Hello again!

It’s been a super long time since my last post, and things have progressed as they always do. I have a new computer, but I still don’t know how to use it and our relationship is tense. I would appreciate anyone who can tell me how to access caps lock on a chromebook. It’s not where I think it should be. Anyway, I am fully moved in to my (furnished and therefore requiring very little actual moving) apartment in Paris. I’m not sure that you can really call it an apartment because it is more of a tricked-out bedroom, complete with sink and shower. I am currently trying to cook a quiche in the microwave/oven that is in here, and am only now downloading the instruction manual, which means that this quiche will turn out like all of my other quiches: not quite right. This is not important.

Paris is wonderful, of course, and I feel so lucky to be in the position that I’m in. I’ve also decided that this is a good time to take my blog in a new direction. Not that it has much direction, but still. These past weeks I’ve found myself using poetry as an outlet for my creativity and I will be “publishing” it here. So I’ll go ahead and apologize preemptively for that, but I’ve gotten good feedback from my two most important critics, Megan and Abby, so I have been emboldened to take the next step: whoring out my blog as an experimental poetry sounding board.

But first, I would like to regale you with photos of my neighborhood and the things I’ve seen. However I’m having a lot of trouble finding images from my phone on this insane computer so here are a few instead of the onslaught I had prepared.

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The view from my room. Plus shoutout to my fresh herbs. RIP already the mint that got a little too crispy on a sunny day.
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Seen from a run, but honestly I was walking.
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GOT HERBS! Had to manually capitalize all of these letters
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Just next to my house. The Jardin du Luxembourg.
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Feeling like a freak at the Sorbonne; signing my contract so they can’t change their minds.

 

Megan said that I am probably receiving divine inspiration from the ghost of Gertrude Stein (whose former building I live in,) which is why I am suddenly producing a bunch of poetry. I don’t want to do her ghost a disservice and claim that our work is linked. I’ll let you, the reader, decide what’s what.

Update: I’ve burned the quiche.

Here are two poems from my recent prolific catalogue. One lighter one more serious. Both based off of true events.

 

To the man

To the man who plays music

On a wireless speaker in public.

Who do you think you are

To decide that we all want to listen to “Senorita”

At the Tuilerie Gardens.

 

You are drunk with power,

You despotic fuck.

 

 

Otis

I thought I saw you on the street today,

In Paris, walking by.

Heading home, then there you are.

On the Boulevard Raspail.

 

You’ve never been to France, I know

You’ve not been on a plane.

But just the same, “it’s him, it’s him.”

My heart whispers to my brain.

 

He had something of yours

That made think that it could be.

His insouciance, his joie, they’d say,

I’d offer just a “oui.”

 

I stopped to gape and then of course

Realized it wasn’t true.

But I thought of all the things I’d say

If only it were you.

 

That I’m sorry, that I miss you.

That I remember every day.

That you made me love everything.

We walked, we ran, we’d lay.

 

I’d say that I lost everything

Try to make you understand

That when I think about it now,

I can feel you in my hands.

 

But it’s too late now

Our time has passed.

There’s nothing we can do.

I just keep walking and after all, that French dog isn’t you.

 

So I wrote this poem, an ode to you.

You’ll never hear it, but I tried

To say that after all these years

When I got home I cried.

 

 

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Crash!

It is with great sadness and on a small screen that I announce the untimely but not unexpected death of my computer. We had six wonderful years together. She saw me through the end of college, graduate school, the beginning of my teaching career, and most of this current journey, which unfortunately, was too great a burden for her. I announce this loss here, because it, along with my dedication to laziness and procrastination, is the reason why this blog has gone to seed of late. Here is a photographic update of my trip, which has at this point evolved from an extended trip to a more permanent move abroad. However, I will be back in the states soon, in order to to buy a computer. Also, now that I’m at the end of my upload this is actually a SHITTON of photos and I would never have written a blog entry for each visit anyways.I wrote captions for each of these images and they were deleted. I will rewrite them once I regain control of myself.

Bourg-en-Bresse

French pastoral
Rooftop

An apple with a view
Commentary on my number one zaddy

Monastery at Brou, built for Philibert le Beau. Hot take: he was not v beau

Besançon

A top spot
From the citadel

Do you know which river this is
The citadel
Clocks abound in Besançon

London

How many lives were lost before this initiative?
England in a pic, huh

Been plotting this one for years
Look!
Left my pencil case here. Tithe?

