My Summer Olympics Love Affair

Confession: I’m an Olympics nut. For 3 weeks every four years, I am glued to my television, soaking in the sports, athletes, medals and anthems.

I love the pageantry. I love the sportsmanship and the pride of the athletes in representing their countries. I love watching athletes from the previous Olympics return for repeats or redemption. I love finding new athletes to love and loathe. I love watching sports I’d never seek out at any other time, becoming obsessed with them and developing (uninformed but passionate) opinions about them. Today, I got up at 5:30a to watch the women’s gymnastics preliminaries online before watching rowing, beach volleyball, road racing and tennis on my DVR. But the best part of the Summer Games for me is how they are a touch point in my life, every four years. When the Games come around again, I think about what I was doing four years earlier, seeing how life has changed, moved forward (or not).

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Looking for a rainbow today

They say you never forget your first. Of course, when they say that, I’m sure they probably weren’t talking about the first friend who died, but the sentiment remains true.

I’ve had many memorable days in my 30+ years on the planet, a few of which have dates etched into my memory alongside the experience. April 20, 1997 is one of those dates. In the early morning hours of that sunny Sunday, my friend Joe took his own life. Fifteen years – oh geez, FIFTEEN YEARS – later, I can still feel Kristin’s arms around me as we clung to each other in the chapel (a place I never spent time in prior or since) after hearing the news. I can still feel Chris and Jon’s broad shoulders on either side of me during the memorial service. There were too many of us crammed into that pew, but no one wanted to be apart.

We weren’t especially close friends, especially as we got older and ran in different crowds. Alphabetically, his last name was just before mine, so as children, we sat next to each other a lot. The pictures in my head are faded, fuzzy and relying on the anecdotes we repeat every year around this time more than actual memory. I can hear his voice in my head, but only if I concentrate really hard. I still have the original green ribbon we cut as a way to hold him with us and the rainbow stickers we bought at an all-night Giant. But the rainbow air freshener is gone and the pictures we collected and traded are in a box in my closet.

Joe has now been gone longer than he was in my life (having met when I was 2) and that’s a hard thing to swallow today. I’ve lived half my life without him in it. Perhaps that would have happened anyway; the circle of friends from high school that I’m still in contact with shrinks from year to year. But at sixteen years old, I was brought face-to-face with death in a way I hadn’t been before. I’d attended funerals for my music director’s husband and my friend’s father, but this felt more raw and unjust. Unfortunately, Joe would not be the last friend we lost before his time, but he was the first.

I don’t pin the green ribbon on my jacket anymore, but I do pause each year today and on his birthday to remember my friend. I say a prayer (a rare occurrence for me these days as well) and hope that he is out of pain now. I still look for a rainbow today and next week (when we originally saw the rainbow after his private funeral service). It may be 4/20 day for the rest of the world, but today, I just miss my friend.

Left My Heart in San Francisco (Good Thing I Live Here)

It’s Valentine’s Day again and as a singleton, it’s tough to show how “fine” you are with being “alone” on February 14th without it coming off as trying too hard to seem okay. Coupled up friends post photos of flowers they got delivered at work and post about dinner reservations, back rubs and how sweet the significant other is being (though to be fair, most of them post this kind of stuff about “date night” once a week anyway). Some uncoupled friends swing too far the other way on Single Awareness Day, exhorting us to celebrate all kinds of love and make the night special for ourselves.

Not having had a Valentine since I was a senior in high school, I’m not really into the day as a concept. I wore a red dress to work today, and there were more cupcakes and chocolates on hand. But at the end of the day, I yelled at traffic while dropping off my dry cleaning and slipped on my comfy lounge pants when I got home. Sure, I wish I had a boyfriend to cuddle up on the couch with and watch Cougar Town tonight (yeah, like I’d forget to promote that!), but I’m not going to cry into my merlot because I’m single today. I was single yesterday and I’ll likely be single tomorrow.

So, I don’t have a cutesy story about how my boyfriend and I exchanged the same book as gifts or how we’ve been together so long, we’ve eschewed celebrating (even though we’re going out to dinner and he got me flowers). Instead, my favorite Valentine’s Day is the day I fell in love with San Francisco. I had been accepted to San Francisco State and I met my parents here to take a look at the school and scout out potential neighborhoods to move to. The day I flew into town, Gavin Newsom made history. The next day, in between laying down in the street to take photos of the TransAmerica Pyramid and being accosted by a crazy Asian woman in Chinatown, my parents and I visited City Hall:

Screenshot from the previous iteration of this blog

I fell in love with San Francisco that day and I couldn’t wait to be a part of a place that not only accepted ALL of its citizens, but fought for their right to love (and marry) whomever they wished. I was near tears for most of the afternoon because the love, affection and dedication I saw was too beautiful.

San Francisco and I have had our ups and downs. Muni has made my life hard more than it hasn’t and there’s never anywhere to park. Some of the denizens I interact with on a daily basis could use a polish (or a shower) and I can’t walk down Market St without feeling like I’ve taken my life in my own hands. But then there’s that bright, sunny day where it’s warm enough to be without a coat and I’m steps away from the Pacific, and all is forgiven. I love the hills, the fog and the Giants. There’s always a new place to eat, a new weird trend to mock and endless cocktails with friends. I left San Francisco once a few years ago and it was the biggest mistake I ever made. I’m lucky to be back with my City and I don’t intend on letting go.

So, on Valentine’s Day, I celebrate my relationship with San Francisco and continue to believe that there will be more good days than lonely days ahead. Of course, days like today, I thought I’d be married by now. But I’m guessing those 2600 couples from 8 years ago thought that too. And that’s the broader theme.

Thank you for your service to your country

President Barack Obama greets Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24, 2012. The US congresswoman continues her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

9/11: Ten Years Later, I Can Still Feel It

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of 9/11/01, everyone is telling their story of where they were, who they were with and what they went through that day. It’s something I’ve reflected on in the past, but with the round number anniversary, I feel compelled to share my day as well. I wasn’t there, I didn’t lose anyone and nothing happened to me. But at the same time, like many people that day, my whole world changed.

In September 2001, I was 20 years old and I had just moved into my first “real” apartment in Santa Monica, CA. I was still looking for a part-time job, having made the decision to permanently relocate to Los Angeles from DC after concluding my summer internship at The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. And I was taking 12 units at Santa Monica College, scheduling my classes for Monday, Wednesday, Friday, so I would have two whole days to work as well as Wednesday and Friday afternoons. I was primarily hanging out with my friend KB (name changed for use on the Internet), who was working at hotel in Beverly Hills. We had met at Kilborn and we were both looking for that next entertainment job.

On September 9th, he returned from a week-long trip to New York, job hunting, and we both experienced our first California earthquake. On September 10th, I spent the day in classes and KB worked the day shift at the hotel. On Tuesday, September 11th, I didn’t have class and I didn’t have a job yet, so I had planned to sleep in before tackling some homework and looking for more jobs to apply for.

Around 6am, my house phone rang. I muttered about the phone waking me up on a day I could sleep in, especially when the caller ID said “Unknown Caller.” It was my dad, calling from his business trip in the Dominican Republic, and he sounded like he had been crying. Continue reading