Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thrills, bills, and coffee spills.

It was my sincerest intention to write each day of the drive, and also to detail each and every glorious little thing I've noticed about THIS FUCKING MAGNIFICENT CITY.

But...acclamation, while fun, is a harrowing thing. Sorry for the delay. Here we go:

First and foremost, and this is the only way I know how to put this: Seattle is the most aesthetic city I've ever seen. There are hills. Go on top of one, and you will see at least five of the following: a sunset, a gynormous mountain range with snowy peaks, water, Mt. Rainier, a bus, a tree, a space needle, a big shiny glittery skyline that will just make you scream with excitement inside: "Look at me! I live in a city!", and either a seagull or a crow (I find both pleasing to the eyes and ears). I can see all of these things except Rainier from the back of my building, where I am at this moment sitting.

It's almost unfair. I want to say I'm pissed that I didn't grow up here, but I'm not. I am so delighted to be seeing all this bright squeaky new stuff with bright squeaky new eyes every day that I almost can't stand myself. 

Other things I've seen (I'm starting a tally):
- People watering their lawns because it hasn't rained in more than four days: 5
- Superiorly adorable puppies: 7
- Men in kilts: 4 (my favorite was the one who paired it with a Betty Boop shirt)
- Thrift stores within walking distance: 8
- Grown men playing on a swing set: 2 (or 1 pair)
- Fascinatingly beautiful people of unknown gender: 768 (averaging one every ten minutes of a waking day)

Some of these lovely people are friendly, others are sort of shifty-eyed and seem to want to hurry past. Everytime I meet someone new and tell them where I'm from, they say: "People are so much more passive aggressive here, you know." Passive Aggressive. No, actually, I don't know. I really never had a firm grasp on what that means, and I still don't. I expected people here to be more loopy --mountain-loving people with thick socks and crazy eyes who always seem to smile and who talk to strangers. The people I'm seeing are not that. I'm kind of relieved, (I saw enough of those in Shepherdstown for a lifetime), but I still can't necessarily decide how to describe Seattle-ites.

Off the bat: they're young. Even the older people I meet have this shrieking aura of youth clinging to them, like they just aren't aware that their eyes and mannerisms are supposed to change with time. People here walk fast and talk slow. I repeat myself often and sometimes am looked upon as if I'm speaking a foreign, troll-like language. They stare when they listen in an almost intimidating way, and yet they smile when I least expect it. That's the ongoing theme here: the unexpected persona. A tired girl who looks like a zombie but carries a box I can't budge. A shy-faced skinny boy with sudden, bold, blind-siding confidence. Smiling people who don't wave back and drivers who slow down but then get pissed when you decide to cross the street. Voices don't match faces, expressions don't match words, it's all willy-nilly and frightful. I guess that's passive-aggressive?

And so I've had a few of these moments already: I don't know anyone. I don't have a job. I don't have the money to do this. But I slap myself awake at once. I do know people, warm wonderful people, both here and back home. And I will get to know more here, once I learn the secret code or whatever it is I'm not getting just yet. I will get a job, because I'm able and aggressive and not very particular. And I do have money, eeking in from various delayed design sources. I just have to remind myself that it's been a week and I've already done unexpected things myself. I've successfully driven. I've already earned a parking ticket. I've already done indulgent, sweet, sticky things and have already not regretted them for a moment. I've climbed a tower, sang to strangers, and tried soup that cannot be named here because my computer doesn't even have the right buttons to spell it. I'm exactly the same only no one knows it, and that creates layers upon layers of challenges. I'm as dandy as ever and moving right along.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Manifest Destiny of Tom and Z (an odyssey told in the form of a telegraph).

