Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

And Now a Word From Our Zombies

I haven't blogged for awhile. Why? Because it's the end of the semester. No, you didn't hear me right. The end of the semester.

Candy and all her colleagues have lost the will to live.

We had 10 days off for Thanksgiving Break. I graded papers every friggin' day, trying to become master over the merciless pile of student writing. It didn't happen. But at least I got to avoid putting actual classroom-appropriate clothes on for a good long time. I could be a total slob, cozying up in my raggedy sweats and angry T-shirts.

Upon returning to work this past Monday, I entered the bleak hallways of the English Department to see even bleaker faces. It's hard to describe that look, but every faculty member had it. Like there's extra gravity on each face, forming a melting, somebody-put-me-outta-my-misery old coon dog who can't get out from under the porch look. We barely greeted one another. It took too much effort. We just exchanged our desperate looks and went on slouching down the hallway.

Soon, the final blow from our students: they'll hand in their final papers. Many many pages of inane writing that we will gather into bulky piles and carry out of the classrooms as though we intend to read them.

Me? I skim. I flip through and give them a quick glance just to make sure nobody wrote "I know you're not reading these, bitch." And also to make sure nobody was moronic enough to attach cash to their masterpiece. One girl did, last year. She stapled a 20 dollar bill to her final essay. This muttering, ineffective, waste-of-a-desk girl could not rise to the occasion of any of the really rough parts of class, like, say, getting there on time, ever, or stringing 4 coherent words together. But she coughed up a twenty. I tore her a new rectum, which I'm sure could write better than she did, and told her not only could she be booted from the university for doing that, but what the hell did she think 20 bucks could buy her anyway. What an insult.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Once and Future Grooviness

Being groovy in the present is a good thing. But one must consider their future grooviness. If I'm lucky enough to live to be an old woman, I need a plan. Here is some of it:

1. I will want a flower garden, but will not wish to go out and dig around on my arthritic knees, mess with insistent weeds, choose complicated and hoity specimens of flora that, when translated, usually mean things like "The Sweet Purple Knickers of the Queen" or "Glance of the Turtledove" or "You Can't Afford Me, Bitch. Go to the Garden Section at Target."

I will hoe some simple little troughs. Then I will line them with Chia pets, toe to tail. One quick watering and my garden will be finished. In a day or two, I'll be able to look out my kitchen window and see several tiny parades of wee green animals, marching for my pleasure. If the parade lines begin to bore me, I'll gather the Chia pets and put them in gaggles on the front lawn. Miniature herds to delight the mailman and the passing obnoxious children on their insidiously overpriced razor scooters with their sticky grape pop-rocks hanging from their sullen bottom lips. Perhaps those children will be tempted to vandalize Candy's Chia gathering. By knocking over the sweet dog-lets and sheepies, or by placing them in disgusting positions of contortionist Chia depravity. But because I will be old and probably not responsible for my behavior, I'll be able to mercilessly beat those neighborhood children full-on with my garden hose, thwacking out all ideas of future tomfoolery, and no one will press charges.

2. The only other part of the plan I have so far is to invent an incredibly groovy lava lamp which will radiate Ben-Gay all around my living room as it bloops and whirls oily shapes of iridescent purple and aqua blue.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Candy is Not Meant to Be Up in the Air

With a long distance relationship, there is a great deal of flying. Mostly it's me flying, since my schedule is more flexible than his. There is only one teensy problem. Traveling on a plane makes me turn into a creature that is nearly unrecognizable to me.

It used to be that flying was enough of an adventure for me that I could mentally put aside the discomforts. I always booked a window seat because it was such a big deal to look downward at all the little ant farm towns and bed-bug sized cars moving along tiny strands of hair highways. Now that I've become a more frequent traveler, flight has turned into a combination of a House of Mirrors and a feverish childhood nightmare while in the merciless throes of the mumps.

I no longer want a window seat. The fading thrill of the view has been overshadowed by the deep social discomfort of having to ask 2 people to get up so Candy can go take her diminutive little bladder for a walk. But even when the bladder is peacefully napping, I find more and more that I need to get out of my seat. Now. It suddenly hits me just how cramped I am into a space the size of a toaster oven, and I must feign interest in the bathroom in order to take a leisurely stroll.

