Dirty Towel

30 04 2014

blue_bath_towel_3d_model_8f9c1e4c-00a0-4578-b107-9f421c1f6559It was Saturday—cleaning day—a time I use each week to collect my thoughts through the repetitive motion of putting things in their proper place. It was time to clean my bathroom.

What does a towel say about who you are? My towels say I don’t give a s*** about who sees them. They are a mix of old, beat-up, absorbent wannabes that have no style or any inclination that they ever did. They are a mix of colors, ages, and textures; brands and sizes that range from the small useless hand towel, to the oversized and neon striped beach blanket. The short and messy of it was that my towels looked like they belonged to a man (or perhaps the cliché of one), a man who lives on the fringes of town—on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. You know, a renegades’ arsenal of terrycloth.

It was then that I realized an outsider had not seen my towels in some time. I don’t entertain much in the way of towels, and I guess I’ve never brought them to lunch with me. But there they were. Hanging in effigy as I scratched my head and wondered when I had become so shamelessly lazy.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my towels. But I was considering my boyfriend seeing them for the first time and wondering what he would think about them. In an effort to be the perfect host and girlfriend, I concluded that this just wouldn’t do. How could he possibly dry himself off with you, faded-green-blanket-of-absorbencies-past?

Then I started thinking about all the other stuff that I own that could also inflict some kind of damage. Are my sheets new enough? Do these decorative pillows accurately communicate my need for unconditional love? So what if I don’t have any matching socks. I don’t even like socks! Does any of this matter?

I stood inside Bed Bath & Beyond, contemplating the Beyond part. The towering shelves made my heart beat faster as I looked up to see items of the domicile spread out over a plane of frivolous marketing. I feared that one of them might fall on top of me—would I survive? I walked out. No need to have an anxiety attack over the simple task of purchasing new towels for my bathroom.

I walked next door to Marshalls where the shelves were more manageable. After comparing the quality of Turkish and Egyptian cottons, I settled on some no-name brand that was the proper shade of gray. A savvy shopper would never allow emotional turmoil to sway a purchase, but my mood was stuck in the middle of one of those self-realization moments, where you evaluate the black and white of things. Gray looked really good.

In some ways, confronting my towels was like closing a very long, single chapter of my life. When you’ve been single for as long as I have, you get comfortable with the idea that towels don’t matter by virtue of their privacy. I myself am an extremely private person. I like secrets. I like mystery. I like leaving a party when I feel like it simply because I’m tired. And I like not caring about my towels or my dirty laundry that too often prefers to be an area rug.

I would like to say that this introspection went deep enough—that I was able to deny the fresh cotton of department stores and my need to feel unabashed by my very, very personal space. But alas, I am only human and towels tend to come in pairs.

And so, they sit. Still folded in the bag, until I am ready.

 

-Stay Strange

 

 

 

 





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.

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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.

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“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.





The Bridal Bizarre

31 01 2013

 

Leave it to a writer to create one the largest romantic scams of the 20th century. In 1947, a young copywriter employed by N.W. Ayer & Son—a prominent U.S. advertising agency—worked late into the night meticulously searching for just the right words to evoke romance, desire, and eternal love. This project, commissioned by one of the largest monopolies the world has ever known, continues to thrive yet struggles to shake the blood stains and controversial legitimacy in our post modern family society.

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I’m sitting in a room of women at my best friend’s bridal shower. Navy blue, white and gold decorate the tables, napkins, flower arrangements, candle holders, decorated cookies; suspend from the ceiling in delicate tissue paper balls. Everything is beautiful and I am jealous of my friend who is about to get married.

But instead of tears of happiness, I experience waves of depression as I learn—for the very first time—about the progression of bridal ceremonies that mean more to the average American woman, than any other single experience she will savor.

From outside the glass house of her engagement, I am holding stones feeling overwhelmed by so many contradictory feelings that I pretend to wonder if Mary of Burgundy, the first recorded female to ever receive an engagement ring, was surprised when the Archduke Maximilian asked for her hand—probably not. Centuries ago, marriage was a way to unite kingdoms, gain property or sustain noble bloodlines. It was all business—romantic love and bachelorette parties had no place in the process. Today, we are no longer  in the business of uniting kingdoms so much as we are watching them rip a part. My kingdom, for example, was split into two nations when I was fourteen.

I listen to three generations of women talk about boyfriends, husbands, sex and children and I’m looking for a reason to get up and clean something. Now I’m jealous and about to be sick.

