On New Orleans, Belatedly

I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. My little brother – rather, younger brother, as my little brother towers over me at 6’4″ – is getting married, and I am now a bridesmaid (although I tried to explain I really didn’t need to be one), so I was invited along to the bachelorette party in New Orleans.

Now, I do love my brother’s fiancée quite a bit, but the thought of me, a Colorado woman whose very low maintenance beauty routine generally consists of “when’s the last time I wore makeup and where is it?”, traveling to a beautiful city with beautiful Dallas women who know how to curl their hair intimidated me immensely. However, I own a super sexy black dress, and I’m Katie Fucking Barry (sorry Mom, it’s a figure of speech), so I figured “I got this,” grabbed my makeup bag, stuffed it in a backpack with my laptop, and headed down there.

I spent the time waiting for the flight seated at a bar, chatting to an oil and gas intern who had recently relocated to NOLA and had been in Colorado for a conference. He was fresh out of college and seemed to enjoy his chosen industry, although did not express love for living in New Orleans. I spent the flight seated next to a very loud contractor who thanked every flight attendant for coming to work that day, as if they had any choice, and who proceeded to advise me on upcoming home remodel work. He was attending his sister’s book launch in New Orleans, and clearly had not been on many airplanes. I prayed he’d stop talking at some point, because he was so loud, but he was so enthusiastic and kind that I just let him continue, whispering back responses. We talked about books, and his pet bird, and wood floors. He promised he’d read American Gods.

I really do have the strangest but most wonderful conversations with people.

I arrived too late and exhausted (I had spoken at a conference for court reporters on cannabis and employment law, complete with a super amazing Jeopardy PowerPoint I made before flying to New Orleans) to meet up with the lady crew, so I curled up in a twin bed (note to self: never again) and fell asleep, after realizing that I’d left all of my jewelry and my toothbrush in Denver.

Shit.

I woke up in a strange house in a strange neighborhood, and immediately set off to procure dental hygiene products. Our Airbnb was in an interesting neighborhood. I’ve lived in Chicago, and in interesting parts of Cape Town, so I’m really not bothered by much. I strode into the nearest store, which was an oddly compiled bodega carrying everything from canned beans to beer to purses to free condoms to one tube of toothpaste.

Joy secured, I returned to my temporary home. The women were surprised I’d walked in the neighborhood alone. I  reminded them that daylight is a beautiful thing. This Airbnb, a remodeled shotgun house with a cute red front door, was full of weird gnat-like flies. Obviously, I wasn’t sure about the local insect game, so I withheld judgement until I realized that this is absolutely not normal. However, I made my peace with the flies after the first two hours of continuous aggravation. The showers were odd. It was a nice reminder to me that I should absolutely pay someone to do my tile work for me. They had done a decent job remodeling the place, complete with bright turquoise accent walls and exposed brick and newer appliances, but man, were they inept at tile work.

And I have to imagine that neither am I. So as my bathroom remodels get underway (ha, eventually?), I will have to remind myself that my DIY mindset does not extend to actual DIY practice. And I will have to bring in skilled assistance or risk being mocked mentally by anyone who ever uses my bathrooms.

We got ready to go to fancy brunch. However, immediately after brunch, we were headed to an alligator tour. (I have so many thoughts about this tour – we paid $105 each for this adventure, and I found similar ones on Groupon for $16….so I complained, but only mildly.) I donned overalls that my brother’s fiancée had brought for me. They looked great on her, but I was just swimming in them. At least they were comfortable! (I’m generally too long for one piece things, which is annoying. I guess they don’t make clothes with the long torso-ed in mind, and it ends up touching you in places you’d rather not.)

We made it down to brunch, two of us wearing overalls, one wearing obscenely short shorts, one wearing a vest made out of Bud Light boxes and held together with leopard print duct tape, and a fanny pack with a naked male belly button on it (as though it were an outcropping of exposed stomach), and attempted to enter the restaurant. The man guarding the door, I mean, the host, dressed in a suit and bowtie, looked us up and down and said, “None of this is going to work,” while he waved his pointed index finger back and forth, up and down.

So, banned because of the way that we were, we went next door (same freaking restaurant) and sidled up to the bar, where I ate delicious gumbo. (Rabbit, duck? Something gamey that I’m not usually keen on. But still enjoyed. Would eat again.)

Then, the alligator tour commenced. I’m a naturally curious person, and I love adventure, generally. I enjoy nature and I enjoy water, so this was bound to be a good time. We climbed into a giant SUV with a couple, and were carted off into the swamplands surrounding the city.

I am in love with trees. I have been in love with trees since spending most of my childhood in and around the apple tree in our backyard, and the trees in the South do not disappoint. (See also my obsession with tulip trees in Kansas City. Not trying to say that’s the South. Adding additional context for tree love.) They are both formidable yet graceful. They loom large above you, and I imagine I could happily build a cabin and live beneath one forever.

I had never been on an airboat before. These things are awesome. They glide over floating foliage, loudly, and gather speed. I held my arm out, as one should, feeling the wind on my exposed skin. I loved it.

We navigated through a larger water channel before turning into a smaller passage, and eventually arrived to float among some plants. The guide brought out marshmallows, hooked them onto a pole, and then we met our first alligator, who floated up next to the boat, eager for food.

A smaller alligator joined that one, and the two of them chased pieces of raw chicken and marshmallows while I peppered the guide with questions about the alligator market (which is not what it once was, despite their utility as a food source), alligator lifestyles and territorial habits, and their lifespan. Turns out, they’ll eat anything, they grow to about 17 feet, live for up to 70 years, and grow very slowly. They’re very territorial, and are left to fend for themselves immediately after birth. You used to be able to get about $5,000 for a decent sized gator – but now the going rate is roughly $500 for the same gator. Hunters are given tags based on the land that they own, and it’s a good thing for population control. Alligator skin isn’t as popular as it once was for outerwear, and as such, the industry has suffered. I do believe I ate a gator nugget in Florida once.

