Monday, July 25, 2005

Repentance

O Weather Gods,
I apologize for all the times I complained that summers in Santa Cruz (and Berkeley and San Francisco) aren't warm enough. I have sinned, but now I realize the the error of my ways. Thank you for using soaring temperatures and high humidity* to show me where I strayed from the path of righteousness.

Now cut it out. I get it already. Amen.


*It is almost 10 pm, and according to weather.com, it's 89 degrees with 80% humidity--putting the heat index at 100 degrees. That's just wrong.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Minnesota is so ghetto

For the past two and a half weeks, the bus I take after work from my office to the Metro has been full of teenage ballerinas, here for a summer program with the Washington Ballet. They are very thin, usually wearing shorts and t-shirts over pink tights, with their hair up in buns. For the most part, they are less obnoxious than most groups of teens on the bus.

The dancers come from around the country, and I’ve found their conversations amusing to overhear. I heard one talking about Kansas, and one day a girl who was obviously from New Jersey was teasing a girl from Atlanta about her accent. Last Friday, most were trying to reach their parents by cell phone in an attempt to get permission slips faxed to Washington so that they could attend a Harry Potter midnight release party.

It took willpower to not giggle out loud at the conversation I overheard today. One ballerina sat reading a magazine, and another girl came up and asked her what the article she was reading was about.

“Something about Prairie Home Companion.”

“Prairie Homecoming?”

“No, Prairie Home Companion. The radio show.”

“Oh. On the radio here.”

“No, Minnesota, I think.”

“Oh….Ghetto!”

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ode to Jamie

Yesterday was not my day. I had been complaining that it needed to rain for most of the week. It has been hot and humid, and the rain would break the heat, I thought. There had been occasional thunder, but no actual rain. You know how it feels when you need to sneeze but just can’t? The air had that same sort of tense, waiting need for rain.

Yesterday, it rained.

I was waiting for a bus after work when the first few drops hit. A bus came, and I didn’t even need to get out my umbrella. But by the time we got to the metro station, it was pouring. I opened my umbrella, and tried to move quickly to the metro. By the time I made it into the station, my clothes were pretty wet, in spite of the umbrella.

It was my friend Sara’s birthday, and I was meeting her, her boyfriend Jamie, and some others for a celebratory dinner and a restaurant near my house. On the metro ride home, I decided that I would call Sara and Jamie to ask if they could pick me up on their way to the restaurant. Brian was using the car that night, and normally I would walk, but I didn’t want to go in the rain.

When I came out of the metro, though, the rain had stopped. The air had cooled a bit, and it felt less humid. The ground wasn’t even very wet. I went home and threw my pants in the dryer (yay for having my own dryer!) and found a clean shirt. A little while later, dressed in dry clothes, I headed down to the restaurant, carrying my umbrella, just in case.

I walked quickly down the hill, waving to Marvin the bus driver as his bus lumbered in the opposite direction. When I hit the bottom of the hill, I had to cross over the freeway, on a pedestrian overpass. Just as I started up the ramp, another downpour began. I unfurled my umbrella and quickened my pace. As I started over the freeway, the wind picked up, and a tried to use my umbrella to block the rain coming from my left to no avail. I thought about how embarrassing it was going to be to arrive at the restaurant as wet as I had been when I reached the metro earlier, but as I neared the half-way point of the overpass, I realized I was already much wetter, in spite of being in the rain for under a minute. How did I know I was that much wetter? There was one key reason:

My pants were trying to fall off.

I was completely soaked, and my pants were so heavy with all the water that I was having trouble keeping them up. I folded my useless umbrella, held my pants up with one hand, and ran, wishing I’d worn a belt and wondering what I would do when I reached the restaurant.

I stood underneath the awning when I arrived and looked through the glass front. I could see my reflection in the window. I saw my friends having a drink while they waited for a table. I saw them noticed me and start to smile. I stood there until I saw my friend Jamie heading toward me. I motioned him outside.

“I’ll drive you home to change,” he told me, before I could say much of anything. I refrained from hugging him. No one likes to be hugged by a drowned rat. I gave him my umbrella as we hurried to his car, as any attempt to stay out of the rain seemed a little irrelevant at that point.

At one point in time, Jamie had worried that Brian would be upset with him. That was after Jamie had delivered me home in an inebriated state about three times. We had a pattern: whenever Brian couldn’t go out with the group, or wasn’t in the mood to go out, I would go, drink more than I ought to, and Jamie and Sara would make sure I got home safely. Brian was, of course, never upset with Jamie (and usually not with me, either), but simply glad I had made it home safely. Somehow, in my mind, Jamie driving me home for dry clothes was closely connected to his willingness to be my designated driver. Still, I wished I were drunk rather than soaked.

