31 March 2008

How to get things done: Get Sick.

I'm not going to try to pull the wool over your eyes here. I started writing this post two days ago when I felt semi-tolerably awful. I said to myself at the time, "Hmm. This illness is both bothersome and painful, but I can hack it. Cough cough cough. Repeat and fade." Since that time I have felt just plain miserable, so some of what I had written here is pure bunk.

Yesterday I woke up and the sickness had moved into my nose. My capacity for thinking dwindles exponentially at the mere threat of sinus pressure. The actual event can render me absolutely useless. To make matters worse, all the fluid that had been happily gurgling around in my bronchioles was flowing out of my nose at a rate that made it impossible to replace my fluids. I tried to nap, but it was too uncomfortable. I tried to watch a DVD, but I couldn't concentrate. I tried to take a steamy bath, but I got too pruney and then I got a bad case of the chills.

At one point, my Dad called me up to ask me a question about taxes.

"Hulloh?" I croaked. Just barely.

"Yuck!" Said Dad, "You're sick. I don't want to talk to you now."

Now, luckily, I am fluent in Mike. It took many years, but I realize that this response is his way of saying "You are sick. Please, do not let me keep you from the recuperation process. Take care of yourself." Unfortunately the part of my brain that filters social interaction with non-familiars was also at work. I also thought, "Oh my God. He thinks I'm so contagious that he'll be able to catch this crap over the phone." Actually, he might have been thinking that, too. I had to get the phone-will-suck-my-brain-out-of-my-ear phobia from somewhere, and my sister's been swearing up and down that this isn't her fault.

So, yesterday I was too sick to make most of the following apply. To make matters worse, I ran through my entire arsenal of over the counter cold remedies by about dinner time. This meant that I drank hot toddies until sleep finally seemed like an option.

This morning I felt good enough to go to the Safeway to get some medicine and sundry groceries. As I was driving over there, I realized that my ears were plugged up and maneuvering a vehicle probably wasn't the best idea. As I walked around the store, I realized that by gosh, my ears are so clogged I can't even hear the easy listening. I go about my business and I end up in the cheese aisle. I look at the block of cheese, thinking about the ratio of the price of cheese to dollars in my wallet, whether or not I might qualify for government cheese, and cheese as a catalyst for phelgm. At this moment, the nice old lady that comes into Safeway at 8am to get her single stick of string cheese and a hundred bucks in twenties comes up behind me and started to talk to me about the recession. Let me tell you, I could not hear her approach at all, and it seriously made me question my capacity for bladder control.

Even though I couldn't hear anything, I made it home. And eventually I made it back to this blog entry. Without further ado...

I am sick. I'm not too surprised by this illness. Due to my innate domestic torpor, I accumulated a pile of dishes in the sink. Underneath the pile was a hospitable environment for some primordial ooze. I don't believe I am exaggerating too much when I claim that the goo had a pulse and, quite possibly, its own zip code.

Some people (Hi, Dad!) have a name for my ability to ignore the dishes: laziness. I call it a chronic disease frequently exacerbated by bouts of depression. Be that as it may, I can see how this current illness might have festered in the sink. I'm pretty sure germs like to hang out with primordial ooze and talk about important events in the microbial world. Perhaps the germs bore the ooze to death by gloating about their pathogenic qualities.

O, sickness. This means I swapped sitting around all day feeling miserable with sitting around all day feeling miserable. The difference is, now that I'm sick I can get things done. The dishes? All finished. The ooze? Ghostbustered. The pile of papers? Mostly conquered. The floor? Swept, mopped and vacuumed. The fridge? Cleaned out. The laundry? Halfway there.

These are things that I've been putting off for ages. My main excuse had been that I didn't feel good enough to get things done. Now, when I physically feel like a pile of hot, rotting garbage I've become a model housekeeper. I wash dishes after every meal, for chrissake! Who is this person.

I have a handful of theories as to why this might be:

1. The sickness has flipped on some sort of auto-pilot. In order to survive the disease, I must go through the motions of normal domestic upkeep.

2. You can only feel bad about one thing at a time: either the pithy state of your life or the burden of the sludge accumulating in your bronchioles.

3. Cleaning house is a lot more fun when you make cool rattling sounds with your lungs and your voice sounds like you're three cigarettes away from the tracheotomy.

4. One must make their outsides look better to make the insides feel better.

In other news, I'm making excellent use of my tea cozy.

13 March 2008

Quid pro quotation. Part I.

