Wednesday, January 31, 2007

but would you suspect my emotion wandering

Alright, here we go, we'll give this whole new blogger thing a shot. Actually, to tell the truth, this is one of the reasons it is sometimes preferable to resist change- you end up escaping the sacrifice. By the time I was forced to migrate to the new version of blogger, the transition seemed relatively seamless. Of course, I write that and now my post will probably come out thoroughly mangled.

Thanks to an element in my life at the moment that I will simply call Mischief, I have been thinking about poker faces all day today. I never really thought of myself as having a poker face. In fact, I know I do not, because I have lost games of Texas Hold 'Em to children half my age and to adults twice as drunk as me. It's not because I'm stupid (well, maybe it has something to do with that); it's more to do with the big, dumb grin that spreads across my face when I have a good hand.

Similarly, I was never really good at hiding my feelings. But maybe I have become good at hiding them now. Given that there have been all these tiny, imperceptible changes that have accumulated over the past few years, I have to consider the possibility that this, too, has changed. As tamasha already put it, more eloquently than I could, I do not really know I like someone, until I like them so much that it is overwhelming, both for me and for the object of my affection.

At least, that's how it used to be. And let me tell you, much hilarity ensued. There's nothing like rabidly confessing your misguided devotion for someone who was, understandably, thoroughly unaware of your mounting attraction. It got so that, when I finally figured out I was interested in a dude, I'd brace myself for never seeing him again, because I knew the inevitable outcome of these outbursts of mine.

Still, I am starting to see that I am better at tempering myself than I used to be. First of all, I have stopped treating everything like some sort of Molly Ringwald anxiety ridden Cinderella story. I don't know when it happened but somewhere along the way, I went from Sixteen Candles to Living Out Loud. It's sort of a radical transition, and I can't say it was incrememental or gradual. It's just that one day, I woke up, and no longer believed there was some perfect person out there who was going to make me happy. One day, I simply rose and realized I was happy, and that it was my happiness.

And when that happened, those matters of the heart became a lot less dramatic for me. I still felt the sucker punch of heartbreak, still felt sad, even lonely, but never felt that my chance for happiness had somehow passed me by. I never again felt like the devastation was too much to bear.

But as a result, I guess I am getting lazier about matters of the heart as well. I'm far more detached, even when the realization strikes me that, amazingly, someone has caught my fancy. Even then, I make up a lot of excuses. My experiences serve to reinforce the laissez-faire approach as being the sound choice, since the alternative usually ends in humiliation, awkward interactions, and cringing recollections.

Or maybe. See, this is where it gets confusing, because I am an expert hyperanalyzer. But maybe it's just that the intensity is not there. Maybe if the intensity were there, I'd turn into a red-headed flat-chested gawky teen again, hoping that the dark-haired senior would, for once, notice me. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

or leave tonight and vanish up the shore

As Roonie already pointed out, the end is near- tomorrow, I suppose I shall have to switch to the new version of Blogger. I expect that I will have many gripes. I expect that you will do a lot of squinting and shaking of heads in disapproval. But change is, after all, inevitable. And with folks like me, sometimes it is best to force it upon me, since I will otherwise resist.

That is because I am someone that can talk myself out of annoyance. I can get a bit vexed, and hope something was somewhat better, but I can usually shrug it off and make do. This is probably why I lack creativity and/or an entrepeneurial spirit. But I can stil understand that spirit- because, in those rare instances when I cannot talk myself out of malcontentedness, the relentless annoyance demands change, and I must make something happen.

Which is how I got to where I am right now. Not where I am right now, I suppose, given that I am currently in an office quoting The Legend of Ron Burgundy in work-related emails (though I must tell you that I suspect only one other person is actually catching the reference), but rather where I am poised to go.

And I was thinking about that in regards to All My Little Words by The Magnetic Fields, which you can find on the sidebar this week. I think of it all the time, actually, how a series of gentle turns have placed me in a completely different perspective. I used to listen to this song so wistfully, because I had friends, I had ex's who were the epitome of the object of the song's melancholy. And it was me, back then, it was me struggling to hold onto someone who insisted on floating away. And I wondered, back then, if I was only fascinated by those people specifically because they were so intangible, so impermanent. Did it make them somehow more precious because time with them seemed so scarce?

I would try to write clever letters, try to cut out pieces of my heart for them, in the hopes that they would see how precious they were to me, in the hopes that they would not let the string between us wear so thin that it would sever. But it happened anyway. The thread thinned over time, of course. It dwindled, the tension grew less taut, such that it never really snapped apart. It gave way, but by then, we had learned not to notice.

Hearing this song three years ago made me nostalgic for all those people I lost, who drifted away. And that is how I become acutely aware of how much I have changed. Now the song fills me with a wave of guilt, and a tinge of introspection. I do not mean to sound puffed up- it's not that I imagine anyone feeling so inclined to stay connected to me. But I do feel badly that I have turned into exactly that person, who is something of a ghost, who is just a wave waiting to recede from the shore, who emits all things temporary and inconsistent. There is not much I would do to change who I am, but it still makes me inexplicably sad.

I remember the day W moved away from San Francisco. We had spent the entire week together, because he had sold his wife's car and his wife had left ahead of him. The day before he was to leave, I dropped him to his friend's house in Noe Valley. We pulled into the driveway and he grinned his familiar grin, and kissed me on the cheek. That kiss was uncharacteristic and somehow silly. It seemed particularly absurd because I was supposed to meet him for breakfast before he left the next day.

But he never called the next morning and we have not seen each other since. By then, I had known W for nearly ten years. That he did not call failed to surprise me in the least. He hated farewells, disliked anything that seemed final and concrete. I remember looking out my window into the hills, and thinking, with a sigh, that he was gone.

I suppose it is some mixture of reading The Little Prince too many times and having such close friends who were so ethereal that resulted in me feeling okay with being abandoned. I suppose I refused to think of it as desertion. I thought of it in two ways- either it was a window or a wave. Either we had a time and place that was well and good, and that time and place had passed, or we were forever coming and going and eventually the ocean would meet the shore again, if only for a moment. It does not matter to me, in some ways, which category a friend fell into. I was either grateful that my path intersected at just the right moment with someone else, or I was grateful to have someone somewhere who potentially thought of me, who might just reappear in my life at some point.

So now I am the one going, and I am the one that cannot be pinned down. And I never thought I'd be on that side of the looking glass, but that is where I find myself. It is hard to be sad about that, and I suppose that's why I like All My Little Words so much- it never dips particularly low into melancholy, instead passively describing the dynamic. It can't be changed, and no ultimatums are issued demanding otherwise. And that is how I feel about everything at the moment.

