Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Idea of Ice Cream

This is a piece that was 86'd from my thesis. My mentor [hated]it, so I took it out. But, as I am completely blank this evening I will post it here with all of its uncomfortable metaphors, and with the knowledge that "it wasn't quite there yet." (But, I always kind of liked it the way it is).

Dear Children,

What I have to offer you is not real. I may say that we will get ice cream, but it is the idea of ice cream that you love. The sea green paint color of mint, the pink pearl of strawberry, the creamy drops of vanilla dotted with hints of chocolate chips, or better yet—the polka dots of M&Ms, their shellacked candy shells bleeding out into the stew of it. It is the idea of the ice cream that you love, which is why I do not bother to get you ice cream.
I will offer you many of these suggestions in the course of a day to keep excitement levels high and drive away boredom. Most of these carefully hinted at plans will never come to fruition, or if they do, like the trip to the library, the outing to the zoo, they are an utter disappointment. Someone assuredly falls on his or her head, or in the end does not have the perfect experience that the excursion promised in theory. It is the anticipation that makes the excitement. It is the idea of ice cream that makes it taste so good.
I wonder how old you will be when you start to recognize this behavior of mine as broken promises. These magical whims we have, where I take you to impossible places, and plant notions of glossy maraschinos and bananas drowning in chocolate sauce. When will the day arrive that you notice that there is no ice cream?
Last week was our first visit to the ice cream truck. It was a coincidence that we had four dollar bills at the same time. We were at the beach. The tinny, music box sound of Popsicle Joe was warning siren to all the children. The sound even I was condition to chase after at the first echo, clutching my coins and running after the truck if that’s what it took. I wanted that for both of you, too. So this time we got ice cream.
Son, I carried you on my hip. Daughter, you held my hand, and between our clammy, lake-pruned palms rests the money that we can barely spare. We walked to the back of the truck, music still blasting The Entertainer so loud the pitch is almost distorted (it is the idea of a song, the ostentatious projections, not the song itself that makes it exciting). Anna, you pointed at what looked best: a Drumstick. A dipped cone covered in peanuts. A classic. You get one for yourself, one for your little brother who is begging. I paid, received seventy-five cents change in frozen quarters.
We walked back to the beach towels and each of you ate off every piece of chocolate, sucked out the milkshake-like drops coming from the hole in the bottom of the cone, then someone suggests swimming. With the suggestion of jumping into the freezing, duck filled lake you both chuck your ice cream into the dirty ashtray ground of the public beach, racing to the water, flapping your puddle jumper and pink water wings. But, like the ice cream, it is the idea of swimming. As you shiver in the waves it is the idea of home, of the bath tub, of fuzzy sleepers, that you will protest. You will fight off home for as long as you can until I carry you away, and you are finally warm in your pajamas, snuggled on my lap the same way we do it every night, the way neither of us could end a day without.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't Judge Your Neighbors By The Dead Cars In Their Driveway

There are two houses next to ours that are for sale. One across the street, recently sold, however, I’ve yet to see a new neighbor appear. The house next door to ours has been on the market for a few months and we’ve heard that it has had zero offers.

We rent our house. It is the size of a very rich person’s closet. Things are falling apart. I mean literally, two Thanksgivings ago the kitchen ceiling caved in due to a leak in the roof. Half of the house is sinking so our door frame has sort of a strange tilt to it. I won’t even start about the raccoons that died underneath the house, or again, with the birds that have recently hatched in the attic.

But, that is our house. There’s nothing wrong with the houses around ours (that I can see). The one across the street was for sale for almost two years. They completely remodeled it before they moved out. Had trees cut down in the yard, replaced major appliances, etc. The same goes for the house next door, which is a little small but has a beautiful yard and the addition of new siding gave the house a revitalized “curb appeal.”

I’ve started to take things personally. There must be something wrong with us as neighbors. True, we aren’t much at landscaping. At different points in time the front yard could have a two foot tall blanket of dandelions covering not only the lawn and the “not lawn,” which I guess is where we would put beauty bark if we had such notions, but the dandelions also add a nice covering to our gravel driveway, leaving to strips where we pull the car in and out.

