Thankful Thursday 25 July 2019

It’s that time of week again! I can’t believe how not only this week, but this month, has flown by! We’re a little less than halfway through the year… I know, I know, the older I get, the time flies. I hope it slows down a little bit.

My first full week back to both jobs since I returned home from my trip last Saturday and I’m thankful for the people I work with. They’ve been listening to my stories diligently and responding positively. Ms. Irene, one of my library co-workers, said to me, “I hope you publish these stories soon! I can’t wait until I see your name in print.” I smiled and I’m going to work towards that.

I’m thankful for all of the memories I made last week. I still keep in touch with Oliver and we were chatting earlier this week. I will admit that I forgot to take photos of the Russian shops in Brighton Beach and Oliver did. I took screenshots and I was going to use them for scrapbooks. I’m thinking now, I think I’ll ask him if I can use them for personal scrapbooks. I don’t think it should be a big deal. Tonight I have to reach out to Sami and express my gratitude for treating me to Polish the Queen last week. I am going to send gratitude to my Neptune City hosts, John and Jim, for making sure I was safe.

Although I didn’t have the best experience at Alex’s air bnb in Brighton Beach, I did get a little bit of refund. Alex and I were chatting – no hard feelings – but we discussed things as two adults. I’m thankful that it went smoothly and there were no hard feelings.

I am thankful for the life I have and I am thankful for everyone in my life. What are you thankful for?

Days 4 & 5 | Asbury Park & NYC

Thursday was an interesting day. I booked a photo shoot – I actually booked two photo shoots for this trip. I didn’t buy any souvenirs except some Asbury Park postcards. I was going to buy NYC postcards, but I am going to make my own. Anyway, I wanted to experience an Air bnb offered photoshoot experiences. Money that would have went to gifts went to photos that are meaningful to me and I can put into a scrapbook. While scrapbooks are things, I would rather have scrapbooks than trinkets. I avoided buying trinkets. Anyway, Asbury Park’s photo shoot was scheduled for Thursday and DUMBO, Brooklyn was scheduled for Friday since I was going to be in town for the tattoo convention. Ariana rescheduled Thursday’s shoot for Friday morning because of the storm. I told her I had a shoot in NYC at 2, and it had to be early. I also told Paris, the photog in Brooklyn, about what happened. Both were understanding. I was telling Jim about this, he laughed and said, “definitely make the Asbury Park shoot for 9:30. On a Friday, you will want to be out of here by 11:15 to get to Brooklyn on time.” I heeded John’s advice and Ariana agreed to a 9:30 am shoot. Both photogs were understanding and we had constant communication back and forth.


I headed to Asbury Park for the beach day. Thursday would be my relax day and I went to the beach before the storm. I managed to get three hours of beach time in and since I forgot to take my t-shirt coverup out of my bag, it was wet and I went swimming without one. I made sure Wraith was covered every half an hour and a young woman sitting behind me helped me with my back. I got sunburned everywhere except for where my tattoo is located. Wraith was safe! I think it’s because I was applying every half an hour for him, an hour and a half for the rest of my body… Asbury Park had nasty rip currents too and I think the roughness wiped that lotion off quickly. I didn’t get badly burned, just some pink, but I am glad Wraith is pale as could be.


I was hoping to meet up with Jared and his new girlfriend on Thursday. I told him Friday was going to be jammed packed and Thursday would be better. It started to rain at 4, I went to Silverball Arcade and played games for a half an hour. I love retro arcade games and I could play them for hours if I could. Actually, next time I go, I should make a day of it because a full day pass is $15, a half an hour was $10. It was a great way to beat the rain. After, I went into Bettie’s Bombshell and tried on an exact shade of Marilyn Monroe’s lipstick. I looked pretty and it lasted me the entire night. Jared didn’t want to venture out in the storms, so I enjoyed Jams on the Sand in the Stone Pony.


I think it was a Grateful Dead tribute night. The bands sounded just like them, the opening act even more so. It was fun watching the Deadheads dance around and for some of them, I was wondering what they were on because they had something groovy going on. I’m still laughing about what I saw. Pile of a Dog wasn’t bad, but I liked Taz better. He’s an up and coming guitarist, I would say no more than 18 years old, and he sounded amazing. I met him after, took a Polaroid photo with him and he signed it. It’s in my Happiness Box now. I’m going to keep tabs on him because I want to hear more of him.


