A Life Update so Long you’ll be my Hero if you Finish Reading It

Dear friends and other favorites,

It has come to my attention that there is a new trend going around amongst the kids these days, that of the informative Life Update Group Email.

After reading five of these from various friends and friends of friends, I could no longer resist. Obviously I had to write one of my own. Please, Felicia. Step aside.

Hello and welcome to the group email. Some of you work with me and see me on a daily basis, but obviously I felt you’d benefit from hearing these tidbits anyway. Please, hold your comments to the contrary.

FIRST POINT

Back in August I impulsively deactivated my facebook. DON’T WORRY. THIS DOESN’T MEAN I’M DEPRESSED/KIDNAPPED/HEARTBROKEN/ANGRY/DEAD. I know some of you were concerned. Upward of 10 of you emailed/texted/called to ask about my whereabouts and mental condition. Alas, nothing exciting to report. I just got bored one day and decided I was done. I know. Snooze.

But there are OTHER exciting things happening!

1. I bought a house!*

*Clarification: Mama and Grandmomma and I bought a house. (Small disappointment, my various Get Rich Quick schemes haven’t worked out yet. This is because I actually don’t have any. But I need one. Trusted Advisor Friend Kelsey says the key is to win the lottery and/or become a housewife but sorry to report neither of the two have happened as of yet, and besides that I plan to make a gazillion dollars on my own, no need for housewifery, please.)

Anyway back to the important stuff: The house is by the ballpark on the waterfront. It has four stories including the basement and my floor has a sitting room, a bedroom, and huge windows with arches. We move in late May. Mama may still do my laundry because I’m 26 and still not self-sufficient. I survive on crackers and granola. We’ll get to that later. Holla.

NEXT POINT!

I am working in business development!

This probably has a few more exclamation points than are rightfully due, given that I spend eight hours a day (ok, seven and a half – gotta leave time for lunch) cold calling people and talking to them about Contactually even though they’ve never heard of it and apparently don’t even have five tiny little minutes to see how much more money they could make if they just implemented follow-up systems (brokers are busy yo). Surprisingly, I don’t mind the cold calling aspect, although getting verbally destroyed via Ringio and a headset is not always the most encouraging way to start or end your day. I try to call people in the South because they’re super nice (sorry, stereotypes, it’s true). For example, one guy told me he wasn’t interested in Contactually but he was going to take my call because I was “remarkably aggressive.” Another guy said my persistence was “appreciated” but “daunting.” Listen. I’m polite but numbers have to be made. Peoples gots to pay the bills. Also, administrative work is boring. Emails are also boring. Ima talk to you on the phone whether you like it or not. Haiii.

Work summary:

70% adrenaline from dance remixes/cold calling/potential major deals
20% necessary administrative things
10% total terror

For real, sometimes I love sales.
Mostly I love sales.
Ok, I love it.

IT’S SO HARD THOUGH.

Side note (important): My colleagues are awesome. No but for real. Like I would marry all of them, even the girls. We just came back from a three-day company retreat west of Charlottesville. There were campfires, discussions about hair wanding, breakout sessions to evaluate company values, and serious amounts of alcohol. There was also a concert that pretty much nobody truly enjoyed except for me. I thought it was awesome. And my colleagues, because THEY’RE awesome, said, “This show is for Lizzie D.” That’s what they’ve called me since Day 1. We hang out after work, because we’re friends at work and we’re friends for realz.

Here’s an example of a custom rap Kelsey and I made for our colleague Jimmy. It’s biographical.

Also, side note dos, once Kelsey and I were out brainstorming about how we could better train users on the product, and we found what we thought was an abandoned item, and because we know “see something, say something,” we called the news and ended up getting interviewed. (We got interviewed about something else but that’s not the important part. The important part is Kelsey was on the news!!! (They cut me out. Bai.))

Also, side note tres. We have dogs in the office. And lots of snacks.

3. (Work was point #2.)

PIETRO. 

