Archive for February, 2012

Spiegel

February 23, 2012

When I was little, I didn’t dream of being an astronaut or a ballerina. I dreamed of owning a sofa.

One of my favorite games was Spiegel. I played with Alison Rothenberg; she was my only friend who got the phone-book-sized Spiegel catalogue. We had calculators, and took turns picking everything we’d need for adulthood: canopy beds, brassieres, coffee mugs.

In my 20s, my goals hadn’t changed much: I wanted a house, filled with people to love. I figured the key to the house — to any goal — was work. So I worked really hard.

My living room became a hallway between 14-hour-days. My refrigerator was empty. Bills sat unpaid. Sofas sat un-sat on. I got promotions, which seemed to prove I was a worthwhile person. But I didn’t get dates, which seemed to prove that I wasn’t.

Clearly, my head was not on straight.

So a few months ago, I went part time. Less money, fewer hours. I decided to make the life — the home — I’d always wanted. Now, not later: To go for the very small dreams of a decent-sized, wobbly-but-willing heart.

(The furniture, if you’re wondering, is the easy part.)

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UCLA + UM

February 10, 2012

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA, through the extension program.

I like being on campus. There’s grass and benches, buildings with names like “Rolfe Hall,” and hand-made posters urging you to join the Ballroom Dance Club and the Muslim Student Association.

It makes me nostalgic.

I went to the University of Michigan, which I picked because my dad said I should, and because it was big: I wanted to make sure college was nothing like high school; disappearing into a sea of 35,000 undergrads seemed like a good strategy.

The only downside was that it was in Michigan, which I knew to be a lame state because a) it wasn’t on the East Coast and b) it didn’t seem to be completely plumbed (my grandfather’s house on Lake Michigan had an indoor toilet, but he discouraged its use; why strain the sceptic system when there was a perfectly good outhouse out back?)

So I was surprised to discover, bit by bit, that I liked it there. I liked Ann Arbor, with its clapboard houses and old-fashioned downtown. I liked the plain beauty of the Midwest. And to be honest the East Coast kids were… well, a little snobby.

They hung out in packs, joined the same frats. They were so sure of themselves, so positive about where they were headed (right back to the Tristate area), so curiously incurious.

When I lived in New York, years later, I noticed the same thing. New York is so confident of its solar position in the universe — it’s just not that interested in what’s happening anywhere else.

Take this month’s Elle Decor — published NY, NY 10020 — which features up-and-coming designers. The editors breezily note, “The renaissance seems to be worldwide. We’re as likely to discover a special talent in Brooklyn as in Milan, in an upstate New York industrial studio as in a Paris atelier.” Good grief. That’s a New Yorker’s idea of “worldwide?” Brooklyn, Paris, and upstate?

But I digress.

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA.

And if you had told me, back when I was hurrying across UM’s diag on my way to class, that one day I’d be headed to class in Los Angeles — driving up Wilshire through rush hour traffic — I would have known you were wrong.

Known.

Which just goes to show: Once you move to Michigan, anything can happen.

Agenda

February 4, 2012

I thought when I had time off work, the days were going to stretch endlessly: long, dull afternoons and warbly, unplanned nights — like elementary school summers. Maybe there would even be fireflies.

Mainly, I was going to blog every single day: what else would I do with myself?

Well. Here’s a partial list, in non-chronological order:

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Take delivery of 63 boxes from England; unpack; arrange; admire.

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Container Store, Ikea, West Elm.

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Daily Show, New York Times, NPR.

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Yoga.

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Take a writing class.

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Take the train to Chicago.

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Go to the Art Institute.

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Eavesdrop. Here’s a conversation this group had in front of Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portrait.

Docent: “How do you think he feels?”

Kid 1: “Sad.”

Kid 2: “Uncomfortable.”

Docent: “Yes! Van Gogh was a very sad and uncomfortable man! But he was also happy that he made so many beautiful pictures, so you don’t have to feel sorry for him.”

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Cook.

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Walk.

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Sleep. Sometimes well, sometimes badly, and once in a dream inhabited by a psychopath who shot 3 people at close range and then shaved his head right down to the skin.

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Do makeup.

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Have people over.

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Recycle 63 cardboard boxes.

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Sit in the sun.

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Think, probably too much.

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