Sip Around At These Cool Spots Fresh Pressed, Fun And Creative Juiceries

Published in YogaCity NYC August 2013

Best Place For Their Mix of Juices: Liquiteria

Best Place To Go When You Need To Feel Like Part Of The Family:Salud

Best Because the Iconic Melvin Major Squeezes Here – Need We Say More? Melvin’s Juice Box

Best Unique Ingredient Combinations: The Butcher’s Daughter

Best Drink Name: The Squeeze’s “I Have a Heart On”

Best Thirst-Quencher: One Lucky Duck’s “Blue Grape”

Best Green Juice: Tiny Empire’s #4 

Best Place To Go On A Budget: Juice Hugger

Best Place To Meet Someone Standing In Line: Punchline 

The recent juice boom has sent health-lovers into the streets searching for the perfect balance of taste and phytonutrients found in cold-pressed super-foods. Though there is no denying that the big names like Organic Avenue and Juice Press offer dependable products, it is worth the time to sip around some of the smaller businesses because they are more creative, definitely more idiosyncratic and usually care more about mixing up the perfect drink more than the chains.

To make it easier, YogaCity NYC has gotten the scoop on our favorite indie squeezes.
The East Village’s Liquiteria pioneered cold-pressed juice in NYC back in 1996 — long before the Vitamix was around. They often make the list of best juiceries in America because of their incredible menu – 20 different juices often made of up more than 25 ingrediants that are all yummy.  The staff is friendly and if you’re looking for a cleanse, they’ve got coaches to help you through.  If you’re lucky, you might run into hunky Daniel Craig picking up his squeeze.  The best time to go is mid-day, because the line in the morning is known to wrap around the corner.

Further downtown in Soho, there are a few stellar places to pop in to sip on something flavorful.
Family owned and operated Salud’s  newly opened location on Thompson Street is perfect for those days you need a little spicing up. Arakaren Gonzalez, one of three family owners of the business says, “we are very passionate about organic and healthy food, and we all grew up in Soho so we love this community.” Originally based in Brooklyn, this location stays true to its promise to offer organic ingredients, some of which are imported from Mexico such as their alfalfa mint and aloe vera. ”Our mission is to put a healthy spin on traditional Mexican American food.”

Around the corner is another cultural gem, Melvin’s Juice Box, the colorful offspring of Miss Lily’s Caribbean hot spot next door. This cultural social club is a great place to go if you have the time to sit and admire the eclectic vibe inside. Though a part of Miss Lily’s, Melvin’s Juice Box was started by Melvin Major jr., a juicing icon known for the delicious bevs he’s served for over 20 years in Greenwich Village. If your lucky you can catch Melvin mingling among the customers like an old friend. Another perk? Some of the proceeds go to the Rockhouse Foundation, which supports education in Jamaica. Try “The Real V-8,” a shmorgasburg of vegetables — 11 to be exact — to get all your servings of vegetables in one 12 oz cup.

South is The Butcher’s Daughter, a new high-end vegan establishment on Kenmare street. Owner Heather Tierney is hoping to change the way we drink juice and was inspired by her Chinatown mixology bar, Apotheke to make creative cold-pressed juices a staple part of The Butcher’s Daughter menu. Said Tierney, “ I noticed a void in the juice market: All of the juices seemed the same—flat, boring and monotone. No one was utilizing exotic produce and herbs.” And the juices certainly are unique. “Water Flower” combines ingredients like fennel, cactus, lavender and watermelon among others. After a yoga class, Tierney suggests picking up “Hangover Killer” with coconut to replenish and primrose oil to restore. Celebrity regulars: Justin Timberlake and Bjork.

For the juice-fiend with no time to spare, the best bet is stopping by the mobile juicery, The Squeeze, the first cold-pressed juice truck in Manhattan. Started and based in Brooklyn by former model and lifetime vegan Karliin Brooks, this truck parks outside 17th street and Union Square West and sells cleverly named organic juices such as Two Hearts Beet as One and The Jeans I Wore in High School. “Our most popular juice is our ‘Stand and Deliver,’ our green juice. We are almost always out by 5 pm. People are all about green juice,” says Paul Gunsberg, the musician/juice aficionado who can be found manning the truck, offering recommendations and a smile to bustling commuters.

