Wander Women – Abigail

Abigail had always been as drawn to the forest as she was to the ocean, but it was the sea that beckoned her the day winter came.

She sat in the Seattle-Tacoma airport a good four hours before her scheduled flight to Florida, her left hand resting listlessly upon a piece of well-traveled green luggage. Every few moments her eyes would sporadically flit to that hand, as if a piece of metal was catching her eye, which was ironic. She noted that it looked different without a wedding ring – the line under where it used to be noticeably lighter than the surrounding, darker skin. Her hand felt lighter, too.

“I wonder if Clive will notice,” she mused, quickly turning her attention to her right hand instead, since it was the one holding the watch. She was fully aware that obsessively checking the time was only making it crawl by slower, but in her haste to drive away from Doug her usual high level of self-awareness was being taken over by a mild but noticeable anxiety.

She had known Doug since childhood, and felt drawn to him ever since learning cooties posed no real threat. Their upbringing was marked by the environment in which they were raised. The endless forests of Western Washington were their playground, and together they explored every inch they could access. They chased one another around the bases of ancient redwoods and became experts at figuring out which plants and animals would give them rashes without ever consulting a book. Nature shaped them into self-reliant, conscious adults, so it was a surprise to neither them nor their community when they announced their intentions to get married in their early twenties.  

Despite the length and intimacy of their relationship, the engagement happened very suddenly. Memories of a buck and a doe, and the feeling of impending danger began to swarm Abigail’s mind when she stopped herself from accessing that part of her past.

“No,” she in a firm whisper under her breath. “This doesn’t serve me.”

She checked the watch in her right hand again, her brow furrowing when she saw less than three minutes had passed since she last looked. Her eyes scanned the eggshell white walls of the airport until she found a wall-mounted clock, the hands in sync with what her watch showed. Just making sure.

“Divorced, or taking it in for cleaning?” asked a woman’s voice from the chair opposite Abigail’s. The noise startled her, but once she was pulled from her thoughts about clocks and time she became aware that she was fiddling with the part of her finger where the ring used to be. The woman was young, probably in her early thirties, and looked like how people used to dress for plane rides before air travel became commonplace. She wore a light grey suit that fit her body well, the outfit was clearly tailored. Her blonde hair fell softly on her shoulders, not one hair out of place. She too had a ring of light skin adorning her left ring finger. The only part of her that seemed to not fit were the white and pink Nike sneakers on her feet, which she noticed Abigail noticing.

“Oh these? I can’t stand running around airports in heels. What’s the point? I just change them when I land,” she explained with a wink before Abigail could ask. Not that she would ask a stranger something like that.

To this Abigail said nothing, but only because she wasn’t given enough time to respond. When she had opened her mouth to say something, her new friend was introducing herself.

“I’m Cheryl,” said the woman, thrusting a well-manicured hand in Abigail’s direction, “and I couldn’t help but notice you fiddling with your finger there.” She nodded her head towards Abigail’s hand, a soft red lipsticked smile adorning her face while she raised her own left hand and wiggled her newly un-ringed finger.

“Abigail,” said Abigail, sticking her right hand out to meet Cheryl’s. She glimpsed the watch during this exchange – only two minutes had passed this time. “And neither.”

“Neither? Oh you mean the ring! Of course, I already forgot I asked that. What’s the deal then, if you don’t mind me asking?”

To Abigail’s surprise, she didn’t mind Cheryl asking such a direct, personal question in such an inappropriate setting. It was actually pretty refreshing to interact with someone so plainly rejecting the comfort of etiquette, taking a risk to connect with a stranger. It may have just been the pensive mood of the day taking over, but whatever the case, it was fine by her.

“I left my husband today, to both our surprise. So I guess ‘divorce’ will eventually be my answer.” Abigail mirrored Cheryl’s energy by spelling it out directly, and right away. Abigail could see Cheryl wasn’t the type to be scared away easily by a troublesome topic, which was confirmed when Cheryl eagerly leaned forward in response, her body language almost shouting, “keep talking.”

“We were planning to do what I call a ‘sacred marriage break,’ where we agreed to spend three months apart taking a very intentional break from our relationship. We’ve been planning to do this for a while now, creating agreements with each other and aligning around taking this break. But when I got in the car this morning, our marriage unraveled at that moment. There was something that passed between us that was intense, final and otherworldly. It was beyond our understanding or control. Now I’m on my way to meet another man who I’ve fallen in love with, Clive.”

