Tag Archives: friendship

Good Things #27: 2013 Edition

What were some of the highlights of 2013? Miley Cyrus, of course. Actually, that isn’t true at all. I made it through the year without laying eyes on her infamous performance, and I hope to keep it that way. (This might frustrate Kate, the queen of the internet, merely because it solidifies my old-fashioned and misplaced irritation with modern technology.)

My highlights might not by Hollywood-worthy, but they’re the best of another sort. And there are only six, not five or ten or fourteen, because six is how many I thought of.

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1. Cafe shopping. There’s something about opening new doors for the first time, wondering what you’ll find behind enchanting names like Breaking New Grounds, The Blue Mermaid, or my favorite, Grendel’s Den. This has been a year of finding new digs, partly because – for the first time – I have a steady paycheck and I don’t live in constant fear of “Oh my gosh, do I have five dollars in my account?” anymore. There’s something about dark wood and dim lighting that makes me want to curl up and pay hand over fist for delicious things. Good thinking, restaurant owners.

2. Making music. My friend sent me a recording. It was me and seven college friends singing “An Irish Blessing” at one of our recitals. It’s an eight-part piece and because sopranos are a dime a dozen and I have a little more weight to my voice I’m Alto I, a part I never feel comfortable singing. I listened to it over and over, remembering how the sound filled the hall, what it felt like to make music with people I’d shared so many memories with. This summer, I’ll be singing an eight-part song at my college roommate’s wedding, five years after we made this first recording.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
until we meet again,
may God, may God hold you
in the palm of His hand.

[This is a similar recording of the arrangement we sang by Graeme Langager, only ours was mixed voices.]

3. Friends. I read this quote in Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, and I paused because I have felt this intensely this past year:

They say – or maybe I said – that a good marriage is one in which each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal, and this is true also of our bosom friendships. You could almost flush with appreciation. What a great scam, to have gotten people of such extreme quality and loyalty to think you are stuck with them. Oh my God. Thank you.

I am so grateful for friends who understand me. I am also grateful for friends who, when they don’t understand me, love me anyway.

4. Christian Wiman.

christian wiman

When I first encountered Christian Wiman, I was so overcome with overwhelmed-ness that I emailed an old art professor to share my joy. It was this article that first introduced me to this man of faith and art, and what was it that caught me so immediately? This man who was faced with his own death (cancer) slowly and carefully examined his latent faith and found it there, curled deep inside him, even when he thought (and maybe hoped) it was dead. My Bright Abyss, Wiman’s collection of thoughts on faith, may very well get a post of its own, but here are some of my favorite quotes:

Life is short, we say, in one way or another, but in truth, because we cannot imagine our own death until it is thrust upon us, we live in a land where only other people die.

…it involves allowing the world to stream through you rather than you always reaching out to take hold of it.

Falling in love seems at the same time an intensification of consciousness and the loss of it. Never are the physical facts of existence more apparent and cherished, and never is their impermanence more obvious and painful.

I think of this when I hear people say that they have no religious impulse whatsoever, or when I hear believers, or would-be believers. express a sadness and frustration that they have never been absolutely overpowered by God. I always want to respond: Really? You have never felt overwhelmed by, and in some way inadequate to, an experience in your life, have never felt something in yourself staking a claim beyond your self, some wordless mystery straining through words to reach you? Never?

He is currently in remission, and his latest book of poetry, Every Riven Thing, is on my list.

5. Boots. This might not seem to fit with the other things in this post, but this year I discovered the beauty and ease of boots.

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They immediately transform any mediocre outfit into a work of, if not art, at least style. Oh, you’re wearing THAT again? Wait, what are those? Oh my gosh, I love them!

Crisis averted.

6. Recommendations. This is a blend of numbers three and four because good friends recommend good things. I get most of my music from other people, from my city-friend to my brother, and a lot of my books are recommendations, too. My friend Bryn who blogs over at All My Roads, recently wrote a post of 14 Books for 2014, and I was struck by how great they are. Not only had I loved the ones I’d already read, but I wanted to rush out to the book shop and grab the ones I hadn’t.

