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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Hit “play” and keep reading.  Just do it.  I’m aiming for some atmosphere here.

Another Friday, another wine tasting.  The wine shop had a decent soundtrack. Sade always takes me back to the summer of 1997.  I had just graduated from high school, I was about to start my first year at the University of Chicago, and life was just buzzing.  I found a great summer job at the Rand McNally store at the mall.  A combination travel bookstore, map store, travel accessories and luggage store, and fancy travel-related gift store (expensive globes, paperweights, penknives with compasses, etc), it was kind of a perfect place for me to work.  My parents were gone half the summer, I had my own car, MTV still played awesome music videos, grunge still clung, nobody had heard of Britney, summer festivals and parades were on the agenda, and the weather was fine fine fine. Not a care in the world.

And Sade.

So much of retail is the same.  You end up standing around a lot.  Today’s wine tasting, included.  I remember three states of being while I was at work: 1) bored; 2) frustrated and ready to go home, and; 3) so busy I couldn’t keep up with the customers and demands.  The time was broken up evenly between the three.  The store’s CD player (a boom box on the floor in the back) alternated between the Best of the Police and Sade.  Perhaps we had some Enya, too.  I was thankful.  The summer before I had to deal with fitting lingerie on fat old ladies while listening to “smooth jazz” (Kenny G and his contemporaries).  I can safely say this is perhaps the one genre of music I really loathe.  But when I hear Sade, I’m transported to that store, the awesome collection books I got to devour, the globes to play with, the funky trinkets like airplane ear plugs and bizarre “hidden” money belts, the word and number and geometry games I would invent for myself when it was slow.  No – it transports me further.  I hear Sade and I can even feel the clothing I wore on me (khaki trousers and bright polo shirts – oh yes it was rather ugly and rather butch), the first diary I ever kept with the cover of Monet’s painting of the woman with a parasol on the hill with the blue skies behind her (I would write dozens and dozens of pages every day, at home, on coffee breaks and lunch, it felt so important somehow), my first NC-17 film (The Pillow Book), and the pennies, yes, probably the hundred or so pennies I tossed up with wishes, one every day, into a large pseudo-rococo fountain in the mall near the store.

My journal cover

And Sade.

And today.  And then.  What a difference.  What little has changed.  I remember my general state that summer being one of sheer excitement.  My “whole life was ahead of me.”  I knew that I would be going away to four years of incredible adventures in universityland.  And four years was an eternity.  As scared as teenagers can be.  As anxious as teenagers can be (and boy was I anxious – those were the days before I knew what panic attacks actually were).  Anything was possible.  And everything was certain.  Now, nothing is certain.  Four years of knowing where you’ll be as opposed to not knowing what each day will bring.  Not knowing what work I will have.  Not knowing where I’ll up and move to.  Not knowing.  And lots of worries about practical things – money, transportation, bills, chores, money, veterinarian appointments, dentist, money, parents, work, work, work, money. Jeez. Is this life?

The funny thing is, I’m still OK.  I’m very OK.  I’m calmer.  I’m dealing.  I am a healthier person.  But boy do I wish I had that certainty again.  Four years.  Sure, there was anxiety up the wazoo, big time.  Mood swings.  Depression.  Self-confidence in the toilet.  But the rapture! College, books, writing, art, travel, the future.  Absolutely certain of the fact that things were about to get better and better.  I’m healthy now.  But I want that optimism back.  The energy.  The certainty.  With my deeper understanding of and perspective on reality, is it possible?  Is this perception even real?

It was a good tasting.  Sold about 10 bottles, 5 of which were really gorgeous, expensive single vineyards.  I haven’t lost it.  If I love something, really love something, I can sell it.  But only if people want to buy it, that is.  Boy was it amazing when I discovered that.  I could sell guidebooks, suitcases, globes, almost anything in that store, because I loved almost everything in that store.  I gave restaurant tips for people going to Paris, for goodness sake.  At 18.

And Sade.

This is no ordinary love.  How ethereal.  How evocative of… a time and place that you feel you remember intimately, but only vaguely, like a dream, like a Mr Holland’s Opus Bill Clinton is Sexy Manhattan Project Priscilla Queen of the Desert  Blade Runner The Real World Milan Kundera Pearl Jam Wimbledon and Chocolate Carmina  Burana Silver Cigarette Case Sunrise on Lake Michigan Womyn’s Bookstore Rocky Horror Endless Cup of Coffee Tori Peppermint Tea Rainbow Melissa Atom Bomb 1984 Washington DC Shakespeare Picasso Posters The Tempest Names Project Angel Hair Pasta Kate Winslet Borders Books Volkswagen Indigo Camp Visit Words Words Words and Heat, kind of place.

