Tuesday, May 21, 2013
That Special Something
I see it all on the bus, all kind of folk in all sorts of states. There’s a repertory of known faces and an unceasing rotation of guests stars and supernumeraries. In the dozen years I’ve observed them, they’ve developed my eye for detail, but also for something else - a potential, an incipience that leaves me thinking that some certain person bears watching. And thus it was on March the 4th, the international day of stepping out. And here is how it happened:
I was riding in on my usual bus on a typical morning in my regular seat. I looked around as the coach was getting full and noticed a young woman across from me with an ineffable quality. She was pretty, but not so much so as to be disruptive; she was nicely dressed, but not to excess. She looked like the young woman anyone would want in the office - smart, capable, thoughtful, decisive, tidy. I still couldn’t tell what it was about her exactly, but there was something. I would keep my eye on this one.
It was only a block or two later that my premonition was confirmed. I glanced up from my notebook, saw her looking thoughtful. Something flickered across her eyes and then, decisively, untidily, she sneezed. While it was not a particularly loud sneeze, it was exceptionally productive: as her hand shot to her nose a jumbo complement of viscous goo discharged with powerful abundance from both her nostrils, blasting across the palms of her hands, between her fingers, onto her legs, plastering her lips and dangling from her chin in sticky ropes. This was an authentic, full-bore snot-spackling, and the whole thing had happened directly across a three-foot-wide bus aisle from me. Then this woman showed me why I’d noticed her in the first place: faced with the most grotesquely embarrassing circumstances, she totally dealt with them. Truly, it was a thing to see.
She appeared to have no absorbent disposables available. Rather, she set in with grim deliberation manually, working her hands, which were cupped and dripping before the lower part of her face as an impromptu modesty screen, to get one, then the other, free for a quick blot on the inside hem of her skirt. Then, workmanlike, she used both hands to wipe off her face. That accomplished, she turn to the rest of her person. No hesitation, no shame. She may have drowned herself in boogers on a crowded public bus, but she cleaned that mess right up, picking up the larger bits, brushing away the less solidified portions with the back of a no-nonsense hand. She didn’t stop till she was totally tidied, looking like she had when she had first boarded the bus. Only then did she pick up her novel again, and discreetly withdraw into it.
It had been a virtuoso performance, and had all happened within the span of a single minute. She had descended into a vortex of phlegm, and then re-emerged with astonishing aplomb. I thought, a young woman who could handle that kind of mucolanche, with such savoir faire, could probably handle just about anything. I’ll be honest, she inspired me. And it’s not every overflowing sinus that I can say that for. I was impressed. But then again, I’d have expected no less. I don’t notice just anybody on the bus, don’t you know.
it was like this when I got here at 09:42 PM
Sunday, May 12, 2013
End of an Eara
I like music and fill my home with it. More than a crackling hearth or the smell of baking bread, the capacity to crank out my tunes has been a core criterion for me feeling at home, wherever I have lived. When I was young there was always music in my house and something to play it on. The family had a stereo, and I got my own record player very early on - the sort that folded up into its own little musical suitcase. I’ve gone on on here before about my old clock radio, my bar mitzvah stereo, my introductory tape deck… since my most junior days I’ve always had audio equipment, and I used it. I’ve rocked the big-ass boom boxes, walkmen, diskmen, transistor radios, ipods, and a wide range of car stereo options.
And of course, I always had a receiver with numerous components of associated auditory hardware, residing in a place of honor: first, the strong reliable cinderblock shelves, then the heavy craftsmen-style honey oak media cabinet. That’s where I kept my turntable, my cassette player, my cd changer, and my VCR and/or DVD players. With two solid little speakers clipped into the back, the whole assemblage stood ever ready to blast a critical dose of Tull or Costello or Jerry or whoever was in regular rotation at the time, whenever rhythm, melody, or syncopation were needed.
