Love Songs

loverooftops

We have new neighbors upstairs. They’re young and impassioned and in love. At least, I think they’re in love. They scream at one another a lot—loudly and with frequent curse words. I understand. Life is hard. Sometimes one of you gets stuck in traffic on the way home and the other forgets to defrost the chicken. I assume. I don’t eat chicken, but a lot of marital arguments in 90s sitcoms seemed to be centered around someone forgetting to defrost the chicken.

I actually have no idea why they’re fighting. I wish I did. Maybe I could send a message by homing pigeon to help. But, alas, I can’t understand what they’re saying. Maybe one of them is a huge jerk (possible spoiler: based on tone alone, it’s him).  I can tell you one thing though. I’m not interested in coming along for their ride on this emotional rollercoaster. If I’m on a rollercoaster, it’d better have a catchier name than Generic Young Couple Upstairs. I prefer the Super Mega Dragon Death Spiral. (Note: When I asked Dave what a good name for a rollercoaster would be he said, “The Mantis Shrimp. It’s a small rollercoaster, but it packs a big punch.” Biology humor for the win.)

I’ve tried and tried to jump off this ride I’m currently strapped into with these new neighbors, but nothing seems to be working. Yesterday, as they started to scream at one another, Dave and I decided to take matters into our own hands. We put on a playlist of songs about young love and turned it up. We tried to cover a lot of ground, since we couldn’t tell what their problem was exactly. I thought maybe we would inspire them to really get in touch with the truth of their conflict and confront their real emotions.

It didn’t help. In the space between the changing songs, we heard them continue to yell. We thought maybe they couldn’t quite hear the lyrics. We’re nice and helpful, so we sang them extra loud. For awhile, we thought it was working. We could barely hear them screaming. I thought we’d inspired them to sit down and have a nice heart to heart. But then we stopped belting love songs at one another, turned the music down, and discovered we were wrong. We were just drowning them out with our excellent musical talents. It’s like they didn’t even care about us at all. Almost like they were so involved in their own drama, they weren’t thinking about anyone else around them.

You just can’t force love, I guess. Also, you can’t hurry love, no, you just have to wait.

Basically, love doesn’t appreciate being told what to do, so just leave it alone.

Lessons in a Ramen Shop

soup

I’m back, friends.

I’ve been away because my brain was getting crowded and the world was slowly crumbling.  But I realized that my brain is always crowded and the world is steadily crumbling, so I might as well start writing about it again. But I’m not going to write about that now. I’m starting light. I’m going to tell you about my extra exciting ramen eating experience last week.

Dave and I stopped at a new restaurant to enjoy some soup, because we just really like to live adventurously. We’re wild like that. I later found out that plenty of people have been to this particular shop and it’s super popular. We didn’t know that though because we’re too busy being free-spirited and living in the moment to ask our friends for restaurant recommendations or check yelp reviews. The validity of our wild ways was affirmed that evening because the ramen was delicious. I’d like to say that it’s encouraged me to continue this life of spontaneity, but I know myself, so I’m not gonna push it. Even then, I made sure to check the menu before walking into the building. Baby steps.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this story.

That evening, we sat at the bar where the chefs make the ramen. Here are some great things I learned from that experience. First, the bigger your vat of broth, the bigger your broth-scooper needs to be. If you have a vat the size of a tiny human, you need a ladle the size of a tiny human head. Second, in a battle between maintaining your hairstyle and enjoying your soup, choose the soup. Third, always order the extra seaweed.

That is also not the point of this story.

While we were sitting at the bar, two young women came to sit next to us. The other patrons were regular ramen enjoyers, mostly people at the end of a work day trying to grab a bite before heading home. Not these ladies. They were there on a mission. They were going to try a novel meal and grow their Instagram followers. They sat down, talking loudly about some serious social media drama. They both had their phones gripped and flashed their screens back and forth to one another. It got intense. I think. I was distracted by their layers of chic, trendy winter gear. I was also distracted by the way every other person at the table started to listen to them. The girls weren’t distracted by the attention. They were interested only in the attention of their internet tribe.

