January 2005 Archives
And by the way, it's supposed to be in the 20s today, so why does my thermometer still have a little negative sign in front of that single digit?
And to be fair, one whole entrance of the store and the bottle return room were closed off, hand-written signs of apology for the inconvenience taped to the doors, whatever issues there were hidden behind a stack of sidewalk deicer pails and some hastily shifted cardboard displays. Clearly, some kind of grocery store trauma, and it's possible my bagger was involved. He could have been. And that could have set him off-kilter for the rest of the night. (I know how that works, as my entire day was set off-kilter by the simple fact that because of a couple of strategically placed auto accidents, I found myself actually unable to cross the river to get to work for about two hours this morning, and the day didn't get better from there.)
And, honestly, as someone who doesn't drink or get high, and who hasn't for a very very long time, I have lost my awareness that other people do. It always comes as a surprise when I encounter someone who's drunk or stoned, to catch a whiff of dope on a ski slope (of all places), to find someone at the Y who's had a few, to run into drunken people in line at the Target. (Haven't lost my eye for speed freaks, tweakers, and others whose pharmaceutical proclivities make them somewhat less predictable -- as Hunter S. said, you can turn your back on a man, but never turn your back on a drug.) So, it's entirely possible that my bagger was, . . . . No, I'm sorry, I was going to say "in the bag," which is a pun even I would be ashamed of, and besides, does anyone say "in the bag" anymore? I'm so out of touch. Crispy? Is "crispy" still cool? Okay, let's just say it's possible he had imbibed. Something.
Or perhaps he was just having an existential crisis. I mean, what do I know about his life? He could have spent two hours stuck in traffic just three miles from his destination this morning, too. His girlfriend could have broken up with him. His cat could have coughed up something alarming and foreboding. He could just be tired of the rat race, of being a bagger in his forties, of trying to put together a life without a clue how to do it. It could all have just been too much for him.
And I really think that's all it was. I think life was just too much for my bagger this evening, because suddenly the choices were just too much for him. Although I always present my groceries in a semi-organized fashion -- cold with cold, poison with poison, paper goods all together, meats on the side -- he just couldn't . . . quite . . . figure . . . out . . . how to bag it all. He made little piles of things that should go together, then -- crisis of confidence! -- changed his mind. He placed things in bags, and pulled some of them back out again. I buy eggs seldom, but tonight was one of those nights, and I truly regret, for the eggs, the eggs -- the eggs caused him no end of difficulty.
In the end, he gave up on the endless possible combinations, abandoned all decision-making, found himself unable to reconcile his earlier choices with a need to get everything back into the cart -- and he pretty much put every item in its own bag. Some bags got two items, but two appears to have been the maximum. Most of the bags had to be reinspected before being placed in the cart, and the eggs, the eggs found a place of honor on the little folding shelf of the cart. But he got it done, and I just had to thank him. I could see how hard it had been. And I felt really bad about the trouble my eggs had given him.
My great-great aunt who took care of me when I was young had some kind of bitter issue with Barbara Stanwyck, who by the '60s had taken to titling herself "Miss Barbara Stanwyck." This drove my aunt insane, and every time "The Big Valley" came on, she would be sure to proclaim that Barbara Stanwyck, having been married, was no "miss." (She also held a grudge against Peter Lawford for what he'd done to the Kennedys, but that's for another time.)
"Googly Eye for the Cartoon Guy" -- Each week, a cast of zany animated makeover artists take on a tired, half-forgotten has-been from the cartoon world. Deputy Dawg finally gets the fashion tips that will make him full Sheriff! Tom Terrific abandons his funnel hat for a jaunty beret! Top Cat's alley loses its Great Depression funk and becomes a hip new bachelor pad! Touché Turtle . . . well, perhaps some of the Hanna-Barbera posse are beyond help.
I can't wait to pitch this to Cartoon Network!
