Thursday, October 10, 2002

Well, it's not the first time I've wished my Spanish was better, and I suppose it won't be the last.

It's not that I absolutely cannot function in Spanish, because I can. Or, at least I can buy CDs and pizza when in a Spanish-speaking country, and what more could I want?

But really. I spent a couple hours at Barnes and Noble today, looking for something new to read, something preferably not in English. They have nine shelves dedicated to books in foreign languages, and seven of those shelves are for books in Spanish. (By way of pointless comparison, that's five more shelves than exist for lesbian fiction. It's a stupid comparison because even if there were twelve shelves of lesbian fiction, only three of the books would be worth reading, so it's not like we need more shelf space for these titles.) Of the other two shelves, one was taken up entirely by French books, leaving the rest of the languages of the world to compete for space on the remaining shelf.

Seven shelves of Spanish books can only be a good thing--it's definitely a living language, while Italian and German, for instance, would be used only by college students needing practice. And there was some good stuff there. A book by Julia Alvarez I haven't read, for one. Lots of fiction, a book on virgin imagery, I don't know, some cool stuff.

Contrast that w/the French shelf, which consisted almost entirely of classics. Okay, who the hell wants to read Madame Bovary in the original French, anyway? It sucked bad enough in English. Flaubert, Voltaire, Camus, blah blah blah. I wanted something readable. The German choices weren't much better. Do I really need to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in German? No. I almost bought Hanna's Daughters, but realized how ridiculous it would be to buy a German translation when I have a perfectly good English translation that I haven't even read yet.

An interesting weirdness: I could have bought Clan of the Cave Bear in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and presumably English. But again....why?

Okay, the point is, I saw probably twenty books in Spanish I would have liked to have read, but I know it would take me forever to finish anything w/any depth to it. And every time I run into a situation like this, I ask myself, "Susan, why the hell didn't you just do what you were told and take Spanish in high school?"

Spanish was the only foreign language offered at our school, and I dug in my heels and absolutely refused to take it (and pretty much screwed up my academic career because I couldn't get into UW w/out two years of foreign language, and that started a long, downward spiral culminating in my declaration of Russian (idiot!) as a major). It wasn't that I particularly hated Spanish, and it wasn't even that I was just aimlessly rebelling against authority, although I was known for doing just that. I couldn't even have articulated why I refused to take it, other than saying that it made a lot more sense for me to take another music class since I was going to be a music major in college and *not* a Spanish major.

I wasn't savvy enough to recognize why I refused to take it then, but I am now. It wasn't Spanish I was refusing, but all the implications surrounding it. The principal, my parents, etc., kept trying to sell it to me as such a useful language, I would need it later, it would help me out. But they weren't thinking, "Maybe you'll live in East L.A. when you're going to grad school," or "Maybe when you're walking el Camino de Santiago, you can use it." No, they meant "When you graduate from high school and get a job as a checker at Al's Empire Foods, you'll need to be able to count in Spanish so you can sell tortillas and beans to the Mexicans and you won't get short-changed."

(Okay, forget the principal's assumption that a migrant worker would of course try to rip me off because I didn't speak Spanish--that's another jounral entry.)

I just remember the fury I felt every time someone tried to convince me to register for Spanish I because "I would need it." Even though I didn't really understand it all back then, I hated the assumption that all those people knew what I would need to survive in the world. I wish now I had just taken the damned class, but on the other hand, I'm glad that I never shared the administration's vision for my future. I'm glad I never believed I had to stay there and marry an orchardist and work for minimum wage at Sak-n-Pak until it went out of business. I may not know exactly what it is I want in life at the moment, but I know it's something more than what was being offered to me in high school.

Well, anyway, I ended up buying a book of Russian short stories--how incredibly, tediously dull--and a novel in German. Kind of risky, it could be trite since it's about a friendship between two school boys (one Jewish) during the National Socialist years, but the blurb on the back described it as "incomprehensibly dark," and that sounds like my kind of book.

8:56 PM

Our neighbors have a dog. Or I should say, another dog. They already had one, this white poodlish thing. The wife/mother seems fairly concientious--in her "I'm in a completely different world and can't see anything or anyone around me" sort of way--about taking care of the white dog. She walks it a couple times of day, at least.

