Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Home Sweet Dome

Nestled on the Blue River in Silverthorne, Colorado, the Foam Dome provides residence to a ragtag bunch human beings drawn to the mountains, an eclectic living space and cheap rent in a county that boasts an average home price of $750,000 (fact courtesy of Wikipedia.)

When endeavoring to explain the structure to acquaintances I typically say, "Think Hobbit Hole."

Boot tries on his White Elephant gift at the Christmas Party
The place was built in 1971 by Stuart "Boot" Gordon, a WWII Fighter Pilot who on more than one occasion survived being shot down. He raised his children in the Foam Dome and now renting out spaces provides an additional income for the nearly 91-year-old. He also stays busy for a nonagenarian. He still goes out to chop wood and even went out ice skating with us.

He is also highly committed to raising consciousness. He keeps tabs on folks' LQs [Love Quotient]. Barack Obama's is rising, if you were curious. He's a published author of numerous writings. You can buy his tract Synergistic Capitalism on Amazon. He also just finished a new book that he is in the process of editing. He's one of the most interesting conversationalists out there.

Since I live in a Martini glass, should I change my name to Olive?
I live in the Martini Glass room. It is conveniently directly above the living room, so I can converse with my roommates without leaving the comfort of my bedroom or pajamas. Also, I very rarely wake up late and know right when the coffee is ready since I lack walls. Occasionally, I miss the privacy of four walls that reach the ceiling, but I figure this is an exercise in communal living [and did I mention cheap rent?] Also the view from my room is killer. (Speaking of that, my roommate obsessed with murder mystery shows recently saw one about the Blue River Killer, which featured a couple of scenes on our property. Don't worry, the crime occurred in the early nineties.)

My room lies beyond that window.
As with most things in life, sometimes I forget to revel in this unique and awesome living situation. Taking a walk around the property in preparation for this post caused me to rekindle the initial amazement at my luck in securing the opportunity to call the Foam Dome home. It has its quirks (read: mice) and I feel lucky to live with nine amazing people, but that number of cohabitants can pose its own challenges (read: my bladder has acquired new levels of endurance while waiting for the one bathroom to be vacant.)

I've definitely done a 180 (something I can't do on a snowboard) going from NYC to Silverthorne and am still compelled by vagabondish whims to take leave of this place when the snow melts. To where is the great mystery that will be revealed to all (most particularly myself) in due time. In the meantime, I'll try not to forget to marvel at the view of snow covered pine trees or the way I can make out what seems like every star in the universe on a clear night.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Contradictory Desires

Astrology, numerology, palm reading, tarot and the like are all pleasant enough diversions. In the past, I've written of my propensity to offer my hand to palmists in order to divine some sort of direction for my coming days (because honestly, my future seems quite shrouded in mystery--though I know "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain* of my soul" (thanks William Ernest Henley).)

So once, I simply did a google search as to what sort of characteristics someone born on the Gregorian calendar's July 13th might possess, and received the following opening sentences:
You are full of contradictions. You have deep domestic interests, but at the same time, you are really restless and you have a decided longing for travel and change.
I doubt these contradictory desires are reserved solely for the cadre of personages born on the thirteenth day of July, but they definitely resonated

Right now, I live in a foam dome [more on that, perhaps, in a later post] in the Colorado Rockies. My room is more of a giant bowl with walls that do not  reach the rounded ceiling of the dome, and actually barely reach my knee.

It is always a trip bringing people to the dome and watching them marvel at its unique design (as I did the first time.) But it is sort of a hub for the young, very transient population that passes through Summit County. Nine different living spaces are rented and I have already seen a fair amount of transition in my roughly six weeks here.

This morning however, I longed for my own little set-up with fresh flowers on an eclectic little kitchen table and only dishes from my cooking endeavors in the sink and a nice bedspread maybe with a real headboard. But all of this requires an investment in staying in one place. I've left beds and comforters and kitchen appliances many places because the freedom of being able to move was more important than being set-up.

I really deviate between wanting to be vagabondish forever and wanting establishing a hearth. I want to be able to take off at a moment's notice, but I also want a garden. I want to go places where no one has any preconceived notions of who I am, but I also want to be around people who've known me forever and understand my past.

*I used to think the line was "I am the conqueror of my soul." I've also really liked that interpretation. I little more violent, I suppose, than captain, but definitely empowers the I. But, is the I really separate from the soul? Ahhh, the deep questions of poetry interpretation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On The Catcher in the Rye

Every so often I resist the compulsion to splatter the following quote all over the social media channels to which I subscribe: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

The line comes from J.D. Salinger's masterwork, The Catcher in the Rye. I refrain from posting it because I have already shared it multiple times before and feel I ought to venture into new literary sentiment.