They settled in at the bar. They looked at the menus. They looked at their phones. They looked at the drink menus. They looked at their phones. The waitress stopped to ask them what they wanted. They didn’t look at her. They ordered their meals in phrases that sounded like questions and then they looked at their phones again. The bowls came and they immediately got overwhelmed. They took a few pictures. With their phones. Duh. They stared at the broth, piled high with vegetables and noodles. They weren’t sure how they were going to eat all those noodles. They made certain the other one knew there was just no way they’d be able to eat all those noodles. Seriously, no way. (I’ve never had that problem in my life. Here’s the solution to not being able to finish your noodles: wait fifteen minutes and then try again.) They got confused about the broth-noodle combo and looked around for appropriate cutlery. One of them asked for a fork. The other checked her phone.

All the while, the people around us were clearly rapt. Everyone was a little quieter—half their attention drawn away from their meals toward these Instagram-loving girls. Unfortunately, the girls didn’t notice. They didn’t care about anything going on around them. As I listened to them yammer on and on, I thought if we could just direct that self-assured boldness toward something more important, girls like this could take over the world. They kind of have already. If the world had just done a better job of telling these girls what to value, maybe they would have used their unbridled confidence to cure cancer or solve world hunger.

Or maybe they do. I don’t know. They’re probably brain surgeons.

Anyway, this was supposed to be light. Remember when I told you to always order the extra seaweed. I changed my mind. That’s the point of this story.

So Tiny and So Sneaky

Ticks

I’ve been having a bit of a tough week. Usually that happens when I’m tired or hungry or someone annoying won’t stop talking to me. Those things have happened, but this week has been hard because of one tiny, sneaky, very rude arachnid. Just one. I will name him Brody, because that sounds like the name of a really entitled jerk I would hate. Sorry if any one reading this is named Brody. I mean, sorry that your name is Brody.

So, this terrible arachnid named Brody happened to land on my shoulder sometime last week and, being a selfish tick, he bit me. I’d thought ticks like Brody mostly hung out in fields of tall grass and dense forests with other jerks named Preston and Brayden. Apparently, they also frequent popular city parks where some people like to walk on lovely afternoons. I was lucky enough to run into one such park dweller. Or, rather, have one run into me. I didn’t even notice because he was so obnoxiously stealthy about the whole thing.

I did finally see where his terrible miniature pincers had pierced my skin, but I assumed it was a mosquito bite. It wasn’t. I realized that after the tiny red ring around it became a larger red ring. Ok, I was still in denial at that point, but some friends who are smarter than me convinced me to see a medical professional.

When I got to the doctor, he told me I’d had the bad luck of running into Brody. Well, the doctor didn’t say Brody because he didn’t realize that was his name, but he did pull the arachnid’s head out of my shoulder. So, joke’s on you, Brody. I may have to take a bunch of drugs with really uncomfortable side effects and I may be suffering from the painful consequences of the bacteria you spread, but you’ve been decapitated by your selfish greed and now you’re dead. I took your head as my trophy to show Preston and Brayden what’s up.

Park Yourself

TreeHug

This week is National Park Week, which means we should all be going outside and enjoying some wild spaces. I have a soft spot in my heart for parks—all of them, even the creepy ones that I sometimes have to walk through to get home. I feel about them the way that I feel about libraries. And you guys know I am all about libraries.

Those wonderful homes for books were created to share knowledge, to keep it from being held only by the rich and elite. Protected parks stand for equality in the same way, as an avenue for everyone to experience the wonders of the natural world. That and because Theodore Roosevelt loved to shoot animals and keep them as trophies. But, hey, we dirty hippies have to take what we can get.

Interacting with nature—feeling the grass between your toes and the sun on your face—is really good for a person. Every person. Just thinking about nature has a positive effect on your brain. There are about eight hundred thousand studies that have come to that conclusion, but I don’t really need any of them to convince me. I can feel it when I hug a tree or jump into a lake. It’s why Central Park exists. It’s why people plant gardens in their sixteenth story windows. It’s why worker bees bring their Chipotle out to the crowded park benches at lunch. Because even in the busiest city, people need space to breath.

Dave would say my love for wild spaces is mostly about me never wanting to shower. That’s definitely a fact, but I think he’s just jealous of my superior ability to adapt to the environment. Because it’s better to not smell like vanilla bean sugar scrub when you’re sitting around a campfire. That tip is in the “avoiding bears and staying alive” handbook the park rangers give you at the entrance gate.

