Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I feel better.
I ahve one reason for why I have not been updating more reasonably and frequently: meetings. The last two weeks seem to have blurred together into one solid lumpen mass of meeting. I am also beginning to suspect that 'meeting' is a code word for "generating more work -- particularly for that spry young Natalie Zed over there who clearly doesn't have enough to do already -- and hey, if we're very clever, we can make the work sound *interesting*, so she might even volunteer for it? Oh, we're so deliciously evil."
And then the meeting person sips his infernal brandy and chuckles brimstone while faint screams echo in the distance.
I am positive it happens exactly like that.
I when I finally fell into bed last night, I vaguely (and probably deliriously) mumbled something to dear Ed about how it had been a hell of a week.
"Um, 'been?'" he asked sweetly. "Nat, you do know it's only Tuesday, right?"
And I honestly didn't believe him -- I thought he was preying on my weakened state, as my darling husband is occaisionally wont to do. But it is indeed only Wednesday morning, which makes me suspect that the rest of the world is in cahoots with him.
But enough bellyaching. Life is good, is very busy. My classes are turning out to be excellent, even if I am taking an extra-half credit, and I think the slight overload is going to be totally worth it. dANDelion is really coming together; my Assistant Editor and I are starting to feel like a team, and it is really cool to have things Getting Done on an almost daily basis. I have a bit of committee work on my plate, but it too seems really fun and rewarding.
I've got a feeling this is going to be a good year.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
roto-rooter vs. clog
It was 8am and I was sleeping peacefully. No cats yowling or biting my fingertips, no last-minute early-morning running around to do, just blessed warmth and comfiness.
Then a knock at the door. Sans glasses, my hair a bird's nest, I stumbled through the hallway to open it, thinking there must be some kind of emergency.
Nope, just the plumber. The folks that live upstairs have a drain that is completely clogged. When they were downstairs trying to locate the offending pipe, I casually mentioned our drain in the tub was being a little finicky -- just draining slow. As such, it seems they took the liberty to tell the plumber when he came to fix their drain, he really should take a look at ours too.
At 8am Tuesday morning. As a surprise.
There are many surprises I like. Theatre tickets. Flowers or a nice plant. Perhaps something fancy fort he kitchen, or a new book. A friend I haven't seen in ages showing up in town. Letters from family far away. All very nice surprises.
Having to deal with a plumber, and the resultant dampness and squirshy sucking sounds and terrified cats, early in the morning, is a surprise I could rather do without. I mean, I was still blurry and wearing pajamas and have the imprint of a pillow on one side of my face. I have no idea exactly when the landlord last had the place serviced. I just live in the basement. Look, I am making myself some tea, would you like some? Sheesh.
I feel a bit bad for my landlords. They're really lovely people who have taken care of everything we've needed. They are always ready to negotiate or write us a permission letter or hear any concerns we have, and they address things *right away*. They are ideal. And so I feel rather bad for them when I realize they've had to replace two stoves (mine and very recently the upstairs folks'), a dryer, two huge hot water tanks and a handful of water lines, and now have to wrestle with mutant clogs. Oh, I forgot: when I first moved in, like less than 24 hours after my plane touched down in Calgary for the first time, the toilet broke. Yeah. It's been an expensive year. Moreover, it looks evermore like the furnace, a great growling thing left over form the 70s, only has a little bit of time left. I'll be thrilled if it makes it through one more winter, but I wouldn't bet money on it. Maybe a toonie just for the good karma. I am not looking forward to make that call in mid-february to tell my long-suffering landlords that the furnace just gave up the ghost and they have about 6.5 seconds before we're opening the oven and roasting marshmallows over the elements.
A friend and I did that once. I stayed at his place for a week in my second (undergrad) year, and it was during that week that the landlord abandonned the property. Just disappeared, never to be heard from again, as far as we all knew. It may have had somethign to do with the fact that there was no hot water and the heating system completely failed. Nevermind that fice students lived there. He wasn't fixing anything; he skipped town. So for the week I was there, and until everyone could find somewhere else to live, we kept the open open and on (constantly supervised and in shifts, though not always completely sober), and most of our meals involved toating various foodstuffs over the exposed elements. Nobody's name was on the utilities, so He Who Fled would certainly be dealing with that. And besides, it was January. Yeah, I know. One of the dozens of times I almost died. eh.
My god, what is that clog MADE of? It sounds like they're dring to break up concrete with a compound drill inside the walls.
Friday, September 09, 2005
scrumptious or delectable?
Food words are the best words of all. I am smitten. I am enamoured. Forget the language of the heart. I want the language of the kitchen and the belly, granite and marble and steel; to braise, to scorch, to simmer, to emulsify; palm sugar and mirin sauce and cold-pressed grapeseed.
