“Um, Excuse Me…”

It’s no secret that the easiest way to get around NYC is via the subway.

I’m not unfamiliar with using subways as a means of transportation, but I was a late bloomer when it came to subways and general public transportation. The first time I ever took a subway, I was 16 years old in Paris, France. In addition, I didn’t start actively using public transportation back home until I was about 20. There are subways that I have taken in Center City Philly (since that’s the only place that there really is a subway), but even then, I only took one subway line. I took that one subway line, and only ventured out on the others in the past few months.

I just got comfortable with taking subways in Philly, and now I’m in a brand new city using public transportation. Of all cities, I’m taking the subways in New York City.

Those are an entirely different animal.

I’m always the girl that knows where she’s going. In fact, I’m usually the one giving directions to others that are trying to find their way to a destination. However, over these past 4 days, there’s been a bit of a role reversal, and I find myself in the position where I’m in need of guidance.

I know I’m here to learn about acting, but I think the things that I’m learning in acting class and my experience navigating the subway is, in effect, causing me to face a fear: being vulnerable.

When you’re lost, you’re at the mercy of whomever has given you direction until you can start to stand on your own.

I know New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly, but anyone that I have asked for directions has been wonderfully helpful. They might be New Yorkers, but I think everyone at some point can related to getting lost.

A woman in a booth told me how to get to the train I needed to take to my temporary domicile. I also quickly found out that the train wasn’t, in fact, the 2/3 train, like it was a fraction. The writer of the email was telling me that I could take train 2 or 3 to my destination. When I got to my stop, I realized that I had never asked what street the apartments were on. Just when I thought I would be sleeping with the pigeons, I was able to figure out the street, but still didn’t know where to go. I asked an older woman for directions. She guided me rightly, and I arrived sweaty, yet happy. And… in yet another instance, a hispanic woman with a baby showed us how to take the current train line in the other direction without paying again.

In all of these different situations, I was the one in need. I was the one that was dependent. I don’t like that feeling because you’re exposed. If someone leads you wrongly, you’re still in a bad place… maybe an even worse state than your previous state. Worse still is when you open yourself up and get your feelings hurt. In this case, everything was sorted out.

Now, I’m better at navigating the subway. I’ve even managed to take it on my own a couple of times and venture out alone without feeling like I would turn up dead in a manhole cover. I was even able to give direction to someone else. That surprised me, and still does when I think of it. Even in a city that isn’t my own, I must’ve looked like I knew enough to be helpful.

At first, it scared me to ever ask questions or ask for directions if I was truly lost. Now, it’s just what I do. I can’t be shy about putting myself out there; if I need help, I need to ask.

Not everyone is unkind. Even in a city, you can find mercy from people when you’re trying to find your way. They are people, after all… people that understand vulnerability, and how scary a place that can be. I think I’ve said “Um, excuse me…” more to total strangers in the past 4 days than I have in a very long time. If I continue to travel the way that I would like it, it certainly won’t be the last time.

Live in New York City

Hey guys!

It’s been a crazy two weeks, and I didn’t know if I was going to make it here… but I’m here in NYC! I’m here for an acting camp of sorts, and I expect to do a lot of work. In fact, I’ve been working to get here in a physical and literal sense! I didn’t think I’d have a place to stay, but at the last minute, I discovered that I was able to stay in the dorms! Praise ye the Lord! Once that was settled, I paid for a ticket, and was on my way!

The whole beginning of this day felt somewhat surreal. First of all, I was running late for my train, and I’m rarely ever late when I’m traveling. This morning, however, was a different story. Let’s just say that my train left at 11:25, and I was pulling up to the station in the car at 11:20. I hurriedly waved good bye to my mother, and ran across the train station as two Asian men watched. I’m sure they thought I was crazy, and they were right. I tore across like mad woman to catch that train. I made it just in time; the man checking the tickets was still there. I was checked in, and practically ran onto the train. No sooner had I put up my bag (and by “I”, I mean that some kind stranger had mercy on me and put it up for me) and sat down, the train was rolling.

I wasn’t even supposed to be here by the looks of the situation nearly 24 hours ago, yet here I was on the train to New York City. For an entire month.