I also learned a lot about water and land ownership rights. Turns out, in Louisiana, you can own water as though it were land, where in other places, you cannot. (You generally buy land with bodies of water on it, but you do not have claim to said water other than by the deeding of water rights, which are generally shared amongst those whose land butts up again or includes that body of water.) I need to do some more research, and learn how to more effectively communicate my understanding of water rights, but from what I gather, there are different applications of water rights depending on the potential for usage of a given waterway, and your water rights extend roughly 6 inches below the surface of the water. (Again, this is not legal advice, and should in no way be construed as such. I was drinking alcoholic beverages and asking questions that I don’t know the guide was qualified to answer.)

I enjoyed the afternoon immensely, and it culminated in me holding a baby alligator! He was very squirmy, and clearly not in the mood to be manhandled by humans. But he was sweet, and I imagined he’d feel right at home in my bathtub with Carl for a brother. They could hunt mice and squirrels in my backyard, and I would build him a pond for summer relaxation.

We left the alligator tour and went and ate the best fried chicken I have ever eaten in my entire life. I love fried chicken. I would eat it all the time. And man, the sides. Sweet potatoes, collard greens, mac and cheese, beans, rice. Heaven. This is what my heaven buffet includes.

We went home, napped (very necessary), and then became beautiful for our evening adventures. It included Hurricanes at some famous bar, then somewhere else, then a club. By this point, I was ready to go home, but they refused to let me go alone and thus, I danced wearily for several hours, while holding onto a railing, until we could leave.

The next morning brought beignets and I was able to pick up a new set of tarot cards. My friend Madeline had gifted me some in high school, and I’ve since lost them. While I am in no way blessed with the ability to remember anything about the tarot, I do enjoy possession of said cards, and was happy to procure them. The voodoo shop was lovely, cluttered, and full of things I could have spent hours looking at.

We wandered until it was time to check into my hotel, and we all hauled ourselves and our stuff there to wait until it was time to go to the airport. As soon as they left, I  immediately put on the bathrobe (because in theory, bathrobes are amazing but who actually bothers to use them in real life?), and then sprawled out across the bed.

I ordered room service. Obvious mistake, but the exhaustion deadened my bones and my fear of committing some GrubHub faux pas in a hotel lobby loomed larger than it should have, so with that, an over-priced Caesar salad and turkey club were whisked to my room. I opened the door in my bathrobe, hoping that wasn’t too weird. But I would imagine they’ve seen worse?

The next morning, I had formulated somewhat of a plan, and took the streetcar to a cemetery. I am obsessed with graveyards. I find them to be beautiful places of quiet reflection, the immensity of life somehow compacted into tiny markers of who once was. I’ve often stared at gravestones, caught in my own head, thinking hard about what it is to live a full life and then be reduced to a few lines of text for future consideration. In New Orleans, due to the sea level situation, you can’t really be buried underground, as your grave would just come back up, rejected by the earth. So instead, you are buried above ground. This cemetery housed graves going back to the late 18th century, I believe, and I wandered and wondered until the heat of the day and the weight of laptop digging into my back signaled that it was time to depart.

I perused a local bookstore for about an hour. I could read forever. I have lost my gift of immediately knowing a book is worth reading by looking at it, overwhelmed by the offerings of language and stories. I selected two, finally, one, a memoir by a well-known blogger known as The Bloggess, because she’s magical and hilarious and I would happily support her by purchasing her book, and the other, because the story felt compelling. I also had one more book in my backpack, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a man whose writing I adore. So now, with three times the books I had with me when I started this three-day adventure, I sat wearily and made a new plan.

I had a few hours. I was exhausted. I was sweaty. The air was thick. Since I’d just spent $30 on books, I didn’t want to Lyft anywhere and I wasn’t sure what else I needed to see; although I had a couple museums in mind, I did not have the time. So instead, I decided to take the city bus to the airport, figuring I could just curl up at a bar somewhere with a book. So that’s exactly what I did.

I am not the most adept at public transportation, nor am I the least, so I figured that even with my several hour window, I’d manage to arrive in time. One streetcar ride, to the end of the line (I got to ride past the Loyola New Orleans campus, so that was cool), two buses, and a half mile walk in between seemed not that daunting. I made friends with a woman at one of the bus stops. We talked for half an hour about everything from high cholesterol to Chicago and weather and fried chicken. She said the locals don’t love the fried chicken place I’d fallen in love with as much as they used to, and I agreed that once something gets too popular, its quality generally decreases. However, I swore I’d come back to sample more chicken offerings, and we laughed about the quality of fried chicken in Denver. When she left the bus, she waved at me and shouted for me to have a blessed day. I loved her.

I arrived at the airport, having lost more fluids to sweat than I ever have in my entire life, exhausted and content. I found a quiet bar, curled up, and brought out my book. After the couple next to me left, a large man sat down, and immediately began talking crazy. I gave him some insight into adoption, after he told me a completely rambling story about a niece that had been given up for adoption who had reached out to the family, but the family was not getting along and so they refused to give him her information, and this and that and everything. So, I directed him to where he might find additional resources for tracking her down and I assured him that knowing is important, and that meeting her might provide some important closure for his sister, her birth mother.

With no ability to create any sort of insightful conclusion, I conclude. Alas, that was New Orleans. I’ll go back; it was beautiful.

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On Kindness, Very Elderly

“Mustard and onions!” he would shout as soon he’d gotten himself through the door, gingerly shuffling up to the counter. He’s pull out crumpled dollars and some change. It was $1.62, always the same order: hot dog with mustard and onions, shortened to just “mustard and onions.”

