Monday, February 28, 2005

Stargazer Pie

Suppose it’s the 1930s. Suppose you are a young, gifted Polish violinist. Suppose you are aboard an ocean-going vessel somewhere in the vicinity of Cornwall. Then suppose you tumble overboard and find yourself bobbing about in the drink. Luckily, you wash ashore and are discovered by Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench. They take it upon themselves to nurse you back to health.

As a special treat, Dame Maggie instructs her unfortunately named maid, Dorcas, to make a Stargazer Pie for you. And not just your garden-variety Stargazer Pie but a special Stargazer Pie, made with pilchards. Dorcas takes a lot of flak from local fishermen who keep insisting that Dame Maggie wouldn’t know a pilchard from a colley fish (whatever that may be). But Dorcas, who’s something of a battle-axe, prevails and finally strong-arms a fisherman into selling her some pilchards. She makes the Stargazer Pie, a sort of custardy thing with the desiccated heads of the pilchards poking right out through the top (presumably so they can gaze at the stars, although they’re dead as doornails so how exactly is that going to happen?). It's very disquieting to look at. Dame Judi eats a bite or two of the pie, pronounces it “rather filling,” and murmurs that perhaps she will finish the rest of hers later. (I like to think she scraped it straight into the dustbin as soon as she was out of view of Dame Maggie.)

The above scenario is more or less the first half of the film Ladies in Lavender, the final PIFF film I saw. It’s a British film so I don’t really consider it to be “foreign”--except for the Stargazer Pie. That was plenty foreign. The performances were good, and there were charming English gardens and stunning shots of the Cornish coastline, but I have to say the premise of the film was utterly preposterous! I kept expecting that we would at some point learn just how this spectacularly talented Pole (played by Joshua Bell, by the way) happened to drift, float, or dogpaddle to a rocky beach in rural Cornwall. The film left that unexplained. I couldn't believe it. What was this young man doing so far from Poland in the first place? Didn’t he have any relatives who were worried about him? What happened to the boat he was on? Didn’t the people on the boat send out a search party or notify the British Coast Guard? Was there some sort of foul play? And, if so, why? Why didn’t the young man seem the least bit traumatized by finding himself in totally unfamiliar surroundings? Why didn’t he shriek in terror when confronted with the Stargazer Pie? Why didn’t the Cornish townspeople freak out when they found out he spoke German--at a time when Hitler was ramping up in Nazi Germany and anti-German sentiment left over from World War I would undoubtedly still have been rampant in the town?

These maddening flaws and omissions--and there are more I could list--nearly canceled out the aspects of the film that I enjoyed. However, apparently no one else in the totally sold-out theater allowed any of this to bother them. The film got a huge round of applause at the end. This didn’t happen at any of the other PIFF films I attended--most of which were much better films, certainly more compelling and better plotted anyway. On our way out, I overheard a woman ask her companion why the film never explained how the young man happened to go overboard. Her companion, in an all-knowing and snobbily superior voice, stated, “That’s a foreign film for you.” No. That’s sloppy storytelling and careless filmmaking for you. Aside from the distraction of the Stargazer Pie, I spent the entire film waiting for the obvious payoff--to have the mystery solved concerning how a megatalented Polish violinist happened to wash up on the coast of Cornwall. The filmmakers didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. My expectations were thwarted and I felt totally cheated!

Boycott Lavender!

Speaking of which--why was the film called Ladies in Lavender? Dame Judi and Dame Maggie didn't wear anything lavender. They didn't even dab at their tears with a lavender hankie. Nor did I see any lavender growing in their garden or, say, residing in a vase next to the Stargazer Pie. The film should have been called Ladies in Loud Floral Prints Looking After a Happy-Go-Lucky Pole Who Inexplicably Washes Up on a Beach One Day And Don't Expect to Find Out How This Came to Be Because We're Not Going to Bother Telling You, So There! Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, and Thanks for Your Eight Bucks!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Nearly Perfect Day

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
One of the main reasons I chose to start my own business was so that I could be mistress of my own time. As it happens my business has been more successful than I had envisioned, so I often end up working just as much as I would if I had a "regular" office job. That's good from a financial standpoint, of course, but not from a quality-of-life standpoint. Still, if I've got work (i.e., paying assignments from clients) to do, I do it even if I know that I have plenty of time to complete it and could, in fact, take a day off. There's always this little black-garbed Puritan looking down his nose at me and telling me that I should work, work, work, because another assignment could come in at any moment, and I need to keep on top of things so I can accept as many projects as possible.

Well, that is not really how I want to live. I would prefer to make less money and have more time. I don't want or need to make a six-figure income and sacrifice my youth (what's left of it) to commerce, although I haven't been very good about living up to that resolve. It's hard to subdue that Puritan guy. Also, I often feel that I have to put in a 9 to 5+ day like everyone else penned in an office or people will think I'm Queen Slackerette of Slackonia.

It's nuts to think that way. And why do I care, I have to wonder? There is a trade-off. I don't make as much money as people with office jobs; I have to pay for my own health insurance; I have to pay all my social security; I have to sock away money for my pension and--obviously--there are no matching contributions from my employer. So shouldn't I at least be entitled to more free time? (Yes. The Puritan guy definitely has me in his clutches.)

OK. Enough rationalizing. I'm happy to report that I ignored the Puritan and his black soul and took today off. For nearly two weeks now we've been having spectacular weather in Portland. That strangely hypnotic February sun has been shining and the temperatures have been in the upper 50s and low 60s. Anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows that this is highly unusual weather and it should be savored to the utmost extent--if possible. Today, I did that. I started out the day by treating myself to breakfast (blueberry and pecan pancakes!) and then headed straight for a nursery to do some unfocused hunting and gathering. In general, I am probably one of the most reluctant shoppers in North America, but I do love to shop for garden plants. No impulse buys this time, but I did manage to score this hydrangea, which I have been trying to find for nearly a year. Totally justifiable, since it is on my "list" of must-have plants. It was a bargain, too. Only $7.99.

I came home and found two fantastic surprises in the mail. How often does that happen? My lovely and talented sister, who is a metalsmith, had sent me a set of six coasters that she designed and made herself. One is pictured at the top of this post. Beautiful, don't you think? Also, a hybrid musk rose ('Prosperity') that I had ordered had arrived. This rose is part of an ongoing experiment to see what will or will not grow well in the rather challenging sunlight conditions of my garden (on and off shade in the morning with blasting sun for about two hours in the afternoon). Hybrid musk roses are one of the few varieties of rose that are supposed to do well without a lot of sun. We shall see.

