| I hear these words at least two times
a week when the phone rings between her apartment in Omaha and mine
in Albuquerque. There's nothing I look forward to more than our marathon
phone chats that range from a telephonic book club, to work, to personal
relationships, to medical research. She's one of my lifelines.
One of the things I love most about talking to Julie is the way
she retells stories and events that happen to her as if they were
scenes from a play; she reenacts all the characters in different
voices and inserts dramatic pauses for extra effect.
She regales me with facts and figures from her network of friends,
eclectic reading, and extensive Internet searches. Many of her conversation
begin with "Can I read you some of this?" or "Research
shows..." Julie also has a mental archive of obscure song lyrics
she draws from to illustrate any situation, as in "It's just
like that Alanis Morrisey song." (One of my favorite things
about Julie is that she persists in calling Alanis Morisette Alanis
Morrisey despite frequent corrections).
I love Julie for being the ultimate friend- utterly loyal and patient.
When I need information to solve any problem, she finds it and sends
it along immediately, even if I never asked for help. She dispenses
advice to all her friends on subjects from quitting smoking to watching
the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She's the only one I know
who can do this truly without judgment- and when you don't follow
through, she gently brings it up again a few weeks later. In some
cases, this has gone on for over a decade and Julie just persists
like water dripping on a stone.
Some of this persistence comes from her absolute conviction that
she is correct in all her beliefs. This leads her into many arguments.
She claims to hate conflict, and yet, all you have to do is mention
something that contradicts her beliefs (like why old U2 fans should
be glad the band "made it" instead of resentful) and she
is off and running! I think she likes the chance to exercise her
very logical and analytical mind. You wouldn't know it looking at
her paintings, but by day she is an audiologist at a research hospital.
She'll talk your ear off about, well, ears if you let her.
But really, her work in audiology is to support her true love,
painting. Julie first started to paint as an undergraduate at Pratt
Institute in New York City. Her professors used to tear her apart
because she was accepted at Pratt for her skills in drawing and
didn't paint very well. She couldn't paint, just knew she wanted
to paint. In spite of some devastating criticism, she persisted
for four long years, and at the end of her senior year she won First
Prize in Painting in Pratt's Juried Senior Fine Arts Show.
I know Julie's painting well, because at one point, my apartment
became the unofficial Julie Christensen Gallery. Her paintings lined
every available wall; I actually broke my toe on one propped up
in the hallway (Mental Monsters for Lunch). Her style is transforming
along with her own inner transformations. Although she is becoming
more focused on realism, she combines this with a vision of her
inner world. I love the way her paintings are full of symbols like
little monsters or moths that represent her insecurities and anxieties.
You just have to look at her work to see how intense she is. I can
see us at 80 years old, hanging out in a retirement home, her paintings
on the walls around us as we talk about books, how scary teenages
look now, and when her next art show will be. Even in her old age,
she will be painting and showing. I am eager to see how her paintings
evolve over the next 50 years. I am eager to see how Julie evolves
over the next 50 years.