Archive for October, 2008

My friend Monica

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Mood: Sobered | Drinking: Water

monwedding

In the summer of 1994, fresh out of college, I joined 9 other bright-eyed, know-it-all writers in Indianapolis.

We were Pulliam Fellows, part of a prestigious post-graduate journalism fellowship at The Indianapolis Star & The Indianapolis News. For three heady months we busied ourselves with bylines and more than one after-work beer binge in Broad Ripple.

I wrote stories about county fairs and boys with AIDS and even went “undercover” as a hippie for a feature story when the Grateful Dead came to town.

But one of the most memorable and longest-lasting memories of that bright summer came outside of the newsroom and my fellow Fellows. That summer, I met Monica Mertz.

The details of how we met have gone fuzzy, but I believe it had something to do with an ex-boyfriend who also happened to be interning in Indy that summer. The guy wasn’t a keeper, but Monica became a lifelong friend.

What I remember most about those early days is her quick wit, her sudden smile, and how easy it was to feel as if I had known her my entire life. I spent quite a bit of time at her house that summer, and after I moved back to Illinois, she came to visit.

Two years later, I stood up in her wedding to John Pryor. Yes, that’s me on the left up there with the fabulous pointy shoes. (It seems that in 1996 I had yet to discover the wonder of black hair dye.)

I spent a long time searching dusty photo albums last night for a good picture of Monica and I. Apparently we couldn’t be photogenic at the same time, because I have very few photos of the pair of us, and one of us looks wonky in each of them.

I chose this photo not because of my awesome 90s hairdo, but because I remember so much of that long-gone day. The giddy excitement of Monica’s sisters, Natalie & Kimberly. Monica cracking jokes as we all got ready, the smell of hairspray and curling irons everywhere. The calm sureness she had as she walked down the aisle. The way John stared as if there were no other woman in the world.

Monica and John moved to South Carolina to build their lives together, and we didn’t see much of each other for the next few years. In fact, the last time I saw Mon was when she played her gorgeous violin at my own wedding, in the middle of a Chicago blizzard.

We’ve kept in touch through emails and phone calls. So I knew, about a year and a half ago, that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer right after giving birth to her third child.

Even though it was the big “C” word, I wasn’t worried. Monica is one of the strongest people I know. I didn’t think cancer could stop her.

But this Monday, after 18 months of fighting, it did.

I’m not ready to start losing friends. I feel too young for it. I’ve known four other people my age who were diagnosed with cancer, but they survived. I guess I naively expected Monica would, too.

Death seems to be everywhere these days. I just attended a memorial service for the brother of one of my best friends. He was just 45. He, too, died of cancer.

Last year we buried my grandfather, and this Saturday I’m flying to Hawaii with my mom and sister to say goodbye to Nana, my mom’s mother, who has been diagnosed with lung cancer and given just a few weeks to live.

The finality of loss is hard to comprehend.

Monica comes from a strongly religious family, and everywhere on her facebook page are messages of hope, people telling her family how much fun Monica is having in heaven right now, pain- and cancer-free.

It’s not that I don’t believe she’s gone to a better place, as they say. I just want to be able to grovel in my grief for a little while. To mourn the sudden absence of that contagious smile, that kindred spirit.

So this is for you, Monica. You are already sorely missed, my friend. My heart is with you today, wherever heaven might be.

-Lo, who feels old and yet not old enough, all at the same time.

Created Equal

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Mood: Convinced | Drinking: Diet Dr. P

hrc

Talking politics gets me in trouble, usually because of my horrid debating skills.

I can’t argue convincingly. I get weepy and incoherent. Arguments make me lose my head entirely and forget my original point. It’s not pretty. Just ask Boy. Or my sister.

So I’m not going to talk politics. Or argue. Or debate the pros and cons.

I’m just going to tell you why I care.

No one can argue with that.

Here in California, we have a hotly contested proposition on the state ballot — Prop 8, which, if passed, will eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The more paranoid proponents of this rights-elimination proposal say that all hell will break loose if the gays are allowed to be normal people with normal rights. Children will be forcibly taught that Todd can have two daddies, churches will be sued, and Armageddon will be ushered in, they say.

I call bullshit.

I voted early this past weekend, and happily checked the box for No on 8. First of all, we shouldn’t be eliminating rights for anybody these days. Least of all the rights for two consenting adults who love each other — and in many cases have been together for decades — to be legally recognized as partners.

Some of my friends were discussing this issue over the weekend, and one of my gay friends put it in very simple terms. He said, “I don’t care as much about being able to get married as I do that the government is telling me I CAN’T get married if I want to.”

Some of my closest friends are gay, and I’m feeling their anxiety very deeply as this election looms nearer. But I also have close friends who believe the Bible tells them that it’s wrong to be gay. They’re not fanatical. They’re not cold-hearted. They are intelligent and compassionate.

But, obviously, I disagree with their interpretation of the Bible.

Is a lesbian couple less legitimate than a heterosexual couple? Is a man less of a citizen simply because he wants to marry another man? Is the love between a woman and a woman or a man and a man any less real than the love between a man and a woman? No! No! No!

A vote for Prop 8 is a vote against equal rights. To me, equal rights ARE a moral issue. And it’s immoral to deny a people equal rights based simply on sexual orientation.

“All men are created equal.” Therefore, all rights should be equal, too.

It’s that simple. And that important. That’s why Boy and I have the Human Rights Campaign‘s symbol of an equal sign stuck to our car. Because we believe in equal rights for all.

