When Nostalgia Hits: Greetings From Washington.

posted in: D.C., Washington | 10
The Cleveland Park stop on the D.C. Metro's Red Line. That was my stop. Photo: Wikipedia.
The Cleveland Park stop on the D.C. Metro’s Red Line. That was my stop. I stood right there. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

Keeping a blog for as long as I have kept the ol’ PG means learning something about content balance. I know not to get too goofy or flip in post after post (you won’t take me seriously); nor do I allow myself to be too dark or dour for long stretches (hello, Eeyore.) Varying the subject matter is intentional, but it’s not insincere: I simply try to write the kind of blog I would like to read, namely, one that makes me laugh and then cry and then laugh again. That’s why you get PG posts about sweetened condensed milk, then something about love, then death, and so on.

Tonight, I felt very sad. When I knew that I wanted to blog about this sadness because writing helps me understand things, I thought, “Well, you can’t write about that. You were sad in Berlin and that was only a few weeks ago. And you were sad when you wrote The Big Post. You had just better find something else to write about.”

But that’s wrong. Texture and balance is good, but you and I both deserve honesty, whatever that looks like. Besides, a “real” post about being sad is going to be ten times better than a hollow one with a nice little bow on it. That’s always going to be true.

I got sad because I’m in Washington, D.C. tonight. I’m glad to be here, but it’s just so heavy. As many of you know, I lived in this city for about a year-and-a-half between 2013-2015. (If you’re new around here, start here. If you’re not new around here, remember when I moved into the Kennedy Warren?)

I’ve come for a conference held by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). The graduate writers at SAIC are encouraged to come to this annual event to learn more about the business of writing; there are about ten of us here. When I heard about AWP a few months back and saw that it was to be in D.C. this year, I knew it would be strange to be back in the city for the weekend, but I ponied up for the ticket, anyway. I arrived this afternoon, went to my hotel, and promptly took a two-hour nap. I was tired, sure, but I think I was also zapping myself out, giving myself a psychic break. I self-zapped.

After a reading event this evening, I had a lovely dinner with a fellow grad and then bid adieu to the group. I hailed a taxi and as we sped through the streets of Washington, D.C., I watched the world zip by. I saw monuments and U Street and 14th Street and Dupont Circle. I saw a whole world I used to inhabit, a world I almost committed to completely, a world that imprinted itself upon me and I upon it. There in the taxi, Mozart playing on the radio, my scarf wrapped around my neck, my hands shoved deep in my wool coat pockets, my chest constricted and my throat tightened; I felt my heart flutter and my eyes began to burn and there it was: I began to cry.

I cried because I loved it here and I forgot just how much. I cried because it was all so confusing, that whole time.

I cried because some information passes through the mind and never, ever sticks — the name of that one neighbor, locker combinations, dates of various revolutions, etc. — and some information you never, ever think you’ll ever need to access again but then there you are, speeding into Georgetown, and you’re flooded with a hundred thousand impressions indelibly made when the world was different and you were different within it. This poem of mine gets at some of the emotions I’m talking about.

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll see a duck or a funny hat (or a duck in a funny hat) and I’ll be moved to write about that; tonight, it’s all the bygone cherry orchards and the cobblestones I adored.

The People Next Door.

posted in: Chicago, D.C., Day In The Life | 12
Newspaper ad for the 1917 propaganda film, "Who's Your Neighbor." When you're done here, google it: pretty interesting stuff! Image: Wikipedia.
Newspaper ad for the 1917 propaganda film, “Who’s Your Neighbor.” When you’re done here, google it: pretty interesting stuff! Image: Wikipedia.

 

While I was away last year, singing in the pool at my rawther glamorous residence and getting pooped on by birds, a not-high-rise-but-higher-than-my-mid-rise condo building was going up kitty-corner from my building here in the South Loop. It was in the last stages of construction when I moved home; I would see the crane and the workers, the construction cones out in front of the main entrypoint.

Over the summer it was completed. You know how in Ghostbusters, when Zuul blasts away that chunk of the apartment building in Manhattan where Sigourney Weaver lives? There’s a chunk carved out of this building kind of like that, except that it’s on purpose and paid for by developers and they’ve put a garden in there! Or is it a park? It’s what cityfolk call “greenspace” and I have a great view of it from my windows! Way cool. Gardens come to me, baby.

There’s also a pool on the other side of this new building and I can see just a slice of it from my perch on the sixteenth floor. It looks like a great pool. I should try to make friends with someone over there so I can scope out what my windows look like while swimming.

What’s really fascinating is that for some months I looked over at a tall, dark, glass thing…and now there are people living there.  I can see their glowing TV screens. Someone has a bright red couch and in the daytime, I can see it. I mean, it’s right over there, right there across the sky.

Who are they? Are they excited? No matter who they are or where they came from, they all have one thing in common: They just moved in.

Thank You, Gabriel Dawe.

posted in: Art, D.C. | 0
Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe at the Renwick Gallery, DC. Photo: Marianne Fons
Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe at the Renwick Gallery, DC. Photo: Marianne Fons

My mom and Mark were in D.C. and got to go to the recently reopened Renwick Gallery. The Renwick is part of the Smithsonian galaxy of museums and it was closed the whole time I was in DC. Also closed the whole time I was in D.C.: the frozen yogurt place across from the zoo!

The above sculpture is made from thread. That’s right. All that color is cotton thread strung and twisted with laser precision from the floor to the ceiling in a room in Washington, D.C. The rainbow is there right now, even as I lay back in my bed in a small town in Iowa with a little bit of a headache that I hope isn’t a sign of something worse. Being an adult means continually thinking, consciously or subconsciously, of worst-case scenarios.

It’s dark in the Renwick right now; the museum has been closed for hours. Maybe there’s some light coming through the windows; headlights and streetlights are probably giving light off. In a city, it never gets completely dark. The office buildings above the gallery surely have a few people still in them, working and eating Thai takeout and turning lights on. And that means that some of the threads that make up Plexus A1 are illuminated, however dimly, in that room, right now.

When Mom was telling me about the D.C. trip, my chest felt tight.

How strange: I lived there. I know where the Renwick is. I want to see the thread. If I could get a flight, I could be there by 2am. I know what train stop to take from the airport. I know how the streets work. I could casually ask my mom before I snuck out what floor the thread sculpture was on and when I got to the gallery, I could climb up and peer into the windows. I’d see what I could see of the rainbow in the dark.

After a long time — I’d be there a long time — I’d climb down and there would be only one thing to do. I’d have to get back to the airport. Because I don’t have a home there, even though I’m pretty sure I used to.

 

 

Swinging From Metal Vines.