I had planned to plant the hydrangea and the rose, but there was so much weeding and watering to be done that that didn't happen. I always tend to think I can get a lot more done than is realistic. That's OK. I enjoy puttering around in the garden, even if all I'm doing is weeding. I find weeding quite satisfying.

Around 4:30, I headed inside to make a slightly more elaborate dinner than usual.* I had read about the existence of a dish called Psycho Chicken in Jamie's Manor Menu blog, and I knew I had to make it. It's called Psycho Chicken because you slash away at the (dead, raw, plucked) chicken with a very sharp knife a la Norman Bates. Not only do I have a very sharp knife I actually have the soundtrack to Psycho, which I played as I stabbed the carcass. It was great fun. (Please recall that I proved in the comments to this post that I am not, in fact, an actual psycho.)

As promised, the Psycho Chicken smelled wonderful as it cooked and tasted wonderful, too. Bonus--it's super easy and if you need to get out any aggressions you might have as the result of, say, your yucky job, well...this is just the ticket.

A few other random good things about today.
  • When I got home after plant shopping, I found that B had reinstalled the bathroom mirror and all the cabinet hardware. I hadn't even suggested or hinted that he should do this. Progress is being made!
  • I am really liking how the bathroom looks now that it is finished. I'm almost glad the contractor messed up the paint job, because the new color is such a vast improvement.
  • It was warm enough to garden in a T-shirt and shorts.
  • I still have two and maybe three PIFF films to look forward to. I haven't blogged about PIFF, because it just seems too much like school (book reports, etc.) to write about the films I've seen, but I have been enjoying them immensely.
*Vegetarians and vegans may want to skip to the next paragraph at this point.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I’m a Big Whining Baby (Part II)

My hatred for painting stems from the following episode, which took place in February 2004.

It was winter, and I decided it was time for my very first DIY project. I thought I’d paint our spare bedroom and give it a snazzy faux finish just like we have in our living room and dining room. Determined to do everything exactly right, I got out several books on painting and faux finishing and dutifully practiced on pieces of cardboard before tacking the real thing.

Having mastered the technique on cardboard (or so I thought), I began the long prep process. I washed walls. I spackled. I sanded. I taped. I removed strikeplates. All the tedious stuff that makes me want to scream. Finally I was ready to paint. I applied two coats of the base color (a pale butter yellow). It was time consuming, but it looked fine. (Note: The superb taping and draping of the dropcloth.)

Once those two coats were dry, I was ready to get fauxing! There are several ways to apply glaze for a faux finish. The way I chose was to “rag” it on, that is, apply the glaze with a wobbed-up rag. Actually, many, many, many wobbed-up rags. Rags quickly become sodden and useless and end up in heaps all around the room.

I screwed up almost immediately on the first wall, where I tried to "fix" two blotches and made them about 10X worse!!!! I felt exactly like Mr. Bean in that Mr. Bean movie where he was in an art gallery and he somehow smudged part of "Whistler's Mother." When he tried to fix it, he ended up removing almost all of the paint from the masterpiece. Pretty darn funny. Of course, it's not so hilarious when it happens to you in real life. (Note: In reality the walls are not quite as screechingly orange as they may appear on your monitor. They are a sort of terra cotta/Italian villa color-effect.)

Apparently, I was in denial about the blotches and actually thought I had fixed them because instead of stopping and starting over, I kept going--painting two more walls, both of which looked horribly amateurish. There were lines of demarcation, where I applied the glaze in stages (the way the book told me to, but which is in fact not a good way to do it). I finally realized I needed to stop after the third wall. By the time I faced facts, a whole weekend had been sucked up fauxing to no avail. I had absolutely nothing to show for it. I had to start over.

Really, the walls were just laughably bad. And what was most irksome was that I tried so hard to "do it right." I read up on it; and I practiced on like 10 pieces of cardboard. Of course, all those pieces of cardboard were basically the width of my roller, so I didn't quite anticipate the lines of demarcation problem. The book warned of that being a problem, but said that if you maintained a "wet leading edge" you'd be fine. Wrong. What I really needed was a roller 11-feet-wide, but I guess they don't make those.

The next weekend, I repainted the wrecked walls with two coats of base coat. I think I actually had to do a couple of the walls three times. Oy. After losing three weekends and a good number of weekday evenings, I finally could stand it no longer. The walls don't look as craptacular as they did after my first attempt, but they are barely acceptible. If we ever sell the house, we will have to paint over them. What's annoying is that I know there are people out there who can do this sort of thing the first time round and have it look great. Well, I cannot. Let's just say that my talents lie elsewhere. In fact, I had more to say about the whole dreadful ordeal, but it is making me exceptionally cross just remembering it, so I think I will end this entry right now!

Edit--Wednesday AM:
I just reread this, and I apologize if the writing is not up to my usual standard (such as it is). As I was writing this entry, I found myself wondering why on Earth I was spending valuable time reliving an unpleasant experience and I started to get pissed off at myself.

I'm a Big Whining Baby (Part I)

Not the Greyhound Station
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I do not want to see another paint brush, can of paint, drop cloth, stepladder, or--most especially--any rolls of blue painters' tape until the year 2015--at the earliest.

There are two reasons for this: The first reason is that I spent nearly every spare moment last February attempting to paint our spare bedroom with one of those faux finishes. It was a disaster of Mr. Bean-like proportions.*

The second reason is that I just vaporized most of my three-day weekend painting the bathroom. I shouldn't have had to do this. The paint job in the bathroom was perfectly fine until the guy who fixed our ruined bathroom floor fucked up the paint job in the process. As you can see from the photo, he chipped off just enough paint to make the wall resemble the Men's Room at a Greyhound station. (Note the graffiti-like effect the contractor's penciled measurements give the baseboards.) Perhaps he thought that we had some of the original paint (we don't) and could just do a touch up, but it looks just bad enough that it can't be left as is and the only thing to do is repaint the entire bathroom. Expletive deleted!

As much as I am not cut out by nature to paint, B is even less so. So I couldn't just palm the job off on him. There was no way out for me, but if I was going to have to paint, first I'd have to spend a certain amount of time grousing and whining about how much I didn't want to paint and how trying and tedious it would be.

Sample complaints: "How am I going to paint behind the toilet tank which is less than a 1/2 inch from the wall?" "How will I not slop paint all over the brand-new floor when I paint the trim that is less than a millimeter from the floor?" "I'll have to use a frickin' Prang watercolors paintbrush to do it!" "Why do I have to paint all the baseboards?" "Shouldn't the contractor have done that?"

