Just a short update to say I've been guest posting at Dooce recently.
Baby names: Here are some good names for twins, because god knows they’ll be a packaged set all their lives and it’s important that they coordinate like towels and soap in a guest bathroom
The atrocity that is the Restoration Hardware catalog: You got me there, rich people: I wouldn’t know how to draw a springbok if requested by a child, but I do know that restaurants in Brooklyn stopped hanging antlers on their walls in 2007.
Say Yes to the Dress: I put my hand on my husband’s arm and said, “I just want you to know that nowhere underneath any of this is a princess. If you scratch hard enough, you’ll probably find someone who’d live in a gutter,” to which he smiled and said “Duh.”
Horrible slang: The overlap of people who say “gotta love _____!!!!” and people who comment on Facebook pictures of children with “Precious babies!!!!” is a completely saturated pool.
I wrote another guest post for Dooce, about Michael Keaton and Song of the South and first dates and lies.
"Oh, that’s nice, your bathroom hand soap smells like apples, but I am spending my life in pursuit of something that will simultaneously make me smell clean, sexy, cozy, at home, far away, full of nostalgia, and sort of like the library in a castle near a vineyard."
I have a guest post at Dooce today. It's about bergamot, financial irresponsibility, and Johnny Depp's balls.
The DJ at this wedding is so on fire, the only song that could break his streak is Me and A Gun by Tori Amos. Maybe.
Me too! Here's to interspecies rape!
At least his hair is being honest for once.
TAKE THE CONCH!
let's talk about purple for a minute. it's such a middle school favorite color.
I'm in a Williamsburg warehouse with a zebra and Oprah's bald creative director. Where are you?
I just drifted off for a second and dreamt that i was helen mirren and now i feel incredibly calm and collected.
It is a terrible idea to be drunk in Whole Foods.
Settle a bet: all girls named Tammy have hep C, right?
I bet the '70s was the worst decade for spunk taste, even moreso than the middle ages.
When will I learn that if a drink has the word "martini" in its name, it's going to come in a martini glass?
NO LOVE FOR MY WILLIE NELSON JOKE I SEE HOW IT IS
Setzen sie Babt innerhalb ich! I saw it on a porn film.
Just make sure you wear gloves.
It's easy for Mary J. She has fur sheets and a fan club. I'm an overweight white girl in a city with an unfavorable gender ratio.
I'm watching Salma Hayek have sex. Please come home now.
Bitch, who you think you are wearing lace?
Or maybe that's what Skynet WANTS you to believe
Anus anus anus
And introducing Louie Anderton as NEO
MOBB DEEP EEP MEEP BEEP PEEP REEP
I mean, come on. Let's go to Wendy's.
I oly spent 22 dolar
They play cool music and everyone in here has sneakers from Northern Europe
we have some letters from gertrude stein to tennessee williams level shit happening here
Am bringing 48 forks
Let me call you, I don't want to startle the zebra.
Bullshit. Make it happen
My vibrator sort of smells like Old Navy
It fell apart
But seriously if I ever hear the Decemberists again I am going to hemorrhage.
On we sweep with our threshing oar
Get in there
How's 11? Shall I bring bagels? P.S. I am a cunt
IT DON'T MAKE NO NEVAHMIND
Oh girl I heard
I would elect Keanu president. Especially if I was high.
there are some really expensive tiger blankets on the market
My basic problem is that I want to eat all of the cheese, all of the time.
Hey how was your bj class?
DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
The comments on that last post are still pouring in and making my day. Nick and I have wept with laughter while reading them every night, and I'm not gonna lie, I learned maybe one or two things while reading them. (The Washington Redskins are not from Washington state, for example.) It got linked on MetaFilter and there are some pretty amazing comments there too (Godzilla Visits Mothra!).
It should be troubling instead of heartwarming to know that so many of you thought Alaska is an island, a woman pees through her clitoris, and that TLC wrote a song about a young Native American named Jason Waterfalls, but instead it's really made me a more pleasant person to be around. Also I'd like to say that the fact that we call just cucumbers "pickles" but all other pickled foods "pickled _____" is legitimately confusing.
Here are a few of my favorites:
"My brother used to think TicketMaster was, like, one guy -- the ticket master. He had all the tickets and you had to buy them from him." - Nothing But Bonfires
"My husband believed (still believes?) that limes are unripened lemons... Bless his heart." - Katie
"I was 7 years old when the Berlin Wall fell, and it's one of my first news-related memories. I was really surprised that the Berlin Wall was an actual wall. My dad was always telling me "it's just an expression" about everything, so I assumed "Berlin Wall" was an expression, not a literal wall. Naturally, as I got older and started learning about the cold war in history classes, I assumed that since the Berlin Wall had been a literal wall that the Iron Curtain must be an actual curtain. In my head it was just this big iron shower curtain-type thing that stretched across the countryside. I was almost an adult--like, late high school--before I realized that "Iron Curtain" actually WAS just an expression." - Ashley
"The phrase "panty soaker" meant that it was a really hot day and you had sweated through your underpants." - Tracie
"I thought Olivia Newton-John was Elton John's ex-wife." - Alice
"My boyfriend once told me that he jumped into his pants, two legs at a time, until he was ten because that's what people did in cartoons and that's how his mom put pants on his younger siblings." - Gretchen Alice
"When I was 3 or 4, I swallowed a penny, and my grandma told me a quarter would come out. I can't tell you how many times I contemplated how much money I could make. This went on until 5th grade probably?" - Sonya
But the one that makes me crack up every single time I remember it is from Lindsay, who thought that clowns were clowns because they were born that way. Tears are rolling down my face right now as I cut and paste this: "Until I was about 8, I thought that clowns were born that way--that there were black people, white people and clowns. I always wondered why I never saw any in my neighborhood."
