Friday, September 24, 2010

Jump In It

Friday I drove around with my eyes dilated. I disposed of my disposable sunglasses before I stepped outside. The fluorescent lights of the mall-way outside Lenscrafters isn't bright at all--I don't need these while I try and juggle my also useless receipts for paying nothing. Chuck! Go through automatic doors. Ahhh! It's so bright! So this is what the vampires have to deal with.

Courtesy of Florida Employment Lawyer Blog
By Saturday morning my eye muscles are finally back to normal. A few hours, my ass. We crawl out of bed to go mountain biking at the University of West Florida - where people keep trying to tell us where to find the popular mecca of trails for mountain bikers, a sprawling web of loops off a trailhead mysteriously lying somewhere on the outskirts of campus. The guys have been looking for weeks. After I tucker myself out on trails that probably bore the rest of the group, routes including a long road jaunt that involved hills which lead to that puke feeling, we find it - behind a series of parking lots, a building, and work shed.

We balance our bikes across some half a mile of narrow boardwalk, extending over a swamp where people slowly paddle orange and yellow kayaks around the bend and into the trees, and where there are still no alligators in sight. (How long do I need to live here before one graces me with its presence?!) We get off the boardwalk where there's a gap in the railing. Several yards of grass and spindly trees later, there looms the giant trailhead map. Level color-coded lines trace routes that will entertain for months. My butt bones are sorer just thinking about it - a good sore, and I bear with Cary a few more miles until I force him to take a shortcut back to our truck parked beneath the university's water tower.

Aly: Why do we even have water towers?

Cary: It's like, hey, we have water. (He makes a water tower holding his arms straight up and cupping.)

Aly: That's dumb.

Cary: You are so gullible.

Aly thinks: Shit. (And then Cary continues to explain why we really have water towers.)

We wait in the bed of the truck, in the shade and warm air, until our partners return for a Waffle House stint, where a chocolate chip waffle and grits disappear off my plate in 10 minutes or less. The slight ups and downs, sporadic roots and fields, and hopping a couple broken logs that would be no more than a bump to most anyone else make me think I should fork over the cash and jump on my own bike. Coming in last ain't bad if the reward is feeling like I'm pedaling through New Zealand to the tune of Youthgroup and a chocolate chip waffle is waiting at the finish line. Good marketing and my healthy appetite can get me to do just about anything.

Speaking of. I've done extensive research for us to get the cheapest satellite TV service for our needs - but I was bummed to find out DirectTV did this commercial instead of Dish Network. The script. The actor. The mini giraffe. The boob rubbing. The dogs playing poker. It may be in part due to the Superbowlish effects, but this is a hit, which Cary exploited on Facebook already yet failed to include the commercial in its entirety, and therefore its beauty.

Yes, the mini giraffe and case of the Russian giggly legs are the kickers. But DirectTV did what many marketers are afraid to do - jump in it. Push the envelope. And do it well. And if you hate clean cliches, go balls out. Just execute the shit out of it. The best writer. The best actor. And most important, tap the best brains at your organization, which may not be in the marketing department.

Dirt grits and grease smears wash down the shower drain before we head to the National Naval Aviation Museum and 33rd Annual Pensacola Seafood Festival. I finally learn (never ask me to recite though) the difference between and how turbine and internal combustion engines work. We sit in an old plane. Cozy. Smelly. We sit in a newer plane. The T34 (though the newer T6 will soon be used), a training (hence, the T) plane Cary will jump in, in a few. I ask dumb questions. Cary continues to tell and show me the same thing over and over about engine "cans." I'm still confused obviously. On our way out, we drive around that area of base and see where the Blue Angels park their cars and their planes; where the naval flight officers (Gooses) get their primary training (while Cary and other student pilots go to Whiting Field for theirs); and then we "stumble" upon this bad ass SAM (surface to air missile), what NFOs hunt down. Enemy heat.
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

Grouper fish (more than what it was cracked up to be), hush puppies (not what they were cracked up to be), a cup of boiled peanuts, and half a fennel cake later (powdered sugar plate licking included), we return to bed and watch Boise State take Oregon State. Boise - they jump in it too. Into that blue, blue field.

