Monday, December 28, 2009

hobo holidays

I have been couchsurfing here in Montevideo with Sexy for the past few nights. It has been a good time. A chatty Israeli made me eggs on Xmas Eve, and then I left to explore. The city was like a ghost town. I ended up attending Mass. When Mass ended, a woman enlisted me to walk her home because she did not feel safe because the streets were so deserted and dark. I went to retrieve Sexy at the hostel and we went out with some other travelers and partied until 8 in the morning with a group of Italian boys. Who knew people went out to discos on Xmas Eve? I think it was the first Xmas I was ever hungover. Later in the day we took a bus from our hostel to the house of our couchsurfing host. We wanted to make dinner for him and his other two surfers, so we went out to look for food. Everything was closed, so we ended up buying canned food at a gas station with an impressive alcohol selection. Our Xmas dinner consisted of a strange canned corn and chickpea tortilla, pasta with canned mushrooms, and champagne, beer, and white wine, all purchased at the gas station.

Yesterday the streets were still deserted, so Sexy and I wandered around taking photos and plotting our escape. We were walking through the Ciudad Viejo--the old city--when we heard some music coming from a back alley and saw some kids that we had seen dancing in a plaza earlier. We went to investigate and as soon as they saw us coming down the alley, they surrounded us and began chattering excitedly. At first we were a little frightened, and I couldnt understand what they were saying, but then said in unison: WELCOME!

Everyone in Montevideo is so friendly, and everyone always asks us the same thing: Why did you come to Uruguay? It is pretty charming. These kids were great. They ranged from about ten to eighteen years old, and they were dancing to a music they called techtonika. They welcomed us and offered to teach us some dance moves, and we chilled with them for a while. When we left, they even posed for a big group photo, which was to-die-for adorable.

Tomorrow we will take a bus to the beach and stay through New Years. We hear there will be a full moon on New Years Eve, which will be incredible! I still havent made my New Years resolutions, which I am very serious about. But I have some bus time to work this all out. I think it will have something to do with balancing work and play, trying to live a life of fewer extremes. But I dont know.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

home in the rain

I left my new house this afternoon to go shoot the pato semifinals at the Campo de Polo in Palermo, but it started sprinkling the second I stepped outside. It was also deadly hot and humid, so I thought about it and reluctantly turned home. Twenty minutes later, it was POURING. You could probably paddle across the cobblestone street right now.

Because it's raining, let's talk about a few of my favorite things (thus far in BsAs):

The city buses here are a crazy jumble of different colors, designs, and breakneck drivers. Some of the buses feel like mobile discotheques, decked out in glitter and stars. They're a great way to see the city, and cooler than the subway.

Heladerias, Librerias, Empanderias
These are my favorite 'ias.' The ice cream here is great, there are so many bookstores, and cheap empanadas.

Movie Clubs
I've been to see two movies so far, one for free, the other super cheap. Both were shown in tiny theaters (less than 20 people), and were just DVDs projected onto a screen. They were fantastic.

Everywhere, they sell jasmine flowers for 10 pesos a bunch. The other day I was on a bus and the bus driver had a few flowers sitting in a jar next to him.

Cute boys, all sorts
The men here are attractive without looking like they care or notice. There are men of European and Latin descent, bankers, artists, hippies. It is a little overwhelming. I have been unable to talk to the men here. Then yesterday a cute British boy said hello to me and I was too unused to talking to respond. I have only met one American boy so far, and he turned out to be a good friend of Joe's, which I found out later. I don't want to have anything to do with any kind of boys at the moment. (Except, of course, for the man I'm going to marry, who is providing me with a nice email affair for the moment. )

My new home
It's nice to have a real home to hide inside when it is raining. I think it would drive me a little crazy if I were stuck in the hostel downtown right now. But I'm not! I have moved, and I now have keys to a beautiful split-level home on the edge between Villa Crespo and Paternal, about a 40-minute bus ride from where I was before. I'm sharing the home with a charming gay couple, both of whom are extremely attractive, so it is the best of both worlds for me. I get to look at cute boys but not deal with any drama. I also have a beautiful terrace where I can hang my underwear to dry. Turns out I kind of love doing my laundry by hand.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This week I had a terrible headache for about 168 hours. And I do mean 168 hours, and not 7 days. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my head aching, and in the morning my first thought would be, "God, my head still fucking hurts." It was awful.

The mosquitoes here are something fierce. My first day here, I was attacked by so many mosquitos in the nature reserve that I had to come home to wash up because my hands were covered in blood from swatting them. Naturally, I came to the conclusion that I had dengue, and just rested a lot and drank lots of water. But I didn't have a fever.

I thought it could be the red wine, so I stopped drinking red wine. I stopped drinking white wine. Then I stopped drinking beer. Still, headache.

Then a fellow student asked if I was eating anything different. Like any frugal traveler, I've been making some meals in my hostel, namely powdered soup. She suggested to check the soup ingredients; maybe it was MSG. I checked, and yep, they all had MSG. So I stopped eating the soups, but the headache still persisted.

My teacher said, "Maybe it's the cigarettes." I thought about this. The first day or two, I was still smoking my Winstons from home. Then I bought a pack of Camels (which give me a slight headache, even back in the States), and then switched to Parliaments. It seemed like the only thing left. I thought, "Good lord, what if I have to quit smoking?" I resolved to quit smoking and lasted six hours before I thought I'd switch brands again and see if it helped. So I found a store that sells Winstons and continued on my merry smoking way. I also drank a bottle of red wine.

After 168 hours, my headache disappeared.

Then, during class today, I suddenly had a random nosebleed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

10 days in

I have begun to feel strangely comfortable here in Buenos Aires, even though I can't speak the language and I have no friends. The Internet helps a lot, I must admit. Also, things have started to move along in their own little way, and I am glad for all the distraction.

My biggest piece of news is that I sold a second story to a magazine, and it is a FOOD story, so maybe this will be the first step to writing about things that I love. It is a short piece, but it will be published in a nice, glossy magazine and they are paying me enough to almost pay a full month's rent here. Maybe that is the ticket to my existence as a writer, to get paid in US$ and live abroad.

That leads me to my second piece of news, which is that I have found a place to move into on Wednesday! I looked at three apartments in different neighborhoods. My instinct was to move into the first one I saw, which was in the trendy San Telmo neighborhood. I would have shared the house with four or five other students, and a young couple and their daughter. The place was appropriately untidy for my taste, and full of young travelers. But I think I am getting old, because I'm taking a place much further from the action, in Villa Crespo. It lacks the obvious charm of San Telmo, like the cobblestone streets and myriad cafes and galleries, but it feels more peaceful to me. And instead of living with a bunch of rag-taggers like myself, I will be sharing the house with a couple, two young men who are both artists in their own right. If I had known they were a couple right off the bat, I probably wouldn't have gone to see the place because I don't really like the idea of living with a couple. But everything just seemed so fucking perfect. They were so charming and hospitable, and their place is cute, cozy, and out of the way. I'm surprised that I am so excited to get out of the buzzing downtown area where I'm staying. But, like I said, I must be getting old. I also thought I'd be dying to meet other Americans and travelers, but it turns out I don't really care at the moment. I think more than anything, I am dying for a good night's sleep, and it turns out downtown Buenos Aires is not the place for that. After the drunk people and trash collectors have disappeared from the street, the street cleaning truck crawls down my block every night around 3 a.m. to wash away the grime with a high-pressure sprayer, and it is maddening.

There is only one other person in my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class, a woman who is my father's age. She is all the company I need. Today we finished the first week of the two-week-long course, and it is boring and annoying for the most part, but sometimes interesting to think about one's native language in such elementary ways. I found the practice teaching to be incredibly fun. The students (six adults) were all over the place, but they were engaged. Of course, the first ten minutes of my class consisted of the students interrogating me about my ethnic heritage. Why do you look Asian if you were born in the States? There aren't too many Asian people here in Buenos Aires, although all the supermarkets seem to be owned by Chinese people (who actually speak Chinese). They were intense, but overall, delightful. One of the students invited us to a party as his house tonight, but I have been so crushed by this weird headache that I had to say no. I hope that he will extend the invitation some other time.

I think the real turning point for me was the other night when, for whatever reason, I started to think about returning to the States in April and I was seized with this feeling of anxiety and dread. I don't really know why the thought of going back freaks me out, but I'm going to let that simmer in the back of my mind and probably let it terrorize me late at night when I am done wondering if this persistent headache is a symptom of dengue.

Friday, December 4, 2009

tempting towns

This morning I headed out to explore the barrio Retiro, another neighborhood abutting Microcentro, where I am staying. I passed by (another) protest in front of the University of Buenos Aires, gilded shopping centers, sidewalk cafes, and then went into the Retiro train station to have a look around. I love train stations.

With only a vague idea of which direction I was going, I followed a major road a short way to where it was no longer major. The road was suddenly unpaved, and the buildings now had numbers painted on by hand. There were dogs lying in the doorways, and the types of looks I was getting had changed from mostly indifference to curiosity. Instead of being another buzzing member of the glamorous hive of downtown, I was now walking slowly through a static town-within-a-town.

This part of town had a completely distinct personality. It was protected and segregated by highway overpasses, rusting train containers, abandoned tracks, and swaths of dusty roads. The residences ranged from cardboard lean-tos to brick cubes stacked two high, adorned with narrow, steel, spiral stairs. I wove my way through the lanes of houses. There were tons of people out, cooking, chatting, and of course staring at me. The past two days here, I've felt like I could be anywhere. But this morning I felt like I was somewhere new. I was incredibly happy.

I have been carrying my espresso-machine-sized camera haphazardly in a large canvas tote bag. Although my padded camera bag would be much better for it, I feel like it attracts a lot of attention. You know how in New York you can tell who the tourists are because they're wearing the backpacks on their stomachs and strangling their handbags while walking down Park Avenue? Well, here everyone does that. I've never really been the nervous type about my belongings--mostly since I'm more likely to damage them than anyone else--but here I've already been told to put my camera away twice. I am trying to be good about taking it out quickly to compose photos and then stashing it back. I desperately wanted to shoot photos while in this neighborhood, but instead I wandered blithely through. Although there was an appropriate amount of activity to make it feel safe, there was also an element of stillness that alerts a cautionary sense in me. It's like approaching a dog that is bounding around wagging its tail versus a dog that is just staring at you with its head sort of bent down.

