On Albuquerque, Very Belatedly

Remember that time I went to Albuquerque? Well I do.

I sort of hate whoever invented high-definition everything. The realization that I’ve got permanent bags under my eyes was not the most pleasant. I’m also very annoyed about being asymmetrical – beauty is based on symmetry instead of vibrant personality, and that’s sort of a bunch of bullshit.

Whatever. Self-depreciation doesn’t get you anywhere. Also, I’m so in love with these photos that it doesn’t matter. Some of them are profoundly radiant.

Courtesy of Matt, here is what happened there. Well, it’s a selected set of the pictures, at least. It’s bittersweet – looking at them and thinking about all of the plans we’d made. I guess that’s life for you, though.

You create relationships and then you break up, continuing this cycle until you finally meet someone and then you never break up. (I can hear Squints from “The Sandlot” now – “For-ev-er.”) That’s how life works. The best thing I ever saw on an online dating profile read “I don’t believe in soul mates. That said, I really hope I meet mine some day.” If I were a dude, I’d have that on my profile because that probably works so well. Like bringing a golden retriever to a coffee shop.

Something tells me that bringing Carlos to a coffee shop wouldn’t have the desired effect of attracting a single man. People would most likely scoot away when they thought I wasn’t looking. Maybe they make golden retriever costumes for cats? (I just made myself laugh out loud trying to imagine stuffing Carlos into a golden retriever suit, but I have a feeling that you’re probably not amused.)

eyeball

jesse and jane's duplex, breaking bad,

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On Moving, Incompletely

It happened.
We bought a house.
I now own land. (Well, the bank owns more land.)

We closed last Wednesday. That night, my family came over and we toasted the new house with champagne and thoroughly explored everything. I climbed the tree in the backyard. (You’re never too old for a good climbing tree.)

Then we went to Home Depot to get painting supplies. We jokingly bought paint suits, just like they wear when they cook in Breaking Bad. Then we went home and started taping. And I donned my paint suit and covered the bathroom in biodegradable plastic drop cloths and got to work.

Meth suit breaking bad walter white painting

As it turns out, the paint suits were the best purchase we made. (At one point, I stepped down off of the can I was using in lieu of a ladder and put my entire foot in the paint tray. Note to self: ladders would be a good choice next time.)

But I did it. I’d never painted a room before, and I don’t think it looks horrible at all. (The tape came off, eventually. This is post-painting, pre-untaping.)

Black Bathroom

(The wall is about 60% white, from the floor up. Then it becomes black. I’m accenting with green and it’s lovely and not at all overwhelming. And if you hate it, don’t say anything because I’m determined to bask in my self-satisfaction for some time.)

This is our sweet backyard (honestly, the main selling point of the backyard is the dream of future summers spent lounging in a hammock, or grilling, or drinking a cold beer while sitting in a chair with the cool night air on your skin….all we need now is lightning bugs.)

Englewood backyard sweet

I’ll take more pictures soon….between the hectic painting schedule, the move itself, and trying to get our old apartment clean (eek!), I’ve had no time to breathe. I am very looking forward to some much-needed sleep this weekend.

And this guy – Carlos Black Cat Bunny Chicken Nugget

(Swisher commented that the glare Carlos is giving is the same glare I give.)

Carlos was super confused about the move. But I am so grateful for such a wonderful animal – he handles change far better than his mother. He had to spend much of Sunday in his cat carrier while people came in and out of the apartment. (He was very vocal about his displeasure.) But he got to go to the new house Sunday night and has been prowling around ever since. He seems to enjoy it, although I can tell that he misses the large windowsills we had at the apartment. I’ll have to build him some shelves for peering out.

I don’t feel all the way settled yet. And I don’t feel all the way sad yet. It’s bittersweet, of course, this moving stuff. The apartment was the most wonderful place – my room was HUGE, the park was right across the street, I could walk to bars and my Thai place (my pineapple curry commute just about quadrupled). But I’m not complaining. It’s just always a little bit sad to leave part of your life behind. Cupcakes! Think of the lavender lemon cupcakes! (That I only get like once a month anyway….)

On the plus side, I found a gift certificate to my favorite bar, so I’ll have to go back sooner rather than later to use it. It’s not like I’m leaving Colfax forever. I’m just not going to be two blocks away.

But even better: I am now like ten minutes from work. I even stopped at the grocery store (2 min away from the house) this morning and wasn’t late. We have an insane backyard. We have an adorable house. I have the black bathroom I’ve always wanted. We have stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, including a dishwasher (!), and a washer and dryer (!!!!) in the basement. I won’t have to schedule laundry now!

 

The house just oozes charm. It’s got rounded doorways in the main room, a quaint kitchen, beautiful wood everywhere. Life is beautiful and I’m so very grateful for all the help that we’ve received. Cleaning and moving are the worst things, but we seem to have survived with only minor difficulties and no major meltdowns.

Now, to finish cleaning the apartment and hope for the security deposit. Then we can focus on the settling in.

On Irony and Millennial Rage, Pointedly

I am a Millennial. I live in the age of technology, apathy, and stagnancy. I find myself, for some reason, oddly incensed when I read articles decrying the state of our Millennial generation and the effect we’ll have on the future.

