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On my tempestuous relationship with a certain Crowded House song.
I am willing to bet cold hard cash that nobody has stronger feelings about Crowded House’s not-that-controversial song “Don’t Stop Now” than I do. As are most things, I suppose, it was a matter of timing.
When the album TIME ON EARTH came out, we had recently moved to the other side of Los Angeles – just south of Pasadena, actually. That part of the world is lovely, particularly if you’re fond of Craftsman bungalows and lush foliage. (I’m about 75% on that, being allergic to trees.)
However, I do not understand who lives there. Owls? Bats? Voles? Because here’s the thing: The minute it starts to get dark, you can’t see a goddamn thing. The streetlights are, to say the least, minimal. The aforementioned lush foliage casts formidable shadows on the street signs, which themselves tend more toward the subtle and tasteful than the more appropriate glow-in-the-dark. Combined with my genetic lack of sense of direction, this meant trouble.
Before I basically stopped leaving the house after dusk (unless it was a straight shot to the freeway and outta there), I spent a tremendous amount of time driving around trying to find my own house. And crying. If you’re thinking, “Really? That’s worth crying over?” I assume you haven’t experienced the specific and profound humiliation of being regularly incapable of finding your home.
Also, you should know that we’re not talking about doubling back a block or two. Once I went to a store that Google Maps informed me was 1.7 miles away. By the time I made it there and back, I had racked up more than 32 miles on the odometer. We are talking LOST.
That was when I bought TIME ON EARTH. The opening track struck an immediate chord with me and, I learned from reading the press, was inspired by the Finn family having moved to a new town – in which Mrs. Finn was unable to find her way home.
Another pleasant day in the countryside
Has ended up in tears on a stormy night
Cause you can’t follow my directions home
But don’t stop now
God knows where the satellite’s taking us
I can’t tell what’s right in front of us
But I hang on every word
But don’t stop now
No, don’t stop now
This song clearly understood me. Everyone else thinks I’m an idiot – but here is proof that this has happened to at least one other person. It’s a small comfort, but I’ll take it.
And then this happens.
Give me something I can write about
I’m sorry. Give you something you can WRITE about?
You could write her some better directions. How’s THAT?
(Clearly, I’m projecting a little bit.)
Now I live in a proper city neighborhood, in a majestic and well-lit building that I can locate with ease from all four directions. But when I saw Crowded House play Club Nokia on Friday night, damned if my love/hate reactions to that song were not every bit as strong.
I guess it just goes to show that you’re never too old to have a formative experience.
And it came in such a tiny box, too.
Dear lovely people:
Tonight my life was vastly improved in multiple ways.
A gift arrived via FedEx. It was one of those newfangled iPads all the kids are talking about.
You’ve surely heard about all the things they can do. I’m just going to list a few things it’s done for me specifically.
My hands started on their lifelong path of being totally hosed when I broke my arm as a little kid, somehow resulting in calcium deposits in my right wrist that limit my use of that hand. Over the years, I’ve added to the problem, also developing (in both arms) tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cubital tunnel syndrome (yeah, I’d never heard of that one either). Two years ago, I topped the whole mess off by developing something half-diagnosed as neurological tremor. Means my hands are real shaky.
There’s a parallel decrease in the things I can do. I went from reading constantly to being able to read only books in paperback, usually only mass-market, with wide margins toward the center so I could hold it open enough to read. Typing accurately is an enormous challenge, and often painful. I can’t play computer solitaire without serious pain – which doesn’t seem like that big a loss, but I eventually realized it had been my only successful relaxation technique. We won’t even talk about my violin playing.
(Because I don’t play violin. I can’t even play ukulele – and I’ve tried and tried!)
So here’s what this little device brought me.
First and most excitingly, I can read books on it. Any books I want. I don’t have to plot my reading list out by weight anymore.
Second, in my keyboard-heavy existence, it has the only one I can type in a fairly error-free fashion on – and it doesn’t hurt.
