15 January 2008

36 things (or, how it all turned out)

last year on my 36th birthday, I put together a slightly ambitious list of things I wanted to do before I turned 37. here's what I did (and didn't) do.

by the way, this is the longest post. ever.

1. read three classics

read the good earth, fell in love with it. am currently in the process of reading jane eyre. if I'd planned things out better (and spent a little more time reading), I would have been able to cross ernest hemingway's the sun also rises off my list too.

2. break in my holga camera

well, yes-- I did finally break in my holga camera, the one I've had now for several years. back in may, supafly jon helped me load it and we shot two whole rolls of film, just like that. mostly of vacuum cleaner robots we discovered in an industrial area somewhere around downtown seattle. next step: develop the film. baby steps, people. baby steps.

3. take a capoeira class

had great difficulty finding any sort of capoeira class here in portland and then my friend amy told me about one just down the street from where she lives. how did I miss that? that amy, she is a stellar friend. for many, many reasons, but also because she has agreed to take a class with me. even though she has admitted to being a little bit afraid of it. well, okay. I am too.

4. write a letter to someone I admire (alexandra beller)

many drafts written but none finished, none sent. slowly working up the courage. am now in possession of a splendid little typewriter. am hoping it will encourage me to finish the letter and send it off already.

5. organize a color swap for kids

nope. this year for sure, though. please do give a holler if you think you might be interested.

6. take weekly modern dance class with susan eldridge

oh susan eldridge. I miss you, susan eldridge. such an amazing teacher and choreographer. I am completely devastated that I never got the chance to work with you again. am currently looking to find someone here in portland to fill your shoes. not sure anyone could even come close, though conduit is showing promise.

7. teach ava how to play checkers

taken care of before I even had the chance to do it myself: two very enthusiastic cousins taught ava how to play checkers during christmas break of last year. honestly, I felt a little cheated out of this one. I sort of wanted to teach her myself. though I am resigned to the fact that she probably learned more from the cousins than she ever would have from me.

8. participate in the MLK march in january

chickened out and stayed home. again. especially disappointed in myself and not just because it's something I've wanted to participate in for so many years but because I no longer live in atlanta. the MLK march down historic sweet auburn avenue is something. it's really something.

9. spend an entire weekend with my best friend

more like 24 hours, but I'll take what I can get, I will. as we were driving cross country to portland, we stopped in st. louis (where nancy lives) for a day and a night. shortest 24 hours ever but like I said, I'll take what I can get.

10. purchase a bicycle

no bicycle yet-- still with the roller skates. not owning a bicycle here in portland borders on sacrilegious. just the other day, I saw a man on a unicycle with an enormous backpack and an armful of groceries. I watched incredulously as he made his way across the broadway bridge and down a slight hill in thick morning traffic. hey, he was on a unicycle. a unicycle, man. a UNICYCLE. not exactly the norm around here, but still. I'm just saying. if ever there was a time or place to own a bicycle, it's here. and now. I can't roller skate around the neighborhood forever.

11. write down the stories of the charm bracelets

the charm bracelets have been meticulously organized and separated into individual glassine envelopes. I can't afford to have every charm soldered on so I am slowly attaching them to the bracelets myself, one by one, whenever I can. I scribble down the details of each charm as I go and wonder if the stories should be put into a little book or written down in letter form and inserted into each of the envelopes. yes, I am a woman who likes to archive. yes I am.

