Thursday, April 22, 2010
She was talking about her husband and lamented his wide-eyed naivete about people.
"Ahhh," she sighed, "It's because he's a Virgo."
"Really?" I said excitedly and then blurted, "Is that why I am the way I am?" I didn't explicitly explain what I meant, but she knew: I want to know why I trust people so fully and so readily.
"Oh yes," she said, "Yes, it's in your nature. You can't help it."
I felt a softening of relief.
"I'm relieved by that," I admitted. "Because I've been thinking lately about how, despite being burned so badly by people in my past, I haven't learned anything from it."
"No." She countered, more serious and lucid than I typically see her. It was as if she snapped into focus and really wanted me to understand this one thing. "No. You have learned from it. From all of it."
"You think?" I push her.
"Yes yes. It just hasn't changed the way you see people: you don't want to see the world that way. You believe that people are generally good. Don't lose that. Don't turn into me- always thinking someone's out to her her."
Could she be right?
As much as I want to be hardened, to be learned, and to carry my scars as a reminder, I am honestly surprised by the very little amount of resentment or distrust I harbor, even towards the people who have taken advantage of me. I have had a wicked suspicion lately that this is due to stupidity, or a vicious fog of denial, but perhaps it is a pure and simple desire to have faith in people.
This goes against every opportunity I've seized in the past to vocally philosophize about how futile it is to place hope in humanity, and even contradicts any present logical conclusions I arrive at regarding human nature on the whole: we, as humans, fail each other every day. For evidence, watch the local news, an episode of The Jersey Shore, or any number of mid-day talk shows (I think the people on Judge Judy make me the saddest).
But while I intellectually know this to be true, that humans act poorly and it is our regular and base state of being, I don't think it's our intended state. We've made it our natural comfort zone, but the potential for goodness and truth and beauty exists in each of us. We might need a lot of help, but I don't know how to believe that some people are beyond help.
I'm no adherent to Astrology, and recognize that this tendency of mine is part nature, but also due in part to my nurture. I have recently learned only in the last couple years that I can not only count myself lucky for this, but unique. So many of my wise, brave, smart friends were shaped by selfish mothers or lying fathers (or combinations of the two). These friends had to learn early on that people lie, cheat, and steal to benefit themselves, even at the cost of other loved ones.
So I know about these things. I watch the news and I read the headlines and I hear from people I love about all the ways in which other people hurt them, and I myself have had enough experience of my own to know better. Which is why I have been starting to feel guilty and stupid about my self-diagnosed inability to "learn from my mistakes" because that's the only time they're worth anything right?
But Diana is helping me to see that maybe it's not a curse, but a gift. And my unwillingness - not "inability"- to villainize people for their actions doesn't mean I have to villainize myself. A line from a letter calls out to me:
"You're a caring, smart, and wonderful person. You're only guilty of that, not being tricked or incapable."
A therapist once told me to examine my past for things, "red-flags" she called them, that I'd deliberately ignored or let slide. And I tried to internalize these things. But honestly, presented with a situation now, where I cared as much as the ones in the past, I can't say I'd do anything any differently. I acted in love, and if that's the worst thing I can say, I can live with that.
Around that time I even had this conversation with my mother, who, in trying to console me, gently cajoled something to the effect of, "Well, maybe you've learned you just can't trust people," and I, sobbing, replied, "That is NOT a world I want to live in."
Diana offered me the validation I've been seeking on the matter. I know she can be downright dotty, but, I happen to know she's dead right on this one.
Because I trust her.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Which, as you can imagine, really elevates the awkwardness level. (See graphic for reference).
When I first started here, I obviously had no desire to talk about work at the occasional office-birthday lunch. If you recall, I was also asked out by someone, and then basically hounded by a love-crazed Indian man who just wanted some relationship advice. Those experiences are really what led to my ratcheting up the out-of-office-contact drawbridge and filling the moat with professionalism.
But, almost two years later, now, I spend eight hours a day with these people. I know and like our clients. I know what’s going on in most of my co-worker’s lives, to a certain extent (kids names and their frequent visits to principal’s offices; which ones have choir practice and which work on their boats on the weekends; who works second jobs tending bar; who got the best deals at the tire store… that kind of thing). These personal details only just barely dispel the social tension that permeates the room when we get together in a venue that doesn’t involve a conference table.
