Posts tagged imported
Posts tagged imported
Some years ago, my dad visited my house for the weekend. He borrowed some books when he left—my dad was a voracious reader, always borrowing books. He’d say, “Read anything good?” and I’d give him a stack of whatever I’d enjoyed recently. He’d bring them back with dog eared pages, broken spines, and motor oil thumb prints.
I’d frown and sigh and grumble, but I’d give him another stack before he left. He was my dad, you know?
That visit, Sacrament by Clive Barker was among the books I sent off with my dad. I’ve enjoyed all of Clive Barker’s work, but Sacrament is probably my favorite.
My dad called me up a few days later and said, “What did you give me this gay book for?”
Given my American origins, you’d think that the average IKEA is nothing to me when compared to a five floor shopping mall with multiple anchor stores, seventeen restaurants, and a 12 screen multiplex.
But it’s different.
When you go to IKEA, it’s with a goal in mind. It is not frivolous consumption; it’s serious home-furnishing business.
IKEA is designed with Swedish efficiency. First you see all the things that you can buy, then there’s a break where you fika and discuss, and then you go collect the things you’ve decided to purchase. They even provide little pads and pencils so you can write down the things you want; I think there’s an app for it too. No trying to lug a flatpack dresser through the store on a cart while you look for the tea lights.
It’s also approximately twice the size of the duration of my shopping tolerance. By the time I reach the midpoint I’m ready to drop my yellow bag of bric-a-brac and make a break for it. There is nothing I need from IKEA so badly that I’m willing to continue on.
The Swedish engineers responsible for IKEA layout have anticipated this. It’s just as far to go back as it is to go forward, and if you go forward you’ll at least have something to show for it.
While the rest of the world pours through the front doors of IKEA like flies into a honey funnel, Swedish society has been just as efficiently developing a method of IKEA shopping that serves the collective good and minimizes the number of man hours required to actually procure a JANSJÖ.
The way Swedes do it, there’s the IKEA trip. It’s a cultural institution.
One or two foolish people volunteer the information that they’re going to IKEA on Saturday. Someone says, “Can you pick up an IVAR for me?” Pretty soon, they’ve been inundated with lists that friends, family, coworkers and neighbors have compiled via print catalog and internet. Because IKEA will show you all their shit, but they only deliver approximately three things. And none of them are what you want.
If you have friends going to IKEA for you, you must carry your phone around all day. They will need to call you at least 4 times with questions like, “They only have the BILLY in yellow or black, do you want one of those instead?”
At least one question will require consulting the website or catalog and calling back with an answer.
But you can do it from the comfort of your own living rooom.
I am home.
I don’t know when that happened.
For a long time, I missed twenty-four hour supermarkets with a cereal aisle the length of a city block. (I still miss produce sections bigger than my apartment.) I missed Taco Bell and Mountain Dew and the friends who didn’t think two AM was too late to drop by unexpectedly, even on a weeknight. I missed Barnes and Noble and chai lattes in the programming section.
I missed understanding the conversation behind me in line.
I miss New York pizza.
This friend of mine, she told me once, “I don’t make friends with the short timers. I can’t take it when they leave.”
Me and her, I guess when they’re talking about us back in the US, they’d call us ex-pats.
It’s the wrong word; they mean emigrants.
We’re not war immigrants from Somalia, from Iraq. The places we come from, they’re still standing. Moving forward. There’s a new strip mall, the colors on the houses change. The people, they don’t change so much.
We’re not economic immigrants from Bulgaria or Latvia or Hungry, exercising our right to live and work in a more remunerative part of the EU. We aren’t sending money home, planning to return someday.
We came to live our lives here, have our families here, to grow old and die here. We knew it when we left; we knew it when we arrived. We were the ones—it could have gone either way—that gave up home. The great loves, they always demand something.
When I call my mom, she tells me how things are. Things at home. Like I’ve gone to summer camp, to college.
She says, “When are you coming home.”
I say, “Mom, I am home.”
I cried slicing tomatoes yesterday. They were good tomatoes; they had the rich tangy smell of tomatoes and tasted sweet and herbal and like tomatoes are supposed to taste. I thought, “These are the kind of tomatoes my dad would like.” He did not like mealy, pinkish tomatoes. He liked red, juicy tomatoes.
