Sunday, June 28, 2015

Gripe Reform, Fashion Lesson, Half-Assed Movie Review, and that Time I Didn’t Jump Into Greenlake in My Underpants

I’ve noticed that I cycle through a routine litany of complaints on this blog based on the seasons. After nine years (!) of blogging here, I’ve become absurdly predictable: Sun, heat, no professional hot-weather clothes, allergies, allergies, fatigue, bad knee, cold, Christmas, weight gain, hormones, work stress, can’t find decent fill-in-the-blank consumer good, Mr. Typist leaves his stuff all over, cat, knee, allergies, cat. So I am not going to bitch yet again about the disgusting 90-degree heat. I will exercise constraint. I’m not going to rant about how I didn’t move to the Northwest so I could be subjected to L.A. weather, how the relentless sun and lack of rain is killing my soul, how I miss boots and sweaters, and how unfair it is that as a Northern European, blue-eyed red-head I am probably going to get skin cancer living in, of all places, Seattle, where it’s supposed to be gloomy and gray all year round, but wherein the last few summers have been dementedly hot and sunny for an area in which only two percent of the domiciles have air conditioning. Nope--I’m not going to gripe or moan about any of that. AND, I’m going to share a sartorial victory—around this time last year, I wrote an angry screed about the lack of professional hot-weather clothing for women. But just today, I trundled off to Fred Meyer and found a plethora of….drum roll please…breezy, light-weight, professional tops I can wear to work for the summer! I was so completely delighted I didn’t even mind that the place was jammed full of mean, crabby, sweaty people who were obviously just there to get out of the heat and scam some free air conditioning.

If I may channel Tim Gunn for a moment and lay a fashion lecture on you: The blouse pictured here is decidedly not a drippy blouse. It is a decent work blouse you can wear in the heat. It does not contain extranea. It is not garish. It is not burdened with a bejeweled neckline or frivolous bobbly things on strings. It has tasteful pattern that can be combined with neutrals, blues, or blacks, it is nicely gathered in the center. It has shape and structure, yet it flows. (I like my clothes to flow.) I bought five such blouses today. Not five of the same blouse, obviously, but five different blouses that meet that criteria. I guess that’s pretty much what I’ll be wearing for the remainder of this hideously scorching summer: All of five non-drippy blouses in varying shades of purple, neutral, and blue. Woot!

When I started this blog post, I was in the middle of watching a rental of “While We’re Young” on my tablet.  I had about a half hour left to go in the movie, and I didn’t love it. I don’t mind sad movies, but I have grown weary of hopelessly unredeemable sadness, both in my life and in my media. There is a certain type of indie movie that seems to be popular now, with people being sad and wistful. They are sad and wistful at the beginning of the movie, and then slightly more sad and wistful at the end of the movie. In between, not much happens. But I took a break from writing this post to finish watching the movie, and the ending really pissed me off. I have a personal pet peeve around redemption narratives that involve pregnancy or adopting children. It’s a lazy, cheap way to create meaning in a character’s life, and I really dislike it as a device. Of all of the things that happened to these characters--of all of the ways they could have found a creative outlet for their ennui and hopelessness, of all of the ways they could have corrected their mistakes, they just to get to erase everything with the easy cultural shorthand of having a baby. Because we all know that fixes everything. Ben Stiller didn’t have to figure out a way to make his incredibly dull, pedantic documentary shine, and his sad shell of a wife never found her own voice or a way to differentiate herself from her famous, lauded father, but hey, all of that would have been too complicated to work out narratively, so let’s just have them adopt a foreign baby, and, bam, everything is sunny and sweet and okay now. It’s an insta-fix. I don’t understand why acquiring an infant is considered a way to solve everything, both in fictional narrative and in real life. But I really resent being dragged through a painfully awkward ninety minutes of stilted Millennial hipster-vs-Gen Xer conflict, only to have everything wrapped up neatly with the baby-bow trope. I think writer/director Noah Baumbach could have done better.

Continuing with the formal verse series and the theme of regret and failure, below is a poem about another fail: The day Ididn’t jump into freezing-cold water in Greenlake for the Poet’s Polar Bear Plunge. Even though I wrote an overly-dramatic poem about my lack of spontaneity, I know deep within my heart I that I made the right decision in that specific circumstance. That water was cold, swampy, and infected with god-knows-what, and every single person who jumped in got sick the next day. Risk-aversion has it’s perks!


Time once, my heart would court and take
The black burn of the freezing lake,
And love the fight, hard and bold,
Against the alchemy of cold.
But now my veins are lax and weak;
My soul is flaccid; my mind is bleak. 
Courage fled me long time past,
And my mettle was long surpassed
By remittance of fearful debts.
For all one gives to life, one gets:

I watched the others risk the pain,
And ached to feel that free again;
To toss off fear and grab the heart
Of this frigid, giddy art!
To dunk my dullish, talking head
In living waters and dare tread;
My body's furnace roaring heat
To fuel my hubristic feat.
I could have chanced this dare--and more,
But I'm afraid I've lost the war

Against the gods of angst and qualms:
I've traded in my nerve for alms,
And spent the coin on safety nets
And hedged or reneged all my bets.
The world is divided so
Between those who live life in flow;
Who embrace the water's passion--
And those who prudishly ration
Their fulfillment for protection,
But take no joy in its collection.

--Kristen McHenry

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