january, 2005

Sat Jan 1 18:44:49 EST 2005

Conspicuously Bobo and begadgeted, sitting in a Steve-recommended coffee shop in Midtown (slowly trying to absorb New York geography, with the help of a patient tutor with a shared fascination for hyperdetailed maps): iPod in ears (having provided dinner-cooking and -party music via Dave's iTrip, broadcasting to Swattie Robyn's stereo, last night: Chimay to Jurassic 5; champagne to Trüby Trio); cellphone conspicuous on top of all but the front section of tomorrow's paper(! -- the bodega-tobacconist, surprised I wanted it incomplete, knocked $0.50 off the price for me); half remaining of a huge, delicious vegan cookie like they sell at the Juice Joint in DC; a coffee-stained mug with the dregs of a soy latte. All of which is very familiar, and thus, very comforting. Wesleyan boys playing darts and watching the Rose Bowl at an Irish pub two or three blocks north. Not I -- caffeine was highest on my list around 5 PM, time to myself a close second. No pressure to throw a frisbee around Central Park on this unseasonably gorgeous day (though Gabe assures me there is no skill prerequisite), I relax into my coffee and indulgent mores.

It's been a long (but good-log) two days and change. Rode up with Jaime and Chris Thursday after work, crashing with Gabe. After I turned over Claire's keys to my two-month subletter at the Tea Lounge Friday morning, Dave introduced me to the marvels of the Park Slope Food Coop (where I ran into Cantatrix Emily, whom I hadn't seen for nigh on five years!) -- a place that's reason enough, on its own, to move to Brooklyn. We wound through the labyrinthine checkout masses, then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening taking over Robyn's kitchen, preparing stuffed eggplant, curried millet pilaf, braised chard & kale, and my now-famous chocolate Guinness cake. Three bottles Chimay cinq cents -- one for the cooks; two for the dinner guests. Jaime and Chris arrived with champagne, I borrowed a dress from Robyn, and began the official festivities. Over at Adrienne's, conveniently 15 minutes away, Swatties I hadn't seen since graduation: champagne; the ball dropping; upsetting news: Leah Deni ('01) died last week. Even though I'd barely known her, that blow took the wind out of my party sails. So upon arriving at a huge downtown scene, and seeing the line for the coat check, I bailed in favor of the uptown bar to which Gabe et al. had retired. Note to self: New Year's is best in a small group of friends.

It's felt very good to just wing it, party to party, with friends of like mind this New Year's -- and for what feels like the first time in a very long time. No stress; no upsets. IPAs (the beer, not the phonetic alphabet) and clementines one evening -- a surprisingly good combination -- with a friend whom I know both very well and simultaneously not at all: a nice [re]acquaintance. Time between Thai takeout and interactions spent in cafés with tomorrow's news. (Pleased that my thumb pain has magically dissipated!) Good to be out of a city I've at long last committed to leave. But most of all, happy in my personal interactions of the holiday. Welcome, 2005: here's to my friends.

Thu Jan 6 12:43:10 EST 2005

Though I'm by far not in the minority of Americans, and probably first-world citizens, here, I get a certain amount of shit for the quantities in which I consume caffeine (etymological tidbit: from the German kaffee + in, i.e., something found in coffee; that's how I'm now remembering, for the first time in my life, that the 'e' goes before the 'i' here). Gabe called me an addict all weekend, as I slunk off to sit in coffeehouse after coffeehouse in search of mental defogging. And while I admired his asceticism, since when have I been known to deny myself mostly-harmless pleasures? Coffee is social, I argued; my matutinal black tea is more ritual than eye-opening. He shrugged knowingly, and therefore infuriatingly.

