Sunday, April 25, 2010

the paris of appalachia

the clouds are epic today. big and white. and the sky is, for now at least, blue. i woke up, excited to spend the day with my mom. i just wanted to be at home, to smell the lilac bush behind our house, to feel the hardwood floors on my feet, to touch the grass, to say hi to the neighbors and sit on the porch swing with my mom when the afternoon rain started to fall. i called her early - she was on her way to take care of our great aunt who is sick in punxsutawney.

i called steve to see if he had any inspiration for the day. he suggested going to a movie alone. i researched movie times at the manor theater - but, to my disappointment, they only had romantic comedies - one of them even starred jennifer lopez. i considered the museum - but when you're used to going for free, it's hard to imagine paying money to go. i knew i didn't want to spend time with people, but that i also wanted to be around people. so i decided to allow myself the (now) rare delicacy of going out to eat. i would get some food, bring my computer and a book, go to crazy mocha and then at 4:00 go to see a movie i wasn't sure about at the regent square theater. but the idea of sitting in a dark room with local strangers felt really comforting, regardless of the movie. as long as it didn't star jennifer lopez, i figured i'd be okay.

this story is moving towards a moment worth explaining. i promise.

so i got dressed. jeans, shirt, cardigan. couldn't find the shoes i wanted, settled on another pair. scarf. changed bags so that i could carry my laptop. charged my ipod a little, called laurie while i waited. she didn't pick up. i got my things together and left. i walked out of my house thinking about living in bloomfield; i felt lucky to live here, on friendship avenue, in an apartment i like with a great view. i thought about the strange mix of hipsters, old people, and white trash. i thought, maybe for the first time, that the mix was okay. i walked down ella street listening to phoenix, which, i realized, finally qualified me as a white, mid-twenties person who moved to bloomfield. i'm wearing a scarf. and sure, i'm actually from pittsburgh - and yes - i grew up in a neighborhood on the east end - and yeah, my friends actually lived in bloomfield and lawrenceville and squirrel hill and shadyside and regent square growing up - so i might have a little more street credit. but, to everyone else, i'm not old and i'm not white trash, so that makes me the third social group.

so i walked down ella street. i could see downtown peaking behind a lush, very green, very full hill. i could see the northside, even, peaking behind more hills. a woman smiled at me. the clouds were huge - huge! the sky was blue, so blue. in an instant, everything i loved about this city came to mind. mineos pizza, schenley high school, the hills, the green, schenley park, fireworks, even the crappy art at art all night! the reservoir in highland park, tazza d'oro, the italian catholic church i grew up going to in morningside, the farmers market i used to go to with my mom in the zoo parking lot - the people, the things that stay the same and even some of the things that have changed - i loved terrance hayes and annie dillard more than i could have imagined in this moment. i loved my dad and my mom and my brother. and i loved my best friends from kindergarten. the carnegie library in oakland, or the one in east liberty that i used to go to with my mom. the memories of first kisses, getting lost with my brother in the natural history museum, my first communion, my elementary school - it all came to me. i had more affection and tenderness for this city than i've had in so long.

laurie called me back. she was, also, trying to find a place to eat. only she was in brooklyn, and i was in pittsburgh. i commented on how few places there are to eat on liberty avenue unless you want thai food. she talked about how many places there are to eat close to her. she told me to move to brooklyn. and i smiled to myself.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

matt pond pa, anyone?

i guess i'm writing a post about having a desk in front of my window again. i guess my life isn't quite as epic anymore since the only thing i could think to write about is a desk. there aren't trips to wonderfully beautiful places, there aren't many - or any - spiritual insights; my job is fine, my life is fine, my camera has been demoted to drunk party capture-er and maybe all of this is okay.

my great aunt is dying. so we're getting rid of a lot of her stuff - which includes the desk. sitting at the desk, looking out of the window and seeing all the way to downtown, watching people walk on friendship avenue, seeing the sunset - this all makes me feel finally at home here in my room. it makes me think about all of my other desks in front of windows. on locust street, there was a big beautiful tree outside of my window. i did homework from that desk. kept in touch with high school friends, said daring things in emails that i would have never said in person, listened to nick drake and watched the tree change colors for 2 years. there was the desk in the big blue apartment building in highland park. i could see all the way downtown - i was on the 20th floor. i saw all of the seasons come and go, watched birds fly, felt at home in the sky. i cried at that desk, a lot. i saw the tops of trees turn colors, lose leafs, turn to statues covered in snow, and then turn to green again. i watched butterflies fly at that desk. i always had flowers at that desk - as if they were the only things keeping me alive. there was the desk on siebert street that looked out onto lawrenceville. i watched hipsters walk home from the brillobox there. i listened to bon iver on repeat. i watched the birds fly at 5:00 every day. i got my masters degree from that desk.

the illusion is that this time is meaningless. the lie is that things have to be epic to be amazing - or that things have to even be amazing in the first place. who taught me this lie? the truth is that i'm learning a lot - more than i've learned in a while - i'm learning about weird, new things like compromise and sacrifice and love and selflessness - and i'm learning to still be myself in the midst of this. i'm learning about being faithful to a God who i do not feel or recognize lately. i'm learning about commitment - to a church, a job, friends, a place, a city that are imperfect, and i think i'm learning that it's good to stick around. none of it is fantastic. none of it is feels like a mountain top. but maybe that's just okay.

i was getting excited for the tree outside of my window here to turn green. i realized, recently, that it's not going to. here, my tree, is dead. in fact, so are all of the plants in our apartment. except for a cactus. i keep meaning to throw the plants out and i keep meaning to be upset that the tree is dead, but i can't seem to get around to it. maybe death is okay. maybe things can still be beautiful and true even if they're dead. somewhere in the book of job it says, 'for there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again' - i'm not throwing the plants out anytime soon, and i'm keeping my eye on that tree, and i'm letting myself be because of this hope.

edward abbey said everything i'm trying to say better when he said this:
"you can't study the darkness by flooding it with light."

renee sent me this poem, which also says everything i'm trying to say better than i have:
Let Evening Come

Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Monday, April 5, 2010

lake erie

steve and i went to lake erie. we had a good time. i've never really taken pictures of water before - so it was a new thing for me. i think some of the pictures turned out nicely.

Friday, April 2, 2010

the mazda

this past fall i was driving home from boston. i'd stopped in dubois to drop my cousin off who'd taken the trip with me. i was on my way home on 80, about to exit to get on to 28, and my car hit its 100,000 mile. i was glad my 100,000 mile was on a road i knew so well and had driven so many times. i thought about who i'd be had i not spent countless hours as a child in a car driving with my headphones on looking out the window. drives to dubois, a lot of drives to central pennyslvania. drives to maine, drives to montreal, to gettysburg, to prince edward island. there were drives in wyoming, arizona, california, texas and washington and oregon.

there was a boy at summer camp who was older than me. he was really hot - we all had crushes on him. we took this class called "music appreciation" - we mostly just played our favorite songs. he put on a bob dylan song once and said that sometimes when he was stressed out, or upset, he'd just put on dylan and drive through the hills of fox chapel for hours with the windows down. i thought he was the coolest. so when i finally was able to drive, i decided to do what i could to be just like him.

so i thought about the mazda. we got it in highschool and it was mine after i graduated college. i drove around fox chapel a lot - i'd get in a lot of trouble for wasting gas doing it - i'd listen to nick drake, not bob dylan.