Keep Saying Yes

St. Patrick’s Day was epic this year, but not in the ways that it tends to be epic, at least in a college town. My housemates had invited people over for brunch, but many of them didn’t come, and so we found ourselves with a number of bottles of champagne, a gallon of orange juice, and a whole lot of leftover bacon and waffles on a 75 degree day in the middle of March. I sat on the porch and wrote letters. Chris took a conference call. Rachel played video games. The two of them spun poi while I sat on the sidewalk and took photos. We drank all of the champagne, texted Kat to come home, ended up in a cuddle pile on the couch with the dog and the cat. The next day, Chris emailed me to say:

Seriously, you’re amazing. I’m glad you’re in our lives, regardless of how short the waltz. Keep saying yes, yes, yes to drunken nights and beautiful people.

I’ve taken that to heart in the months since, and have been saying an emphatic yes as often as possible. This has included:

  • Yes to a movie on an impossibly hot day. And so I saw The Cabin in the Woods, which I would’ve never seen otherwise but really enjoyed – and had the occasion to go to the gorgeous Logan Theater for the first time in very good company. The same thing would happen later in the summer with Your Sister’s Sister (at the State with Shana and Javan) and The Hunger Games (at the Logan with Carrie).
  • Yes to seeing the jellyfish at the Shedd with Karina and her adorable cousin, who later listed ‘meeting Elizabeth’ among her favorite parts of her weekend in Chicago.
  • Yes to fancy lady sleepovers where we lounge around in vintage slips with martinis and ridiculous movies. These weekends at the Uptown Beach House were some of the highlights of the summer.
  • Yes to biking around the city to meet friends for cocktails – and hopefully much more of this to come now that Orange and I are back together.
  • Yes to going to shows. I don’t care who it is. And so I saw Café Tacvba with Karina and had a great time even though I speak basically no Spanish and even though someone dropped a beer on my head. And I saw Cameron McGill with Carl for the first time in ages, and experienced an intense – and intensely wonderful – flashback to 2005. And I went to Lollapalooza as Karen’s +1 and we wandered the grounds and saw some music but mostly just enjoyed the free drinks and the beautiful day.
  • Yes to borrowing books and long bike rides and neighborhood walks and free ice cream from sympathetic vendors.
  • Yes to nights out when my bad mood made me inclined to stay in (thanks, Annette).
  • Yes to being Carl’s +1 for Leah’s wedding, which gave me the excuse to buy an exceptionally incredible dress.
  • Yes to last minute dinners in, to bánh mì sandwiches, to drinking my dinner around a table with random and exceptional people.
  • Yes to future travel: potentially Hawaii and Italy in the next year, as well as solo trip(s) to be determined. And to day trips on lazy rivers, and to visits with good friends.

So many amazing experiences in the last six months thanks to taking that advice. Chris Tom, I hope I’m making you proud.

The End of Broken Arm Summer

sea change
Photo by john curley, licensed under Creative Commons

“There will be a time, not so far from now, that you will look back on this phase of your life and instead of condemning it or beating up on it… Instead of blaming or guilting, you will feel appreciation for it, because you will understand that a renewed desire for life was born out of this time period that will bring you to physical heights that you could not have achieved without the contrast that gave birth to this desire.” — Abraham-Hicks

It’s been a hell of a summer. I know that summer didn’t really start til June 20, and that it won’t really end til September 22. For me, though, the change in the season happened on Memorial Day, when spring’s boundless potential started to shift in directions I didn’t and still don’t quite understand. I’m feeling like – or at least hoping – that Labor Day will bring calm to the waters I’ve been treading for the last three months.

2/3 Book Challenge: The Other Boleyn Girl

So I spent most of the summer in a cast, but just before that happened, I spent the day at the beach. Karen and I packed snacks and drinks and books and met up at Montrose Beach on one of the hottest damned days of the summer – 106 at 6pm, so I don’t want to think about how hot it was earlier in the day. We spent the afternoon alternating between soaking up sun on our beach towels with our books, sipping cheap-ass margaritas that were cold once upon a time – and running as fast as we could across the crowded, scorching beach to wade out into the lake as far as the teenaged lifeguards in rowboats would allow.

