Don’t Call It A Comeback.

I bite my lips.

Not in a figurative way, like how one bites a lip to keep from letting a sloppy secret slip; and certainly not in a Molly-Ringwald-look-how-cute-I-am-even-though-everyone-forgot-my-birthday kind of way.  I mean, I bite them when I’m driving, when I’m reading.  When I’m not thinking about it or realizing it.  Because I’m thinking about everything else.  And then all of a sudden my mouth tastes like a rusty paperclip and I think, “Crap.  Everyone at the grocery store will think I have herpes.”

I read a book when I was in high school about a girl who bit her lips to shreds because she was keeping a terrible, horrible, traumatic secret.  Because she had something really important to say.  I thought about that book today, as I was driving home from my local bookstore on a sunny, inspiring Sunday afternoon and I suddenly tasted blood.

The best ideas and feelings and romantic comedies on cable show up on Sundays.

So I thought about that girl in that book, and I wondered if I had something really important to say, too.  And then I wondered if maybe I’ve always had something really important to say, but I just haven’t figured out a way to say it.  And then I wondered if maybe I’ve always had something really important to say, but I just haven’t figured out a way to say it because – hey – it’s been a while since I’ve written anything other than To Do Lists, and – hey – maybe I should start up my blog again.

So here I am.

It’s a new year – 41 days into a new year, but who’s counting? – and I really could use something to occupy myself between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m.  Those hours that, most recently, have been filled with mindless television-watching in the form of Bravo reality and not-so-mindless marathons of The West Wing on Netflix.  I’m willing to find something that requires neuron firings, though it’s pretty devastating to think of an evening without the ramblings of fictional White House senior staffer Josh Lyman.  And then it’s even more so when I recognize that I just typed that sentence and meant it.

As has been the trend since I started sporadically blogging in 2010, this blog will have no direction.  But it will be a creative outlet for an otherwise artistically constipated twenty-four-year-old.

“Artistically constipated.”  I do love that.

It won’t be (and, this is more for me than it is for you, Reader) an every day kind of thing.  It won’t always be happy, it won’t always be witty or funny or relevant, and it most definitely won’t always be worth reading because – let’s be real – it never has been, really.  But I accept these truths in the hope that, one day, my ramblings will make me millions and millions of dollars so I can build that tree house in Scotland and live happily ever after.

And for the sake of creativity and self-worth and fulfillment and all that shit, too, I guess.

Here’s to some creative fiber in the form of an itty bitty blog; to living with a wide awakeness; to saying something important.

Maybe.

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Reasons (Excuses?) Why This is Not a Real Post, or The Beauty of the Bookmark, or No! I’m NOT Married, or A Sneak Peek at the Crescent City

Hi, friends.

Hi, blog.

I’ve missed you.  So much so that I want to give this post 4 titles, in hopes that I can make up for my lack of writing.

After a long week and a half of leaving work around 8PM and a four-day trip to New Orleans + recovery time from New Orleans, I have found 13 minutes of my day to at least explain where I have been, what I’ve been doing, and how much I don’t hate you.

Yes, work has all but consumed me entirely.  I wake up at 5 and stay at school until AT LEAST 5, sometimes (like tonight) until 8.  The good news?  The most glorious event that could ever take place in a public school has finally arrived.

Don't mess with my Baby Sitter Club books, either.

My dad stuffed ten dollars in my hand as I stuffed Mini Wheats into my mouth, and I knew the Book Fair had arrived.  Back in the 6th grade it was incredibly tempting to blow those bucks on bookmarks covered in adorable puppy faces, with phrases like “KEEP YOUR PAWS OFF MY BOOK!” (See image… I had the exact same bookmark in the 6th grade).  Even more exciting than the bookmarks and the pens and the erasers that smelled like root beer were the books, obviously.  And even though the Book Fair was only about sixty square feet, it was sixty square feet of literary gold for a young reader.

The first book that I ever bought on my own (with dad’s money) was The Cure by Sonia Levitin.  I’d read all the books about the Holocaust that the Book Fair had to offer, so naturally I had to read a fictional novel about the persecution of Jews from a different time period – – the age of the Black Death.  I think, to date, I have read the book cover-to-cover about ten times.  It looks like complete hell, and if it wasn’t currently in my office at work (just in case a child was discovered without an independent reading novel), I’d document its pathetic state and post it here.

