Wednesday, February 7, 2007

One if by car, two if by bus.

Today was a day of many vehicle trips. Down the Sunset Highway to Portland this morning, and then on the bus from No-Po into downtown. Add in that I walked a little ways between transportation methods, and you have a three-modes kind of day! So, all in all it took me 90 minutes to get to work this morning. Oh well. It's definitely worth it.

To the point: the bus was packed when I got on this morning. I ended up sitting next to a guy who appeared to be more than a little down on his luck. I was shuffling all my things and dragging out my books as the bus started, so aside from eyeballing the empty seat I appropriated as my own next to this fellow, I didn't really give him a good look. You know, feeling all groggy in the morning enhances one's desire to give everyone else a bigger bubble of personal space and privacy, in hopes that they will afford you the same privilege.

Of course, as I woke up more, I got curious. but having erected the "wall of politeness" I didn't want to blatantly turn and stare him in the face. Especially from the seat right next to him. So I gathered clues. The odor of stale woodsmoke just reeked from this guy. He had on scruffy-looking black pants and a worn black leather jacket. He was reading a paperback that had yellowed pages, and also looked as if it may have seen a read or two before. The hands holding the book were dirty and worn-looking, too. He had tattoos around his fingers--that blue-black ink that looked as if it'd been in his skin for a while. Red dirt under his fingernails. Everything about this stranger looked like he'd been out for a while and that his personal affects were well-used.

I went back to my book. Tried to read. There's always someone down on their luck on the bus, and I was quite honestly relieved to only be faced with the salty smell of old smoke rather than the urine or body odor(s) that often assault ones senses on public transportation.

When we got downtown, he looked over and started talking about his stop. Things are a little confusing now that they've re-done the Portland bus mall. Every one's customary routines are all jumbled up. I looked up to make eye contact and respond to his comment. All the clues I'd picked up about his appearance earlier in the bus ride had pointed me toward someone older, in their mid-30's or early 40's. The kind of middle-aged man that hung out on the square and would come into Starbucks for a cup of coffee or hot water. I was surpised. Instead, he was probably my age. Maybe a year or two older.

No lines on his face. No grizzled-looking countenance. Just a dude. On the bus. With down-trodden hands and a coat that had already seen a surprising proportion of the man's life.

Once he got off the bus, I found myself wondering, "Was it more surprising that he was younger than I'd anticipated or that he was so close to my own age?" Maybe he was more that "grown-up who's seen better days" that I'd pictured him as after all. And I was just a "grown up" now, too. Maybe it was still surprising that someone I'd look at as an "age peer" could show the signs of so much time spend in a hard, rough-looking life. Maybe I just mis-judged him from the start and my age-dar is really out-of-whack this morning.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

It's a morning.

Happy February.

In a departure from just a run-down of the daily news, I'm going to try a new tact and write about some life-things. Nothing depraved or secretive (I don't have much of that in my life right now anyhow!), but rather just the little here-and-there's that make my life in Portland tick-on.

To start with, it's lovely that the days are finally getting longer again. I get home from work in the evenings, and it's light out for a few minutes. Much preferable to fumbling for my keys in the dark. I realize that I like my house significantly more when I get to spend time in it in the daylight. It's nice at night, too, but a little sunshine really works wonders.

I nearly killed two of my plants this week. I went away for a couple days this weekend, and when I returned home, both of them were forlornly draped over the rims of their pots, wilted and pathetic-looking. It reminded me of nothing so much as a room full of Victorian ladies in a full-blown swoon. Similar to the delicate constitutions it brought to mind, loosening their corsets and offering them a little water seemed to do the trick. This morning they were upright with ruddy complexions and in good cheer. Really amazing how they do that. Their quick resuscitation is also reminiscent of something else: those little wooden puppet toys that collapse when you press in the button on their base (and loosen the strings holding them up), and then snap to attention when you stop depressing the "button." BOING! Recalled-to-life.

I'm sure you didn't drop by to read about my slightly forgetful green thumb, though.

What else is new in my world? I was writing a letter back to a friend abroad last night, and I was hard-pressed to come up with note-worthy events to tell someone who isn't living in Portland. Um... I was sick last week? I went on a hike last Saturday before I got sick? (check out the pictures Here. They're pretty awesome. It was a lot of fun.) It really challenges my sense of myself sometimes to wonder: should I be living my life so as to make it the happiest and the most comfortable, or should I be living it so as to make the best stories out of it? It seems that sometimes, your situation alone creates fodder enough for good anecdotes (eg: jobs I've worked in the past year or two), but when it doesn't, are we obliged to seek those experiences out? I tend to be inclined to say yes. When we're abroad, we think nothing of taking an 8-hour bus ride on a weekend to go to a town we've never seen before: just for the sake of making the trip. When do we really do that at home? Should we? Is that somehow irresponsible? Maybe on a large scale. On a small scale (once in a while) we should probably shake off the apathy and do that sort of thing. Maybe I'll kidnap C. one of these days soon and drag him off to Ontario (like a good cavewoman, so, by his scalp.) In Ontario we'll eat big greasy burgers and wear parkas. We'll sleep in our car in a church parking lot, shivering in the sub-zero temperatures. Then we'll come home and say, "Whelp, that was Ontario alright." Our parents and our friends won't understand our trip, but then again, neither will we, really.

Lord, blow the moon out please!

I tutored last night. That's a whole different can on worms I should tell you about. I think I'll hold off for a few minutes, and tackle a handful of tasks around here, then check back and update. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 2, 2007

It's true. The world is officially falling apart.

All over the local news stations this morning, the buzz phrase was "global warming." Even when I petulantly threw the covers over my head (trying to pretend that morning wasn't something "real" that I had to "deal" with), the radio still snuck through talking about things like thermal ocean increase (the scientist compared it to a cup of tea, when you warm up water, it's volume increases... lovely, briny, fishy tea. Boiled oceans?), Artic ice sheets melting, human are to blame, etc.

Surely you've heard it by now... scientists have resoundingly declared that Global Warming is legit, and yep, we're the ones to blame. If you need to know more about it, read this front-page post on the BBC: .

Anyhow, so trying to ignore the mini global warming I'm experiencing in my office (as the sun beats in on our Southward-facing windows), I ran across this creepy news story out of Russia:
Oily, Yellow snow that smells like stinking garbage. Frightening. (I guess it goes well with my previous post, too! Themes anyone?)

Go outside while you still can.