Monday, October 15, 2007

a small pedantic rant

Prophecy. Prophesy. Prophesied. Prophesized.

Prophecy, NOUN. A prediction or interpretation inspired by some divine force. The last syllable rhymes with "tree."

Prophesy, VERB. The act of making a prophecy. The last syllable rhymes with "fly."

Prophesied, VERB. The past tense of "prophesy." The last syllable rhymes with "cried."

Prophesized, HIDEOUS MALFORMATION. Often mistakenly used as the past tense of "prophesy," giving Ginny a toothache. The last syllable rhymes with death.

That is all.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

the correct way to spend an early autumn evening

First, go out on the patio and smoke your brand-new hookah, while pondering the characteristics of fairies in the story you'll be writing this November. Occasionally recite parts of Ash Wednesday, just to make sure you still can. Watch the alternation of clouds and stars overhead, and enjoy the shapes your smoke makes against them.

When you are good and chilly and your coal has nearly gone out, pack up and return indoors. Heat up some mushroom-parmesan pasta you made the other night, and cook and butter a sweet potato. Eat these with a bottle of Dogfish Head's pumpkin ale. Along with these, read or watch something fun and comfortable (I chose Remembrance of the Daleks, my first Seventh Doctor episode, but I understand that may not be for everyone. Rex Stout would be another excellent choice.)

Play a game of go online (optional.)

Finally, bake a few chocolate chip cookies and eat them with a glass of milk. Trader Joe's makes a great chocolate chip cookie dough that they sell frozen. Stickler as I am for homemade, I love these because you can keep them in the freezer and bake them a few at a time, so your chocolate chip cookies are always fresh from the oven. (Note to self: see if this can be done with homemade cookie dough.)

Go to bed, warm and well-fed and full of a sense of cozy autumnal well-being.

Friday, October 05, 2007

an evening with Joy

I bought a hookah on East Carson Street.

Also a couple of records. The fact that I don't have a record player seemed strangely insignificant while I was looking at Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.

When Joy blows smoke she looks like she's singing. Dr. Ray would be so proud. Probably.

Charlotte was not at all sure about this hookah-smoking thing.

Her feelings on spinning records, however, are well documented.

Joy and Marvin Gaye. A love that knows no bounds.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a story-bit from long ago

Sara watched her father as he put on his court robes. He turned and smiled at her as he buckled his tunic, then went and kissed her forehead.
“Are you ready?” he asked quietly. She bit her lip, and nodded. “All right, then.” He took her hand, and together they stepped into the capsule. Sara tried as usual to stand without support during the take-off, but she was forced to grab her father’s arm as the capsule jerked and plummeted. She looked up and forced out a sickly, nervous smile.
“Before I leave you, my dear, I have a few words. I’ve taught you all I could, you’ve learned well. I could not leave my world in the hands of anyone else who I’d feel more sure of. I know you will learn quickly.
“There are two people to whom I commend you, for help and advice. The first is Darien. I know you will go to him if you need help, I do not need to tell you. What I want to tell you is, remember who is Guardian. My one worry is that you will let your respect for Darien prevent you from making your own decisions. He is wise and experienced, but he does not know everything. No one knows everything. Take his advice, but trust your own judgement as well. He is your advisor, not your superior. Do you understand?” She nodded silently, and he continued.
“There is another, an old friend of mine. He is an outcast, a renegade. But he is honest, and I have asked him to be to you what he was to me– another advisor, helper, and friend. Many times there has been a situation in which his help saved our world. He will contact you, probably, soon after you come home. It is for you to decide whether or not you will accept his help; I can only tell you that he has proved for me to be trustworthy, brave, and loyal. Needless to say, I went behind consular law in meeting with him. Again, remember, no one knows everything, not even the council. You are responsible for your own decisions.”
Just then the capsule arrived at the chamber, and they stepped out. All the councillors were gathered, and bowed as Sara and her father stepped out. They went to the President and stood before him. He stepped forward and took Sara’s hand.
“Greetings, Sara. We are glad that you can join us.”
“The honour is mine,” she replied quietly, at the same time dipping low and bowing her head.
“Do you swear to uphold the laws of this council, the safety of your people, and the honour of this nation, for as long as you hold your post?”
“I do.”
“Good.” He turned to her father. “You have been a faithful and worthy Guardian of your people. Go now, into the rest you have earned.” Then he smiled, and his tone became warmer and less ceremonial. “Peace be with you, my friend. You will be missed.”
Sara’s father bowed low. “I thank you, my president and council, for the honour of serving the nation, and I go with grief to leave and joy to come.”
Then Sara and her father turned and walked to the center of the room, to the great circle in the middle of the floor. They faced each other, and slowly her father put his hands to his neck. She stood, heart beating fast, and as he hesitated, fear rose in her heart. It had happened before, that at the vital moment a Guardian was unable to surrender the medallion that symbolised everything he lived for. But after a moment of struggle, a smile passed over her father’s face, he lifted the leather strap, and placed it around her neck.
Instantly the world became heavier for Sara. She forgot the Council-chamber, the assembled councillors, even her own father standing before her, and her mind flew back to her home– now more– now her world, her planet, her people. She remembered, just that morning, the chambermaid bowing as she passed Sara in the hall– an ordinary event, but suddenly somehow transformed. Why had she not noticed, then, the shadow of a bruise on the chambermaid’s chin? Why had she not stopped to ask after the villagers? Why had she not even glanced at the viewer before leaving, to see that there was no trouble? Anything might have happened since the night... raiders, or a murder, or a flood in the valley... As panic filled her, her father’s hand fell on her shoulder, and she looked in his face. It was old, somehow older than she had ever seen it, but also younger. A few of the lines had lifted, and his smile had a lightness which she had never seen before. “Bear it well, daughter,” he said softly, and his voice held both pity and envy. Then, with a light kiss on her cheek, he stepped into the capsule that waited at the other end of the chamber. One final salute, both merry and sad, and the doors closed, and he was gone.

