Monday, April 29, 2013

Uphill Face.

There's a hill in my neighborhood about a mile long and I never feel cooler than when I'm riding down it on my bike.  I sing the chorus to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.'s "If You Didn't See Me  (Then You Weren't On The Dancefloor)" at the top of my lungs because in my mind, I'm flying by people so fast that they can't hear me anyway. Bobbing my head with loud Youuuuuuuu should know by nows, zooming down like a cartoon, thinking to myself, "This what the X-Games must feel like!" Every time. It's a great hill. The speed is a total thrill and I end up smiling like an idiot for the rest of my ride.

Until, of course, I circle back and have to climb that same damn hill.

Then my face looks like I'm eating a super hot food that I'm trying to cool down while chewing just by breathing out of my mouth really fast. It's a combined look of pain and anger. I can actually feel what my face looks like when I'm climbing this hill. That's not good. If you're not smiling and can feel your facial expression, you should try to change it. But I can never sing the chorus on the climb and humming through gritted teeth is certifiable. So I just make that uphill face and try not to tip over because I'm riding so slowly.*

I've become so aware of what this face must look like that I can't help but make it every time I look in a mirror. I seriously can't stop making this face. It's my go-to mirror face. Totally hilarious when I'm by myself in my apartment, and less so when in a public restroom.*

*This has happened.

Blank Stare: Do I know you?

One time at the restaurant I used to work for a customer stopped me and said, "You look so familiar."
I replied, "Well, I'm your server. So it's probably me."

Today was a new twist on that exchange when a guest at the hotel was convinced he knew me.

Guest: I'm sorry, have you been on TV before?
Me: (Immediate thoughts to Shea's birthday and The Price is Right) Well, not really.
Guest: On a cooking show? Have you competed on a cooking show before?

Note: I've been extremely tired this month and had to actually think about this. I paused for a few beats wondering to myself, Have I competed on a cooking show before?

Me: Nope.
Guest: You've just got that weird look. I feel like I know you. You look like that weird Tilda Swinton. You must get that a lot.
Me: Not put so nicely.

When I told this to my coworker she just nodded and said, "Yeah. You look like an alien."

I feel like the only response I'm left with for about 98% of my interactions with people is just to nod and say thank you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


A strange and unwelcome addition to my adult life has been April insomnia. It happens every year. Maybe it's my body waking up from the winter, like a little kid on Christmas Eve, afraid to miss a single thing. Maybe it's hope. Maybe it's just life tapping on the glass, asking me to roll down the window so we can talk directions. But it's every April. Little if no sleep, walking through waking life in a fuzzy daze, always thinking things are remarkable because I'm just so damn tired.

And then Monday. 

Spending an overnight shift working to set up for one of the happiest days in Boston. Working through the early morning hours I'm so used to in April with a girl who never let's me forget how uncool I am. 
-Jess, do you know how to twerk? 
-Yeah, I'm twerking the overnight shift with you.

She set the Songza playlist to Top 40 for hours because in her words,"it's neutral" until I couldn't handle another play of Suit and Tie and we DJ'd for each other.  I smiled when she knew random lyrics to random songs (one of my favorite qualities of any person). When asked about my favorite indie bands, I stopped halfway through my rant, knowing she was making fun of me. "Jess, do you put greek yogurt in your smoothies?!" is a question I get a lot from this girl. 
I fall for it every time. 

We had a nice night. Starting around 4 in the morning, guests staying for the marathon started to call down for coffee, oatmeal, toast. Lots of peanut butter. Everyone was in a good mood. I was excited for them and I couldn't hide it. I congratulated every person I served coffee to like they'd just had a baby. It was like having a conversation with someone you admire. Trying to tell them in a short window how much you respect what they do. When we traveled for rowing races in college, I remember that nervous happiness on race days. Bananas. Coffee. Stretch. Smile. It was all so fun. There was so much life happening within you. The anticipation, the nerves, the energy. All of that was tangible serving breakfasts in the hotel rooms of runners on Marathon Monday. 

