My very favorite green tea birthday cake. Yum. That's all. Just - yum.
Geez, when did I get so old?
No matter, I am creating this list so that the age old (or 33-year-old) question of 'what does Allison want for her birthday?' can be put to rest.
Obviously, some of these items are outrageous and ridiculous, but it's a wish list not a shopping list, m'kay? And yes, I am GREEDY GREEDY GREEDY!
On the realistic and budget-minded side, I would like subscriptions to the following magazines. I have let mine lapse and I miss them:
Vogue - the only real magazine of fashion still being published. What has been done to Harpers Bazaar is a TRAVESTY! Vanity Fair - Hi-brow gossip please! And please, in time for the pictures of the alien baby Suri Cruise in October. Saveur - Not that the recipes, which typically involve far too much butter, will do much for my food baby. But they have the yummiest photos of food
For any one in the New York area who likes my company, I would like dinner at one of the following restaurants. Or lunch, if that works into your schedule better. I'm easy like that.
Morimoto - Because I heartIron Chef... more the japanese version than the American, but still, I would like to taste some of his culinary delights. And the decor is CRAZY! The Spotted Pig - Because on the American Iron Chef, Mario always delivers. And it's supposed to be really good. And I like the name. Craft - Because I love Top Chef! And Tom Colliccio is Mr. Top Chef! And it's supposed to be really good too. Town - Because I saw it on Opening Soon and it looked really good. The Mermaid Inn - Because I have walked past it a million times and wanted to eat there. And I saw it's owners on Opening Soon with another restaurant. The Tasting Room - Now in a new larger space! Yay! I love the Tasting Room, but the proximity of the other diners really got to me.
My, most of my restaurant choices are based on TV shows. How sad is that? I never get out anymore people! It's sad! Take pity on me and take me out!
I always like jewelry. Olivine has nice jewelry. Actually Olivine has nice everything, so you are safe shopping for me there. So does that place where the guy makes the sculpture out of books and creates all the display dioramas. You are safe shopping for me there too.
And in case you wonder what Eugene would like for his 33rd birthday - you are safe buying him anything from here. That's my man!
I'm still trying to catch up to the Continental email from a few days ago. Luckily, the picture I was thinking I would post is actually in the same vein as your baby post today.
Check it out - Manitoba, subject of the Page Six link from the other day, and his son, Minitoba (aka Jake, a fighter's name, of course).
So, the Continental is going under? Well, in the 90s that was definitely the East Village bar that, in my opinion, had the bleakest aura. It was a bit better when Todd Youth was there, bartending or keeping an eye on the door, wearing his white creepers and seeming like he was the kind of guy who would keep an eye out for you, which he did for me one night when the frat guys got a little too close for his comfort. But generally, it was a railroad flat of a bar, dark and grimy, and the kind of place you would only go right when the band was going on, never before, never just to drink. Unless you were broke and someone was slipping you freebies.
I used to go in to the Continental to bring the bar manager cat food. He was Pauly's roommate, and a mess of a guy, barely coherent most of the time, even though somehow people knew he was smart, or used to be. He kept a kitten at the apartment for a while, and it was pitifully small, so I would bring these cans of cat food for him, since I didn't trust this guy to feed the cat. Then one day the cat was gone. I never knew what happened to it. Pauly refused to pet the cat, or like it because he said "It's just going to be gone soon anyway." And he was right.
The best thing that I can say about that particular bar manager is that he led to one of my favorite NY stories - the time I walked through Pauly's living room at 2AM and much to my surprise found Joey Ramone parked on the couch.
But your post, and the link to Page Six, and some other recent events in my life, have left me thinking about Richard, who I hope will not sue me for posting this. If anyone was going to sue me for posting about them, it would probably be Richard, since if we were having a "Heather's Most Famous Ex-Boyfriend" contest, he would win, hands-down. Dictators? Manitoba's? And I guess recently, sometimes, MC5. In 2004, when the lead singer for Guided By Voices asked the crowd at Bowery Ballroom who the last good NYC Mayor was, the answer he liked was "Handsome Dick Manitoba!"
But Richard didn't start out famous to me, even though he'd been famous to the East Village for decades. When I met him, he was one of the downstairs bartenders at 2A. Richard was the guy who made Whiskey Sours from scratch, such good, good Whiskey Sours. So, it's ironic that I've always sort-of thought of him as the guy who saved me from the Betty.
Richard came along at a time when I was spending too much time on bar stools, drinking too much whiskey, and failing to toughen up even though I was frequenting some places that really called for that. I think hanging out with all the tough guys only made me more tender by contrast. Before Richard, I loved Pauly, who had reached a point in his life where he thought it made sense to be the kind of guy who smoked even in the shower. Then there was Darren, who said "I never argue. I never argue, because I'll only argue when I'm right, and if I'm right, the argument's over" and meant it.
So Richard, it turned out, was a relief. He was a bartender, but a sober bartender, and in general, irrepressibly good humored, even when he had every reason not to be. He was kind and paid attention, and loved good food and wrestling. Pro-wrestling, people. And he was the only person who I EVER saw have the pull with Rizzo to get in to Green Door free (and he was plus at least two, since I know you were with us, Ali).
