Friday, April 29, 2011

may day, may day

Is April over yet?

I normally have mixed feelings about this, the month of my birth but this year my feelings about it aren't mixed; it can just get the hell on as far as I'm concerned. It rained ALL MONTH LONG this April. And it was cold, like wintery cold. It rained and then hailed and then rained some more. When we finally got over 60 degrees, people put their bikinis on in a desperate attempt to soak up some vitamin D. And the bad news this month came as steadily as the rain, leaving us barely a chance to catch our breath.

What's the word for when you think things are so bad that they must be about to get better but then they just get worse instead? I bet the Germans have a word for it. And that's what this April was. There were bright spots: my birthday was fun and some friends got engaged and there was the one sunny day after all. But I'm ready to turn this ship around; I'm ready for this Spring to become something other than that rainy Spring when I lost my friend.

Is that so much to ask?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

leaving so soon

I wrote for The Gloss today about leaving Argentina after the month I spent there. It'll be my final post on the subject for a while and I'm sorry not to have an excuse to relive the trip any longer. It was such a great way to begin what is shaping up to be a very trying year. It seems very long ago now that I was there, like a whole different era. This year appears fated to be a time of great happinesses and great sadness in my life, all condensced into one tumultuous period.

I'm reminded more than ever not to take it all for granted by the death of a dear friend, which I got news of this morning. I have much more to say about this woman whom I so adored and admired in a later post but today I will say only that I feel equally happy to have known her and sad to lose her. She did more in her too-short life than most people would would do with 300 years and was an inspiration to all who knew her. She inspired me and always will.

Monday, April 25, 2011

nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded

                                                                     that grass is totally greener

Every city has its buzz words; its little catch phrases that people repeat so often that they begin to have the sheen of fact. New York has plenty of these: fast-paced, pushy, aggressive. Seattle has equal and opposite buzzwords: laid-back, mellow and the favorite, passive-agressive.

People who've spent more of their adult lives here in my hometown than I have love to remind me of this one when I start rhapsodizing about living back here again, about what a nicer place it is to socialize and date. 'But people are so passive-agressive here,' they say. They are certain things must be better in New York just as New Yorkers are certain it must be better elsewhere, say Seattle or San Francisco or whatever their dream 'exit strategy' city is. 

When you live in a vibrant city (as both Seattle and New York are in their ways) it always seems like it should be easier to go an find something really fun to do with like-minded youngish people. And yet it seems elusive; every once in a while you will be having a blast somewhere and you'll think 'why can't it always be this way?'. This was no less true in New York despite the approximate jillion bars, nightclubs and other boites on offer. You were always moving on to the new and the next, only to find the same old, same old but with different decor. The same jaded party people just moved around the city from place to place like persnickety hermit crabs. I remember some wonderfully fun places in New York; but the good times never seemed to last. One week you'd go and it'd be great and the next it would just have inexplicably changed. 

Seems like everyone wants the same thing: a place somehow relaxed and exciting at the same time, someplace where half the people are new and the other half know you by name. Doesn't seem like it should be so hard, right?

So my real question is, where's the party at? 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

let the sunshine in

One thing I will say about the weather in Seattle (which has been particularly abysmal so far this Spring), when it does get nice for a few hours, we don't let it go to waste. Saturday was gloriously sunny and everyone was out and about and in good spirits. You know you're in Seattle when you see people in their bikinis when it's 65 degrees. I also got the happy news of more than on friend's engagement this weekend; it was like the universe knew I needed a little pick-me-up (since the weather and other peoples' engagements are totally about me).

My roommate and I hit Pike Place market for lunch and shopping and when we got back to our building we ran into the cool girl who'd shown us our apartment and the three of us went to meet up with her friend for some margaritas at our local. Her and her friend had been out salsa dancing for the first time the night before and oh my God, did we know about this? It was so much fun! Listening to them reminded me of when I'd first started in New York and how it saved me from the massive funk I was in: lonely in a new city with no friends. And in truth it's saving me now; it's the one place I know I can go to feel better, where I will see friends and have fun and laugh but not have to talk too much. I think everyone needs a place like this; whether it's the beach or the bookstore or the dance floor, we all need a sanctuary.

