Friday, October 7, 2016

An Encounter With Drifters

I just love it when the day gives you what you don't expect. Sometimes, these things can wreck your day (say a car accident), but sometimes they are a pleasant surprise and teach new life lessons or give one an unexpected outlook. That happened tonight. I decided I would take a dip in the communal hot tub that the residents of my complex enjoy before it closed. So, I robed myself in the proper attire and sashayed across the street to the hot tub.

I was sitting quietly in the tub when two people appeared out of the dark. A guy jumped over the fence and said "Mind if we join you?" Following close behind him was a girl. These people clearly were not residents of the housing community. They both had on jeans, boots and a lot of chains and studded accessories, which they probably classified as jewelry. But, I figured "who cares if they mooch off a hot tub?" And also, how was I, a twenty-something female sitting in a hot tub going to stop them? So I said "I don't mind." And I didn't mind.

The guy removed his shirt and then began to lower himself into the hot tub. He looked at me quickly and said "Do you mind?" And I replied " could take off your boots.." "Ha, I'm too lazy!" and with that he plopped himself into the hot tub with a grin on his face. "We don't have bathing suits," he informed me. "Fair enough," I thought. The girl then joined us, she was wearing a bikini top and jeans. She informed me that her bikini top was her only bra. "Fair enough," I thought again. They pleasantly introduced themselves to me and we began to converse.

I knew these were interesting people, so I decided I would make the most of this situation. "Where do you live?" I asked the guy. I was naively thinking he lived in east Portland and found himself on the west side jumping fences to soak in restricted hot tubs. "I'm homeless," he replied. I wondered if that meant he slept on friend's couches, in shelters or on park benches. So I asked him "Where do you sleep?" "Mmm, mostly under overpasses and stuff,' he replied. I informed him that he was going to be awfully wet tonight as he was wearing his regular street clothing (including his sturdily built lace-up black boots) and he happened to be immersed in water.

I then turned my attention to the girl. I asked her where she was from and she told me some town in California. Somehow I found out that she had been in Austin and well, Portland is often compared to Austin. I wanted to know what it was like and she said she didn't like it because the cops were jerks. I suppose when you're a street kid, the town sheriff matters because they hassle you to stop sleeping on park benches and to not pan handle and what not. To people like me, the friendliness of the cops really isn't a reason for me to like or dislike a place. I've never had a proper run-in with the law.

Anyways, I learned quite a a bit about this girl. She was homeless for three years in her town in California but then things went south. She had to pay to sleep in the homeless shelter and there just weren't enough resources for homeless people, so she left. She hitchhiked all over the country. She had most recently been in Kansas City and had been in Portland for just a week. I asked her how she got from place to place and she told me through truckers. This rang an alarm in my mind. "Do you ever feel unsafe?" "Well, I'm still alive!" she replied. She then informed me her methods of hitchhiking with truckers and how she sits in the truck for a moment before it takes off. Apparently, drifters and street kids learn how to read people pretty well and she told there are characteristics you can pick up on right away. Sometimes she gets out of the truck and other times she decides it's safe. She has never had a regrettable experience.

I mostly conversed with the girl as the guy was contorting his body in unusual ways, making funny faces, emitting a variety of sounds, and being generally happy. But the girl was a chatty one and I wanted to know her story. She had a horse when she was young and she sometimes worked as a stable girl in whatever town she ended up in. Normally people didn't let her ride their horses, but she did know what she was doing. She found a cat in a storm drain and gave it a very long name, which I can't remember, but it goes something like this: storm-scuff-death kabie-gutter-babe-something-something-sheba-the-third. She and the guy had just met hanging out somewhere downtown. I commented to her that I think there is only one guy like the guy she just met. He certainly marched to the beat of his own drum and was a friendly one. She informed me that he was indeed pretty unique, but you meet interesting people when you live on the street.

I really have no idea what the world of the drifter is like. I've only seen the movie "Into the Wild" (and read the book, and bought the t-shirt). But, I have met some people when when you ask them where they live they say "nowhere." And, these people did quite strike me as those types.

