes,” it’s the sound of guitars at one in the morning, while mota wafts in the air. It’s that quiet cup of coffee on a finca and sixteen shades of green. It’s curved roads and snakes with no names that are yellow and black with poison. It’s avocados as big as your face, and the sound of strangers saying, “buenas,” to one another.

It’s standing in a valley with near extinct trees and crossing bridges made of wire and breaking slats, and  paying a guy 5 bucks to be driven to a town that’s just a suggestion.

It’s learning how to fearlessly hop on the back of a motorcycle and being taken into a community that is booming with ramshackle tourism: beach shacks, hotels, juice stands and swimming pools. It’s observing a village that only has school three days a week because that’s how often the teachers are willing to come.

It’s sitting alone in a club while a bouncer watches me and my host does business behind a closed doors. It’s homemade hot chocolate for breakfast and unrecognizable soup before lunch. It’s the Museo del Oro and the sounds of, “Roxanne,” straining from speakers.

It’s floating in Jonny’s pool, while wearing a newly bought, bright yellow bathing suit and staring at the city’s mountains.  It’s smoking meat and dance, always, anywhere, all the time because the doors are flung open, to people like me who just want to soak it all in, who want to inhale and never be the same after.

It’s that place that’s behind me, and in front, at my fingertips, and I can almost touch it, always – because, as one man told me, “tus ojos son peligrosos.”

Prose Poetry -Rinse, Repeat

7 Sep

Sometimes I sit at work and negative thoughts rise like foam – flickering, without structure, so I cannot yank them away, and think, “not enough, not enough,” and everything that I am not rises before me with a murderous face, leaving me motionless – doubts rise with fear, and my own selfishness cackles at me for believing I am good because what is good anyway?

I want to drown in alcohol and male attention; I want to hang with vice –

And, within the mad calm is the eye, sitting on top of the pyramid – outside Self, laughing with mad disappointment at what life isn’t – at the pain of birthing anything, pushing forth, screaming against it’s own blinding being, as the light hits it harsh.

“Where is the redemption? Are we meant to plug in toil and start again? Am I the waking nightmare?” and so I breathe in consciousness within the babbling – and so I run, pounding feet against the pavement, and I gaze up at the trees pointing out what I don’t want to carry anymore – rinse, repeat, and begin again-

Until it’s all clean.

How Lancelot can enter any hospital tale

16 Aug

Uncle John’s Band fills the room, and I can’t look at my Father. He’s wearing a diaper and his breathing is like a death rattle emerging from deep within. He’s been this way for hours. We have said our goodbyes two days before.

“Daddy, I love you,” I say, and he goes, “I know.”

A part of me still doesn’t believe him. How can he know? How can he know that the distance between us is because I can barely stand to be around him? I don’t know this man with a cane – I don’t know this man who does 2nd grade word problems to help with his memory. How can he know?That looking at this man makes me want to take the fetal position and never get up again – that if I did that I’d be an utter disappointment, but at least he would know how much he was loved.

Though, that’s all done now. A week before I noticed that he was silent, sitting at the edge of his bed with his feet planted on the floor. The TV was on, but I could tell that he wasn’t really watching. It rang out like empty noise that was meant to distract – not entertain.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, and as he usual he responded with, “nothing,” and I didn’t believe him because despite everything he still couldn’t admit to me when he was in pain.

I wasn’t sure if he fully realized what he was doing. How long he sat there like that. I wasn’t sure if I should try to talk to him or leave him alone. Our conversations were stilted, and at times they seemed to take away all of his energy.

Months before I had witnessed his writhing body laid out before me, and while my Mother screamed at me, “tell him a story,” and I began to tell the story of Lancelot – not the knight, but the handsome, womanizing, almost-lover that I had become friends with in the North of Colombia. I had no idea what I was doing, but I went with it.

Under most circumstances, I loved telling the story a Lancelot, and it wasn’t just because of his name. He pulled me into a corner in a dark club in Taganga, infuriated with my inattention toward him and demanded, “but Samantha, who do you like? You seem to like everyone,” and I wanted to explain to him that what I liked was being free.

