After Hours

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“We’re finally drunk enough that,
We’re finally soaking up,
The hours that everyone else throws away.
And if we have to go now,
I guess there’s always hope,
Tomorrow night will be more of the same.”
– After Hours, We Are Scientists

Growing up in Queens, I never once worried about having electricity or clean, running water at home or school. These beautiful resources were taken completely for granted by my kid brain, same way money grows on trees, when we moved to Puerto Rico in 1990. It was a serious reality check for 12-year-old me to lose power unexpectedly and this being completely normal. Not being able to sustain cool foods for family meals and keeping cranky grandparents comfortable was rough in the humid island heat, it disrupted our lives (but how I became a voracious reader), and forced me to grow up quickly. As I came to accept my new life with or without electricity at any given time, a drought came along that lasted a year and half in which we bathed, cooked, and laundered from barrels and buckets.
Puberty was not fun. This never became normal. I so missed and envied normal.
This is why when there was a blackout in Manhattan a few weekends back, I plopped down on a bench outside and joyfully listened to music for an hour while contemplating options for how to get home. I knew I could’ve trekked home for hours on a combo of buses, trains and walks over a couple of bridges to get close enough to maybe call a cab, but didn’t want to spend hours waiting, walking, and choosing my own adventure at every transit stop – I kinda just wanted to go the fuck home after a long shift and knew that wasn’t going to happen short of paying $60-67 for a ride. And paying that much for less than eight miles was a big, fat, fucking NO.
It was decidedly so: I would patiently sit out the blackout. Just like old times.
For the first forty minutes or so, I sat in the courtyard people-watching and writing notes for these posts. I drank beer for the first time that night in nineteen days (so much for my three-month cleanse, that didn’t even last three weeks!) and then rosé, which of course led to bourbons and ryes and before I knew, it was five a.m. and caught the sun rise over lower Manhattan with tears in my eyes and light in my heart. That view was unbelievable, a moment people dream of, a moment in which I was lost, then found. Sad, then happy. Dead, then alive.
What happened in those after hours? After the bars close, shutters down, doors lock?
Well,  an artist took me on a grand tour where all the cool shit hides in plain sight. All these giant nooks of interactive art and style, various building blocks people contributed over the years – pieces repurposed, refurbished, recycled, given new life; an exploration from courtyards to rooftops, round and round stairwells, drunken saunters in and out of empty lofts eagerly awaiting to be occupied by brilliant entrepreneurial dreamers. Endless pieces of floating puzzles shuffled and eventually measured to fit. Modular (re-)designs meant to change and build upon frequently. Allowing the ability to shake things up if and when needed, keep things flexible, make it easy to adapt to new times and make space for trendsetting.
It is a delight getting a glimpse into artists’ studios and seeing new crafts and trades comes to life, things I hadn’t thought about like barber shops and salons. It gives my life a different purpose to develop an insatiable desire to enjoy my life to its fullest, learn meaningful things, pave new paths. The blackout gave me time to be present, meet people, share life stories, create stunning memories instead of bee-lining it straight home.
It was slightly reminiscent of my daze at ABC No Rio, an art collective with a slightly different vibe, working harmoniously to thrive, to build each other up while trying to figure out themselves. I should share those memories with you soon, those times were the silver lining to living in a shithole with shit people; I sought my tribe and found my safe space to be whatever I was at that time. They tapped into my weaknesses as much as my strengths and guided me how to use all that energy.
In my reflections lately, so many random things are rippling from past lives and they are my motivation to celebrate all the blackouts of my lives by staying productive this particular night.
And that, I’m pretty sure we did.
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