Wednesday, August 30, 2006

post the ninety-sixth

I chose the online name "Optimistic." not because it especially reflected my personality (although it certainly does, to some extent), but because it was a Radiohead song that seemed to lend itself well to becoming an online alias. Few things irritate me more than people who say they like my online persona because I'm "so optimistic and upbeat." Do you people even read the things I write? Honestly. I go out of my way to be sacrastic and even biting at times so people don't confuse the two Optimistics.

In this post, however, I'm actually going to display the optimism that I'm inaccurately known for.

Yesterday was, without question, the most painful day of my life in recent memory. I'm including the time I got appendicitis in there, too. That hurt unbelievably - it was probably the most intense physical pain I've ever felt in my life. Looking back, I can't think of anything that hurt me more, physically, and likewise, I can't think of anything that hurt me more emotionally than yesterday. I'm including in this list things like my grandmother's death when I was 17. I haven't had a particularly traumatizing life, so I suppose there aren't too many things to compare this to.

Still, it hurt like you wouldn't believe. I remember having a conversation with Petra once where we talked about the problem of allowing people to get close to you. I, predictably, was in favor of it, since someone really close to you has the ability to make you extremely happy.
She argued against it, saying that the closer someone gets to you, the more they can hurt you. We were both right. Someone really close to you can make you feel on top of the world, as Petra showed me over the last several months (and as I like to think I showed her). Likewise, only someone extremely close to you can inflict the sort of damage inflicted on me yesterday, as Petra also showed me.

Words can't really accurately describe what I was feeling yesterday (and I know that sounds really trite and cheesy, but as one not given to hyperbole, i refuse to apologize for it), but I'm going to give it a shot, anyway. I currently live alone in a new apartment, waiting for the rest of my roommates to arrive later this week. Receiving news like this by myself in unfamiliar surroundings was traumatic. What's worse is that it came right on the heels of a period of tremendous optimism on my part, as though fate was playing a cruel joke on me. I spent hours trying to wrap my mind around this new development in my life. How could Petra be completely out of my life, never to come back? She'd been a part of it for so long that I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like without her. (To be honest, I still can't. That's going to take some time.) Nearly everything in my life reminds me of her in some way, from the Arrested Development DVDs on my coffee table to the Badly Drawn Boy CD I'm listening to even to the shirt I'm currently wearing. Spending that much time with someone allows them to spread into every facet of your life. Having them suddenly draw away leaves a tremendous void behind.

I think that emptiness was what bothered me the most yesterday, and is what will continue to bother me over the next few days and weeks. I genuinely feel as though a part of me is missing. I had a lot of friends offer me support and condolences (not least of whom are Uffish Thought and Novel Concept, who gave me the hugs I needed when I was about to completely come apart at about 12:30 last night), but for now, they're not going to be able to completely compensate for the space that's been left behind. That space was gnawing at me all day yesterday, reminding me what I'd lost. (Thanks a lot, empty space. I don't need to be reminded, thank you.)

I'm feeling better today, but I think the pain is still going to come in waves. I just got another shot of it right now thinking about her. It's only just been 24 hours, though. Healing takes time. Healing, for me at least, also takes people who love you willing to help you out, and that's where my promised optimism comes in. I've had so many people who, of their own accord, have come to help me out and make sure that I'm doing okay. These are genuinely good people, and I'm really glad that they're here. Tolkien Boy says that I'm just reaping the seeds I sowed of good friendship and kindness. I think I've just been blessed with incredibly kind friends. I would that everyone had friends as good as these; friends willing to drop everything at a moment's notice and give you a hug, or even just sit around and talk to make sure you're okay.

To be perfectly clear here, I intend in no way for this post to villify Petra. I really don't think that I have here, but for friends and family (and her), I want to emphasize that I bear her no ill will. This post is more for personal catharsis than for any sort of vengeance.

And with that, I go to the shower to start a new phase of my life remarkably similar to my old one, just without one very important person to me in it. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

post the ninety-fifth

In speaking with my mom a couple of days ago, I found out that the Decemberists are coming to Portland to play a concert next week. Admission will be a paltry five dollars. I was beside myself when I heard this and briefly considered going home just so I could see the show. Granted, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense - were I to do so, I'd be foregoing at least three days' worth of work and about a hundred dollars' worth of gas to see them.

Still, though, it's the Decemberists. Sigh.

On the plus side, though, they're releasing a new album on October 3 that I plan on purchasing. It promises to be good. I really like those Decemberists.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

post the ninety-fourth

For those of you not up on the latest news, the International Astronomical Union is strongly considering changing the definition of "planet" to include three more planets in our solar system. (I read the article on NPR, if you're interested at all.) By the end of this week, we could be looking at twelve planets in our solar system.

After reading the article, I imagined a scenario in which I told my children about the days when there were only nine planets in the solar system, although I quickly realized that sounded like the human race created some new planets and launched them into space.