Also not painful: Games. Not only can I resume my Spider habit, but I have the freedom to become a Plants vs Zombies or Angry Birds junkie like everyone else, if I so choose.
This is less dramatic than the others because it’s just fixing a failing of my current computer rather than my person, but I’m also pretty stoked that Netflix streaming works on it. One step closer to freeing ourselves of the hilariously incompetent Time-Warner corporation!
I can’t think of another time my life was this affected by a material object. Nice one, Apple.
Important update. Seriously. This is HUGE.
As some of you will have read, my official nickname, bestowed by my young son, is “Mommy of the Future.”
Or rather – it was.
We were at a park in Beverly Hills, perhaps fittingly, when he informed me that I was no longer the Mommy of the Future.
Because I have a new nickname.
You may have to steel yourself for this one.
Do you have a snack? A stiff drink?
At least take a few deep breaths.
“King of Heaven.”
I was going to stress that I did not make this up, but I think you probably know I am not capable of making this up.
The only explanation I can get is that I’m taller than him, even when he stands on things. That’s not really sufficient, is it?
Anyway, if you have anything you need or want, let me know. I might consider it.
My body temperature has always been 96.8.
I’ve long suspected that those last two switched digits were the reason that I’ve never been uncomfortably hot.*
I’m hardly weatherproof; I’m cold when it’s much under 80 degrees and downright miserable when it’s under 70. But when it gets up over 100? Bliss. My ideal day would be dry, about 110, with a nice hot wind blowing.
As you can imagine, this is my very favorite time of year.
There’s a small catch, though. The kind of weather that makes me deeply happy makes pretty much everyone around me completely miserable.
I’m a people person. I can’t just completely ignore this. (I know. I’ve tried.)
A few years back, we had record-setting heat or some such nonsense, and we had to meet my brother-in-law in the Valley. (LA people will know the Valley averages temperatures approximately 50 degrees than the rest of the area. 50, 20 – something like that.) So much of my extended family was standing on a corner discussing – actually, I don’t know what they were doing. I was busy. With my face tilted up to the sun and my arms stretched wide, I was glorying in the hot sun and the gritty, burning wind and pretending I was in the middle of the desert. As you do.
Until I noticed it had gotten… quiet. My god, the looks I was getting. What? I’m happy! DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?
Although that was probably my finest moment in annoying actual loved ones, my best for sheer volume had to be when I was working in a record store. All day long, transaction after transaction would go more or less like this:
“Actually, I love this weather!”
(Mostly they said that last part with their eyes.)
Oh, I could have lied. I could have nodded sympathetically and kept it to myself. But you try to keep stuff to yourself when you’re brimming over with joy. It’s hard.
When I was pregnant, everybody promised me my body would turn into a furnace. My third trimester was during the hottest part of the year, and I was assured that the heat would, for the first time in my life, make me a miserable wreck. WELL. Not only did I not overheat at any point, I was still freezing the whole time.
Apparently my system is stubborn when it decides to be peculiar.
Here’s a thing I feel guilty about: I have a long history of health problems. When these heatwaves strike and I’m the only ebullient person for miles around, I kind of relish the feeling of being the person with the coping skills for once.
Tangentially, today my acupuncturist speculated that I might have False Heat – True Cold. I nodded thoughtfully and Googled it later, as you do. I’m not sure; the descriptions I read made me think I’d look more like a creepy doll if I had it (which would be A LOT like a creepy doll) – but it’d be interesting if acupuncture averaged me out.
*Because no cliche is without truth, it sometimes is too humid for me.
PS – this is an exercise in writing something and publishing it, because I have become the True Queen of Unpublished Drafts this last year or so.
What the heck is up with me?, Chapter 1
As those of you who have diligently memorized everything I’ve ever posted here will recall, I’ve never had an alcoholic beverage. I’ve also never had a cigarette, an illegal drug, or – this is a good one – a sip of coffee.
Is this because I am no fun? Of course not. I am yes fun. This is because I made a freakishly sensible decision as a small child: That I would never start doing anything I saw people around me struggling to quit. And then I followed through. Please do not take this as an indicator of my personality in general. It is not.
