Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Here, There, and Marshmallow Mateys

I suspect I don't have much worthwhile on my mind tonight.

Largely because I've started with a new outfit (my old boss sold our little engineering firm to a much larger company based in Seattle) and I'm having to continue to do my job whilst adapting to the Corporate Engineering Way of Doing Things. Doesn't leave much time for more than work, family, and sleep.

So the glamorous fever of blogging is not on me.But I did have a couple of random things that I wanted to talk about. So.

Remember back in September when I whined about my hip packing it in? Well, in the big picture of physical health suckitude, I have it pretty damn sweet. There are other people who have it much, much worse.

"Fibromyalgia" sounds like Satan's Getaway Weekend.

I'm often amazed how MANY people I know, or have met, or see, who are really, seriously emotionally or physically fucked up. I think one of the aspects of modern urban life that is at the same time wonderful and terrible is the change that it has brought to people with awful chronic emotional problems or physical pain.For most of human history these people would have had relatively brief, thoroughly miserable lives. Unable to fend for themselves they would have been at the mercy of overwhelmed families, unscrupulous "caretakers", callous landlords, employers, and neighbors. If lucky they might have been able to exist as almost helpless wards of their families, or the state, or charity cases in crowded religious shelters, or taken to the road to beg or steal.

The combination of things like disability insurance, government "safety-net" programs, better-educated families, and modern medical care can make the lives of these poor people something less than a living hell. But nothing can make that sort of pain bearable. I still can't figure out if that's a good thing...or a great evil.

Good, on the whole, I suspect. But, still...what a shitty deal.

Oddly, while at some remove I understand the wild desire many of these poor bastards have to just have it over, there's still a big part of me that has a deep respect for the ones that keep on going.

I mean, in a case like that there's no real "hope". Sure, there's always the odd miracle, or the freakish medical breakthrough. But for most of the people with stuff like chronic pain or severe depression, they're gonna fight that all the way to the Big Sleep. When you wake up every day in pain you've been dealt a shitty hand. Period.And if you don't choose to suck the shotgun there's no real alternative except to play it, and before you lay down the first card you already know you're going to lose.

But, least to me, there is something in HOW you play out that shitty hand. It may not matter in the Big Picture. But I'd like to know, when I get the cancer that kills me and finally get laid out for my dirt nap, that I fought like a sunuvabitch over every. damn. card.

Even knowing all I was holding was a pair of deuces. I'd like my kids to think of me as someone who never gave up. Never gave in. Toughed it out.

I'd like to think of them coming to put a shot of Talisker and a rose on my headstone, look down, and say; "You done good, numbnuts. Take a break in place. Sorry you went so hard, but we miss you."

Stopped into a late-night gas station on the way back to the shop the other night. It was dark night, well towards midnight. All I wanted was to pick up the tools I needed for the next day and get on home. So I skimmed the nozzle jockey two twenties and went inside looking for something wet.

There's a sameness to those places; racks of cheap, nasty processed food under the hard florescent lights, coolers full of brand colas and beer. A bored man or woman behind the counter. The smell of linoleum and sharp cleaning fluids. I didn't think I could ever be surprised in one of them unless the Virgin of Guadalupe chose to manifest herself to me in the Greeley Avenue Kwik-Mart.

But I have to say that the shave-headed little man managed to surprise me with his choice of late night pick-me-up; "Ma's Mango" flavored Joose, which turns out to be a jacked-up sort of brewed thing whose only virtue appears that, at 12% alcohol by volume, it will get you drunk quickly.This character had two monstrous cans of this awful juice joose and a pack of Menthol Kools, which seemed like a peculiar way to celebrate a random Tuesday night in Oregon City, but, hell, nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus.

-- --

Found out today that my daughter has been turning in her kindergarten "homework" - did you know that kindergarten now comes with "homework? - dutifully every Friday like a good little student.

Only one problem; she never completes any of it.In fact, she never works on it at all.

Just turns in the blank sheet.

I'm not sure if this qualifies as some extreme form of passively naive obedience to authority or some sort of incredibly devious, extremely complex and subtly subversive anti-authoritarian defiance.