Earlier today I tweeted: "Due to a poor explanation when I was a kid, I spent 15 years wondering how eunuchs peed." Matthew Baldwin replied: "I thought that lions and tigers were the males and females of a single species. No explanation though, I was just dumb."
I've had these conversations with friends in the past, and I always love hearing the weird incorrect facts from childhood that other people have kept in their heads without reconsidering until the moment it hits them. I had a (very smart) friend who thought that the Grand Canyon was perfectly and smoothly concave, like a cereal bowl, until we were seniors in high school. My husband thought that the world was actually in black and white in the past until an embarrassingly late age. I hate to end a blog post with a question, but I sincerely would love to hear: do you have any of these?
I thought 2011 was hard and then 2012 showed up, full of all kindsa crap like multiple family health issues and other stresses and just tons more gray hairs.
I won't be glib and tell 2012 not to let the door hit it on the ass on its way out, because if there's one thing it taught me it's that scary things can happen to the people you love at any moment, so even if it was a shit year, it was still a year I got to have. I'm lucky that the people I love are still here. I'm pretty sure it was the year I became a shittier friend, and I feel bad about that. I wonder if I'll ever be able to balance all the people and things who are important to me. Just like how I updated this blog regularly in my head, I also planned all kinds of thoughtful gestures in my head, all year long. Maybe in 2013 I'll stop just thinking of doing nice things for people and actually do them in real life.
So this is a downer! Lots of great stuff also happened this year, like Nick getting his green card, and karaoke nights and zoo outings and birthday boat voyages and Rhanksgiving, and watching my best girl Danielle kick ass with her book, and our trip to England, and my best baby being born, and basically just every Friday night Nick and I spent watching QI or listening to records under our reggies. Nick remains #1 with a bullet on any list of good things about my life, barf I know but man, that guy. Cringe made me happy; London Cringe made me super happy. My parents came out on top with their health and my brother now has a house with a guest bedroom. Browns doin' all right.
Remember when I used to list all the best stuff of the year? I haven't done that since 2008. Let's take that for a spin, liven this up a bit.
Best book I read in 2012: American Gods
Best book I read published in 2012: Bring Up the Bodies
Best TV show I watched in 2012: Seasons 1 & 2 of The Hour
Best movie I saw in 2012: Skyfall
Worst movie I saw in 2012: Friends With Kids
Song I listened to most in 2012: Bill Withers, "Heartbreak Road"
Album I listened to most in 2012: Urbie Green, Blues and Other Shades of Green
Best purchase of 2012: TIE: Kindle Fire/new glasses
Best baby of 2012: my best (friends') baby
Best photobomb of 2012: Nick, Amy Adams, Calvin Klein, NY Fashion Week
Best drink of 2012: this cocktail they made for me at Weather Up on our anniversary and then they said they'd name it after me but they misheard my name. It was gin, champagne, St. Germain, lime juice and simple syrup. You know, a Sam Brown.
I have a few personal goals for the new year, but I have one you can get in on with me if you like: 2013 will be the year I start loudly and publicly shaming women who peed on the seat before me in restrooms. Join my cause! You will know us by our call: "HEY, YOU PEED ON THE SEAT AND DIDN'T CLEAN IT UP." Seriously, how is this an issue? How precious and neurotic do you have to be that you're afraid to sit on a toilet? It's 2013 and horrible things happen every day, so just put your ass on the seat already. It's your ASS. That's what it's FOR.
Happy new year. I hope your 2013 involves more love and less strangers' urine.
In the comments of the last two posts, Andie and Natasha both asked that I explain what I mean about blogging being dead, or how I feel blogging is now.
To me, blogs used to feel like short stories, or diaries. Now they feel more like magazines. Not that I don’t like magazines, but not when I’m in the mood for a short story. The magazination of a lot of blogs I used to read and love sort of bummed me out, and made me lose interest in sharing my thoughts online. (A lot of that was really me choosing to use my time differently, though.)
From what I do see now and then on blogs, it feels like lots of people want to be Oprah now. I’m not interested in everyone being an expert or guru; I just liked the storytelling.
Some people have managed to make their blogs look like pretty magazines but still kept the same voice and tone and personal sharing level. (Holly is a good example of that. Holly is like The New Yorker to me in that sometimes I find myself reading things I wouldn’t think would interest me, but they do because of her writing style.) That impresses me, because it’s rare, keeping that balance. I mean, if I started blogging regularly again, I don’t know if I could maintain the old level of sharing, and my site would still be black and red and ugly.
Don’t get me wrong: I have no issue with people making money from their blogging. It’s not my thing, but if it’s yours, go for it and more power to you. But a lot of times that changes the tone of the site, and then it becomes less a place where you write about your fears or a funny thing that happened to you over the weekend, and becomes more a place where you tell me your favorite kind of jeans and where I can buy them and here’s a code to get 20% off. If that came up in a personal conversation between us, awesome. I mean, am I not human? I buy jeans. I like codes. I read magazines. I want to know where you found that cool thing. But in my free time, when I’m on the internet seeking out the smart funny writers I like, I’m much more interested in hearing the funny story from your weekend.
(I also think being a blogger and being a writer are two very different things, and being one doesn't automatically make you the other, but I’ll save that for another day. I don’t currently call myself a writer, because I am not currently writing. I also can’t really call myself a blogger at the moment either.)
I do have to say though, just in the past two weeks, more than a few old school bloggers I used to love to read have started blogging again. Is there something in the water? I don’t know, but this makes me happy. Maybe I’ll get back into it too. I am enjoying this whole you ask a question in the comments and I write a post answering it thing we’ve been doing. It’s like a prompt from a creative writing class, just a good way to get back into the habit.
In the comments of the last post, Alison said: “I did not know I could A Q’s and you would answer them! Frequently! SO WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THAT DAMNED MINDY KALING BOOK?????”
