Tag Archives: friends

The Greatest Drinking Scam

15 Mar

Sometime last Spring, I decided I wanted to drink much, much less than I have through my teens and twenties. It was a culmination of things. As I get older the hangovers are getting crippling, I hated how it affected my kickboxing, I realized how much money I was dropping at bars, etc.

This had rather bad timing with the arrival of my best friend Zach in New York City. Friends since the first week of freshman year, we once got so drunk together that we took turns vomiting in the same toilet. Talk about bonding. He’s a bartender by trade and decided to move to New York after going through a rough breakup. He arrived wanting to hit the town hard. A precarious situation for me, trying to stay away from the sauce. How could I say no? Two of his cousins who I’m also close with (Brian and Jeff) live here as well, and they love to order and take shots. The worst! Even when I was going out a lot, I hated taking shots. It felt like the express train to illness and hangover. But weekend after weekend, we all go out, and they insist on shots. I protest and say no, but eventually give in.

Late in January, on the eve of the biggest snow storm of the winter, we went out to Brooklyn to celebrate Zach’s 30th birthday. I sipped on my beers and was enjoying a happy buzz. As I made my way back to the table from the bathroom, I spot Brian at the bar. I sidle up next to him, weighing whether I want another beer or not. I can see the bartender with three shot-sized glasses.

“No, Brian, no. I can’t do shots. I can’t.”
“Don’t worry about it. I got Zach whiskey, and I got us shot glasses of water.

It takes my mind a moment to wrap my head around this level of genius. While I’m catching up, Brian tells the bartender to add limes to the side of the glasses, for added panache.

“Why has no one thought of this before?!?!” He exclaims before we head back to the table. I’m known for my ick face when taking a shot. So I pulled out my best acting chops after throwing back the cool, refreshing water. I contorted my face and yelled “Poison!” Zach laughed and pointed at me, as he likes to do. Happy birthday, buddy.

We left the bar well after midnight, the blizzard starting its rage. We trudged through the empty streets, facing an onslaught of flurries. Despite the water scheme, I felt nicely buzzed, and we all laughed as we shoved handfuls of snow in each other’s faces. A pretty epic snow fight ensued. Finally in the train station, dripping from the snow melting on our coats, we all embrace in a group hug.

Genius. Genius! Water masquerading as tequila. But of course, as any true crime aficionado knows, criminals love to brag about their victories, and I got this text message when I was in Savannah.

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Brian gave us away and bragged to Zach about the ploy! Alas, the Great Water Con of 2016 will have to be retired. But for one night, as are most ideas during a night out drinking, it was the best idea ever.

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Life Indestructible

15 Oct
Balm Beach, Canada

Balm Beach, Canada

Back in June, I boarded a plane with a group of my friends to spend a couple of days at my friends’ (Grant and Patty) house on Georgian Bay in Canada, a place they all refer to as The Cottage. I had been looking forward to this trip for weeks, a true vacation by the lake, relaxing, eating, and drinking. But I brought with me on that plane a little dark cloud that I couldn’t ignore.

The day before I had received news that my friend Sheila from Seattle had taken her own life. I had met her on my study abroad program to Prague. The 22 of us that were in the Prague program bonded to each other and became close. I had lost touch with Sheila and had last seen her a couple of years ago when her and some other Prague friends visited New York. But hearing of her passing left me heartbroken. I thought about her family and those that were close to her, and I can’t imagine how much they hurt, dealing with this great loss.

So, I found myself in a foreign country, next to a beautiful lake, with friends who were eating, drinking, playing in the water, and laughing. But all I could think about was the funeral taking place in Seattle. I thought of my memories of her and tried to make sense of tragedy.

There were a lot of people I had never met at The Cottage, friends of Grant from Quebec. And as always happens with new people, they asked me about the tattoo on my foot. It’s a factor in my life, explaining to people what it says, what it means. My answers are so rehearsed, they flow from me without thinking.

My foot tattoo.

My foot tattoo.

“It means ‘life indestructible, always triumphant.'” “It’s in Czech.” “It’s from a book I read while I was there.” “Yes, I’m sure I know what it says.”

At one point in the afternoon, while I was standing around the grill, lost in thoughts about Sheila, about life, about loss, yet another Quebecois sidled up to me and asked me the same old, “So what’s your foot say?”

