A Toast in Ink, to Songs about Me

November 23 – November 27

A few days before my birthday I had gone to dinner with a Russian guy. In the backyard twilight of Zazie Bistro and just deciding on having a beer rather than wine to make him feel less unrefined, he opened up on a rather beautiful tradition of his homeland. We’d met at a Halloween party thrown at my old startup I’d worked for, and a second Halloween party after, found ourselves seated across each other learning about our mutual acquaintances and what brought him from the East Coast to San Francisco. The beers had just come and we made a toast. Not just any concise, watered-down cheer. I can’t remember what words were said, but he said them with much effort and all heart. That was the way Russians did toasts. To recite good luck kisses through speeches and express ultimate gratitude given this moment for a single, fruitful reflection. Cheers, and to what? Even if you couldn’t exactly wrap words around your feelings, the rambling was enough of sincerity.

Now it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and as I reflect back on the quiet, tame little holiday that was had with my own family back in my old home, here in the cold suburbs of Concord,  what would I have said when we’d all tap glasses over the roasted turkey? In all sincerity, that reflection could go so many ways. The obvious: to another blessed year where my family is together and my grandfather is doing better in health (not to mention having Lion, the biggest and most gentlemanly Rottweiler I’d ever been around, present); to the unexpected, for the job I now hold as a copywriter and content manager for a leading Ecommerce startup, as well as the extended stay at the studio in Pacific Heights that I’ve come to love and grow uniquely as a young woman approaching her mid-twenties. And then there’s the unconditional, for those who stick through my weird moods and awkwardness and crazy, sometimes inconsiderate notions. The people who stick around from high school and college and those who came into my life because of those things since feeling my most confident and outgoing at work. In those two weeks since I first thought about serious toasting, I wish still at times that the young man from Moscow had been one of them, too.

It’s because of these events from the year that I shall give this personal toast now to myself, a silly one. Here’s to the most unlikely of motivators that few have the pleasure to experience as I do: the songs about Paris.

Only their titles say my name– to whom they sing about or why they’re titled so is at the discretion of the songwriters. But music has moved me and my writing in ways that other medium hasn’t, and it’s a miracle any songs with my name should exist. It’s still surreal sitting here, listening to these few songs as if I’m alone with my conscience; just as visceral and warm feeling as it had been when the guy I crushed on in high school wrote a song about me called “Paris” too and posted the lyrics to his band’s MySpace page. Granted it was a comical summary of my rejection letter from UC Berkeley, but any nod from your crush is a step in the right direction and ego-boost– you’re doing something right to get noticed by someone… even if that someone wasn’t your first-choice university.

I feel indebted to these vaguely titled songs for being this personal conscience come to life in music. They tell me, every time I listen to them, not to worry, no matter the situation. So for now, maybe I’m alone again, not at my lowest but still feeling disappointed. Nine months in and I’ve found happiness in all ways except for one. But keep going, it’s just one less obstacle that maybe I’m getting closer to overcoming. With my weirdness and supposedly drastically different interests that didn’t work for some, there’s new barriers I must learn not to put up from these misadventures. Maybe it seems like it couldn’t get any worse, but it could be that the worst has passed. And that is where I’ve got Magic Man and Grace Potter, their tunes helping me cope in a way only I can really feel. Songs about me, my personal anthems that belong to no other soul. In their heavy baselines and playful piano riffs at intervals, this is enough to move anyone in need of feeling new and uplifted– not a waste of a date or two, or five.

And in the future to come– well I trust myself now backed with these songs to do only what suits me and no one else. Sitting Tuesday night at the twinkle-lit bar of the Buddha Lounge, the bartender Mark stopped his game of dice to serve up my Jack and Coke and raw advice, adding more fuel to these newly-found sentiments. Chinatown’s fairest dive served up the simplest reflection that no matter what choices you make, always be happy you made them. Should anyone else make dictate your life and emotions, you’ll spend the rest of your life blaming them for what you could have avoided; with their choice you come to hate them.

“And if you make your own bad choices,” my uncle, already on a second glass of scotch, went on, “you hate yourself!”

Me, Mark, my uncle’s girlfriend, and my sister laugh. “Not what I was going at,” Mark said, “I say, you make your own choices, that is not hate. No, your bad choice is a lesson that you never forget. That you learn from it.”