It might just be the personality of the Business Analyst. It might be that many of them work 8 hours a day at the office and then check their email until midnight and they’ve warped their minds.
It is possible they are just odd people.
So Friday afternoon around 3:30 saw us all pack up our laptops and head to Julio’s casa for a fiesta. His lovely wife Angelica spent the better part of the day cooking for us, and we were all very grateful for her efforts, and the food, mainly because it allowed us to eat instead of trying to talk to each other. To add to matters of painful interaction, we have two teetotalers in the pack.
Never one to succumb to peer pressure, I snagged a margarita and stuck my beer into the provided cooler. And then I got a big plate of Spanish rice, tortillas, shredded chicken, guacamole, black beans, and whatever else I could find on the table. Whenever there was a lull in conversation (so, every two minutes or so) I would take a sip of my drink or a bite of food.
After a couple of hours of this, I was completely stuffed and totally tipsy.
Julio had more to drink than I, and at the insistence of one of the sober gals, TURNED ON THE KARAOKE MACHINE. I mean, why wouldn’t he?
One impressive fact about all of this is that the karaoke machine’s song catalogue was composed of half English-language songs, and half Spanish selections. Even more impressive was Julio and Claudia’s rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock”, en Espagnol. Daphne sang Diana Ross and Gladys Knight; Melissa sang a Beatles tune; Roger chose the fairly impossible “Love Shack” by the B-52s and I had to screech/wail the girl parts; Mike said he had to go but we forced him into Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” which was probably a mistake. I reclaimed the microphone for “Bohemian Rhapsody” (backup vocals from Julio) and all the while… this was not getting any less uncomfortable. It is hard enough to muster the confidence to sing your favorite shower-practice song in a loud, crowded bar – so sitting in someone’s living room with your half-dozen half-drunk, half-sober co-workers, singing to a sped up MIDI file, is a profoundly embarrassing and humiliating activity.
But maybe my brain is warped now too, after all the nine-to-fiveing… because I think I actually had fun.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Did you take good care of yourself?
Did you "see what love can do and dare"?
I did: a very close family friend, and one of the single most lovely people on this good earth, is battling her Nth bout with cancer. It just keeps coming back, and she keeps beating it...but of course it is frustrating, exhausting, and spirit-crushing.
We're part of a small-group that's doing a Bible study, and the love and support of this group has been pouring out steadily. In a society that is self-centered, often shallow, and obsessed with meaningless pursuits (not to mention how this appears daily in my own life) it is very moving and humbling to witness friends take such good care of each other. Love is binding, healing, and hopeful.
This week's challenge #3, then, is to do something small for someone else.
Buy the person behind you in line a cup of coffee; write a small note to a co-worker or someone you see everyday but typically take for granted; leave a bigger tip than usual; pick up a little gift for a loved one (their favorite magazine, candy bar, a 6-pack of a good microbrew).
I think we all do nice things for people most days of the week, but I want to be intentional about it this week.
Examples of notes you can leave:
Monday, April 12, 2010
Now in the middle of April, I have reverted to my gobbling and guzzling habits, leaving no strip of bacon, and no glass of Malbec, untouched.
The Redhead and I have taken up tennis (stop laughing) basically in direct reponse to our other new commitment: visit a new brunch place each Saturday.
Last weekend, we ate at Everett St. Bistro in the Pearl District.
1140 NW Everett Street
Portland, Oregon 97209
(Image from VJ_PDX on Flickr)
I had heard wonderful things from friends about this French-style bistro, who serves Stumptown Coffee, and at which you can buy freshly crusty baguettes and assorted cheeses, but I wasn't sure it would be a conducive environment for a lazy morning in no rush to get to the bill.
I was so wrong.
The Redhead and I ordered Joe’s Special (spinach and sauteed garlic scrambled eggs and topped with shaved parmesan) and then some delicious sea salt and olive-oil waffle treat topped in bacon crumbles. We eat, and swap half way through the meal.
This weekend, we tried Junior's Cafe. It doesn't appear to have a website, but it does have a new chef.
