may, 2004

Mon May 3 22:32:05 EDT 2004

Eating Moosewood carrot cake with freshly-whipped cream (damn you, Wayne! now I can't even look at that cake without feeling compelled to add yet another layer of fat to it), drinking tea, and cradling a small new hardcover, the windows open and admitting a welcome October-worthy breeze, I start to think there ain't so much bad to this lifestyle.

Not that I waste away in this urban cage or anything. Just that, as soon as I leave town and set foot in the East Village -- hell, as soon as I approach the Chinatown bus -- people seem to enjoy my haircut more (at least, more vocally); dress more eclectically; eat more eclectically; in short, they tend to be anything but the cookie-cutter mold populating K Street. It is, of course, partially my fault for working on said street, and partially my fault for coming to the seat of the federal government if I wanted nothing to do with its wanks (politics, yes; wonks, no (and yes, I can use both 'wank' and 'wonk' to describe the same kind of blonde, suited, heeled, vanilla, chino'd, j. crew'd horror that something like the Sneech machine must chonk out. I bet even 'wunk' would work (but perhaps not 'wenk', and I'm reserving 'wink' for sly orchestra conductors))).

It doesn't have to be New York, I don't think. Fanjul's tiny Avenue B apartment, the 10th & 1st Tarallucci e Vino and its two-bite-sized flourless chocolate cakes (at which we devoured half of that long-awaited French confiture), brunch places in Brooklyn, and small Japanese udon places (a few blocks outside of which a gaggle of alumns can run into -- and schmooze with -- Al Bloom and his wife; ha) are but a fantastic and momentary point of confluence; it could be Philly again, or Seattle, to which Chuck is trying to re-entice me ("I need minions! I brew beer!"). And things about his Chris's neighborhood kept reäffirming that, if my town-of-the-moment was too troglodytic to serve walnut-lentil pâté, what the fuck was I doing living there?!

Two years total ain't a bad estimate. At some point, quality of life, of surroundings, is going to take precedence. And the more alumns I meet, the more hookups I seem to accumulate in California ...

Reading this precious little hardback I just picked up (but have been coveting since it came out in the U.K.) -- Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation -- I suddenly recall the solicitation I received from one of the many colleges who suddenly swam into view, and into my mailbox, junior or senior year of high school. Before I started weeding them out based on how they spelled my last name, the triage commenced with me taking a red pen to one egregiously poorly punctuated letter and mailing it back to them in their self-addressed, postage-paid envelope. What a little snark I was (and still am, or so I like to think).

There's a cake dome on my table, and I love that it's still in the single digits Centigrade. I can stay here for a bit longer.

Thu May 6 10:33:53 EDT 2004

At work, writing angry emails that will never get sent, and listening to loud music on my new favorite radio station (KEXP in Seattle), Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At" comes on. And I suddenly want to go running. Fast. This is the music I put on every afternoon after work at the LDC, two summers ago in the sweltering heat of Philadelphia, living with Jenny & Eve in a non-air-conditioned apartment and drinking hot tea and munching pop-ices. Every day, two or three miles down Chestnut and back. Terrible on the lungs, running next to traffic. But great for the endorphins. I would come home, occasionally decide not to run, and sit on the couch, brain boiling until I put on my spandex anyhow and cranked up the music while I downed a liter of water before heading out. Not an option not to run.

Good fucking thing I'm running another marathon. Excuses to run. Excuses to do everything -- shave my head; go to New York; run.

Sun May 9 24:26:22 EDT 2004

Woken up and twice-breakfasted, I put the end of Eats, Shoots & Leaves and a New Yorker in my bag, draped my red lapa over the side, and went out Sunday-promenading with Jaime down P to Dupont. Ice cream (! almost never these days; it's one of the most prominent manifestations of the little vegan within me rearing its growingly-vociferous head; and not since Girish took me there in the fall) and several Budapest tourbooks later, I realized it was missing.

First stage of grief: denial. I searched Kramerbooks and called Logan Hardware, where J'd picked up a gallon of green living-room paint; I morosely padded barefoot one revolution around Dupont, eyes out for snatches of red, convinced the wearers of rouge T-shirts had picked up my sarong and suddenly refashioned it into a garment. No one had.

Second stage: anger. I lashed out at the shady spot we were sitting in: too dappled. Made us move. Moaned a bit.

Next, bargaining. Short-lived. I may have sworn to treasure my possessions more, but when you don't have a God with whom to argue, it's a pretty one-sided negotiation.

Then, depression. I'd gotten that in the Swarthmore bookstore! They so seldom have duplicates, and they're only out in any quantity during the beginning of classes each semester, when African starts up and the women need something to wrap around their hips they're just learning to shake. This one -- bright red -- fit me so well. Doubled as a summer bathrobe; tied around the neck, what I used for the modelling I'd done for the life-drawing class last year; walking around the house mornings, over the paper, at breakfast. Ruined my whole day.