One of my friends posted a link to a New York Times op-ed piece called “How to Live Without Irony” on his facebook wall. I, being the curious creature that I am, clicked on it. And I’ve been in a Millennial fury ever since.

The article focuses on irony as the “ethos of our age” and discusses hipsters as “the archetype of ironic living.” Before I even begin, I must state that I believe that the sort of hipster that the author, Ms. Wampole, is describing is a sort of hipster that we only see in stereotyped form – the sort of hipster that she imagines is the sort of hipster that died out the minute Urban Outfitters opened its first store, just as the emo movement of my teens trickled into black nothingness after a few years of outpourings of softened masculinity and affectation of grief stemming from the loss of nothing concrete.

(The cover image of the article shows two hip-looking twenty-somethings wearing Justin Bieber shirts, ironically. I know plenty of hipsters and I’ve never once seen a single one of them wearing any sort of pop star t-shirt, save for Ben, the South African grad student who owns a Britney Spears t-shirt but genuinely loves her. That’s not irony; that’s adoration.)

The author goes on to describe the acceptance of such an ironic life as being something easily mocked and lacking individuality, the ability to gift sincerely, communication skills, and an aversion to risk.

She’s right on the count that it’s easy to mock hipsters. But that’s not really a point. It’s easy to mock most groups, so long as you’re not a part of them. Ms. Wampole admits that the reason she’s so irked by hipsters is that “they are….an amplified version of me.” I’m not sure what she means by this, although she goes on to point out that she, just like hipsters, finds it hard to gift sincerely.

This is bullshit. Maybe you, Ms. Wampole, are just a terrible gift-giver. Yes, it’s terrifying to work really hard on a present that someone might hate, but that’s part of being alive. (Do you also not date because you’re afraid of rejection?) I know hipsters who gift-give insanely well – I own two eye patches and a pair of man-pants, neither given ironically, and all three things appreciated intensely.

I have no idea where the author is getting the idea that hipsters can’t gift sincerely. Oh, wait, perhaps she’s thinking Urban Outfitters, which is hipster gift central, but again, way too mainstream for authentic hipsters. (You’ll find them in the boutiques that I’m terrified to enter – because instead of finding acceptance and awesome things, I find condescending glares from the pierced staff and faces full of disgust.)

The teenagers who buy the brass knuckles mug for $17.99 (I’m making that price up) aren’t buying in to hipsterism and ultimately embracing irony as their ethos; they’re buying it because they want to feel badass. They want to feel adult. They want to feel like a unique consumer.

Same goes for the dude who’s in the Puma store buying a pair of sweet track shoes. Or the new bride in Anthropologie spending a ridiculous amount of her newly created joint back account on a bathrobe or a pretty, lace-lined dress. They want to feel unique. They want to exude the air of quality, or expensive taste, or maturity through purchasing power. Those people aren’t hipsters, or maybe they are. But it doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the ironic life that anyone is buying into.

This is in no way a new thing. Expression of self through material expression is the ultimate in statements. The fashion industry thrives not because we need couture. It thrives because the clothes we wear ultimately send signals to our peers about who and what we are.

Judith Butler (my favorite feminist theorist, don’t judge me) writes about a concept that I’ve hung on to: the idea that all individuals are always dressing in drag. This means, essentially, that what we wear and how we put ourselves together is all a performance. For example, I usually wear jeans and a sweatshirt to work. Today, I’m wearing dress pants and a nice shirt. My co-workers are all like, “Laundry day?” because me dressed up is usually my signal that it’s time to wash my clothes. But no, today I’m wearing dress pants because we’re closing on our house (eek!) and I want to give off the appearance that I’m totally calm and put together (I’m not).

Everything we do and own is performance, and I think the author would do well to remember that the idea of “heteronormative drag” goes much further than the Brooklyn hipsters.

It is my contention that the expression of irony through statement t-shirts, and other ironic, or potentially outdated fashions is merely a cultural commentary, and a rejection of the bubblegum pop materialism that we Millennials came of age in.  (Ms. Wampole seems to forget that fashion is cyclical – I would kill for some more vintage dresses. Think 50s housewife. The lines look good on me, and accentuate my almost non-existent curves. I don’t want them to make feminist statements; I want them because I feel good in them.)

I don’t think that it’s so much “nostalgia for times he never lived himself” so much as it is the rejection of consumerism as a whole – for example, the move toward bicycles signals a conscious attempt to provide quicker pedestrian transportation, particularly in cities. It’s practical and functional, and people want to deck out their bicycles the same way they want to put fuzzy dice in their cars (but shouldn’t).

I can’t (and won’t) speak to fixed-gear bicycles because they terrify me. My dad gifted me his 1973 road bike (with gears and brakes, thankfully) for my birthday a couple of years ago – not because I was feeling nostalgic for the damn time in which the bike was created, but because I rode on the bike when I was a baby; I think it’s sweet; and it was free. Perhaps they signal some sort of accomplishment, as in, “yeah, you see this baby, it has no brakes. I’m a badass.” Again, I think that’s what people really want. It’s the cycling equivalent of a Tesla Roadster.

I grew up in an age marked by plastic and glitter and things made of glittering plastic. I think that the hipster mentality is rooted in a desire to embrace the bright colors but simplistic design and clean lines of times past, when furniture was for function rather than overly artistic design for the sake of overly artistic design. (Think of McMansions and the glittering, faux-crystal chandeliers. It’s not that the hipster is rejecting quality, but they’re rejecting the pretense that “all that glitters is gold.”)

