Things that have, in recent memory, made me feel old

In no particular order:

  • Buying a set of canisters intended to reorganize my pantry. On purpose. This was the first tangible object I bought for myself that was not food in…longer than I really care to think about.
  • Thinking about my favorite roleplaying campaign I’ve ever been involved in, and realizing it began 13 years ago.
  • Having a hard time finding someone to watch Rear Window with me, because it is old.
  • Having a hard time finding a text-based guide for a game I was playing, and realizing that this is because everyone and their dog is doing things on YouTube now.
  • Listening to a podcast episode about this year’s “summer jams” and having the disconcerting sensation that a lot of the music wasn’t for me (though there was certainly a good bit that I liked!)
  • Largely not being on social media, and being okay with that.
  • Sitting down to write here, being fully aware that a substantial portion of the world does not read anything larger than a tweet.
  • Feeling like fonts with serifs are okay, actually.
  • A sense of passionate objection to microtransactions in games, especially games one has already purchased.
  • Simultaneous appreciation for streaming services and discomfort with the idea of never actually owning anything.
  • Listening to my husband talk about some potential new hires.
  • Eating some just-barely-cooked vegetables and finding them weirdly delicious.
  • Gathering for dinner with friends and reflecting that actually everyone was talking about management problems now instead of the sort of work problems I remember from some decades ago.
  • Being reminded that I should consider doing some estate planning activities.

The funny thing here here is that, as I have said before, no matter how long my body has been active upon this earth, all of the selves I have been are present in it.

The little girl who made of a rocking-horse Christmas ornament a little adventure all round the tree, only to cringe in shame and clam up when she realized her father was videotaping her is still here.

So is the teenager who just didn’t get why her friends were going on about romantic movies all the time and kept a kind of exchange diary with her then-bestie that probably contained some deeply cringey adventure fiction (but was great for maintaining her sanity.)

So is the college student who stayed at the computer labs until they closed, went for chicken strips once a week at a dive-y student bar, and somehow gained a reputation for being the Person Who Knew Things About Books Or Mythology.

I am simultaneously all of those people.

In a way, age is really just a sign that one has accumulated a large number of selves; that one has become many. Some day (hopefully) there will be many of me here indeed.

It’s funny to think about.

Just a brief Friday visit.

There is a lot going on today (well, “a lot” in pandemic terms – homework to do, errands to run, the week’s groceries to buy, etc.), and as a result I’m not feeling much of a strong throughline, unfortunately.

Still. Doesn’t mean I can’t share a few Delightful Things:

The webcomic Cat’s Cafe, in which a cuddly kitty…well, runs a cafe, where a host of adorable animal patrons come to have a little something delicious and relax, taking a break from the everyday troubles of living. The cuteness does a pretty good job of at least softening the blow when things inevitably become a bit too emotionally Real – and they will do that. Characters struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem and depression; recently the artist has lost his father, and that comes through in some ways that are…uh…yeah. I know that feel. (But don’t let that scare you away, either!)

The “Return of the Mac” pizza available at one of Toronto’s local pizza joints. This absolutely positively does not seem like it should work – it’s a pizza crust, yes, but topped with cheese, onions, “secret sauce,” meat (or Impossible Meat, recently), pickles, and lettuce – a Big Mac in pizza form. It can be a pain to get, too – that lettuce doesn’t travel well, and so you can only order this one via take-out. But. You guys. It’s delicious. No, I don’t understand it either, but give it a chance if you have the opportunity.

The blog McMansion Hell, which I hadn’t thought of in forever and that suddenly returned to mind yesterday. It may or may not be defunct (the last post was a while ago) – but even so those archives are full of delightful snark about a flavor of architecture I remember all too well from the suburbia of my childhood. (There’s also a subreddit taking up the torch, it seems – and every Thursday they take a break to do some appreciation of beautiful architecture, so we can all enjoy looking at some lovely homes none of us could ever realistically afford.)

“I myself am strange and unusual.”

Last night I watched “Beetlejuice” again for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long.

