Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Groundhog Day in STL

No, that's not fair. Every day is not the same. There are, in fact, a number of cool things happening while I'm here at home: pool parties, running into old friends, helping out at my church, getting my sister oriented at her (dual-enrollment) college class. The interesting things just happen with very long intermissions nowadays.

It is good to be home; I think I just need a sign of progress. A month without a job, or a school term, or a continuous project, loses all shape in my mind. Earlier this week I tried a "Discover Your Genius" exercise, writing in stream-of-consciousness style 100 questions that are important to me. I intended to post them on this weblog to make up for the lack of anecdotes, but I was disappointed. My questions were far too banal and self-contemptuous, along the lines of "Will my acne ever clear up?". I couldn't subject y'all to them in good conscience.

So that's it from the Lou. I'm enjoying my time here with family, but have little to report. Sorry.

P.S. Is it really true that I resemble Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies?

P.P.S. I think my "comment" thing is broken. If I'm right, e-mail me.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Beats Twiddling my Thumbs...

Contrary to popular opinion, I am not currently touring the East Coast. That trip didn’t quite work out, for various reasons. Instead, I’m back at home in Missouri, wondering what to do with the remaining five weeks of summer break. To that end, a preliminary “To Do” list:

* Get friends together for a float trip down a lazy river, possibly capped off with a barbecue
* Finish the books I bought: A Clockwork Orange, Crime and Punishment, Lolita and Either/Or
* Order some new CDs on Amazon cheap, so they’ll be waiting for me at school
* Blog amusing descriptions of my summer compadres
* Find “Super Smash Bros” for my dorm room next year. Excellent.
* See a Cardinals-Cubs game, hopefully to watch the former obliterate the latter
* Fix my computer so it doesn’t freeze up when you select “Shut Down”
* Portray my sister Katie in a more positive light, or face the consequences
* Remove “your mom” from my sense of humor
* Learn to cook more dinner foods than chili and pizza
* Visit my old high school to lecture about some mathematical subject
* Volunteer to help with a Catholic religious retreat or two
* Continue reading the poems in my T.S. Eliot collection
* Consider becoming a substitute teacher for my old school district
* Burn the requested CDs for members of my family
* Review the material from my math classes this summer, do more of the problems

...and so on. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

(with a nod to C.S. Lewis)

A truly humble person does not self-deprecate, because he or she has more important things to discuss than himself or herself. In fact, he or she is interested in you, in your life, in what you want to say. This goes beyond listening to you. He or she gives advice without condescending, disagrees without disrespecting, jokes without mocking, inspires without shaming, admires without envying. He or she never plays the martyr. That’s why you hardly ever think to yourself, “That’s humility!” Instead, you simply enjoy his or her company.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not humble. You know that already, of course, but you wondered if I thought I was. I know I'm not. It’s just that I’ve begun to appreciate it in others.

Monday, August 11, 2003


* Watch the movie "Whale Rider". Right now.

* With all musically gifted Catholics on vacation last week, I was left to lead the hymns at Mass. No problem; I picked a hymn, announced it, and promptly began singing a different hymn. Drat. The Mass was not lost, though, and I have to say there's something special about singing by yourself, a cappella, and then hearing one voice after another join in through the hymn.

* Flugtag. A harbor downtown with a 30-foot platform, where a crowd watches amateurs pilot ridiculous "flying" machines that occasionally make it 40 feet out, but more often simply crash spectacularly. It was a lot of fun (my favorite was the giant Pez dispenser), and I'm going to build one for next year. Right after I start the University of Chicago curling team.

* Don't play Taboo with me. I get psychotic.

*The University Theatre built a gigantic black-box stage in the courtyard for two weeks of "Taming of the Shrew", and then tore it all down. Really a shame. The show was good for student actors, though.

Friday, August 08, 2003

The Horror... the horror...

Normally, I lack a sense of smell entirely. I try to tell friends that it’s due to an unfortunate methane-factory accident during my youth. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t that gullible.

My point is, I can’t smell a blessed thing in most contexts. Perfume, food, sweat, and the like are all unknown to me, unless they’re so odoriferous that other people have violent reactions to them.

Last week, when I went into the kitchen of the house, I nearly retched. Something smelled like it was decaying, so awful I couldn’t even breathe in there. I could taste it. Imagine my surprise, then, when nobody else could smell anything wrong. Not the other people living there, not the Dutch houseguests, not the friends I had over.

How is it possible that something is there that only I can smell? And how can it be so wretched a stench?

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Spontaneous Mutants...

...would be yet another great title for a punk band or a B movie.

So, all is well in the old house. We have a set of Dutch guests, friends of the professor and his wife, so I've been booted to the small guest room filled from floor to ceiling with books. Rather fascinating it is: a vast children's collection with all the Dr. Seuss juxtaposed with postmodern historical criticism and with century-old reference texts. The closet contains a plethora of military board games, titled "Waterloo", "Battle of the Bulge", "1776", "MacArthur", "Gettysburg", "Caesar's Legions", et cetera. The room belonged to the professor's son, years ago, and between the bookcases on the wall there's a painted mural of a fantasy medeival kingdom.

The guests are pretty nice, although the two boys haven't really left their Game Boys for long enough to get to know the current house occupants. I can't spell their names, unfortunately, although this led to an amusing discussion of pronunciations between languages, and why the innocuous Dutch word "fooken" can't be used any more as English becomes more prevalent.

This past weekend, I finally succumbed to others' judgment and saw "Pirates of the Caribbean", which looked terrible to me in previews, but which everyone told me was a good movie. Well, they were right and I was wrong. It got me saying "Arr, matey" to the other math counselors I saw it with, which perhaps isn't the best effect of a movie. Oh well. I did enter an extended discussion of the logic of the curse, and of whatever happened to Bootstrap [if you've seen the movie, think about it for a second].

And blah blah lah blah blah. I think I've exhausted my daily ability to write cleverly, so au revoir.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Time Warp

The barbershop has an old-fashioned pole outside, with the spirals of color spinning upward from nowhere to nowhere. The spirals were once blue and red, although the sun has baked the red into the crayon color that used to be "flesh" until a wiser Crayola dubbed it "peach".

Inside the shop, run by a pair of fortyish brothers with hoarse, chain-smoking voices, hang movie posters from an era before theirs: Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, John Ford. A crew-cut George Washington looks out from a giant dollar bill with the inscription "Keep America Clean... Get A Haircut".

I'm the youngest customer there by far, waiting for my elementary 'one inch on top, one-fourth on the sides and back' cut. The barber thanks me for coming in the morning, right after my hair got washed. I get up, thinking he's finished after cutting, buzzing and trimming, but there's still a shave left in the deal. He takes out an old-fashined straightedge razor [a 'cut-throat britva', as Anthony Burgess might say] and shaves the back of my neck.

I tip him [you are supposed to tip barbers, right?] and step back into the 21st century, the garbage truck blocking my way past an alley bordering the new Subway, cars parked one bumper to another up the street. Maybe the 20th had something going for it.