Sunday, August 19, 2012

Coffee and Brooklyn: Epiphanies

I woke up this morning, much like every other day, nothing seemed significant, until I heard Kirstie in the kitchen and spotted her preparing to make oatmeal and I sprung out of bed and told her no.

”I’ll go get us bagels!”

My mom and dad discovered this most sensational deli right around the block from us and Kirst and I fantasize about it daily, but usually don’t feel like walking there—not that it’s far—and try to eat sensibly with what we have available in our fridge anyway. Besides these bagels being everything that a quality bagel should be, they are also quite cost-effective and since my ever-generous mother put a solid twenty-five dollars in my account for my coffee/writing fund—I had asked for ten to purchase coffees for the week, therefore utilizing free internet in all my favorite coffeeshops to scour writing jobs and of course be a bloggess. And my mom, amazing mother-of-the-year that she is, got so jazzed about me writing that she insisted upon twenty-five. To me, that felt like a prince’s ransom and I decided Kirst and I deserved a splurge on bagels for all of $1.70 of my prince’s ransom.
I told Kirst to get started on coffee while I ran around the corner.
Now for me doing anything without caffeine first, is noteworthy, but as I whipped on a summer dress and ran out of the apartment, my eyes still hazy and scrunchy with sleep I noted the bustling Brooklyn street. And the weather. Something was different. No, I was different.
I spotted families and bearded men with puppies and coffee and their bagels and it made me deliriously happy. And the air felt non-oppressive and almost like… fall. I threw in a small canoli for us to split because Kirst had yet to try one and I was feeling really top-notch. I came home and the coffee was done. I couldn’t get it down my throat fast enough. Kirst asked how I did that without burning my tongue and I taught her the technique. She caught on and we went into the living room with our bagels and mugs and sat and visited.
I happily munched away on my bagel, yummying every five seconds and sipped my coffee and thought about what could be better than Brooklyn, bagels and hot coffee?

Kirst and I then got gussied up as there was a literary fest I was not going to miss with children reading their own work accompanied by New York authors. Bliss? As a matter of fact, I would say so.
We decided walking was the better option as the day was so un-disgusting and just shy of cool that it made us almost giddy. As we neared the park, I happened to look up at the sky and saw that even the clouds looked crisp. I glanced around Brooklyn and for the very first time since moving out here I felt like I was home. Sincerely and completely I felt I belonged and I wanted to skip.
Once settled at the park listening to children read aloud, I felt this tingly feeling coming over me and I questioned it. I looked around the park and felt the cool air and could have sworn I smelled fall. And I knew what I was feeling: fulfillment. When my soul is supremely fulfilled, it wants for nothing. And it doesn’t distress and yearn to fill voids. It is happily present.
The thing about me is while I am always trying to find and hold onto what most nurtures my soul, sometimes the search is so frantic and the thing I want most can’t be held so I fixate on past soul experiences or ones to come and I am not present at all. I am horribly lost somewhere in between. And that’s a dangerous place for me to be. For when my soul is restless and unsatisfied it starts to shrivel a little and other things take precedence and what gets fed isn’t my soul at all. I start to squelch my hankerings for God, music, art, poetry, the rain, grandeur, quiet, trees, love, with fall-backs that are easy and comforting in an altogether different way: food, Facebook, sleep, or anxious ruminating and list making. Not that food can’t be grand, or sleep isn’t needed, but Facebook doesn’t feed my soul and anxiousness gets me nowhere.
As I waited for the next child to take the stage and woo me with words, I couldn’t believe how happy I felt.
When my soul is utterly cozy and curled up like a well-fed housecat, a snappy part of me likes to note how I never crave food at these junctures. And how if I don’t ever want to struggle with food woes again all I have to do is make sure my soul doesn’t get so damn anorexic. And how easy is that as I already know what makes it happy. Perfect diet plan! As long as my soul stays fed, then food becomes just a means for survival. As it clearly is right now, because my fridge consists of outdated eggs and wilting spinach. But I have quality coffee on hand and live in freaking Brooklyn. What could be the problem?
Oh yeah, by the by, no matter what levels of pauper-dom I reach I will not, I repeat NOT buy cheap coffee. I currently have Zabar’s freshly ground coffee filling up my kitchen with its luscious scent and an incredibly small bag of expensive caramel flavored grounds.
There are some corners I cut in life, and by some, I mean a lot. I will chance eating day old eggs. I will wear the same three discounted skirts in rotation all summer. I will buy bar soap.
I will not drink Folgers. I would sooner forgo a ten dollar subway pass and walk to Manhattan so I can spend ten dollars on Zabar’s coffee, which is bloody exquisite if you must know. Priorities, people. It’s all about priorities.
I would like to tell you that my day of soul perfection continued with an outdoor market and trip to a new organic grocery store, (where I was offered a shopper’s reward card, my FAVORITE! I did not even try and hide my delight with the cashier and then decided to also boldly compliment his choice fro. He seemed as pleased as I was) followed by coming back to my apartment to enjoy an overflowing cup of aforementioned Zabar’s coffee and reading Rumi in bed while pleasantly noting that the fan didn’t need to be turned on, because it indeed was feeling very fall-esque in my apartment.
The moral of this little (or long-ish, but who likes little tales anyway) tale is simply this, as Rumi so eloquently put it: Surrender to your soul.

