Friday, July 27, 2012

Dispatches from Feline Nation: Week 45

Dear you and the other one,

A few weeks ago I spent a good two hours mining YouTube for how to replace a broken key on a MacBook. I'd left the room just long enough for you, Hal, to climb on to my keyboard and begin scratching out an email to, I don't know, your pen pal in Quebec?

None of the tutorials featured my specific computer, so some of the thises and thats were arranged differently. Or maybe the video wouldn't have sound. In some of the videos it seemed as though the filmmaker/key tutorial-giver was just willy-nilly removing and replacing keys for sport, and those were just too pretentious to watch.

For awhile I thought: "You know what? Fuck W. I don't need a W. I'll change my last name if I have to." But then I added patience and better lighting and replaced the key, easy peasy. It's still a little wonky, for instance just a second ago I wrote "onky," but it's there in it's place. It simply requires a little extra muscle from my left ring finger.

And so, Talons McTalonstein lived to see another day. (Though, tonight you did it to Chuck's computer, making a souvenir of the No. 4. So now you have lost all of your computer privileges. Forever. In cat years).

We've recently bumped you guys up to big cat cat food. Orin, you hate it. You'd rather eat carrot peels and junk mail than Iams Hairball Control. When the automatic feeder dumps your dinner, you whine and will it to become the old stuff, the stuff for kittens. I've been reading Dooce long enough to know that if you want to eat Super One coupons for lunch, if that's your jam, I should just go with it. You have to have food and we can sort through the details of nutrition later. But I can't do that. You must eat what the automatic feeder tells you to eat. I expect more from you, Orin, than some sort of tired old growing up-food issues cliche. From now on, stay out of my Judy Blume collection and just forget about me teaching you how to wear a maxi pad belt.

("I'm writing 'Dispatches to Feline Nation,'" I just said to Chuck. "About what?" Chuck asked. "About how Hal is awful? How's he's totally upped his destruction game?" "Pretty much," I answered).

You know what would be nice, guys? What if every few months a little bus pulled up in front of the house. And what if a kind woman slathered in Aveda products and wearing a smock covered in dangling strings cupped you both lovingly in her arms and whisked you away for a week of camp. And what if that camp was Etiquette (Eti-Cat?) Camp and the first three days sucked and every night she'd hold a little phone up to your weird little smooshed face, Orin, and you'd sing that one whiny note you love. I'd half listen, but I'd be sitting on the couch lost in bliss because I was using a glass-glass instead of a plastic glass and I'd barely register your discontent. But what if on the fourth day you started to love it, guys? What if you found other cats that liked dipping an arm into a coffee mug. Cats that share your fondness for putting socks and underwear in the litter box. Cats that also dismantle modern technology with a single lethal talon?

Sure, you'd probably learn some new tricks. But by the end of the week, maybe some new positive personality traits would become second nature. Maybe you'd never jump from the back of the couch directly on to Chuck's nutsack ever again. (It goes without saying that this would be a pleasant reprieve for my breasts as well). I know that eventually the old habits would return, but. Wouldn't it be nice for awhile?

Watching you chew on each other's femurs as we speak,
Christa

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Too. Many. Words ...


My life is being eaten alive by Norman Mailer's true crime story The Executioner's Song. Story, huh. Beast. Soul sucker. Real bugger. So many better words to describe the 1,109 pages I am slogging through at a rate that feels like no-progress-per-minute.

If you like true crime, Mailer's book is the thing -- according to people. It's what you read if you loved In Cold Blood. It's the story of cool Gary Gilmore, a hard luck dude in and out of reform schools and jails until he has spent more of his life incarcerated than not. When he finally gets the chance to touch soil, he makes a mad leap at life not quite understanding the rules and social cues. He steals, he needles, he drinks. He brags about shit he did while in the can.

Then he falls in love with young Nicole, a real beauty. She's in her early 20s with two kids and three ex-husbands and no real rules on when or how or who she will sleep with. It's a rapid-fire relationship that steams and boils. Gary is jealous; Nicole doesn't do commitment well. When she breaks free of him, Gary goes on a two-day rampage. First he robs a gas station and kills the guy working. It doesn't stay an unsolved mystery long: he's busted and hauled away soon after robbing and killing the man managing a hotel near his uncle Vern's place.