Abigail paused at the end of this statement, no longer looking at her ringless finger, the watch, or Cheryl. Her eyes were drawn deeply inward, recalling the extremely fresh memory of closing the car door only an hour ago, feeling suddenly and completely severed from her life with Doug. The strength of that moment had shocked her, and she saw in her rearview mirror how it shocked Doug, too. All the planning in the world couldn’t have prepared them to reach the conclusion of their lifelong relationship in that instant.

It was only when Cheryl spoke again that Abigail was pulled from her reverie. “I have someone I think you should meet,” she said without any sorrow in her voice. “And I think you should go meet this someone instead of the man you’re planning to see – Clive, right?” She pulled a black briefcase from the right side of her chair and rifled through it before offering Abigail an equally black business card decorated with small gold foil letters. Abigail inspected the thick card, tracing her finger over the indentations made by the name written there. Therese Wander. A California address was spelled out below, the phone number indicative of either a San Francisco or Marin-based dwelling. .

“Who is she?” Abigail started to ask, before looking up to see that Cheryl had left, possibly to board a plane, or to continue handing out cards to other newly single women in the airport. Maybe both.

Abigail’s attention returned to the card. There was no other information besides how to contact this Therese Wander, no title or business or anything to indicate for what reasons one might meet this woman. Abigail wondered what her vocation might be, and wished that Cheryl had stuck around to explain their relationship, or how she came to be in the business of handing out another woman’s business cards to strangers. Yet something about the lack of clarity intrigued Abigail, and before she knew it she snatched up her luggage and headed towards the ticketing agent. It was only when she got to the counter that she realized an hour had passed since she last checked the time, and she could now board her flight to Florida, where Clive was waiting for her.

“Do you have any flights to San Francisco?” she asked the man behind the ticket counter. And thus, Abigail’s journey took a turn down the West Coast.

Abigail snoozed fitfully on the short flight to San Francisco, her dreams peppered with visions of deer and trees, their story and meaning obscured from the dreamer. She awoke when the plane landed, thoughts of the forest still coursing through her mind. She noted this down in the journal she carried everywhere with her – no dream was too small to include. All dreams lead somewhere, eventually.

She thought of Clive as she took a taxi to San Francisco’s Union Square, where she had traveled with Doug only a few years prior, and was the only place where she could guarantee there would be hotels. She and Clive had been planning their rendez vous for months now, ever since Abigail realized that she must follow her heart to him. This of course was the cataylst to the breakdown of her relationship with Doug, and it was painful to deny herself the chance to finally be with him. Soon she would have to call him to let him know Florida was going to have to wait. She couldn’t explain exactly why she’d flown to San Francisco instead of to see him, but she knew him well enough to know he would understand. Maybe then he could help explain it to her.

It was a small voice that suggested she follow the black card to California instead of rushing from Doug to Clive, a voice she had never heard until she was tracing her finger over the inscribed name. In her final moments with Doug, pulling away from him in the car, all Abigail could consider was the comfort that being in Clive’s arms would bring. She didn’t doubt this would still be true if she turned around and flew to Florida, but there was something about that little voice that she felt she couldn’t ignore.

For the past 10 years Abigail made a living coaching others in reaching their creative potential. She worked with clients in activating creative aspects of themselves that were previously obscured, changing the lives of everyone around her like a superhero. Yet even she could have a hard time identifying the guiding voices within herself. She didn’t know what this voice would bring, but she trusted that it would serve her in some way. Whether it was by introducing her to this person on the card, or simply forcing her to pause between her past love and her new one, she knew the karmic forces of the world had something in store for her.

It was late when she finally arrived at the hotel she stayed at during her last visit, and she was exhausted in every way possible. She got the call with Clive over quickly, promising to explain more when she had properly rested. Yet even flopping down on the bed couldn’t keep her from pulling out that gold lettered card once again. She put it on the pillow next to her so that she could refer to the phone number first thing in the morning. Her eyes closed quickly and she fell into a deep sleep. She dreamed of deer again, but this time they were frolicking on the beach, the strong waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing behind them. They appeared to her more clearly than during her nap on the plane, as if their reason for showing up to her held more importance.

Abigail awoke almost twelve hours later, having never even gotten under the covers. Rested, she moved over to the hotel window and took in the concrete buildings around her. There was no forest, no ocean, just buildings and a lot of people getting ready for the holidays.

Winter had arrived, bringing it with it an entirely new season for Abigail. A sudden fear gripped her as she recognized just how serious her deviation from the path she had planned was. There was no Doug here, no comforts of a childhood best friend turned husband, the protection of someone who knew everything about her. There was no Clive either, carrying with him the promise of a new life, a new adventure. There was only Abigail. There was only her. The fear quickly faded into excitement. There is only me, she thought as a smile crept across her face. This is exactly what she needed.