Speaking of cars, we had one sitting in the driveway for three years. It was a giant burgundy 1987 Oldsmobile with 57,000 miles on it, which we lovingly called “Big Pimpin’” for reasons that seemed very obvious when looking at the car. We inherited Big Pimpin’ from my grandparents at one of those difficult points in time between blowing up Subarus. Thing One had just been born and I was still a little worried about taking the bus everywhere with an infant. My grandma signed over the title to me for nothing more than the license fee, which was $25. It was a great car until the transmission blew up a few months later and it sat in our driveway untouched and turning green with moss until the day I finally donated it to the first people who would come and take it away for free.

We looked slightly less white trash after that. I’m sure all the neighbors applauded as they saw their property values visibly shifting upward, but then we decided to get a second car. My husband found a bright blue, 1976 Ford F-250. The same car he and his dad drove around in back on his farm. Not exactly ideal for the city, but it was in our price range, which was about as big as the space between the two numbers. The truck is pretty cool. It drives fast, it a novelty for the kids, who love to go outside and use it as their own personal jungle gym, but it is a little bit loud compared to our Prius and Mini-Cooper driving neighbors. Not to mention, the truck sometimes has troubles. . . and by troubles I mean it sounds like choking death, and then screeching and sputtering. All the sounds that cars make that cause a person to cringe. I can hear the truck from around the block as my husband drives home at night, and sometimes even when he turns the truck off it sounds like it just barely made it. Yet, it somehow keeps going.

I think about these two cars, added to the current green Subaru (Yes that color green. The original green that everyone in Seattle drives causing me to almost break into someone else’s car at least once a week), the Subaru with breaks that squeal like a piccolo when you back out of the driveway, and the serpentine belt that sounds like your squeezing a cat to death every time you turn the steering wheel; I think about these little additions to our falling apart cardboard fa├žade of a house, and wonder if maybe we aren’t the real reason why we don’t have any neighbors.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Five Dollars Worth of Helium Happy Birthday

As every person reading this probably knows, I turned 30 yesterday.

I did not go sing karaoke as I had planned for the last half of my 20’s. Nor did I make it to the park to play Frisbee, as I had planned since the last part of last week. I did not get to a coffee shop to sit and sulk, alone, as I had relished doing on my 29th birthday. I did not have an impromptu BBQ, given by my husband only to have him be reminded by our guests that it was my birthday (and I should say he has never forgotten since then). I did not make a tour of bars in Tacoma, ending in a colorful array of shots and a game of ping pong, as I had done on my 21st. I did not have a skating party at the Skate Deck, with the private party room that smelled of popcorn and shoe spray, as I had for my 8th birthday. It probably doesn’t count as a slumber party, since I am married and always share the bed, and rarely do we have pillow fights, so it was nothing like my 10th or 11th birthdays, either. I did not get my driver’s license, like at 16. I did not dress up and eat dinner at The Palisades or El Gaucho, like I did at 17 and 23. I didn’t have a brand new baby to take care of like I did for my 25th and 28th birthdays, respectively. It was probably a lot like my 18th or 20th birthdays, since I have no recollection of either of these significant years.

Perhaps yesterday will be memorable for several reasons, not the least of these being that I actually made it to 30. The Rapture contained itself, the world as we know it did not end in flames and damnation, and I got to finish out my 20s, thank you very much, God.

The second greatest moment was waking up to a giant balloon. Not just a mylar-helium Happy Birthday, this was the big one. My husband said that there was at least $5 worth of helium holding this up in the air. If I had been turning 3 instead of 30 I may have carried it around with me everywhere I went—for the rest of the week.

More exciting than the balloon, the bouquet of flowers, the subsequent mimosa after my husband finally woke up, was the excitement in my children’s faces and exclamations when they realized that it was my birthday. There was no need for me to get all worked up because both kids ran around the house jumping for joy, as if it were really the most fantastic holiday, better than Christmas. Each one wishing me Happy Birthday sporadically throughout the day, including hugs, and sometimes a song. There is no way karaoke can compare to a two-year-old singing you happy birthday, then helping you blow out your candles—twice (I relit them because I am a grown up and I am allowed to use a lighter if I want).

I began my day with a giant balloon, later rode the bus (for fun) to the UW Street Fair with my daughter, who was heartbroken when I tried to go to the library by myself and do some “work” on my special day. But, we ate kettle corn, had a slushie, some 17 year old kid in clown pants made us an awkward balloon creation, and we dodged weirdos together all afternoon. Who could ask for more than that?

