Friday 5: Obligatory

From here.

  1. In 2021, who made you laugh?
    Real laughter of the interpersonal communication sort was extremely difficult to come by in 2021, especially in the first ten months, before we were called back to the office and I had some kind of in-person human interaction on the reg. I have a couple of coworkers who frequently crack me up, including the woman whose cube is right behind mine. She’s from another country and also a lover of old films — she’s the only friend I can think of who also subscribes to the Criterion Channel — and we have similar fatalistic senses of humor. Most of my laughter this year came from podcasts, though, and the best for that was the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. Irreverent takes on sports and culture. Stupid and clever at the same time.
  2. What was a pleasant surprise?
    I don’t know how pleasant it was, but shortly after my second shot, I found myself in a lot of neighborhood bars. I kind of hate bars, but one thing I missed most during the lockdown (as I have written in this space multiple times) was hanging out in cafes and boba joints. Just somewhere to be, surrounded by people who didn’t know me and wouldn’t talk to me. The cafes here still aren’t open at night, so bars it was, and I rather enjoyed it, although I think I dropped too much money per visit. Once I can find a way to have a few drinks and maybe a bite without spending the equivalent of five lattes each time I go, I think I can make it a more regular thing. Of course, this is all off the list now until numbers begin to go back down.
  3. How have you grown?
    I’m pleased to find myself getting better at my work. I was rather unhappy with myself at work for most of the lockdown, but I’m finding better ways to handle the flow, and I’m finding myself more pleased with my time management.
  4. What do you forgive yourself for?
    I’m forgiving myself for not stressing about my body during the lockdown. I made good efforts to walk and to get in the ocean, but those were mostly for mental health; physical health benefits were secondary. Or sometimes physical health benefits were an excuse to make unwise decisions about what I put into my body. I’ve been seeing a doctor lately about correcting some of these actions.
  5. If you were to get a tattoo to represent the year, what would it be and where would you put it?
    The most depressing theme of these past two years has been a sense of lost time, like there is this hole in the timeline of my life where there should have been stuff. I started a local silent book club whose inaugural meetup in February 2020 turned out to be our last. The podcast I planned to launch depended on meeting people in public spaces, so that never got off the ground and I haven’t even taken the gear for a test run. I wanted to spend some time with new acquaintances. I hoped to travel a little. I miss concerts, movies in theaters, dining with friends. Meanwhile, my body and mind don’t I’m in stasis as the days rip slowly off the calendar. My life may be on hold, but the aging process certainly isn’t, and since I don’t have too many birthdays left, I’m feeling resentful more than anything else. I would get the tattoo on my shoulder, and it would be a hole to represent everything I’ve missed, to remind me of this gap in the continuum of my life that probably doesn’t have to be as significant as I’ve allowed.

Friday 5: Brainstorming

From here.

  1. If you owned a new professional sports team (pick any sport!), what would you name it, and what would be its team colors?
    I’d name my new NFL team the Honolulu Vampires. The colors would be black, black, and black with highlights of blood red.
  2. If you owned a new restaurant, what would you name it, and what kind of cuisine would it serve?
    I’d name it Flapjacks and it would be a breakfast spot similar to Cold Stone. You pick your batter, you pick your fillings, and the cutie behind the counter-length griddle makes your pancakes right in front of you. Build-your-own crepes and omelets also available and prepared in front of you.
  3. If you owned a little independent retail shop, what would you name it, and what would it sell?
    It would be fun to run a little book shop specializing in mysteries. I’d call it something like Clues or a Cozy Bookstore.
  4. If you launched a charity, what would be its cause?
    A nonprofit dedicated entirely to helping people pass their U.S. citizenship tests and gain citizenship. A lot of teaching, some counseling and advocacy, and some legal help.
  5. What kind of recreation is sorely lacking in your town?
    I wouldn’t mind seeing the return of the drive-in theater, perhaps somehow amped up a level, maybe with food trucks or neighboring restaurants delivering to your vehicle. Also, racquetball is super difficult to play in this town unless you have access to a military base or membership in a club. It kind of sucks because racquetball is so much fun.

Friday 5: Are you prepositioning me?

