Sunday, August 22, 2010

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my biiiiiiiiike

So what does a Klutz with a capital K who can barely manage to walk in a straight line soberly do? That's right, she buys a BIKE!


The Backstory

Like any warmblooded American kid, I grew up riding a bike. After the tricycle stage, my inner fashionista picked out a white Huffy decorated with Ewoks to parade around on the oh-so-heavily-trafficked country roads of Indiana. I had my fair share of petit accidents, but this was back in the day when, like, one car per hour (including those that lived in the 'hood) drove down my road, and politely slowed down and pulled over as far as possible to the side in order to avoid even a hint of a close call kiddie collision. (haha, damn, how do you like THEM alliteration apples! haha, I did it again! LOL! I'm sober, I swear.)

Fast forward a bit to university life, where I graduated to slightly steadier lines of traffic through the roads intersecting our Nashville campus. Every so often there'd be a rumor of a student being hit (Southern slang for a slight bump, no visible signs of concussion) by a car, but those dummies were usually on foot and stupidly ignored the impatient cars sick of giving the students the right-of-way. I spent several years safely, if slightly geekily, pedaling my way from the far end of the Arts & Sciences campus for French class to the other end of the universe for music practice, my huge backpack and viola case making me look super cool and not off-balance at all.

After a rash of theft swept the campus and I lost two bikes and a front wheel off a third, I moved off campus and stored my newest bike in the apartment complex's gated community parking garage.

Enter Mentally Unstable Awesomeness

My sister (and roommate) left for a family vacation I was unable to to take off work for, leaving her cute, gold convertible on the upper level of the two-story parking garage. One evening, before going to bed, I put a load of clothes in the dryer and passed out after a long day of classes and barista-ing. In the wee sma's, I awoke to a hot, smoky smell, not (in my defense) unlike the pleasant odor of the final moments of the clothes-drying cycle. So I assume that my clothes are tumbling away, roll over, and go back to sleep...

...when I am rudely awakened once again to loud pounding on my front door. I groggily get up and angrily confront the apartment manager standing outside, but before words can exit my mouth, he asks if I own the cute, gold convertible on the top level of the two story parking garage. Pre-coffee kK closes open mouth in confusion, has to think a moment through the fog of sleep and strange morning confrontation, then warily nods. The manager proceeds to demand why I didn't speak to the police last night, and again, pre-coffee kK has trouble 1) not slapping the rude idiot on my doorstep because seriously, WTF is he talking about, and 2) functioning.

Eventually, I get a more coherent explanation, although even to this day I still can't quite believe it happened.

A Scene Brought To You By Jerry Bruckheimer

In our apartment complex was a woman who inhabited an apartment one floor and two doors down from my own. On the night in question, she decides to let out the inner apeshit and attack all the convertibles in the apartment complex, first slashing the cloth tops with a razor and then lighting them on fire with her handy Zippo and portable gasoline can.

Beginning on the bottom floor of the two-story garage, she manages to decimate 3 convertibles and is headed up to the top level, when the police wrestle her away from the cute, gold convertible on the top floor of the two-story parking garage. But not before she inserted her razor and left 4 through-and-through slash marks through the black cloth top. I find pieces of one razor (pieces? what the waht?) and one in its entirety still embedded in the top when I run down in my hot shorts and bare feet to see with my own eyes the state of my sister's car. I pick up my jaw and let out an hysterical giggle, then a sudden thought strikes me and I run down the stairs to the bottom floor of the garage where the bike rack is.

All the cars have been cleared out, and through the black smokey residue on the concrete walls I see my bike. In a melted puddle of silver metal and black rubber. Le sigh.

I Give Up

I didn't bother getting any more bikes after that, as I had graduated to driving a car and then, during my subsequent years in Chicago and New York, public transportation. Eight years later, on the crowded, crazy streets of Paris, I am somehow talked into climbing onto a Velib' to cross the arrondissements for my 148th visit to the D'Orsay.

I Have A Dream

For several years now, I've had a very strong mental image of myself on an old refurbished bike, preferably with a front basket. I've never acted on this dream, in part because bikes are so expensive, but mostly because I don't feel any connection to bikes I see in shops. I assume I will just never ride a bike again when tout d'un coup, a coworker happens to mention I visit the site, and fall instantly in love with:

YESSSSS! John is amazing and incredibly nice, responding to my emails practically instantaneously. He delivers the bike at 8 am on Sunday, allowing me to ride around the block so he can see how much to adjust the bars and seat. He promises to come back and fix anything that might go wrong, and my coworker has already attested to the veracity and thoroughness of his claim. I am super excited to have found him!


