Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: The Ambiguity of It All (Maybe, Perhaps?)

Some songs I've been listening to, and loving. Maybe they have a common theme (in my mind)? Maybe?

In this first video, Sharon Van Etten talks about her song, "It's Not Like," saying it's about "being happy, and being sad; cliché human emotions that everybody feels about love; frustration and excitement, the ambiguity of it all" and I really love it. I listened to all of her albums at work today for the first time before I listened to her new album that's streaming on NPR. Her new album is called "Tramp," and I love that, too. The title and the content.

Without further ado, here she is talking about, and singing, "It's Not Like":

I also recently spent a day listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen after listening to his newest album, "Old Ideas," on (surprise!) NPR. It's fantastic, and I listened to it three times in a row.

But you might know this track a little better. I just love every damn lyric in this song, from "I used to think I was some kind of gypsy boy" to "You held on to me like I was a crucifix" to "I'm cold as a new razor blade/you left when I told you I was curious/I never said that I was brave" ... but that's kind of just Leonard Cohen for you, isn't it? Okay, I'll shut up now.

Just listen:

When I was home a couple weeks ago, I snagged a copy of my dad's 92.3 WTTS Collector's Edition, which happened to include a live recording of Ray LaMontagne singing "For the Summer" at The Lawn at White River State Park in Indianapolis—the same performance I saw with my family this summer. When I listen to it, I remember exactly how I felt that night at the show. And how I felt moving back home for the summer (well, a little longer than just the summer) as an adult two years ago.

Here's Ray singing "For the Summer":

"The ambiguity of it all," right? Maybe it's not always good, but it doesn't have to be bad, either, I don't think. After all, like Ray sings, 
Through the years I have learned / Some things worth the tellin' / And you'd be right in guessin'/ that each and every lesson they were hard won
Now, so long. "It's time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Recommended Reading: Mother Loss, and Mindy

In the last couple weeks, I've read two books that were incredibly enjoyable in wildly different ways.

First up: Motherless Daughters, by Hope Edelman

I found this book last week when I was silently geeking out in the new neighborhood used bookstore, Uncharted Books. How could I not geek out?

1) A used bookstore, in the neighborhood.

2) Huge women's studies section (now this is huge, relatively speaking. This is not a big bookstore. We're talking four or five shelves here.)

I'd been hoping I'd find a good book to buy to show my support/ridiculous excitement over the bookstore's arrival to Logan Square, and then, there it was:

This book was an incredibly meaningful read to me, for obvious reasons. (Well, obvious if you know me, and/or you've read this blog before. And of course you know me! You are either my brother or my cat!)

The author, who lost her mother when she was 17, chronicles her own story of losing her mother while also using interviews with hundreds of "mother-loss survivors" of all ages and circumstances of how they lost their mothers. It explores how losing your mother at various ages impacts a woman (or girl, in many cases) in different ways; how a relationship (or lack of) with your father influences a woman's grief, and reality; the loss of a woman's main feminine role model; how mother-loss impacts romantic relationships. And so on. And so on.

Maybe this would be a better summary: I started reading it the following morning on my commute, and got really choked up reading the introduction. 

This is why:

When my mother died, I knew no woman my age who had experienced mother loss. I felt utterly and irrevocably alone. In college, where new friends knew only as much about me as I was willing to reveal, I told few people my mother had died. Besides being unable to mention her death without breaking down, I was frightened by other people's pity. It marked me as someone different, an outsider, an orphan worthy of compassion at a time when I desperately longed for the anonymity of a crowd. In my dormitory, in my sorority, I felt as if I wore a scarlet letter visible only to me, a personal reminder of what felt like a source of shame. The other freshmen I knew had mothers who wrote letters, sent care packages, and called every Sunday at noon. When the women on my floor pulled their telephones into the hallways, I sat crosslegged on my bed and feigned interest in a human origins textbook. In conversation, I became as evasive as a defensive politician, making deliberate references to "my family" rather than "my parents" and carefully constructing sentences that never referred to my mother in the past tense.
I could have written this paragraph about my own experience, practically verbatim. (Eliminating, obviously, the sorority part.) Throughout the book, there were similar moments. This was incredibly comforting and powerful to read, particularly when I read the stories of women who lost their mother between the ages of 17 and 20, because I could relate to them the most. (I was 18, two months into my freshman year at college.)

