Happily Ever After…The End

The accomplishment of finishing a book is something to be savored. Finally turning the last page of a thousand-page novel somehow seems like a much greater feat than adding another book to the shelf. But what happens now?

What happens to the people, the places, the problems we were so intrinsically bound to for however many pages? Do they disappear? Do we secretly harbor them in our imaginations, sustaining them for as long as they continue to entertain us? Or do we let them dwindle with the cracking of the next book cover? And does this make us fickle readers?

Admittedly, it is sometimes easier for me to jump right into the next novel or short story without taking that contemplative moment after finishing my current literary endeavor. Not everything I read enthralls me to the point of not being able to move on from it. The residual feelings are just not that sticky. This doesn’t necessarily make me a fickle reader, per se, but it does suggest a certain complacence about the characters I’ve just spent three hundred or so pages trying to get to know. Isn’t there something realistic about that interaction?

Then there are those books that leave me bored and dissatisfied with all that come after them. The places become real to me; the characters are people I’ve known all my life. These are the ones with the ability to hold my imagination hostage. It becomes impossible to extricate myself from the literary reality I crave and the literal reality I live. After completing books of this caliber, I acknowledge a sense of guilt at moving on too quickly. There is a certain period of reverence that generally follows a completion like this.

Does moving on make me fickle? Of course not. It has to be done if I’m ever to make progress. But there is something discomforting, something unsettling about the attempt to move forward too quickly. Dare I suggest that it might be something akin to committing literary infidelity?

A good book should be allowed to incubate until its full meaning comes to you. A good book deserves a certain amount of respect for its accomplishment in its reader, whatever accomplishment that may be. It deserves the chance to completely evolve in our minds so that when we finally say “The End,” we can mean it.


Gizmos, Gadets, and Widgets…and Their Clothes

Sometimes I feel like I am amassing my own personal arsenal of technology. I have a device for everything. I have my netbook, which is perfect for taking with me when I’m on-the-go. It almost entirely eliminates the need for any kind of journal, paper, or pen. I have my NookColor, which is great for providing reading selection when I’m out-and-about. And I have my iPhone to fill the gaps in between. Funny, though, that I rarely use my phone for actually making phone calls.

While I have come to rely on these devices more than I care to admit, I am not so blinded by their importance that I can’t admit to getting (dare I say it?) bored with them sometimes. There is no inherent flaw in the devices themselves. They do nothing to provoke these feelings of ennui (ok, maybe the iPhone does occasionally). It’s the constant evolution of technology that plagues me. There is always some later, greater version available than the one in my possession.

In an age when a cell phone is a smartphone, and a smartphone is a handheld computer, in the age of Xooms and Galaxies and iPads, how are we supposed to content ourselves with what we have, instead of lusting after its usurper?

Buying a new case for an old widget is like giving said widget a face-lift. It doesn’t change the nature of the device. It doesn’t increase its operating capacity. It doesn’t update the software. And it doesn’t turn an iPhone into an iPad. But it does change the way I look at the gizmo. It changes the way I want to interact with it.

Some people see these cases as mere elements of protection. They serve no other function than protecting the device from meeting an untimely end. But for those of us who oftentimes see our gizmos as accessories (I’m still enthralled with my newest MK cell phone case), the case takes on a whole new level of significance. It becomes more than a precautionary measure, but it doesn’t change the identity of the device or its user. A case is simply a way to mollify our desire to maintain what we already have. This doesn’t mean that updates become unmerited; there will come a time when my netbook will expire, and I will have the opportunity to once again experience the thrill of possessing a new piece of technology. But in dressing up our gizmos, gadgets, and widgets, we can extend their desirability and our tolerance of always being one step behind.

The Bed Linen Conspiracy

I am of the school of thought that suggests that our bed linens are out to get us. Before you judge, hear this:

There is no returning a set of sheets once you’ve taken them out of the zippy pouch in which they come. There may be nothing inherently wrong with the sheets; it may have been a purchaser error. You may have bought the wrong color, or you may have mistook a full set for a queen set. Whether this is the case or not is completely irrelevant. Once you’ve sprung the sheets from their confinement in the zippy pouch, they are yours. Congratulations.

