Is it possible that soda goes flat faster in Georgia than anywhere else?

And could it be for the same reason that the salt all sticks together in the shaker, and that my hair turns after each shower into strips of matted mess?  We’ve got small patches of mold growing on the living room ceiling, and inside our silverware drawer.  We had to throw out four wooden cutting boards because of mold.  Could this all be related?  Our bath towels don’t dry between showers.  I haven’t watered the house plants in weeks, and they look lush and green as ever.

The greenery outside almost takes over our neighborhood.  Towering, crowding trees covered in wiry, thick vines.  About a five block walk from our home — which would be one to two blocks if we could cut through a few backyards — is a wooded paradise.  Overrun with yellow, green and brown shrubs and ancient trees, the place is littered with tiny pathways that lead in and out of bright sunshine.  It’s one of the most beautiful city parks I’ve ever seen.  I’m convinced that given a very short amount of time, left to its own devices, Atlanta would be swallowed without resistance into a growing patch of woods.  The city could so easily be overrun by wild.

For all of its intoxicating qualities, I still haven’t gotten used to calling this place “home.”  No — “home” has turned into a sort of psychological confusion, and if I think about it too long, or too deeply, I worry that I’ll lose my will completely to stay here.  My will to continue on the path we’re taking.  I’ve decided to accept that wherever Seth is, is home.  And then there’s Wally, the cat, and my electric toothbrush, and our perfect teal dinner plates.  These things have come with me to Georgia, and so I’m staying.

I take comfort in the fact that we’re still new here.  It gives me a pass in feeling marginalized or displaced.  Oh, you don’t quite fit in here?  That’s because you’re new!  Of course you’ll fit in some day.  That’s just how these things work.

Finding out that we’re so new here kind of shocks people.  As if they’d have been prepared to hear that we’d been here for years, but hearing that we’ve only been here three months makes them see us differently.  I’m still wearing my foreigner cloak, and I’m not ready to remove it.  The thing is, I’m not sure Seth is still wearing his foreigner cloak.  It’s possible that I’m wearing his too.  I’m carrying both around, waiting for the moment that we’ll collect our cat, and jump on a plane back out to our former life.

But Seth has all but totally disappeared into Georgia life.  Most of his brothers are here.  And one of his sisters.  His parents.  Family dinners are here, and dessert pies, and Tuesday night trivia.  The word “tomorrow” comes up constantly in our new life.  Wegene, when showing us to the door at Seth’s childhood home, in broken, hopeful English, almost always says, “See you tomorrow?”  And the answer is almost always, “Maybe.” Because we really might.  The anxiety of being alone is much less potent here.

Everyone seems so much more accessible in Atlanta.  Even Seth’s brother and sisters who live in other states.  They’ll come and go, but with regularity, and we won’t worry about seeing them or not seeing them.  I guess it’s what you’d call family.  The comfort of knowing they’re always going to be there.  It’s a loneliness I’d gotten used to in our California life.  The loneliness of being far away, and of saying goodbye to our loved ones every three-to-six months.  The loneliness of knowing you’re missing out on things — the comfort of belonging and family dinners — but growing character, and independence, and maybe visiting museums and playing softball and joining clubs.

The thing is, now that we’re in Georgia, the word “tomorrow” comes up constantly with Seth’s family, but only irregularly with my own.  My sister Hannah is busy with the baby, and can she call me back?  Or my mom and I have spent an hour on the phone already, and she has to get ready to go to work.  In my family we use the word “tomorrow”, but it’s about the abstract possibility of reconnecting on the phone, which often turns into spare texts or emails.  I am still hesitant to call Seth’s family mine.  Not because I don’t want to, or because I don’t love them dearly, and want so much to make them my own, but because I still have a family.  I still have a network of loving humans, in the middle of the country, waiting for me to call.  Waiting for me to arrive.

A new anxiety has taken the place of the old.  No longer do I worry that Seth and I won’t have plans, or that no one will be there to jump the car battery, or watch a future baby.  The new anxiety has more to do with having too much.  Too much family.  Too many people vying for time and attention and face to face.

I both want to fit in, to find my new life here, and I desperately don’t.  And thus the relief in knowing that this isn’t home.  At least not yet.

I think I’m afraid that if I stay here too long, or let myself go too deeply, I’ll fall too completely into life here, separate too much from my childhood home, and California, my former self.  If I let myself settle in too deeply, it’s possible that I could be overrun by Atlanta wilderness.


Today I had a procedure done at Planned Parenthood.  I now have birth control, the Mirena, implanted in my cervix, permanently for up to five years.

I don’t know exactly how they got the Mirena in there, but a speculum was involved, and some sort of iodine soap.  The nurse practitioner asked if I’d rather be talked through the whole process, or kept in the dark.  You can’t really see what’s going on during your own procedure, so I had the choice of knowing or not.  I didn’t really choose to be kept in the dark, but I also didn’t tell her which I’d prefer.  So after telling me about the brownish soap, and gently acknowledging that it’s uncomfortable to have a speculum inside you, she kind of trailed off.  I, in turn, clenched every muscle in my body and attempted to breathe deeply.

It’s kind of a cliche that women don’t talk about what’s going on with or coming out of or going into our bodies.  It’s some sort of oath we took to never talk about the challenges of breastfeeding, pooping during childbirth, and postpartum depression.  I’ve also learned recently that nearly every woman I know who’s tried to get pregnant has had a miscarriage.  Painfully, secretly, shamefully.

And before today I’d never really talked to other women about birth control.

This morning, when I got to the clinic, I was prepared to ask for another prescription for more of the same: the Nuva Ring — birth control I hardly notice and mostly don’t mind.  It’s somehow subsidized so what would have been $100 a month has been free.  But today that changed.  I qualified for Medi-Cal insurance.  This should have been a gift, but for some reason, it disqualified me from the free Nuva Rings, and if I wanted free birth control, I was going to have to try another method.

The medical specialist talked me through the whole bit: which methods would be free to me, how much hassle and pain each involve.  Stick a pin in your arm and let it heal inside there, right under the skin; get regular hormone injections; change a weekly patch; or remember to take a pill every stupid day at the same exact time.

Then there was the one that seemed so simple: the Mirena.  It makes your period lighter.  It lasts for up to 5 years.  It’s a quick procedure, they could do it for me right then and there.

Seth and I are planning to start a family, but not in the next few months, so a long-term birth control method seemed sound.  Would it hurt?  I asked.  It might cause cramps, the specialist said.  Would I be able to work this evening?  Sure, she laughed.  You won’t be bed-ridden!

