Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Semiotics


Semiotics

Barney, a particularly charming beagle whose vivid black and tan had faded to snow white in the course of his fifteen or sixteen, or so, rescue dog years, has eaten his last doggie treaty. I offer up condolences to MB and the family Inkelis. Barney died naturally and at home. Poor MB had to take the body to the vet's for cremation. Natural and at home is preferable to "the shot" or at least the excruciating anticipation of it, but I suck with dead bodies, pet and human and roadkill. When it became clear that our beloved ancient Bowser was beginning to suffer, we arranged for a vet to come to the house to administer the two injections. Himself was able to stay a bit but I fled at the instant of the final pronouncement. The remains were discreetly removed and boxed immediately and left in the driveway for the crematorium driver. Even though we were spared much contact with the body that was formerly Bowser, we must have fallen apart pretty royally. The vet, who probably performs this very service several times a week to much waterworks, expressed very earnest and particular concern about our emotional condition.

My husband loves dogs and I impressed him early on in our courting phase with my good recognition of different breeds. He wept on the balcony of the El Capitan at a sad scene in Beauty and the Beast. He feels shameful when he indulges in sleeping late instead of rising at the crack of dawn for a rigorous jaunt on the treadmill, a thorough brushing of dogs and a spartan breakfast of strawberries, non-fat yogurt and artificially sweetened tea. He recycles. He discourages triviality. He gets cranky sometimes, usually in the face of the necessity of him leaving the house or the necessity of someone coming to the house. He dislikes most vegetables. I have written oft about the cellphone loggerheads but I am hoping that the dishwasher issue is nipped in the bud right here and now so that no bandwidth is wasted on it.

I was close to bawling most of the week, blissed out to prepare my first Thanksgiving in the new kitchen. I had Lucy on the big dick t.v. to keep me company and the kids and Himself wafted in and out to watch or eat or hang. Himself gave me a real hard time about buying the t.v. and indeed it has defined a real center to our house. I am not stressed that the t.v. will dumb down Casamurphy. My only concern is that its proximity to the kitchen will lead to the fattening up of this viewer. We do spend more time with the kids and get a clearer idea of what rocks their world. They watch pretty good things although perhaps they are more selective when I am present. Every minute my children spend in front of it is one minute of exercise, or reading, or room tidying, or cancer curing pissed away, but I do love my big t.v.

After Thanksgiving I went into a three day drool. I stayed braless on the couch and took no real meals, grazing only on Thanksgiving leftovers. My artificial molar floated in Polident for 72 hours. I wrote not a single word, read one novel (that my husband considers middlebrow), played online word games and watched t.v. with the kids. Himself also had several consecutive days of leisure. For the four day period of November 27-30 he wrote nearly 5000 words. I am very satisfied to write 1500 words in the course of a week. He posted reviews of the following books: The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, 352 pages; Young Irelanders, 244 pages; My Name is Legion, 512 pages; Idle Passion 248 pages. He also reviewed a Deerhunter CD called Microcastles. He wrote two brief entries about i.q. and taste in music tests specifically for his blog, as well. This staggering output, and the fierceness with which he reads and riffs on it, is not an anomaly of a long weekend. I have labored enormously for the 71 blog entries I have posted in 2008. Himself's blog boasts 349 entries so far for the year. And he apologizes for sleeping late.


Himself reads a dozen books for each one I finish. He reviews in depth and detail everything he reads and listens to and is, according to the new and preferable rating system, the 142nd most popular reviewer on Amazon. I can look at his reviews chronologically and trace his journey through chess, and Buddhism, and Welsh and California deserts and Hungary, larded with all manner of fiction and things Irish. He has been teaching himself Gaelic for years and practices by writing small passages in Irish about his day-to-day life. The translations of these little language exercises into a sort of halting English that reflects his humble awareness of his limitations in Irish, are among the most beautiful things I have ever read. My husband was raised where the only labor of value was either physical or wage earning or preferably, both. The concept of personal satisfaction was some high falutin' notion to those particular Irish Catholics, born to work and suffer and reject those who would aspire otherwise. I try to encourage my beloved to do what he loves doing the most and he feels guilty because he derives so much pleasure from it he cannot construe it as work. But work it is and so very fine.