My claustro-panic has recently produced a new behavior. It caught even me off guard. When I get into the bathroom, the tiny, ridiculous upright beige coffin of a bathroom, I get the irresistible impulse to take off my shirt. A desperate, momentary craving to have my private Candy time, away from the piercing stares of the passengers who look up to see who is going to annoy them by walking past. And since I never wear a bra when I travel, insistent upon every speck of comfort I can get, there I am, staring at my glazy eyes in the bathroom mirror, as my surprised nipples look around like fugitives to make sure we're in hiding. This last trip, I added another step to the unusual bathroom behavior, and put one arm straight up and the other in an across-the-chest salute, which is an old cheerleader stance from my high school days. I looked at my idiotic self in the mirror and said out loud "What are you doing?"

Once I had splashed my face with water and put my clothes back on, I started the long trudge to my seat. In row 9. Which means I had a very long return trip from my designated bathroom. God forbid I hurl myself into the business class area and use theirs, tainting their superb Jackie-O lives with detestable coach class cooties. Nosiree. That there section is only for the high class fokes. For example, the prissy and overly-preened gel-haired gay-boy who was sitting in the first row. I'm OK with gays. I'm not OK with a gaggingly cologned nancyboy who, very loudly, says this into his cell phone as people with the cheap seats tromp by him like depressed cattle:

"Oh my f---ing God, I have done everything on planes. Seriously. Oh Jesus, I could tell you things. You just have to find a good crew that'll watch out for you, and you can do anything. Like, I just hooked up big time with a flight attendant on my L.A. to Phoenix flight. And you know how short that flight is! That galley will never be the same for him again."

I admit it. I wanted him dead. Dead and bagged and tossed onto the tarmac. Never to foul the airways again with his various strains of disease, physical and mental. But more importantly, never to horrify an elderly man next to him, like he was doing right that minute. The old guy was captive and at the mercy of the endless sex-babble shooting from the lipglossed mouth to his right. This boy had done everything on a plane. Except perhaps ever displaying any tact.

As I walked back to row 9 from the tail of the plane, I got the house of mirrors feeling. It starts when I glance forward and see the many, many heads of human beings in rows. Too many. An unreasonable number. To avoid seeing the rows of crania, I look down to see what people are doing. And there are all these little worlds. Worlds of tray tables filled with half-eaten turkey sandwiches, and sudoku books and abandoned headphones, and computer screens playing DVDs of "Lost" and various Disney fare. Some people are sleeping, slouched against the arm of a companion, unaware. The intense overhead lights bearing down make each space look like a squalid little Horton Hears a Who world that I should not be seeing. But I'm looking anyway. Finally I'm back at my seat, my place. The woman next to me looks up from her crossword puzzle. I put my head back and close my eyes and wonder how long I can make it until I have to get up again and face myself in the inner sanctum of the bathroom. Topless.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

And Then There Was This Really Tall Guy

Although I have never had a date that was as repulsive as the bursting of the snot pinata (see the "Really Hideous Moments" post) there is another date that was perhaps the strangest.

When I was an undergrad, I used my skateboard to meet romantic prospects. When I saw a guy who looked especially enticing, I'd sail down the sidewalk and knock him off his feet. Subtle, I know.

Then I would act really embarrassed and then he'd try to make me feel better and off we went into a conversation that was a quick way for the haughty Candy Rant to decide if he was my type or a false alarm.

Once, while whizzing on my skateboard through the nearly-empty lobby of my dorm, a bit drunk, I genuinely accidentally smacked into what seemed like a human, but was just way too tall. His name was John and he was, in fact, a Homo sapiens. He was also, at seven-feet-six-and-a-half, as would be expected of him, a basketball player. A very mediocre one at the smaller college across town. One of those guys you plant directly under the basket and hope for the best. After I banged into him, the usual apology and conversation ensued, but this time I got a date I wasn't sure I wanted. He asked me out for the following night, to an expensive restaurant in town known for their lobster dinners. Which impressed me. But I was a little confused when John said we'd be dining with a friend of his who would meet us there.

In my college dorm I was known for dating "fringe" types. So the news about the freakishly tall guy spread like ringworm. By the time I went downstairs to meet John in the lobby, a dozen of my friends were in my dorm room, glued to the window above the parking lot. When he and I walked to his car in the early evening sun, I realized that I must've been more drunk than I thought when I'd said yes to this date. Because in the cold light of sobriety, this guy was so tall it was ridiculous. He held my hand while we walked to his car. I had to reach up so far to grasp his, I was sure we looked just like a daddy and his little girl. I felt the heat of a dozen pairs of eyes on my spine. This date was the fringe of the fringe.

