…Just to pass the time away…

We pulled off the highway in the dark high dessert sometime close to 9pm into a dirt lot that has a stone edifice in the middle with a plaque on it. He still doesn’t tell me what we’re doing here. I figure he has to pee. Then he turns around and talks to the back seat:

” Hey kid, you wanna see some stars?”

“Yesstttthhh” with a deep nod. He has been awake for a while, “reading” books and eating snacks.

We must be miles and miles from any large city, because the night sky is doing that thing that makes it look like there might be more stars than emptiness. Mr. Eagle scout knows all the constellations of course, and the kid loves to point at things so it’s a great little time we are having – pointing up at the little pearly specs and naming them – telling him the old stories behind all the shapes. The warm wind blowing our voices away. How can it all be so fragile and so magnificent? How is this one blue and that one yellow? What is the damn meaning behind all this?

Nothing or everything. We are nothing or we are everything. We are either the center of the creators attention, we have paths, purpose, and a personal relationship with a great magnanimous and omnipotent being OR, OR, OR…. we are a product of happenstance. Here by the shear willpower of our ancestors to keep producing. Evolution shaved and wittled us down into these upright animals that will find any way to make our own existence more leisurely.  I am only here because my stout celtic ancestors were smarter, meaner, luckier and hornier than all the other families in the area.

A product of luck and carbon molecules.  I prefer this theory because it makes me feel more interesting and yet, more like nothing, so much less to worry about when you know that your life is really nothing at all. You aren’t “straying” or “obeying” or having to ask some one else for guidance. Because It doesn’t matter. We are smallest specs of nothingness gone in a blip. It’s just a ride. And so far, I really enjoy this little ride. If I need guidance I just ask myself. And myself is a great guide. I have a very sweet little ride right here with this Eagle scout and this baby monkey. I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s. The best we can work towards is feeling happy everyday in little ways, and everything I have is of my own making. Nothing is bequeathed me by the grace of someone else. Everything is either luck, choice or hard work. I like that but it’s surely not a philosophy for everyone, it’s just mine. I always get like this when I look at stars.

We are made up of the same dust that’s in that star and that cactus, and that stone, and that plaque that says something about these dudes that came out of the Mojave on horseback at this very spot. They spent a whole year traveling together, looking for that great golden California promise, and parted ways. That’s it. Just a couple of dudes, younger than me,  that said goodbye to each other right here after going on a trip together. Now there is a little river stone chimney here that smells like urine. What strange, strange creatures.

I can hear the power lines before I see them. Almost directly above us, buzzing. Carrying light back and forth across empty miles of nothingness and sage. Power – to have power, to need power – the human condition is –

“Hey, peanut or plain M&Ms…?”

“Um, shit…plain.”

We pile back in the car and sing “I’ve been working on the railroad” for the millionth time until the kid falls asleep. Then we can enjoy our M&Ms without sharing and listen to LotR on tape. I don’t need to say it, but I will, life is good.

Advertisements

Fresh Dungeeees.

Running down the driveway to the big house with a bottle of beer and a mason jar, through warm rain that steams up off the asphalt as soon as it hits. Purple flashes stain the groaning slate clouds, and I am hoping he isn’t still holding the hedger. Father and son have taken cover on the back porch beneath the modern greek stucco pillars. We stand looking out over the sound, gracing the seats of the ornate outdoor furniture with our torn shorts and grubby gloves. We sip the beer and watch the electric purple veins strike like long vengeful fingernails the wooded islands across the water.

He kisses my damp shoulder, calls me beautiful, and says thanks for the beer. We sit for a while until it clears, watching the ferry boats and cruise ships drift  by;  watching the water steam up off the warm grass and pavement; the sun slicing through again.

This weekend we are headed across the water to places with exotic, and mysterious names; distant watery towns tucked into trees, hanging above docks, curled in on the down of soft pastures. We take the car ferry from Seattle. The weather has cleared and the sun cooks Seattle’s sensitive belly. The locals are all but naked in anticipation of the summer weather. 80 degrees with only a 20 percent chance of rain, to me, it feels like October.  A wave of salt and cedar slough off the looming coasts of small and little-known islands, soaked in exhaust and algea. I try to tamp my excitement, he points to shadow-green strips of land with roofs and decks poking out and says “Indianola, Kingston, Suquamish, Manitou, Vashon, Bainbridge….”   I butcher the old and poetic names with niaeve humor.. “Succotash, Indiana, Manatee…” These are not the familiar Spanish arrangements of my upbringing, but an older and unnatural tounge. I can’t keep strait which are Islands, and which are peninsulas. I wonder about the cold-boned and broad faced people from here. The trickling families, who stays and who leaves, how they get old and petrified with salt and rain like boney logs on the rocky shore.

