Saturday, February 25, 2006

Then & Now



My college roommate was in Portland this week to buy a $23 million office building. Yep. To. buy. an. office. building. The most dramatic purchase I have made recently, that I wavered and hesitated over, was... er... well, there was a pink & purple brocade coat, but I ended up not buying that, even though it was on sale... and then there was the $10 bottle of glucosamine for our limpy old dog's joints and I thought that was a bit pricey... and it did seem like quite a splurge to buy that travel guide to Mexico on a wild whim... Nope, I can't quite wrap my mind around buying an office building. Jim joked that all other purchases must seem very trivial by comparison: new Mercedes? Feh! Give me two! To be sure, Julie wasn't spending her own money, but the money of some consortium of unseen millionaires. She made some reference to having trouble sleeping,.. Er, ye think?

Julie and I met at Berkeley in 1992, both 19-year-old transfer students from other schools, both arriving with suitcases but no pots or pans, no beds, no desks, just a few days before classes started. I was going to live in the "co-op" system, a self-governing collective of houses scattered around town, each with its own peculiar "flavor" -- the vegetarian co-op for example, "Lothlorien," was known for its blow-out "food orgies" in which you were allowed to feed anyone but your own self. It was made famous later that year as the dwelling of the "naked guy" who walked to class in nothing but flip-flops each day, and who sued the school over its mandatory-clothing policy (he lost). I was assigned to Cloyne Court, the massive party mansion on the north side of campus. After meeting my bunkmate, who was, er, a guy, I bowed out of that and met Julie vying for the same room as me in a big Victorian house in Rockridge. Neither of us got it, but we joined forces and found a soulless little box of a studio apartment together. And there we stood, with not a stick of furniture, not a wooden spoon, not a shower curtain, not a thing. Our parents were far away, classes had begun, our new lives were underway, and we had a magnificent lack of stuff. It wasn't like in the movies on dorm move-in day with the mom carrying the kid's rice cooker and laundry basket while the dad hooks up the stereo. We were alone and stuffless. We were also basking in our own self-congratulatory glee at being "Cal students" -- we thought very highly of ourselves! I mean... Berkeley! This is the school with Nobel-laureate designated parking spaces, for goodness sakes, and we were here!

Well, that apartment slowly filled up with futons and plants and posters. Julie learned to cook and I did not. I was an English major, she was sociology, I studied Shakespeare. she studied cult psychology, I flopped on the rug in sweats and socks while she studied at the little table in nice outfits with her shoes on all day and her legs crossed, just as if she were at an office. We were pretty different even then, but we spent so much time together, and she's easily the person I associate most closely with that wonderful time in my life. Studying at Cafe Strada or pointing out Allen Ginsburg on the street, driving down the coast in a convertible to go to sailing team regattas, having weird Russian Thanksgiving dinner with her big family, learning how to throw parties, dressing up as Daphne & Velma for Halloween, making fun of sorority girls, trying to get into bars, giggling much and often. My brother once pierced her nose by numbing it with ice and jamming the earring in. We got season tickets to the symphony and I fell asleep every single time. We voted together in our first ever presidential elections (You're welcome, Mr. Clinton). We fretted over money, overspent, got jobs, gained weight, and both took tentative steps onto our future life paths. Those paths diverged pretty radically. I went on to art school in San Francisco, and Julie to business school at USC. I bought a little yellow cottage, she bought an apartment complex. We rarely see each other any more, but when we do, it's like a chute back to that time before the paths diverged!

She came to stay last night after buying her building and we went out for Thai food and cocktails with Jim, then came home and drank wine and did an art show & tell, and heard about some of Julie's extensive world travels -- among other places she has been to India, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, and Burning Man. This morning we walked the dogs and went out for very big fruit pancakes:
Incidentally, it was Julie who introduced me to Alexandra, who has been my best friend now for many years.
And on that note, a quote I love:
"Yes'm, old friends is always best, less you can catch a new one that's fit to make an old one out of." -Sarah Orne Jewett
(and to all the new friends I'm making here: I hope that one day you are all old friends!)

16 comments:

kelly rae said...

what a sweet, sweet story! you are such a lovely writer. your description of parents toting the rice maker is hilarious. i'm curious, which breakfast spot did you find pancakes that huge in portland? my favorite breakfast spot is J&M Cafe.

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Kelly! The pancakes are from Cameo on NW 24th (by the Twist Gallery and Urban Outfitters) -- you order pancakes by the "acre" and can get any combination of fruit. I recommend blueberry-apple, or in the summer, peach. Yum! We haven't been to J&M. Will have to look it up. We also love Violet's on Sandy, and Helser's on Alberta. And, Edgefield is a good place to take out-of-town guests for breakfast. I had a waffle there over the holidays that had pieces of cheesecake crumbled in the batter. (oh my.)

beansprout said...