I tend not to do the popular when it's popular, and so I'm just getting around to reading Dave Eggers's "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," after having read everything else he's done and being a huge fan of McSweeney's. Turns out it's just as good as everyone said it was. Damn. Even if you haven't lived through his situation -- both parents dying young and close together, leaving him to take care of his much younger brother -- there are elements of the story that are familiar to anyone who has survived loss, and he captures them brilliantly. His writing is clever without being flashy, straightforward, and yet he manages these interesting little conceits that in other hands would be pretentious at best. I loved "You Shall Know Our Velocity," with its brilliant conceit of the unreliable narrator, and all those unanswered questions at the end, and it's even more interesting now that I know more of his personal situation. Overall, great book.
Fighting back against the revolt of the appliances. Well, sorta. I finally got a replacement for my CD changer on eBay -- nearly the same model, factory reconditioned (well, we'll see, won't we), $50 less than I first paid. I couldn't get one with nearly the same quality for the same price new, so that's what I went with. And then the minidisc player -- okay! So I'm an early adopter! So shoot me! -- suddenly put up a fit the other day, swallowed a disc and wouldn't let go. Something told me this was just a one-time problem, so I took it all apart, got the mechanism realigned, and darned if it didn't work! Good thing, too, because if it were to go, my ONLY sources of music for the stereo would be my 1987 tape deck (still in great shape, though), and my 1980 turntable. And that would just be sad.
2 Came home with an intense need to hear "Come On Eileen," and I don't mean the original, but instead the No Doubt version. The "confession" part is that I have it in my library.
3 I love Morrissey's "I Have Forgiven Jesus," which would be a typical Morrissey dirge -- but somehow it's not, and it's not just that it's a touch sacrilegious. Though that never hurts, to my way of thinking.
There is a lot of unused infrastructure in airports these days, leftover reminders of the good old days when you could possibly find a gate agent at a gate. A combination of security, electronic checkin and economic necessity means there are no longer airline staff standing around waiting to help passengers. If you want to check a flight's status, you'd better walk over to the screens. If you want to change your seat, you'd better do that before you clear security. Checking at the gate doesn't happen anymore. (Security was a breeze tonight, but there's never any predicting how it will go.) So there all these desks and service counters that simply aren't used anymore ... And behind them are the lonely payphones, suffering a similar fate. It's kind of like a piece of this shiny new terminal died, and we're all just stepping around it out of respect. And it doesn't smell bad, so we just leave it there. All these new airport terminals that have been built over the past 10 years, and they all have these pieces of vestigial infrastructure.
My feet are killing me. I had 8 meetings on Capitol Hill today ... In all six House and Senate office buildings. That's a personal best. The construction of the visitors' center has completely screwed up getting around the Capitol -- you can no longer walk along the front, but have to go all the way up to the street, which makes getting from the Senate side to the House side unnecessarily difficult. And in the back, the preparations for the inauguration have completely messed up that side. At least you can still see the Capitol from the back. But I wouldn't be near that mess next week for a million dollars.
Okay, but not a penny under three hundred grand.
The landing was just awful, except for the part where we didn't actually crash. Then the drive home featured the most interesting and scary fog I've ever encountered -- more like billowing smoke, really, or dry ice special effects, and little clouds of it would suddenly whip toward you, giving the impression of someone jumping into the road. It was pretty weird. But not as weird as what I saw as I turned the final corner for home: in the center of the street, a chipmunk spinning around in the street. I think it's one of the signs of the apocalypse.
Well, let's go over the list of things I've taken up since I passed 40, shall we? Running; skiing; bicycling; French; a growing fondness for certain world music; Bob Dylan songs. Add to this now: swimming. For years, I have blamed my mother for the fact that I never learned to swim properly, but I have finally decided to take matters in my own hands and have enrolled in an adult swim class at the Y. You might think an ability to swim was actually essential for someone who has spent a great deal of his life on or near the water, but you would be wrong. This isn't to say I can't swim at all, but I have no ability to swim efficiently, to breathe properly, etc. I flail and spend a lot of energy getting anywhere.