Chekhov wasn't always my cup of tea. I don't think I had a bum translation. I think I found his work to be dry, formal and not terribly interesting. Smart people kept telling me otherwise, but I've always felt that intelligence does not make one exempt from being full of shit.

All of this changed while I was reading The Seagull. I hadn't read that particular play before, and I remember picking it up with an attitude of resignation. My train of thought was something akin to, "Well, if I've made it through Ivanov..." But by the end of the first act, the magic of Mr. Chekhov had been revealed.

If my life was a cartoon, this revelation would be the equivalent of an arm popping out of a secret door in the wall, snagging me into a rococo treasure trove. The room would be crammed floor to ceiling with piles of decadent sweets, stacks of gold coins, and several dozen chests full of brightly polished gemstones and strands of pearls. A miniature stage with tiny actors in period costumes would serve as a centerpiece to the smörgåsbord of riches. Were my ears sensitive enough to hear the tiny actor's tiny voices, I'm sure their words would be Chekhov's.

I often attribute a cartoon-like quality to things I don't completely understand. I usually reserve the practice for the doozies in life; messy ideas like hate crimes, ritual sacrifice, or volunteering for military service. Discovering an affection for Chekhov seems comparatively innocuous. Particularly when I can cite my shift in opinion to one very famous quotation.

"I'm in mourning for my life."

Minor detour time. There's at least two important people in my life who keep collections of quotations. These quotes (and their sources) are carefully documented in notebooks or on computers for random perusal and for use at a later date. I don't keep any personal record of quotations, but my mind has a soft spot for details. In turn, I have quite a collection of paraphrases for random perusal and for use at a later date.

Somehow, when I recall Masha's line, it's spoken by someone else. A gentleman says, "Masha is in mourning for her life." His commentary is received with a roll of the eyes by anyone acquainted with her dour disposition. It is said with the sort of apathy that develops between the overly familiar.

My recollection probably detaches Masha from her words because I was more affected by the nuance of the various reactions to her line than by the line itself. So long as this nuance was latent, the appeal of Chekhov couldn't make any sense to me.

End part one.


07 March 2008

Typing only with the left hand is hard.

I'm trying to distract myself from the odd sensation of sudden blood loss. I was reading something about swearing in South Pasedena when all of a sudden I decided to embed a metal spatula into my right pinky finger. Why was I futzing around with a spatula while reading blogs? Because nothing tastes better than a hot grilled cheese sandwich with a side of self-published verbal composition. I dare you to find a better culinary accompaniment.

The wound looks pretty deep, and there's all sorts of blood under my fingernail. But that's not what concerns me. I find it a bit more troublesome that my entire arm is numb and I'm still bleeding about 20 minutes later. Am I in pain? I can't tell. Am I going to puke? It's a possibility. I think my tetanus is current, so I'm not going to get all buggered out over this.

Instead, I will beguile my senses by attempting to remember 10 things I thought about this evening.

1. Bolo Ties. Who thought of these? Wherefore? Does anyone have evidence of anyone looking good in one? Please tell me, I'd like to know.

2. Since about October, I've had extended stints where I feel like Sifl (from MTV's defunct Sifl & Olly) in the song Weird Day. Blood loss intensifies the effect. "Lost mind. No rhymes. Takes time." I get it, Sifl. Santa Claus, he's not pretend.

3. Why hasn't anyone heard of My Kingdom? I wanted to watch this movie tonight. I'm meeting someone tomorrow about a King Lear thing and God forbid I reread the original beforehand. I was feeling lazy and I just wanted a nice evening where I could hunker down and watch the late, great Richard Harris. I saw My Kingdom a few years ago and decided that it was the best Lear film adaptation since Ran. I must've seen it while I lived in Ireland because I don't think it's been distributed here. And that's a damn shame.

4. I don't think I could recognize a picture of myself taken in profile. Maybe my hairdo would give it away...

5. I wish it was OK to knock on a stranger's door when you're out for a walk and have to use the loo. I got stuck tonight up on Klickitat thinking, "Uh oh, 12 blocks is too far!" I proved myself wrong, but it did make the second half my evening constitutional a tidbit uncomfortable.

6. Do you ever take out a battery operated device (like a tape recorder, Gutterheads) that you haven't used in years and expect the batteries to work? I do.

7. When I got the Bactine bottle out, I realized that I'm convinced that the generic for Bactine is bacsiduent. I don't think such a word really exists. Google sure doesn't think so.

Did I say 10? I meant 7. My first aid kit had fingertip bandages! Who's special now?

06 March 2008

A post in which I reveal many vices.

