Archive | March, 2011

A Watched Life Doesn’t Boil and Other Grandma Trickery

29 Mar

A watched pot never boils!

I recently completed the second stage of applying for a job that I really want and waiting for a response has been agonizing. It’s probably totally unrealistic to expect a reply this soon, but that didn’t keep me from staring at my gmail this morning, willing the number of messages in my inbox to change. Instead, I had to suffer through several fake-out false alarms–I have never hated spam more, or hit the delete button with such vengeful force. I talked to my grandma on the phone around lunchtime and she was not on board with my immobile waiting. “How about coming over and doing my laundry?” she suggested. “I’ve got a big grocery list, you could go to the store for me. A watched life doesn’t boil, you know.”

“Pot, grandma. A watched pot doesn’t boil.”

“Oh, whatever.”

I went over and took her laundry up to her community laundry room. Even as I was pouring detergent though, my mind was employed by thoughts of employment. “There are at least two people applying for the job,” I speculated when I got back to grandma’s house. “But actually, there are probably a lot more.”

Grandma was unimpressed. “Psh. There’s going to be a lot of people applying to any job. Here, this is my grocery list. Don’t forget the yogurt, I really need it. And I want English Breakfast tea or Earl Grey, none of that fruity tooty stuff.”

“Maybe I haven’t heard back from them because there’s THAT many people applying. Maybe they have to comb through a zillion applicants.”

“Well then, they’ll get to you, won’t they? …Are you leaving, or not?

I went to the grocery store and wandered around. When I’m grocery shopping by myself and don’t have something I need to get home to right away, I tend to take my time to look at things and explore. The odd thing is that I’m also a fast walker, even when I’m relaxed, so my wandering never has the appearance of aimlessness. I did slow for the ice cream aisle, though. I take my ice cream selection process very seriously. You have to consider cost, size, long term flavor enjoyment, what you already have at home, what you’ve been craving. It’s very scientific, really.

On the drive home, Dancing in the Moonlight came on the radio. That’s one of my favorite songs to sing along to–you can’t listen and stay uptight, it’s a supernatural delight! It was unusually warm today, so I had all the car windows rolled down and the music blasting. It was a very spring-y, happy moment.

I got home, put the groceries away, and turned to look at Grandma playing solitaire at the kitchen table. “They probably won’t get back to me for a while. Maybe next week, maybe I won’t hear from them until next week.”
 “Go up and get my laundry,” she said as she moved a stack of cards. “It’s done by now.”
“I think one of the other applicants has a lot of writing experience.” I mentioned casually later, as I was folding grandma’s shirts.
 “Good for her,” she said, and refolded the top I had just placed aside. Apparently I’ve been folding shirts wrong for years. “Hang up my hummingbird feeder, would you? Those birds have been bugging me all week–they’re hungry.”
 “I’ll bet all that writing experience is really desirable. It probably looks really good.” Some of the sugar water spilled on me as I hung the feeder up.
 “Mmmm. If you’re going to wash your arm off, you could do those couple of dishes in the sink. You know I can never see if I’ve gotten all the food stuffs off.”
 I scrubbed a crusty dish for a good ten minutes and wondered aloud if I’d at least get an interview. “Unless they think my writing really sucks, I would hope they’d want to meet me after all this. But then, maybe there are too many applicants for that.”
 “I spilled orange juice on the kitchen floor yesterday and it’s still sticky–see if you can clean up some more, would you?”
 I mopped her floor, dusted her blinds, fixed the time on her clock, changed her hearing aid batteries, figured out that the funny smell in the fridge was from moldy cheese, and got the mail. I moved her reading chair three inches to the left, found the necklace she’s been hunting for a week, and put pretty patterned paper in the back of her breakfront. I’m thinking Grandma was reenacting her own version of If You Give a Moose a Muffin…something like, If You Distract a Granddaughter With Chores. I’m also pretty sure Mr. Feeny did this exact thing to Cory on one of the early episodes of Boy Meets World. Or maybe it was Eric, and a high school episode. Anyway, I think grandma pulled a Mr. Feeny on me. (Which is actually sort of exciting, since I’ve always wanted my life to resemble Boy Meets World.)
When I got home and logged into my email, I still didn’t have any new messages. So I guess an unwatched life doesn’t boil, either. Or, I didn’t not watch long enough. Grandma may have expertly gotten all her chores done, but I think Mr. Feeny’s moral would me more clear…


Someday, Chuck, we'll both get mail.