Okay, fair enough. I strongly disliked the Mindy Kaling book. I had reasonably high hopes for it; I read that excerpt last summer that was like “dear guys, all you need to do to look decent is buy some Converse and a peacoat,” and chuckled and added it to my Goodreads to-read shelf. I was into the first few chapters, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s hearing the bittersweet details of anyone’s childhood or adolescence. And I was interested in hearing more about how she broke into being a writer for a successful television show. But then the book trailed off, and farted out some three paragraph chapters that wouldn’t have even counted as blog posts, and then at the end she was publishing tiny black and white self-portrait photos from her Blackberry?! Did she not know she could just make the font Courier New 14 pt to get her page count up? Who slept on editing this thing?
My main issue with the Mindy Kaling book was that it became clear a few chapters in that I don’t think I would like Mindy Kaling. She’s smart, she’s funny, but she’s also way too bossy for me to ever warm to her. Her whole schtick is too… boastingly savvy? I am a grown ass woman, so stop talking to me like everything is gossip or instruction. I started getting this uncomfortable sinking feeling while reading it and realized she was like some girl you befriend at a party in your 20s, because you’re both smart and funny and have had a few drinks and can banter and play off each other and go I KNOW!!! til the cows come home, and then one time, several parties/hang outs later, you’re telling some self-deprecating story about some body hair-removal caper, and it’s a good story, but before you get to the punch line, she cuts you off and says totally seriously, “You would really look a lot better if you waxed your upper lip instead of bleached it, or maybe tried a thinner brow. I can give you the number of the place I go,” and then goes into her own story and you have the social wind knocked out of you (yes I realize that sounds like a fart euphemism) and you stand there blinking, thinking, “Wait, maybe she was trying to be helpful?” but then hours later, when you’re at home, you realize, “But I wasn’t asking for help! I was doing fine, telling my funny story, and she cockblocked my punchline AND insulted me.” Did she do this on purpose? Who knows. Probably not. Maybe she’s very nice and bossy but just not my type. She’s just that kind of person, and I have no use for those people in my life. Just like the Mindy Kaling book, which I threw across the room when I finished and it still sits on my shelf because I refuse to lend it to anyone I love.
To counteract all that negativity, I will tell you a book I loved reading, and that was How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. This book made me laugh out loud over and over while I read it, and halfway through, I wanted to be best friends with Caitlin Moran. Caitlin Moran wouldn’t undercut your punchline or volunteer that that color didn’t really suit you. Caitlin Moran would buy a round and listen to you tell the story about that faux friend who tried to fix you and go “Oooooh!” at all the right parts. I have bought several copies of this book because I intend to keep a stack of them on a shelf to give away (alongside all my copies of Feminist Ryan Gosling).
I promise I don’t really feel the need to befriend all the authors I read in order to appreciate their writing, but that was the best way for me to break these two down. I also realize I just wrote 700 words after saying yesterday that I couldn’t see myself blogging anymore. That was a fun question to answer, though. Feel free to hit me with another.
1. How are you?
I’m good. Enjoying living in Brooklyn, being married to Nick, reading books, making plans, doing some online shopping where I carefully select several items, put them in my cart, and then close the browser window.
2. Are you still writing?
Not nearly as much as I’d like. There’s been some stuff here and there, and some stuff coming up. If there's something you'd like me to write, email me.
3. I miss your blog!
Thank you, that’s a really nice thing to say. Sometimes I miss my blog too. But I can’t see myself being a part of how blogging is now, in 2012. That’s not a judgment call, it’s just my personal feeling. If you miss reading my half-cocked rants or enjoy reblogged photos of the northern lights, I do update my Tumblr on a regular basis, so there you go.
4. What are you going to do with this site?
I don’t know. I like keeping it here because once in a blue moon I go through the archives and remember fun stuff from the past, and that’s worth the hosting fees to me. Maybe someday I’ll write here again more often.
5. Do you still do Cringe?
Yes, I very much still do Cringe. Cringe happens once a month in both New York and in London. Ana McLaughlin hosts it in London in my absence as she is the only person I’d trust with its safekeeping, and it was such a hit in London, I'd feel bad taking it away. (Ana is the stellar publicist for the UK Cringe book, and shares my love for things like teen angst and Tudor history and Monday night tequila shots.) Next month I’ll get to attend both Cringes, which makes me very happy.
6. Are you going to have children? Here are my opinions on that.
That’s not something I want to share with people I don’t know.
7. Can I email you to say hi, reminisce, or ask questions?
8. Do you know your site still says “Copyright © 2001–2010 by sb” even though it’s 2012?
Yes. Isn’t that annoying?
9. What does your hair look like now? That picture on your About page is from 2005.
10. Who’s the number one rock band in the world?
Blue Oyster Cult, put your dad on the phone.
My apartment is decorated (“decorated”) in a style best described as “Bluth Family Model Home,” or maybe, “Stuff I Liked at Target in 2002.” It features wall-to-wall blue carpeting and has had broken IKEA blinds hanging off one window since last May, so I felt pretty qualified to write a post about cliché design trends on Offbeat Home.
Words my phone knows after owning it for six months:
Words my phone doesn’t know after owning it for six months:
Some happy news: Nick’s green card arrived on Valentine’s Day. Strangely, it came via the United States Postal Service, and not shot out of a T-shirt cannon or hidden inside a giant cheeseburger a la Double Dare. Green cards aren’t green, although they do have two tiny strips on the back that look like black lines but when you look closer are in fact miniature hologrammish portraits of every U.S. president from Washington to Obama, with Nick’s own larger hologrammish picture looming above them. Nick assumes this is where the Department of Homeland Security has spent all the money we’ve given them over the years, just really wowing us with the design of the green card itself, and if that’s the case, I think we’re both fine with that. It’s cute to picture the immigration agents all crouched over a crafting table, concentrating hard, tongues sticking out of their mouths while they cut and paste and attach their very best scratch-n-sniff stickers, wondering whether we’d prefer grape or root beer.
