PS, It’s Been Twenty-Five Years

Today is Pepper Day!   While Nano Poblano is only in November, Pepper Day is the 22nd day of every month, so it's extra Peppery!  Post something today.  A blog, a photo, a poem- anything at all! Tag it PepperDay!  Enjoy, and Happy Peppering!

As part of my annual goodreads.com reading challenges, I just finished “Postscript,” Cecilia Ahern’s followup to “PS, I Love You.” “PS, I Love You” was a story about a woman named Holly who starts receiving helpful letters from her recently-deceased husband. The letters send her on a journey where she rediscovers herself, finds a new path forward out of her grief, and so forth. It became a movie with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. The sequel picks up about seven years later, with Holly in a new relationship. When she retells the story of the letters from the first novel on a podcast, she gets pulled into helping a group of terminal patients who want to do the same thing, leaving messages behind after they die.

Ahern writes about grief with such insight that I was positive that she was writing from personal experience. As it turns out, she’s just a really gifted writer of fiction and a keen observer of humans being humans. In her own words, “when I wrote PS, I Love You, I was 21 and a lot of people asked if you hadn’t experienced grief. How can you write about it? But I do think that grief is made up of so many emotions that we do experience from the moment we’re born. We know what it’s like to feel loss, to feel alone, to feel uncertain, to lose a sense of ourselves and our identity. Grief is all of those things.”

Yesterday was twenty-five years to the day since the death of someone I loved with all my heart. I don’t talk about her as often now as I used to, but the people who have known me the longest know all about that part of my life because I wouldn’t shut up about it. Truth be told, I thought I had mentioned this countless times already on my blog, but I searched my own words tonight and I don’t see a single post talking about it.

For the three or four of you who don’t know the story, she died suddenly on February 21st, 1996. It was tragic and unfair and it really fucked me up for a long time. In the years that have passed since then, I’ve made an uneasy peace with some aspects of her passing. Twenty-five years is a long time to ponder things. I believe now that she didn’t love me as much as I loved her, but that’s not important. I know what she meant to me, and how that has shaped my life in the years since.

Which brings me back to Postscript, and the part of the novel that pushed me into writing about it here:

There is so much about me that Gerry wouldn’t recognize. I am older than Gerry ever was, I know things that he never knew, that he will never know. And it’s the little things that stop me in my tracks. He never lived to hear the word “hangry.” Every time I hear the word I think of him, he would have loved it when his belly was full and hated it when it was empty. The invention of things he would appreciate. New phones. New technologies. New political leaders, new wars. Cronuts. New Star Wars movies.

“Postscript,” Cecelia Ahern

…and this is a true thing. She would barely recognize the person I am now, despite my mostly-never-changing face. I’m more than twice as old now as I was when she died. Pre-1996 Steven was much more of a live-action Muppet than present-day Steven. I’m quieter now than I used to be, less boisterous. Her death was a catalyst for the path my life took afterward.

I’m certain that my friends have noticed in the years since that I take a truly insane number of photographs. I take pictures at family gatherings, parties, special events, and even just regular day-to-day things. (Seriously, let me show you my astonishing collection of photos of the avocado toast I’ve eaten over the years.) I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos in the last decade or so, and part of that is because of her. There are no photographs of her and me together. I have only one photograph of her, just one. It’s off to the right there. I realized years later that I needed more photographs of all the people in my life because you never know when you won’t have another chance to take their picture.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had been able to save her. The question, “what if I’d been there that day,” is a slow-burning poison, because it’s not something that can be changed. And if it could be changed, it would unravel the fabric of the person I’ve become in the years since. Less than two years after her funeral, I made a decision to enroll at the University of Central Florida to finish my degree. In the years since then, I’ve owned a home. I’ve traveled extensively. I’ve had more than a few failed relationships. I’ve come to know my own heart more precisely than younger me did. I’m not certain that any of that would have been in my path if she was still alive. It’s a dark trade-off to consider, but it’s another true thing.

Whenever I write about her, I feel self-indulgent and mawkish, and it’s NEVER what I was trying to say. My words are never equal to the burden of my heart. I will probably delete this post after a day or so.

Here’s to you, Vanessa. You changed my world when you were alive, but you changed it even more when you died.

Would a younger you recognize the person you are today?

8/52

Rehabilitating Fahrenheit

For most of my life, I lived in Florida. Sure, I was born in New Jersey, but my family moved South when I was roughly six weeks old. Aside from a few years in Germany and my more recent translocation to Virginia, all the rest of my days were lived in Florida.

It’s for this reason that my brain is broken in a really peculiar way. The only time I’ve ever lived in a place with actual winter, the metric system was in play. The result? I don’t really understand cold temperatures in Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, my brain short circuits and I have no frame of reference for what that feels like.

