Bertha's List: April Edition
I read in an online article once that if you ever get fed up with New York City you should visit Chinatown. It will remind you of everything it means to live here. It also happens to be my favorite place to get lost in. Chinatown is the place where la vie quotidienne is lived on every street corner bustling with activity. The hustlers selling knock-offs of every luxury item imaginable. The old men and old ladies perched on park benches playing chess or mahjong. The vigilant grandma sitting on the pink plastic child chair watching over her cart of strange, spiky-haired fruits arranged in a rainbow of colors. The pungent smell of raw fish hitting you like an unexpected punch to the nose. The tiny stores brimming with herbs to cure every malady but sold in packaging you can’t read. For a few minutes you almost forget you're in Manhattan. That is, until you remember why you’re there in the first place and hurry up Mott Street before the optical store closes for the day.
Mid-April and still wearing a down jacket is not my idea of fun but it looked as if the elusive Spring season would never get here. I resigned myself to my frigid fate and doubled up on scarves as I headed out for the Psychosis film set; a short film directed by Arnold Pitre. Since the Bronx location was within walking distance from my Harlem apartment, I put on my headphones and decided to brave the weather. Maybe it was the folksy melody of Pandora's Moon Song station or the way the sunlight rippled on the Harlem River but in the span of 20 minutes I mapped out an entire storyline for a new film script. I’d been sitting on the idea for months but now I could clearly see the talking images. It would no doubt be a challenge attempting to write a feature film but I was inspired again. I call these moments of my creative psyche as Periods of Renaissance. That may sound pedantic and grandiose yet they lie not in me but in the Muse. The Muse that can lie dormant for years on end but re-awakens when a story demands to be told. The aftermath of Her visit was the beginnings of a screenplay, the second draft edits for a play, and a finished first season of a web series entitled Love* (Asterisk), written in partnership with my friend Victoria. The Periods may not happen often but they happen with a vengeance.
Psychosis was shot in a single twelve hour day. I woke the next morning feeling completely drained and bearing a great sense of loss. It had been a long time since a character had carved in so deeply. Lucy was a character requiring such darkness that it was easy to fall deep down the rabbit hole. It was then that I realized how easily actors can sometimes come undone under the complexities of a tormented character. I needed un despojo— an exorcism. I cleaned the apartment, lazed in bed with a cup of tea, sent out industry mailings, went to the gym (nothing like jogging in place for 30 minutes to free up the mind) and all in all waited for the melancholia to subside. When none of that worked it was time to leave the house. We met up for Rumela’s birthday at La Nacional and by the end of the night we were the last patrons in the restaurant. A group of friends around a pitcher of sangria is better than any curandera in town.
On Easter Sunday we went to Harlem’s Floridita for the best Cuban food I’ve had in New York. As a native, my standards are quite high but Floridita is the closest you can get to La Carreta without hopping a flight to Miami. After a delicious lunch, JianCarlos and Ryan accompanied me to the mecca of all things technological: the Apple store. I was in dire need of a new laptop after my Dell had petered out its last binary breaths. I settled on a sleek, steel grey MacBook Pro. I was officially a Mac girl and Ms. Pro was a thing of beauty. I had half a mind to name her Carrie, after the quintessential Mac girl herself, but I settled on JiRa; a nod to the two Apple aficionados responsible for my newfound brand allegiance. I couldn’t wait for all the wonderful things she'd help me write through the years.
My gadgets weren’t the only ones undergoing a makeover. After sporting the grown-out pixie look for months, I enlisted the help of Vicky’s scissors for some sprucing up. I should have been terrified of a botched up job. Instead I was filled with the same anticipation of a grade school sleepover where we talked about boys and dyed our hair purple. A lady of many talents, she succeeded in giving me a chic bob and a story to tell at brunch.
On my way to Ryan’s for movie night, I was waiting for the 3 train when the gentleman seated next to me complimented my “pretty face.” Much older and oblivious to the fact his chances were slim to none, he asked if I was married (which surprised me because, when did I start looking old enough to pass for a wife?) and when I replied No he followed up with if I had a boyfriend. When I again said No he said, “Well for a beautiful woman like you it must be by choice.” What amazed me wasn’t the compliment, men will be men at any age, but it was the realization that yes, I was single by choice, thank you very much! After all, it wasn’t for lack of suitors or, to sound less Victorian, a lack of appealing choices. Why did I always feel so inadequate when admitting to being single? Maybe it was the pity I heard in my family members’ voices at yet another holiday party, “Still no novio, huh?” Or maybe it was my own insecurity for feeling left out of the club. The club everyone wants to be a part of when they’re single and half the time want to be out of when they’re not. I smiled at the gentleman and said a little more self-assured, “Yes, by choice.” Then I got on the train, making sure to avoid the car he went in. If it was by choice there was no need to start changing that now.
The morning after can sometimes be awkward. Thankfully this time around it wasn’t my morning after but rather my roommate’s. To make things less weird we all sat down around the breakfast table for eggs and conversation, because of course that’s always what makes things less weird. Over coffee, my roommate’s “morning after” asked how I liked living in our new space and if I was adjusting to this new chapter. Without a moment’s hesitation the most natural response spilled from my lips, “Actually, I’m really happy.” I was happy to trust in my ability to heal. Just like when I wore my new glasses and was suddenly able to see the windows of the skyscrapers that I couldn’t see before, happy to see clearly. Really see Chinatown, see my life, for all it is worth.