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Fiery Farenheit Frustration

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“Too hot, too hot!” ~William Shakespeare (Winter’s Tale, I, ii)

Usually August is the absolute worst month in Austin for heat and humidity but this year September really gave August a run for its money.  It’s been nearly five years now since I moved to Austin and I still am having a very hard time getting used to how infernally hot it really is here.  My parents and brother moved here over 20 years ago and I used to visit them a few times each year; I remember it being hot but not this hot, and I also remember it raining a lot more than it does now.  And it seems now like Austin just stays really hot from about March through September; there is no real winter here and when the temps dip down into the 70s, everyone starts referring to it as a cold front.  Oh, and when it does get “cold” from December through February, we have the insane cedar allergy season to deal with, so it’s not like we can even go out into cold and enjoy it…no, those of us blessed with allergies have to stay cooped up in our HEPA-filtered houses and run from the car to the house to dodge the yellow blasts of pollen exploding from the trees.

Yes, I’m feeling grumpy lately if you couldn’t tell.  I grew up in Albuquerque NM and spent most of my adult life there until I moved here.  Albuquerque is blessed to have near-perfect weather year round; no it doesn’t snow there as often as it used to either, and rain is so rare that it brings people out on to their front porches in amazement, but it has actual real feel-good seasons.  Fall is fall, with its crisp mornings and state fair apple cider and turning leaves; spring is spring with its windy days and layering-your-clothes weather.  There are MANY people in Austin who never stop wearing shorts, regardless of the month (I’m not one of them).  A few years ago here in Austin we almost hit 100 degrees one February day…I remember thinking that it could not possibly be true but it was.  The leaves here don’t turn until extremely late if at all, and a late fall warm snap can dupe the trees and plants into thinking it’s spring already, so they get all confused.

 

I miss the true fall of ABQ.

I miss the true fall of ABQ…

A few weeks ago I had to spend six hours outside for a work function, under a tent, in danger-level heat-index warning temps.  It was so miserably hot that I got heat rash on my FOREHEAD.  The last time that happened was when I lived in the middle-of-nowhere Africa, where temps regularly soared into the 110s or often higher.  It should NOT be (or at least seem) as hot in Austin as it is in Africa, I paid my hotter-than-hell dues already!!  I remember the first year I was here, I went with my brother and one of my  nephews to an annual ice cream festival – outside of course, in August.  It was indescribably hot, and the fact that your ice cream would melt faster than you could eat it only made it that much worse.  (I don’t go to outdoor festivals in August anymore.)

And another thing – I don’t have a pretty sweat pattern.  I’ve been cursed with sweat glands that run like faucets in areas that you don’t want it to look like you have a running faucet.  I also sweat a lot all over my scalp, which is extremely unpleasant and makes every hot day a bad hair day (which is depressing when you have less-than-great hair to begin with).

Getting and staying that hot for that amount of time makes me very cranky.  It makes me do things like throwing my bags down when I get home, flinging open the laptop, and immediately start searching the internet for jobs in Seattle.  Or Maine.  Or blissfully rainy England.  Anywhere where it isn’t as hot as here.

A few frustration tears are shed sometimes.  Yes, it’s possible to escape the heat temporarily with a blast of the A/C (in Austin, not in Africa), but then I know it’s out there again tomorrow, waiting for me.  Until finally, it’s not, and the weather turns the corner…and instead of the wind feeling like dragon fire-breath, you feel just the slightest perceivable tinge of coolness in the breeze, and along with it, a sense of immense relief.

Which happened yesterday.  FINALLY.  And not a minute too soon…  I was just about to apply for that job in Seattle.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Friends, Lend Me Your Eardrums

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“True is it that we have seen better days…” ~William Shakespeare (As You Like It, II, vii)

Things I hate:  Spiders.  Moths.  All bugs.  Slow drivers.  When women wear too much perfume.  Cedar trees.  Cigarettes.  And being sick.  I hate being sick.

