Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tiny Town. Big League.

I posted something on Facebook the other day, mostly an observation and reflection on love and how tiny stolen moments are a great breath at a time when it feels like the world is suffocating from bad decisions. People commented back, as they do on the interwebs: an old friend sent a kind note over messenger; I got some nice text messages. It made me want to write for the first time in a long while. And so, here we are.
In a way, I suppose the timing feels right, it being the New Year and all. Because it’s the time of the year when lots of people are reflecting on hope and love, and the importance of not losing sight of who we are and what we all want out of life. Everything feels so fresh and possible at the start - new beginnings. Resolutions. All those visionary statements about who you’re going to be or what you’re going to do – or not – in the coming year: This year I’m giving up gluten! (Uh-huh). I’m finally going to take that basket-weaving class I’ve been meaning to! (Mmmkay). I’m getting up early every day to go to the gym! (*thumbs up* buddy).

This year, I am resolving to do almost none of that. And mostly because I’m pretty sure I learned everything I need to know about how to get through the coming year on day one of 2017.

I kicked off the new year in a tiny little town in the far north of California we’re going to call “Pinevale”(names in this story have been changed to protect the sanctity of this magical place from terrible bay area dwellers like you – YES, YOU - and your sinister hipster ways). So, Pinevale. Population: 1,300. Or 1,303 if you count the three of us who settled in there for the last weekend of December.

As quaint quiet country towns go, Pinevale is a damned prize. It’s on the right of the Pacific and left of the middle of nowhere, tucked away into a majestic little a nook of dairy farms and pasture land at the edge of where giant redwoods meet the sea. There are 3 restaurants and one main street - during the holidays the center of town is lit up by twinkling fairy lights and dotted up and down with Christmas trees, each decorated by a different elementary school class at the local school. The town has one bar. One proper dive bar that heaven help me may be the best hideaway in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting shitfaced. (Pouring one out here for you Starla, you glorious bartender goddess).

We ended up there by accident. By the time I started looking for New Year’s accommodations nearly everything from Mendocino up to the Oregon border north and west into Nevada was booked. Except…for unassuming tiny Pinevale. It was the perfect misfortune.  Rather than glitzing and glamouring it up, we opted for puzzles over drunken dancing; cozy dinners instead of mad house clubs. We decided against heading down to the big city to chase taxis after midnight and instead followed the Christmas lights down Main Street into the warmth of the local pub. It was freezing and raining, and I may never want to see another Bud Light again as long as I live but damn was it the right place to be.

Pinevale - it might be love.

So the fact that I had a great New Years is a side note. The real lesson here, and what I will circle back to, is that Pinevale left me with some takeaways, which I think are worth repeating now because, well, 2016 was rough. 2017 might be worse. Pinevale itself I think proves a point about the ebb and flow of real circumstances vs expectations, something I think a lot of us could probably use a refresher course on right about now.

I was thinking about all of this when I woke up on that first day of 2017. This sliver of a town that by all laws of economics and industrial change should have disappeared off a map half a century ago still stands, preserved in time and present in modernity all the same. Pinevale has managed to stay afloat through earthquakes and tsunamis; flash floods and economic decline; the fall of the forestry industry and the unexpected phoenix of weed as a legitimate money maker. It’s like the whole world came and went and Pinevale stood there nodding and taking note before shrugging its shoulders unremarkably and heading back to the dairies, the barns, and the pubs to just get on with life. And remarkably through it all, this weird rabbit hole of a place seems to have kept its true nature and its heart, beating steadily and reassuringly as the world changed drastically all around it.

But that’s life, right? As much as you plan and research, or envision your path (if you’re into that hippie woo woo stuff) your current life circumstances are the result of 60% accident, 30% purpose, and 10% crazy weird WTF miscellaneous luck. Pinevale rode out that formula and while it hit some pot holes along the way, it’s still here to tell the tale.  Pinevale made the decision to stick it out. As far as I’m concerned, that is what we’re all facing right now: Just a heap of decisions to be ok with and celebrate the life we have individually and collectively, or a choice to wallow in absence and the darkness of past wishes.

My unsolicited advice to everyone in 2017 is this: Be like Pinevale. Embrace the innumerable accidental life circumstances we may find ourselves in in the coming year, or at the very least figure out how to adapt to the uncertainty of certain change. Be like Pinevale. Stand in the tide and let the waves roll all around and over your head – they’ll recede eventually. Be like Pinevale. Let go of things and people in your life that drag you down instead of lifting you up – they probably aren't as important as you thought they were. Be like Pinevale. Fight for the things that matter and ignore the noise that doesn't. Be like Pinevale. Listen more to your inner voice/gut/garden gnome – that barometer usually knows what’s best even before you do. Be like Pinevale. Rock that camouflage and Carhartts because they're still not, and will never be, fashionable but do it because YOU DO YOU PINEVALE. And please continue to watch the evening news and whammy up that panic button because shit, kids, we may be in for a rough four years but in the long run, nothing is unfixable.

