A Bus Buddy

I am back, I am caffeinated, and the blog posts will be flying off the keys with increasing frequency and an uncharacteristic amount of zeal. This, at least, is the idea.

Early on in the summer, my laptop decided it’d had enough of me (or maybe enough of the voltage in Italian outlets – your guess is as good as mine) and refused to hold any charge for even a second. Consequently, it was annexed to the family room ottoman for two months, perpetually reliant on a power cord accessorized with a “DO NOT UNPLUG ME!!!” post-it note. A lazy excuse to not write, but sufficient for a person such as myself. I also developed the internal monologue of “I’m just taking the time to collect material, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine” – which was true. I penned many a note, illustrated many a character. It’s fine. It’s fine. And with that and a new laptop (!!!), dear readers, I present to you a study in the joys and sorrows of public transportation: the Bus Chronicles.


I’m sure most people would agree that 7am is a great time to be alone. Personal space is kind of a 24/7 preference for me, but it is doubly so at dawn, triply so at dawn on a bus. It’s not necessarily because I am cranky – I like to think I’m pretty chipper, actually – but because the viewing of a PNW sunrise should be a very personal affair, something free of interruptions, i.e. the coughs/elbows of strangers. Being trapped in the window seat by a sleeper when I arrive at my stop has always been an additional concern. Let’s not even discuss someone actually falling asleep on me. For these reasons and several unnamed, when came a morning of especial introversion, I assumed the role of that asshole who, in the most passive-aggressive preventative measure known to man, puts her bag in the seat next to her. As we coasted into the next transit center, I pretended to be asleep so no one could ask me to move it. It seemed like a foolproof plan. I had seen other people pull the exact same moves.

But, knowing precisely where to find me, Guilt paid a visit. It was a Thursday, and for some reason that day of the week tends to draw a particularly high volume of commuters, at least from my own observation; a shortage of seats was a possibility. So with a sigh of resignation, I grabbed my backpack and opened my eyes. There stood a woman, short in stature but inordinately large in visible bitterness toward me, looking down at the spot to my right in an expectant sort of stare. A modest line, but a line nonetheless, had formed behind her. Confused, I glanced behind me – there were a few seats open. Alright then. As I pulled my bag onto my lap, she gracefully plunked herself down and looked ahead. I scowled.

Despite an obvious and acute awareness of how my sleep had inconvenienced her, she conked out within the first three minutes of sitting next to me. This woman is the director of my nightmares. She proceeded to lean, excruciatingly slow. 90 degrees, 87 degrees, 83 degrees, one centimeter from my unwelcoming shoulder. At the last possible moment, she startled herself awake. This became a cycle, countless repetitions of eyes closed, shoulders slumped, leftward tilt, groggy awakening. A dance so slow it is nearly imperceptible to humans. As is only natural, she was in the throes of sleepytime as we neared my stop. I hesitantly placed my hand upon her small shoulder and looked earnestly into the place her eyes would be when she opened them. Rather than an expression of anger or annoyance, her now-conscious face was covered in what looked like deep disappointment in my character or something, as if she’d expected more of me. “Excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop.” She collected her lunchbox and purse and released me into the aisle. The end.

Except it wasn’t the end. She sat next to me again. And again. This woman, who was clearly no fan of mine, took the seat next to me no less than four times – if nothing else, at least the world maintains a sense of mystery. She continued to fall asleep, getting closer and closer each time until finally my shoulder became her own bony and angular pillow. How comfy. One morning, she sat down and promptly extracted a blank sheet of paper from her bag, folded it and held it over the parts of her face which breathe in air. To clarify, the same air I breathe. It immediately took me back to the day in English class when a guy purposely sat next to me, only to throw me sideways glances of abhorrence when my SEASONAL ALLERGIES made me sniffly. He also buried his face in his sleeve for the entire hour. What is up, guys. What is up. In the moment, I always chalk this up to pro-league hypochondria and I just want to tell the person to take their damn vitamins and chill out for a second. But, even though it offends me to be skirted around like the mad dog in To Kill a Mockingbird, I do realize there could be legitimate reasons to protect your health in such a vigilant manner. Here I go again: rationalizing my way out of anger. I should run workshops on this.

