Monday, May 22, 2006

When I was little I used to pretend I was a python. One of my favorite books was a book of Peanuts comics, in which Snoopy imitated a python and a vulture among other things. The vulure was okay, but the python really captivated me. One of my favorite games for a good long time was "Python." This consisted of sneaking up as quietly as I could to my unsuspecting prey, grabbing it as high as I could reach (usually the knees), squeezing as hard as I could and crying, "Python attack!!" It was great fun. Needless to say, though, my parents didn't believe me when I crawled into their bed one night saying there was a python in the bathroom. There was though. Well, some sort of snake. They were pretty surprised when they went to take a shower in the morning. . .

With that background, you will understand my delight at the Bear-eating Pythons of Borneo. All manner of python inspiration!

As those of you who know me will surely guess, I shamelessly stole this link from Peculiar. Yes, he found it first, and I'm brazenly upstaging him while he does the dinner dishes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Confessions and (possibly) Hope on a Thursday Morning

Thursday morning. That means I have to make the 20-30 minute drive out to Nambe to tutor the kids. To ensure I get there on time I have to leave by 8:15, but I have a pretty good chance of making it if I leave 5-10 minutes later. At any rate, the kids are usually running a good bit late themselves, so everything works out. We get out the door on time this morning (a rarer occurrence than I would like), but we don't have time to get any breakfast, or even make a caffeine-laced beverage. I really don't want to go through the morning without either of these things, and I should have time to stop somewhere to do something about this.

The next issue to be delt with is cash. Not having a cash-rich job anymore, I scrounge the house, my purse, the floor, for petty cash, loose change, anything. No such luck. We do have, however, a can on the table wherein we were collecting spare change for the poor and hungry during Lent. Needless to say, we haven't turned it in yet. . . hmmm. . . I'm hungry. . . I think even Peculiar was a bit appalled to see me taking a can opener to it, but I did put in an I.O.U. $4 less I'll have to count later!

The only place that's on my way where I can get a fast, cheap, somewhat decent breakfast and coffee is McDonalds. I noticed a few weeks ago their coffee has drastically improved. It seems to be on the low side of coffee-shop coffee instead of at the same level with gas station coffee (which I've also noticed is getting better -- I guess capitalism does really pay off from time to time!). So, although there are many better cups of coffee in this town, McDonalds, I have to say, is acceptable in a pinch. And, try as I do to hide the fact, I do have a weakness for the sausage-egg breakfast sandwiches. I'm secretly glad when I'm "forced" to get one, whether on a roadtrip or on a morning when breakfast is necessary but unavailable through more acceptable means.

I pull in to the parking lot, with plenty of time, but am dismayed and appalled by the length of the drive-through line. Do this many people really get their breakfast here? I heard on a commercial awhile back that some astounding number (a third, maybe?) of Americans get breakfast there, but had hoped it was just overstated propaganda. Maybe not. The only thing worse than the number of people there is that I'm one of them.

I decide that going in must be faster than the drive-through. Usually, fast food restaurants are a bit scary. Maybe it was just unfortunate timing, but the last time I ate in one my dining companions were several rough-looking cholos, a guy in a wheelchair who kept up a constant, incoherent conversation with himself in Spanish, and the pimply high-school-drop-out looking counter attendants who couldn't seem to figure out the timing of onion rings and fries. But this morning, however this McDonalds actually felt like. . . a restaurant. The people in line looked like they, too were on their way to work, running short on time, a bit ashamed to be there. I noticed a group of happy looking retirees sitting at a table, leisurely reading papers, drinking coffee and obviously enjoying an idle morning. The whole place had the feel of an early-morning diner, that particular combination of leisure, efficiency and anticipation of the day.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm no fan of McDonalds, or fast food in general. I was properly appalled by "Supersize Me," and, having worked in a restaurant, have seen firsthand the gustatory damage inflicted on the populace by these places. But I have to say, while waiting for my ill-gotten breakfast I found myself setting the heavy case against McDonalds aside, at least for a few minutes. It's a crazy-busy, insane world, after all and at that moment I was grateful for the small comfort and pleasure that this place could provide for me and my fellow diners. Maybe the world isn't such a dark place after all. I read in a reliable source not long ago that McDonalds is now the number one purchaser of. . . fresh apples, apparently substituting them for fries upon request in some areas. And they're now offering Newman's salad dressing and purchase milk from a natural (if not organic) producer. (I know all this, in case you're wondering, from looking up incredibly boring information on very large companies for hours a day.) Incredible as it sounds, a big, evil corporation can, seemingly, change for the better, even if it is only to boost its bottom line. Still, better is better, whatever motives are behind it. Hmmm. . . that gives me a bit of hope for the day.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Surreal Shopping Adventures