After an hour of waiting and taking vital signs and chatting with the nurses, they started.  The soap, the talk of speculums, the clenching of muscles.

And there I was, laying on the table in an exam room, clasping the terrible paper cover for lack of something sturdy to grab on to, tensing and crying almost against my will.  I had a sudden, almost violent, hateful thought.  Why am I doing this?  The nurse stopped halfway through so I could calm down.  I was dizzy from hyperventilating, so she brought in one of the receptionists to hold my hand.  The receptionist would not, in fact, hold my hand. She literally didn’t touch me at all, but told me, almost scolded me, to grab my own wrist, breathe deeply and count backwards from 4.

Now, I love Planned Parenthood.  I love how walking through their front door feels like entering a sacred club, where only independent young women go.  A place where courage and progressiveness thrive.  I’ve gotten so much free medical care from them — prescriptions, comfort and immediate medical attention when I needed it.

It’s a safe haven for women, and I am so grateful that it exists.

But halfway through my procedure today, I totally lost faith in myself as a woman.  The thought literally crossed my mind: If I can’t handle this — this basic, everyday, run-of-the-mill no big deal insertion — how in God’s name am I ever going to give birth to a baby?

Babies have been heavy on my mind lately, and I’m all about the idea of someday giving birth.  I’m already totally anxiety-ridden anyway about the possibility that I won’t be able to get pregnant when the time comes, but this horrible thought had never actually crossed my mind: maybe I won’t be able to handle it.

The procedure was painful.  I knew logically that pulling away and clenching and tensing were the worst things I could do.  I wanted the implantation, didn’t I?  Why would I make the nurse’s job harder?

I was embarrassed and angry, and I absolutely couldn’t control my body.

After the implantation was over, and I was alone again in the exam room, the first lady I’d talked to — the medical specialist — came back.  I had gotten myself up off the table, although they said I could stay there as long as I wanted, and I was gingerly tugging my pants on and tying my shoes.  The specialist seemed kind of shocked to hear of my reaction during the procedure — obviously it was abnormal for them.  Maybe I’d cried too much?  Or maybe, historically, other patients hadn’t clenched or tensed or gone white from breathlessness?  She said she thought there was probably some emotional stuff tied into my experience, and that was why I’d had that reaction.

Rachel drove across town to pick me up.  She found me sitting on the curb in front of the Sees Candies shop next door to the Planned Parenthood, and handed me a slice of banana bread, her small baby alternately cooing and crying in the back seat.  She dropped me off at home, and I cancelled my appointments for the rest of the day.

I wanted to talk to Hannah, because I remembered her telling me that she’d gotten a birth control implant too, years ago, and her body had rejected it — physically forced it out.

I told her about the procedure, and about how I worried that I wouldn’t be able to give birth if I couldn’t even handle the meager pain of birth control implantation.  Her birth control implantation procedure had also been extremely painful, she told me.  Maybe the most painful thing she’d ever felt in her life.  Definitely more painful than childbirth, she said.

How is it exactly that birth control is still considered Women’s Liberation?  Why, after 54 years of pills and rings, hormones and advancement of women’s birth control methods, are there still no commonplace implantations or patches, procedures or pills for our men?

I want to know why I felt cloaked in shame for crying during a medical procedure where a foreign object was inserted into the middle of my body without any sort of numbing solution or active pain killer.  I felt shamed by the other women.  The woman who was there to comfort me, but wouldn’t touch my body.  The woman who came to explain how my emotions had run amok.

I think I mostly felt ashamed that I’d put my body through such an ordeal to keep myself from getting pregnant, when the thing I want most in the future is to be able to safely conceive a baby.  To think I can completely control my timeline, like my body has no say.

And why don’t we talk about these things?  Why is it still taboo to discuss this?  I never would have published this before I was married.  But now that we’re married, sex, birth control, all of this is expected.  Now we’re “family planning.”  Birth control is billed as a gift to women, but it’s also something that’s frustrating and bothersome and expensive.  Some women have much more painful periods each month.  Some women get migraines.  Some have strokes.

Eleven hours after the procedure, I’m still in pain.  And yes, bed-ridden.  I want birth control.  I want to not have a baby right now.  But I’m beginning to reject the Mirena.  And I kind of hope my body follows suit.

I’m thinking about changing my name.  But how in the world does one do that?

I love my first name.  Possibly in the same way I cherish family heirlooms, old photographs, and Grandma’s marble bundt cake recipe.  My parents gave it to me.  A gift. A blessing for my future.  But I’ve never actually felt so much like an Alyssa.  Not that I’ve ever had another idea of what would suit me better.  Not that I ever really wanted a different one.  I answer to my name.  I never forget it when introducing myself to new people.  But it hasn’t quite seemed like mine.  If someone told me that I’d been wrong all along, and was actually named Penelope, or Luisa, or Nell, I wouldn’t be surprised.

On the other hand, I’ve always felt like a Kapnik.  That name marks me as a part of a diminishing tribe.  It’s like magic.  I am, in this way, connected to the aunt, grandfather and grandmother I never really knew.  And their parents.  And their parents’ parents.  I am Lithuanian.  I am Russian.  I am not from around here.

In the last few weeks, Seth Samuel and I have become engaged to be married.  Not so much a question of if we should get married, but how soon.  And being engaged has become normal so quickly I almost don’t notice it anymore.  Except for the ring.  Except for the moving in together.  And then, every once in a while, he looks at me with shining brown eyes, in the middle of cooking dinner together or sitting on the train or walking through the city, and says, smiling, “Want to get married?  Like, next June?”  Each time, my insides turn to gel all over again.  I tell him it’s crazy how fast this happened – dating three and a half months?  Is it weird?  Is it too quick?  And he answers, without a thought, “We’re meant to be together.”

For a while there I was afraid that if I stayed single too long, I’d harden like clay into my routine.  And for the first time ever, I’m truly testing myself.  In the next few weeks, Seth will move his things – books; an 88 key keyboard; a computer; about a billion cables and wires coiled into a tangled mess; microphones and speakers; and himself – his lean, lovely self – into my home.  Into my room.  We’ve gotten the go-ahead from my three housemates and our landlord and his landlord.  He’s in.

I don’t wonder if I can do it, I only pause for brief moments and step outside my brand new situation.  This boy, who I still don’t entirely know, is sleeping quietly in my bed.  This boy, who I hadn’t even imagined a year ago, is now a part of everything.  Every piece of furniture, every cookbook and plane ticket, every career choice, every friend and community.  We speak in terms of we.  We talk about dream houses with garbage disposals, and someday owning a car.  He calls himself my business partner. He wants us to upgrade my camera.  We talk about which radio stories we’ll produce together, and where we’ll spend New Years Eve.