The grass looks much greener from where my best friend is standing. It makes me happy to see her so happy, but as I search for the same kind of fulfillment I am increasingly more depressed by the realization that Walt Disney fucking lied to me as a girl. In colonial America, women wore thimbles as a symbol of betrothal. I find this almost as amusing as watching one blindfolded grandmother hold a broom between her legs while another granny directs her to insert it into a cardboard toilet tube held by her crotch.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel so perplexed by these wedding traditions if I myself were in love—whatever the hell that means—or maybe if I felt like there was any credibility left to the ceremony itself. But instead I’m totally hallowed, searching for something meaningfully romantic to fill myself up with. I look to books, great movies, art and music to ease my confusion—but even these can’t be trusted.

In the 1930’s diamond sales were down. In the original 1949 Broadway production of “Gentleman Prefer Blonds,” Tony award-winning, Carol Channing, introduced women to the idea that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” A few years later, the quintessential blond of the 1950’s—Marilyn Monroe—took the song and its proverbial meaning to the masses.

The night before my friend’s bridal shower, I attended a wedding—it was a very bridal weekend. I listened closely to the couple’s vows from inside the museum where they stood under a flowered arc. I really wanted to believe. I wanted to know that what the bride and groom were saying meant something real, and I wanted to believe that love is as easy as The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Maybe I had just missed the words that were supposed to mean forever? So, I listened closer. I tried to be optimistic, but that became more difficult a long time ago: when I leaned that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Full House were all just make-believe.

And than I thought about that damn writer, a young girl named Frances Gerety, who wrote the words that would have an impact on women of future generations the world over. Circa 2000, Advertising Age magazine named De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” the best advertising slogan of the 20th century. There is something to be said about the relationship art and reality play in our perception of love. Art has done a great job of providing the example but the reality is less romantic than Shakespeare. But even art can surprise us by being particularly poignant. Read “The Death of a Salesman” if you don’t believe me. Nothing says true love and the American Dream like hallucinations, adultery and suicide. Or listen to “The Civil Wars”, beautifully depressing love song, Poison and Wine.  Don’t worry about my dark-humoured soul burning in hell, that’s make-believe too.

I can overlook uninspired drunken speeches, bad wedding food, and to an extent, uncomfortable heels that match my dress. But I draw the line at love. Because every time I hear about someone getting married, it ignites my confusion and begs every man and woman of my generation to defend their choice and prove me wrong, that all of this bizarre bridal behavior isn’t all just a bunch of bullshit. In my opinion love and marriage are mutually exclusive. And don’t think I didn’t try to persuade myself otherwise, I read “Twilight” okay!

How can I pretend that any of this makes sense knowing that some girl with a pen arbitrarily changed the world of romance with carbon? I don’t think anyone who get’s married today really thinks their diamond will really last forever, so much as they need it to last long enough for people to think they’re happy. In my—not so humble—opinion, happiness is seriously overrated. Forever is an impossible standard to assume; especially from within this room of divorced women, widowed wives, married women and one cynical bitch wearing black. It’s almost as if we love to hate being married, because loving it might lead to bitter disappointment. And when love is lost, what else is there besides frozen wedding cake smashed in the back of the freezer saved for a forgotten anniversary?

I know, I know, I sound like a bitter old maid, but I’m actually the maid of honor.

 





Smells Like Teen Spirit

4 01 2013

 

My New Year’s Eve celebration was a metaphor in a long flash of intoxicated vignettes all laid out in a neat line. Inside the belly of an old bar I waited for something to happen.

“It smells like a strip club in here,” said Raymond, enthusiastically. And because I’ve never had the pleasure of watching naked girls dance, I believed him.

There wasn’t enough room to entertain myself on the dance floor, so I played a game with my glass, emptying its contents as quickly as I could swallow. And when boredom became overwhelmed by brute intoxication, I went about introducing myself to strangers while wearing a glowing New Year’s crown. In this crowd of sweaty people no one thought my behavior odd.

On the way home and from inside the car, my sober company could hear the sounds of my game splashing onto road pavement. You know something needs to change when you find clarity in vomit. I had indulged — taken too much of too much, and now my salutation to 2013 was covered in vodka.

Yes. I’m sure this all reads like the first 15 minutes of every Intervention episode ever recorded, but sadly no, I am not an alcoholic. Please pardon the dark satire, but you must understand that sometimes I think addiction would be much easier to deal with. At least with addiction you can look at the problem square in the face and tell it to fuck off. You can hug a 12-step program and find meaning in worship, and when you finally figure out your life, you’re a better person. I know lots of happy people like this.

