Monday, November 14, 2011

have yourself a merry little christmas

I grew up with incredible Christmases. A house with not just one but sometimes four Christmas trees. To explain what it was like with such a huge wonderful family, two fireplaces, snowmen - everything. We had everything. Holidays were that time of year my Mother put out all of her Swarovski crystal and all the oriental rugs. The house was perfect, every bed and then some was full and Nat King Cole played on the stereo at the perfect volume.

It is because I had such perfection that I am completely at ease having a different experience now.

I've had a lot of strange Christmases in my adult life, and my plans this year, though dull, still bring me joy.

After College I tried to go home for the holiday. I was struggling to figure out how to pull everyone together again. I went home, I cleaned and decorated, and cleaned some more. I tried to but failed at pulling off the miracle my Mother had for dozens of years.

The past was perfect and gone, happiness wasn't going to happen until I moved on.

I married and spent a couple Christmases pretending I could fit in someone else's family. I learned how to bake some amazing cookies and perfected the art of throwing a huge over the top Christmas party. I even called it a Fezzywig. My ex grudgingly went along with it. I tried so hard to bring a little over abundance of the Holmes house into the lives of the people in my life. It was a small success but when my marriage ended so did the traditions I was struggling to make. In my heart I know I will Fezzywig again someday.

Faced with my first Christmas alone in the world I chose to travel. The experience was incredible and worth repeating over and over. It changed me, my values, how I feel this time of year - Everything, it changed everything. I have become a more self reliant and flexible woman where I was a very stubborn child afraid of change.

Part of this was accepting that wherever I am and whomever I am with, Christmas is glorious. I have never had a green man steel my tree and roast beast, but I got the same lesson.

The first year away it was a bit awkward for me, to be living with a host family where I felt like I was intruding in their Holiday. But I thought of the guests we loved having join us when I was growing up and I just melted into their hospitality. This open arm acceptance with too much food and community was the feeling that transcended Nat King Cole and the glitz of my childhood home near the holidays. It was home, completely home.

There was still so much to do, vegetables to cut, things to fuss over - everywhere. It always feels so wonderful to see the business necessary for spending time together being shared by the very hands that reap the benefit.

It gracious and lovely, and it happens even between strangers. That is Christmas.

I am not much of a fan of the giftyness of it all. This is a girl who once cried cause she thought he dog Beau was left out without a gift. The next year my parents put one of those ridiculous dog stockings up for him. I also properly freaked out when I though I didn't get the "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" computer game I begged for. I had opened a roomful of gifts and it wasn't there. I lost it, yelled at my parents and cried. My mother told my brother Pete to give me what he had gotten me, it was the game. Not my best day. Wretched thing to do, but to me on that day, knowing where the gifts came from, I felt like no one listened. Of course my mother would set Peter up to be the hero, as if he needed yet another reason for me to adore him.

I remember thinking they all wasted their money on stupid things when all I wanted was that game and they didn't bother to get it for me. Trust me, I spent a lot of time not getting what I wanted - thankfully my parents knew better than to satiate a fickle child. This is my contrition, I should never have behaved that way. But maybe that's what happens when there is just so much of everything and my child-mind was overwhelmed.

This year I will celebrate peace and quiet. I will have a nice run and probably go see a movie. I will spend the day packing for a New Year's trip to South Africa and reading a bunch of stuff I have been putting off until after the semester. And this year, for the first time ever on Christmas, I will be alone. I will be fine, but I know its not what people who love me want me to do. But I think the folks who know me get that this is just fine.

Its not that I will be visited by three ghosts - those ghosts got nothing on me. My life has been a race recently and this pause is needed, I assure you.

My life has been a walk down a long hall at some beautiful hotel. I started at one end opening doors. I spend a little time in each room and move on. Each room is unique with a different beautiful view. The room I am in now is far quieter than I am used to. But I know the noise will return in another room further down the hall. All those traditions and decorations I stored for future use rooms ago will appear again. Even the Swarovski crystal.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

sweet nothings

There are so many things happening in the world right now and I am at a loss for words.

But I am sitting here struggling to say something.

Life is fragile, beautiful and brief. Nothing is certain.

These are times that clich├ęs are born.

Nothing is certain.


All the more reason to be more patient with people.

I can’t be everywhere or do much to help this planet right now.

But I can be more patient with everyone.

I am going to try to counteract all of this uncertainty and grief with choosing to be kind. It is the smallest gesture but I am hoping in some phenomenon it helps.

