Thursday, September 17, 2009



Another dumb ad.

Sorry, but I can't help it.

This one is for a national seafood chain that starts with "red." You know what it is.

The announcer says the name of the chain, then says, "where the shrimp are endless!"

Well, I hope so; if I'm paying that kind of money for a meal, I hope they're shelling the shrimp and taking the tails off.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Where I Was 9/11

It's that anniversary again.

I'll never forget the shame I felt, and still feel, about taking things so for granted.

At the time, we lived in upstate New York. That crystal-clear, beautiful morning, I did not go in to work because we had made an appointment with a bathroom remodeling company. The tv and radio were both off, since I reveled in spending any free morning time practicing recorder and piano. The bath designer was supposed to show up at 11:00, so I whiled away the time and paid a few snail-mail bills, feeling a little lonely because the kids were at school and I was curious about what was happening at work. I missed my team and my work writing and webmastering, and thought about my neighbor across the street, wondering what she was doing.

Eleven o'clock came and went, with no one showing up to look at the bathrooms. By 11:30 or so, with no bathroom people, I became incensed about their cheeky lateness, and by noon I was steaming mad. Not only that, but I had called the remodeling company three or four times to find out what was keeping them, and no one had answered. There was no receptionist. I left messages, but no one called back. This company was the most vaunted remodeler in the region, and I couldn't understand how they could have such a good reputation and not answer the phone during business hours on a work day.

Standing in the silence in the kitchen, it occurred to me that I could call work and just hear how things were going. I reached my team leader, thinking I could ask him a couple of questions. But before I could say anything, he greeted me with a bizarre level of incredulity. "Why are you so calm? Don't you know about it? Don't you know what happened?" He was always a calm and affable guy, and his stridency was quite out of character, and scared me. Then he told me about the towers. After swearing a few oaths, I immediately turned on the tv, hung up the phone, and stopped thinking about the remodelers entirely.

Because of the overwhelming with this event, I never did reschedule the bathroom visit, and never got any bathrooms remodeled. Which is just as well. Because a few months later, our company went through unprecedented massive layoffs, and although I wasn't laid off, I had to leave my job because my DH was let go. We'd have had to move immediately after fixing things up the way we wanted them anyway.

That's what I was doing eight years ago. Relatively speaking, remodeling seems ridiculously trivial. Even though we moved far away and now have a different house that desperately needs updating, I'm still remodeling-averse. It would be disruptive and depressing enough on its own terms, but with the added dimension, the thought is just traumatic. STILL.

Yes, as many of my friends tell me, I have a problem getting on with things. But this one can't be forgotten.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


DH and I have been discussing getting a new bed. He has a long history of back problems and introduced me to futons 20 years ago. I was skeptical, but quickly came to appreciate a futon, and that's what we've used as a mattress ever since. I can't even sleep on a conventional mattress anymore, and after too many hospital nights on a mock tempurpedic, have rejected memory foam as well. We have an antique bed frame but, because it was only a full size and we needed a queen, I came up with a bizarre design whereby we could build a platform out of our old futon frame and rig it so that it would lie flat instead of folding. He and his dad nailed it together, mounted it on the frame, and voila! We tossed a queen futon on top and it was golden. But that was more than 12 years ago.

So elder kid heard me talking about the frustration of going out mattress shopping. And suddenly he made an astounding confession about something he'd been harboring for about 13 years. He said, "Mom, did you say 'futon'?" And I said, "Yes, we're going to replace our saggy lumpy one." Then he said, "You know what? When I was really little, and you said the word 'futon,' I always got it mixed up with 'tofu.' And in my mind, I thought they were the same thing, and that somehow your bed was made out of, I don't know, dried up tofu. But it never occurred to me that that wasn't okay. I mean, maybe they could recycle tofu as a futon. It's soft and foamy. And the bed was comfortable. So I was good with it." Well. I guess my jaw dropped for a minute.

This is the same kid who thought (at age two) that TOFU was "toe food," and he would eat it and watch his feet to see if they grew. He's simply tofu-challenged; that's all there is to it.

Yeah, buddy. tofu/futon. Almost an anagram! And to think I never knew this was rolling around in his head. But, as usual, I don't think I want to know much about what else is rolling around in there.

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Throwing The Book At 'Em

Well, Blogger is misbehaving today and won't let me put this photo where I want it. So please bear with me. I already wrote the text and there is a particular place I wanted to put the photo, but all for naught. Furthermore, all the line spacing is weird, and I can't seem to do anything about that, either. It's doubling, tripling, or doing nothing randomly. My apologies.

