Great turn out for Kia’s fundraiser last night. Many people are sending positive thoughts her way. Which cannot hurt.
Kia, this one is for you. Here’s hoping you have green lights all the way.
One of the first people I met when I began writing for CityBeat is my friend, Kia. I suppose she is more of an acquaintance, since she moved away shortly thereafter to find herself and experience the world (thought not until after we’d had a chance to share a few cocktails and collaborate on a small project). I would say it was sort of an Eat, Pray, Love kind of thing but without all the divorce and schmaltz and pretentiousness and whatnot. She was young and she just had to go and I admired her so much for doing what I was never brave enough to do at her age.
Despite our the brevity of our in-person friendship, I felt an instant affection for her when we were introduced. She is wise beyond her years, as they say; an old soul. She is beautiful, warm, funny, kind, creative, insightful and smart. All of which add up to this: The woman can write. I mean, She Can Write Like A Mo Fo.
Isn’t she lovely? She just looks like a gifted writer.
Recently Kia’s life took an unexpected detour and she has found herself battling Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. As Dorothy Parker would say—and as I wrote to Kia in an email a few days ago—this is terrible. It’s fancy terrible. It’s terrible with raisins in it. I have to admit, I’m really angry about it.
But if Kia is angry, she hasn’t let on. She has chosen positivity to carry her through this unplanned-for journey. And she’s also chosen to share it at CaliforniCancerCation in a most eloquent, humorous, honest, grace-filled and, yes, a tad-bit-heartbreaking way, which is sort of her way. I think this may just culminate in her first book. I encourage you to check her out, starting with this post. It’s a killer.
And if you feel so inclined, if you have just a moment, please send a few positive thoughts or prayers or mantras or whatever it is you do, out into the universe for her.
“You are the friend of a lifetime,” she said to me as we walked back down the 1700 steps toward Positano. She was ahead of me but twisted back a bit as she spoke, her body still moving carefully forward, her words floating in the air behind her like the tail of a kite. I was a little stunned by the compliment and thought to myself, Girl, it’s a long way down from here. I sure hope I don’t disappoint you someday.
What I didn’t say in response is that you get what you give.
What I didn’t say in response is that I am just a reflection of her.
Tomorrow morning, while I sleep, my friend Rich is going to kiss his wife goodbye. I imagine he will linger a little longer than usual at the bedside of his (hopefully) sleeping toddler son and the crib of his six month old daughter. Then he will catch a flight to North Carolina where he will spend an uncertain amount of time preparing for a deployment of an uncertain amount of time. My friend Rich is going to Afghanistan.
On Saturday night, Rich and his wife, Diana, had a few friends to their house to say good-bye…
…and while Rich isn’t a hippie, I have to admit I was a little stunned by the new, shorter haircut. I couldn’t help but run my fingers over it when he stepped into the hall to greet me. When I say he’s not a hippie, I mean that only in the physical sense because, really, he’s a hippie with a crew cut. The man ran naked on election night and what could possibly be more hippie than running naked through the streets on election night?
You see, Rich is a tree-hugger extraordinaire. I used to bump into him at the farmer’s market on occasion (before he was hypnotized into thinking the ‘burbs were better than the ‘urbs) and he was always weighted down with organic fruits and veggies. Diana finally put him on a budget because, untethered, he would blow their monthly grocery allowance in one evening. The man has no self control when it comes to being green: He drives a Prius, and he loveslovesLOVES Al Gore. I think he might just have sex with Al Gore if doing so wouldn’t get him kicked out of the Navy. Then again…
Rich is a uniquely special kind of person with an unusual blend of wit and naiveté. He has an unassuming innocence that I always find refreshing and sweet. His hugs are strong and generous and sincere. His eyes shimmer when he smiles and he throws his head back when he laughs, face open to the sky. Rich is wholesome and endlessly positive. All of his sentences end with his voice in an upward lilt. He is the nicest—absolute nicest—guy I have ever met. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who feels this way about him. And yet.
He has a mischievous streak that makes him irresistibly endearing. Last summer, he blew my mind when he launched into a spontaneous version of The Aristocrats. I’d never heard Rich say the word “fuck,” much less “pussy.” Certainly, I’d never heard him say those kinds of words as they pertain to a grandmother and a donkey, but use them he did. And those are the G-rated words he used in his storytelling! Rich was a poet that night, a weaver of tales, a builder of imagery. He was very, very naughty and, well…I do like my friends a little naughty.