Monday, September 20, 2010

We Were Born This Way

Do your parents and/or sibling(s), even childhood friends, still view you as your 12-year-old self? Does your spouse or lover or boss only view you as the person you are, and not the person you've become?

When I used to ask my dad if life got better, or if I should enjoy [insert stage; e.g. middle school, puberty--or the lack thereof--or, what felt like the grips of mean girls akin to a Courtney Summers young adult novel], he said, you have something to look forward to--he said it convincingly, but slowly and cryptically, as usual. Hm. I think about that at least once a year. And starting with my year abroad in college, he was right. It just keeps getting better. Wiser. Secure-er. Exciting-er.

With each new life step--steps that mean you get to organize your own bookshelves, till your own garden, part your hair however you want, wear your favorite T-shirt over and over if you want--you pave your own way. But there's even more--I know it's hard to believe--but there is. You get to pick exactly who you hang out with. What you do on the weekends and in the evening. What you do and who you live with. Whether you play the piano or on the computer. Whether you sit there and do nothing or run around like a tailless lizard. We could go on and on, couldn't we? Steps that lead you away from annoying people and into the arms of people who haven't had the chance to annoy you yet. Into a state with seasons, or a place that skips the shitty ones.

But the dark side of a new moon is that your accountant wants proof you tallied your invoices right (good idea); your workplace demands consistent excellence and sweetness; your newfound friends need to know you're not a snob or a prude or an idiot; your in-laws want to know about the baby stage; your neighbors about the dog that barked and is now three-legged; your new lunch spot your new usual. New, new, new.

So it's a toss-up, between nostalgia and newness. And as we age, the former seems to get worse. The memories and catchphrases repeated too often. The throwbacks to the good 'ol days and the obsession with death. Enough. Politicians are always fucked up and music is always pushing the envelope.

Image courtesy of Fridinger BBQ 2.0
We were born this way, baby, Lady Gaga growls pitch perfect as she claims one of her 8 moon men at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and preludes her next album. Though I walk the precipice of artist intent, I daresay, we were born screaming and imperfect, stuck but in an oyster. We grow into humans that choose meaty rib cages or Paradoxical organics and vegan foodstuffs, create companies like Lockheed Martin, and question everything, including the end of the world and why it's not fun to hang out with people who suck the life out of knowledge and objects, therapy and conversations and charity.

Grow with grace, little monsters. And keep asking, "How did I get here?". Because you don't want to end up but be reborn.

Courtesy of Dezign with a D

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

Back home the two pretty red lights on my DVR are alive and well. Maximum recording capacity. And Cary wears a flight suit to work. I return to work, filing his loan consolidation and my LLC papers--and getting online orientation underway for my new virtual job. Taxes, retirement. The world of freelance is not entirely carefree.

My inbox is full. A bill is late. My blog is behind. My short story file sits un-updated. And my running clothes remain only used twice. It always astonishes me how much I can intend to do away from home and end up not doing much of. But now there are no tea and tiny sandwiches with mom this week, or vampire shows for adults. There are no invitations to shooting ranges where I can practice hunting Osama or try out being G.I. Jane or Evelyn Salt. But there is a very sick puppy and a lot of catching up to do.

We cuddle, and I wish I could give her a bath with her oatmeal shampoo before her front right leg is removed in the morning. There's been no sign of life in the limb for weeks. I took her in after she nawed on it until infection, and the doctor said sweetly and quietly that it was time to amputate. He offered to introduce me to a client and golden retriever of his--who had the exact same leg removed and is doing great, fast. Sounds good, I say. I send Cary pictures of her in the waiting room because she seems happy. I feel like we're getting her back, even though her leg is worse, because she's recovering from the accident, the scrapes and sore muscles and bones and some nerve damage around her eye healed well.