Unless you tell me it’s 16 degrees Celsius. Then I understand it completely.

Warm temperatures I completely get in Fahrenheit, but cold temps I only grok in Celsius. I have no idea how to dress for 32F, but I’m ready to go when it’s 0C outside. Intellectually I know it’s the exact same thing, but… my brain still doesn’t make that association.

Twelve degrees celcius on a sunny day is a gorgeous, perfect day in my brain, but if you tell me that it’s also 53F, I’m bound to think it’s colder than it really is.

As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time flipping the weather app on my phone between Fahrenheit and Celsius whenever I leave the apartment. I’m trying to forge new associations in my brain about what each of those numbers actually feels like. I think that in time, I can rehabilitate my brain to properly understand cold weather in Fahrenheit.

Which sounds nicer to you, 18C or 64F?

7/52

On Staying In

Sometimes I don’t leave the apartment for a week at a time.

I started to think about why I’m so comfortable not going out, and I thought at first that maybe it was tied to my current sleep routine. Every night I spend time doomscrolling and obsessive news lurking, then reading on my Kindle until my eyes are bleary, then listening to music until I’m actually drowsy. Then and only then do I actually – finally – fall asleep. Most nights, that’s around 2am. When I spatula myself out of bed the next morning for work, I invariably insist to myself that I will go to sleep earlier the next night, but I never do. Hell, I even have a cron running on my computer that makes it speak aloud, “go to bed you idiot” at 10:30 each night. I guess I don’t sleep much.

Part of the problem, for me, is that I am never, ever bored at home. There’s always something to read, a video to watch, small projects to put off. All my stuff is here! There’s always something to do when I should be sleeping like a sane and normal person. (Yes, I know my sleep hygiene is garbage; that’s not what this post is about.)

In the last two weeks, I’ve left the building perhaps three times. Once to the dentist, once to the grocery store, and the other time was a walk with a friend to pick up some dinner. I recently mentioned to that same friend that I hadn’t really been out in a while and she asked why- and I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, yes, part of it was that work had been particularly contentious, including a weekend full of twelve-hour workdays.

I feel a little guilty that I’m being a bad friend by holing up in my apartment instead of trying to socialize more with my friends, but then most of them who are too skittish about Covid to actually do anything social. I don’t blame them – everyone has their own comfort level about being out and about during the pandemic. I don’t know anyone up here who would dine inside a restaurant. And it’s just cold enough to be really uncomfortable dining outside.

Switching to pandemic lock-down was easy for me because my own built-in inertia already makes me predisposed to stay in. Without social plans – a concert, a movie, a musical, pub trivia, or dinner with a friend – I’m perfectly happy to stay at home and do my own thing. Left to my own devices, I can easily stay at home for days at a time. Longer, with food delivery.

There’s really just not that much going on in the outside world lately. Honestly, though, I can’t think of a good reason for not going outside, other than “I just don’t want to.” The only real down side is that the longer I stay in, the harder it is for me to finally get up and go outside.

Do you get stir-crazy when you can’t go out for a long time?

6/52

King Cake

Last week, when I needed a palate cleanser, I completely forgot that I had an ACTUAL palate cleanser, in the form of King Cake! The events of this post actually took place on January 6th, but posting about it slipped my mind because I needed to write about the Capitol Insurrection first to blow off some steam.

Several of my friends are New Orleans residents, so I’ve heard about King Cake on and off for years, but I had never had one. (I did have the German equivalent, Dreikönigskuche, or Three King’s Cake, around Fasching, but I didn’t make the connection until very recently.)

The basic idea is this: Every year, between Twelfth Night on January 6th and Fat Tuesday, when Lent begins, New Orleans is full of King Cakes and Mardi Gras events. You can get King Cake throughout that time, but don’t eat it before January 6th!

When I saw my New Orleans friends starting to talk about King Cake this year, I remembered that one of the DMV’s best New Orleans style bakeries was just a short distance away. I quick check on their website confirmed that they do, in fact, sell King Cake, and so I placed an order.

The Bayou Bakery King Cake is almost a sweet-bread more than a cake. It’s a Danish-style cake filled with “Creole Cream Cheese,” whatever that means. It’s topped with white icing and dusted with sugar in the three colors of Mardi Gras: gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice. It comes with some Mardi Gras beads, and a little plastic baby.

Some of the stories say that the plastic baby is from the olden days when there would be a bean in the cake and whoever got the piece with the bean would be King for a day, or something like that. The more recent iteration of the story is that you can hide the baby somewhere in the cake and whoever gets that piece is the lucky host of next year’s King Cake party.

