Friday, February 16, 2007

This Post Made Possible by Katie P.

Not long before I moved, A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers alerted me to a news story in which a young woman somehow managed to fall behind a bookcase and die and not be found for two solid weeks, even though she lived with her family. At the time I squawked at A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers because that is not a story you want to hear when you’re about to move away from the safety of home. (Not that the safety of home did that unfortunate lady any good, but it could have been worse. If she’d been living alone, she could have been behind that bookcase for years.) A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers insisted that there must have been something strange going on behind the scenes of that story because nobody could possibly be stupid enough to get stuck behind a bookcase and die there, and even if they did, nobody could possibly be stupid enough not to notice that there was, you know, this funny smell in the house.

That may be true. I hope for the sake of the human race that that is true.

Nevertheless, just as I suspected, that story was exactly what I thought of as I undertook to rearrange my living room by myself one evening. I thought, “This is a very bad idea. This bookcase is going to fall on me and even though it is empty it is going to crush me and I am going to die and that message that Harry leaves on Sally’s answering machine is going to take on new meaning for everyone who knows me and I will be responsible for ruining one of the best parts of that movie and therefore I should not be doing this.”

But I did anyway, and look how pretty!

The arrangement may not be in strict accordance with feng shui, but I didn’t die doing it, so I count it as a success. By these standards I have also succeeded in hanging curtain rods and using a gas stove. One of the curtain rods is hanging by half its screws, and I did have a lot of trouble baking that one stubborn yam, but I neither fell out the window nor blew myself up, which means victory is mine. Taking this paradigm of success to its natural end, I must conclude that my life has been one triumph after another since I was born. There is still a possibility that I will die trying to get my armchair up the stairs and through the door, but, happily, that possibility has been forestalled by the fact that the chair probably will never arrive. It is so delayed that it is now practically mythical. I’ve been complaining about this a lot but it might turn out to have been a close call.

Speaking of chairs: Yes, those are camping chairs in my living room. They are not comfortable in the least but the cupholders do double nicely as remote control holders. However, since it appears that Turner Classic Movies is (inexplicably) not considered a major television network, and anyway the rabbit ears get reception about as effectively as the plastic Viking longboat on top of the TV, the chairs and the TV are really just for show. My stereo does not get radio reception terribly well either, and my computer is not hooked up to the Internet yet, so the real center of the technological action in my apartment is . . . my ugly old clock radio, which travels frequently between my bedroom and the kitchen counter, which location it seems to like very much.

The clock radio is about sixteen years old. It gets the best reception of any radio I’ve ever had. It is quickly becoming one of my most prized possessions, partly because of its reliability, and partly because there is very little chance I could get stuck behind it and die. The single drawback is that on account of listening to at least six hours of NPR every day, I am very well-informed in the area of current events, and it is getting harder and harder not to give in to the urge to take refuge under my bed. This will not save me from North Korea’s nuclear weapons, or the results of global warming, or even the early lunacies of the 2008 presidential election, but it will be nice and cosy-warm until one of these three things brings about the end of the world. That, or my bed crushes me and I die.

These cheerful thoughts are brought to you through the kind generosity of Katie P., who has made made the first ever technological donation to the Simon and Ivan blog in the interest of at least one hedgehog posting something between mid-January and the end of the world (which, as we have seen, is coming right up). Katie P., a loyal and appreciative reader, stepped in to save the day with an adorable wee flash drive. Since the Internet will not come to me, I must take my posts to it, and this makes it a lot easier. Thanks, Katie P.! You are a true friend to hedgehogs everywhere, which is why when I get fired for posting at work, it is on your doorstep that I will show up. Don’t worry, though. I will bring my clock radio.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In Which the Vikings Relocate to a Room with a View and are Promptly Seduced to a Life of Crime

Due to overcrowding at home, the Vikings were recently forced to go a-viking and to pillage a new place to live. After spending many Sunday afternoons on the internet, and many Saturday afternoons looking at squalid hovels that by virtue of having brown shag carpeting and a curious odor did not recommend themselves, the Vikings at last came upon clean and humble living quarters that they all agreed were very pillageable, although in the end they did not so much pillage these living quarters as agree to pay rent for them. These days spears, berserkers, and heroic boasts hardly get you a candy bar, much less a homestead, so devalued has Viking currency become since the good times way back in the 830s AD.

