Sunday, January 25, 2015

These Lights

I opened my blog admin panel to find this draft:

Two people in the last week have taken one look at me and commented, "Man, you look TIRED." That's the cleaned-up version without the expletives, screaming caps emphasis the speakers', not mine...
I guess all those all-nighters were finally starting to show.

During that same time, fall was settling in, and then winter, nudged along by spells of cold rain. At the end of one particularly long day, I made a random turn to cut through a street in my neighborhood that I don't normally take and stumbled onto this:

Every tree on the block was lit up. I hadn't checked the forecast that morning and was jogging home eager to get my sopping wet shoes off my feet, but when I turned that corner and looked up, the twinkling tree boughs forming a pretty archway above the full length of the street, it was all so pretty, I stopped in my squeaking tracks to put down my borrowed umbrella and take a photo.

When I returned to the city, I had never felt so solidly right about where I was. I was exactly where I had to be. And wanted to be. Even on that wet street fussing with my camera phone. Even as exhaustion incessantly crept in, it felt right. 

I haven't skipped through this street recently, and in fact, don't actually remember which street it is, but if I have to, I'll walk up and down the gridline streets block by block until I find it again. I will do it because you can't beat twinkly lights against a night sky.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I wore a sweatshirt and sneakers today because I needed to be comfortable and yesterday's chill duped me into thinking that today would be equally nippy. And so there I was swathed in all my cotton glory when, lo, I fall off a chair and land on my bum in front of thirty people. A chorus of voices sprang up all around. "Oh, Julia! Are you ok?" Yes, good people, I am fine, thank you. My body just seems to have forgotten how to sit on a chair. Carry on. Reader, if there is an absolute truth about me, it is this: I move with the grace of an angel.

I've been avoiding coffee for nearly five months now, but tonight, I was struggling, so at 7:30 I dashed into a Starbucks. It must have been the sweatshirt, because the barista flirted like Julia was going out of style and appeared with not one, but two lattes. To quote the confident fellow, "it was for my doorman or boyfriend or whomever I wished." I laughed. I must have had a full decade on him.

So sweatshirts. I need a new one. This one is interfering with my coolness aura.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Get Me Some Cinnamon and Raisins

I woke up feeling refreshed today! This is a big deal because it's the first time I can say this in all of 2014. Today is July 29th.

It may have had something to do with the fact that I conked out for nearly ten hours after months of under-sleeping and poorly executed emergency catnaps, the moments immediately prior to these naps known as I-am-going-to-fall-over-if-I-don't-put-my-head-down-right-now-shiiiiiiiit episodes. It may also have helped that it was actually cold last night. Like, brrr, the hairs on my legs are standing. What is that all about (to be clear, not that there is hair on my legs, but that the hair is standing)?! When the glorious, chilly breezes flooded my room, I groped around for my blanket and gasped at how cool the sheets felt around me. If I hadn't been so preoccupied with the task of falling back asleep, I would have happy cried at the thought of the autumn ahead. (Damn, it's going to be good this year.)

While I'm in the process of filling you in on the dull happenings of my bedroom last night, allow me to ask: Has anyone suggested to Apple that they employ their technological prowess to automatically dim screen brightness at night? My eyes would thank them. It's bad enough to learn that you only have three more hours of shuteye. It only adds insult to injury when checking the time also shocks your eyes into temporary loss of sight.

Three hours later, I opened my front door to find a card. Angel had written back, with his opening line an apology for the card he was writing on. It was the only one he had, he wrote. I laughed, because the envelope had looked so funny that I couldn't help but think that it took a special kind of man to use stationery like this!

This is what I learned:

Angel is one of those rare beasts who do not like chocolate. (Chocolate chip was not the way to go. Mega fail, Juls. Like, big time.)

He was, however, very popular at his office when he showed up bearing cookies. (Well, that's something at least.)

The dude does enjoy his oatmeal raisin cookies, though. (Roger that!)

And thus my initial gesture of thanks failed, but the universe can suck it because failure is my middle name and I know how to deal with it. I've added cinnamon and raisins to my shopping list. Angel is going to get his cookies, dammit! I may not be able to ship boxes to out-of-state people whom I actually know, but I sure as heck can get things to a stranger whose front door is two feet from mine.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


This is the second batch of cookies produced in my apartment's mini oven. The first batch in early June was meant to be posted and shipped across state lines for two kids whose combined birthday party I missed. Unable to locate my roll of packing tape, I put off sealing the box. In a moment of weakness the next day, I opened the package and stress-ate five cookies. And since you can't send a container of cookies with five missing, that box and its remaining contents never left New York.

