"A forest bird never wants a cage." - Henrik Ibsen

perfect

perfect has been sidling up against me again.

it’s been years and he doesn’t yet understand that i am not the same girl, that the light in the parking lot in winter accentuates the cap on his front tooth.

perfect bores me so. he shows up in many distracting guises, but his demands are always along the same molasses vein. 

perfect is the man at work who believes his vision is singular in all the history of the world and never questions that i believe that, too. 

he is the date who believes by being good (or being bad) that i will be duly swayed. 

the truth is, perfect has become what moves my heart.  he unfolds the fresh, pink tissue paper. he reminds me to breathe the eucalyptus in and notice the sidewalk after a fresh rain. 

he isn’t a feeling i can enact or wish or ‘work on’ or make so. 

i don’t turn my face to a particular angle for perfect anymore. he knows when to catch me at rest.

places to miss without knowing

1. headley grange, england, circa 1970 for the recording of led zeppelin’s best album, physical graffiti. haunted manse + young rock gods = magic laid down

2. my great grandparents’ sweden, where i imagine homemade butter, cardamom laced cookies, and cozy cottages lit from within

3. rudolf valentino’s falcon lair estate in l.a.’s benedict canyon

4. neil young’s ranch (anytime, really…i’m flexible)

5. san francisco, 1967

6. greta garbo’s apartment in manhattan

7. my mother’s los angeles, 1960s

8. on the set of the philadelphia story with cary grant, jimmy stewart, and katharine hepburn

9. catherine deneuve’s paris

10. big sur in the 1970s

special

when i was in my twenties i had unquestioned confidence in my writing ability and in my overall ‘specialness.’ i was driven by the secret knowledge that i surpassed my peers in my talent, and, truth be told, i probably did. how many 20-year-olds wanted to spend hours in the library stacks reading sylvia plath’s journals and obscure john dos passos poems. they were off getting stoned and having sex, and i was truly too distracted to be envious.

a few of my more dedicated writing professors (and the ones who actually published) encouraged me and told me that i had to pursue writing or else they would track me down and hold my feet to the fire. every time i wrote something good back then i felt the same quiet euphoria i feel today from totally losing myself in something i love and then actually transcending what i imagined i could do.

reading those stories today, the ones that made me feel i had a great secret - my own talent, soon to be unleashed on the world (!) - i’m surprised by how good they actually are for someone whose life experience thus far had no, well, life experience through which to filter events, conversations, relationships. twenty years later, i’ve got the wisdom that is supposed to equip me to make writing meaningful not just for me but for others. but the price we pay for wisdom is also losing, somewhat at least, the inward assurance of our own specialness.

i’ve heard it said that you become an adult when you know you are not ‘special’ anymore, at least not more special than anyone else. along with this growing up comes a more tentative sensibility. you’ve read more and you know how painstaking it is to do anything different than anyone else has done before, how easy it is to fall into cliche and how actually limiting your own perspectives are. sharing your blind spots - and being willing to have new ones you weren’t aware of pointed out - is a cause for pause.

that’s the terrible thing about adulthood. it is mired in hesitation. experience causes us to hesitate when the most important and unmerciful fact that joins us all in our lives not being special is that they end. so in a way, thinking about how you are not special and shouldn’t attempt is no different than youthful megalomania. our most closely held passions, fears and fixations are all as fleeting as we are, and the page always turns quickly to a thousand and one someone elses whose talents exceed or pale in comparison to our own.

the problem with doors

the man i sat next to on the bus who reminded me of you was intently reading a book with a chapter titled “the problem with doors.” i hadn’t realized there was one, and now i’d like to know. it’s rude to cast more than a sideways glance to anyone on MUNI, so unless the universe means for me to find out i will never know the title of the book or the havoc and frustrations doors have apparently been wreaking. the point is, he looked like you, but you would have just laughed at the pretentiousness of trying to ascribe problems to doors. open it, close it - move on. i can still hear it, i can still hear you.

love

"great love can both take hold and let go." - A.R. Orage

i would never be so grandiose as to write about romantic love in general terms. i only have my own experience, which started in the first grade with a crush on a boy with blond hair and beautiful blue eyes who later got held back a grade. by junior high, love brought hot flushes of mortification after gym class, when my best friend ratted me out to my (until then) secret beloved, a boy who, not unlike me, had a shaky home life and at 13 already held a haunted look in his eyes. he teased me mercilessly but called me on my birthday, and that was that.

through all the years since, i have fallen in love many times, all different, and sometimes i didn’t recognize it as love at the time. i’ve felt rootless, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep love, the kind that is all-consuming and takes you frighteningly outside of yourself, a kite without a string. i realized one man who I loved deeply was terrible for me because even though i was a seasoned baker, every dessert i made while with him was a disaster. i was always in a state of anxiety, emotionally never able to see or set foot on dry land.

i’ve had best friend love with a brilliant, gorgeous, talented man who was sweet enough and wise enough to always capitalize Love. with him, just driving in the car through the streets of atlanta with the windows rolled down while listening to cheesy hip hop mixes was deeply satisfying. he made me laugh, and while we both made many mistakes, we always came back together as friends. he died going on three years ago, and there is not a day i don’t experience the world through his lens.

we tend to evaluate love through its outcomes, but the truth is that even when it’s real, our paths aren’t always aligned. it doesn’t mean Love isn’t true. life is essentially a string of experiences, and at the end of it to me what’s most important are the significant, deeply moving moments of connection with others, the ones where you know you’ve been seen. we can’t know where any connection will take us. the times i’ve worked hardest to protect myself are also those when i’ve been hurt the most.

at the end of it all, whenever that may be, i want to feel i’ve put myself on the line, that i’ve stepped forward when it counted and refrained when doing so is actually the highest expression of love. i want to be continually courageous enough to extend to those i love what i most deeply need: the freedom to roam, physically and psychically, and the openness to return and be enfolded because of (and sometimes, in spite of) who i truly am.

rain

today i went out in the rain, with wet hair and still sick with the flu, to buy eggs. after three days in the house in a haze of nyquil, tissues, and downton abbey episodes, suddenly some energy percolated, and i decided i needed to make a banana cake with chocolate icing.

one of the things i like about my neighborhood is that you can leave the house with wet hair and no makeup, wearing a marginally unflattering raincoat and sweats tucked into riding boots, and no one looks askance. there’s little irony or coolness where i live, and i like it that way. it’s real.

my love for san francisco is real, too. i’ve left and returned to learn that sometimes exploring elsewhere is the only way to recognize home.

i like the city best when it wears its heart on its sleeve, usually in playful exhibitionism, creative expression, or for social causes. but like any city, it can be cold and posturing, disconnected and visibly unmoved by public displays of human vulnerability. you accept it as part of the unspoken urban contract. it’s safer that way (and who hasn’t regretted making eye contact on MUNI?).

i usually only realize how weird it all is when i spend time away in a smaller city or small town, where strangers make a point to say hello as they pass on the sidewalk. like many city dwellers, my initial response to this is usually surprise and mild paranoia. i grew up in a small town and, hey, there’s something to be said for anonymity.

still, in these moments i become aware of the layers of social gauze city living wraps around us, and how they keep connection at bay. nobody wants to be unsophisticated, or seem like they don’t know what they’re talking about, or, heaven forbid, not be able to make a quick escape from unwanted conversation. it’s unfortunate, and i don’t have an answer to it, and so i’ll just rest with being glad for a place where i can walk in the rain, unadorned.