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I know it is the first of June because my window is open and I am playing my guitar and singing loudly, watching the sun set. Sometimes my neighbors pause in the courtyard to nod their heads to the beat, and some of them dance a few steps before they continue through the door.
I am a poor guitar player and a weak singer, and some of my song choices are questionable. It is the beginning of summer, though, and people are in a forgiving mood. Music pours out of open windows throughout the city, and we welcome it gladly.
It came to my attention that my brother had been
the gods and goddesses of various world religions.
I found this unbelievably offensive, and I told him to "stop being such a dick."
Possibly mistaking her for the Egyptian goddess Bastet, he then said he was going to eat Betty, our cat. She was sitting in my lap, and I said that I would defend her with my life. Things got very tense, but my brother finally backed down, and Betty jumped up into my sock drawer to take a nap.
I am sure this dream means something
I know that in certain circles it is considered a requirement to scour the bathtub periodically (say, every few months). The way I see it, the whole area is flooded with soap and water at least once a day, so it should be the cleanest place in my whole apartment. Throw AWAY those harsh chemical cleansers, friends.
In the end, it comes down to this: "
I live alone -- who am I trying to impress?
This simple question gets me out of doing all kinds of tedious housework and I recommend it to single people everywhere as a great time saver.
In China I found living proof that it is possible to rewrite history within one generation. A whole generation of schoolchildren who had no idea what happened 21 years ago, and their older brothers and sisters who knew, but had been taught to view it as a just punishment for a mob of radical provocateurs.
I never brought it up -- it was always one of the more "politically active" students (read "tools") who wanted to inform me that my understanding of the events of June 4, 1989 needed correction.
It was chilling. It's up to us to remember the truth.
Somewhere, deep in the heart of Texas
Ok, so look... slavery? Slavery is the darkest spot in our nation's history, but it's also, gosh, so
! At the end of the day, learning about slavery isn't going to make kids proud to be Americans. So, let's refer to the "slave trade" as the "Atlantic triangular trade." The American Civil War was, let's say, essentially a fight for economic freedom. Yes, freedom from taxes, the sweetest kind of freedom.
Ahem, I propose we take five quiet minutes to meditate on Ronald Reagan.
See what I did there?
Do you ever think that the reason your life has been somewhat dull up to this point is that you are a bit player in some larger drama/destiny, and you've just been killing time? Maybe ten years or five minutes from now, a chain of events that was begun long before you will born will finally reach you. You will choke on a small piece of lettuce or be kidnapped by pirates, and this, in turn, will be the catalyst for a much more interesting set of events which will happen to some other more interesting person.
The person who lives downstairs from me was smoking pot last night, and a lot of her smoke came up through my window, and it made me write some idiotic thing. Also, it made me laugh at the rain, even though at the time I didn't know why I found it so funny.
You should take this as a robust anti-drug message, although if you are a "dope fiend" it will probably just make you want to run out and score some pot.
(Well, actually, this is much worse than the thing I wrote yesterday. Still... JUST SAY NO.)
I was walking behind some guys in the park today who were rapping to each other about a girl they both liked. They were very competent rappers, and I wish I could remember some of their rap-conversation to share with you. The main theme, though, was that no matter how things with this girl turned out, their friendship was the most important thing.
I secretly wished they would turn around and ask me for directions IN RAP FORM.
I know these streets and I'm here to say,
I give directions in a
Wow-wow break it down.
Anticipating that many of you will have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of my rhymes, I am pleased to announce:
STEAMED DUMPLING'S SCHOOL FOR FREESTYLE RAPPERS
: The first line
The rapper introduces himself as someone with a message in the form:
My name is __(name)__ and I'm here to say,
for reasons of rhyme which will become clear when we reach line two, in which the content and style of the message will be made apparent.
(I honed my craft by studying elderly rapping women in bad movies from the 1990s.)
We were on top of Hamburg's tallest hill, presumably to watch the stars, but really, I think, the idea was that there would be romance and possibly some sex. The problem was, we had gotten into a really good conversation, and it was headed in a depressing direction.
"It just... makes me feel like a failure," I said.
"Wow, that's attractive," she said, sighing heavily. After a short pause, she stood up and dusted off her skirt. I sat there for a moment watching her walk towards her car.
I was a senior in high school. She was a sophomore.