 

Luggage and loss in Sicily

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Buddha and I take it all in stride during sunset in Siracusa, Sicily.

It’s noon on New Year’s Eve, and I’m washing the only pair of underwear I have in the marble bathroom sink of my hotel room in Sicily. Everything is made of marble here: the floor, the walls, the marbles. I suspect even the genial owner of this charming waterfront hotel might be partly marble, but you can’t just ask someone that.

The excess of marble (or in my interpretation, cold floors) is the reason why I packed the fancy soled slippers that Michael got me for Christmas, a real indulgence that I would not normally bring with me, as I’m a very practical packer. An exception was made in an attempt to treat myself on this eve of the new year – I’ve earned comfy feet, haven’t I? Of course, in the spirit of Murphy’s Law, my luggage never made it to Sicily with me, so here I am with frosty toes, scrubbing soggy underwear in the sink.

It’s a cruel irony, and perhaps an unintentional lesson in materialism, that I broke my own travel rules and packed items that I would rather not live without only to experience my first ever loss of luggage.

Gone are my faithful running shoes and new workout clothes (a gift from my mother), the never-been-worn leather Aquatalia shoes that were a Christmas present from my grandmother (which even she knew was too generous a gift), and the hip black jacket with lace sleeves which I had just lost enough weight to finally wear again. Perhaps the most upsetting loss is the pomade Michael uses to keep his hair coiffed to Italian perfection – how will he fit in with his people now? I haven’t reminded him that his coveted straight razor is in the abyss as well.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 2.12.47 PM.pngGame theory enters the situation – how long do we wait before buying new clothes? I am proudly self-employed as of two weeks ago, and as such I no longer have an income, meaning every penny must be pinched. I’m hesitant to drop money on fine Italian clothing (which is the only kind available here) only to have the luggage suddenly appear in our midst.

The very unhelpful website that is supposedly tracking our goods advises us to indefinitely “check back later,” though this message has yet to change, so  I’m currently cultivating a conspiracy that they are hoarding my underwear for nefarious purposes.

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Despite the inflexibility, and frankly the unsympathetic attitude of Vueling Airlines, who are responsible for our lost luggage, it’s hard to be too upset. Sicily is stunning: its people are abundantly friendly, each of their words spoken as if read from a poem, and the food, in both both quality and price, make one want to gesticulate wildly in affirmation. Not to mention the reason we are here is due to generosity alone, and we can’t let a few lost items of clothing spoil that.

8d39756a-15cc-4627-9b16-c4b80044dd33We are relaxing in this city of antiquity, surrounded by places deeply integral to the course of human history. Tonight we will dine in a restaurant from the 1400s, and later on ring in the new year with a musical celebration in the Piazza Duomo, which is bordered by a church of both Greek and Italian heritage. Over the next few days we will explore the town of Siracusa, namesake of my future husband, and possibly to me should I decide to go that route.

Until then I will be here, practicing detaching myself from material goods while trying to make underwear out of marble.

 

Onwards

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”

– Ray Bradbury, from Zen In The Art Of Writing

 

I quit my job so I can write full time.

I’ve had various reactions to this development in my life. My parents and family are understandably concerned, partly because they believe I came to this conclusion too quickly, and partly because the full time work I was doing was in all respects, very practical. I was doing well for a 40-year-old, and even better for a 26-year-old.

A number of friends, especially those my own age who are similarly working to find themselves, have told me that discussing the process I took to reach this decision has caused them to reevaluate their own career decisions, or at least how they choose to live their lives on a day to day basis, which can be good or bad, depending on what they choose to do about it. I’m not trying to make anyone do anything, but it has been validating to learn that my journey is in any way inspiring.

So how did I come to make this decision?

I’ve been writing and rewriting this paragraph, trying to go back to the beginning, only to realize that it’s bullshit. I’m trying to tell a story full of details meant to please, meant to alleviate the worry people have in me making this decision, and that’s not the truth. The truth is, I’m not concerned with concern. The only thing on my mind is living a life that honors my values, that speaks to the truth that sits inside of me, and doing so in alliance with my future husband.

The truth is, for too long I’ve acted in accordance with what I perceived others’ expectations to be, so detached from my own desires that this template was the only one I could follow. So the reason my decision may seem sudden is because it is. I’ve been on the precipice for years, entirely too frightened of failure and judgment to take a risk, scared of what might happen if I become vulnerable, as any creative pursuit demands. It’s only recently that I’ve felt enough clarity to see that the life I was leading was out of line with who I am.

