seattle: seattle aquarium

The Seattle Aquarium was absolutely phenomenal – one of the best I’ve ever been in, and I’m an aquarium connoisseur, and just so totally different from East Coast aquariums, which was a breath of fresh air. It’s much larger than it seems from the outside, beautifully designed and flowing well, and full of things I’d never encountered before. And no sharks or turtles! I love sharks and turtles, but it was great to see that my ocean is not everyone’s ocean. It made me crave a trip to the Washington and Oregon coasts like whoa.

life list: baltimore orioles @ seattle mariners

4. Visit every MLB stadium.

The Orioles are bad. The Mariners are bad. We saw two former first rounders pitch for two last place teams. Safeco Field is gorgeous. Seattle hot dogs are weird. Kyle Seager is still and always and belovedly a dope, and he hit a home run. We now own a Lou Piniella Hawaiian shirt.

christmas mix: give ’em what they want / it’ll never be enough

I’ve been making what I call a Christmas mix — that is, not holiday songs but a mix made at the holidays — since 1997; first they were tapes, then for a few years cds, and finally, in the digital age, many years of downloadable zip files and now the last three years have been Spotify playlists; this year is no exception. These are songs — frequently but not necessarily released in 2018 — that meant something to me this year, for various reasons, and they are for you.

I got married this year. It’s pretty much the best thing I’ve ever done.

(“Girls To The Front” is probably recognizable as the Hysteria podcast theme, but the whole Sizzy Rocket record bangs. And because I listen to podcasts on 1.5x speed, spending time with that song and with “Grits” – because of the Carolina Insider podcast outro – was weird, because I usually hear them sped up. The slow jam-ness of “Grits” startled the shit out of me when I did my first full listen through to the mix. If you liked the first Lily Allen record, you’ll like the GIRLI EP. Brian Fallon’s Sleepwalkers was one of if not the most underrated record of the year. “Save The Last Dance For Me” was our first dance at the wedding. Frank Turner’s Be More Kind was my favorite record of 2018, and the title track is the best advice I have to anyone trying to operate in the horror of the current world. I love all y’all.)

  1. Sizzy Rocket – Girls To The Front: yeah i’ll say it loud and we’re gonna shut it down / all the girls to the front with me
  2. GIRLI – Hot Mess: i don’t know who you think i am / but your bitch is not one
  3. The Love Language – Castle In The Sky: you’ve been in the woods for quite a while / no i never knew i loved you til i saw you in the wild
  4. Spider Bags – Rollin’ With The Flow: ah but i still love rock and roll / so i keep on rollin’ with the flow
  5. boygenius – Stay Down: i wasn’t a fighter ’til somebody told me / i had better learn to lean into the punch
  6. Brian Fallon – If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven: and when i was a child, a dream came to me / where every soul hanging low found its piece of dignity
  7. Cory Branan – I Only Know: if our past is all we get to be / my old life would have been the death of me
  8. Emily Barker – If We Forget To Dance: baby we don’t stand a chance / if we forget to dance
  9. Josh Ritter – Miles Away: honey, can you leave your light on?
  10. Sarah Jarosz – When Doves Cry: maybe i’m just too demanding / maybe i’m just like my father, too bold
  11. True North – Wilder Than Her: she takes the fire and turns it down low / she takes the night and makes it not so cold / she takes the distance, breaks it into miles / she makes my life just a little less wild
  12. The Drifters – Save The Last Dance For Me: but don’t forget who’s takin’ you home / and in whose arms you’re gonna be / so darlin’ save the last dance for me
  13. Jason Isbell – If We Were Vampires: it’s knowing that this can’t go on forever / likely one of us will have to spend some days alone / maybe we’ll get forty years together
  14. Annaleigh Ashford – Children And Art: it’s not so much do what you like as it is that you like what you do
  15. Frank Turner – Be More Kind: in a world that has decided / that it’s going to lose its mind / be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind
  16. The RZA – Grits: (see ya later, big grits)

Photo at top taken by The Joyner Company, who I totally 150% think you should hire to photograph your wedding.

book review: what i learned in a thousand towns (dar williams)

Right, so. I have a blog.

