Archive for September, 2007

Mind Your Language

On my way home from the White Hen Pantry this eve (my regular ice cream pickup) I followed a family down my street. An old man—The Grandfather—said, “Maybe that old lady’ll be there. And we can say, ‘outta our way, you old bitch!’”, chuckled lustily, choked on some spittle, and coughed. His tiny granddaughter, three feet high, in a skirt too large for her knobby knees, let go his hand. “Mind your language!” she said, and marched haughtily ahead.

Reminded me of the story my parents love to tell: me, four years old, at dinner. My mom—as she does, sometimes—reaching across the table to steal some of my food. “Mommy, you’re a P-I-G!” I spelled, dissolving the entire table into laughter. Think it shows more about my attachment to victuals than my precociousness, myself, but my family, bless them, tends to disagree.

Lovely day today: clear, sunny, windy, warm, smelling like the cusp of a real fall day. Walked all around the city. Have yet to really feel fall, but it’s coming. Dare I say we may be more or less done with this sticky Indian summer business?

Worked last night—and thought I was doing a great job when one of the men at my table said: “You’re doing a great job!” An hour later he sidled up to me and said, “Heeeeeelllo Sunshine,” and I realized I could probably spill icewater down the backs of everyone’s shirt and they’d still think I was fantastic—they were that boozed up. The large man with the tux and the potbelly wanted to dance with me. I kept telling him I wasn’t allowed. He kept telling me I was killing him. All I could really think about was how hungry I was, and how thirsty, and how lucky they were that they had me refilling their water glasses every ten seconds, because I’d been yelled at by a senior staff member for deigning to try to take a cup over to the water cooler.

“Oi!” she yelped at me, her skin going all splotchy. “Don’t you dare touch those!”
“What?” I said. Someone had told me to take a cup earlier.
“That’s my coffee station,” she said. Her eyes burned crimson with rage. “Don’t you dare touch it. Jesus Christ. You people.”
“I was just really hoping for some water,” I said, trying the pathetic-little-me track.
“There’s a water cooler over there.” She pointed a pudgy, stubby little finger. I was almost hungry enough to try biting it and see if it tasted like sausage.
“I know,” I whined back. Officious people bring out the absolute worst in me. “I’ll still need a cup, won’t I?”

She just glowered at me until I skulked off. I wanted to find something really rude to say, but I’m pretty good, at this point, with minding my language.


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Today was going to be a long one. I knew it, right from the start, 6 AM, darkness, hot, humid. I was tangled in my sheets; something had bitten both my legs. It felt like midsummer.

As is my habit, I dressed accordingly: right down the adorable kitten-heeled suede shoes (I like the way they click in hallways and on streets) I acquired at an obscene discount several years ago. I did a lot of clicking and clacking; this evening, for instance, all the way from campus to the edge of Brookline, St. Mary’s Street, the first aboveground stop on the C Line. A year ago, there would have been a reason for this (outbound aboveground trains were free); now it was more a symbolic gesture than anything else. It was hot; I wanted a walk; I had the time.

But when I finally sat down on the train, I realized a number of things: first among them, that my adorable little suede shoes had rubbed an impressive blister along the side of my left foot. Also that I was sweating profusely in my little silk shirt; that my shoulder ached from carrying my king-sized handbag; that I could easily fall asleep right then and there; and that I was starving. Go figure. I comforted myself briefly with the thought that the driver had been so preoccupied he had waved me on without charging me; then remembered that I actually like public transport, and want to support it, and hate when people weasel their way out of paying for the service, and then I just felt guilty. (Of course.)

Happily, it was to a bookstore I was headed, so after the author reading I perused the shelves for sake of my spirits. Luckily for my wallet (and also any fellow enthusiasts who might want to dig around the Brookline Booksmith in the next few days), I couldn’t buy the entire store, and only came away with four books in the end! (ok, so I was all of three steps away from the cash register when I finally shed two, from the original pile of six, out of sheer cheapness).

Then I treat myself to some ice cream; and some Japanese noodle soup takeout; and a viewing of the spectacularly bad Eurotrip (chosen at random because it fit all the categories of a good “I’m too tired to think/laugh too hard/cry/be moved by a film” film). I feel, if still weary, at least somewhat emotionally bolstered.

Am happy that among my purchases were Dorothy Sayers and Max Beerbohm; I look forward to diving into their respective Oxfords with great hunger and anticipation. Perhaps something to tide me over till I am happily where I want to be? Or, failing that, at least a few sympathetic pages in which to temporarily lose myself.

Must now take out my trash and dump my recycling into the neighboring building’s bin, since my apartment complex, for some unfathomable reason, lacks one. Here’s hoping that the thought of all the jars and bottles I’m recycling alleviates some of my earlier public transportation guilt…

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Was Auden channeling Chesterton?

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936)

“A poet’s hope: to be,
like some valley cheese,
local, but prized elsewhere.”

