Archives for posts with tag: friends


My splendid friend Anna Pickard (and her dashing beloved, Bobbie) set off on a train journey around these United States a few weeks ago, and not content to just do something that’s on all of our life lists, she also turned it into a delightful Web 2.0 + epistolary adventure of Olde mashup with her Snailr Project. I love it when my friends do amazing things that I can brag about, don’t you? So of course I signed up to get own little mail-tweet goodness.


(Click over to Flickr to see the text transcribed)

What’s amazing to me about this postcard is how it stretches across a particular narrative divide in Anna and Bobbie’s trip, that is, the Train Crash. They were rumbling along through Louisiana when their Amtrak train struck a passing eighteen-wheeler, shearing it right in half. They were fine, most of the passengers were mostly fine, the driver of the truck was miraculously fine. But the character, A, that Anna so good-naturedly lacerates about his vegetable consumption, was taking photos and uploading them to twitter, and both Anna and Bobbie linked him and his accounts of the crash through their Twitter feeds. By the time I received the postcard, I was able to immediately identify who she was talking about because of this web/text mashup world.

I’m not sure Anna had any intention that A would be so included in her narrative after this card, but there you have it – narratives have a way of bringing back characters all on their own. And although the tweets about the crash reached me first, the card is on my fridge and is an altogether more interesting piece of ephemera. Two sides of a story.

I was thinking about Anna’s project as I watched all the photos trickle through from the Mighty Summit held last weekend in California. I won’t go into a whole long diplomatic summary of what Mighty Summit means or represents or who it affects, because you probably know and if you don’t, well, a tempest viewed from far enough away from the teacup just looks like a mirage.  I personally thought Broad Summit was fascinating, and I think Mighty Summit is, too.

But I was thinking about inspiration, and how the worst fallout I’ve noticed from Mighty Summit means we can easily miss the best possible takeaway from its existence. I get it. It was a public-facing event that not everyone was invited to attend, and it’s hard to see the spirit of something you’re feeling left out of. No, I don’t get free massages for sitting around with my friends and inspiring each other. That’s okay, though, because the muscles can get tense again but the ideas don’t fade from my grey matter. I’m inspired by Anna’s project and I’m inspired by the can-do, roll-up-your-sleeve Rosie Riveter attitudes I saw as the best cream skimmed off the top of Mighty Summit, across the blogs of the women who attended. And isn’t that a pretty good takeaway from something (two things really) that I didn’t even do myself?

I think there’s the risk that if we focus too much on what we, as a community of bloggers, didn’t get from not attending an exclusive event like Mighty Summit, we miss the chance to notice what we could get even without attending, which is the trickle-down puffs of inspiration and positive energy. Anna inspired me to think more about letter-writing, about the value we ascribe now to our written words because of scarcity. Mighty Summit made me look harder at my list, and think, what’s the purpose of this collection of ideas if I don’t approach each day (or, realistically, each year) as a chance to scratch a satisfying line through it?

So this year, the year that I am thirty, I am going to commit to five items on the list. One is a cheat, since I’m doing this anyway:

6. Spend New Year’s Eve on a beach.

(This year, my mother and brothers and our various partners are going to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Aruba. Before you get too jealous please realize that Christmas is going to be sort of sad this year and we made the collective decision that it’s better to be sad on a beach than anywhere else.)

Here are some other life list items I’m pretty sure I can reach August 31st, 2011, with some satisfying strikethroughs:

18. Ride a tandem bike.
41. Learn how to make perfect marinara sauce from scratch.
74. Help a friend with a project or ambition of theirs’.
98. Read Henry James and William Faulkner already, sheesh.

And I’m going to add one more, since #6 was such a gimme. This goes hand-in-hand with it, anyway:

87. Make gifts from scratch one Christmas.

And there’s another takeaway from Mighty Summit – we are not in anything alone. That’s why I put #74 on there this year. It’s not something I plan to only do once, and it’s maybe the most important (and self-referential) item on the list. But I know it’s something I can do this year.

If you can think of some way to help my list along (are you a chef that can teach me knife skills? a pianist that can show me how to play a jazz standard on the piano? want to help me throw a benefit party? most importantly for # 87, do you know how to craft?) then in the spirit of Mighty Summit, I’d love your help. Until then, I’ll be here, plucking away at my little pile of awesome to-dos, and being inspired by the people around me. So the question is, what awesome thing are you going to do this year?


