| I'm in a friend's wedding coming up. I figured I needed to get some help to look presentable for the occasion. It was a good excuse to unload my travel toiletries (remove the little baggies of Tylenol) and make space for some real make-up. I headed downtown to Sephora—a mega-boutique of trend-setting cosmetics laid out like eye-candy for customers grab at. I had the same feeling I have when I go to the gym and peripherally eye-ball equipment, trying to figure out how it works without looking obvious. Meanwhile, young girls with flawless complexions peered into mirrors, confidently applying samples to their fresh peach faces. Novelty? Indulgence? Maybe just because they can.
Then I went to the "beauty salon" for an "updo", again thinking OK, I'll pay for some pointers on how to dress-up my head. At the scheduled time, I walked into the salon in one of San Francisco's snottier neighborhoods, the Marina, and sat down in a big salon chair. The woman doing my hair, asked what I wanted. Help? Advice? I had no idea, I just wanted her to do something. "Uhhhh, could you try some things with my hair - I'm in a wedding in a few weeks…". She looked squarely into the mirror at my face and began spraying it down with water. Fifteen minutes later I was trying not to squirm in the big chair; she was tease-poofing my hair. Why do people pay for this—why am I paying for this?! I smiled, paid the lady at the desk, and headed for the door.
Gregg came to pick me up. We went to get a birthday gift for a friend's daughter's birthday at the toy store across the street from the salon. Picking out a card at the register counter, Gregg's motorcycle jacket sleeve brushed against a woman next to him paying. She turned aside, glared at Gregg and said in the most serious voice, "Don't touch me." Gregg hadn't even realized what had happened, the contact was so slight. Gregg responded with empathy, pitying what life must be like for her her in such a dirty urban environment. He suggested she call the police, and she reminded us that there was a term for such an offense—"They call it assault and battery, you know." The price of personal space must have gone up with real-estate in this town while we were away. Just for kicks, I transplanted this woman onto my Muni train during my morning commute. She sighed and made bad faces at people. For more fun, I put her in the underground pedestrian pass along the Pearl River in Shanghai during a major holiday. She passed out.
My lavendar bean-bunny is slumped over my closed eyes (if it still had fragrance, it's aromatic weight would "induce relaxation"). I am trying to justify why dwell on such inconsequential events since we've come back home (wondering at the same time why I put this bean-bunny over my eyes). Part of me is watching myself go from day to day, my actions informed by social conventions. This strange duality is a function of living someplace called 'home', rather than simply observing life in the places we visited as an outsider. While travelling, everything is potentially new, different (or the same) from what you're used to, so it's natural to reflect upon simple everyday things. Adjusting back to my life in America means being physically home while my mind is still in partial travel mode. I dwell on oddities of mundane American life because I'm at once living and observing how I live.
A movie is playing in my mind as I drift off to sleep. The actors are anonymous faces, the location is a jumble of places from our travels. I think about how I am the same person who not long ago led a largely nomadic existence and am now grounded in one place. A familar voice is narrating, saying it's not so much about where you are, but how you look at things, how you think about them. The last scene of the movie is a dialogue. The nomadic me is reminding the assimilatiing me to be mindful: have awareness of actions big or small, significant or mundane.