Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Things That Are Hard to Do Without One's Dominant Hand

I broke my first bone this week while biking across campus on my way home. It was weirdly strategic: I fell in the parking lot across the street from Urgent Care, which had conveniently just closed. Luckily my parents live in town and my dad acted as my personal ambulance driver. We spent four lucky hours in the ER before the X-rays revealed a fractured right radius, and I was sent home in a splint.

There exists in my mind an odd romance for broken bones. I was always a cautious child, and secretly envied the attention that the kids with casts got. That romance ended this week when I began composing an ongoing list in my head of Things That Are Hard to Do Without One's Dominant Hand:

1. Putting on and taking off clothes, especially long sleeved things and, yes, bras
2. Testing one's blood sugar
3. Cooking
4. Driving
5. Brushing one's hair (I desperately miss braiding)
6. Writing
7. Folding just about anything
8. Unscrewing childproof pill boxes, which is particularly cruel when one needs a Vicodin
9. Typing. Not looking forward to my 20-page seminar paper.
10. Hugging
11. At times, sleeping. My dad (who has some experience with broken bones) suggested I sleep with my hand perched atop its own pillow, which means that in the groggy moments after my alarm goes off, I awake in a panic, wondering what that stiff thing is in front of my face and why I can't feel my hand.

All said and done, it could have been a lot worse. My parents have been even more supportive than usual, which is saying something. I plan to get the most obnoxious color for my cast. Maybe if I'm lucky all my friends will sign it, so when the damn thing is off six weeks from now, I'll pull my arm out from its little plaster shell and have this monument to the one and only bone I hope to break. Now that would be romantic.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On politics and pretzels

Sometimes, when reading the newspaper or listening to President Obama's voice boom confidently through the nightly news, I have to stop myself and think, what year is it again? Was the Bush administration really so long ago, or does time pass faster when competency reigns?

It's funny, remembering how much of my adolescence and young adult years were spent either fervently protesting against or shying away from our government and its faulty representatives. One of my dearest high school friends recently contacted me after stumbling across a column I had written in our 2002 school newspaper. I don't remember the column's full title, but I'm quite sure that the words "Good ole GW" and "pretzel" were in there somewhere. Remember when he choked on a pretzel and that made the news? Remember that?

I received my first "hate" mail after the publication of that 500-word essay. We were required to let the student in question, a girl whose name I remember but won't share, print her own rebuttal editorial. I kind of admired her for that, though it stung because her political party was still frustratingly in power, and would be for far longer than we could imagine, even then. But what felt the best was knowing that no matter what she said or did, no one could deny that George Bush had faced down the dangers of a carby treat and had lived to tell the tale. There were bruises - again, this was news.

Photo credit: BBC

We wonder now why irony has become such a popular literary trend. For those of us who came of age during the Bush administration, who protested weekly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, who wrote snarky editorials and campaigned for Kerry, and yes, maybe even Gore--irony was not a choice. It was our default, and it had to be.

Years later, facing one of the most tragic economic depressions in recent American history, we plod on, though I don't feel the same need for irony. Obama isn't perfect, but he's assertive and diplomatic, and he's never made the headlines for indigestion. Hamburgers at local joints, yes, but he manages somehow to always keep them down.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On summer

I read two novels by Virginia Woolf this weekend. The first, The Waves, is a dense little bugger - one I didn't think I could make my way through until at some moment her prose cracked and out shone a series of startling, vibrant soliloquies. About 30 pages in, one of her characters has a monologue about how exactly she plans to spend her first day of summer, and it reminds me of how, as a kid, I would keep a tally of the number of days until summer and write it on the class board every morning before first period. This says it even better:

"'I have torn off the whole of May and June,' said Susan, 'and twenty days of July. I have torn them off and screwed them up so they no longer exist, save as a weight in my side. They have been crippled days, like moths with shrivelled wings unable to fly. There are only eight days left. In eight days' time I shall get out of the train and stand on the platform at six twenty-five. Then my freedom will unfurl, and all these restrictions that wrinkle and shrivel--hours and order and discipline, and being here and there exactly at the right moment--will crack asunder. Out the day will spring, as I open the carriage-door and see my father in his old hat and gaiters. I shall tremble. I shall burst into tears. Then next morning I shall get up at dawn. I shall let myself out by the kitchen door. I shall walk on the moor. The great horses of phantom riders will thunder behind me and stop suddenly. I shall see the swallow skim the grass. I shall throw myself on a bank by the river and watch the fish slip in and out among the reeds. The palms of my hands will be printed with pine-needles. I shall there unfold and take out whatever it is I have made here; something hard. For something has grown in me here, through the winters and summers, on staircases, in bedrooms.'"

--The Waves, pg. 32-33

In related news: Four more weeks of work, one more paper, and then Ryan and I are embarking on our second cross-country trip. Destination: Calgary.

We shall let ourselves out into the summer air. We shall tremble. We shall burst into song...

Monday, May 9, 2011

One hundred word story #19

Danny never really tried at anything. He'd open his palms to the sky and let experiences rain down on him, wander through the streets following the whims of his stomach, take buses til the end of the line. One day on his travels he caught the tail of a paper airplane. “Follow me,” it read, and listed an address. It was further than he thought – beyond the city’s square, past the bus depot. Finally the numbers stopped. Danny waited. He got hungry. Buses passed. He closed his eyes, opened his palms. Nothing. He unfurled the airplane. “Gullible sonofabitch,” it read.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sky dancers

These amazing dancers are members of Cielo Vertical Arts, a troop lead by Heather Baer of Oakland. I saw them perform off the top of the Natsoulas Gallery in Davis last Friday night in honor of the California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art. I don't know what is more amazing: the fact that these men and women performed modern art while dangling off the side of a four-story building, or the fact that my friend Charlie Schneider, internationally renowned artist and sculptor, spent the better part of last week rigged up to the very same building. He painted the sides of the building with a clay slip in a bold rectangular design, one that will eventually fade in the rain. No biggie, right?

All of it -- the paint, the sculpture, the mid-air modern dance -- was exactly the kind of creative hub that carries heat. These are things that make people stop what they're doing and really look at the world around them.

And yes, Charlie, no matter how much you protest, I think "internationally renowned artist" has a bit of a ring to it.