Sometimes we’d see him coming and start his hot dog before he’d even gotten through the door (we had time; the man was 94 years old and no spring chicken. It’s interesting, to attempt to race an old man by microwaving a hot dog to have it ready for him before he’s even ordered it). His hands weren’t as nimble as they used to be, so we’d open the mustard packets for him and carry the hot dog out to his seat.

He would regularly give us a $5 tip and tell us not to spend it on the opposite sex. “Don’t spend this on men,” he’d caution, and I’d smile and swear I wouldn’t. And I never did.

He had a tiny white Pomeranian-looking dog thing he’d gotten from the Dumb Friends League. The tiny dog was tethered to the man’s walker by his leash, and the both of them were parked outside the large side window while the man ate his hot dog at the tall table in the corner. We used to bring the dog a little cup of ice cream to eat while the man was inside. One time, he yelled at me not to bite his dog, which made me laugh, mostly because it terrified some tiny children waiting in line. Once, the dog ran into the parking lot, dragging the walker with him. That caused a brief upset, and both the dog and the walker were safely recovered, returned to their post on the sidewalk.

Over time, I learned that the man had been a captain in the Navy during WWII. We talked about that when the captain ran his ship aground while showing off for friends off the coast of Italy. The man shook his head, clearly disappointed by the captain’s idiocy. When I was dating a Marine, he told me that the best part about the service was that when I got bored with the man, I could send him right back to the Marines.

He was the bright spot on many days. When we had new people working, who didn’t understand the “mustard and onions,” shorthand, they’d panic, confused by the gruff shout. He lived nearby, and walked the block and a half to the Dairy Queen regularly, exercise and human connection.

This morning, I read a post on Facebook written by a woman who’d taken her young children to a Target store for a quick necessities run, only to find herself behind an elderly woman in line who was paying for each item individually, in change. The woman wrote about her initial annoyance, but then wrote about how the cashier’s patience and helpfulness with the change counting and the interaction struck her. When the woman was done purchasing her items, she asked if she had enough to purchase a reusable bag, which she did. The cashier repackaged the woman’s purchases with a smile, no hint of aggravation or annoyance. She watched her young daughter watch the interaction, and she felt compelled to find the manager to speak about the cashier’s actions. And then she posted about it, which is of course how it came to me this morning, via a newsfeed so full of cluttered self-important noise.

When I was in high school, first beginning my time as the Dairy Queen (a self-imposed title, to be sure), we used to have an old woman come in and purchase a child-sized twist cone. Then she’d linger by the counter, chatting. At first, I was annoyed. I had things to do – re-stocking candies and cups and spoons. My manager at the time, a fantastic manager who somehow commanded and compromised and inspired with her honest work ethic and beautiful handling of high school employees who knew nothing about the working world, always encouraged us to stay and talk to her. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that for this woman, we were human interaction, not just a quick pit stop on the way to other things. It wasn’t until I grew into more adult awareness that I realized the haunting reality of the loneliness that comes with aging.

It tears at me, now, to think of people, not just the elderly, who are alone. I see the posts about how they’ve put a pre-school in a nursing home, and I’m fascinated by the sheer brilliance of the idea. I don’t know why we don’t have those everywhere, because we should.

I shed a few tears this morning, thinking of the hustling, frantic pace of our world, and the isolation that comes with our own self-involved narrow focuses. Much in line with my recent ruminations on the disillusionment of life, I find it disheartening that we feel compelled to share these stories of small kindnesses as some kind of heroic behavior, because in my own idealistic view of the world, these would be commonplace courtesies performed not out of duty but out of sheer goodwill.

I looked forward to seeing that old man every day. I brightened when he came in. I took as much (maybe more) from our interactions as he did. I still think of him, from time to time, and hope he’s okay. He might not be, it might be that he’s passed away or moved to a nursing home, but some small part of me wants to tell him how much he meant to me, and how his presence in my life made me better, happier, more fulfilled.

Listening to NPR cover the death of Alan Rickman last night, I heard the voice of one of his friends describe him using all of the words we all aspire to: kind-hearted, funny, and so on, and I started to think about the legacy that I will someday leave behind. The totality of our lives is summed up not on paper, which will eventually be filed away somewhere and left to the dust, but exists in the impressions we leave on those around us.

We get back what we put into this world, unless we don’t, in which case we must take comfort in knowing that we’ve done and been the best we could have been. My Russian co-worker, who became a dear friend, told me that she felt very deeply that the only reason she’d come back from Russia to be here for 9 months was so I could come into her life and we could become friends. She appreciated my sense of humor and my outlook. She’s back in Russia now, and I miss her every day. I miss our discussions of English language, and her laughter and our shared plants, which mingled in my tiny garden and grew together.

She’ll never know how much that compliment meant to me, and how it drives me when I’m in need of motivation. This. This is the reason we need other humans. We need them because the ripple effects of the smallest kindnesses don’t go unnoticed; they carry onward, softening over time, but still changing their environments. The harder we work to bring joy to those around us, the more joy there is to go around. That sounds Pollyannaish, and I don’t care. Taking the time to make small positive impacts is something that can have a very real and valuable return. It’s important, and we don’t seem to do enough of it.

On Disillusionment, Forwardly

I’m sitting at my desk this morning, mind scattered everywhere but here, struggling to will my energy into my work, the lot of which is piled up around me, panic spread throughout the cubicle. I’m listening to some upbeat mix about wanderlust (I had entered “Rusted Root” in my search box this morning, attempting to find the right work music, but have thus far come up empty handed – currently it’s playing the song about the man Down Under, which is not in any way what I had in mind), and the whole discomfort at being caged is forefront in my mind.

