Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fortress of Solitude

I had a ruthless weekend. I felt ambushed at every turn, blindsided by bad luck and betrayal and depression. I finally got around to watching Love, Actually, which I’ve wanted to see for a year. It was lighthearted and fairly witty and enjoyable, and I loved the cast. (I have long suspected that Liam Neeson is the only living celebrity that would cause me to have a nervous breakdown if I met him on the street. But I’m forgetting Christopher Walken.) I felt like a few things just weren’t wrapped up by the end of the film. Still, I think we’ll get it for Mom. She’ll adore the prime minister’s goofy disco sequence and the octopus costume.

The Cadillac is surprisingly sure-footed on snow and ice. I forget that it has twice the power and probably weighs nearly twice as much as my truck; I shouldn't be so surprised. It plows through drifts and crunches over ice boulders like a tank, and it makes me feel safe.
Winter has never hurt me this bad, knocked the joy out of me like a physical blow. It’s all sharp edges and bitterness and long periods of dark. After the emotional desolation of the weekend I don’t really care if Christmas comes or not. It might have something to do with Dad and Grandma, and not only Friday's holiday-related disagreement. I keep finding things I was going to give Grandma and Dad for Christmas, little stuff I’d squirreled away early in the year, just silly things to make them smile. Neither of them really needed anything. Mom took such incredible care of them that there was never anything to want for, except time and attention, and I feel like I did at least give that. I'm putting off sending the few Christmas cards I bother with, because I know I'll have to say something about the year. What is there to say? I can’t even seem to induce the holiday spirit with shopping and music and memories. And I know I’m not going to bother decorating, which makes me want to cry. Doesn't it feel like we just did all this?

I'm honestly working on adjusting my attitude. I'm neglecting the fiction blog I started with such energy, opting to read, instead. Reading keeps me sane and gives me hope. And I almost wish I had a friend devoted and willing enough to cut off my trigger finger, one strong enough to cement my faith, one able to hold my attention for years and years. But of course, I have my mother. I called her on her cellphone a few nights ago (desperate for the counseling and sympathy only she can give) and during our conversation she momentarily "set me down" on the counter while she checked a friendly roughneck into the motel and then answered a phone call. I could hear everything going on in the cozy office she's probably decked out with the vintage decorations she's hauled from home to home for decades. I can't adequately praise her personality; I know this. So it has to be enough for you to try and imagine the feeling I get when I hear her interacting with other people, which may only be possible if your mother is or was as good a parent as mine, or if you know Mom, whose name is Trudy Kay (named for her maternal grandmother Jedert, or Gertrude). Mom's voice is magic. It's welcoming and low and musical, and hearing her talk in her kind, confiding, friendly tone is like a tonic. It doesn't matter what she says (in her lovely, perfectly proper English). She always sounds like the person she's addressing is the most important person in the world, and you get the feeling she would do anything to put them at ease, which is generally the truth. My mother's people, who are absolutely fantastic people (not fanatically churchy, not drunks, not judgemental or nosy or aloof; but enthusiastic and interested and happy, supportive, caring, able, and intelligent and simply, certifiably great) often tell me she's the best of them. Being a bit biased, I am inclined to agree.

But I got sidetracked; I was talking about reading.
I finished A Widow for One Year weeks ago and I’m still trying to forget the scene where the heroine wakes one morning with her husband dead beside her. It forced me to think of Mom, and that April day I will never forget. I read the other day about a fictional, autobiographical account of Jesus’ life that Anne Rice has just wrapped up. In the interview she mentioned “career suicide,” and I thought how brave she is. I read Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome again, and though it fails to spellbind me the way The Thorn Birds always will, it’s well researched and expansive and filled with the everyday details that make her writing so appealing to me. I read some more Annie Proulx (still seeking the secret of her acclaim, but maybe I’m just too close to her subject matter) and some manga, and the latest from Lemony Snicket, because I got tricked into reading the first few and now I have to find out how the Series of Unfortunate Events ends. He's really dragging this on, if you ask me. But I enjoy how he continually tries to convince the reader not to finish the book. Maybe I should take his advice.

