I didn't used to hate bananas. They weren't anything special, but they were easy to peel and dispatch, and easy goes a long way in my book. They're high in potassium. You jam one in the top end, and you ward off foot cramps at the bottom. As long as they stayed out of Jell-O, they were okay. But after a few decades of bananas, I began to realize I didn't like them very much. It took another decade to realize I could just stop eating them. Same thing happened with pot; I'm a slow study.
Then I heard a couple things on NPR that really sealed the deal for me. They said the bananas of my youth had given way to an inferior variety, mealier, drier, and less tasty, because the original kind got buggy or blighty or hard to box up or something. So I wasn't making it up: bananas are worse than they used to be. The second thing was a statement made to the effect that enlightened American consumers don't buy bananas. This is because bananas have to be shipped from somewhere else in the world, and thus incur a cost to the planet of fossil-fuel use. Thoughtful consumers try to buy closer to home.
That meant I could now embrace my bananaban with a light heart and a sweet whiff of righteousness. Here was a policy that felt right to my core, in a way that taking short showers with a puny water flow just doesn't.
This is the sort of thing liberals are required to think about. We can't stop thinking about it. Even carnivorous liberals have to think about their hamburgers at the picnic: was the cow contented? Was she fed antibiotics that get into the ecosystem and lower their effectiveness against emerging bacteria that will now rampage through our population with newer and deadlier infections we will be helpless to thwart? Was the bun made from wheat from a farm using unnatural fertilizers that seep into the Mississippi and create a massive dead zone at the delta that will not recover in a zillion years? This is why liberals are no fun at parties. This, and the tofu dip. And this is why liberals wear loud shirts and sandals and assemble their remaining hairs in ponytails the size of noodles, because they want to feel like children, since they can't stop thinking like adults. And conservatives show up at the picnic dressed like adults, with their minds as delightfully uncluttered as a child's, survey the situation and think: cool. More hamburgers for me.
I got to thinking about bananas the other day because I read somewhere that they are an effective remedy for hemorrhoids, and glad to hear it. That's pretty close to my best-case scenario for banana placement anyway. I guess you're supposed to apply just the peeled skin to the afflicted tissues, however. It wasn't what I was visualizing, but at least this way it doesn't ruin the trouser line.
HUGE article here in the paper, an entire page, about how for the first time FREE armored safes are going to be made available to the public, for only $281. I know it's real, too, because the byline was from the UMS, the Universal Media Syndicate, a well-known arm of Bite Me Industries. Plus, the offer is being made by World Reserve officials. That would be the World Reserve Monetary Exchange, Inc., on Freedom Avenue in Canton, Ohio. Pay no attention to the tiny "advertisement" lettering at the top of the page: this is the real deal.
"World Reserve officials confirm early morning reports that every safe being delivered to Portland area residents over age 52 are in fact loaded with a bag of money." It ARE? It's almost too good to be true. When I was a kid I used to dream about finding money on the street, in the form of piles of coins. That's what I imagined was stored in the vaults of the First Bank of Sofa, and I had enough imagination to invest my dream piles in Three Musketeers futures, but paper money was beyond my ability to imagine. These armored safes, now, are guaranteed to contain bags of money including rare coins such as the 1909 cent that is now worth "a whopping 350 times its face value." Free money! In a little jingly bag.
Not only that, but the safes are only being made available to people born on or before 1959 who live within a 50-mile radius of Portland. Why--that's ME!
The safe is designed to replace the ubiquitous "important stuff" shoebox that we elderly keep underneath our beds. I don't have one of those boxes. Most of the stuff I think is important at any given moment is in my refrigerator. The sorts of things they're talking about would be your wills, your financial information, your maps to the treasure. I have no idea where I put all that stuff. It couldn't be safer. There is a will in the house somewhere, and our heirs will have to trip over it at some point, but there isn't a one of them that's going to raise a stink over it. Don't tell me I could be mistaken--I'm not. They're all good kids, and one of our life strategies has been to appear to be worth more alive than dead.
The kinds of things I might want to quarantine in an armored safe used to be the nude photos, any one of which could have kept me out of public office anywhere other than Italy. My attitude towards the photos has changed over the years and at this point, when my best cleavage is in my neck, I'm thinking of publishing them on the internet. What I do not want to see survive is my early writing.
