some shots in my apartment last night, waiting for the handyman.
Los Angeles, CA.
Knee-deep in edits for my second book. Last night I wrote for so long that when S finally got home he looked to me like a paper-thin cut out, something I dreamed up.
It was later than I thought, but I feel like that’s always the case.
I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and just lying, eyes open, for an hour or two.
So I’m tired- but at least everything seems like it’s leading somewhere meaningful.
An alarm has been going off somewhere in my neighborhood for the past half hour. I notice it when I turn off the movie I rented, the movie that made me cry three and a half separate times, the movie that left tissues littered across the hardwood floor of the apartment I love and hate in equal parts.
The other day we took a train to downtown, emerging in Union Station like proper tourists. We walked the few short blocks to Chinatown and ate lunch at a southern restaurant squashed into a grocery store with a hundred different kinds of sodas. I got a glass bottle of birch beer, something I haven’t had since I was a kid. I remember the very first time I ordered it. I had never had it and wanted to try. The adult I was with discouraged me and said – What if you don’t like it? I’m not buying you something else if you don’t like it.
I ordered it anyway and I remember being so apprehensive holding it- why is it clear? why is it called beer? what if i really don’t like it?- and then I did like it, very much, and felt like I had won some small battle. We ate pizza and when I drank it now I tasted pizza and felt seven years old, already questioning whether I should not try things because I maybe won’t like them.
Then by some silly small coincidence S didn’t want his soda, wanted something fancier like the rest of us had gotten.
Go go go, I said. Get something else.
These small small gifts of privilege- the money to try another soda if you don’t like the first, the novelty of a train ride into a part of your city you rarely go, a sandwich stuffed with sweet potato fries and mushrooms, new headphones for Christmas that block out that annoying alarm that is still sounding, somewhere- I try never to take them for granted. Because I know they are like a dozen small gifts lined up one after the other and any day, they could vanish. So I write them down for another time, make them last as long as possible. Stretching out for days, reaching me now, much later- the novelty of carbonation and real cane sugar in an old fashioned glass bottle, cold and cloudy from the fridge.
wherever you are, know that i adore you
no matter how far, well i can go before you
and if ever you need someone-
well, not that you need helping
but if ever you want someone
know that i am willing
photograph taken in Los Angeles, lyrics by Damien Rice
happy birthday, S.
Lately I’ve been drinking tea without honey, waiting weeks to do laundry, clearing space on my walls to hang vintage maps and watercolors. February arrived without announcement, the first day slipping through my fingers and the second day productive and good, a new coffee shop and little sleep, old photographs and leftover macaroni salad. Today a phone call with my agent, a new idea that may or may not hold water. The Rookie Yearbook Two finally being read, cover to cover next to me on the bed. Dreams I can’t remember and a trip that seems too far away but that I don’t want to wish closer- I need time to slow down for a while. I have a lot of things to do and this year is already unfair. One month gone in the time it took to unpack a suitcase.
Last night we drove to Silverlake to see a band I’ve loved for fifteen years. It seems lately I’ve been reconnecting with the favorite musicians of my lifetime, people who sung me to sleep when I was tripping my way through college, people who reminded me that not all lost loves were great. The people who were there for me when friends weren’t. And they so often weren’t.
We sat in the back of the venue in a small group of theatre seats that shook when you walked on them. It was cold and I left my jacket on and I felt about eighteen or nineteen again, when someone first set up illegal music sharing networks at my college and I downloaded albums with weird, confusing names like Team Boo and The Execution of All Things and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and From a Basement on the Hill.
These were my secret records, listened to with headphones and volume turned low as my two horrible roommates slept just feet away from me. These were the records that would guide me through the eternal pain of the next three or four years. I never found my groove in college. I was continually slipping, catching myself, losing my grip again and starting from scratch.
Last night the openers were loud and we rolled napkins between our fingers and stuffed them into our ears. Outside it rained and the roads were slick and shiny when it was over and we were both tired and didn’t talk much and I thought about our songs, the small collection of noises we’ve written together and played together and sometimes fought over and sometimes abandoned.
I think they have it figured out, I said. I think they’re just really happy.
And it’s what I want for myself, what I’ve always wanted. A life measured in creative output, a year defined by a thing I made and worked hard on and am proud of for various selfish and non-selfish reasons. A decade stacked neatly on a shelf in the form of three or four books and two or three albums and photographs taken in new, beautiful places and anything else I think up on the way.
That is what I am trying to do now, with this. That is what I have always tried to do.
(the band was Mates of State, and they were lovely.)