Once off the ferry and out of town the roads become thin strips of pavement between walls of endless trees. Everything is cut out of the forest with the smallest possible footprint; the trees loom, as if glowering over the gas stations, corner stores, two lane highways, and bright little farm houses tucked apologetically in damp meadows.

His grandparents live in a little wooden house, on a clear-cut patch of grass at the edge of a cliff. “That over there, is Miller Bay…” Grandpa says, ” There is Suquamish, these guys here are getting busted for crabbing without a license… look at them… yeah… busted.” He points down at a little yellowing boat, ensconced in buoys, being approached by a police boat with it’s sirens on. The red muddy tide curls along the shore.

“The crabbin’ been good this year,” He says, “I’m getting some salmon this week… ’bout fifty pounds… gonna smoke it.” This leads to a debate between merits of Sock-eye versus King Salmon (subcategories I only know from menus) settling on the merits of the King, it having more fat, therefore better for smoking. This is all sounding like a foreign language to me, a girl from a patterned stucco suburb of Los Angeles. We fished once a year, at a penny-sized man-made pond  called “Trout-Dale”. The thin dead trout would then live in our freezer in plastic bags until mom threw them out.

Grandpa is buying the salmon from someone “in the tribe“, who has the right to fish the coveted breed. The tribe is a presence around here, a frontage road running along side the highway, a sub culture. There is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ with a oval of impasse, relationships of convenience. They  mention “the Rez” in the same way that I would mention  “Van Nuys” or “Riverside.”

We wrap up our visit with cups of tea and sugar-free cookies. More driving through trees, across bridges, through towns, more naming of  beaches – thin and pebbly. The town of Indianola is absurdly charming. There is a stop sign, and a little red building called the Country Mart. Out front – like he was painted in by Norman Rockwell – a little toe-head boy shares an ice-cream cone with a curly-haired dog. We pick up a 12 pack of Rainer (that’s Washington-Speak for Pabst-Blue-Ribbon) and walk down to the dock, where teenage girls lean against the wooden railings talking to thin boys with fishing rods.

We are picked up by a shirt-less crew of Rob’s good friends, in a little speed boat and I work quickly to impress them with my wit, trying hard not to seem too “Californian.” I  hide my squeamishness when they pull up glittering cages of brown spidery Dungeness Crabs, clinging in panic, snapping their prehistoric claws with indignant rage. They seem so benign in the big glass aquariums at Pavillions, I can’t fathom how we are going to eat these things, they look like dinosaurs. We zip around to a few different buoys drinking beer, pulling up baskets of angry crabs.  The sun lighting us up, burning up the corners of our eyes, and drying yesterday’s storm.

In the  grassy yard of a little house, just up the road from the dock, we set up the BBQ and the crabs are boiled on the grass in an old beer keg with the top cut off, the screaming yellow foam brings a few curious neighbors, who ask about “our pull.” They eye me warily, they ask me where I’m from, and with proud grins, inform me with sweeping arms, that I am lucky to be here. I agree as I slice vegetables on a picnic table, help a little girl spell everyone’s name with a crayon, and take shots of  whiskey. I watch and learn how to crack crab on a pile of newspapers.  Finally the sun sets around 9:30, the fire-pit is lit, and we drunkenly eat crab salad and grilled vegetables. Someone turns on “The Talking Heads” which spawns a sing-a-long. The kids fall asleep in the master bedroom, and I am the only one with a sweater on, as it has fallen below 70 degrees now. The air, the still and shore-clean air holds the sweatness of the grass, and the fresh crab, and the crackling fire-pit. I want to bottle this smell and keep it on a shelf, and whenever I am feeling lonely or sad, I could just open the little bottle and sniff the cap, go back in time to an unfamiliar homeyness I felt, right then.