Because, of course, he was right. Feeling slightly under the weather after a weekend of minimal sleep and more partying than normal (as usual), I've abstained from the morning dessicating tannins since Monday. And I've felt it. It could be, in part, my New Year's resolution to get to work before 10 until I leave in February, and my stubborn refusal to alter my bedtime to compensate for the lack of morning sleep that entails. It could be just immunal fatigue. But arriving at pennies after ten this morning, and staring at my computer with no will to work, and none to focus, I had to admit it might be the social ritual I'd so vociferously defended this weekend. Social, all right -- me and the New York Times, every morning, baby.

I've found myself in this indolent fog from time to time since New Year's (full disclosure: often in the morning). And, once there, I drift off to that which I'll soon be leaving: old friends; new friends; the quartet and viola teacher whom I just emailed to inform of my departure. The idea that your life builds up around you, wherever you put yourself -- and that there will be certain things and people I'll be further from, and not only as the crow flies, on the West Coast. Maddening, the inability to cherry-pick several dozen friends (or people I'd like to get to know better) to accompany me to each city to which I move. (But that's the beauty of travel, I guess -- and serendipity.)

But of course, I need the change. Need change in general. Felt the urge so strongly last night that I located the rest of the bottle of pink Manic Panic on my windowsill, left over from this summer, and doused my shaggy head with it. (The dreds haven't held, except for one resilient chunk near my right ear -- try as I might, my hair does not tangle easily!) I look like a neon muppet now -- which is desperately needed.

Fan says she anticipated my departure: "I've generally found that people tend to shift gears after about 2 years out of college." It hasn't been quite that, but the fact that I need to look like a Fraggle to take myself seriously is telling.

I break down after an hour of musings, and pour a cup of black tea. I'm either confirming a mild addiction, or just making up for lack of sleep. Either way, my mind slides gently back into focus.

Thu Jan 13 18:57:57 EST 2005

A whiff spring sweeps hard through the District. I pretend it's January still and try wearing my down-filled vest; I take it off on the walk back from Java Green with Sam (in town for a senior-year externship) this afternoon, post-fake-spicy-chicken and noodles I've been craving for a week. I can't decide whether to love it or hate it. Global warming! Chaos! It's all Bush's fault! -- screams one part of my brain. The other part savors (silently, guiltily) the warmth, thinking of fewer sleeves, warmth in the air, people who smile more easily, tango, margaritas on porches and in roof gardens. Sam notes that it's hypocritical of me to protest the warm snap considering to where I'm relocating in a month and change; I acknowledge he's right, and that I'll have to get used to flowers blooming from Valentine's Day through Thanksgiving (according to Colin).

But will I really mind it? I've always thought I needed the seasonal change -- needed the winter to appreciate the spring, just as eating these walnut-miso haricots verts 'round the clock would inure my palate to their cold tang. And it's indisputable that I love snow, love sledding, love the thigh-smarting cold. But maybe the spring in isolation would serve a similar purpose. Is continual rebirth possible?

They say that half the reason to travel around is to learn about yourself. Perhaps California will teach me this.

Viola and Scrabble (worthy opponent though she is, I beat 19-year-old Alex once, in a catfight match ending at 377 to 344!) in the meantime: the Turina like Ravel; the Arriaga broad and sweeping; even the erstwhile-hated Sevcík's Opus 3 surprisingly lyrical, setting Pablo dancing around my living room and referencing the opening of Mahler's "Titan." The last of Fan's jasmine tea on this rainy-yet-coatless evening. And even without the weather, on Monday, Mama Marcia's dance class packed as full as the tiny oblong studio could possibly hold, and fast steps that are now in my vocabulary of movements. I remember turns; people cheer me on. Blue Merle directly afterwards at a small bar in Arlington: Lucas dances up to the mic, moving more than you'd ever be allowed to on a classical stage, and Beau closes his eyes on the mandolin. And having just come from the visceral dance class, I can appreciate all the more their complete possession by the music -- in the former case, eight sweat-glistening drummers in a polyryhthmic trance; in the band's case, Dave-Matthews-esque bluegrass; in mine, the simple pleasures of a whole bow on an open G. Not enough people follow their dreams.

