The Grayest Sunny Day

It’s funny, I want to start this blog post off with something trite, something like, “Today is just one of those days.” But it’s not. It’s an entirely different kind of day. One I haven’t had before, or maybe one I had so long ago that I’ve forgotten how to recognize it when it arrives. Today my heart is open and aching, and pulsing with more intensity than I can bear – at the moment, at least. Somewhere down in there I also know that it will ease, and I will be able to build up my walls again. But why? I don’t want the walls. I don’t want the cage any longer.

My wild thing, my spirit, I see now that I’ve let it be crushed. My spark has been going out, and I was just watching it go, no attempt to throw a life line. Every time I dream of St. Francis, of walking the Camino, of living a life of service, of spending time looking out over the ocean, it’s just been the dying breath of this goodness inside of me, working itself up to one last yell, “Hey! I’m in here – YOU’RE in here!” But today my eyes are open to some of the bigger picture. How did I get so lost?

I’ve been in Austin for the last couple of days, attending a yoga festival called Wanderlust, and also celebrating my birthday. This road trip was set aside as a time to pamper myself and maybe strategize a bit about life changes that I’ve been putting off out of cowardice and confusion. I also had one of my feelings yesterday; I felt this pull of energy, this suggestion from the Universe to ditch my planned class and go sit in the sun instead.

As I relaxed on my yoga mat in the center of the festival’s open air market, one of the other sun worshippers suddenly turned to me and struck up a conversation. We chatted for about a half an hour, during which I learned that he was a fitness buff and aspiring life coach, and that he’d never been outside of downtown Austin. Since I really wanted to go check out South Congress, but wasn’t feeling like rolling solo, I invited him along for the adventure.

As we explored the neighborhood, we got to know each other as fellow seekers of (adventure? truth? light? fun?), I began to realize a vision of myself that was more real than the one I’m living right now. I can’t tell you the last time I had such open, fearless conversation with another person about life and its larger meanings, with no unpleasant anticipation of reprisal or disappointment or judgement. I felt like I was living in a crystal, washed in energy and light, all windows and doorways open, with only the best opportunities awaiting me.

It’s always nice to meet fellow travelers with whom you can create a genuine connection, and it feels like we were meant to meet and share a conversation. He even put on his life coach hat to ask me some tough questions that I’ve been trying to ignore for the last couple of years.

It was really a beautiful night, as simple as this all seems. I’m just feeling a little raw today. OK, a lot raw. Some of it is because he said all the right things to open me up to my own possibilities. The rest is because I’m terrified that I’ll get home and try to forget what I’ve rediscovered, try to put my wild thing back in its tiny cage. What kind of monster does that?

So now I’m sitting here, waiting to stop crying so I can go to my last yoga session. I’m honestly not sure I’m going to be able to handle anything more intense than just sitting on the couch and mulling my strange ability to run into just the right person every time I’m at a crossroads. The Camino is everywhere, and it does provide. You’ve just got to be able to keep putting one foot ahead of the other.

Halo Veronica!

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us where we would go if we could set life aside for awhile and go to live with a family anywhere in the world. My answer is kind of boring to most of you, I guess, but I’m going to say it anyway. I would go to Croatia and stay with friends.

One of my best friends, Katie, is having a baby sometime in the next week or so. It’s her first child, a daughter to be named Veronica. I’m so happy for her, and can’t wait to meet my new niece. But since Katie lives on the other side of the world, it might be a year or more before I get to see either her or Veronica, and that kind of tugs on my heart strings.

For the last few days, I’ve been remembering how lovely it was to be with my other best friend Trinity when her son was born. It’s been amazing to have a solid visual memory of Leo literally from Day 1. I’d really love to have that opportunity with Veronica, too. I guess I’ll have to make up for it by sending really awesome toys, and hoping for photos.

The Mystery of Friendship

Today’s Daily Post prompt is to complete the sentence: “My closest friend is…”

Surprisingly (or maybe not surprising at all, depending on how well you know me), I can’t complete the sentence. I don’t think that I have a “closest friend.” It’s just too hard to choose.

