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25 August 2011

REPOST: Is Worth...

Assisi en il Cuore Verde
 
Fingertips trail ancient walls, the occasional tree gets hugged; the mood of a city filters in through my senses. Years later, a sound or scent or taste will take me right back. Even better, I have only to call the experience up in memory to know how a place felt. I've learned that snapping pics along the way tends to inhibit, rather than inspire this process.

During the first leg of my first European journey, I took reams of pictures. The Moms recorded video and snapped photos of every train station and street corner across five countries. And for a while, their camera-enthusiasm was infectious and I clicked along with them. My prepared travel mode; plugged into my CD player, the book in my hand a handy camouflage; was great for savoring a city and it's denizens. In addition to providing a soundtrack for my memories, the music calmed me during the hectic rush between taxis, trains and buses. Reading a book is a great way to observe unobserved. And because Rory Gilmore and I were separated at birth (omigosh...just realized, that the phrase "could be my daughter" is more applicable...ouch) far too many books weighed down my luggage when the trip began. I developed the habit of leaving them behind when they were. To this day, I wonder about the travels of those who read them after me...and whether they were as freaked out as I was by the ending of Carol O'Connell's "Judas Child".

Giving up my camera however, was, like most good things that happen while traveling, an accident. Five weeks into the trip, the Moms had gone. My travel partner and I were spending two weeks at a resort just outside of Assisi. A resort, which, due to an extended fight  with my friend and the determined pursuit of the Neapolitan handy man, was feeling just a tad cramped. So a beautiful snowy day found me in Siena, a couple of trains and a bus away...without my camera

Dang it.

Only, not so much.

I remember scattering pigeons as I crossed the piazza, cursing my forgetfulness. I can feel the suspicious gazes directed at me from the white haired ladies on the bench ahead. I walked all over old Siena that day, not missing my camera nearly as much as I thought I would. And then I found it.

Down some side street, I will never find again was a gallery of modern art. They were just opened, some of the rooms had not yet been finished. The art...it was mostly okay. Some pedestrian, some self-consciously cool, with a couple of truly awful and brilliant pieces thrown in. I went up and up and up,  and was on the roof. To this day, I'm not sure whether it was the installation or the view which first took my breath. Maybe it was one of those moments where art and life collide to create an impression far more evocative than either could on its own. It's true, I know; a good photo of the scene would be more descriptive than words. Instead the experience is private, jealously guarded in my own heart.

An immortal moment...something in Siena which exists only for me.

26 July 2011

A Picture...

Photographs have been popping up in the oddest places. While slowly unpacking boxes from my 150th move in the past 5 years, old and/or forgotten snaps are unearthed. From the desk box, emerged a tattered envelope containing pictures from my 'surprise' party 11 or 12 years ago. My German Grandma let it slip the surprise by asking me to confirm the time it was to start. Too funny. I look so...I want to say young, but (thanks to my mother's fabulous genes, I haven't changed all that much) a more appropriate word is uncertain, hopeful; and a girl lacking any notion of the woman she'd become.

In the same box is a picture of one of my dearest girls, at ages 2. In the photo, Lorelei, a blonde angel in a puffy pink jacket and her friend Rosie are absorbed in a school project. The frame is handmade, cut from yellow and orange construction paper, decorated with the squiggles and dots of a marker. I can still see Laur running over to present it to me.

Six or seven years ago, the golden shoebox, which holds a couple of decks of cards and other odds and ends, produced a pic of the girls who warrant Most Favored Nation status. It's of a later vintage. I had already left them when Lisa sent me this pic of Laur and Allie. By then, I'd crossed the Atlantic for the first time. I had eaten brussel sprouts in Brussels, gotten lost in Rome, Marseilles, Paris and Florence; and played the balcony scene with a Napolitano Romeo in Umbria.

When the photo of my favorite girls arrived, a couple of years later; my grand adventure was over and everyday life was kicking my butt. Worse, the thought that I might not realize my dearest hopes and dreams, had reared it's ugly head. For the first time in my life I'd jettisoned a friendship, taken a full-time job, and acknowledged (if only to myself) that the kink in my health was not something I could 'power through'. In that moment, the picture of these smiling girls at the ocean was hard to take. I missed them, I missed what used to be known as my life.

When I find the picture again a few weeks ago while going through the gold shoebox for the umpteenth time (I'm sure there's something important in there that I missed last time), the girl's peek out at me. This time, I know joy with maybe a hint of nostalgia. Okay, and perhaps...perhaps, the teeniest bit of regret, sympathy for the girl I was then. The girl who had not yet learned how to reconcile the life she dreamed with the life she owned.


  
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06 June 2011

Alas and Alack' My Dear Friends....

