There’s too much space in this apartment when Stuart’s not here. The poor guy has been working non-stop for two weeks, dragging himself in every day for twelve hours and then on the weekends. It’s madness. My mother asks me about it in shock, like, there should be a law! I agree.

Nano has spent the weekend wandering around the apartment aimlessly and then flumphing in random spots. Sometimes I catch him waking up with an idea in his flimsy little brain, like, I’ll check the bedroom, I’ll bet that’s where he is, and then off he trots, full of confidence, to the bedroom. I hear him execute his patented jump onto the bed (three times taller than he) and then sort of slink back into the living room, like he’s hoping I won’t notice he got fooled again. He’s like a goldfish*.

I’m sort of like Nano, with less blonde moments and more gadgets. I watch stupid movies and weird television, like that Sarah Jessica Parker atrocity (I know, WHICH ONE) and The L Word. I read too many blogs. This weekend I spent half my time online catching up on Antonia‘s archives (sorry if that’s weird, A.) I don’t want to do anything social, because I like being social with Stuart, or at least, I like knowing he’s doing something fun if I’m being social without him. I do the dishes more when he’s working late, because if there’s anything sadder than spending too much time alone in your apartment, it’s doing it with a sinkful of dirty dishes.

And last weekend, I even ran away to Miami! Well, not really, I hated going without him, but I wanted to visit Mom in her new apartment before she comes up here for two months in Rhode Island, Dealing With The House, which is very caps-lock, since it’s really a little depressing to be in that beautiful old pile without my dad around. You can hear it in her voice. Miami is better, with its salty air and Latin vibes and double-wide doors to her apartment, with the French conversation classes and the dinners with my brother who is right down the road.

Miami is good for me, too, because it’s such a delicious sin compared to New York. I love the unrepentant enjoyment that town has with itself, like it just looks at itself in the mirror and goes “que rica!” and saunters out the door. It’s the way it flips up the floppy brim of its hat, from its perch on the beach, Mai Tai in hand and stares up at you (New York, with your grump and your garbage smell and your chaos) and sort of blinks, shrugs, and invites you to its yacht party. Miami! Mi-yaaammmi! You are so good to me, even if I affect a terrible Latin accent that’s a cross between Hank Azaria in Birdcage, and Al Pacino in Scarface, anytime I land on your shiny beaches.

So between last weekend away in Miami, and this weekend at home on my saggy couch, I’m pretty boring, right? Wait until school starts again and I start yammering on about metadata. I’ll just show myself out.

*I realize this is a myth. It’s too awesome not to be true. Leave me alone over here with my fantasies of cosmic silliness.

In two weeks, we will board a plane to Santa Fe for five days of vacation. We’ll do what we do best on vacation – I will obsessively read the travel guide and poll everyone I know for the best restaurants. Stuart will effortlessly learn the orientation of the city and navigate the transit options, and he’ll know when I’m twenty minutes exactly from full-bore hangry. For as much as I love the day-to-day of our lives together, I relish the chance to travel somewhere new with Stuart. Our best complementary attributes engage.

But I’m burying the lede. The day we travel westward is my thirtieth birthday. On August 31st, I’ll pass from my twenties into my thirties. Let’s take a moment here, shall we? Let’s eulogize this properly now.

My twenties were the least wild of all possible twenties. I remember a few truly debauched and distraught moments: having to stop for French fries at a diner on my way home from the Russian Samovar because I was too drunk to find the subway. A few ill-advised romantic choices, usually thanks to the Internet. Being sad but dry-eyed in the Port Authority watching a particularly fragile piece of my heart leave town.

But I remember some miracles, too. My first apartment, full of lazy brunches with the wittiest, most uproarious friends you can imagine. The feeling of looking out over the city from my 42nd story office window at 22 tender years of age, fearless and gutsy and happy. Knowing I hadn’t figured it out yet, but knowing I’d found the place and the people that would get me there in style.

And the best: finding Stuart.

And the worst: losing Dad.

I’m not particularly worried about neck cream and creaking bones and the loss of the excuse to shake my ass in clubs. I didn’t spend much of my earliest adulthood doing that anyway; I was too busy talking to these fascinating people I know and learning New York City like the back of my hand.

I will miss nothing about the last ten years except the person who made it so much better. But I gave him a 4.0 average in grad school and the sight of me happy, married, and his daughter through and through.

