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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

If Only This Would Continue...

Memorial Day weekend (cheers to Granddaddy, a WWII Navy vet!) may have been good to George Lucas (Star Wars finished on top for a second consecutive weekend), but it was also a financial windfall for me. Not only did Saturday's sale go OK, I made an unexpected sale Sunday afternoon, when a friend fell in love with a pair of dangly earrings I was showing off. That was a nice surprise, but even nicer was when her husband took us out to the Olive Garden and I was treated to dinner. Good food, good fellowship, and a comfortable futon to sleep on afterwards (we split a bottle of Shiraz, so I knew I didn't need to get behind the wheel)... When I got home Monday noon, I found that people had been shopping on Amazon--I'd sold three of my Marketplace listings! So, altogether, I was pleased. Especially since Amazon (unlike eBay) doesn't charge to list the books I want so badly to unload on other graduate students!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Moderate Success

An early-afternoon storm cut the day's selling short by two hours. Happily, Hannah (whose pottery I have been selling as a complement to my jewelry) and I had already taken down my tent before the wind kicked up, so we weren't forced to tangle with airborn aluminum and canvas. It was an OK day--not superlative, sales-wise (though far better than Eastern Market on a comparable day), but sufficient to have made setting up for just a few hours worthwhile. I hope next week will be better than even my first week--because I'm then supposed to be out of town for three weeks, and won't be generating any income. During June, I'm scheduled first to fly home, then drive down with my mother and grandparents to Pensacola, FL, for my brother Bob's graduation from OCS--which apparently will involve him waving a sword around in what I hope will be a safe and appropriate manner. Then, I plan to go on jaunts to visit friends in South Carolina and Savannah. I'd also like to spend more time with my grandparents at their middle GA house, where I expect I'll be shelling a lot of peas, since the blueberries (on the 200+ bushes Granddaddy has planted--we are awash in blueberries even in "bad" years) won't be ready yet. Will, of course, keep my readers apprised of developments.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Headaches II

I love Augusta. I'm back in Arlington, and a white siding house around the corner from me, 3 bedrooms, one bath, much smaller than the brick one where I rent a room, has gone on sale...for $689,900. The lot's so tiny its dimensions are listed in square feet. In Augusta the same house would fetch perhaps $89,000, and that with a much larger yard. I know, I know, the price is due to the old trifold "location" mantra, but this is insane. I want to pick up DC's cultural attractions and public transportation system and drop them 400 miles south. There is no way any reasonable person can afford private property anywhere close to downtown here.

Mums took me to see a new discovery of hers the other day: a furniture store which is the sole purveyor of pieces designed and built just ten miles away, in North Augusta, SC. The name of the furniture maker is Frost and Keading, and their stuff is lovely. And affordable. Clean lines, all hardwoods (the labels proudly state that "there is NO Particle Board" in any piece), and elegant finishes. And locally-made! I'll bet DC has nothing comparable for under ten grand a pop. If I ever own my own place--which I want to be in Savannah or Charleston or St. Augustine, which are probably still overpriced, but no where like here--I'll furnish it with Frost and Keading. I think I've persuaded my mother to sell their ghastly Queen Anne dining room suit (including the china cabinet with the improperly mitred corners) and purchase a neat matte-finished functional Frost and Keading set.

I still have a headache. Dull pain keeps bubbling up behind my right eyeball, then receding. I don't want to take any more painkiller--it'll mess up either my liver or my colon, or both.

Tomorrow, I plan to return to Arlington Flea Market with an augmented selection of jewelry and pottery. Hope the customers won't have left town for the holiday!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Headaches

I hate Augusta. I've lived here for almost twenty-five years, officially, though with my forays abroad to study in Virginia, Russia, Poland, South Carolina, and again, Russia and Virginia, the actual time in residence would be somewhat shortened.

I went to get my picture taken for the First Presbyterian church directory today--through some misunderstanding, my name was no longer on the official roll. From a spiritual standpoint, this was unsettling. From an administrative standpoint, it was downright angering--after all, I send in tithe several times a year, and one would think that the bookkeeper kept track of me even if the deacons didn't. In the meantime, the migraine with which I'd been struggling since 2 AM had returned, and I was not in a mood for idiots, well-meaning or not.