He and our friend Steve riffed off one another seamlessly, making the story progressively more absurd and obscene until the group of us listening was practically drooling over ourselves with laughter. Without question, it was the raunchiest joke I’ve ever heard in my life.
Despite intentions, Rich didn’t get around to the joke the other night. The evening was filled with laughter but there were also some tears. Mine came in private moments while reading emails he’d sent home during a deployment to Iraq in 2004.
Diana had placed all of her memorabilia–the scrapbooks, the emails, the pocket guides–out on their coffee table for us to browse. “It’s a different world,” he wrote. “Nothing I really trained for.”
It was all personal, much of it was dark and I feel honored to be included in their lives in such an intimate way. But it was heart-wrenching, to be honest, to have a glimpse into this other side of Rich. It made me worry for him.
This is a new experience for me: I’ve never known anyone in the military. I’ve never gone to a send off. I’ve never had to say such a serious goodbye. Even while they worked to put me and our other friends at ease, I felt awkward at moments and wasn’t really sure what to say to Rich or to Diana. My hope, of course, is the same as I suppose everyone else’s hope is when they send someone they love off to war: That they stay safe, that what they see doesn’t scar them too deeply and that they come home to those of us who love them as quickly as possible.
“The past is the past for a reason,” Sam said when I became defensive about my new weapon of mass procrastination. At this point in our ongoing Is Facebook Valuable or Just Ridiculous debate, I was ashamed enough to hide my activity by inconspicuously slamming my laptop shut each time he entered the room. Lacking a solid defense of the social-networking website—and having decided that my Internet presence was plentiful enough—I deactivated my account shortly after I joined. I then mounted my high horse and began a smear campaign.
I called it Fakebook and, like Madeline did to the tiger at the zoo, I pooh-poohed anyone who admitted involvement. I turned my nose up at cyber snow globes and snowball fights and good karma. I guffawed at poking—I generally never guffaw at poking—and rolled my eyes when certain ladies of book club tried to pass it off as a work tool. Riiight. More like a pretend-to-work tool. I sniffed at the sad habit of collecting ex-lovers, those people who shine brightest as a memory but instead come to occupy real estate as smiling thumbnails, babies wrapped in their arms. See how happy he is that he didn’t choose me? I’m so happy for him!
But when you point the finger, there are always three others pointing back at you. Did Jesus say that? Or was it Hippocrates? Either way, one could be blind from birth and still see where this is going. It’s a good thing I’m ravenous for humble pie.
Wishing to track down a certain someone (not an ex), I answered the siren call of Facebook beckoning me back. In no time, I became practically Pavlovian upon seeing “1 friend request” up in the right-hand corner. The anticipation was like Christmas morning each time, even if my growing group of friends consisted mainly of people with whom I work or with whom I drink after work or with whom I drink while bemoaning the trials of parenting and work.
Things were going swimmingly until I logged on one day to find my friend tally was down by one. Some so-called friend hovered their cursor and—pfffft!—excised me. I was instantly offended. How rude! I thought. How could they? And then, What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me? And finally, I don’t even know which friend de-friended me. I’m pretty sure I moved through all five stages of grief on the day my friend count dropped from 67 to 66.
Perhaps I’m not only a closeted Facebook hater, but a narcissist as well: Researchers at the University of Georgia have found a correlation between egomania and the slickness of the profile picture, the number of friends and the number of wall posts an individual has. Certainly, double-digit friend count is not winning me any popularity contests, and there are only a few scribbles my wall. But I’m also not posting any photos of myself snapped after a night of sake-induced vomiting, either. Call me solipsistic, but I am not putting that photo up.
The sting of rejection faded and while I haven’t found the person I reactivated for, I’ve been gathering friends from present and past. Some of my Flickr peeps and blog readers have followed me to Facebook, and my self-declared “#1 Fan” sought me out there, too (blush). I even feel semi-important to my writer idols (Mr. Morford, is that a banana in your pocket or…). And while I find the application useful in a (casual) professional capacity, I’ve derived many-a smile from forehead-slapping connections with people who disappeared from my life because—that’s life.