When I was a little girl, my closest friend was a straight tie between my mother and my cat, Amos. In Mum’s defense, that cat was amazing, and quite devoted. Mum was with me almost every minute of the day, but when she had to be away, Amos took over and watched my every move. I miss that old lady (yes, Amos was a “she”). Mum doesn’t understand me very much, but she loves me with everything she has, and that’s pretty damn awesome. I love spending time with her, and we can talk for hours and hours about nothing, making each other laugh until we cry, then not remembering a thing we just talked about. It never gets boring hanging out with her, because we’re both so easily sidetracked 🙂

But other than my mother, there have been a number of people that I have held dear over the years. My first best friend was Candace Rose. She was in my class at school, and she really got me. She kept me safe from bullies, and it was a tragedy when her parents moved her to a different school. I made her a best friends’ heart out of paper, strung on a piece of string. I still have my half somewhere, and we still keep in touch on Facebook, though our lives have led us in very different directions.

My next best friend was probably technically there first. Kim and I hung out together before we were born. Our mothers are friends, and we grew up playing at each others’ houses. My very first sleepover was with Kim, and we hung out all the time. The thing is, though, I always felt like I had to call her my best friend, when in reality we’re probably more like sisters – horribly competitive, a little begrudging, sometimes mistrustful, loving to a fault, but together because we were made to be together, not because we chose each other. We’re still close, in that weird, required way. Don’t get me wrong, I love her and would never want to give her up, but she’s not my closest friend anymore. It doesn’t help that she had her first child in high school, and our paths, like mine and Candace’s, diverged wildly over the years. I have this odd feeling that one day when we’re old we’ll end up being great friends.

My third best friend from my school days is Amy. She’s also my distant cousin, and though we met for the first time when we were around 10 or so, we didn’t become tight until high school. Once we did become friends, though, we were bonded for life. I love her deeply, and we have always called each other cousin-sister-friends. We don’t talk as much as we used to, or as much as we should, but we’re always touching, psychically. Even though I’ve said all of this, though, she’s not my closest friend. She’s like my twin or something. It’s weird, and deeply good.

In college, I was paired up randomly with my roommate in the freshman dorm. Trinity and I exchanged one letter the summer before school, and only formally met on the first day of school when we moved into the dorm. Even so, everything in the room matched – same color scheme for our bedding, same lava lamp (red lava in yellow water, mine with a silver base, hers with a gold), books and music that complemented each others. She came with her teddy bear, I came with my rabbit. I fell in love with her exotic look at first glance, when I spotted her on the quad before finding out that she was my roommate. We were so good as roommates (though not friends) our freshman year that we decided to save money and live in the same room off campus the next year. After that we shared an apartment with another roommate, Katie. Katie and I shared a love of the color red, and while Trin is great at showering you with love and making you feel like part of the party, Katie is the best listener I know. She understands and feels deeply about whatever you’re talking about. Between the two of them, I felt protected, understood, and freed in a way I’d never felt before. Suddenly it was OK to be odd or different – they loved me for it. It was because of them that I grew brave and strong, and learned to wear my skin proudly. Trin & Katie became – and still are – my two best friends in the world. We lived together until they graduated in 2004, and then after moving away from NOLA, Trin and I lived together again in 2006 through 2008 when she came back to town. I’ve visited Trin in her hometown and at her new adopted home. I’m her son’s aunt. I was the first friend to visit Katie when she moved to Europe, and will be her daughter’s aunt pretty soon. But I couldn’t pick one friend over the other.

And there’s more. When I lived in Chicago, I met another friend, Jess, who quickly became one of my favorite people on the planet. We just get each other. When I think about friendship, and when I’m here in NOLA, wallowing because none of my most favorite people are here, I often dwell on the fact that I miss Jess. She pops to the top of my mind even before Trin and Katie do, sometimes. Maybe because while Katie and Trin complete a part of a special unit that is the three of us, Jess and I share a lot of the same likes and dislikes, misgivings, and humor triggers. She never fails to make me laugh, or make a party “THE party” for me. She’s definitely a top contender for most loved. But she’s not my closest friend, either.

It’s impossible for me to choose. I don’t know how you’re supposed to. Each of them is so different, has different awe-inspiring strengths, and beautiful flaws. I love them each with all that I have to give them, and I hope that they love me, too. But that’s not the point. Being loved is not winning. Knowing love is. I’m a very lucky girl.

Sweet Home Chicago

If you can only see one possible turning point in your life, slow down and take a second to reassess your past. Every day holds many potential turning points. What if you got a coffee at the gas station instead of a Coke, and then accidentally dropped that coffee in your lap in traffic, then swerved into another car as a result? Would the coffee have been your turning point, or was it actually a result of choosing that gas station? Or maybe it all harkened back to oversleeping that morning. Who can predict the future, and who wants to?

