The Bridal Bizarre: Second Glance

16 02 2014

Screen shot 2014-02-15 at 6.48.27 PMNothing I’ve said about the modern marriage is a lie. Propaganda  has shaped our popular perception of this broken tradition—structurally maintained by religion, the status quo and a desire to foster safe environments for children. Romance is manufactured and consumed by our society at a startling rate—a sad truth among a love-starved populace more accustomed to debt than self-worth. But through all these factoids, the critical puns and witty historical observation, there is something lost in translation—something left that is unexplained. For me, the moment happened last Friday, when my research was met with humanity, my judgment with joy and my confusion eased by close company.

Weather or not I believe in marriage, weather or not marriage is passé, broken, ridiculous or suicidal—whatever marriage fails to accomplish with expectations and promises of forever, it still somehow manages to bring people together (for better or worse) and produce a uniquely human experiences—an experience that makes people remember (if only momentarily) that they’re alive, that we are human.

I watched two small children walk down the aisle in hand with an adult who kept them on course. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know these small children. I looked upon their faces and saw my own youth, saw the misunderstanding, the confusion and endless possibility that lay before them—extending out so much further than the petal covered grass. Then, the mother and father of the groom (still married) hand-in-hand and I saw the past—a past far less complicated than what we have grown to inherit. I smiled thinking that even if they were the only couple in the world not separated by circumstance, that would be good enough. The bride entered from the eastern lawn and the alternative music playing was a symbol of this couple’s sense of self.

I don’t understand what makes some marriages last and others end—whether marriage is about forever, religious commitment or a strange way of collecting property. But marriage is something that I can’t imagine our world without—we need reminders of how delicate and precious we are in-between moments where promises are often broken.

The officiate asked everyone in the crowd to express a prayer, to exchange energy—a thought for this couple’s future through a brief moment of silence. Heads lowered as I stared upon the sweet couple and it was a total mind f***. I swear I could feel the effort of every person within 100 feet of me push their hope, their dreams, their love upon the bride and groom. I felt the whole energy of the beach shift as if they were the last two people on the planet—the earth projecting all of its resources so that they might have the strength to carry on the human race.

I was tripped-out. There was so much love on the beach as the sun was setting—I thought this must be why people go to church. Collectively.

Maybe it’s not marriage that’s broken. The ideas seem fair. They seem like they’re the basis for good intentions. Maybe it’s easier to not believe in marriage because then there’s no responsibility to succeed, no judgment of failure. It’s easier to point a finger in a spouse’s face than look in a mirror. I’d rather be reminded of being human.





WWJD? No, seriously.

4 02 2014

Apparently my soul is going to burn for all eternity in a fiery hell while my boyfriend’s soul enjoys basking in the eternal light of the golden city. I’d ask hell what’s up with that, but currently, that feels cliché.

Religion is an incredibly sensitive subject for most people, myself included. I don’t pretend to be anything other than Switzerland in most religious conversations. Any judgment I pass on a bouquet of religious doctrine is about as informed and  thoroughly thoughtful as proclaiming, with no particular authority, “Yeah, that Joel Osteen guy, he’s a big douche.” That’s where it ends for me. It gets a laugh from people who might agree and it’s dumb enough to not legitimately threaten any Christians. My views on religion are completely unsubstantiated, probably incorrect, and reinforced by a populace of wacko hypocrites. Sure, I know and respect some wonderfully religious people—Christian, Witness, Catholic and probably a few Muslim extremists—but I’ve never pretended to be a model citizen, let alone a religious martyr. Judge not yet ye be judged.

So when my boyfriend told me a few days ago that he had been saved, I was at a loss for words.

funny-jesus-trex-ark

I felt like Rex :(

We read fantasy, enjoy discussing society, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, share a cynical view of the world and a uniquely obsessive fondness for one another. It’s disgusting, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. So how would you feel if suddenly using the F word produced a bitter taste in your lover’s mouth?

