Through fear, Blinding light,
And Crossroads unnumbered,
Lost before their time, or Stolen,
I reach for them.
For myself, for their beloved;
The people who’ve been left behind,
Wanting, looking, anticipating,
Wondering if We all will succumb in Darkness.
As We search,
I reach for them.
I reach for more; I reach for Tenderness, Compassion,
For something to bring back my Hope.
I reach for them.
Every so often, an occasion causes me to confront and reflect upon my purpose and sense of self. At a recent writers’ workshop in Los Angeles, my peers and our teenage mentees were tasked with stretching our Poet’s wings with a prompt on “reaching”. The presenters challenged us to delve into our deepest desires and fears by asking us to contemplate something we have been reaching for. After around 5 minutes, I beheld the blurb above on half a page of my journal.
Whenever I have the privilege of attending this writer’s workshop, the creative minds and voices of each individual present always empower me and leave me in awe. In a room of more than 70 female writers and professionals, the community enables room for a multitude of voices, from the raw to the delicate, an agreement between all of us. In our space, the community aims to be safe and comforting, where there is no such thing as imperfection or limitation, and the only contract being to maintain respect and remain present throughout each activity. We endeavor to create and be open to writing at least one piece during our time together. Most of all, after each portion of a workshop, we endeavor to reflect upon each other’s voices and experiences by inviting everyone to speak their minds and recite writings on a soapbox.
When I was younger, I started this program from a different vantage point, as a novice, and joined with nothing more than my imagination, acerbic wit, and a favorite ink pen in hand. At the time, the program gave me the chance to look beyond the pressures and confines of my school’s hallways and sickbed at home, a chance to discover other parts of myself that had always been present, though not quite given allowance to be developed.
Surrounded by encouragement and the support to simply be myself and trust my voice, I found a saving grace that lasts me to this day. In fact, after rejoining the program this year as creator and mentor, I still find myself feeling like that student who was invited to sit with a community of quirky, incredible strangers for the first time. I am empowered and always transfixed when given the opportunity to hear each wonderful story. Of course, each interaction with our mentees also reminds me of the struggles of my own young adulthood, which are still somewhat present in me to this day.
As I finished writing that five minute poem this past weekend, I realized that some of my desires from the past are still analogous with my current longing and hope. Although many years have passed since my initial devastation, I still long to hear the voices of people who I’ve lost, to be able to walk into a room and feel their presence at birthdays and Sunday dinners. I still long to travel the world and to be breathe in the air of ancient places while standing in the footsteps of the ‘Greats’. Most of all though, I just want to be able to walk and feel comfortable in my own skin, whether that be after long, discouraging days, or the happiest moments with the people that I love most. I want to stand on my own soapbox and have the courage, conviction, and humility to express my deepest thoughts and hopes. Without fail, I hope to come away inspired, transfixed, and saddened by the raw, poignant stories that manifest during each moment.
I reach for many things…
A place to call my own.
Laughter on my darkest days, and warmth on the most tumultuous nights.
Hugs and cuddles that nearly suffocate, and that bring peace and comfort with every moment.
A chance to breathe without feeling a horrible proverbial weight upon my upper body.
For understanding, for choice, for reason.
An imagination that interprets the world in color, lace, and fairy tales, with Gothic inspiration.
To be comfortable in my own skin.
Peace, though I don’t quite know what that means yet.
Imagine life without love.
Without the warmth of a home.
The comfort of your friends’ support.
The security of your lover’s arm.
Where would that leave you?
What would be your motivation to continue?
Numb to ills of the world I have to break free
Dumb to think this path would come easily
That bliss would be handed to me
Presents are the lessons of the experiences we endure
This (Life) course is free
Life is what education ought to measure up to
Freestyle lessons plans
Of a promise land
Catching up to Freedom
I Have Chosen To Be Free.
*In an effort to get me writing more regularly, a friend suggested that we write something every day. This was randomness in my head one morning as I rode the train into the city for work. A recent writing workshop leader said to me, it doesn’t matter how good it is (or how good YOU think it is) or if you ever use it, all that matters is that you continue to write.
His nose grazed across each leaf so gently, leaving a light brush of snot resting on the surface. All four paws hit the pavement in a unique prance, crushing the crispy, golden fall foliage between between his hairy, padded toes. It was a joyful trot, as always. The tongue, red and juicy, thwacked back and forth like a metronome, following the pace of his gate while he tasted the air and all of its flavors.
Liberating. Independent. Freeing. Pleasurable. Just looking at his hairy muzzle I could tell there is nothing this dog would rather be doing. He was fully entrenched in the moment.
When his friend turned the corner, his tail whipped so fast that if used as a propellor, lost in the open ocean, we’d find land in no time.
A dog, we know, sees the world differently than us humans, perhaps more fully. We are caught in daily responsibilities, stress, surrounded by multitudes of personalities and distractions. It’s easy to lose consciousness regarding simple pleasures in our lives, in nature and in our loved ones around us. To watch a dog is not just a tennis ball bouncing into it’s wet mouth, but the excitement, enjoyment and time spent in the moment. Those with four paws and a tail don’t worry. They don’t have bills to pay. All they have is love to give.