Outwardly calm, but deeply panicked, I couldn’t stop the story’s telling. My Father murmured, “morphine,” and I said, “Daddy, it’s coming, don’t worry. You know what’s really funny? Well, maybe not funny, but umm, when I met Lance I was traveling with another guy..who was my friend, of course. But, um, I was annoyed with him. Ever heard of helicopter Moms? He was kind of like that, and when I saw Lance what I was really seeing was an opportunity to get rid of him.”

All the while I kept thinking, “I’m a terrible person. Not only did I ditch that guy and use Lance to do it, but now I am telling the story of Lancelot to my Dad whose every nerve is tensed in excruciating pain.”

So, I paused and wracked my brain for any other story, and all I saw was nothing.

Everything was covered in this mist, and I couldn’t even see my own recent experiences. I gripped my Dad’s hand, and plowed on, moving onto the part where Lancelot bought wine and cheese, and we laid by the pool, flirting, until I slipped and hit my head on the concrete in an attempt to be both sassy and sexy. After a bottle of wine, it seemed okay to stalk off, in false indignation, on a slick surface.

When it came time for the apology behind closed doors, I paused again. I couldn’t go on with the story, even the beginning wasn’t really parent-appropriate: the nightclub, the traveling with a man who I ended up leaving. It was all in my first months of backpacking, and it was a delicious chaos that I had never permitted myself.

But, here I was, standing in an equal chaos, and in response to my Mother’s demands to distract, it was the only story that lit up in my terrified mind.

She kept screaming at me, “what’s wrong with you? Talk to him, you’re not helping – can’t you think of anything?” and I wanted to lean across the table and scream at her, “how are you making anything better?” I wanted to weep for my life, which took me far and wide, and yet always yanked me back to where I began.

Eventually, the morphine kicked in and my Dad fell asleep. I looked at the white walls and laughed to myself; it was all so absurd.

In the silent room, I took in the white: the sheets, the pillowcases, his gown and the walls, and I knew that each room contained another person who was wearing the same thing. Some had families and some didn’t, and we had been there so many times over the years that the staff knew us. That they were witnesses to our families’ story; that they probably knew us better than our closest friends because they had seen our pain.

I looked down at my Father, “my Daddy,” and again I was wordless. Overcome, I knew that nothing had come to me because everything was nothing in the face of this – that Lancelot needed to enter into this moment because I was trying to save my Dad through a story.

Through my fully lived life; that was rich in experience, many of it joyous, adventurous, and I drove myself into the ground at times with it all because when the time came I knew I wanted to grip each moment into my hands and offer them up as worthy.

Looking into the grim reaper’s eyes, and whisper, “I’ve learned.”

I’m back, at the page, and it feels good

4 Aug

I walk through the streets of New York and feel the throbbing energy pulsate up through my feet, and I smile, like a never-ending summer; like the melting heat that I can smell, and I know I’m in love.

It’s a ripping kind of love, an earned love – it’s not easy or quiet. In fact, it never shuts up.

People don’t stop talking here, and we all can hear each other. There isn’t enough space for our words to breath, so we’re all on top of one another, complaining, but we love it.

In English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi and Portuguese, we’re all here standing together on the goddamn subway – stuck underground. Eventually, though, we all emerge, streaming out into the streets, bumping into one another as we rush to our next destination.

Having lived in Illinois, Indiana, California, Colorado and New York – I am keenly aware of the different styles of living that each city and state possess. And, I’m aware how each environment both attracts a certain kind of person and shapes their perspective.

And, a fierce rooted love lights up in my heart for New York because there is a sliver of space for me to be all that I am – and, if one is willing, there is room for you too.

And I think, “Isn’t this the kind of country that we want to live in?” one that believes there is room for everyone even if we’re straining against the seams?” A country that believes we can get a little closer, squeeze together, to make more room for another soul who has the right to, “pursue their own happiness,” and whatever that looks like for them?

