Tuesday, March 7, 2006

ok. at some point here i crossed an un-recrossable-bridge into the land of really living in this city, really speaking german 95% of the time, really working, really practically being a daughter. It's slightly disorienting, more than I thought it would be. In Italy, I loved being there, and it grew on me every day, but i felt myself constantly saying "wow, i'm in italy, i'm a foreigner in italy, i'm constantly talking about how i'm a foreigner and people ask me why im here and i am conspicious with my blonde hair and unsure attitude and lack of wine knowledge." But here...I forget. I forget that I don't belong, and i guess that may be because I do. I mean, I think I belong here more than practically anywhere else I've ever lived!

In Pittsburgh, I have my family. I have my dogs. I have my friends. I can drive from my house to my friend's houses, and get only occasionally lost. I've been to most of the museums. But I have this constant feeling that I want out. That it's only temporary, and that feeling didn't just start when i started living there only a few months out of the year because i was at college the rest of the time. I've almost always had a vague sense that Pittsburgh would not be my final home, or at least not my 20-30something home. I think since the first time my dad explained to me what college was, and that I could go anywhere I want for college. The doors were flung open, and even my 6-year-old-mind was long gone.

In Chicago, I have my College days. My University. My lake. The animal shelter, the concrete university library, the keg, the parties, the lecture halls and the walk down sheridan avenue. My evening yoga classes, my happy trecks senior year up those wooden steps to cook dinner and chat the night away with my 4 fantastic senior year roommates. My memories of days with friends and studying and riding the el into the city to work and be a tourist. But I never really lived in Chicago, and even last year when I finally got a real taste of the city, as a 21-year old who could FINALLY check out some bars and during my work on the nitty gritty west side at CCGT, it still was just a place I visited. And I always felt alienated from Evanston, from that strange mix of spectacular to the point of disgusting lakeside homes and the depressing high density of homeless men and women that populated the yuppie streets. The most at home I ever felt was when I was sitting by the shore of the lake, but even that was alienating, because I felt strangely alone in my heart filling admiration of the crashing waves, the sand, the seagull with the twizzler, the Ba'hai Temple and my secret bay of baots, my rollerblading destination, my escape to the tunes of badly drawn boy and the beatles. It was exactly that, that feeling of empty elation, that the things I loved so much about the place, no one really understood.

And then there's Washington, another one of the places that I feel I can rightly call home. Born right outside of the city limits, I returned summer after summer to soak up the tropical jungle heat and the airconditioned intern culture. I loved the paul simon walk to work, mathematical in its execution, down 21st, up M, to 25th and M on the border of Foggy Bottom and Georgetown, whistling along to "me and julio down by the schoolyard" loud enough so that everyone in business suits would stare at me, even though I was in a business suit too. I adored cooking in that tiny kitchen, where you actually had to stand outside of the kitchen because it was so small, and that tiny room with the three beds, and my roommates, the incomprehensible one from Wyoming and the darling Sejal Shah from Texas. And the balmy nichts on the national mall, and the delivering letters to congressmen and loving every minute of checking out the decorations in each and every office, and my shock the first time I saw Senator Stevens of Alaska's horrendous bearskin wallcovering. And my runs...my runs from 21st and H to the Jefferson memorial, and then sitting in that concrete coolness dripping sweat and staring at the tourists and thinking I LIVE here that's why im sitting here, so hot and tired because i jogged here because i live here! I jog past the white house and the world bank and the eisenhower administrative building and the redcross headquarters and that guy who camps outside of the whitehouse to protest nuclear proliferation and the kickball teams that play on the national mall and the lincoln memorial is my neighbor and so is the vietnam memorial. I know the smithsonian inside out, as well as the metro system, because im a commuter and a resident and i live here. Or my jobs when I lived in maryland, with abby. Running around and around the beautiful southern quad, touching the brass turtle on the nose every time around, enjoying the downhills, hating the uphills, and lying in the grass and the end, sweating, breathing hard, listening to my dixie chicks and thinking "i was born to be a fish, not a runner" And the cat that clawed me awake in the morning, that dragged me out of my bed in the brutal heat to shower and breakfast and walk the 20 minuetes to the subway only to find my fancy work clothes soaked with sweat by the time i got there, but so happy to read the metro section of the washington post, race the crossword with abby, and get out at Chinatown and take the elevator up to the fancy greenpeace usa office with the pioneerlike display at the entrance. The lunchtime meetings with senators, the intern events that i repeatedly attended, for the free food, for the company. The thousands of fountains that satisfied my every fountain fantasy, and the feeling of the lincoln memorial at night. This was almost it, I could almost call DC home.

But here, I feel the pull even stronger. I ride the commuter rail like a pro, because i live an hour away from the city. And I await the moment every morning when we'll pull into Starnberg where I can see the lake and finally find out if today is a day where we can see the Alps. And I know which end of the trains will put me closer to the escalator which will take me through the main track area of the main train station in munich, and I can muse over the various possible destinations: rome, paris, berlin, copenhagen. Just like that, I could be off, but the funny part is, I don't want to go. Because just outside those doors there is the doughnut man whose doughnuts are much too small and expensive, there are the discount clothing stores that line the streets, followed by the turkish grocery stores, where I comparison shop for grapefruit, mango, eggplant, olives, feta. There's my airy, renovated industrial office, with goofy environmentalists, 5 of which have red hair. It's on the 4th floor, but it's really on the 5th, because while germans aren't optimists at heart, they are when it comes to numbering the floors, gracing the first floor with the simple "earth story". The trash bins in the kitchen are an essential part of my love for germany, because throwing something away here is a mental excercise. Plastic, paper, metal, biodegradable. The paper can be removed from the plastic yogurt container with the pull of a special tab. The soda bottles go back to the grocery store, so you can get your deposit back. My deposit money rules me life here. Shopping carts require a deposit of one euro. You can buy and carry a specially designed shopping cart deposit token. Lockers are everywhere, as libraries, museums, and any other public place allow no extranous baggage. They require a one or 2 euro deposit, as does the gym. The swimming pool is fantastic, it's in the old olympic stadium and indulges my absurd water fantasies such as underwater hockey, 24 hour swim event and big splash contest. There are entire facilities devoted to sitting, swimming, floating and lounging in pools of water set at various temperatures. There are clubs for everything. There are guides for guides to guides of cultural events. There is old and new and cobblestones and asphalted and shiny tall and short and faded and carved, fountainy, dressing up and christmas market joy eating outside and when its cold for beer gardens then blankets for you and radio news every hour. And a tolerance for run on sentences that the english language cannot (normally) accomodate.

But I really think what keeps someone somewhere is a combination of a feeling that the place suits them, and a feeling of place with the people who comprise their experience there. And here, I feel like I have it all.

Thank you for indulging my trip down memory lane...

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