I looked down at my tattoo and felt the same words tumble from my mouth, “life indestructible, always triumphant.” But something struck me, and I remembered why I got the tattoo.

I went to Prague as one person and came back a different one, completely renewed. It was in Prague that I learned to love life, to be joyful and happy. The full quote that didn’t fit on my size 8 feet is

“for that short moment, I would know for certain that love and hope are infinitely more powerful than hate and fury, and that somewhere beyond the line of my horizon there was life indestructible, always triumphant.”

It was the magic of the city of Prague, it was the book I read “Under a Cruel Star” with the above quote, it was the people I met there that changed me. Sheila was a huge part of that. She was kind, welcoming, adventurous, and fun. And I wanted to be like her. One night in Prague, a small group of us were at an underground, Jazz bar in Prague when I recognized a group of Irish poets across the way. I mentioned it, and Sheila grabbed her camera and insisted we go talk to them, invite them to share our booth. I refused. I wouldn’t do it. “I’m shy. I’m not like you guys. I can’t do it.” I explained. She replied, “Life doesn’t happen just sitting here, but I’m not going to force you.” After a minute of thinking that over, I swigged my Pilsner and told her I’d do it. What resulted was one of the greatest nights of my life. The poets came over to our table and drank with us, entertained us with singing and Irish jokes. They walked with us along the river and took us to weird little comedy shows they knew of.

My life from then on was different. I realized I didn’t have to be shy. I could be like the people I admired, like Sheila. I could chase after the things I wanted and be outgoing and love life. Prague became filled with so many amazing moments, so many involving Sheila. We danced on stage with a Reggae band to “No Woman, No Cry.” We stayed out all night drinking and dancing, and watched the sun rise over the Vltava. We bungee jumped off a bridge in Sokolov. We rode bikes for 70 miles through the Czech countryside. I learned so much from her about loving life, and I’m honored to have known her.

And that was why I tattooed that quote to my foot. I always wanted to remember that in the face of tragedy and sad times, life was always there. I can’t make sense of her death, and my heart continues to ache for her family, but the only way to heal and to honor her memory is to live with the joyful spirit she taught me to have. So I continued to think of her as I swam in the lake, rode the jet skis, kayaked, sang songs around a campfire, laughed with my friends, played my first ever golf game, read a guilty pleasure book while digging my feet in the sand. The world lost an amazing person, and I hope that she has found peace and that somehow she knows what a positive impact she had on the people who were lucky to know her.

The Indian Wedding

8 Jul
Khyati and I in London, 2007.

Khyati and me in London, 2007.

This is my dear friend Khyati. We met in student government when we were 12-years-old. Somehow over the years we have managed to stay in touch, and I feel lucky to have her, even if our friendship is now maintained over sporadic g-chat sessions. She is the most honest person I’ve ever known, never afraid to tell me when my hair color looks unflattering (the black bob I had in high school) or when I’m making a poor life decision (moving across the country with someone I wasn’t happy with). That makes her an invaluable person to have in my corner. So when a year ago, she asked if I would consider attending her wedding even though it was all the way across the country in California, it was an easy “yes.”

Khyati is Indian, and I knew her wedding would be semi-traditional. But I still didn’t know what to expect. The months leading up to the wedding, she sent me a slew of emails explaining all the events, the expectations of the day. She flew to India to get invitations and her dress amongst other things. Knowing I’d be one of three non-Indian women at this event, she had me send her my measurements so she could get a dress made for me.

Even though the wedding was on a Saturday, I flew in on Friday morning to attend her Mehendi at her uncle’s house in Pleasanton, California. Walking into the house, I saw colorful drapery and flowers everywhere. There was singing and drums and laughing. Somebody led me to her where she sat in the middle of the events, looking tired but blissful, every inch of her skin covered in turmeric powder to “purify” her. I hadn’t seen her in four years since her fiancé, Ravi and her had visited me in New York. Her sister led me to a woman in the corner who got to work painting Henna on my hand. The food was overflowing. Chai tea, weird honey candy things, flower cracker things, Indian crepes filled with spices and vegetables, sweet rice balls. I met up with one of the other non-Indian women, and we made plans to meet up the next day.

My Henna

My Henna

After all the food, music, Henna and brief catching up, I began the two-hour drive South to Monterey where the wedding was going to take place. She had given us coupons for pizza which I ate in my little hotel room before passing out while watching CNN. I knew the next day was going to be a long one.

