Monthly Archives: October 2014

October 31

I just don't feel like myself today.

I just don’t feel like myself today.

What could it be?

What could it be?

Maybe it's my hair...

Maybe it’s my hair…

No Expiration Date

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I found this coupon from 1986 in an old magazine. I figure if I just sit on it another 22 years, I can have a little fun trying to redeem it, hopefully somewhere they double coupons. I can picture the local headlines…

Band-Aid© coupon surfaces after 50 years

Store refuses to honor.

Lady insists on seeing Manager; says “No expiration.”

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Short Thought 75 (Yes, but…)

There’s a saying that 90% of what people worry about never happens. I’ve tried to see the wisdom in this, at least in hindsight: “See? You did all that stewing and for what?” Another part of me is thinking, “Yes, but…” Yes, but a lot of bad stuff did happen. Maybe not necessarily the stuff I was worried about, but other bad stuff. So I’m thinking that Pearl of Wisdom about the 90% isn’t so very comforting after all.

People who don’t make faces

I don’t know how to relate to people who have no affect. I only got to thinking about this later in life, but I’ve realized how much I depend on facial and other expressions in interactions. I feel a bit “stripped” of my powers when someone gives a flat expression pretty much no matter what’s happening. I find myself fruitlessly searching their face for cues and clues, anything, a twitch.

Secretly inside, I’m imagining myself taking these people by the shoulders, burning into their eyes with mine and hollering, “Why don’t you ever have any expression?!?”
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In one case, there was an expressionless person who left me not quite cold, but indifferent, detached. Then I saw photos online of the individual smiling and laughing, in fact, appearing quite charming. Now I figure there’s at least two (maybe more) ways to interpret the discrepancy. One, the person doesn’t like me. Or two, they only show the more outgoing side of themselves with people they know well. Oh, I got a third thought. Maybe I only run into them when they are tired or otherwise preoccupied (I don’t know about you, but being that I generally follow certain routines – like, I’m not a night owl for one – I may be coming across the same people under the same circumstances regularly.)

I realize specific conditions might be at work in some cases and lack of expression is symptomatic of those. However, there’s typically other “tells” when that’s the case. Also, there are those people who are very discriminating with their use of expressions; they crack the slightest here-and-gone semblance of a smile, say, when reacting to something they find outrageously funny. But again, that could be observed over time.

I’ve watched particular people to see if they become more animated when interacting with other people (i.e., not me) and still saw no expression. I wonder if these other people notice and if not, why don’t they? I’ve never taken anyone aside and asked, “Why doesn’t so-and-so ever have any facial expressions?” It’s just a private thing I think about – I don’t want to be mean or rude about it as it seems so personal – and besides, I can almost hear the answer: “They don’t? Oh, I never noticed.”

Halloween

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When I was a kid, while there was talk of razor blades in apples and poisoned unwrapped candy, it was still the norm to go trick or treating on Halloween. Or should I say¬†trickortreating because we said it as if it was all one word, and frankly, I didn’t understand either “trick” or “treat” in this context; I knew only that candy was going to be extracted. We played no tricks.

I loved it all. The costume. The unusual privilege of a¬†night trek – supervised by an older sibling when we were little – on a cool October evening. The excitement. Examining the haul at night’s end. Sadly, examining was pretty much the extent of the fun with the candy. After selecting one piece each, my siblings and I had our loot confiscated by our mother (the kill-joy who was forever going on about “rotting your teeth” and who “pays the dental bills”) and never directly accessed by us again. Had I any sense, I’d have been sure to have¬†hidden a stache of candy or minimally EATEN a bunch of it whilst on our outdoor excursion. Nope, not me.

Many other kids roamed the town at will with their oversized pillow cases crammed full of candy, but we were permitted only a short range. Not only did we never tote pillow cases, there’d have been no point, given the modest amount of goods we could expect to accumulate. Mecca was apparently the apartment complex down the road because all the savviest, greediest kids bee-lined to them since they could hit a dozen doors in a matter of minutes. These kids knew their time management. I doubt I need to say¬†apartments with strangers were definitely NOT in our permitted zone.

There was one particular house in the neighborhood that was also verboten. It was never explained why it was off-limits, but every year our mother made a point to tell us not to go there. Till the one year she didn’t. I’m sure it was an oversight, she simply forgot to include it in the list of rules & regulations for our jaunt. My sister and I were considered old enough to take our little brother and go without older-sibling supervision and were for once, opportunistic enough to take advantage of our mother’s omission. There were¬†much creepier houses and people we visited on Halloween who were considered acceptable (for instance, anyone who belonged to or attended our church, no matter how otherwise weird, demented, scary, or otherwise troubling, was always okay).

On approaching the usually-forbidden house, we saw the lady sitting just outside the door with her candy. She was delighted to see us and knew who we were. I remember the candy as being good stuff, not cheap and scanty. Maybe she noticed we never came by other years, or maybe not. All I know is to this day, given her pleasure in our visit, I’m glad we went there. Come to find out years later, the woman was an alcoholic and that was why our mother told us not to go to her house for trick or treating. The whopping irony of this is that prohibition wasn’t exactly practiced in our own house. Okay then!

