30 April 2013

not so

The sky looks fake tonight, like someone painted delicate little puffs onto a pale blue surface. It finally warmed up out there, and of course I have to be inside right now to get things done. 

Things. The all-important, unspecified things.

I've accepted this, because I can see the light green spring leaves waving against the sky, and because it's supposed to be beautiful and warm every day this week, and even more beautiful and warm on the weekend.

In April it feels like summer will never come, but of course I simultaneously feel like it's already come, because I'm here, in Gone West, and everything is new and lovely.

I talked to someone today who anticipated, when I said that I'd been so excited about moving back to Gone West: "Oh. I was expecting you to say that it wasn't as good as you remembered."


29 April 2013


On my walk from the bus to the office, there is a man who stands on the corner, smoking a cigarette, with a sign asking for money. He is there every morning, and he never makes eye contact, even when I smile and I'm ready to say hello.

I don't give money to people on the street. I feel the impulse, but I have seen too much of the damage wrought by drugs and alcohol, and the thought of my money contributing to that makes me sick to my stomach.

I do try to smile and make eye contact and say, "sorry," when someone asks me for money.

On my walk up the street from the office in the other direction, there is another man who stands on the corner, asking for money. He is there every day, and he asked me for money a few times, but I smiled and said sorry and we had a brief conversation instead. Now he just reaches out to shake my hand and say hello. 

I think I might have to buy him coffee soon and have a real chat.

28 April 2013

random Sunday points

Random point numero uno:

I will never be able to spell the word maintenance without spell check. That much has become clear in 33.5 years. 

Random point numero dos:

I drove out into the beautiful Gone West surrounds yesterday and even though I went camping out there once in the years between living here and living here again, it made me happy all over again that I get to live in this town. Those cliffs and waterfalls make my heart hurt with the beauty, in a good way.

Random point numero tres: 

I need to work on my Spanish.

Random point numero cuatro: 

Additional things that have made me proclaim aloud my happiness to live in this town:
  1. A roof-top bar on Friday evening, while the sun was shining.
  2. The general system in which I work here, which is much much better for the clientele with which I work than was the one in Universe City.
  3. El auto-bus.
  4. Thai iced tea and salad rolls from a little sidewalk stand. ("I just had to accept that I was buying the salad rolls solely for the peanut sauce," a coworker said to me, and that is completely true. I am buying the salad rolls solely for the peanut sauce. But wow, it is delicious.)
  5. A little store full of locally designed and sewn dresses, with a sale rack and the willingness to alter the next size up when they didn't have my size.

27 April 2013


My car has State of Happiness plates and even a license plate frame from a dealership in Gone West. It was driven in the Gone West metro area for the 14 years before I bought it. It belongs here as surely as I feel right at home in this city. No one can tell from looking at my car that I am anything but born and raised here.

And yet, I am realizing that I've never really lived in a big city with a car. Big, bustling highways have always been adventures, not daily life. 

Sure, I like driving 80 in a 55 mph zone in Chicago and being the slowest car on the road, but do I want to live that way? (Ha! Not that drivers in Gone West drive 80. Ever. This is a land of slow drivers, unless they are either 1. 19 year old boys, or 2. drunk and driving the wrong way on the highway.)

I don't really like driving on the big, bustling highways, even such as they are in this city that has long outgrown its 6 and 8 lane highways. (Chicagoans are laughing right now, because their highways are 6 and 8 lanes per side. Here I mean 3 and 4 lanes per side.) I don't like how they all crisscross so rapidly in a city whose core is so small. I don't like how State of Happiness seems to believe in placing the signs that tell you where to go exactly at the point where you need to exit, so that there is no advance warning at all about that left hand exit coming up until you are actually level with the exit.

I do know that soon, when all these highways are as familiar to me as the streets of this neighborhood I finally get to live in, I will feel affection for the crisscrossing interchanges, too. In the meantime, I got an iPhone a week ago, in the Mitten, and I have been depending on the google maps app to get me places. 

