Friday, February 1, 2008

Fine Snowy Surreal Days

Yesterday's weather reports were apocalyptic. Six to ten (or more!) inches of snow predicted. The local weatherman offered up three weather models that he must have pulled out of his ass. All three models predicted at least 8 inches of snow, AND, he said with a very hungry look in his eye, the most likely model will be the 9-11 inches. He followed that proclamation with raised eyebrows and a twisted puckered mouth--an expression reminiscent of Dana Carvey's "The Church Lady".

So yesterday afternoon as I was driving home from work, my gas gauge light blinked on. Damn. Five deep at the pumps. Damn, damn.

Let me just say that I have never, EVER succumbed to the impending blizzard grocery shopping mania. But as I was sitting in line for gas, it occurred to me that I could be missing out on something that so many other people seem to engage in. I could see the grocery store parking lot from where I sat idling in the gas line. The lot was packed. Suddenly, I decided that I absolutely HAD to have the ingredients to make French Toast: milk, eggs, bread.

The parking lot wasn't just packed. It was completely full. Vulturous SUVs and minivans wove in and out of the lanes. I got lucky in my small car. I found a spot that no minivan could fit into between two parking-morons. As I locked my car door, the first flakes were beginning to fall.

It wasn't too bad in the grocery...until the check-out. I thought five deep at the gas station was bad. I got to know the lady in line behind me quite well, actually.

In the twenty-five minutes between locking my car door and opening the trunk to put groceries in, about a quarter of an inch of snow had fallen.

An hour later--nothing. For hours--nothing. I went to bed, scoffing at the idea of "weather models".

This morning, we have about four inches of snow. It'll be gone by Monday, but for now, I celebrate what we have. See, I love snow. I love walking in it, and I really don't mind shoveling it. But don't (damnit!) tell me that we are going to have 10 inches of snow if we're getting only five. I've heard that promise before!

And here I sit at my office computer, blogging. Why? I don't want to touch those compositions I have to grade. I want to think about being outside while the snow is still falling gently. A few minutes ago, I opened a bottle of Dasani water. I held it in the light and watched the teeny bubbles rise to the top. They looked, at first, like snowflakes rising instead of falling. Then I moved bottle so that I was looking through a ripple in the plastic. The snowflakes looked like WWII airplanes spiraling upward. Then the airplanes turned into souls with their arms outstretched.

That is what snow does to me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fine Winter Days

A friend of mine has, within the last year, moved to a warm climate. It's such a very warm climate that, frankly, I feel sorry for her. This weekend, an arctic blast will sweep in from where ever arctic blasts come from. The temperature will be in the negative double digits, and whoo-baby! That wind chill will freeze your fillings, so keep yer yap shut.

So why, oh why do I "feel sorry" for my friend of the temperate climate? Because I'll just bet she's forgotten the intimacy one can have with one's windshield, of course.

Explain? Oh, dear reader, are you not from these parts? Well, let me tell you about car windshields and early morning frost.

There are different kinds of windshield frost, you know. There's the thick kind that's not terribly cold and doesn't stick to the windshield too hard. This kind of frost is easy to scrape off; it's almost fun. There's the frost that's stunningly beautiful with intricate snowflake-like images, jagged lightning-like shards, and delicate lacey window trim. I had that kind of frost to scrape about two weeks ago. I stood there staring at the beautiful patterns, my ice scraper in mid-air, not wanting to remove the artwork.

I've seen lots of other kinds of frost, but the frost that was GLUED to my windshield this morning is the most irritating kind to have. It's the kind that's thin, very cold, and stuck tight. I had to take my brass windshield scraper and try to get the "just right" angle to get this crap off. If I get the angle wrong, the scraper goes veering off across the windshield (with NO frost removal), or else I get this spine-yanking screech of metal against my windshield. Ack.

But when I get the angle right and the frost starts coming off--slowly--the act of scraping the windshield can become meditative. There's the idea of making slow progress. Yes, that can be oddly satisfying if I'm not freezing my ass off. But the other thing I've noticed when the frost is stuck that tight is the curve of my windshield. Huh. I'd never noticed that before. Now I know just where the glass is perfectly flat and the exact spot it begins its gradual curve toward the roofline.

I'll bet no one who "enjoys" 60 degree winters ever gets that intimate with a windshield.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One Fine Day Thirty Years Ago

Thirty years ago today, I was sniffing my newborn son's head, wondering how on earth it was that he smelled of fried chicken.

Thirty years ago yesterday I had finally, after laboring all night long, given birth to a very healthy and normal boy.

