Archive for August, 2013

Not Quite Through the Woods Just Yet

Just when I thought everything was okay after a string of unfortunate incidents — a bee sting, an infection and other tumults — I just got hit with something new. I developed a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotic I was taking for my infected finger. “Severe” means a sudden fever, chills, painful hives all over and my throat and airways swelling up — really, really not good. Like, Whoa, I have to get myself to the ER, stat not good. And just when I thought everything was going to be okay! Sigh. I got a crazy shot to stop the allergic reaction and an antihistamine to control the hives. No major insight here; I’ve wrung myself dry trying to make meaning from ordinary-grade human suffering. I accept it: I’m just a mess.

So I’m going to spend Labor Day weekend completely resting. No writing, no working, no planning, no blogging. Just resting and existing. I hope to spend some of it reading, actually: I just inhaled Karen Russell’s new book of short stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and I thought it was just wonderful, full of elegant prose and antic imagination. (Any story collection with a fable about a stable of horses that are actually the reincarnations of dead American presidents is marvelous in my eyes.) If you have any suggestions of books that have rocked your world recently, please let me know here, and danke! Have a beautiful one, and hopefully we will see each other on the other side. Until then, here are some extra pictures from my rather melancholy summer.

Dog Days, Feline Nights and Weekend Roadtrips

One thing that’s been nice about my busted-up finger is that I’ve been forced to chill out and relax a bit. Which is sad, of course — that it takes me getting hurt for me to slow down and savor the summer, especially in its last gasps. I’m sure that I’ll look back on this summer as one of the strange turning points of my life, though being in the middle (muddle?) of it, I’m not exactly sure where it’s turning towards. Am I spinning out of my axis and into a whole new plain? Spinning my wheels? As I said: I can’t tell. It’s been hard and challenging and anything but idyllic and summery for most of it — but I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I’m making it through the wilderness, to paraphrase that great philosopher Madonna, and I’m actually starting to feel really posi-core about life again, instead of waiting for yet another cosmic-level Major Arcana psychic earthquake to upend my world. I look ahead and there’s love, hearth and home, adventures and yet more love. It feels tested, but it feels true.

Slowing down has let me wring some enjoyment out of summer after all, since I can’t be “productive” and work much. There’s been lots of late summer night dinners, sitting outside on patios over cocktails and candles. And heirloom tomato salads with fresh mozzarella and just-picked basil I’ve lovingly grown on my own front porch since this spring. A nice Thursday night ritual of a lambic beer and a good book. Sitting reading by a pool, though with an eye out for errant bumblebees.

And yes, this weekend, I did manage a nice little roadtrip out to Madison, Wisconsin. Madison was one of the great playgrounds of my adolescence, growing up right in northern Illinois. As a teenager looking to get her kicks, you could go to Chicago, where we’d trawl record stores and buy Doc Martens and go to shows — and feel yourself part of the exciting hustle of the city, so different from my sleepy, staid hometown. Madison was a little different: it was a college town, smaller but friendlier, a tiny bit more rambunctious in its own way. Back then it was a weird blend of super-hippie and Midwestern good times — patchouli and beer. It seems a tiny less granola nowadays, bit Madison is one of the great college towns of the U.S., still — it’s supremely walkable and bike-friendly (there are cyclists everywhere), things are reasonably priced, and it has lots of cultural resources. The main stretch is State Street, which is lined with all kinds of shops: everything from hippie head shops to record stores to book stores to the Soap Opera, where they sell soaps and fragrances galore. (It’s where I pick up any Pacifica stuff I have.)


Look of the Week: What I Wore to My High School Reunion

So in between bee stings and busted fingertips, I went to my high school reunion. And…it was really weird in many ways, for obvious reasons that boil down to warmly awkward social interactions and existential evidence of the inexorable march of time. While it was fun in a surreal way and genuinely nice to reconnect with a lot of people, sometimes I felt like I wandered into an episode of “Arrested Development.” Maybe it was the florescent lighting all night, or all the new jack swing the DJ was playing. It was just weird! Weird but oddly fun. Maybe in the way getting laughing gas at the dentist can be, and you wake up with a hangover and are like “WTF?”

I actually wasn’t going to go but then, talking with an old high school friend of mine, changed my mind at the very last minute. (Like, there was literally half an hour left before the deadline to buy a ticket passed.) And of course I thought about what to wear. I have lots of sartorial refugees from my formerly semi-glamorous louche NYC lifestyle, really great dresses that are statement-y and bold. But I decided to go for comfort and wear leggings because I just wasn’t feeling fancypants about the occasion — I actually felt like, “What the hell did I get myself into?” But of course, they had to be fancy leggings; I couldn’t roll in as a complete slob. The nice thing about being in the land where fashion forgot is that no one cares that leather leggings are, like, so six seasons ago. I felt comfortable, and even better, I felt like myself, especially with a nice structured blazer. This outfit is actually a bit more minimalist than I usually am, but it felt stripped down and chill, which is very me at the core. (If anyone ever asks me to define my style, I will just say “chill.”)

In a way, it was nice to use clothing to create ease and peace instead of, say, proclaiming myself in some way. The temptation at occasions like these is always to prove yourself: prove that you won at life, that you’ve done well and succeeded. I sort of just felt, “Ah, well, this is who I am and where I’m at.” And that attitude and my relatively chill outfit let me relax and take in the occasion and really enjoy the good parts of it. Plus, the nice thing about those leggings is if you spill something on them, you can wipe it right off. See, I’m really a super-practical girl after all!

Thank You, Busted-Up Fingertip, For Teaching Me About Life

I sort of worry this is turning into a “minor personal injuries and lessons I’ve learned from them” blog. But well, that’s what life keeps giving me so…lemons, lemonade, la la la.

I’ve read before that pain is a great educator, but somehow the great vast universe of mysterious ways and means has seen fit to give me a crash course, perhaps. If I thought a bee sting was painful, well…let me just say that an infected fingertip is no joke. It’s been gruesome and stupidly traumatic, and I can really, really relate now to those Theon Greyjoy torture scenes in “Game of Thrones.” I haven’t felt pain so searing that it made me nearly faint in a very long time, and it is just no fun at all! There is no playlist or movie that can really mitigate the feeling of shock and nausea you get when a thunderbolt of pain blasts from your fingertip right into your arm and then your heart, making it palpitate as your temperature drops and you nearly kick the doctor because you just want him to stop hurting you! Which is what I almost did; the nurse holding me down said I was a lot stronger than I look.

The most immediate thing I realized is how much one little finger injury can really derail my daily life. The injury’s in my dominant hand, and the result is that I haven’t really been able to type, or even write by hand much. (My handwriting looks like I’d been electrocuted!) I couldn’t go riding because holding onto the reins was painful, and I couldn’t go running because the motion agitated my injury. I couldn’t even wash my hair properly or shift gears as well in my car! I couldn’t cook much because I couldn’t chop quite right. I couldn’t swim and had to avoid the hot tub and sauna. It was like I also lost all my coping mechanisms in one big swoop.