Wednesday, June 27, 2012

long lost friend.

I have this friend who has disappeared, despite my best attempts to stay in touch (Which are admittedly not always stellar). This is not a rarity for people in their twenties, I know. We lose touch. We're growing together and apart. We're struggling. We're looking for a steady thing and holding fast to whoever is close. It seems life is in a perpetual state of flux and we're constantly losing points of reference for the friends we've always had, hastily trying to establish new ones, even as we prance back and forth over the earth, refusing to settle anywhere permanently. I'm still at the age where I write my parent's address in the 'permanent address' slot, because they're almost always the only truly stable place in my life. And thank goodness I have that.
The way I've lived in my early twenties, it's no wonder, really, that some people got scattered to the wayside along the way. Such is life. We cling to what we can while travelling at warp speed, sometimes in circles, but always, fast. Just like Metric, If you're still alive/ My regrets are few/ If my life is mine/What shouldn't I do?/ I get wherever I'm going/ I get whatever I need. True, but who is going to make it with me?
The friend in question who has disappeared though, this one makes me uneasy. This friend of mine, Dani, she's a rare gem and I don't think I can afford to lose her. Even from the time we were fifteen, she has always been 100 percent herself, held a razor sharp focus toward the future, and hustled. Reminding me who I want to be. Reminding me that there are bigger things and it's possible and oh my god, don't you dare settle. She didn't go through the motions, she created the footholds to climb her own mountain. She's my friend. Her friendship is not suited for everyone. not by far. But then, neither is mine. Still, she is loyal and authentic and one of those rare people who are large enough in spirit to blaze their own adventurous trail through life.
The last time I talked to her, she was living in New Mexico, finishing up her Masters. Now, Dani is one of those people who technology doesn't seem to touch. She's probably logged into facebook twice since she signed up for it in 2006, she doesn't text, and the voicemail box on her phone isn't even set up. The most I've ever seen her use the internet is for reading Harry Potter fan fiction when we were still in high school. I've tried to get in touch with her to no avail over the past year. Emails. texts, calls. Short of calling her parents at home, if they still live in the same home, I've exhausted my resources. I don't know what to do. I've googled her name in every conceivable combination of words and made myself feel like a total weirdo in the process, and I've come up empty handed.
The thing is, I know how the world of friendships without convenience works. I've consciously and unconsciously drifted from people to whom I never thought in a million years I'd go for more than a week without talking. It happens. Maybe this is on purpose, a concerted effort to cut ties with me. It's possible. But I can let this go easy. Dani, she is more than spring break vacations in Florida, a shared high school graduation party, college visits, teary phone calls, brunch whenever she blows through town. She is adventure and daring and unyielding loyalty and ambition and worldliness and just- something bigger. And damn it, she's my friend.
I've talked to my core group of girlfriends at times, about what will happen if and when we start to drift apart. My friend Katherine put it eloquently when she said "I think that at this point, it's not something I could just let go."
This. This is something I can't just let go. I've always been incredibly discerning with my friends. To the point where now, I rarely make mistakes. I know the way the wind blows. I don't like to waste my time, and honestly, most of the time I'd rather be by myself anyway. But I'm at a loss. I don't know what to do.
This morning I composed and sent off another email, pleading with Dani to write me at least something back if she got what I wrote. Mentioning the last email I sent- last September- which went without response, despite the news of my sister getting married and having a baby, my brother spending a week in the hospital, etc etc. I keep telling myself she must not have gotten it, because our last conversation was a good one and the last time I heard from her, it was in the form of a handwritten letter ranting about the education system in America going down the tubes, normal stuff.  I know field work in her subject of study can leave her without technology for long stretches of time. I know she travels and has always been just a little elusive. She's fickle and moody and likes things her way, gets in touch on her own time. Probably, she's fine. But still. I worry. More than anything, I'm worried.
It's true. Dani and I have never been the kind of friends that talk daily. At times we would go months without a word. But it never felt off, the silence. Now it feels off. She's started appearing in my dreams every night, reminding me how long it's been since we've spoken, causing worry and wonder.
I don't know what to do.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

unwelcome dream visitors.

