& now, for something completely different-
my band The July’s entry into NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest.
& 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.
Almost two years ago, my trip to the Scottish Highlands was bookended by visits to the Faerie Glen, a tiny little set of hills and small lakes that is often forgone in favor of flashier scenery. But this was a place my travel partner and makeshift tour guide had been before and fallen in love with, and I’m glad she suggested we go (and then go back- to say goodbye). In the winter, the entire Isle of Skye was grey and brown and a ruddy, lifeless green. But the weather was unexpectedly mild and it was also essentially deserted- our own private corner of the world.
More than anywhere I’ve visited, I think about Skye. Its one-way roads, its painted sheep (so the farmers know whose is whose), its cliffs and its water. More than anywhere I’ve visited, I think I’d like to go back here.
photographs taken on Skye and edited with VSCO‘s newest film filter collection for Lightroom.
It is raining in Los Angeles, which in reality is a very good and useful thing but in my brain becomes conflated, too-meaningful, drenched in metaphor. Like the city is being cleaned away, being readied, being prepared for a brand new year- two thousand and fifteen! An inconceivable amount of time and yet just a drop in the bucket of so much more time, time before me and time before humans and time before dinosaurs and time before this planet even dreamed of holding life.
Last night I slept weird and woke hot and with an aching back and from a dream in which I had pleaded with a young police officer not to give me a parking ticket and finally won, triumphant I watched him rip up the tiny square of paper and then I opened my eyes and didn’t know where I was until I did- oh yeah, Santa Monica and it is still raining.
I booked a very long trip to the East Coast for Christmas, long enough for the place where I board my cat to be like- that is a very long time. I feel bad about leaving him but he always seems to have a good time. The person who watches him notes, on his report card, that he enjoys anything with catnip in it and he prefers not to play with the other cats but to watch them from a high vantage point. This seems somehow perfect.
For Thanksgiving S and I went to Palm Springs and it wasn’t hot enough. Like- it was hot but not burning, and I wanted to be burned. And then when we drove home the skies over our city seemed so dark and then it started raining and it hasn’t really stopped, just paused.
Yesterday we saw Birdman and it was just fine, so I’m not sure why everyone is so all about it.
Anyway there’s under a month now until I am thirty years old and that is an even smaller drop in the aforementioned bucket of time and so it doesn’t seem like the biggest deal. Things will go on like they are going on, I will continue to write stories and make music and take pictures and still feel, at the end of the day, like I am not quite contributing enough. But to what? The bucket? I don’t know.
photographs taken in Joshua Tree.
A half hour after I land in San Francisco, I’m sitting on my brother’s couch watching my niece in her swing. She’s almost three months old and she doesn’t like to be held. If you pick her up, she generally responds by wailing dramatically until you put her down. And then the waterworks stop instantly and she is smiling, happy, looking around. It’s mildly annoying because nobody wants to sit and look at a baby. I’m hoping she’ll grow out of it by Christmas.
So I am sitting and looking at a baby when the first pulses hit. Optical migraines are one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. This is what they look like: a jagged ring of light that starts out small and contained and spreads out to obstruct your entire field of vision. They last for twenty or thirty minutes and they’re painless. Just annoying, because afterward everything is blurry for hours and you can’t finish the Tahereh Mafi book you’ve been so far devouring.
I sit and look at the baby and she is ringed in lightning flashes and white halos.
A week before this I had a few drinks over the course of a three-hour dinner and woke up the next morning profoundly nauseous, the kind of stomach unrest that lasts the entire day and into the evening and follows you even when you try and go to sleep. And so I think maybe my ulcer is back because one of its less endearing qualities is that it makes me extremely intolerant to alcohol. And also each day I wake up starving, like I haven’t eaten in years.
On Sunday we drive to Mount Tamalpais, up winding roads that snake and slither and twist and turn until, in the backseat, I am one switchback away from throwing up. When we park I walk to the bathroom, that extra saliva in the back of my mouth that signifies I am about to lose it. It helped that the air was so cold and slicing through my borrowed fleece.
