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Not drowning, facing down a fear & learning to live

30 Aug

I don’t know how to swim.  Put me in water over my head and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll drown.

Don’t ask my why because I don’t have an answer. The closest thing to a swimming lesson I ever had came at the age of 12 when my mother enrolled me in a beginner’s swimming class filled with 6 to 8 year olds. I was embarrassed and angry and frustrated that the pool officials wouldn’t put me in the teen swimming class even if I was a year too young and I was even more angry that my mother thought a swimming class with 6 to 8 year olds was what I meant when I said I wanted to learn how to swim. The class served only to solidify my hatred for putting my head under water and fueled my passion for writing angry teen poetry.

Prior to age 12, various stepfathers and a stepbrother spent time threatening to throw me into a body of water where I would surely figure it out. They were convinced my survival instincts would kick in and just like that I’d be a swimming machine. It’s a small miracle that I survived.

At 16 I got my first set of contact lenses.  I became convinced that, if I let water splash my face, I would lose a contact lens, get turned around while out in the ocean and mistake the horizon for the shore. The ocean would pull be out to sea and I’d either drown or get eaten by whales.

So here I am: 26, unable to swim and pretty much terrified of any water that’s more than 5 feet deep.  

Every time I go to the beach it’s the same thing. My friends go out in the ocean and show off their stupid swimming skills while I splash around on the shore acting like I’m totally content to take pictures and hunt for sea shells. They yell for me to get in the fucking ocean already and every time I squawk back about how I’m busy and fine and don’t want to get in the water because it’s cold and wet and oceany so leave me the fuck alone you swimming assholes.

This time I wanted it to be different. I was determined. With my laser-corrected eyes I knew I wasn’t going to end up losing a lens and swimming out to sea to be eaten by whales. I still couldn’t swim, but I desperately wanted to get in the water. And I did. Someone brought a boogie board and I took it out to sea with me. Instead of freaking out and yelling at everyone to leave me alone, I listened. I went.

The ocean floor dropped out from beneath me and I kept going. Andrew and the boys were there. My breath kept getting caught in my throat and I screamed every single time the board shifted and I felt like I would sink to the bottom, but I was okay. I didn’t drown.

The boys kept asking if I was joking with my pathetic feet kicking and terrified screams. I assured them that no, I wasn’t. At 26, I’d never been out that far before. I’d never not been able to touch the ocean floor. I’d never been that brave.

There’s some sort of hidden meaning here, I’m sure. Some sort of message from the Universe. Something to do with my need for control and firm footing and how sometimes it’s okay to let go and let the world hold you up. I’m taking it as what I know it to be: a fist in the face of fear.

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Vacation (Light): 24 Hours in DC

22 Jan

Andrew and I are weird, I guess. We don’t do a lot of things other couples do.  We’re rebels like that. Or maybe I’m just a smart-ass sociologically-aware feminist who won’t be put down by the Man. Or maybe it’s both. Either way, we don’t do a lot of the things you’re supposed to do. I didn’t change my name. There wasn’t a proposal or an engagement ring. We don’t exchange Christmas presents.  And we didn’t exchange anniversary gifts, partly because we just don’t fucking care, and partly because, traditionally speaking, the gift for Anniversary Number 2 is cotton and really, I have enough towels thankyouverymuch!

That said, we didn’t want to let the start of our third year together go totally unnoticed. So, instead of spending yet another special occasion at home staring at each other, we hit the road for Washington, DC on Tuesday, which really isn’t like a vacation because Andrew and I both used to live up there, but still. The Detroit Redwings were playing the Washington Capitals and since Andrew’s from Detroit and loves hockey and since I just plain love hockey (seeing a Redwings game is #50 on my 101 in 1001 list) and will jump at any excuse to take anything even remotely looking like a vacation, we went.

First order of business was checking out a Smithsonian museum (#81 on my 101 in 1001 list). I love all the museums, partly because they’re free, and partly because I’ve grown up visiting them, and partly because I am 74.8% absolute nerd. So we went, by metro, and I realized how much I missed the metro after years and years of not riding it and how much I love DC and all of it’s bigness and littleness and oldness.

