21 July 2006

The Elusive Declaration - A DC Recap

This past January I visited Kim for the second winter in a row - and this is what it looked like...

To see The Mall we bundled up in wool coats, gloves, running shoes and earmuffs.

So this time things were a little different...

Instead of following current trends in tourist wear (visible all over US metropolitan centers this summer) we donned workout clothes for our two long walks around the city. Don't we look like cheerleaders? - though not for the current occupants of the house behind us!

Childhood memories of east coast humidity combined with Kim's warnings led me to pack a suitcase of ten tank tops. I guess I brought nice California temperatures with me, however, because my trip was bookended by an apocalyptic flood and humid thunderstorms - while I was there, the weather was perfect. Unfortunately, the flood that preceeded my visit did derail what is now the most anticipated trip to the National Archives...

After three trips to DC in the past 2 years, the Archives have never been open when I have tried to visit - and the third try was not charming. God forbid this history student EVER see the Declaration of Independence - or the map on its backside moreover ;-)

After napping off the effects of my red-eye flight, I met up with Kim at her work for a quick bite to eat. Later that evening, in what has turned out to be an inexcusable offense (jk) she ditched me for a Kelly Clarkson concert in Virginia while I went to visit Tony who is interning in DC for the summer.

Over the next few days Kim and I took many long walks around the city – alternately sightseeing and discussing politics, dating, history, life goals and of course the unavoidable tourist wear around us (Kim: “12 o’clock, red socks” Leah: “ouch”). It was great to catch up – because I think we have both gotten tired of the phone of late – managing multiple friendships in different time zones while trying to have a life on your own coast can be difficult.

We went paddle boating on the Potomac so my bike muscles could get some exercise (hra hra), visited the Jefferson and FDR memorials...

Kim even fully endorsed my nerdy desire to see Lafyette Park, the setting of a history book I am reading, Patricia O'Toole's, The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and his Friends.

The book, celebrated as a popular intellectual history, has actually been a slight disappointment, but the historical characters recounted are fascinating. That cliched feeling of walking in the footsteps of history happened to me in that square more than any other place in DC.

Meeting friends of friends was as usual, a highlight of my trip. We had a big dinner with Kim and Libby's friends. Aside from pre-dinner problems regarding my un-popular vegetarian status, the bi-coastal friend meeting was a lot of fun. This picture cracks me up - Someone must have said something hysterical - or it could possibly have been the wine, but Kim and I both seem to be cowing similarly in a fit of laughter...

Of course, outings with Kim and trips to DC always seem to produce blog/cringe-worthy moments. And this trip seems to be no different, even though we didn't make it to TomTom. So I will limit myself and only mention two silly occurances.

1. Bloggers: Please Come Out of the Closet or I Will Forcibly Remove You...oops!

I guess when you start dating someone, your blog is not the first thing you tell them about - or so I have now learned. I accidentally mentioned Libby's blog in front of her boyfriend and Kim's blog in front of her new boyfriend - both were unaware their girlfriends were blogging-inclined. It was kinda funny after I did it the first time (while slightly drunk off white wine), but the next day when I outed Kim as well, it was just bizarre. Blogs are super cool - I don't know why you wouldn't want them to know about your habit? [enter dripping sarcasm here]

2. Flip Cup: I Always Wanted to be a Prodigy

Kim plays kickball for not just one, but TWO teams. And after her games she plays another (probably tougher) game called "flip cup." Flip cup involves drinking shots of beer and flipping your cup upside down as part of a relay with other member of your (in this case, kickball) team. The Saturday I was in town, there was a flip cup tournament. When "The Kickbrawlers" asked me to be a ringer for their team that Saturday I was less than excited about it. I haven't drank much lately and I had drunk the past two nights - shots of beer wasn't high on my priority list. Plus when I walked in the bar (at 4PM - the same one we had been in at 2AM the night before!) and saw people flipping cups in a dingy/sticky atmosphere - my initial reaction was to judge the game as 1. LAME! and 2. beyond my usual hand-eye coordination skills - especially while intoxicated. Plus, I thought the game was going to be lighthearted - I mean, how could you possibly take a game that revolves around flipping a plastic cup over seriously, right? But they did. They were completely serious, competitive, and asked me questions like "you aren't going to screw up right?" They would add a slight chuckle at the end of the question, but I knew the pressure was on - I was mildly intimidated. One guy had a shirt on that read "In the world of flip cup, I am kinda a big deal" - ha! But let me tell you, there is something addicting about the game. I don't know if it was the team spirit, the competition, the deceptive size of the amount of beer you chug - but within minutes I was immersed within the game and invested in our victory. Oh, and in case you didn't guess by the headline of this segment, I am a flip cup natural. I kinda kid - it was probably beginners luck. And anyways, I had a great mentor (even if her performance that night lacked its usual luster).

Till next time DC - Kickbrawlers Rule, Go Dems in 2008, and thank you to Kim and Libby for putting me up (and putting up with me)!

14 July 2006

Midsummer Cold, or How I Learned to Take a Break

My summer has been completely overbooked – mostly in a good/fun way, but I often feel hurried and rushed, like I am not doing anything “one-hundred percent” – whatever that means. Without fail, DC last weekend was a blast. I have been attempting to do a blog re-cap, but have failed miserably thus far to complete it – hopefully I will produce something of merit soon.

