Art. Cynicism.

Travis comes to visit me, but I’m blue, and I’m lousy company.  I shrug, and apologize for being in the doldrums.

“My body is broken and so is my heart.  That’s all I’ve got going on right now, and I don’t want to bore anyone with it.”

He tells me that people aren’t bored by me, and that everything has just happened, and is still happening, and really though, it’s ok.  I breathe out a sigh and let all my feelings of inherent failure out with it.

“I never knew what to expect for the future, you know?  I wasn’t a kid with a plan, ‘I’ll be a teacher, or a social worker, or an engineer.’  I never wanted kids, but I thought eventually, I’d love someone, they’d love me back, and we’d stick together.  Or I’d have a successful job that I truly loved.  I just figured by the time I was this old, I’d know at least one thing.”

“People are assholes.  That’s a thing.”

God bless Travis.  He can always make me smile.

Travis hates museums.  Just absolutely hates them.  But because I can’t sit down, hang gliding is too expensive, the zoo is forty minutes away, and the universe seems to hate him, I manage to convince Travis that we should go to MOCA, and check out contemporary art.

I love contemporary art because it can be horrible.  I love it because I neither feel the need to enjoy it or respect it.  I can love it, hate it, be completely transfixed, or call it a piece of dogshit (which it might literally be) and go on with my day.  I enjoy wielding this power.  There is an hour long video of someone chainsawing a post.  There’s a room full of sinister clowns weeping in terror over a dead naked body.  My favorite, however, is a disco ball sitting on top of a cheap orange wig in the middle of the floor.  That’s it.  That’s the entire fucking installation.  I’m feeling bad for the saps who volunteer to spend their days guarding these abominations for fear we might touch them.

In one room we enter, it’s dark, full of couches and sledgehammers.  There are headphones for us to listen in and a video projecting on the wall.  We listen.  Teenage girls’ faces turn blue, then pink, screaming, cracking mirrors, looking vapid, talking about denim and makeup and boys in high pitched autotuned, sped up voices.  I yank the headphones off and turn to Travis.

“Ugh,” I say, “It’s like…. dating.”

The guard at the door loses it.  Just loses it.  Doubles over and grabs his knees, laughing out loud.

“You need to stop dating in Los Angeles,” says Travis.

He’s right, and we both know it.  So we do what any reasonable, single people pushing thirty in the city would do.

We leave immediately, and go get beer.

Complex

I was in Costa Rica with Michelle for 10 days.

In ten days you talk.

A day of frothy rum drinks and too much sun leads to the tumbling of secrets as we dig our toes into the sand and lean across our beachfront table towards each other. We talk about how I stood on a short board, the potency of her anger at her absent father, how even I don’t approve of the guy I’ve been seeing.

We talk about my desire to be loved. About my relationship with my mother.

“You’re… complex.”  She said.

I’m glad she said complex instead of complicated. I’m only complicated if you’re trying to solve me. Undo me and put me into neat little piles. If you want to know me – to swivel, pull, lick, grab, beg, and wonder… then I am complex. A messy past and a hopeful future.  A mismatched barricade hobbled together out of thrift store furniture. A Cubist painting with a sideways smile you could never appreciate unless you’re up close and in person.

I don’t need to be simple. I am what I am. I just don’t want a lack of simplicity to be treated as an error that needs correcting.

I am what I am.

And I am, it seems, complex.

Happy

Today, I’m thankful for the girls that make me laugh harder than anyone in the world.

For motorcycles and chocolate chip cookies.  For Amsterdam and new beginnings.  For new books and gold nail polish.  For laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing.  For three in one fitting room, laughing out in roars and ugly clothes, “no, bend over, you have to make sure it fits!  Bend farther!  Bounce up and down!”  until our sides shudder and our cheeks hurt from the laughter.  Until we’ve started to cry laughing from “pretending” we like kale so much it hurts.  Until we all tragically lose or tragically win a game of beer pong.  Until we all drive home safe and happy and together again for one more good night’s sleep.

The times they may be changing, but the best things seem to stay the same.

Today we rode through Green Valley, even though it wasn’t green.  The bike is small, just a starter, but it’s everything to us.  A representation of times gone by but yet to come, a past and a future.  A reminder of the vast expanse of things hinted at for the last twenty years.  I climbed on the back and felt the vibrations so hard I could have sworn my limbs had fallen asleep into pins and needles.

Freedom.

I dip my head back and taste the sky.  Today is a good, good day.

The wind whips at my helmet.  The sun scorches down on our backs.  We rumble and tuck between the hills and I realize that I’m feeling lucky.  Yesterday the ikea catalogue came (unrequested) to my mailbox, and I felt my fists flying and had the urge to burn down my apartment.  The first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club.  I’m getting back to basics.  Feeling primitive and decorating with dirt.  I’m painting the Swiss Alps on my refrigerator.  I’m writing a novel.

I dance around the room, shadow boxing.  Punch and pull, float and fly, I’m ripping my enemies to shreds.  It’s four in the morning and I’ve conquered yesterday and am part way through tomorrow.  Lemme at ‘em.

