Thursday, July 31, 2003

Bunnies are food

Michael Moore almost ruined rabbit for us all

Last weekend I cooked a rabbit for the first time. Kati and Michael came into town, and I wanted to show them the DeKalb farmer’s market and impress them with the variety of foods available here in Atlanta. Michael worked in fast food for a long time, so he has a gut reaction against manufactured, over-processed food, frying, and corporate ownership of the things humans need to eat. I, of course, love to eat period, and I knew Kati would love the exotic stuff, because she loves things that are different and rare.

We went to the giant market and I could see it was a little overwhelming – we were there for over an hour and didn’t make it through the whole place. There were tons of every kind of fruit and vegetable, nuts, seeds, fresh baked goods, and of course, meat.

Which is how we got the rabbit. I had wanted to try a rabbit and Michael was sort of excited about it too. It was horribly expensive - $5 per pound – but our fascination with the skinned and cleaned mammal behind the glass next to the quail was irresistible. Dinan and Ron wouldn’t look at it with us; Dinan felt that rabbits were too close to cats and just couldn’t go with the plan. With a mighty sigh Ron gave up his portion and ate spaghetti as well.

I massaged olive oil into the skinned rabbit, and Kati cut up onions, mushrooms, and blue potatoes from California that were small and very, very blue. We threw some baby carrots in as well, and rosemary, black pepper, and salt went into the flour coating I patted onto the oiled bunny.

It did look like a cat. I worried at first that they had left the ears on, but it was just that a rabbit’s front legs are so powerful that the shoulders stick up over its back. It was pretty good; it tasted just like chicken, only with a tenderness and finer grain to the meat. Okay, so it was better than chicken. But we had only flavored it lightly and so it tasted just as any roast does, like juicy meaty vegetables. So it was OK, but nothing to write home about. I should have used some red wine. Kati felt odd after eating the roast and so wouldn’t have any more, and there’s half a rabbit still in the fridge.

Visiting with Kati and Michael is always fun. We talked about the current art project we’re all involved in, and politics, and the heat, which was rather pronounced after my air-conditioning went off Monday. We also shared a lot of music with my CD burner, which was awesome. They’re moving to Chicago soon, and I’ll just have to go and visit them – I’ve never been to Chicago, and I want to look at the charitable project they’re involved in.

I love the fact that my friends are all involved in this kind of high-level, amazing stuff that affects the world we live in. Weather we’re on stage or helping the public from behind the scenes, everyone I know is involved in some sort of life that benefits a lot of other people. I’m not quite sure how I ended up with all these sorts of friends, but I’m glad to be part of the whole moving, shaking kind of thing.

We all rock, you know?

Thursday, July 24, 2003

How it Goes Here

How it Goes Here

I am learning Atlanta at a slow, steady pace. Learning Boston was rushed, an almost crushing experience – everything there was so foreign and exciting – while learning my new native city is different. It’s as if Boston is a little boy with ADHD who had to tell you everything at once, who had a million different little pockets of his personality waiting to bust in on you at any moment. Atlanta is quieter at first. You have to get to know Atlanta before she’ll let you in on her quiet little secrets. Boston may look like it’s more loud and rowdy, but they’re both probably just as full of mischief. In fact, Atlanta is probably more fun – but you’ll have to get to know her first.

On Friday and Saturday nights I like to see the lines stretching into clubs down Peachtree Street. I think watching the lines is often more fun than actually going into the clubs; I mean, these people clearly want to be seen and looked at, the club kids – there’s this guy who dresses up in a gorilla suit, for instance -

I just like walking around with my friends at night. Not that I get to go out at night, because I work myself too damn hard. I’m always painting or editing or writing at some damn thing. Luckily, Kati and Michael are coming to visit this weekend, and I’m all excited about using them as an excuse to just have fun.

I found out that my upstairs neighbors are a freelance writer who once helped write some Whitewolf gaming books, and a guy who works on grants that make the world a better place, just like me. Our house is full of arty intellectual people, and that’s super cool.