Unfortunately I returned from DC a tad worse for wear. Was it the germ-infested game of “flip cup,” the plane flight, or the cold Nicki had before I left for the east coast? We may never know just who is to blame – but the outcome has been significantly crappy. I almost never get sick, and when I do I usually put myself on an over-the-top Airborne/Cold-eze regimen that rarely fails. Well, my plan is not foolproof, because as I stepped back onto California soil, my souvenir was a full-blown debilitating cold.

It is strange how fast you become accustomed to having certain people in your life. After a few days with Kim, I get used to having her around – and the realization that my visit with her (and other friends out east) is indeed ephemeral, leads to a brief but persuasive sadness. And while I don’t necessarily excel at sharing small spaces (I kinda like to spread my stuff about) the relief of having my own room again does not make up for their absence. And the cold didn’t help this time – as I couldn’t throw myself back into my normal routine: biking, running, reading, writing. Instead, upon my return, I slept, missed my friends, daydreamed and attempted to entertain myself from the confines of my little room.

Yesterday I felt like the worst of my cold was over – it no longer seemed to affect my energy level. Back to my old self, I quickly became frustrated with the lack of hours in a day. I have been drawn into this great novel that won the Booker prize about a decade ago, A.S. Byatt’s Possession. While I would like to pretend some of the other novels I have been reading of late (Twins of Tribeca and The Secret History of the Pink Carnation) have some literary merit – in the end these fluffy pieces pale in comparison to Possession. Finally, a guilt-free novel where I don’t feel like I am simply doing the reading equivalent of watching television. Byatt stretches my mind – discussing fake yet realistic Victorian poets, literary deconstruction, academic politics in the feminist years and parallel Victorian and post-modern romances all at once. But at the same time, it wasn’t guilt-free. Now that I had my energy back I wanted to go for a bike ride, a run and also get caught up on all my pre-PhD application reading that I seem to have let slide since I rediscovered novels. So I prioritized and decided that I could only deign to put Possession down for a short run outside – no time for a bike ride, no time for a car ride to the gym. I was truly engrossed. And after my run I got right back into my bed again with my book – because the truth is, I jumped the gun on the physical exercise front and have been coughing up a lung ever since.

So this lovely quiet Friday evening, while my friends are out and about, I am socializing with Harriet (the cat I live with) and her owners – taking it easy, writing for my blog in the beautiful backyard I will soon no longer occupy, trying to learn how to enjoy downtime, and thinking about the rest of the summer. Every weekend is planned from here on out – two more weddings, Sen’s coming visit (otherwise known as a month of 80-hr weeks in rotation at the Children’s Hospital), Mormor’s 85th birthday party next weekend in Redding and a major bike ride in Napa. Speaking of bike rides, I better get back in bed soon because I promised Elena (see engagement announcement) that I would meet her for a bike ride to (not up) Mt. Diablo and back tomorrow morning at 8AM. 50 miles on my bike – just what the doctor ordered!

11 July 2006

Engagement Announcement: Elena Mary Birch-Carl, William Matthew Ayers (slightly less formal than they do it in the NYTimes)

Four summers ago, Sen, Elena and I set off on a backpacking journey across Europe. We had met four years prior in that lovably cultish organization known as the Cal Band and were celebrating our graduation with a vacation.

Left behind in Berkeley as we jaunted off to explore the Mediterranean was Elena’s new boyfriend Matt. So when Elena (definitely the mellow member of our threesome) was visibly excited and anxious about seeing him again – this was definitely a sign he was going to be around for a while.

Last week Matt and Elena were engaged! Watching their relationship develop over the past few years has made me happy for them – but I can honestly say it has also made me happy for me. In Matt I have found another friend – and one who always has strong opinions about my personal life ☺. I have also witnessed the growth of a great relationship – a model I can only hope to emulate in my own life (that is, whenever I decide to catch up to Elena maturity-wise). Not only do they obviously care deeply for one another, Matt’s silliness challenges Elena’s more reserved behavior – and this is really fun to watch. Plus while Elena and I struggled through grad school together (her with problem sets, me history books) Matt often slaved away at the stove to keep us energized for studying. Needless to say, I am very happy to officially announce to my blog readers that these two will be together for the long haul. I can only hope their kitchen remains open to me when I start school again in a year.

Might I also mention that while on the same trip to Europe I was casually beginning to study GRE vocabulary, wherein I came across the word “penurious” – which basically means thrifty – although I think the connotation leans more toward the negative, as in stingy – but I digress. Because Elena was (and remains) much more inclined to budgeting her money on the trip than either Sen or I, when coming up with sentences to remember my vocab, I jokingly decided upon “Elena is penurious.” Well look who is laughing now? Elena and Matt also started the process of purchasing a home the same night they were engaged. I hear it is a 2-bedroom – looking for a squatter, Elena? I have housesitting experience – hehe. Congratulations to my favorite home owning, pie-eating, vegetarian cooking, cycling and penurious (except when it comes to bike gear) couple!

And to commemorate their engagement, an adorable photo of them last Halloween, dressed as the bulter and maid who were caught compromised in the broom closet.