Monday, November 24, 2014

The Lost Files: Just Nutty--Pecans, And A Recipe....

Sometimes, there are funny little stories within stories, and these little morsels are the type I love participating in, and sharing. They are little moments, which may seem like little sweet nothings, but they are the sort of human-ish moments that might make up anyone's day....

Take pecans, for example. Yes, you are reading that correctly. What the heck these might have to do with any sort of journeying would be answered on the first day I arrived in North Carolina, to visit my two mischief-making artist-sister-friends.

I had just met Dustin and Brandi at the sweet cottage along their quiet rural town, and had gone to fetch a suitcase from The Old Jalopy, the van that has been both my chariot and nemesis during these crazy journeys of mine. Right as I had closed its door shut behind me, luggage in hand, I heard a thunk, and a strange object landed right at my feet.

I reach down and picked the thing up, eying it curiously for a moment. It reminded me of a large oval pod.
"What is this?" I asked, holding the thing up in a chilly hand.

Dustin turned to me and smiled that dimply, impish smile she has and said simply, "Oh, that's from the pecan tree," and gestured to a stately and unassuming arbor behind her, sitting right next to the house.

My eyes went wide. Pecans, falling right onto the lawn. Visions of pecan pies and various other nutty sweets flashed before my head. Mostly, I was tickled pink that there were just free nuts, right there, just like going into a supermarket and getting it, except it was waaaaay better, because they were FRESH and FREE. So of course I had to ask if I could grab some up during my stay. Those girls were sweet and obliged. Which meant the next morning, I found myself practicing the low tech version of getting food.

You may or may not be surprised by my undertaking of that sort of adventure, but you'd be out of the loop by now: I've been known to pick mulberries off of trees running wild right in metro New York, much to the chagrin of many of my sophisticated friends. Maybe it's something in my DNA, being raised by two farming-types from other countries, but the idea of food straight from the source were always the cat's pajamas. It's the sort of thing that trumped my original performing arts intentions, but stories of growing crops and picking fruit and keeping bees always seemed more intriguing to me. There's something to be said about keeping up funny little traditions, while being self sustainable, at the same time.

Which leads back to the pecan picking, itself: out on chilly morning, shuffling through paper-crunchy leaves, their skeletons so brown that I quickly realized I might have a problem finding the little brown orbs of pecan goodness, as their outer shells were also tawny colored. Well, mostly: they sometimes could be found in their green outer skins, which was the unripened husk of the pecan. These often dried, becoming a deep brown, then peeling back, to reveal the immediate outer shell of pecans. THOSE would need to be cracked with Ye Old Nutcracker to reveal, finally, their fleshy insides, the part you could eat. Walnuts come in the same type packaging as well--the green fleshy husk, that would eventually become the outer shell, which revealed a second shell, the outer shell so brown that it would often stain hands, and would be used as a dye.

There was something about searching for these fallen nuts amongst all those leaves. In the soft earth, and wearing soft-soled sneakers, I could quickly discern the feeling of the hardened nuts as I shuffled slowly about, poking a toe here and there. It was slow going, seeing with the eyes of the feet, time seemed to slow as the strange sensory of long forgotten skills--simply FEELING one's way around, became second nature. I wondered strange, silly things: is this how the hunter-gatherer types...gathered? It must have been. Away from machinery, it's easy to start feeling clever once my little back was quite full of these children of trees.

Pecans are part of the hickory family and can be found within the Southern United states. They have been prized, where they are found, in all sorts of dishes, particularly for Southern Pecan Pie.  People, I will not disparage a pecan pie for all the money in the world--I've had many a fine pecan pie, the sort of thing you write home about, but I was taking these lucky nuts back home to The Li'l Mama. And if you knew The Li'l Mama, who hails from Europe, you knew she would knock your socks off with all SORTS of fine desserts that would make a pecan pie blush.