Well, Rumi, I don’t mind if I do.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Worth sticking around for

For the first time ever, a few days ago, I hated New York. I was on a midnight run which started out rather pleasantly along the Brooklyn Bridge and then Battery Park. As I passed yachts, sailboats and twinkling city lights I thought about how on my very first trip to NYC at the ripe age of twenty, I looked fondly at runners jogging along Battery Park and thought, that will be me one day. A part of me was a little shaken with the knowledge that I had so aptly foreseen this day, that I was indeed living in New York and running along Battery Park. The rest of me however was hot and parched. So hot that I kept looking for ladders into the Hudson because I was seriously considering diving in, if only I could get back out.
By the time I wove my way back around to make the trek home, I was a little crazed with my want for water. I started sizing up puddles, fountains and forgotten water bottles on benches and asked myself how bad it would really be if I drank up? I mean the human body is quite resilient, no? A mild case of scurvy would totally be worth it just to soothe my dry and aching throat.
I didn't even make it midway through the park before I veered inland to try my hand at begging a bartender to give me a glass of water. I ran and ran not seeing any sign of anything other than parking garages. I then questioned whether I could run into one of those and ask the parking attendant if I kissed him would he find me water, admittedly not the most enticing deal with the sweat pouring down my face, but at this point I understood that I was going mad for thirst.
I finally, finally spotted a Burger King at about mile seven and felt like I was reaching the Holy Land, but upon grasping the door, I saw that they were closed. Lucky for me there was a pizza place nearby so I ran in and asked if I could please have a cup of water. I already knew this was going to be an issue, as I have lived in NY long enough now to know that they expect you to buy something in order to get a freebie. But I thought they must see me and have compassion, mustn't they?
The guy behind the counter pointed to the water bottle case and I began to feel panicked.

"Um, no not a water bottle. Could I just have a cup for water?"

He looked a little helpless and turned to a co-worker. The new angrier looking one sized me up and said, "fifty cents."
Honestly, I wanted to scream, look at me! I was drenched in sweat and heaving. Clearly I was not out on a late night pizza stroll.
"I don't have my wallet," I could feel myself pleading and already the look of haughty disdain on the co-worker's face made me feel like I was a beggar on any one of the streets I passed each day. "Couldn't I just have the cup... I am on a run..."
He smirked and that's when I felt like I'd been slapped. Then followed up with, "I just work here." And then he shrugged and proceeded to ignore me.
I whipped around in fury, clutching my headphones and ran out the door to try and make it to the next location, which happened to be a McDonald's about a block away. I got in and the line was huge and quite frankly I was terrified I would get the same embarrassing treatment. So I made a beeline for the bathroom.
Once in I saw that there was someone in a stall but propriety be dammed at this point, I set my phone down, turned on the faucet, cupped my hands under the tepid McDonald's tap water and began to guzzle like a buffalo. I could not stop. It almost felt like I hadn't had water in weeks. I kept trying to reel myself in, because the girl could come out at any moment and see this maniacal sight, but I just couldn't get a hold of myself. Finally I stopped, moved into the stall and waited for the girl to come out so I could go back at it. She seemed in no hurry, so I went back to the faucet and drank until my stomach couldn't take any more and then I grabbed my things and left.
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on my way home, I couldn't get that pizza man's rude smirk out of my head. And it wasn't even his smirk and refusal to give me water that made me the most mad, it was the fact that I really knew that'd be the case going in, but wanted it to be different. I wanted, like always, to believe the best in humanity and the best in New York. Whenever I have high expectations though and they get crushed, it's a rather nasty blow to recover from.
And because of this one tiny thing, which felt like a symbol for all big expectations as of late that haven't gone my way, I got to my street and started to cry. Because I thought, if I don't love New York, then what do I love?
Ahh, dramatic, but of course. But that's just me and like any girl who loves something fiercely, she can tell you that you may discover the side of your love you never wanted to see, you may be disappointed at that side, but you don't give up on your love. You give it another go, even if begrudgingly.
So although I was shocked and horrified that anything could ever make me hate my city, I was warmly enthused when my first night on the town since the incident, tonight, I found my city did nothing but deliver for me.