I have no problem passing on a beer, missing out on casual drinks with friends or taking time off from whatever scene I happen to be associated with. I drift. I’m so comfortable being alone that from time to time I force myself to be social. Shit. Maybe I am an alcoholic, and this is all just a dream within a dream. At any moment Leonardo Dicaprio will burst onto the scene and tell me I have to save the world. To which I will stoically reply, fuck yes.

I’m not going to list off a bunch of ridiculous resolutions here. No doubt the blog-o-sphere is full of that bullshit and I don’t care to waste your time. Besides, your problems and goals are probably wildly different from mine. You probably need to work on sobriety and I encourage you to do this. I do too, I guess. But more importantly I need to work on listening to my instincts. I knew I would get out of control at that party, because I knew they would let too many people into the building, thus crushing the dance floor. And when I can’t dance at a party, I get bored. And when I’m bored I come up with solutions, all of which are illegal, none of which are a good ideas.

I remember kissing a man with a beard and long hair at midnight. It could have been a girl with a beard I guess, but like I said, the night was more a metaphor than a real experience. Like this anonymous person I will never see again, I don’t really know or understand what my problem is, so I can’t very well stare it in the face. Are you a boy? Or, are you a girl, strange addiction? I don’t know, but you tasted like alcohol.

dignity-dignity-drunk-girl-smoke-cart-demotivational-posters-1326566912

Happy New Year 🙂

 

 





His Name Was John

31 07 2012

We were making out.

Now, that’s what we in media like to call an introduction!

I had strut into his hotel room and we were making out. I turned around to look out the wide expanse of Vegas strip before me to reflect on a delightful evening of five-star cuisine and karaoke; taking in a solitary moment of peace expressed only in silence.

Then, just as that peace was settling in, I turned around to discover him naked, waiting on the bed like a golden retriever. Despite his silver Jaguar and well-groomed chest hair, I had no choice.

Seriously John?

I went for the door.

“What am I supposed to do about this?” he said, motioning down to a problem that I did not care to solve.

I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

I was celebrating in Hollywood, eating Pinkberry at a private party for a teen star when gracefully a tall dark figure approached me. To my surprise I looked up to see Master P enjoying a cool cup of frozen yogurt.

Master P and I apparently like the same toppings.

It is in my quest for truth, happiness, the meaning of life and everything else that one must discover, that I shake myself up off the floor and realize I am nowhere near nirvana.

From time-to-time I find myself in very strange places with very strange people who act very strange.

But I am no exception.

 

The San Diego Reader and Pacific Magazine recently published – and paid for, some of my writing that included swear words and phrases inciting phallic illustration. This is of great importance to my self-esteem and my conviction:

Anything is possible.

And if these strange events are not some inclination to that effect then I have no idea what to believe anymore.

The Libertarian Party was hosting a convention in a hotel I was staying at. Coincidentally, I got to meet Barbara Branden, one of the editors involved in Ayn Rand’s masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged. I felt weightless as I sat next to her enjoying a documentary on capitalism and objective ideology. Branden and Rand were close friends.

I wanted to touch her.

The only time I allow my mind to rest is while running around a lake, a lake that by all accounts will soon evaporate completely, and from the dry reeds not too far off the red dirt path I saw a deer. I had no idea it was possible to sustain mature deer in the middle of a drying lakebed next to a huge shopping mall.

But apparently it is.

How interesting.

I don’t know…

Who is John Galt?

 





Sex in the City

30 03 2012

I was anxiously awaiting inspiration for my next big story. Writing about my job isn’t particularly enlightening, nor at all the subject I usual revel in, which typically involves some sort of self-induced catastrophe. So where would I find inspiration? Where does one look? As life would have it, inspiration doesn’t wait to appear in neatly wrapped packages. No! It runs you down the sidewalk in four-inch heels. I’m going to have a very Carrie Bradshaw moment here. Sure, I don’t live in the big apple or wear Prada shoes, but I do smoke a cigarette from time-to-time, and I can often be seen staring out a window contemplating bad weather. Like a storm, inspiration may come with sudden force, and with the deliberate intention of bitch-slapping you across the face like a Telemundo star.

So, without further adieu

whitney butler

Relationships! What are those all about?

See! I told you I was going Bradshaw.

Good. Now that I’ve got the cliché out-of-the-way, we can move on.

That’s actually what I want to talk about: moving on…or the lack thereof when we insist on regressing in relationships. Why do woman go back? Why do men? Why does everyone believe their exceptionally illogical motivation is the exception and not the rule?

