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Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Thousand and One Nights (And Days)

I am in the midst of an emotional maelstrom.  It’s “supposed” to be gone by now.  As my sister told me many years ago at Christmas, “It’s been over a year since Mom died.  Time to let it go.”  Well, I didn’t.  Grief has its own timetable.  It means different things to different people, and for different reasons.  No one knows what you’re going through, or what you need, but you.  You have to be your biggest advocate.

But most folk have a take on what I should do, or feel, in order “to move on”.  I don’t need fixing.  I need to feel what continues to course through me.  My dog died six months ago. My soul is howling.

One friend suggested that eventually I’d get “beyond it” but this didn’t sit well with me.  I don’t want to get “beyond” it, nor do I believe it possible to.  Pain is not a speed bump you roll over and then leave behind, like road kill.  It is a part of you.  Everything you experience in life becomes a part of you, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  When you lose someone, the loss is not a wound that simply scabs over, and when that scab drops off, the pain, too, is gone.  It’s there in your blood.  The love, the loss, the grief and despair all flow in your veins, and get cycled through your heart.  Over time, new experiences enter your life, and the pain can take a backseat to other, happier feelings.  But the grief genome can always be accessed, like a recessive gene. It’s there.  All you need is another inciting event to activate the virus and manifest an outbreak. 

Like a fever, grief must run its course.  It is purgative and purifying as it does so.  If you don’t stanch the flow. 

I explained to my friend that processing grief for me is like digestion.  One needs to sit with one’s emotions.  Chew them, mull them over, and yes, swallow.  Taste the bitter.  I, for one, cannot pretend there is not a gaping emotional crevasse at my core.  Despite the smiles, laughs and joys that I have harbored since my latest loss, the caldera remains freely accessible, the lava still hot.  Old Faithful simmers below the surface until she blows, once again. 

All around me there is massive change.  Friends are moving, having babies.  I remain within my still point, the world spinning around me.  Spinning within me.  I read an intriguing mantra, “The Universe is inside me. And I am inside the universe”.  My change is internal, not visible to the eye, like the massive glacier hidden beneath the surface of the visible one.  Mountains move, within. 

We all suffer losses in a lifetime, some more than others.  Some life stories are more heavily weighted toward levity, frivolity and pleasure, others toward brooding, either with or without dark experiences to support them.  I once dated a very depressed fellow, a songwriter, and after reading some of his lyrics and knowing a bit about his life a friend of mine commented, “I don’t get it.  What’s he got to be miserable about?”

You can be sour about anything, or happy about anything.  Even in the face of death and despair, it is possible to create peace, love, and joy.  To what extent, and when, is up to you.  My chiropractor and acupuncturist understand this, for emotions manifest in the energy body, as well as in the physical form.  They take their toll.  There’s no question that happiness enhances healing, and that laughter is the best medicine.  But their presence cannot be forced.  They must be approached and embraced in the right way, as with a wild animal.  If it’s done right, an ecstatic union can be formed.  For now, I still dance with occasional despair.  I remain a Dog Widow. 

But, student of Self that I am, I will wonder, am I digesting this experience, allowing the feelings in their many iterations to arise and bubble up to the surface, or, like a cow, am I chewing my cud?  Endlessly going over turf which has already been tread, like a broken record?

Well, the fact is, I experienced a more than casual sampling of sickness and death in my youth, and those devastating losses have informed who I am.  And who I’ve chosen to be. I feel deeply.  You cannot feel the good without also allowing the bad.  We have a full spectrum of emotions.   And yes, we can learn how to play them like a symphony, hopefully gravitating to the happier emotions over time.  But you don't paint rainbows by throwing out black, gray and brown.  You must know those shadows.  And how to use them.  That is full spectrum living.  That is being a master artist.  

Rather than replace my amazing dog, and my lovely cat who died shortly before, I choose to suck it up and stick it out.  Animals have been my family, my comfort, for decades, ameliorating the loss of family.  Now I bask in my solitude.  Feel it, for good and for bad, for there is grandness in it, too.  I’m not running away from the pain, or denying the splendor.  I’ll not detract from my healing with rebound canine/feline relationships.  It would diminish the lesson, which for me is, “What is it to be, by yourself, alone?”

