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What’s in a Name? November 30, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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We spent Thanksgiving at my cousin Lorayne’s house. Lorayne’s mother (Barbara) and my mother (Dorothy) are sisters. In Lorayne’s living room, sitting on a child’s rocker, is a familiar-looking teddy bear. This one, though, has eyes.

Dorothy and Barbara had matching bears when they were little. Barbara, who was also at Lorayne’s for Thanksgiving, estimated that they got the bears in 1937 or ’38. Lorayne has her mother’s bear, and I have mine.

My bear has no eyes. I can’t remember for how long he has had no eyes. I have a memory, real or imagined, of him having amber eyes. It was probably in college that I dubbed my bear OediTed, after another guy with no eyes. I am rather attached to that moniker.

Lorayne’s bear has amber eyes, and I said something about it. She immediately launched into the story of the eyes—how her bear, until that very week, had been missing one eye. How she’d gone online, and—who knew?—there is an entire Web site devoted to the selling of glass eyes. How she’d ordered an amber pair and a green pair to try them out, and I could take the green pair with me if I wanted; in fact, the secondary reason for ordering that pair was in case I wanted to outfit my bear with those eyes.

The amber looked right. The amber looked close to my memory of the eyes.

The original eye, it turns out, the one Lorayne’s bear still had, was clear glass. The eye, therefore, would appear to be the same color as the fur. But it also had a tiny spot of green, which made Lorayne wonder if the eyes had once been entirely green and had somehow faded. Thus, the experiment: Buy a pair of amber eyes and a pair of green eyes. She settled on the amber.

I didn’t take the green eyes, but I took the information.

And now, I’m left with the dilemma: Do I restore OediTed’s eyes? And will he be any less OediTed to me if I do?

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Hello, my name is Indigo Bunting, and I love the gym. Part III: Yes, It Is All About Me November 26, 2008

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Sometimes love at first sight is the real thing.

Days that I plan to use the cardio equipment (elliptical cross trainers, treadmills, bikes), I try to time it to repeats of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. It makes me doubly happy to be exercising and getting my dose of maybe-these-guys-can-make-me-laugh-enough-about-the-state-of-the-world-that-I-won’t-kill-myself-for-another-day. A double whammy of antidepressant, with exercise being the essential one.

After the cardio, I head to the resistance machines. Oh, how I’ve missed them. You just can’t get that kind of resistance at home. I can’t move a lot of weight around, but it feels great to be getting stronger.

There is a machine there that can help you get into the most lovely stretching positions. It looks something like this:

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Many of us rave about this machine.

I do my crunches balanced on an exercise ball.

When I have the nerve and can justify an even earlier break from work, I’ll take a morning class. All the classes kick my ass and make me feel that I am a complete fitness fake. I hobble around for a day or two after.

And then there are the people. There are fit people, fat people, skinny people, tall people, short people, young people, old people. I love this. I love working out in a room full of people of all sorts of abilities and body types. I love being with people who are trying to take care of themselves. I love that this is not an S&M* gym.

Some of these people are not enjoying themselves. Maybe someday they will, but right now, at most they are enjoying trying to get fit with friends, which in itself is a happy thing.

Some people take the fellow-victim attitude when they talk with you: Well, we’re all in this together, aren’t we? None of us like it, but here we are. Usually, I don’t mention to these people that I do like it. I just let them bond the way they need to.

But some people, including a couple of my friends, love the gym. They love exercise for its own sake. When I run into them, we bond over the fact that we can’t believe this gym is here, that we can go to the gym, that please dear god let it last. It is our prayer. Our time in the gym is sacred time, like going to church or synagogue or meditation group. It’s this one thing we sneak out and do for ourselves as the work and deadlines press in from all sides. If we could stay at the gym all day, we would—or at least for a few hours. But we hurry responsibly back to work, where we learn to temporarily tune out the animal voice of our body, that excited jumping dog who desperately wants to know when we get to do that again.

*S&M: standing and modeling.

Hello, my name is Indigo Bunting, and I love the gym. Part II: How It Began November 25, 2008

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I talked up the gym with lots of people, trying to get them interested. Still, it was several weeks before I actually signed up. Because I was offered an extra month’s membership for doing so, I took a leap of faith at the signing and paid for a whole year up front. Please, please stay in business, I whispered prayerfully to Atlas and other impressively cut gods. I signed up for unlimited classes at a ridiculously low rate in exchange for signing before the opening. I did not join the pool, which would have cost me more. Sadly, I am not a swimmer.