She showed me dapper men in suspenders, to which I had to do not one but several double takes
And gave me a date with The Strand bookstore
A stroll through Little Italy and feasting my eyes, not my mouth though, on plate after plate of heaping spaghetti, wine, and large Italian paintings
And film crews and cameramen for I don't know what, some models or a TV show, but gosh it felt scintillating and though I didn't stop and ogle because I wanted to appear to be a posh New Yorker with better things to do than be a Looky Louise, I secretly felt thrilled wondering what I was privy to
And chocolate pecan samples on the house from Max Brenner's, just when I needed something sweet

My dear city knew she'd upset me and wanted to win me back over. And though I pouted for a few days and re-thought the relationship, ah, my sweet love proved me right. A great love is always worth sticking around for.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Go brush your teeth

When things get a little out of control, I start to make mental lists. Lists are one of my favorite things. I like to make them and I like to read them and quite simply they are one of a handful of things that can soothe my rattled mind.
So as I prepared to go on a cigar walk with Kirstie, not for me, for her--yeah, of all the things you wouldn't expect from my fashionable, pixie of a sister, she enjoys cigars greatly, so much so that when we left our apartment she proclaimed that she forgot her lighter and ran back in to get it.
At any rate, I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish today, most of which didn't get tended to, so quite frankly I told myself I didn't even deserve the cigar walk and had Kirst been in a better mood, I would have told her I was staying in to finish what I had not started.
And being that I had not even remotely accomplished what needed accomplishing, I of course began to panic. Hence where the frantic list making came in. I started doing this while brushing my teeth, which I have noticed myself doing an inordinately large amount lately. Not just your standard morning and night business. I don't know what this weird quirk is but it happened sometime last summer while visiting my aunt in South Carolina and waiting on news on whether or not I would make the show The Biggest Loser. I became downright obsessive with my oral hygiene. I found myself going into the bathroom on multiple occasions, not just to brush, but to floss and use mouth rinse.
Now of all the things to get obsessive about when stressed, this is obviously an A-Okay one. You can never have too clean a mouth... not to sound like an Orbit commercial or anything. But as I furiously brushed my teeth, then leaned in toward the mirror critically inspecting and deciding no, floss was definitely needed too, something I used to despise constantly being lectured about at the dentist, I realized why the renewed over-attention to my teeth.
It's a control thing.


I love to be in control. When I am not, or feel semi-out-of-control, which admittedly is more often than I would like, I look for outlets in which I can regain the upper hand on this elusive beast. Weirdly enough, my mouth has become one of these fixations. If I can't control who is going to publish my book, or who is going to find me date-able--ahem Josiah Johnson, seriously marry me--or this infernal heat that is making me question whether I ever had nice hair, or if it was all a figment of my imagination, then I better be able to control something.
Hence why I am dangerously low on toothpaste right now, my toothbrush looks like its met an untimely attack, and I angrily wonder why mouthwash wasn't on my grocery list this week.
I can control how fresh my mouth is, making sure I never get another cavity and that my dentist will praise me again with how splendidly I have been attending to my gums next time I see him.
I also found that my diet was rather rigid today. Almost bordering on punishment. I haven't been bad lately either, though I have been feeling bad about my body, but I blame Kirstie's 100 pounds for that and the fact that she looks so much more New York than me. I want to hate her for it, but she is so darn adorable and she is my sister, so no can do.
I know you are not supposed to covet, but oh my gosh! We sat on a park bench in Brooklyn while she lazily smoked her cigar, looking like bloody Kate Moss, with her torn "sell your computer buy a guitar t-shirt," that I also covet and I fumed.

"You just don't know what a blessing it is to have thighs that don't touch."

She started to retaliate about what she didn't like about her body, because that's what girls do and I stopped her.