There are no words to take the sadness out of good tomatoes.
In the morning my hair falls over my face and lies smooth against my cheek. Sunlight filters through, strained of its potency, and I am languid in the gentle warmth. There is a cool breeze from the window and I inhale deeply; the fresh new spring, still bearing a hint of ice, mingles with stale shampoo.
The cat sits beside my head and he strokes my hair in strange interspecies role reversal. His deep purr rumbles my pillow and his touch is soft. His paw glides over my cheek, the tips of claws slip between filaments of hair, run light as needles over the delicate flesh of my face. It is a subtle reminder of carnivorous nature, a tender way of saying, “Feed me or I’ll cut you, bitch.”
Have you ever been so fucking tired that your filter just shuts down, the weird shit simmering just below the surface of your brain comes unbound and bubbles out? Maybe it’s stupid. Maybe it’s profound. It doesn’t matter; the floodgate has been opened.
My friend T. used to call me, back in the single days, at three A.M. and tell me about going to sleep.
I’d lay in bed, languid and dreamy, and listen to him describe the fantastic images roiling out of his subconscious. A surreal long-distance bedtime story featuring elephant brigades and disembodied legs. Sometimes I fell asleep first. Sometimes he did.
Whoever was left awake would hang up the phone.
T. grew up, got married, stopped pranking the pizza delivery man. We haven’t talked at all in a while. A year. Two, maybe.
How does someone who poured his subliminal self into my sleeping ear fade from my life to where he becomes an anecdote on a blog? I am trying to imagine a more intimate act; I cannot.
I wonder what time it is in Boston. I wonder if it would wake the kids if I called him right now.
I wonder if we’re still the kind of friends where I could say, tell me what’s in your mind.
I’ve been following the Fukushima thing. Finally it’s starting to calm down, look like it may not meltdown spectacularly and shoot a radioactive plume a mile high, sowing destruction and cancer all over Japan. I’m relieved, but people on the internet seem almost disappointed. They’re all keyed up for something—they came for a show. Now the rumors start: TEPCO is lying, there was a meltdown and they’re keeping it secret, contamination is widespread, people are dying of radiation poisoning.
This is not helpful. It’s fucking sick.
It seems like they’re regaining control of Fukushima, but it’s not in the clear. People are still being evacuated as a precaution.
And, in case you missed it, Japan just got hit with a major fucking earthquake and a major fucking tsunami. They do not have accommodation for another 20,000 displaced people.
You got all this energy to play Telephone, people? Start putting it into websites and mobile apps to help match these people up with beds, couches, living room floors. Relay accurate information about safety precautions and radiation levels without hysteria.
In the background are anti-nuclear groups making smug pronouncements. They’re still talking about a meltdown. They really wanted a meltdown, another Three Mile Island, at least, if they can’t have their Chernobyl. Something to retard nuclear development and make people afraid, because that’s their agenda.
And people from all over the world are gleefully relaying, misquoting and distorting the doomsday predictions of these groups because it’s much more exciting than “Stay inside, stay calm.”
Okay, you know what? I don’t give rats ass about nuclear politics. I just don’t fucking know.
What I do know, those scientists and engineers working at Fukushima right now to make sure that shit doesn’t blow the fuck up, they have a much higher chance of getting radiation poisoning or cancer than some anti-nuke fuckwit propagating Armageddon fantasies from their living room in Dublin or Sydney or Birmingham or Boston.
Those scientists and engineers aren’t deliberately lying to you and withholding from you. They have a goddamn nuclear reactor to fix. They don’t have time to hold your fucking hand and assure you of their truthiness.
And there’s a lot of shit they just don’t fucking know. There’s shit they won’t know for a long time. There’s gonna be meetings and committees and inquiries for fucking months, probably years, after this, trying to figure out what failed and why and how to stop it from happening again.
Again, this is not your fucking evening entertainment. It is catastrophe upon catastrophe, affecting the lives of millions of your fellow humans. It is not an event to co-opt so you can push your fucking agenda.
Right now, if you can’t think of something helpful to do, shut the fuck up and get out of the fucking way.