29 February, 2016

after the end...tacos

my reaction to the excessive land development in and around our new home is causing me to indulge in fairly frequent post-apocalyptic fantasies. as i return home from a long walk in the dark, i imagine i'm completely alone...

...the almost tangible chorus of cicadas and frogs fills the air as i walk in the perfect darkness. i watch my step, less for fear of snakes (if one gets me, so be it) and more for fear of tripping: the expanse of the parking lot has lost its black perfection and the asphalt bulges where green and growing things are taking back what is rightfully theirs. a snake bite would be fatal but quick; a sprain could cripple me, render me immobile. i think back to the night out with my ladies all those years ago - wine, fancy cheese, and deeply engaging conversation about what to do in case of a zombie apocalypse. sl told us she had it on  good authority (from a military man, i think) that the best way to survive is to keep moving and so i keep moving - gleaning my strange life choices from a conversation had over wine with friends long since turned to dust.

i don't miss other people. i certainly don't miss the constant noise of cars and airplanes, air conditioners and leaf blowers. i don't miss the endless tangled cables that enabled our blinking buzzing technology. dear gods above, i don't miss the paperwork! i walked by an office once - glass wall shattered by a tree that came down during one of the summer storms, and one glimpse of the papers littering the floor made me nauseous - how did i survive all those years without succumbing to the endless stream of correspondence, always of the utmost importance? now the only paper i have is this book in which i'm writing, though for whom? i doubt (and fervently hope) that i really am the last person alive and my words will have the decency to be lost when i am finally lost.

i miss warm food - what i wouldn't give for a juicy hamburger! i scavenge the stuff in cans and it's better than nothing, believe me, i'm grateful, but if there was one thing civilization was good for it was food. i do miss my friends and family, but their memories are so deeply etched in my mind that i can bring them up at will, converse with them, ask advice, seek solace. perhaps what i miss most is being touched - short of taming a racoon or another furry beast, it's not likely i'll be getting a cuddle from anything or anyone anytime soon. or ever. still, i can't complain - i got to have my wish: i got to witness the end of the anthropocene.


26 February, 2016

glerp!

nothing like looking at your brand new passport photo to take the spring out of your step. i look and wonder how it is that the villagers, armed with pitchforks and loathing, haven't run me out of town yet.

(above is a fairly accurate representation of my latest passport photo needed to secure a working visa, though who'd hire that!? the only difference: in the actual photo, the background is white)

beige...take two

right up there with highly gendered boys' and girls' bedrooms (boys like sports, trucks, and camo! girls like princesses and butterflies and piiiiiink!) in most of the houses we've seen, there's also this bizarre anachronistic thing that they do in the famed double-sinked bathrooms - if you're lucky or rich (this was first sold to us as an upgrade in a fancy show home), you will have two sinks: one higher and one lower. this, i presume, translates to one sink for the tall brawny man-beast husband, and one sink for the dainty lady wife. the first time i saw it, i thought it was some weird one-off thing or possibly a drunk builder. the second, third, etc. i realised i was dealing with a physical manifestation of serious systemic problems.observe below:




24 February, 2016

beige....

i think i'd best stay off the scandinavian design blogs whilst searching for a house* in texas. because mr. monkey is adamant we get something newer than 2000 (which i adjusted to 1998 because metric..ahem) and i'm adamant i want something other than a vast bland expanse of grass in the backyard, it limits our choices somewhat. still, even if it hadn't, the houses available are almost uniformly beige, poorly designed, overly large, spatially wasteful, and...shall i say it? ugly as fuck. so yes, looking at sleek, small, superbly designed, smartly laid-out, and beautifully furnished homes in finland or sweden isn't exactly advisable right about now.

it's astonishing how 1990's texas design (and banking, and urban planning, and...) is - our realtor didn't understand what i meant when i asked about the lack of deep pull out drawers under the kitchen counter even in fancy expensive show homes. in fact, texas seems to be stuck at that particular point in design development that sees granite, stainless steel, wall-to-wall carpet, and his-and-hers bathroom sinks as the height of sophistication.

