Saturday, July 31, 2010

mea maxima culpa

I was out of line the other night. (Surprising, I know.)  I wrote some things here that, though not untrue, should not have been written.  (How's that for an apology?  Reminds me of that wonderful scene from Anne of Green Gables, wherein she abases herself before Mrs. Lynde for being rude -- not because what she'd said hadn't been true, but because it shouldn't have been said.)

But in all seriousness, I am sorry.  On some level I forget sometimes that the stories I write here -- stories I consider in the moments of telling them to be wholly and entirely my own -- also belong to other living breathing people whether or not, or to whatever degree, we still inhabit each others' lives.  What I originally wrote has since been rewritten in the clear light of day, and reflects more honestly what I meant in the first place, a little further removed from that late-night place of insecurity and hurt.  It wasn't my intent to in turn be hurtful.

Unfortunately I share with Anne not only her fiery red hair and overly active imagination, but also a quick temper, a loose tongue, and an ugly tendency to hold on to a grudge.  All things to be worked on, and things that are being worked on, most of the time.  Also perhaps a little more discretion and, you know, self-censorship, would be in order.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

on wedding invitations, playing the victim, and trying not to

There was a piece in Slate last week about a study that looked at adults and children, bullies and victims, and the different ways they interpret harm.  Adults tend to understand that intent matters, and that the way we respond to harm depends on the intent (or lack of intent) of the person causing it.  Young children generally don't understand this difference:  to them harm is harm regardless of intent.  Bullies apparently understand these nuances but just don't care.  And perennial victims, well, in some ways they stay children forever, and are sometimes prone to seeing victim-hood in situations where there was no underlying intent to harm.

Something about this study resonated with me, and I found it deeply disconcerting.  I had my own experiences with being bullied back in the day at good old George Washington Elementary School, as I've mentioned here before.  Sometimes I worry that those days have affected my ability to trust other people, or rather my confidence in my own reading of other people.

I have a rather unbecoming tendency to assume that people are out to get me, or if not necessarily to such an extreme, that the people I care about don't care about or think about or love me in the same way, don't see me as being smart enough or pretty enough or interesting enough or generally worthy of their time.  Silly, I know, but there it is.

I got an invitation in the mail a few days ago to a friend's wedding.  I have known this friend for a decade now, ever since he and my brother lived next door to each other in their college dorm.  We ran in the same circles for awhile, back in the day when there was a great big crowd of us spending lots of time together.  As everyone graduated and got jobs and moved around and all that post-college stuff, many of us have gone partly or largely our separate ways.  We still overlap now and again of course -- when my brother's in town, when one or the other of us has a party or dinner party or show of some sort, when a group of us flew to my parents' place for Christmas a few years back.  We've rarely been one-on-one friends, if that makes sense, but still there has always been a lot of mutual affection

The invitation arrived on Saturday addressed solely to me, and this threw me into a bit of a tailspin:  were partners not invited?  He does know I have a boyfriend, right? Of course he does, he and his fiancee came up to our place last winter and partook in Evan's cooking.  He met Evan ten years ago when he and Nathan lived next door to each other.  We brought a delicious cab franc to their engagement party! Was I not supposed to bring him to the engagement party? Have I already committed an unforgivable faux pas?  Do I really have to go to this thing by myself, maybe share a table with my baby brother and his wife, the ex-boyfriend and the woman (okay, now wife) he left me for, all those other happily married friends and their partners? Why do I feel like I've been relegated to the kids' table, my relationship not deemed grown-up enough to be taken seriously?  Is this really happening?  Couldn't they cut down on the "black-tie-ness" of it all and include everyone that should be included?  Meaning my boyfriend?  Why do they hate me so much?!?

I thought myself in knots, twisted and turned and grew increasingly upset, to the point where I couldn't fall asleep and sat up till the wee hours scribbling in a notebook.  In the morning, over cups of coffee, I poured out this hurt to Marianne and declared my intent to abstain from the whole sorry affair.  Marianne just gave me one of her patented Marianne looks and said, "Don't be ridiculous, Em. You've known him forever.  You love him.  Of course you'll go."

