Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My year of magical thinking

This post was recognized as BlogHer Voice of the Week in March of 2010. Check out the review here.

On my first full day of magical thinking, I ate my power animal.

To paraphrase Ira Glass, each year in my life I choose a theme, and bring you a variety of stories related to that theme. At twenty two I vowed to make better decisions and become prettier. Twenty three was the year of chance & whitewater. Twenty four was the year of positive thinking. Yesterday, my birthday, I decided that twenty five is going to be my year of magical thinking.

This is the year to blur the lines between what is fiction and nonfiction, what is possible and impossible. Magical thinking is like positive thinking in HD, Native American spirituality blended with American pop psychology. I am going to see the power, the potential, and the meaning in all things. Life will be luminous, studded with the unexpected, rich in omens, visions, unexpected wisdom. Dreams are going to carry a lot more weight in my everyday decisions. Sounds radical? You bet.

And though I haven't exactly hammered out the details, I know that accidentally eating my Power Animal is not a promising start.

My friend Teo had an extra ticket to a bajillion course dinner at Twin Farms, an exclusive five star hotel hidden in the woods of Barnard. Hidden. I've been roaming this area my entire life and I have never found it. People like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates and Nicole Kidman stay there so no one can find them. I told Teo he could not have chosen a better dining companion for the occasion: I am devastatingly talented at small talk, and I adore fine foods. Little towers of beef with sprigs of parsley. Entire entrees stuffed inside a single endive. All vegetables proceeded with the word 'baby'. Baby lettuce. Baby bok choy.

And so, on my first day as a magical thinker, I was led down a walkway of tiny white lights and seated in front of a small herd of wineglasses and an extended family of forks. I was all tights and lipsticks and good posture, playing it cool, friendly but aloof. That is, until I read that the evening would commence with something called 'Lemony Squid Bubbles', and my head almost blew off my body in delight. I was doing it- I was living out my year of magical thinking! Yesterday, I lived in a world where lemony squid bubbles did not exist. Today, they were being served to me over the pink body of a crab, in a dining room whose walls had once been darkened by the shadow of Oprah Winfrey.

That's the difference between plain old 'positive thinking' and 'magical thinking'.

In case you are wondering, the lemony squid bubbles looked and tasted like citrus shaving cream, with a little hint of the ocean. And they were only the beginning. As the evening swept by, the terrifying and mystical little plates kept coming and coming, and I CHARGED. No matter that I don't eat veal and I have never tasted sea food: tonight, whatever was put before me, was put into my mouth. I used the correct fork, I sipped the correctly paired wine, I enjoyed amiable conversation with the elegant people at my table. In the whirlwind, I stopped consulting the menu before each plate. I ate with blind courage.

Somewhere between the salmon parfait and the quail eggs, two little red, round cutlets of meat were served. And this is when the evening took a turn for the macabre.

My power animal was established at the age of three, when I established a profound relationship with ducks. Ducks are my friends, my (former) pets, my connection to the animal world. Ducks are sacred. I share many, many a fine quality with that particular waterfowl. From certain angles, I even look like a duck. And never, ever, under any circumstance, would I eat a duck.

As a little girl, I could never have imagined that, some twenty years later, one would be served to me medium rare, disguised under a little beret of Creme Fresh. Never could I have imagined that I would chew and nod and say 'good steak' and someone would say 'that's not steak.' That I would pause, fork to mouth, and say, 'well, what is it?'

OH GOD. My first day of dabbling with spirituality, and I eat my power animal.

All night long, I had been swapping stories of positive thinking with the beautiful woman next to me. As the evening dwindled down and the coffee was poured, I confided to her my big mistake. She understood the gravity of the situation, as I knew she would.

'You ATE your POWER ANIMAL?' She asked, drawing back. 'Even I requested that they serve me that plate without the duck! Just the greens.'

I held my head in my hands. 'I didn't know,' was all I could say. 'I didn't know.'

My spirits were lifted when the final of three desserts was served, and the dining room was filled with strange little explosive sounds, like a bevy of keyboards being tapped at the same time. My mouth tickled. "What the-" said Teo, leaning his ear towards his plate. "Are these pop rocks?" Our thin slices of bitter chocolate, dabbed with jam and dusted with peanut butter powder, had been served with a side of chocolate pop rocks.

