For a new year

Friday, January 26, 2007

It was my first project of the year with my artist's group: Come up with a theme for 2007.

This was a job for my collage journal!

I spent several evenings snipping photos, piecing together little bits of magazines, gluing down words and phrases, hoping an overwhelming theme would emerge.

And it did:

"Joy without end."

That's also my blessing to all of you this new year. Vibrance without boundaries. Grace without limits. Joy without end.

Tooth aches

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's too long to explain exactly how and why we ended up in Santa Barbara.

Long story short, Jason had a bad tooth and no dental insurance. Great kindness led us to a dentist in Santa Barbara who was able to work a deal with us -- Jason would be able to get a root canal without running up a huge amount of debt.

I took the day off work to make the drive with Jason, even though he assured me he could do it on his own. I don't know exactly what a root canal involves, but I didn't want him all hopped up on laughing gas three hours away with no ability to get home.

In the dentist's office I was armed with a book and a fresh journal, but even so, I was restless and tired after just 20 minutes of waiting. Then the surgeon poked his head out the door and said the process would take quite a while. At least two hours, probably three.

"Go see Santa Barbara. Do some shopping. Enjoy the day," he said.

Who was I to argue?

So I left. But first I handed my number to the office manager and said to give me a call on my cell if Jason got done early.

It was a weird afternoon. The sun flickered through the clouds, then the sky suddenly buckled with hail.

I walked around in the rain, enjoying the feel of fat, wet drops on my skin, my hands wrapped around a steaming hot venti Americano. I think it was the first time I've been outside in the rain since I moved to California. I slowly savored the window displays of the trendy boutiques, the jewelry shops I can't afford, each nook in the bookstores.

And I had a lot of conversations with strangers. Apparently I look a lot like someone who lives in Santa Barbara, as random people kept stopping me on the street and in the tiny shops.

"I haven't seen you around lately. You look fantastic," they said. "You've lost a lot of weight, haven't you?"

"Yeah," I said. "Thanks for noticing."

It was a complete lie. But hey, it's always nice to soak up compliments, even if they were intended for someone else.

After about two hours I figured I would call the dentist's office and check up on Jason. I rifled through my purse. No phone. I checked all the pockets I never use. No phone. I squatted on the street in the rain, scouring the deepest, darkest depths of my bags. No phone.

Panicked, I drove back to the dentist's office.

Jason was waiting there, his right hand gingerly holding his swollen face, the other hand holding his unfilled prescription for Vicodin.

He had been waiting for more than an hour. I missed 27 phone calls.

After I left the office, the dentist poked aorund in his mouth and realized the whole molar had to go. A quick yank, and it was done.

It'll be thousands to put in a replacement tooth; in the meantime, he just has a hole. A big, gaping, bloody hole in the back of his mouth.

And I'm the asshole who left him there, waiting in pain.

I cried and he hugged me.

"You're lucky you didn't get here 15 minutes ago," he said, slurring through the cotton in his mouth. "I was angry 15 minutes ago. But then I just got scared something had happened to you."

There's no good reason for Jason to still love me. But he does.

And I love the fact that he was perfectly within his right to get mad at me, but he chose not to.

If that had been me waiting at the dentist's office? Ye-OW.

At least the ocean looked beautiful. That was our big payoff for an otherwise crappy day.


A Perfect Union

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
My hobby lately is crafting a playlist called "Take a Vow," which may or may not have something to do with some sort of ceremony. (You'll just have to stick around for the next year to find out.)

So let's say I was going to take a walk down an aisle or something. What song would I want to have playing?

Right now the playlist of choices is a little scattered and crazy, with 72 selections that range from Wilco to Billie Holiday. (For this project, I'm looking for something a litle different than your standard "At Last" or "Unforgettable." Not that those aren't great songs; they're just not what I'm looking for.) Depending on my mood, my favorites vary wildly.

As of this moment, the leaders are:

"I Melt With You" * Nouvelle Vague

"Baby I Love You" * Aretha Franklin

"My Baby Just Cares for Me" * Nina Simone

"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" * The Arcade Fire (I adore this song, and it always makes me a little weepy, but I don't know that everyone will get it; it's a little unconventional for the thing I'd like to use it for. But then again, screw everyone. It's my party and my song.)

Of course, all of this is likely to change. In a year from now, who knows what songs will stab me right in the heart and make me all gooey?

So now I pose the question to you. What love songs really get to you? What tunes do you find absolutely loverly?

Next up: Let's say I was having a first dance with someone ...

Lucky Star

Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Oh, hi.

Wondering where I've been lately?

No place special. Nothing happening here. Nada.

Just the usual ... you know, eating, sleeping, working. And hanging out with Brad Pitt.

So serious!


Bluest of Blue Skies

Friday, January 05, 2007
Someone I knew died in a skydiving accident over the weekend.

I won't pretend like Cliff and I were good friends, because we weren't. But I knew him when Jason was working at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Fla. I visited for a few weeks and chatted with Cliff at the bar, every night after the sunset swoop load.

Here's what I do know about the guy:

* A conversation with Cliff was like a philosophy class, law class and debate class, all rolled into one.

* He mooched beers off me like crazy.

* Whenever I told a story that involved a woman, he would say, "Is she hot?" Even if the story was about my mother. Heck, especially if the story was about my mother.
For any other stories, he'd do the ol' "Was it bigger than a breadbox?"

* He was snarky and fun, and I'm sad that he's gone. The world needs smartasses like him -- he was a smart smartass.

Now I wish I had asked him what his favorite song was. I wish I had known more about him. I wish I had seared more memories of him into my mind. I wish I had kept in touch.

He'd probably roll his eyes to see that people were getting so warm and fuzzy about him. No, actually, he'd just mock me, using some long and obscure word I've never heard of.

Because this was a collision that involved another skydiver, it's bringing back a lot of memories about Jason's incident.

I'm still trying to make sense of it all, all of these accidents -- how something that brings so much joy and vitality and life to a person can also bring pain and grief. I don't know if it's better that someone should die while doing something they love, or if that's even more unjust.

I've been thinking about death a lot lately. I think that's common during the winter, a season of departure, and the new year, with so many endings that preface a renewal.

I was also covering the death of Gerald Ford and spent a lot of time thinking about the deceased and those who mourn and grieve.

I haven't come up with any answers -- I think I'm trying to intellectualize something we don't have the capacity to understand. I don't know if it's better to have someone depart quickly and dynamically, without ever saying goodbye, or to have them linger and fall away slowly. I don't know if it's comforting or disturbing to know that death is the great equalizer, that we all go, no matter our status or position. I don't know why it all happens when it happens.

All I know to be certain is that death is a side effect of life. And Cliff fucking lived.

I'm praying for the friends and family of Cliff, as well as the friends and family of the other man involved in the accident. If they are shown even a fraction of the solidarity and kindness that we received, they will be overwhelmed.

Peace and love.

"But don’t don’t lose hope no no no no
No no no don’t feel sad ’cause it’s a violent world
But there’s still beauty
I’ll take care of you if you take care of me."
-- Of Montreal, "The Repudiated Immortals"