“Nothing could be sadder, than a glass of wine, all alone.” — Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
Beg to differ honey, but i’ll miss your music…
Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
“Nothing could be sadder, than a glass of wine, all alone.” — Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
Beg to differ honey, but i’ll miss your music…
Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
We were on 37th & Hawthorne in SE Portland at the Back Stage pool hall in a small, intimate upstairs room with our own table & tv (we flipped between CNN, Fox & Indecision 2008). When we got done applauding wildly, tearing up, hugging and generally being amazed at what history was happening before us, just after Obama’s victory speech with a few pitchers and cocktails under our belts, Joe, Tiffany & i poured out into the street, looking for a Champagne nitecap. This ended up being right next store at Greater Trumps, a funky cigar bar where the bubbly couldn’t be had and so, transformed into 3 Basil Hayden’s with a cube. There was quite a bit of smoke but some nice outside patio tables & when we wandered out to get some fresh air, a joyful commotion had ensued . . .
Total Spontaneous Human Happening – all emotions dialed up to stun & thrill. Fireworks had been setup right on the block, people were suddenly armed with sparklers, pot lids, drums, trash cans . . . anything that glowed & made a happy racket. There was a man with an Obama mask waving and pumping his fists in the air, a man riding a unicycle AND playing the bagpipes (i couldn’t make that up if i wanted to), President Obama signs suddenly manifested, every car honked as it went down the street packed with people hanging out of every window and howling like animals, chants and drum beats went up, “Yes We Did!” and “O-ba-ma!” And then . . . people lined up on either side of the crosswalk on the corner, by of all namely places, the Baghdad Theater, hooting, hollering stamping, drumming and woo-hooing until the crosswalk indicated it was safe to walk. But they didn’t walk – they ran, like two teams intersecting in a mass, hands in the air, giving high-fives to everyone, every smiling stranger as they passed.
Such a silly and special moment to get caught up in . . . replete with YouTube Video proof!
+ First thing, i started my day, pulled out of my garage and drove 20 feet before a doe stopped in front of my car on a quiet residential block, panicked, scrabbled on the pavement, then ran full-tilt boogie, leaping and sprinting down the street.
+ Went to a job interview in a posh place, and promptly made up my mind after meeting the head MFIC, that i would continue my search.
+ Went to a garden center, picked out two potted burgundy colored mums & vegetable seeds for Spring, then hauled two bags of soil to the trunk.
+ Ate a sub sandwich with salt and vinegar chips while sitting on the sunny deck in the backyard.
+ Completed a phone interview for a job at an established Oregon winery while pacing my garden.
+ Scheduled another interview with a wine shop for the following day.
+ Ran two loads of laundry and hand washed my “delicates.”
+ Joe and i went to Starbuck’s and got a pumpkin spice latte and a salted caramel hot chocolate. mmmm.
+ We then went to pick out carving pumpkins and Halloween candy in case we stay home, or to set out for the little monsters in a free for all grab-bowl. i’m sure we’ll have leftovers . . .
+ Had dinner with Joe at a “Carribean” place, courtesy of a 2 for 1 entrée coupon, with dishes from Ethiopia, Hawaii, Thailand, New Orleans and Jamaica. i settled on a crazy tropical drink and Kalua Pork – a Hawaiian slow-cooked, smoky shredded pork pile with grilled onions, sweet peppers, Tamarindo BBQ sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, tropical slaw and cornbread. speaking of leftovers, it’s about to become lunch.
+ Settled down in front of the computer to edit some photo projects, including a few from our recent hiking and “camping” trip out to Bend, Oregon.
+ Watched some quality Daily Show and Colbert Report with Joe & Odin.
+ Dug into the Halloween Candy and ate a Halloween orange colored Kit-Kat.
+ Settled down into bed with a good book and an even better husband.
It’s not like you haven’t heard from me . . . but i suppose you haven’t heard all the tales and tidbits. i DID just make a cross-country move with my darling husband. So let’s see what i can tell you about what it is to move from Virginia to Oregon with everything you own, a car dragging behind you, plus a landlubbing Bengal Cat to which any confinement in a moving vehicle is a personal affront to be met with vociferous fury . . .
We’ll begin with the end of days: the weekend of Saturday August 23rd was my last day of work, i waited on Joe’s family, we said goodbyes and he sold them his car. Sunday afternoon we were off to a baby shower for my dear friend Megan in Annapolis and a late-night fevered packing session on Sunday which brings us early into Monday . . .
Monday morning we were supposed to pick up our Budget Rental truck. Penske doesn’t do it that far and U-Haul was NOT an option by poor reputation and my friends’ numerous horror stories and breakdown variations on a theme so Budget had our business, begrudgingly we were to find out. Due to some unknown fuckery at the rental shop, we received a phonecall in the morning, informing us that our honkin’ monster truck (24 ft) would be available closer to noon as the current drop-off hadn’t arrived, but that they would call when it was ready. It was verging .. 2pm by the time Joe actually went there in person to experience – more fuckery. Apparently, Larry, Curly, Moe (and possibly Shemp) were not capable of doing anything by hand (filling out forms, figuring out taxes) and the whole Eastern seaboard Budget computer system was apparently mysteriously “broken.” Once it came back online, (and partway through the manual entry) they insisted Joe stay to put it all in the computer. My poor husband, fuming, but controlled did not arrive until 3:30. Luckily we had angels waiting for us.
i don’t know what we would’ve done without Jared and Patrick helping us haul things down and load the truck. i don’t know why we thought we could’ve done it by ourselves; we would’ve had to add another whole day to our trip exhausting ourselves getting everything loaded! Of course, the late truck meant later packing, meant later loading meant later cleaning of the apartment, and we really wanted to be out early evening, get somewhere outside of the DC Beltway morning rush hour, hole up in a little motel and rest, and to then start the trek first thing in the am. Well, it wasn’t until after midnight, when we finally packed the vacuum and cleaning supplies. i gave Odin some PetCalm to ease his nerves (but it didn’t, much) while we drove over an hour (an eternity with howling feline) to Hagerstown, Maryland.
A word about the Motel 6 . . . sketch. Okay, lots of snaky S words. Like, skeevy, scary, bars on the window where the night clerk sits, sketchity spookville. We were only here because they had a pet friendly policy, not to save on any moving expenses as they were covered by Joe’s university job. A quick survey of the area (and the big sign about NO TRUCKS) and it was clear we had to park the moving truck (24 ft + now the extra 10ft or more with my car in a flatbed tow) at the shopping mall lot across the way. We figured it was ok to do since other trucks were parked similarly.
But just to be sure, Joe asked the clerk, “Is it ok to park over there?” motioning to the direction of the trucks.
The clerk offered a nervous, and falsely reassuring answer, “yeah – a security guard patrols there every hour or so. Any room preference?”
“Where we can see the truck,” Joe said plainly.
So, Odin got settled quickly (he can bed down anywhere, he just hates MOVING in a vehicle), chowed down, did some encouraging kitty business in the newly re-located litterbox and perched himself at the highest point in the room, the tv, to survey his new domain. We pulled the scratchy, toilet paper thin bedsheets over us and commenced sleeping into morning one of our cross-country adventure.
The next morning, it was the breakfast buffet at Shoney’s which smelled like greasy, eggy-bacon heaven floating atop pancake clouds; evil and delicious but the type of meal one could not hork down shamelessly every morning without regret or consequence. Our waitress was pleasant, quick and dirty with the coffee cups and water and plodded through the standard “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today.” There wasn’t any fresh fruit, unless you counted all the sugary canned ones for pancake toppings, but there were three types of gravy to include chipped beef and four types of potatoes – all fried.