But also comforting, in a completely different way, was realizing through these stories just how lucky I was, and am. The chapter, "Daddy's Little Girl" was a little painful to get through (in part because I hate that title). The author discusses four different types of fathers. I got through the first three, including the I'm Okay, You're Okay Father, The Helpless Father, and then The Distant Father, and thought, What the hell? None of these reminded of my father at all. But then I got to the fourth one, The Heroic Father. I hate to admit, at first I was a little skeptical. Really? Heroic? Seemed a bit extreme.

But then she goes on to describe this "heroic" father with various examples:

Samantha's father held a full-time job, headed a household, and attended to his five children's emotional and physical needs. He was a 'heroic father,' and his daughter credits him with the security and emotional strength she feels today...After her mother's death when Samantha was fourteen, her father continued and even deepened his relationship with his four daughters and one son when he became their only parent.

The heroic father typically shared child-rearing and household tasks when his wife was present and had warm, loving relationships with his children before their mother died.

The heroic father isn't perfect and is still prone to bouts of depression or doubt, but he's still clearly a parent in control. Despite his own grief, he manages to maintain a safe, supportive environment that absorbs some of the shock of a daughter's loss and helps her continue developing confidence and self-esteem... Unlike daughters of helpless or distant fathers, who must either withdraw some of their dependency or face disappointment, the daughter of a heroic father has a dad she can depend on. Even as an adult, she typically continues to rely on him for emotional support.

Well, then. There you have it. Heroic is right. Sheesh. My dad's awesome.

Okay, so, that book. Feelings! (But seriously, it was incredible.)

Midway through all this reading about mother-loss, and grieving, and relationships, I took a break to read a different book. It was a wee bit of a lighter read:

Lola, my dad & Deb's cat, making her first appearance on the blog. She did not read the book.

I love Mindy Kaling. (You might know her from a little show called "The Office.") I may or may not tweet about her on a semi-regular basis.

I'd read a couple of excerpts from this book already, one published in The New Yorker and the other in Glamour. The rest of the book did not disappoint. In fact, I read it in one sitting. And I LOL'ed throughout. And this introduction was particularly funny:
Thank you for buying this book. Or, if my publisher's research analytics are correct, thank you, Aunts of America, for buying this for your niece you don't know that well but really want to connect with more.
 My Aunt Linda gave me the book. 

Next up, I'm going to either read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (I think I read it when I was about 14, but I can't remember, yikes) or I'm going to take my second attempt at reading The Golden Notebook.

And considering I've run out of episodes of Luther to watch for the time being, looks like it's back to the books.

Happy reading, fellow nerds!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: Change the Sheets ('My Love Is a Stockpile of Broken Wills')

It's been a great day, music-wise. All this great music I've been listening to today is probably the only reason my head didn't actually explode when I was reading about all the ridiculous things Rick Santorum has to say about taking control of every uterus in the country.

First up, Ana Tijoux. Oh em gee, you guys. Her album "La Bala" comes out January 31st, but until then you can stream it on NPR. Here's a track from her first album, "1977":

Next up, “A La Modeliste,” a jazz track produced by Mark Ronson for RE:GENERATION featuring Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty, Mos Def, Zigaboo Modeliste, and members of the Dap Kings. I don't really need to say anything more, do I?

I'm also really excited about Kathleen Edwards' new album, "Voyageur." She co-produced it with boyfriend Justin Vernon, who you may or may not know from a little band called Bon Iver. Here's a track from the album I particularly like:

Now if only I had the first clue what Ana Tijoux was singing/rapping about, I think it would be a successful Monday.

Thoughts on the Anniversary of Roe V. Wade (& Why Rick Santorum Is the Worst)

Thirty-nine years ago, on January 22nd, the Supreme Court ruled to protect a woman's right to access an abortion in Roe v. Wade. And since then, the government has minded its own business, respecting a woman's ability to make her own health decisions, and no one has ever argued about it.