I was standing in the card aisle at Albertson's a few days ago, my brain slowly turning to mush, paralyzed by the sheer number of choices in front of me. I'd made the mistake of stopping by the card section in the first place, looking for a tasteful, preferably blank card for Mother's Day. Needless to say, that was not forthcoming at Albertson's. Apparently they don't trust people to think of things to say to their loved ones for themselves. But as I was there, I thought, "Maybe I should get a card for my mom from my sisters and me. . . that would be good. . . I doubt they would have thought of it. . . this one will do. . but what if they have thought of it. . . what if one of them has already gotten something?. . .Oh, look, cards for an aunt, maybe I should get a card for my aunt (I'm actually going to be seeing these people, otherwise I wouldn't bother). . . oh, but it's her birthday on Mother's Day, should I get a birthday card instead/too? . . . and here's cards for grandmothers. . . maybe I should get one of those. . . " Those card companies are evil, I tell you. But the point of the story is that as I was looking at all these cards in a growing stupor, my eyes fell on somethig quite extraordinary. It was a card in Spanish, rather large, with a beatific, gold-trimmed picture of the Virgin on the front. The gilt Spanish letters read something to the effect of, "At this time of the year, we appreciate all the things you do, blah, blah." I idly picked up the card and opened it. Inside was a the characteristically Catholic depiction of the Sacred Heart of Mary -- you know, the picture where you see her heart exposed, surrounded by thorns and on fire. It's a bit odd to begin with, but this one went above and beyond. In the exposed heart was a small, red light that, as I opened the card, started blinking in time to "Für Elise," which promptly started playing in that high-pitched, distorted card-playing way. Living in Santa Fe, one gets accustomed to Catholic oddities (both earnest and malicious), but even so, this one made my jaw drop. I was standing in the card aisle, laughing out loud in disbelief. I really wanted to get it, to give to someone who would appreciate it, but it was rather on the expensive side, so I passed. I might have to go back though. . .

Then, if that wasn't odd enough, I finally made it to the obnoxious self-checkout that's usually more strouble than it's worth. Behind me I hear a voice say, quite clearly, "Habeas corpus." I hear a very young sounding child dutifully repeat, "Habeath corputh." I turn around to see a rather large hispanic gentleman with a small girl sitting in the grocery cart.

"Habeas corpus."

"Habeath corputh."

I'm not sure what this little exercise in juriprudence, or maybe simply Latin, was supposed to accomplish. Looking in the cart doesn't give any meaningful clues -- several cases of pop and a family sized package of cheap chicken. As I eavesdrop on their talk I gather that this man has temporary charge of the girl and it seems her mother is sick. Maybe he's trying to explain why she has to stay in the grocery cart: "I've suspended Habeas corpus," or perhaps he means it literally in Latin: the great advantage of adults over children.

When I get to my car, I find I do, in fact, have the items I believed I purchased, assuring me that this strange episode was not a dream after all. I'm not sure if that's comforting. . .

Friday, May 05, 2006

I finally finished Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. I started it a few years ago and just got around to reading the last two books, The Grey King and Silver on the Tree. It's a strange series; I'm not quite sure of my motives for finishing it. Stubbornness, maybe, or an somewhat idle curiosity. It's interesting, but dry. You feel that the author deliberately set out to create a Middle-Earth or Narnia that knocks the reader upside the head with its explicit non-Christianity. Not that I mind at all if a work of literature is not Christian, but going out of your way to make a work non-Christian seems as contrived as dragging in unnecessary and awkward Christian elements when they have nothing to do with the story. The same is true of any religious or philosophical system. Whatever the story is, let it be that and just tell the story. Let the reader draw his own conclusions.

Aside from that, the world-system present in the books is downright gloomy and frankly pretty boring. It's good ol' dualism, with two forces, the Light and the Dark, competing against each other for mastery of the world, or some such thing. But their striving feels more like a modern courtroom battle than any glorious battle of old. Both sides are governed by a Higher Magic, something that seems to be right out of the Enlightenment, and must abide by its rather arbitrary and boring laws and decisions. The series feels a bit like a video game wherein the hero has to overcome various random obstacles to get the prize, whatever that is, only to be given another set of clues and can proceed to yet another level before they can defeat the Big Bad Guy at the end of the game.

So why did I read all five books? Well, they were interesting, and well-written enough that I kept hoping if I hung in long enough I'd get through the preliminary muck and get to the good stuff. It never really happened. All the elements of a good story were there but they somehow never managed to come together and stay together. There were definitely good bits though, and scraps for the imagination to feed on. I'm grateful for Peculiar's orophilia: the setting of the majority of The Grey King, Cadair Idris, seems spectacular and seeing the pictures of the mountain made the story much better.

So if you want a diverting, light read, I'd recommend them. If you're looking for something more heroic and hearty look elsewhere.