Got carried away in the national portrait gallery
There was alcohol
So soon?

Bath

Views

Brighton

Came to Brighton and saw everything

White sandy beaches y’all
Stayed in a disgusting hostel. Here I am, blending in

Cambridge

The garden I worked in. Joy.

Toulouse

Back in France and feeling good

A gallery space I enjoyed

Cloister!

Went to a contemporary art museum and renounced all art

Tournon d’Agenais

A lil eggplant

Bordeaux

Arriving in Bordeaux, thinking about the 4th of July

Lyon: Highs and Lows

After leaving Bourgogne, I headed to Lyon, the second biggest city in France, (I think.) This wasn’t my first visit, but it was my first visit alone, and I was glad to be able to explore the city at my own pace. I was also there, alone, on my birthday, which made me feel surprisingly vulnerable. I don’t feel particularly attached to my birthday and I choose to live far away from my friends and family so I shouldn’t complain, but celebrating my birthday alone made me feel very far away from everyone. Plus, it’s my party so I’ll cry if I want to.

Luckily I had a good distraction to keep me from feeling too sorry for myself: Lyon, which is a truly magnificent city. It is also terrifically hilly. As I trudged up hills and stairs, I thought about my own highs and lows. In the end, I landed on the following super hackneyed realizations: there is no high without low. There is no breathtaking view without a climb.

Here are a few pictures of the things I climbed and the things I saw.

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I spent three days in this city. When I arrived I was anxious, fearful, and fully transitional. Upon leaving, I felt calm, tired, and grateful. How glad I am to have another year to explore the highs and lows that certainly lie ahead of me.

 

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An unreal tree in the Tête d’Or park.
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This is 28
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Viewing a church from inside of another church. Bananas!
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The key to my airbnb. Giving me “The Secret Garden” vibes

 

 

City mouse//Country mouse: Bourgogne

I left Colmar on April 25th and went straight to Bourgogne, a nearly neighboring region where I had arranged a stay with a family. I was to spend nearly two weeks working as a farmhand, which is not exactly my wheelhouse, but I was prepared to give my all. I was received by the most incredible family who run a gîte on their truly lovely farm. After spending a lot of time eating pie and twiddling my thumbs in Colmar, it felt so good to apply myself to some manual labor and to be immersed in French family life.

This is the first of many homestays that I have found for this spring//summer and I don’t expect that it will be topped. Each day I performed different tasks, from tying raspberry bushes? plants? to posts, which is a brambly affair, to painting an endless ceiling, from which I still have a decent amount of paint in my hair. So much in fact that an acquaintance politely offered, “I don’t know how to tell you, but a bird has flown over you.” Hehe. My labor was compensated with room and board, in a warm family environment, which is always a desirable accommodation.

Each morning before I began there was homemade bread and jam, and lunch and dinner always included garden-grown vegetables, harvested and stored from last year. I hung around with the family and their myriad and diverse visiting guests. There were beautiful views, amazing food, and, as always, much and more to learn.

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A Monet moment
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The raspberry patch that I worked in
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Every Raspberry plant has its thorns
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A picturesque breakfast: homemade jam today, homemade jam tomorrow.
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Champs de Colza and my stupid shadow.
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A view.

This family was conveniently located near Dijon, which I was able to visit on a day off. I loved Dijon and found it to be super refreshing after spending so much time in Alsace, which is fantastically unique, if not slightly repetitive in its devotion to half-timbered architecture. No shade. I wandered around for a long time and ended up in the Musée des Beaux Arts right as it began to rain, a lucky break for someone who keeps trashing her malfunctioning umbrellas. There were portraits of the Dukes of Burgundy but I was very distracted by the fact that their nicknames and their portraits didn’t seem to correspond. For example, Jean 1er de Bourgogne is nicknamed The Fearless, but his portrait is just him holding a ring in a very fancy hand. Likely I am missing the context but I found the whole thing funny decided to take a selfie and add it to the collection. My work is not supported by the museum.