And boy howdy it hurt my soul; there were some very unhealthy, ungainly, unhappy people milling around the breakfast bar. People shuffled up with oxygen tanks and walkers, sort of a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest revisited meets Dawn Of The Dead, and honestly, forgive me for this description, but between all the medical equipment, the staggering display of obesity, and the general slow-moving malaise owing to an early morning it was not an easy square to maneuver. Conversely, the buffet was patrolled and replenished by a pasty, skinny, pock-marked, shifty-eyed, surlier than Satan, quick-handed, would be mass-murderer type, luckily armed only with a few spatulas. i hesitated to ask for anything that might come off sounding like a snooty, pain in the ass dietary concern, should Jethro James Manson, Jr. decide this was his morning to “waste ’em all.”
The bill didn’t amount to much, as we had a per diem for food in our moving expenses, so Joe left the waitress a $10 tip.
“Whoa, what’s that say?” the cash register jockey drawled, incredulously.
Joe is lovely, but his hand-writing is difficult and deeply codified, plus the pen was a little dry, so i assumed the numbers were hard to make out.
“Joe went back over the numbers in pen and told him “Ten dollars.”
“Wow! That’s a great tip.” This was the lottery to this guy.
As a waitress in fine dining where the average low end tip is a straight $20, this statement made me terribly sad, but i could see the grubby, wrinkled, single bills and piles of change emptied from pockets and cup holders, piled on dirty tables under brown coffee mugs as we walked by, looking more like several police searches than gratuities. We must’ve made, “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today”‘s day.
We wound our way through Appalachia through the first of many many miles of corn on our way to Indianapolis.
What should’ve been an 8-hour drive grew into a 12-hour nitemare of three terrible realizations. One – we had one angry, frightened, inconsolable cat (no matter how much herbal tranquilizer administered) who slept for 20 minutes and howled and climbed windows, dashboard and floorboard the other 40. Two – a mysterious idiot light came on depicting a wrench and an oilcan. This to me meant “You’re fucked, Tin Man.” After one of the first tiffs my sweet husband and i ever had about how to handle this second crap-laden fact, we decided the best course was to pull over and call the Budget help line. After being jockeyed through the phone system of choices, we finally pushed enough numbers and spoke to an informed human service agent who wasn’t reading verbatim from the “How-To Talk To The Pissed And Stranded” manual. She spoke to an actual mechanic who assured us it was simply an early warning oil change interval and that we could tell the delivery place on the other end that it came on and needs the service. They even told us how to disable it, but we never did. And finally, Three – with footnotes a) & b) were realizations we made about the truck. a) it laughed at and evaporated fuel – 5 miles to the gallon. b) uphill grades any steeper than say 4%, with the pedal to the metal resulted in the hazard lights being flicked on and a maximum speed of 35mph.
After we finally arrived in Indianapolis to my sister’s place, hair matted, mood dampened, cat howling, with furrowed brow, exhausted and hungry as hostages, we came around to the idea that we had to add a day to our ambitious arrival time. This was decided over a fabulous pork dinner and several ears of corn on the cob plus two bottles of wine. We also decided (and thankfully, my sister and her husband agreed) to leave Odin to stay with them for a week for a later flight retrieval operation that my poor Joe volunteered for. It was clear that completing the rest of the trip with kitty in the cab would make for a longer, more difficult, harrowing and stressful journey – for all of us. Let’s just say that Odin is not easily calmed or sedated, by natural, herbal, homeopathic, psychological, or pharmacological means. On the two-leg (no direct flights from Indy) trip home, he even managed to surf above the double dose of chicken flavored kitty Valium and maintained a constant meow from under the seat, save for the last hour. Joe reports that he made lots of friends on the planes. When Odin did finally arrive, he was all hyped up. Apparently, diazepam, instead of having the nice calming effect, can cause a paradoxical reaction and instead make a human (or bad kitty) wildly alert and excitable. So Odin, above the normal exploratory passes that go along with an animal in new surroundings, paced, mewed, jumped from window to window and trotted from room to room with a lack of coordination and on wobbly legs until pretty much the next morning when he was able to settle in and have a good long sleep. And he’s doing fine now . . .
But back to the adventures of the Janda’s cross-country excursion . . .
Getting fuel was always exciting. Finding diesel in Hellhole, Nebraska often required the help of my fancy new Instinct phone’s GPS Navigation, then it was determining whether we could get the moving truck under, around and out of places without jackknifing, tearing off the trailer or bringing down awnings and taking out gas pumps. EVERY stop, which was more frequent with the awesome fuel consumption, required this exercise in mathematical probability and turning radius.
The cities moved on as I downloaded the local weather. Amazing to me that i could find where we were and what was close by to eat or refuel by the help of Jenny (the name i have dubbed my cell phone’s navigational voice, as in: “Jenny Jenny, where do i turn now? 867-530 ni-eeee-ine.” and yes, Iain . . . a tip o’ the hat to you as well on the name.) Lore City, OH – Grass Lake, MI – Normal, IL – Exira, IA, Waverly, NE – Grand Island, NE. Oh, which by the way, appears to be in the center, like a bullseye dart throw at the US map. However, Grand Island is, as far as i can tell, neither “grand” nor an “island” and is not even remotely near water. Or culture. Or . . .
The waitstaff at the local Perkins gave me very confused looks when, upon having my own oolong tea, i simply requested a pot of hot water, a pitcher of milk and a cup.
“So, you want a glass of milk, like orange juice?” Lloyd asked.
“No, i want a small container, for milk instead of cream, like for coffee,” i tried to explain. He brought me a pitcher of milk normally reserved for syrup and a plastic carafe big enough for 8 cups of coffee but filled with hot water and still, sadly, no vessel to put any of my tea in. 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad i supposed. i was finally able to flag down another waitress to ask for a coffee mug since i was certain tea cups were not to be had. forget about latte mugs too in case i wanted to make a BIG cup of tea . . .
In Rock Springs, Wyoming we stayed on Elk Street at the “Outlaw Inn” Best Western, ordered my first breakfast in bed and watched my first episode of “It’s Me Or The Dog.” We had traveled all nite through so much flatland (called the Great Plains for a reason, clearly – they go on plainly forever) and when we woke up, we were surprised that we found ourselves in the desert. Rocky, golden stoned climbs and scrubby green & brown foliage dotted the hillsides and ground like so many funny little clown wigs left out in the sun after the carnival left town and never came back. But here’s what surprised me. Sure, we laughed at first, because the winds picked up and there were some honest to goodness TUMBLEWEEDS moving across the road which to me, signals true desolation and nowhereness. Then the sky grew ominous, black and bruised and instead of being hot and blazing, it rained through most of our trip through the desert and on our way as we dipped barely into Utah north of Salt Lake and on into Idaho.
And can i just say here, forgive me if you grew up in, lived or currently live in Idaho, because, i know the northern part is beautiful, but damn. Boise proper, from the road and some of the rare farms and outlying suburbs hurt a little to look at. It was hard for me to imagine where you would live, where you would work, how far you had to drive, the manner and means by which you’d survive. Strange domiciles huddled like hungry masses, bumped up against and thrown together in a manner almost suburban, but more like third world dilapidated houses of clap-trap metal sheds and sheets, some barely wooden, functional farmlike lean-tos. Meant for animals. Weathervanes on top seemed an unnecessary after thought. A spritely windchime tinkling and floating off a broken fence made me sad. i hesitate to say soul-crushing, but it did approach that. Once, after a batch of mean road food, we rolled down the windows to umm . . . get some fresh air, and were assaulted by an even worse smell. and here’s where tasting food and wine and trying to disseminate spices, essences, flavors and smells comes in, though i hope to never come across any food or beverage of the sort. i can only describe the smell in Idaho as a dead squirrel/rodent rolled in mocha and put on a pyre of leaves. It had a pungent, smoky, mocha, sweet, rotting meat, dead, acrid, burnt, dry smell that was enough to make us prefer our own flatulence. damn.