And if in the end it still feels hard, take my last piece of Pinevale advice:  Find a bar with a bartender who loves whisky but loves you more. (Starla, someday people will write songs about you).

Get ready, 2017. We're a comin' for you. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Get lost, boys

“What is wrong with us?,” my friend Henry asks as we sit waiting for our flight back to San Francisco. It’s 3:30pm the Sunday afternoon after Valentine’s Day and we’re both wrecked. Henry, Will and I have been in Nashville for the past 96 hours visiting our friends Michaela and Chris who’ve recently moved out there – Henry looks like he needs an 8 hour nap; the very thought of whisky is making my eyes want to roll into the back of my head; and Will is wandering around the terminal aimlessly with hedgehog-like hair, wearing giant red headphones. (“Don’t touch his ears!”)

Henry looks at me again with more of a statement than a question: “I mean seriously, why can’t we just go on vacation like normal human beings.”

I give him an “puh-lease” look and we both start laughing because let’s be honest, in spite of how haggard the three of us look and feel, our weekend in Nashville was hilarious, ridiculous, outrageous, and great. As the wheels go up and the plane curves home, I have a little moment of heart-swelling gratitude for my life and my people and everything in between.

This is 34. 

Or should I say, this is my 34. 

…Is it ok that this is my 34?

As a woman of a certain age (see above) I spend an inordinate amount of time pondering this, which is something I kind of refuse to apologize for or feel bad about. I’m a single woman in her mid-30s and quite frankly I think that gives me a little bit of wiggle room these days in the ‘btchs be crazy/sometimes I freak out about the future’ department. There’s a meme that’s been floating around the Internet lately that I think perfectly sums up my life right now: “I’m at that age where half my friends are getting engaged or having babies…and the other half are too drunk to find their phones.” Only in reality it’s more like a 3 to 4 ratio of married/settled to single/shut-the-f**k-up/pass-me-the-whisky. 

By the end of this year, 3 of my closest friends will have had their first babies. Another 5 are getting married. (Not to be eclipsed by the other 5 friends who got married last year – please refer to October’s blog post for more information). I am now down to 4 buddies (2 women and 2 dudes, the aforementioned Henry included) within a 60 square mile radius who are still single. What the f**k just happened. I feel like I bought a ticket to Hong Kong and woke up in Moscow without a kidney instead. 

As I mentioned in October, 2014 was probably the most ridiculous year I’ve ever had in terms of dating.  Anyone who lives in San Francisco or the Bay Area can tell you that dating around here…is like waking up in Moscow without a kidney. It’s confusing. And painful. And often requires copious amounts of vodka just to get through. There are plenty of theories about this, though the one I most often hear has to do with the idea that San Francisco has lulled itself into a culture of singleness by perpetuating a generation of Peter Pans and Lost Boys – guys who never grow up because wtf why would you ever do that? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the ‘ugh men in San Francisco’ conversation where my girlfriends and I point to real-life experiences dating tech geeks, potheads, burners, and bros whose one thread of commonality is their mutually shared ineptitude at being grown-ups.

But in a region where you can show up to work wearing a hoodie and flip-flops, where offices include ping-pong tables and kegerators, where there’s nary a weekend without some sort of corn-hole tournament or costume-themed shenanigans to be had outside in a sunny park, and where THOUSANDS of potential dating options are available to you with the swipe of a finger, can you really blame anyone for not wanting to pull up their big kid pants? There is zero question that this place is a magical Never Never Land. Have you seen the weather forecast this week for the East Coast? Or read any piece of news that has come out of the state of Florida…ever? It is Shangri-f**king-la out here every day of the week. As Anthony Bourdain once said, “anyone who comes to San Francisco and doesn’t have fun is dead to me.”

But what I’ve been thinking about in terms of my non-relationship status over the course of the last couple of weeks is that while it’s easy to blame this on the usual causalities of dating, or the bros before hoes hook-up mentality out here, this isn’t exactly fair. I’m not single because of tech geeks and bros. Or because dating in the Bay is really hard (though it certainly is). The thing is, guys my age might be in full-blown Peter Pan mode but let’s get real here for a minute: I am too. And so are lots of other women my age. Which when really you think about it, makes complete sense given the circumstances. Also, we all probably a lot look better in green tights anyway. AMIRITE, ladies?

