Sunday, February 28, 2010

Surviving Winter

February has come to a close, and soon, so too will winter. I've lived in New England long enough to know that winter will most likely pack a few more punches before all is said and done, but I like to round the months up and pretend like things are going to get better...because they will. Before this season started, I told myself I just had to get through February. I can handle March. The days get longer, the temperatures hover around 40 degrees which feels warm compared to 20, and soon enough, the crocus' will shoot out of the thawing ground and that's when you know we're back in business.

There are a few things that helped me get through this first winter back east:

1. Preparation. As you might recall, was rushing around like a mad squirrel gathering things for the months ahead. We got sandbags and shovels, candles and batteries, gloves, scarves, boots and snow pants, dog coats and paw wax...and did we really need half that stuff? Probably not. Certainly not in September when I started gathering it all. But I can't help if I'm oddly calmed by unnecessary preparation.
2. Gummy Vitamin C. I'm serious. Vitafusion makes orange flavored adult gummy vitamin C you can get at places like Target. I never forget to take my vitamins when they taste like candy. Not only are these things delicious, but I'm pretty sure they have worked some kind of miracle on my immune system. I used to get every cold that people within a 10-foot radius of me had, and (knock on wood) I didn't get sick once this winter. Either drinking bacteria-filled water in California and Gloucester has made me immune to larger bacteria and viruses, or these little suckers work better than the H1N1 vaccine, and the bonus is that eating gummy vitamins is much more pleasant than getting a shot in the arm.
3. Efforts to Embrace Winter. I don't know if I'll ever fully embrace this time of year, but I can tolerate it. Having a dog helped get us outside for walks, and exercise helps the heart and mind. We also had a good time snow-shoeing and yak-tracking in Ravenswood Park. I even tried to be "happy" about shoveling snow because it was a chance to beef up my pathetic arm muscles.

It's the little things that help me get through winter.
It's not quite over and sometimes the home stretch can be the most painful because you know you're so close, but I'm just banking on the fact that we are close.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Art of Embellishment

Creative non-fiction is often what categorizes a memoir or a personal narrative. It's a story that is true (real people, real events), but told in a creative and interesting way. This is how I like to see the world. My family and friends say I like to exaggerate. I say I never exaggerate, only embellish.

As an example, there was one time my sister and I were making a nightly ice cream run to pick up a pint (make that two) of Ben & Jerry's. When we got to the freezer isle, we saw they were having a sale...Great! Until we realized that Ben & Jerry had been ransacked by girls who apparently had the same idea. We had had a system going: I'd get cookie dough; Eva would get half-baked. I spotted my flavor and grabbed it, but Eva was in distress...half-baked was no where to be found. She moaned, reaching both arms into the freezer, strewing useless pints of Ben & Jerry's across the shelves in her frantic quest for half-baked. To tell you the truth, I don't remember if she even found what she was looking for; all I remember is that she left the place in shambles. When we got home, Mom asked how our trip to the store went and I told her that Eva had been like a bear at a campsite. She laughed, but Eva was not amused by the description. Eva called me a lier and said that she had simply searched for her favorite flavor, slightly frustrated. But I had seen her...reaching her paws--I mean, arms--deep into the shelves of the freezer, leaving a path of destruction in her wake, and I swear when I yelled at her to stop making such a mess, she growled at me.
(photo by Jeffrey Brooker on

Unfortunately for people who find themselves around people who like to write, that's how we see things. I didn't just see my sister getting upset over ice cream
--I saw a grizzly bear hungry for half-baked. I can see how this might be slightly annoying. My sister isn't really a bear (though I have seen her attack boys at the jugular).

Sure, I could see and tell things exactly the way they happen...Eva couldn't find her ice cream. This upset her. But then I wouldn't be doing any creative justice to the event that transpired and I would have missed the opportunity to describe my sister in a more visually captivating way. I'm sure she'll thank me for it later.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Grocery Store Nostalgia

The grocery store in town was playing old songs (and by "old" I mean from the 90's) on the intercom last night, and as I scanned the isle for a good caesar dressing, I suddenly got very nostalgic for California. I think it was because the radio stations out there have a funny way of playing songs from my sister and I had a good time listening to songs we hadn't heard on the radio for over 10 years being played like they were new hits on the west coast. Grocery stores also make me nostalgic. I missed Albertson's. It was a little known fact that every isle in Albertson's grocery store contained at least one cute single guy doing his weekly shopping. A guy once asked if we would give his cute friend a birthday smooch. That stuff only happened at Albertson's. Then I started missing Henry's because they had really good dried apricots, and it's winter here, and I'm not eating enough fruit.I spent a few minutes on CamZone this morning watching tiny surfers glide into the Pacific waves. It's a selfish outlook, but I always feel weird knowing that a place goes on without me. I remember feeling the same way about Gloucester when I moved to California...I felt like the seasons must have stopped; all the people must have frozen in time. I'm reading "The Lovely Bones," and when Susie watches people on earth go about their lives from her perch in heaven, it reminds me of this. The world continues whether you move 3,000 miles away if you leave the planet for good.Even though it shouldn't be, it's strange to imagine the marine layer over La Jolla right now, pelicans flying over the pier, cute boys grocery shopping, buying the apricots I'm craving. We move in and out of places, changing ourselves and leaving little footprints where we were, and while these places don't freeze in time when we leave, memories of them freeze in our minds and have a funny way of surfacing. I blame winter. This is what happens. One second you're picking out hot pockets in the frozen food isle and the next your daydreaming about enjoying a cup of gelato in the sun.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Final Frontier

Many popular current movies are set in the uncharted territories of outer space; take recent blockbusters like Star Trek and Avatar (two movies Tommie and I saw this past weekend). While entertainment has explored the mysteries of outer space for years (Star Trek, of course, coming from the old T.V. series), it's becoming more and more true that space really is "the final frontier."

As each year passes on Earth, we push our depths of discovery further. Think about how thrilling it must have been for someone like Jacques Cousteau when he explored the depths of the ocean no one had yet ventured to. And now we can rent DVDs that show, in high definition, the ocean that many since Cousteau have ventured to film and study. While we make leaps and bounds with our discoveries here on Earth, our discoveries in space seem relatively slow in comparison because of how vast and dangerous it is. It's not that we aren't making progress--NASA has amazing photos to prove it--it's just that we know so little about what's on these countless other planets as opposed to all the information we have collected over the years about our own. When I think about it, it makes even the most mysterious places on Earth seem tame.

Sure, there is still a lot on Earth to study, but the more we uncover, the smaller and less mysterious our own planet becomes and so we turn to the great beyond. I'm still amazed by Earth's beauty and differences across the globe, but as I get older and spend more time traveling, and watching those HD movies, or seeing photos of just about every place imaginable on the Web...the more obvious it becomes that man has touched just about everything here. The age of discovery is winding down and soon enough astronauts will be the only people who get to stumble across anything for the first time.

(NASA, Hubble photo: Spiral galaxy about 100 million light years away.)