Why Living Alone is the Best

I mentioned last week that one of the joys I’ve now experienced in living alone is picking out my own stuff. It’s been a week now, and I have some other things to add to the list of why living alone is awesome. Maybe I won’t want this forever, but for now, this is the very best thing for me.

  • Netflix decisions are mine alone: Do I want to watch all of season one of Bojack Horseman while ostensibly unpacking? Why yes I do. And you only know that I did that because I just told you. No one is here to judge, or to dare suggest we watch something else for a while. Or go outside.
  • Face mask with abandon: I can put on my gross dead sea mud mask and forget about it and, when I remember it’s there an hour later, it’s cool because no one else has seen it. It’s just me and I am into having smaller pores.
  • Working out: I haven’t been able to do my Jillian Michaels DVDs for years for three reasons: One, they are insanely hard; Two, no matter how comfortable I was with whoever I was living with, I never felt okay with anyone seeing me do these ridiculous moves; three, there’s a lot of jumping involved and downstairs neighbors really hate jumping. Now I live above a garage. NO EXCUSES.
  • Mess is mine: What’s that, Vance Joy? Who left all these gross Trader Joe’s salad containers out on the counter? Me. It is always me.
  • Groceries: I am the only one eating what’s in the fridge, and no one is tempting me with junk food. If I buy another carton of dark chocolate peanut butter cups and eat them in two days that is entirely my own fault.
  • Kitty: I can and will get a cat and no one will be inconvenienced by said cat but me, and I will love him/her unconditionally.

I’m sure there will be more to add to the list as they come up. But for now, I’m off to go conquer the art of not feeling weird eating alone in restaurants. Bye!

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#100DaysofChicago

In case you missed it on Facebook and TinyLetter last week, here’s the final product that came out of my‪ #‎100DaysofChicago‬ project, in which I documented my last 100 days of living in Chicago in two-second clips. Thanks to all of you who watched and shared it!

Welcome to Portland

blue-kitchen

I didn’t even paint that wall that shade of blue.

I live in Portland now! It is mostly lovely, despite the fact that I moved in at the start of a heat wave and I have been sick for nearly a week. Major props to my dad, for putting up with a very grumpy passenger (and driver) for 2,000+ miles. We had a great trip together full of stops we dragged the other to unwillingly, but also stops we agreed were awesome (the Badlands) or overrated (Mount Rushmore – come at me).

There’s a lot to say about our road trip, and I am working on that essay this week for a different site. But for now I am just happy to be here and mostly settled. I live in Northwest Portland, in the alphabet district, and near NW 23rd, a fun shopping and restaurants thoroughfair. I am a mere three blocks from a Trader Joe’s, where I have been twice, mostly to buy orange juice and popsicles since absolutely no food sounds or feels good right now. When I was there the first time, I heard a boy – maybe 9 or 10 – ­­absolutely screaming at his mom for her to buy him sushi for lunch and I thought, I am not on planet Earth anymore. A lot of the packaging of items I am used to buying there is different here than in Chicago, too – there’s less of it. I’ve been careful to bring my reusable bag for fear of side eye, although I can say tons of people still use the paper ones provided. That’s good for me, because what else am I going to collect my recycling in?

I am already noticing lots of Chicago and Portland differences, in simple stuff like walking down the street. I got used to ignoring people in Chicago after being broken of what Christina used to generously call my “Ohio Nice.” Here, people make eye contact and smile, so I’ll have to train myself all over again.

Cars defer to cyclists and pedestrians in a way that my dad could not help but notice. I’d experienced that back in October during my first visit, when I toured the whole week by bike. At one point when my dad was driving my car, a woman and her young son started to cross the street. When in Rome, my dad must have thought, and halted the car to a sudden stop partially in the crosswalk. He waved his hand in what he meant as a kind, “after you!” gesture, but, since done out of practice, may have been mistaken as an annoyed “wtf” motion. They timidly crossed, and I was proud of my dad.

After he left, I explored a little on my own, when I felt up for it. I went to Coffee Time, at Johnson and NW 23rd, and the owner was friendly right off the bat. I told her I’d just moved, and she gave me a couple restaurant recommendations. She had gorgeous blonde dreadlocks which I admired with a swell of envy. I wanted dreads so bad when I was in college but did you know that if you decide you don’t want them anymore you have to shave your head?

I saw her again today, and she remembered me. I’m not sure she’ll recognize me next time without my glasses and my too-sick-to-bother top knot of hair.

Despite feeling terrible, I made voyages to both Target and IKEA to start my new apartment. There is such a joy in picking out your own things. I’ve done that before, but never for an entire place – just for my room, or a bathroom. Now, I can pick things I want and put them wherever I feel like. I bought one of those ridiculous white gauze canopies you hang over your bed because I always want one. They are wildly impractical, but I don’t care.

“I hung up a curtain rod,” I texted Stefanie. “I’m gonna make it after all.”

My stuff got here via Amtrak without a hitch, and at a lower cost than expected. The guy who helped me get my stuff brushed me off when I asked where I should go to pay my storage fee. Amtrak is amazing, and if you ever need to move your stuff across the country, I recommend it fully. All my boxes were accounted for and in great shape. The same can’t be said for one of my USPS boxes which, unless I am much mistaken, is now full of shattered drinking glasses. It was packed really securely, too.