"Hey!" I shouted, tapping on her window, "don't leave me here, please! I don't want to get eaten by a bobcat! Hey!"
She rolled down her window about an eighth of an inch.
"Maybe you could use some
to toughen you up a little bit."
She slowly headed for the main road and stopped for a second. Hopefully, I headed for the passenger door. She rolled down her window again and stuck her head out to look back at me.
"Don't call me," she shouted. When her red taillights had disappeared, I knew I was alone, and in trouble.
Instinct told me the first thing to do was to find a thick, heavy stick for fending off bobcats. At the time I was not aware that the bobcat is a small, shy animal that rarely attacks humans, and which did not live on that particular hill anyway. To me, though, the dark silence of the area exuded menace, which I attributed to the presence of bobcats. I sent the question of why girls were so weird to the back of my mind for the moment, and with grim determination my thoughts turned to survival.
I searched for a stick.
Many years later, thanks to the invention of drunken facebook messages, I found out what Emily had done that night: she fell into her bed and cried.
She had gained early acceptance to a prestigious engineering school near Albany, where her talents and skills would really shine,
where she heard there were six brainy, handsome guys for every girl. She found both parts of this prospect exciting and intimidating.
She had broken up with Seth a week before, because after several minutes of fumbling with her bra he got embarrassed, gave up, and suggested they play a video game.
You might be wondering, then, why she decided to go out with me when she probably should have been on a date with a football player or a basketball player or a member of the
The answer is that she had seen me play the role of the Pirate King in the latest high school musical, in which I stomped around the stage in tall boots and a half-opened shirt, singing:
I seek adventure and Fortune's blessing,
I fear nor knight nor knave,
A flash of steel for those who cross me,
And then, a watery grave.
is, she somehow mistook me for a strong and decisive man of action who swashed buckles and ravished maidens with equal dispatch. In real life, unfortunately, I was more owlish than piratical, insecure, afraid of spiders, and hopelessly incapable of teaching any lessons whatever about the art of love.
None of this was on my mind at the time, though, as I began the two-mile walk downhill, brandishing my stick and singing my pirate song, hoping the threat of a watery grave would make any bobcats think twice about leaping out of the shadows and attacking me.
It was past midnight when I finally got home. I was exhausted, depressed, and confused. My Mom was on the couch, reading a magazine.
"Hi there," she said. "I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd wait for you. Why are you holding that stick? ... How was your date?"
"Fine..." I said, faking a smile.
"That's good! You know, if you ever want to invite Emily over for dinner some evening we'd love to meet her, okay?"
"Yeah, we'll see," I said.
I crashed into my bed, turned on the radio, and fell asleep, no wiser or tougher for the adventure.
That was the pilot episode for my sentimental coming-of-age comedy/drama series. The characters won't learn any life lessons at the end of the episodes, and we'll watch them repeat the same mistakes over and over again until they graduate from high school or drop out to form a grunge band. (
: those were the only options available to us in the 1990s.)
Who am I kidding, though, nobody would watch that. I'm going to need a complete rewrite to turn it into a story about a kid stalked by magical bobcats that only he can see.
Go to the supermarket and walk around the end of an aisle. As you pass people going the opposite way, many of them jump a little bit, startled as you invade their personal space.
The ones who aren't startled eye you suspiciously, as if they're afraid you are going to steal the cereal right out of their shopping basket. People are jumpy these days.
Others peer briefly into
basket to look for incriminating items. If you have a jar of overly fancy-looking mustard in there, you will be judged harshly.
Sometimes, rarely, someone will just smile at you.
And were these beans in teal-ish can
Baked upon England's mountains green?
That is what I asked myself this afternoon in the "UK" section of Albany's international supermarket.
I had heard that our friends across the sea put baked beans on top of their toast, and I was intrigued. I brought a can of Heinz Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce home with me, and found that I could eat beans on toast
. Well done, England! Don't let people make fun of your food any more! (Right now I am even disposed to give Marmite a second try.)
Remember that scene in
The Great Gatsby
where Robert Redford kept pulling shirts out and throwing them around, and Mia Farrow is rolling around on his bed, laughing and rolling around in shirts? Well, I can pretty much do that with pants. I have lots of pants. Linen pants, corduroy pants, wool pants, cotton pants.