But for me, a very easy turning point to pick out of the billions in my lifetime was Hurricane Katrina. When Katrina hit, I had just moved into a brand new 1 bedroom shotgun apartment, where the bedroom and closets were huge, I had my own washer and dryer, a front porch with a stray kitty who came by nightly for kibble, and a kitchen that was about to be painted Dragon’s Hide Green. Yes, that’s actually a shade – I picked it off of a paint chip. I was singing with a band, and we’d just had our third or fourth live show. I was working at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter, but was getting ready to reduce my hours because I’d just been accepted to grad school at Tulane. In short, it was a REALLY good time to be me. I even had these super-soft cream and brown paisley sheets that were the nicest sheets I’ve ever owned, and I’d got them on sale at Steinmart, so they were cheap, too. I’ve been looking to replace those sheets for the last 8 years *sigh*.

The bed in my new apartment, just before Katrina. The bunny on the bed is Frank the velveteen rabbit. My grandfather gave him to me the Christmas before he died, and my landlord threw him out after Katrina. I was devastated, as he was the ONLY thing I had asked her to save.

The bed in my new apartment, just before Katrina. The bunny on the bed is Frank the velveteen rabbit. My grandfather gave him to me the Christmas before he died, and my landlord threw him out after Katrina. I was devastated, as he was the ONLY thing I had asked her to save.

So Katrina hit, and long story short, even though I’d planned to stay in New Orleans, and could have done so quite safely since my area of town didn’t flood, I evacuated with my band. I really didn’t have any say in the matter, since the bass player and his girlfriend, the other singer in the band, showed up on the morning of the storm, pounded on my door, and watched as I packed up my things and left the house. They were good people. We picked up the guitarist and headed out of town in the bass player’s car – a United Cab. We kept the meter running all the way to Arkansas, and after some time there, once it became apparent that there was no New Orleans to return to, we made plans to go our separate ways.

United Cab is the most well-known taxi company in New Orleans. The first number you memorize here as a Tulane freshman is the United Cabs number (522-9771) and the next is the number of Tulane’s lawyer. During Mardi Gras we used to Sharpie the lawyer’s number on our hands, just in case. Photo by Eliot Kamenitz, from The Times-Picayune archive

I evacuated with $30 to my name. My paycheck was due that week (and to K-Paul’s credit, they did send me that check after they got the office back up and running in Baton Rouge). I spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents, and while I was going through a particularly difficult time, so were they. My dad was OK, but my mom was worried sick about me. She was so worried that she basically shut down on me and got angry at me for not coming home immediately. My grandparents called and said that if I came back to NC, they’d pay for me to get an apartment in the Raleigh area near my aunt, and would help me find a job, etc. Every phone call with the family got more and more tense, until things eventually went awry.

Because here’s the thing…I really don’t like living in North Carolina. I disliked it when I was a kid, I wasn’t fond of visiting later when I was in college, and I still consider it a horrible waste of vacation days today. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, and I get a sense of nostalgia when I think about certain parts of home, like the BBQ, and nature, and the way the sunset looks on an Ocracoke beach. But I’m not from the beach. I’m from the middle of fucking nowhere. There are no jobs, and lots of rednecks, bigots and religious zealots. The folks who don’t fit into those categories are often rich, snotty jerks. There’s a small subset of educated, normal folks, but their kids end up moving away. Big surprise.

If I were to move back to NC, the only way I’d do it is to move to Ocracoke Island. It’s the most beautiful place on earth, and one of my favorite places to spend time. Click through to see vacation rentals at Ocracoke Island Realty.


And even when you live in the city in NC, you’re still living in the middle of nowhere, just with big buildings and an inflated sense of pride. There are a lot of Northern transplants in NC cities, which explains some of the normalcy and more liberal attitudes that happen there, but why would I bother living in a tiny enclave of OK when I can just live in a bigger enclave of GREAT in another state? In my opinion, the only things worthwhile in NC are the mountains, the beach, and the trees, and none of those things involve civilization. I’d never move back there of my own accord, and my worst nightmare is having to move back to take care of a parent one day. Sorry if any dedicated NC folks are reading this and getting pissed off. I know there have to be lots of you good folks somewhere – I just don’t have that experience, and don’t want to keep hanging out there in the hopes of someday changing my mind.

