Archive for November, 2008

I Teach at the Green School in Brooklyn

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2008 by fractalbridge


Some friends have asked me about my teaching and counseling career in New York (I’m also a Life Coach).

I teach, help with life skills, and indirectly help with the emotional and social development of teens at The Green School in East Williamsburg, a part of Brooklyn.  It is a remarkable school focused on sustainability and designing effective curriculum for kids with a wide variety of learning styles.  The teachers at this school are inspired.  From the moment I walked into the building for my first interview I could feel the energy and intense commitment of staff.

The Green School is in the middle of the projects. It is about 75% African American and the rest mostly Hispanic and Middle Eastern.  I believe there are only two “white” student in the school.  We all went through a diversity training called “Undoing Racism” at the beginning of the year.  It was intense and confronting.

The day after Obama was elected there were groups of students hugging, chanting, crying, laughing, and celebrating.  I’ve never see a group of teens who understood and felt that level of awareness of the impact of this election.  The entire day there were chants of “Obama.”  A tangible joy swept through the school and each day continues to bring more and more enthusiasm about the possibilities for the future.

The Green movement is gaining incredible momentum everywhere. Now that Obama is president, more inspiration, funding and political support will be pumped into inner city schools.  We are at the crossroads of BOTH of these movements and have two directors who have known each other since their leadership training a decade ago.

In other words, it is anticipated that our school will take one of the center stages in the exciting world of public education.   It’s advised that our school fasten it’s seatbelt.



Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2008 by fractalbridge

West Coast snow is different from East Coast snow.

When you crave snow in the SF Bay Area, for example, you usually have to drive about 3-4 hours to Lake Tahoe on the border of Nevada to see it.  Once every 10 years, if they are lucky, a little snow might drop on the top of Mt. Tam or Mt. Shasta. But mostly it’s about packing into a large, gas guzzling vehicle on Friday late afternoon hoping to make it there by bed time.

In New York, snow is part of the cycle of life, part of the seasons. First come the cold days as we rush to buy the best possible scarf, mittens and hat.  Then one day, out of the corner of our eye (perhaps on a taxi news show) the weather person says “rain…and maybe snow.”  The news gets out quick and a unique excitement sets in.

The first snow tends to be light and magical, carpeting over everything. For many this is associated with happy, magical, cozy and warm feelings.  You start to see and hear about people heating up apple cider, cocoa and mulled wine.  For some the arrival of snow also comes with the feeling of angst.

Snow in a big city is an interesting experience.  The first and only time I experienced a first snow in a city was in New York in 2002.  Luckily I had not heard any news report about it nor had anyone told me about it. So when I woke up at a friend’s place and she casually pulled back the curtain to reveal that everything outside was white, I sat there in awe and did not move from my window for quite some time.   I couldn’t believe that the snow just came to me. 

What was your “first city snow” like for you, whether NY or another city in a cold part of the world?

Finally, I’m actually a bit embarassed to show this clip because of it’s obvious 50’s elitism context, but here is a scene from White Christmas which is one of the more charming (and cheesy) scenes I’ve ever found about the topic of SNOW!

There’s Something Happening Here…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2008 by fractalbridge
November 9th Salon

November 9th Salon

There’s something happening here…
What it is ain’t exactly clear…

It seems like once every ten years or so in my life there evolves what seems to be a “community phenomenon” where a very special group of people “find each other” and coalesce into something very magical. When this happens I’m reminded of the Dr. Scott Peck book about community in which he writes, amongst many other things “In and through community is the salvation of the world.” While it may indeed be what saves the world or at least causes real change in society, there is also, of course, the side that it just feels so damn good! Almost like an extra gift that you did not expect and just seems at times too good to be true.

But how did this all happen? The size and shape and energy of our community has changed and shifted over the past few months, but there is also some essence that has remained the same throughout. Here is some history…

I moved to New York on April 4th and already knew Todd because he was in a relationship with one of my favorite people from my hometown area of San Francisco named Penny. When they shifted into a friendship I ended up spending time with Todd in a different context. I met Julia over the summer and we connected immediately and had wonderful conversations. We had had a few gatherings with Julia over the summer including a Salon I held and a concert in Prospect Park that Todd told us about. I am deeply in love with singing and go to many singing-related events. Of all the singers I met, two of them stood way out over the summer: Aileen Morgan who I met at an event at which she performed, and Erika Hennings from my favorite singing spot in the world–Marie’s Crisis Cafe. Later in the summer I met Adrianna. From the moment I met Adrianna in the Lower East Side we sensed that “something was happening here” and that we were meant to create something with film and/or community. Within a few weeks I met a few of Adrianna’s friends including her boyfriend. The same night I met her friend Ernest before we all went out to see a film. That night and the next night after a Brazilian event Ernest and I had deep conversations and became instant friends.

