Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Commute

My street is quiet. Rows of houses empty in the afternoon lull. Birds sing along the tree-lined road. The sun basks down and I realize it's already too warm for the light sweater I donned earlier.

I shed my hoodie in front of the local comic book store. I tuck it in my messenger bag as I pass the beekeeping store on my block. Two unique chickens roam outside its door. One, speckled white and black with an impressive mane, pecks at the leavings from the coffeshop next door. The other, caramel and beige with showy fluffy feathers covering its claws like fancy fur boots, clucks at me as I pass.

I turn right onto Mission and the avenue is already bustling with people. A familiar aroma hits me but is not immediately recognizable. My stomach rumbles, even though I already fed it mere moments before. As I continue my route, the smell intensifies. Oil and crispy fried chicken.

Outside Popeye's, a woman sells large over-ripe avocados. She sits on this corner every day with her basket full of produce. "Dos dólares por cinco!" she cries. A man on the opposite corner eats one of her avocados whole, biting at the bright green flesh.

In front of the Wells Fargo, a man strums his guitar and sings about Buddah. He tries to entice us with fresh orange slices in the hot heat. They look like they've been sitting for hours.

At the corner of 24th and Mission a man with a microphone and a small amp shouts at passerbys. "Somos pecadores!" he shouts. The crowd moves blissfully unaware. "Dios es nuestro Salvador!"

I get caught at the light on 24th and South Van Ness. A customer waits patiently a few people ahead of me. When the walk-man appears, I hang back and change my gait to be a bit slower. I savor the last five minutes of quiet before I get thrown into a fervor that is Philz Coffee.

As I near the store, more familiar faces recognize me. We smile politely. I wave.

... And I walk into the busy and bustle of Philz.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fenway in the Rain

As we arrived at the gate, the clouds draped grey, thin, and ominous above us. A chill hung in the air, biting at the thin cardigan draped over my shoulders.

After the search of our bags and the scan of our tickets, the group split - the boys headed to scour the park for jerseys, hats and other various knick-knacks to bring home, Michelle and I stopped square in the middle of everything, drinking it all in as game-day fans weaved in and out and around us. The allure of the concession stand beckoned, even though our stomachs were still heavy with the local Boston fare eaten just minutes before. Michelle smiled her striking wide smile, showcasing the brilliant white teeth of a dentist’s daughter. “I’ll buy you a beer!” she grinned. With barely a moment’s hesitation, I accepted.

Beers in hand, fingers gripping the thin plastic cups that barely separated our already cold palms from the chilled Miller Lite draft, we perused the red sox memorabilia and souvenir gear from the outside looking in. ‘No food, No drinks’ plastered across every door. With over an hour ‘til the first pitch we decided to check out the field itself. We entered at bleacher 30 and headed straight toward the diamond. ever curious, we bee-lined closer and closer to home plate, dodging ticket checkers with determined looks and self assured gaits. Within feet of the field, we watched mesmerized as the grounds team carefully raked, painted and dusted the diamond in Zen-garden-like fashion.

The clock neared 7 and we navigated towards our seats. back, back further, up and up further until we reached the next to last row where our identically clan companions awaited. Bart, Justin and Kevin all donned bleach-white red sox jerseys and sat expectantly like excited ducks in a row.

Our seats were small and close together. Our view all-encompassing. The vendors traversed the aisles calling out their specialties in their trademark Boston accents: “Peanuts!” “Lemonade!” “Hawt dawgs!” The clouds began to break and sprinkles of rain caused me to throw on my rain slick. Michelle got out her umbrella and covered the both of us in what we started referring to as our “little house.” we cheered for our favorite players. We boo’ed for our least favorite plays.

In the aftermath of a few beers, I started to crave pizza, fries and more beer -- all things not offered by our convenient aisle vendors. About to give up hope, I finally spotted a man with a wide heat-proof pizza box on our stairs crying “Pizza! Pizza!” Excited, Michelle and I chipped in to share a small personal pan which we devoured quickly and absolutely. The melted cheese and tomato sauce pleased my palate. Satiated, we hunkered down in the cold of the rain. Our arms intertwined, we huddled together and shivered in time to keep warm. “We’re like the Cherokee heart beat,” Michelle mused, reminiscing on our visit to the recreated Indian village. “Bum bum. Bum bum. Bum bum.”

In the seventh inning, with the home team down 8 to 2, Michelle and I decided to head for warmer grounds and, accompanied by Kevin, took leave of the ballpark.

The rain misted the tops of our rain hoods as we walked away from the lights, the cheers and the fans of Fenway.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Things

Sometimes I look at pictures of my own apartment, my own things.. and I don't recognize them.  I wonder, did they change while I've been gone?

Have I?

Friday, August 5, 2011

5-hour Blink of an Eye

The alarm rings. 
5:30 AM.  
Pitch black.

