ghost pressure.

yesterday morning i woke up and decided to go to the city. after spending 11+ years living there, san francisco is as much “home” to me as my true home town. the difference being that my family still calls my home town home and no one that i know lives in san francisco anymore (because it is now entirely populated by millennial millionaires who can afford to pay the millions that it takes to live there). while i wasn’t raised in san francisco; i certainly did a lot of growing up there.

i grew up in a verrry small town in the foothills of northern california. my back yard was pretty much a forest. i spent winters snowed in; went multiple days without power; learned such transferrable skills as how to build a fire and make a pipe out of a soda can. time is oddly slow in the town where i was born. everything moves at a softer pace. moving to the city should have been a shock to my senses; but somehow, it wasn’t. there is something about the city that makes sense to me. something that feels right. a rhythm that is more in line with my own. i like the pace of it. i like that it moves in a steady stream; which i am able to jump into or out of. the city has changed enormously in the 7 years since i left; but the geography of it is forever embedded in me. i know that city like the back of my hand. now that i live in a quieter place; i still get a certain restlessness that can only be soothed by the city.

when i lived there, i would always walk around with headphones on. i liked disappearing into a soundtrack of my own choosing. i liked being in the thick of the crowd; lost in the shuffle. what i most enjoyed was finding empty spaces there. the deserted financial district on the weekend. union square at 7am- long before all the shops opened. dolores park on a cloudy day. running along typically crowded streets that were emptied for street sweeping. grace cathedral at night. ameoba records right when they opened; while all the employees were still shaking off their hangovers and their patrons were still sleeping theirs off. i moved through the city like a ghost; and that was a comfortable position for me.

there is still an element of that that is comforting to me. when i go now, it is early in the morning on a saturday- one of the only times that traffic in the bay area is light. i know the exits; the back streets; where the parking spots can be found and the opening times of the shops. i don’t wear headphones anymore. i walk around listening to the dinging trolleys and squeaking breaks & elctro-crackle of the busses; the rants and raves of panhandlers and hobos; the confused chatter of tourists and teenagers looking for photo ops. i basque in the neon white of the giant h&m and let myself try on the most ridiculous outfits i can find. i climb the heavy concrete stairs at urban outfitters and curse the slickly reproduced remnants of my youth on display there. i roll up my sleeves and dig into the musty racks at thrift town. i shake my head at the freshly installed rows of condos and ultra modern ultra curated versions of shops that used to be. i walk with the quickened pace of someone who has somewhere to be; someone with no time to waste. i get in; i get out. i speed past the lines of stalled traffic heading into the city on the bridge as i leave.

what i realized yesterday was just how comforting it is for me to visit that sort of innominate world. the city has a sort of delphic quality to me; and it also provides this paradox of familiar and unknown. the ability to be there while not being there. there is something so exquisite about that kind of loneliness; and it feels like a luxury that i no longer have. i wouldn’t trade my life; but being mother- being front and center for a family and community takes a lot. sometimes it feels good to disappear for a little while; into the long shadows of deco green and slate gray neo-gothic spires; to haunt those old alleyways and bask in the glow of red fabric lanterns hung from winter bare branches and the discovery of forgotten treasures.

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a week of outfits.

january- what a total blower. i believe it was cold; a bit rainy- but to be honest i don’t recall. everything is a blur in my memory. i can tell my mood by the almost complete lack of color in my outfits, there were gray days. my favorite outfit this winter has easily been this h&m faux celine sweater with this mara hoffman knit skirt (similar here and here), and these maryam nassir zadeh boots (which i wish i had in red!). i also can’t state enough how crucial turtleneck bodysuits have been to my winter wardrobe. i bought this one on amazon for about $12 and it’s gotten a ton of use. i also broke two of my own rules and bought these skinny jeans (a no) on a whim because they were on sale (another no) for $5. i felt determined to make them work but sadly, i still look like a sack of potatoes in skinny jeans. lessons learned. looking forward to some color in the days ahead.

the end.

diary.

breathing a sigh of relief that january is done. this one was really a doozey. however it is sooo not lost on me that each year, right at the bitter end of january the clouds part for several days of crazy freaky gorgeous warm weather. it always happens when i am at the end of my rope with relentless colds and flus and bad hair days; when i am so tired of putting on the same winter coat every day; of piling on all the blankets and waking up to freezing floors; of watching the weeds take over my yard as the rain gutters fill up. every year there comes a streak of bright, sunshiny days that make me want to take to the streets & DANCE. it doesn’t last long- just long enough to catch my breath before the real rainy season begins. but i am so very grateful for it this year; because it is happening right now; and it could not have come at a better time. hope the sun is shining on you, too.

 

on winter.