And yet, something has had to keep me busy, and to keep me from going insane.  The day my dog died a check arrived in the mail for my latest creative endeavor, one which has taken off in rather stunning fashion.  Recording audio books.  The check from the world’s biggest audio book company failed to cheer me in any measure, but only highlighted the contradictory and bittersweet nature of life, the yin with the yang, the good with the bad. 

But the arrival of the check at that time was symbolic.  It was my new wellspring.  And I was the source. 

I spin yarns.  I weave tales.  I bring characters, tales and realms unknown to life.  Like Rumpelstilskin, I spin prodigious quantities of straw into gold while villages sleep.  I am a storyteller.  I talk seven days up to 18 hours (on and off).  I do not talk on the phone.  I rarely leave my house.  Like Scheherazade in “A Thousand and One Nights” I am talking to save my life.  By losing myself in others’ tales, I am healing my own. 

There are technical aspects to this work that are very tricky.   A good microphone picks up all sorts of minute noises.  If you’re not sufficiently hydrated, a dry mouth creates strange sound effects.  So I drink.  Cups of water and cups of tea.  Consequently, frequent trips to the bathroom ensue.  As well, the stomach demands a fair bit of attention, always ready for its close-up.  It makes surprise appearances during a tale, piping up when it’s empty, when it’s full, or when it’s just in the mood to say “hi!”  It is a recurring character during recording sessions, one which must continuously be hauled off the stage, a shepherd’s crook around its neck as it squawks for attention. 

Then, there’s the “neighborhood” to take into account. I do not have a soundproof studio.  I live in an apartment building in New York City.  I have effectively, and assiduously crafted a “sound-reduced” work environment.  There are delicious stretches of silence interrupted by coughs, bangs, raps, doors slamming, cabinets squeaking, horns blaring, sirens wailing, children shrieking, vacuums roaring, garbage disposals grating, showers running, toilets flushing, loud parties in full swing, blaring TVs, vegetables chopping, beds creaking, piano lessons pounding, opera singers belting, a renovation down the hall (I thought the sound was from upstairs) a renovation downstairs (sounded like it was in my apartment) high speed drilling, and, even, a wood saw hacking.  There’s the lady above who insists on wearing high heels and my next-door neighbors who maintain the aural acoustics of a bus station.  I am an expert of sorts at interpreting the array of sounds, which emanate from all six directions.  It’s a veritable audio soup.  I’ve yet to determine what creates the sound of a bowling ball rolling across a wooden floor, directly above my head.  Unless, of course, it’s just that. 

When there are patches of silence I bask in them.  Revel in them.  Bathe in them.  Record them and most important, record in them.  “Room tone” is an essential part of the recording process, as actual silence, a total void, before or after speech is an audio no-no. There are relative levels of silence.  I have become a connoisseur of them, and after a particularly good silent patch, I will play it back and sigh.  “Ah.  Now, that was good silence!”  I amass primo pieces of silence to replace noisy patches (between spoken phrases) where intruders from the above referenced list have rudely inserted themselves.  All audio bric-a-brac must be edited out. 

My life is comprised of sound and silence. 

Occasionally, I will leave my home to take a tap class.  This is a nice, noisy way to get out my yah yahs and express with my feet instead of my face.   

For the record, I don’t read fiction.  Not since Tolkien and whatever books were required in high school, I’ve not gravitated toward the imagined.  As a metaphysician, I find the teachings of the subtler realms fantastical enough.

But here I am, reading romance novels.  Aloud.  It’s rather humorous.  And quite enjoyable.  I lose myself in the sugary fantasies like every other romance reader.  But it doesn’t stop there.  I do sci-fi and fantasy.  Dragon books.  Witch books.  Vampire books.  Outer space romance.  Non-fiction texts on ADHD, aphasia, getting pregnant, and having babies.  I was offered a contract to narrate a primer for women on masturbation.  Can you guess how I celebrated booking that gig? 

Historical romance on the Oregon Trail!  Family romance collections (watch the whole family get engaged, girl by girl!)  My characters perform magic in the woods, talk to animals, ride dragons, trek cross country, and survive sexual slavery during World War II.  It’s a big world out there.  There are a lot of stories to tell. 