Nerd House

YardBirds

We’ve had a lot of rain so far this spring and our grass is getting out of control. We live in a condo, so the board hired someone to cut it for us. Except that the guy hasn’t showed up. For like weeks. It’s getting to be a jungle out there. Obviously, as responsible adults, we’re waiting for someone else to handle it. I’m just going to try a duck-and-run maneuver tomorrow when I leave for work. Hopefully the gang of tiny dinosaurs who have now taken up residence in the yard will miss me in their poor peripheral vision. I can’t be sure, so I’m going to wait for a small dog to walk by as a distraction.

Library Master

 

NerdPeople

I like to read popular YA series (that’s Young Adult, for all of you who are not nerdy tweens). The good ones have everything I need from an entertainment source—strong young women, innocent love, an apocalyptic universe, and a hard-fought triumph. Bonus points if there’s a group of manipulative, evil adults creating a disastrous world through which the teenagers must navigate.

I’m reading one of these series right now and am halfway through it. I’m in the middle of all kinds of drama. Which love interest will the main character choose? Who else will be attacked by gelatinous, dagger-wielding monsters? Will the group’s brains start devolving so far that they try to eat each other? These are the important questions. I’m pretty much uninterested in reading a book unless there are a few of these dilemmas present.

However, the library didn’t have the next book when I went there yesterday. Amateur move on my part. Any library-lover knows to request a hold before you get there, but I thought I’d just take my chances. Big mistake. As you all know, I’m obsessed with libraries—whatever the size. I’ve been a library-lover since I was a child, and I was particularly dedicated to the house of books when I was a tween. Because I wasn’t fighting monsters with magic or living as a world-traveling orphan or making friends with mannequins come to life, I turned to the next best thing: the place where all those stories lived.

So I’ve logged a lot of hours in the library, and I know my 12-year-old self was shaking her head when I walked out empty handed yesterday. I guess I’ll just have to wait a little longer to find out whether all these teenagers will be cured of the rampant, fatal disease spreading across their world. Lucky for me, that’s the beauty of a book—the story isn’t going anywhere.

 

Angel Announcements

ReligiousCommute

Yesterday morning another person tried to get me to come to Jesus while on the Metro. Is this happening to anyone else every week? I’m beginning to wonder if these people follow me around because they know I’m such a heathen or if there really are that many people concerned with the afterlives of their fellow commuters.

This woman was very calculated with her Evangelical choices. I had just stepped onto the train when the conductor announced that we would be delayed at the station for an indeterminate length of time due to a request from the control center. The Metro service is notorious for its incredibly unhelpful broadcasts and this one was no different. We all groaned and picked up our phones. He also said that the train doors would remain open until it was time for us to leave the station. So, did this woman start her pitch once his announcement stopped? No, of course not. She sat there like she was just another slightly annoyed transit rider. Once the doors closed, she stood up and started talking about what we needed to do to save ourselves. I couldn’t hear much of what she said after the first few words, because I turned up my music immediately and drowned her out with a song featuring some empowered woman and a lot of obscenities.

When the doors opened, she got out and moved along to the next car to save those other tired souls just trying to make it to work. I was glad she left because my blaring headphones were started to give me a headache and I think I woke up the man sleeping next to me. Or maybe it was all her yelling about her lord and savior, I can’t be sure.

The next time this happens I’m going to stand up and make my own announcement. I’ll tell everyone, “Excuse me, fellow metro-riders. I’d just like you all to know that NASA has successfully completed a test on an engine they hope will one day bring humans to Mars. This is not an attempt to convince you that we will all need to move to Mars based on End of Days fear tactics. This is simply an announcement to inform you of something cool that happened in the world of science this week. Also, there’s a great sale on strawberries at the Safeway in Southeast.”

People will probably still avert their eyes and wish I would get off the train, but it will help in two ways—I’ll be able to pass on pertinent scientific news to fellow commuters and I might learn to sympathize with the Evangelicals who interrupt the dance parties in my head each week. Win-win.

