Tuesday, January 27, 2009

the evening's activity.

i just took the jeopardy online test. you know, for kicks.

i now feel really, really dumb.

man fifteen seconds go by fast.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

air and simple gifts.

like most of the other two million people that joined me on the national mall yesterday, i'm having a hard time figuring out a way to talk about being at the inauguration, the entirety, experience of it all.

so i will start with the temperature. people, it was fucking cold.

now, i'm a new englander who spent a few years in chicago, so i am not exactly new to this whole winter weather business. however, i also don't usually make a habit of standing outside in it for five hours straight. however layered-up you are, in that amount of time, you will get cold. you will get freezing. you will begin to assert the impossibility of the existence of god. you will curse the existence of government in the first place, because without it goddammit we wouldn't all be out here in the first place. damn you founding fathers, damn you!

then your fingers actually go numb.

we started the day earlier than anticipated - my parents had set out for their silver ticketed area destination around 6:15, and we were going to leave around 7:30 or 8:00. however, cnn helpfully showed us the waves of people descending on the mall before the sun had even come up, and we decided we better move it. out the door at 7:15, we made our labyrinthine way along the sound side of the mall (or a few blocks south of it to be precise, as we didn't actually have a death wish) to 14th street and the washington monument. lots of open grass! a slope to aid jumbotron viewing! the capitol dome in view! score. we put our blanket down and settled in to wait.

did i mention the part about my fingers going numb? oh right i did. around 9:30, my ill-fated venture to the port-a-potties (didn't even make it halfway there, crowd was too thick) made me nearly lose jason in the throng - sheer luck and a memorable tree saved me from lost kid hysteria. and around ten, the cold having seeped through every layer i had on, the involuntary muscle spasms started. those were fun! but just when i was started to contemplate weeping quietly into my ratty old fleece gloves, there was a sound! music! from the stage! it was starting.

it seemed to take forever to get all the VIP attendees announced and into their seats. did you know there are a lot of members of congress? and joint chiefs of things? and former vice-presidents and presidents that have the nerve not to be dead already?? but at least it gave us something to cheer about when our partisan heroes appeared - lots of love for teddy, and for bubba too. but then, eventually, bush came out.

the booing, it was epic. i think you could probably hear it in new jersey. and i know - i know - he heard it. before he emerged, i considered for a moment what i should do - i questioned whether it was right to boo any standing president, to disrespect the office of the president in that way. but then i thought, you know what? he disrespected the office of the president far more than i ever could - and so i booed. loudly.

the inauguration itself was mercifully brief - compared to the hours of waiting that preceded it - and brimmed with an energy and intensity that is hard to describe. with that many people in a shared space, with a common feeling, it is impossible not to have that consensus become something almost palpable right before it is realized - like it might actually coalesce into something you could grab, touch, hold onto at any moment. we hung onto each other, i think, because we knew it was right there at our fingertips.

before the oath and president obama's speech, there was a classical piece called "air and simple gifts" performed by itzhak perlman, yo yo ma, gabriela montero and anthony mcgill. it was perfectly appropriate to the moment - pieces of nostalgia and alchemy and comfort and comprehension - and it simultaneously seemed to bring everything back down to earth and lift it onto a different plane all together. a woman standing in front of me turned to her right, tilted her face toward the sun, closed her eyes. smiled.

then, the oath of office. it didn't matter than we were on about a three second delay between the video on the jumbotron and the audio from the speakers, and it didn't matter that i couldn't entirely see between the hats and tall heads in front of me. i left my camera in my pocket - i wanted to be completely present at that moment. and i was. and i'll never forget it.

his speech, as you all heard, was very good - not lofty rhetoric, but tailored to the moment, and i thought it worked. and still, even in its pragmatism, it had its moments of high ideals and inspiration - calls to renewal, to service, to the barricades. to be honest, the cynic in me should have been rolling my eyes at points - it all got a little man in the mirror, you know? but guess what - on my more optimistic days, i kinda like man in the mirror. and i do want to make that change. so there, take that, pessimism and doubt! score one for obama - at least for today.

our trek home was nothing short of spectacular, and not necessarily in a good way. i think i was on the verge of being trampled once or twice, there were numerous inexplicable points of human gridlock, and we had to engage in much re-routing and cursing of families that had the audacity to hold hands and try to stay together. i may have kicked an old woman or two, i'm not sure.

