- Quit the job you hate. You’ll be worried about money, but quit anyway. You’ll spend so much money and time on your misery that even though quitting makes you panicked, it might make more fiscal sense in the long run.
- Say yes to cat sitting for your friends in their lovely new Park Slope apartment, wait, no, it’s really more like a house. It has a back patio, ceiling fans in every room, a washer and dryer, an ice machine in the fridge, and a lower level that has that wonderful smell of “house” as opposed to “apartment.”
- Meet your friends for a drink at a new bar in Gowanus and get relieved when they tell you that they are planning to stay in New York. They aren’t like so many other folks (you included) who fear that the hamster wheel of big city living will make it too hard to raise kids and not go bonzo coco loco.
- Take advantage of your free phone upgrade. Stop using your 4 year old phone that takes fuzzy pictures and get that new one with emoticons and a better lens. Get excited for the texts full of little drumsticks and smiley faces that you will send. Don’t transfer over any contacts or pictures, because then it will feel like your old phone. Add a few of the important numbers and then play a little guessing game with yourself and friends when you see numbers you don’t recognize on the screen.
- Crack open a blood orange Mike’s Hard Lemonade right before bed. Drink while finishing your book and leave the empty bottle on the kitchen counter to remind you how good life can get in those in between moments.
- Listen to the “Girl from the Ipanema” Pandora station. Enjoy how its easy listening vibe makes you feel like you’re sitting in an airport lounge.
- Don’t feel like a mooch when your friends and family offer to treat you to things. Generosity is the name of this game, and everyone in your life has opened up their hearts, homes, and wallets to you since being back. Say yes and don’t ever forget the trip to Montauk, brunch at Northeast Kingdom, lunch at Cafe Henri, Sleep No More, frozen cosmos and Schiavone at the U.S.Open, late lunch at the Olive Garden, mojitos at Native, and lobsters in New Jersey.
- Take an impromptu trip to the beach with your cousin and aunts. Snap pictures like the one above. Eat fried clams and look at Instagram all day and laugh at your belly pooching over your bikini bottom. Have chowder for dinner and then spend the night at your cousin’s. Laze on the sofa, get cozy in her air conditioned bed, rub your feet together under the sheets. As you fall asleep, try to remember your favorite parts of the day, the week, the month, this year, this lucky life you have, these people you love and need, these little pockets of home and fun you’ve created. Get ready to do it all again in the morning.
Up until last Sunday, I’d been feeling a little bumsky. I was hating my job, sleeping a lot, and eating nothing but candy and egg and cheese sandwiches. Then I quit my job, and my aunt and cousins treated me to a weekend in Montauk, and Leah and Amber took me to the U.S. Open, and I went wedding dress shopping with my sisters and my mom, and I spent a lovely day at Island Beach, and I met up with Carly and Erik and we laughed like loons about baby names, and I went to see a free play, and I stopped dreading evenings because I don’t have to go to work, and yes, I’m about nineteen steps away from the welfare office, but I’m smiling and happy and saying yes to everything and having lots of fun. Bumsky no mas.
I’ve been back in New York for thirty-seven days. It’s been really great being home (the only exception, the only black spot is my new job; my bosses talk to me like I’m bowl of ratatouille– slow to move and incapable of comprehending English), but there are things, so many things I miss about Los Angeles.
- My little Fiat. It was my last rental car and had my total heart. That little car could’ve kept me in LA, I adored it so much.
- The crunchy french toast at the Standard Hotel.
- Ray. It goes without saying. Me miss you.
- Afternoons at the Beverly Hills library.
- Target in Glendale. Best. Target. Ever.
- Lucky moments: waiting in line for the Stanley Kubrick show at LACMA, not really wanting to spend $20 on a ticket. Someone from behind me shouts out “Anybody want a free ticket?!” Yay, me, I do!
- Listening to audiobooks in my car.
- Driving along 3rd Street.
- Lynn. I miss my buddy like whoa. I miss our food adventures and long, long, long talks.
- No rain. Tony! Toni! Tone! was right. It never rains in Southern California.
- The windy, slopey, scary, make you wonder if you’ll ever see your family alive again right angle roads in Topanga Canyon. But the view. Boy, those views.
- Hanging out with Bridget and Emily and little cutie pie Finley. They made me happy, they made me laugh, they made me feel like I had family close by.
- Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway.
