Little Pink Houses Are For Suckers

(I promise to return to more general–read interesting–news soon, but, first, here’s a slice of life from this side of the pond):

I awoke yesterday morning to the sight of our fridge door open, having been so all night. It turns out, if we put a 2-liter of soda AND a package of chicken in the same tiny icebox, the spatial lode becomes too much to bear, and the poor thing just bursts its seams. It tends to do this often, and almost exclusively leading up to Sunday mornings, when there will be no markets open. After happily settling on the idea of us heading down memory/beans-and-rice lane (ah, grad school), I thought the worst was behind us.

What ho, you say? What’s that sound? Why, it’s the sound of our bathroom door being slammed shut. By a petulant tween, you ask? No no no, it’s only our darling little washer, which, during an especially “gigantic” load of socks, has lurched forward and wedged itself between the tub and said now-shut door. Ah, the hilarity!

While I eyed our wee stove, trying to figure out if I could shimmy out the window adjacent thereto and around into the bathroom in order for us to regain access (What’s more dangerous? Sidling along a tiny ledge 4 stories above a cement patio, or finishing my cup of black coffee with no bathroom access in the foreseeable future?), my cooler-headed (and simply awesome) husband finally found a solution. If we broke the door off the frame on the far side, we could gain entry. Turns out this can be done by punching it strongly a couple of times. The bonus is that it can also be replaced by a couple of sharp raps. Go Go, Gadget DOOR FRAME!!!

We are still giggling about this as we walk out the door to work this morning at 7:30, nearly running over the pleather-clad South American prostitute who is our neighbor.

Why do I mention this? Because I’ve been wondering what it says about me that I lovelovelove this apartment, quirks and all, and don’t really want to leave.

“Christ Almighty, woman, have you lost it?” you ask. I object to this for two reasons. First of all, I reject the notion I ever had said it. Secondly, I feel now as if I’ve regained myself, or at least, have regained the notion of myself I like best.

Allow me to explain (I’ll keep it short, I promise):

I feel I lost myself while living in Louisiana. Specifically, living in what’s considered a “normal” place and doing “normal” things left me in many ways the kind of typical American I’ve never wanted to be. My DVR became a good friend, I wanted more than anything to have the kind of gorgeous lawn my neighbor did, and I completely bought into the idea that a nice car, a big house, and a grudgingly-happy husband was not such a bad thing. And those things aren’t necessarily such bad things, if that’s what you really want. But it’s just not me. And, I suspect, it’s not anyone who chooses this boho/hobo expat life.

It’s taken living in our home-sweet-flophouse to come to the realization that all of the things I have loved the most dearly over the course of my life have had “character.” My favorite car of all time is still my old hoopty (an ’88 Crown Vic with 150k+ miles, no working a.c./heat/defroster/windows/locks, and a stereo that amounted to a tape deck that would either play the tapes or melt-and-eat them), my favorite piece of clothing ever is a worn-and-torn-to-shreds thermal I snagged off a gutter punk when I was 16, and my favorite apartment ever (till now) was the one with the never-ending supply of roaches (emanating, it turned out, from behind our gigantic poster of R. Crumb…he’d be so proud, I think). Who cares? Well, no one. But, I think it speaks to the expat mentality. And, since I’ve been asked about returning to the States and why I’m not angling to, I’ll tell whoever cares why.

I think that, in order to enjoy living on any continent other than the one where you were born, you have to embrace a certain amount of chaos in your life. No matter what, living in a place where you don’t speak the language or nascently understand the culture is going to be tougher than staying by home. And, if you don’t have the stomach for a certain amount of crazy, it’ll drive you to the brink. More specifically, though, if you’re going to leave the U.S. for Europe, I think you have to have a certain amount of love for all things “character-ridden” (read “old”). Europe just isn’t built for people who like a lot of space, new construction, or tons of privacy.

It’s no wonder to me that so many American writers have chosen the life of an expat over here. I mean, sheezus, how much more interesting is it (to yourself, at least, if no one else) to relate, say, my story of a lazy Sunday than simply to say, “We ate pizza and watched football”? Living abroad does the work for you. The story’s already going to be exotic, even if you did just eat pizza and watch football (since neither of those words mean the same thing here in Spain that they do Stateside), and the potential for quirky hilarity is always high.

Then again, maybe I just love all those crappy old things because I’m part Scottish and said things are cheap. Either way. *shrug*

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February 2009
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