december, 2004

Mon Dec 6 12:35:00 EST 2004

Imminent change almost always brings on anticipatory regrets. Upon return from California, I braced myself for it. Looked around the district streets, expecting a coffee shop or passerby to lay a claim to a heartstring, to remind me why I shouldn't leave. Instead (as I told a perspicacious Colin over Thai the following weekend, he nodding, knowing I've needed to get out there), I got none of that. No twinges of regret, just excitement to leave an increasingly blah situation.

But interestingly enough, coming back from a whirlwind Thanksgiving (weather delays; Chicago; red wine; Madison; vegan supplementing of the feast; Mönchhof riesling; scanning old photos; medicine for a suddenly-sick Mom; U Chicago's Oriental Institute) was when I started to cling to the familiar. Not logical, I know -- the family I was ostensibly missing were back in the Midwest -- but at that point, every familiar Metro line, every bottle of Mackeson's with Kean and Tony, trying to produce simultaneous uvular/alveolar/bilabial trills, urged me to stay.

And, of course, there's the fact that I might or might not be jobless, were I to commit fully to going. Emily seems blasé about it, but points out that she made the decision to leave a professional position (which was, admittedly, hellish) for the great unknown almost nine months ago, and has had plenty of time to get used to the idea. I'm still quaking in my boots about a decision I'm forcing on myself: damned if I do (sacrificing X, Y, and Z); damned if I don't (back to an uncomfortably complacent existential stasis).

And now, I find I'm having trouble getting to sleep, for anticipated missing of the things even the exciting specter of California can't dispel: a small subset of people with whom email or postcard correspondence just won't be the same; my orange room; colleagues and coffee with them; my new fantastic viola teacher (two hours yesterday -- creative intonation and unbowed Bach -- and for a price I haven't paid since Madison!). It's clear even to strangers that I need to get the hell out of Dodge. But I find that now I've all but made up my mind to do it, I'm unsure. Not about which of the two cities is better for me; not about which option will ultimately serve me better. Just, generically and unsettlingly, unsure.

Mon Dec 13 13:38:44 EST 2004

This weekend confirms everything both good and bad about running away, and illustrates it clearly. Feels like a high-school exercise, colored-pencilled in neatly in the lines, A+ from a doting teacher: Clearly illustrate the pros and cons of this argument. Give examples. Friday night, Claire realizes that the shortest lease she could possibly get is six months. Within less than 24 hours, she's all but signed a lease on a place in Takoma Park, and I'm left posting ads to the DC Craig's List for a subletter until I go. Go! Jesus. I now have nine responses to the ad(s) -- typical for that awesome resource. Now if only nine equally cool, cheap, 4BR houses would show up on the East Bay craigslist ...

Silently freaking out. This is all so ... sudden! [Insert Lichtenstein panel here.]

And then Russell turns thirty, and Jaime, Claire and I -- the Twentysomething Girl Squad, à la our Christmas card I drew and copied in the spaces between screaming as my world suddenly shifted gears this weekend -- are obligated to go watch him drink beer out of a frisbee and teach assembled throngs the electric slide as John Mark spins some of the best dancing music I've had in months, including expensive San Francisco clubs. The last time I'd been at that house, I'd been exploring the idea of going out West; what with Claire's precipitous lease-signing, I'm all but committed right now. And though my eyes are wide with terror as I say I'm going, the jealousy in everyone else's is obvious. They too wish they could take off for California, prudence be damned. The ones who have lived there before (and are only now here because of public policy work) wish me good luck, say they know I'll love it.

(Over tapas a glass of rioja Tuesday night (once I got the pickled-olive taste out my mouth, which had been preventing the gracious assault of the temperanillo on my taste buds), Colin reminds me why I am, in fact, going. Not only that it seems that my crowd (diverse and dispersed as they are here) seems to be going with the wind, itinerant, as they fan out to China, maybe Stanford or Berkeley, or to dig holes in the dirt. He regales me with stories of redwoods in the city; sequoias wider than the room we were in; miles of the Big Sur coastline.)

