I’m reading Mockingbirdby Kathryn Erskine, winner of the National Book Award for Children’s Literature in 2010. The momentum I had coming out of my Harry Potter re-read carried me through several pretty good books (and one really good one), but this one’s been a speed bump. It’s a short book, too, so that’s kind of a disappointment.
It’s written from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, whose brother is killed in a school shooting. If you’ve worked with Asperger’s students, you know they require a lot of patience, patience I have (almost) always had because they were my students. Reading inside the mind of one of these students who isn’t mine requires a bit of patience I don’t have. It’s been a little frustrating, but I may have turned a corner. Something in the novel I hadn’t thought of, a connection to To Kill a Mockinbird, may have emerged, something I find intriguing.
Still takes a bit of effort to pick that thing up during my usual reading times. I’m finding it easier to stare at my phone.
If I give you $20 to spend selfishly by tomorrow evening, what do you spend it on? Almost surely a meal out. Maybe a bowl of pho and some Vietnamese iced coffee. Heck yeah.
What’s a delivery you recently waited too long for? I ordered a book to give a friend for her birthday, even though I don’t know when her birthday is. I just want to have it ready for when it comes up. The book has had a few covers, but I wanted the hardcover edition with the original cover, so I ordered it from an Amazon seller who claimed my order was Prime eligible. They shipped it out the next day, all right, but they sent it USPS media mail! Do you know how long media mail takes to get to Hawaii from the U.S. East Coast? In this case fourteen days. Since I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to get it and since the book is in terrific shape, I’m not going to complain (‘though I mentioned it in my review of the seller), but next-day MEDIA MAIL is not what I’m paying for when I renew my freaking Prime membership every year. Gr!
How annoying have you been lately? I’d say pretty annoying. I’ve been having difficulty getting myself locked in at work, which always makes me a little distractible, which makes me a distraction to those around me. Sorry, office-mates.
When did you last give someone a ride in your car for the first time? Hey, but I did give a coworker a ride when she had to leave her car in the shop before work one morning. Met her at a nearby Starbucks with a cup of coffee, and drove her in. That was two weeks ago I think.
What was the last piece of candy you ate? We have this bucket of candy on the reception desk at the office, and I threw a bag of li hing mui honey drops in there last week. I often throw candy in there and seldom indulge, but I have a weakness for these and had four of them Thursday and another few Friday.
Super tired. I hit the water early Saturday and planned to take it easy — I’ve been a little sore all over from all the stepcount-chasing and the regular swimming, and I’ve slept pretty horribly all week. It was a combination that told me to mellow out for the weekend.
And a weird thing happened in the second half of the swim. I can easily point to halves in my swimming because I jump in at one buoy, swim a varying number of buoys down the beach and then turn around and swim back. On the way back I thought I ought to do at least a short stretch of strenuous swimming, and I just kept going, doubling my usual goal. It was insane because I didn’t really feel strained while I was in it. Just kept swimming swimming swimming swimming. My body wanted to go.
Then I did my errands on foot and got my stepcount without even really trying. So I am rather tired despite a 90-minute nap this evening. My arms and shoulders feel dead.
It might not help the sleepiness (although it helps the writing some) that I’ve got Enya’s Shepherd Moons in the headphones. I was just in the mood. While I won’t argue against “Orinoco Flow” from Watermark being her best song, Shepherd Moons is the slightly better album. For a time in 1992 it was my main way of relaxing and getting to sleep, when I was in probably the worst period of my life for insomnia. And “Carribean Blue” is quite nearly as good as “Orinoco Flow.”
This is the album with Enya’s lovely recording of “How Can I Keep From Singing?” It’s really a cover of Pete Seeger’s less overtly Christian version, but it still works for me. Pretty pretty pretty.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel fitter after only six weeks of pretty hardcore focus on regular exercise, but I don’t. Honestly, except for swimming faster and longer, I don’t notice any difference. I suppose the faster and longer thing is a good indication of progress in my primary aim, which is not to die. My BP is going down too, so okay. But naked, I still look terrible, and I wanna get lean for Crush Girl (secondary aim but more effective motivation). Or at least slightly less doughy.
