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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Eschewing Surplussage

One to 2 nights a week, I've been enjoying the overnight hospitality of my cousins Mary and Camden in Irmo, SC, which has the effect of not only giving me a pleasant social outlet for an evening, but also shortening my commute to 25 minutes each way. They feed me wonderfully and proffer me a very comfortable bed in one of their several guest rooms (now that all their children are grown, every bedroom but the master is available for visitors). Mary has an MBA and is a computer whiz extraordinaire, and is helping me find a replacement for my suddenly defunct laptop. Camden owns his own business and is a fantastic cook – a week or so ago, he insisted on fixing me an omelette filled with mushrooms, spinach, cheese, and one or two other delicious fillings before I drove to work.

Our chats have been fascinating. One curious factoid I learned from Mary is that both of her grandfathers were born in the 19th century--she's only a few years older than me, and of course I knew that the Granddaddy we shared had been born in 1890, but her father's father was born in 1875! Her grandmother was his much younger second wife.  Of course, there was about 35 years' difference in age between our mutual grandparents as well. Which subject got me to thinking… I cannot see myself marrying someone who is 76! Or, conversely, waiting until I am in my mid-fifties to wed a twenty-year-old. Eww. But we owe our existence to such February-December marriages.

Camden and I were talking about American wastefulness (he's a recovering packrat like me), and he mentioned that he thinks we human beings are a lot like Oscar fish--whatever house we have, we grow to fill. If we only have a small space, we somehow manage to curb our possessions, but the bigger space we have, the more stuff we stuff into it. I agree with him–part of the appeal of the tiny house movement is the attraction of limiting yourself to only the necessities, of prioritizing people over things.

I'm responsible for assuring the accuracy and simplicity of the language in the biographical and critical entries in the reference books my employer produces. This has proven challenging in unexpected ways, as so many so-called reliable sources aren't properly footnoted, and many disagree with one another–perpetual frustrations for a historian! And academics love verbiage--I swear, if I had encountered the verb "foregrounded" again on Friday, I would have become apoplectic. I love learning more about so many writers, though.

One of the things I appreciate about my officemates is that they laugh at my jokes. And it's really nice to be around fellow Southern-accented people who are well-traveled and well-read and movie-savvy. Now if they wouldn't say "Oh, Jesus!" multiple times a day... It's more than a little ironic that this name is a chosen profanity for a Buddhist. But this is also the same young person who considers it inconceivable that Planned Parenthood would sell fetal organs, since that's somehow wrong. As if abortion were perfectly reasonable but profitably disposing of the medical waste that results were evil. I don't follow, but I have repeatedly observed this sort of "I knew you were a hard man, so I buried the talent" mental process in nonWayfollwers before. Useless to debate.

I had planned to start paying my mother rent as soon as I got my first paycheck – but, of course, then large unexpected expenses appeared! I got ANOTHER several hundred dollar bill associated with last year's colonoscopy, there were other household bills that came due (I've not been home, and I've been keeping the heat set in the 60's...how can my electric bill possibly be that much?!), and then my computer died. Thank God, I was able to get all the material copied onto an external hard drive (that itself wasn't cheap), and complete my second book review for TWIROB before my laptop absolutely refused to turn back on, but even with Mary's expert assistance I'm likely to spend some heavy coin replacing this essential equipment. Forking out an average of $10 per day for gasoline isn't particularly enjoyable, either, but the twice-a-week ESOL and history tutoring I've been engaged to do offsets that. Maybe my expenses are like Oscar fish, too...

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