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. 


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. 


Suzie Honeycutt said...

Oh Olivia you are so beautiful in how you express yourself!! I loved seeing you while in San Diego and pray that you have a very fullfilling year ahead! Happy New Year and Happy New YOU!! XO Suzie

Anonymous said...

Yes to therapeutic writing, organic fruit, and emergency underwear!


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Bernice Cunningham said...

It's funny how our attitude to kids can change depending on where they, and we, are, isn't it? They're fine if they're children you know, and you're meeting them in a stress-free context, but they're a nightmare if they're kids you don't know and they're yelling on the plane in front of you. I feel the same!

Bernice Cunningham @ Guardian Industries

claraaralc said...

Hi there,

I've been a long-time lurker that enjoys the hell out of your blog and your terrific writing style. My heart broke for you over your latest news, but I just wanted to say (in a totally, I hope, non-creepy way) that I think you're awesome and I'm sending you good vibes and thoughts.

Stay Kickass! :)

Liv said...

This just warms me up in so many ways, thanks for saying hello! X

Tony said...

Fun article! What a great metaphor you made out of the first story. Sometimes I feel the same, head stuck and everyone staring. Especially during a holiday trip to see the family! But you're right, things do seem to start out terrible and then turn around. Visiting the family works out to be fun in the end.

Tony @ ASP Dallas Pool Company