Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More or Less

It's been a good day, more or less. 

I say "more or less" because I've spent it doing virtuous, but not necessarily enjoyable things.  For example, I got my teeth cleaned.  I don't really like having my teeth cleaned in general, but I will also say that, in my opinion, a lot hinges on the hygienist.

In my own case, this particular hygienist announced that there was "quite a bit of tartar under the gum line on the left side," so she was "going to have to dig around a bit."

Oh.  Great. 

I said, "Oh, goody. Thanks for letting me know, I guess." I in turn let her know that I have sensitive teeth in general, so she should "get ready for some flinching."

She said that was "okay" that she was "used to people flinching."  She then said, "As long as there's no hitting."

I paused, thinking she must be joking, but she didn't laugh or wink or anything, so I said, "Well, I really don't think it's going to get to that point, do you?"

She said, "I don't think so, but some people... you wouldn't believe what they're like.  I'm like, really?"

This was not a heartening conversation, in short.

In retrospect, I do think hitting her would be taking it a bit too far, but on the other hand, she did at time seem to have a mild strain of sadism in her veins.  I know I've had more tarter buildup in years past, and my teeth weren't ... treated... quite so aggressively.  And she tended to have quite a few critical comments about my brushing technique, or lack thereof, but I do think she truly meant to be helpful, so I don't hold that against her.

Plus, it had been over a year since I had been in.  For the record, I don't go to the dentist every six months.  Once a year.  That's my goal.  I refuse to go twice a year.

So, at this point, my feeling is it's over for another year.

And at this precise moment, I'm waiting for an oil change for my car.  The TV is blaring "Wheel of Fortune," but I'm doing my best to drown it out and I'll be glad when this task is also over.

I decided to swing on by after teaching a three-hour class this afternoon, that was nothing short of delightful.  One of the reasons I haven't been blogging so much (I think) is that I've been busy enjoying my classes and writing away on an article on the role of confession in Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

I've been saving my writing and thinking chops so I can put them to good use in things related to school, in short. And so far, so good.

This weekend, I have plans for some fun.  My best friend has a painting in a show, so I'm heading to visit her and her family and go to the artist's reception on Friday night and just generally have a bit of fun.

So that will mean less blogging, but more life.  For now, I'll take it.

Friday, March 18, 2016


I'm currently winding down a Spring Break that has gone swimmingly, in every sense of the word.

I've been swimming every single day this week.  This makes me even happier than usual because it definitively means that I've finally gotten over the World's Most Stubborn Head-Cold.  That sucker was one for the record books, that's for sure.

Speaking of which, I realized the other day that I never shared a photo of the sweater that I finished as a result of all the couch-ridden illness, sooooo... here 'tis.

And I have to confess, in the flurry of extraordinary happiness that accompanied my arrival on Spring Break, I ... ordered more yarn.

No, I do not "need" more yarn.  In the spirit of an aggravated King Lear, I say to you, "Question not the need."  

Yes, I'm sure some people let their stash run so low that they find that they "need" yarn, in a very basic and fundamental way.  Personally, I cannot imagine surviving such an experience, since the only equivalent I can think of is finding that you are "out" of oxygen.  Or water.

In my case, it is simply that I was forced to wrestle with the fact that green is my favorite color, and every conceivable shade of green yarn was on sale this week, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

Now I ask you: how could I be expected to resist that?  Not only is resistance futile, but in this case, it would be nonsensical.  I'm bound to make something green again someday soon, so I should have the yarn to do it.  It's as simple as that.

In addition to ordering yarn, I've been knitting it.  I think it's a Spring Fever phase with me and the knitting right now, because I have honestly lost count how many ongoing projects I have.  I think it's at least... five.  Or so.  Define "ongoing."

So that should give you a sense of how that's going.  I've also been reading and reading.  I stumbled upon Charlotte Delbo's Auschwitz and After, and at some point I'm going to blog about it.

It's intense.  That's all I want to say about it right now.

Speaking of intense, I read The Perfect Storm (1997), because I watched the movie (during one of my February illnesses) and I was interested in finding out more about what happened there in a  meteorological sense.

Because I don't know about you, but my impression was that the movie consisted largely of fishermen bickering like teenage girls in a high school hallway, followed by a series of special effects that boiled down to throwing huge buckets of water at George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg and anything and everything else on set and then... a lot of wind roaring and people screaming followed by a huge funeral.

The book, on the other hand, well... the book had all kinds of interesting information about Coast Guard rescue swimmers and Air Force pararescuers (also called "parajumpers" or "PJ's") which I for one was glad to learn about.

I'm guessing--hoping, actually--that I'll never have much of an opportunity to meet anyone in either of these fields, since I'm pretty sure that we don't hang in the same social circles and the only other way I'd meet them is if they were in the process of rescuing me from some truly unimaginable situation, so I was happy to find out about their unique line of work.