A month sped by and I began to assemble what has turned into an annual box of food stuffs for a friend's birthday. I still didn't have my act together, and so that box also didn't get sealed. And in yet another moment of weakness, when some people came over last minute that evening and I had nothing to offer, my eyes fell on my friend's package. The peanut butter cups were eagerly received by my visitors, but as you can probably guess, that box, too, never made its way out of my apartment.


I set aside time in my calendar to make things right today. When my body awoke this morning, it was humid and too July, if that makes any sense, to even think about venturing outside. And so here it is at 11 o'clock at night and those two boxes are still just sitting there, staring at me in the face, like, What are YOU looking at, CHUMP???

Self-improvement is just not my thing.

But! What I did manage today was using up the last of my vanilla for a half batch of cookies that are now hanging on my neighbor's door with a note of thanks. While we've only exchanged a few hellos in the hallway and on the street, he has the kindest of faces, and seems to be a gentle soul. That, or he's stoned all the time. Either way, I like him. He's older, maybe one of those lucky New Yorkers who've been living in their rent-controlled apartments for so long that I'd have a stroke if I knew what his rent was. He's a quiet and considerate neighbor. UPS and FedEx leave deliveries on the ground floor by the mailboxes. It's actually my neighbor who carries my packages up the stairs, leaving them neatly stacked by my door on the fifth floor. I don't know many people who would do that for strangers who just moved in, and one who received nearly a dozen packages in one week alone. Who does that these days? Do nice things for your neighbors? Yeah, right. But then, with his front door just two feet from mine, he came home one night and like a creepy voyeur - only I'm not! - I overheard the sweetest thing. His cat meowed at the click of his lock turning and the minute he opened the door, the two of them exchanged a full-blown feline-human conversation that was all rainbows and hugs. She meowed and meowed and meowed in response to everything he said. Hey, girl! Meow! How was your day? Meow! Are you hungry? Meow!

My neighbor's name is Angel. He has long hair that he wears down when he goes out. He probably ties it in a ponytail in the summer, but I haven't seen him since we were shaking off winter, so I can't say for sure. He often wears jeans and a worn black leather biker's jacket. He speaks softly and does things like deliver packages to his neighbor's door and chats up his cat at the end of his day. I can't help but think that he's one of those guys whose name suits him.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

July Nine

I've been working like a dog.

Where does this expression come from? Every dog I've ever met has a sweet life. She's fed gourmet foods, bathed, coiffed, doted on, and played with every day. It's a cushy life. Unless you're a herding farm dog, wouldn't "working like a dog" actually mean that you're not doing anything but being tended to by your human? English idioms, I do not get you.

We've just barely broken into July and the humid heat of the past few days has me questioning if it's worth living. I am truly weak sauce. It was a tad bit dryer today, which was helpful, but that didn't mean that I managed to cook anything. I nearly talked myself out of going to the market half a dozen times, so dismayed was I at the painfully fresh memory of sweat pouring down my face and neck every time I stepped foot outside the day before. But I pushed through and when I got back in, my idea of putting a meal together entailed tearing up a baguette to be slathered with pesto and a fistful of arugula on top. It's amazing how the heat draws out the lazy.

Monday, July 07, 2014

A Little Greenery

Can someone explain the mechanics of installing a hook in the ceiling from which to hang a potted plant? How does one tell where to safely install the hook? In particular, how can Julia be sure to avoid tearing a hole in her rental apartment's ceiling? She does not ever want to exchange text messages with her landlord about a ceiling damaged by her own hand. These are the times I need a Bob Villa in my life.

Beautiful, leafy, dreamy, hanging plant project on hold for reasons mentioned above, I've taken to the pretty little succulents that have been popping up everywhere. They're cute in their tiny-ness and look hearty enough to possibly survive my being their mom. So off I went to bring home a cute family of succulents. But every one I picked up, be it at a bodega, nursery, or Trader Joe's, a leaf would be broken or there'd be a funny-looking bruise like someone had accidentally squished the tip of it. Alas, I'd walk out of the store succulent-less, but usually with a pint of ice cream in hand. You know, because ice cream tastes good in times of sadness. And joy. It's an all-occasion food, really.

I know what you're thinking: It's a plant! It will heal itself! But truth be told, this kind of thing bothers me. It just does. I've become much less neurotic (I think the kinder word choice here might be particular, ahem) over the years, but every now and again, I pull one of these nutty numbers. 

And then my sister showed up with a ton of a heck of a lot of them, potted in fresh soil and all. I hope they stay alive. My track record with plants is kind of spotty, but I want to change that!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Here's What Happened

Well. I'm not sure how to best start this. Maybe I should begin with a summary of events:

Pigs flew, the sky fell, I put on ten pounds, and I did the impossible: I moved back to New York.

Is the first thought that comes to mind, Shut the front door? Yeah. I feel you.

