You can’t compare apples to oranges… or plums

plum

I just got a new job, and went to pick up my apron and other employee stuff today before I start my first day tomorrow. My new boss (who’s from NYC) asked me where I grew up.

Me: “Cleveland.”
Him: “Cleveland, Ohio. Hey, I think another guy who works here is from Ohio.”
Me: “Oh really?”
Him: “Yeah, or somewhere weird. Did you grow up there dreaming of leaving?”
Me: “Not really.”

I didn’t say that even since I was a kid, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Cleveland. Once I had an awareness of it as a city people looked down on, an overly defiant spirit came upon me like the dewfall and, well, even the Denver sun hasn’t been able to evaporate it.

Him: “How do you like Denver?”
Me: “It’s different.”

This is the truth. This is the only real answer. It’s different.
When I’m in Denver, I miss: my family, my Cleveland friends, ornate architecture, the cultural neighborhoods, and pierogies.
When I’m in Cleveland, I miss: my Denver friends, living downtown, walking everywhere, the amazing street art, and green chili.

The point I’m trying to make is, as much as I might hold up and compare the two cities in which I’ve had an address, there is no comparison. Denver and Cleveland are two totally different places, in totally different areas of the country, with their own culture and their own history. You can’t compare the Rust Belt to the Wild West. You can’t compare mountains to Lake Erie. You can’t compare green chili to pierogies. (Omg, wait. Can you put green chili ON a pierogi?????)

Sure, I love to shit-talk Denver, but that’s because I find ranting fun. And it’s like teasing a friend. As in, hey, I notice the weird things you do because I pay attention to you. And some of these weird things annoy me. Same story with Denver. (And honestly, same with Cleveland, too. But just like I wouldn’t tease a friend in front of people who don’t know them, I’m not going to shit-talk Cleveland when people already think it’s trash.)

I’ve already gone over this topic many times, in print and in person, Denver vs Cleveland, the loves and the hates. That’s because talking/writing is a mode of thinking for me. Whether joking or serious, when I find myself talking and writing about a topic over and over, it’s because I’m digging into it. Putting it into language, explaining it before I’m even really sure what it is I’m trying to explain. It’s all a sprawling, messy first draft of… something.

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Clearly, I haven’t yet figured it out. Anyway, just remember: you can’t compare apples and oranges. Or the Big Apple to a plum. Or the plum to an over-hyped piece of–

Darn it, there I go again.

 

Lula Belle’s

I promised, and I must now deliver.

The tale you are about to hear is true, and the truth, perhaps, is not stranger than fiction– but it certainly serves as vivid inspiration.

 

Thus brings me to the tale of Lula Belle’s.

It was a sunny, windy as heck day in a small town in northern Wyoming. As I often do, I headed that morning into the main part of town to check out what antique treasures or hidden-gem coffee shops I could find.

I parked on a random block in town and quickly googled to see what was around. Since it was so windy, I was about to drive to my next destination. I turned the key and… My car wouldn’t start.

Dead battery. I knew it. The battery had been dying slowly since a month before. I have roadside assistance, but since I was in the middle of nowhere, I thought I should ask around for a jump before I called and had to wait hours for the pros to show up.

I got out and walked up to the store I was parked in front of, a “farmer’s market” store selling jam, honey, and baked goods. Inside, a woman wearing a flannel asked what I needed. “Do you have jumper cables?” I asked. “Or know anyone who does? My battery’s dead.”

“Oh, I left my cables in the Jeep and my husband drove it today. Did you already try Lula Belle’s?”

I gave her what I’m sure was a blank stare, because she started to explain.

“Lula Belle’s, it’s down at the end of the street. There’s always, you know, mechanic type guys in there. Old guys with all kinds of tools in their trucks. Someone will definitely have cables. They’d love to help you out.”

“Oh, okay,” I said. “Where is it?”

She led me outside and pointed down the street. “It’s a diner, last building at the end of the street there.”

I thanked her and went on my way. The wind was blasting but I was going to find a nice old mechanic guy to jump my car, and maybe this diner would have a great breakfast-for-lunch and endless coffee refills. As I walked, though, I passed a boarded-up building, plastic covers on the upper windows flapping in the wind. The train tracks ahead of me held empty cars, standing still. There wasn’t much at this end of the street.