12. develop the 58 rolls of film sitting in my closet

not. one. single. roll. developed. and I'll tell you, I had a little scare with all that undeveloped film. back in the haze and craze of The Big Move, I thought I lost the film. and I almost lost my mind over it because we are talking rolls and rolls and rolls from both ava and ezra's early years, rolls of heartbreakingly wonderful shots already forgotten. it was the night before The Big Move and the boxes were packed and ready to go. suddenly, I couldn't remember if I had packed that film or not. there was something horrific in my memory, something about stuffing the film in an old grocery bag. I thought about all the crumpled old grocery bags that had been carelessly tossed in the trash and was sick to my stomach. could I have thrown all that film away? my arms felt like rubber, I felt nauseous. where was that film? I had been so meticulous about how things had been organized and packed. why couldn't I remember what box that film was in? at midnight, just hours before the movers showed up, I began to tear into sealed boxes. I desperately wanted to put my mind at ease. furthermore, I wanted to snatch that film up and bring it with me in the car. no more messing around. sometime around 2 am (and something like the 7th or 8th ravaged box), I gave up and let it go. all I could do was hope that film would turn up on the other side. still, my mind was a mess over it and I could not sleep. I kept seeing that bag of film in the trash, in the garbage truck, at the local dump. I imagined someone finding it in fifty years and developing it. I imagined the weird stories they'd make up about it. maybe they'd even write a book about it, have it published. maybe it would hit the bestseller list. or worse-- maybe the book would end up in the bargain bin at the dollar store beneath the depressing flicker of fluorescent lighting. which would have been funny if I had not been such a hot mess of nerves. when we arrived in portland and began the arduous task of unpacking, that film was nowhere to be found and I began to lose hope. then, this summer, as I was going through the last of the boxes, I found it-- 58 cannisters nestled securely in a small wicker box. let me tell you, I wanted to get down on my hands and knees and kiss that box, I wanted to scream when I saw it. I wish I could tell you that I went right out and had all that film developed. if I had the sense God gave a goose, that's what I would have done, that's how the story would end. instead, the film remains undeveloped because ward and I cannot agree on where to have it developed. I say go cheap-- go cheap and get it done already. ward says absolutely not. he says those fools will botch the prints and damage the negatives. and he is probably right but the film deteriorates a little more each day it goes undeveloped. I am losing all confidence. I believe covert operations are in order here, a new strategy, a new plan. I have many ideas. am thinking ward would not like the new strategy, the new plans, the new ideas. am at the point where I don't really care.

13. visit howard finster's paradise gardens

when I put this list together in december of 2006, the plans to move to portland were not definite, not even close. actually, I couldn't imagine that we'd move all the way across the country, I just couldn't imagine it. still, I had this strange feeling that we were really going to do it-- deep down, I knew what lay ahead. the very thought scared me into creating a list so loaded with atlanta-specific items, we'd be sure to stay put and secure our southern roots. as if such a list could prevent the inevitable. you know how the story turns out. howard and his wild paradise gardens never really had a chance.

14. organize a postcard swap

finally something I can say that I've actually done. a bigger event than I could have ever predicted and more work, more fun than I ever, ever imagined. am ridiculously thrilled with the way it all turned out and am totally doing it again.

15. construct The Wall of Photographs

almost finished constructing The Wall of Letters. okay yes, this is different than The Wall of Photographs. but just as significant. and completely relevant. right?

16. make out at the drive-in

I am not kissing and telling.

17. take the neighborhood african dance class

in my old neighborhood, there was this really great african dance class that took place every saturday morning at the local community center. each week, a small army of drummers accompanied us as we moved en masse across the old gymnasium floor. wow, I really miss that class. I really, really miss it.

18. make a collage a week

more like a collage a month.

19. learn one new recipe

'twas the year of butternut squash soup. so good the first time I made it, I wanted to lick the blades of the blender clean. yes, that good.

20. make shrinky dink jewelry

nope. another one to carry over into next year. only now I've got special connections. yes, you know who you are.

21. take a photography class

no, but I did take a sewing class. does that count for anything? truth be told, there were moments during the course of that sewing class when I wondered what exactly I was doing there, wondered why I was muddling through a sewing class when where I really wanted to be was in a photography class. sewing does not come easy to me, I am clumsy with the machine and slow to retain information. that poor instructor had no idea what she was getting into, letting a raw beginner like me into that 'how to make an A-line skirt' class. fairly certain she is still having regrets. I signed up for the class because my friend amy was taking it and we thought, wouldn't it be fun to take the class together? also, my mom (who has always wanted to me to learn how to sew) generously offered to pay for the class (thank you, mom). plus, learning how to make my own skirts? yes, please. visions of A-line skirts danced in my head, vintage fabrics and curtains and bedsheets were promptly retrieved from forgotten storage bins, destined to be converted into the greatest collection of handmade A-line skirts in the history of the modern world. well, I did not come away with the greatest collection of A-line skirts the modern world has ever known. what I did come away with was one very cute (but not so A-line) skirt, the desire to make more, the desire to own a sewing machine. and most importantly, the need to take a more 'basic' kind sewing class. naturally, I took photographs of the entire process. I spent a good deal of time thinking about how great my photopraphs might look if I knew just a little bit more about lighting and the way a camera works. which would've been a little something I might have been able to pick up in-- you guessed it-- a photography class.

