Socialite Bender

Made a new radical friend from Kansas City doing labor organizing. So much fun to engage with.

Reading listening and doing art with green tea and Stuart tonight.

There is this old farmer man, the most traditional of the traditional, suntanned like leather and hands callused like stones. Visibily disappointed in me now that my hair has gotten longer and doesn’t stick up in all directions at all times.

Farmer: “Why isn’t your hair in the air?”

Me: “I can’t help it, it just does what it does when I wake up.”

Farmer: “You can help it.”

And he walks away.

The next day–

Me, jokingly:“You a fan of my hair today? All nice, flat and socially acceptable?”

Farmer: “No.”

Silence.

Farmer: “You asked.”

He walks away.

The farmer has spoken. The midwest wants radical. The midwest needs radical.

They need me to keep my hair short and offensive.

Last night I went to a Take Back the Night Event. I cried a bit during a few speeches. I think we all did, at least all of us who were human.

Got greasy bar food with Pat before the event, was told that there were so much more important things than gender equality.

Went to see Tig Notaro’s stand up show the other night, and went to two amateur stand up shows the week before.

Got a second job for the summer, and finally feel I have my world in the palm of my hand. It all its terrifying and immaculate glory.

Wanita is the 60 or 70 year old gardener for the cafe. We talk about food politics and the weather daily. Recently, I realized she is someone I should expand conversations with. And it has proved very rewarding so far. In the simplest ways.

Wanita: What did you do this weekend?

Me: I went to Lawrence!

Wanita: What for?

Me: For fun.

Pause

Me: I never did things like this in college, I always had an purpose for whatever I did.

Wanita: I’m glad you realized that early. I took a painting class years back and realized that. It’s the flow. It’s the process not the product. Purpose purely for being.

I feel like I might be being mildly harassed.

This story is much better told in person, but I will try to write it out.

Three weeks ago, I was driving back into town from Lawrence, and on the main stretch coming into town.

I notice this red truck driving right by my side, though there is open road in front of him and he could easily pass me. I look over, and this twenty something bearded boy driving the truck has a demonic, mouth open, possessed, eyes and teeth gleaming, face contorted and frozen for me, eyes staring directly into mine. He’s bending around to make eye contact as the traffic weaves in and out.

I look away, thinking maybe something is wrong with him. Maybe he has Tourettes?

Except, a person with Tourettes doesn’t trail another car, and continuously maneuvering so they are right by their side for the next fucking ten miles of traffic.

And whenever the traffic did not allow him to make eye contact with me, I saw that his face relaxed and went back to a normal human expression.

I ignored it that day. I thought it was a freak accident, the universe being crazy with me. The guy having a weird day and trying to get a rise out of people. Specifically me for some reason.

Thought it was a once in a lifetime thing.

Well, who do I see going to work yesterday in the middle of town?

I had an odd feeling about the vehicle next to me, it is moving too slow for the traffic in the lane it is in. I look over. Instantly when I look over, the skin peeling grimace of absurdity is created on this strange man’s face.

He had been waiting for me to look over.

I’m in a good mood today, and I laugh. And look forward and continue driving.

Then, there is a stop light. I am three cars back in the left lane, and he has no one in front of him in the right lane.

But he stops three cars back in the right lane, with miles of space in front of him. He’s stopped there because he knows that’s where I will have to pull up to.

And I have no choice but to pull up next to him, and he does the fucking sick face at me again, and I laugh at him.

And then the light turns green after awhile. After I basked in the absurd. And he sped off like a rocket at twice the speed limit.

He had a Ron Paul sticker on the back of his truck.

Take from this story what you will. I have no idea what it means.

Headed to Lawrence today for a crazy chance encounter.

Not sure it’s the best use of my time on my day off, but I am intrigued.

And I’m following intrigue from now on.

Went to a bookshop out of town today on a whim and ended up in the travel writing section. The bookshop keeper walked me through all the authors and I bought two and will spend the night consuming them.

Last night I went out with a new friend from Minnesota and ate bacon jalapeno poppers and drank Dos Equis at the tacky Tex-Mexican bar in town.

Today I had an interview for the center, and tonight I am going to Ben’s stand up show and meeting his girlfriend.