The part that gets my friends thinking is this exact approach. All of us have a limited time on this planet, and it’s just not worth it to spend that life living it for anyone but ourselves.

Make no mistake, the route I’m taking is not a prescription. For some, the ultimate realization of the self is in creating and supporting a family. For some, consistently making enough money to guarantee that they will never again be without a meal is the ultimate in living. There’s a trope in the media that ditching a corporate job to pursue a creative path is the ultimate in living, but this simply isn’t true. It just happens to be the case for me at this point in my life.

You don’t need to know the particular values I live by to understand my decision to honor them, only that a life where said values are prioritized leads to fulfillment, even as those values shift over time.

If you know me, you know I love writing, or any kind of storytelling. I know I’m no Steinbeck, Bradbury, Garcia Marquez, or Stephenson (side note: why are all my favorite authors men?), but I am a Wunderman, and I need to find out what I can show for it.

I also love taking photos of animals, which no one knows. I want to explore this too.

I don’t know where this path will lead me. I could end up back at a desk, on the New York Times Bestseller List, or somewhere I would never conceive of right now. What I do know is that I’m done living my life in the shadows. I’m ready to take a risk.

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También la piscina

Note: I wrote this in June 2015 and never hit publish. It remains unfinished, but I feel the little that is written has importance, at least to me.

I’m not ready to leave. That’s pretty much the singular thought I have with one day left in Iceland. When I visited last year I felt a similar compulsion to stay, but attributed that feeling to typical post-vacation nostalgia. Yet that feeling lingered, giving me the impression that I’d left my heart on these black sandy shores. It’s no surprise that after months of closing my eyes to find Iceland in my imagination I returned here in less than a year’s time.

So here I am, faced with leaving once again. Part of me hoped that by staying for such a long time my Iceland-fix would be satiated, but like any addiction I only want more.IMG_0216

I’m finally ready to admit that my heart is in Iceland, whether it’s practical, convenient, smart or any other adjective that would describe being an accountant.

There are good reasons why I’m so drawn here, and why it’s painful for me to see images of the country when I’m not physically present on this volcanic island. They include the people, who have made me feel beyond welcomed despite my gruff American exterior. Of course a lot of the draw is the landscape, a literal representation of the toughness of Iceland’s inhabitants. I could go on and on.

The other reasons are less tangible. I can only really describe the way it feels when my plane’s wheels touch the ground in Keflavík. It’s a lifting of the spirit, an opening of the heart, and a sudden churning in my brain of creative inspiration. It’s not anything that I can forcefully replicate, nor do I believe I should try.

Despite all this, I am going home. I know I shouldn’t be, but it’s happening. The most I can hope for is to return someday, hopefully soon. After all, I can’t survive separated from my heart too long.

 

 

Nag a ram

While searching for SF Weekly articles written about my dad during his stint in the SF Mayor’s office, I found out that the publication had written something about ME! Well, not about me, but an article that I wrote. Yes, my infamous drunken Lazy Bear review apparently made the rounds, prompting SF Weekly writer Peter Kane to apply Lazy Bear head chef David Barzelay’s anagram approach to other famous SF restaurants. The results are extremely amusing, and as an added bonus, SF Weekly will be running other stories of my intoxicated restaurant visits, as they occur.

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My personal favorite is Gary Danko’s transformation into “Dragon + Yak,” which based on the popularity of restaurants with similar name formatting (Craftsman + Wolves and so forth), I would expect it to do extremely well. And I suppose the whole Gary Danko being the chef part wouldn’t hurt.

You can read the article on SF Weekly.

San Francisco Sex Positions (NSFW)

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If you love San Francisco as much as you love getting it on, then try out this list of sex positions modeled after some of the landmarks, neighborhoods, and bits of culture that make SF the noteworthy place that it is. Like San Francisco, these moves are perfect for people of any sexual orientation, gender identity, or partner pairing.

Whether you’re on vacation and missing home, or maybe you’re just a little oddly attracted to the city itself (we’ve all been there), you can use this list and willing partners to start exploring San Francisco from a whole new point of view.

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SF FACTS VISUALIZED AS CRYSTALS

Here’s another short story I wrote for The Bold Italic about crime data in SF reimagined as 3D-printed crystals.

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That crystal in the image above represents crimes that have happened in San Francisco in a three month period. Really bad crimes (e.g. kidnapping) are represented by larger cubes and less severe ones (e.g. possession of drugs) are smaller cubes.

