I've now ridden my bike as much in Portland today as I did in Berkeley in the last 9 or 10 months. It's sad how little that's saying -- I rode to a (very exciting, actually) consignment store 2 miles from my house, bought some five-dollar curtains, and rode back. Granted, I got lost on the way and took an exciting detour through the most sharply uphill portion of Portland I've yet found, but it was less than five miles round trip.
Still, I may never stand or walk again. I should have stopped at the hospital that I passed on my detour and asked them to send me home in a wheelchair. I could have sat gloomily by the picture windows of my living room, huddled in my chair with my new curtains draped like a blanket over my aching legs. Why, I would ask myself, why was I not content to walk? Why did I crave speed and convenience and panache? Why was I determined to join the legions of high-velocity hipsters zooming down the streets with the clicking of gears and the flashing of calves? (Hussies.) Did they learn nothing from the lesson of Icarus? Did I learn nothing from the lesson of Icarus?
Just because I'm 26, I see no reason I can't also be 87 and curmudgeonly. Hrmph.
Last night being Friday night, and me having an increasing problem of having lived in Portland for two weeks and never gone out anywhere at all ever, I decided to stop clutching my metaphorical pearls about how I don't know anyone here and just go out and do something fun.
So I went to see Harry Potter. By myself.
It's important that you not listen to what my sister has to say about this movie, except for the bit about how awesome Rupert Grint is. Oh man did I love that movie. I think I want to see it again so I can throw popcorn at Professor Umbridge and snicker behind my hand at the utterly perfect plausible deniability of there being anything whatsoever going on between Ron and Hermione. Ahhhh. I didn't get more than a block away from the movie theater before I had to call Katie and enthuse to her voicemail.
It being still only 9:30 at that point, I walked over to see my renting roommate play a gig in the Pearl District. She's a guitarist, banjoteur, and singer of no mean abilities, and she was rocking a deeply hip little cocktail lounge where you can buy an alcoholic bubble tea or a beer with maté in it (see, my green tea and stout experiment was simply ahead of its time and lacking the confidence of extreme pretension). I suppressed my sneering and snickering enough to chat with some of my roommate's friends whom I'd seen around the house, and after the tea bar shut down we went across the river to drink tea-free beer in a dive bar and mock my roommate's terrible luck with girls. It was good fun.
Then I spent today looking at curtains, and tonight I declined to attend a presumably rockin' queer dance party so that I could stay home and cut my hair and brush my cat. I am presently listening to Aerosmith.
Cool and uncool are now succeeding each other so rapidly as the new thing that I for one have lost all track of which one is which. I finally unpacked my bike today because of my roommate's adorable friend's rousing, impassioned, drunken oratory on what the fuck good it is having a bike if you can't ride it, but then I realized that if I start riding it I'll be a bike-riding Portland hipster and I can't remember if that's in right now or not. Also I have to get a helmet, and you see? You try to do something cool and by the time you're done it's all cluttered up with uncool parts.
I love my tiny, hippie, arty, crunchily well-intentioned city. I do think it just may be possible for me to live here.
There is never going to be a new Harry Potter book for me to read ever again.
Pages 705 and 753 made me angry. (That is not a spoiler.) And what the hell was up with that thing on page 706? But I thought the bit that started on 663 was neat.
I stayed home sick from work today. Hell to pay may result, since I don't have any sick leave to take yet, but I've decided for once to be unapologetic about taking care of myself. Usually if I wake up feeling sick I spend an hour arguing with myself about whether I'm really sick enough not to go to work, and decide in the negative only to go to work and be miserable, contagious, and useless. Frequently it involves remorse about being out of the office when someone might need me, or guilt at what persists in feeling like shirking, or apprehension about what will happen vis-a-vis my pay or sick leave balances. It's late for a New Year's resolution, but perhaps a New Job resolution is in order: I will remember that it is possible for me to occasionally have a legitimate need to not be at work.
(Also, I will split my infinitives if I damn well please.)
The dream that I had during my afternoon of fitful sleep punctuated by waking up groping for tissues was this: I was in the middle of making a peach cobbler when I was attacked by a giant panda, which bit me on the elbow. I was annoyed, because earlier that same day I had been bitten on the back of the neck by a different giant panda. I stomped back down the scrubby hillside on which my panda encounter had occurred, returned to the outdoor half-kitchen in which I had been making my cobbler, and announced irritably that I wasn't going to bother making cobblers for people if pandas were going to keep biting me. Then I went and got on a flying boat.
