Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#dirtythirty Eve

Now, I realize that the whole "Roaring Twenties" metaphor (is that a metaphor? Or an analogy? My brain is fried. Pardon.) totally falls apart because I'm not willing to equate 29 with any massive stock market crash wherein people jump off of buildings and dust bowls ensue.

No, instead, it segues very nicely into what I have begun to term #dirtythirty, mostly because it rhymes and made for a humorous hashtag with which to identify the festivities planned for this weekend. And, because, I'm still and always a party girl. Emphasis on the "girl."

I'm sitting on my rooftop deck on this, the last day of my twenties, and am afforded the best view I've had in all my years living in Baltimore. Who knew that Little Italy afforded the greatest visual breadth? I can see the Belvedere to the north, the Bromo Seltzer Tower and the TransAmerica building to the west, the Marriott and Harbor East to the south, and the First Mariner building all the way to the East. The four corners of Baltimore, if you will. Or maybe not, if you live in Hampden. I don't think I can see that far. Wait - untrue - I can see the skeletal branches of Television Hill up there near Woodberry. Score.

In true Glitterati fashion, I'm listening to Brazilian and Cuban Jazz and sipping my favorite summer wine - a dry rose (which is totally the best thing ever, just ask Hot Curry), and blogging dramatically. How very unexpected of me!

A lot of my friends are or have recently turned thirty, and all of them seem to have survived the ordeal with enough grace to cause me pause to say: I can understand why this is and isn't such a big deal. It's a big deal to me, because I'm introspective to a fault, and because if you don't use major milestones to stop and take stock of your life, well, then what was the point? But I can see how this birthday might register as a mere blip on the radar because, well, I guess I thought I'd have to be a whole lot more...prepared to turn thirty. I mean, sure, I talk about "kids these days" and enjoy being in bed before 10pm, and get really, really excited about things like tax breaks and my awesome health insurance. Who doesn't?!

But at 19, I suppose 30 just felt so many endless ages away that you assumed big, grand, expansive things were going to happen in the interim. 

And they have. Just maybe not how I expected.

I didn't write a book. So that didn't happen. But I lived one, or two, or seven. And I didn't buy a house, but I've lived in eleven of them. I spent half of the last decade in Baltimore, and there were three or four other states for various periods of time before that. Baltimore was such an unexpected home...I landed here like some bemused and bewildered Pilgrim seeking harbor from three years in Stripmall-landia (Tampa), intending only to stay for a breath and a half, and suddenly five years have gone by.

So I didn't write a book or buy a house, and to my knowledge I still haven't procured a pony. 

So what did I do?

Well, I became monumentally more comfortable in my own skin. I learned to let go of friends and situations who were dead weight, and to throw my heart and soul into ones that lift me up. I started flossing regularly and, you know, training for half marathons or whatever. I got a job, which turned into a better job. I am still writing, even beyond what you see here. I have great friends, a fantastic and hilarious family, and a pretty rad boyfriend. And my cats, by some miracle, are both still alive. 

The Roaring Twenties were chaotic, frightening, uncharted, and stormy at times. "I am not afraid of storms," Louisa May Alcott said, "because I am learning how to sail my ship." 

I am still learning. But the seas are calmer these days, and my compass found due north. 

That's not to say all the fun is over. It's #dirtythirty. I intend for the fun to be only just beginning! Only maybe without all the drama and high highs and low lows and all of that. It's nice to be able to breathe while you're having all that fun.

Cheers to the eve of #dirtythirty, to the farewell to the twenties, and to living life, as always, one marvelous day at a time. There are continents to set foot in, novels to write, reefs to be snorkeled, wine to be drunk, races to be run, and more milestones to celebrate. 

And I got carded the other day. So I'm all set.

Viva la 30!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

My favorite holiday of the year, always, for two reasons:
1. The pool opened for the summer.
2. It was always either my birthday weekend or very nearly so.

