The morning was bright and brisk as Faye, Anwar, and I began to prepare for our trip to Fityfo’s farm for his twenty-seventh birthday celebration. We were three of among around fifteen people making the forty-five minute drive out to his grandparent’s farm in the rolling hills of Virginia and we had all been excitedly anticipating this for weeks. We neglected to pick up the supplies we needed and as we passed a small general store on the way we busted a U-ie and picked up some last minute beer and Oreos. Unfortunately the tiny establishment did not carry bacon. You can imagine how distraught I was, but I managed to power through the disappointment. Continuing on our way we passed a sign advertising farm fresh eggs, apples and pears. Another U-ie was certainly in order for this. As we pulled up to the sprawling farm, a young boy greeted us out of the car and sold us two dozen eggs and a bag of apples. The tiny seven or eight year old boy formally regretted to inform us that they were out of fresh pears and with apples and eggs in hand, onwards we went.

As we arrived on the expansive property we walked up to the old house, quaint in its white painted brick exterior but inside a massive, winding domain, every surface in every room littered with hundreds of years of Americana and kooky antiques. The long formal dining table was set with twelve chairs and a smaller table with six sat adjacent, and a cornucopia of autumnal pumpkins and squash adorned the center. KK and Lili were making their way around the table folding napkins into bishop hats and setting the table. This place was incredible.

Silverbrook Farm

Schmancy Table Setting

Fityfo proceeded to give us a tour through the steep, narrow staircases and into each of the numerous bedrooms, all decorated in the same quirky country style. On almost every inch of every wall were plates, clocks, mirrors, and faded, cracked American artwork. We each claimed our beds with our suitcases and continued outside into the crisp early afternoon. Walking on the left of the house past the gravel driveway we approached what appeared to be some kind of nest. Up a six foot ladder made of branches was a round wooden platform covered in pillows and wrapped in several feet of twisting bushes. It didn’t just look like a nest, it was.

Me in the People Nest

That's right...a people nest

We decided instantly to head back there and smoke a joint the next chance we got. Fityfo showed us the outdoor bathroom with a rustic white bathtub exposed to the sky to enjoy the stars and everywhere we turned were wooden platforms and benches, most covered in pillows, overlooking the hills of Virginia disappearing into the horizon. The crepuscular colors of autumn shouted against the grassy green of the fields and we all took a minute to breathe and appreciate just how beautiful this place really was. We walked past the life size chess set outside of the original kitchen in the back and cracked open beers on one of the many porches as Fityfo finished explaining the long history of his grandmother’s farm and the way it had grown and evolved over the years.

Why is that one dude staring him down?

Though most of the crew had yet to arrive, the seven of us there made our way to Hillsborough Vineyeards, the first winery on our itinerary. After several U-turns and mistakenly driving up someone’s driveway while they were gardening with the thought that their massive house actually was the winery, we finally made it to the right place. When we walked in the place was quiet and nearly empty and our boisterous group of seven surely didn’t go unnoticed. Still they were happy to have us there and the warm staff charmed and accommodated us.
Once we finished the tasting we headed outside to enjoy our selections overlooking the vineyard. The sky had turned from bright to bleak but the conversation was easy and laughter lilted from our mouths as we filled and emptied our glasses again and again.

Hillsborough Vineyards


Winery #2

On the way to the next stop again we passed the entrance and were cursed with several more U-turns, an ongoing joke of the weekend at this point. We rambled drunk around the farmlands filling our bellies with bread and cheese and wine in the brisk autumn afternoon. We found a place on a dock overlooking a small duck pond and packed up the one-hitter watching as the sun broke through the grey, silhouetting the wiry branches of bare trees lining the edge of the pond. At the third and final winery, Sunset Hills, the remainder of our crew arrived, including Eve and BoBo, sisters back home from New York and Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving holiday and we sat in happy, raucous company enjoying the steady friendships we shared with one another.

The Crew.


