n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

resuming the lifestyle

new snowshoesOff in the background I can hear sirens rubbing the skin off of some dog’s ear—the second time of the evening. And yet, or maybe not even with a yet, I am grateful to be back to what I amazingly realized has become a home (away from der homehausen) for me. I arrived on time, but the plane took 45 minutes to taxi in due to ice, and by the time I picked up my embarrassing quantity of bags…

---A note is due here because I truly am embarrassed. After traveling to Europe with a 100lb bag on my back and discarding a good 50lbs of it in a kamikaze dumping run that left its entrails strewn from Berlin to Italy to Spain and back again, I decided that traveling light should become my forte. In fact, I traveled with ss around Europe with a pack that not only gained levity, but also became well-oiled and worn in like a dirt floor. I could pack that mother in just under three minutes and that includes sleeping bag, tent, clothes for 8 months including fuzzies for Pyrenees mountain weather, camera, cd-player without which I am not made for this world, knife, pictures, notebook, pots and pans, flea collars for those fleas that followed me from farm to farm, apparently mistaking me for some giant ruffian pooch with a desire to be bitten (ouch), and so forth. ss, if anything, was more of a pro than I, but the two of us together earned our laurels and carried our useful devices around on our backs like some great neo-ankylosaurs.

I’ve always been proud of this fact. Even with our packs filled to the brim with tourist detritus equipped for our family—including a great package of Venetian glass—we still came back from Europe with only about 100lbs each, which became ever so slightly less when my Cecina vinerose starts were confiscated (which made me cry). This means we did not have the two bags that many were allowed, but merely the one each.

Ever since then, I have become something of a baggage snob. If you are carrying more than one bag, a small bag if your voyage is under two months, or if one of your two bags does not contain a plethora of bribes or gifts for family, then you are somehow messing things up, and really quite badly. I always sneered openly at the folks who had to gate-check their obvious too-large bags, or who had rolling suitcases for the weekend conference nearby. One of my good friends once made the mistake of bringing a blow-up mattress, two boxes and a backpack on our overnight car-camping expedition, and I made fun of her for it until she indicated nonviolently all the things one might do with a nalgene bottle.

But alas, on my return home trip, I had so many bags that I had to call a friend to pick me up because I knew I couldn’t make it back on the subway with any degree of comfort. Of course, I might have sloughed my itinerant 12lbs right then and there as I manhandled the two rolling-suitcases (one precisely 50lbs), backpack (50lbs), messenger bag, and two poster containers across the trestle threshold into the car, but it didn’t quite feel worth it. Then, on my way out to the car, a cute guy laughed at me, and usually that doesn’t bother me, but he was very cute and had dreadlocks to boot… it was as if I were seeing my own sneer on the face of someone slightly more attractive, and I didn’t like it too much.—

…my friend had waited a good hour over what we had both expected. What this translated into was that she needed to take me along with her to her late-night Friday tutoring lesson, which fate had it, was for Russian and set in the downtown area.

So, we drove through increasingly slushy slush in rushy traffic until we got belatedly to the Sears tower, or some other tower, and met a much rained-upon and bedraggled Oleg (pronounced ah-leckg for those of you who think this name disgustingly blocky, which most lovely Russian names come across as in English. Take for instance Xenia, which sounds just wretched on our tongues, but is pronounced in a whisperish kseynya in its home language). We then felt sheepish enough to take him to some swank bar-place with dim lighting, candles, and plush leather chairs, where we offered him booze and watched, to my great interest, as he became very very nervous and acted like he thought we were going to get him drunk, tie him up, and have very kinky American sex with him. He turned down the first round of drinks, which bh and I were certainly not going to do without, and made nervous conversation with us for awhile before the authoritative bh informed him that we, including me, should speak in Russian and see what was needed or known.

Da bozhe moi, it’s been a good 8 years since I’ve spoken more Russian than “izvenite pozhalsta,” and so this was quite the moment. Outside, the slush turned to full-on snow piling on wet ice, and inside, I learned to my great chagrin that while I still understand a little bit of Russian, I speak it in a form of Spanglruss:

Me: Ya zabwilla pochtee todo de mi russo, no ya izuchala ruskuyu literaturu por tres anos en mi escuela.”

