Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter

So, my motto lately has been, "Sometimes I just don't understand my life." I mean it in a good way--in the best way. I don't understand how I got to be in Washington for this moment in history, but it is (so far) full of surprises and sightings and moments where I just have to laugh at being in the right place at the right time, and that is exactly what I wanted--exactly what I needed?--from this move. I don't even know this city yet, but I am completely excited to be here.

Today was, simultaneously, utterly chaotic and remarkably smooth. My friend Grace and her friend Guy have been crashing in my living room this weekend, and we were up and stepping all over each other for the bathroom before the dawnzerly light (Ramona Quimby? Anybody?) even showed its face. We left the house at 7:00 and hopped on the bus (this after extensive Plan-B/Plan-C/Plan-D-ing, in case my peaceful corner bus stop suddenly turned crazy) and zipped down to Foggy Bottom, where Guy headed for the Metro--he had a standing ticket to the ceremony--and Grace and I followed the throngs towards the Mall. (Incidentally, I kept thinking of that scene in Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray asks some nameless redheaded woman where everybody's going, and she says, like he's a total moron, "To Gobbler's Knob!") There was plenty of space, and we grabbed seated spots on a piece of the WWII Memorial, and waited.

Just so you know: If it is 25 degrees outside and you think that your body heat will eventually warm up a granite wall--after all, it's only your butt-print that needs warming--YOU ARE WRONG. We sat on the wall for nearly five hours, unwilling to give up our spot, and I am not sure I have ever been so cold in my life, hand-warmer packets (in mittens and shoes) or no. Foot pain gave way to numbness, which gave way to the pain again, and I half-expected my toes to have snapped off by the time I took off my socks. But: sitting up high was cool, and ideal for photographing the ridiculous hugeness of the crowd, and we could see the Jumbotron just fine. It was worth every second, even though I was sure my underwear was freezing solid.

It was just as well that we'd missed the We Are One concert on Sunday (though it was a source of some distress at the time); they televised it on the Jumbotrons all morning to keep the earlybirds entertained. And then the San Francisco Boys' and Girls' Choruses sang, and Aretha performed looking fierce in that hat with the bow as big as her face, and Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman and some other people I didn't know performed the special John Williams piece (called, in my head, "What Spring Sounds Like, or People's Hearts Are Beginning to Thaw"), and it was so fabulous that I was totally okay with my blood freezing in my veins. And I continue to want to be BFFs with Michelle, Malia, and Sasha (Michelle = hardcore for her lack of bundling; Malia = Princess Composure; Sasha = hilarious and adorable just for showing up). And then our new President took his oath of office, and I cried a little, and he gave a really wonderful speech. Did you hear the fire in him? It was all on huge screens, of course, but there was this spot towards the middle, right around "all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness," where I thought, "preach it, brother."

After, Grace and I had planned to meet up with Guy and his friends, but meeting up with anybody was clearly out of the question--we couldn't walk (five hours straddling the wall, remember), and neither of us could stop shivering (scary!), and the tide of the crowd just bore us along. (What is it Barbara Kingsolver says about the stream of ants in The Poisonwood Bible? Stick out your elbows and raise up your feet? Not a bad philosophy in this situation; you could probably get halfway to Maryland that way.) We went back the way we'd come, stopping in at the Ritz-Carlton to thaw out and use the bathroom and check our phones, and ended up walking all the way home because we couldn't get a cab or a bus. So maybe there was a bit of a Bataan Death March vibe to the end of the day, but it was worth it. I'm so glad I went. I am so, so proud of President Barack Obama, and so, so thrilled for our nation, and now I can't wait to see what he actually does.

Welcome, Mr. President.

I was there.

...and one more thing:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why I don't believe in coincidences

Since I moved to DC, I've been looking for a church. I'm spoiled in this area: I've known three churches in 28 years, each unique, but each full of people struggling together, with grace and extreme humanity, to live out the Gospel as they know it. I'm grateful that it's never been that hard, finding the right place to worship.

For awhile, I thought maybe I'd found my place here in DC--National Presbyterian, where the choir is spectacular and the teaching pastor comes from my church in California and I ran into Condi Rice (which I think I forgot to mention)--but it wasn't right. I'm back on the market, so to speak.

This past Sunday, because I had an appointment in Alexandria around midday, I decided to try church in Virginia. The last time I tried this, at a church in Arlington, I got hopelessly lost, missed the service, and decided to go to the mall instead (God knew I needed work pants; He didn't seem to mind). This time, I gave myself plenty of time, printed out detailed directions...and proceeded to get EVEN MORE LOST than the last time. Seriously. It was a nice drive--trees, river, a really interesting program about Sesame Street playing on NPR--but it wasn't church, and I was lost and frustrated and teary anyway over the death of Mr. Hooper. The service had started at 10:30. At 11:05, I arrived (at last) in Alexandria, gave up on actually going to service, and decided to kill a few hours on King Street before my appointment. I was stopped at a red light. Guess what else was at that light? Fairlington Presbyterian Church. Service at 11:00.


I went. It may be my church for the future; it may also be my church just for this week. Either way, I had to laugh, and shake my head, and be grateful.

Monday, January 12, 2009

12 of 12: January

Welcome to 12 of 12 (144 of 12 x 12?) 2009! For the method behind the madness, and other people's entries, check out Chad Darnell's blog. Otherwise, here we go.

6:50 - January Monday, pre-dawn. This is my "over the moon" face.

7:03 - I feel that some savvy marketing person could base an ad campaign on oatmeal as the poster food for people who a) don't go through milk fast enough, and therefore have fridge-door cheese factories, or b) can't be bothered to buy fresh things in the first place. "Oatmeal: For the Single Person in You!" or possibly "Oatmeal: Don't Be Such a Slob."

