Archive for the ‘family’ Tag
So to answer the question, yes, we got the house. We put in an offer; they counter-offered; we accepted the offer and signed the paperwork. The house is now Under Contract. In six or seven weeks (mid-September basically), it’s ours. Now I’m stepping forward and arranging for all the post-choice stuff: the inspections, the new floors, new fridge, painting the walls, adding more trees(?), all the stuff that I didn’t want James to arrange because he has enough on his plate.
James rattled off all the potential bedding space we’re going to have, and realized that we will easily fit nine extra people plus us in the house. So we’re thinking about inviting all the family members for Thanksgiving, because we want to host Thanksgiving.
-My sisters and Keith
-Steve and Cindy
-Eric and Deanna and Erika
That was my original plan. I mentioned it once to Mom and she thought it would be a great idea. Well, I mentioned it to her once with the idea of having Thanksgiving at Deb’s house. Then Deb got worse. So. But the idea stuck with me anyway. But now it would be at our house!
James started rattling off all the other people we could invite, from his side of the family.
-Lynette and her family
-Diane and her family
-Randall and Yasuyo
-Ryan and Lindy
So that would be…that would be 24 people in the house. I would suggest that James is insane, but this is how I met James’ family, way back in Thanksgiving 2010.
Those people are all first cousins. That’s not even the whole family. That was just the immediate descendents of that woman’s children (and their SOs). There were more than 40 people altogether. 24 is small for James.
“How is this Thanksgiving?” asked James the year before.
Besides, James is a natural-born host. He would be in his element hosting Thanksgiving.
Okay I did not plan on talking about Thanksgiving this much. I wanted to talk about my plans for my study.
I’ve revised my plan a bit. After considering what sort of furniture touches I want to put into the room, I’ve settled on the room being gray and gold. And I’ve been gathering lists of elephant accents to put into the room. And by that I mean throw pillows and lamp bases.
I have noticed that, in my various list-makings, I tend to prefer more of the sketch-looking pictures than the cartoony pictures of elephants.
After researching my original idea of a small sectional, I have ruled against it because oh my gosh did you know that furniture is really expensive? I’m used to buying bookshelves which are practically a dime a dozen compared to couches and sofas. I’m now thinking…chaise lounge and a cool bench. And the bookshelf and work table. I still need to figure out how to close the light off from the rest of the room, so I can work into the night while James goes to sleep early.
James was confused as to why I didn’t really want a computer desk. I had to explain that my tailbone still hasn’t recovered from the blow on our honeymoon, and so I don’t want to have a piece of furniture designed for me to sit on my tailbone in front of all the time.
Moments before The Incident
And so I want a chaise lounge and a lap desk instead.
Yesterday at work was very tiring, mentally and physically, so last night I mostly laid in bed and vegged and this morning I did the same thing. At least now I’ve had some coffee and cleaned the kitchen/dining room, which is what I wanted to get done last night. Tonight, I need to go shopping:
-pet food shopping (both kitty and lizard need food)
-Birthday present shopping
Technically there’s nothing stopping me from leaving now. Eh. I’ll leave after I finish this entry. And tonight, I’ll do my nails. Oh, I need to make phone calls. Eh. After I finish this entry.
Lacey texted me this morning asking for advice: whether she should travel this weekend or stay at home and eat s’mores with Katie. She wanted me to decide, but mostly I just asked her questions to get her to think more about each consideration. I think she decided to travel.
Anyway, part of the consideration had to do with Lacey’s new boyfriend. He’s a guy we knew in high school. If they got married, the official wedding announcement would probably say that they “reconnected after high school.” I’m a bit jealous of stuff like that, because when people ask, well, I have to say that James and I met online. Which is not a very exciting story.
I started thinking about “how we met stories” two weekends ago, during the Deb Meyers Memorial Tour. At every single memorial, someone mentioned her relationship with her husband, Steve, and how special it was. I’m not saying that’s weird, bad, or unusual. In fact, it’s pretty typical and should be celebrated. I’m just saying that I remember it distinctly.
Deb was widowed for five years almost exactly before she died. People inevitably asked her why she didn’t bother looking for someone new. She told one of her friends that “men were looking for a nurse and a purse.”
“But,” said this friend, wearing a Jamaica visor and Penguin socks,* casting her eyes around the room, “I think that her relationship with her husband was so special that she didn’t want a new man. She had had Steve for over 30 years.”
I’ve said several times that I stood with Deb over Steve’s body and asked her how they met. But one thing that surprised me at the last stop on the Deb Meyers Memorial Tour was that afterwards, the other Mrs. Meyers, Mrs. Meyers Version 1.0,^ stopped James and I and told us her side of how Deb and Steve met.
They were part of a group of college kids that “ran around together” during Sophomore and Junior year of college at Ball State University. They met at a party and started “going together.” But the summer after Junior year, Debbie was going to study abroad in England. Steven talked with her about it. Deb interpreted whatever he said as him dumping her, so she drove the two hours from her parents’ house to his to give him back all the presents he had ever given her.