Mama is from old Europe and, as most lassies of the day, she learned to cook at her mother's knee, when SHE was knee high. Baking was high on the list and she was the sort to grind her own nuts MANUALLY, and stir up super light things in an era before electric mixers and blenders were on the scene. People, this woman DID. NOT. PLAY. when it came to tasty things. Which is one of the reasons you could not be a size two at my house growing up.

Having said that, I shall now regale you with a slightly "different" type pie recipe from  vaults at the little vagabond house. I'm not sure I've posted a recipe here journey-wise, but why not? This one combines pecans and tasty caramel for spectacular yum.
Hopefully they will spread joy to hearth and home, perhaps for the Holiday season?

                                    MAMA'S TASTY CARAMEL PECAN TART

Tart portion
3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2/3 cup powdered sugar 
3/4 cup butter (cubed)

Pecan portion
1/2 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/2 cup honey (this beekeeping family suggests RAW honey!)
2/3 cup butter 
3 tablespoons whipping cream


1. Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2.Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool.

3. Pulse flour, powdered sugar, and 3/4 cup butter in a food processor 5 to 6 times. The mixture should resemble coarse meal.

4. Grease a lightly greased 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Pat flour mixture evenly on bottom and up sides of tart pan.

5. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool.

Pecan Caramel Filling
6. Bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 cup butter, and whipping cream to a boil in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in toasted pecans, and spoon hot filling into the baked flour crust.

7. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes or until completely cool.

Enjoy the deliciousness!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Carolina In My Mind

Seems like I'm surrounded by the theme of sisters, lately....

It was the half-way mark of the journey. It would also be the tale of sisters, and surprises, including a tiny, confessional twist. Life, like the road, is full of such winding tales.

I was leaving the golden, sun-kissed, fabled fields of Virginia, where my own sister lived, and driving Southward, a long trekk towards Florida. Before I left, however, my sister had a surprise for me. Since she taught at a fine and fancy boarding school, we trekked that morning far onto the enchanted woodscape of the massive acreage that encompassed the place. As she knew I had a thing for equines of any form, we winded 'round this bend....

To find a horse stable full of horses!

Apparently, this girl's school was dandy enough to host its own stable, and some of these young ladies apparently shipped their own animals in. Those exquisite equines mingled with the schools own riders and jumpers, with the result being a romantic scene that any discerning eye could appreciate.  Ideas of high-school aged juveniles learning equestrianism in any form was so novel to me that I was instantly tickled pink at the entire scene....

I was particularly fond of this fellow--a draft horse!--a Belgian horse named Christopher. What was this behemoth doing in a place full of sleek and light Thoroughbreds, racing crosses, and quarter horses? Why, he was the school's own low-jumping mascot. The breed's cold-blooded temperament meant he would be slow to spook. I always loved the big horses for their more tolerant dispositions. Christoper was no exception...

After that amazing surprise, I was off. I had to smile at my younger sibling--in the way you smile at the realization of someone so different from you who knows you perfectly. That girl knew my quirks, and love me anyway.

The theme of sisters would be on my mind long after I pulled out of the long winding pathway away from the Virginia school--that sisterhood would be following me for awhile.....See, I was driving to North Carolina, to see another pair of sisters, artists and friends of mine for several years. 

Before that though, it occurred to me that  the Carolinas are themselves sister states, once known as a SINGLE entity, and actually considered part of Virginia--in 1609.  It then became the Province of Carolina, in 1663, before it was split into "Northern" and "Southern" entities in 1729. The name "Carolina" hints back at it's histrionics; it was created under the charter by King Charles of England (though some have said it is part of the word Carolingian, for the Carolingian/Frankish dynasty).

Now you might be asking yourself why a traveler like myself would be so informed by any one particular place, so I will now tell you a little confession: I have had a secret crush on the Carolinas. For years. Yes, you heard that correctly--these strange wandering bones of mine have always wanted to park permanently (or at least semi-permanently) for some time now.