I keep having this dream. The kind where you're on this constant and not really grueling, but fairly dogged journey. Really, the destination is ever-evolving and I never get there, ever, but it doesn't matter so much because I think the people that I interact with on my journey are more important. Really interesting strangers for the most part, but one person I know. One person I know very well indeed.
My friend Katherine told me once that the mind doesn't manufacture faces. That everyone we see in our dreams is someone we have seen before in real life. Maybe only in passing for a brief second, maybe someone we see all the time but we have never spoken to, maybe one of our closest friends. But for the people I've never spoken to, how do I know so much about them? How do I know the sound and tone of their voice or the intricacies of their movement? Did I make that up? Does my imagination just automatically fill in the gaps?
I don't know and that's not really the point.
One of my ex-boyfriends has been a regular in my dreams lately, and that is the point.  
Matt and I have a stable and healthy relationship. We're past the adjustment stage, the constant snags and quibbles over asinine things. We're comfortable around each other, and courteous. We've lived together for over a year.  98 times out of 100 Matt would know my preference when offered options on nearly every subject. I feel I'd probably have the same odds on his picks. He's been my best friend for so long that at times I take for granted just how well he knows me, and then I of course get huffy when he calls me out on things. At the same time, I kind of like it. I like being known that way. It feels good. It's validating to have someone still want me even after I burp while we're sitting on the couch, or when I leave my dirty underwear lying on the bathroom floor and oops there's my hair, stuck in the drain, and oh look, I haven't shaved my legs in ten days, it's a new record! (not)
We're happy.
And I mean, I accept societal taboos for the most part. But there's one thing that bothers me that Matt and I don't talk about. (Okay, if we're honest, a few things, but this is one of the main ones). We don't talk about our exes. In fact, it gets tense at just the mention of their names.
Now, to an extent, I think that's fair. Matt and I started dating about four seconds after he broke up with his girlfriend of a year and a half, Julie. I'd only met her a few times, but she felt threatened by me... and I guess for good reason. Likewise, Matt met my ex-boyfriend. (We'll call him Leo, because lord knows he was the epitome of it if there ever was one.) The one from the island who treated me like shit and sent me spiralling into depression and a whirlwind of self hate and self doubt. Perhaps knowing that nothing good would likely come of this particular relationship upon meeting Leo, Matt didn't care much for this boyfriend of mine.
When all is said and done, all is said and done. Time has passed. The wounds aren't raw anymore. I understand that maybe one or both of us would be wary of bringing up our lovers from the past. It's just not something that is done, from what I understand.
But you know. I sometimes feel like I'm always going to be a little bit altered because of Leo. I think of him often. Wonder if I'm going to always feel a little heavier, think of him and feel haunted and stupid and unsure of myself and also, in some ways, even more sure of myself. More sure of who I am and how I can love someone and be completely single minded and also a she-wolf, and also just, god, just stubborn. Those are good things. Those are things I'm proud of being. Leo brought them out of me in the midst of crushing my soul.
Maybe Matt doesn't have any unresolved feelings toward Julie. Maybe he doesn't dwell or reflect or heaven forbid, dream of her. I personally think that's an impossible task and I'd be a little worried if he didn't do any of those things. We're human, after all. We brush up against people and they leave residue on our hearts. It's only natural. It doesn't mean I'm not happy with where I am.
But I know, I know. We people in our twenties, more often than not, we don't talk to our significant others about our past loves because we're trying so hard to focus and hold on, grasp so tightly, to what we have. Make it special. Make it unique. Well, I guess I don't see why we have to try so hard. So long as it's two different people coming together in new combinations, there's no chance of romance being exactly the same. Is that what we're really worried about? And if so, why? If you're with someone, it obviously didn't work out with the last one, why can't we talk about it? Why can't we open ourselves up enough and love that person enough to be able to handle the hurt and pain and yes, even the love, that they have felt before? Don't you want to know what we are capable of? Don't you want to know how much further we can grow? Can we burst through that barrier that stood there with the person before? Can we stretch our branches just a little higher, just a little further into the beautiful blue of the sky? Why not try?
I'm not one of those people blessed with the ability to process my potential thoughts and emotions into 'yes' and 'no' piles. I can try to push things down and back and deeper, but in the end, it always finds a way back up, often more powerfully than if I would have just acknowledged it. I feel like I'm lying, almost, when I don't tell Matt that I've been thinking about Leo, even though when I'm thinking about Leo, I mostly feel angry and sad, not trace of yearning still strains my heartstrings. And I know, we're supposed to keep things to ourselves sometimes. But sometimes, I don't want to keep this to myself anymore. I don't need Matt to share the burden, but I need to not have the burden of feeling like I'm keeping a secret.
I don't know why. I'm not scared of chasing Matt away because I have a fleeting thought or memory of someone else. I guess what I'm more afraid of is causing pain. Will if hurt if I admit that last night in my dream, Leo was there? Why should it hurt him? I didn't want to see him there either, trust me. In all honesty, it left me feeling uneasy and wrong. I didn't choose it. I feel even more wrong in making the choice not to tell Matt about it, because it feels like I'm keeping something from him. In my naturally introverted mind, I've battled constantly with myself to let Matt in, and now that I have, I don't want to keep this shit from him.  
I love Matt. He knows that. But I loved Leo once too, and he obviously made a lasting impact on my life.   Why do I have to keep that to myself? Is it terrible that I don't want to?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

westward we go free.

