Archive for June, 2007

Been sick for about a week. At the beginning, there were two really knock-down, glassy-eyed, fuzzy-brained days. Since then, I weave between sort-of-better and more-of-the-same, sneaking to the empty office at work for catnaps during the long days and working from home for most of today, (even though my phone voice is something to be reckoned with– deep and scratchy) Being mildly to moderately ill is one of the most boring states there is, I’ve decided. All the things I feel like doing bore me before I even begin to do them. Take food. I lay there on the couch and think of the various yummy meals I could concoct: chicken and lentils in marsala sauce over rice; greek-style potato salad with pine nuts and feta; tossed salad with chipotle-glazed chicken on top. Then I think about the energy it would take to concoct them, and how unappreciative I would be of my efforts. Then I toast an english muffin. Toasting english muffins is only marginally less boring than thinking about toasting english muffins.

Now I’m entertaining myself by thinking about what would be more boring. I could be sick with only Avon catalogs in the house to read. Or, I could be in a multi-day meeting with no AC, where people keep making longer and longer speeches about nothing and everyone stays just so they can get the treats at the end. I could be in charge of manually changing all the lowercase x’s on a giant spreadsheet into uppercase x’s. I could be stuck in a training where the only activity for hours and hours is filling in the blanks. I could be a security guard at an office building where I had to sit up straight at a kiosk and wear a tie and make sure each person was “badging in” correctly. I could be in charge of a colicky new baby that only sleeps fifteen minutes at a time. That would cause more despair than boredom, though. See, when you start to reach the extremes of boredom, it just turns to despair or anger. True boredom needs to be pale and innocuous to qualify.

And yes, I’m going to the doctor in the morning, and no, I don’t believe myself to be contagious, though that may have little bearing on reality…

Karen invited me to list songs I will always, always, sing along to. I copied her and linked to the samples on Amazon, except for a few like G G G which a) are not on amazon or b) didn’t have a good clip on amazon. The Beatles don’t get any sound clips because they are the Beatles.

Most of the songs I love to sing along to really loudly are happy songs. I wonder why that is? Jesus in New Orleans is not that happy but it feels great to sing the word “crazy” over four (or however many) bars. Most of these are many years old. Two of my favorites use a letter or a number in place of an ordinary word? Now that’s just strange.

Bill Withers– Lovely Day
The Beatles– Good Day Sunshine
Fleming and John– Radiate
Over the Rhine– Jesus in New Orleans
Moke– So Much Better
Sinead O’Connor– Nothing Compares 2 U
Mike Knott– G G G
Laura Love– Aha Me Riddle A Day
White Stripes– Hotel Yorba
Victoria Williams– You R Loved
The Jayhawks– Real Light
Ron Kenoly– Dwell in the House
K.T. Tunstall– Black Horse and the Cherry Tree
Erasure– A Little Respect
Weezer– Buddy Holly
They Might Be Giants– Birdhouse in Your Soul

I invite east coast folk to share their favorites– Kate, Julie, and Mike.

Watched another documentary yesterday; this one was called The Corporation. The moment that struck me most was when the commodoties trader was talking about his lack of concern for how these commodoties are acquired. If someone wants to buy copper, he will sell copper. If it means that an entire town in Peru is constantly filled with pollution to acquire it at that price, well, what business of that is his? He doesn’t know about it, he doesn’t care. His job is the exchange of commoditites. “There is opportunity in disaster,” he says. People just want to make money.

This truth, I suspect, goes beyond commodities into the buying and selling of regular company shares. In fact, I am one of those people who just wants money. I invest in stocks and mutual funds because I feel responsible to help secure my financial situation in my old age. In addition, Dr. G. and I are required by state law to participate in retirement investment programs. I just want to park my money somewhere reasonably safe and let it grow. I don’t want to think about it, or worry about it, or spend time on it. I want other people to make it happen for me.