22. perfect my fake accent

my fake british accent is officially adequate. am moving on to the mastering of other fake accents. you can never have enough fake accents in your repertoire, you know. no way of telling when they might come in handy.

23. teach for moving in the spirit again

I miss my old company so much. it's a painful thing for me to delve into, which is why I usually don't. last february, right before we moved, I took ava to moving in the spirit for one of her last creative movement classes. there's a long story about how our space (the beam theatre) came to be, but the short version is this: we are housed in what used to be the horse stables of an old prison. we converted the stables into a dance space (and fully functioning performance space) sometime around 1996 and have been calling it home ever since. the wood floors were already naturally suspended (a must for any dance space) but terribly warped. we could only afford to refinish the floors and cover them with marley, a black rubber flooring often laid down to make surfaces more suitable for moving. we got used to the uneven quality of the floor, we steered students around problem areas, knew what spots to avoid during class, during performance. still, it led to countless injuries, was the source of many jokes and much frustration. we had no choice but to tolerate it. though honestly, we were just thankful to have a space of our own. there'd been talk of a new floor for years but it always seemed kind of impossible-- like something that could happen, but way off in the future. I was aware that something was in the works but was completely unprepared the night I brought ava to class. the minute I walked in the door, I could tell something was different, I could smell it. fresh wood. I ran to see the space and there it was-- a beautiful new stage. so smooth and even, so golden the floor seemed to glow. I was overwhelmed with emotion, I cannot adequately explain it. I felt my eyes water, I swallowed hard. I wanted to cry. I kicked my shoes off and slowly walked up onto the stage. I wanted to feel the floor beneath my feet. I spread my toes out and jumped, small and quiet-like. I lay down and closed my eyes, let the wood absorb the weight of my entire body. I couldn't wait to take class here, to teach class here, to perform here. and then it hit me. like truckload of cement, it hit me: I would not be dancing here at all. I would not be teaching or taking class here, I would not be performing here. ava would not grow up taking class here like I had hoped. it was more than I could handle. I felt the impact of this move in tremendous waves throughout my body, from someplace deep. out through my fingertips and toes, wave after wave. in that moment, I realized just how difficult this move was going to be. up until then, it had been all about excitement and adventure and something shiny and new and unfamiliar. I spent 16 years of my life with moving in the spirit, they are an enormous part of who I am. leaving them behind was not going to be easy, it was not going to feel good. at all. it still doesn't feel good. the absence of it in my life is as painful to me now as it was the night I laid down on that new stage and closed my eyes. the one thing that eases this pain has everything to do with my friend amy. we met through moving in the spirit, back in something like 1992 and danced together for years. she lives out here in portland now, with her family (her girls are the ones who accompanied us on our secret fortune adventure). this summer, amy brought me to her montessori school to teach a creative movement workshop. that sort of saved me, it really did. so while I did not get the chance to teach for moving in the spirit again, I did get the chance to teach. I am thankful for that. and it feels good to say that I'll be teaching again soon. really, really soon.

24. take the kids to the zoo to see the baby panda

not even sure why this one made the list. not that I don't like zoos or taking the kids to the zoo. or baby pandas, for that matter. it's just a little out of character for me. am thinking maybe the baby panda must've really been a big deal at the time. or something. we haven't been to the zoo in ages, not in atlanta, not here in portland. not like I am proud it or anything. I'm just saying. I missed the mark here.

25. buy produce at the sweet auburn curb market

well, I didn't bring home any produce from the historic sweet auburn curb market but I did hit both the downtown portland farmers market (and the one in hollywood too) pretty hard this past year. that's got to count for something.