West Virginia: Farewell! (stop)

Ohio: Uneventful (stop)  Left arm begins turning red (stop)

Indiana: Hot (stop)  Boring (stop)  Will not revisit (stop)

Illinois: Greeted immediately by series of billboards reading 'TOM RAPER RV'S (stop)  Frightening (stop)  Wow (stop) That left arm is really getting very red (stop)

Wisconsin: Car refuses to start back up in Motel 6 parking lot (stop)  Falling asleep to the sound of bilingual baby-mama drama outside the door (stop)  In the morning we confirm the belief that all McDonalds nationwide are filled with elderly men before 9am (stop) Lindsey prevents me from turning left at a red light, only after I get stuck in the middle of the lane (stop)

Minnesota: We cross the Mississppi (stop)  For lunch: ramen noodles cooked on top of the car (stop)  

South Dakota: Farms and tourist attractions ONLY (stop)  No evidence of actual places to live (stop)  Corn Palace is not made entirely of corn (stop)  It is made of lies (stop)  Lies! (stop)  Michael Jackson is dead (stop)  It costs ten dollars to see Mount Rushmore (stop)  Car protests at ignition again but is coerced into cooperation by Lindsey's 'stern' voice (stop) 

Wyoming: Shrubberies (stop) More ramen (stop)

Montana: All exits no services (stop)  Stop at a gas station at the Crow Indian res and feel bad about life in general for a minute (stop)  See some elk (stop)  

Idaho: Steep and short (stop)

Washington: Hot and flat (stop) Discover the 'unflushable legend' at a gas station (stop)  OMG My brother is having a baby!!! (stop)  Hit the mountains and love the smell (stop) Arrive in Sumner around six pm (stop) Trip over (stop)

Seattle: saved for tomorrow (stop)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rules of blast-off.

It is 5:32am on a Wednesday morning at my parents house. Everyone else is asleep: said parents, over-medicated dogs, best friend. But people are going to wake up, things are going into my car, and away we go. Soon.

I feel slightly sick.

But otherwise, I'm fine! There are a trillion little things I feel I'm leavning undone, and I know that a solid half of them will not simply go away. I'll deal with them, but to quote Ben Iver the Great on his soul-seeking sojourn: "Today is Kumran. Everything that happens is from now on." The hard part, the tough plastic surface, is nearly over --the switching of bank accounts and state licenses, the cramming of things into my little car. The easy part --the highly anticipated, sweet, nougaty fun part-- begins now. And it begins with a little thing Lindsey and I liket to call The Manifest Destiny of Tom and Z.

MDTZ Rules of the Road, revised:
  1. We will stretch. Every morning. Every evening. Every 2 or 3 hours on the road.
  2. The passenger is responsible at all times for knowing the status of the right lane.
  3. We will play our music loudly. We shall not sing to excess, but we must tolerate one anothers' singing whenever 'the fever' hits.
  4. Any argument may not last longer than the song presently playing.
  5. We will be fashionable. Vacations are for comfort. Road trips are for making statements. We shall not suffer ourselves to wear sweatpants. We shall not, for frumpy t-shirts and sensible shoes, sacrifice our capacity to shine. We will look excessively awesome.
    - Amendment to MDTZ Rule #5: At no time shall Tom make fun of Z's attire.
  6. There is to be no bitching at the expense of the other party's delight.
  7. There is to be much "What's their favorite _________?". (Sorry folks, private joke.)
  8. We will not contact our significant others, mothers, and loved ones more than twice daily, individually.
  9. There will be no crisis or concern that cannot end in laughter.

And blast-off, people. Coming up: a giant building made entirely of corn, motels, many 89 cent burritos, possible bear-related perils, and lots and lots of Tom Petty. We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Your love will be my rocket fuel.

Someone near n' dear said this to me recently: "We're just parts of people that we meet mostly. I like that. I like recognizing in myself the things I've picked up from other people. It creates a connection."

I like it, too. The way I tend to say certain words, cook my eggs, kiss, and even laugh. The slow death of my original accent, my eventual acceptance of skinny-jeans, hyper-femme-alertness, it's all you. All of you. Bubbly and loud, that's mom. Every time I click the high-beams, Lois, that's you. Anything remotely qualified as snuggling, it's Melissa. Evan is excitement...over anything. Steve is self-acceptance mingled with lazing, responsibility, and liquor. Stephanie, debates dissolving into giggles, and every single 'fuck' I let slip, I'll have you know. I owe Carey for child-like ferocity, and I owe a handful of middle-aged women for hope in things to come. Russell Brand is my spirit animal, Kristin, my peace and patience, and Lindsey, the unparalleled security and sobering knowledge that my every cell is numbered, known, accepted, and loved, if not understood.