-- --

Stopped off at our local wholesale-retail grocery tonight. Do you know what I'm talking about? Our version is called "WinCo". We also have "CostCo", the national chain, and used to have something called "Cub Foods" which worked on the same principle; buy in huge job lots and sell cheap. This includes a lot of generic brands like the "Marshmallow Mateys"

, Malt-o-meal's knockoff of Lucky Charms with parrots and treasure and swords (at least, that's what the styrofoam-textured sugar lumps advertised as marshmallows are supposed to look like. The only time I ever really scrutinized them I found one that looked a bit like a bell pepper and...well, actually, if you're interested (and God knows why you should be) you can try here, where Rita, the genius behind "Fighting off Frumpy" goes waaaaay further into the whole "Marshmallow Matey" thing that I ever wanted to) in place of the bigger brand's hokey-Irish-leprechaun theme.

Anyway, this isn't really about "Marshmallow Mateys". It's about people-watching at the WinCo.

Because WinCo is, well...downmarket. It's not where you get your groceries if you can afford to get better groceries. So many of the people you meet there are in the subspecies of homo sapiens Americanus vulgaris, the common, or garden, variety of American.

And everything you've read in those dire magazine articles about "American society" you can see right there.

It's the heavy woman with the four kids who is clearly barely maintaining control of the mob; a tired and frightened lion-tamer with a cageful of energetic carnivores who are momentarily cowed only by her size. But you can see in their eyes, and in the slump of her shoulders, that the day is coming and that day, soon, when she will not have whip or chair big enough to defend herself.

It's the couple with the tats and the Orange County Chopper gear that are buying a case of Smirnoff Ice and two frozen dinners.It''s mostly just the way we look. Was there really once a time when people in the U.S. wouldn't go out in public without a tie? Or a clean shirt and a dress? Christ, we look terrible, and I include myself in that. We clomp around in saggy pants and tatty shirts, in pajama bottoms and nasty flip-flops. And don't even get me started on the condition of people's feet; damn, guys, if you're gonna go out in public in flips at least cut your nasty nails. Euugh.

Every time I think I'm living in some sort of rarified liberal bastion of effete Portlandness I go shop at WinCo. Cures me every time.

-- --

Speaking of fat, I'm losing some. Yesterday morning I weighed in at 208.4, down from over 235 about a year ago and 225 earlier this summer. I'm still working, though, since I'm hoping to get down to 200 or below.

The frustrating part is that it's not to look better or to troll for chicks (the one I'm trolling for is lying on the couch right now reading some sort of odd sci-fi novel about a woman who talks telepathically to cats, although what the cats would say other than "feed me some of THAT shit" and "lie down so I can sleep on your belly 'cause it's warm and soft" I haven't the vaguest idea) but because my orthopod warned me it was that or off to the hospital to have my entire hip pulled over and replaced with a titanium-and-plastic monstrosity.

The REALLY frustrating part is realizing that almost everything that tastes good is horrifically fattening, while everything that doesn't, isn't. It's not just the losing the weight, it's realizing that keeping it off means never being able to just drop into Saint Cupcake to see what's good on the special shelf.It's having that Moonstruck chocolate bar once a month instead of once a week. It's...well, it's changing the way I have eaten for thirty years. And that kinda sucks.

But then, so does a hip replacement.

-- --

Speaking of things that change - did I mention that the Peep is off "Star Wars"?

Yep. SO over that. And whilst I can't grieve that I don't get to hear George Lucas' awful dialogue every Saturday or three, I find that part of me misses the littler kid who was all about blasters and lightsabers and spaceships.Now? It's all about soldiers. He's all wrapped up in Army games and videos, likes his soldiers (and in a weird reversal, what's left of his SW fandom is about the clone troopers because they're soldiers) and battles and all things war.

I find myself reminding him that real war is not like movies or TV, and that real soldiers don't get up and run away after getting killed like in games.

And I don't think he hears a word.

-- --

And that's all I got. But I have a couple of nice images culled from around the Web - largely, I must say, from the creative folks at "deviantart". If you like, go, check them out - many of the artists there sell their work, and I'm sure they'd appreciate the visit.

