Found out last week that my little big brother, Deedz, is gonna come live with me this summer while doing an internship out here in the Bay! In anxious anticipation for his arrival–for what will be frolicking in the sun, binge eating cookies by the bucket, conversations about girls and boys and art and tech, bellowing laughs that fill my tiny (but less tiny than the last) apartment’s walls, and an infinity of other Gao-like traditions–I’m posting a few overdue pictures from my latest trip to NY this past spring; pictures that bookend the passing of spring and usher in an always-welcome summer, that serve as witness to Dean and my trip to visit Deedz in his Brooklyn enclave.
Pictured are an incomplete but nonetheless full assortment of things and people and places visited during these few days–old and dear friends, my brother’s ridiculously well-adorned grad student apartment, and, of course, the endless insta furnishings, for your insta pics, at the insta office. How meta.
A few random details about the trip, for posterity:
- DD, Dean and I tried to do as all the NY things, namely hours of endless walking, eating, subwaying, and endless pursuit of lox.
- I met Lisa’s boo, Dom, for the first time, and Andrea’s, Taylor, for the second. We celebrated Lisa’s tenure at Bloomie’s, as she was soon to pivot into a new space, with small pastries that were more satisfying to look at than to nom nom. I melted in the warmth and love of seeing these two best friends of mine and their lives with these most beloved partners! The night wound down with Taylor & Dom watching Seinfeld while Andrea, Lisa and I watched Benito Skinner’s horoscope parodies on insta on the next couch.
- We helped Deetz shop for his house party, a soirée that was thrown with his downstairs neighbors/owners of the house who were moving to the West coast because Ken, the husband, is starting a design architecture firm in Portland.
- Dean and I walked around all afternoon and evening Saturday, before returning back to Dd’s party, dessert in tow. During this walk we: got big gay ice cream directly followed by serious consideration of yet more ice cream at Davey’s, got Bahn Mi at St. Mark’s, bopped around the East village and LES and Chinatown, got the best motherfing maple coffee I have ever had, bought a tub of banana cream pudding for the party, talked about some serious things and some not so serious things, cried (me), laughed so hard it hurt, talked, listened, held hands. Relished in these most special moments–the banal, the everyday, but still somehow the most magical, the most meaningful, the most Real and Important.
- Saw friends from college! Mike and Melanie! Both of whom I haven’t seen in years, but who live in NY and came to Dd’s party. I was so happy to see them and was reminded of all the things I love and miss about college/in my life: all my RC weirdos–weirdos because they defy convention, weirdos because they haven’t grown out of their idealism and integrity, weirdos because Melanie brought a big plastic dildo-like back scratcher that she and Mike found on a trash can on their way over, something I could only imagine myself or an equally weirdo friend doing–who remind me of my humanity and community, from which I have felt to varying degrees estranged since college.
- Met Dd’s friends from school and Dean’s friend from the bay, an interesting, eclectic, and funny bunch. Talked with a few, laughed even harder with a few others. Met Malcolm, enough said.
- And lastly and least notable, spent a lot of time at work; made and drank a lot of hot chocolate and matcha (by far the most notable perks of the NY office).
I just visited my parents, on an epic 36 hour trip to Texas. Epic, for how many conversations, how many laughs, how many nibbles, how many hugs and kisses and laying-in-laps were exchanged in such a short time! 15 cups of tea, 4 meals, 2 walks, 2 runs, 1.5 movies, 1 bike ride, 1 joy ride in my dad’s “GT-R”—according to him, a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” at which my mom scoffed and sighed, somewhat playfully, before eventually obliging by piling into the driver’s seat.
But what is really once in a lifetime, the occasion really worth cherishing, is spending time with my parents. And witnessing, feeling how our relationships change with time, how they ebb and flow, like watching the sun shimmer and float on the breathing ocean surface—so beautiful it’s hard not to stare and smile. Picking up with conversations we’ve had thousands of times, yet each time somehow new and not quite like the last. Sharing thoughts we’ve shared before, but hearing them differently now with time and new experience; sharing thoughts we haven’t shared before, and smiling because there’s still so much to learn about this person! This person I’ve known and loved my whole life, this person who is home, comfort, and familiarity, but changes and evolves just the same as myself.
It’s 4:38 am. I’m in the Abilene airport. I’m tired, but so, so happy.
I walk into my Palo Alto apartment, not many hours from when I left it Saturday morning. It feels like I’ve been gone on an expedition to the stars and back, but the physical evidence brings me back to earth: the same flowers I had bought earlier in the week greet me when I walk in the door, smiling as if they’ve been waiting.
I take these photos around noon, 2/18/19, in a state of delirious calm. I make a salad, cook some vegetables, make some hot chocolate, pull things from the shelves, unpack groceries I just returned from getting. And turn to see this chaotic spread of beautiful mess and clutter. A beautiful mess that feels like home, because it’s sunflower oil left over from the holidays with my family, eden soy—my preferred brand of soy milk because Marilyn convinced me of this years ago—apple cider vinegar that I yelled at her for buying too much of, Kirkland brand Himalayan pink salt and tellicherry black pepper that our whole family has gotten into the habit of buying en masse, the same, but new greenpan pan we’ve used at home for years, a wonky cutting board Marilyn sent me from Williams Sonoma, a felted wool trivet Stephen and Melinda got each of us for Christmas. The sun’s beaming in through the windows, and I feel so good, as I look onto this beautiful mess of my home.
*A thank you to Deets for unknowingly introducing me to the song that inspired this post.
