Life Day

Well, we made it about one month before abandoning our whole concept of taking Saturdays off. We call Saturday “Life Day,” and in September we made a solemn promise to one another (we actually shook hands on it) that we would take every Saturday off work, and instead spend the day together, doing errands, working on the house, drinking coffee, walking the dog together, driving to Vermont to see the goddamn foliage, etc. We did this four times, and it was amazing, albeit very stressful because then Sunday is just a relentless panic-driven toboggan ride of trying to get ready for Monday. Every time we woke up Saturday morning and reminded each other not to check our work email, we felt smug. We congratulated ourselves for having our priorities straight, unlike other academics who just work around the clock until their marriages fall apart and their bodies melt into the earth. Oh ho ho, isn’t it great to be us, sitting on the porch talking about the emergence of understandings of geologic time, when our poor benighted colleagues are hunched over their computers, letting life pass them by? Oh ho ho ho ho.

Cut to exactly one month later when we both instantly and without argument agree that we have too much work to do and we can’t do Life Day anymore “for awhile,” which obviously translates to “until June.”

How the mighty have fallen! The best-laid plans of mice and men! Hubris! etc.

On the plus side, on Thursday I had a weird day that resulted in me accidentally taking it off, so I did get a day off this week. I have this thing where if I don’t start working between 7:00-9:00 in the morning, I can’t do real work at all. I can do things like grade, prep, write a committee report, etc., but in terms of my real creative work–writing/research–it has to start during that window or it doesn’t happen. It feels like there is this daily revolving wormhole the entrance of which coincides with my own orbit only once a day, during that window of time, and if I leap into it, I can work with absolute concentration for six straight hours, but if I don’t leap into it, it’s gone until the next morning, and I’m stuck aimlessly wandering back and forth in the house, muttering to myself.

So on Thursday I had big plans to write a conference paper. Instead my husband informed me that a person was coming to do a gutter inspection and give us an estimate about putting gutters on our house. We had met this person several weeks previously, while shopping for light fixtures, at which time he aggressively pushed many brochures and folders on us and made us let him schedule said gutter inspection. “Goddamn it” I said. My husband said “it’ll only take five minutes.” He also just didn’t walk the dog, which is supposed to be his job in the morning. “I just didn’t do it,” he said. So I had to wait around for this guy to show up, do the gutter inspection, give me an estimate, leave, and then I could walk the dog, and then I could start my work. The clock was ticking. The wormhole entrance was approaching; I could feel it. I refrained from having my second cup of coffee because I knew I’d need it once I was in the wormhole. I waited.

The gutter guy was 30 minutes late. The dog was antsy. “Just a minute” I kept saying to him, “it’ll only take a minute.” The guy showed up. The morning was foggy and beautiful. I put on my galoshes and went tromping around in the yard with him. He told me about gutters and how they work. He offered to chop down my apple tree; he said it would take him ten minutes. I declined. He said he also “does computers” and that he’d give me his card when he left. I said okay. Then he worked on his iPad for awhile, measuring and taking pictures. A long time passed. Certainly longer than five minutes. Then he said “okay” like he was done, and I went to thank him and say goodbye, but instead he said “I’m gonna grab my coffee–lets go sit at the table inside.” Cut to 45 minutes later, the dog is crying, and this very nice, knowledgable man has shown me a scale model of a roof with gutters with leaf protection; he has had me choose which color of gutters I want (???? the options were “white” “gray” and “less gray”); has shown me documentation about how the guys who will come do the labor are all checked against the sex offender register; has told me about lead paint and EPA certification; and, somewhat incongruously, has also told me about walking in the footsteps of Christ and how Washington D.C. is laid out according to mystical freemason proportions.

The whole thing lasted over an hour. The wormhole passed me by; I could feel its passing. It wafted gently against me, pressing inquisitive tendrils into my brain. “Yes, yes,” I thought, “I can feel you too. I want you too.” But it moved on without me. By the time the inspection was over and the dog was walked it was almost noon. “GODDAMN IT” I said. I angrily texted my husband, who apologized sincerely, since this whole thing was his idea and I was against it from the start, let the record show. I also told him way back when we first met this man that he was super christian. “How can you tell??” he asked. “I can just tell” I said. Thus to be honest I was sort of excited when he did lay his Christ talk on me. I fucking LOVE being proven right.

He was a very nice, professional man, I should stress. I liked him. I am confident he would do a great job with our gutters. It was just unfortunate, with the whole wormhole thing and, you know, me trying not to get fired and all that.