He's sentenced to death, but when all is said and done, no one really wants to have him killed. Not his lawyers, not the state, not the ACLU. Motions are filed, stays are granted. But there is Gary, in his cell, telling everyone he just wants to die. That's the punishment he was given. Now why won't they just dish it out? Then there is some wrangling for new lawyers and the rights to his story and Gary and Nicole engage in a suicide pact -- but both fail to down enough pills and just Nicole bothers to barely slip into a coma.

And so it goes, on and on and on.

I decided I need to finish this book, regardless of if my eyes roll back into my head as I read, regardless of if my left arm goes numb from holding my Kindle. I'm not good at a) setting goals, b) setting a deadline for the goal, c) completing the goal. I'm good in bursts. Like, I might be able to finish this book tonight, say. But I'm not good at working slowly toward a finished project, bite, chew, bite, chew.

After months of reading this, a few days ago I did math: I need to read 40 pages a night to finish by July 31st, and if I can finish by July 31st, then I will be a person who sets goals with deadlines and completes them. Then I can start working toward a new goal, a new date, a new completion and all around better person.

But this is killing me. I actually itch inside my body. My hair hurts. My eyes are buggy.

At this point in the story Gary Gilmore is sitting in a Utah prison waiting to die, has been for a long time, and I know exactly how he feels. I, too, just want this to be over with.

I get the hoo-haw about this book. I wouldn't have read almost 900 pages if I didn't. But I'm so sick of it right now that if someone barged in the front door, snatched my Kindle and danced on the screen with stiletto heals I'd thank them and say: "Please make sure all the words are gone before you give if back."

Sometimes 40 pages goes fast. Sometimes I could impale myself with a pillow more quickly. And then there is just the tedium. Forty pages. Every day. Forever, it seems like.

(I don't remember having this much trouble with Infinite Jest, but I must have. The memory has just been buried beneath the cloak of Oh-I've-Read-Infinite-Jest self-righteousness).

I got a stack of books from the library today: a nonfiction book about working as a receptionist at the New Yorker, two pieces of fiction, a collection of short stories. Next to my bed is a copy of Dancing on my Grave, a memoir by former superstar ballerina Gelsey Kirkland.

None of this sounds appealing to me. Words. Barf.

The Executioner's Song feels like stuffing oneself on Easter candy. "You like jelly beans, huh? I'll give you some fucking jelly beans." Then, three months later, stumbling from a dark room with a purple-stained tongue and pockets of body bloat vowing to never eat jelly beans again. Not black ones, not the popcorn flavored Jelly Bellys. It's over.

I might never read (anything longer than 250 pages) ever again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Well I used to know a girl ...

I went with Fannie's family on a week-long vacation in Detroit Lakes when I was in junior high. The McFansters had been going for years, but one-by-one her brothers and cousins had fallen off, other commitments, and what was once a mad-cap week of water recreation, lawn games and crunchy happy hour spreads for freckly red heads was now just a party for adults and Fannie. And, on this occasion, me.

I wasn't good at going places with people. My big concern was always, first: Where will I poop? Certainly not in the bathroom cubicle of a two bedroom trailer with just flimsy panel walls to absorb the sounds and smells of vacation fare. But there was also this fear that I hadn't really been invited. That I'd show up toting a pink duffle bag and my favorite sunglasses. I'd wave goodbye to my mom as she backed out of the McFanster's driveway and there would be Fannie, behind the screen door, frowning.

"What are you doing here?" she'd say.
"I thought you asked me to go to Detroit Lakes," I'd answer, my volume tapering as she shook her head slowly.
"I was kidding," she'd say, teasing her bangs between her fingers and blowing a pink bubble. "God."

At this point in our lives, Fannie seemed just older than me. She had boobs and whole choreography involving makeup: dark eyeliner, blue mascara, and she'd dot skin-toned concealer on her lips before frosting them pinkish-white. She'd snuck out of slumber parties and smoked cigarettes in a ditch. She'd rolled around on a bunk bed with our friend's slightly older brother, a guy with a perm.

I stayed overnight at her house the night before we were scheduled to leave so we could get a early start. I fretted while she slept next to me on the hard basement floor. My stomach bounced and I wondered if it was too late to back out. Seven days. There were so many potentially awkward situations that could pop up. "Thank Yous" might be forgotten. What if I was too messy? What if I said something stupid or felt sick or didn't like the food? What if I got lake water in my face.

