february, 2005

Fri Feb 11 11:03:22 EST 2005

Leaving is becoming more real, almost. I've only eaten at home once this week (Alex took on the cooking, even, as I tried to simultaneously bleach streaks into my hair and chop kale -- craving even more vegetables than the vegan Vegetable Garden in Rockville had provided the previous night, throwing crucifers and carrots into a gingerful pan), and have been taken out for more goodbye lunches and dinners than I can count (well, at least, count on one hard). Even the now-carnivorous Delafield threw together a completely vegan meal for me after a field trip to Lauriol Plaza for margaritas on Monday, and I wondered how much more I'll see the house before I leave (at all?).

It's such a unique group of people, and a great situation, that I take for granted, and I've enjoyed being a part of to the extent I have (this year's MLK invite listed the house residents of both Delafield and Rosemont, and then my name at the bottom!). I've come to assume that a group house meant a collective as great as the people who I'm used to seeing around the 'field -- Seth greeting new employees in his boxers; Abby fixing and providing etymologies for everything; Peter kicking everyone's ass in Boggle; Bethany serenading the company with Chopin; Joanne doing African dance steps with me on the creaking floors; Mansir forever missing puns (but endearingly); Erin the ichthyologist; Scott advocating obscure Esperanto cult films. Where else do you have a house with eight members, all of whom you like?

Negotiations with my new house taking half my time these days (no, I do need to see the lease before it's signed; no, I want to prorate rent based on floor space, and before people move in and paint), I realized that, come what may in Berkeley, it will be -- well, not the same. Obvious, and ostensibly what I'm looking for. I'm just committing myself to the unknown in every way possible, and realizing bit by bit just what it means leaving.

And Jaime goes even sooner: Wednesday next. It's not coincidental that our moving dates should fall so close -- I have no desire to re-tool my social structure here in DC, this city from which, when I move away, everyone I know tells me I will have to get used to no longer being "the cutest little punky girl around" (--Rebecca, from Sri Lanka). Said social structure has, of course, been recently altered for the better (ever a situation of passionate intensity) -- and in that, I revel while I yet can.

I haven't started packing, but I have started casting an eye over my books and stray Calphalon pans, idly wondering about the best way to get them across the country in a little under two weeks. But, for some strange reason (perhaps due to the fact that I, unlike Jaime, don't have to obtain malaria vaccines, elaborate visas, and a set of spare sterile syringes), I'm not worried. Even as I should stay home and pack this weekend, I'm running away with the boy to Chris in New York, who feeds and shows me vegan delicacies and orange things (to match my newly-dyed hair). I'll pack later.

Tue Feb 15 11:10:03 EST 2005

[some gates] The most at ease I've felt in a long time was in New York this weekend, running through miles and miles of orange in Central Park, eating amazing vegan food every few hours, with Colin and Chris. The boy and I flew up Saturday morning (fly?! Yes, well, beats the hell out of the 5-hours bus, comfort-wise, and is cheaper than the train ...), and, emerging from the subway at 110th Street, I turned to face the park and gasped. Orange material laced the Harlem Meer, and, despite the freezing cold (the pond was iced over), people were out in the grey looking in wonderment at the parade of orange toy soldiers lining the hills. Though we progressed over a few miles and several thousand Gates to the Met, the topography of the top of the North Woods up there was the most effective -- sun from the south through the bright saffron; fewer people (unlike the Sunday-afternoon throngs around Belvedere Castle); variety of the placement and width of the structures. So much orange! (Amelia says, "They've decorated Central Park like Nori's bedroom!") Seldom do the cones in my eyes get this much saturation, a flood to the brain of seratonin carried on waves of saffron.

Seldom, also, do I get so indulged as much, foodwise. Recommendations and suggestions flurried around via email on Friday; by Saturday night, I'm sipping a sake-and-prosecco mojito next to Colin's hollow-and-delicious Hawkes Bay Te Mata cabernet/merlot, as Chris and Leah joined us in Pure Food & Wine for an elaborate meals on the scale of the Dining Out pages of the Times, whose overspiced entrée leaves me regretfully too full for dessert.

[me jumping
through a gate] Sunday morning, we revisit Angelica Kitchen's walnut-lentil pâté, complete with brunch and a date-and-pecan cookie to go, more coffee at the fabulous place on 10th & 1st where Colin notes that the Danesi coffee cups perfectly fit in my palm. Vermeers at the Frick. More orange (oh god, so much orange!). And then to Candle Café, where an entire meal, from pinot blanc to dumplings to chipotle-braised tofu to carrot cake and espresso, was perfect.