Some things I remember: - Most of the time when he saw me come in to the bar, he would say "Heather WEIN-traub!", a reference to Mean Streets. He loved Scorcese. - One night we were going out, and I wore something a little more bare than was my habit, and he looked at me and said "Are you trying to get me into a fight?" - Eating at the old Odessa, where he knew all the waitresses, before they renovated it and made it so damn bright you could have done surgery in there - He used to work the door at Niagara (which was called something else in those days) and I thought he looked cute all bundled up in his leather jacket with a hoody AND a hat.
So, even though he wasn't famous to me, I loved Richard, and I still feel some gratitude to him for showing me that the East Village could be a different kind of place. One where a sober bartender could also be a punk-rock, bar-owning, east-village-ruling celebrity, the kind who cares about being loyal to his friends and is good to his girl. But the guy I loved was always much more Richard than Handsome Dick Manitoba.
In spite of that, I would be lying if I didn't admit that it was fun when Jason (who still holds the title of the man with the most astounding record collection I have ever seen) said to me "You realize you are dating a punk-rock legend, don't you?"
I didn't really at the time, but it sure seems a whole lot more clear now. To me he was a good guy who helped make it clear to me that maybe it was time for me to change what I had been thinking of as my New York Ways. And I did.
Hey, Ali, how could you forget The Ex-Husbands? But that's a whole other story...
This is Declan, Brooke's baby, and he is comprised of the most deliciously edible elbows and knees you've even seen. Actually, it's kind of hard to see the elbows and knees because of all the dimples... but you get the idea.
He is only six months old and he likes to jump and jump and jump. Which explains why Brooke is already back in what appears to be her pre-baby excellent shape.
I got to see him friday night when I met up with my girlfriends at Pop. He was more yummy than anything on the menu. Even the juicy little Pop Burger sliders.
I was feeling icky and run down this morning, until I saw this picture in my e-mail and that turned my whole day around.
That and a sub-standard chocolate croissant from Au Bon Pain.
Certainly my photo isn't as picturesque as your photo, but it certainly was a familiar landscape for a good long while. Above is the closing night of 9c and now two more of our old haunts are evaporating into the ephemera of yesteryear.
To quote Star Trek - resistance is futile. The Continental and CBGBs must go!
That's right, the photo cop-out. I can't help it, it's One Of Those Days, yep, just one a them days... can you hear Monica singing to you? People yellin at me, getting salty... for real, people, how is that going to help you?
Anyway, look at the gorgeous ranch photo above - the light on the hills, the impending storm, all moody and enticing, the weathered barn, the lush grasses. It's good. It is so good.
For those of you who may not have seen Project Runway yet this week, you may not want to read further. Not that my dislike of this slimy, self-important prick is based solely on this weeks behavior - it isn't - but this week he certainly committed his most egregious acts to date.
Against both people and fashion.
First off, let me say that I find his whole 'I am so fashion forward, and you are all so boooooring' attitude to be complete BS. And as a graduate of Parsons, follower of fashion, and longtime resident of one of the most pretentious neighborhoods in NYC, I think I should be able to recognize high-grade BS like that when I see it.
I worked at SPIN, yo. Back in the DAY!
If I had seen one outfit from him that I thought was remotely attractive, I might have more patience for it. But I truly think that he is just one of those fuckwits who is edgy just to be edgy. He's feeding his own ego by believing that his absurd concepts are beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. Rather, his work is the same flavor of 'edge' that has been redolent in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side and Alphabet City... and - heaven forfend - Williamsburg for about a grillion years now.
Maybe in LA it reads as edgy, but in NYC I could find it at Trash and Vaudville ten years ago.
Also, I find his neck tattoo so revolting that every time I see it, I want to reach through the screen and rub it off with a washcloth. It has to be temporary, doesn't it? Or, Lord, is he REALLY that stupid?
Any hoo, this week I was just BEYOND, watching him treat Angela's mother so poorly.
Instead of wanting to obliterate the neck tattoo, I wanted to reach through the screen and use it as guidelines for throttling him.
Now, I can understand that a somewhat dough-ish woman in her 5os is not his ideal client. And I understand that Angela is not his favorite person. But for the Little Baby Buddah's sake, how can you make someone's mommy cry on national television and not feel like a complete ass hat?
Plus, he made his own mother cry and, while he may delude himself that it was because she was so proud of how far he's come since his 'junky days,' we all know that it was because she couldn't believe that she'd given birth to the spawn of Satan. I think she went to go bathe in holy water after she'd hugged him.
I mean, yes, Robert's outfit was not 'fashion-forward' but his model was like 500 pounds! 490 if you give her credit for the ten that the television cameras put on. At least he gave her an outfit she felt good in, or at least as good as she ever seemed to feel. Meeee-OW! Plus she was Vincent's sister and if any nutbag is unlikeable, it is most certainly him.
If I hear 'It gets me off' from his nasty lips one more time. Well, I can't even think of an appropriately vitriolic action to define what my response would be.
Suffice to say it will be ugly and poor Eugene will have to witness it.
I am still in denial that he won for a dress that made Uli's mom's arms look like flabby chicken legs.
Back to our villain though, I have really never seen an outfit from Jeffrey that I found either likeable or memorable. Newspaper origami dress? Egad, who chose those colors? Is radioactive cat puke fashion forward now?
And the dress this week looked like someone had put a tent with a v-neck over a cheap button-down blouse from K-mart. Every time I saw it it made my eyes bleed.