Sometimes I’m not quite sure what I’m getting into.  When I audition, there’s just a short excerpt.  Then I get the whole book and go “uh oh”.  I’ve narrated some fairly steamy sexual scenes (I told my dog to cover her ears) but I’m not interested in erotica or violence.  You can keep the dark stuff.  Mystery, intrigue, magic, yes.  My witches are all White, my vampires fun loving and romantic (never murderous). 

I have always attracted the perfect content and authors, people I’ve never spoken to but know somewhat intimately from our email correspondence and reading their books. That’s the law of attraction in action.  I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve recorded.

Even as my external universe receded, my internal universe went and had itself a Big Bang. I explore new galaxies daily. 

Did you know that indigenous prostitutes during the Korean War were called “Juicy Girls”? Yes, they served “juice” to the GIs, but that’s not all they served up.  American girls and women currently wear “Juicy” garb to proclaim their luscious sexiness.  But more to the point…their asses read, “Whore”.  They may have no idea, but I don’t doubt the manufacturer did.

In this day and age of self-publishing, anyone can be an author.  Which means I will encounter poorly written and edited tomes.  I may start an audition but if I hit “his man parts hardened” you can hear me roll my eyes as I speak…then sputter to a stop.  I kill the recording.  If I’m not into what I’m saying, neither will the listener. 

Having done a fair number of romances by now, I’ve grown accustomed to some of the less inspired formulas, middle of the road, fairly unimaginative drivel. Everyone has perfect bodies in romance land.  That’s a given.  They all wear designer labels and very high heels.   Hair and makeup are always impeccable. 

I stopped recording once; plain lost my mind and ranted at length, foaming at the mouth (much to my dog’s consternation) after recording the end of a yet another romantic dinner date.  It ended with tiramisu.  They all ended with tiramisu.  Didn’t matter the book or the author.  One could say I took issue because I strongly dislike tiramisu.  It is a mushy, useless baby food, a soggy finale to what should be a sophisticated meal.  One could assume I was irritated by the lack, yet again, of originality in stamping out these cookie cutter romances.  One could even argue it was possible that the person recording this romance, a woman who rarely left her lair, was jealous that she wasn’t on a romantic date with a man with firm thighs and a dimpled smile, hair rakishly falling into his sapphire blue eyes, as his hand grazed his broad, stubble shadowed jawline.  

Nah, my literary and culinary standards were at stake.

I did a sci-fi romance where the male protagonist’s initial description referenced how tall and broad he was.  A Massive, Manly Alien.  I muttered,  “He’s probably got a huge, intergalactic dick.”  Why, yes he did.    

In one romance, the nude, aroused male was (always, ad infinitum) “magnificent” or so his partner iterated, each and every time they got nekkid.   Another romance described the guy’s enticing aroma entering the girl’s nostrils and going up her…brain? “  I had to stop recording to take stock of myself. 

One author used the same (made-up) word to describe both (one) clitoris and (two) nipples.  There’s probably a (made-up) word out there I don’t know about yet that references both elbow and ear.  I refrained from informing an author that women may have two breasts, but only one bosom (or rack, for that matter).  And that it’s not her “nape”, but “the nape of her neck”. 

My collection of auditions and recordings has inspired me to create what I call BAD ROMANCE MAD LIBS.  I will start to record something when my bad romance radar is alerted.  I’m not sure if it’s an order of tiramisu coming up or an intoxicating scent wafting up someone’s BRAIN, but here goes: 


I look at a book cover and judge. One cover was quite suggestive, and seemed to indicate gay porn.  I don’t do porn, but the author had invited me to audition, so I checked out the audition excerpt. I couldn’t determine if the protagonists were two girls, two boys, or one of each.  I had no idea “who’s zooming who” (or how).

Word by word, sentence by sentence, I sew patches from which quilts are crafted.  Chapter by chapter.  Day by day.  Line by line, I add books to my aural archives.  When I get bored with one genre I switch over to another, like switching channels on the TV. From sci-fi to romance to fantasy to campy vampire comedy to the fictionalized account of a real Korean “comfort woman” abducted and enslaved for continual rape by Japanese soldiers in China during World War II.  There’s nothing better to help recover from the heaviness of a story like that than recording some light romance.  Even with tiramisu.   

