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?


cadillac margarita said...

i think it means that he wants you to take one of the straight flegling alcoholic boys that you hang out with and turn him into a man, kimberly! turn him into a man!

ps. have i told you lately that you're one of my favorite writers?

k. crow said...

Thank you. I appreciate your kind words about my writing. I usually look these over and decide that I need an editor.

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