Wednesday, October 14, 2009
"Today was as cold as October 14, 2009. My wife's eyes were as blue as Paula's eyes ever are. I, like a graduate student, carefully studied them, and I believed them to be as beautiful as the most beautiful eyes my wife ever had."
I discussed this idea with a friend tonight, who said if I could come up with three critics who agree with this usage (especially if I could sell it as a means of writing that is immediately useful, and then with each passing second becomes less useful) I could start a whole new field of literary criticism.
One can only dream.
P.S.: I, like Christie, will aim to get back to funny poop stories soon, although, to be fair, a poop story from me is not as funny. I guess I have been harrowed by it ever since a poop shot my father in cold blood.
Monday, August 24, 2009
"Sorry man, I don't have any."
"I gotta quarter. You know in these tough times, nobody's givin' anything up for free."
"Yeah, I guess that's right."
I watch him walk over to a girl sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. She tells him she doesn't have any. He starts to walk back over to me. "Times is tough," is all he can say. He is an African-American man, maybe 30 years old. He's a little hefty, but his clothes are fairly nice. He seems like a nice enough guy.
I take this quiet moment to evaluate my surroundings. Based on my research, I know that I'm looking for the 88 bus. I see on the bus stop that one of the buses that stops there is the 88, and I think it would be going in the direction of my hotel.
A bus pulls up. It's the 45, so it's wrong for me, but my cigarette seeking friend has a new group of people to ask. He pounces on this opportunity. "Hey black," he says to an African-American guy, "You got a smoke?"
"Nah man, I don't got any of that crap."
He walks back to me. "Times is tough. It's still a great country though. Except we got this President that looks in the mirror and hates what he see. Dude wishes he was white. Whatever though man. People going to get by. People be tripping, but I don't. Not unless it's about taking care of my family. That's the only thing I trip about."
"That's good man. You got to take care of your family."
"I sure do. See here?" He gestures to a bag with a couple of shoe boxes. I nod. "I been out since early today getting shoes for my daughter, and I just heard back from my baby momma that I got the wrong size. I got a good price on them though. Twenty-five bucks a piece. That's fifty bucks, man. I'm going back to the store to get the right size. I spent fifty bucks, man, they better hook me up, you know?"
"Yeah, makes sense."
Another bus pulls up. It's the 29. Wrong again. This time my companion sees a Mexican guy and says, "Hey homie! You gotta smoke? I give you a quarter for a smoke." The other guys just shakes his head and starts walking down the stairs.
The guy walks back to me, and clicks his quarter against the glass wall of the bus stop. "Times is tough."
Wanting to continue the conversation, I ask, "How old's your daughter?"
"Well, I got four kids. Two are eleven, one is seven, and one's four. That youngest one, she's crazy though. She just hits. It's crazy sometimes. These shoes are for the eleven year olds."
He clicks the quarter against the glass a few more times, and our conversation fizzles out. Finally, he takes off down the block, and I'm left alone. The 9x bus comes. The 45 comes again. Then the 29 comes again.
I see a few more cycles of the same wrong buses, and I decide just to walk it. I've now spent an hour waiting for this bus that apparently isn't coming, and I just want to get to my hotel.
I check my map again, and I take off one way expecting to find a specific cross street. I cross a few streets only to realize that I'm going the wrong way. I sigh at my inability to do basic tasks, and take off the other way, this time, thankfully, down hill. Half way to my hotel, it reverts to going uphill, making my trip effectively up hill both ways. Somebody tell grandpa he was right; it is possible.
A mile and a half later through some of the safest streets of San Francisco (you can tell it's a safe area because the bars across the windows and doors in conjunction with the prevalence of graffiti really scare away all the unsavory characters) I finally make it to my hotel.
Times is tough, all right. But things are looking up.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I went to my primary care physician (or PCP to you druggies out there) last year and told him about this (because at the time I was watching a lot of House, and it seemed like it was always the mundane detail that the patient neglected to bring up that made that patient lose their life/leg/face). He felt around on my leg and looked perplexed. Then he said, "Well, let's get you an x-ray to see if we can't figure this out."
I got my x-rays (in January 2009), and then at my last doctor's appointment (in August 2009), he reviewed the pictures. Given that there is a large hole in my leg bone, you would think that it would be easy to see on an x-ray. I can why you're not a doctor.
He pulls up the picture on the screen, and looks at it and then looks at the other one, and, sure enough, there is nothing to be seen. So he sends me to the specialist I referenced earlier, because the next step, in his opinion, would be an MRI, and only the specialist can order that procedure. I had my appointment yesterday.
My time at the specialist's office started off with them taking my weight. The scale is around the corner from the nurse's station; despite the name, a good number of doctors hang out there also. As I couldn't be seen by the staff, I overheard the following exchange:
Male Doctor 1 - Looks like you got a package in the mail.
Male Doctor 2 - Must be that [sex toy typically used by women]* I ordered.
Every other doctor and nurse in the area - SHHHHHHH!!!!!
This calm and professional environment really put me at ease, so you can imagine my surprise when they took my blood pressure a few minutes later and it was higher than normal. I made some excuse about how I've had coffee that morning, and that is what it was chalked up to.
I wait for a few minutes until the doctor comes in. She seemed like a nice lady. That is, it seemed like she was a nice lady up until she laughed.
Now, I consider myself a student of the human experience, and I have found that when people are in friendly conversation, they may chuckle for one to three seconds either nervously or in an effort to be polite. But this lady laughed for a good ten to fifteen seconds at a time.
I don't believe I am exaggerating at all when I claim that this was the most AWKWARD EXPERIENCE IN MY YOUNG LIFE.
Why, you may ask? Well, her laugh was very similar to Janice's on Friends. I submit the following clip as exhibit A.
Except it went on for ten to fifteen seconds.
Here is a clip from our conversation:
Doctor - So your blood pressure is high and I notice you're sweating.
AC - Yeah, it's a little warm in here.
Doctor - Sure, and I bet it's a little nerve-wracking to come to a new doctor.
AC - (Trying to be friendly) Well, you've been pretty nice...so far.
Doctor - HAHHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHH!
AC - (Chuckling politely)
Doctor - HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
AC - (Chuckling politely and looking Doctor in the eye to ascertain just what is going on here)
Doctor - HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA!
AC - (Trying to chuckle politely, yet wanting desperately to shoot himself in the face to get away from this insane laughter, but, having no weapon, opts instead to look at the floor)
Doctor - HAHAHAHAHA! So, I don't know what's wrong with your leg. I'll measure the indentation, and then you can make an appointment to come back and we'll see if it has grown. Does that sound like a good plan?
AC - (Thankful the aural assault has concluded, and not wanting to set her off again) Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.
Doctor - Okay. HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA!
And the whole thing repeats again.
