My little ghostyheads!
Once upon a time I was writing a book called, "Just Another Love Letter", about angels behaving badly. Now I just quietly ask myself each day, "What the hell am I doing?"
My friends always knew I was going to hell. My only hope is that God likes good jokes and bad redheads.
Well, that lab was even MORE interesting than I expected.
When I started on this educational journey, I knew it would take me to new places.
I didn't expect Madagascar.
Let me explain.
We finished our lecture, then headed into the lab. On the main bench were our usual tools – racks of test tubes waiting to be filled with yeast suspensions, a flask filled with peas and CO2-capturing pellets, (is this a lab or dinner?), a very large beaker set up as an aquarium filled with plants and feeder fish, and a tank with plants and sticks of wood and no sign of any other life.
Where be the mousies? I wondered. More importantly, where be the wine making kit?
I sneaked a closer look at the tank. It looked more like a setup for a snake. Cool. I like mousies, but prefer snakes and rats. Maybe we'd be working with them instead.
Our instructor stared giving us instructions on how to set up the yeast experiments (I didn't understand the logic of using poison in an experiment right before we were supposed to make and taste wine and kim chee, but what do I know?), pointed out the fish and said we'd be testing their respiration in lieu of snails...oh, and there was one more substitution.
We wouldn't be using mice. We'd be using Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.
Mada – f-ing – gascar
She went on to say that we needed to be careful while transferring them to the flasks and to do it over the aquarium, because if they get dropped they are lightening-fast and will scurry to the nearest dark corner. And they breed like nothing you've ever seen. Trust her.
You could hear the whiplash as everyone searched the corners. All those dark, dark laboratory corners.
One of my lab partners actually left the room. Another one flat out refused to go near the aquarium. So that left 'Lily' and me. I like Lily. She was wearing her Betty Page hoodie that night. It's really cool, and she made it herself. Anyway, Lily had no qualms handling Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. And I decided, 'Aw, hell, when am I going to get another opportunity like this one?'
So I did my best to pretend I was a Slytherin (What? Yeah, right, you wouldn't.) and approached the tank.
They were hiding under a piece of rotting wood. They were all piled up snug and close together. They like to be cozy. Social.
And they don't like to be disturbed. They make that perfectly clear by hissing. Loudly. Thus the name. Pick one up, it hisses, you flinch and wait for the bite. Luckily, it doesn't come; they don't bite. They like to cling instead. Think organic Velcro embedding itself into your fingerprints. At least that's what I was thinking at the time.
Hello! I like to hiss and cling!
Oh, and they weigh about as much as a mouse.
Anyway, we managed to convince five of them to squeeze themselves though the narrow neck of the flask(necks as wide as their bodies) and then hooked them up to a gizmo that in turn hooked up to a laptop.
Conclusion to the experiment: Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches breathe.
And no wine making. I could have used a drink. I came home mumbling, “Must wash hands again. Again. Again.”
But I'm still not going to play with the tarantella tucked away in the lab. Neverevernevereverneverever.
* * *
Oh, and a shout-out to one of O's friends and classmates, Jason S, for the nice review of his documentary in The New York Times. Congrats! Can't wait to see it!
In tonight's lab, we'll be torturing yeast, mutilating plants, watching peas breathe, drowning snails and asphyxiating mice*.
To be followed by winemaking and kim chee pickling.
Is this lab on meth? Or schitzo? Or possibly both?
*Actually, no animals will be hurt (on purpose) tonight.
Or, Mona's Poetry Word of the Day -- Fear.
So in terms of words, what is it that makes life good; nouns or adjectives? The thing itself, or its attributes? Do we love a peach, or do we love its 'sweet', its 'juicy', its 'fuzzy'? Would we still love coffee apart from its 'black', its 'robust' its 'rich'? Would we understand 'sweet' without the context of a peach? What about a wound? We'd certainly enjoy it more without 'painful', 'deep', 'fatal'. But can you imagine the thought of 'seeping' or 'septic' unmoored from context, and how frightening that might be?
* * *
He'd had a life without her, before her of course. Billions of years of it. Most you wouldn't understand, most he never thought about, even though he could bring up any day he wanted and examine it in perfect clarity, like retrieving a diamond from a deep well. He kept his thoughts to current events; the last six thousand years or so.
up at 11:30 listening to a band I just discovered 10 minutes ago whose sound has managed to capture the very essence of a book I tried to write five years ago whose narrator was named Nancy Dancehall.
How's that for a sentence?
Do I still want to write this thing, despite everything else I have going on, despite Just Another Book whose main character whispers relentlessly in my ear, despite this author who stole my thunder and this show that mimicked my Preacher?
Yup. I do.
Isn't there some sort of novel-in-a-month thingie coming up?
Probably just my brain bouncing back from writing a paper called 'Semipermeable Membranes, Kidney Function and Dialysis'.
I'm sure I'll be over it by tomorrow.
