Monday, December 24, 2012

It is Christmas Eve. I am currently in Ohio with my family for ten lovely days. And it is, indeed, lovely. I cannot explain what happens to my heart whenever I hear my nephew make his way through another round of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or how happy I am to create imaginary worlds with my niece and her toys. They are such wonderful, amazing little people. The natural light of my lives. They pull a new amount of patience and love out of me, and I'll never be able to thank them properly for that.

I haven't been home in a few months so this is a much needed trip. My dad and I had lunch on my first day into town and I tried not to feel too sad about how grey his hair is or the lines in his face. I wonder if I look older/different too. I have no idea. I did my best not to think about it. I listened to everything he told me and asked questions, asked for updates on family members and so on. Time spent with him is time I value so very much. Same with my sister who works meticulously on various handmade presents at the table by lamplight. I love my little family. I feel calm and safe here.

And I also feel the echoes of solitude. I cannot help it. It's a holiday. Everyone near me seems to have someone to lean on. I lean o n the wall, I lean on my sleep. I lean on the quiet of a car ride in the dark. I am aware of how I came to this yet still wondering how things are this way. I feel like William H. Macy in Magnolia, listening to the same song, crying that I have so much love to give. Honestly I just think it's the holidays talking. Holidays n' hormones = a recipe for arsenic soup.

But like I said--I'm thrilled to be back in my hometown for a bit. I definitely have some dear ones to see, as well as physical places that I need to stand in front of. It's nice to see so many stars again, to have space and quiet and nowhere to be really. There is much writing to do and conversations to have, and none of that is loneliness. I have the weapons to fight off the blues. My quiver is full. I welcome the calm, the distance, the quiet and space that comes with being one. Despite being alone, I am still an entire universe spun around these bones and I have such lovely galaxies around me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

she was young
and you were you.
roads sewn together,
rumble strips interlocking
in gesture of prayer or pleading(depending on
which direction
one arrives from).

when there wasn't all that history.
inherited messes of double helix
turning in the dark,
grins of twin ladders
slick with trouble and light.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

so it goes.



There's a hole in the net. Trapeze bar is dangling and the chains talk together when they swing swing swing.

I had these plans and the plans fell through and after some crying and hitting a closed fist on my thigh in frustration I slept. And after sleeping I woke up the next day with swollen eyelids and I resolved to figure it out.

I'm figuring it out.

You know the saying: when it rains, it pours. Sometimes when it pours the drains overflow and leaves/garbage/unidentified masses of debris rise up and out--they go drifting whichever way the ground slopes. When the pouring stops the moving halts and you're left with things scattered and lumped. For a smoother ride you pick your way through. Or you bump over the bullshit and move on.

I'm dodging some, crushing others. Moving on.

I was preparing to move back home at the end of January. I even grabbed a second job for some extra cash. I accumulated boxes and, perhaps most important, I started gently separating my tentacles from this wonderful city. And then the floor fell in and I find that I'm here for another 6 months. All ready for my next chapter and it feels like I have to re-read the last half of this one. It is a bittersweet development.

Then a friend gets hit with some heavy, heavy shit and my heart rips off the linted up pieces of tape and chunks of it hit the ground like a chorus of tuning forks. Hum-tinging-hum. Life/tragedy/victory/new/yellowing/change it never stops. It doesn't wait for you or for me. Forget capacity of lung or how much a pair of arms can carry. It is simply sometimes too much.

In this moment I want to know what's next but I can already feel my hands shape around that inquiry's emptiness. It is not a decision to wait for. I drive my car. I write my words. I use the stove and go to work and hate falling asleep alone. I keep going, moving deliberate so the bees stay calm, so the hives on my shoulders aren't destroyed. Though sometimes I run as fast as I can just for the wind in my face, for the loss of my breath, for the repetitive sting and relief that comes with leaving prior burdens behind.

None of this was planned. But everthing is alright.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

and how


This is a baby picture of mine. I'm the bald chubby one with blue eyes. I look like I should be wearing suspenders and old man pants as opposed to a dress. I am sitting next to my sister. I look at it and wonder the usual things one does with evidence of onceago infancy. How was I ever that small? How did I grow into this present body, into a head with too much hair and brown eyes?