Anyhow, keep Pluto in mind this week. There's a possibility that they will demote it from planet status and leave us with only eight planets. I think I'd prefer ten planets to eight, myself. Just so long as we don't end up with 53, another number they're considering. (ick.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

post the ninety-third

I spent most of today burning CDs so I could have a hard copy of my music. Most of it is just on my computer, and I'd hate to lose it all should something happen to it. I finished burning my CDs at around 11:00, at which point I found that I had burned about 90 data discs rather than actual usual CDs.

That does a pretty good job of summing up today, actually.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

post the ninety-second

Death Cab for Cutie was in town last night, and I had a tremendous time at the concert last night. I hadn't been to a concert in over a year, so this was a nice way to get back into the swing of things.

I got there about twenty minutes before the doors opened with dimmi and a friend who has no online appellation (we'll call her "Alyssa"). Our position in line was decent in terms of proximity to the door, but we ended up getting stuck in front of a van from a local radio station that insists on calling itself independent. (I'll leave it to you to discern the irony of a radio station that loudly proclaims its freedom from the corruption of major labels that then plays Jimmy Eat World and Coldplay at you.) This radio van ended up being typical of most of the attendees, though. The arena was full of young people wearing expensive and preppy clothes and talking about how much they just love indie rock like Death Cab. I was secretly pleased when the band would play something that wasn't from Transatlanticism or Plans and notice that no one there knew the songs.

We made it inside and took our seats, which actually weren't too bad, considering I got the tickets just a couple of weeks before the concert. Alyssa was supposed to sit a little way from us, but we convinced her to sit next to us and that whomever was supposed to sit where she was would either switch seats with her or just not show up. She sat in terror for about an hour or so, mortified that someone would come and make her move, but it turned out that that person just didn't come.

At 8:00, the lights went out and Mates of State, the opening act, began to play. I actually hadn't heard them play before, but lanada insisted that I would like them, so I paid studious attention. I thought they were pretty good, as did dimmi and Alyssa, but the 16 year-old next to me clearly did not. He sat and sent a steady stream of text messages for their entire set. "I did not pay to see Mates of State," he seemed to say, although the message probably looked more like "this sux dont u think" or "wheres deaf cab???"

Possibly the best part of the already solid opening act, though, was seeing one young woman stand up and dance. She was sitting in the front row of the bleachers, yet she felt a very real need to stand up and dance in what she clearly felt was a hip and trendy fashion. (She was wrong.) Her boyfriend, in a touching show of solidarity, also stood up and made some attempts at swaying with her with the occasional arm motion. I thought it was pretty funny from where I was sitting, but I imagine it would have been really irritating had I been sitting right behind them.

After a short break between sets, the lights went out. Everyone got really excited - Death Cab was going to come out! Suddenly, one very bright purplish light came on and the music started up. I couldn't actually make out anything on the stage other than this purple light. Apparently I'd been decieved - Death Cab for Cutie, rather than being a group of four humans, was in reality only one bright light. Who knew? The bright light then launched into "The New Year," which was the song that I'd guessed was going to be first. (We had a discussion about which song we thought was going to be first. I won, followed by Alyssa's guess of "Marching Bands of Manhattan.") After a couple more songs, the light went down to reveal...four human beings! Huzzah! They do exist!

All told, it was a pretty sturdy concert. I was pleased with the choice of songs as well as the company I had. I was especially amused to see several young couples around us all dancing by rubbing against each other as much as possible. The couple a few rows down from us seemed especially guilty of this - they would be all over each other even on really slow songs. I thought it was pretty funny and inwardly cursed myself for not having thought of it on my own. The best part of the show - for me, at least - came at the very end when they closed with "Transatlanticism." They invited Mates of State to come on stage and join them for the last song. It had a ton of energy at the end and seemed to me to be a perfect way to close out the evening.

Fittingly enough, the last song was played by the same bright light that opened the show.

Monday, August 07, 2006

post the ninety-first

An actual note that I found on someone's desk while at work today:

For: Glenl
From: Laurel

Message: Have you received all of your pants?

The only way that could have been any better would be if it were marked "urgent."

Friday, August 04, 2006

post the ninetieth

I decided last spring that I wasn't going to go home any more often than I needed to in the future. I stayed at home for eight weeks and was going crazy by the time I headed back to Provo for school. While I love my family dearly, eight weeks of them after being used to living on my own was too much for me. I needed to be independent. Back to Provo I went.

With that in mind, you can understand why it's a big deal for me when my family is around. I was really excited to see everyone when they came into town yesterday. They live far enough away from Utah that coming here on a regular basis really just isn't practical. Visits are a treat. The family came here to celebrate what I assumed was my great-grandmother's billionth birthday. (After a certain age, the actual number really doesn't matter all that much anymore. When I turn 90, I may as well be a billion, I think.) As it turned out, they were here to celebrate what would have been my great-grandfather's 100th birthday, were he still alive. Family came from near and far in a huge family reunion. Everyone was really excited.

I exaggerate a little when I say that everyone was really excited, because I don't think that I really was. I was excited to see my immediate family, as I always am, but the prospect of seeing relatives who I haven't seen in a decade or two and thus really don't know was not especially appealing to me. I was there to see my family and the aunts and cousins that I usually see around here. While I wasn't planning on actively socializing with anyone else, I would be there in case they wanted to see me. That said, I brought the latest book I wanted to read (John Updike's Rabbit Redux) with me so I would have something to occupy me.

