Dead-Center

photo (1)December 14, 2014

I thought everyone read the New York Times. I did. In the United States anyway. I mean not everyone, obviously, but people who have Internet access, or a Facebook account, or an interest in the news.

And not like the whole New York Times, just maybe the book review, or the magazine, or the arts section, or the cooking section, or something specific like, the Eric Garner verdict, or the “I Can’t Breathe” protests. You know, the stuff that is of interest. But I kinda figured everyone on the Internet, at some point in their day, ran across a New York Times article or two in their sphere of interest.

Apparently this is not true.

Like when I went to a very cool downtown restaurant here in Vegas, and congratulated the front of house on an excellent mention and recommendation from Pete Wells. Pete Fucking Wells.

Blank stare. No idea what I was talking about.

It went like this:

“Hey, congrats on the mention from Pete Wells in the New York Times! Excellent!”

Blank stare.

“Yeah, the New York Times recommended you guys as one of the go-to downtown restaurants in Vegas, you know, like in the New York Times.”

Blank stare.

“He recommended your pork jerky and the short rib fried rice.”

Big smile, but still the blank stare.

“Anyway, that’s amazing to make the list. I mean, you saw what the guy said about Guy Fieri, right? This is good. You’re in the New York Times…in a good way!”

“Uh, thanks.”

Blank stare.

And then I took Edie to violin this week – and asked the violin teacher, the children’s violin teacher, the Suzuki children’s violin teacher – about the New York Times piece about the violin instructor waging war on Suzuki and trying to impugn his name. The New York Times entitled the piece, “Violin World Yowls at Challenge to Fabled Teacher.” Yowls. This is big, right? Violin educators are YOWLING.

So I asked our violin teacher about the controversy, expecting a rant, like “Yes, of course, I saw it! It’s been everywhere. We are simply yowling about it!”

But it was more like this:

“Hey, heard about the big children’s violin controversy in the New York Times…”

Blank stare.

“Yeah, the New York Times did a whole piece on Mark O’Connor and his war on the Suzuki method and Suzuki himself.

Blank stare.

“He called Suzuki a liar, and his method a fraud…”

Blank stare.

“Anyway, it was in the New York Times….”

“Uh, wow, yeah, I should check that out.”

Blank stare. Not even a hint of yowling.

I reported all of this to David.

“Really? Doesn’t everyone who reads the news, reads the New York Times, or at least, some tiny part of it?”

“News flash: New York – not the center of the universe,” he said, looking over his laptop, and then returning to his email.

What? New York – not the center of the universe?

I had no idea. I mean, I lived in New York City for 25 years and I was pretty sure we were the center of the God-damned world.

It’s the tiny little lie us New Yorkers tell ourselves – that living there is worth all the hardship and insanity, and cramped spaces, and windowless kitchens, and cold-ass winters, and un-manageably ridiculous rents, and the madness of subways and buses on the packed-like-sardines commute, and three deadly-depressive months of zero sun, and the hours spent doing nothing but shuffling our cars around for alternate side parking – that all of this is bearable because we have art and museums and shows, and that we aren’t just culture, but there is the fertile ground where culture is created, and all that hardship, that we either experience or we see around us, breeds the most desperate and beautiful kind of art, that the energy, the freneticism of banging off of so many other people makes us better creators. We know more for living there. 

That’s how we justify it all.

But it’s a lie. Don’t get me wrong, NYC will always be dead-center in my head in so many ways. It’s special. It’s intertwined with me. I will always be a New Yorker.

But downtown Vegas reminds me of old NYC. And I want to stay here. I need sun. I need space. I need an herb garden. I need to meet all the downtown artists, writers, cooks and musicians. I need to walk and hear nothing but the sound of my own steps and my own breath when I walk the dogs. I need the kids to take off on their bikes and not know where the hell they are and not care that I don’t know. I need to know every single one of my lovely, slightly off-beat neighbors. I want to feed people, because there are people here who need to be fed. I want peace.

But I’m still going to keep reading the New York Times.

Tween

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December 4, 2014

Last night, Edie was having a meltdown. She was crying about her math test, which she failed, and she couldn’t right herself.

