december, 2007

Mon, 5 Nov 2007 19:24:45 -0800

There is only one day per year when I feel I have enough time, and it was yesterday, the new early advent of Daylight Savings Time. Fall back. So, having gone to sleep on a couch in the rented house in Half Moon Bay, I woke up at a respectable 9 AM; spent an hour lounging in a deck chair in the sun pretending I was in the south of France as I listened to waves of the sussurating Pacific lap the beach and daydreamed scary maternal thoughts; was eating vegan pancakes on the patio overlooking the vast ocean, sky-blue to mirror the serene, warm weather, by 11:30; met with two potential new roommates to replace Ojan (who's not really moving out so much as he is committing to paper the fact that he doesn't really live here anyhow) by 3; had coffee and gotten my toes repainted a shiny, autumnal orange by 6:30, and was home from seeing a movie with Mike by 11 or so. All throughout the day, I was looking at my newly-fixed watch, feeling pressed for time, but an extra hour woud magically reïnsert itself into the day whenever it was needed. And of course I then stayed up late agonizing over the purchase of a dSLR (the better to take prettier pictures with), almost negating the gain in time. But not quite.

My entire to-do list, achieved! In Seattle last weekend, too, every box on my mental list got checked: An abundance of vegan food; time to see both Ginnie and Branen; a miniature hike with peanut butter sandwiches at the top of a beautiful ridge; Chuck's homebrew and hot tub: check, check, check! We even accomplished items I didn't know I'd had on my list: playing the hypnotic Katamari Damacy while drinking the Bella zinfandel I'd brought up from California for the occasion; vegan cinnamon buns and biscuits at brunch; soy lattes at Vivace, the extensive training of whose baristas is evident in their masterful foam, their beautiful rosettas. And did I mention more food? Zipping around Green Lake on the back of Chuck's Linux-sticker-decorated scooter, I shouted over our helmets and the noise that the entire town looked like a fucking R.E.I. ad, and he laughed but had to admit I was right. I started tabulating the proportion of bicycles to cars; the preponderance of technical fabrics and shoes you could run out of the coffee shop and up a mountain in, if the need arose; the gorgeous weather, just chilly enough, like the introduction of red into an otherwise monochromatic color system, to make me perceive a real delineation of seasons; and all these couples, each pair a zygote in their togetherness, with dogs and babies. I started thinking that Seattle might not be a bad place to end up.

But put me back in the Bay Area, give me a good morning of yoga and a sunny weekend, and I'm again convulsing with happiness about the place. As Emily said, driving her car up and down the slopes of Dolores on our way to the 280: Wheeeeeee!

I don't, it turns out, know where I'm going. (Why are babies suddenly so much less scary than they used to be? Why the hell am I still in the tech sector?) I suppose I've never pretended to. But I do pride myself on knowing how to enjoy the ride.


Thu, 08 Nov 2007 17:15:02 -0800

Maybe this is the coffee talking, that shot I consumed an hour ago in my perfect little orange demitasse, with the square of Michel Cluizel [French singe-origin chocolate] on the saucer. Maybe it's the caffeine in combination with the programmatic iTunes visualizer which I accidentally triggered trying to open a new Firefox tab (apple + T), but being focused in the wrong application, and which I've now left up since it's totally mesmerizing. (I remember I first saw this thing in Oliver's dorm room, in what must have been 2000, on his toaster-like iMac and cute little orb-y speakers -- the entire Quintett must have been there, drinking wine after one of our successful semesterly performances, and we stared as its images danced around the screen. At least, that's how I remember it.)

But this trance, In Search Of Sunrise, and these images, remind me yet more strongly of a certain German, and a certain ardor. At La Rondine at the San Francisco Opera last night (my season tickets are under a balcony overhang, to my great sadness, but it turns out that real tickets cost a fuckton, and I'm not sure I could at all afford the actual price of the free ones Karina's been passing me for these past two years), Angela Gheorghiu as Magda sang rapturously of the belle-époque, Parisian version of the same thing, and Mike, knowing my proclivities, elbowed me meaningfully.

So, yes, I'm an optimist. But how do you conjure it out of thin air?


Tue, 20 Nov 2007 18:10:36 -0800

We have, like clockwork, hit that crazy part of the year, when everyone travels everywhere, people think they should be doing more than they are, and alcohol flows yet more freely than usual. Thanksgiving is apparently a week long this year, everyone clogging airports early; I'm still trying to book my damned ticket back to the Midwest for Christmas; January, even, means MLK weekend. The 101 is, as usual, congested like a wintertime nose (and I'm trying to get north for an opera!). I was at Josh's wedding in Chicago last weekend; I'll be out at Ben's this next, in Little Rock. Switching teams at work, but still oncall for the old one. Never a dull moment.

I could say the exact same, without modification, about the time in life I appear to have just hit this year: everyone travels or moves everywhere; we all think we should be doing something more or different; we party like it's 1999 at everyone else's weddings (at which the DJ invariably plays music from 1999). We work long hours and commute on top of it, because no one's expecting us at home. In short, we're doing exactly what I expected to be doing in my mid-to-late twenties.