Of course, I must address mustaches. I’m personally terrified of facial hair. I think it’s weird. On some people, it looks great, but I don’t want to wake up next to the remnants of last night’s sweet handlebar mustache. I don’t want to date a guy who spends more time on his mustache than I do on my hair. I don’t get hipster mustaches. And I am critical of them. But heck, I’m critical of Bump-Its, too.

I think Ms. Wampole is correct when she says, “Throughout history, irony has served useful purposes, like providing a rhetorical outlet for unspoken societal tensions.” But she’s wrong to say that our “contemporary ironic mode is somehow deeper; it has leaked from the realm of rhetoric into life itself. This ironic ethos can lead to a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche.”

I do believe that outwardly, the display of the ironic is more present than at most points in history. But again, I contend that it stems from not only access to social media and all things internet-based and it also stems from a sort of cultural shift that’s happening. We’re frustrated and stagnant, and it seems that no amount of pushing and shoving is allowing this generation to get out of the critical gaze of our elders. I feel as though we can honestly do no right. I’ve attended webinars that focus solely on how to manage Millennials, webinars that criticize but neglect to touch on the benefits that we may have. We may lack social interaction skills, but I think that with enough mentoring and practice, we’d all be more than proficient. (I exchanged recipes with a middle-aged businessman at the last trade show I attended. I don’t think I sat there the whole time buried in my phone. I was terrified, but I stood, hands folded in front of me, smiling and making small talk. Success.)

(Something for middle-aged readers to remember: did you start out in middle-management? No? You started out as a kid in an ill-fitting suit who had no idea what was expected of you? Oh, really. Hmmm…perhaps you’d like to share your experiences and some tips with the young kids in your office. Perhaps you could each benefit from a relationship. I bet they’d be willing to teach you about a lot of things, not just pop culture references. I always say that one of the things I’m most grateful for is the fact that I’m the youngest by 18 years in my office. I’ve had such beautiful opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. And I’ve also contributed to the environment in which I work. I bring enthusiasm, perspective, and humor. I’d argue that we’ve all benefited.)

Is our move toward silly expression really just a reaction to the overwhelming burden that’s been placed on us? As a Millennial, I’m constantly met with statistics that are wildly incorrect. They tell me that I’m not civic-minded or politically engaged. These are distinctly false. I am both civic-minded and an informed voter. (I think the pollsters would do best to stop interviewing 18-year old high school graduates, for I think that all rational thought at 18 is not necessarily the rational thought that those same people will possess a mere five years later.) I’m constantly facing the news that I’m going nowhere, that I’m ill-prepared to lead a productive and sustainable life, that I’m vapid and moronic. I have news for you: I’m none of those things. And I resent it.

Perhaps I am a bit sensitive, the hallmark of my generation. We were so coddled and loved and adored, but that’s the fault of our parents, the generation that moved to the suburbs and embraced materialism as a marker of success and eschewed happiness in favor of social status. (Oh she’s shifting blame! Quick, get her!)

I’m not shifting blame entirely. I do know plenty of people who aren’t half as self-sufficient as I am. I know plenty of Millennials who lack the drive and focus. But can’t you say the same for people in your own generation?

Ms. Wampole describes us as a “self-infantilizing citizenry,” and I think she’s wildly incorrect. We are not that. We are driven, determined, and yes, stagnant. Our under-employment and over-educated minds are frustrated. Our loans are crippling and our credit scores sick with over-exertion and exhaustion. We work jobs and jobs and jobs, until we are exhausted, mentally and physically. And yet, we hope.

Just as Ms. Wampole says she did in the 90s (mind you, she’s really only 3 years removed from this pathetic generation of Millennnials and hipsters, so perhaps the fact that she sees some of us in her is based in proximity alone). We hope for better for ourselves. Not necessarily materialistically better, but better. We hope for many things – a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a solid 401(k); a peaceful, sustainable future for our own children (should we choose to procreate). None of these things vary that drastically from the hopes of generations before us, but the messages are so mixed these days, it’s hard to tell if we’re headed in the right direction.

She also discusses the archetype of her own generation, “the slacker who slouched through life in plaid flannel, alone in his room, misunderstood. And when we were bored with not caring, we were vaguely angry and melancholic, eating antidepressants like candy.” I’m not sure how this differs from the current hipster archetype. I’d like to argue that her generation’s slacker has become the hipster of mine. The aimlessness we feel somewhat resembles that of the Lost Generation, the generation who struggled to find meaning, who struggled in a post-war world, who lacked the solid foundations of a future, yet who desired so much to discern meaning from their circumstances.

We need to stop writing off the hipsters or the Millennials, or both singularly, as being unintelligent and uninformed. We need to stop criticizing them for this mess – the current social atmosphere is far more charged and reactionary than you might be inclined to believe.

The friend who posted the article responded to my comment taking offense to Ms. Wampole’s assertion of our insincerity through ironic expression saying that he felt that the author’s intent was not to go after hipsters and that irony can undermine sincerity and authenticity. He’s wrong about her intent: she’s a hipster-hating human who doesn’t have any clue what she’s talking about since she’s locked in the ivory tower of academia – it’s a very sheltered world, and I often find that when theoretical thinking is not paired with real-world experiences, it tends to become a shade too intense and unrealistic.