It’s been 5 weeks since my last post.  I came down with a minor flu on Valentine’s Day, which couldn’t just be the flu for flu’s sake, but had to lead me down a germy path to strep-induced tonsillitis as well as secondary infections of both the sinus and ear.  My right ear was clogged for two weeks and I got so fed up with it that I voluntarily elected to have my eardrum cut open and all the gunk inside vacuumed out by the ENT who now knows me on a first-name basis (due to 3 visits in as many weeks).  At one point my tonsils resembled some weird avant-garde modern art painting of random squiggly bacterial white lines and patches.  An intense coughing cacophony each night for three weeks left me with aching ribs and muscles and a permanent neck crick from trying to sleep at a 90-degree upright.  And then after almost a month, when I was just starting to get better, the strep/tonsillitis decided to play a very unwelcome encore performance last week, so back on the antibiotics I went for a second round.

None of it was really that serious, just more annoying and tiring than anything.  And certainly many people are dealing with much, much worse than me.  I do seem to have pretty bad health luck around this time of the year though; if you missed my post from what happened last March when I called for an ambulance in the middle of the night, you can read it here.  I get my flu shot religiously each year as soon as it’s available, so I was pretty angry it got me this year; luckily I didn’t have one of the serious strains that the flu shot protects against, but the flu is never nice no matter what form it comes in.

And that ear procedure was pretty squidgy.  It’s called a myringotomy and it’s actually very common; my ENT said he’s done 3 or 4 a week, every week, for years now.  Mostly on kids who need tubes in their ears, but also sometimes on adults like me who have mutant sinuses that won’t let us live normal lives (I didn’t get tubes).  I’d never gotten to the point where I needed it before now, and I hope I won’t need it again.  Let’s just say that if you’re afraid of needles or shots, you’re going to have a hard time if you need this procedure.  Because they have to numb up your eardrum before they cut it open, and that means multiple SHOTS, with tiny but still-real needles, right INTO and THROUGH your eardrum.  That’s what hurt like a heckamabob.  I didn’t feel the cutting at all, but it was very weird to be able to hear (in extreme Dolby stereo) the slicing sound of the scalpel on the eardrum, and then the loudest vacuum sucking sound you’ve ever heard.  Some pain about an hour later when the anesthetic wore off, but not much after that. 

ear infection

I pretty much don’t feel like doing anything when I’m sick, even if it’s just with “regular” illnesses like I just described.  It’s why I haven’t written any posts for 5 weeks or really done much at all past just getting through the days and nights and trying to get well again.  “Give people high-fives just for getting out of bed. Being a person is hard sometimes.” Words of wisdom from Kid President (if you haven’t watched his videos on SoulPancake, you’re missing out!).  It is hard being a person sometimes, especially a contaminated and contagious one.

Our bodies do an amazing job of trying to take care of themselves, but when those tiny insidious virus and bacteria warriors attack, it’s incredible how much physical and mental energy they can zap out of us.  Going to the grocery store and back feels like you’ve run a marathon and necessitates a long nap immediately afterwards.  Laundry becomes the equivalent of a hard gym workout.  I lost 8 pounds in the first week of being sick this time; I had absolutely no appetite and the only things I ate that week (the same thing every day) were minimal amounts of scrambled eggs, toast, and soup.  (When the tonsillitis hit, I felt justified in buying frozen double fudge pops and ice cream to sooth my throat, thereby negating my flu-fueled weight loss…but very much worth it.)  A pharmacist friend of mine said “bacteria will outlast humans” and I do believe she’s right.

I really wish I knew the secret behind those people who seem to have constitutions of steel and rarely if ever get sick.  What are they doing?  Or is it all just in the genes?  My family genes seem to be riddled with susceptibility to allergies, acid reflux and thinning hair – we’re a very phlegm-y family.  I’ve given serious thought to buying stock in Kleenex.  We are allergic to everything.  And on the GERD front, I’m pretty sure that just a handful of my family members could provide enough stomach acid (in a very short amount of time) to fill the vat that created the Joker. 