We headed back to the farm before sunset to begin preparations for dinner and the bonfire. Fityfo’s sister was already busy in the kitchen making the chili and the rest of the girls began work on the appetizers. While the boys took the tractor down to the burn pile to get set up, Eve, Faye, BoBo, and I climbed up into the people nest to smoke a joint under the scattering of stars in the sky. In the idyllic moment we spoke of friendship and love and in that moment I felt that everything was finally right. After years of feeling tortured and out of place, of making shitty decisions and drinking my regrets from my mind each night, I finally felt true and free. The friends I have loved for years, but from whom I have been apart, are all that really matter in this world, and sitting with them under the stars I smiled a furtive smile believing I was finally beginning to figure it all out.

Closest of Friends.

Seeing Red.

While dinner was cooking and the booze turned voices and faces red, a few of us went to take a ride across the acres in the back of the truck. With Fityfo in the driver’s seat and the four of us standing in the back with cocktails in hand, the old rusted, red and grey pick-up jerked forward into the darkness and we were off. The air stung the dry skin on my face as we skipped and jumped over the bumpy gravel road. As we squeezed our ghostly knuckles around the metal frame surrounding the bed of the pick-up, Max lost his balance and fell into me, pouring his whiskey on my legs and feet, his glass shattering to pieces that clinked around the bottom of the truck as we went on. Fityfo pressed his foot to the gas in the enveloping darkness, the headlights illuminating but a few feet of the vast landscape ahead. Entering into the muddy field Fityfo turned the wheel hard into and sudden into donuts and Sylvia tumbled into Matsui, her wine tossing itself into the air and all over each and every one of us. In the back of the jostling truck the four of us howled in drunken, uproarious laughter all the way back to the house.

By the time we got back dinner was almost ready and we made our way into the formal yet cozy dining room for Fityfo’s birthday dinner. The table was full of booze and food and friends and we filled our plates and glasses and bellies in easy fashion.

Happy Birthday Fityfo

Fityfo and the Birthday Spread

As the meal wound down and we cleared our plates, it was time for dessert. I ran quickly upstairs to my suitcase and came back down with several handfuls of psychedelic chocolates to trip while we lay in front of the bonfire. Some decided to stick to liquor and once we ate our candy we began to gather what we needed to bring to the burn pile. The tractor sat out front of the house and we loaded into the back with our blankets, bongo drums, iPods, speakers, booze, cider, cigarettes, lighters, and anything else we could think of. Matsui sat across from me next to Sylvia and I couldn’t help but think I sensed something between them. I had been nervous about Matsui coming on this trip, and whether the awkward remnants of our failed relationship would continue to hinder the friendship I was trying to foster with him, but instead the opposite happened. We floated back into familiar rhythms without a problem and by the end of the night I would think that I almost preferred an awkward distance between the two of us. Knowing that nothing good could come from getting too close to the man who tore my heart out and to whom I reciprocated in the same callous manner made me hold my breath and keep my distance. We were always doomed, the two of us, and I won’t be a silly enough girl to make that same mistake again. Besides, there was another man on my mind more often than not that day; and there wasn’t room enough for the both of them.
As the hayride came to an end, Sylvia’s dog Serena jumped off the tractor and ran to chase the cows and bulls mulling about the fire site. Worried for her dog, Sylvia chased after her into the darkness and as the sound of ton-heavy bulls trampled against the wet ground we sat entrenched with worry for both Sylvia and her dog as we heard her cries for Serena echo unto the great emptiness. Luckily after fewer minutes than what it felt, both Sylvia and Serena returned unscathed. As Sylvia and Serena found their way back to us, the boys and KK hopped off the back of the tractor and went to start the fire. In the cold November night, most of the girls stayed in the trailer, sitting on the bales of hay drinking whiskey and hot cider and rum under blankets to keep us warm as we felt the slow tingling of the chocolates begin to invade our bodies. The boys struggled to ignite the pile of damp wood on the windless night until after more than thirty minutes, the flames finally rose from the burn pile and in the light of the first flare of fire the hallucinations began. The rest of the girls and I climbed out of the tractor and down towards the bonfire, laying out blankets on the cold ground around the intense heat. We laid our bodies on shukas and passed bottles of whiskey around to warm our insides with the slow growing burn of fire water in our throats and stomachs.