(Did I mention my bike has a front basket?)

The bike doesn't have a name yet, but like any great moniker, something dramatic and/or hilarious will happen and it will assign itself automatically. And I'm equally sure it will make blog headline news. HA!

But for now I am basking in the happy glow of finding another piece of my slowly-becoming-whole self.



Monday, August 16, 2010

My Chick Lit Reality: Doggie Day Care

So I'm sure we're all familiar with the typical chick lit storyline: Girl has breakdown; extremely rare coincidences occur to place her in a healing environment where she works as a cleaning lady or dog walker; hot male gardener shows up shirtless; emotional wounds are healed; and everyone lives happily ever after. The point of it all usually is that in order to find this new happiness, the girl must hit rock bottom-levels of despair and slough off the stress of being in the same old rut that is currently making her life a hell hole before she can pull a phoenix and rise from the ashes a healed, whole, new person.


Part of this rock bottom pilgrimage sometimes entails living and/or working in what Ageless calls "fringe society," the kinds of people who consider 9-5 office jobs the devil's work, right up there with genital warts and politicians. The kinds of people who work, say, in a Doggie Day Care facility.

Enter kK, fresh from her Parisian escape, back in the city where I had just spent three years at yet another 9-5 office job. Admittedly, the companies I worked for were MUCH better than the law firm in Chicago (where 9-5 really meant 9-9), but still, there is something about office life that, while comforting in a steady, you-know-what-to-expect kind of way, manages to suck out pieces of your soul through the florescent light bulb sockets and too-cold air conditioner vents.

As I prepared for another round of temporary office job interviews, I started feeling a vague queasyness in every atom of my body. After one interview, I ran outside and just stood in the middle of the crowded sidewalk, breathing deeply and soaking up the sun as I tried to dispel the panicky jitters that had overcome me in the elevator ride back down to the lobby.

I've read enough of those girly novels to understand the signs of the bourgeoning breakdown, but my next move was pure instinct that I would only later attribute to an unconscious drift toward my chick lit reality. I walked home instead of taking the subway, something that I might not normally have done since it was a good 30 block walk, but I needed fresh air and constant movement to keep me from what I was convinced was going to be spontaneous combustion.

A few blocks from my apartment I passed a "help wanted" sign in the window of a doggie day care boutique. I walked in on auto pilot, the copy of my resume pulled out before I even realized my hand was reaching into the envelope, an interview-smile pasted on my face as I walked up to the counter and greeted the manager. She raised her eyebrows at the obviously overqualified list of credentials, but somehow I managed to convey my desperation to be in NOT-office work, and then I picked up a little King Charles spaniel scratching at my legs and buried my face in her soft hair as she tried to lick all the invisible peanut butter off my face.

Apparently a love of dogs is high on the list of requirements for this no-brainer job, because she asked me to start the next Monday.


It was two of the most fun months of my working life: I spent all day petting dogs and chatting about collars, harnesses, all-natural doggie treats and food. My fringe society consisted of dreadlocked, potsmoking groomers and a crazy manager who came in every day either drunk, hungover or amped up on what I'm pretty sure was something a little stronger than caffeine.

I knew it couldn't last forever, but while it did I reveled in the glorious fringy-ness of it. Also, I'd been sending out so many positive vibes into the universe for a position at Patagonia that I felt like I was floating on a cloud of surreality. Especially when Patagonia called to offer me the job! I have now moved to Phase Two of my new chick lit reality, working for one of my favorite companies with great people (and a store in Seattle...HMMM!).

I'm not sure how many phases there will be, and I'm still waiting on the hot, shirtless gardener to show up to heal my emotional wounds (LOL!), but for now I'm content to fold t-shirts and spend my free time riding my new bike (more on this later), drinking tequila with my Vortex dinner/book club (again, more on this later), and watching awesome crap tv like:


Stay tuned for upcoming installments of the New York Chronicles, including bike rides, adventures in catsitting, and the road trips to Austin and Chicago. In the meantime, skip the shower and have that other glass of wine.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bienvenue à New York

Secretly (more on this below) arriving at JFK airport at 6pm on a Tuesday, I pass through customs with barely a glance from the official guarding the entry to my homeland, grab my 50 lb suitcase and lumber my way to the Manhattan-bound A train.

