Monday, October 29, 2007


A conversation yesterday regarding my seven-year-old niece, Ruby.

Ruby's mother: We've got to take Ruby to school. She's playing the villain in a melodrama or something this afternoon.

Ruby's father: A melodrama? I don't think that's what it is.

Ruby: I'm playing a rabbit.

All assembled adults
: A rabbit?

Ruby: Yes. But a rabbit is a villain to a garden.

All assembled adults: Ohhhhh.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lessons learned at dinner

1. In certain contexts, brussels sprouts can be surprisingly delicious.

2. Ditto celery root.

3. It is difficult to read by the light of one candle, even when the waitress, seeing your plight, brings you a bigger candle than anyone else has.

4. When the book is any part of The Divine Comedy, it will automatically be harder to read than any other book you might have thought to bring.

5. The first time you have dinner in a restaurant alone after a break up is far lonelier than you will be prepared for it to be.

6. If your recent ex was (and presumably is) a big fan of chocolate pudding--if chocolate pudding indeed was one of the major elements of your relationship--you may find eating chocolate pot de creme to be a bit heartbreaking.

7. This is a bummer because you love chocolate pot de creme.

8. When you are already extremely full, it is foolish to eat chocolate pot de creme even if (lucky you) you do not find it to be a particularly emotional experience.

9. If it is part of a prix fixe menu, you will eat it anyway (see #7).

10. When you are very, very full, it is even harder to read Dante.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Common ground

Dorothy Sayers' summary of Canto XVIII of Purgatory:

Dante is just dozing when he is roused by the noisy approach of the spirits of the Slothful , who run continually around the Cornice crying aloud examples of Zeal and Sloth which form the Whip and Bridle for their meditation. The spirit of the Abbot of San Zeno, as he rushes by, calls out directions for the Poets' journey and tells them about his convent. Presently, Dante falls asleep.

And so do I.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Do you ever find yourself in a situation where something is suddenly just profoundly wrong? I don't mean like you've made a mistake. I mean deeply wrong. I have experienced this while snorkling, for example. All was well, there I was swimming merrily along the reef, breathing like Darth Vader through a rubber tube, marveling at flippery, shimmery, multi-colored nature. Then, quite suddenly, something swam innocently by and I panicked completely. Suddenly, I was overcome with the clear knowledge that I had no business trying to participate in the underwater kingdom. I was a land mammal for God's sake. I very clearly DID NOT BELONG HERE. I took off for shore as fast as I could.

Today was like that. I had a lot to bring in from the car, so after the first load, I just left the front door of my parents' house open. I went back to the parking lot, got the rest of my stuff, and came back to the house. I was gone for maybe seven minutes. I walked in, put everything down, and closed the screen door behind me. When I turned away from the door I saw something, sort of half registered it, and then did a complete cartoon double take. There was a bird about the size of a pigeon sitting on the window sill in the living room. This wouldn't have been such a big deal except that the window was closed and the bird was on the inside.

Seeing a bird inside the house is strangely shocking. The wrongness of it almost took my breath away for a moment. I was looking at it; it was clearly sitting right there, but my brain was saying: THIS SIMPLY CANNOT BE. The panic was soon to follow. Oh-my-god-that-is-a-a-big-bird-how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-it-out-of-here. I opened the screen door and just stood there for a moment trying to formulate a plan. Meanwhile, the bird looked at me, lept lightly from the window sill, flew toward me, and, making a graceful turn into the entry way, flew straight out the door. It sat for a few minutes on the porch railing before heading for the trees. Throughout our encounter, it was as calm as though it had just dropped in to pay a social call.

The equilbrium between inside and outside was restored almost as quickly as it had been disturbed, but I stared disbelievingly after that bird for several long minutes. When, at last, I reached to close the screen door, my hands were still shaking.

Friday, October 19, 2007

You smell delicious

One thing about having a smallish apartment is that there is no way to achieve anything akin to "what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen." My kitchen has no interior wall even, it just sort of opens into the living room and it a mere four steps from the bedroom. Therefore, the smell of anything I cook permeates the entire apartment and lingers for days. Last night I made quiche. It smelled pretty delicious at the time it was cooking, it even smelled good an hour later when I ate it. However, it was less delightful to go to sleep in this quiche-compromised air. And it was downright revolting to wake up this morning having marinated myself all night in eau de gruyere.

But who knows? Maybe as I walk home, I'll find a group of Frenchmen trailing behind me, entirely bewitched.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The great unknown

It's kind of like this. Let's say that the world was suddenly filled with a blinding light. To protect yourself, you cover all your windows with black-out shades and you stay inside. The question of course is, how do you know if the blinding light is still there? Do you dare peek? How long do you wait?

After nearly two months of sleeping under a mosquito net, I have lately been wondering if it's still necessary. Am I no longer plagued by mosquitos solely because of the net? Or have the mosquitos, in fact, gone? And I'm just being a paranoid weirdo? It is, after all, mid October. How long can mosquitos even survive as the weather gets colder?

While the net doesn't bother me when I'm asleep, it does present some difficulties when I'm awake. For example, I can't turn the lights off and on once I'm in there, nor can I reach the snooze alarm. I am nostalgic for the old days when I could freely extend my limbs beyond the mattress perimeter.