He’s right about irony undermining sincerity and authenticity. I personally strive to be the most authentic person I can be. I love sincerity and truth and understanding and the trust that can be fostered through honest communication. But I also think that since truth and trust are difficult for some to embrace, irony can serve a purpose.

I think that plenty of identity formation can stem from negation. Think of it as “I am not this, therefore I am something else.” Granted, it’s a much broader approach, but finding out what you dislike or reject can lead to some very necessary self-exploration that perhaps you may not have done otherwise.

I will concede that irony, like all things, is best in moderation.

On the Road Trip to Albuquerque, Excitedly

We set off to spend a weekend geeking out over “Breaking Bad” in Albuquerque, the trip we’d planned on our first date. This was officially our tenth date, but it was so much more than that. It’s been so much more than that.

If you’ve never seen it, “Breaking Bad” is a show on AMC about a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth because he’s been diagnosed with cancer and he wants to provide for his family. It’s an incredibly well-done show. It really asks a lot of “what if” questions that you’d never think to ask yourself and brings morality into focus. It’s well-written and it pulls at my heart in ways I never thought television could. (But then again, I cry at Google commercials, so it’s a given that I’m going to cry at this.)

I-25 to Albuquerque

I was so excited to spend a weekend away. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, with work and the impending home purchase, so the promise of a relaxing weekend (three whole days off!) was almost more than I could bear. Matt and I have been communicating constantly since we met, but our dates are relegated to the weekends due to our jobs and the distance between us, so the thought of spending 72 hours with him was both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

We stayed at the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque (great AAA rate!). It was lovely – the hotel used to be a hospital, but was redone a few years ago. It’s clean, bright, and gorgeous. The hot tub is open 24 hours a day! We made sure to get as much hot tub time as possible in. The first night, they had a party at the rooftop bar, which got to be annoying. The guy working the front desk said that one guest had called to complain, saying that he would come down in his underwear and start yelling. That thought made me laugh.  Our room was a corner room in a separate building, so we had tons of windows and a huge bathroom.

But seriously, who throws a Halloween party on November 2nd? Albuquerque does. Apparently, they don’t let go of Halloween there – we were at a diner on Saturday and the waitress asked us if we had enjoyed Halloween. Very strange.

Saturday morning, we started our adventure. Matt was adorable and made us the sweetest map ever – he pinned all of the filming locations that we wanted to visit (I found the locations on a blog and sent him the link) and then added pictures and the physical addresses of each.

The first stop was the Crossroads Motel, which actually wasn’t on our map. We happened to drive by it on our first night in Albuquerque. (Oh, there was also an incident in which we attempted to get slices of pizza and were treated horribly by the manager after waiting more than 20 minutes only to be asked “Are you waiting for something?” by the girl who took our order. When we finally got a refund, the man snapped “I’m not refunding the Dr. Pepper!” Jeez, dude, chill. I didn’t ask for that. At that point, I just wanted like $5 in cash and I wanted to bail.)

We were standing in the parking lot of the motel when a man approached us, opened his wallet, and said, “DEA, what are you doing here?” Of course, he wasn’t from the DEA, but he was at the motel with his wife doing the same thing we were doing – taking pictures of filming locations. They were from Albuquerque, so we traded maps and chatted for a few minutes before moving on to the next stop: Jesse and Jane’s apartments.

One of the main characters is named Jesse Pinkman. He’s a small-time meth cook before he joins Walter White (the chemistry teacher) and their business expands. I love him, and one of my favorite story lines of the show is his star-crossed love affair with a recovering addict named Jane. They live side-by-side in a duplex, they fall in love, then (spoiler alert) she dies. It’s sad. But it’s beautiful. They are adorable together.

I knew that this was going to be my favorite spot, and it absolutely was. This was the site where I felt the most connected, not necessarily to the show, but to all of the emotions that I felt while watching it and all of the emotions that I felt while standing there with Matt. (We have some adorable couple pictures all over this property that you’ll see once they’re edited and ready for viewing.)

Jesse Pinkman's apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

(Jesse ends a lot of his sentences in the word “bitch.” It’s his way of emphasizing something. When I originally posted these, I posted them with the caption, “Jesse Pinkman’s apartment, bitch!” just because it felt like the right thing to do.)

Jesse Pinkman, apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

When we got to Walter’s house, we walked around the block, holding hands and chatting. (The curbs are seriously high in that neighborhood. I would destroy Simon. I’m very glad I don’t live there – I was driving Matt’s car, and when I parked, I purposefully parked about a foot off the curb so I wouldn’t take any chances of hitting the curb with his car!)

It was surreal.

There’s a scene in the show where the teacher, Walt, gets angry and throws a pizza on his roof, so apparently at one point, the family who lives in the house had to put out a sign that said “Please don’t throw pizzas on our roof.” Imagine going outside every day and having to get pizzas off your roof. I bet they clog the gutters and get annoying pretty quickly. (Still not the worst thing that could happen to your house after it’s been used as a filming location, though.)