I take my seat, whereupon I immediately start Murphy's Law-laughing as I realize I've just sat in something that I fervently hope isn't pee. Welcome back to NYC, kK!


Two hours later I am bumping my baggage up the steps of St. James Gate, a bar down the street from my sister's apartment. I order a Guinness, half of which goes down the hatch in one sweet gulp. Five minutes later an unsuspecting Willis walks in, thinking her boyfriend is taking her for drinks with one of his old college buddies. Cue majestic orchestral music, slo mo running, and a grunt from my admittedly strong sis as she tries to pick me up over my cries of "too many croissants! too many croissants!"

I am now back in America, land of great crap tv, verbs created out of nouns, and that greatest of all inventions, Goo Gone.

I will not miss:

*Insincere apologies.
GAH! You know, not everything is 'just bien' if you smash into me and spill my hot wine all over my jacket as long as you say "oh, pardon..."in a fake-contrition laden! It's NOT bien! GET ME A NAPKIN you **bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep**

*Bedrooms so cold I'm forced to sleep in a scarf and long underwear

*Never quite belonging

*Bread not on a bread plate. I'm just sayin'.

*Oddly enough, coffee. OK, so the George V made a mean cafe creme, but at the price of my firstborn child, well, I'll just take Pain Quotidien bowl o' lait any day, and OH YEAH, there are about 800 PQs in New York City, so there! 

I will miss:

*BREAD: Croissants and baguettes

*FOOD: Eggs, vegetables


*Morning coffee and chats with Madame

*Loving America (why is it easier when you're away?)

*Perfect lighting, in that more-shadows-than-light way

*Being an exotic dinner party commodity for la noblesse (LOL!)

*20 Euro-a-month for ALL YOU CAN SEE MOVIES. Including new releases! Sneriously, WTF, and why is that not in play HERE.


As Dr. Dumber so aptly documented earlier this year: "Number 1 on my 2010 to-do list: Figure out my life plan!" Well, if anybody has any suggestions for me...hahahaha! Yar, as much as we all know how well-suited I am to
teaching, I think I might prefer to be a hermit. (Do you get paid for that? I guess only if you're someone whose initials are JD Salinger...)

I thought, and I know many of my friends and family thought, that Paris would be "it" for me, that I would never go back to America, at least not in the foreseeable future. I was sort of broadsided by the realization that I actually want, and am ready, to live in America (specifically Seattle, of course). It will rip out my heart to leave, but Paris is in my system for now and always, just like it should be. Paris has given me myself, and I don't think any other place in the world could have done that at this perfectly timed moment in my strange life.

Living in Paris has helped me find a very welcome balance--I know now what I want my life to be like and, more importantly, I know how to make that happen. Letting go of even the silliest thing, like guilt over not going out with friends and instead staying inside to watch an entire season of 30 Rock. Roasting some sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts for dinner. Saying 'yes' to an occasional night of dancing. Reading lots of library books, in an actual library. Watching the rain. Baking with spices that make the kitchen smell like magic. Listening to NPR music podcasts. Weekly acupuncture. The 86-year-old-man Club. Rubbing soft kitty bellies. Walking in the rain. Working a job, dealing with the stress, drinking coffee, surrounding myself with only the best, genuinely good people I have met/will meet. Listening to the rain.

Life is not perfect, bad times are usually lurking and waiting for their opportunity to jump up and drag us down. Sometimes it's good to wallow in the muck, the horrible misery, the deep dark nothing of numbness. But I always know, somewhere in my depths, that left to their own devices, goodness and light will rise up again, cleaning away the slime of sadness and dispersing into invisible mist the unbearable weight of despair.

I know I will suffer some of the usual anxieties, sometimes waste too much energy worrying about something stressful, but I have cut down on the amount of times I let these feelings overwhelm me.

I will remember to breathe.
I will eat foods that make me happy.
I will feel alone without feeling lonely.
I will throw back my head and laugh.
I will not feel guilty.
I will watch fabulous late night movies like Scorpion King Part Deux.
I will feel in my blood every single moment for the rest of my life the play of shadows on the Hotel de Ville at night. The glint of gold off Les Invalides. The smell of the best baguette in Paris. The melting of the gooey chocolate as I pour in hot milk at the cafe on Ile St Louis. The coldness of the beer at the Hash stop at Versailles and my burning legs wrapped in a red dress running through the streets of Paris. The taste of my first dish of root veggies and glass of raw milk.

I will enjoy the rain.