[And miracle of miracles, my city-friend went and bought me Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal – with no prompting from me – and I wonder if my friends who don’t know each other are in cahoots.]

It’s good to have people you trust in your life to tell you what to read. And listen to. And do.

So, there you have it. Enjoy your Wednesday!

 

Talks in Cars

He sits in the back of my beetle. I forgot that eleven-year-olds usually sit in the back, so my attempt at cleaning (a.k.a., throwing everything in the backseat) was completely pointless. I make excuses, some fair, some not so much, and he tells me he doesn’t mind. I ask if his room were clean. He says yes, usually.

We drive for thirty minutes through the snow, the trees bending over the road. It’s supposed to be nearly sixty degrees this weekend, and I’m dreading the brown bedraggled wetness that will bring – just in time for Christmas.

“How was school?”
“What are your dogs names?”
“Do you have any siblings?”

– I ask.

“What’s that?” – he asks, and I clarify:

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

We go back and forth for a few minutes, neither of us quite sure how to navigate this new, unique relationship. He asks the usual progression of questions:

1. Do you have any children?

No! I answer, up-beatly.

2. Do you have a husband?

No! I answer, equally up-beatly.

I can feel his mind awkwardly fumbling for the next question, because what comes after that?

3. Do you have any pets?

These I do have, thank goodness, and I tell him about our three crazy dogs and my eighteen chickens. He listens to my every word, but he doesn’t always respond. He looks out the window.

He asks what my job is, and when I tell him I teach Latin and then explain what Latin is, he goes on to ask if I teach Spanish? French? What other languages? I wish I could tell him, Yes, yes, I teach them all!

There is a comfortable silence now, like we’ve known each other awhile. Maybe having animals makes me trustworthy. Maybe fulfilling his dream of riding in a beetle makes me fun. Maybe the fact that I “look like a science teacher in those glasses” makes me knowledgable.

Either way, I think we’ve crafted an interesting relationship. One that will happen once a week, growing into each other and our uniqueness.

Good Things #26: A Smattering of Things

Friends who don’t twist your arm but somehow always get it out of you. I’d been holding it in the whole time. That’s something I’m not particularly good at, but there are some things better off left to stew for awhile. I’d been smiling and laughing and whatever else the moment called for, but finally, on the phone in the dark, I spilled my guts.

They weren’t pretty.

I didn’t do it because she begged me, and I didn’t do it because I felt an obligation. It was like a letting go, a release of all that I’d been holding onto for far too long.

And what did my city-friend say, miles away in her apartment?

She reminded me that every week I write about something good, and I should remember that.

Exactly what I needed on a Sunday night in December.

My bedroom at Christmas. There are few things more delightful than a cozy bedroom, and while I can’t fit a tree in here, I do have a balsam candle that’s almost as good. I strung lights around the window and made an attempt at a garland (gingerbread cookies and cranberries – the logistics are harder than you’d think).

photo 1I also set out the Christmas dolls my mom bought me when I was little (I think they may have partly been for her, but I hold on to them nonetheless).

Set them out on my new bookshelf, made for me by a friend. Yes, you read that right. Seems the stacks of books surrounding my bed was an abomination that couldn’t wait. Pretty pleased with how it turned out.

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Aladdin. The musical is over. It was so much work. The kids were wonderful, and I laughed through the whole show. My father chided me, saying it wasn’t nice, but they know me. They’ve been listening to me laugh for two months now. They know it’s for love.

Surprise packages. I don’t remember the last time I got a package in the mail. Okay, I do. I bought some cds with an Amazon gift card last year. But you know what I mean. Yesterday, I came home to a little white package on the island. I didn’t recognize the address. Out came a paperback of flash fiction with a card from my uncle. I don’t even think he knows I have an affinity for flash fiction, but there it was in my kitchen. I stuck it in my bag and carried it around all day, but it looks like it’ll have to wait for evening and a glass of wine.

Sippican[Also, not quite sure about this character. Sippican Cottage? That can’t be his real name. And his blog is hilarious. More to come.]

Music. I rediscovered this classic from my friend’s blog last week. Nothing like a good, melancholy Christmas song.

