31 May 2006

sensory swoon

Somebody asked me tonight what my favorite painting is. I was both embarrassed and perturbed to find that have no idea.

Perhaps I am just not the kind of person who has a favorite painting. I do not know.

I like a lot of paintings; some of them are famous and in museums. Some of them are not. Some of them have given me goosebumps. But I don't remember ever thinking to myself, that is my absolutely favoritest one, unless and until something more amazing/moving/stunning crosses my path.

There is one painting that my father-in-law owns that I have tried several times to nudge him toward loaning me, that depicts a house as seen from the outside, in a violet-blue dusk, with one warm yellow window in the rear of the house aglow from the inside. I enjoy this painting a great deal. But then, I enjoy seeing those tiny glimpses you sometimes get, passing in a car, inside other people's houses at night. This painting reminds me of this. It also makes me smell woodsmoke, and wool.

I am just not all that visually oriented. I fixate on favorite smells and textures more than on images. Like lately, for instance. This spring that has been so fervently watered by the rains of May. That smell! Of new leaves and newer flowers! It just makes my head spin. And then you add the fog that creeps in every evening around sunset, and a faint breeze from the sea, and it is almost too unbearably delicious to breathe.

It makes me want to wander the streets all night, gulping in the seawater-saturated air and suspended fog molecules, all laced with freshly opened rhododendrons, newly laid cedar mulch, and fading lilac blossoms.

The smell of my cat's fur after lying in the sun all day.

Woodsmoke from an unidentified chimney.

Someone else's bath towel, still bearing the scent of soap and warm, wet skin.

26 May 2006

eschew obsfucation

As an editor, one of the automatic changes I make to any piece of writing is to change unnecessary big words into perfect little ones.

Don't get me wrong, I love the big ones! Sometimes big fancypants words are just and precisely the only way to say exactly what you mean!

But sometimes they are just gewgaws and fripperies. Extra lace and bows and chintz pillows when a pure and bare Shaker chair is what's called for.

The big one that seems to be in vogue these days -- and sportscasters, I'm looking at you -- is utilize. There is just no call for this word whatsoever. It means USE. It means nothing MORE or LESS than USE. Use works great, whereas utilize is the kind of word that gets dressed in a suit every day and says it is going to work but has actually just been going to the park and feeding the birds all day FOR MONTHS. Until everyone noticed. When will everyone notice???

Use use. Do not utilize utilize.

Another favorite of dumb people pretending to be smart is to insert the pronoun "I" into places it doesn't belong. Like most sharp pointy things, "I" only belongs in certain mutually agreed-upon locations. Not ever when you get all fancy and say "she spoke to my sister and I" or GOD FORBID when you think you should say "between you and I."

Ever. OK? Just don't.

Me me me. It's one of your favorite words anyway, so go ahead and use it in all of those pleasantly precocious little prepositional phrases. Not that you would know what those are, you were too busy writing eye heart ewe and Duran Duran Rules on your acid washed jeans in pink ballpoint pen the year we covered prepositions in class, so just never you mind.

Recently I've also noticed an uptic in the use of simplistic when people just mean simple, which is pretty ironic actually. And I know someone who uses whom in any possible circumstance, when it is actually only correct to use this word when speaking to 120-year-old English teachers, to whom you should always say whom because it maketh their little hearts sing for gladness.

And if you've never wondered if you are using comprise the wrong way, then you probably are. It's easy, and there's a trick to remembering.


22 May 2006

social whirl

Yeah so anyway. Don't look at me like that, eyebrows all raised at me like I never post anymore. Shut up.

So I've been a little busy, ok?

It's a really good busy, actually, a kind of busy I wouldn't have been able to CONCEIVE of this time last year, in which I go to work early and leave late every day because I love it, I swim a half a mile most mornings (now that I am done with the being sick nonsense), I have friends with whom I do social things at night and on weekends, and there are also all these baseball games to watch...