And the biggest questions of all: "Shouldn't the contractor have repainted the entire bathroom since he ruined the paint job?**

On Friday, after moaning and grousing for, oh, about a month, I told myself I needed to buck up, bite the bullet, face the music, etc., knowing that if I waited much longer, I would reach the point where I would start to ignore the shoddiness, and that, my friends, is the road to Dogpatch--a road I do not want to ever go down.

I started rampaging around the house Friday afternoon trying to locate all the painting supplies I had stocked up on last year. Of course, they were nowhere to be found. Hell! I finally found them out in the garage next to an old cat litter box we are--apparently--keeping so that we can one day bring it to Antiques Road Show and sell it for big bucks. Anyway, I was glad I found the stuff. It would be too painful to have to buy all that painting crap over again.

I got up early on Saturday, figuring I'd get one coat done in a couple of hours. Wrong! It took me a couple of hours just to do all the ding-dong taping. If there is such a thing as hell, and if I am destined to go to hell, and if hell is customized for each individual, I will find myself spending eternity applying painters' tape to inaccessible and/or dangerous places such as the baseboards behind toilets and the ceiling above the shower.

I did one coat on Saturday; one coat on Sunday; and put two coats on the baseboards today (which took forever with that Prang-style paintbrush--just so you know). As the sun went down this evening, I wanted to believe I was done, but I could see that not only were the baseboards going to need a frickin' third coat, I was going to have to paint all the cabinets and drawers, which were now looking like dirty Chicago slush compared with the blinding snow white of the newly painted baseboards. I slapped a very quick first coat on the cabinets and drawers this evening before racing out the door to a PIFF film, finally snatching a few hours of fun out of the wreck of my holiday weekend.

Guess what I'll be doing on my lunch hour tomorrow?

*The origins of my hatred for painting supplies and equipment can be traced to last year’s hellish episode. l’ll write about it in tomorrow’s entry: “I’m a Big Whining Baby (Part II)."

**I haven’t dug out the contract, but there’s probably a clause that says, “Contractor takes no responsibility for fucking up paint job and causing client to sacrifice a three-day weekend to fix said fuck up.” If either B or I had a vertabrae of spine between us, we would have challenged the guy, but we didn’t. Instead we just told him the floor looked great and wrote him a sizeable check.

Friday, February 18, 2005

63 Things I Love about Portland

It should be clear to anyone who has read my blog more than a few times that I love Portland. Betsy wrote about her love of Portland the other day, it got me to thinking that I could probably whip up a list of 100 things I love about Portland in no time at all. Well, I can’t. I gave myself an hour and came up with 63--I just can’t think, type, and link fast enough to do 100 in an hour. I know there are 100--way more than 100--that should be on this list. If you live in the Portland Metro area, feel free to help me out! (Apologies in advance for the list's less-than-perfect parallelism.)

1. Our mayor rode with Critical Mass.
2. Public art.
3. The view of Mt. Hood, Mount St. Helens, and the tippy top of Mt. Adams as viewed from the Fremont Bridge on the Bridge Pedal.
4. Picking blueberries on Sauvie Island. The blueberries are the size of marbles and are the best I’ve ever tasted.
5. The moss that grows everywhere.
6. The Wildwood Trail--all 30 or so miles of it.
7. The 500-strong One More Time Around Again Marching Band, especially the baton twirlers who are over 70 years old.
8. The Oregon Brewers Festival held on the banks of the Willamette. The crowd is always so well behaved—people are there to sample beer, hang out, and have a good time. Not once have I seen boorish drunken behavior.
9. Laurelhurst Park—one of the most beautifully designed parks I’ve ever seen. It looks spectacular year round. Head over today to see gorgeous camellias, witch hazel, and other early bloomers.
10. Laurelhurst Theatre. Serving local microbrew and pizza at a second-run movie theater has to be one of the most inspired ideas of the 20th century. A pint, a slice, and a ticket can all be had for about what you’d pay at a first-run place and you don’t have to suffer through “The [dreaded] 20.”
11. The Kennedy School.
12. Progressive politics.
13. Powells book stores.
14. The Portland Art Museum (I don’t go there nearly enough).
15. The North and South Parks Blocks.
16. Being able to garden year-round.
17. Blue hydrangeas.
18. The Starlight Parade. Far superior and more egalitarian than the Grand Floral Parade.
19. The plethora of good, cheap Happy Hours.
20. The plethora of brewpubs.
21. The nearly perfect library system.
22. Sunny days in February.
23. Rainy days in February.
24. The Craftsman bungalows.
25. The Portland International Film Festival (the PIFF) and the fact that it is so well attended.
26. Benson bubblers.
27. The Eastbank Esplanade.
28. Hippies—the genuine articles and the neophytes.
29. The Zoobombers.
30. The Last Thursday Artwalk on Alberta.
31. Saturday Market.
32. Bike lanes.
33. Hoyt Arboretum, featuring 1100 species of trees and plants, ranging from bamboo to giant redwoods to monkey-puzzle trees. It’s especially lovely in fall.
34. The “anything goes” dress code.
35. The climate. It never gets truly cold.
36. Being able to get to a wilderness hike in less than an hour.
37. Seeing Mt. Saint Helens from our house.
38. Watching the Beavers minor league baseball team play.
39. The patio at the New Old Lompoc (and the food and beer, of course!).
40. Men in skirts (on average I see one or two skirt-sporting males a month).
41. Spring.
42. Summer.
43. Fall.
44. Winter.
45. The Colombia and Willamette Rivers.
46. The strange wrinkle in time known as the Hollywood District.
47. The Steel Bridge.
48. The airport—it’s the cleanest, prettiest, friendliest one I’ve ever been in, and you can actually get good food there.
49. Union Station and its retro “Go by Train” sign
50. Downtown at night as viewed from the Fremont Bridge.
51. All the friendly neighborhood cats, especially the big guys like Amber, Bucket, and Big Orange.
52. Tri-Met.
53. The Hollywood Theater—long may it live.
54. Each and every one of the food carts scattered throughout downtown, but most especially Snow White’s House and Taste of India.
55. The dog-friendly attitude.
56. The availability of organic, locally grown food at farmers’ markets, co-ops, and at local supermarkets.
57. The many innovative cottage industries (e.g., soapmakers, clothing designers, potters, vegan bakers, etc.)
58. Community gardens.
59. Free readings at Powells by big-name authors such as Salman Rushdie, Sherman Alexie, Eric Schlosser, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jon Krakauer.
60. Free movie passes.
61. The Rose Test Garden.
62. Free summer concerts in the parks.
63. The people!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” Clean-Up

Well, it seems that over the past week or so my time-management skills truly have become magnificent. I have been such a model self-employee that I am comfortably ahead of schedule with my work assignments, so I’m giving myself the afternoon off.

