I’ve been taking stock of my behavior lately to see if, perhaps, I have become unbalanced. Unhinged. Unglued. Because I am incapable of determining this myself, I offer evidence of my derangedness for your consideration in the following paragraphs.
My current state of mind
Last night the bedroom was stuffy so I opted to sleep on the sofa. This morning at 7:30 (which, with our weird sleep patterns, is the equivalent of 3:30 a.m. to most of you), I heard an unfortunate soul down on the sidewalk talking loudly to himself. We’re a floor up from ground level, so I wasn’t particularly concerned but I wished he’d shut up so I could get back to sleep. I jammed my earphones deep into my ears and cranked up a British show on architecture that is so boring and soothing that it puts me to sleep. I dozed off. Then the voice sounded like it was in the room with me and there was rustling. As in it sounded like the man in question was dragging palm fronds around my living room in a re-enactment of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I forced my eyes open, rolled over—my nightshirt riding up and exposing my backside—and there right outside my personal living room was the be-hard-hatted head of a tree trimmer.
He was not proselytizing nonsensically but instead telling his work buddy the best methods to climb a tree. (Take note: always plan your climb ahead of time. Visualize.)
I went from pleasantly asleep to embarrassed (exposed backside, remember) to frothing-at-the-mouth angry in less than 60 seconds. Surely this is an unprecedented array of emotions for so short a time?
Though Seattle—the Emerald City—is very green and tree-inclined, we do not live on a very emerald-y block. We have one, full tree outside our window that is so thick and lovely that birds sit on it regularly and sing to us. The tree offered much needed shade during the heat wave two weeks ago. With this tree, a few months a year, we have the illusion from certain angles that we live in a tree house, and in summer, if one of us forgets our robe, we can streak across the living room post-shower with little worry that the Millennials in the 14-story building across the street will see our aging, naked flesh.
Those days are over. The tree now looks like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree only with a few leaves and zero ornaments. No self-respecting bird will ever sit on it again. I wanted to yell at the man in question, but I’m pretty sure I have no authority over the official tree trimmers of Seattle, so instead, I pulled the sheet over my head (and my backside) and I seethed for two hours until I fell back asleep (after they’d thrown the tree limbs into a very loud wood chipper and done additional trimming with a chainsaw).
Added disappointment: now that the shade of the tree is gone, our filthy windows are on display in the sunlight. (This perpetual sunlight that plagues Seattle in summer and further agitates my mood.) They haven’t been washed on the outside in the eleven years since Z moved in because no building manager has made it a priority. So basically, Z and I are now living in Ralph and Alice Kramden’s gray, depressing Honeymooners apartment in a New York City tenement.
In addition to this, I’m a little exhausted from the rollercoaster of emotions that is the current political climate in America. On the personal front, I’m delightfully happy. I’m teaching. I’m writing. I love reunifying with Z after three weeks in Indiana, and I enjoy his summer break because we have more hours of the day to hoot it up together and love each other up.
But then there is the national news and the distress that it causes. One day I’m worried about immigrants being booted from the country, including my husband. The next day I’m wondering if we should do research on where the nearest nuclear fallout shelter is. The day after that I’m weeping because actual Nazis doing actual Nazi salutes are spreading their hate on American soil. (Even if we were too young to remember World War II and those Nazis, weren’t we all raised on Indiana Jones? Wasn’t the premise of those movies Nazis are bad and we must put our lives on the line to fight them? The mind boggles that this is even a thing we are discussing nationally.)
Thus, emotional whiplash sufferer.
My state pride
When I was growing up, it was not out of the ordinary to hear an uncle tell a joke about someone living in Kentucky in which the Kentuckian was presented as being a bit of an idiot. For much of my childhood, I believed it to be an inherent truth that Kentuckians (other than my Uncle Clay who was born in Kentucky and wickedly clever) were not as smart as we were. One of my favorite jokes was about a Hoosier who yelled across the Ohio River to a Kentuckian who was hoping to get to the other side and offered to shine his flashlight so the Kentuckian could walk across the water on the beam of light. The Kentuckian hollered back, “I’m no fool! I know when I get half way across, you’ll turn the light off.”