I found two girlfriends with whom I spent a holiday season wrapping gifts at a department store. At 18, we spent most of our money on deeply discounted clothes and cheap beer, memories dormant until I saw their dazzling faces on my computer. Friends from the wild summer of ’89 are doing their thing, collectively and individually, and it’s been fun to reminisce. Sneaking into the Salt Lake Country Club for a midnight skinny-dip was a fleshy blur (I think cops were involved at the end), and the fact that I now reside amongst college woo-hooers is obvious karma for the endless party on Emerson Avenue.
But all in all—and here’s where I alienate any potential friends—there’s a Chevy Chase Grand Canyon vibe to the rekindling. Like the scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation, when the Griswalds peer out across the desert expanse for all of four bouncing seconds before bolting, on Facebook you do the 20-year recap and then—?
Opinions about Facebook abound, and mine are still mixed because, let’s face it, it’s weird! I know someone who was friend requested by a dead woman. Someone else I know—in real life—read and re-read a comment by one of his friends who up and died mere hours after updating his status, his static page offering the eerie possibility of future posts. And no matter how we resist it, those six narrow degrees of separation may inevitably lead us back to the proverbial Mr. Big, who is in the past because that is the only place he belongs. No happy profile picture will ever make you feel better about that ending.
As my best friend, a social-networking holdout said, voicing an anti-Facebook smugness more pointed than mine, “If you’re not in my life now, why would I want you to be there on Facebook? I already put you out once.” The Value Debate rages on with her input. But she’ll see soon enough: I learned during book club that she finally caved to the siren’s cry, too. After hearing familiar deactivation threats, I told her I’d better receive a friend request by 3 p.m. the next day or It. Is. Over.
I logged in 30 minutes later and, what do you know, but I saw those blue words that have me hooked: “1 friend request.”
(As published today in San Diego CityBeat.)
My Godmother—The Gaydi Project’s dearest friend from college—was visiting her sons in Seattle over the holidays. She stayed at my mother’s place which was fortunate for us, given that she’s a chef. This meant Sam, Ruby and I didn’t have to go the usual route of subsisting on Red Vines, red wine and weed. Far from going hungry, this year we feasted gourmet-style until our pants were uncomfortably tight. At least mine were until I secretly unbuttoned them beneath my long sweater and then went back for second helpings.
There was a lot of history in that candle-lit apartment, where two families—both headed by women—gathered on Christmas night with four grown children, one grandchild, a husband, a girlfriend, several members of the chosen family and so many intersecting stories alongside them. Memories were shared and re-shared and at one point, hysterically re-invented. Wine was consumed. Laughter predominated. There was an over-abundance of love, a richness that can’t be bought and an open recognition of how lucky we all are to have what we do between us. I may not have had the most traditional or even the happiest upbringing, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
As is the ritual in my Godmother’s home, she selected and read a short passage that was particularly meaningful to her and surely as it was intended, perfectly captured the sentiment overflowing in my mother’s apartment that night. It’s posted below.
I hope everyone spent their holiday season surrounded by people they love the deepest and that 2009 brings more of that for all of us.
(Excerpted from The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard)
“Just as few men love their wives so much as their daughters, few, if any, women love anyone so much as their children. Parents love adopted babies with the same passion. Often she missed infant Petie now gone—his random gapes, his bizarre buttocks. How besotted they gazed at each other nose-on-nose. He fit her arms as if they two had invented how to carry a baby. While she walked, he patted her shoulder in time with her steps. If he stopped patting, she stopped walking. If his pats speeded up, she stepped lively. He was driving her; they both died laughing.
Later, she washed his filthy hair and admired his vertebrae, jiggled his head in toweling that smelled like his steam. She needled splinters and sandspur spines from his insteps as long as he let her. Every one of those Peties and Petes was gone. That is who she missed, those boys overwritten. Their replacement now sat at the green table wiping crumbs onto his plate. Pete’s friends came by to get him for a party no one wanted to attend without him. He was good-natured; could he also be the life of the party? Did she ever know a noisy fisherman?”
So, all thirty-one of you, my dedicated fans, might have noticed the construction going on around here. Keep your hardhats on when you lurk around: Things are far from complete and the hammers will be pounding for a bit longer. Your safety is my utmost concern and I wouldn’t want anyone to have a 2×4 fall on their head or anything. I’m all about my readers.
