Friday, January 15, 2010

New Years--Jan. 14th

I’ll start with New Years. We worked at the orchard during the day, picking apricots. But we left early because a group of us were going to Wellington. Me, Vicki (who is Ana Lungu’s Argentinean doppelganger), Troels (the Danish chainsaw carver), and Jan (from Belgium, and Toad Hall, and the orchard, etc), decided to take a roadtrip down there where our friends Hernan, Fernando and Elisa (all from Argentina) had rented a house for a week, through an incredible stroke of luck. Frankly, I wasn’t sure my car would make the trip, but it didn’t explode, not even once.
We drove through the mountains listening alternatively to reggae and Lou Reed. (I got another tape. The Cars were beginning to drive me nuts). We played silly car games and got lost in towns where church groups were giving out free sausages in exchange for your soul. We stopped at gas stations and supermarkets. And then we drove along the sea. Jan and Vicki (the only two who didn’t really previously know each other) fell asleep in the backseat with their heads on one another’s shoulders. It was a real roadtrip. It was a five hour drive and by the time we got there it was about 10:30 New Years Eve. The Argentineans were just sitting down to dinner. (Never, even when we were all working together and waking up at 6, did they have dinner before 10 at night).
It was strange being in the kitchen when we first got there. It was like we were visiting old friends for the weekend, but looking around at everyone, I had the sudden realization that none of us really knew one another. My conversations with Fernando and Hernan at that point probably don’t even add up to an hour. But we’d lived together for a month. Vicki was my roommate. But I spent that whole weekend in bed, in excruciating pain, sure I was going blind. She felt strongly that I should be wearing an eyepatch and fashioned one from a shirt she said she didn’t need. That was most of our interaction. Eli was my roommate after that. We hadn’t really talked. She was working, I was looking for work. We both liked to read. I felt like I knew Jan and Troels a bit, but even so, a few weeks earlier they were complete strangers. Right now, familiarity is what ties me to people. We are friends because we see one another every day. We are friends because we share our food, our beer, our thoughts about trivial things when we are both cooking at the same time. But it’s nice, this familiarity. It’s a bond unlike any other I’ve had in my life. And while I knew I didn’t really know, I didn’t know their secrets, their stories, their vulnerabilities, I also knew that I was in a room filled with good people. I’m not often wrong about these things.
We did tequila shots. After a while we got a cab into the center. The driver dropped us off at the wharf at 11:57. We ran to the pier and reached the water as the clock struck midnight. People were celebrating all around us, cheering, drinking, kissing, laughing. Maybe it was the tequila, but it felt surreal to me.
The following few days were very laid back and nice. Everyone went out one night, except for me and Jan, we just stayed home and talked and had a quiet night. I always thought I liked going out all night and being wild and crazy, and that I just lived in places or with people where we didn’t do that kind of thing very much. But, no. I just get tired. I can enjoy dancing until about 3 am, after that, I really just want to go to bed. The Argentineans came home one night at 3:30. It was an early night. Hernan and Troels and I played soccer by the sea one day. We had picnics and napped in sprawling parks in the city. We cooked dinners and played cards and shared favorite songs from all of our countries.
Then it was back to Napier, back to Toad Hall, and back to work. The first week we were back we finished the cherry picking and moved onto apricots, and for the past week and a half we were doing apple thinning. (At this point, I’m pretty sure I will never be able to look at an apple without thinking “Fuck you.”) The apple thinning was contracted which means the pay can suck if you don’t really move fast.
Moral dilemma. We were getting paid in cash so I hadn’t bothered to check my kiwi bank account for a while. When I finally did, I noticed that Hamish, our boss, accidentally deposited my wages into my account, in addition to giving me cash. That made my bank account go from twenty dollars to nearly four hundred. That’s a big difference. For the past week I’ve been thinking about whether or not to return it. I kind of thought we were going to get really screwed with the thinning, but we ended up getting paid fairly, which means I probably should return it. I thought if they were mean people, I could keep it. But they’re not. What I’m thinking of doing is selfishly returning it. Waiting until I’m traveling so I can’t return it, but let them know that I know it’s there, and that I will return it when I come back for the picking season, and will they be needing any pickers?
I’ve been watching a lot of Ingmar Bergman’s films lately. What I love about him is his ability to put such intrinsic human emotions into dialogue and action. It’s not his film technique that floors me. (I also just watched Kill Bill and that film completely changed my ideas about Tarantino. I’ve always respected him as a filmmaker. There’s no doubt that he’s talented. But I’ve never felt that connected to him. His films have a distance from the subject. They’re showcasing his knowledge, and I’ve always been aware of that. He’s showing off what he knows. (Which I also respect. He started out working in Blockbuster and just obsessively watching everything). He’s doing that here too, but so smartly. It’s a contemporary Western meets contemporary Samurai, but so clearly his own. The music (soundtrack is produced by the Wu Tan Clan) is absolutely perfect. One of the most artistic films I’ve ever seen. It was genius). But Bergman’s focus never seems the aesthetic. (Although there are some images that will always stick with me from The Seventh Seal). For him, it’s the internal and the emotional. It’s the conversations we have or think about, or feelings that we can’t even articulate into words. Autumn Sonata really impressed me. It is such a masterpiece of a specifically mother-daughter relationship. How could a man ever do that so accurately? How does he know?