So I throw them around a bit, what, like this? Then I get on my bed and roll around and shout, "Pants, pants,
! Why do I have so many pants?!"
I don't know, that just seems like kind of a weird thing to do.
I've had it up to here with bitter, cynical, world-weary crap. There was a time (yeah, like
) when I guess I had a right to feel like that, but now it is time for me to turn over a new leaf. There's enough of that stuff out there, and I'm tired of being part of the problem.
However, this might mean we're going to get more entries about pants. I'm trying to figure out what it all means here,
, and I hope I don't need to write about my pants much more to achieve a breakthrough.
I live in an absolutely tiny city. I mean, it is
a city, but I'm starting to think it is still too much of a city for me. I'm ready to go somewhere peaceful, where people don't get all upset and shout at you if you accidentally make eye contact with them. (This happens almost daily.)
I visited my friend's father's farm, and I realized that I need to get out of here. I thought I liked Albany until I spent three days smelling hay, hearing chickens in the morning, and eating the delicious and mysterious "country tofu skillet."
I'm writing from the office today. The air conditioning is on so high that I am thinking about going home to put on a sweater and make some soup. I will change my mind thirty seconds after I walk out the door because it's
It was at this time last year that I lost my other job, and now because of our fiscal crisis I might lose this one, too. Maybe I should get back to work. (Listen to episode 410 of
This American Life
- "Social Contract" - to get a fascinating glimpse at our mess of a state.)
Some of my co-workers like to come up to me while I am working to update me on the progress of their grandmother's cancer or the weird thing on their leg or the dispute over the ownership of a cherished family heirloom.
I would have been satisfied keeping my work relationships at the level of basic pleasantries and
references, but some people like to rope everyone into the intimate details of their personal lives.
I'm not a monster -- I stop what I'm doing and offer whatever awkward words of support I can find. People are kooky, that's all.
When Julia had the flu I went to her place with a big pot of soup and a book of old French posters. She was on her couch looking pale and beautiful.
"You look like death," I said.
She was too weak to give me the finger.
?" was her only comment on the soup.
Her dog sat in the opposite corner of the room, eyeing her suspiciously when she coughed.
I picked up her guitar and sang a quiet version of "Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons" until she fell asleep, or pretended to so I would stop.
Today's forbidden cup of coffee was a wonderful experience. It filled me with a warm benevolence and compassion for all living creatures in all of the innumerable worlds. My mind felt clear, like pure, still water, and I hopped around my apartment playing air guitar with something that felt like real joy.
I contrast this with the days when I needed several cups a day just to function. In a dead-eyed haze, I stalked the halls of my workplace, looking for the snack cart. Was I drinking the coffee then, or
was the coffee drinking me
Think about it.
Janet had told Raj that he was "definitely going to hell" because he was a Hindu. Later, because she felt bad, she gave him a gift: a copy of the Bible.
I saw him flipping through it in the dining hall.
"There's a lot going on in this book," he observed.
"Have you gotten to the good part yet?" I asked.
"Well, I don't think so..." he said. "God seems to have something against haircuts."
I groaned. "God seems to have a lot of things against a lot of things. Put that down, hey, and let's go play Mario Kart."
I tried to buy a box of currants from a farmer's daughter at the farmers' market today.
She said I'd better try one first, because they were very tart.
I said that I know what currents taste like, and I wiggled my eyebrows at her in a way that must have been extremely creepy, and I said that I like them...
So the her father, the currant farmer, came over and accused me of flirting with his daughter, and said I should probably do the right thing and marry her or else he would charge extra for the currants.
Sometimes I catch myself smiling and remembering the good times. I have to sort of mentally kick myself and then force myself to remember the bad times instead, and then I proceed to the
By the time I'm finished, I am so miserable and disgusted that I don't want to move or eat. That's when I know I have won. It's important to mitigate the softening effects of time on memory.
This may seem harsh, but it is necessary. If I were to fall into nostalgia I would need to just start punching myself in the face.
Summer last year was mostly cold and gray, as I remember it. We seemed to go directly from spring to a warmish, rainy, pre-autumn season. People who had planned picnics and road trips spent their time indoors, looking out their windows, waiting for the sun to come out.
It only took me a few days to fall back into my stormy mindset, and I blame the weather, because it is just like it was last year.
I am doing my best. Let's all agree right now that this kind of thing is better than having me try to rap.
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