Then my husband and Thing Two picked us up in the Subaru and we headed to my mom’s house for the most amazing dinner of Black Cod, my favorite roasted corn and avocado salad, clilantro lime rice, and a gluten free chocolate cake that my mother adorned with the traditional flaming 3-0. I drank wine, but not too much. Ate a lot of great food. Saw my family. Went home. Watched The Killing, (which, as a side note, I was slightly perturbed by the scenes of the Public Market, whereby the perpetrator is spotted at the bottom of the escalator in what looks like a mall, not the Pike Place Market I’m used to). It was an excellent birthday. When you plan nothing you will always be surprised.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bug Eyed Baby Bird Chorus

I know very little about birds: They lay eggs, they hatch. Birds fly around in the sky in various shapes, sizes, and flight patterns. Some birds hunt. Some pick worms out on the lawn. Some eat garbage. Each bird has its own distinct call.

There are a few things I have heard about birds, but don’t know if they are true: Once a baby bird is touched by a human it will be disowned. Birds go to sleep when it is dark. Crows can recognize and remember human faces. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

It was very early in the morning a couple weeks ago I heard the unmistakable scratch and peck of a bird’s talons and beak hard at work somewhere under the eaves and above my bedroom window. I have heard birds up there before, but this was continuous, and happening again the next morning, and the next. I didn’t think to cause a scene. I am not bothered by birds, nor do I have any particular affinity to them. I don’t have a bird feeder, although in the summertime there are enough fishy crackers thrown around the yard to attract more than a couple of crows. This bird above my window was much smaller, a benign species with nothing threatening about it. I caught a flutter of wing and tail as this bird disappeared into a hole somewhere above my car port and my bedroom, he seemed small enough.

And then the chorus began. Early. Dawn cracking early. I awoke to the peeps and squawks of a nest of freshly hatched chicks. All I could imagine as I rolled around in my bed at 5am was the vision of the nest right above my head with a hand full of tiny baby birds, all fuzzy and disgusting, their eyes bugging out, their red beaks stuck open, and wide enough so that you can actually see inside to their guts, as if they were opened like a little coin purse. And they cry. All morning and afternoon crying in spurts, just like a human baby. I hear them up there when I am putting away laundry, and have this same vision, the birdie gullet waiting for the regurgitated worm.

I am annoyed, but in more of a way like I have a loud tenant living in the apartment above me. I haven’t resorted to banging on the ceiling with a broom handle just yet, as if this might really give those birds something to think about. I just hear them and thank the heavens that they will at least be quiet all the way through the night, which is more than my babies could do at that age. I have considered naming them, but in order for that to happen I have to actually go into the attic and witness this blessed brood in their nest, count heads, and then decide if I want boys or girls. But I won’t, because, as my kids have reassured me, only Dads go into the attic. I’m off the hook.

Thing One seems rather excited that we have baby birds. When she and I sit on my bed at night to read a story we can hear them. Every day the sound gets much closer to a scream than the high frequency peep one would imagine a baby bird to make. I think that the picture Thing One has in her head about these tiny birds is much different from mine. Most likely they are some incredible shade of purple, they are perfectly proportioned and symmetrical, and in every way exactly like those birds that fly in and wake up Cinderella in the Disney movie, complete with bed making and improvised showering skills.

It has been almost a week now. My husband is confident that, at some point, the birds will learn to fly out. The next day he also mentioned he that he should go up there and “do something about those birds.” So, I’m not really sure if this is a temporary residence for the flock, or if we are going to have to share the mailbox with the new upstairs neighbors. I am hoping for the former. This little house is pretty crowded as it is.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Despite the Cracks, There Will Be Flowers

Here are some happy thoughts for the day:

The sun was out.

It was Margarita:30 around dinnertime, and I managed to finish one before I had to flee the Mexican restaurant with my rambunctious 2-year-old.

My mother bought flowers for me, and I planted them in pots to decorate my back patio; the patio with the giant weed-filled crack running diagonally across; the patio that is usually overrun with tiny plastic replicas of cars, naked and dead Barbie dolls, buckets of various shapes, sizes, colors, and in various stages of disintegration; the patio with the green plastic chairs that were given to us the week we moved in by the Peterson’s across the street as they moved out, and into a retirement home. The chairs each have three holes drilled in the seat, probably by Mr. Peterson himself back in the early 90’s, and some of them have the armrests glued back on with some kind of mismatched brown putty.