Why?

Through the various stages of a relationship: the awkward courtship, the crazy can’t-sleep-alone-because-I-love-the-way-you-breath beginnings, the comfort in establishing pet names, the messy break-up, the sexy make-up, the I-fucking-mean-it-this-time break-up, and so on, there often comes a time when someone witnesses a door opening, an opportunity that challenges loyalty, integrity, and above all, our ability to make a decision quickly and with conviction.

Him: I didn’t know how much I wanted to be with you until I slept with her.

Her: Oh, Dillon! I love you!

Me: (Smoking in a room with no windows) How white do you have to be to name your son Dillon?

But instead of being impulsive and making a quick, think Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, type of decision, we dance up to these opportunities and finger the edges, seductively stick a leg out to test the weather. It’s cowardice that keeps us from making the difficult choices, for better or worse, like not walking away when clearly there’s nothing left to pick up; not your self-esteem after he cheated on you, or your bank account when she spent all your money.

So why is it that once through the threshold, there on the other side, most of us look back at the door and wonder: can I go back in?

It was for my own pleasure that I contacted my ex several months ago. I wanted closure – whatever that means, something we never got because we moved a part so things fell a part, as they often do in those circumstances. But I had questions! I even thought his new girlfriend would understand where I was coming from, understand that my intentions were pure…if she were to ever find out, that is. Disillusioned would be an understatement. Because I should have known all along there was nothing pure about my intentions, nor could anything pure ever come from walking backwards into his arms.

Here’s the thing about regressing in relationships: you’ve already been there, it’s not new, there’s history, so we’re capable of manipulating and constructing assumptions that serve our self-interest instead of reason.  The motivation comes from a place of deprivation, regret, shame, embarrassment, and a list of other slimy feelings that inevitably reveal the second time around a calculated version of what once was. This week, I was accosted by his girlfriend who threatened to hurt me physically should I ever show up in her life again.

Besides feeling awful, I am embarrassed. I reached out to him, and he reached back. I wanted closure, but maybe a small part of me also wanted something else. Perhaps the satisfaction of knowing I could get him away from her. So, because I wasn’t brave enough to walk away, even after he had made me hurt, she’s hurting, and I’m half the reason. I opened the door and he stood there looking out at me, testing the wind with his finger; then she slammed the door in his face. At least she’s smart.

Going back to find answers, going back to fill a void, just going back facilitates only two possible outcomes, differentiated merely by the amount of time it takes to get you to the same conclusion: It’s not going to work. So when you  break up with someone, you shouldn’t go back. Period. I thought I needed closure. He thought he could get laid. I was wrong and so was he. Now, I’m just pissed off, looking out the window contemplating bad weather again. This time a little wiser.





Piñatas And S&M

16 03 2012

I may not speak Spanish, but I’m fluent in having a good time. My friend gave me a discretionary warning when he asked if I wanted to go to his niece’s birthday party.

You’re going to be the only white person there he said.

Yeah, okay.

I can’t be held responsible for what they say he said.

Sure.

My sisters might be mean to you he said.

Whatever…Will there be a Mariachi band!?!

No he said.

Damn.

I had always wanted to go to a real Mexican party. White people think that if you mash some avocado into a bowl, throw out some flour tortillas and drink margaritas, it’s a fiesta. I didn’t see any of these things on Saturday.

funny blog

There were children everywhere, running around the inflatable jump-house in the backyard, which kept the little maniacs occupied while the adults did what we do best. I think I might have been the only female enjoying a cocktail, or seven. But I’ve never been intimidated by a set of balls holding a Pacifico, so there was no need to slow my buzz.

The highlight of the evening was the piñata spectacle, something I thought might have been too cliché for a real Mexican Party, but wasn’t. I was holding my sides with laughter watching my friend work the piñata; swinging the rope like a drunken desperado. He controlled the smirk on his face while the kids got hit in the mouth with a swinging star of cardboard and staples. It was hilarious.

I guess all that laughter got me tense, because I made an appointment the following Monday for a Chinese massage. Everyone knows that eastern medical practices are far superior their western counterpart. They’re more natural and  seem more at peace with the earth or whatever. Plus their culture is like super old. So, I signed up for an hour with the oldest guy in the spa, he would surely be the best.

After the kids destroyed the piñatas and collected all the candy from the grass it was time to test my white girl pallet on the Mexican treats. Everyone stared curiously while they collectively picked out random candies for me to try, candies that didn’t even taste like candy because they were spicy and savory. Everyone laughed at the face I made trying to push chili paste out of a neon tube and onto my tongue.

