Friday, May 27, 2011

Wild Card

This morning, as I climbed groggy from bed for a morning pee, it occurred to me that I only have three more nights in this little apartment. I've already told you how warm and fuzzy I feel about it here, how nostalgic it will always be, so I won't go there. In fact, in its current state, it won't be very difficult to leave. Gone are all the personal touches that made it uniquely mine, and in their place are half-packed boxes, detritus, and dust bunnies where furniture used to hug the baseboards. I'm already tired of stepping over clutter, and when Monday comes, I'll wish it all a fond farewell. Maybe I'll take a final snapshot.

Tonight also marked the end of another era: my final shift at a job I grew to love and hate over the two years I spent there (two years being an eternity in my career history). It would be impossible to express in a few words, or even in thousands, what this job has meant to me, how it molded me, and helped to turn me into the woman I am now. I thank professional cooking in general for growing me up, thickening my skin, giving me a sense of humor and callouses on virtually every part of my body including my constitution. Because of this work, I believe I'm a tough as leather bitch, able to withstand double shifts, testosterone-rich environments, language that would make a prisoner blush, heavy lifting, a mountain of dishes, and come-what-may. I wouldn't change any of it for the world. Well, maybe the world, but not much less.

These past two years have been a wild ride of brutally difficult work, hilarity beyond belief, more than a few drinks (many more,) a lot of sexual tension, friendships the likes of which could never be forged any other way, and situations so interesting I wouldn't believe them if I hadn't experienced them myself. What a ride.

Tonight was an all but perfect way to end it all. Nothing epic in any direction, just another mitzvah in another temple with another buffet of food. Driving into the burb where the party would take place, the truck filled with staff, food, platters, cambros filled with lemonade, clattering silverware and etcetera, we all laughed and joked our way to the job site. Nobody is funnier than food people. Nobody. What's the difference between jam and jelly? I can't jelly my dick up your ass.

But anyway, we arrive, and once the parking spot is situated, and the contact person, and where to make this happen, we unload the truck. The hour or two between unload and setup is tense, trying to make the show go on in a timely fashion for the host, who has high expectations. We chatter with one another, but all the while we never stop moving. Probably, we haven't sat down for several hours save for the car ride. There is really no time to stop and think about your aching lower back, your hips that seem to keep screaming: "You're not as young as you used to be!"

Once the buffet is groaning, and the glasses are iced and filled and the coffee pots piping and the silver polished, there is another short lull where we can all congregate in the kitchen. This is where the real party happens. We laugh and joke some more, hopefully someone will have pilfered a bottle of wine by now and we will be serriptioutsly passing it around amongst one another. We'll be anticipating the arrivals of guests, the needs of hosts, and trying our very best to pretend we care. We're a tribe. It's us vs. them, and try as we might to serve, I think they, the others, feel our "usness" vs. "themness." In moments like this, we are beyond friends, beyond family, and something else altogether. Only by way of the intensity of hard, sweaty, laborious work are these sorts of bonds formed. We haven't been to war together, but it's pretty damn close. These are my kindred, my people.

Will I miss this? Sure. Sure I will.

And yet, tonight, as I packed the almost-last of the boxes, I decided to pull a tarot card from my deck. Couldn't pack them without pulling one last card. The Valet of Batons. A Minor Arcana Card, at first glance, sort of boring-- not dramatic like Death, or Judgment, or The Empress. But then, I read the card:

"His freedom is so important to him that he would rather go as a peasant among strangers than inherit a fortune with strings attached. Don't be fooled by his humble appearance. He is a future captain of industry or world leader, now serving his apprenticeship. He's sometimes seen planting his staff like a flagpole into the earth, out in the wilderness where he can start fresh, without having to make any compromises. You could think of this card as a wild card."