my currently running to do list- moments after i spilled an entire cup of coffee on it. what a trooper.
This morning I've spent a really long time on Google Maps. I guess I was trying to get myself spacially acclimated to the place I'm moving. Only a little over a month until the big departure. Time has spluttered and sped up and spluttered and raced forward now, the last month of my life is all a blur behind me, speed lines on a comic book drawing. So far all I've really known is that I'll be a three day drive from where I now sit. Not quite close enough for my dad to hop in the car and drive me to an emergency dentist appointment the way he did when I was at college, a mere three hours away.
I figured out I'll be a 19 hour car ride away from my friend Ellen in Monterrey, CA. I could drive to Seattle in seven hours, or Portland. I've never really been to Seattle, save the airport. Maybe I'll have to go.
But then again, I'm only seven hours away from lots of places here in Indy that I've never made it to see.
Today I learned that I'll be about 100 miles from the nearest large body of water, Flathead Lake. She looks to be a beauty and I hope I'll get to see her this summer in all her glory. I have a weakness for lakes.
I'll be less than half an hour from Idaho, but then, I already knew that because my friend Courtney took me to a hotspring in Idaho last time I visited, in March.
I just flipped back to the map and realized I'll only be seven hours from Calgary, so I did some Wiki research on Calgary, and honestly, it seems really badass. I"ll have to try and go. In the summer. When the roads are open. I've only been to three or four Canadian cities, Montreal, Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie, I'd love to see more.
God. It's going to be wild. I just can't get over it. Just. A wild, wild place.
And then today I was scanning craigslist for part time jobs in Missoula because even with my student loan money I'm going to be poor as hell, and I saw a post for a job in Costa Rica and my heart got caught somewhere between my guts and my throat and I just realized... I'll never be that carefree again.. I'm going to be in so much student loan debt for the first time in my life and I'll never be able to entertain the idea of just picking up and moving to Costa Rica again... not that I ever have anyway. And something about that freaked me out. I probably never would have actually up and moved to Costa Rica to live in the trees and do god knows what, but I lived in the comfort that it was possible, that I could, if I should so choose. Now I'm relinquishing that fantasy and I couldn't let go of it as easily as I had thought I would.  
And all I could think was: What if I'm making a terrible mistake? 
What if going back to school is just something I'm going to pour years and money into and it doesn't get me anywhere? Am I gambler?  Do I have faith? What in the fuck am I doing?
Then I made myself step back from that ledge, the one where I fling the remains of my carefree nature and wild youth down to the treachurous crags and boulders below and hysterically mourn them, and I got on Google maps and I plotted some new adventires. Places that have never been accessible to me before, but will be now. Easier to get to, new to explore.
I suppose I need to let go of the places I won't be adventuring, for now. I'm looking at you Costa Rica! Instead I need to let myself be proud for the bravery of the grand adventure I am settling off on, it's certainly nothing to scoff at. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

family tradition.

I am single-handedly ruining my families most beloved tradition.

Maybe not single-handedly.

But you see, we have a tradition, a romance, with drinking, and my style is decidedly one-night-stand when it comes to booze.

I think one of the reasons for this is that I don't really have a signature drink. I would have thought that by 25 (almost 26...ugh), almost FIVE  full years of legal drinking and several less-legal years of drinking under my belt, something would have floated to the top, an old standby. Yet, while I've had plenty of romances when it comes to alcoholic beverages through the phases of experimentation, nothing has really stuck. I love bourbon and I love champagne and both have a time, but neither is right all the time.

You see, in my family, cocktail hour begins promptly at five. Complete with hors d' ovres. We're not talking canned cheese and Ritz, either. Think steamed artichokes with individual butter dishes, baked brie, smoked whitefish.  No, we don't fuck around with cocktail hour, a fact so ingrained into my being that when I find myself in the company of other families and the clock strikes five, I gaze around in awe that the moment goes by uncelebrated.  Any hope I may have had of one day marrying a Mormon or living a vice-free life were denied me by birth rite, but it's just as well, most Mormons I've met are too righteous for my taste and people without vices aren't that interesting to me anyway.

