january, 2004

Sun Jan 4 17:03:30 EST 2004

I am exhausted. I thought I embodied the work-hard-play-hard ethic while at Swat ... I had no idea. That was more, work-till-you-drop, play-almost-never, sleep-almost-never. This is work-hard-enough, play-in-all-your-remaining-free-time, sleep-almost-never. Usually, this lifestyle is great to sustain for days on end, and then I crash for a weekend, or stay in for a few nights in a row. This holiday season, however, has been one big whirlwind ...

I'm exhausted in most of the possible ways I can think of. Travel-weary. Emotionally spent. Knees only semi-functional. Immune system at the lowest it's been since graduation, not helped by the champagne and gin over New Year's. Sleepy as a combined result of travel and the ten miles my knees can attest that I ran this morning.

This all (minus the joint pain) was present leaning on Fanjul's shoulder outside an East Village coffee shop Friday afternoon (latte with soy for the accidentally vegan me), him with a flourless chocolate cupcake in hand; the afternoon sun in blown-out highlights on cornices of the stories-high buildings (allowed, in the non-fascist state, to be taller than the capitol building -- I just learned that about DC today!): just being, for a moment -- not in the being-on-a-boat sense, but being-on-a-boat ... suspending thoughts, worries, fatigues, chocolate, and coffee all for a moment, just to exhale on the shoulder of an old, chill friend, reassuring me.

And yet somehow, I'm considering going out for a martini tonight. (At least martinis are vegan.) Playing hard ...

Fri Jan 9 17:06:16 EST 2004

Elbows on the table, cup cradled at lip level between my hands, neck relaxed into the aroma, I commented to Harry last week at Café Lalo that that was one of my favorite postures. Virus-induced dairy sensitivity be damned, soy milk just doesn't foam like the real thing should (though it steams just fine, so (ironically) lattes are in).

This morning, dealing with frustratingly large and ugly chunks of unorganized data and a head that feels so tight that I swear I've lost half my hearing range, I met Luigi in the break room over the new Gaggia. There, I pulled a novice shot, and he one worthy of his caffeine-blooded Italian roots, which we then drank in some ceremony of Europhilia: him swearing in accented English at this morning's customers in Starbucks (I'd like a double mocha gingerbread latte with skim milk and whipped cream); me savoring the imported Segafredo like I never did in Vienna where I could afford to be snobby about my grounds. The shot hit almost immediately -- that, or it was just the posture: standing with a saucer in one hand, small Indian sweet from the box that Hemali brought home from her sister's wedding on the side, demitasse of black espresso with lovely crema, little finger probably curled instinctively. Just standing in that position for a minute or two was enough to fortify me for the morning's work.

Again this afternoon, after chasing elusive-yet-obvious NullPointerExceptions, my thoughts drifted towards the marvel of Italian engineering (all the Italians ever engineered was cars and girls, scoffs the skeptical 33-year-old Mark, only ten years older but married with four kids, who's still buying his coffee). Not that I need caffeine at this point -- between the matinal espresso and the pre-coffee cup of black tea with my (Bagels Forever!) bagel, I should be awake for three straight days now -- but Luigi'd brought in these perfect cappucino-sized cups (none of this bowl-as-big-as-your-head-with-a-handle stuff, so typical of the twenty-ounce sock-juice-with-whipped-dairy-byproduct that, for four dollars, passes for coffee in the corporate world) ... how can I resist?

So, just as Sibley walks in for the afternoon, I'm to be found bent over the steam nozzle of my newest toy, finishing up a beautiful cappucino, with a cookie or two on the side. This is civilization -- saucer in left hand; 3-oz demitasse in right; small sweet hovering nearby. It doesn't matter that, by the last drop, my eyes are moving faster, and my hands somehow don't type as well. Doesn't matter that I'll probably be seeing yellow spots soon. I love my coffee ...

Tue Jan 13 13:30:30 EST 2004

I seem to write while flying these days. I suppose that speaks to the inordinate amount of travelling I've been doing. Ever earning my nimmersattheit, apparently not satiated by the itinerance of the past few weeks, I've been stoically sunning myself on sixty-degree beaches (Floridians unbelievably turning up their heat and urging each other to "stay warm"!), and exhausting myself between bus rides, flights, and midnight gigs of last-minute double-stops. So just how it is, if this is so tiring, that I find myself with a finder to mark my place in An Equal Music, eyes half closed, staring distractedly out the window at cruising altitude and dreaming of more? Head in the clouds, literally ...

Blame the Seth. Blame Mahler, who's about to return to the Philadelphia Orchestra an a big way under Eschenbach; whose passionately morbid Viennese Das Lied von der Erde reconnected me to Eric two years ago. Blame Eric, whose four-years-in-coming viola piece is only now anywhere near finished, and for whom (and which) I'll be in vinyl pants tonight, mic'd, onstage at Fluid Nightclub.