Monday, January 29, 2007

if you never say your name out loud to anyone

Right before I started elementary school in EBF, I started developing stop-in-your-tracks stomach aches. Acute and piercing, they would just flare up inexplicably. The local pediatrician, after observing me a few times, diagnosed them as related to stress. My parents had not thought to consider this option, for a few reasons. First, my parents had no concept of school being in any way a cause of stress, especially not before there was any real homework or exams to worry over. But moreover, I had not given the slightest indication that the impending event of first grade was causing me any anxiety whatsoever. I never told them I was scared of going to a big public school as the only person of color, that I was scared that I knew no one, none of it. I did not tell them, because I was not aware of it myself. The stomach pains were real; my body was telling me I was anxious when my brain refused to acknowledge it.

My parents shipped me off to school every morning. The pediatrician advised that they might as well, the idea being that I would acclimate and realize there was nothing to fear. For the most part, that was true. But as a result, every time my stomach is unsettled, I spend a long time teasing out how much of it is due to illness and how much of it is my body trying to alert me to something I am conveniently ignoring.

I have had a pretty steady, dull ache for the past three days. This should come as no surprise to anyone reading the past few posts. If you punish your liver with an endless barrage of vodka, it's not a shock when your stomach cries uncle. Hangovers always mean a little unsteadiness of the stomach; every meal is a question- will my stomach tolerate this? But the unsteadiness persisted into Saturday, which came as a surprise.

On Saturday, I wanted badly to snap my stomach out of it, but the uneasiness warned me not to go for a run. Instead, I hopped in the car and headed to the peninsula to hit a paved trail where I would not need to worry about creepy people or mountain lions. I took a leisurely 5 mile walk with my trusty iPod humming in my ears. The slightest hints of fog licked the tops of the trees stretching out in the distance. The trail encircled a reservoir. I watched the light dance against the gentle ripples of water. I learned to breathe again. I learned to drink in my surroundings without gasping, to allow the moment to enter into me, and to say to myself- you're not leaving this, because you will always have this with you. And I was slowly feeling much better.

But by the time I headed to maisnon's soiree, much as I tried to rest up beforehand, my stomach was back to teetering between queasy and uneasy. The party was great. As always, maisnon's taste is impeccable. She had picked a great new lounge, the music was perfect for dancing, her friends are all a nice and outgoing lot, and there were various blogging luminaries that were in attendance. The more I willed myself to stay, the more my stomach rebelled against me. And so I had to excuse myself early. I got home, and still couldn't sleep.

On Sunday morning, coworker-GBF insisted we go to brunch. It was actually passably warm on Sunday, a monumental event right now, and the sun was gently casting a nice glow on the city. I picked him up and he informed me that he had invited an additional person. My face fell; I just wanted to be alone. My stomach immediately went from a dull ache to an acute pain. That was when I realized that this pain had its roots in more than alcoholic excess.

It took me a while to square away CGBF + 1, but I finally managed. I came home, and knew I was going to have to just power through the pain. Some of the uneasiness seemed likely to be restlessness. After a week of mindless drinking and floating about without an anchor, I was yearning for solid ground. Two batches of scones later, I was still uncomfortably fidgety. On the advice of AL, who knows a thing or five about recovering from a hangover, I went for a solid run at the gym. It did not really help, but it served as a reset button of sorts, bringing me back to a normal routine for a Sunday.

When I went back, once again, back home, the original GBF called me. He has been out of the country for two months, and prior to that was traveling without a care in the world through Europe. When I heard his voice, I breathed out, feeling slightly more comfortable. Fellow Mission dweller, he sounded like home. He coaxed me into joining him for dinner. When I got to the restaurant, he hugged me so tightly, kissed me on the cheek with such little hesitation that I felt warmer than I have felt in weeks.

But I have not seen the OG in a while, a long while. A lot has changed. And when I told him about The Goal, I could feel him retract a bit. He looked at me the way a lot of people have been looking at me lately, with this conflicted mixture of being happy for me and feeling they need to steel themselves to the notion of me leaving. They wonder if they should hug me tighter, or get used to the notion that I am already gone. I found it endearing, though he chided me about how I would never have any time to see him once I left San Francisco. I wanted to protest, but I know things now, and I know no one believes my promises anymore anyway.

And when I got home, the enormity of that weighed down upon me, and I could see that the dull, insistent uneasiness was not going to leave me, not any time soon. A million little things add together to a crushing weight. Even all the carousing was probably a reaction, a defense mechanism to avoid thinking about how much I need to sort through in the next few weeks. The stomach would not ease up until I acknowledged it all, acknowledged the sheer volume of stuff that needs to be done, that a lot of inconsequential nonsense is serving to distract me from it, that it is growing tiring to keep such numerous secrets, and that I have been in a state of suspended animation about everything. And that all of that needs to change, just slightly, just mildly. If I can do that now, I can avoid a complete and utter panic attack/meltdown later. And my stomach will thank me for it.

My explanation for All My Little Words as this week's song tomorrow.

Friday, January 26, 2007

just five minutes from under the microscope

It's probably breaking a big internal rule I have, what I am about to do. But, you know, I have been on such a bender that I have so little coherence to offer. The best I can do is give you an email stream that occurred this morning. Now that I am all about the friend zone, I can find it all hilarious and fun, instead of uncomfortable and stomach-churning.

Email #1:
Subject: bad idea?
Body: How you feeling?

That's pretty funny, y'all. I was unable to respond to this one because the sender showed up in my office to ask in person, and to laugh at my pathetic state.

It continued on email, but it may as well have been IM, due to the artillery-fire nature of the frequency. So, I'll translate it here to IM-speak:

    me: Is it bad that it is taking inordinate effort to type this email (or read emails, for that matter) right now?
    conversant: I know. My eyes keep jumping around the screen and I'm having trouble concentrating. I think I'm sobering up.
    me: Update- I now may have the shakes. Is this a sign of withdrawal?
    conversant: Sadly, I don't feel that bad. Something is wrong with me. It's like me body has alcohol memory. (editorial comment: the typos in that last sentence are not mine, and I'm not even sure what was meant by it)
    me: Maybe it's because you were nursing Budweiser's for the better part of the night.
    conversant: (editorial comment: wait for it) I'm a long distance rubber not a sprinter.
    me: Your typos are hilarious.
    conversant: That's funny. Damn Blackberry.
    me: You do realize that, were I just slightly less hungover, my brain would be exploding from the number of long distance rubber jokes dividing at alarming rates.
    conversant: Get your mind out of the Mission (I mean, gutter).

So, all in all, productive day. I think the lesson here is that I operate best when treated like one of the guys, even if it does result in massive cell death throughout my organ systems. Sometimes you just have to man up, even if you are a woman. So the other lesson (or the more sensible one, I suppose) is that drinking with frat boys can be hazardous to your health.

p.s. Marina supposedly-Pac Heights girl tried to move the party out of the Mission, and she got left behind. It was actually a little mean. She got into a cab, thinking she was going to share it with two other people. Instead, the dudes asked "anybody up for another drink in the Mission?" and that's all she wrote.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

why can't we be ourselves like we were yesterday?

