Dear Tuesday

Dear Zumba Class,
Thank you for kicking my ass.

Dear girl in the middle who dances like she is swatting away angry hornets:
Thank you for showing me how to dance with reckless abandon.

Dear older woman who can only manage to sway side to side but still keeps her eyes riveted to the instructor:
Thank you for teaching me that it's never too late to start working on yourself.

Dear beautiful Latin lady up in front:
Thank you for showing me what comes with practice.

Dear extra fifteen pounds sitting on my thighs:
What the hell?

Dear Bad I-Sit-At-A-Desk-All-Day Posture:
Seriously, dude.

Dear body:
I'm sorry for yelling at you. It's just that I am so frustrated with you lately, what with the headaches and the gluten intolerance the creaky knees and the general malaise. Please know that I am working on treating you better. I can't seem to shake the belief that you still have the energy and metabolism of your former 20-year-old self.

Dear Former 20-Year-Old Self:
Man, you are one lucky bitch.

Dear Fatigue,
I've got my eye on you. You think you're going to creep on into my workout routine and just wear me down, but you've got another thing coming. It might take me a few tries, but I'm gonna get to the end of that one song and not feel defeated by you.

Dear Impatience with my own Body Mechanics:
See my note to Fatigue.

Dear Mom,
Contrary to what you want to believe, I DO know my left from my right.

Dear Brain that overthinks everything,
Please go do a crossword for an hour. I think Heart's got this one.

Dear Self Criticism,
You're such an asshole.

Dear Schedule:
Please note Tuesday and Thursday evenings are NOT for working late. They are for dancing from now on.

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SLO, Day 2

I've been slow (ha ha! get it! SLO?) to post about my trip. It's been nearly a month since I got back (how in the hell...?) so I'd better get on with it. Plus, Mr. Burdy's cousin called tonight and wanted to know how it was (we haven't talked in a while), so if I needed a sign from the Universe to wrap this thing up, that was it.

But Other Things have been happening! Fun things! And I have wanted to write about them, too! I guess I will have to write about them after I finish writing about this trip. Which, at the rate I'm going, will sometime in 2012.


SLO, Day 2:

We start out our tour of downtown with the mission.

I don't know what it is about statuary that fascinates me. Most of my pictures from my 1999 trip to Europe are of statues (and me making an ass of myself in front of them. Oh, to be 20 and shameless again...)

Here we have a bunch of Catholic missals. Which, as a nerdy ten year old, I could not dissociate from projectile ammunition. Oh, homonyms, how I love thee.

Here is our challenge for the day: Bishop's Peak. "Obispo" means "Bishop" in Spanish. Thank you, Victoria, for teaching me this. I would have spent the rest of the trip thinking San Luis Obispo meant something like Saint Louie's Abyss.) And thank YOU, perky young ladies at the Visitor's Information Center, for not knowing the length of a mile from a hole in the ground. Normally, I'm not the type to complain about walking, or about bad estimations of distances to places, but in this case, with my feet swollen in their shoes from the heat, and my tiny water bottle nearly empty before we even got to the FOOTHILL, I was a little more than miffed. Apparently, the attitude in SLO is so laid back, residents can actually cut four miles into one just by saying it slowly.

Yes, we climbed it. And yes, we were sore afterward. And yes, it was sooooo worth it.

This is my favorite part about travel to temperate climates: CITRUS! GROWING ON TREES! IN PEOPLE'S YARDS! It's like shrubbery, or ground cover or something, all casual-like and unassuming on people's property. Like the citrus trees are all, hey lawn, how's it hanging? I'm just standing here minding my biz, making fruit and stuff. Only it's not all casual-like to me because it's CITRUS! With real CITRUS! fruit. And I live in a city that's cold and gray and the only thing that grows really well here all casual-like is mold.

My second favorite part about travel? Signs. Yup. I love me some signs. Especially ones like this one. (The stupid 20 year old in me is snickering right now.)

