Thursday, July 31, 2008

Invitation to Cle Elum

Trevor's invited our usual Daily-alum friends to spend a weekend at his parents' new house near Cle Elum. I think Cle Elum is that Safeway on the way to the Gorge. On a map, it is a very tiny grid on a very long stretch of highway. It's not exactly a dream vacation in Disneyworld or Paris, but it's also not a ground-floor apartment in Wallingford. I don't think I've left Seattle for months, except one night in Suquamish, and I am desperate to go somewhere. I miss packing, and the scheduled, orderly feeling of being out-of-town. I don't get to plan daily itineraries when we're sitting at home.

Of course, Brian is conveniently working that Sunday, but hopefully he can get Friday off so we can go for two days. If not, I may become obsessed with planning imaginary vacations online.

Trevor also says we can bring Buster, and his parents may stop by with a Labradoodle. Which is one of Buster's favorite breeds. Labradoodle.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Dining Room Table

Pretty much everything about my life is great, except our dining room table.

We don't really have a dining room, just a space where our long living room runs into the kitchen, where the wall color changes from "Wilted Spinach" to "Fake Blood." Here, a laminate-pasted particle board and aluminum rectangle mocks my only real family value.

When I was growing up, we didn't sing together or go to church, and early efforts at family meetings by my stepdad were quickly abandoned; but we ate together every night. The only way to get out of eating with the family was to be eating with someone else's family -- it wasn't enough to simply have food, it had to be an intergenerational experience involving food cooked in a kitchen. I mostly hated the obligation, until one day a good friend who had (I imagined) a perfect family told me he only ate with his brother and parents on holidays and stuff -- most nights, his mom left tacos or something in the kitchen of their three-story, planned community house, and they ate on their own. Alone, I guess. And suddenly dinner together, across from each other, represented the kind of solid, stable, supportive structure I'd always yearned for. I still hurried from the table, but sometimes not so quickly.

And so it makes sense to me now that even though we were poor, my mom spent $200 on a heavy, dark table at a garage sale, shortly after marrying my stepdad. We were only four, but there was room for six at the least and 10 or 12 when both leaves were put in, for holidays or birthday parties. The chairs had high, carved backs, and the table legs curved down to heavy canine feet. Someone once put a pan down with nothing but a thin tablecloth underneath, so now there's a white moon burned into the top -- something painful at the time, now with a sort of sweet history.

I think when I moved out before junior year of high school, my family stopped eating together. My mom was a vegetarian anyway, my stepdad all meat and potatoes, and he and my sister never got along anyway. Without me as some sort of equalizer, I guess the structure seemed too flimsy. Even with the heavy, dark table.

We don't exactly have a dining room, and we're not really a family, but Brian and I still eat, often together. Like my mom, I think it's not enough to just have food -- dinner should be a communal experience. I want placemats and place settings, and a pan burning a crescent into the wood. I want to clear the table before dinner, not just shove clean a space for my cereal in the morning. It's not the 22 minutes spent sitting, or the pasta, but the feeling of being with friends at a bar, or at church, if you believe, or even reading a book - just being connected to some other human presence in a specific moment.

So I've been looking on craigslist for a big, heavy wooden table, something dark, no mid-90s oak with padded wheeled chairs, nothing "Scandinavian" or minimalist, and definitely no metal and glass structures. It might be misguided to imagine a carved wooden rectangle will bring with it the gravitas of family, but it will be something -- at the least, it will help define the space between giant TV and kitchen.

Friday, July 25, 2008

iPhones, you phones

Brian and I got iPhones. So now I can check my work email as I'm walking out the door at 5, and check my Gmail while sitting in front of my computer with Gmail already open. And listen to music and find movie times, etc. What I can not seem to do, with this telephone, is make phone calls.

I've yet to import my contacts from my old phone, so the only people I can call are the two numbers I have memorized: Brian and Mom. Someone else's Tennessee grandmother left me a messy message one morning, but I don't think wrong numbers count when calculating usefulness.

I tried to add a contact today (my salon, so, OK, three phone calls I can make) and accidentally called them four times before figuring out how to save the number instead of dialing. I blame not the iPhone, which is so usable the manual could fit in the change pocket of a pair of jeans, but my own ineptitude when it comes to dialing. Computers and I are close friends, but phones, fax machines -- it's like we've never been introduced properly.

As much as I love accessing the Internet within seconds of any whim, I hesitate to whip it out. I am afraid. 1: I am afraid I will drop it, and if not break it at least scratch the shiny surface. This may draw attention away from the greasy fingerprints covering the screen like an expressionist painting, but it would still be a disappointment. 2: I am afraid I will be hit by a bus while crossing the street and reading the NY Times on a 3" screen. And 3: I am afraid people on the street will either judge me for having an overpriced gadget or hit me with their purses and steal my overpriced gadget.

Beyond this paranoia (which is similarly caused by anything else in my life), it's pretty fantastic. It's as easy to use as the television ads suggest, it allows me to access the Internet with relative ease almost anywhere -- the necessity of this is debatable, but my life would revolve around the virtual world anyway, this just makes it more feasible. The 3G network is pretty much everywhere, so it's speedy. Good ringtones, nice UI, plenty of free apps. And I got to watch Obama's Berlin speech in the bathroom this morning (while getting ready). The option for more politics in the bathroom pretty much makes my life complete.

My birthday is 4 months away.

Yes it is. 4 months.