I've been working on NaNoWriMo all month. Every day I write a little bit more about my memories and life. I thought this would be a relatively easy task but here I am with 1.5 days left in the challenge and so much left to write. A life is so damn big. It isn't just the moments but the emotions to that moment, the moment as it is in place behind the present. It's been unfurling like a fist. For the past month I feel like I've been working on a road. Or the map to that road, as well as shaping the ditches alongside that road and the trees that stand over them.

It's so hard to explain.

I feel a lot better now than I did at the beginning of November. Writing on a regular basis is medicine. Some dents in the dash have been smoothed out, so to speak. I've done some healing this month. I can feel it, especially when I look back at old pictures/evidence like the one above. I'm not so scared of the image there and all it might represent. I still wonder the usual but it's no longer an issue of sorrow. I am not sorry for my life. The act of putting words on page has always been important(and necessary) to me. This month proved its power to me. What you love can heal you.

I look at that pic and think: oh babygirl. Just you wait until your fist finds that pen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

on writing

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” - Ernest Hemingway


“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” - George Orwell


“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.” - Ray Bradbury


Friday, November 9, 2012

just stomp and tell it.

I'm officially 8 days into NaNoWriMo(National Writing Month--write every day for the month of November and at the end have a 50,000 page novel of sorts, in a nutshell). I can't believe it's only been a week. Writing this much per day makes the week feel like a lifetime. Perhaps part of that is the subject matter.

My next project on tap is a memoir. I thought NaNoWriMo would provide me with great practice and I could get a leg up on the process. Part of me thought this would make the exercise of writing daily much easier--write what you know, write about life. On one side, it is easy. The plot is unraveled and I'm picking my way through, writing about the moments that come to me. On the other side, it's difficult. Way more difficult than I anticipated. I thought it might help me(and maybe help others taking on the same challenge) to post a bit about the things I've learned thus far. Here we go:

- Screw you, sequential order. It just ain't gonna happen. I don't feel like writing about how things were before the age of 10 for days in a row. It's not a bad thing to jump around, worry about the connective tissue later. I used to fret about getting the order of events right, but now it makes more sense to jump around

- Writing a memoir kind of feels like a good workout. You need time to properly warm up and stretch beforehand. Same goes for needing a cooldown after the exercise. I figured this out when I spent the latter part of a day in a nonspecific funk after writing about heavy subject matter. It's your life you're writing about, so you're going to feel a bit more emotionally involved. It's gonna get in your blood and you may feel old emotions come rushing back. It's okay, and not something to pull away from. Just anticipate it ahead of time if you can. Set a mood. Listen to music that will pull the tough stuff out of you. When you're done, cleanse your pallet. Dance like a fool around the living room. Let it go. Let the recollecting and writing be the ultimate release. Cushion your writing with that wind up and cool down so that it doesn't feel like going from one extreme to the next.

- Source material. I've kept an online blog of some sort from 1999 forward. You'd be amazed at the details(and entire experiences!) I've put on the backshelf since first writing about them. It's been great to go back and rediscover memories that way. Look at old letters, emails, photographs. Find your evidence.

- I've struggled with just how much I want to reveal. I think it's important to let it all hang out for the first draft a memoir. You can trim the fat later. You can zero in on one particular "era" or time period if something sticks out more than the rest. Some stuff is simply difficult to write about. The harder it feels to crack, the more I want to bang a sledgehammer against it. It's my life, and if I don't bust it open and tell it, then who will?

It's pretty amazing to have this piece of work extending out of me, growing a bit each day, reminding me of how much I've lived and experienced. There is a strength surviving in my bones that flares up when I start writing. I glow from the inside out. I know I don't say it often enough, but I'm proud of myself. Here's to thousands of more words on their way.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

so long, october.

The grey, it's here. Shoved in by disaster of a natural kind. I type it in various correspondence this week: nature is king. Leaves accumulate on my living room floor, their wet bodies unhinging from my boots. I count the months as they fly like lines in the road beneath me. I can't keep up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

good ol clumsy pete



"Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence. Pete fell off so who was left?"
"Repeat."
(deep breath) "Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence..."

It's one of the most annoying jokes I can remember from childhood. Still I had a soft spot for it, and now it's a weird comfort as well as an annoyance--this is kind of what life starts to feel like. Just Pete and Repeat, sitting on a fence. Pete with the shittiest balance known to man.

