Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Whitman, McDonalds, and dreams of blackmail...

Today is Walt Whitman's birthday. He sold a house to self-publish "Leaves of Grass" in 1855. Over 30 years later and after 9 revisions and subsequent publishings, the Society for the Suppression of Vice called it immoral and it began to sell.

Whitman used the money to buy a cottage where he lived for the rest of his life.

2 points:

The Society for the Suppression of Vice--think of the blackmailing potential of that, so juicy I could spread it on bread and eat it as a sandwich.

He sold a house, and eventually, got a cottage.

Yet more proof that poetry doesn't pay.

--randomly-- I thought the ads for McDonald's Asian salad looked kind of...delish. So I went on their website, looked up all the nutritional ins-and-outs, and got really, really excited about lunch today.

Then I went to McDonald's.

The salad was pretty darn tasty. The refusal of a cup for tap water, the long line, the dirty floor, the bum who twice asked me for money after spending over $6 on a combo meal, the man who sang God Bless America next to me, and the different man with a soiled crotch area who was hauled away by police after screaming about his picture ID was not.

Short-term solution: take the salad back to my office.

Long-term solution-- leave the damn city.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

because it's my blog, after all.

My stomach is so resoundingly empty that is digesting itself, my husband's been trapped at his desk all week with a coworker and ergo can't email or call me every five minutes like usual, and due to my staying late for the summertime every-other-Friday-off, I have to stay until 5 (wah, I know, work for a non-profit).

I try not to write too much about myself on this blog, because the whole point was to find things that surprise me and share them.

But I got nothing, except a funny story.

We leave the house at 7.30 to make my 8 am starting time. If I'm good, I get out of bed at 6, take a shower and shove my contacts in, walk downstairs and let out the dogs (plus one these days since we have the lovely Penny visiting us), and start the coffee. When said dogs begin awakening the neighborhood by baying like hounds from hell, I then summon them inside. Repeat a few times. While the coffee brews, I get lunches togther, and at 6.30 am, I am sitting in front of a laptop to log in my daily 500 words, with shower, dogs, and lunches done (theoretically. and I usually make the lunches the night before).

Seven am. Time for K. to get in the shower.

Scene from yesterday morning:

"Kagan, get in the shower."

"But I'm so snoooozy." Turn away and wrap pillow.


"I know." Sit up, looking boyish and adorable. "You come here"-- slyly opening his arms-- "and we'll cuddle and snooze for just a minute."


Cruelly, I flip the covers off of him. He screams like a little girl and yanks them back. I grab one leg and pull it to the floor.

"Get out of bed!"

"Look how small I am!" he says, and curls himself like a snailshell in the middle of the bed. "You can't seeee meeeee."

Rip the covers off once more and pull both legs to the floor. Then nearly break my back trying to pick him up.

"Kagan, come on, just get in the shower!" Last note way too high with frustration.
He ignores this and then falls on me, pinning me to the bed. Snuggles his head into my neck and closes his eyes while I beat on his back.

As soon as I sound like I might cut his liver out with a dull knife, he relents, gets up, and strides off to the bathroom with a jaunty spring in his step.


Oh, but we're not over. Despite the fact that we now have 15 minutes to walk out the door, Kagan stands in the shower while I brush my teeth, moisturize, do makeup and hair, etc. I lose patience, and snap "Put the SHAMPOO in your HAIR."

He does so. Rinse, repeat, until I've handed him his prebagged lunch and we're in the car, various degrees late, him as happy as a lark and me-- well, I don't know what I would do without all of it.

Just go to work?

It'd be too easy.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Things I've learned while "researching"

Who knew:

Jehovah's witnesses are politically "neutral", like Switzerland. They're not pacifists. They just don't have opinions. But they do pay taxes.

At one point in medieval history, the average age of marriage for a lower-middle-class woman was around 24. Land was so limited that everyone had to wait for their parents to die before they could get married...I don't remember, but offhand I'd say this was before 1348, e.g. the plague, when the population was at a critical point.

It takes about 2 acres for a cow and calf to proper if they're solely grass-fed, and about 1.5 acres if their diet is supplemented with grain. Incidentally, feeding cows grain alters the protein compenents of their meat, and makes it much more fatty, hence the don't-eat-red-meat stuff. Grass-fed beef has omega-6 proteins, just like the much-touted fish.

Borage, the herb, tastes like cucumber.

All those movie stars with long-lived marriages? They were married before. That's right. Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, and Sting all had first wives (and in Newman and Sting's case, I believe they left their firsts for the seconds).

Have a happy day, chickens.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

literary thoughts

I am writing a novel.

For me, it's overpoweringly scary, because I can;t laugh it off as a hobby-- I do want to do this full-time-- and there's no assurance I'll ever get published, let alone be successful. But hey, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?

K. and I go to the library weekly. As a recent college grad and an aspiring author, I'm noticing that what I take home from the library has changed. I don't have to read anything for classes, but I avoid authors who-make-me-hyperventilate-into-my-pillow-crying-because-I'll-never-be-that-good (Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Munro (damn, Alice Munro), Alice Hoffman, and many more...luckily no new books from any of them lately). I like chick lit, and I take that home by the cartload. Bergdorf Blondes. Beyond Blonde. Good in Bed (one of the few well-crafted chick lit novels). I'm aiming slightly higher than these girls, so I can read them.

And then, there's the opposite end of the spectrum. I don't want my brain to entirely rot, so generally I take home one solid work of literature on every trip. Ann Beattie. Limpiri (sp?). And John Updike.

I have now read five John Updike novels, all based off the first one which I really liked (don't remember the title but I believe the man character's name was Henry.) And here's my conclusion: the man really, really doesn't like women.

