Stronger than the Storm

We kept singing the New Jersey jingle, Stronger than the Storm, when I visited Long Beach Island last weekend. Small businesses on the Jersey Shore are back.

The beach is beautiful. The Atlantic Ocean is freezing, 59 degrees, but there’s nothing the board of tourism can do about that. The ice cubes in the ocean didn’t stop us from dashing in. And dashing out, victorious, refreshed.

Every one rides bikes on Long Beach Island.
Every one rides bikes on Long Beach Island.

This stronger-than-the-storm theme applies to my life – raising my rambunctious teens, hanging tough with Chris, working on a novel, freelance writing, and all the while, procrastinating on the much-needed workout.

I admit some of my life’s storms I seek. I am a storm chaser. I could take the easy way out of town. But I like a challenge. It feels like starting my own biz is a perfect storm. But one that I can ride. I don’t think it will swamp me.

Sometimes, I avoid the storm, hunkered down in a safe sanctuary. I plug in my ear buds and wait for the storm to pass. I read a book, escape through literature.

Sometimes I seek safe sanctuary by making art. I started making collage art again. Making a collage is like creating and resolving your own storm. You get caught in the whirlwind of creativity. My teacher Mariano says, you can’t make a mistake with collage.

The Atlantic Ocean refreshes you.
The Atlantic Ocean refreshes you.

I rode out Hurricane Sandy last fall. I was leading a writing weekend in the Adirondacks. I was alone in the Big House.

Outside the third floor bedroom window, a big tree rattled the window screen. The scraping of the branch sounded like the knuckles of a witch trying to get in.

I beat it back to the hunkered-down city rather than stay alone in the mansion. I made it back to my wild and restless kids, my somewhat overwhelmed husband, my weathered city. I stayed stronger by rushing back home.

I should know I cope by rushing in. Just like I rushed back into the Atlantic weekend, though the waves hit me hard and the water was an ice cold bath. Life is all about rushing back in.

Downtown Comes Up

Living on the Upper West Side, we avoided the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, but we had to suffer the downtown refugees. Of the influx of hipsters on the Upper East Side, my teacher Charles S., said, “They’re taking our groceries, our seats in restaurants, our women!”

“How do you know they’re from downtown?” I asked.

“Oh, you know!” he said.

When Chris came home with groceries from Fairway, he said the guy behind him in the check-out line was mumbling, “I can’t wait to get back to SoHo.”

Our sidewalks on Broadway are full, not just of hipsters, but runners as Riverside and Central Parks were closed and the marathon, cancelled.

But we uptown people can take all comers. The Upper East and West Sides are big tents: bigger than this year’s political parties in that we can seat all migrants at our tables in our kitchens or in our restaurants.

I coped with the influx of downtowners the way I coped with my helplessness after 9/11. I went downtown to see a show.

Subways back in service at 42nd street.

Yesterday Chris and I traveled via subway to Tribeca to see Heresy by A.R. Guerney at the Flea Theatre. So good.

This political play takes place in a military office stocked with a bar and characters who believe various degrees of American exceptionalism.

An offstage character, Chris (as in Christ), delivers a manifesto, extolling the:

  1. Shops were back in business in Chinatown.

    the evils of consumerism

  2. the lie of the American Dream
  3. the reality that frustration with #1 and 2 leads to violence.

Karen Ziemba was hilarious and Annette O’Toole was heartbreaking.

It was great theater and a needed  escape from the crowded streets of the Upper West Side.