Skip to main content

Vaxxed and Unmasked for Margaritas with Alice

My dear friend Magdalena has always had a special talent for sniffing out delicious secrets. She's an outgoing, bold, colorful woman, but she keeps an eye on the quiet people. She has a knack for glancing over a bunch of same-same-looking folks, breezing past all the dull sad sacks, and picking out the socially camouflaged, melancholy few who seem to be harboring some kind of romantic ennui, guarded eccentricity, or rich private life that they aren't eager to share. And then she goes after those people with the focus of a truffle pig on the scent and won't stop until they reveal themselves to her and let her love them!

I had the pleasure of meeting Magda's latest conquest, a silver-haired lady I'll call Alice the Archivist, last weekend in my very first post-lockdown public group hangout (everyone 100% vaccinated!). The following is my understanding of how Magda infiltrated her personal bubble and founded the official Alice Fan Club.

Alice is Magda's next-door apartment neighbor, but they went years without having a real conversation. Alice kept to herself and responded tersely, if at all, to Magda's friendly greetings when they happened to meet in the hall, which is understandable in a pandemic. But Alice's crustiness drove Magda wild with curiosity, combined with the occasional tantalizing glimpse into Alice's apartment and private life--solitary, a little dark but impeccably tidy, filled with fragrant old books, and were those tarot cards on the table?

One day, after vaccinations had become widely available and utilized by most of the educated population in our area, instead of simply saying hello, Magda ventured a more personal question: "Do you like tarot cards?"

"No," snapped Alice, and before she could disappear inside and shut the door behind her, Magda sneaked in the comment, "Well, I do. I find them interesting."

The next time Alice and Magda met, Alice abruptly asked Magda if she was a Sagittarius. 

Magda was floored because yes, she is.

"I knew it," said Alice. "I have a connection with Sagittarius. It's my moon sign [Her sun sign is THE CRAB, obviously!!!], and in the past I had many Sagittarius lovers. We form an instant connection, like you did with me. Also," she added, "I looked at your license plate."

LULZ! Points for honesty. But what she said next is quite spooky: "There is a man I've met recently who I am sure is a Sagittarius."

"Oh, why are you sure that he is?"

"We have a strong connection, and I can sense his Sagittarian nature. He's the manager at the bicycle shop down the road."

Magda's jaw dropped back onto the floor, because she realized that Alice was talking about my husband, the manager of that bicycle shop, who is, indeed, a Sagittarius as well.

Of course, Magda related this tale to me immediately, and I asked my husband if he had met a woman of Alice's full name and description. He said, "Oh yeah, I know her. She comes into the bike shop sometimes, but I think she hates me." 

Which is a very odd thing for my husband to say, because older women usually love him. But I told him, "That's not what I heard..." and he was very amused.

After the ice was broken, Alice and Magda became fast friends. Magda was invited inside of Alice's charming apartment full of beautiful old things. When drama broke out in the building one night (some possibly drunk people woke everyone up by repeatedly smashing all the buzzer buttons for all of the apartments), Alice checked in with Magda the next morning. "I was so afraid, I ran and bolted the door," she said. "It was not a good time for that to happen to me. I was high and naked." 

After hearing this story, a previous friendship conquest of Magda's--another shy, hermetic woman in the apartment building--buzzed with a desire to meet Alice properly and declared herself the President of the Alice Fan Club. 

Alice's crabby shell was softened so successfully that she agreed to meet up with the object of her previously secret crush (my husband), his wife (me), and her own secret admirer (the President of the Alice Fan Club), all of us about the age of her grown son. We all met on the patio of a cheap Mexican place that Alice enjoys, for margaritas and beers and enchiladas and spectacular post-pandemic conversation, at 4:00 p.m. on a sunny Saturday. Alice, we learned, gets up in the morning as early as my husband does, not for an early work shift but because she is one of those rare people who naturally awakens at about 4:30 a.m. and has done so all her life. She eats her meals on a weird, adjusted schedule like my family does. She lives a mostly regimented, healthy lifestyle, works weekdays for an academic establishment, and kicks back and gets blazed on the weekends while listening to classic books on tape.

Oh, how delightful it was for a group of five eccentrics to emerge from our dens, gather in a place of noise and bright sunshine, and laugh together after a year and a half of near-total isolation! The vibe was like this:

Except instead of young people clubbing in the early 2000s, it was four people who used to be young in the 2000s but are now approaching 40, plus a woman about our moms' age, talking loudly about political Satanism and the thriving local cannabis economy, at a casual dive off a busy highway, at Early Bird Special time. 

And it was so much fun! We took our masks off, sat on sticky chairs, nibbled out of communal bowls of chips and salsa, and touched each other's arms and shoulders. Wowee! I won't say it was just like the Before Times, because it was so much better. We took nothing for granted, got a thrill out of every little thing, and didn't give a single flying frijole about whether we were being awkward or uncool at this funny time when everyone is awkward, aren't they? And isn't it a privilege to be alive and awkward and free to enjoy all of it?

It is a joy to meet new people again, and it's liberating to be weird and no longer care, because life is short and unpredictable and full of more serious problems than worrying about whether other people wish you were a little more conformist. I hope you are vaxxed and relaxxed and venturing out on little baby adventures too.



Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Your Bogus Ego

We deserve nothing in this world. Let go of the whole idea that you "deserve" or "don't deserve" the fulfillment of your dreams. Whether you get it or not depends upon luck and what you do, not what you deserve. There is no cosmic Santa Claus doling out blessings and curses to the passive Nice and Naughty lists. You can be as nice and naughty as you like while you decide each day whether to keep working toward your goals or give up. And remember, changing your strategy isn't quitting; staying the course when it isn't working is a sneaky form of giving up on yourself under the guise of hustling. To win at life, as far as I can tell, you must be both humble in your identity and confident in your abilities to learn and adapt. You must love yourself so deeply from the inside out that you can laugh off your bogus ego, release your baggage, strip down to your truth, and get light and free. What a joy it is to finally accomplish that, no matter what achievement

$Monday: We Can Rise Above Death Cult Capitalism

Mmm, doesn't the smell of a bonfire make you feel punkin' spicy? Growing up, I internalized the United States cultural values of hard work as its own reward, high scores, and monetizing everything. From the age of 13, I scrounged for paltry wages (childcare, tutoring, arts and crafts sales, retail and food service and office temp jobs) while earning high grades at expensive private schools. I learned to feel guilty about "wasting" time relaxing without multi-tasking or enjoying a hobby with no intention of turning it into a hustle . I didn't have enough time to eat or sleep properly, and it made me sick and tired all the time. I was curious and drawn to new experiences, but I always felt ashamed of spending any time or resources pursuing an interest that offered no clear path to a paycheck or an award that would reflect a flattering glow upon my forebears. I had a healthy rebellious streak, but I learned to justify my transgressions with proofs of respectability a

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

Feast Your Eyes on This Cozy Cabincore Kitchen

My dream kitchen has become a reality at long last! Just in time for fall, I am falling in love with this new hearth of my home. Feast your eyes on this pure Michigan, cozy, crazy, cabincore kitchen! It's too bold and particular a style to be everyone's cup of tea, and that is exactly the point. This isn't a generic, beige box of a house to be flipped into the impersonal sales market, and it's not a rental unit, and it's not an entertainment space designed to be minimally offensive to the maximally judgmental hypothetical guest, it's my family's home , where we personalize our own cups of tea using supplies organized within our giant alien ceramic shelf pod and its smaller companion weird ceramic pod that holds our precious baggie of holy basil given to my husband as a tip at the bike shop he manages. Most of the ceramics in this room were created by a personal friend, artist Lisa Truax, who used local Michigan earth as one of the components in the piece tha

Rustic Open Shelves for a Bogcore Kitchen

Open shelving isn't for everyone, but it is essential to the 2020s bogcore kitchen. My family's DIY kitchen elegantly blends cultural influences from our ancestors which include Depression survivors, Viking-descended woodbillies, theater people/carnies, art fags, and Slavic sluts. My husband and I have crafted a wall of shelving and a pantry that combine rugged practicality with queenly flamboyance. Minimalist jars of raw ingredients line up alongside a vase of old peacock feathers. A ceramic sculpture displays our collection of grocery store spatulas. In the pantry, a large, cheap microwave nests snugly among rustic baskets, oiled wood carpentry, and our collection of well-loved, antique cast iron cookware. Bogcore is a welcoming, inviting, embracing aesthetic that can truly absorb and accept just about anything, with style. For example, I can hang up a dish towel from a wide range of colors and patterns that will work within the look of the kitchen. I don't have to be pic

TBT: The Harmonious Homes of Dr. Merle Kindred

Near the beginning of this millennium, I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Dr. Merle Kindred, a woman of the world who has dedicated her long, beautiful life to building a cozy future for all the people and other living beings that inhabit our planet. Although Merle no longer owns a house in the Keweenaw, she has left a legacy of wonderful human habitats for others there and in many other locations around the globe. She continues to educate and inspire developers and home builders with the warm care, wisdom, and complex technical knowledge she has gathered over many decades of thoughtful work, building not just structures but relationships and sustainable ways of life. Below is the post I wrote when I was a young, traveling activist in the 2000s. Merle offered me and my supervisor hospitality on a journey to organize rural Michigan for health care reform, and she also gifted us with a tour of her showpiece Northern Michigan home as well as a photographic tour of her house in Kerala, Ind

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

Pocket of Joy: Coming Out

Happy Pride Month! Has it ever been a better time to come out? Lil Nax X has died for our shame, descended into hell on a stripper pole, and slain the devil with his lap dance. Tig Notaro has conquered the undead and possibly usurped Kate McKinnon as most badass comedic lesbian paranormal action hero, which is now A Thing. "Schitt's Creek" has normalized pansexuality and revived America's faith in all kinds of enduring romantic love. Elliot Page has freed the trans man nips in joyful thirst traps on Instagram. After a year in quarantine, drag queens Trixie and Katya have become everyone's imaginary best friends. And my Instagram feed is sprinkled with videos of happily married, openly HIV-positive Jonathan Van Ness doing the happiest gorgeous little back flips. Kids today have all of these pop culture examples of people of every gender identity and sexual orientation living their best lives, creating joy and sharing it with others. Sadly, the danger in coming out

TBT: Medical Marijuana

Raise your hand if CBD oil is saving your life in 2020! Yeah, me too. I am using a small dose of a product by CBDistillery for a few days each month, starting just before my period. That's when I tend to have my worst anxiety episodes, typically occurring in the evening, resulting in acute cramps, nausea, flare-ups of fear that I am seriously ill, uncontrollable shaking, and hours of insomnia. I don't think these episodes are quite the same as panic attacks, though I have had those as well, about a half dozen times since my teens (at random times, not according to a hormone-related pattern). I started taking CBD oil earlier this spring, and since then I have had only one evening anxiety episode, which lasted only about one hour instead of the usual three or four. I have also completely, 100% avoided the symptoms of summer Seasonal Affective Disorder , which is rare but real and horrible. In past years, I have lost my appetite over the summer and become underweight and severe