the persistence of memory.

You never know when a memory might come in handy. I watched a movie about George M. Cohan the other night, and it reminded me of the fifth grade. I was in a county-wide choral group that practiced and practiced for months for one performance at the old high school where the only people in the audience were our parents. We sang a bunch of songs that we had never before heard in our eleven years, but they were just songs that were written before 1982. Two of them were Cohan's: "Grand Old Flag" and "Yankee Doodle Boy." We also sang a simple tune about cowboy life called "My Home's in Montana," and it is that song that I remember more than any other. We did not sing "The Good Old North State," which is a shame, because I can never remember the words. However, this song I can write down from memory, just like I sang it in the car to Josh the other night.

My home's in Montana.
I wear a bandanna.
My spurs are of silver.
My pony is gray.

When riding the ranges,
my luck never changes.
With foot in the stirrup,
I gallop away.

There was a group of kids from each elementary school, and we all practiced with our individual school music teachers before coming together right before the performance. The director told us not to lock our knees. She told us that if you lock your knees for too long, your brain will not get enough oxygen and you will pass right out. Even at eleven, there seemed to be something amiss to me about the idea of all the oxygen in your body getting trapped in your lower legs while your brain sufficated. Surely this was a design flaw. More likely it was misinformation.

But it's true that locking your knees will make you pass out, because one kid didn't listen and he passed right out and off of the back of the bleachers. He was standing on the back row, where if you looked behind you, the four-foot jump down to the stage looked like a drop into the abyss. Just looking at it made you more likely to fall, like a cartoon character noticing that he is standing only on air. Maybe he had vertigo from the view, but the director said he locked his knees and used him as an illustration for years to come.

That is not my memory. It is the memory of my friend Amy, who was not yet my friend at the time. She went to a different elementary school, but still came to the old high school to sing "My Home's in Montana." The boy who fell off was in her class. Only years later, after we had met and become friends, did we discover that we had both been in the choral group. It was she who told me about Justin being the kid who fell off the bleachers. I didn't remember it at all, though I was there, but after that, every time I saw Justin, I thought of him at eleven, locking his knees out of nervousness and a desire to have good posture in front of everyone's parents. I even picture it in my head, as if it were my memory. Sometimes I forget that I don't remember it, and someday I will probably forget altogether that I stole it from Amy.

My memory is of being nervous. I stood next to my friend Laura in the third row (it could have been the second, but I think it was the third, definitely not the back). And I was so nervous. It's sweet, really, the things one cares about at eleven years old. It's like listening to my brother's kids talk about the things that matter to them, where I go from wistful at their simple lives to frustrated at their near-sightedness. At eleven years old, there was nothing more terrifying that singing in a group of fifty kids in front of a bunch of proud and indulgent parents.

Laura and I held hands: clammy, shaking little hands. Maybe it was just after each song, a quick strong grasp to reassure each other that we had made it through another one. Or maybe it was the whole time, with a squeeze between each number. I don't remember.

Which reminds me of being thirteen and on a plane for the first time, so so nervous again, taking off from Charlotte in a seat next to my sister. My mom never gets tired of telling people how we held hands, even though we didn't really get along then. It used to embarrass me when she told that story in front of me, but I suppose that by telling it here I am reclaiming it.

These are a few of many memories floating around in my head, some more prominent than others. Holding hands with my sister is much clearer, because of Mama's frequent retellings. I hadn't thought of holding hands with Laura for years and years, and I wonder why I remember that and the words to "My Home's in Montana," when I don't remember what must have been a thrilling fainting incident. And if I hadn't watched a movie about George M. Cohan, maybe the clutching of our nervous hands would have fallen into abyss, lost like a library book put back in the wrong place.

I have discovered that writing is just the re-use of memories. At first, it feels like cheating, like plagiarizing real life. I feel like I have a dirty little secret, and if you knew that I stole that touching scene of the little girls holding hands straight from my childhood, you would think less of me. I long ago accepted this part of the creative process. Maybe there are true innovators out there, but for me it is about pulling things from the archives and putting them back together such that they are more than the sum of their parts. Even if a memory is thrown in as a little aside, its verisimilitude adds weight. I had no idea when it was happening how beautifully illustrative it would be for me in the future.

