Reflections on EcoNuttery

I don’t miss the guilt.

Once upon a time, I was an ecoactivist.

I make it sound simple, because in a way it was. I “woke up” on evening, by watching an episode of the Colbert Report. One evening I was your average person who didn’t care or think about the environment overly much. The next evening I was a Green.

And I went all in.

I gave up buying things. I gave up toilet paper. I gave up paper towels. I gave up driving. IN LOS ANGELES.

But it was never enough. There were always the things that I wasn’t ready to stop doing, the things I agonized over.

Like eating meat. Or flying.

I was tormented by the whole flying thing. I’d argue with people about it. Try to justify myself to myself. I’d say to myself, “Hey, Vanessa does it. Other people do it.” I’d spend ages on those carbon calculators trying to figure out a way to fly and still not be one of those terrible people who were destroying the Earth.

But I couldn’t ever do it.

Here I was an ecoactivist, and yet a total fraud. I cared about the Earth enough to give up god damn toilet paper, and yet, according to some Internet site, if everyone lived like me, we’d need seven Earths. Lord help us all.

Ultimately, I wonder if it was the constant guilt, the feeling that nothing was ever good enough that led me to break down. To look at my desperate acts of individual ecoactivism and conclude that there was no there there. That the couple dozen rolls of toilet paper and paper towels I was saving were pointless. That turning down the thermostat just made me uncomfortable and wasn’t actually going to stop climate change. That what I was engaging in was nothing more or less than political theatre.

I don’t miss the guilt that fueled my constant striving to be the best eco-nut that I could be.

But I do miss the optimism.

On Maps and Infinite Friendships

A few days ago I went to a going away party of a good friend. Although it was a rainy night and my friend expected few to show, the apartment was crammed with an odd assortment of people she had met in her time here — roommates, coworkers, former soccer teammates. Stories were told of broken hearts and drunken nights, of book clubs and coffee shops.

My friend has not lived in San Francisco much longer than I, and yet, I got a sense from that night, that she had truly lived here in a way I never have — that while she may not consider herself a San Franciscan, there are ways in which she will always be one, even if she never returns.

I was still thinking about this when I finally got around to reading Infinite City this weekend by Rebecca Solnit. In it, Solnit writes:

San Francisco has eight hundred thousand inhabitants, more or less, and each of them possess his or her own map of the place, a world of amities, amours, transit routes, resources, and perils, radiating out from home. But even to say this is to vastly underestimate. San Francisco contains many more than eight hundred thousand living maps, because each of these citizens contains multiple maps: areas of knowledge, rumors, fears, friendships, remembered histories and facts, alternate versions, desires, the map of everyday activity versus the map of occasional discovery, the past versus the present, the map of this place in relation to others that could be confined to a few neighborhoods or could include multiple continents of ancestral origin, immigration routes and lost homelands, social ties, or cultural work.

It’s a gorgeous insight and I think it illuminates why I still feel most days like an Angeleno in exile. My maps are boring as shit.

Contrast for example:

My map of brunches and baby showers with my friend’s map of places she cannot go running for fear of running into a former flame.

My map of five restaurants that I get take out from (always ordering the same one thing on the menu that works for my diet) versus my friend’s map of bars she’s closed out.

Now, the reality is that I don’t want to close out bars anymore. I’m 32 and I get tired by 11pm most nights. And while I don’t have such vivid and dynamic maps of San Francisco, I have a map that I value much, much more — a roadmap for my life. After spending my twenties getting lost, going in multiple directions, and arriving in the strangest of places at unexpected times, I am so grateful for this map.

But my roadmap is not one that connects me to the beautiful city I live in. In fact, my roadmap isn’t geographical but is based in the stable, concrete relationships I’ve built up over time. I may live in San Francisco, but my home is where my family is. Right now the place I live, the place I eat, the place in which I sit on the couch and watch TV with my husband is San Francisco, but that place could be anywhere.

And so I wax nostalgic for Los Angeles. My city. And the map I made of seedy rentals that Honda and I saw before settling on our own shabby apartment in Little Armenia. Or the map of artist lofts I went to in my pretending-to-be-a-hipster-phase. Or the map of first dates, of awkward kisses, of starry nights when Honda and I dreamed about our futures.