Why? The folkish heart of mine had always loved it's mountain ways, it's forested, four-season scene. It was smack in the middle of the East Coast, where perhaps visiting either the north or south would be within range. It's folk art scene and farming scene seemed ideal and its economy reasonable. It was perfect for beekeeping too, as it boasted sourwood honey harvests found nowhere else. I was in love with its lore, it's people--heck, the whole shebang.  If I couldn't live in the English countryside (which may be my first love, but a shame on the whole non-citizenship snafu), and outside of New England (which was by now too cold for my old bones), then this would be a lovely vision...perhaps.

I had been told North Carolina was a bit more green and economy friendly than it's southern sibling, so that's where I set my sights. And happily, I would be seeing two dynamo sisters in one of those sister states.  Brandi McKenna and Dustin Pierson Harlan were two balls of fire disguised as ordinary Southern gals (although I'm not convinced that there really IS such a thing as an ordinary Southern gal). By my understanding, they have been born and raised North Carolina beauties and blossomed into some fierce ladies, the sort with a twinkle in their eye that promised mischief and a passel of creativity.  Raised by artists and farmers from their North Carolina heritage, it would be no surprise that they turned into professional artists themselves, but with the sort of energy and DIY can-do spirit that was enviable.

I chanced upon them via the interwebs years ago, and was impressed by the endless enthusiasm and accomplishment they both displayed.  Brandi, the older of the two seemed an impossible live wire: a mother of three ebullient children and a small army of pets, she managed to run 5 miles a day and start AND finish several art pieces A DAY.  As a fellow artist who took A WEEK to produce ONE piece of work, with far fewer domestic obligations, I frankly started to feel like a stick in the mud.  Honestly, her energy level seemed abnormally high, as few artists I knew could accomplish such weighty tasks.  It would be impossible to worry about such things, as Brandi also had such an infectious sense of positivity, that one couldn't be helped but jump into such a charming and fun personality.

Ain't it great to meet friends? Dustin (l) and Brandi (r). I have no idea who the crazy girl in the middle is, though....

Her specialty was in folk-art; her medium was in paper mache fusion--wall plaques and stand alone art with a folk-art edge. She may best be known for her moons and Halloween art, which could be found in her own art name She's Off Her Rocker.

An example of Brandi's Vintage themed smiling moons...

Paper mache pup, in progress, on Brandi's table....

Eventually, I also managed to meet her sister Dustin, online, and found that she was cut from the same cloth: perhaps slightly calmer than her older sis, she seemed to share the same tomboyish, sparkling, go-get-'em attitude. Moreover, she seemed mechanically technical; she loved taking machinery apart, fixing them, or using their parts for bigger, better, things. In this case, she did amazing jewelry, made of odds and ends and beautiful findings. 

Battlecat: jewelry findings meets bicycle chain...

Further, the two often worked in art restoration, or collaborated on interesting art designs to create their own signature works. These could be found under their current works as Harlan McKenna Designs.

One of the cool, interesting Harlan McKenna collaborative pieces....

The two gals live just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and I would be visiting Brandi's sweet cottage in a quaint town as quiet and rural as I could hope. It was as beautiful as any place I had stepped into since leaving the hustle and bustle of NYC.  The two sisters were as warm as I had imagined, and were full of surprises. One such surprise was taking me to their new, state-of-the-art studio, as part of a huge new artists' project and collective called ClearWater Artists Studios. And it was only FOUR blocks from where the sisters live.

I wasn't so sure what to make of this place. I mean, we were in a small town in the South. How fancy could this place be?

People, I was quickly made to eat crow:  this place was hopping! Once an old energy warehouse and plant, the thing had been converted to new, lovely, usable spaces for creative types everywhere. Brandi and Dustin share a massive warehouse space and create beautiful and fine works there. There was a beautiful main gallery, a cafe planned, more artists spaces being constructed from the various work buildings, and a farmer's market in the works. Like I said, this place was full of surprises.

