Category Archives: Adventure

Letting Go

IMG_0855I’ve never been very good at letting go.

Five and some odd years ago, I put everything in storage and moved across the country, to continue my love affair with New York City.

I lived out of a suitcase for too long. I sublet an overly pink princess room in East Harlem and taught my roommate’s cat to play fetch. I rented a couch in my now-divorced friends’ constantly-dark living room. I lived on the road in a tour bus and hotel rooms.

And then, finally, I got an apartment. An amazing one. An affordable one.

“You can’t ever let this go!” they said.

I hired movers and got scammed out of $850.00. I hired movers again and this time, they were honest.

And, on March 16, 2014, my earthly belongings and I were firmly rooted again. I set up a comfortable home in my beloved New York City. I carefully designed and painted my walls. I bought candles, accent furniture, plush towels and really, really, really good pillows. I had my own bed to sleep in again, despite the steady stream of obnoxious noise on 5th Avenue.

I pounded the pavement, determined to pick up where I left off after my divorce. I had almost made it to Broadway in 2009. Surely there was no way I would fail this time!

But somewhere along the way, my dreams changed. Broadway no longer lures or intoxicates me. Besides the constant rejection, I don’t even like musicals anymore. I lost interest in playing someone else on stage.

I just want to be me.

Things at home became extremely tense when my seemingly perfect, married roommates split. I had lived through the hell of my own divorce; now I was living right in the middle of another one. After a while, however, things settled down. I was less trust and a close friend, but I still had my apartment. I still had my stuff. I still had New York City.

Oh, New York City. How I love this town. I could write about it, all day long. But the time is not now. I can’t see very well through my tears.

I am letting go. It is so fucking hard, but I am finally letting go.

I am leaving New York City.

I am selling everything.

I am going back to Los Angeles.

I am going home.

And I am grieving. I haven’t quite processed the brevity of it all, because I am knee-deep in selling everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It’s like a full-time job. It’s also therapeutic. What was I doing, holding onto silverware, pots and pans and a hand mixer I got for my wedding nineteen years ago? I am now undoing, piece by piece, the life I built here.

I am letting go.

It is my nature to keep quiet when things get hard. I need help breaking up with my boyfriend, New York City. I need my stuff to sell. I need to say goodbye to my dear friends and good neighbors here, and I really don’t know how to do it. I don’t have a lot of time. My lease is up at the end of this month.

“You’re crazy to leave that apartment!” they say.

But an apartment is not a reason to stay anywhere. I’m quite good at painting walls and picking out accent furniture. My worth is not measured by my address. It’s time to move on. It’s time for a new chapter.

It is time to start over. Again.

It’s scary as hellfire and brimstone, but it is also wonderfully freeing.

I am letting go. And I am beyond excited for the next adventure.

18th Universary

Today is my 18th Universary.

I don’t feel anything. It just seems like an uneventful blip on the radar of life. A hiccup. A fart. Weird.

Last year on this date, I sang at my uncle’s memorial service. Just a few days prior, my boyfriend ended our almost two-and-a-half-year relationship over email.

You know the story: that event sent my heart and mind into a spiral of lyrics. I began to compose music in my head. And then I asked for help. And then I went to Nashville and wrote more songs. And then I raised funds to help pay for the cost of recording, and all that other stuff. And a week before my 40th birthday, I recorded my very first solo album. And it’s REALLY good.

Bucket list. Check.

In the back of my mind, I have been waiting for this week to happen. Not so much that today would have been my 18th wedding anniversary, but that I would make it to the year mark of my blindsided breakup.

“I think that dude’s actions have probably occupied your mind and heart long enough,” recently said my friend and fellow bandmate, Phil.

He is so very right. Perhaps it is hard for me to let people go. I don’t understand why they act so epically shitty without regard for other people’s feelings, or seeming consequence. And perhaps it’s a simple explanation: it actually has nothing to do with me.

“As you grow, you pick people who match you. You’ll choose better next time. It’s less a matter of finding someone up to your standards and more about gravitating towards a better match,” said my therapist back in December.

Hey, guess what? I’m growing. It hasn’t been easy, but right now it feels really damn good.

