Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cuba

One month ago I was alone on a coach from Trinidad to Havana. The woman to my right was using a compact mirror to pluck her eyebrows. I have this issue with hair once it becomes detached from the body. The thought of it makes me gag, in fact I am gagging right now just thinking about it, particularly the image of long strands curling up in the back of my throat - having been chaperoned there by a food vehicle - or the sticky root of a stranger's short hair attaching to something close to me. This was a six and a half hour ride so I vowed to keep my cool and instead focus on something else, ANYTHING else, for instance the clock that was perpetually stuck counting the seconds of minute 22:00. 


Six hours into the journey, my neighbor had fully groomed herself with deodorant, makeup, and of course a new set of manicured eyebrows! I had watched the broken clock oscillate from 22:00 to 22:59 roughly three hundred and sixty times, when she very suddenly shrieked, stood up, and started to wipe herself down the way one does before getting out of the shower (you do that too, right?). Her hair and clothes were soaked and her fresh mascara smudged, meanwhile I was perfectly dry. I was slightly dozy so it took a moment to understand that the air conditioning supply had cracked, drenching her with fluid from the vent above. I suppose I do believe in the spiritual principle of cause and effect, but as a tendency don't see karma as something that operates incidentally and with immediate turnaround. Never would I wish ill on anyone, but I couldn't help my slightly sinister smile as I offered up the full supply of my kleenex.

If you've been to Cuba or you're planning a trip, perhaps you have learned that the mainstay of accommodation is the Casa Particular. It's a homestay/b&b most often with a private room and bathroom that will cost you $25-30/night. Hotels, conversely, are extremely expensive, outdated, and frankly, really fu*king sad. I stayed in one in Cienfuegos that had a stainless steel steam table pan filled with a heaping pile of potato chips as a main course at both the dinner and breakfast buffet. When Morgan went to ask for a mojito, they told him they didn't have any. Now, I'm not the kind of person to indulge in a poor-customer-service fueled rage scene, but this is an "all-inclusive hotel" in flipping CUBA and there are no mojitos! ZERO mojitos. Like, NONE. So he asked for a bottle of water. NOPE. None of those either. Then a roach landed on Morgan's dad in the shower. Then liquid from an unknown source landed on my stash of Cohibas, rendering them untokeable. The sliding door to my hotel room didn't lock nor close which i wouldn't have really cared about had the hotel not taken on the Wes Anderson meets serial killer vibe. Oh, and don't even think about using the internet- the dial up hotel computer I used to try to email my mum abruptly shut down (like screen went black) after I searched "google.com" and apparently "violated the terms of agreement". 

Havana is pretty cool, boasting a range of architectural milieu unique to each neighborhood. Old Havana is beautifully maintained and charming. Vedado has a vibe I can't quite describe. There are pristine streets and others quite rough, though the only time I ever felt unsafe was walking past a nail salon on Simón Bolivar at the same time the aesthetician was dumping out the tub of dirty foot water into the street (as one does) that splashed all up my bare legs, front, and face. Microbiological disaster. 

Public busses bump reggaeton and are often packed to the maximum with live human body parts dangling out the door and windows. People salsa dance in the street. Food is not the country's highlight, though unlike every other travel experience of my life, I didn't puke once! Infrastructure is behind but Cuba is socially progressive- Mariela Castro herself leads gay rights parades, and sex change surgeries are paid for by the state. Mojitos don't actually get old and neither does live music. If you don't smoke cigars, now is a good time to start. People are friendly, sociable, and educated.  Air is smoggy. Planes to take you home don't necessarily show up. Do you mind? Not too much. 


National Capitol Building from Paseo de Marti, Havana

Paseo de Marti, Havana

Paseo de Marti, Havana
Plaza de la Revolución, Havana

La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana

around the corner from Romeo y Julieta cigar factory, Havana

shoes and socks and music of Trinidad

Trinidad


Tobacco farm, Pinar del Rio

Viñales Valley

"which way's the beach?" Cayo Jutías

Coconuts of Cayo Jutías

Trinidad; photograph by Morgan Moller

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

piñata

You know shit has really hit the fan when "figure out my life" becomes a point on your To-Do List. 

