posts tagged with 'complaining'
A few days out from the official start of fall, it seems like everyone in our neighborhood—everyone but us—has potted chrysanthemums adorning their front porches. Lot of them! Like they must have been on sale somewhere. Since I'm a contrary old cuss, I have some thoughts.
Now don't get me wrong, mums are lovely. We have a few in our garden, and I love the half-wild ones along the side of the bike path. They're a great sign of early fall; it's so wonderful to see flowers starting to bloom just as most of the others are fading away. The coppery and deep red ones in particular are great fall colors too. But!
Never mind how sad I find it when people buy perennials in pots—daffodils or tulips or easter lillies or mums—and then toss them when their "season" is over. That's their prerogative, and if I don't like it I can just grab the cast-off plants to put in the ground myself (I have, too!). But when you have these plants, forced and trimmed to within an inch of their lives, signifying fall... it just doesn't make sense! They're all greenhouse-grown; they could just have well been forced for any other time of year. And worse, the same way you get mums you could just as well have, oh, I don't know, petunias! That is to say, there's no horticultural reason for people to be buying mums—they're just doing it because that's what one does in the fall.
It's like the plastic pumpkins that have started to move from basements to front lawns over the past couple weeks. Why are pumpkins a sign of fall? Because they don't ripen until well into the fall, when everything else is dying. So it maybe doesn't make so much sense to put them out in early September when the sweet corn and summer squash and tomatoes are still going strong. There's nothing wrong with early pumpkins—either plastic or genuine—but their connection with the season is artificial and so less meaningful and interesting.
And that's true of so many things. We celebrate the turning seasons, but we're completely insulated from any real affects as they change. Our homes are heated and cooled to the same temperature all year round; our jobs are completely season- and weather-independent; we can eat watermelon and peas and raspberries all year round. So I guess it makes sense that we need to resort to artificial means to bring back some sense of seasonality. For sure, I agree that seasons are great! And to appreciate them even more, I suggest some slightly more intensive gardening: toss those potted mums into a hole and water them a little until it freezes, and they'll come back next year—at just the right time to celebrate the fall!
A: Whenever the #&*% they want!
Alas, my sensible answer isn't the one proposed by Chief John Bryfonski and the Bedford Police Department. As the article I linked above explains, they want to keep kids safe this Halloween; and apparently the safest hours are between 6 and 8. Or something. I'm sure it's not any reflexive desire for control on their part.
If Halloween is dangerous at all it's because of drivers being idiots (I almost wrote, "because of cars"... but it's the drivers who are the problem). It seems to me that holding an alternate activity in a parking lot isn't the best was of avoiding that hazard; I suppose they must close part of it to make room for the kiddies. I hope so! At "Trunk-or-Treat" representatives of local businesses give out candy from the trunks of their cars, because taking candy from strangers—strangers representing corporations, natch!—is such a better idea than getting to know your neighbors.
At least local businesses would never poison the candy (or I should say they wouldn't add additional poison... I've tried Laffy Taffy). Your neighbors trying to kill you is what the police chief is worried about when he suggests we should "[e]xamine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before you eat them.... Eat only factory-wrapped candy. Avoid eating homemade treats offered by strangers." Never mind no one has been poisoned or injured by any Halloween treat, ever (well, except that kid who was poisoned by his dad); it's important to make people aware of made-up threats so they'll... be more attuned to real threats later? Feel like the police dept is a worthwhile expense on the town budget? Watch more news reports? I confess I have no idea. It might just be that none of us has any idea what's going on in the world these days and why everything feels out of control, and mythical dangers are something we can wrap our heads around.
Now if you're so inclined, there are plenty of reasons to hate Halloween. We tried it for a little while! (We backed off pretty quick, because of costumes. Who can resist this little mouse?! Or these monkeys?! You prefer kings? Pirates?)
But please, don't pretend to love the holiday and then do all you can to stifle its proper observation.
We're going to be doing Halloween this year. As of the moment Harvey and Zion have their costumes planned (though plans can change—and have more than once already) and we fully intend to make homemade treats, like we do. And we'll be trick-or-treating, of course. Probably around 6:00, too.. but not cause they told us to! That's just when we finish dinner.
The boys and I walked up to the library late this afternoon, and back after dark. Well, Harvey and I walked; after the first twenty or thirty steps Zion rode in the stroller, wrapped up in blankets and a towel against the damp. It was a pleasant wintery evening: warmer that it has been, though damp and raw, and with a fine snowfall sparkling in the air. We sang "Winter Wonderland" on the way up (as well as many choruses of "Willaby Wallaby", with all the names we could think of). Nearly free of whining, it was an almost perfect transportation walk except for one thing: the roar of passing cars that made it just about impossible to hold a conversation.
You don't notice it so much when you're inside them, but cars are pretty loud—and all the more so when the road is wet. Even as slow as they're moving in town—not much more than thirty miles per hour anywhere along our evening's route—the noise of the tires was enough that Harvey and I had to just about shout to talk to each other, and Zion, talking out of his pile of blankets, didn't have a hope of making himself heard.