Which is sad, seeming as he had four children with his first wife and is now married to another. And randomly, he's been supporting himself and his family as a full-time writer ever since he was in his mid-twenties, which I find enormously impressive, plus he's published gazillions of serious literary books-- also enormously impressive. But you know? I can't read him anymore. Yeah, I really enjoy where his mind sometimes goes, but after reading 3/4 of the Rabbit series, I just can't. Too much adultery and casual sex and a total disregard for women's emotional needs. Examples? Well, Rabbit and Janice have a tumultuous marriage in their 30+ years together, filled with affairs and separations and then finally in their middle age, a certain kind of peace. But sentiments like these-- I'm paraphrasing here-- revolt me. Rabbit looks at his wife and decides he needs to lay her soon, because she's getting all nervy, the way she does during dry spells.

Not his crudest, true, but the dispassionate and distant tone really turns me off. Plus Updike's comment about the mother of his children, whom he met at Harvard in the early 1950s-- the one where he says he got married to have sex, the way that people did back then. They divorced after 20ish years of marriage.

I'm disappointed. I got all invested in this man and his work, and then he just keeps digging up new veins of nastiness that poison his books for me.

If I get well-known, I pledge to use my pen for good, not evil.

Monday, May 15, 2006

scary men

I am tired of getting cat-called.

If I wrote that a month ago, I might have been lying a little bit. Really, it can be a bit thrilling walking down a street and having someone throw out a whistle. But now, post-India and after working downtown for over six months, I am really and truly tired of it.

Being tall and not dark, I got a lot of attention in India. Examples: people on the street took pictures of/with me. A wife led me to the dance floor and handed me off to her husband (which was so creepy that I feel I must have misinterpreted it). Young men in the train station stared so blatantly at me that K. moved in front of me to block their view. The men just moved so that they could once again view me, sweating in a grimy t-shirt reading Real Simple.

I bought a new dress last week, and realized I did not want to wear it to work because of any attention I might draw on the walk to work and from work/metro. Examples of attention? Well, once on my way home a man leered at me and then grabbed his crotch.

I wore my dress this morning and put a trench coat on over, to deflect attention, and happily, to deflect rain.

An hour ago, I slipped out and walked the block and a half to CVS for some ibuprofen. Without the trench coat. A black man sitting on the pavement told me very loudly that I was a tall girl he wanted to have sex with, and then proceeded to expand on that theme.

It's not just a race thing. A few weeks ago I was waiting for the light to change and a group of middle-aged corporate men hung out a black SUV and voiced appreciation vociferously.

I know I'm not the only one to have this kind of constant and disruptive attention, although I do think that any girl who walks a great deal or takes public transportation tends to get more, especially in an urban area.

I'm writing this trying to figure out what disturbs me so much. After all, I've been to Italy, and the Italian men are very forward. But there's a certain...ah, she's a woman, how beautiful, that doesn't come across from the American yeah-baby-I'd-do-you. The aggression, the anger, scares me in a way that the man-turning-to-watch-my-butt doesn't.

Why are all these men so angry?

Friday, May 12, 2006

at risk of revealing my genius...

I've recently been interested in the differences between what we know we should feel and what we do feel.

Come on. You know what I'm talking about.

I should have been exhilerated by getting to run with the stars of my JV crosscountry team, but I actually was really dissapointed and resentful that my place in the back of the pack had been denied to me.

I should have been a blushing emotional bride, but actually I was very calm and still.

I should have felt bored and invalidated my senior year decision to quit all the organized activities I had previously been involved in, but actually I was so relieved and happy (yep, I am competitive, but man, I hate pressure).

Anyone, anyone?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

warning: nothing to do with India, and a mention of menstruation

Sometimes, on a gray day at the right moment during one’s hormonal cycle, one can feel a bit sad, a bit, well, mopey, for no real reason. In “Consciously Female”, a book by the medical director of Duke’s Center of Integrative Medicine, the author suggests that there’s a real societal bias against such mopiness (my word, not hers.)

Bear with me a moment.

I get up early generally, but it’s got to be with the light. I don’t like getting up in the dark. At the moment, I’m on a schedule I really like. Up at 6, writing by 6:20-6:30, out of the house for work by 7:30. There’s light outside at 6.

Just this morning, I was patting myself on the back regarding my disciplined habits. Then I remembered the equinox, the turn of the season that comes so soon. June does not equal winter in most people’s minds, but it’s the turning point, and the days will get nothing but shorter.

I don’t know how I’ll adjust my morning schedule next November, and this makes me angry. Suck it up. Get up early in the dark, even if you feel like a near-sighted mole fumbling in a dark claustrophobic cave. Work will not start later just because the sun takes its time coming up.

But why not? Why are we so…inflexible? Why can’t I be dreamy and a bit introspective for a week out of the month without reinforcing all negative PMS stereotypes? Why aren’t work hours shorter during the winter, when the days are short and our energy levels low?

Before the advent of air-conditioning, Washington used to shut down in the summer. Everyone got a break and headed to the cool hills, or at least stayed home close to fans. Farmers repaired machinery during the winter, stayed home and close to the hearth, venturing outside only for those necessary daily chores. Some public schools now start in early August, even the southern ones.

We live very far away from natural rhythms these days.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Just so you know: I'm still alive

So, went to India and back. How you?

We'll probably post a master trip summary with pics as soon as we get our act together. Right now, Kagan's waking up before I am, actually before dawn. I know. Bizarre. This morning he made me tea, fed the dogs, and got lunches together. I have been utterly usurped.

*As always, my plants grew better while I was away.*