Today is a good day.  I’m all power and fire and light.  There’s no stopping me.  I am Alan fucking Ginsburg, I am Susan B. Anthony, I’m every woman, it’s all in me.

Some moments you know you really can do anything.  Some loves really can conquer all.  Sometimes, if you peel off all of the layers you gained getting knocked around and jaded, you find the passions that ultimately save you.  Sometimes just a touch is enough.  I am fire in the sky, I am Natalie fucking Portman, I am the kiss you’ll always remember.

The first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club.  The second rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club.  The secret of fight club is all the stuff you can’t talk about (I am Voltaire!) so I’m stripping myself free of the extraneous, and climbing on for the ride.  The wind whistles through my helmet.  Today the happiness soars through me.  I’m rummaging through old pictures in my head.   I am seeking out the obvious.  I am thanking my lucky stars.  I am Jonathan Frazen, I am Elvis and Oprah, I am oblivious to anything that gets in my way.

Maybe this happiness is crazy, but I’ll take it.

Dead Offer

I have a lot of medical bills.

I have a lot of medical bills and a lot of insurance paperwork and a lot of paystubs, and it’s year end, I’m trying to get organized.  I pull out my filer that I haven’t used in ages, and I start to whittle down the crap I can throw out.  This apartment could use a good scrub and an interior downsizing.

I plow my way through the first few categories – old photos, credit card statements, until I find a file that says “Dead Offers”. In the state of California, as a real estate agent, you are required to keep copies of everything you’ve submitted to anyone in the business for three years, including offers you fiercely negotiated and painstakingly drafted that just never got past someone’s outdated fax machine.  We call these denied or ignored pieces of paper “dead offers”.  I don’t know why you are required to keep them. You just are. I sold in late 2009 and now it is 2013. It’s time for the purge.

I thumb through the green file folders, yanking manila envelopes and stuffing them into the trash… and then I do something stupid. I slow down and start opening the files. What if something I need is stuck in there? What if there’s a reference I’ll want to remember? What if I still have a live, useful contact? I thumb through the packages and remember. The first house I sold, three weeks in, intense with pride and the rush of a bigger check than I’d ever seen on paper. The stupid family who backed out of the perfect townhome at the last second, dead set on home after home 100 grand more than they could afford or be approved for.

And then I saw it.

Jonathan and Cynthia Swanson. I run my fingers over the pages and in between, pouring over the ink… blue… proving it’s an original and not just a copy. His hands were here. His signature, illegible and ugly, but his.

They say everyone copes with grief in a different way. Some wail and cry and beg and bargain. Some twist inward with suffering, Degas ballerinas crumpled in the dark. I cope with grief the same way I cope with everything. Fists flying, jaw clenched, tears streaming down my face. The height of irrational-ism. The epitome of fury. The excruciating, futile fight.

I have a photo of the two of us together, my sophomore year of highschool. It’s a prom photo, him in a rented tux, my cabbage green dress – the only thing I could find in Los Angeles small enough to fit – and a background that looked like vomit. He wasn’t my date, but we took the photo anyway. We, of course, are smiling.

You never think anyone around you is going to die young, but you certainly don’t think that the person spending every other night at your dinner table, annoying you with the sound of his video games, making you laugh until you squirt milk out of your nose is ever going to be gone. The yin to a yang, the half of my brother that eats lunch on the back benches, the one who stays up late as we laugh into the night, writing jokes for the talent show. He’s simply there, woven right in. How could you possibly remove him? Won’t the whole thing unravel?

When he was dying, we took out every video we had in that house.  We, the ones taking shifts in his room day and night, playing cards, baking meatloaves, buying icecream, taking turns sleeping on the floor… we watched each play, each talent show, each school video with laughter and love.  I felt my heart swell, a water balloon begging to burst, watching him healthy on a screen when less than twenty feet away from us, intubated and suffering, he clung on.  The nurse came on Monday and told us to stop.  Stop playing, stop laughing, stop trying to make it light.  He can hear you, and he doesn’t want to go.  Be quiet, be quiet.  Let him go.  We silenced ourselves – sitting outside in the blistering August heat – hoping to be out of earshot.  Hoping we could help him let go.

There was a point near the end when everyone went in together.   We never really knew how much time we had, so we tried not to overwhelm him, but we would talk to him, stroke his arm or his hair, listen to music, and just stay close. When everyone went in together, I sat with Cindy. Twenty-five years old, blonde and wispy voiced with a baby not yet one year old.  She was gentle and sweet – and an iron trap. Holding it all together in a way that was eons from my body wrecking, car screaming, hate spewing fury.   With everyone else in the room saying goodbye, we sat on the couch and she let me hold her hand for a minute, as just for the smallest moment, the pressure away, she let herself cry.

You signed on the dotted line for a house, a husband, a father, a partner. You signed for the baby soon to grow in your belly, for the two dogs and the cat. You signed the package for your future, ever so carefully reviewed and revised, and with all of the boxes checked, sent it in for acceptance from the other side.

