Monday, February 27, 2012


I haven't quite hit on a way to talk about it that isn't melodramatic. Maybe that's unfair, though. Maybe this is just dramatic. I've been defaulting to jokey exuberant (surprise, surprise, I know). Arms wide, eyes wide, voice bright, "You guys," I say, "I got hit by a car!" 

It's much better and less alarming in person than in print, of course, when you have me, alive and whole, standing right in front of you – although I expect the reader to make the key deduction: it can't be too bad if she's blogging about it. And that's true. The fallout has been minimal: some bruises, a scrape on my elbow. More damage was done to my bike, but even then not enough to total it. 

The car drove off. I don't think it's likely they'll be caught, but I'm hoping to be proven wrong. I don't feel vengeful, but I do think this should go on their record, and that they should reimburse me the expense of getting my bike fixed. That's pretty much all I want in the way of outcome.

What beautiful, illuminating, reflective thing do I have to say about this? I don't know. It was terrifying. I thought I was going to die. I probably could have, if a few angles had been different, or if I wasn't wearing a helmet. (I always wear a helmet.) I didn't die. A few days before I was hit, I watched an incredibly disturbing and sad film called Margaret and a few days after I had dinner in pitch blackness at Opaque. So there are some strange collisions of experience in my life lately.

I've found myself wishing that at least some of my bruises were more prominent. (They're pretty much all covered by my clothes.) I've found myself waiting to be asked, how've you been, what's new, etc., because no one looks at me and says, oh my god, what happened to you? And that's damn lucky. But that level of fear? I'm still working it out. And I'm back on my bike.

Friday, February 24, 2012

you think it's like this but really it's like this

I'm reading Self-Help by Lorrie Moore.
"Pace around in the kitchen and say that you are unhappy. 
But I love you, he will say in his soft, bewildered way, stirring the spaghetti sauce but not you, staring into the pan as if waiting for something, a magic fish, to rise from it and say: That is always enough, why is that not always enough?" 
The whole damn book is like that. Explaining it to housemate Josh, I said: It's as if in each story, she slaps you in the face and says 'Does that hurt?', slaps you again, 'Does that hurt? Here, do it to me.' 'No,' you say, 'why are we doing this?' " even as you feel you hand rise, even as the welts spread across her face. I'm taking a break.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

last night's popcorn

was chili lime. I humbly recommend it to you: Pop kernels in olive oil, drizzle with melted butter and fresh-squeezed lime juice, then sprinkle on salt and powdered cayenne pepper (all to taste). Bam! Makes your lips tingle a little bit when you eat it. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

llamas and peacocks

I spent the weekend on a ranch – or, as I like to call it, a "ranch." However, as Marc Antony didn't say, I come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him: This ranch included a pool, a hot tub, a ping pong table, a pool table, foosball, air hockey, tennis courts, basketball courts, two old video game machines, a jukebox, beds for twenty-some-odd people, multiple kitchens, more. Also the ranch was populated with horses, cows, dogs, chickens, burros, llamas, uncountable peacocks, and wild bunnies. I passed my time sleeping, eating, walking, talking to the llamas, eating, drinking, sleeping, talking to people, walking, drinking, sleeping, reading, and eating. I think that's a pretty comprehensive list.

I enjoyed talking to the llamas immensely, and yes I was anthropomorphizing them, but every time someone points that out, I think so what? They were obviously trying to communicate with me, too. If we both failed, that doesn't mean I can't have my own translation of it all.

It seems like it must be pretty nice to live on a massive ranch in Paicines, to make your own olive oil and host guests. To entertain your hobbies to your heart's content. How does one ever get here? we wondered. Not so much here but here in life. The quiet and the valley and the stars. I have trouble looking ahead into my life and planning backwards in this fashion, where would I like to be in twenty years and then think how to get there. But I also have trouble thinking where I'd like to be in five years. Or twenty months. And I was reading about the restlessness of Bruce Chatwin on this trip, his strong and genuine sense that surely we were not meant to be sedentary, that putting down roots was against his nature, and yes from that he extrapolated, so for all humanity, and wrongly so, but perhaps it is true for some of us, this difficulty of settling, this urge to move. That movement for the sake of movement is not at all bad. That there is a sake of movement.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

dancing and failing

I took a hip hop class yesterday morning. This wasn't the first hip hop class I've taken, but I haven't had many. Perhaps five? Over the past few years I've taken a grab-bag of classes, including Afro-Brazilian, Modern, Bhangra, Salsa, Afro-Cuban, and Vogue. And Nearly every one has been a small study in fear and disappointment.

Warm-ups are usually ok. We stretch and it feels good. But after about the first fifteen minutes of choreography, I usually want to leave. I think, You could just walk out. The door's right there. No one will care if you leave. The instant feedback loop in a dance class can be terribly disheartening, even shaming. The teacher does a move. You are supposed to do the move. You try. You fail. You try. You fail. You are staring into the mirror, watching yourself fail. There is no outside agent, no intermediary, no tool or device on which to place the blame. It is your body, it is not doing the thing you are telling it to do, you are failing. Over and over. 

And it seems like it should work, that it should be simple: Your eyes take in information, your brain tells your body to replicate it, and bam! there you'd be. But it's as if someone says to you, "Repeat after me: cucumber," and you respond with "tennis racket." Why? you ask yourself frantically. Isn't this my language? 

It isn't, of course; that's the catch. Dance is its own vocabulary, with ideas and conjunctions, intonations and nuances, formalities and slang. It's easy to forget that, though, at least for me.  

Lousy as I am (by my own estimation, I am usually in the bottom 30-40%, skill-wise, in most any class I take), my competitive brain and threatened ego at some point start judging someone else who's also doing something wrong. The irony, of course, is that as soon as I do I'm lost. There is perhaps nothing else in my life that requires my full focus and attention so thoroughly as dance class. The instant I start paying attention to what someone else is doing instead of what I need to be doing, I mess up. Every time. It's a great lesson in being present, and in humility. And I think that having regular reminders to be humble is good for me. 

The class is an hour and a half. The feeling of miserable failure usually lasts through about the first forty five minutes of class. And even when, eventually, I start having some physical understanding of what I should be doing, I continue to make mistakes. Pieces I'd thought I'd mastered ten minutes ago suddenly trip me up and throw me off. But by the end of the class, I have a loose grasp of the piece. There are a few moves I do passably well. And my sense of accomplishment is wild, overwhelming and entirely out of proportion to the small task I've accomplished. And after ninety minutes of dipping and shaking, trying to be beautiful, tough, elegant, cool, it is incredible to feel near to that grace, that fluid elegance, to feel that if I have not grasped it, I am at least reaching in the right direction.

So I keep going back.
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