My life, seemingly barren in ways, is filled with 1001 tales of other people.  Other times.  Kingdoms where dragons fly and magic is outlawed. I lose myself in these stories but find myself too, headphones on, fingerless gloves warming me (sort of).   I bring heroes, heroines and villains to life.  I bring me to life as I play act, alone in my room, like an only child on a rainy day. 

I am Scheherazade.  When my 1001 nights are over, a new era will begin, where I will live the tales, instead of animating them.  No tattoos for me, thank you, and no vampires, but romance and adventure will be the order of the day.  In the meantime, telling tales enables me to park my grief for a while as I inhabit the emotions of others.  I live vicariously through dragons, warriors, and magicians.  I even lose myself in well dressed, newly engaged, in-shape, totally successful businesswomen with perfect hair. 

So, back to the dragons, swashbucklers, talking trees, tattoo parlors and dreamy brides to be.  Nutrition, masturbation and fertility guides.  It’s enough to keep me busy, distracted, productive and engaged while I heal and wait for the other life, the “outside” life I’ve long dreamed about to commence, complete with beautiful mate, beautiful home, exciting new location, cats, dogs, good wine, great food, laughs, star-gazing and happy sighs…Why, it sounds just like a romance novel, doesn’t it? 

©2014 Valerie Gilbert  All Rights Reserved

MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion is newly out in print, eBook, and audio (recorded by me!) 

RAVING VIOLET the book is available in print, e-book and audio (recorded by me!) both books from Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, KOBO, SmashWords, Sony Reader Store,  The Book Depository (international print), and Black Opal Books.  

Valerie's audiobooks are available through and iTunes.

Author Interview  

Saturday, February 1, 2014


A pot in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted.
A difficult test or challenge.
A place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions.

“I’m seeing the phoenix bird.  I think that’s the bird that rises out of the...”  “I know what it means.”  I cut off the medium.  Very talented fellow, but I’m wary of his interpretations.  He “sees” the picture, but doesn’t necessarily “get” the picture, and he likes to think he’s “figured it out” when it’s my job to figure out what my messages mean.  I knew how appropriate a symbol the phoenix was for my life at this time.   Having already crashed and burned (repeatedly, and ad infinitum) I’m ready for resurrection. 

“You’re going to have a rebirth,“ he continued.  “Your life is going to do a 180.”

I’ve been slogging through the Gulag for what feels like centuries.  Resurrection?  It’s about frigging time.

I resisted his first message at another meeting where he saw a huge gold ring for me but insisted it wasn’t a wedding ring, as it was too large.  I thought he was wrong (rather, I wanted him to be wrong as I’ve longed for millennia to be mated).  He perceived a very tall man (like into the stratosphere) and an enormous golden ring, almost like a halo.  I (smarty pants) thought I had it all figured out.  I’m marrying a tall guy. 

It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized the import of that message, and that in fact, the significance was spiritual, not marital, as he’d asserted.  He had referenced halos, a spiritual paradigm shift on my part, a cross, and angels.  As much as I want to be happily married, I am devoted to and passionate about my spiritual growth, and so was not disappointed to discern the true meaning of the message.  It was nice to get verification of my connection to the Higher Realms.   And again, change.  A paradigm shift. 

Understanding had dawned within me as I read a channeled message by Master Djwal Khul about the Ring of Ascension, a huge, etheric golden ring that encircles this planet and acts as a way station between those of us (down here) attempting to connect with the Big Guys and Girls (a very tall man?) Up There.  It’s like a metaphysical way station of sorts.  An etheric transponder.  I visualized it like a golden ring around the planet, made of gold dust and see myself happily tap dancing around it.   “Ground Control to Major Val…”   “Major Val here (gold lame Babes of Broadway costume on) reporting for Cosmic Duty!”

The medium explained that when he “reads you” that he “is you.”  He “feels” the message the way you do.  In my first message from him (both times were in a group setting) he said, “There’s a lot of change around you.”  I was terribly pleased at this.  I am chomping at the bit for change.  Please, some change.  I’ve been in the same home, alone, for yes, thousands of years.  Bring it on.

“But you don’t like it,” he observed. “You don’t like it at all.”

The guy had me all wrong.  He wasn’t “feeling” me.  I want change.  I can’t wait for it!  I’ve been in purgatory, and I’m ready for the pearly gates.  I glowered slightly and argued with him.  “I like change.  I’m ready for change.”