The photographer took five shots. They all made me look like a halfwit. I may feel like a halfwit occasionally, and more rarely I may act like one, but I do not usually look slack-jawed and cow-eyed, like I did in these pictures. So, I told the hard-edged fiftiesh female who invited me back to look at the proofs on the computer that I wasn't going to buy any.

First, she tried to manipulate me with the information that "selling packets is how we afford to do this directory for your church."

Lovely, but I'm an impecunious graduate student.

She tried a harder tack when I mentioned my unfavorable financial position in declining to spend $30 on unflattering portraits (I did not tell her how truly awful they were): "I work on commission."

Well, that's just peachy, I thought. I don't give a rat's bohunkus what the financial setup of your studio is.

But, being cordial even in my short temperedness, I did not favor her bald tackiness with a reply, and left.

My headache had worsened by the time I got home, and I ended up lying on the den couch, praying that the painkiller would either kick in or my head would fall off. If I could afford a house in DC, I would buy one, join McLean Pres., move all my belongings up from GA, and return here only to visit relatives and dear friends. But as it is, Augusta is still my base of operations, my "precious things" are still here, I won't switch my membership from First Pres. for logistical reasons, and I have to come back every so often for doctor's appointments and other local obligations. C'est la vie. Так есть жизнь.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Walk on the Wild Side

A six-mile walk around my parents’ neighborhood this afternoon gave me an excellent opportunity to soak up the nice weather (sunny, 75), the first act of Romeo and Juliet (courtesy of Archangel Shakespeare and my new CD player, for whose ailments fresh batteries were the happy cure), and the local Georgia flora and fauna.

Of flora there was plenty—everything from daylilies to roses and a few late-blooming azaleas scattered abroad by the devices of costly landscapers among the wonderful, rich green of the South. The creamy white magnolia blossoms were slowly toasting in the sunshine, turning a golden brown, like overdone sugar cookies.

The fauna offered similar variety—a green lizard was sunning itself on a green-painted cable box on the curbside of a neighbor’s yard, and later on, a mud-grey lizard was perched on a granite boulder next to a mailbox. In the shade, an elderly Labrador was rolling luxuriously in a patch of thick grass, and a mile or so further down the road, a shaved white cat padded along like the king of beasts, a large puff of fur at the end of its otherwise naked tail a testament to its former long-haired appearance and its noble aspirations.

About a mile from home, I encountered two pink-clad women in their sixties who were fluttering around the pitiful body of a small snake which was belly-up at the end of one’s driveway. Stopping, I assured them that it was dead—an upside-down snake is a dead snake—and they fell to sharing horror stories of snakes they, or someone they knew, had encountered in the past. Water moccasins, the bane of every Southern fisherman, were reported to love backyard swimming pools, and their legendary aggression was recounted at length. One had chased down a neighbor and struck her on the calf: “The entire back of her leg rotted off.” A copperhead, another favorite serpent, had actually bitten one woman’s paternal aunt: “Her arm turned black all the way to the shoulder.” The water moccasin woman, not to be outdone by the copperhead woman’s blood relationship to the snakebite victim, told of her childhood on a rural farm, where her brother used to catch snakes, “snap their necks, and them drape them around me and my sister—they were still moving!” This apparently engendered her lifelong fear of snakes, since she “fainted dead away” when the brother in question put two around her neck.

I steered clear of creek-side bushes the rest of the way home.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Liked the New Star Wars, BUT...

...I could have done without the contemporary political references (the occasional rather heavy-handed comparison of the Dark Lord of the Sith to President Bush, for one). Action and story was good, though, and loose ends were tied up neatly, with no tortuous explanations necessary.

Friday, May 20, 2005

How the Mighty Have Fallen...

I got my first "B" ever in History yesterday--Silverman's class. In all my academic career, from middle school until now, I've always gotten some species of "A" in History/Social Studies (and that subject alone--I've done not so well in other disciplines--like that notorious "C" I earned in Multivariable Calculus my freshman year of college). Alas.

But, as my father once asked me, when I had experienced an academic setback years ago: "What do they call the person who graduates last in his class from medical school? ... 'Doctor.'"

And as my sister put it when I reminded her of the aforementioned anecdote last night: "What do they call a person who finishes _anywhere_ in her class in graduate school? ... I don't know, but they certainly don't call her 'doctor'!"

