Saturday, November 30, 2002

Stupid #$%^ing Backyard Brawl! Grrr... Today I was thinking about starting to write some political stuff about where a left-thinking person like myself thinks American politics, and particularly Democrats and left-wingers (two groups that are increasingly disconnected) should be going. But I just can't deal with it. Now I have to hope that my Trojans beat the living snot out of the Irish tonite to salvage a split for the alma maters on the day. Losing the Brawl and the Shillelagh on the same day could spawn a massive ugly binge of consumption and self-loathing. Oh wait, Thanksgiving and life have already conspired to bring that about. So that double loss would actually just spawn a lot of cursing at the TV. Still, not something I want.

On the book front, I crossed one more off the aforementioned (see 11/26 entry) S.F. Chronicle list today, Anne Lamott's Crooked Little Heart. This is a story about a 13-year-old in a relatively affluent Bay Area suburb, a girl who is a solid juniors-level tennis player and who is struggling with the onset of her teenage years. I enjoyed things about this book, particularly the tennis stuff, since I played as a teen and went to (and got killed at) a handful of local tournaments. Rosie, the protagonist, and her mother Elizabeth, step-father, and best friend/doubles partner are all complex, well-drawn characters. Without meaning anything judgmental by this, however, Crooked Little Heart is clearly a book written by women for women, as we spend most of the book in Rosie's or Elizabeth's heads as they struggle with being mothers, daughters, wives, etc. While adults can read this book and enjoy it, I would also classify it primarily as "young adult" fiction with all of its coming of age themes. Two things about this book bugged me a bit. One is that I am always offended by even hints of cultural snobbery (although I can be guilty at times too), and it struck me as sonbbery or at least sloppiness that adults listened to "Schubert's Trout", "Mozart", or even "Judy Collins", while Rosie listened to "rap" or "loud music"--as if Rosie's music was an undifferentiated mass but adults' music choices were more subtle and required specificity to understand. Secondly, almost every character in the book--male or female, adult or teen--is obsessed with the sexuality of Rosie's friend Simone in the sense that they all feel her allure deeply. The hint of lesbianism and pedophilia doesn't so much bother me--the book consistently deals with the theme of how we deal with uncomfortable and unacceptable feelings and impulses, and why choosing more normal actions is often wise. What does bother me is the open conversations among adults discussing this fourteen-year-old in highly charged tones, as if such discussions were as routine as talking about the weather. I know authors putting their ideas in characters' mouths is a major element of fiction, but in some cases it can be eerie and can also ring very false. If all this sounds interesting to you (and not pruriently--looking to this book for that will leave you disappointed), then I would recommend this book to you. Personally, I'm going to have to reassert my masculinity by reading a Western or something hard-boiled.

And I promise that the political stuff is coming, but until football is over it is clearly the thing I am most likely to rant about...

Thursday, November 28, 2002

This has been my first Thanksgiving at home in five years, and for the most part it's been very nice. All the standard fixin's and whatnot, but with some points off because my brother raised a bit of a ruckus. About seven years ago my parents' oven stopped working, and instead of fixing it they've used a convection oven and other stopgap measures. This makes some amount of sense--the oven is built into the wall and would be a bitch to fix or replace. However, it also means that baking is out of the question, which is only really an issue around the holidays. So today, it was emphatically made an issue. Nevertheless, a solid turkey say, all things considered.

After turkey, the main thing that goes with Thanksgiving is of course watching Lions and Cowboys games--a tradition that I vehemently believe in maintaining, in spite of the current uproar to rotate Thanksgiving Day hosts. Two things about this years games really got me going. One was the Patriots breaking out the old red uni's, which always put a hop in my stop. They are my favorite NFL uniform that has gone out to pasture, and there is no close second. Also they made for a strange realization around the second quarter when I realized something was amiss--neither team was wearing white! The second thing that got me going was seeing Darrell Green not only at cornerback but even going back as the second deep safety on the Redskins' last-minute punt return. I'm not going to say Darrell Green is old, but in his first Thanksgiving Day game the opposing quarterback was Squanto.

Thanksgiving football has been somewhat diminished in my mind, though, because I now associate it with my worst Thanksgiving ever, which I also consider the nadir of my four-year Southern California sojourn. Thanksgiving Day 1998 I arrived at Gabe's Bar and Grill, my favorite Socal Steeler bar, in time for the 9:30 a.m. PST kickoff of the Steelers and Lions, to see a crowd of maybe half a dozen that swelled to maybe 15 at its height. At halftime we were served an ugly parody of Thanksgiving dinner--no one ever went to Gabe's for the food--that ruined my first-ever major family holiday away from home. Oh yeah, and that was also the Luckett-Bettis coin toss game, the less said about which the better. Just a depressing day to be 2500 miles away from home and not yet settled in to a new social network of any kind.

