Thursday, December 1, 2016

Covert Romantic Plotting

I recently found myself needing to gain access to my old hotmail account that I made when I was in high school. So, I put in my (immature and ridiculous) original email and then used my ancient password. Well, it didn't work. So, I tried some other old passwords but came up empty handed. I was then given the option to recover my password by answering a security question or having the hotmail wizards send me a text with a recovery number to type in. "I'll take the recovery question," I thought. After all, I know myself quite well. I felt confident in the answering of the question. Until I read the security question. This was my security question created at age 16.

"Who do I like?" 

When I saw that's what the 16 year-old version of me created as a security question, I could not help but emit loud guffaws! I was reminded that I am not the person I have always been - I used to be a boy crazy teen sitting on my blow-up furniture, twirling my hair, applying self tanner, and dreaming about the boy that I uh, "liked." I did this all whilst carelessly failing pre-algebra. 

Now teenage girls who happen to suffer from boy crazy developmental disorder require a gaggle of girls with whom to conspire. And, I had just that. At social events, we would have clandestine meetings that consisted of plotting, scheming, and hushed chortles. We advised each other on how to land a man. "Stalk him. Then you could impress him with your 'detective skills'" or, "Stand outside his window and sing 'Make you Happy' by Celine Dion." We'd make plans to bewitch our teenage crushes. Then, we'd proceed with all dispatch to lure them into our enchantment.

But of course, we could never talk about the boys who we happened to like using actual names. Otherwise, someone may overhear our conversation. They undoubtedly might find out! Mortifying! So, at these conspiratorial meetings, we would come up with code names for our hopeful matrimonial allies. 

One target of affection happened to have the initials KM. His name was Klaus Meister. In order to conceal his identity (actually, more to conceal the identity of the liker). We came up with the nickname "Shackles." Why you ask? Let me explain. You see, my friend Keiko, and I were subjected to being the children of vitamin evangelists. My mother, and Keiko's mother would frequent the same vitamin dealer. Thus, we were both regularly administered a dosage of a vitamin drink called KM - made by a company called Shaklee. Now, when you meet a fellow minor, who is also at the mercy of a mother who happily espouses Shaklee products, - it creates an profound, deep, everlasting bond that crushes through bedrock. Nothing bonds two people like shared childhood trauma. Anyways, when we saw Klaus, er "Shackles," at various social events - we would alert each other of his presence by saying things like: "I spot Shackles at 3 o'clock" and nobody knew what on earth we were talking about. 

I had a crush on a young man called Theodore Arrington. Actually, maybe it was more than a crush. I mean, I did refer to my feelings for him as "an out of control forest fire." Anyways, he had initials of TA. So we obviously called him "Tallahassee." Again, people who weren't "in the know" didn't know what I mean't when I said, "Tallahassee is such a dish!" And, when my accomplices sang back in unison, "Dishee dishee Tallahassee!" It only elicited blank stares from those who did not speak our language. Now, had I said "Theodore is a babe and a half!" those in close auditory proximity would have noticed the surging teen hormones - which, of course, would have been a huge embarrassment alert. 

Now, the idea for code names was a genius idea. But, not such a genius idea when one decides to make it a security question answer to their hotmail account. Who did I like when I was 16? Was the answer to my question "Tallahassee?" Was it "Theodore?" Was it "Theodore Arrington?" Was it "Shackles and Tallahassee?" All caps? No caps? Was it a code name of a guy that has long since been forgotten? I feel like "Lord Pimberly" may have been a code name. Maybe it was that guy called Jeff who I sat next to on the bus on the school ski trip. There was that really cute guy who worked at the organic hippie store. Maybe the password was "organichippiestoreguy." Maybe it was...gosh.. this was getting tough. As I scratched my head and banged my forehead, I made a decision to give up (something I often do). As a teen, I had crushes on a lot of guys. I mean, I wasn't discriminating at all

Digging into the depths of my romantic past  - or shall I say "could have been a romantic past" was too hard. There was simply too much material. In the end, I opted to have my password reset via a text message code. And guess what? My old hotmail account still exists!

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Language on the Shop Signs

This evening - like many people across this great country - I engaged in my civic duty of voting. As I walked up to the ballot box, which had the words "Ballot Drop Off" written in several languages, I waited for an attractive handholding bi-racial couple to cast their ballots. The woman was of Asian descent and man looked to be of Latino descent. We made eye contact and shared a silent acknowledgment of our voting participation. 

Later, as I took my passeggiata. I encountered a young Latino boy shooting hoops in his driveway. I greeted him with a smile and he grinned and waved at me (which, of course, made me grin too). As I sashayed about my neighborhood - I encountered a woman who looked Latina running and we too addressed one another with a smile as we passed. When I came nearer my home, I watched the post lady delivering packages - she looked to be Punjabi.

My neighborhood is a quiet unassuming place but very diverse. The other day, there appeared to be a quinceanera and mariachi music was blasting from someone's garage. One can smell various ethnic cuisines wafting through the air around 6pm on any given evening. There are Filipino, Vietnamese, Punjabi, Mexican, and Honduran people who live here. Many of the signs on the stores, in this neighborhood, are written in Vietnamese or Spanish. It's a place where immigrants live and where those of us who had the great fortune of being born in America - are a minority. 

Now, my rainy hometown was probably similar to this about 100 years ago. In my rainy hometown, many the of the folks there are of Scandiwhovian or Scandisomething ancestry. Thus, there is a higher percentage of people with blue eyes, blonde hair (or a variation of it), and a bit of height. In that rainy place, there is a large white and blue building that says "Suomi Hall" on the outside. There is a hall there for "The Sons of Norway." Many of the streets have Scandinavian names too. 

I've heard my aunts tell me that they had to go visit their grandmother (who lived with them upstairs) once per day and speak Finnish to her. I imagine the families in my neighborhood have grandparents that live with them. I'll bet the children are subjected to speaking their parents native language with their grandmother too. 

Over the generations, the rainy town has lost most of the Scandinavian languages yet the Nordic heritage still lingers. There is a store in Main Street that sells Scandinavian goods - such as Marimekko textiles, reindeer hides, Marttiini knives, and those little Swedish horses (dalecarlian for all you vocabulary increasers out there). And, there is an annual Scandinavian festival complete with a May Pole. But now, the signs on the shops are in English, not Danish or Swedish. 

And ya know what? Whether in my quiet unassuming neighborhood or the rainy town - we all get to vote. Voting gives all Americans, no matter where they come from - what language they speak, or what their hair color is - a chance to participate in the oldest democracy in the world. 

And that, dear reader, is probably the most beautiful thing about America. 

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.