Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Again With The Swimming

It's almost eleven at night and I just got back from my gym where I went for my ritual Friday night swim. Friday night is my favorite time to swim because it erases everything that happens during the week and affords me plenty of time to just lay there and float since only the elderly, infirm and lonelyhearts utilize the pool on Friday nights. Infer at will.
I always go with the intention of making my swim a workout, though that never happens. Sure, I'll do a few laps, but most of the time I just spend experimenting in the water. Paddling with one arm, then two, kicking only, etc. Most of my experiments involve breathing. I swam constantly as a kid and assumed it would be easy to master all over again as an adult. But age tricks your body into being scared of things it used to never think twice about and nearly every swimming session involves a concentrated effort to breathe normally. I can't overstate how difficult this is when you're thinking about it consantly. My instinct is always to lurch full speed ahead, holding my breath for as long as I can and then gasping for air. I'm sure you'll note this is not how the pro's do it. Swimming again has taught me to relax in my body, quiet distraction and trust both myself and the water.
Anybody who has known me for awhile knows that meticulous is not a word that applies to me. I'm an ideas person and I have a messy desk, I don't care if I do things perfectly and God knows, I can never have nice things. But in swimming, improbably, I am meticulous. I pay close attention to my breath, the jutting of my hands, the angle of my feet to achieve propulsion in the water. It's a mystery even to me. I have no investment in swimming and I don't harbor any illusions I am any good. But the ritual calms me. As a kid in the summer, I ritualized taking my tennis racket and hitting a ball against the side of our house for hours every morning. I can't tell you how many years this went on. I'm not sure whether this speaks to my ability to bliss out into a zen state or places me squarely and certainly on one end of the autism spectrum, but I dug it.
Tonight during my swim, I got to thinking about some of my favorite passages that relate to water. Of course, water lends itself easily to metaphor and can stand in for anything from tumult (waves) to the passage of time (rivers) to baptism (placid lakes) to the free floating we all did in utero. When I was in high school, I heard about the book All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers and for a self-consciously world-weary teenager, boy, did that title sound intriguing. In the book, the protagonist is a young writer (swoon then, eye roll now) who drowns his first novel (about rivers) in the Rio Grande. Ugh. So the symbolism is ham-fisted, but I liked it. In the book's afterword, an author who had been influenced by the book invokes Conrad's Lord Jim and quotes:
"'Yes! Very funny this terrible thing is. A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns.... No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up. So if you ask me- how to be?' "
When I was younger, I took this to mean that the true path was the self-destructive one. That a sensitive person could never climb out and into the world. But I think I get it now. That's not what he meant at all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tampa/ St. Pete, Hello!

Down at the end of my block is the best store in my whole neighborhood. Better even than the seedy looking convenience store that has a falafel operation going on the side (delicious, by the way). It's a costume rental shop. I know what you're thinking -- do those even exist outside of plot devices on tv sitcoms? Apparently, yes. I haven't gone in yet because I am still savoring their picture window, which wraps around the entire store. On the side facing my street is a table with a fake Larry King interviewing a lady in Victorian garb (I know. Improbable, right?). This isn't just a guy wearing Lens Crafters glasses and a striped shirt with suspenders. For some reason, it's a realistic Larry King mannequin. Jack, when you come visit me in Tacoma, let's get our pictures taken with it.

Tonight, I shall blog the events of my last two days LK style, as adapted from his column in the purple section of USA Today. Let me clear my throat. Ahem....

Did you ever think about how you can mix vodka with anything and it's good? I may be wrong, but I think these paperback police procedurals are going to catch on. I'm reading a great one right now that manages to mix murder and awkward middle-age romance. Can't put it down. How come things cooked on a charcoal grill just taste better? I may be close to getting my RDA of fruits and vegetables these days. You may tout your furniture as affordable Pottery Barn catalogue, but I beg to differ. I'm sure glad that chain the pit bull was tethered to held. I hope Jon and Kate work things out. How come it's so hard to wake up for work but when I try to sleep in, I'm up at the crack of dawn? There is no better exercise than walking. Going to the Humane Society is sad. I wish I could watch that episode of The Cosby Show with Stevie Wonder. "Ro-ger, Roooooger...Jammin' on the one! Ja-ja-jammin' on the one!" Good stuff.

Friday, May 22, 2009

How About That?

So I blog to you in a somewhat disheartened state. I just had to disenroll from school this semester on account of not understanding that the government can only subsidize my 6th year of working towards my bachelors degree so much. I can still go back in the fall and get money, this just pushes out my timetable a little bit. In truth, I was crushed when I found out about this earlier this week and spent some time crying in my office at work with the door closed (don't act like it's never happened to you), but I quickly reframed it and decided immediately that I would instead use this summer to prepare relentlessly for my GRE. Hell, maybe the LSAT if there's time. Always efficient! Always making the trains run on time! That's me. Not a slacker at all anymore, no sir.

