Thursday, May 31, 2007


WARNING: profanity ensues

We are on the MAX yellow line in Portland, after leaving our cheap, two-star hotel in the Rose Quarter -- where, I noted, we are the only two occupants who aren't entertaining guests by the half hour. While it would be quicker to drive, or even swim across the Willamette, we are riding the MAX because my best guy friend, Jay, decides that the entire reason he's accompanying me to Portland is so he can ride both the MAX and the streetcar in the same trip. As a result, the fifteen minute ride to dinner takes forty-five, exacerbated when we take the streetcar just because, and then have to walk back to where we started. But all that comes later.

After the MAX crosses the river, we stop in the Pearl District, where rows of trendy shops and high-priced lofts crowd the area's less successful residents. The train's doors whisper on their sliding tracks, and I gaze idly at an eight-foot high Banana Republic advertisement until a massive, inebriated woman obstructs my view. She slings a hank of greasy, dishwater blond hair over her shoulder like a sack full of dead fish, shouting loud enough to rouse the train's dozing passengers. Three or four men, all of whom appear loosely associated with her, follow, coming to roost along the opposite rail.

"I wanna fuck," she announces to no one in particular. "Do you wanna fuck? No -- not you," she says, catching the shocked expression of an elderly woman. "Not you, sweetie."

Behind her, one of her cohort makes a snide remark. Unfortunately, he is too drunk to be intelligible, but she gets the gist. "Hey!" she yells, and gets up with her fists balled.

Jay and I exchange sidelong glances. "Toldya we should've grabbed a seat up front," I muttered.

"Whatever," Jay says. "Maybe I *wanna* f--" but he's cut off by the woman's outraged caw. "Hey, you owe me money!"

All eyes on the train rotate towards the front of the train, where a scrawny man with a rat's nest of white boy dreads is slinking towards the door.

"Oh boy," her friends jibe, "Go get 'im." They laugh, but we're watching as she storms towards the front of the train. Naturally, the doors close as she reaches him, and he proceeds to turn on his heel and walk the length of the train with extraordinary poise, never saying a word. She follows him, a torrent of curses filling the space between them. "My money! 'Scuse me," she adds, knocking past a pair of necking teenagers.

We decide that perhaps we will exit at the next station...which we do, followed promptly by the skinny guy, the raging drunk, and all of her oafish friends, who lollop behind her like junkyard dogs. Only, not so bright.

I turn to say something to Jay, but the next thing I know, she's shouting for her guys to "get him!"

"What's in it for us?" one asks.

"Bitch owes me $80!"

We swap skeptical glances with strangers. Eighty bucks split five ways is, well, apparently enough, because their quarry comes skidding by like a fox going to ground, followed in hot pursuit by a pair of hounds. One of them appears to be carrying a white tube sock filled with quarters. He raises it over his head and begins swinging in irregular ovals.

"This can't be," I say.

"Oh, but it can," Jay replies.

"It's broad daylight! It's seven in the evening! Are we seriously watching two grown men chase some guy with socks full of quarters?"

A dull, metallic thwock removes any doubt, as the prey suffers a glancing blow to his shoulder in front of a Crate & Barrell. Fortunately, the man swinging the sock is too drunk to aim. Moreover, the sock itself is not designed for full-scale deployment, as the heel seam splits upon impact. A shower of quarters cascades onto the sidewalk, and the scrawny man turns tail and vanishes down another street.

I look at Jay, who's sniggering. I can't say that I blame him. Along with a crowd of people dressed for the opera, we still can't quite decide if what we've seen is funny, disturbing, or a bit of both. We look up the street, where a bored cop leans against a low wall, oblivious to the entire scene. Behind me, a new person who's just entered the scene tells his friend, "They better not bring that back here. I will own their sorry asses."

"Welcome to Portland," I mutter.

Jay turns to me, and now he's laughing uncontrollably. "When they ran past me, I really wanted to say, 'Naw, homie, don't play that'...but I kinda figured they'd turn their sock weapons on my sarcasm."