My friend brought out a huge bottle of Tequila and set it on the table. Everyone played it off like taking shots of tequila was out of the question, but leave it to the elderly man in the corner to instigate some crazy shit. Next thing you know the uncles are buzzin’ hard, and I’m having deep conversations about the economy with the borracho next to me.

You know, you’re pretty cool for a wetback. It’s cool that you’re so open, one uncle said to me.

Huh?

Clearly I had them all fooled by my freshly colored blond hair. I had come to party. I was down for anything they could dish, minus the pasole, that had all kinds of animal parts in it. But as far as they were concerned, I was a wetback; for a converse moment the minority of an all too common exchange, and they had no problem letting me know it.

My sister and I went to our appointments early. I quietly looked around the spa, noting the books on meditation and ancient art scattered about the space with almost staged precision. I’ve never had a professional massage before but I figured it would go down similar to what I had seen on TV or in movies: calming candles, relaxing music and not a care in the world. But instead, the whole time this old man was rubbing my body with cold lotions I has fighting an anxiety attack over why the blanket was pulled so far down my ass. Why is so much attention being paid to my buttocks? Is that were I carry stress?

At one point it stopped being a massage and started to feel more like an S&M experience. He was hitting me, and grinding my shoulders so aggressively that I thought for sure I would look like I had been assaulted, which at this point felt pretty realistic. So much for Chinese medicine. I was going to need a doctor after this, probably a psychologist.

I almost lost my shit when he asked me to turn over.  Am I supposed to be relaxing? As he rubbed  my inner thighs I couldn’t help but feel totally molested, simultaneously wondering how I had let this eastern disguise fool me into thinking that I would feel comfortable with some eighty-year-old man breathing down my décolletage.  I could feel the blanket slip further and further down my chest as he worked. Holy shit. This is not happening right now. Millimeters away from a  nip-slip, it was over. I felt like smoking a cigarette. I didn’t say a word when I left the room and walked with my sister to the car. Inside her vehicle where it was safe, I had to ask her: So, what regions did your masseuse primarily focus on? Apparently she also caries stress in her ass. So much in-fact that the Chinese woman got on top of the table for better ass-mastery. At least my sister remembered to wear underwear.

We all carry assumptions about people that externally seem to come from a place dissimilar our own. But it fascinates me how easy it is to break through those assumptions when you just sit down and talk to people, drink a beer, or have them rub strange elixirs all over your naked body. It’s ludicrous to think that this Mexican uncle had never met an open-minded white person before. I know that’s not true, but the fact that he said it reminds me that just because I’m okay with being the only white person at a Mexican party doesn’t free me from my own biases, nor does it reflect a common disposition among my fellow gringos. For as ‘open’ as I am, I still thought there would be a mariachi band at the party.

I will never get a Chinese massage again.





Paula Deen Didn’t Make You Fat

20 01 2012

Given the chance, I would delight in being Anthony Bourdain’s West Coast mistress. I love his writing. I love that he smokes. And I love the way he doesn’t give a shit about anything in particular less the sophisticated quality of the things he puts into his mouth. 

I was shocked when my silver fox was reported bashing fellow foodie Paula Deen, who publicly acknowledged her struggle with diabetes this week while hosting a show that specializes in all things trans fat and delicious.

It was a PR nightmare for the Food Network star who was criticized for promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. The Southern Bell openly apologized for misleading people, if they assumed that eating six sticks of butter for breakfast was common practice at the Deen family table.

Paula Deen fans need to know: How could she be so irresponsible? How could she hide her diabetes?

All I’m thinking: Damn, I love the way she says olive oooooil.

Well, I’ll tell you what, she never hid that beautiful full figure. When Paula Deen was just a jolly, oxford-shirt-wearing grandmother cooking pot pies and gravy that was fine. But we can’t have jolly, oxford-shirt-wearing grandmothers out there serving up seconds when they have diabetes. That’s crossing a line. She’s a hypocrite!

This is the same kind of stupid logic that has me rolling on the floor whenever MSNBC does a special report on the fast food industry because someone swallowed too many cheeseburgers. Then the government steps in and puts nutritional facts on menus right next to the spinach and artichoke dip I use to love.

Way to ruin it for me, California!

