Word Cookie

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Me 'n' J.C.*

I think my life has finally settled down a bit. I know because my excuse for not blogging has deflated from busy into lazy, and also I suddenly had room to start thinking about it. And here we are.

Mainly I've been busy with my big move to the big city. I'm so content in my new place I can barely stand it. I don't know if any of you have ever had the happy coincidence of timing a physical relocation with a big shift in your mindset--new goals, new perspectives, etc--but it is fantastic. Like you've channel surfed in sync with the timeslots of fate. Or something along those overblown lines. Caught a sweet wave of the master plan. Harmonized with the big guy barbershop quartet. (Okay, no more.)

Really, I feel how I used to as a kid when I'd hear the ice cream truck jingling in my neighborhood--not too far away, not too close, just right to make pathetic, deserving eyes at the babysitter, grab some change, and run outside in time to see it turning down my street. Yeah, buddy.

Having a new place that I love, and completely blindly lucked into, makes me wonder about the above over-analogized larger plan. Yes, it's just an apartment...something will probably start leaking (spiders) soon, and the woman across the courtyard from me has this amazing, cavernous smoker's cough which bounces around the courtyard and into my bedroom window as though in a giant echo chamber. Don't smoke, kids!

But (oh no there's no way around this pun, must censor) it's as though I have a new l---- on life! It's great and surprising how a change in routine can open up new possibilities in your head. For example, I don't have a dishwasher anymore, so I'm back to elbow grease and the limits of how clean I really, really need my dishes.

Like any doomed novelty, right now I truly appreciate the hidden joy in doing the dishes. For one, it gives me the excuse to sing the excellent Pulp song, Dishes, and who doesn't love an excuse to whip out the ol' Jarvis Cocker impression? (see title) But it is mainly a nice pause; where my purpose is simple and finite, and the chore steadily dissolves into white noise, water, and down the drain to great satisfaction. This task is one where a person can only perform so well: clean is clean. There's really no point in overachieving as a dishwasher. And as I'm not so much a chronic overachiever, but a chronically expectant of overachievement, such simplicity relaxes me.

Then I can actually start to ponder my larger purpose in life in some kind of a rational state, as opposed to, say, in front of my computer, staring at endless postings for ridiculously bad or ridiculously out of my reach jobs, intimidating publications with looming submission deadlines, and one fully staffed masthead after another. (Dammit!)

But, really how much control do any of us have over our master plan beyond all the furious scheming and expecting? I'm a big fan of biographies: The Carter Family, Jimmy Stewart, J.D. Salinger, Mary Pickford—I’ve devoured them all. What biographies of successful people have managed to do is simultaneously convince me that success is somehow both arbitrary and inevitable if you work hard enough. Every biography also features the third act twist: She had it all, but then it all came crashing down...

For instance, A.P. Carter managed not only to land the girl of his dreams, (who he met because he heard her singing through an open window and was entranced—much like some medieval knight on a quest, but set in Appalachia) but he convinced her to join his band, making him a musical legend. Then, of course, came the long hours, the infidelity, the divorce, and the fizzling out of his career. After fighting in WWII, Jimmy Stewart wrestled with serious doubt as to whether acting was a suitable profession for a person. Reading stories of the mortals who have managed to achieve their dreams, and then following along as it all turns on them or falls apart or just fades into old age and old times really just puts Success into perspective: the view that it’s really only one part of what we can and should be doing with ourselves.

So, I've resigned to just force myself to enjoy the moments as they are, as they come. Like those big, sugary, and fast-melting pink bubblegum ice cream bars I would buy as a kid: I knew that in a few seconds the ice cream would no longer resemble the face of Mickey Mouse...the ears would be eaten down to little nubs, the M&M eyes would melt and droop down the face like a Dali painting, and the whole beautiful mess would eventually end up in my stomach and manifested through cartwheels and the manic desire to dress the dog up in people clothes (hilarious!)...

Meeting the ice cream man—managing to be in a place in my house where I could hear the jingle, convincing the adult to let me go, scrounging up enough change, and rushing out the door fast enough—wasn’t ever the object of my summers, just a nice occasional treat. Sometimes my brother and I would sit on our lawn for what seemed like an eternity, hearing the jingle circle around our street over and over until finally it just disappeared, and we had to go back inside. Sometimes we would determine to be proactive, and try and track down the truck through the neighborhood—stalking up and down the streets with the jingle always leading us in circles until we gave up. We could always keep our change in a easy-to-access spot, get permission in advance, and plan ahead for what we would buy, but the truth was that it was never up to us whether he came or not, whether we caught him or not, or whether he would even have what we wanted.

As I slide into my 23rd birthday, my first year out of college, my new apartment, and my first real job, I’m going to try and remember that huge, spine-tingling, face-melting, smile-widening, high-fiving moments of success and serendipity are so great because they are so rare, so surprising, and so completely out of our control.

*a note on the images: I felt that given the mentioning of ice cream trucks, dishes, and pure, uncomplicated delights, ice cream made natural illustrations. Plus, photos of ice cream are completely beautiful! Look at these! Check out that apricot dish--tiger lilies and everything! (That ice cream wants to make sweet love to you!) It reminds me of a Texan institution, Braum's, and the giant lavish photos of ice cream they would hang around the store. At that size and production budget, the personalities of the different flavors really came out. Strawberry is clearly a bitch--sitting all pink and perfect in a crystal dish with a doily. Stuck up, but she just knows what she's got. Cookies 'n' Cream keeps it real--big, chucky scoops in a plain blue bowl on a wood table. Probably a great sense of humor--compensatory. But, oh pistachio, you lusty trollop--with your smart accessories to complement your mysterious nature: clear white dish, wedge of cookie placed at a 45 degree angle like a kicky little hat, and sprig of some exotic leafy plant lying on the table. You get me. Too bad you taste like feet.

**Thanks for sticking through this meanderingly coherent, jaunty post.


Blogger Taylor said...

An interesting fact is for a lot of ice cream photo shoots they use mashed potatoes, which makes sense who wants to see a bowl of melted ice cream (me)? The bright lights and conditions of a photo set would make a puddle of your favorite ice cream in no time.

Another interesting thing about ads are… those people, brushing their teeth in the commercial. Where's the foaming white slop coming out of their mouth? I don't know where it is, but it's not where it's supposed to be.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

This is a great point about the missing toothpaste foam...that would be so excellent to see on TV--beautiful models smiling and foaming like rabid dogs. Buy Crest! I would. I think new ground needs to be broken here.

3:30 PM  

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