Sunday, May 22, 2011
I spend quite a bit of time thinking about some of these, partly because I'm running out of exceptional qualities, partly because I don't want to offend anyone, and partly because I can't decide if a given attribute is something that makes me Special in a Human sort of way, or just, well, quirky. The second one here is a good Human one, I think. The first may just be a quirk, but let's see if we can develop it a bit...
I know the words to lots and lots of World War I and Civil War - some even pre-Civil War - songs. I also know the words and tunes to lots of ...lord, I don't know what to call them.... the beautiful songs sung by black slaves. I have *no* idea how I came to have this knowledge, but I suspect I was sung to, as a very small baby, by very old people (largely white), including Clara (who was not white), my grandparents' maid/cook/housekeeper. During the past six months of bereavement, I've found the slavery songs particularly comforting. I have no idea of their lives or their pain, I only know what I hear in the music, and I connect with that.
I think one of the reasons radio doesn't appeal to me, for the most part, is because when I do connect with music, I do so at a fairly deep level, and I want to *listen*, i don't want it just to be in the background. It seems disrespectful to both the person I'm speaking with and the person whose music we're ignoring. I don't like popular music much at all, because it doesn't seem to me to have anything to say beyond, "Oh, poor me!" and the occasional, "How pleasing all this is!"
People who know my musical taste think it's weird and random, but I don't think it is at all. I like punk - real punk, not the overprocessed hyper-accessorized pap that is passed off as punk today. Punk was about anger, and I got that.
I like blues, but I want an old blind black man on a small stage with his dog (and. yes, I've seen that many times), not a bunch of suburban kids whose dads sprung for expensive monitors and seem to feel they know what blues is about. I want honest emotions about pain and poverty and loss and also the good stuff, which tend to run towards the excesses humans are capable of. But it's humanity in all its glory and ugliness, and as humans we can connect with one another in it.
I like jazz, particularly earlier jazz, because these guys (almost universally men - there were female vocalists, but few female musicians) had that same bone-deep understanding of misery and longing and joy and all the biggies of our human condition, and they put it in their music without, for the most part, attempting to put it into words. It came out in notes and in the way several musicians could play together. Listen to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue sometime if you don't know what I mean about this.
I like classical. My favorites tend to run to the Baroque, like Glenn Gould doing the Goldberg Variations, but I also really like modern classical (or maybe there's another name - I don't know). I like, for example, John Cage - I loved how brave and intellectual his silence and outside noise pieces were, and I like people who enjoy blowing things out of the water in general.
And I love bagpipes. They always make me cry, no matter what they're playing. Maybe it's like a genetic memory or something.
During the Civil War, one of the most popular songs was "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." Those people knew damned well Johnny wasn't any too likely to come home again, marching or otherwise. But the songs kept up a brave front.
As for the World War i songs, I like the era that they invoke. A great many of those songs demonstrate pain pushed aside in order to present a strong, brave front and sense of duty to mankind in general. You want to know what real horror is about? Read about the Battle of Ypres, and consider that the only memory we have of that today is when old men in uniform outside WalMart sell us paper poppies for a dollar.
I've gotten way more involved in this than I had intended. We'll do #17 tomorrow, maybe. Right now I feel as though I ought to stop what I'm doing, go outside, and pour a libation on the ground.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I am a wearer of gloves. I don't just mean I wear gloves in the winter, the way most people around here do. I wear gloves from September to May, leather driving gloves that I have in at least five colors (black, brown, navy, red, tan...I had a fuchsia pair, but I seem to have lost one somehow.) I also have ski-type gloves and mittens.
I have work gloves - lined, unlined, rubber-palmed, canvas, tall gloves for roses, goat-skin, waterproof, water-resistant (which I've discovered means nothing at all.) If I know I'm going to be getting wet, I'll wear latex single use gloves under my canvas gloves, to keep my hands not only dry but also warm. Unlike virtually every other professional gardener I know, I never go into the garden bare-handed. Never.
In the house I have the regular dish-washing gloves, of course, but I also have nitrile gloves for solvents and a pair of tall welding gloves. I also have special gloves with which to pet cats that are shedding (don't work.) I have probably three boxes of those single use latex gloves - I rarely clean without them, and I even will use a pair if I have to mess around extensively with raw poultry. I don't put my hands in water to wash a single cup without sliding on gloves first.
I don't have OCD (I do keep hand sanitizer in the car and a teensy one in my purse, but doesn't every one nowadays?) I don't have Reynoud's Syndrome, although outside my hands and feet do tend to get uncomfortably cold before other people's seem to. I do have sensitive dry skin, which is probably where this all started.
I even have *drum roll, please* an extra pair of gloves in each car's glove compartment. Hey, you never know.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Good Lord, I'm only halfway? This gets more difficult every day, which, I suppose, is rather the point of the exercise.
