Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Weekly Check-In

I started writing a "Saturday Check-In" post, but it's Tuesday... in fact, I haven't written a "Saturday Check-In" on a Saturday in so long that I've started to feel like a liar calling these posts by that name; so I've decided to scrap the day-specific title and just make it a generically weekly feature. A work in progress should not have to be wedded to a trope.

So this last week has been largely dominated by some weird cold/flu/illness (I call it La Malaise for lack of a better term, makes it sound glamorous, like Garbo's Camille without the coughing up blood) that's been making the rounds. At first I thought it was my depression, maybe my meds have gone wonky or it's That Time of the Month, but then other people started reporting the same symptoms... four people at work, dozens on FaceBook, even my cousins who live in Arizona were down with La Malaise.

And while I was lolling in my very un-Garbo-esque bed (like a rat's nest with brocade and books), I found myself becoming re-obsessed with The Sims 2, a sort of video game in which one creates little people and their little houses and watches them live their little lives... like dollhouses, but much more complicated and complete. I went through a few weeks of obsession when I downloaded version 2 a few months ago, after having been obsessed with version 1 off and on for several years. Version 3 is out now, but I'm not going to get it until there's more custom content available. It's all about the user-created custom content.

I've been so obsessed, in fact, that I may have called in sick one day more than was strictly necessary because I felt compelled to build another house or two rather than because I was too ill to work... I mean, I was ill, but was I too ill to work? I guess that my childhood training (in which one had to have a fever, vomiting, and/or diarrhea in order to stay home sick from school) makes me overcritical of myself when I stay home.

Nevertheless, I have been building some really fantastic houses, playing with elevated terrains and tiny lots and other intriguing architectural challenges. And I've been trying out different "lifestyles," women and children and vampires and witches, actually playing my Sims rather than just building and furnishing their houses and then abandoning them for a new family.

In the past I worked almost exclusively with a "neighborhood" of my own making, Andropolis, which had an all-male population. But now I've been working in Strangetown, one of the installed neighborhoods, and the oddness of the place has inspired me... I did a Victorian mansion based on the Bates house in Psycho with extra inspiration from The Munsters, and a gothic castle with a separate observatory tower, and an Arabian fantasy palace that's simply lovely.

I wish I knew how to take pictures in the game so I could show you some of them... maybe I'll work on that this weekend; I really want to share the fruits of my labors. I know it can be done, all of the custom content I download for the game comes with screen shots of various kinds, I just have to figure it out.

In other news, I saw The Hours over the weekend... I'd bought the video ages ago, but it's still in plastic wrap, I just never felt like watching it. I knew it would be a Serious movie, and Caroline (who knows nothing whatever about Virginia Woolf but saw the movie in the theater while on a date and was so impressed with it she bought the DVD when it came out) told me it was a big tear-jerker, so I was sort of avoiding it.

But anyway, Caroline and I had a Movie Day on Saturday since I was too sick still to go anywhere, and after watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (which wasn't very good, wildly divergent from the book and a annoyingly vague in the details, but the lead boy was very pretty and the cavalcade of big-name cameos was dazzling, so we didn't mind so much) we felt we needed something a little higher-brow and so plumped on The Hours.

I found the running theme of suicide and depression very difficult to deal with, since I have been struggling with them myself for such a long time; but it was a really beautifully made movie. I just wonder, though: was I crying through forty percent of the movie because the story was that poignant, or was I crying because the music was so poignant? As one might expect when the score is done by Phillip Glass, the music was an actor in the ensemble rather than just background noise; and while the story was poignant, and the acting expectably incredible, I have a feeling the music pushed me over the top.

It was also rather shocking when watching the Special Features (which I always do immediately after watching any film on DVD) to see Nicole Kidman in the interviews... my first reaction was "but, she wasn't in this movie!" Her characterization was so different from her usual kick-ass/strong-willed persona, and the makeup made her look so much unlike herself, that when she turned up for the interview all glammed up, it threw me for a loop.

Anyway, it was a really good movie... but then, you probably already knew that, I've waited so long to watch it that everyone else in the world's already seen it.

In other other news, today is my Grandfather's birthday... if he were still alive, he'd be one hundred and seven today.

