A year ago I was sitting on a hillside in Connecticut with my family, some friends, and their two little daughters who held my hands on either side. We waited for dusk to spread across the sky, and then gazed in awe at a series of fireworks. The little girls were frightened; I just gaped with my mouth in an "O." I didn't know that I'd end up soon leaving my parents for a small town in Jersey, that I'd move into a house with 5 people I didn't know, or that I'd start a regular job for the first time in my life. I haven't been in Princeton for a full 12 months, but this is the anniversary of my blog -- a year ago, around 12pm, I sat at my father's computer, trying to draft some kind of rationale for documenting my exploits. At the time I told myself that whatever happened, it was likely that the year ahead would be unlike anything else I experienced, and therefore worthy of comment. I can't objectively say that the latter is true - my blog has been in turn adolescent, whiny, frivolous, sentimental, and pompous - but it's helped me to convert my constant internal chatter into something coherent, something communicable. I guess I think that self-scrutiny should be accorded a decent measure of self-expression.

I heard a quote this weekend by Walter Scott, in which he says "One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name." I repeated it to someone else tonight, and whatever the context, I think it holds. The past year, whenever it began (July 4th, the day I started my job, the day I moved, or the day I made my first friend), hasn't been entirely glorious, but it's definitely been a "crowded hour." If I were feeling grandiose, I'd say that July 4th commemorates my personal bid for independence, for a severence of ties with my old home and old life. But the past is always vividly reimagined and reconsidered in my present. So I'll just say that I'm glad I managed to keep up with this for a year of my life in which I've seen so much change, and in which every moment has somehow been or felt pivotal. I'd like to think I didn't do too badly by my blog's namesake: a little bar in Paris where they make a mean gin fizz. It was a good place to be; this, too, is a good place to be.


The Moon's a Balloon

This is part of the track list to a mix I recently made and gave to a friend. If you're curious about what I'm listening to, well, a lot of it is here - some borrowed, some blue, some new, I forget the rest. Odd how it all fell together. It's the kind of music I want to listen to while I'm lying in a hammock outside, under golden and green palms. I have an idea that somewhere in the background there are men and women in flannels, drinking grasshoppers. Or perhaps there are grasshoppers dressed in flannel, drinking martinis. I am an idle creature.

Al Green, "Let's Stay Together"
Benny Goodman, "Moonglow"
Peggy Lee & Benny Goodman, "Sunny Side of the Street"
Badly Drawn Boy, "Something to Talk About"
Ambulance Ltd., "Anecdote"
Belle & Sebastian, "Funny Little Frog"
Ivy, "I've Got a Feeling"
Coldplay, "Don't Panic"
Brazilian Girls, "Lazy Lover"
Astrud Gilberto & Antonio Carlos Jobim, "Agua De Beber"
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, "Mas Que Nada"
Mathieu Boogaerts, "Ondulé"
John Lennon, "Oh Yoko"
Suzanne Vega, "Caramel"
Beck, "Mixed Bizness"


Modern Love

I guess this post never went through -- weird! Anyway, it doesn't matter too much, because everything in here has been recycled endlessly in my head over the past few weeks...

So, I'm watching "When Harry Met Sally" right now. I probably shouldn't be doing this, because while it's a lighthearted and friendly movie, it raises again and again that issue of male-female relationships. Now, I’m not a genius at matters of the heart. Not remotely. But lately, emotional thought has been at the foreground of my life. I used to be so obsessed with my work and professional/intellectual advancement - in contrast, I'm finding this current period of personal interest kind of disconcerting. Is it right to pass your day thinking about someone you like rather than focusing exclusively on what you should be achieving? I read a profile in which Vera Wang discussed how challenging it is to lead her life. She says her kids often eat dinner at her studio, that her best hours of creativity are from 11-2AM, and that she is grateful to have a workaholic husband who matches her drive and ambition. Impressive; but how did she find him?

I have this sense that somewhere "out there," there are millions of young women like me who are so-called late bloomers. We didn't really date in high-school, had one flash-in-the-pan turbulent encounter in college, which drove us to our books, and spent our ensuing years in predominantly female circles. I idolized (and still do) Virginia Woolf, Georgia O'Keeffe, and even Jean Seberg. Dear god. I mean, Woolf was off writing about women orgasming metaphorically, Stieglitz had a pet name for O'Keeffe's vagina, and Belmondo spent all of Breathless trying to (with success, at one point) bed Seberg's character. How is it possible that there are so many intelligent, intellectually stimulated young women out there who aren't dating, who managed to entirely bypass the radical sexual bacchanal that is the American college experience?