Friday, September 07, 2007

an unusually good day in the life

Every so often you get a day, or a portion of the day, which is just perfectly satisfying. Here's mine.

I decided I wanted something special for dinner. I'd had the foresight to marinate some chicken, in a champagne-pear salad dressing (I had bought the dressing from Trader Joe's on Mom's recommendation, found it was too sweet for me as a salad dressing, but makes a great marinade), so now I just had to decide how to cook it. Usually when I do chicken and pasta I make a traditional white sauce, but this time I wanted something not quite as thick. A dip into Joy of Cooking gave me the needed inspiration, and I went off to Trader Joe's for my ingredients.

I'd thought I might wait a while before starting to cook, but I was already hungry by the time I got home so I got straight to work. Followed much sizzling of olive oil, chopping of onions and garlic and mushrooms, simmering of chicken broth, mincing of fresh thyme. I had about a shot's worth of cognac left-- half of it went in the sauce, half of it went in the baby snifter I got at Oglethorpe's homecoming one year. Also some heavy cream, and of course salt and pepper. The result? A very thin, slightly creamy sauce, laden with chopped-up onions and mushrooms, and smelling heavenly.

I had intended to eat my dinner while watching the first of the two-part Dr Who, the conclusion of which was airing and being recorded as I finished my cooking. When you have a really lovely meal, though, it's an insult to eat it in front of the television,* so instead I got my Andrew Lang and read all about how Petru, the youngest of three princes, fought three Welwas and met three goddesses and came home to rule the kingdom. It's funny, I don't remember the story at all, but I recognized the picture of the Welwa the minute I saw it.

*(This rule is inviolable. The best accompaniment to an excellent meal is of course good company and conversation. Lacking this, a book is acceptable, but it must be both well-written and entertaining. Pulpy paperbacks are disallowed, as are textbooks. Under no circumstances may the meal, if the food be really of top quality, be accompanied by anything on a screen: television or computer. This rule, however, only applies to freshly prepared food. Carryout and leftovers are exempt.)

And it really was an excellent meal. Not only that, but it was exactly what I'd been wanting. Come over some time and I'll make it for you.

And then-- ah then-- came time to watch that Dr Who. Some of you were privileged (ay, privileged) to hear my wailing and gnashing of teeth two weeks ago, when I found that not only was the current episode ending on a cliffhanger, but the continuation wouldn't air till two weeks hence. It was, as I commented at the time, the first time I have ever had to wait on a cliffhanger for this best-loved of all shows. Oh sweet torment... anyway, I weathered the interim weeks surprisingly well, though I was obliged to watch the entirety of the 9th Doctor season on DVD to fill the void. But at last, the day was come. Having had the supreme satisfaction of eating an excellent meal of my own cooking, and finishing the last of my cognac, I was now to see the much-waited resolution.

This is usually the point in the evening where something goes wrong: the recording misfires, the roommate comes down and turns on the television before I have time to dibs it, something like that. If we were permitted moments of perfect satisfaction very often, they wouldn't be notable enough to write blog entries about. On this occasion, nothing went wrong.

