Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The rest of my life.

Yesterday, we took one of our granddaughters on a grand day out. It pretty much went to plan, although I thought--fancifully, as it turned out--that we might take her to Les Madeleines for a pretty, magical lunch-stroke-snack. In actual life, we went to McDonald's, of course.
the granddaughter, at the beginning of the day out.

Granddaughter: I want Chicken McNuggets, fries, and a milkshake.

Me: Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?

Granddaughter: hmmm...chocolate.

The historian: I'll have a medium Coke and--do you have those yogurt parfaits?

Crackly speaker: crackle crackle Yes.

Me: Medium Coke and large fries.

Crackly speaker: (do I sense a faint derision?) crackle crackle dollars at the crackle window.

Later, as we drove home, and I experienced a certain mild nausea stemming from my lunch:

Me: I think I've had just about enough of lunches made of Coke and french fries.

The historian: Yeah?

Me:  In fact, maybe I've had enough of McDonald's to last me for the rest of my life.

This reminded both of us of an interview once conducted with Ruth, of Ruth's Diner, wherein she was asked, at age 80, if she ever thought she might remarry. She replied in the negative, saying, "I've had enough sex to last me the rest of my life."

Now, what else have I had enough of to last me the rest of my life? Besides McDonald's, I mean:

1. Possibly syndicated episodes of Two and a Half Men. I had a spate there for awhile (several years ago, now), but I cannot currently drum up even the faintest interest. Certainly not in the Ashton Kutcher version, but also not in the old Charlie Sheens. That show is dead to me.

2. Possibly kung pao shrimp. It was once the best thing in the entire universe. Now: meh.

3. Almost every food you can buy in a convenience store. Is this sad? A little. Each road trip, however, edges me a little closer to closure on this point.

4. Maybe Doritos. But maybe not. But probably, actually (see 3 above).

My friend Ann says probably she's had enough

5. Slim Jims

to last her the rest of her life (see 3 above also).

I might have had enough of

6. uncomfortable shoes. But maybe not. But probably. Mostly enough, anyway.

Some things I have not had enough of (excerpts from an inexhaustible list): cherries. Peaches. Tomatoes. Watermelon. Cheese in its multifarious glory. Naps. Lazy afternoons. Sufjan Stevens. White jeans in the summertime. Justified. Poetry, despite the fact that it is lousy with frustrations. Literally rife. Eating breakfast out--other meals, too--with friends and family. The birds chattering in the trees. Morning. Bruiser. Grandchildren. Nostalgia. Evening. Cake. Sleep.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Let's remedy the situation.

Does anyone ever play this game? where you mention a book or a movie or whatever--a flavor of Doritos--to a friend, and the friend shakes her/his head and says, "I've never read/seen/eaten that." And you're all, Whaaaaaa? And they're all, I know.

Sometimes the game develops a defense/offense flavor, as in:

Me: You've never seen Rushmore??????

Friend: Yeeeeeaaah, but you've never seen [X].

and then you're all, Well-played, Friend. Check, and mate.  

But seriously, there are plenty of movies I should have seen and haven't. Books I would enjoy but haven't read. What are they? You know, probably, but I may not.

Here are a few that are on my mind:

1. my son feels strongly I should see The Weather Man, starring Nicolas Cage. He has been saying this for literally years. (He has also been asking me to read Ender's Game, which I have now accomplished.)
2. My friend (see above) feels I should have seen Closer and also The Door in the Floor. The first, I think we didn't see because it looked depressing and upsetting. My son basically pshawed this reasoning away this morning (we were driving around, getting stuff taken care of so he could send off his visa application so he can jet off to China in a month).

"You guys are weird," he said. "You see sad and upsetting movies all the time."

True enough, I had to concede. "But you have to gear up for them," I said (in our defense).

"That movie was probably in theaters for a month. You couldn't gear up for it in a month?"

He wasn't even trying to say that he thought it was that great, just that it was up our alley. True enough, again. Well-played, Friend. Check, and mate.

So that's three movies that go on the list.

In a related matter: I cannot reconstruct the logic by which we did not watch West Wing. Another friend is watching this now on Netflix and is admiring its writing and acting and pretty much everything about it, which I recall was what people admired about it--everything, that is--when it was on television in the first place. But nope, we didn't watch it. Why? I don't know. What else might we have been watching instead? Who can say.