After seeing the HRC sticker, my friend Michael said, “You guys are the gayest straight couple I’ve ever known.”

I take it as a compliment.

-Lo isn’t gonna back down.

I Ran So Far Away

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Mood: Rested | Drinking: Water

tiffany

Last year at this time if someone had told me I would run not just one but two half marathons, I would have fallen over laughing.

But change is possible. With a smidgen of faith, a lot of hard work, three pairs of running shoes, and a little help from my friends.

Last year at this time, I had just started running. I could barely run for a block or two before feeling like my lungs might be full of fire ants.

And now? Now I’ve got 13.1 competitive miles under my belt — twice. Not to mention a couple of 5ks thrown in for good measure.

It’s an amazing thing.

So is running with 20,000 other women (give or take a few brave men). The Nike Women’s Marathon and Half Marathon in San Francisco is billed as a women’s race, and marketed with a whole lot of pink banners.

And I have to tell you, it’s very different, running a race course with a bunch of women. A woman bumps into you and actually says she’s sorry. Women on all sides cheer (and sometimes drag) each other on, mile after sweaty mile. Compliments about hairstyles, t-shirts, and choice of footwear are easily passed about between strangers.

I never really considered a half marathon to be a nurturing environment, but in this case, it was.

I ran my first half marathon in Phoenix back in January, after training for 3 months with Team in Training. This time, I trained myself (with occasional accompaniment from my fabulous running buddy, Allegra).

On race day, Boy dropped me off a block from Union Square in the wee dark hours of the morning and from that point until I crossed the finish line, I was on my own. I trained on my own, ran on my own, and finished on my own, and goddamn, am I proud of myself! 😉

I finished the Phoenix Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon course in 2 hours, 55 minutes, on a hot day over flat roads with only 3 months of training to back me up.

My goal for this Nike race was to beat my own time, and I did: 2 hours, 52 minutes, on a foggy morning over San Francisco-sized hills with a year of running experience behind me.

The best part, besides crossing the finish line, was all my friends who got up early to come and cheer along the way, including my juicy nephew, Jude, and my parents, who just happened to be in town from Illinois. Thanks to all of you!

The other best part? Turquoise Tiffany’s boxes held aloft on silver platters by handsome tuxedo-ed men. And one of them (the box, not the tux man) is all mine.

I’ve been resting up all week, after a nice post-race soak in the ocean, and I think I’m ready to run again.

Time to go pound some pavement…

-Lo, who doesn’t photograph well when sweaty.

Run Like a Girl

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

nikerungirl
Mood: Jittery
Drinking: Lemonade

Three days from now, just before sunup, I’ll be shivering in Union Square with 20,000 other women, waiting anxiously for the sound of the starting gun.

Then I’ll be off and running 13.1 miles through San Francisco for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

Waiting at the finish line will be a bunch of firemen in tuxes holding Tiffany’s boxes. A nice way to end a race, yeah?

So if you’re up early this Sunday, think of me and send me a wish for fleet feet and foggy weather, won’t you?

-Lo, lacing up her running shoes.

And Then

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

doorways
Mood: Crispy
Drinking: Water

They say life’s a bitch and then you die, and they may not be all wrong on that point.

But in between the bitch and the death there’s a whole lot of living going on. And not all of the stuff that makes living worthwhile is headline-worthy.

I used to build my life around all the And Then‘s:
go to school And Then summer break. graduate And Then college. graduate again And Then find a job. write a poem And Then get published. meet a boy And Then go steady. recover from breakup And Then find new boy. read great book And Then buy the sequel. go on vacation And Then plan the next trip.

You get the gist.

Always something new, something more, something better just around the corner, And Then the next corner, And Then the one just past that.

Perhaps it’s age or a small measure of experience or some bit of unwarranted wisdom, but somewhere along the way from one corner to the other, I’ve discovered that the really good bits of living, the moments that keep you afloat when the floods come, are the ones that come just before and between the And Then‘s.

Not just looking forward to reading a good book, but really enjoying the one you’re reading right now. Not just getting published, but actually writing, the minute decisions you make as you set the words down on the page, cross them out, and start again. Not just going on vacation, but all the small delicious bits of planning that come before — buying the guidebook, exploring a map, learning new Italian phrases.

Life happens in the moments in between. In the waiting. In the details. In the insignificant moments. During breakfast. At bedtime. Or when you open your eyes two minutes before your alarm goes off.

And Then isn’t the point. It’s a distraction. When you’re always peering around the corner, looking through the next doorway, you’re too impatient to appreciate the small things unfolding all around you.

So that’s my platitude for today. Maybe I’ll think about it a bit longer And Then I can write about it a bit more eloquently.

*wink*

-Lo, who has no idea what’s coming next.

Vroom Vroom Squawk

Friday, October 10th, 2008

redwheel_tight
Mood: Gettin’ things done
Drinking: Tea from the ‘bucks

Let’s start October off with a poem, shall we?

This one’s short and sweet and not brand new, and I’ve swapped the red motorcycle for one that’s blue. But it’s a poem, nevertheless, and it fits the way I feel today…

Duck, Duck, Goose

A small family fills the yellow crosswalk.
Mother, father, and tow-headed toddler
dragging a ridiculously wheeled duck
on a string.
The bird’s wilted wings
scrape across the striped cement
flapping futilely for some kind of freedom.

I sit at the stop sign, already in gear
repeatedly revving the engine of my red Vulcan
thinking, “I do not have time for this kid
and his goddamn duck.”

As it turns out,
yes
I do.

-Lo, forever learning to not be in such a hurry.