Sadly, I am still a very capable squanderer of free time. It seems that when I know my time is my own, I find all sorts of ways of pissing it straight down the crapper. One huge time sucker is house cleaning. I just cannot do it any sort of a systematic way. I’m always interrupting one chore to attend to some patch of grime or two-year-old cobweb that happens to catch my eye as I shift clutter from a surface in one room to a surface in another room. I usually waste all of Saturday morning “cleaning.” And although I do manage to keep the house up to a certain minimum standard of presentability, it’s never quite as tidy and sparkling as I would like it to be.

Maybe this is hereditary. One of my mom’s favorite books was Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Housekeep Book. From this book my mom learned about the “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” method of house cleaning. If you’ve seen the movie (or play), you’ll recall that George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) invite a young couple over on the spur of the moment. To tidy up, Martha, drink in hand, simply goes from room to room sweeping piles of anything and everything into the nearest drawer or closet, all the while berating George (if I remember correctly).

I’m sure my mom only thought of the "Virgina Woolf" as a stop-gap, emergency technique to get clutter quickly out of sight (although she employed it regularly and encouraged us kids to also employ it), but it sort of instilled in me a “good enough” attitude toward housework. And while I don’t toss library books down the laundry chute or shove leftover Kung Pao Chicken into the silverware drawer, I very quickly get to critical mass with housework and can do no more, even though there’s always more to be done. I’m in a perpetual state of feeling like I should be using my free time to get the house really, really spotlessly clean once and for all, but, of course, that never can and never will happen. Housework is pure thankless drudgery, and though I enjoy the end result, it never lasts long.

A rather successfully supressed molecule of Puritan work ethic is telling me that I should spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning the house, and earlier I did sort of move some of the crap on my desk to a storage bin and wipe down the dining room table and the kitchen counters (good enough!), but it’s already 2:30 and it’s a gorgeous, sunny day so I should be out enjoying it or what is the point of living? I’m outta here.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Pleasure of My Company

It’s Valentine’s Day, so it may seem a trifle inappropriate to write about how much I enjoy doing things alone. By “doing things alone,” I don’t mean sitting in the living room reading a book while B is on the computer in another part of the house nor do I mean making an emergency solo trip to Fred Meyer to replenish the cat food supply, I’m talking about activities such as going out to eat, going to a movie, going for a hike, or going on vacation.

I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, there was a time when I would have skipped a meal (perish the thought!) rather than have to eat at a restaurant by myself. I imagined that all the other diners would be stealing furtive glances at the lone (apparent) spinster and pitying me. And as for going on vacation by myself, I couldn’t even imagine it.

My attitude changed one summer day as I was standing on the el platform waiting for a train to take me to my job in downtown Chicago. It suddenly occurred to me that I should take a hiking trip to Scotland--by myself. Never mind that I’d never really hiked anywhere, let alone a foreign country, although I had been to Scotland before and had always felt a special affinity to the country and the people there. Sure I'd never traveled alone before, but I knew it was exactly what I needed do. I had just been dumped a few months earlier by the Dumb Dummkopf (my extremely toxic wolf-in-sheep’s clothing boyfriend), and it seemed like a good way to stop feeling sorry for myself. It was an epiphany moment in my life, triggered by something as seemingly insignificant as the temperature and humidity of the air. The air simply felt like Scotland. By the time I got to work, I had decided to do it.

I had a tremendous time from the moment I got on the plane. It took less than 24 hours to slay all those restricting inner demons. I did dozens of things I'd never done before--some rather ill-advised, such as eating black (blood) pudding and stepping in about a metric ton of sheep dip--but I returned all in one piece. Ever since then, I haven’t given a rat’s backside what people may think if they see me--a woman of a certain age--sitting alone in a restaurant or making the final pull to the top of Mount What-Have-You alone. I’m very grateful to whatever aspect or entity of the universe planted the Scotland idea in my head. It changed my life much for the better and gave me the courage to take other risks, like quitting my job to start my own business and uprooting myself from all my friends and family and moving from Chicago to Portland, where I am infinitely happier.

I had intended to report on the PIFF films I saw yesterday, and as a sidenote was going to mention what a fine time I had by myself before and after the first film, but the subject of enjoying one's own company just sort of took over. Anyway, I did have a brilliant time before the first movie, knitting and cogitating alone at the library and then afterward perched on the upper deck of a restaurant with a lovely plate of pasta and a decent Shiraz, watching the people on the street and doing some more intermittent knitting while waiting for it to be time for the next film. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Clearly, I am so over the days of worrying about being labeled or judged if I have no qualms about hauling out my knitting when alone at a restaurant! Talk about inviting people to stereotype.

My thoughts on the film will have to wait until tomorrow, but I do have a few more comments on the topic of spending time alone. I’m aware that it is probably easier to enjoy doing things alone when it is a choice rather than a necessity, but, that said, I'm fairly confident that I will never again feel that I need to depend on other people for happiness or direction.* I feel that it's essential, too, for people in relationships to not cling to their partners like freaking barnacles! That can be deadly. I learned that the hard way, but I’m thankful I learned it young.

B and I just marked the 13th anniversary of our first date, and I think a small, but important, factor in the longevity of our relationship is that we’ve always allowed each other our own space. If B wants to go see a movie I have no interest in, he goes and vice versa. I’ve even chosen to take a couple of vacations by myself, and B has simply told me to have a good time and to call him a few times while I’m gone. I’m so glad we have that kind of relationship, even if it also means I had to drop hints the size of nuclear bombs to get some chocolate to materialize today.

* Or maybe I'm just a massive egomaniac!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Music Thingamajig

It’s nearly 11:00 PM, and I just got back from a PIFF* double header. I’ll write something about the PIFF films Monday night--after I’ve digested all 338 minutes of them.

In the meantime, Jilly tagged me to do this music thingamajig. Now seems a perfect time, as it requires no real exertion on the part of my brain cells. Here it is--revealing me in all my magnificent unhipness and ignorance of what has been going on in the world of pop music for the past 10+ years.

