Last night I had a headache so bad that it made me wonder whether, were I stuck with that kind of pain, could I go on living? I say this because years ago I remember saying that I thought I could deal with most any hardship so long as I could read and communicate. Such a level of function does presuppose that I'm some way up Maslow's hierarchy, but still, I didn't think it such a high standard. But this sinus headache made me wonder. For the past few days I've had a nagging cold and, while it hadn't stopped me dead, it had slowed me down. I could read, but only fitfully and reading philosophy was out of the question—when I read φ, I ψ-ed.
Since I arrived in Vancouver two and a half weeks ago I've been eating beans & rice and peanut butter & jelly. I'm used to a pretty boring diet, the same veggie sandwich every day for thirteen years, but these particular foods have become disgusting in short order. The peanut butter & jelly is cloyingly sweet and the beans & rice is just a bowl of fiber. However, as my expenses total about 150% of my income—before food and entertainment—I don't feel inclined to splurge. Today I decided I had to splurge. After three days of leaving my room only to go to class, I had to get out. My headache was significantly improved and I was neither coughing nor snuffling constantly, so I went for a walk all the way to the Starbucks on the other end of campus where I bought a coffee for $2.25.
I thought that I would sit and read a sci-fi novel for a while, but that wasn't to be. Every once in a while I would give a snuffle, I'm still recovering from a cold, after all, and when I did the woman two tables over would glance over her shoulder and give me a look that said, “This is a nice coffee shop, you don't belong here.” Maybe so. In Ames, Iowa, my look said, grad student, bike mechanic, or bartender, but here it says, hobo, drunk, guy-who-yells-racial-slurs-on-the-bus. The fact is, I haven't seen a single person with long hair and a beard here except for people sleeping on the streets and, yes, yelling racial slurs on the bus. I've seen more fist-fights and heard more hate speech here in two weeks than I did in Iowa in a lifetime. Perhaps I've just lived a sheltered life.
When I arrived I had a plan. I planned that I would get up each morning, go for a run or a bike ride, write for an hour, then go and do my eight hours at the office. I did pretty well the first week, but I still don't have a bike and since I came up short of breath—the first signs of this cold, I expect—on my run last Saturday I've had to take it easy there too. Writing is sporadic. I have two blog posts 90% done, but that last 10% is proving too much. Some days I've managed 500-600 words—blog, essay, or story—easy, others it's too easy just to go in early and get a start on my day. Hopefully this has just been an off week and I'll settle in to the routine, but today it feels like it's all falling apart. Campus looks more like a damp parking garage than a benevolent futuristic utopia. The rains have just begun here in Vancouver and will likely not abate until next summer.