AOC Challenge Week 4: The Women’s March

Hello! in 2018, I’ve decided to start my own personal writing challenge based on “Acts of Connection,” something I hoped to further develop after hiking the Camino de Santiago. You can find the whole story here

Christina looking fierce. Photo used with permission.

Toward the end of election night, when things really started to go south, Ben and I took a walk. We were in the next town over, watching the returns with a group of close friends. We headed into a nearby park, lit up by glowing, old-fashioned oil lamps–something the village of this town is known for. It was beautiful outside. Misty, but unseasonably warm. It’s always interesting how the weather refuses to reflect the state of the world.

At one point, we stopped walking, a mutual agreement without words. “I feel like the earth is in mourning.” I’ve never felt such piercing sadness–for the fate of the earth’s health, for anyone outside of the 1%, for all my friends (and those I didn’t know) that belong to any minority soon to be targeted by this administration. I mourned for those who had given into their fear, sadness and loneliness, who had been duped by this administration. I mourned for the years of healing it would take to recconect, long after this is all behind us.

This mutual pain eventually turned into loneliness. Apparently, we were outnumbered by those willing to put other’s needs before our own. At least that’s how it felt.

Eight months later, I’d find myself in a room full of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, singing with a group of nuns in the middle of nowhere. They asked the room, “Why did you decide to walk to the Camino?” People answered the question in all languages, from all over the world, from different backgrounds and religions.

When my turn came, I surprised myself by saying, “I needed to believe in humanity again.” The room nodded in understanding. Since I’ve returned home, I’ve continued to this search. The “real world” is often alienating, especially compared to a five-week hike built around unwavering generosity and community.

For this week’s challenge, I decided to reach out to my circles online, requesting stories from an event that I did not experience first hand. I hope to invite more guest writers throughout this upcoming year.

Though we have a long way to go, movements like The Women’s March have energized otherwise silent or disconnected individuals into a mutual movement. In fundraising, one of the hardest challenges is getting someone to donate for the very first time–the same goes with activism. Sure, these marches are just the beginning and there’s more to be done, but for many people, the marches provided a day of identity, a reminder that we can connect in world that avoids eye contact.

Some people have been asking why we march. I am not here to explain that lengthy list right now, but you can read it here. For my writing project purposes, I must celebrate this homegrown Camino energy that has come from people reconnecting through the care and service of others.

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to massage me with both positive and not-so-positive takes on your experience. Your courage inspires me to keep moving. It heals the hurt and anger from those horrible months. And as I hoped for in my hike, it helps me continue in my journey to believe in humanity again.

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Day 23: The Night I Met Ben

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

With only one week left in this challenge,  I figured it was a good time to tackle the bigger stories, the ones that shifted the course of my 20’s, and really, as luck would have it, my life.  I’ve written about this story before–the night Ben and I met–but never in complete detail.  SO here we go.

I almost didn’t accept the birthday party invitation from Jenn, a friend from college who was celebrating her birthday on the Lower East Side.  Nothing against Jenn, I would have just rather given into my trusty depression and climb back into bed with my laptop.  Yeah, that sounds like a better plan.  I was living at home at the time.  The year leading up to that summer left me in a rough spot.  I graduated college, hiked the Camino de Santiago, went through a vicious breakup three days after finishing the hike, worked in a job with a bully by my side for four months, and then found myself curled up in bed back in North Jersey for several months.  It was like a floodgate of emotional issues, kept at bay for years by the structured world of formal education, released its wrath the moment I left its protection.

Invitations like this were few and far between.  And since I planned to move to NYC, I needed to at least try and become comfortable with having social life there.  Yet there were several issues–I barely had any money and I worried my mood would take a dark turn during the party.  Still, I decided to accept Jenn’s offer and she graciously extended an offer to stay with her in Astoria that night.

It was one of the hottest days of July–July 23rd to be exact–and the only thing I could bare putting on my body that afternoon was a small sundress given to me by my friend Claire years earlier.  I stressed all afternoon about not looking like a weirdo, especially since I knew my ex, and many of his group, may be there that night.  Why I was putting myself through this, I did not know.  I just hoped there would be enough other people there that I could manage to have a good time.

After dropping my things off at Jenn’s, we stepped out into the humid night when a dramatic crack of thunder ripped through the air, sending a deluge of water through the streets.  It was a comical storm really, you had to laugh.  Because of this however, we took a cab–a luxury beyond my means at that time, you can be sure of that.  I noticed during our drive down the east side of Manhattan that this was one of those black cars that didn’t take cards–it’s wild how clueless you feel when you look back on your early-NYC self.  We arrived at the bar and I handed over every dollar I had brought for the evening.  I had money in my checking account, but not a whole lot.  So yeah, this should be an interesting evening.

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The Train to Ben Bartolone

Today is the fifth anniversary of meeting my incredible husband Ben.  Just before we moved further into the suburbs, I was riding the N train back from visiting a friend in Astoria (where Ben and I first lived together) and thought about the stories connected to each station.  The N line, the Path, and now NJ transit to Montclair tells the story of our relationship.  So here is our subway map- from Astoria to Montclair…

Ditmars Blvd: Where Ben lived when we first met.  I would get to this station late at night when he was done with his show.  At this hour, the bakeries were always baking bread.  I will always connect that smell to those magical months where he was one of my only friends in the city, and Astoria was just for us.

