October 29, 2006

Let's go out to the lobby...and get ourselves a drink!

I grew up fairly poor. My highly educated parents (M.Theology, Valparaiso; JD, Harvard) chose to be downwardly mobile and raise their children in inner-city Cincinnati. We were always looking for cheap or free things to do. One of our favorites was walking ten blocks to the Emery Theater every weekend for a cheap double-feature. I was the same age my parents had been when I saw Snow White, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Meet Me in St. Louis, and My Fair Lady. I could contrast a Ziegfeld Folly with a Busby Berkeley Musical.

One of my exciting local finds here is The Stanford Theater. Just a brief drive and I access a cheap double-feature every weekend. Yesterday featured A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and People Will Talk. Sure, it was me sitting among all the old people that live in a 5-mile radius, but we all had fun. No really, in the finale of People Will Talk half of them sang along to some Latin (German?) song. (Now my Dad will leave a comment upbraiding me for my ignorance…it's probably the Stanford anthem)

Movies back then were made under strict censorship laws. No visible blood. No open mouth kissing. No cursing. Both of these movies featured pregnant women. As a result, I discovered the censors did not approve of obviously pregnant woman. No wonder I was shocked by my sister's post-baby stomach. In the movies women left the hospital as skinny as they went in!

Watching A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was both foreign and familiar all at the same time. One of my close friends in college let me interview her for a class on memoir and biography. She shared how her mom would take her and the two other kids onto the bus and daily pretend to have lost the bus fare. How they had a collection of groceryhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif store carts in their back yard. Abuse. Drugs. She also told me her favorite book of all time was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She added that none of her friends had ever read the whole book despite her begging. Well, that was as close to a dare as I ever needed so in I waded. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the plot because it’s a painful read, but I made it to the end!

I watched the movie and thought of my friend. I remembered my own childhood, hiding in the backseat of the car while Mom waited in the food stamp line. Getting day-old bread at the Freestore. Never having stylish clothes. Having a Dad who was a wonderful playmate, but not always reliable (absent-minded and always late). Having a mother who spent a lot of time tense and scared about money and quick to criticize my father’s tendencies.

Yet those feelings seemed so far away from my current life. My husband is very worried about our current finances; we’re eating into our savings and I need to get a job. Fair enough. But it’s been difficult for me to feel the fear in the same way he is. I know what poor feels like and we’re nowhere near that tension wire. I can drink milk with my French toast and order a drink in a restaurant. In my world, that’s rich.

October 28, 2006

My life is SO hard

I've been collecting pictures for a post on what our neighborhood is like. Trying to find words for how I feel living here, but it's not coming easily and so I haven't known what to say. It's easy to write when life is full of events, much harder when it feels small and quite ordinary.

Dooce, Finslippy and Waiterrant are able to write about small events in a way that makes one care, or at least laugh, but I'm finding it hard to figure out a way to make furniture assembly at all exciting.

I haven't become aggressive in the job hunt and am frankly feeling discouraged and tired when I think about climbing up that hill. I found this apartment because I was proactive and went on a driving expedition. I know that finding a job is similar, I need to be networking, lunching, getting to know people. I definitely need to get busy with that, not just for the sake of our finances, but because I'm getting bored. Honestly, how do the idle rich survive? Go and sit at a club? Go shopping? Take up needlepoint or still-life painting? It's a weird thing to complain about, but knowing that all I have to do in a day is send out emails, make a couple phone calls and read a book, is beginning to pall. (I can feel waves of sympathy coming toward me. The way you're all feeling my pain means so much, really.)

It's making me think about life. What gives it meaning? Where do I find my worth? As a designer, ultimately I just make garbage. No matter how award-winning a brochure, invitation, or annual report is, it gets tossed. Since Mom's death, I've known that relationships matter more than any job, but I've yet to form any new ones here. So I walk my dog. I tweak our living space. I email prospective jobs. Sure I'm spending some time with God and that's been good, but it's weird not to have momentum toward a specific purpose in those times. Has my meaning been based in how busy I am?

It's easy to think that if I had a kid there would be more meaning, but these long days in an empty house are making me think about that differently. What if this was all I had PLUS a baby? I couldn't go for long rambling walks, or window shopping excursions. Couldn't spend hours on the phone. Couldn't easily go out with the couple friends I have here. Couldn't go to San Francisco on 12 hours notice to meet my cousin. I know life would just be different and I would adjust, but yikes! (Again, my apologies to all you Moms and Dads out there--it's a weird thing to complain about)

In any case, this post feels weirdly whiny and 'poor me' and I hate being like that. Just letting you know why it's been hard to figure out something 'bloggable'.

October 24, 2006

Talk about a hangover!

I have a significant klutz factor. When I go rock climbing I always come home with bruised shins. I run into things, I get random bruises. There have been a few times in my marriage when I worried that people would think my husband beat me. "No, really, I DID run into a door."

