At one time, each and every human being on the planet was a tiny baby in a mothers arms. In front of him lay a pristine and untouched future, where anything was possible. One thing will shape the direction and vibrancy of that future more than any of other thing; love. From whom he learns it, from whom he does not, how he is taught it, and that he experiences it in its most authentic and pure form- unconditionally. Money is no matter, health is no matter, religion, beauty or brains. Without the message that love sends- the gentle reminder that who you are matters- all of these things are fine but rendered useless if they are anything but anecdotes to a love-filled life. There are many ways to measure a life, and many definitions to the word success. You don’t have to go far to find the richest people, the famous people, or the ones deemed very important. And they will often gladly share their secrets to what we call success. But behind numbers and cameras and curtains is a very basic human need- not desire- that we all share no matter what characteristics separate us. We have to have love to evolve. And we have to give it to surrender. And we have to lose it, at least once, to really know who we are. And when we find and learn to love ourselves wholly, then might we love others the best possible way. If we haven’t used it to fill holes, if we haven’t given it to get control, then what we’ve done with love, we’ve probably done it right.
I’ve had the pleasure of spending a week in Miami with my two brothers, Doug and Nick. Though they are in their 30’s now and I’m in my late 20’s, I noticed during our time together that not much has changed since childhood. (And since this photo.) Doug and Nick are only a year apart in age, but couldn’t be more different. In fact all four kids in my family are incredibly different, so much so that I’m often wondering how we all came from the same two people. But, my parents were some dynamic people, and they produced, well, more dynamic people. From a young age, I took solace in the relationships with my siblings. But hanging out this last week with my brothers made me remember the insanity that ensues when more than two Gelpi kids are in a room together. Here’s an idea and photographic proof of the different ways it can go. These photos are from childhood, but I assure you nothing has changed.
Either everybody’s laughing…
Or just my brothers are laughing and someone else is crying… (like my sister, seen here)
Since I was kind of a loser/loner growing up, my brothers, more specifically Nick “adopted” me into his social circle; not really concerned that I was 5 years younger. I remember smoking my first cigar at age 12 and staying up until 6 AM one morning playing a rugged game of monopoly. They all got drunk so I won! You’d think ‘Hey! That’s wrong! You can’t be letting a 13-year-old puff a cigar or let her pierce her upper ear!’ But truthfully, it was never dangerous or irresponsible. My brother kept close watch over me always, like a good sibling does.
One Halloween, when I was 11, my friends went trick or treating without me and I was at home all down and out. When Nick came upstairs and heard the story he said “Put on your roller blades! Lets go!” (Rollerblading. I miss that shit.) Anyway, even though he had plans with some friends, he instead drove his loser little sister to the neighborhood which always gave the best candy. He accompanied me until my bag was full, and didn’t laugh so hard when I tripped UP the stairs from my stupid roller blades getting caught as my second grade teacher opened the door mid-fall. (Seriously, true story.) Anyway, it was nice of him to do that. I always remember that gesture.
Then there was high school. My senior year, I was taking my boyfriend to the Sweetheart dance. I was kind of dating a nihilist but I was 17 so I just thought he was emo and cool. My brothers said they would chauffeur me and my date to the dance, which I thought was a fun idea! So imagine my gratefulness for them when we took a right turn onto my dates street, and they rolled down all of the windows in the car and blared the theme music from Star Wars as loud as it could possibly go. They slowed the car to a crawl so the whole neighborhood knew we had arrived. I begged them to turn it down, but it was just so damn funny, that I couldn’t be embarrassed, I just had to laugh; which happens a lot with them. Or crying. Either one. The nihilist and I broke up that night coincidentally.
So none of those stories involve farts, I know. But trust me, there are plenty. Like this one. I thought we’d take it one at a time.