We still feel guilty no matter what anybody says. We still feel less capable of being parents sooner rather than later, than we did several weeks ago. But time is all it takes. Irritatingly, that damn clock is always not necessarily the answer but the salve. Kick in any time now, Hour Hand, because I can still feel tears bubbling every time I talk to the receptionist at the veterinarian--because she has this river of a sugar-coated, nanna voice and commentary that feels like my best friends and mom and grams combined. It takes everything in me not to hop over the counter for a bear hug.

Cary passes API, and Butters loses her leg today. But when you can't go on, you'll go on. Feel it. Write it down. Do something. Count the 11 legs left and the couple of dreams still in the works.

The novel The Unnamable (1953) by Samuel Beckett: 'Perhaps it's done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.'

If that disjointed monologue threw you like it did me, this is more 2010 and Ally McBeal when it comes to lyrics or a beat that cheers. The clip is from the movie Bandslam, featuring the make-believe - I - wish - was - real band I Can't Go On I'll Go On.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Good People of Vancouver

Courtesy of Pirate Girl's Triathlon Adventures on Blogger
The day I left for Washington state, for a wee childhood trip home before my new perma freelance job begins, we went mountain biking. More like trail biking. Well, anything with holes and roots and bugs the size of my sneaker--and more holes and roots that make me wanna throw up several times mid-trek--should be considered something akin to biking a mountain.

And as usual (and by usual, I mean all of the five times I've gone mountain biking--besides the little roller coaster of a course at summer camp when I was nine and fearless), I lose my grip many a time, many a bump, and my shins meet the spiky pedals--cousins of my nemesis road bike clip-in pedals, or cleats. But it's like running in the rain or hitting the gym at 4:45 in the morning. Hard core. And if you can bring your mind to rest on the Eclipse soundtrack funneling through your ear pods, and the beauty of the summery tunnel of a trail you are actually traversing, you feel that blessed reward.
And then I'm easily lapped by Cary and fellow Naval officer. Awww fuck.

Ahh, but a bestie and I do go for run in the rain around Vancouver Lake once in Washington, and my faith in being hard core is once again restored. And then I wanna throw up. A few times. But we trot along to the tune of mileage we're proud to say we did, blocking out the damp air and mosquitos for the sake of heart health. My friend and I watch her rock star baby mama and bum knee coworkers fade into the distance a bit. Sigh. Awwwmazing.

Courtesy of SodaHead; read the article.
We consider 'plus size model' as a very desirable job. We agree coconut M&Ms are delicious. We realize if you eat a few coconut M&Ms, you are in the running to be a plus size model; they look completely normal and healthy (both the models and the M&Ms) and therefore the category is not at all aptly named. However, there is something to be said for a six-foot tall weeping giant sequoia stomping the runway at fashion week. We stop running, and there's that blessed reward again. And dry heaves.

Blizzard, any one?

The sun visits every now and then in Washington, and when it does, it's glorious. My mom and I walk along the waterfront after lunch at McMenamins, the Columbia sparkling and shuttling sailboats along. The windows of the lucky condos big and clean. We stroll malls bigger than Cordova in Pensacola.

My dad and I laugh at "hot tubbing by the hour" offered in downtown Portland before wolfing down grape leaves and chicken dipped in baba ghannouj at our beloved Lebanese restaurant, Ya Hala. The three of us then head to a full scale model of the tabernacle that held the ark of the covenant if you believe in the Bible's Old Testament exodus.

There's no rain. We tour the tabernacle, following a soft old man who speaks well and into a microphone connected to an amp at each location. The tour guide requests a volunteer who then proceeds, a bit sadly, to use a very real looking sword to cut the throat of an innocent stuffed lamb, whose cotton neck really does look like it's lacking some stuffing. This is what the Israelites (consisting of 12 tribes) escaping that evil Pharaoh did out in the wilderness outside Egypt, with Moses and Aaron and the whole motley crew, to remember that sin costs life. Especially Jesus' life. The man sitting next to me looks like Larry the Cucumber from VeggieTales.

