Sunday, January 4, 2009


Since everybody knows I don't do New Years' Resolutions, but because I am loathe to let the holiday go quite yet (although that tree MUST come down, no matter how prickly and temper-flaring a task it may be, it's started giving me the stinkeye and no longer glows, it glowers), I've been pondering on what I learned throughout the past year of my life On This Planet. I may not set goals, but I do learn. So in no particular order, they are as follows:

Men Who Fix Cars Do Not Find Me Funny. I know nothing about cars. I don't care about knowing about cars. I know I should. I know that, like Dane Cook, when I drive in to get my car fixed they will say to me "It looks like you had unicorns in your muffler." "Really?" I will say. "Unicorns? Imagine that. I wondered what that noise was." "Yeah, it'll cost you $700." "Goody. That's about what I figured it would be for a unicorn extraction. So reasonably priced, too." And the guy will smile, and throw away my old wiper blades, and I will drive away and the car will still make that noise, and I will decide that the unicorn probably had a baby, but it must be nothing to worry about or they would have caught it. So when we had a giant snowstorm and I signaled that I was turning left and then sailed majestically forward into oncoming traffic despite pumping of said brakes, I figured it was time to get new tires.
"When did you last replace your tires, ma'am?" the Tire Guy asked me.
"I dunno, I think about the last time I had a bean sidhe in my carburetor," I told him, and he just looked at me.
"And what kind of tires do you want, ma'am?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said. "Ones that I can drive on in the snow."
"Any particular brand or model?" he asked, rubbing the bridge of hise nose with that impending-migraine look.
"What do you recommend?"
"Well, what sort of driving do you do?"
"Cautious," I said. "Like old people having sex level of cautious. I'm not a very good driver."
"I mean, where do you drive?"
"Um, you know. Work. The store. Over medians sometimes."
"Right," he said, resting his head on the counter. "We'll take care of you. Can I have your keys, please?"
I handed them over, and he glared at the eight inches of red-polka-dot scarf tied around them.
"I lose them," I explained. "I lose them a lot."
"I'm really surprised, lady," he said, and went into the back room while I wondered what I did to get demoted from ma'am to lady. I didn't see him again. Someone else came and helped me, someone younger and presumably without a daughter so he didn't have to imagine her fifteen years hence, having this conversation with the Tire Guy.

I Find Once Boring Things Exciting. Now, I'm not talking about the stuff that SOME people think is boring. (I'm primarily thinking of Whitney and Kirk, who love to play the game where they pick the Most Boring Thing On TV and wait for me to come in. "Oh, wow, this is that special on Jules Verne," I will enthuse, and they will both cackle and then change the channel.) No, I mean wish lists. In the days of yore I always had a wish list a mile long; this year, though, when mom and dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday..."I'd really like some food storage," I said.
And I meant it.
The Great Mouse Hunt of '08 took quite a bit out of me; having discovered evidence of nasty, filthy, hanta-disease-bearing vermin prancing their way through my vermicelli, bouillon, and Ghiradelli bars (BLASPHEMY, DARLING!) I commenced to toss everything that couldn't be washed in bleach. Then I had to live like a shopkeeper with canned food perched on counters while I played Lucrecia Borgia to Fievel the Marauder.
It's not bad enough that I have no idea what to do with most food storage. I don't EAT most of those things, because my theory is that those things are there for when there isn't REAL food and then they will taste better. My food storage has vanilla beans, and artichoke hearts, and tomatoes...and very little else. I should quit worrying about skills for Bartertown, because I won't MAKE it to Bartertown. I will have expired when I tried to make a casserole and didn't check the dates on the cans of soup. Anyway, if someone had presented me with canned chicken breast, thirty pounds of sugar, and evaporated milk ten years ago, I would have been grateful for the thought that counted. Now I'm just delighted. I open the cupboard doors and coo at my bounty.
Never water the Christmas tree nude. You'd think I'd remember, but every! Damn! Year! I get a very pointed reminder, as well as a few wounds in places I can't show anyone and get symathy.