Thirty years ago the night before yesterday, at 11:35pm, Saturday Night Live began with a Godfather spoof. Just when John Belushi (as The Godfather) looked into the camera and said, "Live from New York! It's Saturday Night!", I began to think that the elastic around my maternity pants was way too tight.

About 10 minutes later, I was yarfing my guts up.

When a woman goes into labor, I guess her body shuts down all normal activity that it deems unnecessary. It seems my body decided that the act of digestion had been totally unnecessary for the entire day. So I spent the next hour or two charfing and moaning and laboring. Then, a call to the doctor. "Sounds like you are having a baby," the smart ass said, "C'mon in to the hospital." The Sig Oth had the nerve to ask me, "Do I have time to take a shower first?"

I have no idea what expletives I used, how many, nor for how long, but I remember flopping on the bed using a quite a few of them as I listened to water hitting the shower walls in the bathroom across the hall. Sig Oth knew that I sure as hell wasn't going to drive myself to the hospital, and he had determined that I wasn't going to have the baby for another, oh, hour or two, so he decided it was personal hygiene time. I barged in and horked in the sink.

For good measure, I made him stop the car on the way so I could chunder one last time, right in front of the phone company.

By 8:35am we had our baby, and life as we knew it would "never be the same again." At some point in your life, you realize that not only will things "never be the same again," but you realize how ridiculous that idea is to begin with. Of course nothing will ever be the same again. From one moment to the next, life will never be the same again. Life changes--constantly. We had a baby. Of course things would never be the same again. But from the perspective I have today, my life seemed to have been on hold until that day. And then everything changed. As a young parent, my life was very much day-to-day; keeping track of Ell, trying to do my best raising him, trying NOT to SCREW HIM UP! Again, I kind of felt like I was "on hold," but I wasn't. I was just trying to survive the best I could.

Today, my life is anything but "on hold." Life is flying past. I have a four-year-old granddaughter, yet it seems as if my son should still be only four years old. I wish I could go back and do it all again, this time with awareness. And to do it better, of course. With more patience. And wisdom. And with the knowledge that everything will turn out just fine.

So the morning after my son's birth, I had tossed all my cookies and more, I had given birth 24 hours before, and I was nursing him. I was ravenously hungry. And he smelled like fried chicken. Could this be one way Mother Nature makes sure mothers bond with their infants? Or could it be why some animals eat their offspring?

And I still haven't seen the rest of Saturday Night Live from November 12, 1977, damnit.

Monday, October 29, 2007

One Fine Day with the Dalai Lama

Having front row seats to listen to the Dalai Lama is probably a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. But my front row seats were far to one side of the stage, and the Dalai Lama's interpreter was seated right in my line of site. His Holiness gestures gracefully when he speaks, so at times, it appeared that some disembodied arms were playing an invisible harp. Or that I was watching the Once-ler speak.

I did get to see his face occasionally during the talk, but his message was why I was there: "Cultivating Happiness." It's a powerful message. But it's a very simple message.

Things do not make us happy. We want something, we buy it, and for a moment, we think we are happy. But the next day, we are not happy.

Alcohol and drugs do not make us happy. We may be happy while we are consuming, but the next day, we are again unhappy.

Wealth does not make us happy. Some of the wealthiest people on earth are unhappy. Some of the poorest are happy.

Religion does not make us happy. (There were a few gasps from the audience when he said this. I wondered if a gasp came from the priest I recognized there.) Many people who claim to be religious are not happy. Many people who follow no one religion are happy.

What makes us happy? The Dalai Lama says that compassion makes us happy--giving it and receiving it. Compassionate people are happy. A baby who has its needs met--is fed, is warm, is held and loved--is happy. A person who has been the recipient of compassion is happy. A person who is the agent for compassion is happy.

If we can maintain and strengthen our compassion for one another, we will be happy.

Hey, the Beatles said it, too: All You Need is Love.

I don't care, call me a granola-crunching, tree-hugging, Birk-wearing, heathen hippie. I can take it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One Fine Afternoon in Class

My first-year composition students have just started reading (by my requirement, of course--first-year students don't read anything you don't tell them to read) the book Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. I asked them what their "refuge" might be. Some of them looked at me blankly. I tried again. Ok, well, what do you do when you are really upset? When you want to feel safe and protected? Oh! That!