What are you ahead on? We have this staff newsletter at work, something I work really hard on every month. I mentioned to my boss last year that I would eventually like to take it over entirely, rather than just edit the publication draft and contribute my two monthly columns (a one-minute writing tip and a short movie review). Because of a few major organizational changes recently, my boss is a lot busier, so last month she just sent me the material and I put it together and made it sound nice. It was fun. I love this kind of work because I’ve been working really hard to transmit a sense of inclusion among my coworkers as much as a lowly staff writer can, and this newsletter is one nice way to do it. This month I’m putting it all together myself for the first time and I’m excited to do it, and I’ve been really on it, far ahead of my usual timeline for this thing. And coworkers have responded well, sending me some really nice contributions. I kind of wanted to give a life answer and not a work answer here, but work is on my mind a lot lately.
Who’s slowing you down? I suppose the answer for everyone is going to be “me,” and I’m going with the same answer. Seriously, who among us can really say we aren’t the ones most effectively getting in our own ways? I wish I could find a way to — oh, never mind. There’s really nothing to say here except “me too.”
When did you last stumble getting out of the gate? Man, Wednesday and Friday were difficult. Because I’ve slept horribly, I had an unusually difficult time Wednesday getting up and out to the beach before work. I have to drag myself out every morning anyway, but I manage okay most of the time by telling myself that sleeping in is for people who didn’t let their bodies go to hell for a decade and a half. Don’t knock it; it totally works. I don’t psych myself up to hit the beach. I psych myself down. Anyway, I did get there but I got there so late I got lousy parking and was only able to jump in and jump out. Friday I had similar difficulty but for different reasons. Thursday I woke up SUPER early to get my dad to the hospital for some knee surgery. While he was under the knife I hit the beach for the unusual Thursday swim, so Friday morning I was utterly beat. Skipped the beach (even though Friday is usually the best morning for it) and stumbled into the office close to ten! One more reason this job may be better than teaching for my longevity. School bells are a bit less forgiving of this sort of thing.
How’s your mane these days? Ugh no no no no no no. I don’t want to talk about it, but I’m grateful for the reminder. I need to make an appointment with a doctor to talk about it! It’s thinning at an alarming rate now. I mean, it’s sort of on schedule because I’m FIFTY this year and holy moly. Okay switching subjects because the hair thing is really a sensitive issue.
When did you most recently find yourself unexpectedly hoofing it somewhere? Walking is (once again) a regular part of my existence, so it’s seldom surprising to me that I’m walking anywhere. So the unexpected part would have more to do with the where than the how. A couple of weeks ago on Administrative Professionals day, I was invited to lunch by another department who was taking its Administrative Professional to Aunty Pasto’s. I was happy to be included so I quickly grabbed my stuff, locked my screen, and joined in. And we had a very nice time. I had a mixed mushrooms pasta dish, great conversation, and a nice walk. I take most of my lunches by myself, mostly because I need some me-time sometime during the workday, but also because I usually have breakfast after a swim, so I’m not ready for lunch until most people have eaten, like 2:00 or 2:30. I wasn’t about to say no to such a nice invitation, though, and it was the right call.
The first three months of the year, it seemed like there were one or two major new metal releases every Friday. That’s sort of slowed down lately, so I’ve been going back to the old favorites. Lately I’ve had the Springsteen playlist on repeat, and it’s been good for my ears. I’m mentioning this now in hopes of reminding myself to put a few thoughts together about “Thunder Road,” which in recent years has dislodged “The River” and “Born to Run” as my favorite of Bruce’s tracks.
That would be a good list. Ten favorite Bruce songs. Note to self.
“There’s a very fine line betwen a groove and rut,” sang Christine Lavin, and and I’ve fallen into what feels like a groove, but I’ve basically stripped my life down in the past few weeks to work, rest, and feeding myself. The side work has slowed down, and I’m finding my time away from the office enjoyable again. I’m putting myself to bed at a reasonable hour, although still not habitualizing the Darth Vader machine the way I need to.
My focus at work has been unsually keen. I’m not ready to credit the new office, but I need to be honest and say that certain truths about the new space have worked better for my writing focus. Other circumstances make a difference too, like having reliable wheels and not taking an hour to get from home to work, or two hours to get back home. I’m having most of my breakfasts and dinners at home (I’m getting home early enough because I haven’t been stopping at cafes to do the side work), so I’m mostly letting myself eat out for lunch. Not having to deal with all that lunch prep every week makes a difference too.
This whole routine of waking, having breakfast, going to the office, working an honest day, then coming home for dinner and downtime feels like what it’s supposed to be like for a single, middle-aged guy. Sometimes I run errands after dinner, or go to a flick, or get groceries. It feels like life. If I made a little more money I would almost call this contentment.
Can’t stay like this, though. I’m about to try and add something to my evenings, and because I don’t make a little more money, I do have to ramp up some of that side work. And getting exercise hasn’t been a priority lately, and I have to work that back in. I don’t see how I can add any of that stuff back in without throwing me out of this groove.
