That was quite a week, wasn’t it? Someone’s been busy. All I did was go to work, get a haircut, and try not to lose my damned mind over every New York Times app notification. Even my trusty Lamy 2000 fell apart.
At least Zen has had a great week. In between “spa treatments” (read: subcutaneous fluids) she’s been hand-fed baby food and otherwise fussed over pretty much non-stop.
For every task I completed, I added three more to my to-do list. And next week begins with catalog upgrades, which means downtime, which means falling even further behind. January: snowed under on both metaphorical and literal levels.
FunkyPlaid and I watched an episode of Daredevil, but were too bored to continue. We moved on to Black Mirror, which is terrific but probably not the best thing to be watching at the moment.
Aurally, it’s mostly movie soundtracks and Jelly Roll Morton for me.
Noodler’s Ottoman Azure: deep sapphire blue with plenty of shading for capturing the nuances of melancholy.
Featured photo: the sign we put up in our yard.
I got a little more sleep last night but still not enough to fully replenish my depleted reserves of patience and compassion. I stayed late at work again, then evening traffic was stupid so I stopped off at Fred Meyer for a spot of grocery shopping and ended up wandering the aisles, looking for weirdness.
This being America, it didn’t take very long.
One year ago today, I was still in Scotland, finishing my NaNoWriMo manuscript. I had already started to wonder what living in America again would be like, if I would be able to find a library job, how I would deal with saying goodbye to my friends and home. I naively pondered how it would feel to be in the same geographical location as FunkyPlaid for the holidays, and how it would feel to vote for the first female President of the United States.
Today it’s all annoying the crap out of me. Everything. I went to sign up for Holidailies and couldn’t figure out why I was doing it anymore. Instead of pushing myself to do things I tell myself I should do, I’m going to try and listen to myself a little more.
I’m going to be clear: I don’t like the practice of saying that a year sucked. It’s reductive and disingenuous. 2016 has held some amazing things (like the aforementioned job, despite low-patience days like today). But 2016 has been a massive disappointment on significant fronts. When I was much younger I thought we were all working together toward creating an United Federation of Planets. I knew Star Trek wasn’t real but I believed in it anyway. And 2016 just seems to be another reminder that not only are we nowhere near that level of cooperation, we’re still floundering around in the dirt, throwing rocks at each other.
And I don’t have a message of hope to neatly tie this up in a bow for you tonight. But I’m working on it.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Last Night, Last Night, Last Night” by Well Then, Goodbye.
I largely avoid discussing politics here. It’s a conscious choice to keep this space clear of incontinent trolls who cannot help but spew ill-reasoned bile all over any corner of the Internet that grabs their attention.
But tonight, during the final presidential debate, the Republican nominee for President of the United States called Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman.” This misogynist name-caller considers himself qualified to hold the highest political office in America, to confer and collaborate with other world leaders, to help decide the fate of the planet. I won’t even get into the rest of this person’s problematic behavior; you read the news, so you know already. I am aghast at the mental hoops someone must jump through to justify voting for someone who is simply unable to keep his petty little opinion to himself on national television.
I hesitate to jump on meme bandwagons, but this one spoke to me. And this nasty woman votes.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: nothing. Just … nothing.
FunkyPlaid spotted this at Fred Meyer tonight.
And it’s Pumpkin Spice Latte season.
Writing from: my study in Portland. Listening to: “In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins.
I have a few things to say about today’s photo.
First of all, had I been on the Duck Tape® board of directors (a career goal I did not know that I had until this very moment) the marketing department would not have had to sell this very hard to me. I probably would have already suggested it myself. I am a firm believer in the restorative power of comfort food, and approximately 0.5% of all of my waking thoughts involve mac & cheese in some way, especially now that I can’t eat it anymore in its true form, relegated as I am to the chalky, rubbery forms that are the provenance of gluten-free facsimiles of beloved horrible foods. So why shouldn’t a picture of this most excellent food be printed on this most excellent human invention? I find this impulse to brand even the most mundane of objects to be so American. Who except me would ever see my mac & cheese Duck Tape®?
Second, it is a relief to have visual confirmation of the Duck Tape® brand name in the wild. I was asked about this in the context of a trivia game sometime recently and I thought it was a weird detail that my brain had filed away, then I promptly forgot to research it. But here it is, in our local hardware store. It is real. And now that leftover brain process can be redirected to something useful, like wondering if I will ever be able to pronounce “Pleiades” correctly or remember the American Sign Language symbol for P without having to stare at my hand dolefully long enough to make conversation awkward.
Third, despite the obvious corny remark I could make about orange-hued things and America, I mostly don’t talk about politics here. It is a concerted effort on my part to make this place one minuscule corner of the universe that is free from such silliness by devoting it solely to whatever tickles my fancy. (Hey, the brain process just latched onto the etymology of “tickles my fancy”. Nice work!) But you know that already, or you wouldn’t be reading this. If you got lost on your search for hard-hitting journalism online and ended up here … I’m not going to judge. Your local public library will be able to help you find some sources.
