Sunday, April 25, 2010

Across the Great Divide

The first time I saw Nanci Griffith was in 1993. Jefe and I were leaving our messy, gritty, extraordinarily fun lives behind in Gallup, New Mexico, where we learned to be reporters and we'd finally gotten the hang of the two-step. I'd pretty much sabotaged the relationship, even though I was deeply, madly connected with this quirky and funny and kindhearted Yalie on a cellular level. Raised by my single dad, I didn't know how to take space or talk about what I wanted without causing major collateral damage. He held on for unknown reasons. He didn't want to marry, he didn't want to leave. I suppose he loved me, though to this day I am unsure why.

When we outgrew what is arguably the worst newspaper in the country, it was my turn to choose where to live, and I picked home, Washington state. My grandmother was getting older and becoming more still. My dad was in his big house, sometimes with his longtime love Holly, sometimes without. I imagined great reunions with high school friends who had stayed on the Olympic Peninsula.

We piled my 1984 Ford F-150 (with dual gas tanks) to the brim with our secondhand furniture and the Native Art we'd collected in our time in the Southwest. Me and my truck and he and his yellow VW Rabbit made our way north, stopping in Los Angeles for a few nights with his hipster aspiring director friend (who got horribly offended when I called "This Boy's Life" a "movie." "It's a film," he said, rolling his eyes and clucking his tongue). But Hipster was able to hook us up with tickets for The Tonight Show, where we saw Nanci for the first time. She sang "The Sound of Lonliness" and I was struck with inspiration and love and peace and longing and everything you want from a beautiful song.

Of course, Jefe and I didn't last out the year in Seattle. We'd imploded, crushed by past misdeeds and terrified of the uncertain future. When we broke it off for good and he decided to move back to New York, I stared at myself in the mirror and howled until my face disappeared.

If this were a movie, there would be a montage here: Me living in a cabin in the woods. A dozen different boyfriends including a rogue Irish man and a painfully urbane Irish man. Moving to Seattle to take a job as a magazine editor. Repeat appearances of some boyfriends. Leaving the job and becoming a freelance writer, playwright, producer, voice-over and commercial actress. Death of father. Moving to LA for bigger universe. Taking work at a corporation, and, shockingly, settling in.

The last scene of this montage would be me meeting Steve in the spring of 2008 at work, though we'd spoken on the phone a couple years prior when I had questions that needed answers. This ruggedly handsome, impossibly blue-eyed man would turn out to be the best man I had ever met. The most solid and trustworthy and easy and generous and fun person I could imagine. It was my profound delight to agree to marry him.

His birthday was last week, the second anniversary of our first kiss. Aside from the Bacon of the Month Club gift, I got us tickets to see Nanci. There she was, same as before, only we were close enough to hear her slap the guitar and to see the wisps of gray in her pulled-back hair. She was a queen and made it all look so easy and regal.

And when she sang "Across the Great Divide," tears rolled down my face. She sang this:

"The finest hour
I have seen
is the one
that comes between
the edge of night
and the break of day
that's when the darkness
rolls away."

That time of my life was bookended by Nanci. The first time I heard her, I was embarking on an uncertain journey, about to navigate my ballistic behavior associated with subconscious deep regret of losing and hurting the one man who I thought I should have married. Sitting there Friday night with my head resting on Steve's shoulder, I realized that my old journey is done. I don't need souvenirs or diaries or postcards from it. I am on a new path, clear and clean and pure. I am smarter and better as a human being. And this time, I am not alone.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

DIY Wedding

As I've said about a million times on this blog, when you're doing something right, the universe greases your wheels. But what about when you hamfist it? The universe basically throws gobs of bleh at you and makes you start over, refresh. Step away. Reevaluate. And you can't have clarity until that clarity wants to wash over you like a blast from a fire hydrant in the summer on West 82nd Street in Manhattan in 1978, when you wore running shorts and tube socks and Stan Smiths and a shirt with maybe a rainbow on it.

We're figuring out how to have the most meaningful wedding we can. What we need, what we don't. One of my best girlfriends is a wedding photographer by trade, so that's a no-brainer. Steve's on it with the music, and has been the perfect partner in helping with joint brainstorming and intuitively leaving alone the decisions I want to own. Which bodes well for our lives together. We are all set with the place and the wine and maybe even the officiant. I've spotlighted about 15 women in my life who will walk me down the aisle, led by my mother. Friends are giving me hints about scoring the deal on the dress, or do I just want to wear theirs? Those seem like the easy parts.

Perusing invitations, however, is a labyrinthine exercise. I'm a writer. Paper and words and ink and how it reads and how one remembers is important. I went through a maze of paper and fonts and wording on the Internet, each selection leading to a slightly different variation ... more casual. More formal. More Christian. More Hippie. And finally, I found The One. And it's letterpress and charming and in our colors (dark teal, dove gray and white) and $800. For some paper with ink on it.

So I very liberally borrow the idea I like -- a dove on a trellis with some fleur de lis thrown in -- and we pour over fonts together, as if we are deciding our last meal, or the name of our child, or a move to the Wyoming mountains. And finally we plunk down $24 for our wedding font and I play and play and play for nights on end to get it just right. And then I have the design in mind all perfect. And the paper I want to use sucks and gets all mangled in my printer. And my trips to Michael's and Staples result in a bag full of stickers and card stock and bits of ribbon and a Martha Stewart Fleur de Lis hole punch, and 100 blank invitation cards.