Of course, my ears perked up at the words "art" and "farmer's market." Wait, a space where art AND farming could exist? I was intrigued; it seemed impossible, but I was indeed standing in a place where both my interests actually collided. Sensing my excitement, the sisters introduced me to the lovely arts laison, Sarah, and a friendship was struck. Yes, it seemed that I might actually be able to somehow participate in both the arts scene and farming scene here. It would be a matter of fitting the puzzle pieces, and could only be helped by Brandi and Dustin's VERY ENTHUSIASTIC encouragement.

Ideas were batted around. And continue to be batted around. It could be exciting. And maybe it would be, but it would take some deep thinking and list making and weighing of choices. Who knew? The place was definitely full of potential. And fine friends, too. I had met Sarah, and various other artists. I had also met Alan, the contractor who worked there, a fine farmer and builder, himself. It seemed everywhere I turned, there were honest, salt-of-the-Earth people simply working and doing what they loved, unassumingly and with that certain twinkle in their eye.

Alan, one of many North Carolina folk that lend their great attitude and creativity to the place...

Dustin and Brandi were no different. As with everything in this place, they were full of surprises. I would especially be humbled to know that they were juggling these wonderful, artful accomplishments, both with their own health problems. You wouldn't be able to tell, as they maneuvered their day with that gung-ho, fearless attitude about everything. I would be surprised at how well, and with how much humor they used, even in light of situations, big and small, that might make others just back away.

Whether it was rowdy kids, nipping puppies, or a broken dryer (Which Dustin expertly TOOK APART, in front of my astonished New York City non-repairing eyes, and REPAIRED by herself, lickety-split), or possibly more, one never sensed that they were anything more than just in love with their crazy little lives. As we ALL should be, and it was THAT attitude that I love most about those two. Plus, they make kick-ass art. Pure and simple.

Brandi, Mother, Artist, Mischief-Maker: how can you not love someone who makes, from scratch, PUMPKIN muffins (with real butter!)?? How will I ever leave North Carolina?

That whole place had it's own simple enchantment. A place that really supported the arts and farmers? Did I EVEN mention this place had SEVERAL antique stores? You remember my small antiques addiction, right?

Heaven help me, I was going to have a real problem getting over this new crush of mine!

*Find out more about Clearwater Artists Studios HERE
**If you are in the Concord NC area, TODAY (as we speak), they have an artists walk. Click the above link for more info and support the local artists!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creepy and Cute....

Just two creative types..Dani and I, right before the mischief!

*Note: I am in a mad-dash scramble to post as many stories WHILE they keep happening
on this adventure. In order to do so, I've posted TWICE today!
If you'd like to see today's previous story, click HERE

People often ask what possessed me to start on these strange excursions and, while there is no one definitive answer, I would rank the idea of PEOPLE high on the list.

I have always been curious about people. My fellow creative, ambitious, funny, witty, bold folk. It is a strange, large tribe that we are. Those who run the same, or foreign course alongside mine. Those who agree or dissent. I am interested in you. I am interested in those stories, and it is always a fine time discovering the world of people.

I started this journey with the idea of meeting friends. Whether through the interwebs, or via long relationships of old--the kindness of friends has always been a balmy beacon, and has helped make these journeys possible, in many ways. A good kinship of offering board and even a meal, was the staple of old traveling bards, and in some ways, I type these stories as I travel along, and take kindness by staying along the wayside with friends.

My friend Dani would be no exception to this. A long time friend from my artistic life, she would be the first stop on this new journey out.

