Wednesday, November 28, 2012

on a thankful day

Thursday morning I rushed around the apartment, rushed to a cab, rushed to 59th and Lex, only to wait for twenty-five minutes for the Jitney out to the North Fork.  I rushed, to wait.  There's something poignant in there I think. 

Just under two hours later the bus pulled over to the side of Main Street in Cutchogue.  In front of Scoops Ice Cream and a few doors down from the diner and the church turned library.  I stepped off the bus, wished the driver a Happy Thanksgiving, and walked the half mile to my Mum's.  

It was perfectly quiet and clear and cool and I found myself smiling as I walked.  If I had been a character in a movie there'd have been good music, something to make sure the audience knew that this meant I was happy.  That something deep inside felt calm and at ease.  

I walked in the back door to hugs and the familiar high pitched, but welcoming, squeal of my mom.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, and my Mum.  A cacophony of family.  And it was good.  And I was thankful. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

on Life List item #1

Last week, procrastinating at the computer, Mike started listening to various versions of the Notre Dame Fight Song on YouTube (hey, everyone has a vice).  After a few minutes he found a video of a three year old girl singing the song.  The look on his face said what I knew he was thinking, “one day we could have one of these and teach them this.”  

It’s more real now.  It has been for me for a while.  But for Mike it’s always been this vague, distant thing.  Someday we’ll have kids.  Someday he’ll be a Dad.  But now that the attempt is in the present I’m noticing a change in him.  (I'm sorry, I know, I hate these phrases too: “attempt”, “trying”.  They come with such baggage.  With such uneasy entry into a very personal aspect of someone’s life.  At a party and the topic of babies comes up.  The couple in the room link arms, shares a knowing glance, and says, “oh, well, we’re trying.”  Well, thanks for that.  Because now I’m picturing you guys “trying” and it’s not exactly the image I need as I’m “trying” to eat as many cured meat/cheese/cracker concoctions as I can.  How’s that for a parenthetical aside? Whew.)
So yes, the trying.  Oh, the trying.  The counting of days.  The x’s and o’s on a calendar, the calendar purchased just for this purpose.  For the purpose of tracking the things you need to track when this is the thing you want.  I think of Mike’s two students who recently had babies.  As difficult as it must be for them, evolution prefers it.  Our bodies haven’t caught up to our new world.  The world where you wait to get married, combine finances, wait some more, take that little pill at the same time every night because, god forbid, we’re just not ready.  Wait for an even number year to try because that’s lucky (ok, maybe that’s just me).  But then the even number year turns out to be unlucky and you are thrown into the system of x’s and o’s, of counting and tracking and hoping and waiting.
And all the while you are desperate to tell someone, just anyone, but you don’t know who wants to hear it.  So, instead, you find yourself talking to your brother at 11pm on a Saturday night about trying and not trying too hard and ridiculously hilarious stories that make you feel less alone and weird and then thankful for having the most amazing friend in the guy that was born to your parents four years ahead of you.  Even if the conversation does make you realize that there really are no more lines left to cross in the sibling relationship.

painted wall at the Ace Hotel, home of Camp Mighty
But then there was Camp.  On the first night we played Life List Bingo, a way of meeting the people around us by matching them up with squares on the game.  One of the squares was “Get Knocked Up.”  Suddenly the very personal became very public and it didn’t matter.  I announced to my table that they could use me for that square and then, as the night went on, people came to find me, the girl whose number one Life List entry was to be a mom.  It felt funny ("hey guys, over here, I found Get Knocked Up!"), and true, and no longer something that I had to be embarrassed by.   

But I promise not to speak of this when we're at a party together and you're trying to focus on eating the appetizers.  Promise. 
view from breakfast at the Ace Hotel

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

on a bit of mighty

Saturday night, sitting at the diner with a small group of driven, smart, passionate women, I found myself making the case for why the zombie apocalypse was more than plausible, and why the $239 backup power supply from Brookstone* was on my Christmas list because of it.  I had only met these women two nights earlier but somehow felt comfortable enough to show them my nervous-rocking tick as I tried to convey, "this is real guys, it could happen."  It may have been the margarita talking, or maybe the two hours of The Walking Dead I had caught up on before going to Palm Springs but, either way, I felt pretty strongly that they needed to understand the consequences of inaction.  The group was quiet for a second and then Adina spoke up: her mom lived upstate with plenty of land to grow things and the position of the house was "defensible".  Yes, I thought, this is good.  We have a plan.  