Oh, wait… that's not what happened at all.

Despite a scary amount of attacks on a woman's right to choose in the last year (check out this handy infographic for details), President Obama recently announced a new health benefit that defends women's access to birth control, and to mark the date of the Roe v. Wade anniversary, he pledged to stay committed “to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right," stating:

As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue -- no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Feministing points out a not-so-fun reality about abortion access that still needs to be addressed, if only we could all agree to keep Roe v. Wade intact in the first place:

When abortion was legalized in 1973, virtually all women had the ability to obtain an abortion. The Medicaid program, which covers health care for low-income people in the U.S., covered abortion just as it did other medical procedures.
But in 1977, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which banned Medicaid coverage of abortion. Abortion is the only medical procedure that has ever been banned from Medicaid. Most private insurance plans cover abortion. So it’s people who rely on Medicaid (and also: people who are federal employees or get their health care through a federal employee, people who get their health care through Indian Health Services and people serving in the military and those who get their health care through the military) are the ones who have health insurance that does not cover abortion. 
This means that they must pay out-of-pocket for a procedure ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. This means that they often are in the position of forgoing food, or paying bills or childcare in order to get their abortion procedure. 
So if you are fortunate enough to have health insurance in the US, you are likely to be covered for the full range of medical care should you have an unplanned pregnancy (for now anyway). If you happen to be a low-income person, and/or you depend on the US government for your health care, you’re on your own.
Now, anti-choicers like to try to make us all think that over at Planned Parenthood, for example, it's just one big abortion party, where women run over and gleefully get abortions, but that's simply not the case. I challenge people who are so quick to judge PP, and the countless young and older women who rely on PP for its vital healthcare services, such as cervical cancer screenings, to talk to an employee or patient at one of its clinics. We all have stories, and not all of them are even about abortion. And if they are, I think it would do the women of this country a huge service to be in a society where they're not shamed into keeping their mouths shut about those stories for fear of judgement.

To make things even scarier and insane, GOP Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum thinks that even women who have been raped should simply "make the best out of a bad situation" and "accept this horribly created pregnancy" as a gift from God. This disgusts me on so many levels. Namely because, as Tanya Somanader writes at Think Progress:

The problem with Santorum’s sense of humanity is that it doesn’t seem to extend to the victim. The emotional and physical trauma endured during and after a sexual assault often leaves a woman feeling robbed of any control over her own body and welfare. Robbing a woman of the choice to decide what to do with such “horribly created” consequences only contributes to the victim’s trauma. 
What’s more, Santorum’s argument forces a woman in these circumstances to share his religious beliefs and “accept what God has given to [her.]” A woman may very well share his belief and decide to carry the pregnancy to the term, but the fundamental point is that that should be her choice — not the government’s, and certainly not Santorum’s.

Maybe you agree with Santorum. Fine. Let's agree not to be friends. But mostly, can't we just agree that ultimately, and especially in cases of rape, that a woman should be able to choose what she decides to do with her body, and her life? And maybe we can't even agree about that. Fine. But here's the thing: Women will seek abortions whether everyone agrees about it or not. And when this choice is not protected, if we don't continue to fight for the rights we gained through Roe v. Wade, we'll go back to the horror stories of women dying from botched abortions and subsequent infections and hemorrhaging. Not only do I find Santorum's stance appalling and offensive, I believe he is an incredibly naive man to even consider that he has the power to control the women of this country's decisions about our bodies, and that, in the case of teen pregnancy, fathers should encourage their daughters to "make the right decision." The "right" decision is not always so simple, and it's not always going to be the same conclusion.