Just up the street, is a small vegan boutique that sells delectable desserts alongside their juices, including chocolate moon pies and cashew ice cream. One Lucky Duck is the trendier younger sibling of vegan-elite Pure Food & Wine, located around the corner. What the space lacks in size – it’s tiny – they make up for in  quality. Warning: it will be hard to ignore all of the delicious-looking desserts pleading with you from behind the counter.

It’d be shameful to forget to look across the pond at Brooklyn’s scene, the borough that is quickly becoming a hub for interesting small foodie businesses. Tiny Empire on North 6th street is new to the scene, having opened its doors in September 2012, and bringing fresh, unpasturized, cold-pressed juices and raw ready-meals to Williamsburg. Like the name suggests, “we believe less is more — the less we do to our food the more we get out of it…One thing I think is sometimes forgotten about juicing is that juice should taste really really good. It is easy to create recipes that are full of health and taste delicious,” says founder Anthony Spadaro who created his juice recipes through trial and error in his own kitchen.

Downtown Brooklyn is home to homeopathic-inspired Punchline Juice Bar, which offers juices that promise everything from “Constipation Relief” to “Satin Skin” to a “Horse Tonic.” If you are looking for a little libido boost, spend the extra few dollars on an “Armageddon,” one of Punchline’s most popular drinks which contains the aphrodisiac bois bande, a Caribbean tree bark, and ginseng for energy.

If the lines at Punchline are too long, Juice Hugger is another Crown Heights favorite located on Rogers Ave. Kelly Keelo and Carl or “Crush” Foster as he is fondly referred, are dedicated to flavorful juices that are healthy and affordable.  Owner Keelo recommends the Cucumber Glo for a summertime refresher “since it cools you from the inside out. Juice Hugger is a company that was born “organically” after Foster used juicing to help him shed 58 pounds and wanted to help friends do the same.

The juice curious definitely have options. Though the prices for a glass of liquidized fruit and vegetables seems high, it makes sense when considering that it takes almost five pounds of produce per one 12 oz bottle. That is a whole lot of goodness happening there.

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Postscript for when hit by a car

Now that it’s been a few weeks, I can kind-of-smile-a-little-bit at the memory of being hit by a car. But only kind of. And only because it is such an absurd occurrence to call to mind while doing something as ordinary as microwaving my dinner or trying to find a matching sock. “Oh yea, Erin, you were hit by a car.”

Long and dramatic (in my mind it was a black and white film which lacked sound save the intense crescendos of violins) story made short, I was on my bike in the middle of a Tuesday when a man in a white mini-van tried to beat traffic by making a mid-street U-turn and turned into me instead. I fell off my bike. He gave an apologetic wave and some uninterpretable half bow towards the splayed heap on the side of the road which was me, and then drove away.

Maybe he didn’t have insurance, maybe he had somewhere to be. Who knows. I am not mad at him and hold no grudge, but I do hope that the report I filed —complete with hand-written equally as dramatic memo on my personal stationary — will somehow lead to a just cause of action, whereby he is at least held accountable for almost running someone over with his car.

But what I really want to focus on here is how the people around me reacted. To say that I am humbled and amazed is an understatement. New York City is not known for its warmth or its Good Samaritan-ism by strangers, and the industrial section of North Brooklyn is reputed to be especially tough. And yet, amidst the barbed wire fences guarding manufacturing warehouses, auto body shops, and restaurant supply companies, there are kind-hearted and sincerely good natured folks that come out of the woodwork in times of need.

When I fell off of my bike, I was at first stunned, then angry, then embarrassed. I could feel the large tear in the side of my pants and my skin against the blacktop, and not wanting to immediately move my body save if something had been seriously injured, I lay on the pot-holed street and imagined the awkward view of my rump and my splayed legs. When I opened my eyes my nose was an inch away from a cigarette and my hand was on top of a condom wrapper. As vain as it may seem, I was immediately concerned with how I must look.

But then I heard shouts. Many of them accompanied by heavy footsteps coming at a quick pace. Similar to the sound and sensation combination you get on the beach when you put your ear to the sand and someone begins to dig. I pushed myself up off the ground. “Miss, you okay?” I felt a hand on my back as I got to my feet. A late twenty something man in a t-shirt, jeans, and work gloves stood next to me. Another man, perhaps a pedestrian strolling by, crossed the street from the opposite side with a matched look of worry. “I can’t believe he ran into you! He saw you and sped up!”

