On choosing how to commute in the city of New York

I tend to commute by foot or by bicycle in the city of New York. The subway system i avoid as much as possible. Being practical in nature, I appreciate the exercise and enjoy the breeze of fresh air and sensing the sun on my skin.

It is perfectly safe to ride in the city, the main challenges i face are the following:

  • fellow-bikers that ride towards me on the one-way narrow bike lane
  • pedestrians that use the bike lane as an extension of the pavement
  • drivers that don’t slow down when the light from the bikers end is clearly green

When i commute by foot, i usually take snapshots with my i-phone. I photograph things that are somewhat inspirational to me. It is challenging to take photographs while i ride my bicycle, even though i tried.

I took the subway to Brooklyn last week (Thursday, January 23 2014) to honor a friends film screening event
at Bat Haus. Kevin Jean-Baptiste screened his short film Choices. The film describes a young man’s decision to give up on a friend who was dealing drugs.

I met Kevina at a filmmaker’s networking event in Dumbo at Made in NY Media Center. We have one passion in common, film-making. I feel wonderful to mingle with like-minded people. It is my experience that it takes courage for being involved in the industry. Not only is a competitive field, there is abundance of talent in it.

But that’s life isn’t it? To keep pushing towards ones desires despite any obstacles presented. Is like cycling. To reach to my destination i overcome the challenges thrown in front of me and continue pedaling. I may sweat, get tired, but i reach at the end. And my rewards are far greater than taking the subway because i want to exercise and feel the fresh breeze of air and sense the sun beams on my skin. At the end it is my personal choice.

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i-phone snapshot from the film screening of Kevin’s Jean-Baptistes’s Choices, on January 23 2014, at Bat Haus

After all it is only minus eight in Celsius degrees

I never thought it can get cold in New York city. In fact, i was surprised to see snow falling and staying on the ground. I somehow associated such climate effects to take place only in neighboring States with Canada, like Michigan and Minnesota. I tend to forget that Buffalo is a city of the state of New York and that I have experienced much colder winters as a resident there.

After all it is only minus eight in Celsius degrees today, eighteen in Fahrenheit. But i am reluctant to step out from home.

Blaze seems to be less tolerant to New York city’s snow. On the first steps out of the apartment he starts limping, i consider to buy him snow-boots. He loved to run in fresh snow and played fetch in the fields until exhaustion in Buffalo.  I had to drag him home because his orange Chuckit ball had turned into a white round ice cube outside.

For uplifting my spirits and yours, I post a photograph that I took from my i-phone during my last visit in my hometown Limassol. That was last week. I was the only one exercising in a short-sleeve t-shirt at the waterfront and definitely picked-up the weird looks from the locals. “I saw you from far away and thought to myself who is this person, running under-dressed in winter?” This was a high-school friend of mine with her husband. They had fleece on, mitten gloves, scarves and hats, the temperature was about twenty degrees Celsius, which roughly equals to sixty eight in Fahrenheit.

I suppose i have become resilient to extreme climate conditions living all these years abroad.

iphone still

A short narrative story

The last time he visited his parents it was difficult.
It was when they announced him the share of their inheritance to one of his siblings.

His father had already retired; his mother was two years close.

He got up late that first day of his stay, because of the long flight and the time difference. His mother walked in the kitchen where he was making his coffee. “Remember the old furniture from my mother-in-law? she asked. “Not really” he said. “I asked both your sister’s and brother’s contribution to refurbish it. I want your brother to have it.”

He knew that his siblings helped mother out, but not for antique furniture.
“I wonder, why not include me in the furniture share?” His mother kept silent.

“In a future visit, can I stay in the apartment?” he changed the subject. “I have this desire to visit more often. “You should ask your brother about that,” his mother replied.

His parents owned an apartment in the same area. “You know where I stand,
my brother should be financially independent, as with the rest of us”.

But this was not his parent’s thinking. The same evening his brother came over. “Can I stay with you at the apartment in future visits?” “No” his brother replied. “Is his apartment” mother announced, “we registered that property to him.”