Pietro is the boy I’m dating. I told him I was going to feature him in this email and he was ok with it, so that’s one reason we’re dating, because writing epic emails and texts that include exaggerated stories in all caps is a fundamental part of my daily activities schedule. SorrysorrysorrymylifeisridiculousandIjustreallyliketexting

Here are four more reasons we’re dating:

Wait, first, important detail. Pietro and I met over gchat. Omg I swear it wasn’t a random chat room. Awesome work colleague Satyam mentioned Pietro back in June. “You’re crazy,” he said. “HE’S crazy. You need to meet!” What instigated this was one night I went out to a show and then had a whole lot of energy afterward, so I came home and sat on the floor and listened to music for three more hours in the middle of the night. “That’s exactly what Pietro does!” Satyam said. Side note, Satyam also once pronounced me the craziest person he knows. He also said if he could choose any one person to smoke weed with, it’d be me (“If you’re like this normally, imagine what you’d be like high!”) Two of my other colleagues seconded this. Clarification: I do not smoke weed. That said, this is quite an honor.

Pietro and I have an uncanny number of things in common. We’re not going to go into them because while I’m sure you’re enjoying this long email, I know you’ve all got Starbucks runs and HBO show binge watching to get on with, but just trust me, when I first met Pietro, I was like wtf is happening, this is weird.

The first time we hung out I almost died. I was gonna get to this later but I might as well get to it now. Winter in DC this year was ungodly horrible. I am allergic to the cold. YES THIS IS A REAL THING. And no I can’t live anywhere south of here because there aren’t any major cities with transportation and I need activities and I CAN’T DRIVE. This is qualification #2 for dating me: You have to either drive or enjoy walking seriously long distances across the city, sometimes at 2:00 in the morning.

Anyway, we went for a walk around the monuments at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, I can’t remember which. It was so cold that I couldn’t move my hands and when I got home I had to sit next to the radiator on full blast for hours. Literally hours.

Another time I woke up and the cold weather had caused my face to break out in hives. (THIS HAPPENS.) I walked around all day in sunglasses, even indoors. Pietro thought this was ridiculous but he still wanted to go out with me, the crazy kid. So there was that.

I can’t remember what the original main point of these paragraphs was but the overarching point is that Pietro is great and if you haven’t seen me recently it’s probably because I’ve been spending ungodly amounts of time in Virginia. Now, listen. Anyone who knows me knows that I make it a point, literally a point, not to ever leave the District. It’s far. Also the buses out there are confusing. And the streets all have names and not numbers and I get lost. And there aren’t as many activities. So going to Virginia with any frequency is a pretty big deal. Seriously. Ballston. Holla.

4. Other Things

I continue to navigate adventures in many other areas. For example, I continue to be challenged by properly using the toaster/oven/microwave (the burn struggle is real). I also spill water on myself on average three to four times a week. #get it

Here are some things I’ve been doing:

I crashed a kayak into a tree but didn’t drown

Mama and I went to Puerto Rico, where it was beautiful and hot and there were lots of interesting activities like kayaking in the largest bioluminescent bay in the world. Mama put me in the back of the kayak because I had once, when I was 12, kayaked up Tomales Bay and almost to the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately this does not mean that I had any kayaking skills whatsoever, so the very first thing that happened in this bay in Puerto Rico was I crashed straight into a mangrove tree. We had gone on a night with no moon so we could see these sparkling underwater creatures, but consequently this meant we could see nothing else. For example, I could see zero of the twenty kayaks in front of me (I was last in line). Nor could I really breathe because a grove of mangrove trees is still and hot and there are lots of mosquitos and the roots are snarling about the entire bank. I crashed so many times that my kayak become known as “DC.” I’d crash and someone would shout back, “Is that you back there DC?” Yes of course it’s me, sorry the instructor had to tow me back all the way to shore because I didn’t have enough arm strength, people have different skills, ok? Some people are really good at kayaking. I’m really good at talking on the phone. Boom.

I recorded a Taylor Swift song with a trash bag and tweeted it at her

Wait, for real. I was sitting on the floor (see the pattern here) playing my ukulele la la la la la AS ONE DOES, singing “Blank Space,” (Please, let’s not pretend we don’t all love Taylor Swift. I tried pretending for a while I didn’t love her but then I realized that I DID, and I EMBRACED IT.) when my mom walked in and started shaking a trash bag as a percussive instrument. I continued singing, she continued shaking, I couldn’t keep it together, and BOOM: Legendary recording. Kelsey told me sometimes she invites celebs over to her house for pizza via twitter, which I thought was a fabulous idea, so obviously I tweeted this at Taylor Swift immediately. She didn’t respond, but I’m sure she saw it. Probably bookmarked it and plays it every day. I know I do. ❤ you Taylor

I’VE BEEN BOLLYWOOD DANCING

Ok, small confession: I really want to be a movie star. Next best thing: Dance star. Combination: BOLLYWOOD dance star.

