Friday, November 25, 2016

First Impressions


“Tis a common Fault to be never satisfied with ones Fortune, nor dissatisfied with ones Understanding.”
-       François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680)

I recently had the opportunity to reinvent myself. I have avoided blogging while I decided whether I want to keep this up and if so whether I want to shake it up. One of the things I could do for example, would be to become suddenly nice and stop being snarky.

So, that decision only took ten minutes, you say. What else have I been waiting for to resume blogging?

Sensory overload has me spinning in place trying to make sense of my new environment. My once lush So Cal garden is gone. Friends tell me the new owners cut down the 50 year old eucalyptus trees in the front yard and painted the house a mustard yellow. I could not bear to imagine how the backyard paradise that I made over 25 years has been transformed.

My exile in the Pacific Northwest ended after just short of a year. I was going to sum that up by saying I’ve had a lovely nine months and eleven days but this wasn’t it. But what about giving up being snarky, you ask? I said the decision took ten minutes. I never said I wouldn’t continue to employ strategic snark in nucular (sic) doses at whatever target has attracted my momentary rage. I also never said I was an intelligent, articulate and literate genius. I am a terrible person who has taken to heart that advice about doing one thing and doing it well.

I did have a garden in the interim home near the Olympic fault line. There were figs, hops, grotesque hydrangea that seemed to rebloom all year at odd times, and all manner of flowering bulbs and trees that produced pollen my immune system decided to get all drippy about. So my entire gardening experience this past year has been to plant a wisteria in memory of my lost California home and to apply water desultorily when it turned out after six months that it doesn't actually rain EVERY day there. Shit pretty much grows without the need for divine intervention. I used Benedryl like gummy bears and I started having Amazon Prime deliver gummy bears in 55 gallon industrial drums. I have enough empty steel drums to start my own steel band, mon.

My garden now on my 16th floor balcony consists of my bonsai ginko, one of the handful of potted plants that made it from my yard, once filled with so many potted plants that I abandoned dozens after having friends take home their choices for months before moving. I have a blue ginger, a black aeonium and a holy basil that insisted it would live longer than any Trader Joe’s potted basil ever had if only I’d water it once in a while. I bought a 5-gallon fishtail palm locally, hauled it down the block from where my car lives and placed in my sunny window where I am as surprised as it is to still be happy 6 weeks in.
While I’m still new here, I want to say a tiny bit about first impressions of people in urban Iowa. But first, a disclaimer about my understanding of the difference between stereotypes and people. I am about to make a few gross generalizations that totally involve an un-ironic white-knuckled grasp of the obvious. Stereotypes exist for a reason.

I shall now describe my first impressions of the stereotypical 60-something woman from Iowa.  It should surprise no one that she is white. She has a short bob of untinted gray or white hair. It’s November, so she is wearing a sweater. She is about 10 pounds overweight and her cloths fit well: meaning she has been this size for long enough to establish a wardrobe of clothes that fit. Meaning she isn’t caught in the west coast cycle of so many women of a certain age that at some point we are trying to fit into cloths that don’t belong in our present diet cycle. Meaning that my Stereotypical Iowa Woman either never succumbed to the increasingly desperate vanity of trying to be stylish, or she is as over it as I am of fondue.

Based on my statistically invalid sample of three Stereotypical Iowa Woman, they were born in Iowa, grew up here mostly on rural farms, left at some point early in their marriages, and have returned to the big city in retirement. They have been around, if by around you mean they have visited their grown children in Oklahoma City, Kansas City or Omaha.

They have all been to Chicago. When one lady told me that by way of explaining how worldly wise she was, I said, yeah, the hog butcher to the world and she gave me the sweetest blank look. You’d have thought I was quoting the freaking Duc de La Rochefoucauld on self-awareness.

It will be interesting to see if these stereotypical first impressions ultimately say more about me than about the new people I’m meeting. I hope so. My fortunes are pretty fortunate these days, so The Duc is wrong there – at least about me being unsatisfied with my fortunes. I am actually hoping that he’s also wrong that I think I understand things I don’t really understand at all. I hope I will become dissatisfied with my current superficial understanding of my new neighbors. That’s why I wanted to record my first impressions.


For now, that’s what I’m seeing. But I’m new here and as terrible and snarky as ever. I’m insecure and falling back on looking down on people in the flyover states from the lofty perch of my coastal arrogance. Also, I’m uncomfortable because my pants are too tight.

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