Monday, April 30, 2012

Gettin' Some-Why I Hate the Gym and Crave Adventure

Something funny has begun to happen to me.

I've never been the most physical of people.  I don't enjoy being out of breath and in pain, and I hate the gym with a passion.  When I go inside, I feel a part of me dying.  It's socially acceptable, institutionalized self-torture!  Like the terrible Greek myth of Sisyphus who is doomed to push a boulder up a hill over and over only to have it roll back down, people run and run and arrive at precisely nowhere, climb stairs that will never, ever end in a rooftop view, and endlessly push their arms and legs against a contraption that is not pumping a well or moving a stack of wood or doing anything at all.

And let's not even talk about the music.  Gym music makes me suicidal.  I know...listening to Nick Drake croon, "pink, pink, pink, pink moon" doesn't make you want to jump around.

I understand that people do it for their body, their health, and that it inexplicably makes them feel good after.  But you know me-I need meaning in everything.  If you want to move your arms, lift roofing materials onto your old neighbor's roof.  If you want to do squats, go help harvest lettuce at the local organic coop.  This is how I feel about exercise; it's great if it's a by-product of actually doing something.  

Super unpopular I know, as my views tend to be.

Well, I don't really know where this is coming from, but lately my desire to push myself mentally and physically has grown.  Quite a bit, actually.

Maybe it's rebellion against the idea of what a mom "should" be like.  Maybe I feel defiant about my age and the complacency that has crept in and made itself comfortable in my life.  I'm tired.  I don't want to be wet or dirty or uncomfortable.  I'm becoming less flexible, less tolerant, and I hate that.

I don't want to grow soft.  I don't want to "go gently into that good night".  I want to rage, rage, and maybe surf or skate into the dying of the light.

So I've been thinking; why don't I bomb hills with my kids?  Aside from a lot of skin surface and my front teeth, what do I have to lose?  Who said I can't?  And if not now, then when?

Suddenly I want to dangle from cliff faces, hike the entire Camino de Santiago de Compostela, jump out of moving things, and plow through heavy surf.  I want to feel the very edges of my physical and mental boundaries...I want to know their contours and textures intimately.

At dinner with friends the other night, I articulated this out loud for the first time and my best friend asked, "Why do you think you feel like that?"

"I don't know," I said,  "I just want to live.  Until there is no life left in me, I want to feel and I want to live."

Anyone else up for some adventure?


Monday, April 23, 2012


Dusty photo of Eiffel Tower, 2003

I don't remember anything else about that day.

Deranged by the time change, we probably overslept and then couldn't get a bite of breakfast in any of the old restaurants of the Pigalle. The sturdy husband-and-wife owners would have looked at us sharply and pointed to cold ham and buttered baguette sandwiches, unglamorously piled in plastic wrap on the counter.

If the husband pitied us, he would switch on his great, steaming beast of an espresso machine and bring us an au lait. A few men nursing tiny glasses of late morning wine at the counter would look at us curiously.

The chef was was not time to eat in Paris. Anyone would know that.

Using flash, film camera, 2003

This day, we probably took the wrong Metro stop again and ended up below the statue of Louis XV instead of above it. We would have hitched our bags up, rounded our shoulders against the climb, and walked in silence, me using the snowy domes and peaks of the Sacre Coeur to navigate.

Perhaps this was also the day I asked the hotel concierge, in perfect French for the first and last time in my life, where was the Opera Garnier, earning me the briefest warmth of an approving smile.

But perhaps this was also the day that I unfolded a shelf of clothes in a boutique and made the clerk grimace; the day a fat waiter told me I would be much more beautiful without my ugly wool hat.

From the window of my hotel, 2003

It was not a good trip in the way you would imagine it would be; two young women in Paris for their first time.

I had picked the wrong traveling companion and things had begun to unravel immediately. She spoke French but refused to.  Refused, in fact, to use a map, learn the name of the street our hotel was on, pick a restaurant, ask for water.

She sulked when, on our third visit to Fuxia for hand rolled pasta with goat cheese and pine nuts, it was me, not her, that the waiter kissed on both cheeks after an animated Frenglish discussion about eggplant vs. aubergine (he was, I think, surprised to find Americans had the capacity for such whimsy regarding the vegetable kingdom).

It could have been any one of these grim and beautiful November days in Paris that we left the Metro deep below street level and had to exit through one of those endless, white subway-tiled corridors. We were alone in the corridor, this being a work day in a working neighborhood. The fluorescent tube lights flickered blue against the white tile, reminding me of an igloo entrance.