I realized sometime last year (which is to say, the year that ended so recently) that if I was ever going to be able to do a triathlon, I was going to have to learn to swim. So, tonight was my second lesson. Oddly, there's another person in the class who is also learning so she can do a tri. There are two teenage brothers, one who can swim a little and one who is rather hopeless. And there's a new guy who joined tonight whose sole purpose is to make the two triathlete-wanna-bes look like the real deal.
The village where we grew up had a delightful little lake and a very good learn-to-swim program, but for some reason I was never enrolled in it despite both my parents' frequent avowals that they wanted their children to know how to swim, because they didn't know how. Those avowals didn't turn into any sort of action, such as signing us up or anything radical like that. It was just a vague desire they had, and they seemed to have no idea how to act on it. Meanwhile, every kid I knew was inaccessible for summertime play nearly every morning of the summer because they were all at swim lessons. Officially, Mom says that it was too hard to work out the logistics with our sitter, my great-great aunt, but that makes no sense at all. And in fact, once I was 12 or so, I could have gotten to the park on my own, and I often did, but somehow it didn't occur to me that I could have just put myself into the classes. (My mother will have a different view of this whole thing, I know, but she will be wrong.) I picked up enough from my friends to keep from drowning, but that was about it.
If my children learn nothing else from me, it will be that it's never too late to learn to do something.
Pufnstuf is particularly annoying because I don't even think I watched the thing. In those dark days for children's entertainment, when the only programming for children aired on Saturday mornings (and one channel had cartoons on Sunday, opposite all the church programming that used to fill up Sundays), Sid and Marty Krofft were at least something different. I sometimes watched "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" because for some reason I liked Johnny Whitaker, but the only Krofft show I really watched was "The Bugaloos," because I was a pre-teen boy, and The Bugaloos had Joy, who was cute as a button. (A quick scan of fansites reminds me that Martha Raye once tied Joy to a turntable, an odd combination of rock and bondage that hasn't been matched to this day.) Luckily, no Bugaloos theme song comes to mind, and I'm not going looking for one.
- My iTrip, the little thingy that lets me play my iPod over my car radio. Disappeared after a trip to Vermont in the fall. Damn! And I'd better hop out to the Apple Store and find a replacement soon, because at this point my iPod is seriously aged, and the accessories for second-generation pods are getting more scarce.
- Red Oaks Swim Club. Our favorite little summer spot for six or seven summers, where we would go and swim into the evening, enjoy a picnic supper, and head home dripping wet. A little bit of paradise where you knew everybody else, the kids were always within view, and everything was wonderful. So of course, THAT had to stop. The good news is there'll be a big pile of ugly McMansions in Schodack to take its place, because what this area needed was more pretentious housing. (Not that I'm bitter.)
- Three compact discs, for the first time ever. White Album Side 1, Sedated in the Eighties, and the first disc of the National Lampoon box set. I even know what they're in: a little MacAddict disc holder that I was using to keep them in as I did construction work around the house this summer. So, where are they now? Nowhere to be found, that's where; one's easy to replace, one I wouldn't bother, and the National Lampoon's gonna be a bitch without buying a whole 'nother box set. Damn! I've never lost even one disc before.
- Ray Charles. Spalding Gray. Yet another Ramone (Johnny).
- VHS. Not that that's a loss, mind you. I was on the Betamax side of the fight, because quality matters. I don't for a second delude myself into thinking DVDs have won because of quality, however -- it's because they're small and cheap. Well, that's okay, too.
- Not a single hard drive. I think it's the first time I've gotten through a year without a single massive hard drive failure on any of my computers, personal or work. (Okay, I'm gonna go back up my Mac right now).
Did New Year's Eve at First Night, as we often do, but this year Hannah was one of the performers, which was a nice change. Beautiful night, walking around downtown Albany in the dark. It was SO warm, I was kicking myself for not being able to be in the Last Run 5K, because conditions were unbelievable.
Happy New Year, everybody!