It was really a very good episode. I have been unusually impressed by a few of the third season episodes (Gridlock springs to mind) and this one stands with them. The acting and direction were beautiful and intriguing in a number of instances (the human forms of the blood hunters, for example, managing to be what so few Dr Who villains are: weird but not comical.) And of course the remarkable Thomas Sangster, with his ten-year-old face and fifty-year-old eyes. And the story had two infallible sources of fascination for me. First there's the merciless digging into what it means and what it costs to be the Doctor (a popular theme in the new series; I'm philosophically ambivalent about its continued use, but I always enjoy seeing it). Then there's the World War I melancholy, which has enthralled me since I first read Rilla of Ingleside.

So now my stomach is filled with lovely food and my mind is filled with lovely Doctor, and just at this moment I really couldn't ask for more. This is what a great day is like: not thrilling happenings or lifechanging news, but simple, peaceful pleasures, enjoyed to the full.

And now to finish up, I think I will listen to some Nina Simone, write the second half of that fairy tale I started, and drink the 90-minute IPA that I've been saving for a month. And it will be good.

Post Scriptum: If you ever have the impulse to listen to Nina Simone with your eyes closed, go ahead and do it, but be careful. I think one could die of it.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

hijacked by Andrew Lang

I'm not sure what just happened.

Earlier today, facing the imminent need to write a couple of short fairy tales as part of my novel, I went to the library and checked out a few of the Andrew Lang fairy books. You know the ones: The Blue Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book, The Brown Fairy Book... okay, probably you don't know them. Probably you didn't spend your childhood in the JFIC folktale section of the library. But I did, and I must have read through the entire rainbow collection (though I think I snubbed the more basic colors like red and yellow, in favor of The Crimson and The Lilac and such... The Brown was always my favorite.) Anyway, they're great collections of fairy tales from a wide variety of sources, and I decided to return to this fountain from my youth and drink deep, in hopes of soaking up inspiration for my own writing.

Drink I did, for three hours at Jamie's. I'd forgotten how great the stories are, weird some of them, funny some of them, often conforming to very familiar patterns but every so often popping up with something quite unexpected. Several struck me as stories I'd like to adapt or retell in novel form, and one in particular I thought I might do for my Nano project this year. (I'm still planning to do Nano, though I'm in full swing with the novel... by November I'll probably be ready for a little break from Lila & Co.)

Having downed three cups of coffee, a fat slice of chocolate cake, and more fairy tales than I can count, I set off home, musing on the way about how I might construct that retelling for Nano. I took the long way home. An hour long, as it happens-- I just didn't feel like stopping once I'd gotten to my house, so I kept driving. And thinking. And driving. It was a beautiful night to be rolling down back roads with the windows open, insects chirping like they owned the woods, which in a way they probably do. And there came one moment, as I was composing the first few sentences of the retelling in my head, when I felt that sudden thrilling urge of creation, prompting me to get home and write it, now.

Well, one thing I've learned is that these urges don't keep. I may be all on fire with the excitement of a new idea, but if I put it off, sometimes even for as little as a day, I will sit down to my keyboard to find that the thrill is gone. I will discover that the idea, so brilliant in that moment, is dull now and full of difficulties, and if I ever actually write it it will be after hours and weeks of dogged plot-work. But in that initial moment of inspiration there is an energy and a passion, which I far too often fail to take advantage of.

Tonight I did not fail. I came home by the quickest route, opened my computer, and began typing. Initially my thought was to a two- or three-page sketch, using a storytelling voice, but telling it in abbreviated form, something for me to flesh out at novel-depth when November came around. But as I wrote the details kept creeping in, and by the third page I had barely begun to tell the story. I wondered if I was going to eat ever, or watch a Dr. Who as I had planned, but I was enjoying myself, so I kept going.

Seven thousand words later, here I am. Seven thousand-- I'm fairly certain I've never written that much at a sitting before. Ever. If I kept to a pace like that during Nano, I'd be done in a week. I am mind-boggled... and it went so quickly and easily, and nothing could have been more delightful than to watch the story rolling out in front of me as I typed. I stopped, in the end, only halfway through the story I planned to tell. I felt I could have gone on, but my energy was flagging a bit, and I know I'd have skipped some enjoyable details.

As I said, I don't really know what happened. Nor do I know what I plan to do with this story. At this rate, it looks like it will wrap up around 15,000 words, which is a strange and awkward length for a story. I have a few ideas. We'll see.

Anyway, that was not at all how I planned to spend my evening. But it sure was fun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What I learned on my summer vacation

That would be the beach vacation, not any of the other three I took this summer.

- A walk along the beach provides absolutely the best environment for meditating on your next story developments.

- Grease burns hurt like the devil. But they're a great way to take your mind off the minor sunburn on your shins.

- I need to learn to sail.

