Sunday, September 24, 2017

November 2016

It was a month that began and ended with dread. There were several levels of dread wrapped up in the gift that was November 2016. The surprise gift was one I think everyone wanted to return at the time, but all things being what they are, the month would be like an earthquake. The shaking on the surface doesn't even really help to explore all that is under it.

It was also the month that I knew I was going to be okay to get a new dog. On September 25th, 2016 two small dogs were born on a farm in a city outside of St. Louis. This small dogs had their pictures taken a few days after birth and placed on a website with a for sale sign. It was in September around the 25th that I was online looking at shih tzu puppies. Not because I had lost any love for my dear, sweet, monkey who had passed but because I could finally think about him without breaking down into a pile of tears and sadness.

For me, that was the requirement I had to meet before I could consider getting new dogs. The two little guys I was looking at were both so sweet and adorable. The harder part of this adventure was choosing between the two of them, because I was rather sure I could only afford one.

After several days of looking I reached out to the seller and asked about the price of the one I had settled on. He had a big black muzzle, and was dark brown and black all over, a mirror negative of Tino who was brown all over with white spots when he was a puppy.





In for a penny, in for a pound, I asked about the price if I were to pick up the pair. The pair would include the brother from the same litter who was brown all over and had the cutest little pink nose. To my surprise, the cost of the pair was what I was anticipating to be the cost of one. And so, without very much discussion, it was decided that I would be picking up a pair of brothers in November. After being on the road for months in airplanes it was rather a thing to pile into the Monster with the Bard and the Electrician for a 20 hour road trip to ass-end of America to fetch two small dogs. Not nearly as fast as a plane but worth all the trouble for what we found at the end of the journey.

Driving through the American Midwest tends to be pretty damn boring, and this was a good example of a pretty damn boring flatland trip. All hail the Electrician for managing the drive and getting us all home in one piece. In the future, we should probably get a hotel. The plan was to drive out and meet the dog lady in a parking lot at a gas station near her home. I had already paid for the dogs and we would meet, get instructions, and pick up the puppies.

"You mean, like a drug deal?" the Electrician asked.

"No, I mean, of course not."

It was actually a lot more like a drug deal.

We dog to the parking lot and waited until an old station wagon pulled up. Out popped a grey haired old woman.

"They are pretty upset with me. I gave them a bath this morning. Had them in front of the heater all day to try to warm them up."

She turned around and reached into her car and then placed one, and then a second, ball of fluff into my hands.

It was love at first handful.



To get them home I had brought Tino's old travel bag and even the two of them together could not fill that bag very full. I had my hand in the bag for most of the ride home, with a few pit stops on the way for others to hold the dogs, and one bathroom break to clean up boys who had wiggly tummies from all the excitement. The drive back seemed a hell of a lot faster than the drive there, but it was near midnight that we all finally pulled in.

The month prior to our epic road trip I had secured some dog supplies and we all sat around in the living room, looking at our new charges as they stumbled and fumbled in the little pen I had picked up.

"Bandit, is the one with the black face. Bear is the one with the pink nose."

I brought out water in one of the little bowls that had belong to Tino that I couldn't think of parting with. Bandit took to water right away, but Bear was not so sure. I dipped my finger in the water and brought it to his mouth until he started licking. Then I slowly lowered my finger to the bowl until he was drinking out of the bowl by himself.

And so the learning would begin. They will be one year old tomorrow and life is truly better because of their tiny adorable presence. I'm fairly sure the fact that I have them makes me slightly more tolerable to everyone that has to put up with me.

Happy birthday, boys.










Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunlight, Sunrise, Sunset, Suntime

Two weeks ago now I spent the better part of my morning on a train to collect one dear young man from a plane that was landing from New York City. My trip on the trains was longer than his in the air, but I arrived in time to pick him up with two dogs in tow, excited to see him, excited to spend the afternoon with him.

We were barely in the house ten minutes before falling into bed naked and luxuriating in each other as sunlight poured through the windows while we wrapped around each other in love, familiarity and the sweet outpouring of emotion on a cool Chicago afternoon.

