Wednesday, September 28, 2016

On borrowed time

Several things happened on Saturday night that were completely out of the norm for me. I ate a meal in its entirety after an ultra, I kept quiet during a conversation and I slept without interruption that night. As I was brushing my teeth the next morning I found the one in the middle to be most disturbing.

I forgot my computer on this trip to Flagstaff. Because of this, I wrote by hand for a few hours on Sunday, September 25. Initially I was going to post that in place of what I'm pressing up now, but things have evolved since then and different things are more important. I did, however, spend time thinking about how out of character it is for me to keep quiet in moments where I have something important to say. I've had days to dissect this and I still can't figure out why I went about such a thing this way, other than sometimes you have to meet a wall with a wall. And sometimes you  build that wall you really actually feel it while staring at twenty small squares of light. And even though it only looks like twenty are illuminated, there are really (roughly?) forty that light is coming through. But everything is based off of perspective.
I don't really believe that last sentence with 100%, but sometimes you have to say things and pretend like you believe them, like it's okay to have bad races and I don't know why I did that.

This all amounted to me watching the sunset at the Humphreys trailhead and having a meltdown with my mom on the phone. I think back on these moments and my heart pangs with sadness because I feel bad for who I was right then. If I could go back to the evening of Sunday, September 25th I would place a hand on my own shoulder. The premise of my breakdown was this, which I had written earlier that day and let wrestle with my heart for hours:

And that morning I

My mom had said "You know, it's normal for people to want to settle into a community. That's what people do." and I had responded with tears ripping down my cheeks saying "What if that's not me? What if I'm not normal? Who doesn't feel these things? Why do I only feel these things? Why am I so alone in it?"
And she said all of the right things. Because she's my mom. Because she's number one. And because, as she told me, "I'm always in your corner."

So I decided to leave Flagstaff a little early. I texted Danella because she had moved to Durango from Boulder approximately one month earlier and I told her I'd be passing through town shortly and asked her if she wanted to perhaps climb a mountain with me. With zero hesitation she responded with not only an 'absolutely' but also a mountain. I texted Drew and asked him if he wanted to join and he was down. As I packed my things I thought about how lucky a person is to have (what I have lately dubbed as) 'Fuck Yes' people. These are people that say "Fuck yes" to everything. Things that you say, things that you want to do, things you think and routes you choose - in life and at the base of mountains. These are the people that I'm not worried to leave in Denver. Danella had already left the front range and we still found a way to explore together. When I texted Drew he was in Denver and I was in Flagstaff, and less than 24 hours later we were playing in the San Juans. 
On Monday I sat chipping away at battery acid that had leaked and ruined my headlamp, forcing myself to focus on absolutely anything else than what I should have been, and cursing Black Diamond for letting me down again
As I drove out of Flagstaff I tried to analyze why I do the things that I do. Or in this case, rather, why I hadn't said the things I hadn't said. The song "Agnes" by Glass Animals came on and I ran my left hand over my forehead and let out a very short, very loud, very fucking frustrated "Ugh". Music is powerful in an exponential amount of ways, and one is that certain songs will always remind you of where you were when you heard it at one time. Sometimes it is the First Time you hear a song, but for me it's almost never that. It's a memory that ties itself to a song that I've heard before, and was hearing at the moment. "Agnes" was one for me, and now it is two for me. 

I was driving through the desert and with my hand still on my forehead I let myself feel excited to get to Durango and see two people I love dearly and do something that we all love. But I also let myself feel unfulfilled. I needed something a little bit more. And that's when I texted Giselle. Through some tiny tears I asked her "Why are our lives in transition for such a long amount of time?" Neither of us have that answer. To even define your life as 'in transition' is a profound thought, I think. It means you realize you are between two stabilities, that years decades later you will look back on and romanticize and reminisce with. To take that chunk of your life, however long it may be, and slam it against the wall and say "This may be a 'transition time' but it's still life and you still have to feel it and you still have to fucking live it and for some reason, I swear to God, it is wildly important" is hard. But my best friend has been there the whole time for it, and these 'transition times' for us are deeply intertwined and I can tell you exactly the first time I felt that. We were sitting in the living room of the then-Shorb's house with the wood burning fireplace raging, sipping on some varietal of red wine on a frigid December night listening to the song "Fade Away" by Rebelution. I will always think of that night when I hear that song. It was a big deal on a night in June when a job interview brought Giselle to southern Colorado and a free Red Rocks ticket and an agreeable rental car company all came together at the last moment and we saw Rebelution, live at Red Rocks, together. And they encored with Fade Away. 
Turns out Colorado didn't work out for either of us. 