"Different. Defiant. Dangerous."

Ten years or so after it was purchased, I took an amazing literacy course my junior year of college.  My professor asked us a few days into the course to bring a book from our middle school years that was important to us.  Right next to my bed, on my very adult bookshelf, among books by Deepak Chopra and Paolo Coelho and Thoreau and Eliot, was The Cure.  The next day, I was clutching The Cure (puppy dog bookmark still wedged in its pages) in my collegiate course, explaining why a book about the Black Plague was THE book from those awkward, book hoarding days.

It was the growing up.  The purchase without third-party perspective.  The independence.  All of those things were so important to me at the age of 11, and isn’t that the case for everyone?  Don’t you remember those first few times that you were allowed to do something by yourself?  Drive a car.  Buy a lottery ticket.  Order a beer…. Ride a bike, walk to the neighborhood pool, go to the movies… It matters.  And maybe we don’t all remember every first independent moment, but there’s gotta be one that stands heads above the rest.  For me, it was buying that book at the dinky little Book Fair with a crinkled ten dollar bill from my dad.

Today, I visited a Book Fair for the first time since I was in the 8th grade.  There were smelly erasers (grape, chocolate, strawberry shortcake) and wacky pens and more books on Justin Bieber than I thought had ever been printed.  There were bookmarks, only one with a puppy; the rest with horses and superheroes and, yes, Mr. Bieber.  And even though I walked out empty-handed, I still had the memories of Book Fairs past, and that was enough for me.

____________________________________________

If you’re wondering where I’ve really been, outside of work, I have two explanations:

Mentally, I have been in the world of Panem, totally obsessed with the Hunger Games trilogy.  I’m more than halfway done with Mockingjay, the third and final book.  Soon, I will be in a Harry-Potter-kind-of-funk – – the same that came when I closed the 7th book and didn’t know what else to do with my life.  In a way, I’m prolonging this final book so that I don’t have to say goodbye, although I am looking forward to Brian Selznik’s Hugo Cabret series that I’ll be starting by week’s end.

Physically, I was in the great city of New Orleans for four days.  I have over THREE HUNDRED pictures to sort through, edit, and then brand with my name so that the good ones can’t be stolen from me.  I had the best time photographing the people, places, and oddities of the city,  but had more fun eating (and drinking) myself silly.  Plenty of stories and pictures to come.

I will love you as Snape loved Lily.

Oh, and this time next week I’ll be in New Jersey?  And a week from this Saturday, I’ll be in Manhattan?  REALLY looking forward to those photo opportunities.  And the memories to be made with my goofy New Jersey native of a boyfriend and his sure-to-be entertaining extended family.

The boyfriend to whom I am NOT married, by the way, in spite of the fact that everyone in the world got together last weekend and decided that Drew and I are engaged.  Without telling us.  Yes, I have slipped up and referred to his cousin’s wedding next week as “the wedding,” and I may have purely accidentally told my friends that “Drew and I need to go shopping for the wedding,” both without explanation.  And maybe posting that picture of an ADORABLE and creative engagement on my Facebook was misleading… But, NO, friends.  Not engaged, not married.  Not even a little bit.  When it happens, you’ll be the first to know.

Before I retreat and sink into a Mockingjay-induced rejection of the real world, here’s a sneak peek at some of my photos from the Big Easy.

St. James at Jackson Square

The Falling Fish of Magazine Street

Blue Shutters

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Who’s Having Sex on My Mangoes?

Scariest. Ride. Ever.

The answer?  Fruit flies.

Don’t believe me?  Read this.

Moving on… Isn’t it every girl’s dream to have a romantic moment on a Ferris wheel?  To have an adorable man win you a teddy bear by smacking down some stuffed clowns with a softball?  To split a funnel cake and wipe powdered sugar off your beau’s sweet face?  Don’t lie.  You’ve thought about it. Maybe you’ve even lived it.  I, admittedly, tried to.