I don't know what kind of celestial tectonic drama was happening up there for a while, but whatever it was resulted in my acquisition of some heavy goods that I've heard commonly referred to as "baggage". Now I've got a collection of big bags, little bags, medium bags, shoulder bags, roller bags, saddle bags, undereye bags. All the bags! The bags are mine. Give me all the bags. 

Not only was there massive life changing/defining/ending upheaval, but I also couldn't catch a break on the daily. 

For months I was reminded every morning of the Bridget Jones I had become courtesy of the taped self-affirmation above my mirror. Yes I did that. I was so desperate for restoration of my psychological health that I was willing to try anything up to and including positive self talk, scripted and robotically read in the presence of but only my own reflection; the dire scene was one I could only experience as if from the third party perspective, making me feel invariably far worse than neutral, much less better. 

There was a day in the lab I found myself on my hands and knees burdened by the scent of excrement while investigating the dust-mite ridden underbelly of the -20C freezers in search of hundreds of runaway fecal samples after my colleague dropped a box of vials filled with human waste on the floor.

I got busted for not swiping my unlimited transportation card (that I PAID for!!!) on the bus in Milan, thus forced to pay a fine meanwhile suffering the unbearable public humiliation that is being socially demonized in the most boring way possible. 

In trying to wax my mustache I took the skin off my upper lip at least three or four times (every time). 

In an emergency bathroom situation I wedged my way through the crowd at the Heathrow Airport to access the single disabled-persons toilet. In my haste I mistook the big red button for the flusher and set off the gnarliest alarm that alerted the entire immigration area that I was a moron. I ran away before sorting out how to actually flush it.

It continued like this and I came to view myself as the personification of the piñata; after being beaten over and over again by a figurative overly young and enthusiastic ephemeral orchestrator of life who I swore had gotten the wrong girl, I finally exploded. But in doing so I realized I was far from empty inside, rather filled with all kinds of cheap candy that everyone hates to admit they secretly like. 

So I peeled the self affirmation off my mirror. I converted all that vial-laden poop into my medical school thesis. I yielded to my neglected creative spirit and gave birth to song lyrics then watched them come to life. Then I went to Cuba. And now I'm back and inspired, with even more cheap candy for all, if you'd only stay posted. 





Wednesday, January 20, 2016

riding dirty

I recall riding the train to Milan this summer and passing out in the late afternoon heat. I awoke muzzy and marinated in sweat to a deserted carriage stopped at God knows which station in Italy. I scurried to the sliding doors to stick my neck out and look for a sign, at which point the doors suddenly slammed, clamping me on either side of my temporal lobe in a scene that could have only reminded passersby of Jack Nicholson on the cover of The Shining. The doors may be lined in rubber, but as they close they accelerate the way an enthusiastic member of a high school marching band plays the cymbals- easily enough g-force to render me decidedly more disoriented than before. I remained locked in place long enough to understand that I was at the correct stop -Milano Centrale- then slithered my head out from between the doors using my very own jaws of life (residual latissimus dorsi from previous years as a rower) and made the ten minute shuffle home alone. When I got to my apartment and looked in the mirror I realized that I had addressed the public with either side of my head/hair and face covered in black door grease, but I did not care. 

When people ask me how I'm doing these days, I think back to this moment - some mix of finding myself alone and panicky on an empty carriage, and then unexpectedly blasted by figurative doors inciting me to wake the feck up and get off the train. I am aware that I physically appear as if I've been through the wringer, though don't yet care enough or have the energy to even put myself in the shower to attempt to wash the grease out of my hair.


I went back to California for the holidays with some sort of optimism thinking that my luck would begin to change as soon as I got to the airport with an upgrade to business class. WRONG. Instead, I was one of the last to check in and as a consequence placed in the back of the plane by the toilets and behind a fearful looking man who turned around immediately to ask me "do you know where this plane going?". I missed my connection in London, was rerouted through Phoenix, then placed behind two screaming infants for the eleven hour flight. When I finally arrived in San Diego my bag had obviously gone missing, so I spent the first three days in California wearing my mother's underwear (no offense mom). 

