Archive for May, 2013

Fallow

There’s a luxurious point post-move where you haven’t quite settled into new routines yet, but the boxes are all empty and the urgent things to do in wherever you now live are now past. The same could be said of a new job, where you spend the first couple weeks getting your access issues straightened out, where there’s a smattering of training to handle, but no real work to do yet because you haven’t quite been folded into the group. I am currently in both those windows, and it’s glorious. I feel like, for the first time in quite a while, I am not overly busy with one or both of those things. For a month and change it was packing, unloading things at used record and book stores, donating clothes, trashing things, and then with an all too brief period in between, it was in reverse, figuring out what I need to get again because it didn’t fit in my RAV-4, realizing I need to by more hoodies because it’s permanent hoodie weather (I knew that, but now I really know it), unpacking my stuff and figuring out what to do with it. For the most part, with the set-up of my new record player last night, that phase is done (for now). That’s in large part due to my gracious hosts, and sooner or later, I’ll probably be going through the hustle of moving once more, but hopefully that can wait a bit.

Work is currently the same way. I have worked for the same employer for 6 years, sure, but every time I change jobs, or even just end up needing better access, I may as well be cleaning the Augean Stables (check that, Hercules took care of that faster). It’s strange to me that it’s such a feat to move some of that stuff over or get it working, but I suppose we all need jobs, and it’s not like they just flip a switch and it happens. Anyway, the sign-ons and access all seem to be straightened out, and I’ve had enough requisite training now that I can do what I want, which is to dive into the work. It’s just how I learn. I will no doubt make some awful errors initially, but it’s just the way I learn things best more often than not. And there are too many controls in place for me to totally botch things up. Right now, most of my day is reading, trying to catch up because I may be good with mortgage fraud, but I don’t have a huge anti-money laundering background, and otherwise enjoying getting to know the immediate neighborhood (which right now consists of my near-constant walks to the damn cell repair place) as well as my co-workers and new building.

In both my personal and professional sense, I have just enough to do that I’m certainly not going out of my mind, but also plenty enough time to spend a bit of time digging through Atlas OBscura to get to know the quirkier aspects of San Francisco a bit better. Or time to read, which I’ve been doing plenty of (mostly re-reading, but I’ve gone through three books and half the run of Fables again). Or time to fire up the PS3 and do something other than watch Netflix (though I did handle Arrested Development pretty quickly as well). I’m really not averse to just going and reading or doing something like that. And since I don’t have a large group of friends here yet, I have plenty of time to do it. But I feel like I’m at a point where the scales are fairly tipped towards one end and they are going to start sliding back soon.

Fact is, whether it’s at a show at Rickshaw Stop or a tour of The Mechanics’ Institute Library, the end of the bar at a yet unspecified joint where I’m sure I’ll become a regular, or just from the small group of people I already know who seem to know someone here that I’m getting to meet, I am going to start meeting people. And we will start hanging out. There will be shows to go to that fill up the books (check), and events I want to check out (like Social Science), and just lots of random nooks and crannies in this city to explore (like the parrots of Telegraph Hill or the bison in Golden Gate to name a couple). And all the while, I’ll be doing it while expanding my social circle, sometimes meeting people because of these sorts of things, and sometimes doing these sorts of things because the people I meet. Which is great.

But then you reach that point where you are overly busy, where you have to start choosing what to do, where there’s just a lot to fit in. It’s certainly a balance to figure out, I’ll say that much. But in the meantime, it’s nice to explore the city on my own a little, and sit around and play some Star Ocean and not feel like I’m just putting off 10 other things. Perhaps it’s the only child in me, but I like that time. I still take it when there’s a lot going on, don’t get me wrong. It’s just something that I have to schedule as opposed to something that has to happen organically. And something doesn’t feel right about having to schedule time to wander around a neighborhood to see what’s on that street or just sit on a couch.

It’s also the luxurious point where I’m still willing to explore the things around me, though I can already sense that I’m settling into La Corneta as my go-to taqueria (and you would too) since it’s right off the BART, cheap, and delicious. And it’s okay to have those places. It’s just maintaining that sense of wonder and exploration once you have social circles and regular activities. It’s really the same sort of skill that goes along with maintain time for yourself (if you, like me, so choose to like a lot of that time in your life). In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy not feeling like I’m missing an opportunity to hang out with someone because I just need a little of my own time. Perhaps busy is just a construct and it’s how you approach it. I tend to agree that it’s a construct. And I know I explored it a bit before. It’s exciting to see how I choose to put it all back together. Not that I particularly want to change or anything. But perhaps I have the opportunity to fold a thing or two back in that was missing before (like reading a book every now and again or continuing to write, even if feel like I’m just writing the same entry over and over). Not that it’s a rule or anything that I’m gonna start going out all the time again and having things to do constantly. But I never really can tell. In the meantime, it’s nice to have something to do, but not be too busy. Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll change my mind on that tomorrow. In the meantime, though? I am going to listen to records that I haven’t been able to for a month, play some video games, look out at Bernal, and just relax.

Perception

In the Twin Cities, it was plausible to go to almost every show. Or at least give the impression that you went to most of the shows. Not that it mattered, or I particularly tried, or anything like. I go see music because I like it. That there is such great availability is a great thing and that I go a lot speaks to its quality. It’s not some sort of weird, status-earning sort of effort. You are welcome to think whatever you want about my show-going habits. I’m not trying to prove anything one way or the other. You know, other than go do something that I really enjoy doing. Sure, there are nights where there were conflicts, two or three good shows going on that were for touring bands coming through and probably wouldn’t be back any time soon. But most nights, the conflict was between something local and something non-local. In which case, non-local usually won out unless I really wanted to see the local band(s) on that bill just because of the simple fact that it would be harder to see the touring band again, especially if they were from overseas. There’s something about the availability of a band that changes your mindset when it comes to seeing them, like the ability to go to your favorite bakery down the street or anything like that. If it’s readily available, you make different sorts of decisions. Of course, I could just as much be swayed by the venue as by the band. And the Twin Cities are a pretty easy place to catch 2-3 shows in a night given the relative proximity of venues/shortness of drives/etc. So I went to a lot of shows, and there were plenty of nights (especially on the weekends) where I would catch parts of shows at First Ave, the Entry, the Triple Rock, and the Turf with some regularity. The Twin Cities are kind of like a Goldilocks zone when it comes to show-going. A lot of good stuff happens there, and it’s generally possible to make a fair amount of it. Add to the fact that I knew the scene well (and especially the timing) and I was able to catch most of what I wanted most of the time.

