Blythe Phoenix

•March 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

“There’s a safety pin in the visor, you know, if you need it.” The Curmudgeonly Lion pulled down the driver’s side sun visor to show me the safety pin stuck through the felt.

“If this were a movie, we would definitely need that in the third act.” I told him.

I couldn’t help but feel like we were launching into thestart of some Indy film: A married couple struggling to cope with the uncertainties of adulthood head out on a roadtrip to discover themselves. Now screening at Sundance.

We drove out of the city on the threshold of a storm: tall black clouds filled the sky behind us, and occasionally veils of rain would brush across our windshield. The route should have been straight: get on route 10 and head East- but somehow at every turn we seemed to get more and more off track.

Eventually, we got on the highway and headed across the desert, through wind farms and Palm Springs and past the Coachella Valley. We stopped at a farm stand for beef jerky and Good and Evil pickles (noir sure what these are yet- haven’t tried them). Signs pointed the way to “Blythe Phoenix”, which I’m pretty sure I’m going to use as a name for a character in my book, once I get back. The desert was blooming with purple and yellow flowers as far as the eye could see.

We crossed into Arizona as the sun dropped towards the horizon. Immediately the landscape filled with saguaro cacti as if they were forbidden in the state of California. In some places they marched up the sides of hills like evangelists leading followers to the promised land. The sun set casting everything into a lavender twilight.

We made it to Phoenix with maybe three miles to spare on our one tank of gas. We filled up the car at a Costco. We filled up ourselves at a Taco Bell. The car got the better meal. Then we drove to our motel where the room cost a hundred dollars but the toilet had no lid and the heater blew only cold air and the front office had no extra blankets or pillows, but offered us a set of pool towels and a pillowcase for us to improvise with. Top notch. I told myself to just pretend we were on the run from the mob and had to lie low on our way to our new lives in WitSec. Somehow that helped.

Today we went to a Cubs spring training game which was all the fun of a regular baseball game and all the casual comfort of a community game: we didn’t have to sit in the nosebleed section behind a pillar for a change and there wasn’t an ongoing commentary from an announcer narrating every play for the television audience. A good time was had by all.


Cauliflower Crumbles

•March 20, 2019 • Leave a Comment

“Does something smell musty to you?” The Curmudgeonly Lion asked as he drove me to the bus stop, his nose halfway wrinkled in uncertainty.

“It’s the cauliflower.” I said. I’d bought a “Burrito Bowl” at the dollar store that used cauliflower crumbles instead of meat figuring it would be worth a try. Gluten free! Steams in the bowl! I’d planned to bring it for a lunch meal one day, but the Curmudgeonly Lion had been cooking such enthusiastic portions of late that it was all I could do to keep up with the mounting hoard of leftovers. The burrito bowl had been left to molder in the crisper drawer for more than two weeks. Emphasis on molder. Every time I opened the refrigerator door I would catch a blast of fart-smell in the face.

I decided the time was now: today would be the day I tried cauliflower-as-a-burrito.

Evidently, thanks to the smell, this was not going to be a private experiment.

I kept catching whiffs of the cauliflower on the bus ride. I kept catching whiffs of the cauliflower on my walk. I could smell it in the elevator. I could smell it surrounding my desk even through the plastic container.

It was early, but I decided that I didn’t want to have to smell this the whole day until lunch time. If the cauliflower was smelling so very cruciferous while raw, it seemed likely that it would smell just as bad or worse when cooked, but I figured I might as well get it over with. If the co-workers complained, well, these were the same co-workers who liked to microwave fish and then close the smell into the microwave so that the next user would be blasted in the face with a warm, steamy queef of fish smell. So they could suck it up.

“Does something smell mildewy in here?” A co-worker asked as I went to throw away the bowl after eating the evidence. The smell was as bad as I’d feared, but the taste was ok: cauliflower crumble does actually make a pretty good taco substitute if you don’t mind a little bit of extra toothsomness. I confessed to being the purveyor of cauliflower, which seemed to be explanation enough. I wasn’t going to lie about it, and I already knew I never planned to buy it again, so there was little chance of an encore.