 

 

winter is difficult. full stop. each year i dread it, and each year i vow to try to do something about it. something to make it less of a drag. all of the things that make it such a drag: the bad weather; the cold; the lack of sunlight; the sicknesses- they feel heavy. but each year i get through it, and the first flashes of spring; the first warm days of summer; they feel so much lighter; like shedding the weighted blanket of winter that covered me. they seem to easily erase the winter past. it becomes a blur in my memory; like a trip to the dentist that felt like hell whilst sitting in the chair getting my teeth drilled on, but forgotten after the novocaine wore off.

yesterday as i was sitting with my son while he whined and cried for attention that i felt unable to muster; i let out a deep breath and realized: this is it. this is winter. i am in it. after a lengthy 2+ week winter break from school, my son came down with a terrible cold on the day that school started again. then, i came down with the cold. then, his therapist came down with it. on top of his nagging cough, my son started getting nose bleeds. on top of the terrible cough and nose bleeds, he is also going through a mysterious bout of diarrhea that has lasted close to a month. then, i awoke this morning to find my son had projectile vomited all over himself and his room. to recap: 3 weeks without school; cancelled therapy; a cold; constant nose bleeds; diarrhea; vomit, and my own cold. my son is beyond tired of being cooped up at home, but we can’t do anything about it. we are grounded. i see his speech starting to disappear into lazy babble; his anxiety over going places rising to match his level of boredom. and i, in my weakened state, feeling incapable of denying the constant craving for dark chocolate that i have been dealing with since the holiday season began. this is it. this is winter. nowhere to run.

last night we watched an episode of the show black mirror, where a worried mother has a tracking chip implanted into her 3 year old daughter. it also allows her to “filter” out disturbing things. when the girl walks past lunging barking dogs; sees a violent interaction; or sees someone upset; something explicit or someone having an accident; the image and sound are blurred out. the girl doesn’t experience anything negative. as she grows up she develops aggressive, violent behavior; and acts out sexually and with drugs. all of the things that she was protected from sort of explode inside of her. it felt pretty profound, this metaphor laden show. a mother trying to protect her child from bad experiences, from negative feelings; from all of the things that we cannot escape in the world and within ourselves. no matter where you go, there you are.

just before i got pregnant, i had decided on a new tactic to avoid christmas and beat the holiday/winter blues. i was going to start an annual tradition of going to a tropical climate every year at christmas. i would use my vacation time each year to spend a few days alone in the sunshine instead of dealing with mouthy relatives; card tables stacked with fatty, sugary foods; all while feigning delight over redundant, impersonal gifts. but by the next christmas, i was at home with a newborn. my plan of escaping winter would never come to be. that first winter as a newborn i saw my son in agonizing pain with colic as his digestive system; seemingly under-developed, tried to adapt. with his first winter colds he was paralyzed, curled up in a ball on my lap. the first time that he threw up he screamed with anger and confusion over what was happening to him. i could see how his body was just forming; learning to process those things; his immune system building itself.

for the past few weeks i’ve been using a therapeutic light lamp that simulates daylight. every morning when i wake up i sit at the kitchen table with the lamp on for about an hour before my son gets up. this is my way of trying to combat the winter blues this year- a little faux-sunshine. while i can’t say it has magically transformed me into a ray of sun and erased winter from my psyche; it has taken the edges off of my moods. allowed me a little clarity; the ability to stand back and notice myself in the thick of things. i look outside and see how much the plants have needed the rain; how everything is now a vibrant shade of green. how my son now treats colds as an annoyance instead of an attack. how much he appreciates school once he returns from time off; how the teacher and the toys and songs and games there feel new again once he’s been away from them. i see how winter serves as a black background to the rest of the seasons- how it makes the colors of spring & fall pop; how living through the cold makes the warm feel somehow warmer. my new motto is this too shall pass. for now, there are oversized sweaters and over the knee boots; pink camelia & azalea bushes; simmering pots of pozole;couch snuggles under faux fur throw blankets; and clear plastic raincoats.

the return of saturn.

i often forget how old i am. somewhere around my mid-thirties the years began to blur together. when i am asked my age i have to stop to think about it, calculate the current year, the year that i was born, the age of my son, the space between. contemplate where exactly the past year has gone. so beyond the time when birthdays were an event or a milestone, when my life had enough movement to it that age marked a place as well as time, some far off destination or new city that had been conquered. after settling into domesticity, standing still for a while, the years become muddy and indistinct. a tiny thread running along the hem of the giant quilt of day to day life.