My chosen career is filled with wild cards. People who refuse to make compromises with their personalities, their drive and passion, their realness. I'm so proud to count myself amongst them, and for the courage this industry has instilled in me. As I plant my staff in the wilderness, I'll never forget where I came from.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011


It's almost frightening how quick and easy it is to dismantle this life. An hour of packing, and my artwork is mostly off the walls, my cookbooks are all packed. This place is no longer a home, but a transitional space. I had meant to go around and take pictures so that I could remember better, but I just didn't get around to it somehow. Anyway, I hate long goodbyes. This little place has served me well. It's time to move forward through space and time, not back. In an almost cliche bit of trivia, there is a coffee tray leaning against my door just now. One drunken night, I scrawled, in black sharpie, across its shiny white surface, "Where's the Adventure in Not Doing It?" I propped it above my windows so it was the first thing I would see when I came thru my front door. Soon enough, I put it away, but still kept it around. Now it's on its way to the dumpster. I don't need it anymore, but maybe someone who needs it will come across it and take it home.

Here I Go

I've had to field the obvious questions about my move: What do I plan to do? Do I have a job? Where will I live? Do I have a plan? I've tried to maintain my cool in the face of these inquiries, and innocent as they are sometimes they feel like interrogations. That's my own insecurity kicking into gear. It would be nice to have (a lot) more money. It would be nice to have a gig already in place. It would be nice not to have to burden my friends with a indefinite houseguest.

But then, like a guardian angel, I had a chat with a girl at my current job who is taking a similar leap of faith (only with her boyfriend, to Colorado, where they have spent time before). I hit her with the same questions that have been peppering me. She shrugged. "I don't know. We're just going. We don't have a plan. It's fun not having a plan, because then you can just let life happen." Her words were like a cleansing wash. When I mentioned that I'd like to have more money, she, along with another woman who had been listening in, just started laughing. Money is like that in this economy, apparently. It's more of a concept than a reality. The idea of money still persists, but I don't know too many of us who have any. We calculated that I could wish for money here, or I could wish for money there, and it's a zero sum game.

If you've lived any kind of life at all, you know that making plans is a presumptuous, Godlike game. Life is what happens when you're making plans. I think I'll skip the preliminaries, and see what life has got in store. It's fun that way.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Little House

This little apartment. It existed in my minds eye for such a long time. Of course, I had no idea what it would really look like, but a room of my own was so desired I could just about taste it. It isn't that living with a companion is so bad-- and of course there are things that are altogether wonderful about it. The comfort of knowing you are never truly alone, someone to dine with almost always, a couch mate. But then, you are always sort of anticipating someone else's rhythms. When they are to be home, when they are to be gone, when they are taking a nap, when they are hungry, when they are in the bathroom, when they will or will not, finally, pick up a broom. On your own, you have only yourself to blame, only yourself to anticipate, which is in itself frustrating enough after all.

I looked at lots of living arrangements before I picked this one, initially thinking I would need roommates, probably an old vestige of believing I couldn't make it on my own. But when I began doing the math, I found that the opposite was true. A hundred bucks extra per month, and I would have a little place in the world all to myself. The choice was obvious. When I saw it, I accepted it right away, and it took some struggling to get in. The circumstances weren't perfect, but once my mind was made up, I wasn't to be deterred.

I always sort of envisioned myself in Loring, on this side of the park, overlooking the pond and the greenery. Well, I didn't get a window shot, but close enough otherwise. My vague little enduring vision of a life here is the sort of thing that causes me to believe that time and space aren't always linear. In other words, I always sort of knew this would happen. New Orleans too, but that's another post for another day.

For now, a little retrospective of what I love about this place, and what I will inevitably miss once I am gone, in a few short weeks.

This place is just the right space for one girl. It's not too big, by a long shot, but it's also not too small. There is a place for (almost) everything I need there to be a place for. (Except for excessive pairs of shoes, and some kitchen issues, but hey, I wouldn't be me if that weren't the case). When I'm finished in the living room, sitting in my good and comfortable chair, listening to one of several music situations I have put into place, when I'm done with my books and a hearty dish of food in my lap and as many glasses of wine as I please, I'll go into my tidy bedroom that is little more than a fabulously comfortable bed, a nightstand, a window whose shade I'm always fussing with to quit letting in the sun of morning, and I'll feel relaxed and grateful.

In the morning (and in the night) I'll go into my sturdy little bathroom, all Minneapolis ceramic tile, deep clawfoot tub, suspicious dusty corners behind the toilet, hard flushing handle, substantial medicine cabinet fashioned by an artisan who cared, and frustrating old-timey dual temperature faucet handles, and again I'll feel happy.