Walter White's house, Breaking Bad, meth, Albuquerque

This is us posing in front of Walter’s house, but you can’t tell.

Hank and Marie (the chemistry teacher’s DEA agent brother-in-law and his wife) live in this insanely gorgeous neighborhood. Better than their house was the park nearby – we got out and hiked around and I got to climb on some rocks!

We also got to go to the Chicken Man’s restaurant! (In the show, there’s a super awesome meth dealer named Gus who owns a chain of chicken restaurants, so I call him the Chicken Man. In real life, the chicken restaurant is a real restaurant. We went and I got a soda.) It was amazing. We also went to the Octopus car wash – I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them from Matt.

Leaving was such sweet sorrow. We woke up, fully intending to go take more pictures near this gorgeous wooded area we’d seen the day before, but ran out of time and instead headed to Santa Fe. We had lunch there, walked around the Cathedral, stopped at Trader Joe’s (wine! chocolate covered cherries! chocolate covered pretzels! tea! pumpkin yogurt!) then headed back to Denver so that I could be home at a reasonable hour to be ready for work today.

On the whole, I would not return to Albuquerque willingly, unless you promised me that we could stop at Olo Yogurt Bar – where I had red velvet frozen yogurt topped with strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, gummy bears, and chocolate sprinkles. The city itself is stuck in the past – they have Furr’s cafes and lots of old neon. We didn’t really see much revitalization, but the neighborhoods that we found ourselves in were absolutely lovely. So perhaps there’s still a bunch of Albuquerque that we’re missing.

The hotel was amazing. The continental breakfast was Matt’s least favorite part, but I found it to be par for the course (they had me at Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Earl Grey tea). The shampoo was his favorite part. My favorite part? Hot tub. Sheets. Quarantine signs when you wanted privacy (a nod to the hotel’s beginnings as a hospital). We laughed when they talked about the “nurse’s quarters” because the building had a smokestack next to it…obviously not nurse’s quarters.

It was the best tenth date ever.

Denver, Albuquerque, I-25

 

I’ll post more pictures soon!

And note to everyone: VOTE! Tomorrow is election day and if you want the right to bitch for the next four years, you absolutely must vote tomorrow so you can at least say you did your part.

obama 2012, i voted, sticker, colorado,

I, of course, voted for Obama last week. Here’s hoping I won’t have to spend the next four years bitching. (According to Nate Silver’s newest forecast, I should breathe easy because it looks like Obama’s going to take the election easily. You can find Nate Silver and his election forecast on the Five Thirty Eight blog at http://www.nytimes.com.)

Nate Silver election forecast

But seriously – I care more about you voting than who you vote for. (I mean, that’s totally a lie, but I will find it even harder to respect you if you don’t vote than if you voted for someone I think you should in no way logically support.)

On Beauty, All Too Mindfully

One of his hobbies is photography. This is a wonderful habit to have. I love pretty pictures – even though I take all of my pictures with my iPhone and then use Instagram to autotune them into some semblance of “decency,” if you can call it that. (I like them. I imagine those of you who spend hours manually focusing and whatnot are annoyed by this, but I don’t care. To each their own. And my own methods are free and convenient, two things are just really hard to beat.)

But this is why I am self-conscious. I’m about to grossly generalize here, so forgive me, but as a woman, I suffer from at-times low self-esteem, self-confidence, etc. Growing into my own looks was a really rough journey for me – the nose got made fun of all the time, the lack of boobs, etc. But I think that I’ve finally arrived at a point where I can look in the mirror and be like, “Damn girl. You got this.”

Having someone who thinks I’m stunning is lovely, but I have no idea how to accept his compliments. Modesty, humility, gratitude: all of that exists in me when I hear him tell me such lovely things, but the idea makes me uncomfortable. Because it goes back to the whole “Me? How could he find me this attractive?” thought process. It’s not just a woman thing. And not all women have this, but I find that particularly girls like me, who grew up not gorgeous and not heinous, but just plain and awkward, have a hard time coming into adult beauty with grace.

Not that I’m trying to say I’m beautiful, or anything other than that. I am Katie Barry, and that’s enough for me. But I am improving in the looks department as I age, and this is a really positive thing.

Seeing myself as he sees me, or at least as his camera sees me, is really odd for me. My curiosity gets the best of me. It’s vanity at it’s finest. It’s more that I’m examining each photo, mentally picking out blemishes and fine lines and ugly, but also searching for beautiful. I see the pictures and I search to find my beauty – to validate what I want to see in myself. I want to feel beautiful because when I do, it spreads through me and carries such a tremendous amount of power in its translation from understanding to outward confidence.

I have no idea if I made any rational point there, and I’m not going to belabor it. Moral of the story: I have no idea how to act when there’s a camera in my face. I sit still, thinking of how hard it really must be to be a contestant on America’s Top Model, and I make a mental note not to judge them all so much for being stupid and vain. And after a while, I relax, forgetting or no longer caring that the camera is there. And then it’s okay.

We’ve agreed that when we got to Albuquerque, we will be tourists and have people take pictures of us together. This will be fun. It will be freeing. We will be touristy and silly and our photos will be of us and not just me.

