Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Methy Methy Christmas!

Quote of the Blog:

Brook to her four year old niece: You saved the day!

T: I’m not a super-herio.


A few weeks ago my sister and husband asked their bishop if there was anyone he knew that needed help for Christmas. Without telling them the name of the family, the bishop let them know of a family that needed assistance - especially for their sixteen year old son. My brother-in-law, Jeff, decided to sell one of his Gerber LMF survival knives and use the money to get gifts for the son and the family.

Jeff didn’t have any trouble selling it online and it was purchased by a drug task force police officer in Missouri who planned to give the knife as a gift for his son's college graduation. Jeff sent the package via FedEx but a few days later the officer called Jeff because the knife still hadn’t arrived. Together they tracked the package – the address that was provided to FedEx was correct. They were connected with the FedEx delivery driver and she described the home where she dropped off the knife. The officer realized it had been delivered to an empty house two blocks away from his home. He called Jeff back a few days later to tell him the events that happened next:

The officer had stopped by the empty house, rang the doorbell, looked in the window and then saw the open FedEx packaging with his name on it in the trash. The house was “abandoned” but he got a search warrant and came back with his team. When they entered the house they found a METH LAB! While they were in the house a car pulled up to the house, saw their cars, and zoomed away.

They found the license plate on the dash cam and tracked the license and registration. When the officers visited the home where the car was registered they ended up arresting a mother and daughter. The mother/daughter had been using the empty house to run a meth lab. When they searched their car they found the missing knife under the driver’s seat. The knife was held as evidence. The Officer asked for its release and since the daughter’s fingerprints were on the FedEx package as well and they could use that as evidence they released the knife into the hands of our officer in time for the graduation.

I told Jeff he’s a Christmas Hero. Through helping a family with Christmas he started a chain of events that shut down a meth lab and led to the arrest of two drug dealers. Maybe we should have gotten him his own theme-music for Christmas. Perhaps one for the druggies: "Have Yourself a Methy Little Christmas", "I'm Dreaming of a High Christmas," or, our personal favorite, "Christmas in Kilmainham."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pedicab vs. Cabdriver

Earlier this week my coworker and I manned a table at a Summer Opportunities Fair at a high school out in Long Island where we talked to junior high and high school kids about our programs. We didn’t get back to midtown Manhattan until 10:00pm and I decided to take a cab home. I hailed a taxi. It was a mid-size SUV with tinted windows in the back.

I got in and called my niece, Camri. It was her birthday and we started talking about what she had done that day (she had just turned 13). As we drove across town towards the West Side Highway we got stuck between two pedicabs (cycle rickshaw) were riding side by side. They blocked our lane and we, and the cars behind us, had to slow down as a stream of cars zoomed past us in the other lanes. My cab driver honked and gestured and yelled. The pedicabs didn’t break their side-by-side formation – they looked like they were casually chatting as they biked along pulling the empty seats behind them.

Camri was in the midst of telling me about her birthday dinner when there was finally there was a break in the traffic and my driver, all the while yelling, pulled around them and made eye contact with the one closest to us and swerved to almost hit him! I heard a yell and a thud and we drove on. I couldn’t believe it! About the time I thought I should get another cab (on principle) we stopped at a stoplight. We had just stopped when the two pedicabs rode around our cab, yelling, and they pulled in front of our cab. Every time the cabbie tried to drive around them they'd swerve in front of the car. Finally we shot around both of them and the cabbie drove half a block, fuming, then pulled to the side of the road and opened his door to get out of the cab.

I was in the midst of asking Camri, "Where did you decide to go for dinner?" When I, instead, said firmly, "NO. You can get back in the car, there is no need to get in a fight. I want to go home. Get back in the car. We’re going to keep driving." Camri giggled.

The cabbie grumbled but got back in the car and we kept driving. We hit another light and all of a sudden a pedicab pulled in front of the cab - lengthwise so the pedicab driver could look in my driver’s eyes. Another pedicab pulled up next to the driver's side window and leaned in towards the window, yelling. The pedicab driver that the cabby had swerved to hit pulled up next to the driver’s window.

Camri started telling me about shopping with her mom.

They started swearing and yelling and hitting the windows. They threatened and BAM! Hit the window. Swear and BAM! Hit the windows.

I sat in the backseat in kind of disbelief. I found myself wondering, “Did they call for backup? Is there some kind of pedicab backup hotline? Where did the third pedicab come from? Meanwhile, my niece, unaware of the situation on my end is telling me about shopping with her mom. I imagine I sounded somewhat detached but responded with, "That sounds like a lot of fun." As I watched the men's angry faces through the window and the cab driver yell back. The lead pedi-driver hit the window with the flat of both palms, as if pushing the cab itself in a fight, then he spat on the driver's window.

When the light changed they made a row of three pedicabs across the road so we couldn't get around. They tried to swerve in front of us anytime we tried to pull around. We finally zoomed around them a few blocks away. The cabbie stopped and opened his door to wipe off the dripping spit off with a tissue. Then we pulled on to the highway and we drove off.

I talked to my niece and then my sister for the next twenty minutes all the while thinking, WHAT just happened?

When he pulled up in front of my apartment building I asked, "Did you actually hit the bike or just swerve towards him? He said, "I didn't hit him. He hit the back of my cab! Did you see them in the middle of the street? They can't drive like that!" Then he smiled and wished me a good night.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brad? Brad Who?

Quote of the Blog:

Mike in the Tate Modern: "Seriously? You call this Art?? I'm going to drink half a glass of water and put it on a shelf and call that art." Turns and points. "Oh wait. It's already been done."


Five years ago, just before moving to New York, I was the college advisor for the School of General Academics at Utah Valley University (then Utah Valley State College- and yes, I figure someday that will date me). I’d decorated my office with a few items including a small poster of Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl.

I fell in love with the painting Drowning Girl (1963) the first time I saw it in print – and even more when I saw the large 68” by 68” original at the MoMA in New York City. I think it’s very funny yet layered in meaning and social commentary. Lichtenstein used Ben-Day dots to create his famous comic book paintings. Drowning Girl depicts a girl about to be enveloped by waves. Her thought bubble reads, “I DON’T CARE! I’D RATHER SINK THAN CALL BRAD FOR HELP!”

Generally female students reacted with amusement or a knowing head-nod to the poster. Men, on the other hand, responded in one of three ways (often enough that I started to keep tally on a sheet that has since gone missing):

Reaction 1: “I don’t get it.”

Reaction 2: “I think I recognize this! Which comic is it from??”

Reaction 3: “Who’s Brad?”

While not the most common, reaction three was the most interesting, amusing, and surprising to me. I had never thought of Brad as a specific person and yet dozens of men asked about it. Some even asked, “Is that supposed to be Angelina?” Finally when a student asked, “Who is Brad?” I’d respond with, “Well. You could be someone’s Brad.” Sometimes that helped, sometimes it didn’t.

