Showing posts with label happiness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label happiness. Show all posts

some of what counts

There are only so many times in life that someone will see who you really are and love you for it. Only so many times you will be known in the way that you want to be.

There are only so many times that someone will thank you, deeply and genuinely, for something difficult you did. Only so many times you will feel appreciated for what is, in fact, really hard work.

The poignance of this rarity hit me like a wave Sunday night as I was walking home. I'd had two such moments that day. One in which I was seen, and one in which I was thanked. Quiet, private moments with people I've gotten to know a little bit, and respect. It didn't hit me until I was off the train and almost back to my apartment how lucky I was.

Life is short. Moments like this are finite. Connections between open-hearted, communicative people who will see and appreciate one another are few and precious.

When you find someone like this, hang on to them for as long as you can. Find ways to give back to them what they've given to you.

Trust me: the further you get along this road, the more you will realize that this, more than anything, is some of what counts most.



winning strategy

You brought wrath to me today, a cloud of fire that rained acid hatred on my skin. I'm still smoking. (The dog is confused, thinks someone barbecued, can't find the meat.)

And the thing I gave you in return was even more enraging than had I shot back flaming arrows of my own. The thing I gave you in return--calm--infuriated you further. I don't know what to say about that. I'm sorry? I'm not.

You said, .....
You said, .....
You said, .....

And I am tired, so tired, of helping you protect the picture that you hold of yourself.

But enough about you. Today in spite of your spite, I felt unafraid to be alive for the first time in a long time. For the first time in a long time, if someone had offered to shut off the lights, I would have said--

Maybe wait? Maybe leave them on for now? I'm okay with them on. Thank you.

That is the spark I need to nurture. A tiny flame I will shelter with my whole being. I will curl myself around it and give it all the breath in my lungs. Which is why I have none to spare for spitting acid.

ups and downs

Hello.

When I was in college, perhaps the most impactful thing I learned in my composition classes is that every piece of writing should be a gift. Whether a story, an essay, a poem, an article, a blog post - whatever the subject or form. A gift. Put enough into it that the reader feels like she's been given more than a string of nouns and verbs. Innovate. Be vulnerable. Entertain, enlighten, inspire. Try, anyway.

I haven't posted much lately because I haven't had any gifts to give. It's a weird time, and I don't know how to write about it without sounding flat and dull and whiny. But the longer I stay away the unhappier I get. So at the risk of sounding flat and dull and whiny, I'll catch you up on the past few weeks in the hope that it will be like shedding a skin, dry and dead and colorless. Maybe there's something more vibrant underneath that just needs a little air.

Terence and I are still living together. It looks like we're going to ride out the lease. So that's June. Rent downtown has skyrocketed with the opening of a Whole Foods which is literally a three minute walk from our building. My old apartment? This tiny little space? It rents for over $2k now. I doubt I'll stay downtown when we move out. I'm thinking about Koreatown, or maybe Hollywood? Not sure. But right now, our loft is perfectly suited to our needs. Chaucer's, too.

We're getting along fine, for the most part. In some ways our relationship is better than it ever was before the breakup. We're more patient with one another. I think neither of us sees much use in arguing, or holding on to anger when we do argue (because we still do, occasionally.) What's the point? There's nothing to be won anymore. Whatever there was to be won has been lost, for good. And that sounds awfully nihilistic I know, but in practice it's actually rather liberating. Why resent him for being him, when soon enough he'll be gone from my life? I've let go of my expectations and am turning inward more or more, for the things I wanted from him but never got. Maybe that's what I should have done in the first place. I don't know.

Before he and Kerry moved to SF a few weeks ago, I tried to explain to Ross exactly what doesn't work about Terence and I. It's a wavelength thing, I said.

Yeah but what does that mean, he asked. He was arguing that every relationship eventually reaches a sort of staleness (though he didn't use that word). Doesn't everyone get sick of their partner eventually?

I used him and Kerry as an example. I don't know. Maybe a little? But underneath it, as long as the two people are on the same page, that gives them a sense of emotional intimacy. You guys are on the same page. I can see it every time I'm around you. The way you respond to things the same way. 