The eminently habitable hovel is conveniently located at the four corners of town, allowing the Vikings to keep a finger on the pulsing nightlife of the village that never sleeps. (The laundromat, at least, seems to be open until all the way til nine.) There are so few sets of four corners in this town that when you say “the four corners” everybody knows what you mean. The Four Corners I refer to is lucky enough to be one of only two intersections that merit traffic lights, so you can see the Vikings are very fortunate to be so centrally located, even if this is the next-to-last town before civilization ends and corn starts. The corn does not stop until Pennsylvania. It may not even stop in Pennsylvania, but that is the point at which the Vikings usually fall asleep in the car.

The view out the Vikings’ best window effectively demonstrates to what degree this town truly is full of clamor and commotion. Thank goodness for those traffic lights or this intersection would be a nightmare.

That was a picture of the village on a Sunday at dusk. Here is a picture of the village during a nuclear winter:

In case you were wondering how it would look.

The view from the kitchen is also rather good:

Few things are more cheering than having a bookshop in sight at all times. The yellow sign says OPEN. How comforting.

Incidentally, it has been suggested by several people that the Vikings quit their job and engage in full-time reconnaissance, or, to speak plainly, spying. Although the crimes and injustices in a small town are usually invisible, stupidity is very often public. For example: it doesn’t matter how much snow has fallen recently; if the roads have been plowed, you aren’t going to get far down Main Street on your snowmobile. Or, if you are going to make a scene in a bar, don’t do it in a bar that is visible from the fire station, where the police like to park. Or, if you don’t want to have to drag your child’s exhausted carcass home in a sled, do not make the unfortunate creature walk across town to play in the snow. Or, if you are all going to roam the streets drunkenly singing an eighties ballad at four o’clock in the morning, at least pick one to which you know the lyrics.

There is certainly money to be made, or as some might call it, extorted, from what you might see out the Vikings’ windows, and goodness knows that without cable or the internet, there is not much else to watch, but unfortunately the Vikings are really just not that nosy. They also feel it would be unethical to misuse the advantage one has gained simply by virtue of happening to live in a place from which one can see the entire town. However, if it looked like they could actually make a living from blackmail, they might entertain the idea of negotiations. After all, it’s as easy to see in as out, and if people never look up, who can they blame but themselves for their underdeveloped sense of entrepeneurialism?

Life in the big city can really corrode a Viking’s innocent soul.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Side Effects of Bibliophilia

Acceptable reasons for moving away from home:

1) Extensive shelving no longer accomodates personal library

Otherwise, to move out of a place with fresh carpeting, a newly redone bathroom, heat, cable, internet, excellent catering, and a faithful canine companion would be folly. Jobs, spouses, education, ill health, witness protection – these alone are not good enough reasons to take up the arduous and inconceivably dusty task of packing, loading, transporting, unloading, unpacking, arranging, rearranging, and inevitably re-rearranging all of your earthly possessions.

I was not even halfway through this process when I began to think much better of the dowry chest concept. Then I began to admire Jack’s alter ego for blowing up his apartment. And I began to make mental notes on childrearing: do not under any circumstances encourage your child to frequent flea markets and buy forty-eight million gallons’-worth of pretty glass bottles of CALIFORNIA FIG SYRUP and PARISIAN SAGE HAIR TONIC and KILMER’S SWAMP ROOT KIDNEY LIVER AND BLADDER REMEDY. They look like pretty glass bottles, but here is what they really are: pretty glass shackles. Impossible to part with, but almost prohibitively risky to move. Such fragile objects are the enemy of the nomad, the pilgrim, the wayfarer. So is a personal library, come to that, but it can also be a stimulus to movement if the following conditions occur simultaneously:

1) You are a compulsive patron of the local used book store
2) You work at a publishing company and get damaged books for free
3) You like to own multiple translations in case one is unreliable
4) Your house is full of enablers
5) Your shelves are already full
6) You worked in the campus library for three years and know too much about damage inflicted by improper book storage
7) You are pretentous and refer to your books as your “personal library” and can’t bear to see them crammed into shelves, stifled, unable to “breathe”

So I moved.

But then I couldn’t afford the necessary forty feet of shelving.

Stacking books behind books on the paltry few shelves I could afford, I made a mental note to raise my children not only without bottle collections but also in an impenetrable nest of illiteracy so they would not know this pain.