I did not make a follow-up appointment, and I don't know that I will. It's a real horse race in my mind between coming back and letting my shin shatter. I'm just saying a wheel chair is looking real good about now.
*I couldn't bring myself to type it. I guess that's why I'll never write for Larry David. Also, it's why this post isn't rated R.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
2: Junk - When I was in college, a phrase that gained popularity when you were playfully mad at someone else was, "I'm going to punch you in the junk," or, instead of "punch," you could instead say some other violent action like "I'm going to kick you in the junk," or "I'm going to atom bomb and send smallpox to your junk".***** When somebody said this (and it was, quite frequently, Christie), I liked to add something along the lines of "Yeah! Right in their Chinese ship!" I was greatly amused.
3: Jersey Boys - I saw it with my brother on the Vegas trip with the guys, and I saw it again last week with my lovely wife. It was terrific both times; I highly recommend it.
4: "Jamaica Me Crazy" - At a get-together with some friends in my home town last year, I decided it would be funny to, whenever I saw one friend in particular, say the phrase "Jamaica me crazy!" and then playfully poke and tickle him.* His response was always to run away. I don't know whether he enjoyed it as much as I did, but I do know that the second time I did so, he disappeared from the party for about an hour.
5: James Buchanan - I, on a whim, researched him earlier this year, and I even contemplated getting a mouse pad with his likeness (though I decided it was a bad idea). I'm not sure why I have any friends.
6: Jar Jar Binks - When I was sixteen going on seventeen, I queried my mother by saying, "Mother dear, if you find it prudent, I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to go see The Phantom Menace with some upstanding members of the community." She, in turn, allowed me to go to the midnight showing of Star Wars: Episode 1 with some friends. I was stoked; after all, that movie was going to be awesome, and I was going to be a part of the cultural force that got to see it first. As you all likely know, to say that that movie was a bit of a disappointment is like saying Tom Brady is only a little bit like Gaston -- it's an incredible understatement. Let me add to that the observation that at two in the morning, Jar Jar Binks gets real old, real fast. "Me-sa want-uh blow my head off!"
7: Jello - Is there really always room for it?
8: Al Jolson - When I was Snoopy in Snoopy!!! a few years back, the director wanted me to sing one of my song's like Al Jolson. So, I listened to some of his music, and I gave it my best shot. The director said something like, "Do you even know who Al Jolson is?" I don't think I ever got it the way he wanted me to get it. Looking back now, I wonder if he wanted me to do it in black-face.**
9: Jimmy Eat World - One of the first jobs I had when I got out of college was teaching voice at a music store.*** In between students, I would talk with one of the other teachers (who also worked as the cashier) about music and bands that we liked. One day, she said, "What makes Jimmy Eat World so good? Why are all of their songs so catchy?" I said, "I was thinking about that, and I really think it's the vocal harmonies."**** She looked at me with a look that looked like looking was the last courtesy she would afford me, and then she changed the subject.
10: Jalopy - This is my weekly old-timey word that I wish people would use more. As in, the cranky curmudgeon hopped in his jalopy and went to the haberdashery.********
*I have done straighter things in my life.*********
**Which is just offensive. I mean, absolutely morbidly obese.
***The store went out of business pretty quickly (in five or six months), which I don't really consider my fault, but I guess I'll never know.
****In my defense, I was listening to a lot of music at the time, trying to find songs for my students in the rock genre which I hadn't had as much formal experience with. I knew that I liked their harmonies. Would I still say that their harmonies are what made their songs catchy? I guess that would depend on how pretentious I was feeling that day.
*****Somewhat surprisingly, this one never really caught on.******
******Yes, I know these are out of order. It's called revising and rewriting.*******
*******(And being too lazy to re-asterisk your footnotes).
********Bam! Full circle!
*********And by "Straighter," I mean, "More heterosexual." In case anyone was wondering.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
2: Handwriting - When I was in elementary school, it was not uncommon for me to get, when the report cards came around, all As and then one lousy B- or C in handwriting/penmanship. I'm just saying, I was valedictorian for both junior high and high school, but I wasn't even in the running in grade school because of my handwriting. I think I was relatively pleased about this in sixth grade because I didn't really want to give a speech anyway. Still, in retrospect, it would have been nice to pull off the trifecta.
3: Humility - As you can see from #2, I embody this principle.
4: Helen of Troy - From my fractured remembrance of history/mythology, I find it fascinating that this woman was supposedly so beautiful that men would bring armies to fight over her. One would think somewhere down the chain of command, one of the grunts would have thought, "Hmm, the possibility of my imminent and immediate death kind of outweighs how much I care about my boss's boss's boss getting a girlfriend. Hey guys! Let's just go get gyros!"
5: Herbivore's Dilemma, The - They don't realize how delicious meat is.
6: H - I think I saw somewhere that the phonetic representation of that letter is "aitch." I have no commentary on this.
7: Harry Potter - I have not read any of these books. For some reason, the prospect of a book series really scares me as it is such a commitment. Somehow, it doesn't bother me that I don't finish most books that I start even if they are not part of a series. I have also never read The Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, I think the only book series I ever read all the way through was the My Teacher Is an Alien series back when I was in grade school, which is, as you know, quite high art.
8: High Art - What separates high art from low art? I've spent a fair number of hours trying to work out this question. Right now, I'm reading a book called The Necessity of Theater that considers which parts of the human experience should be counted as theatre and which should not, which, in some ways, is a similar question. Though I find his definition a little broad, I think he's touching on some key points, and I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes with his idea.
9: Haberdashery - I wish there were more stores that simply sold hats simply because I wish this word were more common.
10: How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? - 7.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
2: Gollum's Cave - I did a play version of The Hobbit in which I played the Bilbo Baggins, who is, you know, the hobbit. Get it? Anyways, there is a part in the show in which Bilbo is supposed to be lost in Gollum's cave, and he cries out "Is there anyone out there?" I was usually met with silence, but one matinee, I called out, and a little boy responded loudly, "No!" I pretty much broke character at that and had a good laugh. Wouldn't you?
3: Goonies - I have never seen it. I don't know why I have never seen it, but I haven't. Everyone is surprised at this. I am not surprised.
4: Goody Wife - This is how I will sometimes refer to my wife. I apparently believe the year to be 1620 and each of my shoes to have a large buckle on top.
5: Groundlings - This is an improv group up in L.A. that my wife took me and my brother to go see one time. Many of their cast members go on to be in SNL. I would love to take a class from them, but the commute continually proves to be problematic. One day I'll get there.
6: Gramma - When I was littler (read: 14 or 15), I used give my gramma some chips, and then, while she was chewing, I would stick the back of my neck under her chin while she chewed because it tickled me. That was funny times, man. I love my gramma.