I’d talked with male and female colleagues about student reactions but none of them had witnessed a reaction first-hand…until one day when Cindy was sitting in my office during lunch. A student walked in and started to ask a question about his math class. As he spoke he saw the poster, stopped mid-sentence, and asked, “Who’s Brad?”

Cindy started giggling in delight and actually pointed her finger at him! I gave her a look and her eyes widened in self-realization - she looked at her pointing finger in horror and clapped the hand over her mouth to stiffle her (now) embarrassed laughter.

Cindy excused herself and went back to her office (which was next door to mine) and I casually tried to brush past the moment, quickly explained that “Who’s Brad?” is a common question and we aren’t exaclty sure who Brad is and isn’t it nice outside and what is it you wondered about the Math 101 course?

You know, just now I realize that students may have thought of the painting as just one frame out of a comic book set that would have provided more context. Hmmm, either way, I find the reactions interesting! If you have thoughts about it, I’d love to read them. The Drowning Girl poster is in my room and sometimes I idly wonder to myself if maybe I'm some boy's Brenda.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Short Story Prompt

Quote of the blog:

Brook: That reminds me of that one part in that book on the Civil War where, err, two guys travel somewhere and save everyone in that one battle...


Earlier this year I took a Gotham Writer's Creative Writing 101 course. I wanted to get back in the habit of writing creative pieces and the six-week course was a perfect setting. Each week we were given a writing assignment that we would bring the next week and get feedback. One of the prompts was to write about a device that doesn't exist but we wish did. It didn't take me long to think of a memory device. I would love to better remember things I want to recall. The idea spurred the start of a short-story which I haven't finished yet - but very much enjoyed writing. The beginning of the story is below:

He scrubbed his hands and arms long after the bloody water had run clear. Footsteps in the hallway brought him back to the present, but only for a moment. He shut off the sink and turned around. Water ran unheeded down his forearms and hands in micro-streams and dripped onto the operating room floor. His brows drew together and, Benton Russell, Neurosurgeon, remembered.

The instant he sought for the memories he felt a small electrical pulse at the base of his skull. Absently he reached up and fingered the two chrome discs on the nape of his neck. They were just centimeters in diameter and only an inch apart from each other. He touched their cool tips and shuddered.

ReMemory version 1.0 was announced at the 2051 conference in Berlin. Benton had sat at the VIP table and listened as Kurt Perry, the slick-haired, oily-voiced spokesperson for the biotech company Genesis as he hailed ReMemory version 1.0 as “an advance in science unlike anything seen in over two decades.”

Perry made a sweeping gesture towards a massive screen behind him. “Watch,” he said grandly and stepped to the side. The lights lowered and Benton watched as a projected 30-foot version of himself began explaining how ReMemory functioned like a hard-drive for the brain. His voice continued as footage shifted to an operating room where he inserted two small chrome discs into the nape of a patient’s neck. He explained how “all-natural organic feelers” worked their way to the cerebellum where they tapped into neural pathways. When the brain struggled to search for a memory, ReMemory version 1.0 would activate and make the memory accessible in seconds. He smiled. It was quite simple really; electricity created by the brain’s activity powered the device. He explained that the memory had to be there, of course, housed in the brain’s neurons and dendrites to be retrievable. He smiled at the camera and invited the audience to listen to ReMemory users and the video ended with touching and inspiring testimonials of participants from trial-studies.

Now, just three years later versions of Memory Enhancers like ReMemory were everywhere. Even supermarkets sold the newest ReMemory Version 4.2 upgrade. And one year earlier, in an effort improve the country’s embarrassing rank among international academic performance, the government had approved a version for toddlers. It wasn’t uncommon to see a kid at the playground, her hair in a ponytail, two small chrome discs right under the hairline flashing in the sun.

An FDA representative had called him a few months before the approval. What was her name? –and there it was, another tinge of electricity at the nape of his neck and within one second he had it. He said it out loud, “Vivienne.”

“Vivienne?” a voice asked. Benton jumped and looked up. He hadn’t heard anyone come into the room.

At 5’5 Tyson Eptein was small but well-built and well-dressed. A Genesis logo tie-tack glinted in the sterile light. He walked into the room and eyed Benton’s wet arms and the puddles on the vinyl floor. He set his briefcase on a nearby gurney and looked at Benton intently. “What happened?”

Benton looked down in disbelief, “It grew. ReMemory grew. Our organic feelers not only tapped into the neuronal pathways it grew into and around them like some kind of ivy.”

Tyson hesitated, “That’s not possible.” His eyes widened, “Where’s Product #1?”

Benton met Tyson's gaze. “He’s dead.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Car Hazing: Little Fella's Initiation to The City

Quote of the blog:

Gaby: I don't think we're taking that drive today, my radiator is missing.


Next April will mark my fifth year in New York City. My current roommate Gaby moved here just two weeks after I did. Even though we had never met before she moved the city Gaby knew my brother from college and we had a few other mutual friends that lived here. We hit it off as soon as we met. She had driven cross-country with her friend Brenda in her ’93 red Honda Civic, affectionately named Little Fella.

The weekend after she moved here the four of us, Gaby, Ty, Brenda and myself took a drive to Target in the Bronx to run some errands. It’s only a 20-minute drive but it was a nice drive, the afternoon was sunny and bright. There isn’t a Target on Manhattan (yet), so for now this is still the closest one to us. Little Fella was parked in the upper parking lot and we ran our errands. We were in Target for less than an hour but as we walked back to the car we saw something - someone had keyed the hood of Gaby’s car! In the middle of the day! We got closer, and what would have been exclamations of, “I can’t believe someone keyed your car!” Came out as “I can’t believe that someo---whaaa?” when we saw what was written.

In what started out as 4” letters that got smaller and smaller was the phrase FAF you. Huh? FAF you? What the what? We puzzled over it. What could it stand for? Did they misspell...? Was it a keyed typo? It seemed unlikely it was a random misspelling when they took the time to key out the word you. Hmmm. We were so curious. We pondered possible acronyms, misspellings, and slang options. When we got home we searched Google, looked on (search with caution!) and asked friends – and found…nothing. Note: there is an entry for FAF now but it wasn’t there four years ago and the definition doesn’t seem a likely fit. We were puzzled - although we did have fun giving it different connotations via tone and inflection.

That wasn’t the only City-car-hazing Little Fella went through: it was broken into multiple times (until Gaby moved it to a garage), was outrageously overcharged by a convincing mechanic, and perhaps worst of all, a homeless man peed on the passenger window– while Gaby was in the driver’s seat!