I have more to say about Camp Mighty.  More important things than rambling thoughts of zombie tv shows turned real life.  Like how it lifted me out of the din of the past few months and snapped me awake.  How it surrounded me with a feeling so far from the middle-school-cafeteria fear I thought I'd be struck with**.  How the weekend served as a reminder that there is so much more to be and do and these people are the ones who are making it happen. 

But, for now, I am left knowing that if all goes to hell, I have a group of ladies who will have my back.  In a defensible position in upstate New York.  And that's something.

*ok, so I don't actually have a Christmas list, but if I did this would be on it. Most likely because of the Hurricane and the thought of being without power for all those days. But it would come in handy if the world crumbled due to zombie invasion as well.

**The fear was definitely present for the first hour of Thursday night as I forced myself to leave the safety of the hotel room and enter the bar.

Monday, November 12, 2012

on Sandy

We packed up the car with warm clothes and diapers and canned food and flashlights and headed out to the Rockaways last Saturday.

It was a beautiful day.  Clear and breezy and if you ignored the blocks upon blocks of downed trees and dark intersections, you could almost pretend that it was a perfect fall day.  As we turned onto Cross Bay Boulevard the car slowed and we creeped along for the remaining miles.  The roads were crowded with families collecting food and water and others who were standing among the contents of their battered and gutted homes.  The water logged and rotted remnants of everything that was once inside them.  

We sat in traffic while these people moved around us.  For a sick instant, as I played with the camera in my hands, it reminded me one of those drive-through safaris at Great Adventure.  Where you make your way slowly through the amusement park as the zebras and giraffes come up to your car.  You snap a photo, squeal in delight that the live animal came so close to you, and then move along.  I took the three below before feeling that it wasn't right.  We had our car.  We had our apartment.  We hadn't lost power.  We weren't hungry.  Taking the camera out to snap these people at their lowest, when I wasn't a photojournalist but rather just a glorified tourist, didn't feel right. 

As we crossed the bridge back onto solid ground I watched the water disappear in the side mirror.  It was blue and sparkling and inviting.  As it faded out of view I could almost pretend that it wasn't the same monster that came ashore just a few days earlier.  Almost pretend that this would never happen again, that we had seen the worst.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

on car talk

My Dad has been listening to Tom and Ray Magliozzi and their Car Talk radio show on NPR for as long as I can remember.  When I lived at home I'd wake up on Saturday mornings to their Boston r's and a's rolling out of the speakers in my Dad's office.  In recent years my visits to Cherry Valley have been highlighted by Saturday morning trips to the dump and listening along to them. (What, you don't think a visit to the town dump can be a highlight?)

But Tom and Ray have hung up their mics.  As of a few weeks ago they are no longer recording new shows.  Instead, NPR is airing shows and calls collected from the past two decades.  The news stings, and it feels like the end of an era.

It always amazes me that the things that feel like home can be carried along with us.  That home doesn't have to be just one place.  This morning I went to the computer to log on to internet radio, a strange but necessary thing in an apartment with no radio signal and, pre-recorded or not, I listened to the guys.  My Dad arrived in Mexico a few days ago, finishing his annual migration south of the border (like geese, but in a Volvo).  He's 2,544 miles away, but with Tom and Ray's voices as the backdrop to a Saturday morning, he feels close.  And it feels like home. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

on a Mighty list

I leave for Palm Springs and Camp Mighty in a week.  At some point last week, when the wind sounded like it would take our windows out with each rattle, when the images of Staten Island and Jersey and the Rockaways came pouring through the tv screen with heartbreaking frequency, I thought of cancelling.  I didn't think it was important enough, or maybe just that I wasn't important enough, and I was very close to calling United and asking about a flight refund.

A short time later a post came up on my Camp Mighty team page on facebook.  A woman in New York wrote that she was feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of fundraising for Camp in the aftermath of Sandy and was feeling overwhelmed in general.  I responded with my own comment on nerves but ended with encouragement for us both.  A few days later she sent me an email.  She thanked me for my comment and wrote that after seeing my name she realized that I was the author behind the APW Wedding Graduate Post that had inspired her to reach out to me over a year earlier.  She said that she had drafted the email and then never sent it as her own wedding arrived and she became distracted, but that here I was now.  And that we were going to meet in person.  At Camp Mighty.  As I read her words, the big scary leap suddenly felt smaller, more manageable. 