Several young men said that they like to get in their cars and take a long drive with the stereo cranked up. A few women said they like to take a long walk away from other people. One guy said he loved to just sit under a tree. Many kids said they love to go camping, and that started a discussion about sitting around a campfire, staring at the glowing embers or at the starry night sky, and the wonderful sleep you sleep in the out-of-doors with the rhythmic crickets and something rustling in the leaves.

The room got quiet for several long moments as we all smiled our internal smiles at the memory of our own personal "refuges."

After a delicious and warm silence, one usually very quiet young man said, "I don't see how you guys can possibly sleep outside in a tent. I've always been scared to death to fall asleep in case the elephants come crashing through the forest again."

Buh? Stunned silence. Then, everyone turned to look at the speaker. In unison, we all "Bwahahahaa-ed" our lungs out.

We had forgotten this guy was from the southern tip of India.

I won't be bitching about those pesky mosquitos anymore.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

One Fine Weekend in Boston

And so both of my regular readers have given me hell for not posting since July 19th. Feh. I had nothing to say.

Not true. I had stuff to say, but I had no time to say it. And then, when I had time to say it, I forgot what it was that I wanted to say. I didn't want to list what I had for dinner, or how many times I'd stubbed my toe that day, so I blew off the blog altogether.

But now, I have a few quiet moments, and I had a great time in Boston last weekend with one of my "regular" readers--my son (Ell)--and with my daughter-in-law (Bee) and my granddaughter (Ess). They live there, and based only on my brief stay, I don't know how they will ever be able to leave that city. What a neat place!

So first of all, there's a beach to go to. I ran and played in the surf with Ess, and I never once gasped for air like I do on that god-forsaken eliptical trainer at the gym. It must be the salt air, or maybe it's running on sand. Maybe it's just having a great time with someone you love. Maybe you go into a different kind of flow that transcends any awareness of physical exhaustion. I did sleep well each night...

And then, there's public transportation. Where I live, public transportation consists a bus system in which the drivers must daydream a lot. They don't seem to make consistent stops, and they don't always stop for you when you are standing five feet into the street, waving your hands madly and jumping up and down like you have hot coals in your pants. If the bus system suddenly stopped in this city, I'm not sure anyone would notice for a good hour. In Boston, nearly everyone rides the "T" and busses. Public transportation is considered a god-given right, and BY GOD don't take it away from them! Here's how I found this out. I flew into Boston and took a bus to a subway stop so I could ride downtown to meet Ell near his office. We were going to get back on the T and pick up Ess at her daycare, and then take MORE public transportation to their apartment. (See how this works? It would take HOURS to do all of this via public transportation where I live!) Ell and I were on the T a total of three mintues when the train just stopped. We were stuck on a bridge on a stopped T. People began to grumble. Loudly. Then the train moved about a foot. Backwards. More grumbling. Louder. This was repeated about five times before we began moving forward again. We slowly rolled into the next station (not the one we wanted), and eventually found out that there had been a fire in one of the stations, that fire engines were blocking the path of the T, and that no one knew how long it would take to get things moving again. The Red Line and the Green Line were not moving. A guy sitting on our train started hollering, "This is BULLshit! This is BULLshit!" He looked like a homeless jogger; he was wearing gym shorts, he had a terrycloth band around his graying ponytailed head, and by the time he had worked himself up into a screaming lecture about the bullshittedness of what "the man" was doing to his public transportation rights, he had yanked the front of his T-shirt over his head so that his belly was showing, yet he still had sleeves. Soon, people started whipping out cel phones to call someone who might have some knowledge of what was happening on the outside. Then, a woman hopped onto our train and shouted, "My friend and I are going above to hail a taxi. We are going south. Anyone want to split the fare?" No one responded or moved. The woman shrugged and took off. Ell and I looked at each other. "Got any cash?" he asked me. "Yeah, wanna go?" We took off after this woman. We didn't know where we were going, what we were going to do, where we might end up, but it was better than sitting on that train listening to a crowded trainful of disgruntled maniacs.

But above ground was chaos. I didn't realize that a Red Sox game was about to begin, and apparently you don't fuck with Red Sox fans and the beginning of the game. There were people running in the streets, on the sidewalks, hailing taxis, walking, running. One guy (wearing a Red Sox shirt) was screaming into his cel phone, running in a zigzag through traffic up a one-way street. Sarah and Lisa (the woman and her friend who made the taxi offer) and Ell and I stood on different corners of an intersection, each trying to hail a cab. Of course, in all of the chaos, there were fifteen people ahead of us also trying to hail cabs. It must have been 30 minutes of cab hailing when an empty cab pulled up for us. Right--the cabbie spoke broken English, and he didn't know how to get to the JFK station. Sarah had to direct him through traffic. Lisa kept looking out the cab windows, saying, "I might be able to get out here....I think I know where I, I'm not sure. Ok, I think I know where I am! I can walk from here! No, wait..."