Crossing over into Oregon, we stayed in Baker City at the Oregon Trail Motel & Restaurant to prepare for the last leg of our journey into Portland. What a funny, little old, almost stagecoach town. The room was cheap, and included free breakfast the next morning, which was delightful and a good thing, because our first dinner in Oregon, was when we arrived there near closing time to have a most disappointing steak dinner. flavorless, tough, square shaped strip steak (definitely frozen and hauled in), grey-tinged green beans, sad and soggy (definitely canned and not sautéed), and a dusty baked potato (the best part, sadly) which could’ve benefitted from a good wash and less time in foil, so it was easier to strip it out to eat. we probably should’ve had to the fried chicken dinner special that the kooky local ordered when he bellied up to the counter, because he ordered a second plate. but then again, “special” to me in the far restaurant outreaches does not mean “fresh today, on the mind of the chef,” it means, “get this scary shit out of the kitchen before it violates health code.”
Speaking of health code . . . the not so sanitary, no sneeze-guard, precursory salad bar on a small wheeled cart had a threatening sign tacked to it about allowing only one visit with no sharing and one plate per person limit. This plate, by the way, had a 4in diameter, enough to hold a slice of bread with some overhang. and the usual sad green fare of anemic looking iceberg lettuce, limp, shredded carrots, sulfurous purple cabbage, some unidentifiable, unnaturally colored, jiggling gelatinous something, creamy thick dressings, crushed into sawdust croutons, and luckily for me, some watermelon. a rare one-off fruit treat with more crunch, water, and possibly more nutrients than the iceberg lettuce.
i know – i am spoiled. of course, i did not expect to pass through the middle of the heartland, the dairyland, the plains, the land of plenty and to have a diverse and delicate gourmet experience, but being that close to corn, vegetables, grains and cows, i had my standards set high enough that i might actually receive something on a plate that tasted farm raised and had enough color to shine through the blue pallored spectrum of fluorescent lighting that haunts every diner. i realize, i may come off as a food snob, but more i find myself grateful. it occurs to me how fortunate i am to work in an industry and now live in a city and state where culinary excellence, even in the simplest of places, hinges on fresh, whole, organic, local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources. you can taste the difference, people. tomatoes that aren’t pale pink, mealy and flavorless. Strawberries that although smaller than the grocery bought flats, stain the fingers and taste sweet and heavenly. i made a soup last week with these huge gnarly carrots, just pulled from the ground, bundled with the tops on and even after boiling were the most amazing flavorful carrots i’ve ever eaten.
So on the tip of food et al, we’ve been hitting the wine bars, the sake bars, the breweries, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, dinner here and there and lots cooking at home. a few weeks back, my friend Tiffany and i went to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden where we had a traditional tea and ate a red bean mooncake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Joe and i have already met new people and are definitely getting some socializing done. on one such event, i even canned peaches and tomatoes w/ garlic and green peppers for sauces. first months out here out here and were discovering how to compost, rethinking everything i throw away, recycling the hell out of EVERYTHING i touch, and putting food into Ball jars for the winter! holy granola! stop me if i cease wearing deodorant, let my hair dread, get a nose or lip piercing, go on road trips to support jam bands and start practicing hacky sack in my backyard, k?
One of the prettiest parts of the trip – The Columbia Gorge . . .
i’m the impatient type. i’m the girl who wants to feel established and settled the minute i set foot in a new situation. i crave quick learning and acclimation and seem to give myself a bit of hell if i don’t have all my systems, rituals and routines in place. Joe’s sister, Laura reminded us (me, really, who needs the patience and the temperance) that we are setting up a HOME, not just a house or living space, so i should just ease into it without spazzing out too much. but yes, the “house” is mostly setup and the “home” bit is starting to warm in me. we have been sleeping fitfully in a new king-sized bed, (Odin’s all about it too!) the weather has been stellar to mild, with yes, some rain here and there though we’ve apparently entered the rainy season. But Indian Summer came and went in full-swing (it was in the 90’s a few days in the first weeks of arrival and not a drop of rain) and i am certainly enjoying my little garden, deck space, cool mornings, quiet breakfasts and tea in a sunny kitchen, dinners & wine with my Joe and friends. it’s all been quite good. And i know it’s going to be at least a year until all things truly settle, i have a solid base of friends, a job i enjoy and can get all the way around socially and physically without getting lost.
As for our immediate locale – there’s a little coffee house nearby and as we walk down to it, we get a clear view of Mt. Hood, and off to the left, Mt. St. Helens (which i read are two “active” stratovolcanos, kind of “exciting”). there are pear trees along the walk, overflowing and dropping in the grass – ah, the spoils. In our yard, we have roses lining the wooden fence, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, fennel, ferns, lavender, rosemary, sage, hydrangea and little bursts of wild flowers. In fact, this year i am putting in Spring bulbs and next year, i think i will revive the tomatoes, put in cucumbers and plant squash.
i put out hummingbird feeders and they’ve come and i put out a regular seed feeder and the loudass squawking Scrub and Stellar Jays (plus some sweet Chickadees) have depleted it twice. the squirrels are plentiful – one (or a party of several) gnawed through our Comcast dropline to the house, so we had to have our internets fixed the first few days here. they also chase and skitter across the length of our roof top and you can hear the entire scrabbling pursuit from room to room. This drives Odin wild! Bad little tree rats!
Joe got his haircut at this little local barbershop on the corner by this big brawny tough dude named Justice who had two teensy-weensy grey kittens scurrying about that his friend dumped on him and now he has seemingly been forced to adopt. Their names are Guns & Roses. seriously. And, as recent pictures depict, i also whacked my hair off. it’s a bit curly and untame unless i brush it down some and straighten it, but i like the shortness. Hair clips are my friends.
The fine people i worked with in Virginia bought Joe and i a most original going away gift. A hot air balloon ride over Yamhill wine country which ends in a catered hot, champagne/mimosa brunch! We’re going to try to fit that in while the weather holds . . . but, there is always Spring and Summer next year.
Joe started work on September 15th, and me, after hitting craigslist like a whore, i’ve had a few bites and started a job that’s going to require endurance of some growing pains, but i won’t bore you with those details here. i’m not one to talk shop and air dirty laundry of how i trade time for money; it’s one of those questions i’ve always hated and dislike answering. “So – what do you do?” Of course, i grew a bit bored being a lady of leisure but there are some things i loved about it, like seeing my husband during normal evening hours for dinner in or out and watching or reading things together. Life moves slower here, hours go slower. Life is more leisurely it seems, and it’s not just lack of full-on social or work obligations either, it seems to be an engrained mindset.
On September 23rd, Joe and i celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. We had a low key day of salad, pizza and beer, some board games with some rosé champagne, some tv time, some private time, and some blissful sleep. The beer and first bottle of bubbly did us in, so we didn’t get to some really nice champagne gifted to us last year, but there was always lunch the next day . . . and me, i never need a celebratory excuse to crack the bubbly.
Well, two things i am looking forward to out here – Halloween and voting. Both bring a certain level of ghoulish fright and giddy excitement. It’s safe to say that by lawn and houses alone, it appears that Oregon is largely an Obamanation. (heh!) Voter registration was made pretty easy for us: they got me in front of an organic market out here, and Joe at the Saturday Farmer’s market. It was convenient and fast, done by the last four of my SS (since i don’t have an OR license yet) and the voter’s card arrived days later. Apparently, we send all of our ballots in by mail here, which surprised me. i was really hoping to go into a secret squirrel booth for my first voting experience. But hey – no nervousness about machines to manipulate and no hanging chads. i wonder if it’s a scantron?
And if you need to go back a few lines, yes . . . that’s right. MY FIRST. in all my 36 years i have never been registered to vote. Never cared for the process, and living near DC never endeared me to the constant conversation, the dogged preoccupation nor the convocation. (Apologies to my friends for whom it is an occupation.) But i am doing it this year. i am fortunate to survive and do well in as they say, “times like these,” and it occurs to me that being politically active when it counts is by extension, a survival tactic to hold onto all the ideals in life that brought Joe and i out here in the first place.
Oregon is already proving itself as some manner of heaven and a lifestyle i can love.