Once I arrived at Penn Station, I ran around trying to find the 2/3 train, and figure out just how to take it without buying a Metro Card since I know nothing about that yet. Meanwhile, everything hurt. Although that same kind young man took my bag down for me, I was on my own after that. I got onto a train that was going to take me in the direction that I needed to travel. As I left the sound of steel drums being played on the platform and stood in the subway train and kept myself from sitting down (lest I decide to not get back up), it felt like a crazy dream. I watched some red-faced men drink out of a flask at 2ish pm and talk to one another. Once I actually decided to sit down, I had to get off at my stop.

It was at this time that I realized that I didn’t know where the school was.

I sat on a bench for a bit of respite, and also to look up the address on my cell phone. After all this, I didn’t feel like sleeping with the pigeons that night. I normally complain about these devices, but I was very thankful for smart phones in that moment. Once I found it, I asked an older woman for assistance. I think I asked more people for help today than I ever have.

She guided me rightly, and I ended up at the dorms, and was greeted by a young man wearing a tee shirt with the school name on it. “THANK GOD”, I thought to myself. I was sweating, my deodorant had given out ages ago, and I’m sure my face was red… but I was happy to be there. I went up to my room, and was actually the first one there.

I gotta admit, I was quite nervous. I played music to calm myself down, and I unpacked all my luggage. I called a couple of friends and let mom know that I had arrived. I looked out my window, and can see the Statue of Liberty from my room. All you can see are the tops of apartments, but you see a little greenery here and there. Actually, the view was kind of pretty. I looked out the window, and discovered that one can people watch from the 16th floor; people do things on their roofs here. I still don’t know what the man in the speedo was doing. Maybe I’ll find out tomorrow.

I was only able to talk to one friend at that time, and I talked to her until my first roommate arrived. About an hour thereafter, the second roommate arrived. We all get along together, and enjoy each other’s company thus far. I’m very excited about this; admittedly, I was a little nervous about that. I tend to be the nervous type when it comes to these things.

I also got to catch up with my best good friend. I called her when I first got there, but we didn’t talk until later that evening. She, just like everyone else that knew about this trip, reminded me that it should be fun. I tend to be a “let’s get down to business” type of girl, but I’m in New York! EVERYONE has an adventure in New York. Yes, I will be working, but I also get a whole month to experience a whole new city! Who doesn’t have an awesome story about visiting New York? I don’t want to be exempt.

I have more than acting work to do; I have a charge. I need to have an adventure. I owe it to myself to have one.

To be honest folks, I can’t remember the last time I had a real adventure. The opportunity to make a story worth telling is thrust right in my hands. It would be wrong if I didn’t take advantage of it.

Here’s to not only learning how to act (pun intended), but creating a story worth telling along the way. I promise to post pictures when I actually take some.

Cheers!

I Don’t Think Of You As Black

Let me start this post by saying something truthful:

I didn’t think of myself as black either.

Just like the rest of this society, I had been brainwashed to think that being black meant acting and speaking a certain way. Because I didn’t fit any of that, I didn’t perceive myself as one that was black. Clearly, anyone that looks at me can see that I am, regardless of what anyone says. The thing of it is, though, the way I behave and think oftentimes doesn’t correlate with what people think being black is.

There was an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air where Carlton was getting a lot of disrespect from people that are black. He came at them with this statement: “Being black isn’t something I’m trying to be; it’s what I am.”

Sadly, this is something that goes on in the black community constantly. It’s bad enough for people to judge you outside of it, but to be judged by those that look like you also? Well… what’s a body to do? It leaves you in quite the conundrum. In your mind, you’re going through all of the things that people say and think about you, and all along, you’re also trying to figure out how you feel about yourself. It’s hard to voice a decent rebuttal with all of those thoughts taking up space in your head. The bad part is that some of them might not be yours, especially the ones that try to tell you that you aren’t black.

When people try to tell me that, I always want to ask this question:

How are you able to determine what being black is, and what it isn’t?… and who decided this?

Whoever it is, I sure would like to have a talk with that person.

What’s bad sometimes is that people that aren’t black also try to tell you that they don’t see you as black. This oftentimes is funny to me because, solely judging on looks, they wouldn’t know the first thing about being black. What’s even worse is that black people will agree with this notion of “not being black.” That also tells me that we don’t know the first thing about being black, either.

Whether or not I listen to rap music, am loud or outspoken, use the ‘n’ word in my everyday speak or eat fried chicken and other “soul food” (which, really, is different in every country)… being black isn’t something I seek to be. Being black is who and what I am.