The person pissing you off right now probably knows your pain, only it is as their own and can’t imagine you’ve had a dose.

Probably just projecting it another way, maybe at you.

I got angry last week and vented about not being treated fairly by a professor. But just now I thought of that man having just as much loss and pain in his life as all of us and it killed my anger.

Walking around thinking someone else is better off is a bit ignorant. Does the situation improve by getting angry with someone who properly deserves it? No, or at least not in my world.

Maybe I let the big picture effect me too much. Maybe I take the saying that life is too short too seriously. Whatever. Happiness is a choice, no one can give it to you.

They may want to, they can’t.

People I love call me silly, so be it.

People will be diagnosed with cancer. Young mothers will die. Wars will kill young people. Homes will be foreclosed on. And maybe life will pull you in so many directions that you haven’t been back to the place you were born in years.

These things will happen to each of us.

When it feels like the world is against you I will not be.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

homeless in Athens

Last weekend I wandered around Ikea. The international mecca of nesting. I have to admit its quite easy to go in there on a budget and come out with a comfortable little apartment. Sure I wish I had the time and cash for more eclectic pieces, but with ten credit hours of law school and forty hours of work, I don't have time for everything I want. I need a functioning home so I can sit on Sunday afternoons procrastinating the writing a forced appellant brief by drinking coffee and reading news.

The number of homeless in Athens, Greece has risen by 25%. These are normal people who had homes, careers, dreams and ambition. These things are fragile and over the last two years austerity measures we read in headlines have not had a face. Middle class, educated men and women are desperate. It is scary and real and heartbreaking.

Last weekend while lost in the huge store full of mock up apartments I saw one that didn't make sense. My friend and I stopped and counted the beds. It was a five hundred square foot apartment with no less than eight sets of bunk beds. It was a genius work of lego-like perfection that made every inch work. There was a large-ish kitchen at the center with tons of seating, a closet like area, a small but well organized bathroom and the perimeter was all beds. I remarked to my shopping companion how odd it was and how it must have been a mock of a hostel. Could you imagine sixteen people living in five hundred square feet?

I cringe when I think of the movie Fight Club and how I am trying to get the coffee table that says something about me. Its all nonsense. Months ago I had no place of my own. Now I need just the right wall art.

That number, that %25 - its an under estimate and relief organizations say they can't account for the people cramming apartments and sleeping on couches.

Was Ikea demonstrating how to set up your own shelter?

Rethinking my apartment my front hall could be lined with lockers. My living room could sleep eight, my bedroom twelve. The closet could be an incredible pantry and everyone could store one trunk under the bottom bunk.

Ridiculous. But that is the function of a storyteller.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

fortunate son

After a long process I found a home by July of this year. The building has its quirks but the neighborhood is completely what I sought. I have two rooms, a kitchen, a hall and a bathroom. For me, this is more than enough.

In the next few days I will attempt, and probably succeed, to get my little possessions down here. There is a bed I have missed dearly for eight months and books I can't wait to see happily shelved in my hall.

More than anything though is the "difference" of this move. It feels so settling. I don't intend to rent this place forever by any means, but there is something about getting where I was going.

There is also this incredible feeling of support for this move. I once had a night sleeping alone in a moving van somewhere in Delaware, I cried. This time some very generous people are making things so very lovely that I am actually looking forward to it.

One of these people made me an apple pie on my thirtieth birthday and wrote my name on it. I've missed him a lot and he's making me a moving pie.

Speaking of my thirtieth birthday, a friend made me a beautiful necklace which I have worn countless times since. I hope to see her at some point while I am in Albany for the day.

When I was carless and couldn't get home at Christmas, a friend took me out to his family's house for dinner. He's told me I am not allowed to worry about this nonsense, and he and his father are lending a hand. That whole "lending a hand" business is a huge understatement.

My roommate from China has been a wonderful help, she just so happens to be moving to DC and is splitting the stifling truck and gas costs with me.

Basically, I feel really lucky to have friends who love me. I've done this dance alone enough to know how good it feels to have more support than my shadow and a couple greasy dudes off craigslist.

It means the world to me. And the world is very large, after all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

the wind in the willows

I have been apartment hunting for weeks. It is an emotional draining process for a woman spread a bit too thin as it is. After years of a diaspora I didn't even have the energy to start, I want to go home.

I have belongings in multiple cities, an attic here, a garage there and a basement hours away from either.

