june, 2006

Tue, 6 Jun 2006 21:39:06 -0400

I have no idea who mentioned it the other day -- it was at Swarthmore (ah, that magical place, which stays rooted, like Avalon, in the mists of time and shrubbery, while I move around the rest of the tangible world; whose name I inscribed in white, skinnier-than-usual collegiate block letters, against an orange background, across my chest, in the form of a new T-shirt (here's hoping this presages the end of those "you went to ARTHMO?" questions, precipitated by the joint problem borne out of having both a lengthily-named alma mater and breasts); whose WAs, SHCs, and SCCS sysadmins get yearly younger) -- but someone I was talking to (perhaps drunkenly at the class of '01 party Friday night, during which I, still on California time from that morning, partook of GR's wine from the bottle on the Palmer porch swing until an unreasonable hour, and ended up staying up even later socializing in that dorm, instead of my assigned Pittenger; or perhaps it was chatting on the (non-sandy) beach the next afternoon) said that, no matter how much he likes his work at any given time, vacations are important. And I'm inclined to agree. Charles, whom I'd run into in No Name Café the day before, recounted his recent travels through southeast Asia, vocalizing how appalled he'd been to realize that he hadn't been out of the country for five years. It hasn't been nearly that long for me -- even since going to London to visit Jaime in October, I've been out of California to Iowa, to Wisconsin, and to DC all since then. And while none of these are different federations, they're all certainly different worlds. How are you? How's California? my east-coast compatriots (patriots of the land of the twentysomethings, the mobile, the flailing-in-our-years-after-college) ask me. And I explain my world: my neighborhood with the best hill ever a mere hike up Duboce; my biker-and-pirate beer bars (as Laurel accurately described Zeitgeist to the remainder of our circle of college girls who remain over dinner the other night); my stressful-yet-cushy employment filled with geeky intellectuals, code reviews, and web technologies. You call that the same country? Witness: within sixty seconds of stepping off SEPTA at Market East in Philly, I had seen two cars turn not obliviously but meanly through a pedestrian crosswalk, and the almost-run-over pedestrians respond in kind, unidigital hand gestures and vocalizations to boot. (Drivers in the Bay Area aren't as aggressive; walkers not as vehemently reactive.) Lunching with Sam ('05) this afternoon at the only vegan lunch spot in DC, I mentioned that, out West, I'm considered a news junkie; here, to hear him speak of the Center for American Progress with such easy familiarity (I mean, he works there, but that's partially the point) puts me on the uninformed end of the spectrum. Now that's what I call international travel.

Much as I love it (which is more than five feet four inches' worth, the most I could indicate with my arms spread wide), it's good to remind myself why I'm happy in California. It is, of course, impossible to contrast what I left with what I now have -- my antipathy towards the District of course subsides when I'm not living in it; I'm able to view the heterogenous suits on K Street with detached bemusement, and to appreciate the Smithsonian museums (the neon-electric-taped floor of the Hirshhorn!) for what they are. DC is becoming more like Swarthmore in that respect for me: I'm able to view it through progressively pinker-tinted rose glasses as my temporal distance from it increases.

Of course, I didn't say equanimity. Washing my hands in the dorm bathrooms at Swat on precious little sleep (I'd dragged my ass out of the twin-sized bed for breakfast, long enough to be mistaken for current students by the generation-older alumns at the same Sharplesian table), the scent of the soap sent me back to all dorm bathrooms: Willets; Lodge 2 and M.L. that brief spring with Martin; my single in Palmer senior year. The soap alone. Of course, scents always trigger those memories for me -- now that I've been absent from her for so long, Jaime's perfume smelled like London; Olivia's house, as she fed me real bagels on her mother's dishware, smelled classically like the combined eaux de toilettes of the four female inhabitants, all of whom turned out for a hug and a hello.

There is much -- are many people -- for me to see on any small trip out east. Obviously, I can't see them all; highlights were instead hit. I of course saw Colin for the first time in a while; while it appears there's nothing more to say on one particular topic, I tried to say it anyhow, acting on my 2006 resolution of being as up-front about things as the situation allowed. Drinks on the roof of the Reef didn't allow for that; a glass or two of wine at L'Enfant the next night almost did (the conversation on positivism and Einstein dragged out; a mesh table and chairs on the side of the 18th-Street drag pinch hit as we made our slow way up to collect Jaime from her milonga). So hard to internalize (much as I've succeeded from afar, over the phone, over the last few months) that this is really over; that he understands himself enough to understand me. Or to admit that he doesn't. Tenacity is usually a virtue in me; sometimes, however, it just makes things harder. Oh well: there goes (and has gone) that vision. I'm accepting it slowly. My departure out of Dulles tonight, and summary plane ride west (from which I'm now writing this), are the first dry-eyed leave-taking of DC in a year and a half. (His fault.) And still, dammit, I can't help the lump in my throat.

And so, even while I fondly remember Philly's old-American-city charm, Swarthmore's arboreal, academic bucolicism, and DC's familiar metro system, museums, and politics, I am also reminded why, if I can't have what I wanted there, it is better (for this reason amongst so many others) to be in San Francisco. Many fish in the sea, the adage goes. Maybe there will be one in the Pacific for me.