Only one week left, guys. Buckle up. Today’s my shopping day. Watch out.

What Do You Want Your Story to Be?

I was addicted to stories. I devoured them, one after the other, bending and folding paperbacks with abandon, dog-earring corners, underlining words that were beautiful, words that were true. Young heroines like Emily of New Moon and Betsy from the Betsy-Tacy books taught me how to be spunky and creative. It wasn’t long before I was weaving plots for hours on a 1995 Gateway computer in my bedroom.

I remember wanting other kinds of stories, too. Sitting at the dinner table long after all the food was eaten, we’d beg my father to tell us stories about his childhood. (My mother’d always shake her head when we asked her, saying she didn’t have any stories. I still find this hard to believe.) Dad’s stories often involved fish, foolish things my dad had tried because he was “curious.” The time when he was three and took the goldfish out of the tank “to look at it” is a classic; I can still picture the poor thing gasping on the living room carpet, the victim of an over-active mind and not quite enough supervision.

My mother’s friend from college told us good stories, too. I remember most the one of her throwing cherry tomatoes over the railing and hitting guests. Oh, and the one with blood-engorged ticks (who could erase that memory?!). And the one when the dog ate rising bread dough and its stomach rose with it, waddling proof that dogs do not know what’s best for them.

I grew up on stories.

The voices brought people alive, my great-great-grandfather and his stern Maine-ness. My grandpa whom I’d known but only awhile, breathed again when we talked about his stories of growing up on a fox farm. As I listened and began to craft stories of my own, I realized that one day, I too would have stories to tell my children.

Chatham

What do you want your story to be?

[He asks from the pulpit, and I think, I’ve been thinking about this all along.]

When you write your story, think about how it affects others.

When you write your story, make it one you want to tell.

This is the one sentence that rang through the sanctuary, hanging in the air, making the skin on my arms prickle with its truth.

Even though I’ve discovered the repercussions of writing a life before living it, here I was reminded that sometimes we need to shape the life we’re given. Yes, things happen beyond our control, and yes, sometimes we ache from those uncontrollables. But more often than not, we have choice.

I get to choose what story I’m living, and I get to make it one I want to tell.

~     ~     ~

I will tell about early Christmas mornings, all four of us huddling in one bedroom because we wanted to share it that one day. The lights from the tree bouncing off the mirror in the hallway. About waiting for the cousins to come and longing for the day to never end. They will ask where our traditions come from, and I’ll smile and tell them the story.

I will tell about riding horses in the sun and feeling powerful.

I will tell about discovering Laura Ingalls for the first time, about raising chickens and gardening, the plethora of projects done in the name of sustainable living.

I will tell about late-night summer man-hunts when hormones ran rampant and we didn’t know what to do with them so we ran, too.

I will tell about choosing a college and not being sure but doing it anyway. I will tell about loneliness and fear, about trying hard and singing hard and learning. They will ask about friends and making friends, about trying to love. I’ll tell about walks around the pond where so much got twisted around and sorted out.

I will tell about graduating and reeling in my own mind. About disappointments and mis-steps that, while not destroying definitely left me feeling useless. About dark months in winter when I was learning to trust and hating every minute of it.

redsox

And my most recent stories? They’ll include the discovery of joy. The summer we all lived at home again and spent our evenings on the back porch. Riding with the top down in my car, fearing the day when I’ll have to say goodbye to this lovely little bug that’s taken me so many places. Finding a church that allows me to be the silly, too-immature-for-small-group girl I sometimes am. Growing in friendships that have challenged me, shaped me, and made me think deeper than I ever could have thought on my own.

My story isn’t done, but I finally feel like I am choosing it.

Good Things #18: Rolling Out of Bed

There’s nothing better than coming home after a long day at work and realizing: I have nothing else I need to do. All I’m responsible for now is eating dinner, reading a good book, making sure my next day is fully planned, putting the chickens in for the night, and heading to bed sometime before 8:30. I’m kidding. Kind of.