Rob’s Crab Ceviche/ Salad:

Ingredients: 

15 Fresh Dungeness Crab boiled in an old beer keg

1 head of crunchy purple lettuce

1 head of Garlic

1 jalapeno

1 thai pepper

1 purple onion

2-3 heads of fresh uncooked corn

1 can black beans

limes, lemons, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and hot-sauce to taste

Directions: Crack crab on sheets of Newspaper; chop all vegetables; put everything in the same bowl. Enjoy with beer, and friends, on tortilla chips or with a fork. 

I know there are hot dogs in heaven.

I am ten years old, visiting grandma and grandpa for the first time on my own. I take the train to Sacremento, they great me at the station standing side by side. Grandpa Owen with his hat and cane. Grandma Maura with her tent-like lavender blouse. I ride in the back seat of his big blue cadillac, sinking into the velveteen apolstry. The air thin and hot. Always too hot. He drives as if the thing is made of glass, not detroit steel. He sings to me in his thick brogue, In Dublin’s fair city…where the girls are so pretty… I first set me eyes on sweet Molly Malone… he smiles at me through the mile-wide rearview and tells me he’s going to ship me to Ireland to be Rose of Tralee. I think he tells all the grand daughters that, but it feels like he is telling just me.

The house is like a balm. I can almost see through the slats of the tall wood fence. We fumble with the latch on the dutch-door. The side yard is shaded by a two-story maple, the interlocking bricks have the tiniest hint of moss. The ash-tray on the patio table is half filled, and the ceramic garden goose in a light blue bonnet, sunk deep in the muddy planter,  gazes across the wild lawn at the junipers, where the leprechauns live. Grandpa brought them over from Ireland in a trunk, But they don’t like it here, grandma says, it’s too hot, they’d rather live by the sea. She uncrosses her legs, looking at me through her lashes she flashes a wink, so quick, you’d think you imagined it.

The  noon- sun beams just-so through the paint-by-number glass decoration, suctioned to a small square pane of the side door. The carpet, long and green gets between my toes, and hides chocolate crumbs. Its worn flat and bald where everyone shuffles in, dumping their purses and back packs on the flowered couch. It’s quiet without my thirteen cousins and 8 or so Aunts and Uncles, except for the steady clock,  but the air buzzes like after a shout.

I stay in “the mices” room (the nickname for my mom and my aunt Sheila, always rolling around in a trouble-some pair). Always choosing the bed by the window. My mom’s old bed. She slept here when she was my age. The closet is full of sweaters in all colors and sizes, toys that fall apart, it smells like old things. The hall closet is the most interesting, full of thin creamy linens, and pinging china. I know the priest is coming for dinner because the good plates are out and the whiskey.  The kitchen is hot with steam from the potatoes. She is making turnips for me, my favorite, after reading a book about a girl named Molly who had a Victory garden and  hated turnips. I had to ask my mom what turnips were, I don’t think she knew much more than I did about them. But grandma knew all about victory gardens, and turnips. It turns out, I liked turnips: boiled, salted, and mashed with parsnips, onions and carrots.

All the pictures on the walls and on the shelves are peeling away, or wrinkling. The people’s faces are just a collection of black and white specks. Thats Aunt Nan, and Pat, there is your mother and your Aunt sheila. Thats Aunt Deb at her wedding, thats my brother Billy, he died in the war, thats me on the Queen Elizabeth…thats a boat, we called it the QE2, a very fancy boat.

 I like the way she takes a breath in when she says “yes” while she is remembering something…Yes…(breath-in) yes, yes. Her eyes will flick around  and she will nod and lick her lips, thats when I met your grandpa. I went to Ireland, and met him at confession, now THERE’S a place to meet a nice boy. She points at me with her wooden spoon, hot water and potato bits flinging onto the gold-flecked linoleum. It bubbles in places, making nice long creaks when your trying to get to the candy cabinet. If we all lined up, all the cousins and held out our hands and closed our eyes and said “please” she would go down the line and pour from a 1 pound bag of M&Ms into our outstretched hands. It was like getting communion but better,  and you had to cup your hands real tight so they would slip through your fingers. By the time you were done, you had sweaty multi-colored palms, your mouth raw with sugary milk chocolate.