Friday was the scorcher and twas my jammed pack day. John and Jim made sure that I brought plenty of water (one thing they always asked me—do I have plenty of water and they left free water bottles for me to take). They asked me if I was ready and told me to have fun. John even said, “I admire all that you are doing. We like to see our guests busy and taking in all that this town and the surrounding towns around us have to offer.” Jared and I talked about meeting up possibly later, although I was probably going to be home around 9 from NYC. We would play it be ear.


My photoshoot with Ariana was a lot of fun. First we took photos on the beach, of me in a bikini. I wanted some tattoo photos for my scrapbook and I thought a professional’s eye was the way to go with the kind of beach pictures I wanted. She had me stand on the rocks and I’m glad she suggested it because those photos turned out pretty. After, I changed and we took boardwalk photos. Ariana is a gifted photog and I am happy with the photos she took – she sent me all 468 photos (for $50, that wasn’t bad at all). Our shoot ended at 11, and I hopped on the 11:50 train from Long Branch to NYC.

I was twenty minutes late to the Brooklyn shoot, but Paris was very understanding. She said, “it’s okay! Today is a day for Jessica and it was meant to happen this way!” She was also young and a fresh out of college. She was fun to work with and I loved walking around DUMBO. This shoot was 45 minutes and she will send them to me on Tuesday most likely. Both Paris and Ariana stated I was a natural and easy to work with. I can’t wait to see them. After, I hung out in DUMBO for a bit because I wanted to take my own photos of the bridges. I also bought Carvel ice cream from the ice cream truck and enjoyed it before the tattoo convention.


My first convention was so much fun. Someone’s brother bought her a weekend pass and she knew she wasn’t coming back for the weekend, she got me in on her pass and asked for $15. The admission was $35, so it was a bargain. I knew I wasn’t going to get another tattoo, I want to wait, but I met a lot of cool artists. I’m thinking about getting tattoo #2 when I get to Canada because the Montreal artists  were down to Earth. This one Belgium artist tempted me because their drawing of a cat dressed as a Geisha was too pretty. I wonder if their work is copyrighted because the cat was on a sticker and if maybe after some thought, if I want it done in Montreal, I wonder if they could.


I bought some travel sized tattoo lotion, learned more about tattoo care and had a Brooklyn artist look at Wraith. He confirmed Wraith wasn’t sunburned AND he said the tattoo healed up nicely, I’m taking great care of it.  Hearing this, I felt over the moon and don’t feel anxious anymore. I also met the Inked crew and Meghan agreed to a photo, which also went into my Happiness Box. I bought an Inked tee and magazine – in total, I spent $48 at the convention. Friday was my most expensive day and I ended the evening with dinner from the Little Beat. $9 and it was enough; next time I’ll go to Friedman’s. I’m glad I did that because NJ Transit took forever because of the weather, Jared texted and said everyone was leaving Asbury Park and we would catch up some other time, and I missed the train to Bay Head, so I had to take a cab from Long Branch to Neptune City.

Jessica’s Beach Vacation | Day 3 | Bradley Beach/Asbury Park, NJ

Before I left, I was heating up oatmeal and saw a man sitting at the table. I saw him on Monday and just assumed it was another roommate. I will be honest, I know it looked rude not to say anything other than a low good morning, but many people I encountered in Brighton Beach didn’t really speak anything other than Russian. While I always wanted to learn Cyrillic (I took Arabic instead), it was a challenge. When he started chatting with me in English, I sat down and met Oliver. He and his teenaged daughters (I saw one of them briefly on Monday)  were visiting from Belgium. Oliver works with NGOs and he was telling me about his work. We had a passionate back and forth and before I left to catch the subway to Penn Station to go to Bradley Beach/ Asbury Park, we exchanged Instagram usernames to keep in touch. I uninstalled it for vacation, he requested me and when I got home, I would accept (I told the same thing to Sammy).


New York City is amazing! A few people helped me with my luggage as I walked up the stairs. I was surprised that people did it without me asking, but I was grateful nonetheless. Those random acts of kindness showed me that there is still kindness in large cities.


