Thursday, October 30, 2008

Goodnight, not goodbye

I packed up my books today. The books are always the first thing to go when I move, empty shelves the first sure sign of leaving. I'd like to say it's because my library is emblematic of my very presence, but really it's because they're an easy first step--I can box up my books with only half a brain, and suddenly a third of my possessions are taken care of before I've wrapped a single dish or even emptied out my closets.

It's different this time, though, because most of my books aren't coming with me, and it was a strange kind of parting as I pulled them off the shelves, like burying a time capsule. As I sorted and stacked and fit them all into rows, I imagined the moment when I'll re-open those boxes, like a reunion with a whole crowd of old friends (...whom I've stuffed into a box and placed in a non-climate-controlled storage facility for a year or two). I could practically see them smiling at me, showing their pages like teeth. I don't even think they'll hold a grudge for the whole storage thing.

Not everything's staying here; I allowed myself one box of books I just couldn't leave behind. The Austens are coming, and Middlemarch and Jane Eyre; so are 84 Charing Cross Road and Girl Meets God (for emergency comfort reading). I also packed a supply of books I have yet to read--basically my takings from the San Francisco Library book sale, plus a few future book-club selections. I'm still debating the wisdom of leaving The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty here, and can't promise I won't sneak it into my suitcase at the last second; I haven't read much Eudora here, but somehow the move has motivated her. Take me with you, she's saying. You'll want me later. I don't doubt it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Harry and me

Have I told you all about my love for apartment hunting? Here: I love apartment hunting. I've gotten away from the post-college annual-move phase, so for the last few years I've mostly been finding places for other people, but there is something thrilling to me about the possibility of a new space. When I was little, we'd spend hot afternoons looking at air-conditioned model homes, despite the fact that my parents haven't moved since 1980, and I think the apartment search is just the same sensation: I look at every room and try to figure out where I'd put the furniture and what color I'd paint the walls. I liked, and still like, seeing what my life could look like.

It's a good thing I feel this way, because I'd forgotten that apartment hunting for me is approximately 10,000 times more stressful than when I'm not actually looking to move--I don't know how people do it, if they don't already like checking out empty houses. In DC last week, I looked at basically every type of apartment (brand-new, hills-old, row-house, big building, small building) in every type of neighborhood (Capitol Hill to Arlington; Columbia Heights to Alexandria). I looked at nine places in two days, and at the end could barely a) remember my own name or b) feel my own toes (hello, walking city). It was exhausting, especially after I realized that I had not flown 3,000 miles across the country for an exercise in potential, and that I would actually have to choose a place. To live. By myself.

That said, I am pleased to announce that I've found myself a home base in DC, and that it is a home base beyond what I could have expected. I've signed a lease on a beautiful, furnished one-bedroom waaaay up on the northwest side of the city, a quick bus ride up from Dupont Circle and half a mile from the Vice President's house. Harry S Truman lived in my building, and there's a fantastic view of the National Cathedral from the roof deck (and also, apparently, from my kitchen window when there are no leaves on the trees). After the parade of the iffy, strange, inconvenient, and exorbitant places I saw, this place was clearly it, and I am nothing but thrilled to get to live there (and also to not have to move all my stuff across the country--furnished, remember?). I think my new Sleep Number bed and I will be very happy together.

So that's done, and a huge load off my mind. Now...oh, right. EVERYTHING ELSE.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Things I am realizing about moving to Washington DC

I have no office clothes.

I have no winter clothes.

I should start knitting for myself in earnest.

I am going there, and all of my friends (except Sarah) are staying here.

I can get a cat!

I am spending Thanksgiving in New York, which seems fabulously quaint and East Coasty.

I will miss out on the West Coast Thanksgiving hors d'oeuvres table.

I will have to switch banks.

I will not have to switch medical plans.

I can go visit the Smithsonian, or the Lincoln Memorial, any time.

I'm leaving in two weeks.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Flux, or Why I'd Better Brush Up on The West Wing

So, I was planning on going to work on Thursday. I was. I made lunch (Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash, only I used quinoa); I picked an outfit (jeans and a sweater). I was prepared.

