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In the course of several emails with Annie about the production of children, saints names of recent days (did you know there’s a Venerable Dodo?) and raw milk, I found myself consulting our friend Sally and came across this little delight: “But modern man is highly peripatetic…”

First of all, this creates a spiffy mental image of Modern Man roaming the globe, unable to sit down and drink a cup of coffee in peace because he Must Keep Walking. Kind of like a super hero, eh? He would have “MM” stitched on the back of his Columbia all-weather jacket, his swift feet would ascend mountains and cross plains effortlessly. He would eat on the go, but they would be wholesome meals.

Ahem. Secondmost, the word peripatetic is one that only joined my vocabulary three brief years ago, in my senior seminar on that rascal Byron and that bore Wordsworth. In fact, I think one of my classmates wrote his entire seminar paper on peripateticism and B&W. (Is that a word? It is now.) Oh, B&W! How I miss them! Believe it or not, I still have fond memories of spending most of spring break in the library doing research. We took over a room and went to town. We brought in carts of books. Food, even though it was expressly forbidden. We read entertaining bits of research aloud to each other. Our professor would drop by and take us on walks around the campus to discuss in what direction our work was taking us.

I do some of my best thinking when walking. Unfortunately, at the moment I’m sitting at my kitchen table and not doing some of my best thinking and not quite remembering what my whole point was. Let’s try to sum up:

1. New super hero: Modern Man.
2. I like the word peripatetic. And what it means.
3. I have disturbingly fond memories of doing research.
4. I never get tired of discussing names.
5. Walking is good. So is running, even if the effects of my run this morning have already worn off, leaving behind only stiff legs.

How could I have forgotten to write about this yesterday?

It is Saturday night. There’s a big table of us at an ale house, having farewell drinks & dinner with a coworker who is leaving us (sob) to go across town where my mom happens to work. The ale house is crowded, there are other big tables with families and birthday parties, the place is loud, the waitresses are running around and charging us for the wrong things. We’re talking, we’re laughing, some of us are talking about work, some of us are doing everything we can to avoid talking about work, some of us are playing pool.

Towards the end of the evening, after part of the group has left and we’re working on divvying up the tab, a wizened little old woman approaches the table and looks right at Brooke, the now dearly departed. “It’s been a pleasure listening to you,” she says in a hard voice that indicates the opposite of pleasure. Brooke gapes at her, and I’m sure I gaped at her, wondering, “what will she say next?”

“Next time, stay home!”

We all came up with a lot of good comebacks later, but we were all too stunned as she turned her heel and walked out the door. I’m pretty sure I gave her one of the signature jessmonster stares, but for once it didn’t seem like enough of a gesture.

Oh little old woman with your heart of stone! Leave us be!

Currently 91 degrees. Finishing up a batch of potato salad with buttermilk dressing (making it, not eating it). Windows are closed, blinds are down, I’m pretending it’s not really this hot outside and that I don’t have to presently put on a polyester outfit and drive to work. And SHORTS. They are so embarrassing, but to not wear them is foolish when I get to work in a stuffy warehouse.

And I am all into A Thread of Grace.

The end.


for my mom. it’s too bad I don’t have any of the pictures of my dad as a baby because I am the spitting image. scary. Posted by Picasa

Confession from yesterday: the flowers I gave my mom came from work and were completely free. The one perk from working the manic Saturday before Mother’s Day. We were awash in flowers.

Chicken basil sausages cooked on the grill. Potato salad. Desserts from Papa Haydn. Being teased by my family for dropping lemon tart on my skirt. Looking at old family photos for the hundredth time and talking about who got which nose and whose coloring and whose arms. Whose ARMS! Our gratitude for escaping great-great-grandmother Dora’s nose. This is how my family spends the evening.

Kate and I are sprawled in the living room, faithful dog Mollie on the floor at our feet.

“I feel like a you-know-what,” I say, mindful of Mollie’s ever-alert ears.

“An ice cream bar?” Kate asks.

“Um, a you-know-what,” I say again, eyeing Mollie significantly, “although I wouldn’t say no to an ice cream bar.”

“Oh,” she says. “I was just thinking about how I wanted an ice cream bar and I assumed you meant the same thing.”

Mission? Accomplished.

I had this weird spell of nausea this morning which compelled me to curl up in a blanket on the couch saying, “this will pass” and wondering if it was a psychosomatic manifestation of all the little things I’d woken up worrying about. I pulled out my book, thinking it would distract me from my woes. Naturally I was just at the part in A Thread of Grace where the German doctor is confessing to the priest about all the atrocities he’s participated in and one feels overwhelmed by the magnitude of the evils people bring on each other and THEN of course the doctor becomes nauseated himself and throws up. You know, basically the perfect thing to read at the moment. So I shut the book and shut my eyes and proceeded to imitate Mollie and powernap.

Which got rid of my nausea problem but for some reason wasn’t very effective with the needing to replace the battery in my car problem. Which, why not? Why can’t napping solve problems like that? I keep making tiny gestures in the direction of getting a new battery, like going to the auto parts store and saying, “this is the kind of car I have and this is the kind of battery currently in it, please sell me a new one so my car will start again.” And they say, “there are several kinds, we would need to test them in your car” and I feel reluctant to have my car towed anywhere (towed! because of a battery!) but is that what needs to happen? And the people I call who are mechanics or aspiring mechanics do not return my phone calls. Oh well. Maybe another nap would do the trick? Or a walk to the grocery store for some oranges?

Q is skeptical.

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Note: Mollie barked furiously at the woman with the stroller. She keeps watch by the window. Coffee courtesy of the Mug of Ugliness. Flowers courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Facial expressions courtesy of one eight hundred apple cares and the apple store.