- If you must put pieces from two different puzzles in the same box, due to box shortage and complete absence of ziploc bags, you really ought to make them puzzles with notably different-sized pieces (really I think I could have worked this one out via common sense. So perhaps the real lesson here is that the owners of our beach house lack common sense in the area of puzzles.)

- My family has higher standards in the way of kitchens and kitchen appliances than just about anybody I know. Much, much higher than those of aforementioned beach house owners.

- The Outer Banks wireless network is kind of a ripoff. Nick the tech support guy is very nice though. Spent lots of quality time talking to Nick.

- Excellent summer beers include: Dogfish Head's Aprihop, Delirium Tremens, and Unibroue's Ephemere.

- The ocean is happiness. But I knew that already.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

fading everything

it's been a long December

Oh I am in a college mood. It's glorious fun. It's been a while since I had one. College mood means I listen to Counting Crows and sip my drink (it used to be wine but these days it's beer... Old Rasputin tonight, and if you've never tried Old Rasputin with fresh avocado then your life is incomplete, as mine was until about twenty minutes ago) and I think about love and loneliness. I do not cry, in college moods, that's reserved for nights when I have a specific reason for meditation or discontent. I just sit here and sip my drink and listen to music that reminds me of all these times in my not-so-distant-past (remember when we met Jacob's new friend, I don't even remember his name, but we knew he was cool because he could sing along with all the words to all the songs on August and Everything After? Remember when we listened to Long December and thought, yeah, man, this yearwill be better than the last, and we were completely, utterly, impossibly wrong? Remember when we were walking back from the Counting Crows concert, where Adam Duritz wore a pink bunny suit 'cause it was Halloween, and I called you "Ginny" by mistake?)

step out the front door like a ghost into the fog

And we would sit around then and talk about love and loneliness, and it was basically the same thing then as now because neither of us knew anything about love, and both of us were lonely, except not really that lonely because here we were together talking about it. And we talked about lots of other things too, philosophies of life and lots and lots of decisions about our futures, and you switched from business to philosophy and I committed to English because reading stories is what I love to do most in the whole entire world... and papers and problems and people spun through our conversations always, never concluded, never old.

It is impossible to go back, and I know that. And I like to think that if I come again to live with you it will not be because I'm trying to go back, to recapture this time. Anyway I don't want to recapture it, because I know what comes next: I know how bitter, bitter, those conversations will become, all filled with the darkness and futility of existence, all driven by a demon neither of us yet understand... and that one night where I honestly believe that I will never, ever be happy again.

I bought myself a grey guitar

And while I would never for even a second want to relive all that, I am so so glad it happened, because now sometimes I am driving down the road and I remember that once I thought I would never ever be happy again, and if I was wrong about that I am probably wrong about so many other things too, and this is good.

And so I am not trying to recapture the past, but I am absolutely trying to recover a bit of it, a piece of it at least, because in the years between I have thought I am too adult, too mature, too conscious to engage in this kind of ridiculous omphaloskeptic brooding, and this self-indulgent writing about my transient little moods. And I was emotionally superior to it all, and much much too wise to hope for anything worthwhile to come out of falling in love. And yet what did I do, not even twelve months ago, but drive five hours at dawn and plop myself on your floor and pour out all my thoughts and confusions and frustrations about-- what else?-- a boy.

lay me down in a field of flame and heather...

And you of course listened well, and because you have known me for six terrible and wonderful years, you could say things that made perfect sense and that helped me to understand why I thought what I thought and felt what I felt. And on that day, without at all trying, you gave me back to myself, and all my confusion was -- not resolved -- but for the first time it made sense, and I knew how to fit it into the rest of my world. And I received it, as a repayment I never expected for a trial I never resented, grace upon grace coming back in return for a pain I took on gladly in the first place. Astonishing.

and when you wake the morning covers you with light

Anyway what I guess I'm trying to say is that it is time for me to re-enter the world of love and loneliness and meditative late-night drinking while listening to Adam Duritz, and to shake off the frozen paralysis that has been partly pride and mostly fear.

surprise surprise another pair of lips and eyes

And perhaps there will be other nights when I honestly believe I will never be happy again, though probably for different reasons, and all that is okay because these nights become a part of your history, become something you meditate on on other nights, nights mellow with the taste of avocado and Old Rasputin (no really... you must try it) and dulled for a minute from fear because you remember how rich it was to feel so many things at once.

