Friday, May 30, 2014

Cheerleading's Dangerous

This place is impossibly green. I keep rubbing my eyes and wondering why it seems to much greener than any other place I've lived. Washington is the Evergreen state and Vermont is the Green Mountain state so surely I've seen this before.

Maybe I've just forgotten, like we all do every winter. But I think it's more than that. In Washington the green is tempered with grey, in New England I remember there being colors everywhere. Flowering trees and lilacs and fields full of orange. Here, in the piece of woods where I walk every morning with the dog, it's just green. Green leaves with green vines twisting like a jungle.
I watched the whole thing this year, the forest shoot up alive after the winter, the lime frost on the branches thickening into yellow fuzz, and then one day, 80 degrees and sun filtering through leaves. Every day I've been in those woods, for hours on end. My two best friends in this new place continue to be my dog and my bike. This might indicate that I've been avoiding the sometimes-tiring work of making real, people friends, but that's only a little bit true.

During the school year I had these weekly bursts of social interactions that always left me buzzing and happy. I sat in the front of the class in Anatomy and Physiology, between two girls who I was friendly with. One of them would crack every bone in her body and then lean in and whisper, "Cheerleading's dangerous." The other one loved bees. 

Between these two and the enormous amounts of coffee I would drink during each class, and the fastidious and color coded system I developed to take notes, full of stunningly complicated mnemonics and indecipherable diagrams, I grew quite fond of school and the effortless social high it left me with.

The panic of a Friday night yawning before me with no real plans was blissfully lost on me, as I could always hide behind my text book and the highlighters with the liquid ink that I love so much. I could fall asleep early and feel like a responsible person, not a lonely one. 
Every Monday night Dave and I go over to our friends' house and watch Game of Thrones. After the episode we watch the trailer for the next week, briefly discuss the agony of poor Theon, agree that Daenerys has bitten off more than she can chew, and then it's off to our houses and to sleep. 

Tuesday I work at the Cider House, pouring out little flights of cider and talking to the men who sit at the bar all evening, and Wednesday I play a game of frisbee with my team on the Asheville Spring League. We always lose, usually by one, and again I go home giddy with the buzz of adrenaline and lactic acid and the charm of that certain awkward, athletic crowd that ultimate draws, the one that's so familiar to me it feels like family. 

All that studying paid off in the end. I finished the class with a 99 and endured the teacher, who would often stand in front of me, knock his fist against my desk and tell the class, "Some people don't think their grade is ever good enough. Some people will never be satisfied." And the girl next to me would whisper, "He's so mean to you!" Then she'd crack her neck and add, "Cheerleading's dangerous." 
Then one day I woke up with nothing much to do. School was over for the summer, spring league was over, and even my bar tending job sent me home one day because it was too slow. I called some friends but nobody was free. You know that feeling when you're suddenly aimless. When you've been very busy and wishing for a long stretch of free time, and then it hits you and it feels kind of like a crisis. 

I'm just a little anxious is all. It seems like I always am. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It gets weird when it gets cold

I was enjoying mountain biking for hours every day, alone and with my friend Holli, until I did something horrible. Although really it's my mother's fault for thinking she had a tough stomach.

For days before my mom's visit, I was trying to think of places we could eat that would be, how do I say this, lighter than the typical Asheville fare. Asheville has a lot of places with fried things stuffed into BLTs on the menu. But mom landed in a wonderful mood and said she felt excited to "eat Southern" while she was here.

Boy, did she not know what she was getting into. My parents, who live in Vermont, subsist on chicken and lovely salads. Whenever I'm home, and I wander into the kitchen around 6pm and ask my dad what I have to look forward to, it's always the same thing: "Chicken. And a lovely salad."

A few bites of Misty Knowles Farm thigh and salad that won't stay on the fork later, the show's over, and I'm left pining for the days of my childhood when we ate noodles four times a week and it always felt like a treat.

But I take my mom at her word, and when, after touring the Biltmore Mansion, mom wants to treat us both to a Carolina dog, I give her no warning. We each down a hot dog covered in onions and Chile and sauerkraut "n' stuff". I'm fine. I'm conditioned for this type of thing now, but mom's not. And she's not fine.

The only reason I take mom to the Biltmore is because I read in the pamphlet that you can rent bikes and "whiz around 8,000 acres of trails." That sounded like fun. The bike rentals are 15 bucks so I bring my own bike on top of the car, you know, to save the 15 bones. But after her dog she's not feeling up to biking. She barely even notices the Orchid house.