The new dog seems to belong to the husband/father, or at least he's the one who does all the chasing and yelling after it when it escapes and appears in our yard. I try to interact w/the neighbors as little as possible, but when the dog is running toward me and the husband/father is yelling at it to come back, I feel compelled to stop and try to catch the dog. Catherine and I were outside together when this happened, and I could tell by the look on her face that she, too, was silently begging the dog, "Please, just go back and sit down like a good dog, don't make him any madder than he already is, please, please go home."

The dog is energetic and friendly and doesn't seem unhappy, so I'm just going to let myself assume it's doing okay.

When I was in high school, I read something about pets and unhappy families. It stuck with me, and I've since realized it was completely and totally inaccurate, but it made me feel better at the time. It was some bit about how unhappy families should always have a pet. That way, even if no one in the house can say a civil word to each other, everyone at least overhears everyone else talking baby talk to the pet, and understands that kindness is possible in their parents/siblings/whatever. And having a pet lets you practice being kind, or something like that.

I remember reading it and looking at our dog and thinking "How true." We might throw things at each other, but never at the dog. Having a dog meant I could have something to love that wasn't likely to bite me back. I would never give my sister the chair that she wanted to sit in (and, in fact, I once pushed her off a chair we were fighting over, she landed on her head and unfortunately got a piece from a Mr. Potato Head stuck in her temple, and had to go get stitches), but you bet I'd always get up and give it to Gus.

Anyway, I've since realized cruel people are cruel to everything, including the family pet, but at the time, it made me feel better. And I hope that dog is doing okay next door, because those crazy people need it.

8:04 PM

Ah...I am a jealous woman. Even though C. and I have been together for ten years, I still hate, hate, hate to hear news of her ex. Do I care that the woman now has a big house with a pool? No, I do not. Hate her, hate her, hate her.

Catherine looked so good when she left the house this morning that I forbade her to talk to any other lesbians lest they try and take her away from me.

She left me a cute note, telling me I am "swell." I feel like a moll.

7:49 PM

We went to church today. Well, okay, it was a concert by the IU Marching Hundred, but that's a close second to church here in the Heartland. Everytime the band played an IU song--the fanfare, the fight song, the school song, the Indiana Chimes--the crowd rose reverently to its feet.

S: You'd think they were playing the national anthem or something.
C: I know, isn't it cute?

One thing, Indiana has the prettiest school song I've ever heard. I don't even know what the school song was for any of the universities I've attended. Fight song, yes (at least for USC), but not the school song. I think it's kind of a Midwestern/East Coast kind of thing to know the lyrics to the school song.

The second thing: The Marching Hundred has one of the best drumlines in the nation, and that's not an exaggeration. They are absolutely amazing. And I've seen a lot of percussion in my lifetime. A great feeder system here, too, with a lot of musical talent coming out of Bloomington North. IU has a great music school (every year we have to listen to the same tired argument: Is Juliard #1 or is IU?) and while I think I've seen better marching bands, the drum line has what it takes.

I think all the American critics who panned Blast! (haven't seen Blast! II so I can't comment on that) need to get out of their tight little urban worlds and spend some time watching drum and bugle corps work. Blast! was brilliant, but unless you've spent at least a little time watching the way flag corps move and marching formations develop, you won't see it. The critics were judging against some Broadway aesthetic and found it wanting. They just didn't understand its origin or its purpose.

I despised being in marching band in high school, and would never want to be in one now. But I love the precision and the flow and the energy, even if the music isn't the finest and the sound quality is low. Because it's as much a visual, visceral experience as it is an aural one. Too bad the Broadway critics are too lame to understand that.

5:39 PM

The Jackster caught a mouse last night. I don't know where he found it. Well, I know where he found it, on the back porch, but that's the first time in four years I've ever seen any small creature (other than a cricket) on the back porch. If I didn't know better, I'd say Jack broke out, ran into the backyard, tracked down a rodent, killed it, and ran back into the house with it to prove to us he was a better hunter than the Lunatic.

Catherine has been training Luna to fetch toy mice, and obviously Jack knows he can't be bothered with such trifles when there is real hunting to be had.

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