I picked up my manuscript and paged through it for the first time in nearly two months. Mind you that distance was on purpose and necessary, and of course I'm thankful for it. But you know. Time is so ridiculous. Now I want to tear it apart again. Stitch this, hack away that, shove bits of it in the back of a drawer or under the bed--away from any witness. Encore becomes the album, entire thing needing surgery. Am I back at square one?

Then Pete slides off the post.

This entire process is fascinating to me. I am, once again, rewriting poems that I could've sworn were done forever and always. Paul Valery said "A poem is never finished, only abandoned." A quote that ties me conflicted when I think about my work. I will look at a piece and wonder: is this what I have to say? Is this how I need to say it? Some will find ways to change while maintaining the exact crookedness of the original skeleton. Framework there, limbs spinning different.

Doing what you love is never done. Did Repeat whisper this to Pete when he climbed back to perch? Does that mean Pete loved falling off the fence? Does that infer that I love the scroll of drafts stretching out behind me, that this madness of process is my exact source of fuel?

Yep. I'll take the rewrites and late nights of line sharpening. Gotta take the rejections and victories too(trying as hard as I can to celebrate every step of this damn waltz). It's never going to be done but that's kind of why I have to keep going to begin with. I will keep immersing myself and frustrating myself and giving the mirror and pen pep talks. Do. Not. Stop. Like the cake walk. It's in a circle, repetitive til the music stops but guess what? THERE'S CAKE.

Monday, October 8, 2012

old 97s



I first heard this song in high school. I played it on repeat. I closed my eyes and wrote to it. Something, undoubtedly, resonated with me. I could actually visualize my departure when I listened to it--from future things, mostly the small town I lived in.

It held my heart when called upon--I played the song after more than one heartbreak and felt better and more understanding of what doesn't last.

So perhaps it's a given that I think of it immediately after learning of an old friend's relocation to Florida. A little sad that I may not see them for a longer while, but moreso surprised and wildly happy for them. I get bewildered by time and objects in motion. This tangle of reaction and feeling is becoming familiar. Not in the sense that I will ever get used to it(I can't)--it is becoming more often. It is appearing around more corners. This is age this is time this is life. This is us. This is a span of existence and all that you witness within it--this is change. If nothing changes, nothing changes. And there are too many brilliant moments to chain ourselves to just one forever and only. Change and redirection happen all the time but man...sometimes shit happens where you really notice it. Especially, it seems, with departure.

Couple this with driving back to Pittsburgh today after a weekend in Ohio and here I am hitting play on a song that I've played so many times for damn near fifteen years at this point. One that still reminds me of leaving and gives me reassurance about, I guess, change. Part of that is wild to me. Absolutely wild. Most of me knows that I'll most definitely be playing/singing this song under my breath again some handful of years down the road when my aorta skins its knee again or another migration reveals itself. Shit, that's music for you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

unimage


me, age seventeen

I thought I was ugly. A teenage girl with misbehaved hair and thick eyebrows straight from her father's face. I thought I was strange-looking and cried about it out of frustration and envy. I flipped through magazines and seethed at perfect teeth. I felt awkward around the popular girls and envied the straight hair, expensive wardrobes, tiny mouths and upturned noses. That strange american standard of what is beautiful and accepted. For years I dodged cameras. If I did see a photo of myself I would often be horrified. When we received our school pictures, I flipped mine upside down on my desk immediately. I did not look at them until I was alone or at home so that I could inspect them in peace.

Among friends these things were not discussed. I was confused about my appearance to others vs. my appearance in pictures vs. my appearance of myself. I could not connect them, and so they remained separate for a while. I do not know where such a strange thing begins, that loathing of the self. As a kid, it was a lie to dive into. In retrospect AND reality it simply wasn't the truth.


senior picture. thrift store shirt, hemp necklace, sun-in.

I dated and maintained A's and lived & died for sports. I didn't act like a lump on a log, didn't scurry about with nervous hands in front of my face. I was simultaneously scared and intrigued by my reflection. There was a disconnect, a long distance string between the me staring back and the me I was in, the body running piles of miles every week for cross country, owner of a hand that flickers with joy across paper.

