Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Things I've Recently Thought During Therapy, Massage, Sex, and/or Holiday Baking

1.  This might be more relaxing if you weren’t constantly checking the timer.
2.  Turn over... again?
3.   Sorry but that is WAY too much to process this early in the morning.
4.   Elbow deep in grease.  Have to go to the bathroom.  Perfect.
5.  I might do the couples thing, but no way I’m doing a group. 
6.  And sometimes I like doing it alone.
7.  Because a) I already put on makeup and b) my face gets puffy when I’m face down for too long.
8.  Already finished? Awesome, now I can go watch TV.
9.  Yesterday I made tiny gingerbread versions of everyone in my family then systematically snapped off all their limbs. (Wait, did I just say that out loud?)
10.  Keep kneading until soft and smooth?  Ugh.  So tired.
11.  Some parts are meant to be left unknown.  Know what I'm saying?
12.  No I don’t want to have my cake and eat it too.  What I really want is to frost my cake with buttercream, decorate it, and watch other people get fat.
13.  I'm ready to kick it up a notch.  But not more than twice a week. And never with a chocolate rimming kit.
14.  Is it just me or is it cold in here?
15.  Because whenever I smell cloves, I have a terrible flashback to the time I had morning sickness and puked a cup of chai tea into a sink full of dirty dishes. 
16.  Dude, no.  Too soon.
17.  Keep poking at that same trigger point, and it’s going to turn into a trigger warning.
18.  Still not finished?
19.  Maybe I do have an intimacy problem.  But no man should feel that comfortable in bare feet and an apron.
20.  Would it bother you if I took a quick nap and let you do your thing?
21.  No offense but if I wanted to listen to someone else talk right now, I’d turn on public radio. 
22.  Every year I tell myself I’m done with this cookie cutter bullshit.  But here I am again.  Sprawled out over this old farm table.  Going through the motions. 
23.  I’m not sure why I’m crying.  Lavender allergy?
24.  I wouldn’t even have to do this right now if my damn relatives would just stay at a hotel!
25.  This reminds me of the time my cheese soufflé collapsed.  So disappointing.  So hard to recover.
26.  This reminds me of the time I tried to peel a lemon with a paring knife.  So painful.  So pointless.
27.  One of these days, I hope to get some better tools.  Until then, more alcohol.
28.  Why do I always end up with the bitter ones?
29.  It’s like I woke up one day and the entire world was obsessed with spicy candied nuts.
30.  Whoops. Drool. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Hazards of Suburbia

Every once in a while, an old friend in New York asks me about how we’re adjusting to our new life in the suburbs.  Just kidding.  They almost never ask me anything.   Frankly, I’m not sure some of our old friends even know where we live.  Maybe they think we just moved way downtown, and enrolled our kids in a magnet school.  And that’s too far to visit, because it means changing trains.

When New Yorkers do visit, they frequently marvel (aloud) at the discrepancy between our old and new lifestyles.   Last summer, we brought a visiting New Yorker to our neighborhood swim meet.  For a period of about 30 minutes – after which he abandoned his feigned interest in the entire endeavor of sport, and strolled off to get a cappuccino – he mostly sat in a folding chair next to our mini-tent and read the Wall Street Journal.  Later, he remarked how amazing it was that all of these parents devoted every Saturday morning to watching their children do nothing but swim.   What he really wondered, I think, was why we didn’t all just delegate this onerous business to our nannies.

I get his point, though.  Life is slower here.  One thing I really miss about living in a city is the amusing drama of daily life.  New Yorkers don’t necessarily have more aberrant lifestyles than the rest of humanity, but their interesting eccentricities are more vividly on display.  When you live upstairs from a guy who sleeps in a coffin, for example, every elevator ride is an opportunity for wild (and nervous) speculation. Given how many drag queen shows I attended in the meatpacking district, it’s possible that I have an unusually high appetite and/or tolerance for drama, even by urban standards. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years, it’s that suburban life is a lot more entertaining if you chase the drama down the street yourself. 

I was thinking about this yesterday, after I chased our postal carrier down the street.   A few minutes before, I’d spoken to a guy named Josh over the phone.  He worked at the post office, and sounded exactly like John Corbett.  He was very affable.

“Hey there,” I said, trying to sound like I was just calling to help out.  “What should we do with this card we got in our mailbox?  It says HAZARD WARNING CARD."

When I said the words, HAZARD WARNING CARD, I couldn’t help speaking just a little bit louder, like I was pronouncing the capital letters.  Since getting this card, Mike and I had pretty much been walking around the house, yelling out words from the card at random intervals.  We were terribly amused at the contrast between the urgency of the word HAZARD, and the non-urgent nature of the words NEW and RAKE.   We knew so little then.  But now, I was determined to learn more.

Josh: “So you got one in your mailbox then?”  