That's how I think of wavelength. When you're at a party, or in a bar or restaurant - anywhere public, with a mixed group of people. Someone says or does something, and you look up and catch your partner's eye because you know he's thinking the exact same thing. That's wavelength. It's gratifying and satisfying and, in a way, incredibly sexy. Terence and I? No wavelength. Tons of inside jokes, which I treasure. But not that organic emotional and intellectual chemistry.

Incidentally, Terence told me that on one of our last nights out with them, when he asked Ross how he and Kerry do it, Ross had said, We think of ourselves like it's us vs. the world. 

I think that's pretty amazing. It's on the the list of reasons I will miss them.

---

We had a final night out together, the four of us. Kerry had come back down only long enough to pack, and after an exhausting day of getting ready for the move the next morning, they joined us for dinner and drinks. It was supposed to be a wild last hurrah, but it never really got off the ground. The weirdness of Terence and I having broken up, the stress they were under about closing on a new house in SF - all of us were distracted and a little down. We tried, but we were bickery and short with one another. I could tell Kerry was already gone in her mind, and it was like looking at her across several zip codes, not a dinner table. But we have had so, so many fun times over the years that I was content, anyway.

They were so sweet and inclusive of Terence to the very end. Still referring to us as an "us", still inviting us up to SF to visit.

---

Part of the reason I haven't blogged is that I still spend time with Terence. We still go to shows, to dinner, watch movies, go shopping. He's still a huge part of my life, which doesn't seem to make sense if we're broken up. So writing about it feels strange, disingenuous, confusing to me, to him, to anyone reading. Are they together or not? What the hell?

We've had a hundred frank discussions about our relationship. You'd think that would help us find closure but sometimes it's more confusing than anything. One minute we'll agree that we're wrong for one another, the next we'll wonder whether anyone will ever be perfect for anyone. At what point are the good aspects of a relationship enough? At what point do you stop running - away from what's not enough, and toward what may never actually exist? Will I ever be completely happy, with anyone? The self-doubt is crippling.

I've been listening to Mother Mother a lot - kind of obsessed with them, in fact - and they have a song that pretty much captures exactly how all of this makes me feel:



---

We spent Thanksgiving together. Chaucer's nickname is Winks, so we called it Winksgiving. I brined and cooked my first turkey. It went well, except for getting confused about when to tent the breast. We did it backwards; instead of covering the bird with foil for the first half hour, we put the foil on after 30 minutes. I went for a run and while I was gone it suddenly dawned on me that we'd screwed up. I texted and called Terence frantically, but he was playing guitar and didn't hear his phone. When I got home fifteen minutes later, breathless and sweaty, I ran to the oven and yanked the door open. "We had it backwards!" I cried. "It's supposed to be covered for the first part of cooking!" We ripped the foil tent off the turkey and oh my god. It was like yanking a toupee off a bald man. The sides and back were a gorgeous golden brown, but the breast on top was pale and white. Fucking hilarious, but me being the oversensitive idiot I am, I started crying. I'd so wanted it to be perfect. Thanksgiving to me has strong associations with my mother; I'd felt close to her all day, thinking she'd be so proud of my cooking. Then here I go messing it up so badly. But it was fine. We were laughing about it within five minutes. And Chaucer was spoiled so rotten - giblets, dark meat, yams...

---

Some of my AZ friends came to town, and it was like breathing pure oxygen for four days straight. I was dizzy with joy. Such an unbelievable good time. We didn't even do much; dinner, drinks, screwing around in bars and hotel rooms. But it was a mixed group, some newer friends who don't know all the old mythology of our friendship - stories which go back twenty years, in some cases. So we spent the weekend telling those tales to them, to one another. Reliving, reconnecting, laughing endlessly. At one point we all were piled on a heap on the bed, drunk and high and still in our going-out clothes. I told the story of how I'd come to be friends with Mason - it is a doozy of a story - and everyone was just captivated, quiet and listening. Just sharing the genesis of that friendship made me feel more whole than I've felt in a long time. It's good to remember where you came from, especially when you're not sure where you are.

I spent most of the weekend with my friends alone, though Terence joined us for the last night. I can't deny what a blast that was, too. The place we'd intended to hit was closed for a private party, so we found ourselves marooned in Hollywood, out of our minds and not quite sure where to go. We ended up in a biker bar, randomly singing The Cure and joking around with tatted up strangers before finding a nearly-empty nightclub that we shut down, the dance floor happily to ourselves.

