Friday, November 15, 2013
In the present moment I find myself in a strange place. I'm not sure which seat I am sitting in. I have done a lot of sitting in my life, especially now, and yet, I am not clear on where I am sitting. I'm not even sure where I am, and I do actually mean this quite literally. I moved from the east coast to the north west coast about 5 months ago now, and maybe it is the New Yorker in me, but...where the hell am I? There are some landmarks that give me some sense of direction or placement within the broader context, but if you look up close at the details, or nuances of any given Portlander you see something quite different from what you have known. Here there is a slower, kinder way. People listen to you. They actually listen to what you have to say. In New York the majority of people don't really listen, or if they do it is for about 10 to 15 seconds before they are off hurrying down the street. People in New York seem to always be in a hurry. They may not have anywhere to go, but they do it in a hurry. It is almost impossible to not get swept up into the mentality or habit of hurrying. You have to understand I am a New Yorker saying this, so you know I carry some real authority on the matter. I have lived in the boroughs of New York since 1980, that's about 32 years, since I was about 20 years old. I can remember as a young 20 year old sitting on the subway in 1980 and being so puzzled by the complete stoic neutrality of the people on the subways despite all of the loud music from various boom boxes, and the often strange characters dressed in wild garb and acting just as oddly or provocatively as they wanted. No one, unless they were an out of towner payed any attention to the chaos in the subway. I quickly learned that being neutral, no matter how bizarre someone appeared or acted, and walking fast, often away from such people, was the way to survive in New York.
A few years ago I lived in Rome, Italy for two years. It took about six months for me to slow down, and actually be right where my shoes were. When I returned to live in Manhattan, I actually flew in the night Obama was declared president, I felt overwhelmed by the speed at which the whole city moved. I had actually forgotten that constant state of hurriedness. Everyone was in a hurry. Now, here, in the Pacific North West there is a similar way of being that I experienced in Rome. Portland certainly isn't Rome, although they do pride themselves on their coffee almost as much as the Italians do. Portlanders also don't have that slow as molasses like movement of the Italians when walking down the street, but there is a slowness here that you just don't find in New York. I have read that some of the differences of east coast transplants and Portlanders are that when at a party the New Yorker asks people, "What do you do for a living?" and the Portlander will ask, "Are you a blogger, or are you in a band?" Italians also rarely ask people what they do for a living, probably because their work climate is so dysfunctional and depressing to most Italians that they just avoid talking about it. An interesting similarity though is that Italians like Portlanders are not obsessed with making money like New Yorkers. You can't really blame New Yorkers, it does cost an arm and a leg to live in Manhattan these days, or as they say in Italy, "costa un occhio della testa" (translation: it costs an eye of the head). I can remember one time in Palermo seeing the quick comical gesturing of a Sicilian woman tilting her head as she held out her hand as if to catch her eye from falling out of her head to indicate to a friend she was shopping with how expensive a piece of jewelry was in the shop. It certainly does 'cost an eye out of your head' to live in New York which is why so many people there are rushing off to work or rushing home to try to use the few hours they have to relax before they have to get up and rush off to do it all over again. This is also why it is so hard to connect with people in New York. Trying to schedule a time to go for coffee or dinner can be very stressful. People have little time to see each other because they are hurriedly trying to make enough money to live, or rather survive, in the city that never sleeps. Portlanders, on the other hand, don't seem to care about how you make money or how much money you make, but this may not really be the case since I am still new to these parts I can't yet read very well between the lines.
Genderqueer Pie Please came into existence at the encouragement of Maggie, the new woman in my life. Please pull up a chair at our table and let us enjoy a slice of your genderqueer pie story.