Work has been a bit frenzied lately. It usually calms down for me in December — when I was first hired in December five years ago, they told me not to come in until the second week of January because there just wasn’t much for me to do yet.

If the last few Decembers have been less than frantic, I’ll just say I kind of earned them because in order to get year-end stuff out, my busy time is September into November. Those stories take time to write, and getting them approved by all stakeholders often takes even more time.

But I’ve picked up a new responsibility: sending out bulk emails on behalf of some of UH’s units. We are tenacious protectors of our data, as we must be. We collect money from a lot of people, and our records are freaking sensitive as heck. We also keep alumni data. So when the department of ______ wants to send out a bulk email to its donors or alumni, it does it through our foundation.

I’m not in charge of any of it, but we lost one of our people who used to do it, summer 2020 on the day I still think of as Black Tuesday. So responsibilities have shifted, and they continue to shift as people move into and out of positions.

I’d been bugging my boss for years to let me learn Mailchimp so I could help out with that stuff once in a while. Also because learning new stuff is critical to keeping me interested in my work. I finally got the okay when someone needed to pick up the mailouts for a few units.

The end of the calendar year is pretty busy for a task like this. I’m handling the smallest number of these and they still take up an enormous chunk of my time and energy. They’re not supposed to, but I’m still new to this task, so I’m still in the steeper part of the learning curve.

I’ve complained to my boss that I haven’t lately had any time for goofing off during my workday. I have to do my NYT crosswords at home before bed, rather than during breaks at my desk. I was being playful when I said it, but I was also being serious.

Not complaining about the work or the workload, actually. Just trying to keep it going without letting myself get fully immersed beyond a reasonable week’s hours. ‘Though I could certainly let myself without worrying too much. It would never be as self-destructive as when I was teaching.

It’s 2:33 in the morning and I’m still up because this last two weeks I crash as soon as I get home, for two to three hours, and then I’m up too late getting non-work things done. It’s a very unhealthy thing I do every so often and I find the cycle super difficult to break. I was going to reset last weekend, but I got a request to put together a proposal on Saturday afternoon and spent Sunday evening — late Sunday evening — doing it. Because end-of-year stuff. We’re a charity, and people want to get their donations in by the end of December.

Soooooooooooooooo I might as well do a Friday 5.

From here.

  1. When did you recently do something on the sly?
    I stayed late in the office to get a few things done Tuesday night. Was about to lock up (everyone else had gone home) when I remembered Wednesday is when I hoped to put my office Christmas gift out: eight tins of assorted teas from Harney and Sons. I wasn’t exactly sneaking around to do it, but I like to leave that stuff when nobody’s seeing me. Santa-like. I printed an obnoxiously punny message on some Christmas-printed cardstock and set it up nicely in the break room where we keep the tea stuff.
  2. Which of your plans for the coming week is still up in the air?
    I have to mail Christmas gifts to people I won’t see in person, and I still have two unchecked items on my list. Gotta pick something up then pack stuff to mail. I’m hoping to get the shopping done Saturday evening and mail it all out early Monday morning.
  3. What’s happening across the street?
    I live across the street from the faculty housing of a certain Hawaii private K-12 school, and since they’re about to begin Christmas break, it’s been super quiet over there. I think some of my neighbors are from off-island, so during breaks they go away. Just a suspicion; I don’t actually know any of them. Between semesters, there’s often some turnover there too, although less in December than in July.
  4. What have you heard recently through the grapevine?
    As I have said many times, I try to run away from gossip. If I consume any gossip at all, it’s usually about football or baseball, but that’s not gossip. In baseball’s winter months, it’s hot stove. A different creature entirely. Which player is thinking of signing with which team, that kind of stuff. And the hot stove league is quiet these days because the stupid Major Leagues are in lockout pending some kind of new collective bargaining agreement.
  5. What kinds of videos on YouTube are likeliest to send you down the rabbit hole?
    I don’t like looking at video on my phone, and I’ve never really liked it on my computer. I’m kind of old that way. I like computers and phones for reading and interacting. I don’t like them for sucking in video content. However, when I do get drawn in (or when I let myself willingly be pulled under), there are three common culprits. I like compilations of Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets segments. I find them hilarious and have watched some of them several times. I also like concert videos of bands I like. Most of the musicians I really want to see in concert never make it out here, so if there’s good live video of them, I’ll occasionally lose a few hours. Related: the third culprit is a series by Loudwire, a metal blog, called Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction? in which the host interviews metal musicians, reading them stuff Wikipedia says about them. The musicians then confirm or correct the info. It’s just this chill vibe with musicians I admire the heck out of, and there are few things I find more interesting than artists talking about their art.