I’m starting to feel settled and happy. My romantic life could be in better shape, but it at least has some halfway active sense to it that I find mildly comforting in its sameness. I got to help write the disaster plan for a public library system this week. My new job is bent on developing me professionally, so I have tickets to big events in the archives world. This makes me so happy I could just pass out. Having a good career base at last does a lot for me.

I’m getting to that secure quiet place I’ve always wanted to be. And that’s enough, it’s just enough, for now.

Monday, July 21, 2003

busy busy busy

A weekend dissected

I could be busier. My head could also explode from the shear effort of multi-tasking, but I could be a little busier, I’m sure.

For example, this weekend I:

* finished painting my new bed copper. My new bed frame cost less than $100!

* Spent Saturday mostly cursing at cheap-ass bed frame that wouldn’t go together properly. There were no directions. Around 4pm, on verge of tears, Dinan & Ron help me get it together. Actually, Dinan came in and helped several times, because she’s so much more HGTV than I am. She actually got beaned in the head by a canopy rod toward the end, right before we almost gave up and I decided I’m going to JV weld the m-----f------ bed together in some parts.

* While trying to put together frustrating bed frame, field phone calls from friends and relatives. Am greatly relieved to hear from a number of these people. Wish a few of them were here to help me paint though.

* After getting the bed together, give up on cleaning efforts for the day. Try to do laundry, fail; worked on art project for an hour or so to try and wind down. I still need to paint my room, my stated goal for the weekend.

* Made dinner with great joy.

* Watch Teen Titans premier on Cartoon Network. Wonder what ever happened to actual storytelling in cartoons.

* Carly comes over to visit, spend rest of evening coloring and talking with Ron, Dinan, and Carly. Resolve to paint half my room the next day.

* Sunday: wake up and realize I need risers for my bed so I can store things under it. Also, I have no newspaper to catch drips from paint.

* Get sidetracked watching Sunday Morning TV with Ron, then get sidetracked laughing and “awwwing” over Queer Eye for the Straight Guy with Dinan.

* Help Dinan clean kitchen.

* Decide to make “quick trip” out for newspaper. End up at Home Depot, getting posts cut for bed risers. Go to two more stores trying to get Sunday paper. End up back at house in late afternoon.

* Read paper, eat lunch.

* Start painting, which means moving all kinds of crap around, and finding the ladder , and guilting over squishing spiders so much that after an hour I start making Dinan catch the spiders in her ball cap, whereupon we throw them in the hallway in the hopes that they’ll still live in the house.

* By the way, Dinan and Ron were working their asses off in the backyard, making it super special and shiny. They planted a bunch off stuff and cleaned up the border around the flagstones.

* I get one coat of primer on the shortest wall of my room and start on another wall when my Grandmother calls.

* She’s down the street. I talk her through getting to the house. When she sees me, she tells me to clean up, and we suddenly leave to eat dinner at another relative’s house about an hour away.

* Oh, and Grandma’s staying the night.

* Did I mention I had trashed my room so I could paint, hadn’t done laundry yet, and oh, yeah, the study has my stuff all piled in it too, so it wouldn’t get dripped on?

* I still had a decent time. See toddlers and play with them, get to brag on my cool new job and how I get to go to LA next month. Hang with Grandma, which is cool.

* Manage to get Grandma and self into bed by 11:30.

* Make painting room the goal for the week. Oh, and I also have to get some more of my project done, and check on my sisters, and work 40 hours, and go to the dentist, and talk to this guy about hanging out, and try to make my cats get along better, and make sure Dinan and Ron know I appreciate them, and and and and and.

*whew*. And Kati and Michael are coming to visit this weekend, yay!

Monday, July 14, 2003

how I get to work

How I get to work

It takes me 45 minutes to get from the front door of my house to the building on West Peachtree Street roofed with slate from Margaret Mitchell’s childhood home.

I walk down the decaying concrete stairs of our place on Austin Street, shaded by big trees and with steep little lawns covered in vines. The sidewalk here is old octagonal pavers broken and crumbling. Three houses down though I am walking through Inman Park, and I walk uphill through this park all the way to the train station.