While I was waiting for NJ Transit, I messaged my next hosts, John and James, to let them know my time of arrival. I arrived at their house at 12:15, they were only two blocks from the train. John and Jim are a gay couple and let me tell you, they were the best! When I walked into the house, Jim and their relatives gave me a warm welcome. The aunt said, “look at your sleeping quarters, it’s gorgeous!” And it truly was. I had a bedroom, then across the hall was a sitting area with a desk (perfect for the Happiness Box Project), a fridge, a small bathroom without the shower (we would share), and a body length mirror. They are both into Broadway and the hall is decorate with programs. Their home was warm, welcoming, and friendly: basically, their house matched their personalities. I felt very safe and a few times when John didn’t have to work at the Asbury Hotel, they were generous towards me. Jim’s a social worker for the school district and I really loved chatting with him. I loved chatting with both of them and their home sort of reminded me of Nan’s home; I think that’s why I felt very comfortable and of course, they were safe people.


For the first day, they were near Bradley Beach and John dropped me off there. They let me borrow their beach things, but I only brought an umbrella. Sadly, because it was so windy, I lost the plastic wrapper, but it wasn’t a total big deal as I thought it would be. Bradley Beach was fun, but it was a lot rougher than Brighton Beach. Rip tides, but I stayed mindful of the life guards. I’m a strong swimmer,  but I called it a day when I got tired.

I wanted to go to a beach bonfire in Asbury Park, but because of the impending storms, it was cancelled. I still trekked to Asbury Park, had a delicious seafood dinner and caught a free performance at Wonder Bar. The Chorades opened for Proxima Prada and they were amazing! I loved their style and I was able to meet them after their performance. They gave me a free CD and 45, I offered them money, but they didn’t want it. I thanked them and have listened to the CD. They are amazing and I hope they do make it somewhat big. I wish I still had a 45 player, but I guess I’ll frame it. Oh, I also met Garah and Bill, a couple visiting from the suburbs of Chicago. They invited me to sit with them and they were very friendly. We all left as soon as it started to thunder and rain. I caught a little bit of Proxima Prada and they sounded good too. Next time that they are in Philadelphia!

Jessica’s Beach Vacation | Day 2 | More Brighton Beach and Stonewall Inn | 16 July 2019

On Tuesday morning, I woke up early to listen to Sandy Wood’s last Star Date show. She stepped down because of health issues; I have loved listening to her over the years and I wanted to catch her last show. Alex’s flat wasn’t air conditioned and I didn’t sleep well on Monday night. I wanted to start my day early. Alex is a rock musician (Infinite Spectrum is his band’s name), audiologist, health coach, and guitar instructor—I was grateful he had gluten-free oatmeal for the guests because trying to figure out what the Russian stores were selling was difficult since I don’t know Cyrillic. They did have GF Bob’s Redmill grits, but I didn’t want to buy a big bag.


I walked down to the beach with my DSLR and took photos before I went swimming. Alex only lived two blocks away from the beach, so going back to drop my camera off wasn’t a big deal. I captured a lot of beautiful photos and it was neat seeing people start their day in the water before going to work or prayer or both.

Later, I went swimming with my GoPro and went swimming with the fish. Brighton Beach was clear and it was so cool watching the fish float by and the crabs sneak by. I was able to capture the crab and bigger fish with my GoPro, but unfortunately, the minnows weren’t captured. Watching their rainbow bodies swim by, I will never forget watching those minnows. I also chatted with a photographer originally from the Ukraine and we were talking photography. He was telling me that he has to get special permission when he visits Russia and if he doesn’t, he will be jailed. He also recommended some cameras and lenses to me. He was interesting to chat with.


I swam from 9:30 until 1. I had borscht for lunch, as that was one of the few things I could eat at Tatiana’s Grill. I wanted to visit Nathan’s, so I decided to only order borscht. That’s what I really wanted to try and it was good—it reminded me of eating pickled beets with the juice, with added onion and fennel. I am going to try to make it. After, I went to Coney Island and only paid for the rides I wanted to ride. An hour and a half was enough and I had a blast. I chose some awesome rides that had me both screaming and laughing. The Brooklyn Flyer and the log flume were the highest rides I went on, I avoid coasters, coasters terrify me. However, the Cyclone did look fun, but opted for photos instead. 😀 As soon as I walked out of Luna Park, I ordered a Nathan’s hot dog without the bun and still paid $5! Someone said to me, “you should have waited until Wednesday, hot dogs are only 5 cents for National Hot Dog Day.” If I wasn’t leaving on Wednesday morning, I would have waited.