To conclude this many-chaptered story, I have a few theories as to why this mysterious woman kept taking that seat to my right. First, perhaps she shares my preference for the second row of front-facing seats on the left side of the bus. After all, that specific section does have the best and most expansive window view, which is why I sit there. But she spent ample time with her eyes closed on these trips, not looking out the window at all. My second theory is that, again, like me, she has a strange affection for petty annoyance. Sometimes I am grateful when a person irritates me, because it gives me reason to be irritated, which I kind of enjoy on occasion. The fact that this woman didn’t like me was clear as crystal, especially in the inevitable, tension-filled “excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop” interactions. Lastly, maybe my shoulder is more comfortable than I give it credit for. But that is highly unlikely.

No matter her reason for doing so, I don’t believe my bus buddy will be sitting next to me again anytime soon. Thankfully, I am done commuting. But I do have more stories – stay tuned.

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Let’s talk about specs

Clearly, I’ve not felt a strong obligation to this blog since touching back down in the States. Why? There are no acceptable mosaics here. My well of inspiration is dry as a bone.

Just kidding. I haven’t been writing as often as usual because I am in the throes of the busiest summer of my life – working, coffeehouse-hopping, reading, sunbathing (and lying to my doctor about it), sleeping, not sleeping, busing, catching up with friends, wearing baseball caps, honing my skills as a cocktail artiste. I’ve checked out a lot of short story and essay collections from the library. I’ve consumed a near-unbelievable number of iced lattes. Life has been excellent. But I did not come here to write an extensive life update. No, today I am going to talk about glasses.

I was eleven when my poor mother dragged me, an obstinate, fuming moper of a punk, to the eye doctor. We’d recently been to the opera, where I had been unable to read the English subtitles above the stage, and suddenly I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair at Walmart and they were shooting air into my eye. That day, to literally no one’s surprise, it was decided: I needed glasses. I picked a pair of small, chestnut brown frames, and then my mom bought me the new DisneyMania CD because I was upset and she’s always been too nice to me. That Disney optimism, though, did not chase away the fear that I would be labeled as a “nerd.”

That first pair of glasses brought a lot of new things into my life. First, the outlines of leaves, which had previously been indistinguishable clumps of green adorning the trees in my yard. Second, a new facial expression which involved squinching up my nose because my frames would slide down it and I was too lazy to lift a finger. Third, the beginning of an era in which my eyes are almost-closed in every picture because, as I said, my glasses often slid down my nose. As a result, subsequent pairs were very poorly documented: I effectively erased about six years of being visually impaired from the history books (my history books) by refusing to wear glasses in pictures. They would hang there, dangling from my hand, at my side. Nearly every group picture from the time I was twelve to the time I was seventeen was like this. Even in class, I would occasionally take them off if I didn’t really need to see the board. They helped me see – like, a lot – but I was embarrassed to wear them.

There was a brief period where I considered getting contacts (I was probably fourteen) – I went in to the eye doctor and they held up a giant, plastic model of a lens and placed a normal-sized tester on the tip of my finger, but I never actually put it in my eye because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get it out again. Irrational fear: I’m good at that. So contact lenses were, unequivocally, a “no.”

I went through three pairs of very unexciting black frames before I finally landed on the 2011 “nerd” standard – thick, black, square, with little silver things on the corners. This was when I started liking myself as a glasses-wearer. I wore them all the time, even in pictures, even to school dances, and I owned it. I don’t know why it took so long to happen, but my glasses became a part of who I was. As I would later claim (and still do claim), they became a part of my face, an extra feature. Fast-forward four years and two pairs of frames, and I don’t like taking my glasses off. I also get really offended when people think they’re fake… but that’s another story for another day.