sure, i realise that this first world problem is right up there with complaining about my porsche getting a chip in the windshield or my tennis bracelet losing its lustre because the help didn't know how to buff it properly but it's my blog and i'll be entitled if i want to. and also - hey! sustainability! just because you have more land than sense, doesn't mean you should be building houses based on some anachronistic notion that imagines a formal dining room and a formal living room a regular part of modern people's daily lives, especially when said formal dining room is roughly 15m from the kitchen, across an expanse of light carpeting, clearly for the sheer entertainment value for people (like me) who love their beets and red wine.

and why do i need a bonus games/media room when i am already being sold a 300m²  monstrosity with 5 bedrooms and 3.78 bathrooms? speaking of which, do texans poop more than the rest of the world that there is an expectation of 2.3 bathrooms per capita? sure, it's nice to have more than one in the house, but having lived with just one for years, i can vouch that it is not an infringement on anyone's human rights.

so despite our best efforts we'll likely end up with a beige house with seventeen bathrooms, a formal dining room, a breakfast nook, a semi-formal dining room, a semi-informal dining room, a midnight snack nook, and a sink for every person in our immediate and extended family**! there will be plush carpeting in the bathroom to soak up dust mites and skin flakes! there will be wall-to-wall stainless steel granite and plantation shutters (i presume these come with slaves to operate them, and if they don't, i want my money back!). there will be expansive lawns and triple car garages! in a word, my poultries, there will be more than enough room for you to come visit us in the lap of texan luxury!



*yes, my poultries, the search is back on: we got pre-authorized for a mortgage which seems to have eased mr. monkey's anxiety somewhat.

** as they say: a family that flosses together, stays together!


22 February, 2016

rain

woke up this morning to the sound of rain. our summer and fall were dry (or were they? i forget weather as soon as it's behind me, unless it's something momentous, like the tornado of '87) and winter was wintery so it feels like forever since i've heard the sound of rain on the windows. it's nice, something peaceful and soothing about it. it provides a lovely background to an existential crisis, though the howling leaf blowing/grass cutting machinery that just piped up is probably more apt.

ah yes, you sigh, roll your eyes, and shake your head sadly, this woman has far too much free time on her hands, constantly flitting from one existential crisis to another, faffing about ineffectually through life, unsure, uncertain, unclear, and unable to pick a direction and stick to it. clearly, she has missed her calling as a victorian housewife with a laudanum addiction and a hysterical womb. which is a totally fair point. i'm absolutely certain that if i were a single mother of three, i'd still be scraping teeth for a living and be happy doing it (though the thought of being a single mother of three makes the idea of happiness more than a little dubious). alas and alack, i am NOT a single mother of three, so the point is moot. and, as crusty juggler wisely pointed out just now, depression (even "successfully" medicated depression) provides a sort of low grade background radiation to your entire existence that colours everything you do, say, choose, fail to choose, and so on.

i am well aware of the blessings of my life. i'm relatively healthy. i am financially stable (not that much thanks to me, but still...) i have amazing people in my life. i am genuinely thankful for all this. truly. i'd be even more of an asshole than i feel i am for all this whining if i wasn't. so what's the problem, you ask. well, that's the problem - it's sort of difficult to accurately define it. but it's not just mine, i'll tell you that much. i know so many people, intelligent people, who seem lost, for whom the classic career path never materialised or was never a good fit. people who want something more but are also unable to define it. the way i picture it is a slow revolution against the status quo, but it is so slow that it often loses momentum and it lacks leadership and passion (or perhaps we're all just too tired of living, which, yes, back to the victorian lady and all, but FUCK, aren't you all just tired of living sometimes? the noise, the demands, the fucking frenetic busyness? the endless marketing campaign that puts a price tag on joy? be honest now!). an army of confused intelligent zombies walking in what eventually is likely to appear to be the same general direction but currently lost, unsure. hungry not for brains (because we have enough, thank you), but for meaning, change, SOMETHING.

so how do you verbalise it? how do you define it? how do you explain why you are dissatisfied with the options available on the menu of modern existence without sounding like an entitled lazy asshole? "harrumph! by the time i was your age, i had a job, a wife, and 14 children! and i got up at 3am every morning and worked hard my whole life just so i could retire to this gated community in florida. you need to get off your duff and get a real job. and get a haircut while you're at it. and GET OFF MY LAWN!" that's part of the problem, innit, though i'm lucky to have people i can talk to about this without facing scorn. and please know that i'm not feeling sorry for myself for being misunderstood; i'm feeling frustrated with myself for failing to understand or, having managed to scrape some understanding together, for failing to know what the hell to do with it.

