Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's Saturday Morning

It is Saturday morning, and my house still smells -- deliciously -- of grilling steak.  I came home last night, unpacked the food box, and turned on the skillet.  The steak had been thawing in the fridge for two days and was now completely thawed.  I seared both sides and then covered it and turned down the heat.  I got out an enormous baking potato and scrubbed its golden skin.  I toyed, briefly, with the idea of making a salad or roasting an ear of corn to go with the steak and potato, but I knew I wouldn't be able to (comfortably) eat them all.  I did, however, eat both steak and potato, comfortably, while watching "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest" and mulling over America's ridiculous need to pretend that everyone in this country is beautiful.  The actors in this Swedish movie were, every single one of them, imperfect in all sorts of ways.  Wrinkles.  Weird hair.  Saggy bellies and strange faces and corrugated necks and floppy eyelids.  And those are just the main characters.  The common people are practically deformed, by American movie standards.  And I've just been watching a few television shows, so I am familiar with that.

It's Saturday morning, and I'm eating a toasted peanut butter sandwich and drinking Paul Newman's Virgin Lemonade.  I'm really uncertain as to how lemonade can be virgin, or how you cause a lemon to lose its virginity.  But then, I'm still pretty vague on the whole olive oil thing, too.  And don't even get me started on "Extra Virgin" olive oil.  The mere concept makes my head spin on my shoulders.  It sounds like the sort of thing the Catholic church would come up with to describe the Virgin Mary, whom they delineate a virgin long after the birth of Christ and his twelve or thirteen brothers and sisters.

It's Saturday morning, and I'm just returned form the library, where I returned a bag of books and DVDs, and picked up a further bag of books and DVDs, and then sat outside on the fountain's rim and read one of the new books (which I have read before, just to be completely accurate about my description) for half an hour or so, enjoying with the second track of my mind, the way the sun felt, warm through the cotton of my shirt, and the stones felt, cool through the cotton of my jeans.

It's Saturday morning, and I'm sort of marking time, emotionally, until two, when Paget's memorial service starts.  I am, strangely, not feeling sad at all about her sudden and completely unexpected death by stroke.  I don't feel anything.  But I know, from dealings in the past with both the Engen family, and the Powell family, that there is at least a fifty-fifty chance that this gathering is going to be one weird, crazed, tense, uptight and emotionally shredding way to spend a few hours.  Aunt Margy will probably begin to cry loudly.  Jeffi may begin to cry in that choked, strangled way she expresses herself these days.  We will be lucky if she doesn't cry in baby-talk.  Kyle will no doubt cry, and will probably also yell and scream and may very well throw things and break glasses and have a huge tantrum.  I will come home in a state of aggravated but suppressed nerves and sit around staring blankly at nothing until I grab, like a drowning man at a straw, at a book and read until I fall asleep.  Unpleasant to look forward to, sort of, even if I am feeling nothing at the moment.

It's Saturday morning.  Joe was supposed to come over and get his hair cut.  But he slept late and then "forgot" all about it, I imagine.  Later will have to do for that.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Damp and Grey

This morning, as I stepped out of my door, the air felt like a perfect kiss: firm with no push, moist with no drip, filling me from top to bottom, and making me slightly light-headed.  Tasted like the bowl of a cool spoon; smooth, round, grey and just faintly tasting of something.   Ahhhhhhh.  Life is once more one hundred percent worth living.

On the drive to work, my windshield was covered with the lacy effect of tiny droplets of water -- I left them there, and allowed my eyes to get accustomed to it, like a nineteenth-century woman walking around with a little veil on her hat.  They were apparently just hanging in the air, and I was driving through them, instead of dropping downward from the sky.  Standing outside had given me no feeling of dropping raindrops, and yet there they were appearing all over the windshield.  Made me imagine them hanging in the air, just drifting, as though they were lighter than air, which everyone knows they can't be -- no matter how tiny, right?  Water weighs more than air.  It just does.

The joy that this has given me has settled a bit now that I am at work -- sitting here with the door standing open to allow as much of this dampness to fill the office as possible -- but it was so significant a sensation that it overcame the sort of negative outlook I was carrying because of my migraine.  Yup, day two.  One of the very mild ones, but still, bad enough to be on my mind, as it were, every moment.  But that first deep breath affected even my physical body, and through it, the mental attitude that it was informing.  I am still in pain, but I do not dislike anybody, or anything, that I would not ordinarily dislike, and I certainly do NOT dislike my life -- I love it!

If I ever have cats or dogs -- I think I will name them Damp and Grey.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bookshelf Porn

I am sitting at my desk here in the office on Burnside, and looking at bookshelf porn.  That is what the site calls itself, and it is gorgeous and evocative and appealing to a booklover such as myself.  And it brought to mind a memory -- not a long-forgotten one, really, since I have always held it in my mind, but I haven't stopped and thought about it for quite a while.

It was when I was staying with the McKnights for a week.  I don't remember where my parents were -- I think they were couselling at the church camp, where Sarah, my older sister, was camping, for a week, and their three younger daughters had to be accomodated elsewhere.  Sarah was old enough to camp -- to be a Camper! -- but even though I was just a year younger, I was not.  This was very sad and disappointing.  My parents promised that next year, I would get to go, too, but next year came and went, and although I have camped many times, I never managed to be a Camper!  In a Cabin!  With other girls who were also Campers!  Hard to imagine that appealing, but it did.

The McKnights were a couple in our church with a small (spoiled and bratty) boy, David, and an odd propensity for moving a lot.  They lived in three places that I can remember, and I know they moved out of the third one, the one they called the Birdhouse House, even though I cannot remember where they went from there.  Not so called because it had birdhouses, either, but because it was an "old Portland" style home -- the third floor was one large room with a big dormer window at floor level looking in each direction.  And they called that big room, "the birdhouse."