- My route to work– west along 3rd Street, left onto La Cienega, right onto Wilshire Blvd.
- Donuts at SK Donuts. Thanks, Ray! I really needed to gain those extra ten pounds before leaving.
- Walking through Larchmont Village early evening– the kids would play in the streets, the smell of jasmine was everywhere, it made me want a house with a tire swing in the yard.
- Happy hour margaritas at Tortilla Republic. Thanks for the heads up, Ray!
- Book Soup and Skylight Books were my favorite book stores.
- Late night toasted plain bagels with cream cheese and tomato at Fred 62.
- Veggie Grill— missing the Caesar salad with buffalo “chicken.” Thanks for the suggestion, Lynn!
- My coworkers. The customers were ten tons to deal with, but I loved everyone I worked with. When I get sad at my new crappy job, I just hear “Mister, mister, sir” and “Thank you for your cooperation and support,” and I get happy again.
- The Landmark movie theater.
- Buying one bottle of Perrier at a time at the 7-11 on 3rd and S Vista.
- Going to the Grove right before closing time.
- Getting lost.
- Listening to KROQ 106.7.
- Hunting down the cheapest gas prices.
- Randomly catching the smell of the ocean. Once I was on Fairfax just east of 6th and smelled salt water for no reason, because it’s not near the beach, but I got goosebumps and nostalgia.
- Discovering new old places. Casey took me to the Dresden (a restaurant that’s been in Los Feliz for damn near sixty years) and we listened to Marty and Elayne (lounge singers who have been playing and singing there since the Civil Rights movement probably) and Casey requested “Cheek to Cheek” for me and I swayed on my bar stool and drank tequila and club soda.
- The Marie Callender’s salad bar.
- Anything and everything involving Damon’s Steakhouse. Ray, you changed my life. I’m having my wedding reception at Damon’s.
- Late night trips to Von’s. Any trips to Von’s, really. I liked that grocery store. The one on Melrose had a little table with books for a dollar. You took a book and put a buck in a huge, empty water jug.
- Beer and fish and chips at the Reel Inn.
- The weather– mid 70’s, constant sunshine, no humidity.
- Recognizing parts of the city from movies I’ve seen. You get that with New York, too, but it’s different and more novel to me in LA.
- Wonderful long lunches with Luanne.
- The feeling you get that California really is a majestic place, as beautiful and historic as you expect it to be. The past feels actualized somehow in the weather, the architecture, the landscape, you feel rooted in something that feels simultaneously very right now and very back then. Which of course is true for most places, but there’s something about the space, the odd circus people, and the range from ocean to mountain that makes it feel singular. It makes me feel like I can’t wait to go back.
One of my little sisters is getting married next July, and yesterday was a great time of florist consultations and bridesmaid dressing shopping. I went up to New Haven and we met Luigi the florist (who is so sweet and cute and has a little potbelly that he rests his hands on and he’s from Italy, but his accent makes him sound like Rene the Cajun from the first season of True Blood). Then we went to the Olive Garden (yippee for unlimited salad and breadsticks!), then we got Barbara from David’s Bridal to help us decide between chiffon and satin, and then we got scoops of strawberry and sweet cream in freshly baked waffle cones! Of course we were all snoring and sound asleep by 9pm (but not me, really, because I was sneaking peeks at Eat, Pray, Love on TBS). Mucho fun, I say!
Last Saturday I caught myself doing something I don’t usually do: I woke up without a plan and let the day roll along without making one. Ordinarily I’m one of those people who’s manic about scheduling something for each hour of every day (and I get so defensive when people tell me my life is overplanned– I’m like “I know, damn it! But I gave myself sixteen nanoseconds on Wednesday to do nothing, so there’s that! Dick!”), which probably began when I was a lot more busy with work and taking classes and still trying to have a social life. But now I just find myself wanting to plan things all the time because there’s this gnarly, woolly, black cloud of anxiety that starts creeping across my sky when I have nothing but days and time ahead of me.