Sunlight cascades and mid-afternoon love affairs, before the day is too old to beat you down, before you feel to torn by all the conflicts and messages and wants of the day. Falling into embrace and warm caress with sweat and laughter and light...so much light.

The window faces the east here. I rise to the sun, make love in the sunlight, fuck in the sunlight of the late midday. My eyes closed and shadow light characters playing behind my eyelids as my body tenses and releases and the universe compresses into a moment of absolute realness. In that second all reality.

Different lovers, same bed, all meaningful. Sunup or sundown change the flavor but now the warmth of it. Like cocktail lovers in the late evening who wrap around like a warm glove, with busy mouths and fingers and hands all moving in unison as the sun goes down and the room cooler. The sweet smell of sex and sweat and flesh and coming together at just the right moment with bellies full of nectar and ease.

One lover or many doesn't change the flavor of the happiness I find there. A young man in New York who I don't see enough, but who I love enough for all the time apart. The in-between times full of sweet fresh faces, friendship, fellowship, fulfillment.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Work Life

Here is a weird thing about myself that is completely true: I'm a job jumper.

This may or may not be a known thing to many people, but since I started being employed I have a habit of switching to a new job in about two years. Mostly because I get bored doing the thing I was doing, sometimes because I have no choice and basically couldn't continue because there was no were left to go. Part of me wants to take credit for being career oriented, but in the beginning it was more the potential to do something new somewhere else.

Perhaps this stems from having been employed in the same work from the age of 8 to 18. Work that I did not really choose, work that I most likely should not have been doing, and work that, for the most part, I did with a certain pride no matter how bad the scars may be. It's difficult to understand how a job can be scaring until you have your father pull you out of bed at three in the morning to yell at you in a full blind rage about the work you didn't do, work someone else was supposed to do. It's hard to imagine what it's like to sit there crying as the yelling continues until your elderly grandmother, who happened to be visiting, gets between him and you and offers to do the work. This is one of a million stories I could tell about my first job. El Diablo Madre was no picnic either, and frankly often worse, but those memories are most days hidden from me. It's for the best.

In college, where I could choose my work, I bounced about every year into something else. Food, finance, until finally settling on the coffee shop which was a nice balance of the two. I liked the simplicity of that and the under-the-table work I did at the bookstore down the street twice a week.

Volunteering in Chicago for money. This is not a living. But it was work the experience.

Then came Korea.

Korea, mind you, did and did not change anything. I still bounced from place to place, though I probably would have stayed in my first job had I not been forced out. Being forced out allowed me to really dig in and decide I wanted a career in the field and, well, then I went and did that. 10 years, 5 jobs later, here I am.

In a job that I applied to during a lunch on a day when I was bored with the work I was doing. In a job that I felt almost certainly I was under-qualified for but figured what the hell. In a job that, for no human reason I can explain, I love almost more than breathing every single day I get to do it.

On Friday I got a note reminding me that I was now, indeed, three years into this job. It was a strange thing to read and be reminded of it. There was a moment of panic where I wondered if I were not doing something wrong that I wasn't even interested in looking for something else. Some days I wake up still wondering when I will be found out to be a fraud, unqualified, unfit to to do this work that defines me as an expert. There is this sense of impending doom once a year that the other shoe will drop and I will find that I'm not going to get to keep doing this after all.

I'm not afraid of change, I've never been afraid to change jobs. Perhaps, what I'm more worried about is what continued happiness looks like.

For now, I work, I love the work, I travel, I do, I become, I am...at least today, still very good at what I do and I don't want to change it for the world.

Monday, September 04, 2017

There are easier ways...

The thought has been stewing in my brain for at least four months, which was only exacerbated by deciding to re-watch all of Lost Girl. Every time I see a succubus in a bathrobe, I want a new bathrobe. It was eventually going to have to happen and finally it I broke down after spending a month looking at fabric online and decided it was time to go to the Fabric Temple of Doom. Some people will spend five minutes shopping and pick the bathrobe they see online that looks about right. Some people have easier ways to do things. I am not those people.