---

The business idea I have - I am still working at it. It's become a bit of a logistical nightmare. Lots more challenges than I foresaw, but I still believe in it. Trying to overcome one hurdle at a time and not get discouraged. Everyone I tell thinks there's huge potential in it so I'm not giving up yet.

I hate to be a tease about it but that's all I can say right now. Argh.

---

And here is what some of the past few weeks has looked like:























---

Riveting stuff, right? Woman Lives Life, Is Reminded it Features Ups and Downs.

See above, re: gifts.

only Tuesday

I walked him early this morning. Figured it would be his usual quick trip around the corner, but when we got back to the building he looked up at me, then down the street. Let's go to the library.

Sidewalk commuters smile at him over their Starbucks cups; a few comment on his size, or ask his breed. Eight years of this and I never get sick of it. Him neither.

The library grounds are more marshy than usual, unkempt and overgrown. Not so great for my shoes, but Chaucer is in heaven. Wet, green smells everywhere. His paw pads sink slightly into the soil and he pushes his muzzle deep into bushes shining with dew.

I groom him, long slow strokes of the wire brush, lightly so it doesn't burn his skin. Then the rubber spike brush on his belly and legs. "What level of handsome are we going for today?" He glances at me, panting happily. "Level ten? Are you sure? Oh man Chaucy, I don't know if the world can handle it. It's only Tuesday." No one can hear what I'm saying, but every so often I notice someone watching us from a car window, as they wait for the light to turn. If I'm a crazy person for talking to my dog, it's the kind of crazy I'll always be. "When people start spontaneously combusting because of your handsomeness, that's on you. Ok buddy?" His furry chest heaves under the brush. Good. Keep that big heart strong.

When I'm done he noses at the bag I carry, the one with his brushes and travel bowl and tennis ball. This is rare. Wanting to play is rare these days, so I quickly pull out a red and blue ball and throw it across the grass. As he bounds after it I watch his hips and legs, looking for signs of pain. Sometimes he favors his left leg, and every so often he has trouble standing up. Not today, though. We are in full puppy form today.

On the way out a man in a faded black sweatshirt, plaid dress pants, and no shoes stops us. "That a mastiff?" Sure is, I tell him. "How old?" Chaucer ambles by him unbothered, concentrating on something in the grass.

"He's eight," I say, hearing the subtext in my voice. Old.

"They don't live long, you know." I'm used to this, and don't take offense.

"I know."

"How's his hips?"

"Pretty good," I nod.

"Well, he's beautiful."

"Thanks."

On a bench near the exit a homeless man sleeps. A sign set down on the path beside him says Spare Some Change. The cursive letters are painted in thick black strokes, and he's filled in the loops with red accents. Chaucer, ahead of me on the walkway, steps around the sign lightly.

Back at home I wipe his paws with a warm washcloth, rubbing one toe at a time while he lays on his side. White tile is unforgiving, and if we don't take a minute to clean him off after each walk the floors are a wreck almost immediately. Sometimes it's a pain, especially when I'm in a hurry. But mostly I don't mind. Him neither, I think.

denali

I first watched the video below this past Friday, in a resort in Las Vegas. I was sitting next to Mason, both of us trying to recover from the previous night's celebration (his birthday), when I got a push notification that a mutual friend of ours had just shared it on Twitter. This friend doesn't post much online, so when he does, I make a point of checking out whatever it is.

"Here, you have to watch this video with me. Steve just tweeted it. I read the description and I can tell it's gonna make me cry."

And it did. And afterward, as I snuffled and wiped my wet cheeks with a sweatshirt sleeve, Mason laughed. "Well if you had any serotonin at all left this morning, that certainly took care of it."

I just watched it once more, and I'll probably watch it again every time I'm feeling weepy and sentimental about Chaucer, which is a circumstance I find myself in a lot more often than post-partying recovery in Vegas. You certainly don't need to have dogs to be moved by this seven minute film, but if you do, hold on to your heart.



A few weeks ago, Chaucer had a limp when he got up in the morning. He walked it off pretty quickly, as he always does, but it unsettled me. I fretted about it to Terence and coddled Chaucer especially hard for the rest of the day. That evening Terence suggested we take Chauc for a super long walk, the kind of epic walk he hasn't been up to in several months.

"He can't," I said. "He's just getting too old. He can't do that kind of distance anymore. I'm scared that we'll get across town and he'll lay down and refuse to move. Then what?"