Acceptance. Life goes on. Bought myself darjeeling first flush and dangly earrings in consolation.

And then, walking back home down Connecticut towards the circle, what should I see -- folded and neatly draped over a parking meter -- but my bright red lapa, carefully put there by some passerby whose karma just went up by several orders of magnitude. Don't it always seem to go / you don't know what you've got till it's gone? Thanks, passerby; you just restored my faith in humanity.

Tue May 18 15:40:21 EDT 2004

My head and heart are full of all things Swarthmore. It's amazing that the place doesn't disappear into the mists once you've graduated; I kind of can't fathom that they've broken ground and half erected a new dorm already -- for whom? What possible future students can they be expecting? Didn't their tenure as an academic institution expire with the class of 2003?

And yet, sitting on the beach and quaffing Yuengling, eating strawberries from the 320 Market, with Claire and a graduating Gabe; or in the stacks of Underhill, leafing through decaying folios of music in the quartet section (whose call number I still remember) with Oliver, ostensibly looking for gig fodder, yet jumping at an idea to just throw the Debussy opus 10 in there for fun, I'm glad it still exists. His cell phone rings and I continue the tone, recognizing Night on Bald Mountain from the first nachschlag; I sign my name on a card upstairs and bring the CD down, blasting Mussorgsky and educating my former and future cellist about his ringtone. Wandering around the wooden atrium like I have for so many years. Couldn't quite bring myself to go into the concert hall, on which I first played Bach a year and some before my actual matriculation, on the college tour that Anna, Ben, Alex, and Dan took. Contented myself with calling Daniel from the beach, making him promise to have a drink with me next time he's down in DC.

I love this tango stuff. I'm just going to have to eventually play Schoenberg's Fourth String Quartet, and all of Bartók's, that's all.

In Northern Liberties, as many alumns as there were current students back on campus -- Paul in town on hiatus from Egypt; Roban down from New York for the occasion; some I'd never even met for a while. I went to bed early, but woke up in a house full of maybe twelve of us, who trooped off to brunch, and then splintered into two groups (somehow all-you-can-eat Indian wasn't what a slightly hung-over crowd was looking for), my faction wandering a back to the beer-with-brunch Standard Tap. Singing before we went in, a four-part round from college. Jenny looking picturesque as she is wont -- does she just attract good light? Some of my best people pictures from school are of her: drinking espresso sophomore year on the Worth/Lodges courtyard; throwing her head back laughing at the beautiful day against Parrish; again senior year.


Brunch, as Ross put it, was a leisurely meal, but for the waitress. Think we may have freaked him out a bit with our collective vague disillusionment with the Real World (not the MTV show, whose house is now in Philly, but the actual world) -- him, just about to graduate; us, enjoying ourselves, but not as ecstatic as the diploma seemed to warrant. But not actively unhappy. It's comforting, as -- who? Alyssa? Roban? -- pointed out, that while we're all doing cool things this Year After, not one of us is ecstatic about our situations. Room to grow.

All fell asleep watching Izzard on the couches. We could all probably recite the whole of Dress To Kill in our sleep, and probably were.

Stayed in town when the southern contingent left, for this crazy party with crazy Eric and his crazy organization. I don't even want to name the drink company that put the whole high-design, rings-in-a-box invitations, women-in-blue-wigs, glass-armonicist deal together -- everything is googlable these days, and they don't need any free press from me (but I will link to an article about the questionable amino acids they put in it!). Needless to say, they mix this stuff with anything, and do. The caffeine cancels out the alcohol -- or at least, did for me for the first two drinks. It then wears off, and you realize you're quite drunk. Insidious, like its marketing ...

Thought I'd be overdress in the long black thing I stole from Rebecca. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Highlight of the evening a toss-up between the cool DJs they've got wrapped around their fingers, and the glass armonicist, who let me and sweet Ben (who's now legal, ha) pry him with questions for a good half an hour. Lots of musical energy, especially at the end when Radar took the stage for a ten-minute preening of feathers -- which fucking rocked. Three DJs next to me hanging on his every scratch.

All I want now is a bowl of jook, which I've never had, but which Mark Bittman ("The Minimalist") swears by for days after nights of indulgence ... that, and a nap.

Thu May 27 16:53:32 EDT 2004

I still felt the bay rocking me back and forth as I went to sleep Sunday night, color on my back and a racoon tan to show for two days' sailing. The first night, it was overwhelming -- The first thing a sailor needs to think about, mused the Puerto Rican Roberto, looking out to the water, ees the weend. Where it comes from; how it changes; how it blows on your ears in stereo. A poet once said, continued Roberto, once we'd rigged the 19-foot flying scot, a sailboat ees the perfect marriage between a feesh and a bird. Explained the basic physics of it; how this translated into points of sail; which telltales to watch how, and when.