I found out that Bloombars was hosting a bollywood dance class (“No experience necessary”) every Thursday from 6:30-7:30 pm. I went. I learned. I danced like a NINJA. Jen promised to go with me and she did NOT, but I still love her and send her a shout out for occasionally cooking me dinner, because as previously established I cannot feed myself.

Kyle came to visit

Where you been brotha! Kyle moved to Atlanta but has promised to come back to DC as soon as possible. Chicago is another option, but I told him it’s too cold there. I will die, for real.

Lizzie left me a voicemail

The other day Lizzie saw me walking on the sidewalk, and instead of saying hello like a normal person, called me five minutes later and left me a voicemail. “I think I just saw you walking along and eating an apple.” She was right. It was me.

I went to a medieval knights show … in the mall

Guys, this is real. You can go to the Arundel Mills Mall and between the shoe store and the Chipotle there’s a huge event space called Medieval Times. It’s inside the mall. Like, literally, you go in, go past the Sunglasses Hut and a jewelry store, and then there’s this huge kitschy medieval archway where when you enter they say, “Welcome, my lady,” and give you a colored paper crown. You can then take a photo with a falcon and watch guys throw lances and fake joust on real horses. It’s mostly filled with middle schoolers and Renaissance enthusiasts but there’s also a few normal people (maybe two or three). A woman comes around and tells you she’s your wench for the evening and serves you a whole half a chicken (no really, she comes around with a bucket filled with halves of poultry and puts a whole leg and thigh and god knows what else on your plate, plus a hunk of bread and half a baked potato and some other things that by the way you must eat with your hands (don’t worry there are moist towlettes).

My grandfather and I sang a song together

It’s “This Little Light of Mine,” but every now and then my grandfather throws in a “Hallelujah,” and because he’s 91 years old, it’s very sweet. For those of you who know my grandparents and have asked about them, or who know of them because youknow how much I love them, they are doing fairly ok. My uncle comes every day and serves as their personal Top Chef, and even though my grandmother is losing some of her sight and my grandfather some of his memory, they are still mostly happy, most of the time, which personally I don’t think is a bad place to be. You’ve got to live a full life so that by the time you get to 91 you know it’s been worth it. This is what I think about every day when I’m exhausted and I’m out until 2:00 in the morning. So little time. You’ve got to use it.

And on that note …

 

This email is long enough. I have to get cold calling.

But as a parting list, I leave you with some things I will be looking to do in the upcoming months, should any of you want to join:

  1. Tennis – Now that the weather is better, I will be playing tennis. I am not a varsity athlete, let’s get this clear from the start. However, I can play a solid match, so if you want to play, let me know, I’m down.
  1. La Ti Do – I am still at La Ti Do most Mondays, mostly because my friends are insanely talented and there’s nothing I love more than a night of musical theatre. Last time I was there I practically started crying from complete and total admiration of them, ask David Landstrom. Truly. I don’t know a more talented and dedicated group of people. Also, thanks to all of you who saw me at the Helen Hayes awardsand complimented me on my mad dance skills. Second also: Sherry Berg, you owe me attendance at a klezmer dance classat the JCC, YOU KNOW YOU DO. (Everyone else is also invited. It’s dancing and clapping in circles and doing a fairly sexual move called the “camel.” (Not kidding.))
  1. Mother Moore would like to announce she’ll be hosting monthly dinners at the new casa. You’re all invited. If you want to come, let me know. Or text her. I know you’re all friends with her on Facebook anyway, friend stealer. (<3 u mother bird, thanks for always leaving me dinner on the stove)
  1. Any events any of you want to go to, ever, I’m in. My average sleep hours per night are averaging around five these days, which is not ideal headache wise but certainly serves my social schedule well. Andrés says hanging out with me requires almost a full day of energy reserves, so prepare yourself well kids, prepare.

Ok lovers, I’m out.

Happy almost Friday, see you all soon I hope, let me know you’re alive.

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Blues and Beet Gazpacho

Brian Farrow knows everyone in this city. Last week I won tickets to see Shakespeare Theatre’s performance of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, which, side note, was wittily interpreted and had me laughing throughout (Second side note: What kind of couple dissolves imminent fights by playacting as if they were Tunisian harlots, gentile aristocrats, and lions? Not sure, but I love it. Also, if all fights could end with a snappy piano rendition of “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” that would be bomb.), and afterward, Brian, who had been my guest, invited me to a house party in Mt. Pleasant.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, Mt. Pleasant hosts a substantial number of house parties. All of them are great. You should always go.

