Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Treasure Trove

I went for a walk in town today just to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air. First stop was the thrift store that is literally a block from my apartment. It is a wonder that I don't go there everyday, but my self-control isn't great in thrift stores, so I try and limit my visits, especially since I recently made the executive decision to not start saving for retirement, nay, but to start saving for every trip I want to take ever, which is basically see the whole world. What this means is I can't fritter away money on books and home decor every other Tuesday anymore.
Today's finds included some vintage treasures for my etsy shop, a scarf for my hair as I am growing it out and not loving the stage it's at, and a cotton old lady house robe complete with embroidered flowers because I legitimately have been needing one (the only robe I own is very thick fleece with a hood and I do so enjoy lounging in a robe for hours on end and not getting dressed until it is an utter necessity). All of this for $4.24 because turns out the robe was half off today, so, yeah I shouldn't be spending money, but c'mon. C'mon. What a steal.
Then I made the mistake of popping into the beyond darling bookstore in town, Prospero's Books, which again I avoid like the plague as I mentioned before, books and home decor have a way of finding themselves in my hands against my better judgement. But you see, the bookstore was undergoing some construction for the past few months and now that the construction was complete, I felt I owed it to myself to see what had changed. I made a mental note not to let my eyes latch onto any one title or promising book, but to just walk through and do a general once-over, simply getting the feel and ambiance of the stacks and rows of old books.
I was almost through the whole bookstore, having wove to the back and this way and that, making my way to the front when I saw what looked like a stand of cards.
I love cards and just needed a quick peek. It wouldn't hurt to support this darling local bookman with a $3 card I thought. The cards turned out to be old Civil War postcards, which, while neat, I had no interest in the scary soldiers somber faces staring back at me from my fridge were I to purchase one.
Then from the corner of my eye I spotted what looked like rare and old editions of childrens books. Uh-oh. I could feel myself being pulled as though on one of those people-movers at the airport. And suddenly, there I was oggling the display of antique, colorful, and beautiful books. Calmly, I thought, it's okay. All this stuff looks really old so I am sure the prices are far beyond what I'd be willing to spend, so it's okay to just appreciate.
I picked up a card, laid against cardboard and covered in protective plastic that had a silly poem on it. I turned over the card and it said 1918, $5.00
$5.00 for a clever poem from 1918? It's almost like I am making out like a bandit, I thought. Does this sweet old man know he is under-valuing his merchandise? This poem is almost a hundred years old. I have to buy it. I mean I just have to.

I should've walked away at this point with my hundred-year old poem on villains, but of course I didn't. Now it was like I was drugged. I felt I had found some sort of mini miracle, with a $5.00 ancient poem, and I wanted to now know if I could find more. I picked up a miniature volume of Alice in Wonderland and opened the cover, feeling hopeful: $2. Oh my heavens! I stacked it on top of the poem and searched for more, even though a small voice inside was insistent that I didn't need a funny poem or Alice in Wonderland, I needed trips to Switzerland and the Badlands.
But of course the artist voice was squelching the reasonable voice, with insistence that of course I needed a miniature copy of Alice in Wonderland as I wasn't even certain I owned a normal sized copy of this iconic book, so that was a done deal, and then the villain poem was witty and it was a poem and it survived a hundred years, so that was a given. Plus I could always sell it, as it was clearly worth more than $5, although already I could feel myself forming an attachment to this silly poem and picturing framing it and putting it in my future child's bedroom.
I have a heinous attachment to things and not in the material way like I crave new Gucci bags and chandeliers, but in the way like I am an adventurer and am collecting my treasures, as every purchase I make I can tell you has some sort of story and significance to my life. Like this poem is a part of the human language and language speaks to me, or old trunks that I imagine survived the Titanic and now probably haunt my apartment with their lingering spirits, but it's totally worth it, as they are enriching my life and my home, because if I am not seafaring at the moment or in Italy at least my home looks as if I am. They are treasures, don't you see!
Then I saw out of the corner of my eye on a bright red children's book covered in jungle animals, the name Kipling. My heart stopped. No. It couldn't be. I pulled the book all the way out and saw, sure enough, the book was penned by none other than Rudyard.
His poetry is tattooed on my arm! Oh no. I could feel myself coveting this book something fierce. I had no idea he wrote children's books. I flipped open the cover to pray that it wasn't $45 or more. It was $6. Okay this was madness! Madness! How were all these treasure so cheap? Though they were now adding up to more than I wanted to spend today I could feel myself trying to rationalize to put something down, maybe Alice in Wonderland or the poem as I clearly couldn't give up Rudyard now. But my fingers wouldn't unlatch any of the finds, in fact the same pull I felt toward the case, I now felt toward the cash register, while the feeble attempts of my rational mind were drowned out with my need for classic literature at an unbeatable price.
There was no stopping me.
And the best part. The sweet old man behind the register investigated each piece with as much love and attention as I had, reading the poem aloud, and nodding his head like he got it. He told me he read Alice in Wonderland with his book club and what fun that was. Then he spotted Kipling and said, "ah, Kipling, yes."
My stomach got nervous like all the prices were wrong and when he told me the total it would really be close to $100 instead of $13. No. All the prices were right.
He asked if this was for a child's room. I sheepishly shook my head and said, "no, all for me." He smiled again like he completely understood.

