9.27.2012

The box, the comet, and the almighty airplane.

When I was in school in Portland we went to an exhibition at Reed College's Cooley Gallery with my 3D class. I wish to god I could remember who's show it was but for the life of me I can't. I do remember, however, that it was a very notable long-term Northwest artist, and I think I remember something about him having once been a professor at Reed. There was a mix of media in the show--paintings, photographs, different 3D stuff, and one very memorable, very interesting object.

In a nondescript corner, sitting on the floor was a solid wooden box about 10" cubed. It was completely plain save an electrical cord coming out from beneath it toward the rear that was plugged into a nearby outlet, and a single, round, steel button on the top beside a tiny typewriter-written notice that said, plainly and in all lowercase letters, "push button to turn on light". I pushed it. This was in 2000, and I've been thinking about that box now for 12 years.

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on takeoff in 1986. I was 5, and unlike most of my friends at the time at my small alternative elementary school in Wallingford that I went to for kindergarten, I was completely undeterred in my wish to one day enter the vast void of space. I was obsessed with space! It was crazy to me that there was somewhere even farther away than Africa, which, at the time, was the farthest thing I could think of.

A couple months later Halley's Comet made it's closest approach to earth for the first time in 76 years. I wish to this day I could tell you I remember this because I saw it, but I never did. I only even found out what it was the following December when I unwrapped a brightly illustrated book on our solar system that I plucked from beneath our Christmas tree. In it, it described the various attributes of all the planets, the moon, the sun--and then explained to me that I had just missed seeing Halley's Comet and that I would be eighty before it returned.

I. Was. Incensed.

I remember screaming at my mom wondering how this was possible. Had she heard of this? Yes? Then why the fuck didn't I get to see it? I cried. True story! I balled my eyes out, and imagined myself grey haired and old, seated in a rocking chair and gazing through a telescope. Then I cried again.

I've spoken to a lot of people my age who remember seeing Halley as a kid, and I still can't figure out exactly why I didn't. I've looked it up a few times since then, and the closest I can come to an answer is that the 1986 appearance of Halley was particularly inauspicious--that upon it's closest approach the sun would somehow prevent a clear view, and that Halley was, for a huge portion of it's visit with earth completely invisible in much of the northern hemisphere. This must be at least pretty close to the truth because I remember very clearly my mother telling me she was sorry I had missed it, and mentioned something offhanded about only being able to see it in Australia.

Australia? I didn't even know where that was. I asked, and was told it was even farther than Africa.

But come on, I remember thinking, people go into space for chrissakes and you can't take me somewhere that exists on the globe? So I asked why we hadn't gone. Why didn't we just go to Australia to see the comet? We could DIE before it comes back, just like poor Christa McAuliffe who once dreamed, like me, to see the globe of the earth all at once from a tiny window in a tin can in an infinite ocean of blackness.

"People can't just go to Australia. It's too far, too expensive. There's just no way." This is what my mom told me, thinking I would drop the subject.

Bullshit, I thought. I will go to Australia. I will go to Africa and then I will go FARTHER than Africa, and I will go to Australia if it's the last thing I do. I swear to god. And then my brow furrowed as a Myricks' might, and little 6 year old me learned, for the first time, what it felt like to have something to prove.

Cut to just over 13 years later and I'm staring at a box on the floor in Oregon having just pushed a small button on it's apex, and I'm realizing that that even if there was a light bulb inside you would never know it because this box bears no holes, no windows, no cracks--no way whatsoever for light to escape. For an instant, I was just staring at a box on the floor with a cord coming out of it that was completely hollow with a button on the top. And then the very next moment I was staring at a box with a functioning light bulb inside and wondered how you would ever know when to change it. A moment later it was empty again.

I can't help it, you guys. I'm curious. About everything. Once, when I was a kid, I burst into tears when I realized that it was impossible for me to ever see a real, live dinosaur, in the flesh. I cried once watching Star Trek when it occurred to me that it is set in a year when I would absolutely be dead. I hate that there are things that I don't know, and I hate it even more when I realize that I want to know something that I can never know.

You guys had dreams when you were kids, right? You wanted to be a fireman or have a baby or go to Yale or whatever. I toyed with a few things that maybe I would want to do when I grew up, but the only thing I was ever sure of was that I wanted to see everywhere there was to see. Everywhere.