Red bag, Eiffel Tower

My red bag was slung cross my body as usual, zipped and resting under my left arm. Somehow I felt the weight of one fingertip more added to my burden. I whirled and caught in my hand the skinny wrist of a very young, very beautiful boy who had the corner of my wallet in his hand.

"Bon!" he congratulated. "Very good, very good!" he praised me in English.

He dropped my wallet, bowed, and then this very young boy who had just been ready to rob me blind, turned my hand over, kissed it tenderly, and ran off. At the end of the tunnel his friend peeked out, laughing.

"Very good!" he yelled one last time, turning to wave. And then he disappeared.

It was not an act of aggression or violence. There was no malevolence. My little thief had, in fact, been the most French; the most charming and proper person I had met in Paris.

I no longer have that friend but I do have that bag, and there is still so much I don't understand about Paris.

Pardon me while I grapple with the fact that BLOGGER HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING OVERNIGHT... I was thinking about the idea of "once-ness" when I wrote this down. You know, those experiences that are so singular and so memorable.  They can't be planned or replicated.   I wrote about another "once" moment here.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Week in Which the Internet Becomes Reality

Heather shares her awesome eye of newt recipe with Bianca, Alex, and Jennie!

I nearly poked her in the face to make sure she was real.

But I didn't. I behaved *pretty* normally when I ran into one of my most long-term "internet relationships" at the thrift store the other day. I was looking down, trying to tame my outrageously overgrown Elvis pompadour with some spit and a prayer, when I heard my name. I turned to see her standing there next to the tie rack, adorable and uncertain. The chaos of the thrift store fell away and I approached as if in a dream. We held hands and spun around in a field somehow and then we braided each other's hair.

No, silly. We didn't do that! We chatted about Mexican blankets for a few minutes like normal thrift store ladies, and then said goodbye.

She was smaller and skinnier in real life, just like celebrities are. Joel McHale was on our flight to Kauai last week and he couldn't have been more than 120 pounds. Seriously, he was EMACIATED (and p.s. he totally initiated a conversation with my husband but I was like, hey this book I'm reading upside-down is way more interesting and I'm not even listening to you!)

This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the weekend, because on Saturday I was invited to a gathering of bloggers/small business owners, some of whom I've "known" for quite some time without ever meeting.

I drove with Erin and although we've never met in person, it was as if we were picking up the thread of a conversation that had just been briefly interrupted. I love, LOVE Erin's thoughtful, academic writing style and wish I could be as clear-thinking, direct, and simple in my approach to blogging as she is.

We parked down the street and downed a few shots from my hip flask of Bach Rescue Remedy (I'm just kidding, only I did this) which proved completely useless against my most special talent, social anxiety. I spent the rest of the evening willing myself NOT TO SAY ANYTHING SUPER INAPPROPRIATE, which must have worked because some of the ladies are still talking to me!

There are two major things I took away from the evening:

1) If you want to grow your blog or business or change anything about your life, make yourself uncomfortable and put yourself out there. Go take a class or host an event yourself. You can only go so far in life alone in a room with a computer screen. We are social creatures and we need the creative stimulation of others in order to move forward. Alone with our thoughts, we just get stuck!

2) Women are super heroes . Guys are ok for some things, but ladies are awesome. We get a bad rap for being "catty" or jealous or whatever (gee, I wonder who's responsible for that stereotype!), but in my experience we thrive on helping one another succeed and will even put aside our own interests to do this. The organizers, Alexis and Jules (who came and set up despite having food poisoning!), testify to this.

Attending this event reminded me of how starved I am for some good female energy in my "all-dude-all-the-time" life! So many generous women came up to me or contacted me via email later to discuss certain aspects of what I had said, give advice and feedback, or just be generally encouraging and supportive.

I felt the love, ladies. I felt the love, and I want you to feel it too. But not in a gross way.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The weekend is coming! The weekend is coming! Plus Room With a View recaps!

I'm so excited. I scored tickets to the stage version of E.M. Forster's A Room With a View tonight!

I'm going with my best cousin Jess, with whom I watched the movie version every weekend for about six straight years, at midnight, so we could swoon in private. And. I know it by heart. Which could be a problem if the actors don't.

Opening scene:

Lucy Honeychurch throws open the windows in her Italian pensione and pouts, "But I thought we were to have a view of the Arno!"

But she says it "AHHH-no" and is impossibly adorable. I want to be impossibly adorable. I am not British, so this is impossible.

Enter George, who is a crazy hunk.

And he plays with his food! But he's kind of crazy. The food question mark means he's really deep, which plays to my 13-year old presumption that handsome British guys dressed in all white who run amok on the lawns of great estates are deep (later proved wrong by experience).