He had been going to apologetics classes and church services for a while. He’s in Afghanistan right now and I guess that makes sense. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know and while I miss him dearly, they’re lucky to have him because he’s doing a world of good out there with his boys. I don’t know exactly when his quest for truth manifested into said activates. Nor was I was ever threatened by his search until his salvation suddenly compromised my perception of our equal partnership and general appreciation for magic.

I felt left behind. I felt self-concious. It was like my best friend suddenly started speaking Latin, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but I don’t know how to speak Latin.

While I’m not a religious person, I have at one time or another been so moved by beauty that I can hardly breath. I’ve tried to write about it, but like faith, it’s something that can’t be tangibly held or coveted without loosing its intrinsic excellence. I’ve given up on that idea and pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude—know thyself.

And I know that beauty and truth and love can exist in the world despite how often it seems easier to believe that humans are just another species on this planet waiting out their inevitable extinction. My relationship with him makes me believe in the good and to see him smile or make him laugh is worth any fire and brimstone that may await me on the other side. But I feared that might not be enough.

WWJD?

I didn’t pray. I steeped—in a warming concentration of the worst possible feelings known to the human experience: jealousy, anger, resentment and above all fear. This is where I become my best impersonation of Hemingway. I see everything in shades of blue and grey, lose my appetite and suppress the urge to drink scotch and chain smoke. I reminisce about The Running of the Bulls in Spain, though I have no particular recollection of ever being there. I try to pretend I’m okay when I’m not until those crazy, bovine mother***** push me to feel something I don’t want to feel.

At the time, it felt like it would be safer to steep than try to understand his choice. But safe has very little to do with relationships. More importantly, I realized that his salvation has nothing to do with me. It’s about him and his journey, not mine. I know who I am.  It’s other people that scare the s*** out of me. And when it’s your best friend, your parents, your boss or your gorgeous boyfriend that’s doing the scaring, it can be really f****** scary.

We like people to behave the way we expect them to behave, do the things they normally do and so on. It gives order to relationships and insight to guide our interactions. I was sitting at my work desk not working when I realized I was being an idiot.

If I ever want to get anywhere in relationships, I have to let people change. I should support people’s self-discovery not confine them with expectations. I was scared that our relationship would change because he was changing. How many times have you ever been in a relationship and thought to yourself, “they just wont let me be who I am”? I’m taking steps to encourage change rather it define my relationship.

I told him all of this, and like a good Christian, he explained to me that nothing I’d ever known about Christianity was correct.

I was saved.





Finding my Spirit

20 01 2014

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

It was Christmas actually, and I wanted to catch some spirit not so easily found at the bottom of…well, you know. San Diego started to feel stale and I was a year older. The cool air from the west made my skin crawl as I contemplated 2013. I felt the horizon closing in, so, I headed east.

Grafitte

Just the sound of Detroit from my silent Insatgram photo was enough to warrant strange questions from people who find no need to investigate a city that recently announced its bankruptcy. Point taken my friends. But this isn’t about Detroit or what’s broken or damaged in Michigan. Detroit just happened to be were my plane landed—about 30 minutes east of my destination, Ann Arbor. It’s the worst of times for some people in Detroit. For many, their pensions are gone, entire futures missing—the cold, hard reality of a story made of cold, hard American steel. I was just passing through.

I didn’t have to look hard for Yuletide. That’s all over the place this time of year in Ann Arbor. Downtown’s Main Street was decorated in lights and green wreaths to ensure good will towards men or perhaps to encourage boutique shopping. Long scarves—not the decorative kind—were tied-up tight around people’s faces, as hands swung free in mittens and gloves. Intellectual conversations chirped away about city council and various governing bodies responsible for public art commissions.

A short car ride away from Detroit there seems to be no sign of disadvantage, no sign of loss or sadness over things not yet collected. For the townies and students of Ann Arbor, it’s always the best of times. Sure, expect to freeze your ass off in the winter, but what else is new in the Midwest? And what else is there to do when said ass is freezing? Brewery tours, of course.