Then I saw Lula Belle’s.

It was a tiny building at the end of the street, on a miniature block all its own, right next to the train tracks. I stepped up to its front entry and got a whiff of nicotine. I stepped into the entryway, which was a glass enclosure just big enough for me, a dry-looking plant, and a bucket full of gravel that I presumed, from the smell, was for putting out cigarette butts.

I pushed open the front door and immediately every eye was on me.

I stood in front of a tiny, wood-paneled room crowded with people sitting at little square tables. Almost everyone in the place was old, and smoking. The air was thick, to say the least. An old woman squinted at me suspiciously and exhaled a gray stream in my general direction.

I walked up to the formica counter. A girl stood behind it, and I hoped that she worked there as we both made hesitant eye contact.

“Hey,” I said. “Um, my car battery died, and I was just wondering if you knew anyone with jumper cables who could help me out?”

The girl said, “Hmm,” and I watched her peel back the plastic wrap on a tray of buns that were so coated in whatever sticky brown substance (don’t think of lung tar don’t think of lung tar) that she had to pry them apart with a spatula. “I’ll go in back and ask. Maybe the owner has some.” She went into the kitchen and left me standing in front of the counter, trying not to look directly at anyone. I stared instead at the murky cowboy pictures and cracked mirror on the wall.

Had I stepped back in time? It felt like it. Smoking indoors was banned in Ohio before I was even a teen. Even in Denver, where smoking in general is more common, it’s always relegated to sidewalks and patios. And at one table, a woman peered over her coffee at a map, an actual paper map, that she had unfolded and spread out.

And then there were the old people.

Here’s the thing: I like old people. Old people like me. I’ve enjoyed the company of my much-elders since I was a kid befriending ladies in church. Old people have taught me how to play chess, paint with watercolors, and tell the weirdest jokes. Most of the old people I know, honestly, are the inspiration for many of my life goals. So it never made sense to me when I would see people dress as “old” for Halloween. I always thought, what, is it like a fear of mortality? A fear of the fact that one day you’ll be wrinkly and probably need a cane? So what? What’s so scary about old people?

Well. Suddenly I understood. These old people were scary. None of them spoke. They ate silently, sitting across from each other, forks in bricks of scrambled eggs. Or else they just  drank coffee and smoked, staring straight ahead, glancing at me. And they looked quite… gray.

Maybe I hadn’t stepped back in time, but into a parallel world, or a movie set. But this was no Little House on the Prairie or even Fistful of Dollars. This was No Country For Old Men vibes, noir, ominous, creepy sunlight slanting into the frame, the stranger comes to town and it turns out everyone is the living dead… That kind of movie.

A few people came out of the kitchen: first the counter girl, then the scrawny dishwasher guy, then the owner woman and lastly, her husband, frowning. “Where’s your car at?” he asked me.

“Oh, thank you,” I said. He walked to the door and I followed. “It’s right down the street.”

We went outside and he looked down the street as I pointed. “Yeah, see, it’s the blue one down there. It just needs a jump.”

“I don’t have cables. Loaned ’em to my cousin and he never gave ’em back. Nobody else has any, either. Checked my truck.”

“Oh… Well… Thanks so much for checking,” I said, as I inched away from the building.

“You could ask across the street.” He pointed to a crew of people who seemed to be disassembling an abandoned building. “I don’t know those guys, but maybe they got something.”

“Okay. Yeah maybe I’ll do that. Thanks!”

There was no way I was asking anyone else. I fast-walked back to my car and called roadside assistance. They got there in half an hour.

Turns out I could have called first and probably saved myself some time and trouble. But I would have missed out on quite the experience.

~Pen

These are just a few of my incredible thoughts

My grandma has been telling me she wants to read a new blog post on here.

I started writing a general update, how Patrick and I have been traveling the past few weeks (as usual….) being in El Paso at the moment. Also how we spent last week in Wyoming and I saw some shit. Like, things that are seared into my brain forever. I could probably write a Stephen King-esque story based on the shit I saw.

