three things: 1/22/17

FEED: I’ll be feeding for a week off the energy from the Women’s March. The organizers in Austin were expecting 22,000 people but there were between 50,000 and 60,000. I marched with my dear friend Deb and my wonderful daughter Katie, who was able to come after all thanks to her husband’s work schedule. We were near the front of the [alleged] starting point, but there were so many people already on Congress Avenue, in front of the capitol, that it was almost an hour before we started moving.

That’s the Texas state capitol (it’s a replica of the US capitol, but in pink granite). Deb and Katie and I were at the bottom of that paired row of trees on the front lawn, waiting to march down…..
Congress Avenue, the broad street that is the center of downtown, going from the capitol, over the river, into south Austin. It was extraordinary, no kidding.

People like to say that Austin is a big city, but it isn’t, really. Chicago, LA, NY, Boston, those are big cities. Austin is a large town with a WHOLE LOT of people in it. So this was amazing. People came in buses from all around the state, they drove in this morning, just to march here, in front of our regressive state government. It was peaceful. Beautiful. I wanted to hug every single person I saw.

Katie and I, waiting for the march to get started, about an hour before it was to begin. Marnie marched in Chicago, and Marc marched in NYC. Our family represented!

SEED: I’ll tell you this: trolls have zero sense of irony. Yesterday a nasty little troll who lives near Roswell, Georgia left an anonymous comment on my blog that said this:

why don’t you and your radical friends move to Russia!!!!! (subject line: “sick of your bs”)

HAHAHAHAHA! Gosh. Where even to begin. I think it’s a safe bet that this troll is a Trumpeter. Right? That she (for I have figured out who she is) voted for Putin’s puppet. What is it about people like this that always makes them tell us to move to Russia, anyway? Also: trolls love exclamation points. !!!!!

And these extra “patriotic” trolls have their little feelings hurt so badly when an American exercises her First Amendment rights. Choose-your-own-patriotism, I guess.

Also, if you are “sick of [my] bs” I have a simple little fix for you: don’t read it! No one is forcing you. Please, feel free to never read my blog again, I’m serious! Do me and yourself a favor, please. Because I’m not going to be silent so you can be comfortable (and especially not on my own damn blog! Sheesh!).

This is something I really do not understand. I know a couple of people who voted for Trump, and I never bring up politics with them. Never. (Similarly, I never comment on (or read) their political FB posts, ever, but they will slap a comment on mine, what??) Because there is no point, the abyss is too deep. I never bring up politics, and if a conversation by others starts drifting in that direction, I do my best to shift it into a safer zone. But they inevitably bring up politics with me, and you can tell that I have opinions, dammit. (And not only that, I’m super angry about this, which they also know from previous times they’ve brought up politics. What is that about?) So if they do, I don’t hold back. I say exactly what I think, and I’m not delicate about it. They brought up the conversation, and they know my position. I get very upset and shaky inside, because one friend especially I care about so much, I love her dearly, and I don’t want to unleash my anger at her, but I am angry. So it’s completely unpleasant for me, I don’t like it, I don’t wish to talk about it, but THEY BRING IT UP. Again and again. One has said things to me like, “Don’t you agree, liberals don’t think for themselves?” WITH FOX NEWS BLARING IN THE BACKGROUND.

Oh, I’m angry. I’m so angry. It’s not pleasant to have these intense feelings, and I am trying to figure out why my fury is this huge. I really hate unfairness, especially when people who have power wield it over those who don’t — that’s something that always makes me see red. So maybe it’s that, I don’t know, but I’d like to get a handle on it so I don’t stroke out, because I have a lot of political work to do.

Trolls? If you don’t like what I write here, on my own tiny little corner of the Internet, just leave me alone. Please.

READ: So I finished reading A Man Called Ove, which took me so long because I’ve been on a great run of sleeping. Here’s my GoodReads review, in case you’re interested in reading the book:

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was deciding whether to read this book, I noticed that the most common word in all the Amazon and GoodReads reviews was “charming.” And honestly, I couldn’t write a review without that word either! It’s not just that the man called Ove was curmudgeonly charming, it’s that the approach of the book was charming, too. From the funny chapter titles to the way the story is fed out, to the glorious characters, to Ove’s endless stumbling blocks to joining Sonja, every last bit was charming. The general plot was a bit predictable — exuberant new neighbor saves sad old curmudgeon who finds no use for life until she explodes into his life — but honestly? That didn’t matter. I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I spotted the plot arc the moment they met. I didn’t care that the various subplots were predictable. In large part that’s because of the good storytelling, the lovely writing, and the moments of big truth, and in the remaining part it’s because I really cared about Ove, a lot. Really good book, I enjoyed reading it a lot, and always regretted that my time to read is too brief. [View all my reviews]

