Friday, February 22, 2013

Dr. Seuss Panic Attack: The Pale Green Pants With Nobody Inside Them

Imagine you're a five-year-old flipping through a collection of stories by Dr. Seuss.  You're just chilling out in your pink stretch pants and ruffly little-girl socks, enjoying all the cool-sounding imaginary words and fun illustrations, when suddenly this assaults your senses:

I don't know about you, but when I encountered the last installment* of "The Sneetches and Other Stories," one thought flashed through my mind.  And that thought went something like this:


Reading the story through to the end did little to assuage my fear of the evil vomit-colored possessed pants.  Looking back on my childhood, I've often wondered if my reaction was unfair. After all, the pants didn't actually turn out to be evil.  The tale was a simple fable about the importance of not judging others for being different; the narrator is initially afraid of the pants and tries to avoid them, but then he discovers that they're afraid of him as well.  They both get over their fear and become friends.

Sounds innocent enough, right?

Then I read it again as an adult.

I couldn't help but notice something disturbing, something I think I subconsciously picked up on when I was little but wasn't quite worldly enough to fully recognize for the big red flag it was.

The pants seem to be following the narrator.  And they seem to be putting themselves through a good deal of inconvenience  to do so.

He first encounters them while walking through the woods at night.  Startling, I'm sure, but that could at least be a coincidence.  

The next time he sees them, they almost mow him down on a city street.  On a bicycle.  Despite the fact that, even in a Dr. Seuss book, it must be extremely difficult for a disembodied pair of pants to ride a bike.  What with their lack of hands and feet and all.

Then the narrator tries to calm his nerves with a nice fishing trip, only to see the pants rowing ominously toward him on the river, even though a boat must be as hard for animated monster-pants to pilot as a bike.  That marks the third time the pants just "happened" to be where the narrator is. It was also when I began to suspect that none of these run-ins were accidents.

The big climactic encounter confirmed my suspicions.  The narrator goes out one night** to pick "a peck of Snide."  The text doesn't make it clear what Snide is or why he needs it, but I like to think that he planned to somehow distill it into a powerful pepper-spray-like substance and take care of those pesky creep-trousers once and for all.  Anyway, the narrator makes it clear that the Snide-field is a very big place: "almost nine miles wide," to be exact.  So of course, he unsuspectingly reaches into a Snide bush and finds himself touching...

The. Pale. Green. Pants.

Nine whole miles of Snide-field, and those damn pants just had to be right there beside him.

They're always there.

Seriously, there's no way that any of this is coincidental.  There's no avoiding the ugly truth: our dear narrator is being stalked.  The only time he briefly has a moment's peace is when he eludes the pants by hiding in a Brickle bush for two nights straight.  I doubt he can make that work again, though; since the pants were present at his Snide-picking session they probably saw him emerging from his hiding place.

And by the end of the story he's played directly into their nonexistent hands.  He approaches them without fear and says "Hi" when he passes them in the street.  He's given them his trust.

Trust that will indubitably be used against him when the evil haunted pants-people of the night finally rise up and take over the world.  

*The story's official title is "What Was I Scared Of?," but it's been forever cemented in my mind as "That Creepy Friggin' Pale-Green-Pants-With-Nobody-Inside-Them Story."

**I did wonder why the narrator kept going out at night, even though it seemed pretty obvious that the pants are more active after dark.  The best I could come up with is the possibility that the species of bear (or bunny, or chinchilla, or whatever) the narrator belongs to is naturally nocturnal in its habits.  That, or he's a sucker for punishment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lady Evil's Guide to Not-So-Good Housekeeping (Now With More Hyenas)

Technomancer keeps complaining that he can't find anything in my study.

I have no idea what he's talking about.  I can find stuff in my study just fine.  Say I need my thesaurus.*  It's right where I left it, in that pile of books and binders and papers by the table.  No, no, not the one on the table with the radio on top of it.  I'm talking about the one on the floor beside the table, the one with all the old fiber arts supplies catalogs sticking out.  It's the second item in the stack.  See? That wasn't hard.

Technomancer also complains that I let the dishes pile up, but he's exaggerating a bit.  I just did the dishes three days ago.  The dirty stuff currently sitting on the counter is barely enough for one dishwasher load. 

As you've probably guessed by now, my husband and I hold somewhat differing views on what constitutes a well-kept household.  He seems to have this strange idea in his head that everything needs to be "put away," "in order," "not festering like an old rat carcass in the kitchen sink" and all that fancy-pants jazz.  I take a more laid-back approach.**  But we can't keep living at odds. Marriage requires compromise.  

Technomancer has to learn to be less of a neatnik, and I have to learn to be less messy.

It's not going to be easy.  I've been a slob so long that it's almost ingrained into my DNA by now. Some of my fondest childhood memories are bound up in my champion slovenliness.  I remember how I used to swipe random toys from my younger siblings and hide them in my room.  Then I would take twine and wind it around all my furniture in an elaborate spider-web-like pattern to make a fun obstacle course for them to crawl through as they searched for their dolls or trucks or beanie babies in the impenetrable crust of clutter on my floor.  If they knocked down some of the twine, they had to go back to the door and start over from the beginning.  Good times, good times.

I've been working on reversing my habit of leaving things wherever for a few months now.  It's slow going, but I've been making progress.  The real problem is the dishes.  I've hated dish-duty since I was a kid and it was my household chore.  It wasn't the actual dishes themselves as the rinsing that got to me, probably because my brother would always deliberately spit on his plate to make it more disgusting to rinse.  I don't think he appreciated our little game of me stealing his shit and then making him humiliate himself to get it back.

