Serendipity (from 2011)

2 Sep

It’s only been ten days since I embarked on a journey to New York City.  What is a journey?  This is a philosophical question that’s lately nudged itself up close to me.  I’ve already been on many dates with this question. It’s an idea that I cuddle with all the time.  It doesn’t beat getting into bed with another sexy body.  But at least the idea of journey gives me an emotional and intellectual orgasm every time I decide to travel somewhere.    My first and second grade kids helped me define what journey means to me.  At the end of last year we picked the theme of journey for our end of the year class project.  As the project came to life in the form of child-driven experience, I noticed that every child had his or her own unique idea of journey.  I transcribed quotes on the meaning of journey from every student.  Not a single child even remotely said the same thing.  Journey means: running from one place to another in the playground; watching horses at the race track; traveling on an airplane to Hawaii, riding in a car to a mysterious place of the unknown.  Such a variation of ideas really opened my eyes to what journey means to me. Journey is a dedication to explore not just the physical world, but the emotional self – to dig deep into the gold mines of the conscious and the heart.

The title for my NYC adventure is Serendipity.  It was inspired by a very cool conversation I had with Daniel Wilner, a dear friend of mine who currently lives in Brooklyn.  We met at a coffee shop for a much-anticipated reunification of catching up.  He shares a very similar view of traveling that I do.  He gets excited about travel.  He writes detailed stories and profound reflections of his adventures. I shared my excitement for travel, how every step of the way, every fragment of experienced awareness lends itself to coincidences, yet they are really so much more than coincidences.  For some reason I was having trouble articulating my feelings about the subject to Dan.  I talked and talked, well overdue for a break.  But Dan respectfully listened until I was done with my pleonastic speech.  Finally I was done.  Dan looked at me and paused.  The pause must have been made for dramatic effect.  He was sporting a grin that was an eloquent overture to the word that was about to define my feelings, and ultimately to identify the title of my journey.  He said, “Serendipity.”  Then he paused again for more impeccable drama.  But the pause was not long enough for me to extract my own definition for serendipity. “A coincidence beyond coincidence,”  he said.  I got so excited I felt myself jump out of my seat because that’s exactly what I felt time and again on my travels.

Serendipity – a coincidence beyond coincidence; the accidental discovery of something pleasant.  Yeah baby yeah!  It happened a million times every day in the summer of New York City, 2011!  Thank you Dan Wilner for bestowing me with the perfect literary abode and anchor for the things that brought me tons of joy.

Onward with the story.  On the last night at NYC, I headed east bound from Manhattan on the L-train to Izya’s loft in Williamsburg.  I received a text from him saying, ‘Hurry and get over here. I steeped some tea and its almost ready.’  I was really looking forward to sit in peaceful low-lit environment, without any terrorizing alcoholism or debaucherous partying; just to sit on the floor, drink tea, listen to chill-out music and talk about everything important and everything not important.  I am always grateful to Izya for his company. I was also grateful for him giving me a place to stay.  And that gratitude really hit me when I was already on the train.  To show my gratitude I wanted to get him something nice.  So I boarded off the train at Bedford Ave and bought him the following: Nutella, fresh bread, chocolate chip cookies, and a bottle of kick-ass cognac.  Late night trains didn’t run often so I tried to be hasty and get back to the station.