I like the mustard walls in the living room and the sage ones in the kitchen. The colors are a little off, not at all just-so, but I like that. It's what I would have done, probably, if left to the devices of painting-- thinking I had the color schemes all precise, and of course I would have shot a little too vivid. And yet, who would care-- who would have the time or money or inclination to fix it, and life is generally too subdued anyway, isn't it?  So yes, they saved me the trouble of a funky little paint job, and its already done and totally me. My previous tenant also bequeathed me with a few tree branches, which lend a bit of character I haven't wanted to part with, and on their tendrils I hang detritus that I find here and there. Pigeon feathers, a silk flower that someone abandoned on the sidewalk, gift wrapping ribbons. This little shrine is nothing to someone else, but its everything to me. Mine. The moments of my life, propped in a corner of my own room.

My CD collection that I refuse to part with, encompassing the last two decades of my life, maybe longer. A dalliance with KC and the Sunshine Band. An enduring love affair with Prince. My Nana's cedar chest, filled with my entire life's worth of keepsakes-- scraps of writing that would make me blush to this day, the baby blankets that I was never able to utilize. I've filled a second chest. I've asked to be buried (or burned) with them if my time comes prematurely. Anything that means anything to me gets slipped into the top of the chests. To go through them at this date would mean an epic journey through memory lane that I'm not willing to take at this point. I'll assume that all is safely marinating in there. Safe keeping.

This little place encompasses, again, everything I truly need. Do I want a larger life? Yes, and that is why I am alighting off to find one. And yet, I could be perfectly happy here for a good time to come, which makes it that much more bittersweet, and pride inducing for leaving.  I'm not running from anything. I'll miss this all. Sometimes I might cry. Cleansing, cathartic tears that move me forward.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


People have asked me many times what it is I plan to do in New Orleans. My answer is that I plan to live my life. I'll do similar things that I do up here-- I'll sell cheese, I'll write, I'll cook, I'll spend a lot of time with my friends, I'll dance and drink and make love and eat. I'll definitely eat. And yes, I can do all of those things here. And yet, life has seemed to close in on me a bit here. While the past year has unfurled delightfully, and I have no complaints about the way it has, there are things that have gotten smaller as well. My work life has shrunk, partially because of my own decisions, mostly because I know that sometimes you need to tear down an edifice to build a new foundation. I hope and believe I am doing so.

Rather than take inventory of my work life over the past decade plus, I'll suffice to say I'm pretty happy with it, overall. Glancing back, I have achieved all of the goals I have set out to. (Except for, you know, becoming independently wealthy and famous). American culture is so strange that way. Enough is never really enough. Not only are we supposed to be personally fulfilled with our job and career choices, but we should gain recognition, climb up the ladder, amass wealth, and hopefully retire at a sprightly age that allows us equal time to travel the world, indulge in hobbies and relax. Or something.

But I've noticed, amongst my peer group, that there are new dreams and aspirations when it comes to career and work. The first one is to be able to pay one's bills. If you've got that covered, by all accounts you're doing pretty good. Another is to not hate your work, and another is to have more than one, and sometimes up to four or five jobs that you dabble in, or where you collect a hodgepodge of paychecks that eventually amount to enough. I've found, the more I ask around, that I'm not alone in any of this.

A word on "enough." When is enough enough? If I ask myself this morning, if I have "enough," materially, I would have to say yes. I paid my rent in full yesterday, my phone bill will not be paid on time, but it will be paid. I have some debts that are outstanding, one to a friend which I would very much like to pay. And yet, all of the important things are in place. No doubt I will eat today and eat well. The heat is on in my apartment. I have a fine cup of coffee to my right, and I have plenty of comforts like toothpaste and a nice tube of lipstick to start off my day. My bike is in working order and I have a job to go to today. Yes, I think I have enough.

There are mornings, yes, where I wake up with a little pit in my belly because there is no safety net. Your mind goes off on all sorts of "what ifs". I have a fantasy that I could be a good steward of wealth. That I would be generous and kind with money. That I would support artists and other people living on the edge, give them a little financial push to realize a dream. Help my aging parents when they need it, rather than just stand helplessly on the sidelines. I've made a pact with the universe that I'll do these things if wealth is ever to come my way.

