Magic and karma in the Finger Lakes

Mr. D and I went away last weekend for our anniversary. I had wanted to take a cheap Frontier flight to somewhere fun and different; he wanted to drive to a destination within a four-hour radius. We settled on the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York, and it was perfection.

It’s taken me a while to sit down and try and write about our weekend, and I still don’t know where to start. Perhaps I’d do best to follow the advice from Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end. Then stop.”

In the beginning, there was Mr. D and me, fighting, crying, praying to the heavens. We went on that awful date in October, back when we weren’t remotely on the same page. That night, I admired the moon while he paid more attention to a Domino’s Pizza sign. Four days later, I fasted for his health and well-being, an early anniversary present that embraced my Hindu roots, while he proceeded to get stoned on the couch.

We fought, we made up. We had passionate sex and he stopped smoking pot, and soon enough, things were back to normal. Not bad normal, but better normal. Happy, like we usually are, but improved, like I had hoped we could be. On Nov. 8, as my parents celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, we smoked a bowl in their driveway and then walked around the fire in a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, my mom playing high priestess as our girls lobbed us with handfuls of rice.

Three days later, I woke up and Mr. D read me the most incredible anniversary poem, and I showed him my blog post (and just like our wedding vows, he outdid me again!). I cried, we kissed, and then packed our bags. As I was running around the house, Big A wished on an eyelash. “I think it’s going to come true,” she said. Before I could tell her not to say it out loud, she climbed into my arms and whispered, “I wished for you and daddy to have a good anniversary.”

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I would love to walk on the moon

BJ Novak and I share the same favorite story from his debut novel, One More Thing.

For a while, I could quote it from memory, mostly because I’d read it to everyone. Or I’d shove the book in their face and say, “Read this! You have to! It’s only three pages, and it contains the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever read in my life.” I read it to my parents. To Mr. D. I would read it to Big A at night, and when she once announced her dreams of becoming an astronaut, I beamed like the light from a thousands moons.

When I met BJ Novak at a book signing last fall, I asked him to sign my favorite story from the collection, and he said it might just be his favorite one, too.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” I replied, pointing to the very subtle reference from the very last story of the book.

“I don’t think anyone has ever noticed that,” he said.

I’ve replayed our entire exchange many, many times since then, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I would only do two things differently were I able to travel back in time: I would have ordered another Book with No Pictures for him to sign (the ones at the event were too expensive, and my dog, in the late stages of bone cancer, had vomited all over our original copy), and I would have asked him to sign our favorite story as JC Audetat, a private joke all of our own.

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Mr. D knows I love BJ Novak. He even said, “I hope you get an interview” when I went to see his show. (I didn’t, though we did have that brief moment in the book sign line). I like to think of myself as the Mindy Kaling to Mr. D’s BJ Novak, the effervescent Indian counterpart to a supremely brilliant and hilarious White guy, but that may be where the similarities end. As much as I would love to see them get back together (they’d have the sweetest, funniest daughters!), I don’t know if BJ Novak feels like I do about love.

I’m judging this solely from his short story collection, of course, and more specifically, from the narrator’s second fantasy in “Sophia,” in which a woman’s head rests on a man’s shoulder as they look out into the world and see the same thing. I loaned my copy of One More Thing to my Weed Husband a few months back, so this is a tough theory to fact check at this very moment, but I’m pretty sure most of Novak’s love stories are connected by an underlying thread of shared experiences and, more so, shared outlooks: the couple who outraced the rain, the man with “a good problem to have,” the family who attended the world’s biggest rip-off. Even the most beautiful girl in the bookstore. Especially the most beautiful girl in the bookstore.

It’s a two-page story about a girl who loves a bookstore that sells books and and also sells things. Her boyfriend doesn’t quite understand her love for it, and they disagree on whether the books should be organized by color (they should not), or whether the store would be better with a photo booth (it absolutely would), and in the end, they break up because she could never shake the feeling that she was always his favorite thing in the bookstore.

The hopeless romantic in me hates this story. Like, what the hell, BJ Novak? Why did they have to break up? In the wise words of Carrie Bradshaw, “If you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.” Who cares if he didn’t love the bookstore? He loved her.

Or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself now, at 12:46am, on the night of the Hunter’s Moon.

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America and the bathroom counters

Earlier this year, I was crossing Main Street when a truck full of assholes rolled down their window and loudly told the Asian women in front of me to “go back to China.”

It reminded me of an experience my father once related. A chief engineer who had sailed the world over, he had come to America in 1988 to earn a master’s in marine policy, and he remained in this country to offer a better life for his family, for me. It was around the height of the first Gulf War when his car idled at a red light and another driver pulled beside to yell, “Go home, you sand nigger.”

“This is America?” my father thought, and as I walked across Main Street this beautiful spring day, I thought the same. America is a racist. If America were a person, that’s who he would be.

I also see America as the smartest girl in high school who is now in college, where the landscape is bigger and the competition more formidable.  America is lazy. Entitled, too.

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Date Night chronicles

I usually feel “on” when I’m high. Like I can win a game of chess, or dice an onion, or respond to temper tantrums with patience and respectful intolerance.  Not last night though. Last night I was that uncomfortable, out-of-my element high that always makes me on edge and anxious. It’s been a few months since I’ve felt like this.