"You have good taste."

I beamed. I do, sir. I really know that I do, I thought smugly, but extra pleased that he could see it too.

I left the bookstore surmising that was almost $20 that could've been in my travel fund, but so happy with my finds that I couldn't be truly upset. Besides then I spotted his sign out front that I hadn't seen on my way in.

I just purchased food for the mind and what could be more priceless than that? I dare say I haven't a clue.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Weird bumps, white wine, and Lena Dunham

I went to Warrenton today to write in an undiscovered coffee shop, undiscovered by me that is. I love the town of Warrenton Virginia, as it is hilly, reminding me of the U.P. and quaint, like where I imagine Ben Franklin would live. Upon walking into Jimmie's Market, a dark, eclectic place with lush dark brown leather armchairs and a hodge-podge of art, the woman behind the counter said,

"What happened to you?"
"Excuse me?" I said.
"What happened to you," she asked again sounding more insistent and slightly alarmed. I began to panic a little thinking my face had manifested some sort of hideous rash I didn't know about.
"You're all red."
Oh. I am always slightly flushed just from being alive.
"It was probably from walking outside."
"Ohh. You're really red."
"Do you have a bathroom?" I asked.
"Two. Take your pick."

Ladies. Or Gents. I went into the ladies as it was open.

In the bathroom mirror I checked to see how ferociously red I was. My cheeks were a perfect rosey hue against my creamy complexion. I thought it looked rather nice, not like the flaming wildabeast the store owner clearly thought I resembled. I rolled my eyes and made use of the loo. I then took out a small hand-held mirror to inspect my nether regions. No I am not a pervert and this is not something I often or ever do, but I recently discovered a small red bump down, ahem... there and my mind has been wreaking all kinds of havoc. Namely that a tick is lodged in my vajay-jay. I saw it on an episode of House once after this girl was dangerously close to death with seizures and the culprit happened to be a tick, tucked down in her lady bits causing some sort of allergy. Ever since I had a real life run-in with ticks in the deep woods of Michigan a few years back, I have been petrified of this very scenario.
I went to the coffee shop with the intention of writing but after getting a Limeade instead of coffee, I couldn't stop myself from webmd-ing obsessively over my tiny bump/could be freckle or mole for all I know, to the point where once I started clicking on the picture portion of my research in webmd I was near hyperventilation and my writing trip was all but destroyed.
I shakily left Jimmie's making a mental note to come back and appreciate it more at a later date, called a local gyno from my car and then drove home to get a bigger mirror and obsess over my bump.
Despite being in the comfort of my home with a larger mirror and a flashlight I was no closer to diagnosing myself. The effort and obsession had grown rather taxing and I felt exhausted from the whole ordeal, deciding to leave it to the professionals and stop assuming I had cancer/was pregnant/riddled with disease.
I went to DC's warehouse and painted some shelves to get my mind off of it. Although my mind got a little more frazzled when I asked DC his level of interest in backpacking Europe and he said 10% or "low to moderate." I asked because I was reading the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book earlier today and marking the ones I've already seen, which is a handsome few I might add.
