I have always wanted to be a smart person. Or, at least, to feel like I was a smart person.
I have also been suffering lately from the certainty that I am not getting any smarter. In fact, there is evidence to suggest I may be regressing and losing my faculties altogether.
In other words, I am getting dumber.
How do I know this? I tried recently to be clever and failed.
I attempted to write a post. I wanted to be witty and erudite, to create a mathematical equation quantifying the values of parenting–like something you might see on a white board on The Big Bang Theory set. I wrote for hours. I struggled. I waffled. I flailed in my efforts to write what my brain kept telling me what should be a funny post.
At the same time, I have been trying to research what kind of cell phone or carrier to switch before my iPhone dies for good. The more I read on the topic, the less sure I am that I am capable of making a rational, informed decision.
To stave off complete digital death, I switched off as many features of my ‘smart’ phone so as to conserve the battery life past a nano-second. I turned off so many functions, my phone stopped receiving voicemails and texts. As a result, my ‘smart’ phone is now a dumb phone which is holding my information hostage until I turn my data back on.
Didn’t phones used to just work before ‘data’ was invented?*
Why is a phone designed to use data to send a message anyway?**
*shouts into the abyss*
In my efforts to keep my phone running while not plugged into a recharger, I even deleted Facebook from my apps.
The entire next day I learned exactly how often I have been checking Facebook. Like, every fricking time I had a break…or had to wait in line…or stopped at a red light for more than two seconds. I wish I were kidding.
So, I’ve learned two things this week: I am not getting smarter and my phone is possibly making me dumber.
In my research for ‘smart’ terminology, I found a physics term that I feel describes my mental state:
a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
Apparently I am suffering from a terminal case of entropy.***
Let’s just hope it’s not stupidly fatal.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*C’mon conspiracy theory junkies, give me your best explanation for why phones cost ten times as much to do half as well for less years than you’d like. And then tell me why we fall for it?
**GROUP BREAK-OUT SESSION: What exactly is DATA and why is it the new gold standard for the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots? Discuss.
***Additional proof of my stupidification is denoted by the fact that I have to use the second definition of Entropy to understand the meaning of the word.
The Image Stolen for this header comes from a site that did a much better job of actually explaining entropy–in case any of you are smarter and want to read up on it.
I try to remind myself of this every time I see something that my avaricious soul desires.*
But it is so very hard to be good.
What I need is a little Christmas Discipline.
I am currently enjoying a period of forced minimalism, otherwise known as being broke.
I have never budgeted. As a result, I have also never saved much money. I just let the paycheck drop into the account and spent said moolah on whatever I wanted and periodically looked to make sure I wasn’t dipping below the fill-line, so to speak, trusting that the bank will never run out of money.
But it did…for about three days.
November had five Thursdays in it.
Did you notice? I certainly didn’t.
Fun fact, our social security payment arrives on the last Thursday of the month. I auto-pay my bills electronically on or around the 25th because, usually, by then the check has hit the bank.
Unless there are five Thursdays.
Five Thursdays spells disaster with my current un-budgeted way of life. If I’m not careful, the money doesn’t quite stretch to cover the month unless I pay attention and not buy every indulgence that catches my eye.
I had no idea what a spend thrift I could be until I realized I couldn’t spend ANY money for three days.
I mean none.
I got through the days of parsimony and rue recognizing that I have some really bad habits.
It was time to enforce some strict discipline…
I looked at my love of fancy compressed curds and altered my favorite Thanksgiving side dish to omit the Grueyer and Emmenthaler cheeses.**
Turns out, I might just need a cheddar-vention.
I have some expensive, thoughtless, habits that I now need to pay attention to.
A sudden need for a french fry fix makes me commit a fast food drive by almost without thinking about it. The doctor, at least, will be happy to hear we are cutting back on our deep-fried addictions.
The road to my personal hell is paved with indulgences that would make angels weep.***
So, I’m submitting myself to some long-needed tightening of the purse-strings.
I am become an acolyte for pleasure through self-deprivation.
All books will come from the library for the foreseeable future.
We won’t mention over-priced chai lattes that you can get at Biggby’s.
And I’m going to cut back on the diet cherry coke habit, though I worry I might actually kill somebody for a taste of the sparkling poison, so be warned.
I am now faced with the consequences of life-long bad habits. I must buckle down and pay attention to my finances and make fiscally restrictive choices. Or, find another way to make income.
Which brings me to my brilliant sub-theme.