All those maps connect me to Los Angeles in a way I fear I may never be connected to San Francisco. Sometimes I think that the city you spend the bulk of your twenties in will always be your city, and no other place will ever be able to compare. Sometimes I think that maybe if I took more time to explore San Francisco I’d get to love it. And other times, I am reminded that I hated LA for two whole years before loving it, grudgingly at first, and then with my whole heart.

And sometimes, not often, but perhaps, more and more frequently as time goes on, I realize that bit by bit, I am creating my own maps of San Francisco. And maybe they are not as glamorous as the map of We Ho gay bars I danced my ass off in or the map of totally sketchy places I drove all over to simply because they had an ad for an audition in Backstage West. But they are my maps all the same.

As I say goodbye to my friend, I think of the deadlines we’ve stressed over at Summit, or the lambics we’ve drunk at Rosamunde, the hike at Angel Island, and the many, many BART rides underneath the Bay. I realize that the map of our friendship is indelibly tied up in my map of San Francisco, that had I never lived here, we never would have met. And of course, had we never met, my map of San Francisco would include many fewer drunken nights over vegan sausage.

And it is this that makes me realize that San Francisco is not and cannot be a placeholder, that even my mundane, crunchy yuppie life is tying me, slowly but surely, to this city, my home.

Confidential to YOU: Best wishes on your journey. I can’t wait to see where your map takes you next.

Feminism, Now With More Options!!

A couple weeks ago I read John Tierney’s much-talked-about piece on decision fatigue and immediately made a self-diagnoses.

Yes, I too suffer from chronic decision fatigue.

I excitedly called Dave.

“I can’t make any more decisions! I have decision fatigue. It’s a REAL THING.”

For days, Dave and I joked about how decision fatigue is a REAL THING, but the truth is, the piece resonated with me. I do feel constantly bogged down in all the decisions I have to make: for the wedding (red tablecloths or blue), for work (font one or font two), at home (do I cancel my Netflix or my Quickster or both and what am I having for dinner?), and with friends (where do we want to meet and what movie are we seeing?)

The collective weight of all those decisions exhausts me. And while, I’m glad to have the choices, I suppose, sometimes I just wish there weren’t quite so many options.

Which brings me to uh … feminism.

You see, the other day I was reading this post by a woman talking about her issues with the label “husband” and the connotations associated with the word and as I was skimming the comments, one leaped out at me, about how nice it was that we have options.

Because that is what feminism is about now: options! Now women can CHOOSE to work or stay at home. Or to change their name or not. To wear bras or not.

And the truth is, I do, I do appreciate the options. I understand that for years, women had no options and the fact that now we have them is decidedly a GOOD THING.

But sometimes it makes me wonder if all these options are weighing us down.

Because we have to make decision after decision after decision and then we feel we have to defend said decisions — to our parents, to our partners, to our friends, to ourselves. And as we defend our decisions, we relitigate them in our minds. Yes, it was the right decision to stay at home. Yes, it was the right decision to keep my name. Yes, it was the right decision to have only one child.

It’s strange because, actually, traditional definitions explain feminism as a movement to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women. But typically, men don’t actually have all these choices, or they don’t think they do, at any rate. Most men don’t decide whether or not to change their names; they don’t think about it all. Most men assume they will not stay at home with their children. And men never have to decide between a skirt or pants! Instead of having equal opportunities, it sometimes seems like women have more opportunities than men. And also more decisions. And more decision fatigue.

Would we be happier if we had fewer decisions? I don’t think so. To me, the decision fatigue is worth it.

But by recognizing the decision fatigue, I feel more inclined to cut myself and the other wonderful women I know some slack.

Coping With Internet Addiction

All right, I’ll go ahead and say it: I have an internet addiction.

It used to be that I would read a lot of blogs. (Which I still do.) Or that I would read the New York Times for work (which again, still do.) But then, when I got home and finished my work, I would be able to turn off, do chores, or write my own damn blog post, or read fiction, or watch TV, or something … anything.

And yet lately I find myself spending more and more time doing nothing online that I can really call anything other than dicking around on the internets.

I would like to blame Facebook for this.

Or Dave for spending all his time in front of a computer.

Or life for making it impossible to really unplug.