(Image by Andrea McCorckle on Flickr)
1742 SE 12th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97214
We sat outside, at one of two rickety tables, and it was honestly a little too cold to do so, but the hot coffee kept coming. The Redhead ordered the sweet ("Yummy French Toast" topped with "organic banana" (plus) and some yogurt I could have done without (minus)); I got the savory (a spinach/pesto/roasted red pepper scramble with some seasoned taters and wheat toast slathered in butter).
The other thing I've been busy digesting (other than Mexican food, which I honestly managed to eat for no less than SEVEN meals last week somehow?) is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.
It is approximately 500 pages covering the birth of the universe and, I am assuming, bringing us to the time of the book's publication (2003). Not a particularly science-minded girl, this presented itself as a scary challenge to me. The good news? Bryson himself is not science-minded, so the book reads basically as a Cosmology for Dummies.
I borrowed it from a friend, thus am not at liberty to loan it out when finished, but if you have a gap in your reading schedule, I would recommend buying it on Amazon, or finding it at the library (remember those things?).
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Always a fan of all things Black Keys, including this rad new teaser from their next Danger Mouse produced album, Brothers, set to drop (legally) May 18.
The video is dumb, but the song is bomb.
Another folk/indie supergroup, Gaygns brings us a Kenny G inspired slow jam? Whatever, if it features Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) vocals (which it does), then I'm in. Gayngs - "The Gaudy Side of Town"
And, new(ish) from The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
Thanks to Pitchfork for the heads' ups. Check out their Forkcast for free songs alllways.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
It is his nineteenth birthday, today, and I wanted to write him something he could look back on later and feel good about. I wanted to tell some funny stories and make some observations and to tie it up lovingly without gushing, but for whatever reason, it is too hard. He’s such a complex person that I don’t know how to even talk about him to people without a lot of, “well, yes and no”s, and, “kind of, but not really?”s and “he can be, but, isn’t always” sorts of nuanced caveats. Part of it may be that I don’t have a lot of distance from him (physically or otherwise, these days, since we are currently sharing a bedroom wall, a bathroom, and the DVR box). Part of it is that I don’t know who he is really, and I think mainly, he’s not sure who he is, either. More, he’s not confident in the amazing person he can become.
We are very different in some respects, and practically identical in others:
I am an extrovert; he is an introvert.
I love to immerse myself in new and strange experiences; he likes to immerse himself in the sectional sofa in the bonus room and play Xbox.
I trust and generally respect authority; he questions, probes, and pushes it.
I jump through hoops because it’s easy; he says “to hell with your hoops” and wants to know why it’s being asked of him.
I do things assuming they have merit; he has to see the merit in something before doing it.
He played varsity sports; I lettered in choir, art, and leadership.
He expects people to have a sense of humor about everything; I am typically wary of upsetting people.
We both love words and are talented at vocabulary games (Boggle, Scrabble, etc). We both struggle in math. We both are really into finding and listening to good music (mainly indie rock and electronic for me; hip-hop for him). We both roll our eyes at the dinner table at the same things (Mom’s confusion about the difference between “doing a 180” and “doing a 360”; Dad’s long-winded jokes with the flubbed punchlines ) and we both laugh at the dinner table at the same things (Mom’s stories about the cute kids at work; Brother’s constant insertion of Family Guy plotlines into serious political or humanitarian discussions; Dad’s good college stories). We both miss our dog, Keats. We both want to have lots of kids so they can have each other in a larger family than we managed to be a part of.
The thing is, he’s had some pretty heavy health complications in recent years which have coincided with the already decidedly difficult process of becoming a young man. It has been supremely hard to watch him suffer this injustice. I have faith that he will come out of this stronger, deeper, and better but sometimes, he doesn’t have that clarity or confidence. So today, for his birthday, I am going to wish 19 things for his future.
Nineteen things I couldn’t wrap up with a bow; nineteen things he might not even know to ask for; nineteen things to which he can look forward.
1. I hope you can wake up in the morning and feel excited about tackling the day.
2. I hope you start to write more, so we can have the privilege of knowing what’s going on in your head.
3. I hope you stop worrying so much.
4. I hope you find a girl that makes you feel like the most important man on earth.
5. I hope that you will attend the college of your choice.
6. I wish for you a college experience that teaches you about others, about the world, about yourself, and about the important distinctions between Coors Light and Bud Light.
