Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Thanksgiving Panda

It's been a busy few weeks. Both Josh and I have the end-of-the-semester crazies, and we're up to our ears in grading. This is Josh's first semester sans finals, and I think it's starting to really sink in that he's done being a student. Done. Forever if he wants to be. Which brings me to my news.

Josh got a full-time job teaching English at College of the Sequoias in Visalia and Hanford. Josh'll actually be at the Hanford campus for now, which is a bummer because it's a smaller campus and because Hanford has notoriously bad water, but I've come around because a) I get full benefits and b) his salary is a ridiculously big leap in the right direction for us. Also, c) Hanford is an extremely cute small town that reminds me so much of Chico, which I miss endlessly, and d) Superior Dairy.

For those of you who, like me until very recently, have never heard these words together, Superior Dairy is an incredibly delicious family-owned diner-thingy in downtown Hanford. They make all of their ice cream by hand on the premises. And it is delicious, and you get ridiculously much for pretty cheap. I've been spending many hours looking at how far potential rental homes are from the SD. Because it is that delicious.

But the bad news (and really, this isn't bad as much as it is inconvenient) is that Josh and I have to move. Josh's classes are at 7:45 in Hanford, which is at least an hour's drive from Fresno, and Josh is not a morning person. So, since my own classes don't start until afternoons most days, we've decided that it makes most sense for us to be closer to his work. I don't want to do the moving part. I hate boxing things up. I hate living in increasingly less populated space. I hate lifting and carrying. Hate hate hate it. But maybe this is the last time we have to do it for a while. Maybe we'll be in our new house until we decide to buy something, since that is on our list of suddenly possible but formerly ridiculous life goals.

Anyway. It's been so nice having this good thing to look forward to that I've been coping well with the shiteous WC and all the crap I'm so sick of being around. Shanti shanti shanti. Thank god.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Accident Panda

Josh and I decided to spend the first few days of Spring Break at my mom's house in Atascadero. It's beautiful there--every day is warm and sunny, every evening is nice and cool for maximum good sleep. The coffee's always on by the time Josh gets out of bed. Mox has all sorts of fun exploring and playing with my mom's two big farm dogs, Madison and McKenzie. And I get lots of quiet time for reading or knitting. Plus, the farm house is just pretty, and there's always something exciting going on--like this time, we adopted a family duck and helped Mom plant potatoes. Okay, planting potatoes isn't that fun. But ducks! So cute.

Mom and Grandma Dee sent us home with way more candy than we should eat--an early Easter present. Even since I moved out of my mom's house five years ago, she's taken to sending me presents and decorations for every major holiday every year. They're silly little things, socks and scarecrows and Christmas doodads, but they're critical to my mental health and sense of good cheer, especially during the winter holidays. This time, I've got pretty pastel-wrapped chocolates.

Oh, and also my mom almost cut her thumb off.

We were working in the kitchen. Josh was making rice, and I was making coconut rice, when I heard a stream of obscenities that would burn your screen if I typed them out--you're welcome--and said, without looking up, "Mom's cut herself."

You see, my whole family's got this thing for sharp knives. That little round sharpener thing that comes with most classy knife blocks--we don't use that. We use real sharpening kits. The kind that look like a cross between pick-up sticks and a set of lockpicks. The knife my mom was using--she was shucking oysters in the sink, although we've learned since that there are knives made just for that which aren't sharp--was especially sharp because it had been prepped for use in the Great Turkey Slaughter of 2008, but never used. Long story short: this knife could definitely cut cans.

It was also more than sharp enough to leave a 2-inch gash in my mom's thumb. While she hopped around on one leg, spewing words that have only been uttered in this hemisphere by supremely salty wenches, I made her a bag of ice and Vicki and Grandma began the long process of talking my mom into going to the hospital for stitches. This is actually quite difficult to do--my mom is a nurse and a stubborn lady, so she's almost never willing to go get medical attention for anything short of exposed bone. But she acquiesced this time, and proceeded to get ten stitches in her thumb and thirty Vicodins--which she won't take.

Anyway. With Mom, Vicki, and Grandma off to the hospital--Vicki wanted to go, but couldn't drive, so Grandma did--Josh and I were left to finish dinner: barbecued steaks and shark, rice and coconut rice, and grilled veggies. Also, it was dark. And we couldn't find flashlights. Or any grill tools. We barbecued by the light of my cell phone. No kidding. It's a wonder the meat got cooked at all.