Sooo…

When the family asked that I come back to NC in 2005, I thought hard. I had no money at all, and was stuck in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Would I rather let my family pay for me to come back to NC, knowing that without any money the odds were very high that I’d never be able to escape the state again? Or would I rather wing it, hope that some of my friends might be able to take it on faith that I’d pay them back for helping me out in my time of need? You can probably guess that I choose Option B. And it was a major issue. My mother, the nicest woman I’ve ever met, seriously won’t even squish an ant, disowned me for a few weeks. Refused to talk to me. My grandparents were mad for awhile, but eventually sent money. My father, who was not supposed to be talking to me, called me in secret and wired me a little cash to get me through. I am, always have been, and always will be, Daddy’s girl.

Forever Flood's First Concert

Forever Flood’s first concert at The Red Eye, with Evan on guitar, me on vocals and tambourine, Helen on bass, Matt on sax, and Travis on drums. Helen, Danny (not pictured), Evan and I evacuated a few months later.

From Arkansas, the band all went our separate ways. The lead guitarist went home to Staten Island. The bass player and other singer went on a road trip to explore the American West. I got a ride to stay in Memphis with one of my best friends from college, and she put me up for a week. She also helped me buy some work clothes, fed me, and took me to the gym to work off some steam, because she’s awesome like that. During that week, a little money came through and I spent it all to rent a car. Another old friend from college had agreed to let me sleep on his couch – in Chicago. So I packed up my things (and my cat, Matthew – did I mention that I was lucky enough to evacuate with my cat?), and we drove to Chicago. It was terrifying. I wasn’t a very confident driver, and the highways around Chicago are just nerve-wracking.

The marquee at The Underground Lounge - our beloved home away from home.

The marquee at The Underground Lounge – our beloved home away from home.

I checked into my Chicago friend’s house, then we pretty much immediately left to get a beer at the local bar, The Underground Lounge. Just down the street, The Underground became my center of existence for the next five months. In fact, it changed my life. When Al (the friend) and I walked in, my homeless, travel-weary self glanced around for a moment. I could use a beer, but I didn’t have the cash for it. I didn’t know anything about Chicago. I’d never been there before, and until the last week, had never even aspired to visit. So here I was in this dark little basement bar, with a friend I hadn’t seen since college, about to try to pick up the pieces of my life, no idea what to do next. I was scared.

But that didn’t matter. Friend after friend walked up to say hi. For some reason, I didn’t know that a bunch of people I had partied with in college (mostly friends and classmates of my two best friends/roommates Trin & KT) had all moved to Chicago and remained friends after school. Besides Al, my friend Colleen was there, and Nate, and John, and AJ, and Al’s friend Zach and his girlfriend Stacy, and their friend Kristy (who would soon introduce us to Aaron and his roommate Paul), and everyone wanted to 1) offer me hugs and encouragement and 2) offer me a beer. The bartender Dave soon grew to be one of my favorite people, and it turned out that the whole crew met here every Wednesday night.

At US Cellular Field, watching one of the playoff games leading up to the White Sox winning the World Series!!! This was before I was into baseball, so I didn't know how lucky I was to be at this game. Left to right: John, Nate, AJ, me, Zach & Stacy.

At US Cellular Field, watching one of the playoff games leading up to the White Sox winning the World Series!!! This was before I was into baseball, so I didn’t know how lucky I was to be at this game. Left to right: John, Nate, AJ, me, Zach & Stacy.

My surprise birthday party at a hookah lounge! From left to right: Al, Neal, Nate, Me, Colleen, Stacy & Zach

My surprise birthday party at a hookah lounge! From left to right: Al, Neal, Nate, Me, Colleen, Stacy & Zach

Stacy, me and Colleen at the Kristkindlemarkt, just before Christmas 2005.

Stacy, me and Colleen at the Kristkindlemarkt, just before Christmas 2005.

My going away party - everyone's singing "Don't Stop Believing." That year during the White Sox winning hubbub it became the traditional birthday song for our group, but this is the first time I can remember them singing it for me. Aaron's the one with his arm raised - he rules this song at karaoke night.

My going away party – everyone’s singing “Don’t Stop Believing.” That year during the White Sox winning hubbub it became the traditional birthday song for our group, but this is the first time I can remember them singing it for me. Aaron’s the one with his arm raised – he rules this song at karaoke night. From left to right: Al, Jason, Aaron, Zach

Colleen & Anna making a Dave sandwich with the best bartender in the world!

Anna & Colleen making a Dave sandwich with the best bartender in the world! This was my last night at The Underground before heading back to New Orleans.


Pretty much everyone from the group in 2005.