I know that Alison, sweet Alison (Eugene's favorite) liked him. But when I would see them together it diminished her in my eyes. Like someone rubbing elephant dung on a fluffy white bunny rabbit.
Step away from the sleezebag! He may have a girlfriend and baby at home, but his body language is telling s that he wants you to be his next baby mama!
I know that they kept him for the drama factor. And I have no doubt that he'll bring it, for sure.
I just wish he brought some actual talent with all the hubris.
On a happier note, I thought Tim Gunn was as cute as a button as he walked all the designers and their mothers to Tavern on the Green. Love Tim Gunn!
And Laura is preggers again? My god woman! She cracked me up though when Uli was pouring herself a glass of wine and she asked for one too. And when they asked her what she'd do with another baby.
I've been there now, to the town I'll be calling home for two months. It's the kind of town where, after being there 3 days, you walk down the street and people you've never met say "Hi, nice to see you again" as they pass. There's a bar called Tommyknockers that has a dance floor, and one year during a ranch workshop, you could have found Tami there, two-stepping with the mayor. In a town this small, you might want to proceed with caution, though, and I can't help but hesitate to step foot in a place that share's it's name with a Stephen King novel, given the number of people who bring up "The Shining" when they hear about my upcoming adventure.
Since there are only about 400 people in the whole county, it's likely that any given morning will find 1-2% of the population hanging out in the coffee shop in town. If you go into Journeys and talk about Pam, by the time you get back to the ranch, she will have heard what you had to say.
Yep, in spite of it's size, this town does have a coffee shop. It's no Fiorre, with their organic coffee, vegan pastries and dragonfly patterns poured into the milk. But they do have something that I wish Fiorre did - egg sandwiches for breakfast! The Mike's Breakfast is an egg with ham, cheese and tomato on a toasted bagel.
What do you think it would take to get a breakfast named after me?
Left to Right; Tamara looking uncharacteristically demure, Elizabeth in the arms of her handsome husband Adrian, and HK in her fragile but gorgeous dress from Blue.
My apologies for the poor photoshopping. I had limited photos here to choose from.
It's been a while since I have done much that could qualify as real climbing. I make random attempts at the gym and we did some rather pitiful top-roping in Alaska, but that's about it lately.
Back when I was climbing all the time, I had a posse of the most incomparable women. We spent so much time together. At the gym. At the crag. At whatever place we were occupying for the weekend - most commonly HK and her husband, Thor's, family house in Stoneridge.
Those were the weekends of climbing, heckling each other, trash talking and hubris, apres climb drinks at Bacchus or swimming at Split Rock, dishing about our love lives or lack thereof, gossiping mercilessly about all the other climbers we knew.
Just generally having a grand old time together.
Then Elizabeth moved away. And Tamara moved away. HK got a super-demanding job. I lost my climbing motivation.
Regardless, they are still my climbing ladies, and this is why I love them. Or at least some of why I love them.
1) Because they are strong and confident and funny and smart. And sarcastic. Especially sarcastic. And funny, did I mention funny? They could make me laugh at 200 feet. Even if I was the one leading.
2) Because they are all great role models on and off the rock. When I grow up I want to be as self-assured as Elizabeth, as brilliant as HK and as witty as Tamara. For now all I can do is hope some of these qualities rub off.
3) Because when I was climbing, they were my best cheerleaders. And when I am not climbing, they are still among my best cheerleaders.
4) Because even at their sportiest they are still stylish. They can rock the Patagucci like nobody's business.
5) Because, of all the people that I know, they really get Eugene. And they've made him, the fearless daredevil, squeal like a little girl on a big bad scary climb. CCK anyone?
6) Because, even though I haven't climbed seriously in years, I think they still give me credit for being a climber.
7) Because HK and Tamara were intrepid and loving enough to host a bridal shower with my mother-in-law. For about 50 of Carolyn's friends and family and virtually noone that they knew. That alone is enough to make me love them forever.
8) Because even if I haven't seen them in months, when we do see each other it's like five minutes has passed. That is a common quality of all of my favorite friendships.
9) Because the margaritas always taste better by the side of the pool in Stoneridge.
10) And last, but by no means least, because when I miss climbing - I mean really miss it - what I am actually missing is all the time we spent together. What I am really missing is them and the experience of climbing with them.
So last night I went back to the gym. I know that you are impressed! I'm averaging a whopping once a week which is dissapointing considering my goal to fit into some of my sadly unwearable pants.
However, considering that my weekend included a wholly unexpected hike down a mountainside carrying a squirming two year old, and my monday was spent participating in team sports with my co-workers, this is turning into a pretty physically active week.
Any hoo, as I was saying, I went back to the gym last night and took my first yoga class in three years. There was a time when I was taking yoga classes once or twice a week and, even at that particular high point in my yoga career, I was no good at it.
Nothing has changed.
I am convinced that there is an extra tendon in each of my joints that is reinforced with titanium and constricts any sort of flexibility I might be trying to achieve.
Every other person in class can touch their heels to the ground in downward dog. Everyone else can pop right up to full wheel. And as I struggle to touch my fingertips to the ground when folding forward during my sun salutations, everyone else has their palms pressed firmly to the floor.
And doing any binding moves? Psych!
Now, I have good balance and I have the stamina to make it through the class... but the flexibility thing really bothers me. The sloppiest person in class is more flexible than me and it's pathetic!