7: Grapes - This may be my favorite joke*: A duck walks into a grocery store and asks the cashier, "Got any grapes?" The cashier replies, "Nope, sorry, we don't carry them." The duck says, "Thanks," and leaves.
The next day, the duck comes back and says, "Got any grapes?" The cashier looks at him quizzically and replies, "Nope, like I told you yesterday, we don't carry them." The duck says, "Thanks," and leaves.
This continues every day that week, until the cashier is wholly frusted. On Friday, the duck comes in, but before he can ask, the cashier says, "Listen duck, we don't have any grapes, and if you ask me that one more time, I'm going to nail your bill to my cash register." The duck says, "Thanks," and leaves.
The next day the duck walks in and asks the cashier if he has any nails. The cashier, thankful that the duck isn't again asking about grapes, laughs and says, "No, silly duck, this is a grocery store; we don't have any nails."
To this news, the duck replies, "Got any grapes?"
8: Golem - In some Jewish folklore, there is a story a man made out of clay called the golem who will one day rise up and save the Jewish people and/or destroy the world. A friend and I in junior high thought this (the destroying the world bit) was hilarious and wrote a very short song that we thought the golem would sing. It goes, "I am the golem, squish your head." With lyric writing like that, I'm not sure how I ended up a music major.
9: Groove Daddies - This was a band in my home town while I was in high school. I was in a different band, and my bandmates and I envisioned a West Side Story standoff between our band and their band. Or, maybe I just envisioned it.
10: Grover - No matter what you think about Family Guy, this clip is very funny. Okay, at least it's kind of funny. Okay, it's not really funny at all, but I needed a #10. Okay, I didn't really need a #10, because I was going to do this top nine list like Buttercup does over on her blog, but I thought better of myself.
*My new favorite joke is in the movie Up and it is told by a talking dog**. It goes something like, what did the squirrel say to the tree? It said, "Oh tree, I forgot to harvest my acorns in you during the summer and now it is winter and I am dead."
**Spoiler alert! Sorry, I should have put that first.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
2: Facebook - A bucket in which an embarrassing amount of my liquid time goes to die.
3: Falafel - There was a hamburger(!) place in my home town called King Falafel. They may have also sold falafel, which would make sense, given their name. I didn't like their food when I was a little kid, mostly because it wasn't McDonald's. However, as I aged, I realized how delicious it was. It was like there was a party in my mouth and everybody was invited. Mmm. I wonder if that place is still around.
4: Fark - Because I am not a good person, I used to write a blog about celebrities (read: celebrity gossip blog) under the assumption that doing so would earn me fame and fortune. One day, one of my stories ended up on fark.com, which is a kind of news aggregator for weird or offbeat news. Though I usually got 50 visitors a day, that day, I received close to ten thousand. From my advertisements, I received about one dollar and I did not receive any fame. Disenchanted, I closed the site down not too long afterwards.
5: I'm taking a ride on a Flying Festoon - Just as soon as he learns how to fly.
6: Friendster - I think this is the only major social networking site that I do not belong to. Apparently I want everybody to be able to find me. What's funny is that when I first started using the internet (circa 1995-6), all that anybody used to say was that you should absolutely not, under any circumstances, put any personal information online. Now it seems like that's all anybody does. It's weird and a bit disturbing.
7: Fox - This network produces "So You Think You Can Dance," which is my surprise favorite show of the summer. I had been watching "American Idol" pretty faithfully this year, and, when it ended, a buddy of mine said that he liked SYTYCD better than Idol. I checked it out, and I was not disappointed. A key difference between the shows is that to be an amazing dancer, you pretty much have to train your whole life, or at least a goodly portion of it, so in the later rounds of the show, every dancer dances at an expert level; whereas, in singing, a lot of times people just have natural talent, which, while fun to watch, isn't usually as engaging as seeing people doing what they trained their whole lives for. I realize that I seem to cry at the drop of a hat filled with spilled milk*, but I do tend to tear up about once a week. Some of the stuff they do is just beautiful, some of it funny, and some of it spectacular. I recommend it highly.
8: Fox News - Not that I disagree with them across the board, but it makes me giggle a little bit when I hear them describe themselves as fair and balanced.
9: Sir John Falstaff - I look forward to learning more about you and the plays you are in.
10: Form or Function - Oddly, I tend to prefer function.
*Was the milk spilled into the hat prior to when the hat was dropped? That's up to you to decide.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
We've hit the border, and we're eager, anxious even. Four hours in a car with the only stop being for a delicious, albeit greasy, breakfast can make a man that way.
We get off the freeway and pull into the entrance. There's no parking garage, only a sea of black top; this fact is reinforced as we tumble out of the SUV and the heats blasts us both from above and below. We grab the wrappers and Styrofoam containers -- out with the old, and in with the new -- because we are, if nothing else, polite and excellent car guests. Plus, we don't want any bad juju affecting our luck. Sunglasses are adjusted, and smiles spread like wildfire as we head towards the shade of the entrance.
Yes we can, we think; yes we can.
"We Are the Champions, My Friends."
A light show to the music of Queen blinks and pops overhead. We see pictures of Freddie Mercury with his fine moustache. The band hardly ever smiles in its pictures, which is apparently how we are to know that they're cool. They stare at us, unsmiling, and we stare back, jaws slacked and necks arched. In this way, they are different.
I look at the people around me. Many are singing along; who doesn't want to be a champion, after all? Or, maybe it should be said, who doesn't want to feel like a champ for a few minutes?
Some people are wearing beads, some have their hands clasped together, some have their hands over their back pockets, desperately trying to protect the money they will happily give away in a few minutes to a different type of light show, one with spinning wheels featuring sevens or cherries.
But for a moment, monetary concerns are forgotten. The producers have made sure it's loud enough and bright enough to make you forget that this place is one where angels fear to tread.
"This Is Where I Get It All Back."
It's Thursday. For most of us, the places in our wallets that used to be primarily the color of money are now primarily the color of wallet. Still, the one thing we couldn't overlook was one glorious buffet. We get in towards the end of breakfast time so that we pay the breakfast price, but, in a few minutes, we get to eat lunch food too. It's the best of both worlds.
"I question your manliness if you don't eat at least five plates, I know I'm planning to; this is where I get it all back."
There are laughs and general agreement with this notion. It should be noted that the excuse for the trip was a weight loss contest, and that excuse is nowhere more flimsy then when you consider that this is the third all-you-can-eat buffet that we've been to in a twenty-four hour period. I'm not sure that you'd call us gluttons, but I suspect that that is mostly because you're polite.
"Oh, by the way J, when you take us back to our hotel, would you mind stopping on the strip for a few minutes? I placed a bet yesterday on the Padres game, and I won. Let's just say that it's time for Caeser to render unto me."
"I Thought We Were Playing 26."