I didn't have grand plans for this weekend beyond dinner at Cazbar last night with The Gentleman, Blondie, and her fiance. Which was awesome - I am now forever a fan of Turkish cuisine after Istanbul and Jordan, and also because Blondie and her fiance are as grossly irreverant as we are and thus perfect dining companions. We slipped a few dollar bills into the shimmering skirt of the belly dancer, drank sangria, ate kabaps of various animals, and disparaged at the sense of entitlement kids have these days. I anticipate having more such conversations after next week since 30 seems to sanction the right to refer to young adults as 'kids'; a privelege I intend to wield both powerfully and insultingly.

Other plans this weekend include blogging poolside on my phone (apparently, and at times like these, I'm endlessly glad I opted for the Evo Shift with the qwerty keyboard), grilling, reading, napping, swimming, more reading, and spending some time with my family. After the hectic crazy of April and most of May, I'm grateful for the quiet. And, I intend to spend most of this week celebrating the start of a new decade in life, so a weekend poolside prior seems appropriate.

Cheers to summer, Glitteratis!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Roaring Twenties: Zozzled - Part II

There's a quote from Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture that I can't seem to find online...but it's from her mother, telling her something to the effect of "You can't have regrets - I've basically ignored my twenties." And then there's another quote from the sister character that says, "You sound like you're in the epilogue to 'Felicity.'" So either of those quotes would probably be appropriate here. 

Back to reality.

But first, the next installment.

Last weekend was that first glorious weekend in May when it's almost summer. It's in the eighties during the day, the humidity is still at tolerable levels, the sky clearly blue. Everything feels clean and crisp. Winter has been shaken off, but the heavy weight of summer has not yet blanketed the city. There are only a few weekends of the year that are like this, with the days stretching a bit longer with each delayed sunset. The next time the weather is this beautiful, the evenings will lid the days sooner and sooner, and the cool breezes will be reminders that hunkering down, not letting go, is right around the corner.

I went kayaking with Legs on Sunday, the first trip of the season, and we were talking about how crazy the last few years have been. All of us in Book Club sort of went through what I refer to as The Wilderness Years around the same time. We dated haphazardly, drank like fish, wore uncomfortable shoes, and made decisions based on the idea that time stretched infinitely out in front of us. 

Not much has changed, I suppose.

I think part of transitioning from one decade to the next is taking stock of what you did in the last decade, deciding what was the folly of youth and the benefit of hindsight, and picking out the parts of yourself that, at this point, are not likely to change. And making the best of them.

In my early twenties, my body was not a temple. I had not yet learned with distinction the cause-and-effect that occurs more succinctly as you get older. If you eat this, you will feel this. If you drink that, you will feel that. If you do not get 8 hours of sleep, you will consume four cups of coffee and have to sit on your hands for the rest of the day because you will then get the shakes. When I was younger, consequences always seemed so much more extreme: cancer, bankruptcy, jail time. 

Now, consequences are more finite and somehow more profound. Hangovers mean lack of productivity and a day lost to an unshakeable fog. Failure to floss means a very disapproving glance from your dentist, and God help you if you stumble into a dermatologist check-up appointment freshly back from a vacation where you might have gotten a tan. Eating fried food can leave a heaviness that lasts for days, and suddenly I have once again embraced the overwhelmingly beautiful concept of a nap.

Not that I'm old - mind you. Not by a long shot. Which is why I view this as the best time of my life: I'm smart enough to know better, but still young enough to weigh the consequences. Staying out late is reserved for nights where I have nothing pressing to do the next day, and while those days are fewer and further between, they still exist. 

We are all still party girls, we Book Clubbers, but in our own way now. Whereas it was common practice to close down a bar on a Tuesday night in years past, now we opt for pricier drinks, better food, and an earlier night - a better quality experience as opposed to quantity - in time, in drinks, and in what we consume. We are older, richer, and smarter. And possibly better-looking, I think. But we still have fun. We are just more discerning about the fun we have.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still a party girl. But these days, I will never debate the awesome, awesome draw of a good night's sleep and a productive morning. Nothing makes me feel better than being well-hydrated, worked out, productive, and well-rested. Not any amount of vodka or champagne in the world.