The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia
The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia

There was a time not so very long ago when I had moved to Washington, that I figured out a few slick subway train transfers within the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which is called “WMATA” for short, which sound’s like something Tony Spaghetti’s big brother says to the pipsqueak who’s lookin’ at him funny:

“Ey, yew! Yeah, yew, kid. You keep lookin’ at me and my brotha like that, I’ma wamata ya right in ya gavone face. Capishe?”

Anyway, there I am in Washington, and I’m stepping out from the Red Line to Shady Grove to the Gallery Place/Chinatown station because I need to transfer to the Green; you can catch the Green Line there, as well as the Yellow Line. As I did that, I recalled how I know the NYC Metro 6 line pretty well and the Q, and that I used to take the 1 train up to the Upper West Side to get to The Yarn Company to sew because there was no room to sew in the tiny, tiny, I-hate-you tiny apartment I was living in with Yuri.

A few weeks after the WMATA moment, thinking deeply about two cities’ subway systems, I was in Chicago for a weekend and, wow, I know the train system here like the back of my hand, which, after at least thirty years (do two-year-olds consider the backs of their hands?) I know pretty well.

All these train maps in my head and the solid knowledge I have of navigating them came together and I felt like a monkey swinging from one big vine. Shoop! The L train in Manhattan that crosses the Lower East Side over to the west side. Shoop! Down from Cleveland Park in DC to get the Orange Line to Eastern Market. And then, that first, peaceful ride on Chicago’s Orange Line to go to Midway to catch a flight, knowing I’d be coming back on the same tracks.

The other day, though, I went down into the lower level of the Chase building because I thought there was a post office down there; I realized when I couldn’t find the post office that I was thinking of a post office in the basement of a building in Penn Quarter in DC. That was weird.

Miss District of Columbia.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photo: Me, July 2015.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photo: Me, July 2015.

Six days — six days — from right now, I’ll be back in Chicago. It has been such a long, long, long, long and incredible trip. God, I’ve loved living in Washington, DC. It carried me so far and I loved where we went. My darling, a short list of what I’ll miss the most.

– The scent of my tenth-floor apartment: fresh paint, trees, French perfume, clean air.

– The drive to Ronald Reagan National Airport from my building. The taxi takes me the length of Rock Creek Parkway and it’s like driving through the countryside, right there in the city.

– The macaroons of consequence at Firehook Bakery. Baseball-sized, dipped in dark chocolate. With a cup of black coffee, my favorite breakfast.

– How when you turn a corner or approach a park, another bronze or marble memorial greets you and you appreciate the artists who carved the art, the humans who carved the country, and time that carves the rest.

– Mr. Lumbibi, my favorite of the Kennedy Warren front desk staff. He always asks me where I’m off to when he sees me lugging suitcases. John’s usually on the night shift.

– The view of the Klingle Valley outside my window. Cue tears. That’s one’s gonna hurt.

– The opportunity to get closer to Elle, to Carissa, to Carla, the gorgeous girls I met at the DC Modern Quilt Guild and never spent enough time with while I was here.

– The National Gallery.

– Le Diplomat, the perfect French Bistro: I went on three different dates there and the Lyonnaise salad is the best I’ve ever had, especially with a glass (fine: two) of Charles Hiedsieck Brut Reserve NV.

– The Mid-Atlantic weather. I am going back to Chicago at the worst time possible, weather-wise. Great, Fons. Very nice.

– Dropping my mail through the mail chute. It goes all the way to the lobby! I love that!

– Telling people, “I live in Washington, D.C.” It always sounded amazing. And it was.

Airsick.

posted in: Chicago, D.C., Day In The Life | 0
Showcard, 1918. Image: Wikipedia
Showcard, 1918. Image: Wikipedia

This is not good. This is very bad. I think I have a flu.

I am achy, sniffy, feverish, though that’s not confirmed because I’ve just realized I don’t have a thermometer. I barfed twice. (Sorry.) I had terrible nightmares when I took a nap this afternoon; the nap felt like it was nine hours long but was really only about 1.5 hours long. When I stand up, I swoon. I’m hot. Then I’m cold. Then I’m hot. Then I’m crying while I’m flat on my back watching MasterChef on Hulu.

Damn, damn, damn! This year, I was going to get a flu shot! I’ve never gotten one but I reflected upon the past few years and realized I have been felled by flu more than once. I should’ve gotten a flu shot. It’s so easy! You can get them everywhere: Walgreen’s, CVS, sporting events, Burger King. Why! Why didn’t I do it?

Woe.

And the panic doesn’t help. There’s too much to do. I can’t be sick. I have to teach in Williamsburg this weekend. I have to go to North Carolina and Denver next week. Oh, I’ll make the gigs. Unless I’m in the hospital, I’ll be there and I’ll deliver. But when you feel like this, the road seems so long. There’s also the little matter of packing up my apartment and going home to Chicago.

As insurmountable as all this feels at the moment, I must focus on that last thing. When I think of being in my home — my real home — in a few weeks, I feel like I can make it. I realized today that I have been living in the air for a year and a half. I’ve been floating this whole time. My feet need the cement in Chicago, the sidewalk outside the door to my building. Maybe that’s what it is: maybe I’m airsick.

A Halloween Breakthrough!!!

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Paean | 1
Me, not me. It's about time!
Me, not me. It’s about time!

Now I understand it!

I get Halloween!

All of my life, I have never understood nor enjoyed Halloween. I just didn’t get it. Why would anyone cover themselves in sticky fake blood and go out in cold weather to do jello shots? What can be accomplished by being a trollopy milk maid in public in late October? I’ve never seen the zombie zeitgeist as some sort of catharsis for a society living in fear and isolation; I see it as creepy and tacky, not to mention disorienting, especially when you see a pack of zombies doing jello shots or doing a 5k run or both.

But I figured out the appeal last night! It’s not that you have to be scary or uncomfortable on Halloween; you don’t have to dwell on the undead or be some bizarre, modern version of an ancient pagan. It’s that on Halloween, you can be someone else. You can take the briefest break from being you, and this is a great gift. Do you know how exasperating it is to be me? Sure, because you know how exhausting it is to be you. We’re all living, breathing (beautiful) disasters. Who wouldn’t want to jump out of your disaster and into another one once a year?

I’ve mentioned my fancy-schmancy home in DC — the Kennedy Warren building on Connecticut Avenue — has a beautiful bar inside the building. It’s all dark wood and chrome with lots of plush velvet chairs and couches, a grand piano. A jazz trio plays in the evening. Politicians hang out there, journalists hang out there. Well, there was a Halloween do last night and I went down to see what was what. Of course I needed to wear a costume, so I put on the pair of funny glasses I happen to have and attached to my necklace a bow-tie I happen to have. I went and put on black trousers, a vest, my best Prada patent leather shoes with the steel heel (haaaaay!) and my black trench coat. Suddenly…I was not me!

