Sometimes you spend the week stressed out about money and dirty dishes and all the places you have to be, and you count your pennies trying to figure out if you can spend the few extra on a food processor. These are the days that also coincide with the weather getting hot and an obligation to be somewhere every single day for weeks and the thing that rolls down your driver side window popping off in the rain and floating away in the deluge down the street. The crankiness is palpable, and you repeat the mantra over and over “adulthood is stupid” as you get intolerably irritable with all the people around you - even the ones who love you dearly and somehow, for some reason, have put up with this cycle for years and remind you of lovely things until you stop being such a wretched person.
And then you find yourself dressed like a mermaid in the same kitchen where a few weeks earlier, you spilled beer all over the floor and collapsed in a fit of laughter, and you end the night in a fort made of blankets with amazing people and bottles of wine and colored lights and discussions on antibiotics for fish and proper techniques for peeing in the woods. This, you’ll think, is what life was made for.
It was one of those moments where you are acutely aware that you are making a meaningful memory in the tiniest, silliest thing. When you imagine yourself 20 years from now, giggling with these same friends about the time you drank wine under blankets in that first house with the checkered floor, before all of the things that haven’t yet been.
Teenage me was impressed. Teenage me read a lot of Francesca Lia Block and assumed all parties involved warehouses or weird house parties with mermaid and robot costumes. Turns out I was right.
And I drove home at 4am, giggling about the whole evening - feeling all at once ridiculous and relieved. I peeled off the bridesmaid-turned-mermaid dress that once matched the black eye I had from a particularly debaucherous bachelorette party at age 21, in a wedding of two friends who now have a baby and a house and who no longer drink terrible beer from plastic boots and ride a mechanical bull at 6 in the evening.
On the way home from seeing said baby and said friends Sunday evening (we drank wine from actual wine glasses and ate a cheese tray and talked about toddler teething toys. My, how things have changed), there was an intersection with the usual cardboard sign ads for all sorts of credit restoration services and auto sales. But one of them, in black letters on a white sign, simply said “Tell someone you love them. I LOVE YOU.”
I believe in signs. Whether they are from a cosmic force in the sky, or our brains being tuned into the messages we need to hear, I can’t say - but I believe sometimes the perfect things appear. And there it was, at a literal intersection on a metaphorical road, when I was in the car thinking of how lucky I am to have these people in my life, thinking of how one dress carried me through two silliest of memories. One we discuss over baby’s squealing and one too recent to giggle about just yet.
I love you, it said, but it what it meant was you are surrounded by love. Constant love. Good love. Warmth, beauty, lovely, amazing things. Mermaids in forts.
PS: I didn’t buy the food processor. I put the money aside to an eventual roadtrip fund on Route 66. Adulthood is stupid, after all.
The Internet has made waiting in line for days on end to buy something a thing of the past and yet - on Record Store Day, there I was. At 8am, standing with two of my closest friends in the cold with a bunch of crusty old punks and young, hipster college students. We waited for two hours to dig through crates and hopefully find special releases of albums on vinyl, an arguably outdated form of media.
Twenty minutes later, after fighting a hipster for the last copy of The Misfits/Lemonheads Skulls release, a mostly successful Record Store Day looked like $80 and two David Bowie 45’s, the new Superchunk 45, a Zombies album, Graceland, a stack of old country, jazz, and folk albums, Bat out of Hell I, and the Best of Joan Baez.
I could have listened to any of these songs online, for free, without the cold or grabby gutter punk hands after my Bowie album. But I didn’t. I stood in line, chatting with strangers about our favorite concerts feeling all at once ridiculous and awesome for recounting the story of my punk show black eye in explicit apologetic-clumsy-crowdsurfer detail.
My new record player came in the mail yesterday - a little portable blue one, the kind I’ve always wanted, that makes me feel just like Suzy Bishop. I cancelled everything I was going to do, and just laid on the floor listening to the needle find the groove on Fats Domino and Harry Belafonte and Rosemary Clooney records, contemplating through the static all the people who’ve listened to these records before me.
It’s partially nostalgia, I suppose. As a child it was Cat Stevens and Beatles records. Then CDs, and then eventually, an iPad hooked to speakers. A few years ago my parents bought a new record player to replace the one that had broken years before. They giggled as they sorted through their record collection, laughing at the clear difference between my mother and father’s records (my mom has infinitely superior taste) and pulling out scratchy records from local bands they listened to in New York.
I’m not old enough to remember records as a primary source of music. The first music I bought for myself was purchased on cassettes in the 7th grade with saved loose change, when the cute grungy boy at the record store had to pop it out of the thick plastic casing for me. But I remember Saturdays and dancing to scratchy albums in the living room and loving the smell of old records almost as much as I love the smell of old books.
I travel with an old Brownie camera from the 40s (the same one next to my record player in the photo at the top) an iPhone, and a DSLR. There’s a typewriter from the 20s on my desk, next to my shiny Macbook. I wrote a grocery list on it once, and one of these days I’ll get around to replacing the ribbon so I can write letters on it. I don’t love my record player more than I love my mp3s or - gasp! - my CDs (I still listen to those!), but I love them differently. I love them deliberately.