From even that little bit, we (or just I?) learned that the catalyst for Steve “dumping” Deb Junior year was her going to England. The rest of the story I knew. But the story continued, a year after graduation.
Steve came to his mother, excited. “Debbie invited me to a party! She wants to see me again!”
I knew from conversations with Deb that she only invited him to her Christmas/New Years party because a friend talked her into it. It had been long enough, the friend argued. He was part of the group. It wouldn’t be weird anymore. Steve and his mother apparently didn’t know that. Neither James nor I felt like telling her now.
“They started going together in February, and they got engaged in April,” finished Mrs. Meyers, smiling.
“That’s interesting,” said James. “Both of our parents got married after a short time dating.”
“I think they just knew,” said Mrs. Meyers.
“Well they did date for two years in college,” I said.
“Yeah, but your parents got married after what — four months?” James said. “And then mine got engaged after two months. But we dated for six years before we got married.”
“Five years. But my parents knew each other for a year or so before they started dating. And like I said, your parents dated for two years in college.”
“They just knew,” Mrs. Meyers insisted.
But I think it’s interested that the Ballad of Steve and Deb isn’t about how they met. It’s about how they got back together again. Just like the interesting part of James and my relationship isn’t how we met, it’s how we stayed together through job loss, career change, and long-distance dating. And so comparing us to Lacey’s latest relationship is irrelevant. Irrelephant.
New adventures will be made.
*Presents from Deb, from various travels and Christmases
^James’ paternal grandmother. Sometimes my sarcastic storytelling gets in the way of clarity. Listen, James’s paternal grandmother is Mrs. Meyers 1.0. Deb was 2.0. I am 3.0. Get it?
A few days ago I was at work, helping a man apply for a credit card. He would answer my questions with “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” and so on. At one point, he looked right at me, and asked, “Ma’am, if you you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?”
I had to think. “Twenty-nine,” I answered, truthfully.
“Twenty-nine? I’m almost forty.” He shook his head. “Why do I keep calling you ma’am?”
“Well I am standing behind a desk asking you a bunch of personal questions.”
He didn’t have a response to that.
Honestly, I think the real answer to that question is “it’s a Southern thing”. No one called me ma’am when I lived in DC. When a New Jerseyite worked at the Paint Desk, he asked me why everyone called the guy in Appliances Mr. Blessing. “I thought it was his first name!”
“It is,” I had said. “It’s a Southern thing. A term of respect.”
That answer didn’t satisfy him, and truth be told, it doesn’t satisfy me either. I’ve noticed that different names get different levels of respect. Steve and Thomas in Electrical are both equally respected by fellow associates, by only Thomas gets called Mister. Part of it, maybe, is the rhythm of their names. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Blessing flows off the tongue better than Mr. Steve or Mr. James. Maybe it’s also the Baptist tradition, you know, how Baptists refer to each other as Brother and Sister because we’re all children of Christ or something like that? Or maybe it’s, you know, the slave thing.
Most Northerners really encounter such denominations in old books, like Pride and Prejudice. It’s weird that most people only encounter Pride and Prejudice on these things, because the Bennets are shown specifically avoiding that stuff (which is how all the outsiders to Merrifield know that they’re classless hooligans). In Pride and Prejudice, all the daughters are “out” (able to go out in society and meet men). Usually there was a very specific pattern to all this. Take my family.
Typically, only one daughter is allowed “out” at a time — the eldest. She is referred to by her last name. The other daughters, since they are still basically children in the household, are referred to by their given names.
But then the eldest daughter gets married.
A highly accomplished half-Jew marries a Roman Catholic, who knew? Anyway, the fact that Lacey and I are twins complicates things a bit. Even though we were born AT THE SAME TIME, I AM STILL CONSIDERED THE YOUNGEST, and have also always been considered sickly. So it’s possible my parents wouldn’t have let me “out”, or perhaps would have had me wait a few extra years.
Or perhaps they wouldn’t have, considering that we are only separated by a minute.
And so I married, leaving just the one Miss Hancher.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately looking at wedding photos. I remember this picture. I would always stop at it. It’s a great picture of Deb. She looks so happy. I looked at it and thought, this is the picture that will be shown at her funeral.
This morning, I emailed this photo to the funeral director, to be used in her obituary as for identification purposes.
There’s another picture — I won’t post it here — the photographers were taking pictures of everyone coming back down the aisle. Lots of pictures of James and I, and a few pictures each of our attendants, followed by my parents. Last but not least was Deb, being pushed by her sister Marcia. Unlike all the other pictures, where she’s smiling and engaged, Deb is shown hunched in her chair, frowning. She looks tired. It cost her so much to get to our wedding.