So come visit us! We have a nice guest room in the basement, right next to the wine cellar.
so . . . i was tagged. more, i was asked to write a blog with 10 random things, facts, goals, or habits about mys(elf).
this longish little labor of love is dedicated to Virtual Angel and Laura, (thanks for waiting pretty ladies) though i will break the trend by NOT tagging anyone directly for obligatory response and instead invite anyone to tell me one random thing, fact or goal about themselves here as an optional comment.
i will start big and descriptive and then i will try to scale down to some simple trivia.
::: ::: ::: :::
1 i am a nature nut. I have a profound respect for all things furry, things with leaves, scales, fins, feather and especially wings. And not just the pretty things like moths and butterflies, but birds and even bats. I have picked up butterflies dashed by car radiators flapping at the roadside. i’ve hand fed a dazed hummingbird after thudding pitifully into a window and was amazed to have it fly directly out of my hand. i have carefully pulled a baby mouse from a glue trap. Out of sheer interest, i took great pride in planting and cultivating a small but beautiful garden and i raised giant silkmoths (Saturniidae) for a year. i have photo documented nearly all of the above in great detail.
This all adds up to the fact that i wish i were a National Geographic level photographer (though i did finish in the 3rd annual Smithsonian contest in the category of Altered Images for a photo of a red tree.) my photos have also been featured in a Maryland Department of Natural Resources Calendar and on a species sign at the Calgary Zoo (for a HUGE bat called a Malayan Flying Fox.)
To remind me of the fragility of the natural worlds (humans included) i keep a little wooden box on my bookshelf. Some would consider it a bug sarcophagus but it has several wings, some full bodies of, and some single panels of glittering, scaly, colorful butterflies, moths and a fully intact dragonfly. I’m not a pinner and framer or a freezer or a killer. None of this Silence of The Lambs nonsense . . . i would just find these and collect them in the field as is. Creepy to you maybe, but delicate treasures to me.
2 i move slow on Sundays. Meditatively so. Or more at, sometimes, i don’t like getting up in the morning. Correction. i do NOT get up in the morning, i typically rise in the early afternoon. Morning for me is 10am to 11am. 9am is really pushing it. Anything prior to that and i am either sleeping, or some kind soul is cooking up a mean breakfast in the kitchen that has roused me and my hunger. Or – i wake voracious and i am found making a tall stack of pancakes, towering like fluffy beige clouds or a big mess of cheesy scrambled eggs. My Sunday ritual is this . . . Rise late. Drink tea. Eat breakfast for lunch. Stay comfortable. Snuggle with Joe. Read or write of fill my mind and heart with music and art. I am not religious (unless you count nature) but i understand why people go to church, why they don’t want to work, why they choose forced respite on Sunday. as midnight approaches on a Saturday, bringing to close a full day, a full week lived and loved, greeted and embraced, photographed and written about, drunk down and eaten full, documented, cherished and learned from, i see the world as my church and the amazing places, people and things in it, all beautiful, meaningful and deserving of reverence in their own godlike ways. So i need time to digest my universe. And i refuse to work on Sundays. For at least the past 10 years . . . ultimately, i try to live my life as if it were a string of neverending Sundays: i eat when i am hungry, i sleep when i am tired, i work when i need the money, i rest when my mind or my body calls for it.
3 i am guilty of magical thinking. This is because i believe i lead a charmed life. Truly. In a world of random bullshit and utter chaos, i find myself wildly lucky. this works for me in a positive way not a paranoiac way. Many, many positive things, people and opportunities have filled my life. The places i’ve traveled to and seen, the wine i’ve consumed, the food i’ve eaten, the music i’ve absorbed, the people i’ve met, the true friends and the necessary lovers over the years and now, the perfect husband i now cherish. Where does the magic come in? i believe these things have been delivered to me from sheer wishing, from dreams, from asking the universe out right, from applying my mind and my will to them and invariably, from making the good decisions that put me in the places where the magic indeed happens. Oh yeah – and i think faerie folklore has a good bit of truth and i don’t care what you think that means. The boon of art and writing inspired is plenty. i look for signs in everything from placement in time and numbers on coins, to colors worn for effect, from license plates to billboards, from overheard conversations to the small, pinched flower mouths of children. Myths are made daily. i live like that . . .
4 i prefer to eat with my hands. I can even been seen eating a salad like this. Sure – i’ve worked in fine dining for the better part of 16 years and i know how to set a proper table. Even so, i use my right hand like a little claw or a prong, gathering three fingers and a thumb into a quadrant, leaving the pinkie out. i like gently tearing off hunks of cake or gathering a bundle of French fries and bringing the whole of it to pursed lips. i often taste sauces on plates with my fingers first before going in. it doesn’t matter how fancy or how low country the food is, though i will often employ the proper tool at the proper time, i still prefer the direct tactile sensation of bringing food to my mouth with my hands. and as for beverages, i’ll drink wine out of anything, including a bowl.
5 i’ve tried my hand at every artistic arena minus sports. i’ve attacked and completed most ventures with moderate success and still continue to grow in the ones i’ve decided to hold onto. No one told me i couldn’t or explained that i might fail so i tried everything to see what i was good at with joyful abandon. i play acoustic guitar and a smattering of piano, i even tried flute and saxophone. i sing mostly as i discovered it was my best instrument and used it to front a band. i’ve been recorded. i’ve sketched, painted and sculpted. i took jazz for a few months and performed in precisely one dance recital in a hideous pink and black polka-dotted bodysuit with crinoline skirt when i was 15. i still write quite a bit and have been published in small collections that i have entered and/or was editor-in-chief for and won minor educational scholarship contests for writing when i began my college career. Then there’s the photography bit too . . . as previously mentioned.
6 secretly – or maybe not so secretly, i want to sift through my writing and author a book. Poetic prose, nothing too confessional, something probably more at short-story/essay-type of writing. If there were a way to amalgamize the astute natural observation of Annie Dillard, the humor of David Sedaris, Douglas Adams or Christopher Moore, and the delightfully dense prose of Tom Robbins, fluid and delivered in equal parts, then this is the book i want to write. i mean – aren’t we all very busy writing the Great American Novel?
7 Socks. i love them. Especially knee-highs. The longer, more silly, more sexy, more striped, more full of cats and flowers and polka-dots and eyeballs and stars, the better.
8 Being naked. This is my preferred state. And i don’t say that to be provocative. i like senseless nudity. Like, i prefer to be naked cleaning the tub and bathroom tiles (so i can shower after!) or fresh out of the shower composing email naked in front of the computer with a towel on my head. i like doing the dishes naked or dusting the bookshelves on a chair naked or my favorite, stripping down in front of the washer and loading the clothes into the basin naked. Also combine this with 7 and you get naked plus socks – another common state of mine. Because i dress according to mood and function, it takes me awhile to decide what i’m wearing for the day so if i don’t have to go anywhere on the immediate, i’ll just wander the house naked until i get inspired.
9 Oregon. This is where i want to live. I want to see mountains and water, to hike to camp, to breathe and eat healthy and sleep soundly to the rain. All of this with my husband Joe, in a home with a fireplace and a wall stuffed with books (or a proper library), with a couple (or few cats) and a big porch to watch the birds from, a backyard without a fence to hold back the garden of flowers, herbs, vegetables and lavender, a few comfortable chairs, a bright window to look out while i write and read, and a nicely stocked kitchen and pantry with plenty of cupboard space for us to feed ourselves and entertain the people we adore. There is a plan in place for this eventual utopian move . . .
And last for 10 i give you . . ..
and the invitation is now yours, should you choose . . .
::: ::: ::: :::
he’s a body walker…
he’s a toe-stalker…
he’s a loud talker…
he’s a head knocker…
::: ::: ::: :::
Those four lines above were a little ode written to our cat Odin late last nite. Sung really. Odin was stomping on us, attacking our feet, howling and head-butting us for attention and Joe and i were trading lines, rhyming a little song to calm the irritation Mr. Kitty was bringing us at bedtime as we had just settled in for sleep. i do love my cat, but man is he a bad little bed monster at nite . . .