There are parts of the park where you wouldn’t know you were in the city at all. The park is almost always a little overgrown and very weedy, and I love that. The clipped and uniformly manicured look of Boston’s parks bothered me a little. But here there always seems to be grass six or seven inches high, uneven, bumpy, full of wild strawberries and different sorts of clover and dark blue five o’clocks and other little weedy flowers. There are tall trees scattered around with big spreading branches but lots of open field space too. The park between my house and the train station used to be two full city blocks, but all the houses were knocked down to make this public space. It makes me happy to see all the old stone and concrete staircases that used to lead to someone’s front porch still in place, now just stairs to open play space. That’s my definition of magic. Once there was a house here. You would walk up these steps and into someone’s living room. Now, the steps are still here, but…nothing. It all changed because people decided they wanted a park instead.

As I walk through the park in the morning there are joggers and dog-walkers out. It’s too early yet for the very modern playground halfway through my trip to be occupied yet, but sometimes in the afternoon I see kids there.

After three blocks through the park on a very pleasant curving paved path, I get to the MARTA station. I try and call it just “the train”, but at our house we still are stuck in Boston mode and call it the “T” too often. It’s not the “T”. It’s dirtier and more expensive and irregular than the T, but it’s what we’ve got.

MARTA stations outside the downtown area are uniformly brown-red brick structures with dark terracotta hexagon tiles paving the floors. They have big open breezeway structures to try and let the damp still Atlanta air move through them, and while the brick and tiles might look organic in another setting, the overall shape of the building lends them to nothing but bare functionality. Horizontal lines in darker brick on the outside of the buildings are done for the smallest touch of style the city could afford, and the brickwork on the inside walks is varied only for increased stability, bricks every other row turned with their short sides to the viewer.

The MARTA trains themselves are from the same era as the DC Metro system. They are off white with lines of faded red, yellow and blue running midway across the whole length of train, which is always many cars linked together (vs. a one or two car train system).

When I say the MARTA is dirty, I mean it. The DC Metro (which made the horrible mistake once of installing some cloth seats) is cleaner than the MARTA. Somehow the Boston T manages with its chrome fixtures to maintain an illusion of not being as dirty as it must really be with tens of thousands of people riding its trains every day. But MARTA made the decision to have tread carpeting on the floors of their cars, and a bigger error could not have been made. The carpets, once orange, are now threadbare in great patches, as well as ground in with a decade’s worth of dirt, soot, bubblegum blackened and smoothed into dark black smears, and god knows what else causes *that* stain. Foam grips were also put on the metal side bars, but I always hang onto the metal part; the foam grips have aged about as well as the carpet. At least the seats are solid plastic, shiny and unable to absorb the passing dust of the passenger’s bottoms.

A high tide mark of human oil and sweat and various greases mark the walls of Five Points station where people have leaned against the poured concrete walls. While passing attempts at public art have been made in different stations, the art all needs a good cleaning as well. I change from the East line to the North line at five points. Actually, this goes without saying as Five Points is the only switching station, and the main hub.

It takes me ten minutes to walk from my house to the Inman Park Station, five minutes worth of ride to the Five Points Station, and twenty minutes to ride from Five Points to the Arts Center Station. Then there’s another five minute walk to my office door. This means it takes 15 or 20 minutes longer to ride the train to work rather than drive, double the time. I’m going to stick with it anyway. Atlanta has some of the worst air in the nation, doubtless because the transit system is so bad. But the transit system would be better if more people rode it, creating a vicious cycle.

So I’m trying to help break the cycle. I'm going to keep riding the train, even though it costs more money, is kind of gross, and makes me wake up 15 minutes earlier. I believe in public transportation, because I have seen the trains work Up North, and I know it’s possible that MARTA could be so much more than it is today.