Be more like a dog. Give kisses often, cuddle and hug those you love and just see how wonderful the moment can be.
The time of year has come when the seasons click and the New York air has forgone the summer humidity for autumn’s crispness. And once the leaves change color and jackets come out of storage, the first thing New Yorkers look forward to is Halloween. In one of the most artistically diverse cities, there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate any holiday here. However, Halloween brings out a different set of desires. Everyone enjoys a little scare this time of year and the city provides more than enough. With unlimited access to technology, creative minds, and actors, New York (in)famously houses some of the best and most horrifying haunted houses in the country. Perhaps more than ever, horror junkies can have their desires met and then some as the city’s best attractions have upped the ante this year, ensuring the most fear for your funds.
Celebrating their 10th year in operation, Blood Manor in Tribeca describes itself as “New York City’s premiere haunted attraction.” This 5,000 square foot sensory attack involves every classic piece of horror imagery one can imagine: Zombies, clowns, meat lockers, rotting skeletons, etc. All organized in an onslaught of in-your-face scares, screams, and flashing lights. Arranged in groups of six for the 20-25 minute experience, adrenaline seekers witness a calculated combination of inventive lighting design, state-of-the-art animatronics, and thoroughly decorated actors covered in fake blood, prosthetics, and colored contacts. On top of all this modern technology, the Manor utilizes old fashioned images like smoke machines, pitch black darkness, and mysterious sounds to top off all of its abrasive horror to bring New Yorkers a classic yet highly effective Halloween experience.
To keep the city guessing, Blood Manor adds new themes, known as “chambers” according to their website, every year to torment fears of all kinds. This year, patrons can expect mummies, doll people, maggots, and cannibals on top of the Manor’s famous collection of horrors. Additionally, each Thursday during their entire run will be known as Touch Me Thursdays where the actors are free to touch the customers (to an extent), adding a new layer of fear and immersion. Along with student discount nights and shorter waiting times, there’s no reason to skip on experiencing one of the biggest frights the city has to offer. Just make sure not to do it alone!
Blackout Haunted House has caused quite a stir these past few years with their ingenious take on what haunted houses can do. Located in Chelsea, Blackout passes on the buckets of blood and overwhelming effects of traditional haunted attractions and, instead, employs minimal décor and realistic situations to scare horror lovers in search of something new. And, boy, do they get something new! Past versions forced their willing victims to go through the warehouse alone, already breaking ground and grabbing the public’s attention/fear. What happens inside can be described as less of a haunted house and more as an immersive and horrific piece of theater. One year infamously involved patrons being fake waterboarded with a bag over their head and forced to bark like a dog to be released. Additionally, rumors spread like wildfire of the actors making them chew on used tampons and saving an actor from being sexually assaulted.
Of course, all of these events have been heavily rehearsed and involved fake props, but their realism really struck a nerve with New Yorkers. In fact, the creators, Josh Randall and Kristjan Thor, have reported their horrified customers running out of the house and almost into the street to get away from their attackers. This year’s edition, Blackout: House, forgoes the solitary experience for a group of one, but they’ve maintained their surreal reputation to replicate the feeling of being held hostage. With several years of success under its sleeve and another location in Los Angeles, Blackout has proved itself a formidable attraction every Halloween and those looking for a truly surreal experience ought to look no further.
For 11 seasons, New Yorkers have been treated to the demented attraction that is the haunted house Nightmare. Coming off two critically acclaimed seasons (Killers and Killers2), the creators of the city’s longest running haunted attraction have tackled the challenge of topping their numerous, past successes. However, this year’s edition has caused quite a stir as it gives thrill seekers an experience that may or may not hit a little too close to home. This year’s season is known as Nightmare: New York and it makes use of all the horrific legends and mythology that haunt this mysterious city. Not only will the citizens of New York witness classic legends such as Cropsey and sewer alligators, but also newer folklore like giant rats caused by Hurricane Sandy’s damage to the subway system will come to life.
In just about 25-minutes tops, patrons will start from New York’s beginnings as cursed Native American property and continue into the many killers and curses that hang over this town, a majority of which most citizens haven’t heard of yet. And, for an extra layer of immersion, those brave enough can ask to be marked with a red “X,” telling the actors that they’re allowed to get even more up close and personal with those adorned with the marking. With an eye for detail and grotesque realism, creator Timothy Haskell has promised to turn the things that make this city great, such as being immersed in history one couldn’t image, into an absolute nightmare.
If you think you’re brave enough, grab a friend, keep your eyes peeled, and head downtown for some of the best frights the city has to offer. No matter what scares you, be it blood and guts or realistic fears, you’ll be sure to find it in the concrete jungle. The question is, though, are you ready to find what the concrete jungle has for you? Happy Halloween!