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Archive for January, 2003

ARTICHOKE, ARTICHOKE

There have been all sorts of wacky hijinks and shenanigans going on over at Fragments from Floyd, leading up to the fact that Fred has given everyone a writing assignment, and is, furthermore, collecting assignments over at Fragments. It should also be noted that Fred’s being kind of a scary hardass about this, and isn’t allowing anyone to claim that their Dog has Eaten their Hard Drive, etc. The writing assignment is as follows:

Is there a food or dish that you detested as a child that you like as an adult? Can you pinpoint the moment when you gave that food a second chance? How, in general, has your sense of taste changed? Think about the kinds of words that we use to describe taste — sweet, sour, tangy, spicy.

As a child, the presence of individual artichokes on the dinner table always seemed to me to be somewhat of a personal affront. There would be three of them — one artichoke placed smack dab in the center of each of our dinner plates — presented as the evening’s entree, with dollops of Mayonnaise (or, to be more accurate, Miracle Whip), for dipping, served to the side in delicate Japanese rice bowls. My mother would cook them up in her newly-aquired pressure cooker, which at that time seemed like the most “Space Age” and Jetson-esque of home kitchen appliances. I didn’t get it. I was being made to eat what was obviously a thistle. There were thorns, sharp thorns, on the end of each leaf and the process of scraping off a thin rime of flesh from each leaf with one’s teeth certainly didn’t seem to me to yield, even cumulatively, anything that even remotely qualified as actual sustenance.

And like I said, I didn’t get it. Did we have to eat overgrown thistles for dinner because we were poor? (My mother certainly made a big production of frequently noting how my piano lessons and ballet lessons were were practically bankrupting them, although from a more adult perspective, I don’t quite see how this would be entirely possible.) I would go on to resentfully contemplate my classmates joyously eating Happy Meals at McDonalds like the families on T.V. commercials . . . I myself had never eaten a Happy Meal nor actually been to a McDonalds, so I was not only inextricably convinced that this was what everyone else was doing for dinner but that they were happy doing it.

And it would begin to seem that the artichokes were yet another way by which my parents were foisting their eccentricities upon me . . . making me stranger and weirder than I already was to start with, and thus opening me up to further childhood ridicule. I mean, wasn’t it bad enough that I was always taking flack for being half-Japanese, overly brainy, hopelessly geeky, and inappropriately attached to my best friend to the extent that I was constantly being called a lesbian? Not to mention the fact that I had to wear orthopedic shoes, weirdly unfashionable glasses due to extreme myopia (my father picked the glass frames out of a catalogue . . . he said they were “cute” . . . and quite frankly, I think they reminded him of the glasses the Japanese girls who worked as typists at Camp Ojima in the 1950’s were wearing) and, sin of sins, highwater pants during an era of bell bottoms, due to the fact that my mother always sewed my pants way too short because she was constantly worried that I would “trip and fall” otherwise.

This was a time in my life when, more than anything else, I thought that I just wanted to be normal, for a change, whatever that meant . . . normal enough to “pass,” at any rate, and my parents weren’t helping. And while the artichokes were not, gastronomically speaking, all that revolting (even though the part about artichokes being a thistle, and the attendant bunches of thistle down seemed somewhat outre to me) it was what the artichokes represented that I found particularly troublesome. (Admittedly, though, I used to find Miracle Whip profoundly distasteful. The combination of a sour/tangy vinegar taste with more of a sweet/creamy flavor and texture just seemed wrong . . . upsetting, unnatural, and wrong).

