Tag Archives: New York

Music Monday and Heroes ~ #DavidBowie

Co-written with Brian Eno, “Heroes” is considered one of Bowie’s most inspirational songs. The tune contains a certain sense of irony but also holds an optimistic, hopeful message.

Bowie opened the benefit Concert for New York City following the 9/11 attacks with two songs: Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” and “Heroes.” His song was performed to honor the first responders from the New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department.

May “Heroes” inspire you to have a creative and productive week,

~eden

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A Chinese Funeral, Good Luck, and the Powerball

2015 ended sadly with the death of my grandmother, but I’ve processed much of it over the past couple of weeks, and I’m finally beginning to feel lighter. I know this because I can write about my recent trip with some levity.

On New Year’s Day, I traveled to New York City for my grandmother’s funeral. I haven’t been with that much family under one roof in a long time. The last occasion was probably for my grandfather’s funeral, and that was eighteen years ago. My memory of it has faded. I was not as close to my grandfather as I was to my grandmother, so I was probably less interested in the customs then. This time, I paid attention because I knew it would be the last time my family followed this tradition so closely. My grandmother was my last surviving grandparent. All five of her children (my mom is the oldest) planned her funeral together. Along with losing a generation, it’s inevitable many of its customs will also be lost. Even though my beliefs about death are different, I find value in following rituals. It helps ease the pain of loss.

The ceremony consisted of a two-day service and numerous tasks in between. Much of the time at the funeral home involved burning spirit money that resembles legal tender. The money is available in outrageous denominations from 10,000 to 1,000,000 dollars and is used to purchase services or buy things in the afterlife.

heaven notes

Joss paper, thin sheets of coarse bamboo decorated in gold or silver foil is also burned. The assumption is the offerings consumed by fire will reappear as actual items in the spirit world, making them available for departed loved ones. My grandmother enjoyed life, so we didn’t stop burning once the fire started. Mourners who came to pay their respects were encouraged to participate as well.

joss paper

When I wasn’t burning something, I sat in my designated seat in a section with the other grandchildren. We folded stacks and stacks of Joss paper into oblong-shaped ingots in preparation for their burning. Folding the paper is an important part of the burning ceremony as it distinguishes Joss paper from actual money. As the paper is treated with the respect of real money, it cannot be casually tossed in the fire. Instead, it is placed carefully in a loose bundle. I guesstimate I folded more than two thousand sheets over the two days.

folded joss paper

The combination of a freezing room (expected for an open casket viewing), and a raging fire only a few feet from my grandmother’s body seemed absurd at times. I dressed warmly for the day, but when I got cold, I stoked the fire or burned a bag of money to warm up.

The immediate family was also tasked with burning papier-mâché items, representing articles my grandmother might need in the afterlife. This included an elaborate paper folding of a mansion (seen below), SUV, mahjong table, foot massager, and other necessities. When it came time to burn these, each family member chose an item(s) and headed outside the room where my grandmother lay.

We needed a bigger fireplace.

joss paper house

I grabbed the cut-out representations of a male and female butler, along with a pair of slippers. Considering my grandmother did not drive and a car was part of her offering, I thought she would need someone to chauffeur her around, and who couldn’t use a little help putting on their slippers?

The Chinese are strong believers in good fortune and luck. In a traditional Chinese funeral, as was my grandmother’s, all mourners received a white envelope filled with candy and money before they left the funeral home. The candy is to sweeten the bitter taste of death, and the money is for luck. The candy must be eaten immediately, and the money must be spent. My family pooled our money (there was a nickel in each envelope) and bought a lottery ticket called the Powerball.

powerball

If you’re not familiar with the Powerball, it’s a multi-state lottery held in the U.S. Shortly after I arrived in New York, I heard the buzz about the jackpot at 300 million dollars. After a drawing that produced no winner, it jumped to 600 million. As of this writing, the jackpot sits at $1.4 billion (that’s billion with a BIG FAT B) and is likely to surge higher by Wednesday’s drawing. It could become the world’s richest grand prize awarded to one ticket holder.

So here’s the second part of the story … and I must meander a bit, so I hope you stay with me.

