Thursday, February 11, 2016

GR - Where to Go

I’m kind of a city person, for a number of reasons. ( I used the term "city person" pretty lightly.  I'm not street smart. I haven't been to that many big cities.  I'd probably get lost, stolen from, stepped on, and otherwise abused on a subway. I have no sense of direction. I just like cities.)  1. I like food.  I mean, I really like it.  This Sunday, I ate some chocolate – covered – pretzel stuffed pancakes with caramel sauce on top and, as of 10 AM on Wednesday, that first bite moment is still the highlight of my week.  2.  I like to look at things.  Cities are stuffed blue in the face with novelties – old skyscrapers, street art, cobblestone roads.  When I walk around, I do a lot of almost running into things because I'm so busy trying to take it all in.  3.  I like to walk.  I appreciate the fact a lot of big cities are set up in a way that lets me walk wherever I want to go, or walk just for the sake of walking and stumble across food or novel things in the meantime. 

The city of Grand Rapids satisfies all of those desires nicely.  I’ve eaten cookie dough cheesecake and turkey quinoa salad and sweet potato sushi and barbecue quesadillas and feta cheese bread and a jalapeno popper omelet and banana bread French toast; I’ve had espresso in various forms at The Lantern, The Bitter End, Madcap, Local Mocha, Go Java, and the local Starbucks and Biggby franchises.  I’ve seen a 10-foot-tall blue giraffe and walked through an elevated tunnel that crosses several blocks and wandered through what used to be the grand early 20th century Pantlind Hotel and tried to act cooler than I am at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and geeked out at the marble-columned public library and pretended to have a deep understanding of hockey at a Griffins game and walked the river and taken photos on the lit-up blue people bridge at night and by the Pearl Street Bridge mural of the fish jumping out of the water.  I’ve probably walked at least fifty miles.  I don’t know.  That’s a very rough estimate, based on no actual data. 

I like all of those things about cities, and that list of experiences should make it hard to choose just one location to recommend. Except it’s not.  I like food and novelties and walking, but I absolutely love people watching.  And the best people-watching I’ve found so far has been on a bench in Rosa Parks circle. 

Some tips, if you’re looking to have the same results that I did:  

1.       | Go alone.  Chances are that if you bring a friend or two to people watch with you, a) your well-meaning friend will distract you from your task or b) someone will tell a joke or trip on a sidewalk crack the two of you will become a spectacle, thus becoming the watched rather than the watchers.  When people watching, it’s of utmost important that you remain unobserved, a meticulously camouflaged stock character reading the newspaper or drinking a coffee.

2.      |That being said, be safe.  Don’t go people watching by yourself and follow voices into an abandoned building.  Don’t go people watching by yourself in an unfamiliar area late at night.  Don’t go people watching by yourself in a stranger’s car.  As interesting as all of those experiences would almost definitely be, I can’t recommend any of them in good conscious.

3.      | That being said, keep an open mind.  Strangers aren’t inherently dangerous.  Not every person dressed in old clothes is going to approach you and ask for money.  And not everyone who asks for money is going to use it to buy drugs. (And even if they do – I can’t help but wonder – so what?) Assume the best – be smart – but assume the best.

If you find the right park bench in Rosa Parks Circle, you can sit comfortably with enough room for your backpack on one side and another person on the other.  (Another reason to go alone: your backpack needs somewhere to sit.  The other person needs somewhere to sit. Rosa Parks Circle benches are 3-person benches, so it works.) 

If you’re around on a cloudless, almost - fall day, you chance a meeting with the peacekeeper of Rosa Parks Circle.  He’s not the police, but he says they’re tight.  When I met him, he was monochromatic in black boots, jeans, and band t-shirt.  His face is blurry now – I know that he definitely had a constellation of facial piercings and his hair was longish.  I vaguely recall tattoos, but that could very well be my mind completing a stereotype to make him fit into my understanding of the world better. He was fresh from his most recent peace-keeping mission – he’d broken up a fight the night before, held things under control until the police showed up. 

“People know not to mess with me.”