One way I think I can do it is to make more strategic use of my vacation days. I get twenty-two days a year (or thereabouts) and can carry over fourteen or fifteen days from year to year. Last year I only took as many days as I had to not to lose any to that carryover limit, and maybe that’s not the best way to use them. This is a new thing for me, these vacations days not dictated by the academic calendar, and my approach so far has been that having them is more valuable to me than using them, kind of like this little stash of giftcards I have for lean times when I could really use a dinner out. Using a day today might be nice, but it feels nicer knowing I can.
Today is a state holiday, and I never get enough stuff done on holidays, so I’m taking the morning half of my day off tomorrow. It feels good not feeling pressured to do everything on the to-do list, knowing I have a little bit of overflow tomorrow. This might be the new strategy for those vacation days. Just add a half day to each state holiday or three-day weekend.
What’s something you’d like to increase the volume of?
My fridge has been feeling a bit cramped lately, and it’s plenty big enough. Still, it’s very old and I think I need to start with a fresh one, one with a bit more freezer space.
Who would you like to mute?
I can’t say the answer that comes first to mind because for Lent I’m sort of not bad-mouthing this person. I mean, I’m doing something more than not bad-mouthing the person, but bad-mouthing definitely works against the goal (if there’s actually a goal) I seek. I’ve already kind of blown it and am assigning myself a few makeup days after Easter to make up for the slippage. You know, like snow days in those parts of the continental US where snow days exist. So maybe I’ll say I’d like to mute myself.
When was your body (or part of your body) most recently scanned?
I had some blood work done last week, so my blood was scanned, and that’s a much nicer answer than what I would have had to say before the blood work, because I recently had to mail something in for colon cancer screening. That test came back negative. Yay. I guess before that it was at the airport coming home from Boston.
What part of the upcoming weekend would you like to skip?
I’m getting to this after the weekend in question, so the part I would have said is the time set aside for some house chores. I didn’t do the chores anyway. I guess I did skip that portion of the weekend.
Whose input could you really use right now?
Ah, geez. I had lunch with a former colleague yesterday, and without bringing up something that’s been weighing me down, I managed to get a little bit of input anyway, and it really helped. If I felt ready to talk about it with anyone, I suppose it would have been her. I mean, I could definitely use some input on this certain social situation (yeah , the situation is a woman) but I think talking about it now would be creating a situation that might not actually be a situation. Better to keep it as hypothetical as I can for now. I guess.
If you were outside right now, what would you most likely be doing?
It’s Sunday afternoon as I type this, so almost surely listening to podcasts and just walking about. I really need to do more of that. The move to the new office has made it trickier to find my steps goals. The area itself is fine; I’ve pounded tens of thousands of steps in the neighborhood over the years but I haven’t worked it into my day the way I could on campus.
Right now, what’s a little too close to you?
The dog. It’s a cute little thing but it wants to play fetch and I’m trying to write.
Right now, who misses you?
That’s a good question. My students used to call me heartless when they asked, “Are you going to miss us after we’ve graduated?” and my response was, “Probably not.” Actively missing someone is an emotional thing I don’t think you can predict about students (and maybe anyone) no matter how good your relationships are with them. You spend so much time focused on the students in your classrooms; it’s rare that you have moments to miss the students who aren’t. I hope wherever they are, they realize I was right, since of course they don’t miss me one iota. People have their lives. I don’t think they miss the absence of me in those lives. And since I am at this very moment in my parents’ living room, I can’t say my folks miss me.
Right now, what’s having its way with you?
Certain household chores keep piling up and I can’t seem to get caught up. They’re beginning to cause me stress, and that stress is affecting the quality of my life. Maybe it’s the stress that’s having its way with me. I even took a day of vacation Thursday to try and deal, but I ended up sleeping most of the day and then going to a late matinee of Captain Marvel. Which turned out to be a good idea, because my stress level dipped but I still haven’t done anything on the house work. Ugh.
What do you most wish you were doing right now?
Ninety percent of the time my answer to this question is usually “sleeping,” but right now I wish I were drinking coffee and reading Harry Potter.
What’s something people cautioned you against that turned out not to be dangerous or bad at all?
I know a person who once worked where I work today. He was supportive of my efforts to get a position here, and when I accepted the position, he congratulated me and then warned me that the culture is toxic.
I said, “Then this is my chance to detoxify it!”