SoCal Thanksgivings did get markedly better from there, it should be noted. In 1999 and 2000 Kristan and I, being the only ones in our group without holiday plans, went to the Covina Hometown Buffet and then theater-hopped at the AMC Covina 30. We saw 5 movies in those two years, including Toy Story 2 and The Insider if memory serves. In 2001 five of us saw the late morning show of the first Harry Potter movie at the incomparable Grauman's nee Mann's nee Grauman's Chinese Theater, and then four of us drove all over Pasadena and points east looking for an open restaurant, finally ending up at Black Angus, strangely enough again in Covina. That was my first non-turkey Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm in no hurry to have a second.

Speaking of which, I think it's about time for a sandwich...

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Oh yeah, email me or not...

So as I mentioned yesterday, I am currently temping at a coal mine a couple thousand yards from the West Virginia border. There are pros and cons to this job, as you might imagine. Here are some:

PROS: I will make my next car payment. I am out of the house. I like driving on back roads. For a temp job, the work is not too bad and the pay is not abysmal.

CONS: The TV right outside the office I am working in plays CMT most of the day, and CMT seems to be on about a five-song rotation of music I hate anyway--definitely not "The Good Stuff". The Co-Temp.

The Co-Temp will remain nameless, but oldies fans of The Cufflinks might figure out that everything she does bounces me off the ceiling, and not in a good way. We are carpooling because she cannot handle the directions, even after two weeks. The Co-Temp also is one of those people who is constantly telling the nearest person (for 10 hours a day: yours truly) all of the current dilemmas of their outside life and asking for that person's opinion on every decision--however minor--that they face. Since these decisions involve a separation, two kids under the age of four, a court appeal, and various job interviews/offers, you might think that a virtual stranger's opinion would be beside the point. But not the Co-Temp. Also, the Co-Temp is one of those people who has developed a feigned stupdity about most things as a defense mechanism against having to make any decisions or do anything. Am I being a bit harsh? Perhaps, and I can empathize with someone trying to raise two young kids on her own. But I also have a pretty good idea of why she got that way. And besides, this is my place to vent--I'm never anything but civil in person. But enough about that unpleasantness--four days off will hopefully soothe the mind on this issue.

My latest read on the aforementioned booklist was #15 On The Road by Jack Kerouac, one of the most famous books on the list. I really enjoyed it, although it didn't strike me as transcendentally great or anything like that--maybe a B+. I don't know if my 8 one-way trips across the country have jaded me to the experience and/or made it less exotic, or if the adventures are a bit dated. I particularly enjoyed the parts with Old Bull Lee--a thinly disguised William S. Burroughs; the fact that the scenes with his wife occurred shortly before their little William Tell game is a bit creepy, though, and probably should not be dwelt on. I do know, however, that this book should contain a warning label for those who are prone to wanderlust and/or those who are unhappy with their current physical location.

On a final note, a friend from collegefrom whom I hadn't heard in years emailed me yesterday and asked if, presuming the Backyard Brawl goes well, I would like to go to the"Toyota" Gator Bowl. Very, very good times.

Well, so far so good on the "Daily" part...

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

"It's Blog, It's Blog, It's big it's heavy it's wood;
It's Blog, It's Blog, It's better than bad it's good.
Everyone loves a Blog, you're gonna love my Blog!"

I find that it's always good to start a new venture with optimism and a sub-sub-subreference. So there it is. The plan is that this will be your standard issue Blog, perhaps a bit short on the links until I get a job (more on that later), get out of the house (much more on that later), and get a faster connection. But otherwise, diary, commentary, reviews, rants--all the standard issue stuff I guess.

Before getting too far, I suppose I should note that the title of this shindig comes from the name of my hometown and current place of residence. It's a tiny hamlet that exists only because of Henry Clay. It's not without its charm--unfortunately it's without just about everything else, so I will be leaving again as soon as I can get regular employment.

You know your life has taken a strange turn for the weird when you have an advanced degree (OK, an M.A. in History--but that counts, dammit!) from a reputable university and your current job involves nothing more or less than working in a coal mine doing data entry. And, for that matter, going to lunch means driving into the nearest town across the Mason-Dixon Line.

One other thing I'll mention for now is that during my unemployment I decided I wanted to find some new authors and new books (new in the "if you haven't seen it, it's new to you" sense). In that vein I came across this list, of which I had read seven already and have now read 18 and counting. Watch this space for reviews or at least some meditations as I proceed.

Thanks for reading; more to come...