Friday, June 23, 2006

Sex education

Remember, kids. There are only a few 100% methods of avoiding pregnancy:

  1. Abstinence. I don't like that there's no real sex education in the schools, but I gotta say the abstinence option should always be at least pointed out. It is an option. You will not make a baby through abstinence.
  2. Homosexual sex. We should promote this more. And educate people on how to have safe homosexual sex. Homosexual sex produces fewer unwanted pregnancies than heterosexual sex BY FAR. Just look at the statistics. Homosexual sex pregnancies: 0% in 2005. Let's have more homosexual sex, people!
  3. Above all else, keep your distance from test tubes. If you must go near them, watch them very carefully. These are tricky bastards. Test tubes will get you pregnant before homosexual sex will. Watch yourself.

That is all. Next week we will talk about the good diseases versus the bad diseases. See you then.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A sip becomes a glug (and a burp)

I did something foolish last night, but I'm not sorry.

I read about a short fiction contest on Jason Evans's blog. (Strunk & White say it is "Evans's," not "Evans'," believe it or not.) The deadline for submissions was Wednesday at midnight. I thought it would be fun to write something, but with so little time?

A few hours later, I inexplicably found myself sending a precisely 250-word story to Jason Evans. I can only say the timing was right. I'd had a brief conversation about luthiery, a new word for me. And I'd admired and considered the haunting photograph Jason had posted as inspiration. But most importantly, perhaps, the quite immediate deadline prompted me to sit down and write, instead of pondering, procrastinating, and ultimately passing on the whole thing. Timing, it is said, is everything.

Also, calendars are useful. The deadline for the stories is Wednesday, midnight, June 28. A week later.

So I did something a little foolish. I wrote a 250-word piece of fiction for possibly the first time in my life, and I submitted it without giving it time to breathe. Uncorked, it does have character. Some interesting flavors. But it's a little undefined, a little murky. I should have decanted... instead of drinking straight from the bottle, glug, glug!

The thing, in short, needs some serious editing. But I'm not sorry. I like it. I'll edit it...


luthier: A lute-maker (OED Online)
luthier: One who makes stringed instruments (Merriam-Webster Online)

I don't get it

What's so hot about a "melting pot" anyway? I just don't get it.

Consider sushi. Consider a nice piece of mackerel on rice. The rice appears white, pure, but is actually delicately flavored with vinegar and sugar. The mackerel is oily and lightly pickled, rich with the taste and smell of the sea. A smudge of hot, green wasabi paste between fish and rice surprises the palate and the brain, making you a tiny bit light-headed. A sprinkling of chopped, young green onions and yellow mustard paste on top adds a fresh note, like you have only just stopped for a picnic on the side of a sunlit country road.

Ocean and earth, meat and grain, taste and feel. Each different flavor and each different texture adds to the sensation.

Can you imagine the same ingredients all melted together? Blech.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My cadillac conversion

Yawning, I stepped on the accelerator, hit my turn signal, passed the annoying white F-150 with the oblivious driver on my left, popped into the fast lane, and passed the smoke-yellow Cadillac with the peeling tint windows and the dangling driver-side mirror on my right. Finally out of that clump of stupidity, I sped off toward work and suddenly thought, When did this become a normal part of my life?

My old friends know that I don't drive. I grew up in downtown Toronto. I know the transit like the back of my hand. I have a very nice Brody mountain bike. I have at least two taxi cab telephone numbers memorized. And, after all, I rent, and parking spaces are expensive.

Evening driver's ed lessons were offered through my High School, before I dropped out. There was a small fee, quite a manageable amount, but I lived with my father, who had neither a car nor a license. I knew I wouldn't be using a license if I got one. And if I ever actually left Toronto, I'd only be moving to New York, or London, or perhaps Vancouver. City people don't leave the city. That's ridiculous. Small town people move to the city, and sometimes they don't like it and they leave again. City people are city people forever. What did I need a driver's license for?

Then I made friends with a military guy in the U.S. He knew cars. He apparently knew everything there was to know about cars. He actually owned more than one car! I'd shake my head and smile. What a quirky, funny interest to have. How frivolous. How exotic.

In January 2000, this same friend drove his Mustang convertible up to Toronto to fetch me for our third date. I tucked my trusty VCR, blue-glass wine glasses, and oriental rug into the small back seat, and put my Brody on a rack on the back. We drove South through snow. Partway to our destination, I helped replace a thermostat. And he did something with a whole lot of pepper. We arrived at what was instantly, patently my new home, and I unloaded my bicycle and started my new adventure.

And learned, very quickly, that one cannot live in middle Georgia without a car.

I fought this reality, I really did. I love my bike. And I was scared of driving. In the end, though, I wanted that driver's license as a kind of declaration. I've moved. I'm not going back.