One of the men picked up a piece of cardboard from the street, pulled a pen from his pocket, and without hesitation took down the license plate number and handed it to me. “You look alright but just in case something feels off later.”

“Do you want to go to the hospital?” The other man asked. I shook my head. At this point I was biting my lip hard, trying to be strong and as nonchalant as I could muster; wanting so badly not to cry. What I thought would come out as “I’m okay just a bit shaken and stirred up,” came out as “Imma-” followed by a gasp and a sob and a waterfall  of snotty tears.

“Aw it’s okay, miss, jus’ take your sweet time. Take a breath.”

“I can’t believe that sonofabitch hit you. He hit you and drove off!”

“You want some water or something? I can go get you some water.”

“He oughta be ashamed, man. Hittin’ nd runnin’.”

I picked my bike up and smiled with blurred vision and what I knew to be puffed up eyes and red patchy cheeks. Admittedly I am not the prettiest nor most graceful crier. I thanked the men and said I think I’d be okay finally communicating that I was just a bit dazed. I then tried to make a joke that I was happy to learn I was a bouncer as opposed to a breaker, at which point my new friend with the shoulder-length braids furrowed a brow and asked again if I needed an ambulance.

A man driving a forklift drove up to us and said he saw what happened and also inquired as to whether or not I was okay. At the same time, a short, clean cut man who must’ve been his boss came out from behind the lift and, approaching me with a look I’ve witnessed fathers on the playground give their scraped kneed children, asked first if I was all right, made a provocative hand gesture towards the street along with a curse to the long-gone driver, and then told me to come have a seat, that his wife was coming out.

A woman emerged from the factory front with a look of surprise and within an instant had wrapped an arm around me and directed me towards a spot right outside of the warehouse. There were two large spools of what looked like plastic tubing sitting on the sidewalk, and they reminded me of the ones I had seen on various trips to Home Depot with my parents. The thought of them in that moment combined with the presence of  the woman in front of me must have overwhelmed me because my eyes again began to sting.

“Honey, Rick told me what happened, I was in on the phone but what really happened? This guy hit you in his car?” I gave her a quick recount of what I had processed at that point, to which she shook her head and patted my knee. She asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital to which I again shook my head and replied that I could feel my shoulder and my knee scraped and maybe bruised, but besides that I was hoping it was just my pride.

“How about we go get a beer? Want to get a beer and take some time to think it all over?” This made me laugh, and she smiled though I could tell the offer was sincere. She then went on to share with me the story of her own accident in college, though sh, informed me that she had deserved to be hit for she walked into oncoming traffic while highly intoxicated. “It was the liquor that saved my life. I flew twenty feet and didn’t feel a thing.  Walked right on home with a bloody elbow and a cure for my hangover.” She gave me a wink.

I found out her name was Catherine. Her and her husband part-owned the electrical supply company outside of which we were sitting. She lived in Manhattan, had lived in her Midtown west apartment for over a decade, and it was her first day “on the job.” She laughed as she recalled the few hours of her day she had spent working, which included various trips to the coffee and bagel store and a half-hour phone conversation with her mother in Staten Island. Her husband, Rick, came out and handed me a gallon of water. He shrugged his shoulders and with a chuckle told me he had sent one of his guys to get me a water, and this is what they returned with. A whole gallon just for me. He gave Catherine and I each a plastic cup and we had a little water and story picnic outside of their warehouse, while a little tributary of blood went unnoticed as it trickled down my shin and into my sock.

We talked a little while longer and Catherine decided she was going to try the yoga studio at which I teach later that same day. She said she would likely embarrass herself, and exercise wasn’t her thing, but she needed to do something or else she’d go crazy. Just like the rest of us, I replied.

By the time I left, about ten minutes later, I had stopped thinking about what had just happened and finally caught my breath. I gave Catherine a big hug, my hands smarting in the places that had hit the gravel. I thanked her and Rick and waved to the man on the forklift. The piece of cardboard with the license plate number was still crumpled in my hand. I felt myself wanting to cry— yet again— as I walked away with my bike (it being fortunately unmarred), and I think it was because I was sad to leave them and even sadder to be alone.

