I spent quite a lot of this weekend rereading Ellen Emerson White’s The President’s Daughter, the updated 2008 edition that has email and cell phones that are curiously underused. (The original, which I’ve never seen, was published in 1984. Hmm, liberal-fantasy presidency 15 years before West Wing?)
I took it with me to get the car’s oil changed. I read it on the porch with many glasses of ice water. (I read it in the bathroom.) I finished it tonight in the back yard, while Sang worked on a story and hummingbirds navigated the lilac boughs overhead. (I speculated that the small-even-for-a-hummingbird male might be this year’s nestling. “Is that why we keep having to duck?” Sang said. “Do they need a tiny DRIVER IN TRAINING plaque?”)
Oh, thorny teenage girls named Meg! Oh, large number of commas, and pets who get patted instead of petted. I love how friends and family play in this book: deadpan verbal jousting, with one taking up the other’s lead.
I first read this in 2009. (My note then: “Nice to read a book about a rich girl that’s not all glitz and shopping.”) But it’s this time around that so much of it reminds me of President Obama’s inauguration. Meg and her family spend a lot of time deciding what to wear–remember how it was a big deal that Malia and Sasha wore J Crew coats to the inauguration? And the first time Meg and her brothers tour the White House reminded me of the Obama girls talking about the Bush twins showing them around, and how nice they were.
But the Vaughns don’t get a new puppy.
It does make me wonder how this book would read to me if we’d had a Hillary Clinton presidency instead. More echoes? Maybe not, though, as Chelsea wasn’t a kid anymore in 2008.
I hadn’t really planned on reading the whole series again, necessarily, but now I know I’m going to.
I am taking calculus this term. There is hours and hours of homework: at our last KFC meeting, I paged through my notebook and it was all algebra and trig and f(x)s. “This is what I’m doing instead of writing now,” I said pathetically, although there were plenty of KFC meetings before I started taking calculus at which I showed up with no writing.
But calculus is going well, partly thanks to Sanguinity, in whom I have an eager live-in tutor. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I catch the early-early bus and eat a Luna bar and get downtown in time for a 7:45 start in our basement classroom. I finish off my travel mug of blessed blessed coffee and watch our instructor, who is a peppy grad student named George, do stuff on the whiteboard. It’s like TV. It’s a pretty quiet class, but on Friday we had this conversation:
student across the room: *makes a joke I didn’t quite catch*
student: Oh, it was just a Jane Austen reference.
George: I don’t know what that is.
everyone: *stares at George*
George: Is it a comic?
student: No, she’s an eighteenth-century romance author…Pride and Prejudice? Emma?
another student: It’s a girl thing.
male student in front of me: yeah, those are good books.
George: Okay, well. *back to mathy talk*
So today I was tickled to come across Jane Austen Goes to War, showing the editions of Austen novels sent along with soldiers to World Wars I and II, with a link to Kipling’s WWI story “The Janeites.”
I meant to say Rabbit Rabbit when I woke up, I’d thought about it before I fell asleep the night before, but I went upstairs and said, “Good morning, Mom,” before I remembered. But that’s a good thing to be able to say, too.
My mom has started wearing a scarf with her bathrobe in the morning. When sanguinity and I put our bags in the rental car and got out the long-handled scraper that Hertz included, my mom came out on the sidewalk with her camera to capture Sang of the Northwest scraping the windows.
We volunteered to be bumped to another flight, and they gave our tickets away but then “found” us seats on the same flight, in First Class. Unexpected luxuries:
Last weekend I took Friday and Monday off work, and Sang and I drove out to Stub Stewart State Park to stay in a one-room cabin, sans internet. The plan was for Sang to study for her comps and me to do my thing of reading, writing, and looking out the window. There were enough trails around that we could also get out for walks as the weather allowed– for example, the bike path where we walked our marathon last month!
We turned on the heat and lights when we arrived at our cozy little cabin. The heater got right to work raising the temperature from 40 degrees to 70, but man, the lights. The lights worked, but they consisted of one small overhead fixture, probably with compact fluorescents inside, and it was DEPRESSING AS HELL.
Sang could see my mental health unraveling as we sat there. At her urging we got back in the car and drove toward Forest Grove, looking for a big-box store that might sell us a couple of lamps for cheap. We walked into the Walmart in Cornelius and Sang started laughing. We were turning to soul-sucking Walmart to stabilize my mood?
So now we are the proud owners of a five-dollar desk lamp and a plastic screw-together floor lamp, and with their help the cabin was cheery and snug for the rest of the weekend! We drank many hot beverages and Sang studied stats like a champ. I read four books:
And on Monday I started my reread of The Subtle Knife. Boy, he doesn’t worry about explicating via discussion and conversation, does he? And I didn’t remember Will being such a little hardass at the beginning in Cittagazze. There is something about this series that makes me miss my bus stop while reading it, even when I hadn’t thought I was all that absorbed.
Oh, and when we got home I opened the crisper drawer in the fridge and the Cider Fairy had visited and stuffed it full of bottles of delicious Spire Mountain cider! It’s not every day that happens.
The outdoor part of the heat pump started making an alarming rattle; since it’s freezing rain season, sanguinity thinks it has ice built up inside somewhere. Therefore, we are now running the A/C full blast to push warm air from the living room out past the mechanism and hopefully melt the ice. Then if it works we can heat the house again, maybe.
I have turned on the electric blanket in case it’s an early bedtime instead.
