It was raining and I was listening to This American Life. The theme was “Living Without.” A homeless guy talked about trying to find a place to sleep. Sarah Vowell talked about her wheat allergy. That’s what I love about This American Life. There’s room for both, and both are profound: the lack of a bed and the lack of regular birthday cake.
I got to Ilopango, the pupseria that Lizzy, Mars, Kellie and I discovered a few weeks ago. This time I was meeting Jamie and Alanna to talk about putting on a big music/fiction/poetry/art thing in June.
I am not an event planner at heart. Right now I’m trying to find a new cell phone plan and the logistics are completely overwhelming me, even though my dad is actually doing most of the research. Even just hearing about the options exhausts me.
But over cheesy pupusas served by a waitress who didn’t bother speaking English to us (which I found refreshing for some reason) and thick, fibrous horchata that tasted like it was just off the horchata tree—that tasted like there was such a thing as a horchata tree—I started to think that planning a big music/fiction/poetry/art thing could be fun.
Writing is sitting at your laptop alone in your room, or alone at Starbucks, but event planning is other people, for better or worse—but in this case better, because Alanna and Jamie are cool. They are dreamy and practical. They come up with themes like “Girls Who Don’t Wear Heels” and “Perm,” which would be about the tension between permanence and impermanence but would also involve matching curly hairstyles.
It was freezing on Ilopango’s patio, even though Jamie had staked out a bright pink booth near the lone overhead heater. It pumped fire into the night, and Alanna later said the sky reminded her of Ohio. I’ve never been to Ohio, but standing on Berendo Street, looking up at the semi-Victorian rooftops and the translucent gray sky, I could imagine it.
“Let’s make a list of visual artists we know,” Alanna said when we were still in our booth.
“What are some themes in your work right now?” we asked each other.
Alanna sang us a new love song she’d written, her voice quiet and lovely on the verses, quick and silly when she got to the chorus. Jamie has been writing about the dark underbelly of gardening.
We talked about this guy Erik in our class at CalArts who wrote amazing essays and then killed himself. We talked about how, now that we’re all in the 30-ish range, we can look at the faces of older women and know what they looked like when they were younger. Really know, like film running backward. We talked about how there was too much cheese in Jamie’s quesadilla.
This is all I ever wanted, I thought. Friends, a Friday night, doing something creative in the biggest, smallest way, bright lights, a freshly scrubbed sky. Even Jamie’s quesadilla didn’t look all that bad to me.