The other night, heading home on BART, Seth read his book, and I sat listening to music.  A family boarded with three young daughters, and after they sat down, the dad kissed each little girl right on the lips.  Then he kissed his wife.  The older daughters went on coloring and talking, and the parents chatted and rocked the baby in the stroller back and forth.

Three children seemed like so many all of a sudden.  It became so real so quickly, and  I was surprised to say out loud to Seth, as if I’d never thought of it before, never fully formed the thought until it came out of my lips that moment, that he is going to be the father of my children.

I can see it all changing.  I  see myself going from single to dating to engaged.  I see the wedding contract and joint vacations and the mortgage payments.  I see future.  But somehow I can’t quite see myself in it.  What does that version of me look like?  Act like?  And does she finally know how to deal with her hair?

Everything is shifting, shifting all around me.

And so I join in the madness, and consider changing the one thing I still feel in total control of: my name.  No longer would I be Kapnik, but Samuel.  Would I be molting memories?  Giving it all up in one go?  Taking my husband’s name is not particularly feminist or progressive. And what’s to become of all the published creative work credited to my given name?

The reasons for and against keeping Kapnik haven’t been so compelling.  Keep Kapnik for continuity in your career, for your sense of independence.  Take Samuel for your future children, for the sake of your friends being able to say something simple like, “The Samuels are coming for dinner.”

My own reason for wanting to take Seth’s name comes down to the very feeling in my gut that radiates through me when I say the words “Alyssa Samuel” to myself.  I am enveloped in my future, taken into its lean and lovely arms.

Last night Seth and I went to a decidedly grown-up party.

We take the #23 bus all the way there – a seven minute ride from Seth’s – into an entirely different world.  “The Santa Monica of San Francisco,” we’re told when we remark on the strange architecture.  And that tree in the front yard?  A Chilean Palm – rare in this part of the world.  We’re told if Tom had let them (Who?  He didn’t say) uproot and sell it, he could have gotten 60 grand for it.  And that was 15 years ago.  Surely the tree’s appreciated since then.

The first thing we do when we get inside the door is say hello to Chloe – Seth’s boss, guest of honor, moving to Denver – for whom this party was thrown.  We found her in the living room: pony tail, beautiful pink dress, looking happy, surrounded by friends.  We don’t know any of the guests – even Seth, who’s known Chloe for years now, doesn’t know any of them.  They’re all healthy 30-somethings with wedding rings (a few with small children) and we overhear them talking about where in San Francisco they should buy a house, movies they’ve gone to, how much they’ll miss their friend.

Chloe points toward the dining room, where cheese, crackers and fruit await us, and then ushers us downstairs to the wine cellar to meet our hosts.  There are apparently two basements here, and Seth accidentally chooses the wrong one at first.  Chloe remarks that it’s fine to wander, but the wine cellar is the other way, so we correct and find ourselves in a small room packed with people.  Tom’s standing behind the table in front of four bottles of wine – Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Rose.  They’re all open, there are clean wine glasses and a beautiful, giant bottle opener attached to the table.  We’re surrounded by hundreds of wine bottles, some on display, some tucked into dark corners.  Usually the room’s kept at an even 57 degrees, says Tom, but tonight it’s the place to be – the cooler’s off, and there are more people packed into this tiny room than the entire rest of the house.  A strange bee hive operation, we crowd around Tom for a taste of his fine wines.  His most prized, those on display, cost $500, sometimes $1000, he tells us.  He started small, I think, and is building up toward the real money bottles.  But we’re interrupted – someone wants another glass – and I never hear about the real prizes.  He often has boxes of wines delivered to his office, he says, and even the UPS guy has questions.

There are other collections, other obsessions, scattered through the house too.  Two Persian rugs he calls “The Ladies”, 18th century European impressionist paintings, and a tremendous number of rocking horses, big and small.  Not surprisingly, there’s a wall of wine glasses in the dining room.

Seth plays the grand piano, we chat jovially with party guests and we eat generously from the appetizer table: tiny brownies, fancy cheese, snow peas, dips and grapes.  There’s also shrimp, and for the sake of a gourmet evening, I consider tasting one.  Still no, don’t want to, and I’m delighted to remember that Seth won’t eat them either.

We’re the oddballs at this party.  We don’t eat shrimp.  We don’t have a mortgage, full time jobs, benefits, 401ks.  We have no idea what kind of wine we’re tasting.  We are the youngest around by a decade.

Tom tells us about the concerts they hold in his home, the pianists and flautists they’ve had, the string quartet that has a key to the front door so they can use the house as a practice space.  He tells us about the singer who recorded her album here, and for her they set up tracks in the living room for one of those fancy cameras that moves.

By now we’ve had two glasses of wine, and I’m sitting on the floor looking up at Tom.  It doesn’t seem strange, as there was nowhere else to watch Seth play piano, and I was joined first by Chloe, and then by one of her British friends.  Tom’s talking now about the history of the neighborhood, the architect of the house, the tiniest of micro climates in his backyard.  I ask to be invited to the next concert in Tom’s home, and promise to bring Seth with me.  There’s an exchange of information, we find our coats in the dining room, take one more bite of cheese, and we’re off.

Outside again.  To the bus again.  Back to being 28, which, 75 years ago, would have made us the adults, but now makes it totally normal to be…young.  And we’re back to the struggles that young things have.  I’m still struggling to answer a simple question from Martina, an editor at the radio: what do you want?  If you could design a job at the radio, what would it be?

And why can’t I answer that question?  What possible explanation do I have for not knowing?  I’m perplexed by my own aimlessness, my own drifting about.

So maybe I’m not meant to have a career, and I don’t need to try to get one because eventually, when it comes about, I’ll be a stay at home mom like mine was.  And this feels good because, really, it’s a long-term goal.  Who has the adult plan now?

After a bit of thoughtful consideration, though, I think how much this feels like giving up.  Deserting my own dreams of success outside of family.  My mom stayed home to give me everything: education, love, attention, challenge, support.  And as much as I want to be just like her, choosing to not have a career feels like giving up.

For a while there I thought I’d be famous, a novelist, columnist, reporter or such.  An editor would see me, an agent would notice me.  It’s the same fantasy I had at age seven of being scouted for the WNBA while shooting hoops in my parents’ driveway.  If they happened to drive by, if they happened to see me, they’d want me.  And if you write well, you’ll be seen.  Because what else is there?  As soon as I start writing more, they’ll drive by.  As soon as I make a basket, I’ll be in.