So we go home, and make a few stops, and by the time we get there I've forgotten that we ever intended to bike. I whip into the garage and I scalp the bike and the roof racks right off the car. It's a terrible, loud, wrenching moment that will end up costing a lot more than the 15$ I would have saved if we had whizzed around the 8,000 acres of trails, which we had not.

Yonton and Dave come out of the house, and we all stare at the damage strewn about the yard. I do not cry. I am very adult about it all. "This is my fault," I say calmly.  But I'm thinking to myself, "THIS IS ALL BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD EAT SOUTHERN AND THEN YOU WERE FELLED BY A CAROLINA DOG."
Two days later I'm at work pouring cider in a snowstorm and someone hits my car and crumples up the side, so it has to go to the shop anyway. Without a way to get the bike, which is damaged but ridable, to Bent Creek to ride, I grow fat and irritable. I'm a shut in. The rental car they've given me is one of the GM Recall vehicles and it shuts off on the highway. The climbing gym is too small and walking is too slow.  Running, that agony, is out of the question. I've forgotten how to exercise without the bike and when I don't exercise I'm not very nice to strangers in coffee shops who make mouth noises as I'm trying to study.

A few weeks later it's all been repaired, the car and the racks, so I take the bike back to the Biltmore and whiz around the trails myself. It's so fun. Mom would have really loved it.
Dave and I are driving up to Charlotte with our friend Mike, to attend the Inspiration Ball put on by all the kayakers we thought were dead in Tajikistan. On the way we stop for dinner at a Chick-fil-A.

I don't like Chick-fil-A because I don't like their stance on we-all-know-what, and I don't like how they sued that Vermonter who made the "Eat More Kale" T-shirts. (And won.)

But I ate it anyway. I swore I'd never do it but I did it. I ate a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries and I drank a milkshake. And then I went to the ball and felt beautiful and laughed a lot and enjoyed my curled hair.

But deeds like this don't go unpunished, and I threw up all night long. In somebody's house that I didn't know very well. I'd had a few drinks, sure, but I threw up long after they'd been geysered out of my system. And since I'd eaten the Chick-fil-A in a hurry because Dave warned me it "gets weird when it gets cold", I hadn't necessarily chewed it very well going down, so it came up in big pieces.

Some lessons you have to learn the tough way. I park on the sidewalk now. And for dinner, a lovely salad.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Writing for my rent

A portion of my rent, to live here in North Asheville with an old friend, includes writing one piece of fiction a month.

He insisted. I resisted for five months. He threatened to evict me.

My fiction blog, Then The Radio Died, pre-dated The Wilder Coast by three years, but has been more or less abandoned.

If you'd like to visit and read the ongoing saga of Eve and The Lunatics, head on over to this very strange little place. It can be a little shadowy and even sometimes smokey.
All the art you'll see over there is courtesy of Ali Walsh. It may haunt you.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The very slow

Spring came last Sunday and then it was gone. I went for a long bike ride with a girl named Holli. It was warm and sixty degrees out. We pedaled for miles, in short sleeves up a winding road to a junction of trails on the top of a mountain. From there we could see all of Asheville and the surrounding county, miles of bare trees beneath a blue sky.

The snow came on Wednesday, and the town shut down for days.
I loved the coziness, the park at night filled with people hollering and sliding on their odd assortment of makeshift sleds- cookie trays and canoes amongst them, but I no longer want school to be shut down. It just slow things down.

I want to go to school. I want to get through the text book as fast as possible. I want to finish this class and the next and the next, get into nursing school and then finish nursing school and become a nurse so that I can have a good income and be able to finally buy that really expensive blender that everyone has now.

You know the one.

But I'm at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom. I'm at the cellular level, chiseling away at things I learned in high school. Not that I can remember them, but I feel so thrown back. So completely humbled.

I'm starting all over with school, with my career, with these big pieces of my life. I go to community college in a mountain town in a state where I have no roots. The first day of class the professor asked if anyone had children, and just about every girl raised her hand. I have no children. And I have to study and study just to keep up. It feels surreal; I already went to college, I already have a degree. That doesn't matter. Being back in school is putting me in my place.

Silks is putting me in my place as well, which is to say it's kicking the shit out of me.
I love the nights spent at the aerial studio, with my instructor and a few other girls, the mirrored walls and the blue fabric hanging from the ceiling. It's been so cold at night and it's so nice to be in bright spaces. But it's hard, it's a harder sport than I ever imagined. And it hurts. It leaves angry burns behind your knees and across your chest. When Andrew pushes the knee of an upside down girl tightly against the silk you can hear her wince and cry out.