So I probably aced this test too.
I just found out this is going to take a lot longer than I thought. The rules changed on me.
I've gone from knowing the path to getting completely lost in the woods. I'm not sure which way to go. And I'm afraid of hearing, 'You're too old to do this.' 'You wasted your time.' 'Go away, we can't use you.'
I don't want alternatives. I want this. I've spent my life chasing alternatives. Every time I've had a dream I've listened to people who've told me it wouldn't work, that I should do that instead. And so I have, and now I'm here, and I don't want to be here.
I LOVE this stuff.
They mean well. But I know what I want. And I know what I don't want. And if it doesn't make sense to anyone else, well, so be it. Welcome to my world.
Aw hell. Don't listen to me. I'm just tired today. Fighting off a cold again. Taking some ribbing from the Universe (inside outside/leave me alone/inside outside/nowhere is home... pours spontaneously out of the radio and I almost laugh). O is tired too. And I think the boyos are sick of us both.
I've got to figure some things out. If I could just wake up enough. I'm tired of these dead ends.
I'm sure I'll feel better after I make some phone calls on Monday.
Hmm. Maybe I'll just be a writer instead.
AH HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
I aced my first test. Blew the curve. Just ask me about cell structure and function.
This time though, I'm no so sure about the material. Bio Chemistry, my Achilles Heel, my 'Gentleman's C' in high school, the one class that kept me from straight As.
Molecular chemistry. Middle ground. I'm no good at middle ground. Give me little bitty quarks, give me cells (because cells are BIG, really they are. Huge. Which makes each of us a universe. Anyway.) but not this middle ground...
I needed a place to study. Home wasn't working. Too many distractions. I pass a little Thai place every time I go to school. After class tonight I decided to give it a try. Besides, I've been hungry for two weeks, eating like crazy and still getting hypoglycemic. Maybe I just needed someone else to feed me.
I walked in and had my choice of tables. Though the phone rang off the hook for carry-out, the place was empty.
Before I could open the menu, the waitress asked, What you like?
Cool. Hmmm. Spicy, I said. Chicken. Greens. No bell peppers.
Ok. I bring you soup too. A statement, not a question.
Tom Yum Kung?
She nodded and ducked into the kitchen.
The chef was the roundest, fattest Asian guy I've ever seen. He looked Sumo. After the excellent soup he brought the main dish to my table himself. Oh merciful Thai gods it was good. So spicy I felt my cheeks flush – no small feat; I love heat. A rich, smooth sauce, baby bok choy, basil, tender chicken... if keep going I'm going to attack the leftovers in the fridge.
People streamed in and out behind me, placing orders and picking them up. Then finally I had company. A guy walked in and hesitated before he was told to pick a table. I tell you this because I don't think he was a regular. That becomes important, I think.
What can I say? He wore blue velvet. Whoa whoa whoa.
Jeans and a blue velvet shirt. Glasses. As wholesome-looking as one can get wearing a blue velvet shirt.
So between toe-curling bites and watching Mr. Blue Velvet, I pulled out my notes, hoping to loop together the facts that bounced around in my brain. Bonds, of all things. I couldn't get bonds to bond. I had words – covalent, hydrogen, Van Der Waals, ionic, polypeptide – but I had no understanding. Each was its own atom, and happy to stay that way. A full valance. A full dance card...
...There. A metaphor I could use. A gel to put in front of the light.
Relationships. The atoms do a dance. More than that, they form different bonds according to relationships. Covalent, strong as soulmates. Hydrogen – some marriages not so lucky. Ionic – opposites attract. Free radicals – kidnappers destroying a family...
And then the Asian Muzak stopped, and the sappy Farang music started. Kenny Rogers sang, “Lady...I'm your knight in shining armor, and I love you...” and I bit my lower lip remembering how I LOVED that song as a girl... And then Bill refused to get married to a woman who loved him so and always will, and then by the time he got to Oklahoma she'd be sleeping, THEN, kids...yes, she did...she
He didn't even look up from his book. I was DYING and he didn't even look up.
Well, until the Sumo came out dancing with his waitress.
Watching them dance expressionless, him so surprisingly graceful, her so self-contained, the wind picking up and blowing the icicle-style Christmas lights against the windows behind them like strings of amino acids, Mr. Blue Velvet setting his book aside and clapping. Well. It felt like home.
The pair danced back into the kitchen. Blue Velvet paid and left.
I don't remember the next two songs. But when Unchained Melody came on I knew it was my cue to make like an atom and split. And it was, since the music stopped after that. But I left with a much better understanding of bonds.
When the twenty-something guy at the bus stop asked me what time it was and I told him, and he argued that it was impossible, because he'd just left the library two minutes ago, and that was fifteen minutes ago, and how'd he lost twelve minutes, and did he miss his bus, and how was he going to get home, I just got in my car locked the doors and drove, baby.