Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One year and one week ago.

Well, two weeks actually. That's when my world changed. I suppose I could say life - that's when my life changed - but world just seems to better encompass all of the experiences. Besides, I'm not totally sure my life has changed. I'm still going to the same job, living in my same cozy apartment, and continuing to explore, though maybe a little less so, the city. Still basically doing the same thing. For now. So let's go with world, and all of the emotions. Every. Last. One of them. And now I'm going to try to [finally] share them.

But before I do, a note: The date on my last entry makes me cringe. December 2012. That's two and a half years ago. And not two and a half uneventful years, either. A lot has happened. Some of it will unfold as I reflect and recall the experiences of this last year. And some things will get neatly summed up (in listicle form) in the footnotes. Or what I'm calling the footnotes at the close of this post. 

My Gram passed away the last day of March 2014. Along with losing the sole person (other than my sister) who served - admittedly - as my "ace in the hole" my entire life, out went all of the joy I had in me. Out also went most of the worry I carried, about her, her worsening condition, and most of the pain of knowing the Gram I had cherished, emulated and thought - no believed - had hung the moon and the California sun, was now different and sometimes unreachable. But to be fair, sometimes she was right there, and we'd fall into conversation like we always had. Out when that worry and that pain. In came a new pain, that felt permanent. 

I'm not sure there are words fit to fully describe Gram. She was one-of-a-kind. And it only took meeting her once for most people to be sure of that. I knew it when I got old enough to understand what that expression truly meant. 

Growing up I had two, loving, strong Grandmas that couldn't have been more different. Or so I thought. As I matured, I understood they were actually more similar than my 7, 10 or 15 year-old-mind knew - or saw. And I treasure that. But Gram, man, she was truly unique. When she walked into the room you knew it. You felt it. She brought the California sunshine - something I would come to know was invaluable - everywhere she went. She had the deepest, truest sense of self and taught both my sister and I to know ourselves, what we stood for and where we wanted to go. She also gave us the taste for the good life. That's to say living well, loving hard and singing loud - preferably to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in a red sports car. 

I got to spend Gram's last hours on earth with her. I got to hold her hand and kiss her goodbye. To reminisce some, and try even though I was scared, to look forward. In those moments I've never felt such pain. But I've also never felt such selflessness, or such a commitment to someone else, to their comfort, their pain, their joy, their fears, their life. I've also never felt closer to or surer of God. And then she was gone. And I had to say goodbye. 

That next week was unbearable. Even when you know the ending, it's hard to not be in shock. Not shocked that it happened, but shocked that your person is gone. Shocked the world is still going. Shocked you're still going. On top of the shock is pure grief. And that's the hardest to get through.

Right about this time my sister was approaching her due date. She and E were pregnant with their first child. And we couldn't wait. Not due for three more weeks, Baby Bean decided to come early - just a little over a week after Gram passed.

Samuel Davis Fletcher was born on Saturday, April 12th at 7am as the sun was rising over the Charles River in Boston. And he brought with him so much joy - all of the joy. And while the pain didn't disappear, it was no longer impenetrable. 

The day before I had hopped a flight to Boston after getting a call then a text then another call from E that sissy was in labor: Baby Bean was on the way. I arrived and joined my favorite two in the delivery room. That night - the last as the people we were then - was spent listening to a playlist filled with songs from their past as young lovers, as a married couple, as children. Songs that meant so much to us as a Trifecta; to me and kbf as sisters, to our family.  This was the music that was to welcome that baby into the world. 

We had a long night ahead of us. kbf's labor was progressing slowly. We were told to rest. Once the baby was ready, we would need to be ready; to be strong. E and I took turns trying to sleep but it was all so exciting. And I didn't want to close my eyes - I didn't want to not see them...or speak to them...I needed them. I did manage to drift off for just a few minutes. When I woke I saw my brother-in-law seated beside my sister, holding her hand, singing Copperline by James Taylor. And though there were tears in my eyes, my heart was filled with joy and love. Love for this man who loved my sister with his whole heart, and was now my brother. Love for my sister bringing a child into the world. Love for us as a Trifecta. Love for the baby that was about to join us. I knew I was witnessing the real thing.

There would be no more sleep that night - morning by that point. At 5a.m., Kelli's doctor showed up and we were ready to push. Two hours later (now one year and two weeks) my beautiful nephew joined us. 