I felt giddy like this when I was ten and my parents bought me a 20-volume medical dictionary for Christmas. No, seriously. I was going to be a doctor then -- My dad would tell anyone who'd listen his daughter was going to be a brain surgeon, while my mother thought I was going into obstetrics. I remember reading it -- first piecemeal, as a referecne, finding connections; later I'd just sit and read a volume like a novel -- and being absolutely entranced by the words. sciatica, lesion, corpuscle, subdural hematoma; rotator cuff, radial nerve, coccyx, ventral and dorsal scapula. I would write down the words I was particularly attracted to in strange, spidery lists. I took notes whenever our family watched Rescue 911 and would look up the terms later -- Ah, the ziphoid process is the cartiligious tip of the sternum. What a beautiful term.
Now that I write poetry and will never cut people open for a living, I recognize what I was doing. Through the language of the body, those strange and defamiliarizing terms that make our own bodies feel like an alien landscape, I discovered that words are beautiful, musical, structures all on their own and are valuable just for the way they crackle or melt in the mouth. Suppurate is a lovely word. It means "to secrete pus." But it is balanced, with rich vowel texture, just a touch of sibilanmce balanced out by the earthy Ps, anchored by a hard vowel and a t. It's beautiful.
I left the Food Network on almost all day yesterday while I wrote and worked and cleaned and made dinner. I'd pause often to jot things down -- not recipes, but words and terms and techniques. Gorgeous things like score and butterfly and caramelize. Caramelize is my favourite right now. Watch the edges of things go all carbon and sugar is they begin to burn.
I wondered, a little, if my new kitchen obsession was a sign that I was going to quit writing and run away to culinary school. I think I am safe. Safe, or doomed, whichever you prefer. Of course I love to cook. The words I get to use are just too succulent to be resisited.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Satellite Installation: Take Two
There is something about an overcast morning that makes the moment of waking up feel earlier and the apartment outside the actual bed feel colder than it actually is. The slanty light is this and murky, and despite the fact the cats whine for you to get up and feed them, dammit, the urge to burrow into the flannel and duck down is overwhelming.
I did not succumb to the temptation to reamain snug abed on this morning, however. Not today. For this morning is the morning that a kindly Bell technician will ring my doorbell, install a magic box atop my computer connected to an even more magical reciever (ultra-magically adhered to the roof). This will bring the Schmutzes the wonder, the glory, the profound brain-pureeing nirvana, of satellite television.
But how can it be? How can one of the literati so sing the praises of devices of tawdry, underwhlming mass media? Football. That's right. We Schmutzes are proud members of the church of the NFL. I can't *wait* till this Sunday. I am going to make a crapload of ribs and/or chicken wings, crack open a beer or three, and scream my bloody head off.
I even remembered to have a signed permission letter from my landlords on hand so that we can actually have the blasted thing *installed* this time. Sigh.
So. Classes. The official beginning of another year. This week is sort of the opening, warmuo week for me -- the academic preseason if you will -- chock full of meetings and orientations and parties and prep, but classes haven't quite begin yet. It's a time of transition, time to kiss the sweet lackadaisical pace of the past few months a fond farewell and embark on a brain-smoosing 10 months that might just have a defense and an MA degree at the end of it. And, you know, a trip to Thailand.
I have been thinking about Thailand a lot. Ed and I didn't have a honeymoon -- neither of us had the time, the money, or really the inclination to travel again after just having gotten home from a jaunt to Ontario. We decided to save for an extra year instead so that we could do something fantastic next summer. A 40-day tropical adventure seemed to fit the bill nicely, and the website Free and Easy Tours
put together is, shall we say, convincing. I want pad thai and fresh fruit, bungalows and hammocks, beaches and colourful birds and everything strange, wonderful and completely unfamiliar to me. Perfect for a forst anniversary, I think.
I have been thinking about Thailand a lot primarily becasue it is still so cold around here. Yesterday really, truly felt like fall. There was a biting crispness in the air that had me closing my windows for the first time since May. It also *smelled* like fall -- something brittle and bright that makes me long for cinnamon and sweet potatoes and savory baked goods. I consoled myself by making soup yesterday -- a big pot of the chicken-and-everything soup that my mom always made on the first weekend that scarves were starting to look like a good idea. today I am going to buy a small loaf of some good, crusty bread to go with it and hope chickeny goodness brimming with carrots and potatoes and scallions can keep out the nipping chill.
(Note: I hate potato peelers. Divesting a potato of its waxy red skin yesterday, I managed to divest myself of a good portion of the skin on my fingers. Ed is so on peeling duty from now on.)
Everything begins again, all at once. I fancy for the rest of my life the beginning of the year has nothing to do with a dubious January celebration involving a giant disco ball and drinking so many gin and tonics I misplace my pants a break a desk. This is the new year for me. I ring in the beginning with big pink erasers and blue lined paper, ankle boots and raked leaves, spiced brandy and pumpkin pie, and a new set of classes and projects for which I swear to be the best and most responsible student ever.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Ah! Kamikaze leaves!