So it was some shock to me as an adult to discover that Indiana is the butt of a lot of jokes. In particular and for reasons I don’t understand, Missouri apparently tells a lot of Dumb Hoosier jokes. Shows like The Middle don’t really highlight our strengths, and since we often come in on the wrong end of nationwide surveys and statistics about weight and education, not to mention backward-thinking legislation, we don’t exactly cover ourselves in glory either.
I tell you this so if you do feel it necessary to read the next paragraph and say, “Well, what do you expect? She’s from Indiana?” you should know that I’m already aware of your derision. I understand the tendency to mock.
Last month when I came home from Indiana, I had fourteen un-shucked ears of corn in my suitcase.
Go ahead. Laugh. You can’t hurt me with your ridicule and here’s why: Indiana sweet corn is hands down the best sweet corn there is out there, and my Aunt Jean’s sweet corn—freshly picked the morning of my flight in this case—is the best sweet corn in Indiana. And furthermore, if you are eating only one ear, or worse, a half an ear at a time, you are a fool. Indiana sweet corn must be eaten by the plateful. It should be your entire meal. Coat it in butter, salt it up, and worry about your pants fitting and your blood pressure spiking when corn is out of season because it will be, all too soon.
And no. Sweet corn from Washington does not “taste the same.”
While I was still home, Mom and I drove north to see cousins of both the Hoosier and Irish variety. The Irish ones were in country for a graduation, and they were staying in a vacation rental in Douglas, Michigan. I hadn’t seen the parents for two years and it had been more like eight since I’d seen the offspring graduate in question, so it was a delightful afternoon catching up with them. We decided to go across the water to Saugatuck for lunch, and afterward we walked around the quaint artsy town that felt a bit like Cape Cod. The cousins asked if we’d been there before and we assured them we had not. We oohed and aahed at the tree-lined streets, the quaint cottages, the shops of art and books and fudge.
It was new to us, this sweet little coastal enclave. Later, Mom and I confessed to each other that we had gotten simultaneous senses of déjà vu but we shrugged it off. It just reminds us of pictures we’ve seen from New England we decided.
The afternoon was full of stories from Ireland and a lot of truly delightful conversation that so transported me to the west of Ireland that on the drive home (fortunately on the interstate so I was inclined to stay on the correct side of the road), I briefly forgot that I was actually in America and not Ireland. I kept wondering at how green and magical everything in southern Michigan looked and expected to see stone walls and sheep.
It was very discombobulating.
Later that night when we were back in our hotel room, Mom said, “You know, I think we have been in Saugatuck. We stopped there on the way home from Grand Haven a few years ago.” She was right. Somehow neither of us had been able to piece together a coherent memory of it when we were actually there, but everything we were oohing and aahing over had already been oohed and aahed over nine years ago.
How do you forget an entire town you’ve actually been in before? How do you forget you aren’t in Ireland when you’re driving down a U.S. highway?
My choice to buy these shoes though no one forced me & I wasn’t on drugs:
My false sense of my own intelligence
When I got back from Indiana, it was Hudge’s birthday and she decided to celebrate by treating herself, our friend Providence, Z and me to an Escape Room experience down in Belltown. None of us had ever done one. Among us, we have eight graduate degrees (come spring), one of us has a PhD, one of us did some work in “intelligence,” and at least one of us was raised on Trixie Belden mysteries, so I was feeling confident that we’d escape within the designated 60 minutes before we’d be “killed” by poison gas. I considered the possibility that we might even break records. We were instructed before going into the Victorian-inspired room of a supposed explorer that we could ask questions and hints would appear on the screen that was our countdown clock.
Friends, it was not pretty. I can’t believe that they use escape rooms as a team-building exercise because it did not feel like we were building a team. It felt like we were four headless chickens. And if I were being observed specifically, I think an employer might have fired me on the spot because I was not displaying my best qualities. I felt annoyed with myself but also everyone else for not being smarter and quicker. I got stroppy with Z who kept asking the game master (who gave cryptic help at best) for clues, which for reasons I can’t explain, felt like cheating and made me cross. (It should be noted that of the four of us, Z was the only male and the only person willing to ask for help, so I’m not sure what that says about Z or the notion that men would rather die at the side of the road than ask a passerby for directions.) When we had ten minutes to go, I wanted to sit down, put my head in my arms, and just tell the game master we gave up because it was clear we were not going to “win.” It was not a gold star Girl Scout behavior moment.
