Our house sits directly on a street corner at the intersection of two streets, one fairly busy, the other fairly sleepy. There is something about this corner.
There is a stop sign (2-way) halting traffic on the sleepier street and there is something about it that people regularly ignore. The stop sign is merely a guideline, a suggestion. There is something that makes people pull a u-turn in the middle of this intersection. It must look a like a good place to turn around. There is something that makes people on the busier, non-stop-sign street come to a stop anyway. There is something that makes them stop and sit there for a long time. There is something about this corner that makes it seem like a good place to whip out your phone and text message someone, or check directions, or reapply lipstick or have a fight with your boyfriend. Or stare blankly yet somehow menacingly at the happy married couple sitting outside on the front steps of their charming little house on the corner. What I'm trying to say is that there is something odd about the little corner on which our house sits. And we regularly see all kinds of odd traffic and odd behaviors and just shake our heads and say to each other only in Waco.
Yesterday Keith had a whole new experience on our odd little corner. He was outside, enjoying a lovely sunny day when a car pulled over in front the house and rolled down the passenger window, engine idling. Inside was a very round, not particularly friendly-looking, somewhat elderly man. Or as Keith put it, your typical crotchety old guy (we'll call him TCOG for short). Assuming that the man needed directions Keith walked over and leaned down to peer in the open window.
"You sure need to mow your lawn," TCOG opened randomly. "It's going to rain soon and that grass is going to start growing again."
Incidentally, our lawn does indeed need mowing, a fact that was brought to the attention of our lawn mowing guy back before Christmas, but alas no mowing has yet commenced. Keith politely informed TCOG of said situation. At which point TCOG turned the key in his ignition, shutting down the engine. He proceeded to talk to Keith for close to 20 minutes, rambling inanely about money, kids these days, the cost of all the things his pesky grandkids have broken (lawnmowers, transmissions, weed eaters), money, retirement, his worthless son-in-law (got the weed eater stolen from him), the neighbors who moved out down the street (they were noisy), money, the neighbors who moved in down the street (TCOG is sure they've got three families living in one house "and that's not legal"), the fact that TCOG's wife wouldn't be home from work for another hour, and of course, money.
A snippet of TCOG's riveting conversation: "I pay my grandson ten bucks to mow the lawn. Ten bucks, I mean, that's a lot of money. Don't you think? But then I get to thinking about the costs associated with his mowing the lawn. Like the gas I bought for the lawnmower, what's that, about three bucks? And regular lawnmower maintenance, I pay for that lawnmower not him, what's that?...So I decide I want some of my ten bucks back..."
And as delightful as all of this obviously must have been, Keith is standing there stooping down to the window, back cramping, mind reeling and every time he tries to extricate himself, TCOG veers into yet another topic and he's off. No connection from one story to the next, no transitions between them, no line of logic to follow and worst of all- no stopping him. At one point it occurred to Keith that TCOG might be going into some kind of shock, maybe diabetic? Like maybe his brain was somehow unhinging and he just couldn't stop rambling, but Keith didn't know what to do about it.
TCOG did finally quit talking, turn the engine back on, and drive away. Keith never did find out why he pulled over in the first place. Our best guess is that he was just a lonely, typical crotchety old guy who was looking for someone to talk to, just trying to pass the time until his wife came home from work. And while it's an amusing story there's also something about it that breaks my heart a little bit. You know what I mean.
So this is the kind of encounter that our odd little corner seems to attract. Once again we look at each other and shake our heads. Only in Waco.
Keith and I were cooking dinner a few nights ago. There I was staring down into the saucepan full of onions and garlic, letting my mind wander freely, when all of a sudden I realized that I had this inner monologue going on:
She watched as puffs (clouds? wisps? no, definitely puffs) of steam (waft? burst?) rise and (hang?) hover lazily over the pot, its (strong-scented) contents (going?) transforming from crisp white to soft yellow, finally turning palish green color before becoming limp and transparent. It was time to add the beans.
