An Asshole Goes to the Park
In the past couple of weeks I have had at least four nightmares about worms and many-legged squirmy critters. There is a Human Centipede horror movie franchise, but I would be much more terrified of a film called The Actual Centipede.
1) Whenever the local police station hosts a blood drive, I always at least attempt to donate (full disclosure: this time I was also interested in getting the incidental free anemia screening). A few weeks ago, during one of those vile, scorching New England days, they were indeed hosting a drive, so I headed over in the morning. While the blood was being collected I noted an unusual queasy feeling that donation had never before induced. I remembered that my blood pressure had been lower than normal when they checked it during the interview, but it wasn’t dangerously low; I also noted that for a breastfeeding woman I hadn’t hydrated terribly well before heading over.
Alas, I filled my blood-bag and was released to the canteen area for some bottled water. I downed a bottle, glanced with disinterest at the snack options (Lorna Doones? Surely you jest) and decided to fetch some juice. When I sat back down I was overcome with a familiar feeling. A nurse who was eating her lunch nearby dropped her sandwich and asked if I was ok; I mumbled something in reply and she dashed over. She yelled “DAVE!” and grabbed my shoulders. As soon as she touched me I promptly ate shit.
Several minutes later I heard people yelling my name but, having no idea where I was or what was going on, resisted a full return to consciousness for a moment due to a vague feeling of embarrassment. Had I been…singing along to the radio? Touching myself? Why did I feel so weird? Whose floor is this?
2) For a couple of years I’ve been wearing a custom mouthguard every night. It had started to feel slightly out of whack, so I made an appointment with my TMJ doctor for an adjustment. When I handed him the mouthguard he said, “Oh, I can see exactly what you’ve done,” and gnarled his hand into a tense claw. “You’ve dug a groove into the acrylic with your teeth. You’ve changed the shape. We’ll fix it.”
He made some adjustments with his magical machines and then returned to feel my jaw muscles. After determining that they were tight and not releasing, he decided to do some quick acupuncture. I had previously tried acupuncture for this very medical issue with no success, but this is the man who made it possible for me to eat food without having to smush it through the barely five-millimeter gap between my top and bottom teeth; i.e., he unlocked my jaw after it had been locked mostly shut for eight months. Needless to say I pretty much let him do what he wants.
He put one needle superficially into my cheek, warned “This is going to be uncomfortable” as he advanced it into the muscle, and repeated on the other side. I thought we were done, but then to my considerable surprise he produced and fired up a small blow torch. He used the flame to heat up what appeared to be a large moxa stick. When the stick was hot he used it to heat the ends of the needles that were protruding from my face (offering reassurance that he wasn’t going to burn me). I sat and relaxed for a few minutes, agreed to come back and do it again in two weeks (for an hour, next time), and then left, feeling not so bad, in fact.
I was standing in line for the ATM at the farmer’s market. A guy came up to me and said, “This is the line for the ATM?” I affirmed, and he said gravely, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
Now it is 99% obvious that he was making an Arrested Development reference, and this fact hung heavily in the air while I contemplated various possible reactions: Fist bump? A hearty “Right on”? Tell him “The mere fact that you call making love ‘pop pop’ tells me you’re not ready”? Just go straight into the chicken dance? But of course these scenarios cannot be played out by persons as aloof and awkward as myself, and thus I just said “Heh” and we continued to wait in line.
An opportunity squandered.
We were all in a row, standing in front of the conveyor belt. Each of us was assigned to a particular category of food; when an item in our category came down the belt we’d grab it and put it in our box. Categories included Protein (canned meat, peanut butter), Meals (microwaveable containers of pasta), Soup, Juice, Canned Fruit, etc. It sounds easy enough until you are the one making the tough decision–is this odd-looking box a condiment or a baking need? It’s passed by me on the belt three times now so I guess no one else is claiming it…must it be in my category?
I had selected Baby Food and Coffee/Tea and there was precious little action for either of my boxes that morning. All the other people there knew each other and I was standing in between a guy and a girl who were joking and talking past me; I half-involved myself so as to be neither rudely aloof nor nosy. It was hot in there, and boring, even after the warehouse supervisor threw the fake mouse onto the belt.
Then a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup came down the conveyor belt and the guy next to me, charged with boxing Meals, grasped it with uncertain hands and called out, “What do you do with soup that eats like a meal?” and I laughed for pretty much the rest of the day.
Last week I arrived at the local food bank for a volunteer shift (note: I am not bragging about my altruism; I am required to do volunteer work all summer because of what I did to the sheriff’s daughter for school). As I approached the building I noticed that it was directly next to the county house of corrections and that there were a bunch of dudes in jumpsuits looking at me from an outdoor enclosure.
I was so busy ruminating on this that when I entered the lobby of the food bank I didn’t immediately notice that someone was lying flat on the floor. My offer of medical assistance was refused, as the situation was stable, and I was directed to “just follow those guys and go upstairs.” ‘Those guys’ turned out to be a group of young men doing community service, one of whom hassled me in the elevator, but whom I followed nonetheless.