Random Ten Albums from My Collection (I'm listing 10 CDs that happen to be sitting on my desk at this very moment [which means I listened to them recently and was too slothful to put them away]):

1. J.S. Bach – Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (Yo-Yo Ma)
2. Monsoon Wedding soundtrack
3. Ella Fitzgerald – The Rogers and Hart Songbook Volume 2
4. Samuel Barber/Charles Ives String Quartets (Emerson String Quartet)
5. Bill Frissell Quartet – Tales from the Far Side
6. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
7. G.F. Handel – Semele (Kathleen Battle, Samuel Ramey, et al and the English Chamber Orchestra)
8. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
9. Kanda Bongo Man – Zing Zong
10. Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

What is the total amount of music files on my computer?
One--“Rheinlegendchen” from Gustav Mahler’s Das Knaben Wunderhorn, sung by Thomas Hampson. I have no idea why this is on my computer. B must have put it here.

The last CD I bought is: Enya – A Day Without Rain. Good to decompress to and, hey, my ancestors were Scottish, so it’s in my blood.

What is the song you last listened to before this message? "Manana (Is Soon Enough for Me)" from Mambo Fever (one of those fun, cheesy lounge music CDs)

Five songs that I often listen to or that mean a lot to me (I don't know if these songs actually mean "a lot" to me, but they're all songs I am likely to play several times when I listen to the CD they’re on.):

1. “Lush Life” sung by Ella Fitzgerald and accompanied by Billy Strayhorn.
2. “American Girl” - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
3. “Give It Back to the Indians” sung by Ella
4. “Myself I Shall Adore” from Semele
5. “Cherokee” from Polarity by Jimmy Bruno and Joe Beck

Who are you gonna pass this stick to (5 people)?
Well, I don’t want to limit myself to five people or seem like I'm playing favorites, so if you’re reading this now (i.e., you didn’t run screaming after reading that I bought an Enya album) and the idea of answering these questions on your blog appeals--consider yourself tagged!

*Portland International Film Festival for those of you just tuning in and/or with short memories.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Meg Ryan Redux

For the past six months or so I’ve been conducting an experiment to try to get my hair to look like Catherine Zeta Jones’ hair--a lofty but ultimately unachievable goal as it turns out. Last week, I conducted an informal poll among my friends, and the results were unanimous—“Your hair looks like total and utter crap!” OK. Of course, no one came out and said that, but all said they thought it would look better if I did something else with it--anything else. Actually it was looking rather terrible. It was long, limp, and lifeless as well as faded and frizzy. In all but the kindest lighting, I looked haggard. And I can’t have that.

I went to get my hair cut and colored today and reverted back to my Meg Ryan look. Actually, I don’t look that much like her (nor do I have a similar personality or exhibit Meglike lapses in judgment). I don’t have the botch-job lips or the blonde hair or the ice-blue eyes. However, a rather high degree of Megginess can be coaxed from my hair. This was the most important discovery ever made in my personal history of hairstyles, most of which consisted of a fruitless quest to get my wavy but fine-textured hair to look as thick and full as possible. I will be forever grateful to my hairstylist, M, for pushing my hair to its Meggiest limits when no one else believed it was possible!

Speaking of thickness and volume, the Tulip Decapitator showed up today and got to work on the thick and voluminous hedge. It was after dark when I got home, but from what I can tell by the hedge's silhouette, it now has a flattop worthy of H.R. Haldeman.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


No, that’s not the sound of the Tulip Decapitator giving the hedge a buzz cut (he was a no show). That’s the sound of me working after consuming a Turkish roast gelato that featured genuine Turkish coffee grounds in it.* It was an experience I may not want to repeat.

On the minus side:
I don’t normally “do” caffeine because it seems to be a migraine trigger for me. When I do have anything with caffeine in it, it sends me straight to the Moon. If people are around, I start jabbering until they ask me what I’m on (“Caffeine!”). If there aren’t any people around, I start making grand--but not very feasible--plans to, say, tear up the entire front yard and turn it into a Japanese garden, complete with koi pond, that (thankfully) I think better of as soon as the buzz wears off. In other words, caffeine has no small effect on me. Since I had the gelato around 3:30 PM, it’s very likely I will have trouble falling asleep tonight and/or will sleep badly.

On the plus side:
I was able to focus my caffeine energy on work, which is good, given yesterday’s fairly abysmal level of productivity. Also, my e-mail program was messed up this morning, so B who, in addition to running his own business, serves as my IT person had to commandeer my computer for about an hour and fix the problem, so I lost time there. For yet again saving my computer’s ass, I told him I’d buy him a gelato. (Gosh, he works cheap!) That had the added bonus of giving B and I an excuse to get out and take a short walk in the brilliant and seductive February sun.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about the quality of the light and the unexpected amount of heat the sun gives off here in Portland in the winter that just makes me want to sit outside and bask. (If only I had a laptop!) Even when it’s only in the 40s, boy howdy, that sun makes its presence known. If I’m doing any kind of mild exercise, e.g., walking to a gelato shop, I almost always find I have to take my jacket off--even in January.

I’ve never been much of a sun worshiper--in fact quite the opposite. But there are a few places on Earth--the Italian Alps and the Rocky Mountains--where I’ve felt a powerful impulse to bask in the sun like a marmot. The sun just felt so good there--not hot--just comforting and immobilizing and conducive to some very uncharacteristic lounging in deck chairs on my part. It must have something to do with elevation and possibly the fact that at such high elevations there’s a lot more UV rays coming right at you. I burned in no time at all. Anyway this Portland winter sun reminds me of that Alps/Rocky Mountains sun, although most of Portland is only a couple hundred feet above sea level. Maybe it’s the latitude. I don’t know, but I like it very much. And it always puts me in a good mood--even if I’m not all hopped up on caffeine.

*I could have done without the peculiar gritty texture of the coffee grounds. How is one supposed to dispatch them? I kept feeling like I should chew them, but they’re really too finely ground to chew. I found myself trying out new strategies with every spoonful.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Phantom or Decapitator?

All afternoon I’ve been hearing the high-pitched whine of phantom hedge trimmers and racing to the window only to see a FedEx truck or a rattletrap Chevelle speed off into the distance and not--as I had hoped--Bob the Tulip Decapitator and his earthly hedge trimmer. All this to-ing and fro-ing did not do wonders for my new high-efficiency plan, as you might imagine.