Tuesday night, I kept the net open and was entirely undisturbed all night. I congratulated myself for my courage and foresight in having undertaken this experiment. Last night, filled with a renewed sense of well being, I left the net wide open again. At 2am I was awakened by an intense itching on the side of my neck. Soon after I heard the tell tale whine in my ear. I reached (easily) for the light, searched for the interloper, saw nothing except one stray fruit fly, turned the light back off and, groping in the dark, pulled the net closed around me.

And now I know.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Several letters

Dear Food,
We used to be so close. What went wrong? Why must everything I eat make me sick? Wait, I know. If you're food that won't make me sick, raise your hand; the rest of you, hands down. Okay. Great, great. Thanks, seltzer water. Thanks, rye crisps. I'll be seeing you at dinnertime.
Thanks, bye.
Love, Kari

Dear Men in my Building,
I know you. You are all quite fit. Really--looking good, fellas. So, why have you all adopted the Fee-Fie-Fo-Fum tread? You are not giants. You are not even slightly overweight. Why the crazy stomping? Could you please stop? Because you're waking me up. Thanks, bye.
Love, Kari

Dear Fruit Flies,
Fun is fun, but it's time to go.
Thanks, bye.
Love, Kari

Dear Neighborhood Cats,
Shut up. No, really. Shut up.
Thanks, bye.
Love, Kari

Dear Lady Upstairs,
Before you moved in there was a family with a toddler in what is now your apartment. This toddler used to run flat-footed up and down all day over my head. Things in my apartment shook. It was noisy. I didn't like it. Fortunately, you don't have any children of your own (you do have a stompy boyfriend, but I've already written to him, so don't worry). Why then, have you been compelled to borrow someone else's flat-footed toddler? I can't imagine any reason that I would get up at dawn every morning, go out to borrow a small non-verbal creature, bring it back home, and let it run wild in my apartment. And yet, that's what you do. Huh. Weird. Do you think you could stop? 'Cause you're waking me up.
Thanks, bye.
Love, Kari

Dear Dante,
I'm sorry to tell you this, but I'm not really enjoying your long, long poem. Do you have any idea how I can write a paper about it while secretly really writing a paper about something else? Like maybe Jane Austen? I'd appreciate any tips.
Thanks, bye.
Love, Kari

Friday, October 05, 2007

And the socks?

On my way to work I pass two guys in mid-conversation:

Guy #1: What are you gonna do today?

Guy #2: I don't know what I'm gonna do. [Pause] These shoes are telling me I should do what I wanna do.

Foolishly, I didn't even ask my shoes for their thoughts this morning. They probably would have had a better proposition than "walk to work." Next week, I'm definitely going to check in with them before we leave the house.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Either way

I'm on one of those word-a-day lists and today's word is lugubrious. This was the example given to illustrate the usage of the word:

"Although the program notes characterize the piece as dark and lugubrious, it's actually rather playful and matter-of-fact, a reflection of Russian acceptance of life's inequalities and perils."
Roy C. Dicks; Russian Reality (dance review); The News & Observer(Raleigh, North Carolina); Jun 16, 2007.

I find this unaccountably hilarious. Mostly though, whether the dance be dark and lugubrious, or a playful reflection of Russian acceptance of life's perils, I find that I'm not particularly keen to see it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When superpowers fail

Walking home yesterday, I saw a little boy and his mother headed toward me from the other end of the block. He was quite small, maybe four years old. He also happened to be a super hero--as evidenced by the rather dashing red cape he was wearing with his street clothes. He was running a little ahead of his mother. Clearly there were superhero-type tasks to which he needed to attend with considerable urgency.

His mother caught up to him and, to my surprise, pulled his pants down at once. She guided the wriggling boy toward the curb, took his tiny penis between her thumb and forefinger and directed his stream of urine toward a tree. Apparently bladder control was not one of his superpowers.

Fortunately, I don't think there were any arch villians in the vicinity at the time, because that kind of thing can be damned embarrassing.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Defying reason

Somehow I have ended up with a little swarm of fruit flies in my apartment. They are not those extremely tiny ones; they have some substance. And yet, despite being plainly visible, they are impossible to kill. I wander around clapping wildly over my head like a lunatic and still they dart erratically around, entirely unfazed.

I truly don't know where they came from or where they are having their little fly orgies that result in still more flies. Nevertheless, I've done my best to dissuade their permanent residency. Basically, aside from the wild clapping campaign, my strategy has been to put all my fruit in the refrigerator.This is quite a sacrifice
since I am a fruit bowl user generally and don't actually enjoy cold fruit. Still, desperate times....

Imagine my dismay then when I opened the refrigerator this morning and four flies flew out quite cheerfully from its chilly depths.


What then? What then must I do? Burn down the house? I can just see it now, all my worldly goods smoldering in a black heap on the sidewalk. And what's that moving above the cinders? A plume of smoke? Why, no. I believe it's a little cloud of fruit flies.

Monday, October 01, 2007


When my new license plates arrived from the DMV, the best I seemed able to do was to put them in my back seat of my car for several weeks. Last week, I finally borrowed an appropriately large screwdriver from the facility guys at work and put the plates on the car rather than simply in it. The upside is that now that the dealer plates are off, I'm in full legal compliance and all; the downside is that I no longer recognize my car.