Things That Have Made Me Happy Today

— Getting up this morning, staggering around in my bathrobe with the cat twining around my ankles like the furry offspring of a bowling ball and a trip wire, and being transfixed by the sight of a male house finch splashing around in the bird bath. I’ve no great affection for the non-native house finch, but his sheer exuberance, feathers splayed and throwing drops everywhere, was a delight to watch.

— Stepping out of the shower onto a brand-new fluffy bath mat. My feet get few pleasures in life, and this pleased them greatly.

— Visible bruising. Okay, this probably needs an explanation. You know how frustrating it is when you’ve got a bruise, but you’ve got nothing to show for it? It hurts, but there’s nothing there. It makes you feel wimpy. So there’s a weird masochistic gratification in having a sore spot start to turn that deep brown color that indicates that by god, you really DID do something to yourself, and you are fully justified in your self-pity. I have two matched marks across my forearms where I caught a bookcase wrong, and a truly spectacular bruise under my right knee from an encounter with the edge of the futon frame. It’s making a nice purple-brown triskelion that probably indicates that I am the heir to some Viking throne or other, at least for the next few days. The pain doesn’t particularly bother me, but by god, it’s nice to have something to show for it.

— My sink got fixed yesterday, so I can finally wash some dishes without flooding the kitchen. As I own only four plates at the moment, and the sink has been broken since I moved in, the joy here is not to be underestimated. Scrubbing the remnants of beef and broccoli off a plate in the bathroom sink is only fun the first few times.

— The knowledge that I have plans three evenings this week. As Deb once observed, as I scuttled out the door, “You know, for someone who complains about their lack of social life, you sure go out a lot.”

And the number one thing that made me happy today…

— Depositing the check for the second half of my book advance. Even though the lion’s share of it goes to pay next year’s taxes, even though the rest is going to my credit card and my frivolous expenditures are limited to buying a single cool mask for the collection–still. Warm capitalistic fuzziness all around.

Edit: Okay, scratch that. Capitalism was the number TWO thing that made me happy today. Number one was getting Ben into the cat carrier for his yearly physical in one smooth, painless, towel-wrapped motion. That NEVER happens. Crimony, maybe I should buy a lottery ticket…

They Gave Me Power Tools, Officer!

…and astonishingly, I did not kill myself with them. In fact, I used an electric drill all by myself, drilled anchor holes, inserted anchors, hung heavy art, and nobody died or anything!

I realize this doesn’t sound like much, but you’re talking to possibly the least mechanically inclined person on the face of the earth. My mastery of power tools has heretofore begun and ended with the electric screwdriver, with which I am reasonably proficient after all that time in the frame shop. So I am proud, damnit, even if those of you who took shop class are rolling your eyes at this point. We celebrate our small victories!

We may question the sanity of Deb’s husband, who loaned me his drill, but not too loudly.

Now I just need a dremel for Christmas, and I’ll be accidentally punching a hole in my carotid artery before you know it!

Last night I had a dream that I was roaming video game stores looking for a Wii.

No one had them. Okay, fine. Then–and this has me stumped–I was roaming the video game stores looking for a copy of “Dance Dance Revolution.”

Um….what?

I’ve never even played DDR! I never had any desire to play DDR! I have seen no references to DDR in recent days that might cause such a thing to ooze into my subconscious!

I’m not sure if I should have a stern talking to with my brain, or take this as a sign and go buy a copy forthwith.

So I went to the local nursery, and spoke to an employee. She was an elderly wizened woman who came up to–for lack of a better descriptor–nipple height on me. I explained my shady northern exposure deck woes and asked her for suggestions.

She gave me a pitying look and said “Plastic.”

“….ah.”

“Yeah. If you don’t get at least a little filtered sunlight, don’t waste your money.”

I admired her honesty, even if that wasn’t at all what I wanted to hear. Ah, well. Birdfeeders and birdbaths it is. I can kill some impatiens by inches next year for a little color. And perhaps…god help us all…some ivy. If it’d grow in the deep dark shade beside the old house, it’ll probably grow in a pot here, as loathe as I am to plant such a voracious beast, even in a container.

Not what I was hoping for, but you work with whatcha got, alas. I picked up a couple of wee houseplants and headed home.

Tomorrow, I tackle the bedroom, which will involve–naturally–the erection of Even More Bookcases. I have actually found homes for all my books, so these aren’t filled. Yet. (It’ll come. I know how these things work.) In the meantime, they get to be storage for the ten million things that need to go somewhere but haven’t gone there yet.

And now, time for more paint!

State of the Wombat

Lordy, it’s been a busy week.