The flowers add a certain element to this backyard scene. Today we planted my fiberglass decoratives with purple Petunias, white Lobelia Regatta (which I learned this afternoon means hanging, as opposed to upright), and right in the middle I placed a giant yellow Snapdragon because they are my favorite. I am also partial to Dahlias of any sort because they remind me of a psychedelic, medieval mace, the spiked petals forming a perfect sphere at the top of their long stalks. I like the red ones. If I am lucky some from last year will sprout up, but I am almost certain I saw a squirrel make off with the bulbs sometime last fall.

It is an amazing feat, bringing the back yard to life after the winter. The lawn is still filled with deep divots from the year we had a giant poplar tree cut down. Each time the chainsaw finished a section it would drop down on to the soggy November lawn leaving little reminders. As if we could forget the tallest tree in the neighborhood; the tree that shot branches off like spears every time the wind blew, sometimes sticking so far into the ground and so perfectly straight they could be mistaken for new growth. The stump is still there, as are a few large cross sections that were too big to hack to bits with the axe. All of this rests in a pile that is covered with 4 years of giant zombie weeds that die and come back to life, bigger every year. It has become its own special garden that needs no tending, and every once in a while we offer up gifts to the stump gods in the form of a rotten potato or some half eaten sandwiches. Most of the rest of that enormous poplar tree has been burned in the backyard fire pit, on some of those summer nights I remember from the past when my pots were planted and full, and the patio seemed inviting despite the crack, the toys, the chairs that could fall apart at any moment. Despite, despite.

My mother-in-law is somewhat of a master gardener. As a teacher she has unlimited amounts of time in the summer to tend her flowers, and her gardens are indescriblably beautiful and inviting. If I could sit outside on her patio all summer long with a book in one hand, celebrating Margarita:30 in the other it would be heaven. My pots this afternoon look a little like a kid’s crayon drawing compared to her Monet, but there is something about the garden that makes everything seem nice, contemplative—comfortable.

So each one of my black pots has a circle of flowers now that have yet to reach their potential, but I’m sure it’s going to be good, assuming I remember to water them, and in hopes that Thing Two doesn’t decide to pick off every leaf and petal, presenting them to me as “gifts.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm Not A Hoarder, I'm Just Really Tired All The Time

I am running out of topics off hand. I would like to say that every day is inspiring, but it is not true, and any person who has a mostly new and inspiring day every day is probably making things up—which is its own skill entirely.

Luckily, I have been saving a small list of topics for just this occasion, least of all those topics being THE SUN IS OUT! And Why are things better in a tent? But I did not choose either one of those today. If anyone would like to chime in on why things are better in a tent, I am open to interpretations.

What I am really struggling with this evening, looking at the infinite amounts of birthday gifts my children have strewn about the living room, is why can’t I organize anything—ever.

In my house there are piles of clothes everywhere. The closet in reserved for all the clothes I never wear, but can’t seem to part with, no matter what size. The Coca Cola t-shirt I wore every other day from eighth grade until I graduated from college, hangs there, thread bare and unseen for years. I can’t wear the shirt anymore because it is virtually translucent, but I remember how cool I thought it was, wearing the Coke shirt before they came into fashion and they started selling them at Target. I pretty sure there is a suit in there that is a size four (A size I don't believe I ever was). My dad bought it for me in high school when I joined the Youth Legislature for one whole session. I’m not entirely sure whether I joined to get the suit, or to go on the extended over night field trip to Olympia, but I am positive it was not because I was at all interested in politics. There are also 75 pairs of shoes. 45 are heels I probably have nothing to wear with, 30 are a mismatched assortment of boots, slippers, decrepit flip flops, and 3 generations of running shoes.

If it is at all possible to describe my desk, it would have to be that it is not a functional desk like someone would have who has lofty goals of getting work done at home, or keeping a functioning filing system of important papers, receipts, ledgers of such financial importance that I wouldn’t even understand it if I did have investments (I have a sordid relationship with math). The moment I go through my piles, clear off enough space for my computer, dust off the picture of my husband and me that I placed with good intentions next to the desk lamp, that is the moment that the clean space becomes a free for all for any junk that looks like it may be “important”. Sometimes I like to save important mail because it makes me feel better, like I may need it someday, but I know that I will never look at it again until the next time I steam roller it from my desk into a garbage bag.

