Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blueberries, Blown Glass and Baby Bluebirds

My life started getting significantly better on Thursday, when I enjoyed a lovely adventure with Dan and our friends, Jeff and Stephanie. The four of us drove out to Grass Lake to pick organic blueberries at a place named (appropriately) The Blueberry Patch. When we arrived, we pulled into a small, grassy lot beside an old-fashioned steel trailer with a pick-up window on its side. There we found the proprietors, Mr. and Ms. Toth - she a soft spoken farm woman and he a goofy, bearded, old hippie. Spotting Jeff's ample beard, Mr Toth shouted, "Hey, it looks like me coming up to the window!" He was a crack-up, spouting non-sequitirs like, "God took one look at me and said, 'You get nothin' retard!' and that's how I wound up looking like this." I could tell right away that we had found a very special place.

The patch itself was a bit of heaven. I had never seen blueberry shrubs before. These were a bit taller than me, covered in shiny, lush green leaves. The verdant hedgerows, the canopy of bird-proof netting overhead and the absence of any other visitors created a very cozy, bucolic setting. The patch had been open for only four days, but already the most easily accessible shrubs were thoroughly picked over. So the four of us pushed our way through narrowing aisle ways, in search of abundant fruit. In little time, I was alone and chest-high in a sea of berries, which ranged from hard, pale, and unripe to a dark, succulent blue. Despite the thickening foliage, my quest for ripe fruit became a compulsion. I dove under shrubs and wove my way up through the branches, grabbing every navy-colored berry I could reach. It was exhilarating! It's the closest I've ever come to literal tree-hugging... more like shrub-groping, I suppose. Eventually, the intense glare of the sunlight on the leaves overcame my greed for berries - I think that maybe my eyeballs got sunburned - and alas, I had to emerge from the patch.

We went to settle our our purchase at the trailer - which doubles as a diner - and sampled some of the Toth's deep-fried cinnamon donuts, fresh brewed coffee, and blueberry smoked barbecue chicken. Yes, the chicken tasted like blueberres. It was magical.

From there we headed northeast, past Dexter, to a refurbished lakeside cottage. This was the home of a man who I'll call Fred. Fred is an acquaintance of Stephanie, an older gentleman who is an avid collector of glass and ceramic. His home is a shrine to decorative arts, a mini Victoria and Albert Museum. The man has a room full of Tiffany lamps. I can't imagine the monetary worth of his collection. He showed us a brilliantly colored ceramic Eucharist server that came from the Vatican and also pointed to a piece of pottery that was crafted in the late 1600s. What amazes me is that I sense this man genuinely loves every one of the hundreds of articles he owns. You can tell that he is an extremely warm person.

My favorite space was the burgundy carpeted Rose Room, the walls of which were filled with shelves of rose colored glassware. Fred was so generous in sharing his home with us, showing us each room and his favorite pieces within. He encouraged us to handle some of the pieces, especially the peach blown glassware, which felt just like silk.

Fred had recently added another very different novelty to his collection. He installed a tiny video camera inside his backyard bluebird house. We sat in his kitchen, watching a live video feed of the mama bird tending to her babies. It was the best, most utterly absorbing show I've seen on TV in ages. Every time mama bird returned to the nest with a bit of grass or a worm, the little ones screeched and begged, their little mouths agape, downy feathers mussed. I don't completely understand the beauty in that desperate, frenzied image, and yet it was beautiful.

It was the perfect end to an intensely sensual journey.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Zenobia's Special Day!

One of our friends, who was adopted as an infant, has no idea when she was actually born. So, in lieu of a birthday, she has a Special Day - the day on which she was adopted.

Today is my cat Zenobia's Special Day. I'm guessing that she is about 18 months old, but since I don't know for sure, I have chosen July 27th as the day to celebrate her glorious existence. One year ago today, we used our Humane Society of Huron Valley cat adoption gift certificate (a wedding gift from our friends Bizzy and Matt) to procure this sweet, rambunctious feline. Though her previous owners had named her Princess Leia, we decided to promote her to Zenobia, the historic queen of Palmyra. Okay, I didn't really know that Palmyra business until I looked it up after the fact - we actually named her after a character from the 4th season of The Wire.

It's been a lovely year. This long, skinny, Egyptian kitty fattened into a healthy dynamo. She's even grown to love her canine big sister Dulce, though she would only hiss at her when they first met. Now she sleeps next to Dulce every night, for at least part of the night. She likes to spend the other part of the wee hours annoying us - scratching furniture, attacking our feet, climbing over our sleepy heads. Her other favorite activities include eating bug exoskeletons, getting high on catnip, organizing her furry mouse toys and playing with shoes. Sometimes, when I'm getting ready to leave the house, I go to put on a shoe and find a mousy toy gift inside. So beguiled by her cuteness am I that I forget how annoyed I am for having been woken up three times in the middle of the night.

When Dan was living in Detroit, Zenobia was instrumental in keeping me from being completely lonely and miserable. Dan had Dulce with him (it just made more sense, what with my ten hour work-day-and-commute), so it was really comforting to have another creature in the house. And when I felt really sad, she would lick my arm with the soft part of her tongue. She's a very sensitive girl. I love her.

