Destination Disney

Been a while since I’ve been writing, and it might continue to be. So much has happened in the last few weeks, and the work/life pressures only seem to grow exponentially. It’s funny, but back when I was waiting to hear from the Times–back when I thought Spiderman’s prophecy had everything to do with the blog, with my writer dreams and aspirations–time seemed to move at the most glacial pace. I was waiting on so much, and hearing nothing from no one, and wondering why.

Then, about a week before my 33rd birthday, everything happened at once. I moved from a soul-less cubicle to an office with a fireplace. We close on the house of our dreams this Thursday (initially planned for Friday, which happens to be my nemesis’ birthday). I’m well positioned to get a salary boost, but only if I kick major fucking ass at work (thus my limited time to blog). And we just returned from a week-long trip to Disney.

Disney. If there’s one thing this week has taught me, it’s that we are not Disney people. Not that there’s anything wrong with Disney. It’s perfectly fine, and not terribly overpriced (excluding $30 Minnie Mouse sunglasses; wtf).  Disney magic just… feels… kinda… forced. And I believe in the real stuff.

Is there a relationship between magic and marijuana? Is it bad that I only experienced magic that one night I got high?

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The mama waterskunk

“Why do the dumpsters have locks on it?” Big A asked, as I threw our sandwich wrappers and wet wipes away.

It was our last full day in Colorado. Just a few months before, Mr. D and I were misty-eyed in an Austin Imax while watching a documentary on the 100-year anniversary of the natural parks.  “The greatest natural wonders belong to no one: They belong to us all,” Robert Redford’s voice narrated. “They belong to all.” As we left the theater, I admitted how choked with emotion I felt at the sight of our purple mountain majesties. “I teared up, too,” my husband admitted. “We should do more stuff outdoors.”

Then we came home. Work piled on. Swim lessons and gymnastics and drop-offs and pick-ups and life in general resumed its unrelenting, unapologetic pace. I fantasized daily about quitting my job, wondering if my boss would continue to take credit for my work, or if she would, instead, give me the one thing I had asked for and unquestionably earned. But she didn’t acknowledge my question, let alone provide an answer, and I found myself averaging three hours of sleep on a good night. About a month after my suicide joke fell flat in a staff meeting and probably a week before my inevitable mental break down, Mr. D bought impromptu tickets to Denver. “It will be good for us,” he said. “It will be good for you.”

It was perfect. It was exactly what the doctor ordered, right down to the weed. The girls, Mr. D and I hiked mountains and stepped off the beaten path to climb rocks and explore nature on our own. By the time we polished the last of our PB&Js at a picnic table in Rocky Mountain National Park, I decided I could very happily relocate to the West. We’d just need to get used to the whole snakes and bears thing.

“That’s why you’re supposed to lock the dumpsters,” I explained to Big A. “So bears can’t get in.”

“Bears?” Little A asked in her sweet whisky voice. “Will they hurt us?”

“Um… well… hopefully we won’t see any. But sometimes bears can hurt people. Especially if it’s a mama bear who wants to protect her babies.”

Little A lost interest in the bears, and we proceeded to circle around a spectacular lake, its crystal clear water reflecting the towering rocky mountain ranges from beyond. We climbed more rocks and walked across logs and even hopped over stones to explore the other side of a babbling brook. As we headed back to the car, Little A began to tell us a story about “a waterskunk family,” prattling on in her usual long-winded way, mundane details and indecipherable ones all piled together as my interest and attention drifted elsewhere–to the trash collected in our car, to the bathroom stops we all needed to make before we left, to the flight we had to catch tomorrow. The sweet whisky voice continued to drone on… and on… until finally, in her same casual tone, Little A said, “And then a man came, and he tried to hurt the babies, so the the mama waterskunk killed the man.” Mr. D and I both stared at each other blankly. “Kill the man?” I mouthed to him, as he laughed and said, “Well, that took an unexpected turn.”

We drove to another lake, and stopped again at the bathrooms, and admired a herd of moose crossing the road. We all fell asleep early that night, and I slept sound and deep and long.

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Who is America?

“I am America,” Muhammad Ali once said. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me.”

He passed away as I was putting together my last project at work, and his quote so poetically addressed to the question I sought to ask, the one that graced my cover page: Who is America? Or rather, If America were a person, who would we be?

It seemed only fitting that it was answered by The Greatest, that it withstands the years, that it reflects and confronts our nation’s history in an honest, even uncomfortable way. Because it isn’t an easy question.

