september, 2004

Sun Sep 5 17:32:18 EDT 2004

Sunday mornings haven't made sense to me in years -- not since I started eight-ayy-em youth orchestra rehearsals in tenth grade at the orange Humanities building in Madison; not since crack-of-dawn SEPTAs into a dirty Philadelphia for chai and a poppyseed bagel with Olivia before PYO; not since my first round of weekend team distance running commenced almost a year ago -- no, Sunday mornings shouldn't be -- and weren't today, the red LEDs showing noon as I opened my eyes slowly into the yellow-filtered sun. Morning dreamily slept through (was there kissing on the stoop last night, or was that just my dream?), the afternoon has been nothing but what a Sunday afternoon should be. Blurrily washing dishes from the dinner fracas that only I, while cooking for myself, can create (every pot and pan I own; both wooden spoons and both wooden salad servers; bits of lentil-tomato sauce spattered hither and yon). French-pressing illy into my earth-blue, Shakespeare-in-the-park APT mug; adding Silk to dilute its aggressive frankishness. Taking my sweet time throwing together a huge plate of apple-cinnamon french toast (vegan, of course), and, in so doing, creating as much of or more of a brunch mess than had been left over from Tamara's and my bottle-of-chardonnay dinner the night before. My Swarthmore sweatpants (jeans would endow the day with needless formality). Reading an issue of The Nation that came yesterday. Curling up, belly full, on my orange chair and singing along to Automatic for the People.

So when, in the middle of starting bread I realize I have no white flour, and I leave the house on my bike to make rounds, I realize that I haven't biked anywhere in a long time. Downstairs bike-messenger Matt has tightened my brakes and put air in my tires for me, but all I'd been doing was the three miles south to the Waterside Mall to begin the marathon training runs -- and not that recently since it's been getting darker by the day, too dark [for me to want] to bike at six or seven. The last time I pedalled anywhere seriously was last fall, almost a year ago. Up and back to Delafield. Fall weather set in, and my running tights did double duty for the rides. Pleasantly cold through November, when we moved to the offices.

A guy outside Whole Foods loading groceries onto his BMX bike (which is laughably tricked out with a bright-orange egg crate masquerading as pannier) comments that it smells like rain. I say I can't smell that. And he's right -- up to find hair goop at the 13th & U Rite-Aid, a few drops come down, the trees start blustering even more, flushing the insects from their branches. Wind on my body as I move faster than pedestrians, slower than traffic. Feels more alive than the one-mile walk down Rhode Island to and from the 16th Street offices. I miss this.

Wed Sep 8 24:13:50 EDT 2004

I've started practicing again. Three-octave scales à la Diedre (I'm trying to remember her fingerings, but I can't seem to recall the minors); quartet rep slowed down and given the attention it deserves; the second of three 1987 Max Reger sonatas I picked up at the 15th-and-P music store one afternoon because it had a pretty cover -- so Bach-cello-suites, situated low on my strings and in a simple quadruple meter, the unencumbered rhythms allowing for more phrasing than some who switch times every bar. Two hours Monday; two today ...

But this seems to be so on-again, off-again, and my lack of long-term resolve frustrates me. There was a brief flash of revelation last December -- I vowed to start practicing, find a teacher, get my ass into the San Francisco Conservatory's chamber music program by one year from now -- but something petered off, and I seem not to have followed up. I haven't been completely idle, with my new quartet, two weddings with Midnight this summer, and practicing for those. But neither have I dropped enough of my social life, of my marathoning, of my vegan-dessert-making, Bartók-quartet-listening, wine-drinking, company-enjoying evenings like last night's (Abram and I toasting our vinho verde to Hungarian atonalism; Jaime commenting that we looked like an old married couple) in pursuit of one single-minded goal. And if I'm as jealous as I think I am that Oliver's now studying for a master's in cello at Mannes, why don't I do more towards that end? I don't want to program for the rest of my life; I'm not even sure I'd like comp ling, CS, ling, or even AI as a career. Most of my drive towards a Ph.D. at present comes from the fact that my grandmother had one, both my parents do, and my friends also will soon; that and my slow relinquishing of the academic bubble.

Many believe there's a critical window with music as there is with language, a time by which I must cement certain neural pathways or forever lose the opportunity to. I wish I could say I didn't believe that.

Sat Sep 11 16:15:23 EDT 2004

The white muslin curtains on the 9th-Street windows billow lazily in the breezes as they pass. I'm curled up in the orange chair (that I traded Petar for a potted plant as we were moving out of Palmer), to which I habitually repair with the remains of a pot of tea (green today), finishing the dregs of my sencha and then with blueberry sorbet, and Mahfouz's Midaq Alley. The curtains remind me of La Fée Verte, the veg(etari)an café in the French Quarter where I spent the afternoon post-marathon drinking white, writing postcards depicting wrought-iron balconies, reading the paper, and watching the quiet street.

I didn't run a marathon today. Not quite. Twenty-three miles is still 3.2 short of Phidippides' famous distance, but ain't nothing to be sneezed at. Gorgeous morning, reminiscent almost of my drunkenly joyous seventeen and a half last February: my sports-bra-tanned skin soaking up vitamin D in excess from the sunlight refracting from all angles; cool for a Southern September morning (and afternoon -- the 5:15ish run lasted until one!). Stuck my entire head under the hand-pump at the drinking fountain at mile-marker 6.5 on the Capital Crescent trail, ruining the spikes in my hair but revelling in the cool dunking. Hips started to protest after maybe fifteen miles, but as the tightly-banded knees held together and my easily-bruised feet continued to propel me forward, I saw no reason to stop.