Happy 1st Special Day, Zenobia! It seems like my life must have been so lacking before you came around.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

10 Things You May Not Know about Me

I've never seen "Ghostbusters"

I have one shred of empathy for George W Bush. Here's why - one summer night 20 years ago, when I was 12 years old, my parents and six siblings left me home alone while they dealt with a very awful family crisis (I'm being deliberately vague). Eager for a distraction, I found myself watching "Designing Women" and nervously grazing on whatever I could find in the kitchen. As I was chomping on some honey roasted peanuts, I laughed at one of Dixie Carter's hilarious quips, and then I choked on a peanut. I tried to give myself the Heimlich maneuver. It didn't work, but somehow, I dislodged the peanut and regained the ability to breathe. I think that was the loneliest moment of my life. When the W peanut story broke, I pretended to laugh with everyone else, but I actually cringe whenever I think about it.

I have no piercings or tattoos.

I bake my own crackers.

Last year, PBS aired a 10 week Masterpiece series that included adaptations of every Jane Austen novel. I wrote a 10 week blog series called Jane Addiction, in which I reviewed the series, as well as every Austen-based film I could find on DVD. You can read my reviews at www.pixilatedponderings.blogspot.com, or on my myspace page (if anyone actually uses that anymore).

I dated my first boyfriend for nearly five years. We've remained very good friends. After he and I broke up, I figured that I would stay friends with all of my future ex-boyfriends, but it doesn't really work that way.

Without contact lenses or glasses, I'm like Mr Magoo. I can't function.

I'm a big fan of violent fantasies as an alternative to actual violence (or even just frustration). I discovered this several years ago, when I dreamt of beating my bitchy boss's head against a cement floor. She didn't bug me so much after that dream.

I can't stand saying something mean to a person, even if I hate them.

I met several celebrities when I worked at a theater. Henry Rollins was the most down-to-earth. Crispin Glover was a dick. Bonnie Raitt was really beautiful and polite. Eric Idle was the tallest. But my favorite experience was meeting Gene Kelly's daughter at a presentation of "Singin' in the Rain" which is one of my all-time favorite movies. She was super nice, but the really amazing thing was that she had her father's eyes. When she spoke to me, I was entranced.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sewing Together a Quilt of Many Silences

I've been lucky in that I rarely suffer a depressing work life and a depressing home life simultaneously. Usually, if I'm having a tough time at work, I can look forward to going home; conversely, if life at home is bad, work can be a mental vacation from those woes.

The trouble right now is that both work and my personal life are a tad shitty, and for the same reason - the long and seemingly ceaseless silence that I have come to expect in both realms. For the past month or so, when I am on the clock, I spend the better part of an eight hour day staring at a computer, waiting for the phone to ring. Business is beyond bad. People were laid off earlier this week, and while I feel lucky and grateful to still have this job, I also can't get around the fact that there is almost no work to be done.

This is the first job I've ever had where I sit at a desk all day. Though I had misgivings about that arrangement, I'm basically fine with the sedentary part of it so long as I'm mentally engaged. But these days, instead of thinking toward some useful endeavor, I find myself watching the clock, dying for my shift to end (though hoping that I won't be sent home too early, because I can't afford to have my hours trimmed any further).

And when my day is finally over, I come home to my Dan-less apartment. Granted, there's more to amuse me there - my cat, my books and records, my kitchen. But I miss the conversation and the sex and the sound of his favorite song or the sight of his book.

Frankly, I'm sick of myself and the contents of my brain. I'm tired of reflection. And I'm done with trying to convince myself that surely, I must be able to dig up some sort of solution to these problems. I'm learning that there's some grace in accepting the fact that life really does just suck sometimes.

But, I can also look forward to Dan coming back tomorrow! Even though he doesn't technically move out of his Detroit place until Monday, we will be together after tonight. I also have to believe that business will pick up at work. It won't go back to being what it was when I was hired 18 months ago, but I do believe this is the nadir (that's a big show of hope from a cynic like me!).

And now, on an unrelated note, I would like to share the quote of the workday, brought to you by my coworker

Coworker (staring at a copy of Real Detroit): I wish Kid Rock was from somewhere else

It may have been the only good laugh I got out of this day, but it was a pretty damn good one

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


“Even though there is the whole confession thing, that's no free pass, because there is a crushing guilt that comes with being a Catholic. Whether things are good or bad or you're simply... eating tacos in the park, there is always the crushing guilt.”
- Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) on 30 Rock episode 1.17 “The Fighting Irish”

Even though I am an atheist, I’ve come to accept the fact that I will probably be Catholic for the rest of my life. If you grew up in a Catholic, church-going family, you know what I mean. It isn’t about believing in heaven or hell or god. It’s that crushing guilt, the kind that sticks to your bones and your brain and your soul and makes you say, “Oh, I’m sorry!” when someone steps on your toes.