Y'all, I just want to be friends. Really, what ever happened to this concept? When did it revert back to a high school dance, with boys on one set of bleachers and girls on the other, and should anyone breach the divide, giggles shook the gym?

I realized last night that there is too much pressure. There is this requirement to determine whether you like someone, really like them, in too short a span of time. It is too much, too much, I tell you. It leads to flares of discomfort over a person's ability to play name-that-tune.

Why, instead, can't you just decide you like someone? Like them, as in the classical definition, as in find them agreeable. Then, one could just have a friendly drink with someone. Then, one would not have to have five drinks in two hours to drown misgivings and uncertainties and behind-the-back whispers. Then, one would have a fully functioning liver. Then, one would not be concerned about the state of said liver when it is subjected to yet another round of drinks.

Granted, tonight, it's more about the miseducation of Marina supposedly-Pac Heights girl. And granted, I've probably killed too many brain cells in the past 24 hours to be at all intelligible at the moment. And granted, it is most likely that I won't even have to address this matter of liking or not liking ever.

But there is something about my current pathetic state that serves to clarify, serves to cure me of all the stomach churning. I keep fearing that I am growing numb, but that's not the case really- I refuse to believe it. Things can still hurt me. I am not made of stone. But I also just can't abide by wasting my precious time, as haughty as that sounds. I have been avoiding the plans that I need to lay out for myself, because I just want to be, for a moment. So, I am neither fending anything off nor letting my mind run wild with speculation. I am trying, instead, to stop fidgeting for a second.

I realized something else last night. I am the definition of a nomad right now. I am here, but I am not. I will slip through your fingers. I live in a crack house because there is no sense in moving with so little time left in San Francisco. I do not decorate. I do not buy nice cars (as a side note, I think I thoroughly horrified SJM yesterday by asking him what a G35 is). I have no fashion sense and the trendiest jeans I own are over two years old. I am not much of a foodie. I am not keeping up with any of the Joneses. And I did not really realize it until I was around people who do not know the why's behind all of the what's. Suddenly, I saw myself through their eyes and I seemed so transient, so loosely held together, of such little mettle. I seemed, well, flimsy. I wanted to tell them- in time, you'll come to understand. But then I realized that I have not the energy to explain.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ask a fellow waitress

Dear Marina supposedly-Pac Heights girl,

Look. I know you live in a pristine neighborhood. I know there are lots of pretty people, and pretty shops, and pretty restaurants in your part of the city. But you've only lived in the city for six months, so let me hit you with some knowledge. Your part of the city? It is nice and all, but it is very uniform.

There is another part of the city. It's not quite as clean. Its establishments are, at times, a bit more seedy. And yes, you do actually have to be alert and awake walking around this part of the city, because if you look like you do, Marina supposedly-Pac Heights girl, like a deer in the headlights, well, someone may actually ask you for some spare change. Ooooh, scary, I know.

I know you are young and frightened, but have a little dignity. Have a little self-respect. Do not cower when someone is good enough to invite you outside of your little cocoon. Acceptable responses are the following:
  • No thanks, I am more of a Marina supposedly-Pac Heights type (that's not really my scene is a suitable stand-in).

  • Yes, thanks for inviting me to your neighborhood!

  • Maybe another time.

Unacceptable responses, on the other hand, are:
  • Ewww... are we really going to go there? It looks like a dive.

Hey, guess what? We are not doing anything. I am going to a dive. If you, and your Marina supposedly Pac-Heights sensibilities, cannot handle such an excursion, feel free to decline. And no, I will not consider a last minute change of venue to such places as Harry's or Cozmo's. No thanks- that's not really my scene.

No need to thank me. I am doing my part in the outreach program my neighborhood is sponsoring. There is an education component to that outreach that I had clearly forgotten to include.

Noe Valley border Mission girl

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off

Here is a neat idea (emphasis mine):
The findings challenge long-held views about the function of the hippocampus and the nature of memory, says Lynn Nadel, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "The claim here is that the same system we use to remember the past we also use to construct possible futures," says Nadel.

I have often remarked at how long it takes me to get over things, and how, even after I am over them, memories still sweep over me constantly, knocking me down at the most unexpected moments. Sometimes, I want to shake myself out of these slumps. Sometimes, I want to forget. I like to think that I only remember the good things now, that, even when I look back on the bad phases of my life, I cling to the positive. And consciously, that is somewhat true. But there are times when I can feel the sucker punch, and it is not just the sucker punch of the moment- it is the sucker punch that comes with reverberations, echoes of all the kicks to the gut that came before it.

And sometimes I forget the moments of pain and that feels almost more tragic. Why doesn't it mean so much now? Have I grown so inured?

By studying amnesiacs, scientists are determining what it really means to forget. Technically, I am giving them too much credit- they're really studying what happens when the hippocampus is damaged. Previously, it was thought that the hippocampus only serves to create new memories and keep them around for short-term retrieval. But from the work conducted, it appears that we need to remember, because remembering seems closely associated with our ability to imagine possibilities.

I want to believe it. I want to believe that all the wallowing and navel-gazing serves some purpose. And actually, I do believe it. I did not believe it before, but in the last six months, I feel convinced somehow. There has to be some balance. There has to be a point when you take your memories, embrace them, and then fuel them into propelling you forward. I find, from thinking of people or incidents that have happened, that I can reinterpret events so many times that there is a richness to what could possibly unfold. If the past, which has already happened, which is already concrete in so many ways, is still so multifaceted, so uncertain, so unclear, my mind explodes at the thought of what the future could bring, both good and bad.

And if none of this serves to convince you, then read this- even if it later turns out that the past bears no significance on the future, sometimes it is just beautiful, the act of remembering.

Monday, January 22, 2007

oh no, not the same mistakes again

The song I’m posting for this week is going to require this entire post to explain. But, in short, I blame Maitri, really. If she had not been so kind and generous in sending me a package last week, everything would have been just fine. But no, not only was she a total sweetheart, sending me a CD of great New Orleans Jazz, but no, she also had to pull some complete kung-fu on me. She went all ninja on me, psychically predicting that I was craving a Rodrigo y Gabriela fix. Even then, it seemed innocent enough. When I opened the package, the first CD made me smile, the second made me gasp with a childlike, “Oh. My. God. NO. WAY.

And all of that is well and good. But were it not for that random showering of kindness from down south, I would not have been playing the CD on a continuous loop in my car. And had the CD not been in my car, it would not have started playing when I picked up SC and others to go hiking. And if SC had taken a seat in my car without the CD playing, then he would never have had the opportunity to identify it within a femto-second, remark on how he had just seen Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Independent, and cause my stomach to churn with discomfort.