So thank you. I love you. In great big neon letters, with explosions and flying doves and painted dancers, I love you.

FAQ #4, the fourth and final:

Q: When will you be taking off?
A: Next Thursday, I'll leave for Poca, WV, to see my family and wrap things up. And then, on the 24th, Lindsey and I will embark on the much anticipated "Manifest Destiny of Tom and Z", which will take us through Chicago, Minneapolis, Fargo, North Dakota, Montana, that skinny bit of Idaho, and finally, Seattle. Along the way: the world's largest horseshoe crab, Taco Bell, and much bitching from Lindsey about my tendency to drive like an old woman.

And if I haven't seen you yet, I will before I leave. Just remind me, please. Pre-Life-Transplant Time is a hectic, giddy, terrifying time, and I don't want it to stand in the way of any and all last-second hugs. It's important that I get those. This little ship won't make it far without them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Room with a Cockeyed View, a'la Meatloaf's Disapproval

I am scooting along the edge of the precipice! Spending hours pacing, sorting, needlessly packing things into tidy little boxes. I wish these next three weeks were dust already. There is nothing to fill them but goodbyes, and I'm just no good with those. Got a delayed sense of sentiment and a blockage in my consequence detector, so I come off as insincere, but it'll come. It'll be a month, maybe two, before I'm balled up on the floor of my closet-sized apartment, blubbering over pictures and trying to rub scratched CDs back to life. It'll come, it'll pass. If I know one thing, it's myself.

My apartment? My apartment! Meet the Seward. As of July 1, I'll be the proud new tenant of Room 303. And if I lean far enough out the window and face the extreme left, I'll be able to see the Space Needle, city lights, and mountains!

And how will I fund my own 48o square foot habitat? Sounds like FAQ #3

Q: What are you going to do out there?

A: Lots of things. Principle among them: I am going to complete a book out there. That is number one on the list, my highest priority, the light at the end of my tunnel vision. All else is second banana. I want it. I want it in tactile print with a slick, shiny cover. I want advances and screenplays and yaoi fanfiction and rock star heights, and I will get it. I have to, because I can't imagine being content with anything else, knowing the way I feel now. So I'll get it. I'll do all the edits and groveling it takes. That thing Meatloaf wouldn't do for love? I would do that. I would eat green eggs and ham. I would push a little old lady down the stairs if I had to, to make this work. Fortunately, I don't climb a lot of stairs while googling around for agent preferences, so the little old ladies of the world need not beware.

Second, I'm going to enjoy myself. And Seattle looks like a mighty fine place to do just that.

Last and entirely least, I'll get a job. It'll be several months before Vessel earns me a single penny, and something has to sustain me until then. I'll make this part easy: NO MORE DESIGN. I'm keeping the business, and I'll take on projects as they come. But I'm burnt out, folks. And I'm not going to stare at Adobe programs all day and then stare at a blinking cursor all night, because that's what I'm doing now and it's not working. I just want to clock in, clock out, and get paid to do anything, anything else. I'll let you know when I figure out what that is. 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Inbreds Among Honeysuckle

I'm not sure why I keep coming to Panera Bread expecting to get any work done. Every time, every single time, someone pisses me off. Whether it's a chatty party who decides to sit RIGHT. NEXT. TO. ME., or dirty old men I know from contra who just cram into the booth beside me and strike up small talk, it just happens every time. Maybe I subconsciously crave the frustration, the pent-up urges to just turn to someone and say, for once, "Seriously?!".

I belched a little of that steam today. Three high school brats with Jersey accents take a table close by, and I overhear one of them saying: "(giggled nonsense)....inbreds. Yeah, we saw someone shoot a opossum." To which I abruptly slam my laptop monitor down and say, "Excuse me, but you have to go to the Southern part of the state to see the inbreds. This area here" --I then produce my middle-finger WV map and indicate the thumb-- "is actually the most rapidly developing regions in the state. If you want to see the sticks, I can show you where they are."

