Thursday, March 16, 2017

Writing

"I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am."

                                   --Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Introvert in Paris

"When the high-speed chases and mandatory shoot-outs become too repetitive, I head over to the revival houses and watch gentler movies, in which the couples sleep in separate beds and everyone wears a hat.  As my ticket is ripped, I briefly consider all the constructive things I could be doing.  I think of the parks and the restaurants, or the pleasantries I'll never use on the friends I am failing to make.  I think of the great city teaming on the other side of that curtain, and then the lights go down, and I love Paris."

          --David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dunked

Here's a story that comes to mind every once in a while.

To quote Sophia from The Golden Girls, "Picture it...fall of 2009."*  I was transitioning out of Christianity.  I wasn't using the word "atheist" yet, but was on my way, and was desperately trying to cling to the basics of what the faith should be, or what I thought it should be, anyway.  Thanksgiving was coming up, and several churches in the community were gearing up for the annual dinner that they put on for the holiday.  I couldn't volunteer on Thanksgiving day due to family obligations, but I volunteered to help plaster the town with posters about the event.  It was my way of being part of an actual humanitarian effort, focused on feeding people and giving lonely people a place to go on a significant day.  Looking back on it, I naively chose not to think about the more overt religious nature of the holiday.  I'm sure there was prayer, I'm sure there was Christian music playing during the dinner, and I'm sure people were mingling with the specific purpose of proselytizing.  I was grasping at straws at this point.

Nevertheless, I turned up at the church to pick up the flyers.  I was still attending a bit, but it was easier to show up during the week and find the stack of paper in the office rather than find the woman who printed them and answered my phone call when I said I'd post them about (I'd never seen her and had no idea who she was.  It's not a megachurch, but for our small town, it's one of the bigger ones).

As I walked back to the office area where the flyers were, I could hear an associate pastor of the church talking on the phone in his office.  He wasn't the main minister who would preach every week, but sort of an assistant pastor who would visit sick people, fill in with preaching occasionally, and just be a general good egg where and when the main dude couldn't make it. 

He was talking to someone who I could tell was another adult male...I don't remember why this was the case.  He probably used a name I knew at the time...I don't know.   The main thing to know here is, there were two grown men talking on the phone, and the topic was baptism.  The general conversation was some dude on the other side of the conversation asking one of our pastors, Steve, why he needed to be baptized again, when he'd been sprinkled as a baby.  Steve is a gentle dude, and very unassuming...almost annoyingly meek, but he was very direct on this call...the guy on the other end needed to be immersed in water to be fully and officially baptized, and the reason is that in order to be obedient to Christ, baptism by immersion is necessary.

...


...


I'm leaving pauses here for that to wash over you.  Over us.

...

...

In order to be close to God, and to be completely obedient, some people think you can sprinkle water on a baby, and all is good.  Some people think that, no, you have to wait until at least the age of eight...or maybe twelve if you go to the church down the street...and at that time you have to be dunked under water in a tank big enough for a few humans to enter, or a pool, or a stream, etc.  Dunk all the way in there.  Or, you know, the god of the universe might not be happy with you.   You'd better do it just in case.  Some churches think it's just symbolism, but not Steve and the others at this specific church.  This shit is real.  You better really wade in the water.

...

...

Crickets chirping.

...

...

So, here's the thing.  I was trying, y'all.  I really was.  Maybe none of this made sense, maybe it was all bunk...but the Jesus stuff was mostly ok.  If I helped out with actually feeding humans, or was kind to the earth and animals, or donated to human rights organizations, or put my hands to work for the betterment of peoples' lives...maybe I could sort of stay in this whole religion thing.  Maybe outside religion or faith, these things would be harder to organize...

But I hear two grown men discussing whether or not one of them would rot forever if he didn't step into some water and dunk all the way in...not a hair floating on the top for fear that God might not be cool with it. 

The gods must be crazy, indeed.

Something snapped when I heard this nothing conversation, empty of any intelligence, not fitting for our time, and completely stripped of these men's actual lives...their actual realities.  In life, they go to restaurants, go golfing (Steve does, anyway)...one of them had an actual job.  The other one's job partially entails telling the other to get dunked in water. 