Low to moderate, though DC? Low to moderate?! He said maybe if he were still in his 20's. But I am still in my twenties and something about backpacking, sleeping in hostels and maybe some European farmer's field, and then running out of money and having to work in said farmer's field just sounds magical to me. I think it's the struggle. I would do mostly anything, drugs and nefarious deeds aside, for a good story.
So I came back home and per my usual distraught artist self didn't know what to do with myself but flop down in bed. I watched a program on the aerial view of Maine for a little bit, then found Lena Dunham's film, Tiny Furniture and began to watch that. I love Lena Dunham. Just the sight of her improves my mood. Then as soon as she opens her mouth I feel a kindred sisterhood that I'm aware of, but she isn't as she doesn't know me. Her quirky and offbeat wit, combined with her delightful awkwardness makes me feel less abnormal.
I stopped watching, not because I was uninterested, but because all of a sudden I felt compelled to write. Well, and drink the white wine I forgot I had in the fridge. Normally I ignore my compulsions to write when it strikes me at an inopportune moment, instead making a note of what it was I wanted to write about, thinking I will do it later. More often than not, I don't end up writing my ingenious idea later. Not that writing about my vagina is stop-the-presses writing, but I wanted to be writing and so I am.
DC challenged me to do 21 blogs in 21 days, to you know, make it a habit. I read somewhere that if you do something for 1,000 days you master it. So of course, being me, I can't just be happy with a 21 day challenge, now I want 1,000.

So anyway, that's that. I might have a tick in my vagina, I'm drinking wine without having eaten dinner whilst sitting in my flashy orange workout tank-top that did not see a workout and wishing I were as driven and successful as Lena Dunham. That is my day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Eiffel Tower Cafe

Yesterday I ate blood sausage.

Okay it wasn't blood sausage, but it looked like blood sausage, or what I imagine blood sausage would look like. I was at The Eiffel Tower Cafe in Leesburg, VA. I had been wanting to stop there simply for the name. A good name, like a good book title will get me everytime. I asked a local what she thought of the Eiffel Tower Cafe and her face lit up as she oozed compliments. It was a done deal. The cafe also boasted a quaint side patio with twinkly lights, (favorite, favorite, favorite) an abundance of plants and umbrella'd patio tables with flower-filled glass vases. It was warm enough outside for me to feel flushed but there was a breeze and the patio was shaded, so it seemed as if I could close my eyes and imagine I was actually in France.

I perused the menu outside and saw the prices were a little on the steep end for my wallet, the $9-$17 range for the lunch menu, but everything was written in a fancy twirly script and sounded trés French indeed. I walked inside to investigate further. A small bespectacled woman with sprouting honey colored hair greeted me immediately and informed me that the kitchen closes for lunch at 2:30. It was two so I hesitated but she waved her hand insisting I had time. As I was still unsure I asked to see the menu again. I spotted a slew of awards on the restaurant by newspapers and magazines hanging to my left. That combined with the local's fervent recommendation of the place sealed the deal and I asked for a table on the patio.