Artichoke Night at our house would inevitably bring out my mother’s whimsy, dreamy, philosophical side. Sooner or later, amongst the carnage of tooth-marked leaves and thistle fluff, she would be moved to ask, “Who you think was first person who going to eat an artichoke? Do you think maybe they starving somewhere and there’s nothing else to eat, so they going to try it?” She might also go on to add, “This is so-called ‘finger food.’ This good diet food because take so long to eat that get bored and lose interest after awhile so not so hungry.” (My mother’s dinner table hypothesizing also included observing which item on the plate everyone would eat first at Thanksgiving and basing large-scale characterizations and preferences on this selection. “See! I guess right! You always eat stuffing first thing! I can tell what you like by what you eat first. You just like your American grandma.” And did she mean that she knew what kind of a person I was like by what I was eating first, or that she could tell what my favorite food was? But here’s the thing . . . on a given plate, I never eat my favorite food first . . . I start off with my least favorite, and progressively work my way up to the item that I think is the most delicious, saving the best for last. So the question is . . . did my mother think that stuffing was my favorite food, or my least favorite food at Thanksgiving?)

Over the years I have become comfortable with my own strangeness, my Otherness, and have come to understand that normalcy is an illusion, and a delusion . . . that the emotional, psychological, political, and spiritual costs of attempting to attain this illusion/delusion are very, very high. Particularly if one is a bi-racial, lesbian womyn. It seems significant that all of my favorite foods of the vegetal variety these days are a bit off-the-beaten-track: artichokes, brussel sprouts, okra, to name a few.

About a year ago I was in the local grocery store, browsing through the vegetable section, when I saw the small display of early spring artichokes. Although I had eaten pickled artichoke hearts, or ordered any number of dishes that incorporated artichoke hearts with much relish over the years, I hadn’t actually eaten an entire artichoke since I left my parents’ house. They were strangely and compellingly beautiful, and I hungered for them. I went home and consulted The Joy of Cooking to figure out how to cook an artichoke, since I didn’t have a pressure cooker and really had no concept how to prepare them otherwise. Then I immediately procured a vegetable steamer off eBay, and a week later I was eating artichokes for dinner again, and found that they had become a reminder of home . . . a Comfort Food.

There is a wonderful movie called Antonia’s Line, in which one of the central women characters asks the pretty schoolteacher who has come over to tutor her gifted daughter, “Have you ever eaten an artichoke?” She then goes on to explain that the artichoke is considered a great delicacy, that the leaves can be dipped in a vinaigrette, and as she describes how to eat an artichoke, it soon becomes clear that the sensuality of her description has turned into the language of seduction . . . the women fall in love. It is a hilarious scene, and also unspeakably sexy. And yes, in addition to being a Comfort Food, perhaps the aritchoke is also an unexpectedly erotic vegetable, as well. It is, after all, not only a thistle, but also a flower. Consider scraping off the delicate, nutty-flavored meat of the petals with your teeth as you pluck them off, one by one. Consider the hidden inner layer of flimsy purple petals, delicate and translucent as tissue paper. Consider the soft sticky clumps of pale gold fur that protect the heart. And yes, the heart . . . there is the soft, green, creamy heart.

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IT IS VERY UNPLEASANT

. . . when one wakes up in the morning and cannot move one’s head because the upper part of one’s spine has clenched up into an immobile column of pain. One sticks a heating pad on the whole mess to try and make it go away, but a certain Siamese cat who’s a sucker for heat keeps clambering on top of one’s shoulder and attempting to lie down on the back of one’s neck so as to soak up all the benefits of the heating pad for herself, and the weight of Her Royal Plumpness attempting to sit on the back one one’s neck only seems to exacerbate one’s discomfort. One imagines that perhaps there has been a loss of Synovial Fluid somewhere along the way, or perhaps the Synovial Fluid has been contaminated and transmogrified into some sort of unsavory Drano-type substance, or maybe there are ants in the Synovial Fluid. Mostly, though, one just wants to say the word synovial again and again.

This unpleasantness is further enhanced by the fact that the epizootics from which one was suffering throughout the entirety of the past week-and-a-half and from which one seemed to have finally recovered have made a surprise reappearance. Namely the mucous. And not just any mucous, but the B-Movie Alien Body-Snatching Mucous that propagates at the speed of light in scary, snot-waddy, suffocating clusters of a freakishly thick and stubborn consistency.

