Monday, April 10, 2017

Just a Shade

The buildings of my apartment complex encircle a small pond.  There are ducks that live in the pond.  These ducks have provided me with months of amusement.  Every time I see a duck, I laugh, at least on the inside. No, it's out loud, for everyone to see and to be made uncomfortable.

There's like 3 pairs of ducks that live in the pond, and one of the lady ducks is always squawking at the others (I actually have no idea if it's the same one or not... they're ducks, they look exactly the same, at least from my vantage point).  It's not really a straight up 'quack,' either, more like a 'whak,' or even an 'ack.' I don't really hear the 'qua' at all, and being someone who has never really paid attention before, I don't know if that's normal or not.  Onomatopoeia isn't an infallible practice! Maybe they've never quacked!  Maybe Big Grammar is just playing us, LIKE USUAL.  Everything I know is a lie!

I bet if I was some kind of duck scientist, I could tell them apart and know the secrets of her or their caterwauling.  I wonder if Ornithologists can specialize in water fowl, or if it's like just a blanket knowledge of birds and bird-related particulars.  Without looking it up, I'm gonna go ahead and say yes.  Yes, you can specialize in duckology.  

I wonder what strain of duck is the one you can get fried up at Chinese restaurants.  Probably not some greasy mallard, that'd be like being served a street pigeon and being told it was fancy squab! I don't actually know, maybe that's offensive to all my duck-enthusiast readers.  I claim ignorance and apologize. 

Anyway, this loud lady duck is hilarious.  I immediately anthropomorphized her:

Mrs. Eunice Duckington

She's a naggy old lady always gossiping and disapproving of others.  She gripes to her old ducky husband about 'the world today' and generally pesters him about taking out the trash and stuff.  Just blah, blah, blah, all day.  Always has an opinion about something. Mr. Duckington, Harold, had his spirit broken by the incessantness long ago.  Now he paddles around with his weird, webby feet in my pond, eyes glazed over, tail feathers lackluster, half-listening and half-alive, waiting for the day someone drops an entire loaf of bread in the pond so he can eat all of it until his stomach explodes and he dies. Damn, Harold, hopefully your lifespan isn't too long.  I really know nothing about ducks.

Sometimes when I'm watching the pond, she's acting all feisty. She not only 'acks,' she rushes the other gals!  Feisty duck, in my mind, looks like this: 

Brittanie CharityJasmine Mallard

Brittanie CharityJasmine (yes, that's ONE word) Mallard just lives in this pond until her lawsuit pays off or her man gets out of prison or her baby-daddy starts being responsible and pays her the money she's owed. 

Miss Mallard is personally offended by most things, and often thinks she's being insulted and/or challenged to fight.  When that happens, she takes off her earrings from the holes on the sides of her head where her duck ears are (ducks must have ears, but I've never seen one.  Omg, I've never seen any type of bird ear! There's just so much in this world I do not know, you guys. wow.), pulls her beaded, corn-rowed hair back into a fat rubber band that she stole from her part time job at the auto parts store, and flaps herself right over to bust some bitches up.  She's mostly talk though.  The other ducks will be all, 'wtf?!' and she's like, 'yeah, that's RIGHT! I'll mess you UP if you disrespect me again! Sylvia Plath is most DEFINITELY the best representation of feminist authors in the last century!!'  Just kidding, she's mad about meth.  It's always about meth

The ducks also waddle around when they're wondering the edges of the water, and that is also the most fun.  They have those flappy webbed feet and they're just so ridiculous. I have no idea why, but they make me happy.  Not those Canadian geese though. Those guys can get fucked.  Go back to Canadia!! 

I have seriously thought about these ducks a lot.  My bedroom window faces the pond, and I can hear the quacking all the time and I just think it's the funniest. 

 It has recently come to my attention that not many people see the world like I do.  I mean, ducks??  That's a weird thing to find amusing when you're not a toddler.  

I think I've always been off like that though; my favorite movie when I was 12 was Terminator 2.  Total Recall was good too, watched it a lot.  But I also loved Tiny Toons and played with my Aladdin-themed Barbie dolls and had a pink bike.  Then every Saturday I would stay up super late to watch Saturday Night Live.  Is that weird for a kid?  Maybe I was just poorly supervised.

Looking back on things, I feel like my much older sister taking me to see Natural Born Killers at the local theater when I was 12 or 13 may not have been appropriate.  But it was funny and weird and super violent and she thought I'd like it and I did.  My dad had all the Monty Python movies on video tape, and we'd watch them all the time, and then quote it to each other. A LOT.  

There are other things that make me feel slightly off in the world. Not completely out of place, superseding lonely or miserable, just a shade different: 

- I'm the only person in my entire family that is left handed.  Aunts, Uncles, all sorts of cousins, on both sides of my family are all righties.  My kids and their dad and his family are all righties too.  I know a bunch of lefties, but a lot of them are ambidextrous.  'I write with my left hand, but play sports right handed.'  'I pretty much only write with my left, but everything else is right.'  I am 99% left handed (ambi-mouser).   Let me tell you, it is not easy finding a small sized baseball glove for a left-handed girl.  