And of course she was right.

I finally worked up the nerve to email him later that morning, just to clarify that partners really aren't invited, and that I should let Evan off the hook as far as having to suit it up for this black-tie affair.  And he wrote back later that evening saying to the contrary, that of course Evan should come.

This made me feel a lot better about things.  I'm still not convinced that I have not committed yet another egregious faux pas, but I am happy and relieved that I get to have my boy with me.  And if I should ever end up getting married there will be a little shindig, perhaps in Mom & Paul's back yard if they'll have me, or perhaps at the lake where I grew up if it'll have me. And it will be totally informal and unconstructed so as to avoid any stress or confusion. There will be Bermuda shirts and birkenstocks and dresses and jeans.  There might be platters of oysters and ice chests of cold home-brewed beer if I'm lucky, and mounds of cookies and gallons of gazpacho and twinkly fairy lights festooned across trellises and tree branches.  And maybe a knitted lace canopy just for the hell of it, even if I'm not Jewish and can't lay claim to a chuppah.  And if someone should ask whether or not they can bring their boyfriend or girlfriend or long lost third cousin twice removed from Kansas or that hot chick they met at that bar last week, I'll say sure.  Just pick up an extra bottle of wine on your way over.  Or, you know, maybe some cupcakes.

In the meantime, I'll be working hard at not creating situations of victim-hood where there are none, and will be looking forward to getting all gussied up (this seems to be a theme these days) in preparation for these friends' big day, possibly even to the extent of getting a pedicure. In pink. Shocking, I know.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the things i'm reading today

Atul Gawande, Letting Go
POP: Larry on Nerve
Love apparently really is like a drug
The New Abortion Providers 

(Suggestions welcome!)

“Of course I agree with the preacher of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to love and a time to die—and when my skein runs out I hope to face the end calmly and in my own way. For most situations, however, I prefer the more martial view that death is the ultimate enemy—and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light.”
-Stephen Jay Gould

Thursday, July 22, 2010

oh veronica

I confess.  I have been watching an obscene amount of Veronica Mars these last few weeks.  I love rich bad boy Logan and rich good(ish) boy Duncan and sweet best friend Wallace and computer geek Mac and sexy Jackie and dead Lily and even whip-smart (if sometimes incredibly stupid and often incredibly annoying) Veronica.  But most of all, I think, I adore the relationship between Veronica and her father, former local sheriff turned private investigator extraordinaire, Keith Mars.  (So I have a soft spot for bald guys, what can I say?  Luckily for me, this show also sports Francis Capra.)

Also, the music.  Seriously, any show that navigates from 46Bliss (just wait, it gets so good) to  Leonard Cohen to Pete Yorn to  Neko Case to Thievery Corporation to Sia (remixed) to Tegan & Sara to Spoon to dear old M. Doughty, doesn't have an absolutely horrible theme song, has a character who reminds me a little bit of an old friend (and who turns out to be a suicidal psycho killer), and manages to work in Willow, Cordelia, and a Joss Whedon cameo pretty much rocks in my book.

Except that Kristen Bell looked so much hotter (more hot?) with her choppy 'do of the show's early days.  Her latter-day long and golden curls, not so much.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

down by the river


Dinner tonight found me and Nick serenading Dan with a (decidedly off-key) rendition of Tiffany's (rather unfortunately gender-'corrected') rendition of I Saw Her Standing There.  (Wouldn't dear Tiffany just be that much more adorable if she was crooning over another adorably dolled-up '80s girl?)

The thing is, Nick and I have a long history of dining together, sharing everything from not losing track of language to sharing strangely prescient moments to tolerating my tirades to sharing moments of unexpected grief to indulging in pride on his behalf to taking many pictures of to yet more discussions of language to old songs to confessions to shared love for old school science fiction to more music to commiseration to random news to dreams (well, at least that one came true in so far as the hot blonde) to ridiculousness to 9/11 to chocolate to many more shared stories before this blog's beginnings (going back at least to the fall of 1999 if not a bit earlier even than that).

