Friday, September 25, 2009

Thumper and the Firefighters

So Thumper and I, and another dad and an adorable little girl who's one month older than Thumper, visited a firehouse today. We walked into the station, were face-to-face with three firefighters, and Thumper turned to me and asked, "Where's the firefighters?" Guess it wasn't what he was expecting after his repeated close examinations of The Adventures of Curious George by H.A. Rey and the more recent Curious George and the Firefighters. One can sympathize; there wasn't a single handlebar mustache to be seen.

He ran up to the nearest firefighter, pointing, and asked, "What's in the mouth?" Turns out it was chocolate in the mouth, and the kind firefighter was quick to share. Fast friends were instantly made, and the tour proceeded.

He drove the truck:

He wore the headset:

He sat in the jump seat:

And he worked the hose:

Then we played at Children's Park, billed as "one of the largest community-built playscapes in the U.S.," which was indeed quite cool. Then we ate catfish and biscuits and corn on the cob and lemonade and ice cream at The Newton Gang's Getaway, which apparently used to be a bank that was robbed by the Newton Gang in 1924. It was robbed again in 1972 by Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw in The Getaway:

The walls are no longer white, though. I think they're going more for the 1924 look these days rather than the 1972 look. We sat right in front of the "vault."

All in all, a pretty great day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Infinite Rant

Since my commitment to read more, I've found that I almost always have two books going: one audiobook and one of the more traditional papery type. I've also found that I really enjoy the way each tends to color my understanding of the other. This last go 'round, it was the massive, hard cover copy of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest paired with the wonderful ensemble cast reading of Recorded Book's version of Chuck Palahniuk's Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey.

I had never previously read anything by Wallace, though the Mrs. had him as a professor for one class at Emerson College lo, these many years ago. She recalls him as being most critical of "bullshit" in the papers and tests that he graded, marking through great swaths of academic puffery and writing in the margins, "If you don't know, just say 'I don't know.'" Interestingly, one of the characters in Jest has the Mrs.' maiden name. I can't help wonder if she made an impression on him during that time when she was making an impression on me. Anyway, that dislike of bullshit fits the interpretation favored by Matthew Baldwin of defective yeti on the Infinite Summer site that the book is at heart an endorsement of sincerity.

I have read other Palahniuk books, though, including Haunted (that I both hated and loved, and that was also a Recorded Books ensemble production) and (after I'd seen and was completely stunned by the movie) Fight Club.

What struck me as I consumed Jest and Rant simultaneously was how I blurred the distinctions between the two writers. As I read about Hal's visit to what he thinks is an AA meeting, I thought that DFW was sort of rehashing some of his Testicular Cancer Survivors' support group from Fight Club, and then realized that wasn't Wallace, that was Palahniuk. I think Wallace's AFR and that nut job Lenz in particular would also be right at home in Palahniuk's world.

In the end, though, I'm not sure what either really means. The difference between me as a reader now and me as a reader who was majoring in English and writing essays about what he read is, now I read only once and make no notes in the margins. I'm no longer studying literature; I'm just enjoying it. After I finished Jest, I browsed my bookshelf and picked up Seize the Day by Saul Bellow. It looked blessedly thin after the massive Jest, and the cover proclaimed Bellow as a Nobel Prize winner, so I figured I should read it. I was surprised to discover that I had already read it and filled its margins with notes that are unmistakably in my handwriting. I have no recollection of it at all.

So to really talk meaningfully about Jest, I'd have to read through it again, the thought of which only depresses me. I'd have to flip back through it and find specific passages to quote and refer to. Who has the time? I can only say that to me, it seemed mostly about isolation, the inevitability of isolation in a modern world. Everyone has their own neuroses or psychoses, addictions and insecurities, that leave them unable to really connect on a meaningful level with anyone else. Gately ends up in the hospital, maddeningly unable to communicate even his desire to communicate. Hal's unusual isolation is the opening focus of the book. Joelle wears a veil, with no one ever even seeing her face. Avril's carefully composed appearance is thoroughly calculated, and J.O.I., who is obsessed with lenses and optics and the manipulation of the image, is hopelessly unable to connect with either of his two elder sons. Everyone, except perhaps Mario, who seems to be the only genuine person (thus the sincerity themes that Baldwin discusses), is alone and addicted, with technology and addiction making him more alone and sobriety making him only marginally less so.