These experience could be viewed as a car’s rite of passage into city life. Sometimes we’ll see new cars: no dings, scratches, bumper guards, etc. and think, “it won’t look like that for long in the city.” And while we still don’t know the meaning of FAF you Little Fella became a City Car that day at Target (although he was henceforth known by some as Little FAF or Little FAF you).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Is Googleable a Verb?

Quote of the Blog:

K: Is it bad that I just Googled How to meet friends after college?


I woke up this morning at 4:30 am to a high-pitched whining by my ear. I panicked. I pulled the covers over my head and sat under them for a few moments. When I turned on my lamp I saw the culprit, a zancudos, a mosquito(!) loitering on the wall by my bed. I grabbed a little tissue and, well, let’s just say he’s not going to be bothering anyone ever again. BUT, he’s the third mosquito in a week we’ve killed in the apartment! And we live on the fifth floor! WHYYYYYYYYYYYY are they in my apartment nibbling on my ear at 4:30 am? There might be exceptions I’d make for a nibbling on my ear, but this is not one of them. I mean, it’s almost November? Shouldn’t they be DEAD without me to kill them? With these thoughts in my head I pulled my Macbook off the desk onto my lap. At 4:30 am I started researching mosquitoes.

I love looking up things on the Internet. I really do. I love that I can find answers to just about anything. If a topic, person, location, etc. comes up in conversation and I’m near a computer there's a good chance we're looking it up.

Earlier today my friend told me that he was going to maybe dress up as Michael Myers for Halloween. I was like, “Oh? Mike Meyers, that's funny.” His exasperated, yet amused answer was, “No. Dork. Michael Myers from Halloween.” Within a few moments I’d opened Google images. Oh man. Michael Myers is Scary! And looks NOTHING like Mike Meyers (except maybe for the hair).

There was a time, for almost six months, where every morning I read one item on (possibly one of my favorite websites). I read about loads of different topics: cell phones, car engines, lightning, lock picking, quicksand, MRIs, zippers, LEDs, snowflakes etc. I loved it. I still read them – but not every day. Now I spend more time listening to the "Radio Lab" podcast - which gives me my “how things work” fix.

Sometimes my phone gets phone envy because all it does is phone stuff like calls and texts. I can sympathize. It doesn’t get the internet – or the World Wide Web as my friend’s mother calls it. “Sweetie, the world wide web isn’t working. Can you help me get it back up?”

You can search just about anything on the WWW but you can’t always find the answer you’re looking for.

Friend: Lately my belly has been sweating.
Brook: I'm sorry, what?
Friend: It's true! I even tried to Google belly sweat. It's like the one thing you can't Google.

So, even though I can get 2,310,000 results in 0.32 seconds by typing in “mosquito in house” we’ve still got a ways to go…

Monday, October 11, 2010

Choose the What?

Quote of the Blog:

Justin: Brook, we're great friends. Think of how much better we'd be if you weren't so morally upstanding.
Brook: Or if you weren't so morally reprehensible.
(We both laugh)


In primary, at church, we used to get little adjustable rings with a green shield-shaped emblem on the top with the white letter “CTR.” CTR stood for “Choose the Right” and we wore our rings as reminders. Not too long ago my mom told me how El. Uchtdorf, one of the twelve apostles, had spoken at a regional conference and said that CTR can not only stand for Choose the Right but for Current Temple Recommend. I work at the LDS temple and loved that idea – a reminder adapted from childhood to a specific reminder to live a life worthy to enter the temple. I thought it was very clever.

So a while ago I was preparing to teach in Relief Society in church (the last hour of church when just the women meet). I wanted to incorporate El. Uchtdorf’s idea of CTR standing for Current Temple Recommend into my lesson and I thought it would be great to have the rings to pass out so I ordered fifty primary rings online. Since the post office closes the same time I get off work, I had them delivered to my work. A few days later the front desk handed them to me as my coworkers Allyson and Sunil and I were coming back from lunch. Sunil and Allyson wanted to know what the rings were for. We’d had quite a few conversations about church and so I opened the package and showed them the rings and told them about the lesson and Choose the Right.

Sunil was kind of looking at the rings so I asked if he wanted one. "Sure!" So I gave one to him and to Allyson. Sunil immediately put the ring on his gold necklace (no, he's not Italian or in the mafia). Allyson put hers on her pinky and wore it all next day. A couple days later Sunil came into the room where Allyson, Justin, me, and a few others worked. He said that his buddy had seen the ring on his necklace and asked what CTR stood for. Sunil couldn't remember. I told him it stood for Choose the Right and then quizzed him throughout the day. It was so funny. Every time I asked him he came up with a different answer: "Chosen True Righteous?" "Cah...Right?"

But Friday of that week was a different story. As you can probably tell from the quote of the blog there is generally quite a bit of teasing and joking that goes on in the office. We all got along really well and had a lot of fun (not all of us work here still). Justin and Sunil were talking with me and Allyson when Justin, smirked and said something sarcastic to Sunil – something like, "Oh right Sunil, like you would EVER be able to do that." Sunil made a face and I countered, "I believe in you Sunil! You can totally do it!" Sunil smiled at me sweetly and said nicely, "Thanks Brook" and then turned to Justin and said, "Yeah!! CHOOSE THE RIGHT! MOTHER F*****!"

I died laughing. It was the last thing I thought he was going to say. But at least he remembered what CTR stood for, right?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Police, Pachyderms, and a Pickup Truck

Quote of the blog:

Sabra, on the first day of a family vacation: “By the end of this week I’m going to stop chewing my nails and get a different laugh.”


My family is a family of storytellers. We love to tell and share stories and many of our friends are the same way - and my mom’s friend Candee was no exception. Mom met Candee the second time my parents were stationed at Beale Air Force Base (AFB) in the late 70’s. From the first time they met they knew they'd be great friends, and they were. When Candee moved to Colorado she and my mom kept in touch via letters.

One day my mom received a letter (that she kept for years) that told the story I'm about to share. I grew up on this story - it's been shared for years and years and will be shared for years to come. I’ve never heard the story anywhere else, but sometimes I wonder if it has evolved into an urban legend somewhere – just because the story is that amazing and it happened just over 25 years ago. Like my mom and Candee used to say, "you can't make this stuff up."

The story is about Candee’s friend. She and her husband were dealing with some stress and wanted to take a break and get away for a while. They decided to pack their camper (the kind that attaches to the back of a pickup truck) and go away for two or three days. They did a bit of research and found a safari park that had recently opened a few hours away from their home. So off they went. They left one morning, arrived at the park, and drove around to see the animals.

While they were driving around an elephant attacked their camper and dented the side of it. It was a charge and dent and run. The couple were fine and the camper was drivable. They went to the manager of the safari park and reported the incident. He took all of their information and encouraged them to go into town and meet with a representative from their insurance company. He said if they filled out the forms at the insurance company he would be able to support the claim. So the couple drove into town, met with the insurance agent, who called the park manager to verify the story, and they were on their way.