This afternoon I read a powerful article by Eleanor Cooney that was originally published in Mother Jones' September/October 2004 issue. I urge you to read it, particularly if you feel I'm exaggerating about the consequences of making abortions illegal or inaccessible. At the end of the piece, she writes:

Women of all kinds seek and have always sought abortion: married, single, in their twenties, thirties, and forties, teenagers. Some have no children, some have several already. Some never want children, some want children later. They are churchgoers, atheists, agnostics. They are morally upright pillars of the community, they are prostitutes. They're promiscuous, they're monogamous, they're recent virgins. They get pregnant under all kinds of circumstances: consensual sex, nonconsensual sex, sex that falls somewhere between consensual and nonconsensual. Some are drunk or using drugs, some never even touch an aspirin. Some use no birth control, some use birth control that fails.
Yes, I hope that we can find a way to reduce the number of abortions performed in this country. But I hope that happens because we are supporting safe sex education; encouraging our daughters and sons to not be scared to ask questions about sex and pregnancy; recognizing the value of organizations such as Planned Parenthood; and most importantly, by providing good health care to all women and men, no matter what their income.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Talkin' Loud & Sayin' Nothing (You Can't Tell Me How to Run My Mess)

Wait a minute
Shape up your bag, don't worry about mine
My thing is together and doin' fine
Good luck to you over there
There's a lot of wrong
Just keep on singin', just keep on singin'
Just keep on singin', keep on singin'...

Revisiting Scout, Atticus, and Boo

I finished reading Love by Toni Morrison last week (my least favorite of hers that I've read, which is to say, it was still quite good) and promptly started scanning my bookshelves for my next read. My collector's edition of To Kill a Mockingbird caught my eye, and I immediately decided now was the time to re-read it. By chance, both of these books were Christmas presents from my pops. Have I mentioned lately that my dad is the coolest? Cause he's the coolest.
Atticus & Scout
Sunday night, I started reading, and couldn't stop. I read all the way until the jury was out at Tom Robinson's trial when I remembered that I had to work the next day and should probably give it a rest. I didn't have time to pick it up again until last night, and then I gleefully read until I got to the last, beautiful sentence.

I can't expect that everyone else is such a fanatic that, like me, they own a To Kill a Mockingbird t-shirt, or have annoyed a table of friends at a late-night diner by quoting, YES, quoting this story with their brother. (That actually happened. Just ask my friend Beth, who gifted me with the aforementioned t-shirt the Christmas after this memorable event.)

But even so, it's safe to assume we all were required to read this in high school, right? RIGHT? And you've watched the movie, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch?


Ok, I'll calm down. But even though I know the story by heart, when I got to the end last night, good God was I all choked up. The final scene, Atticus reads to Scout as Jem's sleeping. Boo Radley's just rescued the kids from Bob Ewell, whose character scared the complete shit out of me when I was a kid (you know, the scene where he's staggering toward them in the car). As Atticus puts the half-asleep Scout in bed, they have this exchange:
He guided me to the bed and sat me down. He lifted my legs and put me under the cover.
'An' they chased him 'n' never could catch him 'cause they didn't know what he looked like, an' Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things ... Atticus, he was real nice ...'

His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me.

'Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.'

He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
Atticus & Tom Robinson
It's so simple, but it's a masterpiece.

To Kill a Mockingbird is the only book Harper Lee has ever published in her lifetime. Though the universal greatness of it does make me wonder, why weren't there more? Are there more? At the same time, it's enough. That's how good, and important, I believe this book is.

Unfortunately, I can't find all my favorite moments as video clips from the movie, but at the very least, here's Atticus in the courtroom, making his closing statements in defense of Tom Robinson:

Now, who wants to hang out and quote To Kill a Mockingbird?


Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: Lana Del Rey No Longer Fire of Interwebs' Loins; I Remember Other Music Still Exists

So, I was planning on talking about Lana Del Rey's SNL performance for this week's mix tapes, but then I remembered THE ENTIRE INTERNET ALREADY IS.

So nervous! So..out of breath? But pretty!
Jezebel hilariously called my GF a "Valley of the Dolls cosplayer" and rather harshly described how "she mumble-moaned her way through both performances with the dead eyes and quaalude-slacked limbs of an American Apparel model." ("That was way harsh, Tai.")

Pretty Much Amazing summed it up with: "It was… pretty painful to watch. We aren’t sure why she tries to hit odd notes that leave her too breathless to keep up with her lyrics. It just doesn’t work."

Valley of the Dolls? LANA? IS THAT YOU?