We picked the National Museum of American History to visit because it’s wasn’t the Air and Space Museum or the Museum of Natural History (both of which we’ve been too several bazillion times) and because it was easy to get to and because we passed it on the way in and both decided, on the spot, that it was the place to go.

After hopping back on the metro to swing by our hotel to rest our tired toes and relax a bit, we headed back out for some hockey.  Andrew, being from Detroit and generally a damn Yankee all around, loves hockey and, back in the time before my fair city lost all of it’s minor league sports teams in one year, we used to go to hockey games several times a month and way back when, in the before times, I learned that hockey is awesome because you can totally get away with yelling obscenities, jumping up and down, drinking beer, eating junk food and trash talking the opposing team and so, I LOVE hockey.  Plus, there’s the added perk of occasional on-the-ice violence and really, what could be better than violence, trash-talking, beers and yelling when you’re stressed out? That’s right. Absolutely nothing.

I, being a huge failure, took precisely no photos while at the game and thus have no proof of anything that happened there.  Basically, we were happy because HOCKEY! YAY! and even though the Redwings lost to the Capitals, we could really care less because we’re Caps fans when the Redwings aren’t in town.  Also, Andrew, being some sort of traitor, bought a Caps shirt and put it on after the game.  I did take a picture of that, but only because he handed me his blackberry and said I had to.

After the game, we packed ourselves onto the metro and headed to Dupont so I could meet up with a friend I haven’t seen since before I deployed to Kosovo, which, for any of you who lost count, was a very long time ago indeed. Like 3 1/2 years ago or something ridiculous like that.

As I suspected, we are still best friends.  Just best friends who lost touch for way too long but who continue to love and know each other.  Changes be damned, we’re still mostly the same people we were before, at least in regards to what we care about and what we stand for and really, what the hell else matters?

If I’ve to be honest, which I should be, I’ve been hardcore craving time with old friends of the female nature because, as great as my guy friends are, and as much as I love the lady friends I’m slowly but surely making in Richmond, it’s nice to sit down with someone who knew me when I was 17, cried a lot, dated horrible boys and wrote angsty poetry and doesn’t hold it against me (much). Also, friends like this one come around once in a lifetime and I’ll be damned if I’m willing to let that slip away.

For anyone counting, this is Best Friend of Yesteryear Reunion #2 since August (here’s the other one).  YAY!

The little beach weekend that could

13 Oct

Two things I’m thankful for: The occasional four day weekend & the beach. Seriously. I’d loose my mind without both.

Friday.

  • Cleaned the house before leaving because I am neurotic like that and have found that coming home to a clean house makes me happy. Headed east, toward the ocean.  Stopped at the outlet mall in Williamsburg. Bought the most perfect sweater for 40% off at J. Crew and a shirt for $6 at Charlotte Russe that says “I’m busy…read my blog.” Finally made it to the beach house after lots of stupid, totally pointless traffic. Walked down to the beach to wait for the Annoying Couple, half of which lives in my house. Went back to house, hit the Food Lion for breakfast things and beer, went to dinner at the Black Pelican. Was the only one who didn’t eat seafood because, um, IT’S DISGUSTING. Went back to the house and back down to the beach in the dark. Officially star-gazed.  Thought we saw a ship on the horizon. Then we thought we saw a ship on fire on the horizon. Then we realized it was the moon, rising. We all felt like idiots, but idiots with a good view. Drank some wine. Pushed two twin beds together and passed the eff out.

Saturday.

  • Up to drink coffee. One half of Annoying Couple made breakfast – pancakes & eggs & sausage & orange slices. We headed to the beach to catch some sun and stayed until the sky threatened to fall on us. Headed back to the house, drank some wine, waited for the rain. Went to the grocery store with the men. Got stuff for dinner. Came back to the beach house, snacked, went back out to the beach only to discover it was cold and windy and not at all nice like it was before. Walked back to the house to study for my Monday Midterm and drink wine. Made dinner on the grill with the help of the men. Ate dinner. Drank & played Taboo. Drank some more & played Pictionary for 5 minutes until one half of the Annoying Couple had a hissy fit and said he didn’t want to play anymore and that he hates everyone. Pulled out a tub of wigs and costumes instead and played dress up. Took embarrassing photos of each other. Went to sleep, totally spent, and very happy.