Having Dan join us in our nearly weekly dinners is a more recent incarnation.  And having my boyfriend Evan and Nick's girlfriend Sarah (sweet girl of the above chocolate story) is even more recent than that.  And I like these new iterations of our nearly weekly dinners, 99% of the time.  But in certain moments, in a caught breath between the thought in my head and the words coming out of my mouth, I miss our one-on-ones, our tete-a-tetes.  It is a new reality (and a good reality), these expanded dinners of ours, but it takes some getting used to.

Monday, July 19, 2010

'everything but the kitchen sink' soup

Too lazy (and cheap) to go grocery shopping yesterday so found myself ransacking the refrigerator for last week's CSA remnants.  This soup is weird but tasty, and even better the next day served cold.

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Soup:

Cooking oil
Bunch small purplish/reddish onions, chopped
Red pepper flakes to taste
A small eggplant, diced
Green beans, chopped into 1-inch lengths
Some unknown greens -- really thick stems and frilly curled leaf edges -- torn into small pieces sans stems
Most of a head of lettuce, torn into pieces
Chicken broth
Some parsley
Some mint
2 itty bitty cucumbers

Saute the onions and red pepper flakes in oil over medium-low heat.  I've been using coconut oil lately and it's subtle and delicious and smells really good.  Add the beans and the eggplant and cooked till softened.  Add a little bit of broth and the unknown greens and stir, then leave covered for a little while so the greens wilt.  Add the parsley and the mint and the lettuce and enough broth to cover, and let cook for a little while.  Add the cucumbers and blend in the soup pot with a stick blender.  Refrigerate long enough to chill, add the bit of cream or milk or yogurt, salt and pepper to taste.

Like I said, this turned out rather strangely.  But it has the potential to be delicious.  I would cut way back on the mint, add some garlic at the beginning, and maybe put through a food processor to blend to a smoother consistency.  And of course the joy of it is that none of my CSA goodies went to waste this week, and are now in a form that could either be frozen indefinitely or at least keep in the refrigerator for another few days.  Maybe I'll even bring some to work tomorrow for lunch.

'our world is full of sound...'

Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone's
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air.
(Amiri Baraka)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

these hands

I hate my hands.
I have always hated
them. Stubby and round and red, nails chewed
down to the quick.

I was scanning articles today for our Interlibrary Loan office and my
fingers kept showing up, curled around the edges
of journals, looming
ghost-like over clearly defined text.

And I liked them like that, the eeriness of them, their wraith-like insubstantial grace.

When I was little I dreamed of being like that.  Ethereal.  Nearly invisible.  Lurking.  (Well, I maybe have that one down, with this abysmal shyness and tendency to linger in corners at parties.)
But I like the things my hands make these days too much to wish them away, or even wish them much changed.  And that's a nice realization to have come to.

Monday, July 12, 2010

zombie apocalypse

Nate gave me a book for my birthday, Zombie Haiku, which I absolutely adore.  (And not, I swear, just because of its introduction:  "To whoever might find this, my name is Chris Lynch, and I'm pretty sure I'm dying.  In fact, if you are reading this, then I'm probably already dead.  Not that anyone will be around to read this... from what I've seen, I'd guess this is the end of everything."  Weird, right?)

But really I love this book for the haiku, and for its great potential for being read out loud (as Erica and I discovered one evening while nursing margaritas at The Seven Lounge, killing time till other friends arrived):

Little old ladies
speed away in their wheelchairs,
frightened meals on wheels.

Shotguns don't scare me,
which explains why I chased him,
and why I'm one-eared.

Biting into heads
is much harder than it looks.
The skull is feisty.

He is screaming words,
but I don't understand him
since I have his tongue.

