my dad was a bartender, too.

they tell you it will get easier and it does, it really does. i don’t think about him nearly as much and hardly ever cry. but the other day, i was alone in Rosemary and picked up my phone to call him. CALL HIM.

then, i sighed “fuck” and went back to setting up the bar.

i just wanted to tell him how the opening week went, how beautiful the bar looks at night, how the drinks are selling like hotcakes, how i am heard and respected by my bosses, how i am working 18hr days and totally happy, how i am still astonished nashville ended up being my promise land. and that’s the shitty part about your dad dying, the one dude you spend your entire life trying to make proud isn’t around to say “good job.”

i have this friend. his hair goes every which way and his hands are always clasped across his stomach. you can say one thing and send the guy into hysterics. once, he almost crashed his truck because i said something about my thumbs. anyway, his dad died, too. sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we don’t have to. i think we would have ended up friends regardless, but it is nice to share this type of fuckedupness.

i spent half of my early 20s wanting to be married and the other half complaining about being single. my dad used to say, “babe, you take after me and i didn’t get married ’til i was 32.” i used to roll my eyes, but now i’m almost 31, still single, and doing exactly what he was doing at my age: bartending (and fantasizing about becoming a famous creative.)

i wonder what it’s like to have a kid that not only looks like you, but sounds like you, behaves like you, thoroughly resembles you. he must have watched me– especially his last few years– like you’d watch a crashing train. can’t do anything about it, just send up a prayer. he taught me by word and action, to always land on my feet, to take care of business, to work hard, to not take any shit from anybody, to eat and drink and be happy.

he was the best of the best.

so, maybe i can’t hear him say “good job,” but i know i’m doing one because i take after him.

a crispy taco. an ocean view. the sound of guitar. these are a few of my earliest memories. don’t ask me what i did yesterday, but ask me about the summer of ’95 and i can tell you every last detail, including what i was wearing and what i had for lunch the day i learned my brother had cancer. i was 9.

he was sick–or should i say treated–for 6 months. then it was over. that happened 21 years ago today. i don’t have much else to say about that right now.

here in nashville, spring came early. it’s 70 and sunny and the neighbor’s daffodils are blooming. i walk across the street and sit on K’s porch. we sip coffee and shoot the shit. every 10 minutes, i look up with wonder and say “damn, it’s nice out.” around dinner time, i say goodbye and go to wherever i’m wanted. later, i’ll thank him for letting me sit and talk and be.

my life has had its ups and its downs, its dramas and its triumphs. nowadays, i cling to simplicity like a blanket in winter. routine has become my communion. let me drink the same coffee everyday and eat one of three things for lunch. let me wear the same jean shorts with the same faded tee, let me see the same faces that– somehow– always smile upon seeing mine.

i’ve stripped my life down to the bare necessities: caffeine, tacos, laughter. when i speak of past experiences… from my sick brother to the basketball coach i loved to the first time i smoked weed to the church i almost moved to boston to plant to making $801 on my first night behind the bar… it feels like i’ve already had two lifetimes. then, perhaps naively, i think, “well, i guess i am living for two of us.”

which brings up another question: when we say “in loving memory,” what do we mean? ’cause the way i figure it, i’m just tryna live a life so good my brother would be jealous (once a bratty little sister, always a bratty little sister?)

today “a life so good” doesn’t include much. just enough to remember. lovingly.

“do you love love?” he asked as he sipped the manhattan i’d just stirred.
“no.”
then i went back to bartending.

what should have been an indication that i had no interest in talking, instead was taken as an invitation to prod. and so he did for the next hour until his date took him home.

his name is jim and he looks like he could be my father’s brother. i first met him on an evening where the burden of my father’s passing seemed unbearable. he arrived, he sat, he spoke. and all of it was so familiar it almost had me believing in ghosts.

it wasn’t the first time someone had asked me that, nor the first time my clipped answers lead to more questions like, “who broke your heart?” and “what did your father do to you?” i never answer. who broke my heart? well, read back a few years and you’ll probably figure that one out. what did my father do to me? he died on the very day i moved across the country to be with him.

anyway, i know what it’s like to have a broken heart. doubtful, any of us have made it this far without one. if somehow, however, you’ve dodged that bullet all that certainly changed on january 20th.