Which easily could have been seen as a threat, but I continued eating my turkey sub and let him continue talking.  He had plans to go pick up his wages from his employer later that day, and I told him about how I was killing time waiting for the bus to Holland.  He likes movies – he listed off a dozen that day that I’ve still never heard of other than from him. If you meet him, he’s good for a recommendation about anything that’s showing at the time. 

As we talke, conversation stalled a couple times - I didn't feel obligated to turn it over again, but chewed through the pauses.  His boss is a good guy, he told me.  They eat dinner together sometimes - they were planning to later that night.  I wish I could remember more of the conversation.

I stood up to go catch my bus – and I admit, I left earlier than I needed to because I was sick of how uncomfortable the encounter made me.  He told me that I was beautiful, and I said “thanks” and “have a good day.”  I walked towards Monroe; he didn’t follow, although the paranoid part of my brain wouldn’t have been surprised. 
I’d recommend the bench in Rosa Parks circle. Some tips, if you’re looking to have better results than I did:

1.     | Introduce yourself like they teach you to in interviews when you meet someone for the first time.  Look him or her in the eye, give your name and ask for theirs, shake hands.  Treat whoever asks to sit down like they matter without looking first, because they do and looking isn’t the most useful way of gathering information, anyway. 

2.      | Offer your extra apple – not like you would to someone who you’re sorry for, but like you would to a friend.  Just casual, ya know? 

3.    |  Stay until the bus comes.  Ask for more stories, and then nod and listen. Make eye contact – again, even if you keep getting distracted by the piercings or you’d rather just not. Glean as much vicarious human experience as you can and pour out dignified personal interaction.  

It’d probably be helpful if I could remember the exact bench – your best bet is to keep trying them until you find one that works.  I’m sure it depends on the day and the season and other factors like that. Also, I wouldn’t be mad if you updated me on how it goes.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Day in the Life

9:03 pm, January 30, 2016.  (So, yesterday night.)  I took the elevator down one flight of stairs and hobbled across the building to visit my friend Anna in her room for an evening of chick flick watching and homework doing.  (But, let's be honest, what did we actually do? Not much homework.)  You'd never guess, but Anna's big into Hallmark movies.  I mean, she's probably seen all of them.  She recognizes like every single actor - "I liked him better when his hair was longer and he was with that blonde girl" - and she's got the basic plot structure down to a science.  We watched a Hallmark movie.

She'd been marathoning, but by the time I got there it was "Dater's Handbook."  You know, the one where the girl has a bad dating history and is about to give up until two handsome men fall into her lap simultaneously and she has to choose just one (it's a hard life), but then a conflict happens and all seems lost until the dramatic resolution in the last ten seconds of the movie.  This one featured Cass, Robert, and George.  You guys, George was the worst and Robert had the cutest dog ever, but of course Cass chose George first before realizing how awful he was and meeting Robert at the lantern festival to say she was sorry.  I yell at the TV during chick flicks more than most probably all all guys yell at the TV watching football. 

The problem with me and Hallmark movies is that, sometimes, I have a hard time understanding that they are not reality.  I mean, I realize that it's probably unlikely that I'll be seated with a handsome stranger at a wedding and immediately hit it off, happen serendipitously upon him the next day while we're both out running (in our matching running outfits, with our very similar dogs who immediately become BFFs), that he'll find out my mom's favorite band and take both of us to see them in concert (complete with limousine service), and we'll finally realize how much we love each other right at the moment that the lanterns are released at the festival.  But it's possible. It definitely is.  Statistically speaking, it could happen to me any time.  So, last night, after being reminded by "Dater's Handbook" of the (albeit improbable) reality that is a good Hallmark ending, I told Anna that I was going to get up early to do my hair today.  I said something like "I might be meeting my future husband tomorrow, so I have to be ready."  And  you know what? I did.  I even washed my hair in the same morning, and I went to church where all the attractive Christian young men are, totally convinced that I was probably going to meet my future husband.

Well, bummer you guys, because today (so far) is not that kind of day. It's 8:34 p.m., and all I've gotten is a yak from a girl hoping that I was gay. So.

