Saturday, August 25, 2012

Two Years Ago, Today.

It was August 25th: the day I came to visit San Francisco. It's been two years since then. And I still haven't left.

Sitting behind him on the seat of his bike with my legs sticking out to the sides, I held onto Ben’s waist while he stood, peddling up the steep San Francisco hill.
“This is so easy. Oh my God this is easy,” he said excitedly out of breath as sweat poured from him. I laughed and cheered him on as we moved along slowly. Andrew rode his bike ahead of us, a quiet contrast to the huffing and puffing of Ben and the cheering and laughing from me.
Ben and Andrew were the only two people in San Francisco I knew. I had come to help Andrew explore and adjust to the city. He had been one of my best friends in college and when he graduated and moved to SF, he hid in his little one bedroom apartment on Friday nights drinking wine, alone.
Ben was also a friend of mine from college. He lost his design job right before I moved out to the city, so I was going to sublet his room for the two months I planned to be there while he went back to Alabama to regain his footing.
The day I arrived, I spent the evening with them, exploring and hopping around a small section of the city. A few months earlier I had called Ben and asked him to befriend Andrew. They immediately struck up a bromance that regularly involved whisky and bike rides.
Ben and I rode his bike only because he had been bragging about the new gear he added, which would make it nearly effortless to tackle the hills of the city.
“Can it get two people up a hill?” I asked as a challenge.
“Oh definitely,” Ben said proudly, his handlebar mustache curling up with his smile. “Hop on. Let’s ride.”
We rode to a corner convenience store and picked up a few tallboys of PBR. The summer evening was mild and the sky was clear. When I think back on that night, I’m surprised at how quiet it was, at how empty the city seemed. But maybe that’s just how I remember it: empty, quiet, beautiful and ready. Even the park we went to was empty. It was all ours. We climbed to the top of the hill and sat down, the three of us side by side in the grass. Andrew cracked open his can of beer, keeping it in the brown, paper bag. It hissed as he pulled open the tab. He took a gulp and then silently passed it to me while ben talked on about something I don’t remember now.
I believe passionately. I believe in the things so many of us are afraid to believe in. I believe in moments of Fate, in the eerie reality of Karma, in a good and loving God, in People- despite our many failures. And, looking back on that night, I realize I also believe in the fairy-tale idea of love at first sight. I believe in it because it happened to me in that park, on that cool August night.
Car headlights pored over The Bay Bridge into the city. An orange glow hung above the buildings of downtown. A light breeze tousled the leaves of the palm trees in the park, a barge moved slowly through the dark water of the bay, under a clear sky full of glittering stars.
From the cool grass at the top of the Dolores Park hill, I looked out over the lit-up cityscape, out over the moonlit grass, and I fell in love with San Francisco.
Maybe that was the night I gave up my hold on all those frantic plans I had made, putting my timeline and expectations aside. Maybe that was when I walked away from what I wanted and tumbled into a life of what I unknowingly and desperately needed. But, that’s the kind of thing love makes you do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Farewell

I walked up the hill; up the quiet Cole Valley streets in San Francisco; through the chill of the light, Saturday afternoon fog. Claudia had said she wanted to see me. I dressed quickly and ran out of my apartment, not sure why I was running or if I planned to run the whole mile there. I felt as though there wasn't much time. To defy the sense of urgency running circles around me, I stopped at a corner store and ordered a breakfast sandwich. I ate as I walked to the hospital. I remember thinking the sandwich was surprisingly tasty, and that Claudia was waiting for me, trapped in her immobile body, in a hospital bed and too sick to answer her phone herself. I had so much to tell her.
I wasn't expecting the scene I walked into when I got to her room. Instead of a crippled woman, half conscious and lying back in bed, Claudia sat up- her smile as big and bright as it had always been. For a woman dying of cancer, she sure could pull off a bald head strikingly.
Relief washed over me. This wouldn't be goodbye. It meant Claudia would live to take more trips around the world, filling up on plateletts along the way, like she was doing now. It meant she would see her 28-year-old son settle into a career, she would meet a future son-in-law if her daughter ever fell in love. It meant she would be around for many more years to share recipes, to have parties and to enjoy and appreciate San Francisco which she was so good at doing.

"Hello," I said as I walked in. 
"Hi, sweetie," she responded. Her best friend, Pat, stood at the end of her bed next to a woman I didn't know. I pulled my bag off and set it on a chair then walked to join the group as they continued the conversation they had been having. 
"Facebook is so evil they won't let you delete your profile completely," Claudia said with a tone of disbelief and anger.