I went to the fair last weekend.  It was my first time at the State Fair, though I’d been to the County Fair back home a million-and-four times.  The biggest difference between the two has to be the fried… everything.  There were 6 of us in all (a triple date with my sister and best friend of 11 years, Abby) and I, personally, tried – fried Oreos – fried Twinkies – fried Milky Way – fried Ho-Ho – fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a lot of other fair food that, upon reflection, was totally unnecessary after eating the aforementioned deep-fried snacks.  Still, walking out of those gates feeling like a human grease stain was well worth it.

...And I left without one. Fail.

I learned that I am still afraid of fair rides, because I’m constantly awaiting the moment where a cable snaps and I have a Final Destination moment that is all my own.  Granted, I only rode the Ferris wheel, but STILL.  Frightening.  I also learned that riding the wheel with my sister, my best friend (who, incidentally, went with me to the county fair every year through middle school and most of high school), their wonderful boyfriends, and Drew is far better than any romantic daydream I might’ve had.  I suppose that any time you cram 6 pseudo-adults who are jacked on sugar into a small space, comedic genius is bound to be born.  At the very least, there are great pictures and even better memories.

Eat me.

Walking up and down the dead center of a highway in a leather jacket, “staying gold.”  Carnies.  Fireworks over cow fields.  Ostrich burgers.  Babies who look like they’re looking at the Ferris wheel, but they’re really looking at a giant glowing ice cream cone.  The “World’s Largest Alligator.”  Neon lights.  Monster truck shows.

Another solid benefit to going to the fair last weekend was the inspiration that I gathered for Nanowrimo, which starts on (Too Soon) Tuesday.

I’m toying with a few different ideas, the primary one being just a pure rambling of my varying ideas, as

Speaking of dizzy...

though a collection of short stories.  I’m not even sure if that’s “allowed” by Nanowrimo.  I’m really  not even sure what the “rules” are outside of 50,000 words in 30 days – – in my experience, a hell of a lot harder than it sounds.  The last few weeks have been dizzy, thinking about revisiting the same story from two years ago and re-writing it as a young adult novel, and then thinking about completely starting fresh.  My problem is that non-fiction is far easier for me than fiction… my life is just rather unexciting.  I have 4 days to decided what I’m doing.  Four.  Which rhymes with “bore.”   Which is exactly what my story will be if I don’t get punched in the face by a good idea soon.

Creepy carnival much?

If all goes well, I’ll at least finish and have something to show for all of the notebooks and Moleskines that I have filled with random sentences, metaphors, character names and schemes.  I’ll try to update (not with specifics, Cassie.  Fret not) and let you know when I have the worst writer’s block, the best inspirations.  Let’s hope for more of the latter.

By the way, is anyone else upset that October is almost over?  I feel like I didn’t even get to formally celebrate.  There was no tree climbing, no bike riding.  I haven’t even taken a nap in the grass yet this year.  My goal is to cram as much Octobery goodness into the next four days as possible before making room for my second-favorite month, November.  One of which will be pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  Pictures and recipe (borrowed from a surprisingly domestic male co-worker) to come.

Go celebrate what’s left of October.  I’ll be here when you get back.

And the world spins madly on.

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Noodles with Shel and Tom.

Noodle (n.) : a word which references a new doodle in Nat’s Moleskine 

This may or may not be the title of my next poem.

And you thought I was talking about udon or spaghetti or something that starts off innocently enough in a swimming pool but inevitably becomes an assault weapon.

Inspired by some new purchases (more on those later), I’m including some noodles and some old doodles in today’s post.  Each Moleskine is paired with my favorite page from that particular book.

"Whale, whale, whale... What do we have here?"

I’ve been doodling up a storm lately, since it’s October and it’s beautiful and my creative juices are flowing like pumpkin-flavored everything flows through my veins.  I’ve even been writing a little bit, secretly, preparing timidly for Nanowrimo, which will surely whip my ass into a nice meringue.  I’ll be visiting my tarot reader (!) in about two weeks and, since I’m scared out of my double-layered tees to know anything about my relationship (because I’m blissfully and probably foolishly happy) I’m going to really focus on writing when the cards are in my hand.  I feel a breeze of inspiration now and again – – maybe my reader can help me to adjust my sails.

Or, at least, assure me that the zombie apocalypse is only something that lives in my television.  Drew’s got me hooked on The Walking Dead on AMC, of which the first episode of season 2 premieres tonight.  I watched the entire first season today while home alone, doodling and eating corn lobster bisque.