My thirties will bring me new facets of family – first, with Mom finding herself new paths in the world, and then, hopefully, new layers of family between Stuart and me and some unnamed zygotes (one day).

My thirties will bring a new career, one that I could not be more excited about. I am surprised it took me so long to realize that although writing is my first love, my great tool, that it is not my best-suited career. I am bloody thrilled to be joining the ranks of the world’s organizers, disseminators, knowledge finders and suppliers. Librarianship suits me like bespoke. I hope some day (perhaps I will be saying this as I go into my forties) to pass on the skills I’m learning and will learn, to get my PhD, and to do research and educate future librarians. Let’s get squee-ish for a second here: HOW COOL IS THAT?

My thirties will bring me more clarity about friendships and relationships. The lessons learned by fire for the past decade – be honest, be kind, don’t apologize too much, work hard for the people you love, be loyal, forgive – are already solidifying into canon. This feels good.

I have learned a lot about myself through the eyes of those who love me. I have figured out many of my best and worst impulses. I’ve learned to be proud of what I’m capable of, and I’m working on being at peace with my flaws. My thirties can hopefully be a time to focus more outward.

So Santa Fe will be a celebration and a page-turning. I will keep doing what I am doing because although life is not as perfect as it was before my dad died, it’s still pretty damn good and that’s okay.

I would love to hear you, blog friends, tell me about turning thirty. I’ll take it all to heart; there’s nothing I love more than research. Best thing? Worst thing? Most unexpected change? Thing you miss most from your twenties? Let’s hear it.

Some of my people (and I) went up to Westchester this weekend, nominally because one of us was cat-sitting, truly because we are all whores for swimming and grilling and other weekend-as-verb activities. Jen explained it like being a kid, but with access to alcohol and fire. Very true.

summer suits

Friday night was for the girls, and we made ourselves a delicious dinner and then we went swimming in the dark, because we couldn’t figure out how to turn on any pool lights. That’s okay, we lit a bunch of candles and it was super romantic. Too bad we’re all straight/married/taken, right? I slept peacefully in the woodsy basement of our friends’ converted barn, with the smell of grass coming in through the window and chlorine in my hair.

In the morning, Lavina and I were the early birds and we chucked Jen and Mim out of their nests, and into showers, so we could go to IHOP. Long gone are the days when those pancakes were the most amazing pancakes I’ve ever had. We talked at breakfast about first-day-of-school outfits, and who wore Keds, and how rebellious we were as daughters on a scale of stolen kisses to hair flipping.

fun with noodles!

Then the dudes joined us and the pool party began in earnest. We spent most of the day in the pool, or making lunch or dinner, or lounging in the living room playing with toy guns. Dinner was a variety of grilled meats, and vegetables, and salads, and everyone contributed, and we agreed that cooking dinner for eight is best managed by six. Our friends’ house, where we were squatting (gracefully! neatly!) lacked for nothing, NOTHING, in the kitchen.

“Where would the ______ be?”
“That drawer, probably.”
“So it is.”

the table

Then we went night-swimming again, where I realized that executing a perfect dive is a lot scarier into a dark pool. In the morning, we were happily surprised by continued sunshine, and we threw together a breakfast fit for kings, with pancakes and amazing bacon and fruit salad. It was better than IHOP. Is there anything more grown up than making breakfast better than IHOP?

I think it’s bloody marvelous of me to have such incredible friends, don’t you? People you can spend 48 hours with without wanting to stab are not easy to come by. One of the things I’ve realized lately is that my friends are good people, decent and intelligent and engaged and caring. My closest friends are the ones who are constantly in touch, constantly spending time together and renewing the strong bonds. Kinship is another one of those values – like love, and trust, and fidelity – that can come at a whimsy but requires work to keep buoyant. I always said that there were friends I would keep regardless of how close we remained. It’s true, but it’s also not paying dividends. I will spend more time this year doing my part.

i ate this

Aside from all these thinky-thinks brought on by excellent #1 good time with friends, there were riper-than-ripe cherry tomatoes from the garden. I can’t stop thinking about them. I guess we’re just going to have to move to the ‘burbs and grow tomatoes. Only Stuart will call them tomahtoes.