Wed, 21 Jun 2006 21:03:23 -0400

Back in January -- or maybe it was December -- sometime around when we moved from building 44 over to 1300, packing up espresso cups and computers into cardboard boxes which I then swiped for my move from Berkeley to San Francisco -- I lost my green scarf. I tried hard to not think about it; after all, with the exception of a box of books that went missing in the mail that, tragically, included the Märchenbuch that marTin inscribed to his Truthahn for her 21st birthday; excepting that, I don't lose things. Ever. (Well, and don't mention my pink duck umbrella or my most recent watch, both lost on the bus in April.)

But it turns out I was partially right. My scarf, which initially, mysteriously, went missing with a tote bag from the LISA conference and a black lace bra(!), was not gone, after all. Erick and I were staring at a piece of code this morning at my desk when Akshay walked in, holding the raggedy old nine-footer of a scarf, asking, "is this yours?" I suddenly understood several clichés, namely, "she leapt into his arms," and "tears sprang to her eyes." I flew out of my chair (another one), threw myself on Akshay, hugged him, and then started crying from joy, to the great surprise of both him and a startled Erick. Every now and then, it is apparent to both me and my teammates that I am, in fact, a girl.

I wish I could enumerate all of the ways this scarf has become special to me since acquiring it for a quarter at St. Vincent de Paul in Madison over a decade ago. Suffice it to say that there are pictures of me in it going back for a long, long time -- Gabe's picture of me and my wannabe dreds a year and a half ago in New York; me in assorted poses (conked out; screaming back at gargoyles; mocking saints) -- and that people in college knew me by it, if by nothing else. This scarf and I have a history.

Not that I can wear that scarf right now, since it's too warm in my apartment (in San Francisco! In the summer! When there's fog rolling into Golden Gate Park as I write!), the air conditioning in my office is broken, and we're all taking off work tomorrow to go to the yet-warmer beach. But that didn't prevent me from wrapping it around my neck like a long-lost pet boa constrictor this morning. I have my scarf back!

Mon, 26 Jun 2006 00:06:25 -0700

Though I've been working all weekend, I haven't minded it as much as those who hear of my plight suppose I must. And "plight" is really an overstatement -- this overtime has been precipitated by such arduous obligations as to make me go around grinning, falling asleep face-first in the sands of the beach on a perfect-weathered Thursday spent in Santa Cruz with all of engineering; first curling around a bonfire that night and then a bit further off, establishing solidarity in mathematical ways of altered perception; sampling pompelmo sorbet from the new Gelato Milano in Berkeley -- pretty, linden-redolent, collegiate Berkeley, filled with blond Californian college kids, who, like me, were ecstatic to score tickets to the Radiohead concert at the Greek Theater (never mind that they weren't face value; as the reluctant review in the New Yorker so accurately said this week, "'OK Computer' is this generation's 'Dark Side Of The Moon'"), and we were all out there screaming like you've seen clips of coiffed heartland girls doing for the Beatles 40 years ago; screaming because it was Radiohead, played at this volume -- so glad to have forgotten my earplugs! Several times during the show, I rocked back on my heels and cupped my hands behind the pinnae of my ears, letting every decibel soak into me -- playing for us, with the lights behind the band pulsating out a seizure orange and alternately a quiet, serene purple, only to fade into the opening of Kid A so unexpectedly that it caught me off guard; and I gasped, turning to Derek's and my new friend Brett, who had provided us with the final ingredients in our enjoyment of the evening (shout out to the Berkeley hippies, yo!), agape. Heather said, sophomore year when it came out, that hearing that album for the first time had made her menstruate early; her words had seemed hyperbolic until those chords came out of nowhere Saturday night, in the middle of an encore itself hyperbolic, and, had it been a few weeks later, I'm sure blood would have poured out of me. I spent half the time with my hands over my heart, partially just to feel the bass pulsating through my skeleton and viscera, partially because to comprehend the concert in context was to engage in something far more than aural.

Yes. Without these huge exceptions, working nights and weekends until the end of the quarter would be hellish. As it is, I've found it hard to keep a smile off my face these past three days.

Tue, 27 Jun 2006 08:57:19 -0700

I posted last time this year, from the shuttle up or down the peninsula in combination with a BART ride under the Bay, something malignant about the fog that creeps over the semimountainous range to the west (yes, there still is a "to the west," even out here, at least, for a few miles) in the summer. I take it all back. While I haven't acquired a native love for it like mine for snow, or that of David, who grew up in the Richmond (not even a first line of defense against the fog, the neighborhood lies back and accepts it); I've started enjoying watching the low, striated blanket ease its way into the basin beneath South San Francisco; watching it envelop the base of Sutro Tower, below which was visible a huge pink triangle pasted onto Twin Peaks for Pride this weekend, as Matt drove me back from work on Saturday afternoon; watching it creep into the more westerly neighborhoods. I am never in the thick of it, shielded by Buena Vista Park to the west, and hiding in the sunny South Bay during the day. But it keeps the days cool, even as I read in the paper about heat waves in New York; I can wear my hair down during the summer. Slow though I may be to accept any place where it doesn't snow, where a cold beer on a summer night would make you chilly, I am acclimating quickly to this accommodating climate.

all this ©nori heikkinen, June 2006

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