And yet, in this financially meager year, I've learned so many lessons, many of which I would not have learned with a lot of cash in my pocket. I've been faced with the generosity of others. Whenever I think that there won't be enough, that I'll suffer some indignity or go without, someone steps up to help. It's kind of beautiful, actually, because you don't even have to ask-- the necessary thing, the amount of money, the moment just sort of gets taken care of. I've seen this again and again.

I've also adjusted my mindset regarding what I need. When I separated from my old life, I scaled down to mostly bare necessities. I took with me two plates and two coffee mugs, two wine glasses, a handful of silverware. One spatula, a cheap coffeemaker, one skillet. I found no need to have more possessions around that what I truly needed in a given moment. I got rid of my car, I got rid of TV, and now watch less than a couple hours a month in the form of a movie on the computer when I get the urge. I dumped all the books I'd never read again (but kept those I thought I might) and ditched a closet's worth of clothes. (You wear all the same shit all the time, anyway, don't you?) I have two comfortable chairs, a bed, a lot of music, said books, and many, many keepsakes-- only those things that are really meaningful to me in some sentimental way. I have art on the walls, and you know, really, that's what I have. I've never been happier and I've never had less. I have towels. One always needs towels.

It could be good to have a safety net, and that little bundle of cash to pass out when someone else needs a bump. And to buy a plane ticket now and then. And to have a little extravagant adventure sometimes. And yet I know that comfort can be overrated. I'm healthy and robust. And the sun happens to be shining. That's all the comfort I'll be needing. For today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Blues (The Greys)

Yet another grey day. If it seems tedious to be counting overcast days, that's because it is. When you open your eyes to another day like this one, it makes getting out of bed seem silly. It's also 34 degrees. It's tough. I made the realization a couple of days ago that I am outright sick of drinking. I'm not sure if people who are not from around these parts understand what it takes to get through a Minnesota winter. The frigid cold, the lack of light, the tediousness of slogging around through piles and piles of snow. If you're a drinker, drinking becomes a necessity. You need it to stave off the boredom, and though it's counterintuitive, you need it as a comforting veil that everything is going to be alright. It's an illusion, yes, but it's a reliable illusion that gets you through each day after tedious day. And, as I've taken to saying these days, it's always good weather in the bar.

But as I said, I'm sick and tired. I'm so tired of bars, I'm tired of blowing what little money I have in them, I'm even tired of the reliable wine buzz I get in the evening when I'm padding around the apartment taking care of writing and wallowing in solitude. But without even a drink to soothe the doldrums, then what? I've noticed that I'm looking very much inward these days, which is boring even to me. A few things I'm grateful for, right now.

The gorgeous, richly golden farm eggs that I picked up from the Kreidermacher farm last week, their tenacious adherance to natural farm practices, and the belief that the natural order of things is best. There is no substitute for good, real food. The best thing I've had to eat all week-- a simple, substantive, egg, nurturing as a hug. I can't wait to have two more today.

HG's company. I didn't mean to get so close to someone at this point in my life, again, again, but I find it difficult to turn down love. It just seems foolhardy. I tend to think of the Janice Joplin song, Get it While You Can: "If someone comes along, he wanna give you some love and affection, you better get it while you can. . . " I noticed how much I had begun to enjoy HG's company. He's smart and weirdly funny and he's always game for anything. Instead of thinking up excuses for why we shouldn't do something, he's preparing for how to do it, unlike most people. He's got a beautiful smile and kind eyes and a generous soul. Last night he expressed how sad he was that I'm departing. I feel guilty for letting us grow so close, and then leaving so abruptly. Through his tears, he said, "You just make me so happy." So yeah, I'm grateful for HG.

For this city, which I know as I know the nuances of my own face. Its streets that allow me to easily travel on two wheels, on my own two feet, where I always feel safe, where I know the characters as I turn every corner and make my way through my days: Scott Seekins (who's in his white suit now, despite this weather,) Uptown and its hip yet small town vibe, the baristas and bartenders and shopkeepers who ask sincerely how you are doing before you begin a transaction, who stop to make eye contact, who have a chat with you. I'll miss these streets and sidewalks, and yes, the bars. I'll miss the cave like Thai restaurant bar that I've adopted as my own, the adorable bartender, the delicious green curry. I'll miss this neighborhood, and this park (in spite of what little time I've gotten to spend in it,) these blocks, these people in my neighborhood.

