Category Archives: building a life

America! Hell yes!





I haven’t been around here much, but I haven’t been around much of anywhere. I just checked my camera, and I haven’t uploaded any pictures I’ve taken since the beginning of May.

Today was different – I was here, I made watermelon aguas frescas and we played croquet, we went to the carnival and reclined in the grass and watched fireworks. It was, in short, a perfect day.


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Based on the well-established premise that food tastes better outdoors, we set up some summer food outdoors on our tiiiiiiiiiiiiny picnic table. (We were going to grill said food, having ordered a grill from The Internet, but that grill showed up broken and we had to content ourselves with steamed corn. THE HORROR.)



Having eaten a fair amount of reconstituted backpacking food and peanut butter under the sky, I have had plenty of opportunities to think about this whole food-tasting-better-outdoors thing. However, there have not been nearly enough meals made up of real food (well, as real as veggie burgers can be said to be) out in mosquito territory. This summer, I aim to fix that forever.

It’s not exactly “bucket list” territory, but it is definitely a goal. Here’s to citronella candles, blue skies and more grilled corn than you can shake a stick at. Summer, I’m gonna get you!


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Doctors of Domesticity

I spent a while yesterday trying to figure out where the past few weeks have gone, and I realized that they have been a blurred haze of unbounded domesticity. Moving into a new home – a real home, for equal partners with equal footing and equal floor space – has been mind-blowing.

For the first time in my life, I want to come home at the end of the day – and when I get home, I find myself doing things to make the house better. This must be what normal people feel like!

And Raven, well, he is thrilled. He is thrilled about the house, and about all of the reasons we moved into it. He has worked – hard – since last summer to make things stronger between us, and I see where he has changed.

It wasn’t a result of that, precisely, that led him to choose to do this, but it somehow meant a lot more than it ever has when he sweetly and thoughtfully bought something for me. For us, really, because we both bake, but intended as a gift for me. For our house, to mark this next stage of our lives together. I saw the clarity in his gift, and the fact that it comes from joy rather than something… less fun is the best part of it. It was incredibly generous, and it is incredibly shiny. I’m in love. With it, and with him.


Here’s to better baking, gestures that are truly heartfelt, and eating all of the cookies I can possibly fit in my stomach. That is really the only outcome of having one of these in my house.


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Suburban Cake

Today was the first day I spent more than just sleeping-hours at the new house. I’ve been unpacking boxes, sweeping, mopping, naming spiders (Boris, Ivan, Andrei, Sasha and Petya) and taking occasional breaks to watch the thunderstorm that rolled through since about 8 this morning, so that makes 15 hours. The end isn’t really in sight, although I think I can see the corner where the end will be in sight. I’m at the inverse of that phase I hate so much every time I pack to move – random crap in boxes that make no sense.

So anyway, I’ve been listening to Lady Gaga (I am going to be such an embarrassing mom to my someday kid(s)) and organizing and trying to figure out why it was that I let myself live on urban city streets for the last 15 years. Because finally, after immersing myself for all of those years in East Oakland, mid-city Los Angeles and upper Manhattan (with a brief break in Astoria, which was a pleasant break but still awfully urban what with Con Ed right down the street and all), I can open my front door and experience this:

photo (2)


I feel a tight coil in my heart unwinding with every hour I spend here. Here is a place I can call home – something I haven’t had in so long let’s just not talk about that any more. Here is the place where Raven and I can start fresh, without awkward memories stashed in corners – and without neighbors who blast their terrible (and I mean terrible) music at all hours of every day and night.

That yard across the way is the home of a seriously large groundhog who is very nearly fearless. I have seen her trundling around all over that yard, even coming within a few feet of the street to… do whatever groundhogs do. Here, look:

photoDoing groundhog things.

What are groundhog things? I assume bug-eating, digging holes, sniffing things. The yoozh. Anyway, I’m digging it. The groundhog is icing on a very good cake.


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Pink Dot

The things that come flooding back from behind the closed doors of my brain are strange sometimes. Not sometimes. All the time. When memories show up, complete and intact and full of tastes and smells I haven’t thought of for years, it unnerves me. If they can disappear so completely, and then reappear out of nowhere, what else is hiding up in there?

Today, it was the memory of the  bright white glare of Southern California sun on the sidewalks up near Sunset and La Cienega that cut through my attention and distracted me from the budget I was reviewing. I spent four years near that corner, almost exclusively. Quite seriously, I almost never left. I gave myself over to a work-life entirely, and lived and breathed and slept that life without respite. It’s shocking how vague, how romantic, how foreign it feels now, when it was all I knew for years.

Those formative years between 22 and 26, years when I changed from being a hollow shell without an identity to being a human of some kind. A human who was finally on the way to the human I am now. But before I got on the path I live on now, there was Everything Else.

Those years were spent drenched in incomparable Los Angeles sun, vodka, gin, cigarettes, secrets, adrenaline, ambition, Red Bull and a coffeecoffeecoffee buzz that never really quit. And they were bordered by fear, sadness, despair; imbued with the smell of vanilla lotion from Bath & Bodyworks, antibacterial soap, southern food and the sharp, high tang of booze-soaked wood floors. And they were populated with ghosts. Some of those people are no longer living, some are just like me – no longer the person that they were.