what a shame. what a motherfucking, rotten, disgusting, disheartening, and ugly shame. i want to tell all the americans who support that piece of shit to read a history book. i want to tell all the “christians” who are brainwashed into automatically voting for a republican, to maybe- just once- to read the book they so highly value.

but this isn’t a rant and this isn’t an argument. this is one broken heart talking to (hopefully) many others. how do we cope without copping out?

i think the short answer is “community.” we find each other in picket lines and concert halls and taquerias. we sit at the same table and we lament. we crowd together and we embrace. the only thing i truly believe in is the power of a shared meal. this, perhaps, is why da Vinci’s “Last Supper” is such an important piece of art.

as the story goes, Christ knew he was about to be arrested and consequently crucified. instead of running, instead of hiding, he found his friends and he ate. the following days were dark and menacing, but the light did return and with it new hope. religious or not, we must fight for that same hope and make room at the table for all people that do.

*suggest listening to traveling wilburys vol 1 while reading*

my earliest memory is a snapshot of two jack-in-the-box tacos on green carpet. my grandfather was probably nearby dressed in levis and a white undershirt, hammering something. the next memory is riding down the 5 in the backseat of my parent’s red camero listening to the traveling wilburys.

there is a video of my mother and i singing karaoke on christmas day 1993. we are singing “end of the line.” by the following christmas, we would be singing that same song in her red pathfinder driving from somewhere to anywhere just trying to remember everything would be alright.

most of my memories have soundtracks. playing in the sprinklers, listening to rubber soul and declaring “the word” as my favorite song. i was six. or making my friends listen to “just like tom thumb’s blues” on repeat. we were 15. or arguing with adults that frank sinatra was a better singer than dean martin.

my parents didn’t care so much about my grades or if i was a star athlete. they did care, however, that i knew music. each new artist, a lesson. the first time i heard led zeppelin. my dad prefaced it with, “don’t tell your mother” then played “your time is gonna come” at full volume. once, i turned down “you can’t always get what you want” mid-song and he snapped, “don’t ever turn down my music.”

a song can connect you to an exact moment unlike anything else. right now, i’m physically in nashville in the year 2016, but my mind is in lakeside, ca in the year 2000. i can almost hear mick blaring from that stupid corolla’s speakers and almost smell my dad’s cologne and can almost taste the burger we had earlier that day.

***

my mom and i were talking about how often married couples complain, how so many are unhappy. we both said we hated that. she hates it for different reasons, of course. i hate it because i think it’s as much a choice to be happy as it is to brush your teeth. you just bloody do it, whether you want to or not.

i don’t understand people who don’t like their birthdays. i love them. it’s the one day of the year everything is actually about you. i love celebrating other’s more than i do myself, so i keep a running tab of upcoming ones. i go to the stationery store and buy cards, i plan parties, i bring flowers. i remember favorite candies, i seek out perfect presents. on my own, i am particularly selfish, only wanting to be surrounded by my favorite people, eating and drinking all my favorite things. today it’s dad’s and i’m celebrating it for him: tacos for lunch, pasta for dinner; making a point to see everyone who has made the last 2 years suck less; i even washed my hair.

earlier this week, i had a friend stick up for me while someone complained about being depressed because they were dumped. he said, “you’ve actually had bad things happen to you and you’re not depressed.” i shrugged, “everything will be alright.”

 

 

 

people always ask “why nashville?”
“a boy?” they prod “or music?”

i shrug, “i didn’t have a choice.”

when they ask about my cross-country journey they want to know about my stops and what i saw, who i met. they ask how long it took and gasp when i say 2.5 days. i didn’t have a choice about that either.

i have a friend in san francisco with dark skin and freckles. he dresses better than i ever will and sends me memes that make me laugh out loud. when i’m having a bad day, i ask him to tell me stories and he recalls something i said or something he did with such precision i sometimes wonder if he’s autistic.

he says he’s having a hard time. he asks me if i ever want to get up and move and start all over and i say “yeah dude, story of my life.” then i encourage him to stay put. i tell him he’s okay,that he’s not shitty, that our 20s suck. when i think of something clever, i write it on a post card then scribble his address on it.