In Angelica, I commented to Colin that I couldn't remember when I'd felt this at ease. Veganism is not a weird thing in the East Village; people don't look at me funny when I ask for soy milk in my coffee; there are more extreme philosophies in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in mine. Though I got my photo snapped and questioned if my hair always matched the installations, no one batted more than an eyelash that my head, bag, and coat all matched the Gates. No belligerence was needed to assert my difference -- and god, how refreshing! I was able to enjoy the company of my friend and my boy, unfettered with tacit opprobrium in the ether. Amazing how, like dairy in the body, one never notices it until the weight is suddenly lifted, and one feels much lighter, à la Parmenides.

So passed the weekend, then: in a state of easy bliss. So seldom are all my needs and preferences met in any situation besides my own kitchen and own table (blooming still with an orchid left over from Thaiphoon, flowers from a two-weekends'-past going-away party, and the white and orange roses I received last night for a certain commercial holiday that is delicious to play into, when one actually has a Valentine!). And here in New York: so much orange; so much creative, animal-free food; so much affection. Even the transition back into this town (for which I now can't muster the self-righteous vitriol I usually can, being that I'm leaving in eight days), on a plane in forty minutes, was mitigated by the culinarily invigorating pageant I concocted out of many small cake tins and a few strawberries last night. I fell asleep listening to Calvino.

Just for now, things are right were I want them. (Ironic, and ineluctable, that I'm leaving ...)

Wed Feb 23 20:23:02 EST 2005

Somewhere above West Virginia, according to the map, miles above all visible lights. My first time flying with a laptop ("do you have a computer?" asked the security guy. "Oh! Yes, I do!" I responded, as if getting carded on my 21st birthday). My first time flying to move, more to the point -- before, in the grand scheme of the few places I've left (Madison for college; the Philadelphia area for DC; Vienna almost doesn't count), I've always driven. Mom's magic station wagon, my orange behemoth, and Allison's doomed car to and from college; a U-Haul was easy enough for the short jaunt down the eastern seaboard for my transition to Washington. Vienna I never really moved into, having only two suitcases and my viola total -- more than I like to fly with (to say nothing of taking trains through all of Austria and into Munich!), but imperative for the four months I spent there.

And this time! Flying, currently (we're nearing the southern tip of Ohio), with as much and more (two equal suitcases -- Colin insisted I have a viable load of t-shirts and sheets and towels in each, in case one were lost; the viola; the orange bag full of hard drives and the not-actually-waterlogged iBook (though a few drops accidentally propelled into the right speaker Monday night had me convinced I'd killed it)). And with so much more than either in Vienna, where all I could accumulate was what would fit in my suitcases, or, seemingly, in college, when I didn't have to ship it all.

A chappingly cold day in the nation's capitol (of which prominence I was reminded as we drove down across the mall, the full moon rising behind the capitol building), enough to remind me what I'm not sad to leave, but sufficient too to split the skin of my hands into spider-cracks. Washing newsprint and dust off the palms and fingertips every few minutes, the bathroom sink slowly greyed, and I started keeping my small Swiss tin of Nivea in my pocket.

The cake dome padded in newspaper. A small library's worth (just the pared-down necessities, but still) of books, stacked, each box a perfect solution to the knapsack problem. Hard drives in my purse. Calphalons and All-Clads on the back of a UPS truck heading to Berkeley. And all the furniture liquidated.

It's amazing, really -- I didn't start until Friday morning, when I listed everything I thought I owned on Craigslist. StreamSagers, Swatties, and strangers swarmed Saturday and salvaged sixty percent of it. Sunday, still, I was convinced I had time, as the Boy came over for packing and a final MSG-free Chinese take-out meal, washed down with champagne that Chris had brought over for now-in-Beijing Jaime's going-away dinner last week, and thrummingly tipsy pool (in which I held my own, even if only winning by default). It took me until an indolence-break coffee (my last at Sparky's!) with Anna on Monday afternoon, right before a final viola lesson, to realize that the entire futon had to go. Kit & caboodle, dog & pony, mattress & frame -- in no universe was it cheaper to ship it freight than it would have been to liquidate and re-buy. Within 24 hours I'd sold it to a woman whose sob story and offer I liked; within 48 it was gone (which was good, because within 56, so was I).

And now I am. Almost into Indiana. (Almost not: as we veered off towards National, I reminded my sweet chauffeur that I was flying out of the half-hour-hence Dulles.) Books mailed at midnight last night, all hundred and seventy of them. Boxes of mugs and spare sticks of RAM handed off to UPS, nick-of-timed at 5:30, just when I was starting to make frantic contingency-plan phone calls to Claire to cover. The meter unread for the power. A white rose behind my ear, the last of my Valentine's bouquets of orange and white. And many kisses to see me off.