I just couldn't.  It was my moment of "I can't with this." 

I went around town that night, in the dark, posting those stupid flyers.  I also went to the local college campus and did it, thinking some students might have to stay during the holiday.  I hope if they went that it wasn't too religious and annoying.  Many who stay on campus for holidays are international students.  They may have been bemused by the events if they did go.  Some probably had other places to be.

Anyway, that night, thinking about Steve's ridiculous job (and I can say that, because I had a similar absurd Jesus job) I passed a point of no return with religion.  That wasn't my breaking point, I don't think.  It's hard to remember, because I didn't know it was happening.  I didn't document everything as it occurred. 

I do remember that same night going over to the gym where I worked out.  I went into the actual gym with a basketball court, but no one was playing that night...not even the hardcore scary volleyball people were there that evening.  My fifth grade teacher was there, though.  She was there with her husband, and they were practicing ballroom dancing.  It was no joke--she had the proper high-heeled shoes on (red) and he had a laptop set up for the purpose of blasting the music and also recording their moves, so they could re-watch and correct their steps as needed.  They were old, and they were fucking good.

I watched for just a minute, and then left them to their practice. 

These stories...the dumb phone call, the poster plastering, and the dancing...don't really have anything to do with one another.  They're just indelibly connected in my mind. 

I do not need the fucked up dunking I got when I was 15.  I don't need religion to help me along with my humanitarian aid.  I do need to keep doing good stuff for people on my own and with others.  I do need to do fun things now and keep doing them when I'm old.

...

...

Picture it...fall of 2050...






_________________________

*I should probably update my pop culture references.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's a Bust

In a recent post, even as I typed the words "apparently ultimate incarnation" I already felt like I was setting myself up to be wrong.  I should have listened to those whispers, because Stella (and that is indeed her name) has transformed again!  It's...well, she's...a bust.



I love being able to see even more of her teeny, tiny details...


A monkey from a barrel o' monkeys!  She'd be a great subject for an I Spy book.



In her former, whole state, maybe she could've rocked out on this guitar by the same artist.  Well, maybe not, as she was missing a hand even then...  This used to be mounted on the wall--it definitely needs a better spot than this less than stellar tile floor.  Maybe if they had more volunteers, Michelle! (Oops!). 


'Stella' is absolutely right--she's a star now.  Other artists have incorporated her into their work.


The photographer who took this came to his art by spending decades as a window washer downtown.  This gave him a unique view of our small town that no one else could share until he started capturing images of the reflections.  This is a photo of Stella when she was window dressing for the gallery during Christmas last year.  And that is an excellent example of how local art can be really surprising and transformative.  It makes me think of this great quotation from the movie Ratatouille...


I love hanging out at this place.


I should really give props to Stella's artist, who has produced lots of wonderful paintings and mixed media sculptures.  Here's her card.  


I don't have a card for the window guy, but his pseudonym is windel w. asher.  (Get it?).  :) 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Quote of the Week--BBQ Edition

"I have a presentiment of doom upon me...and I fear it will come to us with barbeque sauce."


-- Augustus TwoFeathers McCoy in the short story "Sunbird" in Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman


This story is in no way related to Independence Day in the U.S., but I think it would be great reading for the holiday weekend!  It's about a barbeque that...takes a turn.  Ooh, so would his short story "Changes" from Smoke and Mirrors.  Written in the 90s I think, but so relevant to the current conversation about transgender issues.  I love, love, love those two short story collections.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Photo Blast

Oh, my...this has been sitting in my drafts folder for a long time, and is hilariously out of date.  At the point that I wrote this, I was at least up on reading all of the blogs that I follow.  Now, I need to catch up on blog reading, too!

Some of the photos don't have descriptions yet, so I'll add those now and post this before it expires even further.

(Cue harp music and fog machine...we're going back...)

__________________________

Well, goodness--it's been a good long minute since I've posted anything.  Still here and reading blogs, but I just haven't made the time to place anything new of my own.  I've got a few things I might write about soon, but until then, here is a classic photo ("dump" sounds so dump-y, so...) blast.  Here's relatively recent stuff working back to Valentine's Day...