Why write this? Why share such a personal, kind of embarrassing thing? I don't know...why not? Because the other day I was looking through pictures(from long ago, ones I keep in a box, can hold with my hands). Those images surprise me in a different way now. I can look at an image of myself and remember how awful I felt, how certain I was when it was snapped that I would look like a monster. I look at it now and recall that disconnect. I look and see youth, I look and see before. There is no monster. How did I see a monster? Are we really so cruel to ourselves, even in strange times like high school? The mind is a peculiar and convincing thing. "...Thinking makes it so." Even in thought there is routine, and in routine there is habit. Habit becomes comfort, and that's where we are poured into the looking glass.

I cannot go back and rewrite it--I doubt I would if I could anyway. I graduated, grew up, left town. Victories and mistakes. Reassurance came from not disappearing, from survival. Basic things made me feel beautiful, and feeling beautiful meant that I was inspired. A pair of hands holding my face, a poem released, reading in bed. I learned to connect. I learned to tug in that long distance string and cross stitch self to self. I learned to not fear my reflection. And to that me back then I say you did your best. I say I'm in your corner. I say you are inspired. And that, dear self, is stunning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

worth it.

Post-work, killing time at the library with iced coffee. Renee is released from her own work day at 5 adn then we are going to walk to another neighborhood. It's nice to have a place to go, a friend to spend time with, on a rainy day like this. If I didn't have a destination I would most likely head home and sleep. This is, after all, crazy-good sleepin' weather.

I'm a turtle slowly nudging her way out of the shell. One little leg wrinkle at a time, edging out and squinting against the light. Over the past few months I've felt almost toxic to others--my disposition and general attitude whittled down to a dull, dull point. A defensive dull point even though there is nothing to defend. I couldn't shake the feeling, couldn't wise up and be present in moments. I'd sit in a booth all close with a handful of friends and find myself staring off in the distance. And that's if I got out of the house. Unfortunately I had grown quite skilled at stopping myself before the front door, some inner ugly thing reasoning that my presence wasn't needed or wanted, convinced the easiest thing was to not face the anxiety. At the same time, during all of this withdrawling, I was terribly lonely. That kind of lonely that throbs and grows and learns how to swallow(particularly people, particularly me). Such a weird clump of feelings to deal with.

I'm edging out of darkness and into some light. Things like this require time and effort, and not just effort but the type of grunt work that involves falling a lot and getting back up. So I've been stumbling and dusting myself off. I've been reaching out when I need to, reaching out to the right things. I contacted a therapist. When I wake up in the morning, I think about what kind of day I want to have. I consider the experiences, people, and visual things that make me happy, that calm my heart, and I drift closer to them. I am fighting for it.

What thrills me most is writing and connecting. The roots of all my things and thoughts. I come back to it again and again, my lighthouse in the lost waters of a pissed off sea. I'm alright if I have a page to scribble on, and I'm good if I have other human beings to listen to. Yes, the listening. Right now it is more important than talking. I've owned up to the heavy indigo cloud surrounding my halo lately. I've said all I can about it to those close to me. Now it is in the action. The act of being better. The act of self-love and safety first. The act of being brave, of trust. There are so many things.

To sum it up, I'm gonna be just fine.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

latelies

My laptop is six years old. We are edging past the grey hairs, heading fast to immobility. In other words, she's shitting the bed. Same with my router. Right now I'm updating this in a coffee shop for the reliable connection. Which leads me to scribbling in notebooks again. Callous popping back up on my pinky from pen-holding; I grip her in a fist. It's nice to get back to the practice, to do other things around the house. Reading books with my dinner, you know. Unplugging. Earlier this week I looked down at my hands in natural light and aging struck me hard and fast. There it was. My hands looked different, all the cross-hatchings of my skin magnified in fantastic grid. Honestly the sight took my breath away. My knuckles are covered in latitudes, asterisks, lines that border themselves like vibration or water disturbance. Some new freckle, same old broken life line. Loop of vein on the back of one like a roundabout of interstate. I'm thirty-one. I feel like I'm finally wearing it. A dear friend gently pointed out how sad I've been lately. Those are the good ones--the ones unafraid to say what needs to be heard. It was only upsetting because I knew it and felt embarrassed about the transparency. The blues coming off me in sparks, settling into my friendships like splinters. Sadness will not just devour your mood. Sadness will eat up your connections yet remain bottomless. Sometimes it's easier to own up to it than it is to stop mentioning it. An emotional tick. My friend (again, gently) suggested revisiting therapy. The second friend to do so in a week. I have the need and I have the contacts, now it's time to put it into action and pick up the damn phone, to properly ask for help. I can no longer sporadically patch myself like a tire when it comes to all of this. The old tricks aren't working anymore. A lot of changes are tumbling down the pipeline and I want to be strong and ready for them. And now to bow out of this here coffee shop. I'm highly tempted to disconnect my wireless completely. With a computer on the fritz and a shoddy router, I've been forced to be creative. A proper example of this is the giant blanket fort currently set up in the living room.

