Archive for October, 2011

Obsessive Thoughts

Friday, October 28th, 2011

For the past week or so, John and I have been going through some stress.

It’s called escrow.

And nobody get excited, because we are not at all sure that this deal is going through. At the moment, I give it a 40% chance.

So anyway, amid the bazillions of papers to sign and contractors to consult and bids to get and research to do and dollar amounts to add, add, always add—I call it The Saddest Math in the World—we’ve been feeling a little wonked out.

Cue the other night, when we’re lying in bed, stewing in our mutual misery. I deliver a for-me-very-typical itemization of grievances, which John heartily supports. And then this happens:

M: I love complaining.

J: Yeah.

M: It feels so good.

J: Yeah.

M: It’s like, I say everything, and you hear it, and it’s just instantly easier.

J: That’s great.

M: Before you were around, I had all these thoughts. I just didn’t have anyone to tell them to.

J: Aw. That’s awesome.

M: It’s better than awesome. It’s perfect.

J: I love that.


M: So what do you do with your obsessive thoughts?


J: What obsessive thoughts?


[Laughing until we can’t breathe anymore.]

And that, my friends, is what happens when you marry outside the faith.

Muppet Movie

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

I might have to be there on opening night. Along with the rest of the world.

Books as Material

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Recently on a walk home from . . . something, John and I were discussing whether books counted as material possessions. He had assumed that they did; I had long thought otherwise.

“Books are like CDs,” I said, dating myself. “They’re art. And art is not a material possession. It’s something you interact with, intellectually, emotionally, sometimes spiritually.”

Whereas material possessions: Those are things that you use, either functionally (house/car/furniture/Hummels), or to enhance your image (house/car/furniture/definitely not Hummels), or to grow your wealth, or to protect yourself from facing your emotional pain . . . well, the distinction breaks down a bit here. Because clearly, it’s possible to have an emotional relationship with an object. And even a spiritual one, although I worry about that a little.

So maybe it’s about intention. Because as we discussed further, there are ways to both endow material objects with meaning and to objectify something non-material, like a person or a work of art.

Here are ways that books can serve as material:

1) You can pile them to serve as legs for a desk.

2) You can pile them in your home to protect you from your fear of open space.

3) You can shelve them by color to enhance home design. Although . . . do they then become art again? Pressing philosophical question!

4) Or, and this a thing I have done for years, you can line your home with shelves of the very good ones, hoping to impress upon all comers that you are a fascinating and well-read person worthy of knowing.

(It seems worth saying that I have kept books for other reasons, such as enjoying their company in my home and reading them multiple times, but that my materialistic motivation has been the above.)

Lately I’ve been having a palpable experience of maturation-in-process, as I’ve reached the point where I no longer need to display my reading history. And it’s particularly relevant right now, as we face the prospect of moving house in the next 6 months or so. I’m relishing the idea of drastically thinning my books in the process.

John, while a fan of thinning possessions in theory, is not a practitioner.

So we’re searching for a home with a garage.

The Marriage Plot

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I’m 65% through Jeffrey Eugenides’ new novel.

Given that its subjects include Victorian literature, literary theory, post-adolescent romantic entanglement, and questions of emotional and spiritual wellbeing, it might have been a given that I’d enjoy it. (Hint: In the Venn diagram of those concerns, I am nearly smack dab in the center.)

But I didn’t enjoy Middlesex, which I found frustratingly aimless, despite also being fascinated by its subject.

I’m happy to report that with The Marriage Plot, we have  a win. After a slightly awkward start, I’m finding it to be pure pleasure.

One of the joys of aging: following the career of a writer as it happens, reading the novels as they’re released. The result is the feeling of a relationship growing over time, with all the accruing richness and depth.

Today in Theater

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The Berkeley Rep’s new show is fantastic.

Here and there on this blog I’ve made mention of Bill Cain, writer of Equivocation, one of my all-time favorite plays.

Welp, fervid fans, he’s done it again, with a very personal play about his mother’s final 9 months of life, during which he cared for her. It’s deep and warm and wise and hilarious, and the actors are rocket-blasting it out of the park.

That’s a night at the theater.

Bill Cain, you are my hero.

Family drama, I can never get enough of you.

Everybody, I’m feeling massive amounts of love all up in here.

Today in Rats

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

For several months now, the rats have been systematically destroying an old chair in our front room/foyer/weirdly tacked-on  space that doesn’t have a proper name (or heat).

For the last week, Melanie has taken to spending her entire day in that chair, nesting among the innards.

And today, Melanie would like to say hello to you from that chair.

Little Rat Peep

Little Rat Peep


Melissa Levine, 5-Minute Babysitter

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The other night during a visit to the restroom at Picante, I had a peak babysitting experience.

It went like this:

As I was exiting, a father was ushering in his young daughter, a big-eyed sprite with a mop of black curls. As he did, he kept reassuring her that she could do everything by herself.

“Go ahead, Sweetie,” he said. “You know what to do.”

But she didn’t know. She bumped around, bumble-bee-ish, without going anywhere in particular. And this was before she had even properly entered the bathroom.

“Would you like some help?” I asked in their general direction.

“That’d be great,” the father said, so I led the little mop into the restroom.

“Why don’t we choose one of the stalls?” I asked.


“This one looks great,” I said.


I opened the door and, without a word, she pulled down her pants, turned her back to the toilet, hopped up, and began to pee.


As she finished, I said, “Do you know where the toilet paper is?”


I pointed to the dispenser. “It’s in there. Would you like to get it yourself, or would you like some help?”

Silently, she reached over and pulled some toilet paper out.

“There you go,” I said. “Now it’s time to wipe.”

Pants at her ankles, she hopped off the toilet, turned to face it, and patted her rear with the paper. Just a couple of gentle love-taps, high on the toosh, nowhere near the Danger Zone. I opened my mouth to say something, but then—not my child! Not my problem!

Say it with me: Melissa Levine, 5-Minute Babysitter.

She pulled up her pants, flushed, and we headed for the sink.

“Let’s wash!” I said.

We placed our hands in front of the sensors and let the water flow.

“This feels so good!” I said.

She smiled.

“I love washing my hands!” I said.

More smiles.

“Let’s get some soap!” I said.

We got some soap, and I began to sing a  washing-hands ditty. Smiles smiles smiles.

I started to dance. She started to dance.

“Now let’s get dry!” I said.

We danced over to the hand dryer, and she stuck her hands in. WHOOSH! Dryer on.

We danced around the dryer, singing about how much fun it was to dry our hands.

Smiles. Laughter. Joy. Healing. Unicorns leaping over rainbows.

A moment later, I delivered her back to her father, mission accomplished.*

*Nobody say anything about the wiping.

I am a babysitting genius! For 5 minutes!