She showed me how to knead the dough for the irish soda bread, her fingers, pale and already warping under the knotted pressure of arthritis. Push it back with the heal of your palms, then fold it over, getting flour in all the air pockets. then you make a cross on each loaf, father, son, and the holy ghost. We’d eat the dough off our fingers, salty and sweet.

In the morning I would climb into her bed after grandpa went for his walk, with our books and tea and toast, dipping the corner of the toast triangle in the molten belly of the egg: sitting up-right and decapitated in one of her many egg-cups. In the afternoons we would hang up her “un mentionables” on the clothes line, large flesh-colored silks that I could use as a hammock if I dared. I would poke around in the yard, sticking my face unside the large  hollow globes of hydrangea. They came out different colors every season. Sometimes punches of blue and lavender, sometimes pale pink and red. If it was a good season, yellow and white daffodils would spring up from bulbs, the fairies plant them and use them for tea-cups, she told me, and she would find me hiding in the spidery caves of the junipers, waiting for fairies with a handful of daffodils. They won’t come out when you’re here sweetie, lets go get a treat and let them have tea. We would go out to the market and stop at the bakery for an eclair or a raspberry swirl, watching the wild chickens strut around old town. They belong to everybody and nobody, they are wild chickens, they tried to kick them out, but they didn’t want to leave… no we can’t eat them. Then we would wrap the roast in twine and watch Murder She Wrote  while it cooked. Angela Landsbury was her hero, I think.

In much later years, we would break her out the back door of the nursing home on Foothill  at and 35th  at dinner time (3 pm) in a wheel chair with her big sunglasses on to go get a handmade pork tamale at the taco-truck across the street. Braving the deadliest  cross walk in the world, for what is sure to be the fluffiest tamale north of Lompoc. She loved the melon agua fresca.

One of the last things she ever asked me for was a hot dog. I’m not hungry but I could always go for a hot dog.  It’s such a simple American thing. A tube of beef parts (if you’re lucky) wrapped in a white flour bun, doused in relish, mustard and ketchup. But for her it symbolized an elementary part of life, living in the burroughs of New York City, nestled in between jews, italians, and puerto ricans, the lowest common denominator is a hot-dog.

I wish I could have gotten her a good old-fashioned dog. I hope that when I’m taking my last breaths at a catholic nursing home that someone I love will bring me a “mission dog”. Something so foundational to my young-adult personality. An item that that you can only get between the hours of 11pm and 4am roughly between 16th street and Ceasar Chavez, the smell of grilling meat and onions will guide you to a small man, next to a rolling grill, wrapping bacon around a meat tube, grilling onions and jalepenos, You wan onions? Si. Peppers? Si. You wan mustard? Si. Ketchup? Si. Mayo? No, no mayo pro favor,  I have a thing with mayonnaise. .. and he shrugs, hands me the foil wrapped savior, and asks for 4 dollars.

How well can you know a person? I know her, my grandmother, like I know the sea-glass bottles she kept on the kitchen window sill, and the soft way she smelled, and the way her breath would whistle through her teeth, or how she would slap your leg if you told her something biting and funny. I told her once that she was like a compfy couch, a compliment not appreciated by any woman, and for good reason. It was possibly my first metaphor, misguided and naive. What I was trying to say was that you could curl up in her and feel safe, steady. But how well do I know her sadness and her anger? How well do I know what she thought about her life, the choices she made, mistakes, guilt, loss. She looked up at me, on my last day with her, shortly before her hot-dog craving, It was never all that great, she said. This is something you never want to hear from an old person. We want to know that it’s great to get old, to live a long life with intermittent pain and joy. We want to know even on our heaviest days, thats it’s worth it.  All I could offer her was some juice and a scone. Even if it wasn’t ever all that great for her, it was great for us, maybe she just couldn’t see it and it still is great for us, and it will always be great. Dancing an amateur version of the irish jig after we’ve all had seconds on dessert, irish coffees, and gone through the 7th bottle of wine, and the last slice of yorkshire pudding (which is neither a pudding, nor from Yorkshire), laughing like idiots… thats great. It’s moments like that, making it all worth it, getting us out of bed in the morning. We wouldn’t have any of it, if it wasn’t for her, picking up a cute guy after confession one sodden afternoon in Tralee, Ireland.

Cinco de embarrassing

Lets say that you’re a guy.