Spend enough time in my company and you will learn that i sing not only when i am happy, drunk, or both, but also, when i am irritated. Perhaps it’s been the many years in public service, especially my long stint as a “genius waitress” that has cleaved me into a little Kalliope music box, cranking and tinkling out cruel little songs for my own amusement. These little songs are often peppered with profanity – little gems like the “hate you, hate you, hate you” song “later, dicks” and the “please, catch fire” song are in my constant repertoire. Ask my close friends and co-workers. Or piss me off – you can guarantee i will sing a little song tailored specifically to your special brand of ass-hattery. Just as you walk away.
Well – how do you cheer yourself up?
Or if you don’t want to divulge your private little idiosyncrasies, tell me instead – what is the course of websites you visit on a daily basis that keep you grounded, in touch, in step, in laughter and informed?
For me, my immediate bookmark toolbar looks like this below and it’s a flitting pattern I have in my daily net ritual:
besides, i’ve just discovered the ultimate, hands-down uber-cutest (and endangered) creature ever. Allow me to digress . . . it’s called the long-eared jerboa (euchoreutes naso) so rare and “distinct enough that authorities consider it to be the only member of both its genus, Euchoreutes, and subfamily, Euchoreutinae.” It’s a tiny nocturnal mammal that is dwarfed by its enormous ears, found in the deserts of Mongolia and China.
It’s practically marsupial – a little kangaroo with bat ears and a striped skunky tail, short forepaws and long back ones to hop around on. He’s being called the “Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure,” They’re little tiny things, only about 3-6 inches (8-15 cm) long, but with their super-strength legs they jump – more than 6 feet (1.8 m) in a single bound. And boy, can they dig with those legs . . .
But don’t take my word for it – check out this video footage at National Geographic News and the video below here from YouTube:
Oh my GOD I want a whole house full of them so I can smooch their little fuzzy heads!
Ahem – but back to the way I websurf . . . (see how easily I get distracted!) So, after I’m done ogling cute animals, I check out my 3 photo sites and then move on down the line . . .
Alright, your turn now – what cool nodes on the web do you visit on the regular?
::: ::: ::: :::
When we emerged steaming from the void,
It was easy to stay warm.
Now we huddle in swarthy clothing
And wait for Summer to remind us
We used to practice acrobatics
in the fluidity of the womb.
I pressed for memory and a new voice came
This new one, she said “yes,
this is the next part,”
But how could you possibly put
a finger on it?
How could you expect to tickle the walls;
to put your hands
through the screen of the red room
and touch the outside
~ Andrea E. Janda
::: ::: ::: :::
A couple days ago, the EPoX ex5 barebones case mini-tower (dubbed “mini-me” not by me but the company), the computer i bought piece by piece in 2003 from processor to video card, memory sticks to media, hard drive all assembled, tweaked, pimped, proxied, overclocked, backed up, maintained and restored meticulously, pruned and flourished like my own digital garden, loved and lavished with all the finest software and crammed with all my art, writing, photos, email – an online lifetime of memories – died.
there i was, happily reading email when a snap, crackle, pop came from the direction of my desktop, the monitor powered down, the speakers snapped out a piercing blip and the cooling fans went silent. i went down the list and thought: ok, don’t panic, what just blew up? heat sink fan on the processor or power source? but all fans were running when i restarted and the power source seemed fine, it turned back on. but it shut itself down again shortly after. upon another reboot, i HEARD XP start but didn’t SEE it on the screen. the monitor? nope, that still works. So i reboot once again and the display on the front of the computer which usually shows a bright blue screen with icons for memory, storage, CPU activity and temperature plus a few other nice diagnostics displayed nothing but a blue screen and a little barrel telling me, “hey sister, i see the hard drive, but that’s about it.” So no monitoring, no icon of any part of the system. Which led me to believe the nervous system was shot – the motherboard.
One more restart, and then from somewhere inside the silver shoebox, the dull, distant siren of some internal alarm that sounded like an ambulance in a soup can. i thought, “maybe any one controller, capacitor, even the BIOS might be toast, but more than likely, the motherboard is zapped so – no nervous system (motherboard) means the brains (the processor) can’t fire up and control the rest of the body and the video card (the optic nerve) can’t give me any graphics, but the saving grace, the heart of the operation where all the memories are stored, the hard drive is healthy and intact. i know this . . . because the little barrel icon was there, and i could hear the healthy spin of the disc inside.
So i did some homework, read reviews, watched videos to look at the guts of the computers, went to retail stores to touch them and see how they were built, looked at some sexy systems ranging from sleek laptops to crazy alienware, i even considered building one again but the testing and tuning, time and energy that goes into getting a system up and running just weren’t in my favor. i decided though i like the portability of laptops, i just prefer a full-size desktop at home base. i enjoy my workspace as a creative altar.
Joe brought me home a very old Dell tower from his work to borrow in the meantime of ordering, and as soon as i had it on the floor, i got out my tools and swapped my HDD in. the transplant was a success! in minutes time and two restarts to load up the new brains and nervous system i was running my tailored desktop again, albeit slow as balls on this old dog of a machine. Pentium III 996 MHz and a mere 256 MB of RAM. euughhh! My HDD is all, “WTF, mate?!?!”
i even looked at the Dell XPS and after configuring several systems from several makers from standard retail HP and Sony and all the geek models & makers in between, after getting several ideas in several outrageous figures and quotes ranging up into $1800+, i settled on a Dell Inspiron 530. i tricked it out the best i could imagine with upgraded processor, memory, audio & graphics cards, media hub and other fancies and kept it at $1400. i even checked the benchmarks and it performs better than some systems priced at $500 more. i won’t nerd out and bore anyone with the specific hard specs, unless you ask. it should run blazing fast around my old mini-me. poor little silver friend.
so tonite i will, after work, spend a good amount of time migrating my music, words, photos, email and settings from my old HDD and backup drives. My only concern? Windows Vista. i’ve read it’s buggy. i’ve read it’s chatty. i’ve read it takes about a months worth of tweaking it to settle down and behave the way you like. but i’m ready to explore and tame it. i don’t negotiate with terrorists. anyone have any horror / success stories or advice for me on that front?
ah, but before i go . . . i should mention the cool thing about having to borrow this old computer. it has a 3.5″ floppy drive and a (wait for it) zip250 on it. and why is that good? well, i have this old pile of floppys and zips that had old pictures and writing on it i had forgotten about. stuff i was sure i might never see again after a previous HDD failure, a few computers back. it was an exciting, revealing, amusing trip down digital memory lane. and i encourage everyone to write and save it, even if you don’t think you have a gift for it. even if you don’t think you’ll be published. even if it’s just observations on your own personal drama du jour. it’s informative and enlightening and imperative to “see” old documented thoughts and mindset for emotional growth. to see how the voice inside has changed. if nothing else, it serves as a marker, sign posts for how far you’ve come, or how much further you must go if you intend on doing something more.
i suppose it’s the time of year, as poring over old memories is reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. and having a husband like Joe to love and take care of me and make new memories with me, our first year as a married couple is my greatest gift. well, that and the new computer he just bought me. he emphatically expressed, “no more things beginning with the letter “C” are allowed to break in this house.” It began with the Cat in January when Odin had a few expensive bouts with the vet. Then my Car in April, prompting a new Volkswagen Rabbit purchase. And now, my Computer, which i believe, completes the three in the “C” cycle. We’ll just stay home for Christmas to be safe. No travel ensures no problems.
but yes – the impending holidays are a mixed Santa’s bag of goodies, a sloppy harvest cornucopia of good and bad memories for most. a collection of the joys (and occasional discomfort) of families. so i will leave you with an old piece of writing of mine. a description of a photograph from my childhood with links to the cultural reference for clarity . . .