He was playing around with a new lens the other day while I talked (of course). This is what he came up with:

and this:

 

and this, which is my favorite:

I have no idea what I’m talking about. No idea at all. He reminded that within ten minutes of meeting me, he had commented on my animated speech. It’s something I don’t realize I’m doing, but when it happens all the time. (At Dairy Queen a few weeks ago, I was asking a man how he wanted something and one of the options was “blended.” I made a crisscrossing motion with my arms, which he found hilarious. It ended up being the highlight of my day, because we bonded and laughed about that before he joked about the high quality of service and asked if the cameras were working – insinuating that’s why I was being so awesome – and then gave the cameras the “thumbs-up” just in case. Made my day. Thank you, strange blending arm motions, you give me character and positive reinforcement.)

On Love, and Fall, and Family, Certainly

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt

Thank you, Charles.

***

Lame family-centric quotes aside, I’ve been feeling immensely grateful these past few weeks. Family is one of those things that can either be frustrating or wonderful, and I’m lucky enough to have a family that falls on the side of wonderful.

When we have dinner, we linger. We sit at the table long after the meal has ended, and I’m usually reprimanded for playing with my silverware, since I’m not one who’s mastered the concept of “still”.

My aunt from Vermont, who’s an awesome photographer – I thought her yearly Christmas book was awesome, but the facebook has allowed me to see pictures of adventures, gardening, sunsets, etc. – took pictures at the dinner we had a few weeks ago. (The one where Matt met the ENTIRE family.)

Here’s me, Matt, and my little neighbor:

This picture of my mom and brother stops me in my tracks, cracks my heart open, and makes love pour out of it. My mother and brother are not known for their willingness to engage in patient sitting for pictures, so this semi-candid shot blows my mind. My aunt has managed to capture them exactly as I see them in my mind when I imagine them. These are the faces they make during those moments when we are teasing each other about being “the worst guy” or pretending to be exasperated (sometimes it’s actual exasperation) and saying “You’re killing me, Smalls.” I am going to frame this picture.

***

Life seems to be increasingly hectic. In between all the working is the life part, and then the house-buying procedural part. This weekend was wonderful – Friday night, Matt came down to Denver and we went out to dinner, then walked and got dessert. He got to meet Jacob since we walked past the restaurant where he works. I like dinner dates with him. Somehow, it’s like we’re the only two people in the world. Interestingly enough, I’m becoming more and more self-conscious as time goes on, worried that I’m repeating myself too often, or talking too much (what’s new?), but at the same time, I’m more comfortable. It’s like we’ve been dating for years and dinners are merely a formality.

On Saturday, I worked at Dairy Queen then went to babysit, then found myself exhausted and went home. On Sunday, I worked, missed the home inspection, then drove to see Matt. He made me caprese lasagna (oh man, so good), we decorated an awesome Halloween gingerbread house, and then watched Moonrise Kingdom. 

I asked him to rub off on me with his healthy eating, so he made the lasagna with whole wheat noodles. I told him I was glad for that, and he seemed surprised. It’s not that I’m not a healthy eater, it’s just that lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut as far as food goes. I’m definitely not making the healthiest choices; I can’t tell you the last time I went grocery shopping; I’m not watching my figure or anything. But I do enjoy healthy food. I don’t want to give him the impression that I’m someone who lives on McGriddles and Mountain Dew, even though right now, I totally am that guy.

Here’s the front of our house.

Halloween Haunted Gingerbread House

And here’s the back:

Spooky Haunted Gingerbread House Halloween

He got the kit at Target. I am very much enjoying his appreciation of all things Halloween. It was a nice Sunday night activity. But by far the best part of Sunday was Moonrise Kingdom.

I love Wes Anderson – he did Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, etc. – so when Matt suggested it, I was thrilled. It’s the story of young love – the two kids are about 12 – and the consequences of running away to be together. It is, for lack of better descriptive words, precious. The kids retain their innocence through their adventure, which begins with a courtship conducted entirely via letters.

They make an inventory of what she’s brought on their escape. (He’s some sort of scout, so he’s armed with all the necessary provisions.) She brings books, a record player, and a various amount of other things. It’s a very Katie Barry packing style.

When I was that age – twelve and up – I carried around everything I cared about. It was at twelve that we began taking vacations, and it was at twelve that I did not learn that you will eventually return home, and therefore don’t need to bring everything with you. I would pack two huge suitcases (this was back when you didn’t have to pay baggage fees), and I would fill them with everything, especially books.

I think I fell in love with Suzy when I saw her unpack a suitcase full of books. But I loved the purity of their young love and their determination and their struggles. You should go watch it. It will fill your soul with happiness and remind you of young love, which is something we too often neglect.

On Change, Seasonally

I feel fall coming. I’ve been smelling it on the morning air since early August, but now I’m really feeling it. The morning air is crisp, a reminder of the cold bite that I’ll be complaining about in a few months. For now, it’s refreshing. I roll down the windows and feel the warm sunshine and the cool air and I am content. I drive, watching the rolling ribbons of brown leaves part to let me through, and I know that the time for warm summer nights and sunshine will soon be a thing of past and something to look forward to.

I think of the changes of this summer – the adventures, the love, the friends, work – and I can’t believe it’s gone so fast. Did I take advantage of it as I used to? No. I used to relish summer, staying up all through the night and watching dawn break over the sleeping city. Now I count late hours as borrowed from the next day, and wake to rejoin the rush. Swim attire has been replaced by business casual, the need for adventure replaced by a longing for a comfortable couch.

