debra

I like riding the elevator with Debra.

She pushes the Close Door button at every floor before people have the chance to enter.

Sometimes they’re quick and she’ll make eye contact as the doors close between them; sometimes she’ll shake her head at them, as if to say, “No, baby, you’ll catch the next one.”

orange radio

The first CD I ever owned was The Presidents of the United States of America by The Presidents of the United States of America. I got it as a present in my Easter basket. My second CD was Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too by the New Radicals. It’s possible that name won’t ring a bell. They were the band who white-rapped about fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson.

I used to listen to that album, non-stop, on my tan and silver portable Philips Magnavox CD player. I thought Gregg Alexander was cool because he was from Michigan and wore a bucket hat. I bought my own bucket hat and tried to emulate him, unsuccessfully, because I was awkward and twelve years old. I stopped at spelling my own name with two G’s, though. I might’ve had no idea how ridiculous I looked in a bucket hat, but somehow I knew, even then, that spelling Greg with two G’s was fucking absurd.

None of that is the point, though.

There’s a song on the album, “Someday We’ll Know.” Until tonight I always thought it was a cover. I think because Mandy Moore and a few others covered it years later. But nope — it was written by Gregg Alexander.

That’s not the point, either.

The point is that this song, by means of the odd and complex wiring of our human brains, evokes the same memory every time.

I’m thirteen years old and in the backseat of my grandparent’s green minivan in Traverse City, Michigan. I’m listening to “Someday We’ll Know” and the few other songs I like on that album, over and over again.

My Grandpa Don is driving at his standard leisurely pace. Normally my Grandma Pat would scold him for going so slow, but we were on vacation. She relaxes in the front seat. Her head sometimes wobbles, ever so slightly, from side to side. I wonder if it’s her shy soul wanting to dance, or if she has some sort of ailment. I catch her doing it even after the radio goes static.

The road winds up the Old Mission Peninsula. Curves give way to views of East or West Bay. We pass cherry orchards and steep, sandy banks spilling into the road. By the time we get to the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula it feels like we’re at the end of the world.

The lighthouse is there because the water is deceivingly shallow for quite a long way. Rocks pop up above the surface for a mile out. There’s a jetty with pockets of vegetation.

It’s mystical but not in a way that’s confusing. It’s accessible and comfortable. That is, of course, my modern day analysis of the setting.

Thirteen year old Greg is sitting in the sand listening to the New Radicals while his sister and grandparents collect rocks along the beach. His angsty teenage soul finds a moment of contentment in this perfect place. He’s thankful for his CD player and Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois. Otherwise he’d be listening to static on the small portable radio that’s shaped like a Tropicana orange. The antenna is disguised as a red and white straw.

We don’t stay long.

the third chair

My favorite barber is Natasha, third chair from the door.

It’s not the owner, although I like him, too. He’s outgoing and a little bawdy. He cuts a mean head of hair and always insists on a handshake. One time he told me I shouldn’t get a fade and then gave me one of the best haircuts I’ve had in my life. So yeah, I like him fine.

It’s not Tatiana, either. Pretty and demure. We exchange a few words at the beginning of our transaction and then she’s silent throughout. I close my eyes and sink back in my chair a bit. Her haircuts are never spectacular, but they are the most relaxing by far.

Neither is it the jolly part-timer from Kazakhstan, fourth chair from the door. I think he might be my second favorite. He’s outgoing, like the owner, but a bit more understated. Our chats are simultaneously deep and breezy. He always slips something into the conversation that results in me tipping way more than I should. Whether this is deliberate or not makes no difference to me.

Then there’s the fifth chair, which always seems to be a rotating and unfamiliar face. I secretly hope the lottery by which the queue of waiting, shaggy men are assigned bypasses me when the fifth chair opens up. I’d rather wait.

Nope. My favorite barber is Natasha.

I don’t know why she’s my favorite, really. Perhaps because she is the most eccentric. She monitors my posture like an English governess, and pokes me when I begin to slouch. “Mhmm,” she’ll say, after I straighten up. It’d be easy to interpret this as aggressive—her accent is Eastern European—but it’s more of a pleasant acknowledgement.

She cuts hair the same way a dog chases bubbles in a light breeze, spotting wayward strands here and there, snipping them as they become evident to her. I’ve never had a barber cut hair this way; I was skeptical the first time I ended up in the third chair.

She checks in with me, sporadically. I’ll squint towards the mirror because I am blind. She giggles and hands me my glasses. “Looks good,” I’ll say.

It’s possible that I like her the best because she always remembers my eyebrows. I’m no Frida Kahlo but they tend towards unruly after a while. There’s always one hair that grows way longer than the others. She finds it and mows it down. The others fall into line.

“Mhmm,” she’ll say, monitoring her work, before she walks away to get a hot towel.

reel

“Does it usually rock back and forth like that?” asked Rosy.

“Ah, don’t worry too much ‘bout it,” said Otto. “Gets that way when the wind picks up. But that’s alright. Fish like the wind.”

Rosy laughed. His tension eased. “What do you mean they like the wind?”