She kept sobbing over the test paper we were supposed to re-do and hand in the next morning. I said the wrong thing – I have that habit – suggesting we get her a tutor, and that sent her head-first into the couch, where she wailed. She accused me of saying she was bad at math.

She was inconsolable.

So, I picked her up, all crushed up and broken, and put her into our bed, and tried to get her to snuggle me, and then eventually go to sleep. It was hard at first. She resisted in every way possible – she wanted the puppy up on the bed, she wanted to watch a show, she wanted to go out into the living room and sort the mail, she didn’t want to lay next to me, she wanted to flop her legs around like a dying frog.

Everything I said sent her into a spiral of more tears. She told me I was mean, even though my words were light and loving. Everything I said was tangled and turned around to scrape her.

Finally, she came in next to me and I settled the blankets in around us. I told her all the things she wanted to hear, but I knew she felt too exposed and bristley to take in – that we are so proud of who she is, that she is out-of-this world, rocketship-to-the-moon smart in all ways, including math, that nothing could stop us from loving her, that we are family and we will always be together, that she makes me happy everyday, that we are so lucky to be her parents.

“Mommy…” she said. She had her nose right up to my nose, and her cheeks were still wet.

“Someday I might want to move away. Will you come with me?”

“You probably won’t want me to come, you know. You’ll be in a relationship, or have kids, and fun friends….”

“I know. But I want you to come anyway, wherever I go, so I won’t be alone.”

“I will follow you wherever you go, okay?” I said, and I smiled, and wished it were true – that she could be an adult and still want us with her in her life – even though of course, I was pretty sure she wouldn’t want her old mother dragging behind her as she traveled the earth, like a pathetic, tethered ghost, looming over her, looking for another life to live.

“I’m afraid I might do drugs when I’m a teenager,” she said next.

And I realized this is what it really means to be a tween, to still be a kid, and like kid things, but to also see that just over the horizon, you are going to want new things, believe new things, see the world completely differently. You are going to be on your own – and you love the idea, but it’s fierce, terrifying reality rattles you to your sinews and joints.

Maybe you’ll be a pop star, but then maybe you’ll be a meth addict. It’s all so unwritten and unknowable.

Being a tween means being here and there simultaneously, without understanding what it all means. Knowing you will change, but still hoping you can hang out a little longer with cartoons, and stuffed animals, and long hugs from your parents that fix everything.

“I don’t know what you’ll do when you’re a teenager,” I told her, “but there’s nothing you can do to make us stop loving you…”

“Or liking me?”

“Nope, we’re always gonna like you.”

“I can sleep now.”

And then she turned over, and closed her eyes, and I held her in my arms long after she fell asleep.

The Better Half of the Omelet

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November 15, 2014

We just got back from a weekend in Utah, looking at peaks and mountains, and climbing trails and edging around cliffs. We rented an RV. We went with our friends, and Lucy and Edie’s oldest friends, Nakamae and Nabrakissa and their mom, Jessica. Three adults, four kids, four dogs packed into an RV, careening through mountains, and valleys, it was marvelous and dirty, the air was cool and clean, the mountains, well, they were so beautiful and jagged and awe-some as to make you feel like a tiny, impossibly stupid little specks, a heap of infallible chromosomes and muscle.

I mean, are you strong enough to be the water that can carve out a rock canyon? No. No you are not. You are a speck.

We got home and unpacked the camper, and I made a quick dinner for David and the kids. Mac and cheese for the girls, something easy to thaw from my freezer. The guy who is working on our house, Chris, was here working late, so I fed him too, a scallion omelet with cream cheese, and a heaping side of bacon. So simple.

I made a six egg omelet in my big copper crepe pan and split it down the middle. And I gave the slightly bigger, more attractive half to David, and the slightly less large, but still perfectly pleasant half to Chris.

And this made me think…

I hadn’t always given the nicer half to my husband. When we first started dating, I would say to him, “I’m going to give you the less attractive bits, and the guests the nicer slices.” He and I wanted to make it look good for the guests. He had my back. We were becoming a team.

