Okay, disclaimer before I start: I am not miserable, truly, I am just watching Annie Hall. I did not know that watching Annie Hall was going to be the right thing to do w/ my evening when I woke up this morning, but it turned out to be, since I have a copy that my dad made me off of TV onto DVD and they did not have any Disc One’s for Season One of  The Wire at the library and that was the best thing we could think of to watch on DVD tonight. We would have had to start in the middle of Season One, and any television series worth doing is worth doing well so forget that. So we came home and nothing is on television so out comes the bootlegged DVD of Annie Hall and the remnants of a couple of bottles of red from the past week and cold salmon that we stole from from our in-law’s Christmas dinner leftovers. Actually it wasn’t stealing, it was offered, but it felt like stealing b/c we never buy salmon ourselves although we should b/c it is really not that expensive.

Back to this morning, when I woke up. Actually, the cats woke me up by sitting on my face. They do that a lot. They get hungry early. This morning it was at 6:20, which is worse than their usual 5:20 b/c if I get up at 5:20 to feed them and am later able to talk D into taking the first hour, that’s two hours of good sleep I can get still. But at 6:20, it’s a crap shoot. Maybe an hour of good sleep is left, but D is less likely to be sympathetic enough to my cause to take the first shower so that cuts it back to 40 minutes, and on this particular morning that was null and void because I was stiff as a crow bar. I was upset upon waking, unable to get meaningless refrains out of my head such as “every single holiday a dick in a box” and vaguely furious about something, possibly rising interest rates or rising cancer rates or just the fact that I was awake.

Why was I so tense? Three theories. 1) My crazy co-worker’s recent purchase of a 350k, 1400 square footer in Coral Springs has unexpectedly given me home lust, despite the fact that they have a crazy loan that is likely to blow up in their face and Coral Springs is far from my first choice of town in which I want to commit to a mortgage in. So she gets me looking at home listings and I find a 350k listing in my fair Boca for more square footage and furnished too (obviously, someone died in it) and I try to go and look at it but like most things in Boca, it is in a Snooty Gated Community and of course they don’t let me drive by, so obviously I am not worthy of their time of day. Which is exactly on the money, because 350k? No way am I qualified for that. 2) When I have to get up this early b/c of cats, and I’m not really tired, shouldn’t I forget falling back to sleep and get and write something? Yes I should, and the fact that I opt to try and fall back to sleep anyway must be proof that I am a dilletante and my whole life is sham, and that is kind of hard to take at 6:20 in the morning and I get a little down in the mouth. 3) Perhaps I am just a 25 year old human being who is neither brilliant nor stupid, and that is just life and feeling angry and depressed about cat claws in my face at 6:20 in the morning is perfectly normal.

The day that followed from my 6:20 am–oh what would you call it, ennui?–had its good points and its bad points, and even its productive points (I did try to sit down and write something before D got home), but before I put on Annie Hall I was still feeling crummy.  (What if this all was actually the infamous hormones? How can I know?) I started the second book in Richard Ford’s trilogy, in which the narrator has become of all things a realtor and is busy selling overpriced homes to people who can afford them. D got the wireless sound/printing system set up at last (yay! thank you D&F!!) and we took some books back to the library on time. A nice, average day, right? What is my freaking problem?

But then we put in Annie Hall, and I got a couple of glasses into the red, and things got clearer. As Ford’s narrator would say, a lot is uncertain. Should we jump into the housing market at any cost? Will my sister consent to live with us when she moves down here? Will I ever write something real? In the midst of uncertainty, there are many good and thoughtful things to enjoy. There is this amazing weather, 65 degrees and a starry sky in December. There is wine and cookies and the ease of getting independent films over Netflix. There are so many plans, many of which seem quite possible.

