I’m over at Word Whores today, talking about love and hate.
I’m writing this overlooking the ocean.
One of my very favorite things.
Since I was in Baltimore last week for work, and I have to be in Philadelphia for more work Monday morning, it wasn’t worth it to me to spend all that time flying home. So, instead, I’m here in Ocean City, Maryland.
Surf. No thinking. Lots of peace.
Last night I was treated to a concert by the fabulous Jeri Smith-Ready. No, she didn’t sing for me, alas. Instead I met up with her at the Merriweather Post Pavilion outside of Baltimore to see the Walkmen and Fleet Foxes. Check out this video from Fleet Foxes if you’re interested. I hadn’t heard of them, but I know Jeri has excellent musical taste, so I went with implicit trust. I bought an album today. Jeri described them as having a Crosby, Stills and Nash sound, which I can see. They use close harmonies and lots of acoustic sounds. There’s also a spiraling, circular feel to their songs that’s most stirring. They music winds around through slow, intimate lyrics to crashing crescendos of harmony.
The Walkmen opened for Fleet Foxes and they did a great job, too. Kind of a U2 vibe there. I don’t consider myself all that musically discerning, but I thought the drummer was really excellent. He drove the songs forward, punching through the lead singer’s lovely tenor.
It was a bit of a pain to get there. Work was long and intense. I had to take colleagues to the Baltimore airport in torrential rain and rush hour traffic, then swap rental cars. Jeri and I resorted to Twitter to find each other. But the skies cleared, the night was balmy, the company excellent. I let the music wash over me and take away all the tension.
Plus I got to hear the scoop on Jeri’s new Sekrit Project and it sounds just amazing.
And slim. *note to self: wear those black capris ALL THE TIME.
So, remember back in mid-March when we heard that car wreck? I picked up the things the next morning and photographed them. I had a number of conversations with people about it – in the comments, but also on Facebook and Twitter. My friend from college, Felicia, urged me to try to find the gal because of the Prada reading glasses – the thing Felicia herself would have been most sorry to lose.
I tried tracking the name on the receipt. No luck. My Google Fu is usually quite strong, but not in this case. A couple of prolific local tweeters even took it up to no avail. Nothing in the local news about it. So, I called the police non-emergency line.
Yes, the dispatcher acted like I was nuts for asking.
Finally, I managed to convey my non-stalkery desire to simply return this gal’s things (I didn’t mention follow-up articles on this blog – really hard to make that sound non-stalkery.) The dispatcher said she’d give my information to the Sheriff’s Deputy who was on scene and he’d call me.
He finally did, nearly a week later.
He also proceeded to interview me on precisely what my deal was. He asked what things I wanted to return to “the young lady involved.” By this time I’ve managed to glean that she survived. Totally unimpressed by my catalog of her detritus (I could practically hear him thinking “eye-pencil? she thinks this is important??), he finally says he’ll give my information to the young lady and, if she was interested, she’d call me.
Yes, he absolutely made this sound unlikely.
And she didn’t, for a really long time. By now it’s April and I’ve kind of forgotten about it, except that I have a little paper bag of her things in my office. I start to think about what I should do with it if she never calls.
Then, one day my cell rings and it’s her.
She’s young. So young that her thoughts kind of zing from one topic to the next. She tells me they rolled the car three times. When I tell her we called 911 when we heard the sound, she receives this information with wonder, somehow not processing this. When I say it’s a miracle she survived and wasn’t hurt, she says oh yes and how they were going 75 miles per hour. (It’s a 40 mph zone.) I wonder how she knows this, if she was driving, who “they” were, but she’s already flown past the subject. She wants her things, but – oh – she has no car now, cuz – duh – she wrecked hers! She’ll have to talk her dad into giving her a ride. I tell her where my house is. She says she’ll call when she can come by.
Which she doesn’t.
I think about calling her back, to tell her we’ll be gone for a week. I think better of it. If she calls while we’re on vacay, I’ll just have to say so.
Then, yesterday afternoon, my cell rings. A female voice says “are you home?”
She hastens to fill the silence, “this is Carrie, the girl who was in the car wreck? I can get a ride to your house to get my things, if you’re home. Only I don’t know where your house is.”
So, I tell her again. Five minutes later, a shiny Honda Element pulls into the driveway. I walk out to the patio with the bag. I nearly bring my camera, but – it just seemed wrong. She’s younger even than I thought. Awkward. Shakes my hand and grabs the bag. Reaches in and grabs the Prada reading glasses case with a triumphant squeal. “This! This is what I really wanted!”
Nod to you, Felicia.
I’d envisioned our conversation when we met. How I’d tell her I wrote about her wreck on the blog and all the nice things people said. I think she might say something more to me, but she just bounces and says good-bye. She runs back to the car, opens the passenger door and brandishes the bag of things, doing this little hip-bobbing dance for her mother. The mother, by her unmoving silhouette, seems unimpressed. I’m kind of surprised she doesn’t get out of the car to meet me.
A moment later, they’re gone.
I’m left today thinking about stories and connections. About non-lethal life lessons and whether this carefree girl has learned anything.