It’s necessary and good to grieve. I have done that. It is necessary and good to move forward. I am doing just that.

And as scary and wonderful and unexpected and unplanned as it has been, I am dating again.

Here we go.

Again.

Sunday In The Park With Candace

I was out the door at 7:15 am yesterday, bound for a new church gig in Sheepshead Bay. Exhausted from the day before (brief video shoot in Central Park to promote fundraising for my album and co-hosting a baby shower in my home for a woman I had never met), I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through the morning.

But work is scarce right now, and any day I’m hired to sing is a good one.

The church gathered at an old-timey yacht club, right on the water. Originally established in 1908, it was built as a family summer home for Rheingold Beer. Upon arrival, my grumpiness over the 90-minute subway commute dissolved. The creaky dining hall overlooked the peaceful bay, which was well stocked with neatly parked sailboats. Seagulls, pigeons, geese and swans fluttered about, happily. After all, the forecast predicted an unseasonably warm day.

Song leading went as well as it could. The congregation was small yet familial; they embraced me with open arms and hearts.

Almost immediately after the service ended, an older gentleman appeared behind the bar and began polishing glasses.

“Excuse me,” I said, as I zipped my black leather jacket up over my spring dress. “Do you happen to know if anyone here offers sailing lessons? Last fall I took a course out in California but I won’t be going back there because — “

I stopped myself. This guy did not have time for a breakup story. It wasn’t pertinent, anyway. Furthermore, he had a bar to open.

I cleared my throat and began again.

“I took sailing lessons a few months ago and would like to keep up my chops.”

“You gonna be around this summer?” I could almost taste his Brooklyn accent.

“Yes,” I smiled.

He extended his hand.

“I’m Bob. Nice to meet you. Next time you come back, ask for George Johnson. He’ll throw you on a boat. He’s always looking for crew.”

“Great! Oh, wow! That’s great! Thank you!” I chirped, and skipped out the door.

I navigated my way back to Manhattan on the Q train, which recently has been extended up to 96th Street and 2nd Avenue. It isn’t my normal route home, but I was up for adventure. Especially since the temperature was steadfast at a perfect 65 degrees.

I exited the train, took off my jacket and slung it over my shoulder. The sun was bright and warm. A gentle breeze flirted with my hair. I felt good. Confident. Cool. New York is my boyfriend and he was treating me to a glorious day out. And, in a few months, I would be sailing again.

I casually strolled up 96th towards the park and noticed a very petite, blonde woman being walked by her three dogs. The male pit-mix puppy whined with excitement and anticipation.

“I know, Mac,” she blared. “We’re almost there. Just two more blocks. But you have to be patient.”

Mac shot her a look, barked, and kept tugging towards the park.

I giggled, audibly.

“Isn’t it wonderful to be wearing a dress in February?” the woman said to me.

I looked down at my clothing, then back at her. I had briefly forgotten it was February.

“Yes!” I shrieked. “I’m originally from California and I quickly realized that, although snow is fun and cute, it’s not necessarily welcome in my daily routine. I much prefer this.” I gestured with open hands to the clear, blue sky.

She laughed. “I went to college in California!” The five of us kept heading in the direction of the park.

Eventually we sat down on the same bench. She let her dogs off the leash.

“I’m sure I’ll get a ticket, but who cares? MAC! GET BACK HERE!” She bellowed, then bolted off the bench to retrieve him.

I turned my face towards the sun, closed my eyes and smiled.

“What’s your name?” I asked, when she returned with her exuberant, wayward puppy.

“I’m Candace,” she extended her hand.

“Leslie,” I said, and shook it. Her firm grip pleasantly accompanied her kind eyes.

Out of nowhere, a park ranger appeared and inched towards us in her golf cart.

“Here we go,” Candace rolled her eyes. She gathered up the dogs and held them close.

But the park ranger didn’t budge. Mac started impatiently whining again.

“Oh, fuck it. I’m just going to go ask if my damn dogs can have a little joy off their leashes today.”

I watched her as she marched towards the golf cart. Three minutes later, the dogs were released. The park ranger continued to sit still.