Which I guess makes this a good time to let anyone looking at this know: This post may contain spoilers for a movie released 33 years ago. I believe this puts it beyond the spoiler statute of limitations, but if you’re concerned, stop reading now.

When that movie was released in 1988 I was under the age of ten; in the age of videotape I watched it over and over, drawn to the raw, weird imagination on display as well as the somewhat-macabre humor. It’s startling how well I remembered it. I was able to quote along with many of the lines, the imagery still quite fresh in my mind in many places.

…And yet, re-watching as an adult it’s also kind of interesting to see what things I did not remember. What things I didn’t even really register properly at the time, because there are things kids don’t so much think about.

Here are a few of the things that whooshed over my head as a Little Person:

  • The casual hurtfulness of the realtor’s eager, benign insistence to Barbara Maitland that “this house is too big for you! It should belong to -” To a family with children, obviously, and the look on Geena Davis’s face says it all. Oof.
  • The equally casual hatefulness of yuppies, at least the ones in this film. The status-seeking and the social-climbing and the hankering to turn absolutely everything – everything! – into money haven’t really gone away of course; now these people run tech startups, and instead of weird, cold edgy designs without warmth like those favored by Delia Deetz they favor bland, benign, equally cold designs that are meant to suggest warmth without containing any. (If I were a ghost and one of them moved into my house, I would also be rather peeved.)
  • How sleazy Betelgeuse actually is. Little-kid me hadn’t yet been catcalled and had no context in which to be grossed out by his rapacious pursuit of anything remotely female in the vicinity, including Lydia (who has got to be underage, you guys. Ick on a number of levels).
  • Why exactly Otho flees screaming into the night after finding himself in a different outfit. Hey, I didn’t know what a leisure suit was back then.

Adult me also appreciates in a way that the younger me did not that the thing about the afterlife that seems to cause the most trouble is that it is a badly-managed bureaucracy, one that doesn’t give the people it supposedly serves good direction and which seems to be strangely low on resources considering that one would presumably not need to pay anyone who works there anything. I wonder if there’s something there that is reflective of the general mistrust of government/the centralization of power that was, I’m pretty sure, building even in 1988. (Admittedly going with a private contractor in this case was a fairly awful plan, too, so maybe the real philosophical underpinning there is something along the lines of “Hey! Fund public services damn it!”)

…then again, who or what exactly would be “funding” the management of the afterlife? Hmm. Clearly I am overthinking this.

It’s an Extremely 80s Movie in a number of ways, though you can definitely feel the beginnings of some of that 90s irony creeping in there. I’m not sure whether you’d be able to get away with making it these days, but I’m going to have this particular infectious little ditty in my head for a good long while, so let’s share:

I live.

Though man, it really felt like the vaccine side effects were trying to change that last night; woke up at about 4 am with a parched throat, a nasty stomachache, and a complete inability to get comfortable for…what seemed like forever.

Outside, a thunderstorm hit; bright flashes outside, and then a distant rumbling.

Perhaps that’s why I dreamed, close to the morning, that there was a mighty BANG from the room next door and when I went to investigate the entire interior of our closet had collapsed, making a spectacular mess of most of our bedroom floor.

Today’s episode of Aria Code is about Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. There was a book, The Best Tales of Hoffmann, that I used to check out from the library. It had a bright-yellow library binding, indestructible and innocuous, that belied the sheer stark fucking darkness of some of the material inside it, and I checked it out over and over again, my tweenage self eagerly devouring the nightmare universe of The Sand-Man alongside a half-plate of indifferent, greasy pizza rolls that even now feel a little shameful to think about.

But The Sand-Man is the story behind the aria they chose for today. I wonder very much if the rest of the show has as much in it about eyes. In this case, the singer of the aria is the doll Olympe – Olimpia in the story – whose mindless, rhapsodic agreement with anything and everything presented to her rouse positively tormented depths of love in our hero Nathanael – or Hoffmann himself, in the opera.