Book Ecstasy

26 Mar
There is a huge book sale going on in my area this weekend. Not only is it written, circled, and starred in my planner–it’s the only thing marked for the month of March. Some may consider this sad (“this” being either my social/professional life or the waste of trees that is my planner), but I know that other bibliophiles would understand. Huge. Book. Sale. Say it slowly, and it’s almost like praying.

Now, I happen to know that some of you are book nerds like me–so I’m gonna lay the specifics down and you’d better hold on to something. There will be over 30,000 books at this sale.  And get this–prices range from 50 cents to a whopping $2. Is your blood pumping yet? Do you see why I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve? Can you understand why I might be in reading hibernation after this book extravaganza?

I treasure all my books, whether I’ve read them yet or not. (These days, unfortunately, most of my books fall into that latter category. My To-Read list is getting out of hand.) I’ve always said that if I could have any extravagant, dream-home details, I would want a huge bathtub and a heaven-sent library. That’s why I love, LOVE bookshelf porn. It’s “porn for book lovers” and it makes me swoon. These are fantastic, eye-popping, majorly enviable libraries. Someday, someday I will have shelves like that. In the meantime, I’m going to spend a rainy Saturday carefully picking through 30,000 or so books. And if I whisper to them that I’ll love them forever and will give them the sanctuary of their dreams someday? Well, that’s my biblio-business.


My Current State of Life…in Poetry

23 Mar

Introspective Reflection
by Ogden Nash

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

The Far-Sighted Muse
by Dorothy Parker
from Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker

Dark though the clouds, they are silver-lined;
         (This is the stuff that they like to read.)
If Winter comes, Spring is right behind;
         (This is the stuff that the people need.)
Smile, and the World will smile back at you;
         Aim with a grin, and you cannot miss;
Laugh off your woes, and you won’t feel blue.
         (Poetry pays when it’s done like this.)

Whatever it is, is completely sweet;
         (This is the stuff that will bring in gold.)
Just to be living’s a perfect treat;
         (This is the stuff that will knock them cold.)
How could we, any of us, be sad?
         Always our blessings outweighing our ills;
Always there’s something to make us glad.
        (This is the way you can pay your bills.)

Everything’s great, in this good old world;
        (This is the stuff they can always use.)
God’s in His heaven, the hill’s dew-pearled;
        (This will provide for the baby’s shoes.)
Hunger and War, do not mean a thing;
        Everything’s rosey, where’er we roam;
Hark, how the little birds gaily sing!
        (This is what fetches the bacon home.)

It Couldn’t Be Done
Edgar Albert Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so ‘til he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Obviously, none of these poems are mine. Today just felt like a day where someone else could say (and rhyme)  it better. I’ll be back with my own words soon, but who couldn’t use some poetry in the middle of the week?

How are you poetically feeling today?

When Your Soul and Your Foot Fall Asleep

21 Mar

My right foot and my soul fell asleep at work today. Boring, hope-sucking projects will do that. Here’s what I did to wake them up:

  • I stomped on the floor several times, really hard (with my foot, not my soul–ouch), like a horse trying to communicate. This made one of my coworkers look over curiously. Interestingly, this is the same co-worker with whom I have a secret work language. “How are you?” we ask each other. We actually mean “How do you feel about work right now?” Accordingly, the responses range from “I’m pretty good” to “Need. Chocolate. Now.” and untranslatable noises. So when she looked over at me and my stomping foot, I’m afraid she may have thought that I had upped our language to the next level–morse code. I hope I haven’t established a new precedence, because I’d hate to have to learn how to stomp “chocolate” or “help” or “tell me it’s not Monday.”
  • I ate my emergency candy. This chocolate was only to be eaten in cases of extreme crisis, and after much consideration and careful thought, I ripped into that sucker like the tasmanian devil. My soul needed that chocolate fix! After the initial taste, I tried to be like Charlie (of Willy Wonka fame) and only eat a little bit every once in awhile–to preserve the chocolately goodness and stretch the enjoyment out. But my self-control is minimal when it comes to chocolate. I’ve now decided that your name must be Charlie and your grandparents must all sleep in the same bed if you hope to achieve true chocolate rationing. 
  • I worked on a different assignment for a little while. In theory, this was a great idea–a way to avoid work, but still get work done. But my distraction turned out to be an article on bakeries that needed fact-checked and edited. This meant looking at pictures of  gorgeous, scrumptious cakes and reading mouth-watering descriptions of baked goods. Since my last bit of work chocolate was now a distant memory, this was cruel…cruel indeed.  
  • I took a ten minute break and walked around the outside of the building. It was pouring rain and I had no umbrella, so I mean I actually walked the outside of the building, following it’s shape and staying under the two-foot eave all the way around. It was nice to breathe a little fresh air (it’s a small office with, shall we say, unique smells) and look at natural light instead of computer light. But I felt a little like a crazy person, following the outline of the building and muttering to myself. (Did I mention that I was muttering? I’m telling you, it was that kind of project.) There aren’t too many other tenants in this office space, but I did pass a few who happened to be sitting right at their windows. Maybe they, too, were bored to the point of physical and emotional (spiritual?) paralysis. If so, I’d like to think that I provided a brief distraction–maybe even a wake-up call. At the very least, they could watch me hobble past and think “At least I’m not an intern.”
  • I thought about the project and my foot and my soul and decided yeah, I can blog about this.

 And that’s when I started to feel tingles in my foot and my soul.

A Quick Word on Sweet Talkin’ Men

18 Mar

I’ll admit it–I’ve fallen behind on the latest news of Barbie and Ken. Despite my college education and interest in the world around me, I didn’t know that America’s original “it” couple had broken up (in 2004, after 43 years of…marriage? were they married?) and I didn’t know that they’d gotten back together (just recently, on Valentine’s Day, no less). However, more interesting than the plastic power couple’s on-again-off-again relationship status–the new Sweet Talkin’ Ken.

Sweet Talkin’ Ken is touted as “the ultimate boyfriend.” You can record compliments, thoughtful messages, and other sweet nothings, and Ken will repeat them back to you like a good little parrot. The microphone is located in his heart region (where else?) and the play buttons on his lower back allow for regular, low, or high voice responses. (The high voice option makes Ken sound like he’s been sucking helium, and the low voice option sounds like what the news uses to disguise witnesses’ voices.) 

It seems to me that this is a toy that big girls (or boys) would appreciate more than little ones. The concept is intriguing and, let’s face it, funny as hell. The folks at Children’s Technology Review made a short video of Sweet Talkin’ Ken in action, and you can tell they got a kick out of it–I was amused by their amusement.  

So? What would your Sweet Talkin’ Ken say?

I Want a Guy Who Wears a Fedora

16 Mar


I saw  The Adjustment Bureau last weekend, and as the main characters were rediscovering the limits of reality and testing the strength of their love, I thought I want a guy who wears a fedora.

I don’t think that was the point of the movie.

"Cock your hat--angles are attitudes." --Sinatra

There are a lot of fedoras in The Adjustment Bureau. I don’t think it ruins anything, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, to tell you that the hats actually have a fairly important role. Yes, they’re not just fashion statements–they aid the “powers” of the guys in the Bureau. It’s not really explained why, or at least not explained well, so I’m thinking that it was just an excuse for the male actors to don these bygone headpieces. And why not? They made them look suave and sophisticated, and as far as uniforms go, the fedora is way cooler than say, a polo shirt or a vest with pieces of flair.

The fedora even upped Matt Damon’s ante. His good looks are mentioned several times in the movie–he’s supposed to be a very young senate hopeful, so jokes are made about him standing out from the typical, less-than-chiseled politician. For me, though, it wasn’t until ol’ Matt put on a fedora that I got a twinge of oh yeah, that’s the stuff.

So I decided I wanted a guy who wears a fedora. This tipped my list of desired boyfriend attributes into the ridiculous, but I didn’t care. The fedora has been rocked by the rugged, manly Indiana Jones, the mysterious, side-talking Humphrey Bogart, and my main man: Frank Sinatra. Why wouldn’t it be on my list?