7:48 - I was running late, but so was the N4. Relief all around.

7:58 - This is the Colombian embassy at Dupont Circle, which somehow always makes me feel like I'm at Disneyland. Sorry, Colombia. Your embassy is just too cute.

9:20 - My two main reference books for today. Did I forget to tell you that I moved 3,000 miles to analyze the use of the American vernacular phrase "dreadful sorry" in the folk ditty "Clementine"? Soon--when the funding comes in--I will move on to the nature of redundancy in "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain When She Comes."

9:22 - Who had residual jalapeno oil on her fingers when she tried to put in her contacts this morning? You get three guesses.

11:40 - Brainstorming (male) kitty names. Suggestions welcome.

1:07 - An unsuccessful attempt at a discreet self-portrait taken in the mirrored ceiling of the elevator at work. A total stranger now knows thinks I am a crazy elevator self-portrait-taker.

4:45 - Leaving a tiny bit early to make a 5:15 movie. Note how it is not pitch-black outside. This gives me hope.

7:30 - Sarah and me on our shared quest to see all of the major award-winners/nominees/hopefuls during their season of actual relevance. Subpoint: More bhangra dancing! I need more moments of Bollywood-inspired musical-kinesthetic unity in my life.

8:28 - I am going to skip "too lazy to cook" and go straight to "look at all that whole-grain/high-calcium goodness," and hope nobody notices.

8:35 - I am exhausted from all that...sitting? This is sad. Perhaps cheese and crackers and Stephen Colbert will cheer me up.

Happy January, folks. Stay warm.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Totally worth the trip



He came out of the building across the street, waved right, waved left, climbed up on the step on his Suburban and waved some more, and got in the car. But IT WAS SO FABULOUS. I almost cried. Also, if you want to see some hardcore government fangirl squee, this is the way to go about it--the shrieking in my office was impressive.

At this rate, we will be BFF by 2009, no? Call me, Barack!

True story: there is zero percent work being done in this building right now.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Things you don't want to know but I want to tell you

1. I left my flowered (but thankfully cheap) umbrella on the Metro this morning. Now I have another one (hot pink; also cheap, because of the Metro-leaving-on), but I miss the old one. I really liked it.

2. My toenails are not great.

3. I understand that mushrooms are a fungus that tastes a little like dirt/feet/dirty feet. I like my dirty-feet fungi with garlic and parmesan on a Tuesday night.

A heartbreaking work of staggering genius

I just finished a second read-through of my favorite book from 2008, Haven Kimmel's The Solace of Leaving Early. (Side note: Who has parents awesome enough to come up with the name "Haven"? Especially in 1965 in Indiana?) Actually, it was just the second half--I had finished The Flame Trees of Thika and needed a palate-cleanser before Cryptonomicon, and remembered that I'd wandered through the first half a few months back and gotten distracted. I picked it up again. This is the joy of comfort reading: come and go as you please.

I liked Leaving Early the first time around; I loved Langston Braverman (Ph.D. drop-out, impossible, lover of orphaned girls and her dog Germane, as in "germane to the conversation") and Amos Townsend (minister, doubter, constantly getting tangled in tree branches). But I don't think I saw it and I know I didn't get it. I'm not sure I have a proper grasp now, either, but it's starting to take shape, the mass of mothers and children and loss and gain and belief and backwardness, plus the Virgin Mary (Kimmel went to seminary; she's allowed). I almost want to pick it up again now, as it's fresh in my mind, and try to figure out exactly how it's made, how we get from A to B and end with a scene so unexpected and romantic I almost had to put it down this time around. I wonder if I could get it if I just read it one more time? If I could see the strings twisting together?

In the mean time, I continue to not read Cryptonomicon and have started The History of Love, of which I do not know what to make.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

It all began on New Year's Day

New Year's is, as far as I can tell, a Disappointment Holiday, the kind of thing where there's an immense amount of pressure to have the best night of your life (every year, which seems like faulty math to me) and a very few ways to actually have the best night of your life. So you've got to go all-or-nothing: aim very very high or very very low. There's the When Harry Met Sally Manhattan fancy party option, and there's the games-PJs-Dick-Clark option; anything in between seems like a lot of stress for, arguably, not a life-changing amount of fun.

This year, because I have clearly wandered into somebody else's life, I went with Door #1: I met Christine in Manhattan and went to a friend's friend's party. I dressed up like a grown-up, like so:

and ate sweet little hors d'oeuvres-y bits and made conversation with strangers (though we also watched Dick Clark, and Ryan Seacrest waiting for Dick Clark to keel over onscreen, which was sad). It was an aim-high New Year's, and I had a good time, and now I will always be able to say, "Remember the year we got dressed up and went to New York for New Year's Eve?"

I'm not gonna lie: I was ready to shove 2008 out the door. It was a strange year for me, a year of deepening roots and, in many ways, of refined focus, but also a year of discontent. I spent a lot of time and effort trying to rock my life forward, and trying not to lose my mind in the mean time. It worked in the end--in fact, I can barely see this year through the screen of the last few frantic months--but it was desperate and frustrating and generally not my favorite thing.

And so it was nice to wake up on January 1 and see this view from Brooke and Brian's apartment:

At this time last year, I could not have predicted being here--in New York, in Washington, disoriented but enjoying the swirl of everything. I love that I couldn't see the future, and that it's brought me somewhere unexpected--I hoped and prayed and cried out for a surprise, for some kind of rescue, for something to swoop in and pick me up and carry me away, and it happened. I love that I still can't see the future, that I'll never see it, that it'll keep receding like the horizon. I love that don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing when we hit 2010 (2010!), but I am excited to feel my way through and find out.

Happy New Year, friends.