Growing up is a strange process since it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s the small changes that happen season by season, so subtly that you don’t notice them until you look back to see where you’ve come. Not that I’m grown up, by any means, or that relishing late nights is an activity left only to the young. Just that there are little bits of my maturity that seem to be slowly falling into place. Or perhaps I’m just spreading myself too thin and the lack of time stretching in front of me to be filled with adventure is shrinking as a result of obligations that I never imagined I’d have rather than the reality of adulthood.

I know that it is my responsibility to make sure that I maintain the work-life-me balance. And in that precarious juggling act is time. I need to carve out time for me to do nothing. Perhaps I need to be more strict about that, reminding myself that the busy everything can wait. But the busy everything is so pressing, so nagging, and at times, so incredibly fun. The busy everything doesn’t wait.

I long for hours – I wish I could waste them again, the way we used to. We’d lay around the apartment, we’d take walks, we’d adventure. What’s an afternoon drive to Wisconsin when you’ve got nothing else to do? Now, I have to schedule laundry strictly in order to ensure it will get done.

I wish for evenings. For weekends. For unplanned, unscheduled, unmarked time. And when I have it, I will do nothing. I will not do the things I’ve been meaning to. I will not clean, or cross things off my to-do list. I will draw a bubble bath and grab a novel and sit for hours, until the water is cold and my toes resemble shrunken heads. I will watch endless episodes of everything on Netflix. I will become bored. I will relish that boredom by painting my toes and face-masking. I will spend a long afternoon napping with Carlos curled around my feet. Ah, that would be lovely.

On the Weekend Adventure to the Grand Canyon, Impressively

I didn’t think he was serious. I think we were watching Donnie Darko when it came up that I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. “Let’s go,” he said. (For the record, they all say that. We make tentative plans and then we don’t go.)

Friday night, I left work, went to babysit, and then flew home to shower and pack. By 10pm, we were on the road, headed west. He drove until Vail – where we encountered the full force of the law, so I drove until Moab, where we switched again, and then I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, it was 7am and we were somewhere in Arizona.

We got to the gates of the park at 8:30. After a quick change of clothes in the parking lot, we went. And for the first time, I saw the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful.

We climbed around on rocks. Neither of us had brought an insane amount of hiking gear, so we stayed near the top and just looked around. Wandered through some ruins. (Not really ruins, more like signs pointing out trees and what things might have been. Underwhelming.)

(We were staring into the sun. Terrible idea. Both of us are squinty and look miserable.)

By noon, the awe surrounding the immensity of the canyon was wearing off and the annoyance caused by fellow tourists was beginning to wear on us, so we decided to bail on the park (and the already purchased camping reservation I’d purchased).

We had lunch. (I’ve been eating salami, cheese, and bread for weeks on end and it still tastes just as good every time.) 

I asked that we find water, and he pointed to Lake Powell on the map. So off we went. Driving past the North Rim area of the Grand Canyon as you head toward Page, Arizona is like viewing the Wall in Game of Thrones. It’s amazing. It looms over everything.

We got into the park, wandered around looking for a spot to swim, and landed at a very sandy beach. We crossed a very nasty looking inlet and then hiked through some spiky bushes to an empty sandy beach area. It was empty, and so it became ours.

We decided to camp there, so we hiked back across the muck and got our stuff. And hiked back across the muck and back through the spiky bushes and down to our beach spot.

Swimming and a sunset walk rounded out our evening. We finished off the meat and cheese by the lake and fell asleep just after the sun went down. (I am a little bummed about that – I was looking forward to night swimming.)

I usually don’t fall asleep very well when I’m camping. I’m too jumpy and nervous. As 1:00 am rolled around and I was awake for the fourth time, I finally pulled out Mike’s sleeping bag and threw it over me. Snuggled into that, I fell asleep and stayed asleep. I woke up to an empty tent and a beautiful sunrise (ish).

Britt swam out to that giant rock you saw above, and I nearly had seven heart attacks once I stopped being able to see his head above the water. (I used to be a strong swimmer, but am really out of shape now and couldn’t have gotten out there even if I’d had to.) My consolation was a boat floating near the side of the big rock. In my mind, they’d give him a ride back, and that’s exactly what ended up happening. The boat came directly at me, someone yelled “Man overboard!” and he jumped to swim back to me. I waved, yelled, “Thank you!” and felt my heart start to beat again.

We packed up camp and headed home, but not before getting the car stuck in the deep sand and being towed out by a shirtless man with a cigarette dangling from his lips. “You kids have fun,” he said before climbing back into this truck and heading back to the beach. There was even a shower involved! It was outdoors with no warm water, but it may have been one of the best showers I’ve ever taken. I was so happy to stand in the spray and feel the soap slide down me and drain away into the sand.

The redness of the rock and the blue of the sky reminded me of our road trip through South Africa and made me miss the country. The Native American land that we drove through made my heart ache. Handwritten signs spelling out “Tire Shop” looked just like the ones in the South African townships. If you could replace the tract housing with metal sheets, it could have just as easily been Capricorn or Vryground. Even the roadside markets, with their handmade stalls and hand-painted signs were similar. I could sense the rawness of the whole thing, and I felt simultaneously moved and unmoved. It was interesting. It was the same mix of emotions I felt in Cape Town. Respect for the situation but understanding of the complexities that have made it so. Realization that there can be no swift change, and that the emotions that haunt those involved will not fade for generations to come, if at all.