And what I really want to say, with all this rambling that I normally do not permit myself, is that as I move back into the world of feeling and foolishness, with fear and trembling and also hope, there is no one I would rather have at my side than you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

a small taste of victory

I took two weeks off work and drove to Chicago. The freedom therein is glorious: I have two weeks that are my own, entirely, to spend however I want, money being the only limitation. I have planned to go to Chicago, and I want to go to Chicago, but if I feel like it I can change my mind at the last minute and drive instead to Mexico or Oregon or anywhere on the continent, actually. My decisions are just about as unconstrained as they get for a single woman in her mid-twenties who pulls down a smallish salary (and that, let's face it, is pretty unconstrained.)

What did I do with all this riotous freedom? I drove, as stated, to Chicago. I ensconced myself firmly on the couch in my brother's living room. I found a coffee shop that I could walk to from my brother's house. And for ten out of the fourteen days I was there I wrote, usually at the coffee shop, for three or four or five hours on end. I went to the beach once, I hung out in the evenings with friends, but mostly I wrote.

And this is the best part, this is the victory: my brother has also been writing. His kitchen is littered with scripts from the sketch show he and his roommates are writing, for which they've already booked a theater. He's acting, too, I got to see his play twice. So as I sit here, having finished the opening act of my novel, making plans to return to Chicago to see the show my brother has written and is acting in and directing... I'm just so freakin proud. Of both of us. Because we're doing what we wanted to do, what we said we wanted to do back when we were in high school. Because we haven't gotten pulled under by the necessity of supporting ourselves in the "real world." Sure we both have jobs, which means we have less time for writing than we'd like, and sure we both have fairly minimal jobs, which means we have less money for beer than we'd like, but we're making it work.

Take that, naysayers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

a small piece of perfection

I think even a lot of friends who know me well don't know that the Barenaked Ladies is my favorite band (is? are? is? most band names are treated as a singular entity, and a plural element in the name shouldn't change that... but I don't know what the article does to it, nor do I know whether it ought to be capitalized. "Are" sounds better but I feel like "is" should be correct.) There are so many bands that I like that are hipper or edgier or what-have-you. As evidenced by the crowd that showed up to the concert last night, BNL fans tend to be over 30, or under 16, and nerdy but not even real hard-core geeky quasi-hip kind of nerdy... just nerdy. There was a distinct lack of image-consciousness in the crowd. There were a lot of families, suggesting that parents consider BNL to be acceptable fun music to expose their children to. Nobody won coolness points by showing up to this concert.

But anyway, they're my favorite band, and I'll tell you why. It's because they think like me. Take their whole decade-spanning album collection, and you have a fairly good picture of my usual mental landscape. You have plenty of whimsy and goofballing, plenty of randomness and look-how-clever-I-am wordplay. You also have plenty of reflectiveness, brooding self-doubt, bitterness of futility, and the occasional raw outcry of pain. There's a dark side to BNL to be sure... but it doesn't overwhelm the landscape, it's just there. And if you pay attention you'll notice that the dark side and the goofball side are fueled by the same force: a persistently ironic view of life, a self-awareness that refuses for a minute to release its grip, and the consequent mistrust of every self-representation you make.

I am not, by and large, a happy person. Nor am I a moody or angry or bitter person. I am not capable of the single-minded passion of Nina Simone; I am hardly ever buried enough in my own emotional state to honestly produce a work of pure emotional force. My moods are always mixed; there is always another self, watching the part of me that is feeling, commenting on it. Mostly, mostly, I am an observing person. The closest I come to being single-minded, to being non-reflective, is when I am not doing anything, just watching other people do. As soon as I become a participant in a scene, I start observing myself, which means I am observing myself observing myself, and... well... if you've seen a chamber of mirrors you know what it's like.

Anyway, I love BNL because their music is like this. Being an ironist in this way seems to prevent you from being ever really depressed, or ever really elated. It's not that your emotions are shallow; it's just that they're always counterbalanced. This tends to make a person, or a band, hard to grasp. You think you know their general mood as happy or fun or easygoing or mild or sarcastic or cynical. And we the ironists have a hard time convincing you that it goes deeper than that, because to honestly express our feelings we have to also express our questioning of those feelings, and our frustration at our questioning, and our amusement at our frustration... and by this time you've forgotten what feeling it was we were originally expressing.

Ah yes, that amusement... elation and depression and rage might be rare and fleeting for us, but one thing we've got in bucketfuls is laughter. We laugh at everything. We laugh at inappropriate times. We laugh because we keep seeing where all this stuff came from and where it's going. We laugh because we're having so much fun watching this bizarre game play itself out. We laugh because we keep seeing our own consciousness rising in a recursive tower, that we can't even stop because as soon as we try to stop ourselves we see ourselves trying to stop ourselves...

You'd laugh too.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Lloyd Alexander died on Thursday.