They decided to drive down the road and find a campground where they could spend that evening. Then they would decide how to spend the next day. They pulled onto the freeway and had only driven a few miles when they heard a lot of sirens. They dutifully pulled to the side of the road to get out of the way and much to their surprise four or five cop cars surrounded the camper. They were pulled out of the vehicle, frisked, arrested, and taken to jail.

Earlier that day, when the couple had met with the insurance company, a bank had been robbed in the city. The getaway vehicle was described as a camper with a dented side. After the police made a series of phone calls the couple was released.

By this time the couple felt this vacation was more stressful than staying home. The getaway they had envisioned wasn't the kind that involved the cops. They were done. They decided to drive home, close the blinds, unhook the phone and not answer the door. Before getting back on the road the wife told her husband she wanted to lie down so she got out of the truck, walked to the back, got in the camper and went to sleep.

On the way home the husband stopped for gas. As he went in to pay the wife woke up and, seeing they were at a service station, decided to use the gas station restroom. When she came out of the bathroom she saw, to her horror, that her husband and camper were gone. Her husband had paid, come back to the camper and, thinking his wife was asleep in the back, had driven off.

There was the wife, standing at the gas station with no purse, no wallet, and no way to reach her husband (years before cell phones) and still miles from home. She walked back into the gas station and told her situation to the cashier. A man standing nearby heard her story and offered to give her a ride with him and his family. He said it was just a little out of the way and they were happy to help her. They drove her to her home, but must have taken a different route or driven faster than her husband because they dropped her off before her husband was there. Knowing that her husband was on his way she sat down on the front step to wait for him.

She didn’t have to wait long before her husband turned onto their street and pulled into the driveway but when he saw his wife waiting on the front step he was so shocked he drove right through the garage door.

How is that for a stress free weekend?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I am Brook, Hear Me RAWr!

Quote of the blog:

Talia: “I’m not sure I could ever date a vegan. Our principles would be so different. Mine being ‘I want steak all the time.’”

Allyson: “And mine being, ‘Feed me more bacon.’”


Earlier this year, my friend Amy, who is a health-conscience vegetarian, (aren’t they all?) challenged a few of her friends to go Raw for one week. She tried Raw for a couple of months, and while she isn’t a life-long Raw food advocate, she says, “there are so many benefits that come from weaning yourself off the SAD (Standard American Diet) to a diet rich in fresh, unprocessed, real food.” I agree and agreed to the challenge. An excerpt from her original email explains what we were to do:

To get wikipedia on you: Raw foodism is a lifestyle promoting the consumption of un-cooked, un-processed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet. Raw foodists typically believe that the greater the percentage of Raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits. (Food is not cooked above 118 degrees in an effort to preserve enzymes.)

For a week, beginning May 9th [the challenge] is to experiment with subsisting entirely on fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, sprouts... nothing cooked or processed.

I wish I had somehow recorded the reactions of my coworkers when I told them I was going Raw for a week. To some extent, we are all foodies and work-talk is interspersed with food-talk of gastronomical proportions. We talk about Iron Chef, the Food Network, recipes, and restaurants. At breakfast time we talk about what we’ll eat for lunch, at lunchtime we talk about what we’ll eat for dinner and sometimes even what we should eat the next day.

Currently, no one in our small office is vegetarian or vegan let alone a Rawist (I may have made that term up). The amount of skepticism they showed made me nervous. I put on a nonchalant front, “Meh, should be fine, it’s only a week.” but was slightly nervous on the inside. I did Raw one week after everyone else because of conflicting non-Raw-friendly plans the week of the challenge. This meant I heard feedback from everyone else who tried it before I did. Amy found that most of her female friends didn't have any issues with going Raw, but most of her male friends found it difficult. But my nonchalance turned to nervousness after our friend Ryan sent us an email about going Raw for a week. I knew it would be a good read when I saw the subject line: “Raw is War Spelled Backwards.” An excerpt from his thorough (and unbelievably amusing) email is below:

By the time Thursday rolled around, I had no appetite whatsoever. I wasn’t craving the food I couldn’t eat, and I certainly wasn’t craving the ones I could. I was just over the whole thing. Tired of thinking about food all day, and tired of being mad at Amy and everyone else around me. I felt no burst of energy as promised and I think I actually gained weight because I over-compensated by eating approximately four times the amount of fruit I usually do. And what’s worse, I felt none of the cool bragging rights I thought I’d feel. Before, oh how I longed to tell people things like, “Oh I’m sorry, I’ll have to pass… I’m on a RAW DIET you see” and then soak in all of their praise and respect. I didn’t care for any of that. I was ashamed and embarrassed about what I was masochistically and unnecessarily doing to myself. I was like a cutter. Who just cut fruit and no cheese. I just wanted to go back to the old Me. If I wasn’t broke, why break me?

I do love my fruit and vegetables and generally eat healthy foods, but as I read Ryan’s email and thought about the upcoming week I wondered if I was self-imposing an early descent into the 3rd level of Hell – the level reserved for the gluttonous (if eating meat and cooked foods is gluttony).

The Friday before the week of Raw I went grocery-shopping with my co-worker Pei. She is the coworker who eats dinners for breakfast (see “Roast Duck” in the post “Come Again?”). We started in the fresh veggies/fruits section of Fairway. I bought broccoli, avocadoes, spinach, onions, dates, apples, bananas. Then we moved on to grains; I bought quinoa, dried chick peas, raw almonds, flax seeds, wheat berries, etc. As we walked around the store Pei pointed out all the things I couldn’t eat. “See those cookies? You won’t be able to eat those!” or, pointing to the meat section, “Or that!”, the hot soups, “or that!” And then she looked at my basket and shook her head, “Zoo food! You are buying food for zoo animals!” Then she laughed.

Oh, by the way, when I first announced that I was going Raw I changed my gchat status to “RAW!” which prompted various inquiries, but my favorite was from a friend, “Raw what? Is this from a song I don't know?”

And the week before I started Raw I announced in my best monster-truck voice, “I’m starting RAAAAAAW on Monday! Monday! Mondaaaaaaaaay!” Unfortunately, that led to a friend asking if I was prepping to watch WWE ( No, but I would have my own personal battle with sprouting wheat berries and the blender.

On Monday, day one of Raw, I was prepared. I started the morning out with blended banana, apple and soaked flax (actually delicious). I had salad for lunch. And ate veggies and quinoa (that I had sprouted) for dinner.

On TuesdayI was eating a salad and my coworker glancing at my meal said, “I’ll be right back, I’m going to go eat something cooked.”