Friday, September 14, 2012

doug's poems




I first met Doug in early 2000. I was eighteen years old, just discovering the unmatched rush of getting on stage and spilling my guts. Piles and piles of poems read to no one but myself finally released into the wild. I drove 30 miles north and put myself behind the microphone once a month. We were a gathering of all ages, though I might've been the youngest. Doug was a mystery for most of it. He always took the same slot: first poet of the open mic portion of the show. First guy on. I think he worked nights, dashed to us before punching the clock. He had that voice--perfect blend of rasp and smooth. A man with kind words for everyone, even though most nights he couldn't stick around for the entire show. Every month I made sure to get there early. I never wanted to miss his reading.

I left Dayton in 2001 and stayed in touch with Doug almost by accident. Around the holidays he would send a card with a poem, written longhand. Doug's handwriting slightly slides to the right in quick cursive. And last year when one of the poets back home contacted me to say he passed away, I pulled out the cards and stared at his penmanship. It took me a long time to understand what Doug meant to me. We were not close--we read on the same stage and shared the same love for it--we shared words of praise. He was, undoubtedly, a symbol of poetry. He seemed to write regularly, made time for it. He was also tied tightly to a pivotal point in my life. He was a part of a beginning, one of the originals. I missed my chance to tell him. It had been a long time since I wrote a letter.

I went back home for a reading in his honor. We listened to a few old recordings(Doug's voice was the first to fill the room that night, sticking to his first poet tradition) and read a few of our own pieces. A couple of cardboard boxes filled with loose leaf paper sat on a small table. All of the pages were filled with writing. All of it sliding to the right, quick cursive. Doug's poems. Three or four of us plucked through the boxes. Poems and poems and poems. Some pages were stacked together tightly along the sides--the piles never ended. Poems on flyers, college-ruled, matchbooks. The evidence blew my mind.


A few of us grabbed stacks and retreated to our corners with them. A decision was made to transcribe the handwritten pages, compile the poems, create a book for Doug. I drove my pile 5 hours east to Pittsburgh tucked in a folder. The folder traveled back and forth between the writing desk and living room, tending to the task when I could. I never managed to transcribe consistently, though last week I dove into the collection again armed with blank pages and pen. The decoded stack continues to grow. Doug tackled the hard stuff--addiction, self-preservation, recovery. Words on loneliness, old haunts, lost friends, local jazz, love. Each one completed urges me to the next one. This is an uncovering, a slow reveal. I feel a responsibility to do this. For Doug, for other writers, for the evidence itself. For the work and the moment behind each poem.

Transcribing the work becomes a meditative act. Sometimes I consider my own stacks upon stacks of poems, the hard drive busting at the seams. They are on the backs of flyers, cocktail napkins, receipts. They are complete and partial--some are just a sentence. I type and scrawl and lose them. When I am gone where will they go? A folder, a drawer,a safety deposit box. Each page and poem a moment. "Misdemeanor model have green room heart attack..." scribbled on a Club Cafe napkin. The blue notebook full of writings from my old porch on Butler Street. I guess that's the thing. The work can be a time increment, a book mark jutting--wherever you were when you wrote it, whatever the heartache or giddy behind it. Here, the proof: you were moved to move the pen. Life becomes archived, heart beats in ellipses.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

letter to my niece & nephew



Dear Maddie and Cohen,
Somehow(even though it is inevitable and expected) time has passed and here we are--a five year old and a 27 month old. It is harder and harder to imagine life and living before you--truth is I can't anymore. The existence of you both has done something incredible for our little family. I'll never be able to put down in words what that something is, but I can recognize it in all of us. My father(Papaw ChooChoo to you guys) has become quite the softie since your arrival. He's always happy to see you, play cars or princesses, or nod off quietly on the couch as an episode of Max and Ruby winds down. Someday I will make sure to tell you all of the amazing things about him...there's too much to put down here right now. When I was younger he was a bit strict and overprotective, but I guess a dad has to be when raising two girls by himself. It's nice to see him soften up a bit with you guys.