Skype_6.3.0.602

Ann Arbor Brewing Company

The Michigan campus employs nearly 60,000 people and educates (presumably) approximately 40,000 students. Campus sits in the middle of everything and includes dozens of satellite locations for particular departments, miles a part from each other, in a spooky, omnipresent kind of way. And betwixt all the busy intersections of academia, world-class museums and North Shore apparel, there is an unbelievable thing happening—some of the most educated and community-minded people I have ever met, are getting hammered and eating some incredible food.

The notion seems counter intuitive that someplace so close to a city nobody wants to visit, might actually be thriving in culinary wonderland—literally, some of the best food I have ever eaten. Something so strange could only mean one thing: I was in the right place.

For example, the complex and Polish, Dill Pickle Soup from Amadeus Restaurant on Washington Street. House-brined grape tomatoes in spiced vinegar from Mani Osteria & Bar on Liberty. Ever hear of something called Lardo? It’s cured fat from the back of a free-range pig and they cut fresh slices to taste at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, world-famous delicatessen. The bounty of fine dining and craft beer and cocktails was ripe for the picking in the dead of winter, and although I had come to recharge my weary spirit, the spirits themselves where enough to take me away. So, away I went.

The butchers at Zingerman's Deli.

The butchers at Zingerman’s Deli.

The talent in Ann Arbor is surprisingly young, cool and way more into sustainable farming than any hipster I’ve ever met in Encinitas. The chefs, farmers, manufactures and brew-ha-has are doing a lot more than talking about what they eat and where it comes from—they’re actually making a difference in the way people consume their food. Walk down Main Street and you won’t see much of corporate America. These restaurants are one of a kind and a result of two important things: the city’s close proximity to major foodie destination, Chi Town, and the steady economic lifeblood pumped by Michigan University.

I sat down with Frank Fejeran, executive chef at The Raven’s Club—one of downtown’s newest additions—to learn a few things about how he ended up in Ann Arbor. Turns out Fejeran trained under Grant Achetz, decorated chef and culinary mad scientist based in Chicago. Coincidentally, Fejeran also worked briefly at 150 Grand in Escondido, Cali., a restaurant from my hometown, before he finally opened up shop in Ann Arbor. We exchanged euphemisms that implied the world is a rather small place to live and laughed at how ridiculous the traffic is the San Diego. Long story short, when the competition gets tough, the young professionals got moving, and many educated and talented people have wound up in smaller towns like Ann Arbor where it’s easier to make a go of things in such tough economic times. Rent is certainly cheaper.

prof drinkers

“Professional” beer tasting at Wolverine State Brewing.

Another thing people in the Midwest seem to be really good at is making beer. San Diego receives accolades for being the mirco-brewing capital of the country. But that doesn’t mean s*** to the people of Ann Arbor. And I’ll bet these corn-fed, bearded worriers could drink any frat-boy from San Diego State under the table with one of the high gravity beers their brewing in old bourbon barrels and wine casks. Seriously. Have you ever had a sour beer? It’s delicious. It’s weird. But it’s good. From light to dark, IPA to stout, there is something for everyone who enjoys a cold glass and good head. Some of the best advice I got from the brew master at Wolverine State Brewing was that everyone can enjoy an IPA, “…if you drink the right one.” I was skeptical, and already buzzed. But even this half-drunk, SoCal stranger found a hoppy friend to call her own. Bells, Two Hearted. If you ever get the chance, drink it.

And if you ever get the chance to eat Cuban food, I mean, really good Cuban food, do that too. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Ann Arbor on this culinary adventure, but I was deliciously surprised not once, but twice, and in two very different food joints. Lena, an art deco, flash-back and cocktail factory, offered up a variety of Cuban confections like Ecuadorian Humitas. Holy corn cakes batman! Lemongrass-tomatoe stew, chimichurri and melted queso fresco? I was literally burning calories as I ate it. For dinner, I ordered a traditional Cuban Sandwich, press-grilled on Avalon Telera bread with smoked ham, braised pork shoulder, manchego cheese, pickles and mustard aioli. Yep. I’m a traditionalist. After a long day of brewery tours, nothing is more satisfying than food without pretense. Nosce te ipsum, sandwich. The Cuban was the perfect accoutrement to my Hot Pepper & Peach Margarita, infused with hot pepper and peach tequila, fresh peach puree—house-made to order, which I did, twice.