And so we gather around and sip our drinks and talk until someone brings up something that starts an argument and then we sip in silence. It's comforting, really, to have such a pronounced tradition, one most sacred when my grandfather is the person orchestrating drinks. It's family. It makes me feel at home, as weird as that sounds. Now that I'm rarely around my family come cocktail hour, I appreciate it more consciously when I am, I look forward to the time when we all sit around and talk for the sake of our sips and the company of each other.  

As you may expect, everyone has their drink. The standing order that goes without saying.

 Everyone except me.
My Nan always drank an Old Fashioned. She's not much of a drinker these days due to declining health, so even a glass of bubbly at Christmas is rare occasion, but from the time I can remember ordering a ginger-ale with grenadine from my grandfather at near-toddling age, I can see my Nan throwing together a tray of appetizers and wiping her hands on a towel as she'd settle her bright pink lips on an Old Fashioned.

Never mind the fact that I bartended for two summers and never once received an order for my Nan's old standby, I still feel like it's one of those timeless beverages that speaks volumes for the person ordering. I served more Bud Lites to a single person in the time I spent bartending than I received real drink orders from people who enjoyed good company and cocktail hour over the spectacle of getting OMGZ SO WASTED.

There's almost no romance in drinking anymore, unless you count going home with someone you meet at closing time, which I don't.

I think back to watching my grandfather carefully measure out the ingredients for everything in shot glasses, using his special bar cutting-board and knife to slice up an orange. I think of him presenting each drink with flourish, and it makes it hard to see the vice in drinking. One reason is probably because usually at family cocktail hour, no one was getting drunk. I mean, sometimes someone still did, but usually they had the decency to act like it was an accident.

Alas, I don't drink anything so romantic and complex as the Old Fashioned, although I'll order one to feel adult when I'm dressed up and feeling fancy- Or simply need to channel my Nan.  The fact is, I rarely ever sip at all if I've set my mind to drinking. In fact, I've been known to drink with abandon, unapologetically, when the mood strikes.  I'll glide like a skipping stone from one drink to the next, never claiming allegiance to anything before I meet my nights end and fall into sleep.  

At family cocktail hour, my order is always in rotation, sometimes a beer, sometimes a glass of wine. Nothing as distinguished as my Nan and her muddled whiskey, bitters, and orange peel Old Fashioned. I guess I don't feel like I've earned the right.  I have to hope that someday I'll gain the class and quiet poise that goes along with drinking such a sturdy and distinguished signature beverage, and I'll carry on my family tradition with the honor and dignity it deserves.- But until that day comes, you can be sure, there is decidedly little romance in my drinking.

Although at the very least, I still have the decency to act like it was an accident when the night ends with me pulling my dress up over my head.

Monday, June 18, 2012

the love brew.

This weekend I spent as much time as possible at the park reading my book, per usual. I'm addicted to this series about Scottish warriors right now, which sounds really dorky, but holy hells these guys were total badasses. These books are about 1000 pages each and I'm about to finish book five out out eight, so it looks like Matt's in for another week of me disappearing into the pages every time he takes his eyes off of my for me a second. He thinks I read too much. I say there are far worse habits, like cocaine and hookers.

Anyway I read a lot and swam in the lake three days in a row (!!!) and also did Father's Day things like ate a lot of Roast Beef, and also Matt the master brewer let me assist him in making a batch of home brew.

This is big time, guys. I'm calling it our love brew since he's letting me take half to Montana when I leave. How romantic, right? Considering my affinity for alcohol, I'll take it as a grand gesture. Funny that the one of us that doesn't really drink is the one who spends countless hours researching and concoting new and exotic beers. At least I get to reap the benefits, as the test panel, of course.

Matt's pouring the flavoring/grains/I don't know the techincal term. It's going to be a coffee stout.. YUM.

I'm adding hops. I did a lot of pouring in ingredients and mostly Matt did everything else... but at least I helped?

Making beer meant a lot of sitting around and drinking beer for me. We had to let this boil for an hour.

After we were done making the beer we went to Dairy Queen and my ankle gave out in the parking lot, so of course I fell, sprawling out, on my ass in front of practically the entire town on a Saturday night. I had a melt down when we got back to the car. It was very intense. And then eventually I got over it, drank a beer, and went to bed. I probably got a little too much sun.

Due to Father's Day festivities I got to hang out with my main girl, Florence. I actually held for her probably twenty minutes combined this weekend without her crying. This is a new record, she mostly only likes her mom. Psh. This chub-a-lub will be three months old on Wednesday and she already weighs fifteen pounds... I'm led to believe that's the baby equivalent of the heavy weight title. Good girl.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

a non-exhaustive list of what is up with me.