yes, i know i'm not a kid anymore; the fact that i have an accountant alone tells me that. but i feel like a kid now more than ever. when i was 20 i was lost, too. i took the path of dental hygiene for lack of anything better to do, but back then i was 20. i have 23+ more years behind me now and i thought for sure i'd have my shit together by now. i sure as shit didn't think i'd get a master's degree, followed by my dream job, only to be right back where i started three short years later. perpetual students, dreamers, temp-workers, lost souls - it's not really a tragedy, but it sure is frustrating to be one of them, feeling like you have something to contribute, but have yet to figure out what the hell that is, because clearly there's a limited market for witty repartee or my people would be lighting up our cohibas with rolled up 100 dollar bills.



19 February, 2016

pave paradise

a two hour walk last night, in the dark. one thing they do right here (well, ok, one of several things they do right) is the minimized light pollution. you can walk along the path and watch the merest suggestion of shadows - vines, branches, leaves, flowers, play along your feet. a subtle carpet of shadow and silver, woven in the most magical of shapes - that of nature. a look at my phone blinds me, then i readjust and i'm back in the shadows.

one thing they most definitely do wrong is that you are never too far off from a major road, making silence an impossibility, or at least an improbability. the ubiquitous hum becomes background to both the birds and the cicadas, and after a while you stop noticing it...much. still, a tapestry of night sound would have been preferable, to go with this tapestry of shadows. aaah, civilization... it's so easy to use what you give but hate you nonetheless.

what i see here is, for the most part, similar to what i see back home: taking land, beautiful land - trees, shrubs, wetlands, hills and dips, and razing it all for the sake of convenience. more grocery stores. more strip malls. more parking lots that lie empty through the night and half the day. more and more parking lots. we are a continent of parking lots, stretching as far as the eye can see and i, for one, am sick to death of it. looking around and seeing this destruction in the name of commerce makes me want to press a button and get off. but where? where do i go? what do i do? besides, last i checked, this planet came without a button...

i am heartily sick of what we are and what we do. i read article after article in my twitter feed that shows we know exactly what we must do - narrow the roads, decrease the speed limit, encourage walking, build protected bike lanes, put parking behind a building instead of the front, reduce parking minimums, plant more trees, get outside, and still the goddamn corporate-driven status quo persists and i feel like i don't know what to do other than shutting down and thinking of something else. mindfulness: you focus on what is, not what should or shouldn't be. you live in the now, small bits of tunnel vision to shut out the noise and ugliness. i try, i work on it. i really, really try, but the fucking reality of what we are doing to our land makes me want to howl.

i pass a sign in the downtown area, only see the first line "a unique blend of...." something about dining and shopping, but in my head, i finish the tag line differently: "a unique blend of corporate whoredom and shoddy architecture - we put twinkling lights on the trees so you can experience what passes for magic in your shallow market-driven life. shut up. buy something - that's happiness."



17 February, 2016

paging doctor house

ok, fine, let's talk about the house hunting. if i can't vent and try to make entertainment out of manure then i'm doing the blogging thing wrong.

first plan of attack, when driving down south, was to rent a home (after the 3 months that the company puts us up in the beige place), because obviously we don't know the woodlands area, don't get the lay of the land, don't know the up-and-coming neighbourhoods from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks neighbourhoods, and before you know it we'd end up buying in some nasty third rate neighbourhood filled with rapists, loose women, and smelly foreigners next door to a crack house. so rent for a year or so, figure shit out, etc. etc.

the budget we'd fixed for said rent seemed entirely reasonable - the interwebs were filled with houses well within our price range, and some of them even had granite! getting closer to the time of arrival, i realised that the properties within our price range quickly disappeared (many were for rent or for sale and were sold) and i had to increase my monthly budget. twice. sadly, when i started looking with a realtor, it turned out the vast majority of the places were the sort i'd have happily inhabited 25 years earlier, but which, despite not really being a snob*, i no longer want to live in. sure, one or two were cute, but those were roughly the size of a postage stamp, and what with a garage-full of polish mid-century modern whatsits, well, it wasn't gonna fly. out of the 14 or so i looked at, only one was good, but by then we'd gotten to the very top of our price range and realised that a comparable mortgage+tax would get us way more house.

