The List is Long but Not Insurmountable

This past Memorial Day, I did not feel like BBQ’ing. Instead I was struck with the idea that I should tackle a task that has been on my To-Do list for nigh on five years: transferring a dozen VHS tapes to a digital format so that the tapes could be discarded.

This entailed purchasing a converter box and accompanying software, borrowing a PC computer (the software doesn’t work on a Mac) and a working VCR.  There was a false start about three years ago when the VCR only played with a time-code window that couldn’t be turned off without the remote, which we did not have… The computer returned to its owner and I lost momentum… for about three more years. But the power of list is strong, and a vaguely guilty sense of obligation can push when passion does not, so for the last week I have returned to the cause.


The recording process entailed watching much of the content on the tapes — which ranged from boring-to-watch, to embarrassing to emotional. My mom looks like my sister. My brother has more hair. My father was alive. But everyone was also so… them. So exactly the people I know that it kind of stabs you in the heart.

I, too, sound the same and look like a younger version of myself, which is… I don’t know. I think without any evidence to the contrary, one can begin to think that one has progressed from some mild stupidity in youth to wisdom–but the person I see on screen doesn’t seem to be in need of any great advice that I might now possess…

One tape is a “video portrait” I did for my first ever video class.  I interviewed a friend for the portrait. In the interview, he says “I have lists for everything–you can ask me my favorite songs, movies, television shows, friends–anything. I probably have a list for it.” This was true — he was (and remains) someone who has always amazed me with his ability to categorize and rank his preferences for all sorts of things.

I, on other hand, do not have those kinds of lists.  I’ve taken part in a dozen writing workshops where we are asked to introduce ourselves and mention out favorite books or writers. Despite having experience that has taught me this will be the first question, I often come up blank.  I despair as password authentication questions trend away from the factual: “What is your mother’s maiden name,” toward the subjective: Who was your favorite teacher?” I don’t have a favorite song or a list of favorite songs…

I do, however, have a list of things that at some point I thought would be good to do and have become part of mental To-Do List that keeps turning up in my brain like that pair of florescent sunglasses you bought at a gas station a decade ago on the way to the beach and now keeps reappearing under the car seat.

I don’t know how many items are on to-do list, or which items are at the top.  But today, the list is one item shorter. Small victory.


I Saw a Fish Poop

The other night we ate at a restaurant that has a tropical fish tank.

I had a good view of the fish over the shoulders of my dining companions, and I noticed that one of the fish had a small, rectangular protrusion from it’s “belly” region.  For a moment I wasn’t sure. “Is that a belly button. a phallus, or poop?”

They turned to look and both affirmed, “It’s poop.”

Huh.  I would have guessed that it would emerge from a different place. Shows what I know about fish anatomy. Nothing:fish-pooping-sketch

In my own defense, our pet when I was a kid was a dog.

At our table, we all watched, transfixed, waiting for the small brown cylinder to separate from the body of the fish. After a few moments it did, launching then wafting gently down, down… and getting caught in a plastic green frond.

The poop-caught-in-a-frond situation was both unexpected and disconcerting.  We waited for it to resolve itself. The frond swayed softly; at any moment it seemed it would dislodge its burden and the poop would continue its journey into the pebbles at the bottom of the tank, but this didn’t happen.  Instead, the poop remained, clinging to its position: img_3291

Would it ever fall?

Presumably yes, it did, but we didn’t see, because our food came, and we forgot to watch.

And we were  also distracted–per usual– by Paul.

It delights me that after years of marriage, I still learn new information about my husband. This delight is mitigated by the fact that some aspect of the new information is often horrifying. This night I learned that as children Paul and his brother did have fish as pets. Huh, I never knew that–interesting!

And then there’s the turn…

From somewhere, the boys had inherited a fish tank. It was a tropical fish tank, complete with little heater at the bottom.  Unfortunately, Paul and his brother — seemingly operating without parental oversight — didn’t realize that goldfish are not tropical fish, so their goldfish lived with a  perpetual low-grade fever.

The boys also knew little about chlorine and other water quality issues, so their fishes’ eyes exploded or fell from their sockets. Usually just one eye, but in one case both eyes –memorable to Paul because he could see all the way through the fish’s head. Each day after school, the brothers would come home to see whether their fish still had eyes, and/or if they had survived the day. Often, they had not.

Fortunately for the boys’ morale (but unfortunately for every fish who crossed their path) there was a fish store nearby, and goldfish only cost a dollar. He estimates the number of fish who lived briefly in their horror-tank to be “over twenty, but under fifty.”

The Bi-Monthly B

(Note: This is copied from The Daily B – another blog that existed during this time)

How you can tell you’re old #472…you say shit like “how is it already (insert unit of time)?

How is it already April 9?  March was like a m**f** whirlwind.  I think.  I already don’t even remember it. Basically, I remember yesterday, and to some extent can use that to extrapolate what’s been happening for the past month.

Yesterday was April 8. My mom got on a plane and flew back to Indiana.  It’s been really nice to have her in town. You also know you’re old when your parents are even older so you want to spend as much time with them as you can (without going overboard because that’s morbid).  I’ve been going over to her house about once a week, which might not sound like much, but is roughly twice as often as I see my sister (who lives in town) and six times as often as I see almost any single friend who isn’t involved in a writing endeavor.  Mostly I was going on Fridays after work, and we would put together some dinner, talk and watch a movie, or if the kids were staying over maybe play some Monopoly.