“We’re standing in the kitchen of my grandmother’s house. It is a room where I spent many formative hours as a child. Behind us is a circle of dark brown cabinets, swirled with the brushstrokes of the original stain, all of which have knobs with a bright orange flower in the center. The dishwasher with its large rectangular buttons sits unused. It’s broken and the dishes dry behind us in a mustard yellow Rubbermaid rack. The counter is crowded with blenders and coffee makers and other appliances, years before the notion of space saving installation. A terribly sad remnant that passes for a radio sits to the left of the stove top and a neighboring roll-top breadbox. It’s placed here where it gets the best reception it can hope for near all the metal and with the help of a bent up blue coat hanger. Blue grass music and talk radio is usually coming out of this nostalgic contraption.
The oven has a large door, big enough to cook two small children and boasts a window to watch cookies and Shrinky Dinks with the light on. My grandmother had the same cooktop and range from my mother’s youth up until I was nearly 14. The same was true about the refrigerator. For years I imagined my grandmother as the Hungarian witch, able to keep appliances running until they didn’t match the décor. Some of the only things to come out of the refrigerator are endless bologna sandwiches with Plochman’s mustard and a never-ending surplus of milk, applesauce, and popsicles.
Behind my mother is one of my favorite cabinets. It looks small from the outside, but once you open it, a round three-tiered lazy susan spins around with spices and baking ingredients. A deep and endless door to magical cuisine. A Narnia portal with my grandmother as the White Witch. i would spin and spin this until glass bottles clicked and metal tin boxes tapped out code until they all crashed together like unwilling passengers on a tilt-a-whirl and toppled like bowling pins signaling my grandmother to come running with the spatula armed and prepared to swat us with it. it is the largest, most fearsome piece of plastic i know; mightier than the paddle, the switch, the belt strap or the back hand combined. It’s called the “pancake turner” and in a German-Hungarian household, it is gainfully employed in the morning with buttermilk pancakes, potato pancakes in the evening and ass-whupping any time it’s called upon.
My mother and father are standing together in the center of the photo. My sister is waist high and under the arm of my father, his hand pressing her against his hip, and I am on the opposite side, my mother’s hand around the little knob of my shoulder.
My father’s arm is draped over my mother like the back of a big armchair, his hand dangles and points to my head like an accusation. “You’re a smart little college-educated bitch, just like your mother.” Around his wrist is a thick leather strap, like the strongman at the circus, but not black. Instead it is the color of honey, with a large watch face in the center. It is the only picture, not taken professionally and posed uncomfortably at Olan Mills Studio where we are all arranged together. We are all wearing shirts in variations of blue and gray like a November Sky. We are all wearing blue jeans from stone to sky blue.
We are all smiling.”
“You only fall in love once, the rest is merely practice
to make sure your heart can take it.”
“A great proportion of the wretchedness which has embittered married life,
has originated in the negligence of trifles. Connubial happiness is a thing
of too fine a texture to be handled roughly. It is a sensitive plant, which will
not bear even the touch of unkindness; a delicate flower, which indifference
will chill and suspicion blast. It must be watered by the showers of tender
affection, expanded by the cheering glow of kindness, and guarded by the
impregnable barrier of unshaken confidence. Thus matured, it will bloom
with fragrance in every season of life, and sweeten even the loneliness of
~ Thomas Sprat
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird
I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
~ George Eliot
From: Joseph & Andrea Janda
Subject: autumn equinox celebration
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2007 15:13:43 -0400
Howdy all. Been a while since we’ve seen some of you.
So Andrea and I have contemplated the extensive nonsense that would go into a proper wedding, and we are both lukewarm about the time and expense and public show aspects of such an affair. We want to have a big party with friends and family to celebrate, and we’ve pegged that party to next year, between May and October. More precise details will emerge in the next few months.
In the meantime, we’re eloping to home. Next Sunday, which also happens to be the autumn equinox, we will be married by an approved Fairfax Country celebrant in the comfort of our own apartment, possibly in our pajamas. A courthouse wedding without the courthouse, by a woman who was kind enough to agree to come sign the requisite papers without insisting on any kind of ceremony, god-speech, or tepid couples counseling. At 6pm, we’ll have a little autumn soiree (apple pie, apple cider, pumpkin ale, cheeses, and of course more wine than is likely good for us) for friends and family who are within practical driving distance. E-vite to follow.
Well wishes welcome – no gifts.
Talk to you all soon,
Hello Lovelies . . .
Joe encapsulated it best above, he’s a man of many clever, warming words, which is why, you know – i’m marrying him and all.
Please don’t feel obligated to attend or sad if you can’t, you can even call if you’d like! Note – this is a marriage, not a wedding . . . that will come soon enough to include everyone. This little event is also NOT a VIP members only list of invites . . . our apartment is small – we really wanted it to be no fuss, but also wanted it to be symbolic and private. Upon further discussion, we realized, we don’t want to upset anyone and keep it to all ourselves, thus you’re getting this dual-email / letter so you’re not left out!
We are so happy and very much in love and really wanted to be each other’s on our own terms and before the year’s end. September 23rd, the autumn equinox, was the day we had originally planned to be married and so – we’re following through with that. the “real” wedding next year might fall on that day as well, just to recapitulate the event – both a first time for you, and an anniversary & affirmation for us.
Hope this note finds you well and happy . . .
This is the formal press release . . .
of course, we’re going to piss off the traditionalists and a precious few, but this upcoming first step was really for Joe and i. we wanted to be married on the first day of Fall, so we willed it to happen, with or without a “reception” party or anyone’s necessary approval.
kind of takes the pressure off, really.
to us, the marriage is not the orgasm of the relationship, it’s not a culmination of events and a downslide after. that part is in all practicality, just the legalities of the state – a marriage license. i already know i want to commit to Joe forever, now the Commonwealth of Virginia and Fairfax County knows it too. my friends and family have probably figured it out by now, but i urge them NOT to attach too much to how and when i am going to choose to celebrate it so as not to injure anyone’s feelings.
as for the rest – there’s too much treachery in the idea of marriage and what it means to have a wedding. i am not trying to reinvent the fucker, or insult anyone who by family pressure or by personal taste feels they need to hit all the buzzers, in fact, i think all that normal celebration and successive points of play are just lovely – i have attended many many many weddings and know what to do at them. most people do. despite the procedural expectations that is practically engrained in the culture of traditional American weddings (religious or civil), i have even had fun at them, but still – it’s not what i want.
i know precisely what a wedding does NOT mean to me: a horrible dj who insists on the chicken dance, the electric slide and the macarena, nor does it mean sliding a garter belt up my leg in public to “the stripper,” standing in queues for food, or a rushed event where i hardly get to eat wandering with a frozen glazed smile while intrusive flash bulbs go off in my face all day. i am not a photo op, i am a person who loves the people i know and i know they want to see me and my beloved and capture the day for themselves too, but that’s not my idea of relaxing and beautiful, that’s exhausting! and i apologize to anyone for whom that sounds harsh, but i prefer a more subdued and simple affair. and the MONEY shelled out and the arguments that erupt over these things! i won’t even begin on those topics . . .
all the Pavlovian things that people drool over and actually EXPECT at these events: clinking glasses for kisses, tossing bouquets, head tables, cutting the cake after dinner and smashing food into each other’s faces, big, glorious, highly-anticipated, clunky speeches that everyone dislikes writing and is nervous to hear. these items are NOT going to occur at the “community” version of our wedding later. so please don’t expect to be asked to perform and don’t expect to sit, beg and roll over.
we won’t be having a standup wedding party of bridesmaids, so no women in my life will feel slighted or looked over or have to buy a standard, necessary, one-style-fits-none hideous dress worn only once. we will acknowledge everyone integral to the event by their mere invite and presence. sure, mom and dads (who apply) and those who have most closely witnessed the relationship grow will get heavier nods but that’s where the supposed VIP list ends.
we are trying very hard to de-emphasize the “wedding/marriage” aspect of the day coming up in a week. as far as witnessing, no one will see us exchange vows. there aren’t any, really. the celebrant is coming solely to sign papers at 2pm, Joe and i will privately exchange rings and a simple writing project we have agreed to compose for each other, which we will not see from each other until the day. i will assume his last name, we will . . . you know – take a little nap for a few hours, then have people over to eat at 6pm or so.
when the public wedding occurs down the road, we will have a slightly larger celebration that everyone can attend that is well-announced. on this Sunday, we just want to nosh on some food and see some friends and not keep it selfishly for our own. it is more one of our usual roving dinner / wine parties, with a little extra impetus for the gathering.
you know us little heathens, a pagan wedding suits us. i mean, initially, we weren’t going to tell anyone. we were going to just marry in secret and trek out to the woods to see autumn begin and cook dinner and make love and fall asleep joined in one additional way we hadn’t been before. so this Sunday is our compromise.
i’m not a princess or a virgin and i bring no cattle, no land or a dowry, so white is out.
i am going to go look for a dress today.
red, i’m sure.