But the only reason to stay (I've accepted potential joblessness) is Pablo. It's taken me six years to find a good viola teacher. (In fairness, I didn't have the leisure to look in Philly, going solely on recommendations and not shopping around as I should have; in DC, there are far fewer options than there will be in SF.) But yesterday, again, focusing on minute details of my new Der Schwanendreherer, wrist angle, and bow speed! ... watching the hairs slip by, near to the bridge, mesmerizing as I try to focus on the weight of my arm ... he presents all the options, saying, "you'll have to figure out what works for you" instead of barking like Joe or mutely gesticulating like Judy. He's wonderful for me -- and this is the only aspect in which I just might regret leaving DC.

But the more I set the ball in motion for going, the less I am able to stay ... the Bay Area must be swarming with amazing, empathetic, musical, passionate, articulate violists, yes? Oh god.

Tue Dec 28 21:56:57 EST 2004

Something in my right thumb hurts (just an inflamed nerve, said my patient doctor this morning, showing me an illustrations in Netter's Anatomy) -- worse these past five days with the Wisconsin cold -- all but prevents me from typing on Alexis's iMac; impedes longhanding it. I'm too young to be arthritic! (But then again, I was too young to wear reading glasses, too.) Scheduling doctor's appointments left and right before I lose my health insurance.

It's official, then. The chill landlord knows already, thanked me for posting the apartment, and gave me & Claire a bottle of wine for the holidays. Wrote Sibley about it last night. I'm committed to late February now. A few entities (quartet; Pablo) left to tell; other than that, my biggest worry is figuring out how to fold up and ship my beloved futon mattress.

This loss of manual competence, however, has encouraged me to engage, while home, in the real spirit of Christmas, or at least this abbreviated winter break: utter indolence. Every time I end up in Madison for the holidays, I have a tacit agenda. This year, I managed to accomplish all of it. Launched into a cleaning & reörganization spree with the aid of Mom's super-vacuum, and returned the house to how I remember it in high school: cluttered by clean, the kind my friends always envied because it was so clearly bibliophilic (lining the walls; piled high next to couches) and lived-in. Alexis has officially taken over my room -- ah well, it's more her house now, anyhow, and mine hasn't been the living museum that Claire's is.

In the middle of the house-beautification, convinced Mom that we needed to cut our own tree for the first time in an easy fifteen years. And so, ten miles out of Madison off County M, we accepted a saw from a white-bearded old farmer and danced around quickly in the subzero windchills before hacking down a small pine about our height. (Over fresh hot cider from the next farm over, we learned that this seeming yokel was once the chair of the IT department at Madison. One never can tell ...)

Back via Border's (everyone still seems to lament their two-block peregrination west, to a multi-story space -- "more Barnes & Noble-ish," we scoff), attempting to copy down vegan feast recipes, we got our karmic comeuppance when we left with an early present for me (more Moosewood! mostly vegan! more excuses to throw themed dinner parties!), which quickly proved its worth in the form of mushroom-phyllo pastries.

All Christmas Eve, Mom & I concocted a five-course dinner, not counting the two batches of vegan cookies I successfully de-dairied. Alexis decorated the tree; we were dragged to church to sing loud alto parts to the carols.

And it snowed the next morning -- not enough to stick, but then again not warm enough to melt. Chilly, frosty powder, and beautifully sparkly, both under the white Christmas sun and the blue moon the next night as I went out to Alana's for a reunion of sorts, casting luminous shadows on the graveyard across the street. It did my heart good that no one complained it was too cold, and that the snow had the good manners not to melt.

As for the rest of the time -- unstructured time like I haven't had in so long! And unstructured, Wisconsin, family time. Scrabble (twice: once when Mom beat me, and I in turn beat Alexis, to the dismay of the two younger parties; once when Mom and I tied in a quick bout on the way out the door); time to analyze Verdi on the Aerosonic upright that my grandmother had reportedly driven up as a surprise visit one year, and to remember my four-voice reading skills on a small sheaf of carols, whose illustrations I remember as well as I do those of Where the Wild Things Are, every one a perfect example of classic voice-leading. Garrison Keillor on the kitchen radio as I rolled gingerbread.

Back a bit too soon, but I guess that's what happens to a working girl who spends all her vacation days in Cairo.

all this ©nori heikkinen, December 2004

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