Then I waited. The gym opened the last weekend in June, and I went the day after I got back from Northbrook, their second day of business.

Did I mention that I love gyms?

Who could have ever predicted this? I was the fat kid. I was the kid who hated gym class and would give just about anything to get out of it. Team sports—the very thought of someone relying on my physical ability when there was an obvious lack of any such thing—made me quake with fear. As far as I was concerned, sports existed to make me look stupid, or at least served as a handy backdrop for making that happen.

I dieted all through high school and college but could never lose any significant weight (in retrospect, by that time I wasn’t actually fat anymore, I just was surrounded by so much thin that I had no way of knowing). I’d occasionally try to take up running, but it never took. I am not a runner.

Then, after college, I acquired a roommate who was an aerobics instructor. When I heard she would be joining our group house and that she was a fitness freak, my defenses immediately went up. But it turns out she changed my life. She got me to go to aerobics with her. And there I found a place where I could exercise and no one was counting on me. I could just do it for me, and I could do it at my own pace. I became utterly addicted.

This was, no doubt, in part due to the fact that I was in a long-distance relationship and desperately needed some way to channel all that . . . energy.

That’s a bit of a digression, but I mention my exercise beginnings because since those beginnings (in October 1984) I have never stopped exercising. Next to my deadlines, there is nothing in my life I’m more disciplined about. I am not an athlete. I do not have washboard abs. Whenever I try something new, I am sore for days. But dammit, I have a desk job, and I need to move. I’ve only got one body, and I want it to work for as long as possible. So I set aside an hour a day, for me, to make sure it all happens.

[Tomorrow: Part III: Yes, It Is All About Me]

Hello, my name is Indigo Bunting, and I love the gym. Part I: Gyms and Rumors of Gyms November 24, 2008

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Last spring, I began to hear rumors that a new gym and pool would be opening One Town Over from Parts West. It was hard to believe this rumor, because One Town Over is a rather depressed little town and seems an unlikely place for such a facility. But there began to be increasing evidence that this rumor was indeed true, and at long last, sometime late in the spring, the facility-under-construction opened for tours.

It’d been a half-dozen years, I’d say, since I’ve had access to a gym, and probably 15 years since I’ve paid for access. I went to take the tour figuring that no doubt it would be too expensive, or it wouldn’t be that nice after all, and that really, my NordicTrack elliptical cross trainer and I were doing just fine on our own, thank you very much.

So I took the tour. It was still a work in progress. There were no cardio machines in yet, no weight machines. (All cardio machines, I was assured, would come with their own TV screens.) All one could really see was the swimming pool, the size of the workout space, the mirrored room set aside for classes, the locker rooms. The fabulous flooring. And the staff was doing all it could to break down psychological barriers/excuses: A wall separated the men’s and women’s workout spaces. There was a room set aside for daycare. There were personal trainers available.

There was a juice bar.

I fell in love immediately. But could I afford it?

I was hopeful. Situated in that depressed town, it would have to be slightly affordable, wouldn’t it? So that people who lived there could actually be members?

Yes. It was affordable. In fact, at the introductory rate, it cost half of what I feared it might cost. I nearly signed up that instant.

I left the building that late spring day feeling something almost foreign: I was really, really excited about something that was about to happen. For all sorts of reasons (many of which I attribute to my childhood), I don’t feel that way very often. I was giddy. Little-kid giddy.

About a gym.

[Tomorrow: Part II: How It Began]

The Height of Decadence November 18, 2008

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It is a rainy weekday afternoon. The wet concrete beckons. Walk away from the computer. Grab your raincoat and hat.

Let the soggy grayness carry you along the stream of shop windows. Let your face—briefly—take on the glow of warm light with each stop.

Arrive under a marquee. Consider what you are about to do. Enter. Pay the man the matinee price. Sit by the aisle. Place your coat, which drips only slightly, lengthwise in the seat next to you. Trade the outside gray for the inside black.

Still, your face glows.

Burial: A Follow-Up November 13, 2008

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Hey, gang. Some of you asked for a follow-up on a funeral-industry-free burial like the one I witnessed. I did look up a few things, but have been too busy to post. At long last, I’ll share here what I found out.