Pretty much everyone from the group in 2005, plus a few mysterious faces and minus a few essential ones. New Year’s Eve at The Underground Lounge.

I lived in Chicago from September of 2005 until January of 2006, when I moved back to New Orleans to finally go to grad school at Tulane. It was one of the best times of my life. I reconnected for good with old friends and met a bunch of new ones. These people are still my very favorite friends. The group (plus significant others and associated friends, like Jess, one of my best friends, whom I absolutely adore, who eventually dated Paul and now dates him again, and occasionally stalks my blog though we’re the worst ever at calling, texting, emailing and letter writing) ended up becoming a huge part of my world, and my growth. When I decided to move back to Chicago from New Orleans in 2008, it was because I had missed the city and my people for the entire time I’d been gone. It was really hard leaving that community of awesomeness when we moved back here. I’d love to go back again, but jobs are hard to come by, especially for The Man, who has a painfully specific job.

Anyway, this post is one long ramble, but the basic point is this – if Katrina hadn’t have happened, I’d never have found the personal strength to just go with the flow. If I hadn’t made that leap of faith to explore what the world had to offer, I wouldn’t have showed up in Chicago. If I hadn’t moved to Chicago, I’d be about 15 friends lighter today. That’s an incredibly sad type of weight loss. Also, I wouldn’t have experienced what it’s like to live in a city that functions with some sort of efficiency, and offers an incredible array of opportunities and personalities. Not to mention, if I’d gone to North Carolina instead of Chicago, instead of broadening my horizons after New Orleans, I would have lessened them. I would have once again been surrounded by small minded bigots and churchmen, and though I’d probably have become more outdoorsy in an attempt to escape the people, my health would not have been half as fun as drinking with friends in Chicago and eating late night cheese fries at Clark Street Dog.

If I’d moved back to North Carolina, I wouldn’t have had enough money or the family support to get back to New Orleans in 2006 to start grad school. If I hadn’t started grad school, I would have saved $30k, but I would have missed out on one of the best things that’s ever happened to me (or the most irritating, depending on what day you’re talking to me) – meeting The Man. We would never have had class together, or worked together to measure the roof of an old plantation, or had that first date and conversation about the future over sushi. So where would I be now? Probably waiting tables in coastal NC, or maybe working as a secretary. I’d have less debt, and my own car, but I’d be considerably less cultured. I wouldn’t have tried so many new things or gone to Europe as many times. I wouldn’t have a host of funny & awesome friends. I probably wouldn’t have heard of Gogol Bordello. Hopefully I would have moved to the beach, but I’m not sure that I’d be that kind of person, really. I think I started becoming more of a beach person after I met The Man and hung out with his “island life” parents. Oh man, I’d never have The Man’s family, who have become so much my own in the past seven years. That’s just awful and not at all worth considering.

I’m sure I could think of more ways that life would be different, but thank goodness it’s not. I’m me, and you can’t strip the Chicago out of me. Now, if you’d like to give me a way to put it back in my current life, I’m definitely willing to listen. I’d love to go ahead and find the turning point for my next adventure…

Vacation Retrospective – Day #3: Meeting Zachary

If you’ve read my last post, Vacation Archives – Day #4: Venice, you’ll know that the night before travelling to Venice, I went out with the Bride’s younger twin cousins (amongst other members of the bridal party), and had a great time. It would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning how important this night was to my vacation, overall.

Up until going out with this oddly matched group of Croatians, an Armenian, and two fellow North Carolinians, I was feeling pretty down. One best friend had just gotten hitched, while the other was preggers. They’re both forceful presences in my life, and not only was I feeling overwhelmed by the changes they were going through, I was also feeling overwhelmed to once again be in their presence. They’re both captivating, powerful women, with lots to say and no fear of saying it. When we’re together, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise. By nature I’m pretty introverted. I don’t speak unless I’ve been thinking about what it is I’m going to say for a while. I detest arguing unless it’s a big ticket thing I’m fighting for. In a similar vein, I avoid confrontation unless it’s meaningful and warranted, and I have a lot of trouble expressing my emotions. Basically it means that I either don’t get to talk at all, or else that they have to stop and be thoughtful and give me room to express myself (both of which make me feel like a loser who can’t get with the program).

