Saturday, June 26, 2004

Shopping for One

I hate grocery shopping. There's always all these throngs of frazzled people and screaming troll-children. These people sometimes let their troll-children drive the shopping carts. So it's best if you enter the store quickly, hunched in a defensive posture. You have to move very fast, and keep your little hand-basket thingie with the baguette and bottle or two of wine and small assortment of fresh produce--which screams "yeah, I'm single and over thirty, so WHAT?! Wanna make something of it?"--positioned strategically between you and the careening, clashing shopping carts. It's your first line of defense.

The store moves everything on the shelves to a new place, every other week. So you have to walk down every SINGLE friggin' aisle to find what you absolutely, positively cannot leave without. Like toothpaste.

No matter how fast you move, no matter how well you think you've planned your exit, you inevitably end up in a checkout line behind someone pulling not one, but TWO of the big carts, towering with enough groceries to feed Rhode Island through the worst Nor'Easter ever experienced. There is inevitably a very small child in at least one of those two carts.

The small child inevitably wants to stare at you. Perhaps it smiles and makes cutesy faces. Perhaps it only picks its nose.
But sooner or later, it will vomit. ("Spit-up" is the accepted euphemism, I believe. Which sends its unruly siblings into shrill paroxysms of what could either be gross-out, or hysterical amusement.

That's really almost a relief, though--because when the siblings are distracted, they stop asking you personal questions while you're trapped there in the line. Questions like, "EEWwww, are you gonna EAT that? Your kids must HATE you." "Do you really like it?" and "Where are YOUR kids?" and "What do you MEAN you don't have any kids?" They also stop pleading with their exhausted and volatile mother for the candy and other assorted child-bait arranged helpfully right at their eye-level.

You live through this a few times, and think about either going to the grocery store so you can pack a nutritious lunch, or just eating that mystery thing you left on your desk last week when you were avoiding shopping by eating at the Thai street vendor down the block. . .Well, the choice is clear. Leftovers win, hands down.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Nothing like a little heavy-handed subconscious symbolism, eh?

Recently I dreamed I was walking down a street in my hometown. On this particular (real-life) street, there is a corner where most of the churches sit. Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and Catholic--I dunno if they all built there so's they could throw rocks at each other on Sunday mornings, or what, but that's how they built.

It's cold in the dream. Winter. And as I walk down the sidewalk, I see a little girl playing on the edge of the street opposite me. She's wearing one of those fuzzy, hooded, little-girl coats that you never really see any more, but I think most women over thirty probably had one. The little girl is maybe four or five years old.

A big, black four-by-four pickup truck comes sliding around the corner spewing a dirty rooster-tail of sand, gravel and snow. The pick-up hits the little girl and goes roaring off down the street. I run across the street to the kid, and go down on my knees in the snow. I'm afraid to touch her. She has that horrible, gangly, loose wrong look shared only among small living things hit by automobiles.

Her eyes are open, but she isn't focused on anything, and I don't think she even sees me. I tell her to "hang-on"--or words to that effect, and go running to the nearest church--which is empty and locked. I find something and smash a stained-glass window to get inside and look for a phone--which I find. Strangely enough, it's a heavy old-fashioned rotary-style desk phone.

So I start calling for help. The police department tells me it isn't in their jurisdiction, I should try the hospital. The hospital tells me I have to make an appointment for an ambulance--two weeks out. The fire department phone just rings and rings and no one answers.

So I go back outside (let myself out through the heavy double doors which lock with a dead-bolt from the inside) and go back over to the kid. She looks really bad. Really bad. Her teeth are chattering, and she's as white as the snow she's laying on, and there's blood coming out of her ears. The fuzzy coat adds to the impression that she is some small wild thing that ventured onto a highway at the wrong time.

So I find a big rock (I know it doesn't make any sense, but it was a dream. There just happened to be a big rock not very far away.) And I'm going to kill her, like I would a rabbit I found hit by a car on the side of the road.

And I woke up.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Ever notice. . .

How ludicrous and contradictory so many of the truisms we hear over and over really are?

The worst offenders are typically those helpful little cliches that are invariably most personal.


Thursday, June 17, 2004

The picture the babysitter took. . .

The first picture of my parents that I really remember seeing caught the two of them, dressed up to go to a Halloween party. Mom is dressed as an Old West dance-hall girl. Dad is dressed as a gambler.

It must have been taken in the mid-to-late 60's, because Mom told me I was still an infant, and my little sister wasn’t born yet. Mom has a beehive hairdo, and cat’s-eye glasses. Dad has a blond crew cut–looking very incongruous with his sleeve-garter and embroidered vest. They’re both trying not to laugh. The baby-sitter took the picture.

Ah, but I’m in a fey mood, tonight. I am older now than they were then. And together they sleep, only a few hundred feet from where I sit. In a monstrosity of an RV they bought to roam the country together after they both retired.

They still hold hands. And my mother shouts at my father, because he is more than a little deaf, and his hearing aid is always in his left-hand shirt pocket–where he used to carry his tobacco-pouch. He refuses to wear it, because he says Mom shouts at him, whether he wears it or not. But she is kinder to him than I ever remember her being before. They spent the day driving around while I was at work–getting to know the area where I live, they said. They seem a bit uncertain what to do with me. They keep trying to give me money, even though I make more than they ever did. But they won’t take money from me, any more than I would take it from them.