I felt I owed it to myself to go whole hog and get something particularly Frenchy. I ordered the Merquez Sausage. I of course butchered the name while ordering as I knew I would. If my sister Kia were with me she could've ordered it right, as she is a French snob. The server, the same small woman took my order, then brought me a bread basket and glass of water, saying bon appétit very convincingly. This is why I don't say it at the French-American restaurant I work at, because it will just sound false and contrived. I am not French. If I were to say bon appétit after placing food in front of someone I would feel somewhat inclined to dip into a graceful bow, and then roll my hand out, then saying eat, eat, bellissimo! buéno sera! and start kissing my fingertips. See, now I think I am mixing French with Italian and Spanish. I would be a disgrace to France. Hence why I don't say bon appétit at my restaurant, I simply say enjoy, then smile and walk away.

I am trying a gluten-free lifestyle right now, but I was in faux France for the afternoon and speaking of being a disgrace to France, not eating a warm baguette when in front of you after hearing bon appétit seems the epitome of disgrace and disrespect. So I dug in, happily munching, watching the twinkly lights, feeling the breeze and that contentment I am always yearning for. Ah, bread, you make everything right.

Then my sausage arrived. My waitress again said bon appétit, smiled and walked away. There were three sausages on my plate, long and slender, sitting in a brown sauce, accompanied by a fresh green salad and french fries. I took a bite and as soon as I looked closely spotting the red almost fleshy looking tightness of the sausage wedged into its casing, the words blood sausage kept flooding my brain. Those words truly do not belong together.
The sausage was... interesting. Not bad. Just unlike any sausage I had tasted before. The sauce was delicious as were the salad and fries, but I realized maybe my palate wasn't quite extensive enough yet for authentic French sausage. I ate one and a half sausages to be fair and open-minded.
I am a voyeur of fine cuisine and most certainly won't write off French fare, but maybe anything in the sausage or would-be blood sausage family is not for me. However, I will say this. I adored this little French Cafe. After leaving my money for the check on the table, I got up, took one more look around the patio and stepped under the arch toward the street. My waitress opened the door to the restaurant beaming and waving, goodbye mademoiselle!
The $17 for lunch was entirely worth it just to be called mademoiselle. And for a little piece of France, peace of mind and the joy of trying something new. Although next time, I am getting the smoked salmon and capers.

I also found some wonderful information on the website about Madeleine, who I suspect was my waitress and how the restaurant is said to be haunted by a civil war soldier. If I wasn't already going to go back for the darling French ambiance and beautiful service, I would be back for this little tidbit.

Recommendation: Highly

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Congratulations. You've lost your mind.

I worry about everything. Constantly. Everything. If I find myself without a worry, I worry that I've stopped worrying and I rifle through my memory bank until I find something sufficient: lack of funds, no dream job, what if my relationship fails, those are all solid standbys and have served me well, so I ruminate on one of those for awhile to calm my worrying mind.
I have this theory that if I worry enough, turn over a problem so many times in my mind, check it at every angle, I will air out the worry and it will go away. It doesn't. I just find new angles or unforeseen problems that had not occurred to me yet. So it is an endless cycle.
I have been on such a worry whirlwind as of late that I have been giving myself full blown panic attacks, where I can't breathe properly, am prone to more tears more drop of the hat than usual, and can't make it through the night without something infinitesimal setting me off on a crazed spasm of the mind where insomnia then kicks in.
To fully appreciate my crazy I have to offer full disclosure here. As a writer I owe it to myself to be honest, even if the honesty is ugly. I don't care much for ugly, mostly because I have a fixation on the beautiful. In fact I have such an obsession with the beautiful that I pride myself on it. I am smitten with aesthetics and constantly make proclamations about what I can or cannot do based on aesthetics.

I could never work in a tire store. Think of looking at grey walls and tires all day. Horrif! I say everytime I enter a tire store. It's like I have to reiterate it in case I should be cursed and put in a lifelong position at a tire making factory.
I would borderline sell my soul for a screened in porch overlooking Lake Superior. I think or voice this upon spotting my favorite house on Ridge St. in Marquette Michigan, high up on a bluff with swirly staircase included. I dream of walking up to that house, with enough money to knock on the door and say how much? And the owner would look befuddled and say, ma'am this house is not for sale. And I would again, arrogantly shake my head and say, no. How much? I saw it in a movie once so now I think it's possible.
I look like a lesbian magician in my waitressing uniform. In other words, I have to quit, I told my best friend when I started my most recent loathsome waitressing job. She replied, Why do you think I quit Family Video? They made me wear khakis. And tuck in my shirt. Which was a polo. We just get each other. Some things in life are just unacceptable, people. Un.Ac.Ceptable.

