10 Days of Alx: 9 Loves

Update: If you got here by link or bookmark — Please update your information!  We’ve moved to our permanent address, and you can read this entry there, at: Trial and Error.

So, this 10 Days business is turning into 10 weeks… sorry! For some reason the work load this quarter has been heavier than it’s ever been, so I’ve been completely swamped, and these things take a long time to write. I’m not about to abandon it after just one post though, so I hope you’ll forgive my tardiness and enjoy today’s edition. The day’s theme is love.

Loves below the jump.

1. LIZ

Obviously I wouldn’t do a list of things I love and not put Liz at #1!

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Liz and I met in December of 2006, in DC while we were both at Georgetown. I was a first year grad student, and she was a college senior. When she graduated, I still had a year left in my Master’s program so she stayed on, just to be with me, and took a job she didn’t like to help our family make ends meet. And then after that, when I got into my first choice law school, which happened to be 3,000 miles away in a city she’d never seen, she just helped me pack our things into the car and moved with me across the country. Because that’s just the sort of person she is. She’s kept me sane throughout law school – she is truly a woman of valor. Damn fine, too!

2. GAIUS, PANDA, AND GERTRUDE

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These are my babies! Gaius and Panda are my cats (Gaius pictured above, with flowers). Liz and I met right after my beloved childhood cat, who I brought with me to live in DC in all her 30 lb white cat glory, died unexpectedly. I was heartbroken, so I’d been putting off getting new cats, but with the advent of Liz I felt I was ready. We picked our babies out at the DC Humane Society, and now 5 years later we couldn’t be happier. Gaius is a sweet, cuddly, needy boy who needs constant attention and wants nothing more than to sleep ON MY FACE all night. Panda is more nervous and aloof, and the vet thinks he has some brain damage because he’s epileptic. But that’s ok, he’s a wonderful cat! He is a beautiful all-white cat with sky blue eyes, and even though he likes to pretend he doesn’t give a damn, he’s never far away from me and Liz.

Gertrude is our puppy (pictured below). She’s a mix of my two favorite dog breeds: chocolate lab and German shepherd. She joined our family during 1L summer. It was 4th of July weekend, and Liz made the mistake of letting me go to PetCo alone to get cat food. I came back with cat food, and a puppy. Gertrude was sitting at the pet store, with her 10 litter mates, and a sign that said ‘free puppies.’ She was at the bottom of a big pile of puppies, and I picked her up and she licked my face and I knew right then she had to come home with me. She has been the most wonderful addition to our family – and in her first few weeks with us she probably saved my life. One night after work, when Liz was out of town, I came home to find the door open. I didn’t think much of it, and I tucked myself into bed. Soon, I heard Gerty barking, and then I heard footsteps – men’s heavy boots and men’s voices in the hallway. Terrified, I called the police, but by the time they arrived, the invaders were gone. Gertrude – who was tiny and locked in her kennel, had scared them away with her already intimidating bark (they had no idea she was small and kenneled!) She was saying – hey you get in here and let me out, and I’ll give you a piece of my mind! What a good puppy!

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3. PHOTOGRAPHY

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That’s my camera up there – the Pentax K-7. It was a Hanukkah present from my dad 2 years ago, and I’d been wanting it desperately for a year before that. It’s taken me about a year to really learn how to use it – I was quite good with my point-and-shoot (that I still love), but I might have over-estimated my abilities when I decided to move up to the K-7. Even still, I’ve learned a bit of humility (ha!) and a lot about photography since I got this. For the first few months, I couldn’t take a picture that wasn’t blurry – it was so discouraging! But I slowly learned, and now I love this camera, it is a beautiful piece of machinery. The thing I love about this particular camera (I’m Pentax whore in general), is that every Pentax lens ever made fits every Pentax camera ever made – no adapters needed. So the old lenses my dad has from the Pentax he had in the early 60s fit my camera perfectly. My favorite feature is the built-in HDR mode, which I have had so much fun playing with. I also love all manner of post-production/processing software – my current obsession is Adobe Lightroom.

I use photography as a creative sanctuary in law school. When my analytical mind is feeling too buff and my creative mind feels like it’s whithering, I bust out the camera and spend the afternoon playing around. I love photographing scenery, especially macro photography of flowers and textures, but my all-time favorite photography genre is portraiture. I love taking portraits, any variety of them. I have some great ones of Liz, and some awesome ones of my close friend’s wedding on Orcas Island over the summer. I think if I didn’t have photography and graphic design, I would be depressed beyond words – without the creative outlet (which is what it is, it’s not even about being talented, just doing something creative), I would lose my mind for sure.

4. MY DIAMOND EARRINGS

I know you probably think it’s really shallow, but I’m going to explain. As a high school graduation present, my parents got be a pair of 2 karat diamond earrings. They came with a beautiful note, that said how proud they were of me, and what a wonderful young woman I grew up to be. I went to boarding school, so the earrings were presented as part of a ceremony my parents weren’t at, and I didn’t see all that much of my parents anyway, so the earrings and letter meant more to me than I could ever say. I’ve worn the earrings every day since – I’m 26, and I haven’t taken them off since I got them at 18. I’ve moved so many times since then that I’ve long since lost the letter, but I’m not ever going to let go of the earrings. I didn’t realize it when I was 18 obviously, but it turned out that the earrings are also the last gift I have from my parents as a unit – soon afterward they were separated, then divorced.  As far as I can find, the only reminders I have of when my family was whole are these earrings, and one picture of the three of us smiling and looking happy at my high school graduation.