I've written about this Best Friendship Ever before, and I don't think words will ever do it justice. Words could probably do it justice, but I don't think I'll ever be able to find the right ones.
and isn't that something
So halfway through listening to "Agnes" my eyes, heart and thumbs raced as I asked her if she would buy a one-way ticket to Denver and drive to Flagstaff with me before we venture to Joshua Tree for her birthday.
Giselle is my ultimate Fuck Yes person. There couldn't ever be another.
She had voiced that she wanted to do the San Francisco traverse with me, and we both agreed we should do it before her birthday, so this was the perfect solution. We'd roll into Flagstaff together, and from there continue on for birthday celebrations. 

My plan to come back to Flagstaff has evolved quite a bit in the past few weeks. At first it was November 1st, and then the day before Giselle's birthday, and now it's leaving Denver on the 14th, because Giselle is flying in on the 13th. We have a route with destinations over ten days, ranging from Southern Colorado to Moab to Lake Powell to Flagstaff, and so much in-between. 

We've always wanted to collaborate on a project, with her artistry (graphic design plus) and my writing, and maybe we've found it. Two women in their twenties who are wondering when the transition phase is going to end - or even if transition phases are even real. Two females who find stability in holding a rope and rocks with fingertips, who feel the pressing urge of life with your heartbeat while running ridges above treeline. Who are en route to the place they burned and spread chapters of their lives just six months prior, and creating explosive moments along the way. Who will have a packed Tiguan with Trader Joe snacks and almost too much Kendrick Lamar. 
We can't be the only people who feel this way, but that's how the world has been presenting itself to us. So we'll present ourselves right back to you. 

And I want to hear a song you were listening to when you changed your life. Because I told you mine. I just told you two of mine. I don't care how you get it to me, but get it to me. And tell me the story. 

When I was writing by hand on Sunday, September 25 I reread most of what I've written in that leather-bound notebook that I was supposed to write every day in. 

I wrote this on Tuesday, January 5.

Agnes - Glass Animals
Fade Away - Rebelution 


Sunday, September 11, 2016

I'm so sorry I couldn't speak

I almost didn’t go to Flagstaff. 

My plan was to leave Sunday after I was finished working brunch at The Kitchen (roughly 5pm). But I sat down for a shifty-of-choice at the bar and one led to two and two led to three birthday shifties. And then I went home and had a glass of wine and let it all metabolize and thought about how much I loved Denver, and I told Lauren I’d be coming home because Denver feels like home now. This is not a lie and this is still true, which is important. But as I sat staring at the empty wine glass I knew that I had to go. If for no other reason, I was going to watch after Annie’s dogs for a few days. But I had more than that reason. I knew that. We all knew that. We all still know that. So I fled down the stairs to my basement and in true Kelsey fashion packed way too many clothes and not the clothes I actually wanted to take. 

My original plan was to make it to Durango and stay the night, and continue on to Flag the next day. Durango is roughly halfway, if you go through Southern Colorado, which is my (read: everyone’s) preferred route. However it was now 8:30 and I didn’t really want to do the drive from Pagosa Springs to Durango at night, or Wolf Creek Pass, so I went west first and opted for the Moab/Utah route which I knew I would regret in the morning. I also knew I would have to stop and sleep because I am not a human that can drive all night. In fact, I can’t do any type of thing all night. In college I never pulled all-nighters. If I stayed up until 5am I slept until 2pm. I need my sleep. Drew Crittenden knows this well, because I let Denver start to know me. 

