Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Papasan Rambles

When I was a kid, I coveted my neighbours' pool, dog and papasan chair.

Well, they were more than our neighbours. It's fair to say they were full-fledged family friends, and still are. Also, I may have used the word "covet" for effect. Just because in general, I think that if you can make something ordinary from your life sound like it's biblical, you should probably go for it. If you really love Kanye (and you do), go ahead and call it worshipping a false idol, and be proud of it, because Kanye knows there's nothing shameful in false idols and you do too. If the weather reflects your mood in even the slightest way, assume that your mood controls the weather, and that you are probably part-angel or part-god or part-divine-thing-of-your-choice (and you are). If you walk by a burning bush (and you will), you can go ahead and tell people that you and Moses are bro-ses.

Anyway, by these rules, the verb that describes my relation to my neighbours' pool, dog and papasan chair when I was a kid is covet.

The pool-coveting was mostly due to its exoticism. I grew up in a city with eight months of winter at the very least, and it was...really winter. Winter-winter. It was usually between -20 and -30 degrees Celsius, which is I think is around 0 to -30 or so Fahrenheit, though I could be wrong since I still don't get Fahrenheit. Whatever stupidly cold is in Fahrenheit, that's what it was. On top of all this was the vicious prairie wind, which convinced me that there was definitely such a thing as a wendigo. I'm not griping, I'm just trying to point out some simple facts. In my hometown, you could up and die from going outside. And I'm not sure if all of Edmonton's elementary schools were like this, but at mine, some nefarious teacher had deemed the cutoff temperature for an indoor recess to be -20 degrees Celsius. This meant that for several days each year, we were forced out in -19 weather, condemned to spend the entire recess crowding around the lunchroom windows with pained expressions in a desperate bid for adult sympathy. It was my first inkling of what the word "unconscionable" was for, and there is a reason that word is a staple of my vocabulary now. My dependence on it was honed from simply needing five syllables to describe any time I was forced to go into the Edmonton winter against my will. "That. Is. Unconscionable". I've digressed, but what I basically mean is, humans were never supposed to live there. It should have only been a battleground for tauntauns and wampas.

I grew up on Hoth, and by extension, an outdoor pool was a very, very exciting thing.

The pool-coveting took its form like this: me standing on my neighbours' trash-can so I could see over their fence, followed by extended periods of me staring vacantly at the pool. In retrospect, I recognize how creepy this is, but I was a super-creepy kid, and standing on a bunch of garbage to behold a pool was really the least of my infractions. When our neighbours had parties, I would not leave their pool to go home with my family. Everybody eventually got used to this; it was one of my more definitive victories over the adult world. So that's pool-coveting, explained.

Then there was the dog-coveting. This was not specific to these neighbours; I coveted and continue to covet any dog-owner's dog. My mother and my brother are both allergic, which was as monstrous a childhood reality for me as the -20 Celsius cutoff and the irrefutable existence of wendigos. There is no way I could love dogs more, though it should be noted immediately that this love is tailored to bigger dogs. I don't consider small dogs to be the real thing (with notable exceptions). Small dogs are pets but big dogs actually warrant the word "companion".

To compensate for the lack of my own dog, I went out of my way to walk other people's dogs in the neighbourhood, whether they wanted me to or not. After bringing the dog back, the owners would often be confused over whether they were now obliged to pay me, and would usually give me a dollar or two. This also confused me, as any causal logic I have today was developed after the age of ten. I had no conception of cause and effect, and I was well into fifth grade before I figured out that they were paying me for walking their dog and not just paying me for being a kid, which had been my operating theory up until that point.

Another byproduct of the dog-coveting has been that I have, over the last 24 years, been the proud owner of at least sixteen imaginary dogs. Their names, physical characteristics and temperaments are compiled in a folder in my computer entitled "Dogs" (mostly put together in my teens, but I did add a new dog as recently as 2007. His name is Sputnik). There are photos of other people's dogs, cultivated through countless Google-Image searches, in the file as well, to kind of approximate what I think the imaginary dog looks like. Listen, I am admittedly still a pretty creepy person, and collecting photos of other people's dogs is again, a minor infraction comparatively.

All this dog-adoration is not just grounded in the fact that they are by nature the most lovable animals in the world. I also feel like I can genuinely relate to them, often with much more success than with those of my own genus (by extension, if I can't imagine you having some kind of dog counterpart, I probably can't be your friend). Dogs are just so much better socially than we are. For example, when a dog is super-excited to see you, and they're so over-stimulated that they have to run around in a circle in front of you to calm down, almost like they want to re-live seeing you the first time over and over again? Man, do I ever wish that was socially acceptable! That is exactly the way in which I want to convey my affection to close friends. I also have had the urge to hide under tables in thunderstorms and I wish that every time I met another human, I treated it like some great adventure was commencing, though maybe without the ass-sniff. Anyway, dog-coveting,
at least partially explained.

The papasan chair-coveting is much more simple, and I only have one memory of it. There are these little nodes of childhood recollection where the thing you really remember is the feeling you had. It wasn't what something looked like or what somebody said or what you were thinking through at the time. What pokes through all those re-paved roads in your head is your exact emotional calibration in a certain moment in time, a scrap of feeling that your memory decided to hold on to. And I love those, because when you stumble across them, you can just put them on and wear them around in the same way you did the first time. It's like finding your old security blanket in a basement somewhere - the blanket can't ever envelop you the same way it did when you were a kid, but it can still reach across your shoulders. It tries, and it fails a little bit, but it tries. This whole thing seems to transcend nostalgia - it is more like a kind of time-travel, because even if that feeling will never be as distilled as it was the first time around, it is still the exact same feeling.

And sometime when I was a kid, I was sitting in our neighbours' papasan chair and I had an overwhelming feeling that I would never try to recreate in words, mostly because I couldn't. It had something to do with wonder.

I came to terms with the pool-coveting as a teenager, with the help of my high school boyfriend's pool. I didn't even have to stand on garbage to look at it. The novelty of it all wore off quickly after that, and pool-coveting has experienced diminishing returns since then.

The dog-coveting will continue until I can responsibly own a wolf-dog, or at the very least an extremely large retriever. However, my sixteen imaginary dogs have taken the edge off for now.

The papasan-chair-coveting has now finally come to an end as well. I bought one second-hand yesterday in the East Village, and dragged it proudly back to Bed-Stuy. I wasn't expecting too much, but lo-and-behold, the moment I fell back onto it....

...something to do with wonder.

Final important note: the above is a dramatization. An extremely accurate dramatization of a thing that happened maybe one minute earlier.

Final important note #2: Moses is my bro-ses.

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