 The woman always loved to bitch. She also always spoke passionately. Nothing and no one was spared from her passion in conversations: an old boss of hers was a "fuck head," her friends were "so lovely. I love love love them," a bottle of wine, a meal, a book, a passing stranger- all of these could easily become targets of her passion. I couldn't help but admire that part of her. Claudia did not lack feeling on many subjects and she was not above emotions.
I met the woman standing next to Pat. She had raised her children in the same neighborhood as Claudia. Three of us stood at the large windows, looking out over the city. I tried to point out which roof was mine while a nurse changed some of the many bags of liquids draining in and out of Claudia's body. I noticed Claudia's wrists were smaller than I'd ever seen them, skeleton-esque. Then I returned my eyes back to the mob of roofs.
The door opened and a 6-foot, velvet-covered something came through the door, pushed by Claudia's younger sister, Ellen, followed by Ellen's husband.
"You found one!" Pat exclaimed as Ellen rolled it over by a chair and pulled the cover off to reveal the harp underneath.
 For the next 30 minutes we were hypnotized by the sound of the instrument, by the movement of Ellen's fingers across the strings: graceful, soothing and distracting. Convincing us all of the things we wanted to be convinced of, of the contradictions we couldn't stop. Claudia was dying. But here she was alive. She didn't have much time. But she has been fighting so long, what's to say she won't keep fighting. She is suffering. We will suffer if she dies. She can't die. She's going to. Then what? The harp played on.
"Pretty great, huh, kid?" Claudia winked at me from her bed.
"It's amazing," I gushed.
We opened the door and let the sound float through the dimly lit halls of the hospital. A small weapon against the pain and the unknown hovering over the shiny floors.
"This one is for you, Claudia. You'll know it," Ellen said as she began the next piece.
"Do you actually think I was listening to you practice when we were kids?" Claudia responded.
We burst into laughter. Cancer had not taken away Claudia's right to be an older sister. It had not taken her spunk.
Later, I leaned over Claudia, navigating on her laptop, helping her delete an old e-mail account while she told the story of how she met me.
"I hired Michelle when I met her in a bar," she proudly told the room. "She had been drinking in the park all day," she added. "And she had these big eyes," she said, putting her pointer fingers and thumbs together to make circles then holding them up to her eyes. I turned to look at her and our eyes met only a few inches away. She smiled lovingly and pointed at me, "See!"
"There. It's gone. It only took a minute," I said as I walked back to the window after deleting her account. "How long have you been trying to do that?" I asked Claudia and Pat.
"For a while. We couldn't find the settings button," Pat responded with a chuckle.
"See that," Claudia pointed at me again. "That's why I hired her. Give her something and she'll figure it out," she bragged.
"And because of my big eyes," I laughed.
I had known Claudia for more than a year. We had spent a lot of time together at work when she hired me. And when she fell out of remission shortly after and stopped working, I became a regular visitor, a privileged owner of a copy of her apartment keys, a care-taker for a week when she thought it was the end but it wasn't, and a daughter-like figure in her life. She provided me with many fine bottles of wine, advice, and my favorite: her stories of travel, love, romance, family and anything she wanted to tell, which was often everything.
When she said she was getting tired, I volunteered first to leave, wanting her to rest. "When I go home tomorrow," she said, "You're on the short list of people who get to visit me." I walked over to her bed and leaned down to hug her gently, afraid of pulling important tubes or cords. But she held me close and squeezed me tight and I was surprised by how long she hugged me.
"I love you," I said.
"I love you, too," she responded, hugging me tighter before we pulled apart. Making eye contact, her glossy eyes stayed locked on mine. 
"I'll see you in a few days," I said, then waved, turned and walked out.
On my walk back down the hill, I mentally disciplined myself for being so morbid in having thought my visit was going to be a goodbye. Then I thought about all the reasons I would tell her I was thankful for her. The next day, her daughter arrived back in the country from an overseas assignment and a few days later Claudia died peacefully at home.
I hadn't gotten to see her again. I hadn't gotten to thank her, hadn't gotten to say the goodbye I thought I would get. But she had. She must have known there would not be another visit.
It hurt a lot to lose her. It hurts a lot to write about losing her. But there isn't an ounce of me that doesn't believe Saturday was as perfect as any goodbye could have been. It's one more thing to add to my list of reasons I am grateful to Claudia. If anything, I would have held on to her hug for a few more of those last seconds I had with her.
Goodbye, Claudia. I hope wherever you are, you're raising hell in true you fashion.
I love you for always and for everything.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Detroit, Michigan

     We walked across the church parking lot, across the street and through a neighborhood baseball field to the playground. We ascended on the colorful swings like black ants, out of place and carrying sadness in our posture. A young boy and girl played behind us in a sandbox digging holes. The man there with them lounged on a bench while he talked on his cell phone.