Now it's just my brother and I. The rest have started the trek back through the desert. My boss asked me to attend a meeting in San Francisco on Friday, and it seemed like a great idea a few weeks ago to stay an extra day with my brother, and then fly to San Fran direct from Vegas; now that I'm down to my last twenty I've budgeted for the trip, I'm questioning the wisdom of that decision. Nevertheless, here we are in Rome so we go and do as the Romans do by hitting a blackjack table on the way back to the room. I float my twenty down to the table and receive four five dollar chips in return. My brother does the same. We look at each other and think maybe this table will be different.
We sit there for a few minutes, winning and losing, winning and losing, until my brother has had enough, and he sticks his twenty in chips into the betting circle. He draws a seventeen to the dealer's twenty.
I tell him I'll do the same thing and then either cash out or head back to the room. My first two cards equal 12. I'll need a small card. Hit me.
I draw a two. Dang. Too small. 14. Hit me.
I draw an ace. 15. Hilarious. Hit me.
Another ace. 16. I'm having trouble remembering why I enjoy this game. Hit me.
26. Too many.
I thank the dealer (if nothing else, I'm polite, remember?), and I walk the walk of shame back to the room. I'd say it could have been worse, but when you lose all the money you've budgeted, well, that's about as bad as it gets, right? Only then do I remember that I still don't get to see my wife for another day. I guess it can always get worse.
"Walk Like a Man, Talk Like a Man."
That night, my brother and I get dressed up to go see a show. We decided on Jersey Boys, which is a retelling of the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Season. It won the Tony for Best Musical in 2006. I've been wanting to see it since then, and it doesn't disappoint.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening is how the crowd cheers for each new song the actors sing. Remember, the people singing are not the real people the show is based on. These people are cheering for fakes. I remember back to the Queen show a few nights before, and I am amazed at how much this music, that I had always thought was kind of silly due to the sky-high falsetto of Valli, means to these people.
Nevertheless, by the end, I too get lost in the songs and the stories of the songs and I'm having to hold back tears. The ideas in these songs are so pure and genuine, it's hard not to get lost in them. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Encouragement to be the best person you can be.
All this time, I've missed the forest of the human experience detailed in these songs for the trees of that once silly, now haunting falsetto voice.
I leave feeling better about life, and those I meet in it.
"What the Deuce?"
My brother and I took a bus (called the Deuce) down to the strip to see the show. Now, three hours past the show's end and two buses filled past capacity that we cannot therefore get on, our spirits are, to say the least, a little sour.
All the walking on that hot desert night while trying to find transportation back to our hotel has made us thirsty, so we hit a Subway sandwich shop at the base of a hotel to get a couple of Cokes. They are icy and spicy and delicious, and we greedily drink. We walk along the base of the hotel, and pass a lounge that has dueling piano players. Our feet are tired, so we sit and hope again for musical respite, and we are not disappointed. First comes the unmistakable instrumental solo, then, "She's just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world..."
I smile from ear to ear. This song used to crack me up in its pure eighties-ness, but now I just love it. I look at my bro, and he smiles too. I won't stop believing.
"Leaving, On a Jet Plane, Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again."
Sometimes, the takeoffs are rough. Sometimes, the plane seems like it's losing power in the engine closest to you as the plane feels like it's slowing down after takeoff, which doesn't feel like a good thing. Sometimes, you wish you would have told your brother when you hugged goodbye at the airport to tell your wife you love her. On Friday morning, all those things happened to me. As you may have ascertained, I got through it.
I look out my window at the sprawling desert community. The television had a lot of commercials for lawyers offering legal aid for people who had been foreclosed upon. I wonder how many of the houses below me are still occupied, and a wave of gratitude washes over me for the fact that I've got a home and beautiful wife to come back to.
I'm happy this part of the trip is over, and I'm more happy that the plane has started to speed up, and I'm most happy that I hear that engine going again.
I chose to wear a suit today, though it will be a little fancy for the meeting. The suit I'm wearing has alternating black fabric running in vertical lines. Amazon had a deal on suits, and I wanted one for the trip so I could pretend to be a high roller. Once in Vegas, though, I opted to save it for my flight out. Even though I hadn't earned a million dollars, I wanted to feel like one.
"You Are My Sunshine."
My meeting was a breeze. It was in regards to a monthly report, and all that was basically said was that we should continue to do it the same way. It took two and a half hours to say that, but still, it's nice to know that there won't be extra work.
I haul my luggage back to the BART station to head back to the airport, and the train is packed. I stand and try not to fall over during its brisk starts and stops. After a few stops, however, people get off, and I am able to find a seat.
At the next stop, a family of three gets on. The third is a little girl, who can't be much more than four or five, and she is a happy little girl. Her mother tells her to sit on a seat by herself with her little pink suitcase, and she obeys right away. She then starts carefully zipping and unzipping the sides with a huge smile on her face. I can't remember the last time I was so unabashedly happy at such a small situation.
The parents are talking; the mom says something about New Orleans and how she'd like to go there for her birthday. The man seems like he suspects it won't happen, but he gives the standard "Oh, okay" response that comes printed on the back of the man-card the federation sends you when you hit puberty. The woman lowered her head and looked at the man with a tone of voice that said, "We'll just see about that."
The woman looks over at the little girl and smiles, and she is right to do so. I hope my daughter is half as cute. Then the mom, in a voice as thin as paper, starts to sing:
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy, when skies are gray..."
At this point the daughter starts to sing along:
"You'll never know dear, how much I love you,
Please don't take my sunshine away."
My mom used to sing that song to me. Fortunately, I'm wearing my big sunglasses, so folks don't notice when my eyes well up.
I used to excuse people when they did bad things under the assumption that everybody was just trying to do the best they could with what they had. I don't think I believe that across the board anymore, but here, in my little corner of the universe, in the back of that BART train, I was reminded that sometimes, just sometimes, it was still true. Sometimes, people do nice things just to have done something nice. Now that's a human experience I can get behind.
"Where Are You?"
I'm on the ground in San Diego waiting for my wife to pull up. The traffic is horrible, and people like to drive stupidly at the airport. Oddly enough, that second parts seems to have a direct correlation on the first.
I see my wife has called me on my phone. I didn't hear it ring, even though I had set it to loud. I call her back, and she asks me where I am. In just a minute, she pulls up, and she is all smiles. So am I.
So am I.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
2: Evelyn Waugh - I read a dual biography (primarily during a stint where I was called for jury duty but didn't get assigned a case) of Waugh and George Orwell a few months ago. The book included a story about how, during World War II, fruits were rationed, and the Waugh family received just a few bananas one month. Evelyn called his family to the table, and then proceeded to eat the entire family's rations of bananas. All I could think was, if I were a man named Evelyn, I'd probably be a cranky curmudgeon as well.