Dad was still here, as was his visiting Salem, Oregon cousin Jenny, when I found a desk I liked at a yard sale. The man selling it offered to let us borrow his push cart if I bought it, so I did. Dad pushed that desk six blocks, mostly uphill, and moved it into my apartment. I steered from the front, and Jenny supervised – Dad did the hard part. Parents always get stuck with the hard parts, don’t they?

One other thing we did when Jenny was here was go to Powell’s. Dad wanted to see if any of his book were on the shelves there, but Jenny beat him to it. She went to the front information desk and made a big deal over him, just like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“He’s a famous author,” she drawled, as Dad ran away in humiliation. “Once we find him, he’ll be happy to sign any and all copies of his books you have for sale.”

It turned out they did have his most recent book, and Jenny got the manager to slap “Autographed” stickers on all the copies he begrudgingly signed. It was hilarious and I regret nothing. It served him right for Friday morning when, 200 miles from Portland, he let me believe he was serious about doubling back to Walla Walla, where he’d accidentally left his hat.

We have such fun, he and I.

I am glad he drove across the country with me. I am glad I am here, and I am even glad I am sick now and not the week before I left Chicago. Here, I at least don’t yet know what I’m missing.

Dwindling Baggage

This is what will be going in my car (giraffe not included)

This is what will be going in my car (giraffe not included)

It’s July! I hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend. I know I did, since it was full of time with friends, eating and drinking too much, and checking things off my to-do-before-moving list. That list is getting mercifully shorter, and a big item got checked off today: My nine Home Depot boxes are on a train headed to Portland right now, thanks to Alex and Becky. They packed up the boxes in their much-bigger vehicle and I followed them in my car to Union Station.

There, Amtrak weighed my boxes which, as I wrote before, had to come in under 500 pounds total. Mine collectively weighed 229 pounds, confirming my suspicion that I have zero concept of weight. I had at least weighed what I believed to be the heaviest one of them, by standing on Christina’s scale while holding it. It didn’t weigh even 45 pounds, and I knew almost all the others were lighter. I just didn’t realize how MUCH lighter. Provided I’d had another willing friend with a vehicle, I could have moved a LOT more stuff than I did.

The process of getting the nine boxes to the belly of Union Station was strange, but it wasn’t the logistical nightmare I’d been picturing. I worried I’d be wandering aimlessly around Union Station’s lovely atrium, staggering under the weight a single box in my arms. We went nowhere near the atrium — I’d called the week before and was told there is a loading dock. Once you clear a security check, complete with bomb-sniffing dog and armed cop, you’re directed to exactly where you need to go, where Amtrak employees help you carry your stuff. It was a lot more organized than I had expected, although the second I was assured my boxes were good to go, a million new worries immediately formed for me to chew on instead.

“I’ve just given myself a 12-day stomach ache,” I told Becky, watching the men load my belongings onto a large hand truck.

Now I can spend every moment between today and July 18 worrying that my stuff has not arrived/is in shambles/is lost and gone forever.

But hey, at least it was cheap. The total cost was $138.10, and then I opted for the $15 insurance add-on. If it doesn’t work out, maybe the insurance will allow me to replace whatever is lost or damaged.

Seven flat-rate shipping boxes (mostly books)

Seven flat-rate shipping boxes (mostly books)

On Tuesday before roller derby practice, I will be mailing my USPS boxes to myself from the post office by work. It kills me now, realizing I could have included those boxes in my Amtrak shipment, but maybe the cost would have been comparable since those boxes in particular are so heavy on their own. Once those seven USPS boxes are out of the way, all I’ll have left is what’s going in/on top of my car and what I’ll be leaving for a Salvation Army pick-up appointment.

This weekend was perfect weather, and I got to do a lot of things I wanted to do. I went to a cookout in Bridgeport to see friends and was surprised when I found myself choking up. When you start crying while hugging your friend’s mom, whom you’ve only met twice, you might just be entering a tough time. Chicagoans be warned. I was obnoxiously happy for about 90 percent of this three-day weekend, and hit with surprise pangs of sadness or realization for the other 10. This percentage wasn’t helped by how I felt when I found my mom’s glasses tucked away in a box — I’d completely forgotten I even had them, and the forgetting made me sad.

I almost can’t believe I won’t live here anymore a week from tomorrow.

I tried not to make many July plans, like I wrote earlier, but the next few days are filling up all the same. Outside of that I’m just letting myself do whatever I feel like in any given moment and not letting myself feel bad about my choices. For my last derby practice Tuesday, Becca volunteered to meet me in Lombard and get video of me skating, something I’ve wanted this whole time. I’ve been wondering about my form for the last seven months, and also I am very vain.

I said a lot of goodbyes this weekend and so many more are forthcoming. I hate that part. I can’t let myself believe anymore that I’ll see most people again in the next seven days. It was easier to think that when it was two weeks, or two months.

It makes me glad I got my farewell parties out of the way before it really was time to say goodbye.