The core of the memories in that place, though, the richest moments, were with a man who is no longer alive. He lent intensity to those years, focus to hand-rolled cigarettes, import to trips in his truck to Pink Dot, where we each bought four-packs of Red Bull for $9 that would be gone before the evening was over. My feelings for this man were echoed when got to know Chekov’s Three Sisters – Masha says of Vershinin “At first I thought him strange, then I was sorry for him, then I came to love him, to love him with his voice, his words, his misfortunes…” Unlike Vershinin, this man didn’t have two little motherless girls, but he was strange, and intense, and fed a part of me that needed both of those things. Our relationship hovered somewhere between flirtation and fraternity, and a vague but persistent nausea settles over me when I look back on how little I knew, how safe I wasn’t, how broken my heart was before we even met.

Is this what happens to everyone? I wonder all the time, and want to ask – do you pity your younger self? Does she (or he) make you cringe, but also feel sorry that no one was there to guide you? I think this must not happen to everyone, or how would we have made it as a species? The utter shame of having once been young and dumb would cripple us all.

Although really, the utter shame of having once been young and dumb should probably cripple us more than it does, on the whole.

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Today was the kind of gorgeous spring day that makes a person wonder why they would even consider living anywhere without distinct seasons. There are certainly days this gorgeously new and bright in Los Angeles, but without the ferocious winter, it’s harder to notice when the days suddenly get more beautiful and the flowers start doing their thing.

I went to Brooklyn Botanic Garden with a friend this afternoon, a sister-friend who’s been in my heart since we were nine years old. We met during the summer between fourth and fifth grades, and we’ve been all over the planet since then (well, she has – I have only been all over the country) and there is still so much love. And safety.

And in a month she is moving to California, back to my land, and I’m staying here on the East Coast, watching an ever accelerating friend-attrition. In a month, everyone I called “friend” when I moved to New York will be gone from here. And while I’ve made a few in the interim, many are far away, and there are, ultimately, only a couple of people left to go for walks in the garden with me.

And to be fair, in a month I won’t actually live in New York any more. I’ll be living in New Jersey, a fact that still hasn’t settled into my brain because how can I be a person who lives in New Jersey? This is not something that ever crossed my mind for serious. But so it goes. We are starting to fill boxes, and starting to daydream about summer evenings hanging out in the yard. It’s a strange moment, where I can’t wait for the future, but I’m yearning for the past and in sum, I suppose I’m in the perfect place regardless.

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Some times

Dear everyone,

I am sitting in my apartment in the mostly-dark on a Saturday afternoon. I’ve been knitting, and Raven is down with a migraine. I am savoring the quiet, but there is a part of me that is on incredibly high alert. The same part of me that watched my siblings while our mom had migraines, the same part of me that has never figured out exactly how to relax and stop paying attention to the quiet noises, the subtle moments.

Still, as I’m knitting, my thoughts have time to spread out, oozing into the ridges and cracks in my brain, and I find myself tasting the flavors of the various lives I have led.

I am thinking of bright, good days in Los Angeles, of driving to Santa Monica and walking near the beach, of stopping in Westwood for cheap ice cream sandwiches at Diddy Riese. Those chocolate chip cookies, with their crisp edges and soft centers, filled with mint-chip ice cream that always melted almost as fast as a person could eat it. I am thinking of hiking up near the observatory, my shoes filled with dust and sand while the wind whipped at my clothes, trousers inappropriate for hiking but I barely knew any better then.

I am thinking of dark days in Los Angeles, too, dark days when I lived in the pink house with my sister and my niece and I kept my possessions in boxes and slept on a futon with no sheets. Nights when I drank myself to sleep to shut out all of the misery, nights when I didn’t and all of the misery came in. The days and months and years that I lived in that ridiculous little studio apartment with a man who refused to be my boyfriend but also wouldn’t let me go, who told me how awful I was at everything while also telling me I could be so much more. I remember my days working at the architecture firm more vividly than I have in a long time, remember the faces I never grew to care for and the strange tasks I was asked to do. The utter uselessness of the position combined with the constant terror of doing something wrong.

I am thinking of evenings in bars in Chinatown, listening to bands play that I didn’t particularly care for, fueling myself with vodka and frozen yogurt, diet coke and cigarettes, always running until I crashed, and then picking myself up to run again. So many losses – wallets and keys and social security cards and clothes and love and direction and friendships and time.

I remember evenings when my sister was out of the house, figuring out what to make for dinner for my niece while she refused to eat anything that I offered. She always eventually ate macaroni and cheese, and I vowed to never let my own someday-children live on chicken fingers and macaroni.

I remember the fierce heat of Los Angeles days that invigorated, rather than drained. The heat of New York summers is a completely different beast, less hot but much more ferocious. I remember walking for miles along Wilshire because I couldn’t bear to wait for the bus and I was letting the man who refused to be my boyfriend but who couldn’t let me go use my car for some oh-so-important purpose – an unpaid gig, a practice session with a band, a meetup with one of his girlfriends.

And then I pulled up my roots and left my beloved niece (nieces, by that time) and sister and moved across the country to a place I have hated from the first month I lived here, a city of noise and despair and chaos and importance and endless, endless, endless sadness. And in this city, I have worked through the darkest moments and my life has had such different flavors – subtler, laden with molasses instead of citrus, salty with tears and surprisingly crisp around the edges. I have walked through things I swore I would never walk through, and on the other side I’ve realized – I could do that again if I had to. I’d prefer not to have to, but I certainly could.

I have grown and expanded my thoughts and capabilities. I have found a job I love, where the things I am asked to do are not ridiculous but rather, completely appropriate. I have time to sit in a dim room on a Saturday and write about all of the things I have felt in the past that I don’t feel any longer – I am grateful for this time. I am grateful for the time to come.



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