Molly I know will join with me... as will Libby... as would Megwin if she had any idea where I am. What the emotion is I'm not sure. There is not grief or loss, since I didn't know him, nor can there really be much sadness, since he was 83 and (I think) had had cancer for some time. Also, his wife died just two weeks earlier. They were married for sixty-one years, and I can only imagine that, like my grandmother, he wanted little more than to follow his partner through that darkest of doors.

So I cannot be sad for him. And I cannot feel mournful when the only thing I ever knew of him, his writing, is as accessible to me as ever. I do not even feel sad that he won't write any more books, since his recent writing has grown dramatically weaker.

All the same, it was a physical shock when I saw his name in the obituary column. This man was important to me. This man created worlds I loved to live in and people I love to know. He was arguably the foremost living writer in the genre I love best, the genre I will probably do much of my writing in. Stories, like Olympian gods, are strangely begotten, breeding and interbreeding over decades, centuries, and millenia. We writers and passionate readers are also part of this tangled genealogy, and we can trace out many forebears.

In real-time, flesh-and-blood life, I have lost both my grandparents this year. In the world of stories, I have just lost another.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

the man I love

Really I just put this here to practice my html mojo. But now that he's here, I find I can't take him down.

9 and 10 may be hotter, 4 may be funnier, but 5 will always have a special place in my heart.

Monday, April 30, 2007

I was going to post a deep and reflective birthday post, but this is much more urgent

Can you drink Attic milk?

This question drifted up from the nether reaches of consciousness, as I was trying to convince my brain that it really did want another hour or two of sleep, despite the bright sun and the sticky green leaves outside my window and the kids hollering at each other from the sidewalk. I was quite lucid for most of the time surrounding this question, thinking more or less alternately about my in-progress assessment of pragmatism and objectivism and about love. But in the midst of this, the question was asked: Can you drink Attic milk?

I don't remember who was asking; it was definitely another voice, not native to my identity. It followed naturally enough from the conversation which preceded it (of which I can't remember a word), but I felt, a minute after it had been asked, that there was more to it than appeared on the surface. It was a test, of sorts; much was expected from my answer. No mundane "yes" or "no" would do, I must try if I could to be witty, or insightful, or encyclopedic.

This posed a problem because I had no idea what the question meant. Attic milk? What is Attic milk? If, as I first guessed, it was milk left over from the time of Attic Greek, my answer was easy: a dryish, deadpan response about the milk's probably having spoiled by now. But even that was problematic. Surely milk from the 5th century BC would have long ago not only spoiled but hardened, crusted, turned black and finally discomposed entirely. My answer contained its modicum of wit, but it left an opening for my interrogator to up the ante, to come back with a correction which, if also phrased wittily, would leave him or her indisputably victorious in the conversation.

On the other hand, the "attic" could mean the upper storage area of a house. If so, did that mean milk that is stored in an attic? What special properties would such milk have? Intuitively I imagined it being very cold, and therefore couldn't see how it would be different from regular old refrigerator milk. On reflection, though, I'm recalling that most of the attics I've been in were oppressively hot. In this case the milk would probably be well on its way to following the other kind of Attic milk, and also the attic would smell horrible. But even so I feel there must be more to it than this. If attic milk is a substance distinctive enough to have its own name, there must be something particular about it, beyond its storage temperature. Only I can't imagine what.

Wikipedia's disambiguation page lists, apart from these two usages, only the names of three companies: the US and Canadian branches of a record label, and a German computer game developer. I can't make any sense of milk in either of these contexts.

The interrogator is gone, of course... disappeared almost immediately after posing the question. I haven't even had an opportunity to pass or fail the test contained in it. I suppose this is a good thing, since I'm pretty much at a loss. Can you drink Attic milk? Can you drink attic milk? Attic milk...

Well? Can you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

one tuesday evening...

I think it's amusing the things that happen when I don't eat consistently.

Act I
Here's the story of my day: I get home from work at 7:30 am, as usual. I go to sleep, as usual when I've just gotten home from work at 7:30 am. I wake up around 3 pm, as usual.

I shower, blah-de-blah, I marvel again at how easy my hair is now that I've removed most of it. I decide against eating anything. I'm not hungry, and I'd rather get to Jamie's soon. So I drink a glass of juice and count that as breakfast.

Mike drops by, which is awesome and UNusual (although he said he was coming, so it isn't a surprise or anything.) By the bye, I think it's grand that when people drop by to see me, usually they're dropping by Jamie's rather than my house. No one even asks if I'm at home anymore. Why would I be?

Anyway, Kurt comes in a little later to finish the game we began yesterday. By now it's getting onto 7 pm, which means I haven't eaten a meal or anything decent, really, for about 16 hours. Just the juice, and some coffee... oh, and two cookies that I got because they were fresh-baked. One reason I like hanging out at Jamie's better than at home is they bake cookies and make sure to tell me about it, if I haven't noticed, so I can have some while they're still hot.

