April 14, 2005


Last week was my niece's birthday. Because she's shown an affinity for snapping pictures with my digital camera, I decided to encourage her habit (and spare the lens on mine the wrath of her dirty fingers) by getting her a kid-friendly digital model. She was THRILLED and we now have loose plans to go on a photo-taking expedition together. She's a busy little girl with quite the social calendar, you see. She'll work me in eventually.

I received a thank-you card in the mail from her today. The salutation and message were written by my sister (no doubt dictated by my niece) but she signed it herself. I've seen her scribblings hundreds of times but I NEVER get over the joy and the wee gush that accompanies seeing her hand written name.

Her letters are spaced out. She dots the two "i's" in her name far to the left of the first letter. She hasn't quite grasped the concept of horizontal alignment yet. Her letters follow more of a healthy EKG pattern as opposed to a flatline. But, to me, it's the most beautiful handwriting I've ever seen and the sight of it never fails to make me a bit verklempt.

After I read the card, I caught myself in a rare moment of pure, innocent joy. I embrace those self-aware moments that are devoid of self-indulgence. They make me feel real. I'm a moody sort prone to my ups and downs. I take happy pills to help me out but sometimes they're too effective in that they make me numb. So it's always reassuring to have a moment where my healthy emotions combat the chemicals and just hang out for awhile. I don't ever want to take that for granted.

During my laid-back, low-key holiday last week, I had one of those brilliant bursts of feeling. I was on an organizing bender and just cleaned out my closets and drawers. As a result, I compiled four huge bags of clothes to donate to Housing Works. The bags were far too heavy and bulky to drop off in one trip so I took the biggest of the bags and made my way to the 2/3 train.

By the time I reached Borough Hall, I had shifted the bag from hand to hand at least 50 times. Both of my mitts were red and swollen and screaming for relief. The subway ride to 14th Street was a long enough reprieve to turn my hands from a violent scarlet color to a more subdued rose hue.

I walked three blocks north and deposited my donation in the appropriate area. At that moment, I didn't think anything could top the feeling of being empty handed. I was so grateful to be rid of that ton weight. I mean, I also comforted myself in the knowledge that with any luck, someone would benefit from my donation, but mostly, my hands were happy and that's all I cared about.

Since I had nothing else on my agenda, I headed home. The sun was bright on my face and the light breeze played with my hair. I popped in my earphones and walked south east to Union Square to the tune of "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes. My strides were timed to Meg's kick drum and my dodging and weaving through the farmers' market was choreographed to Jack's trembling guitar line. By song's end, I was nestled in a seat on the 6 train.

I exited at Brooklyn Bridge so that I could walk the rest of the way home. The beautiful weather and my increasing girth dictated that I hoof it over that glorious span.

The entrance to the bridge's footpath is a paved sidewalk which eventually gives way to a wooden walkway. The transition from pavement to wood is located right above the Fulton Fish Market. At that elevation, the aroma of fish is pleasant and inviting... as opposed to the nasal rape you suffer when you get a whiff down at street level.

Boats were cutting foamy paths up and down the East River below me. The Verrazano Bridge emerged through the light haze to strike a majestic pose to my right while an N train rumbled over the Manhattan Bridge directly to my left. Activity surrounded me, just as it always does in this city. But on that day -- one of the first gorgeous days of spring -- there was an unmistakable relaxed and genial feel to it all.

Even I abandoned my usual aggressive pedestrian tactics and slowed down my ridiculous pace so that I could observe and enjoy. Instead of impatiently passing an amateur photographer, I stopped and waited while he framed the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges just so. When he got his desired shot, he smiled at me in appreciation and I nodded and continued on my way.

As I approached the second spire of the bridge, "Talk to Me" by Stevie Nicks came on my iPod. It didn't fit the mood or purpose of my walk but I didn't care. Sometimes the randomly shuffled playlist is just right and other times, I skip songs like it's my job. On this day, it couldn't have been more perfect. Or maybe I was just feeling a little less fussy than usual.

I didn't focus on Stevie's lyrics imploring her boyfriend to open up and tell her shit. Oh no. When Stevie sings, I focus on her voice and her voice only. Actually, no, that's not true. I also tend to visualize myself wearing black lacy things while shaking a tambourine... but, that's a story for another time. Or, like, you know, never.

But as I was saying, when Stevie really lets go and works those coke-ravaged pipes of hers, I get the chills. She tears through a chorus like a buzz saw in thrilling fashion. Chills, I tell you!

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles came on next. I mean, really... how perfect is that?

As I emerged from that architectural and geometric wonder into my beloved neighborhood on a spectacular day while listening to my favorite Beatle sing one of my favorite songs, I experienced one of those perfect moments where I was wholly aware of my elation and completely grateful for it. Even better, the feeling has carried over into this week. I give it at least a few more days before the scowl returns...