"Just trust me. You don't have to know how hard and despicable it is to get your dream body, because you already have it. I just wanted to point out how lucky you should know you are."

She didn't argue much more with me, while I tried not to pout, thinking about all the work I still had ahead of me in the way of attaining a flat stomach and some sick muscles. I don't know why all of a sudden I am obsessed with muscles. I never cared much about them before. Okay, of course I know why, it's because for the first time in my life I've spotted them on my body and turns out they were nothing to sneer at before as meaning you were an idiot gym rat--note, this was just my incredible insecurity lashing out before. Muscles do in fact mean you work really freaking hard and deserve to have them.

So things I can control:
My breath and my teeth not having sweaters as my ever-so-eloquent best friend would say if she needed to freshen hers. Ugh, that phrase still makes me shudder.
My food intake.
My not buying wine when I feel frazzled and instead opting for a run, which I suppose includes my exercise regimen, and fixating on sick muscles and not those stupid carrot cake doozies down the street.

Things I cannot control:
Josiah realizing there was a fetching pink-haired girl with mustard yellow suspenders on in the crowd of his concert singing all the words to his songs, and deciding to find me in Brooklyn.
National Geographic opting to send me on a trip to the Swiss Alps to photograph... honestly I don't care. They could send me there to photograph sewage and I would say yes, sirs! I salute you!
And apparently no matter that I spent nearly $20 of my Target gift card on lavish moisture-rich conditioners and for once diligently followed the instructions to a T and condition and re-condition for 3-5 minutes, every time I am in the shower, which if you know how little I like to dilly-dally in the shower, you would know what an incredible pain this is to do, that no matter all this work, my ever-loving hair still, STILL day in, day out, looks like I had a nasty row with an electric fence and lost.

I guess I am going to go brush my teeth again. Oy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

You probably should

The other day I was on my way to volunteer for Ronald McDonald House, as a friend had asked me to help out--wonderful for my soul--but on the way there I was of course fretting. Fretting over my life, job, finances, making sure my sis is okay now that she's here, and wondering if I could indeed make it here.
I happened to be watching the cityscape pass me by and I looked up at a billboard for a storage company that said, "If you can make it here, you probably should." And maybe I am someone who always needs a good sign or can simply take some handy advertising and plug it right where I want it in my own life, but that billboard was exactly what I needed to see that day, of course along with meeting a wee little Irish lass (among other darlings) who prompted me to help her make the world's largest hopscotch game--done--while she cursed us running out of chalk.
I loved her and found that I also have a new love of hopscotch. Maybe it's because I can only recall ever playing it once as a child and then I think my weight started to inhibit me from hopping around to and fro, like I was carefree. I also stopped attempting cartwheels. Note to self--try those again.
I digress.
Along with being a gal who thoroughly eats up a good sign, I also devour a good mantra. And so it was that I started feverishly repeating to myself that if I can make it here, I probably should. I owed myself that much after buying the one-way ticket and losing hair left and right with stress. Or okay, I probably lost some hair because I bleached it and then dyed it pink, but I am prone to theatrics so saying it's from stress makes me sound like a real tortured soul, no?
Of course it would take another sign for it to really sink in that I can't give way to my rampant fears and run for the woods. My go-to for any sort of panic about my life is to rashly contemplate the most dramatic exit strategy I can conjure.
I started thinking maybe I would go stay at my family's camp for a year and force myself to finish my novel. And since I sold my car it would be very Walden-esque. I would chop wood for the sauna. Get very meditative and find myself. Plant a garden. And in the winter I would walk the 20 some miles into town for food because it would double as my workout. Then I remembered U.P. winters and frowned thinking I very well could freeze to death on the side of the highway before I made it to town.
Wilderness hiatus was out. I next wondered if I could hitchhike out West. Before imaginary me had even gotten as far as Pennsylvania I realized to hitchhike I would only have to take essentials, like one bag. And all of a sudden I was aghast. I came to New York with four behemoth overflowing bags, which has already doubled.
Ok. And if I were honest with myself, I realized, even if I hoofed it to the mountains I would still have to face my fears. I would still have to finish my novel. And I would still be scared shitless when talking to editors.
The location could change all it wanted, but I knew I wouldn't change. So as scared as I was and have been, I decided to man up and get cracking on my novel again. I hadn't gotten that far in the editing process when I happened on a chapter I wrote over a year ago, back when I was living in Wisconsin. I was of course writing about my longing to get to New York (surreal) and lose weight (doubly so) and how I knew if I didn't start practicing the whole happiness bit as I was, then it wouldn't just happen when I was thinner and in New York, but I wrote as a side note that who could ever be unhappy in New York and that's when I stopped reading.
I was dumbfounded.
There have been a lot of stipulations I have put on my happiness in life. By the time I got my first boyfriend at twenty-three I was convinced that was the missing piece to my happiness puzzle. It wasn't. I was more miserable with him than I'd been single. Big lesson, but I moved forward feeling better knowing that a boyfriend wasn't a key ingredient in the recipe for happiness.
And then reading this little excerpt from my past saying how I'd be happier once I lost weight and made it to New York? Uh-oh. And yes, I am incredibly happy having lost weight and actually gotten here, but understand this: for weeks I have been putting stipulations on my happiness, again.