I have no idea where that money is coming from or how it is being made, especially in the mutual funds. In all likelihood there are thirteen year old girls somewhere getting paid six cents an hour in part to improve my return on investment. I guess this means I have to start researching all the companies I invest in, and possibly stop using mutual funds because I don’t know what companies are involved. The problem is, I am not even the tiniest bit interested in becoming so involved. In fact, for my state-mandated retirement program, I don’t think I even have a choice. My resistance to taking responsibility for the sources of my wealth (however small it may be) is so strong that I suspect I will think about it for a week and then do nothing. This is where the Holy Spirit and the community of believers needs to kick in. Have any of you thought about this problem already? What solutions, ideas, and directions have you found?

We are just finishing up the documentary series Life of Birds, created and presented by David Attenborough, a charming old British dude with a comb-over and a windbreaker, and one of the best nature documentarists ever. He’ll be sweating in the Sahara in one frame and walking through the English countryside in the next. He sits down in the mud and climbs trees and sneaks up on large animals even though he is eighty years old. Though he is interesting, he is not so interesting as the animals he introduces, such as the cuckoo bird. Apparently this is common knowledge, but it is a parasite bird that waits for a smaller bird to leave its nest. Then it sneaks over, eat one or two of the eggs, and replace them with its own slightly larger egg. The unsuspecting mother bird will incubate the cuckoo egg along with her own. As soon as it hatches, while it is still a blind pink embryonic thing, it systematically pushes all the other eggs out of the nest. Still, the host bird cares for it and feeds it to adulthood. It’s song sounds like that of a hungry brood, and she feels compelled to feed it though it is larger than her, in fact so large it doesn’t even fit in the nest. Craziness!


photo still from pbs.com
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photo still from peacockshock.com

I’m happy to report that the family camping trip was not a bit exciting! We were on a lake shore near Tahoe, where Dr. G and I marvelled at how benign the outdoors were. The biggest threat I faced was getting tree sap on me, although Dr. G did sustain a pine-cone related injury in the last hour we were there. The trees were shaggy and shady, the ground soft with dirt and pine needles, the water plentiful. We fished, hiked, swam, explored a creek, built forts, and hung out around the campfire playing non-competitive games. (Question: If you could control anyone’s mind in addition to your own, whose would it be? Answer from an inlaw: Steve (my dad)HMMMMM…)

We wore T-shirts during the day and sweatshirts in the evenings. We were peppered with hard-to-answer questions from my practically-four-year-old-nephew (“Why doesn’t the fish want to die?” “Why do some people deserve bad things?”) and helped maintain a constant perimeter around dangerous areas to screen out my troublingly mobile one-year-old nephew. We were nine adults to one baby and he still broke through occasionally. Maybe he has a future as an affectionate, talkative smuggler. “YumYUMyumYUMyum!” he will say to his clients about the black market caviar hidden on his person. “Bubbles! Coooool!”

Hanging out with my family is like being part of the in crowd. We’re a noticeable bunch, partly because there are so many of us (11) and partly because the members convey an image of tallness and stylishness (I’m among the shortest) and a knack for telling stories. When we go somewhere as a group, strangers sneak up to the fringes to hear a joke or figure out the rules to the complicated rock-throwing contest we have devised. It’s fun to be an insider for a few days. I usually don’t get to be one. And, oh, we saw a golden eagle swooping up from the lake with fish in its claws. That was nice, too.

I’ll be in California until Sunday night, camping with my entire family, whose members ranging in age from one year old to mid-fifties. The good thing about camping as opposed to all hanging out in the same house is that you can run off into the woods when things start to get crazy. I love the crazy, and I love escaping the crazy. I expressly requested Smores for the menu, which are a delight at any age.

A few months ago, I had a run-in with a pair of pants. I’d purchased a cute pair of on-sale trousers from the Gap in an effort to expand my suitable office pants inventory. Sitting comfortably in my new pants at work, though, I crossed my legs and suddenly felt a little draughty. I surreptitiously peered down to see what was going on. A giant rip, right where you don’t want one. I stood up to see if maybe it was hidden and asked my cubicle mate to verify. “Oh honey,” she said. When anyone says “oh honey” to you in that pitying kind of voice, you know you’re in deep trouble. She supplied me with safety pins and a scarf to artfully tie around my waist for the day. The pants went back to the store that night. I had saved the tags, the bag, and the receipt and graciously received repeated abject apologies from the Gap guy who had sold me the pants.