The stranger in the bed across the mediocre hotel room shuffles and turns over.  I grab my jeans and contacts and navigate blindly to the bathroom.  

Close the door.
Flip on the lights.

My widely dilated pupils shrink quickly. I shut my eyes for respite.

Brush my teeth.
Wash my face.
Slow zombie movements.

Back in the room, the open bathroom illuminates my things.  Grab my bag.  My laptop.  Wallet.  Keys.  The stranger shuffles again.  Loaded up, I close the door behind me.

Outside, the air still holds the chill of last night.  The sunlight dim over the haze that covers the El Segundo parking lot.  Electricity hums loudly in the wires hung overhead.  Dew lays lightly on the skin of the fellow vehicles  in the lot.  

I load up and jump into the driver's seat.

Lights on.
Slide into gear.
Foot to pedal.

Go.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lovesick for Wanderlust

The itch is back.

It starts in the back recesses of my brain and hides out in the corners of the dreams that I can just barely remember.  You know the kind; the kind you wake up from abruptly, where the trails of places you just were and people you were just speaking to are just out of reach.

Itch.

The thoughts soon start to flicker into my day-to-day.  Looking out a San Francisco bus window, I close my eyes for a second and see the swaying palms and endless fields of sugarcane.  I blink and see dust flying off dirt roads -- Jeepneys to my left, rice spread out and drying on tarps by the side of the road. 

Itch.

I get an IM from an old friend.  “This is going to be the most epic year.” Our first communication in five months. “Details!” I prod, “Do tell!”  And he lays out for me the bare bones of his ambitious travel plans for the year: tour of Mexico, stop-over in Hawaii and an extended exploration of Australia.  The pangs of jealousy pull at my heartstrings.  I can literally feel the strain. I can see the smile in the words he types. 

Itch.

A skinny tall boy with dirty blonde hair invades my dreams when I least expect it.  When I awaken, my heart is heavy with a loss, a yearning.  I used to think, for some reason or another, my subconscious couldn’t let go of that fleeting relationship.  That because it was so short and imperfect, my neurons couldn’t get enough of it.  Only later did I realize that this boy was merely a symbol. His form hinting at a time when I first realized I could drop everything and just go for it. His slight shadow haunts my REM sleep, alluding to everything that’s out there to explore.  Adventure.  The unknown.  I’m not heartbroken for the boy who played with my trust; I am lovesick for wanderlust.

Itch.
           
June 2007 - 24 years young. My fingers wear grooves in the steering wheel of my ’98 Civic as I drive cross-country. The backseat is heavy with what remains of my worldly possessions. Stacks of printed out Google maps occupy the passenger seat, creased from consternation, torn from abuse. I’m bright eyed and ambitious, looking forward to an unknown destination with unknown companions.

August 2007 - Black Rock desert. Accompanied by my CouchSurfer host and friend of 3-days, his campmates and the 2 boys in the camp by the main “road,” I explore a city filled with dreamers and vagrants.  My borrowed duct-taped bike with back-pedal brakes leads me dark into the vast open desert.  Out of nowhere, a looming work of art appears in the distance and I change my heading, pulled like a needle to North.  I sit cross-legged in the dust of the Playa and watch the lights, surrounded by like-minded travelers adorned in costumes and glowsticks.  We glow.

August 2008 - Back of a Tuk Tuk. We ride, our fingers intertwined, in the open-aired, three-wheeled vehicle weaving in and out of traffic. The smog of the city invades my lungs.  To the left, a gold plated temple peaks above thick white walls.  To the right, street-food - vendors with rice noodles, soy sauce, fish on sticks, octopi, and balls of rice.  The swirl of aromas is almost overwhelming.  Josh’s eyes are drinking it all in.  His heart, too, hungry for new. Hungry for next. Hungry for now.

November 2008 - Alone on in a hammock. Overlooking the beach, I lay alone. He is not far in distance, but is still far. “Looking up at the underside of the palm tree,” I’ve said numerous times, “means you must be in paradise.”  And as my hammock sways in the slight tropical breeze of the land of my birth, I am in paradise.  But lost, at the same time.

November 2009 - City by the bay. Here we are carving out a life in San Francisco. Fleeing the Midwest once again and driving cross-country without a home awaiting on the other end.  Without jobs.  Without knowing a soul except each other.  The trees were green when I drove across the California border.  The air was fresh and I drove with the windows down.

Itch.

Now I am sitting at desk. 
I am filling out spreadsheets, I am screening my phone calls, I am counting down the minutes ‘til 5:00PM.
And there’s this itch at the back of my head. 
Buried in the recesses of a dream I can just barely recall.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Scrap Paper

Standing in front of my boss and handing him a letter of resignation, I feel the butterflies tickling at the walls of my stomach.  But, at the same time, I am relieved.

