Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.
–W. H. Auden
Looking back over my bank account debits from the past two weeks is just such an unflinching mirror: coffee, pie, coffee, pie, coffee, doctor, snow-cone maker (tonsils!), wine, coffee, coffee, pie and sandwich, beer, beer and ice cream, SmartWool tights, tank of gas.
Thanksgiving with Becca and her beau and K: all the fave staples of a too-full plate, mostly starch, the starch march, White Castle stuffing, from-a-box stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, K’s scalloped potatoes. The food pyramid rejoiced at the cranberry sauce and green bean casserole and Becca’s magazine cover-ready bird, carefully carved, thanks to directions on the internet. Afterwards? Watching Becca’s cats jump into a shopping bag. Devouring pecan pie. Remembering the goodness of Cool Whip. Playing Killer Bunnies. The perfect game for the game-phobic because anyone can win at any time. Even if you are mostly failing in every possible way. Takes the presh off. Also, there are bunnies.
My friend S-JY has been working on a new piece of writing, and she has introduced me to an entirely new kind of arrangement. It goes like this: One of us (usually S-JY) is off somewhere writing, and texts the other person to say “Hey! I’m writing! Come over!” And then I can say “That sounds way better than clipping my toenails and paying the electric bill…” and I pack up my things and join her. Usually it’s a bar or coffee shop, so a beverage is consumed. Coffee. Beer. (Not both. Not yet.)
I love this arrangement because it reminds me that momentum makes things easier. I can get into a groove and keep on groovin’. And when bored, I can look up and see if S-JY is similarly bored and then we can gab, or if it looks like she’s working then I am reminded: WORK.
The coffee and the beer also help.
… her blog is here, and it’s all about her one-year project to immerse herself and her son Max in the joy of colors, letters, numbers and art. Samantha is one of those friends with wise things to say. Like months after a conversation, a fragment floats to the surface — a book she lent, a glance, a snippet — something clicks into place and a new thought makes sense.
I’m supposed to get my tonsils out on Wednesday. I still haven’t quite come to terms with this fact. And instead I keep picturing myself ripping out the I.V. and running screaming from the hospital. Mostly because of stories like these.
And now over to Patrick Cooper, for something of substance and worth. I’m making sweet potato casserole.
There’s a part of this contract for this 401k that reads: “If you are working for us on the day that you die…” and my only thought was tick-tick-tock, and then a storybook opened… the ticking pocket watch by the girl’s bed gleamed brass and cold and the silk quilt felt like water and the entire bed plunged into the sea; half-capsized on salt and foam, and when it righted itself, with the bedposts as masts and the quilt as sails, the girl was gone. The storm-tossed watch fills with water and bursts, the tiny brass hands fly out of the book and back to the empty bedroom, where they clatter to the floor.
–Rode Brennan’s motorcycle on Sunday, fall day, the color of cider and wine, maybe the last nice day? Don’t say it, don’t say it… and I circled around the tiny parking lot the one where O and I would skateboard and fall and skateboard and fall, and what I wanted to say was: I’ll just take this to Naperville or Decatur or Alaska or Chile and then be right back.
–The Hopleaf has a neon sign in the window and if you touch a tiny glowing corner of it to see if the dust comes off it’s not like a glow stick, there’s real electricity there (did you notice the plug?) and so that shock sounds like a ZZZPT! and the only word I can think of is: sheepish.
–Thanksgiving at Kate and Joe’s reminded me that I covet stuffing and mashed potatoes and if you feed them to me every day I will eat them yes I will.
–Good friends tell you when you’re a liar.
–There are so many ways to mess up a life. There are so many roads to take or not take, cakes to bake or not bake, and in the end it’s the end. I have been working to be honest. To not think I can outwit fate. Reverse psychology doesn’t work on fate. Didn’t we already decide that?