Fourth, I dreamed that I got a job in a combination Italian restaurant and hair salon, but I kept sitting down to dinner with my family instead of working. When my manager finally gave up on meaningful eyebrow gestures and came right over to fire me for not serving any food, I explained to her that I already had a full-time job at a library, and burst into tears. She soothed me, and offered me a part-time job in the evenings shampooing hair and sweeping up. I happily accepted.
Writing from: my study. Listening to: The President’s 2016 Summer Playlist: Day. The First Lady’s Day of the Girl Playlist is also worth a mention, another flawless deployment of social media by the Obamas’ PR team.
1. Despite the brand-name dropping, I am not a shill. But the name amuses me. ↩
3. "tickle, v.1". OED Online. June 2016. Oxford University Press. http://0-www.oed.com.catalog.multcolib.org/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/201761 (accessed August 12, 2016). ↩
4. Oops, politics. ↩
I thought I had prepared myself for possible points of reverse culture shock. Then I wandered into the candy aisle of our local Walgreens, pictured bottom-right in today’s photo. All I wanted was a pack of mints. There were so many different mints to choose from, and they were right next to a million candy bars, some of which I hadn’t even heard of before. We’ve only been gone for four years! How can so much candy innovation occur in such a short period of time?
The other two photos are from Whole Foods, one from the yogurt case and the other from the nuts aisle. I wasn’t able to capture the scale of either section of the store. There were more things to choose from than I was capable of comprehending of eating, and I really enjoy eating.
Many times while living abroad I pondered what it would be like to walk into a supermarket and be able to choose from different types of food that I wanted to eat as opposed to just different types of food that I could eat. (There were plenty of gluten-free crackers and biscuits in Scotland, but I’ve never enjoyed eating either very much.) Back in America, I’ve been bombarded by so many options that I’ve quickly become overwhelmed. I’m sure it will even out soon, and when it does I hope that I’m able to retain some of this awe over just how many options there are for me here.
Writing from: a room with kale chips in it. Two different flavors, even. Listening to: Zen’s chainsaw purrs. (She likes kale chips almost as much as I do.)
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First things first: Zen is safely with us.
When I posted yesterday’s photo, I was pretty worked up about Zen being stranded in Newark, but I knew that I wouldn’t be of any use if I didn’t try to get some sleep until the morning. I had barely drifted off when the landline rang. FunkyPlaid jumped up to answer it. The caller was someone asking if we were going to pick up our kennel (their word) or if they should send it via the delivery service.
In my half-awake state, two things ran through my head:
I mumbled something about not understanding what they were talking about and asking where they were calling from. The person identified themselves as a cargo attendant for the airline at SFO and repeated the query about the kennel, adding the fact that Zen had been there since just after eleven the night before and they usually only keep kennels for four hours.
I was so confused that I asked the person if there was a cat inside the kennel.
“Yep, a big one,” the cargo attendant said. (Hey. She’s not that big.)
I said we’d be right there. The cargo attendant confirmed that they had given Zen a bit of water so she wouldn’t get dehydrated, a small detail that buoyed me. At least someone in that whole transport process was thinking of Zen as a living being and not just some stray bit of cargo.
We quickly got dressed, set up Zen’s litter box, and drove to SFO. Sure enough, Zen was there, in fine fettle and waiting for us. There was some issue with the paperwork – what a surprise – but the excellent folks at the airline cargo place got us sorted quickly and we were on our way home.
When we got here, Zen ate all of the food we gave her, drank a lot of the water, and happily received all the snuggles we could give her.
As she dozed off I wrote yet another strongly-worded letter to the pet transport company. I still have not heard back.
After a few hours of relieved sleep, our first official act was to pick up our new car. During this process I decided that taking a selfie behind the wheel was an awesome idea or maybe just an idea and in my jet-lagged state ideas are in short supply. I didn’t intend for it to be today’s photo but I failed at that so it wins by default.
My one request of the day was a smoothie from Jamba Juice, an indulgence I have dearly missed, so we went there next … via P.F. Chang’s where I ate all of their gluten-free Mongolian beef with quinoa instead of rice. There is so much right in that sentence.
On the way home, we picked up some basic supplies for Zen. And that brings me to the five-hour nap and the present moment.
After an initial bit of turbulence, today has been a soft landing.
Writing from: a guest bedroom in balmy Marin. Listening to: Zen’s purrs.
Earlier today, I had this half-formed thought that I shared on Twitter: “The danger of basing national pride on the vanquishing of enemies is that it requires an endless supply of enemies to maintain.”
“Enemies” is a word I used to make a point. We allow politicians and media to use this word to categorize people – individuals and whole groups – as caricatures that, once extinguished, remove some of the evil from our perilous world.
I just started this post and yet I am written out on the topic. I have said it all before. Nothing and everything has changed. We killed one man, and we gave up a hundred freedoms. And it’s not over. The war isn’t over; which war are we on now? The tiny humiliations, the groping and the radiation, the three-ounce bottles, these little things we have been told are so small and worth our safety now, but who is deciding this worth?
