Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What the hell.

I'm sick again. As in "I better get back in bed after I just got up and then, when I get up at noon or so, I better go back to bed again at two. And sleep till five. And then sneeze and moan a dozen times or so." As in "Let's buy more DayQuil."

In the meanwhile, I have watched all of seasons one and two of the American The Office. If I weren't so sick, I'd be whining about figuring out a way to watch season three online (the way has been shown to me, but I'm pretty sure my internet connection won't be ideal). Hey, I guess that was me whining about figuring out a way to watch season three online. And also--I'm whining about being sick. Double-whiny.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Does the NBA need more rules changes? Ask Rasheed Wallace.

Reported in the May 27, 2007 Salt Lake Tribune:

"Asked about low-post battles with Anderson Varejao, Wallace said, 'It ain't no battles; that kid ain't old enough to be in what you'd want to call a battle. All that flopping, they need to make that a technical foul for next year.'"

The long arm of Rasheed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Analog days.

Staying wired is a little bit of an addiction, as it turns out, but I'm getting there. As evidence, let me just cite: yesterday.

Yesterday was another episode in the continually unfolding story of the visitors, the enormous family, the babies. Through a frenzy of inviting and coordinating, we managed to have so many people were over for dinner, it boggled the mind: all my kids, except soccer coach son, and their significant others, where relevant; all the historian's kids and their significant others, except his oldest daughter and her partner, who live in Washington; all the grandkids, an aunt, and a niece. I think it came to 18 adults and a batch of kids.

The historian and I know how to throw these parties by now. We can do it unconscious, practically. Usually, I make a menu, a shopping list, and a flow chart. The historian gets the house together and I cook. So yesterday, I got up, started a batch of bread, set some butter out to soften (for shortbread), took running son to school and threatened him and college daughter with their lives if they didn't clean up the basement to a level at which I wouldn't feel humiliated if people went down there. Then I was off to do the food shopping.

I was back by 10. Without checking e-mail or participating in any other computer related activity, I got to work. I roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary and garlic. I marinated a flank steak. I made an orzo salad with sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, radicchio, toasted pinenuts and a balsamic vinaigrette. I made croutons and a dressing for a green salad. I made a custard to chill and be frozen into ice cream. I baked two kinds of shortbread--pecan and cacao nib.

That was all before noon. Also, Miriam, Evie, and their mom came over midmorning to hang out and keep me company. We had some lunch and chilled for a little while--I read Miriam a couple of stories, The Cut-Ups and The Cut-Ups Cut Loose. My daughter set up a little tipi in the backyard for the grandkids to play in. Miriam gave the dogs what-for.

In the afternoon, the historian came home from some morning writing and transformed the house into an elegant vibrant party locale (which is its true soul, always lurking somewhere under my slovenly housekeeping, but never mind). I made a mango-blueberry crisp and cut up two pineapples and sprinkled them with just a little mint sugar (that's just sugar pulverized with mint leaves--it's fantastic on pineapple). I baked the bread. We started a fire to grill the steak; we got the ice cream maker ready to go (this is the hand-cranked one). I dressed the salad and laid all the food, dishes, utensils and glasses on the table.

It was a wonderful day, and when people came around it was even more wonderful. Miriam and Carter played a vigorous game of Peter and the Wolf that somehow involved a dragon. Dogs raced round and round the kids. Everyone got reacquainted and we ate almost all the food. People lingered.

I admit I checked my e-mail once during the day, but I feel find about that. Mainly it was a beautiful day and evening. At the end of the day, the historian and I laid around and congratulated ourselves on another great party. All day long the doors stayed open; animals and kids wandered in and out freely. It was convivial and lively. I felt connected to my world--not so worried about any other world. As the party wore on, the historian and his son spotted a big hawk flying over the field in the back (no doubt looking for some of the mice I released last winter). It's going to be a great summer, I can already tell.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New and improved potato salad recipe.

Here's how today went: got up, ate something, read the paper but avoided the sports section (painful loss last night), went back to bed a little, got up, shower, went out to buy a British fashion mag, took college daughter to the dentist (she requires laughing gas before the novocaine, which means she needs a ride after), dropped her back home, picked up Scotland daughter and grand-girls, went to new(est) baby daughter's house to hang out.