The Cuban at Lena.

The Cuban at Lena.

Adding a little celebrity to the  culinary scene in Ann Arbor, is chef Eve Aronoff, a Top Chef contestant and owner of Frita Batidos on West Washington. Casual picnic tables lined the interior, encouraging group dinning and stranger conversations. Blue Ribbon cans in the cooler and real guacamole served alongside seriously addictive Cuban fried plantains was about all it took to make my list. Each picnic table came standard with a set of dominos, so plan on staying a while for happy hour. Hands down, a must eat in Ann Arbor—I tired half a dozen menu items and everything was superbly fried and awesomely terrible for you.

Freelance writing doesn’t pay well. One of the few, if not the only perk to the job, is getting sponsored to travel to obscure places and explore the people, the food—the alcohol—the history, and the amazing things that are happening simultaneously all around the world, all the time; existing regardless of our appreciation or acknowledgment, while we all continue to live our proverbial, self-absorbed lives. I like being a stranger in a strange place—it reminds me to stop being such as a** hole.

A rainbow of colors at Ashley's.

A rainbow of colors at Ashley’s.

If you get full on the fried stuff you can do one of two things. One, go to another brewery and drink light beer. Or two, keep eating, but get the salad. If you need a beer and you feel like mixing in with the 20-somethings, the best place to go is Ashley’s. This is the college go-to joint that sits across from the busiest intersection of campus. It’s old, it’s packed and it’s got more beers on draft than anywhere else in town. They’ve got beers you’ve never heard of and mixed with other beers in ways you didn’t even know where possible. This is where the last week of finals, ends. I had the privilege of sitting down with local beer historian, David Bardallis, to discuss his book, Ann Arbor Beer: The Hoppy History of Tree Town Brewing, to discuss how such an amazing brew scene could go so unjustifiably unnoticed by alcoholics the world over—disregard the inherent problem with that statement. He was a really nice guy and I wish I could remember more of what he said, but we had sampled near 40 beers that day and I was lit up like a Christmas tree. I think the gist of it was, “Cold weather equals drinking beer,” or “Major university plus college students to the power of hops.” Oh yeah, and a lot of German immigration.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t order any freakin’ salads. I was working, okay! For Ann Arbor’s version of Asian fusion a la Midwestern style, seek no further than Melange Bistro & Wine Bar on Main Street. This is where the far east meets steak and potatoes—a fine dining experience set in sexy lounge-style ambiance that makes you want to drink too much and kiss with tongue. I ordered the nachos—duck confit glazed in hoisin and served on a crispy wonton chip. The Duck Nachos were topped with manchego cheese, guacamole, fresh tomato and sriracha sour cream. Don’t worry, I ate them with my pinky up. From steaks to sushi, the menu is a globally influenced symphony of too-hard-to-pick main courses with a unique southeast Asian flare. After informing all of my dinner company that I would require a sample from each of their main course plates, I settled on the Short Rib, flavored with Asian accents and slow braised for 8 hours. Served with a natural braising reduction, yuzu daikon salad and whipped potatoes, I was not sharing. Paired with a glass of Clayhouse Malbec, I practically fell off my chair from sensory euphoria. Quite simply, perfection.

Short Rib at Melange.

Short Rib at Melange.

Small town America is a seductive mistress. Places like Ann Arbor romance the spirit with slow changes like the seasons—a tender leaf segment barely able to cling to the graying tree. Ann Arbor’s like a lot of hip, young cities: Portland, Austin, Asheville and so on—insert mustache and flannel joke here. It’s slow, it’s quirky and the community is fairly integrated economically. The result is more cooperative and less cannibalistic—though arguably there may have been some of that going on 30 minutes away. It remains unconfirmed.

