Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Home or Something Like That

I'm currently reading Sonja Livingston's book Ghostbread, a lyrical memoir about her childhood and growing up in extreme poverty (which is fantastic so far). The book has made me think about home and place, especially since I now am a California resident. My move this week was surreal: there were moments when I thought about the future, this moment right now, sitting on Sal's couch in our apartment. Here I am, drinking my coffee, going through my email. It feels like home is nowhere or somewhere between places, hidden in a crevice between Pennsylvania and California.

I know that familiar places impact me, but mostly because of the memories I have with specific people in those places. People are my homes. My mom got a little weepy on the phone this morning. I got really sad thinking about my grandmother and her age. The unthinkable goodbyes. I have spent time imagining my friends, what they are doing in Pittsburgh, whether they are shopping at a farmer's market or going for a walk in Frick Park. Museums, readings, parties.

But now I just had a thought: I can, if I want, get on a bus and go to the SFMOMA or the Beat Museum. I can ride a trolley or go to the dog park two blocks from my apartment and make some friends, canine or otherwise. I might not have as many people to do these things with, but I will. Technology helps ease the transition. I just talked to Lindsey via video chat. I need to get my parents a web camera and teach them how to use gchat. I'll make friends eventually. Patience.

I have a lot of options. Now begins the narrowing down process. First though, I think I'll have some coffee and look at the view from my kitchen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three More Days

Three more days. Most of my belongings are in boxes or waiting to be stuffed into a duffle bag. It's strangely calming to have everything you own packed away. For me, stuff makes clutter and that makes me crazy. I think I should have been a monk; minimalism is my friend.

I've spent the past week packing and spending time with friends and family. The question I get asked the most is, "Are you excited?" It's a strange question. Yes, I am excited. Somewhere inside me is excitement. But right now I'm just focused on the task at hand. Get my things moved, get my car situated, pack my coffee pot last minute, patch holes, sweat.

Sometimes I feel like I'm too sentimental. I know I am. I spend far too much time observing my life, as opposed to existing in it. Perhaps it's a writer-thing. Sometimes I think about the plane crashing on my way to California. How exquisitely tragic. Or I think about all the work I have to do when I arrive, unpacking, job finding, friend making. I know that making friends might not seem like work to some, but it is for me. I'm glad I've already got some people I know out there.

Weave's latest issue is finished. You should buy it.

I'm going to get back to packing and such. I will leave you with Ray. He's like jelly, baby.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Perfect Night is Born

Every few years, without planning or warning, the perfect night in Pittsburgh is born.

A few years ago, I had a perfect afternoon that extended into a perfect night. It included long walks, beer, hotdogs, cemeteries, poetry and conversation. Maybe even a little bit of streaking, but that's just a rumor.

This past Wednesday night was perfect. I called my friends Lindsey and Andrew to go get ice cream at Dave & Andy's in Oakland. They had just ordered a pizza and invited me over to share. We read the latest issue of work from Mudthroat Records, including a CD of original music, which we listened to on the way to get ice cream.

Dave & Andy's was delicious, as always. The weather was pleasant, so we walked around until we got to Schenley Plaza and found what I can only describe as a shallow sandbox. It was part of a small garden sitting area near Fifth Avenue; people had written messages and drawn pictures in the sand. Someone suggested we make some crop circles, so the three of us started shuffling around and around and then people walking past said things like, "Oh wow, check that out!" and "That looks so cool!" Some drunk college students came over to watch us shuffle. We stopped to admire our work and then started up again, adding to what we already created. We didn't talk really, just moved around one another in circles.

As it goes with perfect nights, the sandbox was right next the Cathedral of Learning. We decided to go inside to see if we could catch a glimpse of our work from above. We took the elevator up to the 36 floor and stared down at our creation. We knew the wind would take it from us eventually, but for the moment, it was beautiful.

On our way back to the car we stop at The Original for a few beers and some conversation over poems and ideas for collaborating. As we drove back, we listened to more music and said goodnight.

Today marks eleven days until I move to California. I'm happy I can take this night in Pittsburgh with me. I think I'll carry it around with me in my pocket for safekeeping.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dear Sal, I Hear California

I saw your Thunderbird in Pittsburgh three times in two weeks.

It's not really your car, but rather, just the same make, model, year and twice it was the same color, which is saying something, since your car's particular color is a limited edition.

I smile whenever I see it. It reminds me of August 2009, just a month after you moved to California and I came to visit you for two weeks. We drove north to Sonoma along highway 101 with the top down. I felt very California, learned to wear a scarf over my hair like women in old movies.

We stopped in a little beach town on the way back home. We sat on the beach and I cried because the ocean always makes me afraid of death. Or reminds me that I always fear death. Sometimes I fear a painful death. But mostly I fear a young death; there are so many things I still want to experience.

The beach was cool that day, but people were still swimming. We laid there on the beach and you told me again how my experience of the worlds is much different than yours.  How I could sit on the beach and feel so small next to the ocean's constant white noise and before long that noise becomes a part of my own noise and your noise and I realize it's all the same. The salt-tears rush out like little lost pieces of the ocean returning home.

"All your feelings are just right there. You already are a poet, Laura. Now you just need to practice."

After the beach we walked through the town past garages converted into surfboard repair shops and tiny store fronts selling hemp shoes or organic vegan pizza. The tan people walked the sidewalk, hands in pockets, one flip-flop clad foot dangling for a half-second before meeting the sand covered cement. I was always rushing somewhere. I imagined they didn't own watches.

This particular town also had a small liberal arts college. I began to fantasize.

"I would love to live in a town like this," I said to you, but I only half believed myself. Could I be this relaxed? Maybe you come here to relax. The ocean noise soothes the need to rush.

"You could. Why can't you?" you said to me.

I shrugged. "I don't know." This beach town seemed so far from me, from Appalachia, from February streets piled high with gray sleet and snow. People smiled here. A lot. Could they be trusted? Could I trust myself to relax here?

We got back in the Thunderbird, top down. I tied a scarf over my head. Maybe we could take little vacations to a place like this.

When I see your car, I see California. I smell the ocean. I see the redwoods and the wainscoting on the walls of your apartment. Soon to be our apartment. I taste the wines of Sonoma. I hear the white noise of California. I feel your hand in mine, both of us walking down Germania Street toward home.