Outdated things require intention. Changing the film on cathedral stairs and remembering the days when you had to document your trip in just 12 shutter clicks and you didn’t have space for photographs of food and architectural details, typing every word when delete isn’t an option, putting that needle on the record, watching it wobble away, and being unable to skip a track when it doesn’t speak to you in the first 10 seconds. Even finding the records that you want requires patience, digging, and a little bit of luck.
Old things want us to be careful and intentional in our creation and consumption. As they spin, records ask us to be still.
Our beer baby, Anxiety Ale, didn’t develop quite the way we had expected when we popped it open to bottle it a few days ago. Which is to say that it looked just the amount of yeasty it was supposed to, and it actually smelled like beer. It wasn’t a miserable failure as we’d expected! We were ladies making beer! Draw up the legal documents, we’ve made beer and we’re starting a brewery!
And it continued to smell and look just like real beer as we ended up drenched it in.
Bottling, it turns out, is pretty sciency. There’s pressure and fluids and tubes and, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but we felt like we were on an episode of Double Dare, spilling beer all over my friend’s beautiful black and white checkered tile floor - feeling so proud of our yeasty creating and the powers of gravity as we finally figured out how to siphon beer Jenni yelled “GRAVITY BITCHES!” followed by me saying “WE JUST SCIENCED!” Because that just seemed like the right thing to say.
We got three and a half bottles in when we realized the giant pot was not working, and transferred the beer to a tall cylindrical container, because we were figuring out science! And as Jenni was saying the words “This may not be the best container,” it slid out from under her spilling nearly a gallon of beer all over the floor and all over us.
We collapsed in a fit of laughter, sitting on the floor in puddles of sticky beer, unable to get a hold of ourselves for a good ten minutes, struggling to breathe or even find words to explain what had just happened.
Gravity, bitches indeed. We got scienced.
There’s one thing my friends will say in confidence about me - I’m the world’s worst cook. Last week I set an onion on fire. A whole onion. On fire.
So when two of my best friends and I decided to take on making beer this weekend, I had my suspicions it would end in disaster. My friend Arrie is one of the most innovative people I know, and Jenni is one hell of a cook. So, collectively we thought we’d at least make a good attempt at “beer science” and make our “beer baby.” We also had an awesome kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop that made it super simple. At least for people who aren’t the world’s worst cooks.
We’re expecting! Our baby’s first picture!
Taking a little bit of hops in our hands, we each said our wishes for our future beer baby and, like three cackling witches, threw it in my grandmother’s spaghetti pot, now full of grains and grapefruit. “All we ask it that you try your best!” “Please don’t be the worst!” “We’ll love you no matter what, beer baby!” There may be something wrong with us, but at least we’re encouraging future beer parents.
We took a break for a French techno dance party, like you do, and overcooked our baby.
We added water to cool it down, and then boiled it off. The rest is kind of a blur of forgotten ingredients and missed steps that resulted in roughly half the beer we were actually supposed to have, which, when you’re only making a gallon, is really not very much.
Note - this is no ordinary funnel. This is two funnels taped together with floral duck tape. Because we’re classy ladies.
Per the instructions, we filled the rest up with water, and in two weeks we’ll bottle what we’re fondly calling “Anxiety Ale.” In another two, we’ll taste our concoction. It’s probably going to be horrible, but we have a plan B - beer from the grocery store, as made by people who don’t stop midway through the process to eat candy and have French techno dance parties. And then we’ll try again.
It’s an ale! We’ll see you in a few weeks, Beer Baby!
It turns out I’m pretty bad at year long challenges. On only my third month in, I neglected to learn a new thing. I did learn two things in February - cheesemaking and stone skipping, so I’m going to pretend it counts. It’s my challenge, I can do whatever I want.
I had intentions of learning to yo-yo, but I did not. I failed at yo-yoing, of all things. I have concluded that I will never be a person who is able to yoyo properly, and I’m just going to have to be okay with that. It hadn’t occurred to me that I may try to learn something and not be good at it, because the things I wanted to learn were so silly and small that I absolutely 100% had to succeed at them. That was the whole point.
Yo-yos are supposed to come back to you when you do all the right things. Mine never came back, it just turned into a tangly mess. There’s a lesson here somewhere and probably some symbolism, but I haven’t figured it out just yet. I guess it’s just that failure is okay. Sometimes you can do the right things and it still won’t work out, and that no flicks of the wrist and undo giant knots that you’ve made for yourself, and that it’s fine because you made a solid attempt. Sometimes we just need to have our own cliched epiphanies over yo-yos in our living room.
Next month I’m taking on a pretty big, sciency, and delicious challenge. I’m brewing beer in my teeny tiny kitchen with two of my best lady friends. We’re going to talk about our feelings over piles of hops and grapefruit peels and tubes and bottles. We’re brewing grapefruit ale, which, thanks to all of our recent struggles with mental health, we’re fondly calling “Anxiety Ale.” It could be awesome, or it could be a disaster. Only time will tell!
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