And you’re not great looking, but you have a nice sense of humor and an interesting job…

Lets say you meet a lonely waitress…  and you charm her enough into going on a date with you. Maybe you take her out to a nice greek restaurant in Malibu, you have easy conversation (including details of your last anger-management course… yikes) and you even share a kiss. But a few days later after she never calls or returns your texts, you remain confused. You think to yourself: But I had such a nice time, we really hit it off, why wouldn’t she call me back? 

Well, guy, she’s just not that into you. So, DON’T COME INTO HER PLACE OF WORK, WHILE SHE IS WORKING, AND CONFRONT HER ABOUT IT. It’s sad, and not very classy, also, I’M WORKING, I don’t have time to let you down easy or massage your ego. I’m just going to notify security and have them escort you out. Oh, and yes, I DID enjoyed the free meal, up until you told me about how you locked your last girlfriend in a bathroom for three days..”she had water…”

And yes, we did kiss, as you leaned over to unlock my door and attack my face with your mouth. 

And another thing, please don’t come back the very next day and announce to every one that “you happen to be working down the street and your just here to have a beer with some buddies…jeez.”

There is never a dull day. Those who say they are bored are just blind to all the weirdness around them.

Speaking of weirdness, Cinco de Mayo is one of the most overrated party holidays ever. Anyone who works in “service” is usually forced to wear something embarrassing and up-sell “special house margaritas”. Regular restaurants are festooned in pinatas, marachas, and  red, white and green streamers. The weird part is, most of the mexican people in California are working on Cinco de Mayo, serving white people tacos. White people, drunk on mexican tequila and  dressed up in sombreros and ponchos vomiting all over the streets.

Here is a non-douche white person’s guide to celebrating the the Battle of Pueblo while beating the crowds:

1. Dress up like “daytime” Selena: cowboy boots, high-wasted jean shorts, mid-drift peasant blouse, and Wrangler jacket… very festive.  Don’t forget the large hoop earrings, middle part, slicked back hair, and lip-liner.

2. Make a “Mexican” Coffee:

make a cup of coffee (I use a one cup drip and some Yucatan single origin coffee beans from Primo Passo, because I am a yuppie poser and a total coffee snob.)

put about 1 oz of kahlua in it

and a splash of reposado tequila (wink)

some ginger powder

a dash of nutmeg

shake the almond milk so it is really frothy… pour that on top

toss a dash or too of cinnamon on it

twist an orange rind.

drink.

Put on game face.

go to work.

3.  For Lunch Go to El Pollo Loco and order the “EL Traditionale” burrito:

It’s actually not bad at all, there are real beans, real rice, decent chicken, fresh avocados and has your daily in-take of sodium covered…. for two days.

4. Watch Nacho Libre: Nothing is more authentic mexican than Jack Black dressing up like a mexican Monk running around in spandex with a crappy latin accent, “I am not listening to you, you are crazy.”

5. Head out with some friends ( if you have any) to the local Irish pub…   it will be quiet, and full of old alcoholics, kind of like a large smelly living room. Don’t ask for a margarita because there is no way the bartender has rock salt or “sweet and sour”.

The New York Diet: How to Look Great and Feel Like Sh*t.

1. Move to New York City in the middle of the worst snow storm ever recorded, without the proper footwear.

2. Bring really heavy suitcase, an over stuffed back pack and a 25 pound typewriter.

3. Don’t bring a map, simply scribble addresses down on ripped slips of paper and “go with your gut.”

4. Be really, really broke… all the time.

5. Always order the cheapest thing on the menu (usually results in aforementioned house “salad”).

6. Do laundry once a week (requires heaving a 50 pound bag of dirty clothes down and around the block, then back again.)

7. Always choose cocktails instead of dinner – also known as the liquid diet (Tip: dirty martinis come with free olives).

8. Homemade popcorn: cheap, salty, lots of fiber.

9. Go the whole day eating popcorn and peanuts then get happy-hour drunk and shovel piping hot $2 pizza slices down your throat and walk home because you spent your subway money.

10. Coupons + $10 @ discount grocery store = dinner for a week (buy lots of canned items: your “pantry” a.k.a. shelf will look like an earthquake kit (see next week’s post))

11. Live on the 6th floor of a walk up building.

12. Frequent the by-donation Hot Yoga classes @ Yoga to the People in NYC… you know… to clear your mind and your appetite.