That’s a good thing! The busier I am, the less time I have to brood. There are artists who can slap harnesses on their neuroses and make them pull a plow–Dali comes to mind–but I fear that I have never yet mastered that trick. My sorrows remain stubbornly undomesticated. Better to build walls out of work. I can still hear them pacing on the other side, of course, but eventually they’ll get bored and go away.

Hard to believe that I’ve only been in this apartment a week. I’ve managed to get the living room almost entirely set up, and I feel pretty good about that. It’s comfy, and so much larger than my last place. One walks in and is greeted immediately by the Wall of Bookcases. I also managed to fit in a papasan chair, in case I, y’know, have people over ‘n stuff. Although they’ll have to fend off Ben, who is under the impression that I have bought him the world’s largest cat bed.

The kitchen is also good to go. The office/studio is still in disarray, the bathroom’s semi-functional, and the bedroom is honestly a shambles, but it’ll come, it’ll come.

In between setting up the apartment, I have been working like a fiend on this game project. Four small paintings in a week isn’t that much for me when I’m in top form, but in between unpacking and I-must-go-socialize-before-the-madness-sets-in, I’m getting stretched. I won’t be able to reveal the art until February or so, but it’s good to be painting anyway.

The birds are starting to discover the free handouts. So far it’s just the bolder garden birds–Carolina chickadee, Carolina wren, cardinals and titmice, but I’m hoping for a greater variety as word gets around. Hung three feeders–thistle sock, suet, and finally managed to put up the Yankee Flipper feeder that my father sent me for Christmas. It’s one of the ones that spins wildly when a squirrel jumps on it, flinging them off. Since I have a chair and table out there, I fully anticipate that one of these days, I’ll be sitting out there, enjoying a morning cup of tea, listening to birdsong, not a care in the world, and a squirrel will leap on the flipper and be flung directly onto my head, facehugger-style. “Wait!” I’ll cry, as the EMTs come for me, muttering about rabies shots, while blood oozes down my scalp “wait–I have to blog this–“

For today’s consumer excursion, I’m going to the local plant nursery to see if they can recommend anything more exciting than hostas and impatiens for my shady deck (I’m hoping to find another Florida anise as a foundation shrub) and perhaps a houseplant or two, and then it’s back home and back to the art mines…

Went out last night to the “Fear Farm” with a pack of friends. The Fear Farm is a series of haunted houses, plus a haunted hayride. (Owing to recent local price increases in the cost of hay, the presence of such was more a token sprinkling, but hey, at a hundred bucks a bale, I can’t blame ’em.)

Had a blast–it’s been twenty years since I was at a haunted house. Unfortunately, what might have inspired stark terror at ten doesn’t work so well at thirty–I’m easily startled but not easily scared. Still, it was a lot of fun, and at least two of the haunted houses were very well put together. Plus one of our number was a screamer, so that was highly entertaining. (We made her and her husband go through first. The costumed employees are apparently trained to smell fear–as soon as they heard the shrieking, they descended on her and would follow her through the house.) Plus most use of chainsaws I’ve ever seen. And they all started on the first go! (We discussed this at some length. You gotta wonder if occasionally one of the people in the demonic clown suits is left yanking the starter and cursing while his cohorts terrorize the people on the hayride.)

So lots of reflexive startlement, anyway. After a few minutes, of course, you get used to scanning every shadow looking for somebody to jump out at you. The only moment of actual alarm I had occurred as I roamed through the haunted farmhouse, past the kitchen with the moldy pig head in the fridge, a figure blocked my path. He was wearing a black mask over his head, so it was completely featureless except for a very creepy Cheshire grin. Do I scream?  Do I laugh? Do I recoil? No. I said “Oh, excuse me,” and turned sideways to get past him. A minute later, I glanced over my shoulder to see if the rest of my party was following, and the creepy grin was RIGHT THERE at my back. (He walked very quietly.) I made a brief yawping noise which I shall not attempt to render phonetically, faced front, and kept walking. And I hope that the masked gentleman retired back to his corner with the warm glow of a job well done.

All in all, a great way to spend a pre-Halloween evening.

Snapshot

Somewhere in Raleigh, in a ground floor apartment mostnotable for the quantity and variety of birdfeeders outside it, a woman is sitting on the couch. She has red hair, a Roman nose* and the wide, worried, faintly hopeful eyes of a baby seal. She is wearing a soft grey bathrobe and immense fluffy pink socks, and she is drinking peppermint tea out of a mug with gamboling sea otters on it. You suspect at a glance that this is a woman who feels bad for roadkill and always leaves her change in the “Help a Homeless Pet” jar at the vet.