It took a full year to call it quits and get on out of here. When I finally did, something weird happened. Early one evening I was crossing a bridge over a river on foot, icy wintry winds whipping my hair in every direction when I got a text message. Did I have a minute to talk? There is news. I removed my gloves, my frozen fingers taking a while to activate the touch screen on my phone. Sure, I tapped back. A call came through.

This happened, that happened, you moved away, this is where we are now... Would you consider moving back to New York to do this?

I think I laughed. Or maybe I was stunned into silence? Either way, the idea was absurd. I mean, I had just left. Everybody knew the circumstances of my move.

By the time I made it to the other side of the bridge, I was standing there with lead feet, face still frozen, but my hair finally protected from the river's frigid gusts as I took shelter by a brick building where I had once taken a micro econ class. Rush hour pedestrians gingerly and patiently stepped around the girl staring with disbelief at the phone in her hand. Ha, yeah, right, I thought.

Conversations took place. Long phone calls happened. Excited texts came through. Lengthy internal dialogues took up residence in my brain. I thought through every possible scenario of what-if-Is and what-if-I-don'ts. I had trouble sleeping. An opportunity had knocked. I very much wanted to find a way to open the door and walk across the threshold. I made a decision and did the unthinkable. I submitted my resignation. I found an apartment. I re-sealed my boxes. I scheduled movers. And I crossed back through the Lincoln Tunnel.

I settled in. I tossed a window a/c unit. It looked like it was from the 90s. I found a dozen wayward dog treats under the fridge. The previous tenants had had a puppy. I scrubbed the bathroom floor tiles with three different cleaning agents to no avail. Then I tried a pricey and especially toxic grout cleaner I found at Home Depot. It helped a little, but I still wish the grout fairy would make a visit one night and just re-do it. My neighbor's cigarette smoke is a daily nuisance, but I've slowly adjusted and am finally getting used to jumping up and closing my windows whenever necessary.

I worked on some things while I was away. I got to spend some time with people I don't normally spend time with. On my first day back, I felt pretty good. Even with the unknown, it felt right. The timing of the events that brought me to this point in my life leaves something to be desired, but the choices that drove these events are ones that I like to think were sometimes prudent, sometimes necessary, and sometimes both. In that same vein, right now, this is what I choose. I choose here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I'm awfully grateful for the soothing sound of rain pattering outside my window right now. It's my favorite sound in the whole wide world. I've heard it filtered through the din of the city for so long that I had nearly forgotten about my adoration for it. Soaking in the happy calm of this sound is the closest thing to peace I can manage right now. We are neither in the midst of WWII nor am I anywhere near England, but staying calm and carrying on is still the current order of business.

Soft, steady rain will carry me on.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tonight, This Feeling

10:21 was a fine time to be walking home tonight. I mean, it wasn't just fine. It was fiiiine, said with a long and pronounced Southern drawl or whatever you can muster up to fully appreciate the need for emphasis here. Golly, is it beautiful out there tonight.

I want to record this feeling that I'm experiencing right now and right here. I can't explain it, other than to say that there are thousands of poofy clouds scattered against the moon at this very moment, a moon whose light I'm convinced is keeping the neighborhood birds chatty at this hour. The sky and the moon and the birds aside, what is exceptionally beautiful, the thing that is doing me in right now, is the sweetly perfect air. It's that just-a-touch chilly night air that arrives before spring fully unpacks her luggage and stays a while. Do you know it? She's here tonight, and she caught me off guard with her scent because it colors every city differently and it had been so very long since I've experienced a spring other than New York's. The cool night air is impossible to describe, but I can say that it smells like... here. And it is wonderfully delicious. And calming.

On those days when I need to dig deep and find my strength, I'll come find this post, close my eyes, and bring myself back here, to tonight's walk home.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Today My Mother Asked Me If I'm Gay

She was serious. And squirming. I'm pretty sure that she was embarrassed to even be contemplating such a thing about her own daughter. In hindsight, it makes sense. She doesn't know anything about my personal life, so it's not an unreasonable thought. The whole string of back-to-back questions started in Korean but ended in English, a telltale sign that she was dangerously stepping out of her comfort zone. "So you're not ever going to get married?" which turned into "Even if you have a boyfriend, you're not going to get married?" which led to, "You don't have a boyfriend right now, right?" which then led to "Are you doing the lesbian gay thing?"

Wow. Really? Is this really happening?