It was a good thing that I brought a book. The activity we had planned was taking a ride on the Heber Creeper. For those of you either not local or familiar with said Creeper, I offer a short explanation. Heber is a small town around here. The Creeper is an old train that takes people around and shows them scenic views of the area. It's fun to ride, but the snag is that the train moves at about fifteen miles an hour the whole way. Our particular trip was going to take three hours from start to finish. Already not being enthralled with the prospect of sitting with relatives I didn't really know, I dreaded boarding the train.

I sat down and immediately opened my book. So strong was the sense of my being on a train waiting to go that I transposed that feeling on the characters - in my mind, they too were all waiting on a train about to depart for some unknown destination. (Those few of you familiar with Rabbit Redux will know that trains don't even play a minor role in the book. Pity, really.) Various relatives and my parents tried to get me to talk so I wouldn't just shut myself out from everyone, but I persisted. Besides, the book was just starting to get interesting.

We rode out by the reservoir and through a brisk breeze. The weather was lovely - it was warm enough that we didn't have to worry about bundling up at all (it's August, for crying out loud), but the breeze kept us cool. I sat in an open-air car and continued to enjoy my book. I was conscious of relatives coming and going, some sitting next to me, some standing near me, others keeping toddlers from leaping to a gruesome fifteen mile per hour death, but didn't really pay much attention to them.

Apparently I became somewhat of a spectacle for everyone else on the train. My book was just over 400 pages long, and it was looking like I was going to finish it before the train ride was over. This came as no surprise to me - I brought the book fully intending to have it finished by the end of the ride. I've been reading a lot this summer, and I've been going at the pace of about one decent-sized book a day. This one certainly wasn't going to be an exception. Apparently these plans of mine thoroughly boggled everyone else on the train. People would come up to me while I was reading and ask me things like, "Are you really going to finish that?" Of course, I would reply, a bit nonplussed that such a thing should be so surprising. Do these people not know me at all? Clearly, they didn't. The pestering continued unabated.

By about 4:30, I was coming toward the end of my book. Unbeknownst to me, enrapt in my novel, people were actually gathering around me and marvelling at the fact that I was going to finish it. I recognized that there were more people around me, but didn't make the connection that I had anything to do with it. As I turned to the final page, one cousin tried to take the book from me so she could hurl it into the reservoir. Everyone just seemed astounded that I could finish a book so quickly.

I feel like I was the smart one for thinking ahead to bring a book, although, in retrospect, I wish that I'd brought a slightly longer one. I finished about half an hour before the end of the train ride.

Oh, did I mention that the ride was really pleasant? The breeze was lovely and the weather was beautiful. I was completely exhausted by the time it was over, but I really enjoyed myself. All that, and I got to check another book off my list. Today was a full day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

post the eighty-ninth

One of the houses I clean at work isn't air-conditioned. (Actually, several houses are like that, but I've chosen to focus on one in particular.) The house has a swamp cooler, which does a tremendous job at cooling the building, so long as you're standing directly underneath the swamp cooler. Since most places in the house can't be accurately described as "directly underneath the swamp cooler" (except for a certain chair that I make a point of sitting in when I'm winding up the cord to my vacuum), being in that house is generally a less than pleasant experience.

I'm not quite sure how swamp coolers work, but I know that they manage to make the inside of the building they are trying to cool very humid, a feat which is especially impressive in Utah. Forget buying a humidifier. Just install a swamp cooler in your building and you're set. It has the benefit of also making your house slightly cooler (but only in the same sense that cerulean is slightly bluer than teal).

While vacuuming the aforementioned house, I walked into a room with a particular smell in it. My memory is particularly sensitive to smells - certain smells are associated powerfully with various events in my life. Sometimes it works the other way - I was sitting on my couch this morning while waiting for dimmi to come and visit me, and I could have sworn that I smelled Petra. (It's a good smell, Petra. Don't worry.) This immediately invoked a whole series of tender memories that I had to quickly turn to my book to suppress, lest I get caught up in half an hour of reminiscing. At any rate, this particular smell recalled memories, but it wasn't a strong or recognizable enough scent that I could place the memories. I just had vague recollections of something pleasant in my past. For a fleeting moment, I saw myself in front of a TV with my family while watching a movie, but I couldn't get any more than that.

I left the room and tended to other things in the house for a few minutes. In time, I came back to the room, only to smell the same odor. This time, however, I noticed a few broken-down cardboard boxes leaning against a desk. Immediately, the smell made sense. I was smelling slightly wet cardboard (from the swamp cooler, which was making everything humid). The memory made sense, too. The missing element from my memory was pizza, which we were all eating out of the delivery box. The pizza, containing moisture, had made the cardboard in the boxes damp, creating a similar smell to the one I was currently experiencing.

Apparently I associate the smell of slightly damp cardboard with memories of eating pizza as a child. I just keep learning interesting things at this job.