It’s all your fault, Maitri. Thanks to you, these poor readers have to listen to me hem and haw about this foolio again. People, I was totally indifferent on Saturday morning. It seemed such a harmless notion to go hiking. It was a stunningly beautiful day, and warmer than my last hike. Other friends were accompanying me; there was no danger of having to spend too much time with SC. But then, there was this Rodrigo y Gabriela thing, and that inexplicably derailed me.

How could something so inconsequential tip me over the edge? I have to tell you that, despite what any male readership on this blog may proclaim, this dude has no cojones whatsoever. None. There are plenty of reasons not to bother with him, not the least of which is my quickly dwindling days in San Francisco. Yet, this simple, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it connection had this snowball-to-avalanche effect. After that, every little thing seemed disgustingly charming.

I didn’t want to process the full extent of it. When I had dinner with maisnon that night, I might have said, “I just hate him so much” about ten times. Yeah. So maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on SC- perhaps we are both stuck at the maturity level of pre-adolescents. Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll kick him in the shins at lunchtime.

too many storms have come and gone

On the up side, at least I did see some nice waterfalls. And, when we reached this particular pass, co-worker GBF turned to me and said, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.

To which, I, of course, replied, “Please stick to the rivers and lakes you’re used to.

Later, he deconstructed Beyonce’s Irreplaceable- because, you know, that song requires so much explanation.

post-script: After a serious consultation with RR, whose station in life is to soundly slap me across the face when I am acting like an idiot, the SC situation has been laid to rest. There will be no further posts on the subject. Let me know if you'd like RR's mailing address to send checks or thank you notes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

but none of them were home inside their catacomb

Here's what happened. I'm not going to write about my walk to meet Saheli for dinner last night, because how many times do you need to hear me rave about how much I love my neighborhood? I'll just say this- I knew she was running a little late, so I kept walking for a bit, just because I was feeling so twee about my surroundings. And all bundled up as I was, it was actually just the perfect temperature.

Inside, it was smoky. Nothing is more welcoming in this weather. They have renovated Pakwan, knocking down a wall, making it seem oddly new to me- oddly because it's one of the few restaurants I can say I have frequented. Saheli and I had good conversation- as always, she blew my mind away with her knowledge while I rambled like a foolio, occasionally trying to coax her into becoming an organic chemistry professor. Maybe I do have some maternal genes- I was clearly trying to live vicariously through her.

When we parted, it was much cooler out. I was supposed to go pick up a few critical grocery items, but I considered whether I really wanted to walk the extra half mile. Then I figured it would be absolutely shameful to waste fuel on such a short trip, so I sucked it up, walking on past my place.

And then I noticed the neatest thing. As I was walking the familiar path to the market, Regina Spektor blasting in my ear, I kept passing people. Each one alone. Each one carrying their small plastic bags. Each one a self-contained unit with earbuds. At the store, us singletons outnumbered the couples by vast amounts. When I left the market, more units, more pod people, making their way, on their own, in the wee small hours. It was a very seems I'm not alone in being alone moment.

Some days, this same experience would have been cause for sadness. Why are we so isolated? We're all on our own, surreptiously sneaking out in the night to do our things. Why can't we connect? Some days, those are the questions that swirl through my head at that moment, and I might even feel lonely in my ruminations. But last night, it seemed like a secret handshake. They all seemed so content; they all seemed a reflection of me. We all seemed so fine with our self-contained bubble. Maybe we didn't need to disturb it.

Then I got home and it took me far too long to thaw. I have not been getting to sleep when I would like to, and now I know why- I actually need time to defrost before I can relax enough to lull myself to bed.

So the talk with the head honcho happened, and while I was not promoted, the promotion was hinted at. Luckily it was hinted at subtly enough that I was not obligated to reveal my master plan. In fact, it was a bit of a run-on sentence- "there are going to be changes here, and I'm looking at good people leaders in the organization, and just to be frank, I'm looking at you as one of our people leaders, and I'll be looking at how we're going to make things work..."- so that I was dizzy and hardly had an opening to interject with any shocking confessions. For now, I can live with myself- well, except for the fact that I work someplace where the term 'people leader' is thrown around.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

but I could start again, you can depend on it

Most likely, I'm a dodging the proverbial bullet tomorrow. There is a good chance that tomorrow's meeting is more like fact-gathering than future-role defining, so I have thankfully been granted a reprieve. Aren't you guys glad you all took the time to give me all that sage advice? This is sort of indicative of a lot that's been happening this week- kvetching about a lot of decisions that ultimately are not offered up as choices. But in this particular instance, that suits me just fine.

Before I complain about more nonsense, let me point you to maisnon- go shorty (though you're not really short by any means actually, especially standing next to me), it's your birthday!

This is really, really uncharacteristic of me to say, but I'm putting it out there anyway- I think I am going to continue to feel uneasy about my life until my apartment is tidy. Not tidier, but tidy. I've been doing tidier for some four years now, and tidier means oh, now I can find my keys. While that's been fine given what had been happening, now it's causing me problems. The only place I'm comfortable now is the kitchen, and that puts me back in the 1950s. Um, not okay. A big purge needs to happen, and it will take time. And time, oh, time is a problem right now, because I want to spend my time with people that I soon may not see much anymore. Therefore, it seems rather lame to reply, "but I have to clean my apartment" when asked to meet. However, at some point in the next 14 days, I am going to have to do just that, because we are a racecar in the red now, we are at a near-crisis point. And we are talking of ourselves in the royal we, and everyone knows that is just not okay.

Since I seem to be stream-of-consciousness blogging today, I'm also going to mention some things that occur in conversation with my mother that never fail to drive me nuts. There is the good news conversation and the bad news conversation, and my mother seems poorly equipped to deal with either (or I seem poorly equipped to handle her responses to either). Because here is what happens:
    Me: Good news, moms.
    Moms: Oh congratulations... oh that's great.... oh you know what? Just yesterday, I went to temple and I was praying for you, and I just knew that it was all going to work out.

    why it drives me nuts: Thanks for attributing something that took a whole lot of my blood, sweat, and tears to your visit to the mandir.

    Me: Bad news, moms.
    Moms: Oh sorry... but you know, that must be your fate.

    why it drives me nuts: Thanks for effectively telling me that if it weren't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all. Also- when dealing with bad news, fate is not much of a consolation in the moment, even if you happen to believe in that stuff.

I know, I know. Oh, I know she means well. That's why I don't actually use any of the retorts that creep into my head at such moments. I've learned to take a deep breath and ask about so-and-so's sister-in-law or some such innocuous gossip item in order to move on before the situation is exacerbated further.

