Monday, September 6, 2010

North Carolina Missive

Today is my twelfth day in the vicinity of North Carolina. Last night I got back from my first vacation, an experience that always makes home feel more like home, and so I now feel home enough to write about it.

I live in Durham, North Carolina. It is in centrally located within the state, very near Chapel Hill and Raleigh (collectively the three cities are known as “the Triangle,” but if you are imagining an equilateral triangle, you are incorrect, for Durham is closer to Chapel Hill than Raleigh, and Raleigh is farther from Chapel Hill than Durham (so it’s sort of a 3, 4, 5, right angle triangle with Durham at the right angle)), and a quick stint down I-40 from Greensboro and Winston-Salem. There a big trees everywhere, all the houses are one story, and cicadas hypnotize the unwary. Other than that, it seems to be filled with people, pretty much like any other place except for the ones that aren’t filled with people. Some of the social stuff is different – the history of racial conflict can be felt if not seen – but really people are people wherever you go. We all have the same supermarket layout.

I live in a house with my girlfriend Dana Powell, and our fun and friendly roommates Tyler and Eva and their four Chinese Fighting Fish (kept in separate bowls: they are fighting fish). We have 1700 sq. feet of space consisting of our bedroom, their bedroom, a guest bedroom (and storage space), a living room (with fireplace), the study room (a barren place), the kitchen (with flower vase), and the unfinished basement (with mold and washer and dryer), and about 700 sq ft. worth of furniture. Happily, all the empty space is a nice hardwood floor. All the rooms have ceiling fans! We have a front lawn and back lawn and a crappy push lawnmower. We’re hoping to tear up some of the pointless grass and put in a little garden, at this point it would be garlic and greens.

Tyler is letting me use his mountain bike and I went exploring the area the other day. In Walla Walla, the bike into town was slightly uphill, and the bike home was slightly downhill. In other words, there was one hill. In Durham it goes up and down and up and down. It makes for a wonderful variety of existence! My bikeborne wanders led me to the local nerd shop. It seems that when I go to a new place and have a bunch of empty time I easily gravitate towards fantastical pursuits, but then that time fills up and I become all sober and responsible and wanting to use what little spare time I have for the careful doing of nothing at all.

Dana is going to Duke and learning cool stuff. She is taking an entomology class, which means I am taking a regurgitated entomology class. She has a little death jar full of cyanide into which she puts her unsuspecting specimens so that she can learn about them.

I am making a concerted effort to learn how to do stuff. So far I have learned (with the patient guidance of my roommate Eva) how to back bread and make granola. Neither is very complicated, but they are the sort of value added product that cost less than half as much if you make them yourself. I intend to add to that list bike repair and the telepathic manipulation of large birds and small machines, which can be quite expensive if left to a professional.

Overall, I think I am doing an admirable job of accomplishing my pre-move intention of relaxing for a while. A time will come when I will be full of angst and worry, and then I will get a job to fill the time and bank account (the steady emptying of which is a surefire way to accumulate angst), but for now I am doing what I need to in order to be able to do nothing effectively. This does not mean that I always do nothing – that can become oppressive – but I do just enough of something that the nothing feels proper and reasonable. I received confirmation of my relaxing skills on the vacation mentioned in the first paragraph. All four of us spent Sunday at Tyler’s family’s friends’ lake house in Virginia. Everyone was very impressed with my ability to do nothing. And I can’t think of a better place to be doing it.

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