Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ex Libris: The House We Grew Up In

Late last week, I finished this novel. Then, I wasn't ready to write about it. I'm still not sure I am.

My summary: Lorelai was a remarkable woman--vivacious, filled with joie de vivre, charismatic, and determined to make magic wherever she went. Together with her husband Colin and their four children, they spend many years in their idyllic Cotswold house.

So how is it that Lorelai is now dead, having spent her last years estranged from her family and her last minutes in her car along the side of the highway? Her eldest daughter Meg is forced to ponder this when she returns to her childhood home to sort through Lorelai's effects, but this is complicated by an ugly, nasty complication: the once-beautiful home is practically in ruins, having been stuffed with the results of 30 years of Lorelai's worsening hoarding issues. As Meg begins the painstaking process of trying  to clean up the house, as well as rounding up the rest of their estranged family, she is forced to delve deeper into the family's collective memories to try to finally understand how her mother lived and died the way she did.

My verdict: God, this was a hard book to read. I mean, come on: A charismatic, semi-agoraphobic woman with a severe hoarding addiction, who goes downhill with age and alienates most of the people around her? It could have been about my mother. It felt like it was about my mother. And of course I ended up being so angry with Lorelai, so resentful of her. It was very, very difficult to be the reader, witnessing Lorelai's gradual decline into The Crazy, and it made me want to go home and throw out everything I own. (For the record, I am NOT a minimalist, so this book was quite unnerving.) There was a hell of a lot of bloated melodrama with Lorelai's family, and it should have been absurd, but somehow, it lightened the content of the book just enough so that it wasn't completely dark and troubling. Perhaps a bit like a mixture of Maeve Binchy and Jodi Picoult, with a certain flavor all its own--bittersweet.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Daily Dispatches: Monday, 9/29

Today, I...

1. Am so very grateful for Admiral Bill McRaven's UT Commencement speech. Terrifically inspiring as well as delightfully practical: "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed...

2. Am ridiculously proud of the fact that yes, I did make my bed this morning. 

3. Am on page 130 of Charity and Sylvia: A Same Sex Marriage in Early America. Slow reading. Leave it to an academic to make lesbian sex kinda dull.

4. Am pondering how much I can donate to Team Harpy. Seriously, why must people try to silence women when we start calling people out on harassing behaviors?

5. Am embracing the knowledge that I did everything I possibly could to beat the black dog today. 

6. Am smiling as I remember the roadrunner that was hanging out by my car late this afternoon. That's something I'll always love about the desert. Seriously, people, roadrunners.

The Meridian Through the Circle

In my recent Internet explorations, I came across something that I may have to mark up to THE Internets Find of the Year: HistoricIndianapolis.com.

For a Hoosier exile, for a person who continuously pines for the Midwest in general and the Circle City in particular, who recalls with perhaps a little bit of drooling the too-few days she spent meandering the residential areas of Indy, poking around the somewhat-busy streets of downtown, driving near 38th Street and wondering how in the world certain areas "go downhill", who looked at countless buildings and houses and wondered about their heritage and history, this website is a godsend. The best thing going, really,a website that plunges into the history of the city, into newspapers and phone directories and god only knows what else, to bring to the masses really priceless information.

Last night, on HistoricIndianapolis, I came across the Crown Jewel, as far as I'm concerned, of this website:

A very very old postcard of Meridian Street, "North Meridian Street at Night", postmarked 1916.

The coloring of this postcard, the illumination of the full moon, literally made my heart clench a little in my chest. There's something viscerally alive, something real about this image--I swear I can imagine the slight breeze that might be rustling through those trees. I bet the moon really lit the place up--I can only conjecture, but I reckon light pollution wasn't quite the problem then that it is now. I can just imagine how quiet the streets probably were. It's something of a far cry from the teeming dirt of Middle Western City of Booth Tarkington's <i>The Magnificent Ambersons</i>, but I'd like to think Mr. Tarkington would approve of this rendering.

Meridian Street is still there...and frankly, it doesn't look that much different, especially north of 38th Street. The street seems narrower now than it was in this postcard, but I wonder if it's because the imposing, leafy trees in my memory--the ones that seemed to crowd so close to the street--were the same ones as the ones in these pictures, only much much bigger. Who knows? There's so much that I will never know about this city. So much of it that I never had the chance to get to know and love. HistoricIndianapolis helps my ignorance, just a little, and yet...it enables the Circle City to dig a little bit deeper into my heart.

No matter how much I change, no matter how much Indianapolis changes--and god, of course it does, it's supposed to--I will always have my memories. And now I will always have this idealized rendering of my equally idealized city.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Don't Feed the Dog

Last week was a bit rough...the last couple of weeks, to be honest. The black dog decided to bark again, and I think that I must have been hormonal on top of that. I suppose you could say that I was volatile, or that I was in an uncertain temper, but the cold hard truth of it was that I was in a high bitch of a mood. I squawked at our housemates, resented my husband and carried on the silliest screaming matches with him in my head, and dissolved into tears on more than one occasion. AND it was, like, 106 degrees most days. 106 degrees, at the end of September. So of course I spent far more time than necessary thinking about life in more normal climates, thinking of regular seasons and their attendant rituals...

Let's just say it. This last ten days or so have been absolute shit...because I let them be. Guess I just decided to embrace my inner grump and run with it.

And yet...yesterday morning, when I woke up, there was a change. Outside I could hear the winds blowing through the trees and tinkling the wind chimes, and my husband was going on about how we could switch over to the swamp coolers because it was cold outside.

It was the low 70s. Most definitely not cold. But certainly pleasant enough for us to open up the house and feel, finally, the relenting of the heat and humidity that have plagued us, as they Always do, during the summer months. It was pleasant enough for me to take on some fairly significant projects--namely, purging old cosmetics, and organizing the kitchen. I was able to do these things without breaking out into a miserable, eczema-inducing sweat.

(Of course, busting out the champagne and undertaking these projects while tippling certainly didn't hurt. Have you ever swilled champagne--even bottom-shelf Cooks--whilst cleaning? If not, I strongly recommend it.)

This temperate tease of fall won't last, I just now realized. We're supposed to be back up in the low 100s by the end of this week. But it was a badly-needed respite for me, and hopefully I've got my head back on straight enough to fight the black dog. He's still scratching at the gate, begging for attention and notice. If I start to pay him the least bit of mind, he'll take the encouragement and start digging a hole under the fence and won't stop until he's on the porch, peering and leering in at me and silently mocking my efforts to strengthen my home's defenses against his poison.

The black dog will always be there at the edge of my mind and spirit. By now, I'm pretty used to it. All of my goals and lists and projects and expectations, and all the Prozac and wine and Cheetos, can only comfort me so much. But I know it can only get worse if I allow it to. So here are the structured ideals that I'm going to strive for this week, as a way to keep me focused on the inner light rather than the outer darkness:

-Go to the gym three times
-No wine or alcohol between Monday and Friday
-Vigilantly take my various vitamins and medicines
-Use my lotions and potions, as it were, to boost my confidence and feel put-together
-At home, work on my core and lunging exercises
-Write in my journal at least once

Here's hoping we all have a successful week, no matter what our goals are...

...Except if your goal involves bank robbing, kidnapping, weapons of mass destruction, or other naughty things. Then I hope you fail epically.