“Wow! That was impressive!” I called, as I shielded my eyes from the sun.

“Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want,” Candace smiled. “Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. Don’t let them take you by the balls! Take risks! Be confident! Believe in yourself!”

I began to feel like I had been to church twice that day, and the sun was still high in the sky.

“So, what do you do?” Candace asked, as Sadie the Weimaraner dropped a muddy ball into her lap.

“I’m a singer and a writer,” I replied. “In fact, I just got back from Nashville where I wrote an album.”

“Wow! That’s great!” Candace exclaimed. “MAC! MAC! STOP DIGGING OVER THERE!”

She turned back to me.

“What kind of music is it? What genre? What led you to writing it?”

I took a deep breath in.

“Well, it’s a culmination of a lot of things,” I answered, a little too eagerly. “It might sound like a cliché, but it all began with a bunch of lyrics in my head over my latest breakup.”

I paused, then laughed.

“I guess you could say I publicly process my heartbreak. With my divorce, I wrote a blog that is becoming a book. And now? An album.”

“I totally get that!” she chimed in. “I’m divorced, too. And I recently had to end a promising relationship, myself. But more on that later. What happened to you?”

We settled into our park bench. I told her the story of my divorce and she listened intently, sometimes nodding and humming in agreement; sometimes with occasional outbursts of disbelief.

“WHAAAAT?!!? Who does that?! How is that even legal?”

We howled with laughter. I silently took note of how easy it was to talk about my divorce; to actually laugh about it. I am relieved it is behind me. Certainly, time lessens the severity of the wounds, but it is what you do with that time that matters most.

I moved on to the story of my latest relationship endeavor.

“I guess the best way of putting it is to quote my therapist,” I concluded. “Right guy, wrong time.”

“Yeah, but you have no closure! I mean, GOD.” She threw her head back. “I swear, men are missing a sensitivity chip.”

I laughed, then twisted my lips, swallowing to keep a surge of pain from becoming too overwhelming.

“Very true. But, to be honest, if all of this hadn’t happened, I may not have gone to Nashville and written these songs. I’m not going full-on Adele or Taylor Swift here, but I believe writing – creating, really! – is cathartic. And in turn, healing.”

“It certainly is,” Candace agreed. “Hey, listen – ”

She pulled a card from her doggie diaper bag and gave it to me.

“I’m a CEO and produce a lot of high-end events. I think you should come to them and meet people. Network, et cetera. Aaaand,” she winked, “You never know whom you might meet!”

I beamed. I certainly wasn’t about to tell her I normally work high-end events as a Captain or bartender for extra money.

“I know you probably need some more time to heal, but you should definitely dress up, come out and have some fun. MAC! MAC! WHERE ARE YOU?”

I dug in my purse, fished out my own card and handed it to her.

“I would love that, Candace. I really would.”

She smiled, then glanced at her phone. She had two missed calls.

“Well, I should probably head back home to the kids,” she stood up. “Let’s be in touch! And until we meet again – keep writing. Don’t be afraid to get that album funded. You can do it!”

We hugged. Then she was gone. I sat still on the bench and allowed my pale, bare legs to be saturated with a little more sunlight.

Did I just meet an angel? I thought. A small, feisty, strong, independent, successful, very genuine and caring angel who, yesterday, celebrated her 47th birthday with just her kids. 

I allowed my mind to wander into fantasy. I imagined attending one of Candace’s events, smartly and sexily dressed, swirling a gin martini in my hand and entertaining droves of astonishingly attractive, extremely wealthy, outlandishly smart and genuinely good men. They would all clamor for my attention. I would casually yet humbly inform them how my book just hit the New York Times bestseller list, then hum a few choruses of the songs of the songs I had just co-written. A well-known producer would hear me from across the room, cease his trivial conversation with a couple of over-processed, under-intelligent, too-skinny women and approach me.

“That’s brilliant! Sing it again!”

My entire album would reach funding in two minutes, plus a little extra to help me pay my taxes and buy another dress for the following evening’s event.

Everything happens for a reason. Glad I took a different route home that one Sunday. Thanks, Candace!

But as the sun started to sink a little lower in the sky and the gentle breeze turned just a few degrees cooler, I shook it out of my mind.