One of the benefits of Camp is taking the time to learn what it is we want to do, be, create, while we can.  So before heading out, we write a Life List and then use the weekend, and the inspiration found their, to figure out how to get some of them finished.  The simple act of writing this list has meant so much.  I found it pretty inspiring, and I love the idea of putting this out to the world in the hopes that some of them will be completed.  I will be adding some more, but for now:

1.   Be someone's mom (and a good one, or try real hard to be)
2.   Perform in a production of “Into the Woods”
3.   Take Mike to a game at Notre Dame
4.   Form a band, sing in front of a crowd
5.   Grow flowers, lots of them
6.   Go back to school for something that I love, not need
7.   Have an OpEd published in the Times
8.   Be published: anywhere, any format
9.   Write a novel…even if no one ever reads it
10. Write more, tell people blog exists
11.  Have a shared vacation home/rental with my brother and his family
12.  Learn how to mix fancy cocktails
13.  Give up the city, own a home somewhere with space
14.  Have a front porch with a swing
15.  Build a treehouse for my (future) kids
16.  Help draft a bill and lobby it in Washington
17.  Be an extra on Law and Order before SVU goes off the air (preferably the person in the first scene who finds the body)
18.  Practice guitar so I don’t need to rely on someone else to sing
19.  Take more photos
20.  Turn photos into cards, sell them on etsy (even if I only break even)
21.  Be that person who hosts great parties
22.  Have a dog
23.  Pay off credit card
24.  Summit Kilimanjaro with Mike
25.  Take a volunteer trip to somewhere that needs me
26.  Send more real/hand written notes and letters
27.  Take care of my clothes (if it says dry clean, dry clean)
28.  Spend more time outside
29.  Camp more
30.  Join a CSA
31.  Speak on a panel for Women in Development
32.  Do more, do better, with what I know (10 years in fundraising development)
33.  Be a board member of a non-profit I respect
34.  Volunteer to help a startup non-profit get off the ground
35.  Quit Diet Coke
36.  Make a significant change—local or greater
37.  Take a road trip across the U.S.
38.  Start a savings account for my future kids as soon as they’re born
39.  Climb Mt. Katahdin and the last leg of the Appalachian Trail
40.  Re-learn how to use a sewing machine
41.  Re-learn how to do a fuete
42.  Re-learn tough math before my future kids are old enough to need help with it
43.  Learn self defense, or maybe just some basic survival skills (I blame the trend in zombie apocolypse tv)
44.  Learn how to play the harmonica
45.  Learn to speak another language
46.  Learn how to grill/bbq
47.  Learn how to cook without needing recipes as backup
48.  Have headshot taken for blog sites/LinkedIn
49.  Make a budget, stick to it
50.  Have assets or, at the very least, a savings account
51.  See a show at Red Rocks
52.  Fix body: feet, back, more swimming, pilates
53.  Feel confident in the kitchen
54.  Work one day a week from home
55.  Participate in a swimming race/event
56.  Be an audience member at SNL
57.  Wear a bikini in public (and look good in it)
58.  Win a superbowl ring (not sure how, but VP of Football Operations with the NE Patriots sounds good)
59.  Take Mom to Paris
60.  Ask Dad to teach me everything he knows about growing things
61.  Record my Mum’s voice telling her stories/poems/songs
62.  Teach someone something I know well
63.  Call up the restaurant where friends are celebrating a birthday/anniversary and buy their dessert/wine
64.  Figure out logististics of performing a show with my Dad and my brother (tentative name: Tom and The Driscoll Kids)
65.  Get called up on stage to sing harmony line for Come Pick Me Up with Ryan Adams or Falling Slowing with Glen Hansard (hey, a girl can dream)
66.  Travel: Switzerland/Austria (the Alps)
67.  Travel: Alaskan coast/British Columbia
68.  Travel: a rainforest
69.  Travel: the American west (rocky mountains, red rocks, canyons)
70.  Travel: Africa
71.  Travel: Italy (Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast)
72.  Travel: France
73.  Travel: Greece and Turkey
74.  Travel: Galapagos
75.  Travel: New Zealand
76.  Travel: Thailand
77.  Travel: Watch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala in Hawaii

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

on goodnight sweet girl

Our first long distance call that night before I left Albany.  The roommates had moved out a few days earlier, as had most of the town's population of recent graduates, and I was left to pack and clean and wait for my Dad to come with the uHaul to take me to Boston.  Mike had moved back to his parent's house and it was our first time talking on the phone as two people who were no longer living around the block from each other.  The first time talking as two people who were unsure of what would come next, of whether or not we were going to be together by the time the uHaul was unpacked in the new city.