Back to my insomnia and confession. I fell asleep fairly easily last night, thank heavens, but then was woken up several times by my boyfriend's newest addiction: True Blood. I blame myself for getting him started, but by the third time that I woke up from the noise of his iPad, however, my patience was running as thin as the blood from the victims meeting their demise by vampire death. Except now I couldn't hear Bill Compton's deep timbre yelling for Sookie, I heard instead Steve Carell making jokes. The Office was on. DC cannot fall asleep without listening to The Office and this is a fact I have grown accustomed to, even need it myself on occasion to fall asleep. But this time, the noise was just a racket that wasn't soothing but a circus marching through my mind that was craving a break with sleep. I asked him to shut it off. Just like how I was starting to panic that I had been woken up too many times and insomnia and worry would set in, as I could already feel the sneaky rots creeping up to the bedroom door ready to pounce on my awakeness, I heard DC's voice sounding equally alarmed at shutting off his sleeping security blanket. He asked if he could finish the episode.
My nerves started coming alive and wrestling about in agitation. And then worry walked through the door and sat down beside me with his sadistic smile, asking:

Can you really live with this?
Live with what, I questioned, nervous.
Having to listen to The Office, every. single. night. For the rest of your life?
Oh my gosh. That is a long time.
It is a very long time. Dare I say is it worth it?
Oh my gosh I have to break up with my boyfriend because he won't shut Steve Carell's mouth!

Then I proceeded to worry about how awful that would be. Until my entirely kind boyfriend who knows me sensed my frustration and began to draw on my back. This has been working to put me to sleep since childhood with all the comfort and warmth of giving a fussy baby her bottle. I tried to fight the gesture as I was already in the throes of a worry festival, flags and streamers flying, but he knows me well and I began to immediately feel soothed, contentment coming back to me amidst the onslaught and I drifted back to sleep.
Okay. Keep in mind this was my sleep-deprived, crazed and worried mind taking over last night. I told you. Ugly.
So what do I do, but assume the worry is right and I am now a powerless prisoner to it and succomb all morning. I can feel myself drifting to the bottomless depths of it, when it occurs to me that I need to save myself. I really do. I need my best friend, Ash, but don't call as I assume she's at work. Fifteen minutes later, as if I summoned her with my mind, she calls me. I explain everything. My panic attacks and crying and crazed thoughts and meditating and wanting to run away and how I have forty-seven dollars on me and I thought I could make it to Nashville on a train maybe and how what if I get married and have babies and then can't go to the Redwood Forest or Nova Scotia whenever I feel like it? I purge and purge and purge. She listens and listens and listens.
And then laughs.
And proceeds to tell me I do this every time I get back from vacation. And that I am always searching for contentment or the new or adventuresome.

"Is running away to the Redwood Forest going to make your problems go away?"
"And marriage isn't the end. Why can't you keep doing what you want when you're married?"
"I don't know. I am just worrying."
"Because worry is your best friend."

It's true. I have let worry become my constant and favored companion.

"Ash. I feel like I am losing my mind."
"Congratulations! You've lost your mind! Now go write about it! Quit acting like you need constant adventure to be a good writer. You have a laptop. You have ten fingers. Fucking write. You could write in a padded cell. It is what you want to do. Writing is all you talk about. And when you don't do it, but instead stare at your walls in your apartment instead of getting it out, you project that worry about not writing onto other things, like your relationship. Get your head out of your ass and just write. Write about being insane. Because you are."