There is an enormous tomcat on her lap. He would be asleep, but every time he starts to doze off, she screams “EAT IT, YOU SONS OF WHORES!” at the TV, and his ears twitch. Occasionally he gives her a reproachful look, usually after she’s accidentally beaned the controller off his head. One particularly dramatic gout of on-screen gore causes her to yell “HOOOYAH!” and pump her fist in the air, forcing the cat to retire further down the couch. He puts his chin on a fluffy pink sock and thinks dark feline thoughts.

In conclusion, “God of War” is more fun than one person ought to be able to have by themselves.

*One of the Romans who write epic poetry, probably. Unlikely to stab anyone on the Senate steps. Lacks attention span for serious vice. Voted most likely to fiddle around while Rome burns.

Post Office Reading

Today, as I was slicing open the last of the book boxes, and setting up the last of the bookcases, I finally realized which of my books had gone missing during their disastrous journeys across the country.

I am a woman who believes in guides. Manuals. Handbooks. Books for all of life’s sundry activities. Including sex.

Call me geeky, but there it is. (I also researched every drug I’ve ever done before I did it. Often in the school library.) I don’t have a penis, I don’t expect this crap to be intuitive, I WANT A MANUAL. With pictures. Color-coded, if possible. I learned to give a blow job more or less the way I learned to dissect a fetal pig and it’s basically the same headspace.* Thus I own a fair number of books, from the technical to the raunchy, on how one performs various acts. I can’t say I’ve had opportunity to use ’em all, but by god, I was prepared.

At least, I was.

They all vanished in the mail.

Every. Single. One.

We’re talking a half-dozen hardcovers here, yanked from their boxes. Stolen is not too strong a word. Yes, I can replace them all on Amazon, but jesus, what that’ll do to my Amazon recommendations makes the heart quail. (“You recently purchased “The Borrowers,” “The Cricket of Times Square” and “Blow Jobs for Dummies.” We have the following recommendations for you…”) Damnit.

Somebody in the post office is havin’ a fine old time with a highly specific portion of my library, and by god, I hope it burns when they pee.

*No insult intended to those on the receiving end. But it totally is. “This is all very biological and would be mildly disgusting if one thought too much about it, so let’s have fun with it! Now which bit’s where…?” (Look, I enjoyed dissecting the pig. I made it dance around and sing “Start Spreadin’ The News.” Really, this isn’t an insult…)

Musing on Wii-ness, it suddenly occurred to me that it’s been awhile since I played a game other than a desultory pass through WoW.

A really long while.

A…oh my god, was the last game I played REALLY “Viva Pinata”?! For the 360, which my ex-husband retained possession of, meaning I haven’t played it since I moved out?

Holy shit, no wonder I’m going barking mad. Get that woman a video game infusion, stat!

I hied myself down to the local GameStop and raided the used “Greatest Hits” section for classics that, owing to one thing and another, I never played. What the clerk thought when confronted by a mad-eyed woman carrying copies of “Harvest Moon” and “God of War” we’ll never know, but his expression was not unlike the video store clerk who once rang up two rentals from the “Adventure” section for me, those being “Watership Down” and “Full Metal Jacket.” I have notoriously eclectic tastes.

As I was driving back home, armed with video games and microwaveable bacon (Look, I need a break from cheesecake for breakfast.) I drove around the small pond in my apartment complex. And there, perched on a spar, a bright spot against the brown water, a belted kingfisher was sitting in the rain.

“YES!” I said, pumping a fist in the air. Totem, mascot, desperate grab for superstition–I don’t know and don’t care. I will take what signs I can. Hopefully that means he approves of my new digs.

And now, to get some work done. And try to locate where I packed my damn PS2…

Went to Anime Night last night, but our host Mike had just gotten a Wii, so very little anime was actually watched. Somehow I wound up boxing three rounds with friend Wes. For those who have not played the boxing game on a Wii, it’s…a little exhausting. You’re basically shadow-boxing furiously until the other guy goes down.

“Just do it like you’re really punching,” advised Mike.
“Yeah, I’ll just tap into the memory of my last fist fight, shall I…?”

Two rounds of this, and I was panting so hard my throat was raw, and Wes had managed to strain his arm. If the Wii interfaces catches on, gamers may become the most athletic section of the populace, or at least we’ll have a lot of Wii related heart-attacks.

“Oh…going for the low…blows…I see…”
“Heh…(pant, pant)…what can I say…(pant, pant)…I fight like a girl…(pant, pant)”

He won in the end, but I am proud to say that he had to work pretty hard for it. “I can’t believe you beat up a girl,” muttered our charming hostess. “Look, it wasn’t easy!” Wes protested.

Damnit, now I want one of the things…