So far, An Equal Music has been articulately weaving together many themes dear to my heart -- dear, I suppose, to any musician's heart: the interpersonal dynamics of a string quartet; the instruments' own personalities and temperaments; Vienna. On page 184, the protagonist exclaims: »Mohnstrudel! Gugelhupf! Palatschinken!« -- and each word implies Schubert.

(Not that I ever played in an ensemble there. Not that I ever came close to the Musikverein, except as a concertgoer. But what other city can imply so much musical potential via its pastry?)

So easy to wax Europhilic. So hard to bestir myself to do something about it -- rosin the bow; remember my scale fingerings. And yet, with friends and connections in Philly, how tempting to commute up ...

Thu Jan 15 18:26:34 EST 2004

Naveen taped me better than usual this morning -- two strips running from the top of each hip down to snake-tongue around my patellae, subtly correcting for a slight pronation I would have otherwise never known I had. New shoes (Asics, the same pair as Russell's, a size or two smaller) haven't done much; cho-pats tourniquetting my quads are similarly ineffectual. Ultrasounds feel nice, but I can't judge their eventual effect; cortisone ionto-patches zapped into my joints, grounded like a prolonged bee-sting on opposite calves, only seem to magnify the severity of this frustrating aggravation.

And, ironically, today I'd really like to run, for more reasons than one. Anything adrenal -- I'd like to go back to an African class; bike to work, low-impact cross-training pedalling along flats, standing up and straining against the 11th-Street hill; just run. This kind of impatience requires a physical reification.

I hate being thwarted. Seemingly viable potentialities have twice of late found a reason to be absolutely impossible, and, hate them though I may, I can't argue with either. So I content myself with learning about martinis (and eating the olives unwatched); discussions of books about a string quartet; marvelling about a lack of opera. I'm not content (decidedly malcontent!) -- but I'll likely need to get my adrenaline from pounding the pavement.

I should by rights be able to run this marathon! Everyone else in my training group -- Lindsey, who smokes; Casey, who pronates like it's going out of style; everyone who's never run more than three miles, or at all -- is proceeding apace. Twenty-two miles this past Saturday in the single digits Fahrenheit; my (untaped) right knee gave out in under five miles. I hailed a cab while running, hopped in, and was spirited home. Curled up on my red-on-red bed, shaking and trying to absorb heat from the color of the sunlit room. Made waffles with my new iron. Was happy to be warm, but upset that my joints should betray me so early.

Just as my legs are being taped this morning, I mention my errant iliotibial bands. Naveen scrutinizes my stance for minutes; feels my feet; shows me a strengthening exercise for a particular muscle that will help the tape to counter the pronation. Asks when the race is (six weeks away). Says it'll be no problem. Sean (the regular PT) shakes his head, but smiles ... fuck it, I'm going to try as hard as I can, without doing long-term damage. If I have anything to do with it, things will go my way -- I hate being thwarted.

Mon Jan 19 15:25:47 EST 2004

You really don't want to know what's in sauce béarnaise. At least, not until you're done eating.

Bearing an orange evening gown for me, and having missed the closing days of the surrealism exhibit at the Phillips Collection, Jaime came over Saturday and was greeted with a warm plate of eggs florentine: toasted English muffin; wilted spinach; Mistress-Of-Calculated-Motion Claire-perfect poached egg; Philip's contribution to the brunch of grated Swiss; my first attempt at that over which I have moaned for the past four months, since discovering it the day after my 23rd birthday, béarnaise.

The sauce is typically French: take lots of dairy and slowly, painstakingly, turn it into something sublime. Infusion of tarragon, shallots, white wine, and white vinegar is the only difference between it and the Hollandaise I recall turning up my nose at at age fourteen, bussing tables in Kafé Kohoutek in the old train station at Regent and West Wash. Flirtatious, older waiter Bob (probably younger at that time than I am now) tried to teach me to like olives by feeding me now a Kalamata, now a picholine; tried to educate my palate by offering me bites of his Eggs Benedict. Never quite sure how to handle it, I ended up never understanding olives, and morphing my profound unease towards Bob into a profound distaste for Hollandaise, and much preferred the winter squash soup I could take out to the cold October patio on breaks, fantasizing how one day I would sing the jazzy songs from my voice lessons in a sequined dress on the raised stage above the restaurant's kitchen.

Labor-intensive, but worth it. It's the kind of brunch I've started to seek out in either of my two usual Saturday-morning contexts: a bit hung over, sunglassed against the chipper sunlight, beginning with coffee and continuing to assault the palate in a continuation of the previous night's lushness; or exercising the privilege of a training marathoner to eat twice what her friends do and metabolize it, only half-able to hobble to the table from a dozen or more kilometers that morning, and still hungry even after three breakfasts (7 AM pre-run; oreos & pretzels during; bananas, bagels, & nutella immediately afterwards).