I wonder now if in a human's effort to recover from deep suffering he has to first skim the bottom before resurfacing. I cried everyday for five weeks, often spontaneously even while out at a meal with friends. My diet largely consisted of xanax, cigarettes, and an occasional vitamin for good measure. Actually it's not as though I were completely out of the woods yet, most of the hell I went through is probably still too recent to be funny or cute to anyone but perhaps myself. 

BUT NOT ALL OF IT!

The spirit at home was kind of morose, and from my mother's perspective augmented by the fact that one of the trees in our backyard had fallen into the swimming pool. She still seethes from the massive amount of money she spent years ago to have the backyard re-landscaped to a subpar standard, so the tree in the pool was really the icing on the holiday ham. We didn't have a Christmas tree in the house because again, the mood was too somber, so I made a point to wrap the rotten rooted pool tree up in bows and turn it into our unconventional symbol of the fête. Don't ask me why I'm not wearing pants.



Mom and I also did a Christmas Day hike in which you can see me in my gorgeous holiday sweater and mom in her most trusty accessory - the visor.


 (In case you didn't get the pop culture reference...)



I also got to steal plenty of kisses from a younger man I just met:


Ok I wouldn't say I'm really a "kid person" but I have to indulge for sec because this one made me change my mind. He belongs to one of my best friends Elyse and her husband Vince. Out of the womb he looked like he was already 97. He is impressively well behaved and good natured. Never cries or complains, just sits there observing, making funny faces, laughing, and generally allowing himself to be entertained. I want to keep him as my own. Here he is throwing up a "westside" like the little gangster he is (his motor skills are not yet fully developed but his intention is clear): 


And here he is touching my chest and sinking into a deep trance: 


Then I got to be spoiled by the company of another one of my closest friends Megan. She's normally hovering around Princeton but the US women's national rowing team was conveniently training at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego long enough for her to take a break for us to share an oyster dinner, cocktail, and a grainy selfie. 


The day after I hopped up to San Francisco to spend NYE with Marah and Milla and all of our new Burning Man inspired friends, as well as pay a visit to the beloved Godfather at V O L T A (which easily made its way into the top three meals of my life, but we have no photos because we were all too beguiled to think about taking the phone out for a pic). 





Upon my return to San Diego after the turn of the new year, i found that i had received an unexpected delivery from a friend- a box of organic California-grown fruits with a note cheersing to "more fruit in 2016"- a playful jab at the fact that my former flame would famously gag at the taste or texture of any fruit. 




So here's to a tutti frutti 2016, ya'll. 


on moving on



it's electrifying how the source and direction of light can bend the cortices
    what seems in front is actually behind, 
         what appears to float is actually suspended, 
                 and while the reflection of oneself has vanished from his own perspective- 

                          the stranger behind two panes of glass can see you perfectly.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

our last holiday card

My attention span is generally too short for even a television to capture, but i happened to see one episode one time in which Kevin Spacey outfitted as a politician said he loved his wife "more than sharks love blood", and with a mouth full of peanut butter/banana/honey on soft white, I pointed enthusiastically at the telly and shouted "EXACTLY Francis", then i flexed my biceps because i enjoy the human connection. 


Little about mine and Giulio's relationship was conventional, and the same applies to our breakup. Though I am not yet equipped to speak about it freely, I will just say that in my best state I fall to my knees with gratitude for the five heavenly years we spent together, and at the worst I wonder if i will ever pass another moment when the light of day itself does not remind me of him. 


When I was ten I was an avid little figure skater. I was quite sweet and not yet corrupt, although still remember my internal condemnation of those who, thinking they were clever or original, would tell me that "at least when you fall the ice is already there". I never experienced heartbreak until now, actually I had come to accept it as a common life experience that I would have gone without. But now that my organs have been scattered across Italian soil, I acknowledge the convenience of it happening while I am already home to THE destination where the broken hearted retreat to soul search and reclaim what is theirs. I fell and the ice was indeed, already on my ass.