Reality: I don’t need a man – or fantasy – to accomplish one single thing I am meant to do. Certainly, at some point, I would like to share my life with a partner. I am a relationship person. I have a huge heart. I may be a fool, but I am not afraid to love, and boldly.

But when I am hurt – when someone breaks my heart – I scream from the rooftops, cry in public, scrawl furiously on the page and fervently compose, because that is how I cope. I share my heart. That is how I heal.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to be human.

My pain has been turned into art. That can only ever be a good thing.

I will love again, I am sure of that. I’m hoping I have at least forty years left on this planet. There’s got to be a “right guy, right time” in there, somewhere. But I’m not worried about that right now. There are far more important things ahead. My job is to to keep riding the momentum that’s just been created.

Candace is right: Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. I’m certainly not going to let anyone take me by the balls. I’m confident. I’m taking risks. And I do believe in myself. More and more, each day.

I’m following my dreams. I can’t wait to see where it all leads me. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s already a success.

*****

Please support me in following my dreams. My goal this year – my fortieth on this planet!! – is to have my book published and have this album recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and distributed. There is no guarantee as an artist, but if anything I have written over the past several years has resonated with you, my hope is that my music will speak to you, as well. Every single contribution certainly helps, no matter what amount.

Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart.

~Leslie

Long Board Guy

I enjoyed some beach time this afternoon. Now that I am officially 38, I have religiously subscribed to bathing suits with underwire, sunscreen with an SPF no less than 70, oversized beach hats and sunglasses, supportive chairs (to feign flat abs from all angles), an obnoxious, Hamptons-style cover-up, and, most importantly, a juicy self-help book.

As I sipped on sparkling water and settled into my early afternoon reading, I couldn’t help but notice the powerful swell and number of surfers in the water. The guys were catching waves left and right, carving the shit out of them. If they happened to bail, they did it with grace and flair. No soft boards, no kiddie boogie boards. The water wasn’t gentle. Today’s ocean had zero time for beginners.

And then, I saw the guy on the long board.

He was right there with the rest of the young, wiry, quick short boarders. He would paddle strong and hard into a huge wave, get up and drop down its face with ease.

Having been around surfers, the surfing industry and actually surfed myself (not well), I understand the key to staying on your board is to get up quickly and stay low. Balance is most important. If you stand up too tall, you will immediately wipe out.

But Long Board Guy did something I had never seen before.

As soon as he was up, he stood stiffly erect. Then, he opened up his arms as wide as possible, arched his back and slowly turned his chin toward the heavens. It was the most beautiful posture I have seen on a surfboard. One of full, complete surrender.

I held my breath and thought, “If this guy doesn’t fall, he is the best surfer I have ever seen in my life.”

And, of course, the law of gravity immediately sent him plummeting forward, face first, into the crashing, aggressive white water. If the ocean hadn’t been so loud I might have been able to hear his entire torso slapping on the surface. I almost ran in after him to make sure he hadn’t broken his neck and drowned.

But he popped right up, fought and paddled his way back to the outside and did it again.

And again.

And again.

He held the same posture each time he got up: arms open wide, back arched, chin up.

And each time he fell.

After each fall, he got right back up. He kept surfing.

And I found myself cheering for him. Admiring him. Beaming. Applauding every time he fell and got back up. I totes felt his stoke.

After a while, Long Board Guy was finished. He got out of the water, smiling, and trotted over to his towel.

I glanced back down at page 19 of my book.

“If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability. When we commit to showing up and risking falling, we are actually committing to falling. Daring is not saying, ‘I’m willing to risk failure.’ Daring is saying, ‘I know I will eventually fail and I’m still all in. Fortune may favor the bold, but so does failure.” ~ Brené Brown, Rising Strong

When I looked up, Long Board Guy was gone. I had wanted to tell him he was physically living out the words on my page, but perhaps that moment was meant only for me.

It was obvious Long Board Guy didn’t care about he outcome of riding the wave; he just lived in the moment. And each moment added up to another moment.

And another.

And another.

And they were all joyful, brave, vulnerable and full of grace.

