Fearless Rear-view of Roadside Attractions.

I pride myself on my fearlessness, but even those of us in head-to-toe armor will fall with enough impact.

In my late teens/early twenties, I was a free spirit that ran with the wind.  The open road lead to far and away worlds, and I drove fast.  Experiences, people, and breakdowns moved quickly through windshield-view and passed like a blur out my unoccupied passenger window until I could see it out my rear-view.  So long roadside attraction…off to the next destination.  Those roads, streets, paths to various destinations were sometimes long and lonely, sometimes short and winding, sometimes average in length and quality, but the music remained the same.

My poor mother watched her fiercely independent daughter depart so many times – sometimes picking me up upon arrival, sometimes rescuing me from roadside breakdowns, sometimes guiding me at unexpected pit stops, but always welcoming me home.  She never asked to drive because she knew I wouldn’t let her, but mostly she knew what I didn’t; the thrill fades in time.  Her only rule was to keep my eye on the road and to pay attention to the signs along the way.  When I did, it got me the farthest.

Stranded in Buffalo, New York, during the 1997 winter storms, I experienced my first whiteout.  This Oklahoma girl knew a blackout, but what the hell do you do when the world instantaneously goes white and you can only see that which is inside your car with you?  You stop, pull over, turn up the music, and let your thoughts roll through.  Once the white dissipated to a soft fog-like view, I got back on that road but this time I went home.

I still get out on that open road from time-to-time, but with a passenger, unlimited supply of digital music (RIP CD’s), and a GPS – no armor required.

Dear Jeffrey, tomorrow you will be 28…

As I sit here typing this – from Westchester, NY, for my week-long NYU MBA Residency, it occurs to me that a substantial part of this is due to your presence in my life.  Prior to your death, I was a lost soul swimming upstream in a murky fish bowl.  There was little interest in discipline, compassion, or spiritual growth.  While you were still here, in fact, I was more into collecting that which was instantly gratifying, easily disposable, and egocentric.  Maybe I haven’t completely rid myself of the latter, but I do work hard to achieve a heightened level of communication with my sacred self.

Without Alexander Graham Bell there wouldn’t be a telephone (sorry Lady Gaga you didn’t have first dibs), and without you – Jeffrey Lee Ben – I wouldn’t have had any ‘telephone’ to pick up and get in touch with what is at the very core of existence; love and compassion.  Without these two very crucial life tools, I would not be as successful in all my endeavors in life.  Let’s face it the one component that ties the two (love and compassion) together is understanding, and you may climb the ladder of success without it but you will more than likely be alone.

This one is for you my brother.

Sissy

My misadventures at Jackson Diner (Which is actually Indian food)

Manhattan snob dodges Salmonella in Queens by moving back to Manhattan…

A friend and I decided to try out Jackson Diner in the Little India section of Jackson Heights (Queens, NY) after much prodding from my then roommate, Liz. She, among the many others, relentlessly commented on the best part of living in Jackson Heights was the Indian food. I scoffed at these comments due to my Manhattan snobbery, and knew – despite their efforts to make me feel less like a loser for moving out of the city – that Jackson Diner could have shattered my taste buds but it was not in the East Village’s Indian Row.

After a couple of weeks of misery of living in Queens, I caved and went to eat at Indian Row’s Jackson Diner. The comedic relief of the night went to our waitress for the below dialog.

Me: I’ll take the Chicken Tikka Masala.

Waitress: Okay, how would you like your chicken?

Me (confused): Um, cooked, please.

Gov. Paterson to introduce marriage equality legislation in New York.

ALBANY _ Gov. David Paterson said Wednesday he plans to re-introduce legislation to make same-sex marriages legal in New York.  Read Full Story.

 

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From The Archives: Strangers On The Train

A rather large African-American woman got off the (F) train headed to Queens at 21st-Ely, and I took her seat.  This beautiful, soft-spoken, mild-mannered girl also took her seat; two seats made from one.  I was writing and perhaps the mild-mannered girl saw the passage in my notebook about my recent battle with depression or perhaps she simply wanted to reach out.  Either way, she pointed to my exposed inner wrist that displays my “Jeffrey” tattoo.

“Did it hurt?” 

Thinking of all the hurt, grieving, anger, sadness, and emotions behind everything that lead up to commemorating my deceased brother on my wrist, I replied, “Yes.”

“Oh,” She responded while looking me directly in the eyes.

I looked away from her and stared straight ahead watching the darkness pass by through the train window.

“All tattoos hurt, I suppose,” I explained with less depth.  “I guess this hurt the least because it means the most.”

It occurred to me that connecting had become uncomfortable to me.  Perhaps I had been traumatized and feared loss.  Perhaps I was insecure.  Regardless, we talked the remainder of my train ride about work, tattoos, piercings, and Queens. 

“This is my stop,” I interrupted the flow.

She smiled with such a humanitarian energy, “Take care.”

Knowing I’d probably never meet her again I looked back and replied, “Good luck.”

As I walked up the stairs at Roosevelt Avenue, I felt a warm and hopeful energy fill my soul.  Such a short-lived but genuine interest and connection between two strangers felt so good; human connection.

 

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