If you’ve made this unfortunate mistake, my condolences and better luck next time.

With the sheets liberated it becomes our job to figure out what to do with them. The obvious answer is to make the bed, but if it seems to easy to be true, it probably is. We begin the arduous task of attempting to make the bed only to find that the fitted sheet is just the tiniest bit too small. We can adequately cover three of the four corners of the bed, but that last one is a doozy.

In frustration, we decide to put the set away for another day; there really wasn’t anything wrong with the old sheets. So we begin the process of folding the sheets. Herein lies another problem.

Not only is the fitted sheet too small, but there is no good way to fold a fitted sheet. It’s virtually impossible to fold the fitted sheet into the same compact square shape we can so easily fold the flat sheet into. Another source of frustration.

Based on the fact that the bed has remained essentially unchanged in shape for the past bajillion years, we can only assume that we will continue to suffer from these linen-induced afflictions. We have no other choice but to bite our tongues, deal with it, and just shove the whole mess under the bed (or in the closet, or in the chest of drawers…) until we are ready to brave the attempt again. I suppose that’s what people have been doing for years now. It’s one of those things that we have to deal with, and for most of us it never occurred to us to like it or hate it. So I am saying what I know a lot of you are thinking (whether you will admit it or not): I think my bed linens, specifically in the form of all fitted sheets, have a personal vendetta against me.

If you are one of those chosen few who can fold a fitted sheet and who knows how to make that same sheet fit the entire bed without riding up its corner, good for you. I don’t want to hear from you. : )

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles…or Buses or Boats

It’s no secret that the cost of air travel is increasing at what most of us would agree is an alarming rate. The cost of the tickets themselves are skyrocketing. It costs a small fortune to check a bag. And we all run the risk of becoming all too familiar with the TSA employ and his metal detecting wand. These developments have me thinking: is there another alternative to air travel that is perhaps newer, fresher, and less invasive?

There was a time in this country when people relied solely on the ability of the railroad to carry them to their farthest continental destinations. When they left the country, they traveled by boat (unless, of course, they were going to Canada). Could it be that the airlines themselves will force us back into this mode of transportation? And if they do, are we going to like it anymore than we like what we currently have?

There are efforts being made to revive the rail industry, and I am intrigued by the possibility of its comeback. There is something about the idea of rail travel that makes me nostalgic. I feel more connected with that previous generation. There is something old-fashioned and romantic about the idea of traveling by train.

I’m sure that train travel is just as riddled with potential problems and hiccups as air travel; safety is always a concern, no matter your mode of transportation. And it is entirely possible that the only reason the idea of traveling this way make me feel nostalgic is because I have never experienced locomotive foibles. Perhaps that’s what is most intriguing. Maybe the only reason I am enchanted with the idea is because I don’t know what a headache it really is. The possibility is the thing. I’m always curious about what I don’t know.

The Peter Pan Problem

Disclaimer: I am not opposed to the occasional carefree superhappyfun day. But I am a firm believer that there is a time and a place for everything.

Generally I am not a fan of adults who behave like children all day every day. Fun is one thing; prolonged adolescence is something entirely different. Isn’t it hard enough to experience it once? I hear my inner monologue incessantly complaining when I encounter those people who still think it’s good fun to bounce the bouncy balls all over Wal-Mart or draw obscene pictures on the walls in the bathroom or play paper football while waiting for their food to be delivered to their table at a restaurant. Before I can stop myself, I hear the groan of exasperation escape as I say to whoever is closest, “Seriously? You haven’t matured beyond all that?”

Then I snap out of it and realize that I am taking myself far too seriously.

I remember what it was like to be unencumbered by the baggage that inevitably comes with adulthood. Filled with nostalgia I contemplate what it was like when my biggest concern was which Barbie I should ask for at Christmas or what would happen if a classmate stole the pencil bearing my name from my desk. At the time, they seemed like monumental problems. Now they seem like idyllic scenarios that couldn’t possibly exist.

There is a time and a place for everything, but I think a lot of us take the boundaries a little too far. Why is it that there always seems to be more time and more places for serious, adult things that only serve to bring us down? Wouldn’t life be a lot more engaging if we created more time and places for the fun stuff?

