Friday, February 27, 2009

25 Things About Me, Finally

This is basically just for Jeremiah, because I promised to blog more, and I promised to do this meme for him. So, Jeremiah, I hope you enjoy it. And if you're not Jeremiah, be prepared to be not so surprised by some of these revelations.

1. I have many deeply ingrained food phobias. American cheese makes me nervous (it feels like it's suffocating my tongue), I don't trust cold cuts (they glisten strange colors), Mayonnaise terrifies me (no explanation needed here).

2. I am secretly a very competitive person. While I can playfully resign myself to losing in situations where winning is completely beyond my grasp, I generally avoid doing anything I'm not good at. I don't have to be the best (although I prefer it), but I really need to feel like I'm better than most to feel content.

3. This shortcoming makes it very hard for me to get better at things I'm not immediately good at. This is what happened to sports (not that I had much inclination in that direction), acting, and I'm worried it's what's happening to writing too. Which is why I'm trying to blog and journal more. Although with quite mixed results.

4. I have one tradition I've pretty well adapted: I write down when and where I start my books, and when and where I finish them. I stole this trick from my brother, he started doing it while he was traveling around Scotland, and then never stopped. I love doing it. I love doing it so much that sometimes I make a point of starting and finishing books in interesting places, so that when I look back at them I'll have something more compelling to read.

5. I am trying to make traditions for myself. There are small ones, like writing in my journal every day and writing down all the books I read in a month. But then there are more ornate ones, such as: I want to be able to read "The Dead" by James Joyce to celebrate the first snow of every year.

6. Even though "The Dead" by James Joyce is one of my favorite pieces of writing ever, I've never finished reading the other short stories in Dubliners, nor have I ever read anything else by Joyce. But damned if "The Dead" doesn't just break my heart every time.

7. I have an odd fascination with names. I think it comes from being the fourth living Margaret on my mom's side of the family-- Nana, mother, cousin then me. All the good nicknames had been claimed, and so I've always been a fiendish nicknamer, and now as a grown-up a frequent baby-naming sites collecting delicious options. Eleanor, Beatrice. Jasper, Owen. They just call to me.

8. Even so though, I really like family names if they're done right. I really love my name, and I love that I'm Margaret the Second because my mom, the feminist, didn't want me to think girls weren't important enough to get a family name. I love the family names on my dad's side, that alternate between Robert Bayard Willison and Frank Armstrong Willison all the way back to before the Civil War. But I don't think my kids will have family names.

9. Unless I become a single mother, and give birth to a son, in which case I'm naming him Obadiah, after my very first documented American relative: Obadiah Willison, who fought in the Cumberland, Virginia militia in the Revolutionary War. In this version of my life, I'm moving to some small town in New England, turning my entire house into a used bookstore called Bleak House Books, and becoming the domineering and dynamic maternal figure in a yet-to-be-written John Irving novel. Because Obadiah Willison is clearly the protagonist of a John Irving novel.

10. One last point about names (I wasn't kidding about being obsessed with them): I'm only a
Margaret by chance. If things had worked out a little differently, my parents would have named me Grace.

11. Although my dad liked to kid that I would have been named Purity Supreme, after the supermarkets, if he'd had his way.

12. I'm oddly superstitious. I don't know where it comes from, but you can see it above in my asterixed ifs (don't jinx it, don't jinx it). I think I go through life knowing that I've been given an undue amount of luck. I worry if I don't take care, and tiptoe around a bit, someone in the world will figure it out, and make things even again. Like I've been given the wrong change, and want to leave the store unobtrusively so no one thinks too carefully about things.

13. I like it when hotels don't have 13th floors. It seems quaint, and old fashioned.

14. It breaks my heart to know that, except for Marie Harb, none of the people I'm good friends with now ever really knew my father. It's just so strange and disorienting. Some of them might not even know his name, because it's so hard for me to talk about him. This strange anomynity he's acquired is one of the most tangible, and therefore painful, ways his death has manifested itself. He's known more by his absence from my life than his actions in it.

15. This list has turned out a lot more maudlin than I would have anticipated. Maybe it's because I'm writing it while watching Oliver Twist on PBS?

16. Despite being a complete vocabulary snob, I am a rotten speller and know little beyond intuitive grammar-- much to Kerry Mullin's eternal chagrin.

17. I will, however, always know the difference between "it's" (contraction for it is) and "its" (possessive pronoun), because getting them confused was my father's pet peeve, and what little grammar I know I learned from him. I would write out all my papers long-hand, and he would type them, and then together we would sit and edit them. And so I can tell it's from its.

18. Even though he beats me by like a million points every time, I still play at least one game of Scrabble with Jeremiah Graves every Saturday. Because that's how addicted I am to Scrabble.

19. I have a poisonous relationship with my snooze button. I tend to set my cell phone alarm to start going off about two hours before I want to get up, and then reset it thus: first, I give myself an extra hour. Then when that hour is up, I give myself another 1/2 hour. And then, when that alarm goes off, I switch over to the plain old snooze feature, and hit it three times, with 10 minutes between each alarm. And then, sometimes, I finally get up.

20. Sometimes, when I think about it, I worry habits like this will make me absolutely impossible to live with if I ever acquire a live-in boyfriend or spouse.

21. That is, when I'm not worrying if I'll ever have a live-in boyfriend or spouse or whether marriage is really a viable institution in the first place. Which are all things I spend a stupid amount of time worrying about.

22. I would be extremely easy to disable in a fight to the death. Not only do I have weak ankles, but I only have one mostly good eye (my left one) and its easy to pick out, because it correalates with the scar I have above my left eye brow, from when I knocked my desk over in seventh grade Pre-Algebra class and had to get stitches.

23. Which is the only time I've ever had to get stitches and the only time I can remember going to the emergency room. I went once before, when I was too small to remember, because I fell out of my stroller trying to reach for a container of yogurt. Other than that though, I am accident free and broken boneless.

24. I do, however, have a predeliction for getting terrible, terrible cough that last forever. In a Victorian novel, this would mean I have consumption, and probably result in a tragic early termination to whatever passionate and ellicit love affair I was obviously conducting at the time. In real life, it just means that for weeks on end, I'll cough so hard I get dizzy, and go to bed with aching stomach muscles.

25. It took me over 3 weeks to write this list, and that's if you don't count the length of time between when I was tagged, and when I finally started. And even so, I think it's probably pretty trite.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Charlie Taft, Kindred Spirit

I found this tiny gem of a factoid in a story about the craze surrounding the (admittedly adorable) Sasha and Malia Obama. It starts with the girls, then goes on to discuss first children generally, and it ended (brilliantly) here, with Charlie Taft:

And on a much lighter note, Anthony recalls that Charlie Taft, also 11, “was not at all impressed” as his father, William Howard Taft, took the oath of office in 1909: “He was entirely engrossed in reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, ’Treasure Island.”’ - First Sisters Likely to Enthrall US Public, AP

Awesome, Charlie. Awesome. I wish I had a way back machine so I could go back in time and marry you.