W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

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I am, rather characteristically, still trying to decide how I feel about my “new” haircut. Is it “new” enough? Is it too new? Does it make my face look funny? Does it look too much like a mullet? (I don’t know why I think it looks like a mullet. It doesn’t. But at one point I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and the thought popped into my head, just like that, spontaneously, nothing reasonable about it, POP!, and now it keeps haunting me. I don’t want to be the amazing mullet-girl)

Have given up trying to find myself a proper job for the semester. Why was this always so easy before? Anyhow, there shall be plenty of time for proper jobs. What I need is an improper job (which, please mark you, is not my way of euphemistically wishing I could become a dealer). And some wine. And to not be so lazy. I could be taking a Salsa class right now, but I’m curled up in a duvet on the rug instead, listening to the Dixie Chicks (no, I am not making the Dixie Chicks bit up).

The Salsa thing is funny. I thought, last week: “I’ve always wanted to Salsa!” so I headed across the river to the-place-where-I-go-to-pretend-I-could-someday-be-a-respectable-dancer (last year it was Ballet), shelled out $14, and swung my hips in what I hoped was a moderately sexy arc for an hour and a half. I had fun—although I didn’t like the uptight man with the white hair who I got partnered with at one point. He didn’t seem to understand that I was trying my hardest; he just thought (his grim face and exasperated eyes said) that I was trying. Despite that, I was going for a lackluster run earlier and decided that actually, what I’d rather do tonight: eat ice cream in front of the computer. Then curl up in a duvet on the rug. And look up Salsa classes that are slightly closer to my apartment. (So it goes, so it goes…)

I would say my greatest accomplishment of the day was going to (and completing with a reasonable amount of grace, I might add) the job interview, but actually I don’t feel particularly thrilled about it. I’ve moved on from the stage where getting through an interview fills me with visions of my glorious future (everyone gets through them, after all); and where doing grunt work for very little pay seems like a “great opportunity to learn”. I am, and I’m shocked to find myself thinking this (me, the perpetually-worrying-always-insecure creature!), better than that.

(Am now waiting, with baited breath, for lots of prospective employers to reach the same conclusion…which may not go so smoothly)

So my greatest accomplishment of the day is, perhaps, reaching that conclusion. And I’d say that’s not half-bad, considering what I can be like.

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three posts later. Just had a look at the “I’m going to Europe! yipeeeeeee!” blog, and three posts later, I fell in love.

ethos, as they say, is paramount, and if we start ignoring facts (even tiny ones), for poeticism’s (or anything else’s) sake, well, then we start to compromise that all-important credibility…

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Oh! And an exercise in ridiculousness…

…to cure my sadness/sleeplessness/restlessness/and-whatever-else-ness. Current booklist:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle b Barbara Kingsolver
Best American Political Writing 2005 ed Royce Flippin
Toast b Nigel Slater
The Forsyte Saga b John Galsworthy
On Truth b Harry G. Frankfurt
Essays of E.B. White b well, E.B. White

Also assorted stuff for classes and such, but let’s face it, I’ve spent about 16 years not reading what they assign me unless, or until, I deign it readable. And why do I always envy everyone else’s assigned-reading list? Saw a girl sauntering away from the campus Barnes & Noble the other day with Virginia Woolf, John Fowles, and James Joyce. I was already drooling, but if Waugh had been tucked in there somewhere, I might have outright swooned. Once, I even saw that some kindly professor had assigned Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy. ‘You lucky fucks,’ I thought to myself, ‘you don’t even know…’

Am stuck with Crashing the Gate and The Way to Win this time around. Bite-your-nails-with-worry-at-the-state-of-the-world-and-the-way-political-campaigns-are-run stuff. Have I mentioned I’m not good at the whole politics thing? Frankly, I think it’s because I can’t stomach it–though I might be making excuses here.

It’s a miracle I ever actually finish a book. Who wants to place bets on how long it takes me to slog through this most current list?

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It’s not a gin and tonic, but…

“I should,” I thought.
“I shouldn’t,” I thought.
“Yes, I should.”
“No, I damn well shouldn’t. It’s silly and self-indulgent.”

And so on.
Finally I thought: well, I really should, shouldn’t I? I’ve played and played and played with the idea for so long. I’ve even had several blogs, though they were never kept up with any great conviction. You might even say they were neglected (horrible me). The last time I started one I was about to go off on some big European adventure. Then, two posts later, I fell in love. And you know how that changes everything.

The man I fell in love with sent me a link to a friend’s blog, recently. I discovered that they aren’t actually self-indulgent (or don’t have to be). They’re quite cool, in fact. And, for someone who loves words, they’re the (mostly) youngster-friendly version of porn (they’re right…the internet really is rife with the stuff!). Even my mother keeps a delightfully not-self-indulgent blog. If someone 36 years my senior, who maintains a wonderfully generational ignorance about the world of technology, can do this, well, so can I.

And isn’t there a refrain about how writers should write a little, every day? What was that epiphany I had a few months ago—“I want to be a writer!” Sometimes we’re so stupid about ourselves. Why, I’ve known that since I could think. Yet I let myself talk myself out of it, over the years—and it did take years, to convince myself of that. All it took to remember myself was a few Sundays spent lounging in the garden drinking gin and tonics and doing the crossword. How lovely. So, if that’s really what I want (and it is, oh, it is!), I should write a little, every day. Whatever it takes. I’m behind the game—I spent much too much time, as so many of us do, thinking I wanted to do something else (play the political game, in my case…though how I would have survived, with all my scruples and GUILT, I can’t say).

So here we are. Off we go. Into the fray, I suppose…

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