Finding the good in the bad, plus STORYTIME

When life challenges me, I don’t always have it in me to rise to the challenge. The level of anxiety that I deal with on a daily basis has been increasing over the last month and a half or so. My doctor recently increased the anxiety medication that I take, so I have hope that I will once again be up for the challenge. I’m making a concerted effort to be grateful for each good thing in my life and to even find the good in the bad. I was listening to a podcast on finding peace and healing in nature. The person being interviewed described being in so much discomfort from a chronic illness that she couldn’t even hold a book. Part of her daily routine was sitting outside to watch eucalyptus trees and birds building nests. She described parting the grass and watching the life that goes on underneath. She explained how this peace helped with her recovery. I want this kind of slow healing for myself. I have been hiking four to five miles a few times a week with a buddy for a while now. It always does me good to be in the forest and getting to see deer, squirrels, and birds.

I’ve been moving downstairs into my studio. A couple of the homeowner’s family members need a place to stay while they have a house built out of state. I agreed to move downstairs until their house is finished. It’s a bit cramped and chaotic, and I’ve not been able to get any work done lately. I’m slowly getting everything placed where I need it but my workspace is a complete jumble at the moment. I have, however, been able to work on the e-commerce plugin for my website. My goal is to have the store go live by mid-summer. I’ve got lots of work to do to meet that goal. I’m on it.

Storytime

As I mentioned in my last journal entry, I wanted to start including a few stories from my life that I think are interesting. I decided to start with one of the most exciting experiences of my early 20s. So here it goes.

Happy Fucking New Year

It was December of 1986, I believe, or was it 87. Anyway, five friends, and roommates, and I decided to move to New York City. One friend’s mother lived on 74th between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West. She agreed to let us stay with her and her boyfriend until we found jobs. Our friend who leased the apartment where we all stayed had once lived in NYC, so he said he could show us around until we were familiar with the City. He said that he could borrow his uncle’s suburban for the trip. He said that once we were settled that he would drive it back to Huntsville and fly back.

We were all so excited. For New Year’s eve, we had a blowout which culminated in us going downtown to the square to party. The downtown square area is where we all hung out and where many of us had met for the first time. We parked on top of the health and human services building. We drank and smoked while chanting Happy Fucking New Year at the top of our stupid lungs. It was as if we were the only people in the world that night. We had a blast.

A few days later when it came time to head out on the road, the friend who had borrowed the suburban felt that it was too risky for people to see into the back windows where all of our belongings were stored. He suggested that we spray paint the windows black, so we did. This seemed odd to me at the time. Why would he essentially ruin his uncle’s vehicle? Only later on did it become apparent that he hadn’t borrowed the Suburban. To this day I’m not sure if he just took it, or if it even belonged to his uncle.

Two of our friends were only 16 and 17. They told us that their parents were Ok with them going with us. Yes, there were parents like that amongst our friends, so we stupidly thought nothing of it. We stayed the night with one of our travel companion’s mother in Louisville Kentucky so she could see her mother before we moved. While there, one of the underaged friends called her mother at which time was told that the police were looking for us because of the underaged runaways. We ended up dropping the two of them off at a “Safe Place” house there in Louisville and continued our journey.

The trip was long in a suburban with the four remaining travelers. We mostly talked while listening to REM and Led Zyplin on cassette tape as we planned a fantastic life in NYC.

Arrival

I really don’t know what I was expecting to see when we arrived on 74th Street, but New York City is ugly in winter, to say the least. There was dirty snow piled up everywhere. This was my first experience seeing that much snow and it was not pretty. We parked don’t the street and headed to the entrance. I hadn’t expected that there would be a doorman. There were so many strange new things for me to experience. This only added to my excitement. The lobby was old and smelled old, but was well maintained. The old-style elevator with the accordion fencing door, you know that ones that you have to manually pull closed, smelled of tarnished brass. We headed up to the seventh floor.

Our host was lovely and welcoming, very motherly as I recall. She gave us a tour of the rather large apartment and we settled into two bedrooms. The living room was huge with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. There were large trees amongst the stylish apartment which was decorated with modern flair and antique furniture. She had parakeets that flew around freely from tree to tree. I remembered that her son had mentioned that Mary Tyler Moore lived in the building across the street. He also had mentioned that she was an editor and was currently working on a script associated with Dustin Hoffman. For such a talented and well-connected person, she was so down-to-earth. She made an Italian dinner for us and we got acquainted with her she and her boyfriend. They were both very kind people and we were made to feel right at home.