I had so much fun last night. I met many cool people and several came up to my place for a nightcap. It was a wonderful Halloween and I have made peace with the holiday as of now. Incredibly, I’m already looking forward to next year. How about that.

*To Hannah, the incredible fan who sent me a carton of candy pumpkins… Hannah, you are a treasure of a human being. Thank you. I ate handfuls of them when they arrived. Pumpkins from heaven.

Child Heard Saying Bad Word: Parent Scandalized

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life | 0
He looked kinda like this. Photo: Wikipedia
He looked kinda like this. Photo: Wikipedia

First things first: It’s safe to say that Small Wonders Fabric by Mary Fons (and all the attendant pieces and parts) is a big, fat, juicy hit. I’ll be sharing hot news and directing you to all kinds of goodies online and otherwise in the weeks and months to come. I thought I’d better mention something about what’s happening now that the puppy has been launched** or you might think it fizzled. In fact, it is fizzing.

This morning I decided several important things: I would listen to my voicemail. I would not pack any boxes because I’ll start that this weekend. I would not make tea at home but go get coffee at Firehook, my neighborhood coffee shop and bakehouse. Sometimes I buy one of their chocolate-dipped macaroons for breakfast. They’re snowball-sized. They are macaroons of consequence. They make an excellent breakfast.

I was in the elevator heading down to the lobby and the car stopped at the sixth floor. As the elevator slowed to the stop, I could hear kids’ voices. Sure enough, the doors pulled open and two kids bounded into the elevator with their mom. The girl was maybe twelve, the little boy probably six. The little boy was telling a story and I caught the best part:

“And then? They were showing the Halloween cartoons? And this one cartoon? Well, Mom, it scared the shit out of me!”

I clapped my hand over my mouth and turned my head, trying not to show this was the best thing I had ever heard. I didn’t want to encourage him. A six-year-old doesn’t need to be using curse words — and the one he used is a particularly harsh one. But you gotta hand it to the little guy: his usage was perfect. The cartoon scared him! It scared the you-know-what out of him! He said what most of us would say in these situations!

Marcus John!!” his mother hissed. “What did you say??”

Marcus was looking up at me. He saw my eyes. I was busted. I tried to give him a pursed lip and a tsk-tsk, but it was clear that in the world of adults, I could be trusted. I smiled and shook my head at him and he smiled, too. It wasn’t an evil Damian smile he had, just a mischievous one.

And mischief is what Halloween is for.

 

** “Now that the puppy has been launched,” is my new favorite beginning to any sentence.

The Game Plan, and Adorable Things He Says.

This post is not about Quilt Market, but I gotta post this picture! Brian Wacaster and Terri Thom from Springs Creative with our Best Merchandising Award.
This post is not about Quilt Market, but look: Brian Wacaster and Terri Thom from Springs Creative with our Best Merchandising Award!

There are a number of booth awards handed out at the show each year; this afternoon, the Mary Fons Small Wonders booth won the Best Merchandising Award, which to me is one of the best awards to get, of course. It means your concept was clear, your goods were presented exactly they way they should have been for ultimate easy-viewing and shopping enjoyment, your design was pitch-perfect and, frankly, that you got good taste. Thank you to the Academy — I mean the judges — and thank you to the whole Springs team. We did it!

But enough of all that for a moment. It’s impossible to believe while it’s happening, but there is a world beyond Quilt Market. Indeed, it’s good to remember that. The show is over tomorrow afternoon. Dust will settle. Everyone just calm down. This means me.

In less than a month, I’ll be opening my Chicago door. Claus is going to help me with the move, which is even better than winning the award today — that’s saying a lot. I cannot lift any more boxes by myself. I won’t make it. The last time I moved (the fourth time) I was carrying a too-heavy box and the bottom fell out in the hallway. Everything spilled out. I cursed the best one-word curse you can curse, then I sank to my knees to put things back together.

“I can’t do this alone anymore,” I said out loud. “I need help. I need a partner.” After I said that, well, it was Miss Mary’s Pity Party and I invited all my friends and no one came, boo-hoo, boo-hoo.

I don’t have a partner but I do have Claus*. He’s going to fly to Washington and help me drive a small truck from Point A to B. He grew up on a farm in Germany. He is very tall. He is very efficient (see: Germany). He says adorable things, so if he drops a box on my foot, I can’t be mad at him. Examples of adorable things:

1. When we have an argument: “Are you mad on me?”

2. When figuring out logistics: “If we must be at the airport at 7am, we must stand up at 5am. Oh, god…”
To say stand up is brilliant; wake up doesn’t mean much. Until you stand up, you’re not going anywhere. Isn’t that great??

3. When I whisper something sexy to him when we’re out getting sandwiches: “Mary, please do not say forbidden things.” 

I know. It’s so hot.

Anyway, the move is happening in the middle of the month next month and you may have noticed that it is almost next month. I have a number of jobs before this happens and I’m even hesitant to say so; it appears I can only do things the hard way. But I didn’t plan on moving home next month, so I’ll be going to Williamsburg, Denver, and Charleston before Claus and I get in that truck. It’s a good thing I’m so deliriously happy about going home or I’d have to lie on the couch for a few days just staring at the ceiling, eating packets of instant miso soup mix by licking my finger and sticking it in the pouch.

*It’s complicated.

Dear Colleen: My Dry Cleaner Cleaned the Pope’s Cassock

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Story | 0
Now that's a fresh frock! Photo: Wikipedia
Now that’s a fresh frock! Photo: Wikipedia

Dear Colleen:

You do such a great job sewing step-outs and demo materials for Love of Quilting for PBS and for many videos for Fons & Porter. It’s great that I get to see you twice a year when we tape TV in Iowa. You’re great.

As you are an enthusiastic Catholic, I thought I might tell you a pretty cool story.

Before I left for this four-day trip to Portland, I went to get my trousers tailored at the local dry cleaner in my DC neighborhood. While I was waiting for the lady to issue me the ticket for pickup, I looked around and spied two photographs and a letter professionally framed in a single frame hanging on the wall to my right. The pictures featured my dry cleaner lady and her husband proudly holding a big white papal robe. There was a nun (sister?) in the picture, as well. I walked over to get a closer look.

The letter was from an apparently important church (order?) in town. The author of the letter was the nun in the picture. The letter was addressed to the owners of the dry cleaning business, thanking them for cleaning the robes (habits?) over many years and always doing a great job. The letter then thanked them for cleaning the Pope’s robes (cassocks?) while he visited Washington a few weeks ago. 

“Holy crap!” I couldn’t help but exclaim, later recognizing that I’ll never get to use the phrase “holy crap” in a more appropriate situation ever again.

