Today I am thankful for friends that have become family in a city that has become home.
Monday, November 15, 2010
"Okay Sweetie, be good and say your prayers everyday. Bye. Wait! Don't forget that I'm proud of you. Okay bye. Wait! One more thing, I love you very much. Bye Angel."
This is how the telephone conversation with my grandmother ended today as I finished up my morning coffee. This is the exact way our phone conversations have ended for as long as I can remember. She tells me not to forget to pray and squeezes as many positive affirmations and I love you's as possible into the last five seconds of each phone call.
The social butterfly that she is, my grandmother spends a minimum of three hours on the phone a day. Three hours minimum. With friends and family spread all over the greater fifty states, she is constantly checking in with new friends, checking up on old ones, and gathering enough gossip to fill an ocean. Some of the oldest memories I have of my grandmother are visions of her sitting in her favorite chair in the kitchen, twirling the telephone cord around her left hand while doodling away with her right. She would fill up entire notebooks in one week with endless signatures, names, dates and boxes. She always drew boxes. As a young girl I used to get annoyed with her absurdly long conversations, pulling on her arm and begging her to pay attention to me. I didn't understand how she could A.) know so many people and B.) physically talk for that long. As the years passed and when I left for college, I used to actually semi-dread phone calls with my grandmother for the sole reason that I would have to set aside huge chunks of time during my day every few weeks to talk to her. Of course these long conversations conflicted with the "important" things, taking away from my social life or that extra hour on the beach.
Recently though, having grown up and re-prioritized the "important" things in life, I have a new found respect for these phone calls and the hour or so I spend every other week updating my grandmother on my new life here. These are calls that I have grown to love and minutes that I have begun to cherish.
We cover the same grounds every time. I tell her about my new house, my roommate and the job hunt, she tells me about her Pinnacle games, the latest gossip in the assisted living home where she now resides, and her most recent visitors. Then she usually follows with a round about way of asking whether I have a new boyfriend or not and proceeds to finish the conversation off with a not-so-subtle hint that she would really like to put a wedding on her calendar. Namely that of one of her nine grandchildren. These days, an hour chatting with that fire cracker is never enough, but somehow, even at age 86, she still remains busier than anyone I know and I can always tell when she is late for an appointment or daily Communion when she initiates the end of the phone call with the all too familiar "Okay Sweetie..."
Today, after our long chat and the usual two minutes of saying goodbye, somewhere in between the the time that the phone left my ear and the time that I actually hung up on dear Dolores, I heard her say one last thing. Somehow in that fraction of a second, she squeezed in "Don't worry Angel, everything always works out."
And now, as I sit with my thoughts on a cold, crisp Colorado afternoon, her words continue to be at the front of my mind. I think back to the last time I saw her before I moved. I drove through central Washington to visit my grandmother on a warm late summer day in September. I had only planned on staying for one night but as usual, ended up staying three.
"Well, you are just so much like your grandmother" Ted at table four said over a dinner of cold meatloaf and mushy vegetables in the main dining room. "We'll go out for breakfast before you leave tomorrow" my grandmother whispered to me from across the table as she struggled to finish her tasteless meal while completely ignoring Ted, who I am convinced has a crush on her. And as I laughed and stared back at my blue eyed, red haired grandmother, I wondered if we really were actually anything alike at all.
Later that night as we chatted over decaf coffee and warm cookies I worked up the courage to ask if she thought I was crazy for moving. I asked her if she ever felt the need to run away at my age, if she ever wanted more for herself. I asked her if I should be worried and if she thought things would work out for me. And before I even had a chance to think twice about the real-time talk I had just initiated, she said softly,"Sit down Angel".
Two hours and quite a few tears (on my part) later, I knew it all. Its a funny thing when you realize that your parents or grandparents in this case, had a life before you. Before her husband, the farm, the five children she birthed, and the nine grandchildren she was blessed with, she had a life. Her own life. And after listening to her struggles, her choices and her story, so many things made sense. She lived through a war, a depression, two engagements, years of bad crops, and years of really great ones. And as she spoke, I realized that the decisions she made when she was my age were the decisions that defined her life. "Don't be scared to make a wrong choice" she told me that night, "because wrong choices can be the best choices of your entire life". The next day I drove home with a new appreciation for my grandmother and a new found confidence in my own decision to redesign my life.
