When I was seventeen I decided I would cut off all my hair and move to New York City. (Thanks, Felicity.) Although I wouldn’t make it to NYC for another ten years, I did get the haircut the summer after I graduated from high school. My first mistake was trusting a woman in a suburban strip mall who wore a scrunchie to do the cutting; my second mistake was thinking it was all her fault I looked like a lorn, shorn little boy and cutting it all off again my freshman year in Boston. For years afterwards I only wore my hair past my shoulders, often down to the middle of my back; sometimes, if I got bored, I let someone - usually Skyy, my guy at the Chinatown hair salon where $30 buys you an awesome shampooing in a back room redolent of soup noodles - snip some side-swept bangs.
So when I told the very expensive hair dresser that she could chop off as much hair as she wanted, I could feel my heart beating like a little bird’s as she sheared off a foot of hair. Over the next 45 minutes I slowly grew accustomed to my new face. By the time she was done a giddiness was fizzing up in my chest: there was so much air on my neck! so much movement in my hair! so little shampoo I had to use! I practically skipped to karaoke.
That night I learned two important life lessons: (1) don’t be afraid to cut your hair, (2) but if you are going to cut it short for the first time in a long time, make sure the first friends you see aren’t dudes who are going to stare at you like your face exploded.
The week leading up to this year’s birthday began with my first 70.3 (of which I will have something to say, one day) and unfolded gluttonously: I paid out extravagantly for a haircut (more on that coming, too), karaoke’d for 4.5 hours, omakase’d at Sushi Nakazawa, pried open the extraterrestrial seed pods of the milkweed plant at Brooklyn Navy Yard, daydrank at the Crown Victoria, dined with parents and their college age children at Gramercy Tavern, breakfasted with Alice on lattes and cronuts (pear with sage cream) in Washington Square Park, and drew up my resolutions for the year, one of which is: journal every day for 100 days. So…here we go.
For the last wedding of the summer we flew out with our couple friends Natalie and David to the Twin Cities, rented an economy car, and drove north along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border in search of the real America. (“Couple friends”: they’re a couple, and they’re your friends.) The two-lane highway was wide enough to encourage drifting and carsickness, the night velvety dark as to encourage stargazing. The next day I ran like a fugitive across the same highway and alighted on the Gandy Dancer trail. The day was overcast but humid and I slow-jogged past six miles of hay bales, cornfields, and tractor signs before I made a u-turn and resorted to podcasts. Later, blue skies, picnic tables, the leafy canopy of trees at the height of summer, and my first sloppy joe and my first jello salad at my first potluck in the basement of a Lutheran Church, evidently a staple of the Midwestern upbringing. The wedding itself took place on a family farm where we all stood atop a mound covering the septic tank for the group photo and made it into the tent for dinner before the sky cracked open and it started to pour. After the rain stopped, I hitched up my skirt and ran through the wet grass with the bride’s cousins to peer at the hens nesting placidly in the dark, and searched in vain for the goat. At some point fireworks, dancing, the last shot of cheap whiskey. The friend who I think is most likely to be a Supreme Court Justice abruptly fled the shuttle to hurl in the bushes. The next day we killed time in the Mall of America before our flight. Hungover, I ate a slice of cheese pizza and then went on my first rollercoaster ride in over a decade and did not throw up.
Last pool day of Summer 2014.
Lifeguard: Everyone out of the water!
Woman: Why? It’s not even time.
Lifeguard: It’s too cloudy.
Woman: (looking up) It doesn’t even look like it’s going to rain!
Me: I don’t think he’s talking about the sky.
by William Logan
News of the world lay in the rain.
Maple leaves fell, pre-foxed,
as if stored for decades on library shelves.
The horse chestnuts had been oiled,
their waxy polish glowing
like the Madonna in the Portuguese church
up the harbor. Immaculate, without sin,
by winter they burned with mildew.
Father in his armchair with an icy dry Martini,
his fedora and trenchcoat damp in the closet,
quarrelled with the rose-trellised wallpaper.
Mother stood locked in the kitchen—
the terra cognita of canned vegetables,
pearly slabs of swordfish, the heaving
paper sack in which two ill-tempered lobsters
brooded over their death sentence.
It is really weird to read about yourself in someone else’s story.
Also, why is it that I remember more about my interactions with this person, which require no more than my fingers to count, than I can about the great loves of my life (said with ironic quotation marks), with whom I’ve passed years?