And then I got a grip and realized FUCK THIS IT'S SUMMER. Fuck the GRE. Fuck the LSAT. Fuck the refund I'm not getting on the two weeks I've already been enrolled. It's summer. I intend to enjoy myself. And with that in my mind, can we talk about This Week in Baseball/Esta Semana en Beisbol? Mis Amigos?

Do you all have as many as fond of memories as do I of such as? Wow, quitting school has really messed with my diction. I loved spending my Saturday mid-afternoons with Mel Allen. And Mel Allen loved spending his Saturdays nights with some Wild Turkey, I'm pretty sure. Between the bloopers and T.W.I.B. Notes, it really made a seven year old girl feel like she understood America's Game. Kind of like how Ken Burns would make me feel 15 years later. Does it really matter that I fake my way through most baseball conversations with refences to Rollie Fingers's moustache and The Splendid Splinter? I don't think so.

Right now, on a summery day, I wish I could fall asleep on my couch to the sound of Mel Allen's voice. I think there's an ice cream truck in the distance. Someone is cutting grass. I can smell it. I feel bad for sleeping on such a nice day, but fuck it. It's summer.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I Am Not Kris Kristofferson

I have made the decision that I am going to go ahead and believe in what I know is a fundamentally made up disorder: Nature Deprivation Syndrome. Lots of educators and guilt-ridden blogs written by hipster moms are real into this mess right now and my initial instinct is to scoff. But then, wait a second.

I just moved to arguably the first walkable neighborhood I've lived in in close to 6?...7?...years? Prior to this, the neighborhoods I've lived in in Washington have been, in turn: off a major highway, next to a Wal-Mart, next to a Jack-in-the-Box, next to the city jail/courthouse (good only for observing the many and varied outfits deemed appropriate for "court shit" by their wearers), and finally, next to a biker bar. None of these places ever resulted in a walking experience that ever ended in anything other than deep regret. But now! NOW!

And I don't just mean the connection with nature as in the whole flora and fauna thing, but also a connection to human nature. Living in a series of apartments, I had forgotten what house pride looks like. I love the way people care about the flowers they've planted and the color of a mailbox. And everyone knows the only reason to ever walk around at dusk is to stare in people's living room windows. It makes me feel the exact opposite of that song "Sunday Mornin', Comin' Down" I stress this only because that song is so evocative of crushing lonesomeness that I need to share the lyrics so you can appreciate its exact oppositude:

I'd smoked my brain the night before
Or I smoked so much the night before
With cigarettes and songs that I've been pickin'
My mouth was like an ashtray I'd been lickin'
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Cussin' at a can that he was kicking
Then I crossed the empty street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken
And it took me back to somethin'
That I'd lost somehow somewhere along the way

On the Sunday morning sidewalks
Wishing Lord that I was stoned
'Cause there is something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there's nothin' short of dyin'
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin' city side walks
Sunday mornin' comin' down

Seeing those things makes me hopeful (granted, I am not battling Kris Kristofferson's 70's era demons) and connected. And smelling flowers and hearing insects and petting dogs makes everything better. I hadn't realized how much I was anesthetizing myself with tv or chores or mindless eating before I lived in a place where I had the chance to just be out of doors.

Now if only I had some grass to lay facedown in.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Ominous Water in My Glass is Ominously Shaking

When the weather turns balmy here in the Pacific Northwest and temperatures soar to the temperate low 70's by day and folks swelter in their beds at night as it approaches the high fifties, it can only mean one thing: It's Summer (or whatever that means here, I guess?)!!!

I apologize for the snarkiness but I need everyone to understand that when it is literally even slightly warm here, all the kids I work with appear to wilt. I say it's not really hot until you have to spit on your hands to put them on your steering wheel. And don't get me started on the misery of pleather bucket seats on a July afternoon.

Wait, where was I? Books! One of my favorite parts of summer is the Catastrophic Thriller. I can guarantee you that at some point this summer, I will re-read The Perfect Storm and Hot Zone and maybe Jurrasic Park (which shouldn't even count, I know). Since I spend the rest of my time productively engaged, tending to my jurisdictions and wearing modest clothes to draw attention to my countenance, I feel like I -wait, that's the Duggars. Not me. Listen, mindless books are a gift from God and made animate in the form of Sebastian Junger and from time to time, we need to celebrate this.

So readers (which I believe now number four), any recommendations for good summer catastophe reading? Cause I remember how Perfect Storm turns out and it's not good.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

But do I really feel the way I feel?

I made a solemn promise to myself that I would write something everyday. Quantity over quality! Shamelessness over shame! Why did I decide to start a blog during my finals week again exactly? No matter, let's keep on truckin'. In a Hail Mary attempt at defeating writer's block tonight, I throw myself on the pyre and admit something I like that some may find troubling. Indeed, it is troubling even to me but, like a strange mole or my mounting student loan debt, I've come to accept as inevitable. I don't really have a strange mole. I really have mounting student loan debt. Like, really. My point is, once an ex-boyfriend told me when discussing a potentially embarassing song choice and I gave him the out of asking if he liked it ironically, or what exactly, he took the high road and said "I don't like things ironically or unironically. I just like them!" It is in this brave spirit, I share my love of the song "Walking in Memphis."

