This blog's title comes from a Bill Bryson quote “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
It is the greatest reward and challenge of stepping outside of your door. This blog will hopefully be a source for updates and communication as I wander.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Two costumes deep and
nowhere to wear them. A few bags of check-out counter candy run-off in a last
minute panic that trick or treaters were going to come by our apartment door. I
may put on my Angela Chase costume all the same and eat Almond Joys with Jordan
(heheh – Jordan) while we watch Hocus
Pocus on the pull-out couch. This will have to be enough holiday for now,
because keeping pace with multiple lives is an exhausting business: work,
writing, French class, cooking, fires on the beach, old friends coloring the
west coast with an odd sort of implied time travel. Maybe I’ll pull it together
for late-night Halloween karaoke. It’s possible… but I doubt it.
The kitty surveys her carnage.
The cat has eaten my Mac
cord. Literally must have
swallowed pieces of it while I wasn’t watching, because not only is it in chunks,
it is substantially shorter. She is a strange bird these days – racketing from
room to room like a furry, white comet making little chirruping noises as she
goes. She follows me while I fold clothes, clean the mirrors, look for my keys
and she finds various perches from which to observe and evaluate my behavior.
She is tolerant, if not affectionate, but oddly more involved and invested in
the goings-on of the apartment than she ever was back in Seattle. And now she’s
eating electrical accessories when they’re plugged into the wall. I worry about
I worry about all of my
time on a motorcyle, too. In my experience, the most dangerous thing about being
on a motorcycle is also one of the best things about it. Not the speed or the
risk, either. It is the quiet of it. Not, certainly, the quiet of the engine or
the wind that harasses even the most smartly buttoned leather coat or the roar
of other irritable cars on the road – the internal quiet. Without music or
conversation, there is really nowhere for you to spend time but in your own
head. On a long enough ride, you can take some truly meditative journeys and
find yourself at the top of Mount Diablo a bit surprised at having arrived on a
peak from which you can see most of the surrounding country. One considers the
validity of one’s contribution to her job, the state of climate change, whether
our democratic process has really imploded, if living up to one’s potential is
actually that satisfying, the regrets
of past conversations. It is possible that you speak of this to no one.
Traveling to Pittsburgh in
the fall means pumpkin carving and friends and the smell of leaves that reminds
me of a brick-buildinged campus that is almost a decade in my rearview. It
means that people I love have made a small child that has the most perfectly
pink lips. This small human and I looked at each other: me, considering the
first very tenuous weeks of her life that brought her here to my lap and what
it will be like for her to grow up in a generation that has always
known Facebook. I wonder what her prom dress will look like. Her trim little
shoulders seem to shrug when I sit her upright on my thighs and frown over these
Sandy in Nantucket, MA
Much of my family (real
and chosen) is back East – scattered from Maine to Massachusetts, New Hampshire
to New York. They stayed away from their windows and hoarded water in their
basements with a resigned New England air as Hurricane Sandy pummeled the coast
this week. My mother lost power quickly enough, even though they never
cancelled her classes that she taught at school that day. My cousin on
Nantucket Island sent photographs of water flooding the port and Main Street and
surrounding the lighthouse of Brant Point. My pregnant cousin is still without
power, ferrying herself and the rest of the family to the community center to
periodically recharge their phones and shower. It is possible that they won’t
have electricity before the election on Tuesday. A close friend’s basement
flooded waist-high in Brooklyn and their car bobbed down the street and away.
With my hair like this... it hurts to look at me.
These are the things that
I’m thinking about on my couch while wearing a plaid shirt and black leggings,
wondering whether it’s really a complete costume if I don’t dye my hair red.
I’m thinking about the disparate driftwood of experience that is making up the
lives of the people I know, feeling (as ever) a bit overcome.
Look, it’s a strange year
and we’re caught in strange currents. Nearly everyone I know is living their
life at a higher volume than they’re used to; making bigger moves and maybe
vibrating at a slightly higher frequency as a result. People are moving,
quitting their jobs, writing their novel, buying houses, having children,
sitting in hospital waiting rooms, falling in ill-advised love, and going back
to school. Maybe it’s 2012 and there’s an enormous prophesied bird-dragon
headed right for us, maybe I’m in my thirties and so are many of the people
that I know and love, and we’re going through those big life changes that we’ve
been hearing about all these years. Or maybe I’m thinking too much. Maybe it’s
not all as connected as it seems. But troubling as some of these realities are,
I like thinking of my life as more comprehensive and inclusive. The boundaries between
me and you don’t feel quite so linked to geography that way.
Last Saturday a small pack
of East Bay kids crossed the bridge and headed for Ocean Beach: three
scientists, an architect, an ex-theater kid, and a socially ungainly writer who
would be the oldest person in the group. We dug a hole in the sand and built a
fire that evening.
I’ve never made a fire on
the beach (though I’ve certainly spun fire and watched fire spinning by sunset
before on the shaded, well-trafficked beach of Golden Gardens in Seattle). But
simply watching a flame swallow branches and old cardboard is better than most
forms of entertainment that I pay for (internet, film, shows, museums). It is a
pleasantly primal experience to hold a stick and marshmallow near a flame and
watch it brown. The fire stays in your clothes for days afterwards, causes you
to lean into strangers, share blankets, lick your fingers of small dabs of
chocolate. It feels more permanent than most things in our commercial break
Just another pack of
strangers discussing the weather, politics, stories we’ve loved, times that
we’ve been left, nicknames we’ve adopted (by the way, I now refer to Jordan as
“zombie”), all edging around the borders of vulnerability wondering what’s too
much to share or say.
But what if nothing was
too much and you could just say what you meant at that moment? What if you
could tell strangers that you were lonely and have them put a blanket around
your shoulders? What if you could tell the girl with the glasses that you think
she laughs better than most of the people that you’ve known in your life? Maybe
you could talk about what faith is like, where it gets lost, how difficult
trust is, how grateful you are. What if simply saying things out loud felt like
a solution? Perhaps that could be California in October.