Yesterday I got caught up in the madness. I spotted four photographers waiting outside the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo. So, I had to participate in the crazy. The crazy of waiting for a celebrity to emerge. As I was waiting I met Zee. She is a realtor who works around the corner from the hotel. She stopped and talked to my fellow celebrity stalkers and, yes, she stayed a few minutes. But, being the New Yorker that she is she went back to work. She has seen this crazy before. Celebrity sightings and those who wait for them. I gave her my card; told her to text me her number and if a celebrity worth mentioning appeared, I would text her a picture. She soon returned to her office and texted me. The text read like this. “Are you “the” Cookie Stoner? I read an article about you last year regarding performing legal marriages regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Bravo!! Proud to be able to say I met you!” In a bit, Zee returned to the mass of photographers and stalkers. The crowd had grown. I was still there. I was committed. Zee explained that when I gave her my card she remembered that name, Cookie Stoner. She had heard it before. She then checked her email and, yes, she had sent the article Catherine Godbey had written in the Decatur Daily in November 2015 about me as a wedding officiant to a New York friend of hers. Zee and her friends here in New York were thrilled to see such progress in Alabama. Wow. Just wow. I am so grateful for the life I get to live. I am grateful for my place in this Universe. There is power in the Universe. Sometimes being a part of the madness shows us our place in this wonderful world.
I wish you laughter. The kind that makes your sides hurt.
I wish you love. The kind that takes your breath away.
I wish you peace. The kind that makes your mind flow.
I wish you joy. The kind that makes your heart swell.
I have this wish. I wish for you. I wish for me.
Sheep Meadow Central Park
I am sure there is a Seinfeld episode about this. A solo woman walks into an art gallery wearing multiple layers of clothing carrying a huge backpack and two bags of items she bought along the way. She proceeded to meet and mingle at the event. Who is that woman? Yes, that was me last night. No, I was not treated that way. I was welcomed and treated like an old friend. I did check my coats and items at the coat check.
This is what happens when you meet great people who tell you about fabulous events in New York. My friend, Bo, is from North Carolina. He is a dancer with the Heidi Latsky Dance Company. Yes, I meet the coolest people. He’s young, adorable and he understands when I wear my pearls with my workout clothes. He’s a southerner. He gets it when I say, “Shit. Bless my heart. Forgive me. I have an awful mouth.” He told me about this event where he was performing, and he thought I would enjoy it. The affair was several events wrapped into one. You know when you are watching TV or a movie, and you see a scene set in a cool art space in New York City, and you wish you could be there. That’s where I was last night. In a cool art space with kind cool people being beautiful and diverse. And, celebrating it.
I would not have made it in the door without the inviting energy of Lucho La Torre. Not only is his spirit kind and welcoming, but he is also drop dead gorgeous. I was about 15 minutes early, and he personally ushered me in and introduced me to people. Lucho is a friend of the founder of Positive Exposure, Rick Guidotti, and his partner, Herb. Herb is from the north, but he is a University of Alabama graduate who shared great memories of his time in the south from 1976 to 1980. War Eagle. Also, at the reception area was an exquisite ivory beauty with auburn hair. She looked very urban and moved with style. She is definitely a mover and a shaker. Suzanne Manning is another southern girl who is part of this movement. She hails from Greenville, South Carolina and she is with the Greenville County Medical Society and Alliance. Suzanne was instrumental in helping Rick publish his book for Positive Exposure.
My world got even smaller when Rick told me that he was in my town of Decatur, Alabama in October 2015 where he served as the keynote speaker for the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity Awards Banquet. What a pleasure to hear him speak highly of what our town of Decatur, Alabama is doing by opening and engaging in dialogue about diversity in business in our community.
I am an observer and I don’t want to speak for the organizations involved so I will share each website and what they are doing to combine art, fashion, and photography with diversity. On a personal note all three organizations Positive Exposure, Diversability and Heidi Latsky Dance created a positive and welcoming vibe and an entertaining evening.
Rick, the founder of Positive Exposure is an award-winning fashion photographer and a humanitarian. He created “pop-up events” that make you want to be a part of all of these program advocates. Through art, narratives and community these three groups combine beauty and chic with the reminder that beauty is beauty if you are seeing it with your heart. Rick was the man of the evening. He orchestrated this event which grew out of his passion for advocating for “individuals with genetic, physical, behavioral and intellectual differences.”
Beautiful photos adorned the wall showcasing models from various backgrounds and different levels of ABILITY. Diverse ability. Diversability was founded by Tiffany Yu to rebrand the way we look at people with disabilities. Tiffany Yu empowers all who are in her presence. She is a motivator, a leader and a shepherd in her community. As Tiffany was being introduced to the audience they announced that one of her target areas is Montgomery, Alabama, my hometown. Another Tiffany, Tiffany Johnson, is the representative in Montgomery spearheading the efforts of Diversability in Alabama. What a kick to have Montgomery and Alabama be a part of such a progressive movement.
