Butterflies on the River Road

Many posts forthcoming, but for now, an image from my recent vacation:

Butterflies on the River Road

On the last morning in Grafton, I dragged my ass off the couch early to get in a quick run before driving back to Chicago. As I started down the Great River Road, I noticed a number of butterflies on the road. After spotting five or six, I stopped to investigate. The butterfly angrily – and somewhat futilely – batted its wings about on the ground, and I left it alone, continuing on my way.

My best theory is that the dozens of butterflies were drying their wings on the road that morning – it had rained heavily on and off throughout the weekend – but whatever the reason, it added a bit of magic to the hazy morning.

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Friend Feature: Carl L.

A lot of aspects of my life changed or began to change in early 2005. I left my clinic job, where I shared an office the size of my current office’s closet, to start grad school and a job I loved from the first day. I was beginning to come to terms with the end of a relationship that destroyed me, and to understand that being alone might be the state of things for a long time. I was working too much and sleeping too little – but that had been the case for a while. I felt – then as now – that my life was unfolding with possibility.

I met Carl sometime in late 2004 – I don’t know exactly when, and you’ll forgive me for that, as that was a time when I was working for up to six weeks with no time off, when I was sleeping little and eating less, when – as now – life was moving at a dizzying pace, and all I wanted was time to sit down and be still, just for a bit. I remember seeing him at the laundromat and crushing a little on him for his big book and long hair and stack of black t-shirts. We talked about The Dark Tower across the counter at the coffeeshop where I worked, or on the back patio while he smoked and I swept.

A few days before my 25th birthday, I was at the Monkey with friends, having closed the coffeeshop with Bailey’s in our coffee, followed by drinks at Jupiter. Carl was there with a friend, and we got to talking, and I mentioned my 25×25 list. He asked first about a pencilled-in item related to the devastating break-up, then asked about #12: have a memorable first kiss (or just a memorable kiss, period).

“Have you had a memorable first kiss?”

“No.”

“Could I be your memorable first kiss?”

“Yes.”

Two days later, he took me out on the eve of my birthday. We had dinner at Crane Alley, went back to my house, and sat in the Papasan chair and talked and laughed until we were both motion sick. My best first date ever.

There were other dates after that, but we quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be a thing, and instead settled into a close and intimate friendship that has remained close and intimate for years, even though we’ve gone long periods without speaking or seeing each other. He’s been a non-negotiable in my life through a lot of stuff, and I’m tremendously thankful for that. I’ve never been able to really explain our friendship, nor who we are or have been to each other, except that when we’re together, it is as he wrote years ago, that “We have a world that runs parallel to the regular existence, one we have to jump just a little to the side to inhabit.  I can always tell that that’s true because no one ever quite shares laughter with us.”

Happy birthday, love. One of these years maybe there will be a better picture of us than these.

hands

e + carl

Elizabeth and Carl at Merry Ann's Diner

Essential friend data:
Met: Aroma? Probably?
Years known: 7-8

Friend Feature: Chris M.

So hey, it’s his birthday, so let’s all celebrate Chris! Happy birthday, Chris!

Here’s Chris being awesome!

Also here!

Are you getting the idea? Chris is awesome. And the world knows it. But even better? His wife and kid know it. Colin might not know it, though.

Untitled

I met Chris through his wife Angie, a classmate and friend at GSLIS. I can’t remember who invited whom to a thing first, but I know that they were at a party that I threw in the spring of 2005, and that by that fall, we were moving in the same tightly-knit social circles. Over the years, I’ve been consistently impressed by the ways that Chris and Angie work together so that they can, in many ways, have it all. Which isn’t to say that they’re perfect people or have a perfect relationship – but that over the years, they have done a pretty damned good job of figuring out how to love and support each other in being the (very different kinds of) rockstars that they are.

Chris and I had a conversation about Champaign last summer – how good it was, how it was good fit for both of us, how we both miss it. My nostalgia for that time in my life is wrapped up in so many things, and I felt that he put the same feeling very well – that it’s helpful to remember that those were good years, and would have been good years wherever we were – that very little of it is particular to the place, which to some extent alleviates the feelings of homesickness for a home that no longer exists.

Essential friend data:
Met: at a party at my house through his wife and my friend Angie
Years known: ~7

The Return of the Friend Feature: Loretta G.

This NPR piece on Facebook and the ephemeral nature of online “friendships” has me motivated to resuscitate a project I started in early 2011. Inspired by my friend Loretta, and in an attempt to validate the friendships I was trying to foster online, I wrote a series of posts detailing my relationships with each of my Facebook friends. Or, rather, with two dozen of them.

Since the introduction of Timeline, the Notes app seems to be at least somewhat deprecated (can something be somewhat deprecated?). At best, previous notes are hard to find. At worst, they’re basically invisible. So instead of further shackling my content and my relationships to Facebook, I’ll be resuming the series here.

And, since she was the inspiration, I will start with Loretta.

Loretta is awesome. In fact, here is a video of Loretta being awesome:

I met Loretta when we were both PhD students at GSLIS and both ended up in Leigh Estabrook’s Preparing Future Faculty class. While I didn’t go on to become a faculty member, I took a tremendous about away from the course, especially the importance of keeping your personal stuff personal, and your professional stuff professional. I mention this because I think it’s a lesson more people could learn – and also because it is, in a roundabout way, something I really admire about Loretta.