A few days ago, before she had passed, I was at work. I turned to get some paint. All the sudden I thought about that picture, and I had to bend over and just feel for a minute. As the day wore on, I just got more and more tired. I didn’t really want to listen to anyone.
I remember talking to Harold, Marcia’s husband. “I met Debbie when she was a two-year-old curly blonde girl who just wanted everyone to pick her up,” he told me. “She was the flower girl at our wedding. We had to put off our wedding for three weeks because Juanita told me that she was giving birth — she was having Lynette.” Then he started talking about how they had hardly any time for themselves because seven siblings and their children and grandchildren meant constant birthdays and holidays, and then Marcia made him stop talking so I could leave.
With no living spouse and only the one kid, Deb really only has one heir, and that’s James. Today we walked all throughout her house and started touching on what we would want to keep and what we wouldn’t. The beds, the furniture in the sun room, the breadmaker, the dim sum set.
“She’s still decorated for Christmas,” said James.
“I like these little ceramic houses,” I said.
James and I picked them up and examined them. James pointed out that they were limited edition collector pieces from England. “They good Christmas decorations,” I said.
“We can get rid of these leather-bound books,” said James.
“And I know you hate these nutcrackers.”
“Those things are awful.”
“What about these Drumel figurines?” James asked me.
“She only ever talked to me about one of them,” I said. “The little boy with the cello on his back. She told me that was you.”
I stopped and flipped through family photos whenever possible. I only met his dad the one time; the next time I saw him, he was in the hospital, heavily sedated, on the verge of death. I tried to find some semblance of knowing this family. I looked at the pictures of James’ parents together. There was one of them with the same haircut and plaid shirt on. James laughed at it. I studied the way they looked at each other.
I remembered standing with Deb over his dying body. I had asked how they met. They had met in college, through mutual friends. When he said that they weren’t going to see each other for a while, Deb assumed she was being dumped, and returned all of his things. When he found all of his things on the porch, he had broken down into tears. That’s how his mother knew Deb was special. They got together a few months later. They were together for nearly forty years.
“I think if the roles had been switched, Dad would have ignored her living will and fought to keep her alive,” James said.
I found the pictures of them cutting the cake. I remembered cutting our cake cutting experience. I had never cut a tiered cake before. I had never really thought about how to cut into one, or how small you were supposed to cut the pieces to feed to each other. “Just finish it up,” I remember someone hissing at me (or perhaps that had been my imagination). James had been perfect, laughing all throughout and being silly, stealing frosting and kissing me after we had fed each other.
There was no sign of that awkwardness with the two of them. They were laughing. Deb had that face. She had that way of holding her face when she laughed.
Across from us in the room, there were family photos hanging on the wall. One was a wedding photo, but the other two were of James. Toddler James, grinning for the camera. One by himself, one with his grandmother. I remembered the second time I met Deb. She had come down to visit James in his apartment. I walked in to see her cleaning the baseboards. Whenever I clean baseboards, I think of her.
After visiting, I had to leave for class. I picked up my book-laded backpack and prepared to go.
“Now a true gentleman,” Deb had said, not looking at either of us, “Would carry a lady’s bag and walk her to her car. He would open all the doors for her, and put the bag in her car, and give her a kiss before helping her into her car.”
I looked at James, and James looked at me, and then he laughed and said, “Have a good class!”
Deb sighed and looked at me and said, “I swear I raised him better.”
I think what I’ll miss most of all is the opportunity. I just didn’t know her that well. Our relationship never evolved beyond “you are the mother of the person I am with.” We never became friends. We were hardly even family. I wanted to show her her grandchildren, and those grandchildren would do something, and she would say, “James used to do that when he was that age.” Or maybe one day I would call her up and said, “I’m thinking about painting my hallway, do you have any ideas?”
But that will never happen.
My grandmother died in August 2009. She had been very sick for a long time, and when it came time, her insides were eating her, slowly shutting down one by one. It was time. I remember how swollen she was; she had always been a slender woman, and in her later years her skin had become delicate and paper-like. The woman on the bed before me didn’t seem like my grandmother at all, a red, swollen, Gramma-shaped creature.
This is her in December 1987. I am the baby on the left, saluting.
We all arrived at the hospital to say goodbye, and to watch her die. My grandfather told us that someone had to hold her hand at all times, so that she wouldn’t feel alone. I replied that hearing is actually the last sense to go, and so talking to her would be better. Grampa snapped at me for being so cold. I felt stung and walked away sulking, but I know now why he snapped at me.
She died surrounded by her family; her husband, her two children, their spouses, several of her grandchildren. Unable to come up with words, we took turns reading the Bible aloud. When all of our voices gave out, we sat in silence, watching her chest rise and fall, less and less and less.
Two hours had passed.
Gramma’s chest rose.
Gramma’s chest fell.
Mom stood up.
Gramma’s chest didn’t rise.
“Sit down,” Katie hissed.
Mom sat down, but Gramma’s chest didn’t rise again. Gramma was gone.
