I Can’t Get There from Here

When I was a kid, packing for a trip was a grand occasion. My mother would make a list of clothes my brothers and I should put in our suitcase (seven pairs of underwear and socks, five pairs of pants, etc.), and we’d all fill our tote bags with activities for the car. (Doesn’t every prepubescent child have a tote bag?) I remember automobile bingo in particular. In later years, I brought my walkman and a stack of books so I could tune out the unfettered chaos of a car trip with my family. Later still, I snuck antihistamines so I could float down the Interstate in a drugged-out stupor while my brothers punched each other over the seats.

This morning, the idea of packing for a trip is so overwhelming that I don’t even want to change out of my pajamas or take a shower. I only need to dig a couple of changes of clothes out of the dryer and measure out my vitamins with the precision of an alchemist, but this seems overwhelming to me. I think the thing I dread the most is locating all of the power cords for my notebook computer, cell phone, iPod, digital camera, and other accoutrements of civilized travel.

Ugh, my skin is dry, too. Maybe I should just go back to bed.

Where’s the antihistamines?


Pop Pop Poppity Pop

It has been an explosive summer, and not just because I haven’t been giving Goblin her anti-fart pills. In Baltimore, the Fourth of July means fireworks, and not just at the official time when they’re pretty in the sky, but also in the weeks leading up that special day. They pop pop pop at odd times of night, like gunshots. Well, those may actually be gunshots, it’s hard to tell. We don’t bat an eyelash over gunshots in this city, usually. Perhaps it is only the looming holiday that makes them seem celebratory.

The problem is that Goblin, in recent times, has begun to object to explosions near and far. At the sound of distant fireworks (or drive-by shootings, or whatever they are), she freaks out. As Independence Day approached, she began trying to get out of her nighttime walks, and no matter where we were in the neighborhood, if she heard a bang, she would turn on her heel and start running for home.

We gave her a tranquilizer on the night of the Fourth and hoped for the best.

I think that was the night I knocked a glass bottle of seasoned salt off the kitchen counter and watched it explode on the tile floor. Rob and I and Goblin were all barefoot, so the resulting maneuverings were delicate in the extreme. The puzzling thing was finding jagged glass shards in places they could only have arrived after the sort of twanging multiple ricochets found in cartoons.

I don’t know why our little Boston terrier gets so panicked over the sound of hollow bangs from miles away when the most perilous accidents occur in the kitchen of her own home, and she doesn’t bat an eye over licking the floor of that room clean on a daily basis.

P.S. Yesterday, I was on my way to meet an advertising rep for lunch when I passed a dignified Asian woman on the street carrying a parasol in one hand and a urine sample in the other. I mean she was carrying it, not I. (I have to confess that is a combination that would not immediately occur to me.) This had absolutely nothing to do with explosions but is the kind of thing that leaves an impression nonetheless.


Oh Devil, You God!

Last night, Rob and I saw The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep as a demanding businessperson who hires a whiny and incompetent new assistant with a taste for unattractive clothing. Over the course of the film, Meryl Streep doesn’t change a hair, and the assistant becomes less whiny, more competent, and better shod, but no less irritating. Aside from this personal transformation, The Devil Wears Prada focuses on the choices people make about how they live their lives and to which impulses they are going to be true (and at what cost). For all of the characters, these decisions are tested by outside forces, and everything gets sorted out in the end.

The movie affected me and Rob in different ways. Rob had flashbacks to the point in his career when he served as an assistant to four creative directors at an ad agency, two of whom habitually wore capes. That is a very high cape to no-cape ratio for the modern world.

As an employer, I had a different reaction. Those I employ will not be enchanted to learn that I have some decidedly new ideas about the nature of responsibility and service, but these will serve us all in the long run, even if they start referring to me as the Devil who Wears Organic Cotton.