Information will be available at lightning speed, across the world, at the touch of a button. Obsolescence will be, if it's not too paradoxical, obsolete. New information will supersede old information quickly, easily, and uniformly. The equal access of the internet will mean that the people farthest from the centers of distribution will finally have news, statistics, and teaching materials that are as up-to-date as any that can be had in the urban centers. And vice versa -- critical information generated in outlying areas will no longer wait, by virtue of its geographical remoteness, to catch the attention of the rest of the world.
Look! You can see it in action around you, today! You, over there in Jamalpur. You, in Istanbul. (Did you know that there is a city in Turkey called Batman?) You, in Harari, Milwaukee, Pernambuco, Jyvaskyla -- you can all read the same information right now. You are far away from one another, but you can look across all that distance. You have this in common.
You can all look at pictures of cats sitting in sinks. It brings a tear to my eye.
Unstarred items are awesome but predictable. Starred items make my head hurt to think about. Keep in mind that 90% of these are made of heavily lacquered wood.
I'm starting to suspect that there's a power tool to blame for all of this. Someone got a tool that made sticking stuff in walls really easy, and suddenly every wall in the house looked like it needed something stuck in it. I've never heard of an Automatic Countersunker before, but I think I've now seen all the evidence I need to believe in its existence.
I write to you now from my new house in Portland, which is ALARMINGLY AWESOME. Holy built-ins, Batman -- I've never seen so many cleverly countersunk cabinets in one place, and the only place you'd find more wood than this would be a porn set. Roommate #1, who owns the house, has clearly put a metric crapload of work into it, so that where it was once an old, quirky and trashed house, it is now an old, quirky and beautiful house. The floors are a mix of hardwood and the same linoleum pattern that my parents still have in their den; the walls are being converted room-by-room from strangely endearing wallpaper to daring designer colors (my room is, as promised on the phone, a shade of medium pumpkin), except in the basement where there's so much gleaming wood panelling it feels like a hunting lodge. It's a forest of doors -- the second floor is away up a narrow wooden staircase hidden behind what I was certain was only a closet door. The basement is away behind another door that I've been told sometimes spontaneously locks itself, and all down the basement hallway the wood panelling turns out to be doors into weird little utility closets. The cupboards in the garage still list someone's hourly rates for auto repair, the den in the basement opens off a door you could drive a smallish truck through, and I will throw a root-beer kegger down there with the built-in tap and the walk-in refrigerator. I will.
I nearly slept in my walk-in closet last night simply because it is big enough to do so.
I took a shuttle home from the airport yesterday, and chatted with the driver about Ethiopian food and North Portland. Seven years ago, he said, his shuttle company wouldn't come near this neighborhood. Today I look down my street and see flowerbeds and new paint jobs, and while I've been sitting here waiting for FedEx I've seen my neighbors cruising by on bikes and walking dogs. I don't know how much my owning roommate paid for this place, but I don't doubt he'll get it back double when he sells the place.
When I got in last night I got a deluxe tour, from which I finally tore myself away because my renting roommate was trying to offer me a burrito. I accepted; my owning roommate handed me a bottle of cider, and we sat around the kitchen table talking until bedtime. They are delightful. One is reassembling, in the backyard, the yurt he built for Burning Man last year. The other is subversively teaching small children to like interesting vegetables. We are having a barbecue this weekend. Anyone who would like to drive 629 miles to attend is warmly welcomed.
Now that my life is neatly(ish) packed into 23 boxes of varying sizes and weights, I find that I have missed the cutoff time for the pickup I wanted to schedule. It would have all fallen into place so beautifully... and so uncharacteristically. Perhaps it's just as well; now I have to juggle rides and flight changes, but at least I don't have to reconsider my impression of the way the universe works.
This entry brought to you by 1:54 am.
I need to get me some Mission of Burma to listen to. I've been appreciating my mp3 of Moby singing "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" for years now without ever realizing it was a cover, and since discovering the original I have realized that I must know more about the people who generated this remarkable song. Moby's version is good, but I can't listen to him without thinking of those scary years at the end of the 90s, when people were telling me that rock was dead and I hadn't yet discovered that the indie world was already proving them wrong. Mission of Burma, then. There are a few songs in the world that sound on first listen like they've always existed in my head, and "Revolver" is one of them. I must have more.
For your edification, here is a partial list of other ones. Topics and lyrics are irrelevant; they're just tunes that I can't imagine being composed by actual human beings instead of by divine intervention and/or a direct line into my brain.