Friday, July 11, 2003

ankle deep in cats

How the Hell this happened, I'm still not sure

Somehow, totally without meaning too, I became one of those crazy old cat ladies this week. Ron and Dinan were out of town all week on a camping trip, and my other friends scooted back to Nashville after the holiday, leaving me alone with the 6 – yes, SIX – cats. I’m somewhat concerned about how hygienic this might be. I think I might secretly hate them all.

I didn’t mean to live with six cats, it just happened. For many years now it’s been just me and Mr. Puck, and periodically I’d go through this thing where I was convinced I needed another cat. Mr. Puck is very sedentary, and I thought another cat would encourage him to be more active, and keep him occupied while I was away. But it was all I could do to take care of one cat, really. I moved too often to make room for another animal. So Mr. Puck stayed alone in my affections.

Ron and Dinan have four cats. They had five, but one (Ignatius) stayed behind in Nashville when they moved. Lassie, Tex, Tiger and Aloucious are all from the same litter, and all about a year old. They have four cats because Dinan made the mistake of going to pick out a kitten while still grieving for another long lost cat (Chiclet).

So we moved into Little 5 with 5 cats. Dinan said she was going to give some away, but she didn’t and I hadn’t the heart to tell her no.

Then Puck’s sister Titania moved in last weekend, and now we have 6 cats. Titania used to live with Tony and Andrew, but they recently moved into a house where cats are strictly forbidden. I thought Andrew was going to cry when he handed her over. “Here’s her special food bowl, and her brush, and her litter, and she only eats Iams…”

“Yeah, that’s gonna stop.” I said. Then I hugged Andrew to make him feel better. He really was busted up about having to give his cat away, but was pleased to see how well we take care of the other animals. Most of them stay outside a good bit anyway.

Of course, what I haven’t told anybody yet is that way back before I knew we were going to have 6 cats, I told my aunt I’d take in poor Bunny, her ancient black tail-less cat that is currently bothered by her toddlers. I thought Bunny would be harmless; after all she’s a hiding under the bed cat with patchy fur and a very shy demeanor. But when I do go pick her up, we’re going to have 7 cats. And they told me in library school that you are strictly limited to 2 cats per person per household. Anymore than that and you’re getting weird.

So evidently we’re at max kitty capacity now, and things are just going to get weird.


Famously, Atlanta has over a dozen major streets named “Peachtree”. Two of them, Peachtree Street and West Peachtree Street, run parallel to each other downtown. Then there are at least 5 different streets named Ponce de Leon. There’s Boulevard blvd., North Street (which doesn’t really run North) and a confusing matrix of streets that dead end, circle back, or suddenly become one-ways. In a few cases, they can even do all three of these things.

I am happy this week because I discovered my own path through this mess.

The secret to downtown Atlanta is 10th street. It actually connects, without turning into a one-way for even an instant, most of the streets I need to get around on.

To understand how magical this find was for me, you need to understand how complicated it actually is to get from one place to another in Atlanta. True, we have a mass transit system of buses and the MARTA subway system, but MARTA is a weak effort at getting people around on an everyday basis. MARTA is basically designed to get concert and event crowds to and from the stadium, and to allow tourists to find the major museums and shopping districts. And that’s great – I know we’re the only major city south of DC to have trains.

The buses have a bad reputation, probably because of Atlanta’s huge – I mean absolutely huge – homeless population.

I do ride MARTA to work most of the time, and I’m pretty hyped about the fact that they let you take your bike on the train here. But there are still days when I need my car, when I have to drive around to get to my bank or the grocery store. And up until this week, driving has been a big frustration.

So I think 10th street is pretty magical.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Independent Thoughts

Independant Thoughts

I had a pretty enjoyable holiday weekend. Despite how "un-patriotic" I can be, I usually have a pretty good time on Independence Day. I mean, sure, I've lost all faith in in our government; the health care system is broken, the judicial system is broken, the educational system is broken, blah blah blah...

but that doesn't mean I don't like a good excuse to lay off work and eat good food.