You know you might have some issues with food when, in a historically Spanish-speaking down, you see a sign that begins with "Del" and you hope and pray it ends in "i" and that they have a good rye bread. Geez. You can take the girl out of New York...

Victoria and I hauled ourselves to the top of Bishop's peak (well, almost to the top; the actual last thirty or forty feet required bouldering equipment) after a very long trip to the base from town. Sure, it was only a few miles, but STILL. When you're planning on just a few hours of hiking because you're trying to save up your energy for the heavy drinking you want to do later that night, you need to pace yourself.

Another thing SLO residents stink at? Describing natural landmarks. We were told that we might come across two massive rocks that would block the road that would require us to "shimmy" between them to get up and over. We came across no such rocks. Why? Because we took a different path to the top. But we weren't told there were two ways to get to the top, so we guessed that the rocks everyone was referring to were these slippery, wet rocks that shot up into the stratosphere at a ninety degree angle. Not wanting to miss the spectacular view from the top, we started up. We got about ten feet up, and both of us broke out into cold sweats. I'm not sure what Victoria was thinking, but all that was running through my head was "Don't die don't die don't die". My knees were starting to give out (because I'm not a billygoat, for god's sake) but I didn't want to disappoint Victoria. But then I saw her face was a shade lighter and we both decided to clamber down, take some photos, chew on some trail mix, and assess the situation. We decided (smartly, duh) to take another path up, and it turns out we chose wisely. From fifteen hundred feet in the air, it was gorgeousness in every direction.

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SLO, Day 1

I've been meaning to post pictures of my trip to San Luis Obispo for weeks now, but I've lately fallen into the rabbit hole of self help books. I know, I know. it's incredibly good for me, incredibly bad for this blog. And, as we all know, at some point you just have to stop all the processing and journaling and weeping about it and just get on with the business of living. So, here it is. The start of my trip.

Were the discovery of the New World up to me, were I asked by the moneyed elite to captain a rollicking, gigantic vessel designed to cut through vast expanses of bumpy sea, were I handed a satchelful of gold and a crudely drawn map and promised fame and glory, were I told innumerable riches, exotic women, and lush climates awaited me in a beautiful new country, I would have considered the offer with a deep and sober humility. I would have calculated the promise of honor, and weighed it against the risk of death. I would have allotted the proper amount of pacing back and forth with hands behind the back and tugging on the chin. And then I would have turned to my benefactors, shrugged my shoulders and said, "Meh. I'll skip it. I'm starved. What's there to eat around here?"

Not that discovery and travel don't excite me! In fact, they are the only things left that excite me! (Well, that and new flavors of cheese puffs). It's the getting there that puts me off. And not because of time or boredom or anything like that. In all matters of cross continental escapades, it's the motion sickness that is the undoing of my enthusiasm.

I haven't talked much about our boat (may she rest in peace with her new owners) on this blog, and with good reason. We bought it, I nearly peed myself in anxiety when we moved it to another slip, we took it out for a few day trips, and that was it. We sold it. And all because I couldn't handle the motion of the ocean.

Travel by boat, though, has its charms. (They wear off after about two hours). It's the air travel, start to finish, that's the absolute pits. And we can just skip the discussion about the public theater that is the security check at the airport. And the bad food and the service and the stench of humankind packed into a winged steel tube. For me, it's the tiny mutiny going on inside my head that makes almost all travel not worth it. My tiny sinuses and the disastrous labyrinth that is my inner ear all conspire to keep me home-bound.

But I do want to leave the house! I do, I do, I do! It's a disconcerting thing, really, this desire to be rowed through the canals of Venice, to want to eat soup for breakfast on the streets of Vietnam, to want to paddle my surfboard out into the Pacific along the Panamanian coast... and then to be thwarted by my own shitty head-plumbing.