I am doing things.

I am learning how to live as well as write.

I am not backing away from anything.

I used to think that writers needed to be reclusive. But now I realize I have more energy the more I do.

And the more energy, the more motivation to write.

And the more I write the more I want to do.

And the more I do, the less terrified I am.

Because once you get in the flow, you trust yourself to stay in it. Trust myself to follow through more, trust myself to do what is right for me. Trust myself to squeeze the 100% out of life.

So I will keep doing, and keep gathering life to infuse my writing with.

I talk about being nomadic and carrying my life in a suitcase.

But traveling lightly is only easy for me because most of my baggage is released onto paper.

Interviews: Listen to the question, take a deep breathe before speak, and enjoy communicating.

Control the pace of the interview, slow down and cannot go wrong.

So last night I went downtown to write at a coffeeshop, and ran into my friend Mara. I went to her presentation on Kazakhstan last fall, and we’ve been meaning to hang out ever since.

It’s her birthday tonight at midnight, and she really wants me to come. It’s 8 pm, and I tell her I’ll see how I’m feeling around 11. I have to be at work tomorrow at 6 am though, so I can only have one drink.

She’s like, yeah yeah sure sure. Just meet us at 11!

Eleven o’clock rolls around, and I meet her at Rockabelly Deli with her friends- a Russian girl and a Californian boy. I get a beer, while everyone else gets hard drinks.

The waitress brings shots to the table at 12 pm, and I realize that my drive home had better happen now, or else it is not going to happen.

Mara makes my decision for me, buying me a massive long island iced tea to match her own, and assuring me it would be very rude for me to leave now. She’s paying for everyone’s drinks all night, saying that’s what they do in Kazakhstan. Refusing to compromise.

We all did toasts to Mara, because that is what you do in Russia and Kazakhstan at birthdays and weddings. Everyone must say a big impressive toast.

We go out to the back patio, where run into Diana, Jordan, Alex and a group of others. We sit by them, everyone is smoking and speaking or attempting to speak in Russian.

Jordan gets initiated into the birthday celebration officially, and is bound by Mara to continue drinking. We head to another bar, and switch back to beer as a bunch of international students join us.

I spend my time in the bar speaking with a Brazilian man, and laughing at the guys lined against the wall behind the dance floor, as if waiting to have their order taken. Then we head out to Jimmy Johns for food.

International drama started to go down at around this point, and Jordan and I had no idea what was going on. We just did as we were told, which became increasingly different with the contradicting orders coming from all directions. We all headed out to the curb, and I met a guy from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Everyone filtered out, and we were left sitting there talking about everything under the sun. Just kicking it at 3 am on a curb. Around 3:30 he walked me back to Diana’s, refusing to let me go alone.

I jumped in bed with Alex and Diana when I got there, telling them all of my tales of international intrigue. Was so excited about all the people I had spoken with tonight. Felt very right. Like I was finally doing what I was supposed to do again.

Fell asleep around 4, then my alarm went off at 5:30 and I headed out to walk to work down the street.

And then I worked 7 hours, then had Easter dinner with my family and grandparents when I got home, then fell immediately asleep.

I promised the Congolese guy last night that we would hang out again tonight, so I’m headed there now. I backed out earlier, claiming to be too tired. But then Ben called me out, “You always do that. You’re not tired, you’re just scared.”

And I remembered why I love my brother so much. And I went out.

I am in love with culture.

How I am continually surprised every time I speak with someone from a different culture.

How things I thought were pretty universal can be so radically different.

Development, happiness, generosity and debt collection.

Paulin showed me how to eat fufu. Everything else is eaten with a fork in Congolese cuisine, but when you have fufu, or cassava on the plate you have to use your hands. You grab a piece of cassava in your palm and squeeze it, squeeze it again, and then use your fingers to grab meat and vegetables, then eat the whole bite together.

AND the coffee hospitality in Saudi Arabia W was telling me about.

The first place we went was the saloon, where we all got beers. Then another. Then another.

Then left an tip of a free McDonald’s meal and a few bucks.

Shame.

Left the saloon and Diana directed us to the tiki bar in town. Because apparently we have a tiki bar in town.

The drinks were so sweet and I was not a fan. I went with vodka gummy bears and a beer.