I didn’t even make it to Grand Junction before I had to sleep. My plan was to sleep for 4.5 hours and I slept for 7, putting me a bit behind for my day the next morning. There is no surprise here – especially to Drew Crittenden. Driving through Moab is brutal. I know Moab is a cool playground and all, but everyone raves about it and every time I just end up shrugging and saying “I’d rather be in Sedona”. I missed the welcome sign into Arizona (How? No idea.) but I knew I was there in no time. That’s one of the beauties of true desert driving – you can legitimately drive 100 miles per hour. 
Shut up, please. 

There’s this moment, and everyone who has done this drive knows, you can see the Peaks on the horizon and you are so far away. I tried to take a snap (don’t snap and drive!) and you couldn’t even see them, though partially due to the bugs on my windshield that are still there. Dave Warner was also on his drive back to Flagstaff from far away during the same hours, and he texted me about an hour earlier with “I can see the fucking Peaks!” and my heart melted at just the thought. So when I saw them, I had an explosion of feelings that I did not think I would feel. I feel a lot, right, which I think is partly why I write so personally and so much, so to be surprised by the overwhelming mass of what was hitting my heart and my head and my tear ducts is really saying something. 

When I drove in to Flagstaff I rode an odd wave of calm, and I wasn’t expecting that. I stopped at Fry’s on the corner of 66 and Switzer Canyon and took in the view of Agassiz that I know so well, because for what seemed like forever I lived off of Switzer Canyon. I was after a Naked Mighty Mango juice and I got the sale price because I still have the Fry’s card on my keys. I sat at the light on 66 and San Francisco and texted Andrew that it was “really fucking weird to be back” and I couldn’t answer why, but I know now that it’s because I felt home, and I was expecting to feel excited. I was giddy, for sure, and happy to be there, but for the first time in months months I felt still and known. And I sank into that, and it almost made me cry. 

Annie and Billy were out of town, but I stayed at their house with their two Great Danes. In the middle of August Annie had randomly texted me and told me that her and Billy were renting out their guest bedroom, and to “Come home to Flagstaff, Kelsey.” I read those words and stopped in my tracks. I met Annie when she was my apartment manager at the place off Switzer Canyon. I had Cohen and had just moved and we bonded right away, as she had a Dane as well. She now has two, and the younger of the two is built and moves exactly like Cohen did. 
It took me a few moments to add the word ‘did’ on the end of that sentence. 

I took a much needed shower and headed straight to Dark Sky. For those of you who are reading and don’t know me, Dark Sky is the greatest brewery in the world and I used to work there, and I love the owners more than I love most people. I had plans to meet Nick and Andrew for beer but I went early and stopped abruptly as soon as I walked in the door. To my left was the new addition, which I knew and had seen plans for before I left, and pictures of after I left. The door was propped open and I remembered what a pain that was to do with the plant and it made me smile. There was a bartender that I don’t know behind the bar that carded me which took me by surprise, because sometimes you forget when you leave that the world keeps going. I sat down next to a guy who tried twice to make conversation with the bartender and got shrugged off, and I was about to ask him what he was drinking when he beat me to the question. I quickly learned his name is Billy and I asked him if he knew the story of Dark Sky and he said no, and I spilled my love for the brewery, with details from how I donated to it when I randomly saw it on indiegogo via Facebook when I first moved to Flagstaff, meeting Amanda on the mountain, not recognizing Nick at NPA, and my Sunday shifts that were great extra cash but really came from the love and wanting to support and sell such a wonderful product and story. Billy asked where I had moved to and I said “Denver”, and a smile spilled over his face as he exclaimed “No way! I just moved from there!” and I felt sick with jealousy. I looked him dead in the eyes as I assured him he made the right choice. He had been in town for three days. 

