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Washington Heights

Snow Day

What is it about the thought of an impending snow day that sends everyone into a flurry? Yesterday, I decided for whatever reason that it would be smart to take a cab home from school. I know- traveling by car is exactly the type of thing you don’t want to do in a weather-induced state of emergency. Hey now, I was tired, and I was really missing a friend of mine I’ve been neglecting lately… Sleep.

Anyways, I hailed a taxi from the corner of 122nd and Broadway, from where my driver decided to turn right/ uphill so we could take Riverside Drive. We almost made it to Claremont when the vehicle started sliding all over the place and inevitably backward towards Broadway. I nervously pattered a catalogue of four letter words as the taxi’s rear bumper neared our starting point with impressive haste. When my driver finally, and thankfully regained control of the vehicle I asked him if he could take a different route, to which he replied “Get out, we’re going to die… please take a snow mobile!”

Its moments like these that make me miss New Mexico, and also make wonder why my friends ever question my desire to stay inside when the white stuff pays a visit. Luckily for me, my good friend Danielle (see Vampire Jacob? for pic) was able to do the impossible this afternoon in making me join her and several of our friends for a snow day visit to Central Park.

Initially intended to be a sledding adventure, my friends and I decided to wait for our friend Adele in an untouched snowy patch of awesome near the West 72nd street entrance to Central Park. While she made her way to join us, we began building snow men, and of all things, a fort. After about an hour of sculpting (and laughs from passersby), a group of elementary school children enthused by our architectural efforts ran inside our fort.

The children quickly suggested a snowball war against the female members of our group. In retaliation, our girls unsuccessfully tried to claim a giant evergreen to hide under as the munchkins attacked them fiercely with impeccable aim. Mind you, my group totaled 6- Lindsey, Adele, Nicole, Danielle, Tyler and me. This left me and Tyler to deal with about 10 children setting up camp in our fort while charging after the girls.

After watching what seemed like a mash-up gone wrong between Lord of The Flies and Gossip Girl, we convinced the children that, since they worked so well together, to be on their own team, with the understanding they were free to take our fort when we abandoned ship. With a wicked smile, the self-proclaimed leader, and Jacob-proclaimed Lord of The Flies agreed.

Now that the girls were safe behind our fortress walls, we were able to rightfully declare a snow war. Hey now, I know what you’re thinking… six college students against a group of seven year olds seems highly unfair, but I must impress upon you the old adage that dynamite comes in small packages.

We must have lasted about five minutes while the children feverishly attacked us. Each of us was targeted and successfully hit in the head with several snowballs as onlookers laughed and added sports commentary while taking pictures and video. After we realized that we had clearly been beaten… and pummeled, we retreated, and gave up our fort for the children to occupy. Before we took to the yellow stained road, several of the munchkin’s parents and babysitters thanked us for playing with their kids as well as entertaining them.

As we were about to head back toward the street, we all decided  on an impulse to continue with our initial plan to go sledding. After about fifteen minutes of wandering about the beautiful winter wonderland that I wish Christmas could be, we found ourselves at the Bethesda Terrace cheering a group of daredevils (and eventually Tyler) as they raced down a makeshift hill and ramp on the steps which lead down to the famous fountain. Finally, just east of the terrace, we found ourselves claiming an empty pathway to sled on.

After about thirty minutes of laughs, failures and screams, we slowly meandered back to Central Park Park West where I bid my friends goodbye out of sheer necessity to thaw. I’m happy to report that my toes still number ten and they are indeed now warm and dry :-)



Waiting For Godot With No Exit On The Subway…

 

 

Sometimes I wonder if dying is a little bit like taking the subway home alone in zero degree weather after a late night out. No, I’m not talking about about the morbidity of freezing among the day’s lingering grunge, but rather, that the journey seems likely to be similar. Think about it, you’re celebrating at a bar or restaurant… you could be with people you love, people you hardly know, or you could be alone; this represents your life. Suddenly, for whatever reason, the celebration ends and you’re really alone. You walk by yourself to the subway station, and after you swipe your metro card, you hope the train comes quickly because, well, it’s cold.  You wait and wait, and even though your genius playlist is shuffling through your favorite songs, you start likening the train to Samuel Beckett’s Godot… will it ever come? Then, in sporadic intervals, people start to pass by. No one of course will stand near you because for all they know you’re the next Craigslist killer. These people are like Pozzo and Lucky in Waiting for Godot; for some reason and by the sheer fact they exist, they offer you sustenance… that is, the satisfaction of knowing that you aren’t alone.