He ignored my protestations.  “It’s like you’re on one of those rides at the amusement park where you’re way up high, then you have a fast, steep drop.  Scary.  Not fun.”

I argued again, defending my desire for a new life, and whined,  “But I like amusement parks.”

“Everything happens all at once,” he continued, “but then, it’s all over.” What was he talking about?  I thought he was an idiot. 

Days later I figured that one out, too. He was dead on.  It wasn’t about the change to come.  It was about the searing losses I’d just experienced, the hardship of the past years financially and medically.  But, most recently, the devastating loss of my last cat and my only dog within months of each other, which hit me like a one-two punch during a year in which I was already recovering from surgery and financial indignities.   Forget the surgery.  The physical pain was nothing next to losing Pup and Cat, my comfort, joy and heart companions in the Gulag. 

Yes, double-header death was change, too. And, he was right.  I didn’t like it one little bit. 

The guy started the meeting late, was a bit full of himself and said a few things philosophically that I just didn’t agree with.  The group was labeled a séance, but really was a message circle with a smattering of psychic development exercises thrown in.  I’ve taken enough such classes (and led them) to know that I wasn’t keen on this particular group and didn’t think I’d return.  But I couldn’t argue with his messages for me.  They were potent. And thought provoking. 

Six weeks later I was keen for another fix.  I left the monastic cell in which I’d been in (self-imposed) solitary confinement since my pets’ deaths.   He started late (again) but there was a different cast of characters in attendance this week.  I was particularly drawn to a pair of gals to my right who appeared to be sisters, but turned out to be mother and daughter.  They were very much in sync with each other. 

This was where I was given the Rebirth (Praise Jesus) message and again, given a golden ring.  But this time, this time he said it was a wedding band, and that the message applied also to the young lady sitting directly to my right (the daughter).   So, we were both getting married.  Someday.

Since my pets’ deaths I have thrown myself into work.  Weeping.  Darkness, watching movies about death, despair (and redemption) like favorites The Crow and Fanny and Alexander.  Surrendered to the spiritual seeking that burns through my veins, heart and mind.  I have further refined the activities and relationships in my life, determining yet again (this is a continual process of assessment) what and who serves my happiness and well-being and what, and who, does not.  The dross has burned off.  That is what a crucible does.    

"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day."  Rainer Maria Rilke.

There were moments, weeks, days of desperation.  I felt trapped, tortured, alone and abandoned.  I prayed for guidance and protection and slogged through the cold, muddy trenches in a torrent of emotional hail.  Eventually, the light of day began to dawn.  I went back to tap class. 

It is almost five months since my little buddy pup died.  I shed the tears, I went within, I mourned, I grieved, I kept darkly to myself, much to the consternation of people around me.  But that is the nature of a crucible.  It is a difficult test or challenge.  One does not act as if it is not happening.  When you are training for the Olympics you sequester yourself.  It is the only way deep transformation can take place.  One recedes into the darkness of the cocoon.  The silent black of the womb.  It is something you, and you alone can do.  When the work is done, the butterfly is let loose.  The Phoenix flies.

© Valerie Gilbert 2014 all rights reserved.

MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion is newly out in print, eBook, and audio (recorded by me!) 

RAVING VIOLET the book is available in print, e-book and audio (recorded by me!) both books from Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, KOBO, SmashWords, Sony Reader Store,  The Book Depository (international print), and Black Opal Books.  

Valerie is an audio book narrator on

Author Interview  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Heyoka of Sixth Avenue

“I worry about you,” my neighbor said when we both opened our doors to the hallway at the same time. “Well, your worry doesn’t help me,” I replied.  She commented on my lack of makeup, my dour demeanor.  Who, exactly, would I impress with face paint, false cheer, and feigned functionality?  I’m not a liar.  Making other people feel better by hiding my sadness is not my job. 
I’m in mourning the past three months since the loss of my significant other.  A dog, in fact.  My associate, assistant, best friend, buddy, pal, and companion.  Five fab years with the dog of my childhood dreams come to life, now, unexpectedly, over.

True to myself and my need to lick my wounds, I consider myself a liberator of the sad.  By crying freely on the streets, I model honest human behavior.  We’re not all ready for prime time, our close up, or a reality show.  Some of us are just living our lives. 