The metrics are a bit different here in San Francisco. Most days, it seems like there are too many good shows going on, and a lot of tough decisions. Somehow, those metrics have tilted to the Rickshaw Stop the past few days (and tonight again) for three fairly different but equally intriguing bills (Boris/Deafheaven, Autre Ne Veut, Mikal Cronin) in four days. But every single night, there’s been at least one other thing I’ve been hoping to make as well. Wednesday it was Matthew Dear. Last night it was Black Moth Super Rainbow. Tonight, it’s a bunch of things, actually. That’s all right here in San Francisco. That’s not even getting into the stuff that’s happening in Oakland tonight. There are a lot of choices. Perhaps there are too many.

As you may know, I used to work at Coldstone quite a while back. And one of the more frustrating things about working there was how paralyzed people go could when they tried to order. It was a great working example of the paradox of choice in action. And the music here can start to feel a bit like that. There are so many good things going on all the time. On top of that fact, at some point, I’m going to start doing more than going to shows or sitting around unpacking and catching my breath. At some point, I’m going to want to play boards games, and go for bike rides, and get out of town for hikes, and all that some sort of stuff I did before in Minnesota. At some point, I will have built up my peer groups again for those activities, and all the things in my life will once again be competing with each other for my time. Right now, music wins, and I can’t even find time to do everything I want to.

But it’s not an even playing field. Some artists, I’ve had the fortune of seeing before (like Matthew Dear), so I can say, sure, it was great, but I really want to check this out. Some, I’m interested in, but perhaps not enough to go over something else. Some, I’d seen before and knew I’d be remiss if I missed again (Deafheaven). But many nights are just going to be like tonight, where there’s Mikal Cronin’s album release show in his adopted hometown (which I chose), Tera Melos and TTNG (which I missed in the Twin Cities and will again despite my love of Sargent House), and the SF Popfest show tonight featuring Sea Lions and Colleen Green amongst a few other bands that would probably be worth checking. They all have their merits. Me, I chose Mikal Cronin.

Because at a certain point, I just have to make decisions. Or external forces will make them for me, with shows selling out. Perhaps after a couple months, I’ll get a better handle on the set times at the various venues around town (tweeting the set times does not appear to be a thing here) and I’ll know what venues I can do a couple shows a night at. Of course, there’s more of a cost component here. Not that shows are really much more expensive. I was just well connected in the Twin Cities, which meant that going to a bunch of shows did usually end up costing me less. Relatively, I suppose. There were a lot of paid-in costs over the years that led to that point. But ultimately, it’s the same thing. You just have to make some decisions and live with them.

Last night, as I was watching Autre Ne Veut own the stage at the Rickshaw Stop, it occurred to me that perhaps that would have been a better bet than Tame Impala’s good, but strangely perfunctory Mainroom show back in March. Most of the people I catch music with and know from going to a lot of shows, we all seemed to have that feeling just a bit, but most of us went to Tame Impala anyway. Did they put on a better show than when I saw them at the Entry? In some respects. But the majesty of the Mainroom won out. Of course, there was another niggling aspect to it, the fact that, as one friend articulated, we’d probably get the chance to see Autre Ne Veut again. I did. And I’m sure everyone there will get that chances as well. If it’s not stacked up against some other show again that leaves people feeling the same way.

I am just like anyone. I’m making uneven decisions all the time. I’m trying to come up with an empirical system to figure out something that is inherently not empirical. I make decisions to go see shows; sometimes they feel like the right ones. Sometimes I’m stuck with tickets to something because I wanted to go, but now that another show was just announced after it, I don’t want to as much. And some nights, even though there’s good stuff happening, I just don’t have the energy or capacity to make it out. And here in San Francisco, it’s even more important to just make decisions. The past couple nights out have felt like good ones. I’m sure if I’d gone to the other shows I probably would have found something to enjoy as well. I just have to go with whatever I’m feeling at the time. In that sense, it’s not much different than it was in Minnesota. As much as I did with the move here, I have to go with where my whims take me. Tonight, it’s the Rickshaw Stop once more, but who knows? Perhaps I won’t make it again for a couple months after tonight. Though I doubt that. It’s very Entry-ish in my mind. But those are thoughts for another time. Perhaps I will still be able to establish a reputation as someone who’s at every show, but I doubt that’s possible here. I suppose, though, I will just find out. In the meantime, there are a few other tickets I should probably pick up (Soft Moon, Small Black, and a couple others come to mind). Perhaps I’ll see you there. Perhaps you’ll see me there. Perhaps you’ll just think you saw me there.

The Art Of Reading

Perhaps it comes as a surprise when I tell people that I don’t read much. Which isn’t really all that true. I voraciously devour articles of short and medium length, on my phone, on my work computer, on my personal computers, in magazines and the occasional physical newspaper every so often when I’m feeling old-fashioned. But usually when people ask if you read, they are not asking at the mere act of it, but the act of embarking on something of a more ambitious length, a novel. To which I can usually honestly say, no, I’m not not reading anything right now. I am certainly between a couple books that I’ve been meaning to get around to finishing (They’d Rather Be Right currently tops the list of stalled-out novels I’m reading). But I hadn’t really picked up anything with the intention of reading it at length in some time. I did plow through a book about personality traits relating to Gallup’s entertaining and occasionally thought provoking take on strengths not too long ago, and I did tackle a couple pop science-y affairs in the past several months. But a novel?