Now, imagine me, jet-lagged and lonely, trying to come to terms with my friends’ new lives, mulling my own over and not getting anywhere. Now imagine that no matter how much I want to be heard and seen, I’m just emotionally incapable of putting myself before my friends for even a second, of fighting to have a good time just for me. I’m under an enormous weight, feeling this incredible pull to just sit down, shut up, and let everything just happen to me, instead of with me, or for me, or by me. The thing is, as I realized much later in the vacation, this is how I’ve often felt in the company of my best friends. Marginalized, through no fault of their own. The third wheel. The one to be pitied or goaded or petted. The pet. The little sister. And that’s something that’s been happening since way before I ever knew them. Somehow, I project some kind of weakness that makes me the lesser quotient of any group.

But this is not a pity party, actually. This is a celebration, because if it wasn’t for one of the twins, Zachary, I wouldn’t have ever realized this piece of the puzzle. I realized at the reception, then the next night at the party, that Ian got all the attention, while Zachary, much like me, was palpably part of the periphery. It was probably too bold of me, but I struck up conversation by asking him what it was like to be in the shadow of his outgoing, super-fun brother. Not that Zachary wasn’t super-fun, as well…he’s just cool in a different, understated way. We got to talking about what it means to be linked to other people, and the struggle to have a voice while also genuinely loving the attention our friends/family/coworkers/competition are receiving. It’s a weird spot to be in, and he got it so well.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Anne of Green Gables, but the parts where Anne waxes poetic about meeting a kindred spirit have always stuck with me. I’ve only met a few genuine kindred spirits in my lifetime, along with a great number of genuinely awesome (but not quite spiritually compatible) folks. It was obvious to me that Zachary was a kindred spirit, and in his own way he helped me figure out something about myself, about what it’s going to take to believe in myself more, to speak up for myself daily instead of monthly or yearly, to stand up to the people I least want to offend with my need to breathe freely.

It’s funny, because before going on vacation I thought that maybe The Man was one of those people, that maybe I should be more forceful with giving him a piece of my mind. Over my trip, I came to realize that yes, I could stand to talk more often, but he’s one of the only people in the world that I constantly speak only the truth to, and loudly, and weirdly, and me-ly. My problem there is not knowing what I want – not that he isn’t giving me what I’m asking for. That’s a whole ‘nother can o’ worms, for a different blog post all together.

Anyway, Zachary, if you end up reading this – thank you. You rock more than you’ll ever know.

Vacation Retrospective – Day #1, Part 2: Lovran, Croatia

I never ended up writing a follow up post about what happened once I finally touched down in Trieste, Italy at the end of almost 22 hours of flight/airport time. However, there were a few interesting bits I want to make sure not to forget or otherwise leave out.

I walked off of the plane in Trieste with the idea that I would get to the lobby and see my friend Katie (Bride) standing there. Instead, I walked out into the lobby and saw a sea of unfamiliar faces. Luckily, one of them was holding up a sign with my name on it. It was written in Katie’s handwriting, and though the guy was a fresh-faced 24 year old, I still felt a flash of pride and allowed myself to pretend that he was my limo driver! I’ve always loved that part in the movies where the limo driver is waiting with a sign, and the young author/artist/newly-minted bigwig gets to pick his own name out of the crowd. *sigh*

I hopped into a small car with two friendly Croatian brothers, friends of the Groom, and started the hour and a half ride through Italy, Slovenia, and into Croatia. We chatted about 80’s music, dancing, what was new on the radio in Croatia, and I learned a few words, like “hvala” (thank you). Once we got to Lovran, the driver, Mario, drove me straight to my apartment house, which is kind of like a bed & breakfast, but without the breakfast. They’re very common in Croatia, and this one cost me 21 Euro a night. I had thought that I would be sharing a room with Bestie and her husband, but instead I had my own private room, with my own bathroom and a cute little balcony. It was very homey and cheery, with a big painting of Marilyn Monroe over the bed. I loved it.

Apartman1

First was a very necessary shower and a very short nap, followed getting all of my things out of the pack and into the closet. While I was unpacking, Bestie knocked on the door. We hugged excitedly, and talked about the plan for the evening, then she told me her big news – she’s pregnant!

I was both happy and a bit crestfallen. This was supposed to be the last big adventure for the three of us, and now she wouldn’t be able to steer the party, like always. I didn’t tell anyone while I was on vacation, but it weighed on me for the next couple of days; my own fault for placing so much emotional power on the thought of this vacation, and also for not giving myself the permission to step up to the plate and just have fun for my own damn self.