Now I’m reading another Scandinavian book (Ove was Swedish, this one’s Norwegian) one called Land of Hidden Fires, which I am reading for NetGalley. More on that later. New book club in the house tonight, to discuss Underground Railroad oh heck yeah.

out of control

So here’s what happens. I see something interesting, open it in a new tab and think, I’ll read it later. Then before I know it, there are dozens of tabs open and I feel overwhelmed. How can I possibly stop and read them all — but I want to! So I put them here, thinking I’ll come back to the “Links” category and read them all one of these days. R-i-g-h-t. 🙂 But maybe one will be interesting to you, so there’s a second reason to collect them here:

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Happy Friday y’all. I hope you are happy and well. I’m trying to be both.

belonging

where do I belong?
where do I belong?

Belonging is a tough subject for me, one of my quintessential variables. Definitional, even, my old feeling of not belonging. One very good thing that’s happened for me over the last several months is a settling-in to belonging to myself, to having a home within myself. And that’s so very good. I’ve been kind of clinging to that knowledge the last 24 hours.

I love New York City. I love it so much. I love Texas, by which I primarily mean Austin. Love it so much too. I’ve semi-belonged to both places. I’ve lived in a lot of places — CT, VA, AL, AR, NJ — but the only places I have ‘belonged’ have been Austin and New York City. But age and experience have put me in a funny place with both of them. When I went to Katie’s last October for the horrible agony of Gracie’s death and funeral, I realized with a shock that I could never live in Texas again. It felt too far away from my sensibility, too small (oy, don’t tell a Texan that Texas is too small!), I needed a place like New York City. And then, of course, immediately upon my return to NYC there was the ending of my marriage and all I could do was return to Austin. The place I’d just realized I could never live again. (Lesson: Never say you can never do something, for that’s the next thing you’ll be called on to do.)

So there I’ve been, in Austin, and struggling with adjusting my eyes. Struggling to get a different focus so I could simply see and relish the joys and charms of that place instead of only seeing it as not-NYC. And it has been hard, I must say. I have my home, which feels safe and beautiful and I love it, and I have Katie and Trey and their home, and so many beautiful friends, but oh how I have just longed for NYC. Last weekend in Chicago I felt drunk on the giddy pleasures of being back in a big city.

And now here I am, in my other-beloved. New York City. And it is beautiful, and it is busy, and it is everything. And I do not belong here so easily, now. People are rude, they crash into you and elbow you and don’t really give a shit. New York City: the city of the honey badger. They’re not really being rude, it’s just what it is to be here. It’s my city, but it’s not my home any more. I don’t really belong. But I don’t really belong in Texas, either. I am in the limbo zone, wanting and not wanting both places, and realizing that some theoretical in-between doesn’t exist.

pinballI’ve spent much of the day wandering around, shopping, getting stuff done, readjusting to the noise (so noisy!), trying to avoid being crashed into by everyone, feeling like a ball in a pinball machine. Reminding myself to breathe deeply, slowly, reminding myself of my center in my home, my place within myself, reminding myself that wherever I am, I am home. That I belong to myself and that’s important belonging. And, of course, I am just a few months into this transition, and so patience is required. Patience and experience, and then some more patience. That helps, has been helping me.

Tonight, off to eat at Awash, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, for some special raw kitfo, some charcoal tibs, some whole bunch of vegetables and lentils, some spongy injera, the pleasure of excellent and familiar food, a familiar walk in my old neighborhood.

And that reminds me of my favorite Adrienne Rich poem, “Shooting Script:”

Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.

Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.

To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.

To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the
lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.

To read the etched rays of the bullet-hole left years ago in the
glass; to know in every distortion of the light what fracture is.

To put the prism in your pocket, the thin glass lens, the map
of the inner city, the little book with gridded pages.

To pull yourself up by your own roots; to eat the last meal in
your old neighborhood.

eatin and talkin

I’ll tell you what: there are some odd and cool places to eat in Austin. Remember, this is a place that cherishes its motto “Keep Austin Weird.” People wear the slogan on shirts, you see it on bumperstickers, small signs. Austin’s kind of funny; it’s got the old hippy contingent (which includes some young hippies), it’s got the heavily tattooed/pierced contingent, it’s got a hipster demographic, and it’s got high tech people. And the music people, can’t forget them. Like New York, it’s pretty hard to be so odd that people give you a second glance.