"A wise decision."

"The odds just weren't in my favor. Besides, I doubt you could take on the loudmouth."

"Come on, you know I fight dirty."

"But quarters-in-tube-sock dirty?"

"You're probably right." We turn and walk up the street, past the officer, who's turned his attention to a troublemaking trio of eighty year-olds.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Spin, spin, spin

So, you are going to have to forgive me for the next few weeks. Between the move, the job starting, me going into mourning as I leave Seattle AGAIN, and CB coming home for a visit, I apparently don't have time to do anything besides catch up on approximately 1/3 of the things which need doing. I will try to get a decent post or two per week, and I feel terrible about it -- but the blog shall survive! I'll write as often as I can. Thanks for understanding!

Monday, May 28, 2007

I am still here

It's just that I had 26 hours to find a place to live in Portland, which is neither as cheap as people claim nor as renter-friendly as you think. So now, I am back. I have a few blessedly non-Portland related things to do tomorrow, and then I will regale you with my trip in Portland, which included:

1. The first time I've actually seen socks full of quarters deployed as weapons
2. Finding my potential pads by bothering the waitress at the pasta restaurant and the woman walking a dog down the street I liked

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Oh boy...

I have a job.

It is in Portland.


Monday, May 21, 2007

So I am a bad person

Dear reader, please forgive these time lapses as of late. I had an interview today and one which requires a three-hour drive tomorrow, and I just can't put it together to write a post tonight. My multitasking skills apparently took a vacation and have no interest in returning. What about the rest of last week? you ask. I had terribly important things to do last week. Like, unwittingly wander into Flowers with some friends, where they were serving three dollar margaritas. All I know is that, six hours later, the conversation devolved into philosophical treatises on the existential behavior of ghost shrimp, and a little while after that we thought it would be brilliant to play DDR. On Expert level. I think I might have broken someone's foot. The aftereffects of that night essentially negated my week.

So, thanks to my interview, I won't be back until late tomorrow night, which means I have no excuse if I don't post Wednesday. Hence, I will. Because I am not...that...lame...yet.

Interesting tidbit to tide you over: it took me as long to fly home from Kansas as it took my best friend to fly to Italy that same day. Why is it that any respectable hotel would be drummed out of business if it double-booked its rooms, yet airlines can double-book seats and act like it's our problem when we complain?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stupid internet

Internet = down every five minutes
Kansas = pretty cool
Update = coming tomorrow, when I'll be crashing a friend's house since a certain evil internet company can't come fix this until Wednesday

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Taking a breather

In light of my current situation, my best friend is flying me to Kansas to visit her this weekend. Have I mentioned how much I love my friends? Shut up, going to Kansas is *not* punishment. I'm sure there's something fun to do in her tiny little town. Like seeing how far the car can drive in a straight line without touching the steering wheel. Now, if I can just get over this random fear of flying thing. Perhaps I shall drink my way across the flyover states. On second thought, that would probably be a bad idea. Guess I'll just have to annoy the person sitting next to me instead. Be back Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

From bad to worse

Twenty minutes ago: I'd just finished emailing my specialist about the thyroid, when my dad came upstairs with a thin envelope from the clinic in his hand. I knew before I opened it. Funny, I'd been dreading it for weeks without having any real reason. I read the letter and burst into tears. Yep, that's right: in the last four hours, I've allowed the full reality of my disease to hit me, my fake thyroid is out of whack, and I've learned that the one person who's helped me cope with all of the hell, both here and in England, is leaving the clinic in four weeks. I don't know if I can handle this.

Also, not having insurance? Doesn't help.

Something needs to go right soon, because for the first time I don't feel strong enough to take any more.

Feeling low, here I go

So I'm not really sure what to do here, and I'm kind of freaking out.