Number fourteen is such a basic part of my character that I don't usually think of it as special, or unique, but I suppose it is: I am extremely good at entertaining myself, and can Wait with calm, which was particularly useful when the children were at that age when they had to be driven everywhere. As we live pretty far from anywhere at all, it was rarely worth the effort to drive them someplace, come home, and then drive out again to retrieve them.
If I thought about it ahead of time, I'd pack a book or a magazine, some sketching supplies and a snack. If not, as was usually the case, I could rummage around in the car until I found something of that sort. I could also just sit and watch the people or walk and watch the people or whatever happened to be around me. If it got dark, as often happened, I could go back to my car and nap - I've always been able to fall asleep any time, anywhere. People have remarked, "You mean you just sat there for two hours, *waiting*?!?" as if it were unthinkable to be able to do so. Sure, why not?
I rarely turn on the tv in the house, unless there's something specific on I want to watch, and almost never the radio. In the car, assuming I'm going somewhere alone, I immediately switch on NPR, but in the house it rarely occurs to me to do so - probably because my radio has aerials that must be fussed with and positioned, which is a bother. If I have a passenger in the car, I *never* turn on the radio, in case they wish to converse; if they don't, then I'm perfectly content to cruise along in silence. I'm always surprised when a passenger leans over and turns on the radio, saying, "Let's have some music, shall we?" I rarely snap it off, but I almost always want to. The reception out here is sketchy at best, and the radio is rarely, it seems, playing something we want to hear, so we have to go through that whole "scanning" thing, which I find to be irritating in the extreme.
I know people who always have either the television or the radio - or both - on in their homes. They snap it on first thing in the morning and fall asleep to its sound at night. I think if I had that constant nattering away in the background, I'd be thoroughly 'round the bend in a matter of days. One of the things I've always enjoyed about drawing - and I don't draw particularly well, as artists go - is how very quiet it gets inside your head when you're concentrating on line.
Maybe it's the way I was raised - largely in the quiet, the way I am now - or maybe it's because there's so much chaos inside my head that audio "noise" overloads me. I honestly don't know. My children have escaped my special quality/affliction, and can spend days with things in their ears, listening away to whatever it is. My husband used to have the NFL network on during football season so much that I could recite the various opinion segments.
I suspect that the folks who always have to have noise in their surroundings are afraid of the silence, afraid of what they might hear their own brains say to them or observe. I don't know, really - maybe they're just a lot more outgoing and people-friendly than I am. Or afraid they'll miss something. I get a daily newspaper (I admit, mostly for the cartoons and the crosswords, but I do glance through the important bits) so I'll find out eventually if it is something important.
There are two times I watch a lot of tv: when I don't feel well - then I'll catch up with the Kardashians, see what's cooking on the food network (invariably something is being sprinkled with goat cheese - I really ought to get some goats), watch bros hunt ghosts or watch people bring curious things in to pawn. And the only other time is when I miss my husband too much and the house is just too quiet, then I'll use the noise to distract me.
I just realized I've been sitting here a good five minutes, listening to the cat snore and watching the chickadees argue with the goldfinches over who has first dibs on the seeds. If you saw me, you'd think I was actually watching, or thinking some deep thought. Honestly, I'm just sitting here. In the words of Satchel Paige (one of my heroes, incidentally), "Sometimes I sets and thinks, and sometimes I just sets." Me too, Satch, me too.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
These two are related - I could probably make them one quality, but I'm getting dangerously close to the stage of "I can tell a daffodil from a dandelion" for a special quality - so I'm stretching them into two separate Special Qualities.
My first entry here is that I can readily admit when I don't know something. It doesn't puncture my ego in the least to ask for help, even of the most basic nature, or to look for information. This became most apparent when we moved to the country ten years ago.
In academia, you're expected to know the workings of your own field, and that's it - if you're in Mathematics, no one expects you to know about European History. Out here, though, it seems that you're supposed to have this vast, overarching knowledge of All Things Agricultural, from being able to identify chickens (and I don't mean like, "Look there's a chicken!" but more like, "There's a Rough-legged Joneses Matterhorn chicken!") to being able to tell if an electric fence is electrified without grabbing it to see if you get a shock *cough*
I've found that most people are willing, even eager, to demonstrate their knowledge of things, ("Me: Does this take gasoline or diesel? ..... long pause....Other person: Diesel. Most tractors take diesel..." ) and for the occasional wise-ass who insists on smirking and commenting, "You didn't know that, huh?" I've been known to reply, "No, and thank you for fixing it for me. The next time you need help with generative grammars, don't hesitate to give me a shout." Gracious, no. But with my upbringing (Northeast urban all the way) they're lucky they didn't get ... an entirely different reaction.