Mon Jan 17 22:29:42 EST 2005

Impatient to begin dinner, I stop the dishwasher (loaded full with the detritus of cashew-milk waffles, a couple days of bagels and the ubiquitous grounds and coffee-sludgey mugs of Alex's French press) in the middle of its drying cycle (shouldn't have it on that anyway; waste of heat, admonishes my conscience) and pull out the cutting board. The Förhöja (Jaime-matching, IKEA-named sideboard) and counters are clean; the trash taken out. I slowly begin to assemble the cloves of garlic and tablespoons of lemon juice for dinner, smelling the hot, recently-soaped wood of the surface as I work.

Discrete cleanliness and cooking: this is how I know how to control my environment, when I can't control the circumstances -- can't control the outcome of last night, after the my second (the sixth annual) MLK dance party at Delafield, the Yuengling wearing off quickly over a three-hour (can it have been so long?) discussion post-party on my couch. The words "incandescent" and "intimidating" were used to describe me; I rolled my eyes and demanded of the speaker (whom I'm not even dating!) why he, of all people, would be intimidated. So where has six months of innocent dinners and winking gotten us? Back to square one, with a list of insurmountable difficulties, albethey better articulated this time 'round.

He's right, at least, about what I am: uncompromising when it comes to how I want to live my life; desperately hanging on to any thread of having my [vegan] cake while eating it. No pretense; no bullshit; no façade -- something that Jaime, in a post-mortem this morning over cider from a tetsubin teapot at Tryst, pointed out that she and I have in common, which is a large part of why we get along so well. And apparently that scares people. God. Apparently, not only do not enough people follow their dreams, they get scared when someone tries to!

So I woke up sad this morning, like I haven't in a while. I have no agency in this. Maybe people will understand me in California.

Mon Jan 24 17:12:43 EST 2005

Passing the strip of restaurants on Connecticut above Dupont on Saturday night, headed towards the disappointing and overpriced La Tomate for John Mark's birthday dinner, I saw a group of people my age standing just outside a patio of untouched snow. They were clearly egging one reluctant girl to do something. I heard nothing, but there could have been only one interpretation to her reluctance, the pristine snow cover, and their cheers. I (clad in my ridiculous faux-fur coat -- I've finally acknowledged that the vest just doesn't do it below freezing, even with a sweater) stopped to see if she would do it. She looked up, noticed me, and held back even more visibly.

"Are you going to make a snow angel?" I asked her. She nodded; her friends cheered. I offered to make one with her. The two of us jumped down onto the patio, right outside the picture window leading into the English basement restaurant, and made two angels, heads facing, as if cutting cookies from gingerbread to maximize dough.

We got up, admired our handiwork, high-fived her friends, and parted ways. I love cities for this reason.

Fri Jan 28 20:55:14 EST 2005

Quiet Friday night at home, cleaning (a week's worth of accumulated laundry; dishes), reading (Portuguese Irregular Verbs -- not actually a language reference, but I would have been as pleased with the spontaneous gift had it actually been), repainting toenails. A joint party is supposedly raging in apartments 1 and 3, but thanks to some fortuitous coincidence, this building is surprisingly soundproof, and all I can hear is my Radiohead over the dishwasher, coming through the speakers from my orange room.

