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Archive for January, 2010

Committed

I just started reading “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I might be the only person left on the planet who has not yet read “Eat, Pray, Love”, but I’m just not drawn to it at all. This book, on the other hand, seemed very appealing to me. It’s part memoir, part history lesson on marriage. Gilbert famously went through an awful divorce, and had sworn she would never get married again. But then she meets and falls madly in love with Felipe. He’s also been through an awful divorce and, while they swear lifelong commitment to each other, they also swear they will never get married. Until Felipe is denied entry into the U.S. after one-too-many visas and they find that, if they want to stay together in the home they’ve built in the U.S., they must marry. Gilbert then sets to learning as much as she can about marriage, so that she might make terms with it before entering it once again.

I can really relate to her impulse there – to learn all about the socio-political history of marriage when faced with it – because I’ve been doing much the same thing as of late. Except I waited until AFTER I got married to do it. My marriage is basically, as I believe really any marriage is, a huge leap of faith. I love my husband very much, but I don’t think that love alone is enough. I’ve loved other men, and yet I’ve known (if not always immediately, eventually) that we could never have successful, sustained relationships. I married Trevor because I think we can, because I trust him to work at it with me, and because he is generally very easy to live with. However, I don’t know that anyone ever marries anyone else because they are sure it will work – maybe there are people out there who’ve had this experience, but my experience has been one of trust, faith, and a willingness on my part to put in the work it takes to make my marriage last. If any one of those key elements were missing, I don’t know that I would’ve attempted it based solely on romantic love.

What all this means though is that I’m not sure our marriage will work, will last. And I’ve mostly made peace with that now. But my first reaction, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s, was just that I felt this huge need to just KNOW MORE. What is this institution? How did it come to be? What did it mean then? What does it mean now? How does it apply to me? How do I do it? How have other people done it? Unlike Gilbert, there is still a sizeable stack of unread books about marriage sitting on my nightstand – I just never got that far. Somewhere along the way I guess I decided I didn’t really care about the context of my marriage – just the content. But I’ll read her book, because it’s only one book instead of many and she’s already done all the work for me.

When I say I just started the book, I really mean it, and my first observation about it actually has nothing at all to do with marriage.

I just finished reading the opening “Note to the Reader”, in which Gilbert writes about how she tried to write the book as though she were just writing it for 27 readers: 27  women who “constitute (her) small but critically important circle of friends, relatives, and neighbors” (all women). I have a couple things to say here. A.) 27?!, B.) “small” circle of friends? I mean, she’s older than I am – and I hear she did have quite an eye-opening finding-herself experience while traveling the world, no doubt meeting many amazing women along the way, some of whom I’m sure are part of this list. But, 27? Maybe I’m being too cynical. Or, more likely, maybe I’m just jealous. I envision being surrounded by all these amazing, inspiring people – counting them as friends and they counting me as a friend, too. Mostly I envision that some of them, after we’ve met and fallen for each other, of course – will move to Spain, and Prague, and small Greek islands – and then I will visit them there, where I will have very “Under the Tuscan Sun” experiences (which, P.S., is pretty much how I think of “Eat, Pray, Love” playing out, having never read it). However, I really don’t know if I can ever envision having 27 of these kinds of individuals in my life. That seems like too much good fortune for anyone.

Shawna, Alyssa, Sarah, Jeni, Esther, and my mom, Laura – these are the women I would write my book for. It’s so interesting to me when put like that because that would just be such a challenge, to write something that would appeal to all 6 women, each with their own insanely different experiences and worldviews. But then I think it would keep me true to myself, it would keep my voice authentic and genuine – because the one thing these women have in common is intimate knowledge of the real me.

Shawna and I grew up apart, but never grew apart, despite our differences.

Alyssa is my war buddy – we went through high school together, and she has an uncanny, encyclopedic knowledge of all my likes and dislikes. She is the life of the party, and neither of us shy away from the ridiculous.

Sarah knows how my mind works better than I do, usually. She is fiercely intelligent, insanely witty, and always hilarious – I laugh more around her than around anyone else.

Jeni is wise and strong and she always does the right thing even if it is not the easy thing. She is a walking, talking  challenge for me to do better, mostly because she is so good and because she believes in me even when I don’t.

Esther is my girlfriend, we would be great for each other if only we were lesbians – she doesn’t let me get away with anything, and she makes me see sides of things I never would’ve been able to see on my own.

My mom is my mom, my best friend, my confidant, and she’s been there for it all.