We have a wealth of extra appliances, gadgets, several sets of dishes, pots, frying pans, spatulas all stashed throughout the kitchen. Sometimes I wonder where to put the actual food. Never rmind about my collection of canned soup that we will never eat unless the apocalypse comes next week. My husband does his best to keep the kitchen clean, and if it weren’t for me having to feed my kids three or twenty times a day, and then not having the energy to clean it all up, the kitchen would likely stay that way.
I am not a hoarder, although I read an interesting essay this afternoon that made me question such things. I keep discarding crap. I have little attachment these days to the stuff of years gone by. It is the children I must blame for this, some day they will curse me right back, I am sure, but tonight I can say that I am so tired of toys, and the more tired I am, the less I can do.

This evening when I asked Thing One why she didn’t like to play in her room she said, “Because there are too many toys in there.” Obviously. I immediately got out three garbage bags: one for forgotten toys, one for outgrown clothing, and one for actual garbage. I made it through two toy drawers, packed all the bags with their respective fillings, and still there was so much more. When one thinks of Spring cleaning a house it doesn’t even begin to cover ours.

I need to put myself on the three week plan, get it all out of here. I have to find the extra time in the day to do all of this cleaning that seems so important, but where is that time? Is that the time that I use to read for school? Is it the time I spend wrangling my kids through the grocery store? Certainly not the time that I’m at work, that is its own special time. Perhaps it’s right now, while I am sitting in my chair (not at a desk) whisking away all the complaints I can think of about my own mess, and sharing them with the entire world. This would probably be the only time I can think of.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Three Dreadlocks and the Detangling Spray

It was my weekly (or bi-weekly) day to brush Thing One’s hair. She has that long, fine, golden little girl hair that curls at the ends like the ribbon on a birthday present. It is also sticky as spider’s web and every night she goes to sleep and magically wakes up with three long dreadlocks on the back of her head.

When this weekly brushing occurs, my daughter immediately runs—and screams. I make my token groaning sound and stomp around the house looking for both brush and detangler, which are inevitably in two different places; one of those places usually ends up being the kitchen floor for some reason. We then sit together on the floor and I start with the little blonde threads at the bottom, working the bristles on the brush up toward the really nasty tangles. There is a running commentary of “Ouch! Mom, you are moving my head!” Which is her weird way of saying that I am pulling her hair. I then respond with, “If you would just let me brush your hair every day it wouldn’t get this bad!” followed by “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m almost done.” But I’m never “almost” done. Combing Thing One’s hair is like unknitting a sweater. There is no meter to gauge which one of us hates this task more.

What never occurred to me before Thing One started preschool was that other mothers don’t endure the torture that is the detangling of kid hair. The other girls in Thing One’s class all have adorable little bobs, or hair that is just long enough to make a cute pony tail, but not long enough to strangle her while sleeping. These girls have smarter mothers than Thing One. They take their kids in for haircuts at regular intervals.

My daughter’s first haircut was this year, at age four and a half. Her first professional haircut, anyway. When she was two and her curls were just becoming a little more than fuzz and branching out below her neckline she had her very first tangle. It was one of those terrible knots that becomes a little ball, not even the finest pick comb can get through it. I had no patience to sit and whittle away at the knot, and she would have never let me, so I snipped it out, pruned it like a stray vine. Later that year when her hair started to look less like baby down and more like a little kid’s messy frizz, I could see the spot on the back of her head where some of the hair was much shorter than the rest.

For a long time Thing One didn’t want a haircut because she was certain that it would hurt. Not just hurt like brushing, but she was under the impression that cutting her hair would be the same as cutting off her pinky toe. We never discussed the logistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had thought that a hair cut involved bleeding. I finally convinced her after four years to let me give her a little trim at home—not my specialty, as I mentioned—but her hair had grown well past her tiny shoulder blades, and the curls at the bottom made her hair look uneven anyway. I cut off an inch and she looked exactly the same.

Every time I brush her hair now and she cries and cries, I always offer up the haircut as an option. I would be happy to get the hair cut off, I would be happy to not go through the awful brushing routine, making her so unhappy. But she always says no, and I always think to myself: You would never cut all her hair off. First, because her hair is beautiful, she my beautiful little ladybug; second, I’m too lazy and too cheap to get an appointment at a salon. I haven’t even had my own hair cut for almost two years.