Vulture backed off my darling a bit, with a rather spot-on commentary. This is my favorite (emphasis is mine):

It didn't go too well. Granted, the sound at SNL is famously bad, and Del Rey was visibly nervous, but still — the timid falsetto, shaky jumps between registers, that lip snarl. It was not her best work. And the fact that a Lana Del Rey performance can really only consist of Lana Del Rey standing dead center, preening, does not help her cause. How many moody pirouettes can one woman do, over the course of four minutes? (Like two and a half, by our count, during "Video Games.")
Things had been quiet in LDR land — the "Born to Die" tigers and general yelling fatigue had seemed to briefly calm the waters. But with the rocky SNL performance, we've now arrived at "backlash to the backlash to the backlash" on LDR's Undulating Curve of Shifting Expectations (or does it just switch back to Overhyped? Are we in the Backlash phase of the Backlash curve?). Meanwhile, Born to Die is not due until January 30. How many more times can we cycle through this thing in two weeks? Will everyone start feeling guilty for making fun of an obviously terrified 25-year-old on her first live TV performance? Or will the non-Internet-faithful, who just met Lana on Saturday, shame the rest of us for ever caring in the first place? Will Lana Del Rey run for president? Really, anything could happen at this point.
And who would have thought that BRIAN WILLIAMS would be such a hater? HA! (Also, why haven't I ever brought my love of Brian Williams to the attention of the Interwebs? Cause he's awesome.)

I guess now should be the time where I follow up with videos of the SNL performances, but I can't and I won't, dammit. Go watch it EVERYWHERE ELSE ON THE INTERNET. And then watch this performance instead:

So her stage presence isn't the greatest here either. What is the greatest is that dress. And when she sings "let me fuck you hard in the pouring rain (you like your girls insane)" — now, can we all take a time out from LDR now? I'm worn out.

Therefore, in other music news:

When I wasn't annoyed that the Interwebs was exploding over my sweetie pie's SNL performance, I was getting increasingly excited that I'll be seeing The Lemonheads this Friday night. That's right! The Lemonheads! No one I've told seems to share my excitement. Whatever.

Today also happened to be one of those days where I was smiling to myself like a lunatic during my commute to and from work, because what I was listening to seemed to match perfectly with the day, and probably more accurately, my mood. (In case you're confused, no, I did not get MLK day off from work. Major boo. I didn't realize Ron Paul was running the joint! Gross. I just mentioned RP on my blog.)

On the way in this morning, it was Charlotte Gainsbourg. The sun was shining brightly enough to start melting the snow, and the water was coming down from the El tracks, on to the street, as I walked on Lake Street toward the office. Listening to this:

After work, the streets still seemed more deserted than usual, and the air felt oddly warm and slightly eerie as I stepped out the door. While I waited to cross the street, I put on Four Tet. "Love Cry" carried me nearly the entire walk to the train, and the repetitive beat turned hypnotic as I walked along, noticing how the street lamps bounced off the water glistening on the near-empty sidewalks. To be a total geek, I'll just say my mundane daily walk felt kinda magical due to the combination of all of it. That's right: kinda magical.

Well, that's it, guys. I promise not to talk about LDR for at least a week now. Off to the races...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sick Day

When I was little, staying home from school sick typically meant spending the day at Grandma Hamm’s. Mom would drop me off on her way to school, and then it’d be a day at Grandma’s until she’d be back around 4 to bring me home.

I both loved and hated this. Loved, because a sick day at Grandma’s meant I could lay in her bed and read old Nancy Drew novels cover to cover, interrupted only by Grandma checking on me every so often. I hated it for silly reasons that seemed incredibly not silly to my seven-, eight-, or nine-year-old self: Grandma always had Robitussin cough drops in awful flavors, unlike the Luden’s cherry cough drops I preferred, that basically just tasted like candy and did absolutely nothing. I was convinced she’d had the same bag of cough drops for decades, because of the way the paper would stick to the cough drop as if the two things were actually merging together. I’d force myself not to make a face as I unwrapped the cough drop and slowly place it in my mouth, because Grandma would be watching, and as soon as I’d make a face, she’d scoff, “Oh, it’s not that bad” and I’d immediately feel ridiculous and sulk into my book for the next half hour. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was worse than a rebuke from Grandma Hamm. Which was probably why I typically did everything possible to avoid a rebuke at all costs, even when sick. So I’d choke on the cough drop and mind my own business until Mom came to get me after school.