I even remember some of it. In fifth grade there was a tiny copse behind the school and one day I sat in it and wrote a dreamy essay that started out "The Beech is the queen of the forest" and rolled downhill from there. I squoze everything I could out of that royal metaphor. If I'd known what "raiment" and "diadem" meant I would probably have shoveled those in, too. The only thing that should have been obvious was I didn't know a beech tree from a beach ball, but my fifth-grade teacher, who also couldn't have recognized a beech, nearly swooned over it. She cut me from the herd and funneled me into the creative woo-woo class where (this is true) I daydreamed we would be graded solely on our booger collections (mine was under my desk). This may seem immature, but keep in mind my skills in musical flatulence were not well-developed at that point.
It got way worse later on. By high school I was excreting lyrical logs of pretentious poetry that made no sense whatsoever. To this day no one can read my handwriting; back then they couldn't even read my typing. Maybe a free armored safe would be a good idea if I could afford it, but I figure matches and lighter fluid are still cheap.
This will no doubt resolve itself in time, but for now the thought of plunging in and learning the ropes makes me spin into reverie. This is a cherished ability of mine, to look clear-eyed into reality and veer away, and it's a significant component of my mental health regimen. In my reverie there's an on-ramp, and a man is walking up it towards me. That's me at the top of the ramp in a long homespun dress and a bonnet, a goose quill behind my ear. Sure, it seems a little girly now, but that's what everyone is wearing, and you don't have to put on any underwear. The man gets closer and closer. He has a broad, infectious smile. Why, it's Dwight Eisenhower, sure as shit! He gets up to where I'm standing at the top of the ramp and sweeps his hand downhill, indicating a mighty tempest of traffic going every which way. He's so friendly and pleased I can't help but smile back. But I'm uneasy. I'm sensing disapproval from my father. My father did not like Dwight Eisenhower.
"Why not?" asks Mr. Eisenhower, which startles me. Then I realize Mr. Eisenhower and my father are both dead, and had probably already had words. Daddy didn't mince them. He flang them out fully-syllabled in impeccable order, such that, even listening, you could tell they were spelled correctly, and anyone arguing with him was likely to realize he was losing even if he didn't know why. Mr. Eisenhower was still smiling. He was hard to dislike, actually.
I had to think about it. Most people liked Ike, and the main reason Dad didn't was that he wasn't Adlai Stevenson, near as I could make out. I was too little to understand exactly why we weren't Republicans, but we sure weren't. Being a Republican meant you had to join a private golf club and drive an Oldsmobile to it, and Daddy was a Peugeot-to-the-hiking-trail kind of fellow.
"Well," I said, thinking back, "I'm not exactly sure. I was pretty young. There was that whole Richard Nixon thing, and his obsession with the Communists."
"Was your father a Communist?"
[Pretty much. Let's just say he might have had Bolshevik sensibilities.] "I'm not sure it's any of your business," I said, getting my back up a little. Dad might have been on to something. "My father didn't think much of Republicans, and that was well before they all turned into lunatics."
"True," Ike said, his smile faltering a little. "Well, you're a nice girl. Interesting get-up. Weren't you born in 1953?"
Daddy, the Peugeot, and friends
I was, but I can wear whatever I want in my own reverie. I would have backed all the way into the nineteenth century, if I weren't conflicted about the whale oil.
"Don't mind me. You can wear whatever you want in your own reverie. Now," Mr. Eisenhower went on, putting a hand on my shoulder and fanning the other towards the swirl of traffic below. "Have a look. It's my Interstate Highway System," he said. "Do you like it?"
It looked pretty scary, tell the truth. I edged a bit further into the past. "I don't rightly know, Mr. Eisenhower," I said. "I reckon I can purt' near walk just about anywhere I've a mind to. And if there is somewhere I need to get to in a hurry, why, I can just ride my old donkey. I have a whacking stick to get 'er going with, too." I did, but I couldn't bring myself to use it. Don't tell Mr. Eisenhower, but I'd just carry it under my arm and bounce up and down on my ass, going unhh, unhh, unhh. If the donkey felt like going somewhere, off we'd go. It was good enough.