Dani is the artist's artist--and patron. She has loved art so long and hard, that she once headed a grand bevvy of Halloween artists, single-handedly promoting them while creating her own specific art works, which is no small feat. Maintaining online presence, advertising, and hosting shows, while making art and raising a family is a touch of magic and skill that not everyone possesses. For years I admired such acumen, but may have loved her more because she was a lover of ALL things Halloween. And as a fellow devout parishioner in that strange temple of High October, I would support this Queen of Halloween for all it was worth. In fact, she had set her sights further, and opened her own gallery of spooky

Dani is a Jersey girl, in that she lives in the state but, make no mistake---the place that she calls home was not a smog filled, crime ridden city. Like so much of upstate New York, which was an altogether different beast than it's ill-riddled NYC cousin, Dani's home straddled the Delaware river, where Washington made his famous crossing. And it was stunning--lost in nature and time. Gnarled ancient trees lay resplendent in their fall costumes; leaves rained like mad, casting surreal colors the golden air.  Her home was a quaint and curious mixture of so much color and art. Her life was not in the city, but her love of art was eclectic and chic and cool. At the same time, she was a warm, friendly, charming type.

I arrived at her home, and immediately we were off on adventures. We already had our plan for mayhem, and it involved our shared love of antiques. Yes, we loved old and curious things, and she had just the solution for The Antique Itch: within a half-hour's ride, there was a huge indoor/outdoor antique bazaar, boasting hundreds of stalls. All sorts of kitsch, vintage, antique and flea market finds were bursting from table to table.

I think I might have drooled, just a little.

However, once there, I surprised even myself...and didn't buy anything. There was lots of lovely stuff, and perhaps a few true antiques, but I was secretly holding off for my next journey through Pennsylvania, where I had promised myself a few antiques from the Victorian period. Which is not to say there weren't substantial findings to be had at this large market. In fact Dani--ever the one geared towards creepy and cute-- may have usurped me by buying a stash of old animal bones. Talk about antiques. For her, the old are oddies and curios for her strange Victorian themed haunted house of a store....

And, in fact, that's where we were headed next. We were going to New Hope, a town I had heard was a whimsical place--where old buildings gave way to older history and mingled with new and eclectic art and shops. Amongst them, The Creeper Gallery made it's abode.

Indeed, this place did not disappoint....

Antique houses showed off their charm. This Victorian is an inn AND a fancy restaurant. Make no mistake, the charm of this place is tempered, at least for the budget conscious, by price. Paradise takes a few dollars around here, but it was nevertheless impressive to be here...

Another fancy restaurant from an old stone building, aptly named hearth...couldn't you imagine a giant fireplace crackling in there?

There were funny touches, too. This gaggle of rubber duckies and (perhaps Halloween-themed?) crows are part of the window display at a fancy soap and sundry store.

Of course, the treasure of the day was The Creeper Gallery. You know about this place before you even walked in the door....

Heck, the BANISTER was decorated with a skull head. In here, it was Halloween and the Cabinet of Curios rolled up all into one. Think Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein....this place has a clever and creepy side....

Much of the art is done by Dani herself, alongside her partner. For an extra dash of morbid madness, old bones and shells, antiques, and art from other artists rounds this place out....

And while this may make my creative friend seem too dark, know that this gal is also as compassionate as they come. She is, I found during my stay, a rescue mother to a small army of sweet furry dogs, and a counselor to victims of violence. In all the time that I'd known her, she'd never made mention of that. She also was generous to me, almost to a fault. She loved my soaps, she was a gracious host....she is clever, but also humble in surprising ways. And, of course, she is brilliantly creative.

When people ask why I travel--this is one of many examples!

To see more of Dani's creepy and cool creativity, visit The Creeper Gallery Website!

The Lost Files: NYC Smiles

                                                                 Magic is everywhere, even in the Big City.....

This is and this isn't a traveler's story. Sometimes, it's fine to see a tale through the eyes of another traveler--and that is how this journey goes.
Just when I had thrown my hands up in the air and given up on the Big Apple, a friend had come along--a visitor to this place that I once dared to call home--and given me a fresh perspective on this place.

The timing could not be more perfect. A day away from Halloween, I had felt the holiday blues; who could blame this Halloween fanatic, when I was in the middle of packing up to leave during the Halloween season instead of voraciously costuming like mad?