It wasn't until that I emerged on the other end that I took my camera back out. Then I came across the entrance to a more decrepit-looking collection of homes. I couldn't tell how big it was because it was level, unlike the maze of two-story buildings I'd come through. I got even more excited because I am a hugely privileged dork fascinated by poor people and old-school urban development. Cogniscent of the cluster of police cars sitting in a clearing just there, I took out my camera and snapped a quick photo, then stood for a moment assessing the best way into this second village.

Promptly a policeman approached me and told me to leave, telling me it was very dangerous. I wondered whether he would prevent me from entering the encampment. If I were to walk through with my camera concealed, was it a sure thing that I'd be robbed? It was the middle of the day. I've been told I'm quite risk tolerant, and I briefly thought of just ignoring him and plunging in. On the other hand, I didn't want to be stupid. There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity, and if I were to get my camera jacked on my third day here, well, I would definitely see exactly where that line was. I followed his directions to get back to the preapproved areas of town, the whole time plotting a return without any belongings except my keys.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

alone in argentina

I got into Buenos Aires yesterday morning. After the very friendly taxi driver tried to charge me more than twice as much for the fare, I was deposited onto the bustling Calle Lavalle, a pedestrian-only strip surrounded by restaurants and shops and portenos marching around at a NYC pace.

The four-story climb to my hostel is worth it. My room is set with three single beds, separated by two nightstands. The senora of the house instructed me to sleep in the middle one. I would have laughed if I hadn't been so confused, because she had also just told me that the room was all my own. But, like a good houseguest, summarily took a shower and passed out in said middle bed. I love my room. It has a perfect one-foot-deep balcony with French doors draped in transluscent yellow netting, bathing my room in a golden glow of sun and cigarette smoke.

It is something like heaven.

Because I will be here for so long, I don't feel compelled to charge around in tourist mode. I spent a few hours yesterday and today trawling around and perfecting my use of three words: hola, si, and lo siento. "Hola" of course is hello. Then I say "si" to show that I can understand, but not really respond in a much deeper manner. And then I say "lo siento" to everyone who asks me for money or any further information, because I neither have the language capacity nor the pesitos to be of much help at all.

Last night it was my intention to take a nap and then go out for dinner, but I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I just ate a granola bar and went back to bed. And, although I'm no stranger to eating in restaurants alone, the thought of it made me lonely more than excited.

Cue surreal single-note piano music.

I thought it would take a few days, por menos, for me to feel lonely and confused, but it only took ten hours. The night before I left, I dreamed of the boy who I went out with on Monday. Last night, I dreamed about Joe. And during today's highly unsettling afternoon siesta, I dreamed of Ex. This is not the kind of loneliness I was anticipating. It is deeper and weirder and more unwanted than any loneliness I've had before. But it is not alarming, mostly because I have nobody to talk to about it. And it only surfaces in my sleep. I guess that is reason enough to stay conscious.

The big-city aspect has a lot to do with it. My last two solo travels, I went to small places, where people would stop and talk to you and welcome you. When you come to a buzzing metropolis, the world does not slow down to fold you in. Big cities are all alike in that way. Part of me wants to leave and go to a smaller town, but I know I will stay here at least until Christmas. I am definitely the kind of person who pushes herself through things, the more distasteful the better, just to prove that I can do it. I also believe that the harder something is, the bigger the reward: no pain, no gain. But this trip isn't really about proving anything to anyone, and besides, I just pushed myself through a crappy two-year program and I really don't think I'm any better for it. This trip is supposed to be just about doing whatever the hell I want to do. The problem is, a really large part of me just wants to go out and drink tons of booze.

Why is that always what I want to do?

But no, mother, that's not what I'm going to do. I'm going to be patient, try to enjoy myself, and finish up this novel that is apparently too long according to first-novel publishing guidelines. All this not-being-able-to-communicate is going to be good for my novel. I can tell.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

last minute freakout

I got pulled over (again) today. Welcome back to Illinois! It did not stay my day off right.

This is going to be a somewhat frenetic post. I've ingested a lot of coffee and cigarettes.

Packing tonight was a tricky maneuver. I want to bring nothing and everything. I am obsessed with my summer dresses but cannot bring them all. And, more like, I will end up going out how I went out in New York, in disgusting cutoffs and dirty tee-shirts. I almost don't want to bring them to force myself to look better. But somehow I crammed a bunch of clothes into a bag and am now contemplating this obnoxious thing of beauty, my tripod. It is a separate piece of luggage. I can't not take it and yet I can't imagine taking it. The tripod has become a metaphor for all of my problems with this endeavor at all.

Got home last night after twelve intense days in California. Top 10 Highlights: 1) Eating a burrito with the dog in Dolores Park an hour after landing at SFO, 2) crashing a City Hall function with booze and schwag and hors d'oeuvres, 3) seeing that Ex is still adorable, 4) a 24-hour date with my peripatetic life partner that included a) biscuits, gravy, waffles, and crab for breakfast, b)watching the Heimlich Maneuver performed at dinner one night, and c) Point Break Live, 7) tailgating with Raiders fans and getting drunk by noon, 8) a sleepover party with Joe, 9) spending soft time with my friends at my old apartment, and 10) the idea of family time.

Bottom 5 buzzkillers: 1) breaking my very-needed cell phone my first morning in SF, 2) a return to the serious boozing and ensuing sicking, and 3) witnessing the fallout of a long-standing friendship gone bad, 4) helping a bloodied, beaten up man to his feet just down the block from my apartment, about an hour after I passed him drinking what smelled like cologne with his buddies, and 5) pissing all over myself in a port-a-potty.

I slept a blessed eight hours last night and then set about freaking out today, starting with getting pulled over. Tomorrow I get on an airplane and fly for fourteen hours. I think what I like best about airplane rides is that the act of booking a ticket and then actually going somewhere works well with my mentality of shoot first, ask questions later. I hate obsessive anxiety, which is going to party out tonight with the three shots of espresso I had earlier this evening. I know it wasn't the wisest move, but I had a lot to do, and I was on a date with a sweet boy who I will probably marry. I will tell you all about it some time. The date had two purposes: the minor one was to take away four hours of pre-trip anxiety. But the real reason I had to go out on a date today is because one thing about me that you probably don't know is that right before I make a big move or decision, I have to fall in love, have sex, (and not necessarily with the same person), then leave. This way, when I leave I can direct all of my obsessive, cyclical thoughts to dramatic romantic fantasies rather than putting myself through the wringer of decision-making anxiety. I recommend it highly. Why second-guess yourself when you can just escape to a fantasy world where everyone is in love--it's just the timing that is off?

Timing: It is everything that matters, completely out of our control, and, in the end, completely inconsequential. It's the perfect abstract concept to take the blame for everything.

See you in South America.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pre-perepatetic prep

"Go, go, go, go, go you restless're going to find it."
Daniel Johnston
, Go

The countdown is on (again). Tomorrow I'll be roaming the streets of my beloved San Francisco for the holidays, followed by a final day of teeth-fixing back in the Chi before heading off to the southern hemisphere for the winter. It's all very exciting. I can only think two things: 1) I am so ready, and 2) I am so scared.

I should be packed by now but I haven't really done shit. I tell myself that I'm going to a major metropolitan city after all, not the middle of the Amazon. Pre-trip prep in this case is really about mental preparations and not remembering to bring band-aids and floss (although I've read that tampons are hard to come by in Buenos Aires--really?).

But let's be honest here. I've largely avoided any kind of preparations largely out of fear, though, and not out of confidence. Because when I think about spending the next few months abroad, I get very nervous and scared. Specifically I fear the night that I don't have any planned distraction and end up feeling incredibly lost and lonely and think that as much as I try to elude this feeling, it will always be there. Furthermore, the more I move about, the more likely it is that I will feel lost and lonely. This makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

I think that a week in SF with friends will help to remedy my low levels of self-confidence. My extremely peripatetic friend (thank you, Bill Waterson, for teaching me this wonderful word) will be in town, so I am looking forward to hearing some of his insights on why we are so goddamn antsy. It's funny; I used to think he was somewhat delusional. It seemed like any time he was dissatisfied with things, he just picked up and moved somewhere else. This boy goes through apartments the way normal people go through underwear. I viewed his tendency to relocate as something of a neurosis, but lately I've been thinking that maybe he's onto something. When you fear being lost and alone and force yourself through this all the time, the possibility of this becoming a reality either fades or intensifies, and the outcome appears to be entirely under your control. This is a tremendous rush and relief, and it is quite addictive. In my little tastes of solo travel this past year, I got huge charges out of finding peace of mind both by myself and in the company of strangers in surreal circumstances. One day I will write a book about it.

Until then, I'll continue to pursue these frightening situations. It's a little masochistic, but I've become quite driven by it. I don't indulge in any more desperate fantasies that by switching locations, I will suddenly become enlightened as to my place in the world, or to the meaning of life, but I know the more I risk loneliness and confusion, the happier I am (and the more likely it is for me to meet my charming foreign life partner). Although not knowing what's going to happen is scary, what's even scarier is feeling like I know exactly what will day...after day...

Friday, November 13, 2009


...have I been getting requests for platonic friendships on OkCupid?

Is this a Chicago thing?

Monday, November 9, 2009

on the wagon with help of phantom doctor

I really miss Detox Doc. I try to imagine what he would say to me, what I would say to him. The conversation, I think, would be like this:

DD: Nice to see you. How are things?

SB: Ugggh, I'm back on the wagon. I haven't really had a drink in a month.

DD: Well, this sounds great! It sounds like you are successfully establishing your own boundaries with alcohol.

SB: Big freaking whoop.

DD: You don't sound too excited about this.

SB: It's easy to do this here because I'm in the woods with my parents. And I'm not exactly thrilled by these new boundaries. I just want to go back to my wily old ways.

DD: Well, you were back to your wily old ways, weren't you? But you stopped. Why? What was it like being back?

SB: Well, it was kind of different because here I have to drive, and driving drunk is very illegal. Other than that, things were okay. I was only drinking on the weekends, instead of every night. The nights were entertaining. And as sick as it may sound, I actually missed my hangovers. I get these great hangovers that are like being kind of tipsy all the next day, and everything seems silly. I can also then feel entitled to take naps even though I'm unemployed and live with my parents.

DD: Okay...but you stopped drinking.

SB: Partying is weird when you're unemployed and not in school or anything.

DD: (laughs) How so?

SB: Well, when you have all that pre-approved stress in your life, living it up a little is a pre-approved way to get rid of said stress. But when you're not doing anything, it's like, "What's your deal? What are you trying to avoid?"

DD: Does drinking always mean avoidance?

SB: Come on.

DD: All right. So what are you trying to avoid? People can have stress even if they're unemployed. In fact, that's even more stressful than being employed. When unemployment rates rise, so does substance abuse.

