Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On narrowly escaping an entirely self-inflicted office furniture injury. Again.

Yesterday, as I was rising from my desk at home, I spun in the chair and rapped my knee against the desk with such force that the edges of the world went black.

Just so you know, I was not spinning with the velocity of say--the Tilt-a-Whirl--nor was I exerting any more force than I have discovered is absolutely necessary to heave and haul myself up and out of a chair.

As I clung to consciousness, head between my knees in what must have been the closest view I've had of the ground in two years (ooh, look, my good pen!), my first really clear thought was that, if rendered truly incapacitated, I would probably not be discovered until the Lost watch party on Wednesday.

My second was the surprising realization that, despite all that crap they told me in college, all my most vital processes seemed to be located directly behind my patella.

I am a medical miracle.

Image, Witte Museum.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I knew, the minute I laid eyes on it, that it was going to turn into a big deal. My feelings were hurt, just looking at it. Aretha Franklin was wearing a special hat for a special day--it was big and sparkly and sporting the world's most ambitious bow.

And she was going to get massacred.

I had a pretty good idea, as I was watching, that a lot of people were getting ready to show their asses. Down South, we call this "showing out." Sure enough, Stewart and Colbert took their shots, and the network late-night guys got a couple jokes out of it. I didn't even check to see what the bloggers wrote; those people have absolutely no self control.

Somebody needs to say it, though: we should be ashamed of ourselves.

I spent some time trying to come up with someone--anyone--who had enough cache to say, "Sister, we need to talk about that hat." I couldn't come up with a single name. Most of the people who carry that same authority are dead, y'all. I think John Lennon could get by with bringing it up--but you know he wouldn't. And Elvis might mention it, but probably only to get the name and address of her milliner. Indeed, unless you are also a legend in your own time, you should probably just keep quiet--even if you are the prince of comedy television, the queen of literary theory, or the king of financial planning.

And we should just agree that The Queen of Soul can wear a jar of bread and butter pickles on her head if that's her pleasure, and that we will endeavor to behave ourselves and show a little respect.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Queen of Soul:

(I damn near get the Holy Ghost at 1:22.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My friend Andy dropped me an email yesterday morning to ask if I was celebrating.

Which is kind of funny, if you happen know that (1) he's pretty stingy with his emails, and (2) I was already thinking about him when his message landed in my inbox.

I'd been remembering a summer afternoon, seven or eight years ago, when he and I hurried away from our desks and out of doors to stand beneath an increasingly darkening sky. We stood on the front steps of the building in which we worked and watched half a dozen large black clouds blow quickly across the valley.

We stood right there as the first raindrops in months spattered all around us, practically sizzling as they landed on the burning concrete. We stood--without umbrella or hat--as the sprinkle turned into a shower and then a downpour. It was the end of a horrible drought; we were ready for rain.

My shoes were ruined.

It was the kind of day--if you're awake enough to take note--you remember. You file it away for the next time the bottoms of your feet are on fire, and the leaves are crumbling on the trees, and you'd damn near hurt somebody for a sip of something cold to drink.

It was the kind of day you remember when, after what feels like the world's longest dry spell, you gather outside the university library and look up at the screen on which your new president takes his oath of office, with nary a cloud in sight.

image, Stacy Braswell.

Friday, January 9, 2009

One last weekend before the freshmen arrive.

Although I do still have lecture notes to finish, textbooks to rereread (and yes, boxes to unpack), this is the last official weekend before marathon grading begins again. If there's a book to be read for pleasure, this would seem to be the time to do it.

Fortunately, I've already unpacked the books--all 22 boxes (which may explain why my friends no longer want to function as my moving crew). Here's the funny thing about books--they don't say much on the shelf, but while handling them--dusting them, arranging them on the shelves, dropping them on your toes--you remember which ones were your favorites, and may even consider reading one or two of them again.

Just in case you're on the lookout for a good book this weekend, here are a couple good ones (old and new-ish in several different genres) I noticed on my bookshelf. (These are not full-fledged reviews--just a little heads-up from me to you):

David Sedaris, When you are Engulfed in Flames

This shouldn't even be on this list, since I only have this one in audio book form. But when it comes to David Sedaris or Seamus Heaney, I'd rather hear, than read them. In his latest, Sedaris moves to Japan for three months to facilitate his giving up smoking. In addition to all the funny you expect, there's also a really lovely story in this collection (Keeping Up), in which he writes about his relationship with Hugh.

Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

I love a good gothic novel. I recommended this modern version to my mom as we were unpacking. She was enjoying it so much that I fear it's on its way back to the desert with her. I'd like to find another one like this while it's still winter outside. It's just that kind of book.

John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things

This twisted up adult fairy tale sat on my shelf for a very long time before I gave it a chance. I think my friend, material world girl, would really enjoy this book. If, like her, you've been reading Gregory Maguire, you probably would too.

Joe Hill, The Heart Shaped Box

This is a pretty scary book, if being scared is what you're into. I had no idea, as I was reading it, that the author is Stephen King's son. I can see Dad's influence, but Hill is spooky enough in his own right.

Max Brooks, World War Z

Sometimes, a girl just needs a good apocalyptic read. This is the book with which I compare all other zombie novels. Which makes sense, since Brooks is the author of the authoritative Zombie Survival Guide. Come to think of it, maybe you should get one of those, too.

I wish someone else had a list like this from which I could choose; it seems a shame to let this last weekend slip away without having at least one day to roll around on the couch with a good book.

Then again, as my adorable dentist pointed out yesterday, it's not like I have a real job.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sister, what you got in that purse?

Bette Midler had an old bit, years ago, in which she wondered out loud what the Queen might be carrying in her handbag. It's not like Her Royal Majesty has to keep track of her driver's license or money for an emergency Diet Coke.

I never go anywhere without my purse. I wish I could, but I'm just too insecure. Too many things can happen. What if I need to make a phone call or listen to Al Green? What if I need to take an Ibuprofen or staunch a bleeding papercut? What if I need to eat a mint? Or a sandwich? What if I forget how to get to my new apartment and have to enter the new address (which I do not yet have memorized) into my GPS?

Nope. Stuff happens. I, for one, had rather be ready for it.

And while I would no more violate the sanctity of another woman's handbag than I would put my hand into an alligator's mouth, I do like looking through the What's in Your Bag Flickr pool.

And that's just strange.

image, Kari1121's handbag contents.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Like paradise, only not.

After yesterday's post, maybe you were wondering if I had stashed my Muffin Uptown in an overhead cabinet or slid her under the bed with the extra cat hair. If she had wanted to stay, I would have found a way to make it work, even if that meant having her stand in the corner and hold up the television.

Instead, MU is renting a studio space downtown, where she plans to live and make art until grad school next fall. For her, it's a dream come true.

To me, it looks like the men's room at a Texaco station. Only bigger. And colder. I keep trying to find ways to say, "Are you sure?" without making her think I don't trust her judgment. Mostly, what comes out is, "Have you lost your mind?"

But I can see where this would be a dream come true for any artist, especially one (like MU) who makes big, messy, installation art. She can work until she's worn out, wander over to a pile of sticks and straw on the floor, and fall into exhausted slumber. The next morning, after brushing her teeth in the utility sink, she's ready to begin again.

Part of this is my fault. Throughout her childhood, she lived in old houses as we restored them and turned them into homes. She loves cracks in the plaster and uneven floors as much as her mom. She thinks she can make it habitable through shear force of will.

But even if she can't turn it into what you or I would think of as a home, she'll be okay. Other art students have lived and rented in this same space, and have lived to tell the tale. Living there will be something she can look back on when she's old and settled. She'll be fine. Really.

I, on the other hand, will be miserable--because every time I reach for the thermostat, I'm going to feel guilty.

It looks like it's going to be a cold, lonely winter.

Monday, January 5, 2009

To have and have not.

I now live in a teeny, tiny apartment. While it's not New York City small, it's small enough that I cannot buy more food until I eat the food I already have. (And if you have recipes for which the primary ingredients are canned green beans and canned diced tomatoes, please forward them to me.) Also, though, I've been forced to do some serious thinking about the things I own versus the things I need. Even after almost 8 days of mercilessly weeding out and whittling down, I still have items for which I do not have room.

Like my couch.

This, even though the items I moved last Saturday represented less than one-half the items I owned the week before. What started with a few down-in-the-heels shoes and extraneous black slacks turned into a Salvation Army free-for-all. I sifted through every file drawer of old bank statements and every plastic bin of craft supplies. Every drinking glass, every can of cream of chicken soup was evaluated: Did I need it? Would I really use it?

And it feels really good--this shuffling off the material coil. So good, that I may have gone slightly overboard. I seem to be without a spatula. Or--for that matter--a fry pan.

But I guess that's okay, since my couch is going to have to live in the kitchen. I can't remember, anymore, if it has Scotchgard.