The next few days were pretty similar although I realized I should have planned my dinners better. One night I blended sprouted wheat berries with a banana, blackberries, and strawberries and ate a kind of cold wheat berry sorbet. It was tasty but I wanted something to eat. I wanted something hot and cooked. I ended up slicing and salting a raw potato. Imagine my joy when I found out raw fish was on the relatively short “OK TO EAT” list. The next two days I ordered sashimi for lunch.

I also made almond milk – which I found surprisingly delicious. And, unlike Ryan, I found some self-congratulatory satisfaction in trying Raw for a week and saying, “Oh, what's this? It’s almond milk. I made it.” Although, it’s not as impressive when they’d find out that all you need is a blender, raw almonds, water, agave, and cheesecloth.

Going Raw for a week influenced the way I eat. I’m more aware of what I’m eating and have incorporated more grains (albeit cooked) into my diet. And I love raw almonds and almond milk. All in all, trying Raw, even for such a short amount of time, was a good experience.

Even though my weeklong fling with Raw happened last May it still comes up in the office sometimes. Someone might talk about steak or bacon or a turkey sandwich and then say, “Remember that time Brook went Raw?” The room falls quiet for a brief moment of silence and headshaking.

On the last and final day of Raw, I went to dinner downtown with some friends. I told them about the week’s experiment over a big, juicy, hot, cooked, cheeseburger.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Subway Hero

Quote of the blog:

Brook: “Holding Out for a Hero is my theme-song.

Justin: “ order to attract a hero, you may not want to openly admit that.”


You need just a bit of background about me for the following story (don't worry, it's just a little bit). I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sometimes called LDS, sometimes Mormon. We meet in churches every week to worship and hold our services, and then we have temples where sacred ordinances (such as temple marriages) are performed (inquiring minds can visit or

While there are thousands of churches where members meet weekly to worship, there are just over 130 temples in the world. We are lucky enough to have a temple in Manhattan just a block away from the Lincoln Center. The Manhattan LDS temple is completely staffed by members who are called as volunteers. I've worked as an Ordinance Worker in the Manhattan Temple for almost four years. It's been one of the most amazing opportunities I've ever had and I love it.

I currently work every other Wednesday evening after work, but when I first started serving in the temple I worked every other Saturday morning. My friend Anna and I worked on the same Saturday morning shift and we would leave our building at 4:40 am to catch the train to be there by 5:30 am.

Just a bit more background - when a member of the church is called to fulfill a “calling” whether it’s as a Sunday School teacher, Bishop, Ordinance Worker, or Primary Teacher, we are interviewed by an authority in the church. If the calling is extended, or offered, and the person is willing to serve in that calling he/she is receives a blessing and is “set apart” to do that calling.

So when I was interviewed and asked to serve in the temple by Pres. Lee, then a member of the temple presidency, he asked me if my neighborhood was safe early in the morning. I told him that I had never really been out in my neighborhood at 5:00 in the morning. I’ve never felt unsafe in my neighborhood but know that, like most neighborhoods, the later it gets the more crazies come out. When Pres. Lee set me apart he said that I would be protected and safe in my travels to and from the temple.

Ok, a couple of months later, Anna and I walked the ten blocks or so to the 1 train. The Dyckman 1 train stop is one of the few outdoor, elevated, subway stops in Manhattan. It was chilly 4:30 am morning in April and we walked quickly leaving little puffs of breath to dissipate behind us. We walked up the chipped stairs at the Dyckman stop and sat on the wooden benches under the peeling awning. Few people are on the platform that early and as the only white people and the only females we were the minority.

The trains come every 20 minutes or so that early. We sat close together for warmth and waited and drowsily chatted. A few minutes later a massive man walked up the stairs. He was well-built, 6’3 and probably 220 lbs. The word hulking came to mind. He was unkempt and looked like he had had a rough night. He sat at the end of our bench. I would need to confirm with Anna to see what she thought, but my impression was that he’d been in a fight earlier. He just looked rough. He sat for a moment then looked over and started talking to us - maybe "speaking at us" would be more appropriate. I won’t write what he was saying, but it was uncomfortable at best. It didn’t take long to realize he was completely drunk. It’s hard to know what to do in those situations. Around my neighborhood I find it more effective to ignore catcallers, etc. because they usually just kind of shrug and let it be. In Harlem I take a different approach since ignoring men there tends to incite them.

Since Anna and I were already talking when he started speaking to us we just kept talking and didn’t make eye contact. He spoke to us the whole time we sat there. It was maybe the longest ten minutes I’ve ever waited for a train.

When the train finally arrived Anna and I looked at each other. I could tell we both thought it would be wise to walk down one car so we weren’t on the same one with the drunk. We stood in front of the train shifting our weight and adjusting the grip on our purses. We were impatient and nervous. As soon as the doors opened we hurried to the next car and hopped on. We looked around: there were ten or so people in the car, mostly older men on their way to work. We sat down at the same time we heard outrage erupt behind us. It was the drunk. He had assumed, rightly, that we went into a different car because we were trying to get away from him.

It was like one of the moments in the movies where the protagonist dashes into the elevator and you hope the doors can close before the assailant gets in. We could hear him coming. His roar reached the doors before he did but they didn’t close in time. The train had sat motionless just long enough for him to exit his car and rage to ours.

He entered cursing, balled fists held out to his sides and the doors closed behind him. His head was lowered and his bleary eyes burned at us. He charged. I really didn’t know what to do. Anna and I stood up and rushed between the moving cars into the next one. We raced passed passengers whose only motion was to register surprise and apprehension in their expression. The drunk was still roaring his rage. He moved with surprising agility – and was catching up to us.

I didn’t know what to do but was sorting through options. The next stop was coming but not soon enough. The belligerent drunk blocked access to the train conductor (who was in his booth three cars back). To get to the driver we needed to race through another five cars and I was doubtful we could make it before the drunk reached us. I looked around at the passengers as we passed. There were three men in this car. They looked up, looked back as the roaring drunk entered, and then looked down again.

The words from the blessing when I was set apart as a temple worker came to mind - that I would be blessed with safety and protection on my travels to and from the temple. I knew right then that we would be OK, but I just didn’t know how. I wasn’t scared but I was definitely nervous. My heart was pounding. I heard the drunk close behind us yelling, “Where do you think you can go? You think I can’t follow you?” I glanced back; he was ten feet away. I realized that he would reach us before we could go through another emergency exit door to the next car. Anna and I turned to face him. He was just a few feet away.

Just then the door at the other end of the train was yanked open and a young man, about 25 years old, ran into the car behind the drunk. He had a small build - maybe 5’6 and 140 lbs? He reached up and tapped the angry drunk on the shoulder. The drunk half-turned. Our Subway Hero said pointedly, “What are you trying to do? Get yourself arrested? Leave these ladies alone.” The drunk turned fully and started yelling at Subway Hero –spat out obscenities with vehemence but the young man stayed calm. The drunk sat on a seat still yelling and swearing .