He'll say, "Don't worry, the spot will desensitize soon."

He told me I needed to wear cotton pants when I get to level two, because some of the drops are so fast they will cause polyester fabric to melt onto your skin.

When I first started, I didn't believe the twisted fabric could hold me up, so I clenched the silks in a death grip. I tried to fake my way through the climbs and poses by using all strength and no technique. The girls around me are doing mid-air splits and arching their legs above their heads, grabbing their feet.  I started waking up in the morning with stiff, swollen fingers. I would have to stop silks altogether if I didn't learn to let go.
I thought that because I already had a college degree, I'd never have to worry about registration dates and advisors and study guides again. I thought I'd already proved to the world that I was smart and responsible and that ought to be enough.

I thought that because I've been climbing for so long and people tell me I look strong, that I'd sail through aerial and blow everyone's mind and be asked to join the company. But I struggle with knee hooks and basic climbs, and I have to be reminded to breathe and to put my tongue back in my mouth, because it's an art, not a sport.

Starting is the most difficult part. Everything seems overwhelming and impossible. And I've started, thank goodness. But the long road to nursing school, the steady but so far paltry accumulation of knowledge, the painful practicing and tedious repetition of basic moves in the aerial studio, it all seems like very slowest process in the world.
I enjoy it mostly, even if it doesn't sound like I do. I love spending hours at the cafe in West Asheville, drinking coffee and coloring in sections of the human body. It reminds me of Seattle, of writing papers at Zokas at a huge wooden table with my friends studying at my side. But it's different this time, of course. And I feel like I need to rush, to get it done, like I've stared far too late and I'm already so far behind.

But there really is no speeding it up, there is only the very slow, the head down, the day by day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Gloom

The gloom landed right after Christmas, as it always does. I was back in North Carolina, but the cold followed me all the way from New England and kept us all shut up in doors for days at a time. I worked from my desk, but work was slow, and there was very little to keep my mind occupied. Studying would have made the time go by much quicker, but school didn't start till the middle of January.

The dog curled into a useless crescent on top of my feet as I worked, alternatively sleeping and glaring at me, as if the polar vortex was a plot I invented to keep her penned inside. I took her for two brief walks every day, each one screaming cold for me, although she didn't seem to notice the freeze. They barely counted as exercise- we went around the block once, twice at most, and to assuage my guilt once back home, I'd treat her to excessive raw hide bones. At five dollars a bag they started to add up.
So did groceries. This is what I did with myself most days- drive to the grocery store a few blocks away and buy whatever I wanted, mostly stuff to make soup and bake. I'd go home, make it, eat it, burn the muffins, burn the cake, I burnt everything I tried to bake, but the soups came out well.

That was always a pleasant few hours each afternoon, coming home with groceries and opening up a Porter or a Black Mocha Stout and starting to chop onions and celery, the radio playing in the background. Then the soup would be done, provide a good degree of satisfaction, then I'd eat it, clean up, and be back to nothing. Around dinner, I'd repeat the whole process.
I said to a friend, "I feel like my days are made of this: making little messes, cleaning up after myself, doing it again. I need school to start."

I really needed school to start. I hadn't been to school in seven years, since graduating college, with the exception of the EMT class. The idea of returning was making me fidgety, especially because I'm looking at three years of straight math and sciences.

Once there was a snow day called, and all the schools were cancelled. It wasn't really a snow day because there was no snow on the ground. It was a cold day. Due to unprecedented cold....the announcement began. It was below zero. My boyfriend got to stay home, and we played card games and drank orange liquor and whiskey out of little glasses. I hate the taste of whiskey but it seemed right for the situation. That day felt more cheerful than the others.
January is a gloomy month wherever you are. Here in Asheville we tried to break out of it by going skiing at Cataloochie mountain. We went at night to beat the crowds, but the crowds were there anyway. It was black and icy with people falling down the mountain all around us. It was like playing a game of human dodge ball. We decided not to go again. Save the lift pass money in a jar and one day have enough to build a cabin in the cascades. Or go out to a movie.
I've had a few more of those Seattle dreams, always the same. I'm back in my old neighborhood cafe, staring at my phone deciding who do call first. I'm overwhelmed to tears to be back in that city, but I can never get the numbers on the phone to work. I always wake up with wet eyes, feeling like I just cried for a long time.

But they're just dreams. As much as I miss that place, I'm so desperately happy that I moved here. January is January wherever you are.  My life is cranking away here, towards something tangible, it feels much closer then it ever has before. That feeling provides an overwhelming sense of relief.