I’m reminded of a book I started recently, “And Then We Came to the End.” (Love the title. If you’ve read my writing, you know that I adore beginning sentences with conjunctions…my inability to compress anything into a single thought must beget the need to ramble continuously, punctuation interspersed as a matter of necessity.) It’s about the fall of an advertising agency in Chicago in the midst of a recession. Of course, I’m halfway through. I haven’t finished yet, so I can’t tell you what happens, although if I had to hazard a guess, it might be that they come to the end.

The prose is slow, jumping here and there, relating stories I couldn’t care less about, and yet, I’m liking it. It’s a beautiful depiction of the monotony, of the meaninglessness that is the workday, which is somehow magnified to consume our entire existence. It’s heartbreaking and endless and realistic, all at once. I’m surrounded by the mid-toned golden pre-fab cubicle walls, lucky enough to have a window and 8 little plants. I have no decorations, other than a smattering of tea boxes and hand lotions. My existence is a mirror of theirs, although it’s not at all the same. And that’s the beauty of it.

I’ve been enjoying disillusionment literature lately. That’s not a genre, but it should be. I’ve written before about the letdown that was the realization that there is not this magic sense of resolve/purpose/justice/happy endings that we were sold in the literature of childhood…and I’m somewhat pleased to know that much of our adult artistic endeavors can be focused on puzzling out the muddling through that comprises the rest of our lives. Comfort in solidarity, I guess.

I recently finished “The Postmortal,” which is a haunting tale of a dystopian future in which science has discovered a cure for aging, and the population has fallen into near-anarchy. But that’s not the point of it, really. The story centers on a man who’s watched everything he loves fall away in part because of his own (in)action and in part because of this cure for aging. It’s a book that reminds us that all we have left in the end is love and the people with whom we share these experiences, no matter how small. After I read it, I forced the cat to cuddle with me while I cried into his fur and begged him not to ever die. I came away from it reminded that life wouldn’t be so beautiful if it didn’t end; that the temporary nature of it is part of the beauty. Things are, for their time, and then they aren’t. What they leave behind is the faintest whisper of their presence, memories of joy to be called up in dark hours, some legacy of interaction, hope.

I am an excellent beginner. Promise excites me. Much like the books that litter my life, half-read, consumed diligently for a few days before being discarded in favor of a new magazine, or a new book, or a Netflix show, I find myself struggling with the push to follow through. The beginning is bright, the future full of promise of the best things to come, and yet, when we get to it, there is always that looking forward and not so much realization that this present current now will stretch on endlessly.

There is consolation in the status quo, to be sure, and the complacency in repetitive routines is calming, reassuring. Yes, we rage against the things that can (or generally, can’t) be changed, but we take comfort that we’ve let it out, briefly appeased, forgetting that it will rise again unless we make the leap to change.

For me, it’s fear. The fear of the unknown; the fear of failure; the fear of that feeling of nervousness that comes with next experiences. Fear is the thing I’ve worked the most to fight in my life, and I’m sure the thing that will I will fight continuously for the rest of my own ever. Which is silly, because everything is new at some point. The swirling of anxiety pooling in the stomach will dissipate; all storms must eventually lose their momentum and die out, quietly. And yet, I find myself bound by those invisible barriers.

We are the sum of our parts (broadly; our memories, our experiences, our biology, our synapses, our hopes, our loves – reread that until “our” loses its meaning, because it will, and because you can), our power is internal and boundless. It’s a matter of harnessing that into moderately tangible progress, in accordance with our own end goals.

Damn. This means I need to reassess and cement some end goals. 2016 – Exploration, Visualization, Actualization. At last, we’ve accomplished one thing: a plan to plan (my favorite kind of plan), and some nice catchy words to go with it. And thus, we go. Onward. It’s like the Robert Frost quote that my brother had engraved on an iPod he got me when I graduated from high school (or was it college?) – “The best way out is always through.”

On Last Weekend, Belatedly

So what have I been doing with my life?

Well…enjoying the nothingness of unscheduled weekends. I’ve found myself getting very aggravated lately when I have things that interrupt my two days of freedom. I had not realized how much I relish that time to myself, that time to let the days unfold as they will, to do what I want with no structure or demands on my time. It makes the weekends stretch on forever. We find ourselves doing everything, and nothing, and by the time the weekend ends, I have entirely forgotten the pressures of the previous work week.

Last weekend, I babysat on Friday night, so I took my 9-year old to get ice cream and then we decided to wander around the Denver Botanic Gardens. While we were there, we saw a few toads. Boyfriend grabbed one (because he’s not amphibian-phobic in any way, and apparently well-versed in the toad-holding methods I must have missed in biology), and held it out. She was nervous, but touched it hesitantly. From that point forward, the mission was toad-seeking. We saw another one – huge – and I was too nervous to catch it, so boyfriend caught it and then I held it. Toads pee on you, that is a scientific fact. So I got peed on but I held a toad! He was very wiggly and I think I may have been more scared than he was.