Fannie rolled over and mumbled something.

"What?" I whispered.
"Just go home," she said. "I don't want you to come with."

She was either fake sleep talking or else real sleep talking. I suspected the former, but for the sake of my sanity had to go with the latter -- and go with gusto. Instead of curling into a ball while my stomach rolled and quaked with nerves and homesickness, I told her later what she had said and we laughed. The next morning Fannie and I crawled into the back seat of her dad's spacious brown van and we were off. Her bare feet propped against the seat in front of us, pink painted toenails curled over the back.

That vacation I learned about Belinda Carlisle's self-titled album.
And one time I ordered $12 shrimp when everyone else got burgers.
Fannie bought a cute mini three tiered skirt with splashes of pink, yellow, teal and navy blue.
Some nearby campers asked us how the water was and Fannie said "Wet" and I thought that was the funniest thing I'd ever heard.
We pushed around in circles on a paddle boat.
We shared a crush on a kid named Travis who was from our hometown but went to public school. His hair was feathered and he wore pressed khaki shorts. He had big buggy eyes. We played pool against him one afternoon in the lodge and he punched in the song "Veronica" by Elvis Costello into the juke box.

We proceeded to play "Veronica" every time we went into the lodge after that, collecting drumsticks from the freezer and escaping to the basement to flip through vintage copies of Seventeen magazine.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Zippity Do Dah ...


I heard the kind of rustling in the bushes that I've come to associate with invisible things I really should not be afraid of.

Two deer strolled out from between our house and the West Duluth OG's place. Much like I used to ascribe complex thoughts and feelings to my stuffed animals, I was sure these deer were staring at me and thinking something. At the very least: "We do what we want." They continued in single file to the sidewalk, turned right and headed up the street with the lazy gait of runway models.

Then, more rustling from the same bushes. The deer turned to look. This time it's a cat. Black and white, well-fed and vocal. The deer watched the cat, the cat watched me, I wondered why I couldn't get the flash to work on my iPhone.

So we all just sat there. The deer both posed. The cat exuded a hostile neediness. Not wanting the stench of Free Cat Allowed to Roam all over my leggings, I tried to both trick the cat into leaving the yard and not make a sudden movement that would upset the deer. The word "Stampede" flashed in my head.

The cat turned around and moved down the street and the deer fell in behind him like they were willing to submit to his navigational whims.

I tried to remember if deer eat cats. Because they kind of looked into it, but that might have just been a look of friendship.

I explained this all in a text to Chuck, who responded: "You're so Disney."
"And then a bird landed on my shoulder," I added.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Stick it ...


I guess I knew in theory that cake pops existed but today I finally tried one. Best. Idea. Ever. Although it would be better if they were like those colorful swirl suckers the size of a human face. This was Tiramisu flavored (with a decorative labia) and it was all I'd hoped and more.

Anyway, no new interesting recipes discovered this week, just movies everyone has already seen and books.

MOVIES
Beetlejuice: Say it with me: "My parents wouldn't let me watch this when it came out." Geena Davis and Mini Alec Baldwin die, but return to their house to live as ghosts. When an awful couple and their emo teen Winona Ryder move in, the couple solicits the help of Bettlejuice to scare the newbies away. It is very fun to watch this and repeat "Oh, Michael Keaton, quit embarrassing yourself." 

Mean Girls: It has been a deceptively long time since this movie about a mean posse of high school girls was released. How long? Long enough that I forgot Lindsay Lohan was the lead and had substituted Emma Stone into the starring role in my mind. 

After a "Beetlejuice" to "Mean Girls" marathon, Chuck said we could only watch movies that feature women who had gone to jail.

Bridesmaids: I really didn't have any intention of seeing this, then I got a little interested, then I got super interested but didn't have a way to watch it. THEN I remembered we still have a single local video store, so I got a membership mostly just so I could watch it. 


I like the kind of humor. Sometimes it's jabby pokey humor, but a lot of times its this low buzz of dry humor that I totally dug. 

The Descendants: George Clooney runs funny. 

BOOKS
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield: This is a good story about an anonymous woman's death and a recent high school grad's summer of uncertainty. 

Full review will be here.

Kitchen  by Banana Yoshimoto: It's not so much "Kitchen" that I enjoyed, but the extra mini novella that is included in the package. That gave me something close to Murakami fever. 