The bad news was that I had fallen in love, again, with a place that discouraged the social  idiosyncrasies I dislike about southern California. Travel has that effect on me. The good news was that I had collected my sanity in an otherwise crazy time of year. I had gained some perspective on things—a real Christmas miracle. After my week in Ann Arbor, I was ready to go home and crawl back into my self-absorbed sand castle, this time a little wiser, a little happier to not live in a place that snows. And like all the amazing things happening in Ann Arbor, culinary or otherwise, this trip was a clear reminder that I set the table for myself each and every day. Somewhere, it’s the best of times. Somewhere else, it’s Detroit. The nice thing is that we all get to decide for ourselves.

Stay strange Ann Arbor.





Prose: Alone at a Café in Paris

19 01 2014

The seductive sounds of a four piece jazz band—a scat-cat afternoon buzzin’ on too much caffinee.

If there is such a thing.

Thank God I’ve got this music to fill me up.

I feel so empty.

I can’t believe I left him standing there—in the rain.

It rained last night.

It’s very sunny today.

The weather irritates my mood with its inconsistency.

How can a person be less predictable than the weather?

I’m a mess.

This trigger steadied by a shaky crook-hand up my back side and I feel angry.

What did she ever give him other than his drink?

A stiff drink is nice but not nearly as nice as her sex.

I can’t figure it out.

I kissed him!

And for what?

To discover that he had shaved himselfby coincidence?

I doubt that.

I wonder what it’s like to be a man? To make love to a woman…

I wonder if he thinks… what I think?

I doubt that.

I’m a mess.





Whitney’s Electronic Christmas Party

19 12 2013

And a happy new year.

electronic christmas copy

‘Don’t Be Afraid’ by Redshirt Theory.





For the Birds

24 10 2013

inspiration Apparently I’m an ageist. I love old people but I don’t every want to be one. When mother suggested a hypnotherapist I became more self-aware of my prejudice.

I tend to get very anxious this time of year. The holiday season is uncomfortable. New Year’s a reminder that I should be bettering myself, and my Scorpio birthday—an even louder reminder that I am getting older.

At age 26, I began microdermabrasion treatments and applying anti-ageing creams to my face in an attempt prevent pre-mature signs of my birthday. I looked closely in the mirror for wrinkles, wondering how it’s possible to occasionally still get a zit in my mid-twenties. Isn’t acne for teenagers?

Maybe zits are just a condition of the mind’s perception. Maybe I still get them from time-to-time because from time-to-time I act like a teenager.

This weekend I went to a party dressed like a retired and fabulous Florida snowbird. My friends are moving to Florida for work and the going-away party was themed for the occasion. I wore geriatric sunglasses in the dark of night to prove how committed to the character I was. About halfway through the dinner I realized that my golf club accessory had been confused for a cane.

Ashley approached me laughing. “Whitney, my little brothers just asked me who the blind girl was!”

Eureka.

At first I was mad that my costume had portrayed the wrong character. I wanted to be a rich, retired, Floridian adorned in excessive pearls—not a crazy blind girl in too much makeup. But I’m a serious lemon-squeezer and thought it better to make lemonade than cry over spilled milk. Lord knows my Florida character needed the calcium.

And so, at almost 27-years-young, I went bar-hoping—pretended to be blind, scored free drinks from gullible, sympathetic strangers and cut in line for the bathroom. I know what you’re thinking: and no I don’t think it’s offensive. It’s my aggressive exhibitionist proclivity that gets hazardous drunk on social discomfort that’s offensive. At about midnight, the bouncer at the nightclub took my golf club.

florida

“Whitney,” said Vinnie, “you’re  going to hell. Like, literally, you just jumped on the fast track straight to hell.”

“That’s ridiculous V-Dog,” I slurred between sips. “That place is  make-believe.”

 

So, I’m aging.

But I’ve still got it—zits and all.

 





Sex on the Internet

18 09 2013

internet loveOne subject I will never get tired of talking about is dating—or in my case, mostly awkward encounters that make for hilarious stories—my college professor, the military assassin, random men named John and so on. Turns out, I can get kind of sentimental betwixt all the ironic humor and dangerous innuendo. The truth of the matter is I kind of like this guy. And what’s not to like? He’s my Internet boyfriend.