Lucy plays Beethoven and gets all melodramatic on her piano, but mother doesn't like it when she plays that modern Beethoven, because it makes her "peevish".

Which is pretty funny to me at the time, because I PLAYED BEETHOVEN REAL LOUD AND GOT ALL MELODRAMATIC ON MY PIANO!! And my mom was like, could you please play something a little more....restful??!! Beethoven was the original rebel music!

Anyhow, Italy happens! And we know what that means: sexy time in lavender fields!

I don't know what makes you think this is my favorite part.

Later there's a fat, naked Mr. Beebe, which makes my mom think the movie is pornographic. Thus the watching at my cousin's house (where things are so lax they have sugar cereal, Barbie dolls, and cable!)

There's a skinny, gruesome Cecil, who is Lucy's "intended". He's gross and farts dust!

George tells Lucy that Cecil is "the sort who can't love anyone, least of all a woman".

And she's like, oh dude you just blew my mind!

So she conducts a little experiment and asks Cecil to kiss her. He obliges by banging his spectacles against her face and rubbing his waxed mustache on her, and thus Lucy knows George is right about him. Bad kisser, doesn't play with his food, never ran naked with Mr. Beebe. Sayonara sucka!

Lucy dumps Cecil. Cecil goes all cross-eyed, has a tuberculosis attack, and goes off to pin butterflies in the library.

No, I don't know where he goes because all I care about is Lucy is GOING TO GET WITH GEORGE!

The story has a pretty satisfactory resolution. No one dies, they end up in Italy, and their passionate necking is sanctioned by church and state, and thus my mom, for they are now man and wife.

I am free to observe their passionate wedded bliss. If only I could get Mr. Beebe out of my mind.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Superior Vintage

Get a load of this amazing dress and shoe combination on the right. I feel pretty certain that if this outfit were available today, it would be from some super-elite designer label (and maybe still not even made as well).

But just look at her, so cavalier about how great her dress is ("oh, this old fabulous thing with matching bespoke shoes?"), practically sitting in a fire pit roasting weenies with Bob, who is WEARING A FREAKING LINEN SUIT TO A WEENIE ROAST IN THE WOODS.

Bob is a dandy.

via retronaut

People like to talk about how fashion is now "available to the masses" with stores like Target. I guess cheap clothes can be a fun way to try out a trend, but I'm not sure "fashion" is the right word for single-use t-shirts that fall apart in the wash.

Given a choice, I'll take vintage every time.

I mean, everyday, mass-produced clothes were practically couture (compared to our "made by Chinese infants" stuff) and lasted forever. There was some expectation of craftsmanship and durability, you know?

I feel the same way about furniture. I might buy a West Elm lamp or a Target pillow (although I always, always wonder why afterwards), but if I want something to look substantial and be durable it's got to be at least 50 years old!

What about you? Are you a vintage hold-out?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Awkward Family Vacation Photos

Super dorky, I know. But at least give me some credit for not writing it in the sand and taking a picture.

Maybe it's a little tacky to post a bunch of family vacation photos in a public forum. It's like the 21st century version of serving your guests cocktail weenies and making them watch Super 8's of your trip to the Great Lakes, I guess. Actually, that sounds kind of fun. Cocktail weenies are totally underappreciated, I think.

The thing is, this is all I've got. It's what I've been doing and besides, when's the last time I had my digital photos printed? Never. At least this way, one day when I'm old (and that's super far away, just so you know) I can excavate this blog and show my grandchildren old family photos.

Waimea Canyon is at the southern end of Kauai, and called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii for obvious reasons. Like the real thing, you just can't imagine how awe-inspiring and vast it is unless you're there in person. The contrast of Kauai's famous red dirt and all the deep greens was stunning.

Do we look like the kind of family that just drives to the look-out point?? Why do I look like a body-builder??

Everywhere. The pigeons of Kauai.

We did a pretty strenuous hike up into the canyon, to a set of falls and pools.

Just FYI, 12-year olds do a lot of deep, pensive thinking. Pretty much all the time. At least when they're not busy eating, crying that "it's not fair" or being awkward.

This is the pool at the smallest upper falls.

At the ends of the Earth. See how hazy the background looks? It was actually a perfectly clear day, but they're so far away the mountains appear to be hazy.

I'm perfectly O.K. with you teetering on the edges of cliffs. I'm not even hyperventilating. I'm just out of breath. From the altitude.

This looks like some Mayan ruin, right? It's a natural formation, though. Some book I was reading said it looked like something vulgar, but I just didn't see it. Believe me, I tried.

So, another round of cocktail weenies? What have you been up to?



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