I now know Long Board Guy is the best surfer I have ever seen.

Thirty-Eight.

I did it. I had another birthday.

With each passing year, I have become more aware of how precious and fragile life truly is. We make mistakes. We fall. We get hurt. We recover. Shit happens to us. We feel a loss of control over our circumstances. We beat ourselves up over not being perfect: size, shape, friend, lover, parent, role, career. We want to turn back the clock and have a do-over — sometimes at entire decades.

Yet we wouldn’t be who we are today without those mistakes; circumstances; wounds; scars.

A good friend recently told me, “The etymology of character comes from the Greek word for ‘scar’. That’s what gives us character.”

I very much believe in living life to its fullest. This means falling at times. What is more: learning how to fall. It also means being brave. Living in the moment. Accepting grace. It means loving and being loved.

I have been overwhelmed this birthday by how loved I truly am. On Saturday night I was surrounded by family and close friends who purposely sang “Happy Birthday” as loud and off-key as possible. (They know me so well!) Yesterday I floated in the ocean, rode my bicycle, savored homemade cuisine and rocked an impromptu living room karaoke party with the neighbors.

It has been the best birthday, ever.

I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I am ever grateful for my life and the amazing love I have in it.

Confession

I have a confession about editing my blog-turned-book, “The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce.”

It makes me raging angry.

It’s difficult to re-read and subsequently re-live that shitty, shitty time in my life. It doesn’t hurt like it once did, but I’m almost embarrassed at how long I held on and fought for someone who so clearly wanted nothing to do with me or our marriage.

Love is blind, that’s for damn sure.

I wish I could go back in time and sit with that scared, hurting, angry, confused, married Christian girl. I would give her a long, empathetic hug and allow her to cry for a spell. Then, I would take her hand firmly in mine, look into her eyes and say,
“Dry your tears. Get up, walk out the door and never look back. You have a beautiful, fantastic, adventurous life ahead of you. It will not be trouble or pain-free. It’s certainly not going to be fair, but it will be far better than you can imagine. And it most definitely doesn’t include that guy.”

I don’t want to be angry anymore. In fact, I really don’t have to be.

So, in honor of the girl who once was, I will keep going. It’s probably the hardest work I have done. But I will do it. I will edit. I will not censor the truth. I will keep writing. Even though I have to look back right now, I know the outcome. The ending is the happiest one of all.

Because grace — oh, amazing grace! — has set me free.

Keep Moving Forward

2014 has been a good year.

I started out essentially homeless, not knowing when or if I would be able to move into an apartment that was seemingly hand-picked by God, Himself. It took several months, a few losses (and tantrums), but I finally landed.

Moving to New York City might have been the craziest, bravest and most adventurous thing I have done yet. And it hasn’t turned out at ALL what I had expected or planned.

Isn’t that just how life works?

As I reflect from a high-floored, Las Vegas casino hotel room on this New Year’s Eve, I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and do what I absolutely love.

I sing. I perform. I write. I love life.

If anything this past year has taught me, it is to never fear. You cannot control the circumstances, outcome or even other people, but the adventure itself is worth every twist and turn. The journey is worth the heartache.

Most important: God will never abandon you.

Ever.

The adventure continues in 2015. Take risks. Leap into the unknown. Love freely, fiercely and with abandon. Live in the moment. Keep hoping. Keep dreaming. Keep moving forward.

Happy, blessed New Year.

Thirty-Six

A couple of weeks ago, I visited my gynecologist.

Per usual, she cheerfully entered the room.

“HI, LESLIE! So! Any relationships this year?” she asked, as she briefly reviewed my chart.

“Oh! Oh, no. No, no, no…nope. No relationships,” I responded, shifting my sit bones on the noisy paper lining the table.

I racked my brain for a moment and felt slightly panicked. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been asked out. March? April? Did an extensive, yet fairly innocent make out session with a tall, well-built, sexy Australian I met at a NYC film premiere count as a date?

No. No, it didn’t, although he did offer to fly me to Vegas for the weekend to “hang out and see some shows.” I actually considered it. Christianity/morality/self-respect aside, a weekend of hot, wild, noncommittal sex sounded pretty tempting.