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But now, nine years into our marriage, we are not becoming. We are solid. I realized last night, looking at those two plates of egg, that I always give David the best-looking piece. Or the largest. Or the most full of something delectable. Because after all of it, he deserves that little kindness.

He probably will never notice, and I don’t plan on pointing it out to him. I’m pretty sure he provides a hundred little kindnesses to me everyday, ones that he never thinks to tell me about, or remind me that they are there. I know they are there, because I feel their weight all the time.

They are so small, these kindnesses as to be nearly invisible – specks in the vastness of our marriage. But they add up. They are little reminders of our connection. THEY ARE OUR CONNECTION. That we value you each other in more subtle ways than flowers, and gifts, and big, holiday demonstrations.

There is nothing like watching 4 kids and 4 dogs crammed into the bunk of an RV, the kids screaming with laughter, the dogs flopping around joyfully, potato chip crumbs and discarded shoes all over the floor, and your laughing girlfriend, and your husband at the wheel, to know that you are surrounded by people who have your back. Or to see a sky so huge and stuffed with stars that you realize how meaningless it all is except for these wonderful people.

And just because of that, when you can give it, your people, the ones that are there everyday, deserve the better half of the omelet.

Loud

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November 1, 2014

It’s morning here. And I am seeing a peek into what winter is like. Windy. Chilly, but still so much more bearable than east coast weather. It’s eerie, and things tumble across the yard, and trees sway, but it’s beautiful.

And I’m awake alone in the living room. The kids are in a tumble of sheets and blankets, Lucy covered up to her neck, and Edie without any cover at all. This has been who they are since they were babies. It might always be this way.

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They were all in our bed this morning. A not unpleasant way to start the day.

And I couldn’t sleep, which was mostly the puppy’s fault. She woke up around six and wanted to play and to get everyone up to play, so I came here to the living room.

And then David noticed I was missing from our bed, and came out and laid on the sofa next to me. He still has eye liner on from his steam-punk vampire Halloween costume the night before, and his crazy bed-hair makes him look like Viggo Mortenson in “A Perfect Murder”.

Not unpleasant at all.

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And it’s quiet. Except for the dogs grunting, and snorting. Pugs do that, and loudly.

That is not so unpleasant either.

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It’s nice to be alone, but not alone. To be alone, among sleeping family. To have tea in my hand. To feel day happening to us. To wonder what loud thing will happen next. To listen to the limbs scratch and thump the side of the house. To see leaves shiver through warm windows.

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To know that soon the house will be filled with loud kids, and loud dogs, and loud us, and loud guests, and loud neighbors, and loud emails and phone calls, and loud work happening in the back casita, and loud food making, and loud packing up all the Halloween supplies, and making room in our cobweb stuffed brains for the next holiday, and the next one after that.

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All of that is good.

But it’s quiet now.

And that is not unpleasant.

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Fear & Relief

photo (8)October 28, 2014

We really like Halloween here.

Lucy and I think its way better than Christmas, even though there are no presents. We start gathering supplies in September. We have a party, make a haunted house – it gets scarier every year. We go to Halloween City a hundred times, and every year we amass a stash of Halloween gore that needs to be stored in giant tubs.

I will dish out candy to the hordes of neighborhood zombies and since Friday is “Nevada Day” and we have the day off from school, we will spend ALL DAY dressing up, adjusting our costumes, and draping our foyer with cob webs, and spiders, and skulls eating rats, and changing the lightbulbs into something dark and eerie, and putting out the severed heads, and the plate of delicious body parts. We will get the fog machine out, and cue up the freaky music, so both fog and shrieking noises pour out from the house. We’ll get a friend to wear a face-rotting monster mask and scare the hell out of the children as they pass by.

Bwah ha ha…Oh, I chuckle just thinking of it.

photo (9) I have a friend who says, semi-jokingly, if he doesn’t make a baby cry every Halloween, he hasn’t done his job. I’ve always liked that – not making kids cry exactly – but creating a safe-scary opportunity for my kids and the kids around us.