The "friend" at dinner was a sixtyish, dumpy, balding man with a thick English accent. Vincent Eckersly. As it turned out, Vincent was a reporter/photographer for the one and only National Enquirer, and had come to town to get a story on John, the Tallest Amateur Basketball Player in the World. Vincent was good dinner company. He'd met a zillion celebrities and had even been fisted in the face once by Burt Reynolds. We all got pleasantly buzzed at dinner, courtesy of the Enquirer, and for a while I forgot I was with the tallest guy I had ever seen. After all, we were sitting down.

But then the wine got the best of me and I needed a trip to the ladies' room. "I'll walk you there," the terribly genteel John said, rising like a monument. Every person in the restaurant, forks and wine glasses in midair, gawked at this beanstalk guy and his itty bitty date, all the while perhaps trying to imagine the logistics of our sex life.

After dinner, the three of us piled into the front seat of John's modified Plymouth Charger. (The front seat was pushed all the way back against the back seat.) We dropped Vincent off at his hotel. He waved goodbye to us as he stumbled past the doorman. Then John got the notion that we should go parking. There we were, on a dark cul-de-sac of new houses under construction, his snakishly long arm draped around me. As much as I tried to be accepting and unruffled, I could not stop thinking My God, John, what a mutant you are. To my utter shame, he whispered into my ear, "You're the first girl who's ever treated me like a real guy instead of some kinda freak." The guilt overtook me. I pulled out all the stops for our one and only, extremely long kiss. And it wasn't bad. For one thing, he had really good, thick, black hair I could run my hands through.

When he took me home, I felt an odd affinity with him. As we stood in the parking lot of my dorm, I could see that he felt terribly awkward, and from some remote part of my brain these words escaped my mouth: "Hey, how about if I stand on the hood of your car?" And so, with his help, I climbed up and was then eye to eye with him. He hugged me for a full minute and I felt as though I was in the tangled embrace of an unusually gentle giant squid. I looked up at the black sky and thought, Man, how many girls get the chance for a date like this?

I never went out with John again. But we talked on the phone for a few weeks. About a year later I heard he'd been in a car accident in his Charger and had become paralyzed from the waist down. The story was on the news, including the detail about his needing a custom-made wheelchair.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Why, Why, Why Is It So Hard to Get Rid of Stuff?

In 7 months, I'm moving 1800 miles west.

Simultaneously I'll be throwing some last minute planning into my wedding, finding a new job, leaving a town I've lived in for 16 years, and a 2-state area I've habitated since birth. I'll be saying goodbye (at least in vicinity) to my friends, my family, my job of 9 years, my church, my cute little house, my big back yard, and my favorite Mexican restaurant. My total stress points should land in a range somewhere between "experiencing nuclear holocaust" and "waking up surrounded by pig-nose Twilight Zone characters who don't speak English and are lubing up a probe the size of a railroad tie."

I need to do everything I can, right now, to decrease the size of my impending nervous breakdown. At the top of the list is "Get Rid of a Boatload of Stuff." And I'm not talking about a little dinghy boat. I mean a garbage barge blurping its way down the Hudson River. Ask anyone who has ever been in my house and they'll tell you. Candy has more stuff than any human needs. On the occasion that I say I need to cut down on my massive collection of material things, people often say "Light a match."

Let's put this into context. We'll use extremes. There are people who decorate their homes by leaning heavily toward minimalism. In their living room they have a smallish couch, a subtle, nondescript flatscreen TV on the wall, and a tiny art deco table in the corner upon which is one magazine (Harper's or Utne) and a carefully selected votive candle, scented with genuine slices of deep forest ferns or sea kelp from the Oregon coast. If, on a Sunday, this person reads the paper, he or she re-folds the sections neatly before dropping them into the recycle bin. If he or she has kicked off his or her LL Bean loafers, they are promptly put back onto his or her feet or tucked into the closet.

An example at the other end of the spectrum would be this woman I saw on Oprah years back. She was a shopaholic. She made frequent rabid trips to the mall with her hot-to-the-touch credit cards to buy more stuff. Clothes, books, jewelry, furniture. Anything. The more she bought, the more she craved buying. This woman had 6 couches in her living room. She could only use 2 of them. The other 4 were "stored" in the living room, 3 of them standing on end, covered in plastic, and the other one was laid across the top of the vertical ones. It was like a sofa Stonehenge.

In her bedroom was a snowy avalanche of plastic white department store bags filled with new clothes and shoes she hadn't yet had time to put away, because she had to go to the next sale and the next one. Same thing in her hallway. She had to walk sideways like a crab to get through it.