So my father spent the last week fixing everything he can find to fix. The garden tiller that hasn’t run for a year. The lawnmower that I abandoned in the yard in the rain when it ran out of gas. The toilet that has run constantly since I moved here, a year ago. The kitchen faucet that used to be confused about which side was hot and which side cold. My mother spent the last week making sure I eat. Sandwiches. Snacks. Full multi-course meals. She plans the menu for tomorrow while we prepare tonight’s dinner. She wanted to pack me a lunch to take to work, and looked appalled when I told her I’d just grab something from the street vendor across from the building where I work.

My mother told me tonight their worst fear is that I will grow old alone.

Funny. Their worst fear used to be that I would find a long-term partner and all their friends would find out I’m a queer. At least, that’s what I always IMAGINED their worst fear to be.

They want me to be the executor of their will.

And I can’t even think about a world without them. They are so beautiful, and noble, and strong. And they’ve worked so goddamned hard all of their lives.

And I should have gracefully let my mom pack me a lunch.

I wonder what ever happened to that picture, taken in a house we left when I was four, with a really ugly couch in the background. The picture the baby-sitter took.

Today is their thirty-eighth anniversay.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Pictures of Word

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Gospel of John 1.1--KJV)

And here is a nifty bunch of pictures of that word.

More on this later. I'm still looking at the pictures.

Oh, and credit where it's due--I found the link via Making Light

100th anniversary of Bloomsday. . .

I am the only person I know who actually READ Ulysses.

I hated it. BUT I read it.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Heisenberg and Harry Potter

I was just thinking about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, with regard to life and reading. So I'm a bit of a nerd. This wouldn't surprise anyone who knows me.

Just in case you don't feel like googling it, or looking it up in Wikipedia, there is a pretty good description here.

I've heard it restated even more generally to mean the act of observation changes the behavior of the observed.

"Ah, well. That's all well and good," you might say, if this blog actually had an audience and you were in it, "but how do you apply that to reading and then in a broader sense to life, Mac?"

"Well," I might reply, "When we approach a text with the intent to comprehend the meaning represented by the words, we bring our own experiences as a filter."

We can't--and probably shouldn't, except in extreme circumstances--escape the influences that shaped us as human beings. And we can't approach a book or story the same way we approach a movie. Printed words on a page are representational of something else, in a way that actors moving on a screen are not. The printed words "William Wallace" demand a much higher level of participation from a reader than images of Mel Gibson in a kilt with his face painted blue demand from a viewer.

Now I'm not dissing movies. I love movies. And this isn't some weird diatribe because I read and fell in love with Scottish Chiefs before anyone had ever contemplated making Braveheart. But I gotta say, I never really pictured Mel as William Wallace, when I read the book.

And having read the book, then seen the movie, the nature of the text is actually changed. The more people who see and accept the movie, the more the text is affected. Harry Potter, anyone?

As to how the Heisenberg Principle applies to life--well, I'm still working that out.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

One of those moments.

So, my parents showed up at my house last night. From out of state. A week early. To surprise me. Boy, was I ever surprised. I was playing on the computer. Well, looking out the open door to the front porch with a rocks glass of bourbon, smoking, and thinking about whether actually eating dinner was worth the effort it would take to whip up something creative out of the condiments that are the lonely occupants of my refrigerator. And they pull up and turn into my driveway. All I could think was..."ummm, this looks kind of bad."

I got to sit up late with them and gossip about my siblings.

When I woke up this morning (at around 4:30--which I habitually do in order to have a couple of uncluttered writing hours while I'm fresh) my mom got out of bed, too. She puttered around and made coffee while I was trying to adjust to having a human being moving around my house when I just wanted to write, and think, and wake up. And she wanted to talk to me.

And why not? She just drove a thousand miles for that very reason. So I closed down the piece I was working on, and sat on the porch in the dawn with my mother. We watched birds at the feeders in the yard, and drank coffee. I don't even remember what we talked about.

It was one of those moments, you know? And when I lose my mother to illness or accident or Alzheimer's, I hope that this morning is a clear memory. Just the feeling of it all. The companionable silences, the flavor of coffee, the damp chill of a pacific northwest morning. I hope I can remember every second.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Honor and related things. . .

I listened to part of the services for Ronald Reagan on NPR, on my way home from work tonight.

I didn't particularly agree or disagree with Reagan's politics, until it was almost over anyway. My parents adored him. I just didn't think about it that much. He was the president. Hey, I was something like thirteen when he was first elected. And growing up in a small town, in a conservative, fundamentalist-Christian family, what did I know?

By the time Reagan left office, I was a firebrand-liberal college-student. Even so, I had much bigger worries--like coming out to my parents.

Now, approaching the age my parents were then--I realize how deeply he marked the surface of modern America. I'm still a firebrand liberal. But I felt a twang of nostalgia for that simpler time and place. The world seemed so black-and-white, and choices about "the right thing to do" were clear-cut and obvious.

And I deeply resent that the conservatives of the world have taken the concept of "honor" hostage. And patriotism. Because those concepts are much larger than political rhetoric.

Do we still tell our children about honor? What do we say?

Errr...Well, that was easy.

This will be a bit of an experiment. I've never kept a journal regularly. I find I've got too much time on my hands, these days.

The blogging phenomenon seems to me to grow from a deep-seated rejection of the growing isolation and alienation people feel as real-life communities disperse and become drastically less stable.

At least, that's why I read blogs.

It's only slightly different than sitting next to a stranger for a bit, and exchanging a few pleasantries. You know what I mean. . .That annoying woman in the seat next to you on the plane? That's me.

Here I am writing for strangers. it's a tad easier because I have a hard time envisioning anyone actually sitting and reading whatever I care to ramble on about. If you were trapped next to me on an airplane, it would be different of course. But then, I would be more guarded in what I chose to say, as well.

And reading the words of others. People I do not know, and will likely never meet. How very odd.