It sounds a bit mad to say, and even stranger to have it written down in front of me, but I am glad that the accident happened. And that it happened the way it did. The unpredictability of this Black Swan life means that anything could happen at any time. The accident could have been a helluva lot worse. The way I look at it is that some event occurred that allowed me to step back and realize that there are some unsung heroes and note worthy human beings surrounding me all the time, and they are worth me taking the time to talk to them.

 

Getting hit immediately put the brakes on my day and shredded the anxiety of my to-do list, the factor that often times holds the reigns tight and directs my day. I was forced to slow down and connect with these strangers who came to my aid. I learned something about Catherine and her family and more importantly about the people in my community, my neighbors who at the end of the day are looking out for me and for each other.

 

Too often, and I know I sing the played out tune when I say it, I find myself able to go through my day of frantically strung together New York minutes without thinking about or  talking to another person at any depth. To exist in the head space is much easier when there are a zillion things to do and places to be in a city of infinite possibilities. Reaching higher and higher for the pie in the sky is a wonderful thing, but it seems life has a way of making sure at spontaneous intervals that your feet still touch the ground—at least long enough to make sure your shoes are still tied.

For me, I needed my face to fall into dirt and my knees scratched and bruised in order to remind me that things really are okay, and look at that, they have a way of working out. A lotus flower blooming in a mucked Brooklyn alleyway.

I hope to go back to see Catherine, under better circumstance of course. I should make a point to again thank her and her husband, before this accident becomes blanketed by more bumps of grinds of the day to day. Before the current perspective which I hold in this moment in reverence of stillness and a stepping-back becomes hazier and farther away, as a line in a book, underlined and meant in earnest to return to. I should thank them for simply being kind, for taking the time out of their day to make sure this young girl and her neon colored bike were okay. To listen and to care. To be neighbors and to become friends. And then, I’ll ask them to go for a beer.

Event Coverage: The Gods of Wall Street

The Gods of Wall Street Battle for Pediatric Cancer Research 

This past weekend over 85 of the most fit and athletic men and women working on Wall Street gathered together to compete in the fifth annual  RBC Decathlon at Columbia’s Wien Stadium in the Bronx. The much anticipated event challenges strength, stealth, and stamina of the financial industry’s athletic elite, while raising money for pediatric cancer research. As a result of the sweat and spirit of the competitors, the sponsors, and generous donors, $1.25 million was donated last Sunday to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Participants ranged from college-aged to early sixties, and were spread out across many different financial services companies throughout New York and Boston. Investors and traders from the likes of Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Staley competed next to athletes from smaller firms such as Capital Dynamics and Trafalet & Co, battling  through six hours of events which included sprints, pull-ups, dips, bench pressing, vertical jumping, rowing, an agility test, football throwing and a grueling 800 meter dash to finish out the day.

Joining the competition this year was Olympic gold-medalist Dan O’Brien, who was challenged to raise $100,000 by completing 16 pull-ups during the event. The crowd cheered as O’Brien surpassed his mark, the 47 year old athlete proving that age is linked to motivation.

Alongside O’Brien were some other top-notch athletes who came with NFL training experience including Jake Stoller of Barclays (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tom McCarthy of Morgan Staley  (Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars), Collin Zych of Cogent Partners (Dallas Cowboys) and Mark Rubin of Barclays (St. Louis Rams) It was Rubin who walked away with the title of Best Male Athlete on Wall street, sharing the spotlight with Evelyn Konrad of Standard and Poor who was crowned the first ever Best Female Athlete award.

There was no short supply of talent, athleticism, and determination. What was most surprising was the  strong sense of camaraderie that echoed across the field and mixed among the opponents. “What impressed me the most was the caliber of competitors here today,” said Max Osbon, 25, a partner at Boston based  index-only investment boutique firm  Osbon Capital, “Everyone here has trained hard to get here, and yet we’re all just out here having a good time together and hoping to raise some money.” This was Osbon’s second Decathlon, and this year he was joined by his father and colleague John Osbon, who trained alongside his son to prepare for the event.

The winners of each event were honored at the end by an awards ceremony that included distribution of trophies and a years worth of bragging rights. Each of the other competitors was given something even more valuable: motivation to start training for next year.

Also impressive were the spectators who trekked from across Manhattan and Brooklyn to fill the stadium with cheers of encouragement, growing only louder as the rain slicked the track right before the 800m run, the final event to seal the day. The fans were encouraged throughout the day to place charity bets on the performances of the athletes.