And during Saturday morning's eight miles, I even kept my knees and their chafing iliotibial bands in relative abeyance -- perhaps optimism plus a chill negative few degrees Celsius (great weather for that distance!) is the needed combination.

This morning, after having woken up out of habit after four hours' sleep at 8:30 (the LEDs on my binary-coded decimal clock, I've found, are more legible than the glowing numerals on the clock radio without my contacts in, and/or in sunlight), gone back to sleep in a delightfully orange-sunlight-flooded room for another five hours, I discovered the rest of the béarnaise in the fridge. Reheated, it's not as smooth as the beautiful, Julia-worthy butter emulsion I'd created on Saturday, but was nonetheless an archetype of Brunch One -- post an evening of dancing in borrowed purple pants (Joanne's) and a small diagonal-cut borrowed black top (Nina's) for hours; discovering and swimming in Korean soju; recalling snippets of Marvell, Donne, and Tennyson (and having been answered with the following lines!); enjoying the sight of Morton happy and Sibley in his sequined Jesus shirt; reveling in Swarthmore removed to DC -- in short, shakin' it at Delafield's fifth annual MLK party. The morning, once it was sufficiently afternoon, I poached my own eggs cracked into demitasses (timed with my running watch), reheated the béarnaise, and ingested enough dairy to last me the week. This is why I run.

Sat Jan 24 14:21:25 EST 2004

Painting Wednesday night with Claire -- after she skipped ballet (too cold for the Texan to go out; too far to walk and not be late) and I'd cleaned the kitchen of the past four nights' excesses, then torn it apart again making broccoli egg-lemon soup, and the best chocolate chip cookies I know (including ground oatmeal and grated chocolate in the dough), a pot of chai poured over new raw sugar cubes -- the sudden sugar must have spurred me on to the red paint. Claire put down the phone and started taping baseboards in fear.

Something I said led one of us to the bookshelf for Hollander's Committed to Memory, in which I tested my six-or-seven-years-past recollection of Ozymandias, recalling Mr. Keys' ferocious response to the timorous sophomore, who had asserted something offensive about Shelley to the passionate old high-school English teacher: "doesn't mean anything, son?!" he'd almost whispered, and then white-knuckled the lectern as he half-breathed, half-shouted life into the vast and trunkless legs of stone, the shattered visage. "That," he quietly eulogized, "means something." The hapless student utterly cowed and cowering.

The raptures of sixteen-year-olds' first experience with the English Romantics (and, for that matter, the French -- on n'est pas sérieux quand on a dix-sept ans -- we were a year too young to be coeval with the hérione, but we were sure Rimbaud would have generalized; used the number he did just for the iamb) recalled me to Alana, and later on in the compilation to Coleridge -- his flashing eyes, his floating hair -- which we had spent the better part of a summer painting on her closet doors: Standing outside on Keelson Drive, covered in rainbow latex paint (sometimes moving off the wooden canvases to our appendages), How High the Moon from Ella's showstopping Live in Berlin on repeat, and me lettering Rimbaud in IPA, Blake in orange; her brush describing the tyger; Linnea doing the face of the Venus; Keats outlining it all ...

Claire pulls a barely-thumbed yet well-loved volume of Louis MacNiece out of her upside-down bookshelf, and regales me with her favorites (her fingers flicked away the ash). Half of that which I have memorized is in French, so I resort to chocolate cake recipes out of the new Bon Appétit in answer to the MacNiece. Full of painting and poetry, we end the evening with a spontaneous quatrain:

Claire: I like him a lot.
Nori: Where did our broom go?
Claire: I don't know.
Nori: That wall looks hot.

My dad's college volume of Sound and Sense is on my desk, open to The Eagle.

Mon Jan 26 10:10:11 EST 2004

I put on my Swiss ski socks this morning,
(in Francs even then, as the perennial DMZ ignored the Euro)
at the top of a peak in the Alps
over which I crammed borrowed boots,
his snowpants over my jeans,
Alyssa's oversized orange coat,
his brother's orange ski goggles.

I stood, stuffed like a preschooler into a one-piece
awkwardly with a borrowed board, grinning
through goggles at the camera.

And now, I put ski-socked feet into clogs,
as I did after a painful afternoon
of falling down hills,
(trying not to fall off lifts and mountains,)
getting back up,
taking out kids half my height,
getting taken out by same;
back outside Flumserberg's lodge restaurant
sitting on the seat-warmed edge of his yellow Peugeot
removing boots, revealing steaming feet
(like our bodies Saturday, after an eight-mile run in single digits)
and being profoundly grateful
my clogs were one European size too big
to accomodate the best socks I've ever owned.

I slid around on his Zurich parquet the next few days
unwilling to take off the new socks.

The socks have now a second life, in this
south-of-the-Mason-Dixon winter:

Just to walk to work.

all this ©nori heikkinen, January 2004

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