I've been the victim of a confluence of events that can only happen to *me*. There are those who might suggest my bed was made by me and now I should lie in it. Whether or not those people are right, it's extremely tactless of them to say so now.

So I have two handsets for my phone. For the longest time only one had a decent battery. And yes, I know that's stupid because every once in a while the thought does occur, 'this is dumb, what if something happens to the good phone battery, you will have no access to your outside world'.

However  when push comes to shove, I always find reasons for not buying a fresh battery for the juice-less phone. Generally variations on...I'm too cheap. Besides, what are the chances the good phone battery dies without days, yea, weeks of notice?

'Hello, Ancient Master  Dropper of Phones (me<---)!' I say to myself 'ehm, clumsy much?' But I make it a point not to listen to advice from myself, particularly when it's given in that specific *tone*. Of course, last Monday, after dropping the phone and managing (somehow) to break the battery but not the phone. I wished I had listened...regardless of Tone.

After eBaying myself a couple of phone batteries (I'm educable, if slow); the batteries seem slow to arrive. A couple of days past their due date, I discover that I' have neglected to update the eBay shipping address after my last move. Hah, yes....genius.

Have I mentioned the juiceless battery is being a complete and utter jerk? Juice-less is a teensy understatement; as the battery seems to have just enough power to light the little caller id screen. Now I get to watch helplessly as unanswerable calls come in.  Let me just say this, I now understand why dogs hate cats. Have you ever watched a cat sit just out of reach of a dog barking itself into a myocardial infarction? Phone = cat. Me = dog.

Looking forward to talking to you (at last!) very soon,

09 May 2011

REPOST: The Library Book

I love libraries. They are, quite literally, the places on earth I feel most comfortable. Reading is a solitary experience, but the communal nature of library reading infuses it with a sense of...family, in a way. We belong to physical families as a result of genetic similarity, library familiality is a result of like-mindedness.

My favorite thing, which is what has happened with my current book, Readingsby Sven Birkerts, is finding the receipt of a previous patron stuck between the pages of the book. Indulging myself in Birkerts' musings about reading and time and the human condition has opened a doorway to a place I barely remember but for which my longing has never died. That pure...simple place where exists the exquisite and innocent joy wrought by everything related to reading.

Books...the way they smell, the weight of a volume in hand, the texture of the page...are approached with the pitcher's intent ritual treading of the mound, with the sommelier's expert palate. Reading...that moment when when letters and punctuation vanish from the page and the mind leaves this world and enters another...is a meditation, a cleansing of thought and an unfettering of spirit. It's a way of taking a vacation from one's self. To view the world through new eyes, to experience our hearts desires expressed in words we cannot find ourselves; "we read to know we are not alone", as someone said.

So a year ago, this guy in Napa checked Birkerts' book out of the library. Readings, which is basically a book about books and the way in which they can help us make sense of our swiftly tilting, sharply spinning world; or if not make sense, at least give us a vocabulary with which to express our confusion. I love Birkerts' clear, spare, unsentimentalized sentiment, he expresses his thoughts in a way that gives me plenty of room for my own and I find the experience of reading Readings rather like enjoying a sherbet after dinner; a delightful preparation for the dessert of deep thought.

I wonder what Napa Guy thought? Does he feel as I do about Birkerts's writing? Does he find it difficult, as I do and Birkerts does, to reconcile our present with our recent past and near future? Does he relish the gifts of libraries and of books as much as I?

31 January 2011

REPOSTED From Email: Midlife Crisis, Anyone?

So my biological clock started ticking the other day...loudly. It's funny because said timepiece has been dormant for so much of my life, I was pretty well convinced the notion of an alarm which goes off somewhere in a woman's DNA and starts demanding babies was a myth; like unicorns, fairies and comfortable heels;  perpetrated upon womankind by our mothers and Madison Avenue.

I've never experienced a strong desire for children of my own. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE  children. I ADORE children. Like any non-cyborg human being, I've always found babies irresistible. There is nothing which compares to the warm, loving weight of an infant in your arms, except for the "there but for the grace of God go I" breath of relief with which I hand said infant over to Mommy or Daddy at the appointed time. I've spent most of my life taking care of kids. While it's true that babies are cute and cuddly my preference has always been for the sentient years.  The experiences and conversations to be had after a child discovers Mom and Dad are not the literal center of the universe, for me,  hold a special and intense magic. From, a toddler's first "Why?", I am spellbound. Even so, even so...just as certainly as I knew at eight or nine, caring for children would play a big part in my life, I knew with equal conviction that I did not want to raise children in this system of things and that if Jehovah granted me a measure of contentment, I'd wait until the new one; when I can be the kind of mother I've always wanted to be.