Bourdain’s reaction caught my attention because he’s clearly a cool cat, worldly, and wouldn’t buy into the insanity that despite being a public figure, Paula Deen doesn’t make anyone shovel down tuna casserole. And with all due respect, Bourdain, if you end up sick with liver cancer, emphysema, or any other kind of disease associated with the lifestyle you portray, you’re going to eat your hat. And if that happens, well, you’ll no longer be regarded by yours truly as a sexy demigod, which means I won’t put out when I see you at the airport bar (praying this happens!).

It’s really quite simple. Stop blaming everyone else for making you fat. Paula Deen didn’t give you diabetes. McDonald’s doesn’t owe you jack. And when you wonder why you’re pissing blood, it’s probably not because Anthony Bourdain made binge drinking seem inconsequential.





Las Vegas: Happy Birthday

24 09 2011

It may have been the most stressful decision I’ve made in my early 20’s: leaving my job in Korea. But life pulled me in a different direction and I found myself daydreaming about the possibilities that await in the unknown. The anxiety ran high. Am I making the right decision? Neurosis is a mild anxiety disorder, and though I often slip on mild social misjudgments, I always make it work. I wanted to stay in Korea because it was safe, it was comfortable, and above all, it was more interesting than living in southern California. But  I do very well in the fray. I like being uncomfortable. I like emotional strife, because it forces a different interpretation of the world. But I had plenty of time to be uncomfortable in Korea. So I decided to head back home, and start the fight.

It was the weekend of the anticipated Mayweather/Ortiz matchup. I had just flown in from Japan, my internal clock was off, I needed a cell phone, and my family was eager to see me after 13 months. Sleep deprived and anxious, all I wanted to do was see my old apartment. I certainly didn’t feel ready to take on Vegas; worried that I wouldn’t make it through 4 days of drinking, gambling, man-eating, and family, without coming up short. I have a hard time walking away from a black jack table, even when I’m losing. The first night, at about four in the morning, a cop pushed my friend to our hotel room in a wheelchair: Does this belong to you? I knew right then I was in way over my head.

The sun was blazing, the breeze was light, affording the opportunity to sport my oversized Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, dress comfortably in jeans and a tank-top. The girl-pack headed poolside to inner tube down the lazy river at one of  many notorious pool parties. The buzz about the fight brought in a heavy crowd of middle-aged men with money to burn and dreams of meeting lady luck, a combination I find advantageous, especially when he’s dressed up like a cowboy and buying me vodka tonics. At the pool, I was quickly swept away in the current by a young man named Robert. I knew by his black Raybans and long wild hair, that we were going to get along just fine. The lazy river pulled me slowly in my inner tube past groups of young and old, baring it all for the world to see, drink in hand and ready to party. It was an awesome mix. But I had lost track of time and also lost track of the girl-pack. Where are they? Now with his legs around me under the inner tube, Robert was making it hard to accomplish anything. We rounded a curve in the river and there was my sister sitting on a white lounge chair. She was fully clothed, and upon connecting with my stare she started to mouth something that looked really scary from a distance. Do you know what fucking time it is? I got out of the pool as fast as humanly possible without spilling my drink, while Robert followed me innocently. After she was done screaming at me in front of all my new lazy river friends, I asked for her phone. Why? I’m going to give Robert my number. She was so pissed.

My father had financed my 21st in Vegas four years earlier, and now it was her turn. Family from back east had flown in, friends were invited and everything appeared to be in place. I wanted Vegas to be perfect for her. But how quickly our expectations can be thwarted by a cute boy at the pool, a misread text message, a missing credit card, or old family feuds erupting at an expensive steak house. How quickly did a 21st birthday celebration turn into the atrium of hells kingdom? About as fast as I can drink a hot shot of tequila. Vegas is no place to make plans or have expectations, especially when you are 21 and a virgin to the roulette table. Anything can happen. But it’s easy to forget that when we love someone so much.

Everyone fought. I fought with my sister. My cousin fought with me. My Dad fought with my aunt. I fought with a bottle of vodka and Mayweather beat the shit out of Ortiz in the fourth round. In the end we all walked away licking our wounds and wondering if it had been worth it. I can tell you one thing for certain, paying 500 dollars for bottle service at Planet Hollywood, was in fact, not worth it. Because I lost my wallet that night, which inside held my passport, California drivers license, and ATM card. Running around the New York, New York at 4:00a.m. without a room key is not as much fun as it sounds. Whatever happened during my sister’s 21st birthday is definitely staying in Vegas, lost somewhere between Planet Hollywood and the MGM.