Except it’s not the same. It’s not the same nowadays. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see a guy wearing a fedora out on the street, 9 times out of 10 he looks like a tool, a poser. As I understand it, the fedora has even gotten to be a fairly common accessory for the hipster–an undernourished, oddly dressed creature that does not make my heart go pitter-patter. So really, then, I don’t want a guy who wears a fedora. Or, maybe I want a time machine…and then a guy who wears a fedora? This is getting complicated. Thanks a lot, Matt Damon.

It’s interesting that I only like the old-school fedora wearers because for them, wearing a fedora was like wearing underwear. (That analogy only works if you wear underwear everyday. If you don’t, I hope you’ll substitute a different everday clothing item…and I hope we’re not trying on the same bathing suits.) Shouldn’t I appreciate the guy who wears a fedora today, in 2011, because he’s different? But no–the heart wants what it wants, and I think mine wants the whole fedora package: nice suit, debonair manners, dashing hat. Not some punk wearing ratty skinny jeans and half a goutee. 

Some, like The Well-Dressed Gentleman and The Art of Manliness, are urging a proper fedora comeback. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to a fedora revival revolution. I just don’t know. I guess I’m in favor of Fedora: The Next Generation, but I also think they should be  pushing the whole fedora enchilada. It is, after all, what’s inside the fedora that counts. (Oh yeah, I went there.)

 I once bought a man’s tweed fedora for a couple of bucks at a garage sale, but it was too small for my head (I have a really big head). As I was writing this post, I went searching for it. I thought it would be fun to write while wearing my too-small fedora–I could be like an old-timey journalist, but without the cigarette and tendency to call every female “dollface.” But I couldn’t find my hat. It could have been sucked into a closet during one of my cleaning fits, but I suspect it was re-sold or donated. In that case, there may be a guy out there in the world with a tweed fedora and the key to my heart. If you’re reading this, Mr. X, just make sure you’re the real deal.




If you’re considering seeing The Adjustment Bureau (remember that’s how this whole thing started?) I’d advise you to wait until it’s out on video. It’s not that it was bad, it was actually pretty entertaining, it’s just that today’s movie prices make me a harsh critic. 



God Will Get You For That, Walter!

15 Mar

I thought I was going to follow Saturday’s post with one on Ways I Would Like to Appear on the News but something happened (divine intervention?) to change that. This is a story of embarrassment, minor religious epiphany, and what NOT to do when confronted with the laws of physics in church. I hope that’s peaked your interest enough, because this is going to be a long one.   

(Ahem.) Bless me blog for I have sinned, I have something to confess…

I went to church with my mom and grandma on Sunday. I haven’t been in a while but yesterday I woke up and did the whole church-y shebang. Mom and Grandma and I slowly made our way up the handicap ramp (or “grandma ramp” as it’s called by a certain relative of mine), sat down in our usual spot to the left of the altar, and did the obligatory nod-and-smile at our pew neighbors. We whispered about the lack of heat and fidgeted closer to each other as we waited for the priest to arrive. I knocked grandma’s cane over twice, causing an echoed BANG, and a few glances in our direction from people praying nearby. (Made you look!)

Pretty soon I was bored as all get-out, which is also a standard Sunday occurrence. I started playing a little game I like to call Free Will. This is when you pick out who has been brought to church against their will and who came on their own accord. Usually you can count young children and teenagers in that first group, sometimes disgruntled spouses. You look for who’s spacing out, who brought their own bible, who’s singing the songs, who’s eating cheerios.

As you may have guessed, this game was inspired by personal experience. Except for when I was away at school, I’ve pretty much attended church every Sunday of my life—barring the occasional vacation or holy sick day, of course. If this sounds impressive and like I’m a devoted Christian (or more specifically, Catholic,) don’t bless me quite yet. My church attendance record has been motivated more by a love for my grandma and mom than for a higher power. Going to church makes them happy, gives them some sort of peace, so going to church as a family seems like the very least I can do for them. Ironically, my grandma can’t hear half the time, my mom does her own “spiritual reflection” while the priest is speaking, and I tend to drift off into an endless, fascinating maze of daydreaming. The three of us probably wouldn’t pass a test on what the sermon was about, but if living, breathing bodies count for anything then we’ll get our rewards in heaven.