 

Trust me when I say I kept this a secret.

“What’s an Internet boyfriend?” my friends joked.

“Exactly what it sounds like,” I mumbled back.

For weeks I grappled with the idea. Why do I feel this way about someone who lives so far away? FaceTime is like, real life, right?

But it’s not like real life. Nor is texting a substitute for close couch conversations or two cups of really good coffee. I felt dirty. I was spending Friday nights Skyping with a vacation fling that in my opinion had plenty of summer left to live.

This isn’t normal. And it’s not normal. It’s awesome.

What’s better than a real boyfriend? A boyfriend you can literally put in your pocket—turn silent should circumstance require.  Travel sized—I can take him anywhere, talk to him anytime, and best of all, I don’t have to pick out his clothing.

It all started five months ago—after years of travel, jobs that took us very far away; we found each other, briefly, in San Diego. The rest has been recorded in more text messages, emails, Skype sessions and FaceTime encounters than I care to admit. It’s a real emotional affair—one that has brought great joy to the end of days, a time now specially reserved for him and our bastard love-child: technology.

Trust me also when I say, I never thought I was the kind of girl—the girl who gets caught up in something so fantastic, so seductively unreasonable and so impatiently void the tangible experience of entertaining a man.

“You’re an idiot. Don’t you know he is going to cheat on you?” my friend argued.

I guess that’s a legitimate concern for most people. Having a relationship dependent on technology definitely has its disadvantages. But I’ve seen people get bent out of shape over ambiguous text messages. I’ll take my chances.

“So, you’ve had sex with him on Skype?” she asked rhetorically.

I started to feel very old-fashioned the sixth or seventh time I had to explain this to someone. This question has become so popular in-fact, that I decided to write about it. The short answer is no—I’ve never done it.

“Why not? You’ve never wanted to try?” another friend pried.

“You know how you’ve never tried heroin?” I explained. “Well, it’s kind of like that.”

My girlfriends sat up straighter around the table as though I had just offended them. “Why not? It’s fun,” asked one gal.

“He’s never even asked you to try?” added a curious boyfriend. “He must be gay!”

Apparently, the only social moray that permits having an Internet boyfriend is becoming an amateur pornstar. Ergo, long distance relationships are no longer socially acceptable unless you have sex on the Internet. Could this be true?

My brain shifted through numerous books I had read, movies and experiences I had that brought this assertion into sharp focus and heated resentment.

Odysseus

This is Odysseus’s O-Face

The whole time I’m getting interrogated over how I spend my online time with this guy—who is now in Afghanistan—all I can think about is how different the world would be if Penelope, from Homer’s, “The Odyssey” was busy finger f****** herself in a letter to Odysseus who—instead of being a hero—decides to release himself onto the messenger that unfortunately happens to be a demon summoned from the underworld. Look out! Imagine  soldiers in WWII texting private parts to their lovesick wives. What would they have thought? Imagine it. I’ll bet she would have been pissed—probably wondering how the hell he has time to j*** off when Nazi’s are afoot! Just another wonderful byproduct of defeating the Germans: more time to masturbate!

Everyone complains that the word becomes increasingly less genuine as technology interferes more and more with our human interactions. Does taking naked picture of ourselves and sending them to people we care about really mean we care? What does it say about who we are?

And don’t try and turn this around on me. I won’t entertain any of that quasi-feminism-sexual-empowerment-free-love-bull-s***. This has nothing to do with whether I’m sexually empowered enough to have sex on the Internet. The better question is: am I empowered enough not to?

I’ve found that my Internet boyfriend is exactly what I need right now: someone to laugh with after a very long day of work—someone to listen and someone to miss. Not so long ago, people called this a long distance relationship—a term now so passé it requires virtual consummation. I’ve never been one for labels—or Greek mythology, really.

I prefer my Internet boyfriend.

 

For Cameron:)








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