Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

San Francisco Continued...

Sharing a room again with Erin Wahlberg. Wall-To-Wall, Satan On The Couch and Our Intrepid Explorer. It has been about ten years since we shared a room and here we are again, contemplating bunk beds. This time I get the top bunk. I give thanks that there is a ladder. Unlike in the dorms where there was a lot of shifting and hopping and hoping one didn't die during the attempt of crawling, drunk, into bed.

There are states of exisitence, the endurance of which are distinct. Ways of living that, at the time, you feel like you will never be able to forget. And then you promptly forget them. The years of living with Erin Wahlberg are some of these. Comfort, coziness, maddness and mess all rolled up into one small room. Years of living dangerously in the continous search for Quantum Leap reruns and the best ways to scam more food out of the dining hall. The unphotographed years, the sleepless years, the plumber's years...these are the years that all come flooding back into memory as we enter our room.

Erin's suitcase was already overflowing onto the floor by the time I arrived at the hostel (Elements Hostel, 21st & Mission.) There were 2 sets of bunks in our room. The bottom bunk on the other bed had been claimed by some unknown. She turned out to be cool. Mostly because she left the next day ... and I think that was probably best for her more than us.

First night in town: Veggie burritos and drinks at the bar next door. I think we thought we would stay out all night drinking it up like "the old days." OK, that's probably what I was thinking. It didn't happen like that. In fact, I spilled my first drink all over the bar. Nervous fingers needed cigarettes. But what's there to be nervous about, right? Nothing! Not a thing. Stupid really, overthinking something like this. A weekend, a wedding, a little reune. No thing to think about. Sure. Really though? A little, OK? It's just that it has been so long and so many things are different. But writing in hindsight I realize that the greatest thing about these friends of mine is that nothing is different when we are together. Sure, we are older and wiser in aspects. Events have shaped us. Relationships have added a little something to our step but in our hearts of hearts and our inner most souls we are still the ragtag ramble we were ten years ago. Plus a baby.

My need for a cigarette denied. In a town where there is no smoking anywhere, you can really smell the bar. Body odor, fake leather and stale beer. Tasty and delicious. Not really. But at least my clothes didn't stink at the end of the night. You never think about those things until you pull something out of a suitcase and smell the smoke from your house embedded in the fabric. Instead of staying out all night we called it a rather early evening. We planned to play tourist the next day and tourists need their sleep!

I don't really need to go into the details of travel in San Francisco do I? You can go there. I recommend it. It's a nice town. Wahlberg and I stumbled around in the touristier areas. Ate some crab. Bought some chocolate, took a boat ride around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge as opposed to walking across it.

Of course, by this time, we were running late.

Let me ammend that - because of the lack of surface transit in San Francisco - we were running late. We waited, with about 70 other magooes for a bus that never came. Suckers, the lot of us.

Late for what? Late for the pre-wedding cocktail party! Rush we back to the hostel. Quick shower and change. We know how to do this. And we clean up nice. Back the way we came and up into the ritzy, bay-front hotel.

We recognize no one. Except the groom, he stands about a foot taller and 50 pounds lighter than everyone else in the bar. And here is true testament to how much things stay the same - 4 years since the last time I have seen my Seth and there is no screaming, no yelling, no hopping up and down one foot to the other in excitement. When he spots me, he holds open his arms and embraces me without breaking stride in his conversation...

and whatever for being rude to interrupt. some things are more important damnit...

We drink, we snack, we touch base with some folks we didn't expect to see and then it was over and we were all going to get real food and converge again on the bride and groom's house. It was a short lived visit. Erin and I decline the invitation to join the bachelor bowling party and end up at a bar where someone ELSE we know works.

How was I supposed to know, eight years ago, that the bay area would become such a hotspot for New Paltz graduates? We are everywhere!

More reuning, more drinking, more chatting with friends and strangers alike....but at 2am all the bars close and what's a girl to do?

We sleep.