"You'd never use a donkey-whacking stick," he said, reading my mind again. "You're not the type. Try my Interstate Highway System instead. You'll love it. In no time at all you won't know what you did without it."
I transferred the goose quill to my other ear. "I don't know," I said. "I guess I don't see the point. Everything I need is right nearby." More important, I am uneasy about taking on something I'm currently quite capable of living without, and then not being able to live without it. Seems burdensome. Pick up too many things you can't live without, it seems like you're setting yourself up for a flame-out. Autopsy results indicate she died from a lack of an ATM, wasabi peas, and early internet withdrawal, compounded by the end of Boston Legal reruns. I gave Mr. Eisenhower an apologetic look. "It's so busy and loud. I don't know how to drive."
"Nothing to it." Mr. Eisenhower opened the door to a big, shiny car. It might have been an Olds. I sensed a cosmic raised eyebrow from my father, but I couldn't help but look inside. At least it was a standard transmission; that wasn't Republican. I got in and sat down, smoothing my dress over the bench seat. There were no seat belts, and plenty of room for the donkey. "I don't know," I repeated.
"You'll love it. Off you go," Mr. Eisenhower said, grinning wide, leaning into the window and smacking the shifter into neutral. The Oldsmobile edged down the on-ramp and picked up speed. "The manual is in the glove box," he hollered. I pawed at the glove box in a rising panic but found nothing but neatly folded state highway maps and a bar of dinosaur-shaped soap from Sinclair Gas. Below me the traffic was a blur. I braced for a terrible collision but when I opened my eyes again I was coasting to a stop on the highway with the traffic parting smoothly all around me. I sat in the car and looked around, then perused a map before snapping back to the present.
So I'm on Twitter, I guess. If you see me, honk. I'll be the one in the bonnet.
I was picking blueberries in my garden the other day and trying to stay out of the way of the painters when an unmistakable odor-finger pointed my way. "Smells like something died around here," I said, which made all the painters point at each other in accusation. I get that. I don't know how it is in the white-collar world, but back in the post office we always maintained a selection of people who could be counted on to make dramatic olfactory statements.
"No, I mean it smells like something really died around here," I said. "Something big." A moose, maybe. I poked around a little, more curious than eager. Dave came along and put in a better effort, snooting around under the larger shrubs. Nothing.
Later in the day I passed by a different corner of the yard and suddenly knew, with every appalled cell in my body, that I was within three feet of the item. My nose grew eyes and went blind. My nose sprouted legs and chewed one off. I crouched down and gave the radius a cursory glance and fetched Dave. He waded into the shrubbery and swept things aside with a big stick, then stopped and leaned over.
"Did you find it?"
Dave made an unidentifiable sound, all vowels and revulsion. "I'm going to need a flat shovel, a garbage bag, and a bucket," he said.
"What kind of bucket?"
The bucket was for his personal use, and a five-gallon one, he thought, should about do it.
"So what is it?"
Raccoon or possum is always a possibility, but domestic cat also seemed likely. We're overblessed with them here, courtesy most of our fine neighbors. Frankly, I'd be okay with the idea of having one fewer. I love cats, but in their place--that place being inside, stalking the wily moth, or between my lap and a good book. One of my neighbors was missing a cat and asked if I'd seen her just the other day. I hadn't. I listened to the description, but it didn't sound familiar. All of those subsidized killing machines look the same to me with a warbler stuffed in their front ends. I said I'd keep an eye out and refrained from my outdoor-cat rant. I'm at the age where it would be too easy to become the neighborhood crank, and you never know when you're going to need an egg.
"I don't know." Dave motioned me into the bushes and held some branches away with a stick. We both bent over to get closer. Well! It was a wallet. A giant tailed wallet with a paste of maggots on top. The only sound was the low hum of maggot nummy-noises and the gentle plink of our eyebrows falling out. Just before we ran for the bucket, we caught a glimpse of a flat grey tabby head on one end of the wallet. I contemplated calling up my neighbor.
Found a cat. What did your cat look like again? Oh. Okay then. No, this one is about an inch high all over, semi-liquid, with one fuzzy eyeball and a maggot crust. I'll keep looking.