Poised dancers in costumes of white fabric and clear vinyl whispered the message of purity and transparency on display last night. The dancers were graceful moving statues throughout the evening reminding us that beauty is movement and stillness of the art. These performers were members of the Heidi Latsky Dance Company which was founded by, of course, Heidi Latsky. I saw this adorable energy walking and mixing with the crowd as she drew people to her. I thought, what a cute positive lady. I want to hang out with her. Later I realized it was Heidi Latsky. Heidi is a dancer and choreographer of theatre, stage and film and is the artistic director of Heidi Latsky Dance. She combines diversity in dance and shared it with us last night.
Besides my friend, Bo, Heidi Latsky has other southern members. As I was sitting and enjoying my surroundings and charging my phone with my portable charger, a young woman remarked that I was smart to do so. When I spoke and responded to her, she said, “Where are you from?” It must have been the proverbial, “Y’all.” “Y’all just don’t know how hard it is to keep my phone charged.” Y’all is always a conversation starter. The young woman, Caroline, is a dancer with Heidi Latsky Dance Company and is from Atlanta. That’s in Georgia. That’s the in the South. Oh, how we southerners find each other! Caroline and I chatted a bit and with promises to meet for coffee. I am sure we will get together. Southern girls do that. Keep our promises. We bid our goodbyes with a southern hug and a drawl, but not the continental hug and kiss on each cheek. I save that for my NY or international friends. Those of us from the south know we don’t do that two cheek kiss. It would seem pretentious to do so to a fellow southerner.
Last night was an unexpected blend of art, good company and a chance to be a part of a movement which reminds us that being different is the new norm. Different is good.
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1st April 2016
(I am posting this today without any edits or changes at all. This was my voice at the time I wrote it down with a pen and paper. I then typed it from my journal. It may be juvenile writing, but it was what I wanted to share today from my thoughts. Thank your for reading)
I am so grateful. I am hyperventilating from gratitude. I am sitting here in the sun, by the Hudson River in the Upper West Side of New York City. My apartment is a Brownstone in the 80’s. That refers to the area of streets. It is almost embarrassing to say that I am living my dream, but I am. I am sure my friends from the city could find amusement in my childlike dreams as a woman in my 50’s. So many people have gone before me. Many people come to New York with the dream of becoming an actor, a dancer, a writer, an artist or a financial wiz. I am here to live, grow, work my program of sobriety, experience life here and then write about it. Those are my dreams. Not to become anything, but just be here.
A few years ago I had the great fortune to paddle the Tennessee River from Chattanooga to Iuka, Mississippi 260 miles, 10 hours per day for nine days. 30 miles a day for eight days and 20 miles on our last day (I think this is the correct math). Three of us made that trip. Two of us in a canoe and the other on a paddle board. The trip was a fundraiser for the Tennessee Riverkeeper. I was a board member, and my only assets to the board were fundraising on social media, my strength and determination and my adaptability to my surroundings. But, I had no gratitude for my situation. I actually felt as if I was doing something great for the organization. At the beginning of our trip, we camped out in Stevenson, Alabama. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a camper. The park service sent over a park ranger to meet us to ensure we had our camping spot and to welcome us. The ranger was a down to earth guy about my age. We all talked about what our organization was doing and our fundraising paddle. The ranger said something that stopped me in my tracks. I will never forget it. He said, “All my life I have wanted to canoe this river.” I still get emotional when I think of this. I was struck. I was living someone else’s dream, and I had no gratitude. From that moment, my entire attitude about what I was doing changed and it shaped my experience. With miles and miles of green trees, I began to see them individually. Every time I saw a species of wildlife I squealed with excitement. I saw a beaver swimming across the river, and I just wanted to thank God and the universe for such an experience.
You see when you are living someone else’s dream you must be grateful.
I sit here sobbing now because I got it. I am so glad I got it. I became grateful that day. I am now sitting here steps from my apartment writing and experiencing. Today, here in the park I met a new friend who has a beautiful dog and we have a lot in common. She is a real writer. The kind who gets paid for her work. I am living my dream, just being. If it’s not your dream and you are living it, then become grateful because your dreams will come true.
A few weeks ago I wrote a story about meeting a Buddhist Monk on the Highline. He was exactly what I needed that day. I had prayed to God to bring me something to make me feel love that day. When I met this young man he said, “I love you because you are beautiful.” I believe God can speak to us through many vehicles. That day I do believe I got what I needed and I give my higher power the credit. When I was discussing this with a friend, a New Yorker, she said, “Oh no, Cookie, that is a scam. I read about it recently. They give you blessings and take your money.” I explained to her that I did not give him any money, but I did give him my phone number because we had to use the translator on our phones to communicate. There was only so much, “I love you because you are beautiful” I could take. I was trying to discuss God’s love with him and how I thought he was displaying it. Our conversations were benign and I felt no fear. Anyone can find my number online, but I do not disclose where I live to strangers or Buddhist monks. Another friend of ours said not to worry he did not get money from me and it was harmless. As the days passed I received the same messages from him. I responded with well wishes. He then sent me a picture of himself in civilian clothes which I didn’t think was appropriate if he is a monk, but who am I to judge. I would see calls from him and I would not answer because I don’t speak his language. Recently, I received a text from him that said, “Where are you? I want to kiss you.” I decided this was the devil talking and so I blocked him. I got a blessing and got to keep my money. I think I scammed him.