I want to magnetize my cells and bring together what little bits are my life.

Not that I am consumed by my possessions, I have gotten rid of many many things over the last few years that I doubt I will ever miss.

I just ache for a picture on the wall of my family and to page through a comforting and familiar book. I little constance could do me well.

I worry my "making do" as I have for so long now has aged me. I crave peace and a little tranquility but the demands I put on myself in my scrambling for an education and career have had me playing more than hopscotch.

I need a lease. I need a very comfortable chair with my coveted quilt and large tea cup. I need to get it together. I have so many wonderful things in my life at the moment and I want to enjoy them from home.

Last night was a point of incredible confusion and ache for me. I was at a dinner party with people. I remembered the joy of just being home with friends and fussing over them.

It is the very nature of a Holmes to be home. I hope I find mine.

Monday, June 13, 2011

the biggest mistake of my life

Today, I had an another episode of "You're making the biggest mistake of your life!"

This occurs when someone who barely knows me looks at my choices and, instead of respecting them, throws themselves into my life, assumes my circumstances, and tells me I am making the wrong choice.

I don't know why this happens to me so often. I think people see potential in me and by their standards I am wasting it. I am a pretty approachable soul, so they seem to think it is their duty to take pity on me and correct my decisions.

While I am offended I thought I would reflect on some of the "Biggest mistakes of my life!"

First - the tattoos, every single dot of ink is part of me, I can't think of how they are mistakes. I do admit when I make mistakes, those aren't them.

Although there was a language barrier the sweet old Greek woman in Santorini made it clear that I should never have cut my hair so short. I wanted her to shave it, she refused. I loved that haircut, definitely not the biggest mistake of my life.

Dr. Margot Ip tried to convince me for over an hour that leaving her lab at Roswell Cancer Park was the biggest mistake of my life. I have never hated a job more than I hated that one, and I have had some ridiculous jobs. As amazing as cancer research is, leaving that behind me was not the biggest mistake of my life.

When my divorce attorney tried to tell me that not taking the man I loved to court over money was the biggest mistake of my life, I wanted to slap him in the face. I have a friend not an ex-husband. We grew up together, we did the best we could. Ignoring that attorney was not the biggest mistake of my life, hiring him might have been.

When I was a teenager I was in love with a boy and my family thought we were too serious. While they often just let me be happy others told me I was making a mistake. I cannot imagine a kinder soul to have been my first love, he was not the biggest mistake of my life.

Today, an attorney overheard that I want to spend my career in patent prosecution. With incredible passion they tried to "talk sense" into me about how I am wasting talent and "making the biggest mistake of my life."

I understand where they are coming from. Often I want to grab my niece or nephew and try to prevent them from making, what I think, are mistakes. But I am not them. I love them, unconditionally, but I am not them. I have my hands full living my life, I can't live theirs too.

While I make epic mistakes, I regret to inform that I have yet to make the biggest mistake of my life. I may not have the neatest, most orderly, existence - but its a beautiful mess.

To date, the mistake that ranks highest on the list of errors is the time I have lost. The time I have spent being sad, worrying, unappreciated, not myself, isolated, cold, hurt, or mean. I am not perfect, I have those times. If I could take all of that stress and unessesary self-inflicted pain and erase it, I would. I reconcile all of that into the thought that all of these "mistakes" and all of the time "lost" was the purchase price of who I am.

The only debts I have left to pay, are for a priceless education.

Worth every tear.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I am approaching six months out of a single suitcase.

I packed it back in December and I packed it pretty well.

I saw warmer and I saw colder, I saw suits and I saw sweats.

I had no idea where I would live, who I would see, what I would really need but I packed it.

I have so very little in this world I thought I would mention the things that I have travelled with me this year, the small possessions that have made this rover home.


My grey wool coat. - Essential, as mother said - good coat and a nice hair cut makes a woman always ready.

Flops - stuffed rabbit, saved from a toy testing facility and certain death in 2007.

The green dress, I bought it for Marie Heberger's college graduation in 2007. I have worn it in over a dozen countries and lent it out over a dozen times. I will wear it this week to celebrate a person I love's 30th birthday. I paid too much for it when I bought it, more than $40.

Long beaded necklace made for me this past birthday by Mopsey Akey. She was the only one I trusted to tell it was my Birthday, she gave me a card written in Irish and the necklace she made me. It will forever be my reminder of turning 30, thanks Mopsey, I love it.