I’ve been writing down, as faithfully as I can remember them, our six days in Puerto Rico; partly because I always mean to do this when I come back from travels, and partly because those days serve now as some glorified Before and are thus tinged with sunlight and miracles. For the previous three days, see here, here and here.

November 18, 2009
Vieques to El Yunque

We woke up sunburned and happy from a long, hard sleep. I may have poured aloe over the length of my body before we fell asleep so the whole room smelled like a pharmacy, and I had to peel my shoulder-blade off the bed. It’ll be a tan tomorrow!, I kept saying, because that’s my mantra when I get sunburned once a year. I gingerly pulled on my bathing suit while Stuart made some coffee, and then we jumped in the car and headed down to Belly Button’s, on the malecon.

home of the world famous pancakes

We were there to meet Abe Jr. for our snorkeling trip out to Cayo de Afuera. Stuart was quite sure if we ate any of their world-famous pancakes before kayaking and snorkeling for two hours, we’d throw up all over the reef and then die. I ordered a pancake anyway. You’ll notice I’m still here.

We met Abe Jr. and his girlfriend, and the other couple that was kayaking out with us; everyone winced at our spectacular sunburns and the other couple loaned us their SPF60 sunscreen. I don’t really believe anything over 45 works, but I slathered it on anyway. We all jumped into our cars and drove two minutes down the malecon to the little kayak beach. I asked how far away the cayo was by kayak. Abe Jr., a wiry little guy who had obviously been born on the beach, grinned and said, “three minutes?”

morning on the malecon

It wasn’t quite that fast, but we were out there, alongside the little island, in about seven. Stuart, again, was the powerhouse paddler and I’ll admit, I mostly guided us with a few shallow splashes. Let’s take up kayaking! I’ll navigate!

We slipped out of our lifevests and tested the snorkels, cleaning them with some spray solution that kept them from fogging up. Everyone slid in, and Abe Jr. explained how we were going to swim pretty forcefully against the current alongside the east side of the island, and then let the current drift us backwards towards the kayaks as he pointed out different things. He was quite the environmentalist and gave us a good sense of how delicate life in the reef can be, and what sorts of damages were already being done.

We swam, pointing things out to each other, until almost 11am, when Stuart and I realized we had to head back and get checked out of Mi Pana pretty quickly; since the other couple in our group had a tough time getting into their kayak from the water (we were pros by now!), Abe Jr. gave us the go-ahead to power back to shore and leave the kayak on the beach. Boy did we! We were so limber from all that swimming, and all the swimming the day before, that we probably did it in Abe’s three-minute estimate. Maybe the current was with us, okay.

Racing back to Mi Pana, we threw ourselves in and out of showers, grabbed our stuff, and were back in the car in less than 20 minutes. We took one last drive along the malecon, beeping a goodbye to Abe Jr. and off we went, winding our way back northward on the island towards Isabella Segunda. We filled up the tank (fifty bucks!) and then wandered along the main drag to find some lunch for our hungry tummies.

comida criolla!

Once again, our trusty little guidebook (tourism without an iPhone!) pointed us to exactly what we were looking for – comida criolla, good and fast. Once again, I marveled that everyone I met assumed I was also Puerto Rican, and started speaking to me in Spanish – reminding me once again, damn, I should just learn Spanish already! At Shawnaa’s, I ate rice and beans and Stuart addressed postcards so that we could get them stamped in Vieques.

Once on the ferry (muy frio! too much A/C!) we settled in with books and magazines; I poked around on Petunia, the GPS, to see if I could get a signal to figure out our route to Naguabo and Casa Cubuy. When I couldn’t stand the cold anymore, I went and sat on the rear deck and watched the approaching mainland, with its high fluffy clouds rolling over the mountains in the center of the island. That’s where we were headed! I loved Vieques, but I was looking forward to some cool, exciting rainforest.

open waters

Once back on land and in our OTHER rental car (only slightly scratched after two days in the ferry carpark! Ooops!), we sped off towards the south of the island and Casa Cubuy, where we’d spend the last two nights on the edge of the El Yunque rainforest (and U.S. National Forest!). On our way out of Fajardo, we saw a sign on someone’s driveway gate that said “NO PARQUIN”. Let me tell you, we got a kick out of that.