I do beg for your patience if things aren’t so pretty for a while, if pics are slow to upload or if navigating isn’t exactly intuitive. Of course, I won’t blame you if you move on to something more exciting. And regular. I know I’ve been less than stellar in my posting. But I should have everything cleaned up and worthy of visitors soon enough and I will (hopefully) feel inspired to dig into all of my parental, wifely, womanly angst to give you something worth reading. If that doesn’t work then I may just resort to more nude pictures of myself.
In the meantime, let me tell you about my annual Girls Only vacay that transpired this past weekend and which began in a taxi driven by what had to be the only black Republican cabbie in the universe. I swear. I tried to blow it off. I bit my tongue for as much of his diatribe as I possibly could until a final exasperated guffaw fell from my mouth as I fumbled to exit his car as quickly as I could. I do believe Rachel laughed out loud at him toward the end. But only in the most respectful of ways; she’s solid like that.
Rachel and I decided to try something a little different this year and abandoned our hearts in San Francisco for a flirt with Santa Barbara. Does anyone have alarm bells going off in their heads after reading that sentence? Yes? Well you’re not imagining things. There are bells ringing. Five-alarm-type bells, to be precise. But I’ll get to that in a sec.
My ever so capable partner in crime packed us a lovely picnic of hummus and carrots, crackers and aged cheese and wine and a deck of cards. All I had to do was show up. I swear, she enables the sloth in me and for that, I’m grateful. We chatted, we read. We got hungry. We ate and we drank and then, Rachel repeatedly thumped me in round after round of Gin.
It was demoralizing. I like to win. Losing sucks. But she packed the perfect lunch and took care of all the reservatioins so what could I do but be graceful about it? I only kicked her under the table twice. Other than that, I smiled and pretended I was cool with being a loser.
We arrived in Santa Barbara with a couple hours of daylight left for us to stroll and then drink more wine in a street-side cafe. The light was brilliant, everything seemed to be glowing. We were getting in the groove of being free of obligation for three days.
At my urging, Rachel bought a dress that she’ll be wearing until she’s 90. Or until she’s dead, whichever comes first (hopefully the former). It’s so timeless and elegant that she can be buried in it and be a fashion forward corpse. She’ll be thanking me from the grave, I tell you. I don’t have a picture of her in it but I do have a picture of the sky as the sun was setting and it was only slightly more fantastic than our day.
Everything was perfect.
And then… there… was… this:
Dang! We knew our time in Santa Barbara was limited. We lost power in the hotel room and in fact, the only places in town that had power were a RadioShack–where we purchased a flashlight–and a restaurant aptly called Ruby’s. We brushed the ash off ourselves and settled in for dinner and margaritas while formulating Plan B. We talked about catching a flight to San Francisco but we’d packed all wrong for November weather up north. We talked about Disneyland but decided we’d rather spend a weekend sealing all the grout in my house.
We are not part of the Mickey Mouse Club.
Because Rachel had packed every last necessity except particulate masks, we headed back to San Diego the next morning, left our luggage at the train station and headed directly to the Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale. What else do you do when the world is on fire and the economy is collapsing? We had an early dinner at Café Chloe where we were chatted up by a Republican in granola clothing. I never knew Tevas could be so very misleading. The guy had a haircut exactly like my Javier did in “No Country For Old Men” but he was no Javier under that mop. Indeed, he was a bookend to our friendly neighborhood cabbie. The two of them can cry in their soup for the next four years as far as I’m concerned, because this year? My team won!
Not ready to return to reality, we checked into the darling, wonderful Hotel Sofia on Broadway (used to be the Pickwick and has been renovated, for any locals looking for a getaway). Then we fetched our bags, showered and went out on the town as if we were tourists. We settled for some blues because this town is more pathetic than supporters of Proposition 8 when it comes to live jazz. Still, we had a great time and got to do a little bit of swing dancing. Certainly the highlight of the evening but a dangerous one since we’d both gone commando beneath our dresses and the guy twirling us around really liked to dip. Fortunately, we’re old enough to be properly cautious. Unlike the beautiful girl in the purple shift lying on the floor of the bar.
In the morning, we had breakfast out, revisited the half-yearly sale (since we couldn’t do it all in one stop), then decided to call it a vacation, one day early. I got a nasty head cold later that day and my Ray-Ray got some gastrointestinal thing that I won’t talk about since I don’t discuss such things. Even with her. I simply called to check in on her, made sure she was okay, wished her well and told her I’d go to the ends of the scorched earth with her. Even if it means Disneyland is somewhere in our gallavanting future.