Terence disagreed. "He needs the exercise. His leg is probably freezing up because he's not getting as much as he used to." We asked Chaucer how he felt, and as soon as we said the "w" word his tail went nuts. So we grabbed his leash and the next thing we knew, we were walking further than we had with him in ages.

And then even further. And further. Chaucer just charged ahead, full of verve and not slowing down a bit despite some heavy panting. Soon we were at his old stomping grounds: City Hall and Grand Park. Places he hasn't been up to trekking to in a heartbreakingly long time.

"You know what this is, right?" Terence looked at me meaningfully. "He knows. He knows you're worried about him, and he wants to reassure you. He's proving to you that he's still strong, baby."

The more I insist I don't go in for magical thinking, the less convincing it sounds, I know. So I'll just stop there.


If there's anything better in this world than being loved by a dog, I've yet to find out what that is. Probably couldn't handle it if I did.

happy vs. happiness

Happy has got to be the most prostituted word in modern society, and certainly in the blogosphere.

Happy is not the same as happiness, and there's all the difference in the world between the two. Happiness is an occasional, organic byproduct of living in sync with your values. It flows into and through you. You can't control its production or delivery. You just wake up and it's there, or turn a street corner and feel it grab you. It pulses in huge bursts or slow, steady waves, until it fades away again.

People search for happy all the time, sometimes desperately. They seek it out like a drug, a quick fix to get them through the day. Sources of happy are short-lived and almost always involve some form of external validation.

Happy is a thing people hunt, but happiness is a thing that finds them.

Some of us bloggers forget this difference - or we live in denial of it. For some of us, happy is the whole point. We treat it like a trophy, polishing it and placing it prominently in front of us. Then we can hide behind it, and use it as a shield to block criticism or uncomfortable truths. Look at my happy! Just try and get past it! We worry that if we don't prove our happy, we'll be laughed at, scorned, judged - or worst of all, pitied. So we parade our happy even at the risk of ridicule. Even at the cost of exhausting and alienating those around us. Because not everyone wants to march in our Happy Parade.

Not everyone comes right out and declares their happy. They're smart enough to know this is mawkish and unappetizing. More savvy and sophisticated bloggers underplay their happy hand. They play their happy cool, with a casually-worded caption and cute emoji on an Instagrammed photo of a beautiful day - or a beautiful child. Here the happy lies quietly in subtext, but don't be fooled. It screams just as loudly: I AM HAPPY.

But I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. We're not telling you. We're telling ourselves. Which is not to say that manufactured happy and genuine happiness never overlap; sometimes they do. But sometimes the happy is a placeholder for happiness, which never needs likes and rarely poses for photographs anyway.

It's all so bizarre, our fixation with finding and flaunting the happy. And to complicate matters, happy is a squirrelly, highly subjective concept. To one person it might mean extreme elation; to another, balance and inner peace. We all aim for different spots on that continuum. Some are satisfied by a sense of general well-being, and some lose their minds in pursuit of elusive ideals of financial wealth and personal power.

The fact is, the less you need to make you happy, the more powerful you are. If all it takes to get your happy is walking with a loved one on a sunny day, you're going to be able to fill your tank much more easily and frequently than someone who needs luxury vacations, or the envy of others.

And because the stakes are so high, we use happy against each other. We lord it over one another, secretly feeling glee when our enemies seem to lack it. The ultimate cut down is to declare someone unhappy (i.e., sad). It's such a hurtful thing to say because there is no more pitiable condition, particularly when it's on public display. We cluck our tongues and say Oh, she's clearly unhappy, and we feel smug and safe and uninfected when we do so, because emotional well-being is a form of wealth. True happiness is a currency of mental health but the temporary nature of happy adds up to pittance.

But we open our wallets and show off our happy hundreds, because they are so very easy to count, so attractive when spread wide in our hands.

8.29.15

Whatnots this week:

wow no bra strap for once

Hollywood Boulevard between Vine and Highland is jam-packed with sightseers, chintzy souvenirs stalls, vape/hookah/head/stripper shops, and hawkers trying to hustle tourists into celebrity bus tours. Kind of awful, in other words. The side streets in that area, however, hold many treasures. This week we found STOUT, an airy and unpretentious little gastropub on Cahuenga. I'm not a beer drinker so I'm pleased as pickles that cider is The New Thing and STOUT serves a great one: Pitchfork Sonoma Cider. Great, that is, if you like sweet. (I like sweet.)