A few years ago, I wrote about volunteering at a local art gallery, and how one of my joyous duties was to dismantle and box away this mannequin, which had been startling the crap out of me every time I turned a certain corner in the back storage room, as shown below.  She'd been displayed in the front window all dressed in newspaper.




Fast forward to my week of vacation mid April this year, to when I made a spur of the moment trip to see what was shakin' at the gallery (...yeah...I've fallen out of the habit of volunteering there as much as I've fallen out of the habit of blogging...).  What I discovered in one of the rooms is said mannequin in her most recent, and apparently ultimate, incarnation.  Isn't she glorious?  She'd been part of the window display during Christmas time, and is now an art piece for sale.   I think whomever buys her is brave, and I really want to see the house that would...well...house her properly.  Click to "embiggen" to see surprising little details.  Oh, and I can testify that both hands went into storage.  Either one was lost since or used in another piece of artwork.







She's not high art, and she may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think anyone would agree with me when I look at her, summon all of the small town Midwestern upbringing within me and say, "She's something else."

Speaking of small towns, my mom and I went to the local college to see Our Town recently, and enjoyed it very much.  This was an "in the round" production with an incredible young man in the role of "Stage Manager" who brought an energy to the play that I'd never seen before.  

Stage Manager on the left, played by A. J. Clark.  Not only did I steal this
photo from the college website, it's also possible that it was taken by my
pal Kim, who takes photos professionally for her role in PR at the school.
Aren't I terrible?

The college doesn't exactly bring it with
their program art, but this picture shows
that Mom and I were right on the floor and
in the action.  Court side seats--sports people,
am I saying that right?  :)

My two oldest sisters and I went ziplining recently.  We really loved it, and had a bang-up time.




Dearest Dean over at Exploding Doughnut recently showed his cubicle at work, and what he has done to give it some personality.  I loved seeing what he'd done with his space.  I, too, am a cube dweller, and here are a few views of my humble work day abode...









A daily view of places I'd rather be, and a daily reminder that I do what I do to get to those places.


My great nephew and great niece looking for Easter eggs.  They really are in the first picture...waaayyyy back there!












These are older pictures below, as you can tell, but taken on the same property.  This is where I grew up, and where my mother has lived for over 50 years.  The little girl in these is the mother of the two children above, and the boy pictured here is their uncle.  Sunriiiiiiise...SUN-SET.




Ooh...speaking of Broadway...

This really is out of date...by 4 or 5 years, I think, but I just came across this picture recently.  This is the cast of an Indy production of Forbidden Broadway that I attended, because I love theater, all things Forbidden Broadway, and my brother!  Here, he is the Phantom...





Here's a painting I posted about ages ago.  Still not really finished, but he's hung.  Hanging on the wall, I mean!  Hanging on the WALL!



Close to Valentine's Day, I got retweeted by the official Orange is the New Black account, and that day they were giving out goodies, so they took my address via DM.  A week later, I got these fun gifts in the mail...  OITNB themed candy hearts and prayer candles with the images of two of Litchfield's finest.



A local store had a deal where you can stuff a bag full of fruit and veg for $15.  Such a good deal, as usually all of this would be around $40.  The berries went in the freezer.  I'm only one woman!



Spring was so cold for so long, that I put out my patio furniture on April 1st as usual, but didn't get out there to plant anything or sit out and read for a long time after.  In my absence, a bird started to build a nest on one of my cushions.  (Wow...I'm really getting old if this qualifies as an illustrated story.  Should I retire to Lake Wobegone yet?).


Awaiting two things among others...time off mid June and the return of OITNB.  Too bad I already ate all of my candy hearts!

They heart each other.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ring

Forgive me if I've told this one here before...

Back in my days working a crappy job in Christian retail (books, music, tchotchkes, etc.), we would sometimes get people coming in just asking random questions about religion in general, Christianity specifically, and maybe something about a book or an object they had.  One day, a woman came in with a ring.

