n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Monday, August 15, 2011

back to the trip

Once I arrived in New York, I had to figure out how to get to mid-state New York, where Ellen was going to pick me up at the train station. I had planned out part of the deal... that I needed to get to Grand Central Station to catch a train, but I wasn't entirely sure the best way to get from JFK to the downtown area. I'd looked online and finally settled on some advice to catch a shuttle-bus, which would go directly there. But when I wandered outside the airport to look for one, I was unable to find anything that looked even remotely like a shuttle bus.

A note on the wandering: upon leaving the airport, the weather report was affirmed. It was Damn Hot. "Damn Hot," in this instance, being a type of official designation just two notches below "I'm Dying Here," which is what had been going on a week prior to my visit. Damn Hot, however, was pretty far away from the "Pretty Stinking Cold" I have been experiencing in Washington this year. From what I hear, this is a record cool summer, or at least June was... with no days breaking out of the 60s. I am one of those unfortunates in the PacNW who adores heat and spends all winter sitting with my legs wrapped around a radiator (literally... zero metaphors there) and dreaming of the steamy summer to come, when I will drift down the rivers on inner-tubes and sip G&T's upon the flowering afternoon patio. However, I have struck a nearly tragic Pretty Stinking Cold status quo this summer (only nearly tragic because I don't live in Scotland like my sister, and she tells me it never does anything but sleet, drool, and flood there... which sounds nearly TOTALLY tragic to me). So... when I walked out and hit the Damn Hot, I was both physically startled/reeling and incredibly pleased. I loved every inch of mutant sweat pathways that notched my PacNW clothes with genuine summer notification... nevertheless, it helped with the disorientation and unwillingness to linger around searching for missing shuttle buses.

So, I decided to brave the subway, which went well for me. I took my time and had to transfer twice, but I got there and realized all again how much I am in love with subways systems, although I feel less affection for the ones that travel all the way underground than I do for those that stream past a graffiti-laden, peopled landscape with the trees and sky drifting above.

The train I took north from Grand Central was incredible... it ran right up along the Hudson river the whole time, and shortly after leaving the city we ran into some thunderstorms that billowed above the greying water. I was startled by how few boats were traveling along the Hudson, and also by how many herons and Canadian geese I counted. The rain started with a speckling, then shifted towards thunder and lightening - stripping across the sky right as we hit the Bear Mountain Bridge, then pouring and obscuring vision much past 30 feet or so. Then it quickly stopped until we got further north and it started right back up again and was finished by the time I rolled into Poughkeepsie.

I felt so happy just watching it, experiencing those thunderstorms I had missed so much since moving away from Chicago (I used to track them from front East-facing porch to the back West-facing porch, or vice-versa). Also, being on a train seemed to pull me pretty far back, towards those days of traveling in Europe with Sarah... little corners that reminded me of the strange illicit places we found to camp upon, light campfires of heady yucca and tighten down against the perpetual nightly rattle of the lines. It almost made me feel young again, or at least not so damn old, which is how I feel lately.

By and large, this is the overwhelming sensation of the trip: of coming awake again, of leaving hibernation, shaking my fat layers in slow-motion undulations of molting thick fur, and discovering... that it's not all grey. That I am not seventy-seven years old and hidden in the recesses of a nursing home (the story I've been working on forever... well, maybe it became too much my life, maybe why I've been having a hard time with it). That I am not alone, that I might not even like being alone. I feel like I've told myself for awhile that I am too old and set in my ways, that I can't bend - and that's why I am not able to sustain a romantic relationship. Perhaps I've told myself that there's just something wrong with me too, that love can't be maintained for some of us, while others find the lucky one person who will actually put up with them, and then they get to grown together so they don't wake up one morning and find that their life is set and rigid, with nobody who could even possibly fit into pattern and no going back.

NY TRIPBut I was totally enfolded into Ellen's family and I loved every minute of it. It was exhausting, and sometimes trying, but it felt so delicious and I didn't want to put down the baby, and I didn't want to go to bed and stop talking to Ellen, and I didn't want to stop playing tea-party with Sophia, and when Benjamin teased me, I felt like the little bubble (expended in something much like a giggle) was some pure form of affection I had been missing.

I also found out while I was there that Ellen keeps a picture of me in her wallet, next to her husband... not hidden in the back, but visible when opened, and I honest to god wanted to cry. I might have done so if we hadn't been in a public place. How can I explain that feeling? I'm not sure I trust myself to do so.

So, I think after all that there might not be anything wrong with me, except a bit of fear and paralysis. A bit of the sad lonelies.