Inspired by a Violet Archers song, and the magic of reading.

Fact:  eating a chunky, pink and, dare I say, fleshy soup while watching contaminated bodies decompose while in motion and hunt human organs is a terrible, nauseating idea.

As a person who admittedly has more pent-up anxiety than utterly necessary, apocalyptic literature and/or entertainment is not in my best interest.  The combination of watching The Walking Dead and being totally enthralled with The Hunger Games series (yep, gave up on Dragon Tattoo, Part Deux… couldn’t hold my attention, sadly) is making me think that I need to start harboring axes and learning to grow my own vegetables.  And hunt.  And build a zombie-proof panic room.

On a far brighter and less ridiculous note, did you know that some of Shel Silverstein’s “lost” poems and drawings were discovered and recently published?  The collection is called “Every Thing On It,” and I had no idea that it even existed until a random angel of literary grace told me about it at Barnes and Noble Saturday morning.  Needless to say, there were about ten seconds between the last word out of the woman’s mouth and the placement of the typically black and white hardcover in my hands.  I hugged it all morning as I walked around the store, like a teddy bear or a hot water bottle.  Like tangible, beautiful, childhood comfort.

The happiest reading for fall... to counter The Hunger Games, to fill my Moleskine.

I don’t know if it’s the memory of my mom and dad reading the poems to my sister and I before bed, or the countless times that I traced over his doodles in the elementary school library, or the poetry project that I did in fourth grade where I memorized his poem “Help!” (the one about the unicorn with his horn stuck in a tree).  It most certainly could be the fondness I feel for a fellow artist and writer, for THE man who made me write poetry of my own, and who taught me that you don’t have to be Jackson Pollack or Norman Rockwell to be respected for your art.  Unfortunately, all I could think of (and talk of on the drive home, poor Drew) was the day that Shel Silverstein died – – hearing the news on the radio on the way to school, feeling my stomach drop as though I’d known him personally.  And I had, I guess.  I remember telling my friends before class started, most of them responding with, “Who’s that?” and me saying, “Nevermind.”  Had it been a Spice Girl or a cast member from any given show on Nickelodeon, they’d have cared, no doubt about it.

I don’t know why I chose to dwell on the negative so much yesterday.  I blame the free coffee.  I also blame the coffee for my unwillingness to leave the store without a second book.  Almost always, I head to the R section of the fiction department, looking for the Tom Robbins books in stock.  Yesterday, I left with “Wild Ducks Flying Backwards,” his collection of short writings.  I guess poetry is on my mind and heart these days.  Poetry, and more doodles, as I plan to doodle some noodles inspired by the writings of my favorite author (of my adult life, of course) later on this week.

Speaking of doodles, I promised I’d share some oldies but goodies.  I’m on Moleskine #7 now, and all are named.  All, save #7.  Tonight, I’m considering just a little dedication to the man who wrote this:

“Years From Now”

Although I cannot see your face

As you flip these poems awhile,

Somewhere from some far-off place

I hear you laughing  – and I smile.

It should be no surprise to those who know me best that I cried when I read this.  So, yes, for Moleskine #7 I want a title worthy of Shel Silverstein, something that would make him smile.  When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Anyway, here are the first six.  The first six of many. 🙂

#1 "Everything in Life is Writable About" . . . Favorite Doodle: Typical ramblings from a stupid crazy night at Kathleen's... and a guy named George?

#2 "Something Interesting on the Train" . . . Favorite Doodle: A shortie about a birdwritten by me, a bird made from a hymnal.

#3 "I Will Let Your Pages Tell the Rest" . . . Favorite Doodle: anything inspired by Belle & Sebastian is worth mentioning. And worth drawing.

#4 "The One With The Tree" . . . Favorite Doodle: It's poet Matthew Dickman's favorite. So, it's mine, too. Of course.

#5 "Full of Songbirds" Favorite Doodle: My biggest carnival-related fear, yet this makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

#6 "Set Yourself on Fire" Favorite Doodle: Let's be nothing. I've heard it lasts forever. . . and let's live in wintery woods, too.

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My Appliances Have No Control Over Their Bowels.

