Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The day I realized I had two good friends in California

It was a six hour drive to Mammoth.  In the “perfect for road trips” kind of car.  A large SUV with big open windows where one could watch the land change from urban sprawl to snow.  The car was lived in enough to contain treasures – happy meal toys, scratched cds of bands we hadn’t heard from since the 90s, sun faded magazines and smashed granola bars. 

We left Los Angeles as early as we could force ourselves to get up on a Friday.  The “we” was Ashley, Mike and I.  Although we never call him Mike, he’s a last name only kind of guy.  Ashley and Mike lived together in college in New Hampshire.  In some kind of enginerd uber house.  Ashley is sharp and no nonsense.  Mike is funny and for lack of a better word, laid back.  All of us had left the East Coast for some reason or another for California.  We had bumped into each other’s lives like buoys in the ocean.  Rising and sinking together against new tides. 

On the way to Mammoth, we stopped at Costco to pick up food and beverage.  With churros and hot dogs in hand, we grabbed everything we saw.   How many peanuts can hungry skiers eat throughout a weekend?  Despite three masters degrees between us, we couldn’t figure it out.  So we just kept buying.  Large bags of meat balls.  12 cans of green beans.  5 carbon tubes of parmesan.  Beer.  More beer and liquor.  And a case of wine.  It’s better to be starving than suddenly become thirsty. 

We were giddy and playful when we couldn’t fit our purchases in the trunk of Mike’s car. It’s fun to play Tetris with ski poles, overnight bags and the ingredients for ham sandwiches.  And after we failed to pack everything, I happily sat in my seat with a case of beer on my lap, clutching bags of snacks with my sweaty palms.

Yep.  This is actually what we bought for the weekend.

While on the road to Mammoth you may discover that you’re thirsty, perhaps for a bottle of beer that’s warming in the case stuck on your lap.  The problem with smart people who are incapable of planning is that they tend not to remember beer openers for the car. Ashley got desperate enough to attempt to open beer bottles with seat belts.  I considered smashing the bottles open against oncoming cars.  Finally Mike pulled over to a gas station where we could purchase an opener.  Inside the station, I saw a craft beer in the refrigerator case that caught my eye from Mammoth Brewing Company.  There were two styles – “Epic” and “Paranoid” ale.  I grabbed the Paranoid.  Mike found me at the cashier and said “wait a minute, this could be an omen for the weekend – you should really grab the Epic instead.”  Ashley and I popped open the Epic beers in the car.  Mike’s hipster tunes circulated our vehicle.  His grins could be detected behind his wayfarers.

When people commit to spending a weekend with you then you can safely assume they like you.  That or they really think you are fun when you’re drunk.  Sometimes a friend and a drinking buddy are the same thing.  And long road trips up the coast solidify that bond.

The only IPA for an EPIC weekend.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The most delicious of miracles

There’s only one place to wash away your sins when you’ve abandoned your holier self. And that is Chipotle.  Never has one restaurant been more of a comfort to me in the bowels of the worst hangovers of my life.

It was there for me after my 22nd birthday.  That night three friends, a bouncer and a cabbie had to put me down while I was shouted at hot boys and waived my princess wand. Then there were uncomfortable levels of nausea in my friends’ converted one bedroom apartment and eventually the glorious sleep of a woman who should have been declared dead.  The only thing that motivated me to leave the couch the next day (besides relief from the putrid odor of vomit) was that there was a Chipotle down the street from my friends.

When you are dragging from the previous night of heavy drinking, entering Chipotle is like crawling back into the womb.  You know you’ve failed as an adult and it’s time to give up.  Grab a barbacoa burrito and hang your head in shame.  Don’t attempt to shower.  Don’t even put on pants.  Your mother’s womb and Chipotle serve the same purpose – to feed you at your most vulnerable.  And whether you are covered in glitter or embryonic fluid – you will be filled with love in your state of nakedness and disgrace.