It was a really good trip for me to take, and I'm so glad I did.


When I got to Poughkeepsie, Ellen and I had some difficulty finding each other. I made the assumption that because I didn't see her immediately she must be in her car with some very tired children, not wanting to drag them down to the tracks, or that she was having some difficulty finding the station in a town she wasn't very familiar with. Silly assumption, because after waiting for 30 minutes by the car pick-up spot, she wandered out of the station with a baby on one hip and a shy, tall little girl hiding behind the other hip, and confusedly said, "Joanna?"

Ellen is my college buddy and, at this point, one of my oldest friends. We met in the late fall of 1994 or early spring of 1995. That I knew who she was pretty early in the year is true, but I don't think we actually became friends until a fair amount later. Her dorm was one building over from mine and she lived with the girl I had a ridiculously adoring crush on for my freshman year, so I was probably always too busy trying to flirt with her roommate to make a very good friend.

My main memory of Ellen that first year - and one I tease her about, but am somewhat tickled that the teasing doesn't bother her - is that she often came somewhat late to morning lectures (not super-late) and she always carted an apple which she would crunch loudly upon during almost the entirety of the hour-long lecture. This introduced me to two facts about Ellen: one being that she is confident and secure (like everyone, she has her moments, but by and large, she seems to know inside her that there is a place for everyone, and this allows her to understand that there's a place for her too), and the other being that she eats super, super slowly.

(I am amused too that she has produced a daughter much like herself, who gets to drive her nuts with her own habits translated into childhood hyperbole.)

Anyhow, I think we all bonded during the year-end party (We 'picted' together, which involved painting ourselves blue and running blue nude through the library, the student union, the cafeteria, the all-college feast, and ending at the naked slip-and-slide and group showers where we washed each other clean, smiling with blue pores and bloodshot eyes at the fervent communion of like souls), but the next year is when I remember our friendship developing more thoroughly... the slow tidal erosion of distance, the sharing of childhood memories and hopes for the future, the knowledge that this is a person I like. Love is sometimes easy, sometimes hard, but "like" I think is the most important.

Ellen was also one of the first friendships-of-three I've been in, and ever since I've seemed drawn to such frienships, which I think provide a delicious stability and dynamic in the present, though sometimes become painful when the dynamic slips over time. Ellen-Me-Sarah, Natalie-Me-Camille, Jess-Me-Louie: with me a happy little sandwiched creature. Ellen, Sarah, and I were always together, it seemed, and we even discussed how it was important to have our alone time together (just two of us). We were asked several times whether we were a threesome (especially after Sarah and I hooked up), but what seemed more important and indefinable was how we all seemed to balance something in each other, and how learning from two friends at the same time could feel like revelation.

Both were there for me during some very self-destructive times, which is part of who I am, and something they seemed to accept about me, and help me through. Having had people see you at your worst is humbling, especially when they still care about you afterwards.

It is good to see Ellen with a baby cocked against one hip and a long-legged, shy girl hiding behind the second.

The long-legged, shy girl is my god-daughter, and I am very nervous and shy to meet her now that she is more of a little person. I met her when she was one and a half, but it seems ages ago and I can't remember much more than that she likes books and seemed a stubborn type. Now there is much more to notice and take in... she is a person, for sure, a handful too. I try not to talk too much about youngsters on here, as I think it is more private, but I will say... she is creative and imaginative, very intense and she pays attention to everything you do and say. There is no wool-pulling with this girl, and I found myself having to be very sneaky indeed a couple of times (chewing gum & buying a goofy kid present for myself) to make sure she didn't notice what I was up to, only to be nearly caught out at it. So inquisitive and observant for such a young creature.

She makes these weavings... with knots and yarn and twining... that are really incredible. Intricate and strange, not random, but neither ordered. Her little hands so coordinated and her attention so focused.

NY TRIPOkay, that's that. I will say in addition that I had many tea parties to go to, some drawing to share, some walks, and front porch drivings, and painting, and story-sharings, and reading, and Events To Attend To with my god-daughter... plus!


Okay, I'm worn out talking about the trip though I am almost done. I will save it for later though.
Poughkeepsie! That's near I went to college. Where do your friends live...you may very well have stumbled across some of my old stomping grounds:) Plus I was there two weeks ago, so we might have accidentally overlapped:)
Can't believe we might have overlapped and not visited! We were staying in Ghent... my friends actually live in Germany, but Ellen is from that area, so periodically comes back to visit family and family friends. Each time we get to stay in a new place... it's such a beautiful area, I totally love it.
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