Anyway, I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about this, but sometimes it manifests in odd little ways. Here’s one: I almost never enjoy songs about drinking/drunkenness. I’m not saying I dislike them, or am offended by them – I hear them and go “Hmm, yeah, don’t get it” and move on. This has kinda killed entire albums for me, by artists I love.
This is what I figured: “Of course I don’t get it! Never done it!”
So how, you’re wondering, does this aloofness translate when it comes to comedy? Well, it depends. Sometimes there’s a story that’s funny regardless of intoxication levels, even if drinking is heavily involved; sometimes it’s more about the actual drinking and I’m lost.
A few weeks ago we saw Paul F. Tompkins at Largo. I would like to state up front that I’m almost certain that Paul F. Tompkins is the funniest human being on the planet. You should buy his CDs and go to his shows and follow him on Twitter and such. That was a PSA right there.
Anyway, he did a bit about drinking, and I wasn’t bored or anything, because he’s the funniest human being alive, but I started to realize I hadn’t actually laughed in several minutes, which maybe has never happened before at a PFT show. “Well, sure,” I thought, “because I’ve never done it and such.” Shortly thereafter he moved to a different subject, and I was laughing my butt off as is customary, when it hit me that my theory had just been blown out of the water.
Because that subject? Was growing a mustache.
A thing that I have also never done.
So now I’m back to wondering: What the heck is up with me? Perhaps a mustachioed drinker will show up and point to a qualitative difference between these experiences that I am only subconsciously sensing. I certainly hope so – I’d hate to put much more thought into this.
A brief drama, brought about by the liking – and then strenuous disliking – of a sandwich.
There is wailing. There is screaming. There are time outs. And then, there is the explaining.
“You know, Daddy, Mommy was being really nice to me, and we were just talking about this nicely, then you came in here and started this big argument!”
“But it was mostly Mommy’s fault, because she was being mean and not listening to me!”
The sobbing ramps up dramatically.
“It was all my fault! I’m so sorry!”
[It's OK, sweetie, I forgive you.]
“Well, try not to! Because I did it all on purpose!”
[Hugs and temporary calming down.]
“Mommy, I really did do it all on purpose. It was all my fault, and I’m so very sorry!”
[It's OK, honey.]
“But it was you and Daddy’s fault, too.”
It must kinda suck to be five.
In which I buy a pair of shoes.
Any post in the last six or seven years with this title would have been much, much longer than you’d expect. This one continues that proud imaginary tradition.
You see, there are a number of ways in which it’s not easy being me. The having of feet is probably the worst of the lot. It starts here: Size 6, extra-wide, freakishly high arch located at the spot on the foot where you’d expect it to be for a size 7, matching high instep making it impossible to wear most styles or keep shoelaces tied, disproportionately sturdy ankles making it impossible to wear shoes that are cut high on the ankle (think 95% of athletic shoes). If that didn’t narrow my potential future shoes enough, consider: I’m vegan.
Picture a small cube with a half-circle cut out of the bottom. Or, as my mother-in-law points out, any photos you might have seen of the victims of foot-binding; the resemblance is plain.
I’ve had these feet all my life, so I was never really familiar with the concept of comfortable shoes. If I could cram my foot in them and they didn’t cause bleeding, they were mine, baby. To a sensible person, it would have been no great surprise when at age 28, during my then-daily Venice-to-Santa-Monica beach walk, I felt something in my arch go RRRRRIP!
I sat under the Pier for a few minutes, unable to put any weight on my left foot. I considered that I had left my apartment, a couple miles away, with nothing but a single key in my pocket. I considered, given the endless worst-case scenario in which I dwell, whether I was going to hobble up to a stranger all vulnerable and request a ride.
I started walking home.
It was bad.