I stand there raw.
I am apologetic.  I am meek.
The look of shock and hurt on his face digs a hole in my chest.

He stumbles over his words and mumbles promises for retention.  My eyes stare at the wall.  The desk.  The sunlight through the window behind him.  Everywhere to avoid meeting his.

As I walk back to my desk, I feel robbed.  I was expecting a great weight to be lifted. 
Instead, two weights rest on opposite shoulders, tugging me both ways. .. but both downwards, to collapse.

By day’s end, I sit at my desk with my folded up letter of resignation laying on my keyboard, mocking me.
It’s wrinkled, creased and has been used as scrap paper.

Sloppy handwriting scrawled on the back of my words; my sad attempt at gaining control now merely a canvas for someone else’s leftover thoughts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Portlandia

Drink  one.

A $3 glass of ESB.  I don’t know what that stands for but it’s a lighter beer.  I picked it as being the least hoppy beer on the hand-written board.  We sip our glasses at Amnesia, a small brewery in Northeast Portland.  The ceilings are tall, the light dim, and the walls steel.  Tall barrels loom behind the bar, slowly distilling the brew that slips between my teeth and under my tongue.  My husband is on the phone with the restaurant that just told us to grab a drink while we wait for our table.  Our table is up. My best friend is goading me to drink so we can eat.  Dan drinks deliberately, savoring the flavor.

Drink two. 

A Malbec, I believe. Dinner begins at Toro Bravo. Liz has raved about this restaurant.  “It is my favorite!” she exclaims.  The menu boasts so many amazing-sounding dishes, it is almost impossible to begin choosing.  The Portland-natives pick the first round of Tapas: salt cod fritters with aioli and butternut squash with crumbled sheep's cheese.  The cod is smooth and silky on my palate, with a bit of crunch to add bite.  I delight in the small nibbles that I share with my friends. Wary of squash, I tentatively scoop some vegetables on my app-sized plate.  It’s the harissa that wins me over.  And, honestly, probably the sheep cheese.  After my first scoop, my second helping is decidedly bigger.  My companions chide me for eating my veggies (for, ashamed to say it, I am infamous in my dislike for the nutrient-rich morsels).  We laugh and clink our glasses together.

Drink three.

Josh tops off my glass and I smile sideways at him.  His eyes flash blue-grey in the dim light of the restaurant.  The red of the expansive walls reflects handsomely off his face.  The two of us order a second round of palate teasers: potatoes bravas, braised salsify with lemon, bacon and cream, and smoked pork rillettes with orange marmalade and toast.  There are two words in this round that I can’t even define upon ordering.  The results are again, stunning.  The four of us cannot stop popping the potatoes in our mouths - hot, perfectly fried and covered in a smart tangy aioli.  Salsify turns out to be albino asparagus without the head; also without the sour displeasing taste.  The lemon butter lends a creamy coating to second vegetable I will consume happily tonight.  When the pork appears, it is surprising: 3 crusty slivers of toast, a pile of orange marmalade and a mini-bowl reminiscent a smaller version of the traditional vehicle for French Onion Soup.  The bowl is filled with a pate-like preparation of pork that we smear on our toast and devour quickly.  We talk of shared memories and chance encounters.  Liz slyly peppers her stories with hints of Portland’s greatness.  She smiles to Josh and Dan - conspirators.

Drink four/five/six?

Our second bottle of wine comes out right before our last go-round of food: squash dumplings with braised lamb and squid ink pasta with hazelnut, anchovy syrup and egg yolk.  The plates are tasting more delicious as they come.  I twirl the pasta around my fork and then my tongue.  The lamb melts in my mouth.  The laughter is louder now.  More frequent.  I’m surrounded by my favorite people and the glow is palpable.  We skip dessert, tip generously and spill out onto the sidewalk in the crisp cold night air.  The breeze smells like pine. 

Drink last.

They present me with a surprise birthday cake from Cold Stone.  It is my favorite kind.  It is wonderful that they thought of it.  The strawberry ice cream seeps into the yellow cake, making it that exact sort of soggy that I always enjoy.  The plate is empty before I know it.  We gather around the puzzle Liz and I started that afternoon and continue our mission.  The glass of port she poured sits next to me as I search for a light brown piece with just a little bit of yellow on the tip.  There are two in’s and two out’s on this piece.  The top-most indentation is wider than the average.  I scan and zero in on it.  It clicks into place and I smile with the satisfaction of accomplishment.  The port is sweet and lingers, reminding my tongue of the ice cream treat it just delighted in. 

When the lamp throws too much glare and the glasses are empty, our eyes start to slip closed and we lean in on each other - huddled together and crouched above a semi-completed depiction of a Santa Claus-esque man bent over his own chest of strange and beautiful toys.  We say our goodnights and fall into our respective beds. 

I curl next to my husband and pass into dreamland in less than a millisecond.