But instead, I would now be meeting a friend through the magic of the electronic interwebs--such is modern social calling. Jamie and I had known each other electronically, and had shared an interested in art, doll making, creativity, folk and fable. Though she was as kindly Southern as they come, she has a witty feist that is quite admirable. She also runs a business building and refurbishing furniture--for a city girl like myself that can barely use a hammer, I consider that a sassy career move, one to be respected.

Jamie had come as part of a separate company interview, and I had only stumbled upon her visit to the Big City coincidentally. She had always wanted to see New York, so it seemed a fine time to volunteer to be a tour guide.  Initially, I thought I would be helping a friend, but what I didn't realize was that such a gift would boomerang; I would find whimsy and admiration, once again, in a city that had broken my spirit.

I met this wild haired Southern gal (indeed, she has shared in the sisterhood of the dread) at Grand Central, and we spent our day on the West Side of the City, covering what seemed to be the standard wish list of things that most visitors of this concrete leviathan would want to see. But with cheerful chatter and sheer delight at everything she saw, I couldn't help but be buoyed by my friend's exuberance.

We first made our way to the New York Public Library near Bryant Park. This was where the pair of iconic lions "stood guard" outside. From my understanding, the library system was initially created through the funding of John Jacob Astor in the 1800's, and the particular branch (the main branch) where we visited was completed in 1911. The celebrity lions were created by sculptor E.C. Potter.

We then walked a bit further until I recognized the familiar alleyway to Rockefeller Center. And yes, even though it was a day before Halloween, people were already on the ice!

Technically, Rockefeller Center is a whole slew of buildings around the area, not just the famous rink which showcases the Christmas tree in December. The whole area was built up by John D. Rockefeller, and lasted from 1930-1939. The rink highlights a large gold hued statue of Prometheus (I always thought it was Apollo). Amongst other buildings included in the Rockefeller Center construction was Radio City Music Hall, which we also say.

We also eventually ended up fulfilling our childhood fantasies by visiting FAO Schwarz. In reality, Jamie had two tykes at home who had begged her to see the place. I don't think it took any sort of arm-bending to process that request...soo...we were off!

To note, FAO Schwarz, which was founded in 1862 is the OLDEST Toy Store in America. Known initially as "Schwarz Toy Bazaar" by founder Frederick August Otto Schwarz and his brothers, this place got hopping once its giant floor piano was featured in the movie "Big." The place really IS enchanted. We passed a dizzying array of toys and moving dooh-dads up the stairs...where we ventured into the Lego section.

Jamie eventually nabbed a floor piano, herself, along with a few fine things. We even ventured into the "Willy Wonka" section, where giant versions of candy made my teeth hurt. 3 foot gummy bears sat alongside sheet-long Rice Krispies bars, and lollipops the size one's palms glistened temptingly.

After that fine and fancy adventure, we made our way out into the Fall evening. By now it was dark, but there was one more surprise in store--Times Square. That beauty would be all aglow in lights right now: serious wattage from a million moving billboards and advertisements made night seem like day. I had to bring Miss Jamie there, for all the spectacular shenanigans.
It didn't disappoint....

We also managed to swing down to the Broadway district, where familiar musicals mingled with the new openings. Familiar film and theater stars names lined the marquis: Matthew Broderick, Rupert Grint, Bradley Cooper, Cyndi Lauper. It was fun to read the names and admire the poster art....

Or be part of the poster art.....

After I told Jamie she had a career in "jazz hands" we capped off the day at a true New York diner. This greasy spoon was full of comfort-food-favorites, at appropriately New Yawk prices.

Throughout it all, this lovely gal oohed and ahhed and told funny stories and made this tired old New Yorker smile.  I think my most humbling moment was in her plain delight at walking down THE SIDE of Central Park, at night, just looking at the carriage horses. In my mind, I kept puzzling why someone would be in love with going past a place they couldn't clearly see, but I then remembered how much I just loved driving past a golden country pasture--BECAUSE I COULD and BECAUSE I WAS THERE. And it was beautiful, anyway.