And that, children, is why crusty dishes tend to pile up whenever I hold primary responsibility for cleaning the kitchen.  If it's a choice between rinsing dirty dishes and literally anything else--filling out tax forms, getting a pelvic exam, swine flu, you name it--those dishes are going to keep sitting there.  But since it bothers Technomancer, I have no choice.  I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and do something about it.

Fortunately for both of us, I thought I had conveniently stumbled upon a solution today while messing around online.

This article describes the unique approach the people of the Ethiopian city of Harar have taken to dealing with refuse in their streets.  Basically they entice the local hyenas into the city with food scraps after dark and let them eat every bit of edible garbage in sight.  And you know what? I'm mad that the people of Harar thought of this before I did.  A house hyena or two could strip all those ketchup splotches and cheese rinds off the plates in no time, and I bet they'd bring our garbage collection bill way down too.

The home security potential is a good angle as well.  Imagine you're a burglar.  You've just broken into my house at 2 AM.  Suddenly you hear an eerie, chuckling howl.  You turn around and see a pair of flat and murderous eyes fixed on you.  Needle-sharp white teeth glint in the dim light as it stalks steadily closer to you.  I bet you'd cut and run without touching anything.  Good luck not getting caught in the giant spider web of twine I rigged up in my study.  Technomancer says I can keep my study as messy as I want now.  That's his part of the compromise.

Then I told Technomancer that we needed to fill the house with hyenas to keep the dishes clean, and he looked at me like I was out of my mind.  I swear, there's just no pleasing some people. 

*Yes, I still own a hard-copy thesaurus.  No, it's not made of papyrus and written in ancient Greek. Yes, I know digital media is the wave of the future and all that crap, but sometimes I just like holding a real book in my hands, dammit.  Get off my lawn.

**Is it attracting pests? If yes = clean it.  If no = ignore and continue to mess around on the internet.



Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow Day

This morning I climbed a mountain to get my mail.

Before I explain that, let's go back a bit.  See, we here in the northeast United States are still recovering from the huge snowstorm that dumped two feet of cold white stuff on us this weekend.

I admit that there was much moaning and groaning in this household when the Meteorological Alarmist Squad* started reporting on the impending blizzard.  Technomancer got annoyed and stressed because he has a big work project that's already behind schedule due on Thursday.  I swore and stomped around a lot because it seemed almost certain that the storm would knock out our power, and I hate being without power with a white-hot passion usually reserved for politicians who think that women can't get pregnant from rape.  Unfortunately for us, hightailing it to Michigan to get out of the storm's path wasn't an option this time.  I went to the grocery store, grabbed up as many emergency supplies as I could carry, and hunkered down in the house with Technomancer to wait it out.

The storm came and went on Friday night, and miraculously we did not lose power for once.  But we still weren't going anywhere.  See that picture up there? Our driveway is buried somewhere under that smooth and unbroken lake of snow, and neither of us owns a Hummer.

The plow guy didn't make it to us until late Sunday.  In the meantime we kept ourselves amused as best we could; Technomancer played video games and worked on his project, and I started weaving a new piece on my loom and dug around in the back of my pantry to see if I had any weird or exotic food that I could try and post about.  There was nothing terribly unusual in there, though I did make non-alcoholic** Jello shots from some cranberry Jello and mandarin oranges I found.

Come Monday the driveway was finally plowed and I had no excuse not to bring in the mail anymore.  I threw on my big coat, struggled into my boots, and trudged all the way down our long, steep, winding and (at that moment) rather icy driveway, thinking uncharitable thoughts all the way about how cold and bulky and time-consuming and generally inconvenient a season winter is.          

Our mailbox was half-buried under a big pile of plowed snow, which I had to clamber up to get to the box.  I worried with each step that the snow would give way and suck me in up to my not-snowpants-clad knees, but it was surprisingly firm.  And while I stood there, stooping to retrieve the mail while balanced precariously on a tower of snow with cars whizzing by, I remembered something.

Mid-winter in the early Nineties.  The parking lot behind the elementary school.  It's snowed more than usual that year, and the plows have piled it all around the edges of the parking lot.  We kids technically aren't supposed to play there, but the parking lot is in full view of the playground.  Those lumpy glittering mounds of pure possibility are too much of a draw, too great a force to resist.  I'm one of the first to sneak away from the swings and monkeybars.  The world reels away beneath me as I scramble up the sheer face of the tallest part of the pile.  Nothing can stop me.  I am a mountaineer charting a vast unexplored glacier in Antarctica,  a snow leopard prowling the ridges of the Himalayas.  I'm walking the thin edge of the ice-grey sky.

That's how it felt again for that moment as I stood on my little mountain of snow with cars zooming along beneath me.  All the little annoyances and indignities of living through winter melted away.  I was the Queen of Snowdrifts, looking down on my subjects.

Then, because the universe is a big asshole sometimes, it started pouring nasty cold rain on me.  I made a mental note to put alcohol in the next batch of impromptu Jello shots.

*The Weather Channel.  I used to like them a lot better, but they've become so weird and shouty and sensationalist lately.  If TV channels were people, I think the Weather Channel would be the stodgy and respectable banker who sustained a tragic brain injury that turned him into a psychotic rambling New York subway evangelist.

**I know, I know, they're not real shots that way.  But Technomancer wouldn't help me eat them if I put alcohol in them.