I went back to the flat and once I was let in, I heard Alex giving his guitar lessons. I met some of the students and when they were in Alex’s studio, I showered and got ready for my evening at Stonewall Inn. I was googling different places that were gluten-free near Stonewall and decided to ask Alex if he was familiar with places. I saw Archie and asked him, but all Archie could say was, “gluten what? Celiac what? I’m sorry, I’m Russian and we don’t have to worry about that. Alex is home and he’s the health freak, ask him.” When Alex finished the lesson, I asked him and he was very knowledgeable. He said most places in Greenwich Village are GF and I should be able to find something. We talked about nutrition for twenty minutes, he shared some keto recipes with me and showed me some of his travel photos. Oh, and I also asked him if he would be around at 12:30 or 1 AM so I could be let in. He said he should be and I headed out. I enjoyed talking to Alex.


I ended up at Keste on Bleecker Street. I know Bleecker Street is popular with musicians since a few artists I like play there frequently and the guys from Penrose that I went to camp with, always played gigs there too. I was excited to be on Bleecker Street and the GF pizza without sauce and cheese was great. They gave me spiced olive oil, regular olive oil, pepper and Parmesan cheese to top the dough with. It was interesting and I liked having pizza that way. Keste was a nice restaurant and I chatted with the couple next to me. I was asking them about the area and they gave me some suggestions, especially on how to get home later. Alex said it would probably be $50 from Stonewall back to his place, they thought the same, and thought Park Slope would be a safe and closer place to catch Lyft.


Stonewall! All I can say is that I felt so much love and joy there. I met Simone in the park and they agreed to a photo. They were a trip to talk to, but was all kindness. Once inside, I ordered a Shirley Temple and then met Sammy, a recent permanent resident to the US from India. His parents don’t know about his orientation and he wants to keep it that way. I asked him the ease of being queer in India and he said it really depends, just like here. Larger cities are more opened to differences than smaller towns. We were both there for Polish the Queen and he treated me since it was my first show. Before the show began, I met one of the queens and we gave each other big hugs. The show was great and it was so much fun. I never laughed so hard in my life and I felt very joyful. I loved Fifi Dubois and after the show I met Toxic Shock. Oh! Sammy wants to keep in touch, he thinks his job might move him to King of Prussia and was asking me some questions about the area. I plan on keeping in touch.


I ended up taking the subway all the way back to Brighton Beach. The B wasn’t running, so I had to catch the F to the Q once we got into Brooklyn. There were a friendly group of people riding the MTA that night and were helpful. I ended up getting back to Brighton Beach at 1:30 AM.

Jessica’s Beach Vacation 2019 | Day 1 | Brighton Beach and Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY | 15 July 2019

Hi readers,

Over the next few days, I’ll post about my vacation. I had such a wonderful vacation and all I can say is this: I Y BROOKLYN AND ASBURY PARK! New York City in general and Asbury Park seem to be among my happy places. I have never felt so alive and relaxed. A weeklong vacation mixed with making the most out of two locations and relaxation is what the doctor ordered. I also met new people along the way, people I hope to keep in touch with for many years to come.


After an early start, I arrived in New York City at 10:15 on Monday morning. I wanted to charge my phone before heading to Brighton Beach and I ordered a unicorn frappucino. It was gluten-free, but I wouldn’t order it again. It was a slushy with coconut milk and it gave me brain freeze. However, it was fun to watch people walk around the city and the advertisements for different museums. I also decided to call my host, Alex, to make sure that it was okay to drop my things off at his flat before I went to the beach. Alex sounded like a nice young guy and I was looking forward to meeting him; I was okay to drop my things off.

An hour later, I decided to join the crowd just wandering aimlessly and I took photos. I love pigeons and I brought some food for them, I had to capture the flock of pigeons that gathered around me. I like how they close off portions of the New York City streets and people can just sit at tables. In hindsight, I wish I stopped to sit and have someone take a photo of me, but I wanted to get to the beach by 1:30. It was already 11:45 and I got a little lost getting to Herald Square. I found my way eventually, after tons of photos. I was being such a tourist, but the truth is, I enjoy taking photos of NYC.


