The Coyote

About a year and two months ago, I embarked on a blogging journey. I told myself that this time it would be different–after all the years of experimenting with Tumblr and Word Press and the half-dozen or so other blogging platforms I’ve used, I was going to commit fully to katiemarkovich.com. Content is king, after all, and in order to prove how good I am at writing, my plan was to do it regularly and publicly! Only this time, the fact that I own my domain and pay money for it would hold me accountable for this precious little exercise. I started by posting once a week, and I stuck to that schedule for a surprisingly long amount of time. Then I moved to once every two weeks; how in-demand was my writing anyway? Have to keep the people on their toes! And then that turned into once a month, because every other week is strange, but once a month? Now that’s a schedule! I never formally announced this is as a scheduling choice, but people will figure it out, I thought. And then, here we are: two months have passed. Why? Why did I betray the schedule? Why did I reject the golden rule of blogging, which is to treat it like a business and to give it the same credence and commitment that you would any other professional venture? Well. Just got busy and stuff, I guess. I recently read a profile of a food blogger and she outlined her daily routine. After cooking for 12 hours straight and perfecting recipes and photographing the food and cleaning up, she then settles into her bed and BLOGS ALL NIGHT. After feeling a little bad about my own blogging habits for a couple minutes, I reminded myself that no one is paying me to do this. And then I felt better and continued not writing any new posts.

I attempted to get the ball rolling by jotting down some ideas. The result was just a list of everything that’s happened over the last 2 months, and then that made me feel guilty about not writing in my diary, and then that made me feel guilty about all the email correspondence that I let fall to the wayside, and then that made me feel guilty about all the things I’ve ever meant to do but then just didn’t. I meant to sign up for piano lessons several years ago. Why didn’t I do that? I had the tab open on my computer for weeks until one day I just closed it, knowing that I had missed my window of opportunity (and because the fan on my computer was freaking out and I needed to close some tabs). What else could have possibly been more important than piano lessons? I wager it involved drinking at a bar with my friends. Now, my stuff-that-has-happened list includes such highlights as the entire staff of a flight not helping me hang up my wedding dress; meeting a man at the bank who had just won 10k on a scratcher; that same man immediately getting into an argument with a woman because he complimented her jeans; another man at a restaurant who, upon being asked how he wanted his burger cooked, replied, “Uh. The one in the middle?”; a man street parking his BMW, then waving a credit card at his girlfriend and saying, “We can only use this card until midnight tonight, ok? Not the others ones. There’s no money on those.” He was paying for parking.

But I settled on this one:

Over the weekend, Tony and I were walking back to our car from dinner when we spotted a coyote. The coyote was trotting up the sidewalk, minding his own business, presumably coming from the Samuel French bookstore on Sunset where he was disappointed not to find the play he wanted. We walked behind him at a safe distance, trying not to let him know we were talking about him. Strangely, it was a lot like seeing a celebrity in public. Tony and I marveled at the beauty of the coyote, undoubtedly referring to it as a “cuy-YOTE” at least once. I’ve been trying to write a story about a coyote for about a year now and it keeps coming out wrong. I have a few different drafts and none of them are very good. I’m not even sure if the idea is any good, to tell you the truth, but all these words poured out of me (about 3000 of them, according to my most recent draft) and who was I to stop it. When I write short stories, they usually come out by hand, written directly into my notebook. I get tired of staring at a screen all the time, so sitting down to write in a notebook allows me to compartmentalize the task and see how my hand and brain are processing the information. I also like flipping through the pages I’ve filled and exclaiming “I have made fire!”, showing the empty room just how very good I am at barfing out thoughts in ink. But the coyote story is not great. I’ve typed it out and cut it down then rebuilt it again and it’s still not working.

Tony and I continued walking behind the coyote until it was time to cross the street and walk to our car. “Bye buddy,” I said, waving at the animal. I was incredibly sleepy and a little drunk; I think somewhere in my brain, I wandered into a dreamscape where the coyote and I were friends and he would remember me the next time we met. When we got into the car, Tony said, “Should we give our leftovers to the coyote?” We both knew the answer was no, but we spent a good long time deliberating. One of the pro-giving arguments was that the coyote would like us very much and want to be our friends. In the meanwhile, we watched him from our car. He jumped up into the front yard of a home, settling in on the grass as though he lived there. In the silhouette of the porch light, he looked like any old German Shepherd, enjoying Los Angeles in the fall. Tony said he wanted a dog. I said me too. The coyote stood, alert, like he had heard us, deciding he should go home with us. Instead he thrust his snout into the ground and with the greatest of ease, pulled out a rabbit by its neck. He shook it violently, tufts of fur rising like dried dandelion heads. The coyote set in to tear it apart and we decided it was time to go home.

The next day, we roamed around our apartment in a Sunday malaise. The fires in California have turned the sky into a tapestry of post-apocalyptic dread; the light is all wrong. It’s always a little hard to know what time it is, what day it is, how many layers to wear, if it’s Christmas yet. But now the sun is red and the sky is thick, and we walk around not knowing when to turn on our lamps. But in this haze we would stop and say, not prompted by anything other than memory, “Remember that coyote?” as if he were a friend we could have made if only we’d stayed a little longer.