We all headed to a volunteer orientation area, where I noticed that every other person there was part of a large group – mostly guys from tech companies wearing matching Special Event t-shirts, and another bunch of people in normal clothes who were obviously co-workers. When the food bank’s volunteer coordinator saw me sitting there in my normal clothes, she assumed I was with the Normal Clothes Gang (despite my panicked why is everyone else together and I’m so alooone expression), and that’s how I wound up spending the afternoon making weekend snack bags for poor kids with the good people of Welch’s Grape Juice.
Humorously, due to some sort of hivemind psychological phenomenon, some of the Welch’s people took my sudden presence in their group as evidence that I actually worked at Welch’s myself, although they had never seen me before and I had not arrived with them. The man standing next to me in the assembly line had to repeat himself roughly four times, the poor guy, as it took me that long to understand what he meant by, “I know you from R&D, right?” They were all quite friendly, and insisted that I pose in their company photo after our volunteering was done. I went home, tired from putting six hundred and fifty containers of off-brand Easy Mac and six hundred and fifty boxes of shelf-safe chocolate milk into bags, and looked forward to my next shift.
When you’re going for a family stroll and you see a big hardcover book resting on a stone pillar on the sidewalk and when you approach said book it turns out to be Cryptonomicon.
Bonus: When one morning you notice that your husband, still in his pajamas, is wearing a lanyard around his neck…and you realize that connected to the lanyard is a USB drive.
Bonus bonus: When you’re watching the cataclysmic documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia and some Boone County person is all “Our town isn’t that bad, we had this one kid who went on to MIT! I mean, MIT!” and your first thought is, “If I were to leave my home right now and walk in a straight line for ten minutes, at least one third of the young people I would encounter on the way would be MIT grads, and many of them would be idiots.”
I appreciate all kinds of movies, and I don’t mind depictions of gore, sexual violence, or whatever as long as they accomplish something, i.e. make me feel what the filmmaker wants me to feel. I’m not sure what I was supposed to feel when, the middle of an otherwise beautifully shot opening sequence (a series of cuts between an unusually ambitious marital boning session and an unsupervised toddler about to jump out of his bedroom window), I was shown an ultra slo-mo high-definition shot of a penis entering a vagina. Such a shot 1) is distressingly unsexy and 2) takes you out of the movie completely. You start thinking, that’s obviously not Willem Dafoe’s actual penis. You start thinking, is that actor credited as “Disembodied Penis” on imdb.com? Should I check? I don’t really care whose penis that is. But now I’m wondering about that when I should be noting that this couple’s child is about to die because they were too busy fucking in the shower to make sure the baby monitor was turned on.
The movie’s other big wowie-zowie moment is at the end, when the grief-stricken mother elects to cut off her clitoris with the kitchen scissors. A shot of her face during the crucial moment would have been a lot more emotionally effective than a close-up shot of a prosthetic vulva with a tube of corn syrup attached. Again, it does nothing but take you out of the story. It’s particularly annoying because this movie isn’t billed as some sort of generic torture-porn romp where the point is to be grossed out, or grossed out by how turned on you are, or whatever. It’s supposed to be a movie that’s actually about something, and for the most part it is, but the narrative journey is ruined by the silly attempts to be shocking.
I also don’t get why, late in the film, it’s revealed that the mother was actually nuts long before her kid died, and spent her time in the woods making some weird misogynistic scrapbook. So then, at long last, it’s not a movie about how grief affects people and their relationships; it’s just Crazy Lady Goes Even Crazier Comma Occasionally Does It With Willem Dafoe. Which is, you know, still a pretty cool movie. It just could have been so much cooler.
My fact-finding team (which consists of myself, sitting on the couch eating grapefruit) informs me of something wonderful concerning the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Whisperer in Darkness”. Apparently while he was writing the story, which concerns an alien race who have an outpost beyond the known limits of our solar system, Pluto was discovered. He was so excited by this coincidence (“coincidence”?) that he wrote a letter to his friend being all “Jigga whuuuut!” which is how we have evidence of this bitchin’ fact today. How fortunate that he passed long before the blasphemous reclassifying of Pluto as a “dwarf” planet.
A few months ago I finally got around to reading Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. But lest you think I would blog without mentioning the baby, here’s some backstory: Parenthood in general (and Leif’s delightfullness, specifically) had thrown me into daily spells of contemplation about life and matter and the nature of things, and sometimes these reveries got cosmic. This inspired me to read the book over the course of many naptimes, and when I finished I was disappointed that it was, alas, too brief. It was also somewhat weirdly-written and only left me wanting to know more. The internet advised me to check out The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, and oh, what a fun book this is. Greene is a lovely writer and does a noble job of making unfathomable content accessible to the layperson, but he also totally good-glavins out at times.
For instance. Last night I was reading about the possibility of extra, hidden dimensions, and to illustrate the point, he first described a universe with only one dimension, i.e. a long line-shaped universe called Lineland inhabited by depthless, heightless worms. He then introduced two great thinkers in Lineland, one named Kaluza K. Line (after the mathematicians Kaluza and Klein) and one named Linestein. Forehead-slappingly stupid puns are pretty much what get me through the day (see: roughly half the entries written here), so to see them made by someone who’s so diesel that his job is to try to solve the mysteries of space and time, well, that just fills me with a warm joy.