In humans, the stages between Dust and Dust are adolescence, heavy drinking, credit card debt, denial, anger, bargaining, heavy drinking, acceptance, death, bloat, putrefaction, and compost. This cat was in the putrefaction stage, characterized by the release of various chemicals that certain animals that I do not wish to be reincarnated as find attractive. It's all part of a process that begins at the moment of death when one's cells, which one had been propping up more or less continuously while alive, begin to slump and stagger. Bacteria are key instigators, and the odors of cadaverine and putrescine are caused by their excretions. That's what the stink of death is: bacteria farts. True, it doesn't seem possible that bacteria could do all that, what with their butts being so very tiny and all, but there are a lot of them. If enough folks get together, they can raise quite a stink. Like at the post office the day someone brought in the elk jerky. Or the Tea Party: very similar deal.
Then the flies come in and have themselves a time and lay eggs in the dead thing so their children won't go hungry. They wouldn't have to do this if they had breasts, but they don't. The maggots hatch right on top of their own breakfast, and they look enthusiastic. These were partying like there was no tomorrow, and I can't blame them. They don't have much to look forward to as adult flies: eat shit and die.
It's all very interesting, but Dave and I backed away from it. Dave was fresh off the revelation that he could pay someone else to do stuff, and he went off to search for a critter gitter. That's when the head painter guy popped up and said he'd be happy to scoop it for us. The head painter guy is the same one who strapped himself to our steeply sloping tower roof to paint our cupola. He's a cheerful fellow. He said it wasn't dangerous at all once his skin had baked onto the roof shingles. The boy ain't right. So, smiling through his t-shirt, he bagged up the critter and deposited it in our garbage can, due to be picked up the following morning. It didn't cost us a thing.
If you don't count the fifty-dollar tip for the garbage man.
Time was, I came by information by looking for it. Nowadays I come by it by looking for something else. For instance, I needed to remember what a collarbone looked like the other day for a drawing I was doing. Theoretically I could have looked in a mirror, but I was at the computer, and that motivates one differently (the primary impulse is to remain slumped in a chair). I could also have hit the button on the Mac that takes my picture, but instead I Googled "collarbone" images, and five billion pictures of collarbones were there at my eyeballtips in a matter of seconds. Although, I will say, they were all remarkably similar.
The one I decided to click on was embedded in an article which snagged my attention. In it I learned that exposure of the clavicle is the latest trend in fashion. Dresses that may reveal no cleavage whatsoever are still considered sexy if a nice protruding collarbone is displayed. The reason the look is considered sexy is that it is impossible to achieve without being dragonfly-thin. You can't fake a good collarbone. It's an authentic marker of personal deprivation, and devoutly to be wished for a society blessed with plenty to eat.
That reminded me that I probably wouldn't have found my collarbone in the mirror anyway. My collarbone, as well as most other items in my skeletal kit, is submerged. I'm pretty sure I still have a pair of clavicles, because my shoulders are about where I left them. But any dress designed to show them off would look more like the wrapper on a loaf of bread. Not white bread, either--the seedy kind.
When I was much younger, I was apt to put my cleavage on display. Later on I developed a personality instead, and no longer sought out that kind of attention. Plus, whereas I still "had it," things had gotten sort of disheveled. My chest skin had grown mottled and pebbly after years of exposure. We could put a shine on it by calling it "sun-kissed," but it's more like a collection of solar hickeys, and I am disinclined to show it off.
Meanwhile, just south, things were getting worse. According to the fashion article about The Collarbone I stumbled across, the "upper chest has risen to prominence." Unfortunately, my prominences have taken a different turn. Whatever I once might have wanted to reveal has slid away and now only rises to prominence when I cross my legs.
But all is not lost. I discovered, finally, that the article in question was written in 2007, and for all I know nobody talks about collarbones anymore, or anything in the vicinity. For all I know the latest thing in fashion now is lap hooters. And bingo, I'm back in the game.
When I first found out there were tests to determine one's fat percentage, I was interested. Who wouldn't want to know how marbled they are? People love to put numbers on stuff. At the time, there were a couple ways of going about it. Someone could measure you with calipers in certain key spots, like the mid-rib tickle zone and the upper arm wobbletorium. As long as they stayed away from my neck, which is where I store my chins, I figured I'd come out all right.
