round here

Jan. 4th, 2008 11:24 pm
[Happy New Year!]

It's Friday night and the neighbors downstairs are having a party. It's not particularly noisy, but there's talking and laughing and the clinking of glasses and cutlery, and it's keeping me awake.

And then it suddenly occurred to me that if I can hear them, then they can hear me, or more importantly, my kittens, my clanging around in the kitchen, my sex life, and my impromptu dishwashing karaoke, in that order of frequency and loudness. I feel particularly bad about the kittens. When they're running around after each other, they can be irritating as hell. (One of the holiday visitor cats somehow got on top of the refrigerator this evening as The Boy and I were eating dinner. It was pretty impressive, but we still had to give him the requisite scolding.)

All this boils down to: I'm sorry, downstairs neighbors, and I will try to prevent the bed from squeaking too much or the kittens from pushing any more glasses off the coffee table.

I had a real reason for writing this post, though, and that was to squee about and comment on several new books. It's the semester break, so I've been sucking down everything as non-academic as I can find. This started out with The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Go drop everything and read it. Seriously. I actually met the author a while ago and told him I would read his book, and then my manager squeed a lot about it, so I picked it up. It's fantastic. It's the first third of the life story of an arcanist, from his childhood through his early adolescence, and--get this--it has a dragon on crack. I'm not even kidding. I can't wait for the next in the series.

Then I read (or tried to read) Diary of a Bad Year, since I'm a giant Coetzee fangirl. Couldn't get past the first 50 or so pages. It was kind of painful. Maybe when I'm in a different mindset or something, but right now I'm not feeling it, stylistically or in terms of content.

So after that I picked up The Yiddish Policemen's Union, because I'm determined to read Chabon backwards from The Gentlemen of the Road (omg BEST). And it's omg SECOND BEST so far. Because I still can't get over the pure joy of Gentlemen.

Also I Am Legend was really good, with the added bonus of a bunch of short stories in the back that aren't noted at all on the front (the I Am Legend part is half as long as it looks from the outside.) A couple of things irritated me. Mostly the re-use of nouns three or more times in close proximity (I'm still a little scarred by the number of times Matheson managed to put the word "chest" in a single page, because I keep imagining Charlton Heston's chest, which I've seen way too much of, and yeah.) But the story itself was fantastic. Now I want to see the movie.

Finally, I borrowed In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. As an avid cook/baker/lover of all things vegetable, animal, and mineral, I've always been interested in the American attitude towards food, and although I'm not quite halfway through this book yet, it's elaborated on a lot of the things I've always wondered about. Like how hundreds of thousands of cultures around the world can eat vastly different diets and still remain healthy. How scientists and therefore Americans have moved away from things we recognize as "food" (an apple, a carrot, a cut of meat) to things we recognize as "nutrients" (vitamin-fortified, highly packaged, processed edible things.) It's a good read, too--you might know Pollan from The Omnivore's Dilemma, which was a hot seller at Borders a few months ago, but which I have unfortunately not yet read.

So those are the ones I've read and loved so far. I read a few more that I didn't love, but liked enough to finish, most of which I will probably do a short commentary on later. And as it seems now that the party downstairs has moved to a different room, it is time for the sleep.
About a week ago, a woman came through my line at Borders with platinum blonde hair, long lavender nails, and two deep purple bruises around her eyes.

And I said nothing, even though I assumed all the things I've been taught to assume--her husband's beating her, she's afraid for the kids, she's afraid for herself, some part of her believes he loves her. I treated her just like I would have treated any other customer, asked her whether she had her Borders Rewards card and whether she'd like a bag. Wished her a good day.

Maybe she really did fall down a flight of stairs. I hate making assumptions about people I don't know.

But maybe someone hit her and what she really wanted was for me to ask if everything was all right, if there was anything I could do. I know there have been times when I've sat on the Metro, lips tight, and wished someone would ask me if I was okay. And I've never had two black eyes, except when I opened a car door into my face when I was a kid. (I also fell going up stairs and left tooth marks in the wood floor at the top and closed my pinky in a door that year--it was not my most graceful period.)

Maybe everything was all right. Maybe she has some sort of weird skin disease that makes it look like she has two black eyes when she's really fine. Maybe. Maybe.

I will never know. I don't regret not asking her. It wasn't my place. But some fundamental human part of me wishes I had.

(Pudgeball kitten has decided that he loves All Things Shiny. His best friend at the moment is a crinkly foil Christmas ornament that he carries around with him and stashes in various places. Also: all of the tin foil has disappeared from the recycling and reappeared in corners around the apartment.)
It's so incredibly beautiful outside right now. I always forget how much I love Wisconsin in the winter.

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A tree at the end of Henry St., just before it dead-ends into Lake Mendota.

more under here )
It's snowed probably four inches since last night and the plow has not been past on either of the streets that intersect at our corner. This does not bode well for my wading to work. It's strange, though--usually, as soon as I see a flake of snow, I also hear that grating, grinding sound of the plows getting to work. Come on, Madison, I know it hasn't snowed much this winter, but still. You're falling down on the job.

I am the only one awake in the apartment, mostly because I can't ever sleep more than seven hours at a stretch. I suppose that's not technically accurate--The Cat is also awake, and doesn't seem to realize that she won't fit on my lap with my laptop and recharging mp3 player. Right now, having given up her attempts to nudge my laptop off me, she's sulking on the futon, paws curled under, staring at me. I honestly have no idea why she decided to claim me out of the three of us, but she's forever climbing onto chairs with me and into bed with me and curling around my legs when I'm trying to get ready to go out. And she's a big girl. She was morbidly obese when her original owners surrendered her to the Humane Society, and although she's lost eight pounds under her foster caretaker, she's still pretty massive. She's gorgeous, though, grey and white and this strange shade of peachy beige that I don't think I've ever seen on a cat before.

Something about the snow makes me feel very quiet. It makes me feel like this, a song by David Berkeley called Fire Sign. I want to stand in a wide open field, nothing but my footprints in the white, and close my eyes. I think I'll walk down to the lake in a few minutes and just watch the snow fall for a while. It's a perfect calm.
I think The Cat is secretly a dog. From the moment I wake up (or she wakes me up by licking my eye, sitting on my hair, jumping on my feet, etc.) to the moment I go to bed, she whines for food. I have never heard a cat beg this much, seriously. Chinchilla thinks she's the stupidest thing ever and routinely flouts this knowledge by standing on the ledge of his cage that's just too high for her to reach. I think he resents that her presence means we can't let him run around all the time anymore.

Also, The Cat has decided that her preferred puking spot is the one 2x3 carpet in an entire apartment of hardwood floors. Which of course means that once a week or so, I wake up to that hacking, choking sound that cats make right before they throw up and have to vault out of bed and get a paper towel under her.

And I love her hopelessly anyway. Sigh.

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