One thing I learned over the course of this vacation is that I often feel powerless and unable to change life’s course, and I also always think of all the possible ways that people could dislike what I have to say. I often throw myself off course before even starting just because I come to a decision for other people without giving them a chance to react or respond. I assume people won’t like me, or will think my ideas are stupid, or will want to do better/bigger/more fun things, and ascribe these imagined faults to the people, without any real proof that they’d ever actually be that way. It’s unfair of me, and it’s bigoted in its own way, and what’s weird is that I never just assume that strangers will do or say X, Y, and Z. I trust strangers and often reach out to them in ways I’d never reach out to people I actually know and love. Instead, I assign imaginary roles to the real people in my life, and confine them to these boundaries without much proof that they wouldn’t rise above my assumptions if I just gave them time, space, and opportunity to prove themselves bigger than my judgmental thoughts will allow. It’s weird. But it’s me, and it’s something I’ve got to work with.

Anyway, moving back to vacation notes…that evening Bestie, her husband and I caught a ride with the groom up some very steep mountain roads to the little guest house that Katie and her family were inhabiting for the week leading up to the vacation. Groom’s family owns the house and a large plot of land around it, and they grow grapes, cherries, peaches, chestnuts, and other lovely edible things there. Groom and his brother run a sailing company, and often the tourists that take the sailboat out will stay in the guest house for a few days, too. The house is broken up into two apartments and lots of basement space for storing the wine the family makes with its grapes.

Bestie, her husband, and our friend Karl, brother-of-the-bride. Notice the bowl of cherry pits – this was a tiny fraction of the cherries we ingested over the course of the vacation. They’re just so good!

Bestie, Katie and I spent the evening walking around in the garden, getting reacquainted, eating too many cherries, and playing with Katie’s cute nephew. Then around 9pm, Bestie, her husband and I caught a ride back down the mountain to the center of town, where they had found a great gelato place the night before.

One of the many beautiful villas in Lovran, Croatia.

We walked through this adorable little seaside town, admiring the lovely late 19th century villas that lined the roads, breathing in the incredible salty sea air, then met up with another newly arrived wedding guest at the gelato place. After gelato and coffee, we walked along the promenade, then decided to see if we could find Katie’s extended family at the restaurant they had said they were going to. After a couple of wrong turns, we found the family, then ended up having a late dinner (the second one that evening – we had eaten earlier at the guest house, as well) and more wine with Katie’s parents, her sister’s inlaws, her uncle, and friends of the family. Finally, around midnight we wandered back to the apartment house for a well-deserved slumber. Tomorrow was the big day!

 

One Week To Go…

A week from now I will be in the air somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way to party with some of my favorite people in the entire world, in a place that I’ve been assured is one of the most beautiful locations in the entire world. I am one lucky dame. I’ll be hanging out with:

Bestie & Me

Bestie & me last month at a wedding – I have no idea what she’s telling me, but it’s obviously disturbing. Let’s hope we take some more attractive pictures next week!

The Bestie: We’re yin and yang. She sees a tree and climbs to the top just to be there; I get nervous just crossing the street at the crosswalk. She walks into a party and chats happily with everyone, even people she’s never met before. I get overwhelmed half way through the party, and hide in the back room, nursing my beer and reading a book. She taught me how to ride a bike (at 19), gave me all the best reasons to go dancing instead of studying, instinctively knew when to prod me into action and when to leave me alone. I don’t know if I’ve been as good of a friend, being the crabby little weirdo that I am, but we’ve shared enough laughter to last a lifetime, and we’re only just beginning. I’m very excited to see her again, even though we just met up at another wedding last month.

Bride & Anna

The Bride & me a few years ago at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. We’ve seen each other since then, but I can’t find any photos. Definitely got to fix that!

The Bride: Seriously one of the most beautiful and intriguing women I’ve ever met. The Bestie and I lived together for two years (sharing first a dorm room, then another room in a house, with no arguments – a rare feat for freshman year roommates from VERY different backgrounds, connected by a computer matching system). We decided it was time to move into our own apartment, with separate rooms, but needed a third person. Bestie introduced me to Bride, and magic happened pretty much immediately. She made, and makes, everything work perfectly for the three of us. She’s both a wild woman and an analyst. A night of drinking can turn into a conversation about string theory, fate, the touch of faerie in the everyday realm, or some controversial new street artist that would never have gotten a second look from me. We’ve shared some great adventures, the three of us, the two of us, the two of them, and somehow no one ends up being the third wheel. The Bride has lived in Europe since she and Bestie graduated architecture school in 2004. It’s been amazing to get to visit her, and this time will be no different, despite change of locale. It’s funny that though time and distance separate us, our relationship has stayed strong. It’s different now, but I’m hoping we’ll all get to be bitchy old ladies together, drinking wine on a topless beach somewhere, scaring young men with our saggy old tits. Except for Bestie. She’s going to have great tits forever, the bitch.