Because--to tell the truth--The Catcher in the Rye, while still ranking among the most loved books to have ever graced my hands and mind, doesn't hold the same all-consuming appeal it held when it first lured me in. Maybe that is because I am so familiar with it, but I also think it has a little [or maybe a lot] to do with growing up.
I can remember when Salinger first grabbed hold of my adolescent soul. I was fourteen. I was bored. I grabbed the nondescript copy of The Catcher in the Rye off of my mother's nightstand. It wasn't the ornately embellished version, but one that made ultimate use of white space. I did not honestly think it would hold my attention. My forays into my parents' respective literary realms usually ended with my abandoning the tome after fifty pages. (I just could not get into my dad's classic sci-fi collection, as much as I tried to enjoy Harry Harrison.)

But I remember so clearly being unable to put down the story of Holden Caulfield. Initially, I was fazed by the abundance of "goddamns" but I was so drawn in my the voice of the sixteen-year-old protagonist that I let unsavory language wash over me. I remember thinking I ought to have a highlighter and pen to demarcate important passages and scribble thoughts in the margin. I remember thinking that was maybe mild sacrilege, as that was the sort of thoughtful reading that I should be doing in the scriptures, and I felt guilty that I had never been as inspired by canonized text as I had by this story. I remember not being able to put it down. I remember lying on the berber carpet of my bedroom staring up at my dusty rainbow paneled ceiling fan. I remember being sad when I finished the last page, simply because it was over.

But do you want to know the line that affected me the most? The line I still think about most often? It is a bit of dialogue from Mr. Antolini, one of Holden's favorite past teachers: "I can very clearly see you dying, in some way, for some highly unworthy cause."

 That statement lodged itself in my teenage psyche like gum in the hair. Maybe it was my youthful belief that my life had to mean something, that I had to be bold and drastic as I became an adult to prove that I was worth taking up space on the planet. As a burgeoning adult, one of the things that I have grown to like most about myself is my level of idealism (I am an INFP according to Myers-Briggs), but I don't feel like I am required to prove my idealism through any sort of unnecessary flagellation. However, I especially love this line now in light of some analysis by author John Green (you know, that guy who writes all those deliciously witty and insightful, bestselling teen novels.)

Green said:
This is where – if you are the kind of person that thinks that books should be read with their authors in mind – it becomes relevant that JD Salinger saw more combat during World War II than almost any other American. The ‘Great American War Novels’ of that generation (Catch 22, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Naked and The Dead) were all written by men who saw far less of war’s horror than JD Salinger did. He was on Utah Beach on D-Day, at the Battle of the Bulge and he was one of the first Americans to enter a liberated concentration camp. And yet, Salinger returned home and wrote, not about war but, about Holden Caulfield bumming around New York City. So, you can say that the stakes aren’t high in this novel, but as Salinger well knew, the cruel and phony world of adults doesn’t just treat people like Holden Caulfield poorly, it kills them.
I realize I am on the verge of rambling. I already admitted that rereadings in my middle-twenties haven't mesmerized me like my first few runs of the novel. But I have read it in English and Italian. The Catcher in the Rye doesn't quite translate so the literal title of the Italian version is The Young Holden, which I sort of like. It aligns with my notion that the book has the potential to hit its reader hardest when they are young themselves. Still, it left me with something that has lingered into maturity--the notion that I am not alone in being uncertain.

I started this entry with a quote. "Don't tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." People take this quote a variety of ways. Some believe that it is Holden not wanting to get close to folks he hasn't yet acquainted himself yet. I take it as once you start reminiscing, you get lost in the longing for those you no longer see. I feel that. I have been a bit transient. I've moved three times in three years to different states. Once I start telling new associates of the dealings of my past lives, I miss the cohorts that occupied those past days.

I sort of miss Holden Caulfield. The one I first met when I was fourteen. I watched a documentary on Salinger once--one that came out shortly after he died. One devotee of his work managed to accost him in his isolation. That man said Salinger ranted to him that The Catcher in the Rye was "only a book!" And it is. Holden isn't real. He is forever suspended in the nebulous space of his adolescence. I wonder how he would change, if he was real. If I would have an instant bond with a twenty-something Holden expressed in ink on paper. But he's just a character. And it's just a book.