So that’s been my morning. Off to a farty start.

Stacking Lemons

•March 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Maximum affinity of hue.

Stacking lemons is a futile gesture. I learned this the hard way: I’d pruned back the lemon tree in our backyard over the weekend and had brought a bag of the fruit of my labors into work to share around the office. The office kitchen is notorious for its paucity of bowls so I was trying to arrange the lemons into a heap on a plate and it was going just about as well as could be expected.

In the end I gave up and just put a few stragglers on the table beside the plate.

Life has been a lot of stacking lemons lately. My intentions are good, and I’m working hard to bring some kind of order and/or progress to my work and workspace and it’s going just about as well as can be expected. Plans keep falling through. My optimism is building up a layer of tarnish. I keep trying to remind myself that it’s just a slump and it won’t last, but then I look backwards at just how long this slump has been going on and I begin to wonder if I’m lying to myself. Often when I get frustrated like this I think of my novel and remind myself that frustration and struggle makes for the best story. But then I look at that same story and realize just how much more hell the character has to go through before coming out the other side victorious and I wonder if I have it in me. I think a part of me is afraid to write the next few chapters because I’m afraid I’m going to have to live them. They do say that you should write from experience after all.

Luckily for me, I still have an excuse to procrastinate: I’m doing a polish on a screenplay! It has a deadline! Oh darn, can’t work on the novel. I’ll just have to put these few stragglers aside for later.

•March 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The heap of bills that had accumulated on my drawing board was as dense and layered as the sedimentary rock along the bank of a river. Beneath a topsoil of receipts, new and old, was a layer of hard packed bills from the first three months of the year, then a dense clay of bank statements, then a shale layer of investment statements and tax documents, then a fossil record of credit card statements dating back to last June, and layer upon layer of other schist. So much schist.

I spent part of Saturday and most of Sunday strip mining my own financial history in an attempt to regain some territory in my own workspace. I still need to archive last year’s records, but at least I’m no longer elbows deep in paperwork for a welcome change.

Filing paperwork is one of those never-ending tasks that I inevitably put off until out becomes overwhelming, but then always feel a thousand times calmer and clearer headed once it is done. Just having the desk space back is immensely calming. And these days I need all the serenity I can manufacture.

The weather has been somewhat cooperative at least: spring has sprung and it was finally both warm and sunny enough to open up the house for some fresh air. The city has been lousy with butterflies for the past week or so: running along the bike path felt a bit like running through a Walt Disney fairy tale feature. The fluttering figures drifted past like leaves on the wind, occasionally coming to rest on the weeds in the backyard where they were competing with the hummingbirds for the flowers and the hummingbirds were having NONE OF IT. The backyard turned into a kind of hummingbird/butterfly dogfight until we refilled the hummingbird feeder and proceeded to weed whack all the flora to the ground.

So I guess we are team hummingbird.

We celebrated St Patrick’s Day the California way, which is to say by getting fro-yo and driving up to an overlook to watch the sunset. Although most of the time was spent watching my nephew The Nugget, who was hell bent on dancing along the very edge of the cliff. So the view was both scenic and suspenseful.

So all in all a productive and interesting weekend.

Bee Work

•March 15, 2019 • 3 Comments

I’m reading about bees.

The Curmudgeonly Lion and I had gone downtown and parked beneath the central library so I’d suggested that we stop in with the only-slightly-ulterior motive of picking up a book that I’d been wanting to read and that wasn’t available at our local branch. It was not the book about bees. The book about bees just happened to catch my eye from a shelf nearby. Also a book about cheeses of the world. Also a novel that a friend had recommended.

I’m a bit of a menace when it comes to the library.

Me being me, I naturally started reading the novel first: “Fatherland” by Robert Harris- a murder mystery set in an alternate timeline in which Germany won World War II. And while I was enjoying the story and would have liked to bring the book with me to read on the bus, the cover was emblazoned with an ENORMOUS swastika, which, I felt, might send the wrong message to my fellow commuters.

