In Which Simon Doesn't Say

14 April 2005

I am not getting this story written very fast, but it's a children's story, so it's one of those stories that has to do a lot with not much and isn't allowed to do other things at all even if maybe it should have.

That repeated thunking noise you've heard? That's been me, beating my head against the wall that is this story.

Still, at least it exists at all, which it didn't for months when it was supposed to.

I'm reading Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend and The System of the World in shifts, mostly the former when I need something more portable, something that will not crush me to death if it falls on me while I'm reading in bed. This is an odd combination. The System of the World manages to cover almost as much stuff as its title implies, without ever touching on the subject matter of Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend in the slightest. So I feel like I'm reading about approximately everything, and I'm not sure what to read next that'll feed the brain's urge for "something different next." Something SF, I suspect. We'll see.

I didn't post yesterday because I was caught up in short story stuff, and because my free time went towards Mark's and my date. We went to First Course for dinner. The chicken roulade was most excellent, even though the vegetable mix with it was exactly the same vegetable mix they use for everything all year. Good, but still. The pear crisp was good but reminded me of why I shouldn't order crisps out very much: I can do that. We went on to Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion's concert at the Cedar Cultural Center. They didn't do any of her dad's songs, which I think is good at this point in her career. I think she needs to do her own thing first, because enough people will think of her as Arlo's daughter without her pushing it, just as enough people thought of Arlo as Woody's son.

This is probably extremely morbid, but I breathed a huge sigh of relief a few years back when Arlo was still showing no signs of Huntington's Chorea. I like the idea of taking future spawn to one of Sarah Lee's concerts -- but I like it even better if it's a joint concert with her dad, and if we don't all have to keep wondering if it'll pop up with her and her brother. It has to be so weird with a middle-age genetic disease like that, to be relieved when your parents hit 60 instead of seeing the hard bits coming a decade or two on. It must be such an odd relief.

which reminds me, oddly enough, of a comment Jer made over on his journal about Boomers and SF. He said, "Hey, old fart science fiction writers! I know you're terrified of getting old, but could you please writer fewer and/or less boring stories about it? Alzheimers is played out also." And I thought, are you kidding? First of all, Alzheimer's is nowhere near played out. Boring things have been done with it and probably will continue to be done with it, but that doesn't mean there's nothing interesting to say about it, touching as fundamentally as it does on memory and memory touching as fundamentally as it does on identity.

But mostly what I think is, this is not about old farts or even middle-aged farts. This is one of the central problems of our generation, of people in their twenties and thirties: what the heck are we going to do with all these old people? And I think this is my fundamental dissatisfaction with these stories: not that they exist, but that they don't seem to think that society will change much for anybody but the old people in question, as we have higher and higher proportions of old people.

I mean, I take Jer's point: there's all sorts of other stuff out there to explore than senescence and senility. Yes. True. But -- frankly, old people are weird. I mean this in a good way. Old people have sifted through and kept the bits they like and thrown out the bits they don't like, and the social constraints on them externally are sometimes much, much less, or at least much different, than the constraints on the middle-aged and young. Changing the ratios of that kind of constraint in a society has to do some pretty freaky things. It shouldn't be the central point of a story, but I think it could make a better backdrop than I've seen much.

Anyway. We got a coupon for Simon Delivers (internet-based grocery delivery) in the paper last weekend, so it seemed like time to try it. If the expense wasn't too much more, the convenience might be a very good thing. The jury is still out on Simon Delivers, but I'm thinking we may not use it for the following reasons:

1) I'm an idiot. Despite making a full batch of black bean soup last weekend, I decided to behave as though we had an infinite supply of black beans in the pantry. Surely using six cans of black beans could not in any way affect my intention to make black bean chili tomorrow! Umm. In fact, it could. So we got Simon Delivers this morning, and I went to Byerly's this late-afternoon. Granted, I could use the express lane, and probably nothing is going to fix the need for quick grocery runs, especially because I'm less likely to change my menu than my plans. (Especially if I'm entertaining: many of the people we entertain have one dietary need or another, so usually I've planned things for a reason and am not being rigid for the sheer joy of it.) Still, it felt silly to be using this service to avoid going to the grocery store, and then to promptly go anyway.

2) I cook on inspiration. This is the problem I could most easily predict: that I choose a lot of our meals by wandering through the produce section, seeing what looks fresh, and then getting other items to go with it. By definition, I can't do this online. I may be able to surmount this obstacle by learning to look at specials in the online categories. We'll see, I guess.

3) There is no one true produce. They talk a lot about the quality of their produce, and the stuff they brought today was fresh, and the little we've eaten of it has been good. But. The avocadoes I ordered were specifically to serve with the aforementioned black bean chili tomorrow, and for that purpose, they will not serve. They were "fresh," all right, hard and green. As avocadoes chosen for general purposes, they are probably better than average; as avocadoes for this purpose, not so much. Another, less-long-lasting avocado might have been chosen in the store, and might have been served even if it had a black spot we had to cut off. Similarly the potatoes: there was no midpoint selection for "those little red potatoes but not the tiniest ones: the big ones of the little ones." But when I'm making potato hotdish, that's what I need. I don't want the texture of a baking russet, I want the little reds, but I don't want them to be so tiny that I spend an hour peeling and chopping them and lose half the potato to peeling and have to pull them out of the pan extremely quickly because they burn much faster than the larger pieces. In the grocery store, I can pick through the bin for the "big little ones," or I can get the "little little ones" if I'm just tossing them with spices and oven-roasting them or something like that. I trust that they're not going to deliver rotten potatoes -- produce is something they have to get right above just about anything else -- but there's a big difference between "reasonable produce" and "the right produce for this recipe and timing," and I'm not sure how that's going to play out for me.

I have more stuff to ramble about, but I'd probably better get some other stuff done first. So. Have a good whatever time of day it is when you read this.

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