Monday, August 18, 2014

mountains make poor receptacles for dreams

the title of this post comes from a line in jon krakauer's into the wild. as he investigates and interpolates the details of the years before chris mccandless too-early death in the wilds of alaska, he weaves in some narrative from his own early adulthood. in his mid-twenties, he sought to ascend to the peak of an alaskan mountain called the devil's thumb taking a route no climber ever had. he acknowledges he recklessly took his own life in his hands as he perilously and miserably made it to the summit where he remained no more than a few minutes. sure, he had a sense of accomplishment that he was able to brag about to a handful other mountaineers who understood the significant skill and personal risk of his undertaking. however, just a few weeks after his death-defying adventure, krakauer found himself back in colorado doing the same old work he'd been doing before. it didn't transform his life. he remained the same man.

just before i read into the wild, i devoured into thin air, krakauer's personal tale of his climb to the top of mt. everest in 1996, on the towering peak's second deadliest year to date. (it would be the most deadly year, except it was just surpassed this spring when 16 nepali guides were killed in an avalanche near the khumbu icefall.) as the recounting began to describe the myriad of little mistakes that resulted in supreme disaster, i was wholly absorbed. when i reached this point, i would read roughly half a chapter and close the book as my eyes grew misty. i would pace the kitchen for minutes before resuming. as i was summarizing some of the book to a friend, my voice got oddly husky and emotional.

recently mr. jon krakauer has been my literary obsession, but reading the into thin air and into the wild were also the jumping point for my sudden consuming desire to summit everest. this desire may or may not be a sort of misguided receptacle for my romantic dream to attain what krakauer calls "something like a state of grace" (a phrase that was another potential title for this entry). (though, i recognize that summitting everest has become something of a commercial enterprise, which in seems to rob it of its purity. nonetheless, to stand at the highest point on planet earth...)

i suppose this determination to reach the top of the world's tallest peak was borne largely out of my inability to formulate any sort of trajectory for my life. i have found myself afflicted with an unfortunate sort of idealism that has compelled me to turn down two very nice well-paying jobs because i decided i wasn't suited for droll office work or was afraid that climbing the career ladder would pigeonhole me in to a destiny i didn't want. however, all of my declinings have created a sort of uncertainty as to what my next move will be in this elaborate game of life. it's like in improv. you are suppose to always "say yes" by going along with what your improv compadres come up with because if you doubt or undermine their character nothing can develop.

maybe life is a little a bit like improv. if you stop saying yes to opportunity, you suspend development.

then loomed everest. i could say yes to everest. i'd always sort of harbored fantasies of climbing it. i just assumed it was a pipe dream because a suburban girl like me would surely die if she tried it. then i started watching the discovery channel documentary everest: beyond the limit and one guy who climbed it was full of metal plates. i figured i was more fit to take on roof of the earth than him. however, i realized i was not financially fit to do so. just for a climbing license from the nepali government you pay like $10,000. then as an amateur climber who is not particularly strong (but not particularly weak either, mind you) i would surely have to go with some guided expedition which is where the bulk of the cost for the two-month journey would come in.

so, i figured, i won't be able to climb everest this year, or probably even next year, but i could work for a while to remedy my lack of savings. in the meantime, i could also train on how to climb ice. maybe tackle denali in alaska first and set the goal to reach the top of the world before my thirtieth birthday. i could definitely hone some mountain climbing skills and build up a reserve of cash over the next few years.

i excitedly told my mom this plan. it was the first thing that i had gotten truly jazzed, all-motors running excited for in quite a long time. she wasn't an exuberant fan of my new ambition, and my grandmother outright banned me from such an undertaking.

in the past weeks my fervor has lost some of its intensity, yet the flame still flickers. i do realize i am using everest as a receptacle of dreams. i can't deny that in the recesses of my soul (or my limbic cortex) i believe that somehow if i climb it, everything will make sense. even if it takes me four or five years to prepare and save up the funds to do afford the trek, it will all be part of my journey to satori. but rationally, i know this is wrong. an adventure full of risk and reward won't transform me into someone who suddenly has boundless faith in her human value and potential.

mountains are beautiful and dangerous. and i will love them forever. and i know that mr. krakauer is right. a mountain can't change your life, but at least aspiring to tackle one can give you something of a life trajectory.

even if it's just temporary.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

but i still love you new york

**in order to set the appropriate tone for your reading of the following entry, it is absolutely mandatory that you play the youtube video below**

Anyone who has been subject to my rambling expositions on my ever-changing dreams and ambitions knows there has been one thing that remained semi-constant--a longing to number myself among the residents of New York City.