The drive from ferry point to Naguabo was less than 30 minutes (Petunia getting confused and “recaculating” the entire way), and once there, we began our climb into the mountain on Route 191, which once traversed the entire El Yunque National Forest and got washed out by a landslide back in ’89 or something.

We climbed the road slowly, me trying not to panic at the tiny, tight corners and the prevalence of chickens, dogs, and children on the one-car-wide road. Adventure!, Stuart told me. Life insurance!, I thought. We arrived without incident at Casa Cubuy and we were immediately charmed by the happy shabbiness of the place. The entire inn was rather open-planned, with a half-dozen rooms scattered about an open-air courtyard.

afternoon beers and trivial pursuit

The hosts, Matt and his mother Madeleine, had been in Puerto Rico since Maddy’s first marriage to a U.S. Navy officer had brought her to PR; she’d taught elementary school here, and Matt had grown up here, before traveling around the world as a journalist and then marrying a woman from the Dominican Republic and then settling down at Cubuy to help run the place. The washout on 191 is about a mile north of Casa Cubuy, making the road up to Cubuy a dead end. The lodge isn’t exactly in the National Forest Service area; it’s private land right on the edge. Our room was clean, with tiled floors and a breathtaking view of the mountainside. What more could you ask for?

casa cubuy

That night, we hitched a ride with another guests about half a mile back down the mountain road to Noelia’s, the little restaurant that Matt suggested for dinner. Our dinner companion was Susie, a Vieques resident originally from Maine, who’d known Matt for many years and was happy to tell us all about life on Vieques. Dinner was delicious – simple food that Noelia prepared in her kitchen and brought out to the patio of her house, for us to eat. Mofongo, habichuelas, sangria and Medallas. I think our whole dinner was thirty bucks; Noelia let us take the receipt since we didn’t have any cash with us, and we promised to return for dinner the next night and pay for both meals then.

We rode back up the mountainside with Susie, happily praising Noelia’s food the whole way home, and settled into our patio with a glass of wine to listen to the cacophonous symphony of coquis, and birds, and frogs, and insects, and we talked about our day, about Vieques, about life. We were deeply asleep by 11pm.

Here we are at Word Press! I mapped the domain myself! I’m giddy with power! Plus, seagulls! The world is indeed my oyster.

Hey! Who are you? For months upon months, my comment-y goodness has been trapped in this messy loop of MT’s sign-up system that never seemed to work for anybody, nohow. So if you’re reading this, will you leave me a comment saying hi, and where (if!) you blog, and promise me you’ll visit often? I’m dusting this thing off, shining the silver, and setting it to spin again.

ain't she a beaut

<Beth, Philadelphia, July 2010.>

We went to Philadelphia a few weeks ago for Josh’s show at the Grape Room in Manyanuck. We wandered around Philly the next day, mostly stopping at landmarks and deciding the lines were too long, or the entrance fee was too high, or who cares about history anyhow. Lunch was finely enjoyed at Eulogy, a Belgian pub in Old City. We laughed at the people on the steps of the Art Museum doing Rocky Arms. We drove back in the fading afternoon light, so exhausted and elated from being Somewhere Else. Driving in cars with friends is still one of my favorite things, even when we take the wrong highway and I crush my knuckles against the steering wheel trying to Be Cool about it, when we all know I am Not Cool about getting lost. I love traveling with friends, particularly the best ones, particularly the best ones who like having booze with lunch.

Lately, Stuart and I have been very nesty. Or I’ve been really nesty, and Stuart just likes me. We have a beautiful apartment and it gives me such stupid bougie joy to come home to it, to drop my keys on our kitchen table and let our little dog out of the office, to watch him bounce and whine with excitement, to open the fridge and know there are ingredients for an easy summer salad and maybe a quick pasta, to watch another episode of Life with dinner, to sleep deeply in a darkened cold room with my loved ones just right there. I have small bougie joys. Let me have them.

A friend (one of the best ones) said to me recently during a particularly soulful and wine-fueled heart-to-heart that I don’t have to justify having had a great childhood. It struck me with the not unpleasant sense of being very, very understood by the people I love. She’s right; I’m exceptionally hard on myself and one of my reasons (among many) is that if I don’t do something extraordinary with the blessings I’ve been given, then I’ve wasted them. This is like the exact opposite of people who still fuck their lives up because their childhoods were crummy. Neither is particularly healthy. These standards I’m carrying around don’t affect anyone but me.