I'm glad they're out there.

Less glad to learn, though, that ocean waves can, in a major storm, get to be 100 ft high.  That seems unfair.  And terrifying, of course--totally terrifying.  

So to offset all of this Spring Break trauma and disaster-based reading, I started reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel, Americanah (2013).  It's a long novel, about--broadly stated-- two young Nigerians who live and work in Nigeria, London, and the US.  I'm really enjoying it, and I'm hoping I'll be able to blog about that one someday soon too.

For now, though, I'm focused on finishing a set of revisions to an article on Shalamov that my co-author and I are still trying to find a home for, and a set of revisions to an article on Zola.

If I ever again voluntarily try to write about Zola, I'm hoping I'll remember this phase of my life and shoot myself.  It was a good idea in the beginning, but Zola is not a favorite and at this point, I couldn't care less about anything he says or does in any book or essay that he has written, ever.

I've nearly given up no fewer than seven times now, but I've decided I've come too far to simply abandon the project entirely.  So, this is me: sticking to it until the bitter end.

At this point, it's getting a bit bitter.  So I'm hoping for better.  Soon.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


The last couple of weeks did not go as planned.  In fact, the original plans had to be scrapped entirely, and new plans put in place.

First and foremost, I came down with a nasty, stubborn little cold.  The kind you remember getting when you were a kid.  I haven't had a cold like that in years.

For the first 12-24 hours, I was in denial.  I figured it was "a little cold" and that "all" I had to do was take a decongestant, stay low-key, and go to bed early, and I'd have it on the run by the next morning. This was last Friday.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up last Saturday morning and felt NO better.  In fact, maybe a little worse, if by "worse" you mean that the OTC decongestant wasn't worth a fiddler's damn and all it had done was ensure that I was "non-drowsy" for several of the wee hours of Saturday morning.   

I awakened at 5 a.m. on Saturday and decided I needed to regroup.  I began drinking hot water with lemon and honey by the gallon--because hey, did I mention?  this cold had one of those coughs that sound like you're about to lose a lung--and I set up shop on the couch for the duration.

My state of denial continued through Saturday, during which I reminded myself that "this kind of thing happens," and that really, the fact that I wasn't cured in a mere 12 hours wasn't "that bad," and that obviously, certainly, Sunday morning would see a total recovery.

When I awoke on Sunday morning and realized that I would be spending ANOTHER day basically bed-ridden (couch-confined, actually), I began to cuss.  And cough.  And lament.  

I had reached the bottom of my optimism barrel.

This happened, at least in part, because of an innate sense of vanity.  When it hit noon on Sunday, I realized that I would be standing in front of a room full of impressionable young minds in approximately 24 hours. 

And at that point, I looked like a cross between Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a mouth-breathing bullfrog.  I couldn't really hear anyone or anything that didn't have its volume set on the highest possible setting, and I was prone to suddenly barking like a seal, courtesy of a cough that was triggered by things like... breathing. 

My precise thought was, "Dear God, I really can't teach like this."  But because I felt so crappy, I couldn't quite piece together what the alternative was going to be.

And then, miracle of miracles, the cold began to retreat.  Suddenly, inexplicably, thankfully.

By Sunday night, I felt better.  By Monday, I was able to teach my class, even though I felt wiped out afterward (3 days confined to bed or couch takes a toll).  Tuesday and Wednesday were even better, and little by little, the stubborn little thing that wrecked my world for a week has come under my control.

The good news in all of this is, bed-ridden enabled me to read.  I read Imre Kertesz's Fatelessness. Kertesz is a Hungarian writer and a survivor of Buchenwald--Fatelessness is a fictional novel that tells the story of a 14-year-old boy who survives Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

And yes, if you're wondering, reading a novel like that when bedridden with a mere cold definitely prevents you from feeling too terribly sorry for yourself.

Because unlike the protagonist you're reading about, you at least have food.  And hot water.  And blankets.  And no Nazi SS officers are awakening you at dawn to insist that you perform 14 hours of grueling manual labor.  

I also read Monica Sone's memoir, Nisei Daughter.  Sone was a second-generation Japanese American: she and her family were interned in Camp Harmony in Washington and Camp Minidoka in Idaho during the Second World War.

Again, a narrative that offered an implicit check against any tendencies towards self-pity that I might have been entertaining last weekend.

And through it all, there was knitting.  I made a virtue of necessity and worked on a cardigan that included miles and miles of mindless stockinette stitch.  I didn't want to risk anything more complicated, given my congested brain.

Long story short, the change of plans went about as well as could be expected.  And now, I'm a mere 5 days away from Spring Break.  

Bring it.