My education pass, furnished by the French government (Thank you Zaddy) granted me free access to a hôtel particulier, which is a sort of former aristocratic home that has been converted into a lavish museum. This space was called the musée Magnin, named for the brother and sister who collected art in their home, which now serves as a gallery. But! The rooms have been preserved and so instead of a gallery feel, it is more like being in a decadent home that is heavy with paintings. I loved the art but I also loved the decorations and general splendor: heavily ornamental furnishings and fabrics. Reminded me deeply of Rihanna’s recent evocation: More is More. It also satisfied the perverse part of me that desperately wants to explore strangers’ private spaces.

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An endlessly entertaining portrait: What if, back in the day, if you wanted to know how the back of your hair looked, you had to wait for a portrait to be painted. How else!?
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The wallpaper and the curtains match: the effect is SUMPTUOUS
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The same room. MORE IS MORE.
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Me, chanDELIRIOUS in my surroundings. I have no business being here, clearly.
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Curtains and wallpaper matching again. Don’t fight it.
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My favorite part, the viewing bench fabric. A good place from which to admire.
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The sister Magnin, whose face has been replaced by the chandelier glare, but whose waist is the stuff of RuPaul’s Drag Race Dreams.

After the rain, I walked around the city and didn’t take very many good pictures of the general architectural splendor, which was vast. There was a lot of green space incorporated into the city as well and I found myself drawn to green things. Plants and paints. Also I visited an excellent market bursting with vendors and took a picture of the only repulsive thing.

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Ahh
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Ooh
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I would hesitate to call this a cake but I guess it is.
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Someone’s residence. Can you imagine?

 

After another week of wonderful work and family immersion I visited Beaune, another nearby city/town (never sure when one becomes the other.) I was prepared to like this wine spot, but I ended up loving it, preferring it to Dijon, which surprised me. Surrounded by walkable ramparts and covered in ivy, Beaune was painfully beautiful, albeit crawling with tourists like myself.

 

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A house along the ramparts. Good Ivy.
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A market in the center. Not a great pic.
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A tapestry in the church illustrating the life of Mary. Unfortunately I found the plot difficult to follow.
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Only took this picture because of that “selling merch at the crucifixion” meme.
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Look at these textures! Look at these colors.
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Had to zoom heavily to capture these ostentatious topes.

 

Beaune is known for its Hospices, which is a former hospital run by nuns, that now has an insanely expensive charitable wine auction. I considered not entering which would have been a huge oversight and I’m glad I did. 10/10 would recommend, although the free audioguide is very campy and boring.

 

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A shadowed simulation of nun/patient care:
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The floor. More is more.
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Example mannequins: the sort of thing I hate. But these sisters were doing God’s actual work so I won’t criticize.
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A close-up of the tuiles vernisées de Bourgogne. Glistening.
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My visit was after a heavy lunch and I thought only about the certain comfort of those beds.
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Tuiles vernisées give this effect. The ceiling is the roof.

 

My time in Bourgogne was exactly what I needed after a long stay, spent in one fashion in Alsace. Spending time in nature and a family environment meant having a space for learning and rumination, as well as comfort and supportive communication. The proximity to the city allowed for independent exploration and the type of cultural foolery that I like to employ during my discovery. These two weeks passed too quickly but were the balm for all of my restlessness; the balance between city and country, work and rest, felt like a revelation. I know I will be back and I look forward to admiring beautiful Bourgogne in a different season.

sPRINgTEMPS

Spring is in full bloom in Colmar, and with the rebirth and renewal of all things natural, I have found the inspiration necessary to bring my blog out of hibernation. This season is so beautiful and refreshing, I hardly know how to begin to describe my joy and gratitude. This winter felt long, as they often do, but I have quickly forgotten the months of suffering and am devoted to fully enjoying this new season.

The warmth has transported me home in a way, as I have not been here long enough to have seasonal associations, and I sometimes find myself longing for the warm promise of North Carolina weather. However. Spring in North Carolina is a joke. Balmy winter days give way to unpredictable, unforgiving extremes, and soon enough, any joy found in the half-hearted transitional season is lost as literally everything is awash with pollen. Here, I have been experiencing a true spring, and it is LOVELY. There is no pollen to coat all exterior surfaces, and, as frequently evidenced in years past, my nasal passage.

The flowers are in bloom, the trees are the most beautiful sampling of colors: deep green, a perfect purple, the freshest light green, flowers and buds.

