Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I don't, for the most part. When my husband and I were first married, we went to Atlantic City (actually we went to Cape May, but it doesn't matter) and his mother gave us $20 to put in the slot machines. We walked in, converted the bill to whatever kind of change was necessary in those days, put it in the slot machines, lost, and left. The coat check person asked us if we'd forgotten something in the car, it was so soon after our arrival. We just never were money gambling sorts. Lives, reputations, sure; money, no.
That said, I and a friend of mine, both in grad school and impecunious in the extreme, used to go to local bars and hustle......backgammon. We were an odd pair: he, a veteran who'd lost an eye in Viet Nam and acquired a drinking problem to replace it, and I, good at playing the reckless innocent. We ate and drank free all over town for two years.
So that's my Special Quality for today: I'm a backgammon hustler.
Monday, May 23, 2011
I know the difference between whether or not I like a particular thing, and whether or not that thing is any good. At first glance, that seems simple enough, but there are an awful lot of people who don't seem to get that difference. I think this is an important distinction to draw, so stay with me here - it's not just one of my silly semantics games. (I love them, most people hate them - we'll get back to that later.)
How often have you been in a museum or a gallery and heard someone say, "My gods, that's dreadful!" What they almost always mean is that they don't like it. If you ask them to tell you why it's "dreadful", they'll point out the things that they don't like, ("But it's entirely *white!*) ignoring the fact that they're in the Museum of Modern Art, so there must be something good to be said about the piece, or at least some reason why it's an important piece to see. (Please note: this one hits close to home for me because I'm really not big on abstract expressionism.)
The flip side of that is, well, let's take Madonna. I was never a big fan, and I don't listen to her by choice (although i did like her in some obscure movie...something about Susan?) but I'll be the first to say that I think her dance music/party music, like Holiday, was flawless. Same with Michael Jackson's Thriller. Like it? No, not especially. Think it's any good? Absolutely - doesn't get better than that.
I'm not much of a one for reading poetry, other than the occasional round of some Romantic like Wordsworth. I never quite understood why e.e. cummings didn't like capitals (possibly punctuation, either) nor do I understand why his and many others' work is "good", but I don't doubt the judgment of those who do know about such things.
I recognize that escargot are (is?) a delicacy, adored by humans everywhere, but to me they all taste like garlic flavored erasers. I've eaten parts of creatures that aren't even talked about in polite company (my family is Scots, German and Greek - use your imagination) and often prefer them to the more choice bits - tenderloins and such. I have no explanation for this, but it's certainly part of why I'm mostly vegetarian.
So much for I-don't-like-it-but-it's-good. How about the it's-dreadful-but-i-love-it? Well, there are some mystery writers who couldn't (or shouldn't) be allowed to write copy for cereal boxes, but I read every one of their books as they come out, because I love them, though I've no idea why. I love lots of stupid, physical humor (Dick Van Dyke makes me laugh every time he falls over the footstool) and lots of stupid, physical writing (Ogden Nash comes to mind.) There are some kid cartoons that I laugh at every time (Fairly Odd Parents, Invader Zim) although even kids may lift an eyebrow. There are any number of small, quirky things that I adore, and they aren't even good craft, let alone Great Art. I love Cheez Whiz, and God knows there's nothing more dreadful than that.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Sorry. Had to take a moment to recover from that largely maudlin #16 - i didn't start out for it be like that, but when I start going on about In Flanders Fields, you know it's time to run away. When I was a kid we went to Gettysburg for a school trip nearly every year so I know the place pretty well, and my children now know to run away whenever I get started on the Civil War and Gettysburg, or on WWI in general. My grandfather had trained to be a pilot in WWI, but the war ended before he got a chance actually to fly. The children were, however, fascinated when I told them about how it took a while before airplanes could have machine guns on board, because until they figured out how to synch to propellers and the machine guns, they had an unfortunate tendency to shoot their own propellers off.
Now, back to my Special Quality #17:
I am a very tolerant person. It isn't, as someone said to me long ago, that I don't understand people and I don't give a damn. I actually am simply quite tolerant of others and their ways. Okay, maybe part of it is that I don't care: I don't care what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, nor do I care with whom they do whatever it is - and I'd prefer if no one enlightened me, thank you.
I don't mind people having belief systems that are different from mine, and I don't want to argue about whose god is better. If you believe that the earth is carried through space on the back of a giant turtle, I think that's lovely for you and I'd love to hear about it. Just don't try to convince me, about the turtle or any special human or set of humans (and if you don't think that they were humans, that's fine with me too.)
I don't especially care what you wear, as long as you have shoes on in my restaurant. (If my restaurant is a dressy one, I'll have a couple spare sport jackets for you if you "forget" yours.)
i don't care what you eat, as long as it's not me or my cat. If I'm serving something objectionable for dinner, please don't go on about how dreadful it is. A simple, "No, thank you" will suffice.
I don't care what you read, watch on television or in the theater, or print in your magazines as long as you don't force me to read /watch it or forbid me from reading/watching what I prefer.
While I might think it's stupid of you, I don't especially concern myself with what sorts of substances you put into your body. As long as I don't have to pay for it with my tax dollars or lug your overdosed self out of my bathroom, your body is yours to do with as you please. Oh, yes, and I don't want to be forced to breathe your smoke in public places - smoking is optional, breathing is not.
In my tolerant little world, I only insist (at the moment, anyway) on one thing: no one else is allowed to be hurt, either intentionally or accidentally, either physically, mentally or emotionally, in your pursuit of whatever it is you're pursuing. In other words, we don't go to war to prove whose god of love and mercy is more loving and merciful. We also do not indulge in Substances and then drive, nor do we wear T-shirts with sayings on them that demean or inflame others. Despite our private belief that someone's ideas are pretty far out there, we keep them that way - private - and don't tell people how silly/stupid/irrational/unevolved or whatever we feel they are. We realize that none of us - not king, not saint, not billionaire, not genius, not the beautiful, not the talented - no one is inherently better or more right or more entitled than anyone else. We speak respectfully and wait our turn.
And Fulgham was, I believe, (see how we slip that disclaimer in there?) right: everything we need to know, we *did* learn in kindergarten.
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.
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