I said I would cover them if security asked about them. I would just say I have my hot tub pass and they are my guests. I liked these kids, even though, I do have to admit, they had their issues. But they certainly weren't snobby and they were very friendly. I also think they enjoyed me asking them lots of questions. I wanted to ask them more like "What about your family?" or "Do you have any rooted relationships with anyone or do you just drift and meet random people constantly?" I wondered if they had a vision for their future. Did they think they could really do something with their lives? Did they even want to? Did they think this life could go on forever? I mean, it's cute and interesting and exotic when you're 22 to be a street kid/drifter...but time has a way of, well, moving on.

A group of Indian guys joined us (probably engineering students working on their master's, hey sorry for the stereotype there, but stereotyping serves a relevant purpose!). I think they thought the street kids were weird, and they were. We didn't talk to them. But, I realized there were two groups in the hot tub and I was a part of the homeless group, although I have a home.

After awhile, I got lost in my own thoughts and we all became silent and let the bubbles in the hot tub boil us and make noise. I had gotten a lot of information out of them and I was feeling too relaxed to make anymore conversation so, I said goodbye to them. "Thanks for putting up with us," the guy said. "Well, thank you for making it interesting," I replied.

I then wrapped a towel around myself and slipped into my $80 trendy travel sandals, feeling a bit pretentious. And yet, I knew these kids were not judging me for having expensive shoes and access to a pretentious hot tub.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dogs and Crooks

There are people out there who know me personally and have had ample time to observe my strange psychology. These "so-called people," have probably even come to a dubious conclusion about my character. But before you people start saying all manner of nonsense about who I am. Let me, at the very least, defend myself! There is one thing I most certainly am not: an axe murderer. Yes, go tell it on the mountain. I am not a a dangerous villain to be dealt with carefully. I am simply a quiet unassuming caucasian female. (And Regis Philban fan). So, now you're probably wondering where all this paranoia of mine is coming from. Why am I defending my character so fervently? Where did I get such ideas that people think I'm dangerous?

Well, it's not people. It's actually animals.

I was walking down the street, in a most unassuming way, when a cute dog on a leash stopped walking and slinked back to the side of the sidewalk as I merrily passed by. The owner then told the canine "It's okay. She won't hurt you."

Of all the nerve! Of course I won't hurt the dog. Why must the owner assure this canine that he is in fact safe in my presence? I love dogs! My middle name is Dog! (Okay, I may be exaggerating). The only thing I might be tempted to do to the canine is reach down and give it a good scratch. I am very talented when it comes to scratching canines on their rump and ears. Actually, it's a violation of animal rights for me to let that talent do to waste.

At such an offensive comment, I found myself quite cross. "I'm a nice girl. I'm so approachable! What's the big idea?!" I defensively thought to myself. I then considered glowering at the animal but then I realized that I would give the animal something to fear. So, I decided against it. I decided not to let this minute misunderstanding bother me.

Next time I see a dog that fears me, I am going to give it a reassuring smile and talk to it in a breathy and soothing voice. And, I'm not going to take things so personally.

So remember, don't let silly things bother you. Even if someone (or some animal) gives you the wrong look or says the wrong thing. Well, it's all probably just a misunderstanding. It doesn't mean you're a crook, okay?

Friday, September 20, 2013

On the Topic of Wrangling Wild Northern Beasts

When I was a large/massive/weird child, I used to read books about horses, play with toy horses, draw pictures of horses, and memorize horse anatomy and breed types. For three years I religiously and selfishly prayed every night that God would use my polished manipulation skills to convince my parents to get horses. My parents were impressed with my knowledge and enthusiasm and my prayers were answered. So, we resurrected our falling down barn and built a barbed wire fence on our acreage. We ended up getting two inseparable Arabian sisters who had rebellious teenage attitudes.

Horse ownership isn’t all glamour and glitz. Frankly, it’s peasant farm labor. I shoveled monumental amounts of horse sh--, carried buckets of water up the hill to our barn, (since our barn had no running water), and loaded heavy hay bales from the truck into the loft. Then there is cleaning their hooves, tacking them up, bathing them, feeding them, getting them shod, and dealing with their neurotic tendencies and impossible psychology. Horses are exhausting.  

I haven’t done much horse riding since I was a kid. However, I’ve resurrected that hobby and I’ve found myself a little petulant horse to ride. She’s a feisty Icelandic/Paso Fino horse. She has a bushy black main, a little brown face with a bump on her nose, small dainty legs, and a ballooning belly.

