6 Months in New York!

 

Baby’s First Blizzard 

 Six Months! It looks like we’ve survived our first winter, and even though this was a notably mild one, I’m still puzzled by the dire warnings we got from family and friends before we moved. And I have to admit I was pretty terrified going into this – mainly because I’ve never owned a real coat in my life and had no idea, like, how they work. But, seriously, everyone made it sound as if no one ever lived through a snow storm. Like at the first sign of “bitter” cold anyone in their right mind would go running back to Cali. And to that I have to say, WHY DIDN’T YOU PEOPLE WARN ME ABOUT SUMMER?! Winter is adorable and cozy and magical and wonderful, and summer is the veritable armpit-soaked trench of human existence. 

Blizzard Sunset, Maria Hernandez Park 1/24/16

Anyway, 6 months in, and I’m totally in love, which sounds like a cliche and doesn’t even come close to describing how deeply “at home” I feel. And of course it’s not just the city – it’s our friends, and my job, and our apartment and our neighborhood, and above all: it’s that we’re in this together, me and Autobono. One of these days I’ll get around to writing about the move itself, but for now I really needed to bang out a quick catch up post, just to break the ice, and remember what it feels like to transfer the words in my head to the page after such a long break (spoiler alert: it’s weird).

More soon, but in the meantime, pics!

Williamsburg Bridge at sunset 3/18/16

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An Evening of Poetry

IMG_5233This past Wednesday, Dancing Girl Press hosted a poetry reading at E.M. Wolfman General Interest Books in Downtown Oakland. It was my second time seeing one of their events, and what was once a total novelty has quickly become a welcome and well-anticipated tradition in the neighborhood. The event features three DGP poets reading from a mix of published chapbooks and works in progress, all of which were bold and fresh and captivating.

When I left the reading, I met up with a friend at the Golden Bull down the street and tried to explain how awesome the readings were, but I came up short. I realized I have way more words for things I don’t like than for things I do like. And that’s not ok with me anymore. So I figured I’d take a stab at reviewing the reading for this blog.

The first poet, Nicole Borello is a joy to see in action. I’ve had the pleasure taking several writing classes with her, so I was already familiar with her work – her short stories are powerhouses of humor and insight, and her poetry is equally accomplished. In addition IMG_5230to running her own independent press, Nicole has published three chapbooks, all of which are rich and substantial and incredibly accessible. Here’s the thing about Borello’s work – it sneaks up on you. Her reading style is so casual and conversational that you don’t realize you’re being blessed with a dose of badass feminist poetry. I call her work feminist, not because it follows a political agenda or anything, in fact you would be hard pressed to describe her work as political or pedantic. It’s more that the images she presents of women are gritty and real and vibrant – in her work we get to admire bountiful asses and the contents of padded bras, we explore intimate grooming and rites of motherhood and prostitution and abuse – but Borello addresses these things with her signature grace, in effect saying “of course we should talk about these things, because they are beautiful and ugly and real and true,” And in a society where we avoid such topics, giving them a place in poetry is itself an act of feminist assertion.

Now don’t get me wrong, the strength of her work is not solely in it’s subject matter or the accessibility of its delivery – this is well crafted poetry, this is a woman who understands form and structure and employs them every which way to pack maximum meaning into her words. I could get lost in them all day, unpacking connections and associations. This is potent, primal stuff. Her latest chapbook, Fried Fish and Breast Milk is available from Dancing Girl Press.

After the reading I picked up Sarah Chavez’s chapbook All Day, Talking, also available from Dancing Girl, because her poems and the ongoing narrative they explore just got under my skin. The poems in the collection all take the form of letters to a deceased woman named Carole. They range over time, revealing snippets of both women’s lives and their relationship, things they believed in and things they questioned together, and they also chart the speaker’s explorations of life with and after Carole – there’s an intimacy to her private thoughts while washing dishes, reminiscing about adventures they shared, forming and reexamining her identity over time, and of course grieving her lost love. I had to pick up the collection because the story was so compelling, like a really good novel, but masterfully packed into the frame of compact epistolary poems.

Discovering Chavez’s work was a treat and one of the reasons I love these readings (besides the fact that they’re local and hosted at a seriously delicious little bookstore where pretty much every book on the shelves is on my Goodreads list), because they bring talented voices practically to  my doorstep and introduce me to poetry I wouldn’t have found on my own. Check them out, especially if you think you don’t like poetry, ‘cause these two just might change your mind.

Winter Stay-cation

image3 The company I work for is very generous this time of year. We basically shut down for the last two weeks in December, meaning that I’m off the hook from work in ways I’d never be on a regular vacation. The problem with regular vacations, no matter how grand or peaceful you make them, is that everyone else is still working, so no matter how hard you try to get ahead of the current, by the time you get back to the office your inbox is crammed, your work has piled up, and you spend a disproportionate amount of time playing catch up. This is not the case when everyone  is off! When the whole company is on snooze you get to really unplug, because even if you tried to be a good soldier and log into VPN, there isn’t anything there to work on. (If an out-of-office auto reply goes out and no one’s there to read it, does it make a sound?).