Kids face all kinds of real life horrors, from the minor to the downright terrifying – food scarcity, bullying, peer pressure, natural disasters, divorce, crazy parents, dead parents, instability, poverty, homophobia, racial bigotry, just feeling misunderstood, powerless, and a world around them filled with grown-ups murmuring about ebola, beheadings, kids getting shot in their schools, drone strikes, war, planes that disappear into thin air. 

Maybe that’s why we watch the Walking Dead, and World War Z, and maybe that’s why Lucy and Edie are sitting on the couch right now in their newly-created Halloween costumes, wishing they could just tear out into the night and MAKE. HALLOWEEN. HAPPEN. NOW.

Because its good to be scared, knowing it’ll all turn out okay.

Halloween is a vacation from the stuff that is truly scary and unfixable.

At least if I make a baby cry on our doorstep this Friday, I can whip off my mask, let her touch the folds of deformed skin, see the fake blood, and work the button on the glowing zombie skull chewing a rat that will sit right next to the bowl of candy. She’ll see it’s plastic, harmless, and that I am smiling, and not so mean at all, and that the world is good and there is candy to be eaten, and right at that moment, hopefully, she’ll laugh and grab the mask out of my hands and try to scare her little brother.

There will be fear and relief.

Fear and then, relief.

The relief will feel so good.

We can all go to the dark place, and come back.

Happy Halloween.

Rabbit Hole

photo (29)October 23, 2014

I started taking anti-anxiety meds in August, just after we moved to Vegas. Right after I fell down the big black rabbit hole.

Not that anything was particularly wrong. I did that thing I always do, where I sail through life without thinking. Of course it would be fine to leave NYC. Sure, I’d miss my friends, but I’d stay in touch. I’d make new friends in Vegas. It’s a big adjustment, sure, but it’s a huge adventure.

Adventures are awesome.

The move was smooth. We lost a few clay flower pots and the air conditioning went in my jeep, but nearly everything else made it here just fine. We had a great time in Tokyo.We watched David’s show 100 times, and roamed the streets looking for fashion accessories and yakitori and sushi.

Plus, we love a hotel bed. We know how to do our thing in a beautiful, big hotel bed pretty much anywhere.

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But then we got to our new house. The house I had seen before we bought it. The house I knew had great bones and tons of potential. The house I knew was deprived of love and caring for many years.

And I saw the paint on the walls, bleak and dirty and morose. And the furniture the tenants left behind, broken, over-used, battered, cheap. The blinds and walls and shelves caked with years of decay. We had cleaners come in before the move, but the poverty that was there – not financial poverty, but spiritual poverty – could not be wiped down or washed away.

It was everywhere.

I labeled everything “poverty.” Poverty blinds. Poverty cupboards. Poverty furniture. So much of everyone else’s sadness left behind. And I soaked it up like a sponge.

And it was hot here. Obviously. August, Las Vegas heat, and water bugs the size of small puppies lived in the trees, forced their way through cracks in our old house, and there was a mouse in my sink, and apparently secadas come out every year here, not just every 17 years, and then shed their shells, so profusely that hard little shells were stuck all over the outside of our house. The kids ran around collecting them and kept them in a tin can in their room, and kept shoving the can in my face, asking me if I was still afraid of them.

Awesome.

I developed this crazy obsession with water bugs. Intrusive thoughts. I expected to see them everywhere. I remember seeing one on the outside of the house next door and going to check on it every five minutes, thinking it would come to our house. When it wasn’t on the house anymore, I checked our house. Had it come inside here?

I woke up in the middle of the night and searched the walls for signs of roaches. I was afraid to walk in the grass, or in the street at night. I asked everyone about their water bugs. Did they have them? Does the exterminator get rid of them? I talked to the clerk at Walgreen’s about roaches. No one was immune.

Everything I thought about was somehow connected to water bugs. Intrusive thoughts, so many intrusive thoughts. I wouldn’t stand under the beautiful, viney tree in our front yard because I was sure a roach would fall on me and get entangled in the web of my hair.

Water bugs as a symbol for my anxiety, my own personal crazy.