Teal hibiscus print L.L. Bean Bag given to me by my brother Peter something like a decade ago. Still holds the essentials, I lost count how may places I have dragged it.

Nelson Mandela book from Tim, one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. It breaks my heart not to have my books with me here, but when you have one good book from a friend it fills the void of a missing library.

Mouthguard: fitted to my mouth in 2004 when I mysteriously became hyper insomniac and started terribly grinding my teeth during the night. Prevents migraines and has lasted longer than any relationship I have ever had.

Back Pack: purchased in 2006, I spent way too much on it but I love it. Yesterday it just summited Rag Top in the Shenandoah park. It has summited multiple high peaks - in more than one hemisphere. Best $50 bucks I ever spent.

Asics running shoes.

One pair of soft pink, leather upper/bottom, size 6B BLOCH ballet slippers.

One pashmina purchased in 2008 from street vendor in NYC Chinatown for $3. Beige paisley washed until soft.

One silk dress purchased in 2009 for a date. Red, brown and purple pattern trimmed in black lace. Also well traveled, climbed caldera in Greece, walked beach in Ecuador. The most comfortable thing that ever touches my skin.

Various Cotton; baby blanket, favorite hoodie, favorite scarf (LeAnn made me buy it years ago), favorite t shirts.

That's about it. I'm 30 and really that's it. I moved between temporary addresses a couple weeks ago and it took one trip to a car.

But the people. Last month my oldest friend stopped up for a visit. My sister and her family too. Sleeping in the rooms above me right now are some of the world's finest friends. Today I had in- person conversations with no less than three essential people in my life.

And that's all I need!


hall of mirrors

we try to lie to our own faces
position the camera just right
self portrait in a carnival mirror
taken with a camera phone

digital and deleted over and over
until we get the shot -
the one we think is who we are.

don't make the mirror lie
through the product of a
camera pixel.

be brave and ask a human.
if they love you -
they'll tell you the truth

humility is beautiful
don't waste your time
loving reflections in
warped mirrors.

prefer eyes and
trusted hearts

Sunday, March 27, 2011

patience, my darling

The following is rushed, rough and drafted gloriously ignorant of edits.

Today I heard that Dave Eggers, the author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" has stores in NYC. These are magical places where children go through secret passages to classrooms for writing classes. They are also places of sale, items of interest include single pages of books with varying prices presented in my ever favorite fashion of performance art. Some pages a penny, others a thousand dollars. I instantly thought of my favorite page in my favorite novels - are they actually worth more than the pulp before and beyond. I say, "No."
This story came into mind. The fiction has been keeping me up at night this March and while I have been loosing sleep I haven't had the time to write. This story from my head today is representative of a lot of the story lines I wrestle with lately, a romance. I'll try to keep it light.

Cold and hard the tile floor of the basement apartment rudely but effectively woke Jo each morning as she staggered to the tiny bathroom of the temporary sublet she shared with a cat who had no patience for her. It had been three months and one long season of winter with little sign of spring for Jo, and the cat, Harper, was relentless. While Jo was a kind girl and enemy-less in all her world, Harper showed no trust for her and would not even let Jo benefit from his body heat. Jo was at a loss, never having had a cat growing up she gave the beast his space but never gave up trying for Harper's affection. It was Harper's house, his master would return and Jo would be history, perhaps this routine was familiar to him and he found it best to become unattached.

Jo defined unattached. She made due with another person's home, another person's souvenir coffee cup, a stranger's set of keys and whatever else that was not part of her own scant wardrobe and included in the sublet. She tacked her large orange sarong to the window frame of her bedroom to function as a curtain and outlined her home city's skyline to the large empty wall her bed faced with a grey crayon. Seattle's skyline was something she could sketch from memory without glancing at a thing. Jo never considered this a personal talent, every kid in her class at one time had their own hand at the same perspective. The day after she moved in she realized it was worth the chance of not being able to erase it, it made everything feel more like home.

Today there was a problem of a hint of a headache as Jo's cold feet warmed in the shower. Minutes of a hot shower brought the clarity from morning disillusionment, Jo was ill. Cursing to no one but Harper on the couch in the next room Jo stood dripping wet in front of an unfamiliar medicine cabinet. The bus would stop at the end of the block in twenty minutes and between now and then some miracle by way of chemistry was necessary to temper the fever Jo was now certain she had. Foraging as she tossed a towel about she filled her arms with pill bottles and bolted for the bedroom.