So we’ve now made it through this entire visa/green card process without ever seeing the movie Green Card with Andie MacDowell and Gerard Depardieu, despite this being the first question nearly everyone asks you when you tell them that’s what you’re up to. “Yeah, no, it’s probably nothing like that, I’m guessing?” is a sloppy conversation I’ve waded through many times since August 26, 2009. Whenever anyone in a movie or television show airily mentions getting married for the green card, and then it happens a scene later, and they have the green card, I want to throw something and explain to everyone THAT IS ACTUALLY NOT AT ALL HOW IT WORKS, which just adds to my fun quotient. It’s like how my brother was in a very serious accident as a teenager where he ran through a plate glass door, and it nearly killed him, and now whenever anyone in my family watches a movie where someone bursts through a giant pane of glass unscathed, and keeps going, we all suck in our breath and then shout OH YEAH RIGHT in disgust. Sorry Hollywood, but you just can’t expect to keep the Brown family on board with such horseshit. We prefer our horseshit to be much more sophisticated, like Falcor the Luck Dragon (me), or the entire plot of Devil’s Advocate (my mother).
A good way to celebrate anything, whether it’s a green card or a good meal waiting at home or just hey you’re alive for another Monday is playing this song over and over. That’s a link to a brass band cover of “Sexual Healing” on Nick’s music Tumblr, Sunday Listening, and also what the inside of my head has sounded like for the past month. One of the many things I love about Nick is that we have very different musical backgrounds. While I grew up in an American ‘90s full of grunge and rap and indie rock, Nick spent the ‘90s in England listening to trip-hop, drum and bass, techno, funk, breakbeat, jazz, and all kinds of other stuff I thought I hated (and some of it I do), but this musical education led him to be into awesome stuff now, and also put songs on mixes for me that I’ve never heard. Dating dudes in Brooklyn before I met Nick was a veritable what’s your favorite Wilco/Yo La Tengo pissing contest wasteland, and it’s so refreshing to live with someone who introduces you to new music in a fun way, not some mind-numbing, “deep cut Bon Iver” way. I never knew I liked jazz, but guess what, I like a lot of it.
I still have to talk about that Mindy Kaling book and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Spoiler: I am not pleased with either of them.
Hey internet, what’s up? I never meant to let this site go completely dormant for a year. And I really didn’t mean for it to look like “I got married, smell ya later!” or “then they lived happily ever after” or anything like that by letting my last post be the one where I talked about our wedding. We moved back to the U.S. and got married and then got pretty busy keeping our heads above water and enjoying marital bliss and all that, and I had a big plan to redesign this site (guess what, I finally got sick of the white text on a black background too), but that was pretty low on my to do list and also would cost money I preferred to spend on orange juice at the time (whether or not we can afford orange juice is how we view our fiscal situation), and also my old computer wouldn’t let me log in to Moveable Type for some reason, and then months later that computer died, so I couldn’t write on anything larger than my iPhone screen. Also I got an iPhone. Then I played Yahtzee Adventures for three months straight and then last week I got an email notifying me it was time to pay my hosting company again and I was like, hey genius, you just spent a year pouring so much orange juice money into a comatose Que Sera Sera. And then yesterday I was like, huh, it might be fun to write a blog post. So I took a nap. But here I am now! Unexpected, super late, rambling and making no promises, just like you like(d) me!
To be fair, I wrote several blog posts over the past year, just in my head, while in the shower. And while I did receive some very nice emails from very nice people saying they missed my writing, I would like to point out that I have been updating my Tumblr pretty regularly for the past four years. Sometimes I just reblog pictures of baby elephants, and I realize that’s not everyone’s jam, but in 2011 alone I wrote about shoes, apostrophes, the J. Crew catalog, culinary issues relating to my family, marriage and fucking up, started and abandoned another Tumblr with Nalini, and did some performance art shit with Other Sarah Browns, so I’m just saying, I’ve been around.
So what’s been going on. In 2011 I was really into watching Game of Thrones on HBO, which led to Nick and me spending the entire summer reading the George R. R. Martin series and saying OH MY GOD and WHAT and NOTHING WHAT PAGE ARE YOU ON to each other a lot. We were also super into season one of Downton Abbey, before they burned it to the horrible soap opera ground in season two.
People tend to say things like, “How’s married life?” or “how do you like being married?” which are sort of weird, hard to answer questions, but being married to Nick is awesome. I like having dinner and watching Jeopardy with him every night. We received a record player as a wedding gift and we spend a lot of evenings drinking gin and tonics, catching up on gossip and listening to records. Does that sound super pretentious, boring and cliché? Whatever, it’s one of my favorite parts of my life at the moment. 2011 was also the first time in our relationship that we could both legally work in the same country at the same time, and after two years of being broke and stressed, the novelty of being able to buy a round/pizza/sweater on a whim has yet to wear off. This whole double income/no kids thing is pretty sweet.
I’d still like to do a major overhaul and redesign this site and all that, but maybe I should buy a new computer first. We’ll see. Anyway, I have to go now because it has been brought to my attention that there are nachos in the living room, but I have opinions to share about that Mindy Kaling book and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter that are too long for Twitter so I’ll probably write again soon. At least before 2013.
Since the last time I updated, I got married. Twice! I liked it pretty good. I might do it again.
We received Nick’s visa on November 10, I flew back to New York on December 1, Nick arrived December 7, my parents came December 8, and we got married on December 10. And then again on December 12, just for good measure.