Somehow, this brought me back down to earth. Yes, I may have digested and enjoyed the duck. But there I was, sitting in one of the most exclusive hotels in the the US, being served lemony squid bubbles and chocolate pop rocks. It was certainly nothing I could have predicted for my first day of my 25th year, and if nothing else, my year was looking to be a very intriguing one.

My final thoughts on this night is that I may need to find a new power animal. Although I doubt any species in the animal kingdom will offer itself up, given my record.


Kerry said...

Melina...what a night! What an entry; I savored each surprise with you...food writing is hard; this is fun. I'm sorry to do this, but I must: please, please, please only use single quotes for a quote within a quote...otherwise, double-em up! Have you read Joan Didion's book, The Year of Magical Thinking? If not, consider it...though maybe in a few years (it was insightful to me perhaps because of the timing in my own life). Love the Wilder Coast; thank you.

Kerry said...

Melina...what a night! What an entry; I savored each surprise with you...food writing is hard; this is fun. I'm sorry to do this, but I must: please, please, please only use single quotes for a quote within a quote...otherwise, double-em up! Have you read Joan Didion's book, The Year of Magical Thinking? If not, consider it...though maybe in a few years (it was insightful to me perhaps because of the timing in my own life). Love the Wilder Coast; thank you.

Melina said...

Yes....I've been struggling with the quotation, double quotation thing....I sort of want to go without entirely like Angela's Ashes...I chose to go with single quotes on purpose, but I do trust you so I guess I'll go back to the correct way. And I love when you leave comments!!

Candice said...

Lina, I had a dream about you last night. I was in Seattle, and you had a tiny (one room) apartment right off the Ave, and a neighbor you were pretty sure you saw in a horror movie once. And I was very happy to see you. And you inspired me to go jogging with you - which I did - and as I exulted that I couldn't believe I was so excited about going jogging in the morning, you asked me to keep it down because it was too early and you didn't want to piss off the scary horror movie guy... so I looked at my watch, and it wasn't quite 6am yet and was like, "well, damn!"

What does your magical thinking take this dream to mean? I can only surmise that it means 1) I miss you; 2) I miss Seattle/UW; and 3) I really, really need to get more exercise.

Either that, or I just can't get enough of your blog :)

Colleen said...

Your writing is beautiful and perfect end to all my days. You should know I read this every night before bed and dream of being able to express myself in my artwork as well as you do in your - prose - if thats even the correct word for it.
on a side note, who knew such a place existed in our small hometowns?!

ddawg said...

Many a powerful animal (indeed, many a Power Animal as well) has offered itself up for sustenance, provided that the consumption is executed with the proper recognition and respect.

I wouldn't abandon your totem just yet.

Miranda Roth said...

1. I got your card and laughed my ass off. Good ol' abercrombie models. What is your new address? I want to write you back.
2. What a great story. I miss you. I also had the word "science" NikeID'd on my left cleat and "magic" on my right recently...seems to be right in line with magical thinking. I always think that things either fall into the category of explainable by science or that of inexplicable by science. As a science teacher, I know I'm writing my own rules but whatever.
3. I'll loan you my spirit animal any time...OTTER!!! You should come say hi to Ott sometime anyway...

Melina said...

Mir, after reading this a lot of people have said, "I don't have a power animal! Which one should mine be?" And I always say Otter, the best power animal ever behind ducks. I recently watched them for the Memphis zoo for about an hour. Good lord. I love them.

Melina said...

Candice- what a funny dream! I just recently started running....or, giving it a shot, anyway. You remember how much I hate running....anyway, how strange you dreamt that I was trying to get you to run with me!

Anonymous said...

Hey Melina,
We've never met, but I know a friend of yours on Facebook, who posted a link to your Blog, so I read it. It's awesome!! Please, if you haven't already, write us a book! Your writing is wonderfully funny and descriptive and what I like best is that is's so unpredictably original! Go girl!!! A reader in the UK.

lisa Paul said...

Just discovered you through BlogHer. In my blogroll. Done.

And may I say, from a former New Englander now out on the Left Coast, you ah a wicked good writer!