Friday 5: The work of the child

From here.

  1. What musical instruments have you played?
    I took several years of piano lessons in elementary school, and taught myself harmonica in high school. Then mostly taught myself guitar in college. Those are the main ones. I’ve goofed around with ukulele and planned to buy one during the lockdown but I got distracted by other things. I have a doumbek Ross gave me when he didn’t want it anymore, but it’s doesn’t have great tone so I never play it. Planning to use it, though, if I ever record any of these silly songs I’ve written.
  2. When do you play with your food?
    Man, I can’t remember when I’ve done this. I play around in the kitchen all the time, messing with or creating recipes, but that’s not really what the phrase means. Oh, sometimes when I’m eating goldfish crackers, I like to make little stories with them moving around on the table, taking photos to illustrate little sequences. I kind of consider this writing, though, but in the context of snacking it certainly is playing. Sometimes I close my eyes when I’m eating M&Ms or Skittles and try to guess what color candy I’ve popped into my mouth.
  3. What’s your favorite stage play?
    I’m very fond of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I also really like Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and Death of a Salesman. The Music Man may be my favorite, though, which is weird because I don’t love musicals. I’ve also directed three high-school plays, so they are closest to my heart. A little comic murder mystery called If It’s Monday, This Must Be Murder! Also Once Upon a Mattress and this wonderful musical called The Emperor’s New Clothes with music by Allan Jay Freedman (who, I just now discovered, died this week) and lyrics by Oscar-winner Paul Francis Webster.
  4. What games do you play on your phone?
    I’ve been playing Words with Friends since the moment I got my first iPhone. I’m also into this word game called Ruzzle, and as I’ve mentioned in this space, I got back into Tsum Tsum during the lockdown, after a few years away. These are the current games, but I do try not to get stagnant, trying new games every few months to see if anything else is sticky.
  5. When did you recently play it by ear?
    It’s pretty much the way I live my life, when I’m not in the classroom, and even sometimes when I am. These days I eat lunch out every day at work, and most of the time, I just walk around until something strikes me. Now that I’m trying to avoid empty carbs, it takes longer, or I just end up in the same few spots for a good salad. Yesterday I walked in a different direction and found myself at Ja Gal Chi, a Korean spot in the neighborhood I haven’t been to since right before the lockdown, when Ali moved away. It made me a little sad since she’s not talking to me anymore and I miss her. The tofu soup was great, though.

Friday 5: Everything but Yul Brynner

From here.

  1. How have you recently kept yourself in check?
    Uggggh. I’ve been seeing my doctor for a few issues lately. It began with a routine checkup, which led to some blood work, some encouraging numbers and some discouraging numbers, some more blood work, some mostly encouraging numbers (ruling out some bad stuff, whew), and some calm advice for adjusting the bad numbers, most of which involves my intake of two things I’m rather fond of: caffeine and carbs. So for the past two and a half weeks (excluding yesterday) I’ve really been good about checking my craving for caffeine. I’ve mentioned in this space a few times that I’ve never had a problem going cold turkey on caffeine — no withdrawal or DTs or anything — but it does make me quite happy when I consume it. Alas. I’ve also replaced most carby sides with greens. I love me some broccoli, arugula, and kale, but they do not please me quite the way noodles, rolls, or RICE do. I’m half Japanese. We are practically religious about rice. But you know. My doctor says for the most part we are fine-tuning, and that’s the kind of encouragement I need. Life’s a pain but I’d like to stick around for as long as I possibly can. There are too many things on the Cheesecake Factory* menu I haven’t tried yet.
  2. What’s the closest thing to a castle you’ve been in?
    Structure-wise, there probably isn’t anything remotely like a castle in my experience, having spent my whole life either in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or on the West Coast of the United States. But this lovely island state used to be an island nation, and it had an elected, constitutional monarchy, and the monarchy resided in a palace, which I have visited more times than I honestly cared to, most times chaperoning ninth-graders on field trips. Iolani Palace is a huge part of our history here and while it’s no castle, I imagine castles as the abodes of royalty, as are palaces. It’s a lovely building with a lovely history, and if you visit Hawaii you really should check it out.