Sunday.

  • Up late. Breakfast of giant pancakes and coffee. Watched half the house pack up & leave. Debated staying. Felt guilty about thinking about staying because of Monday Midterm. Threw caution into the wind and decided to stay because a house with four people in it is a much calmer house than a house with eight people in it. Studied. Went to see Zombieland. LOVED IT. Went to Food Lion to get dinner supplies. Studied some more while everyone watch the Travel Channel. Made my famous spaghetti with veggie sauce & garlic bread. Felt competent. Played a four hour game of Monopoly while drinking wine. Finally felt like I was on vacation. Slept, soundly.

Monday.

  • Woke up entirely too early. Packed our stuff up and hit the road. Ate Sonic for breakfast. Made decent time home and studied/browsed the internet until class time. Went to class. Took Midterm, came home & cooked Cheesy Shells & Broccoli. Watched TV, read my book & passed out.

Columbus might have been an asshole, but I least I got a long weekend out of it.

Lovin’ me some San Francsico: Days 3 + 4

10 Sep

Day 3: Mr. & Mrs. Hikes-A-Lot, Wine Drunk, & the Castro

DAY 3If I could use just one word to describe our third day in San Francisco, I would use the word “hike.” Because we did. All across San Francisco. Because we’re crazy, and hate our feet. I know that path right there doesn’t look too long, but it was all up hill. Because that’s what San Francisco is. UP HILL.

We left our hotel (that’s where the blue thing is) and headed south to check out Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world.  It was an up-hill hike, of course, but so, so worth it because every time we turned around and looked down, the views of San Francisco and the bay just got better and better.  I took so many pictures on the way up that by the time we got three blocks, Andrew was ready to kill me because I kept making him stop.

We momentarily contemplated walking all the way down to Union Square but then a trolley showed up and we were all “Oh neat – a trolley!” and since it wasn’t too too packed, we pitched the idea of walking.

I highly recommend taking a trolley ride through San Francisco while standing up, clinging to those leather strap hand hold things for dear life. It’s fun, scary and worth the $5. DO IT!

Seriously. Trolley rides are SO FUN and I’m still trying to figure out how I didn’t topple over onto the lap of the very nice British couple sitting next to the bar I was clinging to. But lo – it was fun, and in true tourist fashion I took pictures like crazy because OMG! TROLLEY! CALIFORNIA! SQUEE!

After the trolley, we walked down Market Street marveling at the shops and I kept saying over and over how big everything was, even though I’ve been to places like NYC and Munich and Houston and Philadelphia and have not, as my words might have implied to passerby, spent my whole life living in a box far, far away from the city.

I did notice that cop cars in San Francisco suck. I mean, maybe they were hiding the nice ones or something because the ones I saw were super crappy. I had assumed that a city so expensive and fabulous would have money to throw at their police force so they could look super cool. But no. Richmond, Virginia has better copcars.

After we had thoroughly window shopped along Market St. and Union Square, we went up to Chinatown. I had been told that walking into Chinatown felt like walking into a different world and it absolutely was. It was fun, and beautiful and I couldn’t stop staring at all the beautiful colors and street decorations.

Seeing as we made it to Chinatown around lunchtime, and were starving, we popped into a slightly promising looking restaurant and ate outside on the balcony. I then discovered that I LOVE green tea ice cream.

Day 3-fty

After lunch we debated where to go and what to do, and ultimately decided to head up to Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower to get a better view of the city. As if we hadn’t climbed enough hills that day. We’re gluttons for punishment, I tell you.