After what seems like an eternity and several trains that pass by because they’re too full, your train comes for you. You realize after taking a seat that it is no warmer in this subway car than it was on the platform, and that your breath is still forming clouds in front of you. After looking around, you realize that the people in your current surroundings are a little more extraverted than those on the platform; some are drunk, some are really drunk, and some are just staring into the abyss. These people are like Joseph, Inès and Estelle in Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. You feel as if you’re in purgatory and will never be rid of them because the train is now running local, and home, although approaching, seems to be getting farther and farther away.

Finally, your stop arrives and you step onto the dimly lit platform and make your way upstairs. It seems the closer you arrive to your doorstep, the colder it gets and therefore the longer it seems be to be taking you to reach your final destination. When you at last make it to your apartment and ultimately your bed… heaven. Sleep after the hour that has just passed is like the eternal rest that we find in classical German poetry. No need however to run into the woods in the blistering cold to find peace, because now you’re fast asleep and hopefully you have nowhere important to be the next day.



The Last (and Next) Five Years

 

So guess what!? I didn’t win the Mega Millions jackpot after all, and instead of sleeping so I can get up early and spend some quality time with my father in Santa Fe (believe me, my alarm is still set for 8 am), I’m sitting writing to all of you about my now over-caffeinated nostalgic thoughts, that is, whoever YOU are.

Shortly after I compared the numbers on my multiple losing tickets, to the Mega Millions website, I started going through an old photo album of mine from my senior year of high school. You know, those things we documented our memories in before Facebook ..? What I found were not just memories, but dozens of little promises I had made to myself. No, I’m not talking about anything like curing cancer or single-handedly battling world hunger, I’m talking about all those little “maybes” we had whirling about our seventeen year old heads.

I have spent my life on the verge of becoming a hoarder, prevented only by an obsessively clean mother and stern roommates. While going through my photo album, I came across the graduation announcement of a classmate of mine who I had never really been friends with. I opened the invitation and realized that I had graduated high school and gone about the last five years without even realizing what our class song was. Apparently we had voted “Our Lives” by The Calling as the musical representation of our various public school careers and relationships. I do remember however, that our student body president had been disgruntled by the selection and decided to play another song over the stadium speakers, which I was too distracted to pay attention to, thanks to the beach balls, silly string, and alcohol that were exhanging hands and pockets around me. I decided to Youtube (or rather VEVO) the song originally intended to be played at my high school graduation, and out of nowhere, that sickening and uninvited nostalgia started creeping in.

As the video played, I continued to go through the pages of my photo album, and out fell various business cards of people I had met at local, state and national student retreats and conventions… again, this was before you could just Facebook somebody and decide from their wall and photos if you actually wanted to extend your friendship beyond “liking” the occasional status. I was also amazed that within my mounting piles of scrap was actually a little map that pointed out the location of my favorite gelateria in Florence, Italy “Perche’ no!” (why not!? in Italian). I have been telling every friend and acquiantance of mine who has since traveled there to try the pistacchio gelato at this fantastic little gem of a shop.

 Still looking through photographs of my senior trip to Italy, I kept seeing pictures of myself with other students from another school. At the time, I was convinced I would become lifelong friends with these randoms… I haven’t spoken to any of them since. I also found photographs of places and things I promised that I would someday take the time to enjoy, like Venice’s Cafe Florian in the piazza di San Marco or the Rialto Bridge,  which (due to an annoyingly short city tour) I never got the chance to walk on.

I also promised myself when I graduated, that I would one day live in New York City. I thought that by virtue of making it to Manhattan, I would somehow have it all figured out. I’m realizing now that while my location has changed, I’m still trying trying to get to point B… although point A+/9, or wherever it is I currently am is giving me more life lessons than a book of soul food chicken soup or Oprah power secrets could possibly manage. What I have gained is the ability to realize that family is not bound by blood, that people can come into your life and somehow present more value than an aunt, cousin, or in some cases as equally as a parent or sibling. I am so lucky to have gained this type of family in both old and new friends. 

 In closing, I am giving my resolutions and promises to myself- not for the new year, but for the next five yeats by using the lessons I’ve learned from the last five. 

1. In the last five years I have gained and lost fifty pounds. I am promising myself to continually strive to improve my health so that I may not only fit into those amazing $19.99 jeans they sell at Uniqlo, but also so I can be  around for as long as possible.

2. I have continually made excuses to myself as to why I couldn’t be in a serious relationship “yet”. I keep telling myself that I’ll be ready for commitment when I get to a specific point in my life, but honestly, I don’t even know what that is! I’m not saying that I am going to move in with the next guy I date, but I do promise to stop making excuses and to let whatever happens in that area of my life  take it’s course. What I do know, is that I have definitely been on at least 50 first dates in the last five years, and I am exhausted.

