Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Unwrite Your Life! Part Two!

(in which we write down another list)

So approximately four billion years ago, I wrote a list of all the things I needed to do before I moved to Seattle.  Since then, I’ve done most of those things, and also I’ve moved to Seattle.  So I haven’t really posted much in the meantime.  But I figure now is as good a time as any to fulfill a somewhat specious promise, no?  Well, here it is.

Things I Want to Do Sometime Before I Die
(because it would kind of be too late after)

-Hangliding.  Or sky-diving.  Or something that could definitely, definitely kill me, but has safety precautions that are supposed to make you feel better about it.  No base-jumping, though.  That just seems stupid.

-Climb Mount Rainier!  Climb more in general, too.  Rainier’s a lot closer now than it used to be though, so it gets to be the name on this list.

-Go camping in the Badlands.  Mom and I stopped a little while there on the trip out here, and they were fucking amazing, and I definitely want to go back and sleep there.  Possibly stare down a wild animal or two.

-Go on a really extended camping trip.  I used to go on two-or-three day ones when I was a kid--with my childhood biffel Liz, with Girl Scouts, and with the private school I went to for the first 3 years of Elementary.  Anyway, I loved camping.  I haven’t done it in a long time, and I’m definitely pickier about sleep-things now, but I miss it heartily.  And I really want to do it for a longer period of time.  A week or so.  This is a little bit connected to the next one on the list--

-Live with the Amish!  For a little while.  Basically I have this fantasy of cutting myself off from technology completely.  I know, people are supposed to freak the hell out when they contemplate a separation from their beloved iPhones, but first of all, I don’t have an iPhone, I have a Blackberry.  And second, I love the idea of being cut-off.  During my senior year of high school, our English teacher had us read Walden.  Pretty much everybody else hated it.  It was a little tedious--the dude goes on for pages about the supplies he bought.  PAGES.  But secretly I really loved that book.  And I loved a number of the related assignments, too--especially the one where we had to write out an essay by hand.

I have long been a notebook-lover.  I have a huge box of all the notebooks I’ve ever used up, and I also have a collection of notebooks awaiting my future abuse.  Like my teacher at the time, I love the idea of writing things by hand.  But the practice does not fit well into modern life.  Still, I’ve always kept a notebook, and after senior year, I started thinking of it as a kind of philosophy.  Writing things out by hand forces you to slow down; I think it’s something most people would benefit from.

Anyway, embedded in that is my secret fantasy of running away from the universe and going to live with the Amish.  Totally cut off from the bill-paying, email-reading needs of everyday life.  Of course, this is probably the one thing on the list that I will never do.  Mainly because I’m pretty sure I’d have to eat meat, and I don’t think I could do that.  Plus I’m deathly afraid of those giant, old-timey dresses.

-More running.  I haven’t run in a while, but while I was running, I couldn’t seem to crack the two-mile marker.  I could get up to about 1.8, but I just couldn’t breach that last stretch.  Anyway, I’d like to get back to running, and I’d like to run 2 or 3 or even 4 miles at a time!  I know, it’s a lofty goal.

-Visit, like, everywhere. Primarily Europe.  I’ve only been outside the United States twice--once to Mexico, once to Canada.  Mexico was about a day, and Canada only a few hours.  I happen to live a lot closer to Vancouver now, so as soon as I can, I plan on pushing my outside-the-US experience past the 48-hour mark.  And who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll make it off the continent entirely.  I’d like to see the Parthenon, and also Hogwarts.  Okay, sure, maybe there is no Hogwarts.  But how can I really know unless I check?

So that’s about it for now.  Except for the obligatory “become a millionaire” one.  Stay tuned for part three, where I elaborate on what happens after I do become a millionaire.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brand New Horizon

(in which we discuss the finer points of city living)

A few weeks ago, I got stopped by a homeless guy on the street.  I still felt new to the city: I knew the routes to and from all the necessary places, but they didn’t feel like habit yet.  And the nighttime walk home from work still looked like the opening scene in a horror movie.

In short, the homeless guy unsettled me.

Most of the time, I can duck around just about anybody and get away without real interaction.  I think a lifetime of shyness has prepped me pretty well for walking through a city; my immediate response to any reaching out is to shrink and squirm away.  But I was distracted that day.  I had a build-up of texts and emails on my phone, and I was still within sight of work, so I hadn’t yet built up the wall of resistance.  Anyway, he took me by surprise, and before I knew it, we were in some deviated form of conversation.