It is always so great to re-connect with old friends. There is such a rich history that has been created. Sounds like you had a great time. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

melba said...

You have posted a few times before I have had a chance to comments so I will say all my thoughts here...
(I feel like it is mandatory I say this first) I love Ethan and Maggie, but I don't think having children is for everyone. I think there needs to be people in the world to not have children, but still be in their lives. Raising a child is tough. I really do believe We are all Mothers. I have written about this on my blog... my sisters' in-law (Kelly and MB who have been together almost 20 years) have about 17 neices and nephews between them...they are always doing things for them and with them. I definately consider both these women Mothers. I also think some women have children because they feel like they are "suppose to" but then don't really want to be a mother and it shows in the way they care for their child. You will make the best decision for you because you are taking the time to think about it and make a conscious choice.

I loved your poem and your sparkle girl.

I have not read the comments on your post so this has probably already been answered, but Artist Dates are part of the Artist Way. I wish I went on more alone, but it is difficult to carve out the time being a stay at home mom. I just try to be mindful and treat something like driving a long distance while they both were asleep in the car as an artist date and use that time to daydream and listen to my music (and drive carefully of course!)

liz elayne said...

i have this image of the two of you standing in the middle of that studio apartment...the future before you. So much fun to stay connected and get to spend time together. Fantastic. Martinis and memories - the perfect evening.
(oh and that pancake - a love story indeed - i want one!)

Frankie said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! The second I got here and saw those fantastic "then and now" pictures, I was instantly made so happy. What fabulous memories you have together and I adore that they brought up so many memories of my own for me (replace the nose piercing with an eyebrow in an 8th grade bathroom stall, and you have a glimpse into my middle school years). :). I'm so glad (and of course not surprised) that you have a wonderful friend like this. It's so amazing how friends can stay friends, how you can go for so long without seeing them and then when you do, it's as though not a second has passed between you. Thanks so much for sharing this!!

And that pancake looks like HEAVEN!!

twistedsoda said...

I love friends that you have in your life that time just stands still!!!! Your so lucky to have one!!! In your story telling...you are so descriptive...I thought I was there all along!

megg said...

Hi there! What a great post! I've been doing a lot of thinking about frienships in the past while (as you know!) There are a few girlfriends that I have had since we were 15!! Our lives have all gone in SUCh different paths but when we come together it's like we are 15 again. It's easy and silly and honest. I often wonder why some friendships last and others don't. P.S. I would like to second that hope that we become old friends!!

P.S.S. very VERY cute pictures!

Jamie said...

I loved reading about your time at Berkeley. Your description is so vivid. It's like we all got a chance to be there with you. What a wide-open time full of excitement and opportunity to grow. Isn't it funny where life takes you and who you meet along the way?

Shannon (sentimental) said...

I am loving the pics from than and now! And that pancake, I want one!

Shesawriter said...

That put a warm fuzzy in my tummy. No, I'm not talking about the pancake picture! :-)

Tanya

Alexandra S said...

Hi there... Remember me? The teensy old lady who comes to your house on Sunday evenings to pick up my weekly casserole? I found out this morning Qwest won't be able to set up my phone service until Thursday so here I am with a teensy bit of time at the laundromat (so nice they have computers here but I only got a 15 minute card!) and I figured I better put a comment up before you paint my house black while I am away at work! I love those pictures of you and Julie together. It made me think about what kind of advice I'd give to that young college student that was me if I could talk to her now...I won't put here what that advice IS, but I will say that it reminded me of all our wonderful times in North Berkeley- "jogging" up at Tilden, teaching you to make turkey sausage pasta and showing you how to peel a garlic. One thing I also remember-that continues to be true- was you always had so many amazing books hanging around you and exposed me then to so many things and ideas I never would have otherwise! Thank you for this little jaunt down memory lane!

jason evans said...

College years are magic.

Too bad they're wasted on college students.

chest of drawers said...

Your city sounds amazing! I´d love to visit sometime and taste those pancakes myself.
I´m so looking forward to receiving your parcel!

madness rivera said...

Great tribute to your friendship! I lived in Berkeley in the late 80's. But I just pretended and dreamed of being a Cal student. Your post brought back a lot of memories. I remember Naked Guy.hahahaha

julie said...

laini, it's JULIE! i finally FOUND this, guess i've been to busy buying $57M buildings in sacramento the last fews months and being the CFO for a 60 person camp at burning man. yah, typical. thanks for much for brining back the memories, we had some great times - but you forgot "the other perfect sarah" AND "mussel-man" silly! so here is the scoop - i ran into another old friend of yours in san fran last weekend, carolyn from lonely planet. what a small world, yada yada. stay in touch, love you old friend.