Monday, September 24, 2007

When the stars go blue

I spent this evening cooking a sweet potato gratin and listening to a This American Life episode from September 21, 2001, the episode where Ira Glass offers David Rakoff and David Sedaris's takes on 9/11. It brought to mind a lot of things I've been contemplating lately.

You see, in about 15 months, life is going to take another turn. CB and I will be on the way to somewhere. Our location might be Chicago or even London. It won't be Seattle; not yet, because our return home comes about 24 months after that.

I've experienced several mood swings since I returned to the U.S. Once I figured out that my dysfunctional thyroid contributed heavily to my poor experiences in the UK, I started wishing I could have a do-over, another chance to see whether England and I were at loggerheads for no reason. There are things I missed about the States that I cherish now: my family, my friends, good food, and even the American people -- at least when we live up to our better stereotypes, moving through the world with good intentions and offering whatever we have to each other. But there are things I'm finding I never wanted to come home to: our ignorance, not only about world affairs, but also about our own government; our conservatism; our crappy health care. I've been turning it over in my head to understand whether the things I love outweigh the things I loathe, or whether my values are diverging so far from where our country's headed that I no longer belong here.

I still don't know, at least when it comes to the short term. In the long term, I can't see myself anywhere but Seattle. Thankfully, CB feels the same and understands my fierce devotion to friends and family enough to move back, even when we're both realizing that his potential could take him anywhere he wanted to go. The fact that he wants to go where I need to stay tells me more about our future as a couple than anything else could.

But for the short-term, I want to go where he chooses. I realize that's a rather un-feminist thing to say, but here's the situation. I don't have a clue what I want yet, at least not when it comes to my career. Correction: I have several conflicting clues. I want to be a writer and an environmental lawyer, a planner and a journalist, a librarian and maybe a professor. I can't be any of these now, and I don't really want to jump into any one before I have a better understanding of myself. In a way, then, the next two years are experimentation time. While CB conquers the statistical genetics world, I can work part-time and try it all out: freelance until my fingers go numb, think long and hard about law school, find out whether planners ever do anything besides sit in rooms approving permits or bickering over growth management guidelines.

It's important to note that I don't always feel this way. Deep down, I'm also very afraid of losing sight of myself and my goals. In some ways, this year feels like the first step down that path: I take a job out of sheer panic, make it work, and promise myself to do better next time. I can't promise then that this post is going to be the definitive exposee on how I feel about our future...but it's the definitive post today, and part of me thinks it could stick around even longer.

Back to the original thread. As I look ahead to careers and (maybe) children and mortgage payments, I find myself wondering: why not now? Why not live abroad two more years, why not pack up the cat, park the car in storage, sell the furniture and head back to jolly old England? What's two years in the grand scheme of things, anyway?

I don't know how I feel about this country sometimes. I think it's home, but that doesn't mean I won't capitalize on the opportunity to live in a place where politics are more nuanced, where health care matters (even if it's still flawed), and where people actually believe that the community matters more than the individual. I miss the latter the most. I almost cried the other day listening to people on Oregon Public Broadcasting complain that they shouldn't have to fund health care for anyone's children but their own. What the fuck is wrong with this place? For a few days after 9/11, I thought we might come together in more ways than one. Now, look at us. Our civil liberties are frayed, our social values are racing backwards, and liberals like me are a bigger threat than the terrorists in some Americans' minds.

I'm rambling badly, and I don't think I've written one tenth of what's on my mind, but if I'm not posting often it's because most of my thoughts take shape this way: in fragments and long threads I'm still pulling from buttonholes. Blame it on the age or on post-college disenchantment; attribute it to my LDR. Really, they're all complicit...and so am I.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sharing the road

All car drivers should have to bike commute to their office, school, or grocery store at least once each year. Trust me on this one: I am a much better driver now because I cycle. When you're in a car, you don't realize how dangerous your mode of transportation can be. Try sharing the road from the security of a small carbon frame, open-air, you-powered vehicle, and all the bad habits we develop as lifelong drivers become abundantly clear: the California stop, the cell phone while speeding, the fiddling-with-the-radio while turning, the blind turn with only a glance at oncoming traffic...Don't get me started about the speeding semi trucks, the cars full of teenagers who think it's hilarious to see how close they can get to your elbow, or the idiots trying to discipline their dogs/kids/friends while passing you.

I know there are plenty of bad cyclists out there -- really, really bad cyclists who make your commute and mine hell. I'm all in favor of bike licensing; I think fixies don't belong on roads; and I would like to see us all pass a basic cycling skills test before we get to take our bikes off designated multimodal paths. But to me the difference will always come down to this: if I'm a bad cyclist, I might die. If I'm a bad driver, someone else might die. If I'm a good cyclist who meets a bad driver, it doesn't matter how many laws I obey, because I'm going to be the one who pays the price.

Lately, I've noticed an uptick in crazy drivers all over the Northwest: I nearly lost the back half of my car in Seattle when I stopped for a red light that the guy behind me assumed I'd run. I've been halfway through a crosswalk when someone decides they don't need to slow down for me. I had a sedan miss me by about four feet today as I cycled home because he didn't yield to the right of way. It was easier to run the stop sign than to see if anyone might be entering the intersection.

I know we're all busy, stressed out, and sick of the region's growing traffic, but what happened to being kind to each other? Or to recognizing that slowing for a yellow light -- or stopping for a freaking red one -- is not going to take hours off our day? If you're in that much of a hurry...maybe you should try leaving earlier?

What really bothers me is that you aren't going to get a lot of jail time if you kill a cyclist down here, even if you're speeding, running a light, or performing other acts of negligence which distract you enough to run down a human being. Last month, a guy road raged on two cyclists because he didn't like sharing the road: he intentionally hit one, sped off, struck the other, and then tried to flee. One cyclist went to the hospital; the perp is free on reduced bail.

I know we aren't always easy to see, and I know sometimes the laws for cyclists and drivers get confusing...but please, try it from our perspective once. Think of it as drivers ed redux. I guarantee you'll be a kinder, gentler, safer driver afterwards. I know I am.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tumbling after

Ack. Oh, ack. It has not been two weeks since I blogged. Could not be. Oh, wait. It has been more than two weeks.

So, hi! Here's the thing: I am coming down with the office plague, and it's 9:00 in the evening, and while I'm becoming less frightened of all of the office reorganizing (which you of course don't know about because I haven't blogged in two weeks), it did occur to me today that I am now doing the jobs least two people, which means I am either going to have to move Marlowe to the office or I'll just have to clone myself.

Can I bring my ball to work so we can play fetch? Why are you banging your head against the keyboard, Mama?

Naturally, I actually started rounding up some potential freelance leads these past two weeks, all of which I have to turn down because I can't really fit them in unless I stop doing laundry. Something tells me that would get me fired. Of course, there are advantages to being sacked. Like having time to sleep.

Oh! Someone keyed my car while I was in Seattle for a home office training this Tuesday. Thank you so much, you filth-encrusted gum on the bottom of my shoe. I'd just been thinking that my car looked far too new for being 2 months old. You sure took care of that little problem.

Oops, gotta go. Kitty has just placed paw in my genmaicha. I will keep posting, even if it's infrequent. Thanks for understanding.