I suppose, given my new foray into the Laws of Attraction and all that jazz, I could dig deep for the metaphor here. I could consider that maybe my focus on the destination and not the journey is really what keeps me from enjoying the ride. Maybe I am just not at the place in my life to understand how airsickness is revealing itself as a teacher of a greater lesson.

Oooooooor.... maybe there is no freakin' lesson. For God's sake. Maybe I am just not designed to sit (as Louis CK says) in a chair 30,000 feet in the air and think this is completely normal.

I think I am designed to sit about two feet off the pavement, in my Honda Civic. Or maybe four feet off the ground in a train car. Something not subject to the twitchy temperament of winds or, ya know, clouds.

A massage therapist recently suggested soaking my feet in an Epsom salt bath every night to draw the energy mucking up my head into my the lower part of my body. If there was a way to pull the mangled locomotive engine parts out of my head and put them in my feet, I gladly would. I would happily take nauseous ankles over a head that feels like it might explode from the pressure any day of the week.

How wrong is it, when I fly, to wish I could ferry all the discomfort from my head to my stomach so I could just have a good old fashioned heave-ho into an airsickness bag and be done with it? Why do I have to contend with the feeling of a balloon being inflated inside my skull? Why can't I have restless legs or legs that are too long for an airplane seat? Why, oh why, must I be obsessed with visiting places ravaged by things like "pockets of warm air" or "tropical storm fronts"?

And how hard is it to calm yourself down with deep cleansing breaths when the air you're breathing smells and tastes like dirty shag carpeting? Hard. And then there are the toilets threatening to suction your intestines out and distribute them over a farm in Iowa somewhe-

Wait. This is supposed to be a post about a really awesome trip I went on with a good friend of mine.


So. Ahem. ANYWHO. After a slight delay at the airport, we boarded the plane. Seattle, like the abusive boyfriend of a city that it is, gave us a rainbow in a last ditch effort to say "Don't leave! I promise I'll never hurt you again, baby."

The ascent was the worst I've ever experienced in my life. The winds were pretty fierce, so, to avoid bumps, the pilot cocked the plane back on its rear wheels, pointed the nose STRAIGHT up into the air, and shot up to 30,000 feet in, like, sixteen seconds. I'm not even exaggerating. My head hurt so bad afterward, I could hardly hold my hands steady to take this picture. Thanks, Victoria, for help with the shot.

We landed at night, got ourselves the most delicious Mexican shrimp cocktail and beers in town for dinner, and then hit the hay early.

Next post: Day Two (where there will be no mention of vomit, I promise).

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Pictures From A Trip

These past few mornings, I have been waking up from some pretty strange dreams. There's a rule out there that says never to fill your blog with descriptions of your dreams, so I'm going to skip the details. Suffice it to say, though, they have been setting the tone for the day in that way that unshakably bad dreams do.

Ever since the trip to California, things have been less sharply focused. All that energy I had before the trip has been slowly draining from my body. The weather has been colluding to keep me inside. It's been raining real rain, in real storms, for the past week or so.

This is a transitional time of year and I feel it in the very core of me. This is the time when we all want to stretch our achy muscles, wipe the dust from our eyes, and see the sun again. Our bodies sense Spring is around the corner and we want to end our willful hibernation of book reading and tea drinking and coiling our bodies under heavy blankets. The crocuses are poking their optimistic heads out from the ground. Daffodils have burst open, their bright yellow almost unnatural against the hard wet cement and mulch. We humans are gravitating towards windowsills, and lingering in front of piles of folded sleeveless shirts, and gradually feeling like our winter coats are just a touch too heavy for days like these.

I am ready, but the skies, heavy with clouds, have other plans for March. And, like a kid who can see, if she cranes her neck just so, the Christmas tree through the slats of the banister at five am, I know I have to wait some more before that really good thing can happen.

That isn't the introduction I wanted to write for what I am about to share, but this is a season of much back and forth, contradiction and anticipation, so maybe it is, after all, fitting.

