an aside

I’m on the east coast for a week – Charlottesville for work, then Harrisonburg, then DC. Hurricane Sandy blew the color off of the trees, but otherwise did very little where I am apart from lulling me to sleep with persistent rain last night.

And then, sometime in the middle of the night, between the storm breaking and the sun rising behind the clouds and the mist, I woke from a dream of my grandpa, a dream so vivid that when I woke from my dead sleep, it was with tears in my eyes and a sob caught in my throat. I don’t believe in ghosts, or in the interpretation of dreams, but this one was so real that I have tears in my eyes just remembering it.

I’m tired, drained of all enthusiasm, ready to hibernate for the winter, or at least until responsibility and obligation drag me out of my too comfortable bed in the sweet Airbnb space I’m renting. I wonder who will visit me in my sleep tonight.

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Last Weekend

A pretty good fortune after a really good lunch.

There are so many ways in which the life I have in Chicago is not the life that I imagined a year ago when a life in Chicago was still just the glimmer of an idea. There are lots of days that are hard, and lots of days that are lonely, and lots of days when I think about getting the hell out of here. But then there are weekends and weeks like this one, full of moments and events that were beyond the reach of my imagination a year ago – running a sub-2 hour half in my vinyl dress, riding my bike all over the city, drinks and dinner and brunch with so many new friends, impossibly happy late-night texts, dancing til 2 on a Thursday, crying like a baby at New Order – and then I stopped, realizing that I couldn’t possibly capture all of the ways and times I felt my heart swell over those few days.

If you’re reading this – if you’re a part of my life in any small way – thank you, thank you, thank you. For holding me through this last year. For loaning me your steam cleaner. For sending me real mail. For calling me out on my shit. For picking up the check, or letting me pick up the check. For longer walks than either of us expected. For the bourbon and the coffee. For over a thousand texts in under two months. For the yoga and the dancing and the bike maintenance and mentorship. For you, all of you, all of the time. My heart is so full, you guys.

2/3 Book Challenge: Let’s Bring Back

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I should have written this review much closer to finishing Let’s Bring Back – sometime in July – as I would have been able to share more delightful specifics. The book is a celebration of nostalgia, of the manners and customs of a better time.

One aspect of the book that I loved was the broad definition of ‘a better time’. In skimming the book together, Mom and I both found aspects of our childhoods – hers from the 50s, mine from the 80s. My grandma, born in 1918, could have done the same. There are remembrances of early 20th century cultural figures – and entries advocating for the return of naps. There are recipes for drinks, and bon mots such as the following list of quotes attributed to Edith Head:

  • “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”
  • “The cardinal sin is not being badly dressed, but wearing the right thing in the wrong place.”
  • “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”
  • “Clothes not only can make the woman; they can make her several different women.”
  • “I say sacrifice style any day for becomingness.”
It was thanks to this book that I knew exactly what a remarkable find I’d made when I found a pair of Elsa Schiaparelli stockings in a lot of six pairs for $12. And thanks to this book, I have yet another argument in support of my favorite color scheme: brown and pink and cream, the colors of Neapolitan ice cream: “Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate side by side: This combination of pink, white, and brown should be made into the flag of some languorous, pleasure-oriented country.”

 

A languorous, pleasure-oriented country. I like that. Let’s bring that back as well.

 

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

Photo by BlueVelvetVintage.com, licensed under Creative Commons

2/3 Book Challenge: How a Person Should Be

So if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, right? What nice things can I say about How a Person Should Be?

It was a quick read, and parts made me laugh out loud. My book club chose it because one of us had heard it was controversial, and while ‘controversial’ is a bit strong, it was definitely polarizing.

But beyond that? The New York Times reports that “the novel’s (occasional) action and (incessant) dialogue are largely, though not entirely, factual”, which makes me even more sad about the main characters’ miserable lives. Oh, and you should know that there’s a chapter called “Interlude for Fucking”, and it’s just that: eleven pages dedicated to the worship of the narrator/author’s lover’s cock.

Pretty terrible. I’m glad we decided not to discuss it.