Confused? San Francisco artist Scott Kildall‘s project Data Crystals is a series of 3D-printed sculptures, generated algorithmically from open datasets for the public to use. Other cities all over the country are embarking on similar open data projects, but no one is visualizing these facts quite like Scott is.

The primary question that drives Scott’s work is “What does data look like?” We’ve seen maps, we’ve seen statistics, but using data as sculptural material – like clay, plaster, or steel – helps us see what’s going on in San Francisco in an entirely new, more tangible way.

I met Scott during his time at Autodesk’s Artist in Residence program, and got to check out his innovative work up close.

This crystal above represents the locations of SF’s civic art collection, or works that the city has commissioned. You’ll notice a lot of cubes running vertically, representing art near City Hall. The tail on the left represents the art commissions at SFO.

And this crystal visualizes construction permits in San Francisco. The cube size represents the building size – large cubes = large buildings with 300+ units.

Find out more about Scott’s work via his Twitter (@kildall) and on his website.

A Field Guide to San Francisco Penises (NSFW)

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Another article for my parents to be proud of.

Late edit: The Bold Italic is no more (RIP) so I am transferring the entirety of my articles over here, for safe storage.

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It used to be that you couldn’t live in San Francisco for long without seeing a penis (or five) on the street at some point during the year. But two years ago, San Francisco fell victim to censorship on account of an attempt to take our precious cock-viewing away from us. A city supervisor, ironically named Scott Wiener, decreed that nudity would no longer fly (except at certain permitted events) in a city known for letting it all hang out.

Despite all the changes San Francisco has witnessed over the past few years, though, this city continues to proudly celebrate free expression (including a recent pro-nudity rally in the Castro protesting the law). Nothing exemplifies this spirit more than the commitment to remaining nude even in the face of the ban.

That’s why the Field Guide to San Francisco Penises was created: to help you, the schlong aficionado, figure out the where’s, when’s, and how-to’s of observing cocks in their native habitats. Whether you’re a tourist, a curious local, or a professional wang enthusiast, this field guide will help you identify the plethora of man meat on the streets of San Francisco – nudity ban be dammed.

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Go Giants?

What began as a night of celebration – The San Francisco Giants winning their 3rd World Series in 5 years, despite what stupid Joe Buck wanted – quickly devolved into a violent riot full of flashbangs and alcohol-fueled attacks on the police.

10645254_10203343379518892_3323566605882674714_nWhen the last out was called, I quickly made my way to the center of celebration from my home in the Castro, finding a vivacious crowd chanting with flags and smiles on 18th and Mission. Quickly, the smell of smoke filled the air and one could see a crowd gathering around a couch set aflame.

Firetrucks arrived to quell the flames, but the crowd would not make way. Shortly, the police arrived to disperse the crowd and allow the firemen to do their job in a safe manner. Quiet rumbles of “fuck the police” made their way through the crowd, but most people were respectful and dare I say it, sane. The emergency personnel left without issue.

Walking further South on Mission Street, towards 24th St, it was clear there were other fires on the street. At 22nd and Mission, two larger fires were raging, exploding loudly from the fireworks thrown into them. IMG_5957

The crowd here was quite a bit more aggressive, and more and more folks lacking the Giants’ trademark orange peppered the group, bandanas across their faces and spray paint in their hands.

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The police arrived in the same manner as they did near 18th street – an attempt to disperse the crowd in order to allow the firemen to work. No deal. The crowd was not allowing it. Glass bottles were being thrown left and right towards the officers, who professionally maintained their composure in a way that I certainly would not were I being attacked with bottles. Shouts of “FUCK YOU PIGS,” and “FUCK THE POLICE” dominated the air, yet the officers stood their ground. IMG_5965

It is totally understandable why officers are required to push everyone back – even nonviolent celebrators – in an effort to disperse a crowd that grows more and more dangerous. To suggest that the police played any role in the germination of violence tonight is pure ignorance. I watched it devolve, and it was the crowd that instigated every confrontation. I left once police released flash bangs, which in my opinion was quite a bit later than was necessary. The people out there were terrifying.

As a proof point of that statement, there have been two shootings already, one on 21st and Valencia and the other on 26th and Treat, as well as stabbings. And yet some people would still prefer there to be no police presence. That is insanity to me.

And it is insanity watched a populace destroy the city they wanted to celebrate. What’s the point of victory when it turns out we’re all losers?

As a bonus for making it through my diatribe, here is a photo taken of me taking a #riotselfie earlier tonight. Enjoy, and Go Giants.

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More information on what’s going on here and here and here