Funeral for My Familiar (April 2003)

In November, when I moved to Portland, I wanted and needed everything to be different. I would lose myself in learning to navigate the culture, enthralled that there were so many life lessons to be learned.

Now that I’ve had some time to be immersed in such an unfamiliar environment, I’m ready for something to feel like “home.” Hell, I would settle for a day of being able to eat and drink what I wanted without being lectured by someone on the evils of whatever I was putting into my mouth… because in Portland, it’s not about fat grams and calories. It’s about making sure people know that what they’re eating is probably genetically modified or hormone enhanced and ragging them until they break down in paranoia and switch to organic.

I know all Portlanders are not like this, and it would be silly for me to assume that even a large margin of them are. However, the people I live with *are* “nutrinazis” and therefore give me a skewed view of the population at large. In short, I know the world is not out to get me everytime I pop open a Coke. It just feels that way to me because I’m not brave enough to retaliate by grinding beef into their TVP crumbles.

Sounds cruel, yes? Well, let me tell you more about what would lead me to such shenanigans. Tori and I were sitting at the kitchen table one day, having a conversation about this proposition in Oregon to require companies to label their food as genetically modified. I told her that I thought most all food was genetically modified, and that I preferred it to taking my chances with organic. I cited several news articles that I had read over the past few years on organic food which stated that organic food was actually worse for you than non-organic because if they don’t spray pesticides on the crops, then you’re taking the chance of getting whatever disease the local insects might be carrying. Tori quietly agrees with me, then when all her friends are over a few evenings later, she says, “Leslie, why don’t you tell us why you don’t eat organic food?” and just starts laughing like a fucking hyena. Yep, you could see it coming. She made me look like a total idiot in front of the only people I had met in Portland thus far. Not only that, then the entire room was trying to tell me that what I had heard was incorrect, that bugs don’t carry disease, you can wash off dirt, etc.

We’ve also run into issues over the compost jar. This is because I refuse to use it. I am extremely sensitive to strong smells, particularly bad ones. Logically, it makes sense to me that I should purposefully avoid situations that clearly reduce me to projectile vomiting… and we’ll leave it at that. To do a lengthy description of what a compost jar *is* and how one uses it would reduce me to- you guessed it- projectile vomiting. This is because, much like the sin structure in Catholocism, the memory of said smell is enough to make me ralph. The actual smell does not have to be present.

And on that note, I think I would like to open this forum to my readers. Have there been times where you’ve been the “stranger in a strange land?” What did you do to combat it?

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