Thursday, December 31, 2015

On Being Homeless.

Yesterday, I slept in my bed for the first time in a week, then promptly re-packed my bags and headed out again (after a load of laundry, a stop at the bank, a cup of coffee). Point is, I've been moving from house to house for dog-sitting, and now that I've done it for several days, I have a system down:

1. Always pack extra socks.
2. Take the bus when you're transporting your laptop and soluble instant coffee from house to house. (I don't know if anybody's ever told you, but it rains Portland. A lot.)
3. Do not pack food. That shit is heavy, and there are several grocery stores in walking distance from where you are staying. 

Bonus from dog-sitting (besides cash dolla dolla bills bills)? I've learned that I love dogs. I'm still more on the cat-person side of the pet-owner-identity spectrum, but let's say I'm a Part-Time's my job.

When I moved to Sellwood at the beginning of December, I was delighted to have a room of my own again. My own bed. My own space to think in. A place to display my books (read: NOT stuffed in my suitcase). However, I quickly recognized some drawbacks to living in Sellwood: it's sort of far away from everything. And the buses are expensive and run irregularly. And even with the Springwater Corridor bike path, which cuts travel time in half, it often (surprise!) rains here, which I'm not about to bike in.

So, if I want to go out, I either have to leave early enough to catch a bus, get a ride, or sleepover at a friend's house. Sleepovers can be fun, but there's that moment the next morning when all you want is your bathrobe, or a clean pair of socks (which you forgot to pack), or your own bed to laze around in.

Before Sellwood, I'd been crashing on friends' couches for extended periods of time, and I am grateful. I would not be where I am now without their abundant hospitality and aid. I've enjoyed living in their living rooms, on their futon and couch, curled up with their furry friends. Seeing them every day--getting a chance to chat about whatever--has brought us closer, and it has also helped me process my headspace as I barrel onward in my life-journey. (Thanks again, guys. You know who you are).

Before that, I'd stayed at my parents' house for several weeks. Before that I'd moved from Daphne's flat in Nice, to another Niçoise flat--taking residence in a friend's room to split rental costs. I had my own bed, and lived there for several months, but it still felt temporary. In Scotland, I stayed in a hotel, a hostel, Natalie's parents' house, and one night, after a jaunt in Glasgow, on her friend's couch. In London, I stayed with Tom. I have not really not lived out of a suitcase since residing at 5 rue delille.

College was a longer-term temporary situation. I knew I'd be there for a while, but I was also aware of an end date. Hartwick is where I perfected my moving skills. That first semester, I co-inhabited a dorm room with my randomly-assigned roommate, Danielle (we're now nerd-compatriots), yet I quickly realized I needed to join the environmental campus, Pine Lake, after my tennis teammate took me there for a day trip one weekend and we made pumpkin soup with Ashley and Casey in Outback 1 (or was it Outback 2? I can't remember). After finals, Emily's mom helped Emily and me shuttle our belongings to our double in the Lodge. Summers, I boxed up my stuff and either packed it in the trunk of my mom's Toyota Highlander, or moved it, one or two parcels at a time, to my room in the Farmhouse (the Pine Lake summer staff house). Each semester I schlepped my books, bedding, random array of collected furniture (a rocking chair, a beat up arm chair, a rug) from Lodge room to Redwood 1, back to the Lodge. I went to Paris and packed minimally, taking on the French mentality of employing several basic, essential items of clothing, and accenting these with the orange and green scarf Shannon brought me from India, and my Salvation Army trench coat, and my sturdy black clogs (which served me well, carrying me across miles of Parisian cobblestone). 

I came home to the Cozy house in Oneonta with my one suitcase, stuffed with the books I'd acquired from patroning Shakespeare & Company. That was a great summer of barista-ing, beer, and trampolining. Then, one late-August morning, Shannon lent me her car so I could bring my many (sarcasm) possessions to townhouse A5 for senior year. I made a home with three hooligans: Olivia, Ben, and Aaron, and enjoyed providing refuge for stranded Pine Lakers whenever they needed a place to chill on campus. I stayed in townhouse A5 all year, and that was the longest residence I'd kept since moving to Litchfield, Connecticut with my family in 2009. 