“You cleaned the Pope’s robes??” I asked the lady. She nodded and gave a little smile that said, “We are actually the bomb chronic, yes.”

I never thought about how the Pope needs stuff dry cleaned like everyone else, Colleen! What amazed me is that his entourage would take his (His?) special outfits — outfits no one on the planet but him is able to wear in a non-ironic way — to a neighborhood dry cleaner! If I had ever considered it, I’d figure they had a holy dry cleaner who used that special incense thing (thurible?) to steam clean Mr. Pope’s things. Who knew? Well, the nun knew. But I didn’t know and now we all do!

I thought you might like that story, Colleen. Have a great day today.

With Warmest Wishes,
Mar

Quilt Market Is Coming! (Plus: 1 of 2 Announcements.)

This picture was taken at Market a couple years ago in one of the hundreds of gorgeous booths at the show. The pom-poms were edible! Just kidding.
This picture of me was taken at Market a couple years ago in one of the hundreds of gorgeous booths at the show. Those pom-poms were edible! Just kidding.

International Fall Quilt Market is next week!

Fall Quilt Market is the biggest trade show of the year for the 4 billion-dollar-a-year quilt industry I accidentally started working in five-and-a-half years ago. It’s a Quilts, Inc. production and it is intense. Here’s what people do at Quilt Market:

– Wear their Sunday best
– Write business
– Take meetings
– Schmooze
– Booze (Not at the level of a pharmaceutical sales rep convention, but there’s a little drankin’ and aren’t you surprised? Mm? Quilters drink liquor? Scandal?)
– Go to dinner
– Make deals
– Take names
– Chew bubblegum
– Break hearts

So really it’s just another day in the life of a quilter who took her/his hobby to the Next Level. Hey, speaking of Next Level, this Quilt Market is a big one for me. Maybe the biggest one yet. For years — years! — I’ve been circling a dream project and for months — months! — I’ve known that the dream project would launch next week but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. At this point, the pain of withholding the thing is almost physical.

Do you want to know what the big project is? Do you? Are you ready to freak out? Are you ready for totally amazing, fully incredible, head-slappingly gorgeous images to flood your cerebral cortex? It will all happen so soon! I’m the world’s worst secret-keeper; if I wasn’t in fear of mucking up the whole thing for me and the brilliant company I’m working with, I’d just out with it.

But maybe I could tell you something else. Maybe I could let a different cat out of the bag. Maybe I could finally tell you the other secret I’ve got. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Here goes: I’m pregnant. No, no, no. That’s not it. I’m not pregnant. Let’s see, what was it… Oh, right:

I’m moving back to Chicago next month.

Full story tomorrow.

Twenty Questions.

posted in: Chicago, D.C., Day In The Life | 0
Publicity photo for early-1960s gameshow, "Queen For a Day."
This photo is public domain, but let’s all hold ABC responsible for the time it held the copyright. 

I am wishing so hard that I could offer all the alternate names I’ve come up with for the gameshow pictured above. Sadly, that sort of content is best saved for PaperGirl: After Dark. So far, that blog does not exist, though it absolutely should. I’ll let you know.

As I mentioned recently, I’ve had a galaxy of question marks spinning ’round my head. With a ginormous project about to launch (just a few more weeks and I can spill the beans) and a Very Big Decision I’ve made (you’re gonna flip when I tell you), I’ve been asking myself many questions. Here are twenty of them.

1. What time is it?
2. Was that my phone or yours?
3. Did I seriously forget to buy yogurt?
4. What day in November should I move back to Chicago?
5. I’m so comfy in bed but I kind of need to pee before I turn out the light. Should I just try to sleep it off or get up and go now so I don’t have to get up at two in the morning?
6. Are PaperGirl readers passing it along to other people because that would be so wonderful?
7. Am I correct in thinking that a forty-year-old woman in good shape is hotter than a twenty-year-old girl in good shape?
8. Did you hear that?
9. Did my tenants in Chicago take good care of my home?
10. Did I come to Washington and stay a year longer than planned because I was running away from something and if so, what was it?
11. If I’m such a hardcore existentialist, how come I hated Crime and Punishment so much?
12. Are you kidding me?
13. Do I still enjoy eggs or do they gross me out?
14. Will the person I went on the road trip with this summer be in my life in a significant way in the future or was that whole thing just a brilliant, brightly shining, but ultimately isolated moment in time? (There were less-shining and isolated moments, like this one.)
15. Do my friends in Chicago miss me?
16. Is it wise to have a box of chocolates in the fridge right now?
17. Is Yuri reading this?
18. Will I ever have enough money to have someone do my hair every day?
19. When’s the next time I’ll be in a hospital bed?
20. Seriously?

Oh, this is fun. I could more. I could do really, really good ones on PaperGirl: After Dark. You’ll be the first to know.

Making Out With a Doctor: Part II

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Story | 0
Are the pills full of something good or just made of sugar? Doctor-themed cupcakes by Clever Cupcakes of Montreal.
They rejected the idea of a beating heart — barely. Doctor-themed cupcakes by Clever Cupcakes of Montreal.

A couple moons ago, I told a story about going on a date with a doctor.  He diagnosed me with a fatty deposit when we were making out. As you can imagine, this cooled things off for me pretty quick. But there’s more to the story and when you learn the rest, you’ll see why I was cooled off before The Smooch Heard Round My Hip.

We’re at dinner. Low light, pretty dress, etc. And the doctor is talking. He’s talking a lot. He eventually asked me: “So tell me more about what you do. Knitting, right?”

I answered in an abbreviated manner because as I explained how I earn my living, he looked away at least four times. I was not yammering on. I was not entertaining myself. I was answering his question and attempting to engage in the “Let’s get to know each other” thing. Crazy to do on a date, I realize. But the doctor was eating bread and glancing around as I spoke and I hate that. I don’t like talking to people who don’t care one cc what I’m saying but also, lucky for him, I like listening to people talk about themselves way more than talking about myself. I figured out pretty quick that the best thing to do was to clam up and ask him questions about himself and get through dinner.

So I asked questions. I let his tape run. Yes, he did have interesting stories to tell and he was intelligent. Successful. A father. A widower, as I’ve just recalled. But when you spend the first forty-five minutes of a date smiling and nodding and going, “Mm, I see,” it’s tiring. It’s a drag. One can also be in danger of drinking too much wine because there’s nothing else to do with one’s mouth.

My date excuses himself to use the men’s room. The head waiter comes over and removes our first course plates.

“Did you enjoy your beet salad, Miss?”

“Oh, it was wonderful, thank you so much. Really good.”

I engaged him in a conversation about how beets are gross unless you get them on a fancy plate. He agreed; we had this instant rapport. Then he gave me a strange look. An earnest look. A conspiratorial look. He looked toward the men’s room and back to me.

