I don't know about the rest of ya, but it's been a rough couple of weeks/months. Sometimes things come together at the worst damn time, and I find myself desperate for escape. I have read a lot about self care lately, and I started thinking about my own habits. For as long as I can remember, when the world gets to be a little too much, I have depended on certain things for comfort. Mainly family, friends, food, and a favorite movie or book. I thought it would be fun to make a list of those things I reach out for in times of distress. Most of them old, a few of them new, these all have the magical ability to make me happy, to provide comfort, peace, and help me start again.
When it comes to movies, I am an obsessive re-watcher. Same with TV. I can watch the same films over and over, because, as I'm sure many people would understand, they give me that unbeatable feeling of familiarity. A few of the movies I always go back to:
- Almost Famous: I know, such a cliché, right? Feck you. This movie never fails to inspire me-- it always makes me want to write, travel, and listen to great music. Makes me laugh, makes me cry, and it's one of those movies I quote line by line. Not to mention the fashion. Penny Lane is a goddess and I will never not want to look like her. Thank you, Cameron Crowe. (One of) Favorite scene.
- Stand By Me: To this day, one of my favorite opening lines of a movie, ever: "I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being." I read Stephen King's book, The Body, once upon a time, and I liked it-- but c'mon, River Phoenix is absolute perfection. Great acting, great music, beautiful photography and direction. Watching Chris Chambers encourage Gordie's writing is a perfect example of friendship, and the movie is full of small moments that show boys supporting each other while growing up-- between mom/poop jokes, of course. (One of) Favorite scene.
- When Harry Met Sally: This movie feels like fall, doesn't it? I guess it could just be the DVD cover, but every time I watch this classic, I feel like it's autumn-- my favorite season. I recently re-watched this, and it never fails to impress me. Nora Ephron's writing is so damn good. She is smart, funny, honest, and the score is one of the best ever. Huh, and this is the second Rob Reiner on the list. Guess I like that guy, too. Favorite scenes, the couple interviews.
- Forrest Gump: Yeah, I'm not going for originality here. Going for honesty. I have watched Forrest Gump about 85 times or so. This is the kind of movie I watch when I feel like crying. When I need a good, long, fucking cry. (One of) Favorite scene.
There are so many other movies to mention: Easy A and She's The Man if I need to laugh hysterically, and The Breakfast Club, Good Will Hunting and As Good As It Gets for excellent, inspiring writing. For a new movie plug? I watched Hunt for the Wilderpeople last week and it is beautiful. It will make you laugh one of those big, deep belly laughs that reminds you why movies can bring people together.
Television is ma' jam, y'all. I watch way too much of it-- bad TV, good TV, I like it all. Television has definitely changed through the ages, and I am so excited about the place we're in now. For new(ish) high quality TV I love: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Fargo, The Leftovers, and so on. But when comfort is what I seek, I always turn to:
- Gilmore Girls: The definition of comfort TV. It's like a warm blanket, guys. And for some reason, this also always feels like fall. It's charming, with smart and unique writing, and pop culture references that will provide you with SO MUCH new stuff to watch/read/listen to. I have written about this show's impact on me before: I'll leave this here. Favorite episodes: Rory's Birthday Parties (s1), There's The Rub (s2), Lorelai's Graduation Day (s2), They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They? (s3), The Festival of Living Art (s4), You Jump, I Jump Jack (s5), Wedding Bell Blues (s5).
- Friends: Will always be the go-to when I need something on the background, but this is also a show I can go back to and start from the beginning and laugh like it's the first time. Pre-season 7 Chandler is one of the loves of my life. Favorite episodes: The One with George Stephanopoulos (s1), The One with the Prom Video (s2), The One Where No One's Ready (s3), The One with the Football (s3), The One with the 'Cuffs (s4), The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line (s4), The One with Chandler in a Box (s4), The One with the Embryos (s4), The One Hundredth (s5), The One with Ross's Sandwich (s5), The One Where Everybody Finds Out (s5).... aaaaand I'm going to stop there because this can take a while.
- Friday Night Lights: This show is one of the main reasons I fell in love with Texas. It was marketed all damn wrong, so a lot of people still think this is just a show about football. Don't get me wrong, it is about football, but it's about So. Much. More. DAMN IT. Also: Tim Riggins. Also: Coach Taylor. Also: Tami Taylor. Also: Michael B. Jordan's perfect smile. Beautiful writing, beautiful photography, beautiful music (Explosions in the Sky, helloooooo). Will give you LIFE. Favorite episodes: Pilot, Mud Bowl (s1), State (s1), Hello, Goodbye (s3), Underdogs (s3), The Son (s4), Toilet Bowl (s4), Always (s5).
- The O.C.: The best first season of a TV show in history. Don't argue with me, bitches. The O.C. season 1 is unsurpassable. Great writing, an incomparable music score, and unforgettable characters. Seth Cohen is an icon in television and pop culture history. I used to watch this every single summer, but then, you know, life gets in the way sometimes. (Still watched it this summer, though.) Favorite episodes: Season 1. All of it.