I had a 12:05 PM flight to return to Canada from New Jersey’s Newark airport on Sunday. I was staying in Long Island. Normally, my uncle would’ve driven me to the airport, but he had to take my family to the cemetery for another post burial ritual. Given that, I awoke at 6:45 AM to give myself plenty of time to get to the airport since I had to co-ordinate multiple railway systems. Connection times were tight, with only five minutes in between disembarking and boarding.

lirr

Add to this, the weather conditions.

There had been flood warnings the night before, and sure enough, heavy rain and winds hit early Sunday morning. When I stood on the platform of the local railroad, the puddles crested the tops of my boots. I didn’t see much more of the weather after I entered the railway. I squeaked into my connection train at Penn Station seconds before the doors closed and got to the airport in record time! When the agent at the check-in counter offered me an earlier flight of 10:05 AM, I did a fist pump and gladly accepted. I sat in the lounge with a cup of coffee, stoked I had to wait a mere thirty minutes instead of ninety before boarding. How lucky was I?

airline map

 

Not long after though, things went downhill.

An announcement of mechanical failure for the 10:05 flight resulted in its cancellation. The airline had to reschedule a planeload of passengers. I was disappointed but figured I could get on the next flight at 11:05. Worst case, I’d fly back at my original departure time of 12:05, or so I thought. When I went to update my boarding pass, I was informed the 11:05 was full. I was re-booked on a 1:05 PM flight and now on standby for the 12:05.

Shit! I shouldn’t have changed my flight in the first place! 

I’m sure other expletives bounced around in my head, but I stayed calm. When the airline announced the 12:05 flight, I watched the long line-up of passengers dwindle as they boarded the plane. I stayed close to the gate but was not hopeful there would be a seat left for me. A frustrated passenger started yelling at the ticket agent for giving away a seat she thought belonged to her. All the screaming did nothing to improve the situation. As I was about to walk away, an airport employee approached the counter and handed a boarding pass to the clerk. I overheard her say, “This is for the final passenger on this flight.”

Then the agent called my name. I felt like I had won the lottery!

It was only supposed to be an hour flight, but the weather continued to worsen as we flew. When we approached Western New York, the captain informed us the visibility in Toronto was so bad he was unable to land. He circled the plane, waiting for weather conditions to improve. After more than thirty minutes of an aerial view of Buffalo, the pilot announced the fog had lifted enough for him to try and land.

Try?

I must say his words did not instill confidence in me. The woman beside me had already been white-knuckling it the entire journey. Even as a normally good flyer, the constant turbulence unsettled me. Clouds had obstructed the view outside the window for most of the flight, so there were no visual cues to make me feel better. I tightened my seat belt and closed my eyes.

airplane seat belt

Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so lucky anymore.

When the plane pitched forward and sped up, I knew we were closing in on the airport. I opened my eyes just as the plane penetrated the fog and saw the runway appear too quickly for my liking. I braced myself for a rough landing.

As the 70-person propeller plane came to a halt, a round of applause and cheers broke the tension. It’s a short runway, and the pilot did an excellent job. The proof is I’m here to write about it.

The caveat to this airplane story is the earlier flight at 11:05 was diverted back to New Jersey due to weather. If I had made it on that plane, I would not have landed in Toronto until much later.

After a long day, which fortunately ended well, I couldn’t help but think my grandmother had been looking out for me. It’s metaphorical, of course, but I felt extremely lucky, so much so that that when I arrived home safely, I called my aunt and uncle in New York and gave them numbers to play the Powerball. I’m not lucky with lotteries and I rarely play them, but there’s no way my grandma would have missed the opportunity to buy a ticket. Since she’s no longer here, I’m buying one for her.

If I win, there’s going to be one hell of a fire in her honour. 

grandma at her birthday

 

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Living through the holidays with death and social media

I lost my grandmother over the holidays. She passed away Christmas Eve.

My grandmother lived in Manhattan in a small apartment in the Lower East Side. This past summer, she came to Canada as she often did, a long drive across the border for a 94-year-old woman. My uncle and aunts drove with her to visit my mom in Montreal first, then they came to Toronto to see me and the rest of the family. That was July. I didn’t know it then, but it would be the last time I saw Grandma alive.

I agonized over writing this post. The holidays are supposed to be a good time—a union of family and friends. Fun and happy moments, with nothing worse than a bit of melancholy for another year passed, but what do you do when someone dies at this time? Holidays are not supposed to include death … but death is never convenient. You have to deal with it when it happens.