And then, well, the U.S. State Department called, and I told them I would move across the country to work for them instead.


I don't consider myself a thrill seeker (not a fan of heights, falling, 3-D movies, enclosed spaces, or creatures that dart or slither), but I think my friends and family would agree that the past ten days have been mostly fueled by some mixture of adrenaline, reckless hope, and generalized uncertainty. The entire process took one week, including accepting the offer around the time I was supposed to be heading off for my first day at the other job. It just happened, in a good way, the way where it's just so convenient you know it must be right. It's a really good job, a job writing in the English language about the English language--so very Jasper Fforde!--which is a little synechdochic representation of two of my favorite things. I keep thinking that it wouldn't be my life if something crazy and wonderful didn't just happen at the last second, and that I'm not sure I'd change that if I could. I like surprises (...don't quote me on that).

So that's how things are now: trying to picture myself a month from now and finding the image strangely blurry. I'm haunting Craigslist of Washington DC, debating the merits of pod storage vs. movers, exploring strategies for fending off crushing loneliness (a. convince friends to move, too; b. cram all of California into suitcase; c. acquire time-stopping device and teleportation skills), and looking forward to a new adventure. It's fun and stressful and I don't even really know what it means, probably, but I think I am ready to find out. I'm pretty sure it's the right thing.

See you on the East Coast.


Monday, October 13, 2008

12 of 12: October

A day late, but hey, I'm on vacation. What do you want from me?

For the lowdown on 12 of 12, check out Chad Darnell's blog. Otherwise, enjoy.

8:10 - Conscious, at a reasonable time and everything. Hooray for Sundays!

8:25 - Reading in bed: the reason weekend mornings were invented? You decide. (Almost done with The Name of the Rose. Long, but I do know more about the papal history of the 14th century than I did. Plus, murder! So there you go.)

8:42 - Apple-cinnamon oatmeal: official poster food for people who can't keep up with buying milk.

9:15 - Project Runway on the TV. I wish Tim Gunn would come over and help me get dressed every morning; I feel like he'd be the perfect combination of encouraging and matter-of-fact.

11:13 - Leaving church.

12:20 - Brunch at Lakeshore Cafe, where I always manage to convince myself that the tomato-spinach Eggs Benedict counts as health food. Not a good precedent.

1:17 - Packing for L.A. Sweaters? Shorts? Who knows? (Turns out sweaters were the right choice. The Santa Ana winds don't mess around.)

3:56 - The Altamont Pass windmills, as in, "I was born into the life of windmillery." Heh.

3:57 - More of the Altamont.

6:33 - Dinner, McDonald's, Kettleman "City", with my friends and ride-givers Sue and Will.

8:15 - Dark. I-5 somewhere in Kern County.

10:54 - Made it safe and sound! Hanging out at Kendra's house.

Good day. Next month: November! (Already?)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekend update. Can I be Amy Poehler?

So, I could tell you what I've been up to this past week, but then I'd have to kill you. Or, well, not exactly kill you. More like...I just can't tell you. Because this is the internet, and people read things. We'll just say that things are in flux. All will be revealed later, like when I'm better informed (I was going to say "less confused," but that's probably wrong) myself. How's that for vague?

What I can say is that yesterday was my last day working at Key. There are lots of things I'll miss about Key: the consistently delightful people, the crossword-puzzle lunches, the killer Halloween costumes, the willingness to party at the drop of a hat. They're good people doing good work, and I feel honored to have been a part of their quest to help all students get math. But there was such a long period where leaving felt, simultaneously, like the only feasible thing and a complete impossibility, that actually having a last day was thrilling and somehow unbelievable. I don't think I really understand, even now: you mean I'm not going back?

I can also say that I've been knitting--wrist-warmers for a friend in New York--and that I passed the 400-page mark in The Name of the Rose, and that I went to the library today and chickened out on getting the DVD of Psycho. Tell me honestly, people: Should I watch this movie? Think of someone you know with a low tolerance for scary things ( Would you tell that person to watch Psycho? What if that person told you she'd be calling YOU when she's afraid to hop into the shower? I did get Rebecca and North by Northwest, and put Rear Window and The Man Who Knew Too Much (because of the Jimmy Stewart) on my Netflix queue--we'll see how many I get through before Halloween. Do you think that all of these non-scary Hitchcock movies might somehow add up to the street cred of one actual scary Hitchcock movie?

