Dude. Solitude.

Sound the bells. I survived the Colorado Crash of 2012. I’m alive. Woohoo!

Yesterday I finally started feeling back to my normal sickley self, not my deadly sickley self. And it feels good to be able to be out of bed for more than an hour a day. That tends to wear on a girl…at least a little. I can’t believe what a disaster my Colorado vacation was. It’s funny I’m still referring to it as a vacation. That’s like taking someone to the DMV and calling it a date. It was really hard for me to enjoy my time there because I was in constant recovery, catch up, and crash mode and the cycle didn’t break the whole time I was there. I had to say no to things and miss out on things which I’m typically “OK” with but this time I felt real sadness and anger about it. I wanted to blame someone, I wanted a reason, I wanted to “talk to the manager” about this. I wanted it to be somebody’s fault and somebody to fix it. But, that’s not how it works. These are the things that teach us grace and surrender and sometimes getting the lesson is the most painful part. By the last night I had broken down in tears just exhausted from being exhausted and feeling like the Debbie of all Downers. This illness tends to turn its victims into high maintenance fun suckers when it’s at its worst, and nobody likes to be around that. By the end I was tired of who I was on that trip and what I required. But my brothers talked me through it and we decided that next vacation we take, we aren’t making an itinerary. We’re not overcommitting to engagements and we’ll try to just take each day as it comes. We’re going to try to effectively do nothing–something I’m pretty spectacular at and most people are still getting the hang of. I’m happy to teach my ways. I’m doing nothing right now!

 

As hard as the last two weeks have been, I feel like it is all starting to pay off because now I find myself in Paradise. My sisters in-laws left yesterday morning for a three-week trip to Africa. When they told me about their voyage months ago my first question was what they were going to do with Mikey–an enormous yellow lab and king of the household. When they threw around options I casually mentioned that Hey, I have nothing to do in August (or any month ever for that matter) and I could watch Mikey for them if they preferred he had a dogsitter. A few days later they took me up on the offer and even allowed me to bring Monty here too. So now, after all the exhaustion, noise, chaos, itineraries, plans and breaking of plans, I find myself in a beautiful California home with two loveable drooling teddy bears, and I could not feel more at peace having arrived. When I wake up in the morning, there is silence, and there is no itinerary to follow. DO YOU KNOW HOW GREAT THAT IS!?!?

 

Truthfully I have always treasured my solitude. If I were a Country Singer, I would write a song called “Solitude Has Always Been a Friend of Mine.” Anyway, it happens at least a few times a year that I require almost total isolation and dream of being locked up in a cabin somewhere and cut off for a little while. It’s like my souls version of food cravings. I have always enjoyed small endeavors on my own. Sometimes I like to eat at restaurants alone, or see movies or go to the bookstore. I love not having to keep up a conversation and going at my own pace, which is usually pretty slow. There isn’t anything so commonplace and exhausting to me as small talk. I have no patience or energy for idle conversations anymore. I don’t like having the “What’s new with you?” conversation. I don’t like to hear how your job is going or how your brothers band got a new drummer. And I don’t like to share news from my neck of the woods either–obviously because I don’t have any. “Yep, still sleeping on peoples couches. Well bye!” I realize this probably makes me sound like an old curmudgeon, and maybe I’m starting down that path at the ripe old age of 27, but there is something about those forced conversations that sometimes even the mere thought of them drains me. They just feel so inauthentic on both ends and since my time out of bed is so precious anyway, it’s hard for me to spend it on a conversation that we’re having to fulfill some duty–or because we feel like we should. This is why having a dog as a best friend works out great for me. No elevator talk.

I don’t care about your job.
Me either!

The other part is, while writing is my passion, it’s kind of  a lonely practice. You can’t do it well with people around. And you kind of have to “strike while the iron is hot” which is typically for me sometime around 3 in the morning. The act of writing is not nearly as satisfactory as the result, and many times the process is grueling. Anyway, the only living thing that can hang out but not disturb me is a dog. Two dogs even. So Monty and Mikey have been great companions. We eat, sleep, swim and write and there’s no itineraries or talking about our jobs. Wanda left me a note welcoming me to help myself to any and everything and to write a book while I’m here. Think I’ll take her advice.

Health, Happiness, Solitude.

California Problems.

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.

Boxes.

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 to talk 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:

Grime.

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.

Beverages.
The Waves Are Droppin Off At The Wedge Bro!
My Stupid Friend Jess, Trying and Failing To Fit In In SoCal

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.

Health, Happiness, SoCal.