Urban Twilight

Neon lights taser early evening shadows of the day

and dance off windows ever-reaching for the sky

Blazing, burnt orange sun makes its slow slide into the Hudson

Pours her liquid sunlight across the city spaces

between buildings, and down crowded streets, across the trafficked avenues

Something electric runs through the veins of life in the streets

The city, she feels more alive, more alight than before

Going Postal

One of the longest and most satisfying relationships I have had in NYC has been with Phillip, my postal delivery person.

I have lived in NYC since 1987, thirty years the past July. (Wow!)

Since 1995, I’ve had a rental apartment in the West Village, near Bleecker and Christopher Streets.

Over those 22 years, I have gotten to know many of the “lifers” in the building by face. Watched them (and myself) grow older as our stabilized rents slowly rise.

I just know two of them by name, probably only from necessity. My neighbor Orlando, who, in times of unexpected need has helped me over the years in countless ways (and vice versa.) And my super, Sam, who has also helped me greatly in times of need. I have not reciprocated Sam’s help (due to the nature of our relationship,) but I do tip him generously, and I treat him with kindness and respect. I appreciate both of these men.

The neighborhood I live in has changed dramatically over these 22 years. When I moved in, the West Village was iconic: an eclectic, character-filled neighborhood filled with history, grit, spice, color, and diversity. Real New Yorkers lived there. There were grocery stores, corner delis, “Mom and Pop” businesses populating the streets.

Then things started changing in the late ’90s. Many of us blame “Sex and The City” and those damn cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery for the neighborhood’s demise.

Slowly, but surely, high-end fashion stores began taking over leases on Bleecker. Rents started rising, often astronomically. The “Mom and Pops” couldn’t afford them and were pushed out. The people who serviced these businesses with whom I’d developed working relationships disappeared with the neighborhood’s uniqueness.

In the last 17 or so years I’ve seen an ever-changing sea of young people who seem to be fairly affluent come in and out of the landscape of my building. We are now a mainly transitory residential building. The “lifers” have started to die off of move to supportive care.

There are some of us still there, adapting, as we humans do, to the changes in our environment. Holding out, and on, to our apartments.

We grumble about missing the West Village From Before. It had authenticity. It felt alive, pulsing, slightly dangerous, but in a good way.

We curse under our breath at the hordes of people who now walk on the Bleecker of today that looks just like Madison Ave. (At least before the tourists who came were interesting.) Fork out bucks for Starbucks or French coffees and steer clear of the obnoxious lines that still form in front of that damn bakery thanks to food and “Sex and the City” tours.

But one thing has withstood this tsunami of development.

Philip, my mailman.

He initiated our relationship years ago. I’d be out and about running an errand in the ‘hood and hear my name and a friendly hello. There he was. Philip.

I learned his name, and over the years grew to really appreciate him. Not just for his warmth. He always puts the mail in my box in a very organized way: no cramming or stuffing items willy-nilly.

When I go out of town, without me having to do anything, he holds the mail for me, leaving a test item to see when I am back.

He is an excellent mailman who goes above and beyond, and I reward that as best I can at holiday time.

But the best part is running into him in the ‘hood or in the vestibule. Something fills me when I see his welcoming face.

I don’t think I am alone. I sense that we both cherish the personal, familiar connection, the moment of old neighborly warmth, as we navigate the changed waters of our West Village surroundings.

When I hear my name and that “Hello!” or when I see him and call out “Philip! How are you?!” I am flooded with something I can’t quite name.

When I walk away, I feel lighter and happier.

Philip matters to me. I am so grateful I am on his route.

Together, maybe we can keep the spirit of the Old West Village alive, as best we can.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

Thank you, Philip, for being not just the greatest postman in the world, but my neighbor.

I need you now more than ever.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: delivery

Home

Growing up, I always felt like a fish out of water.

I couldn’t wait to flee the country of my birth…Texas.

Yes, I know Texas isn’t a country.

But in feels like its own country. Maybe because of its size. Or its history. (It was its own country for awhile: the Republic of Texas, from 1836–1845. That independent spirit remains, albeit subtle, after all these years.)

But feeling like it was its own country wasn’t the real reason I wanted to get out.

I just always felt like I was not in my natural habitat. Nothing against it, but Houston, the city of my birth, is very large and flat. Everyone drives everywhere. When I was growing up there, there was no real center to the city, no downtown destination (then) that you could drive to and feel the life of the city the way you can in many major cities.

I felt so…alone. Millions of people lived in the city, but I could never get a sense of where they all were. I’d only see some of them passing by in their cars. Everyone seemed to be going off to places, but where were all the places? There were tons of restaurants and stores and cars and buildings and neighborhoods, but I couldn’t feel where all those people were. I can recall that feeling in my body to this day. It’s an empty-dread-panic that rises from my belly and settles into my chest, squeezing my heart. It makes me want to cry, and my breathing starts to feel pinched off. It literally made me want to run screaming into the streets, looking for, I don’t know what. Some kind of connection. Some kind of belonging?

Yes, I could go to a mall and find a lot of those people. Maybe that is part of the reason that as a child I loved to go to the Galleria, which was a big deal when I was growing up. It had a huge skating rink in it’s center (It was just the Galleria then — has since expanded.) There I could feel some of the people. Unfortunately, being a mall, it was a rather empty-feeling kind of community. I mean, the whole premise revolves around commerce. But it was something.

Sure, I had family and friends. I had some communities. I went to my best friend’s church youth group for awhile. Throughout school, I was in choir and that was a major source of connection. I participated in clubs and such. I eventually was part of a wonderful group of friends in high school and we made our own community, our own clique.

But even with those connections and communities, I still always  just did not feel at home. I literally felt anxious and uncomfortable. Now, there are many reasons for that having to do with other givens of my life. But I am talking at a pure animal level.

Whatever animal I am, my natural habitat is not Texas.

When I was 16, I accompanied my parents to NYC for a big business trip. It was December, and we stayed in a swanky hotel right on Central Park South. And it snowed while we were there. My room overlooked the snow-laden beauty of Central Park, and I will never forget looking out of my window and seeing that winter wonderland. We rode the elevator down one morning with Dudley Moore! I saw five Broadway shows, which forever changed my life.

I was smitten and giddy with the flush of first love. NYC stole my heart the way it does for so many of us. I could feel the people. There was life everywhere. I could stand in the center of the life and know I was there.

Its glittery grime, its sights and sounds, the faces — the diversity! — and the raw urban-ness of it just got under my skin. I just could not stare enough at all the people, their varying energies and manners and expressions. You could argue that because I am an actor, an artist, I was destined to love a place like NYC. But it was more than that.

I was home. I could breathe easy for the first time in my life. I felt like a fish put back into its tank. I was with my people. I was where I was supposed to be. And as quickly as I could manage to, I moved to NYC. And NYC is where I have since stayed.

Today, I enjoy Texas. I appreciate Texas. I like to visit there. Many people I love are there. I see its beauty and its gifts.

But I always come home to NYC.

#NewYorkCityisMyHome

A response to the Daily Prompt: Flee