Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Things from the Wasatch Front  §

© 2011 Aron Hsiao

Never tell anyone that you will “work through your move.” You won’t. Tonight, for the first time, I have a space and equipment to do actual work. Tomorrow, for the first time, I will do actual work. Even then, it will be difficult. It takes a while to settle in. You will not work through your move.

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Grocery stores in Astoria at 9:00 in the evening: ghost towns. You’re lucky, on some nights, if they’re still open. At most there is one register running. Grocery stores here at 9:00 in the evening: hopping. Every single lane is open with a line. Most of them won’t close until midnight or afterward. Love the 24-hour-ness. People outside of New York call it the city that never sleeps, but once you’re there you realize that it goes to bed between 5:00 and 8:00 every evening. Not Utah.

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Home Depot, Lowes, and other home improvement stores in the middle of the day in New York are full of contractors. Here they are full of moms with kids in tow. There are more kids running around the home improvement warehouse on a weekday than you’d see in Manhattan in a week.

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Downside: nobody says “hi” to my daughter here. You’d think that having an 11-month-old little girl with an adorable smile wave at you and say “Hi!” with delight would get people saying “Hi!” back. In New York, absolutely. One of the earliest skills she learned was how to make friends, and she made us a lot of friends, too. Every time we went out we got to know new and interesting people. Here people just stare and keep walking. Most of the time they don’t even smile. Dozens of “Hi!” exclamations from my daughter have netted her maybe one or two tepid hellos in return. The parent in me dies a little bit each time I see that tiny, enthusiastic smile turn slowly into a frown in bewilderment as she stares after them, disappointed and ignored, unlearning what she’s learned about the basic goodness and friendliness of people. I fear that in Utah she will learn to be more socially like me (aloof, closed, suspicious, isolated), less socially like her mother (generous, open, trusting, gregarious). Certainly that’s what the place offers to her.

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Number of stay-at-home or daytime dads seen here so far: ZERO. In NYC you’d see them on the street, on the subway, definitely at the park—several of our playmates were daytime dads. In this place of much more traditional gender roles, the grocery store and the park during the daytime are the territory of women only, and they seem vaguely violated or somehow suspicious when they encounter a man engaged in domestic errands during the daytime much less a man carrying a daughter.

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More than half of the cars on the road are pickup trucks. Not sport utility vehicles, which are enclosed, but open-bed pickup trucks, often with diesel engines, high-sitting suspensions, and knobby tires. There are also a lot of mullets, moustaches, wrangler jeans, etc. I haven’t seen another Volvo yet.

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People notice the New York plates. At least once a day I’m asked where in New York I’m from and what “brings me out here.”

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On the radio, there was a call-in charity program. A considerable amount of time and energy was spent emphasizing that donations would go to people “just like you” that “live in Utah,” not “strangers” living elsewhere. That would never happen in New York.

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Office supplies: much more expensive. Gasoline and groceries: much cheaper.

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Within about a mile of the house we have: McDonald’s, Sonic, Carl’s Jr., Taco Bell, Del Taco, Arby’s, Panda Express, 7-11, Wendy’s, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Papa Murphy’s Pizza, Wal Mart, Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Office Depot, Babies ‘R’ Us, Walgreens, Rite Aid, AutoZone, and probably several other national chains I haven’t stumbled across yet, and that’s all without entering either of the two malls, and all with a population density that’s a tiny fraction of the density you’d encounter in New York. For all the presumptive localism implied in the “help us, not them” charity drive sensibility, there is precious little in the way of local business here.

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Meter readers just open the gate and come right into your backyard to read the meter, unannounced. Then, they leave again. Kids come right up your driveway and into your carport on their bikes, then back out again, just playing with one another and not even noticing you, the resident in the house. That would never happen in New York.

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At the 7-11 this morning, the touchscreen on the credit card terminal wouldn’t accept my presses at first, making it difficult to enter my debit pin. The twenty-something girl behind the counter said, “That’s our woman card reader. Just like a woman, she looks good but she’s super moody, kinda incapable, and pretty uncooperative unless you’re really handsome.” That, too, would never happen in New York.