JUNE 2005
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
On Sunday, we went to Chicago to visit the Museum of Science and Industry. On the way there, I learned that the building itself was built for the 1893 World's Fair (that's 1893, not 1983). When we got inside, it was pretty obvious that they had done some fixing up since then. But it was a great space, and we were excited to check out Bodyworlds, the somewhat controversial exhibit of real human specimens. Everything from bones to muscles to ligaments to organs to embryos was on display, and they were all the real deal, taken from real live (well, formerly live) people. It was all extremely fascinating. I learned that human skeletons don't look anything like those shiny plastic skeletons in biology class (or in my case, eighth grade art class, for purposes of still life drawing, because eighth graders don't draw nudes); our bones aren't all perfect and shiny at all, but rather kind of irregular and rough. In fact, the texture of the bones they had on display kind of looked like chicken leg bones after the chicken's been eaten off. And all of the muscles were injected with some kind of plastic so that they would stay rigid. The overall exhibit was intense, but really informative. I would have taken pictures of some of the specimens, ooh, like the skeleton-and-muscle-group one posed like a basketball player, but sadly, no photography was allowed in this part of the museum. Have you ever seen a skinless man about to make a bounce pass? It's quite the thing.

Getting better. Also at the museum on Sunday was the simple yet glorious Game On exhibit. What's that, you ask? It's a history of video games! There was more emphasis on the video game part than there was on the history part, but really, when you fill a whole museum wing with all the coolest video games from the past 30 years and let people play them for free (free!), no one's going to pay attention to anything educational. Seriously, it was like all of my childhood fantasies come true, and I spent over an hour running from console to console playing Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Ms. Pac-man, Parappa the Rapper, Frogger, and more. I even tried my feet at Dance Dance Revolution (I sucked). Oh man. It was awesome.

I was also surprised at how many memories it brought back for me, and how many of my childhood memories are centered around video games. I remembered saving quarters when I was a kid so that when my mom went to the mall, I could tag along and spend them at the Aladdin's Castle arcade downstairs from Macy's. I remembered once when I was visiting my grandparents in Florida, and my grandpa took me to a video arcade and gave me five bucks, and I spent it all on Donkey Kong, even though I sucked at it, and then afterwards we each got a chocolate ice cream cone, even though he wasn't really supposed to eat ice cream. I remembered being at the beach with my friend Mark and our families and sneaking off to the arcade at the edge of the sand and spending the two dollars he had on Asteroids (we sucked, but he was better than I was). Our moms were mad when they found us. Mark was the first person I knew to have an Atari, too, and the first time I played Pac-man was at his house (I sucked). And I remembered my brothers having a birthday party at Mr. Arcade, and I spent all of my time at the Burger Time console (I sucked at that one too) -- a game that was conspicuously absent among all of the others at the museum's exhibit. And I remembered how much I like Parappa the Rapper, and that I would really like a PS2 just to be able to play it.

The Game On part of the day wasn't so educational, but it was a blast. But if you go, I would recommend both exhibits, for wildly different reasons, as well as the baby chick hatchery -- you get to see baby chicks being hatched! And you get to see fuzzy little chicks that are only a few days old. I didn't want to find the baby chicks cute, but I guess that was unavoidable. Baby chicks are cute. It's even fun to say it: baby chicks. Try -- you'll see. And if anyone knows where I can get a very cheap used PS2 system with a copies of both Parappa games, please let me know. I would like to practice so there's at least one video game that I don't suck at.