3: Eggs - I had a hard time eating eggs as a kid because I thought it was really weird that they went from being a liquid when freshly cracked to being a solid when cooked. Think about it. It's gross. I still have a hard time with it.
4: Existentialism - How many existentialists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Fish.
5: Eels - On my honeymoon, my wife and I briefly saw an eel while snorkeling. Fortunately for my sense of terror, my wife, while snorkeling, had taken to singing through her snorkel. She's a funny lady, and never too non-plussed about immediate doom.
6: Eleven - July 11th is 7/11 Day, and it is also International A.C. Day, and my beautiful wife makes it a point to make that day special for me. Please note the July 11 is not my birthday, she's just a sweetie that way. Please also note that one year she had me kidnapped, which I guess goes to show that sometimes people have different ideas of what "fun" is.
7: Eclipse - This was my little brother's nickname in football in high school. Pretty cool, right? You know what my nickname was? Linus. NOT COOL AT ALL! Thank you very much musical theatre!
8: Egg Nog - Surprisingly, though eggs are always weird for me, I loves me some egg nog. Mmm. Delicious.
9: Egypt - Over the weekend, the wife and I went to the King Tut exhibit up in San Francisco, only to find out that none of Tut's sarcophagi were on display. There was, however, some other lady's sarcophagus on display (his possible grandmother, I think). Overall, it was a very interesting afternoon, but what is the first thing that you think of when you think of King Tut? Those golden coffins with the smiling faces, right? I'm just saying, it was a little disappointing.
10: Edgar Allen Poe - In college, I did an arrangement for Poe's poem "Annabel Lee." It would be a lot cooler if I could link to a recording of that right now, as opposed to doing nothing, which is what I will do, but I don't have it with me. Nevertheless, I shall try to upload for you all. Prepare to have your minds blown by how awesome it is.
Monday, June 29, 2009
2: Dog - I find that I can gauge how well I am doing as a person by how well I treat my little dog Scrabble.
3: DRW - These are my dad's, my older brother's, and his first son's initials. My grandpa's initials were DW. I think that's pretty cool.
4: Drains - Useful or not, I still think it's hilarious that people buy drain cleaners and then literally pour their purchase down the drain.
5: David Foster Wallace - There is a portion of Infinite Jest, approximately pages 17-27, that chronicles an addict waiting for a drug dealer. The way it was written perfectly describes the neurosis of somebody trying to hide something that he desperately wants coupled with the anxiety that accompanies anticipation. In this section you really know you're reading the writing of a genius.
6: Dagwood's - There used to a be a restaurant near Pismo Beach called Dagwood's, the name of which was in reference to the husband in the comic strip Blondie (per that link, that strip has been running forever! Also, there was a Blondie series of movies in the 30's and 40's. And here I thought Hollywood was having a hard time come up with new ideas nowadays). I only ever ate there once, but the place stuck in my head because you were encouraged to shoot toothpicks into the ceiling, by means of placing them in one end of your straw and then blowing forcefully into the other end. I suppose their closure is a mystery no one will ever possibly discern.
7: Ducktales - This is one of the only games I ever managed to beat on the old Nintendo Entertainment System when I was a kid. (Woo-oo).
8: Deo - Me say De-e-e-o; day light come and me want to go home.
9: Desktop - I recently gave my old desktop to Best Buy to be recycled. I got that computer right before I entered college (in the year 2000, for those keeping score at home), and it was good to me. Of course, it was woefully outdated; computing with that computer was like going to a tank fight armed only with a spear (Windows 98? 128 MB of RAM?) Nevertheless, it was surprisingly hard to get rid of. Even after I left it there, I kept asking my wife if I should go get it back somehow, perhaps by means of a courageous break-in or heist. My impulse to hoard useless things continues to surprise me, and I was definitely in a worser (sadder) mood after getting rid of it; maybe I'll end up a curmudgeon (!) after all.
10: Drama - What an interesting thing to get a degree in. Perhaps I should look into that.
Finally, and in honor of the trip I'm taking next week, here's something that makes me laugh:
It started because we, in an effort to pare down, are trying to sell our exercise machine. It cost us a few hundred bucks, so we're trying to sell it for about that. You can imagine how excited we were to get the following email:
"Hello, I saw your posting and i seems to have found what i am looking for, I
will be purchasing this from you if its still available for sale, kindly let me
Sure, the guy's English is bad, but he seems to pretty assuredly want it. Right on! I wrote him back to tell him we'd be home all day Sunday so he could come back and pick it up whenever suited him. This was his response:
"Thank for the prompt response my secretary will process and mail
acertified draft to cover the cost as am completely satisfied with it.I
will need the details of whom & where to mail the payment
1.Name to be on the check
Please note 'United Parcel Service' do not deliver to P.O.Boxaddresses and i will not be mailing a draft to one. My mover will becoming over for the pick up right only after the payment as beendelivered and cleared. Kindly delete the posting as am totallycommitted to buyingfrom you to save cost,.. Here is my relay phone # is (210) 209-8524drop message, i will receive your phone messages via email, regards."
Hmm. This is definitely a little off-putting. However, I was still pretty stoked to unload the exercise machine. I didn't really want to send him my address, but I figured he was going to need it if his "mover" was going to come pick it up, so I sent it to him and awaited a response. Please note that Craigslist advises you never to accept checks or money orders in that they can usually be faked pretty easily, so I should have called it off right here, but I suspended my disbelief in the hopes of paring down.
Nevertheless, the guy could have probably gotten me pretty easily had he not gotten too greedy in his next email:
"I since receive the confirmation from my Secretary,that the paymentas been
issued out and was mailed by the United Parcel Service. itwill be
delivered to your address one business day from now accordingto the courier ,but
to my greatest surprise the draft was issued outfor the sum of $2425 instead of
the actual cost of my purchase .Sheclaimed that i requested for that amount to
be issued out to you butam very sure i only made a request for just the cost of
mypurchase.This is a terrible mistake and i was just informed about thisso
please once the check is delivered please take it to your Bank andhave it
You will then deduct the cost of my purchase plus an extra $100
tooffset the cost of your run around expenses.The rest of the fundshould be sent
to my mover via western union the same day youreceive the payment so that
my mover can make the trip over for thepick up at once.
**I will need you immediate response via email assuring me that i
cantrust you to handle this with utmost care and have the remaining
fundreturned appropriately as requested and will hope that your
intentionsremains noble though out the duration of this transaction**"
Sounds pretty sweet right? Not only do I get to sell my machine, but I get an extra hundred bucks for my trouble?
As you can imagine, the alarms were really going off at this point in my head, so I headed over to the Craigslist scams page, where I was informed not to accept checks, avoid doing business through the mail, and to NEVER use Western Union, all of which he had advised me to do. So I wrote him back and told him that I would mail his check back to him, and, if he still really wanted it, he could have his "mover" come and pay me in cash.