While I count down the days until I find out if UW wants me to stay in Portland or move north, here’s what I can recall of my high school reading lists:

Freshman Year

Teacher: the man built like a floppy daddy-long-legs, who covered the classroom walls with pictures of Germany and van Gogh’s sunflowers, who loved Cancer Ward and Ken Kesey, who made us learn – and I mean really learn – vocabulary. Fifteen words a week? Twenty? Spoiler: he makes a reappearance junior year, and doubles the number of vocab words per week. I might mix up books between these two years.

Cold Sassy Tree. Why? It was decent but not all that great. I think ALL the freshmen had to read this, not just our lucky ducky honors English class. I can’t imagine Mr. S picking this one on his own.

The Chosen.
Perhaps the foundation for all my ability to discuss themes in literature. I went on to read every single book I could find by Chaim Potok, and Bronwen and I have to been known to converse about becoming “the Chaim Potok of Orthodoxy.” Mean, of course, Christian and not Jewish Orthodox.

A Tale of Two Cities. Ah, the French Revolution! Bastille Day! It is a far, far greater thing…

My mind is a complete blank on what the hell else we read that year. I think that was the year I did my big paper on Pride & Prejudice.

Sophomore Year

Teacher: one of the best teachers I’ve met. We read a huge variety of books, we tore them apart and put them back together, we did creative writing and real analytical writing. I could argue with him fiercely about a point I was trying to make in a paper. He had us organize a Heroes’ Banquet at one student’s house at which we, I kid you not, dressed up like real or fictional people who we thought of as heroes, and performed elaborate skits about our characters. My God, we got SO into that. I was Don Quixote. I have a group picture from the occasion.

The Odyssey. I am forever grateful for this because I certainly wouldn’t pick it up on my own but it turns out that it makes for great discussion (was Odysseus really a hero? Or just a big jerk?) Plus, now my ears are attuned to mentions of wine dark seas and such, and it even made Joyce’s Ulysses bearable.

Lord of the Flies. I blame this book for several years of disliking the color pink. Enough said.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I was always a sucker for Arthurian legend stuff – plus I believe I recall being in a play of the same story in middle school.

Cat’s Eye (or was this senior year?) Either way, it got me reading Margaret Atwood.

The Great Gatsby
. I’ve been meaning to reread this for ages – it seemed so perfect at the time. But I can’t read any other Fitzgerald because the man only has one story to tell. I tried, believe me.

Junior Year: Mr. S makes a reappearance, with increased vocabulary. I perfect the art of “using the word in a sentence” by creating the most elaborate & unlikely sentences possible with the help of a dictionary of names. I’ve never looked back.

As I Lay Dying. And we all felt like the title was referring to US.

The Grapes of Wrath
. Eh. Give me Travels for Charlie any time.

My Antonia. SORRY! Geez. I just remember stuff about fields and maybe a boarding house? And how to pronounce Antonia. I have neutral feelings towards Willa Cather, but then this is the only book of hers that I’ve read. I SUPPOSE I should read more, but with the reading lists you bloggers are throwing at me these days? No time!

Senior Year: Sweet Ms. A who always had a pencil in her hair and let us read contemporary literature and died a couple years ago of some unsuspected brain thing, leaving behind twins in grade school. It’s so cheesy & trite but I wish I could send her a thank you for her part in turning me into someone with a BA in English.

The Kitchen God’s Wife. Excellent tear-jerker.

A Prayer for Owen Meany. Okay, picture a classroom full of seniors who’ve been given time to read. Picture dorky 17 year old Jessmonster with Owen Meany in hand. Now, I’m known for the way I crack up while reading and startle other people in the room. Owen Meany practically had me in tears. I think there were points where the whole class stopped reading to watch me read. And the ones who weren’t as far along as I was were wondering what on earth would happen next. I happened to finish the book in class, and that definitely drew some attention, although I wasn’t laughing by that point.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles. For such a depressing, fatalistic story, we managed to get a lot of good laughs out of it. Crumby, anyone?

I know there are more and it’s driving me up the wall that I can’t remember them. You see, is why I obsessively note down all the books I read these days. Records, people, records.

Kate just broke my blogger’s block by, as it were, spoon-feeding me topics. “I should blog,” I say. “but I don’t know what to say.” “Check out the operation on the counter,” she says. “And maybe take a picture. I don’t know, it’s up to you.”


Need a close up?

I now live with a cheesemaker. A cheese/yogurt/kefir/buttermilk making crazy woman with laptop deprivation.

Blessed are the cheesemakers, for they shall obtain mercy. And have their laptops returned unto them.

I happen to think that The Cheesemakers would be a great band name, with their first album being Blessed Are the Cheesemakers. And maybe a song called “Mercy.” Or something like that. Maybe I’ve just been influenced too much by King Dork (which, if your name is Joe or Joey and you happen to be related to me, you must read. The rest of you can read it, too.)

In other news, Kate has been taking out her withdrawal on poor Mollie. It’s a love/hate thing.

And now that Mollie is eight, Kate finally threw a party for her and Kitri, since they share birthdays. But Mollie wasn’t allowed to have any of the cake or the gourmet snacks or the wine. It was rough, especially since Kitri was allowed more treats than Mollie. The rest of us lived it up, too.

And some of us, after a mere six hours sleep, staggered out of bed to teach Sunday School. At which I almost died laughing over the kids deciding who was going to marry who when they grew up.

“You’re too wild, John,” said Rachel. “I’m going to marry Elijah.”

“But the boy is the one who asks! Girls aren’t supposed to ask people to marry them,” protested the boys.

I bit my tongue at this point to see what would come out of their mouths next.

Retorts Rachel: “But I can say no!”

May 2006
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