He started off with a “hey, can’t you help me out.”  I think I responded with a deer-in-the-headlights look.

He proceeded to tell me that I look like a Barbie doll, to hug me without my permission, and to ask if I could give him some sanitary napkins.  I answered, in an especially girly voice, that I didn’t have any, and ran away.

I had to throw the shirt straight in the laundry, of course.  I’m not saying all homeless guys are dirty, but I think if they’re asking for sanitary napkins, you can probably assume.  Besides, who knows who that guy has hugged?

I thought about it the whole way home.  I tried to think my way through it, so I could shrug it off me like a sweater and forget it ever happened.  I ended up wondering most about the Barbie thing.  I don’t look remotely like a Barbie, so it puzzled me.  Maybe he thought all young women look like Barbies, or maybe all white girls?  Or maybe someone had told him that was the best way to give a lady a compliment.  Or, maybe, he really thought I looked like one.  I usually clip my hair up so that some of it kind of bounces over the side, and I don’t know--that could look like a Barbie thing?  The bouncing bit?

Or maybe I should stop trying to analyze the verbal stylings of a man asking for sanitary napkins.

Anyway, when I got back to my apartment, I just thought, “Hey, welcome to the city, kid.”

The homeless here are ubiquitous.  I don’t know if Seattle has an especially high population of homeless, or if I notice it because the city is so beautiful and full of trees and you can always see the water, or if I notice it because I grew up in the suburbs and I really don’t know what city life is like.  But much like the napkin man, that fact of it took me by surprise.

I guess I’m used to it now.  I’ve got my bob-and-weave style down.  I know the way home and I don’t care about taking it at night.  Sometimes when I walk the overpass, I just stand there a while.  Twenty feet to my left is a mini-park, and most nights, someone sleeps there.  The homeless go to bed early.  By my standards, anyway.

Sometimes I play a game.  I don’t know if the game is evidence of my slack morality and poor character, or if it’s just a self-protective reflex against a horror I have no power to change.  I call it “Homeless or Hipster?”  It’s pretty self-evident: I see someone who looks unwashed, unshaven, carrying a bag or two, sitting on the ground.  I take a guess.  If eventually I see a Starbucks cup or a sketch in progress, then hipster it is.  If one of the bags is a trash bag, then it’s homeless.  Sometimes I never reach a definitive conclusion.

When I think back on the napkin man, it brings up a few tangential thoughts.  I don’t like to be hugged by people.  There are exceptions, but in general, I’m not a hugger.  Of course, being hugged by a homeless man is a little worse than being hugged by a clean, employed acquaintance, but I would request neither.  Unfortunately for me, a lot of girls like to hug.  When I was a kid, girls liked hugging, and squealing, and makeup, and Leonardo DiCaprio.  I was kind of into black eyeliner, but the rest of these were lost on me.  Still, I was acutely aware of how well, or not well, I fit with other girls, so I learned to adapt.  I don’t shrink away from the hug.  I let it happen, and I don’t even wince.  I do tend to over-pat though.  Excessive back-patting is now my thing.  I think it’s my involuntary method of distancing myself from the hug.  You can get the girl out of awkward, but...

One of my housemates in college was sitting in our living room one day, reading about prisoners on death row.  They’re all in isolation, and they’re there for years.  The isolation drives them a little insane, in the strangest ways.  Apparently more than a few of them start acting out with the intention of getting the guards to beat them up.  It’s been so long since they’ve been touched by another human being that even this rough treatment is preferable to nothing.

I can’t help but connect the story of the prisoners to the napkin man.  I don’t have any words to give the connection, but it’s there.  I suppose it’s another self-protective reflex that we ignore it.  But sometimes I wish we wouldn’t.  I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t.  I don’t know what there is to do.  And I guess most other people don’t either.  So we back-pat a little excessively, give a heavy sigh and a shrug, and go about our days.

The shyness has served me well.  I know just how to lock down any connection, any unwanted emotion, and shove it in a box somewhere.  I’m never touched by anything unwanted for too long.  Already, the napkin man has faded from unpleasantness.

I don’t know what disservice I do myself with this.  I don’t really have the time to figure it out.  Who ever does?