It doesn’t help at all that we live in the worst city in America for allergy-sufferers.  A day or week of bad allergies can be just as draining as the flu sometimes, and the resulting inflammation can make existing infections much worse.  Cedar fever season is over finally, but now we have the joy of days filled with oak pollen – and there are just as many, if not more, oak trees in this city than cedar trees.  As I write this, I had planned to be outside spraying weed and grass killer in my yard and pulling up the weeds that got a jumpstart on spring, but it’s so windy outside that I know I’d be suffering from oak pollen symptoms for days afterwards…and so once more I’m relegated to indoor confinement.

But again it’s all about perspective.  I know there are so many people out there dealing with so much worse, so I feel pretty grateful that I’m able to go through this crud but then recover.  There are some benefits to being stuck home sick.  The fudge pops, of course.  I’ve caught up on dozens of taped episodes of The Office that needed watching (and laughter is the best medicine sometimes).  And I’ve discovered a surprising fondness for classical music – while app-wandering one fever-filled day I found a wonderful British classical station (Classic FM) and the music they play is so beautiful and invoking (and goes perfectly with a cup of English Breakfast tea).  

But I’m looking forward to being well again.  In the next few weeks (well or not) I’ll be lobbying our City Council for a code and ordinance amendment that would allow me to get started on the primary outlet of my flower business venture.  It’s been a little slow going lately on the flower front, but I’m not losing hope.  It’s not a race, and I have been gradually implementing aspects that will help me move forward.  “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast” has been my  mantra of sorts lately (Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, II, iii).

I hope if you’re currently battling a bug that you feel better soon.  Lots of fluids and frozen fudge pops is my recommendation.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Evolution and Enchiladas

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“Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide.” ~William Shakespeare (King Lear, I, ii)

After Christmas, I made a return trip to my homeland of New Mexico to spend some time with family members at a vacation home in the southern part of the state.  During that time, I also drove up to spend a night in Albuquerque, where I lived for 35 years (wow that makes me feel old) before I moved to Texas.  I ate at some of my favorite restaurants (I’m looking at you Saggio’s and Frontier) and got to see and catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in over four years.

A collage tribute to one of my favorite places ever: The Frontier in Albuquerque.

A collage tribute to one of my favorite places ever: The Frontier in Albuquerque.

But that excursion left me feeling pretty melancholy.  Something had changed since I’d last visited the Q a little over a year ago.  The city itself felt depressed to me, and the neighborhoods around my childhood home appeared deserted and old and crumbling. There seemed to be barely any traffic on the streets anywhere in the city, especially compared to the ever-constant congestion on Austin’s roadways.  The wintery landscape was bathed in familiar browns and grays, with the ever-present lack of greenery that I remember from living there.  New Mexico has a stark and unique beauty, but I didn’t feel it while in my former city this time.

I had to wonder if it was more me than the locale.  As I drove around old haunts and hangouts, including my home I had for 14 years as an adult, I just felt…sad.  So much has changed in my life recently, that maybe I’m more sensitive to other things that appear to have not changed at all.  And while I have a few friends left in Albuquerque, only one of them was able to get together this time.  The others I saw a year ago weren’t available, which is ok; it was short-notice and the end of the year, and I completely understood.  Last year, Bryan Cranston sat his Hollywood self right next to me at a downtown cafe, but this year I just felt like a lonely loser as I brought my take-out enchiladas back to my hotel room.

I think part of the sadness comes from acceptance of the fact that there are several people and places in Albuquerque that are no longer part of my life, and probably won’t be again.  I should have known better than to go by my old house, the mere sight of which floods me with painful, wonderful, life-changing memories.  For better or worse, that part of my life is over.  And as life stumbles on, we come to realize that certain friendships have also run their course.  Sometimes it isn’t even a fight or one specific event that brings the relationship to a slow close…it’s just the evolution of the history and the fading of the future, and then before you know it, you haven’t spoken for years and instead of feeling wrong, it’s somehow ok.