Now I am a driver. And about 50 pounds overweight, because like everybody else here, I drive from point A to point B, and "exercise" is that effort of getting out of the car... and getting back in again. I miss the city more and more these days, the walking, the hailing of cabs, the way my sister and I could stand in the Subway without holding onto anything, and know which side's doors would open at any given station on the map. I miss riding my bike.

But I can't go back, you see. Because I also love my car!


Vehicle profile:

Name: Rocinante

Specs: 1994 Honda del Sol Si, manual, red, with ABS, CC, A/C, some kind of exhaust modification so it buzzes rather than growls, and a truly crappy little stereo (but no antenna)

Purchase date: August 2005

Repairs: In March 2006, the clutch self-destructed while I was on my way to work. In May 2006, we took the car back off the jack stands and I drove it with a new clutch. Very nice! Three days later, on my way home, the brakes failed. A week after that, Luther installed a new brake master cylinder. The next day, I drove to work and back again, and the car was better than ever (well, except for the CC, A/C, and stereo, but whatever). Really great brakes, really great shifting, all beautiful. I took the top off. Life was good. The day after that, we decided to take this little hotrod to the base for some shopping, and it wouldn't crank. Windows go up and down, fuel pump makes that fuel pump sound... but I can't actually drive the car.

For some reason, I still love my Rocinante. Go figure.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The edge of the world

I just woke up from a dream.

I was trying to tell a student about a town he should visit. It's like Savannah, except it's smaller and better. It's the northernmost point of the United States. There's a little town, and waterfront. The main streets of the town come to a point, where there're a few entertainment businesses and nightspots and restaurants on the water. One of the businesses is built up on pilings, so that you can walk down from the road, underneath the business and out again, to the cold beach, rich with wildlife, and look out toward the edge of the world.

I couldn't remember the name of the town. It was making me batty. I made him get up from the computer, and I sat down and googled. I googled images, I google-mapped, I googled... and Google failed me. Despite the lovely head-and-shoulders massage the student was giving me, the frustration of being unable to find this place finally got to me, and I woke up.

After waking, I lay in bed frowning, trying to remember the name of the town. I'm awake now, so why can't I remember it? I went over some of the points of the dream in my mind... and the word "Savannah" stopped me. Savannah? In the dream, Savannah was the bigger, better-known destination near the town I tried to locate. But Savannah is in Georgia. It's nowhere near the northernmost point of the country. And when I'd said this place was like Savannah, I'd meant Key West, of course, the southernmost point of the United States, with two streets that end at that point, at the water, where many people each day have their pictures taken.

Listening to Luther's puttering sounds (oh goodie, he went downstairs and turned the coffee pot on!), I slowly realized that the northernmost town with the name I can't remember... only exists in my dreams. But the frustration is very real because I have indeed been there before. Several times.

Do you revisit places in your dreams?

The northernmost point has appeared in my dreams often. There is something like a river that comes up along the northwestern shore, with wilderness along the other side. Sometimes, in my dreams, I come up this waterway in a canoe, a kayak, a steamboat, a motorboat. Sometimes it's almost tropical, with alligators. I am sure to land at the town, because here is where the water is becoming dangerous, although sometimes I see whales and seals. The river opens onto some kind of bay (I'd have the correct terms if I'd paid more attention in Geography class, I'm sure), and sometimes there is an island in the center of it, and sometimes there is just water and a giant whirlpool, so coming in to the town is risky as you skirt the influence at the edges. But it is the point beyond the island/whirlpool that my heart always goes to in the dream. The beyond. The unknown, untraveled, silent emptiness of the North, on the icy water.

It's magnetic. Cheesy, I know.

I don't remember when I have visited before, or what happened in the dreams. Sometimes I get there by car, over hilly islands like the Eastern provinces of Canada. I don't think I've recognized it as recurring, before, but I know it now.This hasn't been my only recurring dream space. The last one I remember was a glass house. I came down to it from a cliff, down hiking trails marked by the Bureau of Parks or whatever, in the gathering darkness of evening. Sometimes I was pursued by mountain lions. Sometimes I died. But usually I came to the house at last, not intentionally, finding a glass house in the middle of a meadow, and feeling drawn in. I'd go to the house and step inside. And there was a dead man, a skeleton, a ghost in a chair. And I knew, I think, that I was also dead.

What amazes me is the landscape of it all. What if I could pull out all these parts of my dream world and establish them together in a shifting landscape that I could actually navigate? When I was small, I learned how to force myself awake from a nightmare, by opening my dream eyes wider and wider until my real eyes responded. Given the superimposed real world on my dream, I could choose the real and go to it. If I could now map out my wider dream landscape, what more could I control, I wonder?