1. The housing search for my impending move across the country is getting markedly...frustrating. As if that wasn't to be expected using internet searches from thousands of miles away. You know, for once in my life it would be REALLY nice to actually not be to allergic to the place I live... aka have hardwood floors. I thought I had found a place I could afford that was awesome and made my heart happy and in a great location... but then I found the blog of a disgruntled resident, devoted entirely to just how shitty the place was. Some of my favorite pieces of information included the murder that happened right outside the front door last year, the bedbug epidemic, and the fact that the plumbing is frequently stopped up. YAY ME. I get it, I get the cycle now, any place semi-livable will always be out of my budget and any place within my budget will be a dump. Cool. Glad I had this talk.

2. I could have MURDERED my lovely boyfriend this morning... Why? Oh let me explain. I wake up between the minutes of 6:36 and 6:45 every morning. Every fucking morning. Matt wakes up between 7:15 and 7:25. We have this down to a science for bathroom time and goodbyes and everything. You know what we do not have down to a fucking science? Matt's alarm. What do I mean? I mean I will wake up in the morning to the sound of a bird chirping three miles away. A bomb could go off and Matt would not stir in the slightest. I wake him up nearly every morning. So WHY does he have ELEVEN alarms that go off starting at 6 bloody 15?  You know who wakes up? ME. You know who doesn't even begin to broach the realm of consciousness? MATT. I turn off all eleven of these alarms. EVERY DAY. Those are my last twenty minutes of sleep thankyouverymuch, at least set them for after I need to wake up, especially if you aren't going to drag yourself out of the warm nook of bedful bliss until 45 minutes later. Thanks. . Every time I try to bring this up, we get in a fight. HI HONEY. The last two mornings have been less than amiable between us. Breaking point? Yeah, I've hit it.

3. My father turned fifty last Friday, the old geezer. I probably don't need to explain any further than this:

that's my father. taking a shot. out of an ice luge. on his birthday.

florence, as always, looking like she's having a great time. at least she's got the stank eye down pat.

props to my mother for yet another ragefest of a party.

oh yeah, this happened. i hate to miss out on the fun. big thanks to my little brother eric for the assist.

4. This past weekend we drove to Columbus to see my old college friends get sloppy on a bar crawl. And succeed I did, in spades. Looks like Columbus really brings out the white girl wasted in me. Thanks for that reminder, self. Good times were had by all and my night ended with a cab driver laughing maniacally as he drove the wrong way on a one way and then a black out. Good thing I'm moving even further away from Columbus, I can't handle that kind of partying anymore.

i used to live with these people! friends4evaaaaaaaa.

now time for a before and after. ready? this is the before.

......and the after.

5. Yesterday driving to work it was clear blue and beautiful and perfect... and something broke inside of me. So I took a half day. It was the best decision I've made all week, easily. God, I love summer.

better use of my afternoon? i'd say so.

6. I was going through my clothes, trying to purge my belongings (rather unsuccessfully I might add), when it came to my attention that I am, in fact, the owner of a red velvet blazer. I've worn in once. On a first date. In Chicago. He ended up taking me to a naked burlesque show. I don't know why I haven't burned this thing, let alone donated it. Usually, I have such good taste. I do have a theory about why I can't throw things like this away though. I LOVE THEME PARTIES. You never know when you're going to be able to use something for a costume/outfit. I'm right, right? Yes, I am.

god, i'm such a babe. i'll miss you, red velvet blazer.

And that, my friends, is what is up with me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

warm weather tunes

So, just about every season I make a playlist and play it in my car for three months until I get tired of it and make another one... here's what I've got for summer. My ears are so happy! Some of these songs are on every playlist I make (Dirty Dishes) and some are newbys (Calm and the Crying Wind) all are sure not to disappoint.

Folding Chair- Regina Spektor
Hey Ho- The Lumineers
Hold On- Alabama Shakes
Judy Blue Eyes- Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Dirty Dishes/Smith Hill- Deer Tick
Valentine, NE- Rachel Ries
Stay By My Side- Good Old War
Obvious Child- Paul Simon
Knock Knock- Mac Miller
Midnight on the Interstate/Jar's at Home/Keys to Paradise/ Calm and the Crying Wind- Trampled By Turtles
Kreashawn- Gucci Gucci
Devandra Banhart- At The Hop
Dance Dance Dance- Steve Miller Band
Love Interruption- Jack White 
Gimme Sympathy- Metric
Naive (This Must Be the Place)-Talking Heads
Sweet Jane- Velvet Underground
Hello- Martin Soleveig & Dragonette
Faces In the Dark- The Generationals

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

organizing: a mentor.