I did learn from the shortcomings of these last two weeks. I let myself get vulnerable at the expense of some hope for final complete happiness in all realms of my life. But I shall have to wait. Learn from this. Make a better, reserved decision for whenever the next opportunity presents itself. I feel that it won’t be terrible. And I still have those songs to reinforce this outlook. My name is Paris, Paris is weird and perhaps boring and neurotic. But there’s still something about this little woman, 24 years young and looking for new adventures on her own conditions. She’s not drastically different without reason. There must be someone who’ll be more than happy to resign themselves to these interests of hers, no matter how odd.

“Yes!” My uncle went on. “That’s right. You gotta bake your cake and lie in it.”

And always thankful to my family.

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Neighbors, Liars, & Story Bearers

October 19 – October 25

Wednesday of the week hadn’t even passed when the such occurred:

  • My year anniversary at my work
  • National Writing Day (October 20th)
  • Having two of my essays rejected from a live reading and subsequent publication
  • Awkwardly attending the HOA meeting for my apartment building.

In that last instance, it didn’t help that my two neighbors on our side of the ground floor darted up the stairs at the same time. Would it look bad that I hadn’t gone too? Did everyone else? It would look suspicious is what.

In fact, as the only tenant present, I still looked suspicious.

Why does so much damn suspicion have to arise?? Strangers are abound in big cities. We’re not really afraid of them, and nor do we care to make friends. Everyone that I’ve known who’s ever moved to a new city has been guilty of posting the never-failing “In town– hit me up” status for all to see. A shame no one really wants strangers. They give excellent stories– keep you on your toes. I hope my dear friends take no offense when I say now that nothing I’ve ever written has ever been based upon them, because all the things I know about them, all that they’ve told me– well those are their stories, aren’t they?

I make it a goal to encounter new faces and their uncharted territory of the past– what I don’t know already about completely new people that, as little or grand our encounters may be, are forever and instantly a part of my little life. Even better, is when they arise from the most unexpected places and moments. Fast forward to the weekend, and I make a full recovery from the strange occasion of the HOA meeting. A party, a dark part of 24th Street still dancing with resident ruffians and chain smokers standing at the stairs of the apartment, and a new face who happened to be the birthday girl and hostess. This night seemed to be the perfect pool to dive in for these stories; I’m still looking for ways to make use of the Donald Trump pinata being beaten on the street to a pulp, dangling on a line from my friend’s apartment window and soon gushing open with goodies that anyone my age would take for nothing: cigarettes, mini scotch bottles, bubble gum. And even that was just the shallow end of the night’s pool.

I met the guy in the kitchen, but we had stood shoulder to shoulder as we watched Trump being smashed by the birthday girl and other guests. He’d only come with his friend who was the ex of my friend’s former roommate (who needs Hinge?); towards 3 AM me and this Premier League devotee and Twitter-bashing compatriot had already agreed to meet up another time in the near future. Some drinks in the Mission, we both loved that neighborhood. Another kiss perhaps. We both had really liked that.

Here I’ve bared with you a story of my own, taken from no one and only lived by my own example made in the moment. And I could only wish that in the instance of this unlikely yet oddly Millennial fairy tale, a happy ending could come from it. As a Millennial’s tale, it’s still being lived– the happy ending is what’s we twenty-somethings hope is the end goal to all this nonsense, to moving out to big cities and putting ourselves among strangers be it next door or on the bus or as they kiss you one last time before your Uber pulls up. Only twice has he and I kept in touch– nothing genuine, nothing charming– here was just a frog who’d hopped off and back into the shallowness of this cesspool of a city that I love so much yet resent for all its dead ends. The liars of the bunch, where their stories are nothing short of just making themselves interesting to hook you in for nothing that is really there, nothing for you at least– as a writer, a single woman, a curious soul in search of a possible new adventure in which to enjoy this city all over again to overlook its faults.

I wish I could spare my neighbors from this realization. But, my smiles and readiness to talk about the resolved leaks from my unit did nothing to prepare me for the week to follow, the Monday after I had held my Halloween party well stocked with “Thriller” on repeat and excess bottles of Newcastle that made their way onto the curb of the apartment. The Monday after when one of these bottles from the gutter had made its way to my front door out of thin air, empty and dirt covered and a reminder that in that building, eyes are watching.

And so the suspicion lives on.