Everything in Caffe Espresso was tippy. The tables wobbled. The floors slanted. The chairs rocked on uneven legs. And you know, us. The kids. We were the least stable of the bunch. The cafe occupies a very small sliver of time during sophomore year of high school, a year that’s mostly vanished from my memory, but this place asserts itself — the smell of the room, cigarettes and coffee. Dim lighting. Gouged tables. You could pack thirteen people around one of those tables so that no one got left out. And maybe you didn’t say anything, but you were part of the group, sliding onto a tall, wobbly wooden stool at one of the high tables, squeezing in wearing a winter coat and watching, sipping a raspberry Italian soda with cream.
Remembered the next morning:
This place was in a strip mall next to the ski shop and across the street from a Burger King.
After he retired from General Motors, after 30 years of late nights pulling second shift, my dad started riding a bicycle. A cruiser bike, the kind where you sit straight up — pastel green paint, cushy leather seat, panniers on the back. At first he rode it just on the bike path tucked in the woods behind our subdivision. Then to the ice cream shop or the Aldi, off the main road. On Friday my sister Lisa called, with the worst kind of phone call, that dad had been hit by a car while riding his bike. She didn’t know details. She didn’t think it was serious.
A flurry of phone calls followed, Christina to me, me to mom, me to Christina, Lisa back to me. No one knew the details. I was sitting at my desk at work trying to make polite conversation while also trying not to start panicky crying. Finally Lisa and mom got to the hospital and learned that he’d been hit by an SUV. He’d been riding to an auto dealership on Transit to pick up his car from the shop. Some woman just plowed right into him, broadside, and he flew off the bike, 10 feet. The end result: scratched, bruised, no broken bones. Muscatos are tough. But, dear universe: Seriously?
Meanwhile the wineglasses had flushed yellow and crimson; had been emptied; had been filled. And thus by degrees was lit, halfway down the spine, which is the seat of the soul, not that hard little electric light which we call brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips, but the more profound, subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse. No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anyone but oneself.
– Virginia Woolf
A while back, my co-worker Ian and I cooked up a plan that would introduce the Neos to new audiences, bring in new cash, and overall inspire the world. Small goals. We wanted an event that would mash up a presentation of the dynamic creative process behind TML with a performance of TML and a reception, and the whole thing would be run by our board of directors. To be honest, I didn’t know if it would really happen. First obstacle: the board had to think this was a good plan. Second obstacle: the TML cast had to think this was a good plan. Third obstacle: we had to get an audience.
But enough people in the organization championed this brainchild and — voila! — last week, our benefit went off without a hitch. People freakin’ loved it. The whole theater, during the Q&A, astounded me with great questions from the audience and a talk by Sharon that made everyone reflect and think about their own creative processes. The night felt like one big hug. Or a new loaf of bread. Or that first hit of caffeine in the morning. Later, I almost had a heart attack when I saw how well the silent auction went.
I remembered how much I love the feeling of pulling together for a seemingly crazy goal. Especially with co-workers like Oriana and Ryan who made the whole thing seem more like a well-planned adventure and less like mad chaos.
In short, good stuff. Here’s some tweets from the evening.
Reading: White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I hated the first fifteen pages with a passion and could not wait for the book to end, so my book club could stamp my passport that yes, I read it, but now, halfway through I am entranced and when I fall asleep the characters inhabit the dreams.
Listening: to the Mountain Goats, and the concert this week was a breath, that breath after you realized you weren’t breathing, like someone’s taking your photo and you think you shouldn’t breathe, it’ll mess up the photo.
Watching: Law & Order on repeat, hail Netflix, and brain rot, and because it reminds me of all the terrible things that aren’t happening to me right now. What a fruitcake, I know.
…the cafe where I always just get back from, the hippie coffee shop that usually hands me my morning coffee. Tonight I had a milkshake. And a friend told me about the motorcycle he’s selling. I loved every word of it, and now I am going to plan on taking the test to get my license. Knees are weak.