And I make a mess of my invitation. It is no longer beautiful to me. The font we have chosen now looks so amateur. Might as well use comic sans. My print looks gaudy and my paper looks plain. Is the bird tacky? Is the whole thing a bit too "Very Hungry Caterpillar"?

My very sweet neighbors arrived on my doorstep yesterday, 8-year-old Kaya with a basket of mandarins and a piece of baklava, her architect dad trailing along. They are a little listless, I think, as Mom is traveling India for a month gathering food stories. They have sort of adopted us. Or maybe we have adopted them. Sanjiv, who is also a Pisces, picks up on my design plight and offers to help out.

So I will put everything away for two days. And try to see the possibility that my new talented friend sees. And maybe we'll make something beautiful.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

By the time you hit 40licious, you collect a lot. You have a house and head full of books and recipes and stories and homespun remedies (Off the top of my head, I remember that slug slime helps soothe nettle burn. Look for the cure right next to the problem. Which works in other situations too). You know obscure Broadway show lyrics and enough trivia to win trips to Turks & Caicos on game shows.  But mostly, you've collected people. Lots of amazing, big-hearted, funny souls who have made your journey on this earth so darn delightful, and easier and meaningful.

And then sometimes -- it might take until you are WELL INTO your 40liciousness or beyond -- you find someone who is so big-hearted and funny and lovely and helpful and sexy and fun that you just have to join up lives with them and walk your paths together, forever.

Steve proposed on my birthday, and the very next morning, I went to Japan for 10 days. We didn't have a lot of time to do any of the fun canoodling engagement things, whatever they are, right away. When I came back, the first order was to recover from jetlag of a land 17 hours ahead. Then it was to think about the wedding.

What will it feel like, smell like, taste like? Who will be there? I don't care about decorations, or party favors, or his-n-her engraved champagne flutes. Since forever, I've wanted to walk down the aisle to Pachalbel's Canon in D, and hear the Beatles' "In My Life" for the first dance. And I want an amazing dress. And to never have to limit our guest list.

The original idea of just getting 300 of our closest friends to the beach quickly disappeared after each site required numerous deposits and permits and then we thought it's just easier to do it with a beachfront hotel and have them arrange everything ... until we saw that most places charge $8,000 just to step foot in the door. And maybe throw in some lemon water. Eight. Thousand. Dollars.

And then our small wedding up in Lilliwaup grew as I tallied at least 100 people in my family alone, too much for the 77-person Lilliwaup Community Center, where my father and his brothers attended kindergarten in a one-room school house. It is also the site where we had my father's wake, and pretty much every other wake and celebration in between.

We thought about Sonoma, a place we both love, and talked with some well-meaning hippies who run a wine-country retreat center.  Which turned out to be even too funky for us (and you're talking about a girl who lived off the grid in a tiny cabin, and peed in a tomato can for five years).

And during our long Easter flight delay at SFO, with the rain pelting down outside and planes coming and going without us, our plan came together. We were invited to wed in a place we both love, hosted by people who mean so much to us. A place we visited that's in between what both of us consider home. A place where rolling hills kiss faraway mountains; where vineyards erupt in passions of purple; where  horses nearly bust out of their own skin, they are so ready to race.

We have found our spot and our date. And I've told anyone, regardless of age, sex, race or inspiration, who wants to be a flower girl that she can. We're up to about five now. And we will gallop off into our future, with our families and friends at our backs. And I will wear cowboy boots with my dress.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

A Tiny Gift for Yourself will send you a poem a day to celebrate National Poetry Month. I am sure that a poem a day will soften hard edges and sweeten addled minds. It might even inspire you to greatness, or niceness, or peace.

No, Love Is Not Dead

by Robert Desnos

No, love is not dead in this heart these eyes and this mouth
that announced the start of its own funeral.
Listen, I've had enough of the picturesque, the colorful
and the charming.
I love love, its tenderness and cruelty.

My love has only one name, one form.
Everything disappears. All mouths cling to that one.
My love has just one name, one form.
And if someday you remember

O you, form and name of my love,
One day on the ocean between America and Europe,
At the hour when the last ray of light sparkles
on the undulating surface of the waves, or else a stormy night
beneath a tree in the countryside or in a speeding car,

A spring morning on the boulevard Malesherbes,
A rainy day,
Just before going to bed at dawn,
Tell yourself-I order your familiar spirit-that
I alone loved you more and it's a shame
you didn't know it.

Tell yourself there's no need to regret: Ronsard
and Baudelaire before me sang the sorrows
of women old or dead who scorned the purest love.

When you are dead
You will still be lovely and desirable.
I'll be dead already, completely enclosed in your immortal body,
in your astounding image forever there among the endless marvels
of life and eternity, but if I'm alive,
The sound of your voice, your radiant looks,
Your smell the smell of your hair and many other things
will live on inside me.

In me and I'm not Ronsard or Baudelaire
I'm Robert Desnos who, because I knew
and loved you,
Is as good as they are.

I'm Robert Desnos who wants to be remembered

On this vile earth for nothing but his love of you.

A la mysterieuse

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I wouldn't normally read a magazine for 40-year-olds, except that they have a LOT of info for 40licious people. The thing that drives me nuts is when a gorgeous 40licious woman resigns and gets all frumpy before her time. There's no fighting getting older, but at least, ladies, let's do it in style.

Oh, and don't let the 19-year-old models fool you. This does work for us.

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