But yesterday Mr. D and I went out on one of the first dates we’ve had in a while. Fridays have actually newly become “our nights,” since the kids sleepover my parents so we can volunteer at a farm on Saturday mornings and receive fresh produce in return (win-win!). Anyway, this is only our third week doing it, and we haven’t really been on a date in forever. Like I want to say a year. Which, if true, is totally nuts. (Is it just we’re too busy working, parenting and “life-ing” to carve that time for ourselves? I think that’s definitely part of it, but things have also been getting better for us, in so many ways. The girls are going to bed beautifully and independently–and as parents of notoriously needy sleepers, this is a Joe Biden BFD. Anyway, we’re finally at a good place, where we can theoretically enjoy alone time on weeknights. But by the time 9, 9:30 rolls around, I’m beat. He is too. We’ve been on almost a month’s dry spell, and my literary erotica has suffered as a result! But I digress…)

So last night I picked a fancy restaurant (where we also have a $50 gift card) and got dolled up. But I forgot to make reservations. (Big mistake. Huge!) After dropping the kids at my parents, I called and asked if we could do an 8:15 but are told to come at 8:30. When we got there at 8 and saw a packed restaurant with a 4-person table, I wondered if maybe we could take that seat. As I’m about to ask (or perhaps right as I did), a four-person party waltzes in, just in time for their reservation, and Mr. D and I, freshly high, make an awkward and abrupt run for the door.

We decide to kill time at a bar down the street. I’m overdressed, not in a ballgown way, more in a little-too-fancy-for-a-place-where-sweats-are-totally-acceptable kinda way. Which is funny because I would gladly live in sweats if I could.  In hindsight, I wish we had just stayed there. The bartender was great. The food is always delicious–and would have been cheaper.  The glass of wine was generously poured and absolutely perfect for a cold night, going down like warm water. And the bar even had a sign with Texas trivia (A literal sign! Texas! My favorite state I’ve never visited but am going to for the first time in two weeks!). But the whole time we were there, I felt so unnaturally rigid, like there was a giant stick in my ass wedged too deep to remove. I even asked about the Texas trivia in a way that came off annoying. (Oh my God, I thought, as soon as the words came out. Am I annoying? I was genuinely confused because Google seemed to give two different answers to the question of which US president annexed Texas. The answer was John Tyler, but for some reason Mr. D and I only saw the name of John K. Polk, who technically signed the bill accepting Texas as the 28th state of the Union, so…).

Anyway, when I told Mr. D about the stick in my ass, he  laughed. It was already 8:20. We should go back, I said. This was clearly the kind of restaurant where people kept their reservations.  We paid and left, the half-drunk glass of wine causing me even greater anxiety. Though when I get like this, the last thing I need is to down alcohol too quickly. Not a good combo.

We had a quick smoke before heading back to the fancy restaurant. When we arrived, we realized there were still no open seats. So we waited and finally snagged a place at the bar. The wine we ordered had this sour taste that reminded me of the two-month-old Black Box in our cabinet. When I finally got the bill, I ended up leave an embarrassing tip: $2 on a $20. That’s really not bad for two glasses, but here’s what makes it obnoxious and uncouth: I originally wrote 3, then scribbled 2 on top. Cheap as fuck. My one girlfriend is probably reading this in shame for me. And yes, I know it’s wrong, but here’s my meager justification: These little dollar savings here and there are part of a larger effort to save money by not eating out, or only doing Happy Hour meals/drinks/etc. Anyway, I was immediately taken aback by sticker shock. I was also annoyed by the sour, overpriced wine.

And I was high. Uncomfortably, not-my-best-self high.

But I immediately regretted the tip and spent a ridiculous amount of time during dinner wondering if I should give the guy the lone $5 in my wallet (which I’ve been reluctant to spend because having cash, even the smallest amount, has miraculously kept me on budget!). Anyway, my plan was just to approach him with the bill and a “sorry, I’m a bit too high” apology. But Mr. D, who suffers from social anxiety far more severe than my own, advised against this, and really, I was in no position to be talking to strangers.

I’m finally able to let it go, and Mr. D and I end up having a great time. The food was good, but no match for the company. I’m so lucky to share my evening and life with a man who loves me, flaws and all, and keeps my crazy brain as sane as possible. It doesn’t hurt that he’s hilarious and can relate the most absurd, absolute best stories. (Like when I went to the bathroom and the host, upon seeing my crumpled napkin on the seat, slowly leaned over with textbook OCD and proceeded to fold it back up, working in abject silence while never breaking eye contact with Mr. D).

When the check eventually came, I handed over the gift card and my own credit card, ready to not fuck up the tip this time. Then the waitress returned to the table. Apparently the gift card we never used had a $0 balance. Which is nuts because my mom actually received it in a swag bag for a recent “women in business” recognition.

At this point I’m no longer high, but I may harbor some residual stoner paranoia and wonder if this is the bartender fucking with me. Or maybe it’s just my karma. Actually, I totally think it’s my karma. I had this negative energy that I needed to shed. And somehow I finally did.

And perhaps this inner peace came from a realization that we need to redefine date night for ourselves, finding joy in the mere presence of each others company. Nothing fancy. No need to feel trapped by societal convention! (the 1:30 mark for anyone clicking the link). Let’s just be our socially awkward selves, Mr. D. I don’t need a decadent meal or a perfectly folded napkin. I just need you. And the D. And the precious warmth of your love, which I want to bask in always.
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