Our time in this establishment was a very odd experience. I was out of my element, all three of us were really, as everyone in that bar looked like they belonged on a cruise. And we looked like we might have just hitchhiked across the country.

Sat at a table made out of a surfboard, and took it all in. And drank as fast as I could.

Our neighbors on the surf board kept joining our conversation out of the blue, and men in oddly printed shirts kept coming up to discuss alcohol and obscure comedy with us.

For some reason, I kept pounding my fist on the surf board. Maybe it was to the beat of the music, perhaps not. But I didn’t even notice I was doing it until the people next to us started cracking up. We laughed together as I realized the aggressive vibes I was sending out, and then not five minutes later I was doing it again. Very funny. Very odd.

“Don’t stop believing” came on and the whole tiki bar burst into song, as expected. And I said, tears in my eyes, “I love alcohol.”

Ducking out of the bar we headed down the street, marching toward Mae’s. Walking down into Mae’s all the people appear. All the faces are familiar, and everyone is getting very intoxicated in that tiny underground bar.

I spend the majority of the evening speaking with a new friend. I am pretty sure we have the same conversation on repeat for about three or four hours. Take shots with people at the bar, watch awkward social interactions go down that don’t include me, and abstain from dancing as the night winds down.

When the bar closes for the night, we head next door for nachos. I eat an entire helping of nachos, and then declare that I must stop by the food truck as well. Everyone leaves me at this point except my new friend, who stands with me in the hour long line at 3 in the morning and we have the same conversation again and again ad infinitum. And by this time I am sobering up, and aware of the fact that having a conversation again and again is not particularly engaging. While in line a guy I know comes up and says hi.

“You want to stay and get food with us?”

“I’ve got a husband and a dog at home to get back to.”

“I’m gay too!” My new friend says.

“I’m only half gay.” My acquaintance says.

Can I tell you how much I love being launched into conversations about sexual orientation at 3 in the morning? Last weekend a boy came up to me and explained what it meant for him to be asexual. And this weekend I get a impromptu conversation on bisexuality.

When we get to the front of the line, I order two corndogs as I have an obligation to be the classiest drunk I can be, and consume them both within minutes.

We leave the slam, and head to Aggieville. Walk into the competition coffee shop in town to use the bathroom, because that’s what you do? And I run into a group of regulars from my cafe, the Eastern European students.

End up talking with them for awhile, going on a few embarrassing conversational directions, but hoping it’s all lost in translation. Which it absolutely is not, to my agony.

To redeem myself from my blubbering starstruck conversation (because apparently I couldn’t handle anyone last night) I walked back to Diana and Jordan across the room. I threw my arms around their shoulders, whimsically tossed my foot into the air, and in a graceless ballerina flourish I hooked a faraway chair onto the tip of my foot, sending the chair crashing to the ground along with my entangled foot, half of my body and Jordan and Diana with me.

Truly amazing.

Chatted with the barista, whose name is also Annie, then headed out the door to the beer.

Because, at least with beer I would have an excuse for toppling tables.

So remember last weekend when I went out and, like every other person in the world, swore I would never drink again? Well, like every other person in the world, I got drunk again the weekend immediately following.

Last night started off pretty easy going. Met Diana and Jordan and we walked to campus in the slightly chilly weather for the poetry slam. My first poetry slam! Met Mandi, the Welsh international student outside, and I went in for a handshake, then gave her a big hug. Which really shocked her. “You Americans usually have a standard 10 foot bubble around you!” I thought back to my time in Europe, and how everyone was a bit blown away by my hugs as well. I had told them it was a Kansas thing at the time, but now I’m wondering if it’s just me.

The poet who was headlining the event was right there when we walked in, and I geeked out a little bit. I had only learned about her an hour earlier, but had spent that hour watching her spoken word poetry online, and was blown away. She held a bit of godlike status for me last night. And I realized, if I’m going to believe in gods, I have to at least learn how to speak to them.

There was not a huge crowd there, so when we walked in it was near impossible not to interact with the the poet. Still, I succeeded avoiding her eye contact like an adolescent with a crush. I ignored her as much as I could the whole night. And it only became more painful as the night went on, as she became infinitely cooler and I became infinitely more hostile.