I don’t know about all of the Midwest.  But people in Wisconsin put the word then at the end of sentences sometimes.  They either do this because it’s a culturally ingrained verbal tick, or because they are accustomed to conversing with Lutherans, who may need extra narrative encouragement to continue talking, rather than to leave and go ice fishing.   I took his encouragement and confirmed his assumption.  Josh told me to put it back in the mailbox.  He would call our carrier, and let him know to pick it up.

I sensed that Josh needed to get back to work.  But I also felt that my extreme postal helpfulness now gave me license to trap him on the phone. So I followed up with a probing question. 

“Josh,” I said, meeting his affability and raising him. “Exactly what is so hazardous about a rake?”  

Maybe Mike and I are naïve.  Sometimes, we assume we don’t know ordinary suburban things because we spent the first chunk of our adult lives in urban apartments, where building staff did most of the grunt work.   But we could not figure out why the postal service would have generated a HAZARD WARNING CARD for a rake.  Was it a terribly dangerous rake?  Was it endangering the lives of not just postal employees, but everyone in the neighborhood?  Josh laughed, like he was telling someone from California about winter.

“No, it doesn’t mean like, a rake.  It’s the slang we use at the post office, for the former tenant or resident of a building, so the new person doesn’t end up with the old person's junk mail.”

At this point, I figured it was over.  I mean, I had tried my best to make this dramatic.   I had a weird postal card in my possession.  I had talked to Josh, who basically could've starred in Northern Exposure.  I had learned some cool postal service slang that made no sense whatsoever.  But all I really had was my civic duty and the memory of some hilarious capital letters.  I hung up the phone, and got ready to walk over to the elementary school for my weekly volunteer shift.   Another humdrum day in suburbia.

But when I got to the end of my driveway, I noticed that the mail truck had just passed.  

“Oh Shit!” I yelled, sprinting up the block with my book and my coffee in one hand, and the HAZARD WARNING CARD in the other.  I waved it furiously in the air.  This maneuver probably seemed rather peculiar to the tree-trimming guys, who were standing around like roosters in the middle of the street, clucking at the icy rain.  But I was determined to make this card count.   The driver opened the door, and smiled.

 “Uh, oh!”  he said cheerfully.  “Whaddya got there?”

Josh obviously hadn’t gotten around to calling him yet.  So I told him about our earlier conversation.  He went on to explain that while he’d been working for the postal service for 36 years -- and got all the address changes pretty much memorized right away -- the part-timers needed these cards so they would know where to put old junk mail.  When I asked him for another example, he pulled out another HAZARD WARNING CARD to illustrate the point.

I guess a lot of people might have left it there.  Hand over the card, and walk away.  As a seasoned conversational digger, however, I long ago figured out that people are more likely to share things when you prompt them with suggestive emotional words.  This is especially true in Wisconsin, where almost every nugget of personal information -- past a casual greeting or polite introduction -- is pretty much considered TMI.  I sharpened my verbal knife.

“So tell me,” I said.  "Why does the postal service use a card with the word HAZARD written on it?  Moving is more like an EVENT.  Doesn’t the word HAZARD just make it sound SCARY?”

“Well,” he said, “It’s funny you mention that.”

Game on.

I can’t pretend to remember everything the mail carrier told me.  Not in enough detail to recreate a faux-accurate conversation, anyway.  But what he told me was the suburban drama equivalent of pay dirt.   In my world, anyway.

Very recently, it seems, the post office decided to change the HAZARD WARNING CARD to… wait for it… WARNING CARD.  Why the big change, after decades of HAZARD WARNING CARD?  Because even though these cards are supposed to stay in the vehicles, they often end up in mailboxes just like mine.   Which would be fine, if the mailboxes were actually just like mine, and the recipients were just formerly urban drama queens who periodically called Josh to amuse themselves with the challenge of getting random information from a total stranger. 
As it turns out, however, some mailbox owners aren’t so much amused at these cards, as they are frightened by them.  So frightened that when they go out to get the mail, and see a card with the word HAZARD on it, they assume that someone (ISIS maybe? A revengeful enemy? A more local terror cell?) has targeted her with a bomb, or a mailing envelope full of anthrax.

So they call the police.  Whereupon the police jump in their SUV's and convoy over to the post office, demanding an explanation for the HAZARD WARNING CARD.   Which makes total sense.  Because wouldn’t the post office – rather than keeping the anthrax on site and reporting it, maybe to federal authorities – just go ahead and deliver it to the postal victim, accompanied by a helpful card that indicated she was possibly about to be poisoned or exploded?

Just letting you know, Mrs. Peterson.  There might be some poison in this letter.  All in a day’s work.  Carry on.  Signed, HAZARD WARNING CARD.