I ran my hands over the bar that everyone comments on and looked over at the starry counter and became excited as I recalled all of the questions I used to answer for people regarding this place. I watched two people come in and taste one beer and leave without the bartender saying much and I wanted to grab their wrist and say “No! Wait! This is our story, this is what’s happening, try this beer instead, I think you’ll like it.” But I was on the wrong side of the bar for that. I remembered how the Dream Team (Anthony and I; self-proclaimed but true) would tend the shit out of that bar, and Alex and I have been all over Denver and Boulder this summer talking about Dark Sky and how people here “just have no idea”. Before Shift had opened, Joe and Dara did a collaboration dinner with DSB and Anthony and I worked it, and it was one of the best nights of my life. I love the service industry for several reasons, and one of them being the familial aspect. After all of the guests had left, me, Anthony, Nick, Ryan, Joe, Dara and two or three others (I’m so sorry I can’t remember your names) sat at the bar and got a bit sauced in celebration. And I was sitting in the seat two down from where I was, and I distinctly recall laughing so hard I might die at this incredible conversation that we all had going, and it was one of the most powerful senses that I have felt. Shift was about to open and it was going to be amazing, Dark Sky was taking off and going to reveal their addition, and we had just done our first wine collaboration which was fucking awesome. I never wanted that night to end. I used to wish I could go back to it, but now I want more like it. I also remembered one of my very last nights in Flagstaff, after I had put Cohen down, Anthony and I were closing together and I didn’t want to go home because I was so sick of going home and dealing with the fact that my dog was dead, and waking up from nightmares where the injections didn’t work and he didn’t end up dead in my arms on that Wednesday night. So we sat at the bar and listened to old Taking Back Sunday and Rebelution and talked about everything from life philosophies to fingernails. I don’t think anyone knew how badly I was hurting at that time in my life, and perhaps more on that later. But I sat at that bar and healed a little, because I really needed to. (Actually, I sat at the counter on a stool in front of the iPad, but, you know. Details.) 
I was one half of a beer into the evening on 5 September and knew I was coming back, if for no other reason than to dedicate myself to the things I believe in – the first being Dark Sky and everything it encompasses, not just for my own reasons, but because it has a meaningful place in the world of beer, food and business – especially in that town. 

I drank through the night with Andrew and Nick and talked a bit of business but mostly soaked in absolutely everything I had missed. I’ve been flirting with the idea of moving back to Flagstaff for a long time. We all know that. But I had been a bit worried I was just missing people and not the town, and Andrew knew this because between Whiskey Chai I told him “You can’t make homes out of humans, though, right? Because – who taught us that?” And I don’t know if either of us truly cited the source in conversation but it is Warsan Shire – a beautiful piece of writing that you all should read. It’s a moving quote, “You can’t make homes out of human beings/someone should have already told you that” for when you are sad after he breaks up with you. But I think it’s kind of bullshit. You can make homes out of whichever you want – mountains, people, breweries, train tracks, trails, snow days and monsoons.  

My birthday was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing about the day, except for perhaps my raging headache and I should’ve had dessert at dinner. Every person I spent time with means a significant amount to me, and I ended it at Dark Sky (shocking). I sat down to cheers away 27 and welcome 28 and noticed my new friend Billy was there as well, sitting with these wonderful people I get to call my friends. Sometimes the world is small and Flagstaff is even smaller, and I’m quite alright with that. The restaurant Shift opened right after I left Flagstaff, and after meeting Joe and Dara (and eating food they had prepared) I was stoked for them to open. I was super happy to see Joe on the night of my birthday, and having read and heard him talk about the concept(s) of Shift I was shocked but not shocked but jaw-dropping, coincidentally shocked to learn that he used to work where I currently work – The Kitchen. And just so we’re all on the same page: I absolutely love working at The Kitchen (Denver). I’m all about everything from their concepts to community actions to execution of service and knowledge, but more on that in my love letter to Denver. 

