Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Advice Column

My father has given me scads of advice in my lifetime. It’s generally not the kind of advice a person can use, though, because it’s the kind that has to be learned the hard way, which I eventually do, and to his credit he never says “I told you so.” Maybe he tells my sister “I told her so,” meaning me, because that’s what he says to me about her, and Mom, and Rose. He says, “I told him so” to me, talking about Decker, and Hofie, and Kelly, and when he was alive, his dad. But he never looked at me and said “I told you so,” even when I would have deserved it, and even if that’s a pretty slim distinction, I love him for it.

Despite unrealistically demanding that others learn from his mistakes, Dad has certainly handed me some advisory gems that could easily rival in usefulness the whole of Mary Schmich’s Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen (recorded on Baz Luhrman’s lovable Something for Everybody), a poetically preachy missive about everything from accepting advice to accepting yourself. The first of Dad’s admonishments was “watch out for snakes.” He spoke those words as I was carelessly meandering down a slope in the backyard of his rented basement apartment in Chula Vista, California, for I was a Wyoming desert child and perfectly unaware that the luxurious ivy and pachysandra groundcover might conceal poisonous snakes. (Wyoming has only one species of poisonous reptile: the chronically reclusive and commonly reviled genus Crotalus, the humble rattlesnake.) In the nearly ten years I lived in California, I saw a snake only once, and that was the two-headed snake Thelma and Louise at the incomparable San Diego Zoo. Still, I consider this good advice. Now, if only he’d warned me about the inch-long metallic green Cotinus nitida, the massive green june beetles that careen drunkenly around the southern California sky. I quickly learned they were harmless (to humans, not fruit) but my first encounter was quite the scare and I never did get comfortable with them zooming recklessly at my head. We don’t have many bugs in Wyoming, either, compared to southern California; mostly we see ants, flies, mosquitos, moths and spiders, grasshoppers and, if you hunt them, ant lions. No cockroaches, few beetles, rarely termites, the occasional centipede or scorpion or beady-eyed Child-of-the-Earth (Woh-seh-tsinni, Old Man Bald Head, or Jerusalem Cricket). And once, after some bead traders from Africa stayed in a room at the motel, Mom found a huge, orange mantis-like insect and Sharon had to call Shahan Weed and Pest up from Evanston. My personal favorites are the rolly-polly or potato bug, which curls up into an armored ball when you poke it, and the ladybug, but only because there’s that song about Let the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose. This has been sung at me on various occasions by very dear, silly people. Ladybugs, in case you didn’t know, do bite. But I have never been stung by a bee or hornet, wasp or yellow jacket, or bitten by a horsefly or deerfly. Knock. On. Wood.

The second bit of advice Dad summarily dispensed, and which I repeat to myself daily, referred to driving but somehow seems to find its way into every aspect of my life. “Never back up when you can go forward.” He simply meant that you have a lot less chance of striking something with your vehicle if you’re moving forward, where you can see almost all obstacles, as opposed to backward, where things are more readily concealed by the bulk of your vehicle. This phrase applies to life, too, though, and I’m sure you can see how. I recently climbed slowly out of one dangerous relationship with a reckless and irresponsible person, and I’m sure as heck not diving into another (or the same one). I’ll never again rack up debt, perm or dye my hair, subscribe to anything that seems too good to be true, or get anywhere near any organized religion, all in the name of moving forward and not in reverse.