My New Year’s Resolution will be to find out which of the following jobs is the least repellent way to bring in extra cash:
Will Humiliate for Food
I once read a profile on OKCupid for a guy who was willing to pay women to come out to California, dress in appropriate costumes, and humiliate him for hard cash. I’m not entirely sure if this one wasn’t an invitation to join a sex-trade, but maybe he has Skype?
Phoning It In
Sex phone operator. In which we find out whether I can suppress the giggles long enough to achieve a quasi-sultry conclusion. Also, where exactly am I going to do this in a house full of therapy techs and my ever-present child? I’m yawning the minute it hits 8:00 pm…this will take some thought.
Lashing the Page
Or, based on what I’ve seen while Googling images for this topic, there’s an aching void waiting to be filled in the Christmas-based sadomasochism/erotica market. Now how shall I plug that hole?
With such exciting job prospects, I’ll be sure to report back I am once more swimming in something festively green…hopefully it’s money and not jello with marshmallows on a pay-per-view fetish site.
Oh, and could someone remind me in the third week of January that the month has five Thursdays? Thanks.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Which, at Christmas, means everything. My inner child is a window-shopping glutton.
***It doesn’t make angles weep–which is what I originally wrote–but then I decided the heartless bastards would just laugh for 90 degrees in their corners until it was no longer funny or acute. How obtuse!
Walking the public pier along the Holland State Beach allows one to appreciate both an exercise in free speech and the quasi-felonious joys of graffiti expressionism.
I have never been so brave or confident in what I had to say that I was willing to risk a $250 fine and possible jail time to tag a public edifice in order to say it.*
Vandalism is, at the very least, a misdemeanor offense, but what I want to know is…is it art?
And if it is art, what is it saying?
Based on my hour spent cataloging this year’s liberal art tributes on the rusting canvas of the masses, the message depends on the viewer:
If you look hard enough, you can find answers.
Although….you may also be left wondering what the question was.
Thoughts from Danny Duncan!
Danny thinks “It’s fine!”
But, he scrawled his sentiments in a tucked away place on an overhead pipe, so I suspect he’s playing it cool.
Some people put themselves out there, courting ridicule…possibly unaware that a Tinder Date may be using a pseudonym.
Everyone has an opinion…whether that opinion is worth scrawling on a pier support is in the eye of the beholder.
Dreams are apparently dictated with impermanent ink scrawled on a blue-green background and will melt with time and the coming rains.
Lacking the words to express their deeper emotions, some fall back on a classic:
Friends slap high fives (or low ones) wherever they can.
Some HIGH FIVES bury the headline:
OTHER HIGH FIVES come with best wishes from ON HIGH!
Emotions run high…leaving some confused…knotting their hair with suspense.
Will Jeffrey or Won’t Jeffrey?
Perhaps the message echoes an earlier time—a plea forPeace, Loveand Hope symbolized by a badly divided pie chart?
The VEGANS were a bit demanding and psychedelically so:
Some pier polluters promote poignant pleas:
Perhaps what you take from the message boardwalk is only that which you brought with you?***
FORSOOTH, FIE, ALAS
One word scrawled among the masses stood out. I was astounded that classics such as Shakespearean language describing a two-week time frame have made it to modern vernacular (even if the spelling hadn’t):
Then, later, during a rare session of live tv watching, I was bombarded by a commercial which dispelled my illusions. (And possibly also my allusions.)
I almost despaired to have lost a belabored delusion of the persistence of language.
But then, after watching King Lear drop bodies at Grand Valley State University, I decided that Fortnite actually is a modern variant of Shakespearean storytelling—if only Shakespeare had lived in the age of the rocket launcher.
Do you appreciate the rare? The exotic? The exceedingly slow burn to coition?
Do you savor the anticipation an eighteen-year wait brings?
Then you may be ready for the giant phallus. The amorphophallus titanum to be precise.
If you happened to wander into Meijer Gardens this week, you may have stumbled across the shy and retiring Titan Arum–a bloom colloquially referred to as a Corpse Flower.*
I’ve been a long-time fan of the gardens, but even I was caught by surprise about the arrival of the local beauty–nicknamed Putricia for her odiferous nature. On impulse, I dashed to the gardens on Tuesday to get this shot of her before she made her full-blown debut. The garden staff estimated that she wouldn’t fully bloom until Friday…but they were to be caught off guard.