I experienced quite the emotional rush as I officially changed the billing address on my credit cards to reflect my city address and brandished my monthly subway passes at the turnstile.

Last week though, I bought a one-way ticket back to Salt Lake City and officially declared I had no intention to stay in my beloved (though windowless) room in the South Bronx. 

That doesn't mean I don't harbor intentions to come back to NYC. I mean, planes run both ways, and life in the city is just another one-way ticket away.

There is something a little heart-rending about thinking about leaving the city. However, I didn't really feel the ache until I went from a 50 percent to a 95 percent certainty that I would spend some time away. Now every New York minute has to really count. Suddenly, I see everything that I love about the city and its imperfections seem more like character quirks. (Oh, it smells like someone boiled wet garbage? How adorable! Just kidding--I think the city's smell is overhyped. Most of the time the place smells just fine, even pleasant.)

I can hardly pass a bookstore, gallery, bakery, museum without feeling the sting of realizing if I don't visit in the next two weeks, I don't know when I will get the chance.

That is not to say I am not overjoyed to be returning to Salt Lake City. I have lists scrawled on the back of envelopes detailing the mountains I want to climb, food I want to eat, events I want to attend, and other places I want to go (prominent on this list is the Nickelcade.) The bit of heartache at my impending move is just proof of that adage uttered by the goddess of my soul, Joni Mitchell, "You don't know what you got til it's [almost] gone."

I've had a pretty good run this year in NYC. I may not have written any plays, songs, novels--as I hoped the city would inspire me to do, but there has been a certain fullness to these 12-months.

A synopsis of said fullness in bulleted form:
  • Spent 8 hours homeless, chilling on a park bench in Brooklyn with all my worldly possessions until gloriously, the cousins of a friend offered to take me in (saving me considerably on last-minute hostel fare)
  • Got kicked out of Central Park at 2am
  • Received a hug from Paula Abdul
  • Threw up on the Subway
  • Frequented the MOMA regularly on Free Fridays
  • Shook hands with Andrew Garfield
  • Staved off existential crises by watching sunsets from the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Saw fireflies in Central Park
  • Tried unsuccessfully to run past a bouncer when I forgot my ID on a night out
  • Drove a UHAUL across Manhattan
  • Won the ticket lottery for a Broadway show
  • Became pleasantly inebriated while sipping white wine and touring Chelsea art galleries
  • Explored Soka Gakkai Buddhism at the invitation of my roommate. (It involved a lot of chanting a Japanese translation of the title of the Lotus Sutra, but it was kind of nice.)
  • Saw album release shows for First Aid Kit and Conor Oberst in Brooklyn and a life-changing Josh Ritter concert
  • Learned that I could subsist quite happily on deviled eggs and dollar pizza slices
  • Met a fair number of young celebrities, who just seemed like regular kids, but the middle schoolers I worked with were quite impressed
  • Was mistaken for Joss Stone (this is really inexplicable) 
  • Became obsessed with Neo-Futurist theatre
  • Yelled loudly at TV screens in bars across the city as World Cup games were shown
  • Haunted bookstores
  • Installed insulation on houses in Staten Island wrecked by Hurricane Sandy
  • Met some of the best people ever
It has been an incredible run thus far. Personally and professionally, I've had great experiences. However, lately I have been repeating to anyone who would listen that the career ladder is an invention of the late 19th century, created to keep British clerks complacent. I hope to become brave enough to do what I really want: 

Write and create and adventure. 

I've been feeling compelled to trek around Central Asia--so let's see if that latest vagabond dream comes to fruition, post Nickelcade, of course.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life Between Parentheses

This post could just as easily be titled: "Roni, This Is Real Life."

This is what my face looks like these days. Although, sometimes I close my mouth.
But I like slightly esoteric titles, and this one comes from a letter penned by the Italian Hermetic Poet Alfonso Gatto. He had been exiled by the Fascist regime to Tuscany (not a terrible exile, if you ask me), and wrote to a friend that he seemed to be "living between parentheses." The sentiment resonated. I read his letter as a grad student in Italy. I had friends in Italy. I had my crew of cohorts and my roommates, and we hit the town and such. I had a life and purpose. I attended classes, researched in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, and volunteered at a homeless shelter. However, everything felt so disconnected from what I considered my life.  

It was a parenthesis.