Some background: For about a month, I’ve been planning to do something about the 25-foot Little Shop of Horrors-style hedge in our backyard. I’ve been dithering and dithering about it, because l half-wittedly planted a bunch of perennials very close to the base of the hedge, which consequently makes it difficult for anyone to trim the hedge without tromping on the plants. Anyone but me, of course. Only I, Rozanne, would be capable of placing the ladder so that it didn’t slice through the center of a foxglove or smoosh an emergent delphinium. And only I, Rozanne, would be capable of collecting the bushels and bushels of trimmings without trampling every other plant in the garden in the process. So I borrowed a hedge trimmer from a friend and promptly did nothing.

On Saturday, I finally forced myself to tackle the onerous task and recruited B to help. I think it is safe to say that B and I are not cut out by nature to handle these sorts of jobs. A) We have two ladders--one that is too short and another that is too tall. B) The borrowed hedge trimmer was a garage sale special that probably still had its original blade (circa 1978). C) B found my “slash and slash again” technique to be unnerving and ineffective. D) I found B’s “slice, dismount, and survey your handiwork from a distance” technique to be maddening and slow.

After about 45 minutes, we gave up. I called the guy who cuts our lawn, Bob the Tulip Decapitator--so named because he gets a little overzealous with the edger. Obviously, he was not going to meet my standards for plant coddling, but the hedge has gotten so plump and tall that it is blotting out the sun and shielding the plants from the rain. Something had to be done. The Decapitator told me he would come by today to trim it, no problem, since he was going to do our neighbors' hedges anyway. Perfect!

Last night I had the genius idea that I could cover the emerging plants with old plastic nursery pots (I knew I was keeping them for some reason) and thus protect them from the wrath of the Decapitator. This morning I looked out the window at about 10:00 AM and there he was, in a cloud of smelly gray exhaust, sculpting the neighbors' azaleas. I love it when people show up when they say they will!

So eager was I to get the whole thing over with that I dropped what I was doing and went out to tell him that all was ready. He told me he needed to finish up with the neighbors and then he’d ring my bell and we could discuss it.* I went back to work. Around noon, I went to the kitchen for lunch to find that the Decapitator had vanished. How could that be? Well, maybe he just went to get lunch. I tried to concentrate on work, but I kept being interrupted by phantom hedge trimmers, which made it very difficult to stay put and focus.

I know it sounds ridiculous to flip out about something this trivial. Clearly I must be a little bit psycho, but I cannot stand waiting for people to arrive, especially if I don’t even know if they are going to show up. It unhinges me. It’s all to do with being in control of my time. I have things to do and places to be! I need to be able to schedule my time as far in advance as possible, and thus it is essential that I know when people are going to arrive, preferably to the hour, minute, and second. I can’t just sit here waiting on an errant Tulip Decapitator! Actually, I did need to just sit here and concentrate and work, but still. I couldn’t focus properly until I knew that that hedge was being dealt with, because I want it over and done with so I can get going with my spring garden tasks and plans. Time is the tyrant!

The real problem here is not that I’m a control freak, though I am. The real problem is that all the Decapitator would have had to do was ring my doorbell and say, “You know what? I’m not going to be able to trim your hedge today. How about tomorrow?” Or Friday or next Monday? Just communicate a bit. Is that too much to ask?**

*What’s to discuss? Isn’t hedge trimming pretty straightforward? No. It is not. I needed to give specific instructions (I’m a Virgo), and I wanted to be sure that he understood that I would do all the clean up.

** I ended up calling him at about 4:00 PM. He had a perfectly good excuse that I would have readily accepted and that would have dispelled all phantom hedge trimmers and allowed me to work in an efficient manner. I now have a vague promise that the hedge will be trimmed by the end of the week. I’m trying hard to be Zen about that.


Monday, February 07, 2005

The Bag Balm Is on the House

In an effort to break free from the English major straitjacket that dictates that all my blog entries must be detailed essays of no less than 500 words, complete with introduction, body, and conclusion, today I’m simply going to report on a puzzling experience.*

I finished work at 4:00 PM and took a walk to get some much-needed exercise. I came home by way of a shopping district that is going upscale at a very alarming pace. Every time I pass through, there is another new shop that sells nothing but items that no one actually needs. The hallmark of gentrification. I went into one of these shops to see what it was all about.

The shop is a small, converted nook-and-crannyish house. There was already one other customer in there who was ooohing and ahhing to the owner, a middle-aged man. The merchandise was vaguely European, but there wasn’t anything there that I hadn’t seen before. In fact, the first thing to catch my eye was a framed vintage coffee ad. Hadn’t I just seen the exact same thing at Target for $9.99? I had to find out how much it cost at this place.** Just as I was ferreting around for the price tag, the owner scooted over to me and announced, “This is hand lotion, it will keep your hands from drying out. It’s going down to 30 tonight.” Huh???? Then he grabbed my right hand and squirted a blop of viscous, sticky white stuff onto it. "This must be what bag balm is like," I couldn't help thinking.

I wandered into what had obviously once been a bathroom but was now given over to displays of vegetable seeds from Italy. As I tried to rub in the glorified bag balm, I pondered the man’s peculiar behavior. I am well aware that I don’t look particularly prosperous when I’m out for a walk, dressed--appropriately enough--in fleece jacket, jeans, and running shoes. It’s Portland, and everyone dresses like that. Well, not everyone. I took a moment to compare myself with the other customer who could still be heard rhapsodizing and fawning over the owner’s exquisite taste. She was tall, wraith thin, and dressed in plaid (gack!) trousers and a suede jacket. It was quite obvious to me that she had driven to the shop in a Ford Excursion (or similar). Was tazing me with gloppy hand cream just a ploy to make sure I wasn’t trying to pinch a fistful of gourmet pot pourri?*** I don’t think the wraith got the same treatment.

I made for the door but was once again accosted by the owner. This time he had a quaint little basket on his arm that appeared to be filled with quail’s eggs. “This is mint hand soap!” he barked. He picked up one of the little soap lozenges as if to hand it to me for closer inspection. But he wouldn’t let me take it. Instead, he slowly raised the little soap up to my face until it was right under my nose. WTF? I was forced to sniff it. Sadly, my nose wasn’t quite up to the task of separating the mint scent of the soap from the cigarette smell of his fingers. But then he put two of the little soaps in a zip lock bag and handed them to me. A gift. "That’s so nice of you," I sputtered. I left within 30 seconds.