Men are a constant source of mystery to me; I talk to them, go out with them platonically, have daydreams about them, and every step of the way, I'm stunned by the reality of our interactions. It's amazing how you can exist in two divergent worlds: the world of your imagination and desire versus the world of human behavior, human restraint. Socialization has never before been such an important part of my everyday life. I always felt so insulated from dealing with drama by living safely ensconced in the world of books and poetry. I never thought that real people - men and women - would or could be so attractive, so oddly intoxicating. I can't immerse myself in "Howard's End," and I'm unable to read even the simplest lines of poetry without hearing the echo of my poetry professor, Emily, who opened our first class by declaring that "all poetry is love poetry." I remember the immediate roar of disagreement that rose in my voice and head until I dwelt on it and concluded that she was right. Isn’t it all about love? Love of humanity, of immortality – or even mortality – of existence, of emotion, of ourselves. Cummings has these great lines when he says:

"i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing."

Some days I think that I could be perfectly content – happy, even – just being on my own. I’m a conscient creature: I’m sensible to emotion, weather, interpersonal dynamics, lighting, aesthetics. It would be enough to live with these things, if only because I feel that they won’t dull over time. There is so much to do and to see. And yet, I often can’t shake the feeling that it would be delightful to have a companion to whom to point out the first daffodils, for whom to bake gingerbread men, to whom I could talk for just 2 minutes after I close my book and turn off the lamp. Someone whose face I want to write about, to photograph, to trace. It's a creative impulse as well.

I recently admitted to a friend that I had feelings for him. It went fine; probably one of the most adult things I’ve done in a while. In a way, I’m glad I was able to tell him and trust that he would treat me as kindly as he always does. But in another way, I’m vaguely heartbroken. It is difficult – for me – to believe that I’ll find this kind of bizarrely tender, funny, intellectual and spiritual connection with someone else. Maybe it’s a hallmark of my youthful perspective, as he tells me. More and more, I realize an unsuspected capacity in myself to be idealistic and romantic rather than skeptical. It’s just that when I have feelings for people, even when I’m not in their presence, my awareness of beauty is so much stronger, so much more vital. I see stone curlicues carved into a wall and feel awe, study sombre medieval paintings and laugh at the facial expressions, smell flowers in other people’s gardens, and recall little trickles of poetry all the time. Words, especially, seem sweeter and riper, more abundant than when my emotions are neutral.

With all of this, you’d think it would be easier to be glad for platonic love. Maybe part of modern love is accepting platonic love. It certainly seems to involve some kind of reconciliation – but the reconciliation is with yourself and your own life rather than your partner. I went to a colleague’s wedding over the weekend, and was mesmerized by all the religious rituals: the dancing, the blessings, and the toasts by childhood mentors. But in the midst of this, as I watched Ben (bridegroom) struggle through a North-African song of devotion, and saw Shani (bride) laughing and blushing in her lace gown, I felt how young they were – how flushed, excited, and above all, unmarred. It was unbearably moving to witness.

There's no conclusion to this. I guess I’ve just been thinking a lot about love – its gradations and variations, how it manifests itself. I figure that modern love is simply a process of discovering that you too want to be with yourself, if that makes sense. I always feel so tentative about this stuff. I guess I haven’t really left the woeful 14-year-old in me behind. It’s funny to see how she lingers, how she’s coping with the idea of growing up and finding her equal. We’re both, as you’ll note, still seeking sanctuary in metaphor and quotation -- because the human part is just a little harder to master.


Underneath the Mango Tree, Honey & Me

I’m lying on the porch swing right now, out in the lower stretches of our garden. Fridays are half-days during the summer, and I haven’t felt this degree of liberty in a while. Vacation days make me feel oddly guilty – all the strain of knowing that others are deep in the throes of industry while you’re lounging in the sunshine, etc. But on communal holidays like this, I feel like someone’s holding out a golden apple with my name on it -- a day given back, a day to just live.

