Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jacaranda Season

It’s finally been overcast these last few days, and the jacarandas are blooming wild and purple and raining petals on the street. 

It’s funny, these past couple of months have been so big, quitting my job and learning this new life, this new life that feels so unfamiliar and so good just the same, and yet, still, it’s the little moments that stand out the most. Like how Z and I went to Huntington Gardens with our friends Phil and Dama (and I don’t even think it’s called Huntington Gardens, come to think of it, but it should be called that because it’s basically all different gardens spreading around for miles, and it’s just plants and roses and bamboo and sky for forever). We wandered the grounds and sat down and watercolored. Well, I mean, they watercolored. I tried, and then got frustrated. Pretty much I don’t know how to watercolor, and I kind of don’t even know how to try to watercolor. So I just read a book. But being there and meandering around and sitting on blankets under the long shadows of tree branches. That’s the kind of day I like. When you’re sort of just here, with no questions and no struggle, but just breeze and friends and grass under your feet and bags of mangos and spicy almonds. 

And then there was another night where we played trivia at a bratwurst place with our friend Jarred (the rest of the team didn't show up, so we were down a few brains) and there were the most bizarre specific questions. I mean, I guess they wouldn’t be if you knew the answers. Jarred at least knew what most of the questions were referring to, and Z knew a few, and maybe I knew one, so that helped, but we lost anyway. Probably because you can’t really expect to win playing trivia with mostly one team member who seems to know a lot about everything and two who pretty much just know about books. But the veggie bratwurst was kind of amazing, and the french fries, and the dipping sauces, and bonding with our rivals. You don’t always have to win.

Also, we had a slumber party!!!! We spent the night over at Seth and Micaela’s place and something about that was really comforting and good. To be close to people we love and to not have to go home and say goodbye. (Oh, I sound so sentimental. To not have to say goodbye. But it’s true. Things are always leaving us. We're always leaving). And Z and I woke up with dog hair all over us and me sniffling and we were rolling into each other because the air mattress had deflated. So that was kind of fun too. Not something you get to do every day. And we woke up in clothes that weren’t ours and made eggs. Sometimes it feels like these are the ways we live the most. And keep feeling alive and together. When we’re a little bit uncomfortable and so loved. 

It’s a noticeable difference between measuring the days with coffee spoons and actually having coffee handed to you in a cup with someone else’s initial on it when you have dog hair all over you and your smiling friends are standing beside you in sleep shorts. There are just some times when things do not run the risk of feeling mundane. Those are really good times. 

And then even coming back home is fun because it’s like we live in a Parisian cabin. Cluttered and fancy. Not that that’s a thing, Parisian cabins, but if I imagine one, it’s our place. It’s all rumpled striped bed with too many pillows and floral rugs and books everywhere (everywhere) and paint tubes and paintings all over the kitchen. I think I live with Monet sometimes. And the Pulitzer committee stops by every so often and forgets to take their books with them when they leave. And Hemingway secretly places Amazon orders for us that are delivered by drones when we’re not home, just to be funny. 

There's so much good here. Even when everything feels like it’s changing and uncertain and new. It feels like it’s the moments that bind it all together. 

I’m on a new chapter and I still don’t know what this whole story is, but I know I love the small parts, the spine and the words. Like all of those gardens. And trivia that we don’t know the answers to. And dog hair. And air mattresses. And coffee cups. And books. And those purple petals covering the concrete against the grey and the green world outside the window. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Paper Party Hats and Confetti

It’s New Year’s and I’m thinking of when I was young and how my mom used to take my sister and brother and me down to Poppies, our restaurant, to see my dad every New Year’s Eve. It was so lively there with everyone celebrating and we got all bundled up and fancy and got to blow horns and wear party hats and pop those little plastic champagne bottles that blow out paper confetti. It was warm and happy around that wooden bar in the dark greens and reds and candles and the snow outside with everyone singing and blowing on those whistles that don’t make any noise but just unwind a tube of paper. And I was young and everything felt filled with wonder and safe and life was an adventure. And the confetti from those tiny plastic champagne bottles was exciting. And the whistles with no sound. And paper party hats. And everything was good. 

Now Z’s in Colorado for the holidays and he called me and his mom was walking the dog and she fell and broke her hip and now she’s in the hospital and has to have surgery and all of her kids are there with her on New Year’s. And it reminded me of everything. Of being with your family and being a kid and then a grown up and goddammit how hard it all is sometimes. 