Perhaps I shall tell that tale another day. (Or you’ll see it in the form of a paperback with a spooky font on the cover, who knows!)

Instead, due to some things I’ve seen on the internet today, I feel compelled instead to tell you why and how much I am sick of Thought Catalog and its ilk.

For those of you who, like Patrick earlier, are asking me, “WTF is Thought Catalog?”, it’s basically this: an online “magazine” that churns out a zillion shareable articles. But unlike Buzzfeed etc, it’s not as much silly lists or gif-fueled Reddit ripoffs (although those are still all over it)   as it is Pin-able, Facebook-y essays written by and aimed at Millennial women. (Whew, I am using so many interwebz words I’m getting dizzy.)

As much as I can barely stand the style (and, honestly, content) of Thought Catalog and similar sites, do I still sometimes get suckered into clicking a link to it? Yes. We all waste time on the internet. (Personally I’d rather waste mine giggling at doggo memes, but that’s neither here nor there.) Okay, so there’s that disclaimer.

Also I’d like to add that, as snobby as this rant compilation of thoughts is going to sound, I don’t fault anyone who writes for these sites. Writers gotta do what we gotta do. You get ’em, girl who wrote “Open Letter to the Best Friend I Don’t See Anymore”. I know you are probably actually a genius because you’ve figured out the voice they want and now you’ve got them tied around your little finger. You write on. We’ve gotta support each other. …Like how these sites should support writers by, like, actually paying them. Ahem.

What I’m saying is, I’m tired of these sites and their style of fake thoughtfulness. They feature essays that contain tons of line breaks, sentence fragments, and the same line repeated over and over for emphasis. They cover topics like travel and relationships with trendy prose and a brave veneer that’s supposed to inspire us as much as we’re inspired by pictures of girls doing yoga on giant rocks.

I know that some will say that’s just how it is nowadays. No one wants to really read anymore. Essays and articles nowadays have to be less than 500 words and have a title that’s a whole sentence for some reason. They have to be tagged, hashtagged, categorized, optimized, liked, shared, rehashed, recycled, and then write me another one tomorrow because this is apparently what Millennials want to read and paste all over their Facebook feed.