Every day that I wake up and look in my bathroom mirror, I don’t look back at a white girl. If I saw that looking back at me, that’s a BIG problem. People might say that I was a flower child in another life, and they’re probably right, but I still see a black woman looking back at me in that mirror. I’m not mixed with anything that I know of; I’m just black. My skin is this caramel-tan colour with a little cinnamon mixed in. I have very kinky curly hair that some say is good hair, and some say is not. I love it all the same. I’m tough-bred because I had to be, but am really sweet and sensitive inside. Hey, I’m still a woman after all. I’ve been mocked and made fun of for being different that what most people perceive to be black, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not. I was just as black then as I am now, and will still be black for the duration of my years. The plus side of being black is that I still look around the same age that I did when I was being made fun of. (black don’t crack! hollaa!!)

I do love the idea of interracial dating and marriage, but don’t try saying that you don’t see me as black. If I see me as black, I know you can see that I’m black. It’s what it is; love that about me, whether you’re black or not.

I think being different is okay; it’s the spice of life. Who would want to be the same as everyone else? I will be me regardless of what anyone says or thinks, but I also embrace the fact that I am black. I hope other people will embrace that, too, and not believe the jive that people are spitting out.

I am different, unique, and gorgeous. I am black, and I am proud.

Anyone that says that I’m not might need a pair of glasses.

Cooking vs Convenience

I warn you ahead of time: This is going to be more of a rant.

While I was reading “The 30-Day Vegan Challenge” (I know, I’m slightly obsessed as of late), there was something that was said in one of the chapters that struck a chord. It’s something that I abide by, and I thank God that someone else is thinking about this the same way that I do.

Basically, the book was speaking of processed and convenience items.

We have a million and one reasons for why we don’t cook nowadays. “I don’t know how to do that”, “It’s easier to just order take out/pick something up”, and the ever ubiquitous “I don’t have the time.” It seems that we never have the time for anything.

Let me start out my rant by saying this: we make time for things that matter to us, and that includes me. We make time for things that are important to us, including being lazy. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. The only thing that I try hard to make an effort with is cooking because of how important it is to me.

Before I go ranting and raving about how horrible it is to constantly buy because of convenience, let me, instead, offer an argument. While I think eating out and buying pre-packaged stuff is okay every once in a while, doing it all the time can incur costs that we’ve neglected to count.

The first thing that I’d like to point out is that it’s honestly cheaper to buy things in their whole state. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or an omnivore, it’s cheaper to buy things in their whole state, and break it down yourself. Basically, the reason these things cost more is because there is more hands involved when it comes to getting the product to the store. Take broccoli florets, for example. If you buy broccoli from the freezer aisle, someone has to take time to take the broccoli, cut it away from the stem, possibly cook and freeze those florets, package them, and have them shipped to your local grocery store. The cost of that bag of broccoli florets includes this labor cost. Conversely, if you simply go to the produce section and pick up a head of broccoli, there is far less involved to get it to its destination. The broccoli is harvested, put into a crate with many other heads, and taken to the store. So many of us are concerned about saving money, but we miss this one major thing that could help us save money. This is also true of chicken. It’s almost always easier to buy that whole and break it down yourself.

Secondly, in most cases, it’s healthier to eat at home. Even with frozen veg, you have to watch your ingredients. Sometimes extra sodium and maybe preservatives are in them to keep the food so that it reaches its destination. If you constantly eat out, it’s not good. Expense aside, extra butter, salt, and fat is added to those foods, which is why they’re so good. I’m not saying that I never eat out, or that I don’t cook unhealthy things at home; however, when you cook something at home, you have more control over how much fat and salt goes into your food. You also have the extra bonus of being able to customize things to your liking and your tastes… which sort of leads to my next point.

Cooking can actually be fun!

Not having time to cook really isn’t an excuse. Well, it is, but it’s more of an excuse not to do it rather than a legitimate excuse. We all have time and can make time to cook. A decent meal can be made in 30 minutes, including the prep time and how long it takes to make its journey to your plate. Half an hour. Tops. It upsets me that there are so many people that don’t know how to use a chef’s knife and that, moreover, may not own one at all! That’s just sad! Most home preparations don’t take chef-like precision; anyone can chop and mince, and it doesn’t take copious amounts of time… not for home cookery, unless you choose to make something fancy. Slicing, rough chopping, and mincing are the most common preparations used in the home kitchen. EVERYONE¬†should¬†know how to do that. Not knowing how, especially if you live on your own or are over a certain age, is inexcusable in my opinion. If you’re older and never had anyone teach you, Youtube is a great resource for learning these things. I happened to learn in cooking school. I came out with cut thumbs every time I set foot in a hands-on course, but I learned. I can do all of the chef-y preparations necessary, but like I said… the average home cook doesn’t need to know how to julienne or how to do a perfect brunoise. Not unless you’re feeling particularly fancy that night.