 Kyle sat on the picnic table at the corner of the playground, feet on the bench, resting his elbows on his knees, smoking a cigarette while we swung. Kyle had grown up with the boys we were visiting. We met him the night before when we all went out for beers. His blond bangs were flipped to one side, laying across his forehead, forcing him to throw his head back occasionally to move them from his eyes. He had unbuttoned his black over-shirt, revealing his black t-shirt underneath. It was the same shirt from the night before, probably still smelling of smoke and booze; the smell of the pub. The print on the front of his tee resembled a skull and cross bones, but instead of crossbones: bacon, and in place of a skull: a ferocious looking sunny-side-up egg.

He watched us through his sunglasses as we quietly swung. The hems of our cocktail dresses danced around our thighs as we glided up into the air. Pammy swung with her legs out straight in front of her, ankles crossed to help ease the awkwardness of having the hips of a woman on the swing made for a child.
Ashley, having already kicked off her black heels, rocked with her whole body. Her long, straight, brown hair and the ribbon tied around her waist hung down toward the earth while she reclined back in the swing.

While he smoked, while the kids played in the sandbox behind us, while we all waited for Paul and Mike to get back to the church, we swung. The three of us swinging out of unison, leaned back, throwing our feet up, refreshed by the air flowing over our hot, sweating skin.

"I remember when I was in first grade," I started to tell my sisters who swung on either side of me. "At school we would swing high enough to make our butts lift out of the seats."
 I gained speed and height as I spoke, pumping my legs back and forth, faster and with more force. "Then when our butts would slam back into the swing, it would shake the whole playground. We called it goosebumps." By then, I was swinging high enough  to recreated the effect. Pamela and Ashley laughed while telling me to stop as I flew past them; faster and harder and farther from the ground; closer to the sky and farther from the pain of the day, from the heartbreak of the reason we were in Michigan. We hadn't been back there in over a decade, it was like being back in the past, to catch up with the present and mourn the future. Kyle sat on the picnic table, still smoking with a smile.

It was the first time all week I hadn't felt like I would cry. I swung until I was back on the playground in first grade. I swung back 16 years to when we lived on Marengo Drive, to when there were four Crewdson boys living across the street from us. I swung up till I had goosebumps, my body leaving the swing for a moment of weightlessness, like nothing could pull me toward the ground.

Where gravity doesn't exist, neither does sickness or heartbreak or the image of three Crewdson boys, now men, lined up on one side of their youngest brother's casket, carrying it- carrying him.

After Kyle smoked another cigarette, we got off the swings to walk back across the field, through the hot Michigan sun. I turned around when I got off the swing, to see one of the children from the sandbox standing up, watching us. She stared like 6-year-old girls do, while her older brother kept playing in the sand behind her and her dad involved himself in his phone conversation.

I wondered if this would be one of those images she would keep with her until adulthood: four adults, dressed in black, wearing sunglasses and swinging on a red and green swing set. Maybe for the rest of her life she would wonder about that moment, or maybe her mind would discard the image of us, leave it there in the sandbox with the questions she might have had. And maybe she'll never understand the heartbreak we carried across that field with us, the heartbreak we'll always carry for the heartbreak of a family's loss- a loss you can't ever escape. The goosebumps of life, slamming you back into your seat, shaking the whole playground.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Winder, GA