But the fact of the matter is, when it comes down to it, it’s on me.

I have large medium-sized any ambitions with my life. I would like to put my photo albums together. I would like to watch The Wire (no I haven’t seen it. Yes I know it’s the best thing ever made. Shut up already.) I would like to read some good books. Hell, occasionally I think about writing my own book, although I’d settle for blogging regularly. But these things aren’t going to happen if I waste my life on the internet.

So I need some boundaries. Some rules to follow. It’s difficult when you can’t just completely cut off — unlike some addictions, I can’t just give up the internet full stop.

But I need to be able to shut down and get other stuff done.


A Tale of Two Flights

This past month has been filled with travel in our household, and this weekend marks our third trip back East in the past six weeks or so.

On our flight back East to Chicago, we almost missed the flight because some people (cough … Dave … cough) are slightly, shall we say, optimistic about the time it takes to park at SFO and about the size of the security line at 7:00 am. As such, we arrived at our terminal at 6:30 for an (I’m not shitting you) 6:55 am flight.

Somehow, we made it onto the plane, and I twisted Dave’s arm until he promised that from now on, I decide when we leave.

The next weekend, we were on our way to New York for our engagement party, and I was determined this flight would be better. I also figured this would be easy because our flight wasn’t until 4:00 pm.

You know where this is going…

It all started the night before when we were attacked once again by malarial mosquitos, and Dave stayed up roughly half the night because once awake, he couldn’t get back to sleep. As a result, we both were exhausted this morning and not thinking as clearly as we could have been. But still, 4:00 pm flight. No big deal. And we spent the first few hours of the morning getting necessary work done.

Dave wasn’t able to check in online for some reason, so we decided to leave for the airport at about 2:00 pm. So around 12:45 pm, we stopped working and started getting ready to go. And that’s when the madness began.

12:45 pm: I realize the shoes for the engagement party that I paid ridiculous amounts of money to ship one day early service have not arrived. Get on the phone with UPS. Get placed on hold.

12:50 pm: UPS customer service insists that they can’t track down the driver of my package. I insist that they either get my package to me by 2:00 pm, or that they refund me for shipping. Customer service insists that they do not have the ability to refund me for shipping. I ask for a voucher. They say that’s not possible either.

12:55 pm: Still arguing with UPS. I ask to speak with a manager. UPS customer service deflects.

1:00 pm: Still arguing.

1:05 pm: Twenty minutes later, they finally agree to let me talk to a manger. Get placed on hold. I ask Dave to call a taxi for us for 2:00pm.

1:07 pm. Dave calls the taxi service and is told that there’s a big conference and so a taxi may or may not be dispatched to our house at 2:00 pm. WTF?

1:10 pm: UPS manager is somehow miraculously able to track down the driver of my package who I had been previously told was impossible to track down. The driver is at lunch, but he’ll be able to be at our house at 2:15 pm. I thank the UPS manager profusely and hang up the phone.

1:15 pm: Dave goes to grab sandwiches for our lunch and I head to the room to finish packing.

1:25 pm: Mid-packing, realize we still do not have a guaranteed taxi. I get on the phone to the green taxi service, because, clearly they will recognize a kindred soul just from the sound of my voice. Call a taxi for 2:15 and pray the shoes will have arrived.

1:30 pm: Dave comes back with the sandwiches and an aqua fresca.

1:35 pm: Realize I have an email to send.

1:40 pm: Drag the packed bags into the hallway. Dave asks if I packed his underwear. Ummm, I don’t remember … does he really need underwear?

1:45 pm: Dave gets hysterical and starts pulling apart the suitcase to see what I have remembered to pack of his. I packed: his suit, suit socks, belt, shirt, swim suit, jeans, and socks. I forgot: any tee-shirts and underwear. I get defensive because CLEARLY I remembered more things than I forgot and also, why do I have to pack his stuff?

1:46 pm: Dave argues that I DON’T HAVE TO PACK his stuff but then I shouldn’t say that I packed them, and also HE GOT LUNCH FOR ME AND AN AGUA FRESCA.

1:47 pm: I didn’t WANT AN AGUA FRESCA!


1:49 pm: Running around the apartment like proverbial chickens with our heads cut off.