Our culture is obsessed with facades.  Appearing “together,” dressing for success, and looking sharp.  Putting on a happy, game, or poker face.  But who’s beneath the mask? 

Mourning, because it packs such a punch, gets me in touch with my real self.  The one who is not interested in making nice or playing along.  I’ve achieved a purity of existence by cleaving to my emotions.  Grief helped me to mine deeper depths.  When I smile again, it will be because I feel it, not because I force it. 

Stripped down as I am, I really don’t care how “polished” I look these days.  I’m not dressing to impress.  I’m not feeling social at all, frankly.  I leave the house as little as possible, to get food, and to stretch my legs every few days.  I’ve accepted offers to see shows and gone to a couple of tap classes to get the blood and spirit moving.  However, for the most part, I’ve honored my sadness and simply kept to myself.

“This loss reactivates every other loss I’ve already survived.  They’re all the same.”  I said to my neighbor as she shook her head and walked away.  “Don’t worry,” I shouted after her, “Time heals all wounds.”

I miss my dog.  That’s all there is to it.  Well, there’s more to it than that, but let’s just leave it at that for now.

When venturing out of my aerie, I discovered I craved sunlight, due to my vampire like existence.  I found patches of sunlight and stood still, eyes closed, absorbing the light like a flower, while Manhattanites rushed by.  New Yorkers see stranger sights than someone standing in the sun.  One lady disrupted my reverie to tell me I wasn’t allowed to do that.  She was joking, of course. 

I went to the doctor and discovered I was vitamin D deficient.  I didn’t realize the sun produces D in the body.  My body knew what I needed before my head did.

I’ve decided not to be wary of the sun anymore, despite my pale skin.  Spiritually speaking, the sun wakes us up and helps us grow much as it does the plants.  The energy electrifies and activates us.  We are coded to respond.  

On a particularly sad day I meandered down to Scandinavia House on Park Avenue to see their exhibit of Danish paintings.  The art was just stark enough to match my mood, with one or two renderings being of slightly more optimistic mien. (This feel and look is captured in the brilliant Danish film, Babette’s Feast.) On the mile long walk down and back to Scandinavia, I hungrily followed the beam of the sun like a wolf on the hunt. 

Given my love of Scandinavian sense and sensibility, it’s perplexing that I’d never been to The House.  We’d both been in New York City for a long time.  Better late than never.  The free exhibit was the perfect activity for a depressed, fairly unmotivated person who needed a reason to leave the house.  Danish art it was.

The exhibit was lovely, the walls painted a muted, matte burgundy to offset the grays, whites, blacks and blues of the paintings.  The odd nude stood out (1800s Denmark was a pretty puritanic place. Again, I refer you to luminous film Babette’s Feast, which is about a sensual awakening) as did a lush green painting of two people sitting in the woods under dappled sunlight.  

Three purple nuns (painted in Impressionistic style) also received my approval, for the painter, a woman, had integrated violets, yellows and blues into the scenario.  Another painting of blue sky and blue shore adorned with two women wearing pastel dresses and hats, feet in the water, skirts lifted, was light and airy. 

The gift shop was filled with salted licorice, pistachio flavored marzipan dipped in dark chocolate, and colorful Marimekko trays and ceramic mugs. Bright pink and orange blankets and lime green glass cheered me up on the spot.

I departed and basked in the sun once more, standing on the sidewalk to take in my environs on this global warming November 2, with a temperature in the 60s.   A New York “character” stood nearby, and while we were both planted there, she decided to pipe up.  “Excuse me.  Can I ask you a question?  You seem a very well put together person.”  Tell that to my neighbor Shirley.   She had long white hair, glasses, a bright blue floral top, jeans, sneakers, makeup, a good amount of jewelry, and a purple purse.  She was short, stout, and smoking.  My “weirdo” radar was on.

“I just bought this purse,” she continued.   "You see how it hangs here?”  It hung off of her shoulder.  Being a shoulder bag.  “But I like to wear my bags across my shoulder, diagonally, like this.”  She gave me a demonstration.  “But you see, it’s not long enough, since it has to go over my big tummy.  And well it should be big, since they’ve opened it up twice!”  Her tummy, not her purse. I edged back just an inch or two.  This woman liked to talk.  I wondered if she was ever going to ask me a question.  What in god’s name could she possibly want from me besides my time?