I was narrating my actions, my life, in my mind. Not just narrating but also revising, editing the sentences. And this is really nothing new for me. For as long as I can remember I have narrated myself through most of my day. It seems to be the way my mind works. So this is a normal part of my life, natural, it's just what I do.
But it occurred to me that it's probably not what everyone does. Maybe it's a reader-thing. Since I read so constantly, read so many books, maybe it seeps into everything I think and do. Maybe I can only experience life the way I read it. So I asked Keith, because he's a reader too.
"Do you ever find yourself narrating your life in your head?"
He looks at me from across the counter, where is busy mixing turkey meatballs that stick to his fingers, and raises dark eyebrows. "You mean like your whole life story? Narrating from beginning to end?" he asks.
"No, I meant more like individual scenes, capturing the images and the nuances. But do you do the whole thing?" my pulse quickens slightly. He understands.
He shakes his head. "No, I don't actually do either of those," he answers, and I suddenly feel just a little bit lost for the tiniest of moments. I was counting on his kinship in this, more than I realized. Maybe it's just a weird-thing. Maybe it's just a crazy-person-thing. And then another thought occurs to me and the world rights itself again. Maybe it's a writer-thing.
I've said it before. I process my life through my pen, through my words, and sometimes it almost feels like unless I've thoroughly written through an event in my life, it may not have really, actually happened. And it is natural to me, a part of me. As natural as breathing. And not everyone does this? So maybe it's just a me-thing. A writer-thing. That might be kind of cool.
So after yesterday's somewhat macabre post, I feel like I needed to get something else up here right away, just to kind of get the menace and eeriness of my last post out of front and center. So indulge me in being a total nerd fangirl some more because we got a little late Christmas present in the mail yesterday and it is the best ever...
It's so cool! It's got great packaging (I'm a sucker for good packaging) and it comes with a Cylon Centurion model and everything. (What, you don't speak geek? A Cylon is a Cybernetic Lifeform Node, they used to be robots, but now they look like humans and are basically badass, and a Centurion is one of the new-old metal models that have scanning red eyes and looooong, creepy, thin metal fingers, also badass.)
So of course, after cooking dinner, we sat down to watch a favorite episode. The one where **spoiler** the Galactica, under command of Admiral Adama, jumps directly into the atmosphere of New Caprica, launching Vipers and Raptors and blowing stuff up and basically saving humanity from the clutches of the Cylons once again, effectively rescuing everyone and bringing the family back together again so they can continue on their journey to find Earth and a new home. It was awesome.
And then, later in the evening as I'm curled on my side of the couch with my book in my hand and a twenty pound cat crushing my chest (no really the beast weighs twenty pounds, I swear. Have I not mentioned that before?), I suddenly look up to see a miniature Cylon Centurion peeking over the top of my book with its long-creepy-thin metal fingers menacingly outstretched.
Because my husband is just as much a total nerd fanboy. And also badass.
I woke this morning to a gray drizzling day and a deep sadness threatening to overwhelm me. Sometimes the last dream I have before waking up will linger uncomfortably all day long, especially if I'm woken in the middle of said dream. This morning's interrupted dream was particularly potent. I don't remember the actual sequence of events, just a few powerful images, disturbing feelings, crazy intimations...
A sinister curse hangs over all the women in my family.
It makes us all insanely beautiful.
It also keeps us vapid and stupid.
We are beautiful shells of perfection but
Completely empty inside.
To break the curse means to forsake the promise of beauty.
It's the beginning of another new year. Which means I am making detailed, endless lists of all the things I need/want/somehow-think-I-should get done each week. I'm divvying them out and assigning them to various days, marking the assignments in my shiny 2010 planner and satisfyingly ticking a check mark next to each task as it gets accomplished. I'm drunk on the fumes of small accomplishments, brimming with plans and ideas and ideals.