Last night I met three women my age at a place called Whip In, which started, I think, as a convenience store. If you go in the front door, it is a convenience store! If you go in the side door, through the patio (and past the red picnic tables under a nice cover) you’re in a great bar with lots of craft beer, and Indian food. I KNOW, RIGHT?! And—like everywhere else in Austin—there’s a stage in the corner for live music.whip inI had a craft IPA that was delicious and a bowl of chana dal, but the highlight was the three women I was with. Two I’d met before (including the one who so kindly invited me, Cyndi), and Sue was new to me. The moment Sue arrived, I knew she was from Chicago, and I was right. There’s just a Chicago thing. The conversation was very intense, very real, about life and the various joys, and the ways it has beaten us up. One woman described a friend of hers, a woman who was married to a man for reasons of convenience, shared resources, insurance, things like that. They don’t live together. We all said that if we’d heard that when we were young and newly married — oh so long ago — we’d have been aghast, we’d have thought that was just horrible. Now, though, we all said, eh, good for her. We’ve all been bashed by life; it’s pretty hard to be a 50-something woman without having had at least a little bashing. We have all been married and divorced, we’ve all raised kids who are now grown-ass people, adults with their own lives. The funny thing about my years in New York was that most of my girlfriends had never been married, and none had kids. I finally found a friend who was married and had kids, a rarity — at least in my crowd. So it was so so nice to have conversation with people who knew what it was like to do the things I’ve done.

the kitchen
the kitchen

We decided to get together in a month at a place called G’raj Mahal Cafe — more Indian food, and the kitchen is in a trailer. Oh so Austin. You should see pictures of the food; the naan will surely make you want to slap yo’ mama.

It was a very long drive home, from the far opposite side of town, and by the time I got home I was so deeply weary I collapsed in my chair. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to crawl back to my bed. This is entirely exhausting, being social with people I don’t know, even though they are nice and welcoming, even though they make it easy. Because I’m shy, I’m introverted. I look forward to Friday night, no plans, just staying in and regaining my energy. Saturday night, no plans. Sunday with Katie.

But tonight I’m going to a group that meets to discuss articles from The New Yorker. We read three specific articles from the most recent issue and then talk about them over dinner. Now if I could only find some people who read the New York Review of Books…..

good thing of the day: a comfortable, comfortable bed, just the right soft/hardness, with wonderful plump pillows, soft white sheets, and a quilt to pull up to your ears. especially when it’s a bed of your own.

 

baby steps, training wheels, pick your metaphor

It’s amazing what a difference 10 years makes in a city; I left in March of 2003, and Austin has changed so much since then. So have I. Of course. I’ve enlarged and shrunk, nearly in equal measure . . . but that doesn’t leave me the same size. It’s funny the way that works.

Since I lived here last, I’ve lived and flourished in the giant metropolis of Manhattan. I’ve learned how to live cheek and jowl among the world, which is how Manhattan can feel at times. I’ve learned how to navigate those crowds, make my way through the subways and gridlock. I’ve also traveled around the world and made my way in places that are strange in every possible way, with alphabets I could not recognize and money I recognized even less. I’ve learned how to talk to people who speak languages that made absolutely no sense to my ear.

And also since I lived here last, I was part of a couple, in a marriage—difficult much of the time, lonely in its particular ways—but a tight little world of two. Someone there every day, someone who didn’t leave, someone who cooked for me every day and planned wonderful trips to exotic locations, someone who rubbed my back every single night as I drifted off to sleep, and rubbed my feet while we watched tv.

And so here I am, back in now-tiny Austin, my familiar that’s now unfamiliar, all alone in my all-new home. It’s so small and I’m so much more cosmopolitan, and at the same time it’s quite different than the city I left. And I am hurt and small and alone, scared, needing to push myself out in the world and scared to do so. But I have to, I really do. 

Last night I went to an art gallery opening for a watercolor artist. I’d RSVPed and planned to go, and then get something to eat somewhere nearby. I’d have done it, I’d have gone alone; the weather turned nice, after days of rain and gray skies, so even though I got a cold yesterday, I’d have gone anyway. I’d have walked around the gallery, sipped the wine, ogled the paintings and wondered how she made them. I’d have done that.