The floor of the greatest bookstore I've ever met.

At least, that’s the way I’m perceiving things to be.  I’ll explain.

I imagine that all of these books are about unicorns. Or a girl and her magic kimono.

Instead of elaborating upon how my week has been one big mess, leaving stains all over and chunks of something-or-other stuck to the bottom of my boots, I will tell you a literal story of such events.

I angered the technology gods a long time ago.  It could have been the fact that I dropped my first cell phone more times than I ever answered it, or it could be that I frequently tell people that I’m more of a “quill and ink” girl.  Whatever the case may be, my blender decided that it would be the assassin representing the Technology Realm this go’round, as I attempted to make a blueberry and lemon sorbet.

It was… delicious.  I mean, really, really good, especially for someone

who is about as domesticated as a bobcat.  It was so yummy, in fact, that I decided to double the recipe.  Use ALL of the blueberries.  Zest ALL of the lemon.  More sugar?  Sure.  More honey?  Yes, dear.  After the perfect batch of pre-frozen sorbet was blended, I excitedly took out a freezer-friendly container and started to remove the blender from the base of the appliance so I could pour the mixture.

Now, imagine the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.  Now imagine that, instead of blood and shrapnel, blueberries infused with lemon are flying and men are crying for their mommies.  If

My Lobster is the prettiest Lobster. And the most coordinated.

that’s not enough, try picturing what would happen if Mount Vesuvius were filled with melty blueberry sorbet rather than lava, and that the poor unsuspecting civilians of Pompeii were my adorable gray boots, my colorful woven rug, and the white cabinets of my kitchen.

My blender.  Shit its pants.

I’ll spare you the details that include me stomping my feet and swearing like I got paid for every letter.  I’ll even leave out me scrubbing my boots for thirty minutes, and the tears that I shed over a sink filled with what could have been the greatest frozen treat ever made.  I’m just going to leave that story as a metaphor for my week at work, my mental state, and my frustration with human beings in general.  I’m completely content right now with my cat napping to my right and Ella Fitzgerald singing to me.  There are brownies in the oven, and my roommate made them so I don’t have to anticipate the oven just giving up and exploding.

It’s the little things.

"Peek-A-Boo," say Jordan and Drew. "Look at these books we've found for you!"

Speaking of little things, I had the greatest time at Home this weekend.  I feel like Home with a capital “H” is more appropriate for the city where I grew up.  It doesn’t seem right to relate the city in which I currently live to the city in which I no longer live.  It’s like calling your new step-dad “Dad” right away.  No, you’ll be Frank or Joe or Vincenzo until I’m good and ready to call you “Dad.”  If I ever get to that point.  Bring it up with my therapist.

I hope it’s okay that I re-cap and then just post my favorite photos for you throughout the post.  There are plenty, and I just want to share them all.  At this point on a Friday evening, my brain feels like a blender about to explode with blueberry-flavored muscle and guts and blood.

Yum, indeed.

Yum.

On top of getting to spend the evening at a high school football game, which was probably the most entertaining sporting event I’ve ever been to for

hundreds of reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride through my hometown on the way to the stadium.

Hope, crowned the Fourth Greatest Cat... in the WORLD.

Luckily, my alma mater was playing our cross-town rivals, so I got to drive by my old stomping grounds – – favorite coffee places, favorite

These are not flowers. These are books.

breakfast spots, old apartments, the university.  In spite of the storm that we found ourselves in, the night ended as it usually does when I arrive home: staying up late with my siblings, talking way too much about school with my parents, and passing out on the couch.  I wish I were doing all of the above right now.

Saturday included an impromptu cat show, the most glorious First-Day-of-October Farmer’s Market Trip, and an adventure through a bookstore that would make Cassie’s curly locks straighten right out from wonder.  The pictures will illustrate.

Doublemint commercial much?

Firstly, let me just say that I’ve never seen so many stupid-looking animals in my life.  And I loved it.  It wasn’t just the cats, either.  I mean, they helped.  But it was the palpable (occasionally rather literally) sense of Crazy-Cat-Ladiness of the entire experience .  And I relished it.  I talked to every kitten stage-mom that would give me the time of day.  And not only did I leave that community-college’s gymnasium with over one hundred photographs, but I also left with stellar inspiration for my November Novel.  I think at least one of my chapters wrote itself.  In my head.