Then, as if to seal the deal on my cosmic connection to her, she mentions, not one, not two, but three times, that hugs are free. Forever and always. And please stop by and share a hug with her after.

And I realized, as she said that, that there was no fucking way I was going to be able to hug her. I am a preemptive hugger only. I am the absolute best at sneak attack hugs that catch others off guard. But if someone else offers a hug, there is no way I am going to be able to do it without a rather large amount of booze.

I don’t think I really have to tell the end of this story. Though I did not give her a hug, I did give her a robotic, “Good show!” as I ran away. Not my finest hour as a feeling human being. But hey, I went to my first poetry slam.

Jordan got up and read a poem she had written, and it was kick ass and I was so proud of her. I had no idea she wrote poetry, and I had no idea she was so good at spoken word.

There were other girls and guys who were kick ass poets as well. I was so happy and excited to be there. It was like a speak easy, in a bar with a low ceiling, intimate crowd and low lights. One of my coworkers from the cafe read a poem and blew me away. Then started a romance based upon Judaism with Jordan.

They had pizza and soda there for free. And I grabbed some, even though I basically loathe both of these foods. But I wanted something to do with my hands so that no one could say I looked ready to jump on stage.

Note to self: Never eat pizza at a hip, off the grid poetry slam. It’s like walking on graves. Replace it with a bottle of wine. Basic respect.

Wow. So some things happened last night.

Have decided, just as I hold myself up to self improvement and enjoyment, I should also fit social improvement and enjoyment in as well.

I think part of my distaste of social situations has to do with the fact that I didn’t know until a few years ago that you got to pick your friends. I always just assumed you got what you were handed, or some shit like that.

But being social with the people that I handpick, not a chore at all. At least something that I should fit into my life on a weekly basis.

Also, the barista job has done wonders for my social life. It is like being in school again.

Had a bunch of surreal moments last night.

Honestly, I am not sure how I grew up in Manhattan Kansas and had no contact with the military before now.

Actually, I do know how. Because I was raised in a pretty peace loving family, and then when I went out in the world I wrote everyone off who was not strictly pacifist.

I’m glad I’m not as closed minded now, because I am meeting a bunch of really thoughtful people from the military through the cafe. And my self defense class.

I am now also confident I have a god mind.

My self defense class came to mind this afternoon, and I found myself thinking about it seriously for the first time since I’ve been enrolled.

“I should go over the moves in my mind, then I’d be more prepared for class,” I thought. I ponder this for a few minutes, then  look up to see my self defense instructor is standing in line before me. And I start to freak out.

Because, I am a little bit in love with my self defense instructor. As I am sure the majority of the girls in my class are.

In class I have no problem speaking to him. But when I saw him today I turned bright red, started to sweat and shake and stumble over all my words, and just be super attractive in general.

Sarcasm.

It was humiliating. And if he didn’t know before that I thought he was awesome, he absolutely knows now.

I tell this story to salvage comedy out of tragedy.

Well, turns out he is actually meeting a bunch of military big shots to talk about the class I am in with him. And he introduces me to all these guys saying, “She’s in my class!” And I go, “I’m in his class!” with enthusiastic hand motions.

All the guys are really nice, and they are meeting to think about expanding the women’s self defense program through the university and the army. And I tell them it’s a really cool thing they’re doing. Because it is.

And then I proceed to do everything I can do to look incompetent short of scalding them with coffee. Thank god no one got scalded by coffee.

Oh my god I am getting myself into interesting situations lately…

All the things that I deemed socially unsafe in the past I am challenging myself to do now.

Was planning on going to a poetry slam at the union tonight, and within the past hour I have been put in contact with a Welsh woman over the phone who I am now attending the slam with. Who I have never met in my life and had to describe what I looked like to.

Magic.

Also, I almost didn’t show up to volunteer today. When it was probably the most important day of volunteering yet.

Starting to follow my gut. Not doing what makes me feel good anymore, doing what I know will make me feel good later.

Friday morning I got up early to meet a friend for coffee on campus.

We sat outside and drank and talked, while ash was literally falling on us like snow. Getting in the coffee at the most opportune times in the conversation, allowing for the dramatic fishing of ash out of the coffee while making a point.