I have a hard time with novels. Not because there’s anything wrong with them. Just because I have two modes of reading. Mode one is: I am reading something that I want to read, but it’s a real chore to get through, or it’s hard to digest too much at one given time, so I put it down frequently and get back to it as I get back to it. As someone who’s read all of Huxley’s novels besides Those Barren Leaves, I can tell you his novels tend to fall into that category. Even his sharpest moving books (Island and The Genius And The Goddess) contain so many passages that are worth turning over again and again in your mind that it’s not always best to rush through. Better to savor in my opinion. Of course, there’s also his penchant for dropping words every paragraph that you’ve never had any hoping of knowing, or providing phrase to paragraph length quotations in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian and French. Possibly some German too…can’t remember at the time. It’s a challenging read, and there’s no way it makes sense to just pick up a Huxley novel and tear through it in one sitting. Because most likely, you can’t, unless you are one of those people out there who has that wonderful talent of reading a lot faster than me. Not that I’m a shabby reader. I’m just never going to be the strongest reader I know in terms of speed.

Mode two is like what I just did. Maya had a book from the library that she read for a book club (The Art Of Fielding, thus the less than clever title), if memory serves, sitting around, and I thumbed through it a bit, and she said to go ahead and read it, so that’s just what I did. I sat down a few days ago and started reading. And kept reading. Mind you, I did manage to do things like get up and go to work the past two days, so it wasn’t so detrimental to my schedule. Also, mind you, there were other people in town this weekend, so there are probably a few different ways I could look at the fact that a couple boxes are still unopened. But I also know that I put away a 500 page book. No matter how fast moving that is, that’s a little bit of time on most peoples’ parts.

Not that time is the biggest issue right now. There’s not a ton for me to do right now. I don’t have a huge peer group to reach out to. I have not established rhythms in terms of my show-going or beer-drinking or bike riding. Hell, I haven’t even set up the television yet. It sits in the corner, tucked away by the bed, next to the PS3 and the DVR that DirecTV insisted I take that I’m now going to just have to send back from San Francisco instead of Saint Paul. So I do not have a DVR filling up with stuff. And I do not have to fill up boxes or make a trip to Saver’s. For the first time in a couple months, my time is beyond free. It feels overflowing. And while it’s time to start filling it up again, what pieces I put back in are up to me. Right now, it’s been reading.

My problem with Mode two is that I have a hard time controlling it. But that could be said of my television habits as well. Or my show-going. Or my eating out. Or my exercise when I Get in the swing of it really. And perhaps it’s not about control. Perhaps it’s just about moderation in the strictest sense. I have a difficult time establishing proper amounts of space in which to do the various things I want to do when one so dominates. Then again, that is why I will go months at a time without doing one thing only to find myself ripping through an entire game or reading several books in the course of a couple weeks. Besides, Mode one usually gives way to boredom, so that many of the books that I enjoy but find challenging just seem to be holding bookmarks at various points. Mode two, on the other hand, leads to little else getting done. I am an obsessive reader and I do not put a book down for much if I don’t have to. I can get up and get myself to work for sure, and I can do things after I get home, but it’s generally difficult for me to do much after I put the book back in my hands.

Certainly this is the sign of a good thing, something that is filling a need for me. Perhaps I am just enjoying a good read after going far too long without and thus I go too fast. Or perhaps, for the time being, I’m going to just enjoy some slightly re-arranged priorities. Whereas 3 weeks ago I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening on Doctor Who, currently it can’t wait. Certainly, the costs associated have changed as well. I was already paying for my television before and now that I am given a choice, I’m not so sure it’s a cost I want to incur at the moment. Besides, that can lead to me just sitting down and watching too many episodes of something instead of reading too many pages. It’s all basically the same. It’s learning when to put something down. At 32, I’ve come to realize perhaps I’ll never really master it, that I have a bit of an addictive personality when it comes to my media, and that perhaps it’s just best to enjoy it while I’m all gung-ho about whatever because I’ll just as soon go months without it not long afterwards.

That being said, I also tend to read when I’m in a bit of a funk. I’m in a bit of a funk. Not a bad one by any means. More of a “I am in a brand new place and the vast majority of people who were once commonplace in my life now exist as little more than words and pictures” sort of feeling. And you know what? I’ve got the perfect book for that exact funk. While the books I’ve been willing to haul around the country have certainly decreased over the years, I still have a respectable bookshelf. So after this, it’s time to pull out Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille. It’s definitely not the best book I own. It’s not even my favorite Brust book (still and always Issola. And perhaps after that is done, it’s time to tackle the last half of They’d Rather Be Right. After all, it takes place in San Francisco. Perhaps I’ll recognize a few more of the streets now.

Sea Of Doubts

These hills are going to make an honest woman out of me. No lie. They are going to be death on my knees, but hopefully in a good way. At least that’s what I think as I’m trying to make it up the hills in this town. The key word is trying because I’m just not there yet. Not a real shocker all things considered. I got out of the swing of biking in the past few months, with a variety of excuses, and for some reason, I seemed to think that I could just hop on here and everything would be fine. Which obviously isn’t quite the case, says my body, as I’m pushing the bike up Diamond again.

I am not surprised, though. It’s a reputation issue, my bike-riding. Establish that you do something enough and it is an assumed aspect of you. Someone says Jane and you think someone who goes out to all the shows, who bikes everywhere, whatever given the context you are in. We all make these associations about each other. And it really doesn’t take a whole lot to establish this kind of reputation at times. But it does take a lot of work to keep it or deserve it. I’m trying to re-earn my reputation as a biker. I’ll feel better about it when I can get up these hills in San Francisco a bit easier. It’s never going to be dead simple. There’s some serious grade in this town. Luckily, most of the uphill variety is on the way back to where I am currently staying.