My birthday is always at the end of the summer/beginning of Fall and it’s a time I like to bring people together in a special way. Todd was kind enough to allow me to hold the party at his home which was much more comfortable than my residence at the time since I am new to NY and was in housing transition while starting a new job. My birthday was a key night as Aileen sang for the entire group, Erika sang for everyone, and we had an intimate group discussion that Todd, Adrianna and Ernest brought so much to. I shared an Irish quote I had seen: “In this pub there are no strangers…only friends who have not yet met.” Little did I know how true that would prove to be! A small group of us lingered together until late. One of the main things that happened that night is that it seems Adrianna, Ernest, Todd and Julia fell in love with each other! They started to spend time together
even in pairs after this party.

Soon after this we had some very special times together. Todd drove five of us up north to Sleepy Hollow to attend a pumpkin festival with 6000 carved pumpkins. Even more powerful than that was our visit to a graveyard nearby where we sipped wine and took many photos of our group…so magical.

A week later we had a Halloween party at Adrianna’s and all went out to be in the huge parade. We got to decorate and paint each other and then go out and show it off! Aileen’s amazing singing partner Diana who I originally met the night I met Aileen and who performed at our first Salon in June also joined us. Halloween was the night that I first met David Potter. David and I have a common friend we’ve known for about 20 years and this common friend named Jerry candalaria (who himself created a transformative method back in California that has touched many people’s lives) “set us up.” David just sort of magically became a part of our community and in fact he even became my housemate three days later!

A big portion of us also spent Election Night celebrating the election of Barack Obama. I thought it so symbolic that at the same time that our remarkable community was forming, a new change through Obama and thus a kind of community was forming for the entire country and world!

I held two more Salon gatherings at my home and we sang together (Aileen blessed us with her music both times) and ate together and even did some intentional community-building activities that brought us even closer and connected us more. I think we’ve all been getting just how unusual and precious this connection is that we have.

We gathered together just the other night for a party at Aileen’s home and got into a kind of “massage train.” We had so much fun we almost did not want to leave and some of us were together for 10 straight hours. Aileen introduced us to her friend Danielle who seemed to naturally connect to us like family.

So there you have it…there’s something happening here…what it is ain’t exactly clear…but it gets more clear over time and most of all I just feel thankful at this time of Thanksgiving…thankful for the love, thankful for the fun, thankful for being seen, thankful for the community, and even thankful for the way the universe reveals that there are patterns and currents in life that we don’t even know exist until they are manifest before our very eyes, often through a community of friends, as if to tell us there is a part of ourselves we can only understand, only get, only have revealed, only know through the reflection of a community that emerges to us and shows us who that part of us is…


Missing Grand

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2008 by fractalbridge

I live on South 2nd Street at Bedford in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I like my neighborhood.  A lot.  So did this person who made this time-lapse video of South 4th Street and Bedford, just two blocks away from me:

I hope to open my own café/restaurant/gallery/workshop space in the near future and so one of my favorite things to do is walk around and look at the spaces that others have created, pulling ideas from all of them and letting my imagination go wild.

I want to tell you about a street I missed until last week–Grand Street in Williamsburg.

I never would have guessed I could live in a neighborhood for a month and a half and miss a magical and extraordinary street that is only two or three blocks away!   But I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this very charming, European-like backroads neighborhoods of Williamsburg who misses the gems around here, because unless you spend time in this neighborhood, you tend to stay along the packed Bedford Avenue.

In southwestern Williamsburg some streets are deceptively hidden. While they seem to lie on a grid of simple numbered streets (North 3rd, North 2nd, North 1st, Grand, Metropolitan, South 1st, South 2nd, etc) there is an odd curvature to the way the merchants of a couple hundred years ago set up this town just east of the East River.  Some of the streets don’t go past the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  Others don’t go through in the same way that a old, recently repared wagon wheel might have some spokes that don’t go directly through to a “hub.”   Even diagonal streets like the West Village, if they are somewhat predictable and linear, are easier to understand and navigate than some of these streets.  It is along these “irregular spoke” streets that some of the most out of the way, charming and even magical cafes, restaurants and lounges exist in southwestern Williamsburg.