Now, usually I try to cram as much into this indulgent break as possible – trips to LA to see my family, or across the country to see distant friends. I make big plans for all the things I’m going to work on and write and sort out and organize and see and buy and…! But this year, after a pretty quick chat, my boyfriend and I decided to take it easy as fuck, and man am I glad we did. I can’t imagine a more satisfying way to have spent all this free time. And because of that, I’m feeling ready to go back to the grind… excited even, because I feel like I’m going back legitimately recharged and refreshed.

image1And we still got a lot done – I joined a new gym, started a journal, fired up my blog. I got to spend time with local friends whose schedules don’t normally line up with mine. I completed a ton (a ton!) of weird home projects that have been haunting me all year – finally replaced the stupid dutch oven (welcome back, braising! You’ve been sorely missed), bought a desk and set up a work area for myself because I really needed a dedicated space to practice my craft and reinforce the validity of the work I’m trying to do. I’m 36 years old. I’ve been writing my whole life. And I’ve never given myself a real place to work. I figured out some really important things about what foods and activities are working for my body right now (Crohn’s disease is a moving target, so it was great having time to really observe patterns and set some guidelines for myself). I got to see what the fuck my cats do all day while I’m at work (hint: it involves sleeping and napping, and more sleeping)

The important takeaway is that I got way more done because I approached the break with an attitude of “I’m relaxing here! If there’s any time or energy left when I’m done, THEN I’ll move on to doing stuff” which is the exact opposite of the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality of my entire life up to this point. Coming into adulthood, I had to move fast, like disgustingly fast, just to survive. But that part’s over now. My life and my body have been trying to slow me down for the last few years, and I’m starting to see why. Some things can move a lot faster when you slow down and let them.

image6Winter is the perfect time to study hibernation and repose. It feels good to follow the rhythms of nature, to sleep when the world sleeps, to go indoors early when the sun goes down early. Largely because when it’s dark out it’s harder to dodge all the human feces on the sidewalk (I’m looking at you San Francisco!), so you may as well take that time to paint your nails, take a nap, watch the new season of Revenge, read thirteen books, and plan which seeds to sow come spring.

Today we go back to work. Back to morning commutes…and evening commutes. Back to desk life and emails and social interaction. It’s time to plant now, and lay down the roots for next year’s harvest. And I’m rested and ready. Bring it on.image5

New Year, Same Me

I started the year with an 8am barre fitness class at my new gym, which is also my new love. No hangovers. No excuses. I got up at the crack truve picof dawn on New Year’s Day, and I went and tried a new class, and it kicked my everlovin ass! Thank god for Sombra! (Serioulsy, they should douse you in this stuff on your way out of the studio.

Why did I sacrifice a morning of sleeping in to get sweaty and sore? Because I could. See, over the last few years my body has been to hell and back (several times). I’ve suffered bouts of all out immobility thanks to first a broken leg, then a temporarily crippling flare of Crohn’s disease and related arthritis. As 2014 came to a close, a lot of my health problems eased closer to remission, and now that I’m starting to feel like myself again, I’ve been able to increase my physical activity. So I’ve been sort of haphazardly getting out and trying things here and there – a spin class after work, a Sunday jog by the Lake (using the term “jog” loosely here), walking to work instead of riding the bus. That sort of thing. And as my activity becomes more frequent, I keep asking myself why I exercise. Is it to lose weight? And the answer, for me anyway, is: not really.

Here’s where I’m at with my body: I fucking love it to death. This is a body that survived being run over by a motorcycle! This is the body that rebuilt itself, from muscle loss, bone fractures, torn ligaments, monstrous autoimmune attacks – and it still gets me everywhere I need to be. And it feels good! It’s me! Sure, my immune system is a little bit ratchet, but that makes it even more apparent how strong I am, how robust my organs are to stand up to that kind of constant assault.  And I feel compelled to celebrate my strength by moving more, in new and challenging ways that feel good.

Because I’ve felt what it’s like to not be able to move. And there’s a chance I’ll be in that situation again at some point, so I want to enjoy my mobility now, while I still can, and because I know that moving my joints now is the best way to keep them moving for the long haul.

So, I’m not looking to change myself, although I’m sure my shape will change a bit along the way. I’m not looking for a new me, not at all, I’m looking to experience more of who I already am. And that’s a much stronger motivator than “having to go work out” – it infuses my decision to get out there with curiosity and excitement rather than dread and stress.

I got lucky that just yesterday I found a gym that’s in line with my goals and attitude about exercise. After years of the uncomfortable sweaty ham-scented grind of a mega-gym chain, I decided to check out a new place in my neighborhood. It’s clean, and beautiful and warm and welcoming and personal. The classes are exciting and challenging and the instructors are encouraging and friendly. And I get excited to go there. So even though the membership is significantly more expensive, I’ve decided to join up, because I’d rather pay more for something I’ll actually use, than less for something I’ll avoid.

So that’s the last piece of my exercise resolution. Here it is in full: 1. Take time every day to think about why movement is important to me. 2. Move in ways that feel good. 3. Move in ways that feel like accomplishments. 4. Spend active time in places I actually enjoy being.

That’s it. No “lose 20 lbs.,” no “run a marathon,” no “fit into my skinny jeans.” Just me experiencing my body in motion.