Monday, January 28, 2013

Walking the walk

Once more I walked the mile into town to get a sandwich today.  As I was walking out of my office onto Main St. a couple of young ladies were walking along, carefree, listening to music. One of them looked at me and said: "Do you have a dollar?"  No prefacing it with "I need to get something to eat" or anything.  I said no. 

It is a pretty windswept walk. I go past several generations of public housing, a couple of them quite nice, a couple of them not at all so. I pass JC's Kitchen (where Brian and I ate a couple of weeks ago, awesome) and a walkup takeout called Not Just Wings where I know I'm headed one of these days, I just haven't yet pulled the trigger. There is the Centro Hispano, and multiple Durham City Government offices.  The Housing Authority, etc.  There is a massive and gleaming new project which will soon be Durham's Office of Human Services, which looks nice but which reiterates all the modernist mistakes made by the new Court House and Police Station and some other faceless piece of pseudo-Corbusier crap down the way a piece:  big building with lots of glass closed off to the street, no storefronts, no life.

And I pass St Phillips, the church where I was baptized and where I sang solos lo those many decades ago when I had not even heard the word puberty and had a nice high voice (so my mom tells me), where my sister was married, where I absolutely slaughtered people in look-up-shit-by-chapter-and-verse competitions, and where I sat every Sunday looking up at the stained glass centerpiece of Jesus and some little lambs, fully expecting a brick to come flying through it, cuz the nabe was rough even back then, being as how it was next to the Greyhound station, long since gone.

In general, Durham East of Roxboro St awaits the dawning of the age of foodiness and ironic facial hair. The Golden Belt is an island of private sector whiteness. There's a new building going up along Fayetteville St, and I thought that boded well. And then I saw the sign: DaVita Dialysis. It's good to have a modern facility for people to go get there treatments, to be sure, but at the end of the day it's just another place for Medicare and Medicaid to be spent, not really a productive asset.

Today I came in to work and there was a tarp over the front door of our building, which had been hit and run by some drunk dude in a Mercedes, who careened through the parking lot and into our front lobby, before reversing and high-tailing it out of there.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Idea for app

My office building has only one toilet in the men's room.  Which becomes a problem when guys spend a lot of time there.  It appears that, as occupancy rises, this is happening more and more.  Which is why I think there should be, if not a webcam (at foot level, showing if there are shoes in there), then an app which we can have on our desktops telling us if the door to the stall is locked, or if the seat is warm, or whatever, because it's a bummer to walk out there and then find that somebody's in there working on the Great American Novel.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ramseur St

Trying to avoid the light at Fayetteville and Main, and intrigued by a row of little businesses in small storage-like buildings on Ramseur St., I turned down it to see what was there.  Turns out that, down the way a piece, there are several church spaces set up in these commercial storage areas, some hispanic, some anglophone. It also appears to be a quick way through to the taqueria on Alston Avenue that I espied on my way out last night, the one with bars on the windows.... looks muy bien to me!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Wrapping up the ultimate season

And so, Natalie's first season of ultimate is over. Let the record show that she:

  1. Threw for one point
  2. Caught 3 points (two in one game!)
  3. Generally got into it and made friends
  4. Got in shape and really seemed to appreciate the exercise component
  5. Looked beautiful and healthy coming in off the field, ruddy-cheeked in the winter air.
Let us hope that it sticks.

Graham reading from book

Both of the kids really like to share details from their books that they find infinitely amusing.  As adults know, this is a difficult thing to do:  giving your interlocutors enough background on what you're reading so they get it without giving so much that it bores them to tears and/or wrenches them out of their own flow is a tricky balancing act. Neither of the kids have mastered it.

However, we want to encourage them to read and maintain their enthusiasm for it. So, this morning on the couch, Graham was talking to me about a book he was reading -- I think it was one of the ones Natalie bought yesterday at the Bookshop on Franklin St. (shameless plug for an institution that really has shaped my life in so many ways) thinking that Graham would like it.  So Graham starts telling me about a little place in the book that he finds really funny -- and I have no earthly idea what he's talking about -- but he finds it so intensely funny that he goes into spasmodic screw-up-his-face belly laughs, particularly as I nod and giggle and laugh along with him.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Speaking myself

I remember when I saw my first Atom Egoyan movie, The Adjuster, back in 1991, that one of the most striking things about it was the way his characters presented themselves to others.  The lead character, an insurance adjuster, has to deal with people in post-crisis situations, and he introduces different himself to clients using more or less exactly the same words and intonations.  And most of Egoyan's other characters do the same, looking backwards at his earlier movies.  He's made a lot more films now, can't keep track of it any more. But the main thing that we glean from is that the characters are performing themselves, of professional and personal necessity (you can't make up a new self several times a day), out of habit, and in an attempt to control others' perception of them.

And one of the things about being out in the world as a consultant, a social person, a person sometimes looking for next career moves, is that I have to tell my story a lot. And I know that I do it all too often in the same way as Egoyan's characters do.  I hear myself describing the arc of my life (being a geek, PhD in humanities, jump to consulting, raising a family, getting interested in finance) as an out of body experience, almost. When I'm getting more personal I add in a layer about parents getting divorced, substance abuse, recovery, marriage, kids, Mary's family, a special needs kid, etc., and that is less rehearsed and more organic, but still a little bit.  Certainly I try not to drone on too much and engage with whomever I'm talking to, almost to escape this rote self-enunciation. And certainly I'm grateful when someone asks questions that push me out of the zone of myself.