In the last hiccup in my employment continuum, I was a lot less angst ridden. I attribute a lot of my ire to the fact that I've been on a more depressive tract. I've spent much of this winter attempting to figure out ways to disappear completely or at least try to disengage with society. While I wasn't successful in my attempts at evaporation (thanks in part to my compulsive need to check email and social networking hoopla), I am convinced that it would be at least a week or two before anyone noticed my disappearance.

I'm also angrier because I'm still paying for the last episode. My last hiatus included a cross-country move. Subsequently, there was a stint in which I spent several nights a week in bars watching my friend do a ton of coke off of really disgusting surfaces before he headed home with a different boy each night of the week. My tolerance for this habit was fueled by whiskey and a propensity for shaking what my mama gave me if presented with the opportunity. Cross-country moves and nights with booze are expensive. Let this be a lesson to all ye whipper snappers.

Speaking of Mama, I've finally e-mailed Mama Crow a link to the blog after Mr. Mead let the cat out of the bag last month. So, let me take this opportunity to say, "Hi, Mama!" and also, in light of the previous paragraph, "Don't do drugs."

So here I am, a few years older and disproportionately more bitter. I've been trying to figure out what would make this period of frustration and boredom more palatable. Or at least more lucrative. I am trying to think back to the days of yore for inspiration. I've had a couple of ideas, both complicit with pros and cons.

First off, I could sing on street corners. During the last break in employment, I stood out in the cold singing Christmas carols in downtown Portland. It filled a good 20 hours, and I made over $150. I felt a little shy about it, but I never ran into anyone I knew and that made it OK. Now, I've got a bigger complex about being seen. I also have a bit of a problem insofar as I don't know any decent Easter carols. It's not going to happen.

Volunteering is my other idea. But it seems I've developed a bit of a complex about volunteering, too. Back in the day, I postponed my move to Portland to look after my sister's kitties while she spent a few weeks in China. Looking after cats does not keep your days full, so volunteered at the neighborhood branch of the Fairfax County Library. It started out with four hours every morning, processing holds, repairing damaged materials, and sorting interlibrary loan books for delivery. It kept me busy, which kept me sane.

By the end of the month, I was picking up shifts (gratis) from a wayward library page. I worked full time (and then some) at the Martha Washington Library. When I was finally about to leave for the west coast, the volunteer coordinator sat me down. She looked at me sternly and told me, "No one should ever work as hard as you do for free."

After years in the theatre, it didn't strike me as odd to contribute so many hours without getting paid. Sure, the work might be physically grueling, tedious, or might go unnoticed by most people. But, as they say, the show must go on. Do what needs to be done, blood, tears, and first born children are sacrificed with no questions asked.

It turns out that most people, including my entire family, are convinced that I have some sort of idiot streak running through me for working so hard without pay. This includes work for theatre. As my sister, whom I esteem for her wisdom and keen sense of observation, once said,"Jeez. Sometimes they should pay me for sitting through it."

I realize that the librarian's point was not to discourage me from volunteering but to alert me to the fact that expectations for volunteers are set quite low. But I can't not work hard. Maybe that's a fault, but I feel morally corrupt if I give a half-assed performance.

I blame the theatre.

I'll end on a tangent. I'm bringing this up, not because it's particularly pertinent to today's post, but because referring to other blogs brings in an element of time sensitivity.

I've been an avid reader of fourfour for at least two years. I first came to read this blog for the now extinct Project Runway recaps, but I was hooked after my first few doses of Winston. I think Rich has a pretty good finger on the pulse of pop culture kitsch. His music reviews are astute, his ANTM crying counts are priceless. He's truly one of the Internet's cool kids.

I wanted to bring this blog to your attention because of the tenacity and verve of his latest entry, This post is brought to you courtesy of Black History Month. Rich's honest perspective speaks volumes about developing an identity as someone perceived as an outsider. I think it is some of his best work. Along with his previous entry, Just because I'm a fag, it doesn't mean I'm a bitch, Rich brings up the issue of the prevalence of homophobia. His response: "When I'm not laughing about the absurdity of it all, I'm raging..." Bravo, Rich. Everyone should be outraged.

04 March 2008

Now Seeking: Job Fairies

Why aren't job seekers magically provided with a personal marketing department? I think a team of professionals should be requisite for anyone attempting to contact a Human Relations (Humbling Repository? Inhumane Response?) Department. This team could distribute press releases, develop a self-promotional advertising campaign, and tailor cover letters and resumes to accurately reflect one's position on the bleeding-edge of one's chosen field.

