Sunday, November 21, 2010

Displace/Diss Place/'Dis Place

Low, full sky. Wrapped like gauze and heavy with rain. Short distances for the eye. You stand on a roof and are confronted with a horizon torn like construction paper - green for trees on the bottom half, ash for the clouds. The ripped, cut, and glue-sticked feel of an organically assembled Pacific Northwest landscape surrounds, encloses, and comforts those living in its fertile cocoon.

I started to have this deep sense of longing for this place- I think they call it homesickness. In French, when you miss someone or something, the verb is reflexive, so it's not "I miss ____". It is always, "_____ is missing from me." I think this is truer.
The homesick feeling started about a week and a half ago and I couldn't pinpoint quite why...
friends aplenty here, and good ones at that. I've been making headway on my quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie, so, it couldn't be that. The apartment is coming together slowly, so I'm not sure it's that. The weather has been great and the leaves are changing and every day brings something new here, so why the feeling that something is actually missing from me?

And I realize that this is the longest I've ever been away from home.

To fight this feeling, I have been reading Ken Kesey's masterful work of Pacific Northwestern prose, Sometimes a Great Notion.

"You must go through a winter to understand.

For one thing, Jonas couldn't see all that elbow room that the pamphlets had talked about. Oh, it was there, he knew. But not the way he'd imagined it would be. And for another thing, there was nothing, not a thing! about the country that made a man feel Big and Important. IF anything it made a man feel dwarfed...Important? Why, there was something about the whole blessed country that made a soul feel whipped before he got started. Back home in Kansas a man had a hand in things, the way the Lord aimed for his servants to have: if you didn't water, the crops died. If you didn't feed the stock, the stock died. As it was ordained to be. But there, in that land, it looked like our labors were for naught. The flora and fauna grew or died, flourished or failed, in complete disregard for man and his aims. A Man Can Make His Mark, did they tell me? Lies, lies. Before God I tell you: a man might struggle and labor his livelong life and make no mark! None! No permanent mark at all! I say it is true.

You must go through a least a year of it to have some notion.

I am 350 pages in and am sure it will rank among my all time favorites (barring any type of bullshit hooligan nonsense ending like that other book I've said this about, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle).


Last Monday at work:
"Hey, clear your plans for the week."
"I already did in the evenings, since that VP is going to be in town and you said we should be ready to go out-"
"Nope. The whole week. You're going to San Francisco tomorrow."

And so, on Tuesday, I was on a plane to San Francisco, back to the Best Coast, for a full on real work training at our headquarters, along with another new Account Coordinator from Chicago.

Having been to SF many times and having so many wonderful and close friends there, I was thrilled at the opportunity rather than put out or annoyed at the inconvenience (it was literally such late notice I had to go out and buy socks rather than have clothes laundered).
I got to stay in a gorgeous big hotel room all alone, see said friends, meet many great people at our office there...
and surprisingly, came to find, that after only 10 weeks as an inhabitant of big, mean, New York City, I was a big, mean, New Yorker.

WHY ARE THERE NO CABS!?! I screamed silently, and then, aloud.
WHY ARE YOU ALL WALKING SO SLOWLY!?! I wanted to yell at everyone in my general warpath on the sidewalks.
WHY IS IT SO QUIET!?! I asked aloud to myself at 1 AM in my luxuriously fluffy hotel bed.
I had been so eager to get out of NYC and then all I could think about was getting back to its constance: constant energy, constant flow of traffic, constant noise levels, consistency in scenery - block after block of the same coffee shops, repeated in an endless Escher-esque tessellation.
It seems I have developed quite the passionate love/hate affair with this place and basically fostered a burning hatred for the "city" of San Francisco.
Yeah, I said it.

I arrive in New York late Friday, around midnight.
I sleep late Saturday, waking only to let the exterminator in the building.
I go back to sleep, and then finally rise around 1:30. In the space of the next few hours, all on foot, I am able to pick up coffee and a bagel, buy detergent, do a load of laundry at the laundromat,walk to the local second-hand store to purchase a nightstand, go grocery shopping, and walk to the post office to retrieve a package.

Feeling quite accomplished with my day's work, I hustle upstairs to tear open my parcel as reward.

Reward doesn't even begin to describe it. The modest cardboard box from my dear and darling friend Drew at home says simply that it is a belated birthday/care package and CARE doesn't even FINISH describing it! The contents include:

- One ready-make Chocolate Chip Cookie package
- One bag of Lemon-Herb Ricola throat lozenges
- Two bags of local Portland coffee (!!!)
- Two pairs of delightfully warm and soft winter socks rolled into a
- Gigantic green Oregon Ducks mug!
- A bag of holiday PEANUT M&Ms
- and a cute little Duck LED light keychain that QUACKS.

All those things from home make THIS place feel like it could also be my home.
That was the best gift, tucked among those goodies.

Friday, November 5, 2010

When is a house a home?

We have been living in our apartment for about two weeks, now.

Due to the costs of “getting on one’s feet,” and the fun circus it is to start getting paid at a new job, the apartment remains woefully empty.

One of my roommates has picked up the distinctly New York practice of “street shopping” wherein one simply drags things home that they find on the street, size and practicality of the item depending on the level of alcohol consumed.

We have forbidden anything upholstered, but she has reaped a butcher block for the kitchen hall, a nightstand shaped like a fish, and not one, but two broken microwaves.
Other than our beds, and some fabulous $9.99 clothing racks from IKEA, that is actually all that currently furnishes the place.

Which begs the question, when does a house become a home?

Because right now, I feel like I’m living in a storage unit that has a bathroom.

I realize how little time I actually spend in the apartment, and thus, don’t think it’s urgent to furnish it. But then I think maybe I don’t spend time there…because it’s not furnished.
We’re all in a financial state that calls for a diet of dry ramen and 99 cent slices of pizza, so it’s sort of hard to justify filling a kitchen with fancy pots and gadgetry.

When I got paid the other night, I did actually buy food at the nearby market, and was dismayed to find it was a fancy, expensive specialty market. I spent $50 on hummus, a bag of pita chips, a packet of shredded cheese, a packet of sliced pepper jack cheese, one cucumber, a tray of pre-cooked turkey meatballs, a roll of tin foil, a box of red beans and rice, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, baby carrots, one can of soup (with a pop top, because we don’t EVEN HAVE A CAN OPENER) and roach traps.
Yes, roach traps.

But that’s a story for a different day.

I don’t think about it much but people keep asking me how the apartment is, how I like living here, and I’m realizing the state of affairs regarding the desolate apartment is really affecting my answer.

Like, one of my favorite parts about living in this city is that you can actually have someone pick up your laundry, do it for you, fold it, and return it. For 75 cents a pound. It is frankly fantastic, and I can justify it as it’s the monetary equivalent of buying detergent & dryer sheets, and spending a few hours in a dingy Laundromat feeding machines with quarters. But this experience was almost ruined for me this week as I got all my clean laundry home and…had nowhere to put it. I lined a cardboard box with plastic bags and put my clothes in there. Oh hey, ghetto dresser.
The raw materials of the space are great, as you can see:

It just takes a little effort, and money, and prioritizing, to create a haven in this crazy place. Which is something I hope to tackle this weekend.
Care packages welcome.