On the first night in Ireland, I managed to bonk my eye into the corner of the bathroom sink in the middle of the night. (note: it's better to turn on the light in a strange bathroom rather than go on auto-pilot when you're half-asleep) I soaked a washcloth in the coldest water I could manage and pressed it against my face over and over. All I could think about was meeting new people with a black eye. I'm in a foreign country. Do I explain that I was an idiot and smacked myself with the bathroom sink? Or just let them think my husband beats me? Fortunately, other than some redness and swelling in my cheek, there was no mark.

A few nights ago I played tug-of-war with the dog. When we'd finished, I lay on the floor as she lay (I thought) behind me, near my head. All of a sudden, "Whop!!" I nearly blacked out. She'd hit me in the temple with the knot of her rope toy! Not just a gentle tap, she'd wailed it against the side of my head. I hadn't filled the ice tray in the new apartment yet, so had no recourse but sleep with that side of my head facing up and hope for the best.

As I drifted to sleep all I could picture was walking around a new town, or God forbid, being called for a job interview and having to explain that my dog beat me up. Yeah sure, lady!

Thankfully, the swelling and bruise are hidden by my hair. That was the night before the sofa excursion. When the salesman moaned about having drunk too much wine the night before, I was able to exclaim, "I'd be more sympathetic, but last night my DOG beat me up!"

October 22, 2006

Who is that masked man?

Yesterday we participated in the great American tradition of conspicuous consumption. We left our Victorian looking camelback sofa in Baltimore. It fit the living room there and frankly, wasn’t really my style. Within the context of that house it was perfect, but not otherwise. The original plan was to say yes to a free sofa that our friends had. In fact we did. They brought it last weekend and no matter what angle we tried, it was too long and wide to fit through the door. Since then we’ve haunted IKEA while sampling every available sofa. We picked one we thought would be great, but realized it might not fit through the door of the apartment.

[I need to point out an unusual word: ‘we’. Every other time we’ve set up an apartment or a house (ok, ok, twice so far), Jrex has been drowning in his PhD dissertation or dying oncology patients. All valid reasons for not being involved. Well he’s currently trying to set up a new lab and one of his least favorite activities is organizing space. Apparently couch shopping outranks organizing. The truly surprising element in all of this is that not only does he have opinions, he has STRONG opinions. I’m definitely not used to this. Don’t get me wrong, I love having him involved, it’s just an adjustment.]

Given our doubts about the IKEA couch, I searched the net and found a place in San Francisco that does custom couches for the price we were willing to pay there. We ventured north yesterday morning. First, we had to agree on a degree of cushion softness. After much up and downing the truth came out: I married Goldilocks. This one is too hard. This one is only a little better. Ah, this one is Just Right. We quickly agreed on the style we both liked. Then there was the debate about color. He likes gray and brown. Gray is depressing and brown makes me think of couches in the 1970’s buried in oak-paneled basements. We found three shades we both liked. Back and forth we went between fawn, camel or peat. The attentive and intuitive salesman finally came over and exclaimed, “Any one is perfectly safe. Look, it’s tan, tan, and tan!”

He was right. We picked the light tan and left quite happy. In three weeks I’ll show you a picture.

On the way home we stopped off at Costco. The ‘sad’ event last week was that my cheap TV bit the dust. Dead dead dead. I don’t think Jrex was upset at all as we toted our ‘real flat’ TV up the stairs. Nothing LCD or plasma, but its big. It picks up Chinese, Spanish AND Korean stations without cable access. He sat there all night flipping channels with a goofy grin across his face.

So, not only does he have strong opinions, the guy who could make do with a reed mat in a mud hut is joining me over here on Shoppers Island. This could be really bad. If only I could persuade him that shoes are a valuable commodity.

October 20, 2006

Friday Five

As suggested here.
Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.






[Please note, when I create art it is often an outlet for the 'darker' emotions in me. It usually sounds sadder/angrier/more despairing than I usually feel. This poem is no exception.]

All of life, today, a whirlwind
swirls of possibility
fears of no ability

Sitting on a cracked foundation
Waiting for lightening
to split this darkness
restore uncharged balance
highlight the high ground

Waiting quiet in this den
new rooms
new tastes
new sounds
same mate
same dog
same fate?

Are we the prey?

October 19, 2006

ON and off

During my college years I lost touch with all my friends from high school. Most of us did, right? I bet most of you at least called them during your Christmas break? Not me. I would throw myself into the social whirl during the college semester. (Yes, Dad, I also learned a few things in my classes) I visited friends. Listened. Discussed literature, the meaning of art, why there are so few GOOD Christian artists, etc.