My room mates, Ron and Dinan, went out of town this weekend, leaving me with the house all to myself for the first time ever. I had Friday to myself, and then Saturday Tony, Andrew and Winn ended up visiting. Carly and Coz invited me to a cook out on the 4th, and the Nashville guys invited me to a cookout on the 5th, but I stayed in, cleaning the house and quite happily going through a lot of my old books. Since I quit eating red meat a few years ago, cook outs are always a little awkward for me. Do you insult the guest by bringing your own chicken or veggie burgers? Or do you manage to fake your way through on a bun full of lettuce?

It was good to see Tony, Andrew, and Winn, and even better to convince them that they can use my house as an Atlanta landing pad whenever they need too. I'm building my reputation as a host. I want people to be comfortable visiting me, sleeping here, eating my food. I'm working on it. I'm nearly there.

The fourth made me miss Aral terribly. I haven't seen her in nearly a year, and last fourth was so much fun, getting drunk on our roof in Allston and watching the big show. Happily, she called Sunday and we talked out some of the details of her visit next month. The big party is approaching, and everyone is looking forward to seeing her. I can't wait.

And while we were on the phone, she said this to me:

"Wow. You've really made a lot of good decisions in the past year, you know?"

I and was all like, you've got to be kidding me. If there was ever a six month stretch of my life where I could go back and make some different choices, it would be January-June of 2003. I would have never bought the Toyota. I would have taken the NEH grant job the first time it was offered. I wouldn't have tried to make that turn from the no-turn lane. There's a couple of phone calls to cute boys I wouldn't have made or answered.

But Aral was like, "No, you've really made a lot of the right choices in the past year. Look at where you are now!"

"It was really, really hard" I said.

"But you did the right thing. It gives me hope."

I give Aral hope? She's one of the most amazing people I know!

And she made me realize that for all the mistakes I've made in the past year, I have made a ton of really good but difficult decisions. I told people I loved them when I needed too. I left Boston. I lived with my cousins, I learned about my family, and made some judgment calls there that are permanent but that I'm glad I made. Everyone who knows me keeps telling me how good it was that I quit the job from hell despite all the money I was making. I've made some tough choices in the last year, but everything has turned out A-ok. And when I look at where I was just eight months ago, that's pretty amazing.

Hooray for Aral. Hooray for Independance Day, and I don't care if it's conceit, hooray for me.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

It's Dreamy

It's Dreamy

It’s July now, and I’ve started my new job. I work on a grant-funded position from the National Endowment for History. I get to teach people about book binding and repair and all about mold. It’s totally awesome, and for the first time I feel like I’ve really hit my stride, and found out what I want to do for the rest of my life.

I love being an archivist, but there was this totally subtle (OK, sometimes not so subtle) elitism that ran through all of my previous jobs that I found disturbing. Now that I’m working on a government grant to serve the masses, I feel a lot more satisfied. I feel like I’m going to get to do some really good work that will improve a lot of people’s lives. Ok, well, it’ll mostly improve the lives of people with library cards. But I’m definitely in a more egalitarian environment now. So what if I gave up the office with two windows and my name on the door? I may be in a cubicle now, but at least I feel good about what I do – and I’m in Midtown, not Buckhead. Hooray for me. 10 blocks farther south makes a hell of a difference in this town.

In other news, things here have settled into a quiet summer rhythm that I dig entirely. The nights are warm and steamy, and sometimes I just go out on the veranda and close my eyes and enjoy being here, where I know I belong. I miss living with my cousins a little bit – I miss Colin marching into my room, toy sword held in the scabbard of his Scooby-Doo underwear, naked except for drawers, toenail polish and a cowboy hat, demanding that I play chess with him. And I miss watching Audrey go through her daily motions of being far more adult than me, and I image I’ll eventually even get nostalgic for Jamie’s totally boy-like behavior. But things are good in the new apartment. I’m back with my own social group again; activists and designers and bartenders. I’m still a total homebody for a while until some more bills get paid, but on the whole I seem to be managing to have an active social life again. It was time, you know?

Devon wrote about her Murfreesboro dream over on her blog. I’ve been dreaming a lot too lately, because I’ve been learning a lot at the new job. I always have the most intense dreams when I’m trying to absorb too much information. It’s like my brain soaks up as much information as it can and then leaves all my emotional responses to be dealt with while I sleep.