Knowing my heart, however, I quickly decided against it.

Cheery Doc’s lips twisted in sympathy. “Well, I’m sorry. The good news is, no STD testing for you!”

I tightened my grin, and my knees.

“Yep! Trying to quit! Heh, heh, heh!” The sweat underneath my arms started to soak into my powder-blue, paper gown.

Doc nodded, knowingly. I changed the subject.

“So, my birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks!” I announced.  “Guess it’s time to find a baby daddy,” I chuckled.

“How old are you going to be?” She asked.

“Thirty-six.”

“Well, Leslie, you might want to consider freezing your eggs at this point, just to be on the safe side. I’ve got a great recommendation for an infertility doctor.”

I felt the blood rushing to my head.  Freeze my eggs?  Infertility? What?! Wait a minute. I’m healthy. I can still have kids, right? I have to find a decent date, first!

And then, for a brief moment, familiar anger at X welled up.

I wasted good years of my life with that guy. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose this. I DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS!!!

The moment passed, as I reminded myself how grateful I am to be completely free of X. I squeezed my eyes tight and thanked God for sparing the world one more fucked up product of divorce.

God knows. He is good.

There was no more mention of infertility, frozen eggs or STD testing after that. We chatted about the blog-turned-book, my new life in New York, and Doc did her thing.

“Everything looks beautiful!” She exuberantly informed me. “Happy Birthday!”

As irony would have it, I left my doctor’s office with a six-month supply of birth control, and the name and number of the infertility doctor.

*****

Tomorrow I turn 36 years old.

Thinking back on the past four years of my life – the ones with the greatest suffering, pain, weeping, grace, growth, adventure and ultimate joy – I am not at all where I thought I was going to be.

I’m exactly where I should be.

I never imagined I’d live out of two small suitcases or not have a place to call my own for an entire year. I have never made this little money in my life, in an attempt to pursue my dreams. Haughtily, I figured I would have met an amazing man and be taken off the market by now. I didn’t even plan on spending the summer in California, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have recorded an album at Capitol Records.

Joining Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, the Beach Boys, Bobby Darin, and more, in this recording studio.

Studio B, August 23, 2013. My voice is recorded amongst those such as Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, the Beach Boys, Bobby Darin…the list goes on.

It took pain and suffering, and a huge leap of faith to get there, but I am finally starting to see just a glimpse of what God wants to do with my life. Things are falling into place.

This year – 36 – will see my book, The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce, published and on bookshelves. An album with Louis Prima, Jr., where I am the featured vocalist (not just a backup singer!), will hit the charts.  I will tour with Prima and Setzer.

Best of all, a week from tomorrow, I will board a plane back to my beloved New York just in time for the most beautiful season of the year (and the only one I haven’t yet experienced): fall.

At 36, I don’t think of myself as divorced anymore. I’m single. I’ve got a way to go, too. I still need a place to live. I still need work. I still need to make more money to really be able to support myself.  I don’t have it all figured out.

It’s okay, though. God’s taking care of me.

And I’ve never been happier.

Serving the City

I am sitting in the corner chair in my subletted room in Harlem, staring out the window.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed one of the two, rendering it filthy and unable to open, but the gentle breeze flowing in from the north side of the room provides enough refreshment. The open window also amplifies the street noise: horns honking, emergency sirens, trash truck operation and accelerating taxicabs. Perhaps the most fascinating sound of all is people, yelling.  The residents of Harlem yell, shout or scream all of their communication: greeting, curses, conversation and confrontation.

It’s just how they do.

There is no relief from the bright color in the room.  The curtains, bedding, accessories, appliances, picture frames — you name it – are all one color.  When the sun rises in the morning, my room is flooded with a blinding hue of hot pink.

My 26-year old roommate’s cat, Captain, has descended the windowsill after observing two men yelling — and laughing — across the street.  He now lounges across the small sliver of sunlight that warms my toes and the wood floor underneath. Captain appears peaceful, calm and sweet. Dare I rise from my chair and walk past him, he will attack me, mercilessly dig his claws into the flesh around my ankles, and sink his teeth into my Achilles.