I fell down the hole. I woke up grey. The stray thoughts sent me spiraling out of control. Would this hurt me? Would that hurt me? Were there water bugs here? Under the bed? On the walls? On me? There isn’t one on me, is there?

fell far away.

Poverty shelves.

I fell into myself.

Poverty walls.

David saw it immediately. He sent me to the show doctor. I asked for meds. I got them. I recovered. And we painted the morose walls, and threw out the poverty blinds and the poverty furniture. I even took an old wrought iron shelf from the yard and transformed it into a place for Lucy’s copious amounts of tiny little collectible objects.

Re-purpose.

Make everything our own.

Find ourselves here.

It’s becoming beautiful. I see us in it, more and more everyday.

I’m still on the meds. I’m still fighting intrusive thoughts, but not nearly as many. I’m starting to love life here. I’m feeling good. I love my morning walks. We are going to good restaurants, hosting a lot of dinner parties, hanging with new friends. I love the light, the way I can throw open the windows and let the breeze blow in. There are good people here.

I’ve learned to pronounce “Nevada” correctly. Nev-a-da, not Nev-ah-da. This is important, I’m told. When you know people from Nevada, you pronounce the name of their state correctly.

When you are from Nevada, you pronounce the name of your state correctly.

This is a good adventure, after all.

And its Fall, and cooler, so not so many water bugs and all the black widows seem to have disappeared. And Fall is 85 degrees here. That helps, too.

 

Walking the Walk

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October 12, 2014

Every morning I take a walk with Smudge.

I did this in NYC too, because dogs need to walk, but it was different there. The city was waking up. There was noise, combustion, horns, people yelling, tires on asphalt, trucks screaming by, people filling up the sidewalks, moving forward and around each other, pool balls slamming into and around each other. You have to pay attention in NYC, to the people around you, to the walk and the don’t walk signs, to the 10 things that are waking you up, pushing you out into the world.

The morning walk is different here in Vegas. The air isn’t hot yet at 8am. It’s still and cool. The neighborhood is quiet, except for the pull of school children running to the school down the street. There are a few people out, piling into cars, putting their garbage cans on the curb, sweeping the driveway, watering the cacti. The woman with the really incredible garden is already on her knees in the hard ground, planting something new. She waves and I tell her how much I admire her garden.

But mostly it’s me. My feet on pavement. The dog slobbering in bushes, sniffing lamp posts, the two of us moving fast, down street after street, making maze-like turns. Sweeney to 7th to Bracken to the next and the next. It’s just us, and palm trees, and blue cloudless skies and my thoughts, my writing brain moving down into a slower gear, my legs loving that I am moving.

I think about that story I am writing. How I will start that paragraph. My brain clears the way. Characters pop in. I can’t wait to get to the keyboard.

But I also want to walk. One more street. 6th, by the house where Elvis used to live, then Oakey, then back to 10th. The chihuahuas bark at us from behind fences as we walk by. Smudge and I get the whole neighborhood riled up. Sometimes we stop on 9th and visit Bubba, the Australian cattle dog, they run circles in the front lawn, poop, sniff each others butts, and then we are on our way again.

I never had a walk like this in NYC. This big sky, this quiet, the way my brain slips down into a place where it waits for the words to come.

Vegas and I have had our turmoil. I’ll tell you about that some time. It was a rough start. But I am starting to love her.

 

 

PS: For those of you not following along on social media, the little black pug in the photo is Smudge’s new little sister, Roxie. She is a nine week old. She isn’t out walking with us yet, but she will be soon. The more dogs, the merrier!

Tokyo

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October 6th, 2014

It’s been awhile, I know. I’ve been over on Wattpad, talking to teens who are reading the new book. Also, starting to work on Haunted Organic, Book 2.

We are in Vegas now. More on that later. So much to say. So much happened. But for now, some pics from Tokyo. David was producing a show there, but it was one of the most lovely trips we’ve taken. Beautiful people. Beautiful food. So much to explore for the girls. I would go back to visit in a second.

Always good to travel. Always good to come home. Even a new home.

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Sushi-go-round.

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photo (32)Searching for fabrics, and fashion design supplies. 