The trouble is, I keep comparing my plans with other people’s plans, especially the outdated plans of people the age of D’s parents. No one our age is now buying a starter home for reasonable rates. No one is making an upper middle class wage w/ only their four year degree anymore, but that indeed used to be the norm.  Watching Annie Hall, I feel a strong urge to have a New York phase, but at the same time it has begun to dawn on me that our fair country might have entered a new age in which there is no time for phases. It often feels like there is no times for me to spend my 20’s being a failing writer, b/c the stakes are so high. I feel like we are being told to pick a side, and maybe if we’d gotten here five or ten years ago we wouldn’t have had to choose our side so quickly but it’s too late now. You can be on the writer/social worker/teacher side or the lawyer/doctor/accountant side, and whatever side you pick just remember, you picked it. Our kids might not even get a choice. It might be determined by the quality of the schools that we scrimped in order to put them into.

So, watching Annie Hall, I wonder if what I need now is another drug. After all, maybe I really am too tense. Valium (like Annie Hall reaches for) is passé, but I’m not even talking about its latter-day equivalents, Prozac, Paxil, and Abilify. I’m talking about marijuana. When will I smoke it? That one time, in Spragens’s apartment after a long Voice editorial session does not count b/c I could not figure out how to inhale.  When, now, after college, after marriage, after entry into a job market that runs urine drug tests like a bad verbal tic, will I feel free enough to buy some shit and smoke it? I’ve seen my Six Feet Under, and it looks like I am missing out. When will I have my crazy funky years to try harmless but non-profit oriented stuff? Can I still have a phase, or did we give that up when we said “I do” and meant it? What do phases even look like now? The worst thing that I think I could do right this minute is try to fit into someone else’s model of how anything should be done, yet I often doubt that I have the courage to forge my own.

“I encourage you to take Adult Education courses.” Enough education, eh? It’s time to do, so why don’t I start already?

What I’m craving, probably, is not the house and definitely not the mortgage but the fight of getting something that looks impossible. How sad that just two years into my post-college life I already have moments in which I think I’m ready to trade the fight to write great poetry for the fight to carry a ginormous mortgage. The key thing is to do, to work a little every day, and unlike a house, my pen and notebook are right in front of me. I don’t want a house, I want a book. Who knows if I will ever get one, or if it will be good, but I should have at least enough faith in myself to give it a shot b/c that is eventually who gets something done–the person who just does it. My crazy co-worker has a house, and maybe one day I can have a book but time’s a’wasting. The time to get started is yesterday, or now, or at the very least tomorrow instead of lying in bed and hoping to fall back to sleep.

Why am I blogging about this, the possibly fleeting thoughts of a single day at the end of a year that was not that notable? Because I want a record. I want a record of who I was and what I worried about and why, exactly, I thought it all mattered enough to write about.

The moral of the story definitely is, Annie Hall is a truly great film and red wine is cheaper than any other kind of drug, but golly this life thing just doesn’t get any easier.

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Drum roll….

December 21, 2006

The title of the final Harry Potter book is…. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The Guardian reports that JK Rowling announced it today.

Now, I have a longstanding bet with my best British friend that Harry will die in the final book. If he does, she owes me a ticket to visit my beloved Devon. If he doesn’t…. I guess SK will then get to visit sunny Florida. So, scanning this title over, I only have one question: what does “hallows” mean? Rhymes with gallows, which is good for my end of the bet, but let’s see what it technically means. Google define:hallows… wow, this sent a major chill up my spine. Hallows is ” name used by some traditions for Samhain, or Halloween” and more elaborately “November Eve, the Celtic Samhain (”sow-en”); the beginning of the Celtic winter, and of the Celtic year; the beginning of the Witches’ Year, when the Veil Between the Worlds grows thin and the spirits of the dead may return to Earth; the Descent of the Goddess to the Underworld; the final Harvest festival.”

The Guardian reports that the release date for the book will be set in early 2007, so at least we only have a couple of months to wait before finding out definitely how long we have to wait.