I've never really been interested in the GPS idea, and I'm even less interested in it now that I have it. I always want a big picture of where I am going, and "In one quarter mile, take Exit 98767 toward 7485 Street" doesn't really do that. All I can see on the little screen is the very next turn and occasionally the one after that, and that isn't enough for me. 

Also, am I the only one who keeps missing turns with the GPS that I feel certain I would have found if I had actually seen a map that would show me how many streets there were before my turn? A couple of days with Siri telling me where to go and I'm ready to go back to that atlas in my trunk.

And then possibly grumble about how we did things in my day and how we walked to school uphill both ways in the snow and how we had to finish our plates and how we were grateful for those lima beans* because we were so hungry.

I do, after all, drive a car with a manual transmission, by deliberate choice.

* I actually really like lima beans.

26 April 2013


I looked at my watch this morning as it lay on my nightstand and saw that it was 7:40 already. Since I catch a bus three blocks away at 7:51, I needed to hurry.

Ten minutes later, finally ready to go, I grabbed my watch and put it on.

When I looked at it the right way up, I saw that it was only 7:20. And I'm all ready to walk out the door. It must have been 7:10 when I only looked at the minute hand upside down.

This is also confirmation once again that I cannot estimate time. If I could, maybe I would know that I have an entire half hour extra.

25 April 2013

love prose

I flew back last night, one flight straight from the D to Gone West, and even though I knew how very much more I like Gone West than ever I liked Universe City, still I was surprised not to feel the old tearing feeling of leaving. 

Gone West feels so much closer to the Mitten, and I don't approach returning here with dread. Instead, I feel that familiar jolt of happy recognition when I see Gone West, SH on the flight monitor and again when I watch the landscape I know pass beneath the wings on landing. I cannot explain how light I feel now that I do not dread returning to the place where I live.

I would gladly have slept in this morning, but getting up to walk to the bus was not the same burden as was dragging myself to work in a town that never did make me happy. (Even though, disclaimer, I loved and miss the place where I worked in Universe City.)

I'm not sure how long one blog can consist primarily of bits of love prose to a city, but I clearly intend to test it out.

13 April 2013


I don't even have words for how happy it makes me to be back in Gone West, you guys. 

I read this thing a few weeks ago where some advice guru told people that where you live is not as important as what you do, and this is possibly true, but where you live matters so incredibly much. I had a fine life in Universe City. I had friends and activities and routines.

But living in Gone West feels like I've come back to life. I remember again how you can actually love the place where you live. It doesn't have to be merely the backdrop for your life; it can be a character in your life. 

I wandered up through my favorite neighborhoods today. I walked through the school playground. I drank tea in my favorite cafe. I shopped in little boutiques. I wove through the park around the water towers. I came down that long flight of stairs. I meandered along one of my favorite streets. I sat in that pretty little park.

This afternoon could have happened three years ago.

People keep asking how it is to be back, and the strangest thing is how it feels like I never left. Maybe I only imagined those 2.5 years in Universe City. 

I have fallen right back into the same places and routines that I had before I moved away, and it feels like nothing has changed except that suddenly I find myself lost in this bigger Trader Joe's, because even though it was my first, familiar Trader Joe's, my brain now expects the layout of the smaller one in Universe City. But then in the chain grocery store, I know exactly where to go, as if my brain remembers this one better than the one in Universe City.

I am so very happy to live here again.

07 April 2013

roundly cursing

I drove back down to Universe City yesterday to pack up my office. By the time I got down there and ran a few errands and packed a few things, I was feeling pretty lonely and desolate, as one does while trying to leave a place, so I texted S. and then I went over to E. and K.'s house to pick up their old microwave.*

E. and K. turn out to have a cable knit throw that has fleece on the back.** I curled up under it on their couch. The gas fireplace was going, and K. made chai, and we sat and talked, and by the time I left with their old microwave in the back seat of my car, I felt like a new person. Human connection will do that.  

Then I went and hung out in S.'s living room with little K. running around dancing and demanding attention. S. made chili cheese burritos. ("Do you eat meat?" she asked, and it was one of the days when I decided abruptly that I do eat meat, and so I did.) I have never failed to leave S.'s presence feeling refreshed and wiser.

