My First Day Back in Manhattan


What a long day. What a long and wonderful day. I’ve spent this day on the Island of Manhattan. I was so wonderful to be back among my people, to hear the sounds and smell the familiar smells. I’ve heard many languages, seen styles of every type, people of all colors and backgrounds and religions and lack of religion. I belong here. This is my fucking city.

I checked in with my action partner for the first time this morning. By tomorrow I’ve committed to him that I would 1) write one letter to a theatre company, 2) meet with my voc rehab counselor at the VA, and 3) work on one of my scripts for an hour with the phone turned off. So far I’ve done one of those things. It’s 19:52.

As I told y’all I’m staying until Saturday with my friends out in Glen Rock, New Jersey. It’s about forty-five minutes out of the city by train. King and I worked out at the gym where he and James go this morning, a very nice gym with friendly people. The men’s locker room was more like a day spa than a gym locker room. So grateful for that opportunity and to start my day with pampering. Then I hit the streets.

It actually takes about forty-five minutes by train to get into the city from where I’m staying. (You said that already.) You have to take New Jersey Transit Train into Hoboken first. I was a little surprised that it cost $8.25. That would be an expensive commute if I was doing it everyday. When you get to Hoboken you have to take the PATH train into Manhattan. I knew to get off at Christopher Street. Then I’d get on the NYC Subway system and I’d know where I was. When I came out of the PATH station at Christopher Street, it didn’t look familiar. I was thinking I would come up near that Starbucks in the West Village, the one by the Subway entrance that’s on the little island in the middle of the street— you know, the one over near Stonewall Inn. But nothing looked familiar. Then I saw the Lucille Lortel Theatre and I knew where I was. The theatre was on the left so I knew to walk east and I’d get to Subway station near Stonewall. I only had to take the 1 train uptown a couple of stops before getting off at 14th to catch the L toward Brooklyn. The VA hospital is at 1st and 23rd so I got off at the 1st Avenue stop on the L. I came up from underground and checked my phone for the time. A man came up to me, pointed toward the subway I’d just exited  and in very broken English asked, “This go Brooklyn only?” “Yes,” I told him. “Do you need to go more into Manhattan?” “Yes! Eight Avenue!” I pointed across the street to the westbound L. He was so grateful for the help. I was glad I could be one of those helpful New Yorkers for him. Mine is one of the friendliest cites on earth. I love it here.

I prepared myself for the walk up 1st Avenue. The wind always seems to be blowing down 1st Avenue. Spring rain, winter blizzard, or blistering Summer heat, some of my most arduous walks (due to weather) have been up 1st Avenue. Then all of a sudden it hit me. What the hell am I doing?! My appointment’s not at the hospital, it’s at the benefits center! That’s somewhere on Houston (you know how to pronounce that correctly, don’t you? I’m so proud of you)! I Google the address and— I’ll be goddamned if it’s not right by where I got off the PATH train! What time is it? 13:30. My appointment’s not until 14:30. I’ve got plenty of time. I cross the street and go down the subway entrance I’d directed the other man to. Enter, pay again (ugh) and head back in the direction from which I’d come. I walked back past the subway musicians I’d listened to and greeted on the way, even the one I gave a dollar to. He didn’t seem to expect me to contribute again. All the way to the 1, hopped on, headed downtown, passed  Christopher Street, Got off at Houston (you remember how to pronounce that, I’m so proud of you) and the VA offices were right across the street. I had made this journey a lot more difficult than it needed to be. You know where I’m headed with this next, don’t you? I’m so proud of you.

I stood on the sidewalk in the brisk breeze and said to myself, “Jeff. You know that there is a spiritual lesson in all this. Don’t miss it.” 

  1. Know where you’re going.
  2. Make a plan based on the quickest and most efficient, effective way to get where you want to be.
  3. Give. Be generous along the way. But don’t give too much. Save some for a slice of pizza later.
  4. If you mess up and take some long, confused detour, don’t beat yourself up. Who knows, you might get to help someone along the way just because you made that detour.
  5. Be mindful.
  6. Next time, the trip will go more smoothly because you’ll remember the mistakes you made this time.

The last ten minutes of today’s journey might have been the most challenging. I’d gone to an event celebrating Harlem Men’s Style (as seen through a sociopolitical lens) at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem tonight. It was hosted by my shero and good dear friend/sister Michela Angela Davis.  Even though I slipped out a little early, I was still pretty late getting back to Glen Rock. The walk from the train station to King and James’ house is about ten minutes. I only had my sweater, my gloves, and the scarf Mimi knitted for me. That was plenty warm when I left this morning and even too warm at points through the day but it was not warm enough for those last few minutes. I wished I’d brought my coat. It’s 14° outside and the wind cut through me like ice knives. I remembered something that Marion Littlefeather once told me. She said that when she was little and growing up in the Badlands, the elders would tell the young ones now to bow into the hard weather. She said they would tell them to walk upright and face the cold, harsh wind— that it would prepare them for life. Reflecting on this wisdom, I walked a little taller and thanked The Great Spirit for my journey, even the hard stuff.

I put on the kettle as soon as I got in the door. I drank tea and read the Arts section of today’s New York Times. Now I’m naked and snug as a bug in a rug underneath this down comforter. The wind is moaning around the side of the house as the wind chimes protest the blustery cold. I’ll post this blog, turn off the lamp, a go to sleep. Only pleasant dreams tonight if you please.

See y’all tomorrow.

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