So much life happens in between writing—sure, I toss off a few poems here and there, bread crumbs for the flitting birds to circle and chase and peck upon in my head, but after awhile, i think i get a little backed up. Polluted really. My brain hurts – and I get an actual headache from the need of being empty. But not in a bad way. I am full to the brim of events to reflect upon, or more, i have so much to convey, to catalogue where I’ve been, what i’ve seen, and all the emotional responses in between.
As a child, i often imagined what it would’ve been like to be Anne Frank. To live swiftly, to love, to fear and to hope so deeply in a mere 15 years, and somehow, to have the wherewithal to take the time and write it all down. I imagined what it would be like to have your secret thoughts, sketched out and told to a book/creature/confident called “kitty.” Strangely, i romanticized the idea of having my own thoughts read by others after i died, young or old, discovered in a desk nook, thumbed over and devoured. i think it is more the idea that most of us want to create a legacy than a fantasy about dying young and being immortalized.
Humans want to surpass mundanity; we want to be individually great and loved and remembered for something. Anne did it unwittingly and it was more than just a girl talking about family and school and boys and prejudice – she documented and encapsulated a dark time in history making it a crystallized horror for us to look at and in some ways, to give thanks for our lives now. Is this why we blog? To prattle on about daily events in the hopes that we are found? Or that better, we are PROfound . . .
Sometimes, i still see myself as the girl with the diary in my night table, except that not only is the writing not so private, there’s a digital display for anyone in the world to locate and to read it. Though i have them and use them for other things, my tools are not paper or pen, but this monitor and this computer with a program that throws clean white sheets and perfectly scribed text and no crossing out or rubber-end erasing; it’s cut and paste and movement and manipulation and clickety-clack and SAVE AS until it’s fitfully complete.
And what will they discover of me? i thought about this upon cleaning my keyboard, popping off keys to reveal multiple DNA samples, unlikely chimera tailing together: dust, dried ivy leaves, finger nail clippings, sticky bits of evaporated wine, food crumbs, cat hair, all recombining to lay out a pattern that speaks of a woman with small hands and a dislike for fingernails that make tapping noises, a someone who loves cats and plants and food and libation and cool breezes through windows to kick and stir things up a little, rather than the swatch of a dust rag.
But that’s just part of me – there is also the most important influence and the reason i am able to write at all . . . the people in my life who i spend time with, who inspire me, who i create memories with, else i’d be moaning and meowing on in my own private hell, concocting my prosaic neuroses in painstaking, exhaustive (and to be sure, wildly boring) detail. There’s plenty of that to be had about and so really, it’s a meaningful task to tell a good story about a normal life; that’s what allows us transcendence into heroes.
Wikipedia tells us that a superhero is a fictional character who is noted for feats of courage and nobility, who usually possesses abilities beyond those of normal human beings. The exhibit a strong moral code, including a willingness to risk one’s own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward. They have extraordinary powers and abilities, relevant skills, and/or advanced equipment. More often than not, they have a secret identity.
Well – my list of late, they aren’t fictionalized (well, yet, unless you count Chelsea, who wrote a book and flattered me with a request to design the cover.) i’m going to have break confidence on this one and reveal the identities of good friends and loved ones.
In June, the Monday night of my birthday, it rained. Not to be deterred and though some of the people I invited did not show, Nicole was my sweet saving grace and trooped out with me. We went out drinking like rockstars and dancing like divas, hair thick and skin slick with rain which became sweat, pressed against all those swaying bodies in the basement bar. It could’ve been a disappointing night with the no-shows and the weather, but Nicole was a true friend to me.
Tuesday it drizzled a nice haze to accompany the hangover I nursed at work the following day, but on Wednesday, there was no holding back – the sky opened up and hailed a glorious rainstorm down on us replete with lightning and thunder and flash flooding. And then the transformer blew out at the bottom of the street in a spectacular blaze, then dudded like a lame fireworks finale and darkened the block all except Joel’s house on the corner who was clearly jacked in to the electricity from the next corner over.
The houses on my street are quite old, a good deal of them declared “historic” with building markers by the nearby and omnipresent Historic Annapolis Foundation. Ours in particular falls under the category of “Chesapeake Gray” in the 19th/20th-Century Annapolis Vernacular, 1837-1921. Some of these houses still have root cellars and a good downpour can mean serious problems in the basement – the kind that require a sub pump to work and when there’s no power, there had better be a generator. On this night, there was a truck, suited with a generator rumbling at the bottom of the street for hours while other neighbors exhaustively bailed out bucket style. Luckily, this was not my fate that night leaving me to concentrate on being comfortable in my pajamas and lighting enough candles to give off the illusion of civilized living.
In this monsoon and to my darkened door, Nicole delivered me the birthday carrot cake, carefully wrapped in plastic and shielded from the rain under my porch awning when i rescued it and brought it inside. i poured a glass of Moscato dessert wine and sat down with a good portion centered on a bone white plate, decoratively trimmed with fat pears and flowers rising from the edge of the china; a happy brail inscription of bounty and beauty. no power, no internet, just my cell phone with three little bars of battery power left, so i sent merry, thankful texts as i happily and greedily devoured a wedge of orange, cream-cheese frosted goodness.
“Still living in 1785?” inquired Ryan? “oh yes. it’s Jane Austen up in this motherfucker. candlelit room like a Renaissance ballroom. quite pretty, actually,” i replied. although it was probably more Jane Eyre a la Emily Bronte. more poor girl makes good of it in the dark and damp. Soon after the umpteenth message was texted under my quick thumb, my cell phone battery died. not to be deterred, i went out front to my parked car into the long, narrow street, wading through ankle-high water rushing past me like a line of cool, silver fish swimming to meet the bay at the foot of the hill. All the ever meanwhile, i was in my grey pajama nightie with the intentions of using the auxiliary power in the car to charge my phone and continue my only connection to the outside world beyond this wicked rainstorm.
As i sat with my feet propped up on my dash, i noticed a bright orange and black umbrella lulling a promenade from side to side in the wind and coming toward my house. it ducked into my neighbor’s fence, then dipped to reveal my neighbor Joel’s familiar face. “Joel!” i called. And then had to call again as he swung around trying to figure out where the voice was coming from to discover it was from a car window, rolled down just enough to let the sound out while keeping the rain out too. He laughed at me and my non-outfit and invited me, or more, tempted me with pomegranate cosmopolitans and a warm robe. i mean, how could i refuse a bartender with a Harvard degree in said skill. Well, ok – a “Master of Mixology” degree from the Harvard Bartending School.
The robe he produced was like the coat of many colors. A terrycloth robe in magentas, teal and goldenrod. It boasted a smaller, matching version for his son. So, for the second time that week, i sat, drinking with a head full of wet hair, but this time, i danced with his dog, Schooner, who allowed me to pull him by his front paws and onto his back legs for a little spin through the kitchen. A finer partner than some men i’ve cut a rug with, i can tell you, and sweeter.