    Oh wait a minute. Castle Park. A water park (believe it or not) in Honolulu in the 80s and 90s. You entered through a large castle-like building, which was the very cool arcade where my friends and I wasted a lot of money before high school football games (the stadium was across the street). Game tokens there were called Coins of the Realm. It’s since long gone, filled in, and replaced by a K-Mart. Which has been since replaced by who knows what?
  3. What were the circumstances the last time you were hoarse?
    Wow. It’s been a very long time, I think. I was sick with a very bad cold about fifteen years ago, during which I went hoarse for a few days. I missed two weeks of teaching, and it was the time when I kind of ghosted Mochi Girl, something I’m not proud of. We were headed that way anyway; the long illness just hastened things. She wanted to offer me some comfort and care. I wanted to be left alone. At least we agreed on one thing: I was not worth her concern!
  4. What’s your favorite song by Queen?
    I hate to admit this these days because the song’s a bit problematic, but it’s probably still “Fat Bottomed Girls,” ‘though in recent years I feel “Somebody to Love” and “I Want to Break Free” inching their way past it.
  5. For what will you likely pay a king’s ransom in the near future?
    Well I’ve already gone a bit overboard on some Christmas gifts (I’m trying to get my shopping done before the first of December), and when I’m Christmas shopping, I make a supreme effort not to buy things for myself. Once I get the gifts paid for, I need a new refrigerator and I need some work on my car. I’m also ordering new glasses by the end of the year, and the last two pairs I bought were more than $400 each. I can’t imagine I’ll spend less this time around. That really does seem a bit much.

* I use this establishment’s menu as a metaphor. I’ve only dined there twice, and while I liked it quite a bit, it’s in a part of town I just don’t care to drive through. Plus the line is crazy.

Friday 5: November rain

So much to write about but no energy. It’s been a crazy first week of November, which is the first week of NaNoWriMo and the first week of working in the office with everyone at the nonprofit. We’re all a bit stressed in the transition.

Friday 5 instead.

When you buy tickets to a Guns N’ Roses show, you never know what you’re getting. So much depends on Axl’s mood. When he wants to do a good show, he does a great show, and when GNR played Honolulu three years ago he and the band clearly wanted to. They played nearly three and a half hours and it was just a really good performance from beginning to end. They looked like they were having a great time, too, for the last performance on this leg of their long tour.

They were very careful on stage about their future together. It sounded like Slash and Axl weren’t making promises, but they were feeling good about things, and they would see what happens. Yeah, they said all this after the last encore, which is a little weird for stage banter. They were clearly adrenalized from a great show in front of a most appreciative audience.

It was a pricy ticket, but I seriously doubt anyone thought he or she didn’t get his or her money’s worth. Even though the band didn’t play two songs I wanted to hear. Yeah, it’s possible for a band with only six studio albums, playing from only four of them, to leave some really good songs out of the set list!

