A Sunday, Up & Down

I did a lot of walking today. Some of my walking was in Harlem, other walking was downtown near the World Trade Center. With that, came a lot pictures (all taken with my iPhone and edited on Squarespace).

Today was interesting because Harlem is way Uptown, while the WTC is way Downtown. The same island, but they almost seem worlds apart. 

Those Windows!

Those Windows!

Pardon the fuzzy nature of this photo...

Pardon the fuzzy nature of this photo...

There is art everywhere in Harlem and East Harlem.

There is art everywhere in Harlem and East Harlem.

Dogs

Dogs

Flowers indicate it's a victim's birthday

Flowers indicate it's a victim's birthday

This is a crappy picture, but it kind of gives you an idea of the shape of the memorial. There's one for each tower. 

This is a crappy picture, but it kind of gives you an idea of the shape of the memorial. There's one for each tower. 

Hey, look! A giant vagina! Oh, wait... it's the Oculus. 

Hey, look! A giant vagina! Oh, wait... it's the Oculus. 

Trinity Church (Alexander Hamilton is buried here). 

Trinity Church (Alexander Hamilton is buried here). 

9/11 Memorial inside Trinity Church. This church only had one shattered window from the attacks.

9/11 Memorial inside Trinity Church. This church only had one shattered window from the attacks.

Trinity Church was a staging ground/resting center for first responders, as well as a place for support 24/7 for nine months following. 

Trinity Church was a staging ground/resting center for first responders, as well as a place for support 24/7 for nine months following. 

Eyeball tile mosaic at Subway station--there were several along a passageway and each eye is different.

Eyeball tile mosaic at Subway station--there were several along a passageway and each eye is different.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

I don't know about you, but I'm about ready to wake up from this nightmare that is our present epoch. From nuclear war on Tuesday, to white supremacy and death on Friday and Saturday. 

This guy terrifies me.

This guy terrifies me.

I wrote a poem. I often write poems, but usually keep them to my notebooks, creative writing classes, literary journals, and my siblings. I usually don't put them online--I don't know why. But with today, I wrote a poem and it is below.

Saturday, 12 August 2017
Where were you?
When the Other cried
and warned. 
When history said 
beware.
When fear and sorrow
drifted,
as thick
as the blood
spilled on the streets.
 
Where were you?
 
Where were you 
when the grin 
of hate--
like maggots it crawled--
spread across your
TV screen?
Did you condemn?
Did you extend
a branch of peace
to the Other?
Or was your branch
to that maggot-like grin?
 
Where were you?
 
Where were you?
When I walked down streets
in fear.
When my neighbor begged
for help,
for love,
for acceptance,
for security.
When the threat of
division,
danger,
and a cloud of injustice
enveloped the land.
 
Where were you?
 
Did you rise up?
Did you decry hate
and embrace the
Other, who is not
like you,
but just as human?
The Other with the same
blood
spirit
hope
beauty.
Did you embrace?
 
Or did you
light a fire with your eyes,
scorched freedom in your wake?
Did you decry the
"many sides"
without seeing
the truth of hate?
 
Where were you?
 
The illusion of your
ignorance
flickers.
You wave ignorance
like it's a
white flag
of innocence.
 
But I see the
blood drip
from its seams,
the dust of
hatred past
freshened like a
daily potpourri.
 
Where were you?
 
You were there.
You were on the other side. 

Tamsen in NYC: Week 1

First of all, I'm not entirely convinced I will blog about New York City each and every week as implied by the title of this post. However, I know that a lot of people from home are interested to know how things are going for me in New York, so I'll try to keep people updated.

I arrived in New York early morning last Wednesday. I had two checked bags (one weighing 45 pounds, the other exactly 50 pounds), a carry-on suitcase, and a backpack/camera bag. Carts at the JFK airport cost $6.00 ($6.00!!!!). Instead of utilizing a cart to transport my luggage to a taxi, I situated my carry-on suitcase atop one of the big suitcases in a precarious pose that required pushing the balancing act in front of me while the remaining suitcase lugged behind. My backpack was, of course, on my back. It was slow going navigating up and down elevators to the taxi station, but eventually I made it and arrived at my apartment.

That's all awkward and exciting, I'm sure. But what is really neat about my first week of New York is just getting my bearings--to the best of my ability so far, anyway.