So I picked the bee book instead. “The Keeper of the Bees: Notes on Hive and Home” by Allison Wallace. It was the smallest of the books that I’d checked out. I hoped it would also be the lightest. It’s easy reading, if you don’t mind a writing style that tends towards the poetic and occasionally waxes philosophical about The Meaning Of Things. Which, of course, suits me just fine.

Considering my recent mental struggle with clutter and housekeeping and the endless, unfinished list of small tasks, I found it pointedly funny that the very first chapter describes the work of bees as small, endless, and seemingly futile. One bee’s life might not amount to much more than a drop of honey or a crumb of wax, and that the bee herself wouldn’t even live a full year, and yet…

And yet…

I mean, I realize that the absolute unit of beehood is the hive, not the individual bee, but as a human I’m inclined to think that my individuality has value. I don’t live shoulder-to-shoulder with ten thousand like minded sisters already programmed to work together. I have enough trouble living in the same house as a cat. Much less keeping that house clean. With a cat. Who vomits. Regularly. So I still struggle with pointless work, no matter how necessary. But I’m trying to incorporate just a little bit more “bee work” into my daily routine. A little bit every day. As best that I can. And trying to not worry about the whole list at once.

So far, so good.

Kitchen Magic

•March 14, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a while since I’ve done any baking. It’s just one of those things that I once had time for, but now rarely get to do, and I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve been neglecting the Small Gods of the kitchen for too long.

We had a friend over for dinner on Saturday and I made pizza dough, which failed to rise. To be fair, the yeast I used was seven years old, and my thermometer wasn’t calibrated and I was plenty out of practice. The water could have been too hot. The room could have been too cold. I might have kneaded it too much. Who knows: the bottom line is that it turned out to be a rather thin crust pizza.

Earlier, I’d tried to light some candles, but somehow I couldn’t get the matches to strike.

“Can you get these to work?” I asked the Curmudgeonly Lion who promptly struck the match with ease. So it was just me, then. Luckily, it was the Curmudgeonly Lion who decided to be in charge of lighting the fire in the firepit after dinner so that we could sit outside and chat. Much of the wood was wet so we alternated between watching the flames and dodging the smoke, but overall it was a cozy gathering. We talked about folklore and superstitions: La Llorona vs Jennie Greenteeth, cucui and poltergeist- and of the small household spirits that sometimes seem to wander the home causing trouble when the house is unhappy.

I began to wonder if the house was unhappy. Every so often it will seem to go through a mood: all the house plants will die and the milk will turn sour. Or the matches won’t light and the pizza dough won’t rise. Or the plumbing will leak and the water heater will fail.

I’ve never been one to go around burning sage and talking to the spirits, but I’m beginning to think it might be worth a try. I’ve always wanted a home that people would consider a Warm Hearth. A welcoming, down to earth, gathering place. Someplace safe and friendly. But this requires some cultivation and I clearly have some work I need to do to make it happen: beginning with this business of clearing out the clutter.

So that’s my planfor now: clear a little clutter every day and try to welcome the small benevolent spirits back inside.


•March 13, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It’s Wednesday.

Hump Dayee!! As the Geico commercials like to remind us. And it feels like it. I feel like I’m in the middle of everything: the middle of the week, the middle of my projects, the middle of conversations that I can’t yet predict the end of. It’s a frustrating kind of weightlessness: like being at the peak of a rollercoaster- no longer climbing up, not yet plummeting down.

And like a rollercoaster, I can’t decide if I’m looking forward to the coming movement with exhilaration or dread. All I know is that I’m not much enjoying the suspense.

They say that when you’re struggling with feeling stuck and frustrated (actuate the article was about depression, but theadvice works pretty well in a lot of situations) that the key is making a decision. It doesn’t have to be perfect- the article refers to it as a ‘good enough’ decision: just enough to get moving.

Just pick a direction.

Easier said than done. I mean, as I write this I am literally standing still waiting for the bus to arrive. So it’s not a very good illustration of me getting my life sorted out. I suppose it’s some consolation that I already know what bus I plan to take, and where I expect it to take me. At least I know that I will eventually make it home, I just need to be patient and wait for it to come. Maybe that’s true about a lot of things in life: that the hardest struggle is with the waiting in expectation.

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