Pinkie Swear

Last night Demelza and I had a joint birthday celebration at her new flat. The theme was "Pink" and it was a great gathering of people both from work and outside of it. A highlight was the lighting of the "Intellectual Candle" -- a pink plastic lotus flower that came out of the box as a closed-up bud. I was given explicit instructions to use the provided incense stick to light the wick inside the flower. Each petal had a wax birthday candles on the end of it, so when the fuse light up, the candles did too and the flower slowly opened to the strains of digital "Happy Birthday." The photo above shows it in action. Also pictured is Elisa (behind the pink curtain), Nick, Dagmar and yours truly. The dress came from a thrift store in Haarlem that I thoroughly enjoyed and the champagne came from a generous party guest. I thoroughly enjoyed it too.


On love.

I have had one perfect mixed tape made for me in my life...and I think that is something rare and amazing in itself. Not to get all Nick Hornby about it, but to be the recipient of so much thought, joy and winking humor during the heady flirting days of infatuation is a divine gift.

The power of music is obvious when you are away from the sources of your memories. I heard one of the songs from that epic mixed tape when I was out tonight (done with a Euro-dance beat, of course) and I was instantly transported back to the sunny streets of South Pasadena. Then, when I sat down to write and iTunes started shuffling, a T. Rex song that is all top hats and husbands was the first song to play. And I was sent back to Friday nights with many cocktails and impromptu dance parties in the living room.

But the second song that played was my own: discovered while I was here, with the help of a musical pied piper at work who sends out weekly suggestions with excellent commentary to accompany them. I feel like this song belongs to me. Years from now, when I hear it again, I will think of Sunday mornings in the black and white chair, views from train windows on the way to somewhere new and bike rides home in foggy air.

Which brings me to love. I have been thinking about love a lot lately -- shouting about it loudly inside my head. Mr. Epic Mix Tape was the first man I ever loved without reservation or protection. He brought chaos and destruction along with laughter and that indescribable feeling of being, not only seen, but celebrated for being exactly me. ["Rebel Girl" is playing right now -- featured on another great mixed tape I received many years ago from a manboy with blue hair. Irony. Love that.] When he left, I emotionally packed up because I was sure I would never feel that way about anyone ever again and I was certainly never going to open myself up to that kind of hurt. I became a Jean-Val-Jean disciple -- better to have loved and lost...blah blah blah.

There were a few years of searching and failure after that [see Blue Hair], and then I met Mr. T. Rex on a blind date. I won't write about my marriage or what went wrong, except to say that I spent 10 years loving a man as best I could, and I know he did the same. Our collective best, unfortunately, wasn't enough to elevate either one of us, which I think love should do. There are happy memories and many regrets. I wish I could talk to him sometimes.

And then I was given the greatest gift ever. I got Tom. As I said, I never thought I could be unprotected ever again, but with him, I am. All the warts, all the doubts, all the geeky enthusiasm. He lifts me up without even trying and is the most secure, patient, funny man I have ever known. And he loves me. The biggest difference of this love and old loves? I know how lucky I am, I know how lucky he is, I know that love should be balls out and exuberant. There has never been a moment where he made me feel less than amazing -- in fact, he sees someone in me who is a far better person than I see.

I wonder, sometimes, if Tom is a reward, ala Maria and the Captain ("Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good."). Perhaps he is. Or perhaps this type of love is our birthright -- the Manifest Destiny of emotions. I don't know. Regardless, it is good and affirming in a myriad of ways. And I close this post listening to "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen. Again. Irony.


Happy Birthday Aries

"I am, I am the ram" has now become my new bike riding mantra.


Mannny kisses

It is Sunday morning and I am performing my favorite weekly ritual: sitting on my black and white chair, drinking coffee, reading my book and, every once in a while, absently staring at the world out of my back windows. And feeling smug. Oh so very smug.

A few minutes ago, I got up to refill my coffee cup, carrying my open book with me, with my fingers marking the spot where I left off. Mid-pour, a piece of paper dropped out of the book and fluttered to the floor.** This is what it says:
I send you manny
Love Annie***

And smack! I am crying. As life gets more comfortable here, the time I mentally spend back home diminishes. Which is a good thing since, if I live by the quote featured on the greeting card I have been carrying with me for years and years ("If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I will tell you, I came to live out loud. -- Emile Zola"), then I have to be intentional here. I have to actually be here. And apparently I have to write incredibly long sentences that are so self-referential I feel dirty.