Sunday, June 26, 2005
Tell me: why would someone spend 30, 40, 50, 100 thousand dollars or more on a really nice boat, put it on Lake Michigan, and then anchor it 20 feet offshore from the beach and just sit there? Yesterday and every other day that we've been to the beach, there's a lineup of these morons right outside of the cordoned-off swimming area, just sitting on their boats and tanning and talking and doing exactly what we and everyone on the beach is doing, only we paid nothing and they have a second mortgage and a bloated charge on their platinum cards for a full tank of gas. And don't even get me started on the asshole who parked his boat just a few feet from us two weeks ago and started blasting vintage-1983 Duran Duran. Admittedly, in third grade this would have been very cool to me, but I go to the beach to relax and listen to the water, not have some doughy rich guy with inadequate genetalia crank "Rio" as high as his boat's Bose will take it. (And I'm sorry, I know this is crude and shallow and probably highlights some of the worst parts of my personality, but my reasoning for pretty much every dumb, show-offy, this-will-impress-chicks-of-a-certain-element-and-by-certain-element-we-mean-easy male action is that they have a small penis. Loud radio with bad music? Small penis. Disco ball over the bed? Small penis. Bright yellow overwaxed 1987 Ferrari with 19s and spinners and ultrasuede upholstery and a spoiler the size of Tennessee? You get the idea.)

One day I would like to have a boat -- nothing huge or overly expensive -- and I sincerely hope I don't act like one of these idiots. I don't know if they're showing off or what (oooh, we are so impressed with your fancy boat and your inability to use it properly), but all I can think is that if that were my boat, I would totally be out on the lake and not spitting distance from dry land.

Thursday, June 23, 2005
Sometimes -- sometimes when you've just returned from an evening bike ride and you're really hungry, and to prepare a healthy dinner to go along with your workout you've spent 20 minutes cutting up all kinds of fresh vegetables and mixing up a fresh olive oil and lime dressing and covering it all with cilantro and tossing it together and going to put it in the fridge to get cold and dropping the whole goddamn thing on the kitchen floor, where it's going to sit for a minute or two and make the floor really slippery and gross instead of sitting in your stomach where it belongs and imparting its fresh, crispy nourishment to your tired, post-exercise body -- sometimes it feels good to close your eyes and let your neck muscles slack and yell "ffuuuUUUUUUUUCCCKK" really loud. Really. It kind of helps.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The other day I was telling a non-New Yorker about black and white cookies, and how they're basically just a big fluffy cookie with half vanilla icing on top and half chocolate icing on top. The person asked which half you eat first, and I told him that kids eat the vanilla half first and save the chocolate for last, even though as an adult you realize that the vanilla is actually tastier than the chocolate. That's what I said, but it didn't sound right to me, but I left it that way because how else do you eat a black and white cookie when you're a kid?

Then last night I had a dream that I was in a deli, presumably in New York, and I turned around, and there was a little kid in front of me, eating a black and white cookie, and he was actually eating it like kids eat cupcakes: scraping off the bottom cookie part with his lower teeth so that a thin layer of icing was left to savor at the end. That's how kids eat black and white cookies. I knew it would come to me eventually.

Monday, June 20, 2005
You know what's been bugging me lately? When I'm driving along in my car and listening to the radio, and the news comes on, or it's NPR, or whatever, and there's a story about some police chase, or big crime bust, or something like that involving illegal activity and the law enforcement officers who stop it, and they throw in an audio clip of a police siren going off as they're reading the news story. Every time this happens, without fail, I get all nervous as soon as the sired noise starts. I hit the brakes and look around (taking my eyes off the road, mind you) because I think a cop is blazing down the street or (even worse, especially if I'm going too fast or potentially guilty of some minor moving violation), I think a cop is about to nail me for something. There's always that moment of increased pulse, and I get the scare sweats, and my heart starts knocking around inside me like Keds in a dryer. And then a few seconds after the audio clip of the siren, when the news reader is just reading a story about something somewhere involving the police, I realize that it was just the radio, and nothing bad is happening. Nothing at all. And then I curse stupid radio producers everywhere. Stupid nerdy radio producers. Stop being cute!