Okay. No one else here seems alarmed, but I am seriously getting wierded out. Like in a I-just-caught-a three-eyed-fish sort of way.
WHAT is with the LEAVES in this city? Four or five days ago, when it was still distinctly, oh, I don't know, AUGUST (the hottest month in Ontario! Bugs bursting into flame in mid-air from the friction in their wings!), I noticed something rather disconcerting: the leaves in the big deciduous in front of my house were tinged rather yellowish. Looking at the lawn, I realized the crispy brown and yellow things were not litter, but fallen leaves. You know, the things that are emblematic of AUTUMN. Morbid signs that plantlife knows that winter is coming and its leaves decide they would rather commit suicide than face the cold ahead.
AUGUST is not AUTUMN. August should be a time of inappropriately short shorts and softserve icecream dipped in waxy chocolate and lying on the kitchen floor fanning yourself -- and then getting up and feeling your back peel away from the linoleum tile like a piece of prcessed cheese from its plastic sleeve because everything is sticky and hot and it is GLORIOUS. I should *not* be looking critically over my wardrobe and wondering is I have enough sweaters and long underwear. The thought of sweaters should make me feel like I can't breathe for the heat, not snuggly! I should not have this burning desire for hot chocolate and fuzzy slippers! Gah.
I hate being sick. I very rarely get *really* sick, but tend to stay *kinda* sick for an inordinately long time (if I don't fight it off overnight). I hate feeling just fainly like suck. See? See what happens when autumn comes in august? The whole balance of the universe is thrown off over here. Soon it'll be getting dark by 3pm again and spend all day in the bathtub eating oreo cookies and wishing I was in Mexico.
Also, decent knives are ex-fucking-spensive. My first, crappy knife block is rapidly disintegrating (one of the knoves literally fell apart, which can't be a good sign), but finding replacements that aren't crap is starting to seem like a spooky prospect. I saw a $90 chef's utility knofe and was pleased to find one so cheap, then smacked myself for thinking a $90 KITCHEN KNIFE was reasonable.
See how distressed I am? I have no control over capitalization any more.
My meeting with professor X went extremely well. He won't be chaining me to an oar or anything, and the work sounds inglorious but on terribly interesting topics. I am also feeling rather better about the big "What To Do After This Year" question that's been haunting me. That, and as always happens after a meeting with X, I have a list of several dozen more books I really ought to write. Talking to him is scary, because it's wonderful and exhausting and hilarious and great ideas are bandied about, but then you have all this Conversation Homework to do afterwards. Devious, he is.
You know those giant foam fingers sold at spoting events? Anyone know where I can get blank ones?
Only 11 months til Thailand. Coconuts and green geckos and huts on the beach. I might never come back.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
we all have stupid moments.
I had a major one yesterday -- or maybe just a mentla blok or a mindfart or something, because despite the fact that I don't actually *own* the house the dish was going to be installed in, it never occurred to me that I might need permission in written form. Bah. So no dish yet. My landlords, however, rock, and have already written a letter for us, which I shall pick up this morning and have on hand for when my satellite dish is *actually* installed -- at the latest, Tuesday, but I am hoping to fenagle something for tomorrow so Ed and I can watch pre-season and season-opener goodness this weekend. And, you know, maybe some Iron Chef or Nigella Lawson.
I have discovered the perfect salad: red leaf lettuce and cucumber, perhaps some sweet pepper and a few sweet peas, drizzled lightly with hazlenut oil, spritzed with lemon juice, and them sprinkled with some ground or slivered almonds if any are on hand. I have always liked fresh green things, but never craved them. I've always had to go out of my way, in a sense, to eat them though I always enjoy salad when I finally have one in front of me. This is the first salad I have ever discovered that I actively *crave*. Dangerous stuff.
The hazlenut oil -- along with some fresh casarecci pasta, a zester, cardamom, and mexican hot chocolate (joy! not the xococoatl I have been questing after, which has chillies, but perfectly lovely.) -- was one of my aquisitions form a recent trip to The Cookbook Co.
on 11th Ave. That store is flat-out dangerous. It is on the expensive side, but I get looking at the shelves with the pomegranate molasses and truffle risotto and start *planning*. And once a meal has been planned, it only takes so long before I've assembled the ingrediants for a complete meal and am up to my elbows in avacado. Which, again, dangerous.
Speaking of dangerous, I picked up all of my books this week. I am only taking two classes, yet somehow managed to drop over $400 in books for the upcoming semester. I console myself by knowing they are all books I should own, should probably have owned before now, but looking at my credit card has begun to make me feel squidgy inside again.
Luckily, my literary and culinary indulgence will hopefully be counteracted by a new RA'ship/serfdom I am neterig into this upcoming semester. I have a meeting with Professor X today to discuss my future enslavement to him. While not terribly glorious, photocopying and carrying things means I can support my habits, and since I have started reading comic books with a vengeance again (after being reminded just how hot Dr. Doom really is), my habits require supporting.