There, we had snacks, wrangled toddlers and dogs and babies, watched dvd episodes of The Office (American version--my Lord, it is genius! how and why have I avoided it so long? and just spare me your "the British version is better" harangue, because the British version is genius, I already know, Ricky Gervais is a genius, I know, I know!), made cookies, changed diapers, did a Dora the Explorer puzzle . . . I didn't do all of this personally, but I was involved, okay, and after all of that, we drove home, I did a monumental pile of dishes, and then I went to a board meeting in the evening after a little whining to the historian, and then, finally, the day was done.

Every day for the past week or so has been almost this complicated. The dishes were monumental because yesterday, the Scots contingent came over for breakfast and I also made potato salad and green salad to take down to a family party at my folks'. In the middle of this, I went to new baby daughter's house for a few hours, and the dogs took care of the remains of breakfast. Before we left to go to my folks', I basically was emulsifying a vinaigrette while running out the door, so the mess just improved all day. Then, we were kind of beat when we got home, so it kept on improving. Also for part of the day today. Whew! Those dishes were about the best they could be by the time I got around to putting them in the dishwasher.

At least in the midst of all this, I came up with an improvement on my old standby potato salad, which was darn good before the improving. It goes like this: boil your potatoes, and if they're a really good potato, so much the better. These were Yukon Golds. While they're boiling, mince up some red onion and some celery. When the potatoes are cooked (a fork pierces them pretty easily to the middle of the potato), drain and cool them. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, a mild wine vinegar, crushed sea salt, ground pepper, a dollop of brown mustard, and (this is the improvement) super-finely minced fresh rosemary. Whisk it all together with a fork (or, if you have a jar, just shake it like a Polaroid picture). Pour about a third of it into the bottom of the bowl with the onion and the celery. Then cut the potatoes like you like them. I keep the skins on, but you can take them off if you're fastidious. Then pour the rest of the vinaigrette over the potatoes and gently fold the whole thing together. Then try not to eat it while you drive down to Provo, because there won't be enough left for the party, which would be a shame, because everyone loves this salad, even if there aren't any eggs in it, which new baby daughter would prefer, but I just don't, no matter how finely you cut up the egg.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Last night, running son and his friend spent the entire night editing a video project for his film-making class. I just had a sneak preview--its debut is officially at the school film festival tonight. Let me say that it is a David Lynchian, fractured narrative that is hilarious and features Pikachu as a character and also a purloined candy bar. Its final scene shows the protagonist trying to buy a new candybar with a $1,000,000 bill (U.S. currency) in a vending machine, in rising frustration, and some amazing imagery to provide a visual correlative for the frustration (protagonist crying like a baby, a guy spinning around on the floor, another guy doing pushups . . .).

My main concern, to tell you the truth, was that they be quiet so they wouldn't disturb the historian's, or my, sleep. I also, of course, wanted them to finish the film so they'd have an entry for the film festival, so he could get a good grade (what is this "good grade" you speak of?), etc. I heard some doors closing at about six this morning. At 7:30, I went downstairs and asked him if he planned to go to school. "Huh?" he said. "Yes."

When I drove him, I asked what time they had finished. "You don't want to know, mom," he said.

"Was it around six?" I pressed, heartlessly.

"Possibly," he said. They had to come home during second period ("What's second period?" "A.P. Psychology." "Do you need me to check you out?" "What? No.") to burn the DVD.

And now, this wonderful, idiosyncratic, homemade little piece of art. On the DVD title screen, the film's called "Don't lay a finger on my Butterfinger," but on the film festival program, the film teacher, Mrs. Weiler, called it "Experimental Narrative." Running son got her to say it was the best film in the class, but that was when only he and his collaborator were in the room, so who knows if she meant it. It's nine minutes long and pretty much funny and inventive throughout. In a couple of weeks, high school will be over, he will graduate, and the days for the basement film lab will be numbered if not actually over. (That's until I take it over, of course.)

When I first started telling myself the story of my life, there was a lot of improvisation in the narrative. I clearly didn't know how to project a narrative arc. I invited/invented way too many characters for the story to have a clean shape to it. Look at it this way: I'm in the last part of the "raising the kids till they leave home" part of the narration, but there's a sloppy overlap in the "hello! Grandkids!" narrative thread. Moreover, there's a "young woman making her fortune in the world" strand that really got twisted and interrupted, a couple of love stories, and this afternoon, I felt possibly so exhausted by all of it that I had to go to bed with the beginnings of a cold, a couple of DayQuil my momentary stay against confusion.