Meanwhile, the yoga teacher is this very cut and dried fellow with big nostrils who breathes like a wild stallion while doing breath of fire. His nostrils were so distracting that I couldn't look at him during the class because, like a pimple or a birth mark, my eyes were magnetically drawn to his nose. This did not help my form.
On the positive side though, since part of what I love about a yoga class is the usual craziness of the instructors, it kept me engaged. Waiting to see what his nostrils would do next.
I've had other teachers who looked like super cute cheerleaders (hi Nicole! Stop innapropriately 'adjusting' my husband!), hippy grandmothers and german automatons (shades of Heidi Klum). But I have never had a teacher who was as un-yoga-instructor-like as the guy I had last night. No chanty music, no stories about the hindu gods. Only one resonant 'Ommmmmm' at the end. But with oxygen-quaffing nostrils like his, how could he resist?
My favorite instructor had a beard down to his navel and a buddah belly. He would mutter during the entire class and every once in a while you'd pick up just the end of a though...
"... and now we are breeeeeeeathing through our yoni as we roooooooooll down into reclining goddess pose... feel aaaaaaaall the energy come in through your yoni right up! to the tip of your head where your lotus flower rests, waiting patiently to unfuuuuuuuurl like the lotus of the blue elephant headed god Ganesh..."
And so on.
He looked like a member of ZZ Top and I was convinced that after class he would pull of the fake beard and rasta hat and look like a mild mannered accountant.
That's why I'll go back to yoga. I may suck at it, but the entertainment is worth it.
Sadly, my karma is now probably imbalanced because I've been mocking my instructors.
It's been a good summer here in Seattle. It's been a hot summer, the kind of hot where there's a rush on fans, and your windows are always propped open but still your apartment is hot, and you give up on trying not to be sweaty all the time and you sit on your couch in your underwear reading and eating popsicles and looking forward to the sun going down because it's too hot to go outside.
I'm a heat wimp, I'll admit. I'm a wimp about a lot of things, actually. I'm a wimp about being too cold, and in the Thai restaurant when they ask you how many stars, I always say "No stars, I'm a spice wimp." I am a wimp about answering the door for the pizza delivery guy. I don't know what it is about that, but I'd rather pay for the whole pizza than have to answer the door myself.
There are also a lot of things I am not wimpy about though. I'm not wimpy about twelve hour days at work, or about telling people things they don't want to hear, when I know they need to hear those things anyway. I am not a wimpy bridesmaid, or a wimpy HR professional, or a wimpy daughter. There are a lot of reasons why I might have let certain relationships go on too long, but being wimpy when it comes to ending things is not one of them.
Some people are wimpy about being single (no, I'm not talking about any of you, so stop thinking that). I am not. We have had a good summer of being single, Susan and I. Most weekends, we spend one or two mornings at Caffe Fiorre. I knit, Susan plays with the computer sometimes, and we talk about god knows what. I get raisin toast, Susan gets rosemary. Neither of us take jam. We look at all the dads who are there with their grubby little rosy-cheeked toddlers, and make jokes about how they might look all cute and ideal on the outside, but really at home, there is a mom who is sick of all their cuteness, and has kicked them out, saying "Get the hell out of my house for the day and take your devil spawn with you!".
Later on in the afternoon, maybe I go to the library, and then maybe in the evening we watch tivoed episodes of Project Runway while I do my laundry at her house. Sometimes we walk to the market by her house, and get a six-pack of Skinny Dip or a pack of ice cream sandwhiches and some kind of hydrating beverage. We talk about how the guy at the register would be cute if he didn't have those things in his ears, and then we walk back to her place through the playground at the school by her house, stepping over the big chalk drawing of a puppy on the way.
Most of these days, it's just a day, no big deal, we kind of coast through it. They are easy days. We can do what we want, and I might say that I'm going to go clear out my storage space or do my dishes, but probably I don't, and who cares anyway?
This is going to be the summer my apartment was messy. The summer I was lazy. The summer I rode around in Natalie with the top down, wondering why she was pulling to the left until the tire went all the way flat a block before the winery where I was going to see Pink Martini. The summer I wore out my Jack Rogers sandals while I knit 6 pairs of socks. The summer Kristine taught me how to pick up stitches along an edge, and weave neat seams for the baby sweaters for Dakota and Jenn. It will be the first summer someone had a baby at the Planter for 4th of July, and the last summer there was only one. The summer I always carried a notebook around with me, and sometimes wrote in it, and every once in a while dragged out my half-broken $35 laptop and typed something up, the summer my apartment was covered in piles of printed copies of bits of the novel, different versions of the pages, pages with comments in turquoise or purple pen from Barb, or sections with Lesley's carefully typed-up comments, or the chapters Pam sent back with her comments written diagonally across the back. The comments that I wouldn't let myself read until I was ready to fire up the computer and really dive in to the revisions, the comments that ended on the second page with something that delighted me, something like "And, I want you to ride my horse when you're here, if you want."
It will be the summer where the cute boys were Darren and Nate and Bobby and Andy and Henry, Quentin and Gary and Logan and the guys who unload the wine at Central Market in Mill Creek and sometimes, Doug.
Most of all, this will be the summer I spent with Susan. The Summer We Were Single.
See that pretty photo on the cover of Communication Arts? That's a photo from a book I did design work on, Botanica, which is featured as one of their best books of photography for the year. They don't show the book as it was designed, rather, they show prints from the book but it's still pretty nice.