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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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Subversive

I took a few days off from work to focus on my blog. To buckle down and write some of the essays that have been bouncing around my brain. Instead, I’ve been lounging in pajamas, smoking weed, obsessing about work and dealing with overpriced plumbing and car repairs. Not quite as productive or relaxing as I’d hoped.

A few weeks back, we had an office staff retreat at the Hilton. Enrique was on the planning committee and helped organize a workshop on writing. I skipped it and took the leadership training instead, but those who attended the communications class all agreed: It was alright, but Enrique should have just taught it himself.

“Why didn’t you?” I asked.

He scoffed. “I’d be too subversive.”

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t know? You’re subversive,” he said. “Someone who doesn’t follow the rules. Who does things their own way and dismantles the system from within.”

“Oh my God,” I squealed. “Really?? Wow!! Thank you!!”

I was beaming. Enrique laughed. “I can just see you telling Mr. D, ‘Hey, guess what! I’m subversive!'” (Which is exactly what I said when I came home that night.)

I can’t think of a better compliment.

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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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Hometown chronicles

There’s a lot to hate about my hometown: it’s dirty and small and everyone seems to get cancer by 50. That’s actually the number one reason Mr. D and I fantasize about moving to Colorado. We’re in search of greener pastures, and not just the ones with red hairs and trichomes. In fact, I applied for a job in Denver this past summer. The position itself was a logical next step in my resume, and I can’t imagine the other candidates had cover letters or references remotely close to mine. But I didn’t get it. Didn’t even get a rejection letter, despite my follow up email months later to HR. So fuck that place.

But I digress. I applied at the height of my heartache, back when I was the mouth of a veritable river of professional bullshit. I was looking for a way out, and I guess that was the real reason. We flew to Colorado soon after I applied, on an overpriced, impromptu trip planned by Mr. D that turned out to be the highlight of our summer. The girls scaled boulders and hiked the Rockies and at one point, we bypassed the easy, serpentine trail around the mountain to instead carve our own route to the top, shooting up the middle like a dollar sign.

I was feeling the weed edible by then, so this wasn’t just a fun walk in the [Estes] park. It was a symbol of entrepreneurship and hard work and resilience and risk. It was about stepping off the beaten path to carve the life you want.

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Hillary and the Lioness

I’ve been looking forward to the debates all election season, even let the kids stay up til 10 to watch. I’m glad I did, too, and not just because they fell asleep the minute we marched upstairs.

I want them to remember this moment in history.

“I like the woman,” Little A said early in the night.

“That’s Hillary,” Big A told her. “I like her too.”

I’m happy you do, my sweet A’s. Hillary is sharp, resilient, hard-working, ambitious, self-made, successful, strategic, and classy. She is a boss bitch, and I believe all women should aspire to boss bitchdom.

Aspire to be President of the United States of America one day.

It makes me proud to live in a time when you can set that kind of goal.

One of my favorite fantasies is my time machine one—where I’m the hot, bedazzled Queen of Studio 54, shimmering under the disco ball and inventing the dance moves of the future—but then I remember, no, that was a shitty period for most women; that 2016 is actually the best possible time for our gender, where opportunities abound, and girls can run the world, Beyoncé style.

The night before Leymah Gbowee won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to lead the women’s protests that toppled Liberia’s dictator, she was asked how American women could help those who experienced the horrors and mass rapes of war. Her response: “More women in power.”

This is the Golden Age of the Boss Bitch, and Hillary is proof.

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My life is so high school

For the longest time, the biggest mystery of my life was, “Why does Anaid hate me?”

The question literally haunted my dreams. Sometimes we were friends again, sometimes not.

“Babe… Babe!” I would nudge Mr. D in the middle of the night, and he would roll over in a fog of delirium.

“Why does Anaid hate me?”

He would kiss me and tell me to go back to sleep, and eventually I would, but the question always lingered. Mostly because, what the fuck?

I watched a lot of Murder She Wrote as a kid, and I feel like I’m good at putting clues together. But when I dissect the anatomy of our friendship and breakup, nothing makes sense.

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Half a page of scribbled lines

I.

I cried before my eldest daughter’s birth. It must have been around 1:28 in the afternoon. She had been in the breech position for months, her upright body folded in half like a nutcracker. Uncomfortable, I’m sure, but I like to believe my heart was one of the first sounds she ever heard. It beats for you. That was all I truly knew. I was supposed to be filled with love, I knew, but I had only fear, and as I lay on the hospital bed, I felt the tears slide like heavy raindrops off my cheeks. The nurse looked over and asked if I was okay, and I said yes because I knew it was too late to say I had changed my mind. My daughter was born at 1:31, just a minute past her scheduled delivery.

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