I think many people force friendships past their evolutionary end out of a feeling of false obligation…but they’re not being honest with either themselves or the other person.  Some things just end.  We all know who our true, lifelong, call-me-no-matter-what-you-need friends are; it doesn’t matter how much time goes by either, you can just pick up where you left off, which often was years and years ago.  But let’s face it – most friendships don’t fall into that category.

For me, they are few and far between.  I’ve been faced with fading friendships over the past few years, and it hasn’t been just a result of changing zip codes.  Letting go of people who have been there during good and bad times and memory-making moments is a strange thing to have to do.  Admitting and accepting that we have little in common anymore or that we don’t agree with each others’ past choices is slightly gut-wrenching, but to me, seems necessary as part of being true to ourselves and choosing to be UNunhappy.

I’ve grieved for fallen friendships and lost love, and if I let myself, it’s easy to trudge back into the trenches of wallowing.  But at some point, it has to just be enough.  Move on.  Move up.  Move into the realm of where you feel you are supposed to be.  Even ‘LOST‘ agreed that you have to hit the reset button sometime.

I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, at least for right now (even though I hate being held hostage in my own house over the last few days by the insanely high cedar pollen counts in Austin, it’s ridiculous).  I don’t know if I’ll return to Albuquerque again or when, although the possibility of never going back seems unlikely to me.  Maybe we’ll tow the nephews along to Balloon Fiesta one year soon; I’d love to see the looks on their faces at the wonder that is a thousand balloons launching off the field in simultaneous waves of fire and color.

Source: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

(Source: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta)

By the way: after some searching since I moved here, I did find a pretty good enchilada place in Austin.  It’s not quite the same, but it’s enough.  I’m hitting the enchilada reset button. (And it’s just around the corner, which is either convenient or dangerous, depending on how you look at it…)  I hope that you too are lucky enough to have enticing enchiladas available to you wherever you are.  Because what’s life without the perfect plate of enchiladas every once in a while, right?  (Let’s see how many times I can use the word enchilada in one paragraph.)

(Source: TripAdvisor)

(Source: TripAdvisor)

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

The Fine Line Between Lovely and Lonely

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“Alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to her own ears…” ~William Shakespeare (All’s Well That Ends Well, I, iii)

Last Saturday, I made the 25-mile trip into downtown Austin by way of the Metro Rail train to grab some dinner and support a local improv theatre called The Hideout.  Their show that night was called “Fakespeare,” in which the troupe created a never-before seen, completely improvised Shakespeare-ish play, along with some very funny improv skits and games along the way.  The train was a new experience for me (and brought back fond memories of riding trains in England and France), and I had a great meal at the 1886 Bakery & Cafe inside the historic Driskill hotel before the show. 

The Metro Rail station in downtown Austin.

The Metro Rail station in downtown Austin.

Austin's landmark Driskill Hotel, built in 1886.

Austin’s landmark Driskill Hotel, built in 1886.

A scene from "Fakespeare," in which the troupe performs in the audience-named "Thou Shalt Do It Again."

“Fakespeare,” in which the troupe performs a scene in the audience-named play “Thou Shalt Do It Again.”

This was a solo venture, which is not new for me; it’s the norm actually for most of my outings.  It’s not that I’m completely anti-social – after all, I sat in the theatre as part of a group of similar-minded Shakespeare fans to watch the show – but more often than not, it’s just more convenient for me to do things I want to do by myself.  I’m sensitive to the fact that most (if not all) of my friends and family don’t share a lot of my interests, and it doesn’t feel right to force the issue just so I won’t be alone.

I had a perfectly lovely UNunhappy time.  It was a lovely stroll around downtown, a nice dinner, an entertaining show. Which was why I was surprised on the train ride home to find myself feeling lonely.  I don’t get lonely very often, but I found myself thinking it would have been nice to have shared those activities with someone else.  Surely I’m not the first person to notice there’s only one letter’s difference between lovely and lonely?