Some days I wonder how I would have made the box--if it were me, would I have actually put a functioning light bulb inside? Just to do it? Yes. That would show everyone, I'll think, and then I wonder if it wouldn't be even more duplicitous to not put an actual bulb inside, but tell everyone that there was. Would people believe me if I told them that? What if I told them the truth, what then? Would they take my word that what I said was in the box actually was, or would they come to their own conclusions?

I have wondered what's inside that box at least a couple times a week since I saw it, but what really drives me crazy is wondering this: should I somehow get the opportunity, how long could I own that box and not destroy it to find out what's inside?

Or better yet, this: If I could ever somehow open it, would I be satisfied with its contents?

I'm scared, you guys. I'm scared it wont be what I've always thought it would be. I'm finally going; it's taken me 26 years but my plane lands in Melbourne on November 9th. But I've wanted this for so long that I've never, until now, just hours after having purchased a flight, taken the time to figure out exactly why I need to go so badly. Am I doing this for the right reasons?

When I was 17 some girlfriends and I crashed a party at a mansion in Medina, which, if you are unfamiliar, is Bill Gates' neighborhood. There were all these dudes there from all over the world, and once they found out about our relative youth, they all began to take turns trying to impart some sagely advice on us. One guy from Amsterdam told me, "Don't ever buy a motorcycle if you have something to prove."

Damn, I thought, I hella wanna go to Amsterdam.

--M

9.24.2012

There are no more Lloyd Dobblers.

We've spent our lives looking for him. Haven't we? And you know who I'm talking about: that troubled bad boy you think you can reform, that jock with one pair of tennis shoes, that tall, handsome, directionless nomad that will love you unconditionally and without consequence.

But there are no more Lloyd Dobblers.

We tell ourselves it's because they've all been snatched up! We're in our thirties and forties now, and we eat tapas with our girlfriends and bitch about how all the women who are smarter and prettier than us have already stolen the last few leaving us to wade through a pool of Ferris Beulers and Zach Morrisons. But the truth is far more devastating: we don't recognize them when we encounter them because we don't actually want them.

Think about it. Who would Lloyd Dobbler really have grown to become? Let me ask this question another way: how many successful professional kick boxers do you know? Have you ever met even one? I mean, if you need another reason to end this fruitless search for a fictional character, it's right there in the movie: it wont work because you'll be "off in an international think tank, and he'll be kicking punching bags."

There are Lloyd Dobblers all over the place. You can easily have your pick of them. They're bagging your groceries at Trader Joe's and typing on their Macbooks at the coffee shop and they're lounging around your girlfriends' kitchens because all their friends are still girls. They're those pale-faced bartenders with a dog-eared paperback in their pocket. They're watering your plants when you're out of town. Fuck, they're even laying in your fucking bed with you watching Say Anything on your projector. Or laptop. Or...I mean, this is hypothetical.

What I mean is that they line the streets waiting for our approval, but as we've aged we've grown tired of these indecisive jocks, and we say we want them to follow us all over the country and the world and then we belittle them when they do, wondering why they have nothing better to do than to board planes for us. There are, for us, no more Lloyd Dobblers because we refuse to take them seriously, and yet we seriously refuse to let go of this unrealistic fictional ideal.

And it's not just Lloyd Dobbler, there are more. Chuck Klosterman mused that any woman born between 1964 and 1979 would never be as in love with him as she was with the very fictional Lloyd, so where does that leave women like me born just a hair past Klostermans [arbitrary] deadline?

We want A.J. We want the slight cardigan wearing illustrator who kept his love for Liv Tyler a secret for years while punching the clock at a New Jersey independent record store.

We want Troy Dyer, guitar wielding, bedroom-eyed texan who will fuck us and leave us only to return to apologize.

We want Sam Anders! We want that black leather jacket wearing best friend who climbs in our bedroom window rather than utilizing the front door. And hey, maybe we could get a pet caiman, too.

But don't you think it's weird that we don't spend any time at all wanting to emulate Diane Court or Clarissa Darling, rather just co-opt their love interests?