It's also pretty nice that I have a huge print of the photograph, inscribed to Eugene and I, from the photographer. Wishing us a 'happy life'. It's framed and hanging in our bathroom in Vermont.
Don't laugh. In a timberframe house, it's hard to find wallspace for something that size. And the frame is really nice!
Also mentioned in the same issue is the In Character; Actors Acting book that I also worked on. And they mention how handsomely designed it is. Unfortunately, I think I am only credited with page layout or something, but it's still nice. And since I am not the one who spends years conceptualizing and photographing the subjects for the books, I am okay with that.
I told you that we saw Robert Howell at the launch party for that book didn't I? He was working for the company that produced the event. Small world, no? Robert is still, well, Robert.
In case you are interested, the other books I have worked on with Howard are Athlete and Nude Body Nude. And apparently we are doing another book this fall. Woohoo!
Suffice to say, when you need your book cover designed, if you don't call me I will be devistated.
I'll cry myself to sleep weeping silent tears of desperation every night.
Wow, what a dream. I just don't even know what to say. Though I do like the idea of decorating using cute handknit baby sweaters. I'm worried - is the lion Jesus? You know, like in the chronicles of Narnia.
In other mysterious news today, Nate sent me the photo above, with the note below:
I thought you would appreciate this note that someone left me outside my house. When I came out to take this photo, an old woman was reading it. She asked me if I was the "handsome math nerd" and I said I supposed I probably was. When I told her I had no idea who wrote it, she said she was just imagining who it might be and where she would live and what kind of woman she would grow up to be. All I know is that who ever it is knows where I live, what I do for a living, and as Jackie-Rae pointed out, is able to acquire and make use of chalk.
He is so right, I did appreciate the note. But I couldn't really read the text in the photo above, so when I asked what it said, he told me this:
It reads: Oh, handSOME MATH NERD!! ... AND ALL I REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHY THERE LECHEROUS EYES AND NOT YOURS?!
So last night I had a crazy dream. Actually, I have a fair number of crazy dreams so I thought they might make for a good blogging subject.
I'll tell you the crazy dream and you can tell me what you think it means. Here goes.
Euge and I are back in Seattle. It's nighttime, pitch black and raining. We are driving around like crazy people, careening about overpasses and up and down hills.
We go to meet up with Dakota and Clay. We meet them at a pizza parlor - more Two Boots than Sbarros... kind of like Pagliaccis but nicer. The room is painted a dark orange - almost burnt sienna - and lining the walls at about a 6 foot height are square shadowboxes with little hand-knit baby sweaters in them. We are sitting in a booth.
Suddenly, the door opens and a women, who I don't recognize, rushes in wearing a yellow rain slicker. She seems to be there to meet a man at another table, and she tries to close the door behind herself. Before she can, a big, shaggy haired lion bursts through.
Eugene tries to feed the lion peanut butter from his fingertips.
Some guys - or people, or whoever - deserve some props because they are willing to drive 4 hours to help rip your roof off and they are, possible, willing to speak to you after you get them stranded in BF Egypt Connecticut after your poor car dies.
And they are also willing to make silly faces for your camera. Silly, pouty faces.
It's true, I did! Okay, right after this picture was taken, I stopped writing whatever I was writing and goofed around with Susan a bit, but I had already been at the coffee shop scribbling for a while when she took this. And I will be tapping on the computer for more hours tonight.
Which makes it a damn good thing that I LOVE the manuscript. Don't take that in the "I think I'm such a great writer" way, because that's not how I mean it. It's just that something happened, and now I live in that place that writers talk about, where the characters take on a life of their own, the story takes on a life of its own, and you know that when you sit down to start working on it, something is going to happen.
Last night, on a break from the manuscript (lots of breaks, very important when you are in love with your own work), I watched one of the DVD extras from Lost in Translation - the making of, or whatever. Sophia Coppola was talking about how happy she was that she got to work with Bill Murray, and how she couldn't believe that she got to dress him just the way she wanted to, and have him sit on the hotel bed looking glum the way she imagined, like in that photo for the poster, and I just thought "yeah, that's exactly how it feels". I love the manuscript like it was my child, the way Bill Murray's Lost In Translation character says that your children grow up to be "the most delightful people you've ever met".
Maybe all of this is really vague if you aren't into writing, but I think most of us have something we do that we can look at and say "I like that" about. I know you have that as a designer, Ali, and sometimes I also feel it about my knitting.
But feeling it about my novel is just a different thing. It came from me, but it has this weird life, I can step outside it, I can read the book and appreciate it as a reader. I think a lot of this is just a meditation on the magic of language, the way you can pick a word, but the word has an iridescence to it. It's as though you picked red, but what you got was red underneath, with a lot of other colors that you didn't anticipate, shimmering over the top. It has more meaning than you necessarily put in it - the words just give you that. This especially happens when you get to the point where your piece is long enough that the old stuff you haven't touched in a while is almost new to you.
People ask me what the book is about all the time. After last night, I wanted to tell people that it's like the Lost In Translation of novels. Two people who are lost sort-of bump into each other and you see these little sketches of their worlds.
I hate to say it, because I worry what people will think, but it's also about grief. A lot of loss in this book. But it's also my attempt to talk about some of the things that hold me to this earth, and my two characters are like the parts of me that are not sure they want to stay here, but do. I started writing this book when I was in the worst part of things with Steven, and while I knew I would never hurt myself, for various reasons, being close to him meant being close to suicide as a question people ask themselves about the world.