I consumed too much rum and beer this past Friday.  Or maybe the rum and the beer consumed me.  And so I slept until well after most of the living world had finished their triathlon practice and  I drove myself to the walkable Chipotle.  I stared at the board of delicious choices and resigned myself to a 1,500 calorie solution to a 2,000 calorie mojito problem.  And I hid in a shady spot in an outdoor courtyard and consumed my tortilla of humiliation.  And ever so slowly, with forkfuls of chipotle lime rice – I felt like Lazarus.  I found my powers of speech, color returned to the landscape around me and my body could move in predictable ways.

That is to say – Chipotle is my Jesus.  As it has the power to raise the dead.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We're all really just beginning

I like to take beginner's yoga.  It might seem strange considering that I've been at this whole yoga thing for a little while.  Besides me, everyone in the class is new.  They're usually scared and confused.  They don't want to look stupid.  They're really afraid to fail.  The teacher takes things slowly and thoroughly explain each asana.  She is patient and never scolds.  Beginner's classes require a lot of acceptance - about yourself and where you're really at.  You're encouraged to take breaks when your body reminds you that you need them.  You're often encouraged to smile.

I like beginner's classes because it reminds me from where I started.  A girl who could barely touch her toes.  A girl who thought sanskrit was useless.  A girl whose chakras were pretty closed.  I'm always surprised when I stumble in beginner's class and my instinct is to chastise myself.  Haven't I been at this for five days a week for months?  Shouldn't I have mastered everything there is to learn about yoga's first steps?  But unfortunately even master guitar players stumble on a few chords.  And there will be tree poses that I won't hold.

In life there is always room for you in the beginner's class.  Circumstances may force you back to the starting block.  And that's not the time to panic.  Just start at the beginning with the basics.  Figure out if you need to be where you are currently living.  Decide if the relationships in your life are genuine.  Find a job that doesn't choke you.  Breathe.  Give up the need to control.

And one more thing - I highly suggest you try smiling.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The magic timer that lives inside of every man

I spent a good two years trying not to care anymore that my college boyfriend cheated on me and subsequently broke my heart.  The first six months post break up, I tried to ignore the feelings of utter despair and madness through drinking heavily and flinging myself at every available man roaming Lake Shore Drive.  I also buried myself in my grad student work.  This led to some low moments, such as falling drunk in a guy's bathroom and inadvertently peeing in his bath tub and high moments like kicking every single person's ass in class.  It was during this time that I kept telling myself that it was a great thing that College Boyfriend had run away with his student and I was now single and alone.  I even made a mental list of the positives in case reality sunk in on the train and I had nowhere to hide and cry.

  1. I didn't have to worry about the frequency of which I had to shave my legs 
  2. I would never have to hang out with his evil friend Charlton 
  3. I would never again be forced to go snowboarding
  4. I no longer had to admit I was dating a Republican
  5. I was free to revenge sex his old roommate (I never claimed to be a saint)

 But regardless of the clear and evident perks, I still spent every night wishing he would magically appear in my sleep and all of the sadness would evaporate.  Some nights he would call but nothing would ever materialize.  Every conversation led to one of us remembering why there was an end.  And then the calls became less frequent, my drunken escapades calmed down and I took an awesome job.  I used the one trump I have for getting over failed relationships - I moved to a state my ex didn't live in.  I started building my career, forming new friendships, figuring out what my hobbies looked like when they weren't shared with someone else.  I attempted running and knitting.  I spent far too much money at the mall.  And somewhere between expensive denim purchases and long car rides listening to Ben Folds, my attachment to that old relationship melted.  And I started to see myself as independent from the "we" that we used to have.

And one day, whilst living in HIS dream city of Boston I got a call from College Boyfriend.  He was coming in town on a business trip.  He asked if he could see me for dinner.  I think I gave him all of 4 minutes to talk to me on the phone.  I had friends to see that weekend.  I didn't have time for him.  But the plans with friends fell through and I thought, what the fuck might as well see him.  I knew the heart strings he once monopolized could no longer be pulled.  And we spent all evening out in the city together.  We went from cocktail bar to wine bar, to late night hot dogs in the South End.  And at the end of the night he stayed over.  Sleeping on the cold side of my bed while I was curled up on the other side and refused to touch him.  I was finally immune to his charms.

That was the last time that I ever saw him.  And in two short years times had really changed.  I went from a needy girl who missed him to a woman who didn't think he deserved the time of day.  And yes - to answer your next question he kept calling.  And I stopped answering.