Most of James’ family did not attend our wedding. They live several hours away and have small children, so it made sense. We invited them, but didn’t expect them to attend. But at the last minute, several of the Yesses on his side of the family dropped out. Even one of his groomsmen cancelled. James’ grandfather was dying, and most of them felt it was more important to say goodbye to him than to see James married. Which made sense. If we weren’t getting married that weekend, James probably would have gone to see his grandfather as well.
This is one of the few members of his paternal side that was able to attend. Almost everyone else from James’ side that attended was from his maternal side.
My grandfather’s girlfriend also wasn’t able to attend. She was still recovering from surgery. In fact, she’s still in recovery. We were able to see her the next day after the wedding though, which was wonderful, because she’s a lovely human being.
James’ grandfather died while we were on our honeymoon.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a public setting ever, but James’ mother has been in and out of the hospital for the past four years. It was a trial for her to be able to attend our wedding. But James is her only son, goshdarnit, and Deb was bound and determined to attend.
Deb was admitted to the hospital while we were on our honeymoon.
She ordered everyone not to tell us because she didn’t want to disrupt our honeymoon. We found out as soon as we came back.
Today, her spasms returned with a vengeance. We spent five hours in the hospital with her today, doing what we could to ease her pain. She took a strong painkiller, but she was too tense to have it actually work. She panted and squirmed and shook on the bed. We helped her with her bedpan. I waved a magazine, hoping to cool her down. We helped her drink water through a straw. James helped bend her legs at the knee, hoping to ease the tension. It didn’t. Nothing helped. For five or more hours, Deb could do nothing but sweat and writhe in pain on the hospital bed.
I took a break and got some coffee from the Starbucks downstairs. I did a crossword puzzle. I watched Deb gasp into the phone that she wanted a strawberry milkshake for dinner. The nurses arrived to try to get a liquid painkiller in her, so we left and sat outside the room. We listened as the nurses struggled to get an IV in her, but she couldn’t stop shaking. I worked some more on the crossword puzzle, sipping the coffee and trying to think of something, anything.
James drank some water. The nurses were gone. I didn’t want her to be left alone, so I came back into the room.
I looked down at Deb. She gasped and shook with pain. The spasms were much less violent, but they were still there, and they were still painful.
“They should put you on some knockout gas,” I said.
Deb chuckled. “They should,” she said.
Then a strange look crossed her face.
“It’s gone,” she whispered.
Then she closed her eyes and went still.
I thought, Oh my god she’s dead. Oh my god I killed her.
But a quick look showed that her chest was rising and falling. She was fine. She was just asleep.
Dad: You called me?
Kelsey: I did! It’s Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day!
Dad: Oh, okay! Thank you!
Kelsey: Did you do anything to celebrate?
Dad: I did. We had a meal. It was fun. It was fun. We played Family Stories.
Kelsey: What’s that?
Dad: It’s when you sit around and tell family stories. Like we would tell the story of the cow in California.
Kelsey: Oh, the Basic Cow?
Dad: Yes, the cow that Mom almost hit.
Kelsey: Oh that cow! I remember now!
Dad: Everyone remembers but Katie.
Kelsey: She stayed asleep the whole time.
Dad: Or we would tell the story of — I didn’t actually tell this story — the story of the outhouse. Do you know that story?
Kelsey: I’m not sure.
Dad: It’s the one where Grampa pushed over the outhouse.
Kelsey: It’s this the George Washington one?
Dad: Yes, and this isn’t a real story, but he learned in school that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and his father didn’t punish him because he didn’t lie. So he pushed over the outhouse and his grandfather — this was his farm — his grandfather started beating him, and Grampa said, “Why are you beating me, I didn’t tell a lie!” and his grandfather said–
Kelsey: He was in the outhouse!
Dad: Yes, George Washington’s father wasn’t in the cherry tree.
Dad: It’s not a true story. It’s a joke.
Dad: What are you up to tonight?
Kelsey: Well, I sat down to write, but I’m not sure what to write, so I’ve just been staring at the screen for a few hours.
Dad: What are you having trouble with?
Kelsey: Well, these characters are ghost hunters. And this woman walks into their apartment, and she wants them to look for vampires. But they don’t hunt vampires, they hunt ghosts. So one of them says that they don’t hunt vampires, but the other one says that she knows where the vampires are and they can help her.
Dad: Are vampires real?
Dad: Are they famous ghost hunters?
Kelsey: No, they just started out. They’re trying to get people to notice them.
Dad: How did this woman find out about them then?
Kelsey: There was a bank that couldn’t sell this house because of the ghosts. It was falling into disrepair and whenever they tried to fix it the ghosts kept breaking their tools. So the bank got desperate and finally hired them to get rid of the ghosts, so they did, and this woman found out about it.
Dad: How old are they? Are they in their thirties?
Kelsey: No, they’re pretty young.
Dad: So she can comment that she thought they would be older.