The challenge with getting fabric online is that it is not always possible to get exactly what you want, and I wanted something with very specific drape and fall in order to make this very specific piece I had in my head. There was no pattern, there was not starting or ending place, just that I had a sense of what I sort of thought I wanted and figured with enough work I could probably get there eventually. This is usually how all my projects begin.

Going to the Fabric Temple of Doom is a catch-22. I love shopping for fabric, but I hate how small the selection is where in Korea, I could go on for hours and hours, past stalls and shops, spanning a one mile block, and three stories. In Korea, I could go for a hunt that would last 8 hours and never see the same fabric dealers twice if I wanted to. In Korea...

In Korea...

There was as symmetry to the trip in that the public transit journey was long and tedious, the anticipation dreadful, my lack of shower appropriate (for fabric shopping is heavy, sweaty work) and my hope that I would be able to find weighted only with the realization that I would achieve both more or less then I wanted. It took more than an hour to get to the proper point south of the city to get to the shop, and then from there as solid two hours of searching the smallish collection (which is VERY large for the US, but small when you have been spoiled). In the end I had almost given up, standing in front of charmeuse that is almost, exactly not quite the right thing when the thing I wanted as a very specific color palette. Finally I got so close I actually screamed, finding the right sort of pattern in the wrong sort of color.

And then I moved a bit of hanging fabric and there was the pretty thing I was looking for. Which then pushed me on a massive run to the other side of the store to find a matching lining, and still in the end I didn't find everything I wanted. I got close enough that I decided to be satisfied and ended up only picking up two things I hadn't planned to buy, which is a testament to how small the Fabric Temple of Doom is (in Korea, I would have ended up with about 70 pieces I had not intended to buy after negotiating hard with hajumas and ajoshis and stuffing bags and backpacks until I could barely walk under the weight of fabric and...and...and...gods I miss Korea sometimes).

Finally, having picked up the few things I wanted I went back home where this morning around 11 a.m. I started cutting. I had no pattern for what I was putting together and no solid idea what I wanted things to become, mostly just a sense in my head of what I was doing. This is pretty normal for me, I'm either following entirely predictable patterns or I am doing something completely on my own and you will never know exactly what it is.

The end results was a lot of sewing, only one mistake, and finally a pretty bathrobe that looked almost exactly as I had imagined it. Hopefully this will satisfy the need for now. It amuses me as this could be such a simple, one step process, but sometimes to get what I want I'm willing to complicate it endlessly while also excepting that it may never go as planned. The journey remains worth the effort.



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Worst Date

"Hi, I couldn't get my medication from my doctor."

This is a weird way to introduce yourself at a date, but sure, okay, why not. I hadn't been waiting that long, my book had managed to be actually dangerously entertaining and after a long month of work travel an entertaining date seemed like a good choice.

"Why not?" I ask. Opening a door I should not have opened.

"Adderall."

"Oh, but, I don't -"

"I don't mind it's just that you know the withdrawl is a bitch and hi."

He runs his hand through his hair, which is greasy and disheveled. He looks nothing like the pictures he has posted. He's certainly lying about his age. He is covered in a thin sheen of sweat, shaking just visible, that plus the twitchy mess and flared nostrils of someone clearly having a really bad come down.

I am

at

a

loss.

I don't know what to say or how long to draw this awful thing out. Small talk? Small talk.

"So what do you do?"

"Oh, yeah, I'm not actually employed, you know."

His entire demeanor is off. We had chit chatted for a few days before I decided to call it and schedule the date. He wasn't the most dynamic conversationalist, but sometimes people are better at talking in person.

This is not one of those people.

He fidgets. His fidgeting makes me fidget. I start kicking my boots in the high bar chair.

"You said you go to a lot of quizzes, do you have a team?"

"What, I win games, yes. No...I just play wherever you can play. Not here, maybe Edgewater. Loyola sometimes. Not up here. Around here. Here."

My kicking foot accidentally touches him. I jerk back, put my feet under the chair on the lift. Try to still myself.