"Don't worry Angel" I heard her say today. "Everything always works out". As I put the phone down and sat on my bed I thought of my grandmother with her perfectly dyed red hair and her sparkly blue eyes and I hoped with all my might that I had given her enough positive affirmations today and that I had told her I loved her at least four times. Then I looked down at the notebook I had been doodling in and laughed when I realized that during our hour long conversation, I had covered six pages front to back with my signature, names of random people, and of course, boxes.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
"You come here often" said the dark haired barista as he handed me a freshly made extra hot vanilla latte. "and you always sit in the same spot by the window don't you?" he continued.
"Ya, I do actually" I replied, burying my face in the coffee and trying to hide my embarrassment over the fact that he had noticed.
Two weeks and a lot of vanilla lattes later, Chaz and I are the best of friends. Of course being the chronic nickname giver that I am, Chaz's name is actually Ken. On a rainy afternoon last week during one of our daily chats, I informed the innocent barista that he looked more like a Chaz than anything and so, after a three minute debate, permission was granted for me to call him whatever the hell I pleased, and thus Chaz, a name that suits him far better than Ken ever will.
A transplant here in Denver from the heart of New York City, Chaz is a fast speaking Italian with long eyelashes and quit wit. The two of us have gotten to know each other in this little coffee shop and wine bar, talking life over glasses of white merlot and watching the weather change from rays of sun to flakes of snow. I've listened to stories from his days as a restaurant owner in Tribeca, his time as a graphic designer in San Fran, and his current situation here in the Mile High City, which involves splitting his time between brewing coffee and attending nursing school. Equally, I have told Chaz stories of my life, trying to explain what has led me to make the decisions I have made thus far and even more so trying to make sense of where my future is heading. Chaz is a good listener, keeping the coffee flowing and every once in a while providing me with free glasses of wine to sample and give my opinions on. Coincidentally, these very large pours of wine often come during times of frustration and uncertainty while my job search here in Denver continues. And though the job search has at times gotten me down, I have fallen for this little shop. I have fallen for Chaz, (not in that way of course, as his sexuality is still extremely unclear). And I have fallen in love with my table in the corner by the window.
The other day while writing my umpteenth cover letter and drinking my third coffee in two hours, I realized that this coffee shop has become my home away from home. And as I contemplated why it is that I feel so at home amongst the comfy chairs and swinging overhead twinkle lights, the shabby chic decor and the painted wine bottles lining the windows, I realized that the comfort I feel here is the same comfort that I felt at my favorite coffee shop in Seattle. I pondered this thought some more while watching rain drops fall outside, and I was instantly taken back to this past spring and the many days I spent in the Fremont Coffee House watching the rain fall and sipping Seattle's Best. I recounted the hours I spent there job searching and the hours I spent there writing on my days off once I did find a job. I remembered the afternoon's spent giggling over Americanos with Darcy and Madison and I nearly laughed out loud recalling the emo red haired barista who pretended to never remember me and always seemed to be having the worst day possible.
As I stared out the window, reminiscing about Seattle, I realized that coffee shops are my safe havens. They are where I make my biggest decisions and where I am most creative. Coffee shops are places where I can be whoever I want to be, whether that means a quiet customer in the corner consumed by head phones and a good book or a noisy regular at a table in the front. And though each shop has a different feel and a different vibe, I always find comfort in the mismatched chairs and the same warmth that comes from a good cup of jo.
"What am I going to do when you actually get a job?" Chaz asked this afternoon as he served a plate of goat cheese to the woman sitting at the table next to me.
"Get over yourself Chaz. I need a job." I replied without looking up from my computer screen. "But seriously, are you going to quit coming here or what?" he asked in a sincere tone that was unexpected coming from the usually snappy New Yorker.
I then looked up at my friend, a person I met merely weeks ago but already feel so connected to, and said "I love it here. I feel at home here. And you will be able to find me at this table in the corner until I leave this city for good."