I couldn't afford to go home for the short breaks. I spent them touring the east coast: October Break in a cottage on Cape Cod; Thanksgiving in DC with family friends; Spring Break I persuaded my Grandpa in Florida to fly me down to visit him. Each year was a variation on that theme. I thrived on activity and profound friendships. When I came home for Christmas? I collapsed. I hunkered in my room reading books. I called no one. I barely left the house. My version of extroversion is either ON or off. Usually on, but when it turns off, it's all the way. I know I've mentioned my need for 'days of nothingness' before. I think those are mini versions of my three-week Christmas-break shut-down.

One advantage of a husband who works long, unpredictable hours is that I end up having a lot of time alone in our house. Waiting. But in the waiting: reading, cleaning and/or playing with the dog. When he goes out of town, I pack the schedule and end up tired and drained by the end of it. I think some of his introversion has rubbed off on me over the years since I've gained a much greater capacity for silence than I ever had in college.

Why is this relevant? Its happened these last two weeks. Sure, in part I was busy constructing bookcases with the ridiculous tools IKEA thinks sufficient to assemble their behemoths, but I was also avoiding life. I poured myself into lots of relationships in Baltimore and needed time to shrink my world. To not have to focus on others. To breathe in the quiet. To organize, sort, and cleanse. Now that the apartment is 95 percent finished, I'm emerging from the cocoon. I'm ready to start to live here. Not just to have a new address, but to start to connect. To push in some roots.

I'm ready to rejoin the blogging world. I might even start to call people again. Sorry if any of you have felt neglected!

October 12, 2006

Shoulda, coulda, woulda

Hmm...in recent comments, Weigook mentioned that she was always able to pick up a wireless signal in this area. Tonight was the night that we finally got internet access. Of course the only jack that seems to be working for the wireless router is in our bedroom. During my exile in the office/guestroom, I tried out the wireless connection. With no trouble at all, I automatically linked to 'GutNet'. Cool! Though the name seemed odd.

It's not our network.

Jrex is still fussing with the set-up in the other room. I could have been on-line this whole time! Granted, I've been working full time just unpacking, going to IKEA to buy shelving units, unpacking more, organizing, running back to IKEA, walking to the hardware store, opening yet more boxes. You get the idea.

The office is more or less put together. The bedroom is mostly done. The kitchen is great. I found a TV at Salvation Army for $50. Once I get a job we can get a Lord-of-the-Rings-worthy TV, but this will work in the meantime. The biggest problem is that I still have eighteen more boxes of books to cram in to very little space. Even though we left a lot of stuff behind, it's difficult to go from over 1400 square feet to 850 or so.

When we had to pick a user name for our new internet service, I suggested 'toomanydamnbooks@sbc.com'.

October 2, 2006

Tonight, there's only you tonight!

We pick up the apartment key tonight!! As wonderful as it's been to stay with friends we enjoy, I'm looking forward to having my own space to organize. It's been hard not to have a permanent home. Of course, after seeing Darfour photos recently, I feel like a spoiled American as I whine about not being settled...

After tonight, I'm not sure how much internet access I'll have for the rest of the week. I did discover on my last trip that people here in NoCal don't believe in free internet access. Starbucks has a subscription room for wireless, the library had 15 minutes free for 'guests', and the bookstores don't seem to have cafes. Seattle this is not. Therefore, until I hook up the apartment, I may not be able to tell you much about it.

A bit of randomness:

Muttola has finally recovered from a case of limber tail syndrome. We think that playing in Pyramid Lake and then sleeping in the car messed her up for the weekend. It was so sad, yet funny, to watch her try to play and then whip around to nudge her flaccid tail.

Our friends are both Taiwanese. While driving to dinner the other night, Mr. J commented he'd forgotten to switch to his contacts so he could see better. O offered to drive for him. In the back seat Jrex grinned, "Cool, we can have a Chinese fire-drill". I glared at him mockingly, "That's terrible!" He looked confused, then chagrined, "Why? Oh, because they ARE Chinese?"

Found out yesterday that there is a fantastic farmer's market at the Mountain View CalTrain station. I'll be two blocks from the Menlo Park CalTrain, so it will be easy to hop down two stops and get fresh produce. Mmmmm....sage honey! $3 Pancetta. Pluots.

The food here has been fantastic. So far we've had Vietnamese noodles, then Vietnamese Pho, Japanese 'tapas' and Mexican burritos (complete with South of the Border pacing as the waiters all watched futbol). Most exotic of all, we were introduced to InOut Burgers. A California institution, these burgers are available for the price of value menu items at most other restaurants. There is an unwritten set of shorthand for ordering them: "animal style" includes grilled onions and extra sauce; "neopolitan" gets you a shake with all three flavors swirled together; "a home run" gives you one single burger, one double burger, a triple, and a four-stack. None of those options are listed on the menu. Ah, mentoring at its best!

Do any of you have advice for other fun things I should be doing in this area? I've yet to get up to the city, so San Francisco suggestions are welcome!