This one was at Brian’s friend Sitali’s house. Sitali is another musician. He had invited Robert Lighthouse and some other musicians over to play some blues.

I love the blues. My dad spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and we often had the blues playing in our house when I was growing up. When I was 17, I formed a one-girl blues band that sometimes included my eight-year-old neighbor. It was called Sugarpie Stanton and her Kingbiscuit Swingers. The name was a lot flashier than the band itself, I’m sorry to say.

Anyway, point being, when I heard this was not just any house show but a blues house show we were going to, I was pretty excited.

When I walked in, I was handed a square cup of beet gazpacho. There were trays of ribs, pickled watermelon, and giant s’mores out back. We sat around on the porch a while chatting and playing the kazoo. I carry one around in my purse, because that’s the type of quirky person I am.

After a bit we went inside. The guys were going to start jamming. A bunch of us crowded into the living room, where there was a keyboard, a mandolin, and four or five guitars. In the middle of the room was an empty one-armed rocking chair, and someone indicated that I sit there. The bluesmen started playing: The Swedish guitarist Robert Lighthouse; trumpeter and keyboardist Joe Brotherton; a man named Wayne on the washboard; and my friend Brian playing the bass line on the guitar and later the mandolin.

Man was it good. There is nothing like a jam session in a hot, humid night to set you straight.

The best part was the trumpeter tossed me a shaker egg to play along. Do you know how long I’ve wanting to play with a band? It’s a dream of mine. And to sit with those storied blues musicians, shaking that shaker egg and rocking back and forth in that one-armed rocking chair … That was incredible, surreal. Sometimes you wonder if the heat makes you a bit delusional.

Later, when we walked out, it was misting and it started to drizzle. Brian had borrowed the mandolin and began to make up a song.

We walked along the sidewalk, a little bit giddy. On nights like these you feel a bit like children, partly because it’s raining and what person in their right mind skips in the rain without an umbrella, and partly because of the night itself, because at 1:00 in the morning you’re so filled with wonder and just … love … for this world, this life, the things you do and the things you discover, that you feel like you’re coming into your own again.

We waited for the bus at the top of the hill. In the bus shelter, we sang one of my favorite songs, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” You can hear me almost laughing. So much happiness packed into a single night.

Guest Feature: First Impressions in Montreal (Hayley Swinson)

I first met Hayley when she was rooming with another friend of mine in Richmond’s storied district called The Fan. I wanted to be her friend because she spelled her name like my childhood idol Hayley Mills, and because unlike the rest of us broke college students, she had resorted not to IKEA but to an antique store for her bedroom furniture, which included a creaky but still elegant four-poster bed.

I asked Hayley to contribute to The Unfamous because she is exactly the type of person who embodies what The Unfamous is all about: She’s a dreamer, an adventurer, and a constant stream of creativity. After college, Hayley moved to Montreal for a year before returning to her home state of South Carolina to work with small theater productions. Those connections led her to assist with film and television productions in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she worked before leaving for Scotland to pursue a Master in Creative Writing.

This week’s guest feature is a story from Hayley’s initial days in Montreal. Arriving with no job, no connections, no place to live, and, despite 10 years of French lessons, a limited understanding of both the French language and the Quebecois accent, Hayley found herself relying on the help of the friendly Montreal natives after finding herself a victim of robbery. “Though the frustration of my own limitations never completely evaporated,” Hayley told me, “it was often overshadowed by the gratitude I felt towards the many people who went out of their way to help, and that, more than the negative experiences, is what sticks in my memory from my time in Montreal.”

Hayley is currently working on a 30,000-word fiction piece for her dissertation for the University of Edinburgh. The piece is planned as part one of three for a larger novel about a girl with narcolepsy.  She was recently awarded a place in Edinburgh’s City of Literature Story Shop and will be reading at the International Book Festival in August.

Apart from her dissertation, Hayley also contributes to a number of literary and travel websites, including the Slow-Chic blog for French boutique hotels and Love. Writing. Adventure. which features reviews of romance novels and will soon add installments of a serial romantic fiction piece. Hayley resides in Scotland and can be reached via her portfolio and website, http://hayleyswinson.com.