There. I'm over it. They were actually quite nice, those girls. Just uneducated. And while this is in no way a decent segue into my next Frequently Asked Question, it did make me think about our glorious state and the bourgeois, prom-queen bastard child that is the Eastern Panhandle. And it made me ponder, once again, why I'm itching to just leave.

Q: But why do you want to leave us???

A: This one I get really tired of explaining. "It'll be bad for your business." "But you're doing so well here." "Are you unhappy?" 

I am happy, I really am, and there is no one reason that I want to leave. I'm just tired. And truth be told, I'm not doing so well here. I'm doing only well enough to pay the county's cheapest rent, do my laundry with a flashlight (in an unlit basement), and wake each morning to the uplifting vocals of a feral Pomeranian. I'm slipping up on projects and my back is curving in unpleasant ways. I stay indoors because my favorite people have all trickled away, leaving only the people who must stop me on every corner with the droning post-college questionnaire: "Hey there! What are you doing these days??"

Getting as far away as possible, that's what. Leaving mindless "Well, how are you?" behind and driving until I get to "Hello, my name is."

So there's my answer. I do love this place, and I do love you. All of it. Even the dirty old men, even the compulsive question-talkers. Even you, Jefferson County, you favored eldest child, you. I'm scared to death of how much I'll miss this place. I could smell honeysuckle on my porch this morning and now I worry about being homesick for little things like that. But I'm just tired. I could be happy and well here for thirty more years, easy. I could have bushels of honeysuckle and all the familiar faces I want, but I'm not willing to take that chance. From my own crooked little lookout fort, the view says that staying is the gamble. Leaving is my only sure bet.

In other news, I've just watched the Notorious Bettie Page and am considering pin-up girl bangs. Maybe I'll shear them en route as a symbolic rite? Lindsey, do they allow candles in our nation's Hotel 6's? How do they feel about chanting and mourning?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hitchhike to the Yellow Moon

This time next month, I may as well be on that yellow or any-colored moon. I'm packing up my little sunny Smartee car and driving West to chase my own empire, to drive my flag into unknown soil. I don't know when I'm coming back again, so I'm giving this blog thing a spin to keep tabs on the ones I love, and to detail my exploits for those who'd care to follow.

For starters, I've compiled some FAQ's for your pleasure, to clarify on this somewhat sudden and nonsensical move. The answers are long and ill-expressed, so I'll be highlighting one per post, starting with the obvious:

Q: OMG TOM! Why Seattle?  

A: I have a lot of reasons, and they are all pretty much based on aesthetics and whimsical deduction rather than good, solid decision-making.
 a. Old parts of me have always wanted to live on the coast (or at least the illusion of a coast)
 b. Older, deeply-rooted parts of me positively detest heat. Heat of any kind. 
 c. More recent parts of me yearn to sample city living.

The heat factor obviously knocks out anything further South, while the coastal factor knocks out anything inland. Boston and New York both just scare the hell out of me. But Seattle....Seattle got me thinking. Seattle I know next to nothing about.

A life-long diet of pop culture has already imbedded a picture of Seattle in my mind, however false it is, and I like what I see and hear and smell. In my mind, Seattle overflows with good coffee. It is green and temperate and moist and it smells like water. In Seattle, the armpits of my shirts are luxuriously dry, and I am always wearing my beloved sweaters in perfect harmony with the temperature. In Seattle, colorful street art makes up for the gray skies, and lithe people frolic in the misty shadows of white mountain peaks. I like that. 

The Seattle in my mind is the American city built in preparation for my arrival. It's glitter and speed like a city should be, but gentler, friendlier, navigable. The sky is green at night, and I don't know why. I see briefcases and lattes, and streamlined Futurist buildings. I also see outdoor enthusiasts, pretty girls holding hands, dive bars, lush parks, vespas, fish markets, black sands, seagulls, ferry rides, teeny old apartments, and splashy puddles. I like all these things.

And yes, I've Googled, I've read, I've studied. I've taken hour-long walks on StreetView and exhausted craigslist utterly. Seattle might not be like I imagine it at all, but I know enough. I know that it will not disappoint me. I will bend the avenues to my wishes and I will find what I am looking for.