Jamie waited in the car, listening to the Red Sox game, while I ran into the house to change. I was soaked to the skin, so I shed my clothes in the bathroom and ran to my room. I dressed, and ran down the stairs. I hurried back up to loop a long scarf through my belt loops and knot it, just in case. Within 15 minutes of my first arrival at the restaurant, Jamie and I returned. It was barely raining anymore.

Sara and Jamie dropped me off at home after dinner. I went inside and sat on the couch with the cat in my lap, listening to the messages on the answering machine. The first message made me smile.

“Hey, Elizabeth, it’s Jamie. It’s pouring right now, so if you want a ride to the restaurant, just give me a call on my cell phone and all come pick you up.”

Jamie rocks.

And I am going to try not to wish for rain for the rest of the summer.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sashay on the left

One of the cardinal rules of Metro is that you stand on the right on the escalators. There are no signs to explain the rule to anyone unfamiliar with the system, because Metro is afraid that it will encourage more people to walk, which will lead to more people falling, which will lead to lawsuits. So Brian and I coach all of our out of town visitors on this important rule, in hopes of keeping our guests alive when they travel on the trains, especially at rush hour, when the locals are rushing and cranky. When I am stuck behind someone on an escalator, I sometimes excuse myself and try to pass them. One of my friends has been known to yell “Stand on the right” on the escalator at the Smithsonian station, when it was full of tourists standing on both sides. I don’t have the nerve to do that, but sometimes, like this morning, I do want to tell the person ahead of me to sashay on the left.

Last year, Brian and I went to see A Streetcar Named Desire at the Kennedy Center. As we came out of the Foggy Bottom metro there were three women on the escalator. They were standing in a group talking, and two of them were on the left. We weren’t in a hurry for our dinner reservation, and there was no one else around, so we didn’t say anything.

We rode up behind these women. They were older, white, probably in their sixties, and two of them were rather heavy. They wore denim shorts, and they all had some sort of American flag pattern, or at least red, white, and blue—on a shirt, a vest, or a ribbon around a straw hat—almost a uniform of a certain class of DC tourists.

Behind us I heard a loud voice yell, “Stand on the right please.” I actually felt a little bad for the women—even with the “please” the loud voice seemed rude. I turned to look and saw an African-American man, probably around my age, coming up the stairs in long strides. He had extremely dark skin, a shaved head, sunglasses, and was nicely dressed. The women moved to the left.

“Thank you, ladies,” he boomed. “We stand on the right here. If you’re on the left, you have to sashay.” He was either flamingly gay, or did a good impression of it, and he continued past them, chanting, “Sashay. Sashay.” The women began to laugh, and Brian and I did, too. We took the opportunity to pass the women, and we turned in the same direction as the man, toward Washington Circle.

“You got to sashay, ain’t that right, beautiful?” I felt a hand rest on my shoulder for a brief moment. Then he passed us, saying to himself, “Sashay, sashay, sashay.”

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

First date

Among the forgotten things I found in the back of my closet over the weekend was the journal I’d kept in college and just after. I glanced through it, distracting myself from all the chores of moving for half an hour or so. It is primarily a record of the depression I was struggling with and the guys I was dating. Some what I’d written amused me, some of it was embarrassing, and some entries just brought back fond memories.

The most interesting entry was about my first date with Brian. It wasn’t interesting for its own sake—more for the fact that it doesn’t match either Brian’s or my memory of that night. Both of us remember the date being somewhat awkward. I remember him not talking much during dinner. He remembers being nervous, not knowing what to say, and being afraid to look at me because I was wearing a sexy dress, and he was worried about being caught staring (which was really the whole point of the damn dress).

But the day after that date I didn’t write about any nervousness or awkwardness. I wrote about what a good time I had, how comfortable we’d been, how we talked and talked and talked forever over dinner. I can’t say with certainty which is the more accurate description of that evening. I’m inclined to think my memory is correct. Maybe it was just the euphoria of a new relationship that made me write what I did. At the time, that night was apparently absolutely perfect.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Moving

I am in the middle of moving. We’re literally moving just down the street, to another apartment in the same development. I’m excited about the new place—it’s much bigger, it has more “upgrades” than my current unit, and I will have my own washer and dryer, so I no longer will have to constantly bug the supermarket clerks for quarters.