What I’m saying is that Peter Pan syndrome is an equal-opportunity affliction and I’ve got it bad. Just like dozens of men I could point to, I’m pretty sure I’ve had a protracted case of anti-grownupism since roughly 2009. I’ve been in plenty of relationships since then, any one of which could have ended with an “I do” and a white picket fence. So while I agonize about being single a lot these days, I have to admit that I am the common denominator here. I’m single, in part, because there’s a piece of me that is hesitant to grow-up and let go of the freedom and flippancy that comes with being on my own. I LIKE taking trips and drinking whisky with my boys. I ENJOY eating burritos in my underwear and watching Star Trek reruns on my couch. I’m HAPPY spending a couple of nights a week with my bestie drinking wine and ordering takeout from Burma Superstar. These are all things I suspect I would not be doing if I was married and preparing any minute to squeeze out a kid.

I’m not sure I have a clear point in all this, other than to say that I think it’s time that some of us (I’m lookin’ at you, Demitz) owned up to our role in this charade, while simultaneously pausing to cut ourselves some goddamned slack in the process. I am my own worst critic, in spite of the fact that I know that most people have no idea what they’re doing with themselves most of the time. I’m not married or a parent yet because I’m not ready to be, and that’s ok.  I am curious and a little bit anxious to find out where this all leads, and I wonder sometimes if this is a taste of the rest of forever. Or more likely, just one of the weirder phases of my adult life.

Hard to know. If I do end up being Peter Pan for all of eternity, if all of my Lost Boys eventually decide to grow up and go home with Wendy. If I get stuck here with nothing more than a cranky ticking crocodile and a crotchety old hook-armed man for company, you know what? It’ll probably be just fine.

Because that sounds just like your average, amazing weekend in San Francisco to me. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Antpocalypse 2014

In ancient Greek mythology, there’s an unsavory character named Sisyphus, king of Ephra, whose constant, wily plotting for power eventually gets him condemned for crimes against the gods. For these grave infractions he is punished to an eternity of hard labor, which involves rolling a great boulder up a hill that can never – will never – quite reach the summit. Every time Sisyphus manages to huff, puff, and push the boulder up to the top, it simply pauses, teeters, and rolls back down the hill again. 

This is the embodiment of insanity. 

This is also how I feel every time I walk into my bathroom (kitchen/living space) between the months of November and February, as I watch thousands of little boulders infiltrate my apartment through microscopic cracks I cannot see but that I loathe all the same.

Welcome to Antpocalpyse 2014, ladies and gentleman. You can run. But you can’t hide. 

I live in a building that was built in 1922. Most of the time I like to think of her as a dear old lady you want to help with her groceries or hold the door open for. Sometimes her bones creak and her white, wispy hair gets a bit disheveled, but overall she’s tender and kind, and trying her best to keep her 16 unit family safe and snug inside her aging but lovely home. 

Then again, sometimes she’s a cranky, old demon whose sole mission is to dementedly scream ungodly profanities while she throws peanuts at you from her wheelchair and cackles like a crinkly little witch. 

We’re in one of those stages right now. 

Every year during this time, my building surrenders to a seemingly immortal colony of ants that apparently resides in the ground beneath my first floor apartment. Every day, thousands (millions?) of these ubiquitous little f**kers crawl up through the floors, through cracks in the windows. Up through the drains, the faucets, and the showerhead. Onward and away through the heating ducts and out through the radiators. In some places, I honestly think the gods of the underworld have simply willed them to appear out of thin air because why/how the hell else is there a swarming army of ants just hanging out in the middle of my living area for no earthly reason? 

Alas, apparently there IS a logical reason. One that has nothing to do with cranky old ladies or malevolent Greek gods. According to the interwebs (an internationally renowned and reputable source of useless information), Alameda County sits on one of California’s premier ant “super-colonies,” which means that at any given time, there are about 10 or 20 million ants just chillin’ in the ground beneath our feet. Grossed out yet? You’re welcome. 

When the weather gets yucky and the air grows cold, thousands upon thousands of these little guys march their way up to urbanity the seeking bigger and better opportunities. Evidently even ants are striving for the American dream. 

I have ant-proofed nearly every corner of my bathroom. There are traps lining the edges of my radiators and my windows. Cinnamon has been sprinkled in historic ant-highways to deter the advancement of future fronts all around my kitchen. I am single handedly keeping the orange oil industry alive trying to deter these prolific little jerks from advancing any further. And yet?

And yet, every time I seem to overcome them, every time I think I’ve reached the top of that mountain and finally conquered those squirrely minions, they return in earnest and with reinforcements. 

My breaking point came one morning last week as I was getting into the shower before work. (As a critical digression here, it is important to note that I have optical powers akin to a mole – when I wake up in the morning everything looks like a knock-off Monet painting. If you left me in the jungle at night without my contacts or glasses - which, true story, someone once threatened to do - I would be puma meat within the hour. Most importantly, I generally do not have any of these optical support mechanisms in or on my face before 8 o’clock in the morning).