In any, case, it would be nice to move beyond this stage, to the point I discover new facets in myself.  The problem is, one of the only feasible ways of getting there is by talking to others and hearing their stories (rote though they may be), and you rarely get much of that by being quiet about yourself. Share and share alike.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Prius skeptic

Don't get me wrong, I like the car.  It is comfortable for the family, carried us smoothly to and from the Northeast, and it gives us the feelings of piety and virtue that WASPs so crave. And the sound system sounds nice.

But there are some messed up things, nonetheless. For example, the control which is supposed to let you move the side mirrors around is poorly designed and was all too easily mashed in by my over-zealous and lovely wife. And the passenger side seatbelt is messed up.

Mostly, I am suspicious of its claimed mileage.  It says it's getting 46, but when I fill up the car with, say, 9 gallons of gas, it has suspiciously travelled only 370 miles or so since last getting filled up, which is more like 41.  Which is great, mind you, but my dashboard shouldn't be freaking lying to me.  I will be watching this thing, and will report back to you.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Taking down the Xmas tree

After we took off all the ornaments and lights, I had to bale all the water out of the stand so I can get it out of the house.  Our cat Leon sat under the dining room table and stared at me the whole time, no doubt cursing me under his kittie breath, cursing me and the unbearable cruelty of my taking away his source of sweet pine water and the wondrous bower to hide behind. Till next year.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Good hair and Ms. POTUS

I was thinking about Chris Rock's movie Good Hair the other day. I probably blogged about it.  If you haven't seen it, you should. Basically it's about the insane amount of money black women spend straightening their hair, and the amount of self-hate that implies, and how Chris researches it upon the birth of his daughter.

And so, I ask, what's up with Michelle Obama's hair. It's mighty straight. Now that Obama is in his second term, I think it would be great to see her shave her head and go Cleopatra Jones style, let it grow out as it would, all natural like. That would be a strong message to send to America's women of color. The only good reason I could see that she wouldn't would be if they got a lot of campaign money from the hair industrial complex.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Xmas tree water

Leon has decided that, beyond any reasonable doubt, the water in the Christmas tree stand is much better than the water in the kitty dish. Rascal, for the most part, really seems to prefer drinking from the toilet.

We have come a long ways from last year, when Leon ran away for a few weeks, and then was for a week or so supplanted by the duct-diving impostor kitty we dubbed Noel.  It took some months for Leon and Rascal to reacclimate to one another.  They kept their distance for some weeks, snarling and posturing and scrapping. But for many months now they have been back together, sleeping on each other, Leon sticking his butt in Rascal's face in the gentlest and most loving way, and licking each others face. Very nice.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Lunch in Durham

Durham is quietly booming, and you can tell it around lunch. Yesterday I went to the taqueria in the cheap Asian grocery store off of Lakewood (yes, I did just say that). First off, it was good. But I got there at 12:20, which was not a good idea. There was no place for a gringo to sit, and my order fell in line behind the orders of all the other trabajadores who were getting a little almuerzo. Next time, I'll be having some of what they were having. So that took a while.

Today, I walked the 10 minutes from my office at the Golden Belt to the Subway in the basement of the old court house (yes, I did just say that).  I got there at 1:10, and there was a line of 10 or 12 folx in front of me.

The problem is not that there aren't places to eat in downtown Durham, there are:  Toast, the chicken and waffles place, Grey Brook's new Pizzeria Toro, Scratch Bakery, 9th Street Bakery, Little Havana, etc. The problem it is, it's all so upscale. Plenty of places to get your $9 sandwich, few places you can get in and out of for five or six smackers, which is what I'm talking about. Durham needs a slice joint. It needs a place with the $5.99 all you can eat buffet with saag paneer and chicken vindaloo where everybody can go when it's blue shirt day. Nothing fucking artisanal or coy, just grub.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Competing with Graham

After a little bed wrestling the other night, Graham speculated a bit on how it was that he was able to pin me to the pillow with such regularity, when his cousin Sadie, all eight years and maybe 50 pounds of her, was able to compete with him more effectively in wrestling. "I bet I know why it is," he said. "It's because she's quicker than you, people get slower as they age." Well, I didn't really know what to say to that, he really had me there.

Somehow, Graham has been able to maintain a remarkable competitive advantage over me through the years.  He beats me regularly at running, wrestling, by God, even at soccer. Tonight he defeated me 25-22 at our patio version of soccer, even though I did land a few real "zingers," as he said.

I must keep trying.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

In brief

I am vaguely oppressed by my own long silence.  In short, let me just say that I have to, gasp, go to work tomorrow.  In Durham.  First day of the rest of my life and all that.

We are just back from a blissfully uneventful holiday trip to the northeast. The worst of it was Graham puking in the car on the way up there.  Poor guy. It seems he is not meant to play with an iPod while traveling. That was a long trip north, over the mountains of Virginia to 81 and through Harrisburg, Scranton, and all that. And then, to add insult to injury, we had to divert to the Tappan Zee (now christened the Chimpanzee) because of traffic on the GWB..

Yesterday, by way of contrast, was a blissful sail south through Baltimore, DC (where all the cars must have been parked downtown debating the cliff legislation), all while listening to CDs of E.H. Gombrich's magisterial Short History of the World. We learned a lot, though perhaps a tad too much about Roman generals and German tribes and people like Theodoric and Alaric, but what are you gonna do?