In February, I branched out from my usual type (read: square black acetate) and ordered some chunky tortoiseshells from Warby Parker. I’ve never loved an accessory – or a necessity, for that matter – more than I love my Kimballs.

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And now I’m looking at getting a second pair from my beloved WP. Even though I am not one of the fortunate few who looks good in any and all frames thrown on my face, ordering the home trial boxes is slightly addictive – usually 3/5 are losers, but that leaves two winners. What is more fun than trying on glasses? I guess Disneyland is. Beside the point. Back to corrective eyewear.

In my most recent 5-day home trial, I’ve narrowed it down to two pairs: the Haskell and the Fillmore. I am strongly leaning toward one of them, I won’t say which, but feel free to cast your vote. Just for fun. I say that because I probably won’t listen to any of you because I am an incredibly stubborn young woman. Sorry.

The (Eddie) Haskell (from Leave it to Beaver, I'm sorry okay)

The (Eddie) Haskell (from Leave it to Beaver, I’m sorry okay)

The Fillmore, ft. annoying glare

The Fillmore, ft. annoying glare

In short, I am really, really happy I need glasses. They’re a pain in the ass when it rains, and they steam up when I open the dishwasher, and sunglasses are an expensive challenge. But I love the way they look, and I love that they let me see how I look – pretty useful. As an 11-year-old, I was worried my glasses would make people judge me. Now, if they warrant any label, I’d like to think that label is “bold.” Also, let me just say I completely misconstrued the concept of “nerd” as a child, and would not feel any shame whatsoever to hold that label as well – it’s just that my nerdiness and my glasses have nothing to do with one another.

And that is my corrective lens coming-of-age story. EMBRACE YOUR FLAWS!

Arrivederci & hello again

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A few nights before I left Rome, I took a last stroll along the Tiber. My friend was trying to catch a nutria and I was “helping her,” which actually meant I had just invited myself along so I could distract her with irrelevant conversation and convince her to let me shoot Crocodile Hunter-style videos of her talking about ducklings in an Australian accent. She did not catch a nutria. I am not helpful. Don’t take me places.

But anyway this walk along the Tiber, however unsuccessful it may have been as a hunt for large rodents, was such a fantastic way to say goodbye to the city I’d fallen in love with ten weeks prior. Three hours spent meandering past suitcases full of moss and beached tires, gaggles of drunk tourists, barefoot, sitting on the banks and belting out pop ballads, the cheerful slur of “WE’RE GERMAN!” echoing downstream when they noticed us snickering past them. As is only appropriate, the Ponte Sant’Angelo guitarist played “Hotel California” not once but twice as the sun set, bringing my final count to 10 (not as impressive as I’d hoped for, but still abnormally high). I can still kind of hear it, much like I can still kind of taste that stupid-delicious pizza marinara from Dar Poeta, which I ate later that evening. As for the nutella calzone… I am not yet emotionally ready to discuss my feelings.

Throughout my last week, I kept joking that it was a good thing I was leaving Rome. On that Saturday, Karly and I set out for the Corso to do some shopping – we walked from Trastevere to Campo, and from Campo we somehow ended up by Castel Sant’Angelo, which utterly perplexed us, and then suddenly we were at Largo Argentina, overrun with stray cats, and we were like… how did we get here? Then we were on a street I recognized, and I thought we were nearing the Piazza del Popolo, but out of nowhere popped the Altare della Patria, blearingly white and not where it was supposed to be. Do you remember back in April when I claimed to have a sense of direction? I’m now comfortable admitting I never had one at all, but I’m still inclined to believe I was living in a place which strove to deceive me. I always end up characterizing cities as teases. I guess when I can clearly see their cleverness trumps my own, there’s always something to chase. Rome is dangerously enigmatic, so I laughed as I claimed to be saving myself from a lifetime of lostness – even though I kind of wanted it.