One night after dinner on Rich People Island, the boys and I got on our golf cart to drive home. Nick was the driver, me in the front, Doug on the back. When we drove by the dock Nick saw something in the water that got his attention, so he stopped and parked the golf cart, got out, and went to check it out. Of course, like clock work, Doug jumped in the driver’s seat of the golf cart and floored it away from Nick, laughing and hollering the whole way. This is probably the 4th or 5th time Doug stole the golf cart from Nick. Anyway, we finally turn around and pull up beside Nick, and he’s like “Doug let me drive!” And Doug’s like “Fine!” So just before Doug gets out of the driver seat, he FARTS, really loud, and kind of leaves his own little “bubble” for Nick to enter. This of course, makes Doug begin to laugh as we drive away. But it’s late and quiet on Rich People Island and there are people eating outside at a nearby restaurant so Nick is trying to hush Doug up. But Doug’s ridiculous laughter is making me laugh, and every time I laugh, it makes Doug laugh harder, and louder. Which makes Nick hush him more, which begins the whole cycle over again. It reached an obnoxious point where Nick stops the golf cart and refuses to leave until everyone quiets down and stops laughing…which, you know, failed. Luckily, I had a camera with me and it seemed like such a Gelpi brothers moment, I decided to roll tape. -Enjoy.
I can’t explain it, but my brothers gas has always been a hot topic in our family–sometimes humorous and sometimes NOT– and I just don’t see it going away anytime soon. I’ll never understand what makes a fart so funny. Anyway, I hope that made you laugh, because when I feel down, I watch that video and I can’t HELP but laugh! That’s the best part of laughter–totally contagious. I guess I should note here that most of the time, we all get along. See?
I’ve been trying to put my finger on what makes California so…well, I guess I’m still trying to put my finger on it, so I’ll begin with a photo. The other day I was driving my sisters Gun-metal Grey Prius–which starts by pushing a button and appears to run off rubber bands–when I took a left turn and saw “THE HILL” to my right. I will randomly pass THE HILL while battling car sickness from the backseat or talking on my cell phone so I’ve never been able to capture a photo of it. But this time, I was all alone. I wasn’t on my cell phone, and we all know I don’t have a real job so I have ample time to pull over and sneak through bushes to take pictures of things that I find noteworthy. THE HILL seems to embody almost everything I feel about California so we’ll begin there. Alas, I introduce to you: THE HILL.
Does this song pop in your head? Little boxes..on the hillside..little BOXES MADE OF TICKY TACKY! Me too.
Here it is close-up.
There are a few things about the photo that effectively sum up some general truths about California. Let’s start with number 1. The weather is basically perfect here. While there is a term called “June Gloom” which refers to a cloudy, overcast weather pattern occurring mostly in late Spring, it’s pretty much paradise the rest of the time, with a dusty cloud now and then and the average annual temperature right at 75.4 degrees. I’ve heard people complain that they miss not having four seasons here, which I get. I happen to love rain and we all know how much girls love sweater weather. However, there’s something to be said for never having to shovel a driveway or scrape away ice off your windshield with a credit card. (I lived in Colorado for 10 years; snapped one license and one library card in half.) It’s also comforting to know that if the air conditioner breaks in your car, you’ll survive. You’ll thrive even. Whereas if this scenario were to occur in New Orleans, not only would you literally vomit and die of heat exhaustion, you’d most likely be in a really shitty mood for the last few moments of your life. Having been here a few weeks, I’ve encountered the June gloom a couple of days; it’s tolerable. And it doesn’t last. The real problem is attire. It’s not quite cold enough to wear a real jacket but it’s too cool for short sleeves. These are called California problems, and they’re not real problems. You stock your closet full of every color cardigan, and you bring one with you wherever you go. It’s called cardigan weather people. You’ll get used to it.
Now let’s talk about outer beauty. A place that feels this good must look like trash, yes? It couldn’t have it all could it? Hahaha. The first time I stepped off of the plane in Orange County, I felt like I was in Never Never Land. A rainbow cast its arc over the airport and that song “I’m Walkin’ On Sunshine, Whoa-Oh, and Don’t It Feel Good?!” was playing on repeat from what must have been underground speakers placed strategically around OC. I remember thinking how beautiful the Ritz Carlton looked as we drove by and then noticing at the last second that it was actually a Walgreens. I couldn’t believe it. I kept rubbing my eyes and pinching myself. If this was all real, why in God’s name would you live anywhere else? “Holy shit. Is that a Burger King?” I asked, pointing to a beautiful stucco building with neon lights and palm trees out in front of the entrance. “The palm trees aren’t indigenous,” my sister reminded me. Which is kind of like showing a dude your boobs and then saying “They’re implants. Is that OK?” Sometimes it’s so nice I wonder if things like hangovers even exist here. It’s like this place was a movie set built in the 80’s that they never tore down and people just kept moving here so they said Ah screw it, we’ll just make this a town.