  1. What unique behavior, attire, or ceremony element have you seen at a wedding?
    I’ve seen some appalling behavior, but I’m going to stay positive here and say I thought it was poetic and pretty cool when Tash and Dave took communion together, privately with their backs turned to the congregation, for their first act as a married couple. I also liked when Arjay taped Tara’s garter to a basketball (they met in a gym playing basketball) before tossing it over his shoulder like it was a no-look pass.
  2. Who’s your favorite piano player?
    So many to choose from, and although I have favorite players of just about every other rock band instrument, I don’t know if I have one for piano. Rick Wakeman (of Yes) is the first I think of, but I think I only like him in the context of Yes. Bruce Hornsby. Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater. There have been days when R was the easy answer. Sorry; I might have to come back to this one.
  3. When did rain notably ruin your plans?
    It does this all the time when I have plans to swim at the beach. I don’t mind swimming in the rain; I mind swimming after the rain. When the island is saturated or when the rain comes down too quickly for the ground to absorb it, it runs right into the sea, and you do not want to swim in that yuckiness. Very often I will go to bed early so I can have a sunrise swim, only to discover it has poured like demons all night long. It’s most disappointing.
  4. What is your going-to-bed ritual like?
    I actually have one, now that I’m of a certain age with certain conditions needing attention. Assuming I’ve locked up the house, done the dishes, and brushed my teeth by the time I’m ready to turn in, I put some ice and drinking water into a small water flask Grace gave me for Christmas, so if I wake up thirsty I have water right by my bed. It’s the only food or drink allowed in my bedroom, ever. Then I set timers for two prescription eyedrops, which I have to lie still for, for four minutes each with six minutes in between. Those times are actually longer than necessary, but I like to play it safe. Then I pour distilled water into my Darth Vader machine, strap it to my face, drop my sleeping mask over my eyes, and lie flat on my back, where on a good night I will stay for six to seven hours, but usually only for four or five.
  5. When did you last give roses to someone or receive them from someone?
    I used to give roses to people all the time but I’m only realizing now that it’s been a very long time. I gave sunflowers to all the office support staff on the first day of school when I was teaching, once. Anonymously. That was fun. Okay, this is a lame answer, but I often pick up leis for people at Cindy’s Lei Shop, the best lei shop in Honolulu, volunteering to grab something on the way to work on behalf of coworkers who will Venmo me part of the price. I did this yesterday morning, in fact, for a coworker who’s leaving. While I can’t remember specifically buying anyone a lei with rosebuds on it, I’m sure I have some time in the past five years, so that’s going to have to do. I’m a single guy who’s romantically not seeing or courting anyone. Roses are too risky. Don’t want to be misread. When I was younger and didn’t mind being misread and when my intentions were blatant anyway, I bought lots of roses for lots of lovely young women. I thought I was being charming or something. Now I think I was being a doofus.

Friday 5: We learned more from a three-minute record, baby

(than we ever learned in school)

From here.

  1. Who needs you?
    I’m a single guy who mostly sticks to himself, so I don’t think anyone actually needs me, but since I try to be the here-if-you-need-me guy, the person who needs me changes on the reg and doesn’t come around very often. Similarly, I don’t think my parents need me, but they need me to be ready when they need me. I think this counts. I kept myself away from people for a year in case they should need me. Isn’t this a great Leo Sayer song?
  2. Who runs to you?
    Everyone’s mentioning their pets in response to this question, and it’s a good one. My parents’ dog gets pretty psyched to see me when I go over. They say he recognizes the sound of my car coming up the hill (much to my embarrassment, it’s a very loud car) and runs to the fence to watch me pull into the driveway. Then he meets me halfway down the stair as I’m coming up to the living room. There are worse ways to be greeted than excitedly by a dog, I tell you.
  3. Who forgets you?
    I don’t know what it means that, while people may forget my name, they seldom forget me. There’s a guy on this island whom I run into every five years or so, and he calls my name and says, “You still don’t know who I am, do you?” And I have to admit I don’t, but could he please tell me? And he never does. Whoever it is, he’s known me since we were kids, so I probably haven’t forgotten him: I just don’t recognize him because while I almost never forget a name, I forget a face very, very often. Ohhh I just thought of a good group of people. My students’ parents. Which is more than fair. I think we forget each other. To them, I’m just one of a long string of teachers they met maybe once a year. To me, they’re quite often more types than they are people, which isn’t fair, but I suppose I’m just a type to them as well. It’s okay. We know each other when we have to know each other, and then we forget each other. One parent I have not forgotten recently announced her candidacy for governor of Hawaii. We interacted a lot for a few years when I taught her son — she even sat next to me at another student’s graduation dinner. I had a bit of a thing for her and still do. I wonder if she’s forgotten me.
  4. Who keeps you hangin’ on?
    People are answering this question as if it’s asking who keeps you from losing your grip, which is fine. But I think the lyrics to the song have more to do with keeping someone on the hook. Like, get out of my life, why don’t you? You’re just keeping me on the hook and I’m ready to move along. To which my answer is perhaps nobody. I’m the one who can’t let go of people; they don’t have to keep me hanging on because I can’t seem to loosen my grip. That friend Ali whose text messages helped me get through the first year of the pandemic has ceased to communicate with me altogether, and I miss her, even though I pretty much know it was too volatile a friendship for either of us. I’ve backed off completely, knowing she won’t respond well to my reaching out again, but I still have wisps of hope that we can be friends.
  5. Who’s watching you?
    As one respondent pointed out, when you journal online as I do, you don’t know who’s watching, and I’m intentionally pretty visible on different channels. I keep all my social media accounts wide open too. It’s just a life I want to live, for now, which means I don’t know who’s reading what I write, or looking at my photos, or judging me for the music I listen to or the films I like. I’m sure there are more than a few people who note every error I make in spelling or punctuation, since I’m famously (but really only supposedly) a language snob, taking wicked glee in my hypocritical ignorance. It’s fine. I hope they also see a person who’s trying his best not to reach for that other half of the pizza too.