The Bride’s Bestie: I’m so happy she’ll be able to come to the wedding! At first, it seemed as though a pretty intense health scare might keep her in the US, but everything’s looking up and she’s going to make it to hang out with us, after all. I’ve only seen BB a few times, but we keep up through Facebook, and she’s amazing. It’s not often that you meet someone who is devastatingly gorgeous AND devastatingly kind, but BB is that lady. She’s had a pretty crazy life, from modeling in her youth, to being on TV, to selling celebrity real estate, and now she’s finishing up her college degree and doing all kinds of amazing student government work. She and her husband promote the arts in her hometown, and regularly raise funds for the underprivileged in our country and across the world, fighting malaria and for women’s rights. It sounds out of this world, but that’s just BB – amazing. Also, she’s one hell of a party girl, so this wedding just got kicked up another notch!

Partner & Anna

Partner & me, again at Jazz Fest a few years ago.

The Partner: The Bride’s business partner from her old firm in Austria, Partner is a riot. She’s a native German speaker, but speaks English well. Even so, she’s been quiet, even terse, the handful of times I’ve gotten to hang out with her. She’s definitely not a big talker (at least not in English), but when she does, it’s with wit and skill. She says what she thinks, a trait I love in others (this also means that I try not to piss her off!). She’s very sporty, a long, lithe woman with sun-kissed skin, sparkling eyes, and a slightly weathered demeanor that belies her life as an outdoors-person. Not sure if her girlfriend will be coming to the wedding, as well, but I’ve been curious to meet Partner’s other half.

The Mom: I love, love, love The Bride’s mom. She’s amazing in so many ways, and though I adore my own mother, if I had been able to build a perfect mom, this Mom wouldn’t be too far off from the characteristics I’d choose. Like me, she’s crazy about medieval history, and is actually a retired professor of Germanic history with a focus on medieval bits. She recently walked the Camino de Compostela, something I’ve wanted to do for years, and will do one day in the not too distant future. She also writes, and we’ve been buddies for NaNoWriMo for a couple of years now. Plus, she’s also very laid back, digs a glass of red wine, and is a fascinating conversationalist. I’m psyched to be in her presence for a few days.

The Sister: Likewise, I’m happy about hanging out with The Bride’s sister. She’s intimidating, some might say scary in her intense forwardness, but I admire her and look forward to getting to know her better. She’s all grown up with two kids, a husband, and a PhD, but she’s still the girl I’d choose if I was looking for a partner in crime and couldn’t find Bestie or Bride in time. Hell, I might choose her over those two – I think she might have less scruples of hurting someone than they would. I’m picturing us in some kind of Mad Max scenario, running down bad guys on some dusty road in the outback. Luckily, this vacation is all about beaches and gelato, so most likely no crime in my immediate future. It’s going to be great to down some wine and talk trash with Sister.

Bestie, Hubby & Anna

Bestie, Hubby & me at another friend’s wedding last month. This was a field day, held the day before the wedding, 50 degrees, cold and rainy. We were fighting the chill in the best possible way, with shots of Jameson and good conversation.

Bestie’s Hubby: I didn’t dig Hubby when we first met (Bestie and I were once again living together, three years after graduating from undergrad), but he’s grown on me. He’s so very different from the kind of guys I was used to meeting, acting silly in sobering situations, saying the first thing that comes to mind always, generally annoying the shit out of me for much of the first couple of years I knew him. But then they got married, and I had to like him or else. And though at first I was dismayed at trying to find a way to make this happen, all of a sudden it turned out that he was really fun to hang out with when I stopped being so uptight. To be fair, I think Bestie has rubbed off on him, and he’s grown up a bit since they got together. The last couple of times we’ve hung out, we’ve had some nice conversations, and it’s been a pleasure to be around him. He makes Bestie laugh, and now he makes me laugh too. That’s pretty cool in my book.

Of course, there will be many more people. The Bride’s fiance, whom I’ve only met once but liked very much. His entire family, all from this small Croatian town that we’ll be visiting. The rest of The Bride’s family, and more friends from all over the world that I haven’t met yet, but can’t wait to get to know. This is going to be an absolute blast!