"How was your date last night?"

He had asked me to meet him the night before, but I was meeting a French traveler downtown. We went to an elegant wine bar, we talked about languages and the world, politics, travel, managing stress. Later in bed I told him what to do and he took direction well, it was an early night, but a good night none the less. I would have stayed longer but he fretted over the time. Intellectual, effete, traveled, read, and eager to see the end of the evening. These things are practically perfect in the way I view the world.

I could have lied to this stranger in the bar. I probably should have lied, but I didn't want to make that effort so I told the truth.

"Oh, so I have to be better than him now?"

"What, I-"

Something pressed against my leg, his shoe, against my boot, sliding up and down my leg, I managed to hide a deep shudder of disgust. I pull my feet away, trying to move in such a way that I don't seem to be inviting more while at the same time making my legs difficult to access. He tries to move with me, stops, still not quite getting it.

"But that's what you do, isn't it. That's why we are here."

"No, I wanted to meet you. I said, I'd like to meet you once, see if I want to meet you again."

"We should go now, I have a lot of work to do to prove myself."

"I'm sorry?"

"To have sex."

"I-"

At a loss again. Don't know what to say and a thousands words playing in my head. Most of them begin with "I'm off my very addictive medication which a professional (theoretically) withheld from me."

"No. Oh, no."

"But-"

"Look, I have a lot of sex, some good, some middling. I've had loves and lovers. My lover in New York is most important to me, but I always decide how and when I'm doing something. Or someone."

"But, can't you see what you are doing to me? I feel like now I have to really rebound. Prove myself."

"No."

"Look, don't you get it. By telling me all of this you are basically telling me that I have to be as good as all these people. Can't you see that."

I sit back in my chair and look at him.

"No. I don't see that."

"I can't believe you. Why are you doing this to me."

"I'm not doing anything to you. I think maybe we should try this again when you are not going through withdrawal."

"I'm fine!"

He gets close to my face, practically shouting at me.

"We should go now to your place."

"No."

"How can you do this to me."

Finally, I stop. I lean back in my chair, body physically open. Freeing my arms to grab the chair so I can kick forward if I need to. I look relaxed but I'm fully ready for a fit at this point, positioning myself for best recovery if he pushes me or the chair.

"You are making me very uncomfortable and I think you should leave now."

"How can you do this."

I repeat myself.

"Unbelievable! Maybe you shouldn't tell everyone about your fuck dates." It's pointed and designed to hurt. Maybe if I were less shame-resistant it would have found a mark. I don't take my eyes off him, prepared for an attack at any moment. He leaves the bar and I take a deep breath and order a drink and get the check.

My phone buzzes, a message from him.

-Unbelievable!

I move my finger over the block button but not fast enough to stop the next message.

-Come talk to me outside.

I block the number but this stops me. I was happy to see the back of him, happy to see him take his violence and his withdrawal away from me. I know the people in the bar well enough to know that I have help here if he had gotten violent, but outside the bar he is an unknown entity. I don't know what he will do. I don't know if he is waiting now. I don't know if he is armed.

What I do know is I probably shouldn't walk home. I start trying to plot the best decision before finally breaking down and asking one of my flatmates for a lift explaining the situation. I feel like a fool but at least I get home safe. He is not outside, or if he is, I cannot see him as I leave.

Bad dates I've had, this was pretty awful, and yet, it won't stop me from living my life. Or talking about my fuck dates. Or being who I am.

However, it does stand out as worst date in history after the forty year old guy who did appear to be waiting today. A different day. Another story.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dreamcatcher

The savages of the weeks spent on the road are starting to accumulate into a well of tension that fills without emptying. Toss on top of it the emotional turmoil of the last month which brings danger to the edges of it. The culmination is waking up in a strange bad, in a strange city, the fourth in less than a month, and tears. Dreaming has become a process of recreating episodes both bitter and sweet, the tears a response to the emotions in the dream. The continued crying and the wailing, belly aching sorrow that followed only spurred by the act of waking in tears.

No, no, no, is all I the mantra in my head.