Some of my people (and I) went up to Westchester this weekend, nominally because one of us was cat-sitting, truly because we are all whores for swimming and grilling and other weekend-as-verb activities. Jen explained it like being a kid, but with access to alcohol and fire. Very true.

summer suits

Friday night was for the girls, and we made ourselves a delicious dinner and then we went swimming in the dark, because we couldn’t figure out how to turn on any pool lights. That’s okay, we lit a bunch of candles and it was super romantic. Too bad we’re all straight/married/taken, right? I slept peacefully in the woodsy basement of our friends’ converted barn, with the smell of grass coming in through the window and chlorine in my hair.

In the morning, Lavina and I were the early birds and we chucked Jen and Mim out of their nests, and into showers, so we could go to IHOP. Long gone are the days when those pancakes were the most amazing pancakes I’ve ever had. We talked at breakfast about first-day-of-school outfits, and who wore Keds, and how rebellious we were as daughters on a scale of stolen kisses to hair flipping.

fun with noodles!

Then the dudes joined us and the pool party began in earnest. We spent most of the day in the pool, or making lunch or dinner, or lounging in the living room playing with toy guns. Dinner was a variety of grilled meats, and vegetables, and salads, and everyone contributed, and we agreed that cooking dinner for eight is best managed by six. Our friends’ house, where we were squatting (gracefully! neatly!) lacked for nothing, NOTHING, in the kitchen.

“Where would the ______ be?”
“That drawer, probably.”
“So it is.”

the table

Then we went night-swimming again, where I realized that executing a perfect dive is a lot scarier into a dark pool. In the morning, we were happily surprised by continued sunshine, and we threw together a breakfast fit for kings, with pancakes and amazing bacon and fruit salad. It was better than IHOP. Is there anything more grown up than making breakfast better than IHOP?

I think it’s bloody marvelous of me to have such incredible friends, don’t you? People you can spend 48 hours with without wanting to stab are not easy to come by. One of the things I’ve realized lately is that my friends are good people, decent and intelligent and engaged and caring. My closest friends are the ones who are constantly in touch, constantly spending time together and renewing the strong bonds. Kinship is another one of those values – like love, and trust, and fidelity – that can come at a whimsy but requires work to keep buoyant. I always said that there were friends I would keep regardless of how close we remained. It’s true, but it’s also not paying dividends. I will spend more time this year doing my part.

i ate this

Aside from all these thinky-thinks brought on by excellent #1 good time with friends, there were riper-than-ripe cherry tomatoes from the garden. I can’t stop thinking about them. I guess we’re just going to have to move to the ‘burbs and grow tomatoes. Only Stuart will call them tomahtoes.

ain't she a beaut

<Beth, Philadelphia, July 2010.>

We went to Philadelphia a few weeks ago for Josh’s show at the Grape Room in Manyanuck. We wandered around Philly the next day, mostly stopping at landmarks and deciding the lines were too long, or the entrance fee was too high, or who cares about history anyhow. Lunch was finely enjoyed at Eulogy, a Belgian pub in Old City. We laughed at the people on the steps of the Art Museum doing Rocky Arms. We drove back in the fading afternoon light, so exhausted and elated from being Somewhere Else. Driving in cars with friends is still one of my favorite things, even when we take the wrong highway and I crush my knuckles against the steering wheel trying to Be Cool about it, when we all know I am Not Cool about getting lost. I love traveling with friends, particularly the best ones, particularly the best ones who like having booze with lunch.

Lately, Stuart and I have been very nesty. Or I’ve been really nesty, and Stuart just likes me. We have a beautiful apartment and it gives me such stupid bougie joy to come home to it, to drop my keys on our kitchen table and let our little dog out of the office, to watch him bounce and whine with excitement, to open the fridge and know there are ingredients for an easy summer salad and maybe a quick pasta, to watch another episode of Life with dinner, to sleep deeply in a darkened cold room with my loved ones just right there. I have small bougie joys. Let me have them.

A friend (one of the best ones) said to me recently during a particularly soulful and wine-fueled heart-to-heart that I don’t have to justify having had a great childhood. It struck me with the not unpleasant sense of being very, very understood by the people I love. She’s right; I’m exceptionally hard on myself and one of my reasons (among many) is that if I don’t do something extraordinary with the blessings I’ve been given, then I’ve wasted them. This is like the exact opposite of people who still fuck their lives up because their childhoods were crummy. Neither is particularly healthy. These standards I’m carrying around don’t affect anyone but me.

Lessons here: a) it’s nice to have friends that remind you to give yourself a damn break already. b) Husbands sometimes get tired of making this point as you yet again agonize over some tiny choice and the Right Way to choose. c) It does not help to have this huge legacy from someone who was really good at ethics and taught you maybe too well. d) Things to talk about in therapy! e) all of the above.

