I Am Not Moving To Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Court House. Photo: Wikipedia
Philadelphia Court House. Photo: Wikipedia

I’m in Philadelphia. Just one night to see a good friend.

Sometimes, when I have to make a big decision, I am comforted by going through options that are not on the table. In short order, I must make the decision, once and for all, whether I’m going back to Chicago or staying in Washington. Before I list a few options I can cross out, let’s review why I am in Washington at all. (It’s so interesting: when I tell people I live in D.C., they almost always go, “D.C.?? How in the world did you end up there?” I like to tell them that I’m planning to run for president, but then I say that I’m kidding and I go through the story.)

1. I lived in beautiful Chicago, in my home in the South Loop.
2. I met Yuri, a Russian bitcoin speculator with a heart of gold who can play classical piano. We began to love each other very much.
3. Yuri got a job at an exciting startup in New York City.
4. Working, as I do, for myself, I have the ability to work from anywhere. Having, as I did, fond feelings for New York, Yuri and I said, “Let’s go together! Just for a year, see how we like it.”
5. I rented out my condo for a year, put things in storage, and moved to the East Village with 1/3 of my worldly possessions.
6. I detested living in New York City. It felt like I was at a crowded outdoor music festival all the time. I really, really hate outdoor music festivals. I became depressed.
7. Yuri and I, though we loved each other very much, broke up for reasons that people always break up: irreconcilable differences. We became depressed.
8. Having no love for New York and no workable love in New York, and essentially being in exile from Chicago until my tenants vacated in June, I was in a sticky position.
9. A dear friend said to me, “Why don’t you have an adventure? You can live wherever you want for the next eight months. Where have you always wanted to live?” I answered without hesitation, “Washington, D.C.” I performed with the Neo-Futurists for a whole month at the Woolly Mammoth theater several years ago and loved the city on contact. I wanted to return someday.
10. I packed the 1/3 of my worldly possessions into a U-Haul van and drove to D.C., not knowing anyone but excited. And I have a terrible, beautiful love for the city and don’t want to leave, yet, but Chicago is my best friend.

If you missed the cliffhanger decision-making process when I decided to leave New York, start here.

When I verbally go through the steps, I make it quick, but I can’t skip a single one of them. If I don’t say my condo was rented out, a person understandably says, “Well, why not just go back to Chicago?” If I say I moved to Washington without explaining that I had lived there, however briefly, once before, they don’t understand.

But my lease is up in D.C. on June 15th. My tenants are leaving. The clock ticks. The clock stares at me. The time is now. And a new cliffhanger begins. (Insert wink here.) And now, if you’re still with me, a few options that I can rule out, at least, as I work out what the Sam Hill I’m going to do now that it’s flipping May:

1. I am not moving to Philadelphia, nice as it is.
2. I am not moving to Kathmandu.
3. I am not taking a job with streets and sanitation.
4. I am not planning to eat an entire German chocolate cake in a single sitting.
5. I am not planning to throw myself into the Nile.

See? This is easy.

Weltschmerz R Us.

posted in: Word Nerd 0
What is absolutely superb about this picture is that these two kittens could be illustrating any one of the words I define in this post. Glorious. (Photo: Stephan Brunet, 2007)
What is absolutely superb about this picture is that these two kittens could be illustrating any one of the words I define in this post. Glorious. (Photo: Stephan Brunet, 2007)

The English language is a monstrous mutt. It’s a hydra. It’s a slouch. It’s messy, confusing, and — if I may be so bold as to say it — it whores around. The French have put a cap on the words in their language, but English? She takes all comers.

And thank goodness. Because as gorgeous and vast as the English language is (there were something like 1,025,110 words as of January last year) sometimes only a word or phrase from another language will get you where you need to go. Here now are three of my favorite foreign words and terms, favorites because in a matter of syllables they precisely describe universal concepts that English can’t do in a long paragraph. First I’ll give you the word, then the dictionary definition, then a working interpretation. Also, those are my own phonetics because writing phonetics is my kind of fun on a Saturday night and I am not joking even a little.

sprezzatura: (Italian; say “spret-za-TOO-ra”) rehearsed spontaneity, studied carelessness.
When you spend 1.5 hours getting ready for a date just so you can look like you don’t care, you’re practicing sprezzatura. 

l’esprit d’escalier: (French; say, “les-PREE de-skal-YEY”) Literally, “the spirit of the staircase”; the predicament of thinking of the perfect retort too late.
Some jerk says something awful to you. You fume, you steam. Five minutes after you and the jerk part company, it hits you: Ooooh! You should’ve said [insert awesome comeback here.] Yes, Virginia, there’s a term for that exact feeling. “L’esprit d’escalier” is what happens when you think of the perfect, deliciously awesome thing to say to a jerk when he/she is gone and you’re halfway down the stairs, headed to your car. We’ve all been there.