“And how is your evening going?” he asked, cocking his head and squeezing his eyes at me. I, too, glanced at the men’s room. I, too, cocked my head and squeezed my eyes.

“Can I be honest?”

“Please do.”

“It’s not good. He is just talking and talking and talking. He hasn’t asked me a single thing about myself! I don’t want to go on and on, but we’re supposed to be on a date. I’m pretty bummed.”

“We give you forty minutes, tops.”

“What?”

“We’ve been watching you two since you came in because your table is right in the line of the service area. He hasn’t let you get a word in since you got here. We all feel really sorry for you. Can I bring you another Champagne? On the house, Miss.”

I looked over my left shoulder and saw two bartenders, a busboy, and another waiter at various positions near the wood paneled, chrome bar. One of the bartenders saw me looking and gave me a little wave and a cringe. My date appeared from around the corner to the restrooms and came back to the table.

“I would like a glass of Champagne,” I said to the waiter, my new BFF. “Thank you so much.” My new BFF and I shared the most awesome, subtle look. We were in cahoots now; we were allied. He asked my date if he wanted anything from the bar or if he was ready for wine with the entrees on their way. He was ready for wine, and I was ready for dessert. Yes, I know, I sold out for some smooching at the end of the date. What can I say? It had been a long week.

The last thing to say about it is that I didn’t have to fight the doctor off with a stick; neither of us pursued a second date. Maybe he thought I was a dull conversationalist, that I had nothing good to say, nothing interesting to talk about.

 

 

 

This Place Is a Zoo.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Paean | 0
A non-ironic sign at the National Zoo in 1942. Photo: Wikipedia.
A non-ironic sign at the National Zoo in 1942. Photo: Wikipedia.

A major selling point for my apartment here in the Kennedy Warren building was its proximity to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, otherwise known as “the zoo.” The sweet leasing agent who showed me around the place said, “So the zoo’s your next door neighbor, which is coo. If the wind is right, you can hear the zebras.” She barely got the word “zebras” out before I said those three thrilling/terrifying words:

“I’ll take it.”

And the zoo really is immediately next door. There is no high-rise, no cluster of homes to the east because the zoo is there. I have been through the zoo many times and still haven’t seen all the animals; pandas are apparently agoraphobic, the reptile house is always closed, and sea lions are lazy, I guess. When I do catch an animal out at meal time (zebras eat a lot of hay) it’s thrilling; like any other sensitive person, however, it bothers me to see a wild animal behind glass. I’m still not sure how I feel about it all, especially because of what happened the other day. What happened the other day is that I heard a lion roar. And roar. And roar.

Have you ever heard a lion roar? A real-life lion less than 200 feet away? I’m sure National Geographic specials viewed in HD with movie theater-grade sound does a decent job of it, but it ain’t the same. The duration and the start of a real lion’s roar might follow the MGM lion’s script, but what a digital lion can never create is the deep, vibrate-your-chest, subwoofer bass at the bottom of the roar and it’s not coming from speakers. It’s coming from that animal, right over there. Think breath. Think chest cavity. Think communication across miles.

If someone asked you to tell them what you know about lions, without question you’d say that the lion is “the king of the jungle.” When you hear a big, big lion roar, those words will actually become true for you. The lion is the king of the jungle without question. Nothing can do what that thing does. Nothing sounds like that. There’s nothing as strong, nothing as beautiful, and nothing as terrifying, either — that sound is designed to make you run.

And now I gotta.

The National Archives: Not Bad

posted in: D.C., Paean, Washington | 0
German shepherd, get it? Photo: Wikipedia
All the pictures of the U.S. founding documents seemed pathetic after yesterday’s visit, so in honor of Claus, here is a photograph of a German shepherd. Photo: Wikipedia, 2006.

The National Archives here in Washington was first on my list of Next Museums To Visit, but having Claus here, a German with an interest in American politics, made it happen sooner than it probably would have. After all, I have emails to answer and everyone knows emails are more important than the Bill of Rights. So yesterday we took the train down to Penn Quarter and walked about 20 paces to the Archives building.

In case you’re not aware, there is no entry fee for most of the museums in D.C., thanks to federal funding. The museums are ours, you might say, and you can get away with saying that with more than a touch of pride because it is a remarkable thing to be able to open the doors to a building, walk up a short set of stairs, and go into a rotunda where the documents upon which your country was designed are waiting for you. Inside the Archives, in a single room, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence — all originals, mind you — are on display. Inside bulletproof cases filled with inert argon gas, these papers cease to be .jpg files online or images in your son’s American History textbook. They become living things.

I’m a crier anyway, but I cried when I walked into the rotunda. These weren’t sobs; I wasn’t freaking out or hyperventilating. But I had to blink a lot to keep warm tears in. The U.S. is a different country from the one the founding fathers had in mind — by a lot, no matter what political camp you’re in — but regardless, these are words that men wrote to assert their independence from oppression and their vision for something way better than that. We’re here because of these sheets of paper and everything (oh, everything, everything) that has come after.

When you have a visitor to your town or city, you see the place through new eyes. When you have a visitor to your country — especially when you’re with them in the capitol city — you see the place with new eyes and, at the risk of sounding super gross, a new heart.

I Painted Stripes!

posted in: Art, D.C., Day In The Life, Tips, Washington | 0
I painted them!
I painted them!

Just look at ’em! Look at those beauties! See ’em? Those straight, tall, proud, baby blue stripes? I painted ’em! That’s right, me! (MARY stabs thumb into chest, flashes huge smile, begins to eat popsicle.)

For weeks now, I’ve been staring at one of the walls in my living room-dining room-great hall and seeing pale blue awning stripes. Just the one. An “accent” wall, I think is what they call it. I just knew pale blue awning stripes would look awesome, but I’d have to hire a painter and I don’t like hiring painters. But I couldn’t possibly paint the stripes myself. They’d have to be perfectly, perfectly straight and not blubby around the edges, especially if they only kinda worked in the room. The only thing worse than being a total decorating misfire would be a decorating misfire executed badly. I don’t have a great track record with wall-painting as evidenced by every single baseboard in every single apartment I have ever, ever had. For this stripe job, a professional painter would have to be called.

But then my Viking ancestors grabbed my shoulders with their ghostly, Norwegian hands and shook me. “Are you crazy?! Hiring a painter for two-hundred bucks an hour — plus supplies and parking — to paint a single wall in your apartment?! Shame! Fa raeva til jernvarehandel!* You’ll never be a Norse god at this rate.” And they kicked me out the door. The nerve!