(Apologies for anyone who reads my library blog… this is a blatant cross-posting b/c I am so excited. )

Finally, I have an idea about what to get for sisters-in-law for Christmas, and no one including husband is online to chat with about it! Aargh! Shopping breakthroughs are so rare in my life, I always want to gush and plot and debate about them. Well, I hope Tfap is having a great time in TN and AH and LCB are resting up from their tough semesters. Also, I’m thinking about Snickerdoodle  and hoping that her early trip to AZ is working out at least a little better than expected.  Okay, onwards to other lists: what kinds of cookies to bake during tomorrow’s planned baking marathon?

Terra firma Floridiana

December 20, 2006

I’ve been back in Florida three days now, and despite the general lack of homework (not complete, however, as profs for two of my classes for next semester have already emailed syllabi, so I guess I could be getting a headstart) I still feel a bit like I’m on the treadmill. Most of this has to do with the relentless need to shop, which is more nerve wracking than normal because this year occasions lots of new people in my life and who knows what to get new people at the last minute. Also, who knows what the appropriate budget is? Note to self: start shopping earlier next year so the perfect quirky gifts can be found for all via the Internet, and when you see something just buy it.

Other parts of the treadmill feeling have to do with the post-writing workshop blitz reawakening of the feeling that I am indeed going to be looking for a job in a library someday, and I might need to spend some time making sure I am kicking ass in that department. So onwards and upwards with information systems design and trying to understand the machinery of it all. One good development in this area: I have managed to wrangle my way out of my Special Collections placement next semester and into assisting the manager of digital collections develop RSS feeds for the library website and possibly creating a social software hub. So pumped! I’m knocking on woods that this is the sliver of an opportunity that I will be able to leverage into genuine skills to go on a genuine resume. Ever since meeting with my library’s systems librarian, my hope that I too might be able to break into systems sans undergrad degree in computer science has been renewed. She was a sociology major undergrad and got recruited into systems on the basis of being able to fix the printer when it jammed. That, I can do, and perhaps I can continue to try and educate myself via things like the W3 Schools website.

Another part of the recommended self-education process has been to join Second Life. I’ve been reading about it on library blogs for the better part of the last year, and apparently the librarians are out in force in virtual universe. If any of you are hip, look up Solidarity Fitzgerald next time you’re logged in. If you have no idea what I am talking about, that is probably better for you. Spending multiple hours strolling around, talking to strangers, and trying to move between large pillars, all in pixelated form, has a tendency to make me feel like I have crossed a line into true nerdom. Not sure how I feel about this, but anything for my library.

Things are slowing down in some areas, however. Monday, I was greeted by an almost completely deserted place of employment, and that has been a major plus of the week. I do love the thrill of finals week and seeing every single study carrel occupied, but there is a selfish part of myself that also loves the emptiness of break and the feeling that the library is a supercool club just for me where I can find any book I want to without having to wade through frantic group projects and step over laptop cords everywhere. The workload has been light and our days have been mostly spent eating and exchanging gifts.

My reading and netflix viewing are also going rather slowly. Finished The Emperor’s Children and The Worst Hard Time during my various travels, and started Alice Munro’s memoir. It didn’t take on the first try, however, and now I am deeply engrossed in Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. That’s the first book in the trilogy that ends with this year’s The Lay of the Land. Speaking of Ford, I think I am going to forgo netflix viewing for one more night and go directly to bed and keep reading.

That’s kind of a boring snapshot into the current life of me, but it belies the many potential blog topics that have run through my head in the past few days. I try to jot them down, but then I end up with pockets full of notes and no energy left at the end of the day to remember what I was thinking when I scribbled on them. These topics have included: ditching cable, the pro’s and the con’s; the Web 2.0 concept of “beta forever” + Wired’s new editorial tenet that “process is content“= either extreme laziness and the downfall of Western creativity or a whole new age of what passes for good writing–which?; what is up with this buzz about Australia deciding that linking can constitute copyright infringement?;  and finally, was The Emperor’s Children really a good book?

So many projects, so little useful concentration. Priorities. Who has them straight?