There was this little word art sign I saw in TJ Maxx that I liked, and it said “It is easier to stay well than to get well.” Lord knows why I didn’t buy it because I completely agreed, and still agree with that line of thought. This is what home cooking can do for the lot of us if we decided to make time to do it. Any time you can go into a fast food or quick service place, and they know you by name and know your order… it might be time to start cooking at home. Plus, it’ll be easier on your wallet and better for you. Give peas a chance, as well as other vegetables from your produce aisle… or local farmer’s market. This gives you the added bonus of buying in season and supporting locals farms and businesses.

I hope people will start cooking more in the future, and buying things fresh whenever they can. It’ll keep food costs as well as doctor’s bills down, I’m sure. There is much nutrition that can be derived from food if we eat the right things. Focusing on the quality of your food is worth the time, money and effort. Trust me, hospital bills will cost more in the long run.

Eggs And Passing Thoughts of Veganism

There is some part of me that wishes to be vegan at times, with a particular emphasis on eating raw fruits and vegetables.

I know that sounds crazy, especially for a black woman. If you’re a black woman and you’re even just vegetarian, let alone vegan, people look at you sideways. You also will receive criticism from family members about needing meat on your bones. Because of the way some black people eat, the idea of not having meat be a staple in your meals (chicken, anyone?) is enough to make relatives want to send you away to the funny farm. There’s a woman at my church that has a niece whom is vegetarian (not vegan, though). She said she had a hard time with it at first because of criticism from her family members, including her own mom. She stuck with it, though, and I admire her courage.

Yes, a black woman that is or wants to be vegetarian or vegan is a rare species.

It would be super hard for me to be vegetarian, let alone vegan, because of where I work. I admit that I have no will power when I get a good whiff of the fries in the fryer, or the chicken sandwiches. It all looks so good! Plus, I’m a cook and a foodie on top of it. How can I say no?

So what draws me to this idea in the first place? Well, I’ve learned that having raw foods (specifically fruits and vegetables) are an amazing energy boost. I also know a guy that was once vegan, and he said that he felt great. I’m always looking for ways to maximize my energy with what I eat, because food can heal you if you put in the right things. Plus, it’s something new and interesting. There are some things that it’s cool to read about to satisfy curiosity; then, there are things that gnaw at you to be experienced. I think it’s my pure sense of adventure that draws me towards being a vegan at times.

However, I know in reality, that if I were to take the plunge and eat like I was vegan, I probably wouldn’t do it for long. There’s one thing that I could point to that would keep me from being vegan. I surprised myself by not naming “bacon”, because I thought I would miss it. Honestly, though, I don’t eat much of it to begin with. I don’t dislike it, but if it were gone tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t miss it as much as I think. I thought it would be cheese, but as much as I like that, I might get over that one.

The thing I would miss most about being vegan is eggs.

When it’s late at night or in the middle of the day, and I don’t know what I feel like eating, I always reach for eggs. Scrambled, fried over easy, in an omelet or a quiche, that is one animal product that never gets old for me or that I would never grow tired of eating. Especially if we’re talking farm fresh eggs. The first time I ever had one of those, I became a fan of the egg for life. The white was the tightest around the yolk that I’ve ever seen. I swear an egg that fresh tastes different from any old egg. I wouldn’t want to own an egg-laying hen, but I sure would want friends that have one! I’d be more than glad to pay for them; a fresh egg is indispensable, and should be part of a regular diet.

I’ve been making omelets for a while, but I decided to change up my omelet game a little bit. I decided to try making an omelet the Julia Child way. This involves shaking the pan until it folds over, then turning it out on a plate. I did it, and let me tell you guys: it’s probably the best (and the prettiest) omelet I’ve ever made… and I managed to do it with a nonstick pan without the “nonstick”.

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I added some aged Gouda to it, and it was just a plate of divine savory goodness. I just used 3 eggs, but it was more than enough. Eggs to the rescue!

That’s about it for now. It’s about time I made my eggs-it from this post. I’m sure I’ll be making eggs sooner rather than later.

Ciao!