november, 2006

Sun, 12 Nov 2006 17:34:53 -0800

I've been absentee. Voting from Wisconsin, still, though my ballot almost didn't make it in (though a flurry of election-morning calls from the MoveOn office to that of the City Clerk in Madison confirmed that it had, against all odds, arrived -- I think this is the sign I didn't know I'd been waiting for to tell me that I really need to register to vote locally, if not go whole hog and get a 415 number!). And Wisconsin behaved electorally Tuesday, as did Missouri, Montana, and Virginia, in that order of nail-biting, down-to-the-wire, senatorial-toss-up-ness. I have three New York Timeses lined up on my floor, with the respective headlines:


Oh god, it makes this little blue heart go pitter-pat, just to think back on them! Someone stole my paper the day after election day, after I'd spent the entire day phonebanking with MoveOn, calling into tight races -- "Have you gotten a chance to go to the polls yet today, ma'am?" -- and then celebrating as the returns came in that evening, deciding the House but not yet the Senate, as we willed our party on to victory with blue "VOTE" earrings, drinks with blue curaçao, even blue roses, at the 500 Club after Jaime's apartment party. I snagged a replacement Times from Safeway as Joanne and I extracted our partied-out selves from bed and began the drive down the peninsula; Mike texted me about Rumsfeld's ouster before we'd even heard it on NPR. I barely sat down from glee for the remainder of the week; new officemate Jacob smiled indulgently every day as I paraded in with the headline displayed, victorious, jubilant. I wasn't of voting age the last time the Democrats won this big! Allen conceded in Virginia on Thursday, rather than waste time, money, and patience, à la 2000, on a recount -- concessions! It feels like democracy is in action! That a cumbersome, archaic process, fraught with systemic inequalities which are exploited to my detriment every two years, disillusioning the girl who hung out of the window of Lodge 2 screaming "vote for Gore!" after playing George Michael's [You Gotta Have] Faith, should work! I'm psyched -- maybe guardedly so, but still psyched -- for 2008.

But I mean absentee, now, in the sense that I barely logged on while in Thailand for 9 days -- well, once, to find the phone number of Colin's friend from high school who lives in Chiang Mai who showed me his favorite pubs there, shuttling in a tuk-tuk between barefoot vegetarian dinner in a treehouse restaurant and places where we downed Heineken by the bomber and reminisced [him] and rhapsodized [me] about the beer available on the West Coast; once to try and sell shares from Ko Phi Phi, the island paradise where the assembled company (Matt & David from work, Emily & Chelle, and Matt's friend Kate) snorkeled, exulted, and sampled the local lagers while standing waist-deep in cerulean water on gorgeous beaches, surrounded by longboats; and not at all from Bangkok, where I was too busy being happily surprised that I'd coincided with the annual, week-long, Buddhist vegetarian festival, which meant that the $0.50 street food was rife with extra vegetables and tofu and that I could pantomime my way to gastronomic ecstasy by pointing at the flags that denoted their hippiness, ogling temples, and eating equally well in over-the-top clubs whose prices averaged out with our street food to keep the overall dinner tab entirely reasonable.

Since then, election madness, and shuttle time filled with talking to old friends, and reading in glee the favorably-headlined paper, my online presence has suffered. The above may be all that gets blogged about Thailand -- and, despite a vow to myself that this would never be an obligation, that I wasn't writing for posterity, I've also never spent that long away from a computer at which I had the time and inclination to blog before. Um, like, ever. We'll see what goes down on record.

In the meanwhile, I've been making even better friends with the city which I'm never leaving. New Thai places in the Tenderloin satisfy the green-curry cravings I've had since leaving Bangkok; the coffee shop from which I'm blogging this, the much-vaunted Ritual, is alive with hipsters, beautiful dishware, vegan pastries, and the best coffee I've yet found in this city; Jonny at Absinthe keeps me coming back with creative (and free) drinks. Yesterday, after reäcquainting my travelling and partying body with yoga, and after a late brunch with Jaime, we walked up to the top of Buena Vista Park: the four blocks up Duboce feel like much longer when the sidewalk starts to develop stairs due to the incline. The view from its apex is even better: The Golden Gate stretches, ferrous, into Marin; low sunlight glints off the windows across the bay of the Berkeley hills.