But then it was 8 pm and I had barely started packing my office. I was fortunately in a much better emotional place than I had been at 1 pm, so I put my friend D. on notice that I needed her on the other end of the line, and I packed and sorted and threw away. Three hours and two overly-full recycling bins later, I had my car loaded up and I began my drive back to Gone West. 

At 11 pm.

State of Happiness is in that lovely (I use this term sarcastically) spring stage where the weather changes every five minutes. By the end of the two hour drive, I had roundly and loudly cursed 1. the other drivers, and 2. the State of Happiness Department of Transportation. 

It was raining, you see. Sometimes it was raining lightly and sometimes it was raining hard, and for a state known for its rain, State of Happiness is remarkably badly equipped for rain. 

It all goes back to the studded tires. Look, I lived in the Mitten for 12 years. I learned to drive in the Mitten. The Mitten gets a great deal of snow, and we do not use studded tires. We are not allowed to use studded tires. And I understand that there are mountains here, and passes, and studded tires are handy, but they wreck the roads. 

I have never encountered louder roads than the roads in State of Happiness. Every road here has troughs where the cars have driven over and over on their studded tires. Those troughs are incredibly loud when you drive in them, but because they are troughs, your car is inevitably pulled into them. Staying outside of them and still in your lane is a constant battle. It's like sleeping in a bed that caves in toward the middle. No matter how many times you pull yourself out, you always end up back there.

Also, because they are troughs, they fill with water. I never really understood hydroplaning until I drove in State of Happiness. If your car falls into the troughs, which it will, you will hydroplane. This is unpleasant at 70 miles an hour at 12:30 am.

Also, other cars cannot seem to grasp the concept that the troughs full of water mean that any car behind you is practically drowned by the water your car kicks up. So they slide right back into your lane in front of you, even though there are no other cars around, blinding you in a white cloud of water. Or they drive into a bigger than usual trough and spray up so much water that you can't even comprehend whether your car is driving straight. 

There was cursing. There was loud and angry cursing.

I didn't think I was going to make it home alive.

I did. Barely. With several close calls.

* "Do you guys have a moral objection to a microwave, or do you just not have one?" I asked when I moved in. This is, after all, Gone West, where people do have objections to things like microwaves. I can survive without a microwave, but it is useful for things like warming my sinus rinse water, reheating cold tea, and heating my flax seed pillow.

** I am now searching online for a cable knit throw with fleece on that back that costs less than the $129.99 one at P0ttery B@rn.

03 April 2013


It is fully possible to be too tired to do anything but drag oneself to bed after work every day, except I just moved into my new place on Sunday and so I have to drag myself through room-organizing every evening before I can fall into bed and sleep like there is no alarm clock in the world that could possibly wake me up. I want to cry when my alarm clock goes off.

Already I have started to look forward to my walk to and from the bus stop. The train is a few blocks further, but the bus is just a quick little walk down quiet streets, and when I get off at the end of the day I can feel my stress fall away as the streets get progressively more neighborhood-like in the three blocks from the main road.

It is almost as silent in this house at night as in my house in Universe City. You would never know that there are two highways not two miles away. My room is bigger than one could possibly expect out of an old house - probably twice the size of my room in Universe City, with a huge closet - and right now I even have my little orange couch in here. (I could put it out in the living room, but there is a cat, and he has mangled the couch that is out there, and I have quite an affection for that little orange couch.)

I re-opened my library card first thing, and now I have a list of books on hold again already so that I can walk up the hill on my lunch hour and pick them up, just like I did for two and a half years before I had to leave Gone West.

I work, and I walk to the coffee place, and I explain over and over again all day long where I've been for the last few years to everyone who keeps asking. I'm back, and I'm happy to be back.

And yet, I can hardly bear the idea that this weekend I must go back to Universe City and take the last of my things from my office there and leave behind the key that gets me into that old, familiar building. I want to keep Universe City even as I get Gone West back.