Saturday, September 27, 2008

The stupid, petty, green-eyed monster snuck up on me today

Jealousy is a funny thing. I'm not jealous of people with vast amounts of money, or talents I don't possess. There is the occasional professional jealousy, but that's usually more akin to admiration for a writer with great skill than it is to envy. And yet the smallest thing this afternoon knocked me over, and I hate the fact that I now am possessed of what Shakespeare described as the emotion "which doth mock/The meat it feeds on (Othello)," also describing "How all the other passions fleet to air,/As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,/And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy(The Merchant of Venice)!"

I've had a really nice day. Got up, went to the an awesome class at the gym, came home and have been relaxing. The first issue of my subscription to Entertainment Weekly arrived in my mailbox this afternoon. Ole Miss beat the Gators, Miami lost, and FSU is currently looking more like their old selves than they have in awhile. Then earlier this afternoon, I noticed on Facebook that my cousin Matt is in London. He travels a lot for business, so that wasn't anything new. I shot him a note and jokingly told him to have a pint for me while he was there. He wrote me back just a little bit ago, telling me that he's actually on vacation, and his wife Sarah and his sister, my cousin Carrie, both flew over and joined him in Brussels, went to Paris while he continued to work, and are now hanging out in London, visiting with one of Sarah's brothers.

Being Navy brats, they've always traveled a lot, even as adults, and it's never phased me. I certainly have a longing to travel, have never been jealous of their globe-trotting. But London... I've always wanted to walk along the Thames, look at the Crown Jewels, stare up at Big Ben and wander amongst the giants resting in Poets Corner at Westminster Abby, not to mention just taking in the atmosphere of a city with a history far older than the country of my birth. And suddenly, sitting here reading Matt's note about Carrie being excited because she'd never been to Europe before, I found myself possessed by jealous thoughts, mixed with equal parts of inadequacy and mild despair, that flashed rapidly through my brain: Will I ever make it there? Or once I do, will I be too old to really enjoy it (the sensible part of my brain asking at the same time, 'And how old will that be, exactly?)? I think that if I had a different job and made more money, I'd be able to hop on a plane at the drop of a hat. I can hardly afford to go visit my brother in Oregon in the spring, much less fly overseas.

But at the same time, I'm mentally admonishing myself for this stupid, defeatist attitude. Who says I'll never go? Only me, and only if I listen to the ridiculous blather of the little cartoonish devil I'm preparing to flick off my left shoulder. I will make it there some day. Until then, I'll content myself with a post card, because Carrie never fails to send me one from wherever she travels. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Word Crack (*all credit for this amazingly accurate description of book obsession is due to Sabrina Simon)

"I don't know why, but every time I'd read a book,
I'd end up wanting to fall in love."
- Seyyed Ebrahim Nabavi

As any of my good friends can tell you, I have a serious book problem. My duplex is filled with books--I moved in with 14 boxes of them, and after only three years, I shudder to think how many more I've acquired. I am in perpetual need of bookshelves, and yearn for the day when I will have built-ins in a library all my own. It's an addiction, really, bordering on obsession, especially when I find something I like. And recently, I found something new.

For several years now, I'd noticed the proliferation (if a four-book series could actually be called that) of stark, black books, always bearing a hint of red, be it fruit, flower, ribbon or chess piece, on the cover. The Twilight Saga, I learned from the beginning, without much interest at the time, was about a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire. Honestly, it seemed silly. And since they were geared toward those in their teenager years, a time of life I left more than half a score ago, they didn't arouse my pique.

Then, about three weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Michelle, who, as a 35 year-old mom of two, hasn't been in high school for a while either. After mass one Sunday, we sat in her minivan chatting. She'd recently had surgery, and she told me that one day, while recovering at home, she happened to pick up Twilight, the first book in the saga, that her 17 year-old baby sitter had accidentally left at the house. Bedridden and bored with television, she decided to give it a shot. And to make a long story short, she was hooked. "You have to read these," she said. "They're so good. I know they're not 19th century English literature, and I do feel kind of goofy since I'm old (hardly!) but the writing is amazing. And Edward (the vampire/hero) is my new boyfriend."

Of course I didn't tease her. I've had my share of crushes on fictional characters, heaven knows (Laurie in Little Women, Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables, and of course, Mr. Darcy) . And she had me a bit intrigued. So on a trip to Wal-mart the next day, I picked up the first two books, Twilight and New Moon, both in paperback and both on sale. Between Tropical Storm Fay, who threatened to come this way and then never did, the primary election that caused all kinds of work-craziness and another book, a biography of Nell Gwynn that I was determined to finish before I started anything else, I didn't start reading Twilight until the middle of last week.

I read most of it Wednesday night. The next morning, driving to work, I found myself scrawling my thoughts about the book down on the back of a work email I found in my purse (because writing and driving are something you should do at the same time, right?), lest I forget them. Frankly, I was amazed. I'd stayed up until nearly 2 a.m. reading, then woken up and read some more between breakfast, showering and dressing for work. The act of putting the book down and leaving for the office was almost physically painful (not the first time I've experienced this with a book, I might add), like a knot in my chest. I was suddenly in their world, and leaving it to spend 8-odd hours at the newspaper had me yearing to go back.