SB: I suppose so.

DD: So, you tried coping with the stress by drinking but weren't okay with it. Why?

SB: It was making me feel guilty.

DD: Guilty?

SB: Like, Jesus, I'm being a complete waste of space. After the happy-hangover effect wore off, it was always replaced with feeling like a waste of space. It's kind of stupid. I didn't really change what I did in the meanwhile, I just stopped drinking to avoid that fucking feeling.

DD: Well...that's a good thing, I guess. Where do you think that feeling was coming from?

SB: I don't know. Like I said, it was a stupid feeling. If I think about it really hard, I don't have anything to be ashamed of. I just have some downtime now, that's all. But whenever I got the post-hangover hangover going, it turned me into some sort of self-loathing freak of nature that wouldn't cut me a break at all. So actually, it wasn't the drinking that was the problem, it was that feeling of completely illogical guilt.

DD: Was it completely illogical? It helped you to moderate your drinking habits.

SB: But they didn't really need to be moderated.

DD: Everyone has different reactions to alcohol. If you were just drinking occasionally but they were having negative effects, it was an appropriate decision to change your drinking habits to avoid those negative effects. This is unlike before, when you just kept drinking through those negative effects. You should be proud of that. It's difficult to change your behavior, and it looks like you are doing it.

SB: You're right; I'm a fucking genius. Thanks, Doc.

DD: Seriously.

SB: It's just annoying because I'm drinking so little and it's making me crazy. I never used to get like this after the occasional drink. It's like all that sobriety has turned me into a pussy.

DD: Well, let's think back to last year. You were drinking between 50 and 60 drinks a week, and the reason why you could drink so much was because you weren't really feeling the effects. So, this new body chemistry is kind of a good thing.

SB: I should have known my genes would catch up with me. Last night I went out to dinner with my parents. My parents really don't drink at all, but my father has acquired this strange habit of carrying one of those double-shot bottles of Glenlivet that you get on the airplane, and he'll add a half-teaspoon of it to his glass of 7up. I'm not kidding. Half a fucking teaspoon. That single-serving scotch will make my father about twenty drinks. Incredulous, I asked him if he could actually taste the scotch.

He says he's very sensitive.

Monday, November 2, 2009

sweet november

Last night I went to see Prince, my first boyfriend from high school. He wasn't feeling well and it was pretty late, so I picked him up and we just went for a drive around town. I actually had trouble remembering which house was his, and had to call and be reminded. He looked exactly the same. As we tooled around in the suburban darkness, he kept saying that it felt like we were in high school again. We haven't seen each other in more than three years, since Ex and I passed through Portland, where he was living with the girl he's now been married to for two years.

Prince and I were together for a little more than a year. We were each other's firsts, and tried to make it work when we both went off to college. I still hurt when I think back to the Tuesday afternoon that he broke up with me over the phone. I wonder if people ever really get over having their heart broken, or if it's just something we learn to ignore--this thought that someone we loved with every atom decided not to love us back anymore. It's been almost ten years since that happened, and nothing has hurt more than that since then. I've never held this against him. People tell you when you're that age that you're too young to be serious, that part of going to college is dating other people, and we manage to convince ourselves that being committed to just one person is some kind of a shortcoming.

I'm pretty sure his parents had something to do with our breakup, but more so, he probably just needed to get out there and have himself some college sex, and wasn't the type to do so with a committed girlfriend out in the ether. In the end, I have to be glad that Prince broke it off with me instead of trying to have it both ways. I am also glad we have always remained in touch.

As I piloted us around, Prince unloaded his burdens on me. We've always spoken very frankly with each other about the heaviest of existential dilemmas, and nothing tips that into intense self-loathing more than some serious family time. Overall, I got the sense that he's disappointed that all the things he feared would happen to him are happening. His marriage is beginning to resemble his parents' marriage, and in the absence of a serious passion, he's turned to placating himself with pleasant yet meaningless diversions.

After the coldest October turned into the wettest October in recent Chicagoland history, November is beautiful by comparison. Prince asked if we could go down to the lakefront for a little walk, so I parked the car and we walked down a winding pathway to Lake Michigan. There was a full moon out and mild breezes coming off the lake, and we dragged our heels through the sand. When we were in high school with no place to go, we would often come to the lake and do the same thing. We both had problems with our families and didn't like hanging out at home. The day before our winter formal, Prince got into a fight with his father and punched a cabinet so hard he broke his hand. After I got off work, I sometimes went to his house with whatever takeout I had scrounged from the restaurant and eat with his mother rather than returning home. We were both runners then, and running was a good way to get out of the house and blow off steam.

On our lakeside escapes, we would talk through our dramas in family and school and such. I bitched about the irrational restrictions and expectations my parents placed on me, and he would shake his head and tell me to do my best, that I was a good person. And he would express his frustration at his father's demands, and say he felt sorry for his mother. We would hold hands and talk about our futures, how we would get away from all of this. We didn't know why things were the way they were, but we swore that when we grew up things wouldn't be like this. We knew better. And then we would sigh and kiss and drive somewhere to get ice cream or hot chocolate.

Last night, instead of talking about his folks making decisions for him, he talked about feeling like he was in a life that he hadn't really chosen for himself...that it was just there, by default. It's not a bad life, but it's not what he had dreamed of. He hadn't really dreamed of anything other than getting away. And now that he's away, he's simply constructed the same cage of discontent for himself. There was no more talk about getting away and things getting better, but about not understanding how things got to be this way. It was like our talks from ten years ago, only without the hope that things would get better.

It made me very sad, but I identified with him completely. Detox Doc and I often talked about how resigned I was to being unhappy about a lot of things. I thought I had to go and save the world, to please my family, to "do the right thing," all difficult things to do, because anything worth doing is not only hard but requires sacrificing your own happiness. I was only sure I was doing the right thing if it made me miserable. This kind of thinking, Detox Doc told me, was just fucked up. It was an "error of logic." Throughout our time together, Detox Doc pointed out to me a number of such errors in the way I think about the world, thoughts that I really wanted to blame on my parents mostly, but what was the point? He told me the best thing to do was just to recognize these thoughts as errors, and not to give into them. Otherwise, you live in a constant state of discordance and misery, tolerable only with consistent sessions of ritual conciousness-deadening, like boozing and television.

Just when I was reaching the apex of my motivational/spiritual diatribe, Prince noticed a set of headlights at the top of the hill, and a few minutes later we were accosted by a pair of Glencoe squad cars. Two of the most good-looking cops I have ever encountered informed us we were trespassing and, after running our IDs and failing to appear threatening at all, told us to leave.

Back in the car, Prince asked me to take him home. The radio was playing Boston's "More than a Feeling," and I forced myself to talk over it, rather than doing what I normally do when I hear this song: turn it up, sing along, and indulge in the warm fuzzy memories that accompany any of the songs from the many mixtapes Prince made for me when we were dating. It was a strenuous effort. I told him about how I had gone to the Atacama Desert hoping to think my way out of a tedious situation, only to realize that for vague problems like these, thinking doesn't get you anywhere, only doing. When I dropped him off, I made him promise me that he would take some sort of action this year. Life is passing him by and he's just scared to make a move, scared to take matters into his own hands.

His wife didn't come out to Chicago with him this trip, and he told me things weren't bad with her, but they weren't exactly good either. And yes, ten years later, I still thought to myself that we would have been happy together. I thought of the tortuous relationships I'd endured and the blissful encounters I'd had, and honestly I think I could have traded it all for being with him the entire time. Somehow, it's nice to know that there is someone I still love and believe in after all this time, even if he is married to someone else and still afraid of cops. But in the end, love isn't enough to make a person happy if they're resigned themselves to pereptual malaise, to struggle with situations rather than coming to terms with them. It's the fucking serenity prayer: Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I really did learn a lot in that 12-step program, even if I only did some of the steps, and they were all out of order.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

on the trigger

Yesterday I left the house for the first time in two days and got a speeding ticket. 75 fucking dollars for going 41 mph in a 25 zone. I didn't even try to argue with him, which is totally unlike me. I haven't gotten a speeding ticket since I was clocked going 107 on the interstate in southern Illinois. That was 10 years ago. It didn't feel like I was going that fast. You'd think that for someone in my position of Not Doing Shit, going even 5 mph would feel incredibly fast. But I'm just really trigger happy lately. To make up for all this NDS, I am in extreme mode whenever I do move. Extreme Consumption, Extreme Velocities, Extreme Moodiness, which includes Extreme Impatience and Extreme Irritability. In other words, my existence lately is Extreme Extended PMS.

This is incredibly unfortunate for Mom & Pop, since our three-day grace period has long expired and it is the coldest Octotber in 22 years. Cold October, Family Time, and NDS is Serious Business's least favorite cocktail.

Now that I am back at home, many tasks I previously did on my own now have to pass the scrutiny of M&P. This includes eating dinner, going to the dentist, replacing broken equipment, and purchasing plane tickets. I was ready to get a flight to Buenos Aires in two weeks, but my parents asked me to stay until Christmas. The compromise was Thanksgiving. But instead of dipping into my Year of Serious Business fund, my father insisted I spend every waking moment compulsively checking his airline for an available flight on which I could use his frequent flier miles.

Just like female condoms, frequent flier miles sound like such a good idea until you try to use them. They sound convenient, more or less under your control, and kind of a no-brainer. But then you see the sad truth: the timing and situation has to be absolutely perfect, and when you finally get it to work, it's just not as good. Between now and January, there are only three days that I can fly out. This wouldn't be such a big deal, but to seal the deal I put a deposit on a Teach English/Learn Spanish course that starts the first week of December. This leaves me in that aggravating position of jockeying for a flight, and hoping that prices don't go up, or pulling the trigger now only to see seats open up later for less or better. I've never worried about shit like this before because I just don't care. I'll pay a little extra to not worry about it, just to have the ticket secured. But once someone else insists I care, and gives me reason to, it just about drives me crazy. Because at the end of the day, I still don't care.

Not being able to take care of these things drives me crazy and exacerbates my parentally-directed bitchiness. It's made even worse because then Pops will call me and say something like, "What do you want to do for dinner tonight? We'll go anywhere you want." Because this means that I will inevitably have a very upset stomach. An appetizer of self-loathing, an entree of hard-boiled love marinated for years in obligation, and finished off with a guilty dessert of vague anxiety is way too extravagant a meal to indulge in every fucking night.

