I might have cried about a wagon

13 Nov

Earlier this year the Great Road Bike debate raged in our household.  I don’t mean we raged at each other, but the debate itself went from Bianchi to Trek to Specialized to Bianchi to Giant to carbon-fiber frame to carbon-fiber fork on an aluminum frame to no one caring anymore because I’m pregnant so no road bike for me.  A blessed relief is what I call that.

Or what I called that until the Great Wagon Debate of 2011 replaced it.  And I don’t mean a wagon that a toddler pulls across our suddenly small back patio.  I mean the sort that you drive, the sort that confirms your pseudo-yuppie street cred without fully admitting that you are a resident of the Bay Area and you need the sort of vehicle you can drive to a protest without being protested yourself.  One that has enough room to slap a KQED sticker on the back window.  That sort of swagger wagon.  The kind that you can out-liberal the liberals with by using biodiesel instead of just plain diesel.

There have been a few notable glitches in the Great Wagon Search so far.  First, I have two tendencies within me.  One, inherited from my father, is what I believe he calls the cheap Dutchman (he is Dutch, so he can call himself this).  I want a deal, and deals are to be found in used cars (sometimes) or good financing (sometimes).  The last time I got a car, I nearly shouted “no” to all the add-on options.  But first I said, “How much?”  As in, how much is that sunroof?  And then, I DON’T THINK SO.   How much are those floor mats?  I DON’T THINK SO.  The other tendency is embarrassingly shallow.  I like bold jewelry and high-end cars.  I live in a valley surrounded by Bentleys, Aston Martins, Maseratis, Ferraris, Audi R8s, and the too-infrequent GTR (my idea of a family car).  I can identify them.  The poor man’s car here is the 3-series BMW.  If it is red, too expensive, and prone to being driven by folks who make quintuple what I make and have the plastic surgery to prove it, then I probably want to own it.  This second category does not come as a deal.  It comes under the category “requires premium gasoline;” or “costs $65,000 and the price of your soul over the course of its lifetime;” or “you can go ahead and buy that car, but then your friends will know how shallow you really are and judge you accordingly.”

This debate all started because we bought a dog; then we bought a house for the dog (a patio! a river walk! all for the high-energy lab!); and now, in our quest to make him the most expensive dog ever (dog day care! dog day camp! three crates and counting! one couch eaten! zillions of humiliating trips to the vet!), we’re purchasing a wagon so he can’t sit next to the baby and swap drool, but can have his very own safe space in the very back.  Don’t tell him.  The cat doesn’t travel, so no one cares where she rides in this hypothetical wagon.

You’d think it would be simple.  Have the husband use his organizational and spread-sheet genius to simply research, categorize, compare and contrast wagons and then, like magic, go out and buy one.  Except I am unreasonably emotional about this.  And those two tendencies move me across a used car lot like a crazy person, veering from the $6000 2001 Passat Wagon (we could buy it right now!) to the 2007 Limited Edition Toyota 4Runner (a V8 and red!) to the 2009 Passat to the Volvo V50 (no longer made in the US, but wouldn’t you just know that the nice dealer has one with a sports package being shipped in from Europe as we speak?) to the Volvo V70 to the Volvo XC70.  In notable restraint, I gave up on my Audi A4 Avant dream, and our collective BMW 328 wagon dream just got flushed down the toilet by cargo space that resembles the size of our master bathroom, which is to say is not cargo space at all.

I finally said to the husband, “I suppose the Jetta Sportwagen TDI matches our ethics.”  And he said, “I wish I could replay your tone of voice, because you sound so annoyed by our ethics.”  But then he added, “Our only lifeline away from Volkswagen seems to be a Volvo.”  Can you tell we already own one Volkswagen?

So round and round we go.  Try to act surprised when we embrace our status as young rural professionals (yurpies), buy the all-too-predictable Volvo (an academic in a Volvo? No way!), and immediately slap a KQED sticker on it, despite my cheap refusal to actually donate to public radio, if only because I hope either Alec Baldwin or Ira Glass will personally call me up to goad me into doing what I know I ought to do.



Why I continue to love my job

11 Nov

Martin Doblmeier, the producer of “Bonhoeffer” and “The Power of Forgiveness,” among other films, was on campus this week for a lecture series. In class yesterday, my students discussed his films. One had the following insight: “I feel like ‘Bonhoeffer’ is an Adventist film, you know, one we’ve all seen.” None of the rest of us had seen it. Turns out, her family watches it every Christmas. (Not to spoil the plot, but “Bonhoeffer” is not about Christmas–it is about the Nazis, resistance, and death).

“I guess our family just sticks to ‘A Christmas Story,'” said another student. And since I couldn’t resist, I added, “BUMPUS HOUNDS.”

I always do my part

11 Nov

I woke up the other morning to discover that the husband didn’t feel good at all. So I asked why he hadn’t woken me up in the night–he had barely slept at all–to tell me he was sick.

“I did,” he said. “Twice.”

I refused to believe him. He promises it was true, and that each time I woke up, I was very sympathetic and concerned. So concerned that I did nothing and didn’t remember it in the morning.

He also said I told him this: “Shut it. I’ve felt sick to my stomach and tired for at least eight weeks.”

