“She scowled at her glass of orange juice.”

“She scowled at her glass of orange juice.” Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword

It’s an interesting line to open a novel. I’ve been working through this book at a glacial pace: although I am enjoying it, I think I prefer Beauty to McKinley’s The Blue Sword, on account of a more controlled storyline, I think. This book is going to be a Four Feathers type story. Not sure if that’s something that really appeals to me, but I should give it a chance. Carter is downstairs watching The Rum Diaries with his father and I am fighting off sleepiness with reading and a little journaling.

We’ve spent most of the weekend here at the cabin. On the way up we stopped by my mother’s, where we had a lovely spaghetti dinner and corn. Beast ran about eating everything in her yard, so he got a good meal in as well. Carter helped construct the composter that we had bought for them some months ago, which they had never bothered to put together. It turned out to be something of a challenge. Anyway, as we were eating our spaghetti, I noticed gray clouds billowing over the neighbor’s house. I asked if it got foggy here ever, and everyone glanced out the window and someone else hazarded a guess that perhaps it was from a BBQ? The clouds got darker and when we went to the living room we could see that only one block away there was a fire burning the dead yellow grass on the side of a hill. Some of the neighbors came out of their houses to rubberneck, and we had quite a few cars drive up onto the cul-de-sac to get a good view of the action. I could see orange flames and scorched earth! And there was a lot of smoke. The firefighters eventually came by to put out the fire, but it was quite impressive and with the wind going at the pace it was, it could have spread quickly. Perhaps it’s not great to be mildly excited by a potential disaster, but I was. I’d never seen a fire so close (and hope not to see one any closer again).

Today we saw Men in Black 3, which was an enjoyable if forgettable movie. It tried a little too hard to replicate the jaunty banter of the original MIB film, and to jerk heartstrings, but all in all, it was a decent way to spend an hour and a half or so. Dinner was at the Williams–it was nice to get all four of the dogs together, and they had a grand old time begging for food. Carter’s uncle came through as their savior and provided a bite each of steak at the conclusion of the meal.

Tomorrow we head back to San Francisco in the morning; I just want to get some rest in my own bed, in a climate that isn’t trying to desiccate me into a crinkled husk of my former self. But it is nice to spend time with Carter’s family.

Subcultures & niche interests

I checked my ads preferences for my Google account today. They are accurate and amusing, if not particularly coherent as a group:

Arts & Entertainment – Movies – Action & Adventure Films – Superhero Films
Beauty & Fitness – Fashion & Style – Fashion Designers & Collections
Games – Computer & Video Games – Shooter Games
Home & Garden – Homemaking & Interior Decor
Jobs & Education – Education – Alumni & Reunions
People & Society – Subcultures & Niche Interests – Science Fiction & Fantasy
Shopping – Apparel – Apparel Service

“Poo-tee-weet?”

“One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, ‘Poo-tee-weet?'” -Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

I am sick with a flu and so have been home all day. Have hardly been present mentally: The funny  thing about this particular illness is that I don’t want to lift my head. I want to have my head propped up against pillows all the time. Holding it up as I’m sitting in the armchair even now is a total chore, and I’ve recruited Carter the stuffed Ikea hippo to serve as my headrest.

The disease of the modern office worker often involves fantasies about sick days: I know that I fantasized about reading books, watching terrible television, and writing during my sick days while occasionally pausing for a genteel, ladylike cough. Well, here we are: I am instead waylaid by headache and a vicious exhaustion. I cannot even summon up the wherewithal to stumble across the room to dip into the snack bowl, and so I am still sitting in my armchair, snack less, thirsty, head propped up, and wondering about how much effort needs be invested in getting to the kitchen for a drink of water.

Here is a picture of the fuchsias from our yard. Pretty, no? That’s probably all I have for today.

UPDATE: I was able to practice piano for a half hour. Huzzah! And I finally caved, took tylenol, and thanks to the wonders of self-medication was able to whip up a fabulous pad kee mao. So the day has not been in vain.

Rose of jericho and bougainvillea.