But beforehand I emailed a friend of Katie’s, a young man I always liked so very much, and asked if he’d like to go, if he didn’t already have plans. It felt somehow more doable to be there in the crowd with a friend, someone to talk with, someone to compare opinions (you like that, really? why?). And then someone to eat sushi with afterwards, to talk about the books we’re reading and movies we’ve seen. He’s in his early 30s, Katie’s friend, an easy companion (though I felt like he kept wondering what I really wanted…). Although it’s just fun to talk with him, he was also my training wheels. Next Saturday I’ve got crazy wild plans — brunch, then a knitting group, and then out dancing — so a bit of practice with a young friend helped.

I keep feeling like I can’t quite see — like the road is hard to see over there, like it’s dark and I’m not sure where to turn, like none of the landmarks make sense. Where is this, it’s not here any longer, now it’s that. Of course it might help if I got out during the day and poked around, instead of only trying to find my way at night, in the rain. But I suspect this feeling of confusion, of being unable to see, is deeper than the dark and the weather. I take steps forward and steps backward, because that’s what life is, and slowly I get somewhere. Baby steps, Lorraine. It’s OK.

good thing of the day: Nyquil, the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine. And a humidifier.

Friday books, links, and stuff

I thought about titling this post ‘goulash’ but decided that was too misleading. Still, it’s going to be some of this and that and the other thing, so goulash does fit. Let’s go:

  • A couple of Austin notes. First, since what we do as Texans is have friendly conversation with each other even if we’re complete strangers, I frequently mention that I have just moved back to Austin after living in New York City. Nearly without exception, the immediate response is “Welcome home!” They say that first, and then they ask other questions. I love that, that there is this generous sense of homecoming. And second, the guy who delivered and set up the bed in my guestroom yesterday finished work and then dashed out to his truck for a second. He came back with a brochure advertising his first gig at an East Austin coffeehouse. He said “you look like the kind of person who’d like my music.” I’m not sure why, exactly, but that’s so Austin. Who isn’t playing a gig in this town, I wonder?

LINKS!

  • Here are a bunch of links you may enjoy:
  1. 9 foreign words the English language desperately needs
  2. 2 Chicago inmates escape prison by climbing out the window
  3. Portraits of unrelated doppelgangers (I have doppelgangers everywhere)
  4. Best picture of Barack Obama
  5. 44 more great Obama pictures
  6. Great dog GIFs (I’m not that big a dog person, but some of these made me laugh really hard.  Especially #17.)
  7. Brainpickings lists the 10 best psych and philosophy books of 2012 — always a great list.
  8. Speaking of lists, here are the hundred best lists of all time! Fun!

BOOKS!

  • I’ve been able to read again! Yay! I’ve read some brain candy, and one book that really touched me, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Barbery is a French philosophy professor and now and then the book takes a hard left turn into philosophy in a way that’s a little bit distracting, but I wasn’t troubled by it at all. It’s the intertwining story of two people in a Parisian apartment building, both of whom are in retreat from the world, for very different reasons. Renee is the 54-year-old concierge (hey! whaddya know, I’m 54 years old too) who is quite deep and thoughtful, but who hides from the world by disappearing into her stereotyped role — and most of the residents of the building buy into that vision and don’t even see her beyond that stereotype. But she’s thoughtful, and extraordinarily intelligent, and sees and appreciates the subtleties of things and people. The other main character is a gifted 12-year-old girl named Paloma who decides to kill herself on her 13th birthday out of boredom, partly, because of the morons in her family, and in the building. They’re brought together by a mysterious new resident of the building, who sees them both for who they are. I just loved it for its message of beauty in the small moments, and for its recognition of the hidden depths of people we pass every day. The ending startled me and I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since I finished it on the flight home from New York a few weeks ago. It’s a complete world, rich with detail and real people. I’ll definitely read it again, a few times, probably. This book is like a rich, complex meal that stays in your memory in the best kind of way.
  • And the other books I’ve been able to read are high-brow mysteries by Gillian Flynn. Flynn can twist a plot, man. Seriously. Just when you think you see what’s coming, where she’s taking the story, twist! And you never see it coming, it’s always startling and shocking. She writes about the darkest kind of people, people who are soulless in a way, and who have no qualms about destroying people for little to no damn reason. A few months ago I read Gone Girl (her newest book), and the problem with Gillian Flynn’s books is in trying to tell what they’re about, because you don’t want to give anything away. Of the three of her books I’ve read, I think Gone Girl was the strongest. It delivered in every way, hit every note, and the ending was thoroughly satisfying. Basically, it’s about a young married couple and what happens when the wife disappears and the husband is accused of murdering her. Black and shocking! Then I read Sharp Objects (her earliest book), about a reporter who returns to her hometown to investigate some strange murders of little girls. She has a mother and sister still living there, and I can’t give anything away except to say that the ending is creepy. The one I read this week was Dark Places (the 2nd of her 3 books) and it was fantastic, though I was less satisfied by the very ending. But there’s a real “Gillian Flynn” kind of book developing here, characterized by strong female characters, extraordinary plot twists, and really dark stuff. I’ve never been a fan of mystery books (though I read a lot of Agatha Christie as a young girl), but I couldn’t put these down. They’re really good candy—homemade fudge with pecans—so if you’re in the mood, these will be wonderful for you.
  • Although I’d read two other Gillian Flynn books, the reason I read Dark Places was that I’m going to a book club meeting next week, and that’s the book. Luckily, it was a quick read. There’ll be a second meeting of the group later in January, so for that meeting I’m reading How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, which is often so funny. I hope the book club has interesting women — we’ll see!