It is never pleasant. Yet, somehow, I still feel compelled to pet him, refill his food dish and shower him with attention whenever he demands it.

Two doors down, at Peaches ‘n Klean, my laundry is fluffing in the dryer. The sexually ambiguous person who manages the place is either folding socks or eating a platter of takeout whenever I enter. She (he?!) dresses in a long-sleeved plaid shirt, oversized, fatly cuffed denim pants, and steel-toed boots. Her (his?) short hair is always slicked back behind a stiff-billed baseball cap, and her (his?) eyes are hidden behind Transitions lenses. For some reason the lenses remain dark.

The only reason I assume she (he?) is female is the presence of rather large, droopy breasts behind her (his?) shirt.

Sexually Ambiguous regales stories to her employees, but mostly for the benefit of anyone who will listen. She yells tales of her brother attending high school with Jackie Robinson, brags about how she knows Aretha Franklin — “She ain’ lost weight! Las’ time I saw her, she was all dressed up in yellow, lookin’ just like Big Bird!” — and what she will eat for dinner when she is “done foldin’ dese damn socks.”

“I’ll tell you what I’s gonna do, ” Sexually Ambiguous shouts.
“I’s gonna git me a can of spinach, cut up some damn garlic, sprinkle a little pepper and olive juice on it, and mix it all up real good. MmmmHMMMMMMM!  Shit’s satisfyin’.”

I am the only one giggling in the laundromat.

*****

It’s the end of April, and spring is finally here.

I never truly understood why people on the east coast so eagerly awaited the arrival of the season until I moved here. It’s always spring in California. I think it glorious, yet terribly monotonous.  You see, after a long and bitterly cold winter, with blinding blizzards, stinging rain, icy wind and slushy, dirty snow, even the slightest hint of sunlight on one’s face brings a flood of hope. Change. A feeling of accomplishment. Relief.

Winter is behind us.

Most trees and flowers have burst into full bloom, displaying a brilliant arrangement of color, pattern and texture I have never before experienced. Only a few trees remain bare, or struggle to produce budding flecks of green upon their branches.  Perhaps they are afraid to open up. Some days, winter seems to return with a vengeance, and we all question if this new season of warmth, breeze and comfort is here to stay.

This past week, however, each morning has proved faithful. The sun warms the east, even through cloudy skies. The birds chatter, chirp and sing noisily. Winter coats have been sent to the dry cleaner, and there is sudden, massive exposure of very pale limbs.

I realize how great of an accomplishment it is to have survived the winter. I secretly hope the more figurative winters of my life are behind me. At the same time, I’m not afraid of them anymore. Like all seasons, they come and go.

*****

As I begin month four in New York City, I am still living out of a suitcase. I’ve attended several auditions and haven’t gotten a single callback.  Hell, I’ve even accompanied myself on the piano, and still haven’t managed to raise an eyebrow or impress the people behind the table. I am not discouraged yet. These things take time. And politics.

Not all is in vain. I have finally secured steady work, teaching voice, piano and musical theatre students at a school in Brooklyn (just wait for their dating advice!). On the off-days and weekends, I cater.

One of the very first catering events I worked in the city was in February. My job was to serve hor d’oeuvres at a very large, extremely expensive and increasingly drunken party for Fox Sports. In attendance were sports celebrities, executives and employees of the company. (I am happy to report Troy Aikman accepted my offer for a crab cake on a crisp, fancy blue napkin!) As the hours dragged on, I became discouraged. I escaped to the bathroom for a moment, sat on the toilet with my head in my hands and felt sorry for myself.

“LORD!” I whined. “I did not move to New York to be a servant! I’m here to make a difference! To pursue my dreams! Not serve people!”

As soon as the prayer left my lips, I realized how ridiculous I sounded. As clear as anything, I heard the following:

Oh, but you are here to serve, Leslie.

I lifted my head, laughed and brushed away a tear.

“I got it, I got it. Good one, God.”

****

Month four proves I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am so glad I took that leap of faith and moved here. God is beyond good. Maybe I’m not a big Broadway star, and maybe I never will be.

I can’t believe I’m saying this — but — it doesn’t matter.