2008, continued.

After dicking around in the parking lot for at least two more smokes, making plans for a trip that evening to the only bar in the county with some of the other organizers, really milking the clock before we set out, Jeff catches my eye and nods toward his car. I gesture my acknowledgement and climb into passenger seat of his silver Taurus without a word, all at once overcome by the smell of damp and cigarettes and what honestly kind of smells like a dead animal. I breathe through my mouth and I wait. And wait. Once Jeff starts talking to someone, the conversation is rarely brief. When I finally concede that I'm going to have to open to door so I can breathe outside air,  I see him saunter over in his overall union suit, flipping his zippo and sweeping the shaggy hair off of his glistening forehead with his left index finger as he prepares to settle into the car. He's a stout, sturdy, man and he gives off the air of a person who cannot possibly be rushed or ruffled. As he turns the engine, I eagerly press down my window to sweet release, forcing myself not to gasp in the fresh air.

He leaves it to me to put the sheets in order, that is, deciding what our route will be for the day- and I feel a sense of pride at his confidence in me. We are a good team. I'm glad of it.

Jeff talks constantly, in a slow melodic drawl that at first, I found mildly infuriating. Until I realized his slow talking wasn't any bearing on his intellect or ability, Jeff turned out to be one of the most informed people I'd ever met. He just chose, for whatever reason, to draw it out languidly.  He tells me stories of his 53 years on earth for hours, with a constant Winston to the wind, and I'd likely be lulled to sleep by the soothing cadence of his voice were it not for the fact that he speeds through the narrow mountains and hills like a man long driven mad.

At many points in our travels over the year that he acted as my mentor, I actually convinced myself that I was ready to die, because I was sure, with him behind the wheel, we were going to end up in the fiery blaze too far into the wilderness for anyone to notice.

We never died, despite how convinced I was that we inevitably would. But we did make impeccable time.

For all his fire and brimstone, fanatical devotions, and extreme paranoia as to the intentions of those around him, Jeff is one of the most generous and empathetic people I've ever met in my life. I've actually seen him tip the McDonald's drive-thru employee more than the cost of our two coffees combined. He's just a western union wire away from his scattered children's aid, and always spread thin with worry of their well being, his wife having died of cancer a few years back.

But he's not a lonely man, and he regales me with stories of his conquests and numerous girlfriends, young and old, as I attempt to piece back together the remnants of my own shattered heart. My own shattered pride. We talk about Kate, the mute former folk singer who lost her voice in a tragic accident- she keeps him company when we travels south, and his crazy first wife in Ohio who became addicted to meth and sent her wild biker-club family after Jeff to try to squeeze more money out of him than her monthly check allowed.

He talks about running a crooked ice cream truck operation in Cleveland and also about escaping to the Florida Keys when he was 19 and found out he'd knocked up his girlfriend at the time. He speaks of everything he's encountered,  from murders and arrests, to attending communist meetings, and dancing at hippie festivals in the same level tone, and it makes me want to peer inside his mind and catalog everything in there. He's never embarrassed, he is straightforward and up front with what he brings to the table, and for one with such a colorful life, he is proud. It often feels like I'm under a spell, hearing him talk.

The day passes quickly despite the long drives between houses, and we manage some success, a couple of cards, mostly due to Jeff's slow drawl and refusal to acknowledge what I interpret as outright hostility. Eventually, most of these meetings settle into more amiable conversations.  We tally everything up as we debrief in his smokey hotel room, and he has me take more than half of our bounty to boost my numbers. He always looks out for me. The fact that he wants me to succeed means so much more than the initial 'good luck,' I got from the union when they stranded me by myself with no training as far east as possible without crossing state lines. Somehow I survived that two months on my own, and now that Jeff's on my side, I feel like I might just make it through my probation in one piece.


I'm getting a nicotine headache, it's been a long day. I'm not used to so much smoke in my lungs or milling around my head, no matter how much time I've spent in shady bars and pool halls since I landed in Kentucky. I take a drink of water and direct my attention back to the man speaking to me, ready to beg off and down a beer. Or four. I will myself patience and sit still, reminding myself that I have a lot of learn from this man.