We move on from the altar areas to the next stage, the more exclusive outer room (it might as well have been marked PRIESTS ONLY), and even though I just ate lunch, I wonder what the showbread would taste like if it wasn't plastic. The third stage is where the ark of the covenant has been recreated. I learn the Ten Commandments were probably made of sapphire stone and therefore blue. This is cool news.

* * *

A friend made dinner for me last night. Again. It's fast becoming that every holiday or visit, she cooks for us, even if it's just me now. And it's always perfectly, absolutely fun and satisfying to the brink of a calorie coma. But then she explains a bit of the healthiness, and I remember her true culinary talent lies with making hedonism part of a healthy diet.

Besides great conversation, some laughs, some opening night football, and learning how to make garlic cloves spreadable on crustina-like bread (wrap all the cloves up in foil for an hour in a 400-degree oven; that's easy, so no qualms)--the cherry tomatoes from their garden (the sweetest I've ever had!), Tillamook's Grandma's Cake Batter ice cream (it actually does taste like cake batter, and has chunks of frosting, unlike those frozen yogurt attempts!), as well as wonder dog and the cuddliest cat ever!--were all the cherries on top. I would send her some bright, fresh dahlias if they weren't already growing swimmingly in their garden.

Needless to say, the good people of Vancouver are showing me a good time. On the docket are some vampire show finales and premieres so I can't complain even about the time running out since the days need to pass. I'm making a mental note to try and visit the vegan grocery store I can never remember the name of and catch a weird movie at Fox Tower 10. Then it's back to Florida where Cary is hitting the books, running out of casseroles, and the seven and a half legs are climbing all over him.

But I'm so enjoying being this full.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not Over the Net Yet

When I read Iris Murdoch's first novel Under the Net in college, our modern lit professor warned us against being hayseed critics. We need to have a basis for our criticism, a chunk of spoken reason, or text, behind our critiques and accolades of each book we read. Otherwise, we’ll end up looking like the foolish critic in Norman Rockwell’s painting, sucking on a strand of hay while we squint and furrow at a work of art in progress...

By the time Murdoch’s book was assigned that quarter, I was trying hard not be caught with straw between my teeth as I read about a struggling writer. Iris was female. (She passed away only a few years before I read this novel of hers.) Admirably, her gender didn’t keep her from writing from a man’s perspective.

The author created a sparkling account of Jake Donaghue, the penniless artist who networks with an array of magnetic characters throughout London and Paris. Drifting through these quintessential corners of the world, Jake flirts with starlets, crosses bookies, and brainstorms about life with the eccentric. Rekindled love and episodes of the absurd burn and douse the pages; smoldering gems of satire and panache (too much?) reveal themselves en route to Jake's final philosophy on life. From page one, witty phrases made me smile, and this marvelous little world that was constructed never ebbs far from the insightful.

Virginia Woolf called novels “life escapes.” She continued, “and perhaps without life nothing else is worth while.” If we didn’t have existence in all its zaniness—all its pitch changes and scars—where would books take us? There would be nothing left to write about and no reason to read. Many people question writers, wondering how someone can have so much to say when most are running on fumes on page eleven. You see there’s no EMPTY line for the imagination when muse is life. Ms. Murdoch proves that there’s always something worth writing about. And always something worth experiencing, read or lived.

*   *   *

What makes Under the Net stand out from my English 256 reading list is how it made me feel. Okay, okay, shrink my head. But James Joyce lost me in his streams of consciousness; Clarissa Dalloway wafted in and out of my memory. But during and ater my reading of Under the Net, the images stuck: the ambiance of a mime theater; the sheaf of wrinkles that reignited Jake’s love for Anna; his companion Finn’s quiet way; stuffing a pair of shoes into a park tree because they hurt after a night of dancing on New Year's Eve. These are remarkable things, remembered things, celebrated for just what they are, and hopefully what Ms. Murdoch intended them to be and more. Impressed upon a stranger. (Again, too much?)

*   *   *

So simple. If that glittery and romantic and artistic experience of escape lasts a second or decades after stacking a binding back together, I’d say that’s enough to keep anyone hayseed free by default.

And thank you, professor Wiss.