There is a magical device that lets men know to the second the day that you no longer care about him.  This also marks day one of when he typically decides to come back into your life.   Women also have a timer - it's the day that they give up on you and decide to move on and live their dream life.  And if you're lucky, really lucky - you may make it before the buzzer goes off and find some space still in her heart that she's willing to share.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life's little checklists

I'm not sure who was watching and who was taking score, but for a significant portion of my life I wanted to impress the judges.  I wanted to hit those major life milestones by all of the appropriate ages.  I wanted to hit my career stride by 25.  I wanted to live in New York and have a nice rent controlled apartment.   I wanted a boyfriend with a serious financial type job.  I wanted to like jazz and get invited to exclusive parties.  I've always been a good student.  And in life, I don't like turning in incomplete assignments.

But this year I've realized that none of the deadlines that I've imposed on my life are real.  Where I'm at is pretty much where I'm going to be and since I don't want to measure myself against the usual statistics I'm trying to figure out a new way to measure my growth. 

There are things I've done this year that are probably pretty impressive professionally.  And things that I've done this year that are disappointing personally.  And when I look at the changes that I've made in my life I can't help but remember that I used to fucking hate mustard.  Mustard was the enemy.  It appeared everywhere on all of my favorite foods, even when I didn't ask for it.  There is a pro-mustard agenda in this country.  There is only one brand of ketchup and literally thousands of mustard companies.  It is everywhere, infiltrating our picnics and our company barbecues. And one day they will figure out a way to preserve our dead bodies with it.  Just to spite me for a lifetime of hating the yellow goo the rest of you seem to fucking love.

But the universe has a sense of humor.  And one day this year I was at a nice beer bar with friends and ordered a plate of delicious sausage.  And it came with an accoutrement of mustards.  And I thought since I'm abandoning some old views of who I am I might as well go ahead and give the old bastard a try.  And I shit you not, it's delicious.  And I can't really explain why I hated it my whole life.

There have been so many changes in my life this year.  And there are areas where I continue to stumble.  And I'm not married and I don't have kids.  I don't live in New York and I'm not that cool.  But the fact that I've learned to like mustard after all of these years must mean something.  Because I think I'm starting to look at the world with fresh eyes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Anatomy of a friendship

I have a friend Matt who is both younger and smarter than me.  We met in high school. We weren’t supposed to be friends.   I was an ambitious future East Coaster and Matt liked to write plays.  I believed in the promise of a better life in Cambridge or New Haven.  Matt believed in the power of his words.  The only thing we shared was a love of debate.  At 16, in an inarticulate suburb of Chicago, that was reason enough to become friends.

It isn’t easy to be friends with Matt.  Mainly because if you really want to get a hold of him there is no reason to call.    He is someone who has managed to live his entire life without picking up the phone.  So I’ve recognized that if there’s anything important to discuss with him, its best done in person.  He’s the oldest young person that I know.
I often worry that I am a bad friend to Matt.  Bad because once when I visited him, I told him that he needed to grow up and realize that life is about money and staying one step ahead of your peers.  Matt was directing plays in North Carolina and taking care of prop pigeons on the side.  I was drowning in the weight of my ego in Boston, anchored to the idea of corporate success.

Sometimes I can be a good friend to Matt.  Like when he dated the vessel of a girl which contained a body but not a soul.  He relied on me for direct communication with her after the break up.  When delivering painful feedback, it’s best to send in a heartless East Coast representative.

Matt and I spend the majority of our time together arguing.  We always argue about the same thing.  I am cynical about everything.  He believes in the power of man.  When I visit Matt I show him the scars on my heart and ask him to examine them.  I want him to see what the world has done.  I want him to show him evidence that the game of thinking positively is a sham.  The problem is that when you’re around Matt the scars seem shallower, the wounds start to heal over and your evidence disappears.

It seems profoundly simple to say that I have someone in my life who believes in me.  And it seems crazy to suggest that having him in my life helps me become better at who I am.  But that’s the thing about friendships. They’re rarely measured by phone calls or birthdays.  But by the intent of the person sitting across from you when you’re there.