Part two of this is my ready willingness to admit that I was wrong about something. It can be anything from purchasing the wrong item, ("Oops. Wrong part.") to naming the wrong singer/rapper,( "Fifty cents? Fifty cents for what?") to completely misconstruing someone's intentions,( "Wow....I'm so....totally off base. I'm sorry.") I am also capable of repeating my apologies until the other person stops telling me every detail of my transgression over...and over....and over... (see above about upbringing.)
I think part of these is based on the fact that, as a voracious reader and general collector of trivia in addition to - and at the expense of - useful stuff, I know a fair number of things. But hand in hand with that is a growing awareness of just how much Stuff there is to know about, and the impossibility of knowing any but a teensy slice of that whole. The other part is a dislike of contention and wasting of time - I really *don't* want to argue about whatever it is, and if I confess immediately, then we can both get back to what we were doing.
Mostly, though, I think it's because, as I get older and see more of Life, I recognize the number of times I was absolutely certain about something and turned out to be dead wrong, sometimes with fairly disastrous results. I've learned that being right, at the expense of someone's feelings or a great deal of your own time, isn't worth it. I've realized that allowing someone to believe something inaccurate isn't always a bad thing: John's mother was sure that we'd named a baby after her - we hadn't, but what harm did it do to allow her to believe it?
We waste too much time arguing about silly stuff - who knew what, said what, meant what, where it came from, when we got it - that could better be spent on fun stuff, ("Who cares where we got It - let's weld It to that Thing! Won't that be awesome?!") and appreciating our beautiful world.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
A note on yesterday's blog:
Another thing I absolutely cannot do - and rarely admit to, because for others it's so easy they just don't understand how I can *not* do it - is tell which burner will light from looking at the diagrams on the range top. Somehow I seem to envision the diagrams as being printed on the top of a pizza box lid, so that when opened, the diagram in the upper left of the open lid would refer to the lower (or front) left quadrant when closed (imagine if the cheese stuck to the lid, where the cheese came from on the pie and then where it would be on the lid when you open the box. Complicated, isn't it? And wrong to boot. Yet as nearly as I can tell, that's how I do it. I can't seem to grasp that the lid, rather than opened away from me, is simply slid up from horizontal to vertical.
I'll leave to your imagination the disastrous meals, the scorched pans, the melted coffee carafes, the still-frozen side dishes and the times I was damned lucky I didn't burn the house down.
Two years ago, when we remodeled the kitchen, I purposely chose my stove with this problem in mind. The ceramic top is lovely, the warming drawer is nice, the self clean/steam clean is nice, all the little possibilities are probably nice (I don't use most of them because I...just don't) but the selling feature, for me, was the extra warming burner (controlled by a push-button, not a knob) in the back row. This means that each of the four control knobs has a diagram over it that has *three* circles in the top row and only *two* circles in the bottom row. I can tell left from right without difficulty, and now I can properly differentiate back from front! TRIUMPH!
As far as I can tell, I'm the only adult I know for whom this is a genuine problem. Others may chuckle and say, "Oh, yeah, I do that, too" but they don't really. They've never stood in front of the stove, pushing with the combined force of three good eastern universities, and still not been able to turn the right knob. Left/right, clockwise/counterclockwise, and lefty-loosey righty-tighty all seem to be correctly installed.
I also have a disastrous effect on toasters and doorknobs. Doorknobs which have let one in and out without difficulty for years - centuries, even - will come off in my hand (and the teensy screw invariably rolls under the radiator.) I have a huge collection of replacement doorknobs, screws, the metal piece that goes through the center, the bit that you put in the gouge in the door, all of it. When the inevitable happens, I'm always ready. Almost always, anyway. One of my interior doors still opens by means of a stout piece of string looped through where the doorknob should be.
In my world there is no such thing as an old toaster. At least not a functional old toaster, unless you count the metal rack that you put over the gas flame on the stove. That one can't help but work (unless you fail to remove the toast before it is aflame, but that's not the toaster's problem, that's yours.) I buy a toaster, take it home, plug it in, tentatively put in a slice or two of bread, and then, moments later, up pops delicious warm toast!
This happens a few times, sure. Maybe even a week or two. Then slowly, slowly, my presence seems to corrupt the integrity of the new appliance. It may now only toast on one side of the bread, or perhaps no longer allow itself to be regulated by the Light-Dark Selector. It may periodically make perfect toast, then chuck it behind the counter, so you have to remove the cabinetry to retrieve it. Or it may decide to make the perfect toast, then refuse to give it to you, watching you with its little orange glowy eyes while you frantically stab at the cancel button, watching your toast slowly incinerate. Needless to say, I eat a lot of plain bread and understand why my mother always made toast under the broiler.
My late husband had the same effect on vehicle gas gauges, but I'll save that tale for another rainy Sunday. Have a good rest-of-weekend, all. I may be back later with another Special Quality or two...we'll see how the day goes.
There's a cat snoring here somewhere. Perhaps I'll find it and force it to snuggle with me.
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