 

 

Adult Home Again

August! Where did you come from?

I think that’s the only way to react to where we are in the year, some combination of shock, awe, and disgust at how quickly the calendar is running out of pages. Maybe you can relate to this—you blinked and you’re already seeing sponsored posts by Wow! Autumn Feelings on Facebook. Meanwhile, you thought you were still on track to complete all the items on your Summer Bucket List, but the only checked-off box is a piddly “Get ice cream.” I know this because I’ve been there. Assigning meaningless value to designated seasonal activities, then proceeding to beat myself up when I don’t do them well enough. Anyway, the good news is that we still have all of August for whatever it is people like to do during the summer (which is, as you know, my least favorite season. Blech, the sun, gross!) and there is no rush on stocking up on your favorite fall scents just yet. (Lay off, Bath & Body Works email blast, am I right?) I am still, however, trying to grapple with the fact that I’ve already lived in Los Angeles for 10 months, I feel betrayed by time, and all I have to show for it is the list of books I’ve read this year. And yes, I know, I got married. But this book list is pretty good!

Tony and I recently traveled back to the Midwest (the heartland, as it were) for 9 whole days! A slight sidetrack: Tony and I have theorized that some of the people we’ve met here think of us as “country mice,” two small town kids in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, taking in a real city for the very first time. Nothing specific has been said, but it’s a lot of head tilts, a lot of soft tones, a lot of “Aww, going to dinner, huh?” like we don’t have restaurants where we come from. So we were both a little tickled when we told people that we were “going back to the Midwest for a week” then watched their concerned faces silently wonder if that meant we were going back for good, because of, you know, fear or whatever. But alas, the visit was for high school reunions and bridal showers and other people’s weddings and meeting new babies and basically all the major life events you miss when you don’t live in the same city as your friends anymore, so you cram it all into 9 days! It was also our first appearance as a married couple (to many people) and I have no shame in accepting congratulations from pretty much anyone who offers. Could have done with more FREE DRINKS, but I guess hugs and well wishes are nice, too.

There was admittedly some anxiety about returning to Chicago. The only other home I’ve ever left behind is Akron, and as far as I know, I will always have a reason to return. But Chicago is different. Leaving your first adult home is hard, because it means two things: 1) Maybe you were wrong to have ever moved there in the first place, if you only ended up leaving or 2) Maybe you were wrong to leave it, being arrogant enough to think there’s some place better to live, and signaling that maybe you didn’t know what you wanted in the first place. You know, this reminds me of something that happened to me right before (and I mean, days before) I moved to Chicago in 2012. I tell this story A LOT so, I mostly apologize to Biz, who has heard it the most, but also to you if I’m repeating myself. I was out with some friends in Akron when one member of this group turned to me and said “I just don’t understand why you’d move to Chicago. What’s there for you that isn’t here?” And it kind of blew my mind that anyone would even ask this. I was 22, fresh out of college, all my friends from school were moving to a million different amazing places, yet I had someone looking me in the eye and questioning why I thought I deserved the same. And it’s really stuck with me, this surprised reaction that implies I’m crazy for thinking I have permission to go away. Even with all the endless support given by Chicago friends when we moved to LA, I still wondered, did I really have permission to go? Not just literal permission, but cosmic permission? Was it really time? This question weighed heavily on my mind in the days leading up to our trip. I didn’t know how I’d feel, if I’d be confronted with a million reasons why we should have stayed, if it would all become clear to me that I was supposed to stay there instead of coming here. I was far more nervous abut this portion of the trip than I was about my high school reunion, I can say that much.

And reader, guess what? It was fine! You can go first-adult home again. You can look at a place, feel good that you ever picked it at all, feel happy about the memories and relationships you made there, and then feel even happier about returning to the new life you’re working on. You can also look at the same place and miss it—miss its people, miss its architecture and its food and its weather—and know that those feelings are normal. What you don’t have to do is feel guilty or wrong for leaving, even if other people or your own brain try to convince you otherwise. It’s exhausting to have to live your life within the confines of other people’s comfort zones. Which is why you should all move across the country!!! Just kidding, you don’t have to do that either. It’s expensive and stressful and you can’t watch any local baseball games because there’s a content blackout in the greater Los Angeles area so you just watch any game on ESPN which is somehow always the Mets. But you have permission to move, if you want. Not mine, specifically—you probably shouldn’t listen to much of my advice, I make a lot of weird decisions. I mean, I had bangs for a very long time—but the universe’s, the ephemeral junk that makes up your life and adds grit to your gut.

So even though 2018 is flying by at an alarming pace, and I’m not exactly sure if I’ve “done” anything of note this year (that book list! I know!), it feels good to have ripped the Band-Aid off of the first visit home. The place I chose to move to, then chose to move from. I might be a little “country mouse” in LA, but at least I know the country is still there, just as I left it.

Now go get ice cream!