And my world changed. 

Samuel Davis Fletcher, April 12, 2014

*les footnotes: shuttered george PR in january 2014, began a new job in january 2014, paris once - no twice, launched an airstream, met an nc guy that was good but not great, decided what I really want to do (just wait), took a much-needed trip to miami, fell back in love then out, then in love again with nyc, continue to live the east village life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This time of year.

What is it about the holidays that will simultaneously make you laugh + cry? When I was a kid (and not just at heart), it was all laughter and excitement and anticipation. I wasn't ignorant to the sentiment of the season - not at all. In fact, the solemnity of candlelight service on Christmas Eve was one of the most looked forward to events in my opinion. It's just that during those years the excitement of the season far outweighed the blues.

My sister was born on Christmas Eve. My grandparents were married on Christmas Eve (in 1938). In my house, there was always so much joy surrounding this time of year. And there still is. But as I've "grown a little leaner, grown a little colder" there's a tinge of sadness too. Maybe what it is, is awareness. 

Even though I fancied myself an in-the-know or self-aware kid, there was a degree of sheltering during my upbringing. Sure I knew poverty existed; understood there was sadness and negativity and pain in the world, but these notions didn't weigh on me daily. Then I hit the college age where I was - every college-aged kid is - decidedly unaware unless it was directly in front of my face. Unaware of anything beyond my own issues, exams, gossip, wish list, etc. Then with the passing years - mid twenties, late twenties and now early thirties - I looked back and realized time really does fly. You get to a certain age and realize the ways of the world, the haves, the have nots, the wins and losses. These realizations by no means overpower joy, but they do stand shoulder-to-shoulder with it sometimes. So much so that when that melancholy Christmas tune shuffles on the iPod your heart grows heavy, your eyes may tear and you give pause.

With Christmas coming at the close of the calendar year, it's a major moment for reflection. This year, in my world, there have been new friends, time spent with old friends, visits as precious as gold with my family and urban family, music, new opportunity, travel, laughter and celebration alongside lost friends, missed family members, health challenges, stress, a devastating hurricane, aching hearts and longing. It's this reflection that bring a little of the 'blues' to Christmas and the holiday season. 

And you know what? That's ok. To be aware, to be sensitive and sympathetic and caring and kind is a good thing. To pause during the holidays to reflect and remember and even mourn is ok. 'Tis the season, really. Just don't let that reflection overshadow the joy or steal the season. Remember to "haul out the holly, put up the tree before my spirit falls again, cause we need a little Christmas right this very minute."

And when it's over, we'll wipe the slate clean and start anew in 2013.

Merry Christmas y'all. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

New York, November 3rd.

In 2005 I sat in front of the television, unable to move, watching as the news of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina came pouring in. I sat in disbelief and in horror. And in sadness. I think I left the TV (on my own volition) once, to deliver 80% of our linen closet to the local Red Cross chapter to be driven to the Gulf. After the delivery, I came right back.

Now I’m living through Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan. While this devastation may not be as widespread, it is just that - devastation. Lives have been lost. Entire homes have been leveled. Millions are without the basic creature comforts we all rely on every day of electricity, water, and heat. There are many – too many – without food, drinking water and proper medical attention. There are some without candles to light the darkness that sets in early. As someone who has been rising and falling by candlelight, having none would mean a silent, black darkness that doesn’t just shroud the room but seeps into your soul. New York and New Jersey are suffering. And this time there’s no TV for me to sit in front of. This time there’s no news stream at which to stare in horror. This time, I am living it.

Let me tell you what else I’m living through up here, in the dark part of Manhattan, the part of the "two cities" deemed the ‘have nots.’ I’m witnessing acts of kindness, acts of love, super-human acts of community care and commitment to neighbors, to fellow New Yorkers. Chefs and restaurant owners are opening their kitchens – or what’s left – to feed their hungry neighbors. Volunteers are crossing boroughs, sometimes on foot, to lend a hand, a flashlight or a candle. Everyday, untrained citizens are becoming heroes, climbing tens of flights of stairs to deliver drinking water and food and light to trapped residents. Then many go home to unlit apartments, sleep through the night to do it all again.