Kathy Osterman Beach
Photo by M.V. Jantzen, licensed under Creative Commons

I’m a new beach-goer. Last summer was the first time I really understood what you do at the beach – which is to say,nothing. You do nothing at the beach. A whole lot of nothing. If you’re anything like me, you’re not used to doing nothing – but that’s the subject of another, long overdue post.

Last summer, for the first time in my life, I got a sunburn on my butt from lying on the beach at Devil’s Lake. We laid there long enough that I read a thick issue of Vanity Fair cover-to-cover. I wore my vintage-esque strapless suit, occasionally ventured into the very clear water, and generally idled away a lovely afternoon. When we got to Madison the next day and I used a real shower, I was shocked to discover the red lines on my butt – and took them as an indication of how relaxed we’d gotten by the midpoint of our week-long vacation.

The beach and the associated burns were signature elements of my early summer – M and I getting burned at the Dunes, then again on an overcast day on a Chicago beach in May. Biking to Foster Beach to meet Carrie and Stef, the former avoiding sunburn despite her porcelain skin and aversion to sunscreen, while I burned stripes on my back because, oops, I forgot that I would be in the sun for an hour before getting to the beach and applying sunscreen. M and I falling asleep by the ocean in Imperial Beach and waking up with possibly the most absurd sunburns ever.

Beach

The sunburns went along with a fair amount of beach reading: Let the Great World Spin in Indiana, the bleakness providing a strange contrast to the exceptional beauty of the sand and the lake. Hemingway’s letters by the ocean, reading about him falling in and out of love with Agnes von Kurkowsky. Finishing Hack for my book club on the beach at 12th Street in the middle of a day of biking all over the city – brunch with Mike in University Village, east to the lake, north to dodge a storm, further north to Foster, south to Lincoln Park for iced tea and Lush, east to the beach after the storm broke, northwest to Wicker Park for drinks and gelato with Julie, then finally home, 36 miles later.

Summer Storm

I was reading The Other Boleyn Girl at Montrose the day I broke my arm, and finished it over the next few days full of hours spent in the emergency room (4) and assorted waiting rooms (2×3). I have to say – I’m pretty sure it is the perfect book to read in those circumstances. It’s trashy enough – a young married girl seduces a king! who is then seduced by her sister! who convinces him to leave his faithful wife and take on Rome in order to get her in bed! and then maybe seduces her brother because she can’t manage to give the king a male heir! – to pick up and put down between dips in the lake or shots in the arm or x-rays. It’s enthralling enough – lush descriptions of food and dancing and sex and the countryside, at least reasonably accurate English history – to keep the reader distracted from the fact that her arm is in traction and her summer plans have been derailed. And it’s thick enough, at 672 pages, to last through those interminable appointments, waiting for bad news but hoping for good.

In short: an excellent beach read. Maybe not an excellent read, but an excellent beach read, and just what the doctor ordered for my broken arm summer.

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

Around the Internets

First, proof that I did actually 1) bike to and from Logan Square in a skirt and heels and 2) lie down on the sidewalk to take a photo of the Logan Theatre marquee:

And second, some random places where my Flickr photos have turned up lately:

Good ol’ CC BY-NC-ND.

Vacation: A Prologue

Beyond the obvious getting away from it all, there were a couple of reasons we were eager to leave on vacation.

First, it’s been effing hot here.  Has it been hot where you are?  Do you have air conditioning?  If yes to the latter, I don’t want to hear about it.  We don’t have AC.  Rather: we have a portable AC unit that is only effective in cooling things situated directly in front of it.  While it does that, it heats the areas directly surrounding it, making it basically worse than useless, especially as its placement in the large front window means we can’t get a cross breeze in the one part of the house where that is possible.  We finally gave up on it on a day when Shane’s very scientific brewing thermometer registered indoor temperatures in excess of 85 in the evening while the AC was running.  So we have no AC.  Our windows are too narrow for even the AC units expressly built for narrow windows.  We have no ceiling fans, and our light fixtures don’t have the right wiring for contemporary ceiling fans.  We’re sweaty messes.