I’m mostly used to being alone by now.  You see, I must somewhat-sheepishly admit that I’m the Ross Geller of my social circle of friends and family, in that I’ve been divorced more than anyone else in the group (twice now).  Some questionable decisions in the past and a well-meaning (but misguided) save-him complex led to two failed marriages and some very wealthy therapists out there.  (But seriously, those therapists are also heroes in my eyes who helped save me on many occasions, so thank you.)

Despite me being used to being alone, it still seems to be an anomaly in other peoples’ eyes.  As I arrived to the cafe for dinner and asked to be seated, the host asked “Only for one?  No one else is joining you?”  Bravely staring him down in a non-threatening but assertive manner, I replied “Nope, just me” as I was then escorted to an enormous booth that could have seated six people.  Why not give the single girl the most conspicuous table?  (Whenever I eat out alone, I always think of that great scene from ‘Hope Floats‘ where Harry Connick Jr consoles Sandra Bullock by saying It’s not for sissies you know, dining alone. Gotta be made of some pretty stern stuff to do that.”)

"It's not for sissies you know, dining alone."

“It’s not for sissies you know, dining alone.”

But I needn’t have worried.  The entire time I was there, not only was I alone at my gargantuan booth, I was the only person in the entire restaurant.  At 7:15 PM.  On a Saturday.  I began to think I’d missed a health department report or something.

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

My soup and salad tasted fine though, and finally as the waiter brought the check I asked “why am I the only one in here?”  He laughed and said “It’s August in Austin, no one wants to come to the city when it’s 105 degrees outside.  Plus, we don’t really get hopping until later when they rope off the streets for the revelers.”  Hmm.  Still thought that was weird.

The suspicion of my solo-ivity didn’t stop there.  The rows in the theatre consisted of four seats each.  I sat in an aisle seat, and a few minutes later a man and his party of three asked me if the rest of the seats in the row were free.  When I said yes, the woman with him said “Really, all of them? You aren’t saving the one next to you?”  Sigh.  “Nope, they’re all free for your big butts” I said (in my mind).

On the train ride back home, all around me were couples and groups of people riding together.  I seemed to be the only solo traveler.  Even the police officers serving as our Metro marshals traveled in pairs.  Then bizarrely, everyone exited the train before my station (which was the last one).  During the last leg, I was the only one left on the entire train.  And for the second time that night, I found myself surrounded by empty seats.

It's like a scene from the Twilight Zone.

It’s like a scene from The Twilight Zone.

I felt mocked somehow.  Venture out alone, we’ll show you alone!  (Insert evil laugh here.)

Of course I’m not alone in being alone; I see Twitter tweetmates who also document their solo journeys, getting on with their lives.  Whether by choice or not, we march on, making the best of our solo situations.  It’s not our fault that people in general don’t like “lone” anything; heck, even Johnny Depp couldn’t save ‘The Lone Ranger’ from an unexpected demise this summer.  Our society looks down on singles for some reason as it caters to couples, but the joke’s on them.  Being alone and single has its definite perks, such as: 

  • I can eat cereal for dinner EVERY SINGLE NIGHT if I want to.  Ha!
  • The only person scared by my troll-doll hair first thing in the morning is me.
  • I can ignore that razor in my shower for umpteen days if I feel like it.  A little stubble never killed anybody.

I could go on, but let’s be honest, there’s too many to list.  (But if you want to add your own in the comments section below, I’d love to see them).

I’ve talked before about how I’m a bit of a loner, and about how I’ve traveled alone to faraway places.  And while there’s a degree of pride in that self-sufficiency, I’m only human – I know and remember well that there are certain things in life that are best shared with another by your side.  I’ve been lucky enough to have many of those experiences in my past, and they were great.  I can’t help but think that a little loneliness in my life now is the price I pay for decisions made in the past, and I get that.  I don’t mind paying the toll – the journey was expensive, but educational.

No one knows what the future holds, and I’m a believer in good things happening when you least expect them.  Risk is fraught with both reward and (sometimes-harsh) reality.  I’m more open to the possibilities of change now than I have been in quite some time.  But for the time being, I accept both lovely and lonely into my life. 

And maybe I’ll even go shave.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

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