Well, you know what’s happened to all that stuff. My cassettes plumb wore out and the player is in storage, boxed up and obsolete. The turntable is in the manufacturer’s crate, after a decade or so of neglect on the shelf. The VCR is long gone, though some tapes linger in a ratty shopping bag I’m keeping that’s full of ferric oxide cassettes, audio and video, archaic media i can neither use nor discard. The CDs are all put away in notebooks and the changer hasn’t seen much use at all since the whole library went into my hard drive, to which I’ve attached a small but rich speaker that well-fills small spaces. The iPod got connected to the stereo but felt superfluous once my phone started storing all the tunes I needed at any one time; I actually forgot I even had it after a while. Pandora and Spotify started feeding me most of my music, constantly surprising me with new selections and unexpected combinations. Instead of adding to my collections of LPs and discs, I started buying music electronically and storing it in the cloud. Our new TiVo box even lets us stream music through the television. Music has progressively become less a part of my physical furnishings, and more a part of my existence as an electronic organism.
My media cabinet had already lost its primary function, its main cavity no longer configured to fit our new-style television which now stands naked on a sideboard. The massive cabinet was relocated to the dining room, its shelves now mostly empty, now just a place to store paperwork and school supplies. Only the old receiver and CD changer languishing there were reminders of the proud role that cabinet once had. These components were no longer being used but they were too beloved to be junked. Still, I found it increasingly difficult to justify their taking up valuable electrical plugs now needed for recharging e-readers and game consoles.
One day not long ago, in a frenzy of tidying and reorganizing, I hauled some old boxes down to the garage. There I noticed the cardboard crates in which the old receiver and CD changer had originally been packaged, jammed safely in a corner.They spoke to me: it was time to pull the plugs and put away the components I no longer used.
Back upstairs, it was the work of just a few minutes to disconnect the cables and to fit my cherished black boxes of euphony into the styrofoam cradles and cardboard boxes I’d presciently saved. My fiddling about brought the iPod back to daylight; the boys were fascinated by it and examined it gleefully. As I considered taking it from them and wondered where it should be kept, I realized that the boys had no way to play music on their own. Additionally, our fancy-pants teevee had an audio input port into which I could plug the pod-dock. As easily thought as done, I swiftly cabled it up and successfully tested it. How droll, it all still worked. I wasn’t sure how I would now use it, or if the boys would find it useful, but at least it was back in play now for anyone who desired it.
Of course, it would be playing through the teevee’s stock speakers, which I’d long since concluded were not its strongest feature. It wold be nice to utilize the little bookshelf Polks I’d just disconnected. But the speakers used speaker wire, and the teevee used RCA connectors. How to bridge the gap?
The internet, as ever, held the answer: the speakers didn’t go to the teevee, they went to a receiver. The receiver went to the teevee. It was suddenly so obvious. I checked the television - the audio outputs were clearly marked. I had yet to move the boxed-up receiver out of the dining room, so I just unpacked it again. It fit perfectly right under the television, in the space where we’d been keeping our clutch of remotes. The speakers then connected back to the receiver like they’ve always done, resting on either end of the long sideboard for maximal stereoscopic separation. I got some fresh speaker wire, plugged everything in, and bless my kishkes, it worked.
Now the receiver has regained its place of prominent honor, front and center in the living room. It can amplify the sound of television or a DVD, as well as streaming music or the hoary old iPod. It gives you the soundtrack to your Wii games - or anything else you do on the Wii. It can even play the goddamn radio. It sounds as good as ever, and it may actually be set up a little more usefully. Welcome back old friend. It was weird putting you away for twenty minutes like that. It’s nice to hear from you again.
it was like this when I got here at 03:10 PM
mysteries of the modern world
Sunday, May 05, 2013
Reclaiming my Drawers
I was in the yoga class - the evening one, the vigorous one, and the resident yogini was moving us out of the loosen-up phase and into the getting-sweaty phase. At such junctures I make sure to be appropriately dressed in a not-too-saggy t-shirt, unconstricting shorts, and a bandana tied around my head. The bandana is key equipment, because I am a perspirey sort of exerciser and I’ve got no hair north of my eyebrows to soak up the ol’ scalpsweat. Without a don’t-rag I can turn into a dripping, eye-burning mess. So I don’t even think about it - when I work out I tie one on around the noggin. It is as close to a personal “style” as I’m likely to come.
So there in my yoga class I stood and stooped and squatted, in stretchy shorts and Tri-State t-shirt and an orange bandana, just trying to get my prna on track, when the instructrix turned to me. “Hey Dan,” she asked in a voice simultaneously perky and jaded, “How many bandanas do you even have?”