7. I wish for you a college graduation.
8. I wish you a fulfilling career or series of jobs that taps into your sensitive heart, your sense of humor, and your skills as a deep thinker.
9. I wish that you would discover the merits of a varied and well-cultivated wardrobe (not that I don’t love your white tees, it’s just…they so plainly reveal your affinity for ketchup).
10. I wish you the desire for more.
11. I wish that you would learn how to operate a vacuum. Or a dishwasher. Or a washing machine.
12. I hope for you that Kraft continues to develop microwavable foodstuffs, so that you never go hungry.
13. I wish that you would actually record and release the Ill Advised Mixtape.
14. I wish that you will soon see yourself as the handsome, unstoppable, smart, worthy person the rest of us see.
15. I wish (okay, for us both) that the second part of Metalocalypse Season 3 would hurry up and air.
16. I wish for you to be my future kids’ favorite uncle (so far, you’re the default, but you never know what kind of in-laws I could end up with).
17. I wish for you the interest in, and opportunity to, travel and see this great big small world we live in.
18. I wish for you the perspective, someday, on the absolute blessing our parents are, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. They are really really cool people.
19. I wish you health. And joy. And a full, bright, tomorrow.
Happy birthday, brother.
And, of course: I love you.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Trying something new every day for a while helped to get me through some difficult times, but I eventually got to a place where I didn't need the distraction, and some of the new things I did generated so many other projects, time commitments, and engagements that I didn't need to focus on it anymore.
It's still important to be goal-oriented, though.
We'll start easy.
Challenge #1: Do something for yourself this week!
Watch that baseball game even if the dishes are dirty.
Get a massage.
Bring treats to the office and have one yourself.
Let yourself read a trashy magazine instead of a brain-stimulating non-fiction textbook for twenty minutes.
I bought myself flowers for $3.99 at Trader Joe's and they will brighten my whole week.
Challenge #2: "See what love can do and dare"
Okay, I know there are two here, but I figured we could start out with a bang. Plus, this is a good one to do always.
The challenge actually comes from a hymn we sang in church this week on Easter Sunday.
The accompanying music is from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, "Ode to Joy" and it really resonated with me. Regardless of our beliefs or reason for our own odes to joy, I think it's a beautiful mantra for one's week:
Friday, April 2, 2010
I accepted gratefully, and so on Tuesday, I started to wonder: what if tonight, this night, is the night I get to meet John Mayer again? What if the fates align, and we actually get to hang out for real this time, and he remembers us? What if we take him up on that rain-check to catch a midnight show, and he is taken by my charming wit and my totally cool demeanor and thinks I'm HILARIOUS and wants to hang out with me ALL THE TIME? What if he’s not as much of a douchebag in person as everyone says he is? WHAT IF WE ARE MEANT TO MEET AGAIN!?
And then, magically, things started to align…
First, on that October day, 9 years ago, I happened to have pulled on some socks that may or may not have been Halloween themed (okay, they were). At the in-store performance, since Katy and I were basically sitting at his feet as he played, John leaned over and asked about the socks, interrupting my mortifying show-&-tell only to show us his own, purple striped socks. This Tuesday, in March, I am housesitting and have with me only one pair of socks: they are, fatefully, Easter themed. This either bodes well for my day, or means I need to grow up and get some real socks.
Second, Katy and I go to dinner, and everything on the menu is 50% off. What!? Yeah, HALF OFF! No, really. I eat myself into a near sushi-coma, and then we drive to the Rose Garden where we, again, fatefully, find a REALLY good parking spot. The only problem is that my wee Ford Focus is about 3 inches too big to fit between the SUV in front of us, and the two-wheeled, car-sized trailer parked behind.
“What is that thing even DOING parked here?” Katy asks in annoyance.
“I don’t know,” I say, “But, what happens if you just, you know, put a shoulder into it?”
I am joking, but Katy actually tries it, and to our total shock and amazement, she moves it about a foot backward, creating more than enough room for me to park. We are terribly pleased with ourselves.
