‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948

It's Doppelganger Week on facebook.

I boycotted it because I don't know how to post a picture of an actual doppelganger.

The Free Online Dictionary (which uses the words "free" and "online" and is therefore considered an authority in this context) defines doppelganger as "A ghostly double of a living person, especially one that haunts its fleshly counterpart." I seem to remember a doppelganger being the manifestation of a character's alternate personality.

It's really hard to get pictures of those.

I remember a Twilight Zone episode that had a doppelganger driving away on a bus, looking creepily out the window at the doppel she was ganging. But mostly I remember learning about them as a literary device in high school English.

Know what I realized? I can name every single one of my English teachers.

In one class we listened to old radio shows, watched The Most Dangerous Game and read Nine Stories, by JD Salinger. What do all these things have in common? I think that our teacher really liked them. It was like going to a city with someone who loves architecture. They show you what to look for and you never see it the same again.

When you are in high school, you are essentially a gang of doubles. One big bundle of potential. Which version of You will you go on to be? The only thing that's absolutely certain is you won't stay who you are. For this we are grateful.

If you're lucky, you have teachers who wrestle your attention away from the Tiffany's catalog long enough to teach you about things. Important things. Things like Who You Will Be When You Grow Up. But they don't call it that.

They call it English. Or science. Or whatever resonates with the you that's most you. At the end of each day and with every choice you make, another busload of old selves drives away.

I don't know about you, but I tried on countless versions of me. Eventually I chose one, but my evil twins are legion and I hold them near and dear.

They just don't photograph well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

writing and poetics

Well hello there.

We are 5/7 of the way through Opera Hell Week here at Trout Towers. I've been feverishly writing synopses over at Opera Betty so that our guests would be fully operational when they arrived to watch. I am in the midst of a Barber of Seville synopsis right now. For those of you unfamiliar with Opera Betty, it's as if a frat boy put down his everclear punch long enough to write a column on fine wine. Except it's not about wine and I don't drink everclear.

I also have a freshly penned post over at Polite Fictions. It equates retirement to a kind of slow death, which is one of my fears. Thank goodness we will have to work until we're 104. After that we'll be put in a museum.

Finally, I wrote lyrics for a country song despite a longstanding dislike of country music. Some friends wrote the music and I filled in the blanks based on their description of how it was to go down. Once it's recorded I'll have Chris make me some kind of virus which will have the song play on your computer every time you type the letter q. You're welcome.

You may now carry on with your carryings on.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ballet boy

Long ago and far away, I dated a man from the Dominican Republic. He was a dancer and we spent most of our evenings watching either hockey or ballet. I was, I must admit, quite infatuated with the idea of dating someone from a ballet company. It is often the ideas of things we have a crush on, isn't it? The reality of our relationship is a little fuzzy, since my concept of it was so vastly off base. It turns out the real lives of Princes Charming are not made of organza and tulle, nor populated by wandering minstrels. I never truly accepted this discrepancy.

This is what I remember most about him: He said "There is enough ugly in life. Art should be beautiful." He said this because I tended toward the edgey, spikey, thinky kinds of art. I still do. But his statement resonated with me.

Here's what I wonder: If people end up looking like their dogs, do they also end up acting like their art?

Both of these make me nervous. I kind of wanted a pug (although Sugarplum nixed that when we read about eyes popping out). I think we do end up acting like our art. I, for one, get snippy if I listen to too many hours of old school British punk. I do not currently have much artwork that's the equivalent of old school British punk, but I used to. I wonder if it was his comment that weaseled its way into my tastes?

Like my dancer prince, I want life to be made of organza and tulle - I just want it to be smart organza and opinionated tulle. I want it to make the world better and smarter and edgier. I want it to be beautiful and honest and faithful to itself. I want it to lift things up, not cover them up.

It's a fine line, and I want to make sure I'm not going the route of rose-colored glasses.

It's also possible he just didn't want to go to art openings with me any more. Right after the art comment, he may have said "I don't especially like your friends and I don't understand their art and I think there's a game on." I just heard the bit about beauty.

It's the kind of things pretend princes say.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Opera Hell

Next week Trout Towers (the real Trout Towers, not the blog Trout Towers) is hosting Opera Betty's Hell Week: Seven Operas in Seven Days. People may or may not come.

It turns out all the operas we'll be watching need to be added to the Opera Betty site, therefore I'll be spending a bit of time there in the next few days. I've just added a synopsis for La Fille du RĂ©giment. I have six to go. Here's the schedule so you can play along at home:

Sun: La Fille du Regiment
Mon: La Boheme
Tues: Tosca
Wed: Romeo and Juliet
Thurs: Salome
Fri: The Barber of Seville
Sat: Magic Flute

It seemed a nice mix of comedy, tragedy and nudity. Do enjoy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

in which I become hysterical and Chris is the sensible one, for a change

Chris likes to complicate things. He likes to figure out innovative ways to accomplish otherwise simple tasks. If I ask for a garden sprinkler, for instance, he will suggest we put in a rainwater aqueduct with a saltwater condensation desalinizer as backup.

So when he noticed a crack in the wall of the basement, he started devising plans. Complicated plans. Some of them involved lifting the house off the foundation. Others entailed leveling the slope our house sits on. None were easy. He was absolutely convinced that big, complicated measures needed to be taken, stat.

Fortunately, we know about 40 general contractors/engineers/smart building-type people. They all told him not to worry. If the crack isn't growing, which it's not, there's nothing to be concerned about. Several years have gone by, and the house has not collapsed. The crack has not grown.

