Day 169: using her words

“On the one hand, yes, I agree, writing a note is better than hitting or yelling at me.

On the other hand, I don’t like being called a s-h-i-t-head, so maybe next time you are really angry with me you could write a note saying, ‘Mom, I am really angry with you’ instead of ‘Mom is a s-h-i-t-head.’”

“I don’t know how to spell ‘angry,’” she says.

Mom

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Day 168: therapy

I am sitting on the sofa looking over my PowerPoint presentation on the second half of Robinson Crusoe. 

I hang my head and, although it’s a mock-sob I let out, the feeling of deep reluctance it expresses is quite real.

“Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-I really don’t want to give this lecture today!”

The younger looks up from The Guinness Book of World Records, which she has been perusing as she sits next to me on the sofa, and fixes me with a hard stare.

“Do you need therapy again?” she enquires incredulously. “Already?

It’s a rhetorical question. She gives a long-suffering sigh. “Fine,” she says, “I’ll get the sloth book.”

“I need to print out my notes,” I mutter to myself and walk into the bedroom to coax and soothe the testy printer.

I sit cross-legged on the carpet as the printer grudgingly spits out my notes. She sits on the bed and holds up the “sloth book,” (which is actually a sloth calendar, and also  possibly the best present any human has ever given another, from SJ) like a kindergarten teacher reading to the class. She slowly turns the pages and shows me the sloths.

“Look at this one!” she exclaims, pausing on May. “He looks human!”

“Awww!” I say, “I love his nose!”

She keeps turning. “This one is talented!” she exclaims, of August.

“Is he?” I ask doubtfully (this sloth is holding a flower).

“Yes!” she says. “He knows what to do with a flower! He’s smelling it!”

“I suppose that’s true …. I’m not sure smelling is a talent, exactly, but … ” I trail off.

I grab the papers from the printer.

“Did you see this one holding a carrot?” she asks, of the December sloth.

“No, let me see.” She shows me. He is indeed holding a carrot.

“That’s the last one,” she says. “Do you feel better?”

“Yes,” I say.

And I really do.

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the sloth whose nose I like.

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the talented sloth

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the sloth holding a carrot.

 

 

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Day 167: the three most L.A. things that happened to me this week.

  • I drove to Plyojam, in which we did this squat-and-turn-the-steering-wheel move during one song; then I drove home while listening to the song and make-believing I was doing the steering-wheel dance move when I was actually steering the actual wheel.

 

  • While I was waiting for my appointment at the waxing salon I heard someone say, “Ooh, I like your romper!” Reader, I was interpellated as an Angeleno in the moment that I realized that this very well-groomed Althusserian policeman was hailing me, and that I was in fact wearing a one-piece babygro-type garment.

 

  • I was late for a work lunch and the buffet line was wayyyyy long, so I cut in line by the plates by referencing the “chat and cut” move from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Everyone laughed good-naturedly and I smugly took a plate.
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Day 166: 3 things

YOUNGER (hanging on front door-knob): Doorknobs have been around for a long time. Were they around in the time of pirates?

D-R: [unable to think of specific incidents in history featuring pirates and doorknobs but deciding that this is because doorknobs are a landlubbery kind of thing, and not because doorknobs and pirates did not co-exist in the same historical moment]: Ummm … yes, I’d say so.

This turns out to not really be true, in the sense that I took “the time of pirates” to refer to their heyday, like the 17th and 18th centuries, and it turns out, to my shock, that doorknobs don’t seem to have been invented until the mid nineteenth century. I am honestly still in shock about this.

YOUNGER: Are there pirates now?

D-R: Yes, but they don’t say “Arrrgh” and have a parrot on their shoulder. They more just have a boat and steal stuff.

YOUNGER: So being a pirate is basically just having a boat?

D-R: No … not everyone who has a boat is a pirate.

She ponders.

YOUNGER: OK, so being a pirate is basically 3 things: if you’re missing an eye, you kill innocent people, and you have a boat, then you’re a pirate.

D-R: The missing an eye bit isn’t essential but …. sure, that’s close enough.

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Day 165: His milkshake brought all the amanuenses to the yard

La Bonavita is reading Paradise Lost for the first time. I am enjoying my role as in-house Miltonian.

 

Scene: driving along Sunset, La Bonavita at the wheel, me in the passenger seat.

La B: What was that thing that Milton said?

D-R: (repeats slowly) “That thing that Milton said.”

La B: You know, that thing.

D-R. (repeats again, with sarcasm) “That thing that Milton said. You know. that thing.” (flustered) How am I supposed to know “that thing”?

(desperately trying to dredge up some Miltonic pearl from mind in order to prevent mantle of Miltonic authority from slipping away)

Yeah. I don’t know.

(a few minutes pass in silence)

D-R (triumphantly) “Milk me”!

La B: What?

D-R. “Milk me!” was a thing he said! [1]

La B: …..???