The hardest part of the run, perhaps, was getting up after the ten-minute ride up the green line, the cold shower, and then submerging my feet in a bucket of ice water. Natural anti-inflammatory, and, as I intend to reward myself with a beer later this afternoon, I should mostly stay away from the NSAIDs. Not that I can yet bestir myself farther than my computer (through whose speakers streams my Saturday-afternoon opera and then classical, North Carolina's WCPE), to the kitchen for brown rice cum tofu and bok choi, or the freezer for more sorbet. Back to the Mahfouz (wonderfully Cairene without the language barrier), and to my peacefully billowing curtains ...

Sat Sep 18 23:13:23 EDT 2004

Chocolate smells waft back to my orange room from the kitchen, where naught but a few flecks of unsweetened cocoa-powder/tofu mousse bespeckle the walls as evidence to a late-night flurry of baking: a vegan chocolate Guinness cake, the first in the five to come this weekend in preparation for my birthday on Monday. Bitter stout balances the two cups of sugar. No one in the office I tested it on could believe it didn't contain the 2 eggs, 1 C butter, and 2/3 C sour cream of the original.

But why I'm still up and baking at this hour is a bit beyond me, given my exhaustion level. Up at six -- pitch black and pouring; Ivan was pelting the street with what it could this far north (akin to Isabel in the amount of wind and rain we saw -- less, even). Eight miles in cold, intermittent rain and bluster: I embraced the grey showers; Flynn took it as proof of my insanity. A plate of vegan waffles and fake sausage later, I was back down at the Ellipse, this time in a sea of blue shirts reading "RUN AGAINST BUSH" for their (inter-!)national day. I'd only intended to do a few miles more, if any, but then with the White House and its sinister occupants right very there, and the energy of the assembled crowd, five seemed like nothing. Drop in the bucket.

So yeah, I didn't mean to run a half-marathon today. Certainly not before bolting home and then yet south again, this time with Levia and a returned-from-Texas Claire to the private opening of the beautiful new sandstoned-Guggenheim-y National Museum of the American Indian. Hours wandering between old artifacts, multimedia displays, and Levia the lighting designer's gorgeously-lit, orange-walled modernist gallery. Rain dances. Watermelon juice. We repair at an early dinnertime to Sakana, the hole-in-the-wall Japanese place at 21st and P that can make me moan over shiitake broth and udon, an avocado roll, tuna sashimi (shush, you), warm sake. Warm, as in winter; in fact lowering Levia's and my body temperatures, but putting the familiar, fed glow in the apples of our cheeks, and insulating against the insistent and cold (cold!) wind that had been merely welcome during a series of ten-minute miles this morning. One more reason to love fall: my birthday on Monday; warm sake.

Alyssa, in an email nine months old to which I just responded, commented on my energy. (Its source? likely belligerence and youth.) No nap today; why am I still up? Ah yes, the chocolate Guinness cake ...

Wed Sep 22 22:35:16 EDT 2004

Amazingly, I woke up clear-headed yesterday. Must have been my body's birthday present to me -- the use of one Get Out Of Hangover Free card, never to be repeated. Monday nights in general are not ones for indulgence, but having spent the weekend making five vegan cakes, having cleaned out a grease fire (from what, I ask you?!) at six-thirty before my soirée officially commenced as I was chewing on gemelli with pesto at eight, having pinned together my indecent purple velvet dress to something approaching presentable, wiggled into fishnets, and gotten Claire to pop the cork on my present to myself (a bottle of Prosecco), I was not about to abstain.

Sibley came leading half his house, him in his trademark black widebrimmed hat, a long black cloak ("don't take this the wrong way, but you look like a Hasidic character from The Matrix," commented Philip). Fanjul from New York with Lillet; Wayne and Electra bearing pears poached in red wine. Chris and Jaime both with port (my first!); Kean with Frambozenbier. Claire's blue-stemmed champagne flute stayed near my hand as I sampled other people's pieces of carrot-date cake with coconut-cardamom sauce, pear tart, chocolate Guinness cake with maple-chocolate frosting, ginger tea cake, and key lime cheesecake (must find a better word for it! But somehow "silken-tofu cake" just doesn't ring as well), answering the door buzzes and presiding over my vegan birthday evening in velvet and ridiculous eye makeup.

The weather, too, gifted me as if I were home in Wisconsin: a seventy-degree high, low fifties for Sunday and Monday.

And the Lillet-and-vegan-cake-induced peace of mind continued into the following afternoon, as coffee with Fanjul began, stupidly, almost as the new year did (though in that East Village café, there were flourless cakelets), and soon he was describing his planned takeover of the publishing world, and I debating following Emily's siren call to California.

Ari in town, even, for a conference. After African, strategizing for Kerry on the chilly rooftop of the Reef. iPod

And lastly, I've proved myself a form-over-function girl, and my lovely family and I are getting me my present: an iPod. Oh, Emily -- between these nascent West Coast urges and this sleek digital music longing, what have you done to me?

Three times two to the third, am I (among other things). And you thought 24 wasn't interesting.

all this ©nori heikkinen, September 2004

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