Anyway. Look, San Francisco, we don't have too much time left together. You need to straighten out your act, stop freezing all the citrus, and warm it back up out of jacket weather into light sweater weather. Rain is fine, but not freezing rain, and definitely not black ice. Don't make this breakup uglier than it needs to be. I really want us to remain friends.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

forgot about a simple twist of fate

second floor living without a yard

This picture actually better suits yesterday's post, but my camera was nowhere to be found in the abyss of my apartment. You'll note that these baked bits are placed in a plate far too fancy to be attributable to me. That's because LS gave it to me last time I saw her, apropos of nothing. The generosity, y'all. The generosity is killing me. For example, I have it on good authority that tonight a package awaits me upon my return home, and I also could bet big money that the package is from a fellow blogger. What have I done to deserve this? I guarantee you this- absolutely nothing, people, absolutely nothing.

Well, as usual, I have managed to create for myself a little drama where no drama was really necessary. I tend to blame this on the various double-lives I keep insisting on leading. Everyone is divided- people who know I blog, people who don't. People who have met me IRL, people who haven't. People who know about The Goal, people who don't. So much this corner and that corner, so many boundaries and lines drawn. It is only a matter of time before something goes awry.

Still, this is the strangest predicament I find myself in to date. And here it is. There is, let's say, a 50% chance I am going to get offered a promotion this week. Now, normally, believe it or not, I would neither anticipate this nor run it into the ground with hyper-analysis. Because normally someone offers you a promotion, you say, "gee thanks, does it come with a raise?" However, that canned response is inappropriate in my current situation. And as a result I am developing an ulcer.

Had this happened six months ago, I could have taken a promotion in good faith, without seeming like an immoral jerk. And believe me, I can be a borderline immoral jerk if the price is right- I work in Corporate America: if you aren't screwing them over, chances are, they're screwing you over. Borderline immoral jerkitude, fine- you know, as long as there is some moral ambiguity in there, okay, Corporate America, it's just a mild f*** you in your general direction. But taking a promotion, waiting less than three months for a bonus, and then saying, "sayonara, suckers!" is just not okay in my book. I'll feel dirty and wrong and I might have to spit at myself in the mirror every morning. Not just that- I'll feel I have burned all of my bridges. And as much as I never intend to return to my current position, I still don't believe in going out in such an ugly blaze of un-glory.

The problem is that coming clean and taking the high road is going to come at a price. A real, monetary price at a time when money is soon to become an imaginary number in my bank account. Man. This week is one hell of a classic test.

So, this is where I make history, and actually hope that the big meeting with the big boss leads to me being voted off the island. I might, just maybe might be the first person to be more worried over getting a promotion than getting fired.

Monday, January 15, 2007

sleeping beauty trips me with a frown

Last week's song apparently did not go over very well. This week's requires very little explanation. The song- Apache. The significance? It can be summed up as: Boo-yah! In other words, after increased blood pressure levels and the verge of a heart attack, I watched the Pats beat the Chargers yesterday. Afterwards, I had to go home and lie down for a little while to recover. Seriously. It was a sloppy game on both sides, but the Pats defense does what the Pats defense does best- save the offense's a$$. I wish I could be optimistic about beating the Colts, but that's not my style.

Anyway, there is much to celebrate. And when there is much to celebrate, that is a good time to play some Apache. Fair warning though- you may be compelled to bounce around your apartment a little bit.

I have to say, it has been a banner weekend. I know I ought to write a more circumspect post, chronicling the significance of this day. Other people have done a better job of that, however. I, on the other hand, have simply been revelling in the notion of having this extra day off. No running around out of town, no longwinded rambles about conflicting ideas or tough decisions.

In fact, even though I complained of the cold in my last post, I quickly got over it. For one thing, I feel like I need to suck it up and deal- not just because I'm from the colder parts of this country, but also because I might be headed back there soon. I thought back to the ways I used to combat the cold. At first, all I came up with was stay inside. That was not going to work, since the insulation in my apartment does a great job of blocking about 5% of the cold out. But upon further consideration, I figured out what I needed to do.

    Step 1: Drink. In a big sweater, with a warm jacket and gloves, but still. Drink.

    Step 2: Have dinner with ads. The common denominator with Step 1 is that, theoretically, this requires leaving the house. Leaving the house is important in acclimating to the frigid air. Cake for dessert and good conversation helps as well- ads and I had both.

    Step 3: Go hiking. Go hiking? I know, it seems counterintuitive, right? Go outside for a long walk in this weather? But here's the thing. It makes you appreciate the cold. I'd caught on to this earlier this week, when I noticed that it was so cold in San Francisco that all manner of fog had been chased away from the area, affording truly stunning views of the city from certain lookouts. So, even though hiking involved a great deal of shivering and silently b*tching to myself, there were moments of redemption looking out on this beautiful part of the world. Of course, apparently, my brain was frozen, because I forgot to bring my camera. The other advantage of this hiking thing? Everything seemed tolerably warm after that.

    Step 4: Watch the Pats game. All the nailbiting and cursing at the offense was enough to raise my temperature.

    Step 5: Bake, bake, and then when you get tired- bake some more. I started out just baking based on whatever was available in my apartment. That resulted in an almond tea cake. I'm not impressed with it. Then, as I realized I was not going to stop there, I switched strategy. The funny thing about my interest in baking is this- I am generally not a fan of eating much of what I make. But today, I decided to make some things that I enjoy. So, I set about making Jam Buttons, which are butter cookies with strawberry jam baked into the middle. They are not at all good for you, but they are one of the few things I enjoy eating. The Jam Buttons require one egg yolk. That meant I had one egg white. I think it's because I feel impending poverty coming my way, but I'm feeling this need of late not to be as wasteful. So I made the other thing I enjoy- chocolate-chip meringues. I figured out how to make these the way I like them over the holidays. I actually rarely make them, simply because I cannot resist every last one of them, and then I feel myself drifting into a diabetic coma.

It helps if you do all of these things in as warm a sweater as you can find. And warm socks- warm socks are key. But I feel I am making the best of this weather. Maybe I can even handle an entire season of it. Somewhere else. However, I'll probably be grumpy if next weekend rolls along, and there is still frost on the ground. That's just wrong in San Francisco.

Still, it was one of those weekends. One of those very San Francisco weekends. The kind that you don't plan- they just happen to you. And at the end, it feels as though you were given this weekend, offered its many gifts. And you wonder- can I really walk away from this? And you know the answer is yes, but you feel aware, you feel that you know you should hold such weekends close to your heart, because they'll always be yours, and they'll always be golden. The cold, you won't remember. The sunshine, the city lights, the dancing light on the waves, and oh, the green, that you will.

p.s. I am extremely paranoid that one of my non-blogger acquaintances has stumbled upon this space. If you are that person, just tell me you know, so that I can stop cultivating an ulcer about it. Oh, and also? It would be great if you could not be offended that I didn't tell you about this. Think about how much random nonsense I write about- would you really expect me to brag about this?