And Rant? Well, it was hugely entertaining, witty, funny, well-acted, and the most confusing novelization of the philosophy of time travel I've ever read. Or, uh, heard.

Anyway, my considered academic opinion is: read 'em both. They's wicked good.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It Wasn't a Black Parade

I took the boy to see the marching band(s), but I didn't ask him to be the savior of the broken, the beaten, and the damned.

(That's a reference to a song by a band called My Chemical Romance, Mom.)

He loved standing in the box office line. He pointed out to the girl behind us that her shoes don't flash very well. Then he jumped and jumped and jumped to demonstrate how well his flash.

He loved climbing up through the stadium to find seats. He tried very hard to find the announcer. He was a bit puzzled by the National Anthem. He pointed out the flags. He pointed out the tubas! He asked if he could go on the field.

When the first band started, he was entirely rapt for about 10 solid minutes.

And then it was time to go find a snow cone. A purple snow cone.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Hey, Velvet Verbosity is back! I admit I was afraid she might be pushing up daisies by now. I'm glad she's back to motivating the rest of us to write. Anyway, here's my version of Wrong:

I could never deal with that.

He/she/I will change, I know it.

I don't need a degree.

My boss is bound to retire in the next year or two.

Eventually in a marriage, you just learn to understand each other.

If that happened to me, I'd surely die.

My parents don't know what the hell they're talking about.

If I could just achieve that, I'd be happy.

He can't possibly have anything left to throw up.

Other people spend as much time thinking about me as I spend thinking about what they think.

I don't need to go to bed.

The Proof Is in the Pedal

He really can pedal a trike. And no, I'm not sure what he's talking about. The exact transcript is, "Where's Daddy...? No, I won't... But it's closed. It's closed. See the man, either. The man, either. The man and the truck. How did that happen? Where's the truck and the man?" I think he's pondering where the neighbor across the street is. When last we were out, yesterday evening, he was outside examining his truck after getting hail damage repaired. And today, he wasn't there, and his garage was closed. That's my best guess.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

At the Four-Year-Old's Birthday Party

"Did you bring me a present?"


"Where is it?"

"On the table."

"Where on the table?"

"Right there."

"I'm Spiderman!"

Friday, September 4, 2009

1,000 Words

1,000 Words

Screw You, American Fast Food

Since I've been doing Weight Watchers, I haven't been eating out as much except for Souper Salad. So when I do commit my points to something special, I want it to be phenomenal. I busted my ass at the gym this morning and decided that since we were running all over the place, it was a good day for a treat. A coffee and a breakfast taco! Was it phenomenal? No. It was lukewarm coffee, and a breakfast burrito so atomically hot that once I could finally touch it without burning myself, the tortilla had disintegrated and glued itself to the foil wrapper, making it impossible to unwrap and thus impossible to eat. Screw you, Scooter's Coffeehouse.

The boy almost never gets fast food, and since we played so intensely and for so long at the playground this morning, and since he was starting to doze on the way home for lunch, I decided to stop at Wendy's and let him have a burger. I got a burger and small fries, and we shared the fries. He really enjoyed it, especially since I let him sit in the booth without a high chair and dip his fries in his own little cup of ketchup. Woo hoo!

Well, screw you, too, Wendy's (and every other fast food burger joint I used to enjoy). "It's waaaay better than fast food" my ass. In portions resulting in reasonable caloric levels, your food is completely unsatisfying. In the portions in which you sell it, it's horrifyingly fattening. 16 points for a sandwich and a side dish? And it's not even good enough to qualify as a special occasion. I paid 16 valuable Weight Watchers points for that lunch, and the fries were cold and pasty. The burger was swimming in so much ketchup and mayonnaise, I used six napkins. The one little leaf of lettuce was wilted, and the cheese isn't even real.

I blew almost half my daily points allowance, and I didn't even enjoy the experience. I knew that fast food was crappy, but I never really thought of it as so expensive before. Expensive and crappy are a bad combination.
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