Lessons here: a) it’s nice to have friends that remind you to give yourself a damn break already. b) Husbands sometimes get tired of making this point as you yet again agonize over some tiny choice and the Right Way to choose. c) It does not help to have this huge legacy from someone who was really good at ethics and taught you maybe too well. d) Things to talk about in therapy! e) all of the above.

Where were we? Oh, right. So, a motley assortment of other cool things:

Guess what I did last week? Saw David Mitchell read at BookCourt with Zan, got three whole books autographed (including a replacement copy of Black Swan Green, since I lent it to someone unworthy and never got it back). Then we went to dinner, her and Jen and Lavina and I, at Apt 138 and we drank gin things and laughed about everything. Then, the next night, Stuart and I joined Mayumi to see Mitchell read, again, this time at Greenlight, and then we went with May and her mama for a glass of wine at Stonehome, and then Stuart and I finished with dinner for two at Smoke Joint. Date nights are good, you guys.

Guess what I’m doing next week? Having brunch with Leah and Kristin at the same time. Plus, thanks to Leah, I’m going to pretend to be a decent blogger for once and go to the Friday night BlogHer party.

Guess what I’m doing next month? Turning 30 and going to Santa Fe on the same day. YEAH.

Guess what I’m doing in September? Starting my last year of coursework for my Master’s degree. And taking over the world. Watch out!

a girl and her dog

It’s been six long months since winter, since the worst and toughest days. I’d like to think – why is that in my nature, that I’d always like to think? – that there’s something I’ve learned here, that I’ve put my pencil down and finished the exam and now this is what I’ve learned.

But in truth, there’s little I’ve learned through winter into spring and now that we’ve tumbled into summer except that grief is a thing I will have to endure with as much grace as my reserves can muster. I have learned that it can be less often but not less potent. I have learned that I miss my dad no less today than I already did six months ago, the day he died. I have learned that because of our extraordinary bond, it’s okay that this part is the hardest, but that other parts are easier – the parts where I have no regrets and I know where I stood, which was in a place of real and abiding love. Where I still stand, actually.

I’ve learned who I can rely on to check on me a little more than usual, and who I have to forgive for being unable to cope with loss. I have learned that I can be tough and competent when I need to be, when Mom needs me to be, but that at home, with my tears buried into Stuart’s shoulders, I don’t need to be any kind of competent or tough, I can just be bereft if I want to be. I have learned that Stuart is my rock, well, I already knew that, but I know that without him I would have long ago needed a dive mask to get through the vale of tears.

And I learned that as the sun warmed our corner of the earth, I got through more days with more smiles, and now I’m doing better. I’m less irrational, I’m less afraid of the unknown, un-dad-approved future. I’m more vulnerable, still, I am still a delicate fucking flower compared to the Weimar tank I used to be, but I’m better. And now that it’s unbearably hot out, and I can’t remember how cold and frozen it was in December when I didn’t think the world would ever warm again, I can’t believe it’s been six months and the hardest six months, at that, and there isn’t anything to show for it. Not exactly.

through the trees

pimmsinhas!

Sunday deliciousness at Mark and Stephanie’s, where we gathered to watch Brazil trounce the valiant Cote D’Ivoire team. Hurrah for World Cup weekends once more.

picnic, ho!

Stuart and I took the ferry over from Brooklyn (three minutes!) this Sunday afternoon, to rent bikes and tool around the island like proper yuppies. It was our first visit, but I felt as though I knew the place well. Firstly, because I’ve spent countless minutes zooming around it on Google Maps, and secondly, because it felt like the dream version of one’s childhood: all cobblestone paths that you rattle down, legs stuck out at stick-figure angles from your bike, clanging your little bike bell. Curving around a sea wall and feeling the wind ripping through your hair, snatching your voice as you yell to your buddy. Dropping the bikes in rough, pleasing grass and flopping down to suck water from a plastic bottle. Riding by churches, and ice cream stalls, and big houses with wrap-around porches. Everything you think is great about the world when there are no cars and all bikes, and delicious sharp wind and a big blue sky and very few cares.

Basically what I’m saying here is, why haven’t you been to Governors Island yet? C’mon, let’s go!

trusty steeds

beachbums

May 25, 2010
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