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Listening to the way our conversation is going, it's obvious I've failed to communicate my idea to you. As if it isn't difficult enough to get my thought into your head, first I have to dislodge whatever fool notion has taken root there.
What's even worse is that the misunderstanding has taken on a life of its own: you've become
to your misinterpretation of what I was trying to say, you've convinced yourself of its superiority to my original idea (which you never understood in the first place), and now you're trying to convince
to listen to
We know a remote farm in Lincolnshire, where Miss Brigby lives.
February, chocolates are made there.
The spinster Brigby presents Adorable Melting Chocolate Love-Puppies: seemingly delicious dog-shaped chocolates, they melt completely in your hand when you touch them. The puppies are made of a special kind of chocolate which will stain your clothes permanently and cannot be washed out, no matter how hard you try. If by some miracle you did manage to taste one, you would find it exceedingly bitter. We admit, it seems slightly cruel, but Miss Brigby assures us the product is a metaphor.
It's surprising that lately I've been putting exercise off until "tomorrow," until my doctor asks me whether I exercise, and I can no longer
say that I do.
Exercise and good music combine to make the magical elixir of happiness. Last night I could barely find the energy to eat something, and tonight, after a mere thirty minutes of light jogging, my mood is up to eleven out of ten and I am making grandiose plans to fix the world's problems. If I were not so worried about disturbing the person downstairs, I would write this entry while jumping.
Thinking about yesterdays entry, I realize how horribly obnoxious I am when I'm happy. I am sorry about that. I should establish a "no writing thirty minutes after exercise" rule.
Sometimes I wonder, though, whether getting extremely fit would change my life. What would happen if I got all weird and muscly?
* Would I have more energy to do the things I enjoy?
* Would strange women pop out of doorways and say, "My puny boyfriend can't open this pickle jar, but
* Would I finally be able to press down hard enough to write through three layers of carbon paper?
Yes, I did notice yesterday's missing apostrophe, and it's
eating me up inside
. The worst part is I can't even attribute it to exercise-induced exuberance, since that was
I've been making lots of weird mistakes lately, like writing "poast" instead of "post," and I'm pretty sure that the other day I managed to put a 'u' somewhere in the word "electric."
I'm pretty upset about this, since I never would have made these mistakes two years ago. Are these the symptoms of an aging brain? I sort of hoped I had a few good years left.
I think words and language in general are terrific, because with them I can accomplish quite a bit. I can explain my experiences to you, I can put ideas in your head, I can convince you to do or believe something.
But when someone you love has passed away, language falls apart, and I can't do the only thing I want to do in the world, which is to make you feel better,
even if it's just a little bit
. All the words I reach for are trite and empty, and I end up with something unacceptably feeble: "I'm sorry."
The search committee needed someone to sit in on interviews, and they picked me. I couldn't think up an excuse quickly enough, so I agreed to do it.
The first guy said he "treated people fairly, both on and off the field." I hadn't spoken yet, so I seized on this opportunity.
"Oh," I said, "'
'? Which sport do you play?"
(If pressed, I could claim I was evaluating his well-roundedness.)
"Huh? Oh... No, I don't play a
," he said. "'
Both on and off the field
'... it's just a thing people say."
We didn't pick that guy.
On January second, the people in the typing pool decorated their office with pink streamers, hearts, an an enormous cardboard cupid. I can tell you with confidence that on February fifteenth, you won't be able to turn around without hitting a hanging shamrock or a demented paper leprechaun. The way they have it set up, every time you go in there it's a new gaudy assault on your senses.
Do I begrudge people a chance to celebrate and have a nice time? Even when I only go in there several times a year?
. I am not a nice person.
I sent a letter to Zoe's husband and infant son. I have not seen Zoe for three years. The gist of the letter follows:
What business do you two have taking Zoe away from me? We used to sit around my apartment drinking beer in the afternoon and laughing at TV commercials. Now she spends all her time with you. What do you have that I don't have? Having met you both, I happen to know that I am more fun to be around than either of you. Infant son, you in particular are a drag. Get bent, etc...
Back in Buffalo I worked with Tim, who was overflowing with snow blower knowledge. He started conversations with, "So, how's your snow blower running?"