So I step into the tub and immediately notice two things: 1) the shower walls and floor look kind of dirty and 2) there is a giant hairball up near the drain. 

Only, the dirt is moving. And so is that hairball. 

I believe that was the shriek of “MOTHERF**KER” heard round the world. 

As I discovered, once I had catapulted myself out of the shower and grabbed my glasses in one utterly ungraceful movement, the “dirt” in the shower was actually ants. Ants coming out of the drain. Ants coming out of the faucets. Ants coming in through the window and swarming up and down the walls, over the shampoo and the soap, happily blanketing every inch of the tub and tiles with swirling blots of moving brown.

And that “hairball”? Oh, that was a giant wolf spider about the size of my big toe who I presume had made his way into the tub because he was hungry and ants are a tasty treat.

Oh my god. Just. No.

Insanity is a girl in a towel, cursing up a storm, throwing cinnamon and orange oil everywhere, trying to vanquish 2,000 ants and the world’s biggest spider out of her bathroom just so she can get dressed and go to work. 

CLEARLY, I was all up in arms about this by the time I got into the office that morning, whining about the whole intolerable situation. Pissed off that I was going to have to go home that evening and likely face yet another wave of impervious ant – and now spider – enemies. 

And then my coworker Mara walks into my office:

Mara: “So the plumber finally figured out what’s up with the water that's been leaking through my ceiling and walls all month.” 

Me: “Oh yeah, what is it?”

Mara: “Poop. It’s poop. From the upstairs neighbor’s toilet.”

And that’s the story of how my ants and I lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Love. Actually, nevermind.

“Meagan! There you are. How wonderful. Come here, there’s someone I’d like you to meet,” are the words every single woman in her mid-30s dreads. Especially while at a wedding. And most especially at a wedding when those words are coming from the bride’s sixty-something year old dad.

I take a deep breath, put on my best parent-pleasing smile, and turn around to face the small group of people hovering near the cheese table. While I’m not entirely sure what is about to go down, I am certain it lies somewhere on the spectrum between probably not very good, and the absolute worst case scenario. As I prepare myself for the inevitable, I glance over at the person I imagine is the someone I’ve been beckoned over to meet:

Oh look. A human. Who is a man. What a surprise.

My friend’s father carries on, singularly focused on this matchmaking mission which is now making my stomach flip, and not in a good way:

“Meagan, I’m so glad you’re here…because I’ve been meaning to ask you…AND my [at least 47 year old] brother Bob here…why…neither one of you…is married?”

Yeah. So just to be clear? My friend’s dad has just tried to set me up with his brother. Aka, her uncle. I mean, I guess I’ve always wanted to be an auntie?

In total, I attended 5 weddings this year. Five. Five receptions. Five bizarre conversations with mostly total or near strangers needing to understand how...you’re here alone…? But you are dating someone, right? No? Y
ou're single? Oh, well, let me give you some advice. Or ask you more questions. Are you SURE you’re not married? How old are you? Haven’t you thought about kids? What about online dating? Or maybe just that guy over there by the punch? 

At a wedding in August, I was asked by drunk cousin Bertha “whhhhhhhyyyyyyYYYYYyyyyy” I wasn’t dating the groom’s 27 year-old brother, who at the time of this cross-eyed inquiry, was standing next to me with a look of ‘please let this be the end of this conversation’ plastered in terror across his face. The month before in July, an old lady I’ve never seen in my life told me I had ‘too beautiful a neck not to have a man’. Ummm, thanks, I guess? In October, it was the slurry short guy at the family wedding who noted that I was “real tall”…before launching into a diatribe about how ‘time is running out’ and I really should think about getting married. A week later, it was the friend-to-friend pep talk on how I should figure my shit out before my ovaries permanently go on strike. And finally we have Uncle Bob and what I like to think of as the formative basis for Father of the Bride Part III: The Most Awkward Family Affair EVER – Reasons Why Meagan Will Definitely Be Drunk At Your Wedding. (Touchstone Pictures, we can discuss royalties later). 

And yet, in the grand scheme of things, all of these utterly absurd wedding encounters were merely tame, laughable microcosms of my actual romantic life circa 2014.

This year has been a real doozey in the relationship/finding love/chivalry is definitely dead department. At some point along the line of my general existence, I apparently managed to deeply (and I mean DEEPLY) anger the gods of romance. In response, it seems they have chosen this past year - 2014 - to enact their sweet revenge and wreck continuous and utter havoc on my so-called love life. As we speak, somewhere out there in the universe, there is an army of vindictive little cupids flame-throwing arrows at my head and watching with delight as every romantic encounter I’ve had over the last 12 months spontaneously combusts upon impact. Over. And over. And over again.