Our Subway Hero placed himself between us and held his hand up in front of the drunk, like a cop stopping traffic. As the train pulled into the 191st station he informed us that the drunk was not going to bother us anymore and that we could go to the next car or get off at the next stop, whichever we preferred. That if anything happened this guy would get arrested. We nodded our understanding and appreciation. The doors opened and we went to the next car. Subway Hero stayed with the (still swearing but sullen and subdued) drunk to make sure he couldn’t follow us.

He was our Subway Hero. I’m not sure what would have happened if the drunk had made it the last five feet and reached us, but I’m grateful someone intervened. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even say thank you to our Subway Hero, all I could do was nod. I still wish I knew his name and could thank him properly but I think, and hope, he could see it in our eyes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Connecting the Dots

Quote of the blog:

Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.” Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commemoration Address “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”


First off, sorry I’ve been MIA. I will not make excuses and will only say I’m glad to be blogging again.

One night, just about a month ago, while I was getting ready for bed in Oxford, England, I realized I’ve spent a part of the last seven/ten summers in Europe. I hadn’t thought about it like that before and paused mid-toothbrushing to look in the mirror and reflect. I thought about Steve Jobs’ 2005 commemoration address at Stanford University title “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. He describes looking back at his life and “connecting the dots” (decisions/events) that lead him to where he is now. I love that idea. So, I stood there with my toothbrush in my teeth and looked in the mirror and thought about what brought me where I am now.

Where am I now? Well, I’ve been in Manhattan for over four years and I work for a company that coordinates summer study abroad programs in England, France, and Spain for students in 9th-12th grade. We spend the year marketing, advertising, and recruiting for the programs. I’m the Executive Coordinator for our 8th-9th grade program in Oxford so I’m there for six weeks in the summer.

When I tell people there are 150 students in 8th and 9th grade on my program sometimes their congratulations turn to congratudolences (a mixture of congratulations and condolences). But, that’s ok. I love my job. People often ask me how I got my job; sometimes I just want to answer “God” since a series of very specific events led me here.

Almost every one of these events could be their own story, but below is the Reader’s Digest synopsis of how I ended up here.

My dad was in the Air Force I had moved nine times by the time I turned 13 and had attended five elementary schools. Ever since I was a child I’ve loved moving and change. My dad retired just before I started junior high so I attended the same schools through junior high or high school.

After HS graduation, I opened my acceptance letter to Rick’s College (now BYU Idaho) in 1998 and saw the insert for a British Literary Tour. It was a yellow bookmark flyer. I knew in that moment I would go. When I graduated from Rick’s in the summer of 2000 I traveled with forty other students to England, Wales, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, and France. We affectionately called the British Literary Tour the BLT 2000. It was amazing and sealed my conviction about study abroad experiences – which is basically that everyone should go if given the chance.

Three semesters later in 2002-2003, I became the president of the UV Leaders (now the UV Mentors) at Utah Valley University (then UVSC) – this organization helped teach students how to study and succeed in college. The experience I gained through the UV Leaders: presenting, coordinating, organizing, and leading, has been invaluable. I sometime refer to this time as my Glory Years. I loved them.

N.B. As I write this chronology I realize that there are quite a few events that will date me. My children will say things like, “You went to BYUI when it was Ricks??” and “That was waay back in the glory days when the UV Mentors were called the UV Leaders and UVU was UVSC.” Sigh. So it goes.

In 2002 I heard about UVU’s London Study Abroad Program. Students studied in London for six weeks and then traveled to Paris for five days. I volunteered to sit at the tables and pass out flyers, etc. not knowing if I would be hired or not, but I was excited to be involved. The enrollment for 2002 was small because of 9/11 that they didn't hire any student PA's on the program. But I really enjoy being a part of group planning and I am a huge fan of shared experiences.

I applied for the London Study Abroad Program Assistant in 2003 and was thrilled when I found out I got the job (so maybe I ran around the room cheering after Kate, one of the coordinators, called me). The job entailed marketing and recruiting and planning for the program from January to May. Since different professors teach on the program every year I had to apply separately for each summer. I was hired for 2003, 2004, and 2005. They are some of my favorite summers ever.

After I returned from LSA 2005 I found myself job-hunting. I was only submitting resumes in Utah, but one night my brother Ty, who had moved to New York a few months earlier called me. His roommate had just moved out and rent was paid through the end of the month. He wanted me to come stay with him. I wasn’t so sure. He called me a few days later, “Brook, we just went to a free philharmonic concert in Central Park.” That was Wednesday. On Friday I bought my ticket and flew out the next week not knowing when or if I would be back. I started temping at the Public Relations agency where my brother worked and The City started to woo me and I wanted to stay. Ty’s then-girlfriend, Erin, helped me revamp my resume and I started submitting my resume in NYC.

One Saturday after we went sailing on the Hudson I got a call from UVU asking if I could interview for an advisor position that Friday. I happened to be going home for a niece’s baptism that weekend and I would actually be in town to interview. I flew to Utah, interviewed, and was hired as the Advisor for the School of General Academics a few hours later. I moved back from New York and started the job almost immediately. I loved that job. I got to meet and help so many people. My boss KD was amazing and I met some of my best friends through that job. I felt fulfilled when I went home. It was fantastic.

Then one day, just a few months after I started at UVU I got a phone call from Tamica at Fleishman-Hillard (FH), a Public Relations Firm in New York City. She told me that she received my resume and understood that I was going to be in NY the next week and they would like to interview me. My sister and I were indeed going to visit Ty the next week, so I agreed to interview. I figured if nothing else the experience of interviewing at a global firm would be good experience. After I hung up the phone I called Erin - FH was the company where my brother’s girlfriend worked.

She answered and I said, “Erin, I just got a call from FH and I have an interview next week.”

Erin gave a guilty giggle, “I hope that’s ok! I turned in your resume and I figured if they called you then great and if not I wasn’t going to say anything!”

The first interview went well and I had a second interview through FH – this time via the internet a few weeks later. The company wasn't hiring until the end of the first quarter, which worked out perfectly because I didn’t want to leave UVU in a bind. When FH called at the beginning of April to offer me the job I told them that I needed to finish out the semester. It took a lot of praying and weighing the pros on cons of moving. I loved my job at UVU but I felt like an opportunity had come to me that I shouldn't pass up. I knew that five years down the road I would regret it if I said, "I could have moved to New York...I just didn't." So, I moved to Manhattan on April 28th, 2006 and started work on May 1st.