But since when have all my friends started getting married? What is in the water these people are drinking? (Oh, right: Since this past July, that's when.) It's subtle, but it's momentous: No really, what water are they drinking? Do I have the wrong tap? Maybe the Sierra snowcap flowing through Hetch Hetchy and into the SF aquifers isn't as aphrodisiac as, um, the stuff in Lake Michigan, or the Potomac? At least no one's having kids yet (I tried to think whom I needed to forward an alert about lead paint in toys to, and failed). But yet I've started to have scary thoughts about singing Radiohead lullabies to babies.

Aqueous conspiracy theories aside, my best guess is that this is just an externality of the demographic: Just as surely as babies mewl and puke (hmm, maybe I don't want one just yet), those single and tiptoeing around 30 will freak out, introspect, conjecture wildly, and still not come to any satisfactory conclusion.

I suppose all we can do, then, is to document it all. My new Canon dSLR (and borrowed lenses) made its début taking crazy-short-depth-of-field pictures of boutonnieres, bouquets, and boys at Josh's wedding last weekend; I plan to hide behind it at Ben's if I can't remember the names of anyone there. And I intend to keep freaking out, right here, for posterity, to anyone who will listen.

So, for the record: Aaaaagh! Quit it, everyone; you're scaring me!


Tue, 27 Nov 2007 19:03:59 -0800

I forwarded Ari an article yesterday, an op-ed in the Times (in which the Wiklers' (plural!) wedding announcement had run on Sunday!), less about marriage rights but rights outside of marriage. He remarked on the scariness inherent in one of the sentences: "Half of all Americans aged 25 to 29 are unmarried." Christ, only half? As he put it, that means we'll have no free weekends for the foreseeable future.

But, as daunting as the prospect of flying all around the country, renting cars that seem cheap but like to load on 19% "airport" taxes (at least this one came with a GPS device!), dropping all my money on hotels, and missing the last BARTs back to the city, I do like these wedding things. I'm genuinely happy for everyone getting married (you couldn't have wiped the grin off Ben's face all weekend, from when I jumped over the back of a chair to greet him (at 6'4", he's still too tall for me to hug without a boost); to when he was escorting his mother up the aisle; to Al Franken's toast and breaking of the glass at the reception (after which the Madison half of the assembled company started breathing easier); even to the brunch at the next morning, when, clearly, there was still so much adrenaline pumping through his veins that he was obviously mastering the impulse to jump around only with great difficulty). It's wonderful to be there, to wish them well (and, as the other Ben present commented, to get through your head the idea that they're now married). And it's great to see your old friends -- in this case, a set I mostly hadn't seen in a good 8 or so years, since high school.

As much as I haven't kept in touch with most of the people I've known the longest, those that I have are the most like me, and those around whom I'm the most comfortable. This, I suppose, shouldn't be surprising -- since we hung out so much in our more formative years (in a basement closet, eating pizza and playing Diplomacy; wandering around the graveyard at 3 in the morning on the coldest nights of the year (and I mean seriously subzero, here); copy-editing (me) and writing (them) humor publications, the meetings of which were run in strict parliamentary procedure (and which, in retrospect, were clear stepping-stones for both their humor careers at The Onion and working on Franken's radio show, and for my level of comfort and belonging around overeducated, overopinionated males)) -- since we hung out so much then, it's no surprise that they're like me as much as I am like them. Sure, we've diverged, in career paths chosen: I don't think it likely I'll ever end up in law school; they probably won't end up at Google. But in the same way I feel at home when I see explicitly-notated vegan options a menu, so do I simply breathe easier around these Madison kids with whom I grew up. Peter's dad, regaling me and Becca at the Friday night welcome event with the reasons he and his wife left beekeeping to move to Madison, cited among his reasons a desire to give his kids "classmates like you two" -- and though it was clearly half flattery, Becca and I, now closer in age to thinking about our own kids than to the middle-schoolers of Bob's compliment, nodded rather than blushed. These are my people.

What's also interesting to me is that I've identified several other, similar clans of brethren over the intervening years -- most notable of course are the Swatties; other groups (Californians; Googlers) figure into my sense of belonging to different, but non-negligible, extents. I can no longer point my finger at one single group and say, I want someone from there (not that I'm exactly flush with choice). Identity seems to be cumulative -- both a comforting thought, in that I'm still in ways the same person that all these people at the wedding this weekend knew; and a scary one, in that really introducing yourself to someone new becomes more and more of an onion-like exercise as the years go on. (Jaime, talking to Alana when we were in Chicago for Josh's wedding, understood as we described it more what I can now allude to as simply a "choir," but what at the time was the foundations of my feminism, and which played heavily into my musical sensibilities; Olivia has remarked on occasion that, as she no longer plays flute the way she did in college, to really explain that part of her life is a daunting idea.) And that (my perhaps-skewed thinking goes) means it's harder and harder to find a partner who can really know you -- exponentially so, if we're talking about a spherical onion (4/3 π r^3).

That all said, however, weddings make me happy. Perhaps they're tangible proof that the above equation has a solution. Or perhaps they're just an excuse to see old friends, hang out at the open bar, and dance until the cows come home. Either way, congrats, Ben & Beth; friends, good to see you.


all this Šnori heikkinen, December 2007

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