I would never mock someone’s fear of terrorism.  Believe me, I take it very seriously.   But this wasn’t about a real threat of terrorism.  It was about a bad, pre-9/11 postal card – that probably does need to be changed -- and someone for whom suburbia probably already has enough drama.    It’s probably good she lives here.  Me, I'll probably keep chasing it down the street.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Paul Revere's Time Capsule Totally Sucked

Officials opened a time capsule in Boston Tuesday, more than 200 years after Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and William Scollay buried it there…. It took more than four hours for officials to loosen the screws on top of a time capsule they were set to open on Tuesday night, said Pam Hatchfield, the museum’s head of objects conservation.  Hatchfield said the tools she was using to remove objects from the time capsule included a porcupine quill, a bamboo tool and her grandfather’s dental tool. Officials removed newspapers, a Massachusetts state seal and at least 24 coins from the time capsule, including half-cent, one-cent, half-dime, 10-cent and 25-cent coins….One question still remains…. Will officials put anything new in the time capsule before they put it back?
--January 6, 2015, CNN Wire

Dear Readers: 

I realize that I’m not one of the officials nominated for the 2215 Time Capsule team.  But that hasn’t stopped me from coming up with my own answer to the ONE REMAINING QUESTION.   Because I think I speak for all Americans when I say that this is big shit.  We can't wait for Massachusetts to get organized.   

The fact is, the Founding Fathers left several important legacies, even before they left the time capsule, and they did so without a standing army, or a national government, or even a single modern dental tool.   For example:

-- They threw off the imperial yoke and helped to reimagine the meaning of freedom for the entire nation of white men, and (work in progress) other people.  
-- With visionary precision and clarity, they created a legal framework for democracy which has kept our republic working smoothly for 200 years, except in the case of about ten key amendments.
--  And nobody gave more to the Revolution than the time capsule guys --Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and William Scollay (whoever that is) -- except for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and John Adams. 

Given these important legacies, I'm still a little surprised that unlike LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (work in progress), this time capsule totally sucks.  

Look.  I’m the last person who wants to call out these Founding Fathers on their crappy capsule.  If it were up to me, my kids would still observe President’s Day at school.  But -- 24 coins, a state seal, newspapers, and a pine tree shilling?  WTF, Paul Revere?   Did you throw out all the good shit with the tea?  

No, big job, I get it.   Enclosing something really unique would’ve required a huge feat of imagination.  Way bigger than the Founding Fathers of the world’s most famous democracy had at their disposal.   Also, you grew up in colonial America, where people were hung by their fingernails, burned as witches, and enslaved as human chattel.  Nothing interesting to comment on there. I’d have gone with the coins, too.  

Perhaps I’m in no position to comment on this.  Although I have a PhD in 19th century American history, nobody ever asked ME to lead a country.  But in fairness, nobody asked Paul Revere either. 
He's just the guy who made those controversial copper plate engravings of the Boston Massacre.  A lot of those events didn’t even happen, and he knew it, and he hammered them out anyway.   He’s the hot piece on the Samuel Adams beer bottle, his naked chest busting through his buttoned down shirtsleeves.  He’s the guy who, when he wasn’t shouting at Middlesex county from atop a borrowed horse, sired sixteen children with two different wives, and a single bayonet.   Should we really be surprised that Paul Revere didn't put together a better time capsule?  Should we really be surprised that after waiting more than 200 years, and then standing by for four hours while the librarian pried open the top with her grandpa’s gingivitis trimmer, we got coins?  Not to be harsh, Paul, but maybe this is why you’re on a beer bottle, and not currency.  Nothing ignorant I say could possibly make this situation worse.

Being a modern American, admittedly, I was hoping for more smut and sensation.  I mean, c'mon.  Tell us that Brutus, rather than being an anti-Federalist pseudonym, was James Madison’s cross-dressing alter ego.  Send us a dried-out blunt from Thomas Jefferson’s library, used for “strictly medical purposes.”   Dash off a mysteriously-coded note on a scrap of parchment, revealing trashy celebrity scandal at the Continental Congress: OH at signing of the USDOI.  TJ told JH he has a fab signature, then BF called them “gay.” What did he mean?!? CC is no friendapalooza.  More deets later.  BFN.    

Upon further reflection, though, I decided that this time capsule actually taught us the perfect historic lesson.  Exactly the lesson that the Founding Fathers probably wanted us all to learn.   With characteristic foresight, they set the time capsule bar SO LOW, that we are now under NO pressure whatsoever to make the 2215 Time Capsule good.  Like, AT ALL.  True to their overall legacy, they showed us that truly great men can totally fuck shit up for a lot of other people.  And continue disappointing them -- over and over again -- well into the future.  

Personally, although nobody asked me, I think we need to honor that example.  (We basically have to, anyway, because the only thing dumber than refilling a time capsule with lame shit and burying it is not refilling it, and putting it back empty.  Who even came up with that question?) So I hope the officials on the 2215 Time Capsule team will take heed and NOT fill it with relics or mementos related to: climate change, Nigerian schoolgirls, political cartoons, grand juries, missing airplanes, apocalyptic terrorists, the fate or modern universities, or the ongoing constitutional battle over same sex marriage.  

All coins welcome.