A family of musicians took shelter for the night
In the little harbor church of St. Cecilia
Two guitars, bata, bass drum and tambourine
Rose of jericho and bougainvillea. – Paul Simon, The Coast

This weekend was so shatteringly exhausting that I don’t think the paragraph format is enough to make this coherent. Here’s what happened this weekend:

Friday:

  • Shuttled into Civic Center, returned items at mall
  • Picked up Beast, went home, fed him
  • Dinner out at Clay Oven in West Portal (the usual–chicken tikka masala and baingan bhartha, v. good)
  • Relaxed at home

Saturday:

  • A bit woozy, late wakeup time; 9 or so?
  • Breakfast at Crepevine; chai, coffee, chicken sausage crepe and salad
  • Went back to Rodeo Beach in Marin for hiking and beachside romping; saw 3 deer (one of which was a fawn!). Beast went mad with want.
  • Home Depot to pick up plumbing equipment for Carter
  • In N’Out for lunch
  • Came home; Carter did some exterior painting while I cleaned up the living room, dusted the piano and the rest of the living room, and picked up the 2nd bedroom
  • Watched the Incredibles in the afternoon heat, otherwise recuperated from hike and chores
  • Dinner: noodles and soup for me, leftover Indian food for Carter
  • Muni’d into downtown for Carter’s friend’s birthday cocktails
  • Stumbled back home around midnight-ish.
  • Bed, glorious bed.

Sunday:

  • Carter slept in with a wee bit of a hangover; I got up around 8 and finished Robin McKinley’s Beauty. It ranged somewhere between OK-good.
  • I cooked hash browns, toast, leeks with butter and scrambled eggs.
  • Dog park: Beast was plagued by the local swallows, which swooped down to a few inches above the ground; he lost his marbles and sprinted in circles around the park for a continuous five minutes or so, amazing bystanders and amusing the birds, which teased him incessantly. At one point, all I could see was a black blur with a pink dot (his tongue). He panted nonstop for about an hour afterwards, and collapsed in a furry heap under our bed once we got home.
  • With Beast safely exhausted, Carter and I went to Target and Home Depot for a few more items. On the spur of the moment Carter and I decide to spiff up our center patio, and spend the next (hour? 2 hours? I lost track of time) choosing a trellis, some hanging plants and fixtures, and the like. Much decision paralysis. We return home with a Hall’s honeysuckle, trellis and planter, a jasmine bush, and hanging planters of fuchsia and some unnamed annual flowers.
  • Lunch: dumplings and wontons
  • Realizing that we need new pots for our other houseplants, we make yet another sojourn to Home Depot for planters and some mulch.
  • Lots and lots of dirt everywhere as we re-pot.
  • Do laundry
  • Order in for more Clay Oven (mushroom tikka masala and spinach naan–excellent!)
  • I talk with Keke for an hour or so (some good news–our old friend Vicky is moving to Napa for the summer)
  • Carter tells me his parents just put their dog down today, poor sweet Zelda girl, she will be missed
  • I bake sour cream banana bread for this week’s breakfasts
  • Carter watches Game of Thrones but I am spent, doing some casual web browsing for the rest of the evening, filled out an RSVP for a summer wedding. We are both spent and slightly sunburnt.
  • Contemplated the two drum lampshades I bought at Target…still suffering the aftereffects of decision paralysis, not sure if we will keep them or return

What to make of a weekend like this? Well: I slept extremely well, according to my sleep tracker, and I now have a list of many other things I’d like to accomplish. It’s shocking to me that we did so much, and yet I still feel like there is more yet to do.

Consequentially, items to address this week:

  • Purchase subscriptions to Anthology and Sunset magazine? I realize I rather enjoy homemaking, for all its exhausting-ness
  • Kitchen needs thorough tidying and scrub down of counters next to stove
  • Bathroom tub needs scrub down
  • Still need to finish putting away clothes in 2nd bedroom
  • Master bedroom needs lots of tidying and DUSTING
  • Need to select and purchase frames to create photo wall

I did a little writing on Friday but otherwise not much. Did discuss my Nanowrimo novel idea with Carter, which was productive and fun.