That was after the morning, when I went over to my daughter's, the brand new mom's, house to hold the baby--my grandson--while she slept. I held him while he slept, fitted my hand over his soft round skull, touched his feet, tucked him beside me and slept with him. The three of us, sleeping on the couch, along with a dachshund, and letting the story be no story, just the quiet of our breathing. I will be repeating this scene with some variations for the next few weeks, getting to know the baby, watching over my daughter a little (this never ends, by the way), with no particular denouement in sight.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

. . . and now, you may exhale.

The Utah Jazz are in the Western Conference finals.

My game-watching avoidance behavior has reached what seems to be an outer limit of what you can call "watching the game." Maybe I could watch if I were in a darkened room with no one else in it to hear me screaming. As it is, I hear bulletins from the other room ("Jeez! Try getting back, why don't you?!?" was one such bulletin tonight), check in occasionally on, try to keep myself busy. I apparently truly believe that this will help the Jazz. I don't know--it's working so far. You can all thank me when you see me. I don't know how I'll be able to stand the conference finals. I think we should hire a shaman to cleanse the arenas of bad auras and stuff. Burn sage sticks. Circumambulate the hall. Exorcise the place. I personally am going to try to exorcise the demonic Tim Duncan from his super-egoistic position in my world view. Also, I am going to stop hating Manu "the Flopper" Ginobli. Maybe. Maybe that will help.

My grandson also wore his tiny little Jazz jersey for the first time. I'm pretty sure that had to be good luck.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Night owl.

Recently, I told a couple of colleagues that I was never in bed--Never!--before midnight. Except last night, when I went to bed with the profile of Barack Obama in the latest New Yorker, and the crossword puzzle from last Sunday's Times, and fell asleep before the episode of Becker I was sort of watching on TV was even close to over. As in, well before midnight.

There's too much going on, and I feel like the hypervigilant, super-alert impresario of all of it. Here's a partial list:

1. Grading
2. Project-for-hire that I said no to not once but twice, yet still I'm doing it, and trying to ignore the e-mails asking me where it all is
3. children working and looking for jobs
4. children finishing high school and finishing their school projects, films, making up absences, etc.
5. new baby in town
6. the house is a mess
7. Scotland family coming
8. mother's day
9. items I said I would handle and haven't for the writer's conference

I haven't really gotten enough sleep for years, except intermittently. For a long time, this seemed not only okay but kind of a point of pride. Only babies and whiners really slept eight hours a night. Now I'm tired, I need more sleep, but there's too much to do and the psychic load of it sits on my pillow and tickles my brain. Except last night, when none of it could keep me awake. Even when I barely opened my eyes to see the historian reaching over me to turn out the lights, I didn't wake up--just barely surfaced, then slipped back under.

Next week, come hell or high water, much of this will either be finished or will have taken care of itself. I think at that point I should renounce at least a little bit of the overwhelmingness of this life I've been leading, or the way I lead it, anyhow. I just wish I could start now. Or start last fall. You know, like retroactive retrenchment.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Brand new baby boy.

Deacon John Leasure, 7 lb. 9 oz., 21 1/2 " long.

Brand new dad.

Brand new mom.

Beautiful boy.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ask the sage.

Of course, I mean Charles Barkley, who once said, "In a seven game series, the best team always wins." Hard wisdom, sometimes, when you're a Jazz fan, but not tonight.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Doing the numbers.

1. Days till the Scottish contingent are here: 11.
2. Days till I'm done grading: 5, if I'm lucky.
3. Days until my other projects are completed: God only knows.
4. Jazz games left before the season is done: God only knows, but they live to play another day.
5. People and dogs living here: five.
6. Days till the new grandson is born: any day now.

College daughter moved back home yesterday. I have a lot of grading/responding still to do, but strangely don't feel too worked up over it. I would really like to have all of it done before the arrival of the out-of-towners (Miriam is super-charged about seeing the dogs), as well as something like a clean house, but we'll see. Tonight, Andrei Kirilenko played AK-47-style, as in points, rebounds, blocked shots and all-around demon activity on the court, and Memo got his shot back. The weather is lifting my spirits, even with today's little cold snap. I would say the chances I'll get through everything and be onto my new e-mail-lite summer by mid-May are eighty percent. Maybe even eighty-five.


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