It's about halfway through the game that my mood starts to drop. Kurt says a few irritating things, as usual, and I know I'm in trouble when, instead of rolling my eyes and laughing at him, I look at him blankly, or maybe with a tolerant half-smile, I'm not sure, because I have the distinct sensation of some hot and slightly acidic liquid sloshing around in my stomach. This sensation I have come to recognize as a particular type of anger, only as it happens nothing in Kurt's remarks has merited this strong a reaction. About ten minutes later it dawns on me that I am food-deprived, and therefore moody. Very well.

After this my play becomes slow... I am quite chilly but my skin feels hot. The beginnings of a headache are developing directly behind the bridge of my nose. No one is paying attention to me... in fact no one seems to have the least bit of interest in me, except Kurt, and that's only as an opponent who's taking way too much time to play moves in a game which she is, anyway, losing. Meanwhile, the part of my brain that doesn't lose its grip on reality no matter what mood-factors are in play is telling me to hurry up and finish the game so I can go home and eat some food.

I finish the game; I lose by 18 points. Respectable. My post-game banter is lackluster, however, though he tries hard to get me riled into saying that next game I will beat him with just a six-stone handicap and one eye blindfolded, or some such ridiculous claim. I recognize that my ability to socialize is severely impaired, that any form of interaction will only depress me acutely, and that the best thing I can do is keep my words short and get out of there with as much grace as possible.

Act II
Trader Joe's makes a terrific Portugese bean & sausage soup. This is my dinner, along with some good thick slices of double Gloucester with Stilton. I love the way Stilton just sort of melts if you let it sit on your tongue, and I love the way the white bean in the soup mush against the roof of your mouth. It is an immensely satisfying meal. Meanwhile I have been flipping through the TV channel menu (these late nights are starting to bring back my TV-watching habit), and found that TCM is airing The Thin Man. I feel like I've seen this before, but I must not have, because none of it was familiar.

Five minutes in I have decided that I want to be Nick and Nora Charles. Or one of them, at least, with a suitable partner to make up the other half. They're more or less a wealthy, American, alcoholic version of Tommy and Tuppence, and we all know how I feel about Tommy and Tuppence. (Well, Molly does anyway.) This is a very funny movie, but I find that I am laughing aloud a good deal more than I normally do when watching a movie by myself. I note this casually but don't fret about it, only wishing that there were someone else here who would appreciate it as much as I do.

About ten minutes later I remember that eating after a too-long fast tends to cause a brief spike of euphoria. That's probably why I'm laughing so hard. No doubt this is my body's way of reminding me that yes, food is good and yes, we would appreciate being regularly supplied with it, thank you very much. I wonder if it works, though... rather like when we used to give our dog a treat after she would run away and come back. It's supposed to reward her for coming back, but doesn't it simply encourage her to run away more often, so that she can enjoy the treat upon returning?

No, I'm not going to start starving myself as a way of inducing a cheap high. It wreaks havoc on my go game, anyway.

The Thin Man is a grand movie. It sparks a number of reflections, one of which being that there's something sexy about married people sleeping in separate beds, whether in the same room or a door apart. I wonder why it's so not-done in modern American culture?

The movie is over, and it's only 11. I won't be ready for bed for hours. What am I to do? That was such a fun movie... why oh why was there no one here to enjoy it with me?

This last reflection is the subject of many minutes' ruminating, mostly in circles. My social circle is too small. I shouldn't have left Atlanta. I should move to Chicago. I'm too stuck in my routine, I need to break out. I begin to understand, for the first time in many a year, the appeal of dating... spending time doing something enjoyable with a new person, with all the curiosity and brimming possibilities. The idea of meeting and interacting with new people is so much less wearying with all my newfound honesty...

But anyway I'm lonely now, and no future break in routine, even if it happened tomorrow (which it won't, because I work tomorrow, and this thought, too, depresses me), will fix that. I flip to other stations; Frasier distracts me for a while. This seems to happen every so often, that I find myself suddenly with great stretches of empty time, and fall into a well of loneliness until I develop a new and satisfying routine. All last fall and winter Kurt and James and I went out nearly every night that I wasn't working, so I didn't have any of those sitting-at-home-looking-for-things-to-watch-to-distract-myself nights (and when I did, it was a treat.) Now everybody's taken up other activities. And I, as usual, am the last one to recognize this, so I don't keep pace with them and find new activities of my own, at least not until after several weeks of these sitting-at-home-depressed nights. And anyway it's not that easy to find new activities. Especially not for someone who's more or less nocturnal. I could go to the iHop and stay there for hours, but am I likely to meet people there, people I want to spend time with? And it's people I need. If only it was NaNo month... I could go online and talk with all kinds of crazy aspiring novelists, and meet a bunch of the local ones. Next November is too far away to wait for, though.