Recently, Chris started clearing out the basement. It's a big basement, with years and years and years of rubbish and years and years and years of treasures all intermingled like a lasagna. He's gotten rid of a lot of stuff and organized what's left. For the first time in forever, you can see the walls. And that's when I realized that our house is going to fall down.

The wall is not just cracked, it's bowing. You stand in the empty basement and have this feeling that the earth is going to push right through and squash you flat. And if the earth doesn't squash you flat, the wall will give out and the house will squash you flat. Either way, you're toast.

So I run screaming from the house, put my children in the chicken coop for safe keeping and ask Chris what are we going to do what are we going to do what are we going to dooooooo? How soon can we get a new foundation or pour a concrete retaining wall or just excavate everything and surround ourselves with concrete pillars? Can we build flying buttresses? And why are you just standing there, Chris?????

In the midst of all this, Chris has been working on sound design for the studio and has decided where some new walls should go. These include a weight-bearing wall that runs the length of the house. Which we now have.

The weight-bearing wall is earning its sound studio keep, as it's already quieted some hysterical screaming.

Now I just have to go bring the kids back inside.

And cancel the guy with the bulldozer.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hope is not actually a chicken, for the record

Two and a half years ago, I was at a friend's house when she came home with a box of baby chicks. They were kind of irresistible. I liked the idea of backyard chickens and told her they might be in our future, eventually. I just wasn't ready for all the chicken hoopla. Chicken hoopla being a building with a concrete floor and a fenced in run. Also an agriculture license, probably.

She convinced me there was no chicken hoopla. She told me you can have a simple coop in your backyard (at least where we live) and have a flock of one or two. She showed me coops you could build in an afternoon. She told me where to get baby chicks. She made me drink the punch.

I came home and announced my new found desire for chickens. Since I am the elitist prig of the family, Chris thought I was joking.

I asked for chickens for Mother's Day, 2007. I also asked for a small coop to put them in. Nothing fancy. I didn't want anyone to go to any trouble or expense. I wanted a coop we could move around the yard so the chickens could eat bugs and, er, fertilize.

We got three chickens. They lived in a small coop in the back yard until we lost one to a fox/coyote/neighborhood hoodlum in the middle of the day and moved them into the vegetable garden out front.

In 2009 we got more chickens. They are cute and fluffy and we cannot resist them. We became The People With Chickens.

The Upstairs Neighbor offered to build us a new coop, which he he did a few weeks ago. Our new coop is shingled. It has a sloped roof and trimmed windows and a bright red door. It has a fenced in yard that I could hang a hammock in. It has enough square footage and nesting boxes to house a dozen chickens. It is exactly what the chickens wanted.

It is also exactly what I wanted, despite the fact that it's exactly what I said I didn't want originally. Sometimes we don't want something because we're pretty sure we can actually have it.

Sometimes that something is chickens. Sometimes it's not.



Hope
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
-Emily Dickinson

Monday, January 4, 2010

dear anonymous

"Do we really have to know about this?"*

Short answer, no.

Honestly? I forget that you're out there. I don't call up random strangers and tell them all the details of my domestic life. I don't even do that with my friends. I'm more like the crazy lady on the park bench, telling stories. You're welcome to sit next to me if you want. I will give you some crumbs and you can feed the pigeons.

I write because I like stories, not because you have to know about it. Especially if you know us personally and really don't want to know. Too much information, I get it.

Slightly longer answer, yes.

I think we do need to know that sometimes people are fragile. No matter how confident they seem, people are sometimes tired and broken. I think we need to know that other people, people who like each other, sometimes argue. And that it's not the end of the world. We need to know we really are on the same team and even in moments of fury, we can see what we need to see. We need to know that other people are struggling with things, and finding resolution.

We have too many friends who held it together on the outside and then fell completely apart on the inside. While I respect the privacy of my home and family, I don't think it's bad for people to know that we're not the Stepfords.

It's not a reality show I'm running here, it's an online journal. Come sit on my bench with me if you wish, and I'll tell you stories.

But only if you want to hear them.

*asked by anonymous commenter on last post.

(thanks to everyone who had my back)

Friday, January 1, 2010

auspicious

So one day I'm sashaying around, all rock-starry, and the next day I'm at a party, hiding in the bathroom.

I would say "obviously, there's something wrong with me," but it doesn't feel like anything's wrong. It feels more like when you drop a glass on a tile floor and say "oh, dang. Someone should clean that up." Kind of pointy and splintery and scattered, but clean-up-able. It's not me that's in pieces. It's just this thing at my feet. It just happens sometimes. The crying. The hiding.

Still, spending New Year's Eve in a bathroom is not as auspicious as one might hope.

Equally inauspicious is waking up the next day to find oneself in the midst of a domestic dispute. Words were thrown. Someone may have implied that her partner, her spouse, her white knight would prefer it if she wore a ruffled apron when she cooks and cleans. Doors were slammed. House guests pretended not to hear.

"Mmmmm," they said. "This coffee's delicious."

Doors were opened. More accusations were hurled. "You make me out to be some kind of sexist monster," may have been said.

A sexist monster. This makes me inappropriately glad I have who I have. Because anyone who thinks it's monstrous to want his wife all be-aproned is okay with me. The pointy bits lose their bite. We are on the same team and there is hope for us. We are hugging in the kitchen, weeping. The houseguests look out the slider and point at things in the yard.

"See? There's a cardinal in the butterfly bush!"

And lo and behold, there is.