So instead of listening to Father D (he doesn’t really go by that, that would be too cool, I just didn’t want to use his God-given name) I was in deep philosophical thought on existence and religion and family. I had just concluded that my religion was my own and that the Catholic Church doesn’t have as strong a hold on me as my mother and grandmother when it was time for communion. Grandma whispered that she wasn’t going up (she wasn’t feeling great that day and wasn’t feeling up for the walk to the front of the church) so I side-stepped around her and followed my mom out of the pew. Grandma doesn’t skip communion very often, but when she does I usually break half of my holy bread in half and give it to her. I have no idea if that’s kosher with the church or not, but it’s something that my aunt started doing years ago and that I’ve kept up.

So it gets to be my turn at the front of the line. Father D’s helper does the “Body of Christ” and I respond “Amen.” I know the drill. Turning to head back to my pew, I also surreptitiously (like a Catholic ninja) start to break the wafer in my hand. Instead of a neat break and a quick exit, the thing slipped from my cupped hand and fell to the floor behind me. I started to turn back around, then sort of froze. It was right at the feet of Father D’s helper. He was in the middle of placing a communion on the tongue of the man who had been behind me in line, but now he followed my line of sight. This made the man whose tongue was partway out of his face look too.

Remember how I said my fight or flight instincts need a tune-up? Well, I saw that piece of holy bread on the floor, I was aware that others were aware that I had dropped it, I knew it was a big no-no to do that……..but I panicked. I mean, I panicked. Instead of picking the thing up like a reasonable person, I just turned around and went back to my pew. Shit, shit, shit, shit. I silently blasphemed with each step. When I sat down, I sort of whispered to my grandma what had happened. “YOU DROPPED IT?” Shoot, wrong ear—her left hearing aid hasn’t been working all week. “THAT’S SACRELIGIOUS! DID YOU PICK IT UP? …WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO??” By this point, anyone who had not seen my epic clumsiness and scaredy-cat reaction could now piece the story together. Grandma might as well have rang the church bells and shouted like Quasimodo.

The nod-and-smile couldn’t get me out of this one. I dropped my head and pretend to pray. But when I looked back up to the front of the church, all of the cute little altar boys were blatantly pointing and laughing at me. They weren’t even trying to subtly nudge their neighbors and point out the girl with the butter fingers and red face—they went for attention-grabbing, shame-bringing mockery instead. I bowed my head again, but my fingernails were digging into my palms and my neck was heating up and it’s hard to look worshipful under those circumstances.

Luckily, mass was almost over. When the last traitorous altar boy had walked up the aisle, I hustled over to the scene of the crime to see if the bread was still there. It wasn’t. Maybe one of the boys had picked it up, or Father D’s helper, or Father D himself. God giveth, and God taketh away…

All I know is that I thought Catholic Guilt was nothing compared with Grandma Guilt–but they both pack a pretty hard punch. Turns out, though my religion may be my own, I have enough Catholic in me to be properly appalled by my hot-potato, holy bread experience. 

After she was done being loud and dismayed, Grandma got a chuckle out of the whole thing. At brunch, she raised her coffee cup and looked at me sternly over the rim. “God will get you for that, Walter!” 

Thanks, grandma. 

Life’s Priorities and Ways I Would Not Like to Appear on the News

12 Mar


I’ve been watching the news a lot, specifically all the reports on the Japan quake and tsunami. Whenever I switched over to the closer-to-home side of things, every single local news broadcast showed the same thing: Bay Area people upset about their boats. See, the catastrophe in Japan triggered waves that eventually reached the San Francisco Bay Area. In Santa Cruz, waves rolled through the marina, sending boats bobbing like toys in the tub and capsizing many. Now, I sympathize with these people up to a certain point….but they look pretty ridiculous crying on the news and saying things like “This is like, the worst thing that could happen” when the scenes from Japan include death, devastation, and total loss. When I watched a woman sob about her ruined boat for the third time (you know how parts of the news keep getting replayed?) I was pretty disgusted. As Ron said in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: “She needs to sort out her priorities!” Finally, my annoyance bubbled up until I was yelling at the tv. “You’re on the news! People can see and hear you! You lost your mini yacht–big whoop!”