It is only natural and inevitable, then, that one might subsequently become somewhat fixated on the fact that one is the only single, non-student dyke in town, effectively meaning that the likelihood of being in the position of exploring a meaningful relationship with someone . . . or even getting to go out on a date for fuck’s sake . . . is about as ludicrous as that outfit that Lara Flynn Boyle wore to the Golden Globes the other night. This slippery slope of self pity soon leads to lugubrious and somber meditations on the Bloodcurdling Debacles that, in fact, constituted one’s last two dating experiences. I mean, really. Who on earth gets stuck with two pathologically and psychotically co-dependent Stalker Types in a row? Granted, one was a Meat-Space Stalker while the other was more of a Cyber Stalker. But what’s the diff? Whether it’s a matter of having someone yelling on your sidewalk, pounding on your door, or attempting to force their way into your house in the middle of the night vs. having someone leaving repeated messages on your voice-mail of the you fucked me over variety (because one went on a couple of dates, saw that it wasn’t going to work out and decided to nip it in the bud?), sending relentless barrages of e-mails every day vacillating from threatening suicide/self-harm to chirping “lets just kiss and make up” until one was forced to change her e-mail addy, as well as sending creepy and embarrassing e-mails to one’s friends, colleagues, and undergraduate assistants at the literary magazine one edits . . . well, it still blows. It’s kind of like comparing Putrid Eggs with Putrid Potatoes. Admittedly, it’s been awhile, and one is still waiting to be able to see the humorous side of things here, but it all still really feels more awful than funny.

And now it is appallingly late, and one has to get up at the butt-crack of dawn because there are early-morning office hours to make (what was one thinking?) and mounds of class prep to get done in order to avoid looking like an Unspeakable Moron in front of one’s classes. And not only that, one will have subsequently realized that one went and posted this self-indulgent whingy blog post that mewled and whinged and mewled some more, and just went on and on and on, ad nauseum . . .

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IT IS PLEASANT

. . . to come trudging home through the snow from the office, where the better part of the afternoon was lost attending to niggling bits of administrivia, and realize that one has a refrigerator chock full of soup that simmered on the stove all Sunday evening until the kitchen windows were misted with a cool slick rime of steam. A quirky ox-tail kind of soup, the recipe for which was entirely made up on one’s own . . . a hearty apres snow-trudging kind of soup thick with barley, corn, and cut green breans . . . seasoned with bay leaves, parsley, and liberal gritty splashes of coarsely-ground black pepper. It is the kind of soup that is suitable to eat with a very large spoon while amusing oneself by saying to the cats before each spoonful (a la David Lynch’s Twin Peaks), “Garmonbozia! Gar-mon-boooo-zia!!”

After which it is very nice to watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the iBook, sipping a strong pungent mug of Ginger Tea while the cats sigh and snore, grunt and purr, paws twitching, on the couch. Outside, the cars hunch and shiver under their inches of snow like strange, round albino buffalo humps along the street, and my footprints home have long since disappeared. If the evidence of one’s journey has been erased, do you think it means that one has never left . . . or never arrived?

So many stacks of books . . . trying to weave together the threads for the next day’s classes into something tantalizing. Or at least palatable. Or perhaps one would even settle for mildly coherent. And in between the sips of tea, and sips of class prep, sips of poems in new books that one can’t help delving into . . . just a little . . . and sips of blogs here and there too.

This is the kind of night when Tsuru, the Japanese stork maiden, might arrive on one’s doorstep, disguised as a strange pale woman with long, nimble fingers and tall awkward limbs. She might lock herself in the bedroom and weave a shimmering-white feather blanket softer than blood and light as breath. All night long the rhythmic clack and shuttle of the loom behind the door until one can’t stand it anymore and wants to throw open the door, even though she’s warned you not to, and see what’s really going on in there. Tell the truth. Would you open the door?