We got married the first time on a Friday morning at city hall in Manhattan, just to make things legal for all our paperwork. We didn’t get dressed up because we didn’t want to make a big deal out of it; we wanted to save that for the next wedding a few days later. And I’m glad we didn’t, because I have had longer and more emotional experiences at the DMV. We paid, got a number, waited for our number to be called, and then walked into a small room where a no-nonsense woman spent about 45 seconds marrying us. My parents came with us, and she called our names, we all went into the private room, and we were just standing there, holding our coats when she said, “Nicholas? Sarah?” and we said yes, and then she started shuffling through some papers on a podium, not having even made eye contact, and asked, “Does anyone here know… ” like she couldn’t find her pen, but then went on, “any reason why these two should not be legally wed?” So we threw our stuff down and held hands because we realized we were getting married right that second. She went right into do you, do you, then by the power vested in me, etc. My mom couldn’t even get a photo it happened so quickly. Actually, in the photo of us kissing, seconds after she said, “You may kiss the bride,” you can see the officiant walking out of the room already. She paused at the door and said, “Best wishes!” and that was that.
The building itself has been redecorated and is very pretty, all marble and nice lighting, and it was fun to see all the other couples waiting with their friends and families. Some of them were dressed like us, some dressed like they were headed to a cocktail party, and some in wedding gowns and tuxes. I felt sort of bad for the people that were in formal wedding attire, because the whole thing was so short and not especially sweet. Nick said, “It would take longer to put on a tuxedo than to get married at city hall.” Afterwards we all went out for lunch in Little Italy, and then my mom and I ran some errands while Nick and my dad went back to Brooklyn and shot pool. Sorted!
So our real wedding, the day we’ll count as our anniversary, was Sunday the 12th. This date was chosen mostly due to when my brother could get off work and fly to New York for 48 hours, because we wanted my brother to perform the ceremony. I think I was remarkably chill about letting my brother’s boss dictate my wedding date, but after a year of dealing with the Department of Homeland Security, it didn’t seem like that big a deal.
The whole thing, really, was very low key. The minute we got our visa in November, we suddenly realized oh yeah: a wedding. We’d spent so long focusing on the visa that our only wedding thoughts were… we’d like to have one? It would have been ridiculous to plan anything more involved than what we had in less than a month while still living in another country, and after the year of visa panic, I refused to get stressed over one single aspect of wedding stuff. Nick spent our last few weeks in London working like crazy, and I spent them being emotional, trying to figure out shipping logistics, and then having the flu, so any sort of charming, dewy-eyed bridal errands never happened, unless you count the afternoon I went to Peter Jones and purchased Spanx.
One night in October, I’d passed a woman on Waterloo Bridge wearing what looked like a beautiful vintage red velvet coat, and since I knew we wanted to get married under the tree in Prospect Park where Nick had proposed, I suddenly thought, “I’ll wear a red velvet coat! And black boots!” Except that all the red velvet coats I found were either too Shirley Temple or too Lord of the Rings, so I ended up wearing my black wool coat from Target that I’ve had for three years. Dress shopping wasn’t in the cards, since we were already out of room to bring anything else back from London, so I went online, ordered a bunch of dresses from a bunch of different places, had them all shipped to our apartment in Brooklyn, and then spent one glamorous flu-y hour trying them all on in my closet. I ended up going with a $25 red dress from Target. I loved it, Nick loved it, and my shoes cost more than twice the dress. (My shoes were Jessica Simpson from DSW. They were adorable, but it really pained me to have to answer over and over that they were Jessica Simpson.)
I have to say, after spending the past six months grinding my teeth, stress-eating, and getting bad haircuts, I was not feeling at the top of my game in terms of being cute and having everyone take pictures of me, but the day of the wedding, I didn’t care. I was too happy to care what I looked like in pictures, and then somehow that magic stayed around long enough so that when I saw the pictures, even the ones taken from my bad side where I was laughing with my mouth open wide, I was still happy.
I told my mother, “If I don’t find a dress, I’ll wear one I already have. We can have a small reception after in our apartment. If it rains, we’ll have the wedding there too. You can pick my flowers. We’ll make an iTunes playlist. So long as Nick is there and we’re married, I don’t really care about anything else.” And it all worked out, remarkably easy! We ordered a bunch of champagne (prosecco really) and cakes to be delivered from Fresh Direct, my mom bought a bunch of flowers the day before at Whole Foods and arranged them herself, and I carried the $22 bouquet my parents had bought for me on Friday at city hall. We wanted to bring hot chocolate in thermoses for everyone for the wedding in the park, but it was 50 degrees and we didn’t need them. We were worried about finding a cooler large enough to store all the champagne since there was no room in the fridge due to the cakes, but my dad and Nick just hoisted them all onto our roof overnight and they stayed chilled. We spent the most time choosing songs for the playlist and writing our vows. I never heard one song during the party. Thankfully I didn’t have this issue with the vows.
I didn’t have anything blue or borrowed (although my mom brought me the blue ribbon garter she wore at her wedding, and my friend Alicia loaned me a birdcage veil, but I didn’t end up wearing either). My mother brought my great-grandmother’s wedding ring for me and my grandfather’s wedding band for Nick, and they both fit. (I’m going to get my real wedding band for Christmas, and Nick will get the inside of his engraved as well, but we didn’t have time before the wedding.)
The only really traditional thing I did on purpose was that I’d asked my mom if she’d bring one of my grandmother’s old embroidered handkerchiefs to carry around my bouquet, since my grandmother was never without a hankie and collected lots of beautiful ones. And then my mom called me from Tulsa and said, “I was going through the cedar chest looking for Mother’s hankies, and I found a baby gift I’d forgotten she gave you… it’s a white lace-edged baby bonnet made so that you cut the strings off to carry on your wedding day.” That actually made us both get a little choked up, because how perfect is that? My grandmother was my favorite person in the world when I was a kid, and I liked the feeling that she was still involved with my wedding day despite the fact that she’s been gone for twenty years.