I drove while he slept. I threw my phone on shuffle and listened to music and just let the road take me. I was happy. Once I started to ache, I pulled over, got food and gas, and then switched spots with him. I didn’t sleep on the way home – he’d brought me his Kindle to read since I mentioned that I wanted to read The Hunger Games. I got engrossed in the book while we still had daylight.

We landed in front of my apartment before 10. I hauled my stuff in and made noodles while Carlos yowled and rubbed against me, apparently surprised to see me return home. Instead of falling asleep immediately, I read a few more chapters of the book and then finally turned out my light.

The weekend was fun. I’m surprised that we traveled so well together and I genuinely enjoyed myself. I was stressed before we left because of my natural pre-trip stress and the fact that I felt like we weren’t communicating well, but as soon as we were on the road that all melted away. This continues to unfold in an interesting way, and I am quite curious to see where it leads.

On New Opportunities, Sadly, Fondly, Excitedly

This post is a love letter to one of my best friends, who’s off to intern abroad for the next six months. I hope she has an absolute blast perfecting her Italian while eating gelato and canolis and kicking ass at what she’s doing.

I’ve known her since I was fourteen. We got close during geometry class our sophomore year – we were absolute hellions to our teacher – and then traveled to Europe together on an amazing forensic science trip between our junior and senior years of high school.

We went to Chicago together our senior year. She was visiting her boyfriend, and I was falling in love with the lake. We ended up going to the same university. Even though we’ve had very different life experiences, we’ve been able to maintain and strengthen our friendship through the years.

Honestly, some of my best memories from college are from my senior year. The Irish, the Ginger Summer (parts one and two), bar trivia, adventuring, accidentally driving to Wisconsin, the Boston trip, the last night and the sunrise that wasn’t – those are the moments that shape the beautiful memories of my time in Chicago.

I have come to rely on Madeline for advice, for adventure, for a good laugh. Sometimes when I’m really stressed out, she’ll appear in my dreams and yell at me, so I’m pretty certain that she’s my super ego. She is the logical half of our duo, the rational one who always has the right answer. I respect and value her opinions at all times, and have looked to her as a source of strength when I need it most.

I’m so lucky to have a friend like her.

There was a flaming bowl of rum punch involved. That may explain why the picture is so off kilter.

San Francisco, summer 2010, singing “Wonderboy” at a karaoke bar. Are we awesome at karaoke? Absolutely not. Did we rock? Of course.Wonderboy, what is the secret of your power?

The Chicago Mustache Bash:

Spray painting the Irish’s van. Sally, as the van was called, had no working speedometer or gas gauge. The Irish had gotten her for $400 and paid a guy in beer to fix her when she broke.

The first night we went out with our new Irish trivia buddies, they picked us up in the van. I was certain we were going to die when they opened the sliding door while we were on Lake Shore Drive and yelled “air conditioning!”

(The Irish got stopped trying to get back into the US from Canada because they had spray painted “We’re here illegally” on the side of the van.)

South Boston, 2010. A trivia adventure.

Downtown Chicago, 2009. Maddie’s family was in town. Things got wild. This is my favorite picture of us. 

On the Zoo, Over-Heatedly

My mom’s five-year old neighbor is one of the most adorable human beings I’ve ever met. (Last summer, while playing Capture the Flag, she came to let me out of jail – an overturned boat in our shared backyard – and she informed me that “that’s what best friends do.” My heart cracked and overflowed.)

For the last six months or so, she’s been reminding me that I promised her that we’d go to the zoo and have a picnic in City Park and that she’d get to meet Carlos. “I’ve never met a cat before; I’ve never met Carlos,” she tells me.

So on Sunday, my mom, my neighbor, and I piled into the car – she wanted me to sit next to her in the backseat, so I did – and headed to the zoo armed with a picnic lunch. It was too hot, so we didn’t last very long at the zoo. We were able to get about 100 feet into the new elephant exhibit, and we didn’t get to see any penguins.

I’m heartbroken – penguins are my absolute favorite things. Here are penguin pictures from Boulder’s Beach in South Africa:

(Can you tell I’m missing South Africa? Always.)

Anyway, the zoo.

We saw lots of sleeping animals – lions, tigers, kangaroos – it seemed like everyone just wanted to be left alone to sleep in the heat. We rode the zoo train. We had ice cream, and our little friend desperately wanted popcorn, so we had some of that too.

After we left the zoo, we went to my house so she could meet Carlos. I was nervous – Carlos is skittish at best around new people, and he’s never been around a 5-year old.

Carlos loved her. At one point, she kissed him right on the nose. He didn’t flinch. We fed him some wet food (is there a better way to get a cat to sit still?), and she got to scratch his back while he ate.

Then we had a picnic in the park, under the big arches.

We had turkey sandwiches, cucumbers, carrots, leftover popcorn from the zoo, and gummy bears. Then we chased each other around with squirt guns and played frisbee until we were exhausted and ready for sleep.

All in all? A great day. I hope that it was everything she imagined it would be.