Of course, since employment status is at stake, the marketing team would work pro bono. Or perhaps those seeking greener pastures could foot the bill for the rest of us who, after watching our dreams wilt and wither, are attempting to find any viable clod of grass. On a sliding scale, for sake of fairness.

I imagine this team to be quite literally magical. Like fairies. But less obnoxious. No offense to the Tinkerbells of this world, but I'm expecting real polished professionals. Less mischief, more magic fairy dust.

I think the fairy element is most important. After weeks of searching, it's easy to lose faith in the prospect of finding a job. It's comparatively easy to keep the faith in fairies. According to Peter Pan, I just need to clap my hands to restore gusto to the sickest sprite. I tried to give my resume a round of applause, and it just sat there. Hearts have yet to be set alight with wonder in response to my CV.

Each resume I send out has a silent addendum attached. It says, "take a chance on me." Just like that song by ABBA. I watched a documentary about them once. A producer talked about the band's use of dubbing to create that oddly hypnotic ABBA sound. He explained how one of harmony tracks is sped up so it's about a 1/4 step above the natural note. The dissonance created by this effect makes the final track feel magical. But if it slowed down, as if you were to play a 45 at 33 1/3, it sounds lethargic and distorted. I feel like my 45 is playing too slow.

I want job fairies so I can figure out how to send out a resume and cover letter that says one thing clearly and without distortion:

I am worth the risk.

02 March 2008

"A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place"

I'm taking a brief (hopefully) break from sorting through The Pile of papers. It doesn't matter where I live, or how "on top of things" I may appear, this pile follows me everywhere. I accepted this long ago, and I usually choose to live with The Pile, stashing it away underneath my hula hoop in the old Murphy bed closet.

The problem is my relationship with The Pile has become cyclic and predictable. I can eyeball that stack and immediately be overwhelmed by the knowledge of how I will begrudgingly spend a Sunday afternoon in the somewhat distant future. I close the closet door with a sigh. I already know how this one will end: To Be Continued...

I think my problem stems from the fact that I am a neatnik resigned to the fact that I have an innate sense of domestic torpor. The mere idea of cooking, cleaning, laundering, et cetera leaves me mentally fatigued. It's intolerable. I'll live with the mess rather than the exhaustion.

At about the same time as The Pile becomes large enough to seem precarious, clutter seems to creep into my living space. One day I get bored enough to put on the kitchen timer for a 15 minute cleaning, just about the limit of my cleaning contribution. I might as well have taken a four-hour standardized test or have read Ulysses (unabridged) in one fell swoop. After my quarter hour of sacrifice, I have to reward myself with a $3 cup of coffee.

The next day I inevitably walk into my apartment after my morning constitutional or some sort of errand. Some internal switch is flipped at the recognition that my previous contribution has changed the shape of my mess. I look around, tense and frenzied, "How can I live in this squalor?!?" I put on my least practical pair of shoes for the task and I tackle the entire apartment. No couch cushion is left unturned. No slip of paper in The Pile goes unnoticed. There was an episode of The Jetsons in which Rosie the Robot short circuits. She goes berserk and maniacally cleans the Jetson family sky condo chanting, "A place for everything and everything in its place!" In this moment, I know exactly how she feels.

Afterwards, I am left with a shiny, clutter-free apartment, a massive headache, and the beginnings of a new version of The Pile. There's always about an inch of paperwork that can't be thrown away, stored, or attended to. I put it in the closet underneath the hula hoop. Sigh. To Be Continued...

At present, I'm about halfway finished sorting through the current incarnation of The Pile. Even though The Pile is full of relics deemed unimportant enough to deal with at a later date, it can be quite labor intensive. I frequently find myself re-reading something just so I can justify putting it in the recycle bin.

I get a lot of envelopes from my parents with nothing but newspaper clippings inside. No notes of salutation or any sort of explanation included. The contents vary, but often include Wall Street Journal Broadway reviews or tips for how I could save money or get a better job. I feel that these are pretty self-explanatory: they say, "We know how you love the theatre, so we are sending a review of The Putnam County Spelling Bee for the umpteenth time." or "Get a real job. You know, one with actual benefits and a salary that allows you to contribute to your IRA." Needless to say, a lot of these articles end up in my pile.

Articles that cannot be safely included in the self-explanatory category are decidedly more disconcerting. Sometimes I'll spend hours trying to decipher the implications of three column inches of text. Once in a while, the particularly disturbing blurbs merit a call to Mom and Dad. I've usually left the it in The Pile so long that they have no recollection of sending me the article in the first place.

