I’m in Vermont.
I’m in Vermont.
As I waited for the guy to haul my two bales of alfalfa to the car, I stood in the shade by the paddock, giddy that places like these exist in Burbank. The smell of hay and manure, the way I imagined it would feel to trudge through it, right then, in mucking boots. Grain buckets, lead lines, tack shop leather. The horses themselves, perfectly beautiful beasts, the way their forelocks feather down through their ears, so cool. Their grace and power, to swish a fly, to fly themselves, around the ring, over jumps, through fields. It didn’t matter that I was probably the 11th person that day to stand there and flirt with the horses. I didn’t care whether the blacksmith was showing off, or shrugging off, I knew what he was doing and I was going to watch. And even when those two bare headed ladies swaggered up on their steed, my heart didn’t drop in envy (in fact my nose rose, what an inferior form, the western saddle). For I, am a horse person. Get me in a pair of jodhpurs. Strap on a velvety English riding helmet. I’m ready to canter.
Today on my way home I stopped off in the village of Echo Park for some fresh eggs from Cookbook (the loveliest little grocery store around). I parked in front of a small low-income housing settlement and as I emerged from my car, I heard the notorious yell of a mother. She yelled, “NO, you CAN’T have that!!” And her yell roared down the sidewalk, to me, and I cringed. Because, I yell sometimes too.
O Vermont how I love you. Your roads lined with wild flower bouquets, your woodsy smell, your green, quiet, gentle sun, gentle rain. How everything one needs is less than 7 minutes away. How everyone waves. How will I leave…
This morning I woke up in our house to singing birds and a cool breeze. I had a coffee from FIX, and fresh farm eggs from Cookbook, fetched and fried by Isaiah. I drank fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, from our tree. I sat at the top of our little hill and talked to both my parents while Asa climbed around like a goat. I contemplated bougainvillea. I bought a lemonade from a little girl’s stand on Echo Park Ave. I washed my feet off in the tub, several times. I washed Asa off in the tub, several times. We all laid out on cool white sheets, delighting in the glow of our bright white walls. This is how to live in Los Angeles. It’s a hot night, but we are home.
I easily settled into a routine at school. I played my last season of field hockey. I wasn’t a captain, but I did win an achievement award and my name is etched onto a plaque somewhere. All of my classes were directly related to my art major so my days of camping out in the library were thankfully over. We took study breaks at the Goose, the adored hole in the wall bar close to campus. We had dinner parties, keg parties, “tiki” parties (centered around a fruity cocktail concoction, wooden set of polynesian drink ware, rounds of toasting, and chanting “don’t eat the fruit, don’t eat the fruit”). We played cribbage and listened to John Coltrane. We took trips to Freeport (LL Bean) and ate lazy Sunday breakfasts at our favorite greasy spoon dive. Or when the snow was good we skied Sunday River and stopped for the most amazing mac n’ cheese you’ve ever tasted on the way back home.
We were all a little apprehensive to go back to school that fall, for one final year. We couldn’t imagine life there without our beloved friends who graduated in the spring. Maybe it was a certain configuration of rooms and roommates in Page Hall when we were freshmen and sophomores, or a certain dynamic on a soccer field, or the shared magnetism of a french teacher (rest in peace Prof. Williamson) but there was something between our two classes.
But arriving for pre-season in my new (to me) Toyota Corolla I found nothing missing. I was glad to be back, and my heart had been mended. There was an excitement and an anticipation that glistened off the dingy Lewiston streets. The off-campus apartment that I would share with my two best friends, Alex and Annie, was nothing to write home about. But it was home, we made it so with our plants and fairy lights and coffee brewing.
That year we were part of an off campus society of friends occupying various apartments around town that had been passed down from class to class. Living off campus was a welcomed step up into “real” life, while still dwelling comfortably under the umbrella of college life.
This is the fifth piece:
By the end of that summer in Maine I had fully settled into a routine of life, just in time to leave it for my final year of college.
I worked at the bakery, but also for Elmer and Allison who owned a restaurant called The Burning Tree. To eat there was an experience of flavors and textures, and a constant effort not to ooh and ahh and mmm too much. It was the best. I was the errand girl. In the morning I would meet with Allison in the kitchen and she would go over the grocery list. Then Elmer would tell me which fish to go pick up where and I would cruise around the island in their early 1980-something beater Toyota pickup truck, running errands. The clutch was clunky, and the guys at the bottle redemption center bristly. But, I enjoyed it and I still think of Elmer and Allison and The Burning Tree when I’m picking through artichokes looking for the best shape, or peeling back the husk of an ear of corn to test for crispness.
I was living with Annie, Alex, and another friend, Sarah, in our very own rented little ranch style house in Northeast Harbor. There was solidarity, and a little strife. We went for mountain bike rides and hikes through Acadia National Park. There were sunsets and dinners cooked. We drank beers and talked about each other.
I got a job in Bar Harbor, at the Morning Glory Bakery. I was the front girl, second shift. Kate worked the first morning shift and she had lots of regulars and a jar full of tips. Sometimes we would overlap and listen to the Beatles and I would admire the lovely patina of her leather clogs (and her in general), but mostly it was just Ralph and me, two of us riding nowhere… Ralph owned the Bakery and I think I had an innocent crush on him bu it was more like I wanted to be his best friend. He was soft spoken and fair and kept his light hair pulled back in a low ponytail. He usually wore a dusting of flour, like my mom with the smudges of clay on her forearms. Months after I left Bar Harbor for school, he sent me some flowers for the opening of my senior thesis show. The card was signed, “From Ralph and the Morning Glories.”
Piece number three:
I left Italy without much of a plan. I flew in to Boston and went straight up to school, to be there for my boyfriend’s graduation. A couple of weeks later he broke up with me, which wasn’t surprising, but painful nonetheless. My closest school friends Alex, Annie and Matt were staying in Maine for the summer, near Bar Harbor, and I decided to join them. We lived with our friend Kate for a couple of weeks, in a round house she was taking care of. The owners’ bird, Graham Greene, lived with us too. The house was filled with books, plants, and lovely light. It was the epitome of home and I envied it. I desperately wanted to feel okay, but the truth of it was I was heartbroken, and once again everything was dripping in sad. My body felt heavier with my heart in it, and I carried that thing around from proactive task to proactive task until eventually a lightness came back to me.
This is the second piece.