I don’t feel like I’m living my real life yet.  This is the practice one.  This is the getting ready part.  Seth and I definitely didn’t fit in at that party last night, but I’m not quite sure what it is that separates us.  I’m not quite sure how we get there.  Is that a glimpse of our future, or just a world in which we’ll never live?

When I try to give up, when I try to retire into myself like an old snail, AJ reminds me how much I wanted radio.  How clearly I drove toward this.  Just the reminder, just the possibility that my dreams aren’t dead, wakes me up again.  I’ve just signed up for another year at the radio station, another year of San Francisco fog, and the possibility of trying to do something, to be something, is more a relief than anything.

It’s warm enough now to keep the back door open, and so I do, all day long.  Even though I’m sitting in my room, working at the computer and I can’t see out.  And even though I only imagine I’m feeling the warm breeze from outside.  Leaving the door open makes me feel I’ve made it home, and  there’s something so childhood about breaking the barrier between outside and in.

Here in the Bay.  Here in the land of perpetual springtime and endless blooming flowers – domesticated front yards that grow wild with nasturtium, bougainvillea, spiky succulents, calla lilies.  Flowers seem to drip and burst out of unwatched cracks in the sidewalks and cement steps everywhere.  This place is teeming with life.  With possibility.  I told Anna that I can imagine losing track of entire years here.  Of drifting into a kind of meditative bliss where all I do is go to music shows and dance performances and storytelling events.  Where all I do is hunker down with audio recordings of children laughing and adults talking about science and metaphors and endangered species.  Where all I do is acquire a long-lost fashion sense and a taste for sriracha sauce and jazz.

I remember thinking when I first moved here, when I first landed, that I couldn’t wait to have that feeling of complete comfort while doing small things like riding the BART train to and from work.  I deeply admired those riding the train who already had that.  I envied them.  I couldn’t wait to just know how to get to the grocery store without having to map it out.  To know where to go for a beer, or coffee, or to fill my bike tires.  And I have that now.  Little things like crossing the BART platform from one train to the next without even checking the sign to make sure I’m boarding the right one, make me feel I’ve made it.  Occasionally I do this entirely without thinking – get off the Pittsburg Bay Point and board Richmond  – without looking, and then spend the next five minutes in a moving train in a quiet panic thinking, Oh Jesus!  Why didn’t I look?  What the hell train am I on?

But it’s always been the right train.  I’ve got it.  The routine has set, and I’m finally riding smooth.

Sometimes on the train I see two people board together, and I spend the majority of my ride betting with myself about whether they know each other, or are total strangers.  I’ve been surprised in both directions.  Sometimes people spend long minutes sitting side by side, apparently ignoring each other entirely, when suddenly one puts his hand on the other’s leg, and she looks quietly at what he’s reading, or they laugh at some inside joke.  Sometimes two board together in a way that I have to imagine they’re a couple.  Best friends.  Sisters.  A small look of tenderness, or one leading the other through the car.  And then they separate, without even a glance or look of recognition, and I have to reevaluate my powers of observation.

I think every once in a while about what Maya said about San Francisco being a place with fewer attachments, where it doesn’t matter as much if you’re a part of a unit.  I wonder, now, after months of personal experience, if I agree.  There’s something deceptive about this perpetual springtime.  Something elusive and dangerous.  Or maybe it’s just the inherent danger in the idea that grown-up life can be postponed.  That now is the time to achieve your artist goals, read the books you want, fill your dance card.  Then grow up.  Then get credit cards.  Then buy a house, get a job, get married.  Then be sensible.  As if “then” is a time.  Ninna told me Tuesday about a friend who froze her eggs at 20.  Just in case.  To get around these barriers of reality.

I gave myself a few minutes to think about what exactly that would mean.  Preplanning for a life that takes longer than you expect.

And speaking of expecting, Hannah is pregnant!  My sister, my baby tiny lovely perfect sister, and Yoni, her love, are pregnant.  For this I am not prepared, and for this I have been planning my whole life.  Hannah forwards a weekly email update from a website that describes the size and development of the baby, and one of the things they do is compare the baby’s size to a food item.  This week it’s about the size of a lemon, last week it was a lime.  The first description we read said the little one was the size of a poppyseed.  One tiny poppyseed, nestled away in the safest place possible.  The little one is growing into the future of our family, the future of this planet, the future of our world, and when I first heard the news, my heart stopped.  A tiny little poppyseed who will learn how to crawl and walk and do the balance beam.  A poppyseed to lead us in song and taste peanut butter for the first time and one day learn how to whistle.

My heart stopped.  Because things are moving forward.  Just when you think you have a handle.  Just when you think it makes sense and you could take this train with your eyes shut, you realize a tiny poppyseed can change everything.  Right now the little one is exercising facial muscles and tiny  fingers.  Right now the little one has a thin layer of skin and silky hair.

And the long sunny days here in California seem a treasure.  This springtime, I’m told, will lead into summer.  I’m still so relieved there’s no snow here – as if it melted before I moved in, and we have yet to get to the winter part.  So I’m working on achieving my artist goals, eating more sriracha and listening to jazz before the snow comes.  So far so good.

I don’t know anyone here who lives alone.  Living with only one other person is rare, even for couples.  The couples that I know who live together often live with a number of other people too.  Space is precious, and it somehow seems totally normal to have three housemates.  It seems totally normal to split a refrigerator into four sections, and walk through an entryway past six or seven bikes.

I have a door now.  A room.  The room has walls and a small closet and a window that looks out to the west, to the neighbor’s home.  I have a bed now, too, delivered a bit more than a week ago.  I have a desk and one small shelf for books, a hanging mirror and a bedside lamp.

But mostly, just having a door feels big.  I have the option, when I so choose, to be separated from everyone else in the house, although not by much.  There are still padding footsteps in the hallway and clanking plates in the kitchen.

I always liked having a door.  The option to close it and be isolated was a kind of relief.  And I still feel that way, mostly.  I would have thought I’d need more space, more privacy, more quiet more often.  But I’m finding, to my surprise, that I seem to need less and less space.  Less and less privacy.  And I’m getting used to the noise.

The newsroom at work, for instance, is a kind of disaster to sensitive ears.  Three sound booths that are definitely not soundproof, and a wide open space separated only slightly by an incomplete wall, almost a cubicle.  A giant pool table in the middle of the room, two round tables and many desks lining the walls.  There is an unspoken pattern of authority in the seating chart, with editors sitting at the corners, and the rest of us packed into the middle of the room.  Some days it’s so crowded with volunteers, reporters, and guest producers that you take what you can get.  The blue chair that forces good posture.  The wooden chairs that are so low that as you type, your wrists rub against the wood of the tables.