Even though I am glad to be moving, I am not having fun this weekend. I hate the whole process of moving, even though the end result is usually pleasing. I hate having to put my entire life into boxes. I hate all the cleaning. I try to think of it in a more positive light. Even though I hate all the cleaning and sorting involved, it’s good to go through everything and purge things that aren’t necessary, random things I’ve been dragging around during various moves that I really don’t need.

I’ve thrown away a lot of stuff, including about 500 pages of photocopied journal articles I’d used for my senior thesis, and birthday cards in which the senders hadn’t written any notes, just signed their names. There are boxes of things that haven’t been touched since I moved into this apartment three years ago: a box of snapshots and cards and other small things from my wedding, and one of miscellaneous cords, many of which are probably from electronic equipment that’s been tossed.

Yesterday I found a large manila envelope that had slipped behind the shelves in my closet. It was a random collection of stuff:

  • A yellow notepad, mostly used
  • A copy of my senior thesis
  • A photo Christmas card from my half-brother’s family, from several years back
  • A photo of me and my friend Mark at Porter College—taken in July 1998 according to my note on the back
  • A black-and-white photo that my friend Lynn took of me on the carousel at the Boardwalk in 2000
  • A dollar bill
  • Six pennies
  • Print outs of classifieds from the Washington City Paper from my apartment search when I was first moving to Washington
  • A copy of the first issue of the New Yorker to come out after September 11th
  • A hot pink Post-it note: “Call Jeff: B-day 7/22”*

I clearly haven’t looked at this envelope since I left Santa Cruz. Some of it I like—I saved the card, the photos, the magazine. But I’m unclear on how some of it ended up making the move, like the Post-it note (I moved in August, so I didn’t really need the note about Jeff’s birthday at that point) and the ads.

At any rate, the move is taking more time and energy that I’d planned. I’m trying to be philosophical, though, about the whole (miserable) process. Brian has entered some sort of organizational euphoria as he unpacks our kitchen stuff, trying to find a place for everything, repacking things we don’t really use (or that he thinks we don’t need to use) because I won’t actually let him throw away most of it. He repacks it all into carefully labeled boxes that will go up into the attic. I am trying to think of the process of moving in the same way: I will weed out what I don’t need, eliminate things that are no longer necessary, put aside what I am uncertain of, to deal with at some point in the future. I can see some benefits to having a philosophy of life that purges what is unused and organizes everything into carefully labeled boxes. I’m just not sure if it’s an appropriate philosophy for me, personally. And I still hate moving.


*That’s coming right up, isn’t it?. Happy birthday, Jeff!

Friday, July 01, 2005

A chance to sing the song

Warning: There is a very high likelihood that this post will be riddled with clich├ęs.

A friend was visiting last week, and she told us about her new romance. It was sweet to see her so excited and happy. I thought I detected some nervousness there, as well, but that seemed normal, and I decided it was probably part of the excitement.

When she had gone, Brian said to me, “I hope she doesn’t get hurt.” He has said similar things in the past, usually about other female friends who are beginning new relationships, so I wasn’t entirely surprised. But I didn’t quite agree with him.

“She probably will,” I told him. Brian was seemed astonished that I said so—maybe because I am usually the romantic and sentimental one. Still, I thought what I said still qualified as romantic and sentimental.

Another friend used to quote a lyric from a folk song when I was nervous about a new relationship (including my relationship with Brian), and I quoted it right back to him at least once. I was tempted to quote it to Brian right then, but I always feel a little funny offering up wisdom from music, and so I just tried to explain myself.

I told him that she was probably going to get hurt no matter what happens, because she's in love. If the relationship doesn't last, it will be painful since she has already allowed herself to care so much. And if things do work out, the two of them will almost certainly hurt each other, just as Brian and I have. We don't want to hurt each other, and because we are in love we try not to, but it can't be helped. When we cause each other pain, we apologize (because that line from Love Story? It's just wrong. Not that I've ever read the book or seen the movie.) and try to do better.

I feared sounding trite, because I knew I was expressing something of an “it is better to have loved and lost” sentiment. When you love you get hurt. You open yourself up to that. And that’s why being in love is so exciting and so good.

I didn’t say that I hope she does get hurt. That sounds wrong, and it’s not really what I mean. But if you care enough to get hurt, I think that’s probably good for you. That’s romantic. That’s wonderful. And I hope the hurt isn’t too terrible.