Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Thinking about moving to Idaho. (dream)

Image by Acabashi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

DREAM

I'm not sure California is working for me anymore. 

A map is on-screen. Red dashes animate my path from California to Idaho.

I pull my car into the parking lot of a humble, white-painted, clapboard church and pull the hand break. Dust settles around the wheels of my white Subaru. Classes are still in session back "home" in SoCal, so I feel a bit guilty about this little vacation. My time could be better spent studying since every semester is one test after another. But I value my sanity above all. Things must be done in order to maintain it, and I have found that this includes spurts of leisurely puttering and lollygagging.

I enter the church where my friend will be. The interior of the church is far larger than I'd expected. I'd forgotten what wide, open spaces feel like.

I don't see my friend yet. But after a few minutes, enough people trickle in to fill the church. Everyone is dressed with what I would reluctantly admit, is a lack of fashion sense. However, they have their own individual sense of effort, personal expression or whatever else they hope to insert, extract or avoid in the social environment via their costumery.

I had forgotten what it was like to be around people who don't fall neatly and accurately into uniform categories based on appearances: gangsters, bros, surfers, casual business people, homeless people, etcetera. There are other problems here in this church. I can feel them brewing already. But they have nothing to do with the cultural quirks that had been irritating me so much in California, and it's quite refreshing.

Live gospel music starts to play. I start singing along. I haven't heard live gospel music in a long time and it's great fun to be in a building full of participants. As I'm singing along, I spot my friend. She sees me too, but she's not too enthusiastic to see me. I understand; she looks busy. Besides, we're quite old friends and are comfortable with each other. I don't need to extract some sort of greeting according to my own subjective, unspoken terms for how enthusiastic someone should appear.

When the singing is through, there's a meet and greet time and she and I have the opportunity to chat a little bit. I start to warm up to the idea of going here for college when I apply to grad school.

She and I drive back to California with a handful of other old friends and hit one of the same bars I used to work in. I don't work here anymore, so it feels extremely awkward. I keep wanting to get up, serve and pour. But I have to tamp down that muscle memory that allowed me to do my job for years without having to think about it.

I have a hell of a lot of math homework to do. I've brought it with me. I don't know how I'm going to concentrate with so many distractions around me- friends especially. But I know I have to, so I will.

We have a round of beer already, but I get up from our booth and reach into a side refrigerator beside the bar at the same time another man is. He laughs nervously and makes some generic deference to me. I return the gesture without thinking.

He might as well say, "Bippity-boop." And I'd reply, "Bop." It's all the same. 

Fortunately, what comes out of my mouth is, "Thanks! I'm just going to get..."

Oh, crap. I don't know what I want to get out of the fridge! I was just looking! 

I panic. The stopwatch of polite deference has begun. "...one of these!" I grab a rice milk chai in a box.

What a weird thing to drink...

I shrug and pay for it.

I'm amazed at how busy the emerald green bar is. My former coworkers are still working there and they're extremely busy. I'm not surprised they're still here, but I'm amazed I used to do this.

INTERPRETATION

I keep thinking about living elsewhere. I keep thinking that the Midwest might not be as bad as it has always seemed to me (although I've never been there). It sounds so much cheaper and easier to live there in so many senses.

In my current neighborhood, I've begun to grow weary of the constant street harassment, the tightly enclosed spaces, the overpriced housing, the rude, polarized, stereotyped and reactive behavior a lot of people are inclined towards, and worst of all... the noise. They're all the things so many people from my town of origin warned me about when I mentioned moving to Southern California in the first place (specifically Southern California. I had a stranger from Northern California assert these same sorts of accusations about the Southern half too). I didn't necessarily believe them. I thought it was too subjective to generalize like that. And I still think so. Don't take my word for it- experience it for yourself and you might find things are different. But these repeated, subjective unpleasantries have stood out in my mind recently. (Also bear in mind: most of my complaining is related to living in the ghetto as a poor student. I've no doubt my experience would be different in another neighborhood with slightly different circumstances, like... not riding the bus and walking all the time or living next to a homeless colony.)

I got rid of a lot of old cultural problems from my culture of origin by moving, but were those problems worth trading for these? Grabbing the milk instead of drinking beer with my friends could suggest some of this as well as the sense of trading social problems while on vacation in Idaho. They're dramatically different types of problems. I think this principle has won out over the old adage that you can't physically run away from emotional problems. I used to think that, but man, was I wrong. Even a couple weeks' difference in seasons or a different set of people living on a given block dramatically shape one's entire perception of the world for that day. Reality on that scale is different for that time period for those people. It changes things- sometimes a lot.

Someone once told me that everyplace is hell until you meet that exact right mix of friends. Unfortunately, I think I left that special group here behind when I went back to college.

My surprise at my old working lifestyle is a reflection of how I don't feel that I can tolerate crowds and noise and chaos anymore. The unique chaos of this place is becoming tedious to me. Even the most bizarre, shocking things now are often expected. Here's an example of my newfound jadedness at insanity and the insanity that the sane believe they are not participating in- the insanity they would never- could never see themselves as participating in.

I was walking to the grocery store when I nearly tripped over a woman, sitting on the sidewalk in a v-position, kicking her legs out and doing a breast stroke in air, all while sucking in her cheeks and opening her eyes as wide as they could go. I walked another block and saw that she was physically imitating a cartoon fish painted on a mural. I thought, "Ahhh... that's actually quite good! Reactivity, public solitude and free association. Good qualities in an actor. That's probably partly why there are so many crazies living in LA. History influences the present, and although LA is no longer a Mecca for actors, perhaps it long, long ago attracted and sent out the 'vibe' necessary to attract some of these traits, and a lot of those people never left and passed it on."

I sometimes don't feel as though there is nearly as much mystery, excitement or cultural morays that I can figure out or explore. I even comprehend the frequently-noted "snobbery" and the reactionary anti-snobbery speckled about here and there. It isn't that I don't understand many of these quirks when they bother me; it's that I don't approve of them. Then again, it seems easier to attribute your biases to aspects of whatever theory you've created or adopted since you don't intend to waste further resources on investigating those things. But I've always wondered if perfect understanding will have to result in approval- or perhaps the material wasn't truly understood if you can't find a piece of yourself inside that approves.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of shiny to keep me here in my new major. And because of the stress involved in pursuing it, I sometimes do just want to retreat into the routine I had found myself in with old friends- the kind that are like warm, salted butter on popcorn. Comfort food. Everyone knows each other. We know we basically hold each other in positive regard, despite time, change and other fundamental differences. That's it. There's no confusion, debate or inflexibility to it. We know we care for each other and have enough faith to believe everything else is eventually going to end up being a mute point.

I only have about 2 more years in this specific part of the LA area. Then... who knows? I'm looking forward to more changes and new challenges.