Friday, October 28, 2005

On Doing What I'm Told (or: almost as good as content)

Well, Gaunilo tagged me, and what the hey, I'm more or less obligated to engage in self-indulgent navel gazing now, right?


So here goes anyway: five idiosyncracies.

The funny thing is that I'm having trouble thinking of five. This is particularly funny, because I don't so much have idiosyncracies as I am idiosyncracies: there's little else besides. My existence consists of a cluster of mutually reinforcing oddities which, were one moved out of place, the whole lot would collapse and I would cease to exist. But, God help me, I couldn't think of any for the life of me.

So I asked my wife. When she stopped laughing, she quickly said:

1) "You love your mechanical pencil more than you love me." That is not strictly true, for I may actually love it more than life itself. I have a mechanical pencil that I am nuts about; I used to use it to do the Times crossword every morning when I had the time(s). I am obsessed to always know precisely where it is and am despondent when I can't find it. Over the summer, my mother in law was using it and ridiculed my attachment to it. I retorted: "don't talk about her like that!" and she responded "you call it she?" Actually, the truth was, I wasn't talking to her. The strange thing is, this mechanical pencil is fairly sharp, and when I'm using it I tend to think obsessively that I need to be careful or I'll put my eye out. True story.

2) "There is no end to the condiments you will accumulate." Dead to rights. When we moved out of our last home, we gave away several boxes full of condiments to friends, relatives and clueless bystanders. For some reason, I am attracted to odd and interesting condiments and accumulate them like burs on a ramble through a meadow. And I'm not talking Plochmann's yellow mustard, or Heinz tomato ketchup. I mean real condiments: horseradish, garlic jelly, sorghum, pepper relish, almond butter. But I do go overboard: I seem to recall that among the things we had to get rid of during the move were smoky pumpkin mustard, critter marmalade, and rutabaga & chicken fat relish.

3) "Your eyes...." She's got me there. Because of a muscular imbalance in my eyes, that I've had since birth (partially corrected by surgery), I generally only use one eye at a time. I'm near sighted in one, and have normal vision in the other, so it's like I have a driving eye and a reading eye. This is of almost no practical import, apart from not being able to view 3-D films -- which from what everyone says, I should steer clear of anyway. It does mean, however, that if you ask me nicely I can do a fair impression of Jean-Paul Sartre.

4) "Your memory for people." By that she means that when I meet someone I tend to be able to absorb and retain for uncanny periods of time all sorts of miscellaneous facts about them. I will meet someone for the first time and just have light conversation with them and can regurgitate at length: where they grew up, what Bible college they dropped out of, where they live and work, whether they root for Cubs or Sox, what neighborhood their parents grew up in, and in exhaustive detail their trip to the Philippines three years ago, including the exact contents of the dinner that made them deathly ill and the restaurant where they ate it. Somehow, effortlessly, I can pick up and retain all of that. But don't ask me their names, because how the Hell should I know?

5) "And until recently, your 'watch thing.'" I didn't wear a wristwatch from June 17, 1993 until this last September. I once found myself, those dozen years ago, reflexively looking at my watch during a sensitive personal discussion with a friend. I don't think he noticed, but I did, and I decided then and there that people were more important to me than the time, and I took my (rather nice) watch and stashed it in my dresser. My intention was that I would then be freer to just be present with someone, to be their friend or confidant or confessor or whatever. I think it worked. Since then I have accumulated two beautiful old pocketwatches -- one a gift from my wife, the other a family heirloom -- and a luxurious dress wristwatch which retails for well into four figures. Of course, I don't use those. But two months ago I decided I wanted to know what time it was and started wearing an $8 Timex digital that I bought at Wal-Mart. I admit it's not much of a story, but it is an idiosyncracy. And my life.

I'm just glad she didn't get around to naming:
+ my habit of acquiring better clothes and dressing a little too well for a typical grad student. (Tangential story to illustrate my attitude towards clothes: we watched a beautiful demonstration by the Northwest Indiana Pipes and Drums, with bagpipes and everything. My wife remarked that it was quite moving, and I responded "Yeah, that was really something. But leave it to the Scots to wear a tie with short sleeves!")
+ my unusual proprietary attitude towards the comb I carry around with me -- and the fact I carry it in my front pocket.
+ my insistent need to have a clock radio, one of the finest inventions humanity has ever devised, on my bedside table.
+ my obsessive quest to make the best homemade pizza. I am an avid cook and often go through food phases. The latest, pizza, has been the better part of a year. I've gotten good -- quite good if some are to be believed -- but I like pushing myself to keep improving the crust, the sauce, the toppings, whatever. Last spring I was cooking 3-4 pizzas 2-3 nights a week. After they came out of the oven, before I sliced them, I would take photographs to document my work. A place like Franny's totally makes sense to me. I'm going to be in Philadelphia in November, and I'm strategizing how I'm going to get out of downtown to some place like Taconelli's or Mama's for good pizza.
+ My near-compulsion to check out theology (and Bible, and sometimes history and philosophy) department websites and see where people got their degrees.

So now my wife asked me who I'm going to tag: I say Pete, Thunder (because he didn't do it when Gaunilo asked him the first time, and I say he's got some idiosyncracies), Becky, and Phil. Oh, and Emily if she can think of some this time. Actually, I'd like to tag Doug or Rhett, but they don't have blogs...yet.

The meme is: five of your idiosyncracies.


Blogger Gaunilo said...

Dude. This is way better than mine, which is to say, you are way weirder than me. The condiments thing is brilliant. I mean, smoky pumpkin mustard? Where do you find something like that? That actually sounds good, but critter marmalade....that sounds like something you'd get down here. And I don't even want to know.

I'll be happy to accompany you to one of those pizza places in Philly. But I won't tell you too much detail about that one time I got deathly ill in the Phillipines when I dropped out of Bible College.

Monday, October 31, 2005 2:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Actually, the source for a lot of my odd condiments -- no lie -- is Tennessee. I actually didn't have to give away the onion jelly that I had, because I ate it all well before we even moved. Nothing better on a morning English muffin with butter than onion jelly.

The funny thing is that I didn't touch on all my idiosyncracies, or even the weirdest ones -- like the fact that I am probably the only person in existence who can claim to be both an anglophile and a francophile.

Monday, October 31, 2005 6:08:00 PM  

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