The next morning, I got up at 8 to get ready in order to be outside the venue around 9:30 for the beginning of the ceremony. Everyone headed down the street to meet up with Ravi who was on a white horse to be led into the wedding area. His friends all had drums and speakers to play Indian music. Her cousins explained to me that this part of the proceedings was to let the whole town know that there was a wedding happening. Her family members were gracious and amazing throughout the whole day, stopping to explain to me what was going on and why. They also distributed a program that explained the significance of each part of the ceremony.

Riding in on the horse.

Riding in on the horse.

So much dancing. So much celebrating. So many strange little traditions. Khyati’s sister came out with a sculpture on her head to greet Ravi. He had to break a clay pot with his bare hands to prove to Khyati’s parents that he was strong enough for her. At last, she came out, under a large sheet with a flower lei in her hands. They exchanged leis (representing a time when arranged marriages were negotiated) before she went back to her waiting room and he went ahead to perform rituals with a Hindu guide.

First sight of the beautiful bride.

First sight of the beautiful bride.

The ceremony was lengthy with a variety of symbolic moments involving her sister, her parents, his parents, his sister. The overcast weather turned to sunlight and the wedding was framed by the calm Pacific Ocean. One point of the ceremony had Khyati and Ravi walking in a circle together representing the different aspects of their union. After the four circles (pheras), there’s an important moment when whoever sits down first will rule the household. The friends I sat with joked with me about whether Ravi would even try to beat Khyati to the punch. Of course, he let her sit first, and it was a moment of knowing she had found the perfect partner for her. Someone calm and quiet, willing to let her have her way, while also providing a loving counsel to help her grow as a person. I’ve seen the good he has brought out in her over the years and know how good they are together.

The ceremony

The ceremony

After the ceremony, we waved ribbons as they walked toward their “Just Married” car. Ravi’s friends lifted him off his feet and stole his shoes. Another tradition in which the groom has to negotiate to get his shoes back before he is allowed to leave the wedding venue. Khyati posed for pictures and rolled her eyes in a playful way, “Is he STILL negotiating?!” she’d ask.

We all drove to a small garden a couple of blocks away where an Indian buffet was waiting. After eating our full of incredible Indian food, some of which I recognized, most of which I didn’t but enjoyed nonetheless, my new friends and I grabbed a couple of beers at a bar nearby while the rest of the wedding party changed into their second outfits.

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Bride and groom in reception outfits. Me in my Indian dress with one-hour-in-sunlight-sunburn.

A couple of hours later, the reception began with a performance created by Khyati’s sister and starring her cousins re-enacting Khyati and Ravi’s love story through a variety of classic Disney songs. Speeches were given, then the dancing began. My skin was burned, my feet were tired from a long day, I was a little tipsy from the beers, but I danced and danced and danced without rest. I was so happy and excited for my friend.

Khyati is my first friend whose wedding I have attended, and I wondered how I would feel about it. I had said goodbye to a great guy a month earlier, one more in a string of lovely humans who just aren’t what I’m looking for. I was worried I’d feel sad or worse jealous. But throughout the day, I felt nothing but pure joy in the celebration of love that existed on that day. I’ve attended weddings before, but to go to a wedding of someone who I’ve known more than half of my life meant a much greater emotional investment. I danced with such an elation for her, for the amazing life and loving marriage that I wholeheartedly hope is ahead of them. Not an ounce of sadness, loneliness, or jealousy to be found in my body. If anything, it made me feel like I’m on the right path. I want what they have, what she has found: a partner that fits for me that makes sense for my life and my personality. I’m okay with not having found that yet, and I felt more certain that day that I would never settle for anything less than that “right for me” feeling. Why would I?

On Listening to Advice

5 Nov

I have a younger co-worker who got into an argument with one of the veterinarians. She is 23 and engaged to her boyfriend of two years. The veterinarian had lectured her about getting married too young, how it’s a huge mistake, and she will end up divorced one day. Needless to say, this was not his place to tell her that.

I was infuriated and stewed over the situation for a while. It didn’t take me long to remember when I met her over a year ago when her and boyfriend had just moved to the city. At the time, I thought she was making a huge mistake. I was sure that her boyfriend was going to smash her heart, and this city would eat that little Arizona girl alive. I thought that if I could have prevented her from moving to New York, I would have.