The gym, the shower, the coffee, the work. The work I excel at, the small crowd I am with, impressed. What I need, though, is not the adulation of my peers and colleagues. I need less wine and more humanity.

At the bar later, I wait for humanity, sipping water and letting my head swirl with the accumulated information of three days. Humanity arrives as lithe and sweet, and asking for wine. After a dark week, it is pleasant to remember that there is profound beauty in the dynamic world of people, where we can be so different and yet so the same, and where simply being in the presence of each other can sometimes be enough to heal deep wounds.

We go to my room where I lay on the chest of a stranger, who for the next few hours is a friend, and sip wine while we talk about our lives with as few details as possible.

We are sweet together, it is a romance of the moment, a connection that is powerfully effecting, the void gets smaller as the conversation drags on, talking almost an hour on about things neither of us have enough details to understand. The lack of wisdom brings us closer together, until finally, after what feels like hours of talking, we collapse upon each other in a tangle of limbs, soft sighs, fast motions and finally sleep.

My head stays on his chest most of the night listening to his heartbeat, comforted, relaxing. There are no dreams. I don't wake in tears.



Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Young Ones

Often the words I find myself saying are "Slow Down".

Need, I understand. The driving present needs and desire to act, take action, do, merge, blend. All the needs of closeness and touching and being present culminating in that final moment when connection is finally  made.

The desire to fall down into it. Perhaps it is because I have moved long past days of stumbling and desperation. My flesh wants for lingering passes and longer attentions and long drawn out encapsulation of pleasures; lost in sensation, found in sensation, existing in moments that drag out for years, time relative to the partner, enjoyment moment.

So I say slow down, placing my hands on faces, on hands, on arms, on the body, guiding, leading, teaching, slowing, until a rhythm can be found that allows for happy exploration and mutual satisfaction of us both.

The young ones, eager, full of youth, lacking in experience, curious about life, passionate about everything they do. A time and a space for seeking and questing and the energy is powerful and intoxicating, which is perhaps why I have found myself more and more seeking it out.

It is a wheel that has come full circle, from the loves of my own youth that were always so much older, to the loves of my midlife who seem always so much younger. An infinity loop, perhaps.

My words are always slow down, their words are always more, we meet somewhere in the middle and find a way forward.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Snapping Chats

Dating in the digital age is some kind of forced dejavu that is almost impossible to escape sometime. The openings to conversation often range from "hey" to "want to fuck"? There is a tedium to it, and yet, with the way the world has changed, there are choices. Play the game or don't. 


Accept the game. 

I accept the game. 

The game has required learning how things work in digital time. The ever present asking if I have this app or that app. The requests that these be obtained. 

After a dozen attempts to get me to use snap chat, I gave it a bit of a go and immediately hated it. If there ever was a more wretched medium for communication, it has not been found. Snap chat has to be everything I hate about the digital age in one app. The entire concept is awful and contributes only to destroying any sense of reality. 

There is no object permanence anymore. 

Someone asked me, "you don't want to tell your story?" 

Acceptable question. My story is the only thing I have to tell, and I take a great deal of pleasure in the telling of it. The thought of constructing it only to lose it, to have it disappear into the ether, forgotten, lost, as if it was not here. As if I was not here. 

The lack of connection with my past thoughts and words. Perhaps it is a narcissism that I so very much want to be connected. To remember what has been forgotten, lost and buried under the banality of million ever present realities vying for attention in the front of the mind. All these things that feel so important, and all those things in the past that are captured because there was a moment to commit them. 

The thought of typing nothing but void speak, to be lost, to be gone...

As if you were never here. 

There is an evil in it that makes me feel sorry for all those words that shall never contribute to the ever developing story. 

Monday, August 07, 2017

Hope 6 Demolition Project

Lost story...August 2016

It was summer in New York city and I was in a panic of everything up and coming in my life. Hopeful that my job roles would be changing soon, hopeful that I would have a place to live in Chicago, hopeful that upcoming trips to Brazil, Colombia, London, and New Mexico would go smoothly.

Hoping that I'd figure out how to get myself moved cross country.