The estimate was basically “a shit-ton of money” but what are you gonna do

Anyway, since the wormhole passed me by I thought I might as well do something productive, so I walked two miles to a really alarming hoarder-style antique store that is just dusty shit piled 10-deep from floor to ceiling and that smells powerfully of cat pee. I walked there because once several weeks ago I remember seeing an amazing, huge, ornately-framed, amateur oil painting of a mountain forest landscape there, and I wanted it to hang in the bedroom. So I walked there, bought it, had a very long conversation with the proprietor about “oriental art” during which he told me that in East Asia they’ve been making paintings for “30,000 years,” which is not really accurate but I just nodded. Then I carried this huge painting (it’s wider than my wingspan, so I had to prop it against my abdomen, which was painful) two miles back to my house. By the end I had powerful blisters on my feet but I was elated, because it looked even better on the wall than I had thought it would. It turns out I have a previously-unknown talent for this one very specific type of aesthetic judgment: hanging huge things on big walls. The other day I insisted on buying this enormous 100 pound gilt mirror and hanging it in the dining room and guess what? It looks FUCKING INCREDIBLE. I have no fashion sense or sense of which colors go well together; I have no sense of feng shui; I pick the ugliest furniture every single time; but I can hang a gigantic thing on the wall. I think it is because I am a Leo and like bold loud statements but am uninspired by details. Honestly I wish our bedroom wall were bigger so I could get an even bigger amateur oil painting.

Someone asked which Neal Stephenson I read, and the answer is “Seveneves.” I have a lot of thoughts about it. It was so utterly riveting until the “five thousand years later” part started and then it just became so weird and eugenicist and manifested such myriad failures of imagination. He’s so bad at human culture and relationships (e.g. every person on earth dying in a firestorm and literally five minutes later all the scientists up in space being like “well that’s that, lets have a drink,” I mean…), and so good at outer space emergencies! I respected the effort to envision human culture five thousand years after this amazing event but I was also continually irritated by how stupid his ideas were. The way everyone is still speaking English. The way the fundamental structure of human life is still just 21st-century neoliberal capitalism, in spite of the fact that humanity had to be rebuilt on an asteroid by 7 women and you’d just really think that five thousand years later stuff would be more different than them just having a lot of sweet tech. The way genetic origins are so utterly determining of how people five thousand years later think, act, speak, behave, was, I thought, sort of unimaginative and also kind of gross. And didn’t make sense, I mean, is there no inter-breeding? To take only the most obvious objection to his vision. Also Stephenson’s worldview is just so alien from my own. He’s such a weird tech bro libertarian who thinks scientists are better than other people, and I can’t really get down with that. The way he caricatured the “rootstock” humans clearly meant to stand in for Native Americans in his futuristic “first contact” scene was pretty grim. Look at these pathetic savages, tied to stupid mystical religious ideas, falling prey to obvious hucksterism because they’re so unsophisticated, stuck down on boring-ass earth while we real humans are up in the sky flying around in giant machines! They think the earth is theirs, but don’t they know WE ARE THE ONES WHO PAID FOR IT?

All this being said, overall it was a noble effort and I surprised myself by really enjoying the first 2/3 of the book, when I had sworn never to read another Stephenson except for Diamond Age and Snow Crash over and over again.

“You said you weren’t going to read anymore Stephenson.”
“Yeah but this one’s about the moon blowing up”

Does that answer your question? GOT ANY MORE BRAIN BUSTERS????

What did you guys think of this book?

My old man asked me to guess all the horror movies his students are writing their papers about. I thought for awhile and then said “Insidious?” He was STUNNED. “How did you know that?”

“Oh, they all love that movie.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know. It’s like the horror version of Harry Potter. They all talk about it all the time. I’ve had at least three kids write papers on it.”
“WHAT?! I’ve never even heard of it!”
“Yes you have, we saw it together, in the theater. It stars Patrick Wilson.”
“Who’s that??”
“He’s the guy who Lena Dunham has that 2-night affair with in ‘Girls,’ when she faints in the shower.”
“Oh yeah. But I don’t remember ‘Insidious.’ I really don’t think I saw it.”
“Yes you did! It’s about a haunted doll. It’s set in the 70s, remember, you said there was no reason for it to be set in the 70s. There’s that scene where invisible hands pull the little girl’s legs while she’s in bed.”
“Oh yeah, I did see that movie.”

Unfortunately, upon future googling, I realized that I was WRONG, which I hate. The movie I was describing was, of course, THE CONJURING. Which also, confusingly, stars Patrick Wilson. Anyway I’m right that undergrads are obsessed with Insidious; I just haven’t seen it. I think it’s about a haunted boy or something. Anyway, Patrick Wilson is very handsome. Aren’t you glad you are reading this blog entry

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