Full review will be here.


How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life by Sheila Heti: This is a novel from real life about a woman seeking the answer of how to be, while hiding from the play she is writing and recording the quirky conversations she has with friends, especially a painter named Margeaux, who she is attached to especially hard. 

Full review will be here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Adventures in video rental ...

Today I joined the Video Vision family. It seemed so novel, like buying a Walkman on eBay or taking a break dancing class at the YMCA. It's the last of the last of places where a person can walk in, study a wall of DVDs, and trade legal tender for the opportunity to have brief access to the films. On top of that, it's not a chain. It's just a small shop, the unlikely pairing of movie rentals and tanning beds and it's located in a strip mall next to a massage parlor, Fashion Bug, a Chinese buffet.

This whole thing couldn't possibly be more adorable.

I used to rent stacks of movies from Blockbuster. I mean stacks. I think I saw almost everything made in 2004. By the time the shop closed, I hadn't been there in years. Still had unpaid fines, probably. And when Mr. Movies closed, I still had a copy of the final disc from "The Wire" in my trunk. Still do, actually. Then, what? I guess we watched what was on TV or On Demand. Streamed Netflix. I've watched things on my phone and laptop from iTunes. I finally broke my RedBox seal and that's great and whatever, but one day I felt a panic wondering how I'd see, like, "Adventures in Babysitting" ever again if it wasn't a) streaming from Netflix or on Amazon; b) at the Public Library.

I'd forgotten video stores existed. What a concept.

Chuck's had a Video Vision card for something like two decades, his dad even longer. I'd been planning on getting a membership for days, actually getting excited about it. It was a total thrill to walk through this thin space scanning the New Releases, flipping boxes to read short plot summaries, building a pile to meet any whim that might strike on this hot and lazy Sunday.

I can totally get behind technology and the changing world and not owning physical copies of movies, music or books, but there is something convenient about being able to rent movies from a video store. And man is it fun.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Scraps ...

MEOW-VEDA
Fact: Cats love the smell of Aveda products. Toonses used to go all Old Country Buffet all over my melon whenever I got a haircut. Hal followed suit last night, going uvula deep on a bunch of strands, only stopping when Chuck tried to take a photo. What you can't see here is that he is digging his claws into my scalp.


GONNA MAKE YOU SWEAT(S)
There was a brief flurry of dialogue in the wee hours of Sunday morning about whether I was wearing sweatpants in Gary New Duluth. It was never really solved and today Tuska asked me for the truth behind my mystery pants.

"Funny you should ask," I said. "I'm wearing them right now."
Then I described them for her in not-quite great enough details. When she couldn't quite get the gist, I had my friend Dude, a professional photographer, snap a shot of them. So now the fanciest photograph I've ever had taken is just of a pair of pants. (This is not the photo I sent Tuska. I sent her the one with camel toe because then it would be both informative and comic gold).



SILKY SMOOTH
The other day my friend Chrissie sent me this:

It isn't quite the pink silk jacket with black lettering I ordered, but it'll pacify me until my birthday probably.

HAVE ANOTHER
Me: Roasted cauliflower reminds me of dinner at my grandparent's house. 
Chuck: Roasted cauliflower smells like The Great Depression.
Me: ...
Chuck: Roasted cauliflower tastes like a Charles Dickens' novel.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Burdening myself with extra movement ...

I think I've done a pretty accurate job of describing the events of the past week between the epicanthal folds, the pickles wrapped in meat and the exotic nail fashions of West Duluthians.  


So instead of talking, I'll direct you to Minnesota Reads. Jodi has given the site a super-sexy makeover. I'm not one to click on an actual website (how 2004) because I have a Google Reader and don't need to burden myself with the extra movement. But I love what she has done so much that I've started regularly dropping in to just look at it.  


Anyway, here is what I watched and read this past week. I still make food, but I tend to either just a) saute vegetables; b) roast vegetables or c) make hummus; d) eat pizza this summer. 