I have never felt community the way I have of late. It's an experience in itself observing how one human approaches another he sees suffering; people come out of nowhere to offer a hug, or a compassionate glance, or a bottle of wine. Even the unsolicited bad advice I have received has been cathartic, probably because it's so bad that it's actually good. Or at least funny. You know, there is always humor lurking in even the darkest of corners. Last week my lovely middle aged male Sri Lankan house cleaner asked me "where is doctor?" and I could not tell a lie:


"He is staying with a colleague. He left me."


-stares blankly- then:


"NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO"



Over the preceding days I had become used to this reaction, so I knew to just stand there in silence until he rode out the wave of disbelief. Then the advice:



"I think he found someone better than you, someone more rich, more money. You were very foolish, you know why? Because you lived with him for this long and you didn't marry him sooner. Now you have to go out there and find someone better than him, but this time don't be foolish, you take the next man by the neck [extends arm with clenched fist] and you marry him before he leaves you." 


-sighs-


"I just can't believe this."

-long pause-
[shakes head]


"Don't his parents like you?"


"yes they do"


[angry tone] "THEN WHY CAN'T THEY FORCE HIM TO MARRY YOU?"


[i laugh] "No, I don't want to be --" [cuts me off]


[shouting] "WHY not? WHY can't they? THEY CAN FORCE HIM TO MARRY YOU. THEY HAVE TO"


-long pause-
[shakes head]
[looks defeated]
[sighs]


"Did he at least get you a nice Christmas present?"

_________


Aside from filtering through sentiments, I have been looking to recovery by running the gamut of cliché breakup activities. I attempted to chop off all my hair, however the hairdresser intervened. Instead they wrapped me up in plastic like a sofa too good to exploit, after which I emerged blonde AF.






I have been alternating between provocative thoughts inspired by Thus Spoke Zarathustra and provocative thoughts inspired by the female anatomy in Orange is the New Black

I caulked the sink and shower- an activity I now affectionately refer to as CAULKBLOCKING. 







Then I made a galette, because until the day I made it I didn't know what a galette  even was. This one was with a flaky whole wheat crust, roasted pumpkin and sage, caramelized onions, chevre, and honey. 





I have been exploiting my girlfriends... 




...and been exploited by my girlfriends. 




The list goes on. But for now I will leave you with the ultimate in mine and Giulio's series of stanky holiday cards, captured at the world's largest salt flat this August in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.


Together we wish you a holiday season more sweet and less salty than ours,



Olivia & Giulio 




Wednesday, September 30, 2015

it's been a week

it's been a week since we last spoke. 

i guess you thought it was funny i couldn't sleep (because of some cruel combination of having eaten too much garlic and having put the winter duvet on prematurely). as i lay there hallucinating from intoxication by allium, I saw the email that The Uncondemned would be making its world premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October, and had won the 2015 Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film on Conflict and Resolution. 

i sent you a text to say congratulations and that i wanted to come:

'C O M E!!! Fly to JFK then "blade out" to the Hamptons'

'Does blade out mean rent a car at the airport and haul ass to the hamptons?' 

'Helicopter DUH'

'Oh right right. I should just take the g6 straight there, why bother with the chopper'

'I was going to say that first, but I really wanted to say "blade out"'

'Ok but really how does one get there? the more discrete people. rent a hyundai?'

'I think you should upgrade to the most affordable convertible.'

we chatted over text while you took a walk in central park. you made me laugh out loud while i passively reconciled my indigestion. then night fell over New York and we decided to continue the conversation over the phone the following day. you even put it in your calendar because you were totally reliable like that. we had a lot to catch up on. 

today it's been six days since you didn't call. 

i was not equipped to cope with the pain that is losing Nick Louvel. Nick was one of the most brilliant, kind, and funny people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was thoughtful and complex, but he also knew levity. He would make me burst out laughing in totally inappropriate moments. I was proud of his work and proud of who he was as a person, and proud to call him my friend. 

Nick and Michele's film The Uncondemned is a documentary about rape as an international war crime, and it was the centerpiece of Nick's life's work. They had just seen the project to completion and Nick was clearly proud of it, although he was more the type to try and downplay his talents. You can find details about how to support the film by accessing the Film At 11 website and signing up for the newsletter. For now upcoming screenings will be at the Hamptons Film Festival on October 9th and 11th, Skybar in West Hollywood on November 9th, and the Napa Valley Film Festival November 12-15.  