So now, I am in a rare interim, like the blank page delineating sections of a book. ("Congrats on your Major Life Decision," writes Evan -- and indeed it is, though that's not quite how I've been framing it.) I wrote address labels all afternoon, often getting seven or eight letters into W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N on the destination before crossing it out and re-Sharpieïng my city-to-be: the one that always has one more 'e' than I think it should, the nuclear-free zone, the place where orange hair is not unusual, at least, not in and of itself.

"You'll love Berkeley," he tells me, his eyes reddening at the corners. And, as I fly through Illinois and over Iowa, and as this white rose quietly wilts behind my ear, I can only hope that I will.

Sat Feb 26 13:44:59 PST 2005

We didn't make it as far as the dance studio yesterday afternoon, Emily and I. But we did wander in and out of Oakland, down 65th Street and to the Nomad Café, whose wireless network drew at least the ethernet-addled me initially, and whose two-dollar soy lattes kept me. ("I think you wield a computer as your primary weapon against the world," observed Colin trenchantly the other night, having watched me that day beautify my Craigslist postings even as I struggled to put things into boxes. And it's true -- I'm feeling the dearth of Internet.) Up Shattuck and over on Ashby, we lingered further in the paint-chip aisle of a hardware store, visualizing kitchen schemata (current status: ugly yellow cabinets that don't lie flush; puke-orange trim).

Things to paint! The house is large, six-bedroomed, with beautiful woodwork, but needs attention: rooms, if painted, look like the job was done by monkeys; the wood is painted over in many places it absolutely shouldn't be. We have visions of the living room in a deep, almost-avocado green to contrast the dark wood; the kitchen, refinished in red with white cabinets. And the bedrooms yet need to be done. Mine is currently half red: one wall completely; the twoish feet above above a running wood trim (which has been unfortunatley painted over, in white) also red, with the space beneath it a dingy white. I mentally went through the color wheel in the paint store: red: good; orange: just did it; yellow: too airy-fairy; green: just not me; blue: too calm; purple: the only other option. But I lived in a purple room in the Barn ... Somehow, without furniture to picture in the space, it's hard to conceptualize.

The other first of yesterday -- that to which people who've known me have told me to go since I told them I was moving here -- was the Berkeley Bowl. Entering from Adeline instead of Shattuck, I didn't even meet the produce section until last, when my basket was already overflowing with sake-wasabi mustard, amazing bagels (a hookup so close to my house!), and cinnamon-cayenne almonds. I'd already called the boy, as promised when I first set foot in the store, from the mustard section, but had to redial his number in amazement when I came upon the avocado aisle. Mangoes, and more than one kind. Fresh chives! When was the last tim I saw fresh chives? My eyes started to water.

Jasmine on trees. Calla lillies just spouting in the backyard! Colin says, I told you this; weren't you listening? I say, yes, but I don't think I believed you. His brother Scott picked me up at the airport, after I'd serendipitously found John Mark on the plane from DC. Emily met me at the door with a bag of fresh strawberries, and I had to sit down -- hard, on the floor, melted by my tongue -- to adequately experience their succulence. Scott's eyes widened: Wow, this really is a no-brainer, you moving to Berkeley, eh? Not knowing the area, I still see it less than others around me appear to, but to them, it's obvious. (I think the orange hair helps, there.)

This transition, while never an easy thing, is better than it could be. People are responding to my call for postcards, leaving me colorful mail from Paris, DC, Sri Lanka, and Connecticut inbetween the bills for old tenants. The house already has people and things in it -- functional-yet-old couches; a dishrack, even though the kitchen drawers haven't yet been cleaned; Suzy's room is already painted. Residual emotional intensity interrupts what rhythms are slowly establishing themselves, further jarred by the minor jetlag that had me bounding out of [Emily's] bed (a futon is high on my list) at 7:30 yesterday morning, and then crashing hard after cooking with Laurel last night.

But things are coming together apace. I now have a landline (though I didn't necessarily want one); DSL, with an awesome new ISP should arrive in a few days. Though I love that Nomad and Berkeley Espresso are full of laptops and coffee and the antisocial cameraderie of communal computing, I need to be connected now, in my living room, nestled in this blue chair with one of the house's three heaters breathing warmth onto my frostbite-white toes.

But for now, to the Ashby flea market, to Strada for coffee and internet, and then to find a futon. Hurrah for new environments, new people, and new things about which to think! (And hurrah for six kinds of avocadoes.)

all this ©nori heikkinen, February 2005

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