New Yorkers are sharing stories over candlelight in businesses determined to be open – to be there. Neighbors are getting to know each other over generators as their phones charge to keep their loved ones updated. New Yorker’s have heart – lots of it. New Yorkers know community too. They take care of their own. They are resilient. They are strong. And they are hopeful. It should be said that I heard all this before I moved to the city, and believed it too, but now, as a New Yorker, I feel it and can say with conviction that it exists.

If you’ve been lucky enough to venture uptown for warmth, a shower and to recharge your life, you’ll see why the news media is calling New York “two cities.” It is as if nothing ever happened. Traffic lights work. There’s plenty of heat. You can get a coffee. Spend a few hours up here and you may think the same thing. Or, you may, like me, feel disoriented and a bit like a refugee. You may get even a little angry that half of the city’s inhabitants, many who already have so very little, are still in the dark and cold. I felt this way when I finally made it out for a few hours. And when I went back, my heart broke even more, but I knew I was home. Home among my community, my neighbors, my devastated neighborhood. You see, we are connected now – connected in our shared experience and efforts to normalize once again. That’s how home works.

In 2007 I finally got down to Katrina country and lent a hand rebuilding. It looked as if the storm had just come through even though two years had passed. Brace yourself New York, this is a marathon not a sprint. It won’t take me two years to get to work in New York. My urban family and I are organizing the troops to assist in our beloved East Village and Lower East Side homes today.

In the coming hours, days, weeks and months if you can help, please do. New York needs you right now. New Yorkers need you – us – right now.

Time to show just how much you heart New York. 

FDNY Engine 28, East 2nd St.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Just like autumn leaves.

Fall is my absolute favorite time in New York City. In any city to be honest. I can't help but feel it's a time of renewal and rebirth. Yes, I'm fully aware such words are typically associated with spring, but let me be frank, I'm not a massive fan of spring. I enjoy the fact that my shoulders are no longer a half-inch from my ears because of the cold, but I don't really love the year until May. But fall...fall owns my heart. And my wardrobe.

Last fall I spent a lot of time being sad. Nursing a heartache that I'm not sure was entirely worth it. The season change wasn't lost on me, but the personal change was. Not this year. Today marks the first really chilly day in New York, the first layering up (scarf, hat, big sweater) of items to protect against the cold. The air is crisp and, pardon the 'everything is rainbows' notion, all feels right.

I feel a change coming. I'm not sure what it is. I don't know what it may bring. But it's coming. 

And I can't wait. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

From three to four.

Today's one of those dates. One of the dates I remember and reflect on. It's the day that three years ago I packed all, ok most, of my stuff - my furniture, my art, my cats, my three years of VOGUEs, my life - and moved to New York City. I chased my dream that day. And I like to think I've been chasing it ever since.

My three years here have been some of the most amazing ones of my life. I've met friends who have become family. I have had more professional opportunities than I could have dreamt. I've met people that have touched my heart and my soul. I've had nights alone. I've had days filled with those I love most. I've watched sunsets and sunrises on my rooftop, been lost in Central Park, seen Shakespeare in the Park. I've hosted parties in my tiny nook of an apartment. I now have a neighborhood restaurant - three actually. And they greet me when I walk in. I am still loving the life I chose to create three years ago. And let me tell you, starting a new path at 30 wasn't always easy. But it was always - always - worth it.

At a dinner earlier this week, my friend Sam asked me what my goals for the next three years in the city were. I was stumped. Me! Someone who had carried this goal for so many years. Someone who made goals annually, weekly even. I had nothing.

So I begin to think.

I am ready for the next step - the next leap. I am ready for what that may be. My goal is to find it and then have the courage to embrace it.

I want to volunteer more. This city is now my home and I want to begin to give back.

I want to continue getting to know my city, and more importantly, myself.

I heart NY. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lucky now.

My intern told me today she's only just started listening to Ryan Adams. [Insert shock here.] 

She immediately gained credit for stating the first song she heard - the song that reeled her in - was "The Sun Also Sets." While not the first Ryan Adams song I heard, it did move me. I've been thinking how lucky she is; about the total discovery of each and every Ryan Adams song that is ahead of her. 