What am I to make of all this? Did the guy feel sorry for me? Did he think I would benefit from more frequent bathing? Did he think he could guilt me into buying something? Was he still worried I was going to boost something and thought that giving me a token freebie would prevent it? Was he just being nice? (No. It couldn’t be that!) I figured it out when I got home. He gave me the soap so I’d be able to wash off the deluxe bag balm, which was still greasily refusing to absorb into my skin.

* Straitjacket escape attempt unsuccessful. English major proclivities still intact. This entry weighs in at 683 words, not counting title and footnotes.
***Did you know that in French pot pourri means, literally, “rotted pot”? I find that highly amusing.


Sunday, February 06, 2005


After assiduous in-depth research, I finally determined which movies I’ll be seeing at the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF), which runs February 11 to 26.

The PIFF is not a big name festival like Cannes or Sundance, and it certainly is not the place to go if you want to watch helium-head celebrities like Brad Pitt and Paris Hilton cavort.* It's such small potatoes as festivals go, that it's probably not even on the radar screen for at least half of Portland’s population, despite the fact that it’s been held each year for the past 28 years.

Nevertheless, the PIFF gets a tremendous variety of high-quality films, many of which will screen in Portland only two or three times during the fest and then vanish for good. B and I are a bit cinemaniacal, so we really look forward to the PIFF every year. For some reason, I've always found it thrilling to trek downtown night after night in the February drizzle to see a film from, say, the republic of Georgia or Ecuador. It’s just great to get that sort of visual and narrative exposure to other cultures and to countries I’ll probably never have the opportunity to visit. I also have to admit that it’s kind of cool to think that, in many cases, I get to see films that only a couple thousand other Americans will see.

Here’s what I’m going to see this year:
  • Hari Om (India) Romantic comedy set in Rajasthan about a rickshaw driver and some French tourists. Includes obligatory love triangle. I have to see at least one Bollywood musical a year. As it happens, this isn’t a musical but as was once pointed out to me, Indian musicals have 10-12 musical numbers; non-musicals have 5-6. It’s true!
  • Turtles Can Fly (Iraq/Iran) A film about orphaned Kurdish children in a refugee camp on the Turkey-Iraq border just before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Directed by Bahman Ghobadi, “the poet laureate of Kurdish cinema.” Upbeat, no? Actually, I chose this film because I’ve always been interested in the plight of the Kurds and also because I usually tend to shy away from films that may be disturbing. This isn’t a documentary, but it might as well be.
  • The World (China) This film is set in a gargantuan theme park in Beijing and focuses on a young couple who seem almost entirely unaware of the world beyond the theme park. Sounds surreal.
  • Moolaade (Senegal) A film about female genital mutilation, which is still practiced in more than 30 African countries. Another upbeat choice. It’s definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I saw a scene from this movie on "Ebert and Roeper" (or whatever that show is called) and I knew I had to see it. It’s gotten lots of critical acclaim.
  • Insaat: Under Construction (Turkey) A black comedy about two guys who accidentally end up with a bunch of dead bodies on their hands. An antidote to some of the heavier stuff I’m going to see.
  • Reel Paradise (United States) What? Isn’t this supposed to be an international festival? The film is set in Fiji, so I guess that's how it slipped in. It’s a documentary about Indie filmmaker John Pierson (author of Spike, Mike Slackers, and Dykes [about working with Spike Lee, Michael Moore, Kevin Smith, and Richard Linklater]) and what happens when he and his family move to Fiji to run a movie theater.
  • Tell Them Who You Are (United States) I don’t know what the international angle on this is--it’s a documentary about legendary cinematographer and malcontent Haskell Wexler who worked on such decidedly non-international films as American Graffitti and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It’s directed by his son, so I'm expecting some "Daddy Dearest" moments.
  • Ladies in Lavender (Great Britain) Set in Cornwall in 1936, starring Judi Dench and the divine Maggie Smith. That’s all I need to know.
Portlanders take note: There’s way more that sounds great, too, but it’s going to be quite a feat just to fit these eight movies into my schedule. I was relieved to find out that the following movies that are showing at the festival are also going to be released at a later date in Portland.

  • Born into Brothels:Calcuttta’s Red Light Kids (United States, but shot in India--obviously) Documentary. Self-explanatory.
  • Kontroll (Hungary) Thriller set in the Budapest subway system.
  • Nobody Knows (Japan) A film about four kids who have to fend for themselves after their dotty mom leaves them.
  • Travellers and Magicians (Bhutan) I want to see this simply because it’s set in Bhutan, supposedly one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (United States) Directed by John Cassavetes and Gena Rowland's daughter, Xan Cassavetes.

*It is the place to go if you want to see low-wattage celebrities such as John Sayles and Sherman Alexie--both of whom spoke at past festivals. Or you might be lucky enough, as B and I were, to buy tickets from the Hilary Swank lookalike, but that's about all you can hope for.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

My Magnificent Time-Management Skills

I know there are self-employed people out there who get up at 4:00 AM, are at their computers, lathes, ovens, potter’s wheels, or whatever by 4:30 AM; put in six solid hours of productive work by 10:30; go out and play 9 holes of golf; come back at 2:00 PM and do a couple more solid hours of work; and then head out at 4:00 PM to get sozzled at Happy Hour. I know, because when I started my own business, I read about such people in a book about how to make $85,000 a year* as a freelancer written by Robert Bly.** I only looked at the book long enough to read that bit about the golf and the Happy Hour. No need to buy it.

I figured that with no meetings to attend and no hawkish bosses breathing down my neck, I should easily be able to arrange such a pleasant schedule for myself, swapping out the 9 holes of golf for a nice long walk or an extended lunch with a self-employed friend. I failed to take one thing major thing into consideration: I cannot roust myself out of bed any earlier than 7:00 AM and most days it’s more like 8:00 AM. Now, I’ve been solvently self-employed for just over seven years, but I’ve never had a day that unfolded as promised by Robert “I Have No Magnetic Properties” Bly, and he implies that every day is supposed to play out like that. Who are these mythical early-rising freelancing beasts?***

In the early days, I always wasted some time checking e-mail far more often than was necessary, but I was never much interested in surfing the ‘Net. But now. Now there are blogs. Why not just check a few while I have my morning coffee? Bing! It’s 10:00 AM. How did that happen? And I have my own blog. No need to tell anyone reading this how much time can be frittered attending to the care and feeding of one’s blog.

I do manage to get all my work done and meet all my clients’ deadlines, but I’m often still working at 7:00 PM. That ain’t right! If I had the will power to not randomize and get off task I could probably finish all my work each day at 2:00 PM and have the rest of the day to read blogs to my heart’s content, vacuum, climb Angel’s Rest, paint my toenails, or bathe the cat. It’s totally within my control to have such an enviable schedule. Not many people are that lucky, I do realize. And all I’d have to do is get my arse out of bed while it’s still dark out.