On the way up to Coit Tower, Andrew almost got in a fight with a super scary lesbian. I’m not quite sure what he did to offend her (it might have been the penis), but when he walked by, she puffed herself up and gave him the evil eye.  I thought for sure I was going to have to defend his honor or something but she just glared at him as we walked up the hill.  I was so freaked out by her evil eye that I kept turning around to make sure she wasn’t flying up the hill on lesbian roller skates with a baseball bat to kill us both.

By the time we made it up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower we were glad to be alive and totally awed by the view. San Francisco is just so damn beautiful. From every. single. angle.

Coming down from Coit Tower we got lost. Each street we tried to turn down turned into a dead end. Thank goodness for my Crackberry. It saved the day with its wonder-twin powers of Google Maps. And lucky for us, the accidental walk back to the hotel resulted in us passing through North Beach. North Beach is where the very, very yummy food is – especially the very, very, very, very yummy Italian food.

We made it back to the hotel with just enough time to take off our shoes and complain about how bad our feet hurt for 30 minutes. Then it was time for free wine again at the hotel and then we walked BACK to North Beach for dinner.  We simply had to. It had smelled so good. Everyone we asked about San Francisco told us we HAD to go there to get some Italian food. So we did. And it was one of the best decisions we made.

San from theinbetweenismine.com had recommended a few places to eat in North Beach, but by the time we were walking through looking for a place to eat, I had totally forgotten about them. We choose this little place that didn’t look too pretentious but that promised homemade gnocchi. We sat down, ordered some bruschetta and I remembered – shit! – San had recommended places to eat in North Beach! Dammit! She was nice enough to offer up suggestions and I’d totally forgotten to check them once in the city! I grabbed my phone, opened her email and found this:

There are a few good Italian restaurants, I recommend:

Trattoria Volare Caffee
561 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133-2801
(near Washington Square)

I looked down at our menu, and at the window we were sitting beside and lo and behold – that’s the place we were at! Que freak out about how the universe is wonderful and neat and what a freakin’ coincidence and YAY! now I can say I went to the place she recommended!

The food OH MY GOODNESS – SO good. It’s owned by an adorable Sicilian man who talked to all his Italian patrons in Italian and who obviously takes enormous pride in his restaurant. We ordered a bottle of wine and some of the best food I’ve had in my entire life. It was so low-key. So mellow. We weren’t rushed through our meal. We were left to enjoy our food. And it was the best. THE BEST.

After dinner we went back to the little wine bar place we’d visited the night before. We ordered a glass of wine and chatted with the people who worked there. Andrew asked if we could be friends with them on Facebook. They said yes. We asked what they were getting into that night and they informed us they were going to the Castro for a friend’s birthday (we had absolutely no idea what the Castro was at this point and just assumed it was a bar or something). We asked if we could tag along. They said yes. (!!!)

So we left the wine bar, hopped in the car with these relative strangers and rode to the Haight to drop off the car. Then we hopped on a bus and went to the Castro. Which is when we realized that the Castro is the gay part of San Francisco. (More !!!) So we went to two different bars (and saw no less than 3 totally naked men standing on the street) and danced and laughed and drank and I realized then that I had never even been to a gay bar before and that, holy crap! my first gay bar experience was in SAN FRANCISCO, because I am awesome like that and sometimes things just turn out so freakin’ well.

As the bars starting closing, we spilled out onto the street. There were these adorable gay boys there and they had just been to a wedding out in Sonoma and were still dressed to the nines. We chatted with them and I fell in love with them because they kept telling me I’m fabulous and then I introduced them to Andrew, who they loved as well but who they were mad at because of that whole he’s straight thing and so there we stood, in the middle of the Castro in San Francisco with our new wine friends and some funny gay boys who couldn’t stop telling us how fabulous we were and how more men should be like Andrew. It was one of the best adventures I’ve ever been on. Ever.

We hailed a cab at 3 AM (that’d be 6 AM Virginia time…) and made it back to the hotel at 3:25 AM. We had to be buzzed in to the hotel and the guy at the front desk looked at us with a disapproving glare. I felt like I was 16 again. It was perfect.