Moving here from Utah, New York is big, busy, sticky, diverse, smelly, dirty, fascinating, entertaining, expensive, fun, navigable (while also soooo not navigable), and so many things. I had been here before so it wasn't brand new, but this week there were several times I walked down the street or sat on the subway and thought, "I live here. Whoa...." Obviously, people move to NYC every day. It's a big city and things are constantly changing. However, it strikes me as an experience that Americans think about and dream of as a possibility, but few people actually do. New York is the American Dream of our mythology. Yet, here I am, sitting in an apartment in El Barrio prepping for grad school. 

Worst Part of New York So Far:

So far, the worst part about New York is the smell. You'll be walking down the street and seemingly out of nowhere get a whiff of... something nasty. Sometimes it's garbage, sometimes it smells like urine, sometimes it's unidentifiable. Regardless, you scurry quickly by, hoping to escape the smell and avoid whatever is causing it. 

Best Part of New York So Far:

I heart subway mosaic art.

I heart subway mosaic art.

I couldn't pick just one best part of New York so far, so here are a few...

  • Halal Food Carts: There are food carts of varying types all throughout the city. But, if you're like me and loooooove falafel, the halal food carts are especially exciting. The first time I stopped at a halal food cart was today, and my falafel sandwich did not disappoint. It was hot and spicy, refreshing and green. I ate it in Central Park near some baseball diamonds where a game of softball was in full swing (ha ha--full swing because softball). De-lisc-ious.
  • Pedestrian and walking culture: A former co-worker of mine has been telling me for months to listen to the "Penn Station Sucks" episode of the podcast 99% Invisible. I finally did a few weeks ago, and while I was at it listened to the "Plat of Zion" episode. Both episodes are fantastic (as is that entire podcast), but the "Plat of Zion" episode struck me as particularly eye-opening. If you have ever spent time as a pedestrian or biker in Salt Lake City, Utah it's not a surprise that the layout of the city, traffic laws/processes, and driving culture are not friendly to you. But to hear the podcast describe in more detail why that might be, and how it came to be, is refreshing. In New York, you have more time to cross a narrow one-way street than you do to cross a six-lane two-way street in Salt Lake. Not only that, but the walking culture is such that you just go when the street's clear whether the signal says to walk or not. Cabs, cars, trucks, bikes--they all seem very aware of the presence of pedestrians and often honk as they approach a crosswalk, even if no one is in the street, seemingly just to make potential pedestrians aware of the oncoming vehicle. And, people here just walk everywhere. It's nice.
  • Museums: In the last week I have been to the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Guggenheim, and El Museo Del Barrio. It's only three, but I have the opportunity to also go to the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Museum of the City of New York, and sooo many more. There are also galleries, incredible architecture, walking tours, historical locations, and just a whole lot of cultural umph. 
  • Strand Bookstore: Books, books, books, books, and more books! Three levels of books! Used, new, rare, local writers, zines, chap books, knick-knacks, literary socks, post cards, stickers. It's a beautiful place. I had heard about Strand Bookstore for years, and am delighted it didn't disappoint. True, it is crowded and a tourist destination. But despite my aversion to crowds, I won't wish a brick and mortar bookstore fewer customers just so I can have more space. 

Tomorrow I will head to the Graduate Center for the first time to make sure all my technology is set up properly to start orientation next week. I haven't been to a movie since getting here (trust me--that is crazy for me), so maybe I'll take myself to a matinee before school starts. As for other things, well this city is big enough that I am sure I will find all sorts of surprises down the road. 

But, before I sign off I want to write a bit about El Museo Del Barrio. East Harlem, where I live, is also known as El Barrio. This museum is fairly small, but includes galleries dedicated to local artists and artists relevant to the neighborhood's diverse culture. 

One gallery currently open is called Uptown: Nasty Women/Bad Hombres. El Barrio is home to many communities attacked by President Trump and his supporters. This exhibit directly challenged the idea that women, people of color, LGBT+, etc. somehow don't belong in America or are somehow lesser Americans than white, straight, rich males. It it a stunning exhibit.

In one piece, the artist had people from the neighborhood record themselves confronting a loved one as if they were actually speaking to that loved one. It was a video display with headphones so guests could listen and watch. The people in this "video confessional," if you will, were utterly vulnerable. I didn't watch all of the recordings, but I saw one man talk to his sister about their parents; I saw another man talk to his boyfriend and the body image issues that have arisen in their relationship. It was beautiful and tragic and so uncomfortable. 