THEN, after obtaining beer for ourselves in the arena, we head to our seats. The Rose Garden has a capacity of roughly 19,500 people for Trail Blazer games. Tonight, all the 300-level seats are closed, as well as a portion behind the stage, leaving what Katy and I estimate to be around 11,000 or so people at the show. I also know of only 3 other people going to this concert, making the odds of me sitting next to someone I know approximately 3 in 11,000, or a VERY SMALL PERCENT CHANCE.
Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I sit down RIGHT NEXT TO The Redhead’s mom.
“SHUT. UP.” I deadpan.
“YOU ARE KIDD-DING ME!” she shouts.
This series of well-timed and lucky occurrences is only adding good energy to that vibe in the back of my mind that I am trying not to look at head on, lest it disappear like a star. I cannot help but truly believe that the Universe is on my side, and the night could very easily go anyway I so desire.
This is cemented once the show starts. Katy remarks to me that in the seven times she’s seen Mayer live, he’s never played her favorite song, “Comfortable.” I am about to bet fifty dollars he doesn't play it.
And then, he does.
You know what happens next- can’t you feel it? The whole day has been leading up to it.
We decide to make the most of our mojo, and, after the show, plot the most direct route to where we assume the tour buses will be. We fluff our hair, stand up tall, and stride down halls and through the parking garage, down cement stairs, and down an inclined driveway. And there we see them: about a dozen tour buses, semi trucks, vans, and vehicles.
Our eyes widen, we slow, and Katy turns to me to say, “Well. They’ve come a long way since that 15-passenger van with the Ralph Wiggum window sticker, huh.”
We join the other hopeful hangers-on: only a handful, really, leaning on a cement wall, peering across a lane or two of driveway, and through two chain-link fences, woven in black plastic so you could barely see through them. Rose Garden security mills around, half-assedly trying to get us loiterers to leave:
“If you’re waiting for John Mayer, he already left. Got on one of them grey buses there and took off right away.”
Katy and I ignore him and survey the scene.
We are the eldest of the group, by a solid four or five years.
We are also not sure at all from where John and crew will emerge to actually get to these buses. In fact, even if they go a semi-roundabout route, our efforts in getting him to notice, acknowledge, and approach us will have to be monumental, not to mention monumentally embarrassing and drastic.
“Alright, so, you know if he does actually come out here, we’re going to have minimal time to actually get his attention, so I think we need to maximize our efficiency with word choice,” Katy posits, verbalizing my actual thoughts. “What is the shortest combination of words that would achieve this?”
This is the eloquent phrase on which we were pin our hopes.
And then, a funny thing happens. I play out, in my head, just what exactly, I think, is going to transpire. All my brilliant conversations I have planned are definitely meant for a corner table in a dark bar over drinks. What am I going to do, now, here? Ask to get onto the tour bus? Have him sign my friggin’ ticket stub? Have him look me straight in the face and have no idea that we have ever met? I mean, the poor guy has over THREE MILLION people following his Twitter account, hanging on his every word and always asking and pecking and wanting something from him. I see myself as he will see me: just another rabid fan.
He just came out and played for thousands of people, not to mention a mostly acoustic set in a very intimate way; a set rife with old favorites and memories and he did this for people like us. It’s a career I don’t think I could ever handle: there are choices involved that say, “I am hereby relinquishing control of my privacy, my free-time, my innermost thoughts and goals, and I am handing them to you all.”
Up on stage, effortlessly dismantling “Assassin” from his newest album, Battle Studies, it occurrs to me how separate he appeared. He was trying so hard to give something to everyone in a really personal way, and I think he achieved that, but in other ways, he was so isolated. That is a guy that can only ever date the Jennifer Anistons and Jessica Simpsons of the world, I realized; a guy that can get away with recording a cover of a Jimi Hendrix song on an album; a guy that gets interviewed in Playboy magazine and then probably takes home the centerfold.
“It’s been a long time since 22…” echoes in my thoughts, a line from another Battle Studies song. And for him, it really truly has been. It’s hard enough to see anyone you care about grow without you; even more daunting can be recognizing growth in yourself. I don’t need the same things anymore, either, and it has certainly been a long time since fifteen.