13. CHEAP ETHNIC FOOD (guaranteed to buy you at least 40 hours of not drinking, and not eating).

14. Ride really crowded subway trains so you have to stand all the time.

15. Laugh, a lot, at everything, to yourself. You’ll have a washboard by June.

This is not a salad.

It’s placed before you in a mockery of modern gastronomy. A wet handful of almost-translucent iceberg with two wrinkly cherry tomatoes, a  half a teaspoon of canned black olives,  and a sad flick of carrot shavings. Thank God you asked for dressing on-the-side; it jiggles suspiciously in a  mayonnaise-esq fashion. You stare up at the waitress: an oval-shaped brunette with curls piled high like chocolate whipped cream. She asks you if she can get you anything else Hun. You shake your head. It’s not her fault.

Here in the center of the universe, you’d think they could find some spinach or at least some decent looking onions. Hell, you’d settle for a chickpea.

New York can murder (in a good way) a hot cheesey slice, or a falafel, or a deli sandwich, and a hot street dog like no other place on earth, but don’t order a salad.  You will get a watery mess that looks like it came out of a cookbook from 1972.

You’re used to mountains of  farm-fresh fluffy California sprouts and mixed greens dusted in Parmesan and garlic toasted pine-nuts…not to even MENTION the avocado. All of it barely drizzled in a sweet-sour vinaigrette  and topped with fresh cracked black pepper. Most likely served in one of those thin wooden bowls that can double as a hanging macrame planter.

Everyone else at the table spreads the dressing and digs in, like they are NOT looking at the funkiest joke of a salad you have ever seen. If Nora were here you could at least exchange bemused eyebrow-raises. When she comes by again with the water your ask what the soup of the day is, and order a cup of the Italian Wedding. So much for getting your veggie on, another bloated night lies ahead.

Okay, so there is ONE place in the New York City metro area where you were pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness, selection, and value of a salad. Park Slope Ale House is a mere 15 minute walk through the lamp-lit brown-stone streets, and nestled on the corner of 6th ave and 5th streets on the first floor of an old house, it has probably been there forever. There is a long dim wooden bar, some booths and a surrounding out-door patio. Wooden benches and tables crowd underneath a sagging overhang lit by christmas lights. They serve their salads in wooden bowls, and they are not half bad, and they come with grilled chicken for a dollar extra. If you get there before 5 on a weekday you can catch the 50 cent wing special, or just stick to the 3 dollar Yuengling beer (which is NOT an asian beer, it’s actually from Philadelphia, contrary to its exotic name).

What you sacrifice for geography seems to cut a piece out of you, and it not just the salads. You gave up a lot just to be in a place with a famous name and a terrible reputation for struggle. You gave away a lot of things material, and otherwise.  Maybe just to prove to yourself, or to prove to everyone else that you are independent and nothing can hold you back. It seems like a funny thing to want to prove to anyone though. Maybe it stems from that famous image of Ben Franklin walking down the streets of Boston with a loaf of bread and a “shilling” or whatever. For some reason they drilled that principle into us in American history class. The highly western and specifically American idea of doing everything yourself, and struggling by yourself with no help from anyone seems to be the only acceptable way to come about success. This why young rich kids OD on heroin at the age of 17. They have no way of ever proving to themselves or society that they are worth it. Instead, they being a cycle of highly destructive behavior to prove to the world that they don’t value their life, that they know they aren’t worth shit. Then, when they die in a speed-soaked car crash or on a couch in their parent’s house surrounded by stoned friends we say that it’s a “shame, they had so much life to live.”

We put such high value on the struggle of “making it,” while most of us sit around and hate ourselves for not muscling through some socio-economic barrier to become a secretary or a senator or a guest on Oprah.

Nobody even respects rappers that come from middle class families, because we think that you have nothing to say or brag about unless you grew up on the bottom floor of a brothel in Harlem.  You are not a success unless you sacrifice everything, alienated yourself, and struggled from the very bottom to get to the penthouse at the W. What ends up happening is people start lying and you get the James Frey’s of the world. The audience is obsessed with memoirs and testimonials (i.e. Jared from Subway). Creative Non-Fiction has become a section at the bookstore because of this obsession.