Ever since they removed my thyroid, my whole metabolism depends on a pill. A handful of pills, actually: little white and pink pills, smaller than a string of beads. T3, TSH, T4...these letters and numbers are meaningless to most people, but not to me. Every night, I line them up along the crease in my palm and gulp them down, like clockwork. They control my life. I wouldn't mind, actually, but the thing is that they aren't very good at their job. Everyone's metabolism is different; every thyroid patient responds to an individualized dose of synthetic hormones. In my case, regular doses don't work. We have to bump mine up, again and again, just to keep me functional. Bump too low, like we did in England, and things crash. Depression, lethargy, weight gain...Low thyroid levels pull me down a dark, cavernous hole until I can't see the surface. So I came home, and we bumped back up.

Now, six months later, it appears that the dose I've been on is a bit too high. I found out the hard way when I was speaking to a group of undergraduates today. Suddenly, an ancient symptom I'd forgotten completely came rushing back, and in the middle of my impromptu remarks, my tempo accelerated. Then, my heart started pounding. And then, best of all, I started shaking. Like, scared shitless of crowds shaking. It's not something I can control, because it isn't psychological. It's like a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart, or a quad-shot espresso slammed back, chased with sugar. It is an absolute nightmare. Four years ago, I'd reasoned away every indication that I was sick, and then I stood in front of my favorite class and quivered like the last leaf in fall. It was humiliating, and I finally had to admit that something was deeply awry.

I love public speaking, which is what makes this symptom the worst -- when I'm up there, and it happens, people look sorry for me. Some avert their eyes, and others smile reassuringly as if they think they can soothe the wild creature flying around the front of the room. This, of course, actually makes me nervous, and then my voice starts galloping like a horse unbridled.

I am about to interview in the final round of a job opening which involves a lot of public presentations, as do all of the other positions which I have a chance in hell of securing. I can try to knock the dose back down, but it will likely take months again (all after I see my doctor, which itself takes weeks). Worse, for the rest of my life I have to operate without knowing when this is going to hit. Hormone levels fluctuate, even when they're strictly prescribed, so I get to attend every presentation for each of my jobs knowing that at any moment I could blow the talk. I had no real indication that things were askew again until today! What's to stop that from happening years from now, when I'm giving a talk that really matters? Heck, I could get hired by this current place, only to be fired within weeks for acting like a frightened child in front of a major board meeting.

I'm suddenly so sick over this that I'm wondering if I should maybe stop thinking about careers that involve talking to groups of people. What can I do? Get hired by some company and say, "Oh, by the way, I have this autoimmune disorder that's been treated, but the side effects of the treatment can include adrenaline-fueled craziness in front of an audience."

I feel really, really sick. Most of the time, I manage to live with this disease without thinking about its implications on any meaningful level. Last year, I battled through some of the worst depression of my life in a new country, and I was so relieved to get home because at last, I thought, I'll get to be normal again. What the hell am I supposed to do now?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Working on a post...

about women and horror films. For now, a random photo of the SAM, which re-opened yesterday in all its glory. (Bad lighting, bad!)

Favorite room? The Aboriginal Australia section, which houses a strong collection of contemporary work, video diaries from the artists, and a selection of funerary art with big, bold disclaimers stating that the exhibits were not taken without permission. Yay, SAM. Compared to the lovely British Museum ("Yes, we have your Marbles, and no, you can't have them back!"), it's refreshing. Haven't checked out other rooms to see if the claim holds true elsewhere. Also, the Jacob Lawrence exhibit is spectacular -- and I had no idea how talented his wife, Gwen Knight, was. Her portraits were superior to many other portrait painers who receive more attention, and she worked with several media throughout her career. Also loved (*loved*) the transitional Pollack piece, which sorta kinda made me want to live in that section.

Go see SAM. It is completely worth it now. Awww, our little city is growing up so fast!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Maybe should have head examined soon

Hmph. Is suspicion that long arm of Cambridge extends here to taint existence, as crickets not even bothering to chirp in response to re-re-created resume. Is fine. Do not need crickets. Self worth can be restored solely by presence of cats with bad grammar.

