Sunday, August 16, 2015

Florida woman grabs a fellow passenger by the throat

I've developed a habit of talking to people on the street. I call them "street people." I meet them on the street or on the bus. Sometimes they're homeless, sometimes they're in a store, sometimes they work for Target corporate, sometimes they're just bored. So, "street people" is the current term to encompass  them all--to imply, but not to limit. 

I do not wish to limit, but there comes a time to define. 

What's the point of experimenting anyway .. unless I organize my data?

What is the difference between an encounter in the Skyway vs a conversation on the street actual? A person of color vs a person who is perceived to be white? Where are people nice? Who is the most fun? With whom do I grow uncomfortable--why?

I don't have much data gathered on that last one. What I do have is enough for another conversation, so let's stay on track.

This hobby bloomed in the period between my time with the Occupy protests, and moving downtown last year. I've been taking public transportation for at least a few years now. I was overwhelmed by the system when I moved here seven years ago, but I cut my street teeth through daily commuting from southeast Minneapolis, by light rail to the Mall of America, via downtown. 

The conveniences and delays provided through reliance on others has assumed a second nature. 

As has my joy and contentment with being transported in enclosed spaces with unknown local humans. 

Frequently, these people are men I find south and downtown, though gender, as a factor, takes a backseat to location. 

RecentIy, I moved to northeast. I can walk to work. Many members of my social group live north of me. It requires an active effort to go downtown or south. I am starting to pick up on the differences in encounters, and I can tell, for all the benefits to moving, I'm going to miss living downtown. 

Observation: people on the street in northeast are not street people. They seem to be uninterested in having an encounter; their street status implies they are already having a time of it and do not wish for more. (Make a note. Street people sub-group: northeast bar patrons spilling into street.)

And, much to my chagrin, if the northeast person on the street has entertained engagement, it has ground my teeth. Raised high my hackles. 

In most of my street people stories, I talk about people who are forward in their speech and actions--assumptive, we'll call it. 

I do not clientele with bitches who come at me with aggression. Or, I have been lucky to attract only a few. 

So, it would be inaccurate to say I am excited or interested to find out more about these circumstances, but there is curiosity to see:
(a) in which direction it progresses
(b) indicators other than "white men" in "an urban residential area where the transition into suburban and rural lands beyond is almost undetectable and at an easy pace; the city diffuses from its center (Nicollet Mall and 7th, I'd wager); out, like blood needs to move away from the heart; like the natural decay of a concrete and tempered glass echo that gives way to corn fields, American Legions and VFWs, tall grasses, and the Boundary Waters."

Without barrier; unchallenged. 

xo - xo - xo - xo

Last night I was downtown, turned around. All these stops are unfamiliar now that Nicollet's revitalizing project has rerouted most of my major bus lines. 

There are palm trees at 3rd and 7th. Who knew?

Palm trees and John, the center of today's story. 

He'd been drinking. Who knows for how long, as habit. I don't think his drinking was done for the evening... he was level, coherent, but still restless. I asked where he was going, he said he'd been trying to get a room. I said I had some quarters, he didn't care about that. He wanted to to talk about my beauty and that he liked my sociable nature, or whatever. 

He's not much taller than me, 5'8" maybe. I'm not good with stats. He is thin-framed and wore his shirt tucked snugly so his clothes hung full in the way they do on a man who is sick or hungry but carrying himself. He started the conversation at a close proximity, but he moved slow, easy and somehow fluid, with grace or femininity or something like that. We got to talking. 

"Can I call you?"
"We have this time to talk now and you're going to waste it by trying to talk to me later?"
"Oh, I like you."
"Haha, sorry. I do this a lot... you wanna hear a joke?"
He did. 
"Why do fish live in saltwater?"
"Because... it's salty."
"Because pepper makes them sneeze!"
"I'm gonna tell you a joke now."
"Okay. Get it."
He leaned close to give me a decently-paced set-up about a crow and a pigeon flying home from the army. Somewhere in the long flight, the crow dips down to see what's going on down on land below, and finds a field filled with corn, as far as the eye can see. He flies back up to tell the pigeon. It was unclear whether the pigeon or the crow flew down to verify. His tone rose toward punchline. 

"We better quiet down or the farmer will hear us!"
"There you go," I said. 

Talking birds are funny, maybe. 

"Do you have any kisses for me?"
"Oh, no. Sorry. All out."

In telling this story, it was pointed out to me that I didn't step back when, in the conversation that followed, he leaned toward me. It's interesting to me because  I tend to shuffle about when I am talking with street people. Slow, predictable movement, like swaying or pacing. 

So, he leans into my space with his face, and his arms at his side. I leaned back in equal measure, like a dance. He leaned in another measure. 