When Mom, Vicki, and Grandma got back a few hours later, we were almost asleep on the couch, dinner was in foil-covered bowls all over the kitchen, and the oysters, having been spared by fortune this time, were still sitting smugly in the sink.

It was, however, a damn tasty dinner.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Census Panda part 2

It took us a few days to get to the census. As I said previously, we aren't good at doing things, and we especially aren't good at doing things together, because although we have parallel lives, we have completely different schedules. But yesterday, the stars aligned, the kitchen table was cleared of its usual clutter, and I flopped the big newsprint survey down and got to work.

The first few questions are easy. What is today's date? What is your name? How many people live at this address? Over the next few pages, Josh and I are transformed from two complex writer-types with hobbies and interests diverse and varied into Person 1 (me) and Person 2 (Josh.) The survey gives us plenty of room for other housemates (10 more, I think, and if we need to, we can call for any other residents in excess of a dozen) and I ponder, for a moment, how much trouble we'd be in if we claimed Jesus and Moxie as roommates. Probably a lot.

In any case, filling out the survey gives me a profound sense of accomplishment. I breeze through the brief profile of Persons 1 and 2, and get to skip several pages because we don't have children or other roommates. I'm cooking with the proverbial gas.

There's a whole section about the house. Do we rent or own? Is there hot and cold water? A flush toilet? A bathtub or shower? A sink with a faucet? A stove or range? A refrigerator? Telephone service from which you can receive or make calls? I pause here to think about the kind of housing one must have to answer no to all of these questions. Are there people, for example, who are paying rent on apartments without flush toilets? The census leads me to believe that there are, and I say a quick prayer of thanks to the Great Panda for providing me with such thoroughly adequate housing.

But then things get complicated, and quick. What is Person 1's ancestry or ethnic origin? I write Portuguese in carefully, making sure each letter is perfect. Then I scribble "Hillbilly," erase, "Okie", erase, "Mutt", erase, "Heinz 57", erase. I am sad that this isn't multiple choice--my ethnicity of choice is "Other."

And then come the funny questions. "Does Person 1 have difficulty dressing or bathing?" The answer to this question is yes, but not because of an infirmity. Primarily, my dressing difficulties have to do with my inability to do laundry regularly and my pathetically one-note wardrobe. "What kind of work does Person 1 do?" Teaching/Tutoring. "What where this person's primary job responsibilities?" I don't want to be snarky to the census, so I try to find an answer that isn't Teaching/Tutoring, but there isn't one. I hope the census will keep in mind that Person 1's ancestry/ethnic origin makes her exceptionally likely to be a smartass.

The Census Panda part 1

This week, Josh and I were the lucky recipients of a Census survey. It came in a big envelope, which was marked in ten places with "Participation in this Survey is Required by Law."

Now, I should mention here that Josh and I are not good at getting things done. In fact, Josh has an entire library of what he calls "productivity porn," which is a genre of books dedicated to whipping people like us into organizational shape. He probably reads one of these books every three or four months, and they always send him into a flurry of cleaning and labeling. However, these systems never stick, and the best way to make sure that we get something done is to tie us to a chair and force us. (Which is, of course, what she said.)

So there we were, in the mailroom of our complex, bent over this survey in which we were legally obligated to participate, our other mail (jury summonses for two different former residents of our apartment, unlikely but true) forgotten in the box, our dog waiting patiently at the end of her red leash.

"I guess we're going to be participating in the census," I said. I'm always excited by things like this. I like to be chosen for things that not everyone gets chosen for, even if those things are silly and random and not even fun to do, like jury duty or the assessment group at school or this census business. It makes me feel like my life matters a little bit more than other people's, like I'm exceptionally interesting and worthy of study. Being chosen to participate in the census brings out my inner diva.

Josh replied: "Or we'll be arrested." Josh does not share my positive outlook on life. For him, things like this represent an intrusion by the federal government into our lives for no good reason. Or, on an even more pessimistic day, Josh sees things like this as one more way the police are authorized to abuse their power and make our lives Hell. Josh is a bit of a drama queen.

"We won't get arrested," I say, "because we're gonna do it." To this statement, I am sure Josh rolled his eyes.

We walked back to our apartment, each of us in a cloud of our own thoughts.