Despite its prime location around the corner from the pretzel croissants at City Bakery and down the street from the babka at Breads Bakery, I had never noticed Xavier High School until the Sunday afternoon I arrived to volunteer at goalball. (That sentence could not get more limousine liberal-ier.) Goalball, I learned, is a sport originally designed for athletes with visual impairments - though anyone can play since all the players wear blacked out goggles - in which two teams of three players attempt to roll a ball into their opponents’ goal while blocking their opponents from doing the same. And so it involves boundaries laid down with rope and duct tape, a rubber ball filled with sleigh bells, and a crowd quiet enough to attend Wimbledon. While Wil ran to fetch errant balls, his sneakers squeaking against the gym floor, I kept time and succeeded at not being too distracted by the guide dogs lolling by the bleachers, tails wagging in ecstasy as people rubbed their bellies. At halftime I ran to the ladies room, which was morgue-quiet and whose floor was as smooth as a newly-made bed, except for the quarter and dead cockroach who had, like the dogs, gone belly up.
Also, I resolve to write more frequently, like I always do, except this time I mean it, like I always do.
One of the benefits of living in Harlem is that you can use the express trains to “teleport,” as Rodd-ames calls it, between 59th Street and 125th Street, an uninterrupted stretch of time of about 7 minutes. All the fun stuff - impromptu jam between ukelele woman and bongo man, the cast of The Lion King on Broadway singing Circle of Life - happens on the A train. On the D train today’s main attraction was the man sitting across from me and thoughtfully, thoroughly picking his nose, then inspecting each booger as if it were a nugget in a gold pan.
Central Park at night: not like Central Park in the daylight. Eerier, wilder, ghostlier, haunted by rollerbladers who travel in packs; a chiseled performance artist undressing in front of floodlights, his bare torso floating pale and dismembered in the dark; Stevie Nicks’ soul sister, all flowing hemlines, bright-lipped beatific smile, crown of flowers in her hair, playing Bach’s cello suites under a Minton tile ceiling; and, best of all, fireflies, gleaming green like algae, soft like stars, rising like campfire licks in the gloaming, in a glade of towering elms.
by A.E. Housman
How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day.
To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
i never kept before.
Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
Falls the remorseful day.
On Worth Street, which serves as a kind of border between Chinatown and the courthouses and government offices of Civic Center (a neighborhood I had never heard of until I looked it up on Google Maps just now), someone has taken the care to plant a small but dear garden in Columbus Park. The killer part: the handwritten tags naming every bush, flowers, and shrub. I was disappointed to find that the dahlias were all done for the season but pleased to meet the black-eyed susans and other, stranger flowers whose names I don’t remember; I had to hurry if I wanted to pick up dinner before class. Dinner was eleven dumplings and a free noodle-making show for $3 from Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle; class, a free lecture on bike maintenance basics taught by a Japanese man in a bucket hat and on a BMX; dessert, a $1 egg tart and the lambent midsummer twilight, my heart floating up, up, away.
On average, San Francisco receives less than an inch of rain during the summer months, which was as good a reason as any to sign up for the marathon. It had been three years since my last visit, an interval of time long enough for friends to have babies - yes, plural - and the rental market to go completely barmy. Evidently twentysomething app-developers now pay $2,000/month to live in the Tenderloin (!!!!!). I landed on Friday in time to catch a typically dreamy sunset, the sky soft and smudgy with pastels, then shuddered in the evening chill and wrapped my cardigan tighter. I twice waited in the Ferry Building Blue Bottle line over the weekend, once before the race expo and then after the race. I ate outside, except when I was carbo-loading at Cotogna, in which case I ate with my back to the spit rotating slowly above the wooded fire. I ran the marathon. It was dark when we started and searingly bright at the finish. I underestimated the hills but I felt strong racing down the final chute. I sang my ex-boyfriend’s infant to sleep, taught a few words of French to his trilingual daughter, bumped a knee against his under the dinner table. I had a sit-down dance party with my friends on the floor of our hotel room. I sat and drank wine and laughed myself sick around the dinner table with my relatives, people who barely know me but for some reason unconditionally love me. And I decided I never, ever want to live here. This city of dry summers and perfect stone fruits, ice cream parlors and wilding Pacific, this city of memories, dreams, and ghosts, sweet laced with bitter.
Today is the best day of my professional life (so far).
My coworker: “I can’t believe it. It’s like the eighth day of Hanukkah. It’s a miracle!”
Me: “In this moment I don’t even care how underpaid I am!”