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Is a question that a library patron asked me the other day. Actually, he asked, ‘what’s your ethnicity?”
I wanted to say “white,” but instead told him the truth; half Norwegian, and then a bunch of other stuff.
“Oh,” he nodded, “I would have guessed Armenian.”
I had no idea what to do with this information. Growing up in New Scandinavia, I know what Norwegians, Swedes, Icelanders look like. Everyone knows what Italians, or Greeks are supposed to look like…but Armenians? I have no preconception for Armenian.
“Is that a good thing?” I asked.
He nodded, “That’s a good thing.”
Because I’m freakishly pale, people usually assume that I’m either English or Irish (that also depends on the redness of my hair when the question is being posed). People have also asked if I’m German, rather insisted that I must be, given my last name; they’ve asked if I’m French, Russian, basically almost every European (and logical Asian) country except the ones that make up the biggest part of me. I don’t know if my appearance is just really enigmatic, or if people don’t realize that non-blondes come out of Norway and Sweden.
What’s interesting, besides the fact that I have no idea what Armenian people look like, is that Gentleman Scholar (rather to my chagrin) has become a bit fascinated with genealogical research lately. At first I recoiled, considering my past and current experiences with genealogical researchers, but he’s not a douche about it, so I’m glad he’s happy. Except he got a bit bored with his own family one day, since they all died poor, tragic deaths in Providence, and decided to snoop a bit into my family tree.
It turns out that I have a pretty impressive pedigree, so much so, that someone else actually traced one particular line back to the 1200s, and some of my ancestors were Boston bigwigs before heading west–so much for me getting that EU passport I’ve always wanted. Gentleman Scholar was so excited to tell me this stuff that he actually woke me up by shaking me like someone in a movie.
As mildly interesting as this all is, I have to say, I really don’t care. This is hilarious because Gentleman Scholar’s family is a bit dull, and he cares a lot, whereas mine are interesting, and I can’t be bothered. It is kind of cool to know where I come from, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with me right now. So what if I had important ancestors, does that make me important? Not really. I certainly don’t expect anyone else to care what long dead people were up to when they lived in Lincolnshire.
That’s the problem with genealogy as an obsession. You find out all this stuff that’s exciting (to you) and you want to talk about it, but no one else really wants to know. It would be cool if I were doing research on a certain period, and came to learn that I was descended from someone who did something cool in that context, but other than that, it’s just names on paper.
Having all this new information, I don’t feel like I know anything more about myself. When I was growing up and would tell people that I wanted to be a writer, they’d ask if there were any other writers in the family. I’d mention the famous one, and they’d get that knowing “that’s where you get it from” look in their eye. I don’t like this predestination approach to my life where the only reason I do what I do is because of inherited traits. I’m far too bratty for that.
Of course, I probably got that from someone as well.
DNF, in racing parlance, stands for Did Not Finish. When I first learned these words, I decided that I would never allow them to apply to me. I’ve registered for races in the past, and been unable to take them on once the time came, but I’ve never started anything I didn’t finish, no matter how painful.
I’ve been running on my treadmill in the basement all winter, slowly rebounding from the torn muscle in my calf, and the assault I did on the muscle by climbing the steepest hill in the world far too soon after the initial injury. I was feeling good, I was upping my mileage, and plowing through all five seasons of Alias. Then it started to get nice outside, and I kept seeing all these superfit assholes romping like gazelles through my neighborhood. My romping may not be gazellelike, but it’s a romp, which is always fun.
Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny with a projected high of 50 degrees. I promptly threw on my outdoor gear to go for a quick four miles before heading out to Historic Concord, MA to visit Louisa May Alcott. I didn’t even get across the street. I jogged in place a bit, and took a leap up onto the sidewalk then felt that familiar snap in my right calf followed by an intense amount of pain, and hobbled back home. At least it wasn’t a long walk back.
I still went to Concord, and gimped my way through the afternoon because I refuse to postpone historical tourism just because climbing stairs is a bit time-consuming, then came home, propped my leg up on a bag of frozen mixed veg, and pouted for the rest of the night.
Now, it’s five days later, and I just walked five, pain-free miles at a pretty good speed. I also have a half marathon coming up March 21st–11 days away. I don’t know if I’ll be able to run, I’m going to wait until I can go down stairs painlessly before taking that on, but I can walk faster than most people run. Dare I try it? Is that just a hollow victory/way to potentially hurt myself more? Or is it a respectable way to earn my medal?
While I would never consider myself an avid journaler, or diarist, or whatever; I have on several occasions in the past kept a journal, and felt those pangs of guilt that come with neglecting that journal. I like being able to look back at a period in my life, and get reminded of things that happened that seemed really important at the time, or things that made me happy that I’ve forgotten about, but then again there’s the hassle of recording these things every day–who has time/inclination for that?
Yesterday I went to Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott, with Gentleman Scholar and our Canadian Friends. I’ve been on this tour before, but it rules so hard that when Canadian Lady told me with wide eyes that she never realized that Little Women was based on real people and that there was a house she could visit, I insisted that we get ourselves there post-haste. The tour guide told us that Louisa frequently expounded on the importance of keeping a journal, not only for writing practice, but also to re-read and gather stories from. Clearly, it worked for her.
