I wish

Have you ever been sitting on pubic transit, perhaps during commuting hours, listening to a podcast or something on your iPod that incites in you a little irrepressible smiling or giggling? And you become the freak sitting there grinning to yourself while everyone around you looks like a sad robot?
Actual sad robot from Spike Jonze short I'm Here  -  image via

I had one of those moments today. I was listening to an episode of This American Life on BART coming back from San Francisco. Episode #259, "Promised Land" from August 8. Anybody catch that one? He starts off talking about Disney movies, and how so many of them and other musicals start with what they call an "I wish" song. Snow White wishes for the one she loves, Dorothy wishes for somewhere over the rainbow, etc. The examples are too many to count. The same thing happens again and again: the main character appears, sings their anthem spelling out what it is they're after, and this drives the story forward. Ira Glass observes that you start noticing this everywhere, and then? What does he do? He sings. He sings his own "I wish" song for the show, and this is where the smiling ensues. As far as I can remember, I've never heard him sing before, and I was just plum tickled.

But it got me thinking about how everyone has an "I wish" song. See the world, buy a house, graduate, retire, procreate, survive. Maybe you're still trying to place the tune, work out the melody or come up with the lyrics, or maybe you've been singing the same ditty your whole life. Whatever we're after, each of us has a song that drives our story forward. But unlike a Disney movie, our tale doesn't end happily tied ever after up neat with a bow. Our song isn't over when our wish does or does not come true, we just add more verses. 

Ira played the opening number from Stephen Sondheim's broadway musical Into the Woods as the BART train sailed over the sprawl of industry and suburbia of the East Bay Area. The voices of six characters spun together in a medley, all crying out their own respective wishes, and it was as if those voices were floating up out of the windows and chimneys of the tract houses below. Dusty, freeway-adjacent developments awash in grays, taupes and burnt siennas. Rooftops and sidewalks all diagonal lines and one foot in front of the other. Some of those houses are dreams realized, and some hide wishes that may never leave the driveway.

As for me, I've recently had a wish granted (one that took me months to come up with in the first place), and as a result I've got a whole new set of wishes. Today I started a brand new shiny job in San Francisco. It's on the 10th floor of a tall glossy building in the Financial District, and I have a cubicle, a company email address, and benefits. Now, having spent the last two years au pair-ing, traveling, camping, road-tripping, interning, and just generally floating around, this will be a huge change. My peep toe flats clicking on the waxy floor of the lobby as I made my way to the elevator this morning sounded like a foreign language. It's change, but I'm ready for it. I'm ready to find an apartment, buy a bike, and make San Francisco my own. Yes, friends, I'm ready to drive my story forward.

Stay tuned.


Look! I make stuff! (But seriously, please look at it.)

While I haven't been terribly inspired to write lately, I have found inspiration of another color in Craftland (note: not a real place). I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon yesterday learning how to do some embroidery stitches with the expert help of my mom and this handy book
I promptly decided that it's a delightful pastime, not to mention the source of abundant potential for style and cuteness. I mean, look how fun!
Just a simple sampler, but I'll definitely be playing with this some more!

Something I've been trying out for a while longer is the irresistible art of making cards. I've combined three of my most favorite things: paper, words, and colorful fabrics... and behold!

Charming, no? So far I've just made one here and there to give to friends and family, but I'm toying with the idea of an Etsy shop. What do you think? Would you give money in exchange for something like this? Handmade, each one unique, perhaps less cutesie and more funky+weird? If no one comments and says yes, I'll never do it! I'll burn all my fabric scraps and flush my rubber stamp alphabet down the toilet! I mean it! I don't care how lowly and pathetic it makes me look, I need your validation! Yes, that's in italics.

Happy Monday, friends! And you know what? I am so glad you looked at this. You made my day. I hope someone made yours.


750 Words

By 8:30 this morning (Saturday, mind you), I had already written 750 words of free text (758, actually). I feel pretty good about this. It's my first day trying out a little site called 750 Words, an online version of the tried and true writing exercise of (go figure) writing. A little bit every day. No editing, censoring, or drafting. Just letting the words flow. I wrote my 758 words (about 3 pages) this morning in 15 minutes, and there's actually some decent material in there. But that's not even the point. The point is to just open up your mind, put whatever's in there on the page (or the screen), maybe for practice, maybe for therapy, maybe as a way to sort through your thoughts, relieve stress, purge.

Whatever it becomes, the cool thing about it is that it's bound to become something. We so often lack motivation or inspiration and as a result do nothing, produce nothing. But by sitting down and just forcing yourself to pull sentences out of the empty space in your brain, things appear. Ideas materialize before your eyes as if by magic. Loose ends connect. Questions are asked. Conclusions are drawn.

The site is the brain child of this guy. It's different from a blog in that the content is totally private and there's no "posting" involved. Different from a journal in that you can type instead of suffer massive hand cramps, it helps you keep track, and it goes into a kind of little bank instead of just into a boring word document. He's made it fun and motivational, with monthly challenges you can sign up for and little badges to reward you for writing, say, 10 days in a row. 