It is in the arid expanses of space, conforming and white-washed, that we can forget all that exists outside our own environment and perspective; we can forget that a tapestry’s beauty lives in the varied colors that are woven together.

But, I get it. I get it more than I say – and I haven’t said much, as of late. There was a silence that descended upon me after my Dad died – the words left me, and all I could think about was, “move forward.”

I had nothing then: jobless, homeless with a few thousand dollars to my name. It was January and bitter cold. There were no travels ahead, only an entire life to rebuild, and the determination to do it.

Now, a year and half later I can revisit the page, and in doing so, I’d like to champion communication, I’d like to champion bridges – not walls.

We are scared, and we have every right to be. We are divided and that makes sense to me. I don’t comment on politics because I have seen so many different perspectives – I have lived in them.

I have sat in small towns in Indiana and listened to the reasoning, I have heard spur-clad cowboys in Colorado, and I put my face to the sun in Dolores Park, in San Francisco, and heard from people all over the world commenting on our nation.

But, at the end of the day for me it is New York, it is the subway – the most efficient and obnoxious form of transportation. The great equalizer.

It is the brown child laying it’s head on what I believe to be its Mother, it’s the French couple discussing things I cannot understand, and it’s the Asian schoolchildren, giggling, and that white guy staring into his phone.

America is a dream – one made from Utopia, and for those who don’t know what that means it’s nowhere.

But, don’t we need to believe in what we cannot see; that can potentially not exist? Don’t we need to believe that we can leave our childhood homes with almost nothing to recreate our lives? Isn’t that what is “great” about the “United States,” that we, at times, have provided space for people to come onto our shores with a few dollars and a dream and believe that they can make something better for themselves – which can benefit the country as a whole?

Isn’t that the true spirit of being an entrepreneur? How can I approach this in a new way? How can I make possible something that doesn’t yet exist?

Creation is not a solitary act – bringing any being into life takes two people, two perspectives, and that is just a beginning.

The ending is where we stand alone. This I’ve seen. I watched my Dad take his last breath, and I wasn’t with him; he was by himself somewhere, a place that I might see myself one day.

That is the fear – that is the uncertainty. That is why I run down the street, knocking into others because, “I’m not going to let anyone else steal my cab,” that is the nature of the beast, and that is why I love New York.

It is a place for beasts and for compassion – the dual sides of our nature is wrapped around every mode of living. The man who carries the homeless woman’s walker up the stairs, and the person, slamming their hands down, screaming at a car, as if it will respond.

But, I don’t want to live in the screaming. Make space for it? Yes. But, I’d like to believe that at the end of the day, most of us want to be the person who’s carrying that disabled, impoverished woman’s walker up those fucking stairs.

Emerging, into the cloudless, August day – knowing that intangible, idealistic myths are the very story of creation.

A being of energy, of light, some all-powering God, spent seven days making this earth – and then we bit the Apple, we are the creation and the Fall.

(Wo)man will always bite the apple, and that’s okay – so there’s no need to reach for that tempting snake who promises you a paradise that you already live in.

The subway will arrive eventually, though never on time. And, all of us, standing together, fighting for our square to stand in will both smile at one another and push each other out of the way, struggling, hurrying, reaching towards our next destination – which ultimately will end up being our last one.

So, maybe, let’s slow down, and take some time to get there. Let’s make space for our different perspectives and modes of being – let’s create in a way that serves us. Let us believe that we have the courage to go off, with very little, and make much of it.

Today in New York

22 Mar

Sometimes I just feel the rhythm of this city – the energy that swells up from beneath the layers of concrete.  It throbs through me, and echoes out of all of the layers of myself; all the Samanthas piled up on top of each other.

People ask me, “Where are you from?” all the time, especially since I’m new to this filthy, rat-infested, glorious, crumbling empire.  I feel that; that I choose to move here and watch it all fall, but I know that it’s already fallen.

“I don’t know where I’m from,” I say because I’m not from anywhere. I’m a culmination of all of my experiences, of all things forgotten and remembered.

