Monday, August 13, 2012

a sacrifice

He addressed the whole crowd.  As he glanced up, a piece of hair, once so neatly in place with the rest of the white hairs on his head, fell across his forehead. 

“You know, I have been married for 67 years and I have never once considered it a sacrifice.”  His thick German accent made it necessary to strain in order to understand what he was saying. 

He then turned his attention to his wife, sitting in the front row.  Her pearl necklace falling over her cardigan and her hands folded neatly on her lap.  “Never once.”


“Unless you look at sacrifice like this: something that gives up what it is, to become a better form of itself.  Like the gold in the fire.  It becomes more pure, more full of light, more beautiful.  If you look at it like that, then yes.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

i miss her.

Sitting in front of me today was a young girl - maybe in her mid-twenties - situated next to her grandmother with her arm resting easily around her grandmother's shoulder.

My brain immediately flashed back to many, many similar and precious moments I had had with my own grandmother, sitting right next to her with my arm flung proudly around her tiny shoulders.  And as I went back to those memories, the feeling I would feel in those moments, washed over me.

I felt good.  Not just "good" in the generic sense of the word.  But I felt pure.  Like I was good, like things were good, like there was hope and kindness and goodness.  It's because she embodied all of those things.  She oozed goodness and kindness and love and humility.  It surrounded her.  And each time I was with her I felt it.

And I realized tonight how much I miss accessing that goodness.  How she was a regenerating force for me.  She replenished my humanity and made me remember the things that are important in life.  She wouldn't say much, other than wish me happiness and health and success, but there was something about her that helped me to recalibrate.

I miss her.  So much.

(In this picture she is with my niece.  This was taken only one month before she passed, on my last visit to see her.  She was an angel.)

the NYC metro

Why can't the metro in New York City be a little more like the trains in Madrid, or in Santiago.  Clean, air-conditioned, super easy to understand.

The little screen tells you when the next train is coming your way so you don't have to stand there wondering how long you'll have to brave the sauna-esque stench of the underground.

It's brightly lit.  It feels like broad day-light under there.  Like a pleasant underground world, not home to 8 million rats and the pee of the drunk.

And, best of all, there are escalators.  A lot of them.  Unlike the 5 minute climbs from the pits of hell.

I'm just wondering.  Why?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Luigi the Magician from Italy

Today I met Luigi from Italy who just happens to be a magician.  He barely speaks English and I know no Italian, and surprisingly, we could manage some semblance of a conversation.

Luigi from Italy is quiet.  He won't say much unless he is asked a question.  He will smile politely and maybe look up from his meal every once in a while, but for the most part, he just listens and sits contently.

He traveled here with two sisters from his town of Torino, they help to translate for him when they can, and when he wishes to speak.

Today, over lunch, Luigi from Italy decided to tell me something.  That he is a magician.  A real one.

Less than 30 seconds later he had pulled a Euro coin out of thin air and was placing it back somewhere in the air a few minutes later.  I was in shock.  A real magician.

The last few days I have realized that we all have a different story to tell.  Like Laura, who I met at the bus-stop in Madrid who moved to Spain from Mexico to study and has now made it her home, although she doesn't know for how long.  Or Susaan who grew up in Iran and now lives in Portugal with her family.  Or Nicholas, a French-man who was just transferred to Dublin to start a job that he has no idea how to do, or so he claims.  Each a different story, each a different perspective, each bringing something new to the table.  And sitting and listening to these stories, it makes you more human.  It makes you humble and it makes you realize that we all are in this great big world just trying to make it and trying to be grateful and trying to be good.

It's been a really humbling few days.  Kind.  And humbling.  And I feel more human.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

this life style.

I seem to quite like this Spanish European lifestyle.
Dinner is after 8pm, unequivocally.  Things start at 9pm and go well into midnight.  Well.
Kids are up, grandparents are up, and everyone is still smiling.
Time and energy is given to relaxation.  Don't forget the pool.  Make sure you have a coffee.  Just go take a nap.
It's all OK.
You're given permission to enjoy life.  You're not guilted when you do.  It's just norm.
I seem to quite like this lifestyle.

Magical Madrid

The last time I was in Spain, or Europe for that matter, was when I was on holiday while living in Haifa, Israel.  All of that was pre-New York City. 

I planned a last minute trip to Portugal, via an hour connection in Madrid.  As all JFK travelers know, no flight is truly ever on time, due to “weather conditions”.  With 40 minutes between flights, I sprinted across the Madrid airport trying to get to a gate that literally took an hour to get to…down the long, long corridors, through security (with weird plastic socks on my feet – don’t ask), waiting for a bus to the terminal which only comes every 20 minutes, watching the screen as my flight totally disappears….it’s gone.

I will not get into the details of the next few hours because it was a lot of waiting, walking between terminals, waiting, waiting, walking, walking…and finally I decided to have Delta airlines put me up in a hotel for the night and on the same flight the following morning.  To me, this beat waiting in the airport all day for an evening flight and I could, instead, actually enjoy Madrid. 

I was now on Delta’s dollar – they gave me a (really nice) hotel to stay in, all my meals paid for (which included 3 course meals as penne carbonara as an appetizer), and a shuttle to and from the airport.  Well the least I could do is spend 3 Euros and go into the city to explore.  After a good nap that lasted until 7pm (darn jet-lag!) I found myself in this magical city of Madrid.  I had received a good ‘ol map from the hotel receptionist of places I should see, and I set out from my Metro stop – wandering. 

The last time I was in Spain, it was pre-New York City life.  This was a totally different experience.  The simple nuances of urban life weren’t a challenge, but a norm.  It took away the stumbling blocks of trains and buses and crowds and noise and waiting and walking.  And it gave way to just simply enjoying.  Not having a single expectation, I would turn corners and completely gasp in awe at the beauty before me.  I can’t wait to upload the photos from the SLR on to because it was a true joy to take those shots.  Everything about Madrid surprised me.  The kindness of the people, the easiness of the commuting, the intricacies of the architecture, the openness of the plazas, and the classy and laid-back nature of everyone I saw.  

The last location circled on my map was the Catedral.  I walked up and was literally blown away.  I stood in the immense courtyard at dusk, when the sky was blue blue, and the air had a perfect combination of dew and crisp.  I took a really slow breath in and released.  It was an arrival of sorts.  A right of passage.  I stood there just overwhelmed with gratitude.  How lucky.  I say that a lot, but I also tend to forget it a lot, unfortunately.  But how lucky.  If you had asked me in June if I would be breathing in Spanish air on a cool summer night, I’d have declared a definite no.  But, you know, things happen all the time that we don’t expect.  We have just to believe and to take that first step.