 

First Impressions
Hayley Swinson

Getting robbed was not as bad as I expected it to be. I left the hostel around 9 AM and walked to the lot where I’d left my car stuffed with my belongings while I searched Craigslist for an apartment in Montreal. I’d made the mistake of moving to a foreign city smack dab in the middle of September instead of at the end or beginning of the month when most people move in and out of apartments and more are available. I was staying at the Auberge de Jeunesse just off of René-Lévesque (Renay-Levesssske I said that first week, giving away my newbie status) for five days when it finally happened. Because, let’s be honest, a car with a South Carolina tag packed up to the windows in a lot in downtown Montreal? It was only a matter of time before someone threw a rock through my window.

The last couple of nights I hadn’t slept very well. I knew my car and my belongings were not safe. I took as many precautions as I could: I backed up to the cement wall so my trunk couldn’t be opened. I parked under the brightest light in the lot. I locked the glove box. But my car was a sitting duck, and I knew it. I had to find a place to live in this city I was still discovering—and soon. So when I walked up to the lot on a Saturday morning, it was almost a relief that it had finally happened. The parking lot attendant was standing nearby with a shocked look on his face, “It was like this when I got here…” he trailed off, at a loss for words.

I followed the trail of my things, strewn about the parking lot leading up to my car, who I had lovingly nicknamed “Calvin” after the character from Calvin and Hobbes. Somehow things tend to hold more meaning after you’ve named them. Calvin and I had been through a lot together. A couple weeks prior, I’d experienced the summer from hell working as a camp counselor at an overnight camp in West Virginia. For most of the summer, I’d been at odds with my coworkers (mostly 18 and 19 year olds) and the managerial staff (who didn’t know what they were doing) because of safety issues and other things I won’t get into. Strangely, Calvin seemed to reflect my depression. The car stereo mysteriously stopped working—radio, CD player and all—until the minute I drove off the campgrounds for the last time, traveling to Montreal only a couple weeks later.

And as I stared at the driver’s side window that was completely shattered—green glass littered the driver’s seat and floor-mat—I felt violated. Bits of the stuff was lodged in between the center console and the seats, glittering from the cup holders like jewels. There was a divot in the black rubber on the steering wheel, where the chunk of cement (which I found on the floor) had bounced off. I remembered gazing at the Montreal skyline from that window as Calvin and I approached the city for the first time—lit skyscrapers twinkling in the dark across the harbor, road signs in French first, then English, traffic signals I didn’t understand. I hadn’t left my time zone, but I was somewhere completely foreign. I remembered taking it in, breathing it in, thinking, “This is it. This is my new home.” And when I got lost on the way to the hostel, I felt scared, but I didn’t feel alone. Calvin and I had driven until we settled into the right place, on the right street, in the right city. That was only five days ago. So how did we get here? To this lot on this day with this injury?

The vandals had not taken much. They’d pulled everything from my center console, strewn it into the parking lot in search of—what? Something of value, I guess. Under a neighboring car I found a few CDs and two notebooks I occasionally wrote in. Of all my possessions, I valued these books most, and as I flipped through them, I was relieved to find them relatively unscathed. Then I realized what was missing: my noise-canceling Bose headphones, a Christmas gift from my family as a way to combat my anxiety on airplanes. The tears that had been until now held back by shock pricked at the corners of my eyes. I wasn’t able to identify the feeling until months later, when I left my apartment on the way to work to discover that someone had stolen my bike. I experienced confusion, shock, and finally a feeling of violation. It felt like someone had looked up my skirt. Who did this person think he was? Why did he think he had a right to my things? How dare he?

And so on the verge of tears, I decided to call my dad. He was silent on the other end after I’d explained what happened to my car. Then he took a breath, “You know, Hayley,” he paused, choosing his words carefully, “No one will fault you if you decide to come back home.” I suddenly felt light-headed. I was angry.

“That’s just not gonna happen,” I said, trying to keep my tone civil. How could he misunderstand my reason for calling? I wasn’t looking for an out. I was looking for commiseration, a virtual hug. Instead I had to steel myself. I sniffed away my impending tears and hung up as quickly as I could without being too rude.

I took a breath, sat down on the curb and thought it out. How do I fix this? OK. Step one: put your belongings in a safe place. I pulled out my phone and called a few storage facilities in the area to get rates while I waited for the police to arrive. I found a U-Haul center less than a ten-minute drive away. So now what? Step two: get the car fixed. I called the mechanic closest to me and asked if I could bring the car in right away. “Who gave you my name?” He asked curtly.

