May 28, 2007

All the lives I'm not living

Alternative title: Stay/go, yes/no (I don't know)

Sometimes I am so tired of thinking about all the lives I'm NOT living, all the things I'm not doing. I want to feel like absolutely anything is a possibility.

I used to price apartments in other cities--Paris, Vienna, Barcelona--and try to imagine myself there. (How would I feel waking up with a view of the Eiffel Tower? Would it change the way I buy groceries? Would showering feel any different?) Once someone said to me, "Why do you do that? You're never going to live in those places." It crushed me. Maybe I really won't live in those places. It's not like I speak the language or have any job prospects there. But I want to feel like it's a possibility.

This contrasts with my strong urges to have roots and security--to have people who depend on me and whose day is not complete unless I am in it. There are no people like that and it's a very lonely realization.

My family would be happy if I moved back to WV and married a man who goes deer hunting and drives a big truck and has dirty fingernails and who can talk about things like carburetors and horsepower. We could have children who wear grubby, stained t-shirts and a house that needs a new roof if we could only stop living paycheck to paycheck. My husband would change the oil in our old minivan himself.

Oh my God.

To liberally borrow from a Tom Waits' song I heard for the first time recently, I packed up all my expectations and moved out to California. It turned out that I was better at starting over than I thought I would be. I've never known what I would be doing after June 30, 2008 when my fellowship ends. At first I was so homesick I was sure I would go back to the east coast afterward, but now I'm not so sure. I like San Francisco. But will I ever have anything here? I don't know. Would Portland or Seattle or Philadelphia be any different? I don't know that either.

I guess I've just always wanted to feel like I was somewhere I belonged. I had it for a brief time in Richmond, and I'm not sure how to find it again. ("I know I'm at my house, but I wish that I were at home...")

I do know that I need to get out of the mindset of waiting for my life to begin. It's here. It's now. It's underway.

May 23, 2007

An undercurrent of air horn.

Two separate things tonight, both stemming from conversations with friends and I felt like processing them further here.

First, a memory.

A few years back I read The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I liked it pretty well, but there were a few areas where he described a person or a situation by which I was quite taken. One of these was a male character who kept a mental list of things that had been said to him to which he would periodically return as a "source of strength and sustenance." These statements were things like, "You're nothing like your father;" "Let's buy both!" or "I love the taste of your cum."

I was always struck by this idea because I, too, had such a mental list even though I had never thought of all the statements together at once. I tried formulating them in a coherent way so that I could describe them to someone else. So far I've come up with eleven items.

Believe it or not, there really is a point to this.

One of these items that I mentally cherished, although I had not thought about it in quite some time, consisted of two sentences my first grade teacher wrote on my report card. Mrs. Nease said, “Amie is very talented in art. Maybe you could check into an art class for her.”

I was terribly proud, because I really did love to draw and create things. I was even more excited when my mom enrolled me in an art class at the local YMCA. My eagerness diminished quickly as I walked in the class and saw that everyone was much, much older than me and they all had fancy sketchbooks and pencils that we couldn't afford. I still tried to do a good job, but I got frustrated quickly because it seemed like all we did in the first two classes was draw and shade pears. I was used to drawing much more exciting things, such as Luke Skywalker swinging on a rope with Princess Leia snugly in one arm, or sketches for roller coasters I wanted to design someday complete with people riding them, their faces locked in sheer terror with pens, wallets, and glasses falling out of their pockets.

Unfortunately, my art never progressed beyond the first grade level. Looking back, I think my teacher mistook my obsessive attention to detail and accuracy for talent.

For example, I used to create elaborate Indian villages out of Play-Doh. I tried to be as detailed as possible, down to rolling little individual logs for the fire between my thumb and forefinger and then blunting the ends so they would look freshly chopped. I insisted on making footprints in the “mud” all over the village because the Indians would have walked there. There were elaborate footprint paths between all the tipis, out to the canoe and back, to the fire pit, and around in circles where they had been dancing.

I also used to love to draw Santa Claus complete with reindeer and sleigh, except that I always got hung up by the one big bag of toys in the back of the sleigh that most portrayals of him showed. Tales of how he was "magic" and that they bag of toys was "bottomless" didn't satisfy me. In order to explain it to myself, I piled the back of the sleigh with multiple bags. And then, not convinced that this was indeed enough to provide toys to all of the children in the world, I would attach bags on ropes hanging from the rungs of the sleigh and slumped over the reindeer's backs.

I realized the sled would weigh too much for them to fly. The only way I knew how to resolve this problem was by adding extra reindeer reinforcements. By that time, I had already drawn Rudolph in the front guiding the way, so I felt I had no choice but to add extra reindeer and reigns off to the sides of the sleigh to provide additional flight support.

It was nearly a complete army in the sky by the time I got done. Or a chaotic mess. Depending on how you choose to think about it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Second, an annoying thought pattern. (Completely unrelated to the above story.)

I cannot even tell you how much it goads me to admit this, but it is a persistent problem and I'm hoping that slipping it in here quietly in between entries will be another step toward addressing it. This also stems from a conversation with a friend, incidentally.

I have noticed that if it appears that someone likes me, I am immediately suspicious of them. This is because I assume that:

1) They obviously don't really know me.
2) They are really screwed up themselves.
3) They have very low standards.
4) All of the above.

God, how annoying. Boo hoo hoo. But anyway, there it is. Let's move on.

May 8, 2007

I am nervous about my dining options.

I leave for Poland on Thursday. I'm a little nervous about what I will eat.

Today I bought Lonely Planet: Poland, and one of the first things I looked up was "Food & Drink." I'm not a sausage- or saurekraut-eater and I wanted to have an idea of what I would be up against.

The opponent sounds rather formidable.

Here are a few options:
1) nozki w galarecie - jellied pigs' knuckles
2) golonka - boiled pigs' knuckles served with horseradish and sauerkraut
3) flaki - seasoned tripe cooked in bouillon with vegetables
4) carp w galarecie - jellied carp
5) czernina - duck-blood soup

At least they know how to prepare pigs' knuckles in multiple ways. And what's the deal with jellied food?

After reading these things, I wasn't very encouraged. So I looked up some vegetarian options:

1) zapiekanki - a "Polish pizza" consisting of a baguette split in two and topped with melted cheese, chopped mushrooms, and ketchup
2) pierogi - Polish dumplings (I'll probably go for the potato-filled.)
3) placki ziemniaczane - potato fritters (Sounds remarkably safe.)
4) barszcz - red beetroot soup (I wonder if this will provide me with an indefinite lifespan?)
5) kopytka - Polish gnocci (I can definitely do this.)
6) leniwe pierogi - dumpling stuffed with cottage cheese (Ugh.)

Maybe I sound close-minded, but I'm just a little nervous. I think I may have to pack some Power Bars just in case.