There is also my new niece whom I don't see often enough but who got baptized last weekend, water streaming down her red, red hair and into her green, green eyes, as she merely looked on, curious about why we would want to do such a thing when it was clearly such a lovely morning for a nap...

If you wonder why all these things are so fresh and new, take a gander back at the archives to the right -- back a couple of years ago when I was a hermit freelance editor, never leaving the house except to pick up my editing jobs and the (very) occasional paycheck at the post office and maybe buy a little ramen at the store. Every little thing I do today is a huge change from then, and most are changes I wouldn't have thought I would welcome back then.

I was wrong.

What? It happens!

15 May 2006

Dorothy Parker was right

Ok, so my voice is mostly back. As long as I don't overtax it like I did tonight, going out with a friend and eating fries and gabbing about which celebrities we'd like to spend a few intimate minutes on the couch with. And not in the psychotherapy sense.

At the end of that conversation I could feel my tonal register rising a tad, but it's OK now, I'm safely back home with a pot of tea and no need to speak until tomorrow morning. Ooof -- I just remembered -- at which time I will be delivering a speech to a gang of professional type important mucks. At eight am.

Meh, I'll be fine. I'm well and truly out of the Mickey Mouse danger zone, and back down into the you want fries with that? kid from the Simpsons, where my voice only occasionally breaks for comedic effect.

It's a good thing, too, because of course now there is something else wrong with me. I had a problem with my contact lens today, it was all hurty, so I switched to glasses and got an emergency appointment with my eye guy, and of course it turned out to be $120 worth of "this will get better on its own in three days." Thanks eye guy!

So it's still a little hurty, but I now have some fancy pants new contact lenses to put on in three days that are my first new prescription in three years, so the world will suddenly look all gorgeous and juicy, like the produce aisle right after the water jets spray down all the leafy greens. I love New Prescription Day! Everything looks so suddenly crisp and sharp and delicious.

Of course I have no idea how all this FOG is going to manage to look crisp and sharp, it is by its nature kind of soft and mushy around the edges, but that's OK, I love the fog. I'm not complaining. I can't afford any new spring clothes yet, so this rain and cold is super fine okey dokey hunky dory avec moi.

Except I kind of hate the way it fogs up my glasses.

12 May 2006


I appear to have lost my voice. It has taken me a few days to figure this out.

A week ago right now I was descending into the jaws of the worst cold I can ever remember having, not counting that airplane sickness I got coming home from Amsterdam. Airplane sickness always kicks serious ass. Everything about this cold was worse than anything else: the body aches were the worst, the coughing was insane, etc. etc. etc.

For the last few days I have been feeling pretty OK, just a little left over coughing and hacking. But my voice has been strangely elevated for several days now. No sore throat. Just... no access to the majority of my vocal chords. At first i just figured it was the last throes of my cold. But I have slowly come to accept that I have just simply gone and lost my damn voice. Like a rock star.

I've been slamming down the tea with lemon, getting plenty of sleep and all that malarkey. But it just seems to be getting worse. I sound like Mickey goddamn Mouse over here.

Now I think that the only thing that will return my voice to its formerly sultry self is forced inactivity. I am going to try... try... to not speak all weekend. They say that it is the only thing that really works. I do try to do as I'm told -- after exhausting all the other possibilites, of course -- so that is what I will try.

Does this get me out of calling my mother on Sunday?

08 May 2006

Tired of your guff

As a creature of habit unto the point of ritual -- I'm frankly impressed that I don't light candles and incense to mark every damn thing I do -- I am fairly predictable in my post-work behavior.

Say hello to the cats, change into play clothes. Put on the kettle for some tea. While the water is boiling, wash the dirty dishes left all over the place from Matt's breakfast and lunch.

Yep, that's it right there. That's the part I'm writing about. Couldja tell? Couldja see it coming from a mile away?

I have discussed before the House of Filth I grew up in, with five newfoundlands who were laughably housetrained and never washed or brushed, and two brothers and a mother who were indifferent to housework unless company was coming. Thankfully, this only tended to happen once a year, at which time we would all spring into action to carve away another year's worth of grime off the old homestead.