1) When seling on Craigslist, beware of things that seem too good to be true.
2) If the language the prospective buyer is writing in sounds the same as a spam email, it's probably not reputable.
3) If the buyer doesn't even mention the item by name in the body of his emails, it's probably some sort of form letter used to scam lots of people.
In retrospect, I should have caught on earlier, but I really wanted to get rid of the darn thing. Also, I left his phone number in this post in case anybody googles it, and here's his email address and the name on his email: firstname.lastname@example.org and jeff sandsnow (it is uncapitalized).
This is a different sort of post than I usually do, but I hope it proves useful for someone.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
It's a lot of pens! Get it?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
2: Cupcakes - My wife has an affinity for purchasing cupcakes from cupcake boutiques in downtown San Diego, and I must admit that I am growing rather fond of the little guys (not that I ever disliked them, per se). How can I not like a store that makes cupcakes for dogs?
3: Check Requests - They can be a dangerous (and melodramatic) affair.
4: Chantilly Lace - And a pretty face. And a pony tail. Hanging down.
5: Coldstone Creamery - An entirely delicious place until the guy making your ice cream coughs on it. Then it's just mostly delicious.*
6: Comedy - My cubicle neighbor is currently laughing pretty hysterically, and when he was queried as to why, he pointed at the television which is showing an Obama press conference. I guess I just don't get it.
7: Coupons - I browse deal sites on the web like crocodiles capture gazelles: swiftly and without mercy.** As an example, I got a pair of Oakleys a few days ago for a reasonable price (which is pretty unheard of as nearly everything Oakley makes is sold for an unreasonable price -- Thank you REI closeout sale!). As another example, I love taking my 40% coupons that I find into Borders and slapping it down on the counter with such force as if to say, "Hey! I am a crafty consumer!" Also, we all remember the drama of the five pounds of pens.
8: "Consider the Lobster" - This is an essay that David Foster Wallace*** (an admitted meat eater) wrote for Gourmet magazine (which concerns itself with the preparation and enjoyment of delicious food) about whether it is a morally defensible position to boil lobsters alive (which is the preferred method of cooking them). Gourmet has it posted at this link if you'd like to read it, though it is split up over ten separate web pages, which makes getting back and forth between the end notes and the essay a cumbersome affair. While I do not consider myself an animal rights activist, this essay certainly makes me consider, at the very least, if there aren't more humane ways to prepare them.
9: Connecticut - Definitely my least favorite state to prepare reports for. Their commission is unreasonable and ridiculous.
10: Curmudgeon - This is a funny word that doesn't get enough play, in my opinion. To help rectify this situation, I'll try to use it in my next five posts.
*True story. I was so grossed out, I only ate most of it.****
**That simile got a lot more violent that I intended it to.
***I am currently working on his magnum opus Infinite Jest. My interest was inspired mostly by the website infinitesummer.org. The book is strange and non-linear and wonderful so far.
****It didn't help that what I ordered had both caramel sauce and fudge, both of which have a texture not so different from what people cough up.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
As we started walking towards the ice cream shop, we started to think better of ourselves. We were already stuffed past contentment. My friend jokingly posed the question, "AC, how fat do I want to be?" We turned around, and headed back to the car.
2. There is a fellow who, while not being a bad guy necessarily, has fairly antithetical views from my own on the answer to life, the universe, and everything.* As luck would have it, I am around him nearly every day. As such, we converse from time to time, about current events and pop culture mostly, but I am frequently left aggravated. Here are a couple of quotes that I hope will give you an idea of his personality:
A. "The thing about football is that you're usually just rooting for the uniforms nowadays, what with the players switching teams so frequently because they only care about the money."
B. "I don't really like team sports anymore; now I'm into tennis."
C. "I'm not really impressed by the Beatles. I don't know what people see in them."
His attitude may be in earnest, but it seems to me that he likes to dislike things that are popular for the sake of being different.** Now, while I am not always a beacon of hope and light, I feel that he is driven by a pessimistic cynicism, and this cynicism kind of drags me down. That is to say, it makes me cranky; all sarcasm and no optimism makes AC a cranky boy. It's gotten to the point that I secretly despise how he eats his yogurt (why does he fill it so full?), which, I'm sure you'll all agree, is an absolutely unreasonable reaction.
I am fairly surprised at this mindset I have developed. I am generally a pretty even-keel, go with the flow sort of person, so I look with some wonder upon my mindset.
As I ruminated on this this afternoon, I remembered that first story, and I had to ask myself, "AC, how cranky do I want to be?" The answer is not at all.
Now I've just got to figure out how to walk away.
*I say it's 42.
**This is a fault I also see in myself from time to time. Maybe that's why it bugs me so much.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
1: Barbecue - In fifth grade, this word was marked wrong on my spelling test, so I went up to ask the teacher about it. I had spelled it "barbeque" because, really, nearly every sign advertising barbecues has it spelled like that. Instead of answering me directly, she loudly proclaimed, "MAKE SURE TO CHECK THE BOOK BEFORE ASKING ME ABOUT A MISSPELLED WORD." And that was the last time I ever asked a question.
Also, my home town has delicious weekly barbecues, and I, through their seasoning, am working to become a master griller. Or Grill Master. Or Grandmaster Grill. Or G-Rill.
2: Bloomsday - Today, June 16, is the day that the events of the novel Ulysses take place. I haven't read it yet, but I did purchase a beautiful copy from this little used book store in Australia called Brian's Books. Step one, check.
3: Beat Poetry - Ginsburg's Howl was one of my first experiences away from standard, rhymed poetry, and it had a definite influence on my own poetry (in that, it encouraged me to write some). I still don't know what most of it means. Take that, culture!
4: Belief - The difference between knowing and believing is both subtle and beautiful.
5: Beauty - Keats says that all we need to know on earth is that beauty and truth are synonyms. While I don't know if I would go that far, I will say that those lines encourage me towards a career in the arts.
6: Bonsai - I bought my grampa a Bonsai tree for his birthday, and it sounds like he loved it. Many of you may have someone on your gift-receiving list like my grampa, ie, someone who doesn't really want or need anything. It is especially pleasing to give these people a gift they enjoy.
7: Bokonon - He is the founder of a religion in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. I consider Vonnegut foundational in the development of my own adsurdist sense of humor, and this character certainly helped that along.
8: Bride - I am pretty dang fortunate in this department.
9: Bones - This television show, which I had never seen prior to few weeks ago (to the point that I thought the guy's nickname was Bones), is fast becoming a favorite in our household.
10: Botany - As has been evidenced on number nine as well as many other places, whenever a fictional character is into botany or taking care of plants, you know he has a sinister back story.