First, thanks to SheShe for sending the link to a Seven Days (Burlington, VT) article from early 2007 concerning this issue in Vermont and how much misinformation was being disseminated by state officials. Obviously, steps were taken after this article was written, as the information I found online was a 2007 state document titled “Digging Deep: Unearthing the Mysteries of Burial and Cemetery Law.” The Seven Days article also refers the reader to an organization founded by a former Vermonter in Takoma Park, Maryland (where I lived for 8 years) that teaches people how to care for their dead. (SheShe also sent a link to the Funeral Ethics Organization.)

Obviously, this is a state-by-state issue, and what I found was Vermont specific.

Among the details I discovered are that embalming is not required and that burial must generally be at least five feet deep. I could not find anything specific about coffins—as far as I could tell, they are only mentioned in terms of how deep to bury someone, not in terms of whether they are required. (I searched the document, but admittedly have not read every word in it.)

Here are some direct quotes from the document:

Home burials and private burial grounds.
According to state statute and a 1973 Attorney General’s opinion, families in Vermont may care for their own dead. This includes transporting the deceased, burial on private property, and/or cremation. Vermont law does not require embalming.

Home burials are permitted in Vermont.
Vermont law provides that a private individual may set aside a portion of land he or she owns to use as a burial space for immediate family members, so long as this use does not violate the health laws and regulations of the state and the town in which such land is situated. 18 V.S.A. § 5319. For example, if death occurs from a communicable disease, the department of health may require certain precautions to be taken. In addition, some towns may have local ordinances regarding home burials. We are not aware of any towns that, by ordinance, prohibit home burials altogether. It is unclear whether, absent an articulated public health or safety concern, a town could do so.

Record a map of the burial site.
A map of the burial site should be drawn and recorded in the land records of the town clerk’s office. It is also a good idea to add an easement to the deed permitting access to the burial ground; however, if this has not been done it is possible to request permission from the selectboard who may grant temporary access to the burial ground. 18 V.S.A. § 5322.

Statutory requirements regarding burials must be followed. Those living outside a village or city limits can usually create a family burial ground so long as the site is 150 feet from a water supply (100 feet from a drilled well) and 25 feet from a power line. It is also a good idea to avoid areas with a high water table and to bury at least 20 feet from the setback on the property. 18 V.S.A. § 5319.

That’s all for now, folks. Hope this has been helpful.

November 21, 1920–November 11, 2008 November 12, 2008

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Sweet Marguerite has left us. She stuck around for Craig’s birthday, but made an exit before her own. I had to steal this photo of her from Craig’s online stash. Isn’t she gorgeous?

Marguerite always took care of Craig’s friends. She seemed to love us, and we certainly loved her. She always worried that the house wasn’t in perfect-enough shape (it always was) or that we needed something more (we didn’t). Being with her and her son was the perfect thing.

[Mrs. S: Stop reading here, as the next paragraph begins “Last night I dreamed…”]

Last night I dreamed that it wasn’t Marguerite who had died, but Craig. I was trying to get to Florida to the funeral and see if I could be of any possible help to Marguerite. A high school friend was offering to drive me there. The funny thing was that the now-passed-on Craig kept talking to me. In fact, he wouldn’t shut up. We had lengthy conversations during my journey (although I can’t recall one of them this morning—did he tell me what happens next?). I kept forgetting he was dead. Even when I got to Florida, even when I saw his body, he kept talking. [This dream’s for you, my Notes from the Dreamtime friend. I hope whatever you take from it is hopeful and not disturbing.]

Last night Tim and I raised a glass, first to Marguerite and then to Craig: Fare well on this new journey! We love you both.

Small Town Passes on an Obama/Bunting Sweep November 5, 2008

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It’s hard to blog about the results of my own saunter for office in light of the results of Obama’s historic run. I have to say, I’m a bit dazed, both from the limited amount of sleep I got last night and from the fact that I still can’t seem to believe he actually won. It’s almost as if I’ve been so afraid to believe it could happen for so long that now I’m afraid to believe that it has. Surely something this good couldn’t be true. Could it?

All this will settle. Meanwhile:

When Tim got home Monday night, he mentioned “that cool sign.” What sign? I stepped outside. The Best Neighbors Ever had taken it upon themselves to campaign for me:

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(Nice, eh? Note Paul’s cool sculpture behind it.)

On Tuesday I got to the polls at 8:45 in order to work the first five-hour shift. I signed an oath as to how I would conduct myself in this situation, then was shown how to check people in. Each person had to state his or her name and address. I would check them off the roster, hand them the ballot, explain it.