Hopeful.

The city was blisteringly hot making it hard to justify leaving the apartment for any reason. However, I had managed to get tickets to see PJ Harvey live, and for that, even if it meant melting, I would get myself out of my apartment. My original date, and Nick Cave loving co-worker, bailed on me because she loves her children, so I was left trying to find someone to go with me. I called up my go-to concert date, the New Yorker, and once confirmed we met at Terminal 5 for the show.

I sat outside melting in the sun as we looked at the line winding around and around the outside of the building.

"That looks horrific."

"I'm not standing in that line. Let's drink."

So we sat outside in the heat and humidity and had overpriced drinks while we waited for the lines to eventually move so we could get into the mercifully cooled Terminal 5. I melted looking all the while like an Evil Wednesday Addams. A look which, at almost 40, I still manage to pull off brilliantly.



The Terminal is stacked and stacked on top of itself, an older warehouse converted into a show set. We found a spot to hang near the back, on the fourth tier above the sound engineers, who glowed below us like molten lava in the crowd. It was not close to the stage, nor as close as I generally like to be, but having been to summer shows on overly hot and humid days before and almost passing out from sudden onset asthma attacks, I decided to play it cool and comfortable for the show. Looking out over the arena area, it I felt like I was at the Thunderdome, waiting to be entertained by the darkest priestess of dark post-punk music there is.






My heart. PJ Harvey.

I've loved PJ for as many years as I have loved Tori Amos, which is to say a damned long time. Interestingly I think PJ, Tori, and Nick all hit my life at roughly the same time. Late '92, a summer of epic good music. Few artist from that time either continued to make good music or make it out alive. Like Nick, though, PJ continue to find ways to make music that is meaningful to the moment. That grows and evolves as the time and space that contains her grows and evolves. It is representative of the reality.

Take these lines from  2016's Hope 6 Demolition Project: Community of Hope

Here's the highway to death and destruction
South capitol is its name
And the school just looks like shit-hole
Does that look like a nice place?
Here's the old mental institution
Now the homeland security base
And here's god's deliverance center
A deli called M.L.K

And the community of hope
The community of hope


They're gonna put a Walmart here

With each iteration on herself, her music, and her writing, there are things exposed, visceral, damning. An unfiltered look at war, life, death, love, peace, people and all the machinations of our over-investment in personal gain before humanity.

There was no opening act, nor did there need to be. She walked onto the stage a dark purple peacock sporting a dark Mohawk and playing the saxophone. Divine, old and new music, a hint of nostalgia, but still completely true to her, to who she is as a performer and who she has continued to become. I swayed, and screamed and leaned dangerously over the rails, watching those around me, losing myself in the stories and expressions.

The show wound down into a hot and humid encore that eventually left me on the street at midnight, sweating buckets, fully exhausted and ready to go home. It was perfect, though, and all I could have ever hoped for from a twenty year wait to see her live.











Sunday, August 06, 2017

Digging through my Camera, Thinking...

When I don't know where to start sometimes I dig through my camera to find the stories I haven't told. It fascinates me to think there are so many little stories buried here and there in my camera: either my phone or my actual camera. Little lost memories that pictures prompt, but then all the flood of memories that come around with those pictures that I realized I recall, but don't have a photo to illustrate.

Sometimes life without illustration works, too.

I barely wrote last year, and it has been good to catch up on all the missed stories here and there. A few left, buried memories that have not been exposed. Like sipping wine while watching the sun set over the desert, or making a road trip to acquire two small dogs. Little realizations in the meantime, all wrapping in with all the things I have been doing.

Sometimes I sit and read these words. Journals, moments in time, moments in my mind, lost in a tunnel of recall where it is occasionally out of reach and I wonder "who wrote those words?"

They are all mine.

My fictionalized life. My non-fiction life. The stories I tell that seem to strange to be true, and yet, I know they happened. I tell them honest, sometimes poetic, sometimes flustered, sometimes with all the details, sometimes with holding more than I say.

I read the stories and can see the things in-between the lines that mean something only to me.