I think I finally believe God will grant the desires of my heart, because they’ve changed. At the same time, God has answered my prayers in the most loving, faithful and gentle way, all the while guiding me towards the next adventure.

The greatest adventure of all?  He’s asked me to serve.

This city.

And, for the first time in my life, I am completely content.

New Me in New York, Part Deux

I’ve been in New York for two weeks now.

Even in winter, it’s everything wonderful I remember: towering architecture, flashing marquees, glowing stage lights and bright, yellow taxicabs; crowded subways and quaint cafes filled with people from all walks of life. The bustling noise and busyness is always offset by a quiet, wooden park bench, and the harsh wind and cold, made warmer by the coo of a lone dove perched on the fire escape.

I love this city with all my heart.

I’m staying in my friends’ apartment in West Harlem, while they are away for several weeks. A couple of months ago, while I lay sick in my bed in Pasadena, I declared over social media I was going to allow people to love me this year. Almost immediately, I received a phone call. My friends responded with, “Come to New York, stay in our place and pay what you can. And by ‘what you can’ — even if we don’t get a dime, it’s okay.”

I burst into tears, accepted their more-than-generous offer, and started packing.

Here I am, and I even survived – I’d say frolicked in — the big blizzard of 2013.

I heart blizzards.

I heart blizzards.

There is always beauty after the storm.

There is always beauty after the storm.

It’s hard to not project into the future, however. I started looking for apartments so I can live on my own, but quickly got discouraged because I can’t afford it. I’ve been auditioning as much as I can, but nothing happens overnight. I need work, and badly. I want so desperately to be able to support myself and really make this happen. I am determined to not have to move back to Los Angeles, with my tail tucked between my legs, and nothing to show for my time here.

I’ve been given a second chance and do not want to fail.

*****

I’ve lived in New York City before. I moved four years ago, on February 13, 2009.  X accompanied me on the plane ride out, for I didn’t want to go alone. I was still reticent about the decision we had made – and prayed for – together, but somehow I knew it was a huge step forward in my life.

We arrived at JFK and lugged my three tattered suitcases through the subway, towards Morningside Heights (Harlem). The same couple housing me now had offered their couch for a couple of weeks while I waited for the room I had rented in Queens to be available.

As we crossed the threshold into my friends’ tiny apartment, I immediately felt at home; peace.

X and I sat down on the blue, velvet couch and sipped homemade coffee with our friends. We all marveled at how I had finally arrived in New York, with a job, and an opportunity to shoot for the stars — at least for six months. I complained about having to swing the off-Broadway show I was in (I want to go back and slap my entitled attitude!), and worried about how I’d manage a six-month separation from my beloved husband.

The answer was simple: we’d endure. It was only six months. The potential opportunities were worth the possible struggle of loneliness and separation.

Yet, those six months – February to August, 2009 – were the cruelest, saddest and loneliest times I have ever experienced in my life.

“I love you more than anything, Leslie,” X reassured me, after we had finished our coffee, and were waiting on the curb for his airport cab to arrive, to take him back to Los Angeles.

I kicked a chicken bone out from under the heel of my boot and brushed the tears from my eyes.

“I hate the thought of not being with you,” I cried. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and your unwavering support and encouragement means the world to me. I could not do this without you. I honestly couldn’t have dreams without you, because I think you believe in me more than I believe in myself.”

“I support you one million percent,” X replied.  “I will hate being away from you, too, but we’ll make it work. After all, we love each other and are most important to each other.”

The cab arrived. My husband hugged me, slid his tall, thin frame into the back seat, and drove away. I would see him in New York just once more in the following six months. Little did I know then, I had already lost him.

*****

Four years later – I have gained a whole new me.

As I have wandered the city these past two weeks, I know I am different.  I feel it.  I may be alone, but alone doesn’t necessarily mean lonely. I have bigger dreams than I ever had the courage to dream before.  I feel calm. Humbled. Confident. Expectant. Excited. My future has never been more unsteady or unsure, but I know it will be all right.

I am not worried about failing.  Just by being in this vibrant city this very moment, and every millisecond that follows — for however long I am able to remain – I have already succeeded.