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IMAGINARY CIGARETTES

IMAGINARY CIGARETTES

It’s not so much that I miss them in the concrete . . . it’s more that I miss them in the abstract. It’s really the idea of the cigarettes that I miss. You see, I quit smoking for about the gazillion-umpteenth time the week before X-mas. I decided to get an early jump on things and avoid the whole quitting smoking for New Year’s cliche, particularly since there was one year when I actually fell off the non-smoking wagon after a two-year ride while attending a New Year’s Eve party–thus prompting my partner-at-the-time to wryly comment, “You’re the only person I know who actually takes up smoking for the New Year’s.”

Like I said, I’ve done the quitting thing a number of times now, and I think that I’m finally getting good at it. Well . . . better at it, at any rate. And it’s true, everything I’ve read has indicated that it takes most people a number of tries to finally overcome the smoking habit. It’s been something that I’ve been working at for the last six years, and during those past six years I’d say that, cumulatively, I was a non-smoker for well over three of those years, and even during those times when I’d fallen off the wagon, I made absolutely sure that I never actually smoked a cigarette inside the house.

The very first time I quit smoking was terribly, terribly painful. It was one of the most dfficult things that I’ve ever done. It lasted for three weeks, I felt upset and angry the entire time, and I gained about ten pounds. Each time that I’ve quit since then, however, it has become a little bit easier. Yes, there were the inevitable false starts and stops, and sometimes a quit might last only a few days, or a week, but bit by bit, I have started to feel more and more like a non-smoker or, if I’ve been having a setback, a non-smoker who’s in the midst of a lapse.

What I Know:

Now I know that when I quit smoking there will be a minimum of three nights when I will not be able to sleep. Moreover, I will wake up in the middle of the night suffering from intense anxiety and sometimes full-blown panic attacks. This used to be a sticking point for me, because I would be so disturbed by the anxiety and the panic attacks that I would immediately start smoking again. For me, nicotine obviously works as a narcotic . . . I would frequently have a cigarette to calm myself down, and to cope with negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, or anger. Of course, one ends up in this strange physiological push-me pull-me cycle where the chemical changes linked to stress, anxiety, or anger are completely tied up with the physical craving for nicotine, so that the desire for the cigarette is not only physical, but psychological, as well. Now that I know that the night-time anxiety and sleeplessness are part of my body’s reaction to nicotine withdrawal, I find that it’s not nearly so stressful or upsetting, and I plan accordingly by quitting at a time when I can get away with three-four nights of minimal sleep. I also help myself out by picking a time to quit when external stressors can be somewhat minimalized for at least a few days.

The first time I successfully quit smoking for a substantive length of time . . . two years, in fact . . . the worst part was that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to write again without smoking. I realize how stupid this must sound, but all of you who write know how you have these little habits or strategies to get yourself started, to push yourself along, and to keep yourself going. Well, smoking was so intimately tied up in my writing process that I literally felt as if I didn’t know how to write if I wasn’t smoking. All throughout graduate school, when I was working on my M.F.A. in creative writing (and, as a result, forming and developing a lot of my writing habits and processes) I did all my writing on an electric typewriter set up on a card table, and I chain-smoked incessantly while I wrote. My friends could tell if my writing was going well by the size and thickness of the cloud of smoke hovering above the typewriter when they came over. It sounds appalling, now, but that’s the way I did it. And it was really difficult for a long time to find a way to do it differently. But I did. I also know now that arrogance is my downfall, and will fuck me up but good each and every time. There is no such thing as “just one cigarette” or “only a few every once in awhile” for me.