I did this until 2:00, and it was great. In a small town, one knows a lot of people. Better yet, an introvert like me, who doesn’t get out much, finally has opportunity to connect faces to names I’ve heard for years.

There are, I believe, 987 registered voters in our town. (Parts West, although it has its own post office, drops its “West” when it comes to voting and taxes and becomes one with the larger, more powerful Parts.) By the time my shift was up, about half of those 987 had cast votes, including absentee ballots. I don’t know what the final turnout was, or even what the final results were in all the races. The polls closed at 7:00.

I went to a watch-the-returns dinner party (pork was the main course) and called my answering machine around 9:00. There was the message: I did not get enough votes to become a justice of the peace. However, I did receive 223 votes, which, I was told, is really good and frankly is about 200 more votes than I figured I could count on.

Thirteen people ran: five Democrats, one Independent, seven Republicans. A voter could vote for seven, and seven would be elected. My understanding is that we ended up with two Democrats, the Independent, and four Republicans. (Three of those people, by the way, do in fact have the last name _____ or _____. There are a couple of other old Vermont names in that mix as well.)

I was crushed to hear that my incumbent friend, the one who talked me into running, didn’t make it back in. My dinner hosts seemed crushed that I couldn’t remarry them.

Am I disappointed to lose? No. I seem to feel as neutral about it as I have all along. Frankly, I’m perfectly happy just volunteering to work the polls. It was really a good time and a time-limited commitment. And time-limited commitments, as you might guess from my occasional long blog silences, are better for me.

I am curious as to whether it’s legal for me to get a copy of the ballot, now that the election’s over—you know, the one that lists Barack Obama on one side and Indigo Bunting on the other. I’m guessing the answer will be no. But I’m gonna ask.

When we got home last night, we stole that campaign sign.

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Sauntering for Office November 3, 2008

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A couple of months ago I posted in a rather offhanded way that upon my return from vacation, I was asked to add my name to a slate of Democrats running for justice of the peace. Within the ensuing comments, I noted that I was way too busy, that I would never get elected, that I was way too introverted. During the allotted consideration period, I barely had time to do anything but work. I thought that not having time to think about whether to do it was surely a sign to not do it.

Then I talked to the woman who had floated my name. She is a very persuasive person.

“I’ll never win,” I countered. “My last name isn’t _____ or _____. No one knows who I am.”

“Your last name begins with A,” she grinned.

It’s scary that we live in a country where that could actually be a factor.

So I said yes. Throw my name on the slate. I am willing to serve the community in this way if they want me to. I’ve barely thought about it since. Note that I am not running so much as sauntering.

The job entails working elections; being a member of the board of civil authority, which, besides running the elections, could be called upon in property-tax disputes; and having the power to perform marriages and civil unions. The elections part has always kind of interested me. I’m all for marriages/civil unions, but I’m a bit too shy to stand up in front of a crowd. Still, the power… (mwahahaha!)

There are thirteen candidates for seven positions. If I win, it should be interesting. If I lose, I may well feel more relief than disappointment. Especially now that it turns out that I can work the polls in some capacity without being a JP, because I am in fact doing so on Tuesday.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll ride in on Obama’s coattails.

But if it has to be either him or me, dear god, let it be him.

33⅓ November 2, 2008

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Years ago, a friend of mine told me about a friend of hers (probably a half-decade or so my senior) who had celebrated his 33⅓ birthday with a party at which only LPs were played (this, after CDs had taken over the world). I thought that was a great idea. Maybe one worth repeating.

When the day dawned that I turned 33⅓ (13⅓ years ago today), I was without a working turntable (and still am). I had been a Vermont resident for 8 days. I didn’t really know anyone yet. There would be no 33⅓ birthday party for me. (And no, I didn’t have a record-themed party for my 45th.)

One thing about those 33⅓ vinyls—I think they defined my attention span. Don’t get me wrong. I love CDs. But a CD (one that isn’t a reissue of an old LP) contains almost too much music. I got used to listening to a collection of songs running maybe 27 to 38 minutes. Playing a CD, I start to get antsy at the 35-minute mark. Being the somewhat compulsive person I am, I always feel like I should listen through to the end. But part of me, after track 11, is thinking, Are you through yet?

I ask you: Could 33⅓ minutes be one of those perfect amounts of time?