You know what I learned today? I learned how to use a level. I learned how to tape up a wall properly  when you want to paint it. (Hint: take your time, don’t rush; it’s like three-quarters of the entire job.) I took great care to actually put down a drop cloth that actually covered everything that could possibly get paint on it. In short, I did the job right. It would be impossible for me to love my stripes more. They’re on the Proudest Accomplishment List right now. I’m now eyeing every wall in my home, daring it to tell me it also wants to be an accent wall of some kind.

I’d love to put up the process photos, but The PaperGirl Pledge means I only put one photo per post. So go to my Facebook page for more pictures. It was really fun and I did it in like four hours!

*Google translate it. Norwegian to English. 

Coffee, Simplified. Warning: Luxury Problems.

posted in: D.C., Travel | 0
It's so simple. Photo: Wikipedia
It’s so simple. Photo: Wikipedia

I’m headed to teach and lecture at a new event in Iowa, Joi’s Sewing Holiday. I’m impressed at all that Ms. Joi — an accomplished garment sewist, author, and designer — has arranged and coordinated. I imagine creating a new retreat with sponsors, classes, events, vendors, and big attendance is like planning a birthday party for over a thousand children born on the same day. That’s a lot of cake (with fire in it) to bring out at the right moment.

I’m at my gate at Reagan National Airport right now. After dropping my bags and getting through security, I went to my usual coffee spot in the terminal, but it was gone. In its place was a huge bar in the round in the center of the circular terminal. There were iPads at every high-top chair, six television screens nestled into the structure a la Frank Lloyd Wright, and a big sculpture-ish jobby rising out of the center; the whole thing looks like a spaceship.Wow, I said to myself, that is one fancy bar. But I wanted coffee, not scotch. I turned 360 degrees, looking for my coffee gals, who kind of know me at this point. No dice.

Gingerly, I approached the bench. “Hi, I said to the black-clad…team. “Do you all serve coffee?” Practically in chorus, they answered in the affirmative. I was to sit down in a chair and use the iPad to order.

“Do I have to?” I said. “Can I just get a large coffee to go?” No, I learned; it was iPad or die. All right. I sat down and began to tap. The first screen I got was a prompt to enter my flight information so the robot could “keep me updated.” I did not want to be updated. I’m an adult, for one thing, and plus, I could see my gate from my chair. I flagged a nice lady making the rounds of the spaceship who let me know that I didn’t have to do all that; I could just punch the miniscule button that said, “Skip This Screen.”

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Getting a coffee to go with cream and sugar took about five minutes. There was only one size to select but, as the nice lady told me, there are free refills. I suspect when I am done drinking the ambrosia that is the first cup of coffee of the day, I will be forced to tap again. Just speaking over the counter to the people working there, I will have to use an iPad.

I hate this so much. So, so, so much. Does this make me old? How can it, though? It’s not efficient! It is the opposite of efficient? Ordering and receiving a cup of coffee should not take over 2.5 minutes, top to bottom. They’re collecting data, surely, tracking how much coffee people pour down their throats between 7:50 and 7:55 at Reagan National.

My cup is almost empty. I dread the next step.

 

Singing In the Shower.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life | 1
The pool.
The pool.

Moving to NYC last year was rough. I went in for all the right reasons (love, adventure, curiosity) and there were good times, but I fell flat on my face. Nothing went the way I thought it would. As the relationship thrashed in the East Village apartment, the temperature outside dropped. By November, everything was upside down and backward, out in the icy rain with no house keys.

The move to D.C., surprising as it might have seemed to some (hi, Mom), really did make perfect sense. I couldn’t go back to Chicago, I couldn’t stay in New York. This series of posts detail the entire decision-making process and after going through the logic, even my mother understood what had to be done.

The boxes. The rats. The more boxes. The leases. The rent. The trips to Chicago to get stuff I needed from storage. The cost. The flights. The rats. The broken plates. It’s all been pretty real.

Tonight, I swam in the pool in my building. It was around 9pm and I had the whole place to myself. You know how great your voice sounds when you sing in the shower? Every female is Mary J. Blige, or Celine, or Whitney; every dude is James Brown or Hall or Oates. If a shower is good, let me tell you how good an entire indoor pool is. I paddled around like a fish and sang my heart out. I was winning Grammys in there.

And there it was. Singing in the pool, tonight, it all makes sense and it’s all okay.

Mr. Jefferson Goes To (and Basically Forms) Washington.

posted in: D.C. | 0
Jefferson on the $2-bill, circa 1869. Photo: Wikipedia
Jefferson on the $2-bill, circa 1869. Photo: Wikipedia

There’s a special pleasure in reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson while living in the city he lived in for many years in a country he basically designed. The biography is a slim one, I must confess; I love reading about the early years of our nation, but there are only so many Shay’s Rebellions and trips back and forth on the Atlantic I can put in my head before I need a snack.

Here are three things you might not know about Jefferson. Two of them come from reading this biography; one of them does not. If you can guess which fact was not included in the book I’m reading, I’ll make you a bowl of macaroni and cheese.

1. Maybe I’m outing myself as a boob for not knowing it, but I didn’t know that for about five years (1784-1789) Jefferson lived in Paris. It wasn’t a vacation: he was serving in a kind of ambassador position alongside Ben Franklin and John Adams as America got itself together. As you probably do know, France was pretty important in the whole “America” thing and there was plenty of stuff for the three bigwigs (ha!) to do in Paris. Not surprisingly, Jefferson loved living there, and I just love thinking about one of our founding fathers eating pan au chocolate on his way to the office.

2. On lists of “Fascinating Facts About Thomas Jefferson”, you’ll often find that Jefferson owned thousands of books. You might even learn that he sold them to replenish the Library of Congress when it was sacked in the War of 1812. This is all true. Jefferson sold nearly 6,500 of his books to the Library for $24k. What isn’t mentioned is how he organized his library; he put all those thousands of books under one of three categories: Memory, Understanding, or Imagination. How cool is that? It was a concept based on a Francis Bacon book, apparently. I like that everything he read — and everything we read — can be put into those three categories.

3. Thomas Jefferson invented macaroni and cheese. Well, he didn’t invent it. But he really liked macaroni noodles with cheese baked in the oven; he probably had something similar in France (see No. 1) and it appears everyone who came to dinner at Monticello was served macaroni pie. The Jefferson-mac n’ cheese connection is a thing; there’s a lot about it on the Internet. I’ll leave it to you to explore further. We can all be very, very glad there has not yet been an ad campaign for mac-n-cheese featuring Jefferson’s face.

This weekend I have to get everything ready for a big event in Iowa, but I have promised myself to take a break and go to the Jefferson Memorial. It’s a 20-minute ride on the subway to get there, one more reason why I adore my new hometown. I will lay a pan au chocolate on the steps, Mr. President.