This is relevant in other ways of course. Tomorrow I walk into a new desk, a new boss, new co-workers, and totally new responsibilities. I obviously have the talent for it. I believe it, and so do they, or they wouldn’t have hired me. But there’s a difference between talent and skill. I have to go develop skills. I have to go back in tomorrow and start earning my reputation all over. Everything I did professionally for the past 6 years? Certainly it matters. I developed a lot of skills that I believe will serve me well, that will translate over to some of the new things that I have to start learning tomorrow. But for the most part, I have to take what I know and put it in a box. I’ve got to prove myself all over again. Proving yourself enough to get in the door is great. But it’s continuing to prove yourself after that that matters.

What I have is an amazing opportunity. If you’d asked me 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would have gotten it. I’m sure timing is a factor. But I did a lot to prepare myself for this, getting my CFE and continually seeking out new professional challenges in my previous role(s). I worked hard to establish that, and I have to take that same attitude into things tomorrow. People aren’t going to be asking me questions on day 1. That’s a given. But I like to be that person who people ask questions. And I want to keep working to be that person, whether it’s in anti-money laundering or what records to check out or where the best place to grab a good pastry is. I get a lot of satisfaction out of being that person, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Everyone else seems so sure that I am making the right decision when I find myself constantly wondering how this will turn out. But everyone is not so sure, just like me. After all, what we feel and what we project are quite different things. So of course I’ll be nervous tomorrow. And of course I do have my doubts. But I also have confidence in myself and my ability to figure things out. Whether it’s a new city or a new job or both of those things at once. It’s okay to have doubts about yourself. It’s okay to wonder am I ever going to make it up that hill without stopping or ever get the hang of this job, because those are legitimate concerns.

What’s not okay is letting that doubt cloud my judgment. I will figure this job out. I will be able to make it up these hills. I will eventually be able to get through the Mission without feeling like I have to check Google Maps before every trip. If the previous month leading up to my road trip was a lot of endings (and of course it was), then this is new beginnings, with new fears and new problems and new excitement and all the other wonderful things that go along with that. I’d like to think that anyone who says they don’t feel nervous or question whether they made the right decisions for themselves is lying. But there are a lot of people out there, and perhaps there are some who never really spend much time wrapped up in these kinds of thoughts.

Tomorrow I will go in and I will probably screw something up. It could be as simple as making the wrong turn on my way to work. I still do not know this city. I definitely do not know this job. But there was a time, 10 years back when I couldn’t tell you which roads went where in Minneapolis either. There was a time when I had no idea what a HUD-1 was. I have to be just as open to learning those sorts of things again. I have to be just as open to making all the mistakes that go along with with it, whether it’s getting a bit turned around in the Haight or not knowing what a term is when it comes to anti-money laundering that perhaps I should know.

I would say it gets harder as I get older to step outside of my comfortable boundaries and open up to my mistakes, but actually, for me, it’s gotten easier. Still, it is hard to give up what you know for what you don’t. It’s why we stay in terrible relationships too long, or why we don’t move when the opportunities come up, or we keep doing things we no longer enjoy. Certainly, it’d be easier if I were on a plane tonight heading back to the Twin Cities and this was just a week of vacation. I’d sit at my old desk, deal with a backlog of e-mails, and settle back into my routine. But this life, it ain’t easy. And I don’t think it should be. I also don’t think I’m challenging myself all the time if I don’t have these kinds of thoughts. I may have a lot of doubts, but that definitely isn’t one.

Come Friday, I won’t be able to just go onto Facebook or send out a text or fire off an e-mail to round up people for a happy hour somewhere after what is sure to be a stressful week. But perhaps it won’t be all that stressful. Or perhaps my new co-workers will be going out to a happy hour and invite me along. Or perhaps I’ll just be rushing off to a show somewhere or some other wonderful event in this city as everyone’s primed to enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend. I don’t know. And it’s okay to admit that. But ask me again soon, and hopefully I’ll have the answer.

Now It’s On

When I look around, I see all the boxes I’ve unpacked. I managed to break open a few today, get the clothes organized in the closet, find all my toiletries, and the like. It was generally a productive day mixed in with a bit of wandering down the hill to see what’s sitting near the Glen Park BART. But it still all feels a bit like a dream. Or perhaps, more appropriately, like a vacation. I saw all these cool things along the way, like Old Faithful and Devil’s Tower and the Badlands, and they were great. Just absolutely stunning in some cases. I’ve eaten at little random taquerias from Gillette, WY to here in San Francisco, enjoyed square ice cream in Idaho, and eaten popcorn from the Corn Palace. I’ve stopped at more gas stations than I can name, but I have the receipts because my mom tells me it’s all tax deductible. And now I’m on the ground here in San Francisco, having time to pick through my stuff. The car itself is emptied out, and I am slowly reducing the state of entropy that has come to define the last few days for me. But when I look at it all, it still feels like a vacation.

Sure, I don’t normally take a road trip with all my stuff in my car. And sure, I don’t normally plan a bunch of events with the expectation that I’ll never see people again. But it’s still not quite real. It’ll be real enough on Monday when I walk into my new job, though. I won’t see my boss sitting in her cube, with a view of the Minneapolis skyline. My desk will definitely not be set up to my liking yet, and I’ll have to tinker and find all the right places to set things up (gotta please the Happy Room Academy after all), but at first it’ll just feel strange. The desk chair won’t feel quite right, and I’m not going to just know where everything is. I feel like that’s when it’s all really going to hit me, what I’ve embarked on. Certainly I moved around the Twin Cities a number of times, but my job for the past 6 years has been a relative constant. I may have moved desks or changed individual departments, but I knew for 6 years that I was heading somewhere on the 5th floor of 2701 Wells Fargo Way.