Sometimes, doctoral study in a social science discipline just seems downright silly. I'm totally burnt out--also this week for the first time in my life, I've been turning in papers that are far short of the minimum page-length. Writing about subjects that don't interest me for an audience of one who'll spend maybe fifteen minutes reading what took hours to create, and then promptly forget it, is not my idea of situational inspiration. Coming up with single sentences has been torture--as I told my mother, like wringing blood from a turnip.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Star Wars this weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Elderly Suitors, Part II

Ten hours later, the skin on my right thumb still stings slightly and smells of burnt paper. I have rubbed what seems like a pint of lotion onto my hands after washing them, but to no avail. The scent and sensitivity remain.

I was caught off-guard. I was out on the front stoop, sitting in the bright sunshine and watching the smoke curl up from the discarded credit-card bill I was burning in a cheap pie tin, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a skinny man on a motorcycle trying to catch my attention from the alley.

The motorcycle was a brand-new black Harley Davidson, which I’d half-heard coming up the street through my comfortable daze. The wizened person sitting astride it, dressed in a khaki cotton shirt and trousers and wearing a shiny skull-cap helmet, was my backdoor neighbor.

He beckoned again, earnestly. Being barefoot, I carefully padded over the slate flagstones that serve as a sort of side path through our clover lawn.

“You’ve gotten a new Harley.”

He grinned in a dried-up, lecherous way, and reached one of his pale hands into his shirt pocket.

“Do you have one of my cards?”

Oh, no, I thought. Here we go again.

“I do.”

“Call me sometime. I’d like to talk to you,” he said, persuasively.

“I’m right here.”

“But I never get to see you.”

“Ah, but I’m around,” I responded, retreating. He withdrew onto the Harley and puttered down the alley towards his house. I singed my hand on the still-smoldering paper, then took the tin indoors to wash the ashes down the disposal.

Remember, O Lord, that I am as grass...but must I be turned to dust so quickly?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Obviously Authored by a Professor...

Among the less-legible books that I have found in my academic career is the following: The Tarascan Suffixes Of Locative Space: Meaning And Morphotactics. Honestly, what a title and topic to make you think, “A best-seller!”

Wierd Dreams

The adventure of trying to get a prescription filled at the Georgetown Outpatient Pharmacy is well-nigh unending. Telephone conversations, in-person meetings, handwritten notes and faxes have all been held, attempted, scribbled and sent between persons, offices, and anonymous electronic systems in Washington, DC, Arlington, VA, and Augusta, GA, over the last five days. Thus far, I have not been able to get the little bottle of medication I need, though I am assured the paperwork to do so is in process. In consequence of all these delays, I have spent the last three days without the chemicals which keep my chronic illness in check. So, I wonder whether or not this situation has led to the strange and fantastic dreams that intruded on my fitful sleep last night.

Professor Zimmer, as my regular readers are aware, is a delicious piece of eye-candy in an otherwise unappetizing smorgasbord of academics in the Georgetown history department. In my sleep, his curls of caramel-colored hair somehow got entangled with an episode involving more than one international airplane journey, a girlfriend cohabiting with him in a riverside boathouse, the golfers Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, and a debate with his parents over his attachment to a goyim. I haven't seen the man in months, as far as I know he has no significant other (much less is living with her!), I haven't flown overseas in two years, and I don't watch golf! Where does this all come from? I did eat a melted-cheese matzo for a pre-bedtime snack on Sunday, but by last night it should have been well out of my system.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Birthday Buddies

I panicked two days ago and thought I'd forgotten my friend Susanna's birthday. I immediately left a worried and contrite message on her home answering machine, and today she wrote to assure me that it's the end of May, not April. Whew! I need to get all my friends to email me their important dates, so I can keep track. Then I started thinking--with what people in history do I share a birthdate? Google and IMDB (a favorite site for a movie nut like me!) came to my rescue...