I’m generally the kind of person who stops to smell flowers, to read people’s scribbles in books, on the pavement, on trees. But it’s nice to feel that I can do these things – be gladly conscious of life and society, I suppose – in a sanctioned manner. I was never great at playing hooky. It’s like that line in a Simon & Garfunkel song: “I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.” When I left work around one, I knew that the only thing I wanted to do was to buy fresh bell peppers for dinner, to amble a little in the sun-dappled grass. And so I did.

I’ve been really ill all this week, so bear with me if this post seems disordered. Since returning from Japan, things have been a bit on the go. I can’t even remember all of it – a Depeche Mode concert along the way, a visit to Peonyland,* a charming and romantic evening with Ben up at Columbia, a rather intricately sketched 23rd Birthday weekend, etc. My birthday was fun, but I think next year I’m going to keep it much simpler. By the end I was utterly wiped out and ready to yield to welcoming arms of my mattress. But what did I actually do? Well!

Day One: Saw X-3, had a drink with Mike and Patty at the Alchemist & Barrister.
Day Two: Went to the sculpture gardens in Hamilton, and had brunch with Vanessa and Christoph in a delightful restaurant that was a throwback to Casablanca. We had the nicest conversation about, well, everything: personalities, business agendas, our future hopes and desires. I even got a little birthday message on my dessert plate!
In the evening we had dinner with PUP friends at Mexican Village, where everyone graciously went round the table and toasted me – “thank you, AK, for being so young and beautiful…she introduced me to some good music, but I introduced her to better…she’s got a needle-tongue, this one…AK’s, umm, a lady.” Yup, me in a nutshell.
Day Three: Drive to the city with V, singing all the way. Lunch with Chris and Abby at The Casablanca Tea Room, then a lovely hour pottering downtown. Later, dinner with my high-school clan: Sarah, Katy and Caroline at Perbacco in the LES. I’d say the high point was laughing at our server's t-shirt, which read: “I like to watch lesbians.” How authentically Italian.
Day Four: Brunch, quiet trip home, homemade risotto with Bob.

* A trip that evolved into a bit of an odyssey, since we got completely lost on the way back and circled through Bucks County, PA (I’d take it off your list of things ‘to do before I die’) for about 4 hours. Peonies, should you not recall them immediately, are rather cabbage-y flowers that come in pink, white, and yellow hues. I suppose I prefer more streamlined flora myself, since the cabbage motif was uppermost in my mind. But the wonderful thing about peonies is that they smell incredible. As our guide told us, people often make the mistake of thrusting their noses straight into the heart of the flower, rather than sniffing the petals at the perimeter. I have to say, there’s nothing like being dressed down for shoving your nose into the sexual organs of a flower.

A Brilliant Scheme for the Immediate Future

My plans for the next few days entail huge expanses of time spent in bed, and alternately, on the porch swing outside. Last weekend – being a guest at Princeton Reunions (think Woodstock with more beautiful people, more alcohol, and gothic architecture…oh, and dancing with my ridiculous but gorgeous Greek and Persian housemates. It was like I was the star of a Jay-Z video), hosting my first party, and going to a bridal shower in Long Island – was a lot of fun, but by its end, I was physically battered. Right now I’m glad the week is over and I finally have time to put the brakes on.

Our house is in a bit of a bad way, because four of my original housemates have gone. I’m not the best at goodbyes, but in this case, I feel like instead of a rousing cheer and the clinking of glasses, the velvet curtain just collapsed on the past year. The worst part is walking into a room and seeing vacant spaces where there were once belongings: a dining table, a chair, a photograph. There aren’t familiar voices in the corridor, or faces scurrying by, no familial ease to give succor to the worst day. The sense of ‘belonging’ just packed up and moved out without saying farewell.

Christoph called from California the night before he left for Brazil. I miss him. I miss seeing his face across the table, and I miss hearing his “hey, what’s up?” or “ah, want to hear a funny story?” because they always make me smile. There are other things I miss – Reza’s odd moments of kindness, his quick response to my humour. Carrie’s shy grace and immediate understanding -- her boundless sympathy. Yorgo’s warmth and affection, qualities that radiate from his face and body. I miss these people because despite only admitting each other to our lives with varying degrees of trust, we have lived together for almost a year. And suddenly it feels like we’ve splintered off, like our physical bonds have been broken, leaving rough edges on which I keep cutting myself.