Candy Rant is somewhere between these 2 extremes. I do have only one couch. And I'm able to walk through every room in my house. OK, all but one. However, I do have way too many books and papers. I have clothes enough to dress 5 full-sized marching bands for any kind of weather they may encounter. My excess has finally caught up with me. It hit me hard the day I looked at all my books (around 2,500) and thought "If I never again had to have a job, and I spent 40 hours a week just reading books for the rest of my life, I still couldn't make a dent here." So I started selling them on Amazon. Unloaded 300 of them. Which is almost noticeable. That's the problem. My out of control house is like a giantly obese woman. She diets and exercises and sweats and loses 15 pounds, and the rumor doesn't even make it all the way through her many folds. And then she sees how tough it was to do even that, and gives up.

I cannot give up. Because if I do, even if I could afford a big enough truck to move all of this to where I'm going, my beloved does not have a 7500 square foot house. I need to be able to fit my life alongside his. I need to bite the proverbial bullet and get rid of things like my 3-foot-tall Santa Claus Grinch, and my collection of textbooks from my undergrad education. One of them, called Mass Communications Law, most likely will not come in handy, especially since it was written before the internet was invented. By Al Gore. I also have the cast that was on my broken wrist in 9th grade. It is signed by many friends. I have a book about miniature golf that is actually covered with astro turf. I don't even like miniature golf. I don't like knocking a ball into a little windmill.

So. I'm reading this great book about clutter. (I have 7 such books, and a CD about clutter.) ((Where is Alanis Morrissette when you need her?)) It says that you should picture, in your mind, ALL of your belongings lined up outside in your yard. Each and every one of your items has to stand at your door and ask permission to come back inside. In order for it to be allowed back into your kingdom, it must be useful to you in your current life or must bring you joy. (Some would say this is a good way to choose people.) This can be confusing. What is joy? If you look at it one more time in your whole life, say, 30 years from now, and you smile, does that count?

Another book that I have 2 copies of (because I misplaced it once and had to buy another) is called Clearing Your Clutter With Feng Shui. Which is a little funny, because as much as I liked that book, I have singlehandedly made feng shui my bitch. My extreme and complex abuse of the "chi" in my immediate surroundings has changed the weather systems all over the world. Don't blame global warming. Blame my stacks of old Life magazines and the stick I found in the yard that looks like a smiling ferret. When the ice cap melts and you're swimming in what used to be your front yard, call me.

Gotta go answer the door. It's the Grinch.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Do You Know What's Special About This Sentence?

"Sit on a potato pan, Otis."

(See comments section for the answer.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Student I Never Complained About

Andrew. He was in my class a year ago. His physical disabilities were formidable. With the use of a walker, he could slowly get into the classroom (always on time) and teeter next to a chair until he could fall into it as accurately as he could manage to aim.

He was legally blind, had 2 pairs of glasses he had to switch back and forth between, during class. His speech was impaired. When it was his time to read from his own work, it was excruciatingly slow. But you could feel it in the room: we were totally rooting for him. When he had to turn the page, it was a struggle. But there was a definite vibe from him that he didn't want help doing it.

Andrew told me how he got the way he was. When he was 8, his mother's pet dog viciously attacked him. Bit through the back of his skull. Caused brain damage. Through the years he had strokes and developed a brain tumor. When I met him, in his junior year of college, he had just gone through a round of experimental radiation to rid him of the tumor that had grown inside his head after the first one had been surgically removed. The long scar on the back of his head was what nightmares are made of. And his hair wouldn't grow in that spot again, so there was no covering it up. He was excited about the treatment, because killing off the tumor was almost a given.

He loved Pink Floyd. Brought this glossy, expensive Floyd book to class to show me. It took him a very long time to wrestle it out of his backpack.

For one assignment in the class, he wrote a memoir about when he was 12 and had worked in a fundraising tent for his boy scout troop. All these giggling up-to-no-good prepubescent boys were corralled into a tent at the county fair to prepare and sell hot baked potatoes, with all the toppings. My favorite line in his paper was about how the potatoes "grumbled" down the wooden chute into the big aluminum bucket where they were washed.

Oh, he went on to be an Eagle Scout.

I wrote him a recommendation letter when he applied to be a tech support guy at the campus computer center. I never heard if he got the job or not.

What I did hear, today, is that he died in August. It made me sick.

People really fight hard sometimes. They keep pushing that Sisyphian rock up the hill. He pushed and pushed. And lost.

I am so glad our paths crossed at such a big impersonal university. He had such guts. I still have his papers and I know I'll read about the potato tent again.

Great Poem, Very Short


I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D.H. Lawrence