Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Last Saturday, our friend Dmitry kindly offered to host us for a going away party. It was quite possibly one of the best nights I've ever had here, and I was so grateful to be able to hug all of these beautiful people.

I made a music video to say goodbye to everyone, and it can be watched here:


I edited all of the footage together last night from midnight to 7:30am, because frankly I had no idea when else I would be able to do it. We have today and tomorrow to pack and move out, and then we're leaving first thing Thursday morning to head up to Maine to put our belongings into storage. The next posts may not be as well thought out as usual, due to everything being absolutely bonkers for the next 48 hours. These posts may just devolve into a series of onomatopoeias for farts.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New York Love Letter

Dear New York,

You smell bad. I've long given up on being bothered by this, because there simply comes a point when it's a waste of energy. We've been part of each other's lives for 5 years now, and in that time I think I have grown to love you. But our pheromones don't seem to match. My body is telling me that your genes and my genes just aren't compatible, and that if we made babies they'd come out all mutant-ified and have extra arms growing out of their foreheads and a penchant for spoonerisms.

I'm sure you'd make beautiful offspring with someone else.

There's a lot about you I like. I spent all day yesterday walking through Central Park. It was gray and rainy, which is sincerely my favorite kind of day. I twirled my umbrella and splashed in puddles, and when I got too chilly, I sheltered myself in the Museum of Natural History. I spent 3 hours in the company of dinosaurs. They're not much for verbal conversation, but they have a lot to say.

I love that you have grown so tall that I can stand on your shoulders and know what it's like to see the sun flash off the top side of the wings of flying birds. Rockefeller is the place I like to do this the most. Somehow I've never been to the top of the Empire State Building, but mostly that's because I have an irrational fear of being swept off my feet by Carey Grant.

I spend most of my time on the ground, due to not knowing enough fancy people to be able to spend a lot of time gazing out the windows of high-level apartment buildings. Down here on the ground there are a lot of spectacular things, though: The gay pride parade, halloween, bagels, running fingers over every type of fabric you could imagine in textile stores, skipping stones across the Hudson, the UCB Theatre, beautiful strangers, dollar slice pizza at 3am, improbably thriving wildlife, trains that arrive at exactly the right moment, storefronts at Christmas, every type of music, people I love. There's a lot more than that. Right now I'm sitting on a stair in the Egyptian Wing of the Met, while an ancient lion stares at me in a doleful sort of way.

Seriously, he's been alone for nearly 2,000 years, he just wants someone to love him.

I want you to know that you're perfect just the way you are, and I wouldn't want you to change even a little bit. Except could you do something about how unhappy a lot of your people are? I know you try so hard to make it better; you offer everything anyone could ever want. Maybe you could give some more reminders that people can find those things more readily with kindness than with hostility. And maybe if everything didn't have to be so dictated by the exchange of those little green pieces of paper. That whole class divide thing kinda sucks. Also: more free cupcakes. That'd be great.

I always knew that you weren't for me. Getting into this relationship with you was like skydiving. You were exhilarating and incredible, and at any given moment I couldn't decide whether to scream for joy or wet my pants. I existed fully in every second, knowing it was eventually going to end. And similar to the time when I actually did go skydiving, and the guy I was strapped to said "Oops," and I saw the parachute go briefly under my feet, there were times when I wasn't exactly certain that this ride was going to end well. But it did. You brought me to Earth safely, and even though reorienting might be a little nausea-inducing, I'm still grateful that you got me here, all safe and sound. It was a hell of a ride.

There is one time of year when you look best, and it's right when Summer has turned to Autumn. The temperature is chill but cozy and you find a way to have beauty in changing leaves even though your trees are sparse. That is my favorite outfit on you. You look good in fall colors.

I am so grateful for the relationships I've been able to have while I've been with you. I'll always be thankful for these incredible people and friends. You're always changing, and I know that when I come to visit you again, you won't be the same place I loved. But in a way, you will be.

Because you'll always be stinky.

Love always,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Zero Day

There's a feeling I get when I finish a book. I close the cover, look up from the world I hold in my hands, and look around at the world that's continued to exist without me. I take a slow breath, and with it, comes the gradual reacclimation to reality. My body absorbs my surroundings with every intake of air, like the way heat spreads up the arm and through the body when one grasps a warm stone.