There is constant chatter about everything.  Stories unpacked, lunch menus discussed, deals brokered, time wasted.  There’s chatter until there’s not, and then there are long hours when everyone, absolutely everyone, is just working.  Silently.  Typing, writing, researching, editing, updating.  And then the chatter starts again.  The silence broken by time, by afternoon lulls, by sudden rainstorms that get everyone to finally look up from their computer screens and make some remark about winter in San Francisco.  Editors call to each other from each corner of the room, and the engineers shout from booth to booth.  They hate using headphones, and so they play the show loudly through the speakers, looping sections of tape for long minutes until they get the levels, the breathing, the pacing just right.  I didn’t think I’d last in it.  Didn’t think I’d get anything done.  I hated the noise at first.  I wanted quiet.  I wanted library, respect, separation.

The shift wasn’t conscious.  It wasn’t major.  It wasn’t a decision on my part.  I didn’t say I’d rather be the type of person who can work well in a crowded room, who can shift her focus from scripts to group conversations about family life or chocolate or sweaters, from clipping sound to hearing the difference, from across the room, between two different host intros to the show.

Maya and I joked that this isn’t exactly the most high pressured newsroom in the world.  There’s no, say, cocaine lying around.  There’s no yelling.  No berating.  Just a lot of practice.  Building skills from the very bottom up.  It’s like learning a language by total immersion.  I’ll think I’m catching up.  I’ll think I know something.  Tuesday I sat in a meeting with two editors and one reporter.  I’d been spending time with the story—this huge, important story—for weeks.  I knew the story.  I’d heard hours of tape, transcribed, cut and pasted, laid up audio for days.  But sitting in that meeting, listening to them talk about construction, layout, options for sound and structure, I was absolutely out of my depth.  They were speaking an entirely different language, and I only caught a word or two here and there.  In those moments of clarity, when I was able to keep up, when I was able to see what they were talking about, imagine those sounds, feel the structure, I was overcome.  Emotional.  I became a member of that same place of clarity.  I became privy to a new kind of vision.  Like seeing with my ears.

Coming home after a day like that, exhausted from using my brain in entirely new ways, fried from using new skills of consideration, long hours on public transport—an hour and a half in each direction—and opening myself to new people, one might think the only thing I’d want is to close my door.  But at home now, there are feet padding in the hallway, there are plates clanking in the kitchen.  There are three other women living in my home (although it mostly still feels like I’m living in theirs) and almost every night there is some sort of collective meal—spinach salad with blackened fish, roasted chicken and rice pilaf, orange carrots with a tangerine sauce, squash and tofu and white wine.

I can close my door.  And sometimes I do.  But I don’t want to be so isolated anymore.  I don’t want it to be just me.  I want more for myself, and I’m slowly getting it.  Letting people in.  Allowing myself to change, if slightly.  If only by learning new languages of work, of thought, of friendship.  This weekend: two parties, a weekend-long slumber party and olive picking on Sunday.  In the coming weeks I’m beginning to write a few of my own stories for the radio.  Who knows—maybe sometime soon you’ll hear me speak their language, on the air, from San Francisco.

I make my own dinners here, except for Wednesday night when Anna shared her broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and rice.  I get myself to work and groceries, photo jobs and parties, except last week when Noa and Jack twice lent me their car.  I never sleep in my own bed.  That’s because I still don’t have a bed.

I sublet for my first five weeks in California, stayed on Andrew’s couch for the next two, and in Noa and Jack’s Special Room in the back of their house for a week and a half after Israel.  Before Andrew’s, I considered myself a light sleeper, and woke the first night every time one of his four roommates came in or out of the living room, used the sink in the kitchen, the fridge, or the bathroom.  By the second or third night, I slept through all manner of doors creaking, jars clanking, lights on and off, and by the second week, I slept through a rainstorm outside, and a leak through the ceiling that drips to the couch.

Andrew’s kitchen is a product of ten years of previous roommates leaving spices and flours, dried beans and vinegars, and is nearly complete, if oddly organized.  He’s incredibly proud of the way the kitchen is, possibly as a microcosm of the function of the house, and once insisted that I leave it exactly the way it was, and not try to use my feminine intuition to order it any differently.  Yes, he said sternly.  The paper napkins belong in the gap between those two cabinets.  Andrew is a cook of sorts, always experimenting with new ideas and recipes, building simple works of culinary delight, and scorning me for not trying hard enough to expand my repertoire.  He bakes when he has time, scones and pies, and he does it well, but didn’t the two weeks while I stayed.  I, on the other hand, made full use of the two measuring spoons and one measuring cup I found, the mixing bowl and wooden spatula, and the copper colored bundt pan buried behind the Pyrexes.  I made three cakes while staying on that couch, and only one kind of dinner (over and over), much to Andrew’s deep disappointment.

Noa and Jack’s house is more contained, more unified, there are more household discussions, roundtables, group dinners.  The three of us passing through their bedroom to the bathroom, the bathroom to the kitchen, the bathroom to the Special Room in the back where I had my very own door or two.  Most days it was the Special Room to the bathroom, the bathroom to the kitchen, the kitchen to the living room, and finally out the front door.  Oftentimes I would come home and see Jack and Noa through the glass windows in the front door, the two of them sitting opposite each other on the small couch, deeply embedded in small stacks of books: poetry, psychology, short stories.  Noa is finally realizing her dream of becoming a true writer, and for this sometimes I would come out to her, back in bed, under the covers, reading Garcia Marquez, doing training for a future putting pen to paper.

I am homeless, in a sense, but until I sign a lease, until I finally find a place to put my six books on a shelf, my computer on a desk, and my sheets on a mattress, I am temporarily embedded in the home lives of dear friends.  Last night, after what can only be described as a euphoric introduction to the hip and almost over-appreciated world of San Francisco performance audio, through Pop-Up Magazine, Maya agreed to let me come back to her house for the night.  This is our third time seeing each other outside of work at the radio, and I should have known her home would look like this.  I should have known her kitchen would be a pale pink-peach, lit by soft white Christmas lights, adorned with beautifully penned simple expressions about vegetables, hanging plants and floral coffee mugs, and Polaroids of unidentified relatives.  I should have known her bedroom would be soft and layered whites with flecks of color: large artworks by friends, film cameras, small postcards from museum gift shops and mementos from home in London.