I think he was disappointed I didn't have a snow blower. Sometimes he'd just tell me about his, or ask me what kind I would get if I were going to get one (as if I had an answer for that), and I don't think I was ever able to disguise the "
Jesus H., he's going on about snow blowers again
" look on my face, but for all that Tim and I got along pretty well.
Against all advice, I looked at some of the things I wrote last year and found that I had no idea
what the hell I was talking about
half the time.
Was I supposed to remember that "maybe you've just been handed your soup bowl" means "maybe you've just been dumped"? Well, I didn't. That was the worst example, but there were others.
My resolution this year is to strive for some level of clarity. It's true that I only write to amuse myself, but I clearly need to ask "Will I understand this six months from now?" more often.
Yesterday at work Gary was a robot. If you tried to talk to him, he'd say,
"I AM NOT GARY. I AM GARYTRON 5000.
If you wanted his help with a report, you had to use the hole punch several times on an index card and feed it into his shirt pocket. He'd interpret it as a command to get himself more coffee.
One day last month I was a penguin. Penguins don't know how to use a computer for anything but FreeCell. Our boss says this kind of imaginative play is good for our professional development.
To give you an idea of the spirit of the times, my normally mellow friends were having a highly partisan squabble over whether Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid looks more like an owl. (The correct answer, of course, is that they both look like owls, but McConnell is a startled owl and Reid is a sleepy owl, but again, in the spirit of the times, nobody wants to hear the "
This sober, important argument was turned over to Google, with
"Mitch McConnell" "owlish"
returning 1,740 results, and
"Harry Reid" "owlish"
(They both look like owls, guys.)
When Shelley first met her, I asked for her first impressions. "She has weird hair," she said. "Like that woman from Dilbert."
"Yeah," I said, "she
Much later, when she realized that despite everything that happened I
thought she was great, Shelley told me she thinks every woman wishes someone would feel that way about her. I think she thought it would somehow make me feel better, but she's looking at it from the wrong point of view: I'm still desperately looking forward to a day going by in which I don't think about her at all.
Julia's education was in climatology, and she was also an AMA-certified meteorologist. She claims she "picked up" a teaching certificate along the way, as if that's something that just
, and after she graduated she found jobs as an elementary school teacher are much easier to find than actual
She stayed in her teaching job for about three years before she decided she was sick of crayons and paste and getting the flu five times a year. The siren song of oscillations and isobars had called to her once again, and she could not refuse it.
After some searching, Julia found a job as the backup to the
to the late-night weather girl. It didn't conflict with her teaching schedule, and she had a chance to be back in the weather game.
This was not too long after we met, and when she told me about the new job I thought she must have been joking. Then one night she called me at around half-past eleven. "Turn on channel four," she said. Ten minutes later, there she was, delivering the weather with a big phony smile and the word "Meteorologist" below her name.
As far as I know, she only got that call three times. She felt this television job was beneath her, and it only made her more enthusiastic for a real job in her original field.
"They don't care who you are, really," she said. "They just want someone to stand up there in a skirt and read the teleprompter.
"I'm a scientist.
what I want to do. Today I am a weather girl, but some day... I shall be a weather woman."
To show my support, I sang "Weather Wo-maaaan" to the tune of the
Julia was miserable for the next few months until she got a postcard in the mail to remind her about the next annual meeting of the American Meteorological Association.
Her plan was to go there and network like crazy. I agreed to go with her as a plus-one and to help get the word out about her. I tried to think up some weather-related ice-breakers.
"Have you heard about 'Hurricane Julia'? She's a
force of nature
Fortunately the train ride there was long enough for me to think this up and then realize how stupid it sounded.
The night we arrived, we decided to hang out in the hotel bar until we felt sleepy. We were just in time for the beginning of "Weather Whiz," which is what happens when meteorology nerds take over a bar quiz.
Bad Tony, Julia's college rival, was also at the bar.
"I know why you're here, Jules," he said, "but the assistant position with Doctor Waxman is as good as
A determined, steely look came over Julia's face. I left the two of them to chat aggressively while I went back to our table to fill out the quiz form.