We are still bleeding our fear over the whole world, and I don’t want it to be over. I want it never to have happened.
As I was doing some research this morning, I found some links about the potential U.S. government shutdown that you might find useful.
In remembrance of 9/11, I am sharing these excerpts from my written reactions eight years ago.
From 11 September 2001, “the act itself”:
On the way to work I heard a correspondent on the radio say something about how the act itself was shocking, but the fact that it happened was not. This is the scariest thing I’ve ever heard.From 12 September 2001, “the aftermath”:
I do not want vengeance. I do not want more violence, and I especially do not want more civilians — innocent people, regardless of nationality — to die. I realize how serious this act was, and is, and I realize that our government will exact punishment on those it thinks are responsible. I also realize we may be wrong. If we ever thought ourselves invincible, that delusion no longer exists. The loss of life, of way of life, has been more than I expected. But it was only a matter of time, as the saying goes.From 13 September 2001, “the current situation”:
Instead of discussing retribution, why don’t we consider how we got to this point? Can we see ourselves as others see us? Can we at least try? I’m disappointed and dismayed about what has happened, but I cannot sponsor the short-sightedness of an immediate campaign for more violence and destruction. If what matters most to you is a brief period of “got you back!” then clearly you should not be reading this ‘blog. I care far more about how this affects us as human beings than I do about what sort of tactics and politics make for good retaliation.Also from 13 September 2001, “survivor”:
“After the crash, and amid the screaming, he started to pray out loud. ‘I said, “Jesus save me and these two guys with me.” Neither one of them complained.’”From 16 September 2001, “the ignorant child”:
I am saddened to note that no one has come into our library and asked for any information on the situation in the Middle East, or U.S. foreign policy. But they have all been to Target to stock up on their American flags. The little plastic souvenirs are waving from many car antennae, flapping wildly as the wind hits them, as we drive fast and faster to war.From 18 September 2001, “stop, look, and listen”:
And after you understand what we did in Afghanistan, perhaps you can consider that I am as proud to be American as any of you are, but I am unwilling to pretend that “American” can be equated with “good” or “right”. Just like human beings are imperfect, so are the countries they populate and run. We have made mistakes, and although I have shed many tears for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we must bring away from this not a sense of vengeance but a sense of understanding … or we have lost all those lives for naught.You may wish to contribute your own story to Make History, a project curated by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
To the current political naysayers regarding the American economy: we tried your way. For years, decades even. It did not work. Now someone is trying something else to keep the capitalist machine running. If you think this is socialism, you had best sit down in front of a dictionary.
You want me to buy American? I do, when the product is worth a good goddamn. But none of us can continue to have the standard of living to which we have grown accustomed, shitty American products or no, so here is a thought: stop losing your tiny minds over the fact that the only constant is change.
And no, this is not directed at fiscal conservatives. This is directed at everyone. You too. Everyone who whinges about how everything is in the toilet: what are you doing about it? Really, tell me. I want to know.
From here, I see a lot of panic and a lot of negativity, and since when did either of these fix the world?
Campers may now pack heat along with their sleeping bags when they travel to national parks.Guns will be allowed in national parks: Thanks, SFGate, for “pack heat along with their sleeping bags” and “parting shot”, because what good is a ridiculously stupid law change without some wordplay to take the sting out of it?
The Bush administration on Friday struck down federal regulations banning loaded guns in most national forests, a move that was widely seen as a parting shot on behalf of the National Rifle Association.
The ruling overturned a 25-year-old federal regulation severely restricting concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges. The new rule, which would take effect in January, would apparently allow anyone who already has a concealed weapons permit in his or her state to also tote a gun in federal parks within state boundaries.
Sorry, that was a loaded question.
I know, I know: I’m fired!
I was at work when the news came, when the world changed. I was at work and we are not supposed to show our emotions on our sleeves, our choices on our lapels, but we couldn’t help it, and we clapped our hands and laughed and said yes.
My father called and said, “Thank you, California!” and I replied, “Thank you, Pennsylvania!” and for a few minutes it was like we were in the same place.
I sent my mother a text that read, “Yes, we can, and yes, we did! Congratulations on a new America, mooms.” She replied that she was with me, and for a few minutes, she was.
On the train home, I sneakily studied the faces of the people around me, thinking: does he know yet? Is she happy? And then I pretended as if I didn’t know yet, as if my breath was still held. We were all suspended in that time between hoping and knowing.
Later, my beloved and I opened a bottle of pinot noir and danced in the street. No longer ashamed, we threw each other around the place like children, skittering away from headlights, heaving laughter. I slept heavily, untouched by tendrils of fear.
Not all the battles were won last night, but we are girded with new energy and resilience. Now no longer ground into disparate paste, I have so many questions for our new leader:
What do we do next? How do we continue moving forward? How do we fight for the rights of all Americans? What is the plan? How can I help?