Wednesday night, the spathe–or giant solitary petal that goes around the spadix (the stabby, sword-like center spike) was still tightly closed.**
For a better description, you can go to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s website for a great breakdown of the particulars. The site was extremely helpful in providing the follow image to steal:
Rumors abound around this hard-to-get coquette. According to this chart, it may bloom every four to five years. I’ve read elsewhere, it can take much longer because it relies on perfect conditions being met in order to propagate. The flower is in danger of becoming extinct in nature because of habitat loss and other causes.
At the Meijer Gardens, Putricia took eighteen years before she was ready to blossom. But she is finally strutting her stuff. And perhaps because she was so slow in arriving, she hurried up her appearance in time for me to dash over to meet her on Thursday. And, I have to say, she put on quite a stately show.
I couldn’t say how many people came, but the lines curled throughout the building when I was there. If you are brave, you might get to see her yourself–at least, for the next 24 hours anyway.
If you want to save your feet (and nose) the effort, a link to video of the flower’s expansion, you can find it in this article located in the Detroit News.
Here’s the picture I snapped with my cell phone:
Personally, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the stench by the time I got to her. She’d already lost some of her bloom. (Probably being visited by thousands of people takes a toll on a girl.)
Whether standing in line for over two hours for a minute in the limelight with this sultry Sumatran Stinker is your idea of fun, only you can decide.
As for me, I am happy that I went and hope we can look forward to a bright future ahead.
And now, I have camping to get packed for. My son is totally puzzled as to why I would bother to stop and chat with you for this long anyway. For this reason, I’m attributing any typos to his impatience.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Strangely enough, no one requests a corpse flower for their bridal bouquet. Probably due to having to wait decades to ensure you’ll have one in time for the nuptials.
**Look, I’m not a botanist. There’s plenty of sites you can go to for actual plant terminology and description. But we both know you aren’t going there, are you?!
Sometimes I am caught unawares by the shock of death.
Even thirteen years later, I still grieve.
It catches me in odd moments.
Like today, watching the Monk series finale.
Where, eight years after the show ended, I have my own Monk moment.
Monk was a silly crime dramedy about a detective so torn by the death of his wife, he is unable to function without a massive number of coping skills that seem laughable to the world around him. These mechanisms for survival include: obsessive compulsive neatness, rigid need for control and cleanliness and order.* These tics are detrimental to his mental health and impede his ability to work in a normal job. They make for funny television, but a miserable reality.
I never saw the series when it was running. Back in 2002 I was living in Chicago, alternately trying to be a teacher and trying to get pregnant and failing at both. Then I succeeded in pregnancy, but completely tanked at teaching. But I had a husband and a son, so I kept going.
Until 2005, when my husband died.
And I stopped.
I stopped functioning, except at a nominal level where I met basic needs of my son and I cocooned myself from any changes that meant I had to face life.
I missed the entire span of the eight Monk seasons and only stumbled on it in its rerun afterlife where nothing ever truly dies.
And, today, I got to watch Adrian Monk resolve the death of his wife.
The scene that no one else probably thought two cents about was the fact that Monk couldn’t sleep in the center of his bed. He hugged the side, leaving room for Trudy, the memory of his wife forever impressed on her side of the bed.
When all the secrets are revealed in the last episode, the series is wrapped up in a tidy bow. Monk is sleeping, stretched out, in the center of the mattress and is seemingly unaware of the change in his rituals and patterns of behavior that have subsided with the peace of finally knowing. He is able to go on.
I still sleep on my side of the bed. I have never moved from it, no matter what bed I choose. It is probably just habit. A comfortable placement of nearness to the shelf where I put my glasses. The fact that I can only sleep facing one direction.
But it’s true, I can’t move to the center of the bed. Even if it is a small twin-sized mattress. I cling to the edge as if it were a thread from the past. Where I shared a space with someone else.
And that never goes away.
So, today, I cried. Because I remembered.
And never can forget.**
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*I am not like Monk. If anything, I am the anti-Monk. I do not clean, and obsessively hang on to everything, creating piles of junk that might possibly qualify me for a hoarders episode. I do however have an obsessive compulsive need to watch television that makes me cry, apparently.
**And the next day my period started with a raging bang. I suspect I was also a target of my hormones.
For anyone not neck-deep in the hat-phantasmic hoopla surrounding the royal wedding, allow me to present a less drama-soaked alternative: watching plants grow!
It occurs to me, that I have watched too many episodes of Midsomer Murders–a British television show on air since 1997 that refuses to die no matter how many casting changes occur.*
If you know the genre, there typically is a picturesque village holding a Medieval Faire with costumed residents oozing quaintness and exhibiting occasional homicidal tendencies.