I laid in bed for awhile the morning after my birthday because I didn’t want to leave. I was sandwiched between two Great Danes and in the town my heart pulls for. But I got up, packed my things, and went for a run. As I was leaving town I threw my hair in a side braid and tried to lift my eyelids that were already weighted. One of my (irrational?) fears I had voiced about moving back was that I wouldn’t fit in with the people I’d be going back to, and that was quickly met with “Make new friends.” And here I was, after not even 48 hours of a visit, leaving with two (of many) very different things: a new friend and missing one more person than I drove into town missing.

I was driving out 89A and was listening to the song “Arizona” by Frances Cone and it brought me to tears as I had the backside of the Peaks to my left and the sun to my right. There’s a line “I’m so sorry, I couldn’t speak,” and that’s how I feel when I reflect on leaving Flagstaff to move to Denver. I was in rough shape, and I know that next to no one really knew that. The only person I could ever speak one hundred percent of everything to was Giselle. She listened to me cry and be lost and wonder why my life had unfolded the way it had and what I did to make it to that. My life fucking sucked, and I’m sure some reader is thinking “You privileged, middle-class white girl, your life did not suck. There are tragedies happening every day.” and I hate when people make that argument. I think it is equivalent to saying “You can’t be that happy, because someone else is happier.” It is bullshit. You can feel however the fuck you want to feel all of the time, at any time. And I felt beat the fuck up on April 8th as I drove away from Flagstaff and I couldn’t wait to get to Denver, because I knew the front range was scattered with people I love and would make me laugh. I knew I would feel good here. And I do. I love my life here, it is a fantastic one, and it will have it’s own blog post in a bit.

Giselle and I had over an hour phone conversation on my way back to Denver as I drove through Colorado. Every time we have conversations they are of my favorite, and people like that are truly hard to find. We covered several areas of topic, but she said, “You sound so rejuvenated!” And she’s right. (…Again) 

I think that people will say (have said) that all signs are pointing me to Flagstaff, and that it’s “obviously meant to be” with having everything fall into place as soon as I felt like I wanted to go back, but I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think things are predetermined at all, and I don’t believe in much of anything – not even karma. I think people make their own choices, and use phrases like “ it was/wasn’t mean to be” just to make them feel better about making the choice they made. I want to move back to Flagstaff so I’m making it work. (Except Annie telling me I can rent a room in her house and to “come home”, I’m simply chalking that one up to coincidence ) 

I propped my left elbow on my window and leaned my palm against my face to let my head rest a bit as the sun set in Colorado and I was 150 miles from Denver. Ocean Eyes (Astronomyy edit) by Billie Eilish was playing and I was overcome with sadness. Sadness to be leaving the life that I can’t wait to get back to, but a stillness with knowing I’m going to continue it soon.

At the end of October I’m going to on a climbing trip to Joshua Tree with Giselle for her birthday. En route to California I’ll stop in Flagstaff and drop my stuff off in my new bedroom, and on (or around) 1 November, I’ll be back in the 928.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

On Monday, 15 August 2016

I stared at myself in the mirror at 17:30 on a Monday evening. My hair is the longest that it’s been in my entire life. I leaned onto my forearms and brought my nose an inch from the mirror to inspect the face that I should know so well and had a thought. When you repeat a word over and over and over and over it starts to sound foreign and will lose its connotation or even meaning. Eventually you’ll dissect the word by sound and by letter and realize there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet and no more. You cannot make another letter, and you cannot make another sound in the English language and actually you cannot even imagine it. It is like trying to imagine a color you haven’t seen before. I stared at myself over and over and over until I didn’t know what I was looking at. Past the long hair, past the blue eyes that seem as if they’ve paled, past the thin upper lip that I share with my sister, the uneven eyelids and the forever sunned skin. I meticulously scanned my face and noticed creases by the corners of the eyes of my mouth. Am I nearly 28 and getting wrinkles? Is this why I should apply sunscreen? I twisted my face until the wrinkles were more prominent and immediately stopped when I realized they correspond with my smile. This is pleasing and it makes sense. I used to really hate my laugh. It is loud, probably obnoxious and very much ‘ha’ heavy. But between The Office marathons, the get-rich-quick ideas, the cheap booze and the expensive Ubers I had forgotten to hate that. I wondered what else I had forgotten, as I was starting to remember. I dissected every single part of my face until I didn’t know it anymore, and I didn’t know what was behind it, either. I stared at my eyebrows and raised them so there were wrinkles on my forehead. I tried to picture my brain behind it and I told it that I hated it and that I wanted to break up. I lowered my stare back down to my eyebrows and then my eyelashes and then my pupils and I stared at a stranger. I let my eyes relax and go out of focus for an undetermined amount of time, as they had grown tired from paying so much attention to the detail. I brought them in and out of focus and felt like I was exercising my vision. I leaned in a bit closer and found the clear contact rings around my irides and I hate you, I thought. If I keep up this exercise will it make you stronger? Can I, one day, wake up and be able to see correctly? I raised my eyes back to my brain and wondered Can I, one day, wake up and have some sort of clarity? My phone vibrated and I glanced down at a text. My spine was hurting and I straightened myself, brought a cup of wine to my lips and asked myself how I could be near 28 years old and still wondering “Are we done here, yet?”