My back tire was a little flat on my ride in that night and an engineer at the hotel helped me pump it up with an air tank in the middle of his shift. It was chilly. There were still a few cyclists out on Boylston. This was around 3:00 AM.  It was strange to stand on a nearly-empty street knowing how crowded and loud it would be in the afternoon. From where I work--yards from the finish line-- Boylston Street on Marathon Monday sounds like a Super Bowl stadium after a game-winning Hail Mary pass. The volume of the crowd on Marathon Monday could be a form of matter. It has weight. At three in the morning, I could hear every pump of air shot into my bike tire.  

Before more of the morning crew came in, I made a finish line tape with a sign and set it up by the elevators to our department so everyone who came in to serve or work in the kitchen would have to run through it. I slow-clapped and cheered, chanting names, encouraging people to run through. Almost no one did. A lot ducked under. But I haven't been sleeping for a month so I just kept cheering. There's a cook in the kitchen named Marco and any time someone calls him the rest of the entire kitchen (a pretty big staff) yells, "Polo!"  I've had to explain the roots of this to a co-worker from Peru.
-So it's mostly played in a pool?
-Yeah. It's pretty dangerous otherwise. You don't want to blindfold your friends near a busy street and have them yell 'Marco.'"
I yelled both Marco and Polo on repeat as he limboed under the tape and went straight to the kitchen.

The morning was great. People were happy, the city had a danceable beat that made you move, Boston was at its best. 

And then everything. 

Explosions that felt like someone was dropping furniture a floor above where we work, the horrific images my friends in the restaurant and bar saw from the all-glass walls that look out onto Boylston, hundreds of people rushing into the hotel from the street for safety, not knowing where to go, my co-workers confused, running out exits, ushering people when they could, just running. As far away and as fast as they could. Separated until seeing familiar uniforms, and then continuing to run. For miles. Their keys, wallets, coats, clothes, left in offices and locker rooms at the hotel. Just running away until cell service was available and rides could be arranged, until they could get home to figure out what the hell just happened. 

Boston has had a week of insomnia. It's painful, surreal, disorienting, and comes with moments of exhausted confusion where you just shake your head, trying to clear it like an Etch A Sketch. By Friday night, we had become an entire city of heroes, while at the same time trying to heal. Cheering in the streets, while victims of a completely senseless act remained in hospital. It's a haze. You feel proud and strong and brave and like your own hands will be forever attached to your face. You want to shoot your arm in the air so emphatically on the "Ba Ba Ba's" of Sweet Caroline, but you also just want to hug someone while you weep until they initiate those first three big breaths that steady you. You want it to be quiet like Boylston at three in the morning. You just keep thinking about the sound of air pumping into a bike tire. 

I sleep in bits in April. I "wake up" at 1:28, 1:44, 2:16, 2:50, 3:33, up for good at 4. I do some reading, write something down when I think of it, practice French. This morning I left super early for work so I could ride around in the rain. It was a little cold but I didn't care. The splash from the rear tire soaked my pants but I didn't care. I eventually walked through an empty Prudential Center, to our make-shift entrance, saying hello to a man pushing a floor-cleaning Zamboni. Checking in with our security, to walk through the empty ballroom, down the empty stairways, to the empty locker room, to change and head to the empty kitchen--we've been closed--where I grabbed a big bag of Stumptown beans and ground them to make the coffee for the morning. I was the first to arrive. 

A hotel is a very weird thing to see quiet. It's always open so to see it without activity is incredibly rare. It's like seeing that person you know with so much energy fall asleep. Peaceful, in a way, but mostly creepy.  I was alone in a huge empty kitchen. Waiting for my first cup of coffee, I threw on some music and The Ceremonies "Land of Gathering" came up in the shuffle. I turned it as loud as my ears could take and unwrapped a huge stack of linen napkins to fold, waiting for someone to show up so I could hug them.