Kelsey: I suppose.
Dad: What part are you having trouble with?
Kelsey: Well, the first part. She just walked into the apartment. They’ve all said their hellos and now I don’t know what to do.
Dad: What does the apartment look like? Is it a nice apartment?
Kelsey: It’s a very tiny apartment. It’s a very small kitchen overlooking a living room that’s just big enough for the couch and the desk that’s the center of operations for the business. And there’s a big window, like at Katie’s old apartment, and two small bedrooms, just big enough for a twin or maybe a full-size bed.
Dad: There’s a big window? What does it overlook?
Kelsey: The street, I guess. They overlook a commercial center, with shops and stuff. There’s a movie theater across from them — no, it’s down and around the corner. They live across from a bar.
Dad: So they’re downtown.
Dad: How big is the city?
Kelsey: Small. Like 30,000 people.
Dad: Where is the city?
Kelsey: I don’t know. Somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina. They’re starting to become conflated in my mind.
Dad: Is it near a big city?
Kelsey: I don’t think so.
Dad: If it was near a big city then there would be more business.
Kelsey: But I associate ghosts and hauntings with rural areas. It’s why it’s a smaller town.
Dad: Is it a walk-up?
Kelsey: Yeah, it’s a third-floor walk-up.
Dad: That’s a pretty big walk-up. Maybe there can be a guy on one of the floors who smokes a pipe all day.
Dad: They call him Captain and he keeps explaining that he’s not a captain, he was just a — a navy officer, you know. Not a captain. But they call him Captain anyway. And he tells stories from his time in the navy.
Kelsey: I’m not really sure…
Dad: He can just be some atmosphere, some filler. He smokes a specific kind of tobacco, a sweet-smelling smoke. And he tells stories. He’s a salty guy, he worked on a ship for 40 or 60 years. Does the apartment smell?
Kelsey: It doesn’t smell good. I guess it smells like…carpet cleaner?
Dad: The apartment should be a refinished hotel. I’m taking over your story, I’m sorry.
Kelsey: It’s fine. I think you have a really strong character. You should tell a story about him. A guy who lives in a refurbished hotel and stands in the hallway and smokes a pipe and tells stories to passerby. The stories can all be random things, but they all have something to tie them all together. There’s a story-within-a-story. Not all of them relate to that story, but it can be there.
Dad: Yeah, maybe. I’ll think about it. You should have your characters drink tea. They should offer them tea, like the English do. They’re just starting to talk, and then the kettle goes off. “Oh, excuse me! I left the kettle on. Would you like a spot of tea?” They should say that, just like they say it in England.
Dad: When are you coming to visit?
Kelsey: I should be up in July. James wants to see Old South Mountain, he hasn’t seen it yet. And I want to spend some time with Katie and Lacey. And there’s a board game party we want to go to.
Dad: I miss you. I wish you lived half an hour away, not six hours away.
Kelsey: Yeah, I miss you guys too. But it’s better than when I was 18 hours away in Dubuque.
Dad: And you’re not over two mountain ranges either.
Kelsey: Two mountain ranges? Really?
And the conversation drifts to geography and eventually we both agree that we are tired and say good night.
I was in DC for a few days! I didn’t get to see a lot of people. But that’s okay! It was for my birthday, and for my birthday I wanted to see my family, especially my favorite twin sister.
I took the train up, and let me tell you: I love traveling via train. Like plane rides, someone else is driving (score one over cars). However, the seats are bigger, you have a little bit more legroom, and it’s easier/less annoying to fellow passengers if you get up and walk around. You also have somewhere to walk to! It’s the dining car. Which is great: you don’t have to sit and wait for a flight attendant. You are your own master.
Plus, for some reason the actual act of flying always leaves my body stressed. I can’t relax or sleep on a plane, no matter how comfortable I get or how much I read or distract myself. There’s something about the pressure your body is under that stresses me out. I remember going to Europe with Lacey and Beth. We were on an overnight flight from New York to Heathrow to Berlin. I was awake the whole time. As soon as we got on the train to go to Paris? I was out like a light. I remember another time, flying from London to New York to Dulles. I was absolutely, devastatingly exhausted, but I could not fall asleep on the plane. I started hallucinating.
Anyway! So I took the train to DC which was very convenient. I carried my sister’s present onto the train with me; the ticket person warned me that the conductor might not let me (it’s a painting with a glass cover, the ticket person was worried it would break in a crash and make things worse). I had already started texting Lacey about back-up plans in case I wasn’t able to bring her present with me, but the conductor didn’t even glance at it as I walked onto the train. Thankfully, because of the awkward size of the painting, absolutely no one sat next to me the entire trip. I tried to make room as best I could, but no one sat with me. I could spread out, leave my stuff on the extra seat, and stretch out my legs. I finished the first half of translations for Chapter Seven in my Latin textbook. After I had done all my translations, I carried my Julius Caesar biography (given to me by the handsome James Meyers) into the dining car to have lunch. Another passenger and I waited together while the dining car attendant worked with the microwave.