Where were we? Oh, right. So, a motley assortment of other cool things:

Guess what I did last week? Saw David Mitchell read at BookCourt with Zan, got three whole books autographed (including a replacement copy of Black Swan Green, since I lent it to someone unworthy and never got it back). Then we went to dinner, her and Jen and Lavina and I, at Apt 138 and we drank gin things and laughed about everything. Then, the next night, Stuart and I joined Mayumi to see Mitchell read, again, this time at Greenlight, and then we went with May and her mama for a glass of wine at Stonehome, and then Stuart and I finished with dinner for two at Smoke Joint. Date nights are good, you guys.

Guess what I’m doing next week? Having brunch with Leah and Kristin at the same time. Plus, thanks to Leah, I’m going to pretend to be a decent blogger for once and go to the Friday night BlogHer party.

Guess what I’m doing next month? Turning 30 and going to Santa Fe on the same day. YEAH.

Guess what I’m doing in September? Starting my last year of coursework for my Master’s degree. And taking over the world. Watch out!

I should probably mention, as you stare at the horror or boredom that is this MT template, that I’m going out of town for the weekend. I’m going to Houston! I know, right? I’m like that girl at your party who shows up late without any booze to contribute, drinks your best gin and keeps you up until 5AM talking about her fucked-up family and then falls asleep on your couch and you think, oh well, at least she’ll help me clean up in the morning but you sort of know she won’t and sure enough, she doesn’t!
I’ve never actually met that girl, since my friends are not douches, but I can imagine her. And that’s what I’m like here. Or maybe I’m more like a toddler that starts a craft project and then wanders away to sling mud at the dog. That’s probably more like it.
Anyway, I’m off to Houston for four days to lounge around my brother’s house and hang out with old friends and drive on those gorgeous expansive Houston freeways. Hear that, Houston freeways? I’M COMING. State troopers, look the other way, what’s that fire over there!, I’m not even here.
I’ll probably post some photos while I’m gone. Then again, that might be sort of like that girl promising she’ll totally cover brunch. In the meanwhile, here is an amusing video. Sorry you can’t even post comments. HA.

Stuart and I hosted Kate and Conrad today, offering a mean bowl of chili with all the fixins as a trade for their football-watching company. And of course, by football-watching company, I mean a crash course in what exactly a down is, illegal tackling (apparently only strangling someone really runs you afoul of the refs), and all the other ways that football is like trench warfare.
HIGHLY enjoyable trench warfare, mind. I think I finally like football! Stranger things have happened.

Hey, Chicago-ans! You people have not been kidding me. That’s one swell town you’ve got there. Granted, I was staying downtown right next to the El in a great 14th-floor apartment shared with some swell people, but still. Nice town! Some great things:

Stephanie and Mark’s wedding, hello, obviously. It was style and heart and family; just like the bride and groom, it was the perfect combination of grace and humor. I buttoned my darling Steph into her gown, lent a jewelry pouch to the best man for ring safekeeping, hugged the bride’s mom a lot, and stood up for them next to the huppa and tried not to cry and smudge my awesomely dramatic eye makeup. It was pure bliss.

The brunch in a private room at the Signature Room, oh my god! When we arrived, I can honestly tell you, I looked out those windows and realized that it’s my life’s purpose to exist that far above the rest of humanity. I felt like the Queen of the Universe with that view! Clearly, being five foot one doesn’t matter when there are planes flying below you. PLUS, have you ever had that bacon, my god? I went back *mumble mumble* times for more bacon. You know, for my bacon stomach.

The Bean: I can’t even begin to point out my unbridled joy that there’s something out that combines my love of public art and my love of self-portraits! I went twice, and was kicking myself for not visiting at night.

Tapas and jazz: our last night in Chicago, thanks to Jen and Kevin, might actually turn out to be one of my favorite nights ever. We went to Iberico and had tapas (see below revelation!) and then onwards to the Green Mill where Kevin’s awesome friend got us in and seated at Al Capone’s table, and then our minds proceeded to get blown by the Jeff Parker Trio. Honestly, does it get more awesome?

The only thing that didn’t win me over was the who deep dish thing. Sorry, people. The crust was better than I thought it would be – crunchy! – but the cheese and tomato didn’t marry effortlessly the way it does on a thinner, more delicately balanced thin-crust Italian-style pie found at Nick’s or Grimaldi’s here in New York. I’m not even mentioning DiFara’s, whose league wasn’t even approached.
All told, it was a marvelous five days. Stuart and I enjoyed every minute, and each other. When’s the next trip?! Not soon enough, my friends.