When did that happen? When did free time become so daunting? I swear I can remember moments when stretches of nothing to do felt fun and full of possibility (wasn’t college good for that? You’d start the day promising to yourself and good God in heaven that you would study for that biology exam and you even cracked open the books and unwrapped the index cards, but before you knew it, you were napping on your friend’s brown couch and then you were sharing meatball subs down by the lake and the day ended at an impromptu party of someone from your freshman dorm and you’d been wearing the same sweats all day, and you gave your number to that hottie hot body from your Hemingway class and you’d started laughing and you didn’t stop until you get home and saw the open textbook on your desk, but you didn’t really give a shit and you’d fallen asleep on the futon but before passing out you felt a piece of mozzarella stuck to your tooth and you prayed that it wasn’t prominently displayed when you gave that guy your number– and none of that, none at all, would’ve happened if you’d tried to plan it), but now I just get scared that free time means me time which means thinking about my life time which means shit, what haven’t I accomplished time which means nap time drowsy time I have to sleep time because it’s too hard to ponder time.
And man oh man, holy mama mia, have I been sleeping a lot. I don’t think I can blame it on my rigorous work schedule (seven-eight hour shifts, four days a week), and I think I’ve been home too long to chalk it up to jet lag. Since getting back to New York, I’ve been turning any free moment into an opportunity for delicious snoozing. I sleep at least nine hours at night, I get on the subway and sleep through my commute, and then after eating something heavy and carby, I have a beer, eat a cookie, smack my lips and say “Nap time!” Usually I never have to set alarms– I’m ordinarily a morning person and can wake myself up pretty early– but jeezum, don’t you know last week I overslept and woke up thirteen minutes before I was supposed to be at an audition in midtown?
So somewhere in all of this, I’ve turned downtime into anxioustime into sleepytime, which stops feeling good and restorative after the third nap of the day. I’m not really letting myself have free time. I miss relaxing. I miss having fun. I miss not paying attention to my minutes the way old people pay attention to their vegetable intake or stool outtake. I recently stopped taking an acting class, and when I talked to the teacher about it, he told me that I have an “anxiety of wants.” I’m not sure what I really want or I won’t let myself own it, so I get spinny and start bouncing from one thing to another and can’t really connect with what gives me pleasure. And that tendency feels most glaring when I start thinking about how I’d like to spend my time.
I caught up with an old friend. She lives in a beach town even though she teaches in Brooklyn. She made that move just because she wants to be near the ocean. Spending time with her is a whirl of beach chair sitting, sunscreen lathering, Budweiser in koozie-covered cans drinking, fried clam eating, and Malibu rum sipping. When I’m with her, we let one thing lead to the next lead to the next lead to the next. And it’s always kind of been that way. The fun is amplified by the summerness of it all, but even when we were living in Vermont, far from bikinis, we let open days mean good days.
It is almost 100 degrees in New York. Walking around the city feels like rolling around in someone’s armpit. Even if I didn’t have the day off, I’d still be glued to the air conditioner. Today I’m studying for a menu test I have to take for my new job. It’s kind of fun– index cards and Sharpee markers and Hell or High Watermelon beer. There is also an In Living Color marathon on tv and it has been the best background entertainment. I watched every single episode of that show as a kid and watching it now as an adult makes me laugh in the same way. It is really funny, but I also love how the show feels so good-spirited. It doesn’t feel snarky or ironic, it feels like watching a bunch of friends being funny. And when I laugh watching In Living Color, it’s my favorite kind of laughing– the very long chuckle that makes me shake my head and my eyes start tearing up and I have to put my face in my hands.
Eight things I want to do before the summer ends:
- Learn how to play chess
- Make homemade sweet tea
- Go kayaking
- Finish the short story I’ve been working on since March
- Visit a water park
- Learn how to ride a bike
- See a movie at the drive-in
- Spend one whole afternoon (let’s say noon-6) on a porch with my friends and lots of canned beer and a bottle of Firefly. I’m okay if it’s a backyard instead of a porch. I’m also okay if we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. You know how it is when you’re drinking all day and someone realizes “Man, we should eat something,” and someone else says “What do we feel like eating?” but then the conversation kind of spins and turns, because everyone’s been drinking all day, and then someone brings up “That time with the cow and you fell down,” and someone else pipes in with “Oh! And that guy was there,” and then someone starts laughing so hard he or she falls out of his or her chair and then everyone’s laughing and someone gets up to get a beer and asks who wants another and six people shout “I do!” and someone else goes inside to use the bathroom and the laughing won’t stop, and by the time everyone has settled down, forty minutes have passed and things are a little quieter and a Fleetwood Mac song is twinkling out of someone’s portable ipod speakers and then someone else asks, “Wait, did we decide what we’re going to eat?”