Hello, everyone. I'm currently working on a post that meditates on all of 2011, but it's clear that I'm not going to finish tonight. For your New Year's pleasure I am happy to copy my writing from last year (which ran only as a facebook note). It feels so long ago.
A Year in Full Sentences
Two thousand and eleven has already been an aggressive and unpredictable year- snow has decimated all semblance of a normal schedule and I, finally having chewed through the lingering projects that only a series of snow days ever gets finished, have decided to revisit 2010 and see what I can l learn from it. Thankfully the time of resolutions and reflections is long past so I can break away from the pack and, in my procrastinative glory, really make meaning of 2010 during this reflective month of January.
You may see yourself in these paragraphs. These are just notes to myself pulling together the year, meant to be enjoyed but not taken too seriously. It is very long. Enjoy if you wish. If not, happy February!
On New Year’s Eve of 2009 I was working one of my last shifts as a waitress. After midnight I sat on the red velvet couches and heard about everyone else’s good time, and then took off to an pub and saluted the night with friends and strangers. I don’t remember what I thought as I went to sleep that night.
In January I sat on a not very warm beach in Miami with my parents and my sister and talked about missing my brother, who was in China. We put our feet in the water even though it was cold for Florida. Upon returning home I was awarded “most crossed-trained” and thought, I really have to focus. A few days later, after working fourteen hours to serve patrons on their way to a Kenny Chesney concert (one five-minute break to eat celery sticks), I saw Mt. Rainier at sunset on a clear day from above and wrote a page in a brand-new notebook about it. I looked for eagles outside of Vancouver, unsuccessfully, I gorged on bookshops and coffeeshops and friendship in Seattle, I finished my Christmas cards in Portland. I drove the coast of Route 1 stopping only at townie dives and I walked through the redwoods when my audio Dostoyevsky got boring. A dog took me on a tour. By this time I was in California and was thawing out from Connecticut. In Los Angeles everybody had a project and some coincidental way I knew someone else, and in the desert people swung their golf clubs in a way that showed they hadn’t been retired too long.
I crossed back into February, real, Connecticut February, airborne by the little magic stories of episodic travel and thrust by the promise of a brand-new attempt at a Real Job painting fake picket fences and reading three competing biographies at once. On lunch breaks I wore official NPR headphones for the first time, and on Sundays I stood around in a black box trying to learn to be funny. My valentine was a crowd of people in a comedy club, and I bossed them around and found I was a relatively good host if the party was not in my house. I heard the words of Huckleberry Finn between washboard melodies and I told a girl she should leave her fiancé between her damning stories.
In March I went again to the radio to declare that I was awful and stupid at something, namely basketball, and someone else declared that I should have a fellowship to write (sometimes about being awful at things). I heard other people’s sad and half-done memoirs. I heard a writer talk about women prisoners in a way that reminded me that I was free. I saw a play written by high schoolers about not getting along and then later getting along. I crossed a junkyard to get to a performance space, and afterwards I dragged a children’s easel into a truck, and the easel would later bring us stardom. A friend did a literary reading at a bar called Happy Ending and I hoped that this wasn’t the ending of a lot of things. Sea Tea, my improv group, was part of a Radio Adventure and I had a feeling I was making some new friends. I did a Rubik’s cube in a basement while waiting for ghosts to be hunted. Few ghosts were found and I did only two sides of the cube. March is hard.
April, though, is foolish the whole month: two men might have a territory dispute over impersonating a dead literary figure. You might make music with old friends whose pregnancies make them even more sexual than when they were twenty and drinking tequila and telling you who you could be. You might, of course, see an opera of Tom Sawyer and your workplace embodied in a very expensive cake. You might enjoy a séance more because you know it’s not real. You might meet a writer whose work you like but whose disdainful style is definitely real, based on her personality. You might accidentally bid on a fancy vacation while standing up to go to the bathroom, or you might force seventh graders to read poetry to their peers, or you might write notes on a play about drug wars, or you might laugh at any little thing because things are really going well.