I share my birthday with Friedrich Engels (co-author of The Communist Manifesto) [born 1820] and Aleksandr Blok (Russian Symbolist poet) [born 1880], whose poem “Pharmacy, Street, Gas Lamp” (trust me, it sounds better in Russian) I had to memorize as an undergraduate. Nikolai Nekrasov, another Russian poet, would have turned 59 on that day, but he’d kicked it two years earlier. William Blake, the English poet of Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, plus the lovely “Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright,” was born on November 28, in 1757. John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress and friend of the perpetually-depressed hymn writer William Cowper [pronounced "cooper"], started his journey on the date in 1628. Fashionistas, take note: shoe-designer Manolo Blahnik was copyrighted in Spain 28.11.1942. The social philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss, whom I always confuse with the jeans-maker, ne 28 Novembre 1908, en Bruges. And co-author (with her cat, Sneaky Pie) of numerous mystery novels (none of which I have ever read) Rita Mae Brown was first issued in 1944.

As to film and television: The irritating and loathsome Canadian gnome Paul Schaffer, David Letterman’s unfunny band-leading foil on The Tonight Show, dates from 1949. On the other hand, one of my very favorite character actors, Ed Harris (The Abyss, The Firm, Apollo 13, The Rock, The Truman Show, A Beautiful Mind; and the headliner of Pollock) was born November 28, 1950. Law & Order fans will also appreciate my pleasure at sharing the date with S. Epatha Merkerson [of 1952], who plays the character of Lieutenant Anita Van Buren. The Daily Show’s “anchor,” Jon Stewart, is exactly twelve years my senior, born in 1962.

Of course, with all these well-known folk (although with Engels one could make a convincing argument that he’s infamous, not famous) there has to be at least one really really bad dude: Ernst Rohm, founder and leader of the Nazi SA, who was born in 1887 and had the dubious honor of being executed by Hitler during 1934’s Night of the Long Knives for supposedly planning a putsch against the fuhrer. Another person with whom I dearly wish I didn’t share my birthdate (although of course he’s not quite on Nazi level, evil-wise!) is former U.S. Senator Gary Hart. The extra-marital canoodling on the ineptly-, but aptly-named Monkey Business (watch what you name your boats, people!) which eventually pushed him out of the 1988 presidential race (he was vying for the Democrat’s nomination) was one of the first domestic political scandals I remember in detail. And, speaking of icky tabloid fodder…former Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, she of the beehive bleached-blond hair, cow-sized silicone udders and controversial marriage to decrepit billionaires, is exactly seven years older than I am.

And how about a little morbidity? People who died on my birthdate include Jeffrey Dahmer (murdered in prison in 1994 after he was convicted of killing and eating more than a dozen young men in Wisconsin), the vivacious and lovely actress Rosalind Russell, who starred in two of my most loved movies—His Girl Friday and Auntie Mame (the latter my inspiration for my own new role of aunt)—who died when I turned 2, in 1976, and writer Washington Irving, author of the forever-favorite "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," who fell asleep for the last time in 1859.

I think, though, that the best public event that has happened on my birthdate thus far during my lifetime was in 1995…when the 55 mph national speed limit was abolished. One of Clinton's major acts, as far as I am concerned.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lightning and Heat

Today was "Arlington Day." It seemed to consist mainly of scores of tough-looking immaculately-groomed motorcycle cops roaring up and down the twisty boulevards of our fair burg, and a parade of pickup trucks carrying large South American flags and blaring Hispanic music back towards groups of sequined, belled, and velveted marching dancers in the bright hot sunshine. I was at the end of the parade route, enjoying my first day selling my jewelry at the Arlington Courthouse Saturday market, right next to an enormous leafy tree. All the dancers congregated in the shade, steaming hot and dripping sweat in their colorful costumes--a gorgeous, motley crowd of children and young adults whose families clustered around them, snapping pictures and talking cheerfully in Spanish. I really need to learn Spanish. Of course, I've picked up a few words here and there, and I'm fairly good at reading folks' body language, but I'd prefer to be able to communicate in a manner more coherent than pidgin and mime.

Another interesting feature of the Arlington market experience was its location (which migrates slightly each week)--today, within a stone's throw of the beautiful new courthouse/county detention center. Apparently the inmates on the third floor of the jail were enjoying a long-running game of basketball or volleyball, because until the parade blared into the nearby parking lot around 3 PM, the noise of squeaking tennis shoes and shouts dominated the block. At first I thought the boistrousness was a fight, then I distinguished cheerful sounds--which went on for a good five hours. I guess it's a pretty harmless way to pass a weekend in the slammer.