“Where are you heading?” we both asked, as is the usual opener on trains.
Then she asked, “What school do you go to?”
It was the first of…well of a few times that I was mistaken for a college student. I suppose it made sense. I look young for my age, I had been doing work out of a textbook, and I was carrying around a biography. All common signs of a college student.
Lacey met me at the train station, helped me get my bags, and lead me through the metro system to Ballston, where we met Mom and headed to Tysons. Lacey is more comfortable with the metro than I am. I was convinced that I hadn’t entered the system legally (perhaps jumping on her open entry?) but apparently I did enter legally. All was well.
The food at Tysons was excellent and the company was even better (the parents and the twin sister!). After dinner Dad headed home, but Mom, Lacey, and I explored Barnes and Noble. I bought two new biographies to add to my collection, and Mom bought a birthday present for me.
It’s called Wreck This Journal and look what I’ve done to it:
It’s not every day that you want to call up your mother and say “you know that present you got for me less than a week ago? I wiped my dirty shoes on it and broke it nearly in two.” I am so happy.
But of course I cannot call up my mother. Lacey drove over my phone. It was an accident, of course: I dropped my phone unknowingly by her car and so she drove over my cell phone with absolutely no idea that it was there. It is absolutely gone, dying alone and broken in the cold Arlington snow. It was a jerk anyway.
Moving on to Saturday, Lacey and I worked out for a bit. First we (probably) annoyed her neighbors by dancing to the music we were playing too loud (Uptown Funk, Shake It Off, Bie Mir Bist du Schoen, Come With Me Now), and then actually going to a gym and working out (featuring an attendant who laughed too hard at Lacey’s joke).
Then we went and got ourselves cultured like red wine and gruyere. First we attended Taffety Punk’s annual Riot Grrls. A few years ago, Shakespeare Theater Company in DC did an all-male version of Romeo and Juliet. Annoyed that women were once again being denied good acting roles, Taffety Punk threw together a quick all-female version of Romeo and Juliet, which turned out so successful that every year they do an all-female production of a Shakespeare show under the name Riot Grrrls.
This year’s flavor was the Tempest.
From Lacey’s facebook feed.
All but one of the principle actresses had been in last year’s Titus Andronicus, so it was interesting, this year, to see them play new roles. Only one of them (the woman playing Miranda) played a really similar role to last year. Last year’s Lavinia was this year’s Miranda. Both roles clearly are girly-girl types, but Lavinia is a mostly silent role dealing with death, despair, frustration, fear, anger, and sadness, while Miranda is a blithe spirit who loves everything all the time and is so happy. The actress was clearly more comfortable playing the sailor Trinculo, who was drunk and petty. Lacey, meanwhile, found it interesting to watch the quality of performances diverge between actors playing multiple roles: Ferdinand and Sebastian were played by the same person, which works with clever staging. She played Ferdinand straight and dull (to Lacey’s annoyance) but found her Sebastian to be sardonic and hilarious.
After The Tempest, we went and ate at Ted’s Bulletin, because it was right around the corner and obviously.
Ted’s Bulletin liked this on instagram
Our super-serious discussion about Acting was interrupted when several people from Taffety Punk walked into the restaurant!!!!! I didn’t say anything but OH MAN.
Then we rushed off to E Street Cinema to watch the Oscar Nominated Shorts (both live-action and animated). Obviously the awards have been given out so we know who won, but here are my thoughts anyway.
You can skip them if you want, I noted in all-caps when it ends.
[in order of how they’re listed on the Oscar website]
The Bigger Picture
I absolutely loved the Bigger Picture, which is how I knew it wasn’t going to win. I always go for the animated shorts that have a unique or fanciful art style, while Oscars tend to be given to the animated short with the cutest or most comfortable story. That being said, I loved this film. I loved how simple the story was; I loved how the art style and fantasy sequences helped to tell the story, or rather the emotion. The emotion that two brothers feel as their mother is slowly dying. Their mother’s friend would insult the caretaker brother as he was filling her teacup; he would imagine the room filling up with water and drowning her. But despite his annoyance, he was ultimately able to keep his head up as his more-successful brother lost it, because he was able to focus on…the bigger picture I love this film you guys I love it.
The Dam Keeper
Neither Lacey nor I were particularly impressed by The Dam Keeper. In a city full of anthropomorphic creatures, a small pig is put in charge of the windmill that keeps the Darkness at bay (if a movie calls a vague thing to be feared “the Darkness” you know it’s going to be stupid). He also goes to school, where he is bullied frequently for being a pig. Then he makes a friend. Then that friends turns out to be false. So he decides to let the windmill wind down, which would kill everyone.