Smushy-faced goodness.

If the cats didn’t do it, then the farmer’s market and bookstore most certainly did.  Miles of books, in every direction.  Thousands of intricate details laid out in the form of vegetables and hand-crafted trinkets and gluten-free snacks and men in suits smoking cigars at 10 AM.  If nothing else, one could spend all day listening to the string quartet playing alongside the river while little boys in overalls dropped coins into their empty pickle jars.  There was

Books that look this good must smell even better.

enough inspiration between the two of them to lead a semester’s worth of workshops.  Day One’s Topic: PRODUCE.  Day Two’s: STREET MUSICIANS.  Day Three’s: THE SMELL OF BOOKS.  I could write for days upon days.

Now, there are plenty of things that took place over the weekend that I wish I’d

"Do you have any keys?" "Not that I can spare."

documented.  The most important of these being Drew and David, my sister’s boyfriend and Drew’s doppelganger, dancing in tandem to “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)” by Wham! on Just Dance 2 for Wii.  Unfortunately, I signed a contract in blood before starting up the dance competition that there would be no flash photography.  Something about preserving the dignity of grown men with beards?

"He is?" **runs to front desk**

As much as I would love to recount all of the other things that made my trip home perfectly grand – – stories from my uncle (which always seem to include nudity), the best breakfast I’ve probably ever had, a wall of keys, stumbling upon a man in traditional Scottish garb, cannolis and black & white cookies for dinner – – there are brownies in my oh-so-near future, and they require my full and undivided attention.

"Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?"

I would love to know how you welcomed October.

Here’s hoping it involved smushy-faced cats, yummy breakfasts, dancing, lots of laughter, and even more love.

I’ll share my wonder-fall adventures more and more, if you’ll have me.

Love you all.

Truly.

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What I Do Best: A Gift for You

I woke up Sunday morning with a desperate desire to drive.  Luckily, I live on the outskirts of a major city, close to the most relaxing, winding country road that one could ask for in such an impromptu circumstance.  It took all of five minutes for me to put on my favorite jeans, favorite old band t-shirt (Street Drum Corp, “We Are Machines” black tee with a skull on the back, silhouettes of people in gas masks on the front), and book it to wherever I felt like going.

I ended up at Harris Teeter, buying Naked Juice and chocolate Goldfish crackers, among other things that I need for the week.  It wasn’t the destination that was important, however.  What mattered was the drive. And, for whatever reason, a few remarkable things happened.

First: An idea for a poem popped into my head.  Currently, I’m in the process of figuring out how one concept and essential verse will ultimately become something worth reading.  Unfortunately I’m experiencing some writer’s block.  Story of my life.

Second:  I really started longing for my hometown.  I wanted a signature coffee beverage from my favorite local coffee shop this morning.  Where I come from, there’s one in every grocery store – – there are 19 of these shops within city limits.  What started as a internal whine for a chai latte eventually evolved into a real desire for everything that makes my home unique and wonderful.  I’m heading home Friday, but the idea that Friday is still five days away felt unbearable as I drove to a grocery store that would meet my material needs but not my emotional ones.  Since I’ve gotten back to my apartment I’ve caught myself daydreaming about home.

Third: I realized that I’ve had the same song in my head for three days straight.  Normally, this is bothersome, but this time around I’m okay with it.  Maybe because it has to do with one’s home, maybe because it’s just a damn good song.  “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.  In spite of my rather loud projection of Bon Iver’s latest CD in my car, “Home” was still stuck there in my brain like a stamp on an envelope addressed to my temporal lobe.

In hopes of boosting inspiration and putting words on paper; in honor of the much anticipated road trip that is a disgusting five days away; in keeping with the theme of viral musical themes to my life, I’m making a playlist for me, for you, and for the approaching autumn months.

I can’t remember the last time I made a CD for anyone… It might have been the mushy-gushy love CD I made for my boyfriend at the beginning of the summer; impressive, but not exactly an exhibition of my best work.