I read blogs. I download five more songs by the King's Singers, mostly madrigals. I cry while listening to If Music Be the Food of Love. That's the low point... after that, I start to pick up again. I begin to see my loneliness as an experience, to be absorbed, relished, but most of all used. How to use it? Why, of course, to write. And write I do. Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 29, 2007

an evening with Emily

Togetherness does not necessitate conversation...

...although if you laugh aloud at something you are reading, you will probably be asked to share it.

If you can possibly manage to eat your hummus with raw garlic and olive oil, it is highly recommended that you do so.

And let it be known that if Emily ever meets Colonel Brandon, she will marry him on the spot.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Wrapper

There is a yellow bubble gum wrapper on the floor, lying just beside the crack where two slabs of cement meet. The girl in the pink glasses has passed by it three times today, and this is her fourth. The first time she was in a hurry, late for the second day in a row, and so she didn't really notice it, didn't even know she had seen it until the second time, when she saw it on her way to a meeting and realized she was seeing it again. The third time she saw it (though she must have passed by it once more, coming back from the meeting, but was talking to someone and didn't see it then), it occurred to her that she might pick it up. But she was on her way to lunch, and had a crossword puzzle she wanted to finish, so time was precious.

Now, however, lunch is done, and so is the crossword puzzle, except for one square in the lower right corner, where either an 'a' or a 'u' might go, and she doesn't know enough about astrophysics to get the cross-clue (she could look it up, of course, but then she will have already lost.) And she is about forty-five seconds ahead of schedule, which is of course ample time to pick up a bubble gum wrapper and throw it in the trash, and so there is no earthly reason why she shouldn't. And in fact her step falters for just a minute as she passes it by, but she keeps walking toward her office. She is surprised that it's still there, that in all the hundreds of people who have passed by that day not one of them has picked it up... but then, neither has she, and then wonders how many of them have thought this same thing, passing by, have noted it each time (except that once when she was talking to someone) and wondered who was going to pick it up. And out of all these people who might have picked it up, how strange if she should be the one to actually do it-- and how many of them, passing once again by the spot where it had been, would think of her, though of course not knowing that it was her, wondering who had finally picked up the wrapper, just as she would be wondering, now, if she had passed by this fourth time and found it gone.

At this thought she nearly turns around to pick it up, but by now it is several yards behind her, and she can no longer spare the time. It has seized hold of her thoughts by now, and she keeps thinking of it through the afternoon, as she sorts papers and transcribes recordings. Will it still be there when she leaves? That is the great question. It is almost unfathomable to think that, out of hundreds, not one would pick it up... unless (and this possibility has not escaped her) no one else has noticed it at all. If it is still there, then either no one but her has noticed it, or they have noticed it and have all failed to pick it up for reasons similar to hers. If it is not there, then at least one other person has noticed it, and more, has stooped to do the extraordinary. It is chiefly on this possibility that she dwells, and thinking of this person she is both a little jealous and a little in love.

Leaving the office, she fixes her eyes eagerly on the ground. It is possible, likely even, that in the back-and-forth motion of the day it has been kicked one way or the other, so she begins looking before she reaches the spot by the crack where it was lying before. It is not in any of the corners leading up to the spot, or under the doors where a stray bubble gum wrapper might be likely to lodge. She comes up to the right crack on the floor-- no wrapper. She looks to the left, to the right, down the hall-- not there. She goes on a few more steps to see if it has been kicked further in this direction. Her heartbeat has actually quickened. She must drink less coffee.

No. It's not there. Someone has, really has, picked it up. And what does this mean? She finds, now it comes to the point, that she's forgotten what significance this is supposed to have. Feeling suddenly deflated, she continues down the hall. She can't keep herself from sweeping the floor with her eyes, just to be sure. But it is not to be found. So someone has picked it up... or it's been kicked through a doorway, or stuck to someone's shoe walking by. That extraordinary person whom she envisioned, that one of a hundred who actually bent to pick up the wrapper, is no more real and substantiated than he was before.

Never mind. She shakes her shoulders a little, impatiently, trying to dispel the absurd depression which has settled over her. She takes a deep breath. And, to prove that she is all right, that it doesn't matter in the slightest, that she is in fact quite happy (after all, the workday is over and tomorrow is Friday), she smiles brightly at the janitor who is sweeping the hall.