Saturday, January 8, 2011

Of Plans and Other Words

Yes, I changed the way the blog looks. If I were cool, I would say I did this to have a fresh start for 2011. But what really happened is that one night while visiting my parents for Christmas and New Year, I was lying around on the couch in my sweats and thought about writing something, but instead played with the different designs and colors until I realized I couldn't figure out how to change the blog back to the way I had it originally. Then I ate a snack and fell asleep in front of the TV.

Anyway, I was told that my posts are too long, so from now on I'm either going to write multiple short posts, or start out each one with a list of the topics covered so that you can easily skip to the part you're interested in and don't have to waste any more of your valuable time reading this. Unless, of course, you're reading this at work and wasting your boss's "valuable" time (and money), in which case, don't worry, I'm not really going to shorten the posts. I care about the working man. And I love to talk about myself. Oh, like you don't.

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." - J.W. Goethe


So, the holidays happened and are over now. I am moving back to Chicago in less than two weeks. I am selling my car and flying back. The plane ticket is booked. The thought of selling my car makes me emotional, so I will write a separate Tribute Post when that happens. I have to get rid of many of my belongings and pack next week.

Word on the street says that I'll be going back to Iceland some time in April. This sounds good to me, so I'll go ahead and say that's what I'm doing, provided I have funds and such, which, according to my hippy healer's Vedic astrology charts, I will.

Funny things have been happening since I started telling people that I'm leaving in April. First of all, on New Year's Eve I was temporarily paralyzed by the realization that my time in Chicago is going to fly by at the speed of light, and that by the time I finish typing this sentence it will probably be time to go through my belongings yet again and pack my suitcases yet again for the Motherland. I'm getting tired of moving. I've moved 21 times since the year 2000. Even if it was just from one apartment to another in the same city, it's getting exhausting. I'm ready for a break, and ready to try staying in one place for, oh I don't know, maybe 364.5 days.

When friends casually ask me when I'll be flying across the big water, and I tell them I'm thinking of April, they are also shocked by how soon that is. And then I explain that I had been thinking May, but if I want to get a job then April might be better because it's before tourist season starts, so even though nothing's definite that's what I'm saying for now, etc. Then they're still shocked, but less vocally so, and we quietly talk about how quick four months really is. But what can I do? Time marches on, as they say. And speaking of time, I'm starting to doubt its existence. It's slow, it's fast, it crawls, it flies, it stands still. I don't think it's real at all, and I hereby reject it. They don't accept that as an excuse when I'm late for work yet, but that doesn't stop me from trying to convince them.

The other night I was talking to my "best friend in San Francisco" (I group my friends by location). I told her about Iceland, and she told me that she didn't want me to be that far away, and that I should move into her apartment with her in SF instead, her rent is shockingly cheap and we could split it and have lots of fun.

I honestly thought about it for a couple of hours. Living in San Francisco was a blast. It's gorgeous, there are a million things to do, and I really loved the west coast: the beaches, going to L.A. for the weekend every once in a while, all the delicious food, and the wonderful people I met there were great. There's beautiful sunshine most days, and then the fog rolls in from the sea in the evening and everything feels and looks magical. I shared a gorgeous little old Victorian style apartment with a girl I knew from college, and I used to sit on our fire escape and write when the sun was out, or we'd go up on the roof at night to drink a glass of wine and listen to the music playing in a nearby club.

I was a volunteer for AmeriCorps in nearby Redwood City, and at the school where I worked I met a woman named Lois, who is an artist and was working as a substitute teacher at the time, and we became friends. Her mother was a retired school teacher and her father was a sculptor. One day we were hanging out in a town called Half Moon Bay, and her father, an elderly Asian man who looked frail except for his strong hands, walked into the cafe where we had stopped to get a bite to eat. The three of us talked for a while about art and writing and things like that, and then we all drove over to his sculpture garden (which was in a small field on the side of the road) and looked at his work, beautiful abstract figures big enough to climb on, carved from large chunks of dark, reddish, gnarled wood. They were smooth to the touch. When we were getting ready to leave, he said to Lois, "I think I'll do one for her," and she told me to wait. He went to his car, which was full of all kinds of tools and musical instruments of chunks of wood, and pulled a bongo-style drum out of the trunk. I asked Lois what he was doing, and she said, "Oh, he's going to drum you a blessing." Then he perched on the rear bumper of his car and played me a song on his drum for several minutes as the sun was beginning to set. When he finished he smiled, gave me some precious life advice, and then leaned against his car, surrounded by his sculptures, and watched us drive away.

Going back to San Francisco with a cheap place to live (impossible to find in that city) and one of my closest friends is a very tempting offer. All that sunshine, flowers everywhere you look, the ocean, the redwoods, the Stanford Powwow every year, Glide Memorial Church with their incredible full gospel choir, my favorite acting teacher of all time, farmers' markets... But there are downfalls. It smells like urine in most places. It's incredibly expensive. I remembered that the reason why we sat on our roof listening to distant music on the breeze was because we couldn't afford to actually go inside the club and see the band up close. But it is a lovely city, and you can make it really fun, there are lots of free things to do. I'll say it again, it's a very tempting offer...

Then I remembered Thanksgiving of this past year. I was invited to eat with the family I babysat for this summer. Since there was snow everywhere and they live on top of a mountain, I got a ride with their friends, a couple whose car has four wheel drive. On the way up the mountain we passed a car that had gone off the road and was lying in a ditch waiting to be towed out. We got to the house, which is way up high, up some winding roads, and sits at the bottom of their steep driveway, which turned out to be mostly frozen. The husband was driving the car, and his wife said he should leave it at the top of the driveway and we could just walk down. He didn't listen, of course, and the car started to slide. To avoid hitting the garage door, he turned the wheel and the car almost went over the side of the hill that the house sits on. The wife jumped out of the car, and I struggled with my seat belt for a moment before I jumped out too. It stopped at the last second when it hit a little pile of snow, we were all scared shitless (the husband pretended he had been in control the whole time).

That whole evening I was filled with dread for the ride back down the mountain. It was snowing more and more, and I was truly afraid that I would be involved in a terrible car accident before the night was over, that there was a chance we would slide off the road and over the edge of a cliff and be seriously injured, god forbid. When it came time to leave, I was almost panicked, but the couple assured me that they would drive very slowly and we would make it all right. As we rolled cautiously down the street, my eyes glued to the road ahead of us, my cell phone in my pocket, one hand on the seat belt release button and the other on the door handle, all I could think about was seeing my parents and siblings again, and that I wanted to make it back to Iceland, I wanted to go home.

San Francisco didn't even cross my mind.