“Shit, I don’t know. I catch a lot more of ‘em, though.”

The wind blew them over towards the point, where a couple of fallen pines jutted out into the lake.

“Try right over there,” Otto instructed, motioning beside one of the waterlogged trunks.

Rosy cast his line, but he couldn’t get the timing right. His bait plunked into the water a few feet from the boat. He gathered the line and tossed it a second time, landing closer.

A mosquito buzzed in his ear. Another one feasted on his leg.

Rosy Richardson settled into his seat and waited.

plans, changed

I ran out of Head & Shoulders a few days ago. I have a few other types of shampoo that I use, but I’m a flaky guy. I need my pyrithione zinc.

So my plan was to pop over to Target after I got home from work to get some, and then come home and snuggle with my dog. This plan also appealed to me because work was busy and I knew I’d be buzzing on a high frequency after I got out. A relaxing evening sounded nice.

When I exited the subway in Brooklyn, I heard cheers from a crowd of people. There was a small white furball who desperately needed to use the bathroom so I marched home, hearing rumblings from passersby that it was a rally of some of Brooklyn’s bodgea owners, many of whom are Muslim immigrants and have to face a terrifying new political landscape.

Terror.

And so my plans changed. I could still head to Target after, but this was something I felt strongly about. So after taking Flora on a quick jaunt outside, I headed over to the rally and ran into Annie Sidou. She had plucked a piece of cardboard from somewhere or other, and was writing *Power to the People* on it with a gigantic permanent marker she keeps on her person. Because, of course she does. These are the times in which we live. We listened to Linda Sarsour speak and cheered and supported our neighbors.

And then we went to the diner, where we discussed politics, religion, creativity, media consumption, engagement, intelligence, life, motivations, desires, and on and on. Pepsi and milkshakes and french fries.

After dinner another friend, who I haven’t caught up with in a while, texted me a picture of an American Eagle wearing a sombrero. “Thought of you. Here’s to staying hopeful 🇺🇸”

This stuff exhausts me. The political climate is exhausting. Having to go to spontaneous protests is exhausting. Worrying about your community and hoping they’re okay is exhausting. Worrying about your own situation and whether or not your own family is okay is exhausting. I am so tired all the time.

However, tonight, I am emotionally fulfilled and hopeful.

And now I’m home, writing this while snuggled up with my pup. Because that was always part of the plan. 🐶

Happy.
But with an itchy head.

excerpts from ibz, #4

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Ibiza, Spain

We paid our tab and waved goodbye to our server at La Bodega, the tapas restaurant where we decided to eat on our final evening in Spain. It’s tucked alongside the Portal de ses Taules—one of the few entrances to Dalt Vila, Ibiza’s medieval walled city. Its location was convenient because, despite our charming server’s mandate that we didn’t order enough, we somehow managed to roll up the stone ramp to the outer bailey. It would not be incorrect to refer to us as literal balls of cheese.

This was our first time in Dalt Vila after the sun went down. There’s a commercial section right inside the fortifications with restaurants and kitschy souvenir shops and people abound. The streets wind around the ancient hilltop city and sometimes they just end, replaced with a stairway taking you up a level. We ducked out of the crowd on one of these stairways and climbed up, emerging on a deserted cobblestone street.

We meandered back and forth this way, up the medieval hill. With the exception of hoards of stray cats and a few locals—all of whom seemed to be taking one final pull from their cigarette before entering their homes—we were the only ones on the street.

—–

There’s a promenade at the top of Dalt Vila which overlooks the Mediterranean. Silhouettes of couples canoodling on the wall. The waves crashing against the cliff below. The moon illuminating the sea for miles out. It was easy to see how ancient residents of this walled city felt safe. What would they think of the horny teenagers (and adult gay men) making out here?
And the coconut ice cream?

—–

excerpts from ibz, #3

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Ibiza, Spain

We told ourselves we would get up early and seize the day… we didn’t.

Darling Lola Lorenza had scheduled a spiritual cleansing to be done at the house. A very real part of me wanted to stay and witness a spiritual cleansing because, well, I need all the help I can get. But there was a much larger part of me (literally: stomach) that wanted to answer the call of tostada con tomate.

🍅 Hola. Soy yo… 🍞

In the end my spirit retaliated anyway and popped the button off my shorts on the way into town. Because, croquetas. The faucet in the tiny upstairs bathroom above Croissant Show poked mi culo when I changed into a spare pair of shorts.

Las karma.

—–

Beach #5, Cala Carbo:  Back to where it all began. Our first beach in Ibiza when we came in 2015 with Raica and Nils. It sits in a protected little cove with what might’ve been the remnants of with an old fishing village. The beach is sandy, the water is green. We spent the early afternoon there: a few hours of swimming and dozing in the sun, listening to a Spanish guy speak on the phone to his friend.

Beach #6, Cala Comte @ Sunset Ashram: My favorite beach. Deliciously sandy. Honey soaked sunsets. We came back and went to the more populated beach that we bypassed with Raica a few days previously. I shared some lobster with Joao and we swam in the sandy water, making up stories about the island out in the distance, Illa des Bosc.