On Saturday, we woke up and made breakfast. I was in nap-mode, but boyfriend declared it “Activities Day,” and came to snuggle me while I protested activities day in favor of sleeping, but then he promptly fell asleep. I almost elbowed him awake, yelling “Activities Day!” but instead also fell asleep. Naps are fantastic. After the nap, we drove up to Boulder and went to the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory. Oh man, what a letdown. My mom had reported to me that there was a “Mint Room.” Maybe it came from too many viewings of the original “Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory,” but I went to the tea factory with this lovely pre-conceived idea that this magical mint room was an entire room full of lush, live and growing mint, green and light and leafy. Nope. Enter a concrete room full of bags of different mints. Pungent, to say the least. But so underwhelming. This fantasy of a room filled with mint is still alive in my mind, and actually, I’m thinking that maybe I’ll just plant mint plants all around my living room or something just to make the dream come true. (Like in “Patch Adams” when the lady swims in noodles…)

After that, we went and played a very competitive game of miniature golf at this fantastic place I haven’t been in ages. He told me after that it had been a test of sorts, because he had wanted to see how I was as a competitor. He told me that I’d passed, with flying colors. I laughed, because I love the idea of mini-golf and no one will ever go with me. We had fun. It was like a date – I got serious about it. We watched the families around us, with stone-faced parents who weren’t interacting with their children or each other. He made me promise that we’ll never be that boring. I promised. That’s a promise I can definitely keep.

I was exhausted. We went home and I curled up on the couch and we watched some episodes of a Canadian show that I’m starting to get into and fell asleep early like old people. We woke up on Sunday late – I slept hard, snuggling the cat, happy to have my baby back home. (He had a horrible week last week – I thought he was going to die, but in the end, it was a simple matter of draining my savings and giving some meds and fluids and an overnight stay at the vet. I’m still nervous – he’s lost weight, isn’t back to 100%, but he’s alive. So that pleases me greatly. He brought home a mouse the other day, even though he’s not eating as much as he should be. I’ve been trying to keep him inside so he doesn’t get into trouble in the real world, but he’s been crying and miserable about being inside. Ugh, the standing firm part of parenting is the worst. And he’s been in 100% snuggle mode lately. I think the night at the vet was a nice reminder that mom isn’t the worst guy.)

After coffee (necessary, always), we decided to paint my room! It’s been this horrible turquoise since we moved in and I made the mistake of not testing the paint I bought before painting the entire room. However, the idea of re-painting just always seemed like too much. But he hated that green color enough to motivate us to get it done. So we wandered down to Home Depot and I found (ahem, same way – pick up a paint swatch, immediately purchase gallons of paint) the perfect color. It’s called “Monet” and it’s a soft blue/gray blend with just a hint of lavender. I’m in love.

We went home, moved things around, taped a bit, and were off. By the end of the day, I had a new room! It was like extreme home makeover minus the overly-shoddy DIY creations. I still have stuff to do – next week is Organization Weekend. Ugh.

On Falling, Swiftly

This is going to be a whole bunch of word-vomit about what it’s like to be in love, so if you’re not into that sort of thing, stop reading now.

I’ve been putting off blogging lately, because I have two serious fears about blogging while happy: one, that it will somehow magically disappear because I’ve talked about it, and two, that I’ll come across as a boastful, arrogant and/or smarmy. Smarmy is the perfect word to describe that, because I feel slimy typing it. That’s not how I want to be perceived.

Anyway – it’s time. I have accepted love, settled into it, and am attempting to keep my cool. And now you should know about it.

I met a boy.

Okay, you know that story. Everyone meets boys all the time. And they’re just that. Boys. They’re funny and they’re quick-witted, but then what? Where does it go?

This one is different. This one’s more man than boy, but has still managed to retain his youthful charm.

This one matches me, in a way that I was entirely unprepared for. Before our third date, I’d decided that I was going to be single for a long time — single in a way that allowed me to figure out how to become a real person, single in a way that allowed me to figure out what it was that I wanted, single in a way that I imagined would help me be better able to spot the one when he happened by.

But as it turns out, he happened by.

We went on our third date sometime in early June. We’d both come into the date with some heavy info about the other (because of our mutual friends, oddly enough), and we were both hesitant, nervous, tentative. But somehow, over vegetarian waffles and whatever noodle dish he ordered (he remembers kim-chi stew), we sorted it all out and lingered.

After that, it was like it had been lit on fire — the propensity of the potential skyrocketed that night, much like it has since, and I found myself entirely comfortable and disconcerted at the same time. How do you meet someone who shares your dreams, your goals, your passions and not recognize that?

You don’t. I mean, you do. In the best way. You accept it; you embrace it; you allow yourself to jump in with both feet.

I found that, unexpectedly. For the first time in my entire life, I’ve jumped into something that terrifies me. Not because it’s bad, but because it might be right. So yes, it terrifies me. I’ll never forget the moment that my mom stared me in the face, in one of those “real talk” moments and said, “You’re prettier than I ever was; you’re smarter than I ever was; never settle.” And she’s wrong about two of those points (my mom was a fox, and she’s the cleverest, wittiest woman I’ve ever met), but the never settling part was burned into my brain. I never wanted to settle, and there’s a few times in my life that I just about have. Thank goodness I had that talk in the back of my brain, stirring the secret inclination that there might be something else out there.

This is one of those things that if it works out, I’ll be one of those annoying humans who says, “When you know, you know.” And I hope I’m both annoying and right. I hope that I’ve found the person I’ve been searching for.

He’s smart. He’s brilliant, actually, nerdy in the way that I wanted when I was younger, then gave up for the worst sort of man/boy. He’s funny; he’s smart; he’s non-judgmental. He’s sweet, kind, and he adores me. How wonderful it is to be adored, for exactly who I am with, with no pressure or pretense.

I’ve been attempting to explain to him the immensity of this – the fact that I’ve never gone into anything with two feet and that I’ve always held back. I’m still not sure that he understands how much he means to me.

I’m enthralled by his intelligence, his humor, and his sense of purpose. We seem to want the same things. We seem to have enough similar interests to keep the other entertained for a while (or at least cultivate new and different interests along the way). He’s an introvert; I’m clearly not, and we’ve both attempted to be communicative in ways that will mitigate any potential disruption as a result of that.