This ends our latest installment of what's been bugging me lately. But seriously, I think that siren audio might cause a real accident one of these days, and I hope I am not involved in it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005
More, please. It's June here in Michigan (okay, it's June everywhere), and that means lots and lots of fresh strawberries. I used to think Michigan strawberries were the same as strawberries from anywhere else, but I have been shown the error of my ways. When you live in Michigan, Michigan strawberries are the best because they are local. We got a flat of these (that's eight quarts) at a roadside stand, which means that they were probably picked this morning or yesterday morning. And that means that they were picked when they were red, not picked when they were white and packed in a truck and driven all the way across the country while they sort of ripened in the trailer. These are red all the way through and have a really good, soft strawberry taste. So good, in fact, that I wolfed down about a dozen before we even got them out of the trunk. And look how cute and little they are! They're not those big, hollow, oddly crunchy, trucked-over California strawberries.

Paul got two quarts. I am allowed to eat one quart. The other five are for pies for Sunday. Of course, while I am prepping all the fruit for the pies, I will probably eat another half a quart.

But as much as I like strawberry month, blueberry month is still my favorite. Around here, that's July.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
This house hunting/buying stuff is really wearing me down.

Monday, June 13, 2005
Aaaak! We were in Saugatuck on Friday for the film festival there, and also to hang around and drink beers and eat chowder and enjoy the river and walk on the beach and do general summery-type things, and in the parking lot of one of the riverside motels, we saw this Chevy with the most grotesque hood ornament bobbing on top. Is this thing creepy or what? It's feminine looking, but she's got the classic male pattern baldness horseshoe cut of my seventh-grade math teacher. And the bolts at the neck are so Frankenstein-y. And crikey, the whole thing's on a spring! I didn't see the car in motion, but I would imagine the whole thing rocks back and forth like it's possessed. Ick.

Unless...unless this car has been tricked out by one of those specialty cable car-tricking-out shows, and the driver is a student at beauty/barber academy, and the tricker-outer wanted to give the driver a hood ornament to practice on. But if that's the case, the driver should consider other career options, because this is just plain bad.

Friday, June 10, 2005
It's funny how all through the school year, I need caffeine to function, and I go through several mugs of green tea each day (not a big coffee drinker, though for some reason people assume I am, but then again, lots of people also assume I'm a smoker, even though I am adamantly not and never have been, unless you count the infrequent cloves that I used to enjoy about once a week a few years back, but I don't count those because of their infrequency and nonaddictiveness and how much my throat felt scraped the morning after I would smoke one, not to mention that I would always give away half of every pack I would buy, because cloves can be hard to find, and everyone loves the smell, and I have to admit that I do too a teeny bit, and lots of people want to bum one, and you really can't say no, and holy crap this is a long aside, and I should probably get back to the topic at hand, which admittedly isn't all that interesting, but here goes regardless), but once summer arrives, even if I get up early, I can usually go the whole day without any artificial energy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005
A conversation between me and Paul from a few weeks ago:

Paul: Did you like Grapes of Wrath?
Me: I've never read Grapes of Wrath.
Paul: You haven't?
Me: No.
Paul: Weren't you an English major?
Me: Yes.
Paul: Don't you have a graduate degree? In English?
Me: Yes.
Paul: And you've never read Grapes of Wrath?
Me: No, I never have.
Paul: Wow.
Me: (Silence.)
Paul: It's good. You really should read it.
Me: Okay, then. I will.
Paul: Good.
Me: Yes.

(Note: Conversation is from memory and has been altered/simplified/embellished for dramatic/comedic effect. Work with me here.)

So I just finished Grapes of Wrath, and it was, in fact, really good! What is it about sad stories that is just so irresistible? Anyway, I read it and liked it, and I even read the parts that had nothing to do with the Joad family. All those pages about turtles crossing the road and the corn stalks bending in the dryness and the heat and truckers along Route 66 stopping for pie and taking sass from a bored waitress -- I read them and liked them too, and while you could certainly argue that the book is long and you could really skip those chapters, I liked the way they added to the overall depressed malaise (ooh, good word). And you know, I started reading it once before and put it down. It was during the summer between my two years at grad school, and I got about 100 pages in before I quit because it just didn't interest me. Now I'm wondering what the hell was wrong with me then, because it really is excellent. And I'm also wondering if I should go back to some of the other books that I started and put down for good because I wasn't interested, like Anna Karenina, or maybe Bleak House.