Oh you'll be happy once you get a writing job
Or sell your book
Or finish your marathon and have a killer runner's physique

I have been putting the kibosh on my happiness and is it any wonder that I am fretting all day, everyday, am surprised when I actually bask in the city, and most nights do not fall asleep until at least three a.m. because my mind will not shut down.
And even though I am in the greatest city in the world, without a doubt it is, life isn't perfect. No one is happy all the time, because life throws you curve-balls and change is without a doubt stressful, so yeah, just because this is the greatest city in the world, it doesn't excuse me from normal human woes, but it's a problem when I am drowning in them. And that's what I have been doing.
I have been more and more prone to wanting to throw myself to the floor of my apartment, lay in the fetal position and cry. And that is a problem.
It's a problem because I have felt myself losing hope. And I am not someone who deals well with hopelessness. I always need hope, even if just a glimmer.
Naturally seeing that billboard rekindled something in my spirit. So I started fighting. Then, reading that blast from my past shocked me into awareness. I blessed needed to stop putting stipulations on when I was allowed to be happy. That was not okay.
So I woke up the next day and went to my Crossfit gym. And running in the rain with a twenty pound sandbag on my shoulders reminded me of the ranch and how every time I challenged my body, my mind got stronger.
I walked back to the subway after my workout, thoroughly soaked with sweat and more rain and didn't care that I looked like hell. I felt like Rocky and I knew I could see my hope on the horizon, finding her way back to me.
Kirst and I made our way to the Upper West Side that night because I wanted to check out Zabar's and we found an amazing bookstore, my nirvana of course and as I touched the spines on many a book, I felt my hope getting stronger. I all of a sudden wanted to be in a musical, so that my epiphany could be accompanied by song, while I wheeled down the ladders attached to the shelves and sang about being on my way. Instead I bought a book with my last ten dollars that was supposed to be for a can opener and laundry.
But books make me happier.
And when I walked into Central Park at dusk, I started to get a little weepy and shaky. Kirst asked if I was about to cry. I told her no and locked it up, but turned to her and said,

"Can you believe it? We did it. We're really here."

And she smiled at me, with what looked like relief. I think my loss of hope had started to worry her.
I told her I spent my last ten on the book. But that it didn't matter. Because I was going to be a best-seller soon and then I could buy all the books I wanted.

And guess what?
I believed my statement. If I can make it here, I probably should.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Family Lottery