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I wanted to come home, but I didn’t want to leave. Standing on the corner of Piazza San Cosimato and waiting for a taxi, morning, June 5, felt incredibly matter-of-fact, as did the stiffness of my back as I went into the sixth hour of trying to sleep on my transatlantic flight. There wasn’t really anything I could do about it, I was being pulled. And I was beyond happy as I jogged through baggage claim at Seatac into the arms of my mother, and I’m still very happy to be here in this PNW sunglow of a summer with family and a shower that doesn’t leak – but, as I expected, it feels like Rome is something I dreamt. I keep finding myself silently reciting “Ode on a Grecian Urn” while I do the dishes, just to prove to myself that I actually went to Rome and memorized poetry.

Well, it happened. I was happy there, and I’m happy here. Mostly, I’m grateful. Grateful for my professors, my friends, pizza, knock-off Birkenstocks, notebooks and noteworthy people, drinking fountains, and, it goes without saying, mosaics. I’m grateful that I can now take it easy on myself when my jogging endurance is abysmal, because I spent two months “eating carbs and staring at art.” But seriously where the hell is the gelato? Damn it, America.

Tomorrow, I get to see Sufjan Stevens, who basically propelled me through Italy with “Chicago.” It’s become like the cliche traveling hipster song, I know, but it will always, always remind me of shooting across the country by train and feeling impossibly young and ready.

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All things go, all things go.

Story, Goal, Song: part III

It has been one of those lazy winter break days – one of those in which my most “energetic” moment consisted of shyly bouncing to “Steal My Girl” amidst the racks of polos at American Eagle. The remainder of the day was spent either laying down or sitting. And although I remain sitting at this moment in time, I am telling myself this is productive. I’m producing words. It’s a good thing my standards for myself aren’t this low when school is in session…

Anyway, this is my third “story, goal, song” post. If you missed the first two, you can easily find them here or here. For those of you who are caught up/don’t care about the previous installments, let’s get this show on the road.


A story: This will not be story, but rather some stories, because apparently I get a thrill from breaking my own rules. And admittedly I just can’t decide which 2014 concert I want to single out, so I’m taking the wordy route (a road I travel frequently) and telling a story about each of them.

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The 1975: The initial struggle to find any joy whilst sinking into a shrieking pit of flannel-clad flower crown-wearers ceased when my sister and I withdrew ourselves from the tangle of teen girls. Upon our arrival in the breathing zone, we made friends (by means of eye contact and the occasional smirk) with a dance-crazed Ian Somerhalder doppelganger who made the already-delightful music of the 1975 even more so. I will always remember this beautiful man. And I will always wish I had joined in his dancing. And married him.

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Bruno Mars: I thought I was one of the few who could claim having a Bruno Mars-obsessed mother… until I went to a Bruno Mars concert. Surprisingly middle-aged crowd there. A great show, nonetheless – if nothing else, proof of how futile my previous efforts not to love him were. In the eternal words of REO Speedwagon, I can’t fight this feeling anymore. He has found his music niche, he owns it, his band is SO FUN to watch. Might have taken a leaf from fake Ian Somerhalder’s book and danced a little.

Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer: (sadly no pictures were taken at this show – cry with me) One of the perks of being a college student is discounts, considering my friends and I paid a mere $10 for this concert while there were well-dressed old people shelling it out in the $50s. Tough to beat. Especially for Chris Thile, a world-renowned mandolinist, and Edgar Meyer, a world-renowned bassist. I already wrote an entire post about this, so I’ll try not to repeat myself, but watching these guys was a wonderful mix of easiness, tension, and perhaps hypnosis. And to my delight, their newest album, Bass + Mandolin, is nominated for a Grammy.

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Relient k: A concert I was not planning on attending, but I ended up (accidentally) emotionally manipulating a scalper into selling me a ticket for roughly $2 in profit – sincere thanks to that man, as a Relient k concert was precisely what I needed. It served as a reminder that, no, I have not outgrown a good, brash punk song with a redemptive bridge played on piano, and YES okay I still love Matt Thiessen. ‘Twas an evening of friends and nostalgia, and is there really a better combination? Doubtful.