It was not the first time his mother had concealed the truth from him, why was he acting surprised suddenly? “The pattern repeats! It’s like that time you bought a brand new bicycle for my brother, and a used bicycle for me”. His brother got offense. “You are obsessed with the past! I deserved that new bicycle. You are here to attack me”, his brother was furious. “This is not true, I just state the facts, family patterns repeat”, he defended himself. “Mother did not share this morning about your inheritance, even though I addressed it directly. In regards to the furniture, why was I not included? he looked at his brother. “Fine, you can pay 1000.00 Euros and take what you want except from the sofa, is mine.”

“See what I’m talking about?” addressing his brother. “Family patterns repeat.”

“You are ungrateful, your mother worked so hard for you”. He looked at his mother who was ready to burst into tears. “You are conveniently accommodated by mother,” he commented back to his brother very calmly.

Over the next few days he tried to observe the uncomfortable triggers, the emotional pain he felt. It was as if he was dragged under loads of moving mud. Nobody was around to lovingly help him come out of it. His head could explode.

He coped with daily scheduled long-hour walks at the beach. It helped him to tire his body and hear the waves, as if their only purpose was to sooth and relief him.

“You think you are that smart?” his mother had asked him that question when he was little, whenever he tried to stand up for himself. She would behave in the same manner with his older brother and even his father when they tried to reason with her on various family matters. He could not tell how his sister was raised, he was already abroad when his mother gave birth.

“You think you know it all, don’t you?” his mother had asked him again. His eyes squinted, a reaction he could not control. “You think you are that smart?” sadly, he witnessed his mother repeating the same at the evening discussion with his brother. It was his first day of visit.

When he was little, he spent his summers with his grandparent’s from his mother’s side. They fought often and, as a result, his grandfather physically abused his grandmother.
He spoke to his mother about this a few years back, at a previous visit. “They fought, yes. But, my father was a good man” she spoke with certainty.

Controlling tendencies, non-confrontational attitude and manipulation were the main attributes he noticed in his mother’s behavior. They may have been her defensive, against her parent’s difficult relationship. He thought he worked on himself for not repeating the same. No family, no woman, no man is perfect.

“I have the best solution” he turned to his parents next day at dinner. “I will pick up your mortgage expenses and other relevant costs of an equal value of the apartment you gave to my brother. I won’t claim ownership of this house until after both of you have passed away.”

“No,” his mother replied and cleared her throat. “Inheritance transfers within the family name. I want you to have my mother’s house. “But they are not of equal value,” he dared to say. “I can hire a professional to properly make an estimate” he offered. “No need, I know is fair” his mother replied.

“In addition” she continued, “this house you can split with your brother. Your sister wants the vineyards”. He was baffled. His family bilked him before anyone else.

“When my sister wanted my half-share for a whole piece of land, I exchanged it with another piece of land. In a similar manner, you and your brother will split the house in the city in half. I‘ll continue to pay the mortgage and you will be able to register this house on your name, hopefully in five years from now.”

He tried to recollect his thoughts.First of all, his brother already had one property registered in his name, he is settled for life. Secondly, their relationship is not as close like his mother and her sister. How is it possible, for mother to be willing to share their inheritance without hiring a professional to estimate their property?“

“I can’t accept your proposition mother. It was different at the time you grew up. My grandmother inherited land and passed it along. You worked hard and purchased two properties in the city. You already gave one up and you expect me to pay my siblings if I want it all to myself. You refuse financial support now that you are alive and well. I love this house, is where I grew up, my grandmother’s house is where you grew up! Do you expect me to want what you want when I visit?”

“No, you can stay with us for as long as you like” mother said.

“I can’t tip neither my sister nor my brother, I’d be happy to support you.”

“If I take your money you’ll tell people you paid more”.

“No, mother, I will say the truth, that I paid the difference to maintain a fair share.” He was angry at her that she could not understand him. But he was calm in his voice.

You know what, I would still love to support you to pay your mortgage expenses. Is fine, I do not want inheritance from you.”

And so in a few moments he had removed himself from receiving a share from his mother’s inheritance.