I worked in the health care department on biotech and pharmaceutical accounts. And long story short, after a few months I knew that PR wasn’t for me. The science behind the drugs was interesting but I had gone from helping people every day to writing press releases and fact sheets. I used to say that corporate America was sucking my life away and I started looking for other jobs. Then one day in September 2007 (I should write this full story sometime), a year and half after I started working at Fleishman, they laid off 11% of the healthcare department, including me.

It was one of the best things that happened. I walked out the front doors of the News Building on 42nd street and have never missed it since (except for maybe that art deco globe in the entryway).

I had received a severance package and had some savings that offered me some time to reevaluate life and what I wanted. My friend, Amy, had me do the “Flower Exercise” in What Color is Your Parachute (I actually recommend it) and did a bit of research to figure out what types of jobs I would most love to do. I promised myself that I would only apply for jobs that fit that category.

- I actually have a diagram connecting the dots of the next series of events that led me to my current job. I won’t share them all, but one of the more important ones happened in Utah.

I flew home to spend the month of December in Utah with family and friends. One day I visited my friend Jeff, who was an adviser at UVU. He gave, and still gives, some of the best advice I’ve ever received. It was during our conversation that he reminded me how much I loved coordinating study abroad and how it was a pretty specific skill. He recommended I look into it. I kind of laughed. My only experience with study abroad had been short-term work during the year that was something someone did for fun and not for profit.

But I did a search for “study abroad” in Manhattan on Craigslist and a job posting for Oxbridge Academic Programs popped up. The company had posted it just a week before. The job description was almost everything I did for UVSC’s London Study Abroad programs but on a larger scale and was a full-time position. I sent in my resume and had an interview two weeks later. It was just what I had been searching for.

I’ve been with the company for almost three years and I love it. The job allows me to travel, work with people I really like, and feel like I’m making a difference. And that, my friends, are the dots that led me to where I am right now. And honestly, for this stage of my life, I can't imagine a better situation.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Racism, Cops, and a man named Flash (Happy Harlem Birthday Party, Brook)

Quote of the Blog:

Somehow I’ve been subscribed to Essence magazine: “A black woman’s guide to what’s hot now!” The first time I thought it was a fluke, I mean, I don’t know if you noticed, but I don’t fit the demographic. The second issue arrived last week. I had friends over and we flipped through about twenty pages. Then I hurled the magazine across the room and in a mock rage yelled, “That magazine is racist! Where are all the white people!?”


I like to throw themed-birthday party/dances. It’s a fun excuse to get dressed up and get people together. Three years ago I had a Euro-Trash Disco Dance Birthday Party in my friend Jason’s backyard. We used pallets to make a dance floor and twined Christmas lights below the boards and through the trees. We had so much fun.

Two years ago we had a rooftop 50’s Sock-hop at my friend’s building in Harlem. We hung up lights and records and I bought black and white plastic tiles from the dollar store to make a dance floor. My friend’s apartment was on the 3rd floor and since the roof offered no electricity we bought 50-foot extension cords and slung them over the side of the roof down to her apartment to get electricity.

There was Twister and dancing and cake. We were having a grand time until just before midnight when the cops showed up. Who knew the “No Trespassing” sign on the door to the rooftop (where I blew out the birthday cake) applied even to the building residents and their friends…Oops?

Last year we threw a Clue-themed birthday party in our apartment. We had “chalk-line” outlines all over the apartment and a photo-shoot in the back room. We danced the night away.

This last weekend we threw a 70’s themed dance party to celebrate my 30th birthday. My friend Alexis kindly offered to host the party in the backyard of her brownstone (think the front of the Cosby’s home) in Harlem. She lives on the main floor (the middle level) of the brownstone. The kitchen door opens onto a metal spiral staircase that leads to the backyard. It’s a perfect place to have a party. A large church with grounds overlooks the back fence which is a bonus – no neighbors to disturb back there. We decorated the backyard with lights and mini-glittered-disco balls. We hung beaded curtains inside with a lava lamp and rotating disco light.

Alexis told her housemates about the party as well as the “Block Mayor,” Flash. He’d tell everyone who needed to know about the party. Everything seemed perfect!

Before I get into the rest of my story I have to tell you a bit more about Flash. His name is Jerome, but he goes by Flash. His business cards say, “Talk to me, talk to me.” And he knows everyone’s business on the block. He’s the landlord of the brownstone next to Alexis’s apartment. He keeps track of who in the neighborhood is doing what when and watches out for everyone – especially the women. If he sees Alexis going to the store alone he’ll often make another man go with her – sometimes to Alexis’s embarrassment.

When Alexis’s mom came to visit Flash saw her wedding ring and said, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” Pointing at his ring finger and then at hers, “We can get a new ring, but we can’t get a new you.” Alexis had to reassure her mom that the neighborhood was safe.

I’d heard these stories about Flash before the party so I wasn’t surprised when a man interrupted me as I was hanging a sign on the glass at the front door. “Ma’am! Excuse me ma’am!”

I turned and saw a gentleman standing at the bottom of the stairs near the basement entrance to the building next door.


“Ma’am, you don’t want to stand with your back to the stairs, what if someone comes up behind you? You won’t be able to see them. You need to watch yourself and be safe.”

I smiled a warm smile (I like it when men look out for me) and said, “By any chance are you Flash?”

He smiled back and said, “Yes ma’am, I am.”

“Alexis told me that you live next door. I was hoping to meet you, I hope you’ll come to the party later.”

He smiled and said that he’d come by if he could.

The party started at 8:00 pm and people showed up in their 70’s threads. My cousin Amy even flew in from Texas! It was a great 30th!

The music was loud but not blaring and the speakers were at the far wall near the empty church. We chatted and danced and ate food. We had just over forty people show up – most of them in costume. All was groovy…until about 11:30 pm.

A woman started watching us from a second story window in the brownstone to the right of the backyard - her window was at the same level as the top of the spiral staircase. She opened her window, closed the window, and stood behind the closed curtains then in front of the curtains. She was a larger black woman who looked to be in her 40’s. I don’t know what she was wearing but it wasn’t much. When she leaned out the window it was like two torpedoes ready to launch. If there were children present I would have covered their eyes. She leaned out the window for and started taking pictures. Then she turned her computer monitor facing us out the window and took a few more pictures. At this point I took a couple back. She left the window but stuck her hand and camera through the closed curtains to snap a few more shots.

We couldn’t figure out what she was doing. Was she upset? Was she taking pictures for decoration ideas? Was she sad she wasn’t invited? Was she just bored? We weren’t sure, but Alexis went over to make sure she was fine. She rang the door but no one answered. We kept dancing. You can see her in the fuzzy picture below standing in the window on the right.

About twenty minutes later the neighbor leaned out the window (thankfully with more clothes on) and started belting obscenities. I’ll edit a bit but it went something like this:

“Turn that F*ing music off!!”