MOVIES ACTUALLY VIEWED IN ENTIRETY ON PURPOSE WHILE NOT HUNG OVER
Tiny Furniture: I've been meaning to watch this since Lena Dunham became this thing. I liked this little pre-"Girls" movie. It totally fit my mood. Long story short: Film student moves into her mom's apartment in Tribeca after graduation. Her boyfriend dumped her for some sort of vision quest in Colorado and she's kind of lost and weird and meeting quirky characters for brief non-explosive moments. One is a YouTube famous dude who she settles into a version of domesticity with; the other is this literate hipster chef who abuses trite phrases. The whole film feels really real and raw and spontaneous in the way it captures super mundane moments. Our hero is kind of immature, kind of lazy and has shaky decision-making skills. She's kind of awful and hard to relate to, but she's also a little fascinating her her awful un-relate-ableness.

There are some really great lines in this thing.

BOOKS COMPLETED
The Lakeby Banana Yoshimoto: A girl becomes friends -- maybe more, it's hard to definte -- with the mysterious boy whose window faces her window. He's pretty hush-hush about his upbringing and why he finds comfort in sleeping with a wire oven rack. 

No matter how you describe this book, it sounds like it should be awesome. Really, it's just meh. But it left me curious about Banana Yoshimoto, so now I'm reading "Kitchen."

Full review is here.

Get Jiro!by Anthony Bourdain: How long have I been waiting for this combo: Anthony Bourdain/Graphic novel? Oh it is a total food snobby -- and otherwise snobby -- laugh riot. 

Full review will be here.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers: New favorite sassy heroine: Mick Kelly, the not-a-girl, not-yet-a-woman who is one of the central characters in this really satisfying novel set in a small town in Georgia. 

Read it, then come back and let's talk about the devirginization of Mick Kelly.

Full review will be here.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just a bunch of showoffs ...

I come to you from a place of pure, 2 words-per-minute exhaustion, a living infomercial that explains why I tend to spend most weekends on my couch using a to-do list for a pillow. Cripes. Being in the world has swabbed my dry.

On Friday night I stole out after midnight to hang out in our friends' party porch, this great record lounge-y area for pleasant chit-chat with a fun crew.

On Saturday I cleaned the litter box, loaded the dishwasher, washed some clothes, finished a book, and shaved my legs, which had me feeling pretty high and mighty and a successful chore-and-leisure master. Chuck and I went to dinner, which included pickles wrapped in meat and cream cheese as an appetizer, and then took the show to Gary New Duluth to meet up with Chrissie, QT, Millsy and Nels.

We doubled the occupancy of the bar when we walked in.
"Are you guys a theater group?" the bartender asked Chuck.
"Nah, just a bunch of showoffs," he said.

It was karaoke night and the DJ was a true talent who a) played half a song of lead-in music to get the crowd ready for the genre the next singer was about to sing; b) announced the singer in a very exciting hype man voice. "For the first time tonight we have CHRISSSSS-TA. Let's hear it for CHRISSSSSS-TA."

The star of the show was Nels, who knocked everyone out with this perfect country twang that sounds record ready. It's unbelievable. It's not like he sits around and yammers on and on about karaoke and oh-I-love-karaoke, let's-sing-karaoke. He's just nonchalant, takes the microphone, busts out Hank Jr. or Garth Brooks or Randy Travis or Grateful Dead, strangers freak and want to put in requests.

Our table was loaded down with empty PBRs and this kid with a mohawk came up, pointed at the cans, showed us his arm, and smiled and nodded. He had a PBR tattoo on his forearm, turns out, and was complimenting our exquisite taste.

At any given moment, at least one couple in the bar was totally making out. "I didn't know we were going to an orgy bar," Chuck called it.

I attempted "Firework" by Katy Perry, which is super hard and requires a lot of endurance. Something I never noticed when singing it in the car.

A guy claiming to be a "professional photographer" liked the choreography for "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" that my friend Molly and I wrote in fourth grade to perform at a nursing home. I busted out a few moves from the routine and he snapped away.

"Now stand against that door and I'll take one so you have a nice Facebook profile photo," he said.
"I already have a lot of photos ..." I said.
Snap, snap, snap.

Chuck sang "Hit Me Baby One More Time" in his signature punk rock growl.
"He's a serial killer," Chrissie said to me. "I warned you. He might be inactive. But if you go missing ..."
But when he did "Word Up" by Cameo, one of the girls said: "I forgot that was (Chuck) singing and thought it was the radio."

Here Chrissie ingests a karaoke slip to avoid singing, I don't know, "Betty Davis Eyes" maybe?
I asked Chrissie if she needed another beer and she said: "I have a full beer and if I run out, I'll drink the stuff out of my shoe."