Another piece (video again) showed a black woman getting her hair cut. Beneath the screen was a display of clippers, combs, brushes, a mirror, some sort of spray, and a small bowl of leftover hair clippings. Hair is a big deal in Black America. White America has spent hundreds of years telling black people their hair is "wrong," "unprofessional," "ugly." The audio over the video was a woman praying for another woman. It amounted to embracing hair and self-expression as sacred. 

There was so much to this small museum--I'm thrilled I get to live in this neighborhood, even if I don't know it well yet. It's not a touristy area, so admittedly thus far I've spent more time elsewhere in Manhattan, visiting the various attractions before I am immersed in school with no time or energy for other things. But I look forward to getting to know El Barrio better. 

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A lot going through my mind...

If you are a regular reader of my website, you'll have read mentions of a podcast I like called Still Processing. At the beginning of each episode, hosts Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris dish on the cultural items that have been on each of their minds that week. Movies, news, songs, artists, cultural happenings, etc. I feel the wisdom of their habit today.

Right now, I sit in my apartment in El Barrio, New York and have so many things going on in my head it is stirring up restless energy and I don't quite know what to do with it all. So, get ready readers--this post is going to be a fun ride of here, there, and everywhere.

First, what's up with the looming nuclear war? I know we had the Cuban Missile Crisis once upon a time, so a certain level of wisdom might say, "Cool it, kids. No need to panic, we've been here before." But the difference is (albeit, there are plenty of differences but this is the main one I'm thinking about) is during that crisis, we had John F. Kennedy as our president. Now, we have Donald Trump. You know why he's orange? Because he is so devoid of the ability to remain cool and calm and wise, his random acts of rage and impulsiveness fester into a boiled, tangy tone. 

From Dr. Strangelove

From Dr. Strangelove

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” he says in response to North Korea something or other (reports I've read explicitly say they are not certain what prompted the response from Trump). This is the response from the President of the United States. Gee, I feel confident in his abilities. 

It seems cliché, but the Robert Frost poem comes to mind: 

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire...

The cliché continues when I start thinking about life and what I might regret if the world does indeed come to a nuclear world war. I've long struggled with the "inspirational" quotes that in essence ask you what you would be doing if you only had one day to live and tell you to do that thing. If I really had only one day to live, I wouldn't go to work or school or watch Parks and Recreation. I'd probably high-tail it to Siena or someplace. But, the reality is, if you lived as if it were your last day, you wouldn't get anything done. You'd have no money and probably no friends. You certainly wouldn't be the world's best baker.

What else...

The Deseret News published an article (more like a recap of something else--it literally involved zero reporting skill) about a former LDS missionary who wrote something entitled 10 Habits that Will Change Boys Into Men. If you click on the link to the original source, you will find 10 questionable assertions about what makes a boy a man in this modern age. It describes some of the hurdles and hardships young men have these days. 

Keeping women in the dryer won't make you a man...

Keeping women in the dryer won't make you a man...

There are a couple of problems. First, this is not reporting by the Deseret News. A well-rounded report of this topic would include interviews from experts or the guy who wrote the original post or other people in the community. This is just regurgitating information, like an essay in 7th grade English class. This newspaper has such a strong presence in Salt Lake City, I become irate when I see their lackluster reporting. Be better, Des News.

Second, young men would have an easier time of it if they and society at large could let go of prescribed gender roles. Women don't deserve "increased equality." That doesn't make sense--it's equality, or it's inequality. Sure, there can be progression, but the author's language is borderline justifying repression.

Further, he says, "Although it is not a popular notion, boys and girls are wired differently." Where's the emoji for pfffffttthhhtt. Men and women are not wired differently in the brain. The male/female brain dichotomy is a myth based in pseudo-science. It is common for people to conflate biology with socialization. Just because boys and men have been socialized to think they learn by being challenged while girls learn by being praised, doesn't mean it is true. For instance, I have terrible handwriting. Sometimes even I can't read it if it's been a while since I wrote it. And, if I'm not challenged I get really bored and then my demons come out to play. 