It’s so good to be able to read again, and to want to read, which I haven’t wanted to do since I was on vacation in Myanmar. It’s so good to have my place mostly finished. It’s so good to have plenty of work. It’s so good the holidays are nearly over. 🙂 I think this weekend I’ll go out a time or two. See Lorraine. See Lorraine feel better. Feel better, Lorraine, feel better. Get back to living. Yeah. Here’s a song that always makes me feel full of life — from the Eurythmics ‘Forever’ album, which came out when I was in graduate school and feeling on top of the world. Happy Friday, y’all — read something good, see some people, eat something yummy, take time for yourself, breathe some fresh air, and be grateful for your life whatever it is.

“Some people never take the time to try / The way you live’s the way you die / The stuff of life’s in short supply / And if it sometimes hits you strong / Remembering that things go wrong / The song of life is just a song / And everything goes on and on”

quiet

It’s really such a quiet street, and such a quiet life I live now. I find that I talk out loud to myself all the time, which obviously I’ve never done (well, once in a while I’d say something out loud, but only as an exclamation — son of a bitch!, that kind of thing). My street is exceptionally quiet, with only an occasional guy walking a dog passing by. There will continue to be men working around the place; my landlord is now undertaking a big drainage project for the property, followed by landscaping and then the building of a new fence all around it. But it’s really a very quiet street. And there are live oaks all around, like the one in that picture.

It’s such a different life, such a different pace of life, than my old one in Manhattan. Yesterday I went to the grocery store to stock my refrigerator and pantry, and when the cashier noticed all the items — things people don’t usually buy all at once — she asked if I was just moving in. I told her yes, that I’d just moved back home from New York City. The conversation turned detailed, as it does here (“do you mind my asking what happened? Did you get a divorce?”) and when I told her, her eyes got wide and she reached across and put her hands on my arms and said, “oh, honey, I’ll be praying for you.” Her name is exactly my name, even spelled the same, which sort of delighted us both, since it’s odd to meet someone who spells it our way (the simplest way, the right way I must assert). She said, “honey, can we help you get this in your car? It’s the least we can do, I wish I could go help you put it all away, do you have someone to help you put it away? I never mind the shopping, it’s the putting away I don’t like. Can we help you get it all into your car, at least?” I said no, thank you so much but I’m practicing being strong. She said, “honey, I think you’re mighty strong already.” It made a kind of hard thing a little better.

And Katie and I were heading to 360, which is a kind of highway that circles around the west side of Austin. 360 is just beautiful, very hilly and wild, and one of my favorite places to drive. As we were approaching, I noticed that the wild trees — cedar and juniper, and some oaks — were decorated for Christmas. Each one was done differently, some very haphazard and some beautifully decorated. When we pulled onto 360 heading north, I noticed that it continued, this tree decoration business. Katie told me that people just do it themselves, it’s not an organized effort, which is why they’re all so different. Some have a theme, some are basic Christmas, some are even blue and white, but it’s the most charming thing I’ve ever seen. It made me feel happy to be back in Austin, where such a thing is commonplace.

Today I have to work work work, and I’m going to make something cozy that’ll simmer all day — chicken soup maybe, spaghetti sauce perhaps. I had a nice long phone call with Marnie, so that regular part of my routine is back in place.

Yeah. I can tell. I’m going to be just fine.

elements

As a child of the western US landscape, I can never get enough of the big giant sky. It didn’t once bother me, living in Manhattan and having to look straight up to see the sky — it didn’t make me feel claustrophobic or miss the sky, particularly. There was so much else going on that I loved, so it was OK.