But I think we deserve more, and in fact, I think we desire more. Maybe some people want to read  weirdly condescending advice written in second person. But I think a lot of us would like to read an essay written by a real person, an essay that is– not vaguely, but inextricably– tied to a real experience. Something that goes beyond being “relatable” and actually makes us relate to other people.

~~~

As an afterword, I’d like to add that good stuff does exist. I’ve seen it, I’ve read it, and it was contemporary. Of course, that comes with a different batch of things I greatly dislike– I’ve been to some really weird open mic nights, people. (I have seen. some. shit. As I said before.) But that’s a whole different rant.

I suppose the main thing is that these “problems” are what spur me to write. On the days when I feel like I don’t have anything to say, or that what I say isn’t worthwhile or good enough, I think of how I very, very rarely see anyone else writing about the things I mull over most. Even when I do, it’s still not quite the same way I see it. And although I doubt my writing will ever perfectly get that down, I work toward getting as close as possible.

-Pen

PS: Okay, I definitely have to tell you about my weird experience in Wyoming, though.

 

Fall… and it all starts again

I’ve often that I think fall should be the New Year, at least by my life’s calendar. For me, this time of year is when everything feels like it has come full circle and we’re on the brink of going around again.

See: Migrations. I used to joke that my family was cursed, because every fall for the past few years there has been something (power outages, sewer leaks…) that drove us out of our house for a couple weeks. But since Patrick and I moved at the end of last fall, the new joke is that I was the cursed one all along. In fact, I don’t think my family did have to migrate last year…
And now this year, Patrick and I have been planning our schedules (as far ahead as we can), it turns out that I won’t be in Denver for much more than a week in October, and who knows about after. Let the migrating begin. (Or… continue, as I haven’t been in Denver much in September, either– not that I’m complaining! Spent a few weeks in Cleveland, a week in Arizona, and a weekend camping in the mountains. Now I’m in Fort Morgan, which is still in Colorado even though it looks just like Nebraska. Crazy how this state is half and half like that.)

See also: Mindset. At the very turn of the season, like lifting the corner of the page… I could feel it, the other day. It was hot and sunny but the breeze had a bite to it. The sunshine looks different (but maybe I’m just crazy– sometimes I think it looks different in different states). Anyway, things are changing, and this makes my mind start gearing up for some kind of “Phase Two”. Like getting home from work and changing your clothes to go out for the night. I find myself making lists, making plans, wanting to focus myself on certain things with an almost studious air. I even do research, which is something I hate. Suddenly I want knowledge, discipline… Wait, this sounds like school. Crap. Okay, I want to hone my self-disciplining, self-teaching skills. All this? Sounds like New Year’s resolutions to me.

Fall, I guess, is a lot different from the New Year, though. Fall isn’t about marking off, “the end of that, the start of this”; it cups you in the time between that and this. At the same time, it stabs right now into your brain and heart. It’s too beautiful and too short, but you know it’s going to come again, around and around.

Payphone

Something my brother-in-law will never let me live down is that I had never heard the song “Payphone” until someone literally played it for me last year. (Never mind that he had never heard of Joan Baez…) I still don’t know any of the words except the chorus, but that popped into my head yesterday, as:

My cell phone took a dive and a smack onto the tile floor of the Denver airport. That was that. R.I.P.
My plan for the day was to take a plane to Phoenix and then a Greyhound (my first Greyhound, woo) to Tucson, where Patrick is working for the week. After the tragic death of my phone, we communicated via email and free wifi. But alas, there was a fatal flaw in this solution: Free wifi is always crap.

My plane got me to Phoenix, a wonderful TSA girl and a shuttle got me to the Greyhound station, and the Greyhound got me to Tucson. I used the station’s free wifi to email Patrick several times to tell him to pick me up there after work… But time ticked by (or at least, I assumed– something I noticed sans phone is that there are no wall clocks anymore) and I realized that none of the emails were sending. I glanced around. Through the window I could see a gas station, and being incredibly thirsty (and maybe a little unsettled by the number of men with neck tattoos waiting for the next bus) I decided to head there in search of a drink, and, you guessed it, a pay phone.

Guys, pay phones are not a thing anymore. (AND I doubt they were a thing even in 2012 when “Payphone” came out, just saying.) Both the airport and the Greyhound station had one, but it wasn’t a coin one, but one which you could use for free in the same area code or else you needed one of those long-distance minutes cards. So long story short, I asked the gas station girls if they had a phone I could use. “We don’t have public phones, but….” One girl disappeared into the break room, returning with a cordless landline. “You can just use it.”