I also have a therapist. She’s new. I’ll call her LS, because that’s her name. It has been a rough mental health year for me because besides, you know, a fucking disgusting racist xenophobic sexual assuaulter being elected President, both my longtime prescriber and therapist BOTH retired. The last time I saw my prescriber was November 8, 2016. We talked about how it had been a rough year but starting on the 9th, things would ease up a little. HOW LITTLE WE FUCKING KNEW, AM I RIGHT. And then on top of that I started planning a wedding.

Anyway, I had to find a new prescriber – found one, she retired five months in, found another, she rocks – and I thought I was doing okay without a therapist except then I wasn’t. I tried a new one, a older dude who wanted to dig through my history – been there, did five years of CBT, have the coping mechanisms, I don’t want to talk about my relationship with my mom or my mother-in-law – and then I found LS, who is about my age, and understood immediately when I walked in to her office and said, “I want to talk about how the President is horrible, the world is on fire, and also I’m planning a wedding.”

She said, “Alright.”

LS is amazing.

The last time I saw her, I talked a lot about how while my job, just by nature of literally what my job is, makes me feel like I’m part of the Resistance Capital R Resistance, I wanted to do more. She asked me what my passions were. Photography. Theater. I used to write a ton of fan fiction. Plants. I like high schoolers because I was a weird high schooler and real adults were nice to me and listened to me and I could be that for some teenager now.

“Okay, your homework is to figure out how to turn that into volunteer work.”

So it’s been on my mind, and then Trav got me Dar Williams’ book for Christmas. What I Found In A Thousand Towns. On its face, it is basically about how to create a thriving large town or small city. But as I tore through during the early NBA games on Christmas Day, it was exactly the book I needed at exactly this time.

It’s about how cities and towns, the kind that Trump maybe won in 2016, the kind who have collapsed because the industry that they thrived on collapsed, can save themselves in the wake of that collapse. It’s about art. It’s about food. It’s about the harm of gentrification and why low cost swimming lessons matter and how to make affordable housing happen and the best ways to eliminate town-gown relations and just have Town Relations. There’s a whole chapter about Carrboro.

Carrboro is pretty expensive and named for a noted racist, my vague ancestor Julian Shakespeare Carr (he’s a fifth cousin somewhere back through marriage, I think). I wish it wasn’t named for a noted racist. But it loves community. And art, and music, and food, and beer, and people. People who live in Carrboro are invested in Carrboro. I knew that, sort of, in the back of my head. I know how many people I know and like that I see when I occasionally venture out to a concert, or even just out for a burrito. When I was house-hunting in Chapel Hill, it was in Chapel Hill, because I didn’t want to be too far from what felt like my community. I hadn’t realized I was so attached to Carrboro and Chapel Hill until I realized that the thought of buying a house in Durham was abhorrent to me (and not just because of Duke basketball, all you smart asses out there). Dar talks a lot about proximity, and how proximity is important to community, and I could verify that with my own experience: I can walk to downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro, if I wanted to. It is and was important to me to be that close to places.

2017 has been a gross dumpster fire of a hellscape year, but it’s been a gross dumpster fire of a hellscape year that really motivated people to get involved, in their communities, in other communities, to engage with the world. What I Found In A Thousand Towns is technically probably a book about urban planning rather than a memoir, which is what I thought it might be. I think it’s a surprisingly low key important book for the United States right now. Coal isn’t coming back. The uranium industry in Moab, Utah wasn’t coming back, either, and the town has found a way to thrive despite that. (The Most Scenic Dump story had me crying laughing.) Those things aren’t coming back, despite lies from the President about how he’d bring those jobs back, but there are other ways to save towns.

There aren’t solutions to the many sprawling and very serious problems of gentrification, which is often what “rejuvenating” a town or city comes down to; and the book can be a little white-person-focused at times, which is what it is. It isn’t a perfect book, but it was a book that made me think about things I hadn’t been thinking about before, and it was a book that crystalized some ideas I’d been wrestling with in their amorphous blob forms. It pointed out things I can do, and it pointed out where the most helpful thing I can do is to ask other people what they need. It made me ask a lot of questions about the place I live, even though Dar holds up Carrboro as a model of a pretty good small town. We are. Chapel Hill is. But we can do better, too, we can do a lot better, and I read this book, and I’m going to do better.