First, it was the Match.com phase around January of this year, which included the weird surgeon who smelled creepily of antiseptic and parted his hair down the middle a la 1902. Then there was the super tall wine marketer who was so promising! Until he proceeded to talk for 25 minutes on our second date about why he exclusively drinks bottled water from Whole Foods. Because “other water tastes weird” out of the tap, through a Brita filter, and even when delivered in large water coolers. I can’t believe he wasn’t “the one.” 

February and March gave way to the “I’m going to have an open mind about men” period, whereby I agreed to go out with a bartender who works at my favorite bar in Oakland. The bartender who was also - wait for it - a musician in a band who was also - wait for it - a tax accountant during tax season. I thought things were going pretty well until he vanished two weeks before taxes were due, resurfacing just long enough to let me know by text that, and I quote: 

“It’s not you. It’s Uncle Sam.” 

Can I get a slow clap for the best worst break-up text in the history of texting? Thanks a lot, Uncle Sam. Not only are you an asshole, you're an asshole who just ruined my access to the best vodka martinis in town on Friday, Saturday and Monday nights. 

There were the 4 or 5 droning dates I went on through OKCupid in the late spring. A Canadian pharmacist. A painfully awkward software engineer. The Republican with the Lego helmet hair. Also the guy from the gym who while nice, was so socially and politically oblivious that talking to him filled me with debilitating levels of irrational rage. Also, he was a grown man living alone with a pet chinchilla. The end. 

But why stop there! In April I met a lovely man from the UK who I thought was the most normal human I had encountered in months, right? WRONG. After nearly 12 weeks of dating, it became clear that this dude had major, borderline very scary life issues that I quite frankly, had no desire to handle. Aside from the creepy drive-by he later did past my apartment on a motorcycle late one night (yes that happened), my favorite part of our break-up was the time he sent all the stuff I left at his house back via UPS. I’m still not entirely sure who “Megan Demilde” in apartment 102 is, but shit! We’re like the same size AND have the same set of beach towels? What a coincidence! Oh, and thank you for the extra women’s sun hat – that was definitely NOT mine but it should come in super handy during my trip to Mexico in December. 

Then wedding season started. Flirtations with an adorable best man at a wedding in July. Congratulations: He lives in England. The nice, but overly eager dude at the wedding in August who asked the bride what his odds were with me that weekend: “I mean, I don’t want to say zero but yeah. Somewhere close to zero.” The funny, handsome (god, so handsome) friend of a friend who – because the universe hates me – of course has a girlfriend. And then there’s Uncle Bob, the father of the bride, and their merry band of complicit crazies. 

The final straw came last week, when one of my coworkers tried to set me up with her friend’s son…who in a small world twist of fate, turned out to be my ex-boyfriend’s best friend. The discovery of this of course prompted a somewhat angsty email from my ex, which he sent me this past Sunday, aka on my 34th birthday. The best part? No mention of my birthday AT ALL. Why? Because he clearly didn’t remember. Thanks for that lovely metaphoric reminder of why we are no longer together. 

So, when people ask me that awful question, “why are you single?” that’s my explanation. Everything you just read. Because most humans are terrible. Because the Internet is full of creeptards. Because meeting people in real life who aren’t the worst is nearly impossible. Because life – like your grandma always said - isn’t always fair. Because sometimes you have to get set-up with your friend’s uncle or your ex's BFF to realize that as hard as it feels (a lot of the time) to be alone, there is a silver lining of unbeatable comedy to all of this. Which makes you realize that your life might actually be ok right now. Sometimes it’s borderline great, even if you don’t have a person. Or you simply get to the point where you can accept that for this moment at least, the most important person in your life is actually you. And you're some kind of wonderful. (Suck it, Uncle Sam).

Or, maybe the reason I'm single really is because there's some punk-ass winged cherub motherf**ker up there, looking down on my would-be relationships all up in flames, and doing a happy dance every time he scores a fiery hole-in-one through the ridiculous, disastrous rom-com that is my love life. 

So, if you’re listening, you little jerk, I CONCEDE. You WIN. I fold, give up, throw in the towel. I know when to take a hint. I officially give up on dating in the year of our Lord 2014. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have important single girl life things to take care of. Like washing my hair. Maybe (probably not) shaving my legs. Netflix binging on every episode of Gilmore Girls ever created. Right after I finish googling “cat adoption near you…”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Everything old is new again

Well, hello there…Newman. Fancy meeting you here. It’s been awhile, my fat little friend.