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photo (35)photo (37)Pork belly.

photo (40)Spicy pork burn-your-face-off ramen. Counter food.

photo (47)Orange.

photo (41)Harajuku, a source of great fashion inspiration.

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Karaoke. photo (46)Blue pole, on the way to some crazy, out-of-the-way sushi. photo (45)The pink sign advertises the show.
photo (38)Back in Vegas. Jet lag.
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On A Train

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July 17, 2014

We are in Tokyo now. David is producing a show here. I wrote this on a train, taking us from the airport at Haneda to Shinagawa, where we are staying.

There is a young couple, standing up, holding onto the rings. She is holding flowers, obviously from him, and he is kissing her. They can’t stop kissing, or just touching each other. He is constantly wrapped around her and she is folded into him, and they make all kinds of eye contact, and there is giggling and sparkly eyes crammed with meaning and urgency, and the touching of each other’s faces.

The incessant touching of each other’s faces. Oy.

They are about to burst. Like boils.

They are also sweet, and a part of me, remembers that feeling of not being able to disconnect, to have to touch, to not be able to separate, all that intensity and anxiety. Like the night I realized I was completely mad for David, and I called him from a bathroom stall downtown, and told him to meet me at a dive bar on 96th Street, and then made out with him furiously, longingly, achingly in a booth, in a dark corner, so unaware and unconcerned with who might be watching.

Like that. Not so long ago.

I look at my kids on the train seat next to me, playing a hand game they learned at camp and David, keeping watching over our suitcases, the two of us together, but no longer clutching each other, and I see the couple looking at us, watching the kids, and I imagine they are thinking, “Wow. I hope it’s never like that for us, not touching, not reaching for each other.”

“Marriage sucks the life out of all that urgency,” they say in my fantasy. I hear them silently hoping that never happens to them.

And then, I realize how happy I am that we no longer have to touch all the time, although often we do. But whether we are or aren’t groping each other, we are always connected, anxiety gone, what-ifs disappeared. I know where I stand, so does he. There is clarity, connection, some things are assured just by living them every day. There is nothing to be nervous about. We know who we are, together and separately. We know it’s forever, and when we make out in a dark booth in a dive bar, we do it not because we want to create something, but because we have already created it.

We are what the lovers hope to be someday. I hope these two make it. Because it’s great here.

Nuclear Blast

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July 17, 2014

I’m on the plane from NYC to Las Vegas, and I have two cats under one seat, and a dog under the other, and two kids on iPads and a husband reading all his magazines on another iPad, and its dark and people around me are ordering booze.

We are leaving NYC. Maybe for good.

It has set in. Finally.

I guess I forgot to write it here. I said it enough in other social media places. But I wanted to tell you about it, and even tell you about the surprise party our NYC friends threw for us (there was also another one in our building, so sweet). But I couldn’t write about it. When I looked around the room, and saw all those people, I was so aware how much we were losing. I couldn’t even talk about it. Here or anywhere.

See, I’ve left various places and people in my life. And every time, I’ve wanted to leave the people and the places behind. I wanted a re-fresh. A do-over. “This time I will do things differently,” I would say, and then I would nuclear blast my life, as if the people and places were reminders of what an idiot I had been. I discarded them. I moved on. I did not look back.

But not this time.

These people, I love. I want to take them with me.

You know, when I was at the surprise party, the folks who planned it told me they were worried that I knew about the surprise. I didn’t. It never occurred to me there would be a party, or tears, or long, deep hugs, or that people would much care that we were leaving.

Instead the whole experience made me see how small and insignificant I think I am in the world. I do, I think, believe that I am a small, invisible thing, and that my imprint on others is minimal.

Now I know better. My friends here in NYC taught me – I can create community wherever I go. I can impact people and I can let them impact me. I can leave and take people with me. I do not have to nuclear blast everything, as if it were a crime scene, because it isn’t. It’s life. Messy, wonderful, fucked-up, ridiculous, beautiful life.

I may never be able to duplicate the community I have in NYC. Hell, I’m not even going to try. These people are special in ways that can’t be reproduced. But we will have a community in Las Vegas. We will make one, one way or another.

Let the adventure begin.