Friday, January 12, 2007

it's getting cold in California

I guess I'll be leaving soon. But seriously, dudes, I do not know what is going on over here. It's as if California has decided to school me in preparation of possible moves to colder climes. Supposedly Canada is to blame, but you know how we Americans are- we like to blame Canada.

I think I can honestly say I have been too cold to write a post. And I realize this is ridiculous, especially when you consider that I've spent the majority of my life in places much colder than this. But what can I say, California has turned me into a wuss. Well, also, I seem to be fighting some moral battle against outerwear. Even though I know it's jacket weather, I'm still running around acting like a San Franciscan, thinking a warm sweater, a scarf, and (the newest addition) a pair of gloves will do the trick. Um, no. Time to go find that parka.

Usually, I make fun of blogging, and think of blogging as pure indulgence. But I am not going there today. In fact, I am going in the opposite direction. Here is what I would like to point out:
  • It is hard to clearly articulate this, but I have been following Maitri's blog for some time now. Every blog I follow regularly is special to me in a specific way. In Maitri's case, there are so many facets that I do not know where to begin. But I'll just start with the one that is compelling me to write today. Knowing Maitri, in the way that you get to know a blogger through their words, has made all the news about Hurricane Katrina, the levees, and the aftermath more real than any Anderson Cooper special ever could (no offense to Anderson Cooper, he's one foine metrosexual). As I watched When The Levees Broke, I wasn't seeing all of it for the first time. I was watching visuals and background to go along with the stage that Maitri had already tirelessly set on her blog. And this week, when I heard about the violent crime sprees in New Orlean on NPR, the story felt more immediate. The victim described in the story bore too uncanny a resemblance to Maitri- "a radiant bundle of energy, creativity and good cheer." I worried, I wondered: why isn't more being done? Haven't residents suffered enough? And while I would like to claim that I had that reaction simply out of normal empathy, I know that, in fact, the reaction is due more to Maitri than anything else. So, if I was going to point out a blog that has done real good, I think Maitri's would be one of the first that would come to my mind- by her consistently astute observations about her city, she keeps New Orleans in the consciousness of every reader.

  • Were it not for blogging, and my incessant kvetching about going to Peru, I would have never got the recommendation from Abhi on a good hiking company for the Inca Trail. That hike was probably the best adventure of my life, and a part of that is owed to his tips.

  • Thanks to blogging, I got a great suggestion from Thalassa on flying Southwest in Texas- which was great, and not just because the Ukrainian flight attendant announced during the safety speech, "Please fasten your seat belts securely around your waist, like we wear Speedos in Eastern Europe."

  • Thanks to blogging, I met Anna. And had I never met her, I would certainly never have worked up the nerve to meet all of the other fantastic people (and then some) I have met through this blog.

  • Thanks to blogging, arem put me in touch with some of her friends, who have been giving me mountains of information that I will need to make an informed decision about my future.

  • Thanks to blogging, both Roonie and Pied Piper have offered themselves up as sources of information on Cleveland. I have not met either of them, and yet I trust their insights on Cleveland more than some people I know in real life. That last part always amazes me- how is it that I can take recommendations and suggestions from people who have never met me in person so seriously? Yet I do, and I value them immensely.

  • Thanks to blogging, and reading blogs, you learn two things: you learn that you are lucky in some ways, and not alone in other ways. When things go well, you are aware that not everyone has it so easy, that life is filled with long struggles and small victories, that you should be grateful. And when all is not going well, you realize that others are in the same boat in some capacity, and they are making their way to shore- so, too, will you.

So, even if I am running out of interesting things to say, even if I am trying to figure out where I want my words to go, even if I am struggling with fears of revealing too much, I am hesitant to say goodbye to something that has been, by and large, such a positive force. Even I am not that stupid.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

never before and never since, I promise

So, I was tempted for a split-second to participate in that National De-Lurking thingamajob, and harangue all y'all to peek out from the cover of anonymity. Then, I realized that would be kind of stupid in my case, for a multitude of reasons:
  • I, myself, try to maintain anonymity, so it would be a little hypocritical for me to harass anyone.
  • I'm lucky that anyone anywhere reads this meaningless and often cryptic drivel, so I should just be grateful that anyone ever does comment.
  • Following up to above, my heart does leap up excitedly whenever anyone new comments, or mentions they've been lurking for a while. It leaps because I am always shocked anyone is trying to follow along. But it also leaps because it means something I've written has touched enough of a nerve to compel you to comment. So, just calling you out seems a little, well, unearned.

Count on me to overanalyze even the simplest, most innocuous thing, but anyway, there you have it.

In the spirit of getting you to comment, though, I have two really random questions to throw out to the internets. Let me have it:

    Question: (for maximum effect, it helps to think of me trying to imitate Dwight from The Office saying 'Question' in his stilted manner)
    Has anyone done a Spanish immersion program in a foreign country? Any suggestions? Is 3 to 4 weeks enough if you already know some basic Spanish? Guatemala? Costa Rica? South America? I'm going to pick maisnon's brain on this when she returns from India, but I thought I'd see if I could gather up additional data without having to do any actual research myself. See, my motivation is usually laziness.

    Is Cleveland a sh*t-hole? I'm not trying to be clever, I legitimately want to know. Does it have redeeming qualities? What are they? Would it be a death sentence to live there? Just curious.

If anyone has any comments on either of those questions, I shall be eternally grateful. Last time I threw out this sort of pondering, I got an excellent recommendation for how to get from Houston to Austin from Thalassa, so I figure lightning could strike twice.

Last night, I was talking to my cousin K, and I realized it is not easy to avoid sounding like a complete jerk when really good things are happening for you. I want to say that I can't believe how lucky I am, and I can't believe how many amazing little good fortunes have befell me of late, and how all my dilemmas are the best kind of dilemmas. But it's hard to say all of that out loud without sounding like a total a$$hole. I mean, I come off sounding like the kind of person I normally want to punch in the face. And I know it won't always be like this. I have been telling myself it won't always be like this, not because I am trying to George Costanza myself and ward off the evil eye. I'm trying to remember that it wasn't always like this and it won't always be like this, because I want to be aware of this moment. I want to be present, be in the present, so that I can appreciate how precious and how brief a moment in time this is. Because once you have that, if you can know it, if you can capture it, then you have it forever. Then you have it through the dark times, a little amulet to see you through. But only if you don't take it for granted while it is happening.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

filling in a ticket in her little white book

Why I am surprised that Blogger took a crap on my blog this morning, I have not a clue. It's clearly part of a ploy designed to coax me into switching to Beta, or the New Blogger, or whatever they're calling it at the moment. Oh well, I suppose a little blog detachment training is a good thing. But I also think I might have to succumb to the torture of switching over. Expect major aesthetic issues in the days to come.