There's a feeling I get when I surface from a cold ocean. At first I may have hesitated to dive in, my body trembling at the chill and wondering if I would ever adjust to the temperature. Once I'm underwater, my hair moving with the current and weightlessness settling into my bones, I forget that I'd ever felt trepidation. Once I emerge, even if the day is warm, my body doesn't want to leave the water. Liquid has become my air, my skin cannot tolerate the lightness of atmosphere. But as the chill evaporates, I remember the surface and know I need gravity as much as I need bouyancy.

There's a feeling I get when a song ends. There's a silence that kept on existing, waiting for me to return. Music cannot exist without silence, and I hold both ends of this spectrum, balancing the vibrance of color in sound. The notes fade, and they ring in my mind, so much more powerful for the context of quiet.

I have been a therapist, a friend, a teacher, a supporter, a challenger, a child, a hand to hold while walking down a dark path, a mirror, a voice of belief and love in a community where kindness is an anomaly. I have to close this book in order for me to hike the trail. I am still all of those things. But last Thursday was my last page of this particular book, my last feeling of the currents in this ocean, my last lingering note of this song. 

A book continues to exist on the shelf, the tides rise and fall, and new music is always being drawn into the world. We can continue to live, better for being part of each other, empowered and thriving on our own now that we are apart. 

On the Appalachian Trail there is a type of day called a Zero Day. This is a day when you do not hike, because you need the stillness. Sometimes we all need a Zero Day, to be able to look at the map and see how far we've come, and to be able to feel the power of the miles that stretch ahead of us. To be able to accept that there are adventures that wait for us, and we are all the better for not knowing exactly what might happen- but to know that it will all be worth it.

Every moment.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Wilderness First Aid

"Is that a bunch of Rice Krispies in your pocket or are you just seriously injured?"

Nick has asked me this question, in his brilliant dead pan way, as he assesses whether or not I need to have any bones reset. According to our first aid pocket guide, a broken bone may make "snap, crackle, or pop" sounds. I blink vaguely at him, while trying not to burst into laughter and break character, and mumble something about my horse Snuggles kicking me down a ravine. 
My head!

"Snuggles always was a wayward horse," observes Mike, holding my head in place against the ground, to make sure I don't thrash around and throw my spine out of alignment.

"Snuggles is a jerk," agrees Nick, "Does any of this hurt?"

I move feebly as Nick checks my entire body for possible breaks, starting to shake by head "no" in response to his question. "Don't move your head, you have a head injury" Mike reminds me. I suddenly squeal out in pain, as Nick touches my lower back. He lifts the edge of my shirt and sees a crescent-moon bruise. The mark of a cantankerous horse. 

"Snugggllleeeeesss," I croak, pawing at the air in my impression of someone suffering from disorientation. 

"How are we going to get her out of this ravine?" asks Mike, holding my head more firmly in place as I do my best to make things as difficult as possible.

Mike and his lobster claw.
I am laying on the freezing cold concrete floor of the basement of REI in SoHo, on the second day of our weekend-long Wilderness First Aid course. The  "ravine" is actually a dark corner between a bike rack and a bunch of kayaks. The course has consisted of a very thorough teaching of patient assessment, followed by a solid breakdown of how to approach certain presenting problems. After each section of teaching, a small group is led out of the classroom and into the storage area and given a secret scenario, complete with stage makeup blood and bruises. Then the rest of the class files out of the classroom, partners up, and descends upon one of the 7 people writhing around in pain. They must assess the injury, take all vital signs, and collect a whole bunch of other fun medical data.

Every once in a while, a regular REI customer will descend the stairs and see a bunch of grown adults rolling around on the cement floor with head injuries, and no contextual clues as to what could possibly be going on. These people bring me great joy.

Mike, Nick and I decided to take this course before heading out onto the Appalachian Trail because we figured that we should at least have some knowledge of how to manage basic injuries. We are learning far more than basic injuries, as I now know how to set a sprained ankle, improvise a splint out of nothing but sticks and camping gear, and how to swaddle someone in a tarp like a baby if they're suffering hypothermia. I am also learning a lot of other fun stuff, and feel completely prepared. 
To his credit, the instructor did not react to my hairy man legs.

"I have no idea what to do now," says Nick, surveying the scene and determining that this ravine is so far removed from society that there's no way to call for help. I have a terrible head injury, some sort of concussion, and possible internal bleeding from being kicked by my ungrateful horse.

