Being present and alive
by Emily Gallagher
Jun 19, 2018 | 833 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New York is such a busy city that often when I am in the thick of my life I fail to notice it's endless magic.

It's truly a treasure trove of wonderful places and people that you can't find anywhere else, each creating their own world and their own community, offering so many gifts out to us.

This past week I have needed the magic, and I found myself going on a journey to all of the significant and precious places, seeking the characters I know to be conduits of joy.

When I first heard of my partner's death, which I wrote about last week in this column, I was completely disassociated. My friend and I jumped in a cab, dizzy and unwell, and begged him to take us to Brooklyn. As we crossed the bridge I realized where I had to be: Grand Ferry Park.

I had to go and sit beside the water, I had to watch the sun set over the Williamsburg Bridge in the shade of the trees. My best friends joined me there, and we sat on the boulders, smoked cigarettes and wept.

We watched the sun set entirely, we watched the ships pass beneath the bridges. From there, we wandered and I went to my friend Ryan's loft space, which has hosted so many activist meetings, dinners, Thanksgiving meals, and quiet evenings.

I sat on her couch and she fed me strawberries and water. My friends held my hands. I wanted to walk for the entire night, I did not want to go home. The one special place that I did not want to visit was my own apartment, which holds so many memories, once beautiful, momentarily painful.

As the days passed, my friends tried to bring me outside to the special places that sooth me. Friday night we gathered in the secret garden and made food by the fire.

I couldn't help but think that this was precisely what a secret garden was for, a gathering to build peace in the midst of emotional chaos. We ate donuts at Moe's Doughs.

On Sunday, after the funeral, we went to Billy Mark's bar on the West Side and I filled the jukebox with O's favorite songs, danced and lamented for lost time.

Then I went to Three's Brewing in Gowanus to see one of my favorite New York City musicians, Binky Griptite. He and his awesome band played the blues, and I just sat there marveling in the secret scene stuffed in the back room.

I drank a whiskey. I hugged my friend and lost myself in the music. I thought about how Binky had known such an enormous share of tragic loss himself, and I felt a kinship with him. I felt like I was gaining strength from his music and his warm presence.

On Tuesday, we went to Lakeside Roller Disco in Prospect Park. This was an especially welcome activity because a few years ago I spent a summer and fall learning to skate, and was lifted and astounded by the joyful, creative, intergenerational roller disco community.

To be out there skating was a meditation. But also to then witness the other skaters who I had met on “eight-wheels time” and again felt restorative. I don't know any of their names, but I know them each so well.

One of them, who always wears a muscle shirt and blows a whistle, skated right up beside me and started a dance routine with me. He was so warm and encouraging, taking my hands and guiding me to the music.

Then this past weekend I went to the beach, crept into the water, felt the cold and the humidity clashing against each other. Last night, I rode my bike all around the island of Manhattan, through the thunderstorm, soaking wet.

With my grief as my current overlord and manager, I haven't had time to plot or scheme actions or community events. I've only had time to try to be present and alive. And New York City is the very best place to be present and alive.
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