To be sure, most of this confusion happens between North 3rd, Metropolitan (which seems to replace North 2nd), and North 1st.   Things “straighten out” when you get to Grand Street, although any walker might still be confused and have to stumble upon Grand Street.   I intend to be a guide for you on four blocks of Grand Street between Bedford and where Grand stops ends at Marcy Street just before the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

To begin, take the L train to the Bedford Stop in Williamsburg.  Walk south about 8 blocks from North 7th Street to Grand Street. Make a left on Grand.

Before we start our tour, I want to give a shout out to two amazing places that are not officially on my tour of Grand Street below Bedford.  The first is actually far away but it is my favorite spot in Williamsburg so far which I could go on and on about:  D.O.C Wine Bar on North 5th and Wyatt.

The other is  a restaurant called Aurora which is actually on the same street as this tour.  I can’t say enough about this place on a quiet part of Grand Street just blocks away from a view of Manhattan.

OK, now for the official 4 block tour.

First stop: Iona bar at 180 Grand Street.  Iona is named after an historic Scottish island.  It is beautiful inside with a piano, special seat by the sidewalk, and one of the most interesting back patios around town.  You can grab a chess set or Scrabble game and take it out back, switch to ping-pong and all the while be warmed by movable fire pits.  It’s really worth checking out!

Second stop: Continue on to the Lucky Cat at 245 Grand Street on the left side.  Their food is made of organic and seasonal ingredients from local farmers and suppliers.  Pizza, bagels, pannini, brunch food, etc.  They also have regular performers and the place itself feels very good to be in.  I think they have games you can play as well.  Be sure to check out their photos link!

Third stop: Fiore restaurant at 284 Grand Street between Roebling and Havemeyer St.  718-782-8222.

I’m literally going to lift something I read off the Village Voice about Fiore: “This place is so girly,” exclaimed Mary, an East Village artist originally from Ohio, noting the wallpaper printed in a juvenile pattern and the display of serving plates, lunch boxes, and other kitchen paraphernalia on shelves near the ceiling. Also surrounding us were 19th-century prints of pliéing ballerinas, though the rest of the room – which narrows as it goes deeper, culminating in a small garden – sports the kind of nondescript, bare-bricks décor you find in most Williamsburg restaurants.”

Here is the link.  Be sure to read other reviews including “Free Williamsburg: Resaurant Guide”

Check this place out. Look up the reviews and you will see consistent 4 stars and people ranting and raving about it.  They particularly mention the outdoor patio.  I loved this place and can’t wait to eat there!

Fourth stop: Walter Foods at 235 Grand Street, 718-387-8783.

You gotta love the unusual picture of the cow-fish.  They include their entire menu on their website.

Here is a slide show.

Here is my favorite comment:  “I recently ate dinner there. The food was delicious. The decor was crisp but homey. The unisex bathroom was clean and bright. The atmosphere was buzzing and very much like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood! … even though it’s call Walter’s. I’m just calling it Walter’s! (The ‘Walter’s Food’ name sounds more like a grocery store.)  I had grilled shrimp as the appetizer with a basal sauce and it was yummy. I also had the steak which was done to perfection. The chef was cute … you could see him through the window opening. The bar was so busy and people were waiting to get in. I highly recommend it.”

Fifth stop: Bozu at 296 Grand Street, 718-384-7770.

Free Williamsburg’s comments.

Sixth stop: By now you might just want a coffee shop that allows you to relax and have a good latte. Atlas Café does not have it’s own web site, but once again Free Williamsburg does a pretty good job describing this place.

Here is another fun description:  “I recently heard a customer complain, as he walked out of Atlas, that it is like a library. My own first impression, when I walked in one workday morning, was that I had arrived where I belonged. Computer users from the information technology class had taken every table. Two seats per table but one person per table. Most had their ears plugged in to their computer. Conversation does not interrupt here. The huge windows of this corner cafe have a great view. Here you can be in a room full of people with zero obligation for interaction – except when plugging in to a decaying chord bar. Here you can maintain the pretense that there may be interaction while also maintaining beautifully routine isolation.”

Seventh stop: Now for the climax.  You’ve visited various restaurants and cafes with a variety of environments.  You notice that Grand Street is coming to an end just before the gargantuan Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  There, on the left, is one of my favorite spots in all of Williamsburg:  Rose

My favorite comment came from our trusty Free Williamsburg site:

“A Rose is like any other rose, except when it comes to Rose Lounge. The subtle lighting inside makes it a wonderland for couples. The newly opended wine cellar gives you the variety that no other lounge in Williamsburg offers you. The back patio reminds you of some small cafe in Italy. The Staff are brilliant. The owners C and G ( I wont give up your names) make you feel like family the first minute you come in. This is the first place that I have been to where the owners come and greet you and truly want to know about you. Their performances cannot be beat, from Latin percussion and Jazz, to classical music to old school salsa to hip hop. not to mention the DJ’s that put on a great show for all. The drinks are greatly priced and they have some sort of specialized beer dispenser that the beer always comes out ice cold. This is where the heart goes to be free, the crowd is only overwhelming because they are so delightful, and you find it hard to believe that a place like this actually exist in NY. The place is virtually admission free with some exceptions which of course does not stop me from coming in, its worth the payment. I come here every week and I refuse to stop. ROSE lounge is a place where everyone and anyone can come to enjoy themselves. The stage is set in the middle in front of the patrons so that they too can be a part of the music. Rose lounge, the only rose I know without thorns.”