I haven't been close to that question much in the last ten years, but before that, I put myself in its way a lot. I was close to that question when I was tending bar in NY, when among my regulars was a man who would sometimes go out into the night, quietly, and lay down in the middle of 2nd Ave to be run over. His fellow drinkers would go out and drag him back into the bar, but he was really only coming inside to kill himself another way, wasn't he?
Only a few years later there was Pauly, and there are numerous other people I've been close to whose grip on any kind of healthy existence... well, if you said that grip was slipping, you might be accused of being WAY too optimistic.
It isn't an accident that the only men in the manuscript so far are ghosts. Stephen King says that he writes about his worst fears, and with this first book, in some ways I can say the same thing. I have always felt that I could help my girlfriends, that we made a vital difference to each other and could keep each other going through the worst stuff. And my girlfriends have seen some hard things, every kind of loss. The kind of loss that can make me tear up now just thinking about it, more than a year away from most of it. I'm sorry to say that, while I have some kind of faith that my girlfriends and I can keep each other going, the only really close friend I've had who committed suicide was a woman.
But the original seed of fear that this book started with has to do with how hard it's been to be close to men that I didn't feel I could do much for. Or at least, that was the surface thought, until I got deeper into the book, and realized that it was about something else, something that I might talk about some other time.
I was thinking about all this when I drove to work this morning, pondering the finishing touches I wanted to put on the love letter to Nate. I was thinking about the love letter to Nate and the love letter to Bobby, and the unwritten love letter to the cowboys, and I realized that these guys are showing up as a kind of counterbalance to the ghosts in the novel. I was inspired to write about these men who give me some kind of delight with their existence, and I like the pattern that writing about them makes. I like knowing why they are important to me, what they mean in my world right now and why I feel so grateful to them. What matters to me most right now is not my relationship to any of them, but that they exist.
Maybe the second book will be short stories, after all.
Your post got me thinking about summer, and what that means to me, and how this summer hasn't really felt like much of a summer at all - and why that might be.
Normally, during the summer we are at our most active. Kayaking, rafting, barbequeing, hiking and climbing and being all wet and sandy and smelly and sunburned. This summer hasn't been so much like that.
This summer has been just the pure drudgery of roofing weekend after weekend.*
This weekend, though, we knocked off work early on saturday and went to our town swimming hole. And it was a pure delight.
It's a small swimming hole, just a deep bend in a creek really. But it's deep enough to jump into and warm enough that you can still breathe when you surface for air.
When we got there, a father was standing on shore watching his two daughters and their dog fool around in the water. The girls were little - just nine and six, I'm guessing. They wore little sporty bikinis, sandals and - in the case of the younger girl - a huge snorkeling mask.
The older sister was all limbs and suntan and the younger sister was all belly and wet, rat-tailed hair. While the eldest was comanding the dog to come here and go there, the younger was prattling on to us about how they'd found an amphibian with its tail still attached and how we should be extra careful not to step on it.
Eugene jumped in the water and was having a fine old time playing with their dog, but I was mostly just watching the girls. The youngest was being silly, taking her shorts off and the older was playing the responsible (and horrified) older sister roll to the hilt.
The Dad looked like he wasn't quite sure what to do with them.
After a while, he tried to get the whole group together to head home, but the little sister didn't want to get out. She kept climbing out of the water and jumping back in, saying just one more time! just one more time! every time.
Finally the Dad said come on, don't you want to roast marshmallows? She was out of the water like a shot.
While they were walking away, I was laughing to myself at the site of her little bum half-hanging out of her bathing suit, and I had the strangest feeling. This weird feeling of in-between.
Remembering what it was like to be that little, jumping in the cool water, fascinated by a frog, delighted by the idea of a good marshmallow roasting. And all at once feeling like an adult watching from the shore in wistful anticipation of my own kids' antics.
And that was altogether too serious so I jumped in the water with all my clothes on.
* Except that weekend in LaConner of course, with the sun and the cowboys and whatnot.
I should have taken a picture of Nate’s shoes. Or of just the frayed button placket on the shirt he was wearing.
Nate is the kind of guy who, if you try to take a picture of him, stops doing whatever he was doing that made you want to take a picture in the first place. He’ll turn his head, or straighten up to face the camera, maybe try a smile, like he doesn’t know what you want to see through the camera lens, or what you were seeing before you lifted the viewfinder to your eye.
So, I think of these little visual details, and I imagine I could have gotten more intimate pictures of him through those things than I got when I took a picture of him directly. If I had trained a camera on his shoe, he woud have just let me take the picture. Maybe he would have laughed, or asked me what was doing. I can’t say for sure, though, he’s a mystery to me.
I, on the other hand, am no mystery when I’m around Nate. I go all talkative, almost as talkative as I was on Friday night with my girlfriends and a mojito.
Still, “when I’m around Nate” is a funny thing to say about a person who I hadn’t seen in a year until Saturday, and who I hadn’t spent much time with at all before that. It’s a phrase that conjures up some kind of intimacy that wouldn’t seem to make sense for the kind of minor characters Nate and I are in each other’s lives. But there are some funny things about intimacy – like how a few hours spent looking at someone’s button placket can create it, or how you can feel it with someone who is a mystery to you, someone you know you do not know. It happens when you let that person feel familiar to you anyway.