O: Tohzhe izuchala ispanski?

Me: Da! Como znayesh?

O: Skolka idea.

BH: Ha ha ha.

Yeah, I guess that’s what happens when you learn one language passably and another not so passably. But it was a fun conversation and I even remember the word for chess (shakmarti), and since it wasn’t technically my tutoring session, I could get up and go to the bathroom, or order another drink, or wander around. On the second round of drinks, Oleg finally capitulated, although it had come out in our conversation that he was only 20 years old. I considered this explanation for his extreme anxiety about drinks, when as I remember it, the Russians I hung out with in Petersburg never once turned down a single drink, and actually would insist on everyone having more rounds than was human(e)ly feasible.

After his one drink, quickly swallowed as the snow turned blizzardy, we all went outside and sluiced our way to the car. Oleg was quite charming and pretended that he didn’t know where his red-line station was so that he could flirt us all the way back to bh’s car. Bh’s word, which I don’t frequently use—peach—was rather apropos as a descriptor. And I, oh I, was very happy to be back where this sort of encounter happens and tall scrapers grow loudly.

Once at home (after a harrowing adventure on the snow-ice streets with me wondering if bh had had too much to drink, and distracting myself from the answer by pumping her about her family), I was happy to note that my humble abode was not broken into. Filthy and beyond utterly disgusting with dust-bunnies, stray hairs, refuse from our quick exodus from school, and globular accretions on our kitchen floor, true, but broken into, no. And this time around, the fact that my refrigerator has a habit of freezing its contents was a perk instead of an annoyance, because it meant that the milk that would have made me retch was instead safely encased and waiting for me to put it on the counter for my morning coffee.

---The Next

no snowparkingAh yes, after a long and only partially satisfying sleep on my thermo-pad, which had lost some of its charm after a month on a fluffy bouncy mattress, I was up and ready to mop the floor and tackle Chicago.

You know what I like around here? If I march around the streets all done up in my typical affair, feeling happy and smiley… people look at me. That doesn’t mean they like what they see, although some of the guys whistle or say hello or whisper things as I pass by, but it does mean that I feel seen. People look, and wow how it’s noticeable. I love this fucking city that sees me. I also love the Pacific Northwest that for some reason doesn’t see me (or Ecuador which saw me far too much, since I stuck out like some acromegalic), but it feels good to be in a place where I can walk around and realize that all my memories have been created by me, that they are light and jaunty, like me walking to Blockbuster and listening to music, like me on the subway, like me traveling to see friends or go to school. I get to start afresh here, make it what I want, and there’s nothing to run from (yet), and quite a bit to run towards.

***Musical Interlude, Joseph Arthur (religious but lovely)***
I don't know where we've been
Could you tell me where we are again?
And Jesus is my only friend
No one else knows who I am

I know I'll never make it on the cross
Spent my days looking for what my daddy lost
He was too proud to have a boss
Sold himself out then he couldn't afford the cost

No one knows how he felt
Hung himself in the county jail
There were those who said he would burn in hell
I don't think they knew him very well

Angel of love
Shine a light on us
I was born to be
Redemption's son
Angel of love
Shine a light on us
I was born to be
Redemption's son
I burnt my English muffin today. It lies like breaded charcoal out on my porch, but guess what? There was one right behind it. What an amazing thing.

When I think about it, my burnt English muffin is all my sister’s fault. The night before I came home she called me and said:

“Hey, I hear you’re coming home tomorrow.”
“Yeah! I can’t wait to see you. You going to be there tomorrow night?”
“Probably not.” (She was)
“Oh, that sucks, I’d like to see you. You wanna go out?”
“Sometime soon. Hey, do you have my toaster oven?”
“Oh, I have a toaster oven. Is it yours? Mom said it was just lying around and I could take it.”
“Well, I didn’t need it on the boat, but I need it now. Can you bring it?”
“Bring it?”
“Like in my suitcase?”
“Can’t you just go out and get another, or go to Goodwill or something for a new one?”
“Hey, I’ll buy one for you.”
“They’re pretty expensive. Why don’t you just bring home mine?”