He’s met my family, mostly. There’s still a Denver contingent that he needs to meet, but my most conservative, hard-to-please matriarch on one side is absolutely enamored with him, and I consider that to be a solid win. I imagine that the rest of my family will love him; mostly because of who he is as a human, but also because of the happiness that he brings to me.

It’s a calm that I’ve never felt. Even while the stirrings of the inevitable are writhing around inside of me (and with them, the natural panic of relationship-ing), I have an unsettling and yet very settled feeling of deep content. I’m settled, even though nothing is sorted and the future is wild and unbridled. We may end up in Africa, or Indonesia, or wherever, and for the first time in my life, I’ve admitted to myself and to another that I would be willing to forego my Denver life in order to create and establish something else somewhere else with someone else.

I wish for adventure and for magic; I also wish for communication and understanding and appreciation. I want love, life, and happiness. I want to struggle with someone; to grow with that person; to arrive at the end of our lives and to be able to say that we’ve done everything that we wanted to do and that we’ve made something of ourselves, and created a life together. I imagine this, and I adore this imagination, and I truly hope that in some way, I am able to substantiate it. I want nothing more than whatever comes, but whatever it is, I hope that it is as breathtakingly beautiful as the past few months have been.

On Marilyn Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins, Nostalgically

I wrote recently about the disillusionment that comes with adulthood, and last night, I felt all of that, and then none of it.

I have been so excited about seeing Marilyn Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins at Red Rocks for weeks. I didn’t think I’d be able to find anyone to go with me, but lo and behold my friend Emily was game. (She is my favorite for concerts of moderately ill-repute; we’ve seen Swayze, Mickey Avalon, a local Denver band masquerading as fake Germans called Total Ghost…..all of them equally fantastic in their own ways.)

I saw Marilyn Manson play in Milwaukee in 2009 and I was enthralled. The show was amazing. I was with my college boyfriend, and he loved Marilyn Manson. He’s the one who got me into him. I find Manson’s music to be mediocre when it comes to hardcore cred he’s tried to earn over the years; his act is more of an image-based popularity. But he does touch on themes of love and disillusionment that I so identified with during my teenage and early 20s years.

I’ve never seen The Smashing Pumpkins. The ringtone I had set for my mom for years was “1979,” so whenever I hear that song, I think of her, and then think I might be in trouble. It’s sweet, that way. My friend Dave in college had all of their music on vinyl. I’ve never been that into vinyl, but he had me at “Want to come over and see my records?” I did. They were crammed into his studio apartment, and I respected him immensely for allowing pieces of flat discs crammed into cardboard to consume so much of his living space.

Rolling Stone posted a review which very adequately described the show. Marilyn Manson was present, said the word “Denver” at least seven times, and had a suitably theatric, aesthetically interesting show, but it lacked the energy that The Pumpkins were able to provide.

I personally was crushed because he didn’t play “The Nobodies” or “Love Song,” both off his Holy Wood album (which is my favorite). Or even “Heart-Shaped Glasses,” newer but sweet in its own way. But still, even as he’s progressed into the depth of adulthood, he’s not lost his slightly irreverent charm. Emily and I concurred that it might have been our Catholic school upbringings, but there’s something beautiful in the slight scorn of religion. Then again, I’ve lost the passion for all things anti-Christ (most likely because I don’t have an overly devout teacher calling me “Sister Katherine” in a slightly sarcastic way, spurring the inklings of teenage rebellion), and much of the set fell flat for me because I’m no longer amused by religious appropriation. Much of his set was propelled by props but lacked substance and soul.

But oh my, The Smashing Pumpkins, or what’s left of them (namely Billy Corgan), blew my mind, tore apart my heart, and released such great nostalgia and joy. It’s that cathartic energy that brings you simultaneously back and forward, to the nights when you first fell in love and felt your emotions in time with their songs, and suddenly into the present here, now.

We stopped for a bathroom break and then decided we would wait for a few more songs before we adulted our way out of the amphitheater. I am so glad we did. We were able to find standing room in the 6th row, where we saw them play my favorite songs. “Landslide,” “1979,” everything else. I caught myself smiling that wide, unbidden joyous smile.

I fell in love with The Smashing Pumpkins my freshman year of college, and the resonance has never left. “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was my jam forever. Hearing it live was beyond fantastic.

My life is such a fantastic one. I’m so pleased to be able to look forward and look back, and spend time with people who have known me (and will know me) forever. I treasure my adventures; each and every experience; every minute I am able to do what I want, because I know that there is only this one chance. I’m not giving it up without a fight.

I love the intensity of this photo. I love our faces, our lives, our experiences. I am so blessed to have a friend who will go with me to the strangest places and who will fully commit to the adventure of living in the moment. We look like animals. I love it. I love the intensity here. We had an absolute blast. My life is even more complete now.

On Rape and Rape-ish, Angrily, Regretfully, and unRemorsefully

Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault.

This article is about rock music and rape, so it’s not something you’ll understand.

At its core, it’s about being taken advantage of, when you’re young and naive and vulnerable, at a point in your professional career when you’re on the cusp of something wonderful, and that’s something I understand in a very profound way.

That’s where I was. I was on the cusp, the perfect target, easy prey. Pathetic. (Not me; the man who took advantage of me. I didn’t have a choice. I wouldn’t have made that choice, not that night, not ever.)

Later in the article, the author talks about telling the mom. I didn’t tell my mom for months after what happened in New York. I tell my mom everything. I didn’t tell her that. I hated myself and I hated my shame. I hated what happened. She knew something was wrong, but she had no idea what it was. She knew, but she didn’t know. She cried when I told her; I hated breaking her heart. I felt worse inside because I let her down, because I was broken and it wasn’t something that she could fix. I wasn’t the same and I wouldn’t ever be. I wasn’t hers anymore. I hurt her, and I hated that more than anything.