The organization, it will not last. In a few more weeks (or hopefully months) I will tire of carrying my planner around all the time in a purse that is already too heavy (a problem not helped by the fact that I insist on lugging around a massive novel or two at all times). I will forget to write down a thing or two now and then, and then maybe I'll find myself blowing off that self-assigned task that seemed so important to me a week ago. After that it's all down-slippery-slope to becoming the negligent ne'er-do-well who can't even find her planner, much less remember the last thing she wrote down in it.
But for now...
For now it is the beginning of another new year, time for a fresh start. And I always find myself curiously elated by fresh starts. I love that line in You've Got Mail where Meg Ryan (or maybe it's Tom Hanks, I don't really remember) waxes poetic about the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. Every time Ms. Stacey reminds Anne (with an E) that "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it," something in my spirit starts to sing. New things (and especially the starting over of something old, like a new year) always invigorate me. I'm filled with an urge to go and do and be. To create and inspire and accomplish. It becomes critical to me that I keep track of everything I want to do, and make sure that I follow through on doing it all and doing it well. It gets easier to work a little harder, to see something through all the way to the end.
Of course, the worst part about something new is that at some point it has to become old. The newness and excitement fade and I become slightly less enthused . At some point it won't seem so earth-shatteringly important to record my every intention and to track my progress along the way. I know I won't finish every task I set myself this year, or maybe even this week. Honestly, there's no way I could ever get done all the things I want to, because the truth is, I want to do it all. I'm almost doomed from the start, really.
But right now, no limitation seems to matter. Right now it's the beginning of another new year and the world is humming all around me with magic and possibility. And I can't wait to begin.
Little-known (or completely obvious to anyone who's ever met me) fact: I am a TV fan. Keith and I love to watch great shows, especially those that build a continuous season-long story arc with a sequence of events that leads to a jaw draw-dropping twist, big revelation or generally greater understanding of the story. There are some long-running greats that fall into this category: Alias, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, 24, Sopranos. They are all on my list of favorite shows ever.
Last year, two newcomers were added to the list: Joss Whedon's Dollhouse and JJ Abrams' Fringe. Both shows took a little while to hit their stride. Neither has been much of a ratings-puller. They've been up against big competition. But both shows managed to grow into themselves some time during the second half of their first season, and have consistently continued to improve, entertain, and best of all blow my mind. Fox has already given up on Dollhouse, throwing it to the wolves by pulling episodes from November sweeps and airing last week's episode (potentially the best of the series) during the post-holidays time period where it's likely to get lost. And now it seems like Fringe is fated to meet the same end.
Last night, Fox aired an "all-new" episode of Fringe on a "special night." Translation? They took a throw away episode not even good enough to fill space during hiatus from Season One and threw it on the schedule on a random Monday night (as opposed to the show's regular Thursday spot). The episode had decent potential, but seemed poorly executed. Characters we already know and love came across as wooden and one-dimensional. Much of the dialogue was clunky and heavily expositional. And the fact that the episode was mediocre at best? That's not even the worst part.
The worst part is that these shows that I love, that are based on a series-long story arc to develop mythology and build an entire world inside the show? The rely heavily on a little, oft-ignored thing called continuity. The story has to arc in the right order. It has to be built carefully, stacked in the right order. You can't pull one of the episodes (however wobbly it might be) out of the bottom section and just toss it haphazardly on top like some crazy game of Jenga! You have to air each episode in the right order! Especially when the episode in question prominently features a character who was definitively killed off at the beginning of the current season.
And when I say killed off, I mean really killed off. He actually died twice. Once as himself, and once as the weird shape-shifty creature that was impersonating him. Such is the mixed-up, crazy, but wonderful nature of Fringe. And we love it.
But Fox taking this old and out of order episode, calling it new and slapping it on the air unexplained on a Monday night is not likely to gain favor among the already small band of loyal viewers. It's also not likely to bring in any new viewers and even if it did they're just going to be ridiculously confused a few episodes down the road when it suddenly becomes important to know that the character is dead. My biggest question is this: Why? Why did Fox choose to air this random, poorly developed episode? Why now? Why on a Monday night? And most importantly, why oh why, Fox do you continue to insist on killing the shows that I love?