Inappropriate heating and cooling seems to be a bit of a theme in our life: rolling up the windows and blasting the car heater in the summer for “car sauna” to acclimate for Badwater, rolling down the windows and blasting the car heater that Christmas the dog rolled in dead fish and we couldn’t stand to be enclosed with him, and de-smoking the house that time during the Snowpocalypse when the exercise ball caught on fire on the old furnace grate.
The heat pump controls for air conditioning go down to 64 degrees. Economically sensible, but inadequate for certain experiments or, say, a Mr. Popper’s Penguins scenario. Fortunately, you can hit a button with a little picture of a strongman flexing his bicep, and the heat pump gives it all it’s got for 20 minutes. We call him Skookum-Man.
Text sent to sanguinity at 4:50 p.m. yesterday: “Coming home a little early– yay! Because my back hurts– booo!” I was quite gleeful at having caught an early bus despite the tweaky back.
Text sent to sanguinity about half an hour later: “Never mind, bus rear-ended at 26th and Powell. Will be delayed.”
Even though hardly anyone felt the hit, including the driver (I’m still not sure how she knew), a supervisor was called and we all got off and waited in the mist for the next bus. But not before the bus driver brought the car driver on board to get paperwork started. Car Driver faced us all like a champ and said, “I am SO SORRY, everyone.” And get this! nobody bitched about it. #loveportland
In reading news, I started Code Name Verity and could tell right away it’s as good as everyone’s been saying.
And I finished Kage Baker’s The Sons of Heaven, which I consider the last of the novels as far as The Company series goes. I know there’s a prequel about Edward, and some short-story collections and novellas I plan to read, but it will all be filling-in. The Sons of Heaven was a gossipy and satisfying drawing together of threads, and that carried me through the Big Battle At The End (I’m not a fan of those usually, especially in fantasy novels) and the difficulty of nearly-omnipotent characters and how to make them interesting.
This afternoon I put on the season’s first Christmas music and my very favorite holiday album, 1987’s A Very Special Christmas. It’s a benefit compilation for the Special Olympics and has Bruce Springsteen’s “Merry Christmas Baby,” Alison Moyet’s “The Coventry Carol,” and Stevie Nicks’ “Silent Night.” (“Whoever that is, I’m scared,” sanguinity said.) I was so psyched I did ALL the dishes on the counters, and there were a lot of them.
I had jury duty at the county courthouse yesterday and today. Yesterday I was tickled to find myself in voir dire with Phillip Margolin, who writes bestselling legal thrillers! As the attorneys were going over concepts of reasonable doubt, burden of proof, etc., whenever they got tired of calling on the rest of us for our vague, uncertain answers, they’d call on Mr. Margolin to deliver the concise and correct version. He didn’t make it onto the jury–go figure. ;)
I served on that jury but still had to come back to the general jury pool today, and was called into voir dire again just before lunch. Today’s judge added two questions to the list I’d seen the day before–
I never list writing as a hobby. I usually don’t bring it up in conversations about my occupation, with legal and tax authorities, but it’s not a hobby. So it was, “Uh, I read a lot.” ;)
And although I was under oath, the sanguinity who knows me best would either refuse to answer, or the word would be “evil.” Reader, I evaded and said she would call me “the quiet one.” Sara and anyone else who knows us won’t have trouble cracking the code.
Funny how social constraints kept me from just saying “evil.” Voir dire is a strange mixture of trying to please and trying to get the heck out of the jury box. Several people said their word was “reliable.” Really, the person who knows you best would sum you up with “reliable”?
Anyway, I was rejected and got to come home, yay.
Remember how a few weeks ago I was yearning for something new to happen on my way through the Reed canyon? Yesterday I had just come down the slope from the street to the canyon floor when the bleeding-heart plant next to me started rustling. I leaned closer to see what little critter or bird was in there, then saw that the noise was coming from water drops hitting the leaves. It was a cloudy, still morning; had a rain shower started? But when I looked up, all the droplets were falling from one tree branch. I stepped back to get a better look, and confirmed: I’d almost been peed on by a squirrel 30 feet up. So that’s new.
At a trail junction a mother and daughter were staring at something I couldn’t see. “What are you looking at?” I stage-whispered, not wanting to blunder through and scare whatever it was. It turned out they were looking at the thimbleberry bush right in front of them, where one of these perched on a leaf:
None of us knew what it was, but the internet told me later it’s a banded alder borer. (Photo by Patrick Loes for forestryimages.org.)
When I passed the bee tree, it was very active and I could smell it! Like honey plus sap.
A kingfisher flew down the canyon on the other side of the water. I was looking through gaps in the greenery and couldn’t see it for long, but I could hear that rattling call that I always try to remember for the future.
Last weekend I hardly got out for exercise at all, and it made me restless and moody. I realized it was like I was tapering, but there wasn’t even a race to give it a point. Also in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading race reports with renewed interest. I think I’m ready to–and need to–ramp up the running again. Sang is going to be working most evenings for the next couple of months, so I have all sorts of plans for after-work writing and workouts. We’ll see.
Sang and I went to Sunday Parkways in North Portland last weekend. We rode our bikes, and ate ice cream, and watched a magic show, and even stood in line for the free photo booth.
While we were waiting, a friendly blueberry came by to promote…eating blueberries, I guess. I asked her if she felt like Violet Beauregarde. “Yes!” she said, and showed me that she was chewing a piece of gum. She was psyched that I remembered the name, because a couple of people had called her Veruca Salt earlier.