My beautiful niece, and when she deigns to sit in my lap, so that I can smell the top of her head and nuzzle the back of her neck and soak those moments into my bones, those fractional seconds and minutes that calculated, would probably only equal an hour, but one of the best hours anyone could ask for.

For life, and health, and fresh air, cold as it is; for the sounds of my radiators kicking on when it's cold in the apartment, for the incomparable free sensation of rushing through a city street on a bicycle, for my faculties and the use of my body parts, for making love and the perspiration between two bodies, for handfuls of curly salt and pepper hair, for burying my nose in fresh sheets, for blinds that can close off the grey, for a good wholesome plate of food, for a song that makes my hairs go up on end, for the privelege of being alive.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Mayday. Of course this is the Sunday that you hope to be frolicking with the freaks in Powderhorn park, wearing a ridiculous hat or a feather boa, and daytime drinking and smoking and kissing and whatever else you can get away with in broad daylight in the park under the sun and in full view of kiddies and dogs and grandmas.

But, like most of the days before this one, for the past, what, six months? It's cold, it's windy, it's grey. At least its not raining or snowing. Yet. This past winter was the worst Minnesota winters on record, and certainly the worst in my memory. Snowstorms dumped on us, weekly, daily? Serious ones too. The kind that shut you in, bury your car, and make you think of hibernation, of booze and of prozac. And yet, I not only endured this winter, I rallied in it. Having a car around Loring park was useless-- snow emergencies made the already Seussian parking situation downright impossible, so I grounded the lemon drop for the winter and I hoofed it. All. Fucking. Winter. It was the best thing I could have done for myself in these circumstances. Everywhere I needed to go, I walked there. I averaged about 30 miles per week. I dropped ten pounds almost instantly, I got daylight every day, I got fresh air. I wore snowpants everywhere I went, generally not even bothering to shed them when I arrived at my destination, because, why? When it's twenty below and the snowbanks are literally above your shoulders, fashion becomes an afterthought. In fact, this was my fucking fashion statement, man. Those snowpants, and a stocking hat that rendered hair styling (and washing) a thing of the past.

I strangely liked this winter. I spent much of it with a nice man I had met who spent most of his adult life in NYC, and he wasn't so much for the Twin Cities. I spent the winter playing Julie the Cruise Director of Minneapolis, taking it upon myself to exhibit all of the reasons he should love my hometown. I made him put on boots and trudge through snowstorms on impromptu bar crawls. We did strip clubs and countless decadent meals. We rode bikes in the brief interludes between rain and snowstorms. We had an awful lot of sex. It's been a good winter.

But now, on the first day of May, and it seems that winter still, still, still has no intention of loosening it's grip. The trees outside of my window have been trying so hard to release their buds. But with extremely limited sunshine and only fitful, dissatisfying spits of cold rain, things are reluctant to sprout. Myself included. When you wake up to yet another day like this one, it can be easy to roll over, pull the covers overhead, and stay.

This morning I had a notion to up my trip. I'm having a hard time rallying at this moment. I know I'm not alone, and I feel like a bad, whiny Minnesotan right now, but really, it's just not natural to go this long without your shoulders growing hot from the delight of sunbeams. It makes me want to cry, just the memory of it.

I don't think I'll up my trip, though. I want more face time with Chela, with HG, with my little apartment, which, despite the copious amount of time I've spent here this winter, I've grown to love. I've really settled into it during this crazy, delicious, heartbreaking year. And, before I go, I want those buds outside my window to be heavy branches lush with reassuring life.

*One sidenote: if I've invited you to peek in here, please note that I'm not intending to spend much time proofreading, editing or correcting here. This is more a place for brain dump, for stream of consciousness, and for observing my life which tends to go by at breakneck speed. So, if you look in, I apologize in advance for any poor use of the English language, but that's the way it's going to be, for now.