Josh writes off bands for being derivative, and indeed there is lot out there that is little more than restatement. But then again, every piece of art is inherently derivative because humans are derivative. Me and everything that comes from me is derived from everything that's ever happened to me. If there is nothing new under the sun, there are still infinite ways to combine what is old.

So I am archiving. I try so hard to pay attention as much as possible for the little things that I may need to pull off the shelf later. I may never need the memory of Laura's shaky hand in mine or the way the bleachers look from the top row or the lyrics to "My Home's in Montana," and I may re-forget it all until I happen to spend an afternoon reading old blog posts. But now it's saved somewhere, so that if I ever have need of its hidden significance, it is there for the taking.


it is time for stormy weather.

Cover Girl
This may be the very first Rita Hayworth movie I've ever seen. I've decided that I like her, though based on this movie, I'm a little surprised that she was such a popular pin-up. She's very normal-looking. Perhaps I don't know anything about what men want.

Rita is playing a showgirl at Gene Kelly's club. She gets put on the cover of a magazine and gets an offer to headline at a big theatre. She doesn't want to leave poor ole Gene, but he doesn't want to stand in her way of her career. However, rather than effectively communicating his feelings, he yells at her and says mean things. Feelings were only for sissies in 1944, but yelling at women was macho. Of course, Rita is not happy performing on a big stage if she can't have Gene, and so she goes back to him. I get the feeling this movie would turn out differently if it were made now. I guess that's pretty much true of most of these films.

As good as Rita and Gene are, I think the movie is really made by the supporting cast. Phil Silvers and Eve Arden are simply hilarious. Part of it is well-written dialogue, but their delivery is perfect. Phil plays the clownish third wheel. He is obviously comic relief and yet he is not annoying. He's actually, you know, funny. Eve Arden is playing the dry career woman, and she nails it. I don't know much about either of these actors, but apparently those were pretty standard roles for both. Well, then. Good job with that.

Songs and Dance: Songs were by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin, the big hit being "Long Ago (and Far Away)." In the scene that I'm including Gene dances with himself as a way of showing his inner struggle. It's neat. After all, what is better than one Gene Kelly? Two of them!

Don't mind the vandalism. He's distraught.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: No.

Stormy Weather
Watching this movie makes you feel like you're discovering a lost treasure. It features many performers who were not nearly as famous as they should have been. There is so much talent in this film, it makes you very sad. Why sad? Because the reason that these names are not as well-known as Gene Kelly and Judy Garland is because the people were black.

The movie itself is pretty light on plot - it's just a showcase of black entertainers, including Lena Horne, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and the Nicholas Brothers. I had heard of three of those five names, and the only reason I know Lena Horne is because she did some Gap commercials a few years ago. I remember asking my mom who she was because I was struck by how beautiful she was - and she was 80 years old when that commercial came out. She's a sprightly 26 in this film and is positively lovely. Bojangles is a great dancer and very amiable. And Cab Calloway? I don't think I've ever actually seen him perform before, though I've heard him. That man was a bold dresser. I think now every time I see some ridiculous outfit on a celebrity, I will remember this.
The common thread through out the performances in this movie is how much the entertainers obviously love what they are doing. They seem like they are all having the time of their lives. And while I am sure that Fred Astaire likes to dance, his smile is more knowing. He seems to be smiling because someone told him to; it's part of the act. The performances in Stormy Weather are not like that. Watching Bojangles dance or Fats sing, you smile along with them because their enthusiasm is so darn infectious.

This movie features a scene where some performers do a comic act on stage in blackface. However, the performers themselves are black. It's very confusing.

Songs and Dance: Wonderful, wonderful. There is little plot to speak of in this movie, but the musical numbers are so good you don't even care. There are several scenes that are worth seeing, but if I included every single one, that would be the whole movie. So just go see it. To pique your interest, I'm going to post a particularly amazing clip, which features Cab Calloway singing and the Nicholas Brothers dancing. Your jaw will drop. Even Mr. Astaire is noted as saying that this sequence was the finest piece of tap dancing ever filmed. It's better than two Gene Kellys.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Yes.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Just watching the credits about this movie got me excited about it. Based on a story by Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond stories. Screenplay written by Roald Dahl, my favorite children's author. Starring Dick Van Dyke, a charming, excellent all-around performer. Also, it featured Gert Frobe and Desmond Llewellyn, both actors from Bond movies. Bond + Dahl + singing + dancing = fun. Of course, the movie itself has very little in common with James Bond, other than the name of the female lead: Truly Scrumptious. There's a name that would fit in quite well with Bond girl names like Pussy Galore and Tiffany Case. Benny Hill was also in it, though he wasn't doing anything particularly Benny Hillish.