2:02 pm: Our taxi arrives. They’re early! Dave checks. No, this is the taxi that we were told may or may not arrive. I better get on the phone with the other taxi service and cancel.

2:04 pm: Other taxi service’s phone system hangs up on me.

2:05 pm: My shoes for the engagement party arrive! I rip open the boxes to try on all four pairs in a hurry. I hate all of them. Forget the shoes, I tell Dave. I’ll just wear a pair I already own. Dave looks at me like he is about to kill me.

2:07 pm: Dave is still mad at me. I haul the bags to the taxi.

2:09 pm: Dave mutinously gets into the taxi. I offer him the agua fresca. He refuses. But it is so refreshing!!

2:11 pm: Strange taxi guy asks us if there is a problem. We settle down.

2:12 pm: Strange taxi guy starts asking us about various Hindu holidays. I pretend to know anything about Hinduism.

2:25 pm: We arrive at SFO. I realize I forgot to call the other taxi company back. But at least we’re at the airport an hour and a half early for our flight this time, I tell Dave. Dave shoots me a look. We get to the gate and I promise not to buy shoes the day before our engagement party ever again.

Lucky for me, I don’t think we’re having an engagement party ever again.

Good Intentions, I Have So Many

Sigh. I was doing so well, comparatively speaking, posting in August. And then the month of September came, and whoops.

The posts kept piling up in my head, and yet somehow never made it to the page.

And yet, there is nothing worse than reading a blog post making excuses for why said blogger didn’t post more, so enough about all that.

Let’s move on and talk about my hair!

You see, I am currently fulfilling my bridal destiny by growing out my hair. And while this is fine for most brides, it is problematic for me because I am really, really freaking lazy.

There are lot of people who can get away with the tousled “bed head.” Other people look super sexy when they look like they just woke up. But we curly people? Mostly just look like demonic Miss Frizzles.

That is why almost every other curly haired person I know has an extremely long morning routine including daily washings, conditionings, special drying, and producting.

I do none of these things.

In fact, I do not do my hair. Or rather, my idea of doing my hair, is pulling it in a pony tail and then trying to tame the frizzies by clamping down on them with about a thousand bobby pins.

This works for an hour or two, but at the end of the day when I come home from work and look in the mirror, what do I inevitably see?

Who else but demonic Miss Frizzle. With several barely-hanging-in-there bobby pins to boot.

I am looking forward to cutting my hair after the wedding, but really, I need something more drastic.

I need a hair cut that requires no maintenance, something virtually impossible for curly haired people. As I see it, my options are probably shaved head or military buzz cut. Or I could learn to wake up early and do my hair like a goddamn adult.

So, military buzz cut it is.

Chicago I’m Yours

Before I left for Chicago for the weekend, I had planned to write a post about Chicago and how I loved it, but how it was no longer home. How almost all my friends had moved away from Chicago, how I hadn’t lived in Illinois for over ten years, how I had never actually lived in Chicago anyway, how I no longer had that feeling of homeness when my flight landed at O’Hare or Midway, and how one of my most loved friends passed away a few years ago and how Chicago hasn’t felt the same since.

But then I actually WENT to Chicago.

And I fell in love with it the way I fell in love with Chicago the first time I visited.

I consider my entire tenure in Chicago to be something of an accident. Because I had never planned to visit Northwestern. I had applied for no reason that I can recall except that perhaps some friends of mine who were older had applied, and I figured that’s just what people did.

But then I got in, and then the university offered to pay for my flight, and no way in hell was I missing THAT opportunity. So I got on that plane and headed to Evanston. And when I stepped on campus, I felt a sense that, yes, this is it. This place was home.

And this weekend, even though I haven’t lived there in years, I had the same feeling. That no matter how long it’s been or how rough the winter or how few friends I have left, Chicago will always be there to welcome me. And that no matter how much the city morphs and grows, somehow my memories will always be there, aged but intact, in majestic city institutions, on random street corners, in coffee shops, fire escapes, and on front porches.

And while it’s true I didn’t get a rush of feeling homeness when our plane landed in Chicago, I realize now that I didn’t have that rush when our plane landed in San Francisco either. Maybe because my subconscious realized that no matter whether I was in Chicago or San Francisco, I was always still Home.