I’ll be heading to the 5th floor again on Monday, but this time, it’s going to be 550 California Street, in the middle of the Financial District, not the old Honeywell site. And though they threw a lot of names at me a few weeks ago, I won’t really know any of those people yet. That’s when it’s going to hit me. Sure, it’s an adventure moving to a new city, getting to explore new things. But it’s also a task. And I also have to continue to do a lot of the same things I did before. I will still struggle to figure out how I’m going to do all the things I want to, whether it’s just the time or the money or both. Irrelevant of whether it’s Saint Paul or San Francisco, I will still wonder sometimes what the hell I am doing and whether I am making good decisions. I am still going to have to find time to exercise, and still worry about when I have time to do my laundry, and I’m still going to have to run errands to pick things up at Target. Only it’ll be City Target instead. It’ll really be those moments in which the universe collapses into its normal insignificance. So much of life is the banal little things, no matter where you live; right now, they don’t really matter, but they will start to again quite soon. The prescriptions need to be refilled eventually no matter where you are.

Now it’s on. It’s the hard part now. Much like you may have been glamorizing my move, so have I. I am soon going to be running into the moment where romanticism runs into reality. Whether it’s Monday morning when the alarm goes off, when I’m sitting at the desk, or a couple weeks after that doesn’t really matter. The honeymoon will end, and though there will be a lot of great new options, I’ll still have to get on with the business of living, which contains a lot of boring minutiae no matter where you are. But to call back to Huxley once more (and take it a bit further than anyone did on Tumblr), could it ever stay transfigured? To that he answers that perhaps it is a question of being in love with God. But I loved the Twin Cities about as much as you can love anything, and for all the wonder out here, it’s hard to imagine that I’m going to love it more. I’m going to love it in different ways, but I’m also going to miss hearing people say hotdish, or the fierce sense of fighting the perceived provincialism that everyone from the coasts has about Minnesota, whether it’s true or not. I’m gonna miss cheap draws of Grain Belt and I’m definitely gonna miss my friends at First Ave. There are going to be days where that’s going to be hard to deal with, where no matter how many amazing options there are here, there’s just one thing I want and I can’t get it because it’s 2000 miles away. And that will be the process of glamorization working in reverse. I won’t be remembering the banal things I did. I won’t think about scraping off cars and shoveling snow or treacherous poorly salted walks from the CC to wherever I lived at the time.

When you leave a place, it becomes in your mind. Or at least the memories settle in. But the truth is, it’s always changing, just like we are. Of course things are going to be challenging here at times. And of course I’m going to look occasionally at this firmly planted image in my mind of the way things were and occasionally think to myself, that would have been easier or better or whatever depending on my mood. I feel that we all do that. It’s natural to wonder what would have happened if we’d done things differently, and it’s natural to hinge that on big decisions. I Was thinking as I drove through Davis yesterday on my way into town how different my life would have been if I’d gotten into there and gone like I wanted to 15 years ago. And of course it’s easy to look at something like being hit by a car and think that really could have broke in a much more unfortunate way for me. But those, those are distractions. Just like looking at the Twin Cities too much and wanting is a distraction. Perhaps in a few years, I’ll be reversing the whole process and loading my things up to head back there, looking at San Francisco the way I just spent the past month looking at the Twin Cities. But in the meantime, I’ve got things to do. Yes, it’s going to set in that this is really happening. It still hasn’t quite yet. And I just can’t know when it’s gonna hit me most. Perhaps that’ll be a sign to organize a happy hour at the Loring Cafe with the other ex-pats of the Twin Cities that I hope I can find sprinkled around town if it’s further down the road. But most likely, it’ll be on Monday morning, like I said, as I look at a blank cube and a bunch of strangers. But you know what? It was a blank cube six years ago in Minneapolis and a whole lot of strangers, many strangers I’m lucky enough to call my friends. Here’s to hoping that I look back on Monday some number of years down the road the same.

The Way Out (West) Is Through

Except for a mercifully short section at the end of the day, I spent the entire day driving on US and state routes. I do not say this to disparage the interstate system. It’s really a pretty wonderful thing for doing what it’s designed to do: it gets you from point A to point B (well, really, it was designed to get the military there, but you get the point…). The thing is, when you drive on the interstates, you don’t really drive through places. Sure there are the pop-up towns on the side of them containing all the same gas stations, hotels, and fast food places you can imagine. If the interstate route happened to go through a town that was there before (or an actual larger city), then of course there are going to be a lot more options in terms of where to get lunch or what to do if you get off the highway. But for the most part, that’s not the point. Interstates are conduits, and there are frequent enough exits for all the traveling necessities.

US routes are a bit different. They meander. Sometimes, it’s miles and miles between the next thing (here’s looking at you, Idaho). And they frequently force you to go through places instead of around them. And while that might not be the best route in a time crunch, I certainly have some flexibility. While I’m putting up a good pace, I still have plenty of time to drive though all sorts of random towns, like Jackson, WY or Arco, ID (that I Instagrammed). I have time to find square ice cream cones totally on accident. US routes are the only way you are going to get from end to end in Yellowstone. They were even how I started my trip in Minnesota, wending my way toward Pipestone via 212 and going through all sorts of towns that I’d known were that direction but never managed to get to in 10 years.

The drawback, of course, is the distractions. For better or worse, I am a fairly regimented driver. I know what I want to stop at, where I want to stop at the end of the night, and generally where I’m going to stop in between. And while it’s not hard to make time for a picture or two or a quick stop at whatever local attraction. But it doesn’t take long before that time adds up, and when you have an aggressive pace, you have to watch that. I do the same thing when I backpack. I push myself while trying to make sure I save some amount of flexibility for whatever comes up. That way I have time to swing a u-turn when I see a sign or do a slightly longer hike at the park because I’ve saved the time.

