Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Portrait of a Lady of Sorts

Memories are often filed away with more than just flash images and mental clips of yesterdays.  Smells and sounds, like dusty stacks of Atari games and vehicles crunching up gravel driveways, or emotions as those involved with preparing for the first day of school, tend to wrap themselves up with many images associated with them.  For myself, the strongest memories I have are wrapped in excitement with the adventures behind constant change as my family moved from city to city, state to state, country to country.

As often is the American way, my parents divorced when I was young, but I was lucky in that I had at least one parent on either side of the divide who was active military.  As a result, I had the privilege of being introduced to many cultures, traditions and lifestyles I otherwise would not have became familiar with.

And though I sometimes envy those who have been allowed to remain comfortably stagnant in life for having the opportunity to make childhood friends and maintain those friendships throughout the years, I also sometimes pity them for having never been given the chance to try something new, to step out of their comfort zone and see life as it exists beyond the woods or across the pond.  And to them, I might suggest a new hobby.  Surfing, for example.  Er, couch surfing,,,  I will do this one day.  And I will likely be found abandoned in a ditch for it, loosely wrapped in tarp and twine and missing several internal organs, but I can't help but hear in my head the words of Miss Frizzle, "Take chances! Make mistakes!..."

And now I share with you my list in pictures of places I've lived. 

It all started here.  Meridian, MS.  Things I remember: A cardboard box and a fuzzy, stuffed beach ball.  And the sensation of my head wobbling heavily upon my neck.  There is also that memory of my mother playing 'Hide-and-Seek' with me, pretending to have left for the store but really laughing at me from around the corner where I stood crying over her abandonment.  So I suppose it was more along the lines of 'Hide-and-Torture-the-Baby', but at least she was having fun...
                             Dear Mother, I will never forget, and I will never forgive *crosses her arms dramatically*

And then there was Knoxville, TN.  It has been my home off and on throughout my life, and the one place I know I can always run to when I need to catch a breather from what ails me.  The things I remember most are too many to list, but there's the fog that hugs the hill tops in the morning, the golden globe of the Sunsphere Tower that winks at you as you drive by, shopping for bread at the bread store and then traveling across town to buy fresh meats from the butcher with my pappaw, smelling the freshly bathed moss upon the stones that covered the drive's hilldside as it dried from the dew in the early morning hours, the shuffling of house slippers as family moved across the wooden floors throughout the house, and the taste of apple butter accompanying anything I could slather it on, to name of a few.

Lemon Grove, Ca followed.  This place was magic.  Trolly cars, giant lemon statues, garden swings and fish ponds, thick shag carpeting and beds built into walls with hidden doorways, saluting the American flag with Grampy as we raised it above the front yard's water well, banana seat bicycles and giant sheep dogs with giant dog houses, and orange marmalade--the marmalade of the gods.

Barbers Point, HI, where we were never out of sight of the shoreline.  I learned to swim here, and Grover taught me basic math..  Also, Dad bought me my first computer and taught me how to operate it using only the F keys like a boss.  I was the hula hoop queen.  Don't believe me?  Just ask my PE teacher...  And I had two goldfish: Pamela and Fred.  They weren't as fancy as Dad's exotic collection in the ten foot salt water tank downstairs, but they were mine and I loved them.  I destroyed a multi-thousand dollar, white suede couch with a single cup of grape Kool-Aid, and spent the weekends with my dad at an old airfield flying RC planes until sundown.  I also met my all-time-favorite food here--lumpia.  (FYI <--that is one lucky one year old)

Yokosuka, Kanagawa in Japan.  Where hotdogs are considered exotic and locals would gladly trade boring cheesy crackers at lunch time for gummy candies of the foreign gods.  The beaches were black and the skies were often gray, but the people were beautiful.  Classes were taught with both an English and Japanese speaking teacher, who would take turns explaining the day's curriculum. And we were one of the only families to live in a house, with the neighborhood being primarily built with tall apartment buildings and flats.  I took a cab to school every morning, which cost a quarter, and would store it with the rest of my lunch money in my yellow, plastic change holder, which I remember smelled like syrup and copper and not like plastic.  My best friend was the daughter of an abusive alcoholic, and I always had to abandon what we were doing and return home once he started popping caps off beer bottles for adult reasons I did not yet understand, despite the pleas from my friend to stay.  This was also the place I first experienced a train ride, when our school bus broke down on the way to the zoo.  The tracks stretched for miles between the shoreline and the highway, and it would be the moment most remembered from that field trip.  Well, that and being attacked and bitten by a bunny at the petting zoo.  But mostly the train ride.

Whidbey Island, WA.  I always said I would one day move back. I spent my time there in the Girl Scouts learning how to build fires and dig holes in the woods to fill with bodily wastes during survival trips.  It was here I learned how high trees can grow and how wide their trunks and be.  And how deep their roots reach.  I fell in love with books here, inhaling Number the Stars, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and innumerable volumes of The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew.  I also died here.  Three times.  But I learned my lesson to not play in open windows again.  I was also introduced to the Northern Lights on Whidbey, which I plan to see again, and earthquake warnings.  And instead of learning about sex ed, we were taught about the three R's of recycling.  Rinse, Reuse, Recycle.

Dallas, TX.  Bluebonnets, pecans, triple digit summers with triple digit humidity readings, the state fair with fried...everything.  Steak.  So much steak.  And the Cowboys.  Not to be confused with cowboys, who weren't usually found within city limits. 