I don’t always follow this advice, though. For example: several years in a row now I have made, to a local fundraising organization, a time-consuming commitment that I bitterly resented in the long run (even though it led to a piece of my artwork selling at auction for just under $4,000.00. The money went to Historic Preservation, a cause I love with all my heart, but still you must agree that it’s an important bullet on my list of marvelousness, thank you B. S., and OMG your initials are B. S.). You’d think I’d learn, but by God this spring I did it again. Now I refuse to answer my landline (J. O’B., thank you so much for the Caller ID) and I’m hiding from half the people I know, which isn’t easy in a town of thirteen thousand. I’m suffering a tremendous amount of guilt about this because after all, I did commit again (recommit?), and a person I adore and respect is involved with the committee and I always seem to flake out on the projects he recruits me for. He is still kind and complementary whenever we meet; that is, when he’s not harassing me for constanly disappearing. He is my Main Street mentor and I will always be glad for his many votes of confidence, but doesn’t it always seem like that sort of thing comes with a price? And why does it have to be my time? I’m spread pretty thin as it is (and yes, blogging is high on my priority list. I need the practice and the therapy). And shouldn’t this time in my life (twenties) be for personal enrichment, anyhow, and later I can donate my time, money, etc., when I have more of everything to offer? Or am I being a selfish cow? I just can’t seem to find a balance.

It seems like my diet consists mainly of raisin bran with soymilk, because it’s cheap, refreshing, cold and speedy. I also eat a lot of raw fruit, hard-boiled eggs, nuked red potatoes and string cheese. I’m being harassed (and you know who you are) about the deficit of meat in my diet but I tell you, I just can’t bring myself to handle it raw, which is generally necessary when preparing it. Raw chicken is just the worst. It’s like… yuck. I can’t even think about it without blanching. I will make an attempt to get over this because I think I’d die if anybody ever accused me of vegetarianism, which may be a punishable criminal offense in Wyoming. Besides, I do love meat, as long as I don’t have to prepare it myself. I used to actually cook but it gets tedious to cook for just me alone, and cuisine is really not my focus. Good cooks like Mom and Jo and Morgan are constantly trying to feed me, so I honestly get plenty of variety. Also, Morgan usurped all the domestic genes in the womb and demands recognition for leaving me all the artsy genes. Thanks, M. Now come over and fold my fitted sheets.

Travis cornered the biggest rockchuck either of us has ever seen this afternoon in a pipe behind the second reservoir. One end of the pipe has a hydrant attached and he blocked the other end with some heavy generator parts that were lying around. We have bets on whether the thing will still be there in the morning when Jeff from Animal Control comes to pick it up and relocate it at least ten miles outside City limits. (I suppose my being there is the only reason the guys refrained from turning him into bloody bits of rodent confetti, but I’m not sure how I feel about them killing it so I guess that’s okay.) They’re a horrible nuisance (a whole independent post’s worth) and this one in particular seems to be invincible, so I won’t be sorry to see him go if he’s still there tomorrow. Chuckies, like any other rodent, can squeeze through the most amazingly disproportionate apertures. I say he’ll be out by midnight, but I’m not positive. That is one big chuck.

My violin teacher was manipulating my bow hand as an example for the class, trying to get me to rest the weight of my forearm on a specific finger, and I must have been making the ingratiating squinty face I unintentionally make when I’m embarassed or disturbed because he abruptly asked “does that hurt?” I said, “oh, no, I’m grimacing for effect,” and it took us five minutes to stop laughing and resume the lesson. I don’t think anything is that funny when you’re being honest, but once in a while I’m okay to be the wit in the room, even if people are assuming. I think I was actually making the face because what’s supposed to be happening with the bow hand is such an uncomfortable, unnatural thing to me that I automatically feel I’m being tortured. And to think, this was all my idea.


Blogger Shepcat said...

Actually, if you could have Morgan guest-post her technique for folding fitted sheets, you'd be providing a great public service for those of us who are easily infuriated by such tasks. I, for one, usually end up wadding the damn things into a ball and stuffing them in the back of the linen closet.

April 7, 2005 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger A said...

That's an excellent proposal; I'll see if she's up to it. It had better involve some pictures, too. You know, for a few years I refused to buy sheets because as long as I only had one set, they had to be put right back on the bed the instant I washed them, eliminating the need for folding. That technique creates its own inconveniences, sadly.

April 7, 2005 at 10:49 PM  

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