Fire and Blankets


As the night and the trip rolled on, the beat of the bongo and the smooth wavering of jazz clarinet wafted into the air around us. We lay upon one another laughing and watching the orange embers of the fire twist towards the stars like fireflies, overwhelmed with all the beauty in the world. As our trips grew in intensity, so did the drunkenness of those around us and soon the peaceful beauty of the night erupted into belligerence. Friel (our resident Irish alcoholic) decided to be a dick for no good reason and toss a cow paddy into the face of another drunken friend. Within moments there was shit flying everywhere and Aman, the victim of the attack, ran at Friel with his fists flying, pushing him into the shit-covered mud and pounding his hard, angry knuckles into his head until he was finally pried off of him. Not five minutes later, an obnoxiously drunk Max Power ran full speed into the towering flames of the burn pile and immediately ran back out amidst a cacophony of screaming pleas for him to stop being such a fucking idiot. In my opinion this is just one more argument that alcohol is far more dangerous than pot and mushrooms.

As the fire wound down we found ourselves inching closer to the initially overwhelming heat and as the bottles of bourbon found their bottoms we loaded ourselves back into the tractor and found our way back to the house. Sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace we drank wine and played games into the hours of early morning. Slowly the large group thinned out as one by one the long day of drinking took people to their beds. Suddenly, as the last few of us still awake sat quietly talking and drinking on the same warm rug, a thunderous crash split through the house from the upper floors. Sure someone had been hurt we ran to find what had happened, and help whomever it had happened to. As we came up the stairs to the second floor we saw a dresser lodged against the wall at the bottom of the flight to the third. The dresser, filled with linens must have weighed at least two-hundred pounds and was topped with several pieces of pottery, which now lay shattered in pieces strewn across the old wooden floor. Upon turning up the steep staircase, we saw Ben pulling himself from the top of the dresser, he and Max Power in a heated argument over some ridiculous bullshit, the details of which I am still not sure but which ended with him pushing Ben into the dresser and the two of them tumbling down the treacherously steep staircase. Thankful that Ben landed on top of the dresser and not the other way around. We cleaned up the thick shards of clay-colored pottery and sent the drunken boys to bed, Max now officially crowned as the biggest idiot/douchebag of the weekend. There’s always gotta be at least one.

As the hours wound on, the last five or six of us Mohicans smoked one last joint out in the shivering cold and headed to what we had named the orgy room, each finding warmth under covers on one of the seven beds that wrapped themselves around the wall of the icy basement cove. As I lay on my back with Matsui in the bed next to me, the room continued to shift and breathe to the beat of music in my mind and I knew I would not find sleep yet. Barefoot in the dark I took my journal and a pen to a random couch next to the laundry room and began to write of the boy who would not leave my mind as the house slept in silence. After an hour or so, as the twisting colors of hallucination gave way to slow shifting, I made my way into bed and let my mind find its way to sleep.

The noise of pots and pans roused us from sleep in too early morning and we slowly awakened and made our way upstairs. The house was littered with solo cups, wine glasses, half-eaten pies, and the rest of the scattered remnants of the ineffable night. As we worked on washing the massive amount of dirty dishes we had created we reminisced on the best (and worst) events of the evening and unanimously decided that it was an unparalleled success, especially considering that no one was seriously injured between running into a bonfire and being pushed down a flight of stairs with a two-hundred pound dresser for company. I gave a piece of my mind to Max for his extreme idiocy as we drank mimosas outside on the beautiful day we had been given after the most beautiful night. People started leaving the farm early to get back to wherever it was they needed to go and Faye, Anwar and I, who had become an inseparable threesome of late, sat on the wooden platform surrounding a towering oak, drawing, reading, and writing. We were in no hurry to leave this miraculous place. As the time wore on and our appetites grew we decided to head back to Hillsborough for a bottle of wine and some chili, bread, and cheese before we finally made our way back home. We sat, occasionally chatting with the sun warm on our faces, and felt utterly blessed for the incredible lives we lead. Truly, la vita è bella.