"Nope, not for you," I said, and leaned back again further. 

He leaned in a third time, and, I mean, I'm only so balanced, and jokes work in threes. I could've put my hand on his face like a claw machine, to make a point. Or on his sternum, just to brace him, which seems the likely choice. 

In the moment, the least resistance to meet his momentum put my hand at his neck. Like I'd grabbed a child by the ear, I set him aright. 

There was more bristling in the 8-10 people also on the corner than there was in him. If I'd done something aggressive he didn't seem to notice. 

I mean, he acknowledged the boundary. I got a sassy look, he made a comment, he didn't cross in again. The conversation continued the few minutes until the bus came, without grudge on either end. 

"There's my bus."
"Okay, Renae."
"It was nice to meet you. Have a good night!"

I lined up at the door. I noticed my posture, the steady drum of adrenaline in my shoulders, and realized that I had just very casually grabbed a black man by the throat, in front of an audience. 

You can imagine the complex set of thoughts that has followed. 

So far, it makes me feel a little better about something that's been nagging me about my behavior--that there exists a naïveté or affinity for risk that will be perceived with contempt. 

Personally, I think "affinity for risk" is a little obvious; "naïveté," a minor slight. Often, these words, in this negative form, are said to me by people who, in the next breath, explain to me the lack of agency in my choices during the follies of my actual youth. 

Listen, if you think I'm on the street because I don't know how/when to cross it, you are part of my problem

I greet my neighbors with the openness of a child, and you assume my choice to allow a measure of vulnerability with strangers means I think I am invincible. 

Son of a bitch. I'm not the fool here. I'm out there for you, too. I feel bad for you. Where has your great awe and wonder run dry? Have you managed to figure out all humans so early? You must be the smartest among us to have so much knowledge stored between your present mind and the tabula rasa of your impressionable young mind. Before anyone hurt you or taught you bad ideas. 
Before you decided that it was better to always cross the street than stand your ground. 

To end this digressive tirade on an obnoxious tease: I learned a lot during my impromptu train date with a gentleman named Larry Love, on January's famous Day of Three Dates. 
But that's for another time. 

To tell the end of this story, and finally get some regular sleep at the end of another busy weekend, John let me say goodbye to him. I got on the bus, my face flushed with exuberance, confusion, and embarrassment at what had just happened. 

John got on behind me and went to a seat in the back. I assume that was his natural inclination, but still I had my bag on the seat next to me as the universal sign for "I'm done with this conversation. I've got places to be, shit to do, things to figure out--and they're not about you." 

I do hope he found some good sleep though. 

xo - xo - xo - xo

Friday, July 31, 2015

Feeling like the breeze: easy and free

For being so stubborn against living with roommates, I managed to meet a few people I want to know more about even if I'm not living there. 

Today, with the help of generous and attentive friends and copious electrolytes, I managed to stick it to those same friends by powering through my seemingly counterproductive (and definitely tedious) method of finally going through all my shit.

Step 1: put lots of things on one surface
Step 2: sort those things into piles
Step 3: move those piles to a different surface or box
Step 4: repeat steps 1 & 2
Step 5: match those piles with existing piles and move the remaining piles to a different surface

Which to me seems like very focused logic, but appears to be a wild mess that strikes anxiety into all who see it. Which seems fair given all that I am purging during July moon moving holiday 2015. (Better Name 2016!)

Anyway. I was lucky to have a couple of badass paid dudes to do all the heavy lifting #fuckthosestairs #easybreezymoves and now 85% of my stuff is in a house six minutes from work by foot, with a geologist and the head of a pizza shop who got a room open for me a month earlier than planned. Seems like I won't hear from the management company for a couple months about whether I'm allowed to reside there, but the room will be open Monday. 

I gave myself options, so.. I don't have to live in the clutch of fear-begotten-avoidant behavior toward the potential Sour Of All Things. I've got backup. New, right? It's a sweet thing. 

Tomorrow--I mean, today, I suppose--I'll crash and probably sleep for two days, but then I'll come out of the cocoon all brand new, go to work (where I fight fires before they happen, lol) and then walk my assss hoommmeeee

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You have been inadvertently enrolled in The Burt Grumple School for the Socially Retarded

As promised, one of our interns left this wet, crumpled manifesto on my work-desk this morning. Here at The Pleasantest Life, we understand that a conversation cannot be had with one voice alone. So, rather than set the story on fire, we have decided to run it. Ladies and gentlemen, Burt Grumple. 

Hello everyone! My name is Burt Grumple, and I am the proud founder of The Burt Grumple School for the Socially Retarded. Why did I start this school, you ask? Well, it all started one day when I said to myself, "Burt, why are all of your friends flipping social idiots?" I could not answer, so I decided to do what I do best. When that didn't work, I founded this school. 