Since we got onto the topic of dressing strangely or inappropriately, for my amusement, Joel pulled out the ghosts of Halloweens past. Costumes made mostly of foam: gigantic heads with glasses, a monstrous slice of pizza you could slide your arms into and peek out through holes from, a blood spattered t-shirt to be worn while carrying plastic knives glued through boxes of Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (a “cereal” killer) and finally, the piece de resistance: a naked, disembodied boob wearing a spiked collar and a stiff leash, the kind meant for walking invisible dogs or for, in this case, for two people to walk side by side and when begged the question, “what the hell are you supposed to be?” They could slyly answer, “Oh, we’re just two people walking abreast.”
Joel showed me pictures from a recent bike trip to Lake Tahoe where he races for Lymphoma & Leukemia. He also showed me photos from a recent wedding of his friend Brit. Joel is a wonderful father to his son, Galen, a terrific host, a great cook and a good ear to bend. And he makes a mean drink too . . . i walked home after several ruddy cosmopolitans in my coat of many colors and staved off the raindrops as i went.
And speaking of some mean drinking . . .
August 21st, i went to see one of my favorite female singers Esthero live at the Ram’s Head Onstage in Annapolis. This venue is small and extremely intimate and we, in fact had front row seats. (me and the 3-Ms (Megan, Meg and Melissa). The four of us were parked right up against the stage at her feet. These were feet at which lay the many shots of Jaegermeister she was able to coax from the crowd. The show progressed at a loose and silly pace of storytelling, her father taking pictures as he strolled through the crowd and around the stage, her and her brother drinking as the set grew more improv and a touch vulgar and hilarious.
But she became a Superhero to me when she pulled me up on stage to sing Superheroes with her – a song i had here on my profile for quite some time, and that’s a memory i’ll always cherish whenever i hear it. it’s not every day that a beautiful woman /rockstar you admire points to you in the crowd, compliments you on the way you sing and the way you smell, lays their head on your shoulder and then cops a feel!
i only wish that Shane and i were still friends – he gave me that first CD, Breath From Another, thinking i would like it . . . i did. besides good music and film, he also offered company and advice at a time when my life was undone. i’ll be grateful for that time even if i don’t understand what happened to make us distant. i hope he reads this and he knows that although he can be an extremely occupied but selfless recluse and though i can be a little flighty with a full plate of my own, i’m so happy he found someone to love with as much passion as he owns in this life and offers to the people around him.
Adria, a friend from work quipped recently, “you know, i’m never the bride, i’m not even the bridesmaid, i’m the bride’s waitress.” and i laughed, because i’ve listened to women “ooh” and ahh” and aww” over baby booties and matching dishware for many many years having been the waitress who brings the food, the mimosas and the garbage bag to put all the colorful wrapping paper into as well as the paper plates to affix all the bows to for the “bouquet.”
She’d been asking me about dealbreakers and happiness and love and i’ll have to attest, you’re doing the right thing girl. when you bicker over the proper way to make toast in the morning, when the important conversations become null and void topics for discussion, when there’s love but there’s no real time spent together showing it, if it’s only inertia keeping you there then it’s time to escape the atmosphere. Her life will only open up and welcome the love she needs from here.
Proof positive—you can love people, you can enjoy them for who they are and rail at them for who they aren’t, but that still doesn’t make them a good fit in your emotional world. Weather, seasonal disposition and growth (or death) accounts for the fostering or the floundering of any relationship. Some fall away, some change their shape and meaning, some we cling onto for good.
Which brings me to my beautiful Joseph. There i was, ready for the big move. “Fuck it all, boys and girls. He must not live here so i don’t want to either.” i was going to Los Angeles to be near to my sister, Racheal and her great relationship with Flounder (his legal name for which a story is due), and i would foil off of them and locate love in the big bad scary plastic city (with pockets of reality, so i understand). i even had a sweet benefactor/friend who sent me wine and wonderful books, encouraged my move and bought a photo from me. Drew, you’re a beautiful, thoughtful person and a fine example of the goodness in the world that allows us all to pool from the collective unconscious and come by like-minded people to grok this life with.
And weeks before i was ready to make arrangements for the moving truck, the drive, the car, the clothing, the cat, fate stepped in and said,”oh no, not that!” Somehow by some strange twist of dreams, roommates, my friend from the south, Graham, and Joe’s sister from across the pond, Laura – we came to find each other. It was a volley of long, tasty emails, a dinner date and a long walk that turned into two days before i allowed him to go home.
So many false starts and flat hopes and meaningless gestures from other men and then he sweetly asked, “i know you’re planning on moving and i’m not trying to force my will, but would you consider staying here to see where this goes?” His kind request slowed me and led to deeper discussions and further, fancier endearments. His question also prevented me from making a gross error in thinking that there was no one here for me and possibly, though i adore my sister and the west coast landscape, i have a feeling that a part of me might’ve died out there, that i might not have survived in some ways, financially, emotionally and otherwise. That the crushing loneliness of one cat, a small room, a couch for a bed and a horrific daily commute might only have furthered my suspicions of futility when it comes to finding your soulmate. Out there, somewhere, in one of those tin cans driving alongside you or passing you by on the way to the grocery store and you don’t notice him because you’re digging in your door pocket to retrieve a lost CD for that song you just HAVE to hear that reminds you of the love you want except, you know, he didn’t see you either because he’s got his hand flailing under his seat trying to retrieve the fucking Bluetooth so he doesn’t crash his car or worse, get a ticket for using his cell phone without a handsfree unit.
That’s what i mean—in all the mess, all the chaos, in the busy storm we swirl up to occupy our lives, it’s a miracle we find people remotely like ourselves. People who will take the time to get to know each other, to have the serious and soulful conversations that lead to sunrise and breakfast and the rest of your burning lives. To pay attention to someone closely enough beyond movies and music and favorite colors and pet peeves until it leads to understanding. By measurable degrees, you should come by knowing whether that person is a good match, sense the difference between affection and affliction and employ the necessary balance between appearing over-eager, cooling your chances by self-censorship and being justly picky and mindfully critical. i never settled for friends with benefits, i don’t answer to booty calls and the oil-change for the libido that sport-fucking accomplishes is a pale and temporary fix. it is a troublesome, fantasy-laden emotional vacuum compared to the safety and comfort that a real relationship with lovers able to communicate their desires can offer. Eventually, you relax and just marvel and open yourself and are thankful for it all. And i did. Completely. My reward is being unafraid and constantly amazed by the synchronous workings of this gorgeous love affair.
And wow, does it ever give you perspective . . .
A few weeks ago, we lay down for sleep and he was more than half way there when the phone rang at some inhospitable hour. It was a drunk dial from a boy-long-ago. i let it go to voicemail then checked what could possibly be the matter. I snickered as it played back and thrust the phone at Joe so he could hear the silliness for himself. He muttered, “poor guy, sounds like a Muppet with a mouthful of socks.” Indeed. Occasionally soft, brightly colored, delightful in half-hour episodes, but tragically childish and impossible to understand. i lay back down, he pulled the pillow over his shoulder for my head, smoothing my hair as i settled in and curled an arm and a leg over him, a koala bear clinging to a eucalyptus tree.
Megan and i sat down over a big buttery pretzel and some lemonade last night and i described to her, how different i feel. This, i explored out loud, though she already knows the full story because she’s been there since the bad days crashed down and watched with me as the good ones rose and smiled upon me (thank you woman, you’re in my heart). i expressed how my body is changing and strengthening through the yoga she re-introduced me to, how it is also changing and strengthening (and in some ways, softening) at the influence of joy and love, but more so this yielding is taking place in my mind and in the way i see my life unfolding.
“I consider myself so lucky,” I said.
“It’s not about luck,” she said, “it’s about making good choices.” Thoughtful and practical advice in the face of magical thinking. You are where and what you pull yourself towards.
She’s right. And i choose Joe but not only because he rescued me, but because he chose me. And i choose to be a superhero. To be courageous and noble, to devote my life in the service of good without expectation of reward, to develop extraordinary powers and abilities and to choose love. With abandon.