A Bird Pooped On My Head

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Story | 1
Women in bird costumes at Mardi Gras, 2008. Photo: Wikipedia
Women in bird costumes at Mardi Gras, 2008. Photo: Wikipedia

A bird pooped on my head yesterday.

Hang on.

A bird, high in a tree over the Klingle Bridge, pooped. I was crossing the Klingle Bridge and happened to be directly — and I do mean directly — under this pooping bird, so I got poop on my head. “A bird pooped on my head” makes it sound like the bird pooped on me on purpose and I don’t think birds choose where they poop.

Or do they.

I was walking back home from a quick trip to the grocery store. Time: nine o’clock. Weather: pleasant. General mood: excellent. On the way to the store, for some reason I recalled the night I found a $100 dollar bill on Clark Street. It was the night before my 31st birthday. I was riding my bike and there it was, right in the bike lane in Wrigleyville. This is relevant because it shows that last night I was already thinking about odds.

I’m just at the start of the bridge when: ploop!

I gasped. No. No, no, no. That was not a bird, I thought to myself. I did not just get pooped on by a bird, I thought. No. Oh dear Lord … It was an acorn. An acorn?? No, it was water. I don’t know why it would be water and be … heavy, but it was not bird poop. This is what I thought to myself, what I tried to think.

Slowly, I raised my hand to my head. Wet. I brought my fingers down, looked, and yes, ’twas poop. Have you ever recoiled from your own head? It’s pretty weird.

I was about two blocks from home and there were a lot of people out walking; I immediately quickened my pace to escape their eyes. I was sure — sure — someone would see that my number was up, that I had been pooped on. The shame! Though even in my pain and disgust, I found it amusing that I was literally holding my head up high. When in disgrace, it’s good to keep your chin up, your head high, right? Yes, but last night I held my head high so that maybe no one would see that poop on it.

“It’s a good thing you’re so tall, Mary,” my friend Marlene said on the phone today. “Unless someone was way taller than you, there’s no way anyone saw it.”

The odds that someone taller than me would have passed me on the bridge last night are pretty good. Better than finding $100 bucks, better than getting pooped on by a bird. But no tall man came. This is why we roll the dice.

Bein’ Weird: Two Notable Encounters

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life | 0
This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just love it so much I had to select it. Iberian Airlines stewardesses/stewards. Sexy, classy, and bygone. Photo: Wikipedia.
This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just love it so much I had to select it. Iberian Airlines stewardess and pilots Sexy, classy, and bygone. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

My older sister once said to me, “Mar, you’re getting a little…eccentric.”

I took offense, naturally. But then I looked up the word (always a good idea) and yeah, I totally am eccentric. I like it. “Eccentric” means “away from center” and that’s me. I’m not a joiner. I’m super weird: too familiar with strangers, too bold when I ought to chill, etc. But my eccentricity leads to memorable encounters because I’m weird enough to engage them, even pursue them.

To wit:

In a taxi the other day, I needed to go east and my driver turned west. “No, no,” I said, “You’re going the wrong way; I need to go east.” The driver was like, “No, this is the way.” And I was like, “No, dude. East. You’re going west.” He insisted he was right and I insisted that I was right. We actually started shouting at each other. Shouting! I was like, “Look, man, I lived over there! I’m telling you! H Street! East!” and he hollered back at me until he realized he was absolutely going in the wrong direction.

“Ha!” I shouted. “See? You see? Ooh, I am so mad at you right now! I told you, east, man!”

Then he backpedaled like crazy, saying, “Oh, I thought you meant,” yada-yada. Then we hollered at each other about that, too. Then, in the middle of shouting at each other I started laughing. It was so funny, yelling at each other like that. “We’re like family right now,” I said. “Like brother and sister at holiday time.”

The driver looked at me like, “Okay, this is a change.”

Then he laughed with me and was like, “You are right. We are family right now, brother and sister arguing.” It was a great cab ride. When I got to my destination, I smiled and patted him on the shoulder and said, “Bye, bye, my brother. I’m telling Mom I was right.”

He hooted. “God be with you, Miss,” and we were both in a great mood.

Then, the other day there were movers working from a big truck outside my building. As I turned the corner to head toward the grocery store, I heard one of the guys sing the first line of “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.” 

And I was right there, right then, so I sang back — on pitch, I might add — “It’s not warm when she’s away…” *

I might as well have flashed them. They were like, “Whaaaat?!”

I smiled big, gave them a little wave and kept walking. And … Well, I might’ve given ’em a little wiggle.

The singing guy called after me, “Girl, you know the rest of the lyrics?”

“Of course!” I called back, but I kept walking. That was all really weird, right? I think so, but I can’t tell anymore.

*This encounter spurred a Bill Withers binge for the next two days. Glorious.

Home Score No. 2: Phil the Dresser

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Luv | 1
So good.
So good.

There should be a new Broadway musical called Thrift Score: The Musical!

Here’s the pitch: a wanderin’ wastrel tries to furnish her apartment (in the nation’s capital! what an interesting and unexpected setting!!) without depleting her bank account. She’s racing the clock because… Well, because she needs things! It’s a universal story! And if this musical existed, this would be the beginning of the climactic song:

“I’m just a kid / dreamin’ big / lookin’ for love / lookin’ for things —
A sofa / a table / a little dog too;
Nothin’ is better than nothin’, it’s true;
But with the right dresser / I’d leap over the moooooooon!”

And then there would be this moment of discovery when I find the red dresser you see above. The music would get bananas and there would be a lot of lighting effects and strings.

So this thing was tucked into a corner in a resale shop in upper Dupont Circle. Here are the facts:

1. Crimson red is my favorite color.
2. Philip is among my favorite names, as Philip Larkin is my favorite poet and one becomes attached/sentimental.
3. I desperately need a dresser.
4. I dig weird.

The name on the dresser was “Philip” originally, but the other letters have dropped off. My love of this piece of furniture knows no bounds. Which is perfect. Because do you know what the Greek root phil- means?

It means love.

False Alarm, Real Terror!

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Story | 1
Exodus; Sweet Media Publishing. Illustration: Wikipedia
No M&M trail mix. Perhaps the real hardship. Illustration: Sweet Media Publishing via Wikipedia.

I’ve been trying to get more sleep. Much, much more.

Over the past few years (eesh) I’ve been getting around five hours a night. But All The Studies show that this paltry amount of is hazardous to our health. Of course, this is deeply depressing; even when we’re resting, we’re doing something wrong. Thanks, culture.

But a friend encouraged me recently to stop trying to compete with Madonna (she proudly claims to get about 4 hours a night) and shoot for 8 to 9 hours. Oh, I thrashed. I protested. Eight hours?! But that’s eight hours of doing absolutely nothing! Didn’t he understand that life is an hourglass continuously leaking sand? Sleep is sleeping on the job! My friend looked at me with compassion and said something like, “Only someone who is sleep-deprived would say something so foolish.”