There's a whole 'nother floor below, too!

Everything I just said about the strip is true. However. There is a place. It is called Iguana Clothing. It is right smack on Hollywood, near Vine. It's one of those vintage-and-costume shops I'd sort of written off, because I don't need a poodle skirt or an Elvira wig (yet). But oh my, was I ever hasty in my judgment. I finally took the time to check it out thoroughly and it is fantastic. $25 cashmere sweaters in every color of the rainbow. Turtlenecks, v-necks, cardigans, you name it. Ponchos and fair isles at a fraction of what you'd pay for them at Free People. Thermals and graphic tees, cords, flannels. Please don't tell anyone about it.

Doesn't take his eyes off of Terence the whole time.

On Thursdays, Grand Central Market stays open late ('til 9), which means two things: 1) Chaucer gets to lick the McConnell's Black Coffee Chip ice cream from my fingertips after I've finished my double scoop, and 2) I get to poke Terence in the ribs and say "There he is!" whenever we see Mark Peel working late at Bombo. (Top Chef Masters fans, lemme hear you say PEA PUREE.)

I call them "Oxygen-Deprived Swallows" and "Fleur d'Infected Nipple", respectively

Colorfy is a ridiculously addictive coloring app, and my new favorite way to unplug. Pop in the headphones, crank some Tycho, snuggle into the ol' armchair, and play with a virtual box of crayons.  It's marketed as "the coloring book for adults" but since when do age guidelines mean anything?

You will thank me. (It's ok if you don't thank me.)

I'll keep this simple: What We Do In The Shadows is the funniest movie I have seen in years. Don't look up who's in it, don't watch the trailer to see what it's about. Just go rent it on iTunes. Immediately. We were DEAD. Dead on the floor I tell you. (We really do watch movies on the floor. Chaucer's idea.)

When we close the doors our pants totally make out in the dark. 

Did a closet purge and reorganize. Feelin' pretty good about it. Feelin' pretty adult. What's that? Do I really need to hang up my cutoffs? WHATEVER LEAVE ME ALONE GO ASK TERENCE IF HE HAS ENOUGH WHITE BUTTON DOWNS

The first chapter of Sam Harris's Waking Up is on SoundCloud, and if the video I shared a couple weeks ago resonated with you, I think you'd enjoy it. It's about the endless whatnextwhatnextwhatnext game of life and how to stop it, if only for a few moments at a time.

Listening to it was something of, well, a wakeup call for me. I realized I spend nearly every waking minute worried about what I need to do in the next minute, or the next. Forever obsessing about the future, even if it's some small thing like trying to remember what I need from the store. Harris's solution to this low-level misery is meditation, which for all of my life has seemed like something foreign and borderline religious. Weird and new-agey. Not for me.

Then I started doing drugs, and came to see the advantages in altering my consciousness, even briefly. But of course I can't do drugs every day. Though I sure would love to feel really good every day. So I'm finally opening up to the idea of meditation.

I have a hard time with it, though. Staying perfectly still, concentrating on my breathing and doing. absolutely. nothing. else. I can, however, practice being more present - connecting to my senses. Slowing down to notice my surroundings, find enjoyment in them. That's easy. Where am I in this moment? What makes this place special? How does the breeze feel on my shoulders, or Chaucer's fur against my cheek? What can I see and smell and hear that is interesting or just quietly beautiful? From there, a sort of detached gratitude floats up to fill the space where anxiety was. How amazing and fortunate is it to be here, alive and healthy, safe and loved? Of all the planets in all the galaxies, I get to experience this one. Oxygen. Oceans. Love and pain and growth.

I know, I know. Super goofy. But it's a wonderfully relaxing and happifying exercise. And along these lines, I've got a post percolating about the ways in which I'm 100% convinced using LSD has improved my mental health. Yeah.

beautiful, in six parts

1. the tweet

A hint dropped, by a musician we love. English singer/songwriter we saw at Coachella last year and whose scream-along populist ballads get me through housework. He's doing a secret show tonight, just like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist! Somewhere in Hollywood. Piece of cake - train ride away. We set him to mobile notifications and track the game until one of his followers cracks it: Madame Siam, a speakeasy near Vine. Perfect. You nap; I'll paint my nails dark blue. Yes, let's definitely get there early. Bet bigger fans than us will be around the block.