So far this trip, I’ve been relatively successful balancing it out. I saw so many cool things as I was heading out of Minnesota that if I’d stopped to take a picture of every cool thing I saw or read every sign, I’d probably just be getting into South Dakota right. I could have spent a few days in the Badlands. I would have loved to have done the outer loop at Devil’s Tower in addition to the inner one. I’m pretty sure you could spend a lifetime at Yellowstone and not see everything there. Would I have liked to have liked to have spent more time at most of these places? Sure! There’s isn’t much to say for spending your evening in Elko, NV. But I would also like to make sure I get to San Francisco sometime before I’m supposed to start next Monday. If I could, I’d like to think right now that I’d love to just drive all over the US and see what there is to see, from the small towns that dot the interstates and highways to the parks to the museums to the totally offbeat (like the world’s largest ball of twine made by one man…which I have seen). But I also know how much joy I get out of finding out exactly what’s down a street in a city. One of my favorite parts of living in the Twin Cities was getting to know them. Even after 10 years, there are a ton of surprises around every corner. Now I get to start that process all over again. There’s a lot of joy in that. At least for me there is.

And the logic, I think, is the same. There’s a balance. I certainly can’t just wander around San Francisco because I’m going to have to go in and make some money. But there will be times where I’m not in a rush and I can take a circuitous route to see whatever is down the street. It’s how to find things. There will certainly be places to visit that will demand multiple visits. Perhaps they’ll actually get them, but I know I said that about places in the Twin Cities that I only went once. Just like I said that about the parks I’ve visited. I certainly have time right now to at least spend a bit of time in a number of places that I’d love to spend more time at some day. But there’s an endless effort to prioritize what to do. So I consider these little trips efforts to sift. I’d love to go back to the Badlands, for example, but short of actually backpacking there, it doesn’t look like I missed too much. Devil’s Tower is cool, but it was kind of a one and done affair (unless I develop a sudden love of climbing). And better yet, I’ve at least been to these places that I’ve always wondered about. It’s never enough. But the least I can do is try to take the way that meanders through the West, even if it still seems to fast. It has been. But I also know that it’s going to be really exciting to not be driving, to be where I am heading, and to have a few days to get ready before I start a new job in a new city surrounded by strangers (with a few exceptions).

And so I will continue to meander when I have the time. I have the feeling that I won’t even have the same level of luxury I’ve had these past few days to stop and get square ice cream for a bit. I imagine that many days, I’ll just be trying to figure out what are the conduits that get me from point A to point B. And there’s just no way I’m going to get the chance to go everywhere I want to. I’ll make time for the things that matter, which is why I suspect I’ll have made it to most of the venues in town within a couple months. And some things I’d certainly get to eventually. But there will be just as many that I walk or bike by every day and never stop in, just like those little towns that I drove through that did not merit a stop. It wasn’t because there wasn’t something there to see. I’m sure there was. But it just didn’t get my attention, or something else was pressing, or I’d just stopped. There’s always something to see. I love taken alternate ways to the same spot just to see what else there is. If I drive back to Minnesota some day, you can rest assured it’d be by a fairly different route. But it might still include Yellowstone. And I’m sure, unless I were truly crunched for time, it’d include more US and state routes than interstates if I can manage. I like to see where they go. Even if I’ll never be back. Especially if I know I’ll never be back. Certainly there has been a lot that I have missed. I think the only way I could have avoided that is if I’d walked. Still, it beats the hell out of having just driving down to 80 and heading west.

Rituals

Last Thursday was the last time I shuffled up and played a game of poker that has been going with some degree for the past 9 years or so (considering kids, fluidity of where we’ve lived, etc., it’s been amazingly consistent). On Friday, I had my last beer at the Bulldog. On Saturday, I had my last 2-for-1 out of the twelve ounce glasses at Liquor Lyles. This morning, I had my last buttermilk scone at Isle’s Bun & Coffee. Tonight, I walked into the hotel room, and after turning on the lights, the first thing I did was turn on the air. Some of these items have been more regular over the years, others just sporadic, but they are all rituals. I’m always game for trying new things (I hope the move would convince you of that), but I also have my spots that I like to go. I like to have my regular activities, my little rituals. When I look back, I’ve had a series of them over the years, just like the ones I’m leaving behind.

When I am in the middle of those little rituals, I always think that they will continue in perpetuity. Well, perhaps that’s an overstatement, but they certainly become a source of stability. They become the sorts of activities that you build your schedule around, the sorts of activities where you know you are going to see your friends or where you are going to meet new ones. As I head west, I’m not on any mission to replace my friends. Honestly, if I could pack them up with my lares and penates (that somehow all fit in my RAV-4) and bring them with me to San Francisco. But that’s not how it works. I’m never going to replace them by any means, because I intend to stay in touch and continue to be friends with them. But I will replace the rituals. I will meet new people because of that.

I have no idea what the rituals will be like now. I can hazard a guess that I’ll be spending a lot of time at the various venues of the city. But who knows if I fall into a really good trivia game on Tuesdays? Or I find more people to share board games with again as I was finally getting back to on Sundays? I can, of course, control the shape of that a little by trying to establish some of those things. Left to my own devices, though, I’ll probably just be spending a lot of time at the Rickshaw Stop at this rate. But I have no doubt that I will slide in and find the new little rituals.

