Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When I Don't Have Anything Else to Think About

Today clarity arrives in the form of thinking about life as solving a series of problems, from a mathematical context, like an equation. One day, variable A plus variable B creates a problem, and C is the solution, which I will eventually find. Or I know about variable A and I know C, the solution, but I don't know how to find variable B. And then I find it. The more and more time that goes by in my life, I see that each problem has a solution and that I have the power to find it. Maybe this clarity came from my good friend, Djeneba. She always has a clear way of looking at things, and I don't. My problem that I talked to her about today is that I have an old friend who has consistently backed out on plans we have. I've been friends with both of them for more than 20 years. Djeneba said I have to figure out if I want to address the problem or let it go. Do I want to tell this person I have a problem maintaining a friendship with her because of her consistent habit of not following through with the plans that we've made? Or do I let it go? It's got to be one or the other. Years ago I came to the conclusion that I would let the friendship go. That I was not going to confront the problem by talking to her about it, because it seems like it would be pointless and no good would come out of it. Then she comes back into my life, and the same problem comes up again. This time I can choose again to let it go. Again it seems that no good would come of me trying to explain to her that I want her to be different. Is that me not solving the same problem, or am I now solving a new problem with the same solution?
Lately I haven't had much to do or think about, and books haven't interested me that much, so I embarked on the form of time travel that I know how to do, by looking at some old stuff I've written and photographs from a couple of years ago. Now all I have to do is figure out how to move forward. I have a couple of projects in mind, like making a table leg stop being wobbly, gluing a wooden box back together and painting my next mandala.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Movie update

Netflix instant reflex: Do Not Watch Hugo Pool. Worst Independent Movie Ever. I didn't just fall asleep once watching it. I fell asleep four different times. Magic Hat #9 might have helped that, though. I thought Robert Downey Jr. being in the movie would help, but I think it exhibited one of his lowest levels in film. He had a fake accent that I couldn't tell was put on to be a fake accent for his character, or if it was just really bad acting. Whichever it was, I couldn't understand what he was supposed to be saying. I did understand that he set his house on fire because he had too much vodka. But that's about it.
I watched Charlie Bartlett last week. That one was a lot better. It was about Charlie Bartlett, who is smart and naive, and is mischievous so that he can be liked by his classmates. I wasn't sure if Charlie Bartlett was supposed to be a hero, someone to feel sorry for, or just a teenager we were supposed to see as human with both flaws and good qualities. If that's what the movie was about, to see all the characters as multi-dimensional, then it worked well. It was a little bit funny, a little bit sad, and a little bit introspective and interesting. This time, the appearance of Robert Downey Jr. was nice, because he played a realistic and likeable character. The mansion, the fancy cars, and the slightly quirky fashion helped make the movie a little bit more compelling, which made me feel shamefully shallow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Short Story