Now that I step back and look at it from a distance, a safe distance back here in San Diego, I can’t help but feel like it was everything a 21st birthday should be. A complete disaster, emotional drama-fest filled with disappointment. Fortunately for me, the whole experience complimented the anxiety I was having anyways about leaving Korea. It put things into perspective. I’m inconsiderate, selfish, and I have the mouth of a sailor. All of which my family commented on while we were in the sin capitol of the U.S.. But nobodies perfect, so we just keep rolling with the punches.  I spend way too much money when I’m drunk, correlating to an alleged drinking problem, and I clearly have changed a bit while living abroad. I’m sure I’ve always exhibited these characteristics, but being confronted with people who may have unintentionally forced me to hide them, is revealing. I, like my vices, have come into fruition. The collective mentality of family, juxtaposed my new vigilante style may not have ended the way anyone planned, but that’s Vegas.





Don’t Stop and Never Run

21 09 2011

Part VI: The gypsy

I like to shower twice a day. And I’m okay with that.

I woke up to sunlight and rice patty fields. It was morning. We were alive and as far as I could tell I didn’t have lice. Somehow I had fallen asleep with my head in my lap. My butt was asleep and my back hurt. Are we close? We stopped to go to the bathroom and stretch our legs. It was 8:00 a.m. and from  near-by conversation I gathered only about an hour or so away from Nha Trang. Anxious, time passed quickly as the scenery unfolded. Slowly, we crept down the side of a mountain covered in green jungle. To the east, an unobstructed horizon of ocean, gray with mist. A black water buffalo pulled a man driving a broken wagon; following the road down into a marina of torn and  faded fishing boats. We had arrived.

Mike and I were exhausted. It was plain to see on both our faces. I had been extra weight the whole night, and we were both getting sick of this tedious pace. The sleeper bus catastrophe mixed with the final bits of medicated delirium still working its way out of my system, were pushing us towards a schism.

We were sitting across from each other, bowls of pho steaming up my sunglasses. It was breakfast time and I was in the mood for a fight. Before our trip, Mike had gone through an emotional break up. But while adventuring through Vietnam, he had expressed some revelations about his feelings, and was determined to confide in her face-to-face today at the airport in Nha Trang; a meeting that seemed romantic and coincidental, but wasn’t. Shut up Mike. He had been practicing his lines over and over. I’m really over hearing about this Mike. Justifying his mistakes and calculating his comeback. Mike, I’m not sure this is a good idea. Like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, there would be Italian opera, and doves would fly. His mind painted pictures of grandeur that made me want to vomit. SHUT THE FUCK UP MIKE! I lost it. I need some space. I needed some time to myself. I told Mike I would find him in two days, and we would go from there. What are you going to do? At that point I had no idea, but I looked out at the crystal blue water and had a good feeling that I would be fine.

Alone in a bed, I slept the most glorious sleep of all sleeps. I splurged a bit on the room, but I didn’t care sprawled out on the king bed of cool cotton sheets. I turned the air-conditioning down so low I asked for more blankets. Yes. This is vacation. It was night when I woke up. The streets looked less crowded from the 14th floor window. I wandered through the neighborhood lit up in neon lights, cracking and buzzing, flickering on and off. It was raining, but it was so hot that nothing was wet. I had no idea what day it was or what time of evening, I just walked until I got hungry, sat down at a cafe and ordered an espresso. The hot sting of caffeine felt good. I listened to some French men on the patio speak the romance language, as the rain kept coming down. I wrote in my journal, listened to some music and paid my bill. I bought some ice cream around the corner and tried to eat it before it melted all over my hand. This was my pace.

Sometime the next day, after sunning too much on the beach and shopping, the phone rang in my room. Come have coffee with us. Feeling fixed for company, I was all for it and bounced down to the lobby ready for the beach. Romeo and Juliet were downstairs with someone I didn’t know. A young Vietnamese/American man who spoke natively, and had been gypsie-ing around Vietnam for almost a year, pausing the last few months to call Nha Trang home; Juliet apparently had a friend in Vietnam. I enjoyed him right away. He was well-traveled and educated, on the edge of being a hipster, but without the Rayban sunglasses and meaningless tattoos. He’s so pretentious. Mike didn’t care for him, but I was sure that had more to do with Mike’s romantic rendezvous including another set of balls.  Or maybe the doves didn’t show up. I don’t know. Over coffee and cigarettes the four of us exchanged funny tales of travel, taking in the beautiful scene from a garden table.

