Big Fish Syndrome

A Family Report

It's always sad when you start to understand the tenuous connection your family maintains with reality. I know that I have my imaginary moments (as recorded here), but I only today realized how much this trait is inherited. As we gathered to celebrate my father's birthday this afternoon, the conversation revolved around who might win today's SuperBowl matchup. They carefully reminded us that most people would be busy tonight because the kick-off would be at 6:30. I mean, what do we know? The Brunette and I don't have a television, so we miss so many of these cultural moments.

I should have known that Bush would not have allowed the Iraqi elections to be on SuperBowl Sunday. We'd be too distracted from his pet project.

The sadder thing is that I've also discovered that my family's grip on reality has been pretty loose for a long while.

I grew up with this little bit of family lore: my mother maintains that my birth was stressful, not because it was a difficult birth. Rather, she and my father (they are now divorced) had a disagreement over the timing of my delivery. She felt like she was in labor, but he didn't want to interrupt his viewing of the SuperBowl. So many years have passed and I had this story as a foundation for my being.

It's all bullocks!

I just looked up the history of SuperBowls. The SuperBowl in the year of my birth was held on 15 January. That's a full week after I was brought into the world. Is it any wonder I'm a little off?

More to Come...

When I was 11 or 12, Johnny Carson was summer. I would read all day and most of the night. I only stopped for The Tonight Show. I never would have known about current events if it wasn't for the monologues.

And So It Goes

Aye. I worried about it, and it came true. Dayton International Airport had no available rental cars. Five rental agencies. No available cars.

My meeting was on Wednesday morning, 50 miles away.

I took a taxi.

The taxi got lost.

So, then I went to Suffolk,

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Dayton

Dayton, Ohio. Can you imagine a more exciting destination? Rumor as we boarded the plane: it's ten degrees in Dayton. That's Farenheit, no doubt.

I got myself stuck in a window seat. When I boarded, there was nobody else in the row, but I jumped with each new passenger who climbed aboard the plane. Luckily, none of them joined me, so I was free to spread out. I'm happy to note that I don't spread out as much as I used to, but my legs are certainly too long for the seat arrangement. I suppose all my reduction in height is due to back curvature and not to my legs retracting into my stomach. Dang.

I'm travelling to Dayton for contract proposal orals. It's like some evil cross between an oral examination and an interview. Based on a 1.5 page request for information, we're supposed to present a work breakdown structure and detailed plan for creating and mentoring a system test team and environment. All the work is in Dayton, so I figure I'm best off wearing my torn jeans and not brushing my teeth.

I will return to BWI Wednesday night and then drive to Suffolk (VA) to start ClearQuest mentoring. What happened to work in the DC area?

Just as well that I've decided to not brush my teeth because just as the wheels went up I realized that I brought a toothbrush but no toothpaste.

It also occured to me that I may have made a mistake in not reserving a car. Ah, what am I worried about? It's Dayton International Airport, isn't it?

The pilot confirms that the temperature in Dayton is indeed 10 degrees. I hope I don't forget my hat and gloves, too.

The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen)

Imagine with me, if you will, a carnival. I'm thinking here of the small town carnival; the traveling amusements that volunteer fire departments use to raise money, especially where they've been prohibited from using Las Vegas Nights and bingo. At these sorts of events, electric cords criss-cross straw-covered fields, building a web with the booths, making them sparkling nodules where carnival-goers are ensnared. Sometimes, money changes hands; but, more often, it is merely little paper tickets, torn in turn into bits and scattered hither and yon.

The carnival we are imagining together, you and I, is a lonely place, though there could be a couple hundred fellow celebrants. Between the clumps of ring-tossers and dart-throwers, I wander alone through astonishingly empty spaces, voids in the activity matrix. I walk through constantly changing umbrae and penumbras, forcing transitions by movement, but also experiencing transition brought upon by the manic flickering lights.

I am lost in the smell of popcorn when I am nearly knocked flat by a man exiting the Tilt-A-Whirl.  The man pauses to help me to my feet.  When I help him pick up his book -- even in my imaginary carnivals, people are obsessed with books -- I notice the greenish tinge to his face.  In addition to the unnatural verdiginous cast to his complexion, he is also having trouble with balance.  When I read the title of his book, I understand why.

"Oh," I tell him. "So you've been readingThe Corrections, I see. No wonder you're feeling a little dizzy and disoriented. All those changes in point of view are bound to get to your stomach --"

The man crinkles his forehead with a small shake and draws a deep breath to reply, but his expression quickly is replaced by panic. He puts his hand to his mouth and runs behind a booth.  We'll try not to imagine the sounds he made there. Poor chap.

I shake my head and walk a little farther down the carnival's midway. I stop at a food vendor; perhaps I can get a bottle of water. There is a girl at the head of the line who suddenly bursts into tears. As I rush to hand her a handkerchief, I accidentally knock her book from her hands.  She, too, has been reading The Corrections

"They...they..." she snuffles as I return her book.

"Take a deep breath?" I suggest.  She tries, but has little success with so much blocking her air passages.  Finally, she shudders, then starts again.  "They're all out," she says.  I look at the vendor and he confirms with a nod.