So I have cleanliness issues. You would too.

It's important to me to have at least the common space -- the space visible to visitors -- clean. This especially applies to dishes, as my family of origin was wont to leaving food out on counters and dirty pans in the sink for days.

So, I wash my dishes as I go. Always. I have usually washed my dinner dishes before I sit down to dinner. It only takes a second, for god's sake, and the pan isn't really that hot. Try it. It's not that hot.

So it burns me and riles me and builds up huge crusty piles of resentment in my black little heart that my husband does not share my cleaning disorder. So, every evening, an important part of my ritual is to mutter and curse and deliver silent ultimatums about the Importance of Cleaning Up After Thyself.

And you know what? Tonight I realized that I am sick to death of my grousing. Man, what a pain in the ass I am to be around for those few minutes every day! Jesus, me, get over it, will ya?

It only takes a few minutes, I have to wait for the damn water to boil anyway, and also just shut up. Honestly. Shut up. No one wants to hear it.

No wonder my cats don't really warm up to me until after I've had my tea.

05 May 2006

Words are where it's at

Sorry I haven't written. Which of the following do you suppose I have I been doing instead?
  • Making the world safe for art
  • Making back-room deals with real estate moguls
  • Making out with Stephen Colbert
  • Making meringues
  • Making eyes at famous poets
  • Making fun of jackanapes
  • Making love... out of nothing at all

Just about all of the above, really, except for the meringues. I used to stay up all night making meringues when I was in high school. I was a budding insomniac anyway, especially the night before big tests, and so to entertain myself and wear myself out a bit I would make meringues according to the recipe in my great-grandmother's 1897 edition of Fanny Farmer's Cookbook.

It was the kind of cookbook that would instruct you to put another log on the fire halfway through the recipe, so you can bet your embroidered handkerchief it didn't know from a cuisinart. Those meringues were made by hand-whisking for about 45 minutes until the peaks were nice and stiff and all the delicious, pure white sugar had dissolved into the egg white and cream of tartar.

But no, I haven't been hand-whisking much of anything lately. Mainly because this whole working for a living thing seems to have cured my insomnia. Odd, that.

I did, however, go and see one of my idols read last night. I actually pulled into the parking lot at the same time as she and her husband did, and would have walked into the place alongside her if I hadn't been too busy walking reverentially behind her like I was carrying her damn train or something.

I saw my old english teacher standing inside through the large picture windows lining the street, and she waved joyfully at me at I gesticulated wildly at the personage in front of me. It was highly dignified behavior. Afterwards I waited in line for the poet/novelist to sign my copy of her latest book for me, and I do believe that is the very first time I have asked an author to sign anything for me. It was mostly so I could look into her eyes and thank her for writing, but, predictably, I just fluttered and stuttered like a swoony teenager as she asked my name and told me it meant "house" in Hebrew.

Huh? I managed to sqeak out, it means wha?

House, she said, a look of quick concern flitting across her face that perhaps I was less than mentally capable. It means house in Hebrew. You didn't know that?

No! I lied. Actually, I've always known what my name meant. I just hadn't heard her, and now I was making things worse. Glah.

I did manage to thank her for writing, as her poetry and novels have actually meant a lot to me and many of my friends over the years. I wanted to tell her about first reading one of her poems on the corkboard pinned to the door of my neighbor's room during my freshman year in college. About how I think about certain lines of her poetry while I garden, while I take walks around salt marshes, when I think about the nature of marriage, and when I sleep with my cat. About how certain lines she has written go through my head like songs, which is what they are, really.

I didn't say any of that.

But I meant it.

I've also been fighting off a nasty cold which is currently lodged firmly in the back of my throat, though it is considering opening up a branch office in my sinuses. Just in time for the weekend. Ah well, I must away to work, whence cometh all good things.

Did I already say jackanapes?