Also April 8 is the day Paul and I got married.  In celebration of our anniversary he took yesterday off from work, and I switched up my hours and skipped writing, then, with our free time together, we went to Target, cleaned the house, had some expensive (and good) sushi, then watched TV while wearing teeth-whitening agents (bought at Target).  Yep, that’s how we roll. In March I also spent some time with Paul, mostly late at night, or preparing for taxes.  We’ve both been spending extra time with respective writing partners on projects, which has decreased our available hours, so yesterday, while it might seem mundane, was a treat.

At work, April 8 was the last day of “prospective student open house.”  Yay for that. Nothing makes time fly by like event planning without quite enough time, and open house is one of the bigger events–a three-day logistical extravaganza of hosting a dozen or so potential students.  My new co-worker handled almost all of the individual schedules and travel reimbursements and I ordered most of the food and we both tried to work our everyday duties in around the edges.

This year, April 8 fell on a Wednesday, which is generally the night that I go to my directing class, but serendipitously (for the anniversary) this week is community college spring break so class didn’t meet. But for much of February and March, I have been leaving work at the stroke of five and taking two trains to class, which is officially scheduled to last from 6pm to 10pm but thankfully always runs shorter. With the 2-train+car commute home it still manages to eat an evening.

And yesterday, April 8 was the last day before today, April 9, which is when my writing partner (Janice) should receive the last of our notes on our script, so that we can spend the weekend revising and hopefully improving our application for the Film Independent Lab which is due on Monday.  I’m trying to mentally gear up for  a marathon writing weekend.  Switching back-and-forth between two scripts for various spring deadlines, there have been a few such weekends lately, and also a couple “vacation” days spent trying reach the finish line with drafts we can feel good about in hand.

And that, I deduce, is where March has gone.

Random Ramblings as the Weekend Begins

End of the week, beginning of the weekend.  Weekends can be kind of tricky because they “feel” like weekends, but really, as a writer with a day job, there’s some heavy lifting to be done on the weekends.  Up until today I had several quasi-plans for the weekend–these are plans that people have broached but then not really solidified, and they have about a 50-50 chance of just going away on their own.  I knew that I could only do about half the plans, but I don’t like to be the person who always says no, and since I never know which plans will actually happen, I tend to wait and see.  Not infrequently, that strategy works out, but sometimes I have to back out something I thought would disappear but didn’t.  Sometimes,  for group things like book club or wilderness I’ll hang on right ’til the bitter end, assuming there will be a small cascade of last minute regrets until the the host will just cancel about two hours before the event.  Then I get to feel kind of self-righteous for not cancelling plus I get a block of bonus writing time…

All of this is not really main thing on my mind though–except to say that I got to postpone a bunch of semi-scheduled stuff guilt-free because I needed to leave the time available to hang out with my brother, who is moving to Chicago (“back” to Chicago, as we both spent some years there).  He was going to leave Friday, but some things changed and now he is leaving Monday, and so his schedule is all weird as he does things like return his cable box, wait for a truck to come take his car, meet with his subletters etc.  I will squeeze myself into whatever piece of interstitial time arises.

Omitting the netherworld of a weekend, leaving on Monday is like leaving  tomorrow. I have to say I’m pretty sad about it. That is the main thing on my mind.

My Brother Is Leaving LA

My brother is leaving LA and moving (back) to Chicago. I’m happy for him, because it feel like a change, and it feels he’s been looking for a change, but I’m also sad because he will be gone.  Although we are certainly different in many ways, in other ways, of my siblings, we have the most in common in terms of sensibility, and so in some ways he is the closest person I have to myself.

If they are not sudden, partings have a chronology.  At first one in aware of the upcoming parting but it is far away. You will see the person a dozen more times: the thrumming drum of the parting is muffled by all the times that stand between any of those times and the last time. A dozen times becomes several times, several times become a couple of times… and finally it is the last time–the time after which the person will get in a car or on a plane, or some metaphorical boat to the underworld and go someplace different and far away.

And the last time, the awareness of it being the last time floats and lands, floats and lands through your time together. You think “this is the last time,” and then for a few moments you forget it is the last time, and then you remember and think, “this is the last time.”

In thinking of this and being sad, I am also being over-dramatic, because Chicago is hardly the ends of the earth my brother and I will certainly see each other a few times a year.  It’s not like saying goodbye to our friends in Australia almost a decade ago, or like saying goodbye to my father the last time before he died. But I think maybe all the big goodbyes in my life have sensitized me to the smaller ones as well, like stubbing the toe that’s been broken.  If I let myself remember, the small goodbyes are just rehearsals for the biggest goodbyes. In every case, with no exceptions, the big goodbye is out there, a gong echoing and reverberating through the years of  padding between then and now, saying “I am here.”

Yeah–that’s  weird metaphor juxtaposed with other questionable metaphor, but hey, I’m writing sad–because I’ll see my brother on Sunday, and it will be the last time I see my brother before he moves away.