I want a home badly.  But these last weeks have been almost strictly about rooting friendship.  Establishing what it means for me to be an individual here, away from family.  Away from the confines of where I thought my life was heading.

Last night I realized that I was mindlessly massaging my own shoulder while sitting at a bar with Ashleyanne and Maya.  My muscle wasn’t sore, I didn’t, say, need a massage.  But it must have been some sort of preventative measure.  I’m truly taking care of myself here.  Slowly I’m beginning to see the seams of friendships forming, across dinner tables, audio exchanges, and bike rides through these cities.  But the truth is, I’m doing it for myself.  There’s no handbook, no instruction manual.  I’m taking care of myself.

Maya said last night, as we drifted off to sleep, that I’ll see – people are more independent in San Francisco.  It matters less if you are part of a unit.  The folklore of this city is rich and burdened with decades of hip.  But the reality is, it feels different here.  I want to let go of my former life.  I want to embed myself, jump in with both feet forward.  Maya and I stayed up much too late talking, although it meant we were still awake to see the brightest flash of lightning I’d ever seen, and we got to the point in nighttime conversation where I felt like we’ve been friends for years.  I felt I was agreeing almost too often, like her sentences were mine, the ideas entirely shared.

Now I’m going back, back on the train to the other side of the Bay, back to the couch with dear friends in the house where I sublet at the beginning.  This can only be a great thing, as I have the entire day free to transcribe and edit audio, cook the same comfort meal of which Andrew would disapprove, and possibly even bake a cake.  Tomorrow: the TED conference in the city, and next week, who knows?  Maybe I’ll even find a house.

I’ve been distracted from my For a Day blog for a pretty legitimate reason… These last few weeks I’ve been traveling in Israel, and blogging for the Mizel Museum Art & Culture Tour of Israel.  I just posted the final of five columns, and wanted to share it with you.  All five are still up here:  I’m back in California, and will start writing about my life here any day now…

To the Very End, by Alyssa Kapnik

The trip is nearing its end, and it’s just as densely packed and rich now as it was in the beginning.  We’ve been together as a group for so many hours, packed and unpacked our bags so many times, that it’s begun to feel like we’ll live as nomads forever.

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We begin on Tuesday with a trip to the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv, a three story building in a quiet neighborhood.  Curator Sergio Edelsztein greets us in the lobby, and gives a brief overview of the collection – photographs and video art on all three floors.  Video art has been big in Israel for decades,  although it took a dip in popularity in the 80s, and watching a swath of videos from Israeli artists is like looking at history through a kaleidoscope.  Beautiful and varied, with moments of clarity, truth and facts, and great color.

Israeli artist Dana Levy‘s “The Wake” loops in one small, dark room, and we watch, totally captivated.  When we first walked into the room, the film was halfway through, and all we saw were butterflies flitting on the screen.  But the film soon ended – it’s five minutes and three seconds long – and we watched it again, all the way through.  And then again.  The film is beautiful and deeply sad, unexpectedly sad for a film about butterflies with no explicit context or narration.

From the start, we see the delicate focus of the lens, the details and colors in each shot.  Levy’s films often involve science and nature, and “The Wake” was shot in the Invertebrate Zoology department of the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh.  The only words in the entire work are the title, which show only briefly at the beginning, and then echo throughout the length of it.  The film takes place in what feels like a hallway – it’s narrow and dimly lit.  Each wall is covered with cases of stunningly beautiful butterflies, pinned down, behind glass, in perfect lines.   Cases and cases, rows and rows of butterflies.  And slowly, the shots introduce living butterflies as well.  100 living butterflies are released into the room.  Levy keeps us close to individuals.  One, two, three, perched, waiting, absolutely still.  The living butterflies seem hesitant at first, and then, one by one, like children testing their legs, the insects move their wings – stiffly at first, and then fluidly, and lift off the glass and into the room.

It’s almost painful to watch the living butterflies flitting past the dead, and the words “The Wake” continue to haunt the story.  They compound the chilling music, the low, hazy lights and the narrow and confining space of the room.  The living butterflies are free, alive, flying, but they are still trapped in a narrow space.  Butterflies are a symbol for life, rebirth and transformation, and not surprisingly, like much of the art we’ve seen throughout Israel, Levy’s films are unapologetically political.  “The Wake” is a likely a reflection of Israel, but I’m not sure whose wake we’re attending.  That of the Israeli soldiers who’ve passed?  Or are the butterflies the Palestinians?  We watch four or five more short films before we leave the museum, and each one only adds to the growing list of questions we’ve been accumulating here in Israel.  Where should (and do) we stand, as Jews, as grateful and graciously received visitors, as tourists, as beneficiaries of a Jewish State, in relation to the Palestinians?

The question is complex and difficult, and we never feel fully satisfied when the subject arises and then inevitably falls to the back of the agenda again.

After an hour or two of shopping and wandering around the outdoor Carmel Market, eating Turkish salads and witnessing the tourism industry at its most basic, we come together again to meet with author, Eshkol Nevo.

Nevo is named for his grandfather, Levi Eshkol, the third Prime Minister of Israel, and the author is every bit as confident and sophisticated as you might expect the grandson of a great leader to be.  Nevo speaks generously and humbly about his experience as a successful Israeli writer, and reads short passages from his book, Homesick, to both tell stories about his own life, and to give a broad sense of what it means to be Israeli.  The book takes place in the 1990s, but the themes radiate through contemporary Jewish life in Israel, and it turns out that the book is so relevant today that high schools throughout the entire country require students to take an exam about it.

Nevo is sensitive and deeply connected to the fictional characters in his book, which he thinks is absolutely necessary to writing a great novel.  He’s so connected to the six characters in Homesick that he said he once had a terrible feeling that there were important people missing during a birthday celebration for one of his daughters, and it turned out that the people who were missing were the characters from his book.  They’d become a part of him, and separate from him.  Distinctly human and deeply embedded in his life.

Nevo, like most of the artists we’ve met with thus far, is a fascinating representation of modern Israel.  He is attached to the State – could never move away, he said.  But he’s also painfully aware of the inherent difficult issues involved with being a Jew in Israel today.  In his novel he also deals with the question of what it means to be a Palestinian, as homesickness is part of the Palestinian narrative in Israel as well.

What exactly does “home” mean?  A piece of land designated to our forefathers?  Given by God?  The place where we grew up?  A place we’re still seeking and haven’t yet found?  How can we be homesick for a home we don’t know?  And when we think of home, is it where our parents live and lived, or where we go every night after work?  Is home a matter of choice, or circumstance?