Jeff, who speaks in a local Hillyard dialect that early on I frequently had to ask him to translate, seems to have invented a word that I propose adding to the dictionary. The word is "conscue," and in Jeff's usage it means that someone has pulled one over on him or that there has been a miscommunication (of which he is the victim); one might say it's a blend of conceal and skew. "Them engineers sure can conscue the truth." The first time he used it, Travis and I looked at each other and dove for the dictionary. It’s not in there, but I’ve Googled it and it turned out to be French. With my limited French I can't divine what it means to them (which is unusual), but I’m enjoying Jeff’s version. I even added it to my spellchecker. I hope this doesn't give anyone the impression that Jeff is not intelligent; he's extremely logical and resourceful. He just talks like a rancher, and I like him exactly the way he is.

I was sitting with my back against a tiled wall
the other day, talking to Travis while I watched him mop the floor of the men's room. It struck me that I spend a considerable amount of time in the men's room; there's only one key to the stainless steel tissue dispensers, and I'm forever having to go in there and get it. Also, we only have one mop and bucket, so we take turns using it, and I sometimes mop the men's, if Travis is doing something else. I've gone in there to fetch rubber boots and work gloves from lockers, hunt down the Clorox or Lime-A-Way, and witness a plumbing issue that culminated in lithe little Jeff having to squeeze through what appears to be about a fourteen-inch-square hole in the wall (I've never measured it, but I'm pretty good at eyeballing things like that). So I'm not uncomfortable in the men's room, but I'd never want to have a coed biffy; I love having one all to myself. Last week I stooped to using the one at Wal-Mart (which was mercifully empty and fairly clean) and forgot to latch the stall door behind me; I never do it at work, because there's nobody but me. It's amazing how many things become so habitual that you do them automatically. I hope it never causes a problem.


Blogger dorothy rothschild said...

Is it sunny there in winter? It sounds like you need some sun on your head.

Re: Annie Proulx. I haven't read any of the novels, because I always assumed they were too chicklet-y for my taste based on browsing at bookstores. But we read one of her short stories for my writing class. Only one. It was "Brokeback Mountain." I thought it was one of the most flawless short stories I've ever read. It made me curious to read more of her short stories. I'm still not so sure about those novels, though.

December 7, 2005 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Shepcat said...

I still have Accordion Crimes in the on-deck circle, but I have to admit that I was tempted to buy the slim reprint of "Brokeback" that I saw at my neighborhood newsstand the other day and try to read it before seeing the movie.

By the way, I'm a big fan of Richard Curtis' work, but I'm astounded that, as brilliant as he is, he didn't realize that Love, Actually had two or three subplots too many.

December 7, 2005 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger A said...

My heck, wasn't that film just too busy? The porn couple totally lost me and the triangle was too weird. Read Brokeback Mountain first. Like Dot says, it's flawless. It was in the collection of stories I read last month, and I will finally admit that she may be something special. But I can't reconcile myself to the fact that she's marketing this stuff as realistic when, as far as I can see, it's just NOT. A friend of mine says that the eastern side of the state is different, though, cursed- and that's where she lives, so maybe it's just a different frame of reference.

Dot, her Shipping News is probably a good starter novel. It's gritty, and dark-but with a light at the end of the tunnel. And some of her descriptions you simply can never forget. We get well over 300 days of sunshine annually, but when they only last about 8 hours, it just ain't enough. Thank God for tanning beds, I'm desperate for Vitamin D. Just for reference, it was -30 here last night. It's not much warmer now, maybe finally up to 0. Sucks!

December 7, 2005 at 12:35 PM  
Anonymous bekah said...

The gals rest room at Pike's Market in Seattle, when you sit down the stall door only comes as high as your sholders. so other gals walk by and peek in. slightly unnerving, especially when it's "that time of the month" and you are a tourist from a small town.

December 7, 2005 at 2:32 PM  

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