Grand Street Block Party Postcard

Oh, and one more thing… the Grand Street Block Association this past spring held a block party with the theme of Superheros!

So there you have it, a tour along four blocks of Grand Street.  Don’t miss Grand!


Six Days to Remember

Posted in Uncategorized on November 11, 2008 by fractalbridge


I’ll never forget my experiences in New York City for the 6 days from Friday, October 31st (Halloween) to Wednesday, November 5th.

To be sure, New York City is always an exciting place to be, especially on Halloween.

But this was outrageous.

Day 1, Friday October 31: Halloween

Halloween is that holiday that allows you the potential to be who you want to be for one night.  Watch out when New Yorkers are offered that opportunity!

When Halloween lands on a Friday or Saturday evening, it tends to be much larger and much wilder.  This year it landed on a Friday, which is actually even better than being on a Saturday partiers and Trick-or-Treaters tend to be tired from the night before!

Halloween at my work (The Green School) was really fun, with students dressed up and a more casual vibe. In English class we read the Tell-Tale Heart and in History we explored the history of Halloween.   One class of mine danced while I played music for them from my iPod and filmed them.

Halloween evening began by meeting at the home of Adrianna a truly magical goddess from Brazil who dazzles everyone in her path.  Soon our group of about 8 close friends were at her place with costumes either part completed or not completed at all.  We set in on decorating each other from every angle possible while taking video footage of the entire event!  In the middle of it I met very good friend of a very good friend whom I had never met until that night and who I had just decided to invite to the party spontaneously.

More on that later.

At about 7pm we headed out into the haunted night in two different taxis, driving from the Lower East Side to about 6th Avenue and Spring Street in SOHO.  It was then that I learned just what a parade could be.  Sure, NY is known for their parades, and I’d seen huge Halloween crowds in San Francisco, but nothing like this.  The costumes were made by some of the top artists in the world.  The characters were acted out by members of the most talented theater and film communities in the world.  It was like being on a Halloween Planet, comparable perhaps only to Burning Man, but a different context.

We slowly worked out way north up 6th Avenue, holding hands in a long line of about 8, dressed so fabulously.  To be in the parade one must be patient, waiting one’s turn until the crowd moves, and from that point on the street had barriers so that before you know it you are the focus of large crowds on both sides and it occurs to you that you are in a massive parade!  At this point it is all a blur as the 8 of us twirled and danced and met others in the parade with us and had such an incredible time.

Before we left we made sure we had a “cell phone fabric” to keep in connection, knowing that inevitably we would be pulled in different directions.  After a group effort we managed to meet at the same noodle shop and we ate together in triumph, makeup smeared and all.

Then it was time for the after-parade party at the home of a friend of Todd’s.  Suddenly there we were on the 8th floor of NYU buildings full of more costumed people and we continued to dance and eat and drink, stepping into the role of our costumes.  We went on and on for hours as a few other friends joined the group.

I should mention that this group of friends is truly remarkable.  I’ll post some picture soon of a Salon we had on November 9th and you can get a sense for how close we have become in the past month or so.

Day 2, Saturday November 1: NY Rhythm Society’s All Night Dance Celebration

Saturday was a day to get some perspective.  I slept and took it easy for most of that day, but managed to get the energy together to go to the East Coast All Night Dance Celebration through the Divine Rhythm Society, where I saw friends from the West Coast Rhythm Society who I had not anticipated seeing!

Day 3, Sunday November 2:  New Housemate David Potter

Sunday I found a new housemate. I had been looking for the ideal apartment-mate

For over a month, being really particular, knowing that it’s a big step to choose someone to live within the same walls as you.  Thanks to Jerry Candelaria, a friend of 18 years who lives in California, I found just the right person!  Jerry told David Potter, who he also had known for as many years (20 or so), that he should call Scott Hannon right away.