Friday 5: Accessory to cinema

Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia; praise ye the lord. I’m caught up with work for the first time in nearly a year. I’m not joking. Of course, this was made possible by my boss not giving me anything new until I could finish all the old, which I’m grateful for. I did get a couple of short-notice proposals to work on, but I handled them quickly, so my caught-up status is now two whole workdays old.

I’ve been sleeping better, almost surely as a result.

Wednesday night I felt so good about it I braved Costco for the first time in 16 months. Loaded up on non-perishables and some stuff for the hurricane kit. I dropped kind of a ridiculous amount of money and of course I forgot batteries. Batteries were one of the main reasons I went to Costco. Ugh.

So I went back Thursday night. 8:00 in the evening both nights. It closes at 8:30. And it wasn’t crazy or especially scary. Anyway I’m in pretty good shape heading into hurricane season, better prepared than I’ve ever been.

My coworker who works on Kauai was on island Friday evening, so I went to dinner with her and a few others. My first dining-out experience since mid-August when I went into self-imposed second lockdown (Lockdown 2: Subhumanoid Meltdown). We went to Olive Garden because the coworker’s staying in the Ala Moana Hotel. The meal was aight but the company was nice. It was good to sit down with humans and have a meal and just be together. And Ala Moana wasn’t as crazy as I expected for Friday night.

If you have Netflix and haven’t seen Cooking with Paris, I recommend the heck out of it. Entertaining. Silly. Funny. And surprisingly clever.

I also watched the Arsenio Hall standup special, which was okay. And one of the Tig Notaro specials. It was great. Tig’s comedy is something else. I’m going to watch her other thing and possibly write a short essay on how she does what she does.

Betcha can’t wait for that.

Friday 5: Accessory to Cinema, from here.

  1. What’s your favorite weapon in a movie?
    I actually have a top ten. Posted to Hawaii Threads in January 2008. As I considered my answers last night before peeking at my list, I decided I’m taking all firearms off the list. The last thing I care to do these days is contribute to fetishizing guns. So here’s my list with firearms redacted: (10) The Nude Bomb from The Nude Bomb, that ridiculous wonderful Get Smart movie. (9) Harry Potter’s wand. This would be much higher if the wands in the films were like their descriptions in the novels. (8) Bruce Lee’s hands and feet. (7) Go-Go Yubari’s meteor hammer in Kill Bill Part 1. (6) Wolverine’s Adamantium claws in the X-Men and Wolverine films. (5) redacted. (4) Jason Voorhees’s machete. (3) redacted. (2) Darth Maul’s light sabre bo staff in Star Wars Episode 1. (1) Indiana Jones’s whip.
  2. What’s your favorite car in a movie?
    So many great movie cars. My answer today is the Audi RSQ, a fictional car in Will Smith’s I, Robot. Spheres for wheels.
  3. What’s your favorite cat or dog in a movie?
    I decided when I wrote these questions I wasn’t going with animated dogs, disqualifying Rowlf in the Muppets movies, Snoopy in the Peanuts movies, Perdita and Pongo in 101 Dalmations, and Gromit in the Wallace and Gromit films. So I’m going way off the board and taking Brutus, the Great Dane in Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund.
  4. Who’s your favorite sidekick in a movie?
    Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings films next.
  5. What’s your favorite painting or sculpture in a movie?
    “Love isn’t love without a violin-playing goat.” Julia Roberts, talking about La Mariée by Marc Chagall in Notting Hill. Chagall is my favorite. Second place is probably A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Pointillism, baby.