All of these women are absolutely hilarious in their own distinct ways, and I would fart in front of any one of them without shame or (much) embarrassment, a mark of how well we know each other. But my absolute favorite thing about my friendships with all of these women is that they always pick up right where we left them, regardless of time or distance or a marked absence of phone calls or emails. When I’ve lost my way and I can’t pick up the right thread in my writing and nothing is coming out the way I want, these are the women I will write for. I can only hope that one day, I, too, will have 27. Yeesh, Elizabeth Gilbert. Stop bragging.

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I’ve been looking at apartments and nothing is ever everything I want or need, and I’m worried about whether or not I can get financing for a new-to-me car by the end of February. Our next door neighbors are loud and totally rude 80% of the time, I want a dog and can’t have one in this complex. The list could go on, but the point is that what I dream about all the time is my own, cozy home with things just the way I like them. I would cook all the time in my wonderful kitchen, in my adorable house, somewhere away from the city, with my adorable husband and our amazing dog(s). There might be tall grasses, or wheat fields, or tons of tall skinny trees bunched closely together, but there would definitely be an old dirt road. And maybe even a cow or a pond with some ducks.

Lyrics:

“Helping the kids out of their coats
But wait the babies haven’t been born oh
Unpacking the bags and setting up
And planting lilacs and buttercups oh

But in the meantime we’ve got it hard
Second floor living without a yard
It may be years until the day
My dreams will match up with my pay

Old dirt road,
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
knee deep snow
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Watching the fire as we grow
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
o-o-o-o-old

I got a man to stick it out
And make a home from a rented house oh
And we’ll collect the moments one by one
I guess that’s how the future’s done oh

How many acres, how much light
Tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap
On a little road barely on the map

Old dirt road,
mushaboom, mushaboom)
knee deep snow
mushaboom, mushaboom)
Watching the fire as we grow,
mushaboom, mushaboom)
o-o-o-o-old
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Old dirt road rambling rose
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Watching the fire as we grow
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Well I’m Soldddddddddddddddd”

Thanks, Feist. You always seem to get it dead on.

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My not-dream road trip

Let’s keep this within perspective here, folks. This is just my dreaming-in-a-reasonable-manner dream road trip. I suppose a true dream road trip would really be like a year long and encompass the whole contintental U.S., but who would go on that trip with me and how would I afford it?

Now, unlike many people I know, when asked if I would rather go somewhere brand new or go back to places I’ve loved in the past – I’m going to choose going back to those much-loved destinations from my past. Most of the road trip I’ve envisioned takes place in California, and mostly at places I once lived or that my family made a tradition of visiting. I’ve also made a point of planning the trip in such a way that lodging costs are minimal – at only 4 stops along the way will we need to pay for our lodging. Most of the costs associated with the trip will be from gas and food purchases. This trip also makes it possible to kill more than two birds with one stone, as it were: I have many friends and family members who I’ve been longing to visit and, although this plan leaves out all of those on the east coast, I pretty much take care of everyone over here in one fell swoop – it’s amazing!

So, let’s begin!

We’ll start out from Portland and drive a scenic, forested 7 & 1/2 hours to Trinidad, CA. Trinidad is a tiny coastal town in Northern California. Trinidad, Arcata, and Eureka all pretty much run right into each other and they are a short drive from Redwood National Forest, which, if you haven’t been, is just one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s Redwoods meets coast and it’s perfect! I’m trying to talk myself into camping while we’re there, but every time I read that “bear-proof food lockers” are available at the campsites – it makes me think twice. One of the cottages at Bishop Pine Lodge may end up providing a welcome second option if I can’t suck it up.

We’ll stay in Trinidad one night if we’re paying for a room, but maybe more if we camp since it’s so much more affordable, then drive the easy 3 & 1/2 hours down the California coastline to Mendocino. Mendocino is another small coastal town, about 2 hours north of San Francisco. I came here with my family as a child on numerous occasions. The coastline is beautiful, the village of Mendocino is adorably quaint, and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens is my favorite place in the world. When I was 10 or 11, I once meandered through the forested garden path, singing aloud while small birds chirruped happily all around – I’m not kidding, this actually happened. It probably looked and sounded something like this, just for your reference:

It’s a magical place.

How long we stay in Mendocino will depend on how much money we have to spend on the trip as a whole. I’ve decided that we’re going to stay at a B&B while we’re in Mendocino, preferably with either a jacuzzi tub, a beautiful ocean view, breakfast served to your room, or all of the above. Here’s a prime candidate: Agate Cove Inn, as is the Glendeven Inn. So, you can see how money will be the deciding factor here – one night, no more than two nights at best before we move on.