What will they be? Who knows? I always think I have an idea of where things are going and I don’t. I know what I like to do, and hopefully I’ll continue to meet people who do those things. But perhaps I’ll meet some people who challenge me to do some things that are outside of my comfort zone, and perhaps I’ll establish new rituals. Who knows what they will be? I’m excited to find out. But I do know there will be little rituals that fill up my time, there will be new bars that I get to meet the staff at, new bands at new venues, new trails to bike and hike, or whatever. The few days in between? They are for finding the random bits of America between Saint Paul and San Francisco, where I will get completely out of any routines. Though even then, I have my proclivities, as I plot my way between national parks and monuments as I make my way out west. Even when I get outside of what I do normally, I have my rituals. Which would explain why tomorrow is more parks, I suppose. They are always different. They are the solitary rituals (like writing, come to think of it), but they are rituals nonetheless. They are what make us. So I have no doubt whatever rituals I find for myself out west, they will intrinsically be me.

There Are Assholes Everywhere

Did you know that The Superior Court of California in San Francisco has a whole tab dedicated to Gender Changes in their self-help section? It’s times like that I realize I really am moving someplace a touch different. This is relevant because of some of the other reasons California is a different place…for example, in Minnesota, I showed up with the Virginia ID, took the test (well, took it twice…who knew there’d be so many child safety seat questions?), and they sent me my license a couple weeks later. It’s a bit more of a process in California, because you have to show up with a document that establishes your “legal presence” in the United States, so something like a passport or birth certificate. Which is all fine and well. I have a birth certificate. But I’ve been dragging my feet. See, it doesn’t come up all that much that I pull out the birth certificate, but it’s one of the few documents I haven’t updated. Because it’s kind of annoying. I have to get a court order from wherever I live and send it in. And Saint Paul, for all its wonders, doesn’t quite have the same level of information when it comes to dealing with gender changes and how to put together a court order for that. San Francisco, on the other hand, seems to be all over that.

Of course, now I realize I’m at a paradoxical point. How do I establish my legal presence in San Francisco without an updated ID? The reality is, I could probably do it in either order (I do have the legal name change, after all, and I don’t think they really want to argue with me about the gender marker. No, in fact I know they don’t want to). But it seems like a good opportunity to just take advantage of one last thing, and if I’m move someplace that at least makes it easier, well, why not? Plus, it’s just one of those last things that I haven’t done. Then I can get a passport, swing by the SSA to finalize the behind the scenes gender marker, and go on with my life as if nothing happened, right? Right?

Doubtful. Another casual assumption that I’ve noticed is that San Francisco will be a good place for me because, I’m, you know, me. That is, trans. Go ahead, say it, it won’t hurt you or turn you trans or anything. And no doubt, it’s a wonderful place in that regard. But so is the Twin Cities. Sure, they might not have the links built out for it on their municipal court webpages, but the Twin Cities does a lot of things right if you are trans, as an entity. There are just a lot of great resources here (though that sort of came together serendipitously). And a lot of great people. But…

If you’re trans, I don’t need to tell you. But if you aren’t, just trust me when I say this: there are assholes everywhere. There’s the guy who calls me sir on the phone the first time (okay, whatever) and then continues after I politely (and less politely) ask him to stop. There are the people who, five years on, still can’t seem to get pronouns right. There are the people who never knew my name before and will still fuck up even though they don’t know a thing about me. And they are everywhere. They aren’t restricted to the Twin Cities or anything. I’m sure plenty of them live in San Francisco too. Perhaps, like the Twin Cities, it’s safer to assume that you can say something, or that someone else might say something to back you up. But it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to challenge your idea of gender conformity, of exactly how one should fit into the dichotomy that we create. Perhaps the culture is getting better around trans sensitivity (and it is), but it’s still got a ways to go. And perhaps you know this in your own way, for whatever reason that you are not just like everyone else.

I expect things will be pretty great out there. Things are pretty great here though. Minneapolis will always be the first city in the US to pass trans-inclusive legislation in terms of discrimination. That will never change. And it’s not an accident. There are always going to be people who see me as a reducible problem (I mean that in as many ways as possible), a puzzle to be figured out, or any other number of things. Some are kind, some are condescending, some are just confused. Really, I just want them to see me as Jane. But hey, I get it, we’re all doing it, assigning our various labels to people. Hell, it’s how I ended up with my Twitter handle. I have no problem with who I am. I am not saying that to I’m both open to talking about being trans and telling you when I’d rather not be bothered. There’s still gonna be some clerk at the DMV or a store that just totally mishandles my pronouns and my name. There’s still gonna be times where I just let it go when some jackass yells something offensive and I have to choose to let it go because it’s neither the time nor place. It’s not some Eden. It’s a good place. There’s a reason I’m moving there. But it’s not going to magically solve my problems. And it’s not some magical place where everything is gonna be alright all the time. Perhaps I’ll finally get my birth certificate changed and I’ll be done with all the legal documents. And that will be done. It is a finite marker. But some things never stop.

I’ll Be Your Mirror

When I tell people I’m moving to San Francisco (or when I finally catch up with them after they’ve heard one way or the other), there are two general ranges of reactions. There’s the “I hear it’s…different out there” and the “OMG! OMG! OMG! that’s going to be so great for you and I am so jealous!”. Obviously I’m generalizing quite a bit (thus the use of general in the previous sentence…jeez people, keep up), but I do not feel that I’m exaggerating all that much when I say that a lot of people are excited for me. Which is cool. I am excited for me too, and I’m happy to know that I have so many supportive people in my life. We all have our selfish friends, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want a friend in San Francisco. Mind you, it’ll probably be a while before I have a couch you can crash on, so keep that in mind when you want to come visit. I’m already crashing with friends. So give me a bit of time before you come or look up a good hostel. Anyway, I got off track a bit. It’s awesome and everything, but I think there’s also something a bit deeper going on.