It also got me thinking about the price of fruit, and how yeah, a pound of strawberries for $1.18 is a great deal for me, but once you factor in paying for the plants, and paying for the land, and paying for people to harvest the strawberries, and paying for the equipment for people to use to harvest the strawberries (let me just say right now, for the record, that I have absolutely no idea how strawberries are harvested, unless they're all hand-picked, but it seems that by now someone would have devised a more advanced way to harvest all those strawberries), and paying for trucks to bring them here to Michigan all the way from California -- California!-- and all of the other costs involved in fruit growing that I'm probably forgetting or just don't know about, how is anyone making a profit on these strawberries? Same goes for the dollar-a-pound asparagus that I've been enjoying lately: it's local and I've been buying it at a family's barn, but it seems like it would cost more than a dollar a pound to pick it. This is obviously something I know sparingly little about, but now that I am thinking about it (thank you, Grapes of Wrath!), it doesn't quite add up.

Anyway, in light of all of this uneducated musing, please let me recommend Grapes of Wrath to you if you have not yet read it, and please let me implore you to read all of that stuff about the turtles and the dust and the heat and the pies. Ooh, pie would be good now.

Monday, June 6, 2005
The flip-flops are out, I have a little sunburn on my shoulders (minor -- nothing too bad), and I just bought two pounds of peaches. It's over 80 out. School is done until the end of August. My 90-day weekend has started! There are lots of things I should be doing around the house, like straightening things out, vacuuming (ooh, that's a big one), cleaning the bathroom, sorting through clothes and shoes and getting rid of stuff that's too worn, too big, or too ugly, and just general tidying that I've let slip the last few weeks in anticipation of lots of time off. I will get to those things tomorrow. Or the next day. But definitely this week. Maybe.

Friday, June 3, 2005
Analog stairmaster. Just got back from the funeral home for the visitation of another student who was killed, but I said I wouldn't dwell on bad news. Moving on, then.

These are the stairs to the top of Mount Baldhead (yes, the real name), which is a dune in Saugatuck, Michigan. I'm told there are 285 stairs, and I climbed up and down every last one. And you know, I think I'm in pretty good shape, because while I was winded when we got to the top, it wasn't awful. I mean, I didn't feel like I was going to throw up or anything, and it didn't take us all that long to get up there. And, the view of the town and the river was really nice through all the trees.

After we got to the top, we made our way down the other side of the dune, which is just sand because the slope isn't as steep. At the bottom was Lake Michigan, and even though it was windy and overcast and not all that warm out, the beach was nice. People were out flying kites, and sitting on blankets with jackets wrapped around them, and a few kids were even in the frigid water. (What the hell is wrong with kids? Are they not affected by 55-degree water?) Going back up the sandy part of the dune was difficult, but again, not horrible, though by the time we got to the top we both had the jelly legs from walking uphill in the sand. We waited a little while before carefully heading back down the stairs.

This was all on Sunday. My calves just stopped tingling about an hour ago.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005
One big ass horse. Alright. A new month, hopefully with no bad news. Let's begin.

I mentioned that I had a great long weekend but didn't explain why. On Saturday, we went up to Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. As the name suggests, it's part botanical garden, part large-scale sculpture park, and part conservatory. It was a beautiful day, so we went through the indoor parts first and checked out the plants, including the weird carnivorous ones, which make me slightly nervous for some odd reason. Then we spent the rest of the day outside, walking around and looking at the flowers and farmhouse set-up and giant sculptures.

One of their more well-known pieces is this freakin' enormous Leonardo da Vinci's Horse. It's huge! The front left leg is lifted in the air, and the bottom of the hoof is about seven feet high, to give you some idea. Umm, and it's a boy horse. I had heard that it was a boy horse long before I ever went up there. Let's just say that the reputation of its genetalia precedes it. It's, umm, proportional, I guess.

I also really liked this giant shovel, or trowel, or Plantoir. If I had yard tools like this, I'd have a nicer yard.

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