Mom and Aunt Kathy
Bake a Red Velvet Cake
After over two years of transience I finally have a place of my own. How does it feel to end this housesitting-couchsurfing-on-the-road existence? How does it feel to at last have a bed of my own, an address of my own?
It feels lonely.
I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because I haven't finished furnishing my new studio. When I left for Xinjiang back in 2003 I lent out many of my material possessions. At the time I thought I would be away for about a year--easy enough to track down what-all went where, right? But somehow that year turned into six. All of the most functional items I owned: silverware, blankets, pots and pans--I have no idea who has them now. Did they go to some sibling? To some friend? To some former friend with whom I haven't kept up contact?
Not that I would have adequate space in this itty-bitty efficiency to store all the possessions I might track down. But it would be so much cozier if only I had a few cherished items. A maple rocking chair is lost in limbo--the only piece of furniture I owned that didn't come either from Ikea or from somebody who wanted to get rid of something via the Internet. I guess I can't bring my orange tabby Mango back to life. I would love another kitty, but it's probably unwise to be a pet-owner until I figure just where I'll land some months out.
I know I'll feel more at home once I've hung up some of the many pictures I've acquired and had framed over the years. I did have some nice art hanging in my last Seattle apartment. That included original Chinese calligraphy and lithographic reproductions from the Hamza-nama. I now have even more pieces to hang on my walls after these recent years in Asia. I'm especially fond of brush calligraphy and other original artwork I bought in Mongolia, had framed in Urumqi, and shipped back to Seattle. But, of all things stopping me... I can't find the special fat, S-shaped hooks I used to have that would hang off the picture rail running along the perimeter of my ceiling. Perhaps I should just be damned with my deposit and drive nails into the walls, hang my artwork up, and make the apartment mine.
Though I haven't yet nested, I actually do love the apartment and neighborhood. The building is a converted hotel in Chinatown. It's one-hundred years old so has old-building charm I don't often see around Seattle. Brick facades; solid, stubby doorknobs; and petite tilework flooring make me feel like I'm living in some other, older U.S. city--perhaps New York or Chicago. I have a decent view of the lower downtown skyline. Despite now being overshadowed by half-a-dozen other skyscrapers the Smith Tower looms large, perpetuating my illusion of being in an older city. I had been keeping time by glancing out the window to the mock Big Ben tower clock crowning King Street Station--until both hands inexplicably stopped moving a few days ago.
One surprise: the place is quiet. I had expected that I would hear a lot of street noise day and night. Another surprise: despite being in the city center, parking a car for days on end is a snap. There are several areas just a five-minute walk north, east, or south--blocks which aren't regulated by meter maids any time at all, day or night. The main streets may be parking madness during the day, but in the week-and-a-half I've been living in Chinatown I haven't had to circle for parking once.
I have a three-part theory as to why Chinatown parking is unexpectedly abundant:
I'm sure my new place will quickly grow on me. I think my sudden sense of detachment here is in part owing to having more solitude, in part owing to the mental shift of now having a place of my own. Routines were different before. Being on the road without an address meant I would get out and explore each day, meander through and get to know whichever area of whichever country I might be in. Periods couchsurfing with friends or family meant social interaction--lots of it. Housesitting never felt lonely--perhaps living alone in a house-not-my-own perpetuated a sense that I was yet unsettled, on-the-road.
David, Aunt Kathy,
and Dozens of Pralines
Another thing I've done to settle myself: I've begun subscriptions to a couple magazines. It's such a petty pleasure, but something I couldn't do over recent years on the road and living abroad. The realization that I could have anything in well-written English delivered on a regular basis was far more exciting than it should have been. Only after years in Xinjiang could something mundane as starting a magazine subscription sound so thrilling.
So. I now find myself with an address, now have some permanence of place... at least for the immediate months.