While house-sitting in the foggy mountains in January, I decided to drive into the city my mom grew up in, the city of Dacula, Ga. I wanted to visit my mom’s sister. For 13 years we lived an hour from them, yet managed to see my mom’s side of the family less often than my dad’s family 600 miles closer to Canada.
    Forty-five minutes after asking my aunt, Doreen if I could stop by, I pulled the car into a gravel driveway, unsure if I had found the right one, until I saw the cracked and crusted hole that was once a pond. It was one of my Uncle Glen’s ideas nearly a decade ago. After digging a hole the size of a minivan with a backhoe, he filled it with water and fish. The fishing hole didn’t last long before all the fish died or ate each other and the water evaporated away into the heat  of the humid South.
With a new confidence in having chosen the correct driveway, knowing no one else would have the same swimming hole in their front yard, I drove on and up to the house and parked behind my cousin’s old, green Camry. It used to belong to my sister before my mom gave it to our younger cousin, Dakota, to give him a way to escape from his turbulent home life as often as he needed to. His mom, my Aunt Raye, lives with her lazy boyfriend and without electricity or water most of the time.
I remember that when the radio in the Camry stopped working, my sister drilled two screws into the dashboard and hung a white, Sony radio from them. And when my other sister side swiped a car in our driveway, she Duck-Taped the Camry's side mirror back on and hoped that no one would notice. It took three people to put up the passenger window if anyone ever accidentally hit the button to roll it down.
    Dakota and my Aunt Doreen sat on two bar stools on her narrow front porch that stretched across the middle of the blue, one level house. They were waving as I drove up the driveway.
    An old bathtub leaned against the front of the house, propped up and waiting for use, or waiting to be forgotten. Across the dusty front yard, on the other side of the house, a fenced-in area housed big cages full of gamecocks. It was the most recent project of my uncle’s and had, so far, been a bigger success than the pond.
Other animals also roamed around within the boundaries of the fence. My aunt bought a calf a couple years earlier and two goats. They walked around the yard like a clique of middle school kids, acting as if they were too cool to be friends with anyone else. The goats followed the brown cow around like they wanted to hear everything he had to say while copying everything he did. My aunt loved that cow. She also couldn't wait to eat him.
“Look at you!” my aunt called to me as we met in the driveway. “Aren’t you dressed so California right now,” she said when she gave me a tight hug. Then she took a sip from the beer bottle wrapped in a Koozie she held in her hand. It was the beginning of January and 70 degrees outside, but Doreen still wore a sweatshirt. Living in San Francisco, I missed the Georgia heat and I missed believing any temperature at or below 70 was chilly enough for more than one layer of clothing.
My aunt was in her forties and she had always been a beautiful woman. Every time I saw her, she would be older. Yet, every time I saw her, she’s would be more beautiful. Her hair was dirty blond and straight and her eyes were bright blue. She looked healthier then I remembered her looking when I was a kid.
When we walked back to the porch, I hugged Dakota and asked him how the Camry was treating him. He excitedly told me how great it had been having the car, while he pressed his palms into his knees and shook his head with a smile. He still called it Beethoven, like my sister had. 
Doreen ran in the front door to get me a chair and when she came back, the three of us sat looking out over her front yard and talking like we were close family. It felt right and natural, considering I’ve never known them well and the last time I saw them was six months earlier and before that, it had been years.
I asked Dakota about school and his family. He was 18 and graduating soon and I hoped for him always that he’d get out of that town and go to college. He had always been intelligent and Duke University showed interested in him when he was only in middle school. In a family of loud, angry, unhappy people, Dakota was always the sweet and quiet one. I felt the need to help him- to help him get out and escape the fate of being trapped in a town and a life with no opportunities and constant struggles that no one was in a hurry to put an end to.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a piece of PVC pipe tied to a rope and hanging from the tree twenty feet beyond the porch railing. It had the shape an upside down “T” and it hung seven feet above the ground.
“Oh that? That’s my fun noodle,” my aunt chuckled as she answered. Dakota and I erupted into laughter as she continued explaining, 
“Yeah, I put it up there. I sit on the porch and think about all the cool tricks and things I could do on it while I drink beer.”
          Uncle Glen and my 16-year-old cousin, David came out from the house to join us. I was happy to see them both, even though we were almost strangers. Glen and Doreen have been divorced from each other at least three times over the last couple of decades. I remember being young and hearing my mom talk about the drama of their relationship. By my visit with them in January, they were happily married to each other- again, and had grown up a lot.
           They were a good reminder that we are constantly maturing and learning; we won’t have it all figured out by the time we’re 30. We probably won’t ever have it all figured out.
           Uncle Glen proudly talked about his gamecocks as he shoved a wad of black tobacco in between his bottom lip and teeth before jokingly offering me some. He had the birds separated into different cages depending on their personalities. 
           He had the same sense of humor as my aunt and I was always entertained by their stories. I’ve never met better story tellers than Uncle Glen and Aunt Doreen.
           He told us about a bird he recently bought. When he put her in one of the cages, the other birds attacked her.  “They wanted her to know her place,” he says. 
“but she wasn’t having it. She beat them all up. And then when she was done, she chased them all down and kept kicking their asses.”
           My aunt compared this to when she was in jail and the women tried to intimidate her. When she wasn’t fazed by their threats, they backed off and moved along to pick on the woman who was freaking out in the corner. Doreen had been in and out of jail for a year because of a psycho ex-girlfriend her son had. The girl would call the cops at 2a.m. and say Doreen had driven by waving a gun at her. Twenty minutes later the cops would knock on Doreen's door to wake her up to arrest her. All it takes in a small town is one person to cry, "witch!" and the cops have the stake up and are ready to set it on fire. There was no hope for anyone: the accuser, the innocent, the guilty and the justice system that looks an awful lot like guilty until proven innocent.
           I admired my aunt. She had been through a lot and she’d handled it all as a strong woman. Nothing anyone did to her had made her any weaker or taken anything from her, it had all only made her stronger, made her wiser. Doreen is the gamecock you don’t corner.
After telling stories about the crack-addict woman next door who would run over to bother her all of the time, my aunt asked me to drive her to the store to get more beer and food for dinner. While I drove, I asked about Chris and how was doing. Chris was two years older than me and Doreen’s oldest boy. He had a baby with a sweet girl named Amber who we all liked, who wasn't psycho. As a kid, Chris had humor like his parents and he would always make us laugh. I remember my mom describing him once as a boy who would never hurt a fly.
“Chris is in prison. Did your mom not tell you?” she said as if she were telling me he was in Atlanta or at work.
Dakota, sitting opposite me in the passenger seat laughed as I poured out questions of confusion and shock. “Why?! For how long? Since when? What did he do?! WHAT?”
She told me about how he started drinking heavily and beat Amber one night after too much alcohol.
“He’s doing really well though, Michelle. He knows he messed up and he’s been working out and reading his bible. He’s taking care of himself in there.” Then, as if she is reading my mind, she says, “Amber told me not to worry. She’s not going to ever take little man out of our lives.” She was talking about her grandson, Chris’s boy, Derek Michael.
We ate well that night. Glen made Rib-eye steaks and seasoned them with a sauce I can't find anywhere other than the South. 
Getting fed at home always reminded me how badly I ate when I was on my own. I smiled as I thought about being home, recognizing that felt at home at all in that place, with those people. With my mom’s crazy side of the family. They are my family too, and I’m thankful that they always will be.
While we ate, I asked David how school was going and he told me he was being home schooled. Doreen laughed, explaining that means he dropped out. He was having trouble in school and with the teachers so they pulled him from school.
At the end of the night, they tried to get me to stay, but I had to drive back up to the mountains and They watched me from the porch, laughing as I backed out of the driveway, navigating around rusted campers and dodging dogs. I wanted to stay longer, I wanted to stay long enough to catch up on all the time I missed out on spending with them during the last 15 years. But there will be plenty of time for that in the next 15. I’m looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Minutes for the Family Meeting of House 607