Litchfield sucked. I managed to get a part-time barista position at Common Grounds Café, which allowed me to save my own money--(most of which would go to a J-term trip in New York City the following year), but I was still battling my parents for independence; I underwent non-stop identity crisis (there was never a dull moment); and it took me the entire year to find people I could be myself around. I still resent Litchfield to this day. I'm trying not to be so bitter about it, and in many ways the struggles I endured have helped shape me--for the better. What I struggle to understand is why so many of the people I met in Litchfield were assholes. Maybe my judgement has been clouded by retrospective, residual angst, but I feel like my peers could've been more inviting. Sure, there was the brief let's all meet the new girl phase, but no one really cared to get to know me. Not for a while, anyway. I just wanted to be seen, and very few people took the bait. (That being said, here's a huge shout out to Katie, Bridget, and Chris for encouraging me to air my freak flag in their presence. Thank you, guys, for making me feel not so alone).

Vermont, although it's going on six years since I've had an 802 area code, has the closest semblance to home. This is where I grew up. Where I fell in love with bookshops. Where I became a vehement devotee of cheese, maple syrup, poetry, mochas, skiing, New England weather in all four of its glorious seasons, sustainability, and community (although I wouldn't be able to articulate my appreciation for some of these things for some time). It's where I met my best friends, started second families, and built pockets of support systems. Vermont is where I first planted the seeds of wanting to become an artist.

Syracuse, the city in which I was born, feels as foreign to me as Mars. I have a mild interest in it, but no burning desire to visit any time soon.

This pattern of migration didn't start with me: I come from a family of nomads. My grandfather on my father's side was the son of a marine officer, and they moved from place to place all his life, until Granddad started a family with my grandmother in Ithaca, NY. My grandmother moved from Decatur, Georgia to Miami, Ohio, to Ithaca--this is where she raised her children and began her role as a grandmother--before moving to Sarasota, FL. And, of course, my mother, youngest of eight siblings, saved her money to leave Brazil and move to America...where she met my dad. My parents began their relationship in Washington D.C., went to Cincinnati for a bit, and then lived in Syracuse, which, if you've been following the story, you'll correctly guess is where me and my sister came along.

You can probably see why I have a difficult time answering the question, "So, where are you from?" When I'm living abroad, I have the opportunity to respond simply: Je suis américaine. But if people inquire further, things get messy. "Oh, I grew up in Vermont, but I've been living in ______," or "I grew up in Vermont, but my parents moved to Connecticut when I was a senior in high school," or "I went to college in upstate New York before teaching English in France last year and then for a couple of months I lived in a small town nearby where I went to college before moving to Portland. Cooperstown? It's where you'll find the Baseball Hall of Fame." I've always struggled with this question, never able to give a one-word answer.

Where am I from? If I'm being honest, I think the truest answer is that I'm not from anywhere. I'm homeless. Or, hometown-less.

I was talking to Tom about my hometown-less-ness, and he mentioned that the nomadic thing is an American thing. He has a point. The draw to discovery and adventure--to the west! To fortune! To fame! is an American quality. Plus, America has a wonky workforce narrative. People follow jobs, and jobs crop up depending on opportunity--across miles and miles of country.

For a long time, I'd been sort of sad about not having a hometown. But I've realized that many people aren't necessarily proud of their hometowns. In fact, a lot of American short stories, novels, poems, and plays all depict youngsters desperate to leave wasted-away, one-stoplight townships in search of something bigger. I need not cite fictional stories; my aunt Robin left small, college-town Ithaca for the Big Apple. I actually wanted to leave Vermont while I was living there. Everything is SO FAR AWAY. NOTHING happens here. I'm so BORED. Of course, promptly after leaving I realized Vermont is a beautiful, liberal utopia.