upon further consultation, mr. monkey decreed we should buy instead. by then we'd realised that 1. the woodlands is pretty nice throughout, 2. there are smelly immigrants everywhere, what with the booming job-market suctioning engineers from every country on the globe**, 3. there were no obvious crack houses in the neighbourhoods close to mr. monkey's work, and 4. why rent for 2K/mo when you can buy for 1.6K/mo? so i looked. and looked. and looked and looked and found two houses i really liked. a lot. one slightly above our price range, and one far below. one with a gorgeous pool and move-in ready awesomeness, and one with a tiny but charming yardlet and an unpretentious homey interior. i took mr. monkey to see them both.

today, crusty juggler texted me to ask how mr. monkey liked the house with the pool. this is my response:

he liked it but thought it was too much. not necessarily too much $ but too much house. too fancy, i guess? then we went to see the little one... and he liked it more .. then we came home and he had a brain aneurysm and said instead of buying he wants to build and then i went out, got a gun, and committed a double murder/suicide. 
which is where we are now. i'm wiping up the blood. and that's hard to do, since i'm also dead.

so this is where we are now and this is why i don't wanna talk about it: because the person who wants to build a tiny house (or at least a small simple house) doesn't buy a computer screen for unspecified reasons, or collect an embarrassing number of spoons and ladles, and most certainly doesn't ship a vast portion of the contents of his grandparents' place to another country across the ocean for large amounts of money for sentimental reasons. 

do i sound frustrated? perhaps. but i went to the laptop, did a meditation whatsit, and started making peace with this new state of affairs. the rapidity with which i made my peace with it made me realise that all i need, really, is just some time to get used to things. don't spring anything on me, work up to it gently, and it's quite likely i'll be just fine with it. eventually. i'm highly adaptable...or something. wanna sell all our possessions and start a fancy pork sausage factory in tel aviv? ummmmm....ok? how about building a yurt in auckland? sure...let's do it. at any rate, just give me some warning and i'll adapt. it must be adaptability, cause the only other option i can think of is that i just don't much give a shit.


*this is true. mr. monkey and i feel very badly out of place in shiny 5-star type places and would much rather stick to 2.5-3 star range. too much wrought iron in the gate, too many water-spouting-statuary, too many gilded swans, and we get seriously nervous. we're immigrants! we're not used to fancy!

**i certainly hope you know me well enough by now to realise i'm totally joking about the smelly immigrants, right? because i love smelly foreign food, am often redolent of garlic myself, and at this point in time, i'm a legal alien.

first world woes

i'm sitting here in a darkened room with a headache that started, quietly enough, last night, and was there in the morning to greet me. no surprise, i guess, that i've had more than my recent share of headaches, what with the stress and all. and rubbery pillows, natch.

i don't generally believe in luck but have found myself looking askance at the fates of late. here, as much for your reading pleasure as for my living displeasure, is a list of recent fails:

1. since my own phone died 2 day before reaching texas, i needed a new phone, stat. tried to order said phone, but was unable to without credit cards with an american address attached to them. bank had received said cards, got an email from them asking for address for forwarding, sent email with address. a week later, still no cards and another email asking about address. sent email with address again. finally received cards.

2.  as soon as our credit cards came in the mail, i ordered a new phone. a week later, no phone. looked  and looked and finally realised no phone had actually been ordered despite email with confirmation number (luckily no $ taken). went back to order again, phone sold out. ordered the next best one.

3. waited for debit cards from 2 banks with which we have american accounts. a month later, still no cards. not that big a deal, right? wrong - you need a debit card to get a money order, and you need to pay brokerage fees with money orders when you get stuff shipped from overseas. guess who had stuff shipped from overseas and needed to pay brokerage fees with a money order in order to get our good released? yes. that's right. us.

4. mr. monkey called his company's credit union explaining situation (caused by them, since they accidentally sent our debit cards to a partially imaginary address somewhere in california (we think)) and they promised us money orders by internal courier next day (i.e. friday). friday - no money orders. they arrived monday.

