Monday, March 26, 2007

Old Friends

They knew you during your 7th grade Sun-in and Silver City lipstick phase. You snuck out late at night to play Truth or Dare with them in the cul de sac even though you had to babysit early the next morning. You ransacked the liquor cabinets of one another's parents, made mix tapes for them to bring to college, made out with each other's freshman roommates and stayed up with them till sunrise at multiple weddings. They are your old friends.

You lose touch for months on end, you're not sure you like their new friends from work...they know exactly what to say to infuriate you. They are your old friends.

You know their parents' first names. They can tell when "I'm OK" isn't the truth. They remember your birthday. You know when they're in love. They are your old friends.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ya, you. You Lookin' at Somethin' Hippie Boy?

In just 5 days my friends from my home town will be arriving here in San Francisco. They come out to visit me every year in one combination or another, but this is the largest group that's ever come at once...and, to be honest, I'm a little scared. You see, we're not the kind of friends who get together for dinner to catch up and compliment one another's new hair styles. Oh no--this crew is from Jersey which means we communicate our love for one another via sarcastic comments and personal insults. It always takes me an hour or two to slip back into my native tounge and I'm praying my Jersey vernacular is currently intact.

For example, a friend from home recently commented to me, "That piece of metal is ruining your face" which translates here in California to "I care about you and want you to know that I prefer the way you look without your eyebrow piercing." Another example came in the form of a group email this week where one friend wrote to another, "Dude, quit your whining, stop being such a cheap bastard and pony up." What we all knew he meant was, "I'd really like to spend some time with you when we're out in San Fran. I know this trip is a little pricey but I hope you'll join us up in Napa."

Anyway, for the next five days, I'll be working hard to reconnect with my inner Jersey girl-- sharpening my sarcasm, removing all traces of incense from my apartment, telling my local hippie/hipster friends that I'll be "out of town" for the weekend (too much work to translate for everyone), suggesting songs for the heavy metal mix one of my visitors is making for our limo excursion, and, most importantly, preparing to get my bar fight on.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I'm trying to control my road rage. I refuse to pay outlandish gas and insurance prices. I'm a responsible inhabitant of Mother Earth and want to do my part to combat global warming. Those are all pretty good reasons that I could offer up when asked why it is that I don't drive. The only problem is that none of them are true. The real reason I don't drive is that I am simply terrified. At least I was until this past weekend.

Ever since I started learning how to drive in high school, the idea of manning a vehicle has given me a knot in my stomach. With an October birthday, I was one of the first people in my grade to take the license test. I alone would bear the responsibility of freeing my circle of friends from the suffocating confines of parental transportation. We were anxiously awaiting our new-found freedoms, and I was prepared to lead my people out of oppression to the promise land, otherwise known as The Jersey Shore. Never mind that winter was on it's way, we had parties to throw and beaches to pass out on.

The morning I turned 17 (you have to be 17 in NJ to get a licence), my mom took me to the Morristown DMV where I would meet my fate. Dressed in a new sweater purchased especially for my long awaited license photo, I whipped through the written portion--no problem. Things took a turn for the worse when the driving teacher requested that I back up the vehicle. It was then that my terror got the best of me and I stopped paying attention. With no more than a quick glance at my rear view mirror, I popped my car into reverse and went for it. At the end of the test, I was informed that I had failed due to reckless driving, something about needing to turn around to look behind you when you back up. Oh. My. God.

Despite the fact that my life was pretty much over, my mom made me go to school that day and I arrived while everyone was at lunch. The minute I walked into the cafeteria, I was swarmed by nearly hysterical girls wanting to know where we were going to drive after school. There was a bunch of balloons tied to an empty seat with a cake decorated to resemble my dad's black Saab Turbo 900 placed squarely in front of it. "Happy Birthday!" everyone screamed...right before the tears started to roll down my cheeks and onto my new sweater.

I eventually passed my test but my driving fears only worsened over time. There were some highway panic incidents in college that solidified my belief that there was nothing worse than getting behind the wheel. So for the next decade, I just didn't.

Fast forward 11 years. I had been teased relentlessly about how ridiculous it is that I wouldn't drive. I started to wonder if I even remembered how. Then a couple months ago, a friend of mine invited me to visit her at her new home in Pacific Grove near Monterrey...and I really want to go. I soon discovered that there were no buses or trains that could get me there--I would have to drive.

I came to the conclusion that it was time to grab the bull by the horns and attempt to overcome my fears. It would be a 3 hour trip each way and I was going to make it by myself. For the next several weeks, I worked hard to suppress memories of crying to gas station attendants up and down I-95 on the way to and from college in NC, of breaking out into a sweat every time I needed to change lanes on a busy highway, of that horrific experience on the Beltway back in '97.

The day arrived and I was feeling ready. I hopped in my rental car, a 4 door cranberry colored Saturn with manual windows, and took off Southbound. My odometer indicated that I was indeed logging miles on the car yet my eyes, somehow, remained dry and my heartbeat, to my surprise, remained steady. I was signaling like a champ, changing lanes like a pro, and I was CALM. What had I been so afraid of all those years? What happened to the hysterical girl behind the wheel? With This American Life playing on the radio, I took a deep breath and watched the sun set as I traversed I-92 with confidence.

Some people mark adulthood by buying a house, others by birthing children. For me, it was when I arrived in Pacific Grove, pulled up to a parking spot, put the car in reverse, turned around to look behind me, and backed in to the next phase of life.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Post Neo Urban Chic--SF Livin'

It's good to be back in SF. My friend Michael, a fellow pizza bagel (half Jewish, half Italian), creates cartoons that posses an endearing Woody Allen quality as comforting as a meat sauce marinara that's been simmering on your grandma's stovetop all day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Glitz, Glamour and Gridlock

My friend Molly was on a business school "field trip" to LA last week with her classmates from Singapore. Not to miss an opportunity to visit with our favorite X-Pat, Molly's friend Matty and I flew down from SF for a "glitz and glam" weekend in LA (according to our planning emails).

The trip wound up to be less an episode of Laguna Beach than it was a scene out of European Vacation. "Look kids, Big Ben, the Parliament" is one thing, but "Look guys, taco stand, the parking garage" is another, especially since we were in our home country where all the traffic rules theoretically should have made sense. Despite our best effort, we just couldn't figure out how to get in the right lane, or on the right highway for that matter.

Exhibit A (above): Picture of Day 1. Is Pasadena close to Hollywood?

So much for my vision of us walking around in over sized sunglasses, sipping soy lattes while people looked at us, trying to figure out if we were famous. I think we might have given ourselves away when we had to keep pulling over to break out the AAA maps and ask for directions to get back on the I-5 North, or was it the I-5 South? See how confusing it is? Mark my words: next time I go to LA, I'm going to first adorn my map with glitter, a stunning Bedazzler creation and maybe some logo stickers for bands with a healthy hipster following. That may be the closest I get to glitz and glam.

Exhibit B (below): Picture of Day 2. It was nothing short of a miracle that we made it to my new favorite pizza place.