Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I really like being 30.
West Fir, Oregon

I imagined turning thirty would be like a countdown before blasting off and so far my reality has lived up to that vision. I should clarify that my idea of blasting off is not as explosive or dramatic as you might think. 

I didn’t go skydiving or deep sea diving or shooting up in a rocket. Actually, I’ve spent the first week of my thirties being an extreme nature lover.
Crater Lake
West Fir, Oregon

I hiked around Ashland and Crater Lake, wearing a skirt that matched the deep blue of the water, getting scratched by thorny shrubbery, taking photos everywhere. My mission has been to relax as much as possible. I’m now house sitting for a friend, a job that involves watering rhododendrons, lying in a hammock and listening to a Miguel Zenon station on Pandora with the speakers turned up. With one leg dangling off the side, I rocked myself, only once getting pulled out of my reverie by a truck tearing down the road, blasting a song about bitch slapping. When I stopped by my mom’s apartment today for boxes of macaroni and cheese and clean clothes, I overheard a fight in the next apartment, in which one woman was threatening to bitch slap another. It’s a little strange to hear two references to bitch slapping when the only language I’ve heard all day has been expressed through trumpets and saxophones.

My fee for staying at my friend’s house is reading her manuscript about Glacier Bay, Alaska. The book suits my contemplative mood. She writes about how people live in harmony with the earth, how people are shaped by their experiences and how land, just like us, changes over time. People and places are temporary while ideas remain stagnant.  I suppose to really love a place you would have to be accepting to it changing over time, the same as you would for a person. To be happy with people and places we should be open-minded and try not to get stuck in mucky, rigid ideas. Developing ideas about people and places can be dangerous. The idea of holy land has resulted in pointless bloodshed over the decades, simply because people are trying to mold a place into an idea.
Crater Lake

Diamond Peak

While I’m contemplating my friend’s book, I’m also thinking about how delighted I am with my friendships and the people who have changed and grown with me over the years.   
My friend Mel gave me a lovely handmade card for my birthday and a necklace with two small clocks in it, so that I can wind one to Portland time and one to whatever time zone I happen to be passing through. My friend Khira gave me a palm reading and was somehow able to tell from looking at my hand that I have a big heart and am a caring person. I usually look at a person’s eyes to determine this, but she must know something I don’t about pathways to the human heart. My palm also revealed that I might have a nervous breakdown when I’m about 45. But that’s okay. Right now, I’m just focusing on how cool it feels to be thirty.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Week in Chicago

Sitting at the Museum Cafe at the Art Institute. 
I spent a week in Chicago while still readjusting to being back in the states. After coming back from Qatar I thought I’d be able to endure the inexcusable heat, but my delusional resilience only made for more agony spent under the sun. 
Millenium Park
I stayed with friends in Andersonville. Even though the setting was different from their old Portland home, my friends’ way of life seemed to have been frozen in a time capsule. Everything about them was as I remembered it, but having an old friend in town forced them to do things a little out of the ordinary. I got one of my friends to accompany me to an awesome bookstore called Quimby’s, which is loaded with small press books and self-published zines. I felt like I’d come to the right place when I saw the local cartoonist, Corinne Mucha, has published work exclusively for Quimby’s. A scenic bike ride along the North Shore and manicure/pedicures was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

We did our time-honored activities, such as pub trivia, listening to NPR in the morning and doting over my friend’s adorable dog.

The heat shortened everybody’s fuse and one night when the apartment was filled with awkward silence, I decided to go out by myself. I went to a jazz club Al Capone used to frequent. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I’d left Chicago without going to a jazz club. At the Green Mill I drank a couple glasses of red wine and talked to friendly people. 

Sue, the largest and most complete T Rex at the Field Museum
Patience was tested back in Andersonville, where things were getting uncomfortable. During one conversation, one of my old friends called me a prude and I had to let that sink in, as it was the first time I had ever been called that. Perhaps being in a hyper conservative country for the past year has upped my modesty. I had been so preoccupied with the idea of readjusting to American life, I hadn't thought of how my old friends might need some time to readjust to me. Their prognosis is that I've changed, and the changes aren’t in my favor. I’m not as funny as I used to be. I’m more serious and harder to relate to. I myself would have used the word grown, not changed. I am still the same in essence, but I’ll tell you how I have changed. 

Since I've been back home, I’m constantly capturing trees and flowers with my camera. (I didn't see many of those in Qatar.) I’m still feeling fortunate for being in a country where individualism reigns and hang-ups over sex cannot determine the taboos for everyone. For a while, I was still taken aback when I saw short shorts and revealing blouses. And I’m still adjusting, although I think I've finally settled in. For a couple weeks, when I heard a noise in the distance, I expected it to be followed by the call to prayer.
Buckingham Fountain

My week in Chicago, although way too hot, gave me reason to go back. I want to go back to the Art Institute and see everything. So far, that museum has the most impressive collection I've seen: a plethora of paintings by all the great masters and statues and artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome and the Byzantine Empire. I would also like to explore more ethnically diverse neighborhoods. And of course I want to check out Quimby’s again and go to more jazz clubs.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Giant Mechanical Man

There's so much pressure to talk and seem funny and interesting these days. I think that's why people usually empathise with shy, socially awkward, inarticulate characters. In the movie, "The Giant Mechanical Man," the conversationally-challenged characters have a hard time getting by in a noisy city where almost everyone has earbuds in, watches porn on $5,000 TVs and has raunchy conversations, regardless of who is standing nearby. Hardly anybody reads anymore, except for the book, "How to Have Winning Conversations," which the obnoxious author promotes tirelessly. 

Unlike the other other loudmouths in this movie, the two destined lovers spend most of their time being silent. Tim is a street performer who makes a living painting himself silver and holding still. Janice was previously employed by a temp agency that would hire her to stand for long periods of time in an art museum. After getting fired, she has anxiety dreams in which her teeth are falling out, making talking even more difficult. Her problem isn't that she is crazy or unlikeable; she is just quiet and having a tough time thriving in a noisy world. Tim's problems stem from the same issue. Janice's sister thinks her unhappiness can be cured if she dates the delusional self-help book author who teaches her how to have winning conversations. In contrast with her horrible date who only talks about himself,Tim gives her a winning compliment. "When I look at you, I see you."

I loved this movie. Jenna Fischer from "The Office" is fall-in-loveable and Topher Grace is hilarious as the self-absorbed self-help book author.