Lot's of love to Nick's family and friends and anyone who was fortunate enough to experience the joy that he will always be. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bolivia

I spent my 31st birthday in Bolivia this year and most have asked 'WHY?' Contrary to popular inquiry, the decision was not predicated on the uncanny truth that there exists a nation that rhymes with my name (?!?!?!), but rather a calculated reply to the excruciatingly boring event that is turning 31. In other words, boarding a flying tin can to a phantasmagorical territory was the only answer to avoiding a birthday highlight that would have otherwise manifested as me sitting on the sofa trying to reply to automated texts from my dentist and (piece of shit) gym reminding me to "have a happy birthday and stay fit". 


Bolivia is not an easy place. Nature is unforgiving when it's winter south of the equator and you're at 16,000 feet. It's dry and windy. My right nostril is still crusted shut. Accommodations compete for power outage tallies. Heating, light, and hot water are less afforded in the heart of the desert, and ain't nobody gonna give a single feck that it's -15C and your paresthesias have made their way to your upper lip. The hotel staff will (logically) explain that there are no logs on the fireplace because "it's too cold to chop wood".  And while you may fancy yourself an athlete, at this altitude even the most delicate of exertions as the consumption of a single Pringle potato chip will make you gasp for air like a cardiopathic patient on the stairmaster. Be prepared for your first-world passion of quinoa to be annihilated by the overconsumption of all things quinoa- quinoa soup, quinoa tea, quinoa burger, quinoa granola bar, quinoa chocolate. quinoa quinoa QUINOA. If your experience parallels mine you'll even get food poisoning (in the middle of the night during one of those power outages) and end up with twice-seen (if only you could) quinoa all over your fleece pants. You may also eat a llama or twenty. Your brain and genitals will continue to vibrate for weeks (possibly forever) after so many hours of riding around on unpaved roads. 


In exchange for your toughness, you will experience an extraordinary landscape minimally traversed and beautifully maintained. Erosions and colors that echo science fiction. Unbarricaded geysers of bubbling mud. Flamingos in a backdrop of snow. Green lagoons, pink lagoons. Giant, mythical cacti. A train cemetery. Mummies that have not yet been subject to archeological analysis. You are now in the home of the land that gave birth to over 200 varieties of potatoes, and makes the proud claim as being the only country with an island bordered by salt instead of water (I didn't have the heart).

You cannot dream up a more ethereal place or create a more fascinating history or imagine a President with a more provocative tongue [Evadas Cien Frases de Evo Morales para la historia]. You will drink a hundred coca teas for breakfast and if you're not into flan, chew the leaves for dessert. Your senses will awaken. And if it weren't for that diarrhoeic gift that keeps on giving, you will return home feeling like it was all too supernatural to have been anything but a dream. 

















Wednesday, June 3, 2015

vive la femme

french for long live the woman and a phrase that represents an occasion impacting enough on my life to have it tattooed across my wrists. 

the story starts roughly ten years after the Rwandan Genocide, in the back of a taxi cab in South Korea. I'm with my new friend Laine, an expert of seemingly all life's things- from how to find the best french croissant in all of Seoul, to Kim Jong Il's passion for Hennessy. but it was her narrative of rape used as a weapon of war during the genocide that left me most captivated. 

I'm not sure what compels people to be emotionally impacted by certain things and not others. but for me, this was and continues to be an issue that fascinates me, that I care deeply about, and that I wish more people were privy to. 

sometimes the world has a funny way of conspiring in our favor. 

Last summer I was out with friends Giulia and Meghan in West Hollywood when we met Nick. Early in our conversation we were discussing documentaries, and I mentioned that I wished someone would make a film about the south sudan conflict. As a matter of ridiculously stupid coincidence, he and his partner Michele had just returned from Africa where they had been doing exactly that. Nick is also a stupidly fun human and went to Harvard and all that kind of stuff. This month The Uncondemned will make its debut in Kigali. 