Writing it down just helps me remember it was all real, my way of knowing I was here, I was there, and I will be there in the future. The future is planes at dawn, pretty girls, pretty boys, wine, laughter, and the work I love. With that in mind I think it will all come together well in the end.


Saturday, August 05, 2017

Threads of Sunshine

Sunlight filters through my windows and I wake, sleep, wake, sleep. A little spiral of life against my pillows. My dreams are haunted with a hundred voices and I'm making plans for something...


Something...

The thought is out of reach but the voices are as real as if they are in bed next to me, talking, whispering things. Voices I want to hear. 

Voices I don't want to hear. 

The last few days were full of storms both literal and metaphorical. Gloomy clouds and hard pounding ceaseless rain, like tears, thunderclaps like the beating heart, lightening, a shining moment of clarity. 

Laying on a couch in the arms of a lover, listening and watching the storms is a certain type of balm for the turmoil filling the atmospheres. 

The sun makes me think of trips completed, trips ahead.

Remembering that every ending is just the beginning of something else. 

Friday, August 04, 2017

The End

Twenty-two years ago I was sitting in a the living room of a little two-story house in the town of Waukegan. It was actually about a few months later than it is today, as I write, but it's close enough. I was young, the world was shiny and new, I was living with four girls, two of which were very difficult to understand (and why they were there would forever be a mystery). I hit it off with one of the others, we seemed to have the same weirdness about us.

Still though, young, alone, on my own for the first time, part of my was desperate to fit in. So when one of the stranger housemates came in and started ranting about this "odd boy" at the bookstore, I was curious. What would be so strange to such a girl? Who would this strange person be?

That was the night I met the boy.

Two drawn out years later, almost to the day I write this, we started what would be a roughly twenty year relationship. And that relationship went, as so many do, through ups and down, times of intensity of love that I cannot really put into words, moments of abandon and absence, moments of doubt. We were, for lack of a better word, children when we met. We grew together in good ways, and in ways that with pure honesty, made us both the people we are today. Without each other I don't think either of us would have gotten very far, we needed each other for a very long time, and we saved each other in our own ways.

We parted ways, knowingly, agreeably, and with love; both moving in our own direction and trying to separate in a way that was true to who we were and our feelings. The final pieces were moving my things from a house to storage locker. The last piece, would be the key. I waited all day for him to show up with that key, he knew my schedule, knew I had evening plans. I realized as I waited it had been more than year since I'd last seen him, and I wondered if in the end the key would not just get left somewhere for me to find and perhaps I would not, in fact, see him again.

I gave up and put the dogs in the harnesses for a walk so I could put them in crates and go on my date. I threw open the door without looking out, the dogs rushing ahead of me.

He was on the steps.

An awkward wave. The dogs attacked the stranger demanding love and he couldn't help but to give it, while moving to put a key that was the end of our entanglement somewhere. The shock had robbed me of words for a moment but finally I managed to say hello.

"Come take a walk with us, then?"

"Okay."

We walked around the block and talked, the way old loves talk. Muscle memory was strong and my hand kept itching to reach out and take his, to feel that connection we had for so long, to talk as we walked the dogs, the way we always talked when we walked the dogs, talking with someone who had been my best friend since I was eighteen. Talking to someone that in my bones I still love. We walked and talked, laughed at the silliness of young puppies, shared our personal success and caught up about a year spent apart, so many things missed, so much having happened. Comfortable.

Together.

Back on the porch I took up the key and the spell was broken. I said goodbye without crying and took the dogs in the house, managing to get them unhooked before I partially collapsed.

It felt like dying.

It felt like the end of the world.

It was only just the final end of us.

Twenty years ago, to almost the day, he came to my apartment and made me bread. He made sure I had food, helped unpack my apartment after a surgery that saved my life. He kept my place clean and slept on the floor at night, in case I needed anything.

I loved him so strongly then. This has always been my problem. I never stop loving people once I start. All those loves, have been forever loves, and each and every name I have ever added to my heart, no matter what the parting, I still care deeply for: even when they have ended with me.