i have a friend in nashville with a proper haircut and colorful tattoos. he has more shoes than can fit in my closet. when he gets drunk he tells me he loves me and that one day we will get married. i tell him to shut up and call me in the morning. when i’m having a bad day, i spill out all the garbage rolling around in my brain and he listens with as much patience as a parent. he’s the tether tying me to reality. had it not been for him, i probably wouldn’t have it made here so long. sometimes i tell him this, most times i just show him the funny memes my sf friend sends.

i am glad i had to race here from california. the distance between point A and point B can sometimes be too long. i didn’t have much time to regret the decision or fear what might take place in a different time zone. i was thinking about these things as i drove across the river to the side of town i resent. i was thinking how weird it is to say “i live in nashville.” weirder to say, “i may not leave.” and if i stay, it will be my choice.

twenty things i learned in my twenties.

  1. that stupid GE class, the one with the hippy professor and the treacherous midterm, actually changed the way you saw the world.
  2. credit card debt is stupid… and avoidable.
  3. hangovers aren’t cute and no one cares if you have one.
  4. it’s better to be fat & happy than starving & bitchy.
  5. hoes before bros ALWAYS.
  6. no one notices if you’re bloated.
  7. you know when you’re being a shithead and your parents say, “you’ll regret this when i’m dead,” you do.
  8. you can’t make someone love you, but you can make them respect you.
  9. sometimes you have to put your head down and work and mop the motherfucking floor.
  10. confidence is the best accessory.
  11. sex isn’t love, though it sure feels like it.
  12. always make your bed, even on the days you can barely get out of it.
  13. when someone crosses your mind, reach out.
  14. keep every card, every letter, every photograph.
  15. pay attention to how they smell, how their hands feel when you hold them, how their hair looks when they wake up. these are the things you’ll miss.
  16. chances are no one is *actually* talking about you. don’t give yourself that much credit.
  17. money shouldn’t be the reason you do anything. only happiness matters.
  18. three long islands is excessive.
  19. go with your gut. like, when the artist shows you the piece he drew up and it’s not what you wanted, maybe don’t have him tattoo it on your arm.
  20. life’s short, sleep when you’re dead.

a-ok.

i am not a person of faith. i do not practice religion. i don’t pray or tithe or attend weekly services. instead, i wake up and try to be nice and work hard. as my brother was dying, he shouted “alise! look at how small things get when you get high up!” and i like to think there is a heaven though i certainly don’t believe in a hell. when my dad died, i flew home to san diego for his services and decided to attend an old friend’s bible study. at least half the room knew my dad and knew why i was in town, but only three people spoke to me. during that same time, whenever i walked into one of my favorite bars, the entire staff walked around and embraced me.

to be completely at peace with yourself– i think– is the point. it took me nearly 30 years to get there, but here i am 100% okay with who i am and what i do and where i live and what i look like. i didn’t even realize i was carrying around guilt for… not being a pastor’s wife? not giving my parents grandkids? drinking and drugging and sexing? not losing that last 5lbs?  being a bartender? then i was headed downtown on one of those technicolor spring nashville afternoons and said, “actually, i am okay.”

i’ll tell you what, once you’re at peace with yourself it’s a helluva lot easier to find peace with others. the trick is, though, we have to create environments where people can be at peace with themselves. unfortunately, life isn’t one-size-fits-all.

i have nothing profound to say regarding orlando or brock turner or donald trump.  but, i can say that some of the most beautiful, influential, and selfless people i’ve known identify as LBGTQ. truly, the life-changers who came and bulldozed my false pretenses and self-doubt. who accepted me as i was, where i was. who dosed me with truth then met me on the dance floor.  i can say i have been the girl who drank too much and woke up unable to recall exactly what happened the night before. i have been the girl who, when she asked a stranger what he would like to drink, was greeted with “you’re going to sit on my face later.”(there are more, way more stories i could tell but my mom reads this.) i can say, i don’t know enough about politics to give an informed opinion other than i think he sucks.

amongst this, joy remains. sometimes you find yourself lying on astroturf with one of your best friends giggling for no reason. then you walk through an enchanted forest and dance to a song you don’t even like and get too shy to talk to the cute guy and everything is exactly as it should be.

and you, my darling, are exactly as you should be.