I logged into WordPress, intending to write a big, angry rant as a blog post. But you know, I decided it was unreadable. It wasn’t helpful or clever or wise and it contained quite a few spelling errors (I do that when I’m upset, take it out on my words). It was also unfair. Maybe those boat owners’ soundbites were edited to save time, and the part where they express concern and perspective about Japan was lost. Maybe they’ve had a string of bad luck lately and their boats and the clothes on their back were the only things they had left. Or, maybe they really meant what they said at the time of the recording, but then watched themselves on the news and felt shame and remorse. Who knows? I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

What has come out of this little experience is a reflection on the media and the representation of one’s self. Or…..

 Ways I Would Not Like to Appear on the News:

  1. As a person who can’t see the big picture, a person who cries over lost (unnecessary) property when there is a major loss of life in other parts of the world. (Well, you didn’t think I’d completely let it go, did you?)
  2. As one of those headless obese people. You know what I’m talking about–whenever the news talks about obesity, they show footage from the neck down of overweight people walking the streets and going about their days. I know they do that for anonymity, but I always wonder if any of those people watch the news and think “Hey, that Goofy shirt looks familiar…and I have a purple purse just like that…hey I was near that street today…ohmygod…..”
  3. As an interviewee with no smarts or personality. Sadly, I see this a lot on the news. The reporter in the field pulls aside a man/woman on the street to ask a pertinent question and the interviewee’s answer is painfully awkward or ignorant. There’s also usually stage fright involved, and so the unfortunate person ends up blabbering with a deer in the headlight look.
    “What do you think about the proposed development project that will require the demolition of the 4th street soup kitchen?”
    “Well, uh, I don’t know. I think they should talk about it. Or, maybe ask someone what to do. I, um, don’t go to the soup kitchen but I see it when I walk by… There’s usually people there, so, um, yeah….”
    Oooo, ouch.
  4. As a field reporter in a place nobody wants to be. My heart always goes out to the reporter out in the freezing wind and rain, talking to his/her coworkers back in the cushy office. For all I know, those guys love their jobs, but I think I’d probably snap.
    “Well Diane, as you can see, I’m freezing my butt off. I’ve schleped all the way out here to middle-of-nowhereville to tell you and our viewers that it is frickin’ cold everywhere, but especially so in middle-of-nowhereville. Yes, while you and Mark chuckle about Dusty the kleptomaniac cat in the temperature-controlled newsroom, I’m out here taking on Mother Nature herself…And guess what? The rhymes-with-witch must have just watched Old Yeller because the rain keeps on coming.”


What’s that? You want to know about ways I would like to appear on the news? Now that’s an idea….

“I Have Just Met You and I Love You”

10 Mar

"As soon as that shutter clicks, I'm attacking."

Short post today, but I hope you’ll agree that in this case, a collection of cute puppy pictures is worth a thousand words (or at least a couple hundred). When I read that the floating house from Pixar’s Up had been recreated by National Geographic and flown across California’s High Desert, I was tickled pink. Up is one of my favorite Pixar movies, so I love the idea that its iconic, fantastic flying house could become a reality. (As a person with a severe math phobia, I’m also really impressed that these people were able to do the calculations required to pull this off.) Apparently, to stick to the movie’s premise, the recreated house even contained two human riders and a dog! (No word on whether the dog was asked if he wanted to float 10,000 feet in the air.)

Part of the reason that movie is so much fun is its talking dog Dug. I can watch that scene where he first appears over and over because the actor who voices Dug and the writers who created him got a dog’s personality so spot-on. “My name is Dug and I have just met you and I love you!”

So, in honor of this imagination-come-to-life moment, I decided to recreate Up in a different way.  I give you: talking dogs. 

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I Shall Never Delete Again

8 Mar

Don't do it! You have so much to live for!

During my last semester at college, I took a Narrative Journalism class taught by a Real Journalist.  I heard that school officials considered it a real coup to get him to teach–and it was. He was a Pulitzer prize winner whose byline had appeared in the kind of publications that people read proudly in Starbucks, spread out on their coffee tables when company comes over, and cite in arguments they want to win. He was knowledgeable, intent on really teaching his students, and a damn good writer.

He scared the bejeezus out of me.