Thank God I actually remembered Patrick’s cell number, and that thing where you have to dial “1” before the area code. So I called him, he picked me up, all was well. I told him about the Greyhound:
Me: “It was totally fine. The window had face marks, but otherwise it was clean.”
Patrick: “Hey, you basically lived the ‘Desert Bus’ game!”
Me: “And I won!!”

Honestly I did enjoy the peaceful two or so hours I spent on the bus, reading a book and watching the desert. Plus it’s always fun hanging out in different cities with Patrick. And, as I always tell myself, every experience is “grist” for a writer, and sometimes a lesson for life. Like how I learned that I should have a watch and an atlas, in preparation for the inevitable next time I break my phone….

When you go, can I go with you?

[Note: This was written a few days ago, but I didn’t get a chance to add the pictures until today. We’re currently home and enjoying our Memorial Day weekend in Denver.]

Today is the last day of another surrounding-state sojourn.
Our first stop was North Platte, Nebraska. To be honest, I was mostly going along on this trip because I didn’t want to be stuck in Denver alone for two weeks again, not because I thought I’d find Nebraska all that cool. I was wrong, though! North Platte was a good time, thanks mostly to the good weather that allowed me to enjoy their various parks. (Most of them were in some way named after Buffalo Bill Cody… Apparently he lived in North Platte at one point.) Green grass, blue sky, riverbanks, fields… The Midwest makes me happy. I spent one afternoon driving around just to enjoy the scenery, and another one sitting at a picnic table, barefoot and reading in the sun. Driving into Nebraska, the sign welcoming you over the state line reads: Nebraska …The Good Life. That pretty much sums it up.

Our next and longest stay was Rapid City, South Dakota. On our way down there we made a stop to check out the Badlands. I kind of wish I had been more into taking pictures, but we’d planned to go back (and then didn’t end up doing it; we hiked in the Black Hills instead).
Before I went on this trip, a friend at work told me, “The Badlands are cool. They’re not, like, beautiful– they’re interesting.” Umm, I think we have different concepts of beauty. The Badlands are otherworldy. Parts of it felt like a fantastical castle-city. Other parts were stunning because of how far you could see, the huge openness. Plus we saw mountain goats (including baby ones!), prairie dogs, a buffalo, and an appropriately ominous gathering of buzzards.

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Dusk in the Badlands

Rapid City itself is more of a small but busy town, kind of touristy because of its proximity to Mount Rushmore. There were some more “local” spots, like the super chill coffee house I basically lived at (they recognized me after the second day). But honestly, when you’re traveling through random towns, you come to appreciate the comforts of tourism. Like the fact that there’s more places to eat than just fast food (or this place called Runza?? Like, there are at least three of them on every main street in Nebraska. What is this place? Why the obsession?). Plus, I had a lot of fun with Patrick taking silly pictures with all the statues of presidents they have on the corners of Rapid City’s downtown.

We spent the weekend checking out Mount Rushmore. Well, actually, we first hit up a beer tasting festival in town.

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We tried going to Mount Rushmore later (after a long nap…) but it was too foggy to see the mountain, so we spent some time in the forest instead. The strong scent of pine permeated everything… Sooo good.

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The next day was sunny and warm, perfect to finally see the monument. Patrick got lots of compliments on his shorts, and some guys high-fived him as they passed us on the trail. Mount Rushmore was kind of more impressive than I’d imagined, and I’m glad I got the chance to see it.

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I thought it was funny seeing everyone take the same picture…

But the Black Hills were my favorite part. They’re so expansive and beautiful, and it restored me to be out in real woods. Hearing frogs, seeing birds and animal tracks, climbing on rocks and fallen logs. I’m a little jealous of Rapid City residents who get to live in the lap of those hills.

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Hiking trail in Black Elk Wilderness area

Now, for the past few days, we’ve been in Scottsbluff, Nebraska… On our way here we stopped at a gas station where I locked the keys in the car and we had to get help from some locals (and found out the gas station clerk girl was a fellow Denverite, just in NE for the summer). I’ve been kind of under the weather, so this last bit has been mostly me lingering too long in this coffee shop and reading My Antonia (a friend lent it to me, saying I should read it on this trip since it’s set in Nebraska. I just finished it last night).

Patrick has some more traveling to do this summer, and I’ve decided to go along. We’re also planning a just-for-fun trip together. For me, traveling makes me want to travel more– and whether we visit a national monument, a different city, or a small town, it’s always worth going.