That’s part of why this article touches my heart so much. There are things that happen in an instant that change you. After them, you’re never the same. You’re darker, you’re different, and you can’t explain it. You can heal, and move forward, but there’s no forgetting. Sometimes I wonder if there’s ever a time when you can forgive.

People say they do; they say that all the time. I haven’t, and I never will. I hate who I became that night. I hate the person who woke up that next morning. And that’s the person that I am today. I don’t get to go back. I don’t get to atone, because I’m not the one who made that choice. I have tried to embrace love and happiness and to allow the beautiful things back into my life, but I’ll never be the person that I was on January 29, 2013. I can’t be. I carry something heavy with me everywhere I go now, and I will carry it until I die.

I make light of it now, but not really. At least I don’t cry when I talk about it anymore. But it cuts me every now and then, when I least expect it. Like tonight. I read this article and I cried. Hard. My therapist told me that these things happen – it’s a roller coaster, and sometimes you don’t see it coming. He said that one day, this would just be something that happened to me, rather than the only thing, and he was right. That’s all it is now. But it’s not nothing and it never will be.

When I told the new dude about it, he gathered me up into his arms and held me, and I felt safe and loved and healed and stupid for even feeling anything about it, for even telling him about it. But tonight, I read that article and the parts of me that are so together fell apart. I hate that these things happen. I hate that I “just had some fun” (not my words – the salesman’s words) with a middle aged married salesman when I was 24 and drugged, and I don’t get to erase that. I hate that I’m left with that scar, because I don’t want it. I don’t deserve it. No one deserves it.

Here’s the quote that got me — that hit home so fucking hard:

“I know from personal experience how all these things can eat away at you. They can take vibrant young people and turn them into something else.”

Tonight I’m crying; my palms hurt in that deep tingly way and the tears are hot and full and dripping out of my eyes. It’s real again; it’s visceral and it hurts. I will wake up tomorrow and this will all be a bad dream, but it’s not a bad dream and I know it. I refuse to let it consume me, the way it did for so long, but I will allow it to touch my heart so that I remember. I will never forget, and I will never forgive. I’m sorry — but I’m not sorry at all. I don’t have to forgive. It’s not a prerequisite for progress; it’s not something that I have to do.

I’m not kind in that way, the way I’m so kind in so many other ways. I will never forgive that disgusting man or my old bosses. I will never forgive them for what happened or how it exploded, destroying my career and shattering my soul. I don’t have to to be a take-the-high-road kind of person and I won’t be; not today and not ever.

I hate that I hate them so much. I don’t like to hate. I thrive on love and good feelings, good feedback, and gratitude. But I take exception here. I smile and laugh and pretend that I’m not hurting. Usually, I am all good, the embodiment of good vibes and positivity. It’s long forgotten, something that happened to me and not THE thing. But every now and then, it creeps up on me, like if there were such thing as a silent hybrid freight train.

Here’s the song I listen to when I’m upset. I don’t know why, but it calms me. Tonight it’s been on repeat for almost a half an hour.  

I feel better. It’s over. It’s done. It’s not happening right now and it hasn’t for a long time. I can’t change the past. There is only forward.

My roommate in college had a wise mom. She always said that when something was upsetting you and you couldn’t solve it, you should sleep. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The nest of blankets and my cat son should do the trick. Tomorrow is a new day.

There is only forward. I am who I am. I am not what happened to me. I am still me. I am good. I desire and deserve love, even now.

On New Beginnings, Exuberantly

It always starts with a plan. I had a plan. Then, as per usual, something threw it. It came slowly, not with a bang but with a whimper. It began with the inkling of connection. I watched it grow, nurtured by endless hours of conversation, long hours spent on a porch swing, and adventures.

We met for drinks one night in May, just before my birthday. It was raining, and I was running late. I had forgotten to leave time to park, got turned around, walked a block out of my way, and then finally saw him, standing under an overhang. We talked for three hours that night, the typical first date interview. We talked about DOTA (for way too long – at one point he asked if we could talk about something else and at that moment, I could have crawled into a nerd hole and cowered forever), about Colorado, about whatever else. Honestly, I don’t remember. I texted my friend after and told her I thought I’d messed it up and that he wasn’t going to call me again.

Our second date was tacos. We drank wine on his porch then lingered in the hip waiting area for a space side-by-side at a communal table. I spent a good fifteen minutes of that dinner trying to figure out what it was that the girl across from me hated so much about the waitress or her drink; I never did figure it out.

By the time we went into our third date, we were both anxious. We’d each received exterior input about the other, and each had our own questions and concerns. When he brought it all up first, I was immediately relieved. We laid everything out on the table (metaphorically, it was a tiny table that could only hold our drinks and dinner plates and definitely could not not have withstood the weight of our conversation) that night. We lingered long after the meal was over; we had somewhere to be but no time constraints. The night was young and so were we. (I’ve just always wanted to say that, so thanks for bearing with me. Cringing is absolutely allowed; I’m doing it right now.)

That night, something changed. That night, it solidified. I took him to the goth bar, my very favorite place in Denver and a wonderful proving ground for prospective mates. He handled it beautifully. We slow danced, surrounded by a thrum of industrial house and adjacent a man who looked like he’d been copied and pasted from the video game that we both play. I remember smiling into his sweater as we danced, the proximity of him making me more aware of everything, including my own inability to dance and my sudden vulnerability. I pride myself on never being vulnerable, and there I was, fully covered but totally exposed. (Note: I just reread that and I completely understand how lame I sound….#noregrets.)

From there, the momentum built. There was a movie night, another dinner, a terrible attempt at playing DOTA together, a walk through the botanic gardens, a wedding reception (minus the ceremony), a baseball game, and my favorite part, long evenings spent blissfully unaware of the world as we swung back and forth like a slow pendulum on his front porch.