A goal: This is just speculation, but I think humans like knowing where they stand with other humans. I don’t mean this to be some bitter reflection on the world of dating, in fact I’m not talking about dating at all – isn’t it just nice to hear “I’m so glad you’re my friend/sibling/personal chef/dentist” every once in awhile? One of the people I’ve grown really close to in the past year is so unbelievably talented in this area, always genuine, and it’s something I’ve really come to appreciate about her personality. Unsurprisingly, it’s something I want to bring into my own life. I want to affirm people, whether that means telling someone their hair looks nice or yelling “YOUARETHEBESTIMSOGLADWEREFRIENDS” in an unsuspecting person’s face. To put it concisely: I want to get better at out-loud appreciation, because people deserve it.

A song: It’s somewhat surprising that “Don’t Get Married Without Me” was my most-listened-to-while-driving song of the summer because, traditionally, car time is harmonization time, and it is so hard  for me to find a singable harmony for this song. But I love Punch Brothers, so I forgive them.

Ah. Reminds me of July.


Hope you have the least manic of Mondays! Till next time xx (that was me trying to be British, did it work?)

Story, Goal, Song: part II

It is time for the second installment of this enthralling series (if you missed the first part, you can find it here). Ready? Okay.


A story: Sometime in October, I sent this shame selfie to my good friend and coworker:

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At least my hair looks shiny.

Aside from being unquestionably one of my favorite people to text, she is also a music student who could both understand and laugh at a mistake I made as the only non-music major working in the music library. While trying to help a patron with looking up a piece in our catalogue, I made a “W.C.” out of what was really a quickly uttered “Debussy.” So I searched for this W.C., silently chastising the guy for arrogantly assuming I would understand his slangy nicknames for composers… until I realized he was actually asking for a very well-known piece by a very well-known composer. Oops.

Well, the aforementioned friend and coworker decided to give me a crash course in the pronunciation of composers’ names, much to her own amusement. I will say, I think I did an exceptional job considering I have little to no knowledge of classical music, and I do have witnesses – an elementary understanding of French, German, and Russian pronunciation certainly came to my aid. There were a few that tripped me up, I admit, and these were a source of raucous laughter for my teachers (WHATEVER PROKOFIEV). But I was given a passing grade, and as a reward I got to smile a smug little smile with the composer-laden sticky notes on my fingers. Good memories, good memories.

(yes, same sweatshirt as before)

(yes, same sweatshirt as before)

A goal: I like to think I’m a kind person, but I am also an intense critic. Like, needlessly. See, I have always fancied myself a pretty intuitive young lady – for a long time, this meant first impressions were sufficient to understand another person. I met them, I got them. And although thankfully I’ve moved on from this naive notion, I still find myself, from time to time, flattening people for my own convenience. In some cases this means I imagine a person as divine perfection (laughable), in others it means I caricaturize someone for a private laugh with my friends (can range from questionable to reprehensible). Nixing this practice is going to be a challenge, partly because I am so reliant on my so-called “keen social observations” for my day-to-day comedic bits, but I really want to be, first and foremost, a truly kind person, and I believe that starts with imagining people complexly. It’s a lot harder to sneer or scoff or criticize when everyone is perceived as fully human, singular, with experiences that are unique and unknown to any passing stranger. To put it concisely: I want to get better at recognizing the multi-facetedness of every person and, in so doing, lessen the unnecessary criticism and up the kindness (even if it’s just in me talking to myself).

A song: This song I have definitely mentioned before, and I mention it again because, seriously, I have listened to it at least three times a week for the past seven months (no wonder spotify recognizes it as my top-played song of 2014). Melancholy but powerful, “Byegone” by Volcano Choir stuck with me through spring, summer, fall, and winter, and I still have not grown tired of it. Atta boys.

Also, this video is literally just fluorescent lights strapped to a tree, but it might be one of my favorite music videos of all time…?


Catch you on the flipside.