10 years ago i was 29- the amount of time it takes for saturn to orbit the sun. that period of psychic seclusion and forced reflection known as saturn return. the cycle of maturation that comes to call every 29 years. a period of facing oneself, asking questions about identity. shedding youth and facing adulthood. for me, it was a lonely time. i had quit drinking. replaced nights at the bar with hypnotherapy sessions, sewing lessons and autobiography workshops. most of my friends had scattered in different directions, off to other cities, new marriages or circles that made them feel remote to me.

my father was 59 at the same time. he was facing his second saturn return. we were both heavy with lessons unlearned. contemplating old ghosts. we had both been through major breakups and possible reconciliations that didn’t come together. both standing on the edge of new chapters. questioning our careers. uncertain where we were going. we were also not speaking at that time. that was the year that we both took trips by ourselves. my father flew into chicago and traveled through the upper mid-west/north east: through indiana, ohio, virginia, washington d.c. and maryland. i flew into nashville, rented a car and drove through the mid-south: through arkansas, mississippi, tennesse and kentucky.

i fell in love with memphis, a town that was hospitable to a ghost like me, offering up brightly colored windows of abandoned buildings and unlit neon signs, faint remnants of a vibrant past that had faded under the scorching bulb of the southern sun. i spent evenings watching salt water taffy pink sunsets on a bench overlooking the river where jeff buckley had drowned. i decided while i was there that i would leave san francisco, where i had been living for the better part of a decade, a city that was giving me the distinct feeling that i had overstayed my welcome.

my father wrote to me after his trip, the first contact in many months. i imagined him climbing the steep steps of the bleachers at wrigley field, watching the birds skimming the water on the ohio river from the window of a train, standing in the shadow of the extended foot of the lincoln memorial. i began to see how our lives ran as parallel as the trips we had taken. i began to see him more clearly, without the dark lens of an angry daughter. i knew then that i could not become myself without facing him first.

over the next two years i spent more time with my father than i had in my life. we traveled together. lived together, on and off. i took care of him while he recovered from surgeries, he took care of me while i tried to find my place in the world. i saw all of the ways that we were similar. all of the ways in which i tried to be who i thought he wanted me to be and all of the ways that i rebelled against what i thought he wanted me to be. and, all of the ways that he didn’t notice any of it. it was painful, difficult, frustrating, heartbreaking and so necessary. at the time i had no idea how my life would unfold. where i would go. how i would survive outside of the world i had lived in during my 20’s. it was ground zero. i couldn’t see it at the time, but it honestly was the beginning of my life as an adult, as my own person.

here’s to all the saturn returns, to all of the ones out there questioning their lives. may your path to a new frontier be lit by southern sunsets, may you see yourself reflected in brightly colored panes of glass.

 

a sartorial farewell to 2017.

the year started off with a feeling of closet burnout, which inspired a solid month of trying on every garment that i owned and taking a photo of it. from there, i documented a week of outfits every month, which has left my phone with an embarrassing amount of outfit selfies on it. it does, however, allow me to really look back on the year and what i wore. yes, i have regrets, some relating to the way my hips look in tight pants, some over things i chose to part with in closet clean outs, but mostly i just love outfits.

this year i worked hard on my goal of having my wardrobe entirely populated by suspender skirts/jumpers/pinafores. it’s really the one item of clothing that i am in love with no matter what era it hails from. i can appreciate a 1940’s nursing pinafore as much as an 80’s power shoulder strap one. i equally adore a matronly laura ashley plaid jumper and a sassy 90’s grunge plaid jumper from the mall. i find a modern day urban outfitters pinafore about as irresistible as one from comme des garcons. i just can’t get enough.

all of these pictures display a few basic truths about my sartorial self: jeans are no friend of mine, plaid and pinafore are my king and queen, and the shoes really do make the man.

the end.

69 love songs.

 

as a gen xer, one of the things that i worry most about “kids these days” is that they will miss out on albums entirely. much as i appreciate the convenience of digital music, it often feels hollow to me. a record, in its entirety, is an experience, not unlike a novel. a chapter plucked from a book might be wonderful on its own, but in the context of the full narrative it is something so much more. in the world of streaming play counts the art of making albums feels like a dying one. the album cover seems to be dying as well, replaced by a new sort of music video, by a barrage of filtered & photoshopped snapchats and instagrams that don’t leave much room for the imagination.

as a little girl there was nothing as magical to me as my mother’s record collection. in our living room were rows of shelves containing records that my mother had collected throughout her life, and my brother and i would spend hours pulling them out and looking at the album art. i remember the raised foil and hazy filigree of her psychedelic records, the pop out faces of her rolling stones records, the feeling of the braille on her stevie wonder records, and how impactful and strange and iconic portrait cover images of bob dylan, stevie nicks and madonna were. an album cover can say so much. portraits can be an introduction or an reinvention, a statement about an artist’s style, their swagger or vulnerability, their identity or persona. imagery, or lack of imagery (for records like the beatles’ white album, metallica’s black album, talking heads’ 77 and many more) can be provocative, humorous or political. these images once provided a jumping off point for the imagination, a visual starting point for where the music would take you. pictured above are just some of my personal favorite album covers, ones that have stuck with me over the years.