I submitted an essay to a travel-writing contest. I think if I’d won or placed at all I would have heard by now. I really thought if I visualized winning, I’d win. That’s Roy talking. Like it’s that simple. But, at least I’ve written (and most importantly, completed) something I’m proud of since I’ve been here. I think if I go back to school it will be for social work and not for my MFA like I always assumed. Although, it’s all probably moot anyway since I no longer have any money. Not that I really had money when I left. I think if I didn’t have the cats, I’d just live like this forever. Travel the world doing odd jobs. But I don’t want to be the kind of mother from Autumn Sonata. If they were literate, I wouldn’t write these things, but I probably shouldn’t have gotten them. At the same time, I really miss them. God, I ‘ve neglected them so much I haven’t even bothered teaching them to read.
Well, I just looked through pictures of the past few years (ok yes, it’s a slow night…), with my cats, and Lindsey, and Aiken, and my family, and that all feels right, too. I guess my hope is that wherever I end up, I will look at pictures from my past and think, “That’s exactly where I wanted to be.” I think at some point, maybe I’ll be back in Pittsburgh or in Philly, with my family, or Lindsey or friends or the kitties, and I’ll look at pictures from here and think the same thing. I guess it’s just a matter of appreciating everything in the present and not just in retrospect.
The last few days I’ve just been hanging out at my backpacker’s. It’s been raining since work ended, and since my car window was smashed. (I forgot to mention—a group of us went to the waterfalls last weekend and someone smashed my car window, which I’ve been really nervous about trying to replace because European car parts are kind of hard to come by. But then a neighbor passed my car and said he had a window for it. I now have the window but no idea how to install it. I’m hoping he’s home later and can help me). Basically, I’ve been hanging out with Roy and Leon, reading, writing, and watching movies. It’s been relaxing. I don’t feel pressure to be out doing things because I’ve been living here for a while, and besides, the weather is just crappy. So it feels okay to curl up in bed for several hours with movies and then go running with Roy and play cards, and not really do anything that amounts to much.
Roy and I went to a concert the other night. This woman Joanne stayed here who is currently going on tour and was putting on a show at the venue nextdootr, The Cabana. I’m glad we went becaused only 7 other people were there. And one was her boyfriend and one was her mom. Plus, it was kind of nice to go out for once. I used to go to shows like this all the time. In the past year I haven’t too much. Pittsburgh is a great place for small, cheap shows. (One of my all time favorites was when Lindsey and I went to Garfield Artworks or Modern Formations, I forget, and the band we were going to see cancelled, but there was a back-up performance that nobody was staying for. We felt bad, so we did. It was two dollars. We were the only people in the audience for this guy in a cape who looked like he’d been in his basement playing dungeons and dragons for the last decade. All he did was play eerie soundeffects on his keyboard. For two hours. We had no idea how to react? Dance? Bop our heads along to sound effects? He was so intensely into it and we didn’t want to hurt his feelings).
Roy is funny though. He had one drink, whiskey and ginger ale. A whole can of gingerale, and maybe three-fourths of a shot ofwhiskey. He woke up at 5 apparently, and when I went downstairs, Brody, the cleaner (who is a crazy character. More on her another time), asked if we’d been partying. “We just went to the Cabana to watch Joanne’s show.” “No, I mean, did you have a lot to drink?” “I had a couple glasses of wine.” “But Roy must have been a bit wild. He said he’s been up all night, that he can still the whiskey.” I just had to laugh. He does things like this a lot. The other night, he came up and knocked on my door. There was a French family staying down the hall. He whispered to me, “What do you know about them?” “No more than you do Roy, they just got here…” He beckoned me close. “Someone has pinched my mince. I believe they are suspects.” Half an hour later he came and knocked on my door again. “I found it. It was in my drawer in the fridge.”
Mom and Dad, you will say this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard. Actually, no. Mom, you will try to tell me all the reasons it is stupid. Dad, you will just say, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” But hear me out. I’ve decided to quit smoking. I’m not a smoker. I’ve decided to start smoking so that I can quit and really be a non-smoker. I’ve decided this for a few reasons.
Starting with the least important:
1. I have no fine motor skills. Rolling cigarettes is actually helping me greatly with that. Youmight say, “Why don’t you take up sewing or something?” And that’s because anything that takes more than five minutes is too immensely frustrating for me. Rolling a cigarette takes me about that long.
2. I do better when I have something to obsess over. Sometimes this is running. Sometimes this is another person. Sometimes this is food. Sometimes this is a game or an idea. I just started reading Nostradamus, and I keep thinking of Sloane in Alias being a Rimbaldi follower. I could really get into Nostradamus. I worry sometimes that I will accidentally join a cult. I think I have that obsessive nature. Anyway, I think I’d be really good at quitting smoking. I was born to quit smoking. I’m just not a smoker. I actually don’t think it will be very hard, mainly because I don’t intend to stop running. Running is something I’ll probably always do. I don’t really have the desire to be a smoker. Plus, as soon as my tobacco runs out I’m not buying any more. But at least I can say I gave it a go.
3. As you get older there are fewer and fewer new feelings to experience. Even when I experience something completely new, it’s often a combination of feelings I’m familiar with. This is something new. It will be unlike anything else I’ve already experienced because it will be a chemical reaction inside my brain that has never been there before. Starting smoking has been a new feeling too.
So that’s that. I’m leaving Napier tomorrow for a few weeks and then coming back for the picking season. I’m going to travel the North Island, or maybe the South and stay there for work. I’m not sure yet. I’m meeting with Jan today, he’s probably going to come with me. I’d rather have a travel buddy, then I’d feel better about camping and could save some money. Plus sharing the petrol would be a bonus. We may meet Troels in Wellington. If we decide to head South. If we go South then it will probably be somewhat permanently and we won’t come back for picking in Napier. I probably won’t be able to post while traveling, if we’re camping. So I’ll have lots of new things to say next time.

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