I know she doesn’t always feel like it, but Loretta is a tremendous role model for those of us who aspire to have it all. She’s fiercely intelligent and passionate about her work. She’s articulate and funny, and along with her similarly intelligent and passionate husband is raising two daughters are also intelligent, articulate and funny. Oh, and she also used to be in a band.

I regret that I didn’t have more time with Loretta at GSLIS – that I didn’t meet her earlier, and that I left before we had much time to hang out. She and her family came to a party at my house once, and her girls – who couldn’t have been much more than three – were especially vigilant at keeping Basil inside despite his best attempts to escape. Loretta, if you’re reading this, I still have your Tupperware. From 2007. I promise I’ve washed it.

Essential friend data:
Met: LIS490TP at GSLIS
Years known: ~5

2/3 Book Challenge: The Wild Palms (If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem)

I’m not sure where to begin when talking about The Wild Palms. Perhaps by clarifying that The Wild Palms is the publisher’s chosen name for If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, Faulkner’s preferred title, and that it is also one of two intertwined stories in the book published under that title. A friend insisted that I read it, that it would probably become my new favorite book, but that I also might want to throw it against a wall when I finished. As usual, he was annoyingly right.

The Wild Palms was my first Faulkner, despite my degree in English and my two Southern-born-and-educated advisers and my proclivity for mid-century male authors (see also: Hemingway, Durrell, Greene). As an educated and enlightened woman in this day and age, I know that I should have strong feelings about the rampant (perceived or actual) misogyny in the works of these authors. I know. Let’s just set that aside for now because you know what? I don’t want to hear it. This isn’t about what I should think or feel. It is about what I am or did or do think or feel.

And that was completely devastated. I started the book on a rainy Friday night when Rachel and I wanted to be alone together, her at one end of the living room with video games and the dog, me curled up with my book and a glass of wine and the cool breeze. I was leaving Ann Arbor in four days, and my copy was checked out from the library, adding an extra urgency to the read. I went to bed early, woke early, and finished the first 70 pages by 7am, turning back into my pillow for a good, wrenching cry.

“It doesn’t die; you’re the one that dies. It’s like the ocean: if you’re no good, if you begin to make a bad smell in it, it just spews you up somewhere to die. You die anyway, but I had rather drown in the ocean than be urped up onto a strip of dead beach and be dried away by the sun into a little foul smear with no name to it, just This Was for an epitaph.”

I had things I needed to do – it was my last weekend in town – but I spent part of Saturday morning walking around in a daze, the mood heightened by the fine mist and the fact that I forgot my wallet at home, thus preventing me from buying coffee until far too late in the day for me to be actually functional. I felt like that U2 song whose video provided one of my earliest impressions of alternative music and memories of MTV from a summer visit to my grandparents, when I would sneak downstairs while they napped to watch cable in Grandpa’s huge naugahyde chair. The hugeness of the chair and the significance of the video have both diminished over time, as will, I suspect, the memory of the numbness of that morning, though there have been other mornings like it that have stuck with me for years and years.

“It’s what we have come to work for, got into the habit of working for before we knew it, almost waited too late before we found it out.”

In the titular story, a couple turns their back on all of the things society tells us to value – children, careers, friends, stability – for love, for love only, for love always.

“Listen: it’s got to be all honeymoon, always. Either heaven, or hell: no comfortable safe peaceful purgatory between for you and me to wait in until good behavior or forbearance or shame or repentance overtakes us.”

Do I even need to tell you that there can’t possibly be a happy ending? “That story ends very badly for all involved, you know.” “Don’t all the good ones?” And then there’s this, where I am right now, drinking bourbon in the back room of my new apartment in Pilsen, listening to the whistle of trains in the distance, scanning for the moon against the night sky.

“You must do it in solitude and you can bear just so much solitude and stil live, like electricity. And for this one or two seconds you will be absolutely alone: not before you were and not after you are not, because you are never alone then; in either case, you are secure and companioned in a myriad and inextricable anonymity: in the one, dust from dust; in the other, seething worms to seething worms.”

The theorists would tell me that there is no meaning outside the text. The theorists would tell me that my reading is contextually bound. Most of the time I feel like the theorists are full of shit, but this one time, I’ll buy it. I’ll buy it because this story resonated with me in ways I didn’t anticipate. Because I recognized myself, my experience, my fears and desires in both the normalcy the couple fled, and the recklessness with which they embraced the impossible. Because I was thankful for the (slight) reprieve offered by Old Man, the story told in alternating chapters – of a convict facing similarly inexorable though completely different circumstances, choices, and actions. Because I was thankful to finish the book on a flight back from DC, surrounded on all sides by people, unable to completely lose my shit as I would have otherwise. Because I was thankful to finish the book at the end of the flight and on the eve of two extremely long, extremely draining days when I wouldn’t have time to read anything else, allowing the book to rest in my mind and on my heart in the same way that you might savor the first taste of something amazing, in the way that a first (or last) kiss lingers on your lips long after the physical sensation has passed into memory.

Because if memory exists outside of the flesh it wont be memory because it wont know what it remembers so when she became not then half of memory became not and if I become not then all of remembering will cease to be. – Yes he thought Between grief and nothing I will take grief.”

This is the fourth of at least 15 books that I plan to read in the next year for my friend Mark’s 2/3 Challenge.