I'm sorry I haven't talked to you in over two weeks. Last night I looked at the pictures from our 1989 trip to the Grand Canyon that you sent and cracked up again. Why am I wearing an Egghead Software t-shirt and a red bandanna around my neck??? An Egghead Software t-shirt? I remember that when my dad bought me those horrendous seventeen-pound Army boots instead of the little lightweight Nike ones like you had you were so nice about it. You said, "Well, yeah, but mine will be shredded by the end of the trip!" And of course they weren't, and your feet stayed nice and sound while mine turned into raw hamburger, but I've always remembered you saying that, trying to make me feel better. I've thought of that so many times, that way with small kindnesses you've always had. Anyway, thanks again for those pictures, and the nail file. I had my wedding and engagement rings re-plated and cleaned yesterday so I gave myself a little manicure last night and can't stop looking at my hands. They actually look fancy and grown-up for once. Usually they look like I just finished my 12-hour shift at the fish cannery, but today they look very moisturized and neatly groomed.
I've been doing nothing but working lately, and, well, ack. I'm so behind. I've been finding it really difficult to write at home. And writing patterns is not the most fun kind of writing in the world, I will say that. For a slap-dasher like myself, technical writing feels like someone is poking me with straight pins. Poking me in the calf. I turn my computer on, get my coffee, sit up straight and try to write, and then start feeling very claustrophobic. I get out of my chair and unload the dishwasher. I get back in my chair and try to write. I get out of my chair and mess around with the dog. I get back in my chair and try to write, eyes wandering from the screen to the hammock. How did I get through school? Did I ever study? Do you remember me ever studying? Do I have a history of doing so, a history from which I might be able to access muscle memory at this time? It's pathetic how undisciplined I really am. So I've taken to spending most of my "work" time sussing out the best possible "office" for myself — a coffee shop that has 1) lots of PLUGS so that I'm likely to get one no matter what time I show up, 2) lots of space so that I don't feel conspicuous about taking up a table for six hours with only two well-rationed cappuccinos, 3) good music (the bagel shop I like kept playing the oldies station and I couldn't take it anymore), 4) free wi-fi, 5) decent snacks, and 6) interesting people to watch. It's harder to find a electrical outlet in this town than you might think. It turns out that when I find my "spot" I am able to sit and write for hours, which is shocking to me. I didn't think I could sit and do one thing for longer than forty-five minutes, tops. But it turns out, in the right environment, I can. Of course finding the right environment can take several hours worth of driving, parking, walking in, walking out, etc., etc., because oftentimes that perfect plug is not available at the exact moment that Her Highness requests it — someone else is often using my plug, since it is still a free country (for now). But I never stop believing that I will find the perfect spot, one that has my logistical requirements and still lets me feel like I am out and about, and part of the world. Portland has felt so small to me lately.
One of my friends invited me to come to France in 2009. It reminded me of how you were at my house the night before I flew on a plane for the first time, to Europe, no less, and you talked to me for a half-hour about every single thing that was going to happen, from the minute I got to O'Hare to the time the plane landed in Copenhagen. You had flown so many times you weren't scared at all. I've been thinking about going to France a lot, and wondering if this is something I'll be able to do. Last Sunday, Andy and I took the day off and went to St. Honore Boulangerie (you have to say "boulangerie," instead of "bakery," you're paying to say boulangerie). They have no plugs here, and seating is precious. That's how it should be here, though. Everything is just too good, and everyone wants it, so the place is packed and humming. Everyone thinks this is a good place, and it is, because if you get a seat on the weekend you almost feel embarrassed, like you couldn't possibly deserve it. In your seat, you become instantly urbane and untroubled, somehow: You have a seat. And a cappuccino. And a strawberry mille-feuilles. It all cost, you know, $9.75 — but isn't it wonderful? It is. We sat outside, under the canopy, as it rained. I could've stayed all day. I love cafe society. Later we went to see Paris, Je T'aime. Little seemingly disparate stories all wrapped up, for me at least, by the last one with Margo Martindale, as the American woman who visits Paris by herself. 14e arrondissement. Andy kept talking to me, about how good it was, especially that last one, and what it meant, and I could not speak, a huge sobbing yawp stuck in my throat, knowing that if I opened my mouth nothing but a primitive noise would come out. I was very moved by that last one. I didn't see it coming, somehow. But it was incredibly beautiful, and weirdly unexpected. You don't expect such beauty can come with a fanny pack, somehow, but you're wrong, and that's humbling, and cathartic. We clapped at the end and a few people shyly joined us in that. In some ways I haven't really stopped thinking about it, especially as I lurch around my own city, looking for a place to land, to love. My sister is moving so we've been thinking and talking about "place" a lot. Having written this just now I'm left with the feeling of just not wanting to think about it anymore, and just live. Who cares. It's all good. Another catharsis.
I hope you and Mae are doing well and that the plants you planted when you weren't feeling good are thriving. If you have a recipe for Thai coconut-chicken soup will you send it to me? Kiss Mae for me and send me some pictures of the apartment. I want to see it. Andy says to say hi and sends love, and joins me in my plea for you to visit, as always, no pressure, just sincere longing to see to you again, and to meet Mae. Though I do expect to at least train it out there, somewhere, sometime soon. Ish.