Also disturbing: at one point, we had to get on our hands and knees and crawl through a low space, and I discovered that I am now of an age where crawling is uncomfortable and best avoided. Something I’ve been doing since I was a baby is now, basically, a skill that is lost to me.
Finally, once we’d been gassed and the game master came in to talk us through our foul-ups and missed hints, my competitiveness re-animated. I got obsessed with other escape rooms I could try. I downloaded a puzzle on my iPad that I believed would make me a better contender next time I find myself in a locked room, and finally, I became particularly obsessed with an escape room in Cincinnati that has my surname in the title. I wondered if I should try to gather my family members together at the holidays and we could try to escape together. (Though in retrospect, we might hate each other—or at least they might hate me—when it’s all over.)
My choice to teach a class on writing and procrastination
You know me. You know my issues with deadlines and daily writing schedules and writing productivity. I think you can see the problem with this.
My inability to stay focused
Yesterday, a mini-van drove past with something like “Graffiti Be Gone” written on the side of it, and for a full fifteen minutes after it passed me, I considered that perhaps this is a business I should get into. I’m never good at imagining practical work that offers a real world service, and in Seattle, where graffiti abounds, this would be a real growth market. I considered how I might showcase my skills, to whom I might advertise, what the logo would look like. I even imagined the money I would make from this venture: how much it would be, what I would do with it, and how there might even be write-ups about me in trade magazines. I would win the equivalent of the Pulitzer for graffiti removal.
And then I realized in the midst of my reverie that I have never excelled at any sort of physical labor and I don’t know the first thing about graffiti removal. Do you just paint over it? Scrub it really hard with OxiClean? No idea. It’s the sort of thing I’d have to phone my Virgo mother for: Mom, what do you think I should use to get the Anarchy symbol off my front door?
(FYI, she would recommend dishwashing detergent. Right now, it is her go-to cleaning supply. I can’t think of the last time she recommended anything other than Lemon Fresh Joy. Most recently, it removed a mystery stain from my sofa arm. You should try it on everything from carpet stains to whatever you just dripped down your front while eating your lunch. It’s amazing.)
Anyhow, your takeaway should be this: if you have graffiti on your premises, don’t call me because I don’t have a clue what to do about it.
I do this sort of thing all the time. Often it’s for jobs I absolutely know I DO NOT want. Jobs that require you to stand all day or be outside under the sun holding a sign in a construction zone that says “SLOW.” I’ll worry about this. How ill-equipped I am for this work as if it is actually going to be my job. I consider how badly I’d feel at the end of the day. Whether or not I’d get along with the other workers. And then there is this moment that is the equivalent of waking from a nightmare when I realize, “Oh, wait. No one is really expecting me to get a job on a construction site. It’s okay. And some of those people who are doing that work actually enjoy it and have real skill at it, so you don’t even have to feel badly for them, Beth, because they have different strengths and proclivities than you do.”
Also, I should probably point out that when I had this Graffiti Be Gone daydream, I was sitting in Starbucks with Z having a conversation about the recent ugliness in Charlottesville. That is: I was in the middle of a conversation, and mostly holding up my end of it, yet inside my brain I had started a business for which I am badly equipped. Is there a drug you can take to stop this sort of behavior? Would a fidget spinner help?
No wonder then that halfway through a good many of our conversations, I will have to stop the words coming out of my mouth and say to Z, “Huh?” because it is suddenly clear to me that not only have I not heard him fully, I don’t even know what I’m talking about.
My refusal to admit when I don’t understand something
My tech whiz brother was here for a week, and as is our custom, Z and I pepper him with questions about tech issues we don’t understand. Earlier this year when he was visiting he made our Netflix stream more efficiently by hooking up some cables (a.k.a. “magic”). On the occasion of this trip, Z decided to ask him about BitCoin, the crypto-currency that you may have recently read about because if you had invested a thousand dollars in it four years ago it would be worth something like four gazillion dollars now. I don’t understand what it is. I don’t understand where it comes from. And I’m particularly unclear on how someone—some governing body—isn’t controlling it because it is my firm belief that the world tends towards chaos and thus this is a recipe for disaster. My brother spent ages trying to explain it, reading descriptions of it to us, offering analogies from which my non-tech brain should have been able to draw comparisons. At the end of the conversation, Z had some working knowledge of it, but I was in a full-on, feet-dug-in hrrmph because clearly, it is the stupidest thing to have ever been invented if I can’t easily grasp what it is and how it works.