David dropped by Sunday evening and we discovered that we were like long-lost brothers, our conversation flowing in the most remarkable ways and entering profound states of consciousness.  During our conversation we moved closer and closer to seeing the potential and when I mentioned that we had sung Kirtan just one week ago, he said “That’s it…I’m in!”  We haven’t looked back since!  That night David brought over some bags from his other residence and it also just happened that Ella Luckett asked to stay over that night, too, and she arrived after midnight.

Day 4, Monday November 3: Led Arete Co-ed Circle

Monday morning it all caught up with me and I had difficulty getting out of bed.  I felt sick and called in to report I would be late for work.  Ella helped me with some orange juice and I somehow pulled it together.  I went home immediately and went right to sleep, for it was the only way I would be able to get myself up in time for an Arete-style Circle I was scheduled to lead that night!  I managed to get up, set up my place, go shopping for food, and be ready for my 4 guests.  I facilitated a discussion about the principles of circling and coaching that Jerry and Guy had explained to us earlier and we had a beautiful circle.  Somehow I managed to stay up to have another legendary talk with Mr. Potter, but soon I was out cold, preparing for what may be the most important day in a century-the presidential election!

Day 5, Tuesday November 4: Election Day

It was so exciting to wake up on Tuesday knowing what was at stake for the country and the world.  I was fairly nervous although Obama had enough of a lead that it was not as frightening.  The students did not have to come to classes this day because we decided to make Election Day a staff development day and we worked on improving our curriculum and our teaching techniques.  Of course we were all very distracted by the election and we ended up talking about our experiences voting that morning and where we would be watching the election.

Finally the work day was over and I went out to vote for Obama in one of the most historic elections of our time.   The polling place was on South 3rd at Roebling at a Junior High School and it was so magical to be in that booth that I took photos and video of the inside.  People were so excited and so friendly that it was even difficult to leave.  On the way out a woman handed out delicious cupcakes that she had baked herself.  It really felt like a little community in that school.

After a nap I made my way on the subway to the East Village where I briefly dropped by a club called The Element.  I moved on to a party connected to my friend Ella but she had not arrived so I made my way to the location of our election party-the same location where our Halloween Party took place…so it felt like a full circle within these magical 5 days.

Every result seemed to point to an Obama victory and the anticipation grew and grew.

It felt so good to have five members of our community-Todd, Julia, Ernest and Aileen, there to experience this historical moment together.

Then came 11pm when the returns were sent from several key states, and it was projected that Barack Obama was the next president of the United States!  We went absolutely crazy.  I was so happy to get footage of the moment that Obama was elected…it started with the announcement and then I took footage of everyone in the room cheering just moments after the announcement, spiraling around the room to get a variety of reactions, returning to the television screen to get footage like Jesse Jackson in tears and crowds of people cheering.

Needless to say the rest of the night was very special.

Day 6, Wednesday November 5: The Effect of Election The Green School (my work)

I teach at The Green School in East Williamsburg, a part of Brooklyn.  It is a remarkable school focused on sustainability and designing effective curriculum for differentiated learning styles.  The teachers there are truly inspiring.  From the moment I walked into the building I could feel the energy, the excitement, the joy.

The Green School is in the middle of the projects. It is about 75% African American and the rest mostly Hispanic and Middle Eastern.  There is not one white student in the school.  As I walked through the school there were groups of students hugging, chanting, crying, laughing, and celebrating.  I’ve never see a group of teens who understood and felt that level of awareness of the impact of this election.  The entire day there were chants of “Obama” and other related words.

Just try to imagine growing up African American in the projects of Brooklyn and having George W. Bush as pretty much the only president you have known in your entire life.

Imagine what it would mean to you and everyone in your world to have Barack Obama elected president of the United States!  All week we’ve talked about this election and it has been a part of academic lessons as well as any work I’ve done related to counseling and student coaching.

Finally, there has been a noticeable positive shift in how the students have chosen to relate with me, as if there is an anxiety lifted off of them that they did not know was there before.  They have let me into their world in an entirely new way as they (and I) experience the world from a much more optimistic stance.

This was 6 consecutive days I’ll never forget.

*It wouldn’t be right to not mention that then on Sunday, November 9th this remarkable group of us who spent Halloween and Election Day (most of us) together also had a “Salon” potluck dinner on which was just as extraordinary as the the other days.  We each talked about where we grew up and what our main inspiration is in our lives.  Aileen Morgan sang for us, we sang Kirtan together, and then I facilitated a “salon conversation” which took the form of all of us striving to be in the moment together as much as possible…and the result was extraordinary.

So call it 7 Days to Remember…but we all have a feeling there will be many more to come with our beautifully inspiring community…