Day 3 - later

Day 4: HUNG OVER & don’t rock the boat

I’m 25. Andrew is very close to turning 29. We should have known better. We should have known that if we drank a bottle of wine with dinner, and then if we went to a wine bar and drank more wine, and then if we went to the Castro and drank beers we would feel like shit the next day. And we did.

Before the Castro adventure we loosely planned on riding the bus over to the Golden Gate Bridge. But then we woke up. And couldn’t move. Seriously. It was the WORST hangover of my life. I’m all about things in moderation and apparently I forgot about that while living it up San Francisco style with the gays. Oops.

So instead of going on an adventure we went to brunch. Where I had toast. And then we went to check out a whole bunch of old boats at the Hyde St. Pier because we’re suckers for old stuff. But that was stupid. Because when you’re hungover and nauseous it’s best not to get on a boat that’s quietly swaying in the water. Because it will make you feel worse. A lot worse. Apparently, we’re not nearly as smart as we thought we were, and we obviously CANNOT party like we’re 21 anymore either.

Lesson learned.

We didn’t really accomplish much on Day 4, and that’s okay. The crowds started to get bad  and I was really, really content just to sit outside at a restaurant and people watch. There are some crazy people in San Francisco (the BUSHMAN!) and we were able to partake in some first class people watching.

San Francisco SEP 092

Since our flight left San Francisco at 10:36 PM we headed to the airport, via cab a bit early. The cab ride was wonderful, amazingly, and we spent our last few hours in San Francisco wandering around the airport talking about how it was the best vacation we’ve ever taken. And we vowed to do it more often. We go on vacation fairly regularly but we always seem to go with friends and while that’s fun and all, it’s better when it’s just us. Just the two of us doing whatever we want to do, getting to know each other all over again and experiencing things together for the first time. That’s what this time in our lives should be all about – living life to the fullest and taking as many adventures as possible.

We made it home by noon on Monday and spent the day curled up on the couch watching Big Brother. It was the perfect end to a perfect long weekend.

I love you, San Francisco!

Much Loved, Super Fun-tastic San Francisco Trip: Days 1 + 2

8 Sep

Day 1: Getting there, getting around & getting some sleep

Our flight out of Richmond took off at 6:36 AM. We made it to the airport and through security with time to spare and somehow we made it all the way to the other side of the country without a single delay. We touched down a little bit early even and had our luggage in hand by 11:45 AM.

We momentarily contemplated using San Francisco’s extensive public transit system to get us to our hotel but decided, because we were tired and had a 50 lb suitcase, to take a cab instead. The cab ride to the hotel was terrifying. We almost died approximately 18 times. Seriously.

We made it though. Amazingly. We stayed at the Argonaut Hotel in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco. It was the best, most fabulous hotel I have ever stayed at in my entire life. And, because they were awesome, they let us check in three hours early.

Day 1 - Hotel

Considering it was nearing dinner time at home in Virginia, and because it was actually after lunch time by the time we took our bags up to our rooms and marveled at the views, we figured food would be a good thing. So we went to Lou’s, a restaurant featuring live music every single night that just happens to be up the road a tiny bit and across the street from our hotel. Andrew ordered, for the first of several times, clam chowder in a bread bowl, while I, being of the non-fish-eating persuasion, got a Cajun Caesar Salad that was absolutely to die for.

We intentionally planned very little before embarking on our San Francisco adventure. We asked for suggestions on what to do, what to see, and where to eat from friends and the internets* but ultimately we knew we wanted to have an adventure and not spend our days in San Francisco restricted to a schedule. Somehow the planner in me remained calm throughout most of this, though I think I calmed my nerves by telling myself I had planned on not planning.

After lunch, we just started walking. We didn’t know where we were going but we wanted to explore our surroundings and get a basic idea of what was near us. Below is the approximate path we took.  Andrew and I couldn’t figure out the exact path, but this is pretty damn close:

Walk Day 1

We basically just headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked to the water and I took about 16 pictures of seagulls and dipped my feet in the (very cold) water. And then we walked to Fort Mason and took pictures of palm trees and flowers and each other. It was amazing and breathtaking and the whole time I couldn’t believe I was actually in California.