I hopped onto the B to Brighton Beach and riding the subway is fun too. Someone put an alien sticker on the one window and I couldn’t help but capture it. I love capturing photos of subway life too; young boys going home from summer school came to life once we crossed the Manhattan Bridge. They threw their school supplies down, gathered together and played around with the Tik Tok app. They didn’t notice me capturing their photos, but something tells me they wouldn’t have cared. I also chatted with a guy that lived close to the Kings Highway stop and he was telling me about the different neighbourhoods of Brooklyn. He recommended not visiting Prospect Park because it could get rough. He was also telling me a bit more about Brighton Beach and Coney Island—he said that Brighton Beach is nice, very Russian, but a generally good neighbourhood. He recommended, which I knew, not to visit Coney Island at night and go to the amusement park during the day.  He also told me that NYC has the best water and pizza shops all over the world order water from NYC to make their pizzas. Who knows how true it is, but Brooklyn’s water was very clean and the gluten-free pizza I had was delicious.


After an hour, I was finally at Brighton Beach. I thought this was my last stop, and when I checked the Google app, it told me to go to Coney Island. I did and when I did, it told me I had to go back to Brighton Beach. Oh Google! I guess since I didn’t have WiFi and was using data, the map was slow to update. I ended up taking a Lyft to Alex’s flat because I didn’t want to wait for another Q. It turns out Alex only lived two minutes away from the B stop. It was convenient! I dropped my things off and as I was applying sunscreen to Wraith and the rest of my body, I heard the floors creak. I thought it was Alex, but it was someone else: Alex’s brother, Archie. Alex forgot to mention to his brother that I was coming and I surprised him a little bit. Alex and Archie are Russian, friendly, but not the best with communication. Oh, Alex had a cat named Simba! These aren’t the best photos of Simba, but he was a love bug.

Brighton Beach! Brighton Beach is gorgeous and it was full of life, unlike when I visited on the last day of winter. I decided to capture a photo of me “sunbathing,” similar to what I did on the last day of winter and when I said, “I want to come back in the summer!” I wanted to post a side by side of the differences. Anyway, Brighton Beach had minimal waves and clear water, I was swimming with the fish. I met Olga and a Caribbean woman who called herself Sophie. They were a riot to swim with and even chat with. Olga asked me if I knew how to float, I showed her that I could, and then a Jewish lady joined us. She swam with us for a little bit. After Olga and Sophie left the ocean, I swam a bit until I ran into a young boy who was learning how to swim. I asked him how it was going; he and his mother said it was going well. The boy had to be about six and he was excited to show me all that he knew. I showed him how to do a breast stroke and the side stroke. His mother let him try and he was so happy that I was teaching him other things. That made me feel good.


I arrived at 1:30, at around 2:30, I wanted to apply more sunscreen. Although I was wearing a shirt to protect Wraith and my skin, I took the shirt off and attempted to spray Wraith. A father saw me struggling, asked me if I needed help, I said I did and he had his four sons lotion me up. Juan Carlos was the dad; they were Brazilian; but, I forgot the son’s names. I swam for a little bit longer, but wanted to check the time since I left my phone at the Air BNB and wanted to be back by 4 to wait for Doug’s (my cousin) text about when he was done work. We were meeting for dinner.  As I was looking at my watch, Juan Carlos approached me and asked me if I wanted water. I did and I saw him take an unsealed water bottle out of his cooler. He also asked me if I wanted to eat; I hadn’t had food since 5:30 AM and although I was meeting Doug, I had a feeling we wouldn’t be meeting until 7. I forgot my wallet, but Juan Carlos treated me and said not to worry. They also invited me to play dominoes. I was verklempt and very grateful.


Doug texted me at around 6 that he was done work. I hopped onto the B to 7th Avenue – Park Slope since we agreed upon Bareburger. They had gluten-free options and it had a menu we could both agree on. Park Slope was beautiful and again, I wandered around taking photos. I passed the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and daydreamed about taking organ lessons again, maybe piano! Doug was running a little late, so I called my dad. We had a brief conversation before I sat down and had a burger with Doug. The bison burger with the GF bun was delish! I was so happy that I could see Doug before he moves to London in a few weeks. He’s super excited and can’t wait to embark on a new journey. After about an hour, we headed back, and watching the sun set over Brighton Beach was gorgeous.


Happy Birthday, Monoxide!


Yesterday was one year since I met Twiztid for a second time at Warped Tour. Their hugs were amazing and they were so happy to see me; it was awesome that they remembered who I am. I also remember wishing Monoxide a happy early birthday and the smile it enlisted. I have the gift of remembering birthdays and important events.

While last year was a luxury of seeing him before his birthday, today is just a normal day. Since I can’t see him in person, here is a blog post for Monoxide. I’ll do one for Madrox on 5 November; his birthday. Twiztid brings me so much joy.

Happy birthday, Monoxide!