We tried the bar across the street for a change of scenery. There were only two customers and a bar cat inside, this fat orange tabby with a round head. So close to Garfield you could almost see the thought bubble: "Monday?!" "If you touch his stomach, he'll bite you," the bartender said. "He likes his drinks, too," a customer added.

Back to the original bar for more singing.

QT and Millsy bond while their spouses sing "Islands in the Stream." 
"Could you ask your friend Nels to sing more Hank Jr.?" this guy asked me. And then when Nels came outside he was swarmed.
The bartender leaned over the bar to make out with her boyfriend.
Two women, a couple, looked a lot alike and both sang really well. Except one kept singing the same Tracy Chapman song. At least twice.

Yes, banana clip; No, not sweatpants 
We closed the night back on the party patio and only one person made a pile of sick in the front yard in front of the paperboy.

Today Chuck and I were sleep-deprived and in dire need of pizza. We chased shit movies with more shit movies -- "Bourne Identity," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Spiderman 2" -- and one solid screening of "Caddyshack" which I think is, hands down, the funniest movie ever written.

Then I met JCrew and SeaDawg at Bayfront to see a local band that made it big play a flood benefit in the park. I ate pretzel poppers, these little bready nuggets that squirted a mix of jalapino and cheese.

I dare you to sit still when Trampled plays "Wait So Long." It's impossible. It looks like I'm wearing white tights.

"Lots of hairy legs here," JCrew noted.
"That's the least surprising thing you said all day," I told her.
"Oh, I smell pachouli," she said.
"That's the second least surprising thing you said all day," I told her.

JCrew, me and SeaDawg's shadow during the show.

Lots of hippies dancing, lots of bare feet, everyone recycled and wore stickers in favor of marriage equality. When we walked past the drum circle and bunches of people lit their peace lanterns, JCrew said: "This is a 'Saturday Night Live' skit."

When I got home, Chuck was watching "Legally Blonde."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fluff and folds ...


I only gave myself 16 minutes to get up Central Entrance and to my long-overdue eye appointment. Mid-afternoon, too. As much of a rush hour as this city has. I squandered 5 minutes just getting to Mesaba and  by the time I hit my third red light I knew it was awash. I was just going to have to own my lateness. When bad luck strikes once, I get agitated. Twice, a little more. But as the streak continues this morphs into a certain glee. I get giddy as the universe throws another absurd block.

It's been so long, so there is paperwork. No glaucoma in the immediate family, no. I do not have AIDS. Once again I stare at a blank space and try to find a way to define my relationship of almost six years. It's hilarious to say "Life partner" but writing it feels like a commercial for Reunite on Ice. Recently I had to write a brief bio blurb and I referred to Chuck as my "Emergency Contact." But here on a space marked "Emergency Contact," that is redundant. "Partner," I write, shuddering at the turtleneck-ness of the word.

Speaking of glaucoma, the machine that tests for it by blowing a puff of air into a nervous eyeball is on the fritz. The girl futzes with it, decides it's broken, futzes some more and then fixes it. This appointment is starting to take longer than I planned.

I seem to recall there are two options for doctor here: One boyish, cute and charming. One Wizard of Oz-like, older and quirky. Just the latter is on duty and he settles me into a chair. Before he begins testing me on letter combinations he stops, looks at me and says: "What are you into? What do you do for fun?"

"Wait," he says. "I guess I should read your file."
He scoots across the floor on a rolling chair.

"Reading, I guess," I tell him.
"Ah! What do you like? What are you reading now?" he asks.
"'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,'" I tell him. "I'm loving it."
"Joseph Conrad ..."
"No," I say, "That's 'Heart of Darkness.'"
"Yes. Joseph Conrad is 'Heart of Darkness,'" he agrees. "I've read 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.' Meh. I wasn't into it. I think I gave it away."
"Huh," I say.

And we begin testing.

These tests confuse me. It's a lot of "Which is more clear, Slide 1 or Slide 2?"
Sometimes it's obvious. Sometimes it's a crap shoot and I expect I'm answering wrong.

"I guess I like historical fiction," he tells me.
"Have you read 'Wolf Hall'?" I ask him. I repeat the title again because when you say it fast it sounds like "Whoa-Fall."

This has gone from "taking a long time" to "taking a super long time."