It was understood that if either my brother or me were out of school sick, it was the other one’s responsibility to collect the homework, which was particularly annoying if it required lugging one or more of my brother’s books, in addition to mine, home from school. Most days, we rode the bus, but if one of us had a sick day at Grandma’s, it was more likely that Mom would pick the other one up from school. When the tables were turned, and Jay had been sick at Grandma’s all day, I’d run into Grandma’s, feeling smug that I was the healthy one, knowing Grandma would be excited to see me, unlike Mom, who would often be cranky and “so stressed out” that she didn’t seem to be as delighted by me as I felt was necessary.

But although there was something special, and somewhat sacred, about those sick days at Grandma’s, there was one sick day from my childhood that I’ve always remembered quite vividly, at least in part.

It was my second day in a row having to stay home from school, and I had a fever. For whatever reason, my mom decided to stay home with me that day. I felt miserable, and my whole body, particularly my legs, ached and ached. I was probably whining about it. I mean, who am I kidding—I was most certainly whining about it.

But that day, I wasn't told to quit complaining, or to toughen up. Instead, Mom sat on the couch with me, my legs propped on her lap, and we watched The Sound of Music together.

That’s it: The part of the day I remember vividly. It’s not much, but it’s enough.

As an adult, it’s different. You can’t whine to your mom when your body aches from a fever. Your parents don’t ultimately make the decision about whether or not you go to school (work) when you’re sick, or when it’s the right time to go back. In college, when I first started having to deal with the reality of becoming an adult and taking care of myself, being sick also brought this strange sort of homesickness along with it. It wasn't just that I wanted to go home—I wanted to go back in time, when Mom or Grandma (or both) were still there to take care of me.

I think about mom, and Grandma Hamm, often when I’m sick. At 27, I’m a little too old to be whining and wishing I had a parent or grandparent to take care of me when I’m not feeling well. That’s for sure.

But I guess it’ll never change that every time I’m sick, there’s a little part of me that will always think of, if only for a moment, Nancy Drew and The Sound of Music.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Settled or Regular Tendency or Practice, Esp. One That Is Hard to Give Up

habit |ˈhabit|
1 a settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up: this can develop into a bad habit | we stayed together out of habit.
Although I hate to be cliché, sometimes there’s validity to certain clichés (Read: New Year’s Resolutions) if you’re really serious about something. I’ve been thinking a lot in the last week about my goals for this year, and the active steps I want and need to take to reach those goals. Doing so, in actuality, is something that’s been building up for several months, as I’ve been trying—and yes, it requires actively trying—to work on being a better me, if I may continue to sound like a total cliché.

Mostly, what I mean by that is actively working hard to achieve what I want out of my life. Taking work seriously. Thinking about where I want my career to lead. Writing. My health.

And so on. And so on. Insert the other standard clichés about how people hope to better themselves. Is it still a cliché when it is your reality?

There’s something about all this thinking and pondering and planning out this person you want to become. It’s inspiring, yes, and helps me stay motivated. But somewhere along the line, I tend to forget about the person I already am, and like. Or maybe more accurately, certain things in life I really enjoy. Little things, you know, little habits and behaviors. Like the way when I order an orange San Pellegrino at my favorite coffee shop, Café Mustache, I never take a glass of ice so I can pour it from the can, but instead, I grab a straw. Once I’m seated at my table, I peel the top foil off slowly, click on the top of the can with my nails, then pop it open and put the straw in, afterward taking only slow sips. At no other time in my life or in any situation does it occur to me to drink out of a can in this way, or to really enjoy a drink like this at all. I like how it looks, sitting next to my laptop as I write for work, and how it tastes perfectly clear and delicious as it comes up the straw and then down my throat, smooth and refreshing.