In the picture above you are all dressed up for a family wedding. I'm sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you both are all movement. Especially Cohen, who doesn't really care for the concept of sitting still(unless Bubble Guppies is on). Maddie, I watched my sister(your mom) curl your hair as you tried to stand as still as possible. She painted your toes and nails a pail pink and you beamed at your reflection when she was finished. You are getting taller all the time. I'm constantly impressed with what a little lady you are, so mindful of others and always using your manners. You are especially impressive around other kids. You know how to share and include others--even your little brother, which I know is hard for you at times. Every now and then he takes the one particular mermaid doll you wanted to play with, sometimes he knocks down all of the blocks we used to build a giant house. But you've also noticed how he mimics and copies you endlessly, referring to you as "Z." He follows after you with a great big smile. I love that you both have each other.

You are also in school now--kindergarten! I can't believe it. You cried the first few times that someone dropped you off, but were fine by the time class started. I don't blame you--it's a big adjustment. It's funny--I can remember a handful of things from my own days in kindergarten, and remembering those things makes me wonder what you will remember someday. I want it all to be positive for you.


Cohen, you have the best smile when I walk into the room. Your entire face lights up and you yell "Aunt Nikki!" as if you want the entire neighborhood to know that I've come to visit. Sometimes you take one of your sister's mermaids to give to me, then grab one for yourself and beckon me to follow you around the living room as we make them swim through the air. You will bring your mermaid's face right up to my mermaid's face and say, "Mermaid mermaid mermaid." This is the conversation they have and it cracks me up every time you do it. We've started to move my air mattress in front of the small slide downstairs so that you can slide and land with a bounce. And just like your sister, you love to steal bites of my cereal. Your favorite thing is to pick the berries out of my bowl while proclaiming, "B!" You are also sleeping in your "big boy bed" now. Often when you are put down for a nap, I can still hear you on the monitor babbling to Mickey Mouse before you fall asleep.

I'm so lucky to know such brilliant little people, so lucky to be related to you and to watch you grow and hit milestone after milestone. I have videos and pictures along the way to prove that you were in fact smaller than small at some point...though as time goes on and you grow, it gets harder to wrap my head around. Maddie, I love to hold your hand as we walk through a parking lot. I love that we always want to sit by each other at restaurants, and I love that we can share our imaginations with each other when we play. Cohen, you are quite a charmer. You can scoot down stairs now and when you tell me you love me I get tears in my eyes. I am so very proud to be your aunt, so thankful to be a part of your lives. You both inspire me endlessly. I hope I can do the same for you.
video

Friday, August 31, 2012

morning commute

I ride my bike to work 5 days a week. Roughly 4 miles each way, same route, same hill to contend with on the way to campus and on the way home. Same time of day. Same road, same turns, same stop lights.

The best part of this habit, this sameness, are in fact the differences. The little things that change that become big things. Here's how it goes:

I leave the house with my messenger bag slung on my back, stuffed to the gills with work clothes, dry clothes for the ride home and my lunch. Cue montage of me placing these things inside of it, five times a week, contents varying. I pump my tires, sling bike frame over my shoulder and hustle down the stairs. Couple of turns and I'm at the first light. Cue montage of traffic, five mornings of it--sometimes a crossing guard, sometimes not. During the summer months the caddy-corner church steps are empty--during the school year, you'll find kids sitting there looking tired and already bored. I see the same guy in hospital scrubs at the nearby bus stop. Sometimes he must take an earlier bus or sleep in, but I see him enough to wonder why I do not know his name yet. That's one of the funnier aspects of my commute--seeing individuals every morning yet knowing so very little about them.

For example, there is the moped scooter guy. I hear him before I seem him, that whirrrring motor sound of a little enginge that could(that can, that does). His helmet is wrapped with designs, reminds me of Ed Hardy attire. We jockey for position now and again over the miles--I zoom past him in traffic, he leaves me in the dust on the hill close to Shady Avenue. Sometimes I beat him to Oakland, sometimes I'm left staring at the back of his Ed Hardy helmet. But we'll pass somewhere on our commutes. There is also the boy that walks while reading a book. I can usually compare his location with how late I left the house.

There are other cyclists, warriors of the morning. The woman who never wears a helmet but knows all the shortcuts. The older man who rides a too-small bike--his knees jut out awkward as he pedals. The man with panniers and monstrous calves.