The Magnetic Fields - Bitter Tears
The Shins - New Slang
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
The Traveling Wilburys - End of the Line (shut up)
The Get Up Kids - Mass Pike
Iron & Wine - Love and Some Verses
The Psychedelic Furs - All That Money Wants
The Sisters of Mercy - Marian (shut up)
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Death Cab for Cutie - Photobooth
The Pixies - Here Comes Your Man
I have a plane ticket for mid-day Wednesday, and a letter from Portland State asking me to report for work on Friday. Yes, this Wednesday. Yes, this Friday. Yes, I'm still in Berkeley. Yes, I am panicking. I am panicking over the FedEx website, I am panicking over my jumbled boxes of incompletely-packed belongings, I am panicking over the question of what precisely I am doing moving out of the state and leaving all of my friends behind but there's nothing new about that, I am panicking over whether to change my plane ticket for a later flight, I am panicking over the scared looks my cat keeps giving me every time I move something away from where she's used to seeing it, I am panicking over the fact that I left my wallet in Erica's car tonight (but Michele did it too, damnit), and I am panicking over tables of transit times and delivery hours.
The fact that my most recently-tattooed arm is peeling and I can't pick at it is actually, all by itself, causing me nearly as much anguish as the entire preceding list of panics. I'm not OCD -- not exactly -- but as my sister can also tell you, my family contains a fair number of odd obsessions and sensitivities. Katie gets unnerved by experiencing too many textures at once (she recently told me she likes the part of the chocolate chip cookie with no chips, for that reason). Our parents wash their dishes once by hand and then again in the dishwasher. My dad derives a deep satisfaction from giftwrap without a single wrinkle in it. It is my mother's opinion that each individual pair of briefs needs to be folded before being put in the drawer. Me, I can't handle having my skin feel funny. This is one of the reasons I've always had such a miserable complexion (the other being genetic) -- if I see or feel a bump or scab, I just have to keep touching it and worrying at it and wishing for it to go away. Sometimes it's a while before I even realize I'm doing it; other times the awareness that there's a funny skin thing going on somewhere just nags at the back of my brain and I can't concentrate on anything else. This is one of the latter times. The tattooed bits still sting just enough that I'm reminded they're there, and they're peeling so rapidly that when I turn my head and look at them it looks like a furry pelt of peeling skin. I can't resist just brushing my fingers over them, but then the feeling is so weird that I have to cringe and wrestle with myself and refrain from trying to make it all go away. I tell myself firmly that I need to just wait for it to finish peeling and then it'll be back to normal, but that is precisely what I have so much trouble doing.
How do you know that I am panicking? You know because I feel the need to share far too much information with the internet. If I am blogging, I can neither pack nor stress out about my peeling skin. Incidentally, this is now at least three reasons why I am the last person on earth who should get tattoos. I'm indecisive and change my mind and style all the time; I'm terrified of needles and get lightheaded even thinking about them; I can't handle my skin doing weird things. Hey, let's go get someone to use needles to permanently stick ink into our skin which will then be flaky and weird for a solid week! Wheeee!
I need to go to bed. Hell with you, boxes. You can ship on Tuesday.
According to five seconds of research and to my great astonishment, no one has yet registered the domain name www.therearedementorsinmylaundryroom.com.
What? There are. I just turned off Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and went to get my laundry, and I saw them. They were lurking in the back of the room trying to look like pieces of flapping insulation, but I knew.
I speak to you today from the other side of ouch. Yesterday I had the last of my three closely-spaced tattoo appointments, and I now sport slightly more than half of a big, beautiful, brightly colored fruity backpiece. Note for posterity: slightly more than half in this case means about $1300 and 11 hours of work. It was my original intention to finish the whole project up before leaving for Portland and spend maybe $1000. This is an important lesson for those planning large tattoos, far more important than the more commonly expressed ones like you'll look weird when you're 80 and that's a dumb thing to get a tattoo of. Those are not lessons, those are opinions. This one is a lesson: you will probably spend more time and money on it than you mean to. Unlike the preceding examples, this may actually help you in your decision-making.
I am not on a soapbox, I am merely putting off talking about how much of a pitiable weenie I was yesterday. I'm not normally a paragon of stoicism, but yesterday I spent the first thirty minutes of my appointment taking extended breaks while my ears rang and spots swam in front of my eyes. Normally reality takes a ten-minute recess and little birds twitter around my head, and then all is well. This time the birds kept going so long that the other artists in the shop paused in their tattooing to watch how green I was turning. Henry Lewis, whose image is largely based around being a jerk to everyone, was apparently worried enough to start being nice to me. Other customers, all of them bony girls getting large colorful tattoos, gave me pitying looks.