Meeting began as planned at 10 o'clock p.m. Pacific Coast Time.
In attendance:
Michelle with the Agenda
Tony with a smile
Patrick with his hat
Matt with no shirt.
Hugh invited the house cat, Clayton, to join and he accepted-staying by Hugh's side for the first part of the meeting.

Meeting in session:
Hugh wants to know if this is a shirtless meeting and starts taking his shirt off but doesn't. Michelle does the same thing but it's not as funny when you re-use someone's joke. Matt remains the only shirtless one.

10:05 pm.
First item on the agenda: CHORES.
We are messy and need to be better at keeping the place clean. agreed by all.
Matt draws a proposal for a chore wheel:
Tony, Matt and Hugh all vote in favor of implementing new chore spinner. Michelle Votes nay and Patrick still isn't in the living room so the proposal is not voted in, since the house runs on a unanimous form of government.

It is decided by all, after a discussion of possibilities, that the old chore wheel will be re-used because a lot of time was spent making the chores fair and balanced and also because the pointer part is really cool looking because it was designed by previous tenant Ben and he's good at that stuff.
Hana's name on the wheel will be changed to "Hanatthew" since Matt now lives in her old room.
Ben's name on the wheel will be changed to "Benichelle" since Michelle took Ben's room.
Matt completes the names with green sharpie, which he had borrowed from Michelle three minutes before and already rubbed in his bellybutton. Michelle tells him he can keep the pen. Tony says he will probably chew on it later. Hugh pets Clayton.

ITEM 2: Douchebaggery
Matt proposes and explains Michelle's idea for accountability with household cleaning. Everyone has to be someone else's "douche bag" and has to have their own "Douche bag."  If you are not doing your chores your "douche" will be responsible for heckling you about it. That way no one can ever be ganged up on and everyone will hate each other equally.
Patrick dislikes the idea but doesn't use his one veto power to object.
It is agreed by all that chores must be done by every Monday at 10 p.m. So at least we'll have a clean house for an hour on Monday nights.