The day before we left for vacation, the temperatures topped 100.  My library was closed due to a cooling shutdown elsewhere on campus.  It was 95 in the apartment when we got home – too hot to cook, pack, or think.  We tried to go out to dinner.  Every place had a 30-60 minute wait.  We ended up at Whole Foods, followed by beers at Wolverine State Brewing.  By the time we left, we could breathe outside.  It’s remarkable how good 85 feels after a heat index of 115.

Vacation: A Prelude

The other reason? Art Fair. Neither art nor a fair, as the saying goes, Art Fair is a giant monster that takes over all of Ann Arbor in late July. 500,000 people. Lots of street closures. Impossible to drive anywhere downtown. Basically a total ridiculous mess. We had really hoped we’d miss it by leaving town, but no dice.

So suffice to say that we were delighted to be heading north, west, and south on the most epic road trip either of us have attempted. 10 days on the road. Two librarians who aren’t particularly good at relaxing. These Are Their Stories.

I can’t help it – I just can’t. Maybe it’s Elliott Smith, maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s just in the subtle changes at summer’s end – but this time of year gets me down. I have very very much to be excited about – a new apartment (I told my parents!), an encouraging job interview, lots of adventures coming up – but August means heartache for me, and I’m hoping that three times is the charm and that I’ll get by unscathed this year. The end of my marriage in ’03, the end of my relationship with S in ’04, what-the-heck-ever with C in ’05 – I’m ready for summer to end happily instead of with tears. I have a good feeling about ’06, though. I just do.

I’m so bad at talking about the things I read, which is why it’s a good thing I didn’t stick with lit for a career. Epileptic has been on my to-read list for a while, and I finally got around to it last night/today. It was quietly violent and a little gut-wrenching and mostly a good, intelligent, memorable read. I would’ve liked to have read it in the original language (French) – and am also looking forward to David B’s other work, if I can find it.

School starts in a couple of days, and I’m not sure I’m ready for it. This summer has been a really good one – really busy, lots of things going on, lots of friends around, lots of changes in other people’s lives but mostly an even keel for me. I feel like I need to spend the next four days seeing everyone and doing everything and being everywhere to make up for the lack of anything but school that will be the next four months – four classes plus 2/3rds time plus part time equals me turning into a zombie girl. This semester promises to be good and challenging in a number of ways, but I’m loathe to let go of the late nights on the dance floor, the lazy afternoons spent talking to friends in front of Aroma, the hot sun on my back while I swim laps at IMPE, the days when I come home from work with good intent but end up napping instead. It’s been a long time since I had such a genuinely all-around good summer, and I’m terrifically grateful.

helplessly sky high magic eye sugar rushing don’t stop

i’ve taken up loitering as a part time activity and have, consequently, had some good time reading, talking, writing letters, soaking up the summer sun. the last few days have been long long long and full of all manner of randomness, and i’ve been waking up sore from smiling. i have the entire day off, and i think i’m going to waste all of it with naps and coffee and reading and music and sunshine and (maybe, just maybe) a 40 on the porch tonight with friends.

for your listening pleasure: frou frou – must be dreaming

I think everyone on my block who has a porch is having a party. Well, except me. It has been another gorgeous spring weekend – and again, I have spent it in the kitchen at Aroma. In a moment I think I might open a bottle of wine and take a glass and a book out on the porch – that seems like a good way to spend the waning hours of another Saturday night in Champaign. Tomorrow my house will be full of people – tonight it’s just quiet, save the noise from my neighbors.

It’s come as a surprise to me that in my mid-twenties I am embracing all sorts of ridiculously girly things I would have laughed at five years ago. I have a drawer full of halter tops. I want drawers full of lingerie. And tonight I bought my very first pair of stilettos. They are red and open-toed and have a little buckle. They are wildly impractical and totally fabulous.

It feels like there’s a change coming in the wind. It feels like my life is changing again. It feels like I am changing again. I didn’t see this coming. Strange.