the wanderings of a restless soul

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America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, & My First Film Screening

She may have been wearing skinny jeans and a casual button up, hair in a messy bun (kind of like mine without the curls), but as soon as I turned a corner in the uber posh office and set eyes on the smiling Latina in front of me, I knew it was HER– America! I restrained my reaction, unsuccessfully controlling my eyes which widened in astonishment. 

One of my bosses introduced me to her once we were settled, “This is Van our intern.” She smiled kindly even with her eyes: “Hi, I’m America.”

Humoured by what I considered an incredibly unnecessary introduction I semi-chuckled a response: “Oh, I know who you are. It’s really nice to meet you.”

Small talk ensued between my boss and America, and before we three made our way to the screening room I shamelessly asked if a selfie was possible after the screening. A forced smile reciprocated, but America kindly responded with a, “sure.” I was able to catch her right after the screening. And although she was in a rush, she managed a smile and a cordial goodbye.

While the film was being readied for screeing, I was able to small talk America, and like to think that I intrigued her with my fascinating story of being a college instructor from Louisiana, some mention of Duck Dynasty and the growing film presence in North Louisiana, and my endeavors to write for film and engage in documentary opportunities. I can tell she was intrigued even after I was left hanging in a transitory “sooo…” when Amber Tamblyn walked in and bestie mode was activated (they are actually really good friends apparently). 

Oh yeah, the director of the film being screened is Amber Tamblyn, her debut film titled Paint It Black, which is a film adaptation of a novel that I have yet to look up. I also was able to small talk her and intrigue her as well with my expert opinion regarding the indie film industry being the new frontier of something, and how Shakespeare would write for TV if he were alive because TV is the new frontier for captivating storytelling. I’m sure she was blown away, particularly by my use of the word ‘frontier.’ 

And don’t think for a minute that after the screening I took a backseat to the insightful conversation among professionals in the industry (mostly film editors) that had strong opinions about the “chunky montages” and “overpowering soundtrack.” In spite of the criticism (that is what a screening is for after all), which I must say was an honor to sit on, Paint It Black is a visual gem, so kudos to Amber Tamblyn because she has an impeccable eye for beauty and evoking emotion. 

After the industry professionals were ready to go, Amber invited the willing out for drinks, but it was 9PM and there was some clean-up work assigned to me and Matt, an Olive Production assistant who ended up being sociable, bought me my first New York pizza, and engaged me with me a very enlivened discussion about future aspirations and our film preferences. 

Riding the subway on the 43 minture commute I am still getting used to, I couldn’t help but run the late afternoon events in my mind in complete disbelief. I can’t really say that I was star struck. If anything I was in awe of the casualness of America and Amber’s presence and their dynamic with others.  A collaboration of fellow artists occured before my eyes, and realizing how the roles converge and can become active in the film process was inspiring, to say the least.


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Open-Palmed Living: A New York Lesson

I have a friend that lives an open-palmed lifestyle. He strives to give and receive freely with this mantra and enjoys reminding me of its power by placing both of his arms out, chest level, and extending his hands, palms facing up, all the while giving me a zen-like smile with his pondering heavy-eyed, kind gaze. It’s a life practice that can work at any place and at any time. In only day five of my New York wanderings, I have come to realize that there may be no better place to meticulously practice open-palm living like city life.

It only took two lone rides on the subway for my confidence to boost and my ego to slightly swell– “I got this!” But only the wise know that such a phrase is often followed by a reminder of human folly. Because once you think “I got it” you end up taking the C train to Euclid Avenue when you should have taken it to Fulton, and the next thing you know you are stuck in Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd getting off of the train, walking down dirty as hell subway steps to discover you are in a very Indian neighborhood, having to enter a Subway restaurant to pee in a bathroom that is out of order, finally getting back on the train that takes you home, but it doesn’t matter because you were late to see a friend who cancelled all her plans for you on her free day– all the while your phone is dead so you can’t use your GPS, and you are wondering how you are going to find the apartment you are staying in without having to use your pepper spray.

When I mentioned my shot to the ego to my open palmed friend this is the text message I received: “You are a strong independent black woman who don’t need nobody telling you how to feel. Or at least 10% of you is” (inside joke). These are the type of friends I deeply cherish! The ones that remind me how much of a badass mamajama I can be.

In retrospect, I made some mistakes today and more than one of my plans fell through and/or were changed. Conversely, some plans I didn’t have ended up being fantastic experiences (most of them involving food). This is a basic of life– Life gives and takes away. This is why I need to keep extending my palms out and receive and give freely without judgment or expectation because at the end of the day I can always open a bottle of wine, and start again tomorrow.