But how can I do that when I never get to bed before midnight? And how can I get to bed before midnight when I don’t stop working until 7:00 PM? I have to eat dinner and unwind after my fatiguing day of time squandering. It’s a vicious cycle, but it could be easily broken if I had but one pennyweight of self-discipline.

Resolve: I am going to get up at 5:30 AM tomorrow, shower, and get right to work. It would increase the quality of my life so much. See if I don’t.****

*That was in 1997. The newest edition lures hapless wanna-be freelancers into buying the book by promising $100,000.

**Not the loincloth-wearing, drum-beating Iron John Robert Bly but another one--one who owns a pair of putty-colored Sansabelt slacks.

***I know. Get out the really tiny violin. When I was an office drone, I got up early like everyone else, but it’s a different matter entirely when you’re free to start your workday any time you please.

****This is not the first time I’ve made such a resolve. I've done it hundreds of times. When the alarm goes off, I tell myself I’ll get up in five minutes and then fall back asleep for two hours. It won't happen this time.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Dear Blogger: I’ve Bumped Off Your Crappy Commenting System

I hated to do it, but it doesn’t deserve to live. I would have done it much earlier and replaced it with HaloScan had it not been for the fact that switching means losing all the lovely comments people have left over the entire history of this blog. So now they’re all gone. Wah! Don’t think that means I don’t appreciate every, single comment that everyone has ever taken the time to write. I do--so much! I have all the e-mailed versions enshrined in a folder in my e-mail application. Hopefully, the transition to HaloScan won’t be a problem for anyone. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it already, and plenty of people think it is vastly superior to the highly flawed Blogger system. Shall I list those Blogger flaws? I believe I shall:
  • Sometimes it takes close to a minute for the ding-dong commenting box to open up. Annoying!
  • People who don’t have Blogger blogs have to bear the stigma of being identified as “Anonymous.” Elitist!
  • Sometimes it takes 8-12 hours for a comment to show up on my blog and/or in my e-mail in-box. Irksome!
  • In the past few weeks, the system has decided to only e-mail me about half of the comments left on my blog, so I have spend time scrolling through the entries to detect new comments. Irritating!
  • When I write Blogger Support to inform them of these glaring flaws, they first patronizingly suggest that the answer is in the Blogger Knowledge hope chest. Why not look there? Of course, I already looked there. I’m not an imbecile! Then I have to resubmit the problem and wait another five days only to have them tell me that there were a few “bugs,” but they’re resolved now. I got an e-mail like that today. But today was the day when the commenting system actually broke down completely--comments did not show up on the blog or in my in-box. What’s the point of having a commenting system if it’s not going to work? I mean, it’s so basic.* Infuriating!
Of course, there’s no real incentive for Blogger to iron out the problems with their commenting system. I’m guessing most people with Blogger accounts (like myself) have the free account. How does Blogger even make money? And do those of us with free accounts really have the right to complain? Probably not (but that doesn’t stop me!), especially given the fact that, with the exception of the noisome commenting system, I’m quite happy with the service.

Anyway, sorry for the administrative and ranty nature of this post. Perhaps you can think of it as a public service.

*About five minutes after I trashed the Blogger system and put HaloScan in place, a few comments that had been written hours earlier straggled into my e-mail box. Sorry. Too. Damn. Late.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Psycho Babble About Furniture

This is absolutely the last time I will ever write about IFA (Intermittent Furniture Anxiety). I promise. I’m finally over it. That’s because IFA has now evolved into FGS (Furniture Guilt Syndrome). After the not-at-all-gently-used furniture fiasco of a couple of weeks ago, B stepped in and took the matter in hand. I know that does not sound good, because A) it makes me seem helpless and blithering, and B) the last we heard, B was of the opinion that a good place to look for furniture for me would be the Children’s Department at Sears (or similar).

We have very different approaches to buying furniture. My approach is to wander into all furniture stores I happen to stumble across and hope that the ideal chair will present itself to me and that some sort of epiphany will occur and I will know--without a shadow of doubt--that I have just found the perfect chair. So far, this approach has not produced results--at least not good ones. B’s approach involves intensive Internet research to determine which style of chair would be suitable and in which local furniture stores such chairs can be found. Very systematic and male.

Over the past two weekends, we spent a lot of time furniture shopping at places I would have previously never even considered. We spotted filmmaker Gus Van Sant at one of them, just to give you an idea of how out of place I felt. But gradually I came around to the idea that we were going to have to spend some rather serious money to get what I wanted. (Ugh! I just hate the way that sounds. So materialistic and consumerish!) B’s totally fine with spending the money, even though the chair will be almost exclusively sat in by me. I, however, have a major problem justifying it.

B and I are actually fairly frugal people. For example, we have only one car between us, a seemingly immortal 1989 Honda Civic. Because I'm self-employed, I almost never buy clothes. And until now, we’ve never spent much money on furniture. Our house is sparsely furnished with furniture from flea markets, garage sales, and discount furniture warehouses.

But last night we actually went ahead and ordered an actual piece of grown-up furniture. I know I’ll be 100% happy with it, but after we walked out of the store, I was in such a state that it was necessary to immediately go eat some BBQ ribs and pecan pie so I could collect myself. Even after the eating the therapeutic ribs, I couldn’t stop babbling to B about all of the justifications and rationales cited above (and more that I needn’t bore you with). B told me not to feel guilty about it, remarking that he knows my mom drilled it into me that one shouldn’t spend money on oneself.

And I think that’s what’s at the heart of all this FGS. Without ever saying it point blank, my mom believed that and she set an incredibly nonhypocritical example. All her clothes were from garage sales, she stopped driving a car sometime while I was in high school and got around town in all weathers on a beater of a bike. She always bought marked-down produce and discounted dented cans. When she could she’d harvest windfall fruit from the neighbors’ yards and can it. She couldn't bear to see food wasted. It was actually pretty admirable of her, but it was extreme. Right? And even though I believed I hadn't really bought into that line of thinking, I guess, subconsciously, I have to a certain extent.

B jokingly told me to try to be more like my dad, the quintessential early adopter, who always pays top dollar for technology that has not yet been perfected and never thinks twice about it. I’d like to think that I could find a happy medium between the two extremes of my parents. Surely consumer habits aren’t really genetic.