I just found one such article from my dad in the middle of a collection of unopened envelopes filled with notices reading YOU HAVE BEEN PRE-SELECTED and 0.00% APR in a most atrocious typesets. I could tell it was special because it was folded in half in an envelope with Kimberly written across the front. Similarly, my name was written across the top margin as well.

My dad writes like a robot. Each pen stroke is mechanical, precise and exacting. In fact, all of my family has excellent penmanship, with the exception of myself (the sole left hander). The marginally evil Grandma Crow was originally left handed, but it was beaten out of her. Now her unnaturally right-handed penmanship is the apex of the family's graphology elite. Seeing such lovely script would ordinarily command attention. However, add a touch of the tad too familiar and a bunch of newspaper articles later, I can see how the envelope ended up in the pile.

This article is a 4"x5" snippet, and I'm going to guess that the source is the Wall Street Journal. The Journal's got a pretty recognizable editorial style once you've read a few editions, to it's credit, might I add. This clipping has a small photograph of two men drinking shots. Were they themselves cocktails, I'd say that they're made of one part Williamsburg hipster, two parts trust funded frat boy. In my opinion, it's a particularly potent blend of douchebaggery. I notice that one of them has a beer chaser, and I decide that this makes him less bad ass than he is attempting to appear. At least he didn't go for the ironic cowboy hat worn by his compadre.

The most disconcerting and attention nabbing thing about the article is the fact that Mike has meticulously underlined selections in red ink. This makes me imbue the scrap with particular importance. After all, teachers would always leave those ominous words SEE ME in red ink at the top of the page. Red ink says "Wrong!" or "You're in trouble" or "You're broke." All of these statements put me on alert.

In spite of the weighty importance of the red ink, I have no idea why this article was singled out for me. I've come up with this list of what this article might possibly imply:
  1. Grow up already.
  2. This is why you can't get a date.
  3. Look at how you liberal types are ruining society.
  4. Nice guys don't exist anymore.
  5. No one will ever be good enough for you.
  6. Your generation is full of lazy underachievers.
  7. Same goes for the 20-something bachelorette.
  8. Get a real job. You know, one with actual benefits and a salary that allows you to contribute to your IRA.
  9. Be culturally important and singlehandedly save the male species.
  10. Your generation gives me a headache. Even more so than your sister's generation.
  11. Are you sure you're not a lesbian? Might be a more promising option.
  12. Quit hanging out with fledgling alcoholics.
  13. Get a real job. You like nice things and you can't depend on being a dual income household.
  14. Feminism totally backfired, didn't it?
  15. Don't trap men into marriage. They don't like it very much.
  16. If I catch you with one of these assholes, you're going to hear about it.
I bet you're interested in the article, so I've included the text below. Instead of red underlines, I will put the highlighted text in in all caps. I realize this infers that I am shouting. But, so does red ink, right?
'Young Single Male' Is Urged to Grow Up
City Journal- Winter

People shouldn't dignify the videogame-playing and hard partying of some 20-something males as a phase of self discovery, Kay S. Hymowitz says in the conservative City Journal. SHE SUGGESTS THE SO-CALLED YOUNG SINGLE MALE GROW UP BEFORE HE WRECKS SOCIETY.

Men are increasingly delaying marriage to their late 20s and beyond. As seen in such movies such as the "40-Year Old Virgin" or "Knocked Up," they fill their prolonged bachelorhood by watching gross-out videos on the Internet, playing video games and flitting from one half-serious girlfriend to another.

Unlike bachelors past, these Young Single males no longer bother posing as sophisticates. Instead, they indulge in scatological jokes and chugging contests. Partly this is a backlash against feminism, Ms. Hymowitz says. More fundamentally, pop culture has given the seal of approval to the long-running discomfort men have felt for the responsibilities of family life. Articles in PLAYBOY were describing MARRIAGE AS AN ENCUMBRANCE LONG BEFORE MODERN FEMINISM ARRIVED.

The downside to this attitude shows up in novels such as Nick Hornby's "About a Boy" and Benjamin Kunkel's "Indecision." In these stories, the protagonists' serial indulgence of easy pleasures leaves them isolated from others, with FEW ASPIRATIONS. For Ms. Hymowitz, who has written extensively and sometimes critically about HOW THE FAMILY HAS CHANGED OVER THE PAST 30 YEARS, YOUNG MEN ESPECIALLY "NEED A CULTURE THAT CAN HELP THEM DEFINE WORTHY ASPIRATIONS," Ms. Hymowitz says. "ADULTS DON'T EMERGE. THEY ARE MADE."
I'm confused.

Where's the recycle bin?