I was thinking about all of these things. About being young and excited about paper horns and hats. About parents and children. About how none of it seems to turn out quite like you ever thought it would and everything feels more fragile than it once did. 

And then I lost it. 

I just lost it, in the kitchen, and just broke down and sobbed. Which is something that just happens when you’re alone and thinking of all of the beautiful things in your life and how hard it is still and how hard it is for everyone and all of the love and sadness. And these moments stringing themselves together. And memories. And you still don’t know what you’re doing or supposed to do or how to make ends meet as it were or what to do with your brave little self who has so much joy and just feels it being squashed sometimes. And you’re just losing it in front of your refrigerator and you have to find a way to pull yourself together and kind of laugh a little at how ridiculous it is to be crying in your kitchen just because you opened the refrigerator and thought of something sad that made you think of everything. And how life is just not going how you thought it would or how you think it should even though you are so lucky in so many ways and so blessed to be loved and cared about and have friends and family. But sometimes you just find yourself all alone in the kitchen and you can’t help but cry. 

Because you’re longing for the delight of paper party hats and confetti. And a world that felt secure. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Right Here

I wonder sometimes if anyone else feels like we’re all just a bunch of aliens. I mean, that requires there being other aliens, I guess, speaking strictly dictionary. Otherwise, we just are what we are.  But I look at us so often as aliens, walking around and driving and building things on the surface of some strange floating planet. 

And even though I might sound like I’m gazing out of the window of some psych ward, seeing the world like that, I guess it’s just what I do because I get a lot of time to sit and watch the world around me when I commute. Because at this one spot on my drive to work, the view feels like I’m driving over about half of the whole planet. Like the sun’s always in your eyes and the road wraps over a huge curve in front of you forever, and to get form here to there might take a week and you’ll end up upside down (or at least sideways). And there’s some weird all-you-can-eat fish buffet on one side of the freeway and a whole city peeking through smog far away on the other, but that road just wraps over a globe in front of you and there’s just weather patterns in between and endless space surrounding it. 

So you really see where you are. And it’s the proper noun planet Earth, right between Venus and Mars, the one you learn about in science class, floating in sky. And I’m on that planet. And that’s pretty much nuts. And then I look around at everyone else, and then that’s nuts. And then we’re all aliens. 

That’s how that goes.

Which leads me to wonder about what to do and what this is. Or what I am or who we are or what we’re all doing. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Since there’s not a whole lot of pressure being an alien on a planet. That sort of just means you get to be an alien and do what aliens do which is exist mostly.

And sometimes there’s kind of a sadness about it, but that’s more just when it feels confusing being alive in general, even if you’re not an alien, because you want it to mean so much and sometimes the world hurts and those days are hard. Because you feel lost. 

And then I remember something about my Papoo (which is the Greek name for Grandpa, even though he wasn’t Greek, but my Grandma was, she was a real Ya Ya, so we just called him the Greek version anyway). When he was young and clearly lost, someone came up to him and asked, “Are you lost, kid?” and he giggled and said, “No, I’m not lost, I’m right here!” 

Which means a lot to me when I’m feeling lost.

Other things that mean a lot to me seem to be the most simple things. Those make a lot of sense. Like when Z and I order Indian delivery, which is pretty much our favorite thing, besides Bossa Nova delivery, and besides making our own pasta and eating it out of the new pasta bowls that are basically perfect and anything tastes better in those big white bowls. Like the Greek rice from my childhood. And soup. 

And brunch with friends. That means a lot. And going to movies is good. And dancing around at work because you’re bored. 

And when we curl up and go to sleep. That makes sense. Then the world just holds us. This weird planet, we just lie down on top of it. We close our eyes, we breathe, the earth spins, the universe expands.

There will be commutes and sun in your face and Papoos who aren’t Greek. But no matter what we are, and no matter what we’re supposed to do, we’re really never lost. 