Absence makes the heart grow fonder is a crock. It doesn't make the heart grow fonder, it makes the heart go crazy. I will tell you one thing; if you are a little uncertain on the depths of your love for your family and friends, move across the country.
A two-hour, nor a four, not even a seven hour move will quite do. Or maybe that's because I have lived within eight hour radius's of my family before and still could manage to see them upwards of six times a year.
No, to be truly certain your absence will have a staggering affect on your heart, you most definitely need to put a few states between you and your loved ones. Make sure you sell your car also and use up what few pennies you have, so as to have utterly no option of seeing them when you are in dire need, but know you will have to wait until the next major holiday in which your parents will probably have to foot the bill for your plane ticket as a gift to you.
Were you to give me the most perfect cup of coffee made with the freshest grounds hand plucked from Brazil, whilst sitting on a porch swing at my camp(favorite place in all of creation by the by), with a live folk band serenading me via a sparkling sunset, that would probably measure only half of the sentiments toward my fam. My crazy, one-of-a-kind, boisterous clan.
While driving back from our little impromptu East Coast road trip last week, my sister Kirstie and I quizzed Bella and Nick on what they wanted to be when they grew up. Nick said a detective and I couldn't help beaming with pride. What a top notch career choice. And so smart. Bella informed us that right now she was really thinking acting. In our family? An actor? Lord it was only a matter of time!
So Kirst and I, both huge theater nerds, began coaching and telling her she better learn to cry on demand, and maybe we should practice a scene. Bell kept wanting to be a hillbilly grandfather, this was a surprise to no one as Bell has quite a few tomboy tendencies. Example: my mom demanded I braid her hair one morning and Bell huffed and puffed but let me do it, but when I put a bandana in as a fetching piece de resistance, she looked in the mirror and began to sob until my mom told her she could take it out.
She played the part of hillbilly grandfather rather well I might add, but we told her to be a truly well-rounded actress she would need to play lots of roles, so we decided to do some improv in the car. A little Whose Line Is It Anyway, with scenes and characters.
Everyone wanted to play, including my mom and dad. I don't know what I found more delightful about this: the fact that my baby sis was already contemplating a career in the arts, or the fact that my entire family was on board for supporting her in this endeavor. Probably both. Stupendous is the word I would use.
So it began.
I started us out at a circus, because that seemed appropriate. We went around the car, where everyone made a statement that the next person had to follow up on. Nick got into it, Bell was a natural, my dad an absolute hoot, but all in all, I was downright taken with each and every one of the family members I was with. My soft spoken brother doing a circus scene with us, Bell practicing her technique, Kirst and I thinking we were the aces because we've taken theater classes.
It's like this: nowhere in the world can you so truly be yourself and be loved, loved so unconditionally for being artsy or corny, cranky or unbearable, ditzy or crude than with your family. And it is so darn comforting.
I have realized it is the single most comforting thing I have ever known. Maybe I will feel that way when I have my own family and my own children, I would imagine so, but for right now, when I am near my family, playing car games, or telling my mom to quit back-seat driving my dad, or falling asleep in a hotel room three each to a bed, with Bella spider monkey that she is, latched onto my neck, I feel like an untouchable. Like nothing could really get to me with them.
I have only ever had this feeling, this complete comfort, untouchable feeling once more in life, not from a family member, but someone I loved all the same. And if you ever experience this feeling, you must know that it is one of the best ways to feel.

I want to tell you a million and one things about my family:

how growing up if we got donuts on a Sunday before church, Savvy would purposefully take forever to eat hers so that she could be smug when we were all done and she still had some left to savor and we all wanted to beat her up.
how we used to play this game on the way home from my grandmas house where we would try to be the closest to determining the exact moment we would stop in our driveway and we would all change our approximations a dozen times to try and be the winner, and half the time end up falling asleep before knowing who won.
how Alexa would sing the word watermelon repeatedly during parts of a song she didn't know because she said it sounded like what the lyrics were supposed to be and it made me utterly hysterical every time.
how Kia knows everything there is to know about France and will give you all the latest and greatest on McDonald's news.
how my dad would watch Bugs Bunny with us on Saturday mornings and find Elmer Fudd so downright hysterical that we would all be laughing in turn, not at the cartoon, but at his reaction to the cartoon.
how on every vacation Jordan would sneak off somewhere in retaliation if my parents didn't give into his demands for a Snickers bar at a bathroom stop.
how my mom is the first person to believe in every crazy dream and aspiration I have and tell me what I am capable of.
how I never wanted to be the last one to fall asleep in my house full of people, because I didn't like the sound of silence, I preferred to fall asleep to chaos and sports on TV, because it meant my dad was home from work and I loved when he was home.

I want to tell you everything there is to know and love about them, to make you understand that I am the luckiest girl in existence when it came to the family lottery, but even if I wrote books on them, which trust me I intend to do, I still couldn't measure the depths of my adoration. Or make you quite understand.

But I do hope you understand the significance of the family you were given because you don't get that kind happiness from anything else in this life. And if you are confused on the depths of your love, like I said, just move across country and you will all of a sudden remember that the reasons you wanted to beat your siblings up as a child are now the same reasons that bring a smile to your face when you are crazed with longing for their presence.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A walk in the park? Not exactly.

New York City is exactly like the movies and nothing like the movies. How it's exactly like the movies? Well, all the beautiful New York shots of people in the parks, passing the looming architecture, the huge and flopping cheese pizza slices, yep, that's all here. Rest easy. And it's epic in every sense of the word. I know and feel a keen sense of being ever so small in a grand place, trying to make some ripple. Everywhere I go I think I've spotted Carrie Bradshaw's exact brownstone stoop, or I know without a doubt I can happen upon scenescapes in Central Park from Home Alone. It is most definitely here.