Anyway, the point is this: what books, television shows, and/or movies should I watch that you think I may not have seen? I'm making a list. I'm gonna check stuff off of it. I need your help!

As a favor to you, I'm going to tell you that you should see The Kings of Summer, The Way, Way Back, and Twenty Feet From Stardom. All are currently at the Salt Lake Film Society (some of them are elsewhere), and you won't regret them. Plus: movie A/C, which is the best A/C, because there is a movie to go with it, and possible popcorn.

Don't forget: help me rectify my terrible, unforgivable oversights! In the comments!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Megastore recommends: The Not Sleeping Edition.

The people, I feel as if it has been years since I slept enough, every night, on a regular basis. I could explain, but why? There's a whole orchestra of reasons, most of which can be summarized with the catch-all word du generation: S-T-R-E-S-S.

I feel a little poem coming on.

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of melatonin
Try a little meditation counting up some sheep
Rig your pillow so the cool side stays cool
Each night after every night
Sing a lullaby, sure go ahead and
Sing a little lullaby, cause you're an idiot insomniac.

Doesn't scan, but it does the trick, more or less. That's the situation.

This summer, I decided, would be the summer of, among other things, the Sleep Project. I was doing pretty well, too, until The Great Summer Cold of 2013. Which, thankfully, has now concluded. It was epic, but it's over. The last few nights, I've been sleeping easily and well, and therefore I do have a few recommendations to make, in case you, too, occasionally have The Troubles. With The Sleep.

1. Make your iced tea herbal. We all have to face it, the moment when caffeine, too late in the day, is not your friend. The moment when you're trying to sleep but you can feel your blood racing around like a crazy maniac. A crazy, caffeinated maniac. I recommend drinking iced chamomile tea with lavender. You can find this at your local grocery store, if your local grocery store is reasonably well-stocked. You can also go with mint tea, and you will not go amiss.

2. Stop freaking trying to do so many freaking things. This recommendation is nigh unto impossible to actually carry out in, y'know, real life. I do know people whose lives are exceedingly well-regulated, who know their limits, and who do pretty much only the things that they find necessary and/or satisfying. Here's the thing, though. Even I, a big over-achiever (I don't use this word in a laudatory sense), can do better. Peel off a few things, especially when the opportunity presents itself. Stop inviting myself to meetings. Ask myself if what I'm doing gives me pleasure or satisfaction. If it doesn't, then I should see if I can stop doing it. And if I, big over-achiever, can do this, so can you.

3. Finish something. O the very joy of finishing something! Today, my colleague and I finally finished the draft we're sending off to the editors of this one collection. (I would give you details, but it might bore me to death.) Did it give me joy to write this essay? Define "joy." Actually, by most any definition, this was not joyous writing. It was a slog and for great swaths of the writing, it did not feel worth doing. But there were moments. And then a few more moments. And hits of elation and, yes, satisfaction. And now! The joy! So: finish something. I bet you will sleep the sleep of the blessed, as I intend to do tonight.

4. When all else fails, have your Insomnia Kit ready. There are going to be some nights, let's
face it, when you're going to find yourself awake. Maybe you guzzled Dr. Pepper with your Thai Fried Rice. Maybe you have, despite your best efforts, a meeting in the morning. Maybe classes are going to start in a few weeks, but you have to worry about it right now. In this case, my friends, I recommend that you have your Insomnia Kit (TM) ready to go. For every person the Insomnia Kit (TM) will have different items. For me, it includes
  • a sheet (blanket in the winter)
  • my reading glasses
  • the current book, or possibly
  • the crossword puzzle I'm in the middle of.
Knowing where the Kit is makes it easy to take a break from not sleeping, and, after I've read a chapter or filled in a few puzzle squares or worried a little bit more or made a list, the Kit also makes it easier to slip back into bed, and with any luck, into sleep. 