I meant it because I think good influencers, which I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to be, are more powerful than bad ones even when they’re outnumbered. Yet I’ve found very little toxicity here, and certainly none in my department. I really love the people I work with and am super happy to be here.
What’s something you wish someone had cautioned you about?
My problem is that when someone warns me not to do something, I almost automatically want to do it. For the purpose of this question, let’s assume it’s someone I trust and it’s something I sincerely want wisdom about. I’ve had my failed relationship with R on my mind a lot lately — I just turned 50, and I fell in love with her for good when I was 19, and I recently downloaded a dating app on my phone (which I have not yet opened, and it’s been three weeks), so I’ve got a lot to think about. I think maybe my biggest regret in life is not making the most of love when I was in the middle of it and when it was requited (in my mid-20s). I worried about appearances; I worried about not being grown up enough; and honestly I was pretty comfortable right where we were. I believe now that there are critical moments (I’m still trying to decide whether it’s plural or singular, actually) in a relationship where if you don’t go to the next thing, you never will. I would actually have been okay with that but it’s clear that I am the only one. I wish someone had at least led me to consider what this might be at 50, especially with some kind of foreknowledge that I would not be teaching high-schoolers anymore. But even as I type this I know I wouldn’t have listened!
What’s your favorite non-English word of warning?
There are two interesting phrases in Japanese I always hear in my mom’s voice. The first is ki o tsukete kudasai or usually just ki o tsukete which she says when I’m on my way out the door. It’s just “be careful” or “travel with care.” If I say it to her, her response is always “hai, thank you.”
The other is abunai, which is more like “watch out!” It’s literally “dangerous,” so the meaning depends on context and tone.
What’s a really stupid thing you’ve done that could have resulted in your demise?
I’m saving this story for another time so the short version: I saw a homeless man yelling at a Korean shop owner in downtown Honolulu once. She was yelling back, so I went inside and asked the guy what the problem was. He told me he was only asking to use the phone and that the lady yelled at him to get out. I said, “Let’s go outside and talk about this.” I let him share as we walked across the street, and a few minutes later I put him on a bus and paid his bus fare to get where he said he needed to go (he said he’d needed the phone to call a cab). I went back to the store to ask the lady if she was okay and she was. I’m not sure what I could have done differently and still diffuse the situation, but with so many of these guys you don’t know what state they’re in or what they’ve got in their pockets. I was lucky; the confrontation only cost me $2.75.
What should you probably stay away from this weekend?
They opened a new Japanese dollar store less than a block away from the office. It’s the second location in Hawaii, and people still line up to get inside the first, which has been open for months. It’s a symptom of rock fever, that disease many of us get where we’re dying for something new because we often can’t find something new without getting on a plane. I hate crowds and lines, so although I will go in to the office for a little while, I will avoid the area around the new store.
I’m writing this on Wednesday, and tomorrow I am definitely not going to work. I really need a day or two off, and I prefer not to take Fridays, which are often my most productive days in the office. Also, I would rather be off on days when I know most people are working. I have a bit of housework piling up, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie or two. Although there’s a fair chance that where I think I’m really going is to a boba cafe to drink tea and read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It’s all I really want to do anymore.
Who do you think you are?
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m INFJ, which, according to the popular graphic someone put out several years ago, lines me up with Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter universe. I’ll take it, but I disagree with some of the characters this person put in the chart. I don’t know if there’s any way to tell Sirius Black is an extrovert, for example, or that Lupin is an introvert. Also, why are Lily and James Potter in this chart? We don’t even really know them, and there are so many other characters we could consider for these types. When I’m done re-reading the series, I really want to re-do the chart, although I doubt I’d be much better at it. I have to admit I like being a Lupin.
What’s gotten into you?
I’ve been working rather hard lately, and what’s gotten into me is a kind of weariness. Add my struggles with Lent this year (I’ll explain another time, maybe) and it’s physical weariness on top of mental weariness. Yeah, I’m a big wuss. Physically and mentally.
How do you expect to pay for all this?
I’m having to rein in a few things, but I mostly do all right, although I’ve been unable to save anything since my gig with the city councilmember ended last August. I dipped into saving to pay regular bills last month, and my car was in the shop most of last week for some clutch work. That was a $700 repair I’m still paying for. So mostly, how I expect to pay for all this is to cut back on a few bad habits I’ve picked up and be a little stricter with my impusive spending. That’s the plan, anyway! Next on the car list is to get the AC looked at.
When are you going to come to your senses?