So I spend the whole weekend in San Francisco in a moderate state of discomfort. But Saturday night I took a bath in a claw-footed bathtub and used a bath bomb that turned the water a deep shade of sparkly blue and I made the water too hot and I kept sliding underneath because my feet couldn’t reach the other side and that was nice. Like sometimes I just want things too hot and too deep and too blue. My skin red and warm and nobody bothering me until they hear the water draining.
photographs taken in Mount Tamalpais State Park
This weekend I flew up to San Francisco to spend a few days with my brother, sister-in-law, and my niece, Harper, who’s almost three months old. We took her to her first museum- the California Academy of Sciences- where she quickly became enthralled with the aquariums. Longer post to follow, but for now…
photographs taken at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
Maybe an hour and a half into the return hike, I fell.
It’s weird because I don’t fall that often. I mean, as adults I guess we should all pretty much not fall that often. I tried to remember the last time I fell and couldn’t (but then I did—it was in Scotland, also during the second half of a hike: descending Arthur’s Seat). It happened very quickly and I can’t remember anything that might have caused it. No loose stone underfoot, no lost balance. I was just walking one moment and on my face the next moment. I was holding my camera and it crashed so hard against a rock that the sound echoed through my body. I knew it had cracked in half and that was the first thing I checked—not my bleeding palms or already swelling knee but my camera—which was somehow, miraculously intact.
(A PSA about lens’ hoods: they are a lifesaver. My hood is scratched and clawed but not even bent. And my camera is, somehow, unscathed.)
I wrenched my arm and smashed my knee and scraped up both my hands and now my body is sore in an irritating way, because I can’t tell if I’m sore from the hike, from the fall, or from some combination of both. I want to know how my body would feel if I hadn’t almost broken my face, but of course that’s not going to happen. So I microwave heating pads and lay them over my thighs and I pay particular attention to the bruise on my knee, how it spreads and changes, how it turns different colors every few hours.
We run out of water two hours from the aerial tramway that will take us down down, gloriously down, back into the valley of Palm Springs. I thought I’d been rationing my two liters appropriately but it’s hard to tell with a Camelbak, and suddenly I’m sucking air. Then the breeze, warm and inviting until then, starts dropping in temperature as the sun starts setting. The sweat on my tee shirt turns cold and sticky.
When we pass the rangers’ station, they question us about a lost autistic hiker. She is deaf, they say, and her group reported her as missing. One of my friends spoke to her in sign language at the top, she remembers. I thought it was strange she was all by herself. But I asked her if she was okay, and she said she was.
In the tramway building, I use the restroom. There’s a woman with blonde hair who presses things one by one. She presses the soap dispenser. She presses the sink. She presses a spot on the wall. She presses the trashcan. She acts like she can’t stop pressing things.
The only description of the missing woman I can remember is blonde hair, autistic. I go outside and tell the man letting people in for the tram, I think she’s in the bathroom. They said they have a helicopter out looking for her, but I think she might be in the woman’s bathroom.
He didn’t seem particularly concerned. He said thanks. I never found out if that was her.
The return tram takes a thousand hours (but really just ten minutes). Every time we pass a tower, we swing dramatically. Everyone in the tram lets out a collective ohhh. It’s a little scary, but the minute we hit the bottom I feel eleven miles of stress lift off my shoulders. I am practically floating. I don’t even really feel tired anymore. I drive S and myself to the pizza restaurant and when we’re there, we gulp water glass after water glass after water glass and later wash off our arms with wet wipes in our freezing, freezing tent.
It feels so nice to be lying down. The next morning, I’m the last person to get out of bed.
photographs taken on the way down Mount San Jacinto.
Our band played its first show the day after Halloween. We made music as Woody & Jessie (with help from a barbershop quartet-er) and it was among the craziest nights of my life. So much fear and anxiety and nervousness leading up to this event, but it all dissipated in the minutes before I played those first few notes. Eternal thanks to Blood Red Sky for putting everything together and letting us open for them. This was a night I’ll remember forever.
photographs courtesy of Studio Bancs & friends.