He could no longer live in the past.

The Muppets unite!

One of my favorite storytellers is Jim Henson and the Muppet Show tv series.
His work is cleverly crafted, educational and speaks to global audiences.

I attended Jim Henson’s Fantastic World large traveling exhibit at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, WA back in 2009. I learned about Henson’s entrepreneurial spirit and his persistence in producing his creative work. Jim Henson started his career in commercials and made his films from home. Slowly and gradually he shaped the standards for children’s shows as we know them today.

I recently watched The Muppet Movie, 1979 with a friend from a different upbringing than mine, culture and country. How wonderful the Muppets unite! Below a summary of the film:

Kermit the frog lives in a pond.
Like all other frogs he stretches his tongue,
in catching his meal.

Life in the pond is routinely the same,
Kermit plays the guitar and sings all day.

A Hollywood agent who is lost in the pond,
discovers Kermit the frog.

“You could make millions of people happy
with the talent of yours!”

With trust in these words,
Kermit begins a long journey.

Newfound friends support him in reaching his goal.

Despite the blocks he stumbles upon,
Kermit the frog is plugging away.

The Muppet Movie, 1979.

Living with Uncertainty

The view from my apartment windows is fogged. “With temperatures below zero and the heater on seventy-two degrees in here, it is inevitable,” I turn to Blaze.

I set the oven to three hundred fifty degrees and take a quick glance on the recipe. I remove the vegetables from the sink and wipe my fingers dry on my white apron.

Blaze stands still besides me. I quickly place the casserole I just filled with cold water on the stove. “I chop the squash in uneven squares” once more, I turn to Blaze who seems to understand.

 “Aren’t you ready yet?” my brother walks into the kitchen. I mumble “sorry” and rush to my bedroom. Today we are visiting Soho, his favorite neighborhood in Lower Manhattan.  

 “Soho was an artists’ hub once, an affordable place to live. When the area got developed, artists were forced to leave” my brother shares as we walk through the area.

Soho has an interesting architecture and a plethora of boutiques. The narrow streets preserve the old-fashioned charm, as well as the roads that are made out of brick. We agree to walk towards Angelica, the movie theater that supports Independent filmmakers.

As we walk silently side by side, I think to myself that I lived in many parts of the world and Soho seems like any other neighborhood. I grew up in the old city of Limassol, most of the housing was built in the early eighteen hundreds. Growing up in my neighborhood in the late eighties, it was an adventure for us kids. A few old houses were abandoned and some got demolished. Years went by before construction projects replaced the fields with apartment complexes. I remember it was safe to play with my friends out in the streets. A lot of times we explored the abandoned homes and played hide and seek in the space around them.

A couple blocks my way, they stop right in front of me, it is a gallery entrance.  “Want to check what’s in here?” I ask my brother.  He nods in agreement. It is the exhibit of  Scott’s Cohen’s Unfinished Ballad.

Large still frames are printed on Japanese paper and motion picture projections of still life in Black and White, convey to me an emotion of peaceful gentleness. The compositional themes and the candlelight promote a feeling of comfort throughout the gallery space.

The exhibit occupies three floors. A large narrow staircase leads to the second and third floor. The artist is there on the second floor, a rare chance to meet him in person. Without introducing myself, I express my admiration for his show and want to know more about his creative process.  I thank him for his time and proceed to view the exhibit on the third floor.

“I did not ask the artist how he manages to balance art and life”, I turn to my brother. He agrees to wait for me and I walk back to the second floor.  Thankfully the artist is still there, I engage in brief but meaningful conversation one more time. “I came back because I need to ask you how you cope with life and pursue your art-making. I am a practicing filmmaker and I find it extremely difficult sometimes to remain disciplined and pursue this”. “It is hard,” the artist says, “it is really-really hard. You’ll have to find your own way and don’t be afraid”.

The memories of my past are fogged, fogged like the windows of my temporary home in mid-town Manhattan. I chose this life-style and I am content. Often scary at times, to continue living with uncertainty, nevertheless, I am committed fully to the life of my own making.