The Creativity Tree


I arrived at the Silversmith around four in the morning and instantly collapsed into the mattress. With barely any sleep the night before, and a day full of walking and drinking, I was not prepared to get up before noon. Unfortunately, check-out time was at noon and there was a lot I wanted to do before my 7 PM flight departed from O’Hare. Struggling against everything my body was telling me, I pulled myself out of bed around 9:30 and went straight for the room service menu. The first time Scott and I went to Las Vegas, we started a tradition of ordering the most extravagant breakfast at any and every hotel. From New York to Austin to Charleston, we lounged in luxurious robes and made our way through bagels, muffins, eggs, fruit, toast, bacon, sausage, coffee, and, of course, mimosas. I think those uncomplicated mornings, reading the Times in bed, indulging our epicurean sensibilities, were the best times we spent together. Despite the flash of maudlin sentimentality, I was ravenous and hungover enough to need to continue drinking immediately. I placed my order for the feast, took a shower, and relaxed into my robe letting the white terry engulf me.

It was another brilliant Chicago summer day and after polishing off most of my lavish spread, and all of the champagne, I checked out, checked my bag at the front desk, and headed out to the Art Institute. Still in the midst of the month-long trance I fall into whenever I find a new album to love, I threw on a little Vampire Weekend to brighten my steps. Walking past Millenium Park, I can’t help but to stop at Anish Kapoor’s steel jelly bean one last time. Children laid on the ground, giggling at their distorted reflections, and adults looked up in wonder at what could have been a portal to another dimension. Or maybe I was the only one pretending that, but whatever. You gotta have some imagination. Knowing the minutes I had left in Chicago were limited, I made my way through the Art Institute’s garden and up the stairs to the imposing façade.

Interdimensional portal? Or giant jelly bean?

Interdimensional portal? Or giant jelly bean?

Music in the Garden

Music in the Garden

Tickets into the museum were $18 and while it was a bit steep, I have always had a weakness for losing my thoughts in the quick, purposeful strokes of the great impressionists. I do so love contemporary art as well (some of it, anyway) but I have always been so moved by the enduring classic. I wandered through the halls, cogitating about the development, the evolution of technique and style. There is a certain peace in a museum, being surrounded my so much beauty and so much time. I guess I just like beautiful things.



Temporary installation in the contemporary wing - I snuck a photo

Temporary installation in the contemporary wing - I snuck a photo

Boring Orgy?

Boring Orgy?

Van Gogh Drunkards!

Van Gogh Drunkards!

After a few hours of wandering the great halls, around three o’clock or so, I realized how little time I had before I needed to get to the airport and was still intent on taking an architecture cruise down the Chicago River. My random companion from the night before had been texting me periodic complaints regarding the severity of his hangover, and jumped at the chance to ditch the office and take the river cruise with me. That was the plan, but there was one thing I first had to take care of. I made my way from the museum up Michigan Avenue, just like I had the night before, but the city was a different beast during the day. The streets were swallowed in suits and tourists, speckled with stand-outs. Art I hadn’t noticed the night before popped from the sidewalk, and in proper tourist fashion, I stopped to take pictures of any and everything that caught my eye.



Sunset on the River

Sunset on the River

The champagne had started to wear off and despite the fact that I was carrying a bottle of wine in my purse (I couldn’t very well just throw it away, could I?) I opted to get some water and finished the bottle before I even made it to Scott’s hotel. I arrived, exhausted and half-asleep, and sat down dirty in the swanky lobby to the displeasure of the hotel staff. OK, they weren’t immediately displeased, but when Scott still hadn’t arrived for twenty minutes and I my head slowly started to nod off, periodically snapping back up, I think it’s fair to say they were getting a bit peeved. He finally showed up only to let me know he had but a moment to talk. Though I wanted to apologize for whatever it was that happened last night, the overwhelming urge to nap overpowered any sense of courtesy or regret. He begrudgingly agreed to let me sleep in his room while he was at his conference and moments later I was in his hotel bed, alone.

After an hour or so of napping and crying my phone began to vibrate. Mike was ready to meet me for the cruise. I was not. I didn’t have the balls to tell him why I couldn’t go, so I ignored the message, and slept as long as I could in hopes that I might awaken somewhere else. Needless to say, I did not, and the realizations, both that I would likely never see Scott again and that I probably wouldn’t make my flight, struck me simultaneously. I got my shit together and sat down to write my final goodbyes. I know, melodrama is my forte. As I wrote the words, sobs heaved from my chest, unable to reconcile what I wanted with the reality that was facing me. Tears hit the tiny hotel notepad like some bullshit Lifetime movie cliché and I signed the letter and left.