Last night, I felt rather guilty, and then I felt angry with myself for feeling guilty. A car had blocked my garage. This happens to me occasionally, and it was particularly vexing last night because I'd gotten home late, and just wanted to get inside and chill. Instead, I had to circle around looking for parking.

This is where it gets tricky. I pay extra to rent a garage, so it does make my blood boil when someone blocks it. On the other hand, there is some weird, unspoken rule in San Francisco that you do not call the po-po on such occasions, because we non-conforming San Franciscans can't be expected to follow silly little parking rules. I watched, and waited, and still no sign of anyone moving the car. I try to be understanding in cases where someone is just dropping something off or quickly popping in, and needs to illegally park for a moment. But this was not such a case. In addition, the dude had parked a BMW with personalized plates in my spot- which sort of automatically made me more inclined to get him in trouble.

So I called the authorities, but usually by the time they show up, the car is already gone. Not this time. I missed it, but apparently, they slapped his a$$ with a ticket. And then, a wave of regret came over me. And I do not understand why. Technically, the dude was breaking the law. Technically, I have every right to be angry and get him cited. Technically, I even went easy on him, as I was given a choice between having him cited and having him towed. Technically, I know I was within reason. Yet, I felt guilty. I felt like I should have shown more compassion, should have been more easy come, easy go about it.

And then I realized that, even though San Francisco is so much my city in so many ways, I was definitely, undeniably raised on the East Coast, and bear its imprint.


I have the best kind of problem right now. RR called it an "embarassment of riches" today and never has that term been more apt. Still, I am suffering from an odd paralysis as a result. I need to make plans and decisions, and yet, all I seem to be doing is sitting around, starry-eyed, stunned. I just don't know what to do with myself, indeed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

you and whose army

Maybe it’s just natural that at the end, you start thinking about the beginning. And then again, there are so many beginnings and ends that they jumble together, and are you really remembering the beginning of something, or the end of it?

It was the end of my time in New Jersey. It was in the days when the planes were eerily empty, and everyone nervously chatted with each other as they stood in the boarding line, feeling each other out, smiling and nodding reassuringly as if to say, I am on your side. It was October. When I landed, W hugged me three times more tightly than he ever had before.

During that visit, W showed me the ring he was planning to give a few months later to K, now his wife. During that visit, I started to talk more seriously about moving to San Francisco. And during that visit, a tornado that is still a blur occurred between Q and me.

But also, I had tickets to see Sigur Ros. Sigur Ros? W & K had asked me to describe them, but I could not. They had looked at me, this significantly shorter, significantly less hip friend of theirs, and had agreed without hesitation. I will always adore them for that.

At the Warfield, before the show started, I ducked away to call Q. W had been keeping a watchful eye over me throughout my stay, and his overprotective, big brother side was more acute than usual. When I told Q I was at a concert, and then proceeded to tell him the name of the band, there was a long pause, a heavy silence. I thought, he is judging me. And then I didn’t care. Even then, all those years ago, I knew there was no point in trying to impress anyone with false pretense.

The show can only be described as trippy. K, W & I all walked out wishing we had been on some mind-altering substance, even though none of us are particularly adventurous in that regard. Behind the meek, young band, some sort of post-modern-psychedelic light show was played. Furthermore, the music itself was thoroughly unintelligible. One of the kitschy things about Sigur Ros is that they sing in a completely concocted language that they call Hopelandic, neither Icelandic nor English nor any other spoken language.

Last week, I complained about world music, and my inability to connect to music if I cannot understand the lyrics. Then I remembered this band, and their first album. Their song Staalfur is a nice example of their overall sound. An ethereal, ambient sound that draws you in and puts you in an odd mood, sets you afloat.

I worry about music like this- it’s dangerous for me when a song has this much feeling in its very fabric. I worry that I’ll wind up in some blue-lit lounge at 2 o’clock in the morning and some random fool will be offering me ecstasy. And while normally I’d turn it down without a second thought, this song will be playing and I’ll be lulled into some strange fascination with the sensation of floating, but floating downward, drowning.

Lucky for me, they don’t play a lot of Sigur Ros at any place I’ve ever had a drink.

Yesterday, co-worker GBF dropped me off to my place, and a man was sitting on the stoop. He was sitting on the stoop, backpack opened, with a 10-pack of tortillas, one jar of peanut butter, and one jar of marmalade, a plastic knife in hand. He was shaking his head in the way that men occasionally will, like he was trying to shake out some angry thought or a demon. I just started reading Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss, and a line from the book immediately presented itself:
She felt intensely, fearfully female.

Oddly, that is how I felt when I saw the man in my doorway. I’d like to say I felt a deep wave of sympathy for him. Instead, I was momentarily bemused by the absurdity of a peanut-butter and marmalade burrito. And I felt a queasy uneasiness that he sat between me and the entrance to my apartment. Once I was in my apartment, I could hear the same man arguing loudly with a passerby. Later, when I went to run errands, I found myself pausing at the bottom of the stairwell, stopping to check if he was still sitting on the stoop. Though he was no longer there, I once again felt that sense, that awareness of being vulnerable. He had carved his name into the sidewalk.

Also, my mama emailed me yesterday for one purpose: to ask me to please send a recipe for coffee cake as soon as possible. Because, you know, coffee cake emergencies occur all the time in your average Gujarati household. At least I can always count on my family for keeping life utterly random.

Speaking of random, I haven’t talked about this for a while, so let me just say: Go Pats!. Okay, I know they’re not likely to make it all the way, or even past the Chargers, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to take a moment to rejoice.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I will rise up early and dress myself up nice

Hey y'all (after-effects of the trip down South), I'm writing to you shortly after a spectacular bonk at the hotel gym. We're talking of belly-flop magnitudes. We're talking did someone replace my lungs with those of a 65-year old smoker? bonkety bonk. Exponentially pathetic.

I blame it on two possible issues. The first was about two miles of walking around that I had to do today, being shown around a behemoth. The second was that extra, jumbo sugar cookie at lunch. Sadly, it is most likely the latter that caused the poor showing this evening. Sugar crash is much more likely a culprit than a two mile stroll, though it is certainly more tempting to attribute it to the walking.

Anyway, I am settling in for the evening. I am not stir crazy. In fact, as much as I whined and moaned and groaned (oh, so novel for me) about leaving San Francisco again, the self-containment is treating me fine. When I get back, I am going to have to stop with all the inward navel-gazing, because time will pass by too quickly. I know that, but right now, being away from home, life seems suspended temporarily. And instead of getting that unsteady feeling of being too high without a net, I feel like I can take a breath.

In other news, RR and I got into an argument about music the other day. He thinks The Shins are shamelessly ripping off The Beach Boys. I think that every band for as long as I can remember has shamelessly ripped someone off. But that wasn't the interesting part of the argument. When he was railing, I asked him if there were any current bands that he thinks are not derivative. And he said, "I don't really listen to bands these days." That confused me, since I know he listens to music.