What I Miss:

I miss the languid curl of smoke lazily spiraling upward from the tip of a cigarette and how it signals those few minutes of absolute, quiet contemplation. I miss playing darts at a bar with a cigarette dangling out of the corner of my mouth because it feels so, well . . . pleasingly unprofessorial. I miss that sensually-charged moment of placing my hand over another woman’s hand and leaning into the brief flicker of flame when she lights my cigarette for me. (And granted, I likewise enjoy lighting other women’s cigarettes for them as well, so there’s that, but it’s not the same if one is a non-smoker because then one is either craving a cigarette that one can’t have, or feeling oversensitized to all the smoke as all former smokers invariably are and feeling annoyed by any additional smoking in one’s proximity, which really kind of takes all the fun out of it, don’t you think?) I miss being able to tilt my head back and exahle a mouthful of smoke in that mix of relief and pleasure. I miss sharing a cigarette after sex. (Hell . . . I miss sex, too . . . but that’s another post in and of itself.) And yes . . . this is hopelessly juvenile . . . but I miss the perverseness of doing something that one is not supposed to do. I miss feeling like a little bit of a Bad Ass. Admittedly, one is not so much of a Bad Ass when one is smoking a cigarette through a hole in one’s throat or holding up the voice box to one’s larynx to speak like the guy from South Park. So, yes. I know that. Intellectually, I know that.

What I Don’t Miss:

I don’t miss the smell. Or the taste. Or the way that cigarettes make me just a little bit more tired, and just a tad more depressed. Like I said, for me nicotine functions as a narcotic, and as such, it is ultimately a depressant over any length of time. I don’t miss feeling as if I really need to have a cigarette, and then having to go through the inconvenience of figuring out where and when and how I can have one . . . during a layover at the airport, for example. I don’t miss the expense.

Which brings me back to the notion of missing cigarettes in the abstract, and not the concrete. I think, if I remember correctly, that poet Billy Collins has a poem about the last cigarette being the best cigarette . . . a poem about the idea of the cigarette. And yes, I think that if I miss anything, here at the one-month mark, it’s the idea of the cigarette, or perhaps the fantasy of the cigarette, as opposed to tangible physical concrete things such as tastes, textures, and smells. And I’m okay with missing the fantasy of the cigarette and leaving it at just that . . . because like so many other things, I think I’ve finally come to realize that in this case, too, the fantasy is infinitely more satisfying than the reality.

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I’LL SHOW YOU MINE IF YOU SHOW ME YOURS

I find that I am utterly riveted by The Web Fridge Project going on over at Friday Fishwrap, because I am the sort of compulsive-eavesdropper-who-can’t-take-a-pee-in-someone-else’s-house-without-also-taking-at-least-a-little-peek-if-not-snooping-outright-in-their-medicine-cabinet-because-I’m-pathologically-nosy person who is, not to put too fine a point on it, just dying to know what’s in someone else’s fridge. One of the nice things about being a writer is that it helps me rationalize to myself those inappropriately-curbed tendencies toward inquisitiveness (i.e., Compulsive Snoopiness). Being a writer can also function as a really lame excuse when caught red-handed while indulging in Compulsive Snoopiness. In other words, if caught in a highly embarrassing and incriminating act of Compulsive Snoopage, just claim that you are engaged in Important Writerly Research. Sometimes you may even actually get away with this. Sometimes you may just end up having to make an abrupt and ignominious bee-line for the nearest exit.

I love the whole notion of The Web Fridge Project. At one point in time I even wrote a short story in which the opening sequence catalogued the contents of the protagonist’s fridge, invoking the intimacy of the refrigerator, and suggesting that it was no different from opening up a person and getting to take a long good look at their insides. Okay, it was a very, very, very bad story, but it was my very first fiction workshop ever. At any rate, I’m still fascinated by this notion, and I sometimes use similar writing exercises in my classes. For example, cataloguing the contents of a purse, briefcase or backpack, or cataloguing the contents of a grocery cart, or medicine cabinet, and reflecing on what these contents might reveal about a either a real or imagined person/character.