Without going into a tremendous amount of detail, let’s summarize briefly what’s been happening in the last 2 years or so since I vanished into self-induced blogger obscurity, presumably never to be heard from again:

I got a new job. I moved to Oakland. I traveled to England – Albania – Oregon – Ireland – Louisiana – New York – Las Vegas – South Africa although not necessarily in that order. I reignited my love affair with burritos. I continued my totally un-clandestine love affair with Jean Luc Picard. (Shh, don’t tell Commander Riker). I saw Patrick Stewart in a play. I learned how to paddleboard. I got a promotion. I had a run in with the CHP. I had two fillings replaced. I went to a Bone Thugs 'N' Harmony concert. I saw Lionel Richie. I landed a huge grant. I lost a huge grant. I made a quilt. I read Catch 22. I voted. I had approximately 4,268 transatlantic FaceTime calls with Claire Walsh. I attended my first Bay to Breakers race. I learned I like watching football. I learned I still hate baseball. I signed up for online dating. I went on countless dates. I ended up with a boyfriend. I broke up with said boyfriend. I online dated again. I went on countless dates. Again. I got dumped by Uncle Sam. I got into a fight with a bartender. I won. I made some bad decisions. I went to 9 weddings. I got invited to 4 more. I gave a kick-ass maid of honor speech. I had my first concussion. I got called for jury duty. I made some good decisions. I learned how to cut myself some slack. And how to say “thank you” in Ethiopian. I took my first RV trip. I got the best piece of mail ever. I made new friends. I fell in love with old friends all over again. I cried a lot. But I laughed so much more.

And somewhere in all of this, I stumbled my way into an awesome little life. A rooted, grounded California-knows-how-to-party kind of life that 2 years ago seemed like the most preposterous possibility in the history of all things possible.  

Which is where this blog comes in: I had a conversation with someone last night that somehow ended up winding its way into a brief discussion about the fact that I used to write – a lot. I spent the morning re-reading some of my old posts, mulling over things I’ve said, people I’ve known, and places I’ve been...it reminded me of the fact that even though I haven’t so much as tapped a keyboard as it relates to this virtual soapbox of mine in a coon’s age, I actually maybe sort of still have a lot of things to say. There is still shit to be talked. Absurd circumstances to be agonized over. So SO many (so many) ridiculous stories just floating about in space, all dressed up with nowhere to go, just waiting for someone to invite them to an Internet-themed party and I don't mean San Francisco.

While I can’t make any promises on the frequency or philosophical depth of my internal commentary -- if anyone was holding out for poetry in motion let's just remind ourselves that Prince, I am not, so let's get our expectations straight -- me and ol’ Totes McGee here are going to try and say something (anything? Many things) every once and awhile.

So, that's all. Oh, and you’re welcome. In advance. 

With the caveat of 'sorry I'm not sorry' about what happens after this in 3...2...1... 

Monday, March 5, 2012

An unintended course

I woke up at 7 a.m. this morning, first to the light creeping through my window, and second to the heavy realization that the universe can change direction at any time. And when it does, there will be no warning. No notice. No soothing purpose at the end of things. Sometimes, for no reason at all.

My close friend’s husband died over the weekend.  This man - who loved his wife and his family, who had an infectious laugh and wicked sense of humor, who by all counts was happy with the life that lay in front of him past, present, and future…this man who had everything to live for suddenly no longer has that option. There was no warning. No explanation. On Saturday he was here and today, he is not. He was 31 years old.

In the suspension of disbelief, between knowing the world has irrevocably changed and wishing through heartbreak that all has not, language itself seems particularly inept to respond to a loss as vast and incalculable as this. Right now, in this moment, words feel to me as though they are bulky, heavy reminders that we live in a mortal, linear world where time moves in one direction and one direction only: Forward. You cannot go back, you cannot turn around. There are no do-overs or resets, even when the universe does a quick rail change on the line you’ve attached your life to. The train just jumps the track, sputters for a minute as it tries to settle into this new reality, and begins to chug slowly, painfully, heartbreakingly forward. Its passengers look around, stunned, shell-shocked by this new reality, wondering whose decision it was to alter course…whose decision it was to leave the people we love most in this world behind.

I do not know where to go from here. I have no sage words of wisdom, no comforting pensives with which to console my friend…no soliloquies by which to comfort myself. I have the sense that I am just one of many passengers sitting toward the front of the caboose, in seats that for the moment are anchored into the floorboards facing backwards even as the train itself hisses and spits and tries desperately to move forward.  At the end of this carriage, I can make out the silhouette of my friend 
standing on the small balcony, her long dark hair framed in the doorway as her hands grip the delicate railing at the edge of the car. She too is facing the direction we have all just come but with an intensity that most of us can only feel the edges of. Looking, searching with that kind of impossible hope that coexists only with the heaviness of catastrophic grief. 