26. get away with ward

about this time last year, laika flew ward and I to portland to check the scene out. we'd never been before and had a little over two days to get a feel for the city (and laika) and decide whether or not we'd be uprooting the family. they put us up in a little hotel that fed us tootsie pops for breakfast. am thinking this totally counts as a romantic getaway.

27. read three new authors

yes, indeed: interpreter of maladies by jhumpa lahiri, astrid and veronika by astrid olsson and the motel life by willy vlautin. all of which I'd highly recommend.

28. teach ezra the robot dance

oh yes I did, peeps. solid proof of the ez breaking it down, robot-style: look here.

29. learn how to rewire a lamp

nope. but only because I have a slight fear of rewiring lamps. another long story that involves me, a broken vintage lamp and near-death electrocution.

30. go back to new york

oh, I wish I could say yes here. I wish I wish I wish.

31. projects #34, #45 and #52 from this book

I did not get around to #34 or #45 but did accomplish #52. actually, this list of 36 things is essentially a variation on project #52. you'll have to consult the book for the fine details. if you don't own 52 projects yet, go right out and buy it. jeffrey yamaguchi is incredibly inspiring and brimming with ideas. while you're at it, pick up his rad new book too-- so smart, so funny and equally packed with marvelous projects.

32. fly a kite with ava and ezra

yes. one of the better moments of my year, friends.

33. be a guerilla artist

guerilla artist for an afternoon: the secret fortune adventure.

34. write a short story

in the works. that's all I can say right now.

35. let it go

the hardest thing in life to do. no way to measure it, except to say that I am trying. everyday, I am trying.

36. take a photograph everyday for one year

since february 1st of 2007 with this project-- so close with this one, so close. almost home.


  1. if you only did one thing it would have been great, but you did so much more and brought so much goodness to the pacific northwest - your view of life and how it can be lived is amazingly inspiring - thank you, so very much.

  2. as a lover of making lists, i equally adore reading them and yours sister, never disappoint. thank you for the round up and thank you for making this busy lady feel a little better about the ambitious list of things that didn't get accomplished last year.

    ps. i wish you'd been back to ny too, but maybe i'll be coming portland way in the fall.

  3. i read the whole thing. every word. you are awesome. and you made me sweat through my shirt with that film. thanks a lot.

  4. That's so cool that you want to try a capoeira class. My boyfriend used to do a little capoeira in Brazil, and his roommate used to do it all the time. Beautiful dance, that capoeira! Did you know it used to be a secret way to learn fighting techniques? Crazy. Sometimes when I pass through Union Square here in the Summer, there's a ring of capoeira dancers surrounded by an amazed on-looking crowd. I hope you get to do it!

    And if you make it back to NYC, I hope I get to see you.

  5. Please go develop that film now. Unless you're broke, you have no excuse not to put it in the one-hour and make some random person slave for you so you can rush back to your house and gleefully tear through envelope after envelope of cool photos.

  6. i had revisted the original post last month because i was considering making a '39 things to do before i'm 40' list (i'm a list lover too) but i couldn't get past number 17!

    i'm glad i got to hear how it all worked out in your excellent story telling style.

    hmmm...kid's color swap? sounding interesting!

  7. i love your lists...

    i , too, got a holga and i'm stoked
    to use it. the 2st roll was a partial
    loss but that won't stop me!

  8. Girl, I can't tell you happy I was to see this post pop up in my blog reader! I loved your original list so much that I printed it out and pinned it on my bulletin board, where it still hangs today. Congrats on all your progress, and as always, thanks tons for the inspiration. I vow to make a pilgrimage to Paradise Gardens this year in your stead!

  9. This inspired me to make my own list and post it in my blog. Hopefully, I will be able to follow through with at least of it.

    Portland is one of our maybes for when we leave New York.

  10. i admire you making the list to begin with. and more so for what you accomplished.

  11. Well, Andrea, your list - and your accomplishments! - are great!
    I love making lists and I have my "32 things to do before I turn 31". Which includes, by the way, taking a sewing class, knowing 10 new people, writing a travel reportage and... contributing to Self Portrait Challenge (where I met your blog: it inspires me a lot).
    Thanx for writing
    Ilaria, from Italy

  12. Such a great recap, A. You had some amazing things on there and what you were able to do was amazing too. I mean, the robot!? To a baby!? You're rad.