Many people leave the place in which they grew up in search of something else. Something grand. Something that fills them up and forces them to grow. People may not know why they want to leave, exactly, but they feel a call. So they go. And by leaving, they turn to homes fabricated, nestled in-between the cracks of the road. Sometimes home is on the road, in the form of of a car, ox-drawn wagon, minibus, or motorcycle. Many of the homes I've found and co-created I mention, in some form or other, in the story above: Pine Lake is a big one. 5 rue delille. Cozy. My friends' living rooms. But more so, many of these homes haven't been in actual houses. They've been found in relationships with people. I feel part of and rely on communities when I need support, comfort, a shoulder, a pillow, a ride, a conversation, a coffee, a hug, a kiss, a memory, a dream. These connections, lasting or temporary (oftentimes dormant for months before resurging when I need them most), are my homes. My many various, montage-y, bespeckled homes.

So, I'm not really homeless at all. Not really. I'm home-a-lot.

As I continue through life, I hope to maintain my open membership of these magical places. At some point, I'd like to have a homebase--where there are shelves to store my library, an open bed for a visiting friend, a kitchen for cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, a table for hosting pot lucks, a pillow to rest my weary head, a desk for working, etc. But home, simply, will always be, as it always has been, where the heart is. Awwwww. Aren't clichés nice?

I love so many of you and I hope you find the comfort and warmth you seek from your various homes; I hope you keep making new ones; and you are always welcome at mine.

Be well, and here's to a home-filled 2016!

Bonus. Have a poem I wrote:

I love you. I'm glad I exist.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!!!

Happy Boxing Day!

I hope you are having/had a lovely time with friends and family even if you couldn't make it home (like me). There were a couple of moments where I was quite sad about being away from my family, but I'm happy with how my festivities went down.

I have made a vlog in which I take you with me out and about on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which I will link below. I'm currently dog-sitting two dogs, Indie and Sunny, and they have been wonderful company. (Professional furry cuddlers are always welcome). The house I'm staying in has a beautiful tree, and the owners let me have some friends over. I entertained! I wore a party dress! I love playing host, and I must give my mother a shout out, as she taught me most everything I know about party presentation, even though she didn't host that often when I was growing up.

Christmas Day I had tofu scramble, vegan peanut butter cookies, mimosas, and coconut milk nog with Aaron and Emma. We swapped some gifts, and Emma remembered me saying how each Christmas I get a haul of Burt's Bees in my stocking which gets me through, chapstick-wise, each year. She and Aaron got me a stick. <3

In the evening I went to the Sellwood house (where I live normally) and had Christmas dinner (ham!) with my Portland family. I was a little loopy from not getting that much sleep the night before, so when we played some games after dinner that required me to think I was a little slow, but I got into the groove and by the end of the night Steve and I (we were partners for this game, I forget its name, where you have to get your partner to guess the name of a famous person...similar to charades but it's its own thing) dominated.

Then I came back to let the dogs out and had a wonderful sleep.


I've been listening to Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking, and the experience has pretty much gone like this:

1. Amanda tells a story about her life.
2. She explains how this is related to her philosophy on love and community.
3. I cry, smile, laugh, nod, mutter "Hmm" or shout "YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
4. I am left with a warm feeling in my heart and a huge love for this crazy, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, encouraging person I've never met.
5. I am filled with inspiration to create, create, create, for and with others; share, share, share; which is to say love, love, love.

If you're looking for a good New Year's Resolution, I'd say you should listen to The Art of Asking on audiobook. It's wonderful to hear Amanda read it herself, plus there are bonus clips of songs she's written in-between chapters.

Friendly reminder, if you love someone, just tell them. If you're scared, that's okay. It makes it more real.

Be patient and kind with loved ones. I know family and friends can get on one's nerves, especially when politics is thrown into the conversation. But life is way too short to let that stuff get in the way of our happiness.

I love you. I'm glad I exist.

Christmassy Vlog:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas is in a, bro.

As I lie on my comfy bed and listen to a live version of Years & Years' "Eyes Shut" (which is distracting me very much, by the way... I just want to jam out. Example:


it hits me that Christmas is a week away. It's sad that I'll be so far away from friends and family back home, but I'll be pet-sitting a wonderful dog and cat in an awesome house, and I want to treat the seclusion as a writing retreat. When I'm not doing my regular babysitting work, I will be writing. Poetry mostly, I think, unless an urge to work on a short story I started so, so long ago (like, two weeks ago) sets in. We shall see. The house is also equipped with an Apple TV and the owners have HBO Go, so anything could happen, really. Basically, I'm excited to have my own space for a week.