Tomorrrow we skip ahead a day and go straight to the wedding. Which was beautiful. My travels do not end in San Francisco though. Stay tuned for an indepth look at a family wedding and a little something to do with llamas before the end of the week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Destination: San Francisco

Thursday, September 15 2005
American Airlines Flight 1557
7:30pm Central Time

I depart Chicago on a too warm September afternoon. It threatens to rain until I get to the airport. At which time the threat is fufilled. So, out my window there is nothing to see but clouds. They mask the orange glow of a sunset fading low in the sky as the amplitude of the stars rises.

I travel to San Francisco armed with nostalgia, new clothes and a book pilfered from a pile of Hurricane Katrina donations. Without really thinking about it the music I have brought with me is all college music - Portishead's Dummy, Pixies' Doolittle, Beck's Odelay, Stevie Wonder's Talking Book and some random Stereolab CD.

Sunset revealed in stripes of yellow atop orange. A clear band of color across the sky. Small, but brilliant cities liter the landscape below us. Just part of the patchwork of America.

Consulting the map in the in-flight magazine (Jodi Foster discusses wursts of Berlin.) I determine we must be over...Missouri. Or Kansas.

Portishead Girl sings:

I can't understand myself anymore.
Cause I'm still feeling lonely
Feeling so unholy

I remember when this album was in the daily rotation and made me cry every time.

Passing places to go. All of these towns I always find myself passing over in favor of some other.
There really are lovely parts of Idaho.

The moon a drop of milk on granite countertop. It illuminates a large body of water and homes. Large homes set far apart from each other. Swatches of inpenetrable darkness set between them.
At this height the night
is misty and moonlit.

It is bitter chocolate outside. Even the small lights of cities look muted. They are half asleep while I am full awake. Looking forward to sharing a room, again, with Erin Wahlberg. She the intrepid traveler. Me always and ever reluctant and overpacked.

Tonight is "pre-game"with Erin. Tomorrow we reune with all the others over cocktails and then Seth and Brahmani wed the next day. I will stand witness in my sultry, red dress. Not so far removed but emotionally distanced from the girl seen rarely in photos 1994-1998.

It makes me wonder, all of these weddings but this one in particular, if ever any of us would have believed we'd be where we are today. Ten years ago, well met, under fed and overambitious, did we ever really and truly forsee love and marriage? Weddings and babies?

Ten years ago, at the age of 20, ten years seemed like a long time and 30 sounded old. I don't know if I have an answer to that question myself.

I think that big, glowy blob of light in the distance must be Las Vegas. Which means we are almost there. I don't remember the previous trip to Las Vegas taking this long. Maybe American Airlines is dull. I wonder if First Class is more exciting or if it just has bigger seats.

Without watch
I have no concept of time
Here in the ether.

1 Hour 40 minutes to go.

I am saving Odelay for the last hour of the flight.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Reading From The Letter Of Jen

Dear God,

I read a column in the paper today that said you destroyed those cities on The Gulf Coast because you were tired of all the sinning, and the gambling and the aborting of wee baby fetuses in the many “murder-by-abortion” clinics going on there. Some people seem to think you wrecked havoc down there because you were tired of the parading homosexuals, the beads-for-boobs program and the general lawlessness that seems to go on.

Is that true God? Did you do this as a good faith showing to the Conservative Christians? That is what they are saying. And I am just hoping to clear that up before the holidays. I am pretty sure that if you DID turn out to be that sort of vengeful God you might get fewer phone calls and more bloody, goat carcasses on your doorstep.

If it’s true, the whole thing seems a little unfair. I mean, there is a lot more Sodom and Gomorrah in this country that you haven’t even touched. In fact, you might possibly have exacerbated the situation by making them flee their homes and settle in other states.
What are you going to do if they move “Southern Decadence” up here to…oh, say Cicero Township? Flood those folks out as well? I guess, this being the Mid-West and all, probably more a plague of locusts huh?