Here’s where Lacey and I disagree: I think they should have ended it there. Just let the pig sit there with his gas mask on and let the darkness come and kill everyone. The last shot should have just been the gas mask. Lacey disagreed. I don’t remember exactly where she thought the movie should have ended (or maybe she thought the story should have gone in a different direction?).
In any case, the pig saves everyone and it’s a happy ending for everyone, which doesn’t make sense, in the same way that Frozen’s ending doesn’t make sense. I’ll elaborate later. This entry is already pretty long.
Feast is a decent-looking piece with an easy-to-swallow story (hah!). Of course it was going to win. Unlike last time Disney won Animated Short, I’m not angry. I hated Paperman. Feast was good. There were better entries. But Feast was fine. It told a story from a unique perspective. It had a good metaphor. It made me want a Boston Terrier. All good things.
Me and my Moulton
This was Lacey’s pick for Best Animated Short, and I can’t say I blame her. It was probably my #2. It’s a story about a quirky family and accepting that family or happiness or normalcy or whatever is…what you make of it? What no one has? What looks weird from the outside is in fact normal? That supporting or loving someone takes a big effort? Don’t be embarrassed by your family? It didn’t have one, simple message, which is something that Lacey tends to go for. And certainly that was a big bonus. It was a slice-of-life about growing up, about accepting…maturity? I don’t really know what it was about, exactly. But it was funny and sweet and the art style was simple and quirky, and it tells a story that will stick with you. It’s a good film and it should have won, really.
A Single Life
It’s all on youtube guys! Go get yourselves some culture.
A Single Life starts with a woman sitting down to eat a delicious pizza in a comfortable apartment like it’s the only thing anyone would ever want. It is the most relatable thing ever. The art is really weird though. I don’t think it served the story very well at all. She looks like a giant white cucumber with a wig. Considering the theme of the story, she should have been more human-shaped, not less. It had a good punchline and excellent pacing, but overall it wasn’t a very good film.
Live Action Shorts
Look at those two. Look how happy they are. Look how thrilled they are to be alive, to enjoy all of life’s greatest splendors.
At 39 minutes, this film was the longest entry in the Live Action Shorts, and boy did it feel like it. The whole movie was filled with long, awkward pauses of silence. I joked to James that 30/39 minutes of the movie was awkward silence. The thing is, I’m not sure I was exaggerating.
Aya, the driver there, is at the airport to pick up someone (a lover, presumably) when through a weird series of circumstances she gets mistaken for a professional driver and she just goes along with it. It’s a good set-up…if the characters were interesting, if the final plot twist hadn’t been given away the first time we saw her hands on the wheel, if the characters had anything interesting to say, if the actors had had any chemistry, if there had been any sense of danger, if they had gotten lost and had to find their way, if they had talked about anything deeper than “what do you do for a living?” The film is actually about the car drive from the airport to the hotel.
Lacey visited the facilities in the middle of the film. When she came back, she asked if she had missed anything important. After giving it a moment’s thought, I realized that no, no she hadn’t. Absolutely nothing had happened in the five minutes or so she had been gone. That’s forgiveable in a feature-length film, but this is a short film. Every second should count. A few minutes after that, I went and bought a bottle of water (this is a relevant plot point for this entry — remember that I bought a bottle of water). When I came back, I asked Lacey if I had missed anything — and nope. Nada. The whole film was an exercise in patience.
We went online to see if there was any explanation for why Aya scored a nomination, only to discover that the very things we hated about it were the things people loved about it. Critics raved about the “tense periods of sexual tension” or whatever. They loved the long silent pauses. They loved…the fact that no one said anything? They loved the “twist” at the end. They said that it was “a story exploring what would happen if you gave in to your impulses” (or something). Except that Aya did the opposite of that in the end. Also, one critic said that if you hate this movie you’re an anti-semite. I guess I’m an anti-semite now.
Boogaloo and Graham
Boogaloo and Graham was never going to win. Unlike the Animated Shorts’ tendency towards heart-warming stories, Live Action Shorts goes for art and Feelings. If it had been animated, Boogaloo and Graham would have had a chance to win. It’s about a Northern Irish family that adopts two chickens, set against the backdrop of the Troubles. It was adorable. I thought for a second the chickens were going to die. It toyed a bit with my emotions. It’s what you want in a kid-friendly film. The only thing Lacey and I didn’t like was that the one black character in the film was the one who killed a dude in the end? Was given scary framing and everything? What the double-hey racism?
Source Watch it here!
Butter Lamp was also never going to win, but you really, really wanted it to. It was a story about modernity forcing its way into a small Tibetan village and — back up, Hancher, back way way up. It’s about a whole bunch of Tibetan families getting their picture taken. Everyone is cute and charming and it tells each family’s story in its own way. The underlying theme is — stop it, Hancher. Watching the movie for the message takes away from the story.