And, for good measure, 11: Birthday - Today is my little bro's birthday. Happy day!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Sun: 1 - 5
Mon: 12:30 - 8
Tue: 9:30 - 5:30
Wed: 12:30 - 8
Thu: 9:30 - 5:30
Fri: 12:30 - 5:30
Sat: 9:30 - 2:30
FOR WHOM IS THIS A CONVENIENT SCHEDULE?! How did they even choose these hours? Did somebody throw darts at possible hours of operation? Or did they send a survey to people who like to read early in the morning on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but who like to take a more laid back approach to reading on other days?
You know what would have been a better schedule? Anything with a consistent closing time would have been better. Though it's not especially out of my way to go, it is irritating to show up to a closed library when I'm jonesin' for some fine literature. Don't they know I need my fix?
End of diatribe.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
In planning our trip, we got a pretty good deal on our hotel. It's a four-star, swanky place for a reasonable price. So I signed up for it and went on my merry way, only to be met with wide eyes from my friends from Texas when I told them where we were staying.
It turns out our hotel, the Emily Morgan Hotel, is incredibly haunted. The building was formerly a hospital, and it dates back to the Alamo.
So. That will be fun. No wonder we got a good price. I hope the rooms at least come with a nightgown and night cap to wear, and a candlestick to shake as I search for answers down dark hallways.
*It's technically just a ceremony for their friends and family, not an actual new marriage.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I think my prejudices and preconceived notions against the company (though their deodorant is fine) were playing against me when I looked over at my medicine cabinet, because I saw a tag line on the deodorant that said something to the effect of "Made with hope to help quell bacteria."
I almost didn't give it a second glance because that seemed exactly like how I would imagine Tom's of Maine would advertise their products. However, my incredulity got the better of me, and I saw that it said "hops," not "hope."
Ah, Tom's of Maine! Only you could produce deodorant that one could, with a little help from barley and fermentation, turn into beer.
Monday, June 08, 2009
The first crime listed is grand theft auto. I look into the blood-shot eyes of these people; I view their foreheads, ridged with wrinkles; I see gray hair on people whose bodies look much older than they likely are. They all look like they've had a rough time in life.
And my job is to guess which of them has been caught stealing a car.
What does a car thief look like? Is it the gruff young man? Is it the middle-aged woman with the snarling grin?
My mind drifts to another website, the Interview Project, which has conducted over a hundred short interviews with people met by the side of the road as the camera crew traverses these United States. I remember the interview with a man whose girlfriend had killed a man in self-defense, and this man, in a grim effort to help out, had gotten in trouble for "burial without a permit." He is on parole, and can't leave the state (or see the "love of his life") for a few more months. He can't wait for the time to pass so that he can be with her, and move up to Montana so that they can be away from everything and everyone, to live a life on anonymity I think how unlikely I am to ever be in his situation.
What does a man who buries without a permit look like? Like this man, apparently.
I am reminded of an idea from Sunday school, that when you point your finger at someone, you've got four fingers pointing back at yourself.
I click through a few rounds. Is the soccer mom the heroin possessor, or is it the teenage girl who glances away from the camera? Which of these five, sad faces tried to run from the police? After only a few more rounds, I have to close out of it. I feel unsettled, my pulse runs a bit faster. I am disquieted; I am anonymously singled-out. Much like they are.
What does a man look like who, without sin, is throwing a stone? I have yet to see.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."
Friday, June 05, 2009
As I checked the online portal to view my application status, in continually read "Evaluation." I checked every day in February. The original time frame closed. But still, I was under "Evaluation."
Every day in March.
Half way through April, I wrote an email, asking about the status. Surely other students had been accepted, right? They should know one way or the other on me, right? I received an email back that said they were still working on it, and I should know by May 1 one way or the other.
Every day in April, and nothing on May 1.
In early May, I got some other great news, but I still held out hope for this program. I had auditioned well, people had been excited with me. This was the training that I wanted most of all. The training I had built up my resume to receive. The training I believed I was good enough for.
After May 1, I stopped checking every day. After all that time, I couldn't really believe I still had a shot, but not knowing with certainty is a cruel mistress.
"Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing with its probability." - Schopenhauer.
Today I log in. There is no, "Evaluation." Instead, I am "Reviewed." "Your application for admission was not approved. You will be informed of the decision by mail. "
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1
I turn around in my desk chair and look over the little view I have of the harbor. The flag was full, the wind still blew.
Like the ant who screamed "I'm significant!", I hoped for more.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
The place was pretty crowded, as these events tend to be, so we had to go up to the second balcony to find empty seats as the event was starting as we were getting there. After we sat down, other people asked to pass by us to find their own empty seats.
One man, after he passed us, stopped for a second, looked at me, and said, "Hey! Aren't you A.C.?"*
As I frantically racked my brain to remember who this gentleman was, I replied with a quizzical smile on my face, "Yeah?"
He smiled broadly and said, "A.C.! From the cruise!"
I suppose it isn't unreasonable that most of the people on a three day cruise that departs from San Diego are from the San Diego area, but it was pretty surprising to be recognized up in Escondido. I guess my fame is growing, slowly but surely.
Fortunately for my poor cousin-in-law, the man didn't ask me if I was the guy from the hairy chest contest, so I was able to leave my shirt on throughout the entire ceremony.**
*The man used my real name when he recognized me. If you can imagine, I am an even more minor internet celebrity than I am a minor cruise celebrity.
**When I got to the car after the graduation, however, the shirt came off. It was a hot day, and that's how I roll in the Camry.***
****Or am I?
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Check it out when you have a chance. It's pretty great.
*Hmm...I'm not sure where I stand on the child abuse joke. I'll leave it because I've already typed it and the backspace key is WAY over at the top right of the keyboard, but I'm not happy about it.
Monday, June 01, 2009
1) You are limited only by your modesty and natural body limits as to the total amount of food you may consume. My modesty is not great as we shall see shortly.
2) If you win second place in the blackjack tournament, as opposed to the $500 you would have received for first place, you will receive an extra-small polo shirt and a change purse. Though the thought of yourself in an XS polo shirt is something pretty hilarious to the lay-person, as I am an XXL male who already has his own preferred change purse, thankyouverymuch, these items will be useless to you, and you will leave them behind.
3) If you win other contests on board, you will receive a small trophy that has a likeness of the ship you were on. The judges of these contests will refer to these trophies as "ships on a stick," in an effort to pull you into their crude double entendre.
4) You will think it would be funny to compete in the "Men's Hairy Chest Contest," as you assume you will only be shirtless briefly. When the contest starts and you realize that you have to parade shirtless down a flight of stairs by the pool, around the pool, up the stairs to the water slide, down the water slide, out of the pool, and in front of the female judges, all to the song "She's a Brick House," the humor of the activity will be severely lessened.
5) If you are one of the two finalists in this contest, you will be advised to "Shake what your mother gave you" while Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" plays over the PA system. As you are contestant number 2, you will feel obligated to out-do finalist number 1 in this endeavor, which will result in shaking equal to Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies" style proportions.
6) When you win this contest, you will realize that all of your dreams in life have come true, until you are told, as a condition of your victory, that if anybody for the rest of the cruise says to you "Hey, aren't you the hairy chest guy?" that you required to rip off your shirt and yell, "Oh yeah!"
7) People will come up to you for the rest of the cruise and get you to take your shirt off. This will be perplexing to you, because you would think that if people knew how to get you to take your shirt off, they would go out of their way to avoid doing so.
8) With little to no modesty left, let's just say that the buffet will cry after you are done with it.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The course I have opted for is called "The American Novel Since 1945." If this one goes well, I may take others, but I opted for this one first because a) I love literature, b) there are several books on the reading list I have been meaning to read, and c) though I am rich in pens, I don't have a lot of extra money right now, and my assumption is that I can get all of the required books through the public library.
The first item on the reading list was selections from Richard Wright's Black Boy. Wright is slightly more famous for his novel Native Son, so I was intrigued by the professor's choice to include the former novel in the class reading (especially, as I came to find out, since Black Boy is actually autobiographical in nature). However, after doing the reading, I was very happy to have read what I did from Black Boy. It is a smart, engaging, and, at times, funny book, while also engaging serious cultural and political issues that are still being felt today. I suppose I can't speak for the whole book, but the selections I read were compelling in the way they illuminated aspects of a person's upbringing that are completely alien to my own (as he grew up as a black boy in the early twentieth century [even if Steve Martin, as he asserts in The Jerk, grew up as a poor black child]) while also illustrating the way that person grew into and became an artist.
The particular aspect of the story that I wanted to write about here is his grandmother. In the second chapter, Richard, as a child, meets his grandmother's servant, who is reading a book. As he is just barely literate at this point, he asks her what the book is about. She doesn't want to tell him, because she knows that she will get in trouble from the grandmother. He continues to ask, and the servant eventually wears down, and begins to read to him, telling him the story from her book called Bluebeard and his Seven Wives. As you might expect, the grandmother eventually discovers this. Here is a brief description of the following events from SPARKS NOTES:
"A strict Seventh-Day Adventist, Granny equates fiction with lies and sin, so she forbids such “Devil stuff” in her house. When Richard protests against his grandmother's restrictions, she slaps him and declares that he will burn in hell. Richard, however, is so enraptured by Ella's story that he becomes determined to read as many novels as he can, risk or no risk. He secretly borrows Ella's novels from her room and tries to read them, but cannot quite make sense of them because his vocabulary is too limited.
When Richard's mother falls ill, Granny assumes the task of bathing him and his brother. One particular night, while Granny is scrubbing his backside, Richard absentmindedly and uncomprehendingly tells her that when she is done she can kiss him “back there.” Convinced that Richard is a mouthpiece for the Devil, Granny becomes enraged and begins beating him with a wet towel. Richard flees. Upon learning of Richard's statement, his mother joins in the pursuit to punish him. Richard then crawls under a bed, where not even his grandfather can reach him. The boy remains there until hunger and thirst drive him out, at which point his mother beats him with a switch. To his mother's frustration, Richard is honestly unable to tell her where he learned the phrase he said. He is not even sure what the phrase means or why it constitutes such a grave insult. Granny, convinced that Richard has learned the phrase from Ella and her books, confronts the young schoolteacher, who decides to pack her things and move out."
If you're like me, all of the beatings in this book are pretty surprising from a twenty-first century perspective, but that's not necessarily what I want to discuss. I want to think about the idea that fiction is sinful.
Prior to reading this book, I have never heard the viewpoint that fiction is necessarily sinful. While the conservative Christian high school I went to tended to officially condemn aspects of sinful Hollywood or depraved scenes that occurred in movies, I never heard anyone specifically say that fiction was sinful. In fact, every year we studied literature, which, obviously, tends to be fictional.
With these things in mind, I felt that I wanted to evaluate the grandmother's position. The first thing I considered is that the grandmother is not really illustrated in a positive light. In writing about her the way he does, Wright is trying to show that the external, societal complications of being a poor, black southerner is compounded by the fact that he, as an artistically sensitive person, is even put upon from within his own family.
Another point to consider is that she doesn't give him a choice. She doesn't say that he should, instead, go read the Bible or go play with his brother. She just tells him not to read fiction. This emphasizes a lot of people's opinion on religion as just being a list of what one shouldn't do, which, to Wright, is another boundary that he had to break through in order to succeed artistically.
As I continued on this train of thought, I realized that it's not really the artistic merit of character that I wanted to consider. I wanted to see if Granny's position, even if it isn't espoused popularly today, was a reasonable position for a Christian to have.
I couldn't come to a conclusion. I ended up in a kind of infinite regression, but I was possibly not asking myself the correct questions. I asked, is it better to read the Bible or to read a novel? I asked, is it better to pray or to write a poem? I asked, is it better to go to church or to go to a movie? I, as a Christian, sided more frequently with the Christian "correct" answer, but I, as a human being, saw value in both, especially when I asked the adverb question of to what extent should I choose one over the other. Should I opt for the Bible 70 times out of every 100 times I read? 75? 90? 100? This led to the question of whether I should ever do something that is not explicitly "Christian." Obviously, nearly every Christian would say that being Christian isn't a matter of what you do, but they would also assert that it is by the fresh water flows from fresh water, so to speak. At what point does the rubber meet the road?
While growing up in America has taught me that every viewpoint is valuable, this one would be nearly impossible for me to value so much that I came to believe it. I think it could be defensible, but I would find that to be a sad, lonely existence.
What do you think?
Monday, May 18, 2009
But I digress.
All in all, I ran most of the race, though I walked up the bridge because, really, that is some crazy incline, yo! I finished in about the time that I was hoping to (1:05:05), which is likely a little long as it took us several minutes to reach the starting line after the opening horn had blown.
In short, it was a great time, and I am looking forward to other races here in the future. I'll probably go with a couple of 5ks to continue to get my running legs underneath me, but my brother is trying to get to run the Disneyland Half Marathon in September. Good luck on that all around.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Kirk takes the Enterprise. They fight a cloud. Boredom ensues.
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
Bugs go in ears. Mind Control. Kirk screams "KHAAAAAANNNNN!!!" Hilarity Ensues. Spock dies?
Star Trek: The Search for Spock
Kirk takes the Enterprise, and blows it up. Klingon falls in lava. Hilarity Ensues. Spock lives?
I hope I didn't spoil anything (is it possible to spoil movies that are at least 25 years old?).