Anytime I buy something these days I keep the tags and receipts around for at least a month afterwards because you never know. If I buy a clothing item for Dr. G there’s a 46% chance that it will need to be returned. (I know, I know, let him buy his own darn clothes. But even then, same result.)

My sense of good feeling toward a store is often proportional to the generosity of its return policy. My youthful love for Target faded shortly after my wedding back in the day. We had done that registry thing where they give you a laser gun and you go around shooting the things you want people to buy for you. What a racket! I felt heady with power holding that gun, and as it turned out, I got a little rash with where I aimed it. Combine that rashness with the surprising number of people who don’t check to see if someone else has already purchased an item, and we ended up with a somewhat large pile of returns, including seventeen dish towels. (I hereby apologize to anyone who bought us something off the registry that we later said, “Why did we put this on there?”) So you go to Target to return things and it turns out there are different lengths of time depending on the type of item and different documentation requirements and a huge line of people ahead of you and these giant bins full of broken toys and other returned items, and it’s unpleasant all around.

Compare that with REI, for which I feel a rush of affection after stopping by just before closing with our busted water bladder still with the first aid tape on it and the hose detached (the detached hose is why we were returning it). No receipt, no packaging, no nothing. We bought it about three months ago. “I’m one of those annoying customers who has no proof of purchase,” I announced. The clerk assured me that I was not annoying in the least, asked my name, and refunded my money, no questions asked. She also recommended a better water reservoir. Now isn’t that nice?

Can of Diet Mountain Dew (On Desk)
Unopened Roll of Livesavers Tropical Fruits (In Purse)
Tin of Altoids Minis, Peppermint (In Purse)
Plastic Cup of Filtered Water (On Desk)
Two Bags of Black Tea (In Desk Drawer)
Packet of Rich Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate Mix (In Desk Drawer)
Fork (In Desk Drawer)
Spoon (In Desk Drawer)
Empty Can of Coke Vanilla Zero (On Desk)
Empty Can of Diet Hansen’s Tangerine Lime Soda (On Desk)
Coffee Mug (In Cupboard)
Napkins (In Cupboard)
Insulated Coffee Mug (In Cupboard)
Opened Bag of Western Trail Mix, Honey Roast and Butter Toffee Island Crunch Variety (In Cupboard)
Unopened Bag of Western Trail Mix, Adobe Heat Variety (In Cupboard)
Chocolate Chip Peanut Odwalla Bar(In Cupboard)

My workplace has recently installed a new “fitness center,” by which they mean a few lockers, a few elliptical machines, a few presses, and some handweights. $25 covers seven months of use and free appointments with a personal trainer. Count me in! Even if I lose my resolve, $25 is a pretty low guilt tax. After work yesterday I walked over to meet my new personal trainer and tell her how I almost died of fatigue trying to climb a dry streambed uphill with a pack on. She designed a quick-and-dirty work out regimen for me and showed me how to do all the stuff and did not laugh once. If I keep doing it, she says, within a month or six weeks I will no longer almost die of fatigue though she can make no guarantees regarding other hazards.

I asked her how she got into personal training because I heard it’s hard to make a living that way. She got the same look on her face that I have seen many poets acquire when you ask them how they are making a living. It’s similar to that look people get when they feel an approaching bout of severe heartburn but still try to pay attention to the conversation. Almost no personal trainers survive by setting up workout routines, she said. She herself is mainly a nutritionist. She herself went through an enormous personal transition, going from being very overweight to being a competitive bodybuilder; invented a healthy eating system; published a book; went back to school; and still didn’t find personal training feasible. Where is the love! Food is more interesting than muscles anyway, she says, with more power to transform.

A few new things on the web related  to me:

First, announcing Unsplendid, an online poetry journal where those of you who are fond of the occasional metrical or rhyming poem can find any number of interesting examples.  I’m an editor, which primarily means I get to vote on which poems get published.  We plan to put up new  material every four months or so. 

Next, I have an article on blasphemy and imagination up at Salt Magazine.  As usual, I feel I should caveat it to death, but fuggedabout it.  I’m goingto leave it alone.