My confused loyalties
I’ve spent more than a few minutes worrying about what I will do if the Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders play each other this football season because while I love the Seahawks, the reason I fell in love with them was Marshawn Lynch, and now he has taken his own particular brand of briefly-retired skill and quirky humor away from us and to his hometown. A decade ago if you’d asked me where the Seahawks were from, I would have said, “I dunno. San Diego? It’s a baseball team, right?” But now, I feel like my boyfriend just announced he’s taking someone else to the Homecoming dance.
Oh, Marshawn. We hardly knew ye.
I love dogs and the only thing that really gets me out of the house for a walk is the promise of seeing the neighborhood dogs. Even though I know it is wrong, I need for a dog to look a certain way or it pains me. They don’t have to be purebred, but they need to not be pointy. They need to not be yappy. They need to look like they’ve got some intelligence going on behind the eyes (although I do not insist they have a working knowledge of Bitcoin). I am not particularly afraid of any dog and will hold my own with a pit bull or a German Shepherd or a Doberman so long as it isn’t frothing at the mouth to get to me. That said, I will cross the street to avoid a Chow. I don’t trust them and I don’t like their demeanor. Not only have I known ones with lightening-quick mood changes but the fact that they look like bears with blue tongues makes me uncertain that they are even canine.
I currently have twelve books I’m reading. Twelve. And that doesn’t count the numerous titles I plan to “get back to soon” that I started and jettisoned ages ago.
My need to rank things
I have an ice-crunching addiction that is, perhaps, the hardest thing about me for Z to deal with, which is saying a lot because there’s a lot about me that could be construed as “troublesome.” His ears are sensitive but my iron-poor blood cries out for glasses and glasses of ice to crunch on a daily basis. I get as excited about a good cup of ice as I used to get excited about a hand dipped Jif-infused peanut butter milkshake. Despite this frustration of Z’s, he regularly brings me bags of ice and I am constantly rearranging which brands and purveyors of bagged ice that I prefer in Greater Seattle (Fuel Star followed closely by Ready Ice are currently at the top). I try to have conversations with him about what restaurants have the best ice and what makes good ice (not too frozen, a little air) despite the fact that I know the subject pains him because it reminds him that he will be listening to me gnaw through half a bag while we’re trying to watch Game of Thrones.
I am watching Game of Thrones from beginning to the current episodes again for approximately the fifth time. Does anyone need to see anything five times? No. But I’m obsessed with the storytelling and want to know what was said in Season 1 that is now coming to fruition. (Also, I’m thinking Arya needs to add a few more names to her hit list. Some from the show. Some from my life. That early-morning tree torturer seems like he might be a good candidate, and I’m none too happy about a fellow on Facebook who recently suggested that my mother should “Get a clue.”)
My inability to know when to end things
I have trouble with knowing when a visit or a phone conversation should end. I keep talking long past the point of interest by myself or the other party simply because I have no skill at dis-entangling myself. (For that matter, I once went on one date with someone with whom I saw zero future but somehow ended up in a three-and-a-half-year relationship because neither of us could figure out how to pull the plug after a year.)
This blog post is another example.
Hopefully at this juncture, you have enough evidence to determine for yourself my mental state and whether or not you’d feel comfortable sitting next to me on a cross-country bus trip.
As far as I can tell, you’re no more screwed up than anybody else in the country, including me. Although, admittedly, that’s not a particularly good thing.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, though you might want to add this to the data in the category of “unbalanced”: when I went out to look at the eclipse today I was so busy watching the people watching the eclipse that I basically forgot to look at the sun.
All I can say is I am guilty of some of these behaviors, which your dear cousin would probably label as….oh heck I can’t remember the label, but it’s on the order of being scatterbrained, forgetful, space cadet, you get the picture! My father in law even called me perduta, the lost one. Sigh. And age hasn’t really improved my forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, day dreaming, etc.
I’m afraid I’m doomed, Aunt Ann!
The fact that you have Marshawn-Lynch angst, proves that you are sane. Or just as sane as the rest of us 12s. GO SEAAAAAA — HAWKS !!!!!!
In this week’s game it felt a lot like McKissic was channeling Marshawn. I’m hoping that will ease my angst.
My money is on Eddie Lacey.