Fall’s always had a melancholyness to it. I go from a sunny summer high to this immediate need for hibernation, and it often includes a good dose of “woe is me” and a tiny bit of anxiety. It doesn’t seem to matter that fall is one of the most beautiful seasons, and even as I walk through the crunchy red leaves in the afternoon sun, I feel a weight of the darkness coming earlier and earlier every day.

This past Monday, as I looked out the window and realized it was almost pitch black already, I forced myself to get back in my car and drive to small group.

It was 6:30 and I wasn’t sure if I would last till after 9:00. I told myself that somehow I’d find the energy, that somehow 6:15AM wouldn’t come as quickly as it seemed and it would all be worth it. There’s something about deep cushy couches after a certain hour that beg me to fall asleep. And warm beverages. And a cozy light against a warm living room wall. Even when roughly ten people surround me talking theology and life and purpose, I still manage to drift off quietly in a corner somewhere.

But I went and I sat and I did not fall asleep. I even engaged in the conversation, offering up my paltry musings and observations. We ended in prayer and I prayed aloud for two friends who sat by me, something I never would’ve done a few years ago.

That’s the thing. My bed is extremely comfortable. My beeswax candles smell like summer and the book I am reading about an uppity twenty-something in the 1940s is quite engaging.

But they aren’t people. They don’t breathe or think or speak. They don’t ask how I’m doing and actually care, and they certainly don’t pray for me.

I have to be careful as the months get colder and the sun gets further away. I have to fight my natural tendency to curl up and shut out the world. There’s a balance between “Oh my gosh I’ve had too much people time and I just need to be alone!” and “I’d be okay with never speaking to another human being again.” I hardly ever consider myself an introvert, but in the months between October and March, it’s hard to see me as anything else.

I wouldn’t say anything earth-shattering happened at small group Monday night. Community happened. Thought happened. Prayer happened.

And none of that would’ve been possible if I hadn’t rolled out of bed.

Can’t Put My Finger On It

Walking downhill forces you to tip-toe and the body that usually finds it so difficult to be graceful looks like a dancer just for a moment. Spending a week in the mountains, you walk downhill quite a bit.

The mountains have a way of shocking. Waking up after a night of airplanes and trains and miscommunication and three hours alone in the dark is transformed when you look out the window.

What could keep you away a whole year? Then another?

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Oh, this.

Homes called “chalets” and dark wood-filled kitchens. Mint tea shared by a small community that will most likely never see each other again. Nights in the lounge playing fish bowl; conversation that drifts from American Girl Dolls to the point of prayer to the public transportation system in America.

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How did I become so blessed?

And one of the best parts is the absence of this very thing: no internet, limited phones, no demands from the world.

I know I can’t live like this always, but for a week it is lovely.

Did you know it is possible to play pingpong in the dark in bare feet and not care that the pavement is freezing?

And you can sing harmonies to hymns with people you barely know, but you all know the music.

You can learn the laughs of eighteen different people and name the laugher a half-a-house away.

You can play volleyball and not be kicked out for your terrible serving abilities.

You can weed a garden you will not enjoy, take recycling to the village whose name you can’t pronounce, deep-clean a kitchen that will serve you only one more meal.

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Then you will wake up bleary-eyed and pack your bag. You will try to pretend it isn’t real as your friend pours you coffee – a cup of coffee you inhale because the bus is coming.

You will walk to the end of the driveway with a group of new friends and one old. You will hug them and wonder Where will God bring you? as you wave from the seat through the window.

You will not be the same when you land in Boston, but you try not to name the ways.

That’s something you learned during your days in Switzerland:

You don’t always have to put a name to things because sometimes that’s all you end up seeing. The unnamed goes overlooked and invisible, hidden by what you can label, but it’s no less valuable.

[All this you overheard at dinner because you don’t always have to be in a conversation to gather its truth.]

You’re different but not sure how. And you’re becoming okay with not knowing.

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A Midwestern Wedding

I am a selfish woman.

I like to have most of what I want, and I like to have it now.

~     ~     ~

The few days after a wedding, there aren’t many things I can think about except that wedding. I tell people all about the dresses and the music and the food, and I wish in a little part of me that I could live it again.