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One summer, on a trip back from the neighboring state my parents hailed from and where many of our relatives still lived, our family stopped at a roadside market to buy apples. In addition to a bushel of apples, there were free apple masks for us kids. Apple masks you inquire? Oh yes, seriously. They were simple illustrated cardboard creations, with eye and mouth holes cut out and an elastic band attached to go around the back of the head. Not high-tech but we kids were excited to get this unexpected gift on a boring apple quest.

That year, my sister and younger brother came up with our own idea – our older sisters & mother usually had a hand or more in our costumes – to use the masks and go as a matching trio of apples. Who else would be going as apples? We dressed all in red, donned our masks, and off we went. Those apple masks…they were a problem. Being a flat piece of cardboard, they didn’t stay in place well and slid around. Worse, saliva and breathing dampened the inside area around the mouth opening, so that over the course of the evening, the cardboard became moist and started to shred. This was not a pleasant sensation. Finally, we were most insulted when a neighbor exclaimed over the “little tomatoes!” Tomatoes?! We were apples dammit. Sheesh.

I’m not sure how old I was when I stopped going trick or treating. I hadn’t gone in some years, when I talked my best friend into going out when we were 16. See, I had these masks… No, not the surely long-gone apple masks, but plastic green Frankenstein masks I bought for fun. We dressed in big, black overcoats and clunky boots to accompany the masks. (We weren’t going to be the sullen, unimaginative teens who show up sans costumes on Halloween demanding candy.)

It was a great time and the evening went off mostly without a hitch. If asked by a homeowner how old we were, I pleasantly said “ten,” offering that we were big for our age. People good-naturedly went along with it. Except one house. We were surprised when a boy we knew – a popular, “cool” kid one year older – answered the door. He wasn’t having this “ten”¬†business and demanded to know who we were. He wanted the masks¬†off. We giggled but got uncomfortable. We were both out of our league with this boy, someone too popular to even speak to either of us under normal circumstances (so deep ran this feeling that once, years later, I about fell over when this young man said hello to me in passing on the sidewalk).

We didn’t want to be outed from our Frankenstein disguises. In fact, we wanted the hell out and literally ran away across the lawn into the night – I don’t remember if we got any candy first or not. I hadn’t counted, however, on my telltale hair, noticeably blonde and recognizable, paired with my Irish best friend’s thick dark hair, showing from behind, and most certainly giving us away. Because with a superior, somewhat triumphant tone Mr. Popular called after us, “Oh, I know who you are…” Busted.

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Nature Men (and Women) – but not me

I have long been intrigued by people, real and fictitious, who are competent in nature, and are, sometimes, more comfortable in the company of nature than that of people.

Jeremiah Johnson, based on an actual man, is one of my favorite films. I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Into the Wild with can’t-turn-away fascination. This past summer I read both Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Last American Man and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.. And recently I watched the DVD North Face, based on a true pre-WWII mountain-climbing competition. While not obsessed, I’m drawn to these stories and return regularly to the genre, safely from my proverbial armchair.

It could be because fewer and fewer people learn and practice nature-friendly skills, I’m impressed by virtue of their rarity. It probably goes without saying that I lack these skills. But had I lived 100 years ago, would I think twice about somebody who could identify animal tracks or grow/raise/catch all their own food or live in the woods for weeks on end? Who could find safe water to drink or build a fire in the snow?

I think about my – most of our – dependence on others for almost every aspect of living. We lose electricity for a couple days and chaos ensues. All of my food, save a few herbs, comes from stores. If I was lost somewhere, I certainly couldn’t forage the land for edibles. I’m handy with a hammer and saw, but I’ve never constructed any kind of shelter. I sleep poorly on the ground.

Please know I don’t spend a lot of time fretting over these things and I’m not concerned enough to take wilderness courses or to stockpile goods. (My limited takeaway from what happened in New Orleans was that cash and water were the ideal supplies. And maybe a way to heat water or food.)

I don’t particularly like or relate to the alarmist sensibility that is not uncommon these days. The apocalyptic and survivalist ones, with their talk of emergencies, preparedness, and disasters. That’s not my reference point. I guess I more lament that learning a few basic skills about nature, about meeting your own needs, isn’t part of our education, no matter where someone grows up. I think it’s harder, like studying a foreign language later in life, than if it was picked up in childhood, so that a foundation is laid.

I suppose what I’m saying is I have no burning desire to learn how to skin a squirrel or run a combine (whatever that is; I think farms use them in producing crops or something). I just don’t like being quite so soft.

Don’t yawn!

It’s almost spooky when you consider it to see someone yawn and immediately feel the urge yourself. The last word has yet to be said on the subject, but did you know there have been studies, well at least one I’ve read about anyway, connecting yawning to empathy?

The theory also suggested that yawning could have been the signal in ancient societies (here I picture cave men and women sitting around the fire relaxing after a nice dinner of flambéed buffalo) that it was time to go to sleep. One person yawns and you know how it goes, the rest follow suit.

Certain people according to the study, are more susceptible than others depending on their levels of empathy. I am so vulnerable that when I read the word in a book or say it aloud to myself I induce a yawn. Are you yawning now??

They should have a study to secretly ferret out sociopaths by putting them in a ¬†group of yawners to see if they’d follow suit. I bet they’d just sit there, twiddling their thumbs, wondering when refreshments would be served.