What happened to to the girls born and bred in the 80's who wanted to be Punky Brewster and Mary Lou Retton rather than fuck Andy Clark?

Real men come in all shapes and sizes. They are tall and short and whimsical and complicated and everything in the spectrum in between those. They are men, not characters, and if they're smart they will leave us in a speed relative to which we put them in boxes. They deserve better than these checklists that we've created from years of watching fake men and boys on TV and in movies, they need our gentle hearts just as much as we want them to be careful with our feelings. Some days they are driven and some days they are defeated, but it's time we re-evaluate who we deem worthy of our love, and time to start honestly deciding who it is we want.

The least we can do, I suppose, is make sure that they're real.
--M

9.16.2012

Post 500: This is what it feels like to fall in love.

He has this thing where he can walk through any doorway. This may seem on the surface like a feat you are similarly capable of, but you may never have lived in a city that boasts more doormen then doctors, where lists define who gets to walk through and who does not.

"Just act like you're so obviously on that list that no one needs to bother checking." 

I cannot tell you how many times I've let him walk into some club or backstage somewhere ahead of me only to be greeted by the thick arm of a bouncer. Thank god I'm a very good talker. I always have to start with something like: "But, my friend Rob is already inside." 

Like me, Rob loves to travel. About eight years ago he sent me an email from Chicago that read: "Greetings from Chicago! It is like the illest place to coast to coast to midland toast! Bling bling!" In case you were wondering, that is a direct quote. 

We call each other every single year on our birthdays. Without fail. 

His is literally the only phone number I know by heart, and he never changes it.

My best stories all include him. 

One day Rob picked me up at work on Alton in his teal Jetta, and as I climbed in the back seat I was met with the outstretched hand of the hottest racially ambiguous Portlander I've ever seen seated next to me. We spent a half hour ride as merely 'Matt' and 'Miranda', intermittently trading stories of The Pearl District and the new Albina while I spent the bulk of the journey chatting with Rob. A few hours later I found out it was M. Ward. 

Oh! And on his thirtieth birthday Rob and I were on Washington getting tattoos when two girls walked in. The short version is that I told one of them that my nickname was Milkshake because of a Louis IVX song, and watched her face suddenly contort into a frown with a matching half-dropped jaw. That girl was fucking Kelis, and Rob still laughs at me for this.

Actually we were getting matching tattoos that day--we each got three hebrew characters of our choosing on our arms. I had somehow forgotten that we both had these until he stretched his arm to display them day before yesterday while I was seated on his lap at a gay club here in the Theatre District.

One time Rob and I saw Har Mar Superstar at the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell, and when someone called the cops because he had whipped out his penis onstage, he chose, rather than to run away, to retreat to his dressing room and change into jeans and a hoodie from his former flamboyant costume. This totally worked, Clark Kent style, until he walked past Rob and I and in my drunken stupor I yelled, "Sean! There you are, what the fuck." He donned his sunglasses, pointed a stern finger at the two of us, and paused briefly before he said, "I was warned you two were trouble."

When Har Mar Superstar tells you that you're trouble, you probably are. Not that we need to be told that; we're pretty clear about ourselves in this regard.

We are trouble, and to prove it we each bear two circular scars on the underside of our forearms from the business end of the same cigarette, this being the result of a [very] drunken game we played once at a weekly event we used to call Pub Night. Game probably isn't the right word for an activity that renders you permanently scarred, but people have done worse. And plus: we do what we want, as we are so fond of saying.

And Jesus Christ we do! We do exactly what we want, all the time, especially when we're together. 

"That guy's ass is so hot. Grab it." Rob whispered this into my ear last Friday night, again while I was seated on his lap. I looked, saw that it was indeed a very fine ass, and then reached over to grab myself a handful. When a young twenty-something twink turned to me astonished, I just told him that I couldn't help myself. That it wasn't my fault he had a nice ass. 

Rob and I were instant friends. Back in Miami, ten years ago now, we worked together; made coffee together in bright green aprons and made friends of our coworkers and customers. We wore all black and hated tourists. Wed drank beers by our pools and rode bikes and drove shitty cars all over South Beach. We snuck flasks into clubs. We ate bagels and called each other in the morning to wake each other up for work. We puked on our birthdays. We fought.