My Good Things was postponed because I was making my way back from Columbus, Ohio. Another friend got married and one day turned into a weekend and a 13-hour-each-way drive and a reunion.

[It was when she raised her eyebrows at me, smiling, that I caught a glimpse of the real her. We were in the second row – a whole line of college friends – but it wasn’t until I saw those upturned eyebrows and grin that I thought, There she is.]

~     ~     ~

I worry that I will be forgotten. I live day to day, doing my thing in this small town, and I wonder how long it will take for these friends to forget. How many earnest conversations on dorm room beds does it take to be remembered? How many secrets whispered (or giggled) does it take to burn me into someone’s memory? How many coffees, rides in the bug, walks on the beach, trips to the city, or tears that both embarrass me and liberate me does it take to leave a print?

That is the selfishness I’m talking about. I watched my beautiful friend in all her honest joy, and I felt a tug of sadness.

I am no longer part of this.

I do not run into her in the hall, running down the hill, rushing to class, singing goofy songs in my too-small apartment.

I know her great worth, but I do not get to have that shine on me like I used to.

It was an honor to be invited, to witness their vows and their love in a way that living across the world doesn’t allow me to.

It was an honor – and a good time to remember that we can love deeply over great distances.

Just because we don’t share our days anymore doesn’t make the ones we did share any less real.

[I wrote a poem about her my senior year. About how she ate almonds while she talked in English class, how her rings flashed when she talked. I wrote about her, I think, because I knew our friendship was going to change, and I had no control and that had to be okay with me.]

~     ~     ~

They broke the bread and drank the cup, he pronounced them husband and wife (to which she yelled, “Yes!”), and they danced and shimmied around in a circle. We sent them off with sky lanterns and laughter and a tinge of sadness because Italy is far away.

It isn’t about whether or not I am part of it. It is about the fact that it is, and it is beautiful.

July 5, 2013

I am sitting in a colorful floral dress. The tent I am under blocks the sun, but there is no denying the 95-degree heat, or the fact that there is a line of men standing at the front in three-piece suits. I am immediately grateful for my female status (and the accompanying summer dresses).

There are so many people sitting around me – many I know peripherally, a few I’ve known for over twenty years, their faces as familiar as family. July 5th, 2013 crept up on me, after a life of Dunkin’ Donuts Dunkaccinos and chocolate doughnuts, White Farms key lime pie ice cream, wiffle ball, touch-football, volley ball, “Tribute to the Best Song in the World”, Strong Bad, three goofballs talking and laughing over a beer.

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I have had the amazing privilege of watching one of my oldest friends marry one of my dearest friends. Not too many people can say that. As we all stood, singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” I listened to the harmonies that filled the air in that tent, and I thought how beautifully lives were converging right in front of me. From the multi-colored florets made lovingly by women in the bride’s life to the music performed by gifted family, this wedding was like seeing their two souls overlaid.

~     ~     ~

The ceremony is over, we are standing, clapping, hooting, when suddenly music starts playing. They are singing – the newlyweds – singing and dancing and the bridal party joins in. A wedding flash mob? Yes, please. Make it to the Muppets’ “Life’s a Happy Song” and let me join in from the audience, surprising my family, and it’s even better.

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I sing “Life’s a piece of pie!” and run up the aisle to join the dancing. We’re all smiling, singing to the surprised audience, all these faces I have loved for so long, and I’m grateful to be part of this day.

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[Later, at the reception, I will need to leave the room as the bride dances with her father to Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold.” I will rush past the groom’s mother whose eyes will also be glistening, I will run down the stairs and walk around the parking lot, crying alone in the hot summer evening. I won’t fully understand this strong reaction, but I will know that it’s all mixed in with growing up, friendships, changes, love that never happened and love that might happen, and the realization that the midwest is calling my friends away from me. All this will happen, but then I will wipe my eyes, run back up the stairs, and dance for the following three hours.]

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[Proof that I take my dancing a little too seriously. And that my friends are cool.]

Babies grow up and marry their great loves and change the lives of those around them.

