I turned 39 yesterday! Wait, no, the day before yesterday. Anyway, it’s my last year of Pushin Forty and I’m kind of sad about it because I like that joke. So far I am not that depressed about aging although I’m sure that time will come if I live long enough. My mom turned 70 a few weeks ago and is suddenly depressed about her age for the first time! She called me on my birthday and talked about how she can’t believe she’s 70. I was like “well….you just have to embrace it I guess” and she briskly said “I mean we’re ALL gonna DIE, right?” Which is in fact true. Then she told me a story I’d never heard before: my grandmother–a profoundly vain woman–was very depressed on her fortieth birthday, and she was moping around the house feeling bad about what a horrid old hag she was, and then the doorbell rang, and it was a man selling coffins.
Door-to-door coffin salesman! That is a tough sell. Every time you feel bad about your job, just think of THAT guy. I guess in the 50s it made more sense, everyone was so practical about things like that–my dad and his brother already have headstones laid in the little graveyard in Abernathy, Texas, because their parents got a good deal for buying all four at once. Their names and birth dates are there but no death dates. The idea that we would haul my dad down to Abernathy, Texas to bury him in that little graveyard is absurd, like Lonesome Dove. “What you got in that wagon?” “My pappy. Gonna lug him back down to Texas, a place he loathed and could not wait to get out of.” My dad would never forgive me if I buried him in Abernathy! But Lord, it’s already paid for
The vision of life that could lead parents to pragmatically purchase headstones for their 10 year old children is very foreign to me and I think probably to most people living in America today. I think it’s a vision based on the assumption that the kids will continue living in that town for the rest of their lives, they’ll know the undertaker and the guy in charge of the graveyard, it’ll all be obvious. But in reality, how on earth could we make that happen?? Where’s the receipt, proving that grave is ours? How would that even work? And WHY ON EARTH would that be where he’d want to be buried? He left that place in like 1960 and literally never looked back.
I’m reading some of Shirley Jackson’s short stories. They are searingly hateful and disturbing; I love them.
On my birthday we bought a $3 rocking chair and picked up our CSA share and ate a muffin at the Bookmill where I bought the aforementioned Shirley Jackson collection. We did the crossword. We ate sit-down Italian food. We watched Veep. A good day! Tomorrow we are going camping for my old man’s birthday. We are going to Vermont and bringing Mr. Snoopy. Get it done!
I love being on research leave. A whole fall with no teaching or grading! Just lots of meetings. If there is one thing academics complain about, it’s meetings, and yet in my experience if there is one thing academics love to do above all other things, it’s schedule meetings. It is perhaps the greatest conundrum of the discipline. I wonder if politicians feel the same way? It’s hard to imagine the perspective of a sociopath; maybe they love meetings because it makes them feel important.
– Tomato Festival
– County Fair
– Cider Days
We watched some select Olympics events at our friend’s house. I was only interested in seeing events I had read New Yorker articles about, so that meant women’s gymnastics and dressage. The women’s gymnastics were amazing, obviously. I found dressage deeply disturbing on several different levels. And then we watched some men’s rings, and that was that! One hour of select Olympics coverage and then we went to the bar and got 2-for-1 apps and I still feel sick (this was last night).
I do like the concept of the Olympics, but I don’t like the capitalist nightmare the modern Olympics have become, but like, get in line when it comes to that. Really the main issue is not having television, and being weird nerds, it felt hard to prioritize watching it. We did watch the opening ceremony, which I thought was absurd and stupid, and the Parade of Nations, which I always enjoy, except I find it sort of shameful and sad how every athlete is holding up their phone the entire time. I like hearing that Michael Phelps broke that ancient Roman record, and I like seeing how much higher Simone Biles can leap than anybody else. I like the faces of the men doing the rings, how the unimaginable physical effort means smiling is out of the question so all they can manage is a deeply disturbing facial neutrality where it just looks like they are trying with all their might not to shit their pants. Those dudes have the weirdest bodies!!! I keep expecting somebody’s arm to just rip right off his body.
The other day we were talking about what you’d do if you had a time machine but you could only use it ONCE, and only to go into the past. I thought of some pretty standard things–premiere of Rite of Spring, that sort of thing–but then I realized, no way, you know where I would go? ANCIENT ATHENS. Specifically I want to see a performance of a play at one of their weird religious ceremonies. I want to hear what the music sounded like!!!!! And then as a corollary to that I would like to attend an original Olympics. I would have to dress up like a man, just like all the women in Life of Brian who want to stone the heretic but have to wear rented beards. “Can I have a big flat one mum?” “SSSH!” “Sorry, ‘dad'”
Original Olympics!! Straight-up fully naked dudes leaping and running and wrasslin’ around. I wonder how the crowd behaved. I guess I need to actually read some Mary Beard instead of just talking about how awesome Mary Beard is without actually reading her. The last time I tried to read Mary Beard I learned that something I’d read for my dissertation that I thought was a hilarious and fanciful fiction was actually based on a real historical event and I turned it into a great footnote and my chair wrote “ha ha!” next to the footnote.
In fact, speaking of footnotes, the first thing on my Internet To Do List today is “research silence in B5 for footnote material.” B5 = Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which contains the second-most famous silence in music history.