ITEM 3: Kelsey's Birthday Party
Michelle explains the plans to have a tri-level birthday party for downstairs neighbor Kelsey. Each Flat will pick a country and have appetizers and Cocktails to represent the country of choice as well as dress up like the people of the culture. Patrick suggests being England and having bland food. Tony points and laughs at Hugh.
Ideas are tossed around and all decide to be Russia for Party.
Ideas include:
Hugh wants to play "man with the blocks" over and over on the tv because it will be fun- for him at least.
Cocktail ideas are: straight Vodka, Moscow mules, White Russians.
Food ideas: No food just Vodka
Michelle and Tony want to wear the big furry hats and coats as costumes.
Matt can't attend but wants the records to show that he was indeed invited.

ITEM 4: Katie
Michelle's old roommate and dear friend Katie is coming into town this weekend and Michelle asks that the boys not try to sleep with her.
Tony says Michelle has to share her friends, Hugh says she's not very nice for keeping Katie all to herself, Patrick says they have never told her not to sleep with their friends and in fact she can sleep with any she wants to,  Matt says she should start by banging all of the roommates and then invite her friends to do the same...the conversation gets a bit out of hand and everyone agrees that Matt's comment was inappropriate and even more so since he wasn't wearing a shirt.
10:34 Matt takes off his belt
10:34:30 Hugh smacks/whips Matt's stomach with Matt's belt. Twice.
10:35 pm. All agree to steer away from the s&m and back to the agenda.

10:36 p.m.
ITEM 5: Put Clayton on Craigslist (proposed by Michelle to stick to her theme of pretending to pretend to dislike him)
Patrick asks which section they would put him under.  "Escort" is decided.

10:40 Since Clayton was brought up, someone asks if he is staying or leaving with Ben. He is staying.
Michelle Wants to know if she has to clean the litter box because she doesn't even like Clayton/secretly wishes she wasn't allergic to him. Matt proposes that since they are both allergic to him they shouldn't have to clean the litterbox in exchange for ending all abuse towards the cat like sitting on him or wrapping him up tightly in blankets or pushing him down the stairs...
Patrick asks Matt if he can commit to that.
Matt pauses for two seconds before responding "no, I can't"

Michelle says she's going to make a magnet for the dishwasher one side reading "dirty", one reading "clean" so it can be spun around when the dishwasher is emptied so the house will know to put their dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them on the counter. Hugh doesn't think he can learn to turn the magnet.
A discussion of dishes begins and goes nowhere.
Matt stops paying attention when Patrick is speaking. Hugh is refused permisison to speak on the floor because he's English, Tony is texting someone-probably his girlfriend. Matt gets his Aderol prescription filled on Wednesday and apologizes for not paying attention. No one hears because they aren't paying attention.

ITEM 7: Everyone in the house, including Clayton should shave their head to prevent hair from clogging tub drain and covering floor because it's nasty.
Instead of head shaving, Patrick proposes a drain cover to catch hair. Michelle says she'll buy it and the vote is unanimous in favor of a drain strainer.
Hugh then decides to use his one veto power to veto the idea and everyone pouts while Hugh laughs evilly. Then Hugh realizes he may have made a terrible mistake.

Matt notices there are welts on his stomach.

Tony says he will buy all the TP and papertowels in the house. Matt explains that in America we don't understand that concept and asks what he wants in return. Tony says he wants a bj and all agree it's a fair exchange and vote in favor of the deal. Hugh wishes he hadn't used up his one veto power on the drain strainer.

11:00 a question about the price of beer comes up and Patrick explains how messed up it is that the consumer pays for recycling and the recyclers get money from what is recycled...or something like that. Patrick knows a lot of information most people don't think about and it's great. Michelle suggests the house terminates all recycling habits to stick it to the man.

Hugh brings up the clutter in the living room and all attendees realize  the room is shrinking as stuff builds along the walls and in fact the small space they are sitting in is all that is left of the room. The roommates all vote to mount the flat screen to the wall but no one wants to buy a mount.
Hugh doesn't think there is a need for four tables in one room. Patrick recounts and says there are only three.
Matt realizes they are all sitting around an ottoman and he states that he likes it very much and it is big.
Patrick says it's big enough to be its own empire. Patrick still doesn't see a problem with having so much furniture because it can be moved for dance parties and used to seat many board game players.

11:07pm Patrick says he is going to pick up VHSs this weekend to add to the massive collection of VHSs already taking up all the living room shelves. Michelle asks where they will go and he points to the last remaining spaces around the room. Matt suggests burning the vhs collection, Patrick says hell no. Tony wants to know why there is a need for more VHSs. Patrick explains because the other ones have already been watched. Michelle says burn them, then. Hugh wants less STUFF in the living room.