I’d been called out. As I crouched into fierce pose I gave a fairly honest answer: “I got a whole drawerful.” “A whole drawer?!” “Yeah,” I grunted, “it’s not a very big drawer though.” The conversation then moved to the etymology of the word “drawer” so I didn’t have to explain myself further. Which is fine, because that’s what this here Chucklehut is for.
Look up at the little symbol there at the top of this web page - a metal ring on an oak board. Maybe you don’t recall - maybe you’ve got better things to remember - but that’s not just any old ring on some generic oaken plank: It’s a drawer-pull from my own home dresser, the swedish provincial bureau I’ve used since my pre-twinkle days. It’s the dresser my dad got at age 3 after his original bedroom set sort of caught fire and burned up. He’s described to me seeing the flames from his crib and how his auntie rescued him. Next thing he knew, he had all-new furniture, which eventually became my old furniture. There were about a dozen pieces originally but only two survived to furnish my room as a lad - a dresser and a mirror. These I’ve already described in excruciating detail, so we needn’t get too particular about the aesthetics.
The thing is, from my earliest days using my legacy dad-dresser, I’ve organized the drawers in it in a very particular way: socks, smallclothes, white t’s, colored t’s, and shorts and miscellaneous habiliments, each in their own drawer, top to bottom respectively. That’s how I did it as a halcyon youth, and as a callow adolescent, and when I teetered over the cusp of manhood and left the dresser behind on my way to big boy college. Thenceforward I maintained pretty much the same arrangement, though in a variety of different bureaux. Then, in 2004 or so when I got the dad-drawers back from him (he’d been storing the dresser in his garage), I returned again to the original set-up. I had a structure that worked for me, and I kept at it pretty much steady on till, well, a couple of months ago.
I’m not a big fan of change for its own sake, and not much more enamored of it for good cause. I wouldn’t say I fear change, exactly, but I’m never first in the rush to embrace it either. It takes a fair quantum of inconvenience to get me to jump my rut. But as it turns out, I actually got to that point recently vis-a-vis my bandanas.
My bottom dresser drawer held my shorts, including both those intended for street wear and those for gym wear. My t-shirts suitable for exercise (closer-fitting, fast drying, athletically themed or possessed otherwise of favorable gymnastic associations) were intermingled with my more pedestrian and formal t-shirts; undergarments more supportive of my pendulous generative hardware nested indiscriminately among my baggy boxers. For want of a better option my burgeoning supply of bandanas were wadded into a corner of that same drawer too, while my socks - athletic, casual, business and party - filled the smallest and topmost dresser drawer a bit past overflowing.
Consequently, on mornings when I needed to pack a gym bag to bring with me to work, I had to rifle through four different drawers for one set of sweat-friendly garments. As my time spent in this process accumulated from week to week, my efficiency-loving self began to realize that the advantages of sticking with a well-tested system of dresser organization was starting to lose me a fair amount of precious morning set-up and haul-out time. The old arrangement was starting to make less sense every time I went through 80% of my dresser to grab my action duds. With more surprise than reluctance, I realized that the time for change was upon me, like a clammy spandex singlet and a sopping cotton bandana.
So here’s what I did - fair warning, it’s pretty radical: I took all my exercise gear - shirts, shorts, bananahammox, and my bouquet of bandanas - and consolidated the lot of it in the top drawer. The socks - all of them - got jammed in the next drawer down with the “regular” undergarments. And everything else stayed where it had always been, just with a little more room where previously shared space is shared no longer
I’m pretty used to the new arrangement now, the shock of the new giving way to the pleasures of modern convenience. I still sometimes mess up and open the gym drawer when I’m just looking for my sox, but it is to laugh. The time saved on gym-bag mornings, or yoga nights or bike-riding weekend afternoons, has prepared that inconvenience. And that old dresser, in action since 1937, has yet another new lease on life.
Plus, I can tell my yogini that I have a bandana-drawer. As the bandana dude in that class, I think it shows a certain level of self-respect, or -awareness, at least. I’ll just start small and build up. Or I’ll start at the top and work down. Anyway, wherever it is it’s a start, and that’s something.
it was like this when I got here at 09:56 PM
the story of my life (abridged)
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I know it’s supposed to be impossible to teach a cat anything, and our Rufus is unusually dense…
I know it’s supposed to