Modern life certainly feeds our vicarious living. Not that it’s anything new. We’ve had books, letters, pictures, and the like for quite a long time as a society. These are all vessels by which we live our lives through other means. We see things that are no more when we see photography from 100 years ago. We read about experiences in foreign places that we not only will probably never reach in terms of the place and that we cannot hope to reach in terms of time. Perhaps the delivery vehicle is faster, but we see pictures of shows that we have no hope of attending (or we’d be there) or read stories of events that are happening right now that we’ll never be at, but it’s the same principle. You cannot experience it all, and all of us live vicariously. Personally, I feel that’s a major part of being alive. In any time period. The more we know about the world, the more we know we cannot do. If you’ve been following as I’ve been (not totally intentionally at first) capturing my move via blog, you’ll note that the concept of finiteness has been running through it. There is only so much time. I will be your outpost, your eyes and ears in someplace you love from your past or someplace that is perhaps exotic to you. If you’re there, hopefully I’ll be doing some of it with you. Conversely, you’ll be my eyes and ears into what’s still happening here in the Twin Cities, just as my friends who are currently scattered elsewhere are my eyes and ears into those places. And that’s an amazing thing. I’m glad we all have networks of people that we can do that with and manage to keep in touch with so easily in this day and age. We’re more connected than ever; I’m on the side that it’s a good thing.

But here’s the catch, and why I’m a jumble of feelings besides excited (though I’m feeling that quite a bit). I have to actually get out there. I have to go through the minutiae. Again, I’ve been talking about that a lot too. But it wears, and it’s easy for you the impartial reader to just appreciate the cool things because you aren’t trying to figure out what clothes should just go in the trash or go to Savers, what you can really reasonably expect to get for your amps at a store, or whether it’s a good idea to get a little extra cash for your furniture. You aren’t putting it all in boxes and trying to figure out how in the hell it’s all gonna fit in the car. You don’t have the decisions hanging over you about exactly how long to take to get out there, and the existential dread of wondering what’s gonna happen with your condo. You just have the fun pictures, the pithy updates, the drinks at one last happy hour, a bit more bingo, or whatever it is we manage to share these days. But that’s okay. When I see your cute pictures of your kid, I don’t have to deal with all the trying times of your parenting. I just get a picture that I’m able to enjoy in the abstract. And I don’t necessarily spend a ton of my brainpower thinking about all the other trying times that go along with it. Right, I see the selective parts that I want. Sure, the exasperation occasionally shows, but most of the time, we put fairly positive images and words that represent our selves (and our family and experiences) out into the world. Or at least we put images and words that conform with the general view we are trying to put out there.

So no worries, I’ll be your mirror. Just like you’ll be mine. To some degree, we all get what we want to out of what we consume, whether that’s the higher level media that makes up our culture or it’s the small-scale stuff makes up our friends and family. This isn’t to say we don’t appreciate the tribulations that go along with the experiences. This is to say, we inevitably think about the experiences of others (good, bad, or otherwise) quite differently than we think about the experiences we ourselves are going through. Who wants to really dwell on the madness that Van Gogh endured while looking at his paintings? Though…without it, it’s probably not a Van Gogh. Our experiences inform us. This isn’t admonishment by any means. It’s a reminder that I should do the same thing a bit more. And I should remember that when people are excited and a bit jealous, well, there’s a good reason. Besides, who wants to think about boxes when you can think about the Bay?

Worker Placement

It’s valid to question how I’ve been using my time recently. It’s a finite thing, and I can only do so much. The thing about moving is, it’s dictated somewhat what I have to do with it. And as a part of that, I have failed to structure my time in such a way to make sure I’m doing nearly any biking or running. Which is sad. The scale certainly tells me so. And while it’s perfectly reasonable in the sense that I don’t have that much time and I have to get through a fair amount of stuff, what it says to me is perhaps I was not prepared as I may have thought I was. Or perhaps it’s just that moving is a disruptive thing in modern society. Definitely we have greater flexibility to get from point A to point B, but all the stuff that goes along with it is dizzying.

But I’m not really fond of saying that I don’t have time for things. We all only have so much, after all, so we are constantly assigning priorities. For me, I haven’t been prioritizing exercising. It’s not an issue of right or wrong, it’s an issue of what’s more important. And I know that I have the ability to shift that time, as I’ve certainly been pretty disciplined the past few years up here (even when I’ve been moving from place to place around the cities. It just annoys me because I know I was doing a good job and I’ve been lazy. I probably have had the time, and I just haven’t been using it.

It’s a tomorrow sort of problem. Unfortunately, that’s a dangerous line of thinking. Right now, my time is definitely looking quite open in the near future. I have a job, but not necessarily much else when it comes to what I’m going do with my time. It’s important to restructure it in a way that I want to. It’s also important to remind myself that I need to fold some habits back in. The bike has really mostly been collecting dust. And my trail runners sure haven’t seen a whole lot of trails recently. I actually think that the road trip will help with that, get me back out there and let me kick up a little dust on the trails, from Pipestone to Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower to Craters of the Moon. I’ve just gotta remember that it’s good to tip the back scales. It’s already been stressful enough, and perhaps I need to look at ways so that I have more time for exercise the next time I move. That’s a matter of preparation. Or a matter of not accumulating so much. And perhaps that’s the lesson. I don’t need nearly all the stuff I have, if the last month or so has taught me anything. So many things in life are fungible, the cups and plates in your cupboard or the clothes and hangers in your closet. But they are all quite a bit less useful if I don’t take care of myself well enough to make proper use of all of them. But it’s up to me to ensure that it stays a temporary blip. And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s time to stop making the excuse of not having time tomorrow and get out there. Perhaps not in the morning, but definitely in the evening.

I’m not that worried though. I’m already mapping out bike rides to try out when I get to San Francisco. And valid or otherwise, I won’t have a lot of excuses. At least at first. And soon thereafter, I won’t have a car either, so I don’t think getting back in the saddle will be a huge problem. But it’s up to me to make sure that’s the case. In the meantime, I should get some sleep too. I doubt that’s really helping. But like the exercise, at least relatively recently, it’s been a problem for another time. That time is soon, and I cannot wait.

 
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