Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lost In Translation

Today is turning out to be a good day. Number 1: It is raining! Finally! I love rain. Number 2: My friend E sent me snowflakes yesterday and I decorated the apartment with them. In the package was also a mix of spices that I have simmering on the stove and they smell better than any candle. Number 3: I finally got my package from Jo-Ann Fabrics. I ordered it on Cyber Monday! I am getting a little cleaning done and in general I am having a low-key day by myself.

I needed a good day after a string of a few that leaned towards the melancholy. I don’t have very many “BAD” days now, but there are still a few where I feel slightly lonely and a little crummy about this whole lack-of-job and therefore lack-of-money thing. I kept thinking back to the Sophia Coppola movie: Lost in Translation. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, here is the storyline that I copied from IMDB:

Bob Harris is an American film actor, far past his prime. He visits Tokyo to appear in commercials, and he meets Charlotte, the young wife of a visiting photographer. Bored and weary, Bob and Charlotte make ideal if improbable traveling companions. Charlotte is looking for "her place in life," and Bob is tolerating a mediocre stateside marriage. Both separately and together, they live the experience of the American in Tokyo. Bob and Charlotte suffer both confusion and hilarity due to the cultural and language differences between themselves and the Japanese. As the relationship between Bob and Charlotte deepens, they come to the realization that their visits to Japan, and one another, must soon end. Or must they?

Sometimes I feel like Charlotte here in Miami. (Not the whole part of the movie where her husband pays little attention to her… J is a wonderful husband.) She spends her days in the hotel room listening to CDs, staring out the window, or sometimes walking around Tokyo and Kyoto. At least she has beautiful, free, things to go see like the temples. Here everything costs an arm and a leg. J and I looked up the price to the local botanical garden: $25 EACH! In Madison, it is FREE and they have a beautiful Thai pagoda. In Milwaukee, they cost no more than $7 each for residents. Plus, I don’t feel very safe here, so I’d rather not venture out on my own. I can relate to Charlotte and Bob’s feelings of confusion regarding cultural norms. There is definitely the Latina culture down here, but also the Miami culture where money speaks and those without it are silenced and are shoved into the demeaning service industry.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Lost in Translation (I feel like Bob in the first one, and Charlotte in the second):

Bob: Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison break. I'm looking for, like, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?
Charlotte: I'm in. I'll go pack my stuff.
Bob: I hope that you've had enough to drink. It's going to take courage.
Charlotte: I just don't know what I'm supposed to be.
Bob: You'll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.

Yesterday was a great example of being “lost in translation.” I had to go take care of some business and it brought J and me to Little Havana. It was like being in a different country.  People spoke to us first in Spanish and then slightly broken English, which led to a conversation that was hard to understand on both ends. (I’m becoming increasingly aware of my Noooorthern accent.) After leaving Little Havana, we went for lunch. We headed towards our apartment and decided to stop at the Miracle Mile (think an expensive Brady Street or State Street with valets and more than ten high-end bridal boutiques). Finding parking was a headache and impossible on a Friday afternoon (did you know that no one in Miami works on a Friday afternoon?) and we decided to settle for Pollo Tropical instead. I regret that.

We walked in and once again we were the only white folks. I don’t have an issue with that. I’m getting very used to it, it is just that I know that communication is going to be tricky and that is the part I dread. I try to come off nice and sweet to the people working behind the counter, but they look at me like I’m some jerk because I must be mocking them. No one in Miami is nice like people in Wisconsin can be genuinely nice to one another. When there are white people behind the counter at these places, chances are they are transplants from New York, New Jersey, or the Carolinas and they are more likely to smile back at you. So, after ordering our food with some difficulty, and navigating my way to a table in this jam-packed dirty, little, joint, I had time to people-watch.

People-watching is one of the only consolations to living in this crazy city. There were tiny little old ladies, business men, police men, middle-aged women, and teenagers eating. The most interesting people were these two guys who were wearing wife-beater tank tops, rosaries, and had tattoos of semi-automatic rifles on their arms. One was bald on his head, but he had a very hairy back and arms. I did my best not to gawk while they daintily ate the HUGE spread of chicken, rice, and beans in front of them. When they walked out, the Miami version of the Jersey Shore guys walked in. These four men were more groomed than I was, with bulging, too-tan muscles, fancy t-shirts, and even fancier pants. Yes, fancy pants. I distrust men who wear rhinestones on their strategically distressed jeans. After J finished his chicken, I made him leave because I was ready to go home and relax. But Fridays are always grocery shopping days and that’s not the most relaxing thing either.

So, today is my day to relax. I’m listening to my Pandora (The Sound of Settling, by Death Cab for Cutie), I chatted with my mom and one of my old college friends on the phone, I got two of my small wedding pictures framed and decorative twigs in my vase (since the Jo-Ann’s package finally came), I dusted some blinds and will have to do more, and soon I’ll be considering what to make my handsome husband when he comes home from a long day at the office doing research. You have to be able to enjoy the little things that make you happy… (even if it is silently laughing at grown men wearing sparkly, fancy-pants.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Cheese Grater Incident

J and I have been going about our usual business. He has been busier recently with finals and research. Every week goes the same: Friday night we go grocery shopping, Saturday J watches sports and I try to ignore them, Sunday we end up doing a crazy amount of housework and he does homework, Monday I begin the job search again and J goes back to campus all day-every day. I like Friday nights and Saturdays the best because we spend the most time together.

Except this Friday. This Friday stunk. I started to grate cheese for a home-made pizza. I got a cup or so done before I did a nice little number on the knuckle on my thumb. The shock set in immediately and I shouted to J, “Band-Aid! Band-Aid!” But he didn’t take me seriously at first because I was doing a little jig at the time… it was a nervous jig and I was holding my thumb and when I let go I left a nice little trail of blood. It is not that the sight of blood bothers me. It is just when my blood leaves my body in large quantities does it bother me. I usually faint when I have blood tests done. So I knew the feeling that was coming- my face was losing color, the back of my neck was sweaty, and my knees were giving in. Luckily I didn’t faint. I just cried. And J just watched because he wasn’t sure where the Band-Aids were and he wasn’t sure what to do. He eventually handed me some cotton swabs which I promptly bled through. Long story short, my thumb still hurts pretty bad. Typing is tolerable but holding a pen is quite painful. Inconvenient. This morning I called my parents because J wasn’t being very sympathetic. :) Hey mister- that pizza was dinner for you! Upon their suggestion I got myself to a pharmacy for proper first-aid items. $11 later I cannot tell if it is working.

This is almost as bad as the time when I stuck my hand on the stove burner to prove it wasn’t on when it was. I had a nice spiral burn the next day. Or the time when I accidentally kicked the paper cutter that was on the floor with the blade open… but those are stories for another day.