Time really will deliver the genetic betrayal that is your legacy. I don't like to exercise. In fact, that's probably the biggest understatement that I can say without involving the words "Daniel Craig" and "attractive". I don't like anything about it. I don't like to sweat, I don't like to wear the special outfits, I don't like to jump around or run or jog or jazzercise or do any of it. In fact, I have long maintained that exercise goes against our very genetic code. Seriously. Thousands of years of human history, and everything we do is designed to MAKE LIFE EASIER. If it was so much fun chasing dinner with pointy sticks and eating dirt and scavenging, why aren't we still doing it? Because it's not fun. People want to relax. They don't want to walk ten miles to find wild carrots, they figured out that sucked and planted gardens and raised farm animals so they could sit down at some point and not have to constantly be moving around in order to survive. Every invention has been to lessen man's need to be involved in the work process. So when faced with physical activity, what is my natural instinct? TO STOP WORKING SO DAMN HARD. I get on the exercise bike and start working away, and look down and realize that I've slowed down because I was getting overheated. What is the point, I ask you?
Or I would have asked you before realizing that my ability to consume my own weight in dairy products and bacon meant that i was eating MORE dairy products and bacon, to make up for the additional body weight. Stupid, stupid mid-thirties. They are clearly working against me.
The family is going to do the Biggest Loser game. Originally, I said I'd participate, if by participating it meant not doing anything. "But don't you feel like it inspires you a little, you know, to have someone else to answer to?" Whit said.
"Nope. I have NO SHAME," I said. "I don't care if someone knows I didn't exercise, or if I ate a pound of bacon last night by myself."
"You didn't."
"Fine, have it your way."
So I'm on the game, largely because I can't get into those Chinese-red silk cigarette pants that I love more than...well, apparently more than bacon.

Home Isn't Always Safe. Your BED isn't always safe. My ankle still hurts. On the plus side, I can now Basil Fawlty it and scream about how I'm getting twinges from the old war wound to distract people during conversation. This will be a nice counterpoint to my usual feigned narcolepsy.

You can never have too many books. This can also be listed under the subset of "She Who Dies with the Most Books Wins." I'd like to at least be in the running someday. Shelf space is currently at a premium, but I cannot stop myself. No interventions, thank you very much. I'm a junkie of the printed word, and there are very few things in life more satisfying than having a stockpile of Things To Read.

A Random Sampling of Favorite Books I've Read 2008: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. If you haven't read it, READ IT. I love it. I heart it. I would put it under my pillow except that space is already occupied by a box of crackers (in case I get hungry in the night) and whatever book I'm reading at the moment. (That way you get to screech through the whole place looking for it, yelling imprecations and tearing books off of shelves until you remember you were reading it last night and fell asleep with your finger marking your place.) I'm just angry I never read it sooner, but I attribute that to the crappy, crappy, innocuous book jacket description. DON'T LET IT FOOL YOU.

Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean. I read this as a kid (okay, late teens) and couldn't for the life of me remember much about it, other than it was set in a college and I liked it tremendously. I found it again and devoured it. Full of literary references and very little Magic until the last...oh, fifty pages or so, it makes me happy and feel like I could have pretended to be a Brainy Classics Major at some upscale private university.

Confederates in the Attic, by Tony Horwitz. I am not a nonfiction reader, generally. I don't know why I'll read a contemporary novel set now if it's fiction, but refuse to pick up anything about anyone in history outside of the Tudor period...but there it is. Nevertheless, this was recommended by the Great Carriesnow, and I could not put it down. I read it on my way to visit The Brother in AlaBAMA (as it must be said, a la Forrest Gump) and it's on my read and re-read list. Hysterical reenactors? C'mon, that's my bread and butter! They may not say "milady" and whack each other in the park with padded PVC pipe, these are the HARDCORE. Absolutely not to be missed.

The Lodger Shakespeare, by Charles Nicholl. See my aforementioned caveat regarding nonfiction...but, as GOB says, "COME ON!" It's Shakespeare. It's history. It's researched history about Shakespeare. What else would you expect? DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT.

And as a final note, I have achieved my heart's desire. Santa Claus brought me...a Kindle. For this, I might need an intervention. Those of you who question technology...or its place in the world...clearly, you are the people who have not been forced to give up packing socks and underwear, because you require at least five paperbacks on the "getting there" portion of your trip. And then you buy two in the airport wandering around because they looked interesting, and when you get to your destination you find your host doesn't have ANYTHING worth reading, and while you'll read John Grisham because there's nothing else there, when you're out at the supermarket you inadvertently buy two more paperbacks waiting in the checkout line, and then you talk them into visiting a bookstore, and then on your way home you realize you packed the one you were reading in your big checked suitcase and the ones you have with you don't look interesting, so you are forced to buy a few more and you return home with 15 new paperbacks and a walking pattern Igor would envy due to the extra weight in your carry on. As it is, I can have 200 books at my fingertips. If I don't want to read what I have, I can use the Whispernet (don't ask me what it is, I can only relay terms like a parrot) and download a new book in under a minute. I can read periodicals. I can check the NY Times. I can verify my claims to my seatmate using Wikipedia. It is, in short, a means to an end. They will pry it out of my cold, dead hand, and even so I will be annoyed that I didn't get to finish whatever book I was reading. It doesn't relieve the intense pressure of acquiring more of the printed word, but it does mean I will have clean underwear when I arrive at my destination.

Provided I did laundry before I left, that is.