Here's another thing I've learned about the people in cities where there is an excellent public transportation system. If you dump them out in the middle of town, they have no idea where they are. They know how to get from one station to another, and they know where they need to go in relation to that station, but that's it. Dump me out in the middle of my town, and I pretty much know where I am. Of course my city is a fraction of the size of Boston, but my point is that I think I've driven on nearly every street in my town. I've even driven all the way across town taking nothing but alleys just to see if I could. I know so much of my city because I have to. When you have public transportation, you don't have to.

Traffic was insane. Ell and I got off near the JFK station, not really knowing where the hell we really were. We found out that the Red Line should be running from that station to where we needed to go. We hoped.

I had left the airport about 4:00pm. By 8:30pm, Ell and I met Bee and Ess in a Starbucks a few miles from their apartment.

So what else did we do? Ah, at the beach we rode a carousel and ate fried clams, we dined at a REAL Irish pub (the guys sitting behind us were speaking Irish), we went to Boston Commons and Quincy Market, we saw the end of a marathon, we walked a qua-jillion miles in downtown Boston (but it didn't feel like a qua-jillion miles), and Ess and I read Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein five times. (Ess calles him Seashell Silverstein.)

Ess informed me, after watching Hammy on Over the Hedge, that she can burp her ABCs. Really? I asked. "Yep! uuhAAAAAY! Beeeeee! Ceeeeee! Deeeeeee!" She got all the way to F, and we were each in complete laughing fits after each letter. By that time, I had to go to the bathroom, and while I was in there, I heard her laughing hysterially. Then it got quiet. Then more hysterical laughter. Uh oh. I opened the bathroom door, and Ess was hopping up and down. "Gramma! Gramma! I can FART my ABCs, too!" What an angel.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One Fine Day at Trader Joe's (and one stupid day at a grocery)

I have a handful of favorite people. One of my most favoritist favorite people has a blog at My post today is a response to his "Clueless Crusade" rant.

Today's blog entry is a response to jinserai's entry, "Clueless Crusade." I originally wrote today's blog as a comment on his, but I erased it. I decided my own rant belonged on my blog. But I'm certainly giving jinserai credit for getting me wound up about the topic again.

I have my own personal crusade against plastic bags. But my gripe is that I don't like the things blowing through the air (especially those flying out the back of garbage trucks), I don't like them stuck in the trees, and I don't like them tossed in my yard. Yes, we humans do use TOO MUCH, but I also don't especially want the government telling me I can't use a plastic bag when I want to (or even charging me 15 cents to use one). So what do we do? Change our *own* GD behavior and use some common sense! Stop being so f**king greedy with our resources! Think beyond our own pitiful lifetimes!

Recently, I purchased several reusable bags and tried to use them at the local big-chain grocery store. I made sure the cashier knew I had them, and she let the sacker know. At first I wasn't watching the sacker (I was unloading the cart), but when I looked up, he was over half finished packing my reusable bags...WITH EVERYTHING FIRST ENCASED IN PLASTIC BAGS! At that very moment, the cashier leaned over to him and said, "And be sure you put the meat in plastic, too." I asked her, "So what's the point of all the plastic bags? I asked you to use my resuable bags." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I dunno. I've never seen them before." HUH?!?

When I unpacked my groceries at home, I had a pile of 18 plastic bags that encased my food, which was all then placed in my reusable bags. The sacker used at least three times more plastic bags than my purchase would have required withOUT the reusable bags!

Completely different experience: Yesterday, I went to Trader Joe's with two reusable canvas bags. I purchased about the same amount of groceries as I did in my previous big-chain grocery store purchase. I walked out with my TWO canvas bags full and one sack of potatoes. The cashier didn't even ask if I wanted my potatoes in a plastic bag. (They already come in a plastic bag, for crissake!) I can't count how many times in regular grocery stores the sacker automatically puts my milk in a plastic bag. And my sack of potatoes go in a plastic bag. Plastic encased in plastic encased in plastic.

I'm thinking of messing with the cashiers and sackers the next time I get groceries. I could tell them, for the love of god, DON'T put my stuff in plastic bags! I am deathly allergic to plastic bags! I could die within minutes if you put my stuff in plastic bags.

The big-chain cashier and sacker who encased all my stuff in plastic bags would believe it, no doubt.