From Martha's Country Bakery, our favorite date spot off Ditmars.

From Martha’s Country Bakery in 2010, our favorite date spot off Ditmars.

Astoria Blvd: Where we had our first apartment, and man was it a terrible one.  I choose to remember it fondly because it was our first, but there will always be the story of our “awful first apartment off the tri-borough bridge that was covered in mold”  It is also home of the Astoria Beer Garden, where Ben and I went for his 30th birthday and the bouncer taught him how to say happy birthday is 5 languages.
anniv 2

30th Ave:  My first apartment.  When I chose it, I sat down in my parents’ house and realized that it was 11 blocks from Ben’s apartment, perfectly walkable on a pretty summer night.

First apartment!

First apartment!

Broadway: Right off of this stop is a Starbucks where Ben and I applied for our first apartment together.  We scraped up every dollar we could find to pay that security deposit and prayed that no one would find out we were actually actors (and not whatever full-time job we made up).

nervous

36th Ave and 39th Ave:  We sailed through these stops and always said “I bet these neighborhoods will be expensive some day, it’s that funny?”  A bedroom is now about double of what I paid in 2010.

Queensboro Plaza:  The tradition of texting “My train!” began.  When we came above ground, Ben would text me that his train was coming.  I knew that if I waited four minutes after the text, I could get to 30th Ave and jump on Ben’s train heading to Ditmars.  He would often go in the front car so I could find him.  To this day we still text that when we’re close, that the other one can listen for the train going by.

59th and Lexington:  This station always reminds me of coming back from the first Steelers bar I even went to with Ben.  I was confused by the sunlight after being in a dark bar on a Sunday for four hours.  And I realized then that I should probably learn about what the heck in going on in a football game.  It eventually caught on…Go Steelers.  (If you change trains at this station, you can take it to where we first met)

steelers

5th and 59th Street:  On our second anniversary, Ben and I boated around Central Park Lake.  This was after he bought me shoes because mine were falling apart.  We hopped on the train to get ready to go out that night.  It is how I hope to always remember Central Park.  (From here you can also walk to where Ben proposed)

ben boat

57th Street 7th Ave: This is where Ben once comforted me after our train stalled between stations.  It was one of those weeks where my patience with NYC had run out.  I was exhausted and claustrophobic and just needed to get home.  Ben and I were one of the only ones on the train and just as I was saying/crying that I felt I had no personal space in this city, the homeless man on the train began to CLIMB UNDER OUR SEAT.  Ben was there to keep me from completely losing my mind.  And is a strong man for it.

I also think that the announcement for this station is really sassy, like the lady has a sexy secret about 7th avenue.

49th Street: Early on, Ben told me this was one of his favorite stations because of the beautiful brick and because it reminded him of being in school.  I’ve appreciated the brick each time since.

42nd Street: Is it possible to have a fond memory of Times Square?  Let’s say because it’s closest to what was once was Lily O’Briens chocolate cafe in Bryant Park.  Our second date, we went there to get hot chocolate and talked in the park about Joseph Campbell for approximately three hours.

34th Street:  It’s one of my least favorite parts of the city, but it became our home-base for two and a half years when we rode the Path train.  I once had too many Manhattans and Ben bought me a very delicious chicken kabob off the street.  I told him it was the third best meal of my life.

23rd Street:  I can’t think of anything other than Trader Joe’s.  But it did feed us for a long time.  So yay Trader Joe’s!

14th Street: For a few months, Ben and I actually worked off the same stop and commuted together.  Every morning we would walk by a puppy daycare and look at the doggies playing before parting ways.

9th Street: The neighborhood where I came up with my vows:)

After drinking at Amelie...

After drinking at Amelie…

Christopher Street: We used to have a favorite Italian Bakery off this stop but it turned into a snazzy flower store. But still..delicious.

Hopping to NJ….

Hoboken Station:  Texas Arizona..we will see you in the fall.

hoboken

Newport Station, Jersey City:  Where Ben and I used to wander along the pier on pretty summer nights after getting ice cream.  We once watched a poor confused group of friends trying to figure out why the sun dial was broken at night….

JC

Grove Street, Jersey City: The first station we ever visited in Jersey City.  On the walk back here we decided it would be a nice place to live.  We have shared birthdays, anniversaries, and every frozen yogurt night in between at this station.  We even decided on our wedding ceremony ritual at Roman Nose a block away.

Getting our marriage license off of Grove Street

Getting our marriage license off of Grove Street

Journal Square: This station was the bane of our existence during our time in JC, but it was the station that took us home.  During Sandy, we stood out front and fully took in how the community was trying to come together after such a terrible storm.

directing traffic

Pedestrian directing traffic during Sandy

Harrison:  No information on this topic.  What is this station?  Is it a real thing?

Newark Penn – Newark Broad:  These will always bring me back to our Audible days.  Ben boosted my confidence enough to not only ride the light rail by myself, but also record a few audiobooks.

Hopping to NJ Transit…

Walnut Street: Our new beautiful home, with the most peaceful walk I could ever ask for.  Ben still meets me though, even though our neighborhood is safe, and it is only a few blocks.

wine

One of the nicest things though?  There’s a bakery nearby that bakes bread, and that smell always reminds me of you.

Here’s to many more train stations, many more walks home, and many many more years.

Happy Anniversary sweetie:) I love you.

Photo by Kimberley Craven Photography

Photo by Kimberley Craven Photography