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

2/3 Book Challenge: Bluets

I started Bluets on the train the other week, or at least that’s how I remember it. Where was I going that taking the train was the best option? I don’t know, but that’s when I tend to reach for the Kindle, as at home I have the luxury of carrying a book from room to room, leaving it in this stack or the other, picking up again and taking it into the bath, setting it down for the night after reading under the covers in my cool room.

But Bluets was on the Kindle, and so it was read in passing, a few sections on the train to wherever it was, then forty-five minutes on a misty commute to work, and finally on Amtrak headed home from Champaign, another weekend spent between home and home. And I finished it with a gasp for breath, hot tears in my eyes, as the Nicolas Jaar mix unfolded in my ears and the miles slipped by in the darkness.

I don’t know how to write about this book. I don’t even know where to begin. As I think about it, I keep coming back to the idea of a tone poem, a single extended meditation on a single theme – in this case, the idea of blue. Blue of lapis lazuli, of sadness, of pornography. A love affair with a color, an exploration of the sensation of perceiving color, of the experience of feeling, of the feeling of loss, of the loss of a love.

203. I remember, in the eighties, when crack first hit the scene, hearing all kinds of horror stories about how if you smoked it even once, the memory of its unbelievable high would live on in your system forever, and you would thus never again be able to be content without it. I have no idea if this is true, but I will admit that it scared me off the drug. n the years since, I have sometimes found myself wondering if the same principle applies in other realms-  if seeing a particularly astonishing shade of blue, for example, or letting a particularly potent person inside you, could alter you irrevocably  just to have seen or felt it. In which case, how does one know when, or how, to refuse? How to recover?

I don’t know how to express how deeply parts of this book resonated with me. I have pages and pages of highlights and bookmarks, of passages that caught my breath, that I will no doubt return to when my heart is aching and I need to remember that what I’m feeling isn’t unique in the world, that others have experienced and thought and felt these same things, and have moreover been able to put them into words more eloquent than anything I could hope to write.

193. I will admit, however, upon considering the matter further, that writing does do something to one’s memory – that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs  in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve. Perhaps that is why I am avoiding writing about too many specific blue things – I don’t want to displace my memories of them, nor embalm them, nor exalt them. In fact, I think I would like it best if my writing could empty me further of them, so that I might become a better vessel for new blue things.

I can’t promise you’ll like this book. I make no such offers. Perhaps you should start here first.

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

Friend Feature: Annette L. F.

Yesterday I had the extreme honor and privilege of escorting this bad ass across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon:

In her email a month ago, she said that asking me to run miles 18 through 25 was the runner’s equivalent of asking me to be her bridesmaid.

I took my responsibilities very seriously. I carefully prepared my outfit. I did my hair and makeup. I showed up at Ashland and Taylor and watched for her in the crowd. And I had a number of prepared and spontaneous speeches ready when her spirits flagged, some presented just as tearfully as a wedding toast might be.

As we approached the last 800km, the last 400km, I reminded her of how a year ago, she hadn’t finished any marathons, and that she was just minutes away from finishing her second. That this was far from the hardest thing she’s done this year, but that she was DOING IT. That she’d worked so hard to transform her body, but is working just as hard to transform herself, and to live her life, all of it. That I don’t know how I would have made it through the last year without her friendship and support.

And lots of other things, but with lots of expletives, and lots of yelling, and then we were past the point that they could pull me off the course, and the finish line was so close, and I yelled at her to give it everything she had left, and chased her to the finish line. She beat last year’s time by at least five minutes. But that is only one of many reasons why I’m incredibly proud of her, and incredibly proud to be her friend.

Times I Have Cried: A Midweek Report

1.
Sunday night around 6pm. 1-4 sizable tears barely contained as I turned the key in the ignition and turned my car toward home.

2.
Tuesday early evening on Pershing between the lake and MLK. Tears provoked by a day of exceptional honesty, but brought to fruition by yet another commute straight into the wind on pockmarked roads.

3.
Wednesday morning, 8am. For while one may repeatedly insist that all one wants is to be satisfied and happy, the truth is that one can often find oneself clinging to samsara with a vengeance. This is especially so when one starts to get the sense – however dim – that there might in fact be a way to unloose oneself from the wheel. And the last two minutes of this song in the mist as I walked through Washington Park in the rain.