My grandmother’s death came suddenly. Even at 94, it was unexpected. I thought she could live forever. She had that aura of invincibility. Here she was at her 89th birthday party laughing with my mom.

grandma and mom

As an author who creates fictional stories, I debated whether I should write a post about my grandmother’s passing.

And how could I do it without sounding maudlin? Especially at this time of year.

You see, each December since starting this blog, I’ve written a holiday message to end the year. The messages have been about reflection, happiness, and looking ahead. I’ve often included humor as part of the festive season. I wanted this post to be something along the same lines, but I couldn’t drum up the enthusiasm to write it that way.

I just couldn’t.

I had to reflect on the life of a woman who meant a great deal to me, and it would be dishonest to write a holiday message without acknowledging the loss. Another year is coming to an end, but an important life has already ended. My grandmother deserved her time with me here.

grandma and me

With Grandma in Toronto 2013

Those who know me well understand I’m a private person. I rarely make announcements about my personal life. I share private matters one-on-one using more traditional means—telephone and email. My declarations via public forums such as Twitter and Facebook are mainly for my writing news. As much as I like social media, I consider it somewhat of a mirage.

Are people always as happy as they appear in their pictures?

The answer is obviously “no.”

With this post, my main purpose is to honor my grandmother, to let people know how lovely she was. What she lacked in physical stature, she made up for in toughness of mind and spirit. She was fiercely independent and got her way without ever raising her voice. Her quiet strength spoke to the many qualities I admired about her, particularly her thoughtfulness and grace. She made the world a better place, and she was a cool woman in every sense of the word.

I also want to thank everyone for their outpouring of support and comforting words of condolences. I’m extremely grateful for the kindness of friends, both virtual and in real life. Though I feel a sad void right now, I know how fortunate I am to have had my grandmother in my life for so long. Many of my friends no longer have parents, let alone grandparents. The reality is Grandma influenced me well into adulthood, and I will forever cherish the precious years I had with her. Her legacy lives on in the small things, which added up to her huge appetite for life.

As she was my last surviving grandparent, her passing brings me closer to my own mortality, but I am not afraid.

I never saw Grandma afraid of anything.

* * *

Some final words for the readers of this blog …

I so appreciate the personal notes, comments, follows, shares, likes, emails, and messages you’ve sent over the years. With your kindness, you’ve given me the best gift for the holidays during a difficult time.

Thank you.

As I close my blog for another year, I am grateful that social media has connected us. We are here together, and that is something worth celebrating.

Wishing love, health, and happiness for you and your families. May 2016 be unforgettable in the best of ways,

~ eden ♥

 

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Music Monday ~ And the Healing has Begun ~ Dedicated to Victims of #Sandy

Yes, I know it’s not Monday, but my blog schedule is unimportant compared to the people who need help, so I’m posting this early.

My favorite song seems appropriate after the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last week.

To donate, volunteer, or offer support, I’ve listed several sites below where you can learn more.

If you know of others, please leave them in the comments and I’ll spread the word. Together, we can make a difference.

eden

Please make a donation or help spread the word.

This coming week, The Inspired Word donates 100% of T-shirt sales to hurricane relief – Only $20 each! Follow on Twitter @InspiredWordNYC

~~~

Updated regularly with news for Sandy relief, shelters, and food drop-off sites:

Interoccupy.Net 

Brokelyn

Gothamist

Time Out New York

FabNYC

~~~

Donation sites:

American Red Cross

Canadian Red Cross

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Back from New York City with a 6th Avenue Heartache

This old song from The Wallflowers expresses my melancholy mood.

Less than a week after returning home from New York, my heart still aches for the city. I REALLY didn’t want to leave. Even as the plane sat on the tarmac bound for Toronto, I wanted to rush the cockpit and tell the pilot to let me out.

It’s hard to believe the pulse of a city can beat at the same rate as my heart, but that’s how it feels. I’ve been to NYC numerous times, even lived there for a year in the late nineties, and it never feels right to leave.  Maybe one day I’ll return for good and make it my home. I know if I were there today, I’d be in lockdown with the impending storm—stuck—unable to fly out. Damn … I’ve got to plan better next time.

To friends and family on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada in the path of Hurricane Sandy—I’m keeping you in my thoughts.

Here were some of the favorite moments of my trip.