Nevo doesn’t answer these questions in our hour together, but as soon as he begins talking, we begin questioning, and as soon as he leaves, we’re left wondering.  There’s no closure, only many more open doors.  Many more reasons to feel homesick for a home that may not exist.

It’s the middle of the afternoon, and we’re rushing now, on our way to view yet another form of artistic expression: the theater.  We’ve got matinee tickets for the Hebrew version of Cabaret, which the Israelis pronounce, “cab-a-rette.”  We barely wait at all before the lobby lights blink and we’re ushered to our seats in the middle of the biggest theater in Israel, the Cameri.  The play, based in Berlin in 1931, is a force of nature, dipping into questions of sexuality, new love, and the cruelty of man as the Nazis rise to power and the Germans begin to turn on the Jews.  It’s especially poignant to watch such a play in the middle of a Jewish city, at the heart of a Jewish state.  I’ve not spent much time in my life in public places surrounded by Jews, and it’s a powerful experience.  After the play, we meet with some of the creative minds behind the theater, including Eli Bijaoui, the young man who translated Cabaret into Hebrew.  His thought was to tell the story of Cabaret, but to add a bit of a twist considering the current state of Jews, and the current status of Israel and the Palestinians.  It’s not the Jews who are being persecuted in Israel right now.  It’s not the Jews who have been marginalized, or moved out of their homes.  Bijaoui’s translation begs the viewer to consider their role in the current situation, and question how the Palestinians are being treated here and now.

Bijaoui’s words hung in the air as we left the theater and went into the warm Tel Aviv night, to move on to our next activity: a reception at the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre, where we met world-famous dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and viewed his new collection of photographs.

How quickly we adjust to new artists, new venues, new experiences!

Wednesday morning, our last together in Israel, we visit Shenkar College for Engineering and Design, think broadly about the current state of art in Israel, and make small predictions for the future.  This is the second accredited art college in Israel, and it’s growing steadily in reputation and importance.

We move from a brand new institution to a well-established one.  We climb to the top floor of an old warehouse building in Tel Aviv, the studio of Zvi Lachman, esteemed sculptor, print-maker and pastel painter.  He brings out giant pastels, impressionist paintings involving his wife, his mother, and other unnamed women, along with a Van Gogh-inspired self-portrait.  He tells us about his techniques, his history, and what he wants from his works.  He’s always got multiple projects going at the same time, and is often making changes to his paintings, even after he’s added fixative and even after he’s shown them to visitors.  A painting can transform almost entirely from its inception until he finally sets it behind glass.  Lachman is a treat to be around – he’s gentle and unassuming, but confident and sure.  He knows his place is Israeli art.  We listen quietly, and imagine ourselves bringing his works into our homes, even if only through memories.

We’ve visited these last ten days with a large number and wide variety of impressive artists, all of whom play with and manipulate concepts and language, thought and narrative, materials and emotions.  It’s disappointing to realize that after we leave, we’ll go back to the simplicity of our lives, away from this great and growing community of Israeli artists.  We are in a distinctly beautiful and unique world when traveling together here in the Promised Land.  We have tour guides to give context, and artists to lift us up out of the ordinary.  To raise our consciousness beyond history and politics and into the realm of color and imagination.  We’re deeply happy here, knowing what we now know.

Our last dinner is in the beautiful, large home of Israeli art collector Serge Tiroche.  We walk through the main floor of the house, taking in all of the art hanging on the walls, and then to large balcony overlooking the Port of Jaffa.  It’s difficult to believe that we’ll be leaving this all behind, going back to our lives on the other side of the planet.  We understand now the deep importance of supporting a steady stream of Israeli artists, and we want to bring everyone we know back to Israel to see for themselves.  The Israeli art scene is an immense and growing sea of talent and creativity, and we’re grateful to have submerged ourselves, if only for ten days.  We board the plane in Israel feeling that we’ve been a part of something important, here and now, and a we go to the US with a sense of comfort knowing that we’ll be back someday.

I’ve been riding my bike a lot more since I arrived in the Bay.  One of my roommates, Kat, came home from San Francisco at two in the morning last week, furious, yelling about how some jerk had tried to steal her bike by smashing her U-lock with a cinder block.  It hadn’t worked, but damaged her bike and made it nearly unridable.  Gavin told me he’s had three bikes stolen in three years living in Berkeley.  But riding a bike is safer, I’ve been told, than walking home alone, especially at night, so I’ve taken to riding my bike nearly everywhere, and then taking great pains to try to lock it up well so it won’t get stolen.

Courtney told me that being on a bike doesn’t mean you won’t get mugged.  She told a story about one guy who was riding his bike, and a car stopped short in front of him, and one stopped right behind, and they held him up there, in the middle of the street.

I’ve never been more afraid of being robbed.  Of being harassed or taken advantage of.  I’ve never been more afraid to leave my apartment door unlocked.  To forget the deadbolt.  To open a window in my room.

The stories have been largely the same.  I’ve been told over and over again that my neighborhood is dangerous.  When I tell people where I live, their reaction is almost entirely predictable: concern.  Blind concern.  No, they’ve never been to my neighborhood.  No, they don’t have experience there.  But they hold and release the same feelings of fear that I’ve already heard dozens of times.

And I often feel afraid, too.  Maybe riding my bike home is safer than walking, but what do I do when I come to a red light, and there are groups of men, young and old, sitting around talking at the street corner?  Do I try to defy the red light and cross anyway, or do I wait, sitting in the dark on my bike?

My fear is born of other peoples’ fear.  I haven’t seen anything strange.  I haven’t witnessed anything scary or dangerous.  In fact, most people walking around my neighborhood are overly friendly, calling out hellos while I zip by on my bike, waving, smiling.  They are strangers offering quick quips, and “have a beautiful day.”  These people, these friendly neighbors, are all black.

I’m not sure how to approach this topic.  Not sure how much to say or hold back.  But my experience of Oakland thus far has been noticeably straddled across a great divide.  The huge majority of people living in this neighborhood are black.  Peppered in with a few other young white people, musicians practicing at the warehouse across the street, and those like my roommates, baristas and waitresses and dancers who largely commute from here to San Francisco for work.  The black families, and the white 20-somethings.  It’s a strange combination.

I’m painting with broad strokes here, I realize, but I’m not writing an academic essay.  Just reflections on two and a half weeks in a new town.  Most of the white people I pass by, those other 20-something artists and hipsters, turn their faces away and ignore me.  Many of the black people I pass go out of their way to say hello.  To be kind and smile and engage.