The best part of this spring is seeing people reclaiming all of the spaces that winter made inhospitable. Restaurants have produced terraces all over town and people have flocked to fill the seats. Parks are full of people reading, laying, playing, eating, drinking, smoking. The town’s fountains are back on, looking beautiful and stinking like chlorine. There is also a sort of playful ground fountain that shoots water up in the air in the town’s main plaza, and while it is presumably a decorative element, I think this fixture only exists to tempt children into running through it, to their parents’ sincere chagrin.

I have found so much pleasure in leaving my window open (accidentally inviting in a legitimate colony of flies,) taking long walks around the town, and appreciating the full mobility that I have, no longer confined to a winter coat.

This weekend will be my last in Colmar and I hope to take advantage of the local splendor and regional specialties before leaving Alsace next week. I will be traveling around this spring/summer, but leaving is bittersweet. I am sad to leave the people I have met here, when I think about the kindness they have shown me, I can hardly bear it. But! Spring reminds us that all states are temporary and I feel comfortable leaving, knowing that I made the most of my time here.

I’ve been saying goodbye to friends, coworkers, and acquaintances this week. Last night I ate dinner with the family whose daughters I tutored for the past few months. Their mom prepared beautiful, white, local asparagus. They are not like the snappy green guys we eat at home. They are thick and sweet and the heads are light yellow and buttery soft. I was explaining this to the family and probably sounded like a fucking idiot saying what translates to “I have never seen such an asparagus.” But it’s true. I was surprised when I arrived to find the mother peeling the vegetables, as I have never considered peeling an asparagus before. She explained that these ones have a firm exterior skin and it’s best not eaten. During dinner I noticed the others were sometimes shaving off a thin skin with their knives, but I couldn’t recognize the difference (having never seen such an asparagus,) so I ate everything and it seemed fine. One of the daughters noted my plate, devoid of skins and said that I must be good at selecting well-peeled asparagus. I laughed and sort of nodded but knew that this was only one item on a long list of offal that I have eaten here in an attempt to hide my ignorance and maintain politeness. The list includes a lot of animal fat.

Other than eating things that I probably should not, I am well. Also my hair is the longest it has ever been, I think, and today, wearing my birkenstocks for the first time this year, I felt like an unkempt secular Jesus. Anyways, here are some pictures of Colmar in its recent splendor.

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Reached through a fence for this private pic
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Taken from beneath, which felt artistic (which IS artistic)
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A lovely flowering guy that looks like the Forsythia that I ate last week, thinking it was Honeysuckle. The more you know!
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a highly structured tree: from beneath. Potentially upside down.
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Took this while hanging upside down off of a park bench (lengthwise.)
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Took this snap with good intentions but I have no luck with dusky photos.
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What a caption!
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View from a tower in the écomusée near Bollwiller. 10/10 recommend.

WaterWorld

This blog has basically turned into a space where I recount the details of my lengthy and frequent vacations, and so I will continue the trend. This entry concerns the February//March vacation which I spent with my best friend, most impressive role model, and meanest Jeremih impersonator/blog troll, Megan. Megan had an extremely fortuitous business trip that sent her to Zurich, Switzerland, a mere two hour bus ride from my home. What an unexpected treat to see each other again so soon, and the perfect antidote to my winter madness, recently exacerbated by a truly unbelievable cold spell. Megan’s work put her up in a swanky high-rise hotel in Zurich where I joined her and took full advantage of the amenities while she worked. There was a penthouse pool, complete with a sauna, which I didn’t realize was unisex and full nude until I was making determined eye contact with a naked man. Oops.

While Megan was working I wandered all up and down the city, which is beautiful. The streets are impeccably clean, the river (and eventual lake) are crystal clear, and the city barely bustles, rather it seems to flow, with the precision and poise I have come to expect from the Swiss. The traffic was perfectly maintained and the bikers, walkers, and drivers coexisted harmoniously. I think I heard one car honk in the space of five days. All of these things contributed to the vibe of this pristine city. The immaculate streets were filled with beautiful buildings, lovely gardens, and healthy, well-dressed people.

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Zurich from the University. I think I walked up 10,000 stairs to reach this spot. Was it worth it?