He looked like an older Mr. Clean or a younger Mr. Magoo, but he oozed toughness and had a zero-tolerance, no-nonsense attitude…when he was happy. On the first day of class, there were at least thirty students eagerly awaiting the prof’s arrival. When he did finally appear,  he froze in the doorway and raised his eyebrows. “There’s a lot of you this semester!” We all looked around and sort of chuckled, because that’s what you do when a teacher makes an unfunny comment. He put his briefcase on the podium and his hands on his hips. “Well, no matter. I expect at least half of you will be gone by next class. Nothing personal, you just won’t make it because either you or your writing won’t hold up.” Interestingly enough, he was right. By the second class, our numbers had significantly dwindled.

He was really into calling on people out of the blue. I thought of it like guerilla teaching because he would psych the class out, pretend he was focused on the board or a book or another topic, then suddenly bark “You! Michael! Your lede! Now!” Some students, I think, got a big kick out of the criticism. “Snore! Boring! You have to make sure the reader gets beyond the first sentence! Your third sentence is decent–why did you hide it? You’ve got to use your brain a little more–think about it!”

I had a merciless love-hate relationship with this course. I recognized the value of the learning experience, but when it was time for class I would cling to the ceiling like a terrified cat and my roommate would have to approach cautiously and coax me down in a gentle voice. “It’ll be okay…You can do this…Pretty girl…Good girl…” It was a three-hour class (7-10 p.m.) and sometimes during our mid-class break I would see other students grabbing a late-evening snack or hanging around the quad and I’d dream about making a break for it. I had a big soul-searching experience though, and decided that my fight or flight instincts were heavily skewed and mightily screwed up. (Fight or flight? Which way is the door?) So, even though the class and the teacher made me cower and sweat (on the inside and outside, respectively), I stayed. I stuck it out.

My final assignment of the semester was a profile on the author Michelle Huneven–whose work is fabulously haunting, by the way. When I got one of my many drafts back the professor’s comments were inserted directly into the piece and written in all caps. It gave the impression that he was interrupting my paper to yell his thoughts. 

Huneven is the author of three novels which GO ON A “WHICH” HUNT! KILL THE WHICH! IT DRAGS YOUR WRITING DOWN DOWN DOWN! have individually and collectively earned critical praise and success.

He definitely had some problems with my profile, but in between the critique, if you looked carefully, were little nuggets of praise. It’s not like he gushed or anything, but that was the point. He wasn’t a gusher; you earned his compliments or you didn’t. That’s why those nuggets–extra crispy, the way approval should be–meant the world to me. 

Recently, I deleted  these comments. It was an accident–a horrible, tragic accident. To make a long story short (and this has gotten to be a long story) I had a whole bunch of windows open on my computer screen and didn’t realize which one I was working in. Stupidly, I deleted his comments and when Word asked if I wanted to save all changes, I clicked yes.

At first I thought I could ask some techy person (gods, in my opinion) and they could magically find what I had foolishly lost. But what’s saved is saved. When I truly realized what I had done, I unraveled. I’ll admit, I even cried. I’d been storing those comments like nuts for the winter. I’d been treasuring them like a mystical golden ring. (“My precious!”) My mom happened to call during this little crisis and, after decoding the situation from my frustrated ranting, asked if I still had the article itself. Well, yes. I still had the profile I had written on Huneven, just not the critique by my professor. “But you have the article!” My mom said. As far as she was concerned, that was what was important.

I’ve tried to find comfort in the fact that my words weren’t lost. Shouldn’t I care more about my work than this response to it? Who cares if I can’t quote exactly what those comments said, as long as I remember how I felt reading them. That’s the theory, anyway. The reality is that I’m still mourning the loss of those comments. I think we all keep little reminders of success and struggle. It’s an ego thing. It’s a confidence thing. It’s a human thing.

Before you ask, my computer now automatically makes backups and saves originals, so hopefully that will counteract my technological foolishness. You know one of the most frustrating things about this experience? When I told people what happened, they would say things like “You didn’t back it up?” or “That’s why you should always have a copy elsewhere.” Let me tell you, as legitimate and natural as those reactions may be, they’re just not particularly helpful or comforting. I might have to teach an etiquette course so people know how to properly deal with computer document bereavement. For me, there was a lot of chocolate involved, which (WHICH!) I should probably devote a whole class to….