This movie reminds me a lot of Mary Poppins. That's probably because of the presence of Van Dyke and the fact that the songs were penned by the Sherman Brothers, who wrote a slew of songs for Disney movies. It's also very fanciful - half of the film is an extended fantasy sequence.

It's a sweet movie, but too long. There's the part of the movie that is "real life," which has very little plot. Then there is the fantasy part, which has a plot but ends up having no bearing on anything. So it's fun and full of bright colors and singing, but none of that is able to keep away the nagging feeling that nothing is happening. I know I've said before that when it comes to musicals, I don't necessarily need plot. But something has to take the place of a story, which I didn't get out of this one. I think the real problem is that I am about two decades too old. Had I seen this movie when I was a kid, I bet I would still love it now. Instead, I'm sort of patting it on the head condescendingly.

Songs and Dance: Good, of course. Whichever Sherman was in charge of the lyrics did a good job. There are several memorable scenes, one of which takes place in a candy factory with lots of uniformed workers dancing and whistling. The title song is very catchy. However, I selected the scene where Van Dyke and Truly Scrumptious are pretending to be singing toys. The songs are nice, but the choreography and dancing is quite impressive, if unusual.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: No. But I might show it to my kids. I think kids would like it. However, there is a scene with a lady dressed up in an outfit that you could buy from an online vendor that advertised "discreet shipping." It's not what you would expect to see in a children's musical, though maybe perhaps it came from the whole James Bond side of things.


sparkling wine on a school night.

I dreamt last night that I had bought a new house. I don't remember much about it, except that the living room seemed big, with beige walls and dark beige carpet. Maybe it was all the beige, but it seemed like the house was in one of those neighborhoods with five different floorplans rotated one after another down each street. I was sitting on the floor, a liquor box full of my belongings next to me. It occurred to the Dream Me that I was now going to have to sell my other house.

I had the same dream not three weeks ago. The new house in that dream was much more interesting. It was big, with several bedrooms sprawled out over one story. The rooms were oddly shaped. And again, I was moving in when I realized that it was not a great time to try and sell a house.

I am not in the market for a house, even though the realtor sends me cards every holiday. 2009 was the year I bought a house. 2010 is more of a making payments sort of year.

One year ago last week, I first met my house. I was smitten. I flirted with some other houses for the sake of being thorough, but in the end, it was the only one.

One year ago today, I committed to buy that house. Such was my crush that a normally very practical and level-headed girl agreed to trade away her life savings, plus another three times that, to purchase the first house she looked at. I have not regretted this decision once. I see other houses (those of friends, those holding estate sales), some of them very nice, but none of them, not even the very interesting ones, are right for me the way that mine is.

One year ago next month, I went into huge, bone-crushing debt. I do not love my mortgage. I do understand that paying on a loan is much better than paying rent. The money is actually going somewhere - right now, most of it to interest - but somewhere nonetheless. I am not paying for a right to inhabit some space and keep my junk there another month. I am paying back some money that a very nice bank loaned me. (Actually, I am paying back a bank who bought my loan from another bank who loaned me some money). The fact that I borrowed the money to buy a place to live is incidental.

I hate to look at my mortgage balance. It seems like I've given the bank a bunch of money already, and I still owe so much. Due to fortunate circumstances and growing up with thrifty parents, I'd never been in debt until a year ago. I have determined that I don't much care for it. Every time I sign on to my account to make another payment, I'm tempted to just transfer my whole savings account. Unfortunately, my savings isn't quite as healthy as it was, oh, a year ago. Besides, I'm a great believer in a money cushion. I had put all my savings toward the loan last summer, I would have been in trouble last fall when my car died. So I have to tell myself that it is perfectly natural to owe someone 100Gs.