After church, I got back to my room with about 15 minutes until I needed to leave for a Mary Kay appointment.  I hadn't had lunch, so I ate a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter instead.  I do that a lot.  I ALMOST ran out the door without brushing my teeth, but then I realized that peanut butter breath is not appealing, so I stopped to take care of mine.  I didn't bother to turn the lights on, because I was in a hurry and I am nothing if not efficiency itself.  I grabbed the toothpaste and made sure to use plenty - you know, to realllly mask the smell of peanut butter.  I was brushing so fast that it took me a while to realize that it didn't taste the same. 

"Oh, it must just be kind of old." (What? No. Why would that even-? No.)

As I continued brushing, I realized that what I was distributing all over my teeth was definitely not expired toothpaste.  This toothpaste was just way too not-toothpastey.  It tasted bitter, and it wasn't dissolving in my mouth - it was slimy and it wasn't going away.  As reality set in, I checked the bottle, juuuust in case.

I turned on the light and looked at the tube on the counter.

pc: google
And promptly spit my mouthful of anti itch cream straight at the mirror, because I didn't have time to aim for the sink.  And screamed something like EW EW EW LOOK WHAT I JUST DID EW EW EW and ran into the living room and threw the stupid anti itch cream at my roommate, who, bless her soul, did not throw it back at me, but calmly read the label and told me it wasn't poisonous between fits of laughter. 
It takes a LOT of toothpaste to counteract the affects of brushing your teeth with hydrocortisone. 
Moral of the story: sometimes you go into the day expecting to meet your future husband, and most of the time (in my experience thus far) it's not that kind of day.  It's the kind of day where you brush your teeth with freaking anti itch cream and find out that someone is hoping that "the girl in the maroon baseball tee with the crutches" is gay. 
Good news, though.  I still believe in Hallmark movies.  Someone thinks I'm attractive.  My mouth isn't remotely itchy.  And I might be meeting my future husband tomorrow.
P.S. Lol at this real toothpaste that perfectly describes me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Get People to be Nice to You

Basically, get yourself some crutches, stat.  (I just googled "stat." Your friends at Wikipedia say it's from the Latin statis, which means immediately.  If you were wondering.) Don't believe me? Please enjoy this log of nice things that people have done for me while I have been on crutches.

-told me "You rock" for walking up some stairs
-carried my food
-let me call shotgun before the car was even in sight
-opened doors
-said my name excitedly when we passed by each other
-gave up their seat for me on the bus
-let me get in front of them in line for the bus (at prime bus riding time)
-put the handicap ramp down so I could get on the bus as easily as possible
-not judged me for taking the elevator to go down or up one floor
-offered me a ride to my classes
-offered to switch beds with me
-offered to steal her ex-boyfriend's truck to take me to the doctor
-asked how I was doing
-gave me a quarter
-brought me crutches
-let me borrow various items (mixed vegetables, ibuprofen, ice pack, ace bandage, page protectors)
-told me "I hope you feel better"
-told me that I was probably capable of ice skating on one leg (it feels good to be believed in)
-offered to walk places that I didn't want to for me
-offered to carry me around

That's a twenty item list, if you weren't counting.  So, I'm just saying, invest in some crutches.  Use them when you feel a little hopeless about humans.  So, we might ignore each other and let doors close behind us most of the time, but crutch chivalry is still alive and well.

Really, though, what if we were always as nice to each other as we are to people on crutches?  I mean, I'm not about to use these things any more than I have to, but I like having people be nice to me.  Maybe we should all just view each other as if we're all on crutches.  Or maybe more like 50%, so that the other 50% could be the ones doing nice things for the crutch people.

Treat someone like they're on crutches today.

(Someone should make that into a cute graphic in white calligraphy over a picture of the outdoors or coffee or happy, attractive people or something.)

Oops, just did.  That's pinnable.  Go nuts.

Real talk, though.  God has been so cool in providing for what I need.  Within 12 hours of hurting myself, I had crutches, a ride to classes, a ride to the doctor, stuff to ice my knee with, and had received a really cool text about relying on Jesus for strength and joy from someone who had no idea that I needed it a little extra.  Also, I LOVE sleeping on the couch and I get to do it every day for at least this week, so I'm pretty content.  


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