Kirsten Doody, a Texas native who showed her support by dancing in the stands with enthusiastic friends, commented on an alternative reason to attend the event. “It’s amazing to see all of these fit and buff people duke it out. I don’t understand why more single women aren’t here today, it’s the perfect place to shop for a boyfriend.”

 

There you have it, an event worth marking your calendar for in 2014. Consider joining the ranks of Wall Street elite who will working hard to improve their personal scores as well as their charitable contributions. If competing in the event does not sound appealing, perhaps consider attending anyway to support the athletes, make a donation, sit back, and enjoy the view.

Basking in Meditation

Published July 2013 in The Culture-ist.

Developing a simple and quick meditation practice can have powerful benefits on the mind, body, and soul. Often however, the biggest deterrent to practicing meditation is the belief that a large amount of time must be dedicated to the discipline. There is simply not enough time to devote to a meditation practice when the to-do list is never ending. Yet on the contrary, not much time is needed at all. There are many ways to incorporate meditation into your day without carving out an hour to sit in silence.

One of the best ways to meditate is to go outside and immerse yourself in nature. This can be anything from a walk on the beach to a hike through the woods, to simply sitting down in a park.

Make a commitment to do something beneficial for yourself by taking the time to appreciate the outdoors. Follow this short meditation below to reconnect with your inner light and cultivate gratitude for all the natural wonders around you.

MEDITATION IN A MOMENT

In a comfortable seated position, either legs crossed in Sukhasana (easy pose) or sitting on top of the feet with legs folded beneath you in Vidrasana (diamond pose), place the hands on the lap, palms face down if you would like to feel more grounded, or face up if you would like more energy. Close the eyes.

Begin to bring your awareness to your breath. Imagine a root extending from the bottom of your spine deep down into the earth beneath you. Now imagine your spine extending long up through the crown of the head into the sky. You are at once innately connected to earth yet limitless in reach and potential.

Take a deep inhale and imagine the breath starting from the root and then traveling up the spine out into the sky. Exhale and allow the breath to wash down the spine beginning from the crown of the head and continuing down into the ground. Continue this visualization, bringing attention back to the spine anytime the mind begins to wander. The breathe is pulled up from the ground on the inhale, filling the back body, and then pushed back down the spine, releasing any tension and stress as it exits the body.

Continue to breathe like this for ten breaths.

Return to a normal, soft breath. Now bring awareness to the skin— your first line of physical connection with the world around you. Bring your attention to the skin on your face. Relax and soften the jaw and forehead, two areas that tend to hold tension. Tune in to the sensation of the sun warming the hands and face. Imagine the warm white light first washing the hands, traveling up to the face, and then wrapping around the entire body as if you were being bathed in a blanket of warm white light. This is the light that is within you, always. Take a deep breath in, pausing at the top of the inhale, for five seconds to let the light fill up the inside and pour over the outside of the body. Exhale all the air out of the lungs slowly.

Continue to breathe like this for ten breathes, each time holding the breath at the top of the inhale for five seconds. Allow the light from the sun to flow seamlessly in and out of the body, mixing with your own internal light.

After your ten breaths return to a soft, normal breath. Open up the eyes, smile, notice how you feel, and thank yourself for taking time to connect with nature and with yourself.

Try this mediation three times a week for a month, and notice if you can detect any subtle shifts or differences in how you feel at the end of the four weeks.

By beginning to form a meditation practice, you are cultivating a safe space to go to; a positive energy to simultaneously lift you up and ground you down; and a means of opening the mind and expanding the heart, inevitably leading to a daily experience that is balanced, whole, and most importantly at ease.

Take this summer as an open invitation to step outside, breathe deeply, and feel rejuvenated.

Why I love startups

In his book The Lean Startup Eric Ries defines a startup as such: “A human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”

This inclusive phrasing of the startup concept struck a chord with me, particularly the words extreme uncertainty. Right now, being a woman in my twenties, I feel like the space I move and breathe is exactly one that is shared with extreme uncertainty, as well as overpriced rent. In fact, the extremity of the uncertainty is probably the thing which I feel most certain about.

A startup, according to Ries, begins with a vision, proceeds via passion, and operates under a trial and error system. Neither the size of the company nor the industry to which it belongs matters to the startup status. It can be drawn to an individual scale and the need for an appropriate societal label — “I am a (lawyer, doctor, actor, dogwalker, lochness monster specialist, etc)— can be dismissed.