Saturday night, it seemed almost too much, like snowboarding did my first day out. Came home sun-exhausted and fell asleep as if still on the waves, dehydrated (though I'd had my nalgene with me); the rocking hull of my bed still afloat.

But, unlike my Alpine snow experience, I went out the second day (no choice; I'd signed up for the lessons ... ah, it's all about accountability!), and despite a burn on my back (so white! I need so much sunscreen), got my proverbial sea legs. It was only when Roberto left the three of us (Jaime and a third random guy) alone in the boat to practice docking that I began to feel competent to pilot the craft around with only Jaime manning the jib sheets.

Practicing Tuesday afternoon (ducking out of work early without really informing either J's office nor mine of our intended whereabouts (at least I'm not taking long lunches like some!)), we got out of the cove, into the channel, throwing life jackets overboard and then coming up on their leeward sides to rescue them (some 94% of men overboard are actually men, it turns out -- they get drunk, stand up on the side to piss, and fall overboard). Afterwards, the owner asked us who our teacher had been. I was hesitant, expecting some reprimand for going than we were supposed to and then requiring a tow back from Jonas in his motorboat. Instead, he commended us: you guys were sailing really well. Us! But as the storm had been coming, I suppose I had been weaving perfect figure-eights between the moored boats in the cove, unwilling to dock (which proved easy) and listless ...

It pleases Jaime perhaps more than it does me. Learning how to control anything new is always a rush, but she's been out there every day since the weekend class ended, jibing and tacking. Perhaps it's the wind in her hair, of which I now have precious little ...

Mon May 31 14:49:13 EDT 2004

People seem to be reacting poorly to this attempted veganism of mine. The last few times when the non-dairy bug has bitten, it's been temporary, and I quietly avoided cream cheese on my bagel or milk in my tea. Now that I cook for others -- if not regularly, then semi-frequently -- they're rebelling.

It's not that far a step, really, and it's not yet a commitment. I had the butter sauce Claire made with artichokes last week; I've been ignoring the romano in the pesto I put on sandwiches. But my staunchly-carnivorous-in-theory, tofu-munching-in-reality roommate has drawn a line in the sand, and seems to be as opposed to this idea as she is to that of her parents' potential move away from San Antonio. Jaime too objects, seeming to think my gustatory world is over, that it's not possible to be a lush and a vegan, and that suddenly our world of nose cake is an era bygone.

Egg replacer! Soy margarine! Beans; grains; vegetables; fruits ... the only valid worry I've heard is nutrition enough to feed a marathoner. (That perhaps I should look into -- I've been veg*an for ten years, but never consciously constructing a diet of complete proteins, which is likely the reason I dropped 15 pounds on coming to college, and then again during my Viennese semester. This running -- 15 miles total last week, and it's only increasing from here -- needs to be fed.)

And I haven't missed the dairy yet. (Egg in my ramen yesterday; I cheated.) Rich buttery cakes just sound heavy; both chocolate and Guinness are vegan. Beer remains, thank God. But without the ease of cheese, for all its rhyming convenience, I've been opening more bulk bins at the gigantic organic chain five blocks away, coming home with mung beans and quinoa and yellow split peas. Dried figs and shiitake dressing on a spinach salad. I'm salivating even thinking about it.

In the same way that I'm getting flak about the way I'm trying to eat, so are people (but a different set) reacting to my haircut. Republican Bill's eyes widened as he was introduced to me the other day; I got a warmer welcome at the small punky video store than usual. Most people are just miffed -- why did I do it? Wouldn't I rather have [lots of] hair, have it blowing in the wind, be able to flip it over my shoulder? Well, in some ways, I would -- I love that it's an extension of my scalp. When it was all the way down my back (not so long ago!), having my hair stroked was one of the great small pleasures of life. Spread out in clouds on my pillow at night.

But damn it, people in this fucking town all look the same. All the women have hair down their backs, and they flip it around like they've been underground for seventeen years, and have finally shed their nymphal exoskeletons in order to buzz loudly in your ear and then mate like there's no tomorrow (which, for the cicadas, there ain't). Long hair -- any hair -- buys into the repulsively insidious ideals of beauty that I can normally sideline, but which are on parade every day on K St. Even spiky short 'dos aren't quite subversive enough; it takes true glabrousness (or centimeter-long bleached fuzz) to make a statement around here. Just for good measure, I have plans to dye it pink soon -- gotta fuck with the lawyers and wonks while the cut lasts.

I feel like somewhat of a late bloomer, chopping my hair off and going vegan at age twenty-three. Better late than never, eh?

all this ©nori heikkinen, May 2004

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