I started pacing around in the one-bedroom apartment I was cat-sitting in Boulder. I let my feet slide far apart on the laminate flooring as I didn’t pay attention to the Olympics I had streaming on the TV. I watched my feet as I tapped the edge of my phone on that space between your upper lip and nose while I slid in and out of waves of deep contemplation. I thought about what it would be like for someone to know that about me – the ‘kelsey’isms. The tiny, intricate things that each individual has or does that they generally notice but sometimes have no idea of. For most people it becomes the things that you love about another person, and for me it has always become things I hate about them. My mother calls this intolerant and I don’t let that bother me.

There were a lot of things that Andrew said that I was thinking about, but particularly his comment “It seems like you’re caring about what other people think,” kept ringing between my temples. Was I? My phone vibrated and it was Giselle saying “It sounds to me like your heart is calling you back to that tiny mountain town,” and before I had time to respond, she following it up with “I know there was a reason you moved, but just for the record: you’re allowed to change your mind.” I went back to pacing and tapping my phone and damned Giselle for always saying the right things.

As I started my second cup of wine I was in the middle of a gif-off that was becoming evident I would lose. I let the acid burn in the small cracks of my chapped lips as I let the time click by with laughter and searches, until I realized time had clicked by quite quickly and I was late for a conversation that I didn’t want to put energy into.

Forty-five minutes later I was sitting in a dark speakeasy sipping (downing) the Grapeful Dead cocktail(s) and having to tell someone why I wasn’t interested in them –a conversation I’d never choose to have in public, but Williams & Graham is a fun place to be. I tried to be truthful and delicate with what I was saying, but he said the words “I guess I can stop trying to impress you now,” and I almost rammed my head into the table four times. My phone buzzed and I looked down and it was someone that was teetering on importance in my life and it was in that moment that I blurted out that I was going to Flagstaff for my birthday. I had a plan to visit Flagstaff at the end of September to race, but I felt the rush to go sooner and when I said it out loud it became real, and in that real moment my heart fluttered and I smiled and the skin on my forearms tingled. The person across from me told me that often it’s not the places you miss but the person you were when you were there. I twirled the garnished grape in my drink and thought it was annoying how someone can know so many facts about you but have no idea who (more accurately, how) you are. It was a true statement, yes, you can’t be who you were, but I would never chase that. I don’t miss who I was because I like who I am, and I don’t hate who I was in the least but I sure as hell am not trying to go back to that person.  I traced the outside of the cocktail glass with my eyes slowly and thought rapidly about knowing the happenings instead of the facts.

I returned back to my two-week retreat in Boulder and rehashed my night to Sarah via text and after an explosion of laughter she replied with “I think you find it easier to be yourself even in stranger’s company than a lot of people.” I gave myself a huge stretch and a loud groan and reached over to give Peyton a pat. “It’s going to be a long drive,” I told that fat cat, and promptly fell asleep on the couch.

And it was a long drive.