Monday, November 28, 2005

Hooray for...

...Thanksgiving dinner and a movie with the Pizzi family.
...tall, determined men who stride out of the morning mist to declare their love.
...Jane Austen, whose books will always outshine the movies (even the misty parts). parents and brother gathered around my small, inconvenient dining room table on Friday for a belated Thanksgiving dinner.
...two entire evenings spent curled up with a warm tasty beverage and an engrossing book.
...Christmas lights.
...the sunshine and unseasonably warm weather today (well, for a few hours at least).

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Entertainment

My dad's side of the family is an interesting lot of people. I spent yesterday afternoon with most of them, gathered around a table for Thanksgiving dinner (the first of 3 I'll eat this week) at my grandpa's nursing home. Sitting there, I mused that we are like a small patriarchal society, presided over by my soon-to-be-97 grandfather, Sture, who unselfconsciously perpetuates much of the Swedish stereotype. (You can tell a Swede...)

Now that I and all of my cousins are older, we are a strictly Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve family. Birthdays are no longer celebrated, if even acknowledged, and the occurrence of major life events (for example, my cousin's engagement) seem to come out only under prolonged questioning at one of these two events. In short, I wouldn't call us close. Now that Grandpa is in a nursing home, our traditions have lost their home turf, and so we found ourselves at his nursing home on a Sunday afternoon, subject to each other and a man dubbed "the entertainment."

There he stood in the corner, stationed behind his synthesizer, wearing a keyboard tie and one of those hands-free mics that wraps around your head, held fast by your ears, with a little foam-covered thing that hovers in the vicinity of your mouth, a la Britney Spears in concert. No one at our table noticed him until he began to speak. There had been no introduction by the nursing home staff, no justification offered for his intrusion upon our painfully stilted pre-dinner conversation. We were left to assume, with sinking hearts, that this man was "the entertainment."

His repertoire consisted of a few 40's and 50's tunes and a patriotic medley, all played with so much pep that I felt like puppets would appear at any moment, interspersed with a litany of over-told jokes and socially awkward audience interaction. I cannot vouch for others in the room, but at our table "the show" was not well received. At one point, with his inimitable lack of tact, my grandpa even announced (in that overly loud way that persons hard of hearing are prone to do), "I wish he'd stop that racket already."

No, the entertainment was not appreciated at our table for any degree of talent. But I had to give him credit, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I even discovered reasons to be thankful for Synthesizer Man.

First, I figure you've got to be really sure of yourself, and your act, to perform to the kind of crowd of which I was a part on Sunday afternoon. The kind of crowd where a good percentage can't hear you, and many of those who can wish they couldn't. The kind of crowd where only the nursing staff clap when you finish a song, because after all, they hired you and have to act happy about it. The kind of crowd where facial expressions are hard to come by, stolen years ago by age and infirmity. And yet on he played and sang, with enthusiasm and dare I say, spunk. He played to the room, regardless of reception, and encouraged the few who sang along. He told another joke even after the last one elicited only a few groans. And at the end (oh, the blissful end), he wished us all a Happy Thanksgiving and promised he'd be back for the Christmas party. I couldn't give him props for the quality of his performance, but I had to admit I was kinda impressed this guy was out there performing at all.

It made me think about the fact that so often I am afraid to "go public" with anything until I'm certain that I'm good at it, that others will appreciate and even applaud my contribution. I'm way too concerned with being perceived by anyone as "fumbling through" that there are many attempts at things that never see the light of day. That guy had moxy. He had his own brand of charisma. And who knows, maybe some of those wheelchair bound people were eating it up, but just weren't able to show it. They'll have another chance at the Christmas party to express their appreciation, and maybe by then I'll have learned to be a little less critical, and my relatives and I will find something to talk about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

First Flakes

As I reluctantly ventured out of doors this morning, experiencing the bone-chilling wind with disdain and peering about at the wisps of snow through narrowed eyes, I oddly enough thought about Lorelei on Gilmore Girls and how she always gets so excited about the first snowfall of the year, and about how I wished I was excited by this morning's discovery but was really just irritated, especially by the fact that TV set first snowfalls usually aren't ushered in by 40 mile per hour howling winds that knock you over when you go outside and make you shiver and tremble even when you're safe and secure in your warm toasty bed, and so of course they can enjoy them if they so wish and if it advances the plot line.