Patrick begins stacking furniture on top of Hugh. all agree that it is an excellent solution to the clutter problem and Hugh disagrees "because now, you see, I have become that which I hate." After those words he disappears beneath the pile of that which he hates... never to been seen again.

until 11:13pm:
Attendees decide to make a douchebag spin wheel. Patrick cuts up a beer box to use the cardboard while Tony makes each person choose a hand to pick the little piece of yellow paper that will reveal the picker's first "douche bag." Tony is Michelle's- Michelle is Hugh's, Hugh is Hugh's..oh choose again. Hugh is Matt's. Patrick is Patrick's.... Hugh claims this form of government doesn't work. Then attendees realize the system is the same as the circle they are sitting in and wish they had done that instead of wasting all that time playing "which hand" as tony held his fists out.

11 something p.m. The record player is started and the meeting is adjourned. Next time there will be a tape recorder because there were too many funny seconds missed in these meeting minutes.

Home sweet home in the Haight.
I think I'll stay here for a while longer.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keep the Windows Open

San Francisco
Is this really happening?

The text message said, "Come to the roof. Margaritas." It came from my neighbor Nicole at noon yesterday. She lives with five other people in the apartment that backs up to ours. Four more apartments back up to us too. We're all connected with a five story staircase that runs past all our kitchen doors and binds our lives together with the roof. And I love it.

About twenty young working adults live in these units. With the exception of a law student and an undergrad. Some are passionate about their jobs, others are surviving, and there are those like me who spend days looking for jobs and going to interviews.

My Roommates are:
Tony from France who, thank goodness, gets into cleaning rolls every once in a while. He writes his nines like "g"s because he's French. And I'm pretty sure he's dating one of the girls from the house full of beauty downstairs.

Hugh, from England, is the perfect example of British comedy and I can't believe I'm the only one who hears some of the stuff he says. I know I'm the only one who hears because if anyone else heard they would be laughing. He walks around with his arm in a sling because a few weeks ago he was too drunk to ride a bike and did. Imagine a younger blond smaller Favio...That's Hugh. Who? Hugh. Hugh? who.

Patrick is looking for a job. He lost his last one for inefficiency which made sense when he tried to carry one grocery bag at a time to the car the other day. He keeps me laughing too. In one conversation with him we ended up googling the answers to ten different questions and then made plans to perform a science experiment to find the answers. Sadly, the same experiment we wanted to do was also included in..fifth grade science classes. That's ok though, because we made KILLER fresh fruit daiquiris on Tuesday with the neighbors and fifth graders can't do that.

Matt lives in the closet off the kitchen and he's from L.A. He is a giant who is afraid of heights. He won't get within ten feet of the edge of the roof and even that far back he takes on a hunched position with his knees bent a little, as if the wind would carry him right over the edge if he stood up straight. One night he made us watch "The Room." It's the worst movie ever made and deserves that title more than any other movie that could and will ever be made. I couldn't bring myself to walk away from the trainwreck of it.

A blue grass band, the Jugtown Pirates, lives downstairs and they play on the stoop sometimes to make money and sell cds. The Tourists EAT IT UP.  They should, it's tasty tasty music. Yesterday Nicole, Amy, Ashley, and I stood in our bare feet and sundresses taking pictures and dancing on the sidewalk to their jam session. We were all bronzed up from our rooftop sun session earlier in the day.

Victor, Bogey, and Geoff live downstairs and they are making their own beer. It's good stuff, too! Victor is a chef and he's helpful to have around when we all cook a big dinner with the random ingredients we can contribute. I learned how to make a delicious fried eggplant the other day and in the process realized what an amateur I am in the kitchen. He'll be helpful to have around.

I'm walking and busing everywhere. I should get a bike if I plan on staying longer because it's the best way to get around and how everyone else does it and I want to fit in....

I found a church with great worship music and a leadership that wants nothing but God to be glorified. Their hearts are focused on what He wants. I'm excited to find friends, encouragers and accountability there.

Still working on finding a job. I've got some interviews coming up. Wish me luck!

Time to walk to the beach to meet my friends.

This is really happening. This is my life. And I can see the city skyline from my roof.

Love you and Miss you guys. Football season is here. War Eagle!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cleveland, Georgia

Andrew grew up with two waterfalls in his backyard. By back yard I mean the acres upon acres of property that back up to the Chattahoochee National Forest in the landscape of the Appalachian Mountains. Two waterfalls. The first one he took Katie and me to see was 60 feet tall. We could hear it as we got closer to the river. Andrew’s loyal English Lab, Gus, proudly led the way through the quiet woods- the waterfall hidden ahead and our pattering feet the only sounds to be heard. We could hear its power and feel the spray of the mist come from the pounding of the water hitting the river waiting below the fall. Sweet mist. Cool and refreshing even on a cold day.