To me, this definition connotes an uncontainable energy, motivation, and commitment of the people involved. At the same time, it calls to mind those familiar gut-churning pangs of “what ifs,” “what nexts”, “how the hells” and “so now whats”. And while it can be exhausting, it is this duality of excitement and fear that leads to the euphoric surge when a product is innovated, succeeds,  and most importantly begins to be of benefit. What follows are the hand hurting high-fives, the drinks on mes, and the I’m on top of the [expletive] worlds.  It is a path of highs and lows. Of late nights, early mornings, and too much coffee. And so far it seems that no one involved in a startup would trade their lifestyle or their experience for another, for anything else could be described as mundane in comparison.

To me my twenties thus far has felt like a startup. It’s been up and down in every sense, and there is nothing but uncertainty ahead. I am trying to figure out what it is I have to offer, what my “product” and its “value” are, and how I can best be of service to others. There are naturally trials and errors, and probably more of the latter than I have yet to realize. The act of analyzing my personal data — the consequences of my actions, the success of my efforts — and often times having to step back and start again are both necessary aspects of a startup and frustrating to no end. But as a result, there are “aha!” moments to brightly color the way. Often times they do come after long nights and close-to mental breakdowns that consist of commiserating with fellow twenty-something life-ntrepreneurs.

Like any startup I’m constantly striving for balance, trying to figure out what exactly my Minimum Viable Product (MVP) — the best I can give using the least amount of resources —is and whether this MVP can most benefit those around me.

A startup has to create a brand, an identity. It has to stand for something and have a mission, a goal, a reason for existing. What is this quarter-life benchmark for if not to ponder over such existential quandaries?

I am taking a lot of pleasure out of reading Ries’s book as both a lesson in entrepreneurship as well as an experiment in adapting a sociological lens to the content. If I get the honor to meet  Ries one day I will certainly give him a too-hard high-five and buy him a drink. I feel I owe him at least that. For on one hand he’s helped me to feel excited about working with or for a startup or maybe even creating my own, but more importantly he’s given me a sense of solidarity that transcends the introversion of personal soul-searching. It’s nice to know my pals over at Apple went through the same discovery process that my friends and I are currently navigating over cheap wine and sarcasm, discussing the woes of unpaid internships and applauding one another’s brilliantly hyperbolized plans to save the world. I’m a startup. Trial and error. Gathering data from my feedback loop — personal reflection and peer input.

I’ve started up. So now it’s time to keep going.

White Bread and Frijoles

She made him a latch-hook rug for Christmas to put in his dorm room.

He kept it under his bed and forgot about it.

When she thought of him she pictured his feet pressing into the places her fingers and hooked and pulled. The design was blue and green and she called it abstract.

If he would have pictured her it may have been with her feet on the ottoman, reclined in rocking hair with the lace drape on the back. She wouldn’t have taken off her white shoes, soled brown from shuffling around room to room all day, bending and placing and folding and hanging. She’d stay there like that watching the small television until it was time to make dinner. Chopping, stirring, bending, tasting, washing.

He was was lying on his floor looking up at the ceiling fan. Middle of May and already droplets of summer’s sweat stuck in his mustache. Smoking a cigarette. If he stayed on the floor with the window open and fan going, the RA never knew. Maybe he did, and just didn’t care. There was a lot that lethargy going around.

She smiled when she thought about her only son and imagined what it must be like for him there, surrounded by books and people talking with him about grand ideas. The way he beamed when she met him at the bus stop after school, he would read his top-marked essay as they walked across the underpass to their home. She blocked out the afternoons of bruised knees and soda can slashed cheeks.

He had been excited, when he got his acceptance letter. Noticed how his mama started crying again, but this time her face was too small for that damn grin. He told her as he wrapped her up that her face would freeze that way if she didn’t stop. She had to work that day, couldn’t help move him in but saw him off, all his stuff piled in Jerry’s hatchback, they couldn’t see her out the back window as they drove away.