Do you think you are ready for a healthy level of social interaction? The kind you see fancy people at bars and coffee shops engaging in? Sadly for you, if you are reading this, you are not even close. You might say to yourself, "I have lots of friends and I have a very healthy social life."


You are undoubtedly wrong in all of your assumptions about your social readiness.

This lesson is a tough one to accept and even harder to learn. The effect is even harder to overcome. Mostly because your big dumb brain is only functioning at a mere fraction of what it is capable.

On a daily basis, you wake up and go through your routine— or not, if you are the kind of shit that claims to "live in the moment". You go to work and have strained interactions with your co-workers, who you are forced to spend chunks of your life with, for little but a small monetary reward.

You go home and… what do you do?

You stupid shit. You get on your computer and sift through Facebook or scour through blogs and forums. Occasionally, you may go out with "friends" and see movies, or pass the time with a physical or mental activity. Maybe you'll catch the latest TV show that, though it hasn't been interesting to you since your favorite character died, you keep watching so you can perpetuate the mundane interactions with your drone counterparts at work.

This is all symptomatic of your Social Retardedness. 

It's okay. You're here now. Things will improve.

I am going to take a moment to show you something.

There it was.

Do you feel like socializing with that individual? 

No? Why not? Did he have nothing to offer you? 

No. You have nothing to offer him. He has seen through your pathetic attempt at judgment and is now disgusted by your superiority complex. He had the cure for AIDS and none of you would talk to him. He is better than you, and here is why.

He involves himself in none of these things.

That man--we will call him Trub--has lived his life devoid of television, internet, and other forms of "social" media and infotainment. Man, has he got stories to tell. The things he has seen! He even saw a television once in the late 1970s.

While your grandparents are learning the ins and outs of sending letters to their family as Facebook wall posts, he has been a determined stalwart, avoiding the grip of social death that the technological world of today uses to strangle us. He uses a corded telephone to make his bill payments. He walks to the store to buy some lottery tickets. From time to time, he will even stroll by an underpass to drop $3 cash on sexual gratification. You may think him "old-fashioned," but all the while, throughout his day, he is making a concerted effort to have real, face-to-face human interaction. He does this all day long. 

He has no problem chatting up a stranger, because to them, he is stranger.

I am by no means a technophobe but I, like Trub, realize that when using the modern world's communication conveniences, the human element is masked or removed.

Oh, sure. You can try to say these methods of communication add some ease to your soul crushing, mundane existence, but in reality, they are isolating you. You sit there, conversing with a machine that is relaying what someone else has conversed with their machine to relay to you. You have added a layer--a barrier--to your social interaction. 

Does that sound like you moved forward? 

Sounds like you need some learning from my programs. 

In further lessons we will explore this and other topics in extreme detail. You may regret participating in this school before you are done. You may drop out, and continue to be a dullard. 

The choice is yours.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Another notification:

Exciting things are happening here behind the scenes at The Pleasantest Life. The newsroom is active. Night and day, dutiful reporters dig deep to fabricate the stories our readers want: greater awe, greater wonder. Tell us, by God--what happened with the eels?

You have spoken & We hear you. Loud and clear. Crystal.

Hustle! Bustle! We've got loads of all that.

But, while we're working on the larger stories, we have amassed a team of interns who will be bringing you bite-sized delight. Tantalizing nuggets. Teasing gems. Whetstones, against which you can sharpen your insatiable news-hunger.

You approve! Smashing.

Let's get on with it.

Nominee for TPL's 2015 Selfie of the Year

Our first nominee for 2015's prestigious SOTY award comes to us from Nelle Bing. Last Friday, Nelle attended a wedding celebration that suffered some unintended ups and downs. With an anxiety that quickly spread among the 14 other passengers, she found herself trapped in an elevator, and facing fear itself.

Nelle had reception long enough to do two things. Send a frantic text to her husband (who already had a head full of champagne), and deliver this crucial s.o.s to Facebook.

"I am literally stuck in an elevator. Please, someone call for help. I'm at the Foshay"

Post-experience analysis by those at the scene revealed: you really haven't seen Nelle Bing chug a beer until she's been trapped in an elevator.

Despite having the kind of friends who would rather laugh hysterically at home than actually call for help, the elevator ordeal was resolved in a "seemingly endless" 20 minutes or so.

Once the elevator doors were pried open by rescue personnel dressed as sexy calendar firemen, Nelle Bing reportedly sashayed past the assembled hunks; slid down the railing on the last 10 flights of stairs; gave a brusque nod to her husband and to the the bartender said, "Tequila. Now."