As silly as this may sound, I’m suddenly realizing that my life isn’t about making friendships that endure for decades. More and more it seems to be about intersecting with unexpected people in unexpected places, wherein our lives briefly run parallel before one or both of us move on. It’s strange to share your thoughts and words - the little trickles of fancy running in your head and heart – with people who, three months later, suddenly disappear. They revisit your life, no doubt, but you can’t recreate sentiment and intimacy – at least not in an authentic way.

Not to be macabre, but it’s a bit like staging a burial when friendships close. It’s only the tokens – Borges quotes, aftershave, dated wine-corks, pressed leaves, lavender – that survive. And words, of course. At least the words don’t lose their potency.


Time Was Away and Somewhere Else

I was pretty feverish today, so I ended up leaving work early and sleeping fitfully in the afternoon heat. But I have 2 more photos of my trip to Japan (the trip that never made it to the blog) here, and a poem I read that I really liked. I don't have any further clarity on my current woes, but the good news is that sitting up and striving to explain myself - in that wonderful, lacerating way - really served to suck me dry of any residual energy. It seems easier to cope with the shambles when you're incapable of thinking or feeling too deeply.

Shocked by the leek situation at Daimoru.

Ahem. In the company of Messieurs Spice and Lloyd.

And now, as is the title of the book, an homage to eros. There isn't anything terribly profound about this poem, but the sentiment is simple and liltingly composed. I like the lines "They planned to portion out the stars and dates" -- it just seems such a foolish but romantic idea. I love the notion of portioning out the stars, as if we could even begin to claim proprietorship of the firmament.

Meeting point

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs)
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream's music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise -
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body's peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

I'm feeling kind of sad right now (why else would one be up at 5 am? I'm definitely more of a sunrise than a sunset kind of girl, but still...), so I figured I'd post a little. At 3:21 this morning I suffered a moment of panic and wondered if I'm having some kind of nervous breakdown. I have a rash, my knee hurts (all psychosymptomatic, I'm convinced), and the past few weeks have essentially found me feeling extraordinarily high and low at once, oscillating between glee and bitter depression. How dramatic. Mostly I feel young -- horribly young, with all the baggage of being inexperienced in life and clueless about how to interact with others. All my life I've been told how precocious I was, how mature for my age, that I practically had the wisdom of a 40-year-old. So much for that. 

Lately I've sensed that I'm somewhere between 5 and 40, erring towards the formative rather than developed end of the spectrum. I know you'll think I'm absurd for referencing this, but, well, Geminis are supposed to be eternally youthful. The children of the astrological galaxy or whatever. The thing is, I'm beginning to understand the downfalls of being so young and immature, of bringing both innocence and duplicity (because let's face it, children are not entirely guileless) to every point of engagement I have with others. And it hurts my ability to be a good person - a good friend, a good listener, a loyal and discreet human being. 

The more I move away from college and from being in a space that essentially sanctified youth and youthful mannerisms, the more I feel accountable for my decisions and actions, for the way I treat people and the way I seem to wilfully please and hurt them. This post isn't going anywhere. I guess I'm just overwhelmed with feeling that I'm either an emotionally backward twit who can't be honest with other people, or that I'm a brilliant thespian who should consider public performance as a career alternative. 

We have this book coming out at work that discusses the art of immaturity. And boy am I an exemplar. Because mature people aren't as naive or as bound to introduce chaos into their lives. They don't exalt the idea of youth, only to discover that in having done so, they misjudged and abused their real values. A friend told me to draft some wishes for the year ahead. I've been negligent on this head, but I think it's due time to re-evaluate the state of my emotions and intellect (there's currently no synergy between the two!) and to figure out some personal stuff. 

Over the past month I let myself fall into a giddy - but ultimately dissatisfying - morass of superficiality. The thing is, it's sort of heartbreaking to wake up and feel disgusted with yourself, to realize that you let go of substance in constantly seeking novelty and stimulation. I turned 23 this weekend, but I don't think I deserved all the kindness or affection I encountered from so many people. The irony of being in the presence of friends who are so genuine and dear is that it throws into sharp relief your own inadequacies, your own destructive capability. I hope that 23 finds me a more truthful person, more representative of the sincerity I expect in others -- a quality that seems to be so utterly lacking when I jolt awake at 3am and face only myself in this dark room.