And she’s a little pill! She tries to eat when we’re riding in the meadow – even though she’s just eaten and is, in fact, full. When I make her trot, she tosses her head in defiance, trots for a few steps, and then stops. I have to keep my legs glued to her sides to keep her trotting (and even that doesn’t work). It’s exhausting and harder than doing a wall sit. She bucks when I make her cantor. And then runs towards the barn, hoping to be done with the torture. It’s like dealing with an obstinate two year old. Now I know how you parents out there must feel.

I tried to manage her naughty behavior by saying things like “No!” or “Don’t do that!” Then I tried rewarding her positive behavior. I said affectionate and comforting things when she did as I said, like “good girl!” and “you’re doing such a good job.” It was somewhat successful. But then she just went back to her usual wayward ways. So, in a moment of frustration, when she refused to listen to me, I slapped her butt. She jumped a bit and then did every thing I told her to do from there on out. She figured out that when I mean business, I mean business.

We made a good team. I felt like a wild county girl with the power to domesticate a large beast (by beast, I mean small pony). I patted her and told her she was distinguished and esteemed. She beamed in delight as she tottered about. 

After the frustration and joy, I eventually dismounted my beast and de-tacked her. Then I sat down in the shade, put on her halter and she lazily grazed by me. Eventually, I put her back into her pen and stroked her. She stood next to me rubbing her head digging into my belly. I put my arm over her head and tousled her chin. And she nuzzled her little head into my armpit and gave me horse hugs. 

It was nice to know that after all we’d been through. The roller coaster of emotions - we were still friends.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Playful Case of Dysphagia

Ha – you take-things-for-granted person. You probably don’t even know what dysphagia is. You probably think it’s the name of a beautiful Italian actress in one of those confusing foreign sub-titled films, or a province in Northern Spain, or a flashy new car model. All of those guesses are wrong. You’re off. Way off. Dysphagia actually means having difficulty swallowing. And, it’s no fun at all.

You’ve probably never even thought about swallowing!

We swallow about 6,000 times per day. We swallow our food, our saliva, and even foreign objects – quarters, fish bones, and beer caps to name a few. And no one thinks about swallowing. Except Speech Pathologists. They think about. They think about it all day. Then they go off and read books about it. They need to get lives. 

I met a sick cute little old lady with dysphagia recently. She was Spanish-speaking and so I had to slosh out a pathetic Spanish word salad as a means to communicate with her.  Poor her. I should send her a sympathy card. I need to go to the post office to get stamps... Anyways, back to my poignant story.

I haven’t spoken Spanish for a very long time. So, I kinda majorly suck. But, we made it through.

Anyways, this cute old lady called me “mi amor,” and made a point to say “gracias” and “adios” when I left. (Maybe she felt she had to be extra nice to me because she thought I was mentally disabled). But, when I bossed her on how to swallow, she got all sassy and playful and repeated “unn traaagiiiito!!” and looked at me with a mischievous edentulous smile. Then we laughed. Then we smiled. Then we giggled. Then I said it back to her and wagged my finger - with my usual dopey grin. Then we laughed again. Then we smiled. Then we got back to business. 

That lady made my day and put a smile on my face. When I got to thinking about why it because she was endearing but also because we played. We joked around and we didn’t even know each other. We even had communication barriers - her with no teeth, and me with my crummy Spanish. This got me to thinking about playing. Adults need to play more. Seriously. Most of the adults I know are stone-faced, almost all the time. We’d all enjoy our lives more if we played more. And we might even like each other - without having to dole out bribes. Think about the money that could be saved by not having to bribe people with extravagant gifts!

So, if a sick little old lady, with dysphagia, can play and joke – with an outright stranger, and in broad daylight, well, then so can you and I!

Listen to what your mother said and “go play!”


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Validating Beaming Grandeur

Generally, our galaxie's sun is allegedly supposed to shine. However, in the Northwest our loving sun is completely inattentive to its primary task of casting warm sunbeams on the masses. This sun of ours comes up with all manner of reasons not to do its rightful job. Or perhaps it’s frightened and hides behind big heavy dark rain clouds. Well whatever the sun's excuse is, everyone is dreary and cross. It’s quite troubling really. They (By "they," I mean everyone) listen to Radiohead, drink beer, and have depressing introspective thoughts as they stare out the window upon the gloomy weather. It’s true. It really is. Just come to the northwest and you’ll discover this for yourself. The people here take large amounts of things like Zoloft and Prozac. Those drug companies make a killing off this place.