Tonight, I really want some barbecued baby back ribs, though. Oh god. Ribs.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


After living without a television for ten out of the last eleven years, I am suddenly spending a lot of time with a giant one that could crush us all. I stayed away from it for the first week or so, mostly because I didn't know what to do with it. Honestly, I didn't know that the cable box had to be turned on separately. And then I didn't know how to change channels. Then once I got that all figured out, I didn't know what to watch. So I just gave up.

Then one evening my friend Ash told me he was going to teach me how to watch television. He showed me the joys of his Tivo, and forced me to watch one episode of 30 Rock and one episode of the new 90210. I didn't really understand the humor behind 30 Rock, and 90210...well, everyone knows how to watch that. It has gotten much more risque since the Brenda/n Walsh days of my youth.

Although I wasn't too impressed with this foray back into television, I did like the "I'm-doing-something-but-not-really" feeling I got from it. So I started to watch things. Any movie set in New York (about 80 percent of all movies). Cartoons. The Office. When I found myself watching an America's Next Top Model marathon, though, I knew something had to change. So I shut off the television and promptly burned myself by placing two fingers, deliberately, on the coffee burner. I was seeing if it was on.

I really feel much more stupid when I'm at home. Part of it is because my mother doesn't allow me to cook, which means the huge segment of my brain devoted to gathering, preparing, and consuming food has gotten soft. The other part is that my father doesn't allow me to take care of things, like replacing my cell phone which broke last week. Another part is because of increased access to television. And still another part, I really think, is because survival in the suburbs is so much less involved than survival in the city. I no longer plot the seventeen different routes I can take to get somewhere and still pass by the bodega that sells the cheapest cigarettes, miss the hill that gets slick in the rain, get on the A train before it stops running express, and be above ground for the most likely part of the day that my latest crush could call me for drinks. No. Survival is now so bloody likely that I have to drink four cups of coffee a day to keep from falling asleep because so many circuits in my head have stopped blinking.

Until then, I have online dating to distract me. But even that is reaching its limits.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

weekend warrior

Last night around midnight I found myself in the backseat of a car cuddled up with a cute boy whose name I couldn't remember. I'd come out of a club where I was shooting photos of a high school acquaintance-turned-rap-star and was going to head back to my brother's place when this kid ran up to me and said, "Hey, nice boots."

Most people would say thanks and keep walking, particularly if they're tired as hell and still hurting a little bit from the cornucopia of free drinks with which I was paid Saturday night. But I haven't had sex in about six weeks now and am toeing the "fuck anything that moves / no really, I don't need sex" line in a tenuous way.

I really, really, really wanted to take this guy home, but I couldn't very well take him to Little Brother's apartment and further traumatize the one person I care about most in the entire world. And homeboy was on tour with his fellow art-school posse and had no place to take me to. But I think I was secretly hoping that if I drank more, I would be okay with anything. So there we were, killing a bottle of whiskey in an SUV parked right in front of the club.

This is when it came out that he was 25 and I am 29, and for the umpteenth time this year, I got the "really?" that sets off something weird and defensive and confusing in me. I get this a lot lately. I got it Saturday night from the 22-year-old who was shooting photos of drag queens with me, too. People always make some remark about how I should be thankful to be mistaken for being younger, but it always makes me feel incredibly immature and somehow stunted, like someone my age shouldn't be doing whatever it is I'm doing--like having random sex, being paid with booze, or smoking pot with eight young men I'd just met until 3 am on a Monday night. Then tonight I ended up at a fundraiser for a political candidate who turned and asked me if I just graduated from high school or college. This was because I was sitting between my folks, and it made me think that yep, living at home was yet another thing someone my age should not be doing.

I spent the day yesterday watching the entire first season of the show Party Down. Um, hilarious? One of the main characters debates moving home with his parents until the crew has to work a 20-year high school reunion and he's confronted with what happens when you move home. This part was a little too real for me to find hilarious. But still...

Anyhow, the point of this post is to say this: it's getting cold in Chicago and if I don't leave, my weekend boozing is going to go out of control as it pumps up to offset my creeping feelings of complete failure. I've decided to go to South America for at least three months and use Montevideo as my base. I wanted to leave on Oct. 20 but my pops wants me to stay through Thanksgiving. Also, I wanted to tell you that I suddenly understand the health care fiasco. Blue Cross Blue Shield denied me coverage because I was in substance abuse treatment last year. The funny thing is that if I hadn't been in treatment, I would probably be in much worse shape right now, but they would insure me.

Those fuckwads.

Friday, September 25, 2009

shady characters

I am car-less in the suburbs today, and the rain has thwarted my plan to ride my bike into "town" to go food shopping. So, I am attached to the Internet and this is what I have discovered:

A)my ex-boyfriend is still as cute as ever

B)the guy who I'm shooting photos for tomorrow night is allegedly shady

I responded to a craigslist ad looking for event photographers for some party tomorrow night. When I called to get the details, I ended up talking to this Dude for about half an hour. Although all I wanted to know was how much I'd be paid and where/when to show up, he just wouldn't stop talking. During the course of our conversation, he let me know that he is A) gay-friendly, B) 6'3" and in great shape, and C) rich as all hell.

He also told me that I'd be paid "a C-note and some drink tickets" and that my photos didn't really matter. They are hiring five photographers, basically for the paparazzi-buzz effect. So I'm going to look hot and fire my flash a ton for a couple hours, then get wasted and walk back to my brother's apartment.

I was curious about this gregarious, burly rich guy so of course I googled his name. The second hit that came up was from this blog called Vengeful Purpose, run by a guy who is getting sued for libel or something. A former employee of Dude, he called him one of the most cunning and mean people he'd ever met. He wrote:

"I did see him actually fight (as in fist fight) and it was something I will never forget. I watched him get punched right in the face by a huge man he was arguing with and it seemed to have no effect on him. He wiped the blood from his face and then simply beat the man senseless!

He never made a sound or raised his voice- he just simply kept beating the man until the police arrived. The cops asked HIM what happened and then his ever present lawyer showed up and took [Dude] home.

Can anyone say special treatment?

I was told later by a co worker that "as long as [Dude] is talking you have nothing to fear - when he stops is when you should be concerned"

Hilarity! I cannot wait to meet this man.

Monday, September 21, 2009

dear anonymous commenter

Thank you for your kind words on my blog this week. They really floored me--mostly because I was pretty sure of the fact that my readership was limited to a dozen people whom I know intimately on either coast, but also because it gave me the immensely satisfying and secure feeling of being appreciated by and connected to a complete stranger in this volatile world during a transitory time in my life.

Things are going as okay as they can be for someone who is a) freeloading at the suburban home of one's parents, b) dangerously sober most nights of the week, and c) steadily padding on some midwest poundage. On the bright side, I'm a) not working, b) getting a lot of sleep, and c) getting a much-needed root canal this week, hopefully. You know it's a weird situation when dental work is on your top three highlights list without the slightest bit of irony.

I haven't been doing nothing, though I don't feel like writing much lately. Without the glamorous backdrop of a boozy, sultry metropolis, engaging writing requires a lot more effort. Not that I haven't been having fun out here. Since my last post I danced myself sweaty at an amazing soul party, profiled a Wrigley Field beer vendor, took another lens in for repairs, went Girls Gone Wild in the photo booth at a dubstep show, took a walk through not one but TWO cemeteries, ate fried cheese at a Celtic festival, and trolled Hipsterfest (aka the Renegade Craft Fair) on an online date with a poet. And all this I've done in this massive Chicagoland Area without ever driving drunk a single time, thanks to the open-door policy I have at Little Brother's pad downtown. Yes, Moochfest 2009 is in full effect, now with Zero Shame Down!

Secret Plan 500c is slow-going, but I'm working on it. Thanks, to Mom and Pop, for putting me up and slowing me down (in the best possible way), and to Al Gore, for inventing the Internet.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I also want to share with you something pretty personal. It's a book called Going Dry that I made for Detox Doc (lord how I miss him). Although the book was printed with a dedication to him, it is for you all as well.

going dry

It's short and mostly photos that you're familiar with. If you click the image, it'll download the file, which is 1.6 MB. I hope you like it.


Update: Someone asked me to post a link to purchase a bound copy of 'Going Dry,' so here it is.

suburban mindfuck, or, life as a freelance journalist

So, last night I was lying in bed with the window open, listening to the crickets and such when I heard a man cough and do the phlegmmy EKKRRR...ECK! thing with his throat. I didn't think too much of it for a few seconds when I suddenly realized "I'm in the middle of the woods! WHO THE FUCK WAS THAT?" You know, still in the NYC mindset of being okay with sirens, beatings, drunken shenanigans and car crashes going on within earshot. But in the suburban woodlife, a man clearing his throat outside your window is BLOOD-CURDLING.

Oh I miss New York. I've figured this out, that in order for me to live in New York as a freelance writer and photographer, I need to sell about 4,000 words a month for a dollar a word. That should get me one bedroom in six-bedroom house in Flatbush, health insurance, a MetroCard, incidentals such as replacing equipment I break when I am drunk, and just enough food and beverage to stop my gradual transformation into a Fat Girl. I currently have fucked up teeth and it turns out that even if I buy dental insurance right now, I'd have to wait 18 months before having the work I need done. So fuck that, my parents are going to pay for it because I carry their genes and they know that no quality gentleman wants to reproduce with a toothless girl.

Anyhow. My first story was published yesterday, and I was paid about fifteen cents a word for about 800 words. So, in terms of survival skills, it looks like I have enough to jump into a well wearing wearing an oily lead suit.

Or I could just live here with my Mom and Dad, which means I smoke less, drink less, and experience some sort of mental deterioration that I can only liken to adult onset retardation, with tendencies toward violence.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

regression theory pt II

The 970-mile drive from New York was surprisingly fun and fast. I was worried that I'd get bored and fall asleep and wake up dead, but with a stereo and a pack of cigarettes, I am pretty set. I think I'd be a great trucker. I drove a brand-new Ford Escape with 2 miles on it, and the second day I realized it was equipped with Sirius satellite radio. Pennsylvania seems like an absolutely beautiful state, full of rivers and green hills and little towns. Ohio and Indiana...mmm...not so much--although Ohio has some bitchin' metal stations. But I'd still love to do a photo series on the Midwest--with a larger format camera f'sho.

So: this brings me back to tha 'nois. All of my worldly possessions are, for the first time in 11 years, under one roof. The fact that the roof belongs to my parents is somewhat disturbing, but for some reason this isn't as alarming as it was, say, last year. Moving back home? Swell! I am the dog's nanny. It's hard to be upset when you are surrounded by pie and dinner in a rent-free environment where the landlords can be stressful and moody but in the end think that you're just the best, even though you don't do a damn thing.