But I’m telling you, being back in this landscape makes me feel giddy. Drunk on sky. Dazed by the big hanging moon, drifting across the black night sky. Dazzled by the white clouds floating past. Yesterday I drove from Katie’s house down to my new place to meet the landlord and sign the lease, and I laughed and laughed, watching the giant sky. It’s like the ocean, like the big vast ocean filled with cloudbergs, all around me as far as I can see.

At one point on the highway, there were 3 big flyovers straight ahead, against the brilliant blue sky, and I had a science fiction movie moment seeing the cars scooting through the air on three thin ribbons, against the blue. Again I laughed.

And the twilight sky here is amazing, too.  One of Austin’s nicknames is City of the Violet Crown. Here’s what I found for you, on wikipedia (you do know that O. Henry made his home here, right?):

It was long believed to have originated in O. Henry‘s story “Tictocq: The Great French Detective, In Austin”, published in his collection of short stories The Rolling Stone published October 27, 1894.

In chapter 2 of Tictocq, O. Henry writes:

The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are ablaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread. The occasion is the entrée into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown.

The phrase is generally thought to refer to the atmospheric phenomenon more commonly known as the Belt of Venus. The phrase is also said to be connected to the moonlight towers of Austin.

So at dusk, the skies in Austin can take on a lovely violet color at times, a hovering band of pale lavender encircling the horizon. Austin is also home to the world’s largest urban bat colony — Mexican free-tailed bats, 1.5 million of them. They live under the Congress Avenue bridge, and tourists (and natives) line up at dusk to watch them emerge against the gorgeous colored sky.

It’s no Manhattan skyline, that’s for sure, but the Austin skyline is pretty at night, reflecting in the lake that runs through the city; it’s actually a widening of the Colorado River, and through town it’s known as Lady Bird Lake. When I was kid we just called it Town Lake, but in the last who-knows-how-long-ago, a great many  local places have been renamed for Lady Bird [Johnson, of course]. The sky is so big, full of stars (more visible outside town, of course, but even in the city there are so many visible stars), and the moon is the movie star.

One secret of happiness is to enjoy and cherish whatever there is, and enjoy the memories of what was but is no longer. I miss New York, I miss the buildings and that very particular place, and it’s in my heart and mind forever and I’ll go back whenever possible. So rather than mourn it, I hold it lightly and love my memories. And I add in the drunken pleasures of this giant, giant sky, so big it fills me up and makes my edges disappear. Come visit me! I have a bedroom to spare, and we’ll go breathe the sky together.

And for no particular reason other than I love the hell out of it — Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang, Bird on a Wire, perfectly perfect melding of voice and lyric. Good god almighty. If this doesn’t make your heart fly out of your chest and soar, I don’t know what would.

elements

As a child of the western US landscape, I can never get enough of the big giant sky. It didn’t once bother me, living in Manhattan and having to look straight up to see the sky — it didn’t make me feel claustrophobic or miss the sky, particularly. There was so much else going on that I loved, so it was OK.

But I’m telling you, being back in this landscape makes me feel giddy. Drunk on sky. Dazed by the big hanging moon, drifting across the black night sky. Dazzled by the white clouds floating past. Yesterday I drove from Katie’s house down to my new place to meet the landlord and sign the lease, and I laughed and laughed, watching the giant sky. It’s like the ocean, like the big vast ocean filled with cloudbergs, all around me as far as I can see.

At one point on the highway, there were 3 big flyovers straight ahead, against the brilliant blue sky, and I had a science fiction movie moment seeing the cars scooting through the air on three thin ribbons, against the blue. Again I laughed.

And the twilight sky here is amazing, too.  One of Austin’s nicknames is City of the Violet Crown. Here’s what I found for you, on wikipedia (you do know that O. Henry made his home here, right?):

It was long believed to have originated in O. Henry‘s story “Tictocq: The Great French Detective, In Austin”, published in his collection of short stories The Rolling Stone published October 27, 1894.

In chapter 2 of Tictocq, O. Henry writes:

The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are ablaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread. The occasion is the entrée into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown.

The phrase is generally thought to refer to the atmospheric phenomenon more commonly known as the Belt of Venus. The phrase is also said to be connected to the moonlight towers of Austin.

So at dusk, the skies in Austin can take on a lovely violet color at times, a hovering band of pale lavender encircling the horizon. Austin is also home to the world’s largest urban bat colony — Mexican free-tailed bats, 1.5 million of them. They live under the Congress Avenue bridge, and tourists (and natives) line up at dusk to watch them emerge against the gorgeous colored sky.

