Ritual Confessions

February 23, 2008

…and I barely knew my name

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 8:18 am

Last night as I was writing the anecdote involving the soda machine, it occurred to me suddenly that I would never enact a scene like that out here on the west coast. That is, I never did anything like that in Portland, nor can I imagine doing anything like that in Vancouver: a public display of rage. In New York City, it happened with some regularity. I remember furiously kicking subway doors that had closed a split second too late for me to make the train. I remember shrieking “Fuck!” in the middle of the street over some frustation, like my cell phone dying at an inopportune moment. These things were done as a matter of course there; they were permissible. It’s not that everybody succumbed to their own fury all the time, but whenever someone did, no one was particularly taken aback or alarmed. The stress level there was so high, the conditions so trying, the humanity so overwhelmed by itself… people knew that now and then, something had to give, and this was accepted.

Out here, on the other hand, no one behaves that way. It would be considered highly indecorous — incredibly bad form. Even more interesting to me, though, is that since moving west, I can’t recall having even the temptation to melt down in a public space. Do Portland and Vancouver lack for sources of extreme provocation? Have I mellowed in my old age, or maybe within the context of motherhood? Maybe. But I think my relative equanimity here has more to do with the culture, which has affected me more than I’d realized.

Identity is a complex equation even for those of us without multiple personalities. As I consider my relative happiness out here in the sticks, as I hear myself singing along with every country song on the radio, as I watch myself shopping at Walmart or firing a gun at the local shooting range, there are times when I’m all but unrecognizable to myself.

[To be continued]



  1. You’re actually shopping at Wal-Mart? Seriously?

    You should have told this to me sooner.

    There’s help available.

    Comment by David R — February 24, 2008 @ 4:03 am

  2. I’ve noticed something like that, when visiting my mom. Life is slower and easier there, and I become more mellow.

    Comment by Shawn W — February 24, 2008 @ 4:12 am

  3. Oh, now Costco shoppers are throwing stones.

    Comment by elissakaren — February 24, 2008 @ 5:29 am

  4. I go to Costco maybe twice a year. It’s hardly in the same category … I mean, at least the things I buy are sealed up. The one time I went to Wal-Mart, I found that the two items I bought had been, uh, pre-used. I’ll never go back again, not if I starve in the streets first.

    Then again, if I am starving in the streets, I suppose I could go to a Wal-mart and open a can of nuts and eat half of them and then put them back on the shelf, as this seems to be acceptable practice.

    The horror, the horror.

    Comment by davidrochester — February 24, 2008 @ 5:37 am

  5. It’s not a west coast thing. It depends on where on the west coast. I think Portland and Vancouver have a more laid back feel to them, as the area I live in down in California. However, I often saw people screaming and venting in public at the least provocation when I lived in the greater Los Angeles area. So I’m sure it has to do with the pacing of life in big cities.

    Wal-Mart. Mr. R, I have been to Wal-Mart a gazillion times and have not once encountered an open or “previously used” item. At least not one that I bought. I shop there when I get my $4 generic prescriptions. I probably save enough money by shopping at Wal-Mart to finance a trip up north. (Did I tell you I’m more-than-thinking-of-moving to the greater Portland area?

    BTW, I avoid Costco like the plague. I think I have been there twice in the last year and a half.

    Comment by Corina — February 24, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

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