How Getting Married Turns You Into A Crazy Person

I feel that the title of this post is fairly self-explanatory, and indeed probably self-evident. Yes, getting married will turn you, very sane you, into a crazy person. You know that. And yet, you will be surprised.

Par example, generally speaking, I have a fairly positive attitude about my physical appearance. I think I weigh an okay amount and I think I clean up pretty well though generally speaking I am too lazy to do any said cleaning.

But lately, I feel that I have been gripped by THE FEAR that SOMETHING will go wrong and I won’t be a pretty, pretty princess on my wedding day. Like maybe I’ll get shingles! Or break my leg! Or burn myself! LIFE IS DANGEROUS. The other day I went to a salon to get my eyebrows cleaned up, and I have to be honest, I don’t know anything about eyebrow shaping but when the salon lady told me that my eyebrows were uneven I kinda freaked out a little in my head. Even though I have no idea what the frack she is talking about, what if my eyebrows are secretly lopsided in my wedding pictures? What then?

(I should note that this paranoia is not limited to the fairer sex: my lovely fiance also had a moment of terror when he singed his eyelashes the other day in a barbecuing accident. I had to go online to assure him that his eyelashes would grow back in time for his big day.)

But this paranoia really reached the heights of ridiculousness last night at around 2:00 am when, after being bit by a couple nasty mosquitos, I proceeded to freak out that I might develop the first case of San Francisco malaria in about a bajillion years. And instead of worrying about you know, the obvious public health implications of malaria turning up in San Francisco, I worried about what I would do if I were all malariaed up at my wedding.

Because really, what else matters?

In conclusion, getting married totally turns you into a crazy person. Also, if I get malaria in a couple weeks, I totally told you so.

Vacationing At Home

Sorry for the limited posting this week. My tendinitis has been flaring up which has made me reluctant to do any excess typing. But hopefully after resting up this weekend I’ll be all healed up Monday! (Also, remind me to keep working on my posture at work.)

Lately I’ve been dreaming about traveling. When I lived in London, I was fortunate enough to travel all around Europe on a regular basis. Just about every couple of months, I was off, being a tourist, exploring new places.

These days, not so much. Which isn’t to say that we’re always at home. In fact, we seem to emphatically NOT BE HOME ever. But I’m not doing much exploring either. Instead, we’re taking trips to see friends in LA or family in New York. And while I love doing all these things, and while I feel so blessed to have so many good friends and family, it ain’t travel. It’s not adventure. It’s not exploring new lands.

So this summer, I made a point to make sure to put exploring on our to-do list. No, we didn’t travel to exotic lands, but we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. So we decided to take mini-adventures close to home.

These past few months, I watched fireworks go off while on a boat in the middle of a lake.

I went canoeing down the Russian River (and learned that Dave is secretly a great canoer.)

I went on a hike on Angel Island.

I went wine tasting in Napa for my friend’s bachelorette.

All less than four hours from my apartment.

After all, who says you have to leave home to be a tourist?

Living the Vida Loca

I feel like I’m living in a permanent state of high stress zombie mode. And now I can’t quite remember what my life was like when I wasn’t over-scheduled every minute of the day. I feel like I probably wasn’t very productive. Because there’s the rub isn’t it? When you’re busy, you wish you were not. Right now, I dream of all the things I would do if I had spare time. I would take a language class, I would cook more, I would exercise every day, I would have eyebrows that didn’t look like old growth forests.

But that’s not actually what happens when you have time. What happens when you have time is that your extra time gets sucked into some sort of “dick around” vortex wherein you actually wind up with just as little time as when you are very busy. I know this because last year when I was semi-employed, I thought I was crazy busy and overwhelmed. Little did I know.

Last week in my manic-ness I hung up about 20 different pictures on our bedroom wall. I put stuff up on the mantle. I reorganized bookshelves. And now our apartment looks one more step away from sanitarium chic.

How did I not have time to do all this stuff back before I had a full time job and before I was in crazy wedding planning mode? What did I do with my life?

Sometimes I look forward to after the wedding when life will be a little more relaxed. I think of all the projects I’ll have time for then. But realistically, who knows if they will get taken care of? It might be that I’m more likely to get them now, in super bot mode than any time else.