"I see," I say.  "You've gotten a taste for the corn dog from that description of the mother's Christmas, and you just can't get your fill..."

But she just runs off into the darkness.  I buy a bottle of water, but I find it's warm and merely purified -- not spring.  I toss the bottle aside and wander off.  In a cold corner of the carnival, I find a small crowd.  Their attention is riveted to a stage.  As far as I can tell for certain, every member of the crowd is clutching a copy of The Corrections.

On the stage, the sideshow geek is preparing his routine.  He is sitting upon a high stool; he wears an oversized Red Lobster bib.

"My mother taught me this," he says and reaches into a box on his right.  The crowd wishes quietly that it could see his whole family do their thing on the stage tonight.  The geek holds a chicken in his hands.  The chicken is not happy to be in the geek's grasp.  It clucks and scratches and ejects feathers, with no real effect. 

I must turn my head.  I have to turn my head.  I know I cannot watch.  But it takes time and effort to turn away.  Finally, with a horrible wrench, I fling myself around.

In the process, I bump into the Tilt-A-Whirl rider who, as he looks over my shoulder at the stage, turns green again and puts his hands to his mouth.

"It's true," I tell him as I pick up his book again.  "Carnivals can be fun, but they often leave you feeling queasy and a little sad."

Metro Moments

These things really happened:


At Christmas, I received from my in-laws a very nice new hat. My new Tilley T3 hat is very nice and will help me ward off the rain and it comes with a nice plastic crown bag for storing the "Brag Tag." At any rate, on the escalator this morning, I was complimented on my hat. The woman told me her husband has a very nice leather hat that folds flat, but his head is smaller than hers so she can't steal it.

Hearing Voices

At the Rosslyn station, I heard a new pre-recorded announcement about gathering up your belongings, especially newspapers, when leaving the trains. Aside from the clarity of the announcer's voice, I noticed his annoying chipperness. He reminded us that, "in a town like this, you never want to leave a paper trail..." Oh, the gales of laughter that followed that little gem!

Speaking of Bithdays

A few years ago, I decided that I like Chinese food. I've always been a particularly picky eater, and all the way through college, I derided Chinese cuisine as "grass and mud." Now, I was never the most enlightened kid in my class, but I have learned through this experience that tastes change. I have read that as we age, our taste buds weaken, so some things which might have once been too strong for us (like Brussels Sprouts, say) lose their offensiveness as we grow old.

Last year, I started a new birthday tradition: try something I'm pretty sure I don't like. Perhaps I will discover that my tastes have changed and something I cannot stand will no longer offend. Since my list of "yucky food" is pretty extensive, I can try something different every year for the forseeable future. I'm keeping the really awful items (like seafood) for my decade birthdays. In the meantime, I try smaller things.

Last year, it was tomato juice. I have never liked that stuff. I suppose I tend to sweet drinks, having been raised on Coke and Cap'n Crunch for breakfast. I thought it a bit strange that I like tomato sauces on pizza and pasta, and I even enjoy a small tomato on salad every so often, but I have never wanted to drink that red liquid. It was a bit risky, to be honest, because I was very sure that I'm still not a fan of your every-day raw tomato.

What did I learn from last year's trial? I still do not like tomato juice. Ah, well, it was worth the effort.

This year, I have chosen soup. Aside from heavy, meaty things like chili and ghoulash, I've never liked soup. It just never did anything for me. While other folks will turn to chicken noodle soup in the midst of a cold, I have always preferred the power of Buffalo wings. This, too, is a risky choice, because I believe the main reason I did not like soup was that I could not taste it at all. Hot liquids, including soup, hot chocolate, and apple cider never really made any impression on my buds. Perhaps I have scalded them away.

But I'm going to try it anyway, because I think it would be healthier to eat more soup. I'd like to go somewhere to get this soup, but I haven't figured out where. If you know a good restaurant that serves good soup, I'd love to hear about it. Just leave a comment. I need to know before my birthday, which I share with Nixon.

Oh, and speaking of comments, it has been quiet for a bit. Am I right in thinking that this is because nobody wants to remove the Brunette's comment from the top of the Recent list? or have I gotten into a rut with these book tales?

Posted via email...

Welcome to a New Year

Items of Note This New Year...

  • The Washington Post is providing new comic strips, including a long-time favorite of mine: Frazz.
  • Kryptonite has finally deigned to send me instructions for replacing my bicycle lock. I mean, it seems like only September when we were told that Kryptonite locks could be picked with a Bic pen.
  • The beginning of the month is when I get my allowance from the company, so of course the smart card charging machine was down this morning.
  • Turning on red is not legal in New York City. This we learned the hard way over the weekend. We were also reminded that women don't get tickets; they get warnings.
  • Taleswapper is still an idiot. The Brunette went out of her way to get supplies for my lunch yesterday and I forgot to make lunch today. I'd like to blame it on my exhaustion from all this weekend data migration work, but the truth is that I'm just an insensitive clod. I'm sorry, love.

A Birthday Toast

Happy Birthday, Professor Tolkien.