(Also, Bellingham, home to the above Zombie Apocalypse, pretty much rocks.)

fresh local men

(Bellingham, 6.21.10)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

small pleasures

Got a bag of peaches as part of our CSA share last week.  Have spent the last several decades thinking I did not like peaches -- at least whole and fresh and uncooked.  Something about the skin, the feel of that peach fuzz rubbing across my teeth, my gums, my tongue.  Like nails on a chalkboard.  Years ago Jessica Snyder and I would take the canoe down towards the Lockharts' farm, paddling through clouds of sapphire dragonflies, keeping an eye out for turtles sunning themselves on deadheads, hissing over lily-pads growing up in clumps against the surface of the lake.  We would pack a couple cans of soda (Grandma's discount Shasta in strawberry or pineapple or grape) and a couple nectarines.  Always nectarines because I hated peaches.  That fuzz.

Got a bag of peaches the other day and thought about making a cobbler or a chilled summer soup or a sauce to serve warm over vanilla ice cream.  Instead left them in a bowl on the counter and have found myself snatching one up on passes through the kitchen, biting into them while leaning over the sink to catch the juices dripping from my teeth, down my chin.

The peach fuzz seems not to be bothering me, and the deep pleasure of eating them whole in random moments on my way from bedroom to closet to front door and back again is one I had not expected.


Another Jessica and Andrew and I met for brunch yesterday afternoon, and then afterwards meandered our way back to their apartment for an afternoon of watching Black Dynamite and going through Jessica's handbag collection to see if there was anything that struck my fancy (girlish things again -- there are simply situations in which my trust old messenger bag just won't do).  Andrew started feeling ill and went off to lie down for a bit but when I turned to Jessica and quietly said that perhaps it would be best if I left, she shook her head and said, "No, no need -- you're family!"

Other than missing Andrew's company it was a lovely afternoon and it warmed my heart to be thought of as such.

leaving the lake, 6.17.10

(Anderson Slough)

Friday, July 09, 2010

dresses & sandals & polish, or, when the temperature rises

The temperature may have peaked at 103 on Tuesday, but it's been hellishly hot all week. I've been stealing my boyfriend's hairbands, using them to pull back my not-quite-long-enough hair in ridiculous little paintbrush ponytails sticking out precariously from the back of my head.

I've been wearing dresses and strappy sandals, using the weather as an excuse for twirling around in this crazy alien get-up, tickled pink by the expressions of amusement and surprise on display by some of my nearest and dearest.

I dragged Sarah and the boys to Duane Reade after our weekly dinner on Wednesday to find the perfect (under $5) nail polish so that I, too, can revel in that "something surprisingly fun about looking down and seeing brightly-colored toesies," as my sister-in-law so adorably put it. (She was right. The polish I picked is a little too pink even for my current inexplicably girly compulsions, but there is something pleasing about glancing down as I walk and catching just that little bit of sparkly.)

Wednesday afternoon I braved the heat to go get a coffee at Camille's.  The man manning the counter and I exchanged pleasantries, or more accurately complaints, about the weather, and laughed, and then suddenly he looked at me and said, "So how come you're looking so conservative these days?"  I blushed and mumbled something incoherent and he said, "I liked your old look.  I sometimes fantasize about letting my hair grow out long..."

What struck me is how different our fantasies are, how I once fantasized being super butch (and still harbor this particular fantasy in moments), but how I've discovered recently that I can have other fantasies of myself, that I can paint my toenails and put on a dress and not lose my self, not give up some integral part of me that perhaps was more fantasy than reality to begin with.

Come the inevitable cooling, I will most likely decide to return to a near-daily diet of black corduroys and black sweaters and chunky clunky black boots.  I may even shave my head again some day instead of my legs. But for now, while the weather stays hot, I will revel in these dresses and smooth legs and sparkly-bright toes with abandon, and for now, at least, that's enough.

Monday, July 05, 2010

travel journals, part IX

Welcome to Harrison, pop. 267.

Rip Proof main street.

Library Hours. The new(ish) ibrary is where the old jail house used to be, on one side of the little field by the rip-proof building. On Saturdays in the summer there is a farmers market here. On the day that we were in town during library hours quite a few people seemed to come and go. They offer knitting classes for adults and teens. I harbor a strange little fantasy of quitting my job, fleeing New York, and working at the Harrison Library. I could teach knitting classes, really!