Later in the afternoon, finding myself with the first chunk of unplanned time I've had in what feels like ages, I call Mike. Dinner plans turn into Nori's-first-time-on-a-motorcycle plans, and, over the course of the evening (a detour to North Beach turned into stopping in Fort Mason for the Greens (our motorcycle helmets got stored in the garderobe, teehee), whose chocolate cake floored me and whose chantarelles in phyllo (paired with pinot noir, yum) rivaled my madeleine-like morels), learning to lean into the curves (which I hadn't mastered on the drive up to Twin Peaks, the top of which offered an even better vista than that called "Buena" from earlier in the day). Cruising up Divis[idero] and happening to glance east, the moon hung, huge, upside-down, and half-full like my perennial romantic's glass of water. The trip home was aborted; course was changed to the top of Lombard, at which we stood on a wall and watched the shrinking moon ascend to the height of the illuminated Coit Tower. I reïterated that this city is surreal to me, literally incredible. Mike the west-coaster will never quite understand that these places only seem to exist in the collective imagination of placid midwesterners, of embittered east-coasters. Back on the humming machine, close to the engine, we zoomed back down more hills to get to my house. I fell asleep smiling next to the fire.

Adam, visiting from London, told me Thursday evening that he'd had to stop reading my blog, that it made him too jealous that I lived here. I'm flattered. But I'm glad my ardor shows.

Sun, 26 Nov 2006 20:14:19 -0500

Slightly past the peak of my $5-airplane-G&T (the-stewardess-has-yet-to-bring-me-my-damn-change) buzz, I decide that these new, fancy, in-ear Apple 'buds Just Ain't Doin' It For Me(TM). Fuck this shit; I'm going to switch to my ghetto, sound-leaking, plain-ol' earbuds just as soon as I get home -- that is, whatever "home" refers to these days.

The word is no longer as contested as it was in college, or perhaps even in DC, where I didn't much like it, and which I was reluctant to call anything smacking of the permanent. Damn it, I'm considering buying in SF; no reason to mince words: it's home. But Madison, Chicago, the Midwest in general, even O'Hare -- which, if I had been blogging in the mid-nineties, I would have said felt like home as soon as I got there from anywhere in the world (me, the world traveller at age 18, having then been to, what? Italy; Brazil; Japan!) -- feel somehow nice, safe, albeit perhaps provincial at this state in the game [of life, of course]. I consider the price of the house on Regent St., and compare what I'm looking at in the western inflated housing market (let's just say that, even with this recent surge in my benefactor's stock, it will be years before I can afford a down payment. Shit) -- even compare to prices in Chicago, as pointed out to me this afternoon on our perambulation by red-haired Josh, who was taking time off from finishing his qualifying-exam paper to drive me to vegan brunch at the Chicago Diner -- my god, I could move back to the Midwest and buy a place now, get the snow I miss, and live in a more Philly-like city -- SF, for all its wonderfulness (and there is much, and it is not to be discounted), is in fact bounded on three sides by water, and her population remains under a million; having basically discounted New York on so many levels my now (Paris, sure; Berlin, bring it!; New York? can't be arsed, as Adam the Brit would say), the third and fourth contenders, population-wise, also have going for them a chillness, a reality that I noticed coming up from DC, but which is not solely in contrast to that bubble -- not to mention an inexpensiveness that eludes their rent-controlled coastal siblings. (Perhaps that's it -- it's in contrast to all bubbles, be they political [DC], tech [SF], or theatrical [LA]. Hmm.)

Anyhow, it's good for me, these biannual sojourns to places (Madison, here) that feel smaller and smaller the farther I get away from them, temporally. And yet I find myself wondering what a few dozen stock options could do to the old stomping ground. New counters in the kitchen; tile in the bathroom ... But of course I don't want to move back to the Midwest. Not yet. Not for a long while, if ever.

As long as everyone else lives there, though, I can't exactly revolt and hold Thanksgiving in California. One of these years (next?), I will; until then, it's Thanksgiving travel, drives between Chicago and Madison, time to talk, and go to the symphony, with Mom (the gold-and-green silken stole I had tailored for her in Thailand worked even better than I could have hoped); to drive around the surprisingly-unfrozen terrain looking for egg replacer on Thursday with Alexis, belting out "Buttercup" (all we found was potato starch, which, shockingly, held my vegan butternut-squash pie together admirably); to see the paternal side of the family plus Munyons. This is why I'm still schlepping across the country each Thanksgiving from California.

Airplanes are good for blogging. I'm in a row of three twentysomethings, each of us now leaned back with our iPods, the girl on the window wearing the same blue octopus-Otsu T-shirt I did Friday; all of us at one point fiddling with our laptops. The Midwest is lovely, but this is representative of my current capital-H home. Despite the amount of grindstone-fourth-quarter work piled up in front of me, I'm happy to be coming home.

all this Šnori heikkinen, November 2006

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