"Well, I guess we'll have to kill her," says Mike, gently taking the fleece they've been using to support my head, and making a move to smother me with it.

"I FEEL BETTER!" I declare, springing up to my feet and throwing my hands in the air. 

I don't want you to think that the instructors tell us that euthanasia is the best option. To the contrary, they tell us a whole lot of stuff about how to deal with almost anything. However, reciting all of our curriculum to you just wouldn't make for terribly compelling story telling. Rest assured that if Mike came upon you, injured in the wilderness, he would at least put on his first aid latex gloves before he smothered you.
These are not Nick's legs.

The class runs from 9am to 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday, and is led by a pair of very engaging, fantastic professors. All of our classmates are fun, and game for all of the crazy scenarios. In two days, I go from being completely clueless about how to approach an injury, to being able to work almost silently alongside Mike, as we successfully stabilize an "unconscious" Nick, and set his entire broken left leg in an accurate splint. 

At some point while I am setting Nick's leg, I get really into it and sincerely feel like I know what I am doing. I have a bizarre moment where I think it's actually real. Clearly my surroundings aren't real, but a little part of me is convinced that Nick is actually unconscious and has a broken leg. I'm not really sure what it means. Maybe I am, just for a moment, able to really put myself into the mindset of what it would be like to do first aid in the wilderness. Maybe I am able to finally understand how focused you have to be in order to really help someone when you're in the woods and you have nothing but your two hands and a grim determination.

Or maybe it's just that Nick is the greatest at acting when he's knocked out.

Be the Kit. Done.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Footwear Flowchart

It's 8am on a Saturday morning, it just snowed a foot last night here in NYC, and Mike and I are headed down to the REI in SoHo for the first day of an all-weekend Wilderness First Aid course. They told us to wear clothing that we don't mind staining because they will be using fake blood. As Rupaul would say, they will be "serving gory injury realness."

I made this footwear flowchart a couple of years ago, but we haven't had a snowstorm in quite a while, so it hasn't been applicable. One would think that figuring out what shoes to wear wouldn't be so hard, but this is New York, so people think it is perfectly reasonable to wear stilettos, uggs, or nikes. I thought it may be time to bring it up again. Happy snow day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bounce Bucket

There are several different types of approaches when it comes to supplies and food along the trail. Some people choose to do "Mail Drops." Contrary to how it sounds, that doesn't mean that packages of food and essentials get parachuted down to you in the middle of the woods, Lost or Hunger Games style. Instead, it means that you have to compile a whole bunch of boxes ahead of time, give them to someone you trust, and have them mail them to you at specific towns along the trail. Post offices can hold a package for pickup, and the idea is that you would hike off the trail and hitch-hike into your preordained towns to pick up your packages. This sounds like a good idea, because then you could always know what you're getting. Mike and I decided against that strategy for several reasons:

1. Part of the fantastic part about hiking the trail is not having to adhere to any schedule - but if we had mail drops for every 8 days or so, we'd have to follow a schedule. I blow a raspberry at that.

2. It may be slightly more cost effective, until you factor in the money for postage. We will go to a grocery store, to spend money to buy food, to spend money to send a package to ourselves in a town that will have a grocery store? SILLY. Granted, there will likely be times that we hike off the trail into a town that has nothing but a gas station. For that week we will eat only cheez-its and slim jims and pray silently for a quick death.

3. We were too gosh darn lazy to spend a bunch of time compiling mail drop boxes over the past few months.

Instead, we're going to rely on the kindness of towns along the trail and hope that their grocery stores will have more than marshmallows and pop tarts (although I foresee a future in which I sit unwashed in front of a grocery store and eat an entire box of pop tarts all at once).

In addition, we're going to have something called a Bounce Bucket. This is a 5 gallon bright orange paint bucket from Home Depot, that we're going to mail ahead to ourselves along the trail. It will be a grab-bag of essentials that we feel will be least attainable in towns e.g., astronaut ice cream, an extra pair of pant-shorts, etc. We'll fill it in Georgia, and mail it to a town approximately 3 weeks ahead, so that we can hike off and get it if we need it. At that point, we'll take from it what we want, maybe refill a few things, and send it ahead again.

If we don't need it, and we don't hike off the trail, we can get in touch with the post office it's sitting in and have them mail it ahead for us. It's easier to keep track of one giant orange bucket than a bunch of brown boxes. Or so I hear.