I do pay extra on the principal. I started out by paying a little extra. Then I talked to my sister-in-law, who told me how much extra they were paying. They are raising four kids on a single self-employed income. My competitive impulse kicked in, and I started paying more, too. A mean competitive streak can even apply to mortgage payments. Some of you may not have known that. Others of you are probably not at all surprised. Anyway, the increased payment forces me to pay a little more attention to what I'm spending. So much is put towards the house that there is less left over for frivolity, even bought secondhand.

I remember when my parents paid off their house. My mom came home with a bottle of sparkling wine. I was a teenager and had never given any thought whatsoever to a mortgage. I didn't know how much a house cost or how long it took to pay off the loan. I didn't know how much interest is generated when you borrow $100,000. I had no idea where they were in the course of their loan. My mom must have been looking forward to that day for years and years. No doubt she had been planning on the sparkling wine for months, ever since she could make out the thin light at the end of the loan. I just thought it was pretty neat to get to drink alcohol on a school night.

Now I can drink alcohol whenever I want, but the idea of not having to write a check (okay, authorize a online payment) to the bank every month is intoxicating. Can you imagine? What would I do with all that extra money? My savings would swell; I could swim in it, Scrooge McDuck style. Bring on the secondhand frivolity!

Even with extra payments, I have a long way to go until the day when I buy a bottle of sparkling wine in the middle of the week. By then I might have kids that I let have a glass so that they'll be excited, too, though not nearly as much as they should be. C'mon, kids, no more mortgage! WHOOOO! Until then...sigh. It is discouraging, but it is what it is. And my house is worth it.


yard sales, jan. 23

Whoops! I was supposed to post this Sunday, but I didn't. Why? Because I didn't write it until yesterday and I didn’t take the pictures until this evening.

Saturday yard sales were cut tragically short this week due to band practice. However, I still managed toPicture 049 pick up a few things. For one thing, this mess of kitchen utensils. To be honest, I bought this for the 3 soup spoons inside. I mean, there are several other things in there that I can use: wooden spoons, whisks (one battery-powered), a nutcracker, lots of silverware unrelated to soup. But really, I've been wanting some soup spoons. Now I have three. The lot was $3, negotiated down from $5. I like buying things in lots, partly for the good deals, and partly for the time I spend digging through it to see what I got.

This particular lot also included a set of dry measuring cups. Josh thinks that there is no measuring cup that I won't buy. I never seem to have enough of these. Maybe I'm just terribly inefficient, but one cooking session will find my dishwasher full of only measuring cups. I have to do another load for the dishes. That's not true at all, but I still think it will be a long time before I decide I have too many. Of course, I have ones that I like more than others, and some which are better suited to certain measuring tasks than others. I could never explain all of that to Josh. The only measuring cup he uses is his hand. Some people have no respect for precision.

Also included: these, uh, things.
Picture 052
At first, I thought they were for cake decorating, but the tips do not have holes in them, so you couldn't squirt icing through them. The only identifier they had on them was a patent number, which I used to find this page. So now I know that they are corn holders. I don't really care for corn holders - part of the fun is getting a little messy while you pretend you're a special kind of typewriter that eats hot, buttery, salty corn. Nibble nibble nibble nibble ka-ching! Nibble nibble nibble nibble ka-ching!

But it is neat that I was able to identify these mysterious objects. Before the internet, I would have kept these in a drawer forever, bringing them out only to ask guests if they could fathom their use. And then no one would visit me anymore. Now that I know what they are, I know that I don't want them and I can chuck them into the Goodwill box. After taking a few arty pictures of them, of course.Picture 050

Corn holders, soup spoons and measuring cups aside, I'm really excited about this baby. Picture 068This is an orbital sander, which means that if you throw it up high enough, it will go around and around the Earth. Actually, that’s probably true of non-orbital sanders, too. I assume that “orbital” means it sands in circles.

I've been reading blogs where they take pieces of ugly thrift store furniture and turn them into beautiful heirlooms. These blogs are very deceptive. They make it seem easy. After all, here's the before and scroll scroll, here's the after. The whole project took like five seconds, tops. So I tried to do that to something with an unfortunate paint job. The object in question is now sitting in my kitchen with half an unfortunate paint job. I even took the easy way out and used a chemical paint stripper. I'd looked at power sanders at Lowes, but the price point was too high for something I was likely to lose interest in anyway. However, I am willing to spend $5 for a rarely-used power tool.