  13. You're such an eloquent writer, Hula.
    I, too, decided to read some classics. William Golding's "Lord of the Flies", Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning", and a compilation of the SFWG's Science Fiction Hall of Fame, which is like 10 stories. Sci-Fi gets such a bad rap sometimes, but there's some real poignant stuff in there. I dun good. An I talk good now, too.

  14. you amaze me

    let's go to NY together and i can teach you how to rewire a lamp.

    2 for one!

    email coming soon...

  15. thanks for updating! i made a similar list that i will review on my upcoming 36th birthday! :) xo celia

    ps. where's the new list!?

  16. incredible! the great thing about goals is you can still do the ones ya missed.. but look at all you did! whoa. :)

  17. you inspire me to no end. thanks for sharing this. xox

  18. i loved this post. i love lists, too. i love your list. you know, i copied your list idea and made one of my own on my birthday. i love how your list turned out. is there a new list? for this year?

    oh, and i love the idea of a color swap for kids. and i'll do your postcard swap again in a heartbeat.

  19. your lists, your photographs,
    your artworks, your passion
    and zeal for life and its
    intrinsic details is an
    inspiration (wow i wish
    there was another word..)
    you are all of these, plus
    i do so hope i can be
    at least half as talented
    as you when im your age.

  20. what a great post. i love all of the items and the musing over progress or desire for each one.


    oh and if you really do want to learn to rewire a lamp just ask Daniel. for some reason he gets a kick out of doing that around this place, I think he did that for almost every lamp in our first place.

  21. What a list! Can't WAIT to read your list for 37. :) re #16 - I hope to god the drive-in out on S.E. Foster has survived...we loved going there. I remember the first time we took J's son with us to the drive-in...he was sort of mystified by the whole experience..."Are we...OUTSIDE?" :) #17 - When I was 25, I gave myself a year to study dance...the highlight of that year was the weekly Afro-Cuban class. Moving to those drummers was the highlight of my week back then...and I still remember it fondly. As I read about your grief over leaving moving in the spirit, I kept thinking: wonder if she'll channel that grief into creating her own space... Guess we'll find out when you post your list of 37 things. ;)

  22. Not bad, my friend. Not bad at all. You're one ambitious and impressive lady!
    By the way, Barry and I are rewiring an old lamp for a friend today or tomorrow... our door is open if you want to stop by, take a look, and knock another item off your list.

  23. i found your blog through poppy talk...and got completely sucked in. i too, am a list "Obsessionado"...love the "what's getting me through the week and while reading your archive i found something that said you wanted to be a dancer and your love for listing, well what can i say. i've checked out all the links on that too. fun.
    love all your photography too.
    love your knowledge of dance. I love modern dance performances.
    i will be an avid reader.
    have a great one.

  24. I just want to say I just came across your blog today, and it has really put me in a good mood. Your life looks beautiful.

  25. Wow, what a list! I hope I am your wink wink nudge nudge shrink plastic jewelry instruction connection. I'm sure the kids would have fun making some things too. Perhaps that meetup we're still hoping to do at Christina's could be a big ol' shrink plastic party...

  26. yeah you!!! i love the way we can sit down and make a list and then life kinda tweaks it for us...and that's okay...the secret is letting the list be flexible....to let it morph and change as our lives morph and change.

  27. WOW!!! You did a great great great job!
    (and you might enjoy checking out a dance class called Nia)

    In fact, you inspired me to do my own list . . . here are my 30 things before 31:
    (posted on: jan. 11th, 2008)

    thanks again for the inspiration!

  28. i would totally be interested in a kids swap! great post!

  29. I love reading your blog! I love your list. I think I might have to make a bog list of things I want to do before my next birthday.

  30. wow! what an amazing year and so very interesting to read! i think a book about your charms is definitely the best idea - so very good of an idea!

    your photos that accomany it are equally interesting and loved reading and looking!

  31. i stumbled over your blog, thank you for the list...
    the kids colour swap is starting to create ideas in my brains.
    thank you for the inspiration.