As I exited the hotel, rain began to drown the city and people scrambled to catch cabs or find shelter. I was already behind on time and I grabbed a taxi to zip me back to the hotel and on to the airport. When we arrived at the Silversmith so I could pick up my suitcase, the cabbie informed me that a ride to the airport in the rain at 5 P.M. on a weekday could easily take longer than the subway. I conceded against my strong desire to spend the next hour in the quiet comfort of the backseat of his taxi and headed out in to the rain to catch the blue line. Still hungover and starved for a lack of food since my decadent breakfast, I made my way through the turnstile and on to the train. I had $3 left in my pocket after buying a lunchable and collapsed in the corner seat as the train pulled itself down the track towards O’Hare.

We arrived some forty-five minutes later, and confused I looked around trying to figure out the right way to go. After conspicuously taking off in the opposite direction of the rest of the passengers, I stopped mid-stride, made an about-face and sunk into the flow of the masses. My flight was departing in fifty minutes and I walked as fast as I could, my bag awkwardly bumping against me until I finally reached the Northwest counter. Dutifully swiping my credit card for identification, I was informed that my flight had already departed. Utterly confused, I checked my blackberry which confirmed my 7:05 P.M. departure. Unfortunately, what I did not realize, and what the attendant at the counter would shortly point out, is that my assistant had entered the flight into my calendar in Eastern Time, for some inexplicable reason. She then proceeded to inform me that the next flight back to Charlotte would not be departing until tomorrow morning at seven, but that she was kindly going to wave the $150 change fee. So, stranded in Chicago with no hotel and no money, I called the only person I knew in Chicago: Scott.

I will spare you the arduous details, but after more than an hour of travel back downtown I made it back to the Park Hyatt, freshened up in the lobby bathroom and headed back up to the bar to wait for Scott to get out of his conference. Somewhere close to three hours had passed, and five or six Hendrick’s and tonics deep, I had struck a rapport with about half of the bartending staff. There was the perky and garrulous Ashley, the pedantic Pollock, Robert, as well as several other patrons who were convinced I had been stood up, and were treating me to pity cocktails. By the time Scott arrived, I was hammered, he was in a shitty mood, and in typical fashion, we quickly turned to pejorative snapping. We brought our bitter comments up to the room and attempted to sleep, but seeing the man I loved, who once held me each night and each morning, awkwardly perched on the inadequate windowsill cushion, I knew I couldn’t stay there. In a predictable fit of tears, I left the hotel, and Scott, for good.

Back at the airport and sobering up, I decided to make use of the bottle of wine I had been lugging around all day. O’Hare was basically deserted, save for a friendly redneck with a gut that stretched from his hips to his chest in a landscape of long-forgotten beers, and a young Spanish-speaking couple trying to find rest in a row of five steel chairs. The redneck, Dave, and I headed outside to smoke a cigarette and bitched about airports and traveling and whatever other thing two random people with nothing in common but nicotine might chat about in an empty airport at one in the morning. At the moment I was about to give in and attempt sleep in the fluorescent terminal, I got a text from random Mike: “at a bar 20 minutes down the blue line. free beer. come out.” Sold. I dragged my ass back on the train and headed out with the firm intentions of drinking till four and making it back in plenty of time to catch my flight at seven. Of course, in the shitstorm that is my life, nothing ever goes to plan. Twenty-five years of this and I have learned to take it in stride. Mike and his roommate and I went out, took shots, played shuffleboard and danced until I don’t remember when. What I do remember is groggily lifting my head and opening my eyes from a couch in a random apartment of a random dude I met in a random city not twenty-four hours ago. And I had already missed my flight. Good decision making, Taylor. In a mess of muttering expletives I got my bags together, found my shoes, and headed back for my last ride on the blue line. It was almost ten when I got to the airport and the next eight hours were nothing but a blur of late flights, running for connections, and sleeping in any and everything that had a seat. At six that evening, I opened the door to my apartment and collapsed on the couch, only to be up and at the bar by eleven that night. Such is the story of my life.