No ordinary love. God. What is that?

But.

What love is ordinary?

Retail is limbo.

Christ in Limbo, after Hieronymus Bosch (16th century)

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Our own personal Proustian Madeleines.  In this case, an Italian sandwich.

If we’re attuned to it, I think we all have these moments daily. A smell we notice while walking down the street, a new food at a cafe, someone’s perfume, laundry, kitchen. And BOOM — you’re instantly transported into a memory.  Sometimes the memory is unclear for me — I can’t pinpoint it, but I can usually assign a time period or location.  Late high school.  Sometime at summer camp.  Ireland.

And sometimes, you know exactly where and when that trigger takes you. That happened to me at lunch yesterday.  I was trying to get some work done at the Loveat on Yehuda HaLevi (after having an awesome haircut at Tomer Reshef, I have to mention — best place in Tel Aviv for curly hair — bar none).  Lunch isn’t cheap at Loveat, but it’s vaguely organic there (perhaps just the coffee), and with the larger sandwiches, you get your choice of side dish — I had a cup of split pea soup — a real treat compared to what you get at most cafes.

Loveat - I really like the atmosphere at this branch

My chicken panini (or gabetta, as they call them here — I’m pretty sure they mean ciabatta; panini would be far more appropriate as that refers to a sandwich often made of a ciabatta; whatever, it’s Israel) was incredible.  When I took the first bite, I was transported back to the 2rd floor coffee shop of the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago.  This cafe functioned on take out — basically, all the restaurants in the neighborhood brought their best takeaways — pad thai, pad seeyu, curry and rice, samosas, and tons and tons of sandwiches.  I was a vegetarian at the time, and I often got the roasted vegetable sandwich from Pizza Capri (it’s still on the menu!).  It was heaven: roasted red peppers, eggplant, perhaps zucchini, perhaps a slice of cheese, and tons and tons of garlic.  I can assert to the fact that it had peppers, eggplant, and garlic — the rest is a little hazy.

Although my Loveat gabetta had chicken, the rest of it was very much like my sandwich of yore.  The roasted red pepper I think was what took me back.  And why is this significant?  I almost lived in that building.  The theatre was on the 3rd floor, and I think I had 80% of my meals from that coffee shop.  I may have eaten more than 200 of those sandwiches over the course of 4 years.  When I had my internship at Steppenwolf Theatre, there was even a Pizza Capri across the street — and I ate it once or twice a week that whole summer.  The flavor and texture of that sandwich represents the blood, sweat, tears, and every ounce of passion I put into my undergraduate education.  It represents the grimy yet super-comfy theatre lounge I hung out at every day, where I ate half my meals, where I caught up and prepped before classes, where I piled onto ancient sofas with friends and collaboratively did the New York Times crossword, where I held weekly production meetings, where I memorized lines, where I read play after play after play, where I played snood and mac-brickout and checked my telnet email account on ancient computers, where I developed and fine-tuned proposals, where I planned my future and dreamed.

Reynolds Club 2nd floor coffee shop - much as I remember it

It’s almost ten years behind me now.  Seems like yesterday, and I can’t believe how far I’ve drifted from what that girl thought she’d be.  And that sandwich.  Do we go back and try to jump start what we used to love or thought we loved?  Is it pointless to try?  Is it too late?  I didn’t know it then, but it was the happiest time of my life.  Sure, I was miserable a lot.  But I was also challenged and busy and growing and trying and achieving and failing and was surrounded by some of the most interesting people I have yet known.  That sandwich yesterday highlighted my relatively isolated and somewhat stagnant state.

It’s time I announced my intentions: I want to go back into academia.  It will be very different this time.  Nostalgia will probably play a distracting and not-too-positive role in this.  But I’m doing it.  It will take time.  Part-time completion courses.  Maybe a second masters degree in order to get where I would like to be — an excellent doctoral program.  Not in theatre.  A social science/philosophy type course.  Life is horrible, complex, beautiful.  I study it anyway.  I want to be with people I can speak with, research with, and who have passion for these abstract and seemingly ridiculous and impractical notions.  Perhaps I’m sounding arrogant and idealistic here.  Probably.

Powerful sandwich, that. Wouldn’t you say?

A fantastic blog article – a picture-laden tour of the University of Chicago — with a particular focus on all its bizarre coffee shops (my fave was not focused on, however — although I am proud to say I frequented ALL of the ones featured).

Imaginative & refreshing cinnamon lemonade at Loveat

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