God, please don’t take this as sass. I’m not trying to sass you. I am just asking because these are the type of things people are saying about you right now. And I hate to see you get bad mouthed in such a fashion. Especially when you are responsible for so many good things…like rainbows, cookie dough ice cream, and all of those fun gothic cathedrals in Europe.

Perhaps there is a higher reason you have seen fit to put this man on my couch, this couple in my extra bedroom and create this general southern diaspora. I’d like to think of it as a test of the charitable nature of humanity.

We live in a country of excesses. We eat too much, drink too much, buy too many things and consume our natural resources like they come off the shelves at WalMart. And yet it takes a catastrophe the size of a hurricane, or the magnitude of an 8 point earthquake, or the devastation of buildings collapsing before it seems that we are ready to lend aid to our fellow human beings.

Every day on this planet someone is starving, someone is homeless and someone is in need. Every day I pass the same woman sitting outside the 7-11 asking for change. Every day I pass the same old man at the bus stop waiting for a bus that never comes because he has no where else to go.

Now there are about a half a million people with no where else to go and nothing to eat…how do we ignore those numbers?

In closing, God, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t going all vengency-hateful on us. I’d like to ask for another shot at this whole do-gooding thing we read about all the time in That Book. You know That Book…Bible, Koran, Bahgavad Gita, Book of Mormon, Avesta, Torah…whatever you want to call it…they all say the same thing. Be good. Do good things. Play nice and share your toys. I know we’re working on it. Really we are. We’ve just never been very good at the reading comprehension part of tests. So it might take us a little while. In the meantime, if you are going to smite someone I’ve got a short list of corrupt officials and annoying people at work you could start with.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Burying My Head

Is it wrong that i just can't take any more?
I can't watch the news.
I can't listen to the radio.
I can't read the newspaper or look at any more pictures.
I just cannot do it.
Katrina has taken it's toll. All across the country. Way North of the Mason-Dixon line we are all feeling it.
My household prepares for refugees.
My household waits with baited breath for phone calls from loved ones still MIA.
My household is stocking up on snacky cakes, cheesy poofs and hard liquor.

Currently i am sitting at work fighting off a full fledged anxiety attack.

Currently my brain is shutting out the sounds of NPR from the cube next door where they are talking about how long it is going to there's no more room in Houston, how the govenor and the mayor and the state representatives are waiting (like i am waiting) for help, for aid, for the waters to receed. for their city to be on it's way to whole again.

Currently i am crying a little after reading Clover's blog entry about the guy who had to leave his cats behind. Because I could never. And because Bird's dad might have.

Except we haven't heard from Bird's dad so we don't really know what he might or might not have done.
We hope he might not have stayed. As friends stayed, worried about property. Thinking, with somewhat youthful bravado, that they could stick it out.
Becknell where are you?

Currently I am wracking my brain to remember the tricks my therapist taught me to prevent full blown panic. I'm supposed to be tapping fist to my forehead? Or maybe just putting my head down.

Currently Bird's mom makes her way from Georgia to Taos where there is refuge for her. But only her. Everything she owned is gone. I can't imagine how my mom would deal with losing all of her pictures of me, my grandmother, my aunts and uncles and cousins and everyone else.I can't imagine what i would do if i lost all of my books.

Currently i wish i could give everything i have over to everyone who has lost so much.

Currently my job entails keeping track of all the broadcasting locations affected by Hurricane Katrina. The list is long. The list gets longer. The list will be for a long time.

For the future, we have Saints tickets for Christmas eve.
For the future, we were planning to spend Christmas with Bird's family.
For the future, we wonder if there will be a city to christmas in, a house to christmas in, a reason for christmas.
For the future...and it might be a long time coming. But there will be a future.
That city is old. That city is stubborn. That city has way too much of a good time to give up just because of a little water, damnit.
For the future I will drink a long, tall glass of hurricane. I will toast the town and the forces of nature that stack the odds against us all.