Grandfather was a very glamorous man; he grew up in wealth and privilege, his father being a pioneer of the canning industry and a brilliant diversifier, probably the richest Chinese man on the West Coast at the turn of the century. But what made my Grandfather exceptional is that when his father lost most of their money in the Depression (overextended into agriculture that was swept away by the Dust Bowl, the shipping line suppressed by the Sino-Japanese war, his bank failing along with the rest), Grandfather didn't sit around moaning about their losses but rolled up his sleeves and went to work, first selling insurance and then later working for the State as a cannery inspector... frequently inspecting his own father's canneries, now in other hands.

He worked for the state for thirty-five years, retiring in 1971; he started driving Grandmother nuts by trying to supervise the housework, and when he got tired of that he started doing the tasks that he felt she wasn't doing to standard... bed-making, dishwashing, and dusting. One of the things he taught me, a favorite saying of his: "If you want something done your way, you have to do it yourself."

He also taught me that "There's no such thing as 'free,'" not only telling me the truism but explaining it with figures and diagrams. It was very impressive, and has saved me much grief over the years.

Much of Grandfather's glamour rested in being very put-together. He always wore a coat and tie, even after retiring, and he always took incredibly good care of his clothes and shoes; he wore beautiful jewelry, a diamond ring and a gold watch from the Masons (he was thirty-fourth degree, I think) and a series of lovely tie-pins and cufflinks. He smoked Chesterfields and pineapple-scented pipe tobacco, and wore Tres Flores brilliantine in his hair... he always smelled wonderful to me.

He was very warm and affectionate... though perhaps a little distant, insofar as he didn't think of children as people one talked to... but he always kept jelly-beans or lollipops in his coat pocket to give us, as well as silver dollars whenever he'd been up to Reno with his Shriner buddies. He would also cut our nails for us, holding us in his lap and leaning over his ashtray (one of those side-table affairs with places to set pipes, and the bottom of the ashtray opened downward to dump the ashes out of sight).

He had a series of strokes when he was seventy-six (I was twelve), after which he slowly descended into dementia; by the time he was eighty, he was completely immobilized by Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, unable to talk or walk or go to the bathroom. Grandmother and I took care of him, she refused to put him in a home; frequently when I would sit with him, I'd sorely regret that I didn't get to talk to him about his early life before he lost power of speech.

I mean, I know the story of how he came down with a bad fever on a visit to China, and the ship's captain wouldn't let them bring him on board unless they brought a coffin along; and the story about him and his father (who spoke little English) driving across country looking at farms and packing plants from which to buy produce for canning, ending up in Florida (two Chinese men driving around the South in the 20s strikes me as rakish; there is a picture of them standing beside their car in front of an alligator farm, it's somewhere in the house and I need to find it); and the story about him going down to Hollywood in the thirties with his father's cargo ship, the SS Nanking, and working in the movies while he was there, meeting Spencer Tracy and Anna Mae Wong, and appearing as an extra in the original On the Waterfront as a coolie who gets rolled up in a sack and thrown over the side of the Nanking. But I know all these things second- and third-hand, I wish I'd been able to talk to him directly.

He died of emphysema exacerbated by pneumonia when I was nineteen, and I still miss him twenty-three years later. And I wish I could be more like him, put-together and strong-willed and adaptable to changing circumstances. He is a hero of mine.

I wish I had some scanned pictures to share, but I don't. Soon, soon.


Well, honestly, I can't tell what is my mood and what is La Malaise... so I'm going to assume my mood was good and the illness is all that was keeping me down. I didn't feel sad or hopeless, though I did feel rather short-tempered at times, which I think is because I stopped taking the Zoloft. But now I have to wonder, was it the Zoloft that was making me so tired, or was it the beginnings of La Malaise? I'm thinking it might be a good idea to start taking it again and find out, but I don't really want to tweak about with my meds too much. I'll decide later. Or, and here's a revolutionary idea, I might email my doctor and see what she thinks.


This morning I got on the scale before I stepped into the shower, and it read 223.5; then I stepped on the scale again after I took off my jammie-pants (they are kind of heavy, gray velour and several inches too long which keeps my feet warm) and it read 225. I know I didn't gain a pound and a half plus the weight of my jammies in two minutes, so I can only surmise that my scale is inaccurate. So Goddess only knows exactly how much I actually weigh... and I really just don't care that much.

The main thing is that I feel pretty good about my weight right now, I don't look quite as flabby as I was for a while there, and when I put my hand on my waist I can feel the muscles under the fat (I couldn't for a long while).

Well, that's me for now. I'll check in again when I have more to say, or when another week has passed.


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