Kirst and I snuck into the Plaza Hotel one day, I don't even know that we needed to sneak, but we felt like paupers and that the concierge would instantly be onto us and toss us back onto NY's grimey streets. We fully prepped ourselves before going in:

"Hold your head high, Kirst."
"Yeah, let's act like we own the place."
"Look like you know what you're doing. And look posh. And rich."
"Let's not make eye contact either."

And then we burst into giggles and put on our best we're rich gals staying at the Plaza faces, lips tight in snobbish lines and sashayed right through the turning door and tried to keep said snobbish lines in place but failed miserably and our jaws dropped at the grandeur as we held back squeals while picking up our pace trying to see as much as possible before we were nabbed.

We weren't nabbed though we did start to raise a suspicious eyebrow. We obviously aren't Plaza People. The place is pure class. Chandeliers that probably cost more than my home, spiral staircases, gold everywhere, probably real gold. It's no secret that New York City is a city worth oggling.

But here is how it is nothing like the movies. You know how in every romantic comedy, the 20 something girl has a hugely hip apartment above some chinese restaurant, that has brick walls, a fireplace and walk-in closets? And said girl either has one of two jobs. She does something important in PR--dream girl, dream job, dream apartment. Or she is a waitress, yet still has that apartment.

Ok, for humor's sake, I'll say the PR gal could maybe afford that apartment on her own, without a roommate, in Manhattan. But the eclectic waitress with expensive shampoo tastes? Get real. She would so be living in a small studio in Queens with two other people. If the place was charming, it would be because she was eclectic and happened to know how to decorate. Otherwise it'd look like a college kids dorm.

If you think this is raining on your parade, just you wait. I watched a lot of movies about New York before coming here, in particular, my favorite, When Harry Met Sally. I had that movie so locked down in my mind as my perfect New York experience, is it any wonder that I've had nearly two dozen meltdowns thus far, when nothing and I mean absolutely nothing about my New York experience is like When Harry Met Sally.

For starters I don't have an incredibly hilarious best friend/soon to be love of my life who wants to take me to museums and quote Casablanca with me. That is one of the smaller letdowns, but I was prepared for that reality.

What is shocking is how little New York still feels real to me. I admittedly am getting quite savvy at my directional capabilities, getting on and off the subway at the appropriate stops, picking my New York sports teams and learning never ever to be haggled again in Times Square, that was a rough lesson, $89 dollars later and a salon coupon I didn't need, but an important one nonetheless. Yet even when I am out and about doing some hip and trendy New York thing like drinking champagne at The Redhead in the East Village, with friends I still feel like I am pretending. Oh and if you're wondering how I could afford champagne when I can barely afford subway fare right now, know that you're right, I can't afford champagne and was under the delusional impression that if I picked the cheapest bottle on the menu divided by three, it would be totally doable. New York lesson number... um I've lost count. If the price seems too reasonable and the restaurant is truly awesome, question it, as when I got the bill, I nearly vomited in my mouth and pulled the waitress aside to clarify that I did pick the bottle that was half the price. She looked at me a little uncomfortably and said that was the price of the half bottle. No more champagne for this girl.

Who are you, my brain keeps demanding and what are you doing here? I know it all makes sense and change isn't a snap your fingers type thing, but I keep waiting to be walking through Central Park in my smaller, cuter clothes, with my writing sensibilities, drinking a chilled coffee beverage and say, oh yeah I've made it. This is totally like the movies! No, no it isn't. It feels nothing like that.

The problem is I don't feel like I've made it at all. Most days I am a terrified wreck, the state of my hair matching the state of my brain. A frazzley, electrifying, scary mess. Nothing feels all that real and nothing feels certain. Of course, I still need the writing job or my book deal, and yeah I definitely want my own Billy Crystal, a la Harry Burns, but those two things aside, I still feel unsure. Do people ever know what they're doing? Do they ever feel like accomplished adults with 401k's and a life they're impressed by? I don't know if I am doomed to be a restless gypsy who never really has a clue, or I am simply still pulling my ship in. Trust me, my ship isn't lost anymore, but I think she is rather large and being a bit of a toot with coming into harbor.

And maybe I am still reeling with the information from a very successful New Yorker who told me no one is Carrie Bradshaw.

