Friday, May 05, 2006

The Return Home, Entry #2

I've had more time to settle in and notice a change in my perception of this strange place called 'home'. Different things surprise me, make me uneasy, make it hard to feel reintegrated.

I'm still shocked by the pace and the assertive manner in which things get done. Why can't it be like the post office? I went there today to mail a few souvenirs off to contributors. The employees there don't move quickly; they're not concerned about lines. They do things in their own sweet time. It used to drive me nuts, but I am in league with the postal employees now: slow and leisurly. But one thing is to be said for the fast-moving world in the U.S., shit gets done. The phrase, "Make it happen," seems to be burned into everyone's psyche.

Not that things didn't get done in Asia. Often, I found myself marveling that amidst all the confusion, things did get done... anything. Looking to hire a car & driver? Looking for a beat up motorcycle to rent? Looking for a shoe shine, a single banana to buy, an escort for the night? You didn't have to look far or hard for someone to do something for you, take you someplace, or refer you to at least 50 others who could. All you have to do is stand on the street corner.

Maybe the difference is the way things get done -- here there is more pressure. And perhaps its because at home, I have a different role in society. I am a 'do-er' instead of a 'do-ee'. Meaning, people come to me to get shit done, whereas while traveling, I was always the employer. I had no responsibilities, no job to do. People dindn't want anything from (well, except for my tourist dollar).

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I ventured out to the financial district at lunch time yesterday. I hadn't really been out a lot since coming back. Yes, I've been to many of our 'super stores', but they are generic experiences and don't count. I've been around my neighborhood (and the Haight is so preposterous, it doesn't count either).

I was surprised by the darkness. Everyone dressed in dull, monochromatic clothing. I, myself, have a wardrobe of mostly black. As I unpacked a few weeks back, I was surprised to pull black shirt after black shirt after black shirt out of the box. Black jeans, black socks, black jackets, black sweaters. It reminded how once a friend told me he thought I was cool, "because your wardrobe is all black." And here I thought it was a witty sense of humor or intelligent advice or something like that. But no, he thought I was cool because I bought black clothes. Lots of them.

I looked into the sidewalk windows of fancy restaurants and saw business people, serious business people, talking over 20 dollar sandwhiches, or silver platters of oysters fanned out on beds of shaved ice, or hunks of rare ahi tuna plated with a fancy side dish with a strange name. Everyone solemn, everyone 'getting shit done'.

This is when I felt my most foreign, being home. I didn't really fit into the business world before my trip. The design agencies where I've worked are one step up from hanging out with friends to work on a hobby. But now I feel even more foreign -- not having spent a lot of time on the road in urban business centers, it's like going to another planet. A boring planet. A black, pin-striped planet full of acronyms and people 'doing lunch'.

I am struggling with the pace, the work world, the things I left that are now re-entering my life. When rocks come flying into our atmosphere from outer space, they fire up. That's how it feels inside my head now. A little fuse has been lit. It's flaring. And using oxygen.

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