"I found this ring in the Target parking lot, and it has beautiful Hebrew writing on it.  I guess it must be something from the Bible, and I would just love to know what it says."  

The two seminary students on our staff who would have been able to read Hebrew were not in, but this guy Chris told her that we had a lot of jewelry with Hebrew writing on it.  Since much of it had one of a handful of Hebrew words or phrases engraved in, she should let us have a look, and we would have a go at figuring it out for her.  She handed the ring to him.

He looked at the ring, his eyes widened in immediate recognition, and he sucked his lips in--the way you do when you're trying not to laugh out loud or even crack a smile.  He nodded his head up and down slightly.

"Do you know what it says?  It is Hebrew, isn't it?" the lady asked wide-eyed.

Haltingly, "Yeah, uh...no...it's actually Elvish..."



One Ring to rule them all
One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them


Thursday, December 31, 2015

15 in '15

No records were broken as far as quantity of books read by me this year, but the ones that I read were enjoyable and interesting in a variety of ways, and here they are in all of their glory.  I really love these authors, and some of them will be on my reading list for this upcoming year, as well.

 
You'll see Piper Kerman in the mix, and a highlight of my year came early when I met her last winter and got to chat with her briefly and get a really lovely autograph and inscription in my copy of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison.  That was about a month after the death of my father, and it was the first time I'd really gotten to go to an event that was enjoyable and gave me enough of a diversion that I was able to (sort of) forget about my loss for awhile.  I'll always think fondly of her for that!
 
In December of last year, I got proselytized (via great sushi) into a Japanese Literature group, which almost immediately went on hiatus because of changing circumstances in the lives of some of the members (moves, job changes, etc.) and not, as it turns out, due to my joining the group.  It was active just long enough for me to go to a couple of their dinners and read the first book club selection of the year, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.  I really loved this bizarre book, and followed it up with another from Haruki Murakami, The Strange Library, which is not really a graphic novel, but maybe a close cousin to one.  Also bizarre, dark and wonderful.  I have more of his books (freebies from work, fortunately), and plan to read his stuff again soon.
 
As far as diversity among authors goes, maybe I didn't do so hot.  There are several middle-aged white dudes in this list, which doesn't bother me really, but it doesn't hurt to read from a wider variety of perspectives.  I did read three books by two Japanese authors, four books by women, four books by three authors who identify somewhere in the LGBT spectrum...as far as I know, that is.  Checking the rest would just feel weird, as does rattling off stats like this.  However, I do think it's a broadening experience to read from authors of different worldviews, from locations around the world and with a multitude of life experiences.  I don't plan on strictly following some of the book challenges floating around the nets this time of year, but I want to take some ideas from a few of them to widen the scope of my reading a bit.  Also, it's fun to read from genres that I normally might not choose.  That's how I've found really great books and new obsessions in the past.  Here are examples of the reading challenges out there, one from Book Riot, and the other from Pop Sugar.  Click to 'embiggen'!


 
Looking over my books up there, I realize I had a decent mix of literary challenge, relevance and pure entertainment.  I want the same mix for this year.  I don't really do those challenges, like the Goodreads one, where the goal is to plow through fifty books.  I definitely want to read more in 2016, but not for the sake of scoring and 'winning' a challenge.  I find that a lot of times, those challenges are filled with crappy YA books that are no-brainers to read and/or the participant is cramming in ten of the shortest books they can find in December, just so they can finish successfully.  Bless them, and good wishes, but that's just not the type of reading I want to do!  There are definitely some dumb time-wasters that  I can cut out next year that will carve out more time for good book reading.  We'll just have to see if I follow through and do it! 
 
That's about all I have to say about books at the moment.  I wonder what books you all like to read, or liked reading in the past.  Who are some of your favorite authors?  Did you ever read a book that surprised you by how much you liked it? 

 
Happy 2016, everyone.  I really like reading your blogs, those of you who still write them, and those who don't, I'm glad you still pop in and comment now and then, and I'm really happy that I found this place years ago to come to and read and vent and have some fun and make some pals and write some run on sentences.  I like you all a ton.  True story.