In any event, the presentation in the episode is charming, and does rather make me want to go and watch the show – and the accompanying meditation on the nature of chatbots and what, exactly, is most societally desirable in women is…well, chilling, even if it also happens to be fascinating into the bargain. Even if you’re not into opera, I think it’s worth the listen.

Also, related to nothing, but: The Toronto Public Library has passes you can get to read the New York Times (for those of you who like to check out a little news every now and then). Go use them (and support your local libraries, everyone. They are the actual best.)

In which I labor under the weight of vaccination side effects, and Cannot Even

I got my second vaccination shot yesterday.

Sometime on the evening of July 19, if we’re being very precise about the whole two weeks for full effectiveness thing, I should be safe to hug my friends again, or go to the grocery store with less unease about what I might pick up from some random person in line.

Perhaps when I feel less terrible I will be happy about that.

It’s not so bad that I feel I can’t manage, which is okay I guess, but I can’t pretend the urge to just go lie on the floor for a few hours isn’t…significant. (I did not sleep well; the pain in the arm where I got the shot is mighty enough that it kept waking me up.)

…though if it gets much worse than this I might have to give up for today on doing much of constructive use. I am TIRED, you guys. Oof.

I think being so tired is making me feel rather bleak about everything else, too. Way too much brooding about contemplation of the status of my Social Links.

I miss everybody.

(Yet again, the weather outside is beautiful on a day when I feel terrible. What’s up with that?)

In other news, this is a rather delightful Kickstarter if you are like me and have a little collection of Tarot decks.

Sharing

Gave myself the “day off” yesterday, what with it being our anniversary and all. This is technically day 8 of the challenge, but I think I may stop formally counting. It’s clutter in my titles, and anyway it isn’t as though I am saving up for some Cause or other.

And it was a pretty good day all things considered. Had a nice mellow sort of morning, got our grocery shopping done, then ran through a bunch of cleaning operations so that we could have a little company out in the backyard in the evening.

And the chocolate folks sent me a replacement, with a sweet little bonus in the form of the heart you see at right:

THIS is what they’re supposed to look like. Gorgeous, no?

I wrote back to the “contact” address explicitly to say that we were really happy with them and that I looked forward to ordering from them again…and also, if any management-type folks happened to be reading this message, the person I worked with was really lovely and I felt they should hear the compliment. (I hope that helped improve someone’s day.)

Later on, of course, there was dinner to do; as it turned out we had something of a celebration of summer produce, with our guests bringing a tomato salad and a strawberry-rhubarb cake and our own offerings being a pile of bright-yellow Ontario corn and these somewhat-fussy-to-build but very tasty Grilled Chicken and Peach Saltimbocca Skewers. (I haven’t got photos just now, but was promised them by one of the aforementioned guests; I’ll get back to you with them later if anyone in the world is reading this and might care.)

We followed that up with a little screening of some episodes of Masterchef before seeing our guests off home. I did propose a screening of the classic Rear Window, possibly my favorite Hitchcock and one that seems quite seasonally-appropriate in summer heat as sticky and clinging as this, but to date I have not been able to get anyone to watch it with me. I’m not sure if this means I am just old, or the tolerance for the more sedate pacing of vintage films is lowered, or what.

Its trailer is rather fun, though:

Afterward, a cozy, quiet time, staying up far too late watching old music videos, walking through the sounds and songs that were most important to him, talking over with him what they might say about him.

He asked me later why I hadn’t done the same, walked him through music that was important to me. “Well, you didn’t ask,” I said. And besides, I was pretty sure the kinds of things I actually listened to Back Then weren’t likely to be found on YouTube.

Today, though, I wonder a little. I mean, sure, there can’t be that big of a market for ballads even there, but there might be something. But mightn’t it be sort of rude to make someone sit through something as long as the songs I used to play while I was driving back and forth between home and university, back in the day?

I wonder.

Reasons it sucks when it’s hot out, # who-knows-how-many-by-now

(Challenge, day 6)

So, this week I ordered some chocolates as a present.

They are from a local place that I love very much and they are typically straight-up delightful in that “I will break your arm if you prevent me from taking that one” way. Also, they are beautiful to look at, and I would happily place a little tray of them in front of anyone I was looking to impress, or just wanted to express my affection for (so long as the person in question likes sweets, of course.)