“I might be a biology teacher, but I’m here to have chemistry with you.”

“I might be a biology teacher, but I’m here to have chemistry with you. ” -Contestant, The Bachelorette

I don’t feel like being tentative about this any longer. I’ve decided that my avocation will be writing. Everything lately has been pointing to it, both consciously and subconsciously. Little cues from everything to do it. And it makes me happy when I am writing, even if what I’m producing is turd-like. I’m ok if this never even produces any income for me, because I love it so. I just. want. to. do. it.

Also, to be honest, any other hobby wouldn’t work with my work schedule. I spend around 3 hours a day commuting. And all this time spent commuting means that any other activity (art classes, underwater basket-weaving, etc) is going to be downright impossible for me to get to without collapsing in exhaustion at the end of the day. And I can spend my breaks at work writing, but it’s hard to bust out any other kind of equipment.

I’m doing some more plotting for the Camp Nanowrimo project; I’ve decided to go with the Scifi Culvert story first, in June. In July I’ll do plotting for the chick lit novel, and write in either August or November. If I decide to be really impressive with one of the two I’ll write another 50k words for November’s Nanowrimo.

Got over the bout of food poisoning I enjoyed this past weekend–haven’t yakked like that since I was 7. So happy to be back to normal.

Trying to get back into the swing of things…

“To the wild rumpus!”

Maurice Sendak has died. Oh, goodbye. I will read your books to my children someday.

A productive weekend: Carter and I went out for sushi on Friday–date night!–and saw the Avengers, which was everything it was advertised to be. A good summer flick, with a healthy dose of beautiful men and women, and a rollicking fun blast away action finale. Chris Hemsworth is so. damn. handsome. Joss Whedon’s fingerprints were well-placed: his sense of humor came through in the pauses between scenes, and in what character development is permitted by the format of these sorts of films. He clearly backed off to let the action movie be an action movie, though. Not as intelligent a movie as Cabin in the Woods, but considering the amount of pre-Avengers baggage that came with this movie (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, etc.), he did an amazing job.

Unfortunately we attended the late showing–10:10PM, gagh. I managed to stay awake through it with the ingestion of sour belts and twix bars.

On Saturday we picked up paint for the garage door and I went for groceries in the early part of the day. Carter spent the afternoon and evening painting, while I…I don’t remember what I did, though I certainly did dishes. Sunday there was more painting, while I walked to the Chinese mart for produce. We tried out the New York Times’ cast iron splayed roasted chicken, which was fabulously crispy, with a very moist breast. I made a greek salad to pair.

Yesterday we bought tickets to Kris’s wedding in the Appalachians in July, and made rental car arrangements. Nice to have that checked off the list.

One writing related thing from Tuesday: I went back and reread my nanowrimo attempt from last year (about a telepathic community) and it was really actually quite good. I need to not give up so easily on my work. Overall? I need to give myself more credit.

The New Yorker featured a fascinating column on why the Hulk in The Avengers worked as a character. A great essay overall, but what stood out to me was this section:

 […] BUT ONE OF THE ONGOING PROBLEMS OF BLOCKBUSTER CINEMA THESE DAYS IS ASSUMED EMPATHY. IT’S AS IF OUR STORYTELLERS JUST PLOP A FILM IN OUR LAPS AND SAY, “HERE’S OUR MAIN CHARACTER AND WE’RE GOING TO ASSUME THAT YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THEM FOR THAT REASON ALONE. THEY’RE THE MAIN CHARACTER!” … HULK DESPISES THIS TREND. IT TENDS TO GET EVEN WORSE WHEN STORYTELLERS FALL INTO THE MARKETING-CENTRIC TRAP OF “LIKABILITY,” WHICH IS A WORD THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MAKING CHARACTERS INTERESTING. USUALLY IT’S JUST A CODE WORD USED BY EXECUTIVES WHEN THEY’RE WORRIED A CHARACTER IS “DOING BAD THINGS.” AND TO ADHERE TO THE WORRIES OF LIKABILITY IS TO THUS EMBARK ON A FOOL’S PLAY AT DRAMA.