Good Things #7 An Invitation

I feel like my head has been spinning for two weeks – not demonically, per se, just with so much stuff. Some of it is an inevitable part of the end of the school-year: baccalaureate, graduation, writing test after test (and subsequently grading those tests…). But part of it I bring on myself: Yes, I’ll come! Yes, I’ve been wanting to see that movie! I haven’t been to a Red Sox game in ages. 

I don’t regret for a minute any of the things I’ve said yes to.

Star Trek 2, from a sincerely un-knowledgebale non-Trekkie, was quite enjoyable. It was loud and action-packed, but the movie’s 3-D was a little painful for me. My eyes kept focusing in and out and I hadn’t thought to wear contacts so those huge 3-D glasses were competing with my regular glasses. The moment Benedict Cumberbatch started speaking, though, it was more than worth it.

The Red Sox lost, but we laughed and told stories and people-watched and I reveled in the history of that place.

Then Baccalaureate and graduation came, faster than I thought and far more emotional. I was surprised at my own internal involvement with this event, with the speakers, the students. Our headmaster spoke at the graduation, and it was a speech that will stay with me (not something I’ve ever said before, I don’t think).

Three questions: 1. What will you do? 2. How will you do it? 3. And with whose power?

It hit me because even though I don’t for a moment regret the way I’ve spent my time these past two weeks, I do regret the things I have let slip to the wayside.

One-on-one time with good friends I need to catch up with.

Chunks of time to do something – anything – like running, or yoga, or even walking.

 

I’ve prayed, but only surface-level prayers.

 

Thank you, God, this sun is beautiful.

Help me.

Hey there.

And those aren’t bad. In fact, I think the regularity with which words to the Lord formed in my mind – even when I was on the run – is a good thing.

What I’ve been thinking about, though, is that I’ve lost the deep communion that is so vital. Vital to my relationship with the Lord, vital to my relationships with my family and dear friends, and vital to my own sense of wholeness.

1. What are you doing? Good and beautiful and helpful things.

2. How are you doing it? Pretty well, with minimal grumbling… 😉

3. With whose strength? Ummmm…

It catches me in the moments right before I fall asleep. You have not communed with your God. He is here, waiting, but you have rushed past him, laughing and happy, but missing that element of reverence.

God isn’t calling me to be less happy. He just wants to share in that happiness.

To have me pause long enough to be wrapped in His strength so I can continue rejoicing.

Now, as I prepare for church, I wonder how to hold these fun, laughing, blessed times with open hands. How to say Thank you and simultaneously invite the Lord to enter into this with me. How to do the good, helpful things I am called to do, do them well, and do them with the only strength that’s worth its salt.

Good Things #6

winetasting

Wine Tasting. I’ve officially become classy, thanks to three lovely friends and a $28 Groupon. We drove forty minutes up through beautiful farm land, and despite the 95-degree weather, the convertible top was down and hair was flying. This may have detracted from our classy entrance, but sweat aside, we were fabulous.

We each got to try six wines, and we even got a cheese plate with the deal. Not bad for $7. We all came in declaring our love for dry vs. sweet, but the four of us asked if we could use our last three tastes to get the raspberry wine. Oh my gosh. I’ve tried to like fruit wines, but this is the only one that I prefer to good ole grape. Kate bought a bottle and I should’ve bought a bottle, but all the more incentive to pick a lot of raspberries in July.

Weekend Getaways. These could not be overrated. An overnight to celebrate a birthday, a hotel room with seven girls (wait, did I say seven? I mean only the two on the receipt, sir!) and extra blankets and towels. We spent Saturday at the beach in abnormally sweltering heat for the first of June. I downed my lemonade before I even got to the sand, and I probably went in the water a record seven times. Then out to dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant (Um, could we have more chips please? And yes, I need more water. Again.) and then on to dancing.

[A man with curly dark hair down to his waist danced the night away. He was flinging that mane all over the joint, and we tried not to stare in horror. We didn’t try that hard. What fascinated me was that women actually danced with him. One even stroked that mess of hair. Wow.]

And the best part of nights like that? Waking up slowly in the morning and heading to a local coffee shop for bagels and iced coffees. The people-watching is amazing in towns like that. I get so distracted.