Canadian Lady and I got to talking about our mutual experiences with journaling over lunch, and I started thinking that perhaps it’s something I should undertake again.
When I was very young, Globe-Trotting Friend showed my this diary she had that had about five lines for each day. the point was, as I understood it, to keep you on task by limiting the amount of writing you can do at a time. She mostly just wrote down the facts: today I did this, this, and this. I found this troubling, and decided that I simply couldn’t be limited like this, so I went out and bought a diary the was just blank pages. I kept it semi-faithfully for a few months and then abandoned it.
Then I read a Babysitter’s Club book where Mallory finds an old diary and uses it to solve a mystery. This diary was full of intrigue and romance–fascinating stuff. I went back and re-read my boring and now embarrassing memories, tore out the pages, and promptly started lying to my diary, inventing all kinds of crushes and mysteries that made my life seem far more exotic than it was. I later re-read that, found it equally embarrassing as the true stuff, and threw that diary away.
Then I read The Secret Diaries, and became obsessed with keeping a diary in code. It was only then that I could truly let go and say what I wanted to actually say, I decided. This was a few years after I read Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl for the first time, paying particular attention to the naughty bits, and deciding that there was no way in hell I could ever keep a diary honestly because what if someone decided to publish it someday, I would be mortified.
I promptly taught myself to write in Runic (not knowing at the time that any Tolkein fan could probably translate), and faithfully recorded my angst-filled final years of high school. Every morning, in American Government, I would write until the bell rang. I would usually start up again in one of the two study halls I had. I honestly have no idea how I had so much to say, but I hated everything right about then, so I’m sure that found its way in.
Five years of professional coffee making have rendered my ability to write with a pen both painful and unreadable, so my journaling has fallen off completely, though this blog has kind of taken its place. Unlike most bloggers, I try to have a point, rather than just writing about my day-to-day, so I’m missing all those minute details, but I think what comes out is a great deal more readable. Knowingly writing for an audience can’t ever be the same as writing just for yourself, but in my case, it may be better.
I finished off my day yesterday with a first-time viewing of Notes on a Scandal. Netflix sent it out two weeks ago, and I wanted to watch a movie. It’s funny how things just sort of work out like that. It certainly made me think twice about all these new notions of journaling I’d been having five hours before. I’m still torn. I’m torn between wanting to be able to look back at an honest account of my life in ten years or something, and complete laziness. Augusten Burroughs once praised the patience of his long-term boyfriend by saying something like, “I have to spend six hours a day writing about myself to stay sane, that’s a lot to put up with.” I doubt I’d even be able to spend six hours writing anything, but it’s a scary prospect to consider how wrapped up a person can get in him or herself. Do I really need that much time inside my own head?
I’m still deciding.
I am not a person who is hard to find. If one of my enemies wanted to put a hit on me, it would be the least challenging sleuthing mission ever since I’m generally in one of two places. I have to say though, since moving in July, I’ve found that a lot of people are having a hard time finding me, and I’m finding it supremely annoying.
When I moved, I forwarded my mail; updated my address with my credit cards, banks; changed my driver’s license. In my mind, I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do, and I felt a bit smug at being so responsible.
Now, in the last week or so, I’ve gotten a notice from an attorney (read: debt collector), and a phone call from another debt collector both wondering why I haven’t paid my car tax, and my natural gas bill for my old apartment. Prior to this, the only time I’ve ever heard the phrase car tax, it applied to the taxes that go along with the sale of a car; and as to the gas bill–I FORWARDED ALL MY DAMN MAIL! How did this one slip through the cracks when it’s the same company as my electric provider who not only found me in my new place within a week, but also who sent me a vaguely threatening letter saying “give us all your info or we’ll leave you in the dark,” which I was more than happy to do.
I said this to the young man who had the misfortune to call and give me this bit of news, and he just sighed and said, “I don’t know, people ask me that every day.”
Also, when I moved, I left on slightly awkward terms with my landlady, but she still has my email address and phone number. If my mail was piling up, she could have reached me. I actually did call her when I was trying to track down my diploma and asked if anything important had been delivered, or if I could stop by and pick up anything. No response. She’s probably working from home, up to 300 pounds, and severely depressed, but why take that out on me?
As to the car tax, no one could give me any answers. I called the number on the letter and spoke courteously to the lady that answered the phone (more flies with honey, etc.) and asked exactly what it was that I owed for. I could hear her shrugging, “Must nahtve paid yah cah tacks.” That was no help. How can I be thirty years old, and have owned four vehicles in my life and never have paid a car tax before? What exactly are they taxing–the fact that I own a car? I already paid for license, registration, emissions inspection and VIN inspection (biggest joke there is), plus some of the highest insurance in the nation; now there’s a car tax?
I’m half waiting for the state of North Dakota to bill me retroactively for all my unpaid car tax, or for the state on Pennsylvania to get wise and realize that I drove through their state for a whole day two years ago, I must owe them something as well. Emissions tax? Road wear? Who knows.
If anyone actually knows what a car tax is, I would love to hear it.