Interesting side note: I remember when I was really young I had terrible hand writing.  'Well, she's left handed!" was about all the feedback I'd get.  I was a hopeless case when I was six, doomed to be messy and backwards forever, just 'cause.  Grandma gave up trying to teach me how to crochet after one session because I was doing it backwards.  Or at least she thought I was.  Maybe Grandma had a drinking problem.

- In middle school, I was seemingly the average, normal girl: blonde hair and blue eyes, good smile, not a fatty, was generally nice, friendly and non-threatening.  But, when boys started to realize they were cute and tried to flirt with me, I would freak the fuck out.  Remember sixth grade flirting?  So terrible.  Those cocky kids that thought they were amazing made me want to punch their teeth out. My virulent reactions scared them all off eventually, which is exactly what I wanted, but completely unexpected.  I mean, what gave them the right?  Is that weird?  

I feel like my other friends loved it when Cutie McPopular boy came over to our girl-circle on the playground and said, "Hiiiiii, Giiiirls!" I saw his shit-eating grin and heard that condescending tone and told him to fuck off.  Twice.  

There are many, many other examples. 

On the one hand, I like being the way I am.  I find so much beauty and amusement in so many things!  I am comfortable with and excellent at layering my weirdness, dialing it way back when the situation calls for it. Not really because I want to fit in, I know that won't happen and I don't even try. It's more because I don't want to waste my time.  I don't want to explain it, I got better stuff to do.

I try to carefully pick out things I'm going to say, because most of the time I don't think my points come across properly, especially when they're peppered with quotes from the Simpsons; it's made me more concise and direct (or maybe I just THINK that I think differently than other people.  Maybe it's a defense mechanism against my own banality.  Maybe everyone feels the same way, but I'm just uncouth and or conceited enough to break that 4th wall. Ugh, I'm exhausting.  It's like this all the time in my head).

On the other hand, I don't connect with most people very well, even if I do try.  Practice has afforded me the ability to get along with most people, most of the time, but being friendly and having friends are two very different concepts.  I don't mind having one or two friends, but that's just one more thing that makes me feel slightly askew.

I'm not very good at romantic relationships either.  I say things very directly, and it hurts people.  I am generally inquisitive and ask questions too, and not everyone appreciates it.  I don't have judgmental and/or invasive intentions, but that's the way my actions seem to be interpreted.  Aggressive people make me anxious, so I usually end up with quiet, passive people that either don't know how or don't want to deal with that level of introspection.  

Example: When someone says, 'oh yeah, I have real issues with XYZ', and someone else (i.e., me) says 'why?', it doesn't usually end well.  Folk get defensive, and rightly so.  I'm no psychologist, and even if I was, they most likely weren't looking for therapy.  I can't help it though, questions just come out of my face.  Not knowing, in general also makes me anxious and I'm trying to let some of that go.  I'm working on it, future-boyfriend-that-probably-doesn't-exist.  I promise.

It also hasn't done me any favors.  I haven't been able to use my differentness to stand out in a crowd and get that big promotion, or shine in academia or achieve success in some other arena.  It mostly just makes me not want to drink the proverbial kool-aid, which gets you labeled as 'uncooperative,' and 'churlish,' and 'prone to setting fires.'   

Sometimes, not as much as it used to, but sometimes, these discolorations make me feel broken. Unlovable.  Useless.  Maladroit. 

But, on the other other hand, ducks. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

May as well be Magic

I haven't written anything in while. A long, long while.  There are things to catch up on, but not today.  Maybe not ever.  It depends on how much I want to pick that scab.  I do like picking scabs though.  And squeezing whiteheads and watching people cut open and drain various cysts on you tube.  Goddamn, I'm disgusting.


I was sitting in traffic the other day, idling my life away with the rest of the suburbanites commuting slowly towards our inevitable deaths, when I realized what a remarkable thing I was sitting in, being powered by one of the greatest feats of engineering that has ever existed: the internal combustion engine.

Think about it for a second.  Engines are everywhere:

     You know it, baby!

Rocket ship?
     YES! (times 1,000) Literal rocket science!

Ten trillion cars and SUVs and vans and motorcycles and buses and semi trucks and go-carts and trucks?
     OMG, so much yessing.

The motherfucking Titanic?
     Um ....Maybe?

I like the study of etiology, or origin stories for you comic book geeks.  I remember in sixth grade science class we were studying the color spectrum and wavelengths and such, and I had a hard time grasping the concept.  I eventually got the basic rules, but it wasn't until I was an adult, and I read how this amazing piece of science was discovered, that I finally, whole-heartedly got it.  I guess what I'm saying is that I can't just take someone's word for it that something is true.  In fact, I love learning how someone figured something out way more than the actual thing that resulted from said figurings.

Sometimes, the inspirations and computations of a regular-style scientist may as well be magic; ideas are plucked from the air, new math is created (or discovered, depending on how you look at it), and things that didn't exist are now things!