It also provides stats that measure things like how long it took you to write each day, words per minute, and number of distractions. It shows you your frequently used words, which can provide a fascinating (and potentially disturbing) look at your subconscious. Maybe it won't surprise you, but you want to know my most frequently used word today? In 758 words at 8:30 on a Saturday morning? That I am now sharing with you in the assumption that you will even care?
My my my my my. Me. My. Mine. I. 

Conclusions, you see, are drawn. 


Creatures, Fairies, and a truly beautiful bit of music

Just... watch/listen. I am tired and my hands smell like the mall, but here is something special, something that makes me feel alive. And that is as much as one can hope for at the end of an exhausting day that resulted in pretty much nothing.

Happy hump day, my friends. Here's to acoustic instruments+old books+creaky wooden floors.

Oh, and to harmony.


Let's Move

As someone who's itching to get into a new place to call my own (and decorate it as such), I have to share these awesome photos from the new apartment of my Swiss German/English friend, Martina Schürpf, across the pond in Zürich. She's über-crafty, loves a good ice cream, and is always in the know when it comes to great new music (notice the antique radio). Get some inspiration for new tunes from her here. But first, get some design inspiration from her freshly moved into flat. She says there's lots of work to be done, but judging from these photos, the place looks pretty great already. Now off to Craigslist to see if I can find one for myself...
Thanks for letting us ogle, Martina! 

Back to School

Yesterday, I went to Office Max. If that sentence doesn't make you wanna keep reading, then I don't know what will! But seriously, Office Max. I walked through the automatic sliding doors, my flip flops clapping on the black plastic floor mat, and the smell of school supplies nearly knocked me on my back. The clean scent of fresh plastic and rubber, of cheap metal and wax and so many pounds of trees-turned-paper. Paper that'll be used just as much for passing notes in class as it will for churning out math problems with mechanical pencils. Show your work. Yes, it nearly made me stagger drunk-happy in the florescent-lit aisles, the scent of binders, spiral ring notebooks, erasers, highlighters, folders, crayons! The scent of potential, of work to be done, of knowledge just waiting to be absorbed.
Are these pictures of crayons totally turning you on? Because there are few things that excite me more than a giant pile of colors. (These particular ones come from the work of this amazing artist.) No sir, nothing like a fresh 96-pack of Crayolas. Granny Smith Apple? Yes, please! Robin's Egg Blue? Don't mind if I do. Cerulean? Oh, oh yes. My personal favorite.

And speaking of crayons (still with us?), I'm about to show you something very special to me. This, darling readers, is my single greatest memory of young childhood TV-watching. It defies description, the liquid orange wax like so much flowing lava or nacho cheese. The sheepish grins of the factory workers, knowing that they alone hold the secret to all that is simple and wonderful in the universe, that they alone hold in their hands the source of creative innocence. When the music builds as brand new cylinders of color rise up out of those little holes like creatures from the earth, I nearly faint. The symmetry and synchronicity of it all is enough to make me leap up and sing, dance, pump my fists in breathless jubilation. Come on, you know Sesame Street has made you feel that way before.

I mean, awesome, right? And while we're at it, have a look at this stunning collection that doubles as both art supplies and art. My sister brought these 500 Colored Pencils by Felissimo to my attention, and they quickly shot to the top of my wish list.

But! I digress. As intoxicating as that new school supplies aroma is (if someone bottled it and sold it as perfume, I'd wear it), I didn't buy anything. See, I'm no longer in school. Somehow, though, I've still managed to start afresh each September. Change gears and do something new, the time of my little world still syncing with that of the academic calendar, two years after graduation.

And this year is no exception. The difference between now and the days when I used to decorate my plastic binders with obnoxious zitty pictures of myself and my friends (who were far less zitty than I, those bitches), is that no one is telling me exactly where to go, what to do and when. At least, not until I get hired somewhere and have an employer to tell me that stuff. I just had a job interview in San Francisco, and I couldn't help but think that maybe, if I do land a job (if not this one, then something else), I'll allow myself a few fresh school supplies, perhaps even a new box of crayons, for old times' sake. I may never have a first day of school again, but I'll have plenty of other firsts, and I can always use that scent of potential, of work to be done, of knowledge just waiting to be absorbed.


I also have shoes and, um, a face.

Have you ever wondered what a shell with shoes on would say? Oh.. no? Well, you'll want to watch this anyway, just for good measure.

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON from Dean Fleischer-Camp on Vimeo.

Today I went to the new and improved California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco for the first time, and it was, in a word, awesome. Among the most notable creatures were tiny rainforest frogs. Actually, pretty much every reptile/amphibian in there got me all pointing and saying "dude" a lot.  "Look at him!" I'd say, referring to some kind of gecko or snake, "He is so cool. Wow, that's so cool. Oh my gosh, he is really cool. So cool." Somehow going to a place to learn about sciences only makes me dumber.

There was also this special eel place only for children, but we crawled right in there and found these tiny garden eels the size of worms that pop up out of the sea floor like this!

Oh, and the Journey to the Stars planetarium show narrated by none other than Whoopi Goldberg. I mean, who else? Speaking of people who narrate a lot of stuff, my brother saw Morgan Freeman the other day. Just, ya know, saw him. His actual body, and face, and he probably had shoes on.

On that note, happy long weekend! Anyone up for hang gliding on a dorito? I'm going tomorrow.