The day itself was full of surprises. We really wanted to get married that afternoon under our tree in Prospect Park, but we woke to rain lashing against the windows. My dad, who loves the Weather Channel more than anything else in the world, kept calling from the hotel, telling us what the hourly forecast was for the day: 100% chance of rain, every hour, all day, forever. I resigned myself to getting married in the apartment instead, but Nick was adamant that the rain would stop. And then around 11 am, the hourly forecast from 1 until 4 pm suddenly dropped to a 10% chance of rain. By 1 pm it had stopped raining completely and actually warmed up, so we walked to the park with all of our friends and got married under our tree.
The walk to the park was probably one of my favorite parts of the day and my life in general. Nick and I led the way, holding hands, he in his suit and hiking boots and I in my dress and coat and wellies, carrying my bouquet, our friends and family following us. It was like one of those old movies set in an Italian village where the entire town follows the bride and groom from the church down to the square, minus a donkey. Everyone we passed on the street smiled or said hi, or yelled Congratulations! from their car window. I have never loved Brooklyn more.
The ceremony was perfect. Since it had been raining all morning, we had the park all to ourselves. My brother officiated, we read our vows, and it didn’t rain. If you’ve ever spent a year away from half of your closest friends, a good way to cry is to stand inside a semi-circle of them and have the person you love most in the world promise nice things to you.
Then we kissed, everyone cheered and threw lavender, and we all walked back home and had drinks and cake and toasts and OH MY GOD WE DID IT.
The only things lacking were the fact that I’ve always wanted to walk down an aisle with my dad, there was no space to dance, and of course the part where no one we loved from far away could make it on such short notice and so close to the holidays. We want to have some sort of party or reception or perhaps just another big wedding later this year, so our family and friends from all over can be there. We are both aware of the irony that two people who aren’t very into weddings may end up having three of them, but I can’t turn down the one big opportunity in my life to have all the people I love in the same room.
So now we’re in Tulsa for Christmas and I have to go downstairs and help my mom, but I wanted to write all of this down and share it with the internet, because the internet is really, really great when you have happy news. Thank you, internet! I hope you all have a merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.
(And here are a whole lot of wedding photos if you’re into that sort of thing.)
I didn’t mean to abandon my blog for so long that the main page was blank, but Things have been Happening. We had our visa interview on November 3, and I am happier than you could ever imagine to say that we were approved. This visa has been all I’ve been living and breathing for the past year, and I can’t tell you how nervous we were beforehand. I very levelheadedly convinced myself that blogging about anything would jinx the visa, so I decided I’d wait until after the interview to write, not realizing that after the interview I’d suddenly have a million things to do, like planning a wedding and preparing to move back across an ocean and trying to unclench my jaw.
The visa interview itself was a breeze. It almost pains me to write that, given all the stress that it caused, but it was fine. Our appointment was at 8 am, so we took a cab to Grosvenor Square at 6:30. I’d spent the weeks before sick with worry, and Nick was very good about calming me down, but suddenly that morning our roles reversed, and Nick sat in the cab grinding his teeth while I enjoyed the sunrise tour of London. We crossed the Thames, past Big Ben and Parliament and Westminster Abbey, and then Trafalgar Square and Soho and Regent Street (our cabbie got lost), and I thought, “If we don’t get the visa, I’d be happy living here.” I really do love London, and am going to miss it terribly. It’s just been the living in limbo that’s been unbearable.
While we waited outside the embassy, Nick suddenly turned to me and said, “If they ask me a question and I freeze or freak out, I’m just going to blurt, Sweet Pickles is great!” That made us both laugh and relax a bit. When we were finally allowed inside and took a seat in the waiting area, I looked out the window and saw the Oklahoma state flag and that was oddly reassuring. (When we passed the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square, I felt the same way.) We spoke to a very tight-lipped woman and then a very friendly man, who just happened to drop in conversation, “Okay, so you’re approved…” and then he made some joke to Nick about getting me to the altar in a hurry, but I was too busy telling myself not to say all the cheesy melodramatic things that were welling up inside me to pay attention. I bit my lip so I wouldn’t come out with something awful like God bless your family or Sir, you have made me a very happy woman or any of the other made-for-TV-movie drivel that my brain was shouting. Then we walked back out to the lobby and squealed and kissed and jumped up and down, and behaving like a cliché has never felt so good.
We were out the embassy door by 9:30 am, and so euphoric we walked straight into a fancy hotel bar across the square and ordered champagne cocktails. We waited until 4:30 am Oklahoma time to call my parents from the hotel lobby and shout our good news down a pay phone, and then we went to three other fancy hotels and had more champagne cocktails. On November 3, 2010 I peed in the nicest bathrooms of my life. One (The Connaught) had an actual French maid waiting to hand me a a towel. After all the before-noon cocktails we went home and slept for three hours, and then had a celebratory Chinese takeaway dinner with Ian and Antonia, and Nick caught up on Cooks Cooking for a Chance to Cook before bed. Is it in poor taste for me to share that visa sex is the best sex? Probably.
So we’re coming home and getting married! Will you think less of me if I tell you that aside from seeing family and friends, I’m most excited to eat a Wendy’s cheeseburger and wear my bathrobe? Not at the same time, of course. Even I have some scruples. Although to be fair, most of them involve this sort of situation.
Happy Thanksgiving, America. I’m thankful I get to come home and marry the man I love and sleep in my bed and get annoyed with the MTA again. I miss you, and I’ll see you soon.
The last London Cringe of 2010! And the last one that I’ll be around to host (at least for quite some time):
Wednesday, October 27, 7:30 pm
Upstairs at The George Pub
213 The Strand, London WC2R 1A
So come out to The George on Wednesday and say hello/goodbye, pay your respects, have some drinks, maybe even read your diary. I’d love to see you.
I have two sites to recommend to you, and both involve the word “choke.” Isn’t that cute. Pretend I had something clever to say about it, because all I can think of now is how I could really go for the Chokes & Cheese appetizer from The Bistro in Tulsa.
1) Josh Allen is one of the reasons the internet should exist. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s produced online, from Knowledge for Thirst (RIP) with Kevin Fanning to his national treasure-like Twitter feed, and now Chokeville. Go.
