Hey guys…hi. I totally bailed on you before the new year, huh? I’ve been writing other things. I hope we’re still friends. Also, I feel like every fifth post starts with this caveat. Maybe I should just ignore the silence and jump in. But I also have this compulsion for narrative continuity—like, don’t I need to express that a lot of time has passed since my last post? The answer is no. It’s the same impulse I had when I was a kid and wrote to pen-pals from camp—half of my every letter consisted of “Oh, gotta go eat dinner now…” “Well, I just got home from school…” “I wrote that last line three days ago, but I’m back!” Etc. But here we are. I’ll try to make it short.
There was Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. It’s 2014. Where does the time go, blah, blah, blah. There were recipes and things I wanted to say about Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I’ve decided to let go, move on, and focus on the New Year.
I spent a week in New York City over New Year’s and it was the perfect start to 2014. I think I’ll do a lil’ travel post next, so don’t get mad that I’m not talking about bagels. But first I want to talk about my friend Rachel, who kindly hosted me for an excessive number of days. Rachel is a member of the Dup, my lady friends/roommates from college. I rather impulsively decided to visit her after Christmas, wanting very badly to soul-sister it up for awhile with one of my last favorites whose life resonates deeply with my own.
Let me qualify that last bit. In every recognizable way, Rachel’s life could not be more unlike my own. She grew up in Chile, has lived in Japan, Thailand, Bolivia, and now has been in New York for the past four years. She is a marathon runner who outpaces any dude who tries to run with her. She just got her masters in criminal justice and her greatest heart’s desire is to land a job as a federal agent. When she reveals this goal, most people say things like: “But…you’re so pretty. Why would you want to do that?” Because, also, she is stunningly, stop on the street, beautiful. And those responses fill her with fiery Chilean rage. So…we’re like, the same.
Despite some obvious differences, though, Rachel and I have been tracking pretty flawlessly for the past couple years. She’s tried a lot of different things since college as I’ve plodded my way through an English lit. M.A. and straight into a publishing job, but neither of us has any kind of clear professional ladder on which to mark progress—which I imagine has plenty of its own challenges, but would also be reassuring at this point. Both of us are single and grateful for the strength and self-reliance we’ve gained by being on our own, but are starting to think we’ve learned the lessons we can learn from this situation. We both make a point to enjoy and are at the same time kind of over the gratuitous freedoms of our relatively unencumbered lives.
This summer Rachel and I happened to be in Europe at the same time and managed to rondevu in Paris. I was with several friends, and she effortlessly joined the group over crepes—which was pretty gratifying, as anyone who tries to blend worlds knows. But we wanted some time to catch up, and decided to plan a day on our own. Meeting early at the Louvre, but feeling pretty ODed on museums, we felt out each other’s commitment to one of the world’s greatest treasure troves of beauty and recognized with relief that however much you delight in food, and however expensive the delicacy, a full stomach is a full stomach. The motto for this decision comes from when we were mapping out the few things we still really wanted to see and I declared “I don’t give a shit about Egyptian art.” So we chose our few pieces to see, wondered how Napoleon would feel about us creeping on his furniture, and rushed out to wander Paris. One of my favorite moments of the whole trip was drinking terrible espresso from the most bizarre convenience store/junk shop, I can’t even remember where, which happened to have a couple rickety chairs out front. We nursed our bitter coffee and aching feet and talked about faith, choosing to go deeper rather than assume we’ve outgrown things we haven’t understood, friendship, men, and our wide-open futures. We walked all the way from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame and stopped on the way to drink cheap beer overlooking the Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Seeing Rachel in Paris was a treat set atop a treat made out of several treats. It was sweetness itself.
This winter, visiting New York nestled in a Polar Vortex, seeing Rachel was more like stew—hearty, reviving stuff. We wandered and explored again, ate delicious things, played, bought candy cigarettes and wore Statue of Liberty hats, but it also felt like we got some serious work done. We talked about broken relationships, family, what we want from those alarmingly open futures of ours. We declared our Hopes and Dreams for 2014, which somehow felt risky and courageous when most were terribly modest. I got to see her life, meet her delightful friends, catch up with the ones we already share, get cozy in Brooklyn, and then flee the vortex with a strong motivation to force 2014 to keep being great.
Eesh, you can just see the temperature dropping, can’t you? But it was exactly what I needed to start the year, and I hope Rachel feels the same way. Talking to her, I hear some of my own thoughts and desires in new words. Though we occasionally come at them from opposite situations, we long for many of the same things in life and deal with many of the same problems—which is so very reassuring, and challenging, and sometimes weird. With all my talk about making the effort to love and relate to friends who have different lives, sometimes you need to talk to someone who doesn’t just get it, but is experiencing the same things that you are—in their own unique, New Yorker type way.