I don't want to be away from any of you. I want you here with me every second of every day. I miss you so much and each time I carve out some comfort or feel that wave of wonder that makes me smile like a fool, I celebrate for me and for you as well. But I can't pick up the phone and tell you what I am seeing. Or feeling. And this blog isn't any substitution for spontaneous emails that say, "Are you doing anything tonight?" Just by virtue of being far away, I am missing things -- tiny changes, bad days, good days, gossip, ennui, the lead up to major decisions, mood swings, first warm Saturdays, the introduction of cotton to our collective wardrobes, etc.

And that sucks. I can't be two places at once, nor can I live in two spaces at once, and I have to be here, finding a space that you would all fit seamlessly into as my friends. I send you manny kisses and will try harder to be in touch.

**fluttered -- too precious to use as an adjective? It describes the action, but is not the way I talk. Thoughts? Opinions?

***Annie. My neice whose previous note, "You are the best ant!!!!" is taped next to my desk at work.


Cheese carnage

Gentle readers. You may have thought that my love of cheese has waned in the past months because I have been so lax in documenting new discoveries. I assure you, and my waistline will back me up on this, that my total and complete adoration of all things curd-based is intact and flourishing.

I had a Sunday lunch today that culminated in the all important cheeseboard coarse. Beautiful. The meal was amazing, if I do say so myself: salad of sweet Chevre, endive, tomatoes, avocado and a seed assortment for texture, risotto with young asparagus, lemon zest, Parmesan and fresh mint, main course of rare steak on top of white beans and leeks with roasted rosemary potatoes on the side. Melanie brought desert of Cognac-infused straw, blue and rasp berries that she served with sour yogurt and mango sorbet, and then after 10 bottles of wine and as many packs of cigarettes, came the cheese. Brie, Port Salut, Manchego and the best Stilton I have ever had in my life. Deeee-licous.

The company was sterling: Peter, Martin, Mel and Maya (from Portland!). It lasted for more than six hours and I performed "Wig in a Box" on my coffee table, which I doubted I would ever do here. It went over big. Huge even. And so the cheese lives on in many ways -- dairy and non.


As for the rest of the trip

You would think that the wedding was the pinnacle of greatness for the trip to NYC, but it wasn't. It did yield the most entertaining anecdotes...I'll give you that.

Saturday night I managed to get Tom to go into the city and to Old Town Bar on East 18th under the guise of meeting my friends Linda and Chris. When we walked through the door, his friends were there to give him an early birthday surprise and it was great. He had no idea it was coming and the expression on his face was beautiful. I love his friends and they clearly love him.

Sunday we went to Point Pleasant Beach on the Jersey shore to wander down the boardwalk and along the beach. We went to the arcade where I cleaned up on video poker (me and the old ladies) and won many, many tickets worth over 2,000 points. And what could I "buy" with my winnings? A New Jersey shot glass and a disturbing plastic clown. I took some photos, gathered sea glass and had such a lovely day. I made Tom turn his back to me and wrote what I was giving him for his birthday in the sand: "I am giving you a trip to Thailand." Exciting! Let the planning commence! We will probably go in January of next year since there are lots of things up in the air for the rest of this year. Sunday night I sat and read the New York Times in Tom's comfy chair. Perfect.

Monday I went to MOMA and visited my favorite Rothko and Motherwell paintings and had a lovely few hours wandering through the new building. Tommy and I had lunch together and he drove me to the airport where I jetted home to my bike and some beautiful warm weather. And that is all.


Wedding wonderfulness and the WWF

Preface: Everything I am about to write comes from an affectionate place. I do not intend to sound superior, condescending or judgmental, but I probably will.

