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What makes us happy 

The cynics at CL get mushy

Camaraderie during crisis

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;/For he today that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother.” Perhaps it’s hyperbolic to compare the state of modern print journalism to the Battle of Agincourt. Nevertheless, Shakespeare’s words from Henry V evoke a certain beleaguered esprit d’corps that feels entirely relevant. Perhaps you’ve read about how my chosen industry is going through what I’ll call a dramatic transition (rather than drawing on words like “spiral” or “throes”). At a time of massive uncertainty and no shortage of bad news, I keep on keepin’ on thanks to a renewed sense of camaraderie with my fellow writers, editors and other co-workers. A streak of gallows humor goes through our editorial meetings, lunches and water-cooler conversations, but there’s also greater mutual support, appreciation and encouragement, even compared to the time before things started, uh, transitioning so dramatically. We may be cynical, but we’re not cynical about each other, as befits a band of brothers. And sisters.

Mid-day reprieve

The windows are open, and the sun is shining brightly through them. It’s about 3 in the afternoon, and I’m drowsy from a morning of running weekend errands. My lunch has settled in. Now I can. It’s time to lie down. No need for cover, except for a throw to keep my feet warm. The trains rolling by rumble me to sleep, and it’s good, deep sleep, too. I can expect vivid dreams to entertain me — they say the most revealing are those caught during midday slumber — and a fresh start for the remainder of my day.

Circumstantial bliss

Speaking only for myself and like-minded melancholiacs, the question of what makes me happy cannot be answered by a simple recitation of things I enjoy. Instead, it provokes an internal debate on whether happiness as a semi-permanent state is truly achievable. I think it safe to say I’m not exactly hard-wired for happy. That said, here’s some shit that gets me stoked: Hitting a string of great yard sales on a sunny Saturday morning. Driving through quaint villages in the Eastern European countryside. Sitting down to a plate of perfectly fried catfish. Discovering a fantastic movie or record I know I’ll enjoy for years to come. Finding a great new cocktail bar or pub. Learning that some politician, evangelist or right-wing moralist just got busted for cheating on his wife, having anonymous sex in men’s rooms, or illegally buying prescription painkillers. Ask me again under those circumstances and, who knows — maybe I’ll say I’m happy.

Kitchen-table joy

Sitting at our kitchen table on linoleum floors that we long ago swore we’d replace with hardwood — but never did. Surrounded by 1980s wallpaper that we said we’d rip off the walls — but never did. Laughing at the faux Christmas tree that still stands in the living room — in April. Seeing my father lounge in a recliner and laugh at television shows about repo men. Realizing that my family is quirky and awkward and everything I’d ever want it to be. And that we’ve been through hell together and can sit at a kitchen table, laugh with one another, and smile genuine smiles. Even if it feels sometimes like things are falling apart around us, in reality they’re not.

A sunny day in paradise

Sand. More specifically, between my toes, mysteriously under my bikini, in my hair, and my eyelashes — but essentially sand, in all the wrong/right places. Plus sun, of course, beating down in that manner that makes you feel empty, baked and a little bit cancerous but so very, very warm. Sun when it's making the sand look so white that it's blinding, sun accompanied by the peculiar coconut smell of tanning lotion that we lather on to protect us from the sun, but which usually just increases our chances of having sand stuck in all the wrong places. So, the ocean is the final piece. Watery waves of bright blueness washing up against you, taking away the heavy heat of the sun, the oily, nutty cancer-staving lotion and, of course, the sticking-everywhere-the-sun-doesn’t-quite-shine sand.

Soup and marriage

My happiness has four main ingredients. The first three are white beans, escarole and garlic. I’m obsessed with food, and I spend way too much time in the kitchen when I should be doing other things. But this isn’t my recipe. This is the recipe of the mop-headed and disheveled guy I’m about to marry. This is what he makes when I’m too busy to cook. It’s one of the only things he knows how to make.  Sometimes I try my hand at it, but it’s never the same. The recipe needs him, its fourth ingredient. But first, the garlic. He always browns it too much, which used to bother me — except I eventually realized the earthiness of browned garlic plays perfectly off the velvety cannellini and nutty escarole. Next, the beans. They must be Bush brand. None of that organic stuff. Those are too firm, their juices too watery. Finally, the escarole. He’s picky about the origin of those leafy greens, too. He prefers the heads they sell at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market: messy and uneven, a little rough around the edges, and perfectly imperfect — much like that fourth ingredient.

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