Once we got settled we went out to roam the city. Over the next several days, we walked around Broadway, Columbus, and Central Park. We went to Washington Square, John Lennon’s apartment building, Madison Square Gardens, Grand Central Station, 30 Rockefeller Center, Battery Park, and all the way down Christopher Street where we found a dive bar next to the docks called Badlands. We went to other bars down Christopher Street, but Badlands was more gritty than the rest. It was right around the corner from a BDSM store. I had never seen such a sight before. Late one night, we walked around Times Square. And remember, this was before Giuliani had cleaned it up when he was Mayor. There were peep shows, people selling all manner of illicit substances, and prostitutes everywhere.

One night our friend wanted to show us the Bronx. We took the subway to what I figured was the Bronx, but then began walking. We walked and walked for what seemed like forty-five minutes. I’m not sure if he took the wrong stop or he wanted to show us a scary version of the Bronx. As we walked, the blocks looked more and more sketchy, like a movie sketchy. There were homeless people, prostitutes, and drug dealers shuffling about. The worst was what seemed to be a block of abandoned buildings. It was dark and I remember that there was a car up on blocks with no wheels and two construction dumpsters along both sides of the street. Look, I’m just a country boy from a cotton town in Alabama, I was getting scared. As we walked by the dumpsters, someone started stirring on top of the dumpster as if to jump on top of us. But nothing happened. I became angry with our tour guide and told him so. I felt like he was just messing with us and he was putting us in danger. We eventually got to a subway station and headed back to Central Park West.

What were we here for?

Our main objective was to find jobs, and I mean immediately. So I did. Within a few days, I was delivering water bottles between Fashion and Fifth Ave in the garment district. Robin was the name of my truck driver. He would barely pull over in traffic for me to jump out, grab a dolly, and several bottles of water. He would drive around the block until he saw me waiting once I had finished the delivery. It was fascinating to see the front end of these fashion houses. I saw every type of fashion from uptight formal to the laid-back casual being designed and made. I once had to go onto the factory floor. There were so many sweet-looking Asian ladies hand sewing beads and pearls on dresses. I really never thought about how this was done. I guess I thought that maybe machines did that part.

One day while we were leaving a drop-off, Robin pulled away from the curb and up over the door of a Mercedes. Seriously, the driver’s side front wheel of this huge truck had crunched onto the passenger side door of the car. I could hear the woman in the back seat screaming from where I sat in the passenger seat. We all got out of the vehicles. The woman was dramatically yelling and cursing at Robin stating that she would be late for an important meeting. When she calmed down and it was time to call the police, it was discovered that her driver had left his driver’s license in her other car. She dropped her hostility and insisted that we just carry on and not call the police. I have no idea what that was all about. Maybe this was a problem with her and the police before. Who knows.

I was going to be a model in New York City

I desperately wanted to get into modeling so I wouldn’t have to deliver water bottles forever. I had done runway modeling for Oak Tree in my local mall a few times and had professional photography taken for modeling. I figured that getting a modeling gig in NYC would be a rare find unless I knew someone, but there in the classified section of the newspaper was an ad for “male models wanted”. I thought to myself, how easy is this? I couldn’t really be sure what kind of male models they meant, but I took a chance and answered the ad. I wanted to look my best, but being a scruffy punk, I didn’t have the clothes. I wore a paisley shirt under a black suit jacket with an anarchy symbol spray-painted on the back. I only had my combat boots with the steel-toe cut out. I covered the anarchy symbol with my overcoat. I had to take the subway and walk several blocks to get to the interview. As it turned out it was for a burgeoning new magazine called Splash. I got the gig and was told to be back the next Thursday for my first fitting. I was on top of the world.

Meanwhile, my friends hadn’t found jobs. I still don’t know why. Maybe they partied too much or didn’t try. It was too long ago to rehash now anyway. I guess they all got cold feet because they decided to hightail it back home. They planned to leave on Wednesday of that week. I was devastated. There was no way that I alone could ask to stay on in the apartment. I wasn’t confident enough to ask the magazine for assistance or a place to stay. Plus, I was a country boy in one of the busiest cities in the world. It could have swallowed me whole. I didn’t know what else to do, so I left with them that Wednesday, the day before my fitting.

I use recycled materials to create art that you will need.

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