There's Gold, touted by the man himself as a 'modern classic,' with its heartfelt lyrics and rocking anthems. "New York, New York" is on that album. That song still brings me to my knees. Then there's Love is Hell Part 1 + 2. The album names alone let you know you're heading into his darker days. And that's fine, some of his best work came from those days, those hours. She's still got "English Girls Approximately," "Come Pick Me Up" (forever a favorite), "Oh My Sweet Carolina," and "Memories of You," "Crazy About You"...the list is long. And the songs are incredible. 

Let's not forget (as if I ever could) all of the albums with the Cardinals. "Dear John," "The Hardest Part"...I have a fond memory of walking to work when I was still living in Raleigh with "The Hardest Part" set to repeat on my gen 2 iPod. It was winter of 2006. (I note this because it meant something to me at that time.) When the elevator doors of my office building closed, I danced my ass off to the lyrics 'I've been turned around, I've been mystified by a true love, and that ain't the hardest part.'

I just played her "If I Am A Stranger." The acoustic version off Follow The Lights, and I think she's hooked. She loved it. Particularly the last line: 'I will try to be there for you, If I can, what if I can?'

What if I can?

No idea who took this photo. Unfortunately it wasn't me. Damn good shot though, right? 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

These things I know.

I've had a memorable summer. Not in the sense that there were epic things happening at every turn, but in the sense that I will always, always remember - and fondly - the summer of 2012.

I'm a big marker-of-time. I always have been. Usually it's on New Year's, a birthday or maybe a landmark date (say the day I moved to NYC). But as I'm finally sitting down to write on the blog I've neglected, I'm looking back on the summer - from the beginning of May to now, the end of August - and marking the passing of time and events. Next week I'll leave for North Carolina, to spend the last week of summer vacation in the very place I began it - on the sand in Emerald Isle. A fitting bookend I think.

In May, as the lazy, hazy days of summer stretched before me, full of the bright promise that really only summer brings, I sat on a beach with my parents, my book, my iPhone (shhh!) and a smile on my face. 2012 was turning out to be a good year. Business, by which so many of us use as a litmus test to the times, was good, my personal life was rich with friends, a new relationship full of potential and excitement and chemistry was blooming, my family was as they always have been - supportive and inspiring and hysterical - and life was good.

This isn't a tale of how bad things got, or how quickly it all fell apart. Far from it. This is just a look back, a reminder of the events of that time in my life, the music that was on non-stop rotation on my iPhone, the people I knew and how lucky I was, and am.

So, I'm going to make a list of the highlights of Summer of 2012. Since this blog is for me, and the five family members that follow, you'll allow me this. A list is really all I need to remember how the days felt, the music sounded, the Txakoli flowed, of the conversations had, the bike rides taken, the plans made, the heat, the storms, the tears, the worries, then how they stopped, the sunsets, the nights + mornings that followed and the people. These are the things I know.

Kelli Beale Fletcher. The 'rents. Wendy Burns. Deby Pan. Jennifer Powell. Lil Bro. Dr. Shapiro. Patience (the bike, and having it). The view from the rooftop of 248 with Emily Williams. Emerald Isle. Jackson Hodges. Derby de Mayo. Txikifest. Lesa McHale. fun. Sundays at 10 Degrees. Steven + Tommy in NYC. Youth by Foxes on repeat. Midnight City cranked to e-le-ven. Kittypants. The Modern. Lesley, Mona, Helene + Emma. Sleepovers with ice cream - lots of ice cream. Heartbreaker (The film). Rooftop sunsets and sunrises. Kevin. A holiday in Vermont. Rosé, rosé, rosé. Florence singing her heart out at RCMH. Heirloom tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Micheladas. Sunday dinners with Marissa. Learning to sear scallops. Conversations and confessions over Turkish Eggs. Frenchie brunches and boozy lunches. Bandaids as accessories. Beach House. Floating in the pool. Nick of Time. Hours spent at Edi + The Wolf. Ryan Adams. Mallory + Jess. Betting, and winning. The Paris Wife. Revel + Riot. 6th Street CSA. Pulled pork 'n Maryland crabs. Foster the People under the stars at Central Park. Late-night, last-minute karaoke trips. Ameztoi Txakoli. "Yeah, It's all alright." And how it turned out to be.

And there it is. The people, places and things that made my summer 2012. And because I don't hate a sunset. Here's one of my favorites. Ever.

August 2012, 248 East 2nd St. rooftop.