I’ll Kick Your Pumps

So here’s the thing…

I’m kind of excited for the Grammys. Not because I think they always nominate the best people in every category, not because I support the over-hyped TV production, and definitely not because I think they pick winners in each category based on actual greatness… but because I like music AND because this year I really like a few (just a few) of the artists who have been nominated because their work is INCREDIBLE.

So I kind of think of the Grammy’s as a, Hey–you created something beautiful and we’re letting the world know.

Do what you will with that. And by that I mean, decide to stick to your artistic high ground and opt not to perform because you’d rather play your own music that was nominated for 4 awards than someone else’s with another random band just for production’s sake.  Or choose to play with a band you’ve been watching perform since you were 7 and soak up the experience. To each his own. You will find no judgment here.

Maybe it’s because I’m always hoping to create context and give people the benefit of the doubt–but I like to think that maybe there was something of worth in the creation of this whole thing…

like a bunch of dudes sitting around drinking beer and thinking, “Man, what if we, ya know, like made an award to recognize all the awesome music people are making?” And the first actual Grammy’s were held in someone’s backyard by a fire pit and everyone showed up in whatever happened to be clean that day and drank home-brewed beer and smoked pot.

So what if that isn’t true?

All that to say–some of my favorite albums and artists of 2011 were recognized for awesome work. Remember my obsession with Pumped Up Kicks last April? Nice work, Foster the People.

Sure, if I were dishing out Grammy’s I’d probably have axed out a bunch that the Officials selected and stuck in some of my personal favs: James Vincent McMorrow, definitely the Head and the Heart, some Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and AWOLNation for starters…

But since I’m not… I’ll be watching sans fire pit in the backyard because it is like 2 degrees here today (and we don’t actually have a backyard), but definitely with a beer.


the why.

When I first started this blog… I was packing a suitcase and trading in the North Shore and a summer with friends on the beach for this place…

I fell in love with the neighborhoods, the Mile, Wicker Park, Bridgeport Coffee, the incredible people who became my family and all the amazing, funny and insightful kids that I met.

I was supposed to go back here when summer ended,

but I ended up getting a phone call and a job offer and had 2 weeks to pack up and find somewhere to live in a new city.

I found a neighborhood and a row home and didn’t quite settle down because I started traveling even more.

A regular gypsy, full of wanderlust and most at home when the open road lies before me.

And I spent my summers in the city–soaking up sunshine and sharing moments with new friends from all over the country.
I started out sharing stories about people I met and the things they taught me…
trying to capture the beauty of the moment and share life.

I started to feel like I couldn’t write about good music or talk about my love for all things anthropologie in the same place that I wanted to share stories about people teaching me life lessons or the hard conversations I had after lights out.
For awhile I thought, Why bother to blog? What is the point?
I wanted a purpose. A reason. Some grand cause.
I waited to find one. I took a break from blogging.

Finally… somewhere between lattes and hanging out at my favorite bar and finding beauty even in the trash-filled streets and the overwhelming love I discovered for the City of Brotherly Love (which I never really thought would happen), I found it.
The crux of it all. The motto of my neighborhood if it had one. And the question that has been the fulcrum of my year:

And so I blog. The process, the journey, the discovering, the rediscovery.
because I am still discovering. I am still learning. I am still in process.
Not always profound. Not always uplifting. Not always perfect. But always seeking beauty in the midst of the moment, of the broken, of wherever I happen to be…
because there is beauty in the process..in the Top 5 lists  and AND the words of wisdom learned from high school students… and my favorite song of the moment AND the hard conversations I had with a friend about life sucking.
because all those things get you through…
and if while we’re all getting through together we may as well laugh, dance, and have some fun.

joy (unexpected).

Tom was incredible; he was also a mistake. A conversation started over greasy pizza, a pair of boat shoes, and a disengaged heart. I began out of necessity, believing I would be taking one for the team–the complaints that hadn’t yet been voiced from this man who clearly didn’t belong.

It was the first dinner I sat down for and the first one I wasn’t attacked. Tom was from Florida and not supposed to be in charge, but an unexpected death sent the woman responsible for the youth in Brooklyn home. And there was Tom–the knight in the white 12 passenger van–to the rescue.

He’d been along for the ride and now he was driving through the streets of Chinatown. He walked with them all over Manhattan–Times Square, Rockefeller, Central Park, Ground Zero. He took them to Saks, sweet man that he was, and let them discover the price tags on the platform shoes. And they left Saks and went to New Jersey where he treated them to dinner.