Yard sales: the gateway to abandoned projects and hobbies.

At about that point in the day, Josh's drummer called and told him about practice, so we had to go home. I guess it's not a huge deal at this time of year, but just let him try that crap in May.


a crappy evening.

Early last week, my boss sent around an email regarding the upcoming holiday party. Apparently, if he got rid of the craps table, he would be allowed to add another blackjack table and poker table for no charge. He asked how the rest of us felt about this arrangement.

Picture a shot of me, sitting in my cubicle and reading this email. I stand up, reach one arm out to the sky as if trying to grab something and shout "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" The camera pulls away as I scream, showing my building, then the town of Raleigh, all of North America, and then finally the whole world. The astronauts turn their heads as they hear my cry. True story.

Faced with the situation of a casino night with no craps table, I wrote an impassioned plea. I explained the group fun mentality of craps, the thrill of winning along with your friends. In my mind, I was worrying about the possibility of being forced to play roulette all night. Apparently some other dice-lovers wrote in, too, and the craps table stayed.

I got to the table last Friday night and suddenly realized that I had forgotten everything I ever learned about playing the game. I knew that I needed to put chips down on the table, but I couldn't recall when and where. Everyone else seemed to suffer from the same sort of amnesia. But the dealers patiently explained it all to us, making terrible puns as they went. I put chips down, and sometimes I got some back. I asked questions when I wasn't sure about something or when they used some of their hip dice lingo. By the end of the night, I knew what I was doing and could even use some of that slang myself. "Double up on the hardways and give me a bet on the horn, high three." I even know what a hoppin' fifty-four and a cocktail waitress are.

At the end of the night, Josh and I had each earned an extra three raffle tickets at the table. He gave me his and told me to put them in whatever box I wanted. There was really only one thing I wanted, so I put most of our tickets in the box for a Roku video player and 12-month gift subscription to Netflix. I put a single ticket in a couple of other prize boxes (spa treatment, restaurant gift certificate, tickets to a show) just to say that I diversified my portfolio. I put most of our tickets into the Roku because it seemed to be the best thing that we could both use. I would have felt like a dog if I'd used his ticket to win a mudbath and a manicure. A very pampered dog, but a dog nonetheless.

I had no idea what a Roku was until last Thursday, when my boss sent out an email saying what the prizes up for grabs this year were going to be. It's basically a little wifi-enabled computer that hooks into your TV and plays streaming content. I use the Netflix instant viewing quite a bit, but watching it on my laptop is less than ideal. This way, I would be able to do it on my TV. Even my pathetic 15-year-old 26-inch television is better than my 17-inch monitor. You can also rent or buy content off Amazon.

I know all about the Roku now because we won it. The astronauts looked again towards North America as they heard a great "YAAAAAAAAYYYYY!" This was my first win at the holiday party. It's fun even when you don't come home with a fancy gadget, but it's nice to feel like you got more than plastic chips and a lesson in dice-related slang out of the evening. I set it up early Saturday morning and added a season of Spongebob to our instant viewing queue, just for Josh. Later this week, I'll watch a musical and appreciate not having to squint to see Ginger Rogers' feet. It's a cool toy, and I can see how TV in general is probably going in the direction of on-demand streaming content. I'm glad I didn't have to wait until a fortuitous yard sale to find it.

Maybe I should be concerned that I had such fun gambling; that can't be a good sign. Josh says it's probably not as fun when you're playing with real money. He also says you can probably play online, but I can't imagine the game without having people around me, cheering on their own bets. So my craps habit will have to be just an annual thing. By then, I'll have to be reminded what a hoppin' fifty-four is.


yard sales, jan. 16.

We hit seven sales yesterday, five that I had found from ads on CraigsList and two more that I saw signs for and wildly swerved down sidestreets to get to.  I got a few things that are not really worth taking pictures of, unless you’re into potato peelers.

While we are on that, I now have three potato peelers.  I bought the third one because the first two suck.  Someday I will find a really nice one, but until then I will use the ones I have.  I went through three potato mashers the same way.  Me, I like potato-related utensils.  So I got that, some fabric scraps, a robe, whatnot.  Oh, and Josh bought books.  Because that’s what he does.