& now, for something completely different-
my band The July’s entry into NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest.
-like a lady. In thirty easy steps.
1) Wear black.
2) Then make everyone else wear black.
3) Then hang black streamers from the chandelier of your parents’ house and have your mom buy a black cake. A haunted house. The black napkins and black paper plates are too expensive. Make do with what you have.
4) Drink maple old fashioneds.
5) Throw your niece up in the air again and again and again, do not stop until you are sure to wake up with sore shoulders tomorrow.
6) Reflect back on the past year. Make yourself decide on moments: the happiest, the saddest, the silliest, the weirdest, the heart-stoppingest.
7) Wonder, idly, if your plants are still alive. You have been out of the apartment for so long.
8) Get stressed out about things that you absolutely should not be thinking about now and cannot possibly do anything about in the current moment.
9) Lock yourself in the bathroom like you used to do when you were younger, when your mother sent your brothers upstairs to fetch you and you had to pretend like you were just peeing forever.
10) The ball drops and some people are already sleeping, some people have chosen the wrong moment to leave the room, but most people shout some combination of happy new year and happy birthday. When you were younger you dreamt of having a boyfriend to kiss when the ball dropped but after you got that wish and then he cheated on you two weeks later with his ex-girlfriend he would eventually marry, you learn to care a little less about it.
11) Don’t expect everyone to call you. Some people forget. Some people choose to forget.
12) Go to the first city you ever lived and spend one freezing cold day walking around with your best friends in the whole wide world.
13) Forget your phone in an uber for the first time ever and feel like the worst adult.
14) Get your phone back thirty minutes later.
15) Eat brussel sprouts and fries for dinner.
16) Go back to your hotel that used to be a jail.
17) Eat more fries.
18) Go to sleep.
19) Wake up from sleep quickly and painfully- with a swollen and bruised finger.
20) Roll off the bed onto the floor and cry a lot and rock back and forth and think to yourself- I must certainly be the first person in the history of the world to break their finger while sleeping.
21) Go to the hospital. It is right next door. Have your boyfriend- half-asleep and feeling too guilty for being the one to roll over on your outstretched fingers- put a coat around your shoulders.
22) Go to the wrong emergency room. There are two.
23) Get directions to the right emergency room. Go there.
24) Get x-rays. Be in pain. Learn that it is a very bad sprain, but happily not broken.
25) Go back to your hotel. Let your boyfriend help you into pajama pants.
26) Sleep. For only a couple hours because is now 4 in the morning.
27) Wake up and take a one-handed shower. Put makeup on with one hand. Pull jeans on with one hand.
28) It is now the day after your thirtieth birthday. Examine the impressive, purple/grey bruise that has formed on the palm of your hand. Feel tired and unsure.
29) Go out to breakfast and eat the best breakfast sandwich you have ever had in your life.
30) It is so cold. Start to feel sorry for yourself, start to wonder if this might be a telling portent of your year to come, Is your sprained and swollen and bruised pinky finger a crutch you must carry forth with you into the great unknown of 2015? Is this a great ditch from which it is impossible to pull yourself out from? Is this just the way things will be from now on?
31) But, no. Because life is random and in its randomness is where you will find the true meaning, the true beauty- in that nothing has meaning unless you choose to bestow such meaning upon it. So give your sprained finger no meaning at all. Give it advil and cold packs and a brace from the hospital. Give it those things, but do not give it anything more.
Happy 2015- and keep your meanings for the things that really matter.
The second day I’m home, my father takes me to where the beavers are making their dam. There is a half-finished one that someone has pulled out of the water and left dried out and useless on the shore. There are beaver tracks around but no beavers. I called the town, my father says. They’re going to cause a flood.
I haven’t been home for Christmas in three years. Last year S and I spent Christmas Eve on the beach and then went back to his apartment to make stuffed shells and twice baked potatoes and other things I can’t remember. We had a Christmas tree made of felt with felt ornaments and a lopsided, felt star on the top.
I got back to the East Coast on Wednesday and I am still jet-lagged, spending the mornings in a haze of leftover sleeping pills, fingers weighted and clumsy. My lips are perpetually dry and I’ve taken two baths already; last night the water was bright pink and sparkly and smelled like flowers.
S landed in Boston last night and took the bus up to Vermont and I laid in bed and finished a book I wasn’t impressed with. I have wrapping left to do and baking and decorating and I can’t find any of my winter hats.
There are two or three half-filled water glasses in my room and my brothers and their wives and their babies all arrive this week and I’m enjoying the house to myself, every minute until I lose it.