It’s silly, in a way—I don’t even order that every time I go to the coffee shop. Most of the time, I’m just drinking glass after glass of ice water and nursing the same large El Jalisco (seriously, go try it sometime) for the entire afternoon I sit there, writing. But for many months, dragging my laptop the few blocks to Café Mustache on Wednesdays was my habit, my thing, because I work from home on Wednesdays. Many weeks my girlfriends and I would all meet over there so we could work together, or just sit and talk. Or like the day after the big blizzard last year, Rachel and I trudged over there, knee deep in snow and basically walking down the middle of California Avenue because there was no other way to get through the heaps of snow. There have been plenty of solitude afternoons spent at the coffee shop, but there have also been the heart to hearts with Lauren, swapping music with Natalie, the Tarot readings at the big table, or just a group of us laughing and talking, maybe a little too loudly. It was a comfortable habit, one I looked forward to each week, and more so if I knew one or more of the girls were meeting me when I was finishing up with work for the day.

So today — in the midst of all this thinking about creating new habits and breaking old, bad ones —I decided instead to revisit this special one of mine. It had been months since I’d worked at the coffee shop on Wednesday, and months since all of us had met up there together, and both are for plenty of reasons, like changes in schedules, one or all of us being too busy, or for me, just needing a change of pace. I had somehow gotten sick of my routine, and as with other places in the neighborhood, I had started to avoid the coffee shop like it was haunted. But when I walked in today, right when there were plenty of open tables and Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” record was playing, I felt the same sort of happiness I feel every time I pull my car into my dad’s driveway. Like I was coming home.

I had my San Pellegrino, with the straw, of course, and a bowl of the veggie chili. It was everything I’d wanted it to be. That morning, I’d been struggling to write and focus, but once I was seated at the familiar big table, I just kept writing. After awhile, I took a little break and texted Lauren, and right then they started playing Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” which for a lot of reasons makes me think of Lauren. (The year we had our joint birthday party, we’d sat at the bar together, feeling anxious before everyone showed up, and the only thing that seemed to calm us was the song “Videotape” for whatever reason.) It was an odd, but wonderful, moment of timing.

By 5:15, I was finishing up with my work and still feeling good, but a little uneasy. About what, I’m not sure exactly. I packed up to leave, and as I walked out the door and down the sidewalk, my left hand caught in my tangled ear buds in my pocket and my right hand hoisting up my bag, I almost turned my ankle by sort of tripping over my own boot, right after I passed someone I thought I knew, but maybe I didn't. Because I wasn't sure, and mostly because I'd almost tripped over nothing, I didn't turn around to double check.

Some things never change. Although I’d like to hope that one day I’ll stop tripping over my own feet, that’s probably something to add to that list. But just like new habits can make you feel accomplished, sometimes there really is nothing better than indulging in the comfort of an old, safe one.

My iPod was on shuffle as I headed home, feeling like I'd just seen a ghost. This wasn't necessarily a good or bad thing, just a feeling. And this is the song that came on:

If it had been "Thinking About You," I probably would have died, or at the very least, completely tripped. But even so:
I got something, I got something I don’t know…

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In Which I Ring In The Blog's First Post of 2012, The Only Way I Know How.

Hey Rainbow Groupies!

Layla wanted to tell you all something.

No, seriously, she does. I'm not forcing her to sit on my lap or anything. Go on, tell them Layla.


Confession: Neither of these cats are Layla. They are frauds I found on the Google.  
Anyway, happy 2012!

I'm planning on a more blog-tastic year than last, so I thought I'd ring in the first blog post of the year with cats. Because they are the mascot of the Interwebs.

You might have thought it didn't get any geekier than the cat pictures. But it does. Oh, it does.

In accordance with my goals for the year (Note: I use the term goal, not resolution, because I don't like to be a joiner), I just finished writing and submitting a piece for an undisclosed publication that of course I'll shout about wildly, aka typing words on my Macbook to be posted on this blog, if the piece gets published.

Another confession: Those pictures of Layla and me are from ages ago, back in 2011, when Layla still sat on my lap long enough for me to force her to take pictures with me and my forehead still made an appearance. Bangs, guys. Bangs.

Happy New Year. Love,
Alison(composes), Layla, and my Retro Camera iPhone app