Friday 5: Gripe session

I have a lot to write about, but my brain is porridge these days, so you’re just getting a Friday 5 right now and maybe some journaling over the weekend. We’ll see.

I will say that if you’re a pumpkin spice fan, as I am, check out the new (presumably seasonal) pumpkin spice Special K breakfast cereal. Cereal lovers should love it. I like it rather a lot.

From here.

  1. What complaints do you have about this weekend?
    Two days off and nobody to tell me what to do? Who needs it! I’ll add my vote to a predicted chorus of “it’s not long enough,” of course. Rain probabilities in my neighborhood this weekend are 43% Friday, 54% Saturday, and 44% Sunday. The Raiders are undefeated after two games and host the Dolphins in Vegas Sunday, which I suspect will be a heartbreaker. The big item on my to-do list is housecleaning. The Athletics are having a terrible September and are likely to play themselves out of the post season this weekend. Yeah, I got a problem with you, upcoming weekend!
  2. What are your grievances with yourself?
    I’m in a ridiculous pandemic funk I can’t get out of, and it’s affecting my health, my work, and my interactions with people, such as they exist. I’ve taken steps to deal with some of the things stressing me out, but I need to do more, and I honestly don’t know if it’s helping, beyond the immediate satisfaction of crossing them off the stress list.
  3. What are your objections to rainbows, flowers, and puppies?
    Freaking rainbows. They only show up when it rains. Where are they when the weather’s lovely? Also, they distract me when I’m driving north through Nuuanu because at certain times of day, you’re likely to see a nice one. Nuuanu Valley seems to be built for rainbows — on campus at HBA where I went to school and where I also taught, they usually popped up in the space between the gym and the main classroom building, looking north into the valley. So distracting! And flowers? Fleeting beauty followed by a reminder of death, decay, and the dust to which we all must return. I guess those are all sort of synonyms. Puppies are horrible because I can’t have them where I live. Also, I’ve spent my whole professional life afraid to commit to a puppy since I didn’t know what my family situation was going to be like. Now twenty years have gone by and I still live by myself and probably could have had a dog all this time, and now I’m annoyed. All those wasted puppy-less years.
  4. What are your criticisms about your domicile?
    Well obviously, not being allowed puppies is a major issue. Also: I can’t afford a housecleaner. Forget the rent being far, far lower than the market would suggest and just about the right amount of space for a person like me, and the proximity to the city to do anything within fifteen minutes while being far enough away not to feel threatened by its ills.
  5. What’s your beef with excessively negative people?
    My biggest beef with them is their tendency to focus on themselves and to be unconcerned with the problems of others. It’s the easiest way to be depressed about oneself and the laziest way to live. Excessively negative people are a downer: they diminish my view of people in general, and I try my best to stay far away from them. Thankfully, most of my friends are the opposite — excessively positive. Maybe that makes me hypersensitive to excessive negativity, but that’s fine.

Bring on the lousy weekend!

Friday 5: A line of wolves

I’m in a bit of a furrow these days. Certainly not an abyss, thank God, and not quite a pit. I spent a little bit of time at the end of the work week trying to make myself feel better at least about the things in my control. More later. Meanwhile, the Friday 5s from this week and last.

Ax + By = C. From here.

  1. It’s been said (notably by Divinyls in 1985) there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. How has this proven true in your life?
    This concept was posited the first time in a Philosophy 100 course at Leeward Community College. I didn’t like the course much, but I liked the professor. I dropped the class because I couldn’t stand my classmates. The prof mentioned the fine line between pleasure and pain, and some classmates laughed and said it was ridiculous. The professor asked if anyone disagreed with the dissenting classmates. I just said the word “hot sauce” to myself, but the prof heard me and used that as an example. Heck yeah hot sauce. So painful sometimes but so pleasurable.
  2. Where in your life have you witnessed the fine line between genius and insanity?
    I know a lot of writers, musicians, and artists, and there’s an element of this with many of them. Most people who know her wouldn’t guess it, but R has some darkness in her. I’ve seen her teetering on the brink a time or two, and didn’t always know what to do about it. She dips into it when she writes or when she plays piano, and she’s the best writer I know.
  3. Where do you draw the fine line between supporting someone and enabling someone?
    I’ve never been able to in my personal life. Tough love cannot get its claws into me. I’ve sent people I love money to fly home from bad Las Vegas trips, against the advice of their friends. I’ll keep doing it if I need to. Thankfully, this particular thing hasn’t happened since the 90s, but it’s a good example. Professionally, drawing that line is part of the job. Clear expectations and consistent follow-through; I know they make me a better teacher, even if there are casualties along the way. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for grace: of course there is. But as one colleague once wrote as a report comment, “Sometimes in this flawed world, the grace runs out.”
  4. Which sides of the fine lines between caution and cowardice, and between courage and foolhardiness do you tend toward?
    I’m on the side of cowardice more often than caution, I’m sad to say. It’s one of the things I beat myself up most about. And definitely foolhardiness. I cannot tell you how many reckless things I’ve done just because I didn’t consider the consequences. Or because the consequences didn’t matter. That’s definitely not courage. I’ve actually done stupid things just because I thought it would be a good story. That’s not courage either.
  5. Tasked with drawing a literal fine line, what is your writing utensil of choice?
    New York magazine ran a list of the 100 best pens, and I’ve been sloooowly working my way through each pen listed higher than mine. This qualifies me to give a good answer, and my answer today is my answer for the past 20 years: the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball pen. Number 16 on this list, ladies and gentlemen, but number one in our hearts.

Wolf! From here.

  1. When are you the tortoise, and when are you the hare?
    “Slow and steady wins the race” is practically tattooed on my soul, except the winning the race part. I take too long to do almost everything. I’m the last to finish eating at almost any table. People think I come in on weekends or stay late at night at work because I work hard. I don’t. I work slowly. I think one instance where I’ve been the hare is with Christmas shopping. I usually set aside one weekend in October or November and (these days) do almost all the shopping online and take care of it at once. This is mostly true for my first- and second-tier friends. I take a little more time with family, and usually shop locally, but yeah: I still get it done quickly most of the time.
  2. When are you the grasshopper, and when are you the ants?
    Besides working slowly, I also procrastinate and take impulsive side-trips for fun, so I’m the grasshopper just about every day. I’m lazy. But I still mostly get the stuff done. It just take me longer once I get moving. I’m ants, a grasshopper, and a tortoise.
  3. When were you the lion, and when were you the mouse?
    I don’t know how to talk about this really, but in recent years I’ve gone out of my way to help people who were kind of scary. Drunk homeless people at bus stops. Drunk non-homeless people waiting for buses (I actually told this story in this space, the one where I helped him find his phone). I think those are good mouse stories, although calling the people I helped lions may be a stretch. There was certainly nothing regal or menacing about them. Just unpredictably dangerous, maybe. I’ve been humbled more than once when students have reached out to help me. I hate asking for help, but there are a few times when I was genuinely helped, me the person not me the teacher, by a concerned student who didn’t see me as an authority figure in the moment but as a human who needed help.
  4. Are you more like the town mouse or the country mouse?
    I hate to push, but the best answer is I’m half of each. My favorite places in this state are Molokai and Hilo, definitely the country. I believe I’ll likely retire to Hilo someday. But man, I do love being in town, close to everything.
  5. Which fable told in your childhood has resonated with you through the years?
    The one I frequently go to is the Boy Who Cried Wolf. I try never to be an alarmist; in fact I’ve been asked to be more alarmed than I was more than once. But there’s an element here that’s really not about being alarmist. The boy wasn’t genuinely alarmed; he was either mischievous or dishonest, or just insecure. I’ve been guilty of them all, and while I’m mostly unrepentant about mischief, I’d like to be less dishonest. I think it’ll make me less insecure.