Stowing is a skill one can become incredible at if they so choose, it requires moving quickly often and taking what is necessary. Soon the list of essentials propagates in your mind so quickly it is like breathing. Take, for instance, the Mom of three in comparison to the fresh young Mother dear. Or rather, any seasoned veteran to newly minted recruit. With the smooth perfection and complete confidence of what the day would call for Jo filled her purse.

There were the essentials of any commuter, student, waitress, and now infirm, all in the one cluttered shoulder bag. Jo was sick, but in complete indifference she stood stoic at the bus stop applying makeup as the 10A3 South arrived.

Jo today thought of what would serve as a decent thank you for a kind bus driver who she daily witnessed being not only cheerful and capable but damn generous. She had been counting how often the driver stopped her routine to make life slightly better for someone. Not that anyone was ever hiring such a detective, but Jo excelled at discovering acts of human kindness. Jo just made notes, the notes could be the gift. Things meant little to Jo, experiences were all she collected with success. They made for easy packing.

Assignments and deadlines and Monday Night Specials rang though a heavy concoction of random over the counter pain relievers as Jo's night, and then week, zipped by in a blur with no condolences or relief from Harper.

Come Saturday Jo was thoroughly out of any options for presentable clothing. So, as gently as she could, displaced Harper from her sole laundry basket containing her earthly possessions and wandered with a book into the laundry across the hall from her apartment door. She stopped while reaching the door knob to open her own door at the sight of a letter on the floor addressed to she.

It had been slid under the steel door and was certainly for her. Certain in the fact that it said "Current Resident of Apt. 1B, Girl Renting From Nasty Other Guy." That was Jo.

Jo never liked doing laundry and didn't need to be presentable until her brunch shift the next day at the cafe. She set the basket down and opened the plain white envelope. Folded in uneven thirds were a thick pack of book pages trimmed to the width of the text so that no margin markings were left. Jo set the pages down and with a chill then whirled into a fit of heart racing panic.

It was strange, it meant someone took notice of her, they knew where she lived, they knew she was alone, they had the ever loving benefit of seeing her and she did not see them. If this were the Savannah, Jo was the freaked out gazelle. She felt in every shadowed corner and darkened street level window of her temporary cell - a predator was calmly noting her moves.

Jo returned the chain to the track of her door as another thought cracked into her throbbing head, "who else has a key?" She herself had given previous neighbors at old addresses spare keys. There was no way of knowing, her only contact with Harper's owner was through the leasing office and a P.O. box she mailed she rent check.

Moving to the kitchen to arm herself she thought better of it, feeling her own ridiculous and irrationality she instead reached for her phone. In a brief exchange of text messages Jo's only local friend was making her way over wonderfully suggesting Jo needed a night out of the house. Jo hated the feeling of being helpless and fought back the guilt of dragging Naya out of her way.

The call changed the trajectory of Jo's panic. Naya would bring her something to wear, fuss, paint her face and scoot her into a crowd of fresh faces all with names Naya knew but Jo didn't. Whatever came of it, they worked brunch together at the cafe in Jo's neighborhood so, at least tonight she wouldn't be sitting alone in the middle of the clear savannah.

Naya had filled Jo's sparse room with color. The second she waltzed in Jo was at ease. The stack of paper sat where she set it down and rather than discuss it Naya insisted the cab would be honking in twenty and Jo needed work.

With a bit of cheap wine, loud music, and drugstore clearance Revlon the pair were reborn. Where once stood a single Mother who's son was at his grandparents and the shaken over-worked lonely student now was a timeless posed-for-a-cell-phone-in-the-mirror-shot directly blogged onto the internet as "Girls Night Out!" Complete with smiles and eyeliner, Naya and Jo looked both fun and carefree. They charged out the door at the sound of the taxi's horn and ran straight into the arms of high heel pain and three dollar well drinks.

A night of bummed cigarettes and screaming at people over music effectively postponed the worry for Jo. She tip-toed over the tiled floor to wake Naya up from the couch. They scrubbed off the eyeliner and bandaged their feet for work. Having lost neither their cell phones or their keys the two of them proclaimed the night and absolute success and did the best they could on the walk to work to piece together what exactly they got into.

As the post-church crowd paid their bills and left generous tips Naya brought Jo their customary end of brunch bloody mary. Before Jo could protest Naya assured her with, "Relax kiddo, I had Deshawn hold the vodka. This one's just hot sauce and good old tomato, you're fav you freaking weirdo."