When people say that my neighborhood is dangerous, is it possible that what they mean to say is that my neighborhood is poor?  That my neighborhood is predominantly black?  I know the crime rates are higher here.  But I don’t feel particularly safe (warranted or not, I’m not sure) in Berkeley—a predominantly white city next to Oakland—either.  These are big questions, but ones that are constantly swirling around my mind.  Ones I can’t seem to go a day without asking.  What is it that ultimately makes us feel safe?  What is it that makes us feel vulnerable?

Racism is alive and well here in Oakland.  In the entire Bay Area.  I can feel it.  I’ve been told it.  It seems so obvious, so bizarrely out in the open, and entirely obscured, almost ignored.  Bikes are susceptible to thieves everywhere in the Bay.  It’s a major problem here.  But the stories about danger in my neighborhood goes well beyond bikes to a feeling of total vulnerability.  As if the walls of one’s house are not enough to keep one safe.  I wonder, with a bit of naiveté, and endless optimism, where that fear really comes from.  And do I have to subscribe to it?  In order to live here, in order to be safe, do I also have to feel constant fear?

My experience here is of great kindness and even generosity.  Of one woman in front of me in line at the post office giving me money to feed my parking meter while a woman behind me in line offered to hold my place.  Strangers giving me directions, talking about the weather, explaining the transportation system.

It’s become imminently clear to me how much of a “small town” Denver really is.  How much more anonymous I feel here, even with my modest and growing circle of new friends.  I feel almost invisible here, in spite of my new routines and the small accomplishments that mean so much: getting across town to a meeting on time.  Finding out that if I turn right on MLK Boulevard, right again at Adeline and an illegal left at Market, I’m on my way home much faster than before.  Lately, I’m getting lost less.

And the less I feel lost, the less I feel afraid.  I’m slowly, slowly, breaking down those barriers.  Slowly, slowly, I understand that this is now my home.  And I realize that my fear is my own.  My safety is my own.  I’ve got no answers yet.  No tricks to seeing through the haze of concern, the projections of danger.  I’ve got only my experiences, and my endless optimism.  In order to live here, I have to believe I’m safe. I’ll still ride my bike, I’ll still lock the doors.  But I have to believe that the world, this city, my street, is a safe place to live.  And I’m lucky to be here.

At nearly midnight on Tuesday I arrived in the Bay Area.  Andrew picked me up at the airport, we went to see some live music and drink a beer, and I spent the next day unpacking my suitcases at my sublet in Oakland.

I don’t think I really prepared myself properly to move to a new city.  I honestly had no idea how to prepare.  I brought sweaters and scarves, computers and sheets.  Yesterday I spent hours shopping and loaded up on basics: laundry detergent, body lotion, pillows and a loofa for the shower.  I bought a loaf of bread, cooking oil, a box of tea.

This morning, on my way to my first day at the public radio station, KALW, where I’ll be working a few days a week, the reason I moved here, I got lost four times.  Took the wrong turn, the wrong bus, the wrong advice.  I bought the wrong kind of train ticket ($43!) and had to buy another for the day ($7.50!).  I didn’t have exact change to ride the bus, and so ended up begging the bus driver to let me on, and then enduring her frustration and disgust.  It was she who eventually told me I was going the wrong direction, and it was from her that I then had to sheepishly ask for a transfer ticket in order to switch buses to go in the opposite direction.

By the time I got to the area where the radio station was said to be located, and wandered lost around the neighborhood for twenty minutes, I was sure my time in the Bay Area had come to a disastrous and premature end.  I thought about how easy it would be to book a ticket back to Denver, to turn this ship around, choose a new career and end my San Francisco sorrow.

Half of the people from whom I asked directions were foreigners, newcomers, visitors.  Two of them didn’t speak English, two looked on their phones, but that didn’t help.  Two people asked me for directions right after I’d asked others for the same.

I arrived at the radio station flustered and exhausted.  It had taken me two hours to get there; it was already noon, and I’d forgotten to pack a lunch.  I went into the station, which is tucked into the back of a major public high school, and introduced myself.  The staff really is as friendly as I’d heard, and everyone stood up to introduce themselves.  One of the women said, “It’s not usually this crazy here!  We’re a little excited because Ira Glass is here!”

Here?  I said.  Here here?

“Yes!  Here!  In the studio.”

Ira Glass is one of my favorite radio personalities.  The host of NPR’s This American Life, he has become something of a celebrity, and even more so now because he co-wrote and produced a feature film, Sleepwalk with Me.  He’s been touring the country doing radio spots to promote the film, and it just so happened that he was interviewing at KALW the moment I walked in.

Nearly the whole staff sat in one of the production booths, watching Ira on air through a window.  When, on air, he gave a riling speech about donating to NPR, everyone in the room, all six of us, clapped, and some cheered.  He turned around to the group of eager radio underlings and looked directly at us.  He laughed and mentioned how nerdy it was that the group had applauded his pledge break.  After the interview, we rushed back to the newsroom, and I heard a few people say, “Hurry!  Look busy!”  Ira Glass walked through the door, and saw a whole room full of us, nervous and waiting.  He introduced himself and walked among us, shaking every single person’s hand.  He is much more handsome in person than he is in photographs, and I was struck entirely speechless.  I wanted to tell him that he’s inspired me from the very beginning, that he drives me to want to tell better stories, to be an innovator, to work harder.  I wanted to tell him that I can’t wait to move up the ranks in public radio, and finally work with and for him.  All of the gushy feelings rose to the surface, and I barely got my name out to shake his hand.  He looked right at me and said, “You know, I started as a volunteer too.”

I know it’s silly to say it, but I think I had a moment with Ira Glass.  He looked at me longer than I thought he would.  He lingered there, as if one of us should say something more.  But I’d gone mute, and so he moved on, smiling and shaking hands with everyone else.

We all rushed outside to take a picture with him, and I ended up walking next to him for a bit.

The group posed for a photograph, and when he turned toward me again, I said, extremely awkwardly, “It’s really great to meet you.”  He looked at me totally genuinely and said, “It’s really great to meet you too.”

Click to enlarge. That’s Ira in the suit in the middle. I’m in the back with my glasses on…

A perfect ending to an imperfect day.  A perfect beginning to a new adventure.  This was a sign.  This was a gift.  I want to say this is as good as it gets – meeting one of my favorite thinkers – but that’s not true.  This is not nearly as good as it gets.  It gets so much better as I move along in the radio world.  As I move forward, move on, move up.  I spent the rest of the afternoon watching and learning from one of the engineers editing the station’s news show, thinking, “I’ve made it, and this is only the beginning.”  I’m more hopeful than ever.

Two days down.  Infinity to go.