On Saturday, Nate rang the intercom to my apartment at 5:17 PM (according to my phone), and at 10:23 PM, I was back in my apartment on my own, checking the messages my phone had collected while I was out.
It felt like a long five hours, and I mean that in the best way. It was an adventurous 5 hours.
We started with coffee at Fiorre. Now, I know what you all are starting to think about me and that place, but he asked for coffee, he talked about how Seattle has such good coffee, all he wants to do is drink coffee when he’s here. Anyway, I like being in love with Fiorre. Summer is for being in love. Being in love and leaving the house with your hair wet and wearing sandals with your jeans and bikini tops under t-shirts, and summer is for eating outside, even if there are bees.
All of which I did on Saturday.
So, after Fiorre, we had dinner at Agua Verde, or rather, at the park next to Agua Verde, with the bees, where Nate saw a guy he doesn’t really know from Vancouver, and they talked about taking bike rides, and I looked at the guy’s old school brown sneakers, which he was wearing on a bike that had those tiny pedals that are meant for you to clip into. The five or ten minutes the guy was there and then especially the moment he rode his bike away felt like a scene from the movie “Slacker”.
But anyway, after all that, Nate said “Should we go to Seattle Center or wherever it is with the rides?” the way a boyfriend you’ve lived with for a while would say “Sh’we go to the grocery store?”, without even bothering to finish saying the word “should” at the beginning of the sentence. Only I was a whole lot happier than I would have been if he was suggesting we go to the grocery store. He knew I wanted to go on the rides because I sent him a text message the night before that, through some technological fluke, was delivered to him at 4AM.
We just watched the rides for a while before we finally got on one. The problem with watching the rides at Seattle Center is that only about half of them are being ridden at any given time. The attendant for the Orbiter sat in one of the ride’s grimy cars like he was grounded, kicking his legs out in front of him and slouching. There was a thorough purity to his boredom that I had not seen since high school trigonometry class. It was like he was sitting in a trig class that didn’t have a single hot chick worth lifting an eyelid for.
I loved it. Because sometimes summer is also for boredom.
After Nate and I actually rode the Orbiter, though, its attendant’s boredom seemed almost perverse. Here, right over his head, is one of the most intense kinesthetic experiences you can have on this earth. Or at least that’s how I felt about it when I tried to walk afterwards. Now, I know that it is not the most intense amusement park ride, and that people jump out of planes etc. But really, on any given day most of us are doing fairly ordinary things with our bodies. We get from here to there, maybe we get the heart rate up a little, exercising or what have you.
The Orbiter is just a different kind of reality from all that. The Orbiter reminds you that physics is no joke. It reminds you that gravity is mostly gentle with us earthlings, that centrifugal force does not have to handle us so tenderly, and yet, mostly, it does.
There was more to the evening than the Orbiter. There was an anemic attempt at skee ball, a game of dayglo air hockey that Nate won handily, and there was Nate looking for a kid to give our extra ride tickets.
Towards the end, we went up in the Space Needle. It’s different now, crowded, with the whole ground floor around the base turned into a donut of a gift shop, and just before you get in the elevator, they try to take your picture in front of a phony Seattle skyline, like you were at the prom. Still, I find the observation deck of the Space Needle an utterly satisfying place to be and I wished we could have stayed there long enough to really get bored.
One lasting effect of the night is that I have an annual pass to the Needle again, so next time it gets too hot on Queen Anne Hill, I say we all pile in the elevator and sit on the benches up top for a good long time. The old bar that made you feel like you were in an airport is gone, and while I mourn the loss of it, there’s a concession stand now, and I’m thinking maybe we can get some ice cream there instead.
Because of course, summer is for ice cream, and for going somewhere to look at the view, and for being in love with more of the world than usual, including cute boys wearing navy blue suede sneakers and $5 mirrored sunglasses. The kind of sunglasses that you try to see past your own reflection into, and sometimes can. But the sunglasses remind you that the boy with the brown eyes behind them is really seeking only a conversational mathematical intimacy that you can’t offer him. Still, I’m the kind of girl who can sympathize, and who knows how to love a guy just a little bit less than the amount that would make his girlfriend start to mind.
Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's the fact that Euge has been working non-stop. Maybe it's the lingering effects of last weekends debacles.
There are supposed to be rainstorms tonight. Maybe that will clear my head.
Beyond my inability to express myself here, I am also suffering a creative block at work. Of course, with work, I have years of experience designing crap - so I can pretty much fake it.
Or do busy work until something comes to me.
That's the good thing about Corporate America - there is always busy work.
It's also the good thing about having a 'creative' job. The ability to fake it until something genuine comes along. Of course exploiting the ability to fake it is completely antithetical to how one is supposed to think about being a creative.
I think of it as being akin to plastering a smile on your face when you are in a bad mood. Eventually the smile is contagious and your mood turns around. With design I can just keep throwing stuff together until something makes me go 'hmmm...'
Sometimes I visit other websites that are devoted to designers all getting together and collectively examining their design navels and I wonder what it is that I am missing. Or I laugh at how full of themselves they are. It's not brain surgery people! It's making pretty pictures!