For me the whole year got really grand on May 1st, when, at a Derby Party where I should have worn a hat, I was recognized as a performer and my father chose the winning horse. I said the wrong thing at a baby shower but the other women laughed in a nice way. It rained on a lunch where new ideas were forming, and many of my friends fell out of love. We put puppets into our act and called our mothers. I hiked a little mountain in a historical way. My sister wore a purple sundress, and a nice boy with a broken wrist, to her graduation and then we all went swimming and Thoreau-quoting in Walden pond together. My cousin married a girl with an eye for a beautiful dress, and afterwards we examined an ice luge in the shape of Abraham Lincoln and said “Have a great time in Nepal! Thanks for the cake server!” Mostly, though, I spent May stalking a family of feral kittens. I sat under a bush until finally I was the mother of two of those kittens, and a failure to the other three.
In June I turned twenty-seven, but not until the end. First I learned that I can’t wear high heels to a work event in a Tiffany’s because my feet will get tired and I will put my fingerprints all over the glass, for balance. Then I figured out that Porgy and Bess is something I should have seen some time ago, and that absinthe is too disgusting to pretend to like, and that pirates will dutifully stand around in the rain waiting for some children to entertain. I started running with no direction—literally, I entered races without knowing the routes—and I dashed to a drag show and a party in Vermont the same day. I knew that maybe I was starting to go too fast when I went to a campsite two hours away from the one I was supposed to be at, but I couldn’t stop the speed of 2010 now—not with Cirque du Soleil coming, not with a barbershop quartet waiting to teach me a little snippet of song, not with a show in Rhode Island with professional improvisers to impress. And then it was my birthday, which was a Monday, and which is mysteriously blank in my records. It was probably the beginning of something, since it was a Monday.
And then it was July, hot from jealousy of wanting to be in that improvised 80’s teen movie, and from legends of a circus fire, and from a sunburn on a long day of kayaking. I researched Steampunk and wore a hairy moustache under a rainbow because in the summer you can get away with that kind of thing. I stood in a park that really needed to be cleaned up and wished I had time to do it myself, if only I could bring myself out of the shade. I was introduced to a real live Civil War gun. Greg and I took the Vespa to a party in Southern Connecticut and though it wasn’t quite hot enough I went swimming many times. The only videotape of me in July 2010 includes me in the background of a marriage proposal. I moved, briefly, into a house with two dogs who fetched Frisbees from behind weedy fountains. I drank about a thousand ginger ales and watered the dogs as if they were flowers.
August fell into what August always falls into, a sleepy hope for fall to arrive, and I lolled about my grandparents’ home as I have done each August since I was born, thinking, “I should really take the canoe out today.” I saw a production of Macbeth where Banquo breakdanced and MacDuff’s baby was drop-kicked, and I thought man, this is a good use of summer. I got into an argument by the State House, and screwed up at an academic conference and was feeling generally terrible about things, and then suddenly, Greg’s grandmother died and we were in Arizona. We took a trolley up a cactus mountain in the morning and by evening we were in the Buddhist Community Center picking up on the chant and I met aunts and uncles and neighbors and strangers and someone who picked up the sandwiches. I ate pie on the top of another cactus-y mountain and saw, from above, adventurers summiting after terrifying rock climbs. On the way home we flew through a long lightning storm, an argument between small, tough clouds, and it was, without question, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
In September we got down to brass tacks. Dreaming was over. My improv group taught people how to toast better and I taught myself to go away for a weekend and really, really write. I forced myself to register for a half-marathon and said goodbye to a friend who moved to Israel, for a length of time that seems like forever. A clown had a heart attack and I was the backup plan; more kittens were born and this time I grabbed them with my bare hands after one day of stalking. I assigned times to nearly everything I had to do.