There was no drama yesterday. Just a walk around the block with young puppies, two people who looked for all the world like an old married couple laughing and talking as they walked bouncing dogs down the streets of Chicago. Their hands close but never touching, as if something was just out of reach.

A story in the middle to those watching.

A story at the end to those walking.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Dogs Life in Colombia

Colombia has so many colors, which was one aspect of the place that overwhelmed me. The other was the absolute kindness of the people there that was magical in a way I have not experience when traveling south of the border. In particular, it was how the Colombians treated street dogs that I found to be a good indicator of the kind of people that filled the country of Colombia.

The pain of my own dog having passed was still pretty fresh for me, so seeing dogs everywhere was a bit strange. In Nicaragua dogs were thin and hungry, as is also true in Guatemala, and other parts of Latin America I have been in. Here, however, all the street dogs I ran into looked healthy and hearty which seemed a bit strange. Then I got to see people interacting with the dogs.

My guide Hector had a dog come up to him in Finlandia and he reached down and just began rubbing the little shepherd behind her ears. She sat down and allowed herself to be fawned over by Hector, who rubbed her belly and said nice things to her. The dog rolled over with her tongue lolling out of her mouth, easily pleased.

As we walked up and down the streets the new dog followed us into various shops, being a sweet companion on our walk. Other dogs laid in shop doors or followed other tourists and travelers around, and each dog was met with the same sweet treatment. Hector asked if we wanted a snack and took us over to a little cart bar selling empanadas. Hector bought one for me and one for the dog, who sat down happily and ate the meat filled pastry. Then waited a few more moments for Hector to buy us both ice cream.

After the ice cream she finally sat down, contented, and allowed us to go on our way while other people came over and resumed the rubs and pets and general care of her and others. There is something so powerful about a people who is willing to treat all the animals on the street as if they are family pets. It was a very powerful feeling to see how the animals were treated and perhaps the thing that made me think the most about the prospect of moving to Colombia someday.

The dogs stayed in Finlandia and we drove on towards Salento, where we met new dogs, got some street coffee and mulled wine, and watched as the moon rose high over the Andes all with time to get me back to the airport for my hop skip from Pereira back to Bogota and finally all the way back to Chicago, the home I had barely just moved into but was also a place I was happy to call home once again.

Technicolor Colombia: Finlandia and Salento
























Machetes, Wood and Lights in the Mountain

The country is perfectly situated in location to offer weather that is just on the cusp of Autumn all the time. The days are warm without being too hot or muggy, the nights are cool and sweet. My driver decided to take us up the wending mountain roads as the sun set to Machete Park, a park he has been coming to since he was a child. 

The colors are neon light and sweet. The taste of instant coffee is a trigger of memories of other countries that I have loved, and little parks on winding roads. We laugh and listen to the local singer who puts on her performance most nights, there to help the local retailers with their sales. She performs like a vaudevillian, like a burlesque singer but with all the trappings of perfect country modesty. She sings her dress and dances, skips around the tables, laughing and joking with the small crowd that has gathered to drink coffee and eat small plates of food in the dimming evening light. 

In the park we sit for almost an hour, just enjoying the music and the coffee and the cool breeze coming up the mountain before we push off to our next location. Hector winds us into a town hanging onto the edges of the Andes, a place he wants me to see, old dark bar that feels like it was grown out of the trees, rather than made of cuts of woods. Hector explains to me in Spanish, and while I'm a bit slow, I followed. Hector is  fan of the old things, the old bars built hundreds of years ago out of polished pieces of wood taken from the mountains. Hector is like the places he takes plots for our journey, a product of his time and place, deeply connected to his country. 

We drive form the bar forwards and up more mountains until we come finally to an old grill at the top of a mountain far out into the country farmlands. We eat sausages and chickens and potatoes and talk about life and the plans for tomorrow. It's practically midnight when we pull to a stop at the top of the mountain to look out over the city of Pereira, sparkling lights in the valley of the Andes mountains. I sleep exhausted sleep and prepare for the adventures of my last day upcoming.