Hopefully never. Without the MBTI chart, if you ask me which HP character I identify most closely with, I’d say Luna Lovegood. We’re very different in so many ways, but I feel like I get her, and I think she’d get me. Sense, at least the way we usually talk about it, is not one of Luna’s governing traits. My second choice would probably be Mad-Eye Moody, although I’m basing that mostly on the Mad-Eye we know through most of book four, and (no spoiler!) if you’ve read the book you know why I can’t honestly do that. It isn’t Moody’s CONSTANT VIGILANCE, but the way he knows how to say the encouraging thing to a student when the student most needs to hear it. I’m not the greatest teacher in the world, but that’s something I do.
The days seems to be flying by, not only collectively but individually too. I don’t understand. I’m wondering if it has anything to do with my serious effort to get 8 hours of sleep each night even if it takes me 12 hours of bed time. That was only once, but it is usually 9 or 10 hours in bed to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Weirdly, I wake up from these sleeps rested for sure (honestly, I didn’t know sleep could be so deep on a night-to-night basis), but suuuuuper reluctant to get out of bed. I wake up fine. It takes a suuuuuper effort to get my body up, though. Like it’s almost painful. When I was a constantly sleep-deprived teacher, getting out of bed was easy because it was almost always in some kind of near panic.
Having a job where I’m expected in at around a certain time is certainly a completely different way of living a life. Man, when you’re a teacher, you really have to be in a certain space with a certain amount of preparedness at a certain time. It makes (or it made, for me anyway) for a life not unlike a series of hundred yard dashes.
Honestly, I don’t know how I lived my life that way for so long. And how can I ever go back?
It wasn’t nearly as bad near the end of my tenure as at the beginning, for sure. V and I lived in the same neighborhood and would ride in together. We’d start the week coming in at 6:30 or so, but since even that never seemed to be early enough, as the week progressed we’d be in earlier and earlier, in ten or fifteen minute increments. It was madness, I tell you.
It’s true that I’m a gifted winger, something other teachers have acknowledged, but winging it was seldom the plan. I prepared like a madman, as my classroom partners will testify. It’s also true that I was a very inefficient planner, taking three hours to prep something that should have taken ninety minutes, but whatever, you know? When it was time to go, I was ready to go.
Anyway. It’s not like that now. Sure, I’m still at the office until 6 or 6:30, like in my teaching days, but that’s when I get in at 9. Nine! Or sometimes 9:30!
I was all set to groove to the new Steve Hackett album dropping last Friday, but I discovered over the weekend that Presto Ballet snuck a new album out the week before Christmas without my hearing about it, so that’s been my jam all week. It’s not nearly as good a the band’s first album, but it’s still pretty dang excellent. So Steve’s on hold while I still enjoy Presto Ballet and last week’s new Evergrey album.
I saw Jonah Hill’s Mid90s last night. I’m really interested in Hill as a writer-director. I suspect he could be great. This film is not great, and it wasn’t reviewed super well, but Hill has serious promise. This is a thoughtful film, and Hill is going for somethng he doesn’t quite get to, and it’s okay. I love that he tried. Full review later. Looking forward to watching it with Hill’s commentary this evening. The guy shot it in a 4:3 aspect ratio for some reason and I wanna know what it is.
1. What’s something you hated as a teen but love today?
Tomato. I used to peel it off every burger. When McDonald’s featured its McDLT in my senior year (a delicious lettuce-tomato-mayo burger), I would peel off the tomatoes and put them on this rail behind the senior lockers. I collected them there. The line of dessicated tomato reached about 10 before the custodians must have cleaned them all up. Now, if it’s a good tomato, I can just about never get enough. Grape tomatoes especially.
2. What’s something you recently dreaded that turned out not too bad?
I had lunch with a couple of really good friends last week and I was not looking forward to it. I can’t explain it; it’s just how it usually is. I agree to go, and as the appointed time gets nearer I’m full of regret for even considering it. Then I go and it’s fine. This time it wasn’t great but it was fine. And the food, at a ramen place I was really eager to try, was fine as well.
3. How do you feel about February as it compares to January?
Behind October, February is my least-favorite month. January is my favorite month, although as I have said this year January was a bit of a bear. I just really never cared for it. January feels like an extension of the holidays to me, since my birthday is in it and I get gifts, and since most of my life has been ruled by an academic calendar and January is fresh and new in a school year. February’s a huge letdown, especially since football season also ends and baseball season hasn’t begun yet. Bleah.