I took on the challenge and for about a week, I have slept eight hours each night, except for the night before last. This is because I was ripped out of sleep by an air raid siren.

Actually, it was a fire alarm in the Kennedy Warren. This building (which I fall more deeply in love with daily and I haven’t even tried the pool, yet) contains over 400 units. It’s a monster. I learned yesterday morning around 6:30am that this building is ready to evacuate the people inside all these apartments quickly by instilling abject terror in their hearts and minds. The most unbelievably loud, tormenting siren began to scream across into my home and across the building. It sounded like the world was ending, and then a man’s disembodied voice said, “Attention residents: smoke has been detected in the building. All residents must move toward fire exits immediately. Attention residents: smoke has been detected in the building. All residents must move toward fire exits immediately. Attention…” You get the idea.

My heart did a trapeze flip and I got up off my little sleep mat, promptly tripping on the hem of my nightgown.* I got up, fumbled for my robe, grabbed my cell phone, which I felt was really smart of me, and jammed my feet into slippers. I raced to the door and opened it, maybe expecting smoke? Certainly, I was expecting other people on floor ten to be spilling out of their apartments, hopefully in curlers and with…houseguests. But there was no one! Not a soul! I looked up one long hallway and down the other, but I was the only one out there! Talk about disorienting. I really thought I was dreaming at that point, but the siren was so loud it couldn’t be possible.

Then, with absolutely zero sense of panic, several people began unlocking their doors and sticking their heads out. A dog sniffed out into the hall. I was looking wild-eyed and insane in my robe, clutching my cell phone and these people were eating bagels. The air raid siren stopped and the woman a few doors down said, “You think that’s it?”

Then the disembodied voice said, “Attention residents: there is no danger of fire. Smoke was detected in maintenance room but has been repaired and poses no threat.”

Great. But I couldn’t go back to sleep.

*Yes, I DO wear a nightgown. I’m practicing being a grandmother because it’s never too soon. 

A House, A Home.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Tips | 1
Note 1970s cross-stitch in frame sitting on windowsill, which reads: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” This piece has traveled with me many years.
Note 1970s cross-stitch in frame sitting on windowsill, which reads: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” This piece has traveled with me many years.

A major decision was made last week. 

By the way, I’m good on big decisions. I don’t mean that I’m good at them. I mean I’ve had enough of them for awhile, as in, “No, please, Nonna — I’m good on kugel,” or “Wow, okay, I think I’m good on socks.” Small decisions I can handle, e.g., grapefruit or pears, to shower or not to shower, etc. Unfortunately, the universe keeps pitching big ones to me and what can I do but catch?

The major decision was to not go to Chicago to retrieve my furniture. I will rent my apartment furnished. 

Whenever I thought about moving these items halfway across the country, my stomach hurt. I envisioned the getting of the large moving truck. I pictured the getting of the objects. I saw the freight elevator. I saw the drive from Chicago to D.C. And I saw the other freight elevator waiting for me on the other side and I saw the cost and I saw the problem of fitting things that live in a 1500 sq. ft. condo into an 800 sq. ft. apartment. It’s more precise to say that my stomach would hurt first and then my guts would churn and then my head would throb and then my left eye would begin to twitch. 

But I clung to the “need” to do this. Why? Because of my attachment to these things of mine. I ain’t no Buddhist, but I seem to recall that, according to them, suffering is due to attachment. Attachment to expectations, attachment to people, attachment to one’s coffee table even if it is really, really fabulous — nesting glass and just… I can’t talk about it. 

The moment I allowed myself to let go of my furniture, my objects (for another year, anyway) my spirits soared. No semi-trailer. No freight elevators. No worries about how it all would fit here — it all will not, no way, no how. I would surely end up selling my beautiful table, which is not what I want at all. 

This was all excellent, except that the bed, the table, and the sofa I was planning on having in a couple weeks were suddenly not on their way. I’ve been living like a monk, you realize. I have a decent mattress/quilt/blanket pile that is remarkably comfortable for sleeping, but I have been sitting on a little mat with a throw pillow to have my breakfast. I have no chair, no couch. No bed frame. And so, once the decision to leave material things behind, I had to set about getting new ones. What do the Buddhists say about that, hm?

Yesterday, I got the most incredible, amazing deal on a bed from Overstock. And today, I went thrifting. Look at what I found! Wow, was there ever a lot of junk at that place. But I found, for around $200 total: a cool iron floor lamp (needs shade), a green easy chair in fantastic shape, a lucite stool (!), an actual vintage trash can for the bathroom, four darling, mismatched china plates (pink! gold! floral!) and a fruit bowl. I’m on my way.

When I went to put a can of tomatoes in my beans, however, I was stymied, as I realized I do not yet have a can opener. 

Deer In the City.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life | 0
Put a paved road underneath his feet and you're close.
Put a paved road underneath his feet and you’re close.

If power animals exist, my power animal is a deer. I’m not sure about the existence of power animals but what do I know? I do know that over and over again in my life, I have close encounters with cervidae of various kinds.

Today, back home in Washington, I set out to fetch groceries. There was not much in my fridge beyond a hunk of Parmesan cheese (good) and watermelon I should’ve thrown out before I left town (bad.) There’s a fabulous little organic grocery store in my new neighborhood, but “fabulous” and “organic,” when applied to “grocery” and “store” means yams are $5.00/ea. Close to that, anyway. I consulted the oracle and found a Giant supermarket close to my building.

Apparently, I had my Google Maps set to Hermes; what I thought would be a twenty-two-minute trip was at least double that. The Giant really can’t be the closest supermarket to me but these are the misadventures you have when you live in a new place. You have to go to the wrong places to find the right ones.

I’m walking along (and along) the sidewalk in a pretty neighborhood. I’m sweating from the humidity and sun. And coming from the other side of the street — casual as anything — steps a deer. Large deer. Deer with antlers. This deer walked into the street and was therefore about ten or twelve feet away from me. Seeing each other, we stopped in our tracks. The deer looked at me and I looked at the deer and for a moment I wondered, “Do deer charge humans?” and I felt fear. We looked at each other for a good 2.5 seconds; I’ve replayed the encounter many times and believe that’s correct.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I thought. It was right there. Wildlife in the city and we were crossing paths. The deer — surely feeling fear, wondering if humans charge deer — took a running leap over a high fence into someone’s yard where I presume he began munching begonias.

There was a FedEx truck way down the hill who might’ve seen the deer up ahead. I tried to make eye contact with him as he passed. I opened my eyes wide to communicate, “What the —-?!” but I didn’t get an appropriate response, so I don’t think he saw it. This was a me-deer thing.

I’m not so sure power animals are real, but that was mighty powerful.

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