I think he made that last part up.

Sleep-Talkin’ Man

13 Oct

This is what I woke up to this morning.

Him:  “The radio says we should all live 20 minutes from the city.”

Me:  “What radio?”

Him:  “The one in my head.”

What 18 dollars can get you

26 Sep

The spouse and I just returned from this book sale extravaganza.  Today was the last day of the sale, so all items were $1.  That fits into our budget just right.  We spent $24 total, but $18 of it was the direct result of my purchases.  My expenditure might also be categorized as “the hefty 3/4ths.”  Luckily, the spouse did not see me swapping out the paperbacks for the hardbacks before “we” carried the loot back to the car.  Here’s what I got (history nerds unite!):

Leonard Mosley’s 1966 Hirohito:  Emperor of Japan.

Fosco Maraini’s 1956 Meeting with Japan.

C. Vann Woodward’s (a brief pause for our first historical crush) Origins of the New South, 1877-1913

Garry Wills’ Reagan’s America:  Innocents at Home (all I’m sayin’ is Casper Weinberger best not be on the ‘innocents’ list)

Margaret Truman’s Harry S. Truman (now I can stop taking it from the library)

Curt Gentry’s J. Edgar Hoover:  The Man and the Secrets (cue the melodramatic soundtrack, no doubt)

Eisenhower’s At Ease:  Stories I Tell to Friends (which should have the subtitle “but not to Stephen Ambrose, ’cause I didn’t really meet with him all those times that he said I did”)

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time:  Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt:  The Home Front in World War II

Martin Gilbert’s A History of the Twentieth Century, vol. 3 (all 1072 pages of it)

Barbara Tuchman’s Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945

Robert Jay Lifton’s Death in Life:  Survivors of Hiroshima (I might already have this, but it was only $1)

Robert S. McNamara’s In Retrospect:  The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (or, “sorry ’bout that war I told ya’ll we’d win”)

G. Edward White’s Earl Warren:  A Public Life

William Manchester’s American Caesar:  Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House

Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake:  The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

John Toland’s 1970 The Rising Sun:  The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diary:  The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941

Not too hard to figure out what I study, is it?  After typing this list, I see why making small talk has become increasingly difficult for me.  It is just so hard to work the atomic bomb and World War II into casual conversations.  Consider yourselves warned:  if I actually read these books, I’ll probably torment you with their minutia.

It’s your birthday, and I’ll get you what I want to.

3 Aug

Every year before my dad’s birthday, tension rose in our household.  This is how it went:  my mother planned (for a long time) what to get my father for his birthday.  Inevitably, days before his birthday, he’d go out and purchase whatever she’d gotten him for himself.  I say inevitably like it happened all the time.  It might have just been once, but it was memorable. (For her birthday and Christmas, which is the following month, she placed a cardboard box on his side of their walk-in closet.  Then, she filled it up with the gifts she wanted, he and I divided them between her birthday and Christmas, and she pretended to be surprised.  Her pretend surprise worked, because it took me years to catch on that my father had not purchased her all of the gifts.  Let’s hear it for the gullible only child.)  I never quite understood why my mom got so mad at my dad for ruining his own birthday gifts.  But now I get it.

The husband’s birthday is tomorrow.  I asked him what he wanted last week.  He thought for awhile and then said, “nothing big.  Anything is fine.”  Or at least, that is how I remember it.  So this afternoon, having learned from assembling our first anniversary gift to prepare in advance, I went shopping 24 hours ahead of schedule.  I got him some great gifts.

This evening, we took the dog on a walk by the river.  “What,” I asked, “do you want to do for your birthday?” (Retrospectively, this question was far too vague.  What I meant to say was this:  “Since tomorrow is your birthday and all, where would you like to celebrate for dinner?”)

The husband:  “Indoor skydiving.”

Me:  “WHAT?”

Him, smiling:  “Indoor skydiving.  I would like indoor skydiving for my birthday.  I just thought of it!”

Me:  “I’m returning your presents.  All of them.”

Him:  “What is the matter?”

Me:  “I meant where do you want to eat for dinner.”

Him:  “[Local Mexican restaurant].”

Me:  Grumpy silence.

Him:  “Is there a cut-off date for announcing presents I would like that I should know about?”

I’m getting him a cardboard box tomorrow for the run-up toward Christmas, though I’m not sure how one would fit indoor skydiving in it.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

3 Aug

Perhaps someone should have helped Bob with his song title punctuation.  Nevertheless, here are the top indicators that, despite being frequently mistaken for a college student, I no longer am one.

1.  I reference “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me” while teaching, as if it is something that all the cool kids know about.  As if, in fact, they listen to the radio.

2.  My daily grande non-fat, no-whip mocha has morphed into a twice weekly tall skinny vanilla latte.  I don’t even really like lattes.

3.  My pasta has gone whole grain and my burger buns have gone flat, thanks to Orowheat “Sandwich Thins.”

4.  Every time the announcer welcomes me to whatever radio station, playing the best of the oldies from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, that I’m listening to on my commute, I nearly veer off the road.  What happened to the oldies of the 50s, 60s, and 70s?  Was there something the matter with that?  Aren’t the 80s just right before the 90s, and can’t we all agree that that was practically yesterday?