And all it was was a fucking. dead. offer.

Nineteen

The first time I heard this song, you were stretched out on your back in the emptied out shell of Charlie’s van.  The three of us had stayed out all night, and come sun up, bleary-eyed and drunk on adventure, you were driving me back to my dorm room.  Lying down in the spot where the chairs should have been but weren’t, you had your eyes shut and were mouthing the words along to the music with this smile on your face.  I had never heard the song before, but instantly felt lovely – overwhelmed in some confusing, ridiculous, catastrophic teenage emotion that really, I still don’t understand.  Ten years later, give or take…. to this very day; any time I hear it, I imagine you silently mouthing the words in the back of a van, and me, nineteen and stupid, twisting around from the front seat to look at you, smiling at your quiet lipsync as the two of you ride us towards home.

Things I Learned When I was 21

A few weeks before my twenty second birthday, I decided to write a list of the things I had learned in the previous year.  Year after year I look back to this list, and laugh not only at how true it remains, but how reflective it is of being precisely twenty one years old.  It was a time of discovery and stupidity.  I had a lot of both.  I like to re-post this each year to remind myself of where I was, and where I’m going.

THINGS I LEARNED WHEN I WAS TWENTY-ONE

Wherever I go, there I am. Disappointing, but true.

The best way to get free ANYTHING is to go out dressed as a naughty nurse.

Working full time and simultaneously attending school full time is the death of everything you hold dear. Only do that if you enjoy watching all of your health, sanity, and relationships deteriorate.

Travel. Travel travel travel. There is so much world out there and you can’t die knowing that you didn’t bother with most of it. Go get you some.

Drinking a third of a bottle of Jäger in a bathroom stall will not necessarily make you vomit, but downing a Guinness immediately afterwards will probably put you over the edge.

Hot tubs, S’mores, margaritas, high heels, bikinis, and my girls are the stuff dreams are made of.

It isn’t worth seeing the greatest sights in the world with people who don’t care about you, it’s a wasted opportunity for a grand adventure.   Experience life with those who love you, otherwise it’s not worth living.

Mono sucks. I mean really really really sucks.

Love is in the touch of a friend.

If you see your ex’s parents, be super nice to them. What goes around comes around.

Garages can be comfy places to live. Better than cars anyway. Make friends with spiders.

Double Decker busses, like everything else in life, will only get old if you let them.

My mom is an all-seeing, all knowing being.

It shouldn’t be too scary being who you really are, because those that love you best, love you no matter what you do, say, believe, or don’t believe.

Europe really is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Body boarding might rip your nose ring out, but it’s still totally worth it.

Every good relationship should have a million inside jokes, including but not limited to barn animal names, salty nut sundaes, Scrumsquatullating, “Space chair”, putting Johnny Depp in Princess Sophia for a little ride, and bumpin’ knees with nacho cheese.

Change is inevitable, and often painful. Buck up. Run into it with fists flying and make it suit you. Embrace that which you don’t understand because it still happens to be what you’ve got. If all else fails, buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, get your cat, call a friend, and watch a movie with explosions instead of a romance.

Nothing compares to a lazy day spent laughing over old family guy episodes while drinking beer and eating pizza with your favorite British person.

Tanning beds give you cancer, but even your parents will tell you that you look great.

Catching bouquets at weddings should be avoided at all costs. Even if they hit you in the chest.

It turns out the best thing my momma ever taught me was that you can get upgraded tires with a delicate mixture of tears and cleavage. Thanks mom.

Don’t kiss everyone you know on New Years just because it’s New Years. January 2nd, things might feel awkward.

College has a four year way of neatly wrapping itself up. Bands break up, friends get married, and everyone starts packing.

Mistakes are just that. Mistakes. Tattoos on the other hand, are permanent etchings on your body.

Your ex-boyfriends are your EX-boyfriends for a reason.

You will get hurt, badly, playing football in a hallway.

It’s bad to make the same mistake over and over expecting that it will work out well this time.

Family is the best thing to ever happen to me.

Mayonnaise on french fries actually isn’t all that bad.

The dorms are all fun and games until you’ve been living there for four years. Free rent can only get you so far.

Politicians, the guy who fixes my tires, and the ring finger on my right hand are crooked. There are some things we all just have to learn how to live with.

Everyone should find a person who will have adventures with them and cling to that person for the rest of their life. The mundane is a slow and painful death. Creativity is like a sunrise every second.

Nobody should ever have to live anywhere without access to, or the ability to make a little music.

It’s a bad idea to admit what you’re thinking most of the time. It’s only going to get you into trouble.

School is just not that important.

Laughing loud enough to get kicked out of somewhere is a GOOD thing.

Always live somewhere that has a bathroom.

Butt charades is an effective means of communication.

Plastic purses can effectively carry all the sand you might ever want from the beach to your dorm room.

Studio apartments =   

Long distance relationships =   :<

No bar in America truly knows how to make a snakebite.

Fanny means vagina in England.

The best things in life are free, but it costs a lot in gas money and airplane tickets to get to those things.  😉