After the parade finished, and I'd packed up my paraphenalia and headed home (which took all of five minutes, the market's so close), the broiling sun was gradually obscured and the first thunderstorm of the summer crackled and growled into town. It was one of the more violent electrical storms I've ever experienced. My street was lit as if by strobe lights for a good half-hour. Jagged lightning cut across the sky and hit the ground in a sizzling pink arc. I stood at the front of the house and watched the show through the glass storm door. I'm gradually getting back to my original calm enjoyment of storms, but I'm still anxious about fire--I'll never forget sitting out on my parents' back porch a few years ago enjoying a wild, windy thunderstorm and seeing a neighbor's house get hit by lightning and explode into flame. The lady and her baby who were in the kitchen got out. The family cat didn't.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Tredici Club

It has long been a dream of mine to start a Tredici Club. Tredici means thirteen in Italian. It also sounds romantic and trendy, I think. I know I’ve briefly touched on this topic before, but I thought I’d expand and expound a bit, this being Friday the 13th.

I’m triskadekaphilic—I love the number 13. It’s probably sheer cussedness, but I have always enjoyed stepping on pseudo-sacred ground, and more so now than ever. So, one day I would like to have a restaurant/coffee bar/reading lounge on the thirteenth floor of a nice Art Deco skyscraper (elevators usually skip the number, but I’d have the button proudly typed in Gothic Bold), with a couple of resident black cats, and a décor that riffs on the whole broken-mirror/spilled salt/leaning-ladder/umbrellas-open-indoors line of “bad luck” things. This could be very pretty—a mirror “shattered” into a lovely mosaic design, different types of ladders hand-painted on the backs of chairs, Edward Gorey napkins, a “cracked” tile floor and padded stools shaped like large saltshakers on a white carpet, brolly lamps… And we could have costume party get-togethers every 13th of the month, with special events on Friday 13ths.

There could be a Left Foot First Ball Room which could be rented for dances and business meetings, a Crossed Knives Dining Room for intimate tete-a-tetes, and the Crowing Hen Library for undisturbed happy reading.

Incidentally, while double-checking a few of the superstitions commercially incorporated above, I came across the following:

When a woman reaches age 31 she may expect some great change to occur. Frequently it consists of an important journey, some unexpected danger, or some great temptation...

Woo-hoo—only six months to go—I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Special Thanks

I have the best brother-in-law ever. He wrote a poem for my sister, which he read aloud to the three of us when he presented her gift after lunch on Mothers Day. He also gave little boxes of sweets (wrapped in pretty paper with curly ribbon) to my mother and to his. And he gave me half a pound of fudge! I LOVE fudge. And I'm not even a mother! But it meant a lot to me not to be left out on that particular holiday--somehow, even more than being ignored on Valentine's, that would have been unbearable. I really appreciate his thoughtfulness--and my sister was definitely pleased and flattered by the poem, which described in rhyming couplets the day they met and how much he loves her and their new daughter. God bless him!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Lolita and the New Testament

Reading the nonfiction of Vladimir Nabokov is like enjoying a sumptuous repast while one’s lifeblood is being drained away. I feel energized, dizzy, satisfied and sick all at the same time. Simultaneously, I drink from the fountain of delight and have my legs knocked from under me. His prose teaches, admonishes and illuminates—and at the same time declares that I, the listener, the rapt student who obediently hangs on every word, will never achieve that skill which the speaker naturally possesses, which he displays in simple, insuperable confidence.

I do not know how to react to Nabokov. In his 1950s and 1960s Lectures on Literature he speaks with the same voice as St. Paul: “Do as I do,” “Follow my example.” There is no self-aggrandizement, no pomposity, just clear, repulsively plain statements of accomplishment. Just as I would love to quibble with Paul, I would love to cast up examples of failure to Nabokov, but there are none. Each man’s criticisms grate, they stab and they sting, but there is no hypocrisy—his words are true to his behavior.

For example, in one painful essay, Nabokov castigates the “philistine,” the spiritually numb petit-bourgeois who wants to rub shoulders with the famous and possess the consumer comforts of the crowd, who lives for fashionable appearances—what we now recognize as the “yuppie Pottery Barn mentality”—and I see myself, at least partly, in dreadful clarity. Then, in another address, Nabokov writes of the qualities of good translators, and I despair of ever being rudimentarily capable (he advises that we should translate only those with whom we are literary and creative equals—heavens!), and I wonder how anyone could measure up to this ideal. Then I remember that, yes, Nabokov did know both Russian and American culture and language thoroughly, and those of the French and German nations, too. When he translated Pushkin, the greatest of the Russian writers, the Shakespeare of that language, into English, he was not overreaching his qualifications.