With that Chaz turned towards the kitchen and without looking back said, "This calls for a drink. Let me get your opinion on this new Chardonnay we just got in." It was then that I turned my attention back to the window and continued to watch the rain fall from my favorite spot in my home away from home.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I have never been much of a morning person. I guess I can attribute this to the fact that my Dad completely ruined mornings for me beginning at a very young age. Up until I turned sixteen and was given my first cell phone (which doubled as an alarm clock and additionally was supposed to prove my new-found responsibility), my Father would wake me up for school. A daily ritual that consisted of him flipping on the extremely bright and unforgiving lights above my head, ripping back my perfectly warm covers and yelling in a far too enthusiastic voice "GET UP SPARKY! ITS A NEW DAY!".
Surprisingly, the worst part of this early morning experience was not the brief moment of blindness I encountered when trying to adjust my eyes to the light nor the goosebumps I would immediately get with the absence of my duvet cover, but it was of course, the fact that my Dad was inherently early. With his watch set ahead of schedule at all times, he would wake me fifteen minutes earlier than needed. Every. Single. Day. Well i'm no mathematician, but fifteen minutes a day is equivalent to seventy-five minutes a week and that I mean, that really adds up. At the end of the month, I was losing approximately 300 minutes of precious sleep due to my Dad's inability to tell the correct time and believe me, I was not happy about it.
With the combination of such harsh movements, noises, and lights at such an early hour, it isn't hard to understand why no one wanted to sit by me on the school bus in the mornings, or why my mom to this day, still refuses to say one word to me until i've had a large cup of coffee and at least an hour to wake up. It also may explain the fact that during the weekends and my two days of sanity, I used to be able to sleep until noon or 1 pm, wasting away half of the day and probably subconsciously avoiding the morning and the bright lights all together.
Here, however, things are different. Blame it on the fact that I'm getting older and for some reason as we age we are all supposed to turn into morning people, or blame it on the fact that mornings here are still fresh and exciting to me, whatever the cause, it is happening.
I find myself actually enjoying the quiet mornings here on Hooker Street. I look forward to sitting in our sunroom, reading and watching the leaves fall. I love the way the sun reflects through our windows in the kitchen, giving off an incredible early morning glow and I am actually starting to be able to wake up after only one alarm and one press of the snooze button. Which is pretty good for me considering I used to hit snooze more times in one day than I hit the gym in an entire week. Yes, it is happening. I am turning into a morning person and the weirdest part of it all is... I don't necessarily hate it.
This past weekend was a wild one for those of us here on Hooker Street. With a Halloween party for the books, a crazy night downtown and a few too many costumes for one holiday, we did it big to say the least. Normally, I would have slept off my hangover and the flashbacks of dancing on stage, on the bar, and any surface in downtown Denver for that matter. But this weekend, I found myself anxious to get out of bed and begin each day. Whether the morning started with bloody mary's and french toast at a quaint cafe or large glasses of water and my homemade cheesy egg sandwiches in the comfort of our new house, the days started with a lot of laughter, a lot of recaping, and quite a bit of ambition.
It could have been the early morning light or the lingering levels of alcohol in our blood, whatever the case, it led us to pack our weekend days full of rugby games, exploration of new neighborhoods, and even the rash decision to paint our kitchen a straw yellow color during the midst of one of the worst hangovers i've had in a long time. Talk about a bold move.
Saturday morning as I picked up the pieces of the night before, finding half of my costume in the kitchen, the other half on my bedroom floor and the location of my right shoe still unknown, I glanced up at the clock and thought "That can't be right". It was nine am. I was fully functioning, holding real conversations, and I hadn't even had coffee yet.
Though age and the fact that I am turning into my parents more and more by the day, may play large roles in my new-found affection for mornings, I truly believe that this city is changing me. I look forward to mornings here because with each morning comes another chance to find a new favorite restaurant, a new friend, or to write a new story. I am liking waking up earlier here, I am enjoying my daily cup of coffee more, and although it is still sometimes hard to leave the warmth of my bed behind, I am okay with the fact that the minute hand of my watch, cell phone, and the clock in the kitchen are slowly but surely creeping toward that fifteen minute early mark. Because fifteen minutes earlier, means fifteen more minutes in a day and 300 more minutes in a month to explore the Mile-High City. And here, time is not to be wasted with your eyes closed.