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A long lead-in

30 Jan

A long lead-in

Living in California makes you soft. Everybody knows that already, of course, but it isn’t the bad thing that some people insist it is. The only way it truly makes you a wuss is that cold becomes an abstraction. A forty-degree night feels downright frigid out here. It’s not really our fault, though, because although January should mean ice, here it means cherry blossoms and 70-degree days. Last weekend, I dozed on the sloping hillside of Mount Tam before crabbily waking up in the sun. “It’s TOO HOT,” I groused. “We need to go get a chocolate malt in honor of my father.” (Chocolate malts are always for Dad, and we did later procure one as a subtle paternal salute.)

A dirty secret that Midwest and East Coast transplants try — but ultimately fail — to hide is this: We don’t remember what winter feels like. We know it exists, of course, but the actual feeling of being miserably cold becomes an abstraction. The few of us who hold some romantic remembrance of freezing temperatures can just drive to the mountains if they’re really craving snow, but even then, it’s an option. You aren’t forced to deal with it. It’s a winter opt-in. See? California makes you soft.

Soft, and forgetful. Sometimes I think back to the brutal, whipped-wind winters I spent in Chicago and think, “Was it really that freezing? It couldn’t have been that bad.” I really believed this for a while and was considering a chilly visit back home until I came across my new measuring stick for winter nastiness: Reykjavik. Every time I’ve looked at the temperature in Chicago this winter, I then looked at the temperature in Reykjavik, and every single time it has been warmer in Iceland. Try it for yourself: Reykjavik weather and Chicago weather.

I am saying this not to rub the nasty weather in anyone’s face, but as an unnecessarily elaborate way to say that I went to Iceland and have many stories to tell, and will work on doing so this week.

You can go home

27 Apr

…kind of.

I hadn’t been home since September, and I wasn’t home for 10 minutes before I walked out to the backyard and burst into tears. It’s strange how home — the place I spent my first 18 years, and significant moments of the ensuing 13 — can develop an unpleasant patina. Everything has a different weight.

For instance: The backyard is where I had a little zip line and Annie’s Roost, the treehouse Dad built for me. Both are gone now, and the yard isn’t as meticulously maintained as it once was. So I go there and remember, but I also see the absence of what used to be. I miss my father terribly. I am embarrassed to admit that a day hasn’t gone by without me crying about missing him, because then it seems like I’m a depressive. But if I can’t be sad about this, what can I be sad about?

I am just getting home from a night out with Jesse, JC, Miles, and (unexpectedly) Tim and John and Jimk. While I don’t miss certain aspects of Chicago (pollution, sprawl, noise) I miss my friends and family terribly. I miss walking into my old haunts to meet them and then running into other friends because this is where we go and have gone for 10 years. There is always a friend there. I don’t have that in SF, not even after almost three years.

One thing I’ve learned lately is that your old friends really are often the best ones, because they know all of your sullied parts and love you anyway. And vice versa. I am lucky to have them, and am equally grateful for newer friends who will be old ones in 10 years’ time.

Tell me, how does it feel?

18 Jan

Tell me, how does it feel?

The newspapers say that today is Blue Monday, allegedly the most depressing day of the year. The formula takes a variety of factors into account:

weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.

If I still lived in Chicago, I’d probably feel pretty blue right now. It’s not the city; it’s the SAD. The first year after moving to California, I was shocked by how much lighter I felt during the winter months. Without having to endure frigid temperatures and face-whipping wind tunnels in the Loop, I am in an overall better mood. Don’t get me wrong, Chicago’s a fine town. But you really understand the unique brutality of its weather only after leaving. (more…)

Home run

25 Oct

Home run

It’s funny how a place that was once your home can feel so foreign, so unknown. Sabrina and I were in the back of a taxi on Irving Park, and I tried to point out JC’s studio but I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t until we arrived that he reminded me that it wasn’t actually on Irving. Forgetful mistakes like this keep throwing me off, but then other things are comfortingly unchanged. Things like seeing your best friend from grade school and jumping back like no time had passed. And I thought of Karinsa last night as we walked down Fullerton and sat down at the Whirlaway, where we had her goodbye party. Inside, it was the same as it ever was — drinks $5 and delivered with a smile — and it felt good to have consistency in a time that has felt anything but. (more…)

Nostalgia for an age yet to come

23 Oct

Nostalgia for an age yet to come

Today I missed Chicago. Not the city per se, particularly because its temperature has already dipped below 40 degrees, but I miss how it felt to be part of a community. I want to walk to the Rainbo and randomly run into Jonathan Van Hotness. I want to know what Miles thinks of the Smith Westerns’ T-Rex-iness, especially considering his unparalleled Marc Bolan Halloween costume from years back. I miss witnessing Atom’s nervous energy at Atomix and the way Lake Michigan looks at sunset and bumping into Keara and hanging with Itha and Weeks. Those things and more. (more…)