I can’t remember when my right foot followed suit, but eventually I came to think of them as my Cinderella feet; I could be anywhere, pretty-princessing around and minding my own business, when BAM! I’m flat on my ass next to a goddamn pumpkin. They’ve been better and worse; there have been years when I’ve been unable to walk further than my front door to my car, years when I could pretty confidently go to Target, years where custom orthotics helped and years when they stopped helping and started hurting.
One thing was clear, though: I could no longer wear any old shoes I could cram my feet into.
This was a bigger problem than you’d think; the reason I did not wear properly sized shoes is that nobody made 6 extra-wide extra-depth shoes – especially not in the funky, fancy stores I frequented. When I finally forced myself to cross the threshold of “comfort shoe” emporiums, I found there was really nothing there for me either.
There was a lot of trial and error involved in discovering the one brand that, when I found the right style, actually fit well. But there were two problems. First, Kumfs, made in New Zealand, were available in the US in a very limited selection. Second, they were SO not vegan.
I got over the vegan part pretty quickly (although man, I’d be happy to find a non-cow alternative); it’s the difference between walking or not walking for me. I have to live in the world that exists. Now I’m 99% vegan.
The availability was tougher to deal with. I’d spend weeks and months driving to stores that carried the brand, ordering things online and returning them and waiting eighty years to get credited before I could try another pair. I just went almost a year without a pair of black shoes, as one example.
So Kumfs opened a store in the States, and that store was in: Fresno! In terms of the entire country, it was awfully close – but still, a few hundred miles, not on the way to or near anything, not a trip I would make for any reason except shoe shopping. Seemed ostentatious, like the actors who have their favorite pizza flown in internationally.
Well, like a scale version of that.
Finally a few weeks ago, I decided that it had to happen. We planned a family road trip. I found a hotel with an indoor pool, found out where the zoo was, scoped out the vegan food – how bad could it be for fewer than 24 hours?
Fast-forward to yesterday morning. We got a very late start, made later because I had accidentally left my car window open the previous night and some stuff got stolen (nothing major, but we had to clean up and make sure we had the essential papers). We packed up the car and got as far as a gas station two blocks away, where we discovered that the coolant we’d had topped off days earlier was now completely gone. No time to deal with that! Drive home, switch cars, set out again.
The drive itself was pleasant enough; we went straight to the shoe store, where they hauled out more than a dozen styles in my microsize. Bought one pair of super-comfortable, reasonably non-hideous black mary janes; ordered a pair of flats in a different color than I’d tried on, which will be here in 2 weeks; just barely passed on a pair of strappy high heels because with all the shoes I need for day-to-day wear, I can’t justify $200 on heels. This took about 20 minutes.
I was practically floating when I left; even with the 4-hour drive and the car trouble and the overnight stay, this was the simplest shoe transaction I’d had in years. I’d pretty much decided to come back when they get their spring styles in.
We went to Whole Foods, and things were still pretty good except that the boychild went all hyper and fragmented; he’d been in a car all day, probably nothing to worry about.
Then we got to the hotel! Yay! Couldn’t check in because our card didn’t go through! Wha’…? Turned out the bank was being super diligent and slapped a security hold on that puppy the minute I charged $360 300 miles from home. No big deal, except for an endless wait in the lobby with a 5-year-old who only wanted to know, “But you said we could go swimming! Why can’t we go swimming?”
Checked in, took the kid swimming. This would have been much more fun minus the presence of the only other people in the room, two little kids who somehow managed to take up all the usable space in the shallow end and the jacuzzi between them, and their dad, who was very into documenting the whole thing with his underwater camera and less into, like, civility. Later he decided to show the boys how he could bounce a rubber ball off the opposite wall – which he did, then it bounced again, off my face while I was swimming laps. Vacation! Yay!
Went back to the room, got the kid settled in for bedtime – and that’s when the vomiting started. More volume than you could imagine ever being contained in a 5-year-old boy. One bed pretty much drowned, a section of carpet taken out, the other bed hit by an auxiliary volley – let’s not even talk about the towels.
Me, I’m not feeling so good myself.