And so it is with St. Paul. He had truly learned to be “content in all circumstances.” Yes, he could legitimately lambaste this or that church for falling afoul of the pattern he had lived for them. And he could relate the details of his trials and incredible deeds without any guilt of self-promotion.

My teeth tend to grind when I read Nabokov and Paul, and yet I know what they say is right. I think, “Amen, yes!”—and too, “Who does he think he is? How can he say this?!” I am angered, irritated, humbled, discomfited by these men. They are not comfortable companions. They are Truth-tellers, with all the offense that mission involves. I do not draw any conclusions as to Nabokov’s spiritual condition, but reading him has given me a greater appreciation for Paul, who, divinely inspired, exuded the same qualities of authority that at once attract and repel me when I find them in the author of Lolita.

I am ashamed to say that even through college I used to accept claims of (primarily) masculine intellectual and spiritual authority too easily. Perhaps it is good, then, that I am now initially uncomfortable with such firm expression before I comprehend its practical and theoretical legitimacy. A skill I still long to develop is being able quickly to recognize fundamentally uncharitable BS and as quickly to accord to genuine superiority the respect it deserves.

Nice Niece Impressions

My new niece was not determined to impress me on our first meeting. As I bent over her in her mother's arms, she screwed her tiny face into a series of fantastic grimaces, impersonating an enraged eggplant or disgruntled plum for the initial five minutes of our acquaintance. Then, she apparently decided that I was a friend, as she recomposed her features to reflect a pleasant contentment and regarded me solemnly with big dark eyes.

She's a sweet baby--occasionally letting out a yell, but not really crying--and a great observer of activity. She sat in her bouncy seat for an hour and happily listened to Frank Sinatra (an early attempt by her doting father to affect her musical tastes) while watching me, my mother and my sister prepare dinner on Saturday night. She doesn't mind being changed--she loves to stare at the bright calico quilt her great-grandmother made her, which is hung above her changing table--and she loves sleeping high up on her daddy's chest, where she curls up in her "onesy" like a pink tree frog and dozes while he watches NASCAR.

She's such a wee little thing, still less than 8 pounds, and she has a full head of soft black hair, which feels so good when she snuggles her head into the nape of your neck. She gives half-smiles--as she scrutinizes your face, occasionally one side of her mouth turns way up. Both grandmothers insist they have witnessed whole smiles, too. I love looking at her fingers, with their diminutive nails--how perfect! And her ears are absolutely lovely. I am a connoisseur of ears.

I really hated to have to leave early--my papers are due by Friday--but the stress was interfering with my appreciation of my small relative, so I flew back this morning, rather than this afternoon. Maybe after this semester is done, I'll be able to enjoy everyone's company more.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Suggested Paper Topics

"Throw Mama Under the Train: The Influence of Anna Karenina on American Country-and-Western Music"

"They Beat Dead Horses, Didn't They?: Yet Another Look at the Lousy Status of Women in Medieval Russia"

"The Terem and the Harem: Sisters Under the Veil (and Behind the Lattice and Locked Away from the Public Eye Except for Christmas and Easter--If They're Lucky)"

"Breakin' Up's So [Not] Hard to Do: How to Make Your Unwanted Wife Become a Nun in Pre-Petrine Russia"

"Headaches and Neck-aches: The Challenge of Being A Royal Relative in Tudor England and Ivan the Terrible's Russia"


The Library of Congress closed 15 minutes early today, which was a pain in the wazoo, since I still had five more books to scan, and I'm supposed to fly to Providence tomorrow. I walked back to Georgetown rather than taking the Metro--I needed that 4 miles' worth of leg-stretching. There were mobile rocket-launchers and tanks parked on the Mall. Apparently it's some sort of "public service awareness week" and the armed forces, plus Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and Customs, were all taking full advantage of a chance to show off their gizmos. I hate the slogan "Army of One"--sounds like we're going to drop a token SOB in the middle of the desert with a rifle, a can of tuna and a water bottle and wish him luck. The old slogan, "Be All You Can Be," had its own built-in pessimism ("Although That Isn't Much"), but at least it had a sense of possibility, too. Does anyone have any better suggestions for the grunts' ads? The Navy is just "Go Navy," I think, and the Air Force has the rather catchy "Into the Blue," and I'm pretty sure the Marines are sticking with the tried and true "The Few, The Proud," but could the regular land-oriented people have something more appropo--say (to borrow from Patton): We'll Go Through You Like Crap Through a Goose"?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Amazing Roommate