Katy and I turn to each other with sheepish expressions: “Ready to go?” I ask.
“Yup.” She says.
So we leave without knowing what would happen if we stay, but what we can guess at, we are not sad to be missing.
The luck and the socks and the parking and the cheap sushi all amounted to a revelation that we already got the perfect night, nine years ago; that being a fan now doesn’t mean getting rewarded for any kind of devotion, but being happy for his success. That we’re all older, and all different, and it doesn’t have to be better or worse.
And that, besides, after declaring me to be his secret girlfriend, John Mayer never technically broke up with me.
So as just another rabid fan, sure - he doesn't owe me anything. But, John, come on- as a girlfriend? I mean, you at least owe me the courtesy of a face-to-face breakup.
I think we can agree on that.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
That was the first time I heard John Mayer.
Hellbent on spreading his gospel, I joined an online message board, bought albums, burned copies for friends, and traded live shows with other fans who could not get enough of this young, phenomenal guitar player from Atlanta with the voice of melted chocolate.
I was fifteen the first time I met him. Bright eyed and beaming, Katy and I approached him after his acoustic in-store performance at the now defunct Music Millenium store. I was wearing a light pink shirt I’d made in allusion to one of his songs that read, “I’m a sucker for you” with a little lollipop on it. He was about to be wearing a t-shirt I’d made for him that said, “Two hot teenage girls in Portland love me.” We took a picture with him in it, and he signed my shirt: “John Mayer- thinks ya clever and cool (and hot!)” while his bassist, David Labruyere, signed it, “I’m a sucker for you, too!” We were two of about forty people there. I also handed them a ribboned bag with gifts for the rest of the band: duct tape wallets I’d made myself.
Katy and I went anyway, peering into the bar and grill from tiptoe in the venue lobby, standing on chairs and stairs to get glimpses of this musician we knew would be Eric Clapton famous in only a matter of years. That was the thing about being a John Mayer fan so early on: we were all just sure it was simply a matter of time before he blew up. We were just trying to soak up as much of him as possible until then.
“Hey, there they are!” he said, greeting the group with arms wide, his head a-tilt. "How cool of you guys to wait for us!"
Katy and I had learned earlier, from a man at the in-store performance, that Tim Reynolds was playing a sold-out midnight solo show. He bragged that he was a photographer, and alluded to the fact that he could easily get us in. Unfortunately, he totally gave us the creeps, so we smiled politely and eluded him for the rest of the afternoon.
“Oh, are you guys going to that Tim Reynolds show?” we asked nonchalantly.
“Yeah, we are. Do you want to come with us? I think it’s sold out, but we’re on the list so don’t worry about that. ”
Katy and I sucked in our breath.
“Ooh… “ I said, pulling a face. “Yeah, we were invited to that earlier by some guy, but, we aren’t 18 and he said he could ‘get us in’ but… we weren’t really comfortable with that,” I admitted. Katy gave a nod of agreement. "Plus, we should probably be getting home..."
(How do I remember that, nine years later? Uh, how would I NOT remember that, is the real question).
Tour manger Scotty came out to round up his troops and distribute some of the night’s earnings to the guys. Our eyes got wide when we saw that he was pulling a stack of cash OUT OF HIS DUCT-TAPE WALLET.
“Don’t you go breaking my heart!” John turned around and hollered, pointing, as we waved goodbye and wished them a fun evening.
I didn’t stop smiling for ten days.
Since 2001, John Mayer has released 3 more albums, along with multiple side projects with the John Mayer trio and other artists. He has won a shelf full of Grammy Awards. He bought a place in New York. We’ve both dated other people (you know how it goes- long distance relationships are hard) and through the tours and tabloids and time, I lost interest in this artist to whom I’d formerly felt so close – I was now a nameless face in a crowd of thousands at amphitheater concerts, and part of what had interested me so much had dissipated. And you know what? He's changed. His very public descent into douchedom was enough to turn anyone deaf to his talent.
The spell was broken, and I'd moved on.That is, until last Tuesday, anyway.
Part II coming soon.
Don't be shy!
Don't be gross!
Don't send me pictures of your pet lizards!