Monday, July 15, 2013


  1. the chapter draft is about 40%. Forty percent of what? I don't know. I just feel like we've got 60% more to do. But 40% is better than what we had three days ago.
  2. I'm feeling much better. About 97%.
  3. Sadly, we have a deficit of fresh vegetables in the house. 
  4. I am not going to measure how much summer is behind us, or how much is ahead. That way madness lies.
  5. With the recent replantings, 100% of our plants are alive.
  6. We went to zero movies this weekend, mainly because of all the recovery I had to do. 
  7. We, did, however finish 100% of The Killing, seasons one and two, 100% of Mad Men, season six, and 100% of Top of the Lake. All highly recommended. 
  8. Now what shall we watch, though?
  9. Through a fluke summer, which included extensive traveling and illness, we have gone zero times to the Farmer's Market. Zero. I really can't believe it. 
  10. I need to write a poem for my writing group tomorrow. I have zero ideas.
 On this mid-July Monday, I feel pretty optimistic, actually. I give this progress report a B+, with an E for citizenship.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Coughing at midnight: an open letter to my summer cold.

[NOTE: this is yet another installment in the saga of my summer cold. I noted to a friend last night that this cold felt both karmic and punitive. Yes, I am ascribing motive to my ailment. Anyway.]

Dear my summer cold,

Things that keep you up at night can feel like a curse. I have often felt, when in the grip of an insomnia, that my own body is not my friend. I've tried, though, to shift that point of view, to see the occasional sleepless hours as a gift of quiet, time to think, a clear space. The last two nights, though, were not gifts, my summer cold, when you and your fits of coughing, brief but epically intense, tore me from my bed, and sleep, and needed rest.

The first night, I read several chapters in a spy novel and drank more ginger tea. Last night, I thought I would prepare by gargling with salt water (time-honored home remedy) and keeping a couple of lozenges by my bedside. But no. Same coughing, same intensity.

I got up. Bruiser lay on the couch on which I wanted to rest. We did not, precisely, come to an accommodation. He allowed me to settle in, then we sat/lay there together. Which was sweet, but not particularly restful. I coughed a little and read some stuff. He sighed and slept.

I went back to bed and fell asleep, but woke this morning feeling like I hadn't slept enough, because, in point of fact, I hadn't slept enough. I went back to sleep until 9:30.

My summer cold, I wish I could understand why your coughing seems to confine itself to the late, then early, hours, when I should be, want to be sleeping. This brings me back to the point: is my body trying to punish me? Is it trying to teach me a lesson? If so, what lesson? If it's trying to tell me I need to take better care of myself, I know this lesson already. I am trying to spend the summer enacting it. But a cold that lingers like a doom does not help in this regard.

This is the problem with your rigid law-and-order, eye-for-an-eye mentality, my summer cold. A little mercy is in order sometimes. It's more productive.

I'm begging you,


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Drinking ginger tea and thinking.

I would like to have an earth-shattering argument to make. Right now it doesn't feel that way. I would like, then, to have a modest argument to make. My modest argument feels like pfff. Too small. This is, I'm sure, a matter of perspective.

My cough, which I believe is getting better, feels simultaneously like the last throes of a cold and also like I have the husk of a popcorn kernel stuck in my throat. Neither of which I am enjoying, particularly. Hence the tea.

I love an overcast summer day.

I need some paragraphs, stat. Preferably paragraphs that constitute an argument with a theoretical construct to frame the argument.

Now that I have purchased a gray cardigan, I feel I can probably find my way to those paragraphs. I hope.

I need to check on my tiny potted plants. They are too tiny, really. They dry out in a day, which means you've got to remember to water them or they're goners. I just replanted them yesterday. I am hopeful--hopeful that they'll thrive, and hopeful that I won't forget them.

Luckily, there is leftover panzanella. I could just read a couple of chapters of my spy novel.

"A compositionist walks into the curricular room, a room in the house of English Studies."

Plant this sentence in a small pot, water it, maybe it will grow. 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Litany of small pleasures.

1. The daily walk. I am sorry to say that I am not yet at full strength, but this morning I decided to take the walk anyway, and it made me feel so much better. Just moving.

2. Two awesome songs in a row. This has been an endless joy to me, back to the days when you mostly just listened to the radio. That also happened to be the days when radio djs actually programmed their own music (which still happens, I believe, on BBC radio, which is yet another thing that makes the UK awesome). Anyway, today on my shuffle, on my walk, first this awesome song by Robyn came on [warning: language!], then "This is Not America" by David Bowie and Pat Metheny, one right after the other, and I loved it.