The hardest thing for me is to restrain myself from telling my parents how to do things. Obviously, they've made it this far in life without melling them what to do, and of course I can appreciate that if they try to tell me what to do, I'd probably throw a 10th-grade-style tantrum. 10th grade was the last bastion of insanity, because you didn't have a driver's license, so there was never a good suburban escape plan; all you could do was scream. But sometimes I listen to my parents complain about things, or see the things they put up with, or the things that I feel like will destroy them, and I want to say something. It takes a lot of reserve to respect their lifestyles sometimes, or to understand the seeming contradictions in their lives. And then I kind of know how they feel when they see me doing stupid shit as well, things they don't understand, and I see why they are totally unable to restrain themselves from saying anything. They don't have to--they're my mom and dad.

And instead of changing things, you're just more likely to hide the things that other people find contentious, because you're sick of the same discussions. For me, it all comes back to smoking. This is something we will never be okay with; it is beyond discussion. And particularly as long as I'm living at home...nope. It does, however, mean that I am moving back into my early childhood bedroom, the one with a bathroom that has a window.

But seriously, what am I thinking? I'm not moving home. This is temporary. I gotta get myself on a boat right quick.

I miss New York. I always do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

last-minute love affair

Taking a break from packing, cleaning, packing, cleaning.

Listening to this song nonstop:

It's pretty awesome.

So, because moving is stressful, I've been in an extreme form of pleasure-seeking as distraction. True to form, I've spent my final days in The NY being extremely lazy, boozing hard, and shacking up with a soon-to-be-24-year-old boy. My extreme-dating for a last-call love affair turned up 'meh's, so I gave up on it and then met this attractive Kid. I always said that 25 was my lower limit, but this isn't exactly dating, just fucking and talking about motorcycles.

It's exactly what I needed.

I'll be the first to admit that I have a somewhat tenuous relationship with sex and intimacy, and yes, I know the two are related. I always thought that I needed to be emotionally intimate with someone to really have good sex, but my experiences this past year have shown me two things: 1) intoxication is a pretty good substitute for emotional intimacy and 2) sex can often lead to intimacy. This second lesson I found somewhat surprising. I think I'm extremely dude-like in this respect, because I can totally identify with that postcoital period of feeling extremely open and being able to chat freely without the thought of sex looming overhead.

Sort of related: what's up with strangulation in sex? I guess I get it and I don't. It used to really freak me out, and I would put a stop to it if any guy tried to put his hands around my neck when we're fucking. It's kind of a weird situation that I don't really get--I mean, sort of, if there's nothing else to hold onto. But I totally let Kid choke me the other night, which was highly uncomfortable (as you can imagine) but I was comfortable enough with him to not freak out. I don't know, maybe my sexual tastes are changing. I can understand other forms of violence during sex, but the choking thing is mysterious to me, because there is a chance you could kill someone or pass out, and who wants to be fucking a dead girl? (Is necrophilia the attraction here? Shudder.)

In any case. The transition from intimacy-before-sex (and I'm not talking about high levels of intimacy here) to sex-leading-to-intimacy is a strange shift for me. It makes me feel like I've gotten extremely cynical to the point where I am past being protective of my body, but on the other hand it's very liberating. It leads to unexpected attachments. I guess if I think about it, if sex is something with which I have so many internal hangups, then getting those out of the way immediately helps to bridge the intimacy gap right quick. I know it's somewhat counterproductive for someone who fears being seen solely as a sex object, but sometimes I think that having sex right away will cure that. It's like, "Oh, I already had sex with her. Now do I want to keep doing it? Is she actually worth it?" And that's where the getting-to-know-you part comes in. Otherwise, if I postpone sex in the thought that we'll get to know each other first, I always find myself thinking that he's feigning interest just to get in my pants.

Is this a totally fucked up line of thinking?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

recipe for a smackdown

I almost punched a bitch last night. We were standing in line outside of Artichoke Pizza in the East Village, and I was in a sparkling good mood. I'd consumed 5 glasses of tequila and a beautiful, chocolate-and-ricotta-filled pastry topped with strawberries, hand-delivered and unrequested from a man who works around the corner who apparently has a crush on me and has been trying to seduce me with food. (I should probably marry him.)

There was a chick in the pizza line offering a running whine-a-lot on the line and all the people silly enough to queue, when I made some totally innocuous remark. Pride wounded, she retreated into the safety of her all-Asian-male entourage and called me a fat and ugly bitch. Apparently, this was the wittiest thing she'd ever thought of and she liked the sound of it, because then she started "rapping" this line over and over again: "That bitch is fat and ugly!" and then squealing with laughter.

I was not amused.

I let this go on while we made our way into the restaurant, then decided to try and combat it with love. I went up to her and tried to make nice, but she was terrified of me (rightfully so--don't fuck with a girl who is being wooed by a tattooed man with pastries) and she retreated again. I told her buddies that she needed to shut the fuck up or I'd beat the crap out of her. Her boys apologized profusely and two of them actually stepped out of my way and said "Go for it--she's drunk and annoying." I think they were afraid of me, too.

It was Neighbor's last night in the city, and I didn't want it to be brawl-filled, so I told them to get her out of my face, and they pulled her outside. Then we were rewarded with delicious crab-topped, artichoke-filled, and arrabiata pizza. As we were making our way down the sidewalk, stupid bitch somehow made it within five yards of me and I gave her an extreme verbal punishing that was about to escalate into her face being rubbed in the sidewalk before Neighbor's Boyfriend rightfully talked me down, telling me that annihilating her would be as satisfactory as kicking a seven-year-old's ass. The confrontation was proof of this. When I stepped up to her she cowered again and was like, "I don't know what you're talking about!" How can you possible have a good fight with someone who won't even own their shit-talking? Weak sauce.

It's been a long time since I've been so close to throwing down. Rage is a poisonous thing that I don't enjoy (although everyone tells me I'm great fun when I'm filled with it--go figure). I hate anyone who is provokes me enough to send me into a rage, because it takes a lot. I think the magical combination here is pastry-fueled confidence, tequila-enhanced recklessness, and a pathetic cunt chanting the refrain: That bitch is fat and ugly.

I hate going out on the weekends. If anyone gets in my face tonight, they're going to have to deal with leftover rage: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

move date posted

Due to lack of foresight, my plans of taking a 2o-hr train home on Sept. 6 have transformed into me renting a fucken automobile and driving home on Aug. 22, approximately 8 days away. Strangely enough, this hard move date is kind of comforting, and the idea of driving back to my parents' house with a car full of shit is soothing. Had you asked me a year ago what this kind of plan would have done to me, I would have probably kicked you in the face for even mentioning it. But somehow, moving back in with my folks and kicking it for a little while sounds like the greatest thing in the world right now.

I've completely been unable to take care of my life lately, even though I'm no longer in school and unemployed and on the dole. This means that all of my bills are past due and my shower has been unusable for a month. I'm sure there are more symptoms of my degenerating systems, but I can't think of any. I push these things out of my head; that's why they don't get taken care of. I like to blame not getting these things done on lack of internet all summer, but I know that's bullshit. I don't do it because I just don't fucking care.

I'm glad to be getting out of New York. I'm having a great time and I feel like something is about to happen. Realistically, I am going to get home and it's going to be suffocating that I'm going to hightail it out after three weeks, max. Who the hell knows where I'm going? Tell me how to get there. I'm listening.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

restoring my blogging license

So, if you haven't heard my embarrassing story yet, the moral of the story is to (a) not be a jackalope and (b) not to post the correct names of anything you publish in an anonymous blog, because the interwebs are interconnected! It was enough to make me want to tear down the blog, considering now that several people have attached the blog to me, it feels like just a matter of time before my parents get online and read about the sordid details of my life. 

This is why I could never run for office. Among other things, yes. Shut the fuck up.

Anyhow, I'm tentatively picking up the blog again whenever I get Internet access, mostly just to keep on with the pre-trip planning. I've recently decided to not get on any airplanes, because planes are for people in a hurry, which I am decidedly not. So I was looking up overseas freight travel, where you can get on a cargo ship, only passage to Australia was something like $3,000. And, just like a cruise ship, you can get screwed more as a single person. What does the world have against the ugly? 

Next thing I know, I'm on this crazy site called FindACrew where all these dudes--because the site is predominantly older white men with boats, imagine that--are looking for people to sail somewhere with them. I guess sailing and/or boat ownership is mostly a guy's thing? It's a little creepy because a lot of the men specify that they're only looking for female crew members. Hey dude, how's that plan to create a floating harem working out for you? And there's just something a little scary about getting on a boat--where rules and laws and taxes don't apply--and going out into the middle of nowhere with someone you don't know. Ever since I saw the movie Donkey Punch I haven't really been able to look at boats--or boat people--in the same way. I guess it would be okay if there were a bunch of people on board. Otherwise it just sounds like the setup for a rape and homicide in international waters. 

I really can't tell when I'm just being paranoid. I wish I could just trust everyone. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

big deal

I'm on the Internet!

I have big news everyones, which is that I have my first assignment. Last week I pitched a story idea to a magazine and they accepted it, and today we worked out the details. It's a small assignment but I'm as excited as can be. Considering I've sent out less than 5 pitches in my entire magazine-writing career, this is very encouraging. I've been taking this great class that is encouraging me to tackle these kinds of things while teaching me the business side of the industry, which is exactly what I need. 

In other news, I am going on my fifth date of the week tonight. Yeah, I know. What the fuck am I doing dating when I'm about to leave town? I'll tell you what I'm doing: looking for the last great love affair to define my two-year stint in New York. I've also started drinking again, after a brief digression back into Moderationland. I love Detox Doc, because he basically called AA and NA people the extremists of the recovery world. Drinking is good for me, I just have to keep one hand on the wagon, two feet on the ground. 

So far, so good. Whiskey is just as pleasant as I remember it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

fumb as duck

I took a leave of absence from Soberland, as Detox Doc likes to call it, and tried to go to a place called Moderationland. At first it worked, and then it didn't really work, and then I did some things that were not part of the plan, including cocaine and fucking a friend...something I have managed to not do up until now. Not god-awful or anything, but things continued to go a little haywire and my body just felt on a wreckage course. Still, I would have probably tried to continue my stay in Moderationland only I ended up on this funny date last night...