My very good friend Tara just returned from a trip to Africa, specifically to Rwanda and Morocco. (She was slated to visit Egypt, but then, well, Egypt happened, so she had to do some rearranging). Tara is a brilliant photographer and one of the most kind, spirited, passionate, honest, talented, and ambitious people I have ever met. You'll see all that when you see her photographs.

When I watched the slideshow this morning, something was put back, something wobbly was righted inside of me. I gained a little perspective. All my fretting about my life, privileged as it is, was made to feel (rightfully) small in the face of genocide and civil war. Of course, something new was set in motion too. I started wondering about the long history of Africa and the inevitability of war... and then, because Tara who she is, and because of the genius of her work, I started to think about resilience, and this divinity we all posses, this ability to overcome devastating defeat and to rise again. It's enough to make me want to slap myself in the face for feeling sorry for myself.

Right now, it's all about scales of gray. What paralyzes me now will not keep me down me in the months to come. This will all be distant and probably laughable one day. I will look back and wonder who I was when I wrote these words. Right now, though... right now, this is all monotone and stifling and unbearably real.

Enjoy Tara's work.</wbr>

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Letter To A Vegan Soul Food Chef

Hey, Internets. I owe you some stories and pictures from Central California. But, I need to sing some praises first.

Dear Bryant Terry,

You are a genius. A certified, bona fide genius. Your cookbook is like none I have ever owned. I am having a torrid love affair with your recipes and I am not afraid to say it. I just got the book a few weeks ago, and I have already made a dozen dishes or so from your collection.

Soul food has always been one of those cuisines that I have had to stand on the sidewalk and enjoy from the other side of the steamed up glass. All that fried golden brown deliciousness, that spicy, savory, range of flavors... succulent greens, followed by sweet deserts piled high with cream... it's a little heaven on earth. But I'm a most-of-the-time vegetarian (who has dappled in the world of veganism and gluten-freedom for some time) so soul food has been off limits for me. But now, because of your book, I can bring all those wonderful aromas and flavors to my own table without having to compromise my values. "Vegan Soul Food" is the prefect (if not unlikely) marriage of flavor and consciousness. And that is why I have hugged it to my chest and kept it on my nightstand with the rest of my other reading material.

I feel like I have been waiting for this cookbook my whole life. The music, matched with recipes, matched with stories and inspirational little bits of wisdom? I just can't say it enough: it's a work of art. Your passion practically radiates from each page. And who would have thought that a cookbook would be such an extraordinary resource for discovering new music? (You did.) I didn't think the baked beans could taste any better, but, when I put on Bill Withers, they seemed to taste just a little sweeter.

It was quite by accident that I decided to make soul food on Mardi Gras. I had planned to have this dinner with a friend weeks ago, and when I was putting together the menu, all I was thinking about was FLAVOR. But, midway through the day, I remembered it was Mardi Gras, and it just made the prep all the more satisfying. Here's what I made from your cookbook: citrus collards, baked beans, barbecued tofu, and succotash. I even threw in some of my own vegan gluten free mac and cheese for good measure. We washed all of this down with your hibiscus-ginger-lemon-ade. And oh my, was it delicious. Last night, my fiance held me at arms' length, looked me square in the eyes, and very seriously said, "Every single thing you cooked tonight was AMAZING".

After dinner, we danced the night away to Kermit Ruffins and The Rebirth Jazz Band in our tiny living room, our beads around our neck, and our (ahem, adulterated with vodka) ginger-ade drinks in hand. It might have been one of my favorite dinner parties for three ever.

Big thanks to Lynne Rosetto-Kapser for featuring you on her show.

You know, I have pressed my nose longingly up against countless restaurant windows and sucked in the saliva threatening to fall from my mouth, wincing just a little in an effort to deny the temptation and uphold my values around food production in this country for many years. Now I can just turn on a little music, shuffle around the spice drawer, and cook what I long for myself. And it's all because of you, Bryant Terry. Thank you.

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