2) My friend Megan the artist recently started a website called Fine Artichoke, offering well-curated, limited edition prints that would look especially nice in rooms where you eat. Their slogan is “original art for hungry walls.” Are you decorating a kitchen or dining room? Do you own a diner or restaurant or cafe? Can you give me free cake? If the answer to any of those is yes, check out Fine Artichoke. They were featured on Design*Sponge last week so go now, before all the good stuff sells out. (Don't worry: there will be new cool stuff if that happens.)
Three years ago, on my first trip to England, I visited the Tower of London with my friends Tony and Emily. When I got home and uploaded my pictures, I found this strange blur of light on this photo taken outside the room that housed all the torture implements at the Tower:
I had no idea what that strange blur was. I still have no idea. Probably nothing. I like to think I have a pretty rational mind, and don’t go in for much hooha, but I’ve had a few eerie experiences myself and have heard enough from trusted friends and family that I’m never prepared to truly rule out ghosts. I KNOW: why/how/wtf, etc., but still, sometimes there’s some weird energy or dread or chill some places, and who knows what sort of sad cosmic dust is trapped in whatever space or time involved. This is completely at odds with my feelings about death: I believe that when you’re dead, you’re dead. I’m not going to ask you to do my star chart and I don’t believe in psychics, reincarnation, heaven, hell, or the risen Christian lord, but sometimes I think that maybe there are unexplained things, and some of those things creep me out.
Antonia and I have been talking about going back to the Tower for the past year, and we finally went yesterday. We both love some history and we’re also both intrigued by ghosts. We spend a lot of time talking about creepy things that have happened to us or people we know, or places we’ve read about that are haunted. These conversations are usually punctuated by Ian, stopping drilling or sawing long enough to shout, “It’s not true because there’s NO SUCH THING AS GHOSTS!” from his lair. We ignore him and google “cctv ghost hampton court.”
I told Antonia about my weird photo from 2007, and how I wanted to take another picture in the same place when we went, just for fun. So the first place we went once we entered the Tower was the little plank walkway outside the room where they house the rack and the Scavenger’s Daughter, right outside Wakefield Tower, next to the Bloody Tower.
Unfortunately, the wall where I took my picture three years ago was under tarp and scaffolding. I went ahead and took the same shot anyway, even though I felt ridiculous.
I don’t see anything like what I saw in my original photo.
Then I turned back and took another shot of Esme on the walkway. And when I looked at it on my camera after, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Now don’t laugh at me, but do you see a sort of smudge to the center and right? Like a smudge made of light? Antonia saw it too but Nick didn’t, and Ian refused to even look.
So then we walked around some more. Esme got a princess dress at the gift shop and was making all kinds of friends.
Then we went back to the Bloody Tower, where the two princes were legendarily killed and buried at the foot of the stairs. You go up a tiny spiral staircase into a room that’s set up as an exhibit about them. The room itself felt pretty normal, but they’ve glassed off the top half of the staircase, so I took a shot, thinking, if there’s going to be a ghost anywhere, it’s going to be up there, away from loud people.
Then, after Antonia came up the stairs, I turned back and took one last shot of the empty stairwell. I realize the light is weird and shadowy here, and the Tower’s own spookified lighting doesn’t help, but I really don’t think there’s anything there. I feel like it’s a Magic Eye photo and I’ve just looked at it too long, trying to find some hint of the supernatural.
We went back out to the Green, and I listened to a Beefeater giving a tour about the people executed inside the Tower. I’d heard this same speech three years ago, about how most people were executed in public on Tower Hill, but some people had a more private execution inside the Tower walls. One of these people was Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. She was nearly 70 years old and Henry VIII imprisoned her just to be a dick, to get back at her son who was a Catholic cardinal who was opposed to Henry’s divorce. Margaret Pole refused to put her head on the block because she insisted she wasn’t a traitor, and the executioner ended up chasing her around the yard, hacking at her neck a number of times until she finally died. This story stuck in my mind because Emily and I commented that after two or three hacks with an axe, we’d both probably just lie down and let him finish the job.
A month or so after I first heard this story, I was visiting family in Texas, where my aunt was showing me the extensive genealogical research she’d done on our family history. In some branches of the family tree, she could only trace it back a few generations, but for some, she’d mapped it back to the middle ages. She was really excited to show me that my brother and I were directly descended from Chaucer. (There’s no non-dick way to say that, is there? You sound like you’re bragging no matter how you say it. But it was legit: there was an option on the program she was using that if you clicked it, would show you what famous people you were related to, to the nth degree, and basically, all of America is eleventh cousins of JFK or Elvis, but the Chaucer info wasn’t from that; it was a direct line, straight down to my grandmother’s name. Very cool.) Anyway, I remembered the story about Margaret Pole, and how the Beefeater had said she was a great-great-somebody of Geoffrey Chaucer. So my aunt is thinking I’m going to be excited about the Chaucer thing, but I get all excited and realize if we’re related to Chaucer, we’re related to the old lady who got chased around the Tower of London. She’s a blessed martyr and everything. I bet she’d approve of my Medieval Tapestry Poses Flickr group.
So I listen to hear if the Beefeater mentions Margaret Pole in his execution speech, but he just mentions Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey. The crowd dissipates and Antonia’s helping Esme with her new tiara, so I take a shot or two of the green, which looks very peaceful. And again, when I look at the photo afterwards in my camera, I think I see something. It’s possible all the execution talk is messing with my brain, but do you see a sort of glow in the corner here, near the trees, behind those boys on the bench, way in the background?
We went in search of the bathrooms, and Esme was being cute, so I took a shot of her near an old black phone box.
I’m glad I didn’t have her stand in front of it, because when I uploaded these to my computer, I noticed a sort of cloudy light at the very top of the phone booth. Maybe it’s just a shadow or my camera is crappy, but these are starting to a) freak me out and b) make me wonder if I’m losing it a little.