After coffee, I walked him to class, then decided I was going to join his biology class today. It was actually really fitting, when I was a freshman he came to Lawrence and sat in on my biology class. We definitely got kicked out back then because we talked the whole way through class.

This time we did not get kicked out.

The lecture was about mold, and the professor was from Finland. That is all I registered before I drifted off into my own world and wrote like a crazy person for the next hour in my notebook. Everyone around me probably thought I was fascinated by mold.

The class was a good reminder that I am still the same person. If I got the chance to be 18 again and redo college, I am pretty sure I would do it exactly the same. Writing poetry in biology, drawing pictures of my English professor, and skipping the rest of my classes without a trace of guilt.

That is, if I were to do undergrad again. I think grad school could be a lot different and more according to my interests, not monotone general education that I want none of.

After class Pat asked if I wanted to go to lunch with Chase and him. And I said yes. And I know for a fact I wouldn’t have said yes if it had been just any other day.

But it wasn’t just any other day. I jumped in Chase’s car and we drove to Big D’s burger shack where I was horrified and intrigued to find them serving hamburgers as big as my head.

There was nothing vegetarian on the menu, but the owner offered me his new prototype hot veggie sandwich, and I agreed to try it out.

I consider myself a pretty seasoned eater, but this sandwich did me in. It was grease upon grease upon grease upon onions and mushrooms. I lathered it up with unnecessary amounts of ketchup, but barely finished it. It was a mad race to get it down, only stopping to pick bits of ash off the bun.

After lunch I went to volunteer, run, called Joe, then jumped in the car for Lawrence.

Driving out of town it was obvious why the ash was falling in town, as the fields were ablaze all the way from Manhattan to Topeka. It was actually really cool. Kansas.

Driving into Lawrence I picked up Trina and we headed downtown for the story slam at the arts center. The slam was alright- we walked in and there were African drum, flute and bango players at the front of the room. We got a front row table, complete with fake candles. Only four people signed up to tell stories, eight minutes each, but by the end of the night 13 people had told stories. Most of them were like a journal entry, a way for people to get things off their chest that had been bothering them. A way to face their fears to the extreme. It was very beautiful in this way.

I realized how beautiful fear is when you recognize it. Because that is the first step to taking control over it, not letting it control you. I was happy to share that with these people. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to do the same. Don’t know about eight minutes, though.

After the slam Trina and I went to the Bourgeois Pig down the street for her to buy cigarettes. The bar is everything you could ever want in an establishment: booze, coffee, cigarettes and hipsters occupying the space of a matchbox, inside and out.

Trina wanted to leave immediately, and I felt like I had just found home. She said hipsters made her uncomfortable. And I thought to myself how I could easily curl up into this scene and be content for quite a long time.

We ended up leaving, and headed to the sketchiest bar in Lawrence. I was so excited, because I had never been, in all my years there. I used to work at the coffeeshop right across the street from it when I was younger, but never crossed the threshold.

Well we went in that night. And there were people dancing. And I thought of my last experience dancing at a club with Joe in Boulder, Colorado, and I thought I better not have too much to drink tonight.

We moved inside the bar to watch her friend’s band perform.

It was punk rock, not really my style at all, but it was really fucking awesome live. Especially the connection the singer and the drummer had. Captivating.

Toward the end of the show, the drummer launches himself into the crowd, curling up in a ball on the floor.

He stays there for quite a while, before a few people pull him up.

After the show, we make fast friendships and buy drinks with people we will forget in the morning but are in love with tonight. Bump into a few people we know as well.

One of my favorite things about going out is leaving my friends and going to the bathroom alone. Going to the bathroom at a club or bar is always a great experience, and always better when you go alone. People have the best conversations when they are intoxicated and sharing the bond of having to pee while waiting in line in a small cramped room.

I remember thinking, I need to write this shit down.

Later that night we head back to Trina’s. It’s a 2 or 3 mile walk actually, and takes us quite a long time. The fact that I couldn’t walk straight probably had a bit to do with it.

When we got back home I had a glass of water. The number one rule for drinking: water.

And then passed out soon after.

Honestly, the whole day was a bit more interesting than the drinking part. Something to remember.