She counted the days between Fall break and Thanksgiving. While she dusted under other people’s couches and matched pairs of argyle socks, she thought of each meal she’d make for him. His favorites of course: her poc chuc with mango juice, hot friojoles con puerco – “nobody knows spices like you, mama” – he loved it all so hot! She’d chuckle to herself remembering his own way of shoveling through their meals, he always had something he had to get working on. And there would be cakes! Maybe she’d bake him some sort of cheesecake in honor of his new Wisconsin home. He had said in his last letter that they had a lot of cheese around and some people even wore hats that looked like cheese on Sundays. She didn’t pretend she knew the world he lived in, but she liked planning his return to theirs.

The ceiling fan spun around, it’s drunk arms keeping it balanced. He wondered if it’d ever spin itself right off the ceiling, hitting his chest, splintering into a thousand pieces on impact. It wasn’t what he pictured, any of it. The people especially. It was high school all over again. It was kick down and dirt rubbed. It was you can’t make it here, nice try. It was even if you try harder you just weren’t born right. No one’s fault and no one’s making excuses. You got here, right? Ain’t that enough? You’ll get your paper and go back home and them do what they were born to do. Raised to do. Told every day that they were on top. Easy. Natural. White bread with the crusts cut off and too much milk. He didn’t even like the cheese out here. He let the smoke slip out of his mouth in a cloud, covering his face and blurring his sight, if just for a second.

She had all his pictures on the mantle. She said a prayer for him and touched the crucifix on the wall everytime she passed. Protect my baby. Bring him back in one piece. He’ll be good at whatever he does, only you know where he got those brains. My baby, the first one to go to college. Papa would be so proud to see him all grown up with his textbooks. They taught him how to use the computer, too. Everyone has to learn, they said. As long as he comes home. She made sure to wash his bed clothes once a month just to keep them fresh, just in case.

He didn’t want to go back. But he didn’t want to stay. Stuck there like a fly on paper for everyone to pass by, no one taking the time to peel him off and either let him go or throw him in the trash can. Too much of a not-matter to notice. Only thing waiting for him was his mama, only thing keeping him there was some belief it’d be different. But that was dimming faster than Mexican sun sets and he knew his Mam’d be fine. She’d got along without men most of her life. He took one more puff of his cigarette, turned his cheek and saw the latch-hook rug dusty under his bed. His eyes stung from what he knew wasn’t smoke.

She checked the mailbox twice a day. He’d be home for summer soon, but what day? What time? Why hadn’t he told her yet. Sometimes having a smart son was hard work. She’d smile, he’d just show up and surprise her. Maybe with a cheese on his head.

He rolled over onto his side. He pulled the corner of the rug towards him and felt the yarn between his fingertips. His favorite colors, the colors of his little room at home, were blue and green. Sea and sky. He stuck his cigarette into the rug and let it burn a hole. He watched as the red rim curled the orange paper and bled into the green string. Then the blue. A pattern of color. Burn hole set burning as he closed his eyes.

 

 

Workplace Meditation

Meditation saves lives.

Well, perhaps not directly, but it can help make the workday feel less
hectic by calming the mind and resetting focus. One common
misconception about meditation is that it has to be done sitting cross
legged on the floor with incense burning and someone chanting ohms.
However, any moment in time can be meditative by bringing awareness to
the breath.

Try this simple practice using a pranayama breathing technique. It can
be done sitting at your desk, in transit, while taking a walk, or even
while waiting in the conference room coffee line (though be ready to
be zen-vied*).

1. Fold your forefinger and middle finger into your palm, leaving your
thumb, ring finger and pinky extended.
2. Press your thumb against one nostril, inhaling through the other
for a count of four.
3. Pause at the top of your inhale and pinch both nostrils closed
using your thumb and ring finger for another count of four.
4. Release your thumb and exhale through the alternate nostril again
for a count of four.
5. At the bottom of the exhale, count to four before starting the
inhale through the same nostril.
6. Repeat this breathing practice for five to fifteen minutes,
concentrating on the power of the breath as it fills and leaves your
body and the stillness in between.

This is a quick exercise that will help recenter you and can be done
multiple times a day. If you are like many meditators and have trouble
keeping the mind from wandering to your to-do list, use a mantra as a
focusing tool. On the inhale repeat the word “Let” each second of the
four count. On the exhale repeat the word “Go”. You are releasing any
expectation or pressure, and by doing so you will be gifting your mind
and body with a subtle dose of peace.

*Zen-vied: When others around you become jealous of your ability to be
present, content, and calm.