A New Friend

BondNorms

Three days in the row I have crossed the street and passed another girl walking in the opposite direction. We’ve seen one another at the same spot, at the same time, every day. Out of the mass of people walking down the sidewalk, I think we’ve noticed one another each time because we have similar feelings about unnatural hair color. The bottom half of her hair is dyed dark green and part of mine is dyed purple.

I only know a few things about this obviously awesome girl, but each one of them makes me want to be her friend. First, she has great hair—different enough to be interesting but not obtrusively wild. Second, she had a reasonable respect for traffic laws, but still started walking slightly before the light turned. Third, she moved confidently between the suited businessmen that barge their way through our city.

Yesterday, we gave each other a little smirk. Today, we might fist bump as we pass one another. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll invite her to eat some pie. I see a beautiful friendship blossoming between the green-haired, confident walker and me.

Just kidding, I will never speak to her because I would inevitable say something awkward and mildly offensive.

Ms. Jean

GrandmaConvo

Last weekend I met Ms. Jean, my neighbor who lives across the street. Dave and I were shoveling our sidewalk and he noticed her walking down her steps with a shovel. I walked cross the street to offer my help, but she insisted she didn’t need any.

I didn’t ask her age, but she was old enough to tell me she felt “privileged to be healthy enough to shovel her walk.” At what age does that change happen? I feel like it aligns with the “I’m going to tell you random facts about my life, despite your not asking” stage of life. The very sweet Ms. Jean has reached that stage. Here are some things I learned about her while I was not helping her shovel snow:

  1. She tutors local high school students, which is great because it keeps her young. She hasn’t been able to work with them recently, but is about to get back into it. I don’t know what subjects she tutors, but I assume it’s either knitting or quantum physics.
  2. She has a tiny dog named Annabelle, who she took in when she was 4 months old (Annabelle, not Ms. Jean, that would be ridiculous, this isn’t a Tuck Everlasting dog). Ms. Jean’s friend, who works a lot, called her up and said, “You have to take this dog. She just sits in a cage all day long.”
  3. Ms. Jean leaves the tv on for the dog, so she doesn’t get lonely. I don’t know why she does this, since Ms. Jean is almost always home and clearly likes to talk.
  4. She knows I have probably seen Annabelle out and about, because she likes to give her her freedom. She’s right. I have. At first I was concerned, but I appreciate the grandmotherly distance Ms. Jean takes in raising the pup.
  5. All of her children live out of state, except one son. Annabelle loves that son. She expresses her love by falling on the floor and crying. I’m concerned that Ms. Jean doesn’t have a good emotional gauge for pets.
  6. She likes to shop at Trader Joe’s, but sometimes she goes to Whole Foods. We didn’t have to speak the truth of why we both only sometimes shop at Whole Foods. We know neither of us are millionaires.

Next time I see Annabelle walking down the sidewalk, I won’t worry. I’ll know she’s just taking a break from her soaps with Ms. Jean.

30 Feet

Perspective

Nearly every day Dave and I walk to the metro together in the morning. It’s just a two block trip and the walk has become a lovely routine. I forget to shut our gate, Dave pulls it closed, we step over the garbage some high schoolers have dropped, and turn the corner. We comment on the excessive decor of our neighbor’s home, walk over a big crack in the sidewalk, and avoid an unruly bush. We stop at the mini-library and don’t pick up anything. We check out the garden that the house full of rehabilitating felons never tends. We wait for a break in traffic, say hello to the man handing out newspapers at the Metro station, and then head down the escalator. We could probably do it all with our eyes closed.

But since that would add an unnecessary level of danger to the journey, we decided to try a less drastic way to spice things up. Well, we didn’t so much decide as we just accepted one random circumstance. Specifically, we saw a sign in front of our house that forced us to move our car, so we did. We parked it around the corner and walked to the metro on the opposite side of the street.

At first, this seemed like no big deal. Then we started to realize that everything was different. We peered down the alley where we’d seen a guy being chased by the police one morning and we heard the voices of construction workers at a home being remodeled. We got an up close look at a house that’s normally hidden behind big wooden planks. We were both thrown by the change that just 30 feet made.

It was like a whole new world. I only wish we’d taken the opportunity to break into song like Aladdin and Jasmine.