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City Wanderings Day 1: The Hasidic Jews & I

   “I want to see the Jews,” I thought as I read an article praising Williamsburg, Brooklyn for its up and coming hipster presence and its prominent Hasidic community.
   As I rode the subway from Rockaway to Broadway (Brooklyn, not New York), I thought of my goals for my first New York adventure: find a coffee shop, sit to eat and write. Simple enough, even though I had no idea where I was going and whether coffee shops would be something prominent in the area (they were not).
   Google Maps instructed me to get off at Broadway and walk the .7 miles to Williamsburg. Walking up the steps to the street overhead I was met with a congested street lined mostly with pharmacies, delis, and sell-all shops. For future reference, Broadway is mostly Latino. This was confirmed when I reached an intersection titled “Borinquen Place.” I kept wandering up and down streets, much to the chagrin of Google maps, sometimes turning around because I didn’t  see stores lined up. No stores meant no coffee stops.
   I returned to the course and kept walking down Broadway until I saw that I was crossing the short bridge to Williamsburg. Gradually the Latino faces lulled and the streets became saturated with bearded men in black coats, twirling side curls, and black top hats, prayer string hanging from their coats.
   Almost instinctually my mind began to sing “Tradition, tradition…” from one of my favorite musicals, Fiddler on the Roof, simultaneously aware that I tend to romanticize all things Jewish. As soon as shops and faces became more Hasidic, I felt as thought I was in Chaim Potok’s novel My Name is Asher Lev. I began to see pieces of the narrative as I traversed each block.
   This is where Asher would probably buy bagels. Here is where Asher’s mother would probably     buy ingredients for a hefty Sabbath dinner. There is his Yeshiva, and there goes an elderly bearded man who could be his rabbi.
   My awe of this versatile Hasidic community and my dream-like stroll became interrupted by a call from my stomach to find a place to eat and finally sit down to write. I had probably been walking for 20 minutes, but I truly had no idea because I wasn’t checking the time and I was in no rush until that moment. The more my stomach grumbled the more I noticed the lack of eating places that had tables and chairs to sit. The bagel place that I passed was incredibly inviting, but it was a stop and go, meaning no tables and no chairs.
   I began to get nervous that I would not find a place and that my 30 minute transit and possibly 20 minute walk was in vain. So I decided to ask God for help, something I actually do frequently and without hesitation. But how appropriate to do so while among God’s chosen people! It also doesn’t hurt my standing with the Holy One being 0.9% Ashkenazi.
   “Please help me find a place to write.”
   Not a minute passed when I turned a corner and saw a sign with a coffee cup icon reading “Bistro.”
   “Thanks,” I muttered mentally almost unsurprised by the response– I am with His people after all.
   This Jewish Bistro boasts a sushi bar attended by an Asian man. But from what I noticed, the heart of this bistro is the Jewish deli at the far end of the establishment attended by two yarmulka wearing Hasidic men.
   “Can I help you,” asked the side-curl bearer.
   “Yes, I’m going to have the immune booster juice. And I’m torn between your split pea soup and your vegetable soup.”
   “I give you half and half. You can taste both.”
   I was extremely grateful. And as I sat down in front of the window to the bistro in order to people watched, I learned that split pea and vegetable soup make an excellent and comforting pair in an unexpected rainy and cold New York day.
   Gazing out the window I was able to see the novelties of this antiquated and fascinating community. I noticed that while most of the women walking in front of the bistro pushed strollers with pink cheeked infants, they sported subtle variances in their conservative wear. The basics are simple: head cover, long skirt, blouse or sweater, and closed-toed shoes. But I saw a young woman styled in a light pink sweater with white polka dots. A young girl had a forest green skirt and brown loafers. Most of the women wear patterned head covers that remind me of what Latina women wear over their rollers. But others wore headbands or hats that looked like beret. A few let their hair loose, braided, or in a ponytail.
   Faces became more distinct as I began to pay attention. The side curls of the men may distract the novel onlooker, but it is fascinating to see the facial physiology beyond the curls. Not everyone has the “Jewish nose.” Even hair color varied among this prominent brunette community. I saw at least one blond and a red-head. Some had middle eastern features while others looked more European.
   As I radar-ed most of the men bustling into the bistro I noticed a handsome bearded Hasid walk out the door and stare at me as he put his fingers on the Jewish door post (mezuzah) and kiss his fingers. A non-Jewish worker from the street (maybe Italian or Latino) noticed this and actually took this as a disrespect. He railed at the bearded man from the door in a rough voice:
   “Unbelievable. And you’re/they’re supposed to be religious. Do you have a problem? Do you have a problem? Unbelievable. Staring at the poor girl, and they’re supposed to be religious.”
   My defender never addressed me, though he looked my way. I was humored by this small incident. A wonderfully New York moment on day one of my city wanderings.