4. Who among people you know is really making the world a better place?
I have a friend who’s involved in some really deep homeless ministry. As I have written in this space, I have a real burden for the homeless, and not only does this friend have a similar burden, but she puts it into motion and gets into it with them. I would totally join her (she invites me nearly every weekend) but I don’t want to meet all her friends who are into it with her. I’m sure I won’t want to get to know them. Which is stupid, I know, but most of my social life makes no sense that way. The city has really been making homelessness as close to illegal as possible, ever-tightening the noose around areas where homeless people are allowed to be, and it’s leading to major problems. The Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center thinks it’s going to have to shut down since the area around it is one place where our homeless residents have taken up residence. They have to go somewhere, though, and my heart breaks for them.
5. In what way is today better than yesterday?
I was in the foulest of moods yesterday. I still managed to be productive at work, but after work all I wanted to do was go to bed. Mid90s turned out to be a better option, and I felt a lot better after seeing it, but dang. I was so freaking grouchy I wanted to do something self-destructive, like eat a whole cheesecake. Today I’m still annoyed about what pissed me off yesterday, but it’s not that bad. I feel good overall, and had a decently productive day despite some forces working against it. It helps that I had a good night’s rest!
This week was as rough as last week, but I somehow managed to be pretty productive at the office and at least non-destructive away from it. Progress!
The office move is now happening. There’s even a date and schedule for when we’re supposed to have our stuff packed and everything. They’ve distributed our parking assignments and the seating chart (I’m between two of my favorite coworkers and don’t know how they’ll ever get any work done) and new direct phone numbers. We’re supposed to have our allotted three bankers boxes packed on our desks when we get out of here one Friday and then just show up for work at the new place the next work day, when our spaces will be waiting for us.
I’ve packed up a lot of stuff, but I still have my Christmas lights up and my wall art. Guess I’ll be coming in Saturday to strip it all down.
The new Weezer covers album is good. Reviews are lukewarm and I totally get it, but I’m down with the song selection (mostly songs from the 80s). As I’ve written elsewhere, I like a cover by a band I like of songs I also like. I’ve had it on almost non-stop repeat since the album dropped Thursday. And surprise! This week’s Friday 5 is inspired by the first five songs from the album.
1. Where in Africa would you like to visit?
Casablanca for sure, even though I don’t know anything about it. I have some friends who did missions in Morocco for close to twenty years and for some reason I’ve never asked them about Casablanca.
2. If you ruled the world, what would you forbid people to talk about in the company of strangers?
This might be too vague, so I’d put my experts to work putting it in more reasonable words, but I don’t like hearing gossip in general, and try to go away when it’s about people I know. When it’s about people I don’t know, I somehow like it even less. I get it. Talking about other people is interesting for some reason. However, geez. Spare us if we’re in a public space. Keep your poisonous storytelling to within your circle and keep it away from me and others who don’t care. New law!
3. In what way do you tolerate (or enjoy) being used?
I’ll tell you what. Being used is really kind of a matter of perspective. In a relationship, if someone is merely using me for whatever, and if I’m getting from the relationship what I want, who’s to say which of us is using the other? Are you using me for nice company while you get over whoever just dumped you? Fine. It might not end well for me, but I know what I’m getting myself into when I’m just the rebound relationship. So my answer is really this. If what I’m giving is a regular expression of my feelings for you — whatever the feelings are — use me any way you want. If I have the money to give, take it. If you just want my body (ha!), here it is. If you need to talk late at night about some jerk you think you love when I’m really the one you should be with, well, I’ve survived it more than once and I can take it. If I’m unwilling to give it, I won’t give it. In many cases I’m using you, too. I like that late-night phone time. I like having the money to give you. I can’t really speak to the body thing yet, but here I am, ladies, if you’d like to try me.
4. When did you recently have an a-ha moment?
This is going to sound idiotic. I have a bunch of chores I’ve fallen way far behind on. Nothing too gross, like not the dishes (I don’t let dishes stack up). Just stuff that needs doing but hasn’t been done. Over the New Year weekend, when pretty much everything was closed, I figured out that if I make myself stay put, I can get past the stir-craziness and what’s on the other side is an unexpected energy to get that stuff done. Was this a short-lived New Year’s resolve, or do I finally just say to myself that here I am with nowhere to go, so I might as well do the work? It felt like an important lesson. I’m hoping to try it out again on Presidents Day weekend.
5. What’s something you know about turtles?
I’m not allowed to have pets in my rented house, but I have gotten away with an aquarium. For a while, I considered getting a turtle for a separate aquarium, so I asked my friend about her turtle. She says they’re fun pets to own, but they stink up their tanks really bad. If you don’t wash them and whatever is in their tank every week, it gets nasty.