I also took this shot, and it wasn’t until I saw it in the larger size that I saw that woman in the blue jacket in the background. It made my heart stop for a second. I’m clearly starting to see spooky stuff in places where there is nothing spooky to see.
By this time Antonia and I were tired and wanted coffee, but Esme got a second wind due to her pink princess dress, and suddenly wanted to go in every room of the castle. So we took her up to the bit of St. Thomas’ Tower that Edward I used as living quarters, which has been done up to look how it did in his day, 1270-something. This part was quieter and emptier than the rest of the Tower, and they had an audio recording of a crackling fire in the room with the empty fireplace, which was kind of creepy.
Here are some arty shots out the windows.
At this point I had to admit to myself that I was just taking photos wildly, like I was Egon Spengler, trying to get as much evidence for samples later. I was sure this poorly-lit staircase and doorway would turn up something, but no dice:
And the tiny restored private chapel, with the creepy recording of someone saying mass, only you couldn’t go in? I don’t see anything here.
I took one last shot of the main room. Notice how the light from those candles is sort of streaky? Like something’s passing through them? Or the light is refracted strangely? I don’t know, I’m obviously nuts by now, but seriously, tell me you don’t see something weird back there between the candles and the bed curtain.
Then we went outside and the sun was out and everything was shiny and golden and beautiful, and I felt like an idiot for my crazed camera ghost hunt. I want to believe that Ian’s right and there’s no such thing, but I’m still not going to google anything about CCTV ghosts until Nick gets home from work.
Last night I dreamed that we were back in New York, and I was sitting with a laptop* in a coffee shop** that was flooded with sunlight. All of the sudden I looked up and out the window and thought, “Wow, we’re really home,” and I started sobbing with joy.
It’s hard to say things like this, because it doesn’t mean that I don’t love London as well (I love it so much), or that I won’t miss it once we’re gone (I’ll miss it like crazy). The closer we get to getting home, the more torn I feel. I also feel guilt and worry, that I should suppress my glee in front of the friends here that we’ll be leaving and missing so much I don’t even want to think about it. It’s a complicated feeling, so there must be a German word for it. Probably Pangaeaschnitzel. Zan told me awhile back that once you fall in love with someone from another country, the rest of your life is going to be spent missing someplace, no matter where you are.
We submitted our packet of forms to the embassy yesterday, which means now we’re just waiting for them to schedule Nick’s interview, and then we can return to the U.S. within a week after that. (If we pass.) (Of course we’ll pass.) (Fingers crossed, knock on wood.) As we walked out of the post office, we high-fived and hugged and Nick said, “Soon we’ll be home!” Which is really sweet of him, because while he’s ready and excited about living in New York, I know it doesn’t feel home to him yet in the way it does to me.
When we first met, and both realized oh wait, I have strong feelings for this person who lives on another continent, Nick won a million points in my book by saying, “Well, our first priority is being together,” like it was the most matter of fact thing in the world. And then I said, “I can’t leave New York, my life is in New York now, I’m not ready to leave it,” which felt very ballsy and brave until the moment it left my mouth and then I was terrified he’d say no dice, but instead he shrugged and said, “Okay, so we’ll live in New York.” I’ve spent the past two years constantly checking that that’s still okay, but Nick’s way of thinking is that he’s lived all over the world, all big cities are pretty much the same, he likes New York, he loves our friends there, I want to live there: end of story. I realize how lucky I am about so many things in this arrangement. For someone who kept finding herself in long distance relationships in her twenties, and at the end of each one swore never again, the next guy I date has to live next door, the longest distance of them all turned out to be the easiest. Wanting the same things! And being prepared to do whatever it takes to do them! Who knew!
Earlier this year, during one of my many crying jags, I kept saying things like, “I just want to go home and get back to my life.” Then I had a talk with myself, and declared that sort of phrasing unfair and ridiculous, because it’s not like my life in New York is on pause, waiting for me like my books and my clothes are. This is my life right now. This has been my life for the past year. And (this is schmaltzy, heads up) this year has revealed to me that home is wherever Nick is. Many times while I was having a late night homesick sob, he offered to send me back to New York so I could be with my friends, and he’d stay here and keep working and saving and waiting, but that was never an option for me. I told him no, I chose you, I choose this. I’d do it again. We’ve felt like a team from the first minute, and separating the team was not part of the deal. And while this year has been really hard, the good parts have been really good, and our relationship is even better and stronger than I thought it was.
I realize that just like this is my life, going home and getting married isn’t a happy ending. It’ll be my turn to support both of us, at least until Nick gets his green card. Things are still going to be hard and we’re still going to be strapped and stressed, and we’ll have a whole new set of people and things to miss, but just the fact that we’ll be officially starting on the life we want together is enough. Also maaaaan do I miss being able to walk to the bathroom naked in the middle of the night.
* I don’t ever do that, sit in a coffee shop with my laptop. I mean, I have a few times in the past, but I’m not one of those people that does that regularly. To me, those people seem far more ambitious than I could ever be. Once I’m up, dressed, fed and ready to sit behind a computer for most of the day, I never want to leave my house to do so. And if I want to leave my house, I’m sure as hell not bringing a laptop with me. I salute you, coffee shop workers, even though I’ve sat next to you and know you’re all just procrastinating on Facebook and YouTube like I am at home. At least you’re wearing shoes.
** It was a coffee shop I’ve been to a few times before, on University Place, with one whole glass wall facing the street. I spent half an hour trying to find it on Google Maps with no luck, until I emailed Josh Newman, whom I’ve met there on more than one occasion. Newman found it in sixty seconds: NewsBar. Here it is:
Unfortunately all the shots are from the outside looking in, not inside looking out. I’m amazed that I am this close to showing the internet what I saw in my head during a dream. This is better than jetpacks, in my opinion.