From Mendocino, we’ll drive 6 hours to Fresno, CA. I know what you’re thinking: “FRESNO?!” The Central Valley is in no way a beauty spot, and Fresno, home to Kevin Federline, is no exception to that general rule. However, it is Trevor’s hometown. His parents, aunt and uncle, and many of his friends still live there – as does my grandmother. We have a place to stay and we can spend some time with family and friends. And then, there’s also a Weinerschnitzel in Fresno, so I’m sold already. We’ll probably stay in Fresno for 3 or 4 days and then make the 4 and 1/2 hour drive down to San Bernardino.

I know what you’re thinking, again: “SAN BERNARDINO?! The armpit of California? What’d you wanna go there for?!” A couple things. Firstly, it’s one of my numerous “hometowns” (the product of moving every 2-4 years during my childhood) – it’s where my dad was born, and I still have family in the area. Most importantly though, it’s where my friend, Shawna, still lives with her husband and their NEW BABY ALEXANDER WHO I HAVEN’T EVEN MET YET! Here, I’m hoping to trespass on my uncle Rene’s kindness and stay at his place in nearby Riverside. We’ll probably stay 2 nights, leaving on the third day.

From San Bernardino we’ll drive down to Phoenix, AZ – about a 6 hour drive. Here we’ll stay with my friend Alyssa and her husband, Owen, in the new house THEY JUST BOUGHT, LIKE REAL ADULTS AND EVERYTHING! Phoenix is another one of my hometowns. I’ll probably make my husband visit my old high school with us, and then of course I’ll make a stop at the best Latin imports store ever, Suenos, before eating lots of REAL, HONEST TO GOODNESS Mexican food, which I’m sorry to say that Portland doesn’t really seem to have. This is going to be the “breather” part of our trip, our mid-way point, and I hope to stay a good 4, maybe even 5, days.

So, at this point in the trip, there are two options: we can drive 7 hours from Phoenix up to Las Vegas, where we’ll play for a night or two before going back over to San Bernardino. OR we can just go directly from Phoenix back to San Bernardino. This again will depend on the money factor – because I’ve done the staying-at-the-cheapest-place-in-Vegas thing before, and this time I really would want to do it up. Even if it’s only one night, I say The Bellagio should just about do. The thing with me and Vegas is that I have been here, like, 3 or 4 times….all before I was even close to 21. So if we go I want to make sure we get to see a fun, cheesy show (I did see Siegfried and Roy though, so that was pretty amazing); we get to eat somewhere nice OR an insane buffet (one or the other, folks); and that we have some money to a.) gamble a little with, and b.) buy cheesy souvenirs with. I originally wanted to take this opportunity of being in Vegas to do a vow renewal on or around our anniversary, performed by “Elvis” – but when I saw how expensive the packages are at most of the little chapels, even if you don’t need the legal marriage piece of it, I got kind of discouraged. It’d be hard to talk Trevor into it in the first place, but much harder to do if it cost $200 plus to do it. Anyway, from Vegas it’s about a 4 hour drive back to San Bernardino.

In San Bernardino we’d just pop in for that evening, having done our visiting on the first leg of the trip, and find somewhere to lay our heads to rest for one night before moving on again.

From San Bernardino we’d drive the 7 hours to Monterey (with a possible stop in Fresno to have lunch or dinner or something with family on our way back up to Oregon). I don’t really care where we stay here. I will have done the luxury thing if all works out well with Mendocino. We can stay at a Motel 6 for all I care, there’s a hostel in Monterey, too. As long as it’s near Cannery Row, and the aquarium! The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the best aquarium in the world, and my other favorite place to be – the otters are my favorites! We’ll pretty much need to spend a whole day there, and then we’ll definitely need to get some clam chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf.

I’m pretty “take it or leave it” with nearby 17-mile drive and Pebble Beach, as well as Carmel – they’re nice, but I wouldn’t mind missing them, having seen it all before on numerous family vacations to the area. It’ll just depend how much time we want to spend in the area, and how exhausted we are by the whole trip by this point.

From Monterey we’ll drive up about 6 hours to Mt. Shasta. We’ll probably stay at one of the area B&Bs and might even partake in some hot springs action, despite all the new-age-y hippie types who will inevitably be there, naked. But we’ll just stay the one night before heading up the final 6 hours back to Portland, and home.

Whew, I get exhausted just writing about it. This trip would be about 57 & 1/2 hours driving time, over about 23-25 days. AMAZING! I wish I could start tomorrow!

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