We turned it off and turned to look at the window.

“Who the * do you think you are?? All you white people in Harlem! Don’t you know where you are? Who the * do you think you are? Where the * do you think you are? Go back downtown and back to the East Side you Yuppies!” She continued to swear and yell for another few minutes – a stream of obscenities and racist comments. This went on for a few minutes. Then she yelled again, “Turn that music off!”

We glanced at each other. “It’s off.”

She yelled again, “Turn that music off!”

A few people yelled back, “It’s off!”

She shouted again, "Turn that music off!" People were getting tired of getting yelled at. The music was off, we weren’t (and hadn’t) been breaking any sound ordinances – you couldn’t hear the music on the street or even at the front of the house and it was still before midnight.

She started yelling again, “Who the * do you think you are!? And where the * do you think you are??”

Someone yelled back, “New York City!”

She yelled, “Go home! Look at you dancing like yuppies! You don’t belong in Harlem! I’ll call the cops if you don’t turn that music off!”

At this point I realized that she had a case of the crazies. The music had been off for five minutes and her hollering was louder than the music and party combined.

She swore a few more times and threw in some reverse racism. One of my sweet friends listened with her mouth open and then yelled, “There is no call to talk like that!"

Another person yelled, “There is no reason to be racist!” She launched into a new tirade about we East Siders in Harlem and “Look at all you white people?? Where are all your black people?” NB. A lot of the people at the party live in Harlem – and while most of us were white not all of us were. I was getting a little nervous. This isn’t quite what I had in mind for the birthday party.

About this time Flash stepped onto the top of the spiral staircase. He spread his arms to the side. He announced, “Flash has arrived.” And descended.

He walked into the midst of our group and gathered us around. He started apologizing on her behalf. He told us that she couldn’t take care of herself, how she didn’t graduate from high school, and didn’t know how to behave.

About this time Crazy leaned out the window and yelled again. She started swearing and yelled, “Do you know where you are? Where are all the black people at your party?” We pointed towards Flash. He smiled. He gestured for us to come in close. “Let me tell you something about this woman…”

She paused, then started hollering again, “Who is that man?? Who is that black man? Who is that black man over there?” She leaned out further to see. Her voice went up a notch. “Who is that man? Is that the man I pay my rent to? Is that Jerome??”

At this point Flash turned around to look up at her over his shoulder. He smiled and said, “It’s Mr. Jerome Ms. K----- ------. Let’s not make this personal.” He turned back to us. She started yelling again, “What’s he telling you! What’s he saying to you! What’s he saying to you?!”

Flash turned and said calmly, “I’m just telling them how you can’t help yourself. How you can’t take care of yourself.” She didn’t take that very well and started saying some comments that I won’t write - even edited. He smiled at us and turned to her again, “I have a package for you!” He turned to us and smiled, “I got a package for her a few days ago, been trying to drop it off for a while.”

She yelled some more things, including, “I’ll call the cops!” Someone rejoined, “Go ahead!” She continued yelling and we decided it was a good time to go inside to eat cake.

About this time a light on the second floor of the brownstone to the left turned on. A woman in her pajamas leaned out. “Jerome!”

Flash looked up, “Hi Deborah!”

“Jerome! It’s my birthday!”

We all said, “Happy Birthday Deborah.”

She repeated, “Jerome, it’s my birthday and I say…LET THESE PEOPLE PARTY!!"

We cheered. Someone yelled to her that she should come over and have cake! She smiled and waved and said, "ok!" We sang her happy birthday as she leaned out her window.

We walked inside to get the cake. Flash said how nice it was to meet us all and left. A few minutes later the front door buzzer rang. Now most New York apartments don’t have doorbells – we have buzzers that will ring as long as you hold down the button and whoever was at the front door wasn’t letting up. I walked with Alexis and we peered through the glass at the front door. Sure enough it was the Crazy from the next brownstone.

Alexis, always calm and kind, said, “Ma’am, I’m not opening the door, you need to go home.”

The woman yelled, “Open this door!” “I’m not leaving!” and “You all need to go home!”

She kept ringing the buzzer so we took the cake and went back to the backyard. Alexis went to the door again and the woman yelled, “Open this door! I’ll call the cops on you!”

Alexis held up her cell phone, “That’s ok, we already called them on you.” And she had.

We took the cake to the backyard, lit the candles, sang happy birthday and I made a wish. About that time Deborah, who had changed out of her pajamas showed up. We relit the cake, sang happy birthday to Deborah, and she blew out the candles. She told us this one was one of the best birthdays she’d had in 57 years – but we can’t take all the credit, an ex-boyfriend had sent her flowers earlier in the day. She said, “You just all seem like the nicest people. I was in my room dancing. It’s a lovely party.”

In the meantime, the Crazy from next door had turned her computer screen around and started playing Malcolm X speeches on Youtube.

We turned the music on low and kept dancing in the backyard, mingling, talking and eating food. Malcom X’s voice floated on the Harlem breeze.

She came back over and rang the doorbell, to the annoyance of the people warming up inside, and Deborah who sat inside while the Crazy was at the front door. She heaved a sigh, “I don’t want to get involved with that.” It was also inconvenient for a group of people that wanted to leave but didn’t want to open the door while she was channeling frustration through the buzzer.We're a non-confrontational group. It was kind funny that all of these people didn’t want to leave because of one woman standing at the front door.

It had been about a half-hour since Alexis called the cops but they finally showed up. The Crazy told her story with arms flailing and voice booming. The group that had waited to leave walked passed her and the cops. As they exited she yelled, “That’s all I wanted, for them to leave!” How much sooner they would have left if she let them!

After the neighbor told her story the police asked Alexis to share her side. Every time Alexis started speaking the woman interrupted. In the end the Crazy was escorted back to her apartment, told to calm down and stop disturbing the peace. They talked to a few neighbors, including Flash – all said we seemed like lovely people. The cops told us we could turn on our music and enjoy the rest of our party and offered Alexis the option of a restraining order.

We finished a few more songs. The Crazy started laughing hysterically (I’d say like a crazy lady but…) and “Ah ha ha ha! You call that dancing! Hahaha.” We danced a while longer and then turned off the music. The Crazy came to the window and yelled one last parting, “Idiots!!” before slamming her window and pulling curtains shut.

I think that my parties might be getting a reputation, but not in a good way! The next day at church someone behind me tapped my shoulder and leaned in with her friend, “We heard people were trapped at your party by a crazy woman!” I don’t know if it’s just the parties in Harlem (very possible) but I might be on a cops-every-other-year trend. I guess depending on how much excitement you like at birthday parties you can choose between 2011 and 2012. While you make up your mind I have an Essence magazine to flip through.