This was Lacey’s choice. She has a weakness for stories about female friendship. It’s a story about unlikely friendship between an Iranian immigrant and a Swiss teenager. They beat up a dude. There’s casual racism. They bond. Unlike Aya, this film really did explore two characters dropping boundaries and seeing what happens next. Both Lacey and I loved this film. Lacey just loved it more than I did. I would have been happy if it had won.
The Phone Call (winner)
I absolutely adored The Phone Call. It follows a woman at a crisis center as she handles her first phone call of the shift. It is absolutely intense and nerve-wracking. The vast majority of the film is just a wide variety of angles of her sitting at her desk and talking and writing, but every single frame is filled to the brim with intensity as a man’s life is on the line. I could hear the sad voice of every old man I have ever met on the other end of that phone call. I cried along with Heather. I loved this movie and it absolutely deserved to win.
And it did! Yay!
AND HERE ENDS THE OSCAR TALK IF YOU JUST DECIDED TO SCROLL PAST IT OR WHATEVER
After the movies we headed back to the car and mostly just bad-mouth Aya. We tried to shove as much praise for Parveneh and The Phone Call in as we could, but we just could not get our minds around how awful Aya was.
As we drove past the White House, Lacey made a left turn that may or may not have been legal, the lights were changing. So Lacey made a joke about President Obama coming out in his boxers to arrest her. I put on my best President Obama voice. Lacey and President Obama began discussing government-issued patriotic boxer shorts and laughing. I was only about halfway done with the water I had bought during Aya. I raised up the bottle to take a sip as Lacey was saying something funny.
The next thing I knew I couldn’t stop coughing. I could feel the water going down my throat and I was coughing, coughing, coughing, my whole world was just me and coughing. Suddenly there was banana milkshake and cole slaw all over my lap and I couldn’t stop it and it wasn’t enough and I couldn’t stop coughing and I couldn’t breathe, I realized I couldn’t breathe and everything was getting dark.
We drove all the way down Constitution Avenue before I could breathe again. It was the shallowest breath I had every managed. But it was new air, enough that my vision began clearing up. I still couldn’t stop coughing. But I could suddenly gasp. I realized that Lacey was freaking out next to me, shouting and screaming. We were well onto 66 before I was even able to get out a few words. Lacey asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said either “no” or “I don’t know”, I honestly don’t remember. She refused to take no for an answer. My brain was too addled to really say anything sensible, and I was still coughing a lot. Lacey finally pulled out her phone and called her insurance company’s 24-hour hotline and asked if she should take me to the hospital. The nurse said yes.
So we arrived at Virginia Hospital Center at midnight. I nearly slipped on the ice outside the emergency room. Lacey said that it was bad luck to break your leg outside the hospital. I said, “*cough* I woul *cough* wouldn’t have t *cough* to go very fa *cough* *cough*” I’m sure it was very annoying.
There was only one other person in the waiting area. The person at the desk took in my basic symptoms and gave me a bucket in case I vomited again. Lacey gave me a bunch of paper towels and I wiped off my jacket and coughed into the bucket.
The one other person waiting was there for his wife. We were shown in within ten minutes. A nurse took my vitals and I said that really my cough was a lot better than before. I’m pretty certain that my strained, weak voice combined with frequent cough breaks didn’t help. But I really was feeling better. I was literally no longer dying.
We were given a room to wait in. I changed into a hospital gown. The doctor and trainee doctor walked into the room and checked my breathing. They asked me a few other questions about how I felt. The doctor told me that the worst was over. I might still have some water in my lungs, but I would be coughing it out over the next few days. My chest was sore, but it was just inflamed from all the coughing. I could take some ibuprofen to help. It had been a good idea to come to the hospital, just to make sure the worst was over. I mean, I had just almost died.
They left and an administrator immediately came in, saying that everything had been cleared by my insurance company. I wouldn’t have to pay a dime. Lacey commented on how amazing it was — we had been cleared to leave before the insurance paperwork had even finished processing! Modern technology!
In the car ride back Lacey told me how relieved she was that I hadn’t died. If I had died in her car, Mom would have killed her. She asked me several times if I was feeling okay. If I died on her couch, Mom would kill her.
I discovered going up the stairs that I could not handle stairs anymore. I had to stop twice, but only briefly. I tried to make sure Lacey didn’t notice.
On the hill waiting for Dad to pick us up the next day, I noticed that I couldn’t handle hills very well either. I lagged behind Lacey. Apparently five minutes of coughing completely destroyed my lung capacity. I’ll have to work on cardio…when the weather gets better.
At brunch, Dad teased me about the fact that I was drinking water. Even though twelve hours had gone by, my body was still reeling from the whole thing. By evening, I would feel completely over it, except for the very rare hacking cough (and even that has gone away). But during brunch, my body still felt like it was processing what had happened. I feel like I didn’t say much; I feel like I couldn’t be as involved in the conversation as I normally was. Maybe it was in my head.
But still. I left Cary Station in one piece. When I came back, I had a broken toe, no cell phone, and had nearly died. One heck of a weekend.