Sometimes I sift through my memories, like pages of a book that I cannot put down.  I am terrified of forgetting and know it’s the inevitable conclusion.

But my experiences are my most precious possessions – the shining jewels of my mind.  People don’t realize that when they tell me I have a good memory I shine brighter than when I’m told I’m beautiful.

I don’t care about being beautiful, really.  But, when I look at my aging face I know that I am lying to myself.  That my life will change as my body changes because people will respond to me differently.

And who I am if I am not pursued and shouted at?  Who am I when I no longer look like the person that is recognizable to me?

And yet, when the young waitress, whose beauty is so obviously flourishing, serves me my glass of white wine, I don’t envy her.

She is too fresh, too ignorant – her beauty is in the blossoming and not in the experience; her beauty is a shiny shell and not the nooks and cracks – the marks that chaos leaves behind.

And what is beauty anyway?  I have seen so many different types and faces, and when I sit across the table and ask two woman of color if they have a difficult time dating, their response is, “”yes, thank you for asking.”

Asking is my pleasure, as is knowing others, or, “the other.”  The unseen city, the yet-to-be climbed hill, the person I haven’t yet met.

This is what I love about New York, it’s a city of extroverts, of people constantly wanting to tell something to the other because we’re all standing so close together.  Piled up in so tight that it can be stifling.  Elbows are bumped, drinks are spilled, and apologies are rarely made – there is no room.

The mountainous, sea-smelling spaciousness of other places that I have lived reminds me how I didn’t fit because no one had the need to talk or listen.  No one wanted to scream out their story to me – people had too much room to, “journey.”  Here people need to cut through to make space.

And sometimes I feel my joy radiate out of me like an incandescent light that others smell – I strut down the streets, smaller than most, and yet, still noticed.  At other times I feel so lonely that I can’t get out of bed, feel that I’m trapped in, weighed down by all of my unshared experiences.

I’ve been so loved by so many people, but never really loved; never had a man (or woman, for that matter) want to spend the rest of their life with me.

I know it’s me – I’m the common denominator.  I keep people at arms length or throw myself into and/or against things.  The thought of truly giving myself to another horrifies me but so does my ever-abundant freedom. 

A friend of mine told me I was looking for the perfect partner, but aren’t we all? Aren’t we all looking for that puzzle piece that just naturally clicks itself in, forming a greater picture, making a single soul larger with it’s connection?

Maybe God is my soulmate – maybe I am just a child of the world, the universe because the only thing that I’ve been in love with these past two years is life.

I’ve looked up at the sky, on a boat in Bolivia, floating along a lake were sea meets sky because its 3,812 meters high.  I felt the sky’s nearness.  I wanted to take my fingers and poke them through the scattered clouds that were hanging above; to swing across that lake with clouds in my hands.

My heart was so full – the richness and luck of my life so apparent; time and time again, I looked up and whispered, “thank you.”

And when I stride down the streets of New York, on my way to a meeting, an opportunity, a date, and I feel the millions of people who are also going somewhere, I believe that I can do anything.  That putting myself out there into the world is an accomplishment; that I am here because I am willing to push forward, persistently, toward the image of Self that I hold in my mind.

That unattainable Perfect image that isn’t real; that is a mirage in the distance, the person we all believe ourselves to be if we were just a little bit more or less of something.

I hear the hustle outside my window, steaming out with sound, and I look to the handsome man sitting next to me, and I pretend that knocking over my coffee is an accident.

He turns towards me, offering one of the napkins piled high on his table, and our fingers brush, just for an instant.

It is in that instant that I lower my eyes, and then quickly look up.  My hazel meeting his blue, and I breathlessly say, “thanks and what is your name?”

Beginning again what I’ve done before, and will do again, in cycles, one piling on top of the other, seeking out and writing all of life’s unwritten chapters, and here in New York with it’s abundant stories, ferocious underbelly, with it’s bloody gorgeous rhythm that rips people apart is where I will dwell, for now, as I write my endless, infinite chapters.