I was nervous.  I think I said as much.  Mike was more confident, not surprising even then.  He told me that he loved me (something I had only heard for the first time just a week before) and that he would visit soon, that we would figure it out.

We talked about the last few days, about my move, about the new place in Boston that I would be sharing with one of my best friends from high school.  The conversation lulled and I knew it was time to get off the phone. 

There's a scene in the movie Beautiful Girls where Andera (Uma Thurman) and Tommy (Matt Dillon) are talking and he asks her about her relationship.  Mike loves that movie, loves that scene, loves the line Uma says at the end of it.  As the conversation ended on the phone that first night apart, he said it to me for the first time. And he's said it every night since for over a decade now, each night before I fall asleep I hear those four little words.  Maybe it's not original, but I no longer think of them as something that comes from that great movie, they're just ours.  "Good night sweet girl."  And I reply with, "Good night handsome."  No matter if we're angry, or tired, or sick, or in the mountains of the High Sierras, the words are said.  And they force us back together. 

Tommy: Can I ask you a question?
Andera: Go ahead.
Tommy: How long have you been going out with your boyfriend?
Andera: Eight months.
Tommy: And it's good?
Andera: It's very good.
Tommy: He makes you happy?
Andera: Yeah. I look for that in a man you know. The ones that make me miserable don't seem to last.
Tommy: Right.
Andera: You know there are fours words I need to hear before I go to sleep. Four little words. "Good night sweet girl." That's all it takes. I'm easy, I know, but a guy who can muster up those four words is a guy I want to stay with.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

on a rambling post of one night...

Last night*.  Drinks out with the Gotham girls.  I ordered a Gin, lime, soda and sour.  It tasted like lemonade, like something you'd drink quickly after a long, hot walk.  And so I drank it quickly even though the subway ride wasn't long or hot.  And then I had two more.  Add a shot of whiskey, a shot of something suitable "for four cute girls" from the bartender, and I turned into the version of myself who sang along loudly and boldly with the band. 

This morning I was neither loud nor bold.  My head was heavy and my stomach, which only held alcohol and half of a side of french fries, was angry.  I don't do this anymore.  At a wedding last month I had two glasses of wine over six hours and called that a party.  So if that was a party then, in my world, last night was Mardi Gras.

I was not alone.  The other three were in the same state as we eased our way out of the comfort of the bar and onto the street.  We said goodbye as Kate and Chantal walked in one direction and Rosa and I made our way in the other.  Rosa's hand was in mine, her small frame teetering between upright and falling over, and she wouldn't let go.  I clasped her tighter and hailed a cab, gave the directions to her place and then, once she was out, to mine.

The cab driver asked how my night was and I told him that I had probably drank a little too much but that it was great.  That I met these women a year ago in a writing class and we had become friends, stayed in touch, and that my nights out with them were some of the easiest and most fun.  He told me that he wasn't really a cab driver, that he was trying to be a personal trainer but that no one wanted to be trained by an Indian man.  I said he was wrong and over-enthusiastically told him that I'd be happy to be trained by an Indian man.  He gave me his card and I wished him luck as we pulled onto my street and I paid the fare.

Opening the door to the apartment felt strange.  The lights were on and Mike sat at the table with the laptop open doing work.  That room, in that minute, felt like a different world.  Like these two things could not have happened in the same night.  Mike, writing a lesson plan and putting in his attendance records at home and me, dancing along Baxter Street after several hours in a dark bar.  It reminded me that on any given moment there are these planes of being just gliding over each other.  All these thousands and millions of moments and people in one night.  I was most definitely looking into it too much.  Drinking and dancing and singing along will do that to you.

I dropped my bag on the floor too loudly, whispered an apology to the neighbors below us for the noise, kissed Mike hello and goodnight, and went to bed. 

*technically "last night" was several weeks ago. I just haven't posted since I wrote this.