Nate is downstairs copying a poem onto parchment in Celtic-style calligraphy. I am impressed. The other day we had a talk about Mozart's Requiem (he was whistling pieces of the third movement), and later, when we were both admiring the contents of his medical-supply catalogue (intensive care units for rats, anyone?), it was an appropriate moment to quote bits of James Herriot to each other. So much fun!

Nate quit his job at one medical research laboratory last week and has already had an interview at one of Georgetown's this week. It'll be funny that he starts there just as I'm leaving, but I hope he runs into Ben, a Christian fellow who's in the doctoral program in Microbiology/BioChemistry, and gets interested in the gospel... Wayfollowers, please pray for the salvation of Nate and my other two roommates, and for me to live my faith in a way that's winning!

It's PDC (Pretty Darn Cold) in DC

The last few minutes I've been impersonating a filet mignon. That is, I've been mashed up against a hot radiator, attempting to grill myself to sizzling perfection, in defiance of the chill that pervades the house. I still, unfortunately, have a cool pink center, as now that I am away from the heat, I'm again freezing. Perhaps my next gastronomically-oriented role should be that of a teapot swaddled in a cozy.

Other than the chill, the weather is stunningly lovely. Tulips and wisteria and azaleas and pink dogwoods are all blooming, and all the trees are clad in new foliage. The sky is a delicate blue, and little white clouds are scattered across the heavens. In consequence, I am woeful. I wanted so badly to go out to a nice dinner tonight, to go for a stroll in the friendly twilight after dessert, but this is not something to do by oneself!

In the metro this afternoon, the usual African-American jazz musician was replaced by a Chinese man playing an erhu. One does not usually hear classical Asian music echoing in the Arlington station vestible. I had visions of being transported to Shanghai, although the crowds were absent.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I Was Oxygen-Deprived at Birth, Too!

That horrible woman soldier, PFC England, who was photographed abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, is now claiming through her lawyers that she deserves leniency because she was OXYGEN DEPRIVED AT BIRTH! News flash: so was yours truly. I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck and was being choked everytime my mother had a contraction, but I certainly don't blame that for anything other than the loss of a few IQ points. When will people get it through their thick skulls--or rather into their hearts--that amount of brains does not equal height of morality? A person can be a superbly-educated genius and diabolically wicked, or a virtual idiot and still honest. Likewise, a person can be brilliant and entirely good, or a fool and evil. The two qualities have absolutely no correlation. And I think even a cretin would realize that maltreating prisoners was wrong. I know that Ms. England has achieved a plea-bargain which caps her maximum sentence at less than eleven years, but I certainly hope that the jury does not reduce the term still further thanks to this entirely erroneous line of lawyerly reasoning.

Good News

My sister is back home and recovering. Little Rita is taking all these rushings-about in stride.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Concern

My sister (the new mother) is seriously ill and had to go the emergency room this evening. She may have to have surgery tomorrow. Thank God my physician father is up in Rhode Island visiting his new granddaughter, and therefore handy. Will keep readers apprised of developments.

Infants, Food and Christianity

I have figured out why I have been so prone to falling asleep in church lately...no, it's not because the sermons have been boring! It's because I've had breakfast. I apparently have a strong reaction to food. Like a baby, if my stomach is filled, I'm immediately, inexorably ready for a nap. If I'm hungry, I can stay awake. This is one reason I'm glad I attend the early service--once I have a couple of muffins in Sunday School, I'm done for.

Visited Noah, Leah and Aaron yesterday, and held the wee one while his mother had lunch. He slept the entire time, stretching in his sleep occasionally, all warm and cuddly and light. It's amazing how neatly babies are knit together, with near-invisible eyebrows and lashes, itty-bitty fingers and toes, and expressive gestures. And his skin is so soft! What a nice distraction from writing about nineteenth century Russian factory workers.