But not this week! Or last. Or the week before that.

Finally, this sun of ours, has been dutifully and obediently shining and shining and shining. It is finally listening to the needs of the people. No longer do we need to use our OTT lamps and make extra efforts to maintain a positive attitude.

It’s sunny here! And it continues to be sunny!

All this sun has caused a bit of a raucous. People are chatting to one another in the elevators, smiling and whistling absentmindedly whilst ambling down streets, and even making small talk alongside pools – and all of this is happening in broad daylight!

But, since I’ve resided in this corner of the world so long. I know it shall not last. So, I must relish this. Soak it up (literally and figuratively). For before we know it – it’s going to be gloomy again. So get outside! Talk to that person on the elevator! Strike up a conversation about the price of zucchini with the complete stranger down at the farmer’s market. Or, for that matter – actually go to the Farmer’s Market. Because, if we don’t – our sun might get offended and think we don't even care that it is shining and then it might go off and hide for another nine months.  Now we don’t want that, now do we? We must validate the sun.
It's our civic duty!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Operation of Book Reduction

I have recently begun the process of becoming a minimalist. Now, I've never been a person with a debilitating packrat problem but for some reason - with the arrival of Spring, I have this urge to GET RID OF STUFF! Let's see what do I have that I don't use much. There is my ukulele, five tennis rackets, a guitar, a futon, a printer, an old laptop, too many clothes, too many shoes, too many books, too many towels, and TOO MUCH STUFF! I'm pulling out my hair in large clumps as a result of the abundance of stuff. So, I've decided I must ensure stuff is not so plentiful. Therefore I'm on a major warpath and getting rid of my worldly possessions and taking a vow of poverty and solitude. (Okay, I might be getting a bit ahead of myself here...)

Why get rid of stuff? 

Stuff is overwhelming. Stuff gets in the way. Stuff is stupid. Stuff is unnecessary. Stuff is fluff and you don't need fluff. It's liberating not to have stuff. I don't know about you but I like liberty (and life and the pursuit of happiness). Liberty is one of my inalienable rights as endowed by the US constitution and my lifestyle has caused me to put a constraint on that. I must put a stop to this madness! So, I shall. 

Today I did a small exercise and I got rid of 70 books - I now own 64 books (including text books which are professional reference texts). 

Rationale: Will I ever read these books again? They're heavy. They take up space. And, if I'm desperate to read them again, there is always the library - or a Kindle. I used to have books to ensure people would think I'm smart and then those people would say "Wow, you're sooo smart. I can see you read so much." Well truth is, I'm actually illiterate and I bought books to fool people. If people think I'm smart because I have a bunch of books well, they think too much. People will know I'm smart if I actually am smart. And if they think I'm smart, even though I'm not smart, then they're not smart for knowing I'm not smart. Duh. 

Do it. Get rid of your extra books. Face up to the fact that you're not going to read them again. Trust me, you're smart. You don't need a massive bookshelf validating you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Impressive Icelandic Adventure

Trip to Iceland. Check. 

I have just experienced what one might call "a trip to Iceland." Yes, I engaged in my typical tom-foolery and bought myself a flight to that empty island in search of adventure. And, adventure I found!

I took this trip sort of on my own. Some people choose not to travel if they cannot find a friend to go with. I say "poppycock!" to such thoughts. There is always someone to travel with. You might not know that person right now, but you can get to know them if you choose. You can find these people in adventure groups or, in my case, on couchsurfing. I met a girl on couchsurfing, we rented a car together, split the costs, had dinner together a few times, went to the local soaking pool, and stayed in a rural cabin for a night. No, we did not become best friends but it was nice to have a companion. Before I took this trip, I was on my own. I had no one to do things with. But, I quickly remedied that situation.

Never stop yourself from taking a trip because you have to go alone. You don't. Be gutsy and find someone. Trust you instinct as to whether you would be a good fit. If not, you can ditch them. If your choice is don’t go at all if no one will go with you – well, you’re selling yourself short. And don't sell yourself short.