America, Part 6, Day 2

New York City’s immensity is never more apparent than when navigating the thousand-lane road from JFK to Philadelphia, PA on a Saturday afternoon. Twenty-eight years of knowing the Northeast and I’m still shocked to find out that this airport is not, in fact, just across the road from Newark.

“Shit is entrenched,” says Scott.

Once passed the Holland tunnel and ten minutes of marveling at man’s ambition, the road is ours.

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It’s good to be back.

At Heathrow, the Brits were on their best behavior, gifting smiles and biscuits.

At JFK, the line-master instructed:

“If ya customs form ain’t finished, get outta the line. Ya wasting peoples time.”

Any other welcome would have been a lie.

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PSA and a Mantra for Malcontents

Last week the dentist refused to take the teeth out of my head.

“I could paralyze your face. Permanently.”

“Oh. That’s not great.”

The longer you put off wisdom tooth removal, as  it turns out, the more complicated the procedure will be. I’ve got roots dancing with nerves at the back of my mouth so for now, it seems, I’ma have to stay wise. Take note, teenagers of the world.

Anyway, in six years of life in Spain, I have never experienced a June that did not make me want to peel my own skin off. At the same time, June tends to be a time for reflection; I usually do that naked, spooning with a bag of ice, while marveling at the many places from which sweat can spring. This one is different. I’ve still got a comforter on my bed and I don’t feel like I’m burning. I can’t say I’m angry about the weather, but I’m worried about the earth–and myself.

What am I doing? What’s next? Where do I go? How do I find a patron to support the art of my life?

Last year I became obsessed with the idea of “running through the pain.”

I read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and remembered nothing but this mantra: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

I began saying it to myself, sometimes while running but more often as I prepared dinner or walked home from a night out. The sweaty strangers of the disco scene often sent me on a downward spiral, though hindsight highlights the role of gin.

After a long, frenetic, gorgeous, and totally mental winter, this mantra just isn’t doing it for me anymore. Here’s what I think: suffering is not optional,  l0sers. The longer you refuse to acknowledge anguish, vulnerability, and sadness, the deeper their roots will grow. Next thing you know, you’ll find them bursting out of you in public health clinics, at cafés, and on unsuspecting waitresses.

What comes before gratitude is a lot of snot, tears, and unabashed drama.

As for mantras, I’ve been using this one:

I ain’t fuckin’ sorry.

Love,

Seo

“Nowadays, all these girls are singing about their encounters and their dresses.”

When my mother says “encounters” she is referring, of course, to sex. When she says “dresses” she is likely thinking about that Selena Gomez song that wouldn’t stop playing some two or three summers ago.

“People have always sung about that, though…”

“Yeah but today it’s stupid: ‘he’s so tall and handsome as hell,’” she gestures at the radio, “what the hell is that shit?”

She’s complaining about Taylor Swift now, whose song “Wildest Dreams” is playing in the car.

Whether I think Taylor’s art is revolutionary or enriching is irrelevant because creating music that underwhelms me—creating anything, really—is still way more than most people do. I’m not proud to admit it but I once sobbed in a Bed Bath & Beyond parking lot when the song “You Belong with Me” came on the radio. Then, dry heaves and all, I leaned on my steering wheel and started laughing (because first “heartbreaks” are fucking hilarious). It was a time when listening to anything other than pop trash probably would have made me roll off my roof.

Even so, you won’t find me arguing for the lyrical ingenuity or emotional depth of lines like “I can feel my heart, it’s beating in my chest.”

I skip the explanation and agree with my mother: “RIGHT? Like, what happened to Etta James? Let’s talk about ‘Damn Your Eyes.’ I mean, DAAAAAMMMMMNN!”

 

Now there’s an angry, lusty love that I can understand.

Be careful with ya eyes,

Seo

I AM NOT A NOMAD.

There is a place that I will always call home. It’s where my family lives and where the friendships I have are ones that have survived such insurmountable things as adolescence, separation, depression, and my Phantom of the Opera phase. The sheer amount of life we have experienced both together and apart is impossible to re-create. Still, I leave those people year after year after year to come to Spain. Sometimes I know why I do this. Other times, especially in the days and weeks after I return, I don’t.

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You will likely feel a lot of things when you move and you will feel these things in part because you are too romantic for reality and because you are impatient, but mostly because that’s how humans react to change (unless you’re one of those cool nomads who just needs a couple of succulents to feel at home, I guess).

First, you might feel disappointed. I envisioned myself returning to my Spanish apartment and waltzing around in slippers and lingerie with a martini in hand, transitioning easily back into a glamorous life that I’ve never actually had. Let the record show that the only martini I’ve ever consumed is the Italian-brand vermouth. Let the record also show that my evenings have never looked like (I imagine) Rihanna’s do. Here’s what really happened: As I scrubbed my kitchen counters in a t-shirt and dusty jeans two sizes too big for me, my neighbor came to the window and asked if I was the cleaning lady and, if so, what was my rate? I, broker than I’ve been in many years, thought about saying yes.

Another thing you may also feel is loneliness. In spite of how you feel about this sort of self-help, you’ll watch a Ted Talk called “The Simple Cure for Loneliness.”  Baya Voce, the speaker, will say that the secret is to create rituals like putting on leggings and poppin’ open a bottle of rosé with your best friends! or taking a trip to Paris with your girlies! This video, although you’re sure that Baya is a lovely person, will nevertheless make you feel like eating all of your leggings and then your own hands.

You will probably feel both hopeful and hopeless, sometimes in the span of five minutes. Maybe you should chill the eff out, read this article, binge watch Cardi B’s Instagram rants, and then go on a run or pretend your empty living room is actually just a home dance studio.

En fin, I don’t always know why I do what I do, but I keep doing it. When I’m not busy questioning all of my life decisions, I try to laugh.

Do like the Schuykill and flow.

Schuykill River
Schuykill River, Philadelphia, PA, July 2017

Anyone with the financial security to believe in choice will tell you that you should model your life’s work after the thing that makes you forget about time. It’s called flow. I have a problem, though. I get immersed in many things and not a one of them has proven very lucrative (yet). Like, I could spend days just…

  • Writing about the mundane events of my daily life
  • Lip-syncing to the RuPaul playlist
  • Sketching at a first-grade level
  • Thinking about what it would’ve been like to have lunch with Oliver Sacks
  • Helping children write skits
  • Pretending to be a lifestyle guru
  • Sitting in a cinema with a bag of peanut m&ms, crying quietly during a heartbreaking scene (like when Marion Cotillard starts screaming Marceeeellllll! in La Vie en Rose)
  • Editing the soul-bearing personal statements of other people
  • Editing anything
  • Traveling alone to a place I’ve never been before
  • Watching a play and wondering what it’s like to be on stage
  • Trying to impersonate Oprah talking about Gayle
  • Eating
  • Watching people who actually know how to dance, dance
  • Starting a project
  • Walking with nowhere to go
  • Riding the same metro for longer than twenty minutes
  • Perfecting my Long Island accent
  • Reading old letters
  • Eavesdropping on people at cafes and in waiting rooms

So you see… I’m writing in lists lately. I apologize for that. It’s flow’s fault–the fault of it, really. It’s hard to flow when your brain is otherwise occupied with financial and logistical matters. I’m over here like Virginia, shouting all this lady needs is some money and a room of her own! Y’know, if Virginia were an American ESL teacher searching for a summer side-hustle.