2. the scramble

Went for a run and now I'm running late. Goddamn it, why can I never manage my time? Can't decide what to wear. You zip me into a long sleeve dress - it's cold but I don't want to mess with a jacket. Nope. Too hot, too constrictive. Cropped tank and jeans? Good god no. Whose clothes are these? Where is that girl? I haven't seen her in ages. Fuck it. T-shirt, jeans, bomber, sneaks. It's Frank Turner, FFS. You sing and fix yourself a drink, in a fantastic mood that levels me out. I toss my own back and it's time go, now, we've got to get moving. Running to the subway. Running back to the apartment; I forgot something. Running to the subway again. No trains to NoHo from here tonight? What the ever loving fuck? What are the chances? We hop a bus to the next station. On the way over, I fill you in on my web adventures the night before. My new obsession: slaughterhouses, factory farms, meat packing, Temple Grandin. Captive bolt stunners, livestock behavior, restraints, bloodspotting, the whole nine. I tell you some of what I've learned, the good and the bad. Back out on the street, running again, a text comes. Holy shit. Kerry and Ross have won a trip to Japan?!

3. the wait

Bigger fans indeed have beat us there; we won't be getting a spot up front, that's for certain. Blame the Metro, but really we should have known. A solid hour's wait, in the cold. But our mood is fantastic, bubbly and giggly. The way you hold me, and kiss my cheek if I look at you too long and smile. Where did this come from? So nice. This. So easy. Your affection, the playfulness. I am so lucky. We read tweets and watch videos. We text Kerry back, joke with our neighbors in line, and cuddle in the cold. You offer to go grab us pizza. I'd rather wait, hungry as I am. It's all lovely though. Such a great space we're in. Hi. I missed you. 

4. the show

I make a beeline for the stage while you get drinks. I can't get too close, but I don't begrudge those in front of me; they know every single word to every single song. True fans, they have my respect. We end up against a bit of brick wall, not more than five feet back. You've got something to lean against, and now so do I. Depending on whether I know the lyrics, whether I can belt them out along with the others, I jump and dance and fist pump - or I melt back into you. Hearing you at my cheek, watching this performer we both love. This is a really, really good night for us. Frank's brilliant, of course. The music matched by his jokes and stories, the way he flirts with the crowd like an old flame he'll never get over. He loves us. We love him. We are all of us drunk. He is a poet. And I tell him this, afterward, in his ear while you sneak a picture though I told you not to take one. Poor guy is wasted and exhausted, only a few hours off a plane. But I had to meet him. Don't know when I'll ever get the chance again. "You're my favorite poet" I say, and draw back a bit to see him smile. "And my favorite discovery of the past few years. You inspire the writer in me and I hope to someday see you across the pond, too." Holy shit I got it all out without stumbling. Thank you, vodka. He is grateful. Says it means a lot. Or something. Not sure; I was still pretty nervous. He's thinner than I'd thought. Taller, too. Let's go get pizza, baby. 

5. the pizza

We go to my favorite place, even though it's already late and you have such an early morning. Two huge slices of cheese that we eat on the steps of the El Capitan, as is our tradition. Tim Allen's star at your feet, Roger Ebert's at mine. People watching. You can't beat Hollywood people watching. Post-mortem on the show. You're embarrassed by what you said to him ("Great show, man") because you think it was lame. But it was sweet and perfect. Something magical about seeing him hug you thanks, this stranger who's nevertheless meant so much to me, and you. Two of my favorite musicians. We should have taken a photo, we agree. Together, with him sandwiched in between. A Frankwich. Next time. Maybe across the pond, even. Crust isn't very good tonight. Let's go. But I'm still hungry? Ghiradelli? Yes! But once inside I change my mind. We skedaddle with our free squares of chocolate and head to the station. You are wiped out, poor thing. Way too long a day for you, with way too little sleep.

6. the train

I'm in the most comfortable plastic seat in the world, sinking sleepily into your shoulder. Selfies, in between yawns. You're so damn beautiful. So was tonight.


venice beach

Okay, we've Eastered. Now what? Beach day? We waffle. Kind of cold, swimming would be out of the question. Lay on the sand bundled up? I'm itching for the ocean, but it's also getting late. "I can get us there in half an hour." Fuck it, let's go.