kidding. i'm kidding. i think.

i don't even know how long it took us to get back to the apartment. time had ceased to have any meaning by that point. we were a city of momentary refugees, all just trying to get back to where we were from - trudging down side streets in packs, helping each other over concrete barriers, wandering aimlessly down an empty blockaded highway. i have never been so happy to see my building - jason ran, flapping and giddy, down the last half of the back alley, me too tired to do anything but cheer him on. "go, go, you're almost there!" and then we were. home.

all in all, it was one of those crazy once-in-a-lifetime experiences that kicked the crap out of you but was completely worth it. i'm hoping to be able to hold on to this feeling somehow, this real sense of possibility, of re-invigoration. because it only comes along so often, and when it does, boy you've got to grab hold.

be the change. yes we can. let's get back to work.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


i know better than this. i really do.

and yet how many different news sites did i click on this afternoon? half a dozen, easily - wide-eyed, hand instinctively pressed against the center of my collarbone, taking in the pictures of an airplane slowly sinking into the hudson.

holy. shit.

i am not a good flyer. it was a gradual, somewhat inexplicable devolution from care-free college student who happily flew out of logan in a blinding blizzard to, a few short years later, a white-knuckled 20-something trying to remind herself to breathe during take-off. xanax is the only thing that stopped the downward spiral, and now i don't leave home (ok, don't leave home for the airport!) without it. and i had just - just - gotten to a place where i can open a crossword puzzle and not need to focus on every dip and shift of our ascent to 10,000 feet, or who can continue reading my book while the landing gear comes down and the pools and rooftops come into focus.

then i saw masses of people standing on the wings of a plane. which would be cool, you know, if it were on land instead of partially submerged in a frigid river.

it's a really good thing i'm not flying for another two months. perhaps i should try hypnosis?

Friday, January 09, 2009


i am in that nebulous space between sick and not-sick. my body cannot decide which it wants to be. i'm over here all, "team not-sick! team not-sick!" and trying to ply it with copious amounts of tea, cough drops, and vitamin c. i'm headed to a family birthday event tomorrow which will include more than one virginia winery - on any normal day this would fall squarely into awesomeness territory. but at the moment, i just hope that drinking the equivalent of multiple bottles of wine in one day won't put me on the body's bad side. because who are we kidding - i will be drinking it.

mind over matter, right?

Friday, January 02, 2009

we two.

i am purple; she is pink.

i am the lime; she is the salt.

i am the concealer; she is the eyeliner.

i am opal; she is pearl.

i am the toe; she is the heel.

i am the breakwater; she is the wave.

i am the first page; she is the last.

i am structure; she is style.

i am the backbeat; she is the bridge.

i miss her.

their current form.

11:00 pm, christmas eve

i am upstairs in my bedroom at my parents' house. everyone else is downstairs, having already changed out of their clothes and into their pajamas. i am the last one still dressed, as it was my year to put the silver star on top of the tree - a process which gets captured on film, for posterity, each and every year. the wooden stairs creak as usual on my way up, and i snap on the bedside lamp. standing in the center of the room, a small pool of light - i go to take off my earrings.

and then i stop.

i turn and sit, very slowly, on the edge of the bed. i look out the window, ink black and reflective of the room. for some reason, i look at my wrist, my grandmother's bracelet that hangs there - i unclasp it, lower it into my palm. my fingers close around the chain, press against the gold oval that reads

Helen Moore
40 East 61st St.
N.Y. City

i sit. and breathe. and the grandfather clock downstairs patiently chimes out the time.


11:00 am, new year's day

i sit at the wooden dining table, the remnants of breakfast cooling on the kitchen island behind me: cinnamon rolls, hash browns, bacon and sausage. coffee, orange juice, tea. on the tv in the living room is a muted football game, feet propped up on couches.

brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins, scattered about.

i have an eighteen-month old in my lap, and she is creating her own surreal masterpiece with a blank sheet of paper and a 24-count box of crayons. jason oversees an impromtu countertop bowling session with two of the kids. lazy, easy conversation. second helpings.

no rush.


some connections are faint but strong - a spider web stretched across the back of your mind. others become clearer every day, like a radio station emerging through the static as you turn the dial. some are monet - some are pollock - some you can only see in outline through the half-light. but if they are important, no matter their current form, they are always, always there.

and they are the whole point.