Anyway, I was staying with them, I think I was seven or eight, and I was very, very homesick.  I was with Mrs. McKnight (Sue) all day, helping her amuse David, and do the grocery shopping and so on, and then trying to be polite and friendly with Mr. McKnight (Bob) in the evening.  He was the type who is known as a Big Tease.  A Card.  The Life of the Party.  A Jokester.   I hated him.  He made me so uncomfortable.  I was never sure of the right way to respond.  Trying to tease back grown-ups who were teasing me had backfired in my face more than once.  But if I behaved as though they were serious, then I was an idiot.  Then I was "such a sober little thing!"

At that time, they were staying in a big white house on a college campus.  Bob McKnight was the caretaker, and the house came with the job.  I don't remember where he was fulfilling this role -- Western Seminary, possibly?  Maybe even Warner Pacific, which would be funny, since I ended up both attending church, and then later, working for Warner.  But some Christian college on the side of a hill in Portland.  Anyway.  Big white house with three levels, and pocket doors between the dining room and what was probably the library or the family room, but was the room where I slept, while I was there.  On a fold-out couch.

It was sunny, most of the week I was there, but on one day, maybe Thursday, it rained.  And that is how the fabulous thing about the house came to my attention.  It rained, and this worried Mrs. McKnight.  How was little Bethie going to amuse herself, if it was raining?  Not realizing that I hadn't been playing outside at all so far.  So she said to me, "Do you want to color?  I have some crayons, and I know we have coloring books somewhere."   I did not comment on the whole coloring book thing, but asked, wistfully,  " Do you think you have any reading books?"  She looked worried for a minute, but then brightened up.  "I think there are some children's books in the basement!"  she said.  "In a grocery bag.  Why don't you go down there and see?"

She showed me where the basement stairs were, and pointed in the direction of the bag of books.  I made my way over there.  The basement was not dark, because there was a glass door opening out of one corner, onto a lower part of the hill, with a small terrace made of reddish brick in front of the door.  Right outside the door, to the right of the brick, was a tree, right now dripping away onto the little sqare terrace.  So that grey-sky-backed diffused light was pouring in and illuminating that corner of the basement, which was, in general, filled to the roof with things like piles of sports equipment, and racks of folding chairs and stacks of folding tables, and bins of pennants and ropes and all kinds of things which a college campus would need to store somewhere.

I found the bag of books and dug in.  Most of what it contained I don't remember, but I do remember two.  One was a very beautifully illustrated edition of  "Johnny Crow's Garden."  It had a battered red cover, with a picture inset in the middle, of a crow holding a watering pot in its foot, looking over a hedge at a lion.  I read that one many times, and still never got it, but also never lost the feeling it always gave me, that maybe this time I would.  And the other one was Little Women.  I had heard of this book, people in other books had mentioned it, and other real live people had mentioned it, so I just knew of it.  I looked round for a place to sit and read these treasures.  A few feet away were two large gunny sacks, one half empty but very firmly packed with whatever it contained and the other about three-quarters full.  I investigated.  The firmly packed half-full one, which was just the right size and shape to make a comfortable reading perch, contained hot chocolate mix, which had been opened and used long enough ago that the remaining powder had hardened into a solid lump, which, as it was warmed by my fat little rear end, gave off a lovely and comforting smell of chocolate.  The other bag, which had been opened at the same time, was full of stale and stiffened marshmallows. 

Oh, my.

How better to evoke bliss?  If I had had a mug of hot, sweet tea, I might have been slightly better off, but the gorgeous rain in front of me, the comfortable seat, smelling of cakes and brownies in the oven, the sound of footsteps on the boards overhead, the fifty pounds or so of stale marshmallows at my right hand, and the Book in my lap --?  Sheer bliss.  Perfection.

The rest of that week was a thing of beauty and a joy forever.  I would wait until Mrs. McKnight was out of the kitchen and then I would hurry down the basement stairs and settle onto my Chocolate Chair.  I would hear David's running feet, as he barreled around the house calling my name and whining to his mother, "I can't find her!" 

"It's okay, honey," his mother would reply, cooingly.  "Maybe she just doesn't want to play with you right now." 

Damn right, I didn't.    And I popped another stale marshmallow into my mouth and turned the page.  Even on sunny days, it was cool in the basement, and the tree outside the door proved to be a pear tree with smooth pinky-golden pears on it.  I got sticky to my elbows with that suculent, faintly gritty fruit.  No one ever knew I was down there, or if they did, they kept it to themselves, and the rest of my week was spent in sweet, chocolate-flavored peace, in that perfect little reading nook.  Better than any of the Bookshelf Porn pictures I have just been looking at.

And I have always preferred my marshmallows stale, ever since.

Monday, September 3, 2012

X-rated X-files

Well, I am embarrassed.  I have just finished watching four episodes of The X-Files, which, as you may or may not know, was a big favorite of mine, back in the days when it was on the air.  I used to watch it every week, with the group of friends I had then, and argue the possibility or impossibility of the things that happened.  I chatted about it online, in the old fashioned alt-rec way we did then.  And now, to find out that they were basically soft-core porn!  Very soft soft-core, of course, no body parts, but a great deal of attention to David Duchovney's lips and breath, and the lips and breath of any female person -- or even male person, thinking of Skinner and Krychek -- with whom he exchanged any sort of conversation, and lots of dramatic light and darkness and extreme attention paid to the way light fell across a person's face.  David Duchoveny gazes soulfully at everyone who catches his attention, making grown-up me cringe.  Why didn't it make me cringe back then?