I had a professor in my undergrad who taught evolution. He once explained that if he could come up with an example of something conclusively contradicting a claim, that claim is invalid (I think he was talking about the evolution of eyeballs...). So, while there are plenty of girls with neat handwriting who learn under praise, and plenty of boys who learn best by being challenged, that I exist and contradict this dude's bogus claim busts his hypothesis wide open--it's simply wrong. And I'm obviously not the only one. His claim is ridiculous in the first place.

All this is not to disregard the social, economic, emotional, etc. troubles young men face today. Of course they have troubles. But it isn't prescribed gender roles that will fix that--it's the opposite. As I like to say, you can keep your gender roles, I'll take the equality pie. Men benefit from equality and feminism. 

And this is also not to completely disregard everything he said. Exercise, meditation, living beyond yourself. These are things I can totally get behind. But even in under the headings that seem promising, he manages to skew it to a weird, damaging direction. 

I'm not into it. 

Lastly, I really need to improve my Spanish skills. I haven't focused on it because I know a little French and a little Italian, and would like to invest more in that which I've already invested. But, I live in East Harlem now. Also known as Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio. I don't know the neighborhood well yet (I've only been here a week), but it is a beautiful mingling of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban, Asian, African, Italian cultures. I walk down the streets and have no idea what's going on because most people outside speak Spanish. I went into a shop today called Mi Barrio to buy some grapes to go with the Nutella my mom sent me. Mi Barrio is primarily produce, cheese, meat (and when I say meat I mean everything from chicken legs to pig feet to things I couldn't identify). The shopkeeper initially spoke to me in Spanish, but I couldn't understand and didn't know how to reply. 

Spirit of East Harlem mural

Spirit of East Harlem mural

When I worked at a cookie bakery in Salt Lake, the lovely dough ladies would try to teach me Spanish. I don't know why, but that language has a hard time sticking in my brain--and when I do speak it it tends to come out in an Italian accent. Nonetheless, I will hit Duolingo so I can try to understand my new neighborhood better. 

And that's about it. My restless energy is winding down so I think I'll go enjoy some of those grapes with Nutella. Happy Tuesday!

Getting Ready for Graduate School Knope-Style

So I move to New York City in about two weeks. I'm headed off to graduate school to study journalism with an emphasis on international journalism. It's exciting.

I know the more editor-prone readers out there will have noticed the rather flat delivery of "it's exciting." The truth is, it IS really exciting! And I am stoked to immerse myself in a new city (a BIG city). I can't wait to engage in a program that will improve my skills--and especially in our current political climate--challenge the status quo. 

But... I am also nervous. I'm used to living in a small town/city with easy access to outdoors. I'm used to having pets around, solitude, quiet. The financial investment in the program makes me terrified if for some reason the program doesn't result in solid employment. And so, I have moments of anxiety as I prep. 

To combat that anxiety, I find solace in the wonder that is Leslie Knope--in gif form. 

A big part of moving across the country is packing (obviously). When I think about packing, I end up procrastinating because...

 

Money, money, money. Why is it so scarce and why is school so expensive? To combat the hefty bundle of student loans I will likely carry with my person in the future, I have a plan.

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They say grad school is INTENSE. Lack of sleep, not much time for socializing, so much work. Not that work is a bad thing, of course. Just that the work/life balance is a struggle. I already have a hard time with the whole sleeping enough thing, so I kind of imagine my life once school starts to resemble this phase in Leslie's career: 

 

And with the thought of no sleep comes the fear of what happens if I get sick! I'm not talking about insurance (although, that is a concern--PSA to call your senators and defeat Trumpcare). I mean literally not having the time to be sick. So, as I ready myself to leave when I get a headache or sneeze, I immediately jump into panic mode and assume it's a terrible disease. 

 

I don't know if you're aware of this, but female journalists--particularly ones who write opinions--are regularly the targets of threats--serious threats. Rape, murder, abuse, etc. This occurs via online trolls, but also through physical letters or in-person harassment. In view of that potential reality for myself, the following two gifs are appropriate.

 

When I'm tired and want to sleep but still have to go to class, cover a story, etc. 

When I miss my cats, my dogs, my mom, my mountains, fresh air and start to wonder why I chose to do this...

Ultimately, I turn to funny things to help me relax and remind myself that I can do this and it is a good idea, even if it means leaving behind many of my favorite things. I anticipate it will be hard but rewarding. And I can do it because, after all...