- Parks and Recreation: A newer TV show, but it's one I constantly turn to for comfort and laughter. A wonderfully feminist show that touches on issues like family, friendship, marriage, and humanity in politics. It's a mockumentary like The Office (which I love so much), but contains a liiiiittle bit more heart and less painful awkwardness. A lot of people have their favorite Parks and Rec character, but it's honestly so damn hard to choose. My purpose in life is to be a April/Donna combo queen. Favorite episodes: Pawnee Zoo (s2), Greg Pikitis (s2), The Master Plan (s2), Time Capsule (s3), Fancy Party (s3), Jerry's Painting (s3), Pawnee Rangers (s4), The Trial of Leslie Knope (s4), The Debate (s4), Two Parties (s5), Leslie and Ben (s5).
Oh lord, there are so many more comfort shows I can list here. The Office, Boy Meets World, and of course-- 2016 is a perfect year to re-watch The West Wing. Just... watch everything, okay guys? There is so much happiness out there.
To make things easier, I will not go into a list of all the books I have enjoyed and loved over the course of my life. There are way too many to mention. But I will name the few that I return to, time and again, to make me feel better:
- The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Duh. (One of) Favorite quote: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: Yes, technically this is a sad book, but it gives me so much comfort to know there are writers out there in the world that can create... this. Joan Didion is a fucking master, and no one else could have talked about family, grief and loss in a way that will leave you happy. A beautiful book that I keep on my desk, close enough to pick up on a random afternoon and reread favorite passages. (One of) Favorite quote: "'Goddamn,' John said to me when he closed the book. 'Don't ever tell me again you can't write. That's my birthday present to you.' I remember tears coming to my eyes. I feel them now. In retrospect this had been my omen, my message, the early snowfall, the birthday present no one else could give me. He had twenty-five nights left to live."
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: This might be my favorite story, ever. And as much as I love Hook and Finding Neverland, there is nothing as good as the original material. (One of) Favorite quote: "There were no children there, and it was night-time; but he addressed all who might be dreaming of the Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think: boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their baskets hung from trees. 'Do you believe?' he cried."
- This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen: My favorite YA book. Still hate the name, because I feel like it takes away from the quality of the writing and the characters. Dexter is, to this day, my lit-crush. Sarah Dessen is one of those authors who built a reputation on quality YA fiction that respects teenagers, never talks down to her readers, and she does that thing where she interweaves characters in all of her books, which is always fun. (One of) Favorite quote: "'I just thought to myself, all of a sudden, that we had something in common. A natural chemistry, if you will. And I had a feeling that something big was going to happen. To both of us. That we were, in fact, meant to be together.' 'You got all this,' I said, clarifying, 'at the tire display?'"
A few more books that make me feel better: Naked by David Sedaris, The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel, and Roald Dahl's The Witches.
For Your Ears
Sometimes it helps to lie down and just listen.
- Explosions in the Sky: Anything by this band brings me peace, but their album "Take Care, Take Care, Take Care" spins on my record player approximately four days a week, while "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place" plays in my car. Yes. I sometimes still listen to CDs in my car.
- "Chuck Berry Is On Top": Because sometimes, to feel better, you gotta dance.
- A little softness: "See You Soon" and "Amsterdam" by Coldplay; "Stormy Weather" by Etta James; "Blood Bank" by Bon Iver; "Sobriety Up and Left" by Alcoholic Faith Mission; "Strangetown" by David Ramirez; "Storm" by José Gonzalez; "Fake Empire" by The National; "Singalong Junk" by Paul McCartney; "Eres" by Café Tacvba.
- My Wedding Playlist: For the slow dances and the jump-arounds, I still listen to the playlist from our wedding-- everything ranging from Selena to Aerosmith, from Stevie Wonder to Lauryn Hill, Shakira to A Day To Remember and Marvin Gaye, this playlist is guaranteed to make me feel better.
- "Las Delailas": Okay sure, I may be biased because she is one of my best friends, but Mexican singer Fernanda Casillas and her bandmate Priscilla Orfanos released a beautiful self-titled debut album. "Las Delailas" is a collection of beauty and simplicity that is perfect for an afternoon of reading. Get the album on iTunes, and check out my little post on the band here.
- Gilmore Guys: For some reason, music doesn't do it for me while I am out for my morning walks. Enter Kevin and Demi, two dudes talking about Gilmore Girls, episode by episode. These guys are smart, thoughtful, and hilarious (I have actually been stopped mid-walk because my laughter interrupts other people's morning peace). They have excellent chemistry and even though the episodes sometimes go a little off track, they discuss Gilmore Girls with great critical analysis and interesting perspectives. This show is also good for non-Gilmore Girls fans like my husband (I know, nobody's perfect), because Kevin and Demi are also big into comedy. This podcast started out small, but once they got Scott Patterson (aka Luke Danes) on, they exploded, big-time. They now have a special series called Gilmore Gabs, where they interview the cast and crew from the show, such as Liza Weil, Kelly Bishop, Milo Ventimiglia, Keiko Agena, Sean Gunn, and more. People actually pay to see these two guys talk live. Oh, and they're both UT Austin grads, yay! Some of my favorite guests: Aisha Muharrar (Parks and Rec writer), Hrishikesh Hirway (who also does The West Wing Weekly), Jason Mantzoukas (proof that Gilmore Girls fans are never exactly who you think), Sarah Heyward (Girls writer), and DC Pierson (adorable comedian dude).
