Saturday, December 27, 2008

Handel's Messiah

My friend Millie and I went to Handel's Messiah this week courtesy of our friend Andrew, the organist of this exquisite event. He kindly shared two comp tickets with us and we both got dolled up to go to the show. New York at Christmas time is magnificent for many, many reasons and tonight I was especially charmed. Perhaps it was the drunken Santa I took a picture with on the way to Carnegie Hall who was overly eager to have me sit on his lap. Or maybe it was the throngs of shoppers who still pause in awe of wonderfully adorned windows at Bergdorf Goodman. Or maybe it is the sacred choral music that pours out of every tall-steepled church in the city. New York knows how to do Christmas really, really well.

Tonight I bundled up after work for my “get-out-of- your-building-for-the-love-of-god” excursion. Very little snow here in New York, but the wind knows how to find every nook and cranny, every exposed piece of flesh, so I looked like a big, puffy marshmallow marching down the street. I fell into step with two people, about my age, that I immediately wanted to befriend. I liked the way they held onto one another’s arms as they walked. I liked that when they spoke of their friend that made a serious fool of herself after getting drunk and belligerent at a dinner party, they paused and sighed one of those perfect sighs of compassion. And just when I was thinking of how fantastic they were, I blindly followed them into a crosswalk and nearly got squashed by a furious taxi driver. Careful who you romanticize Carmen-- you never know who is going to get you run over!

Life is good. And this week should be full of amusing excursions. I'll keep you posted. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas with Nate and Elaine

"Working Christmas" is tiring. The services at Madison Avenue Presb were absolutely beautiful-- if I weren't assisting in worship I would have wanted to burst into tears throughout all three services, but I'm not sure that this would have gone over very well. The schedule: Christmas Eve family service (picture a zillion kids acting out the Christmas story- angels and shepherds, Joseph, Mary, wisemen, and lots of random animals) that was charming chaos. Then dinner with 3 lovely ladies from the church before heading back for the 11 p.m. candle-light service (picture stringed instruments, professional soloists, carefully crafted liturgy, and bells tolling at midnight). Then a party at my neighbor's house and finally a Christmas Day service. After the service I ran back to my apartment to change my clothes and pick up a few things before heading to Penn Station to catch a train to Princeton.

Last year when I was feeling very lonely in Zambia (this must have been November when I was still terrified and confused) I made plans, 1 year in advance, to spend the Christmas holiday with Nate and Elaine. And that is what we did. Had a fantastic Christmas dinner, drank wine, and caught up over a game of Settler's.

Elaine and I traipsed around Princeton, went to an intense Yoga class (something I am excited to get into), and finished off the morning with a cup of joe at Small World. A lovely Christmas holiday indeed.

P.S. Please forgive the fact that these are exceptionally "newsy" posts rather than reflective one's.... Herein lies the irony: there is lots to do, do, do in NYC. Harder to be, be, be. Fairly easy for me to sneakily get around trying to make sense of the Advent season in the U.S. rather than in Zambia! But that will come, eh?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New York City at last

How does one make a graceful entrance into a new place? In a city like New York I suppose it doesn't matter. Manhattan proper averages about 70,000 people per square mile, so the comings and goings of one priestly girl on the Upper East Side matters very little, but this is the most fascinating thing about New York City. Brilliant and mundane events happen simultaneously at nearly every moment of the day throughout the city and most of us carry on completely unaware. This morning I woke up to a winter wonderland, my third Saturday living in the city. People work such long hours and tend to play hard, so the one sacred, quiet part of the week is Saturday morning. Even the taxi drivers seem to know the rule: less honking, less shouting, and a few moments of peace. I took a long walk in Central Park today and enjoyed the kiddos sledding and watching the most committed women carefully negotiating stiletto heeled boots on the icy sidewalks. I stopped by a Starbucks for a hot drink and absolutely loved the pieces of art that sleds and piles of coats and mittens made in various parts of the coffee shop. It reminded me of elementary school coat-rooms on snow days and for a moment I felt perfectly at home.

You may be curious as to my rationale for continuing this blog now that I have returned to the States. But as my quote from Pliny the Elder reminds us, “Out of Africa, always something new.” So there you have it, out of Africa, a whole new life to negotiate and while it might prove entertaining to you (this city is madness and full of good stories), it could prove life-giving to me.
These are pics from my apartment: a tourist’s dream by the way. My couch pulls out into a comfy bed, so pack your bags people. Come to New York for a weekend and we will be amused at mink coats and $600 pairs of shoes and go to the theater and eat exquisite food and try to make sense of this silly world together.

Highlight of the week: saw The Seagull with stunning performances by Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard. Occasionally I forget just how good some Broadway theater can be. I wasn't mentally prepared for Chekhov and I believe Chekhov is one of those writers you must prepare for. A few summers ago I picked up a collection of his short stories and made it thru story number 6 before I needed to put the thing away for fear that I would succumb to a dark depression and find a hole to crawl into with a bottle of vodka and 50 packs of cigarettes. There was a point while reading I thought, "for the love of God, does springtime ever come to Moscow?" Sheesh. The performances were disturbing and absolutely enthralling. But tonight I found myself eating chocolate ice cream from the container, so perhaps I should lay off Chekhov for awhile.

I miss Zambia desperately and miss the pace of life in Kitwe. I continue to laugh at myself when there are moments that I still think I am there. When I "see" lizards out of the corner of my eye for example. Or when the litter on the sidewalk looks like packets of "Double-punch" (a cheap liquor sold in kiosks all over the compounds), but I am not in Zambia. I am living a very privileged life in New York City-- a life privileged enough for a great deal of brooding. And so there you have it: a warning. Some of these blog postings may be full of brooding. But the city is surprising and its beauty will force its way into these commentaries as well.