We had a three-day adventure to Ann Arbor, a place I'd seen three times by myself and wanted to bring the family to see. Thanks to the generous and kind offer of a friend, we stayed at her parents' house near there so we could partake in the art fair.
Day 1
At first we worried about how outsiders would perceive us as West Virginians. We were marveling over how flat everything is, and how much sky we could all see. On the way, I drove responsibly and cautiously, which made three other drivers irate. The first time it happened, I was driving in the fast lane of a three-lane highway. I was following the signs, which told drivers to merge into the left lane for construction. As I tried to make my way back into the slow lane, I saw a white Lexus coming up very fast behind me, until it was about three feet behind me. I figured the driver would try to pass me on the right, which would make it quite dangerous for me to get back into the slow lane, so I waited for it to pass. As the Lexus got around me, I looked over at it coming around me to make sure I could get back in the slow lane after it passed. The woman driving the Lexus was yelling at me and pointing her finger at me, demanding that I move over, which is what I had planned to do before I saw her speeding recklessly right behind me and beside me. She made sure to mouth the words dramatically and with as much anger as she could muster toward me. It disturbed me on so many levels. That all her anger and frustration wasn't going to help anyone or make the situation any better. That she thought it was her job to tell me how to drive. That she was so busy being angry that she didn't notice I had a good reason for driving the way I was driving. That she was the one breaking the law by speeding and passing on the right. That she ignored or didn't think about the sign that told all drivers to get into the left lane. That my law-abiding, responsible driving made her mad at me. That other people wouldn't let that kind of road-rage abuse bother them. That when I'm driving in West Virginia and people do that kind of thing to me, I am always right when I assume that they're not from West Virginia. That she had so much anger. In West Virginia, we're considerate of other drivers. We let other people go ahead, because it's safer that way, and we'd want some other driver to be kind to us, so we're kind to them, too. It's definitely a cultural-good-manners thing we have going here. Someone in our car thought that the Lexus lady figured people from West Virginia don't know how to drive.
Later, on a two-lane road, I was trying to make a left turn so I could turn around to a spot where I'd missed a turn. I had my left-hand turn signal on, so I could turn, but the driver behind me was going very fast. I tried to slow down so that the driver would slow down in recognition of the fact that I was about to turn left. I made a wide turn so that I could turn around and go the other direction with as little backing up into traffic as possible. The driver behind me sped on past me after I turned, honking his horn for a very long, continuous signal of anger and annoyance. Finally, when I arrived at my destination, I was driving on a two-lane road at 45 miles per hour. I was looking for a certain house, and still going the speed limit of 45 miles per hour. That wasn't fast enough for the driver behind me. He flashed his extra-bright lights at me (I can only assume it was because I was going too slow, or maybe to tell me he wanted to pass). He did pass me about 15 seconds later, so maybe it was just a mode of communication, a plea, asking me to slow down so he could pass.
Minor incidents or not, I can't help wonder why people drive so unsafe and so angrily. What good does it do people to get angry? Shortly after the Angry Lexus Lady yelled at me, I stopped at a turnpike rest stop. Someone held the door open for me and insisted I go in first. I thought, if this were the highway, and we were driving inside the door, they would have trampled right over me to get in before I could. And yelled at me if they thought I was going too slow. If only strangers could be as kind and considerate to each other on the dangerous highway as they are on foot, the Earth would be a better place.
After we arrived in Ann Arbor, we were directed by my kind and generous friend to drive to the mall, where a bus could transport us to the art fair. When we got to the mall, the passengers of the car were much more interested in checking out the mall than they were the art fair, so we occupied ourselves doing the mindless chain-store shopping. Then it was too late to see the art, so we went to my kind and generous friend's parents' home. It was a beautiful Victorian house painted yellow with green and maroon trim. There were a few barns, a few gardens, a fire pit, a cat, two dogs, and lots of friendliness and good food.
Day 2
We arrived downtown at noon, and started walking at one of the four art fairs. The one we went to was called "the original." This section of the street had artwork that was supposed to represent the best of the artists. I saw furniture, photography, Salvador Dali-inspired paintings, comical paintings, metal frog sculptures, graphic art paintings, mixed media, statues, clothing, glass vases, ceramic teapots, whimsical wood figures, pottery, stained glass with fossils and fish in them, amazing magnets, light switch plates, Batik prints, puppets, dolls, quilts, and hundreds and hundreds of paintings. These are some of my favorites. Five hours later, we realized we probably only saw one quarter of the booths around town. We saw one of the four fairs and a little section of another of the street fairs. There were also a lot of festivals and events around town that were going on because of the events of the art fair.
Day 3
As we headed out of town, we stopped at a bookstore I'd been to the other three times I was in Ann Arbor, and a nearby toy store where we spent about an hour having fun playing with and looking at all the gadgets and games. I didn't make one driver mad at me on the way home. No, wait, I did make someone mad at me. I was slowing down, going the speed limit the whole time, because we were approaching a toll booth. This young guy with a Delaware license plate honked his horn at me in a long and impatient way as he was behind me. My exposure to the big wide world made me a tougher driver by the third day. We stopped in Maumee, near Toledo, at Friendly's restaurant and ice cream store, where the food was pretty unoriginal and unmerry-making. Next door was an antique flea market. Not all of us wanted to go in. Two of us looked around quickly, since the place was only going to be open for 20 more minutes. On the way, the family passengers decided that we would listen to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody for the last two hours of the drive. I put a stop to it after about an hour of intense karaoke. I lost my voice and the other two passengers pulled muscles in their necks from wild Queen appreciation. You know the part.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mid-Summer Bliss

Today I had lunch at the office's outside picnic table. The weather was extraordinary and my salad was acceptable. There was a creature wearing a cow suit giving away free chicken by the roadside near the office. We are working on getting an air-conditioning unit in the office for a guy who is perpetually hot. We are working on turning this workplace into paradise. Next: indoor fountain and napping lounge.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dialogue Between Father and Daughter

Father: Women can have masculine features, you know.
Daughter (Thinking bitterly of all the times she received comments from people about how she looks so much like her father): Yeah, I suppose that's true. I suppose the same can be said for men having feminine features.
Father: In fact, if you stare long and hard at any pin-up girl long enough, you'll begin to see that she has masculine features, too.
Daughter (Smiling politely and looking away uncomfortably as image develops of father staring at pin-up girl until pin-up girl looks like a guy): Hm.