Mesa, AZ.  Where lawns are built with lava rocks, where the temperature remains the same in the shade as that in the sun.  For a city built in the middle of the desert, it had a great selection of sushi bars, likely in part to Phoenix being such a college town.  Everything was so symmetrical there, as though cities were built in the shapes of boxes and streets could only run north, east, south, or west.  Everything was cramped, as though the city was afraid to grow too far into the sands, and people would complain about having to travel five miles due to traffic. I was introduced to a lot of garage music here, which only a few made it to the big stage, but it was a carefree kind of time filled with music and movies and weekend road trips to the mountains for photography lessons with Dad, followed with late hours of film developing in our makeshift studio.

And now here we are in Columbus, GA, where history is almost under-appreciated.  Where I'm surprised pigs are not placed on the endangered species list.  Where adventures are just beginning and memories are currently being made.

Overall, I've lived in twenty-five different homes and attended class at thirteen different schools, not including colleges, and it's been nothing short of exciting.  I collect friends just as easily as I collect memories and accept change just as easily as I accept a new day.  Such is life.  So for those of you who continue to be a part of it, thank you for loving me.  Even as I move so far away from you all. 


Friday, September 16, 2011

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

I wish I could say the reason for my delayed post is due to extreme excitement.  I wish.  Honestly?  I've been finding a new routine and settling into it, which mostly involves working and saving.  Exciting, right?  Don't I know it!

But I am comfortably adjusting.  I have a job which includes revolving doors and cubicles, daily catered meals and security guards, and I'm enjoying it.  It sometimes feels like I'm trapped in a corporate version of The Stepford Wives...with sticky notes and swivel chairs, where everyone walks around like programmed robots with a smile on their face and a kind word to say to anyone in passing.  I keep waiting for one of them to scowl angrily and crash through the guarded doors to release carnage upon the earth in a show of absolute horror and destruction unlike any witnessed before.  But that's life here.  These people offer a smile as quickly as folks back west offer a middle finger during rush hour traffic. Southern hospitality is everywhere.  Even at work...

Things that I've become accustomed to:

--front porch storage; if it won't fit in the back, there's always a porch in the front.
--to-go boxes; good luck cleaning any plate served in these here parts...
--college football.  Three letters come to mind: OMG! The trick to surviving the season, I'm learning, is to avoid wearing articles of clothing in the following combination of colors: 'crimson' and white or red and black.  Especially on game days.
--too convenient convenience stores.  Like Computers and More, where More is served in the form of kinky, leather riding gear.  I conveniently got a VGA cable AND leather pasties all in one go!  They obviously saw me coming...
--hugs from strangers.  Empathy is often repaid with lovin' here.  Also, if you're just meeting someone who is friends with your friend, or a friend of a friend who just met you stumbles into one of their friends or family members of a friend and politely introduces you to them, you will be hugged.  You have been warned.

The temperatures are cooling now, and most days children can be seen with fishing poles in hand at the riverside.  They rarely keep what they catch, choosing instead to toss their crawdads back and take away the satisfaction of another beautiful day well spent at the water's edge with good company. 

Even E-boo has a more laid back air about him and is making greater efforts to adventure beyond the  bedroom's door.  And he's on speaking terms with most of the house now, though his kitten Tourette's still kicks in from time to time when tossed onto the porch and forced to socialize.   I'd imagine his conversations going something as, "Hey, Gigi, what's happening, my cat friend?  Here, let me help get that spot behind your-- Dammit, Kingston! I said to keep your filthy nose away from my tookus, you animal!" *runs to bedroom and flings self onto bed*  Progress, however, is progress.  It's good to see him slowly adjusting as well.

I've been casually house hunting.  Which is never fun.  Almost never.  The idea of it is fun, but there are so many factors to play in the final decision.  Is that a foundation crack?  Are the neighbors serial killers?  Were those gunshots?  Are you sure this is the best I can do?  So many things to consider...

I'd like to get a feel for Atlanta, too.  My good friend, Sarah, will be here in January to stomp through the big city with me, and I intend to take advantage of that time to look around at the housing opportunities there.  I am lovin' this state, and I can't imagine not lovin' its capital as well.  Also, more schooling opportunities are further north.  Though at this rate, I doubt I'll be able to legally teach a class of budding students before the age of fifty.   Still, progress is progress.

I suppose, for now, this shall have to suffice as a decent update.  I could continue to ramble on about the small details of life.  Like how those giant cockroach things that hunt men and eat cats are becoming the bane of my existence.  How we leave the front door open in the evenings to welcome in the cool breeze and only manage to welcome in the flying Kamikaze cockroaches of doom.  Or how the old school building that hides our cul-de-sac from curious eyes has been converted into a training building for local police officers to chase/rescue criminals/victims with toy guns all day.  There's also my new found respect for green beans and pork and bone-in chicken and blue cheese and Spanish rice to mention.  I swore them off, but Dad isn't just a cook; he's a god of the kitchen (minus the dishes), and he's made it his personal mission to fix what others have broken with my taste meal at a time.  Or maybe I could mention my efforts to learn Russian.  I'm still working on the alphabet, which is from A to Я, and its pronunciations, but progress is progress.  I'm sure to be singing the A,Б, B's in no time.

But I wouldn't want to bore anyone who might still be reading this.  I'll spend an afternoon with my camera and post an update, which might actually entertain a few, another day.  For now, however, routine is the name of the game.  But I'll gladly play it.