Or here’s a great example. A few summers ago, Dan treated me to a romantic, alfresco Mexican lunch on a sunny weekday afternoon. And as I ate my tacos in the park, I felt guilty that I wasn’t at work. I remember that passing and seemingly mundane moment like it just happened. Needless to say, I was blown away when I watched that episode of “30 Rock”. The two words that best describe this instance of art randomly imitating my life are “sad” and “hilarious”.

I hope to convey those sensations to you, reader friend, through a series of writings about being Catholic and trying to become less so. Even if I’ll always be a little Catholic, I’ve learned that I really can be more confident, less fearful, and infinitely happier if I aggressively attack my neurotic Catholic bullshit (henceforth to be known as NCB). Through countless therapy sessions and many prudent social choices, I’ve stripped away a lot of that suffocating NCB. And since I already enjoy exposing and making fun of my sore spots in my writing, I figure, why the hell not?


Frightened Sheep Mentality

Dan and I were driving home late one night a couple months ago. I was thoroughly exhausted. I had felt woozy and dizzy earlier in the evening, and hadn't eaten anything for several hours. As we were heading back to Ypsi, my appetite returned with a ferocity that could not be ignored. I had to eat something.

There were few open establishments at that hour. Fast food joints were about the only option, so I settled on Steak & Shake, or as Dan calls it, "Stomachache". Even though Steak & Shake is somewhat less disgusting than McDonald's or White Castle, I couldn't bear the thought of a burger and fries at that hour. I just needed enough food to prevent a sleepless night of tummy rumbling.

I stared at the back lit, drive-through menu board for several minutes. Dan recommended the grilled cheese. Granted, it was a relatively light option, but I knew I would ultimately be disappointed by anything served on "Texas Toast". I had to get some fries with that, just for moral support. But I didn't want too much...

Why the Kid's Meal - of course! Just enough fries and baby Sprite to help me digest half of a greasy grilled cheese sandwich. It was all I needed.

But, no. That wasn't for me. I sighed.

Dan could tell I was changing my mind. "Why don't you get the Kid's Meal?" he asked.

I whispered, "But the Kid's Meal is for children 12 and under. Do you think I'll get in trouble if I order it?" I was so worn out that I only thought of the words as they spilled from my mouth, and I couldn't help cracking up. Dan laughed at me, too. And then I got my cruddy mini meal.

Just beneath my consciousness, there's this sensor that knows how very ridiculous these sort of fears are, and it usually keeps me from saying such things aloud. But I think I'm better off when I make my NCB apparent. The only thing worse than feeling guilty is feeling dumb about feeling guilty. At least when I verbalize the fear, I get a chuckle. And maybe, I actually get over the thing that's scaring me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Learning to Be Single Again

Ha! Fooled you. There's no such juicy drama. Dan and I are still going strong. But since he started renting a room in Detroit a little over a month ago, I have often been going it alone. Even though I know it's best for us in the long run (he gets his research and dissertation done sooner and then we get to bust out of these sinking peninsulas!), it's really tough for me in the present. At times, I've been miserable. I ask myself, how did I spend so many cumulative years as a single person? And after great reflection and remembrance, I've found the answer - booze and cigarettes. Well, I'm not eager to resurrect those habits, so I'm looking for other ways to cope.

This activity helps. I don't know if anyone reads this blog (other than the person who said that I "dress up" pedophilia), but it feels good to put my writing out there. My only other writerly outlets are work related, and consist of occasional propaganda newsletter articles for so-called "foodies" and my corny, pun-filled meeting minutes (for which I receive an absurd amount of praise). You know, Ben Franklin considered punning a vice, and in his autobiography, admonished himself for wasting time in such a meaningless pursuit. Then again, he worked way harder than I ever have, which is why I will probably never win fame or riches for my writing. But I don't need those motivations. For me, it's compulsive. If I don't write, and I don't give others the opportunity to read what I write, I don't feel so good as when I do.

When I'm not writing, I'm usually reading magazines. Dan got me a Harpers subscription for my birthday and I treated myself to a year of the New Yorker. Between those, I keep abreast of current events and get my regular reminder that the world is a sad and fucked up place for most humans. Seriously, I think that reading that sort of journalism is good for me. It pulls me away from my lonely woe, helps me appreciate that I really hit the jackpot when I was born a white American, and fertilizes my compassion. What could be wrong with that?

I'm learning to drive! I have my second lesson tomorrow. The woman from the driving school is really nice, and has a soothing way of talking a lot about nothing. I know she does this because she can see that I'm nervous. But I think I did pretty well my first time out. I drove myself all the way home from work! Now that's pretty powerful, cutting that one-hour commute down to a 15 minute jaunt.

Other than that, I guess I spend the rest of my solo time preparing meals, tending to the garden, hanging out with Matt and Bizzy, and practicing songs for karaoke. It's not such a bad life, but last week was really hard. It was terribly hot. I was still sick from the previous weekend, premenstrual, and alone. I indulged in some awfully self-pitying activity that included Better Made potato chips, French onion dip, PBR and some "Star Trek" DVDs. That isn't my best self.

Well, I have about 3 more weeks of this single life (with weekend husband visitations). I'm going to try to make the most of it. The temperature is lower, I have my health back, and my period behind me. I have plenty to read and hopefully even more to write.