I have excuses -- it was hot, maybe my lunch wasn't solid enough, maybe I hadn't had enough water to drink -- but I think it was probably just that by the time I walked in the door I had already had enough of it. I was tired of having that sore, stung, sunburny feeling on a new patch of skin every week, I was tired of flaking and peeling and remembering not to scratch, I was tired of turning over in my sleep and waking up stuck to my pajamas, I was tired of the room and the decor and the paintings on the walls I'd stared at for too long already, I'd played every word game I could think of with the words on the flash sheets, and I knew I wasn't going to walk out with a finished piece no matter how long I sat there. And when I say "was", I actually mean "am". It's gorgeous. I'd love for it to be finished. Mike doesn't have another free appointment before October, but if he did, no amount of gorgeousness would persuade me to take it.
But I will take with me to Portland two tomatoes, four tomato blossoms, six shadowy tomato leaves, and one winged eyeball more than I would otherwise have had.
One thing that has been stressing me out lately is how to get my less packable belongings to Portland. The books are heavy and will cost a fortune, but they go into standard-sized boxes with minimal resistance. In fact, little besides clothing is more cooperative than books in fitting into a variety of box configurations. My bike, for instance, is probably the least pliable and compressible item I've ever owned. Runner up for the position was my guitar, which has all the nonstandard shape of a bike without any of its durability in shipping situations, but that problem was neatly solved by unloading it onto Jacob this weekend*. For the bike, not only do I not have a conveniently envious friend to take it but I also actually really want to have it with me in Portland.
I refuse to add a bicycle to my list of plane luggage when I will also be carrying a cat, a backpack (like the kind you go backpacking with) and one or two duffel bags to boot. I don't even know if you can get an airport shuttle that'll fit a bike, and while TriMet is bike-friendly I can't begin to imagine taking that much luggage through a train transfer.
That leaves shipping, and shipping means a box. Bicycles are not box-shaped items. Boxes are rectangular solids, while bicycles are combinations of dozens of unrelated geometric shapes assembled so as to maximize the volume-mass ratio of the whole. A box the size of a fully-assembled bicycle is a ridiculously enormous item. What I am saying here is that I was required to partially disassemble my bike in order to put it in a box that FedEx would not charge me $150 to ship. But me, I am no bike mechanic. I can pump up my tires but don't yet know how to change one. I can spell derailleur but hardly know what mine does until it stops doing it.
I called a local bike co-op today to find out if they would box my bike for me, and they told me that they don't box bikes for people but I could come in and get a box and use their tools for free. But see earlier remarks under "I am no bike mechanic", and I hesitated to be the n00b who couldn't be bothered to take a bike maintenance class but would nonetheless hang around their work area misusing tools and getting in people's way and needing help. So I just picked up a box and stomped hopefully with it up the hill to Kingman where my bike has been living. And lo, I found one of my bike-geek former housemates standing in the front yard stripping paint of off his own bike frame and I asked in a competent, ready-to-learn manner** whether he'd help me with my boxing.
Lo and behold, he would. And he taught me things like "this pedal goes this way but that pedal goes that way" and "you can take this sticky-out axle thing out of your wheel like so". And now I have a bike in a box and I know exactly what it took to get it there, and I'm pretty sure that when I get to Portland I can buy a hex tool and a crescent wrench and put it back together myself or with the help of a housemate. I may not yet have the encyclopedic knowledge and sheer brute competence of the hardcore do-it-yourselfer; I'm still a do-it-with-some-help-or-maybe-yourself-if-it's-pretty-easy-er. It's not impressive and it hardly rolls off the tongue, but at least it will roll down the street.
Also, if I had gotten the bike shop to box it up for me, they probably would have wanted to be paid in money instead of hummus.
*Who may find himself short one cord which would help attach guitar to pedal to amp and which still resides in a box in my room. I will attempt to transfer it in some way before I leave.
**I have found that asking for help in a cutely bewildered, endearingly helpless way gets one told not to worry as the task is fully done by others, while asking in a competent and determined way gets one actually taught how to do it and asked to put one's finger here, hold that, do this, and other useful hands-on things. Sometimes***.
***There are certain people at whom I routinely refrain from shouting because they cannot learn to listen to me when I tell them which kind of experience I am asking for. They mean well. If I count to ten very slowly I generally remember this.