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Click on image to hear Studs Terkel talk about what has been lost in modern life and where he saw hope for our future

Ah, Black Friday.  The most ironic holiday of the year!

Shopping list in hand, sharp elbows at the ready — this is the day we beat back our fellow man in the quest for that perfect holiday gift for our loved ones.  Coming at the heels of Thanksgiving, it’s hard to imagine a faster way to snuff out the warm glow of friendship and family that the season symbolizes for so many.

A few years ago I was part of an amazing team at StoryCorps, one of the largest oral history projects in the world, as we launched the National Day of Listening, an alternative (or additional!) activity for Black Friday.

We encouraged everyone who would listen to start a new tradition by interviewing someone they loved about their lives that day.  An elderly relative.  A returned service man or woman.  A teacher or the person who sells you your morning coffee.  At its heart was the most meaningful gift we could give another person —  telling them that their life matters and that we care. Read the rest of this entry »

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Naked on the Bowery, copyright Art Observed

I realize this title might sound a bit provocative, like the outcome of a game of Truth or Dare gone terribly awry.

But this month I participated in museum-sanctioned nakedness and submerged myself in a one-of-a-kind exhibit dubbed the Giant Psycho Tank — a sensory deprivation pool of heavily salinated, skin temperature water.

If you’ve spent any time in NYC in the past few weeks, it’s hard to miss the ads announcing this exhibit by artist Carsten Höller at the New Museum.  Since its opening, visitors have been flocking to the Bowery to try out some of the experiential installations for themselves.

See video at the bottom of the post to learn how the New Museum installed the slide!

I didn’t intend to stand in line for the Psycho pool, but I had just gotten seriously banged up on another one of Höller’s pieces, a 100-foot metal tube slide which drops visitors down an Alice in Wonderland-like shoot at high speed into a room full of life-size neon crocodiles and hippos and rapidly flashing lights (not recommended for those who have visually induced seizures or a whole host of other conditions, the Museum warns).

True, I had been told to keep my arms together until I landed on the mat two floors below, but a primal survival instinct caused me to put out my hands at the bottom to stop myself from crashing to the floor. Call me crazy.  My right hand instantly swelled, which I was told by one of the security guards “has been happening a lot around here,” adding, “You’re just lucky it wasn’t your head.” Read the rest of this entry »

Bright and early this morning, my 8-year-old son and I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn for our annual NYC Marathon ritual.

This fall rite involves hot chocolate for him and a cappuccino for me as we stake our positions in a patch of sunlight near the 11th mile marker.

If we time it right, we get to watch all of the top runners go by.  But we’re really there for the excitement of the elite wheelchair race.

In the early hours the sidewalks are pretty deserted, so we’re among the few at that stretch to cheer them on.  We try to learn a bit about them in advance:  Krige Schabort was a soldier in the South African army when a bomb explosion took his legs.  Two years later, he began to race wheelchairs.  Tatyana McFadden was born with spina bifida and left at a Russian orphanage as a baby.  She was adopted by an American family who introduced her to sports.

You don’t have to have a child with you to be reminded of the lessons on Marathon Day.  The importance of showing up for other people – especially when it’s early and cold and no one else is there.  How all of the racers – not only those in wheelchairs – have some personal challenge to overcome, making them heroes of their own journeys.

When our hands were numb from clapping and our throats were scratchy from all our boisterous encouragement, we walked back over the bridge towards home.

Watching the finish results on-line, we were left with few more ideas to ponder together, not the least of which can be the ick factor of marketing (bullet #3) …

  • The favored wheelchair racer, Kurt Fearnley of Australia, snapped the steering mechanism on his chair and came in second to Masazumi Soejima of Japan.  “In the end that’s racing. Some days it goes your way and other days it goes the other way.”
  • Geoffrey Mutai, the male winner and course record setter:  “I try at the last minute to push it a little more. We all worked together – and then it was time to push it. For me, I was trying to run my own race.
  • Meb Keflezighi, the sixth-place overall winner:  “I felt strong going into it, training at high altitudes in my SKECHERS GOrun racing shoes, which definitely made a positive impact on my running. I’ve been a heel strike runner my entire life, but SKECHERS’ mid-foot strike technology has helped me adjust my stride to be more efficient.”

Signing off now to put on our own somewhat ratty sneakers & to enjoy this beautiful NY afternoon!

Barbara

Ps – I should mention that my son took all of these pictures — except the one of himself!


I started this blog right around the time Apple launched Siri, a voice-activated personal assistant who has a response to most questions or comments you speak into your new iPhone:  “Siri – I’m hungry.  Where can I get food around here?”  Her answer:  “I have located 18 restaurants in your immediate vicinity.  They are…”   Or, my kids’ favorite:  “Siri, where can I dump a body?”  to which she’ll respond, “What kind of place are you looking for… swamps, reservoirs, etc,

I would never be mistaken for a Luddite by anyone over, say, 25.   But I am concerned that if we don’t find ways to disconnect, we will lose sight of the serendipity and face-to-face connection that make life worth living.  And, of course, there are many things that Siri can’t interpret.  This blog is about some of those uniquely human experiences — on-line and off — that make up this one blogger’s life.

My name is Barbara, and I live on the Lower East Side.  I’m a mom, outnumbered in our NYC apartment by three loving but boisterous guys.  (I call our home The Frat House, if that gives you an indication.)  I work with human rights activists from around the world by day and teach at a university by night.

Life can feel a little crazy over here at times, but writing helps me slow down and gain perspective.  I learned that last year when I wrote a blog called Last Year To Live, in which I recorded observations in living while my close childhood friend was living out her final year.

Now I’m back, and hoping you’ll come along for this new leg of the journey.

Leave a comment, and let me know who you are.  Do you blog too?  I’d love to follow your work.

Thanks so much for reading!

 

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