- "Heben's Husband (with Jaime Camil)" on Another Round: This is a specific podcast episode that I recently listened to and made me really happy. The women of Another Round, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, talk about latino pop music and what "crossover" really means (think Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Romeo Santos). They also interview Mexican actor Jaime Camil, who is always ridiculously charming and makes me smile.
- There are an infinite number of excellent podcasts out there, about criminology and history, sociology and politics. Educational material that is readily accessible. But when I just want to giggle or am looking for inspiration, these are some of my favorites: The Tell Show (season 1), Women Of The Hour (season 1), The Nerdist, and Modern Love.
Food & Drink
Uh... so... Food makes me feel better. Pretty sure anybody who knows me, knows that. Yeah, sometimes food is a negative thing to turn to-- ya know, health and all-- but food is SO BEAUTIFUL, GUYS. I recently traveled to Monterrey and Mexico City for two weeks, and yup, Mexican food is definitely the best food in the world. No fucking contest. From the tacos al pastor at Tacos Orinoco to the tostadas de pulpo at Cien28; the amazing arroz verde at Quintonil and the elote, ayyyy guey, the elote in the streets of Mexico City! Not to mention my mom's home-cooked meals. I'ma cry.
But, yes. Eating/drinking whatever the hell I want is not always a smart idea. So, a few semi-healthier options for the days I can't splurge on cheese and Intense Chocolate Ice-Cream from H-E-B, but still want to be a fatty:
- Grilled Chilli Lime Chicken Fajita Salad. I just prefer spinach instead of romaine lettuce, and remove the sour cream. Sour cream is gross.
- Spicy Sriracha dolmas from Whole Foods: Ah.... Thanks to Anne for showing me the path to happiness.
- Nopales salad: Nopales, salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil, onions, white vinegar, serrano peppers, cilantro, lime.
- Avocado: NEVAH TAKE AWAY MY AVOCADO. AVOCADO = LIFE
- COFFEE: I don't get fancy with my coffee. Give me a fresh brewed drip coffee first thing in the morning, and I will find PEACE. However, Toms Roasting Co. makes an amazing iced vanilla coriander latte, for those days when I need a little sumthin' sumthin'.
- Topo Chico: Forever grateful that Austin has accepted Topo Chico as a thing. It's, like, officially a thing, guys. Oh, and to the people who say I'm a "total Austinite" for loving Topo Chico: check out the label, fool. M-O-N-T-E-R-R-E-Y-M-E-X-I-C-O, son! #YouveBeenMexicaned
- Gin and Tonic: Because I'm not perfect.
And Everything Else
Comfort cannot always be found in a movie or the pages of a book. Sometimes I go out for a walk around my neighborhood, distracting myself with the beautiful little homes of Travis Heights. Sometimes I go to East Austin Succulents and explore, maybe return home with a new cactus to keep my books company. I like to name my plants (Buddy and Earl are thriving, people! But Felipe is long gone) and talk to them when I move around the house or when I take a break from writing. That's normal, right?
I also love photography, so sometimes I scroll through Instagram or look for blogs and find talented photographers, which leads to planning road trips to new places near and far. If I really need space, I get in my car and go for a drive. I used to do that a lot when I was a teenager. I could drive for hours. I still do it; it's good for the soul, bad for the wallet. But it helps clear my head.
And then, of course, there are the women who provide comfort in times of stress. My best friend Sylvia, who is currently in Panama with a broken phone, which is driving me crazy; my colorful friend Neha, who is great support in times of writer's block; the beautiful Le'Ann, who somehow always knows what to say to make me feel like a QUEEN; my sister-in-law Brittany, constantly there for big laughs and long talks; my mother and sister, who reach out from México through WhatsApp to check in, chat about Downton Abbey or the latest Twitter trolls; all the women I love to see when I return to México, and the women I have met in Austin who inspire me.
And then of course, there is the comfort in knowing I get to see #ZeeGringo every day, and play his latest goofy Instagram video on a loop.
I made this list for myself, because I needed a reminder that you can find peace and laughter in the smallest things and nearby places. Last night I watched Michelle Obama's speech, and it brought me such joy to know I live in a world where a strong Black woman can use her voice to affect change, where she can speak loudly and clearly and receive the respect she deserves. It may seem like a small thing to a lot of people, but those are the details, the moments and the leaders I try to keep in mind every day. For comfort, for peace, to help me start again.