"Julia," I said, "Bad Tony is a dick."
"I know," she said.
"He's a 'test your strength' hand-shaker."
"I can't believe the fool told me about the Waxman assistantship. If I can get it my future is assured."
Julia became particularly enthusiastic about the quiz. She didn't so much care about winning so much as beating Bad Tony, a goal I shared.
After beating him to a particularly difficult question about tropical systems, I tried to set up a team-wide chant of "
" but this was widely mocked, mostly by Julia herself.
part of the annual meeting was boring -- it has to be said. Julia was in her element, though, and she enjoyed it.
At the final dinner, Julia and I were seated at the vegetarian table with assorted unsavory and un-connected company.
"Do you think it hurts my career to be seated separately from the normals?" she asked.
I told Julia that jealousy within an organization is toxic, and if the others could see our bean casserole, they would certainly be consumed with a lethal dose. The casserole was beige throughout and did not seem to contain beans.
Julia didn't get the assistant position. To buy some time away from our dinner, I suggested we walk over and introduce ourselves to Dr. Waxman, who was standing near the rolls. As we approached, a young lady asked her for Bad Tony's whereabouts, as she wanted his phone number. Instead of answering her question, Dr. Waxman said, "Anthony works for
We later found out she had him doing her shopping. He didn't get much from the experience, and Julia had dodged a bullet. She went back to teaching, and for all I know that's what she's still doing.
In every sense that mattered, the trip had been a lose-lose-lose situation. Julia didn't get a chance to advance her meteorology career, Bad Tony had a terrible job, and Doctor Waxman had to deal with Bad Tony. What about me, though? I was on the train heading back to Albany, and Julia's head was on my shoulder. I couldn't help but feel that I had won.
(If you found that wrap-up kind of smug and inappropriate considering how disappointed everyone else was, just take a slightly longer-term view and you'll see that I eventually lost, too.)
Late-night budget wine gives me +5 to musical appreciation, +1 to charisma, and -1 to intelligence and constitution.
* My "80's Jam" Pandora station is on. I take 2d20 damage to dignity and risk dancing in front of the window.
* If I die in your arms tonight I have a chance to auto-cast "Raise Dead" without penalty.
* Every time I think you of you I feel a shot right through as if you've taken the Combat Archery feat.
* Angels with silver wings shouldn't know suffering, as they are immune to electricity and petrification, and resistant to cold and fire.
Do people become less interesting as they get older? My research indicates they
. Nation-wide focus groups have identified a new, younger person to fill this role. The new SD (that's what he wants you to call him) does exactly the sort of awesome stuff I would never do. You will want a pencil case with his face on it.
You will be pleased to hear that yes, he is a member of the "jet set," and that his coherent, focused anecdotes will excite you in ways mine never could.
Comin' atcha this fall, not a minute too soon!
So far nobody has expressed interest in my screenplay, but you won't catch me moping. You just have to keep sending it out until the right person reads it.
And look, when you're in this game, you have to learn how to learn to brush off the criticism. When the "big shots" tell you that people like movies where things actually
, or when they question whether you've even
of the traditional three-act structure, it's because they're jealous. "Plots" are crutches. I want emotional depth.
Get me the right actor and the coffee-drinking scene will be
I mentioned to a friend there was this girl I sort of liked, and she asked me,
"Are you going to make something happen?"
It took me by surprise. What am I, a wizard? I can't magically
make things happen
. Things happen to you, and then you
to them. That's how the world works.
Also, by the way, if you were wondering whether I often play a supporting role in my own anecdotes, the answer is yes, sort of, sometimes, depending on your point of view.
don't try to suggest these two things are in any way related.)
What should you do if you suspect you're being unreasonable? Ask your friends? They won't tell you, and you'll make them uncomfortable by asking. You could cross your fingers and hope to find an honest stranger, I guess.
So what, then? Roll it around in your head over and over and hope you figure something out?
Or do you spare yourself the trouble, and remind yourself that certain emotions are so antithetical to being reasonable that you might as well do the lazy thing and chalk it up to "the human condition"? Aren't you
of it, a little bit?
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