I am insane. But all the best artists are. In fact my madcap mind already has jumped ahead to starting some sort of artist collaborative where we crazed artists can go to talk about how our minds work. And strum on guitars. And drink quality coffee and brews. And paint. Okay, that really could work.
If talking about my manic thoughts with my best lady makes me happy then what does writing about it do? It soothes my restless and rattled soul. So here I am writing. Sure I drove forty-five minutes to a posh coffeeshop full of hipsters to do it, my own artist collaborative for the time being, but I needed to get out of the house and feel free. And no I don't need Nashville or the Redwood Forest today. I just needed my words. And of course my best friend.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I am who I am

I ate homemade peanut butter cookies this morning for breakfast, one after another until I could feel cookies in my esophagus. There were about 9 on the plate. Now there are two and a half. I couldn't finish the half. I haven't exercised such little self restraint in a long while. Honestly I don't feel that guilty. I should I guess. But I don't.

I have been craving Xanax something fierce.

For the past week I've been obsessively cleaning and organizing my house in order to avoid my art. The house is now polished like the top of the Chrysler Building, but no adventure blogs have been written and my book is nowhere near done. But DC has clean underwear and hasn't had to do the dishes in days. I even pulled his inside-out socks the right way before cleaning them. I don't know why inside-out socks gross me out so badly, but just picturing sweaty feet rotting in hot shoes all day and then pulling them off from the top of your ankle downward, so that you trap all the dirt and smells inside makes my skin crawl. I started washing DC's socks in the inside-out ball to make a point about how I would not stick my hands in that cavern of filth, but the socks were coming out of the wash crunchy and then I was throwing them out. I told him he had to undo the ball himself and he did for a time, but now they are back to inside-out balls. I made myself undo all of them yesterday for the laundry. If that is not true love, I don't know what is.

I have also been catching up on True Blood as a way to avoid my art and because the show is tops. But the violence combined with my overactive imagination has gotten to me. I was shaving my legs on the side of the tub yesterday with my bathroom door open, when I thought I heard someone in the living room. I assumed it was DC so I kept shaving. He didn't come in or call my name, so I got nervous, quietly stood up, shut the bathroom door, locked it, stepped into the shower and as I washed my hair kept picturing a vampire ripping open the shower curtain and my eyes flying open in horror like they do on the show right before I am fanged. I practiced my best blood curdling screams. I told this to DC later.

"You practiced blood-curdling screams?" he asked, eyebrows raised.
"Well in my head of course." Honestly I thought that went without saying.

I feel tremendously lost lately and it makes me want to run away. In fact I took DC's car last night without telling him and just drove around for awhile at dusk, purposefully getting lost on back roads. When I came home, he called me on it.

"You were running away weren't you?"
"Yes you were."
"Okay fine. But just a little. I came back."
"Why did you want to run away?"
"I always want to run away when I don't know what to do with my life."

We proceeded to talk about why I do it, and DC asked if I wanted tough love. I said no thank you. He gave it to me anyway which infuriated me, so I told him I was done with the conversation, turned away and cried. He came over and kissed my cheeks, my tears and my mouth. I kept my lips and eyes shut tightly, but didn't push away his lips. He went to the office for a bit and came home. He asked if I hated him.

"No. But you're not my favorite person right now."

He nodded and said he was sorry, looking genuinely contrite and went to bed. I came in an hour later and he reached for me and held me very tight to him. So tight, I got hot and felt sort of smothered but couldn't let go because it felt like love. A lot of it.

That's why I came back from running away. Well, and I had his car. If I were serious about running away I would have taken the train and a stick with a bandana filled with my most prized possessions.
Who am I kidding? I could never have done the stick pouch thing, only carrying a postcard from my mother and an old lighter from John Wayne. I would pack four suitcases and overly flowing bags and then when I really am homeless like I was in New York City for a time, carting all those bags through the rain-soaked streets of Brooklyn would seem quite stupid and thoughtless and the weary traveler with the stick pouch makes all the sense in the world. Alas I am who I am.