D-R. So was that it?

La B: Er, no, that wasn’t it.

(a few more minutes pass.)

La B: I remembered what it was! “Reason is but choosing.” [2]

D-R. Oh. Yeah. (Scowling). That’s also a thing he said.

milkshake-song-kelis-milkshake

Notes

[1] “He rendered his studies and various works more easy and pleasant by alloting [sic] them their several portions of the day. Of these the time friendly to the Muses fell to his poetry; and he waking early (as is the use of temperate men) had commonly a good stock of verses ready against his amanuensis came. Which if it happened to be later than ordinary, he would complain, saying he wanted to be milked.” Anon., The Life of Mr John Milton, c. 1686. Cited in The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes, ed. John Gross, p.16.

[2] “When God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing; he had been else a mere artificial Adam, such an Adam as he is in the motions.” From Areopagitica, 1644.

 

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Day 164: in which the younger displays enviably robust levels of self-esteem

The younger is chattering exuberantly at an ear-splitting level about two inches from my face. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and exhale slowly in an attempt to calm my suddenly rapidly rising heart-rate.

“Could you please use an inside voice?” I say slowly, in the steadiest, least agitated tone I can muster.

She looks at me quizzically and shrugs her shoulders:

“That’s just the way my voice is, Mom.”

 

***

Later I walk into the kitchen and see muddy footprints all over the floor.

“Hmmm. It looks like someone dragged mud in all over the floor,” I exclaim.

She waltzes in.

“Oh, that was just my feet,” she declares, reassuringly.

 

***

In the afternoon we have a dance party in my bedroom, just her and me. It is hard to say whose jaw drops lower at the sight of the other’s dance moves. Hers involve break-dancing style attempts to spin on her head that end in dramatic crashes to the floor.

THUD!!!!

“Sweetheart, are you OK????”

“Yes! [popping right back up like a jack-in-a-box] It didn’t hurt at all!”

Mine involve standing in one place and shaking my hips, a feat that, judging from the expressions of awe it elicits, is by far the most impressive thing I have ever done in her presence.

Mom!!!” Her eyes are wide and her tone is at once scandalized and reverent: “how do you shake your booty like that????”

“Oh, just practice,” I say, nonchalantly.

 

***

Later, tired of dancing I flop on the bed.

“Mom, I’m pretty sure I could shoot a bow and arrow with my feet.”

“Are you?”

“Yeah. Because I can pick up this with my feet (picking up,* with her hand,* a tube of moisturizer).”

“Uh-huh.”

And I can stretch a rubber band with my feet, so ….”

She trails off and shoots me a self-satisfied look that says, plainly, that to offer any further evidence would be gratuitous.

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Day 163: a permanent black

“I had a dream about this weird word,” I announced at the breakfast table.

“Was it ‘inconspiculous?’ asked the younger.

“‘Inconspiculous?’” I repeated. “No. It wasn’t ‘inconspiculous.’” I pause. “Nor was it ‘inconspicuous.’”

“Was it ‘levitation?’ asked the elder.

“No, no,” I continued, impatiently, “it was an imaginary word … I think. I mean, it was a word I’d never heard before, and in my dream I was like, huh, I’m gonna look that up in the OED when I wake up, as you do. And I kept repeating it to myself in my sleep over and over so I wouldn’t forget it. And now I can’t remember it. But it’s on the tip of my tongue, I feel like it’s about to come back to me, I know it’s still there.”

Moments later, it rose to the top of my consciousness.

“Oh! It was ———!” I said. I repeated it to myself. It sounded right. “Huh. ——–,” I said again. “Yeah, that was it. I wonder if it really is a word! I’m gonna look that up after I drop you at camp.”

What came next was probably inevitable.

Right after dropping them off I sat down at my computer. And the word was gone from my mind. What remained was only the vague sensation that it began with a b and that the first syllable rhymed with “meh” and that it had three syllables altogether. I felt in my gut that the word was kin with the words jellicle and blefescu. But I also felt it had the air of a London garden square, like Belgrave or Grosvenor. And I had that sense of sureness that you only get from dreams that I had unconsciously intuited, no, divined in sleep a deeply profound word, the identity of which the OED would now disclose to me, and that it would unlock some kind of LIFE-TRANSFORMING REVELATION.

So I found myself engaged for some, embarrassingly long, period of time in the ludicrous activity of looking up made up words in the OED. At this point, I wouldn’t even remember what any of those words are, except that they are recorded in the search history of the OED home page that I have permanently open in Chrome, so that if I type in the letters “ble” the words blefescle, blefiscle, bleric, and blericle show up.

None of these are real words.

Blericle was the one that seemed closest to the dream-word. I did discover the real word belleric through these searches, which, fascinatingly, refers to “the astringent fruit of Terminalia Bellerica, also called Bastard Myrobalan, imported from India for the use of calico-printers, and used for the production of a permanent black” (OED).

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