Inhabitant

Now that Patrick and I are back from our excursion through New Mexico, I have settled back into my Denver routine. I didn’t really realize I had one until I went about my normal activities and it seemed almost strange to have Patrick back at home again. Now I have a job and a daily set of things to do, plus the odd errand and/or fun evening. At last I could say I’m content. (…..Except for how excited I am to go back to Cleveland for Easter!!!)

Speaking of going back to Cleveland… we’re visiting for Easter but also later this spring for Patrick’s work. His work will pay for him to have a place to stay downtown, and when we were discussing this I said, “But how will I get around?”
Patrick (joking): “Use the amazing local transit system.”
Me: “No, seriously! I don’t wanna be holed up downtown without a car.”
Patrick: “Um…. What?”
Me:
Me:
Me: “….Ohhhhhhhhh. Oh… I live almost downtown here. I can just… walk to places… Just like I do here….”
Patrick: “Thank god, you figured it out. I actually started to wonder if you got hit in the head.”
But as I explained to him, when I picture downtown Cleveland I picture almost nothing! Having spent little actual time down there out and about (instead I was always in a car or only walking a few blocks), I can only picture certain streets or buildings and I have no concept at all of the general layout or the nearness of coffee shops to hotels.
The other crazy thing was, thinking about walking around downtown Cleveland made me a little nervous. I don’t know my way, there might be sketchy characters, etc… And yet again it dawned on me that I deal with those same things right where I live now.

Apparently, I have become a city girl. I did choose our neighborhood for its proximity to downtown/stuff, but for the most part I have to say I was unwittingly transformed.

This past Saturday was fairly nice out (unlike today, when both Patrick and I are home thanks to a snowstorm shutting down our places of work… Not that I’m complaining because DOUBLE SNOW DAYYYYY!!!) so I went to get myself a cup of coffee in the late morning. Walking back with the sun shining, hot cup in hand, and people out around me, I felt a sense that this was kind of, a little bit, maybe, my neighborhood.

The reason I went out to get coffee that day was more my craving for a little walk than it was for caffeine (okay, but caffeine did play a huge role). And more than geography or getting out, even my personality has become more “city-fied”– when I first moved here I found the constant brushing with strangers exhausting. But now I chat with strangers in line. I recognize people I’ve seen around the neighborhood and say hello. I’ve gotten better at making new friends. I give directions to people who ask me (and they must ask me because I look like I know?!!?). I’ve also learned the art of when and how to ignore the world, for example, wearing my headphones on the walk home from work.

All of this makes me want to inhabit Cleveland just as fully as I inhabit this neighborhood. To always make an effort, explore, and meet people. It sounds pretty cliche, like pictures of girls with blonde ponytails standing on a rock, the background for some quote about “adventure” underscored with an arrow. But actually trying to live beyond one’s comfort zone is a worthwhile challenge, and one which I am determined to undertake even in familiar places.

do now cheer me on

The other day I drove my first solo road trip, to meet up in Albuquerque with Patrick. It was a pretty easy ride– the route was somewhat familiar to the one we took to El Paso (I think I even stopped at one of the same gas stations, heh). I over-caffeinated in the beginning and got really jumpy so every passing road sign made me feel like I was on the verge of a heart attack, and a piece of the chocolate bar I ate melted on the seat/my pants, but besides that, no trouble.

Lately it seems a lot of my friends (and semi-related friends, i.e. cousins-in-law) are traveling as well… People are heading out to the West Coast for internships, one friend of ours moved to Denver too, another friend applied for a job that requires moving. One of my cousins-in-law is working with AmeriCorps out here in the West (I think she’s headed to Texas soon), one lives in DC, my brother-in-law lived in Ireland for a few months, others have taken trips overseas. I know everyone says that posting about trips on social media is fake or trying to make your life seem cool or whatever, but… I guess I’m glad they’re all posting about it everywhere. I feel like we’re all in a sort of club, spreading out and exploring the country. It inspires me to not miss home too much.

While I drove yesterday, telephone wires spooling along beside me, rocks rising out of the horizon, strange plants bristling across empty fields, I imagined myself years from now gliding on some other open road somewhere. And why not? Life is short and gas is cheap. (Uh… right now, anyway. *has horror flashback to 2008* *horror flashback switches from gas prices to my fashion* Yeah guys, forget the past!!! Seize the day!!)

Albuquerque is familiar in a weird way… They have a parkway across from their zoo, which is reminiscent of Old Brooklyn; even the signs for the zoo looked the same. Of course, the parkway went through a forest with signs warning of fire dangers, and all the trees were pale and dry. The path through the woods was just dust. You could walk without making a sound– or hearing a sound. I sat still for a while, though, and saw some small birds and one woodpecker.