The gypsy promised us an authentic Vietnamese dining experience, so again we braved from sidewalk to sidewalk. Don’t stop, and never run. Huh? That’s how you should cross the street. He said it so matter-of-fact that I was almost insulted. But the gypsy is an experienced backpacker and knows what he was talking about. It worked. All of a sudden the stream of motor bikes didn’t seem so intimidating. I watched him and pretended to have the same confidence in my flip-flops. He was right. I thought this trick was spectacular. Mike was rolling his eyes.

We moved up a tight alley and stopped at a busy corner. An old washing drum had been transformed into a fire pit under a chicken-wire  grill. Now we’re talking. Rocky shell-fish was poured onto the flames peaking up thought the wire, snapping and cracking the sand and weeds from the clams, muscles, and snails. Dry and wet seasoning buckets were scattered about the sidewalk while a quick-handed old man artfully pinched out just the right amount onto the steaming meat. The smell of smoke mixed with salts, garlic and fresh-cut lemon grass meant one thing: this was going to be good. We sat around a small platsic-tea-party-table, Mike’s legs almost to his chest, and waited for our first course while we enjoyed a cool, sweet beverage made from seaweed. Intimidating in dark green, the gypsy said it was a health staple for locals and a popular dinner drink. It definitely tasted healthy, I’ll give him that. An old woman placed a bucket under our table and dinner was served. Small plastic plates covered in newspaper soaked up the runny juices and flavored oils spilling out the shell beds. Grilled muscles and oysters on the half shell, delicately dusted with crushed cashew and green onion. I burnt my lip a little as I sucked one down. Fantastic. It had the simple taste of ocean that all shell-fish possess, but rarely keep after freezing, or over-saucing. The lemon grass, oil, and garlic covering the clams and mussels was amazing, clearly from the hand of a cook who had been doing this a very long time. Next, sea snails served in a bowl of warm coconut milk. The trick is to suck it out really fast, and really hard. The sun was going down behind the buildings. Our bucket was getting full.  We ate and laughed,  savoring a truly unforgettable meal.

Nha Trang is gorgeous through and through; it penetrates with a gritty vibe of  lazy beach living. Time is lost under warm waves of ocean, the sun and tide a useful reminder to put on more sunscreen. It’s a beauty that teaches you to tell time with your body and not through the electronic extensions that define our modern time. Sleep when you’re tired. Eat when you’re hungry. Get wet when you’re hot. After the first night I thought: I could stay here forever. But I knew that wasn’t true. I could never be like the gypsy. As romantic as the idea sounded, I could never go long periods of time without work, without order or routine. I’m a creature of habit, not one of vicarious adventures on sleeper busses. I don’t need designer hand bags, but I like to shower twice a day, and I’m okay with that. Our adventure in Vietnam was coming to a close. Mike and I had seen some amazing places, faced relative uncertainty, and met wonderful people in the mix of disaster. The hectic race down the coast of Vietnam finally silenced by the stillness of Nha Trang; the timeless experience of sharing a slow meal, watching the sunset, smiling with strangers, and in the most simple way of expressing: just being alive. We run because it feels safer than looking around to consider where we are. We miss moments between the places or things we run to. Miss it all because we were so sure the grass would be greener in Nha Trang. And sometimes it is. Sometimes when we get there it’s everything you thought it would be. But likely, we soon find ourselves running off again, looking for something that keeps us moving all the time. And we can’t stop.

The gypsy had one more trick up his sleeve. We are going to a party. Where? On the beach. The night was cool in breeze, stars out in purple sky. Tall palms swayed in a seductive motion towards the shore. A huge white canopy had been erected like a circus tent over a large circle of beach, connecting a bar from the street down a dark path to a crowd of people dancing barefoot in the sand. It was like zion had moved off the hill and taken three hits of ecstasy; if God is a DJ, He was throwing this party. The tent glowed purple in black lights while colored beams of all kinds shot across the night air, arms reaching up, down tempo to an electro/house beat. There was only one problem. Mike and I had to catch a train to Ho Chi Mihn city at 7:00 a.m.. We both knew there was only one thing to do, and it started with a bucket of Long Island Ice Tea. Romeo and Juliet grabbed at each other playfully, while I toasted the gypsy to a wonderful evening. The four of us danced on the beach flipping up fans of sand. Mike put his arm around me and we smiled, laughing about our argument the day before. We raised our glasses. Well, at least we can sleep on the train. I laughed and pushed him to dance. Tomorrow could wait, right now all I could think about was how awesome it was that they were playing Daft Punk.

 

 

 

Dedicated to Michael Peterson. Thank you.








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