3. Eating my breakfast on the patio. Where the birds are singing and the breeze (not to say a hot wind, not yet anyway) is blowing and the wind chimes are making their music.

4. A whole day ahead of me, wherein I can do what I want and need to do.

5. Toast.

6. Waking up to the light.

7. Bruiser hopping up on bed between us for a small pre-arising-for-real snooze.

8. A slow morning.

The people, I hope that your day has many small pleasures in it. For that matter, also large pleasures.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Return of the repressed.

Last night when the arson, I mean fireworks, started, I felt a sudden tickle, not to say scratch, in my throat.

I thought, am I getting sick? I coughed a few times, experimentally. Then not so experimentally. I coughed phenomenologically. Or perhaps existentially. It was a for real cough, not a trial.

The historian asked, "Are you coming down with something?"

I said, "I don't know." I thought about it. "I think it might just be the smoke." Because, as you know, the people, in a patriotic suburban neighborhood such as my own, the fourth of July is Fireworks City, and we're not just talking about a few sparklers.

We went out into the night, late, with Bruiser. We navigated the smoke like Aguirre in Aguirre, the Wrath of God navigating the Orinoco River on a misty morning.  I coughed a few more times.

I went to bed and thought, I'll wake up in the morning, the smoke will be cleared, I'll be fine.

the view from Sick.

But when I did wake up this morning, my head and eyes heavy, sneezing, I thought, shit. And took a DayQuil.

(Parenthetical: The people: I need to see a movie today. We have had all sorts of important and fun activities, many of which have kept us away from the SLC on the weekends. We are behind in our movie-going. This, despite the fact that I have made many efforts to see movies such as the Joss Whedon Much Ado About Nothing, Frances Ha, Oblivion, Man of Steel, and others I can't remember at the moment because of my heavy head and eyes. I was and am counting on this weekend to make a dent in that deficit! Is that too much to ask? I ask you! I mean really.)

After the historian's bike ride, and my second DayQuil:

Me: ...but I want you to know, I'm going to try really hard to feel good enough so we can go to a movie this afternoon.

The historian: Well, please do your best.

Me:  I'm going to give it my best effort.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

You have got to be kidding me.

It's noon already?

I have only accomplished the following today, on this lazy, pyrotechnical holiday:
  • waking up late
  • thinking about my family scattered hither and yon
  • taking my regular long walk, but later than usual, but that was okay because: not so hot
  • blueberry pancakes, making and eating
  • pulling spent blooms off the nicotiana
  • making a desultory list of stuff I could/should/might do today
  • sitting on the patio and reading a few pages
  • admiring my back yard

--all good things, to be sure.

I woke up this morning around four to hear the sound of water. It didn't sound like sprinklers. I feared that it might be a swamp cooler malfunction. I lay there and considered it. I got up and looked out the window. It sounded like rain. I went out on the back patio: rain indeed. So I stayed outside to be in it, sort of--on the chaise looking out at the world, the light still dim. Then there was a muffled burst of lightning, which sent me back indoors. Because my patio roof is metal, and I'm safety conscious like that.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Why don't you cry about it?: a miscellany.

1. Things that have made me cry recently:
  • the father-and-son scenes in Man of Steel
  • a Shawn Colvin playlist my son put on while I was making a salad 
  • stuff my grandsons did and said
  • getting on the airplane to go home
  • a video chat with my son and grandson
  • various parts of several episodes of The Killing I watched last night when we went home
  • getting ready to go for a walk with the dog last night
  • some other things that I cannot really talk about right now.
2.  Things I could not care less about:
  • writing a draft of this chapter that's due on the 15th
  • exerting myself in any way shape or form, especially mentally.
3. You should really check this out:

 Of course I subscribed. And it's true: I find a daily dose of happiness in just scrolling through the links that Dave Pell curates, with his dry and hilarious commentary. I often click through to a few of the articles. It's timely and smart and always good stuff. You might find some of it on your own--but you might not, and since more uncertainty in these dark times might just push you (or "me") over the edge, you'd better subscribe too.

4. What I want to eat/drink:

  • salad,
  • watermelon,
  • and lemonade. Or limeade.
In related news, I have only one of these items in the house. Woe.


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