So, this process of waiting and waiting until the dreadlocks are so fat I can hardly find a strand to start with will continue, and I will pull and pick at all the tangles; she will cry. Eventually she will grow up, and perhaps someday she will have a daughter of her own to comb through. She will endure the torture because she will remember how her mother used to do this to her when she was little, just the way mine did to me. And someday she will cut it off and miss how long her hair used to be, not realizing just how long it takes to grow back.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Favorite Text Conversation Ever

On my way home from seeing David Sedaris last night I texted my mother, who was babysitting, and here is what the conversation looked like on my iPhone:

Me: On our way home. Have you been watching the news?

Mom: No. Watching movie. What’s going on?
You need milk.

Me: We’ll get some. Osama Bin Laden was
killed by the US. Big News.

Mom: Wow. Great news.

Me: We’ll be home after we get milk.

Mom: Ok. Still watching movie.


(Sorry Mom, it was too funny. I had to share. . .)

I Could Almost See David Sedaris at Benaroya Hall

David Sedaris gave a reading at Benaroya Hall here in Seattle last night. I was sitting in the third row from the ceiling, in front of the lady with the loud chortle and inappropriate candy wrapper crinkling, and next to my husband and some of our closest friends. Down, down, down, at the tiny podium on the stage stood Mr. Sedaris, from my vantage point a mere man shaped spot in the middle of the blonde, blank wood flooring. If I leaned my head one way or the other I could almost make out the person toward the edge of the stage translating the pieces in sign language, but more frequently than a person would think at an expensive show at a concert hall, the people in that row would get up and squeeze past each other, knocking knees and saying excuse me, adding a comic shadow puppet element to my viewing experience. But one doesn’t go to see David Sedaris, one goes for the listening experience, in hopes that he will give just a little peek at something never before seen, or perhaps a revision of an old favorite. On all these points he succeeded to impress me.

Something that I found very humbling about the performance came toward the end during the question and answer section. Mr. Sedaris had just finished talking about one of his favorite Tobias Wolff books, The Barracks Thief, a book about a small group of guys about to be shipped out to Vietnam. He commented on the slender page count (100 total) and how, although it may be fairly short, still counts as reading an entire book, and is thereby impressive. A woman down in the pit of somewhere below, asked a question I couldn’t quite hear, except she said the word “spare.” I think maybe she was asking why all the books Sedaris recommends or loves are quite “spare,” and it was unclear to both Sedaris and to me at that moment whether she meant precise, succinct prose, or if she was referring to the shortness of page numbers. In the end it didn’t matter because his answer was somewhere in the realm of: I don’t like to torture myself with wordy, lengthy, boring things just I am supposed to think it is amazing. This is, of course, my crude interpretation, but I felt like he had suddenly given me permission to stop feeling guilty about not reading and loving (or even understanding) ancient classical literature, or even just the books that use more words than I have the patience to pay attention to. This doesn’t exactly speak well for me as an intellectual, but there is a certain amount of input a person must do for his or her craft, but that doesn’t mean this exentive "learning" isn’t sometimes torturous. I like that he gave me permission to feel that way, because I already did.

Having finished my nice little book that counts as my master’s thesis, I now have a small body of work that will go out into the world in a very small way, but it is significant to me because I can now say that I am a grown up writer. What I choose to do with that self proclamation will define whether this is true. Listening to Sedaris go through his essays, causing the audience to snort and gafaw at moments, and at other moments let out audible “awww” sounds. He was funny, as expected. His pieces had depth, interesting narrative. I envy the way he uses dialogue because I can never recreate a conversation and make it mean something. I was also acutely aware, for the first time, of the way each one of his essays was structured. I could tell certain points that were rough. I could hear places where I would have made changes. It was an awful feeling, and it was amazing. It was like listening to someone play a symphony and be able to see the notation in my head. It was like holding a slab of raw meat in my hand and knowing that it weighs exactly three quarters of a pound. It wasn’t as if I was right about any of the running commentary in my head, the idea was merely that I could have an opinion about the writing on that level at all which impressed me.

After that moment of reckoning in the theater, enjoying Sedaris reading hilarious pages from his diary, I realized that I still have a very long way to go.