I don't have any hope of improving the situation, or any idea of what could even be done in a perfect world. At least living where we do we always have the option, when we want to be able to talk while walking, of heading out to the woods or fields. But that way we don't get anywhere useful. I can't even claim any moral high ground, since this winter I've been driving around town at least as much as I've been walking, and our new car has giant wheels that are probably even louder than average.
There's probably a broader point to be made about externalities here, but I'm too sleepy to come up with it. When it comes to driving, maybe it's just that it's hard for people behind the wheel to remember that anything external to their vehicle even exists. I'll try and fight that as I drive, and while I can't do much about the noise I'll be careful not to splash pedestrians with water from puddles, or honk my horn where it could startle someone. That—and trying to drive a little less—might make the world a tiny bit better.
Don't get me wrong: I enjoy living in the 21st century. I appreciate many things about it, like modern medicine (though that mostly in theory) and Google Maps. But there are a few things about modern that really annoy me, and since this is my blog I'm going to share.
My biggest complaint today is salt on the roads. It's kind of out of control this week; my working theory is that, having not used any last year, the road crews are putting our double batches each time it snows. Certainly, the roads and parking lots here are practically white with it, and depending on temperature and humidity all road users are constantly showered with either grimy gray dust or disgusting dirty water. On dry days the cloud of particulate matter from the highway reaches up above the crossing bridges! The world is uglier for all the dirty salt; plants suffer when they're exposed to it; and it's disgusting that I have to wash my face every morning when I get to school.
Of course, any time you complain you need to provide an alternative solution, and I've got mine all figured out: when the roads are slippery, everyone should stay home. Relax. Read a book, or do some dusting if you need to keep busy. Or, if you must go out, drive slowly and carefully; I'd bet it would take a lot more snow than we've had this winter to actually stop cars—to say nothing of the giant SUVs that half the population drives—from getting where they want to go if their drivers are willing to adjust to conditions.
More complaints! We have a skating rink (and other associated athletic facilities) down the road from us; it got put in a few years ago, replacing a perfectly fine stretch of woods and marsh. Alright, people need to ice skate and since we've ruined the climate the ponds aren't reliable any more. But the facility has recently been expanded, to the tune of two outdoor artificial-turf fields, and since it's winter one of the fields has been covered with a gigantic white plastic bubble tent. For some reason, said bubble is illuminated many evenings with the lights all around the field—I can only imagine that some of the light shines through the plastic to light the games within. Some: a whole lot of it gets reflected right back up to create literally the worst light pollution I've ever seen in my life (not counting those stupid movie-theater waving searchlight thingies). It's bad enough on clear nights to drive over the hill and see it there like an alien landing site or enormous crime scene, with the branches of all the trees in a half-mile radius lit up in stark relief; still worse are evenings like this one where low clouds bring the light right into our bedroom windows. Last night we had to close the shades, otherwise it would have been too bright to sleep.
The solution to this one is easy: make people who want to play sports play seasonally-appropriate ones, outside. And maybe during the day, too. There's a connection between my two complaints, because to my mind they're both caused by people determined to do the things they want to do regardless of the conditions around them. It's slippery? Melt the ice. It's cold and dark? Make a big plastic illuminated cocoon. No harbor in Alaska? Detonate some nuclear bombs (thankfully someone with sense pointed out the potential flaws with that last one, and the plan was never carried out). Yes, living in the future as we do we have the power to alter our environment in enormous and profound ways. But maybe, more times than not, we shouldn't.
They say beggars can't be choosers, and nothing brings home the reality of that aphorism like our weekly visits to the food pantry. Don't get me wrong—we love going, especially because the Bedford Community Table dinners are also part of the outing—but much of the food we come home with is not really what we'd pick for ourselves from even a moderately-stocked grocery store. We're eating more canned pasta sauce than we might otherwise, for example, and tuna fish has made a reappearance in our diet after being excised a couple years ago. But bread is often an exception: thanks to the generosity of the fine folks at Panera and a few other bread retailers, most weeks we have a wide array of fine bakery products from which to choose one or two. Last week I was delighted to bring home a loaf of pumpernickel.
There's only one reason I like to have pumpernickel around, and that's for cream cheese and olive sandwiches. Which I don't have very often! So I was super-excited on Saturday to make the first one in well over a year, but ran into my first disappointment when I cut the bread. Despite its fine dark brown color and roughly pumpernickel-like aroma, it was as soft and squishy as Wonderbread—and indeed a glance at the ingredients showed, in addition to high fructose corn syrup and caramel color (no molasses here), the dreaded "dough conditioners". Now, I'm not looking for traditional German pumpernickel here, but what good is bread so soft that it can't be spread with butter, never mind cream cheese?!
And then we didn't have any green olives, and I tried opening a can of black olives (from the food pantry; again, we'd never buy canned olives) only to find that they tasted like nothing more than vaguely salty rust. Alas. I put the sandwich together anyways and even ate it, but I was in no way pleased. And my discontent still lingers—thus this blog post!—although it was assuaged a little bit this evening when we picked up a half-dozen honey whole wheat bagels at this week's pantry.