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
Traveling alone to a place I’ve never been before
Watching a play and wondering what it’s like to be on stage
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.
I’ve done a lot of market research on lifestyle blogs/listicles and I’ve noticed that a lot of people seek help when it comes to putting their things in bags and then traveling with them, so I thought I’d share my own method. I’ve been packing this way for years and its always worked for me.
Take your suitcase out of the closet. Open it.
Walk away from the suitcase.
Put a wig on.
Take a casual selfie:
Think: I am lookin’ like a drowned, harassed rat (then wonder who wrote that line in “Let’s Have a Kiki” and envy them).
Start playing one or two songs on repeat. This year I’m listening to Rihanna’s “Love on The Brain” and “Higher.” The best lines are “What do I gotta do to get in yo’ mothafuckin’ heart?” and “I just really need your ass with me,” respectively.
Receive a message from a friend with a link to Tina Turner’s 1982 performance of “Proud Mary” and then spend between ten and thirty minutes freaking out about how amazing Tina Turner and her legs are.
Clean out the pockets of your winter coats and wonder why it is always in the pockets of said coats that the most bittersweet of memories live.
Read your old journals and feel mildly embarrassed. Destroy between twelve and fifteen pages after you deem them too dramatic and/or dirty for public consumption in the event that you suffer an untimely death and someone has to go through your things.
Take the wig off and feel a little bit sad about it.
Have a brief panic attack when you think you’re a year older than you actually are.
Have a coffee.
Have a tiny mental breakdown as you compare your life today to your life at this same moment last year. Entertain the possibility that you are making all of the wrong decisions, all of the time. Realize that you feel this same way when you compare your life two weeks ago to your life today and resolve to be more carpe diem because, seriously, who cares?
Think for a good bit about the absurdity of being afraid.
Repeat Step # 4.
Start folding and stacking clothing. Find a slim journal among a pile of t-shirts, start reading it, and begin to suspect that your past self planted emotional bombs all over your room in some kind of sick plan to thwart your departure.
Start taking your books off the shelf, smelling the pages, and remembering where and why you read each of them.
Wish someone would bring you a snack and a proper iced coffee.
Throw all of your clothing on top of your suitcase, reasoning that, while this does not qualify as packing, at least it has gotten closer to its final destination.
Repeat Step # 6.
Make and eat dinner.
Call your sister to inquire about how many formal dresses you’ve left in the closet at home. Although you have no plans to attend any black tie events during your visit, this feels urgent. Chat for an hour with multiple family members about eyebrows, taxes, and “Ice Cream Jerks.”
Write a stupid list about everything you just did and promise yourself that you’ll make more progress tomorrow (cuz you’re responsible as eff and started this three days early).
In September on the subway in Astoria I was reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks while a barber shop quartet sang “Stand by Me.” Oli delivered a dim prognosis re: our future ear health. Deafness and hearing loss will increase exponentially, he hypothesized. The human head is not accustomed nor adapted to being plugged with high-decibel rock music and Bieber-bops. Over time, our love of music could destroy our mega-important, mega-irreplaceable cilia.
So I started listening to music at more respectable levels. Because of Oli and also because I began imagining the members of KISS, tongues out and leather on, swinging from my cilia every time I ignored a volume warning.
But the thing about today is that I didn’t feel like having my metro-mates’ nasty, mucous-laden coughs as a backdrop to the musical I was making up in my head.
So I let Thin Lizzy drown out strangers’ February flus and I thought of how I’d choreograph the whole song on Line 5 and I looked down at my coat, still stained with churro chocolate, and I thought ears be damned.
La Tabacalera, Madrid. December 2016. Photos by Juan Manual Castro Prieto.
You’re tired. You want to stop, but you can’t. Lattes and sunsets and quirky glassware flash before your eyes.
If your breakfasts aren’t beautiful… do you exist?
If you don’t read poetry in sunbeams, do you actually understand it?
If you go on vacation and don’t document every moment of it, if you don’t spread your arms wide for a photo opp in front of the sea, did you really go?
Is the cure for depression and anxiety as easy as reading a Top 10 Reasons to Live list?
Generalized Embarrassment About Ultimately Inconsequential Bullshit:
You just washed your hair with shower gel for the third day in a row (lifehack: shower gel and shampoo are almost the same thing–you won’t die if you substitute one for the other on a poor or lazy day/week/month).
There are three empty water bottles under your bed and the only explanation you can offer is “pure, unadulterated laziness.”
You drank a can of Diet Coke and ate a slice of bread “for dinner.”
You’ve never had a manicure.
You went to sleep with your asymmetrical eyeliner still on last night.
The socks on your feet don’t match.
You’d rather spend an afternoon in an old man bar than at Kelsey’s new vegan venture.
WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE DRINKING SO MANY LATTES?
Life doesn’t look like this! Life is gross! Life is that old guy at the dark convenience store (they’re trying to save on electricity) who walked in smoking a cigar, asking for change. Life is the waiter with gnarly body odor you had today. Life is Eileen Myles writing a poem called Peanut-butter that begins I am always hungry/ & wanting to have sex. Life is that lady laying on the ground at the Paseo de Prado. Life is watching a manchange into his Quixote costume. Fine, whatever, it’s gorgeous, too. Life is gorgeous, but it’s not made of pastels or lists or aerial shots of eggs Benedict.
You fell into a scroll-hole on a lifestyle blogger’s Instagram, didn’t you? Whatta dummy.
Go outside. Respect the lifestyle ladies and men, anyway, for working hard and making a living marketing lives that don’t look like yours does. They must wonder what the fuck? from time to time, too. But that doesn’t sell.
“Did you ever go somewhere and realize it used to be a different place? And it dawns on you that some things are not there anymore. Of course, some other things are not here yet. And nothing seems to be where it used to be; everything’s been moved. Sometimes I think if we could just put everything back where it originally was, we might be all right.”
I like having a regular bar, waiters who know my order, and friends and family who are not confused by my Jersey Housewife impression (new friends are always welcome, however, so long as they find it mildly amusing). I am, likewise, a traveler of habit. I like to re-visit places. I like to see how they’ve changed, to remember how I felt in them then and appreciate (or lament) the now. Location is powerful. If it weren’t, we’d have no opinions on going or staying.
There are ghosts on every corner, I wrote of an impending return to Pittsburgh in 2011. That was during my Sylvia Plath stage, so I was really into writing stuff like that and, as much I didn’t want to, back indeed I had to go. One does not accrue student debt in order to leave without a diploma, I am told. So I returned. I made new memories in the old places and they all started to look a little bit different, even though they weren’t. (more…)