The book, as all really good books do, transported me. My reading was so fast, and I read quickly to begin with, that I'd go a page and a half, skimming it practically, then have to stop myself and go back to re-read more slowly. As the plot thickened, an endorphin rush kicked in as my eyes flew in a frenzied rush down each page. As I drove to work, jotting down notes, even the songs on the radio seemed to reflect the mood of the book. Strange. Or perhaps it was only my imagination.

I think part of the fascination is that the story has such a sensual air, a guilty pleasure. When I wasn't reading, I was bouncing plot points around in my head. What if such-and-such a thing happens? Or if Bella (the heroine) does this? On my way home from work that day, although I still had one chapter left in Twilight and hadn't even begun New Moon, I stopped and bought books three and four, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, which had only been released earlier in the month, in hardback (I should point out that I rarely, if ever, "mix media." If I start a series in paperback, I try and keep it complete in paperback. This of course, can be frustrating if there's several years between books, and the waiting becomes too much to bear. I knew I wouldn't be able to wait a year or so to buy these in paperback, so went for it). Like Michelle, I was completely taken in by the flow of author Stephenie Meyer's writing--her attention to detail and the ease with which she seemed to capture so many "firsts" for Bella and Edward perfectly. Plus there was the mystery did the "traditional" vampire myths not apply here? Was it even possible for Edward and Bella to be together, when her blood called to him? And being single, I was of course living vicariously through this intense, deeply passionate yet chaste relationship she'd created for her main characters.

And reading them, there was even a part of me that, as a writer, was respectfully jealous--wishing I could turn a phrase or capture an image as well. It makes me wonder sometimes if, writing as I do these days for the deadline and inch-count driven format of the daily newspaper, if I've lost (hopefully only misplaced?) my creative writing ability.

I didn't bring the books to work with me to read during my lunch breaks. When I'm into a book, I'm noisy. I giggle, sigh, laugh, make sounds of frustration, cry (this happened several times when Edward said something moving...ok, sappy and romantic), talk to the characters, or even beat the book against the sofa cushions (which I did once when Bella was about to do something stupidly heroic yet unnecessary). My coworkers would think I'm mental...which clearly I am, but there's no reason to make it more obvious. Plus, I knew I wouldn't be able to give the books my undivided attention with certain coworkers who interrupt my lunch to ask work-related questions even when they see I'm reading (rude!) or when one of the customer service ladies up front inevitably starts yakking about the latest exploits of her cat. I am a very selfish reader.

But I digress (if that's even possible in a post this long!). Coming home that Thursday night, I finished Twilight and dived immediately into New Moon. I was off the next day, since I'd worked the Labor Day holiday, and so I just kept reading. I did stop to make a sandwich for dinner, and to watch about three hours of Turner Classic Movies (the original Ronald Coleman version of "Raffles" and a William Powell film "Jewel Robbery") for about three hours. There was the occasional bathroom break, but before I knew it, it was 4 in the morning and I'd finished the book, essentially in one sitting. Nut that I am, I figured out how many hours it had taken for me to read the book, which I then (quite nerdily) broke into pages per hour. 565 pages in about 6 hours equals roughly 94 pages an hour. Yes, I know, it isn't "War & Peace," but still. Scribbled on the back of an envelope next to my calculations is the sentence "Can't wait to start Eclipse. But must get some sleep--Edward-like dark circles under my eyes will result. 4:13 a.m."

Going out of town to visit my friend Michele and her husband Tim in Lakeland this past weekend certainly slowed my reading of Eclipse (which I don't regret, since it was great to hang out with them. Ironically, Michele (who's 32, btw) had been hearing about the books from several friends (and teens in the youth group she helps out with) and had meant to ask me about them when I told her of my new addiction). But I did manage to get some reading done, and finished the book this past Sunday night, staying up far too late. I was tired at work, and at night, I was actually having dreams where Bella and Edward were having conversations--too bad I can't remember what they were about.

Monday and Tuesday nights after work, I came home, scarfed some dinner and settled onto my love seat to read Breaking Dawn, not even bothering with the TV or the Internet. And as I reached the last 50 pages of the book Tuesday night (ok, it was about 12:15 Wednesday morning), I slowed my pace, reading dawdling and even reading passages aloud to savor what was left. And when I finished, I just sat there, musing, almost amazed it was over.

Michele (the one in Lakeland) had made it to the middle of book two last night, so I had the satisfaction of emailing with her back and forth today while we were at work, asking her what she thought (she's equally sucked in) and trying my best not to hint at things to come (she "yelled" at me in all caps at one point when I teased her too much with an insinuation about how my feelings for one of the characters flip-flopped through the third book. I promised I'd give myself 50 lashes with a wet noodle and then refused to give anything else away, even by hinting).