I’m walking down the stairs of a building that I’ve known my whole life, a place I’ve known better in the past seven years than the previous 17. I feel strangely nostalgic, but this is no stranger of mine. I’ve felt this way before. I’ve been exactly here before.
I’m hit deep in my gut . I can feel a wave about to break and crash down forcing tears to surface. Tears that feel like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen—the dreamiest fall day where all the leaves in their changing colors sway because they have nowhere to be and all the time in the world.
It feels like loneliness and completeness together at the same time. I can see everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I’m headed, all the people I’ve loved and those I’ll love until the end of time. In this moment I think I feel loneliness, that I’m missing someone to know me through my life, who has been there most intimately as I’ve existed in one way, and with me again when I’ve grown into new skin. Who has known my thoughts and felt my feelings, who knows not just my present embodiment but the entangled sum of all the kinetic force that has brought me here. But this feeling, this craving to exist beyond myself with someone to defend its truth is the exact sense in which I feel complete.
I’m moving through this world, through the places that have held me and seen me through my most extraordinary and banal moments. The agnostic buildings, streets, steps, lights, and trees that have bore witness to my entire life existing before them, each day only slightly different from the last but each year unrecognizably new, just as the summer leaves change hour by hour, day by day, until you turn just in time to find them sleeping under a blanket of snow.
I’m alone in this moment, but how beautiful this life has been. The places we’ve called home who don’t think, feel, or know, but have undeniably been. Who have watched us grow, watched us love, watched us cry, watched us yearn, watched us laugh, watched us change. The places who have listened to the millions of words spoken between friends, family, and partners. Who have seen these words for what they really are—us, looking at each other, seeing each other, and sharing in love. So precious these moments have been. How incredible it is to be, if only just to feel the world pass through us. If we stop to feel, we can see the magic in the life within us—the life that has held us and hurt us, that has promised and betrayed us, that, in the end, is nothing more and nothing less than simply, us.
I’m walking down the stairs of a building that I’ve know my whole life. Here I am. Alone, but moving.
*35mm film photographs taken during my senior year of college, 2013.
I was watching Miracle on 34th Street today (actually watched it twice in a row because for some reason AMC is too lazy to program more than two movies a day) and was *astounded* at how quickly Dorey and Bryan “fell in love”, a feature of most romantic comedies and certainly the unvarying theme of all Hallmark movies without exception and even when about dogs. Despite having spent my fair share of nights in the early (and later not so early) years of my childhood planted on the sofa giggling along while Matilda (I really don’t know her by any other name) charms Santa and her father-to-be with brimming precociousness and an unusually cute face that I sometimes want to eat, I’ve never taken objection to and frankly never noticed this glaringly obtrusive trend before. For those of you who didn’t spend your childhood junked up on Christmas movies and bonbons smeared on your face, there is really only one thing that you need to know re Dorey and Bryan’s romantic relationship and that is, to oversimplify things, that they have only spoken a handful of times (I realize this may be contentious and some may say that they’ve been dating for as far as we know years, but to my discretion I’m pretty sure they met an hour before the movie started) come Thanksgiving and are married by Christmas. And yet up until my 22nd year of life I accepted this as normal if not laudable behavior. What?
Now, I don’t mean to preach about “media’s” destructive influence on society and give you some annoyingly pedantic essay that would make me hate myself as much as you would (although to be honest, I probably will do that sometime next week) but I really just want to know if and how movies are reflecting or influencing real life? Of course this conversation could go on forever and across an entire breadth of lifestyle modeling, but for relationships specifically, do the interpersonal patterns in movies affect how we play them out in our own lives? On the one hand I’m quick to point blame at them for what I see as a general tendency in couples to not know (or seriously care to know, or in “the right ways” (I hate me too, it’s ok)) each other before committing to serious undertakings, myself having been included. It seems more common than not that people unknowingly sustain their relationships on superficial pretenses and that it’s only a matter of time before the cracks fissure and you drop into hell—or my mom just told me that so I’d be celibate forever. But hoping it’s the former, maybe we’re doomed to this miserable forgone romance and our only salvation is in trade schools for the healing heart during which we brandish ourselves with symbols (“optimistic”, “hurt”, “healing”, “addicted to red meat” etc.) in order to attract compatible companions (which I’m pretty sure is an arranged marriage in which case we should all just get those).
Yet on the other hand, I think these subliminal movie messages can’t possibly have had any irreversible effect or else I would’ve married that guy I met in the hall once 10 years ago at the drinking fountain. Yet due to some divine intervention I’m happy to report that I’ve thus far dodged (or more likely was dodged by) every man that would have possibly taken me as his nearly teenage wife after one month of dating. Instead I enjoy yelling at Jonatan until we both cry, in addition to long walks to the delivery ice cream truck. Quite simply, it amazes and inspires me that I’m in a relationship in which I feel aggressively genuine, and seek to cultivate in an intentional way. If it were up to Hallmark I’d be married to some hick who for no reason wants to be my kid’s dad and likes when I make him waffles in pumps and a bustier. But here I am, androgynous as ever with a fierce suspicion of all men who don’t approve of my shredded underwear from the 6th grade, and I find myself with a person that is as comfortable being as inexcusably frumpy as I am, respects me as much as I respect myself, loves his family as much as I love mine, accepts me more than I can myself, and challenges me intellectually & emotionally every day except for when all we do is nothing + sugar and fat. So how do I reconcile my fear of having drank the romcom kool-aid for far too long and without warning, with finding myself, wits in tact, exploring a relationship that is deeply soul enriching and with no foreseeable plans to marry? Some might just say it’s a Christmas miracle.
(Also I’m 22, so…)