Then there was also the dunking technique, whereby the amount of water you displaced and the amount you weigh could be wrangled into a useful fat-to-muscle ratio. Muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat. As a side note, pizza and beer make you really, really strong.
Both of these methods seemed likely to produce meaningful numbers. I never did either one of them. But no one does anymore. For years they've been using the Body Mass Index. It's entirely a function of your height and weight. That's all. It gets you nowhere other than to let you know if you're too short for your weight, which you knew anyway. It just gives you another number, which you can compare to a chart to determine where you stand on the spectrum between Attractive and Dead. All the recommended healthy weight charts top out an inch before Dave's height, so he's not on the graph, and has interpreted that to mean he can weigh whatever he wants to, since his mom told him not to extrapolate right after a meal.
But the BMI is almost useless, except to those without access to a mirror. It would lead a slight stringy woman who happens to have hooters cantilevered out to Kingdom Come to believe she needs to diet, when all she really needs is bigger feet and a counterweight.
The index (your weight divided by your height, squared) was invented by a Belgian guy between 1830 and 1850. Took him twenty years to come up with it. He knew he was onto something with the height and weight, and he just couldn't come up with that final piece, squaring the height, when he was essentially dealing with roundness.
Anyway, I was pleased to learn that now there is a Body Adiposity Index. And it gets right to the heart of the issue, which is the butt. All it cares about is your fanny volume and your height. To get your BAI, you need to measure your can with a centimeter tape. (You don't have one. They're made for European people, who are smaller.)
Your BAI is your butt measurement divided by your height multiplied by the square root of your height, minus eighteen. What's the eighteen for? I don't know, but I will divulge that when we were working in the chemistry labs, sometimes we'd have to put in a number like that just to get the experiment to come out right. It's a fudge factor, or something a lot like fudge. You want the experiment to come out right, don't you?
The article I read said you need to get a partner to wrap the centimeter tape (which you don't have one of) around you. Stop right there. The test starts out by assuming you can't find your own ass with both hands. Here's a tip: if it takes more than one person to measure around your butt, you could stand to drop a few pounds.
Everyone's pissed. The Republicans are rolling out a template of candidates who promise to put God in their cabinets. The Democrats thought they'd already elected God and are vexed he isn't doing more smiting. The Buick of State is up on blocks and not moving at all, now that the Rs have taken all the wheels off, and the Ds can't figure out why the president isn't at least leaning on the horn. The president isn't blowing the horn because horn-blowing isn't an option for him. If he's pissed too, no one will ever know.
That option was taken away from him right off the bat. When Obama got elected, riding a tide of hope and joy, he presented a problem. As an attractive man with wide and fervent support, he seemed likely to thwart the Republicans' foremost goal, which was to reign forever and ever, amen. Something had to be done. The Republican brain trust got right to work. The most obvious defamation, that the president was a colored guy, was problematic. An entire oblique vocabulary would have to be employed to point it out; worse, some people might not even find it all that defamatory. Ultimately, they resorted to pure invention, building on the observation that, at the least, Obama's father was a colored guy, and foreign, and had a funny name, and probably associated with an unapproved version of God. From there it was a quick leap to the notion that the president had sprung full-grown from a planted alien pod and was attempting to destroy America from within by inflicting Socialism on it, which is their word for government for the people, as opposed to government for the people who have all of the money. And besides all that, he was still colored. They couldn't come right out and say it, but it was their ace in the hole, and there were other ways to get the point across. Michele Bachmann couldn't say it, because she, along with her husband, is a lady, but she could and did say he presided over a gangsta government. Michele is a subtle gal.
So Obama has his principles, which is why he still allows himself to be photographed playing basketball instead of wearing plus-fours on the croquet court, but he must never, ever, appear to be pissed. No matter how he is provoked, he must remain unperturbed. He is in the odd position of being too black for some and insufficiently black for others, but he cannot display so much as a snit, or the deal is sealed. He blows his top and it's all over. Michele Bachmann might as well just start referring to his "crack-ho economic plan" if he does that. So the Republicans and their propaganda wing have been poking sharp sticks at him for three years now. Occasionally a camera catches him in a momentary sun-squint and the photo is sieved for signs of irritability through three news cycles, but the Republicans might have to admit they misjudged his actual heritage. They are dealing with a man who came from a white mother and a Vulcan father.