Where is yours?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

keep calm, carry on

Readers, this was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. It started off bad on Monday and went slowly, excruciatingly downhill from there. Today started off with an alarming phone call, continued on with some sad news around noon and then just became a comedy of errors. My water bottle leaked in my purse and soaked everything including the book I'm reading (at least it wasn't my Kindle), I got lost becaue I was spacing out and then I forgot to bring socks to the gym AND my iPod was dead. So I worked out with no socks and no music; bored with sweaty feet is just not how I like to roll in the gym.

I gotta turn this ship around.

So as much as I kind of want to stay on my couch eating frozen pizza and watching a Golden Girls marathon this weekend (there's always one on somewhere), I'm gonna rally and take advantage of the balmy 61 degrees predicted for this weekend (I'm serious, we haven't broken 60 since 2010) and do something awesome instead.

Happy weekend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

break on through

                                                                     may I have this dance?

I had my second lesson with my new favorite tormentor/ dance instructor V tonight. Fortunately it was not quite as traumatizing as last time and I did have the benefit of knowing what I was in for.

I spent most the day after my first lesson pouting about it; dancing had been the one thing that could help me relax lately and now I was stressing about it. Ugh!

I went out to dance that next night and found I was as nervous as a beginner when I hit the floor. What if I had secretly sucked at dancing all this time and it was obvious to everyone but me!? I was overwhelmed by a sudden and unfamiliar self-conciousness. I tried my best to snap out of it and remember some of the things V told me about hand-holds and shoulder and rib movement, about how relaxed my arm should be (I tend to strong-arm my partner a bit, read into that what you will).

And what do you know? I danced really well, much better than I've danced in a long time. After one lesson! But this is what good teachers do: first they break you down and you resent them for it, then once you get a taste of how much better you could be if you listen to them and you find yourself instantaneously devoted to their methods. I know from all the years of blood, sweat and tears I've spent trying to improve my tennis and my writing that in order to have a breakthrough, you have to be broken first. If you want to be really good at something you have to get ready to dismantle yourself and rebuild; to take an honest look at where you are and find a path to where you want to be. It's not so easy to find people who can really teach you something once you're grown up and jaded. You have to both respect them enough to let them break you down and then trust them enough to build you back up, to not just leave you broken.

When was the last time you got schooled?

long lost

My column for The Gloss today was all about reconnecting with long lost loved ones and this morning The Today Show featured a heart-warming story about two women who reconnected after many years of silence when someone mistakenly received a way-laid postcard the one meant to sent to the other. All the ladies involved cried and made Matt Lauer uncomfortable.

Since I moved back to Seattle last year after a ten year absence, I've become familiar with the strangeness and wonder of the reconnect. Sometimes the bond is still as strong as it ever was and sometimes it's all but dissolved. And yet even in those latter cases, the dynamic doesn't seem to change much. It's remarkable how much seeing someone you knew way back when can make you feel like a teenager again, for better or worse. Sometimes it's just worth the catharsis to reunite with someone even if you don't stay in touch; it's easy to let go of whatever animosity you've been holding on to once you see are both sitting there, fully-grown and moved on, even the most epic grudge feels ridiculous.

So yes, a cup of a tea and a spell of reminiscence can be good for the soul, but when should you leave well enough alone? I'm always reading about people who find old flames on Facebook and leave their spouses, is this really a thing? Surely sometimes looking in the rearview is a very bad idea.

When should the past just stay in the past?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

light reading

I finally got around to moving my books from my parents' house to my new apartment this weekend. This is always a daunting task; books are heavy and bulky and it's difficult to choose which ones to keep and which ones can be left behind. I decided to only take the ones that were important. Which turned out to be most of them.

One of the upsides of having moved so many times is that I've had to trim my possessions over and over again so the books I've been shlepping around for years on end now to a variety of apartments compose a pretty invaluable collection. I wonder if I will amass many more now that I have turned over to the dark side of electronic books. As I organized my books I had the sense that I'd forgotten some, where was my copy of Lulu in Marakesh for instance or the third volume in my friend Lucy Silag's series? I realized suddenly that they were absent because I'd read them on my Kindle so they were conveniently stored there instead: weightlessly, soullessly filed away on the little device. No one will ever see them on my bookshelf and ask about them. I love looking at someone's bookshelf, this view into who they are alone (or who they'd like you to think they are alone); asking to look through someone's Kindle would just seem creepy.

