November Review

November has been a money-focused month for me.

I bet that would give people who know me a good laugh – I am always budgeting, re-running my budget numbers, worried about staying on budget, talking about my budget. Love that budget! I have a nonprofit salary, city living expenses, some student debt and not a whole lot to fall back on, so it’s a hustle. I’ve had to save rigorously just to cover the next emergency.

But recently, I’ve been enjoying the fruits of a wee pay bump. I did indeed re-run my budget numbers, but mostly what I’m doing is just socking away the additional money in my savings accounts – I have one for emergencies, one for travel and one for large irregular purchases. Perversely, forcing myself not to touch that extra money makes it easier to be frugal and stay on budget. Instead of saying, well I shouldn’t buy this or that because it will make the monthly hustle a teeny tiny fraction easier, I say, I shouldn’t buy this or that because I’m choosing to use my money for fun and for big goals. Psh, easy.

Technically speaking, I did spend over budget some in November, but it’s okay – I paid for a bunch of fast food traveling to New York, I bought all my Christmas presents, and generally can feel okay about dipping into those savings accounts to cover these things if it turns out to be a hustle.

All right – that’s boring. What else happened in November? The weather was pleasantly mild and I wanted to be outside as much as I could, enjoying it before winter. I feel like I spent the whole month on my bike.

Those columns used to be part of the U.S. Capitol, and now they live in a field in the middle of the National Arboretum. The arboretum is a great place for a bike-adventure – my lady and I had a date there this month – because it is beautiful and full of surprises and oh my god the hills will work your bum.

On another bike date day we found ourselves at the Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I only made it halfway through because it was so overwhelming and I wanted to read every word and see every detail. I have to go back and finish before it closes, and then possibly go to Jaleo and weep desperately into a pitcher of sangria.

Oh, and in November I started writing in this little journal! It’s good for the soul. Thanks, little journal.

My New Favorite Movie

I didn’t bike because the weather was bad, I haven’t written because all I have to say is how frustrating I find family time, wah wah wah, blah blah blah.

Let’s talk about more important things.

Oh yes I did. Before we discuss how much I loved it, let me list a few other things I love: movies in which people sing and dance. Cher. Camp, glamor, and the delicate line between them. Not taking things too seriously.

So I loved this movie. They never made me listen to too many sassy one-liners or speeches about the virtue, intelligence, talent and beauty of Christina Aguilera’s character before cutting to the next musical number, and there were feathers, rhinestones, sequins and strings of faux pearls galore. My mother and I were talking about it afterwards and she said, “I don’t want to say it’s better than I expected, because… but…”

And I said, “It was exactly what you expected – just awesomer!”

It was probably Cher. And Stanley Tucci. New life goal: give Stanley Tucci a hug.

And since it made me happy, I’ve been combing the internet for burlesque style inspiration. My love for the form is well-documented, and there are some touches I like to wear a lot – especially sweet, girly feathered hair flowers. But my Official Thanksgiving Etsy Crush is this right here, from olgaitaly.

So pretty. And even named Melissa. Get your ass up and show me how you burlesque!

Bike’s-Eye View

It’s a slow day, clearing up my inbox and making my plan for the holiday. I’m expecting more family commitment than usual this Thanksgiving, but I hope to keep my wits (and my bike and this blog) about me.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to take more photos and especially to keep my camera ready on my commute. It is definitely an interesting balance (ha, literally, ba dum bum CHING) especially with the rush of the morning commute and the darkness of the evening, but I’m getting better. So, a quick shot for a slow day.

On Marriage, Commitment and Riding the Rails

I got in a little fight about gay marriage at the party in Brooklyn. (I don’t think my opponent noticed we were in a fight – but S, one of the girls I was there with, sure did, and joked about it for the rest of the evening. Oops, guess I got a little political!) Anyway, I don’t know how gay marriage came up – but it was suggested that it is free and clear for us in DC. It is not, as state-by-state same-sex marriage is different from regular straight-people marriage. I believe my words were, "Federal tax law. It’s kind of a big deal." Then this dear, somewhat vague, well-meaning liberal girl repeated a few times, "What is marriage, anyway?" And finally I couldn’t help but say something like, "Well, if nothing else, it’s a pretty long list of a specific legal, financial and health benefits that are denied to a lot of people." (The phrasing may have been less mild and more intoxicated than that, I am not entirely sure. Ahem.)

Okay, maybe that is not much of a fight. S thought it was pretty funny, though. She said that the discussion surprised her, since she’s used to hanging out with a more radical queer circle that rejects the notion of marriage altogether. I’ve been there. I still think it should be easier for single adults to legally establish their true "next-of-kin," and that everyone could be cared for more completely by social supports instead of family foundations or life-partnerships, that many marriage benefits could and should be separated from marriage.

But as I get older, more established, as I become an unrecognizable person who thinks about her retirement accounts and who has friends with in-laws, I can see that there are practical benefits to codifying two intertwined lives with a marriage contract. To grow together, to separate fairly if necessary. I’m not sure I’m reconciled to the romantic forever bits of it yet, to all the emotional schmoopy "celebrating our love" noise, but y’all, it took me long enough to realize "taxes actually matter!" so maybe I just have to go at my own pace.