5. i ordered a bike over 3 weeks ago. despite emailing back and forth with seller and an extended and utterly useless phone call with fedex, no bike. i suspect theft. it came to the area, was supposed to be delivered on the 10th and then, suddenly, poof! disappeared.


now, because we don't want to be negative or anything, and we do want to be fair, here is a list of (eventual) successes:

1. phone arrived as scheduled. it works. it's pretty. it makes nifty sounds.

2. bike seller was responsive and sent another bike which is due to arrive tomorrow. we'll see what happens.

3. shipment of goods from poland arrived in an almost miraculously pristine state, by which i mean that the shrink wrap we enshrouded them in looks the same as it did when we put them on the truck in warsaw in december. frankly, i am shocked. there was one crack on a mirror, but seeing as we forgot about this mirror and did nothing to support it, one small crack is pretty amazing considering its journey by truck; ship; another ship; possibly another ship though i can't be sure, or i can but don't care enough to find out; truck; and another truck.


the less said about our house hunt, the better. no, seriously, i don't even wanna talk about it.

super positive side:

it's green, and beautiful, and trees and flowers are blooming, and every morning birds wake me up with their mellifluousity.





10 February, 2016

death wish? no thanks, i've just eaten!

so this thing's been popping into my head of late and i know how horrible it sounds, but really, it's just a thought and it's an honest thought and it's actually fairly positive, although i realise it's hard to believe. anyway, here goes the back story.

i'm happy most of the time. or at least not unhappy. i'm fine. the world is...well, sorta fine, if you sorta squint, and cover your left eye, and only look RIGHT THERE, but you know, for me, it's ok. most of the time i focus on the stuff that's happening, speak to my friends, do the mindfulness schtick, etc. etc. yadda, yadda. and then, when the weight of politics or parking lots or bloodshed or hatred or rampant consumption gets too much, i wilt, and it is then that i have this thought that on the surface looks horrible but i find really really comforting:

i look at my face, i see it getting old and i think to myself, thank GOD imma die some day and i won't have to worry about this shit any more. and it makes me feel good.

so there you have it.

09 February, 2016

singing songs for solitary sturgeon

you know that moment when you're so tired of looking at a real estate website that you start making up songs that make fun of the houses you're looking at and serenading them in a falsetto? no? so it's just me, then?

some of my songs got a little political...

08 February, 2016

rock it like the gardeners

you just know it's not going to be hard to stand out in a sea of shiny beigeness when you pull up to pick up your husband from work in a '98 volvo station wagon with the inexplicably jammed back window covered with a garbage bag to keep the rain out.

a shiny new SUV is just not our style.

07 February, 2016

down south, y'all

i'm back. i'm here. i'm fine.

at first, there was too much to process and write about and i felt i needed to sit on it for a while before i wrote. then, too much time had passed, and i felt that anything i wrote would be perfunctory and too late.

now i think i'd best get in here or i'll never get back or i'll write random posts while completely glossing over the fact that i am now living in the united states of america, in a very pretty and beige little community, in texas, for christsakes, the one place anyone who knows me would most certainly not put me, and overall, it's all good.

highlights - 4 day drive south turned into 5 day drive south because of an overzealous customs agent who made us retrace our steps (over 6h in total) in order to get a letter from the nearest volvo dealer, at which the customs agent we lucked into the following day didn't even glance! luck of the draw is one of my great annoyances with the grey-assed muddle of bureaucracy - ask seven bureaucrats a question and you're liable to get nine different answers. but we made it.

montana is big and open and beautiful and mountainous and empty. ditto wyoming plus wind. new mexico we zoomed through, and texas welcomed us with one of the most spectacular sunsets of recent memory, and although it was just meteorology and shit, it felt like it meant something.

the thing with texas is that it taps into two things for me: 1. familiarity: much of it is very similar to alberta, although the particular bit we're in, is not. and 2. my not particularly well advertised love of the western genre - driving through amarillo i felt a thrill that i could not easily explain - something about the name conjured up cowboys and lassoes and camping under the stars, although it was really just a city we drove through on the way south. even signs outside restaurants denying entry to individuals carrying weapons, well, at this point it still seems cute. armadillo roadkill, great mexican restaurants, and good bbq round out the things i like. there are things i don't like, but that's the price of admission to life, so i'll deal.

at any rate, my poultries, i'm alive, i'm here, i'm happy. more later!