YOU WANT REAL EMPATHY? LOOK AT THE PANTHEON OF GREAT HEROES. BEOWULF. ROBIN HOOD. SHERLOCK HOLMES. INDIANA JONES. EVEN OLD BUCKET-HEAD HIMSELF, TONY STARK. THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THESE ICONS THAT MAKES THEM SO MUCH MORE THAN “HEROES.” THEY’RE ENGAGING. THEY’RE LIVELY. THEY’RE FLAWED. THEY’RE INTERESTING. AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS DISCUSSION, THEY ARE TESTAMENTS TO THE FACT THAT EMPATHY CAN NEVER BE ASSUMED.

This is true of more than just movies these days. True also of novels/fiction. I guess it matters less for literary fiction, where engaging characters are not necessarily important. But for fiction where one actually expects an audience–this is important. Expanded here on Well Read Well Fed. It was a fun post to write.

Last night, I dreamt that Tommy Lee Jones was my paramour, a retired trauma counselor for the army. Dedicated, overwhelming love; he held my hand as I spun around in circles. No hint of erotic love, just a warm dedicated lifelong love. He was 18 years older than me? Planned to build a life with me; he built a house with his own hands…still floating on the afterglow today. Nicey nice, although I wish that my subconscious could have done a little better than Tommy Lee Jones.

Didn’t tell Carter about it, otherwise may not get to watch MIB 3. Hee.

Am planning to do Camp Nanowrimo this year. More to come…

Tra la!

What happened last week? Well: Friday was packing day at work, as my team prepared to another side of the building. And we’ll probably be moving again next year, but I’m rather looking forward to seeing my new spot (within the hour!). Friday evening I took the shuttle to downtown SF and bought a pair of pocket Moleskines from Chronicle books, then checked out Carter’s new office. We humored our cravings and went to Red Robin for jalapeño coins and burgers, for which Carter paid dearly in intestinal distress. Ah, there’s nothing quite like overdoing it on fried food…

Saturday we shopped: groceries, house goods, and some plants from Home Depot for his office. We dropped the plant off at his office in the evening and went to watch 21 Jump Street at the Metreon–such a great movie! Normally I am quite skeptical of remakes/reboots, but this was tremendously entertaining. I felt no need to overanalyze it afterwards, to Carter’s total surprise and shock: I analyze movies if they are excellent, and analyze them if they are middling-to-terrible, but this movie hit my sweet spot. Not complex enough to want to pick it apart, not at all bad, just simple good entertainment. Characters are sympathetic, the plot is predictable on the macro level but delightfully unpredictable on the micro level. Excellent comedic writing. Would highly recommend.

On Sunday, Carter, Skye, Beast and I visited the Treasure Island Flea Market. It was only so-so as a flea market–too expensive, it was really more of kitschy craft fair, half-hearted antique market. But! There were food trucks abounding. We ended up eating at 3 different ones: Curry up now, for chicken tikka masala burritos, Hiyaaa for thai ice teas and lemonade, and one whose name I forget (overpriced lumpia). The burritos were heavy and a solid bargain. We left on the early side and spent a few  afternoon hours lazing in the living room, watching Game of Thrones and paging through books. I think I may have been a bad hostess because I got so caught up in the book of the moment–Craig Ferguson’s Habibi. Such a beautiful, terrifying, evocative book. The artistic talent required to produce this work is beyond my capacity to understand. The meaning of it was also a little opaque, but something about love…? I liked very much the mix of history, myth, religion, fantasy. A brutal story but one that I couldn’t put down. This weekend was good for reading overall; in addition to Habibi, I finished Sara Ramsey’s book, read Lynda Barry’s 100 Demons, and started Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Colors of Space. The last book is ongoing. All the reading makes me happy. I’m going to request more books from the library tonight.