Any other time, we’d have stayed an extra day for everyone to recover – but our plans happened to bump up against the start of a Spectacular Storm, and the thought of navigating the mountains in a downpour with a sick kid was unenticing.
So we’re home now. Wes still isn’t keeping down much fluid, so he’s going to urgent care first thing. I know what’s wrong with me, and they can’t really help.
All that considered – that was still the simplest shoe purchase I’ve made in years.
Much like Christmas and Groundhog Day…
It always comes around at this time of year; my determination to get this blog going by posting short, off-the-cuff entries instead of starting on mammoth essays that get edited and edited and never published. I’m beginning to think I suffer from a strangely specific version of seasonal affective disorder. Other than the Januariness of it all, I sort of get my dilemma; short, off-the-cuff things make outstanding Facebook status updates.
That notwithstanding, it is January, and so I am determined. This year will be the year I get back to posting regularly and making jewelry out of all those sparkly and stringy things I acquired before I had a baby and the tremors took my hands (unrelated but complementary obstacles).
Maybe I’ll figure out why you can’t post links in my comments. And why I only get notified about comments from first-time posters. This is sounding like “uninstall all your plugins” territory, isn’t it?
I don’t know if this will turn out as well as I think it might, but I might have the kid live-blog (I mean, through me) American Idol once it gets past Hollywood week. His commentary was astonishing last year, but of course he’s now 5 and possibly too mature and/or jaded to have the same effect. We’ll see.
I am going to post this now without even proofing it. Such is my dedication. You’re welcome.
If you have small children, I fervently hope you are already familiar with Sandra Boynton’s Belly Button Book. It’s a very funny board book about hippopotamuses and their deep love of belly buttons, and it’s been in our bedtime rotation since before W. could walk.
And when I say “our,” I mean that specifically, as I have recently learned that nobody else gets to read this one to him because nobody does it as well as I do. YES! I RULE!
Naturally, upon learning this, my first instinct was to create a YouTube video of myself reading it so other parents could try to learn to be as awesome as I am. Because I am always selfless. Sadly, I was distracted from this shiny object when my actual son asked me to read him the actual book.
This would be the first time I’d read it with the knowledge that I was the preeminent Belly Button Book reader in the household and possibly – PROBABLY – the world. Naturally, half of me was all, “YES! I’m gonna nail this!” and the other “But what if I choke?”
But as so often happens in parenthood, this turned out not to be a story about me at all. I did perfectly fine, but the show will now be stolen by the little dude.
In this book, there is a baby hippo. The baby’s role is mostly repeating one phrase again and again, so it’s an excellent role to assign to a child. It goes something like this:
Usually Wes is an excellent Bee-Bo deliverer, but today when we got to his first line, instead he sang:
“We are the Village Green Preservation Society…”
While a Sandra Boynton/early Kinks collaboration has long been a dream of many, the time travel involved has put lesser mortals off trying. Not my boy, though. He continued to sing that line every time “Bee Bo” came up.
Then the one different piece of baby-hippo dialogue came around. (“Boon” for balloon, for the record.) I delivered his cue and game him an “OK, smart guy, let’s hear it” look.
“Waterloo sunset’s fi-i-ine…”
Having a child who mostly likes to listen to the Kinks, David Bowie, Richard Thompson, the Old 97′s and the Divine Comedy is not, I have to say, the heaviest burden in the world.
Well, THAT’S good to know.
Last night, W. was tearing around the bedroom, singing “You’re the MOMMY OF THE FUTURE MOMMY OF THE FUTURE MOMMY OF THE FUTURE.”
Then he would stop, announce, “Because you pose for photos like this,” suck in his cheeks and pooch out his lips, and go back to running: “And DAT is why you’re the MOMMY OF THE FUTURE…” and so on and so forth.
I have two thoughts on this:
Hey! I do not!
That sounded a lot like a rudimentary Frank Conniff composition.
(I realize only about six of you will get the second one, but I think it’s worth it.)
Also, I think I have a new blog tagline.