I adore things that cycling allows me to notice, things I would otherwise miss or know nothing of if I chose a different mode of transportation. Like I've dodged the same growing pot hole for months upon months(at least 6 now) and then yesterday I went to dodge and found it finally filled. Road work that cars barely bump over, metal plates I have to scoot around or new divits to avoid. When I come around the downhill bend of Forbes Avenue, I know that I have to ride in the center of the lane, know the holes and uneven parts that line the right side. I catch whiffs of heavy perfume or pot from cars that pass. Snippets of radio and bored drivers and cigarette fingers.

I see roadkill, I smell the death stench. I witness its process of decay. Flat and fresh, splayed in the bike lane. Then bloated in the same spot. Then flattened and kicked to the side by other wheels. Then gone. A late night storm leaves debris in my lane by morning, sometimes entire branches, thick trails of wet leaves and dirt from river of water that forms and tumbles to the storm drains. Yesterday's clear path is tomorrow's thicket of litter. You can never not pay attention.

I see empty lots with signs of COMING SOON! promising new apartments. The lots remain empty until one day a fence is erected to partition construction zone from road. Another week, heavy trucks appear with dirt or cement. Two weeks later and scaffolding is erected, workers slop bricks together in early morning light. They pour the sidewalk, traffic backs up and becomes one lane for a few days. Another week and the windows are in, they are almost livable. The road here becomes dusty and different, repaved for sewer and water lines, bumpy. It takes me a while to adjust and remember where the rough spots are. And then one day they are built and ready for tenants. Morning by morning I watch empty space become full, unsure of how it happened though seeing it step by step.

Soon the leaves will change. I can see the tips of some already going yellow. I can smell the transition of season in the air as I bend my way from home to work. I slip my wheels to the left and right, avoiding the dropped acorns. I try to keep my middle finger and smart mouth in check, even when dealing with the most inconsiderate drivers on the road(those that honk belligerent, cut me off, swerve to intimidate me off the road). On occasion I glance down at my legs working the pedals, marvel at the muscles revealing themselves on the downstroke. I wonder what loved ones are doing as I breathe in through my nose and out through mouth. Sleepy eyed upon departure and a sweaty mess when I arrive. It is most certainly my favorite moment alone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

momenting

A few minutes after 3pm today I started yawning and could not stop. These yawns were starting to run into each other and overlap, creating that strange muted DRUUUUUNN static noise between my ears. I took this as a sign to venture down the 31 flights to get some coffee. On ice, of course.

On my way back up, I run into an older gentlemen at the elevator bank. In his 60s I would guess. He's wearing flipped up shades and a button up shirt. He compliments me on my tattoos in a gravelled voice and I say thank you, glancing down at my own arm. Some days I forget they are exposed. He says to me, "Lift my sleeve up I'll show you mine." His hands are full, so I reach up(he's tall) and lift the short sleeve cautiously. Only skin. "I don't see anything," I say, to which he replies, "It's higher on the shoulder like yours." The tattoo is a symbol, one he had done in New Zealand. Exclamation points rise up above my head, I'm sure of it. New Zealand! I am just beginning a slow dance of intrigue with New Zealand, so I press him about it. He lists places casually as we get on the elevator: Australia, Tahiti, everywhere. Everywhere, he says. The doors close and we push our floor buttons.

"I've already hit everything on my bucket list so I don't care anymore really," He tells me with a chuckle. The elevator dings onto his floor and he wishes me a good day while extending a closed fist to me. This gentlemen is offering to bump knuckles. Bump knuckles! I grin and bring my fist to his. We bump the knuckles. He's gone. I'm left in the elevator smiling. Not even smiling but beaming. Ear to ear and around my head.

Why did this impact me so much? Why am I writing about it here? Because it was random. Because it happened. Because I do not want to forget a moment like this, one that split my mouth into a grin wider than I've exuded in a long time(too long). Because I needed that moment, and the moment was unexpected. This anonymous person my sudden new hero. I would love to say I never forget how amazing we are as human beings, how much power we have to influence each other, but I do forget. This was a reminder, a gentle shake of the shoulders. Some bumped knuckles on an elevator.

Monday, August 27, 2012

website currently under construction

hang tight--hammers and chisels and blueprints are out--website will be up and running soon. thanks!