Not to say that a well-timed martini or cocktail (or both) isn't also an excellent reward for being so good. But that's the key - it's a reward, not a daily vitamin. My twenty-something liver was punished mightily for confusing the two.

In other news, I'm a week out from thirty. I thought I would be freaking out. I really, honestly did. It feels as though every birthday since 25 was somehow framed in reference to this birthday. But mostly what I feel is excitement - because I have terrific birthday plans, because there are good things happening in my life, and because somehow, by the grace of some benign universal spirit, I managed to end up exactly where I needed to be.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Oh, vacation.

I checked email in the lounge once a day, more to make sure that no one had died and no cat of mine had gotten mysteriously ill in my absence (as the Small Troubled Cat is wont to do occasionally when I go out of town). My phone didn't work internationally, and I didn't care. It is rare that I Check Out, and felt so good to be away from email, texts, and anything pressing. Instead - my book called to me. And endless trains of free drinks. And guavas, mangoes, passion fruit, sugar cane, and the vast Technicolor cornucopia of fruits and vegetables laid out everywhere. Everything was glittering - brilliant, clear blues and whites with the occasional shock of bright, luscious pinks and reds of fruit and tropical drinks. We laughed, we spent time with our friends, and we attended an absolutely beautiful wedding. We went snorkeling in reefs filled with fish spanning from the size of my pinky to the size of my arm. We lounged on boats floating in ten feet of glassy water, gazing down through the clarity to see the powder-fine sand beneath. 

I saw sea urchins, spiky and menacing to protect the hearts of them, so brilliant red they appeared to glow under the water. There were clownfish and coral that looked like brains, and hundreds of other fish that I cannot identify but for their appearance. Bright Blue Skinny Fish With Needle Nose, Flat Silver Fish With Fat Black Stripes, Teensy Wee Neon Yellow Fish With Crossed-Looking Eyes. Scientific names unknown. 

It didn't escape me once that on the other side of that vast island of paradise is Haiti. And that, outside of the resort, there was nothing. That our dollars are worth hundreds of thousands of pesos. It's that part of me that feels the pull between the love of nice things, nice places, nice food, nice drinks; and the guilt that tugs at me when I feel the discrepancy between how I make my living and how I spend my free time. I live my life swinging from moment to juxtaposed moment. I haven't found a way to make peace with this yet. For the time being - it just is.

A popular choice: caipirinhas. Brazil's national cocktail with a Dominican spin - local sugar and rum; not quite a real caipirinha, not quite a mojito. Delicious all around.

Every morning, the refrigerator in the room was stocked with juices, sodas, four bottles of water, and two Presidentes, the national beer of the Dominican Republic. The tap water at the resort was non potable, so even brushing one's teeth required use of bottled water. To conserve our stash, we hydrated with beer.

There was conflicting signage as to what this fruit is: passion fruit, guayabe, zapote, and chinola. Research told us that guayabe is guava, zapote is delicious, and chinola and passion fruit are the same thing. This is supposedly chinola. It is incredibly sour and bitter and not at all "passionate".

Once again - international breakfast buffets prove a bajillion times better than American fare.

Oh, you know, just a fried banana. Wrapped in bacon. Win.

It seemed that in the entire resort, only areas are air conditioned - the rooms and the spa. Everything else is open, with breezes floating in and pushing the muggy air. It is alarmingly humid - even nearly three years in Florida didn't prepare me for this kind of humidity, but the buildings are built in such a way to knock about ten degrees off of the outside temperature and rush air flow through in a way that made it pretty bearable.

Plantain and yucca chips.

Crab cake and citrus salad.

The wedding. Was. Beautiful.

Wedding band.


Where the Brahma never runs dry....

Apparently the Dominican Republic is flirting madly with Russian tourists, trying to entice them to buy property.

Right back at you, bro.

The decision is yours.