His point, though, was that he listens to the occasional song here and there, which are strong, but that the bands that put out a tight album from start to finish are few and far between. That's something I have been hearing lately, and it has given me pause. Given the way I scrounge up music these days, picking up a song here and there, latching onto a catchy tune, maybe purchasing something from iTunes from time to time, I have to admit that I am hard-pressed to buy an album in its entirety these days. So, this makes me wonder if the age of the LP is really over? Are there really any albums that were released last year that will stand up over time the way that Nevermind does?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

and feel something constant under my feet

In yesterday's post, Brooklyn Brown asked me how I like being back in San Francisco. When I read that question this morning, I could not help but smile. Because, hi, once more, I'm not in San Francisco, even as I am typing this.

Here's how it played out. I got off the plane from Texas, feeling like death warmed over. Over the next few days, I got back to competition health. I went to work for one day- yesterday. Then, I came home, dumped out my suitcase of one set of clothes, in order to replace them with another, more professional set. And today, I am sitting in a hotel room.

Oh yeah, and somewhere in all that, I managed to watch Croupier, mostly because I wasn't feeling up to seeing Children of Men, but was in desperate need of a Clive Owen fix. It's sort of wrong to like Clive Owen. He's always playing these characters that seem completely unapologetic- like he might slap you and just shrug that you shouldn't have made him so mad. Not exactly someone to put up on a pedestal. I think he has played good guys, but I do not think I have ever seen any of those movies. Instead, I catch him in all these dark films where he is dropping the f-bomb with such vitriol that it can give you the extended creeps. Like Croupier.

The cool thing about the movie is that it's constantly narrated, because the protagonist is a writer. I wonder if that is some kind of a phenotype of a writer, to be constantly recounting, redescribing, reinterpreting, in your head, events even as they unfold. When I am alone, that is one of my favorite pasttimes. But of course, that never really comes through when I write, so I am clearly not a writer.

One advantage of all the flying all over the place over the past months is that I have amassed enough miles that I got upgraded to first class today. But, I always feel strange in first class. It's times like this that I realize I could never really be rich. It doesn't suit me, makes me uncomfortable. I feel like I ought to act a certain way, but I find myself incapable. In first class, I keep waiting for someone to kick me out, though no one did. Instead, they gave me this look, like oh, how cute, one of those ordinary types got bumped up in here. An elderly woman in the seat in front of me did serve to amuse me though- she ordered no less than four bourbons on a 5-hour flight. I kept waiting for the flight attendant to cut her off, but then I remembered that we were in first class, where apparently it's okay to get smashed.

Well, now I have to talk myself into getting into this new time zone, so that I do not oversleep and muck up the entire reason I am once again away from home. Home that will not be home for that much longer. I think I might have to put a hold on all further travel after this, until I quit the grind.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

it's all part of my rock'n'roll fantasy

Please accept my humble apologies that I have not been posting songs regularly over the past few weeks. Between laptop meltdowns, illness-related meltdowns, and spotty internet connectivity, it simply was not in the cards. And even though I feel like I should have some profound song to start off the new year, because it is a new year, after all, I am afraid that I am posting the exact opposite of that.

Well, perhaps I should not say that. I do not know. Amadou & Mariam's Senegal Fast Food may well be very deep. Of course, I wouldn't know, because I fail to comprehend a word of it. This is usually the reason that world music falls out of favor with me. I can handle a lot of Spanish music because I can make out phrases here and there, and somehow that serves to connect me to a song. And I can handle some Portuguese music, because I pick up a word or two here and there, plus, when a Gilberto is involved, it's like listening to the sound of a yard of silk falling over a table. But for the most part, I stay away from world music because I have trouble staying with a song if I cannot understand the lyrics.

But then something like Senegal Fast Food comes along and it turns out that I am full of crap. As usual. Really, by now, this should come as no surprise. But that's the thing about music like this. It has to be immediate. It has to immediately draw you in, and mesmerize you.

A Moroccan acquaintance of mine was playing the album in the background during a raucous dinner, and I did not hear it well, but she mentioned the band several times as we were finishing a bottle of wine. That's usually telling. I know how I get when I hear something like that- I am nudging everyone into listening to it. "Have you heard of them?" I'll ask, but I'm not really asking- I'm saying, "Dude, you need to listen to this." Only, I am not quite confident enough in my musical taste to say that, so I'll just push a song or artist (cough, Regina Spektor, cough), until people roll their eyes at me.

All of that said, let me stop to say something completely inappropriate. I sort of amuse myself with my freedom fries behavior when it comes to the French. The French scare me. Once, I went to Montreal, and I spent the whole time feeling inferior because I could not muster a word of the language, and every cashier seemed thoroughly annoyed with me for it. When people pronounce words correctly at a French restaurant, my stomach turns and I feel they're being pretentious (even though they're not, given that they're simply pronouncing the words correctly, most of the time). Hemingway mentioned something about the French once, about how he liked them, because you simply had to have a good deal of money to have them treat you well. And that made me sour towards the French even more.

But I think I need to get over the Francophobia, people. In the spirit of a new year, I need to wash myself of this insecurity regarding the French. Sure, they are cooler, and thinner, and far more refined than me. Sure, they smoke a lot and pronounce words that my mouth seems incapable of pronouncing. But, really, is that any reason to avoid them? They don't mean to seem so pretentious, do they?

I have to get over it, most of all, because there's some good music out there that has quite a bit of French in it. And Amadou & Mariam are a stellar example. Granted, their album is not strictly French, it's West African. It's really quite world. As proof, Manu Chao is heavily involved. But, this song reminded me, in a strange way of MC Solaar's La belle et le bad boy, in that just a few opening bars into the song, I was engaged. Senegal Fast Food seems like it should be on the soundtrack of some ultra-cool movie. It's weird when a song is a music video waiting to happen- but that usually indicates a richness. And there's a whole lot of finery in this song.


Anyway. Let me tell you something else. This is the first time I have said something so utterly brash and optimistic, but this is going to be one tremendous, stupendous, spectacular year. Oh, I am quite certain there will be moments of falling flat on my face, and moments of fuming rage, and moments of wtf, why is this happening to me, but something happened in 2006, something that prevents me from ever sinking below a certain depth again. That sort of buoy.

My Eeyore-ian ways would normally cause me to remark, it can only get worse after this. But no, b*tches, no. The rock can never roll all the way to the bottom of the hill again. I still cannot believe how much has happened, and how much lies ahead. If I go really far back in my history, as I did over the past week, it becomes overwhelming and heartstopping. Yes, there is more to want and a long, long way still to go, but I actually don't think I know how to be really sad or brooding right now. I think I even might have tried on New Year's Eve, to be introspective and all if only about some bullsh*t, but it totally did not take. And my, oh my, that's a new one for me.