I'm barely in contact with the folks that filled my Florentine days. The most meaningful contact I have with my old roommates or university colleagues is writing "Tanti auguri" on their facebook wall on their birthday. I barely have the opportunity to converse in Italian and discuss the intricacies of Dante's body of work or the bombastic declarations of Italian Futurism. I went back to the world of pizza slinging post-grad and by following a windy road, found myself in the nonprofit world serving low-income families. The time I spent earning my Master's degree almost seems like an unnecessary aside in the narrative of my adulthood.

Sometimes I feel the same way about my time in New York City. Like I am living in a new parenthesis. I elaborated on this sentiment with my friend, and she said, "This is your life."

But the parallels are worth remarking about. In Italy, I arrived with two suitcases, an address to an apartment I'd never seen, and a letter that I'd been accepted into a university program--not knowing a soul. I arrived in New York City in much the same fashion, except instead of education, I'd come with the knowledge I'd have a job. Once again, I was disconnected from the world I knew.

As a result, I built a new world. I made friends, planned work events, settled into a new habitation. Everything is new, but that does not indicate it isn't meaningful.

Nonetheless, sometimes in the morning I still open my eyes and have to ask myself, "Is this my life?"

I'm trying to get better at living in the moment. I suffer terribly from an overindulgence in nostalgia. Once I learned the term saudade, I became obsessed with it. (In case you are wondering, it is an untranslatable Portuguese word which means something like a deep melancholic nostalgia with a sort of repressed understanding that the object longed for will never return. Heavy, beautiful, and kind of tragic.)

I romanticize even the recent past--which in someways I think is worth romanticizing. 2013 was a complex year with nearly every feeling in the spectrum being felt within its twelve months, but I forged amazing friendships and learned a lot about life, love, sacrifice, beauty, the transience of youth, fallibility, and so much more. I miss so much of last year, even though I was just as angsty and existential as I am now.

Anyway, I guess I am trying to break out of the parenthesis mentality and say, "Hey, this is your life now! Just live it! Don't over-analyze! It will only be a parenthesis if that is how you treat it."

And even if it is a parenthesis, sometimes those are pretty important.

Like how would you know the definition of saudade without my parenthetical aside (besides google)?

Thursday, February 6, 2014


yesterday, i searched flights from new york to damascus.

there are none.

i had just read a summary of the UN report on the atrocities syrian children have been subjected to in the ongoing syrian civil war and felt so tormented how easily it is to sit idly by that i had a brief flashing moment of being some intrepid bleeding-heart throwing herself at the mercy of a war-ravaged land in hopes of doing some good.

i wrote a lengthy blog post--that is sitting in my drafts folder--titled "the age of impotent advocacy" where i wrote out many sentences in ALL CAPS and composed a lot of damning rhetorical questions. it was not exactly scathing, but it was sort of hopeless. it was cathartic.

today, i've been thinking a lot about ambition.

i don't know if i have any in particular. i used to. i wanted to be a politician. i wanted to be a journalist. for a brief moment, i wanted to be a video game programmer.

my dad told me once that he imagined me in some high level executive job.

these days i am a little aimless, because i cannot put a title to my ambition.

i think i just want to do things that are worth doing. things that mean something. caring about syrian children means something, but writing a poem can mean something too. and hey, i can do both.

i had a lengthy talk with a fellow who studied cello performance at nyu. however, before his senior recital, he got a career ending case of tendonitis. he told me that when he learned he would not be able to make cello performance his career, he felt a flood of relief.

our conversation segued into a discussion about how our professions do not make us who we are. we are defined by much more than the tasks we complete to earn money.

i don't love my job. if somehow, the funding for my position was cancelled, i would be relieved.

i would miss my coworkers and the inside jokes that cause us to laugh so hard we cry, but i would feel a huge weight of obligation lifted off my shoulders.

the work end of my job isn't pure drudgery. it has shining moments, but my daily stress, anxiety and bouts of existentialism brought on by the seeming futility of my efforts does not get anywhere close to being paid off in fulfillment. (here's where i start thinking, 'oh, maybe i just don't work hard enough. i could be better.' which is true, i could always be better. i feel like better is an exponential curve that will infinitely be approaching, but never reaching, best. sometimes, i think it is okay to accept that your work is hard and can sometimes feel like you are pushing a boulder up a hill to frequently see it simply roll back down again.)

i think there is something powerful about dissatisfaction, because when we recognize we are not happy in our current pursuits, we have the opportunity to change. i'll grant that "happiness is a journey not a destination" malarkey, but--to continue the metaphor--sometimes you are detoured from a more enjoyable, meaningful journey and you shouldn't be afraid to change your route.

does my current state of employment meet my ambition's criterion of doing something worth doing?

eh, difficult question.

we'll leave it at that.