Indeed, we are all a lucky lot of travelers.
Thank you, Miss Jamie, for a fine time and a fit of NYC Smiles.

For more on the fabulous creations--and adventures--of my fine and free spirited friend, visit

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


                          How Do You Get Over The Bittersweet? A Brand New Jaunty Hat, Of Course!
                                                                  *Photo: Liz Free

eople will tell you that all things happen for a reason. I will tell you that it has been a long six months. So much has happened, that I've barely had the heart, or perhaps the strength, to surface, to breathe, and to type it here.

But this is the starting point, and from here launches all good things. And so I will tell this strange tale of an even stranger trip.

To hear the Roma (gypsies) tell it, by superstition's law (and I neither will confirm or deny that I am a follower of such things), to consciously remove a part of ones-self is an act of bringing bad luck into one's life; even the removal of moles is an act of disrespect into one's own creation.

So, following that logic, I could calculate when all the mayhem began; right after I cut off that fine roped hair of mine.  I'd been a dread-headed child for many moons, but any number of reasons had sent me to chop my hair off. The most auspicious of them was that I was moving back to New York, and that unto itself is a leviathan of a story.

What you may not have known, is that centuries--or was it decades?--ago, I had been a performing artist. In fact, my whole life was one extroverted path in creativity. I have never not known an imaginative moment, and if you think that's an exaggeration, please be aware you are reading the blog of a woman who has actively spent four years frolicking in NATURE and telling you strange stories about it.

But neither here nor there....

There was a secret, you see. Despite all of this hobbity-traveling, I had been holding one small dream in my heart, which was to return to my performing arts roots, and the place where it all started: New York City. In order to pursue these theatrical aspirations, thing must be done. Like cutting hair.  And returning to the place from which I had come.

It had started simply enough. I already had a bevvy of friends who were willing to help me, and it was a whole different track: I was vending, as I had this whole little soap and honey business. Initially, it was slick and sweet as sugar, but then all things seem sweet on a honeymoon.

New York, you see, has a way of slowly gnawing at you, and I had forgotten. I had forgotten I had run from here four years ago because of it's high-wheeling ransom, and it had gotten worse since my return. Her expense was far too high, and her payback was ludicrously low. Friends had hinted that making a living had been nothing short of staggering. I also could not justify the staunch level of consumerism, particularly with food; I had been amidst fine folk in the countryside, everywhere, where quality food was grown or bought at reasonable prices. To avoid the sweat and toil of good outdoor farm work, a New Yorker would pay into the nose-bleed section for food--three times the price almost everywhere else.

There also seemed little to do--all the fine sort of outdoor things I had been used to where now sandwiched between claustrophobic gray buildings, shared amongst millions of people cramped and annoyed onto a tiny island they called home.

The truth was, I had changed. This city was what it always had been and, to it's credit, for urban-philes, New York City was a fine mistress. But I had been everywhere else, seen kindness amongst strangers, gotten my hands literally and figuratively dirty working with people of the earth, found feasts in forests, laughed with people that the rest of the world would have cast off as too poor, too dumb, too weird, too unsophisticated....I'd been out there, and New York's high-end charm struck me as pretentious. The mistress was fine from afar but close up, she was a pricey and ungrateful trick.

I would have little time to think on such things, as a series of unfortunate events would befall me that would both throw me off of my game, and cement my resolve about many things. The first of these, with little surprise, is that my van tried to kill me, again. Ahh, you haven't heard of my killer green jalopy of a beast? This thing has tried---unsuccessfully, I'm happy to report--to bash me in on a few occasions. There would be no exceptions one day, in Brooklyn, when the blasted thing STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION, mid-drive, while I was home some friends. We barely managed to push it to the other side of the street, but the ensuing scramble from the tow guys took FOUR hours, while waiting in the cold and praying that the throngs of oncoming traffic would not cause even further damage.

