Weirdos Welcome

It never ceases to amaze me how much I keep changing.  Deep down, I’m the same old Mel in some ways.  But lots of things have been evolving over time, especially of late.  (See The (R)Evolution of Mel.)

Lately I get claustrophobic around things that seem too traditional, status quo, or perfect.  I have a growing distaste for prim and proper, cookie cutter areas.  While I still have OCD that creeps into my own personal space, I allow for more character in decor than I used to like.

So, what is my problem?  Maybe it’s the uniformity of some suburban houses and lawns, the keeping up with the Joneses attitude, sameness of dress, blandness of viewpoints, or simple lack of excitement found in normalcy.

I like seeing weirdos on the street, admiring some good graffiti, never knowing who will say hi to me, or discovering unchartered nooks and crannies.  I chuckle because when I saw American Beauty for the first time in 1999, I did not understand the guy video taping the plastic bag blowing in the wind.  And now I’m becoming the off kilter semi-artsy being who enjoys that stuff.

I find myself cringing at Northface jackets, a constant stream of suits and ties, fancy possessions.  While conforming may be necessary in some workplace settings and formal events, must we always chase after the same things?

I have nightmares about a 1984-ish world where we all wear the same black and gray uniform, day in and day out.  I want color and excitement!  I crave a smidgen of chaos to keep me on my toes.

In Jonathan Franzen’s most recent novel “Freedom”, I was drawn to the following exerpt:

Although he’d played in D.C. often enough over the years, its horizontality and vexing diagonal avenues never ceased to freak him out.  He felt like a rat in a governmental maze here.  For all he could tell from the back seat of his taxi, the driver was taking him not to Georgetown but to the Israeli embassy for enhanced interrogation.  The pedestrians in every neighborhood all seemed to have taken the same dowdiness pills.  As if individual style were a volatile substance that evaporated in the vacuity of D.C.’s imperative directed at Katz in his beat-up biker jacket.  Saying:  die.

Powerful stuff for me.  No doubt someone reading this is rolling his or her eyes, because unconventionalism itself has become a trend.  As with many cultural issues, Southpark hit the nail on the head with their episode about the goth kids who complained about conformists, yet were all conforming to a new normal for their group.  I’m not being different to be cool here.

Maybe uniqueness, dirtiness, and unpredictability comfort me because of their authenticity.  Nothing is covered up by a white picket fence.  It’s wide open for everyone to see.


From Small Town Mouse to Small City Mouse

Things have been a bit crazy since I last posted.  ‘Tis the season for filing taxes, assembling the annual Scott County Republican Women‘s directory, assembling packets for Gloria Dei’s annual meeting, and taking on new things every day.  The latest new item is moving from Durant to Davenport.

I received a certified letter from my landlord on the last Tuesday in January, notifying me that my rent was increasing by about 30% a month, effective March 1.  My heart sank.  What timing.  I’m totally finding my groove with my semi-hippie lifestyle (sans hallucinogens), and that is when he decides to raise my rent for the first time in almost four years.  True, my rent was cheap to begin with.  But in exchange for that, I accept that my landlord does not do snow removal and also slowly responds to maintenance requests (even when it’s an urgent thing like not having water).  However, raising my rent and having to deal with those slum-lord-ish issues is not acceptable.

I allowed myself to be angry for about ten minutes before I went into action mode.  Anyone who has talked to me about housing during the past four years knows I have continually planned to move to the Quad Cities, only to put it off for another few months or another year.  Now I had my sign.  It was time to do it once and for all.

I’ve had my eye on The Davenport apartment building since doing some work for Landmark Properties as a Victory Enterprises consultant in late 2009.  I called them up, and they had two open apartments.  I looked and fell in love.  Then I crunched the numbers.  With the Durant rent increase, it would cost the same to live in either place.  Within two days of receiving the terrible rent increase letter, I had sealed the deal on a new place and literally opened a new door in my journey.

I am more city girl than country girl, but I’ve been living in a town without a stop light for nearly four years.  How does that happen?  Convenience and cheap rent.  It was easy to move my furniture in storage only four blocks down the road, especially after having hauled it across the country from Houston.  It was easy to commit to cheap rent and no lease.  And it was easy to be in close (lately too close) proximity to family after missing them for so long.

While Davenport is no Houston, it offers just enough city life to get me excited.  I will be within short walking distance of the Mississippi River, Rhythm City Casino, RME, Figge, and various restaurants.  And days after my decision was made, I found out RAGBRAI would be ending on Bix weekend, with everyone celebrating in adjoining streets to my new place.  I’ve found a place to belong!

Durant isn’t bad – it just isn’t me.  I have been able to live here only because I didn’t grow up in this small town.  No one really knows me, and I don’t socialize much here.  It’s my bedroom community.  Working at the church has introduced me to more people, but even that becomes suffocating when people comment on what they saw me doing outside of my car that morning, whether it was checking oil, scraping car windows, or looking ridiculous hauling too much in one trip between my car and apartment.

Moving is a great chance to reflect on a segment of life in one residence, while looking forward to a new start in a new place.  Whether it is moving across town, to a nearby town, or across the country, the act itself can be therapeutic.  I think back to where I was when I moved into this apartment in March 2007 and marvel at all that has happened in life since then.  I recall hosting a bachelorette party here and naming the various rooms “Powder Room”, “Ladies’ Lair”, and “Diva’s Den”.  I think about seeing this place trashed when I moved in and gradually transforming it into a cute place, with help from a little carpet shampooing, paint, and friends and family.

And now I have the opportunity to create new memories in a sixth floor downtown apartment.  I can’t wait to be a small city mouse and have new places to explore and people to meet.  I have splendid visions of my new artsy-fartsy decor, as well as not having to shovel myself out of my apartment in the foreseeable future.

snowed in