Anyway, it was a pretty ho-hum kind of day, what with the potato peeler being the most exciting thing.  I followed some signs into a sad little neighborhood.  The houses were either trailers or beat-up little starter homes.  The lawns were all overgrown.  I was having misgivings about any kind of sale that I might find in this kind of place, but that’s what yard saling in January will do to you – you’ll stop at any ole place with a junk-covered tarp lying on the lawn.

Generally, poorer neighborhoods do not make good yard saling.  Obviously, there will be exceptions, but these sales are mostly kids’ broken toys, romance novels, and tacky chotchkies.  To be fair, I’ll say that the yards sales held by rich people are also frequently disappointing.  They have lots of overpriced, recent, but still mass-produced stuff.  Actually, we went to a weird estate sale this weekend where we concluded that the people were incredibly wealthy rednecks.  They had actual antiques mixed in with tacky chotchkies priced like antiques.

So, anyway:  My expectations pulling up to the house were not high, despite the fact that it seemed to be the nicest house in the dilapidated little neighborhood.  We browsed around the tables a while, and I picked out a cute little ring holder shaped like a gnarled tree. 

Picture 059Josh saw that there weren’t any books and quickly became bored.  I was giving things only a cursory glance, poking through some framed Norman Rockwell pictures, a pile of baking sheets, PMS-themed playing cards.  And then:

Picture 045Pyrex mixing bowls. 

I’ve mentioned my budding admiration for these.  Lots of online thrifters collect them, and they are easy to find on eBay and at antique stores.  But I didn’t want to pay $10 for a bowl that I knew I could get for only $1 if I just waited long enough.  I don’t need to give myself an excuse to pay too much for things I don’t even need, not even a beautiful bakeware collection.

And now I have these beauties.  $2 for all three, my new Pyrex collection (one is an interest, two is a pair, three is a collection).  I calmly paid the lady, feeling a little bit like I was pulling one over on her, even though I was paying the prices she had set.  Then I walked down to the car, got in, closed the door, and started screaming in excitement.  This just goes to show that you really can’t judge a yard sale before you actually check it out, because you never know what you will find hidden among the crap.  Well, you’ll find more crap, but it just might be the crap you’ve been looking for.


salute street.

We had a good yard sale day last Saturday. A good yard sale day means a very different thing in January than it does in, say, June. Most people see yard sales as a summer thing, or at least a warmer-than-freezing thing. There are very few sales in the winter, though that doesn't stop me from checking out CraigsList every Friday to see if there is anything worth going to. Remember, I am devoted.

While I am thankful that someone decided to have a sale in the bleak midwinter, I don't really understand their reasoning. Surely they could not have made much money, as most folks are not as devoted as I am. They would rather stay inside, with some hot chocolate, a roaring fire, and a book than go stand in someone's driveway wearing a wool coat, hat, and gloves. I couldn't ever remember wearing gloves at a yard sale before, but they were necessary to keep my fingers from falling off into the box of fifty-cent t-shirts.

The sale was a church benefit sale, which is not the same as a church sale. A church sale is held at a church (or church-owned building) and members of the congregation donate goods to sell. A church benefit sale is held at someone's house and they give the money to the church (or they say they do). Maybe a couple of other families chip in, too, but it's more like a multi-family sale than a church sale. However, you take what you can get in January.

Google told us how to get to Salute Street, which I thought was a pretty odd name. To get to Salute Street, you take Scouting Drive to Hiking Trail. You'll pass by Cheerful Avenue, Loyal Street, Tenderfoot Trail, and Compass Lane. You'll also pass Philmont Drive, but I don't think it's related. I think the naming scheme is adorable. More neighborhoods should have themes other than trees. For instance, here's a free idea to all you developers out there - bones in the human body. Now, go. Build a house on Phalange Avenue!

Once on Salute Street (if you hit Courage Court, you've gone too far), the sale was spread out in the driveway. It may have been just a benefit sale, but it was a good one. We got halfway through before we asked if maybe they had a box where we could put our purchases. Naturally, they were prepared for such a request. When we finally decided we had done enough damage for the day, we presented our full box for totalling. The woman added up the books and a couple of other things before seeming to get sort of frustrated with the math of it all and tellig us $5 for the box. Ah, yes, Negotiation By Fear of Math.