Unfortunately, it looks as though my order met with a misadventure:

…oh dear.

Given that these were meant to be a present I’ve reached out to contact the folks who make them, and they’ve been very gracious about offering to replace them – and since there’s plenty of time I’m not overly worried about missing my window to present them or anything, I’m happy to do that.

I also feel rather guilty for reaching out. It’s not THEIR fault that it’s ludicrously hot out there (I wonder if the courier’s AC was out in their vehicle or something like that.)

Be that as it may, they’ve been lovely, and seriously, when there hasn’t been a misadventure of this kind the chocolates are beautiful AND delicious; chocolate fans who might be reading this and live or work in Toronto, check them out.

Some day I will master the art of asking if there’s anything that can be done without feeling like I am somehow overstepping my bounds. Today might not be that day, but at least I did try to do it – so I suppose there’s that?

Bright pink tenacity (Challenge, Day 5)

Ages ago – over a year now – I had some friends over.

This was of course back when one could still do such things, before we all found ourselves isolated to our little pockets of spacetime.

Anyway. The evening was pleasant, a little boisterous even in the way that sometimes happens when someone brings along a box of red wine; but that is not why I mention this now.

I mention this now because one of those friends brought me a little hostess gift, in the form of a ferociously-pink orchid. I am not a Plant Person, you see; I have an absolute genius for doing something or other that just…murders the poor things. Watering too much or not enough or planting things in the wrong places or…well. You get the idea.

So I didn’t have high hopes for its longevity, but found it a little pot and put it on a windowsill and fed it an ice cube every so often and hoped for the best.

Its flowers dropped off, and I assumed that meant it was dead, and then (shameful admission time)…I did nothing to it, for quite some time. The leaves wrinkled up a bit, but that was all otherwise; just the bare stalk and the leaves and the windowsill.

I did not water it. I did not feed it. I did not trim it. I just left it on the windowsill, wondering how it hadn’t yet gone completely black and/or died on me.

I felt faintly ashamed of myself whenever I looked at it, thinking I should really throw it away.

And it got cold, and dark, and began to seem like a terrible idea to be outdoors.

And nothing continued to happen with it, and I kept on thinking I should throw it away and…not doing it, for some reason.

And then, this spring, as it started to warm up outside, I decided okay, really, enough was enough, I should toss this thing, and I walked over to it full of determination to resolve this particular awkwardness once and for all –

…and there was a new stem growing, unobtrusively, split from the original, stretching out toward the glass where it was a little hard to see.

If you looked very closely, there were buds on it.

I stood there a while and just stared at it. How? How on earth was it possible that after being completely neglected for an insanely long time by somebody who is really dreadful at taking care of plants in the first place that this orchid wasn’t just completely toast?

And then I thought: Well. If you are tenacious enough to try to blossom after all that, you deserve a little more attention, I think. Let’s see what we can do to fix you up.

And I used the little clips the plant had come with to “train” the new stem into a similar arch to the previous one, and I fed it some ice cubes once a week, and I waited.

Sure enough, the buds became blossoms, and they are as ferociously pink as before.

They are ferociously pink today.

This is extremely pink.

There is probably a metaphor in this, somewhere.

Another kind of hungry (Challenge, day 4)

Today I had the rather interesting experience of looking for something interesting and/or cultural to do in an age where the place where I live isn’t really open yet; not all the way.

Here is what I learned:

There are an abundance of interesting places to go and do a little online class or something. Take local bakery Le Dolci, for instance; their catalogue of classes makes me crave cake, but there are also courses focusing on goodies such as homemade bagels or scones and lemon curd (yes please.)

There are also some nifty cultural offerings, like this socially-distanced outdoor presentation, or the upcoming Toronto Fringe’s digital offerings (…again, yes please; I miss theatre so much) or perhaps for those who are so minded the free nightly stream hosted by The Metropolitan Opera.