“I’m not used to this,” he told me, shaking his head. And over pizza I learned that his home was a golf and yacht club and his days consisted of golf, golf, and more golf. A building with no a/c, an air mattress, chasing after kids in the park–that was a challenge for him. “This is outside my comfort zone.”

And I learned that Tom used to play professional baseball, and his brother played for the Yankees, and Tom once pitched a no-hitter. And he used to run his own pharmaceutical company and at one point he belong to two country clubs. And his first house had 4 bedrooms. He never wanted for anything. H told me: “Life is about being in the right place at the right time, ya know… but sometimes I really wish that we’d have just had a card table and some crates to sit on so we’d really get it.”

If that wasn’t enough to make you love Tom, maybe him riding the Cyclone for the first time ever will get you. He’s not supposed to do anything that strains his heart, but he told his wife and then me, “If I’m going to die–why shouldn’t it be on that thing?” Or the way he confessed, “I cannot wait to go home and have a strong drink.” Or how he won the hearts of the ladies at the senior center and made their day by flirting back.

That is Tom and the story of how joy comes in the least expected places and why I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on.

a single hour.

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues.”

– M. Zusak


This summer is defined by conversations. By late nights. By the words you didn’t plan to say.

From the beginning we have been grappling with the grittiness of humanity. There it is in all its glory: bare knuckles connecting with flesh. We are schooled by life–knocked out cold and flat on the pavement. Reality rears its head and it all comes crashing down.

We’re left with shattered pieces–broken, bruised, barely breathing. And yet, somehow we pick ourselves up, slightly more worse for wear and we carry on, for fuck’s sake, because at least if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, there’s the hope we might get somewhere.

Anything is better than standing still. If you’re moving, it hurts less. You can focus on getting ahead and not the moment. The moment is miserable. Moving keeps up going.

We look for connections. To share. To talk. To build trust & relationships and to find someone who will listen.

This is the summer of love–of discovering at the end of the day it really is all you have to give.

Love is in the listening, it seems. It sits patiently and is present in the moment. It relives it there and it hears, sees, smells, feels. Love floods the room when the story takes shape. And it wraps it up in its arms and shares the weight and settles down in the pit of your stomach and behind your eyes and breaks open your heart.

Love is won in the moments when trust gives way. When for no logical reason you find your mouth open and the words spilling out, faster than you realize. They pierce the silence, they fill the empty spaces, bouncing and refracting off surfaces. They fill the distance, the gaps. The words make a bridge beyond time, beyond space or sense. And someone is there, suddenly, watching your life with you. They are the hand you didn’t have to hold, the tears no one saw fall, the hug you never got.

And that’s where the moments we’re running from begin to slowly be redeemed–the moments when love steps in and bends down to the ground to help you back up.


Hope came to DC Week 1. She wore skinny legs even in the heat of DC and dark makeup under her eyes. She was beautiful with her quiet manner and joy followed her around wherever she went, just like the students she brought with her from Texas.

She wore her story in her face–it was there behind her eyes, in the way she smiled, and in the words she didn’t say. It was a face that knew tragedy. It held the battered look of a survivor; a girl who had grown tough, fast and would do anything to keep moving on.

She had come far–crossed state lines, grown up, changed her ways, met Jesus, found a wonderful man (“They do exist,” she announced the first time I met her.), and was planning a wedding. She was trying to discover life and figure out how it all pieced together.

When she was young her Dad heard from Jesus. They followed where he lead, preaching, sharing, letting people know about what was happening in the world and why they needed to be saved.

When she got older, he dad replaced Jesus with oil. And then Jesus showed up one night in the middle of the room and said if he was going to take everything to see if he would still follow him. “You don’t say no when Jesus shows up in your bedroom,” she’d tell you… and you can’t deny it because Hope knows the truth.

So she watched the world fall away–her dad indicted, the home taken, the cushy lifestyle fall apart which was the end of a 14 year old girl. She lost her faith somewhere between the move and the shame and the terrible disaster of walking through the hallways each day with a father in jail. She hated her family and everyone else and the world. She was an absolute “brat” (her words, not mine–and you always believe Hope).

It all came back around eventually, like everything does, and her family pieced itself back together as much as one can. And Hope replaced boys and drugs with church  and life when a boy invited her. “He knew me at my worst,” she’ll tell you with no apology. “It only makes sense he’d get to see my best.” You don’t argue with Hope… you just listen and take it all in because that’s what the world needs more of anyway.

So now she eats pizza and plans a wedding and wonders what the next step is. She walks through DC and sits at a table with a bunch of kids listening to her every word. She gives hugs and believes that the cute guy who showed up at the cookout just might be your husband someday. She smiles and laughs and she waits expectantly for what is in store.