People express their frustration in different ways. Apparently, my outlet is run-on sentences. Hope you're staying warm and toasty tonight, wherever you are. I will be selling books to the few brave souls who dare to venture out.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mitten Bound

In about 1 1/2 hours I depart for a work weekend with YAM at Camp Harvest in Croton, MI. If I were to hold up my hand like the Michiganders and say, "I'm going here" I would have no idea where to point to. Good thing someone else is driving.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Before I Die

A few weeks ago my friend Mary posted a list of 20 things she wants to do before she dies. It triggered a lot of reflection for me, partly because I'm a sucker for lists, and partly because in this, my quarter-century year, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what's behind me and what's still ahead. Last Wednesday night, while working the information "outpost" at B&N, I put to paper some of the ideas that had been rattling around in my head.

This list is not exhaustive. It's not in any particular order. Some of the items I could get started on tomorrow if I had a mind to, while others are partially or completely out of my control. All will be accomplished only by God's grace. But I feel like for right now it's a launch pad for living; or maybe a home base, a place to come back to for reorientation when I've wandered from my conviction that a life of only the familiar, comfortable, and routine is not forward living, but just idle repetition. And by posting it here, I'm not only making a declaration of hope and intent, but also inviting you, my friends, to join me in any of the endeavors and adventures listed below. :)

1. Take voice lessons.
2. Become really, truly fluent in Spanish.
3. Live somewhere with a moutain view.
4. Earn a Master's Degree in...something.
5. Stay for a week at a B&B on Prince Edward Island.
6. Learn how to swim properly.
7. Work as a barista.
8. Have my photography on display in a gallery or some public place.
9. Take ballroom dancing lessons.
10. Learn to play the piano.
11. Adopt a dog that needs a home.
12. Mentor a younger woman.
13. Take a cooking class.
14. Own a home.
15. Plant a lilac bush in my yard.
16. Instill in a child the love of reading.
17. Write a book and have it published.
18. Live for at least 2 years in a foreign country.
19. Hike the Camino de Santiago.
20. Find Gustav.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Usual

A momentous event occurred on my lunch break today.

I strolled down to the little deli on the corner, an establishment I frequent, particularly when my boss is out of town and not treating me to Mexican downstairs. I stepped up to the counter, and before I could open my mouth, the owner, with pen poised over order pad, asked nonchalantly, "The usual?"

It took me a minute to respond, for a couple reasons. The first is that an inexplicable joy came over me at the fact that I had achieved "regular customer" status and that none other than the owner happened to recall the eccentricities of my "usual" order (which happens to be their atomic turkey panini, with sprouts instead of cucumber and ranch instead of honey mustard.) I don't really know how to explain why that thrilled me so much, though I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I've never had anyone remember my "usual" before, and, for that instant, I felt like I was watching myself in a sitcom, where order takers always ask the characters if they'll have the usual because the characters always frequent the same establishment, because dining variety would require a bigger set and more extras, not to mention the fact that ordering food, in general, does not make for captivating entertainment and the time is better spent on witty dialogue. The second reason is that just moments before, while standing in line, I had made the decision to deviate from my usual and have the pollo pesto instead (which is a close second in tastiness) and my mouth was already watering for it.

And so I responded haltingly, trying to adopt a similar nonchalantness but I fear rather coming across as quite flustered, "No, I'm going to try something different today and go with the pollo pesto."

As so as I sat on the bench outside, huddled over my sandwich with Chesterton in one hand and my waterbottle wedged between my knees, I agonized over that brief interchange. Should I have abandoned my decision to have the pollo pesto today in order to confirm that he really does know the conditions of my "usual?" Does the fact that I ordered something different mean that he'll abandon the idea that I have a usual, and instead regress to taking my order with polite but common indifference? And, despite the thrill, does the fact that I have a recognized usual mean that I am stuck in a lunch rut and am by this exclusivity missing out on a wide spectrum of enjoyable sandwich options? And should the fact that I'm thinking this deeply about sandwiches worry me?

The thrill. The crisis. The usual.