I haven't been on OkCupid in forever, and then I got a random message from a young guy that really said nothing. But, unlike the last OKC experience, we actually planned a date by the third email. We all know how unpicky I am, but I thought maybe I should actually try and glean some information about him before I met up with him, so I looked at his profile and saw that he didn't smoke, didn't drink, and didn't do drugs--which is pretty odd for a 25-year-old guy who lives in New York City, don'cha think. That's when a light went off in my head and I realized the last time I'd updated my profile, I was deep in the heart of Soberland. I hastily sent him a message, explaining the situation. And the next day, he replied quite charmingly that he had recently gotten out of rehab, and that he'd still be down to hang out, provided we didn't go to a bar.

I can now say that I've been invited, on a first date, to attend, as a second date, an NA meeting. And I can also now say that I've been extremely shamed into hearing the own denial in my voice, when I heard myself saying why I never stuck with the groups, and why I didn't like Soberland, and why I thought I could conquer Moderationland. I sat with this young guy who had just returned from a 60-mile bike ride and was just oozing goodwill and gaining strength with the knowledge of his own limitations while I am still pointlessly pushing on mine, seeing that they are still there, and telling myself I can overcome them by...overcoming them.

I think it was the first time I didn't finish a hamburger.

So, yeah. Moderation...not working. Not really. I can feel it, not working. I don't know why I thought I could moderate drinking, when I can't do it with anything else in my life. And, as a result of this very nice boy being very nice, I wouldn't let him touch me. I also don't know why I went out with him when I'm planning to leave the city in less than two months. I have shit to do, and I am behind schedule.

I am returning to Soberland. Not because it was such a great place to be, but because I am now too tall for Moderationland. Every time I stand up I hit my head in there.

Monday, June 15, 2009

throwing darts

I haven't been blogging lately because (a) I don't have Internet access at the moment, and (b) things are dull as shit.

In the midst of extreme boring-ness, I've taken a total scattershot approach to life lately, which means I've been trying to write, shoot photos, and get my life in order so I can tackle Secret Plan 500c, which is traveling the world come September in pursuit of whatever comes my way. It also means I've been experimenting with drinking like a ten-year-old. Erm...we can't really talk about it right now. 

Anyhow, Thursday night I took my first stab at plotting out my route. Here she is, taking no account of my budget or anything like that, of course not:

Sept. 15 - Oct. 15: The Mosquito Coast (Nicaragua) and Bonanza/Rosita
Oct. 15 - Nov. 15 : Uruguay or Northern Brazil or know...somewhere
stopover in SF
Nov. 15 - January-ish: Micronesia
(meet up with my folks in Sydney for a wedding Jan. 3, 2010?)
Jan - Feb. 15: The Australian Outback
Feb. 15 - March 15: Kerala, S. India
Mar 15 - Apr. 15: Tbilisi, Georgia
Apr. 15 - May 15: Switzerland - Paris (shout out to my buddies, rest)
May 15 - June 15: Djibouti
June 15 - July 15: S. Africa (meet up with Little Brother for the World Cup)
July 15- Aug. 15 : Dakar, Senegal

This is a pretty random list of locations, but I had to start with something so I could focus on...something.  Plans are subject to change and have already changed three times since plotting out this list. Or, want to join me on part of my journey? Let me know. Karim has signed up to go to Georgia with me. Karim has also got me re-thinking Zee Outback. But I just love the desert, you know. SAND. Who doesn't love sand?

Things are getting a bit desperate here on the not-doing-shit front. You'd think that having nothing to do in New York fucking City would be the best situation in the world, but throw in the broke factor, a perpetual guilt complex, lack of Internet, and sobriety, and it's not exactly the most winning-est combination. It's actually a recipe for wanting to join the military.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

thank god for mountain time

I meant to write when I was in San Francisco, to keep on top of things, and now I have to write this bumbling post that will take us through the past into plans for the future. San Francisco was a marvelous time. The weather was amazing, very un-SF. Definitely my favorite part was just doing very low-key things with good friends, tooling around town, gorging on things, and talking about life. I also caught up with past lovers--Ex, Love Affair, My New Best Friend, and even Joe showed up in town unannounced, though I couldn't really say I was surprised. I "celebrated" six months of sobriety in San Francisco. I ate many great meals, went for long walks on the beach, and remembered how and why I love San Francisco so much. Strangely enough, I also do not feel compelled to move back there at all--at least for the moment--I think mostly because it is so loving and familiar. The two weeks lolling about SF only reminded me that I have a tendency to lapse into hedonistic complacency in such circumstances. Right now, though, I am looking for some slightly masochistic adventure.

I think I've mentioned before that I hate my psychiatrist, but when I went to get a refill on my shhh-don't-drink-just-sleep pills before taking off for the west coast, she casually asked about my post-graduation plans. Because I don't take her very seriously, I just-as-casually responded that I had a crazy plan to travel around the world and do whatever the fuck I pleased, but it probably wasn't going to happen and would secretly drive me insane. It's something I've never mentioned to my detox doc/therapist, the one I love, because I do take him seriously, and I don't like to waste our time with my fanciful notions (of which there are many). But the funniest thing happened, which is that she said "Seriously, I'm a psychiatrist--and I don't give advice--but I want to say that your plan doesn't sound crazy." And we talked it through and she convinced me that it was worth pursuing, and that I should talk it through with other doc. After hearing her so unequivocally merit my plan not crazy, I pretty much decided that I was going to do it, though of course I've been secretly thinking of it all along.

I spent a lot of time talking through these new post-graduation plans in San Francisco, which are to spend an indefinite amount of time traveling and writing and shooting photos, and to do so ostensibly under the cover of research. More to come on this later, but every night now I have been falling asleep thinking of this, and it frightens me and excitens me so of course I know I have to do it, and I plan to leave in September. There is so much to plan and to worry about obsessively that it is almost enough to distract me from the overarching question of "is this really going to happen?"

Because it is. I stopped looking for jobs and decided, fuck, I'm going to employ myself this next year to do whatever it is I want to do, and I'm going to do a great fucking job at it. Also, I will hate myself forever if I back out of it now, and so this is why I've told everyone about it, including my family (and weren't they excited about it...).

The first person I called (and saw) when I came back was My Friend, whom I missed while I was away. I actually talked to him several times because we were finishing up a project together, and had to go over some stuff. I'd gotten him a graduation gift in SF and wanted to give it to him right away, so I scooted over to his place and we went for a walk. We talked about shit, plans, jobs, and as I sat there with him I felt both relieved and incredibly anxious. I wasn't sure what the feeling meant, maybe just relieved that I had made a decision of what to do and glad that we would have the whole summer ahead of us to fuck around, but anxious that I hadn't actually made any concrete plans. Then I wondered if the feeling had more to do with him and New York, because I'm not ready to say goodbye to New York just yet, or the people contained in it.

The next day we graduated. I hated graduation, but Mom came in to attend, so I had to go. My Friend and I were the only ones in our department who didn't buy graduation regalia; I appreciated his solidarity. Afterwards, Mom and I had dinner with My Friend, his roommate, and our families. It was cute. When dinner was winding down, My Friend squeezed himself between Mom and me and we chatted and I felt good until that weird feeling returned, the feeling of relief and anxiety, and I attributed it to having just graduated and being around proud parents and declining prosecco with a forced smile, and I tried to relax, but something was weird. Then our friend left, and I realized what was weird did in fact have more to do with my friend than the overall situation. The relief, I realized, was like this calmness I get from being around him, and the anxiety is the feeling I get that he is about to leave. It is like...being in love...why I hate being in love...why I have been quoted as saying "When I think I feel myself falling in love, my first impulse is to get into a car and drive as far away from the source as possible." The love-feeling is weird when it involves a friend, particularly when it comes at a moment when you are with your parents and theirs, and you could be getting married or something. Oof. The thought made me blush deeply. And then, in that moment, everything about our relationship flashed before my eyes and came into scrutiny.

Everyone knows I had a crush on My Friend way back when we'd first met, but then our relationship became completely desexualized because I never felt like the feeling was mutual at all, and I am pretty good at changing course. We are so safely couched in platonic-ville that it really can't go back there. But sometimes I feel so fucking attached to him that I wonder. Even more so than Joe, My Friend has been there for me this year. It's actually quite remarkable that we've not gone..there...because I do love the shit out of him. But rather than wanting to go there, I balk, because it's a desire that's completely asexual and I'm really not used to it. Because now it's just in a weird place of wanting to be a marriage without ever having been a romance.

After dinner, as Mom and I were walking home from the subway, I said, "I think I'm in love with My Friend." She just laughed. And that night, I did the typical girl thing of attributing every weird interaction between us to him being in love with me while simultaneously recalling every conversation in which we had specifically talked about various incompatibilities. I stayed up very late that night. The funny thing is that I actually thought everything through to a logical solution, which is to do nothing different and just to love on him the way I do. I love the way our relationship is now. Raising the stakes when I'm about to leave has always been my modus operandus, but I think that has changed. I really don't want to lose him as a friend, and will continue to get my kicks elsewhere if that's what it means. It's going to definitely be on my mind every fucking time I hang out with him now, which is weird, but I have owned this decision not to act on it.

I am now in the Catskills with Mom and Dad, staying at a hotel owned by the B-52s. It pretty much rules. There is no cell phone service up here, but of course there is wireless Internet. Tomorrow I am coming back to New York and I will have two guests waiting for me, kids I met in Bolivia who have been traveling through South America all this while. I have no idea how long they're staying with me.

I've just been bumbling around for a little while now, and I have work to do. I guess I better get used to all this motion and lack of structure.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

captain crrunch time

This was the train of thought today.

All right, Saturday, let's do this shit, and let's do it right.

Wait, it is not Saturday. It is Sunday.

Okay, let's do this shit, and let's do it fast.

Something just struck me as funny. In the midst of me trying to pull together all these disparate elements of my life while wrapping up this degree nonsense, I looked up at the tabs on this here blog: "Posting," "Settings," "Layout," and "Monetize."

That, in essence, is all I'm trying to do. Wrap my head around the content of my life, figure out what settings are appropriate/important, get the layout in order, and then click "monetize." Where is the damn "monetize" tab on my life?

Monday, April 27, 2009


The lawyer I slept with was quoted in TIME magazine this week, a big 'ol pull quote that I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise but it was gigantic and in one of those sound-byte pages made for people with short attention spans. It made me laugh out loud when I read it today. This is the second time in two weeks that I've read quotes of past lovers in the mass media.

It made me feel like a loser.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I was really excited all week for my craigslist date today with a guy who responded to a post I put up Monday night. I told him that he sounded just like me, but with balls--both literally and metaphysically. He'd moved here from San Francisco to attend grad school, but disliking it, had dropped out. He'd recently given up The Drugs and The Booze and found himself enjoying a "less exciting" life, but felt more happy, productive, and optimistic, and was trying to make it as an artist. He sent me a photo and I thought he was cute, and we made plans to meet up today to enjoy the warm weather and to drop in at my friend's art show in Brooklyn. It was all really easy, and I had a really good feeling about it.