Haven't been sleeping enough this week (unsurprisingly -- I think Kean and Tony, regular afternoon cocaffeinators, have come to expect that I'll be out partying five nights out of every seven), and, as happens when I run around on little rest, my immune system rebels. Last weekend wasn't anywhere close to the exhaustion brought on by MLK, but nonetheless culminated in my only concert with this quartet in DC. Sunday night, Winston, Fan, Amy and I took the stage at DCAC in Adams Morgan: two of us (the lower strings) in the outfits Jess had appliquéd and sewed for us; two (the Yus) in black and wine -- a bit distractingly dichotomous, perhaps, but we needed to be comfortable while we played (and to that end, I had had six inches of blue corduroy pleats added onto the bottom of my knee-length skirt -- what was she thinking?!). The house was full, and straight-shooting Lara was even turned away until the second half (fire codes, or some such lame excuse): I noted, peeping through holes in the poor excuse for a curtain from the freezing-cold backstage in which we huddled in our parkas and imbibed a couple of glasses of red wine ("to warm up") before the show, that most of my important friends had showed up to see me play. My interaction with music in DC has been strange -- not just the off-an-on commitment to music (like now, sigh, when I should be practicing, but am instead navel-gazing) I keep displaying, but the fact that, even though I tell my new friends that I play, it's never real to them. They never see more than the red backpack case pass through, if even that. So while I've been talking about this aspect of my life for a year and a half -- even averring its centrality -- no one had seen any more than Jaime, when the two of us pulled our our instruments over a bottle of wine last year for a drunken Suzuki read-through. So I was pleased to see the people to whom I most wanted to show this side of myself filling in the squeaky, threadbare stadium seats.

Despite the chill, we played well, warming up, into the wine, and into the music. My nerves took themselves out this time on my vocal abilities, and I was more apprehensive about introducing D'Rivera's Wapango than I was about my leading role in that piece, its baffling hemiola, or my lick in the Piazzolla Tango Ballet (which went beautifully: down chromatically from the high G, I nailed every note, and began the last E-flat on a languorous vibrato, speeding it up before pulling my bow away (the vapors of rosin highly visible in the darkened blackbox, spotlight on the musicians, projected scenes on a screen above us). I only froze up afterwards, almost scared by the fact that I had managed to do exactly what I'd intended to). But a duly impressed Colin assured me I'd spoken as well as played articulately, and, amazingly, even the toughest rhythmic sections in the two-against-three huapango flew by, seemingly without effort.

Decompressing afterwards at the Pharmacy Bar (even the sick Fan with a hot toddy), a martini in hand, the adrenaline had clearly left me. Even though the group had collectively heated up over the course of the twoish hours, I now shivered, kept my scarf on, and tried valiantly to string a sentence together (not the fault of the gin).

Two days later, through a thread of ridiculous emails, Delafield had decided to celebrate Burns' Night. (Sibley, from Rosemont: Does Delafield want in on a 12-pound order of rolled oats? Abby: I don't think we're eating that much oatmeal right now ... Me: Oh, come on -- put it in haggis! You'd only have to slaughter six sheep to use those oats! Abby: We could make vegetarian haggis! I had it once; it's great! Me: How lucky -- Tuesday is Burns' Day!) I recruited Colin to come in kilt, with the single malt I'd gotten him for his birthday the previous week (celebrated at an Anti-Inauguration Black-Tie Birthday party chez the fashionable Daniela), and give a proper recitation of Address to a Haggis (Scott: How do you give directions to a haggis?), which he did, in fine form. Boiled onions substituted nicely for ovine offal, and even the Scotsman there said it was surprisingly close.

And even though he lives in the opposite direction, he drove me home. Whence this about-face?! Two weeks ago I had no reason to disbelieve his protestations; now, I eat my words as he tacitly eats his. Last night at Jaleo Bethesda, it was as if no time had passed in some ways. Yet in others, we've made small adjustments, stemmed from a good ten months' deepened understanding of each other. Maybe good things come in two parts ... This feels like it will last, though -- at least through this last month I have remaining in this space (why do these things seem to be contingent on the imminent departure of one party?!).

Between this unexpected renewal and the final Wig Wednesday (almost forgotten -- Jaime calls from the bus: "You know what day it is today ... ?"; Claire, organizing my papers in a pile on the rug, borrows two dresses; we dash over and grab wigs; receive the worst Côtes du Rhône and service I've ever had there), and, post-tapas, alternating stanzas of a bilingual edition of Rilke's Les Roses in Bethesda last night, no wonder I'm tired.

all this ©nori heikkinen, January 2005

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