There's a great book about the history of astrophysics that really dug deep and explained some serious science; it turned a part on in my mind that I didn't know was there.  Sometimes, in that old brain-attic, where it's always musty and dark (and a teeny bit spooky because the overhead light (that's just a naked bulb on a string) is always wafting pendulously from some unknown draft leaking in through an old creaky rafter), there are amazing things hiding just beyond the shadows.  One day, whether it be out of desperation, boredom or drunken meandering, when you sneak up there, inch by terrible, horrifying inch, and shakily reach your arm up directly over your head to pull that beaded chain-string, your life is never quite the same.  I guess my long and rambly metaphor is trying to say that I didn't used to be super interested in sciencey and/or mathmaticalesque things, but I am now.

Back to engines.

I looked up some information on the internal combustion engine. I wanted to know how someone could have figured, invented and designed such a meritorious tool! There's so much mechanical engineering involved: formulas and graphs and diagrams; I had no idea what I was reading about. I downgraded my readings to a turbine, which is, as best I can figure it, akin to a windmill:  'something' (i.e. wind) pushes 'some stuff' (i.e. blades), which creates 'movement' and then 'some energy gets made' and it's all very mathematical and interesting.  I've got much more to learn. The point is, it's something that revolutionized the world, and we don't even think about how remarkable a thing it is.

Then I got to thinking about other stuff, like running water.  Think about this shit for a minute: we get clean, temperature controlled water DELIVERED inside our homes for practically nothing.  How many people in the history of the world can summon drinking water on command in their underpants at 3 a.m.?  There are places in the world, TODAY, this very moment, that do not have access to clean water and here we are, complaining that it doesn't get hot enough, or that it gets too hot, or that it 'has a taste' and is therefore unworthy of being ingested without being filtered using some fancy reverse osmosis process or charcoal bits or something.

Sewers!  Can you imagine what is was like some hundreds of years ago, when there was no indoor plumbing?  Our shit is whisked away, never to be thought of again.  Transported directly from our own homes, practically for free.  People used to shit in the gutters. Or if it was in the middle of the night, they'd shit in a small pot, then fucking toss it out the window in the morning.  TOSS IT OUT THE WINDOW.  Also, ever heard of Diptheria? Typhiod? Disentairy? Cholera?  Typhus?  Poo diseases. Sewers, man, they've saved millions!

And like, how many people did it take to map out those sewers?  Planning which pipes go where? How does that never get messed up and the outgoing pipe crosses with an incoming one and we get piss water?  That never happens!  Rain water even has a place to fucking go! Roads and gutters are designed in such a way to minimize flooding and maximize kicking ass.

There are so many wonderful, miraculous inventions that have made our lives longer, easier, and healthier! But it seems we just acclimate and remain unsatisfied and miserable with different things. Examples: I want a newer, shinier car, with a better engine! My co-workers get fed up with the climate controls in my office so quickly: 'omg, it is always way too hot in here and it's the worst- unless it's too cold and then that's also the worst.' (I should include myself in that complaint-athon, I'm not above hating that thermostat's guts). Are we so spoiled and privileged that we greedily snatch up the newest video game then immediately demand the sequel (version 2.0 has twice the disimbowlings!!) or newest and most expensive fad item?

"NO, Mom, you idiot! I have Bloodstorm, and Bone Squad and Bloodstorm II, Stupid!"

(I added the picture so people younger than me will understand the reference. And also, people older than me... Ok, if you're not exactly the same age as me, you probably won't get this and therefore don't know and love the Simpsons like I do and honestly I've lost some respect for you.)

It is entirely possible we are a species of limited appreciation, that we're spoiled and greedy and selfish, always out to take it all, at any cost.  But that's the easy answer.  The Matrix answer.  The Wall-E answer.  

That's right, we're not headed towards an apocalyptic future where everything is super fucked and we lost the battle with the machines because we greedily push the limits of AI for our own desire of domination and ultimate control of everything.  Nor are we headed towards a life so convenient and catered-to that we fill the earth up with trash and use up all the natural resources so we have to go on a spaceship and hang out in hover chairs with cupcakes-in-a-cup and leave some cute little robot behind to clean up our mess for 500 years (you wouldn't really expect that coming from Pixar, but that movie is sooo dark underneath the robot love story.  But then again, maybe you should expect it.  Ever seen Up?  Makes you want to pry your eyeballs out with a dull and rusty ice pick so you can stop witnessing the sadness that is making you cry like a baby. In the first five minutes).   

Our future is going to be Star Trek.  A peaceful, non-impoverished species dedicated to intellectual pursuits and exploring and understanding the universe so as to better understand ourselves.  And also having freaky sex with humanoid-aliens.

Us human folk, we're seekers.  We explore, we discover, we advance and grow.  We acclimate to the next best thing so quickly not to latch on to a shinier misery, but so we can be inspired and motivated and then invent another wonderful thing.  It pushes us up the evolutionary ladder, one rung at a time, for infinity.  I have hope bordering on reverence for our future.  

Maybe you think I'm being naive, imaginary reader of mine (yes, I am aware of the current POTUS, and also yes, I have seen what we've done to the shrinking rain forest and the melting ice caps). Maybe you think everything is so fucked up right now that we have crossed the tipping point and are sliding into annihilation.

Maybe you're right.

But I can see magic.