As I lined up my Truman Capotes, I noticed something sticking out of my paperback copy of Other Voices, Other Rooms. It was a blurry polaroid taken outside of Bowery Bar, one of my old haunts in New York: one anachronism tucked inside another. I've never owned a Polaroid camera so I know I didn't take this picture, and I wish I could remember the story of how it got there. I put the photo back in the book and placed it on the shelf feeling a twinge of sadness.

I miss the old days; even the ones I can't quite remember. Maybe I miss those most of all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

please don't stop the music

                                                                                   I probably just need this outfit, a watermelon

Until last night, I had been laboring under the impression that I was a pretty decent salsa dancer. After all, all my (non-dancer) friends all seem pretty impressed. I know where the beat is, I know the steps and can do many spins in a row.
Turns out none of that makes me any good.  
According to my new instructor everything from my feet to my fingertips and all that goes on in between is wrong, wrong, wrong. The words ‘stiff’ and ‘dead’ were bandied about more than once. Ouch.
But this is what I came for after all. At some point I noticed that all of the best dancers in town seemed to be coming by way of this one particular studio, so when I wanted to step up my game this is where I went for lessons. Is it painful to learn you are in fact crap at something you thought you could do pretty well? Yes. But it’s also the only way to get better and I know this from all the years I’ve spent working on tennis and on writing; the years spent breaking down and building back up the various fundamentals of these things.
It’s uncomfortable to have someone blow your illusions about yourself away. You’d almost think I’d be impervious to this by now after trying to get published but the truth is, it’s always painful if the thing in question matters to you. And anything worth having is on the other side of this process.
‘Did you have fun?’ my instructor asked after the lesson. I didn’t know what to say to that so I just nodded dumbly (a common theme throughout the hour). I like hard work and I like getting better and I REALLY like being good at something, but the actual moment when you realize how much far you really have to go? If that were fun, everyone would do it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

better late than never

Here are some things I need to do next week: make a dentist appointment, file my tax return, learn how to use my new publicity software program and resume searching for an agent.

These are going to involve respectively: pain, humiliation, frustration, the forking over of hard-earned cash (welcome to freelancing!) and good old-fashioned existential angst. These things all become bigger and more frightening the longer I put them off. I am a slave to deadlines, I won't miss them but I will absolutely put things off if there is enough time to do so.

I took a break from agent hunting after a slew of dispiriting rejections that culminated with one in which a big agent told me I had a good voice and was talented but that it was just too hard to sell anything in women's fiction right now if it didn't have a magical or supernatural element. After I briefly considered turning one of the main characters into a warlock, I knew it was time to take a little breather. As for taxes and the dentist, no explanation of why I fear these is probably necessary but it's occurred to me that H & R Block employees and dental hygienists have both perfected that look and tone of voice that conveys in a mere instant 'of all the people who come in here, you are by far the most disappointing. You are hardly even worthy of teeth/ 10-99s'. As for the publicity software, I consider it a great irony that one of my new gigs is technical writing as I would rather read the Koran backwards than read an instruction manual. I have a deep fear both the boredom and frustration contained in that tiny type.

What do you put off until the last minute?

Monday, April 4, 2011

one more year

Readers, it is my birthday today.

Oh fifth of April, every year you come around and trouble me so. Sometimes you're a blast, sometimes a disaster but I'm always anxious as you approach. But not this year! This year I will NOT be a freak about my birthday; I will not be unaccountably mopey or focus on the one person who forgot instead of the many people who remembered. Nope. I will spend the day in mature self-reflection and have a reasonable number of adult beverages to mark the occasion.

Some people love their birthdays unequivocally and I envy them; I wish I could just get into celebrating myself without all the concurrent melancholy. I don't know why I react to birthdays the way I do; it's not really even about getting older since I've had these mysterious birthday blues ever since I can remember. Maybe it's just the weight of counting the years of one's life, the feeling of taking a sideways look at time and wondering how it's all going by so fast. And you can't help but assess the state of your personal life on your birthday: who you spend it with--both who is there and who is missing is painfully obvious on this day.

This year I'm looking at it a little differently. This is the last year of my twenties and I am going to make sure it's a good one. There's nothing like a deadline to make you seize the day and that's what I'm counting on.

How do you feel about birthdays?