Brain’s been a little out of it lately. I do okay at work, but the place where the writing comes from feels tired when I get out of the office.
I’m still working on new year’s resolutions. Getting fresh wheels in September put a huge dent in my walking, and at first it wasn’t too difficult to make up for it on weekends and late evenings. Near the end of the year it was. I’ve been trying to make a good night’s sleep a much higher priority than I have for most of my life. With all my sleep issues, that’s just not an easy thing. Now I’m finding myself with less time for the walking I think I need to do. And please don’t even ask me when I last went for a swim. Ugh.
I have to make this all work. I’m rather sure it’s doable. Maybe the resolutions should be based on that.
What’s a song that recently moved you? The new WordPress doesn’t handle bulleted lists the way I like. This is going to take some getting used to or some code manipulation. I can’t even seem to get it into HTML view. So, a weird thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Someone at work sent me a link to a pop song on YouTube, and the ad ahead of the video was for a Miley Cyrus song, and it sounded really good. Then I heard the song in public places twice and Shazamed it both times (I didn’t recognize it the second time but it was the same song). It’s actually Mark Ronson (the guy who did “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars) featuring Miley Cyrus, and it’s good. It sounds like it was right off the Hell or High Water soundtrack, with that kind of evil, outlaw sound. Like a Highwaymen song. It’s my best song of 2019 so far, even though I guess it was released at the end of 2018. There’s a kind of irritating disco beat underneath it, but there is also an acoustic mix of it on Spotify, the version I’ve been listening to all week. Here it is as they performed it on SNL. I can’t watch SNL nowadays because the stuff that’s supposed to be funny isn’t funny anymore. Ugh again.
2. What’s a song that recently moved you — right out the door? Okay. It’s not a specific song. I went to a little restaurant in my ‘hood. It was blasting one of the local pop radio stations, and I just couldn’t take it. I ordered my food to eat there, but before they called my number I asked them instead to pack it to go. It was loud. It was insipid. I don’t hate pop music, contrary to popular belief, but most of it is unlistenable. Another reason that Miley Cyrus song impresses me.
3. What kinds of dance performances interest you? Dance just isn’t my thing. I don’t dance, and most contemporary dancing today just baffles me. Folk dances of just about every type (including those from my own Japanese heritage) (and including hula, which I can’t just tell people without considering my audience) bore me. However, I’ll say the dancing in some classic movie musicals does move me. I’m thinking of Singin’ in the Rain and maybe that’s it. Oh, I paid to see Stomp many years ago and that was fun, but I didn’t see it again when it returned once or twice.
4. What’s a good song with the word move (or some form of it) in the title? The ones that leap to mind are “You Gotta Move” (especially the recording by the Lost Dogs), “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King, “She Moved Through the Fair” sung by Megon McDonough on the first Four Bitchin’ Babes album, and “Moving in Stereo” by the Cars from The Cars (1978). However, the very first song I thought of is the best. “Moving Right Along” sung by Kermit and Fozzie in The Muppet Movie. “We did what?” “Just forget it!”
5. How do you feel about prunes? Canned prunes were in the regular fruit rotation at my public elementary school cafeteria, and they were so gross-looking I never even tried them. I had to drink prune juice on occasion when I was a kid and hate dit, but about fifteen years ago, I gave it another try and it was decent. I’d willingly drink it again if I didn’t have to buy a whole quart. Of course, now I know that you can’t judge a food based on what it looked like in the school cafeteria, so I’m open to giving prunes another shot. Maybe even out of a can.
The flight from Honolulu to JFK was nine and a half hours long. I am very susceptible to motion sickness (have been my whole life), but after years of bus riding I thought maybe I could handle a plane ride, which is far less jolty than a typical bus ride, so I didn’t take any motion sickness medication, ‘though I kept some on my person just in case.
An hour in, the plane hit some turbulence and although I didn’t have any queasiness, I wimped out and just took the pills. Better safe than spewing. There were no incidents. The medication makes me really dopey, though, which is why I’m trying not to need it.
I had an aisle seat (by request) and immediately told the hipster sitting next to me that he should feel free to get up as often as he wanted, and I would never consider it an inconvenience. I feel for the window seat people, being all blocked in with nowhere to go.
I was all kinds of prepared with stuff to keep me entertained, but my heart wasn’t into it. Once all the blessed distractions were through (snack service, beverage service, meal service, another beverage service, each right after the other), I mostly slept the unrestful sleep of the doped-up flier, which for me means about an hour at a time with thirty-minute wakeful breaks during which I stretched, strolled to the restroom, and imagined what everyone in Honolulu was up to.