Shut judgemental mouth. Does not indicate serious decline in cultural taste. Rather, clearly demonstrates ability to appreciate not only bourgeoise art (e.g., Fellini), but also proletariat (e.g., Aqua Teen Hunger Force). Possibly is harder to understand talking meatballs than shrewd Italian men with mother issues anyway. Do not begrudge me, snobby artsy people.

No, have not been maybe cat-sitting too long. Ringo and Elvis understand needs.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Those three words are said too much, they're not enough

The hardest part about an LDR isn't the eight hour difference, or the absence of face time. Well, it is both of those things, but only because they're components of a greater challenge: divergent expectations.

Because I know I'm not the only one out here going through this, I feel like it's important to remain honest about the good and the bad. So, the good: most days, I do remarkably well. Even though I don't have a lot going on, which means my time management skills have gone to seed, I'm still able to keep my mind preoccupied with other issues. Politics, job hunts, online reading -- anything to stave off the reality that I'm in an 8000-mile relationship. For a majority of the time, it works. The other good, which I want to emphasize before I continue, is that I've never wondered whether our relationship is worth this. It is.

Nevertheless, as you'd expect, there's also the bad: communication is everything now, and it hasn't been great lately. Between the ridiculous hours at which we make our calls (06hrs England = 20hrs Seattle), and the workaholic tendencies we both share, things have gotten a bit rough. I've said before that I knew our biggest challenge would always be the work-life balance; neither of us wants to put our relationship second, but both of us worry about asking the other person to compromise our personal goals to keep us first. I've been given a lot of grief by people for daring to leave my spouse behind in England (my internal response: shut up, shut up, because if you haven't been there, you have no clue what you're talking about)...but it was a mutual decision: because our commitment to upholding each other's goals and dreams represents a cornerstone of our relationship, I couldn't ask him to go, and he couldn't ask me to stay.

But things get busy. We miss calls, although it's getting better. The torrent of transatlantic letters is more like a trickle. We try desperately to make our infrequent conversations normal, but how can they be? Imagine you only get to talk to your favorite person on earth two or three times per week. Do you really thing you'd remember to be as trivial and inconsequential as most of your daily conversations are? Or would you save up all of the really important things (and therefore difficult or stressful) and unload them in one conversation, not knowing when you'll next have the chance?

I'm only really beginning to understand what a bitch this is. Best intentions only take you so far. One of the hardest things for me to accept is that love isn't enough, not if it's something you just believe will always be there. You have to work, every single day, to keep that love alive, because even though it looks healthy, make one too many mistakes and suddenly it's hovering in intensive care. Simply believing in love? Not gonna get you there. Sweat and determination make up the difference, because surviving a long-term LDR means making a lot of sacrifices. Tuesday and Thursday nights are home nights, except on the rare occasion when one of us really can't make it. Friends seeing a movie? Tough. Every week, I have to remind myself to make time to write a real letter, or send a card that says more than just "I love you!" And you know something? These letters, sometimes, aren't fun. They remind you that your relationship now hinges on the few ties that can stretch across eight time zones. Those letters, those phone calls, they take on monumental significance. Say something nasty or harsh in a call -- as I do, too often, worn down by the job hunt and the frustration of feeling like I came home for nothing -- and you might not get a chance to temper it before you have to go. Words and phrases you toss out like scrap paper in the normal pattern of a relationship suddenly develop sharp edges. Slice someone too hard, and the wound sits for days until you talk next. Then again, hold back too much to spare them, and you risk reducing communication to meaningless exchanges about (in our case) international politics.

Every single action I take (or don't) holds greater significance. It's exhausting. If it weren't for my incredibly supportive friends, I don't know if I'd be okay.

On a night like tonight, when it's late and my mattress is calling, I want to shut this laptop and crawl under the sheets without undressing. I won't. I've missed too many nights already with similar excuses. I need to send an email, a photo, something to say hello. Because otherwise, all we ever get to do -- at the end of phone calls and IM conversations, in the closing notes of letters and cards -- is say goodbye.