Jeff is careful talking to me sometimes, but only when he's asking me questions. He can tell I've had a fairly privileged upbringing and I've mentioned my mostly republican family on occasion. He's wary of my college degree because he's wary of the success of young people like me, how can we possibly know what a union means for people if we've never needed one to survive? How can unions possibly survive with only us to speak for them when his generation is gone?  It took a while to gain his trust, but I know he does now, despite he wariness at asking certain things about me.  He surprises me, though, when he asks me about the fella I've been talking to on the phone so much. I rarely take personal calls in front of anyone from the union, but occasionally I'll be at the tail end of one when I pull up to one of our meetings. I assumed he never noticed, but apparently, he had.

"I can tell plain as day you love 'im you know, the way you talk to him. You don't sound the same when you're talking to me on the phone or anyone else. So who is he?"

And I'm flustered because I've been insisting to everyone and myself that Matt is just my friend.  For years. I'm still broken hearted, of course, over some guy that doesn't give a damn if I'm here nor there, but heart ache hasn't helped my rationality much. I'm convinced I can't be with anyone, this shell of a person that I've become when thinking about anything other than work- sometimes even that, so I'm definitely not dating Matt. He's my best friend. I'll not have our friendship ruined on a rebound. Maybe when I'm better, whole again. Maybe.  I tell him we're just friends and he rolls his eyes at me like he thinks I'm lying or maybe just that he thinks I'm totally delusional. He's probably right about both.

Still he prods at me about Matt in his casually cautious way, and I realize it's oddly akin to the way he prods the conversation along with potential union members. Respectful but curious. Immune to discomfort. Ready with another question if the natural progression of the talk splutters out.

How I know him: We went to high school together. Have we dated before: No.  Have we slept together: No. Do I want to: None of your goddamn business, Jeff! He laughs at that. He asks what Matt does and I tell him he works for an independent contractor, building things. He asks where he went to college and I say, "He didn't,' not thinking much of it, and steel myself for the next inquiry. But that's when the questions stop.

I look up and Jeff's looking at me smiling, like I'm his own child and I just took my first steps. He gives me an approving nod and says, "I was maybe wrong about you. I guess I still thought you were one of those spoiled snobs up on Knob Hill, slumming it for a time before floating back on up to your privileged life," he said, waving his hands to demonstrate the hoity-toity folk on Knob Hill. "But I guess you're not, since you're in love with the regular guy and all. I didn't expect that from you. Oh, if only I were 30 years younger!" He shrugged his shoulders to signify that he was done, and by that time I was flushed Christmas red so I just nodded and walked out the door. Debrief was officially over.


I walked down to my room, then, not really knowing whether to be offended or pleased with the encounter. It didn't matter to me that my best friend the person I was maybe secretly in love with hadn't gone to college. In fact, I'd never paid it much mind, but apparently it was a big deal for Jeff, who hadn't attended college either. But why did I basically admit to Jeff how I felt, when I wouldn't even let myself acknowledge the fact?

As I changed from my smokey clothes into my soon-to-be smokey bar attire, almost identical, I called Matt to tell him about my day just like I did every night. It was nothing out of the ordinary.

I decided as we chatted comfortably that I wasn't anything, offended nor pleased about what Jeff had said. I was just me. It hadn't been anything calculated or weighted for gain or loss, and my true self had been enough, I felt comfortable enough to speak candidly with Jeff, probably because he respected me enough to speak honestly and candidly with me, no matter what.  He was my friend. I discovered then how important that was for me, despite what could have been a back-handed compliment.

Maybe I was learning about more than organizing labor unions from slow talking Jeff Abbe.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

organizing. an introduction.


We convene in the hotel parking lot, loosely filing outside after the morning meeting, which probably should have been held out here if they wanted anyone to pay attention. Cooped in a room together like that, it's a competitive stand-up show among those of us supposed to be listening.  The morning mountain air hits my face and I amble toward the group. It's a chain reaction of flame to cigarette tip, and we form a broken circle of sorts, holding one arm lazily outside the ring and then up to our mouths, again and again, like a white trash version of the hokey pokey. The Holiday Inn Express sign looms above, more unimpressive than usual against the brilliant greens of the hills that envelope us. Still, they've put me in far worse hotels in less desirable places, and this is the only hotel for miles and miles.

I mostly listen as the true believers bitch about the rental place trying to give them foreign pieces of shit and the lack of smoking rooms in our current domicile. Somehow, the hierarchy of time put in is done due justice and the most deserving are actually the ones that snatched up both of the rooms in the hotel that accommodate our bad habit. I don't mind, I don't smoke indoors, but I keep that to myself. We all smoke. If nothing else than as a way to harness time, keep track of it, race it to our death, or at the very least urge it along. It gets lonely.

