“ain’t no other music is in my soul.”
– Violent Femmes
The second longest week has begun, this morning, Beverly touched down on a sunny Sunday in Portland, Oregon. I glanced at the weather, because I hate myself and I want to torture myself with thoughts of 16 degree days161 Fahrenheit, true believers! and soft gentle Northwest rain, the constant of spring – and fall, and winter, and some of summer, truth be told. So when I saw a pending high of 29 degrees285 – seriously, Google has a tool for this, an eyebrow shot up, and I clicked on the day to check it out. It was a Wednesday.
Of course, it’s 29 degrees – a “cooler” temperature by Singaporean standards – and 29% humidity, which honestly sounds like a fucking desert wasteland now. 29% humidity? How did I ever survive in the American wasteland that is the Pacific Northwest?
Oh, right. Acclimation.
When I went back in November, walking around Petaluma on my favorite type of day, the dry, crisp Northern Californian autumn, I had a curious sensation. My mouth was dry. I had acclimated that much to the point where my mouth was used to breathing in the damp, sauna-like air here in the tropics. Beverly had made a similar observation – her skin was dry the two weeks she was in Portland and San Francisco.
My dry mouth actually led me to another realization. As I walked around downtown Petaluma, I decided to stop into the eponymous Market where I used to work, now branded as a high-end neighborhood market in the vein of the Whole Paycheck Foods model. Surely, they would have fresh squeezed orange juice at least. Well, they didn’t. They had Odwalla, which after looking at the label for two seconds, I saw more sugar than I had in the last six months. I pined, standing there in my hometown, relieved to have some time back in the States, and thought of how I wanted nothing more than to walk down to the kind auntie that runs the juice stall in Commonwealth, strike up a conversation and oh, I don’t know, have an apple carrot ginger and why not, throw some celery in that juice machine, I’m not driving.
These are things that I have grown to love here. Three and a half sing dollars3just over $3 US for a freshly squeezed juice, maybe a bite from the hawkers too, some bee hoon or dumpling noodles. And yes, we have amazing street food in Portland, which I’m sure that I’ll take advantage of as much as I can. We might even have someone doing juice, I’d be surprised if we didn’t. Calvin the juice guy who gets his produce fair trade – that which he can’t grow in his extensive backyard just outside of Milwaukie – while pedaling his fixie over to his stand in Buckman, or maybe up the hill to Hillsdale because Westside needs love too.
Maybe there’s a business in this. Portland does have good farmer’s markets but Oregon doesn’t have the best tropical fruit selection. Still, is there a room in my funky weird city for a boy and his blender? Things to ponder.
I say ponder because this is what I have begun to do. Our passes expire in September and its looking that we’ll be back in Portland then. This whole year and a half of writing has been amazing. I’ve learned a lot about what it takes and want to make an honest try at making a living writing down words and having people pay me to read those words. But let’s be honest, it’s not the easiest industry to make a buck in. It would be far easier for me to swallow that pride of mine, take the whole “International Man of Leisure” title off my LinkedIn profile and go back to the grind. Yes sir, no sir, get your fucking hands off my server cage, sir. Who told you that downloading all seven Star Wars films at once would be an acceptable use of company bandwidth, sir? No, sir, I don’t think treating you like a kindergartner is inappropriate sir, you’ve just got glue4yes, B, actual glue you pervert in your USB port and your hair5still just glue, Billi!.
Yeah, I’m totally ready to rejoin the corporate world. May I polish your fucking apple, sir6Gods, guys, seriously. No subtext!?
Okay, I’m not being fair. I do miss the constants of the job. I miss the companionship of good coworkers, of working as a team to get something done. Even if it’s just selling a few more widgets, door handles, plastic card printer ribbon, whatever. It was never about the product, though the product was pretty cool. It was about solving problems, and these days the only problems I solve are involving a red headed woman and would she really take this job with the handsome priest or just tell him to sod off and go back drinking? Shut the hell up, Jest, you’re taking the job. You need money, and quite honestly, so do I. As fun as it is to stretch the boundaries of my imagination, it does nothing to stretch the lateral sort of thinking needed to bend the rules of computing systems to stem the damage of a malfunctioning piece of software, because the clock is ticking, and yes, it’s not my money, but there’s a number and I’m just competitive enough to work my mind to its limits for someone else’s dime because I want to brag about my numbers.
It’s just more polite that way.
So what’s a boy to do in this mad world of trailing spouses? As always, I go back to my mantra, my lemma perhaps, of living in the Little Red Dot; carpe churro. Or maybe in this case, carpe poetry, soaking up all of the time with my friends, the artiste types of Singapore, the creatives, the odd ones. In four months time, I’m going to be in a place far more weird than this place could ever be.
It’s odd to be here without Beverly. She is the reason that I’m here after all. And while I joke a great joke about being a kept man7no, seriously, I’m fucking hillarious, those who know me know that saying that I’m an independent sort of soul is a bit of understatement8and so was that. It’s odd for me to feel such a longing, such a sense of missing a piece of stability. Sure, she’s only gone for two weeks, but there is this sense of life, interrupted with her gone. When she’s here, we’re in this strange new life together. Without her, suddenly I’m on my own in Asia, in a town so unfamiliar to my expectation of normal, and yet, after a year of living here, it all seems to work. It’s not like it was in November, when yeah, I knew people, but those relationships hadn’t coalesced into the amazing friendships I now cherish so tightly.
So, it’ll be an interesting experiment. In Portland, Bev’s taken many work trips. I’ve taken work trips. Nothing changes, really. You get up, you walk the dog, eat breakfast, and go to work. Life goes on. Here, though, no work. I’m living in a place that’s bought9okay, rented and paid for by my Uncle Phil. I know, I know. Check my damn privilege and just enjoy the last few months of being a pampered whiny white boy.
In short, get over your shit, Josh.
But I need to be productive. I just finished my manuscript so I need to now consider new projects, maybe some short stories that I can submit to various stuff. I’m starting the daunting task of shopping for representation, which still doesn’t get my book sold, but it’s a start, no?
And of course, don’t think that I’ve forgot about you, gentle reader. You and I have been on this trip together. We’ve seen it all, been to Vietnam and back. Don’t think I don’t love you. Don’t think I’ll abandon you once I move back to Portland. My loyalties are never that fickle.