I also learned that I am absolutely starving for things to do. For intellectual or aesthetic stimulation of any kind, I suppose. How much of the apathy I have been feeling about…life, generally, really…is due to a lack of this? It has been so long since I have seen or done anything that felt truly novel.

I’ve had so many daydreams of Things to Do.

It is early autumn, and I tuck my scarf into my coat as I explore a series of little vintage shops and bookstores and perhaps even wander about aimlessly in that archetypal music shop where I am not really cool enough to browse, where the obligatory hipster behind the counter gives me the side eye – but it doesn’t matter, because in a little while I will meet a friend for a coffee and a slice of apple pie, and already I can feel my fork crunching through the top layer of crisp-golden pastry.

It is high summer, and I prepare a tray of Red and Blacks to take to the little group in my back garden to ward off that last little bit of the heat as the hours melt and pool into a long drawn-out evening of conversation, the kind that could as easily turn into breakfast, if we let it.

It is pelting rain outside, but that doesn’t matter; we can all dine inside at last, and so I have assembled the biggest group I could muster to come with me for dim sum. If the table does not groan under the weight of feeding our pent-up appetites, it is only from its own long service; dumplings of every description are piled everywhere, and we fall upon them like an army of oddly dainty orcs, our chopsticks battling it out for juicy morsels. It is so loud that we cannot hear ourselves think, but who cares; we are loud in response.

I have found that rarest of beasts, a legitimately quiet bar, and work my way through a cocktail a little too delicious to be entirely safe, savoring it in anticipation: later I will go to a show. A real one. I will sit in my very favorite kind of darkness, that lovely moment of anticipation between the house lights going down and the stage lights coming up, and the play, or the dance, or the opera, or whatever it is, will begin, and I will devour it, taking in every word and flicker and fold.

I visit a museum, at one of the slowest times, wandering quietly amongst the little bits of art and history, unhurried and savoring. It is cool and dark and even in sneakers one’s footsteps seem to echo a little in such big, glossy rooms.

Perhaps I just go to a library and find a stack of books and a comfortable chair and read for hours, somewhere that isn’t my living room.

I suppose all of that will have to stay as daydreams for a little longer, at least.

A contradiction in the weather (Challenge, day 3)

The weather outside is beautiful.

The sun is out; fluffy clouds drift overhead. In the back garden the clematis and lilies are blooming. There has been at least one honest to god butterfly; I haven’t seen one of those in so long it’s a bit like encountering a mysterious new species on a remote island one’s been shipwrecked on.

Oh, right. Nature. I keep forgetting about aspects of you after a year and a half of time shut up in my house, with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Oh, right; when it rains sometimes little snails appear on the sidewalk.

Oh, right; if you drop food outside there are ants.

Oh, right; squirrels.

Right.

It is moving toward high summer, and the world outside is alive. I should relish this. It seems that everyone else is doing so; I see people walking by outside.

Instead, I am inside re-making all of the beds and washing all of our linens and thinking about death.

How, some day, I will not be here any more, and someone will be doing this for the last time, as they clear out all the remnants of me to make way for whatever will be there afterward. And I will be forgotten about entirely. Maybe that will take a while, or maybe it will happen right away. I have no way of knowing.

When it actually happens, of course, I won’t be able to care about it; I will be dead, and therefore not likely to give much of a damn about anything.

But I hope that not everything that I was gets thrown out with that week’s trash, whenever it happens. This is not a very new or original thought, I know. But it does have a way of bashing at your brain.

It feels positively unjust to be preoccupied by such things on a day like this.

Is it a terrible thing to put this kind of thing forth on the internet? It feels so much more perilous to express anything to the world than it did ten years ago, eleven years ago, more years ago than I like to think back when I was barely out of kid-hood and too naive to read the intentions of people I chatted with but did so anyway.

It seems so easy to say or do the wrong things.

I suppose one day all of that will be forgotten about, too, for all the comfort one can find in that.

The weather outside is gorgeous; the weather inside, not so much.

I suppose I should try and find something to do to relieve these feelings a little. I wonder how successful I will be.

Perhaps writing it down will help a little.