It blatantly occurred to me, then, that had I been anywhere else, the wait would likely be cut in half, but the throngs of people and people with cars in NYC was such that there was no choice but to bear out the ludicrous wait time. It would be that way with everything here: everything took an immense amount of time, or paperwork.

I would soon find this to be true about health insurance as well, and that was because, shortly after the instance with the wayward vehicle, the world starting spinning. Literally.

There was no inkling of it, really. I had gotten myself a bar-maid's job, and shortly thereafter, there were subtle signs of floating. That was the strange, un-anchored feeling I had once a day, for a couple of weeks. I had dismissed it as the general frazzled-side effects of city life.

But they soon became more pronounced, more frequent, sometimes two dozen times a day. There was no forewarning to these flare-ups: a never felt light-headed, dizzy, nauseous. I had no history of such a malady, so it became quite a mystery. It perhaps would have been faster and better solved, had not the fancy paperwork and red-tape of the health care been such a booby-trap, but that is a story better left unspoken.

Four months later, I had just begun a series of tests, but by then, my entire focus was blinded by fear.  It was far too frivolous to think of acting and creativity. Instead, my days were filled with dread, a maddening curiosity as to what was wrong with me, and a life that currently not under my control. I had already been humbled by other ideas of sickness and death. It was strange to think of my own in those terms, and it hastened the idea that I probably should leave this place, that had already been so difficult in so many ways. 

Because those answers were not forthcoming in the unnaturally slow doctor's appointments, I decided to leave the city. This decision was hastened by the last of all insults that would happen while I was there: a friend whom I had been staying with, through no fault of her own, was forced to send me packing immediate. With a bit of luck and the grace of another friend, I managed to stay the course of my original trip. But there was no doubt--I had to leave.

But it was a bitter pill to swallow. I had nursed this strange childhood dream to perform, and I would be once and for all dropping it. Now what? At the same time, I realized that I was not happy in this place, and it seemed that being happy--or at least at peace--with ones self  on a daily level was more important than some strange version of success. Perhaps there would be performing elsewhere. And, I was so much more than this place. I had to remind that bruised 10 year old inner child that I was a published writer, and had been published for my beekeeping and art, too. I had been in films, and filmed so many interesting people and experienced a fine caravan of the best that this country had to offer. I had done SO many things and I simply knew that it made no sense to live in this place, where so much is put on the line, where friends are too busy hustling to survive, where people seem strangely disconnected, and hard choices had to be made on a daily basis.

A friend recently mentioned that, in this city "You can't too attached to anything, or anyone." I tried to think of what I would have done here in the long run. Could I have had a steady social life? Would I have met some fellow? Had a family? Even a dog?  The answers there were a resounding NO.  Everything was disposable in this place. Everything came with a price.

And so, I packed my suitcase. And my van. I had gone to get 10 years of my life back from this place, which so haunted me. I had been part of, and lost, a dance and theater troupe, a 10 year relationship, a beekeeping dream job. I had run because it was too much to bear anymore.

And I had gone on to have the most amazing journeys across this blessed country. So I should be gloating that I was exiting this place again.  And yet, I felt the strange twinge of bittersweet. Removed from its obligation, I remembered when I originally came here, full of energy, and I had given it gladly. I ran a theater and dance troupe. I had strolled through its parks and museums, and had lauded its diversity, and mourned for the death of that certain charm that had held sway on me.

But that bittersweet, it's just the beginning of the story. People, they will tell you things happen for a reason, and maybe I was never meant to be here. This short haired girl who may or may not believe in luck certainly believes that luck can be made. I will get into my killer van, with my fine stories, and will bring you along with me.

Now, more than ever,  there will be adventures.
Oh yes, there are always adventures around every corner.

TOMORROW:  New Jersey (Take 2)