Friday was Johnny Lyman's wedding to Alice English in lovely Rockland County, New York. The ceremony took place in the Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, a small chapel where Alice's brothers were all married (which they mentioned during the service) and Johnny's father was memorialized (which they didn't). Tom looked fabulous in his tuxedo, and I, having inadvertently sat on the bride's side, had a perfect view of him as he sat on the dais carefully avoiding any genuflecting. I think he managed an, "And also with you." at some point, but I can't be certain, as I was concentrating on not giving away my Presbyterian-ness and was repeating, "Forgive us our trespasses, not debts, trespasses...and stop after deliver us from evil because you DON"T want to be that one Protestant in the audience who goes into the power and glory line again." A friend of Alice's read the "Love is patient," speech from Corinthians. She introduced it by saying, "...from the gospel of St. Paul," only it sounded like, "...from the gospel of Saint Puwall," at which point Tom's eyes popped out of his head with surprise. He apparently didn't know that there would be communion, as at one point he looked at his family and mouthed, "Is there communion? Communion? No one told me. Told me. No. Told me. Communion. Yea. No."

So Johnny and Alice got hitched up. I went out to the parking lot to wait for the receiving line to finish and met some of Tom and John's friends from childhood. Apparently they all played on the CoOLotSH basketball team and practiced at the gym next to the chapel when they were 8 or 9. Patty (Tom and John's oldest sister) told me how all the families that they grew up with had originally come from the Bronx and moved to Rockland County in one mass exodus in the mid to late 60s, so not only did the kids all know each other from childhood, but their parents often did too.

Cut to reception at the Florentine Gardens in River Vale, New Jersey..."Where we invite you to live the dream of your most magical day in classic elegance and romantic seclusion." If you can read that sentence in your best Tony Soprano voice, that would be great. The place was beautiful -- many ubiquitous columns -- but very nice and tricked out for events such as the Lyman-English wedding reception. There was an ice sculpture of swans at the cocktail hour. Nice. It ends up that the sculpture could have been anything and it wasn't until after Alice picked the swans that Johnny said they should have got an ice sculpture done of their dog, which actually would have been really cool, but, unfortunately, it was too late. Food was abundant at the cocktail hour and I, being from casual wedding land of the Northwest, thought it was actually dinner. Everything was divided by stations -- the seafood station, the crudites station, the cheese station (yea!), the prime rib station -- and there were three people with headset walkie talkies walking amidst the guests and directing the food and drink flow, "Can we get a glass sweep at table seven. More Fontana at station four." And these same three people were responsible for getting the families and bridal party to their special, undisclosed location before dinner. That was great. "We have a sister at 3 o'clock and we have locked the mothers at the champagne station. Missing the nephew. Has anyone located the nephew?"

The dinner was in the Grand Ballroom. Our place card read, "Mr. Thomas Lyman and guest." Even though the invitation came to both of us. Got to respect a woman who can get that little jab in so skillfully. Well played Alice. Well played. I went to Table B and was standing there alone when the lights fell and a booming World Wrestling Federation-type announcer came over the loudspeaker saying, "Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Florentine Gardens. We want you to put your hands together for some very special people. Introducing.......the father and mother of the bride, Mr. and Mrs. ---- English!!!" and then these double doors opened and three blue spotlights swung from the ceiling to shine on Alice's parents as they walked out onto the dance floor accompanied by, "Are You Ready for This," (heard at sporting events throughout the world) and having the walk projected onto a giant video screen. Their entrance was followed by Mrs. Lyman ("accompanied by her nephew..."), the sisters and brothers with their families, the best man and maid of honor and finally, the moment we've all been waiting for, Mr. and Mrs. John Lyman!!!!! And the crowd went wild. It really did.

Tom's speech was lovely: funny, heartfelt and personal. When Kenny Malaguchi yelled, "Wrap it up!" as Tom was starting the final tearjerker part, I shot a look of pure venom his direction and frightened Tom's other friends with my wrath. Not that Tom needs defending, but no one is going to heckle my boy unless he wants them to. Word.

Other details: the food was fabulous, we danced a lot, including "Living on a Prayer" but the DJ stopped the song after the first chorus because Tom and I were the only ones on the dance floor and we were sort of acting the lyrics out. Apparently no one pokes fun at JBJ in the state of NJ. I loved my French frock, Tom's family and friends are very fun and my date was the best looking one there.