(Imbedded within the subtext here is the fact that my sister thinks I’ve stolen far too many things from her. And maybe she’s right. Just a little. But I didn’t steal her toaster; mom gave it to me without knowledge that it would be coveted again. But that doesn’t dismiss the fact that I have, and grudgingly admit to, stolen the following items: her favorite Japanese-style shirt (returned), some stripy pants when I lost too much weight to wear my own (would have been returned if I hadn’t stained them, as is my proclivity), overalls (returned), other shirts, one or two cd’s, probably other things. I wish I didn’t have a history as a petty thief.)

“I burned some plastic on it.”
“How the hell did you do that?”
“Well, I didn’t think properly and was imagining it as more like a microwave, so I put a plastic plate in it.”
“I guess I can deal with that.”
“Oh, well, I scrubbed the plastic off. But it’s burned on the top.”
“How’d you do that?”
“My roommate put something on top and I didn’t notice.”
“I can deal with that too. Just put it in your suitcase.”
“You sure?”
“Okay then.”

So, now I’m using the oven broiler until I can get something more useful, but the problem with the broiler is that I am a f***ing space cadet and the broiler doesn’t automatically turn off like the toaster oven does. So, that means that I was happily reading away on my book when all of a sudden I was choking on smoke.

Speaking of smoke, I got to experience a great goodness hellishly wonderful bonfire before I left, and damn if I just don’t adore ee (who might be a baby-daddy unknown to him since I haven’t asked yet). I went out to his place where he was building an addition to his shop—one for blowing glass and fixing bicycles, a combination I didn’t ask too much about. The blown glass already created by his brother looked beauteous and I was seriously interested in learning how to do more.

We talked about blowing glass until the conversation shifted to building an amphitheatre and then on to the brother’s girlfriend’s slipping away, a sad topic that necessitated us going in and making homemade tortillas and macaroni and cheese with snails (escargot in a can). Actually a lovely meal, which set us up to drink a little more and go and try to wedge a fire out of the incredibly wet wood. It took some work and all, but finally started up, and I got to run back to the shop and fill a bag with wood chips (how do I think of these things, these random decisions like entering someone’s workplace and scouring the box underneath the chop-saw for leavings to cart back to a bonfire?), which sent up crinkling sparks. I spent most of the evening circumnavigating the fire and shoving the igloo-stacked shingles one-by-one into the fire when it seemed hot enough to accommodate another water-permeated piece. I made it back that night, thoroughly stinking of smoke and happy that I experienced a bonfire on my trip back home.

Back in Chicago home, my friends sb and js brought back Sir Cedric the Entertainer (my turtle), and he looked way healthier than when I left him, and then we went to watch a movie at a theatre called The Music Box. We saw this film “Café Lumiere,” a Japanese film of gargantuan quiescence, which apparently the reviews called indelible, but was closer to inedible. It was very very very very slow, and I thought after 25 minutes that I seriously was going to die and should walk out, but I was there with my goodfriends, but then all of a sudden, the female lead said nonchalantly to her adorable mother: “I’m pregnant,” and you could feel everyone in the theatre lean in, and one person laughed.

After that, the psychological buriedtext was slightly more palpable and I even could say I enjoyed it. The mother and father were hilarious – both avoiding talking about the “unwed pregnancy” issue, but in slightly different ways. The father used Brahmin like stoic silence and shared his potatoes with his daughter since “she liked them,” and the mother snipped at her in little phrases like “Your pot’s on the top shelf? Hmmmmmm. Your chopsticks are in a bottle? Hmmmmmm. Do you always borrow food from your landlady? I’m so ashamed.” And the boy who was wasting away in an artistic misunderstood stasis, flirted with the female character by ignoring her and recording his beloved train sounds on the subways. All in all, the antithesis of an action film, but with a little salvage work, it was not something to walk out of.

Oh, things are good, and this is far far too long so I’ll stop.
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