I haven't been to Venice since high school. The intersection we turn at looks exactly the same, the one where we spent our meager teenage dollars on imitation Ray-Bans, leather bracelets, mood rings. Where the oldest looking among us hoodwinked the liquor store cashier into selling him a six pack of Zima. My first hangover. Long live young Thespians.


Whiplash back to the present: a parking attendant is demanding $30 for a spot in a makeshift lot near the main drag. "You're out of your mind," I scoff, but as we start to pull away I call back to him: "Will you take twenty?" It's packed out here today, and I'm antsy to get moving. But Terence thinks he can find street parking, and a few minutes later, he does. I hoist the beach tote, heavy with just-in-case, over my shoulder. Rash guard just in case. Sunscreen just in case. Flip flops just in case. Blanket just in case.



The wind starts my eyes watering immediately. I zip up my jacket, squinting into the already low sun. We get our bearings, taking in the shuffling crowd: colorful locals mixed with tourists and day trippers, teens on bikes, skateboarders. More pit bulls than I've seen in one place, ever.



Slightly more decrepit than I remember but not much different otherwise. Ethnic food every few feet. Souvenir shops spilling slang-covered shirts onto the walkway. "Ratchet 1" catches my eye, an in-joke with neighborfriend. I debate buying it for her while Terence checks out a hooded muscle tank: I FLEXED AND THE SLEEVES FELL OFF. I'd been wanting to find him a fun tank for Bonnaroo - this is perfect. The arm holes aren't too deep and he'll break his hand from the high fives it gets him. We've got spirit, yes we do. We've got spirit, how 'bout you?



A sunburned, dusty looking kid in neon and cargo shorts latches onto us. Store employee - one of several. They work on commission. He's already trying to sell me the "Ratchet" top, saw me laughing at it. Ten years ago I would have given in; the kid is cute and clearly hungry. But today I shake my head. "It'd be a fun gag for about ten seconds, but she'd never wear it." Quite a little racket they've got going in this place: prices vary wildly depending on clothing article and complexity of design. $35 for a beach tee. Eh, it'll be worth it. It'll be fun. God, Bonnaroo. Just around the corner.


Already feeling like we've won, like we've made the trip worth it, we step back out into crowd, getting swept along mindlessly until I spot a sign. Soft-serve ice cream. Yes. Tiny little place, staff scurrying to shove hot dogs and pretzels and slurpees into the hands of hungry children and frazzled parents. Terence gets a corn dog, spraying me with mustard when the pump on the condiment table sticks. I retreat back outside but he comes after me with a fistful of napkins. "Where did I get you?" No matter: I'm already busy with my own mess. Dripping swirls of chocolate and vanilla, melting much too fast considering the cold, as if it knows it's in Southern California, has a reputation to uphold.


We eat besides an outdoor gym: parallel bars and rings and climbing ropes mounted into concrete, inches from the sand. No serious contenders here today, though, just a few toughs in undershirts showing off for their girlfriends, or each other. They shimmy self-consciously up thick cables, refusing to look at anyone when they reach the top or slide back down, obviously pleased with themselves. "Do you think you could do it?" "God no. You?" "Maybe."


I notice the color. Look left at the row of businesses, begging with all their might for attention, see a splashy wonderland. Painted walls, painted plastic. Some of the people beg for attention, too. Spiked hair, spiked shoes, leopard print and leotards. But look right, out towards the water? A desert. Wasteland of grey-beige sand, much of it dusted up into the air, hazing over the sunshine. The beach looks barren.


We notice the sound: the wind, whooshing through palm trees whose fronds are lifted and flattened as if against a wall, on the ocean side. Here away from the crowd it's all you hear. We look at one another, marveling at this small thing.


Snacks consumed, we amble on in search of - what? More food? Sights? Not sure. We just amble. The sidewalk grows narrow and chokes up with foot traffic; we skirt along on the browning, brushy grass hill beside. So many dogs! I smile down at them as if they'll notice my appreciation. Mastiff sighting! Huge, wrinkly, pensive looking as he watches passerby. "He must have had his smarts brought up too high", a reference to our practice of rubbing Chaucy's "smart bump" every morning in accordance with what he'll need that day.