They counted their tips. Jo walked into the cafe three months before with a long list of references and a gaurantee she'd only work for tips. Paul was the kind of restaurant owner Jo could spot from a zip code away. It was a deal he couldn't refuse. Jo wore whatever name tag was left behind the bar, sometimes she was "Trudy" or "Stephanie", sometimes she was "Naya."

When she was "Naya" people would ask her where her name came from. Jo knew that Naya's mother named her after her favorite perfume, Anais Anais. Naya named her son Charles, cause she hated her name and her mother's reason for choosing it. Naya pressed what Jo was short for, "Just Jo" was all she got.

Putting her cash in her purse Jo realized she brought the suspect package to work. Taking it out in the company of the cafe staff she thumbed through the pages. They seemed harmless here, in the light of day they almost made her feel thought of and special. There was nothing scary about the story on them as from what Jo could tell, it was a fairy tale.

But, "Damn It!" she thought as she leafed through the fifty or so pages six inch high pages, they were out of order. She checked the envelope and her bag but they showed no sign of tampering. She had picked up the letter just as carefully as she set it down while Naya was in the shower and placed it between her laptop and text book in her bag. They were delivered like this.

On a freshly cleared and cleaned table in the now closed cafe Jo started to spread the pages out. Rounding the corner from the office to the dinning room Paul saw the table cloth of paper and laughed. "Used text books ain't what they used to be huh kid?" Jo didn't break her concentration but smiled. Paul sat next to her and with a concerned tone asked if she was serious and if she needed some cash for a new one.

Jo turned, she noted carefully how kind he was. Paul was not a rich man but it was clear someone like him would worry about a girl like her. With some trepidation Jo explained how she came into the pages. Paul's face read "I don't like the sound of this." He started with an interrogation highlighting things Jo never thought of. "Who has keys to the building's front door?" He asked. "Tomorrow morning call the leasing office and confirm they changed the locks before you sublet the place, they might give you hell at this point but they know better than to have not done that in the first place." Jo regretted worrying Paul.

Picking up the paper in the order she set them down she assured him no one in her building seemed more harmful than Harper the cat and that she would report it to the police that afternoon. She gave him an absolutely confident face and while assuring him she was fine her eyes saw the handwriting on a page that was half blank of ink.

Without flinching or breaking her sincerity to Paul she put the papers away and headed home with left-over quiche wrapped in a bundle in her hands. Five steps from the restaurant a plan began to form in her head and it had nothing to do with calling anyone. As she stepped in her building she did not descend the stairs, she climbed. On the second floor she chose one of two doors and removed from her bundle a styrofoam container of spinach quiche.

An old woman with thick rimmed glasses answered Jo's knock with a small overly cared-for dog in her left arm. The dog was silent, Jo realized instantly it's eyes were glass and that it was stuffed. The woman extended a hand to great her and said "Ah, aren't you the girl from downstairs? What brings you by sweetie?" Jo gathered herself quick from the shock of the stuffed maltese. "Hello, yes, sorry to have not introduced myself earlier, I'm Jo Carter from downstairs."

The woman invited Jo in and introduced herself as Pearl Flemming and the dog as Heidi. "Heidi and I have been in this building for twenty years!" Said Pearl. Jo declined the offer of company explaining she just returned from work but wondered if Pearl might like a quiche left over from the restaurant. "Its quite good I just can't imagine I'll eat it myself." Jo was completely out of her element. Old Mrs. Flemming beamed with thanks but over apologetically refused the gift. "How kind of you darling, but I've never eaten a single egg, I just have the most delicate digestion! And Heidi here hasn't eaten in over a decade!"

With a very awkward goodbye Jo decided the next door. After several knocks Mrs. Flemming's door opened again. "Darling that is Mrs. Geitner's apartment, my sister-in-law, don't bother calling on her dear." Pearl said with batting eye lashes and cloying tone adding, "She's a soggy old bitch."

With a nod and dripping sweet smile Pearl closed the door. Jo looked up the stairs to the third floor and felt the heat of a fever and for a feint second base tones from the previous night's dance floor pulsed her inner ear. Defiant Jo scaled the twenty-three stairs and knocked first on apartment 3A. The sound of running and a crash were immediately joined by the door lurching open. Looking down into a pair of gorgeous and wet brown eyes Jo smiled. The boy in front of her was no more than eight and all he said was "Who are you?" with a returning smile.