Only a couple of times, mind you, but we loved each other so much that the couple of times that we have fought, it has been so vehement and vociferous and divisive that all of our mutual friends had to get together to make us work it out. I forget now what we fought about.

One Pub Night Rob and I invented a game called Pitcher Chug. It's pretty simple, you just buy two pitchers of beer and race to see who can drink it the fastest while everyone else chants "PIT-CHER-CHUG! PIT-CHER-CHUG!" over and over. I was already drunk by the time we started playing, but if I remember correctly I won once and lost once that night. Later on I found out there are no real winners of Pitcher Chug.

Rob and I spent almost every day together for over two years. We scheduled our shifts together and we hung out every night. We cooked dinners and bought burgers and ordered sushi and drank pitchers and pitchers and pitchers of beer. We were inseparable, and I can't separate him from my memories of Miami, and last Friday was his last night in town, and we found ourselves drunk and sharing a seat at a midtown club, waxing nostalgic.

"Haven't you ever just fallen in love with someone as soon as you met them? I mean, you have, right? Because I knew you were for me as soon as I saw you, and you're my Miranda. You're mine. And I miss you, and all those days when we were drunk and broke and laughing all the time. And every time I see you I have to leave again, and it's not fair. It's just not fair."

I held his face in my hands and told him he was my perfect friend, and I told him he was gonna make me cry if he continued. What I didn't tell him was that I had already balled my eyes out earlier that day, and that I do that every time he's about to leave again, and this, this goddamn it, if love feels like this then I've already had enough because I've already been so many places that my whole life feels like I'm always saying goodbye.

Now Rob travels for a living, so when we were finally too drunk to stand much longer we caught a cab back to his hotel. We took the slight elevator to the 39th floor, into his room, and stripped down to our skivvies and ate take-out in bed. 

Back in Miami my back door was always unlocked, and Rob would come over in the morning and park his bike in my kitchen. He'd find me sleeping on my couch, and wake me with a bag of doughnuts and tall cups of coffee. Then during the day we'd go to work together. At night I would drape his slight frame about my shoulders and carry him home, when necessary, then cut through the parking lot of the convention center back to my own apartment to fall asleep on my couch.

The morning I left Miami we went to a very early morning breakfast, and right before I made the long drive to Fort Lauderdale to catch my flight to Seattle I dropped him off in front of his building, gave him my M bracelet to remember me by, and wrapped my arms around his neck.

"Don't say goddbye," he told me, "We'll see each other later. We'll just see each other later."

I'll spare you the retelling of our parting Saturday morning on a SoHo streetcorner, but I will tell you that in this, the meantime, I will miss his face like a heartbeat.

This is what it feels like to fall in love. 
--M

9.13.2012

The Purge, an Epilogue: "Seattle was another girl who left her mark upon the map."

I own so many fucking things.

I own, right now, more things than I have ever owned in my entire life. Not collectively mind you, but I have never owned as much stuff at one time than I do right now.

Most people are fine with this I think, have no problem surrounding themselves with things. Now, I'm certainly not excluded from this, I like things. I like stuff a lot. But then again I'm the girl that one day donned her Chuck Taylors, threw a camera, a sketchbook, and some underwear in a backpack and left my childhood home for good. I own a bunch of stuff, yes, but I've walked from ten times that amount of stuff since I was 16.

It's weird, because I even said it in The Purge Part 10, how I am happier collecting places than things, but I didn't hear it. Not immediately. That took a while.

I've been thinking for weeks about what I am and am not getting rid of, and sometime in the last few days it changed from parting with few things to almost everything. It was like I pulled a trigger, and once I could wrap my head around parting with the first few items, my will to keep everything else just fell away. But it's better like this. Easier. In the next few weeks I'll revert to someone not unlike 16 year old me; I'll be throwing some panties in a backpack and hoping for clear skies, unburdened by a two bedroom apartment full of things that I have, for the last few years, let define me.

I think I've finally picked a departure date. November 6th, a week after my 32nd birthday.

And this day is what I want more than anything.

--M

p.s.--You can see why it was so hard for me to get rid of these things. They're beautiful, and even though I'm glad for what it will bring me, I'll be sad to see them go.