So now what? Is it time to knock a man over the head, drag him down the aisle and make him the father of dozens of fat babies (Firefly shout out)? Um, not so much. The thing which never ceases to amaze me about existential crises...is the mundane-ness of the fix. Several biggish things have kind of happened all at once. I've turned 35, one of my major milestone ages. After years of annoying, debilitating and confusing health issues I have a diagnosis which makes sense of it all; and my companion of fifteen years, a small, fiercely loyal, utterly obnoxious feline who has been with me since she was 1 month old is sick for the first, and probably, last time in her life.


It's this last straw which jump-started the clock. What will it be like when the only heart beat which truly belongs to my life is my own? My body was preparing an answer before my brain even knew the question. Babies! Clear evidence that DNA/emotions/clocks (biological or otherwise) have no I.Q. whatsoever.  Is it time for children? No.


However it is time for something; time to begin the process of letting go, time to give a very old kitty permission  to find her natural resting place when the time comes. To that end, I stumbled upon a couple of very good, very funny books for animal people. The first is "Tell Me Where It Hurts" which is written by veterinary surgeon (I know, I know, but I"m way more squeamish than you and loved it) Nick Trout (yes, as in the fish), it is funny and it is elegant. I'm taking a break from the current audiobook to write this, because it's great for navel-gazers of all stripes, animal person or not. The book is "It's Okay To Miss The Bed On The First Jump" by John O'Hurley...fun-E and great for where my head is now.


All of this to ask the question of the people from whom I most want to know their answers: What was your last/most significant midlife/existential crisis? And how did you/did it resolve it/itself? It's nearing midnight as I sit working through this particular knot in my psyche, my friends. Help me out.

Much love,
Maya

02 January 2011

So there's this really cool site, called instantwatcher.com

While fiddling around Netflix...I think I was looking for the blog...or something...well, anyway, I stumbled across a nifty little link entitled 'apps'. Netflix has apps? I like apps! And for Netflix...seriously, apps are more necessity than luxury.

A number of limitations crop up for enthusiastic NF'ers. First, only 500 movies per queue? Insanity, insanity, I say! And yes, while it is possible (or was, I haven't looked for it in a while) to save movies to lists, the process is so counter-intuitive you have to re-learn it every time you use it, that is, if you can even find it on the site. You can't even link your list to your queue in order to avoid double entries. The queue itself is kinda clunky. I don't know about you guys, but when going through either 'Instant' or 'DVD' queues to figure out what to watch next, I'm often in the mood for a particular genre. My only option was to scroll through my queues for videos in the 'Television' or 'Classic' genre. 

Which is a huge pain. 

'Yes, #3, Meet Me In St. Louis would be cool, but let me keep scrolling to see if...ooh, #248 One, Two, Three sounds good too. But do I want to watch that more or less than...than...What was that first title?' And back up to the top I go. Not only have I forgotten the name of the first movie, I also can't remember where it was in the queue.

These were a few of the thoughts tripping through my bean while checking out the 'Apps' section. When I found instantwatcher.com, I wasn't sure it would be particularly useful. The site design doesn't exactly scream 'must have'. In fact it looks a bit like one of those search pages you get hijacked to when you accidentally type in the wrong URL.  However, if  you use NF Watch Instantly heavily, instantwatcher.com is your new best friend. What it lacks in razzle-dazzle it more than makes up for in functionality and ease of use. Not only are titles broken down by any number of useful categories, from 'genre' to 'popular; their categories have categories. 

Let's say you want to browse television? instantwatcher.com includes NF's standard sub-genres (British TV, Kids TV etc); but the site also permits you to sift responses by rating (NF users, New York times, or Rotten Tomatos), year and MPAA rating. See a title you think you might like? Just roll your cursor over it to read the summary. You can find a list of the new or popular; but best of all, you will also find a list of what's coming up. The 'Coming Soon to Instant' link is a must-click. Can't miss Xanadu, coming to NF Watch Instantly 2/7/11. 

Want to sort your Instant queue by genre, date or rating? Want to be able to save more titles than your queue allows? Those are two very cool functions available to premium users. It's incredibly easy to use and view your queued and saved titles. The sidebar presents options to view only your queue, only or saved titles or both at the same time; all for the low-low of $9.95 per month...oops, did I say month I meant $9.95 per year. instantwatcher.com has definitely put the 'fun' back in to managing your instant queue.

Disclaimer: instantwatcher does offer a free membership for bloggers and journalists who write about the project. But truth is I would have signed up for a premium account anyway. Writing this post saved me from spending ten bucks and from shouting my instantwatcher.com joy from the rooftops.