Update: trying to get back into the habit


A certain kind of Southern fall is upon us with slightly cold mornings and nights. The days are often still too hot for a sweater. Over this past weekend, I was out playing pool with some friends at night, and it felt nice wearing my hat and sweater. I was hopelessly giddy. “I’m in my fall mode,” I said, knowing the temperature would probably go back to being hot the next day. Also, I don’t always play pool but when I do, I swear I’m not terrible.



A girl like me searching for a quiet moment in Astoria Park.

Ever since I got back from NYC, it’s been harder to get back into writing regularly on here. Although, I started editing my poems and looking for places to pitch my articles, I still feel distracted. My mind seems a little more cluttered, since I got back. The constant flow of people, and the need to go out and do something left me feeling empty. This feeling is also attributed to the constant news updates regarding our collective national drama. I mean you want to be informed, but not so preoccupied.

With so many things going on when I visited, there was hardly any time for sitting down and contemplating. Sometimes you really have to isolate yourself if you want to get any work done. I’ve realized, it’s harder to get back into the habit of writing when you’ve abandoned it. You often go days without jotting your thoughts, and they start piling up and you don’t know what you’ve done, or your thoughts in that particular moment. Things fade when they were never reflected upon in the first place.

Stumbled upon this cool alleyway in the lower east side.

When I landed into LaGuardia Airport and walked off to take the local bus to my house, I was immediately met with an onslaught of confused people, who didn’t know how buy Metrocards for the M60 bus. Sadly, I was one them. I was suddenly a tourist coming to visit. “You mean you can’t buy a Metrocard from the machines?” I asked a guy. “Yea, you have to go back inside the airport to get one if you don’t all ready have one.” I remembered then that you had to insert your Metrocard to get a ticket in order to board the bus, and I also remembered how stupid this was.

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I decided to sit down in Union Square Park for a bit and look at the landscape of people passing by.

My neighborhood isn’t the noisiest, though on some nights walking by the N train in Astoria, it was suddenly livelier than usual. I noticed some new bars and restaurants, and there was even a lounge, a place for casual dancing on Ditmars Blvd with its name written in neon pink letters. Had I been a freshman in college, perhaps I would have welcomed a site like this. One night walking back home I noticed, smoke encircling customers sitting by the bar with neon pink lights. It was clear the establishment was going for a club atmosphere even within the small confines. It was a bit outlandish, and not remotely associated with the quaintness of Ditmars. I found comfort in my family, the cats and a quiet garden to sooth the busyness of the outside world. It also didn’t help that on my first night back I found myself in Hell’s Kitchen for a friend’s birthday party. It was a chaotic welcome to my old city. Granted, I was happy to see my friend, and the view of the rooftop lounge made up for the commute.

I stopped by to see this lady on a sunny day, and discovered how extensive the creative process was to sculpt and build her.

I had some wonderful days in NYC, visiting the MET and getting lost with my sister, hanging out at a bar in Woodside with my favorite couple, seeing One World Trade Center for the first time, including the Oculus (transportation hub) which was probably dreamed up after a Sci-fi movie, visiting the east village with friends, and thinking I was too old for this place, sitting by the staircase in Grand Central, wandering around my favorite bookstore—Strand, taking the ferry to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with my family (I know it’s touristy, but all this time living in New York, I never visited), a surprise stop in the Queens Museum with a friend from college, hanging out by Prospect Park, getting a tour of a Red Hook brewery from an old friend, and showing my partner around my city. On one of those nights, I also went to a poetry reading at the New School.

Surprise visit to the Queens Museum exhibition on my last day, brought the trip full circle.

I miss the array of activities one can find in NYC. There’s a wider possibility of outcomes, but the same can be said for New Orleans, although here, the land stretches out farther.


Fall of 2001, the year high school began

Freshman year began a couple of days before that early morning in Astoria, New York. But instead of attending class, I was heading to an immigration office for my appointment. I ate breakfast then put on dark jeans and a soft pink shirt with small sleeves. I packed a backpack in case I got out early and made it to school. I never did much with my hair during that year, mostly because I rushed for fear of being late, an ongoing dilemma at the time.

My dad took off work that day and drove us in his 1998 burgundy Toyota minivan with the heavy door. (Years later he would find that car in Corona after all its interior parts were stolen.) At the immigration office, my fingers were smudged with black ink, pressed onto white cards, and later I was asked to initial my name multiple times. We left, thinking I would be able to go to school, since it was still before 9 a.m.

On the highway heading home, we were listening to music at a low volume, and with my parents talking and my own thoughts, I couldn’t make out the songs or when it switched to chatter. I recognized a radio personality, but her voice was more subdued than usual. She was a popular host on Hot 97. I raised the volume. I heard something about planes and bombs, and I quickly changed the station. I kept changing the radio station, but they were all talking about the same thing. “Escuchen estan diciendo algo.” “Listen, they’re saying something,” my dad said, and told me to stop changing the stations. My mom was also not paying attention, until two radio announcers from a news program began describing a scene.

“They’re saying that it was a plane heading to…”

“The north tower was hit, and we’re seeing a lot of smoke right now…”

“We have confirmed reports that …”

“Witnesses said a second plane…”

“They don’t know if this was the pilot or someone one else…

In that short car ride the bursts of information left us disoriented: the tower, smoke, fire, running. I could envision a dark, sinister future. Their words were turning into fragmented images of what was unfolding. It was too outlandish to be true, too violent to be close to home and be factual at the same time. There was a mood of confusion in their voices, as if they didn’t believe what they were saying.

“Algo paso.” “Un atentado.”

“Something happened. An attack,” my dad said.

In my 15-year-old mind, I didn’t want to comprehend, “Un atendado.” We were no more than 30 minutes from those buildings that we often forgot about in our view of the skyline. “We have to pick up your sister,” my mom said. I held my backpack hoping everything would get solved. Could this be a depiction of a movie? Was this going to turn out like those fake snow days that never amounted to the real thing? “Only a few inches of snow,” and with that school would be back on.

When we entered my sister’s school everyone was rushing in the main office — phones were going off and parents were waiting to pick up their children. No one knew anything. While we waited, I asked my mom about what I heard on the radio. “Creo que es algo serio. No se lo que esta pasando.” “I think it’s something serious. I don’t know what’s happening,” she said. They finally dismissed my sister, who was confused and needed time to come up with her own questions. School had suddenly stopped, but teachers didn’t give them any details. “It was sad; kids were happy to go home without knowing why,” my sister said years later. “It was something bad, and we were told to line up in the lobby, so our parents could pick us up.”

When we got home, we turned on the T.V. and those words from this morning were pieced together with images, which flooded my mind, until I chose to stop watching in fear of not being able to see anything but the towers falling, and people sitting by those windows, as billowing clouds of smoke overtook the narrow streets.

Some of my friends who we’re in school, told me they were in the cafeteria having breakfast or in gym class when teachers told them what was happening. Some kids chose to get close to the window, thinking they could see it for themselves. Our school was next to the East River, but you could only see the smoke from far away. One of my friends whose school was in direct view of the towers said, her teacher let them stand by the window and watch across the river where the clouds of smoke expanded and curled up to the sky.