If you are unfamiliar, I recommend a movie by Simon Pegg called “Hot Fuzz” that crystallizes the best and worst bits about the deceptively serene English countryside:
The thing that captures my attention more than the body count, is the number of community fêtes thrown. There’s like, what, one every episode? It makes me wonder if it is a national British pastime to dress in Ye Olde itchy togs and con people into playing cheesy parlor games for the sake of the church roof fund!
This brings me to today’s topic: American Block Parties.
Most block parties are an organized potluck gathering on barricaded side streets with no other function than to bring a community together to eat. Saturday gives me the opportunity to attend one that is equal parts British Fête Fundraiser and old-fashioned American street festival.
Wellhouse is a community program that buys local houses, renovates dilapidated neighborhoods, and provides housing and skills training for formerly homeless residents. They also promote a ‘growing’ community with an emphasis on sustainable practices and energy conservation along with farm gardening.**
Wellhouse hosts a plant sale each year. You go for the plants. You stay for that little something extra you won’t find at your local greenhouse: community!
At first, I beeline to pick up the greenery I want to fill out the barren landscape choked with crabgrass and despair that is my backyard.
Per usual, my teenage son has a trajectory of his own.
I keep dragging the man-child away from one table in particular. (I need to ogle flowers with exotic names like ‘Clemson’ and ‘Hyssop’, don’tcha know.)
I promise my child a specialty cupcake just so I can plant shop. (Twist my arm.)
I don’t know how good the chocolate cupcake with chocolate whipped frosting was, I just know it took my son less time to inhale said cupcake than it took to remove the wrapper.
I pick the one with the raspberry garnish.
I have no regrets.
If you want more rib-sticking eats, you might hit up the royalty-hued catering provided by Purple Blaze, a hybrid of Southern and Ethiopian cooking.
Sadly, I have no time to sample their fare, mostly because the boy-child is pushing me to go, however, even I as a non-meat eater have to say the wafting odor of barbecue is positively mouth watering.
You wouldn’t think there is be more in store at the festivities, but you’d be wrong. The gray, overcast sky can’t put a damper on the upbeat spirits.
There are white-tented tables with various arts for sale. My arms are mostly full of greenery, but I stop to admire the selections.
And fabulous arts of the crafted clay variety provided by WMCAT or the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology.
Here’s CC showing off her colorful floral-designed Pot:
Before long, my son is dragging me toward our Prius in a desperate bid for freedom, but I chat and take pictures as if this isn’t killing him slowly.
Moving between lazy droplets of rain, it is possible to find your smile while listening to The Fabulous Vans.
As I am packing up my car to go, I chat with the guitarist who is setting up for a performance. We exchange brief biographies, the way strangers do.***
I point to my kid who is slumping, hang-dog, in the car since mommy isn’t hopping to like he hopes. Timmy points to his daughter, Sierra, still polishing off some ribs at a nearby picnic table. He brags about her musicality and involvement in local choirs.
“You wouldn’t be biased about her talents at AlL?”I joke.
Her dad laughs and denies partiality, “Of course not.”
We talk about kids and music for a bit.
I bemoan my teenager’s rebellion against piano and ask whether he has to badger her to follow in her father’s footsteps? He assures me that she’s the one who wants sing.
He can’t say enough great things about her. Apparently, she’s even influenced the music they play.
“We usually play classic rock covers–like Led Zepplin’s “A Whole Lot of Love” but Sierra sings from some of her favorites: Twenty-One Pilots or One Republic.”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupt him. “Did you say Twenty-one Republics?”
He corrects me without laughing, much. By now, the rest of the band has loped over, and agrees to stage a picture for me. I hear them play as I drive away. Their enthusiasm isn’t in the least dampened by the drizzly venue.
I spent the rest of the day trying to plant things while simultaneously killing as many weeds as I can.
In the spirit that embodies fine British murder mystery programming, there’s been a summer fête, someone has to die!
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Regarding Midsomer’s Suspicious Death Rate: I do wonder how a fictional hamlet apparently no bigger than Rhode Island can survive quadruple homicides on a weekly basis without running out of people?
**I totally stole the Wellhouse information from a flyer available at the front table.
***Even though we all know about serial killers, no one expects them. They are like the Spanish Inquisition this way.
Thank you for joining me for a retrospective of the Mother’s Day bonsai bonanza at Meijer Gardens. I highly recommend you attend the special exhibits like these, or, failing that, stopping by to enjoy my obsessive photography habit.