3. Since I have five years, I do promise to order lunch at Cafe Florian… after a walk on the Rialto.

 4. I promise to try and think more positively about others when my first, second or even third impression of them is not so savory. I am saying this because when I first got to New York, there was a group of people who I strongly disliked, and finally after years of mutual distaste, we realized that both parties were to blame. I was the new kid, they were trying to protect the fort, and since we were all dealing with our own various insecurities, years of whispering, rumors and REALLY dirty looks ensued. Needless to say, we are all now friends and I can’t believe that I have missed out on having these folks in my life. But as they say… better late than never.

5. Finally, I will try my hardest to keep the excitement and curiousity that I had when I graduated high school. Since life is a journey, I promise to never be disappointed in where I currently am in life, because even if I’m not there yet, I’m on my way to something, and I’ll tell you what that is when I get there.


Bedroom Intruder! Well… Almost

I was 13 years old when the movie Center Stage came out. It focused on several fictional characters attending the American Ballet Academy here in New York City. While the movie showed the trials and tribulations of what it took for these characters to succeed at their craft (in reality the lead actress did go on to dance with the San Francisco Ballet), it offered a highly stylized and unrealistic view of the life of a conservatory student in Manhattan. While I always dreamed of someday making it to the big city, I certainly didn’t dream of living in Washington Heights above loud neighbors who constantly vibrate my apartment with their new subwoofer, or trying to identify a potential intruder for the NYPD.

About a month ago, I was on the phone with my old friend Danielle Garcia from New Mexico. I had gone to high school with Danielle in Belen and hadn’t spoken to her in about nine months when I decided it was time to catch up. When Danielle asked about my neighborhood, I explained that while I didn’t live in what would be considered a necessarily posh area of the city, it was relatively safe. Why wouldn’t it be? The area is heavily populated with students looking for a cheaper residential situation. Most of my friends from school who live off-campus also live in the heights due to the catastrophically high cost of living in Manhattan. A studio on the Upper West Side can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,300 a month, and if you’re attending school on loans or government aid in NYC… you can forget about living alone. I had also joked about my roommate Lindsey being slightly paranoid concerning the safety of our neighborhood when I heard a knock on my door.

“Jacob!” shouted Lindsey “I think there is someone at my window!”

“Oh my…did you hear that?” I asked Danielle.

“Yeah, what’s going on?” inquired my concerned friend from home when I answered my door to a startled Lindsey.

“I was on Skype, and I swear there was someone looking at me in my window!”

Being that we live on the fifth floor of our building, it would have taken a pretty skilled person to sneak on our rusty fire escape from the ground level; so naturally, I didn’t initially believe what seemed to be an overzealous reaction to what might be a neighbor’s kitten.

“Just a second Danielle, I’m going to check…” I was in the middle of my sentence and barely stepping out of my own bedroom door when I clearly saw a man peeking into our living room window. Startled, Lindsey and I ran in the opposite direction from the living room. I bolted out the front door screaming like a little girl while Lindsey ran into our absent roommate’s bedroom.

“Get out of the apartment” I yelled at Lindsey.

“My key is in my room! what if we get locked out!?”

“Umm… better out here in the hall than inside with a LUNATIC!” I replied.

“Okay- call 911 NOW!” said Lindsey shutting the door behind her.

I called 911 and gave the operator our address and a description of our emergency. Within 5 minutes, there were two police officers at our front door. The officers quickly asked us to describe the man at the fire escape.

Both Lindsey and I described the man’s hairline when the cop interrupted us.

“Yeah, well a lot of guys up here get a shape up” said the cop. A shape up is what you call a buzz cut around the forehead, thus, shaping up the forehead and sideburns.

Thinking the officers were getting short with us and our obvious ignorance we just nodded.

“Well is this him?” asked a female officer pulling a short Hispanic man out of the elevator.

“Umm… Uhh….” Lindsey and I simultaneously mumbled. We were both shocked that not only did the police have someone in their possession, but here he was, at our front door which was clearly marked with our apartment number.

“I can’t be sure” said Lindsey.

“Mam, this is a pretty big deal hear, you have to be positive” said a male officer walking us back into our apartment.

As Lindsey and I both described the events to the cop, the suspect stayed closely watched in our hall audibly mumbling the words “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

“Well, we’re going to have to take him in” explained the cops as they gave us contact information for their precent. “You can call this number anytime to check the status of the investigation.” With that, the officers left us alone in our now very quiet apartment.

When she first spotted the man in her window, Lindsey had been on Skype video chat with a friend from overseas. We both went back to her room to explain just what had happened to a now very startled opera singer from London. Her friend had been incredibly concerned and utterly on edge for the 45 minutes or so that our ordeal had lasted.

Luckily, we haven’t had a repeat of our unfortunate incident, and now that Lindsey has thicker curtains, we’ve all been sleeping a little better.


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