Tonight, Patrick and I are driving to some other town in northern New Mexico… As I’m really growing to like this state, I’m looking forward to seeing more. Plus, it’s really spring here! Besides that park, there are many trees budding and blooming. Imagine new, bright green and a clear blue sky against all the subdued shades of brown (which is pretty too). Add in the ~~power of the sun~~ and it’s hard not to feel alive even on an ordinary Thursday.

The title of this post is from “Erin” by Joanna Newsom… A song I think about on just about every road trip. Erin, Erin, Erin across America! Some people say it’s also a mondegreen for “Erring” which I like too.

Yours from the road,
Pen

Spring’s a girl in the street at night

Lately I can’t stop mentally singing “Dirty Old Town” even though until I looked it up, I knew only one verse. But anyway, that’s where the title of this post is from… Fitting for the moment as I continue to further– I don’t want to say explore, more like interact with— Denver as the weather jilts toward springlike. Although Denver isn’t dirty in the same way. It would be “slightly littered old town” or something.

I’m also interested in the song because it makes me think of how I am always trying to describe things, but I always try to describe them in this super deep way and I want to get it exactly right. It ends up sounding like Ray Bradbury on a nostalgia tangent. (We all know I love him but some of his stuff can get to be a bit much for me– Dandelion Wine? Like, cool it, man.) But when it comes to “Dirty Old Town”, I realize that you can actually write something very simple and people will overlay their own experiences onto it, and it will come out all right. Of course this is a simple concept that I knew on a conscious level, but have yet to grasp in my writing.

When I was younger, it was easier. I didn’t try as hard to convey exactly because I didn’t really understand how different others’ experiences were from mine. I thought, you can just write about the woods, describe the smell and maybe the tree bark and leave it at that. And you can! But now that I’ve been more places and met more people I feel this weird need to be like, “THIS IS THE EXACT WAY IT IS OKAY”. Basically, I need to relax.

I can write something as simple as, “I smelled the spring on the smoky air” and it doesn’t have to  be complicated.

Writers are all only one person with one set of senses. Which is why it’s important to be as observant, open, and deep-digging as we can; and in writing, to leave enough space around our narrow experience for a reader to stand in and see not only what we see but what they’ve seen and what we can both imagine.

Well, that ended up kind of philosophical… All from some Irish folk song that Patrick and I started to sing in a jokey way when we walked to Chipotle one night, striding past lampposts and construction signs and a fancy restaurant where a guy smoking outside looked up in surprise.

Then it got stuck in my head and I was left alone with my thoughts… and a blog. Oh dear.

-Pen

 

A road too long to mention

Well, there are only a couple more days left of our time in El Paso, and then it’s the trek back to Denver. In preparation, I’ve been reading On the Road. I’m glad I waited until now to read it, actually, because his journey in the beginning of the book, from New York to Denver, is very similar to the way Patrick and I drove with our U-Haul when we moved. I can really picture it: I also traveled through Illinois, took a quick stop in North Platte, felt the excitement of getting close when we hit Cheyenne.

Then, when he’s actually in Denver, I could imagine him running around Colfax; I could relate to his friend’s basement apartment and poems about those Denver pigeons.

Of course, there’s still parts I don’t understand at all– like when he casually mentions walking five miles to a friend’s place. I’m just like… How??? Wouldn’t that take a long time?? Was this a normal thing, to walk five miles to meet up with someone? Did they just sit around waiting for however long it takes you? EXPLAIN PLEASE.

Right now I’m sitting in a Starbucks, across from a stranger who is also on a laptop. It’s crowded, needless to say. I just tried to move my foot and I accidentally nudged theirs and I died for a second.

Another thing about On the Road is the way he hops from city to city, job to job. He gives his shirt away to a fellow traveler (and later, gets it back). It reminds me of what I love about movie hit-men: if they lose their coat or their gun, they just find another one laying around and use that. Goals, man. If I could go with the flow even half as much as movie hit-men and Sal Paradise…

Oh, the stranger got up for a second. Time to stretch my legs… Oh lord. Well, at least I’m not the guy who got stuck with just an armchair in a corner.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the road trip, and to getting home and having my own pillow back, and doing some projects. (One of which, I keep joking to Patrick, is going to be the opening credits of an indie film with the song “Rights of Man” playing in the background for absolutely no reason.)

I’ll miss this city, though. El Paso makes me feel so refreshed (*one hundred sun emojis*).

Also, I slept for twelve and a half hours last night… Which I guess might have something to do with it.