“Did you have a question?”  I queried.  “Well, I want to know how you would suggest I wear this bag.”  Oh dear.  This gal was in her 50s at least, probably her 60s.  What woman doesn’t know how to hoist her own purse?   I had a small, simple handbag with me, on the crook of my arm.  Her shoulder bag had handles as well as a shoulder strap, so it could also be carried like a handbag.  I suggested that she could do the same as I had.  “Oh!  Put it over your bicep so that you can do your arm exercises?”  “Uh, no.  I don’t use my purse for working out.  It’s in the crook of my elbow, not on my bicep.  But mostly, I hold it in my hand.  It’s a hand bag.”

She showed me the “logo” of her bag.  It looked like the Puma logo.  But not really.  “I couldn’t resist the label,” she announced.  She stood there with her white hair, cigarette, and shoulder bag slung awkwardly across her large expanse.

Still not in the chattiest of moods, I decided it was time to push on, and catch the rest of my roving sun bath.  I bid her a good day.  As I did, she shouted after me, “My hair used to be the same color as yours.  Red!”  I wasn’t aware my hair was red.  While I’ve been dyeing it of late, it’s still brown, though with reddish highlights.  But the actual tint was called “plum.”

This was a character, whoever she was, wherever she was from.  The exchange cheered me up a bit, put me on my toes (flight or fight!) and ultimately amused me. She was an amiable oddball, complete with purple purse, biceps, and stomach surgery.

When I crossed the street I couldn’t help but look back at her (a tourist?), still trying to figure out who, and what she was.   She was gone.  Nowhere to be seen a mere ten seconds later.  Is it conceivable she popped in oh, say, Scandinavia House (land of the lanky, measured, Marimekko clad) or the fancy hotel next door?  Sure, it was.   But she didn’t seem to “fit” either tableau. 

I entertained the thought that she was not of this world.  That she was a cosmic clown, a comedic Angel sent to cheer me up from the higher realms.   A spritely, spiritual amusement. Cigarette and all.  I like that conclusion the best.

It also hit me that I was participating in a five day Arch Angel “fest” at home (involving ritual and an altar).  Perhaps this was part of the set up, their contribution to our communion?  At least the Gods know what kind of Angels to send me. 

Another day I was walking grimly down the street when a portly Puerto Rican man, resting amiably on the steps of a nearby Chipotle spoke out as I walked by.  “God bless you, ma’am.” I took him in, and smiled gratefully, my sad a little smaller.  He shook me out of my reverie.  Angels come in all forms. 

Last but not least, I was returning late night from some bullshit new age event (the screening of a dull documentary) when I waited for the bus on Sixth Avenue, right across from Macys.  Always a garish sight, Herald Square is, not the least of which because Victoria’s Secret’s huge street side videos of their “angels’” (yeah, right) flaunt their saucy smirks, bobbling boobs and sashaying vaginas right by the bus stop.

I was cold, tired, and wanted to be home.  There were no buses, either uptown or crosstown, in sight.  Should I descend the depths of the subway?  Warmer, for sure, faster (sort of), but bleak.  Fluorescent lights bring me down.  My eyes kept flashing from Victoria’s brazen video parade to the hustle and bustle around me.  I wanted solace, and found it neither in the event I’d just left, nor in relief from my chariot with white horses, otherwise known as The Bus.  Indecision and cold froze me in place.

When out of nowhere, zipping up the avenue came a young, lean, mocha skinned man drinking a cup of coffee.  While riding a bicycle.  Backwards.  Fast. The bike faced forwards.  He sat backwards, and glanced coolly over his shoulder as he breezed through uptown, late night traffic.  In the cold.  

A magician.

That put perspective on everything for me, from dead dogs to quirky angels, despair, Denmark and “God bless you, ma’ams”.  This world is not to be understood.  

There is magic.

©2013 valerie gilbert  

MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion is out now in print and ebook, I'm recording the audio version right now!

RAVING VIOLET the book is available in print, e-book and audio (recorded by me!) from Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, KOBO, SmashWords, Sony Reader Store,, and Black Opal Books.