"Hi there," Jo said instinctively, sinking to his level, "I'm Jo. I live downstairs is your Mom home?" Straight into Jo's face without a second to spare the boy screamed "MOOOMMMM!!!" Jo flinched and lurched back onto her free hand as the siren continued, "MOOMMMM THAT GIRL YOU SAID WAS QUIET IS HERE TO SEE YOU!!!"

Looking at Jo the boy began to ask "Why do you have a boy-name?" as his mother approached the door. Thin and petite the woman effortlessly picked the boy up to her face. With him at her level and wide-eyed she started. "Kalil, you are not to answer the door or raise your voice in this house, understand?" "Momma, I forgot!" He pleaded. She stared at him very still. "I won't do it again," he said. She set him down, as Kalil smiled again and introduced Jo.

"Marta, nice to meet you, don't mind him, he's all boy. And me calling you quiet was meant as a compliment." Marta helped Jo up as Kalil hugged his mother's side.

"Sorry to bother you," started Jo as she took her feet. The change in altitude was not significant but it felt like Everest. The pulse in Jo's inner ear clouded out the rest of the room as a quick sweat and darkness over came her.

When she came to Kalil's brown eyes were perfectly align with hers. She blinked a few times and Marta came into view and Jo realized Kalil was in fact sitting at the top of the stares in awe and Marta was waving ammonia in Jo's face. Sitting up slowly Marta ordered Kalil to pick up Jo's bags and march them downstairs.

Jo rose apologetically with Marta's help and explained she didn't see the feinting episode coming. Marta walked Joe carefully down the stairs and waited while Jo fished her keys out of her bag. Kalil and Marta sat Jo down on the couch and Marta walked to the kitchen and opened the fridge. Returning with a glass of milk she sat across from Jo on the coffee table and asked "You ok?"

Accepting the milk and drinking it down in one motion Jo answered, "better thank you, really I will be fine."

Marta followed up with triage questions before explaining she was indeed a nurse. After suggesting a good meal and rest and satisfied Jo was alright Marta and Kalil rose to leave.

"Jo, it was lovely to meet you, what were you coming up to us for anyway?" Marta asked.

"I waitress over at Cafe Morell and the owner sometimes sends me home with more than I can eat, any chance you like spinach quiche?"

Marta's dark eyebrows perked into high arches and she smiled saying "Eat the quiche, Jo, then get some sleep."

Kalil in a flash ran to Jo on the couch, hugged her and then ran out. Chuckling Marta closed the door behind them and Jo heard them climb the stairs.

On the couch Jo drank her milk and ate half a container of quiche. Then, clearing the coffee table, she took out the envelope observing the slow cautious movements of a ritual. As if she were preparing japanese tea ceremony.

To Be Continued....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

gare d est

A million things fly through my head as I look forward to traveling to China next month. I keep re-watching "The Longest Way" (please visit TLW is one of my all time favorite works of art. The man in the video and blog had long ago won my total heart, if I know my luck I will at some point in my life thank him personally. Part of my travel is to feel a bit of the awe he has for China.

One of my earliest memories is crying in a Chinese restaurant near Times Square as my father was trying to explain to me the "poo poo platter" was edible. It was the night I learned to use chop sticks from him - I still use them the same way, its not correct but its how he taught me.

I'm overwhelmed with excitement at the fact that I will get to be part of a university campus and spend time with Chinese law students. The amount of history I have been trying to absorb to appreciate their legal system only makes the whole thing feel more amazing. I do not understand, I am going to understand more.

I am on a guided trip with other invited students. We will be stopping at many major tourist attractions and staying in Government hotels. Its not what I want, that's not how I travel. I'm used to sitting on a curb watching hordes of tourists being ushered through practical set scenes. After they pass life goes back to normal and I get up and walk around surviving on the graciousness of locals with patience. I hate that I am in a tour group. Which is why I know this is just my first trip, not my last.

But on that note I am scared that my wandering might be on hold for a while. I worked very hard to get two thirds of the way through law school. Since starting at Albany Law I have run two marathons, travelled through a dozen countries and filled my head with about a ten foot shelf of books. Unfortunately, as good of a life as that is, my pace is catching up with me and I think the only adventure awaiting me after China is a desk in an office... something I've never been quite great at.

If the law degree doesn't pan out I think I could handle a year surfing in Cape Town or an L.L.M. in Beijing - maybe get a grip on Mandarin.

I'm going East.