1 April 2001

I'm done with the immigration books now. I finished them on Friday and sent them out in the mail. Yay! The editor may want editing. But that's in his court now. Mark is at the grocery store right now picking up supper stuff, and I'm wandering down my list like an anal-retentive owl: "to do, to do!" (I've been a grammatical owl before, "to whom, to whom!" But I'm definitely not writing an owl book. Tim says that now he's going to start expecting me to write whatever it is I say I'm not going to write. So I'm proclaiming all sorts of things off limits, just so that I get to write a wide variety of stuff.)

(But there really is no owl book.)

I've been reading Diane Ackerman's Deep Play, about peak creative states. Some of the stuff she's writing about seems to be more focused than particularly creative. I feel like in order for something to be creative, it has to, well, create. Create something. "A person on top of Mount Everest" does not seem like the creative result of that person's mind. But that's a definitional quibble. The book is still fascinating. She's developing the link between play and creativity, and it's lovely stuff.

There's something I think people should be able to do, even though it's not on the "You Should Know" list. I think people should cultivate the ability not to care if they look silly. Some of the best times in life are silly looking.

To pick a case that nobody will get offended at me for using: Planets. The summer I was in Toledo, we played Planets twice that I recall. Ever played Planets? One person is the Sun. That person stands in the middle and twirls. Other people get to be various planets and spin in circles around the Sun at various distances. Except for Uranus. Uranus rolls in circles. If you have a truly lot of people, some of them get to be moons. Daring souls can be comets, running in and out of the spinners creating havoc.

Can you see where this game is not particularly good for people with lots of dignity? And yet it's fun. I've had people ask me who wins, which makes me smite my forehead. A more sensible question is "how does it end?" And the answer is "heat death." When people go spiraling off into the reaches of the night and get lost somewhere and fall on the ground and stop spinning, it's over.

Of course, this was also a group that attempted to take thirteen physicists for a weekly grocery shopping, so it's not like we were sensible and sane in general. Here's a hint: don't do that. If you took thirteen monkeys, at least ten of the monkeys would not have illusions that they were being helpful to the three monkeys who actually had a clue. Also, none of the monkeys would scream that they required meat/no meat broccoli/no broccoli peppers/no peppers in their meals. They would perhaps smear the offending food items with their own dung and fling them at you. But they would not scream about it.

Another useful tip from that summer: Nissan Sentras are not meant to hold eight people. They just aren't. Oh, and another: never, ever take a Hungarian to a Chinese restaurant. Their accents are pretty nearly exactly inverse, and they have no chance of understanding each other. But in our case, the Hungarian in question was stubborn enough that he would not let us serve as translators between the accents. It took him twenty minutes to order grape juice and spicy kung pao chicken. He had many other fine qualities, however.

At any rate. I'm really glad that my father instilled in me a total willingness to be publicly silly. (Most stuff I can attribute to both parents. This one is pretty skewed towards Dad.) I don't always have as much fun or relaxation time as my friends think I should -- but it's not because I'm afraid to look silly, it's because I've convinced myself that the world requires a dozen virtuous activities of me in order to keep functioning. And sometimes I'm even right. Liz knows how this goes. (Ask and ye shall receive, hon.) Michelle knows how this goes, even if she lectures me about fun from time to time. My mom keeps trying to convince me that I should learn from her experience and just let some things slide. I do, a little. But if we took all of our parents' good advice....

This morning I was telling a couple of my friends how good my life is, and one of them said, "Enjoy it while it's good. Pretty soon real life will catch up with you, and you'll be wiping your kids' noses with credit card receipts." (Actual event of the morning. They had a tissue emergency but no tissues. So she tore the important part off of the credit card receipt and gave it to her oldest son as a stopgap measure. Because I really like these people, and I have several friends with small children, I will not name names.) The other one nodded. But they were both cuddling their kids on their laps, and they didn't look like life had stopped being good, so they were not my harbingers of doom.

Another event with the same runny-nosed child reminded me of what it's really really like to think like a kid. His father had gone and fetched some tissues from the bathroom, and the kid had blown his nose on one and tried to hand the lot back. His dad pointed at his pocket. In adultspeak, this translated as, "Put them in your pocket! You might need them later." But, of course, to a kid, it looked an awfully lot like, "Put them in my pocket! I'll take care of them for you later."

One of my great joys in life is giving my mother my trash in public places. Candy wrappers and such. It started when I was tiny, at the movies: "Mom. Mom. Hey, Mom. Mom." "What?" "I'm done with my candy." "So?" "What should I do with the wrappers?" "[sigh] Give them here, I'll put them in my purse." I carry my own purse now and almost never have candy at the movies. That's not the point. I figure that someone who tells me, "No matter how old you get, you'll always be my baby" ought to be happy to have a little reminder of it now and then.

Mark is back from the grocery store, which seems like a good cue for me to stop writing and resume the John Popper vs. Walt Whitman argument we were having earlier. (He's not my Uncle Walt!)

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