To the place, to the place

December 15, 2006

Okay, I haven’t had a whole lot of minutes to spend on the computer since arriving in Battle Creek, so if I am going to get at least one update in while I’m in the not so snowy north I better do it now. We’ve just gotten home from our annual family pig out, oh I meant Christmas party (actually surprisingly slimmed down this year–the main entree was build your own subs with materials from Subway and Quizno’s and the only real dessert going was cookies, rather than a dozen kinds of cakes, pies, and Swiss Colony truffles). The voluminous leftovers are safely fridged and Mom is re-settled in the recliner with a romance novel to unwind before her 8pm appointment with (so sorry LCB!) Ghost Whisperer. In the meantime, Mannheim Steamroller has clicked into place on the 8 disk changer. I think all 8 disks might be Mannheim Steam… wait, I am dead wrong. It’s not the CD changer, it’s the Mannheim Steamroller channel on the fam’s obese digital cable package. (I exaggerate–it’s a seasonal channel that’s having Mannheim Steamroller hour.)

We got in Wednesday night after a spacious nonstop flight on our airline of choice, AirTran. There were only 15 people onboard so we all stretched out. I didn’t take them up on their XM radio and opted to focus my attention on The Worst Hard Time, one of the nonfiction NY Times picks, about the Dust Bowl. Pretty sad, but of course well written and full of historical nooks and crannies that I never would have dreamed existed. After spending last weekend in the gusting December winds of Cape Cod and trying to imagine just how the Pilgrims and other early colonizers managed to stick it out sans heat, sans ceiling, sans just about everything, I’m now also wondering how the sodbusters kept going despite the hardship and general lack of civilization.

We got into Detroit right on time, and my sister (T) picked us up. We headed to a fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant (talking about roasted garlic spread and unlimited fresh pita bread) in Dearborn along with her new boyfriend, an engineer for Ford named JM. JM is 29, and my sis is 22, but so far they seem well matched. They met on a 400 odd mile bike ride from Lansing to Mackinac Island and their first date was a 5k. ‘Nuff said. He seems really intelligent and thoughtful, and I am ready to declare him the best sis BF so far by far. He reminds me a lot of our Hollywood type friend WA. I’m already cheering for them to work out a way through the perilous next year of their relationship, when T will probably be headed down to Miami to start her life as a high powered accountant. He’s weighing options and leaning toward law school, but he won’t have his LSATs done in time to meet U of Miami’s deadline so it might be kind of tough to prevent at least one year of long distance. Still, I’m pulling for them. This guy gives me a good vibe.

Yesterday we pretty much toured the town. I took Daniel and my mom by both of the city’s libraries (one of them is brand new and absolutely gorgeous) and I was recognized in both of them. Yes, it’s a small town this BC. We did some last minute shopping and got Daniel a haircut by the family stylist as well. We were hoping to meet up with my best BC friend JB, but her fiance came down with some kind of stomach bug. I hope she hasn’t caught it too, because I’d really like to see her before we fly back. I’d like to see him too, as it feels totally wrong not to have met my bosom friend’s intended.

Today was the party. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it was a somewhat slimmed down affair but still quite enjoyable. And heavily populated. T brought her J, and brother R brought his new girlfriend TG. (Wow, if these people stick around in their lives they are going to need some better pseudonyms. I haven’t pseudonymed a sibling’s significant other since Yoko, the 28 year old Japanese harlot who stole my then 18 year old brother’s innocence.) Looks like JM survived his introduction to my crazy crazy family. I put D on Dad duty, making sure that the latter was occupied at all times and thus never able to corner JM in one of his endless rants or back in my programming days stories. TG held her own and seems to have a pretty good grasp on how to handle my brother, which is reassuring. Having been raised in the almost exclusive company of women, R doesn’t really know how to deal if he doesn’t have some female or other bossing him through the basic tasks of life.