This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. He knows everything about me. He still seems to want to know me and be with me. Parts of my brain that have been long-dormant are suddenly awake, thrilled by the prospect of use after such a long time. The curiosity has only increased, not just about him but about everything. Suddenly, my desire to know everything has been rekindled; it’s like my spirit has been prodded back to life.

I’ve been melting into the moment lately. That’s the best part — being fully in the moment. What is that? Why is that something I’m suddenly capable of doing? I can now sit in silence for the better part of three minutes…you’d be surprised; I know I am.

I knew it was a thing but I really knew it was a thing when he invited me over for dinner last week. He’d set a table with two places (and a tablecloth!) in the backyard; wine glasses, dinner plates, the whole nine yards…I guess the whole nine yards just included napkins and silverware, but you know, it was the most wonderful thing I’d seen. I went to put a bottle of wine in his fridge and then I saw it – green Jell-O. He’d remembered that I said I loved Jell-O with fruit in it (because I’m secretly not 27, I’m actually an 80-year old in disguise) and attempted to make it for me.

It never set. I laughed after he told me that he had a surprise for me, but felt bad because he knew I’d already seen it. My heart was doing tiny acrobatic flips inside my body. When we checked on the Jell-O some time later, it hadn’t set. I surmised that it must have been something to do with the pineapples in it, and the enzymes had prevented the gel from setting. I was still completely tickled. We put it in the freezer, and ended up slurpring up slush. It was magical.

I took him camping last weekend. That was going to be a make-it-or-break-it time for us, obviously, the first weekend away. I was nervous, but not overcome. We got stuck in horrendous traffic on the way up. We pitched our tent (poorly…my fault…it looked like a sad teepee….we corrected it on night number 2 and it actually looked like a tent…) and settled in. The whole weekend was blissful. We got to make beautiful campfires and smores (“Some more of what?”); I realized how much I need a treehouse and/or a mountain/nature hammock; we attempted to paddle across Georgetown Lake; and I got to learn a bit about rocks. .

I can’t explain to you what I’m feeling, because it’s all bubbling up inside of me and I’m content and calm and thrilled and hesitant and ecstatic all at once. This isn’t like anything I’ve done before; this is not the kind of dating I’m used to; this is right and easy and beautiful. It’s terrifying. My brain is alive with curiosity and the things I’ve yet to learn and the experiences I’ve yet to have.

I’m so happy to have found someone who’s on the same page with everything. Most things. He doesn’t listen to rap music before 5pm, which is something we’ll have to work on, because hip hop before noon is my jam.

I had a dream that I was too wild for him. My car was filled with those red plastic party cups, and when I opened my door, they spilled out everywhere. I kept denying that they were mine and he kept telling me that since they were in my car, they belonged to me (possession in 9/10s of the law). I woke up shaking. I told him about it and he told me that I am wild and that he likes that about me, and then he quoted Thoreau and said, “All good things are wild and free.” My heart soared.

This is something new and different; something wonderful and exciting. I love my beautiful life and I am so blessed. I don’t know where it will go, but I’m excited to see where it leads. I tried to explain to him that the world gives you exactly what you need when you least expect it, and I’m hoping I’m right.

On Hating Baseball, Passionately

I understand that baseball is America’s pastime. I understand the allure of drinking beer in the sunshine; in fact, that’s something that would constitute my sort of heaven. I understand how one might be intrigued by the significance of actually seemingly arbitrary statistics.

Even with that knowledge, I can’t help but just hate baseball.

Maybe it’s the ADHD. Or the fact that paying $8 for beer that will be warm and half spilled by the time I get back to my seat isn’t something that excites me. Or the fact that I can’t sit still for three hours watching tiny little men in pants run/stand around a giant lawn.

It’s probably that. I can do that for free pretty much anywhere.

I’m happiest when I’m trying to guess how fast the pitch is going to be. And even that loses its luster after like 7 minutes, or roughly 1/3 of an inning, which is like 3.8% of a game. (See, I did speculative math just to prove my point. That’s how intense my dislike is.)

Then what? Sunshine that I had to pay for? Or worse, a rain delay? Ha. I know we’re all terrified of the lightning strikes that have really just been a sweeping epidemic for baseball player deaths, but I think mud baseball would be way more interesting to watch. They’d slip and slide and it’d be way more interesting than the current quick jog to first and then maybe you’ll be out because you’re forced to run to second and everyone knows that’s where they’ll throw the ball. Oooh, double play. Interesting, for a split second. Much like a heart attack. Then back to the slow steady rhythm of the ball, strike, ball, strike, foul, ball, strike, ever consistent keeping of the count. It’s a baseline for boredom, an undercurrent of apathy, an elucidation of the reasons behind the effectiveness of Chinese water torture.

For some, it’s a near religious experience, a replacement for yoga, for meditation. For me, it’s nothing but sunburn and struggle.

My littles are going to the game today. My aunt told me that they get to go to school for the first half of the day and then they get to go to the game. They’re about 9 years old, and the little boy is the most passionate baseball fan I’ve ever seen. He loves it. He thrives on the game play, the player stats, the experience. I adore him, and I love that he loves it.

I finally understand how my mom feels about my cat.

Ah, well. I can avoid it as much as I like, which I do intend to keep doing. However, if I do find myself in a ballpark, I will be content to soak up sunshine and eat hot dogs, which are truly the only redeeming quality of the baseball experience.

(I’m mostly kidding – I do get bored easily, which is why baseball isn’t the sport for me. I don’t hate it as much as I pretend to, but I enjoy how riled up everyone gets when they’re defending it.)