Cleveland, Georgia is where I found myself after finals on May 9th. Well actually, I got lost. My ‘internal GPS’ couldn’t locate any satellites and I wandered around North Georgia for an hour, calling Andrew every ten minutes to figure out where the heck I was. Even in my frustration, he never lost patience with me or became frustrated with my inability to follow directions or expel my stubbornness to admit I shouldn’t find an alternative route (yet another effort to prove in some small way my independence: listen to directions and then find my own way by altering them slightly… This is NOT a good way to get places). He finally navigated me to a grocery store parking lot where I waited for him and Katie to find me. I have to give him the Medal of Honor-the patience edition to commend him for not being angry with me. And Katie gets an award too for smiling and hugging me when they finally found me, knowing I was angry with me.

After taking in the waterfalls and watching Gus cannonball into the river for sticks and follow them over smaller waterfalls, and after laughing at his unique technique to dive underwater to find sinking sticks, we went to hike up Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. Gus did not attend this outing.

There are times when we are motivated to continue on against better reason. When life may not be perfect or breezing by smoothly but we can’t bring ourselves to complain because it all feels right- those are the moments and the situations we should take note of. There will be times that you’ll find yourself in the moment you’re in, not thinking about anyone but the people you’re with, not daydreaming about another life or scenario that doesn’t exist, but you’ll be right there-with those people, in that memory, and you’ll be happy. I wish for everyone many moments like that, and the ability to appreciate them. Our hike down from Blood Mountain was one of those times for me. At the top we looked out over the mountains from a pile of boulders. Our eyes could barely comprehend the sight and played tricks of zooming in and out, trying to grasp the size of what they were seeing. It was Beautiful up there. It was Quiet. You don’t know quiet until you’ve heard it at it’s loudest.

It started to rain and we climbed around like little kids on a jungle gym. Excited and high from the climb, the view, and the day. I heard Andrew's voice come from a crack between two boulders he was worming his way through. And suddenly Katie appeared above me on a boulder when she had been behind and below me. The rain picked up and the wind blew colder. The view fogged over. If we had been three minutes later showing up, we would have missed the mountain range scene.

We sat in the old stone shelter and read through the guest book. A few people had mentioned recent sightings of a black bear so we planned what we would do if one appeared. We decided we would climb up into the rafters. Andrew’s plan varied slightly; he would feed one of us to the bear. Then if it was still hungry he would feed the other one of us to the bear. “And then if it was STILL hungry….uh…oops. Dangit,” he said with a laugh.

The rain wasn’t letting up so we decided to make a run for it. We were wet and hungry. Katie’s feet started to blister in her Chacos on the way up so on the wet way down she went barefoot. Rain was dripping off our noses and the cold was turning them red. Katie’s feet were going numb in the fifty degree weather. Andrew gave her his socks and shoes, which were double the size of her feet so she instantly got the name Sasquatch as she flopped down the mountain and he looked like a tall mountain man hiking around in his barefeet.

I lead the way for a little while and we ended up sliding down a rockface we weren’t supposed to be on. Katie and I were crying with laughter. And Andrew realized I had led us astray. We remembered his comment at the beginning of our hike, “You’d have to be an idiot to get lost on the Appalachian Trail.” We climbed back up the slippery rock cliff and I wasn't allowed to lead anymore. Fair enough.

So I’m on the path with mountain man and sasquatch and we’re in good spirits even though we’re going to catch pneumonia and die if we don’t get some home made pizza Andrew's dad promised to make for dinner into our stomachs. We talked about making two large pizzas, one to eat and one to wrap our feet in. or maybe one to eat and a GIANT one to use as a blanket to curl up and go to sleep under.

We made it back to Andrew’s but there was no pizza waiting for us like we'd hoped. Though, a change into warm clothes and sweaters fresh out of the dryer were probably more comfortable than being wrapped in a giant pizza anyway.

I share a glass of wine with Andrew’s mom and she talks about her family. She tells me about how different her children are and their school situations: she home schools one daughter and lets the other go to the local high school because she is more of a socialite. Her youngest son transferred colleges after the first year because it wasn’t what he wanted. As she talks, I can hear the pride and understanding she has for all of the decisions they make. The support from his parents is evident in the way they have supported their children's decisions to do what’s best for them, and what makes them happiest. Her children are allowed to pursue their dreams as intensely or cautiously as they are comfortable doing. So, this is the Andrew I know, the mountain man with an incredible support system. His patience makes sense now. He makes a little more sense.

Consider this: if we’re lost and laughing. Are we where we’re supposed to be? How big would a pizza have to be to roll yourself up in it?