The Bayou Bakery King Cake costs $39.95 and serves 14-16 people. Since I was only willing to have ten or twelve servings myself, I took it to a friend’s house and she and her daughter helped me to consume it.

If you’re in the DMV and want one of these delicious cakes, they’re available until February 16th, at Bayou Bakery in Arlington. https://www.bayoubakeryva.com/king-cakes

Have you ever had a King Cake?

5/52

What else is on?

After the rage and ugliness of yesterday’s post, I was in need of a palate cleanser. To answer that need, I bring you talk of some new stuff on television! I watch a lot of television. Too much television. I love a good and entertaining story.

With that in mind, here are a few of the new shows that I’m looking forward to seeing in chronological start-date order.

Call Me Kat: Already started.
Mayim Bialik’s post-Big-Bang-Theory outing is two episodes in so far. It’s a fluffy sitcom with lots of fourth-wall breaking and a great cast. Leslie Jordan is worth watching in absolutely anything, and the rest of the ensemble keeps up beautifully. With Jim Parsons on board as an executive producer (but not a cast member,) this is entertaining so far. I doubt it will get a second season, but we’re all starved for comedy so maybe I’m wrong.

The Watch: Already started.
This is a vaguely steampunk adaptation of a group of characters and concepts conceived of in Sir Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels. The adaptation is very loose, as the original Discworld setting was more medieval than steampunk. Discworld purists are unhappy with the project because it’s not faithful to the source material, and Neil Gaiman compared it to “Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.” While I agree that it’s not really Discworld anymore, I’m still watching it. I’m three episodes in, and it’s entertaining despite the departures from the original stories.

WandaVision: Jan 15.
This is set after the events of Infinity War and Endgame, so we go into the series knowing only that Vision is dead. Because of the pandemic, 2020 was a year with no Marvel movies or tv shows. This gave us an unwanted pause between the events of Endgame and literally all of Marvel’s Phase 4 releases. As you might imagine, I’m dying to see this show. I need to know what happens next!

Batwoman: Jan 17.
While I’m mostly not talking about returning shows in this post, I’ll make an exception for Batwoman because it’s effectively a reboot. Since Ruby Rose surprised us all by departing the show at the end of last season, we have a new woman (Javicia Leslie) in the cowl. The show is setting up the disappearance of Rose’s Kate Kane character as a central mystery for the new season, but I doubt it will have a satisfying resolution since Ruby Rose has no interest in returning to the series. Regardless, I do enjoy a good comic book tv show, and this looks to be a fun second chapter.

Walker: Jan 21.
Now that Supernatural finished its eleventy-fifth and final season, Jared Padalecki has moved on to the CW’s reboot of Walker: Texas Ranger. I’ll give the pilot episode a watch, but I don’t expect to be super enthralled.

Resident Alien: January 27.
This was announced months ago, and I’ve been excited to see it ever since. Alan Tudyk is just so much fun to watch, and this is a really entertaining premise.

Equalizer: Feb 7 (after the Superb Owl)
It is the season of reboots, and Queen Latifah taking on the title role looks like a lot of fun. This seems like it will have more in common with the 1980s Equalizer series starring Edward Woodward than the recent Denzel Washington movies of the same name.

Clarice: Feb 11.
Set about a year after the events of Silence of the Lambs, this show follows the ongoing story of Clarice Starling. It has the potential to be very good or very bad. If it turns out to be very good, I hope like hell they snag Mads Mikkelson to pop up here and there as Hannibal Lecter, just to keep things interesting.

Superman & Lois: Feb 23.
Tyler Hoechlin’s delightful version of Superman was first introduced in the Supergirl series. He’s popped up in other Arrowverse shows here and there, and he has rapidly become one of my favorite actors to wear the cape. I’m both happy and scared for this show because as much as I like Hoechlin’s Clark, I haven’t been impressed with Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane. Add to that the fact that they’ve got children- two boys. Suddenly, Superman is a family man. It’s a different dynamic to any version I’ve really seen before. I want to like it because I usually love Superman stories, so I remain cautiously optimistic that it will avoid sucking.

Punky Brewster: Feb 25.
Soleil Moon Frye is back as Punky Brewster. As an adult. Honestly, do I need to say more about this?

Foundation: Some time later in 2021.
Making a tv series out of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is incredibly ambitious. Until recent special effects technologies came into being, this would have been borderline unfilmable. Apple TV+ hasn’t announced a release date, but it looks absolutely fabulous. Plus Lee Pace is the Emperor of the Galaxy and Terrence Mann is in one of the main roles. Color me intrigued.

What have you been watching lately? And what new shows are you excited for?

4/52