11 September 2002
Yeah, you all know what day it is. You know exactly what you were doing last year. Last night, I had just fallen asleep when the noise of car horns out on Mission Boulevard slammed me awake again. They were repetitive, and there was no screech as of an accident. I fumbled for my glasses. It was midnight. The horns up and down Mission weren't for a crash. They weren't for some guy who wasn't paying attention to the green light. We're right up next to the hills, and so is Mission, so I could hear them from miles up and down the street.
I guess I don't really understand the impulse to commemorate three thousand deaths and the beginning of military action with one's car horn. But people remember things in their own ways. Teresa Nielsen Hayden has some really good things to say, as a New Yorker, and she says, "Repeat after me: What the news media does is not my problem. This is not about them." Yes. Definitely.
It's not about me, either. I feel for everybody who lost someone in New York and Washington D.C., and by the way, let's remember Washington D.C., too, shall we? But they aren't me. Those cities aren't my home. Does that mean I have no reaction? No, of course not. But it would be unseemly for me to yammer on about how much it's my tragedy, too. It isn't, not nearly as much. Listen to Teresa. She's got stuff to say.
Unseemly. This is not a word we see often. I think many components of our society have forgotten it. In the comments to Teresa's entry, her husband Patrick said to someone who was being critical of public displays, "But 'public displays of either sentimentality or emotion' are what redeem us. A willingness to join our fellow humans in Solemn Civic Occasions is critical. Otherwise we're just atomized, alienated brutes." We-ell...yes. And no.
I fear that we demand a loss of subtlety and self-control in our Civic Occasions just as firmly as past generations demanded self-control itself. I think it's good that some men feel more able to cry in public when they're sad and upset. But I also think that we should be able to recognize the lines of grief, anger, or fear in the set of a jaw, the planes of someone's face, the way their hand sits at their side. We shouldn't demand that they do a dance to show us how very, very [fill in emotion here] they are. I fear that we demand ever more lavish displays of sentimentality or emotion before we recognize that the people we're dealing with have any emotions at all. Comparisons of display are not comparisons of emotive depth.
I don't like having to wonder how much of people's remembrances are sincere and how much are dramatizations, how of them are genuine and how much "socially expected." Because Patrick Nielsen Hayden is right that some people do grieve through community ritual and civic event. But others participate in community ritual and civic event because it's what other people are doing, or because of how things will appear.
Ah well. So today I stay home, and mostly think of other things. Immigration, mostly, and all of the things that went with it and go with it now. And how hard it is to transition from Events of National Historical Importance to other stuff in the world, or in my world.
In yesterday's Merc, a professor from SJSU said, in an article about how the federal marijuana laws should be sacrosanct, "Wise as they were, the framers [of the Constitution] didn't cover everything. How could they anticipate nuclear energy, telecommunications, missiles, or even something like marijuana? They couldn't." Which is, you know, kind of funny to me, as many of the framers grew marijuana. They couldn't anticipate it only in the sense that they couldn't tell whether it'd be a good hemp crop that year. I mean, for heaven's sake, what a flat-out stupid thing to say. Couldn't anticipate. Honestly.
All right, I have a question for you guys, and it has nothing to do with laws or Events of National Importance. Or even career importance. Here's the situation. We keep getting a kind of sticky gummy residue on pots and pans we put in the dishwasher. It shows up about every fourth time we put pots and pans in. It only appears on the pots and pans, never on the plates or mixing bowls or anything else (including the wok and one of the smaller saucepans we have with a different finish), and generally only on pots and pans that have been put on the bottom rack. It's always the same residue, sort of brownish, and never resembles food residue we put in the dishwasher. It only appears on the bottom of the pots and pans, where there was not food residue to begin with. Has anybody else had this problem? What is it? Is there something we can do about it? Besides hand-washing the pots and pans, I mean, which is what we have been doing.
My other question is: if you know that someone's primary phone line is a cell phone, and you're never sure what hours they work, how do you determine when it's okay to call? I assume that my friends can turn the phone off when it's unprofessional to be taking personal calls, or can refuse to answer it just as with any other phone. But I'm not usually calling with emergency information. I'm usually calling to chat. And that makes me hyperaware that since the cell phone is with them all the time, I could be disturbing them in almost any circumstance. This week, my solution has been to e-mail the two people I wanted to call and ask them when I could. But I'm not sure if there's a more general rule, or if there should be. We only really use our cell phone for outgoing calls, so it's not an issue for us.
We watched "Memento" last night, and it was all right, but it didn't blow me away as it seems to have blown some people away. The fictional trick of telling the story backwards is suggested in just about every writing book, and while the ending twisted, the twist was fairly predictable, I thought. Also, the main character's condition worked selectively enough to make the plot go. Would have been more interesting if they'd patched those holes in one direction or another.
As usual, the list awaits. Take care of yourselves. Try to stay as sane as you started the day.
Saner, if you started with car horns at midnight.
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