He was running late, but called to tell me so. We met up and chatted for a little bit; it was easy conversation, and I felt comfortable. He was covered with tattoos, which surprised me. I think we talked for about a half hour before walking to the show, which was more like an expose for these very out-of-place luxury lofts in Prospect Heights. I could tell he wasn't into it, but it's not like we were going to stay there forever. He wasn't making an attempt to even feign interest; I think he was too cool for that. Okay. I just wanted to say hello, and then we could go wherever.

The show was at a set of four buildings within a few blocks of each other, and we walked to the second building, met my friends at the top floor, and he said he was going to get a drink on the bottom floor, and I went out to the balcony to chat with my buddies for a bit. I'd had enough of the place already too, so I decided to make an exit as well, and texted him to meet me outside. I went out to have a cigarette and waited, and then called, but he didn't pick up. Hm. This made me uncomfortable. I waited another fifteen or twenty minutes just to make sure I wasn't being paranoid and crazy, to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I didn't think he was an asshole. Would he really just...leave?

I tapped out a stupid message, something like, "Wow, nice to meet you too," but that was just gutless. It was neither here nor there. I wanted to say, "You're really not as cute as your photo either," or "Jesus, at least say you've got diarrhea or something." But I also didn't want to send four text messages. I could only send one.

It was hot and I was thirsty. So I went and got myself a juice, and then sat down to drink it, wondering how I could possibly come out of this situation feeling okay--because really, I was not feeling okay. I have never been walked out on before. What a shitty fucking thing to do to someone for no good reason at all. I was really, fucking angry, and I wanted to be really, fucking mean. But at the same time, I really wanted to be wrong.

So I called him and, going straight to voicemail, was forced to leave a message that went something like this. "So...unless I'm looks like you just...took off...which is really, really, really not cool."

I felt kind of good about this message, because it said all that I wanted it to say: not cool, man. I do not approve. But part of me really wanted to be mean, because my feelings were hurt. I don't know why I couldn't be mean. I really wanted to be. I think the situation warranted it. What he did was mean. I didn't deserve to be treated that way, and I cannot comprehend what a person can be thinking when they do something like that. The situation was so innocuous. It wasn't even five in the afternoon, and we were both sober.

Recently I was talking to My Friend about online dating and how one can just be a complete asshole, because you have no connection to this person. By contrast, if you were set up with your co-worker's sister, or a friend of a friend, or something, you would have to maintain some level of etiquette because of group norms and accountability. I love My Friend and all, but he lacks a certain kind of humanity that some men lack. I would never treat a complete stranger badly, even if I know I'll never see them again. It has nothing to do with it coming back to haunt me, it's because it's a fucking human being, and treating each other badly puts poison into the collective consciousness. Why do we need to do that? How gutless and gross and pointless. To his point, though, particularly in the circles we run in these days, what's the guarantee that you'll never see this person again? That person you treat like shit may end up being your landlord, your creditor, your boss one day. How would that be, then?

I really hope that one day I run into him. One day I'll cover an art opening where he'll be this big success (who knows?) and I'll be there interviewing people or something and I hope our interaction will go something like this:

SB Hi! I hear Untitled #7 just sold for $3 million! That's amazing!
craigslist date who ditched me Thanks.
SB Your work has come a long way. Tell me, though, with your newfound fame and fortune, are you still a spineless asshole?
SB You know, do you still just wince out of situations you find uncomfortable?
CLDWDM What...? What the fuck are you talking about?
SB I don't know, let's say you went on a date with a girl and wasn't into it, how would you handle it? Would you make a polite exit like a man, or, like a spineless asshole, just take off, leaving her to wonder what the hell happened for about 30 minutes?
CLDWDM Ah, shit...
SB Still single?
CLDWDM Yeah...
SB Well, let me give you another pointer. Try to keep the mentions of the ex-girlfriend(s) to fewer than fifteen, if you can, at least during the first hour of the date. But congratulations on all of your success otherwise.
CLDWDM ...Seriously? I thought you looked familiar.
SB Yeah, small world. Look for the interview in ArtForum, buddy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

strange peace and happiness

I've been meaning to write for a while. I started a post that was about my 5-month sobriety anniversary. And then I started a post about this weird Joe-related story that I was obsessing over for about 8 hours. And then I wrote about living in Neighbor's apartment in her absence, even sleeping in her bed one night--escaping the claustrophobic mess of my own place, but also trying to absorb her calm, uplifting aura just by being here, surrounded by her. I don't know how I'm going to live in New York without her.

Part of the reason why I felt crowded this weekend was because I had a couchsurfer for the past four nights. I don't usually like people to stay more than 2 nights but initially I was feeling generous. When I woke up Wednesday morning I suddenly HAD TO HAVE SEX like never before, it being the critical three-weeks-without-sex combined with ovulation, and it was crazy. That was the day the couchsurfer contacted me and I thought, hey: maybe this will be just perfect. He was a very, very sweet guy and a photographer to boot, and I have had some pleasant surprises with couchsurfers before. But PMS swung the other way and honestly, two hours after he arrived, he could have been Prince Sebastien of Switzerland painted in white chocolate and rolled in macadamia nuts and I would have been pissy. Poor guy, there was nothing he could do to win me over. I mean, I was nice to him and everything and even let him stay an extra night because he was in a pinch, but FUCK I hate these goddamn mood swings. Actually, let's be honest here. I wasn't attracted to him, and if I had been, the story would probably have been different. Life is just kinder to the lovely.

I guess I sent out only the link to the last page of the hipster grifter story that had Joe in it, whoops. There's the real link. But my mind was laid to rest knowing he didn't fuck her, and I believe him. That would really make me want to throw up. I know, I know, it's stupid because in these exciting times you should just assume that everyone you're with has been with someone like that. Essentially we're all fucking each other in the six-degrees-of-separation sense. Sex degrees of separation? Is that a term? It should be.

I shot tons of photos, a handful of which I actually like, and experienced moments of extreme social anxiety despite being surrounded by people I've known and loved for quite some time. Saturday night I was thrown back into San Francisco--some kids I've known for years played a show at The Delancey--and I was hesitant to say hello to all of them. Ex was their photographer for a while--maybe still is, I don't know, and I guess I wondered if they still remembered me, since it's been a while. I also just have this complex where I never feel like I belong anywhere, and that people won't remember me. But they all did, and that felt good. I'm so excited to go back to San Francisco next-next week. It's been so long. I'm so excited for $chool to be over and for the time to begin where I'm doing what I want to be doing, all the time. I'm so excited for another gorgeous weekend, to shoot more photos, to go out with the sweet boy I met on craigslist who sounds exactly like me, but with balls. I'm excited for all these things.

I'm not afraid anymore, just socially awkward and sometimes sleepy. I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seeking Sebastien

I've regressed into cruising online dating sites the past few nights. I blame it on spending the weekend surrounded by intensely cute couples, and talking to Joe this week for the first time since he left New York. I miss him, and I'm just now understanding just how important he was to me this past year. I don't think I could have survived the winter without him, and I don't think there is anyone else on the planet who could have played the role that he played for me.

But I'm so primed for my next great affair, and as I peruse a thousand profiles (including coming across My Friend online, which was funny) I realize it's just not going to happen this way, because I'm just clicking through them halfheartedly, because none of them are Sebastien. None of these preconceived setups can measure up to the cliched backpacker romance I had on my Spring Break Sobriety Tour 2009. If you're up for a long, self-indulgent story, let's hop to it.

Ever since my romantic intrigue with The Hitchhiker, I have had a fondness for intense, short-term love affairs. Psychoanalyze me if you want to, but I don't care. They are perfect because they can never be flawed; they are always over before their time, and you are always left wanting more: perfect masturbatory material.


It's a little after sunrise and I'm attempting, in my typical, disheveled, insomniatic fashion, to board the wrong bus.

"Cor-di-llera" the bus operator reads off my ticket. He then points at the bus I am attempting to board. "Col-que."

I don't take this too seriously because I know all the buses, regardless of the operator, are going to the same place: Bolivia. Even though I've only been in Chile for a few days, and am ill-prepared to brave the cold heights of Bolivia, I am determined to get there. Last night I stayed up late at the hostel, watching a charming young Swede kill a bottle of cheap rum and break the $700 lens on his SLR after showing me some beautiful pictures from his expedition into Bolivia. I’d spent the day running around town trying to rent a motorcycle to drive to the nearest town, about an hour away, just to pay the $130 fuck-you-because-you’re-an-American-reciprocity-fee needed to cross the border with no luck, but was going to find a way into Bolivia somehow. I wanted to go to Uyuni as well, to shoot the train graveyard.

I have not slept much, and I blame my haplessness on this as I wander down the road to find the Cordillera agency, where there is no bus whatsoever, just the now-familiar sight of pairs of travelers rummaging through each others' backpacks and feeding each other. I’m past the stage where couples make me feel lonely, but have now moved onto the hunger stage where I just long for their increased variety of food. I've spent the first few days in San Pedro de Atacama scraping by on the bodega diet of pitas stuffed with greasy wrapped cheese and salami, an assortment of chocolate cookies, and Nescafe.

At the same time that I am excited to get out of this tiny town for a few days, I am kind of dreading this excursion because I will be with a tour group. I hate tour groups so much that I almost killed myself in the desert yesterday, in an attempt to do something I hate even more--bicycling--just to get away from the tour groups. I kind of hate people lately. I only want food, the desert, cigarettes, and water. But I can't do Bolivia on my own, and so I've signed myself up to be bound to a small group of strangers, most likely these charming backpackers feeding each other around me. I just might kill everyone. Particularly alarming is the fact that I have only two cigarettes on my person, and I don't know when I'll be able to purchase cigarettes in the next four days. I am also the only person here without a sleeping bag, but I am more concerned about the cigarette supply, because while cold weather will only kill me, lack of nicotine will endanger everyone in the group. This was not well planned. This entire trip was not planned at all, actually, but that’s what makes it exciting. And the group, though I hate them without even knowing them, will not let me die.

When the bus boards, the one lone traveler sits down next to me. We are the only non-couple on the bus. I wondered if he will make my life better or worse for the next few days. Men have a way of forcing these kinds of issues. I can’t tell if he is cute. All boys kind of look the same here: bearded, sunburned, and hungry. I wait until he finishes his juice box before asking him, "Como te llamas?"