As I scampered down the stairs I heard the unmistakable sound of the train and the robotic voice announcing, “The next Brooklyn-bound L Train is now arriving.  Please stand back from the platform edge.”  I swiped my metro card at the turnstile.  The card had insufficient funds to allow me through.  Fuck! I thought.  I rushed to the ticket machine to purchase add value to my ticket.  “We’re unable to read your card, please try again,” the machine told me.  Fuck! Fuck! I’m gonna be late.  I tried again and again.  “Please stand clear of the closing doors,“ said the male robot voice.  Then a double beep and the soft whooshing of the closing doors.  There was really only one word in my mind as I stood in front of my card machine: “FUCK!“ The air was hot and humid.   The sweat on my face was adding on at least 10 more self-spoken ‘fucks’ in my head.  So I relaxed the frenetic rush to get a ticket and slowed down.  what’s the point of hurring now?  It’s going to be at least 20 minutes until the next train.  But all of a sudden there was an announcement of an approaching L train to Brooklyn!  That never happens so soon!  My fucks turned to Yes’s.  All I had to do was insert a few dollar bills and I would be on my way.  The machine handed me my metro card.  I swiped it at the turnstile.  “Insufficient funds” read the screen.  I tried again.  Same message.  I looked back to see an angry mob of hipsters with plat shirts and skinny moustaches glaring at me.  The girls in the crowd were no happier.  Layers of makeup, spandex and high heals, rock-n-role vintage t-shirts.  The boys and girls behind me were incensed by my inability to go through.  I didn’t blame them for feeling and looking so irate.  For they would surely miss the arriving train unless I stepped away from the turnstile.    I gave my card to the train agent. And he SLOWLY, EVERY-SO-SLOWLY examined it with his hands.  He even brought it up to his nose as if to smell it.  What the fuck!!  Please!  Just let me in! I’m late for tea!  I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date! No time to say ‘hello goodbye,’ I’m late I’m late I’m late!  Finally he let me in through the gate.  I sprinted down the steps to catch the train but it really was too late.  The train was gone.

FUCK! It could be another 30 minutes till the next train.  I immediately realized the distress I had created in myself.  And I redirected my attention to the man playing music right in front of me.  He strummed a guitar and jingled with two tambourines, each one attached to a foot.  Every step he took made a jangling noise.  I watched him intently, realizing how my tardiness really brought me to this moment of serendipity – to enjoy the music.  This guy was absolutely amazing.  People trickled onto the platform, and stopped to watch.  The train riders formed a half-circle around the performer.  He made eye contact with everyone, smiling at each person and nodding his head as he jammed.

And then he made eye contact with me and descended the music to a quiet hum.  “Hey man!” he shouted at me.  “You look just like my best friend!  About 30 years ago we traveled the country on our motorcycles.  That’s it!  You’re him 30 years ago.  Amazing!  That was in the 60s.  I was young, excited, full of energy.”

“You still are full of energy!” I said.

 “Yeah you’re right,” he said.  He looked so relaxed, so happy, so confident.

 As we talked, the audience who came to listening to the music were now listening to our conversation.  I secretly hoped that the train would be delayed for 30 minutes because I had such a strong desire to hang out with this guy and listen to more music.  But within moments of this hope, I heard the announcement of the arriving L train in one minute.  I almost blurted out,  “I wish the L train would not be coming so soon so I could hear more o your jam.”  But I didn’t say that because I really wanted to go see Izya.  I placed $2 into his open guitar case and thanked him for the conversation and for playing.  He thanked me for listening.

I entered the L train with an uncontrollable smile.  My thoughts were none.  I felt empty and happy.  It was nirvana. Emptiness and joy.  I whipped out my Moleskin notebook and jotted the notes of this experience.  As I was writing, my eyes stumbled upon a girl across from me.  She was also holding a notebook and pen.  She was looking right at me.  I loved her modest grin, which seemed to whisper, ‘Hello fellow reflector of thoughts. Happy writing to ya!’

Then I felt crazy intense gratitude for the entire chain of events that led me to the present moment.  But I was also interested to say hi to the girl.  I got up from my seat and slumped over to glimpse at her notebook.  This is what the notebook said: “I am grateful for:” and then there was a list of 10 things she was grateful for.  “Serendipity,” I thought to myself.  I bent down to her eye level and said, “I’m sorry to peep at your writing, but I love that you are thinking about gratitude.  I was doing the same thing.”  She shared her enthusiasm about the practice of being grateful.  I shared my own excitement about it.  I wished her the best of luck and left the train at the Morgan stop.

My 5-minute walk to the loft was heavenly.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I didn’t bother wrapping myself in thoughts of why I was happy.  I just was.  Emptiness was the game.

 I was not late for tea.



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