Meanwhile – while I doubt I’ll be getting married anytime soon – cohabitation might be on the table. My girlfriend and I have talked about it, and have a plan for considering living together that does not involve considering living together for a little while. We seem to have crossed some invisible line, though (I think it was after we’d been together six or seven months) where the question "How long have you been dating?" is immediately succeeded by "Do you live together?"

So far, it’s been an awkward moment every time.

I’ve moved through this relationship faster than anything else I’ve ever done, and it hasn’t felt too fast – just right. And while we have said the big words and had the big talks, I’m trying to do myself the favor of not over-analyzing it. I have always been a sullen and introverted thing, and real commitment, showing up maturely and kindly in each conversation and conflict, is wicked hard. Frankly it lacks the doomed punk-rock glamor I always figured would be my due, since riding the crazy train right off the rails has generally been my reaction to struggle. Striving for happiness instead of being cynical about it requires bravery I’m not sure I actually have, so each time it’s necessary I just dig deep and focus on the present. The rewards – all of which, so far, have been of the emotional schmoopy variety rather than legal or financial, I suppose – are profound, in kindnesses returned and of course in growing up.

Excelsior! Brooklyn in the Details

Weekend in Brooklyn! Hung out, ate bagels, admired bicycles and puppies, rocked a vintage pinafore dress in which I usually feel too precious. Like ya do.

I call this one "pocket watch and solo cup." Oh, fashion. In DC, preppy and functional reign supreme, the hipster kids always color inside the lines and good thrift and vintage is hard to find. I’m not down on it – I like that a little flair goes a long way – but I do love going somewhere with more character and getting to look around. We went to Re-Dress, a plus-size resale boutique, and I was bowled over by the sheer personality of it all.

Dear New York bicyclists, why does it seem more of you ride against the auto traffic than with it? I’m not judging – well, I’m judging a little – but mostly I’m just curious. Please advise.

On this trip, I found myself in a few places familiar from movie scenes that I haven’t been to in a while or ever – Times Square, Park Slope, the Q train underground and over the river. The streetscapes give you that TV-or-real-life vertigo. It happens in downtown DC, too, especially around the Capitol, Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House, and often when I’m running or biking around that area I entertain elaborate political thriller fantasies about saving Justices or Senators from right-wing extremists. In New York I don’t have such a strong narrative to anchor it to – mostly it feels like someone is trying to sell me something – but I can see how enough of it would make you feel famous, powerful, as if you must Twitter immediately because your public needs to know what’s on your mind. (Or write in your blog, perhaps.)

Errrbody Dougie

This Friday is clearly meant for dancing.

I spent last night with my girlfriend and her friend I at I’s house, practicing my Dougie and Get Silly. Let me tell you, I have not a dance party in front of YouTube videos in far too long. This morning, my Today Show-loving boss hijacked the office for half an hour so we could watch Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera do Black Eyed Peas and OK Go dances. (We are in the business of video production. It’s research.) And I’ll be leaving work early to catch a bus to Brooklyn for a birthday party.

My old friend binge-drinking and I have drifted apart this year – our relationship has always been volatile and I don’t miss the drama. Sadly, though, I seem to have lost dancing like a video ho/pathetic white girl in the process, and I do miss that.

I’ve already told my sister to prep for lots of dance practice over Thanksgiving – she’s a fifth-grade teacher in the hood, so she knows a lot about sweet dance moves. This weekend, along with the brunches and delicious, delicious sarcasm I anticipate, I just want to shake shake shake until all the tension is gone.

Talk to you later. I have to teach my desk how to dougie.

Bike-Commuting Hipster Tool

I wrote a letter about bike lanes to the city council today, oh yes I did. I can’t decide if I feel awesome or like a tool about it. I do know that I was sitting at my desk fuming about the two police cars blocking my lanes so volunteers could solicit donations from cars at the stoplight until I wrote it all out, got it out of my head and moved on with my morning – clearly the best thing the city council has to do with their day is let me unload so I can feel better about mine.

I say that with sarcasm, but maybe it is truer than I want to know.

In fact the most notable bike moment of the morning had nothing to do with claiming my space. Earlier, as I waited at a light, an older woman at a bus stop looked me up and down and smiled so warmly and beatifically you’d think I was cruising down the street just handin’ out puppies and kissin’ on babies. Farrah is a red 1971 Schwinn Suburban with a Toto basket, still radiating the adorable energy of the adorable hipster roommate I bought her from, and if I wear something bright or retro or just the right amount of quirkily mismatched, we can make quite a pair. Anything worth doing is worth doing stylishly – maybe you will be so cute you make some lady’s day.

Then again, maybe she was just pleased to see me stop for the red light.

I think all the biking this fall is what makes me want to take more pictures. Although I know neither me nor my camera nor the medium of photography could adequately capture the beauty of the city’s elegant old rowhouses and bright red and gold trees from the perspective of the bicycle, when I’m gliding through the sun with the wind in my hair I get so wrapped up in it all that I want to try.

I did take some pictures last night while waiting outside for my girlfriend to come home and unlock her house, mostly to check out the night setting on my camera and make sure I took a photo that day. (Goal!) They are silly and tragic – night setting requires a tripod.

Farrah models the night setting. Tragically.

I’ve been thinking of trying to keep my camera accessible while I’m commuting. It’s a little scary to imagine seeing and framing good pictures while moving, stopping and starting, balancing, keeping myself, Farrah and the camera safe, and not being the total douchelord who stops in the middle of the road, but I suppose photography favors the brave.