“I found you on google maps,” I said.

“OK, well just come down whenever and I’ll take a look,” he said, more politely this time.

After the police arrived and I filed a report, I brushed the majority of the glass off my seat and placed a beach towel over it. Not content with breaking a window and pilfering my belongings, the thief (or thieves) had also knocked Calvin’s right side-mirror off, just for kicks. It dangled from its electrical cords like a limb stripped to its tendons. I rolled down the right window and gingerly placed the mirror on the inside of the door. So, with one broken window and the other rolled down, I pulled out of the lot into downtown Montreal traffic, with the chilly September breeze assaulting me from both sides (“You’re just going to drive it like that?” the parking attendant asked, as if I had a choice).

I pulled into the cavernous garage at the U-Haul center and wandered down a long hallway of storage units into a dim room with a half-moon desk at the front. In front of the desk there was a stool and a concrete support column covered in band posters. As I approached the desk, a man wearing sunglasses (even though the room was dark and windowless) emerged from a hallway carrying an instrument in a case. A keyboard, perhaps? A keytar? He looked vaguely familiar. I wondered if he was a band member from one of the many popular indie bands based in Montreal (Arcade Fire? Wolf Parade? Islands?), and I tried not to look at him. He seemed uncomfortable. We both waited, shifting from foot to foot until an overall-clad man appeared. He dealt with the musician first, then explained their pricing system to me as the sunglasses-sporting man wandered off. I signed up for the smallest unit available, about the size of a coat closet. He gave me directions to the unit and suggested I purchase a lock.

“You don’t provide locks?” I asked, incredulous.

He laughed at me, “Nah, they’re like a buck at the hardware store.”

I didn’t quite follow the logic, but decided not to contest it and spent the next hour unloading my things onto a trolley and wheeling them into my new storage unit. They’d have to live without a lock for a few hours until I could purchase one. Better than stuffed in a car in a public lot, though.

After I finished this task, I got back in my car and called the mechanic to make sure I could bring in the car. “I should be here then,” he said.

I navigated to Griffintown, just south of the main part of downtown. That is, if you’re going by the Montreal compass, which supposedly places Parc Mont-Royal at due north and everything else altered accordingly. When in fact, the mountain is situated more northwest. On my way to the mechanic, I stopped by a convenience store to pick up a lock, but I didn’t realize I’d be practicing my French skills. The man working at the counter spoke little English, and I had to describe to him in patchy French what I was looking for since I didn’t know the word for padlock—un cadenas, as it turns out. And after such an ordeal, I still haven’t forgotten the word, even four years later.

When I arrived at the mechanic’s in Griffintown and drove into the garage, I immediately felt out of place. My car took up what felt like half of the space even though there were six other cars parked inside. But they each seemed tiny compared to mine, miniature. I looked around as I got out of the car. There were British flags hanging on the walls, and BMW paraphernalia strewn around the place. And it hit me: minis. The only other cars in this garage were Mini Coopers. Suddenly, I understood why the man was so brusque over the phone. So when Adam, the friendly owner of Miniac Garage, appeared, looking bewildered, I felt myself blush. He passed me a handyvac to vacuum up the glass as I explained my situation: a recent immigrant to Montreal with a Working Vacation visa, a working knowledge of French, and no connections to speak of. Suddenly, he grew chatty. He told me about his first year in Montreal after moving from Lebanon. He said he’d worked as a busboy at a movie theater. “That was the worst job I ever had,” he said. Then he explained that many people living in Montreal were immigrants, which is why they are so friendly. In fact, many “native” Montrealers are second or third-generation immigrants. “There is a feeling of mutual respect among the people who have settled here,” he explained. “So you’re looking for work, eh?” he asked me of the noise of the handyvac.

I switched off the vacuum and looked at him. “Anything I can get,” I said.

“Well, I’ve just moved into this garage and was thinking of painting. You think you could handle that?”

“Sure,” I said, “I can handle it.”

 

Sun Struck

I had this dream a couple of months ago. I was standing on top of a plateau surveying the entire landscape below. It was as if I had reached a summit. The sun was straight up above. And I was smiling, but really smiling, because I was so, so happy.

Listen. I don’t usually have dreams like this. I don’t usually remember them. But this one stuck with me. Like I was thinking about it all the time. I had to get to that summit. Had to get to the sun.

And a couple of days ago I was there.