And oh, oh, October. My favorite month. Everything happened. I got to meet all twenty brewers and all twenty restaurateurs who gave their things to me for a love of Twain. I performed the next day for a crowd there to see a forum on civility; later I saw a taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and civilly laughed in all the places I was supposed to laugh. I went on a hayride to pick a pumpkin. I spun spooky stories into improvised short plays, and I was a nun and an alien. I ran nine miles one day and then fourteen miles another day and then 13.1 miles with many other people, and came in right behind a man with one leg, under my goal time, and then went to work to help a man set up marionettes. I saw Greg as Huckleberry Finn and was proud. It was my job to dress as a Steampunk for tea, to skype in a zombie expert, and to hang up decorations for another basement production of Macbeth. And then I painted my face with eyeshadow and went as Smurfette for Halloween. My grandfather turned ninety.
November feels so recent, with its disappointments—a grant we wrote that we did not get, a gala that Val Kilmer did not come to but instead sent in a videotape. We came in second for Hartford’s Best New Business and took the loss with tremendous sadness. Greg and I visited one heartbroken friend in New York and helped another one move into a new place for a new start. We dressed as 70’s stars and ate fondue. I went to my old apartment in New York and put my old furniture in the car and cried because, though I hadn’t admitted it, that part of my life had long been over. I took the furniture back to Connecticut and missed the probably now dead feral cats, whose names were my passwords on various online accounts, a weird and secret access code to my old neighborhood and my old self. But Thanksgiving came, of course, and I was thankful for the long run in the morning on the first truly cold day of the year, and thankful for my brother being home, and thankful that a few days later the first little snow fell right before I saw La Boheme on a nearly bare stage and played with a baby in a refurbished schoolhouse.
December did not feel like any sort of end. We moved into a new apartment with my old table and chairs from the Bronx and our new kittens from the drainpipe. We had a party on the Mississippi for Mark Twain, and I read aloud as Eve while my boss transcribed her words for a new play. My father dragged in a lopsided Christmas tree that he’d cut down when visiting his sister in Maine and we put a string of lights and four ornaments and fresh flowers on it. Everyone came over. And everyone came over to Twain’s House, too, and everyone came to celebrate my great-uncle’s eightieth birthday to hear him tell about all the relatives he wished were still at the table. Greg and I went to Boston and put on a play, a real play on a real stage, and then we walked the Freedom Trail and ate cannolis because we had been doing things like that for eight years, and we were celebrating. We went ice skating in the town we love and we saw my favorite movie in the most beautiful theater, and I cried because I didn’t know what the world would ever be like without me but I did know that this life seemed worth it. And I went to see a friend’s designs hanging on a clothesline in an unfinished building that I had once hoped I would fill with my unfinished projects, but it was better to see his instead. And I began to warm up my voice for a new play. And we made the Science Center laugh. And we made the Funny Bone laugh. And I bought a puzzle that, after the new year, we would work on as if it were our job to do something that silly.
And I went to New Jersey, and I saw my mother at the door, and we went to church and I hugged someone I never thought I would hug again. And my sister was already gone for the next stage of her life. And my brother had returned and did not quite know what to do. And we went to Cape Cod, and exchanged gifts, and when it began to snow we walked long and hard and silent through the holly forest because it had been a difficult year. And when the snow kept on coming, we went out to get beer and lottery tickets. And the next day I drove home, west against the snowy glare of the road, and really and truly nearly died. And I made it. And many, many of my friends came to visit. And on New Year’s Eve, Greg kissed me long before midnight, when my mittens were still on. It was the same pub as last year, and the same people, and this time I didn’t feel like I had missed anything. And when the bar was finally crowded, and people were thinking that maybe next year they might do some new things, and I knew that nearly every single thing I’d done was new, and that I would fall asleep tonight just across the street, we raised up our little plastic cups and we toasted to 2011 and drank and hugged and went outside for a quick breath of fresh air. Then we came back inside.