My husband's parents owned a kennel. They bred boxers, and some other breeds of dogs that don't much appeal to me enough to even bother spell checking the names, and boarded dogs. In the dog eating regions of China there is a distinction between food dogs and pet dogs. Struggling with a similar distinction is part of coming of age in an environment where there are pets and dogs that generate income. My sister bred dogs so I saw dogs come and go and I got to know some dog people. Himself and I both share heartrending childhood tales of coming home to find a beloved dog "gone to the farm" for the most specious of reasons. We have tolerated some pretty ill behaved canines that have led us frantically to pet psychics and the Dog Whisperer and perhaps our dog doggedness thing is one way we work out the abandonment issues we also have in common.

When I am desperate for a sign I do this Ouija board type of thing, counting on my fingers to make decisions or ascertain whether hopes will be fulfilled. I also count while I'm driving. If I see ten blue cars, or six Volvos or five out of state plates before arriving at the office there will be a big order. This is a weird thing I've always done and was too embarrassed to even think about on any conscious level until my beloved described it as a form of spontaneous divination which he, and I don't know if it should be to my comfort or my distress, practices too. Wikipedia lists many different forms of divination. There is alphitomancy, which is divination through barley, and cephaleonomancy which involves boiled donkey heads and choriomancy when pig bladders are the conduit to the divine. Dacylomancy (finger movements) and arithmancy (numbers) would cover the thing I do and I was glad and relieved that there's a name for it until it turned out the only reference cited for the article was Harry Potter. The sixteen year old and I also count fat students (an extraordinarily high percentage) in front of Muir High School in Pasadena. We know that this is mean and that it isn't really spontaneous divination. We get bored spending so long in the car though and perhaps this badassedness is a talisman against the next door McDonald's and the lure of the Casamurphy refrigerator, now dangerously close to the altar of entertainment.


My life has always been loud but my beloved has taught me to appreciate the quiet, and sometimes ventures with me to my joyous loud. I don't serve salad. He plays host. I slog through books beyond my ken and force my lazy brain around ideas instead of daydreams to make him proud. I would be single with many cats and left to my own devices I might have become a reader of US WEEKLY. Himself sings to the dogs and dances with them. We watch the new t.v. We are more tender with each other than we are with ourselves. I fall asleep wrapped in his arms and I wake him up to hold me every morning for a few minutes before I start the day.

Years ago Julia had a party and one of the guests was newly returned from graduate school at Brown and I asked him what he'd studied and he said in a single sentence, "Semiotics do you know what that is?" I began this blog entry yesterday and returned home to my still blogging helpmate. He was struggling to find an illustration for his entry and I asked him what he was looking for and he said, "Bibliomancy do you know what that is?" I told him it was the practice of using the bible for divination and remarked that I had written that afternoon about spontaneous divination. Several weeks ago we wrote on the same day of eucalyptus, the subject of my earliest memory, and now we both consider divination. Maybe it's a sign.

3 comments:

FionnchĂș said...

My overlapping entry's here: Book Meme Award. Thanks for yet another amazing piece. At present, I'm only around 183 and not 146 or so on the new Amazon ratings, but you're my most devoted reader.

I would have commented here on the Brown major's question, but again you beat me to it in your conclusion! Glad to have married such an erudite partner, despite your middlebrow reading tastes and popcorn munching sloth. You earned it after a magnificent Thanksgiving marathon.

Slumber well in front of all 32 (diagonal) inches of plasmatic splendor. xxx me

Chris Berry said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post (again) and wonderful Thanksgiving dinner last week. LA is too far away, but it was well worth the jaunt south! Glad you were able to get some quality down time after all your hard work...

Now, on to more important things... is Lucy better on the big plasma? We were having appliance envy during the visit. On that note, you'll be happy to know that we finally filled that hole over the oven (yes, with a microwave).

Hope to hook up during the holidays...

Cari said...

My sympathies to Barney's people. We had to put down our 14 yr old Shepherd/Rott mix this weekend as well. Must be something calling them home.