I do usually have a concept. I mean, I am not a complete fake. For example, I was designing a brochure for a property in rural New Hampshire so I used quilting as a starting off point. Apropos, no? And I thought that the finished piece was very successful. Maybe next I'll do one with knitting as a starting off point. Hee.
In any case, this post is complete blather. I hoped that if I kept writing something interesting or funny would come to me. Hasn't happened has it?
Okay, so, I have even MORE sympathy for your weekend of disaster now, since last night, there was another loss in the family. Natalie appears to have died.
Her check engine light came on, then it felt like the clutch was going, then it was okay. Then when I parked her, the coolant came bubbling up from the radiator into the coolant reservoir, then, moments later, it was gone. All gone! NO coolant in the reservoir!!!
I left her at the barn and got a ride to the Target in Redmond. Then I waited for Elvis to come get me. It's a good thing I had my knitting with me. The Target bench where I sat waiting was not nearly as lovely a setting as the LCS pictured above, but I was knitting on those very socks and as long as I kept my eyes on the yarn, everything was pretty.
But let me just say, no one will ever get me into a Target again.
It's official, this is the cutest thing I ever made. This sweater is cute, but really, Dakota is even cuter. So cute that when she opened the bag and pulled out this sweater and I looked at her sweet face, I started to cry. I did.
This is why I knit, people. Because there is going to be a Dakota baby, and that Dakota baby is going to wear my sweater made with my own hands!
All the teeny little stitches, the $100 trips to the yarn store, the hand cramps, the cursing, the mad dashes to Kristine's Wednesday night drop-in knitting class so that she can soothe me with whiskey tea and help me figure out how the hell to put all those little pieces together without having them end up all wonky and lumpy - all of that, totally worth it when you see Mrs. Keene Marsh holding up a little stripey sweater you made at her baby shower.
She made it double worth it when she gave me the Cowboy Mix CD that will serve as commemorative materials for our night in the Woolley, Summer '06. Juice Newton, that's all I have to say. Juice. Newton! Wow!
P.S. The sleeves are supposedly to be mis-matchedy
We were having our friends Kim, Eric (aka KillaWatts) and Joe (Jo-ey!!) help us with the further demolition and reconstruction of our roof (props to all of them!) and from moment one it was problem after problem.
Phase One: Leaving town. Friday night and everyone is ready to go. Except Eugene. Stuck at work until 9:30, we don't leave until ten - meaning an arrival time of 1:30 in the morning. An early morning start is unlikely.
Phase Two: Actual demo. There's nothing like ripping off your perfectly fine looking roof and disovering that you have water damage, ant damage and a mice condo rotting your roof. And then having a freak rainstorm start right after you have excavated a lot of the damage - leaving a huge hole in your roof. And then, while waiting for the rain to pass, seeing a big water spot develop on your ceiling. Hee! Home ownership is great!
Phase Three: Reconstruction. Things actually went relatively smoothly on Sunday. Some of our neighbors came over and helped and no more major disasters presented themselves until...
Phase Four: Going Home. We left VT around 9pm, pleased that the problems with the roof had been corrected - to the degree that they could be - and the whole thing had gotten its waterproof covering. Granted, we could have left earlier but the work crew was enjoying some beers and a few moments of actual relaxation.
Almost three hours later, in the hinterlands of Connecticut, our car decided it had had enough of all this driving stuff and quit on us. We managed to make our way to an exit (the Parkway we were on had no shoulder - yikes!) and into a Park n' Ride parking lot.
Unfortunately, the Park n' Ride lot was not actually adjacent to any form of public transportation - a mystery for the ages to be sure. It mostly seemed like a likely place for clandestine meetings. Numerous vehicles pulled in and, upon seeing the group of us standing there, pulled out. Either they were looking for a hook-up, or we are all a lot scarier looking than I thought.
So, we call AAA and try to figure our next move. A very surly State Trooper (I know, it's redundant as all State Troopers seem to be surly) stops and gives us virtually no useful information aside from the fact that the train station is "far away" and you can get toll-free (!!!) information by calling 1.800.373.3411 (1.800.FREE.411 - clever). He then drives away - unconcerned by our plight.
Luckily, Eugene has a cousin who lives in the area (the benefits of having a family that practically blankets the tri-state area finally emerges!) and she - hereafter and forever to be referred to as 'Saint April' - was willing to come to our aid. She showed up with her SUV and a shockingly cheerful mood - for someone so rudely awakened at 12:30 on a sunday night.
What ensued was an oddysey of train stations, subaru dealerships, motels and rest areas that didn't conclude until almost almost 4 am. Or at least that was when we all got to go to sleep at April's condo. We then had to catch a 7:36 am train into New York so that we could all, exhausted as we were, drag ourselves to our respective jobs.
My apologies, again, to all parties involved.
My especial apology to our credit card, which will have to bear the brunt of the $1200 it will cost to get our car fixed plus the $100 or so that it cost to get it towed. Not to mention the $500 or so that we had to spend on additional roofing materials to deal with the mess that was uncovered.
Good thing we are made of money! And have a money tree planted in the back yard!
When we look to buy a primary residence, I am thinking co-op. Let somebody else worry about the roof and the pipes and the multitude of other things that are bound to go wrong with a house.
My husband, the masochist, is still thinking 'house, house, house.'
*This is the nickname that he was given by Eric - based on his love for Halloween cotumes that involve body paint and, naturally, his baldness... but it seems particlarly apropos to this weekend.