By the same token, I find myself feeling rather bashful about exposing the contents of my own fridge . . . it feels like a private space in some respects, and the whole Fridge Flashing Phenomenon has a somewhat titillatingly exhibitionist patina to it all. Granted, I fully admit that I can be eclectically eccentric about what I am or am not bashful about. For example, I have no problem reading either very personal poems or sexually explicit poems, or poems Chock Full of Lesbian Content (my Japanese Mother, by the way, really hates it when I do that!) on stage in a strange city in front of an audience full of complete strangers. On the other hand, I tend to me a bit more private about my living space. If I’ve actually invited you over and let you inside my house, then I probably like you a whole lot . . . particularly if I let you inside my writing studio/room. Also, I’d pretty much rather have rectal cancer than have to talk about money, which always seems like a shameful, weird and funky topic that’s way too personal to discuss in public. I am also deeply and profoundly private when it comes to my feet. I don’t know why. I just am.

All of this, of course, is leading, in a roundabout way to the eventual posting of my Web Fridge Project picture. A Frigidaire Strip-Tease of sorts, I suppose. Although now I’ve built it up way too much and it will be disappointingly dull. So here it is:

My Fridge

Yeah, like I said. Way too much build up.

In examining the photograph of my fridge, though, I noticed some rather disconcerting trends. For example, in the top left-hand side of the freezer, note the bizarre abundance of frozen winter squash, as well as the plenitude of cut frozen okra. What’s that about? I mean, did I really think the store was going to run out of frozen winter squash and cut frozen okra at any foreseeable time in the future?? Also note the weird plethora of pickles: baby dills, crisp Texas okra pickles, dill spears, to name a few . . . as well as the compulsive, multiple-item “stocking up” in duplicate, triplicate, and sometimes quadruplicate(!) of favored food items (also known as Artichoke Heart-Friendly Food, and officially listed as such in the Official Manual to the Care and Feeding of Artichoke Hearts). Now, do any of you remember my post a few months back where I was having a bit of fun at my parents’ expense due to their obsessive-compulsive need to hoard and “stock up” on things? Click here to either refresh your memory or get caught up so you can see where I’m going with this.

And where I’m going with this is that I’m chagrined! I’m deeply, deeply chagrined! I’m beginning to think that perhaps the nut doesn’t fall all that far from the tree.

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FRAGMENTS OF CONVERATIONS WITH MY SIAMESE CAT, YUKI

(OR WHY, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING, ALTHOUGH I CAN’T IMAGE WHY ON EARTH YOU WOULD BE, MY CAT THINKS HER FULL AND PROPER NAME IS GODDAMNIT-YUKI)

Regarding Cornish Game Hen

SC (Siamese Cat): (Lifting front forepaw to delicately “point” at Cornish Game Hen). Ooh . . . is that Cornish Game Hen? Can I have it?

AH: Don’t you even think about it. That’s my dinner.

SC: Well . . . let me just sniff it a little.

AH: Hey! Get your snout out of my dinner! Get down!

SC: Sheesh. Don’t have a hemorrhage. All I wanted to do was just sniff it a little.

AH: (Snapping fingers.) I said get down, please!

SC: Come on . . . I just want to sniff it. Don’t be so uptight.

AH: (Tossing SC off table). I said get down!

SC: (Jumping right back onto table). I can’t hear you.

AH: (Tossing SC off table). Get down.

SC: (Jumping right back onto table). I can’t heeeaar you.

AH: (Tossing SC off table; speaking through gritted teeth.) Get . . . the . . . fuck . . . down.

SC: (Jumping right back onto table). I caaan’t heeeaar yoooouuu.

AH: Arrghh!! Will you fucking get the motherfucking fuck down off the table!!!! (Realizing too late that neighbors can hear me yelling at my cat.)

SC: Brrreowww!! (Loosely translated from Siamese to mean that she never gets the Good Stuff, and I’m a Bad Mean Cat Mommy, and somebody should call the SPCA pronto.)