Oh Hell Yeah! "I said, 'Ma'am, I AM TONIGHT!' Walkin' in Memphis! Walkin' with my feet ten feet off of Beale! Walkin' In Memphis! Will I ever feel the way I feel ?"

Mock if you will (and you will), but when this song comes on the lite rock station that Must Have Come With My Pre-Sets on my radio in my car, it kind of makes my day.

Youtube appears to have crashed under the weight of videos of Japanese kittens playing with yarn, so sadly I can't post a clip. But you know the song. Yeah, you know it and you like it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kmart, an alternative to living well

In the midst of writing a paper about the Patriot Act/ripping out my eyelashes, so short post tonight.

Friends, I ask you, have you considered Kmart? Perhaps there is not one near you (likely), so you may not be as fortunate as I, who now lives down the street from the only Kmart I am aware of west of the Mississippi River. Kmart is awesome. I bought a tank top there, but I'm not even sure I paid money for it. I may have just bartered with them in exchange for giving some meager amount of my personal time to visiting a Kmart.

At Kmart, it is not the year 2009. It is the year of Anytime I Visited My Grandma's House in Owensboro, Kentucky. They play Supertramp AND Bob Seger AND Hall & Oates AND they have an Icee machine that serves just Regular Icee and nothing extreme (just how I like it). They have an in-house photo studio AND a Little Ceasar's (suck it Sears Portrait Studio).

One time, I got an extra key made there and the kid that worked there told me I didn't even have to pay for it. Seriously. Paying for things at Kmart is apparently optional.

Monday, May 4, 2009

But those things are mine.

Today was a really difficult day at work. One of those days where it's hard to remember anything I truly liked, but I know one of the reasons I was drawn to the work I do is that I remember so vividly what it was like to be 13 years old and how it was so different from being 15 or even 19. And it's hard and awful but it's a time that creates such powerful and defining memories.

One of my favorite memories was of one night, swimming in a pond in the middle of summer. I remember we had gotten off work late. It must have been two in the morning. We swam in that pond for hours. There was nothing particularly significant that happened but I remember every time I drove past it afterwards I felt like in some way it was mine. Part of that is what makes being a teenager so magical. One of my favorite writers is Steven Millhauser because he so perfectly captures that feeling of being a kid a sneaking out late and knowing every part of your neighborhood and feeling like it is yours alone and not part of the adult world. He hardly ever does interviews, but in this quote I think he really sums up that experience:

"The other thing that springs to mind is more difficult to express. It’s the sense, given to me by growing up in that neighborhood, in that town, of what an American small-town street feels like and smells like, what kitchens and cellars and attics are like, what roadside weeds and telephone poles are like. There’s plenty I don’t know about American life, but those things are mine."

And finally, I cannot get enough of the old REM song, Nightswimming. There are so many beautiful moments in this song:

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

I'm not sure all these people understand

It's not like years ago,

The fear of getting caught,

Of recklessness and water

They cannot see me naked

These things, they go away,

Replaced by everyday

Nightswimming,remembering that night

September's coming soon

I'm pining for the moon

And what if there were two

Side by side in orbit

Around the fairest sun?

That bright, tight forever drum

Could not describe nightswimming

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I like it when people meet me halfway

So I work with teens at an afterschool program. To protect their anonymity and my sanity, I probably won't mention them too much here, but I have an incident that's worth recounting, damn it. One of the kids was walking around singing that Ludacris song, Area Codes. The chorus of said song goes I've got hoes! (I've got hoes) in different area codes (area codes) Hoes! See? All around classy! Anyway, here's how it went down:

Kid: I've got hoes! I've go-
Me: *shoots disapproving glare*
Kid: I've..... got......bro's?
Me: *reluctant nod of affirmation*
Kid: I've got BRO'S! In different area codes.....area codes....

Just meet me halfway is all I'm sayin'.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What I'm talking about when I'm talking about liking things.

It's important to like things and even more so, I maintain it is important to acknowledge liking things. And people. And stuff. And ideas. And even that song Cat's In the Cradle that makes me cry out of guilt that I haven't called my parents enough recently when hear it over the speakers when I am buying saline solution at Walgreen's. The point is, it was a good cry and I liked it.

I've wanted to start a blog for awhile now but I believe that blogs, like afterschool specials, should be mission-driven. So my entire mission with my blog will be to only focus on the positive. That is, things I like. Like most people, I have far too many outlets to purge all my dark feelings about the world-as-it-is and not nearly enough opportunity to reflect on what is good. It's also partly just an exercise in discipline for my brain-parts which generally prefer to do the neural equivalent of stare out the window at the pretty colors and as a personal mandate to focus on the positive.

I'm glad I did this. I'm glad you're here. More to come.