Joan Didion once wrote: ‎"We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”

I mourn for what the world looked like only two days ago, for a life that was cut unfairly short, for the harsh unexpectedness this new reality has deposited us all in, for the simplest fact that my friend has lost the person she loves most in this world. As we were, we are no longer. There is no going back from here.

Please, everyone, go home and hug your wife, kiss your husband. Reach out to your friends and your family. Embrace those who you have chosen, those you have asked, those you have mutually committed to accompany you through this life:  Be purposeful with your love. 

It seems to me, from the unexpected and unwanted vantage point where I now sit, at the end of the day -
 at the end of a life - there is nothing more important, nothing more sacred  than this. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Take one down, pass it around

“Oh.My.GOD,” says the slightly miniature girl who has just grabbed my arm as she walks by me in the club. “You have the same look of WTF on your face that I’ve had for at least the last half hour. What is going on in here?!”

It’s the Wednesday night before New Year’s in South Shore Lake Tahoe and I am peering through the crowds to the stage at a pub called “Mo’s Place,” conveniently located in the adjunct wing of the local Super 8 Motel. It’s about 11:30 p.m. So far, I’ve seen a fight, a drug bust, and a girl who is at least 10 years younger than I am fall right on her butt in front of our table. There is a hugely pregnant hippie chick in line for the bathroom, right next to the classy lass who may or may not have just puked and rallied, and I am pretty sure that guy lurking over there by the pool table is sleeping. Standing up. With his eyes open. 

I peer at the stranger who has attached herself to my side and give her a “hell if I know” bit of a shrug. What is going on here? What is going on is a bad after-school special, like the one with the egg and a pan and your brain on drugs. This is you. This is you at 21. This is you at 21, drunk, in a skeezy bar, watching some terrible band while you hoot and high five with a shot in one hand and a beer in the other. Any questions?

Yes, actually. I have a question. Just one: Is it possible to shame spiral about things you may or may not have done over 10 years ago? Nevermind. Don’t answer that. 

Despite the extraordinary level of debauchery rampaging through the Super 8 that night as Dirt Nasty aka Simon Rex (that’s right ladies, the former dream boat MTV vj who once made your 13 year-old hearts swoon) croons crappy rap in the background, I’m not generally one to judge the antics of a few misfit drunks. Mostly because I have so often been a member of that off-kilter group. From impromptu drop-kicking contests in shady African bars to ear-shattering, table-top renditions of “Don’t Stop Believing” or the often inevitable late night quick-draw tequila (or Zappa or whisky) challenges, I've been there. Done that. And lived to tell all about it in the privacy of a public blog. 

So taking into account my occasionally cozy relationship with late night folly and her entourage of usual suspects, one would think a few disheveled drunkards dancing on stage and yelling into microphones would not have phased me in the least. Normally, that would be true. But circumstances, as it turns out, have changed. Namely the fact that for what is probably the first time in my entire adult life, Demitz is on the wagon. Off the sauce. Hands, feet and head accounted for and IN the trolley:

Sober. Stone cold. Like a judge. (It's ok - I'm a little baffled by it too.)

About eight weeks ago, I decided to take a hiatus from my amigo, Don Julio, and all of his formidable constituents, enemies, and frenemies alike. You heard correctly. We broke up. Filed for legal separation. Pondering complete divorce but hopeful that we will find some sort of mediated middle ground between stone cold sober and “who, what, when, where and why the hell did I just wake in my bed…full of Scrabble pieces”. 

My split from alcohol actually began a few months earlier out of sheer necessity, during a prolonged battle with a formerly dormant Malawian demon parasite whose recently renewed purpose in life seemed to be advancing the enemy line through my belly. Booze, quite simply, was fueling his star general, who I imagine resembled what would happen if a flaming Dr. Pepper shot made a baby with Sonic the Hedgehog’s evil twin. Its purpose? Search and destroy by way of gastrointestinal firebombs, IEDs, and internal weapons of mass destruction. Remember that scene in Spaceballs when the alien shoots out of that guy’s guts and starts can-canning across the bar? Closely related. I’m sure of it. 

So, to quit the fire demon, I quit the firewater. It is both as simple and as complicated as that.

For those of you who have never done this, I mean actively just decided to formidably remove all semblances of liquor from your immediate life, let me assure you, this is trickier than you might think. No epic Friday nights? Pffft. No problem. Pass on the pre-dinner tequila? Done and done. But that cheery looking glass of vino after work? The happy hour Russian River ale? Double poosticks. This where the real, "oh nuts, why-am-i-doing-this-again?" questioning starts to kick in and tug seductively at your little [apparently] bottle-loving heart-strings. 