AH: Sigh . . . I just want to eat my dinner.

SC: (Staring up plaintively with big blue eyes.)

AH: I mean . . . is it too much to ask? I don’t pester you when you’re scarfing down your Science Diet, do I? And the fact that you happen to grunt slightly when you’re Hoovering down the Science Diet would indicate to me that you’re pretty much in the zone, and would not be appreciative of any unsolicited interruptions. All I’m asking for is some reciprocal courtesy here, you see what I’m saying?

SC: Brrrrrr-eek? (Lifting up front forepaw to point at lap.)

AH: What . . . you want to sit in my lap? Now?

SC: Brrrr-eek?

AH: Sigh . . . oh, okay. Do you think you can behave like something other than Satan’s Spawn for a few minutes?

SC: (Hopping into lap and snuggling into cute ball.)

AH: Awww . . .

A Few Minutes Later

AH: Hey . . . wait a minute . . . HEY!! What are you doing?

SC: Nothing.

AH: You are too! You’re licking my dinner!

SC: No . . . I’m just sitting in your lap and my head accidentally happened to fall in your plate.

AH: No . . . I saw you! You were licking my dinner! Goddamnit-Yuki!

Regarding White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

SC: Ooh . . . (pointing with front forepaw) . . . is that a White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bar? Can I have it?

AH: No, you can’t have it. It’s mine!

SC: Well . . . just let me sniff it a little.

AH: Hey . . . get your snout off my cheesecake bar.

SC: (Placing paw on my hand in which cheesecake bar is gripped and pulling hand toward her face). Gimme!

AH: (Pulling hand back.) No!

SC: (Pulling hand toward her face). Gimme!

AH: (Pulling hand back.) No!

SC: Well . . . let me just try and poke it a little.

AH: Okay . . . that’s it . . . you have to get down off the couch!

SC: (Taking outright swipe at cheesecake bar). Gimme!

AH: (Tossing SC off couch). Get down!

SC: (Springing right back up on couch). Mow wow! (Translated loosely from Siamese as “No fair!”)

AH: (Tossing SC off couch). Get . . . down . . . off . . . the . . . couch!!

SC: (Springing right back up on couch, making sure to stomp across iBook keyboard in the process so that the DVD I’m trying to watch is paused). Mow wow!

AH: (Tossing SC off couch.) For fuck’s sake! Get down!

SC: (Springing right back up on couch, making sure to leap onto couch via ricochet off T.V. tray so that full mug of tea is sloshed all over my paperwork). Mow wow!

AH: Goddamnit-Yuki!! (Yelling outright, and not caring if neighbors can hear.) I have one nerve left and you’re standing right on it, Missy!!

SC: Heh . . . Heh heh. Did you just hear what you said?

AH: Yes, I heard what I said. I said it, so how could I not have heard it?

SC: Heh heh.

AH: Shut up.

Regarding Brussels Sprouts

SC: Ooh . . . (pointing with front forepaw) . . . are those Brussels Sprouts? I want them!

AH: Now wait a minute here. Brussels Sprouts?? Really?!?! You’ve got to be kidding me.

SC: Yes! I want them! I want to lick the butter, and chew the greenery, and roll them about on the floor like peeled frog heads!

Yadda, yadda, yadda . . . eventually culminating in . . .

AH: Goddamnit-Yuki!!!

And at this point, Dear Reader, I’m sure you have the general tenor of any number of similarly-staged scenarios involving food and the Goddamnit-Yuki.

As evidence, you may wish to examine Exhibit A and Exhibit B, in which the Goddamnit-Yuki assists with blogging activities.

Additional evidence that the Goddamnit-Yuki is allowed to get away with murder by all members of the household can also be witnessed in the following Exhibit C and Exhibit D.