"I don't know anyone who does what Carrie Bradshaw did and can afford Manolo Blahniks every week. I mean maybe she exists, but I've never met her."

Well, dang. So no Carrie Bradshaw and no Sally Albright. I am most definitely riding a very topsy-turvy sea here. Just trust me when I say this little piece of New York wisdom is entirely true though: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

Now that's a fact!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Music Monday!

In honor of all things lyrically illuminating, I will here on out be striving to deliver a little something new in my blog. Despite already being privy to my music obsessions and adventures, I thought why not more—as me prattling on about phenomenal artists simply isn’t good enough. Why don’t I interview them? And try and find new venues, excursions, and all things encompassing musical enlightenment that aren’t just riveting to me, but can somehow transcend to you. Get ready for my new installment: Music Mondays, where I will do my utmost to keep you informed on the best that music has to offer. (And since this is very much in the newborn state, bear with me as I get Music Mondays off the ground).

On this fine Monday, I will of course be attending The Lumineers concert at the Central Park Summer Stage. From the moment I heard this trio, I was catapulted into a delirious state. I am already downright obsessive when I discover a new song or band, but there was something particularly striking about this one. I would listen to the song Ho Hey, on repeat for hours in a day. No other song could possibly compare when I tried to switch it up. I am not sure if it’s the potent mix of upbeat lyrics that start to wail, the jangling folksy sound and stomp, the references to beloved New York streets and this line, “I belong with you, you belong me, you’re my sweetheart,” but this song is tops. I mean, bloody tops!
It still slays me! I have the entire thing memorized, and I don’t have many songs entirely memorized, though I am a master at memorization. True fact. Anyway, digression.

Let’s get to the good stuff. The band. Here is a brief bio on The Lumineers, found on their website, which I urge you to check out.

It begins in 2002, the year Jeremiah’s brother, Josh, died from a drug overdose at 19. Amidst the loss and grief, Wes and Jer found solace in music, writing songs and playing gigs around New York. After battling the city’s cutthroat music scene and impossibly high cost of living, the two decided to expand their horizons. They packed everything they owned—nothing more than a couple suitcases of clothes and a trailer full of musical instruments—and headed for Denver, Colorado. It was less a pilgrimage than act of stubborn hopefulness.

The first thing they did in Denver was place a Craigslist ad for a cellist, and the first person to respond was Neyla Pekarek, a classically trained Denver native. As a trio, they began playing at the Meadowlark, a gritty basement club where the city’s most talented songwriters gathered every Tuesday for an open mic and dollar PBRs. Neyla softened Wes and Jer’s rough edges while expanding her skills to mandolin and piano. And so The Lumineers sound took shape; an amalgam of heart-swelling stomp-and-clap acoustic rock, classic pop, and front-porch folk

Now without further ado, my interview with the band’s wildly talented Neyla Pekarek.

Adventuredame: What song means the most to you?
Neyla: Charlie Boy holds a pretty special place in my lil heart. It was one of the very first songs Wes, Jer and I worked on as a trio when I first joined the band, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out on the record.

AD: Can you tell me more about the song, Ho Hey and how it came to be? (By the way astounding)
Neyla: Well, thanks for that! Wes initially wrote Ho Hey as sort of a pep talk to himself when times were a bit rough for him, and that same thing held true for us as a band in our beginning touring days. It’s the kind of song that would always boost our spirits in a set, whether we were playing to two people in a dirty bar in the middle of Wyoming, or to our first full room in New York with 100 people singing and stomping along.

AD: What most feeds your soul?
Neyla: My friendships. I have some pretty incredible friends who keep me grounded and happy, especially when things get hectic. They would be my friends whether I was in a band or in a ditch.

AD: In the spirit of all things adventure, what is your greatest adventure to date?
Neyla: Dang, I’ve had a few. Jumping in a van with a couple smelly musicians with very few dollars to my name is pretty high on the list.

AD: And what might you suggest to other artists/writers pursuing their artistic endeavors?
Neyla: Work ethic is invaluable. Treat your art with the same standards, the same respect, as you would any job or relationship. It takes time and patience and care. And it’s totally worth it.

Oh Neyla, I couldn’t have said it better myself! Huge thanks to Christen Greene for setting this interview up and Neyla for being ever so accommodating in answering my questions.

Now do yourself a solid and go buy The Lumineers album. I am going to do one better and go see them live. Mmmmmmm. Ho Hey indeed!

For more info on The Lumineers, check out their website: