Tuesday, February 27, 2007

...Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

I like to be prepared. We've been over this before. If I was, say, accidentally lost in the wilderness during my day-to-day travels, I'd be set. I carry with me a large-ish messenger-style bag, and my pockets are always full.

Here's what I have with me today:

Left pocket:
misc. change ($0.46)
1 USM Card
1 missed appointment card from the oil change place
1 thin plastic produce bag
1 unused brown paper napkin, folded

Right Pocket:
1 container eye drops, mostly empty
asst. change ($0.68)
1 pack of gum, 3/4 empty
1 cell phone with rainbow heart sticker
3 gum wrappers
1 minty wad of chewed gum wrapped in a gum wrapper
1 chapstick

Distributed throughout various pockets & zippered compartments:
1 bottle ibuprofen with two tablets inside
1 inhaler
1 tampon
1 multi-tool in cool canvas holder
1 tin ginger mints
1 checkbook
1 chapstick
1 hand lotion
2 cinema gift certificates
1 old paper mainecare card
1 business card for nomia
2 pens
3 lactaid chewables
2 packets of ginger tea
4 pieces of nicotine gum
1 empty nicotine gum wrapper
3 more lactaid chewables
1 nametag from my January MFA residency with my last name spelled wrong and indicating that I'm from Lake Charles, LA
6 more pieces of nicotine gum
1 more empty nicotine gum wrapper

And in the large middle section:
1 box of organic, unbleached tampons
8 old paystubs rubber-banded together
1 plastic container in which I brought my lunch, now dirty since my lunch is eaten
1 day planner
1 notebook/diary, orange
1 bundle paperwork from my health insurance company, folded
1 legal size notepad
1 recipe for braised cabbage with brown onions
1 past-due credit card bill
1 photocopied piece of erotic Nancy Drew flash fiction
1 red pen
1 wallet
assorted pieces of paper from the department of health and human services, folded
1 tiny composition book
1 stick of deodorant
1 letter from my mentor from last semester
1 reading list from last semester, folded into quarters

From this list, one could gather that I have some digestive difficulties, am trying not to smoke, possibly that I write, and definitely that I have some insecurities about my body.

What's in your pocket right now? What do you carry with you every day? De-lurk yourself and tell me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

RIP Mr. Furious

(the above picture is a dramatic re-enactment ONLY.
No fish were harmed in the making of this blog.)

How not to handle the death of your child's pet:

Yesterday morning I woke to find my daughter's beta fish floating sideways in his bowl. I knew that S would be heartbroken (she's sensitive). Not wanting to face it alone, I ran to wake up K, who was sleeping late. I swear, I got no pleasure from this early awakening. Even though I'd been up for three hours already.

So K scooped the sort of icky fish onto a paper towel for presentation and rinsed the bowl while I got ready to prep S. We were both giggling, a little, because we were nervous about her reaction, and also feeling silly for being so serious about a fish.

I went to the living room, where S was obliviously watching cartoons. "I have some sad news," I began.

She looked away from the TV with effort.

"Mr. Furious," I said, holding up the newly-cleaned and empty bowl.

She looked at me, raising her eyebrows as she understood. Then she wrinkled them. I thought that maybe she wasn't going to become hysterical. She was silent.

"It's OK if you're not really sad," I said. "It's hard to get close to a fish."

At that, S burst into full-on wail mode. On cue, K came into the room with the diminished-looking fish all limp on the paper towel.

"Do you want to see him?"

"NO!" she wailed, horrified. I rubbed her back and tried to be comforting. I definitely didn't look at K, knowing that if I did we would both descend into insensitive laughter that would probably scar my daughter for life. I could hear her future therapy: "And then my mom and her partner laughed. They laughed because Mr. Furious was dead! And I knew then that she'd never really loved me."

Eventually S tentatively touched the deceased fish. I reminded her to wash her hands. Then we lit a candle and put it on the shelf where Mr. Furious' bowl had been, and burned some sage over his limp little body.

When she realized where we were going to dispose of the body, she cried some more, saying that at school they found out that flushing makes fish bodies explode. I gently pointed out that it didn't matter too much because he was already dead. Contrary to my belief at the time, I now think that there is no gentle way to point this out. She cried some more. Then she went back to the TV.

K and I dropped Mr. Furious into the toilet. K wanted to take a picture of him in the bowl, but I urged restraint, because if S ever found that picture she really would be traumatized for life. Mr. Furious was flushed and gone, and S remained weepy all day.

RIP, Mr. Furious. You were loved.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Target Audience

Last week my friend J posted delightfully on her realization that she and her wife are the target audience for the prime-time tv market.

It happened for me some time ago, when I realized that all of the people buying washing machines and refrigerators were my age. As if people my age need washing machines! Crap!

But last night K and I were shopping in our local Target, looking for a new shower curtain. After we found the shower curtain we wandered through the kids' section, getting ideas for S's room. We noticed that all of the children's things look like the stuff that we had when we were kids; that's because, we decided, people our age are starting to have kids and want them to have stuff like we had. (Welcome back, Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake!).

Target is the store created for people of my general age group, and I find myself even thinking that the commercials are clever (singing "you say goodbuy and I say hello" as I brush the snow off the car in the morning). I'm supposed to. That's what they want. K and I shared how unnerving that is.

Then, as we wandered through the kitchenwares, drooling over specialty cooking items that we will never buy but nevertheless like to look at, and noticed that every other person in that section was part of a couple, also drooling over kitchenwares and buying small-ticket items.

It was disturbing. In order to assuage our mass-market failings, we stopped at the local independent video store and rented a movie (David Mamet's Edmond; not recommended) and then stopped by the local independent music store--conveniently located next door--where K and I picked out a heavy metal compilation of music from our adolescence. It wasn't until I got into the car that I realized the hypocracy.

I like to imagine that I'm an independent thinker, but it's just imagination. I'm a target audience, and those ad executives (even local ones) are fucking good at what they do--knowing what appeals to me and what I might want or think I need to purchase at any given time, and then making sure I know where to get it. And I buy into it as well.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Two Things, and a Gift for You

Thing One:

I read this newspaper article today, and just had to share:

Teens Plowed into Snowbank, Stuck for Hours
Two Windham teenagers were trapped in a snowbank for more than six hours during Wednesday's blizzard after a plow truck smashed the snow cave they had built in a parking lot off Route 302.

Before my mom went crazy, back when I was a kid, I remember her yelling at me and my sister not to play in the snowbank at the end of our driveway. It was a very, very long dirt road, because we were woods-lovin hippies, and the plow truck driver would get up quite a bit of speed while pushing the snow into an enormous mountain at the end of the road. Of course, we didn't listen. Imagine a five/ten/twenty foot pile of snow that is off-limits to a couple of outdoorsy kids. No way. It made the cave seem slightly illicit, and dangerous, and therefore super fun.

Thing Two:

Our V-Day was nice. K and I decided not to celebrate--we got a little box of candy for S and called it good. Then we watched movies all day because of the nor'easter raging outside. We watched Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (guess who picked that one); A Prairie Home Companion; and Infamous (which is the other Truman Capote movie recently out). I also watched the beginning of High Fidelity but had to stop because of the intense John Cusack ridicule that was coming from my other half. Sometimes a day spent in front of the TV is therapeutic.

Then friends came over and we had an an anti-Valentine's dinner of crock pot baked beans and some authentic southern cornbread made by an authentic southerner. Sort of an east-coast-spanning meal, there. I got a little silly on port and fell asleep during the movie in front of all of our friends. It was awesome.

A Gift for You:

Well, if you menstruate, that is. Or if you know someone who does.

This year, to my dismay, I did not find a Slingshot organizer. The best thing about a Slingshot, besides its helter-skelter home-crafty design, is its Femstrual Cal in the front. So, I made one. (Being an Excel geek is good for some things) You can have one too, if you like. Happy V-Day. Love your reproductive organs and the blood that comes out of them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

If You Don't Vote, You Can't Complain

My schoolchum Patrick is running a heavy metal noir flash fiction contest over at his site.

The stories are sweet (is there anything sweeter than heavy metal and crime in two thousand words or less? besides rock blocking, I mean) and Patrick kicks ass, so head on over there and vote. You probably won't be sorry, and if you are, you can just eat some chocolate and you'll feel better. Or else you can get internet in your house like I just did and never worry about ever talking to real people in person again.

Either way. Pretty good.

From the Couch: Desire Paths

That's right. Blogging from my couch. It's very exciting. In celebration of this momentous event, I give you the missing lesbian radio piece, Desire Paths.

My first years in Portland, I didn’t need a car. My feet--and the spotty public transportation system--carried me wherever I needed to go. For a time, I worked at the health food store, where the bus schedule was somewhere way past spotty, on the edge between cruel and ridiculous. So I walked. After dropping my daughter off at daycare in the East End and kissing my girlfriend goodbye, I walked the churchy stretch of Cumberland Avenue and down into the wind towards the bay. I walked, and walked.

The shortest route was down Franklin Arterial: two rushing double lanes bordered by green knolls, and a wide median planted with more grass and trees. Though the stretch from Cumberland Avenue to Marginal Way is perhaps half a mile, it seemed three times as far. Franklin Art connects the interstate to the Old Port just as efficiently as it divides the Bayside neighborhood. Its indifferent traffic and lack of sidewalks is hardly on a human scale.

Walking Franklin Arterial is a lesson in humility. In summer, you walk on a dusty path in the trodden grass on the side of the road. The wind from the passing cars drives gravel into your legs, and there is no respite from the exhaust fumes in the steady traffic. People speed by, your head bows into the heat. You can’t help but imagine the effect of a ton or two of fast-moving metal on the human body. Your body. The dust and chemicals taste like apocalypse.

One day I noticed a path that slanted through a gap in a fence, across the banks of dusty grass, through the median, across the other side, up the other bank, and between the bent links of a chain fence. The path was a brown track made by feet back and forth between the housing development on one side and the downtown on the other. It ignored sidewalks, roadways, and the square lines of a city block, moving directly between two places where people need to go. On its own terms. It inexplicably cheered me as I walked every day, home to work, work to home. In the winter the path beat down the snow into frozen footsteps and fearlessly crossed the icy asphalt. In spring, the grass sprang green around the mud churned up by busy feet. I never actually saw anybody using it, but clearly people did, and do. Lots of them.

City planners and other neighborhood developers call these desire paths, because they reflect a pedestrian wish—to get straight from the housing development to the downtown, for example. Pedestrians like to walk in straight lines, and they like to take as few steps as possible. This desire path on Franklin Arterial is the imaginary extension of Oxford Street. In a recent article in the Portland Phoenix, a resident who lives near this particular desire path on Franklin Arterial wondered why people don’t walk the five hundred feet up to the sidewalk to cross at the intersection where there are crosswalks.

But why should they? If you can walk straight across, why go out of your way? Because someone has laid concrete down at a right angle to other roads? Here, I felt, was a truth: mostly we walk on the paths that are laid out for us, but sometimes we make our own way, because it’s faster, or shorter, or because the grocery bags are so heavy in our hands that we cannot afford to go one single step out of our way.

It happens that way: rules and expectations are laid out for us. They are the paved streets and sidewalks. Usually they go where we wanted to go anyway: work at a job, get a paycheck; use your blinker, avoid an accident. Or take a road ten miles up, turn left at the old fire station, and drive all the way to the end to watch the sun come up over Casco Bay.

But sometimes the roads don’t go where we’d be going. Sometimes the path takes an inexplicable curve that would take us fifteen steps out of our way. Or fifty. Sometimes a road is severed to make room for a busier one, and sometimes neighborhoods are divided by wide strips of tar and traffic moving far faster than any person can run, the interests of one group trumping those of another.

And sometimes laws cut across our lives because other people aren’t thinking about what it will do to us, or worse--if they are thinking about it, they don’t care. Sometimes the looks of strangers clutter the way into my daughter’s school, so I drop your partner’s hand and look down. Sometimes a preacher will spill hatred in the guise of teaching morality. Sometimes we are told who it’s okay for us to love, and who it’s not, or who can wear dresses, or who should but doesn’t.

These are the streets we’re meant to follow, and maybe those streets go where most people were going anyway; that’s why us queers are a minority, after all. But some people break paths in defiance of the right angles and concrete. They dart across the dangerous pavement, dodging hatred and ignorance, big suckers than can squish a body flat with the shape of a curled lip or a raised fist. Steady feet follow each other through the mud and beat down the snow and make a path that should, by all logic, be there anyway. We slip through the links in chained fences and sometimes we even show up at meetings to demand why the road stops in such a dumbass place anyway.

It cheers me, as I trudge along the side of a dirty road, to see the paths that people are making in defiance of the planners and developers. I think that sometimes those planners forget the size of the human body, forget the needs of people who live in them, and the way that lives don’t fit into right angles. Remind them. Even if you don’t make it to the meetings, show them the way with your feet, your body, your actions. Follow your own desire path, and make new ones, and show them where the roads should have been going all along.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Movin' on Up

Greetings from the land of irritated bloggers.

I have unwillingly been forced into google-dom with this blog. Which means that I can't update it from my work computer (only during my lunch break, of course). Because my work computer has an over-protective firewall that seems to think that gmail and google are satan.

And since there's no internet at home, that means I have to go elsewhere to update this. As in, take a walk in the cold and go to the University. Which I don't do all that often, except today when I happen to be meeting a friend for a delicious Aramark lunch. MMmmmmmm..... Aramark.

Things are looking up, though. My household is slated to move directly into the 21st century in a few weeks, when we will get (drumroll, please) the internet! Right in our house! All the time! I get so excited I almost pee myself every time I think about it.

So I'll be scarce until That Fateful Day, after which I expect that you'll probably have so much of me you'll choke.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

DIY Heaven

I like to make things myself. Why should I pay 2.99 for a fish-scooper (you know, that thing you use when you take the betas out of the bowl to clean it) when I can make one at home? If I had that digital camera, I would take a picture for you of the fish-scooper I made out of a wire hanger and some old pantyhose. Imagine that picture here:

It all fits in with my idea of myself as thrifty and creative. It also contributes to my pack rat habit. (Recently: "I know that this is three years worth of old cooking magazines... but the food porn pictures are so nice! What if I wanted to do an art project with them one day?" and also "Yes we do need six old Dr. Bronner's bottles under the sink. They are handy for if you need to travel and also maybe someday we will begin to buy things in bulk," and also, "Don't throw away that plastic cat-litter container! I want to compost things--uh, someday soon.")

So imagine my delight to come across (via Serious Eats) the Instructables website , which has instructions for making a still out of a rice cooker and a garbage bag, and also for shipping a tiger to Canada.

Good lord, how am I ever going to get any work done now?


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