There are some things about adulthood that have their perks. I can stay up as late as I want to, and if I want to have ice cream for dinner, there’s no one to tell me not to. But at the end of the day I have to think about what time the alarm will sound the next morning, and the sugar in the ice cream makes it difficult to sleep. The bills don’t pay themselves, and the house could use a good cleaning.

Maybe perpetual childhood isn’t the answer; after all, when we’re kids all we want to do is grow up, so we pretend to be older versions of ourselves. But I can’t help thinking we could all do with a little more fun and a little less doom-and-gloom.

P.S. While I see the value of a good bouncy ball and I do think paper football is a good way to kill time, I do not condone obscene pictures on bathroom walls. : )

A Green Thumb Gone Bad

Every year around this time I find myself inspired to grow something. I spend at least three weekends at the nursery trying to decide which flowers to put where and what my color scheme should be. I get ahead of myself, buying potting soil and containers, and I imagine what it would be like to have a real garden in a real backyard someday. Now I actually have a backyard, and I still feel that itch. But I’m doing something I don’t normally do: I am ignoring it to the utmost extent.

Because, you see, every year I invest not just my time and money but myself in growing things and having pretty flowers. But every year my efforts are thwarted by something.

In Memphis, it was the neighbors upstairs who thought it would be a good idea to dump their bleachy mop water from the balcony on the third floor. In doing so they effectively killed the flowers I had growing in the hanging boxes on my railing. One morning they were bright flowers bobbing in the wind; the next morning they were dried shrivelled twigs. I brought them back once or twice, but there’s only so many times you can defy bleach, especially if you’re a petunia.

Now we live in a desert, an environment conducive to growing nothing but succulents. Well, almost nothing; the rattle snakes seem to do pretty well here too. Last year I made the attempt. I bought my annual tomato plant and my flowers and potting soil. I bought fertilizer and gloves. I even made an attempt at growing beans from seeds. I wish I could say that my efforts amounted to a hill of beans, but that would be entirely too generous a way of putting it. In all honesty my efforts amounted to nothing but sunburn, sore muscles, and an outrageous water bill. The flowers died. The vegetables never had a chance. I found myself watering three times a day, and even that wasn’t enough. When the first great wind storm blew through, the whole enterprise seemed to blow through with it. Again, I made the attempt to bring the flowers back; I even replaced them once. Ok, twice. But each time I was a little more disappointed than the last.

This year I can’t handle it. I can’t stand the thought of having my botanical efforts mocked by Mother Nature and everything else. Maybe someday I’ll become the gardener I have attempted to be. I will have flower beds instead of flower pots, and my biggest concern will be making sure there are no lizards hiding under the leaves of the Lamb’s Ear. For now I will have to appease my green thumb by buying flowers at the grocery store. In my experience, they last longer, and they thrive in almost any indoor environment.

That’s My Bag, Baby!

Some women like shoes. Others prefer jewelry. I happen to be a bag lady. I prefer a new handbag to almost any other item of fashion.

Over the years, my affinity for handbags has, both admittedly and somewhat ashamedly, become more expensive, but I continue to search for the holy grail. Every time I get a new one I feel like I have found The Bag, the only one I will ever want. That is until next season’s collection arrives on the shelves, and I find myself lusting after some newer, better version of what I already have.

So you can imagine my surprise this season when finding the perfect bag proved to be a futile effort. Apparently the bag I got for winter is the bag I’ve been searching for all along. This has me wondering: what happens when you find the perfect version of whatever it is you’re searching for?

Perfection is supposed to be unattainable, and those of us who manage to find some version of it often find it maddening. I’m sure I will get another bag (probably sooner than I’d like to admit). But for now I am content with what I have, and I have to say the feeling is a bit unsettling.

Fashion Week officially ends tomorrow, and I promise that all posting dealing with aspects of fashion will cease. I don’t think about it that much, and as I said before, I should probably leave it to those who are more adept and cutting edge than I. Once the new collections are on the racks, I solemnly promise to return to the rambling thoughts that normally pervade my page.