I would normally take pictures of our haul to show to you, but I didn't. I was going to do it, but once I got to looking at what we brought home, they didn't seem like much. And yet I had climbed into the car with the heady rush that comes from great yard saling. But it was just due to deprivation, like the sun coming out after days of rain. If I ever used the term "addict" to describe my feelings about yard sales, I did it in jest, but I left Salute Street feeling like I had just gotten a much-needed hit. Thank goodness used stationery is cheaper than heroin.

What we got: seven books, a wire rack for baking, basket of greeting cards (mostly Christmas), two small storage baskets, a blank journal, and a Peter Max Superposter book. Nothing all that fancy or crazy, just a nice solid haul to warm our yard saling hearts in this cold winter.



Amy was telling me about the venison in her freezer. She had called to thank me for the Christmas present. Her husband was out of town for the weekend, gone hunting. She told me that she had gone once, but the only time they saw deer was while she was sitting alone in the deer stand without a gun because her husband had taken it with him when he went off behind a tree to pee. She lives in my hometown and teaches English at the cross-town rivals of my old high school. She has not lost her accent and when I talk to her, mine experiences a revival. She watches NASCAR with her husband, who is a drag racer. I made her promise to take me to a race at the dirt track sometime, where we would bring Burger King cups full of SunDrop and whiskey.

She was telling me about the venison when I interrupted her and said, "Your life is different from mine."

I was asking Kate about this whole Pakistan thing. She was standing in my kitchen watching me make falafel, one of two vegetarian dishes that I make. I've cooked for her three times, so she's had them both. Kate's parents live in Apex, next to a llama farm, but Kate goes to school at Oxford. She is dating a boy from Pakistan and is considering marrying him and moving out there. I am worried for her, but if anyone can move to Pakistan, it's her. She has quit drinking, in addition to meat, because she is thinking of converting to Islam. When we met back in the summer of 2000, she was just converting to atheism. Kate says that almost everyone at Oxford has to face the situation where they fall in love with someone from across the world because the school is so international. She asks whether I will visit her in Pakistan, and I say yes.

Kate was reassuring me about Pakistan while I thought about how different her life was from mine.

I sit at a computer for eight hours a day and I write a program that is used by other people with jobs like mine. I own my own home just outside the city limits, a mile from the interstate. I am twenty-seven, unmarried and childless, and actually okay with that. My live-in boyfriend is in a rock band, waiting tables and living the starving artist dream. And I'm okay with that, too.

My life is different than what I expected.


good and plenty.

I was just starting to see the light at the end of the chess pie.

We went to see Josh's dad on Christmas Eve. We came home with a new ski helmet (for him), a coffee maker (for me), a chess pie, one fourth of a chocolate pound cake, a gallon-sized bag of vegetable stew, and some cajun chicken (for us and about eight other people, I guess). By last Friday, we had eaten the cake and more than half of the pie. Josh ate the chicken, and I froze the stew. I did not complain about excess food. Instead, I enjoyed my pie with ice cream and looked forward to when I could simply reheat that soup instead of cooking something.

We went up there again to go skiing this weekend. We did not go skiing at all, but instead came home with two cases of soda, one fourth of a lemon meringue pie and half a pound cake. I never thought the day would come when I would want someone to stop giving me desserts. But the day is here, mark it on your calendars.

Since last year, I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life with Josh. Just as he will have to deal with really loud hiccups, I will have to rearrange the contents of my fridge after each visit with his step-mom.

I know that all that food is made with pure, uncut love. I know that it is delicious. I know that once I have kids, it will not be a struggle to eat a whole pie before it goes bad. I know all of that and yet every time I have to bring another box of food into the house, I feel just a little bit of resentment. I continue to be the most ungrateful person in the whole world. No need to mark your calendars on that one.

Just in case dreading the gift of free and delicious food were not enough evidence of insanity, let me tell you this: it threatens my womanhood. Every time we are handed another bag or plate full of food, I feel like I am being told that I do not feed my man well enough. Let me tell you, buddy, my man eats good and plenty. He gets dinner made-from-scratch every single night. Sure, sometimes it's reheated made-from-scratch from the night before, but it's still good.

Those are the kinds of ridiculous thoughts you have when you worked all week to eat a chess pie and you are handed half a pound cake.