It’s no Manhattan skyline, that’s for sure, but the Austin skyline is pretty at night, reflecting in the lake that runs through the city; it’s actually a widening of the Colorado River, and through town it’s known as Lady Bird Lake. When I was kid we just called it Town Lake, but in the last who-knows-how-long-ago, a great many  local places have been renamed for Lady Bird [Johnson, of course]. The sky is so big, full of stars (more visible outside town, of course, but even in the city there are so many visible stars), and the moon is the movie star.

One secret of happiness is to enjoy and cherish whatever there is, and enjoy the memories of what was but is no longer. I miss New York, I miss the buildings and that very particular place, and it’s in my heart and mind forever and I’ll go back whenever possible. So rather than mourn it, I hold it lightly and love my memories. And I add in the drunken pleasures of this giant, giant sky, so big it fills me up and makes my edges disappear. Come visit me! I have a bedroom to spare, and we’ll go breathe the sky together.

And for no particular reason other than I love the hell out of it — Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang, Bird on a Wire, perfectly perfect melding of voice and lyric. Good god almighty. If this doesn’t make your heart fly out of your chest and soar, I don’t know what would.

gotta be careful

As I’ve mentioned before, an old friend once said I have “a very high emotional bandwidth.”  On my birthday a couple of weeks ago, my girl Marnie described me as someone “who feels every emotion possible in a single day and thinks hard about what that means, who reads voraciously, loves her kids ferociously, and often laughs herself silly, where “silly” means “needs to change her pants.”  So yeah. My name is Lorraine, and I feel emotions deeply and easily.

Yesterday was machine gun fire, a giant rollercoaster, take your pick of metaphor. After getting an hour’s sleep, we left for the airport and wrestled my three giant suitcases to the airline check-in desk. Southwest Airlines agents are perky and seem to assume that everyone they encounter is a  happy person, going to a happy place (!) oh-so-happy! She kept apologizing for having to charge me for a third bag, and was insistently pressing on me about the trip while in my head I was screaming, I’m moving, these are all my clothes. This is my husband — we are leaving each other, I am moving, please stop. I sat alone at the gate for a very long time, stunned and blank. It was a short flight to Baltimore, we arrived 20 minutes early, and I boarded the long flight to Texas.

Stunned. Silent. Blank. I tried to read (When You’re Falling, Dive, by Mark Matousek) but was getting nowhere with it because my mind refused to cooperate, until I hit the last chapter which was focused on Stanley Kunitz and included the perfect poem I put in the previous post, surely written just for me. Then I read some more in the book of Job, which I’ve been studying. And then we started our descent into Austin. I was seated on the aisle for a quick getaway, but I glanced out the window as the airplane banked hard for a turn and saw the familiar landscape below the wings. Home.

Going down the escalator at the airport, to baggage claim, I saw my sister waiting for me. Home. She stood there with her arms opened as wide as possible, for me (and there was a sign at her place, “Welcome Home Lori!). We lugged my bags to her car and drove to a duplex she’d found for me. I was hopeful about it, but if I didn’t like it I knew of an apartment complex nearby that was my solid and beautiful Plan B — but OH how I loved the duplex! I can’t wait to show you photos. It has 2 bedrooms, a fireplace, tile floors (the tiles are espresso colored, and look like small wood planks). An all new kitchen. A beautiful enclosed patio. All that space, just for me. Just for me.  It’s a very quiet neighborhood easily accessible to the best parts of Austin, and to Katie. The landlord and I shook hands — the place is mine. I’ll take possession December 1, and stay with Katie and Trey until then. Within an hour of landing, I had a home. Feeling so much better.

My sister took me to The Frisco (which used to be called Nighthawk), a restaurant I used to love when I was in first grade. My old history, good old times, familiar. Feeling better still. We ate and talked, we had long conversations with our waitress (whether we wanted to or not), and then we stopped at a couple of stores to look for sofas. And I found a spectacular one, and bought it. Now I have a home and a couch. FEELING SO MUCH BETTER. And with a major piece of furniture, now I can start handpicking the smaller pieces to go with it, when I have time. 

Out to Katie’s house, where Trey and Katie welcomed me with the warmest, sweetest, most loving feelings I could imagine. They just held out their arms, they talked to me with honey love in their voices, and I felt so cared for. Trey carried my bags upstairs, showed me a special thing about making coffee, just really so thoughtful and kind and I felt myself relax. I am home, now, and loved dearly.

When we were driving to a Mexican restaurant for dinner late in the evening, I sat in the backseat and watched the city pass my window. I looked at the huge black sky and saw the crescent moon, the kind that’s just the heavy bottom of the moon all lit up — and it looked like something out of a movie, it was so large. The sky was so big. I am home, and I have my sister and Katie and Trey — plenty of family for anyone, but I have even more! I am not at all alone…..and I am all alone, now. 