Nothing ever happens when you expect it to. I flew to Argentina on a whim. I took a bus to Córdoba at the last minute. I met up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in four years. We went to the Sierra because I mentioned it offhand and from there it was inevitable that we would go. This is how things happen to me. One minute I have no idea what I’m doing, and the next I’m on top of a mountain.

We went to this secret beach tucked back in a valley. You have to climb a small mountain to get there. Then take a trail down the hillside. There was a little girl there. 4 years old. Paloma. Also, horses. And a boat and two boys who rowed the boat up the river to nowhere.

Later, to the summit (different day), and alongside the river (after).

There isn’t time to process things when you’re hiking up mountains in Argentina. Things that seemed obvious before begin to seem very far away. Things that didn’t even occur to you before suddenly seem possible. How to explain it? Like anything could happen. You could be nowhere or you could be everywhere. I started to say that I felt like I was at the other end of the world, but then I realized that literally I was.

On the beach, the rocks.
On the mountain, the sun.

Sand all on the floor of the car, like long days of summer when you drive home.

Riding in the car, you feel like you are flying. You can look up at the sun roof and see the stars. It’s night. You can see the moon. It’s about to be an eclipse. You look up and everything you see if stars.

All of this is real.
Sometimes I make things up but all of this is real.

Nothing ever happens when you expect it to. One day you could be at your desk in DC, and the next you could be stopped on the side of the road in the middle of Córdoba, everything pitch black except the insatiable moon and the hundreds of stars.

I can’t stop thinking about this. The beach, the mountain, the sun, the stars.

Te acuerdas de … ?
Nada.
Todo.

During my flight back, the flight attendant saw me smiling and said jokingly, “What are you so happy about?”

Ha. Everything. Because I love this. I love it all.

The Gypsy Life

sylviapic

There are a few moments in your life when you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be. And in that moment, you know you are doing exactly what you want to be doing. Growing up, I had never thought I would have had a desire to travel and move around. I remember having a mentality that I was going to stay in NY forever and never leave. When my parents talked about moving from NY to head further south, I remember sitting there and listening to them feeling physically ill. It completely and utterly terrified me because the idea of traveling and moving seemed like the scariest thing to ever face! When I was 11, my family took a extensive trip to Isreal and on the way back we stopped in Zurich, Switzerland. The city completely swept me away and I was mesmerized by the culture, art and whole experience. I never knew the world could be so beautiful and so wonderful. I remember sitting at an outdoor cafe with my family having hot chocolate and different delectable treats. I closed my eyes and smiled happily and announced to my family, “I was born to do this!” It was the first time I had admitted that traveling and being in new places would be my destiny, my future. I had never thought that it would be that, but in that moment, I knew my life had to take on such a path.

A year later, my family moved from NY and we headed down south. From there, I have lived all over the US and have only been out of the country once more, but currently in my life, I have moved more times than I ever thought I would. I no longer have a fear of moving and being in a new place. In fact, I have to be some where new all the time! Any time an opportunity comes to be in a new city, experience a new culture and be with new people, I am the happiest. It is was on this passion that has fueled this project (the unfamous), and really makes up a lot of who I am. Honestly, I really have to owe my outlook on life to my up bringing and my parents. They allowed me to be adventurous and they gave me the mentality to love people and not be afraid to be in new place. Growing up, we always had someone living at our house, visiting for an extensive time, or just sharing a meal with us. My parents were known for hosting easily 50 people at their house on a weekend and feeding everyone and sharing everything they had. It was always strange when other people were not in the house. Just recently, I went home to Tennessee to help my parents move into their new house. As my dad and I were sitting around drinking coffee in the new house, all we could talk about was how perfect the space was to host a large group of people. Just think of the huge dinner party we could have, we both said aloud. The house is two-story, but the bottom floor is a completely open floor plan. I call it the “great room”, because the living room, dining room, and kitchen are all one huge room. We got excited thinking about the possibilities. I love that this is the way my family thinks and it has definitely carried over into my life. Being a designer, I am always ready for the new possibilities that will open up. I am always ready to move, experience something new, meet someone new. The gypsy life. I have been called a gypsy on one occasion or another and I have been known to live out of my car once or twice. It is the sacrafice for the art and for the lifestyle. It is nice having a home, but its up to you to choose what a home is to you! To me, its family, a welcoming city, a tight group of friends sharing a meal… the moments that create memories and make you feel safe. Other than that, I say enjoy the adventure and see where life takes you!

-Sylvia