I've talked to several friends on the phone recently, and when you talk to people you know well and catch up on life, you do a lot of evaluating. Because inevitably you will be asked, "How are you? How's the new place? Are you doing well?" And you will give the best answers you can give, but, really, do you even know how you feel? I'd like to stick around long enough to see what it'll be like to communicate through sensation or feeling--I think in the future we'll all have little antennae that we'll poke each other with and a sort of sensational communication will take place and we'll just know what the other person means.

How am I? How's the new place? Am I doing well? In short, yes, I am well and the new place is good. Portland is a great city to live in, my living situation is working out, and I'm staying busy with both work and play. I'm getting confident on my bike and learning which roads are bike-friendly. I'm growing a tougher skin against the rain. I'm sampling a variety of brunch restaurants. Have I mentioned how insane brunch is in Portland? People here are nuts about brunch. It's crazy. I'm talking hour-long waits at some places. But, brunch is something I am 100% willing to wait for. Brunch is the Merlin of meals. King Arthur is lunch, like a solid soup & sandwich combo. Guinevere is after-work drinks. Lancelot is the app sampler at Applebee's. But Merlin--Merlin is the glorious magic that is brunch.

Guys. Do you ever feel stuck between your present and your future? I am putting in a conceded effort to participate, contribute, say "yes!" to invitations and opportunities. Even though Portland isn't exactly what I thought it would be, I am grasping it by the horns and taking it in. I suppose I could try harder to meet "native" Portlanders (read: Californians who've been here for 4+ years who deny that they play into the Cali-migrant stereotype) but I feel fairly comfortable with the group of peers I have at the moment. Anyway, in addition to Portland life, I'm wondering what's next. Where am I going? How can I do what I love and make money? How am I going to shape this next phase of my life? How can I be near the people I care about and still follow my dreams? 

Something I've realized since being here is that I have to do the things I want to do. I know that sounds stupid, but it's true. In college, I wanted to be a writer, but I hardly ever read (outside of class) or wrote. After graduating I started reading again. In Nice I wrote occasionally but didn't make it a priority. Now when I have a free moment, I'm like, "I should be writing right now." I want to make YouTube videos and be consistant in the content I create and upload (and now that I have a room of my own, I can do that again!). I want to build community around reading and writing, and I started the Writer's Forum MeetUp group, which is a good start. I don't know. I don't know if any of these things will lead to a job or career, but the compulsion to make something and share it is there, and I'm going to ride it and see where it takes me.

Currently I'm listening to Amanda Palmer read her book, The Art of Asking, on audiobook and holy 'effing poo, read it. Something I have a difficult time admitting, or proudly proclaiming, is that I'm an artist. I am. I have to make things. And I have to share these things with others. (Not everything. Lol. Some things no one will ever see.) Amanda talks about asking people to believe you, as an artist. 

Rarely do people look you straight in the eye and see you. Part of an artist's job is to create situations or environments in which those eye-lock moments can happen. To connect the dots. 

This was a Poet — It is That
Distills amazing sense
From ordinary Meanings —
And Attar so immense

From the familiar species
That perished by the Door —
We wonder it was not Ourselves
Arrested it — before —

Emily Dickinson explains that a poet (or artist in general) creates this concentrated bit of meaning out of the "ordinary"--something imperceptible that the artists brings to life--and the audience is like, "Whoa, bessie! I've totes-bagoats felt that way before. Thanks for showing me my own feeling/experience." When that happens--when there is a tangible exchange between a creator's creation and its audience--that moment is what I'm after.

But money is a thing. Woo hoo!

If you want to see more of me, feel free to check out my latest YouTube videos! I recently did a video blog (vlog) where I take you around Portland for a day:

Here are some photos:

Cookies & Christmasy drinks party with friends

Portland being festive 
(despite the current war on Christmas)

Snack one of my girls I babysit made <3

I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and holiday time and that 2016 knocks everybody's socks off in the best way. Love, love, love.