Later, in Katie’s cozy guest room that is my room, I lay in the dark and listened to music, and here’s where I have to be careful. Because so many things are true at once, and they’re all as true as can be: I am home now, in a place I love. I am surrounded by love and family and friends. I am all alone now, no longer connected to the man I love, and have loved for so long. I am on my own, responsible for myself. Note to self: Only listen to “Losing You” by Bob Schneider when your heart is very very strong:

“And all the people that I know / They all tell me just goes to show / No matter where you are, I guess, you’re still alone. ” I hit that line in the song and had to clutch the sheets and grit my teeth to bear the pain in my heart.

What a day — I lost a home (I offered my keychain back to my husband, house keys and car keys, thinking he’d say no, you keep them since you’re coming back in December, but he just took them from me without a word). I got a home. I left my family. I went to my family. I am free and facing a new life of my shaping. I am alone without my partner. I am surrounded by love, I have lost love. I am facing opportunity and happiness, and I am facing fear and solitude.

I’ve never really lived alone, so this will be a first for me. I have to learn how to take possession of my life in a new way. I need to help myself, hold myself, reassure myself (and allow myself to be helped, held, and reassured by friends and family), I need to be careful with the sad feelings because they also are true and I don’t want to drown in them. So for a while, I won’t be listening to songs like I listened to last night, like the quiet sorrowful video. I will watch the large heavy moon hanging in the big black sky, I will count the stars, and I will close my eyes and realize that whatever I am feeling it’s just a piece of it. Whatever is happening, it’s just a piece of it.

Friends, I am going to be OK.

things I forgot about Texas (Austin)

I forgot how lovely it is to interact with such friendly, friendly people. Nearly every person I encountered (even if all they did was hold the door open for me at the fast food joint) smiled and said hello, spoke to me like they saw me, and often stopped to have a very brief chat. Nothing big, nothing long, and not fake. It was jarring at first, and disorienting, but it was easy to remember this way of being, and to get back to it. Just try to make a quick run to the grocery store — it ain’t gonna happen. There will be short friendly conversations with a lot of people.

In the same vein, the interactions are not rote. For instance, whenever we ate out, the server would greet us with a big smile (and a y’all, of course, which slowed my pulse to a relaxed state) and ask how we were doing. We’d answer, he or she would listen and respond, we’d ask how he or she was doing, and the answer would always be “thanks for asking, I’m [whatever].”

It’s a little less true than it used to be, but if you need to merge in traffic, someone lets you in and you look in the rearview mirror and wave at them when you merge in front. And they either wave back, or lift a finger (and not the middle one!). Again, this falls under the friendly deal.

People don’t talk at the same time! This was really disorienting. They take turns talking, and they listen when you’re talking. If they interrupt, they usually apologize. And if they interrupt, after they say what they have to say, they then say, “But I interrupted. What were you about to say?” I miss this the most.

I forgot the fun of being in a place that values being weird. Austin is much less weird than it used to be, but it’s a place that pointedly values “weird.”

I didn’t forget at all the pleasures of sitting outdoors at a funky little place like Shady Grove or Chuy’s, eating good food in the sunny afternoon, and taking our time because people aren’t in a rush. 

My Austin is gone, the Austin of my childhood; I moved here in 1962 when I was 4, and we never locked our doors back then. All that over there? It wasn’t here then, it was just countryside. This stuff here? It used to be something else. Austinites complain about all the Silicon Valley Californians who have moved here, but before that in the 1980s they were complaining about all the people from Michigan who’d come here looking for jobs. (Shameful revelation: Back then, it was common to see a bumpersticker that said “Keep Texas beautiful, put a Yankee on a bus.”)

Like most places, I guess, this is a thing about living in Austin — the nostalgia for how it used to be. If you cobble together all the time I’ve lived in Austin over the years, I’ve lived here more than anywhere else. In a deep and true way it feels like my real home, the beating heart of me, deep inside. I’ve relaxed here, hearing people who sound like me, feeling the comfort of the familiar rhythms of life and people, I’ve relished being back home. And now it’s time to go back home, to the other place that feels like home in such a different way you’d think I must be crazy for them both to be home. But they are.

But no matter what else may ever be true, as long as my daughter lives here, it’s my home. It’s so hard to leave Katie and Trey, especially now, but it’s time to go. Bye y’all, I’ll be back as soon as I can. xo