If you care to know, then enjoy the reasons behind why each song is chosen – – I strategically place each song on every disc, and I strategically order them.  There’s usually a favorite line or favorite instrument solo, which I’ll gladly point out.  My hope would be that you’d go on Grooveshark.com and recreate this playlist, do one better and purchase the songs on iTunes (supporting artists! yeah!) or do even one more better and become my friend so I can make you an actual CD and mail it to you.  Regardless, take this fall-friendly and well-thought-out collection of sound candy and enjoy it to the best of your ability.  It might take a while to compile all of this goodness, but it IS good stuff – – I wouldn’t steer you wrong.

"Home is wherever I'm with you/Home. Yes, I am home/ Home is when I'm alone with you."

1. “Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes   Not only is it the catchiest song ever written, but it’s also a pretty great summary of how one might feel being far away from everything comfortable and constant, grateful to the one or few people who make one feel home in spite of the geography.  This is what fall felt like to me last year, and it even expresses how I feel this autumn – – missing home terribly, but feeling more at home when I spend time with the right people.  Incidentally, it makes me want to buy two goldfish and name them Jane and Alexander.

"All I know/ Oh my God/ I'm in love."

2. “All I Know” by Matt the Electrician   Okay, so it’s a song about summer.  Ignore that.  It could be the wolf howls, or the sweet nature of the song, or the bouncy ukulele-banjo sound of this song that makes this song a favorite – – I’ll never know, because when it’s on all I worry about it dancing and singing.  The vibe makes me want to be back in the park near my old apartment, swinging on the swing-set and kicking piles of leaves around.  Fact: This song wears leather boots and pea-coats.

"Come on and shake that country ass."

3. “Shaky” by The Duke and the King   When you first hear it, you’ll say “Where did this James Taylor gem come from?!”  Not James Taylor.  The Duke and the King.  My boyfriend hates this song, but I think it’s adorable.  Listening to this song puts me right in the middle of some Ashevilley music festival under an overpass, sipping on a local microbrew and watching the leaves change right in front of me.

"And at once I knew / I was not magnificent / Strayed above the highway aisle / Jagged vacance, thick with ice / And I could see for miles, miles, miles

4. “Holocene” by Bon Iver  What I think is the most beautiful song on Justin Vernon’s magical band’s first self-titled album.  It’s simple, like a country road.  And if you listen to this song and you don’t feel anything, then you should probably contact the authorities because you are a heartless, mindless zombie who eats good feelings and the brains of people who know what a real artist sounds like.  Yes, I love this song.  More than I love most tangible objects.

"There's a place in this world / where people like me are found / by people like you."

5. “Smile Upon Me” – Passion Pit  An oldie but a goodie.  It reminds me of walking to class on the first day that I could wear a jacket and feel a steady breeze.  Any given stranger might have thought that this was the only song I had on my iPod – – that I could only afford $1.99 worth of music.  And, at that time in my life, if that’s all I could afford I probably would have been totally content with just that piece of music.  It will live in my autumn playlists for all time.

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Built for Two.

I am in the process of doing way too many things at once: watching last night’s episode of Top Chef, waiting for my oven to preheat so I can bake a veggie pizza, writing a blog post, and text three people simultaneously.  The downside to this is that I want chocolate for dinner rather than pizza, and I wish my friends were here to join in the sugar rush.

And, today, it’s not exactly the friends who I talk to every day, but the ones who have slipped through the cracks.  The ones I think about and the ones who spark the thought, “I should text him.”  Or, “I should call her.”  Or, “I wonder if she got that job across the country, or if her dad’s still doing okay, or if she hates me.”  Those thoughts.  Those friends.

You know who I’m talking about.

A bicycle built for two! Namely, me and Jackie. Yessss.

Don’t get me wrong; I adore the hour-long conversations that I have with my best friends.  It’s the afternoon catch-ups and the evening Skype sessions that make living in a new town bearable.  No matter who it is, or how long its been, it’s refreshing and comforting – – and mildly ridiculous.  For example, I enjoy speculating what the two of us on a tandem bike would look like or what such an event might inspire (I’m gonna go with traffic jam? or skinned knees?).

Recently, I had a friend on the phone and in tears.  Not my fault (this time), but it of course pained me to hear her so upset.  It was even more worrisome to hear the reasoning behind it, because as a person who is obsessed with fixing other people’s problems I felt completely helpless.