The real highlight of the party, though, was just seeing Mom up and around and so full of energy. She was up wrapping and phoning and taking inventory of food she had promised to bring just like she always used to. Last year at this time, she was headed into the hospital for what became a five month stay. The Christmas before that wasn’t too pretty either. Looking at her now, even if it seems she has aged ten years in the space of two, it’s hard to believe that the last time I was in town… well, I’ll spare you the details, but it was a depressing time. It’s not that things are perfect now, or even that I entirely believe that she’s better off than she would have been if she had never had the gastric bypass surgery, but I am so grateful that she is finally able to have a normal Christmas again. Her energy really seems to be focused on enjoying her time with the family, so maybe this time she’s got something to put in the place that food used to be. That would be a wonderful gift both for her and those of us who worry about her.

In poodle news, there’s another one. She’s a standard size, just like Molly the Doc Marten devouring wonder, but this one is black and five months old. Her name is Pepper and she likes to jump up and down. A lot. I miss my cats.

It’s good to come back to Michigan in gray snowless times like these, because it’s always so clear to me why I left. The Subway where we picked up the sandwiches for the party was filled with men in stone washed jeans and Carhartt type jackets, talking about how many beers they need for this weekend’s hunting trip and how much salt the driveway will take. The grass is dead, the trees are empty, and I haven’t seen the sun since we were above the clouds getting ready circle into Detroit. It seems so small here, and so falling apart now that the economy’s taken a dive. There are plenty of houses that need a coat of paint and will likely keep needing it. When I talk to people, they talk about their jobs and their cars just like everyone, but they don’t seem to refer to a world outside of Michigan. They don’t seem to imagine living anywhere else, and probably they don’t want to. Then again, at Christmas time it’s also clear to me that I left behind more than the weather. Nowhere else will ever have people that taught me to tie my shoes and conducted my first band concert. Nowhere else will have JB and her family and her mother’s kitchen that I still remember getting flour and baking soda all over during a particularly misguided attempt to bake chocolate chip cookies. I’ll go to church on Sunday and see those who have literally known me since I was a baby. They’ll ask me, as I have already been asked several times, if I’m planning on staying in Florida, and I’ll say something about the cost of real estate and something about having a flexible degree and leave it well enough at that. The truth of the matter is, while I can imagine, vaguely, moving north, it’s impossible to imagine moving back here, and in my heart of hearts I want it to stay that way. I want Battle Creek to exist forever as a place I visit as a native daughter. If I return to a small midwestern world, I think I would at least need it to be a different one. It’s like I already know how everything here turns out. I know who I’d be friends with and just how I would grit my teeth through years of good hearted holiday preparations. It’s probably my lack of well-adjustedness concerning my own mortality talking. Maybe it would be different once I was raising my own children, but that’s what it feels like it would be now. Of course I have no idea what the future holds. It may be visits to Michigan and it may be something else. I know I’ll always be a Michigander in some sense, even without the direct presence of snow. Listening to Sufjan is a pretty good approximation for the time being.

Signing off for the night, I’m happy and full of cookies but not too many, with my heart in a tangle as it has been for the past few years whenever I walk the hallways of this house and listen to my parents’ snores (yes, already, 8:48 pm–not working has given them a certain liberty with sleep schedules) in not the bedroom but the living room where they now sleep almost every night in their recliners with the television still on. The hallway walls are filled with pictures, more so now than when I lived here I think. I have to turn on a light to see them, which I usually try to avoid because in the dark I can ignore a lot of dust and half unpacked boxes that have floated from room to room since my dad moved back in after having been laid off. This trip I’ve been turning on the lights anyway. Most of the pictures date from when I was 4 or 5 and R &T were 2 or 3. My parents look so young. We smile. There’s one with a swing set and one with a pumpkin patch. What happened? What will? Have we ever really been qualified to judge whether this is the best of times or the worst?

Oh no!

December 12, 2006

Salon, how could you.  You should have just listened to Jennifer Weiner and her incisive critique of this book as the current incarnation of style over substance.

And the coda goes like this:

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