Cluster of actual sit-down restaurants. I don't feel like shopping around; there are too many people, it's starting to feel complicated, let's just go here. So we go here. Outside table, sure, we can seat you right away - only there's no alcohol served outside. Hm, okay.


We're arguing. Are we arguing? What happened? What am I annoyed about? Indecision, confusion, we were on a track but you suggested something else. My brain gets overloaded. I want to copilot together. We eat in silence, each nursing a pointless anger. Turkey burger's really good; I feel guilty on top of everything that I'm Not Speaking To You Right Now or I'd share a bite. It's really damn good.


Meal goes mercifully fast, though we bicker a good five minutes more, clomping back down a suddenly sparser path. Maybe everyone heard us fighting and decided to clear off. Don't blame them. But now we're getting somewhere. Something's been unlocked. Was it you? Usually you. You have more keys than me. And now we're hugging, clinging actually, two is stronger than one against this wind. It's made your face red, the wind. Mine too, that means. So goes the selfie.


What are we talking about? Us? Today? The little bump we hit or the landscape of the whole mountain. It doesn't feel like it matters, because we've made ourselves understood. You asked me what I remember from my teenage visit. I told you there was something I wanted, that I didn't get - a piece of jewelry, something cheap and silly that made an impression on me. I'd planned to go back to the shop and buy it but for some reason I didn't. "Let's try to find it," you say. As if we could. But my god how sweet.


For a moment we just stand there, hanging in the space between pain and peace. The wind is a wingman, conspiring to push us together. A guy in dreads stands on a tree stump, silhouetted against the sunset, twirling balls on a rope. What's that called? You see it sometimes at festivals. Just for the fun of it. Just for the thrill of balance and coordination. It must relax the mind. It relaxes me to watch him. A pretty young couple hop up on stumps beside him. He's going to teach them how to do it, I think. But I won't know for sure because now we're in a candy shop.


Gummi bears. Every last motherfucking kind of gummi bear. 


Now. Now we're ready. I unlace my tennis shoes, dropping them into the tote. Holy fuck the sand is cold. But it's an unspoken rule: you have to go to the water, no matter what. Touch it or don't but you have to at least get close to it. Wrapping the blanket around me, trying to anyway. The wind turns it turns into a sail, slowing me down while you charge ahead. Hipstamatic time. I shake and tap, shake and tap. Random pairings of film and lens. You are so photogenic. And you love the seagulls, who make you laugh as we return to the paved walkway. You think they're playing, showing off as they ride the breeze. And they might be, baby. They might be.


The sun is really dipping now, and the temperature. We're dragging our feet back to where we turned in from the street. We should probably go home. I veer off here and there to take pictures. Shake and tap. I've missed this app so much. Why did I ever stop?


And then we hear it. I've been listening for minutes now without realizing, but you extend your hand. Look. Out there. I can't comprehend what I'm seeing. Some mass on the sand, towards the water. Something. I can't understand at first what you do right away: it's a huge group of people. A hundred or more. "It's a drum circle." But I'm incredulous. No way. What? Why? Just a bunch of strangers huddled together like that? "A sunset drum circle," you repeat. "I've seen them here before."


And just like that, we're off, running to join them. Running, running, running, the expanse between us and them feels endless. Why are we running? Because we didn't have a choice, feels like. So dry, blank, cold, colorless even with the sun radiating across the water, rushing now it seems, to say goodnight. You're faster, several feet ahead of me, though you look back and we laugh, breathless. What is this? What's happening? A pair of teenage boys passes us, leaving the beating throng. "You should go in there," they say, smiling big. "It's really fun." They mean the center of everyone, which now that we're upon it is like a slow-shifting animal with a single throbbing heartbeat.


Dozens of drums sound, though we can only see a few. Tambourines. Even a whistle. The crowd is locked in tight in the middle, looser at the edges. We watch, wordless. Women in sarongs sway and whip their hair. Men with crossed arms stand stolidly as if at attention. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible, sneaking a few photos. You hold me, and quietly we agree that this is the closet we'll probably ever get to Burning Man. And that's okay.


Time to go home. The last drops of light stretch our shadows across cold sand. The houses a safe block away from the chaos are cheery yellows and blues, but they look sleepy. One final look back: everything dark save for a daub of pink on the horizon. A short visit, but intense. I'm glad we came.