And I can say that I did some shuffling on my links list; I added Sarah's new blog and someone I don't know but like already, and took off Dinosaur Comics, even though I still like them. Mostly, I miss Things I've Bought That I Love. Like, I get that Mindy Kaling is off writing and acting and being famous--some show about people in an office somewhere, if you like that kind of thing--but I need to know how she's spending her absurd amounts of money. I am bereft without her insights on products I will probably never wear, use, or eat (though I did try to get the kind of red licorice she likes from Trader Joe's--they didn't have it, but I did get hooked up with another brand that's amazing,!). COME BACK, MINDY. (Wow. That was not supposed to end with begging.)

And I can say that it's fall here, suddenly. Thursday, it was summer. Friday, the wind changed and the trees dropped all of their leaves and the air is clear clear clear. I broke out my down vest last night, but it was premature. This is California. It's not that cold.

Thanks for your patience. Hey, see you tomorrow! For the 12th! Or, rather, today.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The facts are these

Yesterday was the most-anticipated day of my TV season, the day when Pushing Daisies finally came back. If you think I hadn't been waiting, not very patiently, since December--or was it late November?--for my favorite new show to return, we clearly don't know each other that well. Because, really, who doesn't love a sweetly morbid mystery show about waking the dead and making pies?

If you know what I'm talking about--and I know there are at least a couple of converts reading--you're probably psyched. If not, you have homework. Check it out: Wednesdays, 8 p.m., ABC (or Thursdays and ever after on; their video streaming is excellent, unlike a certain peacock-affiliated network I could name). Otherwise I may simply never stop talking about it, and then you won't want to read anymore, and then where will we be?

If you need a primer to the rules and canon of the show, I've gushed about them (with handy video!) here. If you just need a little encouragement, here are some reasons I love Pushing Daisies, and perhaps you should, too:

It looks amazing.

("Do you ever feel like all the oxygen's left the room?")

I would never watch a show on the basis of looks alone--I need personality, a sense of humor, and long walks on the beach--but the creativity and elaborateness of the visuals on Pushing Daisies consistently sweep me off my feet. It's vibrant; it's colorful; it's symbolic. And if it's an endless parade of decorative eye-patches you seek, or mermaid-shaped Burberry luggage for a pair of synchronized swimmers, the art direction, set dressing, and costuming here won't let you down.

It uses acrobatic language.

There are lots of motor-mouthed shows out there, and I pretty much like them all, but I can't think of another show that takes quite this much joy in what my college professors would call "formal experimentation": rhyme, alliteration, repetition, symmetry, onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor. This show trips off the tongue.

It's creatively romantic.

Meet Ned and his alive-again girlfriend, Chuck. They can't touch without consequences both fatal (for her) and heartbreaking (for him). Couldn't they simply wear gloves? Probably, but where's the fun in that?

It has the morgue dude.

He doesn't have a name or a backstory, but he had me at "You got some kind of shifty goin' on?"

It has Emerson Cod and Olive Snook.

He's a sassy P.I. who knits when he's nervous (he finds the stockinette stitch especially relaxing) and likes counting his money in the bubble bath. She's a former jockey who serves pie, insists on chit-chat, and sings sad songs in the Pie Hole at night. Together, they are hilarious and magical.

It's like nothing else.

This is the crux of Pushing Daisies: it borrows from a million places and is, in the end, nothing like any of them, or like anything else you've seen. Take a little bit of Roald Dahl, a little bit of Amelie, a little bit of Alice Hoffman, a little bit of your favorite pop-up book, a little bit of Alfred Hitchcock. Mix them up, make something happier and sadder and more gorgeous and more intensely metaphorical than you really thought you could. And, well, there you go.

P.S. The season-two premiere was awesome. How many bee puns--verbal and visual--can one writing staff squeeze into a 42-minute show? OH WOW SO MANY. I loved it.