America is way too proud of the Declaration of Independence. We all take it to heart somehow, when really a bunch of angry slave-owning white dudes in wigs were just being arrogant and angsty emancipated minors. Strutting around blowing shit up and ignoring Cuba just to prove we can. Just to prove that “We don’t need you mom and dad, look at us, see France thinks we are cool!” (cut to the civil war).

Last night you actually dreamed about the smell of the Pacific Ocean. You were sitting at the top of the tan cliffs at Point Dume and crying because you could smell the ocean. You could actually smell it. And when you woke up you could hear someone in the kitchen frying noodles or something.  But you carried it with you all morning, that sharp cold salt smell that makes your hair stiff and curly, and  your skin get that sticky feeling.

You like to be really hard on yourself, and sacrifice things you love because somehow you feel it will validate your easy existence. Somehow if you can prove you are just as deserving of life as a Sudanese orphan who is a classical piano prodigy then you can enjoy things, and sleep easy and not berate yourself.  You hate being told you are beautiful, and you hate being told you are talented, and you are not really sure why. Life is a series of choices starting with “soup, salad, or fries.” If you are ever in New York, get the fries.

Stay up all night watching a thunderstorm

You feel as if you are inside a shoe. The heat sits on top of you, it grabs at every inch of your skin like hundreds of hot wet hands. Unlike the biting cold, there is nothing you can wear to escape it. you stand at the window, which points west. You forget and then remember that the ocean is East, so unnatural.

Every few minutes bitter lavender veins of light reach across the belly of clouds, followed by a low crackling burp of thunder. You will barely sleep tonight, and tomorrow you will sit fit-fully tired at your desk and stare at your computer screen. You would rather sell cupcakes in eternal August tourist traffic than say the word  “strategy” again.

You need a soundtrack. The self titled album by Dire Straits, (sent to you as a gift from the thoughtful and tasteful M),   also known as the album that God was listening to when he invented dark hot thunderstorms. The rain slaps fluffy wet pillows on the window screen, like a homemade water spritzer. You crave a covered porch, and a mint julep. You close your eyes and let your hips swing to ‘Six Blade Knife’. The violet lightening reaches again across the dimpled cloud ceiling in what must be hundreds of twitchy veins. It’s right on top of you now, and because of your imagination you half expect a Delorian to come out of the sky or a superhero to be caught crouching on some silhouetted roof. You pop open your last sweating can of beer and feel it get warm in a record of seconds.

Sirens bleed out somewhere down Flatbush Avenue. You light a candle, the candle, and wonder what your neighbors are watching at this hour, you can see the blue flash of their screen. You decide that ‘Water of Love’ is the best song in the whole world, and that this whole album is the opposite of New York City. You wonder how you can love two things equally that are the complete opposite of each other. This leads to pondering your own personal duality. You live like a split screen montage, always second guessing your choices, wondering how it could have gone, otherwise. You are a sandwich: layers of complimenting, textures and flavors pinned between two fluffy walls.

But really, how can you need solitude as much as you need crowded dance floors? How can you love desolate woods just as much as the city? How can you want to stay in bed and go outside at the same time? How do you love hot beaches and snowy cabins the same? Are you lying to yourself? Do you really love them both equally , or are you just saying that to make things more complicated so you can delay decision-making?

There are moments when you are positive that you will live and die on the 4th floor of a charming brownstone buying groceries at the ‘Haifa Market’ and eating out at ‘Cafe Cubana’. Then there are other moments when you swear you will live and die surrounded by thickly wooded miles and broken rocking chairs. This primal display of nature’s middle finger seems to jolt into you some electric desire to step backwards, wipe the slate clean, and drive through the desert in a Firebird…convertable.

You try to listen to the inside of yourself, what would 10-year-old Molly think about this whole thing? She would probably shrug and go back to her Goosebumps Volume 17.

It’s so hot that the water can’t cool the pavement, and the rain just lifts back up into the air in pockets of steam. Its like pouring a garden hose on the 6th ring of Hell.  Nature likes to keep us scared, it likes to watch us skitter back and forth rebuilding houses on cliffs and under the water level. It likes to shriek at us and cackle and roll around like some hallucinating tom cat. For as fantastically clever as we are, we can’t hold back a snowstorm or escape the berating heat. Nature is the ultimate ‘Sultan of Swing,’ sometimes all you can do is sweat it out, drink a beer and watch the show.