To be clear, I am pretty happy about my decision to stop drinking. Physically, I feel terrific. Mentally, I feel sharp. But even as positive as most of the non-drinking repercussions have been, for all the ways in which I am pleased with the way this little social experiment has turned out, being sober has, again, been a massive life change, one that has both its glorious upsides, as well as its unexpected downsides. It may sound a bit dramatic, but I feel a bit like I've gone from being the star player on the long-distance liver endurance Olympic team, to the towel boy in charge of the giant Gatorade container on the sidelines. I love Gatorade as much as the next girl, but watching the game from afar after 10+ years of being front and center is a 180 degree course recalculation for which I was not entirely and even less properly prepared. 

Does this sound a little over-exaggerated? Maybe. Then again, given the general resistance I seem to exhibit to growing up and the work hard/party harder attitude I’m still trying to crawl out of after a couple of years working in the dredges abroad, maybe not. For better or worse, alcohol has been a part of my social-construct for a very very long time. From college parties to southern hemisphere sundowners, keggie the keg and I have had some pretty good times - and suddenly removing the 'ole boy from the social scene has been a little weird. Like I think many people my age might, I would be hard pressed to pinpoint a social gathering or function that I've participated in or planned in the last decade that didn't involve alcohol to some extent. Even something as minor as a dinner party or a bbq - can you imagine if all that beer and wine just disappeared? If the option to choose between PBR and A&W simply vanished? For the record, I have actually seen this go down and the result generally ='s no bueno. (The last party I attended that was purposefully booze free ended with a clandestine backpack full of gin and Fanta, car-surfing, and the realization that perhaps whisky and large Irishmen do not mix well with sober, well-to-do church-goers.) 

Gin and juice aside, it's curious that the absence of alcohol seems to be so much more concerning to people than its constant presence. While most of my friends and family have been overwhelmingly supportive, when I tell people I've stopped drinking for the first time, I tend to get a lot of wide-eyed, "uhhh, seriously?" looks and comments from the peanut gallery. To be fair, I think a lot of this is in reaction to the thought of ME not drinking (whoopsie), but a lot of it just has to do with the idea of cutting out alcohol all together. I've had several people say to me, "oh I could never do that" or who have made it clear that they've thought about it but never bothered. Too taxing. Too much of a hassle. Too complicated. Eliminating the booze - from a party, from a gathering, from life in general - just seems to make people a little fidgety, myself included, and I'm not even on the sauce right now. 

And I get that. Sobriety, it turns out, really IS different than being, well, not. Healthy and happy as I am right now, I have to say that there are odd moments where I miss tiny vignettes from the horizon of that late tequila sunrise, which are more social in nature than anything else. Banter. Smack talking. Elaine Benes break dancing competitions and surly drunk Scrabble tournaments in the middle of the afternoon...There is an element of all this that is just a little bit out of reach when you’re stone cold sober. It is neither good nor bad, just different for someone who took the whole 'fight for your right to party' movement to heart over the past few years. Saturday mornings often spent with greasy eggs and black coffee, watching syndicated sci-fi reruns with the BFFs and rehashing the fuzzy incidents of the night before, have been replaced by productive trips to the gym, the grocery store, the laundromat, hikes in the local parks, and early a.m. ballet classes in the SOMA District of San Francisco. Who KNEW there was so much time clear for the taking on the weekends? It's like being sucked into a wormhole and discovering this delightfully functional little universe on the other end, where life apparently thrives even before 2 o'clock in the afternoon! 

I realize even as I relay these glorious discoveries, it should seem perfectly clear to me most of all, that being off the sauce is pushing me toward a healthier, more well-rounded existence. And it is, although every so often I hear that fat little devil on my shoulder sigh a little, take a swig off from his hip flask, and grumble something about being 'sooooooo bored' lately. I feel your pain, man. I really do. Responsibility and adulthood be damned: There is an element of all this that I miss dearly too.

So what happens when you take that all out? When you eliminate the fuel feeding a little part of that misfit fire you've grown so accustomed to over the years? Where does this land you when you've cut some of those strings of the social parachute you've hovered in, perhaps a little too often and a little too long?

At the Super 8 Motel, apparently, having a "cometojesus" moment with a perfect stranger, and realizing that even sobriety has its moments of greatness. For now, between booze, me and sobriety? We've reached a happy stalemate, one that I am content to uphold for a bit longer as I sort through some of those ambiguous spaces in between, and perhaps relearn how or if this fits into my current world.

It's like a wiser fellow than myself once said, "sometimes you eat the bar...sometimes the bar, well, he eats you." 

In this case, I'd say we're 0:0, me and that bar. For now, that's a-ok with me.