Megan and I knew that the city, in addition to being an aesthetic marvel, would be cost-prohibitive. I came from France with several sandwiches, several bottles of wine, and a large assortment of produce. I also brought my water bottle, which allowed me to take advantage of the most impressive and delightful detail of the city. All over Zurich you can find water fountains. This is already exceptional, but these water fountains were especially excellent. They were beautiful to look at, and they piped cold, refreshing Swiss spring water from a nearby forest. Classy. I lost my mind over this feature and drank so much of the amazing water that I spent the whole of the trip looking for free bathrooms. Not so easily found. I also started taking pictures of the fountains, which will now be displayed and rated, at the request of no one. There were many more, but I started taking pictures late in the game and also forgot to stay dedicated.

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Shadowy and had some litter in it, but 8/10 for being the original haunt of the man whose leg is pictured. Megan and I would see him at least three more times.
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A top notch fountain, 9/10. Peep the dolphin. Nice.
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Not running and slowly becoming a trash receptacle but 6/10 for existence.
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10/10 for statuesque drinking.
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This one was near our hotel and I frequented it. 10/10: gold spigot//bird of prey statue.
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Was too intimidated to use this stunner, 9/10. Loses one point for approachability.
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Not actually functioning but 3/10 for the thought.
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Look at that crystal clear water. 8/10 because the reachable spigot wasn’t working.
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My favorite fountain, hands down. 10/10 for great shape and perfect placement on a sunny, uphill walk.
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Shadowy pic of a good courtyard fountain. Didn’t drink from it, but 7/10 for delicate spigot work.
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A good one. Basin style, multiple spigots. 7/10.
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Not very beautiful but steady drip and was discovered at a moment of true thirst. 6/10.

 

Megan and I spent an evening at the thermal baths which is on brand for this post and was a luxurious, bubbly treat. We also admired the swimming spots all along the river, and can only conclude that Zurich is a great place for a good soak.

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Snug as bugs in our hotel bed, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is obviously 10/10. Unlike the movie Water World, which I despise.

Timberlove

People here ask me somewhat often if I am homesick. “It must be hard being so far from home,” they say. “No,” I answer, “I don’t mind.” This is mostly true. And it’s the correct response, after all. When people offer these kinds of niceties, it is not because they want you to pour your heart out to them; you aren’t really supposed to take the bait.

I would say that overall, I am not homesick, which is why it comes as a surprise when I do experience a wave of homesickness. I am surprised by the feeling, its strength, and usually, its origin. The things that move me are unexpected and seemingly unsentimental, but they trigger such deep feelings of loss that I can’t deny them, even in their absurdity.

My most recent bout of uncontrollable homesickness came on while I was sitting on a bench, eating a cookie and listening to Justin Timberlake. I was having a very nice day, and the cookie was very good, but suddenly, MIRRORS started to play, and as the (synth?) orchestra swelled, I found myself fully crying, cookie in mouth. Even though Mirrors is, without question, one of the most perfect songs ever created, I wasn’t moved to tears by its sheer beauty. Mirrors is a matter of grave importance in my family, where it is an anthem of affection. Megan, Alex, Abby, Austin and I are bound by our relation to one another, but we are united by our love for JT, and for Mirrors, above all. Many gatherings have ended with an unrequested rendition, and although we have sung it many times, I don’t think any of us knows anything but the chorus. Sitting on a cold bench, weeping, I suddenly felt so alone. “I am the only person here who understands Mirrors,” I thought, and was devastated.

My cry was pretty involved so I listened to the song twice, but the radio edit, not the super-long original version. I texted my sisters some of the more sentimental bits of the song, in all caps, to illustrate my sincerity. I DON’T WANT TO LOSE YOU NOW. I’M LOOKING RIGHT AT THE OTHER HALF OF ME. Then I spent a while thinking about Justin Timberlake and how much I love his music, even “Señorita.” This was before the Super Bowl, which I did not watch, and which I hardly read about. I do know that people were upset about Justin Timberlake’s performance, and feel that it was tone-deaf to the current cultural climate. This may well be true, but when I see the words tone-deaf and Justin Timberlake in the same sentence, all I think about is my own perfectly tone-deaf choir, singing Mirrors, and I am grateful.

I was hoping that writing this post would help me to exorcise some of my JT-inspired homesickness, and of course, to document my devotion to Mirrors. I also want to use this space to say that I don’t know if any of my siblings follow this blog with regularity, but if they do, they should know: you are, you are, the love of my life.

 

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