Tonight, clearly, I still have these books in my head, or I wouldn't be blogging about them like a giddy teenager. I almost felt bereft, not having one of them to come home to after work. Is it too early to start rereading? And my friend Michelle (the one who persuaded me to pick them up in the first place--she has two ls in her name-- perhaps I should be using last names) and I have a pact. We're going to go see the Twilight movie together when it comes out in November, so, if we happen to be the only 30-something, obsessed Twilighters in the crowd (which I doubt will be the case), we at least won't be alone.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ikea--Disney World for home shoppers

My goodness, it's been ages (I sense Sabrina, likely the only one who ever checks this anymore, dancing in her chair somewhere up Huntsville way at the sight of a new post).

I spent last weekend in Orlando, visiting with best friend Sarah, her hubby Michael and their oh-so-handsome 7 week-old son Peter. It was a delight to meet the little guy and spend quality time with Sarah, something I hadn't done in several months.

The Saturday I was there, Sarah asked me if I wanted to visit the relatively new Ikea store.
We pulled off I-4 at the International Mall exit, crawling through traffic headed to different parts of the shopping district. We turned a corner, and there in front of us was a massive Wal-Mart sized building painted in blue and gold (after flipping through the latest half-inch thick Ikea catalog the night before, the size shouldn't have surprised me). We were there by about 11 am, but already the main parking lot was full, and there were red-shirted men directing traffic to an unoccupied vacant lot across from Ikea's parking lot. We busted out the stroller, installed a sleeping Peter in it and made our way to the entrance.

First thing we did was grab a map (a map!). As we rode up to the second floor (the Showroom) in the industrial size elevator, Sarah explained the concept. Top floor had all the various layouts of furniture/lighting/dishes/housewares/carpeting/flooring set up in little vignettes. Every item was tagged with name and price, and conveniently, there was a lined area on the reverse of the map where shoppers could write down the name and price of whatever lamp/cushion/frame/sofa caught their fancy. The bottom floor was the Warehouse, where everything so creatively arranged upstairs was organized for purchase downstairs.

As I pushed the stroller, admittedly overwhelmed with the crowds of people, the arrows on the floor directing people in the appropriate traffic patterns and the scads of attractive yet inexpensive home decor, Sarah wandered amongst the displays, writing down shelving options. It didn't take me long to fall in love with a massively over-sized teal chaise lounge and a set of lamps. I also quickly began to harbor a sneaking suspicion that I could get in serious trouble very quickly if I wasn't careful. Admiring decorative items and extensive bookshelf displays as we wandered, I noticed the chair area. One style caught my eye, and reminded me of an arm chair I inherited from my grandparents. It is a squat, 70s-era chair upholstered in an orange and yellow burlap-like material, and despite the color, it is my favorite. I have to check, but it's possible the chair isn't as old as I imagine, but merely of Swedish styling.

After further meandering, sighing over furnishings and pointing out features we both liked and despised, Sarah, Peter and I were hungry. So without further ado, we repaired to the cafeteria. Yes, there's a cafeteria, selling Swedish favorites such as yummy meatballs (bags of said item, frozen, are also available for purchase). Placed near the children's furnishings area (a riot of fun color that made me long to either be a child again or have some of my own, if only too decorate their rooms (not the right reason, certainly)) the food was inexpensive and tasty, served on real dishes with real glass and silverware. As we ate and Sarah nursed the baby, I people watched, laughing at the balloon-animal artist and magician who stood not too far away entertaining laughing children. I was tempted to take a picture, and almost expected a costumed creature to walk by.

We wandered some more after eating, picking out a rug and sea creatures mobile for Peter's room, and then decided to make our way downstairs. I found the lamp and flowered lampshade I wanted. The baby began to fuss as we followed the arrows back and forth, and I found myself briefly disgruntled at the people with carts who seemed to just park in front of us. And it took forever to get out of there, rather like being at a theme park after a long, hot, sunburned day when you can't wait to get to the car but the people in front of you can't seem to gather their family and shopping bags fast enough. Instead of turnstiles, there were easily 40 checkout lines, but they moved smoothly despite the number of people with large crates of assemble-it-yourself furniture jockeying for position in the shortest line.

At the end of the afternoon, though admittedly tired, I still very much enjoyed my experience. And it got me to thinking. As we'd looked at furniture, I kept saying how one day I'd decorate my home nicely using some of the antiques I have in storage and other new items. Sarah asked me why I should wait.

That got me thinking. See, although I've lived in my duplex for three years, I've hardly hung anything on the walls. And the antiques from my grandmother don't fit in my living rooms with the window-unit air conditioner. Despite the furniture, I used to be so good about making my spaces homey and imprinted with my personality, but for some reason, haven't with my current home. And the more I thought about it, I realize I don't want to decorate my current space, mostly because it would imply permanence. And I don't want to stay here. I'm not sure where I do want to go just yet, but when I do, and have found new digs, I'm pretty sure I'll be returning to Ikea.