Thursday I started my Fitzgerald-esque socialite bender.

It was a rough start, and I spent the majority of Thursday silently crying to myself and feeling small and terrified.

Never have I wished for work to go slow before Thursday.

When I got off work I had an appointment with a girl at the Women’s Center at K-State. I had never met her before, but she is in charge of “Take Back the Night” at K-State and I wanted to get involved.

I am always scared of feminists. Because they are the kind of people I want to surround myself with. Very reasonable.

Meet up with her, and she is absolutely perfect. Beautiful and just about the nicest person you can meet. We sat and talked and drank raspberry hot tea for almost two hours. She wanted me to be in charge of the poetry slam for Take Back the Night, and I told her that is horrifyingly exciting, but I don’t know if I’ll have enough time to put it together. But I will look into it.

When I finally looked at the time, it was 4:30, exactly when my self defense class starts. I ran out, across campus to my car, drove across town, ran across the parking lot, ran through the rec center, burst into class 15 minutes late. And the horrible thing was, my teachers were not shocked in the least. I really need to work on being on time.

After self defense and running, I headed home to moan and cry. My favorite soldier who comes in the cafe every morning was leaving for Kuwait the next morning, and wanted to go out for drinks that night. And of course this was just about the biggest pressure I could imagine, and I wanted to hide in bed all night, or the rest of my life.

He comes in when we open around 6:30 every morning, and we are always cynical and grumpy together, but both cheer each other up with our misery. That I can handle, but drinks seemed far too much.

My mom was comforting, saying I was tired and it was okay to give myself a break. My brother refused to speak about it, and called me a douche. The combination of these two reactions gave me the power to get myself out of bed and go out, promising myself it only had to be an hour.

Well, three hours and two drinks later I was convinced that I should never listen to myself when I try to talk myself out of things. Life happens when you show up.

Turns out the soldier and I had much, much more in common than being grumpy in the morning. He was an avid reader, cultural relativist and international politics heavy lifter. And really, really nice.

For some reason, at the end of the night, he decided that I needed to jump out of a plane with him and go skydiving. And I thought, god, I was just doing so well learning to say yes. Can free falling through the air please be exempt from that?

Might have become a bit drunk and run about town singing “Build Me Up Buttercup” with Diana tonight.

Got off work at six, and wandered down to Mae’s for a drink with a acquaintance I’ve been continuously delaying hanging out with.

We played pool and drank beer with the sun shining outside. Then a guy and girl threw their money on the table, waiting their turn to play. Brandon asked if they wanted to play doubles, and I figured this was about the worst it can get.

A game I am not great at, an acquaintance I barely know, and two completely random walk ins who look like they belong in a fraternity and sorority.

And then Brandon and the girl go grab a drink, and the guy says “I overheard your conversation about moving, you guys travelers as well?”

And this spurred a whole conversation about the world and traveling and WWOOFing and leaving Manhattan. And I realized I need to stop judging people by how they look. Because everyone has the potential to be just as hippie and nomadic as me, if not more. And they love to share it with others.

The girl walked up and we cemented our counterculture unity. She and I talked about au pairing, and I hooked her up with an international website.

Twenty minutes later we were all best friends, and they didn’t even care that I hit the eight ball in.

I at least hit the eight ball in with a really strong shot. ; )

And then after the game was over, I said goodbye to everyone, and left.

That’s the thing I realized tonight. All the things I put off, all the things that seem too overwhelming in the moment: I don’t have to commit to anything more than trying. I don’t have to sell my soul or my night or my ideals. I just have to try.

And then Diana called right after I got home, and we are now off to Four Olives for free fancy drinks from Alex.

I still have to run tonight, but I am making living my priority now, and knowing that I will follow through with my routine. Instead of putting everything on hold for my routine, I will just live life and my jog might be a bit tipsy tonight, but that’s okay.

LOVE

One of my friends tried to make plans with me last week, and I told him that I couldn’t. And that it would put me through hell. And he said, “Why you gotta be like that?”

And I said, thank you for asking me that question.

And another friend on a separate occasion asked me what I was afraid of. I told him, and then he asked me, “Why?”

I said thank you for that question.

And since both of these conversations, I’ve been much more free.

 

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