I read a little and did the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine. There’s a guy who constructs a Hawaii-themed crossword puzzle for the one major Hawaii-based carrier. He’s been doing it for years and his puzzles aren’t very good. This one was especially lazy. His theme answers were pretty great but the fill was awful. I swear he had two forms of the same word in this grid, a huge no-no in the crossword universe.
I’m midway through ten books, but the two that get my focus lately are Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop (yes; I’m still reading it) and Roxanne Elden’s Adequate Yearly Progress. The latter is written by a former high-school teacher about high-school teachers. I read a review in the Washington Post (by the Post’s education writer) and was sucked in by the excerpt. This writer knows teachers, and really nails the heartbreaking absurdity of the job. I’ve highlighted passages where she describes stuff that just about any teacher will recognize immediately as true. It’s a lot of passages so far.
I was so dopey that it was hard to focus on the Fitzgerald book, but the Elden novel has short chapters and is a bit easier to read, so I mostly stuck to that.
We landed without incident at JFK, which I found to be pleasant, quiet, fascinating, and not at all what I expected. I was eager to get the rest of the way to Boston and catch a few Zs.
What actor or actress would you like to see in a film genre he or she has never attempted?
Did anyone know Kristen Bell could sing before she was in Frozen? I didn’t. What an amazing surprise. It makes me wonder who else out there can sing but hasn’t done it in a movie yet. I think of the moment Ewan McGregor hit his first notes in Moulin Rouge (a movie I didn’t care much for) and how shocked I was. I want a moment like that, but of course I can’t think of an actor to name since how do I know who can sing among actors who haven’t sung yet? So I need to shift gears with this answer and say I would love (love!) to see Jack Black in a straight spy movie. I think it would be so great to see him as James Bond, actually. I think he’d be terrific. People are speaking about Bond as if the ink is already dry on Idris Elba as the next Bond, but somebody please consider Jack Black. I like the idea of Emily Blunt as Bond as well, and lately I’m hearing some public momentum for Henry Golding (from Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor) as a possible Bond. He would look great in the part but I think he’d be kind of dull.
When did you recently see something beautiful in an unexpected place?
I was wandering around in Boston a few blocks south of Fenway Park, and saw the building the Boston Symphony performs in. Yeah, it has its own buildings and its own performance space. When I become a billionaire from writing for a non-profit someday, I’m going to build something similar for the Honolulu Symphony because wow. Behind an administrative building I saw this mural featuring the likeness of Seiji Ozawa. It’s kind of cartoonish, but you know. It’s Seiji Ozawa. How many orchestra conductors in other cities could be put up on a wall like this where some shmoe from Honolulu might see it and recognize him or her? I’m sure I have a better answer but I can’t think of one right now.
In what way is someone you really admire flawed?
The easy way to answer this question for just about anyone, I think, is to talk about parents. We admire our parents but they’re among the people we know best, so of course we’re aware of their flaws. I think I’ll stick to shallow waters and talk about Tony Kornheiser for a moment. His daily podcast is my favorite regular media consumption. He and his cohosts make me laugh regularly the way nobody else does. He’s smart and witty and capable, like good newswriters always are, of zeroing in on the real story within the story. However, he has a way of constructing a narrative (or, more often, a sub-narrative) that’s not exactly accurate, and he never budges from it despite evidence to the contrary, and he’ll go to them like favorite guitar licks in an improv band. It’s maddening, and it’s judgmental in a way I find disappointing.
In what situation did you recently find yourself utterly out of your element?
I’m planning to go into detail about this later, as I get my thoughts about my recent trip down into words. The short version: in our breakout groups, our instructors gave us an assignment and I didn’t understand what it was. Write ____, they said, and I didn’t know what ____ was! It was kind of magical and frightening and terrific all at once. We had two and a half hours to write it, so I went to my room, took a half hour nap, then hit Google to see what the heck I was supposed to do. Everyone around me seemed to get right to work as soon as the assignment was given. It was humbling!
What implement do you use in a manner unintended by its designer?
My version of making my bed each morning is to put my pillows, flat sheet, and blanket in a couple of Rubbermaid tubs, then laying a shower curtain liner over the fitted sheet in case any critters want to play on my bed while I’m out of the house. I’ve had a recurring problem with rats and I cannot stand the thought that they might be doing things on my sheets when I’m out. So yeah. Shower curtain liner is my new bed spread.