I feel out of place sometimes, holding my ground in this circle of mostly men, corrections officers and old steel mill workers. Some women too, sure, but not many close to my 22 years and not many with my yuppie upbringing or a freshly minted college degree. Sometimes it makes me feel lucky to have found a place among them, other times it makes me feel like a piece of meat, an offering, enticement. Not many young ladies doing this, I'm often reminded. Sometimes I can hear the anger in their voices, resentment that the union is hiring these ignorant kids based on a stupid piece of paper.  I get a lot of attention from my co-workers, not all of it welcome. I shake my head at the thought and it rattles and settles down. I focus on something else and make myself forget it was there in the first place. These are my brothers. I am part novelty, part wing man, part sister. We are family by union discourse and some other bond I can feel strengthening within me. 

We're dawdling and though I'm shifting from one foot to another, I'm used to it now, the standing around. I never used to amble anywhere under any circumstances. I used to talk fast and walk fast, a likely byproduct of a childhood spent trying to keep up with my mother as she wove through the supermarket aisles as if running a race. But I'm learning patience, slowly. The folks I'm after don't trust fast talkers. They don't like to be rushed. Learning the script and talking points isn't enough, and it stalls many young organizers out before they ever really get off the ground. You can't ramble it all out in a single string of jumbled words and be proud because you remembered them all. It's a dance, the nuance sometimes more important than the words. Not an easy lesson to learn, and not all can abide. Luckily fast learning is encouraged, and I don't like to disappoint.

We're on a blitz. That's what they call it when a bunch of us are brought together for a weekend or more, working in frenzies, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, putting in twelve hours or more in a day. It's extra work, sure, but it's a change to talk to someone other than Stella and to drink with someone other than myself in somewhere other than another unfamiliar bathtub. I'm flushed with excitement this morning at the faces, some new and some familiar now, that surround me.

Stella is my GPS and she's kind of a bitch. Sometimes she's the only thing that talks to me for entire days. We're all equipped with GPS's, they're our lifelines as we make our way over every type of terrain. They're our companions, too. But today we're working in pairs and I could jump for joy. I've been so lonely.


I hadn't felt right since last week. On the day in question, I was in the middle of nowhere, the hills covered in plush greenery further than I'd ever seen them go, and I lost satellite and cell service for most of the day. Still, I drove on. Some dull sense of duty to do my job prodded me forward, I guess. When I finally reached the house I was looking for, after a two and a half hour drive, I graciously eased my unused legs onto earth and wobbily strode to the front door of the trailer, emitting an air of grim accomplishment at finding the damn thing at all.  I repeated the name of the person I was looking for a few times in my head to be sure, and knocked then dropped my arms to my side, praising myself for remembering to relax my body language. I was still relatively new to the game at this point, after all.

My calm smile was greeted by the barrel of a shotgun. I never knew until that exact moment that the first thing to fall out of my mouth when it happened would be a joke. And fall it did. Right onto the mucky ground, leaving only white noise prickling in the air that floated between me and the gun. Something about being armed with nothing but good news and a name badge. I've never felt more thankful to have a door slammed in my face. I ran back to my car that day. Looking back, it probably wouldn't have helped, but I ran anyway.

Still shaking, I steered over to the side a few miles down the road and pulled out the sheet of paper brandishing the address that housed that long metal barrel and marked the man on that sheet a three. Three means don't bother and don't come back, they're not having any of it. I certainly wasn't going back.
I didn't even know if that was the person I'd been looking for. What a waste of half a day. And then I realized that I was more angry about wasting half a day than having my life threatened at gunpoint in the middle of nowhere, where no one would have found me.

I started laughing hysterically then, in disbelief that this was my life.  I laughed and laughed while tears traced shallow streams haphazardly down my face and I beat my steering wheel to dickens as I screamed along to the radio.  The rest of the week seemed relatively uneventful after that, though even after my hangover wore off I still hadn't felt quite right since then.


But today, today was a new day. Today was the blitz and everything was going to be fine because I was paired with Jeff Abbe, and that man had never met a stranger in his life.

sibling saturday.

While my parents gallivanted off to Michigan for the weekend, we had an impromptu sibling bonding day on Saturday. Somehow we all managed to make it to our youngest brother Charlie's first game in the soccer tournament he was in. The forces of the Universe were with us on this one.  Plus they won, which was a bonus.

T'was a good day for a soccer game. Charlie's in the blue, ready to hustle.  

My sister brought her babe. As her only aunt, I feel it my duty to paparazzi her constantly.

After the game we gathered at my sister's for a cook out.

I bet my parents are wondering why we choose to spend time together now when they couldn't have paid us to be in the same room together only a few short years ago?