Marshawn Lynch! I never heard of him until he guest starred on Brooklyn 99 (the Andy Samberg sit-com on Fox) and he was so dead-pan idiotic funny that I thought he was a professional comic pretending to be a famous athlete.
I have DoG lust, and it’s bad. I want to glom onto every passing DoG I see, but I’m with you on Akitas. They are scary. My problem is that I am a life long Cat Person who was inspired to adopt an elderly DoG I saw on TV and she was a 17-year old not housebroken cocker spaniel who I had for 9 moths 2 weeks and a day and when she died I went bat shit crazy; I can’t say that I would choose to get another cocker spaniel but I am bereft and DoG-less to this day. I am a Wanna Be DoG Person but I don’t know what kind of DoG Person I am. I took an internet quiz and was told that if I were a DoG, I’d be a Chow Chow. (Strong,silent,willful, suspicious of strangers.) As information goes, it is not helpful to know this.
I’ve been reading a blog written by a Scottie DoG Person: http://twosquaredogs.blogspot.com. Lordy, it takes a special kind of human to love a Scottie. They are not, I think it’s safe to say, “easy” DoGs. But then, “easy” is boring.
So Kentucky is the butt of Indianans’ jokes, and Indiana is the butt of Missourians’ jokes. You know the Belgians are the butt of French jokes (and I have to say that I find that a lot of them are pretty stupid; your Kentucky joke is much funnier than the average French joke) and my Norwegian step-father used to tell a lot of “dumb Swede” jokes. And if you live in Maine, you know what a “MASShole” is. When I lived in Philadelphia way back in the early 1970s, separated from The Garden State by the watery boundary of the Delaware River, Philadelphia Magazine ran a headline” With Just a Little Push, New Jersey Could Become an Island”. After all these years, I still think that’s funny.
This was a great blog post. I really hear your voice, and your humor, and you brought up some many topics of conversation (see: Comment, above) that it was a pleasure to read, and ruminate, and respond. I want those andirons.
Thanks, Vivian. I didn’t know about Marshawn on “Brooklyn 99.” I’ll be looking for it post haste. I loved him on a wilderness adventure with Bear Grylls (still available online), though it’s possible NBC has never had to bleep something as much as that episode.
I recently re-read your post about your cocker spaniel. One of my favorites. (FYI, everyone else: http://vivianswiftblog.com/?p=12465 ). I’m glad you are feeling DoG-y again. I was actually thinking Scotties would agree with you. The key is finding a Capricorn one. I contend they are smarter, better behaved, and more intuitive than Scotties (and several people) born the other 11 months of the year. Mac did once eat one of my bras and sometimes did some “reading” of magazines if he was left too long on his own, but on the whole, he was exceedingly well behaved. And my goodness, do they look good on a leash. They have amazing comportment.
I want those andirons too, and I don’t even have a fireplace.
Oh Beth, I miss you. I laughed so hard at “Oh, Marshawn. We hardly knew ye.” Also, I totally know what good ice is. Growing up, my Mom was an ice chewer. At our house, it was Mike’s Ice. Mike’s Ice all the way, all the time. God help you if Mom found out you passed the Citgo on Hampton Ave. without stopping for Mike’s Ice, just in case.
I love a good cup of good ice.
Now I want to try Mike’s Ice and see where it ranks! Please come back to Seattle and we will crunch ice in stereo and drive Z to distraction! (If we’d had Marshawn this weekend, your Packers would NOT have beaten us, no matter how hard Aaron Rodgers tried to hypnotize us with his sleepy, melancholy eyes.)
Also, I wanted the story behind the shoes! 🙂
I have this fantasy that I’m the kind of person who can pull off the funky shoe look, even though the truth is that I once had a pair of red ballet flats in 1987 that embarrassed me because I felt the red called attention to themselves. (I have Quaker genes.) So I bought these and their comfort and my embarrassment are duke-ing it out. Also, when I wear them, I do not look funky or artistic. I look like a woman who thinks a bedazzled sweatshirt distracts people from the fact that she’s aging.
Wow, you were totally right about McKissic! GO 21, go, watch him run! Let’s see if he and the Seahawks can do it again this week. GO HAWKS !!!!
I know very little about football and only started watching it when I moved here, so my McKissic prediction was pure intuition. He moves like Marshawn and I think the Seahawks were feeling his absence last year, so hopefully McKissic will fill that gap!