We’re right here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


There’s a memory we all have and it’s of my dad and how he would come up right behind you and wrap one of his arms around you. Arms that built our home. Arms that chopped the wood to keep our two sweet fireplaces glowing all winter. Arms that plowed the driveway and made the best steel cut oatmeal every morning that mostly no one ate. Arms that made pancakes from scratch on the regular and whisked milk for cappuccinos and drummed on the tables and hung upside down on yoga ropes and dug out sled runs on the hillside and fixed all the cars and gave you presents and wrapped a scarf so cozy around your neck before you left the house. Arms that pulled on your toes to wake you up in the morning and waved to all of the locals when we would go downtown to get the paper and you could see in their eyes that they felt lucky to know him while you felt so lucky to be able to have him come up and wrap one of those arms around you and hold you close. And in that place, with his strong arm around you, everything was good and safe, and you were loved more than any single thing on the whole planet. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas and Paris

There are some things that get you thinking.  Like when Z and I went over to visit our friends Phil and Amanda the other night, to see their new place and mostly because we’ve magnetized toward each other as people do who love similar things and for whom life is a similar battle but a similar landscape of meaning nonetheless.  They made the sweetest little home down the street from us and brought us in to this warm, this intelligent, this thoughtful evening with them.  And I thought about how I felt like I was finally in Paris with my Hemingway crew that I’ve always dreamed of.  Because they’re interested in things, like art and writing and poems served with martinis and cheese and jazz.  And it just made me think about how do I want to live and who do I want to be and I hope I’m doing this all right and other things like that.  Big questions, but small. The day to day of making sure you actually live the life you get while you’ve got it.

And today it’s Christmas, and Christmas is always a little bit sad. Z and I were just talking about this, how we always get a little bit sad around the holidays. And I suppose it’s because, well, when we were young, it was such pure unabashed joy and it was before all of the worries and when everything was all right all of the time. Jumping off the roof giggling into the deep fluffy snow and hot chocolate and the warm kitchen and records playing and mom and dad and mittens and knowing that everything was ok. And I guess there’s just something a little bit sad about that. And yet, still, everything’s ok. 

Now, every day on my way to work, I pass the muddy green hills of the cemetery, expansive and rolling, and lately the graves are bedecked with Christmas trees and poinsettias and sometimes I see people just sitting out there on the hillside together. And I think of Christmas and love and how we last somehow, anyway, even when we don’t, I guess. And it feels important to live with a certain beauty and delicate concern for the things that you love and the things that are special to you. And to make moments here and there with your friends, pretending you’re in Paris.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Everything That Makes Us Love

There was something so wonderful about this past week, mostly because of friends and how life moves along and all of these beautiful moments. 

Z and I met up the other night at Umami with our friends Chris and Phil and, later, Amanda, and we just ate delicious food, like truffle fries and too tall of burgers, and sat at that round table on the patio laughing and talking and it was so good, just really good to be with these wonderful new friends in this little life here, so far along, link connecting to link, bringing me, bringing me along. 

Then I was nostalgic because that particular Umami used to be a Cobras and Matadors that sprouted up after the first one got so popular and then it got too popular and then it all imploded and now there are no more Cobras and Matadors. But I walked through that restaurant looking around, remembering how many days I’ve lived and how much love there is. 

I made a toast that night, to friends, and also to the fact that Cat Stevens has a new album out. Because I’m so happy about both of those things, especially about the Cat Stevens album. Because he’s my favorite pretty much and reminds me of growing up and experience and loss and bravery and everything about having to go on this long big journey all by yourself and more beautiful things even than that, like the light in the windows and the wind and staying up all night in Chamonix singing along to the Best Of Cat Stevens tape because it was the only tape in that wooden house in the Alps that one summer so long ago with my family.

And then it was Thanksgiving and I went hiking early in the morning and I passed one of the old Polish guys that I’ve always seen walking up the trail with his six friends every morning.  All of these years hiking up there, the Polish group in the mornings. Just yack yack yacking away. And then the two Polish women would always break off and play tennis together on the rickety, broken court in the hills. So happy and active running around on that court with the tree branches poking through the concrete. I love that group of people. And I used to always try and say good morning to them, a long time ago, and they were so wrapped up in each other, they never said hi back, so I finally stopped trying to say hi to them, but they became a real part of the scenery for me.

I hadn’t been up there in a while and then, on Thanksgiving morning, I was walking down the path and just saw that one Polish guy sitting by himself on a bench down near the end of the trail. And I thought about friends and Umami dinners and the old Cobras and Matadors and Cat Stevens and everything that makes us love.  Maybe the rest of the Polish group had just gone home already. Maybe. But, I just thought, in any case, one day, there will just be one Polish guy sitting on a bench. And all of that love trailing behind him.