His name is Sebastien. Did you know that's quite possibly my favorite name in the whole world? No, I did not say that out loud! God, I'm not some 14-year-old girl. But seriously, I had the biggest crush on Adrien Grenier before Entourage when he was in The Adventures of Sebastian Cole. We poke at some awkward Spanish, switch to English for a few minutes, but that just feels disgusting so we move on to French while we wait in line at the Chilean border. The Swiss are smooth like that. The last time I spoke French was in Morocco, the summer I moved to New York. I feel like an idiot, but it’s okay. My Spanish is even worse, but at this point, I just don’t want to speak English, then I have an excuse for sounding like an idiot.

I honestly don't think that anything of the sort is in store for me and this guy, even though I think that about most people I meet. I am in hyper defense mode from traveling alone, and I imagine I am getting solo-vibes from him as well. Before running into the Swede last night, I was stood up by a local guy for vague dinner plans, and so I am a little wary of people at this point. Particularly when it comes to setting up for intense time together in cramped quarters under uncomfortable conditions, I think it’s best to keep things very aloof, formal even, like rooming with strangers instead of friends. We should maintain boundaries and such.

When we cross into Bolivia, I spy a burned-out bus and confess to him that I have soft spot for rusty photography, which is why I’m looking forward to Uyuni. I’m not exactly in conversation mode, but I think I say it because I know how to say it. To my surprise, he says he wants to shoot the bus as well, and he makes a plan for us to grab a quick bite at the chow line before sneaking off to shoot the bus and making our way through the pandemonium at Bolivian immigration. It's nice when someone makes it clear where you stand with them, that you're in this together. I'm so used to people being vague: you can do this, if you want to...I'm going to do this. You know. With Sebastien, from this moment on, we are in it together.

This, however, is threatened when the Cordillera agency attempts to split the bus into groups of five for the next few days. You know that panicky feeling you get when, say, you get to a movie with a group of people, or to a long dinner table at Thanksgiving, and you realize that whatever seating position happens in the next four seconds will determine the outcome for the next four hours? That's what is happening at the Bolivian border, only it is happening in Spanish, with an angry man holding my backpack hostage, and trying to stuff me into one beat-up Land Cruiser. He is telling Sebastien to go to another. I don’t look at Sebastien, because it is pointless. I look at the man holding my backpack and prepare to accept my destiny.

"Es mi amiga," Sebastian tells the man, pointing to me. The man looks furious. At the agency, we'd been two solo travelers. "Juntos," he insists. He looks at me and smiles hopefully. My little heart melts. The man hands Sebastien my backpack and directs us to the same car.

After being packed into the Cruiser with a Brazilian-Spanish couple and a Chilean-German couple, we make many pit stops at some amazing locations in Bolivia. We sit in the back together, struggling to keep up with the rapid Spanish going on in the front of the car. Each time we make a stop, Sebastien holds the door for me, waits on me, and we scout the location together, pointing things out, in perfect step with one another. I am shooting wide-angle landscapes; he is shooting mostly telephoto wildlife photography. It is a great pairing. Later in the day, after they deposit us at a remote outpost with no heat for the evening, Sebastien asks if I want to go for a walk. Most of the group, myself included, is suffering from some degree of altitude sickness, but of course I say yes.

The fondest moments of my life always involve desert photography with a cute boy. I can't help but remember the amazing trip I took with The Ex to Baja. It was a beautiful adventure that involved camping, puking tequila in the desert, and fjording a stream in a borrowed Mercedes, and we never spoke about the infidelities that had made the trip feel like such a necessity. This trip is cleaner, with no tinge of anything like that. We clamber over rocks exploring the desert, taking turns deciding which way to go in the wide open. He helps me scale walls and navigate the rocky canyon we discover, and I point out good lighting angles, offer him water. I think, “This is what a partnership feels like.”

As the sun sets, we return to the chilly camp and meet some of the other people from the other three cars, who turn out to be mostly French speakers. Sebastien pours me tea and when dinner arrives, serves me. I am exhausted. I try to hold my own with the French speakers, but am content to just try and understand.

That night the six of us sleep in an unheated, cement room, but I don't sleep at all for the second night in a row. I know I’m not going to freeze to death, but I feel like I’m going to come close. I think about three things in a continuous loop for seven hours: (1) my stubbornness about not taking drugs, not even the sleeping pills I have in my backpack, partially because then I’d have to take my hands out from under my layers of clothes, (2) Sebastien, sleeping not two meters away from me, (3) life amazing life.

I wait until dawn and wander out into the desert to shoot the sunrise. We are truly in the middle of nowhere. Off in the distance, I see a figure emerge from the hillside and I see that he has come out to check on me. Inexplicably, I hide. Sometime during the night, I have already started to feel separation anxiety. I don't like it when people leave. Yet, you say, you like short-term love affairs? How does that make any sense? Shut the fuck up.

In late afternoon, we come to another remote location, a building constructed completely out of salt in the middle of what appears to be an exploded minefield. Sebastien and I get a room to ourselves. Everyone is in good spirits that night because there is one working shower in the salt hotel, and it is a good ten degrees warmer and 1,000 meters lower. There is even wine at dinner, which makes me extremely uncomfortable, but it doesn't matter, because I was able to buy cigarettes during the day. We are fifteen people in the middle of nowhere I am the happiest I think I ever been in my entire life. I can only communicate good things, so it's like I can only think good things. I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to have sex in a building made completely out of salt, completely sober, with a Swiss boy named Sebastien, in the middle of fucking Bolivia.

All of this is very charming and swell, but what really gets to me is when I am sitting next to Sebastien at dinner and I overhear him telling a French woman the story of how we'd met crossing the border and how he'd insisted we stay together. She thought we were a couple. She asks him what language we speak in, and he says, without hesitation, first in Spanish, then in English, then in French, and now, in all three: "Mira, une llama! It's cool, n'est-ce pas?"

I almost die. Or, rather, I immediately set to killing myself in the typical manner, by excusing myself to go outside to smoke a cigarette.

Admittedly, it doesn't take much for me to fall in love. I fall in love at least once a week. But at the same time that I use the word, I use it haphazardly, fleetingly, convinced that love is something that can't really be had, just glimpsed. I'm like that. I suffer from an affliction where I believe that anything truly worth having can't really be had, and so I think that the best kind of love is ephemeral. But at moments like those where things seem so fucking precious, where you can't help but think to yourself, "I want to hear that story told on my fucking wedding day," my first reponse is to get up, go outside, and yep, that's right, smoke a goddamn cigarette. I don't know why that's my response. It's like I can't believe it's happening, or I don't think I should be there, or my personal being can't handle that kind of perfect moment, so I have to fucking leave. I wish I was the kind of person that could like squeeze your hand under the table and gaze at you sweetly back, but instead my response is to try and light a stick of cancerous toxins on fire and inhale the poisons as rapidly as possible in seclusion in the freezing cold. My body can handle pain all right, but it repels perfect moments with absolute disgust.

Luckily, the night wears on, and my sober ass is forced to bask in the glow of this ridiculously wonderful evening in the middle of nowhere, largely because there is nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. I forgot about my clunky French and miserable Spanish with this charming Swiss boy and this international crew of travelers, and just remembered that like them, I had wanted to be there so badly that I had forgone my comforts, almost frozen to death the night before, gnawed my way through some pitiful means, battled altitude sickness, incomprehension, and indigestion, and am still ecstatic as all hell to be there, and savoring the last hour of the power generator like it is our last night on earth. Indeed, although we feel like we are in the lap of luxury compared with where we stayed last night, it also feels like a movie set for some apocalyptic fantasy. It is, in a way. The next day we will all go our separate ways—some, like Sebastien, will venture further east into Bolivia, many are going into Argentina, and I am going back to Chile. But during these few evenings we’ve shared in the heights of the Bolivian desert, I really feel like I’ve come to understand and appreciate myself in the context of the world—or, at least, in the context of these people. “Sometimes,” one of the men says, “we have to go so far away to meet our true neighbors, those who are really like us…at home, everyone thought we were crazy to leave for so long. But out here, to meet so many people traveling…so many people who will take care of each other without question...who do the same as feels right.”

Part of me wants to have a long, meaningful conversation as I snuggle up with him that night, but it is going to be sad, so I just tell him I will miss him and I kiss him. I've done this so many times now I know how to do it. After we have sex, he holds me tight and simply says, "Vas dormir." Go to sleep. And you know what, I finally do.

The next day, we part after shooting the train graveyard in Uyuni. I am so distraught about leaving him that I also leave behind my most critical piece of clothing after my favorite pair of jeans: my crucial hoodie that I've had for almost a decade. Talk about major losses.

And I'm not kidding at all when I say that as we leave town, the next song I hear is Roxette's "It must have been love," but en espanol.


I saw Ex when I returned to New York, and I told him that I’d met the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with. Let me clarify: maybe it’s not literally Sebastien, the same exact Sebastien I met two weeks ago on a bus in San Pedro de Atacama, but the guy I spend the rest of my life with will be Sebastien, because I will look for him in whomever I seek to date. When Ex asked me to describe him, I couldn’t do it. I missed a lot of nuances of his personality due to him being Swiss and all. All I knew about him was that I trusted him from the moment we crossed the border into Bolivia, that he took care of me, and that when I was with him, I felt like we could do anything together, like we were unstoppable.

When Ex and I were together, I also felt like we could do anything together. It’s such a high, this feeling. But he was never good at taking care of me. I never knew I wanted someone to take care of me, that this was a priority. I try to take care of myself. But it’s nice to have someone else looking out for you as well, without you asking them to. Because I look out for other people without them asking me to, so I guess I want them to do the same for me. And the trust got eroded between me and Ex as well, which is an entirely different story. He didn’t really value me after a while. I don’t think I ever heard him tell a cute story about us.

A character from college, Fentry, once said, “the key to a successful relationship is to marry a foreigner.” He went on to elaborate that cross-cultural relationships breed tolerance, which is largely lost in today’s customizable society, where we demand everything to be just so, down to matching lifestyles, compatible music tastes and so on. When you marry a foreigner, you chalk up all the differences to irreconcilable cultures, and are more forgiving from the get-go, he explained. You can then focus on what’s really important, like respect, family, taking care of one another.

But these things, I realized tonight, are hard to look for when perusing ads on OkCupid and craigslist.

I know I'm a dreamer. I know that vacation affairs are different than real-life relationships, but I want to hold onto this one. I don't know how, and that's why I've held off on writing about it and have just been thinking about it a lot, and what it means to want to hold onto something without holding onto it at all. I want my dream-life and my real-life to be one and the same. I think things will be less schizophrenic that way.