I've had the most curious "argument" with family members lately. The argument makes no sense, because it is about a completely subjective, personal preference. I keep being told my preference is WRONG. If I know perfectly well what I prefer, how can I be wrong? It's my taste, my opinion, it makes sense to me, and I'm sticking with it. FOREVER.
The problem is, I maintain that I love physical books. LOVE THEM. Always have, always will. Especially vintage or antiquarian books. Despite my best efforts at teaching my kids to use books, however, they have steadfastly resisted the book adoration. In our common room, on a desk conveniently positioned next to their computer, I set up a reference book area. Who uses it? Exclusively ME, for my editing work. The boys would always rather eat a bag of nails than do the taxing, tedious work of cracking a dictionary or The Chicago Manual of Style or The MLA Handbook or Roget's Thesaurus or Garner's Modern American Usage. Even their foreign language dictionaries languish. You'd think their very arms would fall off if they lifted one. It annoys them to no end that when they ask me a reference question I can always find the answer in a book anywhere in the house faster than they can Google it, or, more's the pity, than they can refer to that second-rate hodgepodge of misinformation or missing information, Wikipedia. Why can't they just type it in and get an easy, canned answer and not endure the pleasure of actual thought and discovery?
Several worries assail me. First, their growing up in an age of not valuing books retards their skills. Even if they know how to spell a word, they will not use the proper process to look it up. This freaks me out. How could you be "taught" how to look things up in a dictionary since you were four years old and STILL not be able to demonstrate it at age 12? And, an aside--it scares the heck out of me whenever I enter homes (kids' friends' homes, relatives' homes) wherein there is no evidence of books. No bookcases anywhere. How can people live like that?

I learned to read when I was three. You'll see me practicing for this momentous event in the photo.

What I find funny about this picture is that I'm holding Mother Goose upside down. And that is how I first learned to read--upside down and backwards. I remember sitting across the little built-in kitchen table from my mom when she was reading the morning newspaper (in our house at the time, it was The Los Angeles Times). And I started reading the big headlines. I read them upside down and right-to left, but I'm a lefty, so that makes some sense. I remember saying, "Mommy, what is a Budd-hist?" She was kind of shocked.

A book is a wonderful thing to take to bed, to while away your time while waiting for a kid's activity, to take to an indulgent breakfast alone, even sometimes to a soak in the tub. These kids are almost devoid of these experiences. Volunteering to use books in any of those ways would not occur to them, and that's what makes me sad. They don't think of books as their forever companions. Now, we have always, always made it a point to read to them almost ad nauseam and they are required to read before bed every night. So they do know about reading in bed, but they don't go happily rushing into it without reminders. We have demonstrated the example all their lives. Somehow the deep cultivation has not set genuine roots.

And then there's the "argument" about electronic readers such as the Kindle. I am unanimously overruled by family on this subject. I do not want to use an electronic reader. Just because the technology happens to exist, must I be obliged to use it? I say a resounding "No!" I want the comforting aesthetic experience of creamy paper, deckle or gilded edges, leather or cloth covers and real dust jackets with author bios on them. More than often it's a paperback, but I don't care. I don't care if a book is heavy or if I have to shine a light on it. I don't want a book that shines at me in a nondescript neutral font. I want to examine colophons and end papers such as those in the Everyman's Library series ("Everyman, I will go with thee/& be thy guide/in thy most need to be by thy side"). I want to keep finding the endearing back pages that say something like, "This book is set in 12-point Monotone Bimbo, with chapter headings in Basketball Overextended, both faces designed by the legendary Adolf Pfupfl and characterized by noble, full-bodied proportions with complex, slightly fruity serifs."

Most important to me is the fact that I can riffle through the pages at will instead of having to scroll. My mind remembers pages in a photographic way; I can almost always remember whether a particular passage was verso or recto, and how far down the page it was. I love the visceral experience of flipping back and forth and always finding what I'm looking for. On a continuous scroll device, I won't find it, and will just want to throw the thing. (Trust me; I know I would!) If the device were able to project on the wall or ceiling and I were in the bath, it might have some merit. But otherwise, no.
So maybe it's cool that you can carry a whole library with you at one time. I won't argue that point. But I don't feel a genuine need for that, either. It might have been useful, though, when I was in college and grad school and running feverishly from place to place. Or, maybe if you can bookmark it, useful for teaching notable passages in class. But, still. You can do that by bringing a book to class with relevant pages flagged. However, you can't hook it up to a projector. So maybe in this sense I'm losing the fight.

Yes, books have a way of causing an irritating level of clutter. I admit to having them everywhere, and they require dusting or vacuuming, and they're always migrating from one case to another. I no sooner get them all organized where they fit than I have to go through them and try to reorganize. I'm always making wrenching decisions about which books I must purge in order to take on new ones. I always have one or two discard bags going. I have piles all over the place. Right now, on the end table, I'm delving late at night into: an ancient copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; The Reshaping of Everyday Life 1790-1840; Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (a re-dip--read it when it first came out); an absolutely tattered two-generation paperback of Great Expectations; two volumes of excellent poetry by Kay Ryan; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; and the short-story collection Homeland by Barbara Kingsolver (another long-term re-dip).

I'm heartened when I see my book piles. Seeing them directly as physical objects, I feel as though I'm looking at friends. They are me in some way. As a kid, I used to climb trees with a book and sit up there all afternoon while spying on the neighborhood. Serendipity! In sixth or seventh grade I read The Hobbit in a tree. After that, most of Ian Fleming's James Bond series (you know, light summer reading). I don't want to take an expensive electronic reader up a tree or into the bathtub where an innocent fumble could electrocute me. If you drop a book from a tree, it will probably be just fine and won't explode or get a cracked screen. And you can dry out a book.

So flog me. I love books!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Why My Feet Hurt

Finally! Thanks to Burlington Coat Factory, now I understand WHY have painful bone spurs in both heels! No more Causal Sandals for me, buddy.

I also have a great photo of a huge lime-green aisle sign from CVS pharmacy that says, "Warts & Lice," but I can't seem to get it off my cell phone and onto the computer. I like to walk down that aisle and see if anyone's horrified.