So, in no particular order and for no particular reason, here they are.("Biker in Winter" by "rockmylife")(This is the Templo Mayor at Chichen Iza, a photograph taken by my talented and lovely friend, Britt)(simply called "Desert Rain")

A couple of images from this passed Timbers footy season at the old Shed:and a pensive Coach Spencer in the rain:

(Another wonderful image from Britt, this one of the city of Lisbon from the old fortress walls)

Talking about the Peep's journey away from "Star Wars" made me think of this one:

Here's a couple of images of legs and feet that intrigued me.

This one is called, simply, "The Kiss" -(by "jezustin")("Little Miss Homewrecker" by "tjosphoto")Another sexy image, this one by "The Goddess Willendorf" - I think what I love about this one is that she's obviously a big girl, to the point where she would probably be considered "unappealing" in a sexy outfit. But here she is, and every bit the seductress - proving, again, that the most erogenous zone is inside your head...)(This one I've shown before - it's Thomas Voeckler on the podium at this year's Tour, along with one of the "podium girls". I just love the contrasting shoes and contrasting lives...)(And I'll leave you with "Autumn Green" by my own Little Miss!)

Looks like I had a bit of the bloggage in me after all! A candle to Saint Kilda, then, and thanks for stopping by.


Pluto said...

Sorry to hear that you are essentially changing jobs (corporate culture shock can be SO ugly!), hope it all turns out well in the end.

My sister has Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Everything you've written about chronic pain is true although she has good days when there is no pain and bad days where she literally can't get out of bed. Speaking from the outside, it can be really tough to deal with her when she's in pain but she's one really tough cookie and has made a decent life in spite it all.

My kids used to LOVE those Malt-O-Meal cereals, the more sugar the better. Now they tell me they are too old for that sort of thing. RRIIGGHHTT!!

I laughed aloud when I read about your daughter and her homework. Which attracted my younger son's attention. As soon as I explained what your daughter was doing, he immediately shut me down as he used to do the same exact thing. We never did work out why but his first grade teacher, who failed him in every other regard, managed to get him to start doing his homework.

On the weight thing, more power to you! I lost 25 pounds this year with the assistance of the weight watchers group. I originally started doing it for my wife because her family has a long and horrible history with weight problems but I started doing it for myself because I really liked the difference in my energy levels.

It IS jarring to find out how fattening your favorite foods are but there are reasonably tasty alternatives, you just have to look REALLY hard for them. Considering how fattening the average American dies is, it's amazing that people are as light as they are.

I wouldn't worry too much about the Peep's military obsession. I shudder to remember my own miles-deep obsession when I was a bit older than he was and it eventually went away as I saw what war did to people and countries. It should go away as long as you keep a steady dripping of alternatives, consequences, and side effects in the back of his mind.

Lisa said...

I love your slice-of-life pieces.

This is a great statement: I didn't think I could ever be surprised in one of them unless the Virgin of Guadalupe chose to manifest herself to me in the Greeley Avenue Kwik-Mart.

Missy may be subversive, or just trying to "get by", as my students would say. Time will tell.

The green pepper-shaped marshmallow made me laugh. I do remember eating Malt-0-Meal cereals. I also remember my mother drilling into my head how oatmeal, Cream of Wheat and corn flakes wee all there used to be, and all there needs be.

The young man on WALL-E people mover said it all.

Many congratulations on your weight loss; I truly hope that alleviates some of your hip problems. You might not be trolling, but just you watch out ;)

Re. food, I make it sort of a little divine experience (not the Hairspray sort), and really try and tickle my palate. Food really does taste good when you can find it fresh and have a bit of time to savor it. As you say, look forward to the occasional treats, but make sure they're THE BEST, too. When you know you're splurging on some really nice chocolate, you must let it melt upon your tongue, and try and tease out it's complexity.

Alas, I must play little food games, too, like putting the chocolate in the freezer so I can only savor a bit at a time (and it takes longer to melt that way -- don't want to break a tooth, right?