* * * *

I finally met acclaimed American poet, Steven Marty Grant. I’ve devoured his poetry for the past couple of years and have begged him for personalized copies of his book, Another Hotel Room. Receiving his signed books was truly a highlight of my trip. He’s an amazing poet and an even more amazing person. I’m so looking forward to his next collection Chasing Moriarty releasing later this year.

Connect to Steven on his blog and on Twitter @stevenmgrant.

Mine, mine, mine, ALL MINE! Okay, I’ll give you a copy if you’re nice to me.

* * * *

I blogged about the the wonderful Mike Geffner in a recent post. His series, The Inspired Word is a great event for any city but especially for New York. There are so many talented people who are not afraid to express themselves, and I’ve already connected to many of them just by attending the event once. Further to the Monday night open mic session, Mike even asked me to help judge a comedy slam later that week. So much fun!

Find Mike on Twitter @InspiredWordNYC  and Facebook.

Be sure to connect to Mike and The Inspired Word when in NYC.

* * * *

Jim Campilongo, a regular act at The Living Room Monday nights was the next stop after my open mic session, but I almost didn’t get in. The doorman asked for ID, which I  didn’t have. The only thing I had to offer was my newly printed business card. I said, “You know I must be of age if I write erotica.”

He stared at my card and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” He was a big guy. He looked mean, not easy to persuade.

“How do I know you’re not just a horny teenager?” he asked.

“Ha,” I replied. “Horny teenagers would have nothing to write about.”

I dug in my heels for a battle of words, but then something incredible happened. He revealed he also writes erotic literature. What?! That’s New York for you, nobody is just doing a job—everyone has other aspirations.  He asked, “Do you have anything I can read?” Considering I’d just come from reading my book,  I gave him my copy. I knew my book was worth something but never thought I could use it to get into a NY club. 😉

After watching Jim’s fabulous show, I spoke with the doorman whose name is Mark K. He’d already read my first story, and we had a discussion about writing and have been in touch since. He sent me a piece of his work for an opinion, and the man can write—really well, in fact. I couldn’t be happier to connect to him in this serendipitous way.

So, if you’re in NYC on a Monday night, drop by The Living Room and say ‘hi’ to Mark, bring some ID, and don’t miss Jim Campilongo. He’s an amazing guitarist with a smokin’ hot band. Connect to him on Twitter @JimCampilongo.

Catch The Campoilongo Quartet at The Living Room each Monday night.

* * * *

I gained major poundage during my ten days in the city, and it’s mainly due to a great Italian eatery in Hell’s Kitchen called Stecchino. The service was friendly, the food amazing, and they had FREE WIFI. I’m still dreaming about their garlic, rosemary fries, and I don’t even like potatoes! Connect to them on Twitter @StecchinoNYC.

Great food, warm atmosphere, and wonderful service – Go!

* * * *

Bryant Park is one of many beautiful open spaces in the city. On a bright day, I soaked up the sun on a park bench and a stranger tried to pick me up. I love the men in this city—they’re fearless. What was great about the incident was our exchange sparked a poem, which I will share in a collection later this year. Poems don’t come easily to me, so I take inspiration whenever it hits.

The poem is called “A Loose Leaf” like this one that fell in my hair while in NY.

I was actually in the area to meet NYU professor and Forbes writer, David Vinjamuri. I’d interviewed him recently, and we exchanged writing tips and talked marketing strategy. Of course, he was just as nice in person as he is online. He also gave me some excellent promotion advice, which I’ll put into practice shortly.

Connect to him on Twitter @dvinjamuri.

David writes both fiction and non-fiction. Find him out on Amazon.

* * * *

I reconnected with a wonderful couple whom I met while in Barbados last year. Linda and Bob are vibrant New Yorkers who introduced me to an area completely new to me—The Seaport. We had a great dinner, met new friends, and capped off the evening at one of their favorite haunts – Nelson Blue, fully decorated for Halloween.

Great place for friends to reunite. Thanks Linda and Bob!

It was also this area where I returned to the next day in a final quest for boots. I love wearing boots in the fall and had ruined my favorite pair several months ago. As luck would have it, I found them! I also learned you don’t pay tax for individual clothing items under $110, so of course I had to pick up a few more things. It only makes sense, right?

I saved money by buying more than one pair. That’s my story & I’m sticking to it.

Until next time, New York. I can’t wait to come back.

Stay safe, everyone.

 eden

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