I wonder, too, what I learned.
Vacations are kind of unreal anyway. We sleep until we wake up and then do things I don’t normally do, like walk across the street to Starbucks while the surf pounds in the background. Even though I spent some of my mornings checking in with work (big proposal going out) and keeping up with other email, I didn’t track twitter, or the blogs I usually read, or the comics, etc., in my dailies bookmark folder.
It felt good to be out of that swim for a bit.
Instead, we walked the boardwalk, paddled in the surf. We enjoyed long wine-filled lunches with fresh seafood and lolled by the pool. We did crazy, non-real-life things like toured an $8 million beachfront house. My normally full days emptied out. I didn’t work on any writing projects. I read several books. Emotional tension over things I’d been worrying about bled away.
The ocean is good for that.
The coming back, though, that’s always the bite. Even in the car I started revising my To-Do list. I received an email from my editor during the drive with line-edits on Sapphire. Meanwhile I still haven’t finished the two Revise & Resubmits I’m working on. The big proposal is still teetering on the edge of going out and now I’m being sent on a two-week jaunt through New Hampshire and Vermont starting next Sunday.
Yesterday was crazy full, jam-packed.
It’s tempting, sometimes, to think that it’s better not to do vacay at all. So I don’t notice the contrast. I also know this is the opposite solution to the problem.
Instead, I need to find ways to let every day have a breezy feel. To let the emotional tension, the relentless drive for more, bleed away. I want long walks and bird song. Less multi-tasking and more reading.
Maybe I need to fly more kites.
Tell me again why we don’t all live in the Caribbean?
I know, I know – we couldn’t all fit on those little islands.
And we have these lives here, full of technology and working and Many Things To Do. Like email. Which is the topic of a little rant I’d like to share today. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’d like to stand up at the front of the room and say:
There is no excuse anymore for not being able to use your email.
There I said it. I know you’ve all been thinking it, too.
For a long time, the newfangled technology of the interwebs was optional. It started out as the province of antisocial geeks who lurked in dim little rooms lit only by computer monitors. Then the hip, young people starting using it, flinging superficial nonsense at each other across cyberspace. But I’d like to point out a glaring fact: we’ve had email, in one form or another, for over 20 years now.
It has become a standard method of communication for all businesses. Like it or not, email is as integral to our society, particularly our professional society, as cars and traffic are. Not knowing how to use your email is like not knowing what a red light means.
You can choose to be a Luddite, sure. Go find a lovely Caribbean island, hang on the beach, never look at the interwebs. It’s a deliberate choice. However, if you want to be online, email is the first, most basic skill to master.
I bring this up because the online chapter that I’m part of offers workshops. Online writing workshops of various types. People see them, sign up for them, and then inundate us with complaints that they’re not getting emails. This usually has to do with spam filters. Every email provider is different how they do it. But they all try to weed out the crap you don’t want from the sparkly stuff you do want. The spam filter is not a person, though, so the email user has to be intelligent enough to know what the spam rules are, and how to check to see that there’s no good sparkly stuff getting sent to trash.
Seriously, this is like knowing what side of the road to drive on. If you’re going to take your little car on the big internet highway, you have to know this stuff.
I know, I know – a lot of people are older and stars know it’s not easy to keep up with technology. At 44, I already feel a bit of sting here and there when I have to learn a new database or find the tool I need on yet another, more complex iteration of Word. My mother, however, who would kill me for revealing her age, can handle the internet technology. She is in no way a geek and never has been. She knows how to find her spam folder though.
So, I’m officially declaring that not knowing how to work your email is no longer an excuse. If you choose not to drive, fine. But, if you do, please take Driver’s Ed. Learn the traffic laws. Practice. Don’t go careening around the internet, crashing into other drivers and complaining that you don’t know how to drive.
*end of rant*
Meanwhile, I’d like to leave you with the song I’m currently hooked on. It’s kind of sad, but it speaks to something I think we all feel at one time or another. I find it very moving. It’s from Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, an album I’ve been listening to all week.
No, there won’t be any “life’s a beach” titles or comments. Just the sheer pleasure of escaping from the strange veneer of Orlando to something that feels raw and real. To me, this is Florida.
Now, I know a lot of people don’t like the beach. They think it’s silly and boring and there’s nothing to do but lie around. I know quite a few men who think this way. Fortunately mine is not one, because I really love a beach.
Two of the gals I work with went with me and didn’t get there until late. We finished our work around noon, had lunch with the client and headed back to the hotel to swap our pumps and laptop bags for bikinis and sandals. By the time we stopped at the store and acquired sunscreen and beach towels, it was 3pm. So we arrived at the beach around 4:30, just as the sleepily sunbaked people were trailing away from it, pouring down the access ramps like so many towel-wrapped children ready to be bathed and fed dinner and cocktails.
But the declining Florida sun pumped warm and friendly. The ocean welcomed us with tangy blue swells. It soothes me, just to touch the water and be near it. To let the undulations of it move me. Sometimes I fancy I can touch every life touched by the interconnected oceans, as if it’s still the primordial soup that flows through us all.
Maybe it is.