She feels that her friends – – my friends, too, I suppose – – are not as close as they once were.  That rag tag group of kids has dismembered , the magic has died.  At least, this is what she sees and what she feels.  I cannot fault her for that.   Because it’s true.  I could blame geography, I could blame adulthood, and I could even blame laziness.  Still, technology instantly forms a bridge between faraway place and faraway place, we ultimately choose to grow up, and laziness is yet another choice (I can’t decide which is more repulsive:  choosing to run away from youthfulness or choosing apathy).  What I’m learning as I grow older – – and not up – – is that, sometimes, friendship is simply best when built for two.

One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is lived with two other people.  That’s why I’ve done it once and only once, and didn’t make it through the lease the one time I tried.  We were at each others’ throats before six months had passed.  As a kid, having two best friends over at my house at the same time was always a disaster.  If one of you is Barbie, and the other is Ken, then what does that make Friend Number Three?  The dog?  Skipper?  Eff that.  Sharing is harder among many than among few, and that’s just simple logic.  When you combine the need to share time, space, and energy and then multiply it times the number of people in a friendly cluster, the result can be pure exhaustion.

I think in college, it’s simpler.  Living in close quarters and whatnot.  But if you think about it, that’s the only time it works out.  There are so many general common interests floating around, as well as the common desires to Get Food, Get High ,Get Drunk, Get Laid, Get Sleep,  Get an ‘A.’  In that order, usually.  When you think back to elementary school, or even middle and high school, people tend to form small groups or pairs.  They share specific common interests, and they can easily support each other because it’s not exhaustive.

This is what a tandem bike would look like in college. I would be the one on the back, playing with a pinwheel, no f***s being given.

Marriage and adulthood tend to follow that trend, in the sense that you choose a partner who is your main support system, whether that be a wife, husband, friend, or even offspring.  Rarely do you see large groups of adults out together – – they are in small units, hopping around like jumping beans who are probably wishing they were back in college Getting Food, Getting High, etc.  Before college, it’s normal.  It’s comfortable.  In college, you want to be surrounded by as many people as possible without getting restricted air flow.  After college?  You crave the interaction and the energy.  You want it back, and when you don’t get it back, it’s devastating.

They say that bad things happen in threes?  Bad friendships do, too.  And I can’t imagine that a tight-knit group of friends can stay that way for long.  Call it entropy, call it evolutionary science.  I call it holding on and letting go.

As someone who used to crave the crowd and enjoyed being in the very center (most of the time), I have to say that the tandem approach to relationships are starting to appear more fruitful.  I like dedicating my time and focusing my energy on a select, small group of individuals.  I like the attention that I give and receive.  It makes sense.  Not only is it practical, but I feel like I’m getting so much more out of these relationships than I’m sure I did in the last four or five years.  It makes it so much easier to not be apologetic when I know it’s good for me and even better for the people for whom I care the most.  I want to give my friends more of me than I’ve been able to in the past, and so far I think I’ve been pretty damn successful (relatively speaking).

That said, do I wish more friends could have/would have celebrated my birthday with me last year?  Eh, yeah.  Do I sometimes wish I could send a mass text and have an impromptu get-together at my apartment?  Definitely.  When I see old friends reconnecting on Facebook, excluding myself, does it suck a little bit?  Of course.  Would I trade the raves of my past for the comfort and security of solid, healthy, supportive friendships?  Not on your life, pal.

To my friend who is disheartened by the lack of immediate camaraderie: don’t be discouraged.  Find comfort in knowing that, one day, the answers to these silly relationships quandaries will reveal themselves.  You’re loved, and that’s all that matters; not the numbers.  As long as there’s always at least one person around willing to help you pedal and get you where you need to be, you’re alright.  Promise.

Ride on, playa. Ride on.

Unrelatedly, I am in the process of writing a lot of total BS in my Moleskine.  I can’t call it poetry, because it’s not.  It’s just meandering thoughts that would rather wash up on paper than on the rocky shores of my temporal lobe.  When I’ve written them all down and have illustrated them, I’ll surely post them.

Also unrelated, I leave for New Orleans in exactly 7 weeks.  And I think we’re seriously going to rent a tandem bike to explore the French Quarter.  God help us.

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