27 December 2012

Bang

My roommate in grad school couldn't have been more different from me. He's super outgoing and boisterous: a veritable force at parties who always managed to be the center of attention. He's strong, big, and fearless to the point of inviting risk and danger. But we got along absolutely great. There was a lot of horseplay that, without exception, turned out worse for me than him.

One time, rather than just go all Krav Maga on my sorry weak self, there was a twist.

My roommate was in the police academy at the time, so he had this realistically weighted fake gun. In this scenario I had the gun. To shoot him, all I had to do was say "Bang!" and I'd deliver an incapacitating shot. Meanwhile, from a fairly short distance away, he'd run at me.

First time we did this, he ran at me and I immediately hit the deck. I was shocked that I couldn't get over the defensive instincts that I had. We did it again. This time, I didn't end up on the floor, but sort of curled myself up to protect my head and stomach, completely forgetting that I could dispatch that motherfucker with the word "Bang!".

It was really weird. It makes me wonder if I had a real gun and was in a situation where I was legitimately being attacked would I even have the presence of mind in that moment to use it? Would you?

Puppies are Like That

I have specific memories of two books from my very early childhood. These were the pre-any-semblance-of-literacy days wherein my mom would read books to me. One was called Puppies are Like That and it was about all the inadvertent transgressions of proper conduct that puppies could unknowingly engage in. The other was about an unaccompanied minor taking a plane trip to visit extended family.

This doesn't make sense.

I feel like young children's books typically have some instructive purpose. But it's not instructive in the the sense of teaching how to do something, but what's a normal life situation and how to apprehend and accept the world around us. Like if your puppy decides he's going chew up your toys it's not ideal behavior and measures should be taken to prevent it, but it's not out of malice, it's because puppies are like that. They foster the acceptance of change and new situations because as a young kid, everything is new.

As someone who did not have a dog until high school (and not even a puppy!), never flew alone until grad school, and had all my immediate extended family clustered within diving distance, I find the selection and memory of these books to be awfully odd in retrospect. Where did they come from? Were they any more than a hedge against a abrupt and unpredictable life changes?

Buy the Mysteries of Matt Laquidara's Childhood!
Puppies are Like That (caution: cover art is really cute)

06 December 2012

Punctuated Equilibrium

When I first moved to Seattle, one of the most important things in my mind was finding a good dive bar. My roommate hadn't moved in yet. There was one person in the city who I had met before and I had met some of his friends, but things had not progressed to the level where I'd be calling around to round up a posse for Friday drinking. None of my new coworkers seemed like dive bar people. So I set out to do things on my own.

In a lot of ways this was liberating. I was inspired by a friend of mine who had recently moved to Boston and already seemed to already seemed to have a bar for every occasion, all from just visiting these bars by himself. By going to these bars alone I was agile: I could go wherever I wanted and stay however long I wanted. Furthermore I wouldn't be part of this island of people who just talked among themselves. Setting out my own, I could interact with totally new people in this new place.

This was tempered by the great fear that I'd just go to a bar, talk to no one, and feel totally isolated and miserable. I don't consider myself a bad conversationalist, but I'm not really any good at starting conversations

But it was a Friday afternoon and I was reading a page on the internal wiki at work about happy hours. I found a note about Laadla, the Indian restaurant spitting distance from work. Apparently there was a kinda sketchy bar in the back with cheap beer, cheap Indian food type snacks, and a happy hour that stretched from five to close. I was sold.

So I went to Laadla one Friday afternoon. Unsurprising to anyone who's gone there, the place was empty I took a seat at the bar. I got myself some food and beer, got a copy of The Stranger--a local alternative newspaper--and read it, and had some intermittent conversation with the bartender: a man who played excellent records.

Eventually a crowd of people came in. From my eavesdropping I found that some of them knew the bartender's brother, or someone's brother knew the bartender, but in any case everyone mildly knew of each other. Well this seemed to validate my worries of just being the isolated and miserable guy in the bar.

But after some beers, they were on their way out and something really unexpected happened. One of them gave me this real stabbing poke in the back and asked me I wanted to play frisbee with them in a nearby park. I said I'd finish my beer and be right over. When I joined them, $26 poorer and full of Indian food and beer, they invited me to drink directly from a bottle of liquor. After that I was, in my mind at least, diving all over the place for the frisbee. This is a pretty distinct stage of intoxication for me because try as I may, I cannot dive for a baseball or frisbee in my normal sober attempts at the sport. Granted, I'm probably just doing these amazing dives in my mind, and actually just falling over, but I was having the time of my life. It came up one of them was off to Boston for grad school the next day and I thought it was so cool because it was like we were trading places and shit.

After the frisbeeing happened they were going to some party. I want to think I was explicitly invited to come along--I have this strange creeping fear that I just sort of inferred I could come along and got in someone's car--but in any case I went there. It wasn't that much a party as a much as a fairly low key social gathering at the ubiquitous bungalow style house in one of Seattle's more unspoiled residential neighborhoods. The guests were almost exclusively dudes, which I remember finding a little odd at the time. People got majorly excited when some guy named Arthur showed up, enthusiasm that was only topped by the arrival of a Rory. Myself, I was more enthused by a surreally calm golden retriever named Red.

At some point, the crew I was with went upstairs because I think someone was going to play keyboards or something. After sitting around talking to some people for a while point I think, for some reason that could have made sense at the time, I jokingly challenged someone to fight, which I believe was taken jokingly. Another one of those strange creeping fears comes into play here as well because not soon after that everyone started leaving. As I left, I asked if anyone was heading towards my place in Eastlake. No one was, so feeling slightly abandoned I started walking home.

In retrospect this was a pretty monster walk. My best estimate, looking back at it, was that I was around 80th and Fremont Ave. This is nearly a 5 mile walk if done efficiently, and I have my doubts my efficiency was that good. I had been driving around the city a lot, collecting furniture and the like from various people on Craigslist, so I had a rough idea of how to get home. Plus Seattle is a grid and thus laughably easy to get around, modulo there being a big fucking lake blocking my most direct route. It was a beautiful summer night and the walking back thing just seemed the final step on a weird adventure.

My biggest problem was that I had to pee something fierce. I was saved by a 7-11, where I made a beeline to the bathroom, on the way making a hasty promise to an apathetic cashier that I would buy something. To celebrate this great relief, I bought some 7-11 brand hot dog flavored chips.

They were absolutely disgusting, but they were gone long before I got home.

I really don't remember much about the rest of the walk home. I don't remember crossing a bridge that I know I needed to cross to get home. But I do remember getting into bed with this strange knowing feeling that the next morning I'd ask myself what the hell happened.

What the hell did happen?