If you can take three minutes, watch their trailer, maybe you'll find it's something that becomes important to you too. And if you like it and feel like sparing a buck, consider a donation to their cause on kickstarter. They've got one more week of fundraising before the film's premiere mid month. Oh, and let me know if you do so I can purchase the equivalent for you in beers the next time our paths cross. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

twentytoo legit to quit

The topic of getting older is kind of a prosaic one, ain't it? I mean, this is something that fundamentally happens to humans and yet when it happens to us we act as if the discussion of slowed metabolisms, sore joints, fatigue, wrinkles, and dissatisfaction with our accomplishments to date were original ideas. Age lamentation is a discourse I hear in passing so often that I can say with confidence is not limited to people who actually are older than sin, but extends also to those too young to differentiate a dick from an elbow, as my aussie friend Sinead would say. I mean, I GET IT that you're turning 22 and that's the oldest you've ever been in your life and all, ya'll, but just try and like, CALM DOWN for a second. Actually, this conversation amongst friends and acquaintances is so pervasive that I have come to the conclusion that people LIKE to talk about how old and rickety they are. they LIKE to fantasize about the nostalgia of their youth, the "youth" of course always being subjective to the individual, but nevertheless a constant entity irrespective of age. You will always have a time when you were younger and when things were different. You will always have your past as a point of comparison. I guess the lack of being able to effectively see into and experience our very own urinary and fecal incontinent diaper-wearing, disease-riddled, saggy-bodied, demented future, precludes us from being able to say "I'm 31 on my next birthday and I'm sooo young it's almost weird to think that I have enough hair on my head to necessitate an entire hairbrush."

Not trynna be anarchical or anything, but I have actually enjoyed the process of getting older and find the whole thing to be quite amusing. Last week while taking a stroll, i reached into my purse to fish out my cell phone. The contents of my bag included: a sack of Haribo assorted licorice, a bottle of Ferrari Rosé, a pack of Xanax, bottle of ibuprofen, a bag of almonds, a wet nap, pen, leatherbound journal, a tampon, my raybans, and the Pocket Medicine Handbook of Internal Medicine. The ordered chaos that is the content of my purse is the physical manifestation of why packing on the life years is just so damn fun. 


Another thing, memory. I am experiencing some mild cognitive decline and I LOVE it. I don't remember stupid and irrelevant things or stupid and irrelevant people or things people said that were stupid and irrelevant. Things have to be really significant to make it into my cortex for longterm memory storage. The holes in the filter of what I remember are somehow inversely correlated to the holes that filter the nonsense that comes out of my mouth. The collateral damage is of course that I get easily sidetracked and have a tendency to forget important things like where I set down my cup of tea. The aging thing coupled with my ADD means that in my efforts to complete tasks, I accumulate new things to do, and then I forget the original task. This continues for anywhere between minutes to days. I have to make to-do lists of to-do lists. Last week I found my teacup of the day prior on the bathroom shelf above the bidet.


Which reminds me, I found a full bottle of that perfumey stuff that you dip wooden infuser sticks into and that fills the air up with a pleasant quality. I didn't have any bona fide infuser sticks so I took the last of my shish kebab sticks and dropped them in. 



(has anyone seen where I left my teacup?)

.....


...Nevermind. So the other great thing about getting older is that the older you get, from the perspective of your community, the more legitimate you are considered for NOT DOING ANYTHING, meanwhile the more promptly you are forgiven and even glorified for being illegitimate. For instance, if you're 97 and you die on the dancefloor in Ibiza because you sniffed too much cocaine at a foam party, you're forever a legend.  If you do the same thing at age 22 you're unlucky at best, and most likely just a moron. 

The other thing I like about getting older is having the capacity to find amusement in even the most banal of life offerings. When I was 22 I would do stuff like buy a spontaneous ticket to Nicaragua and then go sandboard down a blackrock volcano wearing a neon orange jumpsuit. And you know what? Just 'cuz I did that doesn't preclude me from still riding the high from having ordered two (two!) new tufted dining room chairs three days ago (in color anthracite!). I have also become more dynamic. I still love and will always love a good music festival, but am somehow equally intoxicated by the experience of making a loaf of homemade bread at 2:00am and eating it until I pass out by myself on the kitchen floor, which is exactly what I've gotta go do right now. 

So cheers to being over the age of twenty two and being too legit to quit.