Nelle Bing, as the first nominee for the inaugural SOTY award, you live The Pleasantest Life.

Friday, January 2, 2015

You have been notified.

I got really mad at that last post. No matter what I tried, that picture refused to be unbroken.

A person can only take so much.

I regret to inform you that we now return to our regularly scheduled sporadic posting!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

eels up inside ya, finding an entrance where they can

There is fear, and then there are eels. 

stuff of nightmares, yo.

If you're going to fear a thing anyway, why not make it ridiculous? If every time you walk into the basement, you are met with the overwhelming sensation that centipede, murderer, or animated mouse corpse awaits you around every corner, why not take control?

I believe that inexplicable fear of clowns or spiders or other socially normal fears are chosen by the individual. For awhile as a child I pretended to be, and thus became, afraid of clowns. For no particular reason other than other people were also afraid of the same thing.

As an adult I left Charlotte and Pennywise, instead adopting a perfectly natural normal human fear that in every dark room I would find a GIANT EEL SWIMMING THROUGH THE AIR. By allowing it in long enough for it to feel exercised, I give myself the power to wiggle free from the fear.

Until the inevitable day I am met with an enormous air-swimming eel floating down the basement hallway, of course. Until then I live in intermittent, easily penetrable fear, I suppose.

Try it on, y'all. This is goddamn terrifying. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

1000 x petite mort =

from the Art Nouveau tarot, Antonella Castelli 

This is the loveliest Death. Of all my tarot decks, this one speaks the most to me and my image of death. Gone is the dark-hooded, scythe-wielding skeleton figure who strikes terror in the hearts of men. Instead, this harbinger of irreversible change leans upon a staff as if to catch herself from falling mid-step. In an act of unveiling, she takes down her mask to reveal a repose that is calm and reflective, not sorrowful or distressed.

I am between selves. Death came to my house ages ago, forcing me to strip down my constructs of self, of who I think I am and what I want. I don't know what comes next, or who I am becoming, but I know that it does not end here. The woman I was is not who I will be. My grief for that girl is complete. She served me well, but the life I go to now I cannot approach with outdated modes of thinking.

This is a difficult thing to nail down. I've been deleting and rewriting the same sentences for days. The things I thought I wanted to say refuse to budge.

For some time I have been aware of my complications in sympathizing with others about death. It is difficult for me to refer to death as a loss, as in: I'm sorry for your loss. I never know what to say. "Oh." I had to train myself to apologize at the mention of a loss of a loved one, a pet, a distant relative. I was never comfortable receiving the same apologies, and I'm still not. Prolonged mourning or denial also makes me uncomfortable; euphemisms for death seem strange. Is it prettier or kinder for someone to pass on or away? Is death not kind? I don't want to tart it up--to pretend death is something other than what it is. I don't wish to lessen its impact, or absolve my own fear of the unknown.

Once, I was fascinated by car accidents. I thought I was prepared to die. I wasn't suicidal; I didn't have a particular death wish; probably these thoughts were how I processed the last summit before my father's slow decline. At the time, I thought I had freed myself of the fear of what comes next, and should death come to me, I would go willingly. I wanted to know what everything was like. By rejecting youthful invincibility and instead embracing mortality, I believed I somehow achieved a connection to the elusive infinite.

But I had no concept of the future--or I recognized that my concept of the future was so far from the likely reality that I would rather face death than give up the ghost of the great hereafter.

These days, I do not fear death, but I do not welcome it either. The more I grow into myself, the less I spend late-nights contemplating my insignificant position in the universe. The more love I receive and project, the more I wonder what life is like, and I am not as concerned about the mysteries of death.

During my years of attempting to "live in the moment", I was more like a goldfish than a Buddhist, and I didn't plan much for a future that seemed so far away. Despite this, I seemed to continually have a picture of who I wanted to be next and succeeded in that, for good or ill. One characteristic falls off as it is replaced by another, again and again, until a new persona is built without experiencing any loss at all.

Now, in the future of my departed discontent, I am on the precipice of a greater shift, after a deeper death. In this I am flying blind. I dismissed my former self without an idea of what comes next. Since moving to Minnesota five years ago, I have gone through stages of denial and acceptance, of trying to fight it and eventually letting it win.

I know this is the process of turning 30, and consciously transforming from a directionless, 20-something wanderer into a wife and a mother--someone who isn't afraid to become deeply rooted. But during this period of transition between death and life I find myself repeating: I don't know her name, I don't know the person I am becoming. It's been frightening to take leap after leap of faith into the unknown, praying each time I will find my footing without stumbling too badly.

But there are some things I know for certain: The person I was before is of no use to me now. The new incarnation will be the best one yet. I will have a home and be loved. There is no reason to be afraid. This is the loveliest death.