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TURNAROUND

TURNAROUND

Maybe it’s the let-down exhaustion that kicks in full swing once the final grades have finally been turned in . . . after all the niggling over the negotiation of incompletes; the mind-numbing process of constructing, deconstructing, and constructing again student paper after student paper; and the agonizing over the two F’s that were more-than-deserved, yet nonetheless made me feel as if I’d also failed on some level as a teacher. Maybe it’s the barrage of post-semester whinging about grades that starts up immediately after X-mas via phone and e-mail.

WS (Whinging Student): I’m very concerned as to why I got an F in your class. Was it because of my attendance? I only cut a couple of times and I don’t think that’s very fair.

AH: You had 12 unexcused absences out of 30 class meetings. That means you missed close to half the class. You also only turned in four out of the five short writing assignments.

WS: I had no idea that stuff was worth so much. Nobody told me.

AH: The attendance policy’s in the syllabus and I made a point of reminding everybody in class about keeping track of their absences when I offered opportunities for extra credit and/or to make up unexcused absences. The written assignments were worth 300 points out of a 1,000 point class. That was also clearly covered in the syllabus, which we went over very carefully on the first day of class.

WS: Well, do you think you could just give me a “C” instead of an “F”? I need a “C” to stay out of academic probation, otherwise my financial aid will be cut.

AH: I’m really sorry. Believe me . . . I’d much rather be giving you a “C” as opposed to an “F,” but unfortunately you didn’t earn a “C,” you earned an “F.” I can’t just give out grades by special request . . . it’s not only unethical, but it would be spectacularly unfair to all the other students who actually came to class and did the work.

WS: Wow . . . that really sucks.

AH: No shit.

Maybe it’s the feeling of being in the very dregs of the year and the long, long nights that surround the Winter Solstice. Maybe it’s the fact that X-mas is a stunningly disappointing holiday as far as I’m concerned and having well-intentioned people repeatedly ask me “Are you going to be okay?” when I reeled off my X-mas plans in response to their inquiries really makes one feel like a Loser. So, okay . . . there was unwrapping of X-mas presents for the cats, with toys and catnip and soft food, and there was talking to the Parental Units on the phone in the afternoon, and then there was a Cornish game hen dinner with steamed yellow-squash and lemon pepper on the side. There were DVDs to watch on the iBook, and new books to read in bed with the electric blanket turned up to high. It seemed like a quiet and reflective way to spend X-mas. But when you describe these type of X-mas plans and people frown in concern and ask yet again, “Are you really sure you’re going to be okay?” the implication clearly seems to be that not only are your X-mas plans so pathetic in comparison to the richness of their holiday plans, but that you are obviously a Loser of Epic Proportions. A Loser of Epic Proportions to the extent that you should undoubtedly want to slit your wrists on X-mas day as you contemplate the pathetic nature of your X-mas plans in comparison to theirs.

So okay . . . I get a little curmudgeony around X-mas. And I’m also usually really fatigued and pensive and melancholy. It’s not really a depression, though (barring a lapse in the Wellbutrin regime, of course) . . . but more of a natural cyclical occurrence. It seems like sort of a biorhythnmic response to the long nights, the cold and the darkness, and the sense of finishing out the year. It feels like quietly sinking down to the very bottom of a cold, black, leafy pond . . . things slowing down bit by bit, until I hit the bottom, and then I kick off again against the silty sand and pull myself upwards, lungs near bursting, until I explode up through the surface again. That’s how it feels to me around this time every year.

Now New Year’s . . . there’s a holiday that I love. Not only the drinking and debauchery, but the sense of new beginnings, clean slates, transformation, anticipation, and renewal. Tabula rasa. When the year turns over, things always seem to turn around for me . . . it’s like seeing a tiny blue star fall out of the sky and into the horizon in the middle of a cold, dark, silent night like a sparkling spider dropping down from an invisible drag line . . . like the sizzle of a hidden promise . . . like the glinting diamond of your very own, secret wish.

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