It's the Nixon-goes-to-China thing. (Thanks for that, by the way, Dick.) No one but an ardent anti-Communist could have gotten away with opening up trade with a Communist country. In this country, you're not allowed to accomplish what you want, but sometimes you can do what no one expects of you. Obama can't act peeved, but Mitt Romney could fling himself down and have a tantrum in the grocery aisle, and be praised for unanticipated passion.
Some Democrats think Hillary Clinton could have accomplished more, but she would have been thwarted too. Any woman in that position would have had to whomp up a war so as not to appear too feminine, except not during her period, when it would just look bitchy. The only person who could get away with introducing real socialism would be Donald Trump. Myself, I want a president who will value education, make decisions based on sound science, institute a steeply progressive tax structure, and get serious about global warming.
I'm voting for Rick Perry.
Somewhere over there on the left you'll see an invitation to follow me on Twitter. It's not a very shiny button, but that's only appropriate. I barely know how to twit. Tweet. Whatever. But someday I will, and it might be funny. If you sign up real quick, you can be my fourth whole follower.
Dave said we needed to repaint the house two years ago, and planned to do it last summer, so this summer he really meant it. He'd been worrying about it ever since the paint dried fourteen years ago; he got agitated if I planted something too close to the house that would just need to be trimmed back later. He is a pre-emptive fretter anyway, believing that early worrying gets you in shape for massive anxiety down the road, and so he was well-prepared for a personal breakdown by the time he got the ball rolling. He set up an impressive array of scaffolding to contend with our tower, all by himself, because he is a fit and strong sixty-year-old man with a hell of a work ethic. Unfortunately a strong sixty-year-old is still weaker than a strong 46-year-old, and that fact coupled with the weight of all the responsibility that he takes on led him to approach the job like a man walking to the gallows. He was deeply unhappy. And I know what that leads to. That leads to me being deeply unhappy.
Then a friend listened to Dave's concerns and said: "you know, that's what money is for." A light went on for Dave. For the first time it occurred to him that he needn't be responsible for everything that got done in the house. He hired the job out. Within a week the painting fairies showed up in profusion. They made themselves at home, even peeing behind the shed just like Dave used to before the raccoon incident. They crawled all over the house with scrapers and sprayers and a boom box set on Country 98.7, and within days things were shining up and I realized I could probably write a hit country-western song every day before breakfast, and twice on Sundays.
I am immensely proud of Dave. This took a complete change of perspective and humans are not wired for that. He had to change from a man who takes care of everything, particularly me, to one who is willing to relinquish control. He also had to veer away from the idea that this was evidence of his own deterioration, and he did. "I'm painting my house!" he exclaimed, while pulling up crab rings on Nehalem Bay. "I'm painting my house!" he exulted, hiking among wildflowers on Silver Star Mountain. He was painting his house, and he was providing local jobs, miraculously without receiving a tax cut first.
The emotional transformation did not go without a hitch. While home, he peered at the progress overmuch, noticing a bit of overspray here, a lack of industry there. I tried to demonstrate serenity by my reactions to the tromping of my garden. The fothergilla I'd been nursing for years was stomped at its roots. "It wasn't doing too well there anyway," I said. The whole south side was draped in plastic on a hot day, instantly frying all the foliage. "I meant to re-do that part of the garden anyway," I said.
This is something I'm pretty good at. When things go sideways, I adjust my attitude. It comes naturally. I have a strong aversion to despair, and I will totally make shit up if I have to. If my sandwich falls jelly-side down, I figure I'm gaining some fiber. If I have something amputated, I'll say I dropped a few pounds. I can even look at the state of the world and note that at least it's good for the handbasket industry.
Then I came home to find the offending killer plastic stretched over my boxwood topiary salamander and blew a gasket. This was an outrage. This was a cocker spaniel puppy locked in a car on a hot day. This would not stand.
I guess it's not the worst thing, after all, that Dave still cares how well something gets done, even if he doesn't do it himself. I guess I need to look at the big picture, too. Dave no longer feels compelled to take responsibility for everything that happens in the house. And that's a good thing. As long as this philosophy doesn't extend to cooking, that's a good thing.