And I would have been wrong.

The thing about advice is that there are few things in life that are universal for everyone. When I moved to New York for a boyfriend, I barely survived. In retrospect, moving here with him was not the wisest decision nor was it the right one for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one for someone else.

I survived a dark couple of years in my life, and I spent most of that time desperate for a way out, a simple solution to fix my problem. I read endless amounts of inspirational blogs/books/magazines. Every time I met someone who seemed to have their life together, I would mull over in my brain what was their secret, how did they have it together. I ended up learning a lot of things that did help me, and a lot of things that didn’t. I’m still embarrassed that I used to attach my photo to my resume, simply because a girl I worked with as a barista got a job that way. How weird.

The main thing I learned is that while people tend to give you advice from the bottom of their heart, what worked in their situation won’t always work in yours. Everyone who gives advice is pulling it from what worked for them. That doctor who warned my co-worker against getting married too young has been through three divorces. So, yeah, I bet he thinks getting married young is a huge mistake. On the other hand, my grandparents weren’t much older than my co-worker when they got married, and they were very much in love for over 50 years of marriage. All of my friends who swear by online dating honestly have a blast skimming through profiles and meeting up with new people every week. It only convinced me that I was going to die alone.

Advice is great. People giving advice is even greater. It means they give a shit and want you to learn from their experiences. And maybe what they tell you will make all the difference. But we still have to carve it all out for ourselves at the end of the day.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten has been the simplest.

Work Hard. Be Honest. Smile and Laugh as much as possible.

Volleyball

13 Mar

Odor In The CourtSo, this is one of the most awkward things that has ever happened to me. Naturally, I must write about it.

I’m pretty active in sports here in New York. I’m close to both my softball and soccer team, and it is how I’ve made my closest friends in the city. However, it’s winter which means no softball, and my soccer team took a season off due to varying personal reasons. I was somewhat relieved to take a couple of months off the sports scene.

In comes my co-worker, her and her boyfriend are new to New York, and I recommended joining an intramural sports team as a good way to make friends. So they joined volleyball and loved it. They loved it so much that they asked me to join another volleyball team with them. I wasn’t enthused, but I wasn’t doing anything else, so I figured why not.

The three of us are assigned to a team, “Odor in the Court.” We were paired with a group of people that have been together for many previous seasons. They were so much fun. So much fun! I spent many a Wednesday night at the bar till 1AM, drinking shitty beer, sometimes rapping along to the theme from “Fresh Prince of Belair.”

But, you know, something was always off. They’d been together for awhile, and I always felt like the new kid. Every time they happily cheered, “Odors!” I cringed a little. But they were an awesome group, and I had that weird sense that I wanted to be a part of the popular kids group. I spent my weekends with my soccer team (my favorite people in the city) and my softball team (like a weird, drunken family), and on Wednesday nights I felt just a bit out of place.

So Spring is around the corner, the soccer team and the softball team are back together, and I am beyond excited for both. My cleats and my mitt are ready to go. So where does that leave volleyball? I really wanted to stay friends with them, but shit, that’s a lot of sports in one week, and I have to study, and I’m going to Paris, and I need some me time.

No worries, though, I promptly received an e-mail from the volleyball captain entitled “Next Season.” It was sent to me, my co-worker, and her boyfriend. The main line to read is this:

“I really do like you all and hope that we can arrange to hang / go out in the future, but I don’t think we’re going to have room to accommodate everyone for next season :-\”

It was followed my a lot of nice things about how we should all be friends and everything. But I still stared slack-jawed at my computer screen and thought, “What the piss? My volleyball team is dumping me!”

I nervously giggled, re-read it, and just didn’t know what to do. I quickly got a text from my co-worker saying, “Well, that was awkward.”

What do I do? I wanted to write back with something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m already busy with my OTHER teams. Didn’t want to be on your silly old team anyways!” But that sounds pathetic. Plus, there really are no hard feelings. I really didn’t want to play volleyball again! But, oh my God, what an awkward situation. I just..I don’t…what can you say to that?! Who gets dumped by their volleyball team? Me, I get dumped by my volleyball team.

Honestly, other than the natural sting of blatant rejection, I don’t care. I love my other teams, and I get that it’s tough as an established team to fit new people into the dynamic of the group. Besides “Mayan Apocalypse” is a far better team name. I’ll never be an “Odor.” I never was.