Here’s an example:

I dreamt that I took my sisters, Sara and Abby, shopping in Atlanta. And while we were out, Sara bought a magic lamp. We all ran around town having fun – eating in the park and everything. We took our shopping goodies home, and I let them go – to my aunt’s I think.

The next day, Sara shows up on my doorstep with her genie, who looks exactly like the giant from the last episodes of Twin Peaks. The genie (the giant, wearing the same clothes and everything as when he tried to warn Agent Cooper not to pick the beauty contest winner) stands slightly behind Sara all the time. Sara tells me that no one can see the genie except her, and whomever she wants to see the genie. The genie is her invisible helper.

I ask her what she wants to do with the genie, and she tells me she all ready got her driver’s license and a car, and now she’s going to drive to the Lottery office in Atlanta to pick up her lottery winnings. She wants me to come with her because she’s a minor, and she’s worried they won’t let her have the money without a grown-up present. Also, she needs me to help her open a bank account with the new money. The giant is just sort of shaking his head.

I say “Don’t you think that the lotto office is going to know you’re faking them out? I mean, they probably get scammed all the time by people with genies and stuff.” And Sara is just like *SIS-ter*, please, this is a magic genie. Magic genies are for winning the lottery, stupid.

So we all get into Sara’s new green car – it’s a four door sedan, which now that I think about it was an odd choice for a 16 year old girl – and we drive downtown, listening for music. We go into a very tall modern building to the Georgia lottery office, where a receptionist directs us to a hallway with the word “WINNINGS” on it in silver metal lettering. The hallway is small and cramped and there’s a line. I can’t see past the other people down the line, but the hallway evidently opens up into an office where they verify your ticket and make you fill out paperwork to get your lottery money.

It’s the day after the drawing, so there are a lot of winners. We are last in line; me, Sara, and the giant genie. Only, no one else can see the genie, so Sara and I have to make sure we stand on either side of him so he won’t get bumped or stepped on. The hallway is painted red and the carpet is the flat grey industrial kind. We stand and stand, talking around the genie, who stays silent but watches us with some interest. Eventually we all get tired of standing and sit down with our backs against the wall. The hallway is narrow enough that as workers try to get to and from the winnings office, we all have to move around just to let them by. The line never seems to move at all.

After being in line for a very long time, the receptionist starts coming down the line, giving us clipboards with paperwork on them, to try and speed things up. With the receptionist is a little man – the backwards talking guy from the red room of Twin Peaks. And immediately I know we’re going to get in trouble, because I know he can see genies. There’s no time to warn Sara so she can send him away.

They come down the line, shaking hands and explaining the clipboards, apologizing for the long wait. The receptionist was introducing the little man as an important person – The Director of Lottery Winnings. He shakes everyone’s hand and thanks them for their patience on such a busy day. And then he gets to the end of the line, and us. And he starts smiling with his eyebrows raised, a superior look. He leans on one elbow on the door frame behind us, and is all like: And who are you young ladies? And Sara is all giggly and smiling because she thinks he’s just flirting and being silly and she doesn’t know he’s about to lower the boom. After a few minutes of sweet talking, asking about when and where she bought the ticket, and what she would do with the money, and how nice it is to finally win something, blah, blah, blah, he says to my sister:

“You know I can see that genie you’ve got, right?”

And the genie just lets go with this big sigh. And I lean my head up against the wall, and Sara’s all like, So what? I still won, you still have to let me have the money. And then she’s all bragging on about her genie, how cool he is, and asking the director how he can see them, and I want to just yell at her “They were both in Twin Peaks together, stupid, of course they can see each other!”

The director tries to be nice to Sara, but his bottom line is, no, she can’t win the lottery. It has to be random chance and genies are cheating. And the director is really, really sorry, but he can’t help everybody. Some people just have hard lives, and there’s nothing he can do about that.

The genie is nodding emphatically, and I’ve got my head on his shoulder. And that’s when I woke up.