June 15th, 4:54pm. Sitting outside the miraculously open library, stealing their wifi. Yesterday: local fruit wine tasting, early morning walk to the road's end, reading on the deck, homemade calzones. Today: geocaching and rain and tomato soup.

One Shot Charlies got a shiny new sign! One Shot Charlies has existed as long as I can remember, going back at least to the early '80s when the grown-ups (meaning my parents' generation ) would go out for drinks maybe once a summer and leave us kids in the care of either the grandparents or the older cousins. It doesn't seem like the inside has changed much in the last 30 years, if not longer than that.

Health concerns. I don't remember these signs from when I
was a kid, and am pretty sure they're relatively recent.


Post office. One of the hardest things about an often-enough ideal childhood was being away from my friends for almost two months out of the year. Going to the post office at least once a week was a ritual with me, in the hopes of there being a postcard, a letter, a care package from friends back east. One summer in particular, following 9th grade, was the summer of Cindy & Alice & their beautiful letters and envelopes filled to the brim with scribblings and ramblings and drawings and quotes -- mostly from Pump Up the Volume, our obsession of the moment. "Being weird isn't enough." "Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks." "Everything decent's been done. All the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks." "Cease to resist, giving my goodbye / drive my car into the ocean / you'll think i'm dead but i sail away / on a wave of mutilation..." At any rate, it was a sparkling shiny day when there was something (anything) addressed to me c/o General Delivery, Harrison, Idaho, 83833.

*Italicized bits were Facebook status updates.

rainy day walk on east harlow point road

I bought my first camera just three years ago, which is kind of funny because I tend to think of myself as being a pretty visual person. I did have a little Fisher Price type camera as a child, but of course that disappeared eons ago (I have vague recollections of it tumbling in slow motion off the end of a dock, whether in Idaho or Mohegan Lake or somewhere else I have no idea). And then in high school and college I just made various friends give me their doubles. And then I dated a boy for five years who harbored aspirations of photographic artistry, and I left all our picture-taking to him (and still have a box of photographs pilfered from his even larger box of photographs tucked away gathering dust in the black hole that is under-my-bed).

So in 34 years of spending all or part of most summers at the lake cabin in Idaho, I have never had any pictures of my own. It was an odd experience, walking to the end of the road and back with my trusty little Canon SD1000 tucked in a pocket out of the mist, looking at this old road, this road that felt like home, through new eyes, new lenses, with a new man who had never been there before. He seemed to like it, despite the rain, despite the cold, and this made me inexpressibly happy, even in the mids
t of a certain sadness that sometimes pervades the place.

from the front porch

heading out

water closet

stargazer lane: the end of the road

skunk remnants

Snyders' stairs

almost home again
(Ernie Sword's old pump-house)

McNeil barn & beach & docks

the family plot

home sweet home

on the deck


 (Reading on the deck, 6.15.10, Idaho)

evan's calzones

(Lake cabin dinner, 6.15.10)

Friday, July 02, 2010

travel journals, part VIII

June 15th, 10:53am. Heading east on 84. Stopped to take a gander at the Multnomah Falls and wonder if the huge school of trout swimming so doggedly upstream know what they're in for... * ("Sex!," said Jessica. Though true in its way, this is not what I had in mind...)

(What those trout are in

June 14th, 2:43 pm. Passing through Walla Walla, Washington. Blown away by the austere beauty of the wind-farms lining both the Oregon & Washington banks of the Columbia River. Makes me proud. Listening to the Boss. Evan's patience knows no bounds.** (I'm not the only one who thinks this is one of the most beautiful drives in the world.)

*Italicized bits were Facebook status updates.

(Best-placed rest stop ever, about an hour out of Lewiston

**This drive also entailed me trying to convince Evan to love Frank Black (aka Black Francis), specifically such Black Letter Days songs as California Bound, 21 Reasons, Black Letter Day, Black Rider, & Chip Away Boy. This didn't work out so well. While I still adore dear old Frank, I guess I can kind of get that he might be uniquely appealing to the angsty teenager still lurking in some of us more than in others. Even still, I might have to make Evan give Frank Black a go: Los Angeles, Two Spaces, Czar, Hang On to Your Ego.