"I hope you don't take offense at me saying this," he says staring into my eyeball. "You have interesting eyes. You have epicanthal folds. This is typically found in Asians. It's also a trait of mongoloids (1)."

He defines this by making a swooping gesture to indicate the way my eyelid curves toward the bridge of my nose. As he speaks I've already begun Googling. Sure enough, I do have epicanthal folds. As I try to formulate a Facebook status around this new development, I realize this sounds dirty -- no matter how I phrase it. "Ask me about my epicanthal folds," "Turns out I have epicanthal folds," "Let me show you my epicanthal folds." Most people out-grow their epicanthal folds after childhood. Also: Epicanthal folds are common in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Anyway, then he told me that I don't need bifocals. But:

"If I were going to hang a painting on that wall, I'd just use a hammer," he said. "But if I were a carpenter, I'd have a $300 hammer. If I worked at Schmitt Music and had to haul pianos, I'd own a lifting belt. But if I'm just moving stuff around in my garage, I probably won't need one.

"So you just have to decide: Do you want that tool that will make your life easier? Or are you okay without it?"

FOOTNOTE
1. His word, not mine.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The third ...

The woman in front of us at Walgreen's has a deceptively large load of small items and a pre-teen boy angling for a pack of gum. She sets her items up on the counter. One. At. A. Time. There's this, there's that, there are flip-flops. Then she sets down blue nail polish. Then white. I know it's coming even before she sets down the red. 

The polish is in a patriotic line. I look at Chuck and try to share what has just happened using only my eye muscles and telepathy. He fails to read me.

When I return my attention to what's happening in front of me, the woman has begun explaining her process to the cashier.

"I'm going to paint my big toenails blue with white dots, then ..." she says.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Chatter and clink ...

On Friday night I ate too little and drank too much and that's all I want to say about that. Except that then from my fuzzy state I had a unique perspective to watch a teenager party crashed by five police cars worth of fun-suckers on Saturday.

Since I don't have kids but I have been a 17-year-old, I'm Team Drunk Teens. Not Drunk Teens, per se, but Team Relishing a Lack of Adult Supervision and Making Memories. The first time I drank was sophomore year when my friend Dong's parents were MIA. His college-aged brother threw a rager. It was about what you would expect: A lot of Steve Miller Band and a lot of nose-plugging through gulps of beer from a red keg cup. I remember being very conscious of trying not to spill the deep dark that my crush Twin A and I had played mouth hide 'n' seek with a piece of gum a few weekends earlier. Also: An easy-on-the-eyes upperclassman and I were in the garage and he said "What would you do if I kissed you right now?" I said, ever-so-eloquently, "I'd probably shit my pants." Then I fled.

The party continued the next night without me. Princess Linda ended up getting busted and it was the biggest scandal to ever hit our friendship. It was a delayed bust. Months later. She got to school late that day, band had already started. She shot a look into the saxophone section and I immediately knew what happened. And that's why she wasn't allowed to get her drivers' license until that summer instead of on her 16th birthday.

Other than that, there wasn't much boozing in my circle. For awhile our guy friends started hanging out at a party place called The Pit and one friend continually extolled on the greatness of a 2-liter liquid called Purple Passion. Once in awhile we would swipe a can of MGD from someone's garage and pass it around a large group, but it all led to a lot of nothing except panic over how to discard of the evidence. We were all terrified of our parents and terrified of our coaches and eligibility issues with our sports.

Saturday night's party was a tame affair. Just chatter and the clink of drinks. I'm not even sure how the police knew about it. If I'd seen anyone driving, or heard the sounds of teenage wailing or if a fight broke out I might have thought it was worth calling. But as is, they seemed able to handle festivities better than I did on Friday so it didn't seem like a big whoop. Again: I'm sure my take on this is dulled by never having to water and feed another human being.

First the police stopped at our house. I was sitting outside at midnight and they asked me if I'd called them.

"No," I said.
"Did someone just leave here?" they asked.
"No," I said.
"Have you seen anyone outside tonight?" they asked.
"I just got out here," I said.

I have no idea why I was being evasive. But by then they had discovered the scene of the crime and they busted in on the soiree. For awhile they had an assembly line of kids taking breathalizers. And the shakedown lasted hours. At one point I heard a lengthy lecture on the dangers of drinking. Truth be told, if those kids are in trouble, it might be worth it. It's going to make a fun story some day.