5. COOKING

This should really be “cooking and food” – because I love both oh so much. Growing up, I always hung out with my dad in the kitchen, and he’d let me stir things or mix things when I was really young. He’s a great cook – mostly Hungarian food but all sorts of things, and I was always really impressed by that. I didn’t know how to cook though until I went to London for my Junior year abroad – I’d lived in the dorms since 9th grade so I never really needed to know. The dorms for my university in London, though, were actually like little pods of 6 single rooms with a shared kitchen. There was no dining hall. So I was really hungry at first! Finally I called my dad, and started getting some recipes, and it turned out I was a natural. Within a few weeks, the other students living in my dorm pod nominated me pod cook, and would wait patiently every day for dinner. I stayed in London for an internship over the summer, and I lived with two of my friends from University – two British kids who were 19 and had never had to cook for themselves. I became the apartment cook too, and when they took me to the airport in August, both were crying that they’d never eat real food again. It didn’t take me long to realize that cooking was incredibly relaxing for me – even the most intricate meal made me feel calm and serene while I was making it. I really like the feeling of working on something with my hands, and then having something to show for it. These days I love serving big meals at dinner parties, discovering new recipes, and tinkering around in the kitchen until I create something perfect.

6. CHINA MIEVILLE

Though you might not have heard of him, China Mieville is my absolute, all-time favorite author. He’s a British Marxist activist, holds a PhD in human rights law, and writes some of the best steampunk science fiction you’ll ever read. I read a ton of sci-fi, since I grew up on the classics my dad had in his library – Asimov, Phillip K. Dick, and the like. When I read my first China Mieville book, Perdido Street Station, I was mesmerized by his ability to take a genre that had become lazy and dogmatic and shatter its boundaries, turn it into something new, living, and relevant. He’s my perfect author, because he blends his politics background into his writing in such a perfect, seamless, non-preachy way that the entire universe he creates lives and breathes on its own. His work is dark, the characters he creates are tremendously flawed, and yet he is gentle towards their humanity in a way I haven’t encountered in another author. After the Perdido Street Station trilogy, he switched genres, and embarked on a new take on the noir detective novel in The City & The City. At once bracing and introspective, that novel blew my mind. His other works are just as diverse – Un Lun Dun is a brilliant Young Adult novel that is whimsical, beautiful, and mysterious – and he manages to do this without compromising his talent just to sell books. This guy is brilliant, he is truly a genius, and I highly recommend any of the books I’ve linked – I hope you’ll read them!

7. THE PACIFIC OCEAN

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Ever since we moved to Washington when I was 11, I’ve been completely in love with the Pacific Ocean. I can’t entirely explain why, but I’ve always had a connection to it that feels very profound. It was the thing I missed the most when I went to the East Coast for college, and every time I was home for a visit I would drive to either the Washington or Oregon Coast and just stand on the shore, looking out to sea. No matter how stressed or unhappy I was, when I got to the ocean, I’d suddenly feel lighter, like the water had taken away my troubles and drowned them. When I was really homesick my first year of college, I got a pretty little glass bottle and filled it with Pacific Ocean water – now wherever I go, the ocean comes with me. When I die, I want my ashes scattered into Puget Sound, off the pier in Seattle.

8. HORROR MOVIES

It’s totally twisted, I know – especially nowadays since it seems like the genre of horror movies is being maligned in a more or less wholesale fashion. Which I think is totally unfair, because there’s a lot in horror movies that warrants discussion, if intellectual value is your only measure of the value of a thing. You should read Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol Clover – it’ll blow your mind and it puts to shame all the highbrow scholars saying there’s nothing worth noting about horror movies. Even beyond that though, I just find something genuinely entertaining, satisfying, and just fun in horror movies. Whether it’s old classics like Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead, or trashy, campy, ultra-violent modern B-movies like I Spit on Your Grave or Evil Dead – I don’t care, I love it all. I love foreign horror – I watched the Japanese versions of The Grudge (Ju-On) and The Ring (Ringu) well before American directors had even heard of them. I love space horror – Event Horizon blew my 13 year old mind. Even the ones that people find truly scary, like Paranormal Activity, I enjoy with glee. I am a total film-buff movie nerd when it comes to horror, I can win any trivia game, give you a history of all of the subgenres, I can trace a lineage of remakes back to the original, and off the top of my head I can compare the foreign original to an American remake. I can name directors, tell you the behind the scenes history just about any horror movie, modern or classic, popular or obscure. I just love it all!!

9. MUSIC

This one is tough – because music is so subjective. We might both agree that music is awesome, but then I could say “Famous Blue Raincoat is the best song ever written,” and you might think I’m deaf or an idiot. They say that smell is the strongest sense for associations, that people associate memories with smell more than anything else. I don’t really know if that’s true, because for me, music has a very nostalgic quality. Ani Difranco’s Imperfectly always brings me back to freshman year of high school, because I had the album on repeat in my dorm room for months. Melissa Ferrick’s +1 puts me right back in junior year of high school, reminds me of my first broken heart, and my first lost friend. My favorite music is Bright Eyes (also the stuff labeled as ‘Conor Oberst’ since it’s the same thing) – I know it’s not a popular choice, but something in the lyrics and the sound of the music interweaves with my life in a way no other songs have. Really, music to me is the perfect art: it goes with you, becomes a part of you, where visual media falls short. Whenever I think about this, I’m reminded of a line in a song I was obsessed with for almost all of high school:

Life is something set to music

I can hear it when I’m sad

There’s a chord in every muscle

Every kiss you’ve ever had

{Heather Nova – Not Only Human}

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