Speaking of Walgreens, (you know I gots totalk about Walgreens) let’s talk about overly conversational vendors. When you walk into the Walgreens on St. Charles avenue in New Orleans, you pass the same dude asking for money for food out front. It’s now understood that when you give the guy money, he’s going to buy drugs, not food. (I know because he didn’t accept food when I offered it. Cash only baby!) So I give the dude a buck or two, which I’m told only perpetuates the problem and I ought to be ashamed of myself but it’s what feels right so I do it anyway and enter Walgreens to get drugs of my own. Once inside, I’m lucky if I can find someone working there. There’s usually an obnoxiously long line with the clerk mysteriously nowhere to be found and a fire alarm going off in the back, which seems to alarm no one. In Orange County, you walk into Walgreens and are immediately greeted by a smiling vendor and asked if you need help finding anything today. “Uh, I’m fine, thank you.” But I say this with a little bit of scepticism because why are these people being so nice? Do they work on commission? As I get distracted by the “As Seen on TV” aisle and am considering whether or not I should buy Pajama Jeans, I see the same blue vested employee in my peripheral. “Find everything you’re looking for?” “Oh, uh..yeah, yes. Yes, thank you.” I’m nervous because I’m not used to being approached by smiling Walgreens employees and I’m wondering if he’s about to go postal up in here. “What are you up to today?” he asks and I feel like it’s a trick so I mutter something about living on my sisters couch and cautiously make my way over to the Indigestion aisle and look for the bottle of Pepto Bismol that is most economical. I peek around a shelf of “Snuggies” and see the blue-vested employee asking an old woman about her family and is ushering her slowly to the diabetic aisle. I thought the Walgreens commercial said “Perfect” didn’t exist? I pinch myself and get out of there fast.
What about topography? Well let’s see. You have the ocean on one side, the dessert on the other, hilly landscapes in-between and the outline of mountains in the distance. This means you can effectively surf, snowboard, rock-climb and camp all in one weekend. It’s like it’s never heard of the phrase Do one thing and do it well. California’s like Hey, Let’s Do Everything, and Let’s Do it All Perfectly.
There are a few questions I have about California which I have yet to find the answer to. For one thing, where are all the poor people? Like, is it illegal here? Something tells me that dude that I give money to outside the Walgreens on St. Charles Avenue wouldn’t linger here for long. But I don’t exactly know why. It’s like there’s no problems here! Or there’s no appearance of them anyway. Did you know they have scented dog shit bags here? I’ve also never seen a natural piece of litter here. One of the only dirty things I’ve seen since arriving is this:
This is my brother-in-law next to a pool at a bank-owned foreclosed home that he and my sister were being shown by their realtor. (Note the June gloom in the background) But surprise, there were one too many problems with it. So far, it’s the only real glimpse of dirt or grime I’ve encountered. So once again, I took a picture. Here are some more photos of California I’ve taken.
Most people are willing to tolerate general sameness, (the same weather, the same houses, the same freaking nice people) for the payoff of perfect in virtually every other category. But there’s also this grade school mentality I feel sometimes that I’m too much of a mess to fit in here. Like I’m under-dressed for a party, or that feeling you get when you’re peeing in a bathroom and you know people in the outside room can hear you. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something about “perfect” that’s rough to compete with. Something that makes you feel more spectator than participator. When My Stupid Friend Jess and I were on my brother-in-laws boat and we had just literally played in a pod of dolphins, we were laughing at how amazing everything about California is. Our conclusion was this: There’s nothing left to contemplate in California. It’s perfect here.