We hit up Ghiradelli Square briefly and wandered around a bit more before heading back to the hotel for the complimentary wine hour. We’re not ones to refuse booze, especially when it’s free.  We ate dinner at a little Irish Pub around the corner from our hotel where a very sweet dog named “Monty” came over and let me pet him. It made me miss Sadie. There were dogs EVERYWHERE we turned and everytime we saw one it made me miss her even more. She might be wretched sometimes, but I love her anyway.

I’d love to say we stayed up late and had some nighttime adventures, but we didn’t. We were exhausted from the flight and the walking and the eating and the sun and the fact that – HOLY CRAP – we were in San Francisco so we went back to our hotel at something like 8:30 PM California time and passed the eff out.

Day 1 - adventures

Day 2: Alcatraz, chocolate deliciousness, Pier 39 & a some wine

The one thing we planned while on vacation to San Francisco, was a trip to Alcatraz. The internet told us to either take the tour at night, or to take the early bird tour to beat the crowds. We really wanted to take the night tour but, by the time we got around to purchasing tickets, the night tour was sold out. So we opted for the 9 AM trip, which sounds sort of early, but we were still very much on Virginia time and actually woke up WELL BEFORE our alarm and were awake, off and on, from about 4:30 AM on. Plus, taking the morning trip meant we could take as much time as we needed to explore the Rock.

Alcatraz was absolutely AMAZING. I highly recommend it, especially if you like history or creepy places or great views of San Francisco.  Seriously, we spent about three hours on the Rock walking around, taking the self-guided audio tour and taking approximately 300 photos. It was awesome and the next time I find myself in San Francisco I will, without a doubt, go back. I’m glad we took the morning tour and beat the crowds and I’m even more glad we could stay as long as we wanted.

San Francisco SEP 09

After we left prison we walked up the Embarcadero to Pier 39 for lunch and some sea lion watching. From the table at our restaurant I could see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, wild sea lions and a slew of boats. It was incredible, amazing, breathtaking and totally surreal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many super-iconic things from one vantage point before.

After lunch we went to stare at the sea lions for a while. They were hilarious and we seriously contemplated sitting and watching them for the entire day. Had they not smelled so bad we probably would have but there was a chocolate shop close by and it was calling my name and the smell of chocolate after the stench of sea lions was perfection so we bought some fudge and browsed the crazy tourist shops on Pier 39 and went to the Aquarium of the Bay to see sharks and anchovies and turtles and chinchillas and bees. They even let us touch a leopard shark. And a sting-ray. And a bat-ray. Super cool. After we had exhausted everything neat at Pier 39, we walked up the street to the USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine because we’re dorks who like things like that. We met some super friendly nerds there and spent approximately 30 minutes talking to them about random history tid bits. Everyone in San Francisco is SO NICE! I thought I knew about Southern hospitality, but over there it’s just a whole different sort of nice. I love it!

We ate dinner close to the hotel again and then, on a whim, checked out this cute little wine bar next to our hotel. We walked in just as they were closing but the girl behind the counter told us we could still have some wine and maybe, just maybe, we could help her finish some of the remaining bottles. So we stayed, and had a glass of wine and sat at the bar talking to this girl until her manager got there 45 minutes later and then we stayed a while longer just talking and helping them finish drink mostly empty bottles of wine. It was awesome. We felt so special because they let us stay after closing time and gave us little sips of really good wine and it was just awesome. We felt loved, to say the least.

We passed out after sharing a little bottle of wine from the mini bar at the hotel and were proud to have made it all the way until almost 11 PM California time.

San Francisco SEP 091

Recap for Days 3 + 4 tomorrow!

* THANK YOU, thank you, THANK YOU to both anOCgirl and San for your fabulous suggestions! You have no idea how much I appreciate it and how many times I told my husband how excited I was that you both offered so much help!