Weltschmerz: (German; say, “VEL-schmertz”) a feeling of melancholy and world-weariness.
I love how the Germans jam words together. Welt = world; schmertz = pain. When the bastards have gotten you down; when you don’t miss New York but you do miss the love you had there; when you spill tea in the kitchen and you clean it up but there’s still invisible-to-the-naked-eye honey on the floor in spots that sticks to your bare feet; when tax time approacheth and you’re a self-employed woman with a zillion 1099 forms that will surely all be lost in the mail this year because four addresses in 2014 (!!!!); when you go to a guild meeting — a wonderful, amazing, warm and inspiring guild meeting — and see no fewer than four pregnant women, and you feel pretty sure you will not be a mother in this life; when you forget to get shaving cream — this is Weltschmerz.

See what I mean about needing a paragraph? One word will do it if you pick the proper one. Or, as the stewardesses say (in English):

“Please locate the two exits nearest you, keeping in mind that the closest exit may be behind you.”


A Tale of Two (More) Rats.

posted in: Day In The Life 0
Hello ratness, my old friend.
Hello ratness, my old friend.

The quilters of Washington, D.C. are making me feel so at home. I had dim sum with Jan last week; she’s a dynamo at work and fearless in the sewing studio and now she’s invited me to a Burns Supper! You gotta google that! And she doesn’t even know I’m Scottish! I cannot wait for this and will give a full report!

This week, I had my second blind date: I met fabulous quilter Carissa. We had tapas, threw back a few sidecars, dished about life, and went to a show. Carissa is very smart, very beautiful, and confessed to me that when she read about my rat problem, she died inside because she once had a rat problem, too. I had second thoughts about leaving the old place; I thought maybe I had been a weenie, that I should’ve just gone on the road for a few weeks and made the management company deal with it before I paid rent. The tale Carissa told me on Tuesday night wiped every molecule of doubt that I had or will ever have about getting the [beep] out of that rental.

Carissa told me that they moved into this house in Dupont Circle years ago. And they started hearing scratching in the walls. She told me that my description of the smell in my former home (“almost sweet” and “sewage-y”) was hard to read because it was dead on and she’d never forget it. Over a few months, the smell and the scratching had stopped being sorta weird and had become Serious Problems. Exterminators were called in. A hole was chopped in the wall. Traps. Estimates.

WARNING: What I’m about to tell you is true and it is so revolting and horrible, you might not be able to handle it. You will probably scream, so make sure that’s not going to scare anyone in the room, especially if they are at a hot stove or putting together a model airplane.

One night, Carissa was up with her newborn baby. She heard splashing. Splashing in the bathroom. Carissa got up, holding sweet little Milo in her arms and, confused as a person would be, hearing splashing in the bathroom in the middle of the night, she went to the bathroom and turned on the light.

There was a rat in the toilet. The rat was in the toilet because it had crawled up through the sewage pipes and was now in the toilet, attempting to claw its way to freedom. I assume “freedom” would have meant Carissa’s bathroom floor.

We were in a taxi when Carissa told me this and I had my mittens over my mouth going, “Ugghgghhh! Ughhhghhhh!” and rocking the way a severely autistic person might rock for comfort. The taxi guy was alarmed. I repeated over and over, “No. No. No. Carissa. No. No, Carissa, no. No.” My new friend told me they did not stay in that house very long after that.

And, real quick, because I can’t believe this happened today, a second rat story:

I turned a street corner and saw one of those two-story inflatable rats that union workers use when they’re striking. The huge rat was outside a hotel and the union guys were blowing whistles and shouting; cars were honking in solidarity. I had to meet someone in the lobby so I crossed the picket line (is that what I did?) and the man working the front door opened the door for me.

“That rat’s for you guys, eh?” I asked. It was possible it was a construction job the union was protesting, not the hotel itself.

“Is that what that is?” the guy said.

I blinked. “Sorry, what?”

“It’s a rat, okay. I thought it was a bear.”

I looked at him. He appeared to be a fully-functioning person. He had a job, obviously. I did not understand, however, how he could spend his entire day in the shadow of the biggest rat in the city (we hope) and though he had to actually step over the creature’s inflated pink tail to go hail taxis for people, he did not register the species of this animal. Forget the cultural context he should know by his age; did the six-foot wide pair of rodent teeth not give this away??

There will be no more rat stories on PaperGirl for a long, long time. This is my promise.