It would have been so fun to pull her leg a little, but the woman sitting in front of me had had a rough winter; today was not the time for cruel jokes. She never gets jokes, anyway. After I burst her bubble and acknowledged that I am not, true to form, she still took it upon herself to ramble on about how God did not design humans to live alone, that I need a church-going Christian man and should get married and have children. It's amazing how she circles everything back to the paramount importance of getting hitched and popping out kids; that and how nice it would be if I would bring her on vacation to Europe. So I told her the truth: I would be the worst thing to ever happen to this unknowing Christian schmuck who got suckered into dating me and perhaps more significantly, I let my passport expire. Luckily, I don't need it for New York.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

This Man

I spent the day at a local cafe / gourmet market / coffee shop this week. Aloof hipsters with their bold smears of bright red lipstick and nose piercings and oversized glasses played barista and charcuterie sandwich makers behind the counter. The girl who took my order seemed annoyed, but only insomuch as her coolness would allow. I felt her pain, as I, too, was in it for the long haul, with a work deadline later that day. I set up shop at a table in the corner, plugging in my laptop and giving my coat its own chair without a second thought. There is a certain luxury of space availability here that I have greedily embraced. Is this what happens after living so long in the most densely populated city in America? Yes, indeed it is.

A man, one of only two patrons when I walked in, was seated at one of the tables. A large coffee in front of him, his legs were draped to the side, crossed comfortably as he clumsily tapped his fingers around a messy array of dirty coins. Three colorful plastic lighters sat atop a napkin, as though they deserved special consideration that his pocket change did not. You know the complimentary kind that gas stations used to provide with your pack of smokes? The kind you rarely see any more since smoking has become déclassé? Those. Despite the lid on his cup, coffee had somehow managed to spill. The crumpled napkins littering the space around his lighters were oddly still clean. It was hard to tell when the man had last bathed, but it was clear that his clothes were in bad need of a wash.

Somewhere along the way of these past few years, my sensitivity has begun to surface more readily. Where I once only cried at movies, now, whenever I sense people's need for kindness, a tear escapes. Sometimes, two or three before I realize what's happening. Watching this man stare at his muffin, the tears started up again. He just kept picking at the streusel on top, rolling the little mounds of brown between his fingers, the sugar flatly falling on the table. I occasionally glanced up from my screen to watch him play a solitary game of musical chairs without the music. Every fifteen minutes, he'd pull up a new chair from a different table, test it, and then settle for another ten or fifteen minutes before getting up to do it all over again. He repeated this act for four hours straight. Every few rounds, he would relocate himself to a new table, taking his various sundries along with him. When he landed at the table across from mine, I very deliberately forced myself to keep my butt firmly planted in my seat. It didn't feel right to pack up and leave. What right did I have to sit here that he did not? This much was clear: I had the option of going home or to another cafe, armed with money to pay for whatever time and space I wanted. This man did not. He probably didn't even have a place to sleep that night. Life is unfair, isn't it? And so I willed myself to stay, covering my nose and plucking away at my keyboard until it was time to go.

The girl from behind the counter eventually came over and told the man that he needed to leave if he was finished with his food. I think the dismissal stung me more than it did him.

Here I sit, days later, unable to shake the thought of this man. I want to know his story. I want to know why all of a sudden I feel incredibly privileged to be in my own shoes: my wits about me; my mental faculties intact; people in my life who lend their support; friends who pick up their phones when I call; and the choice to do or not do as I please. My life is good, but why am I sitting like a weirdo in a random cafe tearing up over a man I don't even know?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

My friend's five-year-old made a funny request. She repeatedly asked that I send a picture of myself to her mother's phone. I didn't ask why, as I generally oblige when children politely ask for things, regardless of how random the request may be. Like a good-for-nothing adult, I kept forgetting to send it, so after she brought it up for the third time, I pulled and texted this one, the last picture I took of myself from some time ago earlier this winter. I was trashed from little sleep, on FaceTime messing around with the phone, clearly reacting to something that made me uncomfortable.

I should ask that little girl what she plans to do with this. Kids know how to do all sorts of things on iPhones these days. Will she PhotoShop out my mole? Will she crop my head onto a Disney Princess? She's pretty fond of that Disney Frozen movie. We once watched the same four YouTube movie clips on repeat for an hour straight. That is an hour that I will never get back, but if we're going to talk about return on investment, watching her two-year-old brother belt out the movie's theme song at the most random of times is priceless.

It's been really nice to be around children again. That they are my friends' kids is a double perk. They never fail to energize my spirits. They are wonderful little things, busy being honest and real. As lovely as they are, I have been making a concerted effort to limit my time with them and their parents. They welcome me openly in their home, but I quietly straddle that fine line, wary of that one day when they will surely have had too much of me. As all my friends now have life partners and kids, I try to be sensitive to the family unit dynamic, recognizing that life is busy all the time, and that they only have so much time to spend exclusively together. So, I make appearances regularly enough, but make sure to build in breathing room, too. It's been a few days, which means that I'm due for a live musical rhapsody performed by a certain toddler. I can't wait. It's the sweetest thing in the whole wide world right now.