Friday, December 25, 2020

Two Apps, a Treadmill, and a Shit Sandwich

I guess it was the pandemic that finally did it. Now I was really out of excuses. My kids were getting older and more independent every day. Work was great. My once-debilitating eczema was under control thanks to an injectable interleukin blocker (brand-name Dupixent).

I was planning to start exercising regularly again, but it wasn’t really sticking. And then the whole world changed almost overnight, with a slight “incoming tsunami” vibe for about a month prior. 

One day I was taking my kid to a crowded ice skating competition, and the next day the whole planet went into hunker-down-lockdown-quarantine-shelter-in-place mode, where we have all miserably been ever since. (I still can’t get over the fact that my last trip pre-rona was to Wasilla for a fucking figure skating competition and not Hawaii or somewhere with sun at least).

By whatever name, the result was the same: isolation and darkness. I had a best case scenario to try to fix this with improved diet and exercise: a job I could do remotely, one parent who could reliably monitor Zoom school, and a treadmill-shaped towel rack. I was finally bored and depressed enough to at least try to stop feeling like the business end of a toilet brush. 

So I dusted off the towel rack, signed up for Noom to police my daily produce-to-cookie dough ratio, and upgraded to the paid version of an app called Seven, which features a little crash test dummy coach doing squats and triceps dips and similar physical torture in 30-second intervals.

I filed all of this under “self-care,” remembering Audre Lorde’s famous quote that self-care is not “self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation, which is an act of political warfare.” But Audre Lorde, I’m pretty sure, never did reverse lunges in her kids’ playroom between the toy kitchen and the basketball hoop while peeing a little. She was definitely a zillion times more legit than that. 

Still, I liked the framing. It imbued my “journey” (everything is a fucking personal “journey” now) of eating fewer Cool Ranch Doritos and investing in a FitBit with more meaning than “I need my ass to be Kim in these jeggings” or “I need to keep up with all these REI catalogue types.” Not that I’ve ever had those thoughts. I have a friend in Canada who has though, and many people are saying that this is how some women have been socialized to think. 

Anyhoo, the self-preservation angle stuck with me, because it helped reframe the whole self-care concept as some revolutionary act of defiance against the shit sandwich. And if you’ve been even casually reading this blog, you know that defiance is my preferred weapon for carving up shit sandwiches.

2020, of course, is nothing if not a Super Bowl party-sized, submarine-style, shit sandwich with lettuce pickles onions and special sauce on a sesame seed bun. You couldn’t get a better shit sandwich if you owned a Subway franchise.

Listening to and watching our insane “President” and his block-headed Alaskan mini-me for months on end. Picking fights with friends, family, and total strangers over everything from masks to toilet paper. Watching 350,000 Americans die mostly preventable deaths. Helplessly standing around like deer in the headlights while record-breaking hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, and other climate-change catalyzed natural disasters engulfed the planet for the umpteenth year in a row. Witnessesing late-stage capitalism explode on working Americans in brutal ways all over the country. Sliding into dark, cold winter. 

I mean you guys. It’s bad. It’s a REALLY big shit sammy.

But I DO feel like we are MAYBE past the lowest, darkest point in the rank, fetid center of this particular shit sandwich? This is literally true because Solstice. But it’s also metaphorically true because science is amazing. The COVID vaccine is likely to end this pandemic on the 18 month schedule my scientist friends and family predicted back in March. Trump is going to leave office because he never executes on any of his threats or promises, and we’re all going to breathe better for one minute.

When that minute is over, I hope, we can have a good look around and survey the wreckage of how we got here and how we begin to confront the many problems that the last four years have blasted into the harsh light of day. It’s going to be a huge undertaking to begin repairing the past 240+ years of fuckery. 

But I am up to the task now thanks to wall sits and burpees. The revolution starts in plank pose, mah bitchez!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Please Allow Me to Recap 496 Pages of WAP from Memory

No no, not that WAP. The original WAP. War and Peace, by Cardi B. I mean Leo Tolstoy. 

Longtime readers of this blog will recall a more verbose period of my blogging, when I wrote mostly about books, bad TV, and miscellaneous misadventures in motherhood. 

But in addition to being distracted by the past four years of civic conflagration, I’ve since admonished myself that brevity is the soul of wit—an axiom unknown to the author of this Russian novel.

Ok—and I will try not to include any spoilers for those who have not tortured themselves with this alleged classic of towering import in the canon of western literature—but it is, first and foremost, very long. In fact, one might say that length is this book’s defining feature.

The first thing I did when I opened WAP was flip to the end to find out what happens. JK, I flipped to the end to see how many tissue-thin pages of 8-point font translated Russian, French, and sometimes German I’d be committing myself to. 

The answer was 1,244. One thousand two hundred and forty-four. 

That, by the way, does not include the two translators’ introduction; the chart of principal characters (each of whom is called by 12 different names and all of whose names sound the same as the others); the Appendix (by Tolstoy himself with “a few words” apropos of the aforementioned 1,244 pages); the hundreds of translator footnotes; a historical index, and a summary of each of the four volumes (each of which has multiple subparts) to remind the reader of the key plot points.

But I don’t need any of that, because I’m about to tell you everything that happens in WAP. Or at least in the first 496 pages, which by now you might be able to tell is all I’ve read so far. And let me just say: I’m pretty sure it’s all you really need to get the gist of things.

Lemme break it down.

Picture it: Russia, 1812 or thereabouts. Napoleon is invading from France, because that’s where he lives, because he’s the emperor. (Btw my phone just tried to correct Napoleon to “Nap” when I typed that, which is apt). 

Anyhoo, there is a lot of high society stuff going on in Moscow and Petersburg at this time. We’re talking counts. We’re talking carriages. We’re talking princes with estates and peasants and stewards of the peasants and soldiers dying of gangrene in piles on top of each other. We’re talking fancy balls. We’re talking wolf hunts on horseback. We’re talking death marches through the forest and groups of men standing around, homoerotically warming their naked bodies by the midnight bonfires of military encampments.

You know, shit like that.

A 16 year old second-tier aristocrat named Natasha is being pursued by a count’s wealthy son named Pierre and also a prince named Andrei whose first wife died in childbirth. Both of these men decide they are going to marry Natasha on sight, because that’s how it was before Tinder, and there was no Tinder during the Napoleonic wars.

The main thing about Andrei’s first wife is that she had a mustache (which totally made me feel seen since I myself am of hirsute Russian Jewish ancestry and prone to a “Tom Selleck” in Magnum PI aesthetic). As I just mentioned she also died in childbirth, which I’m sure I would have too had I been unlucky enough to be born in a time when leaches were basically oxy.

Pierre is super into the Freemasons and becomes obsessed with them after his wife supposedly cheats on him. He goes on sort of an “Eat, Pray, Love” journey around this time, but it’s less “feminine empowerment” brand, and more “checking up on the peasants and trying to do semi-woke things to make their lives better, to the consternation of middle management on multiple estates” brand. Oh and before all that, he killed his wife’s cocky paramour in a duel, and found out afterwards that the dude lived with his mother and sister.

Meanwhile, Andrei’s dad doesn’t want him to marry Natasha, or at least he wants him to wait a year to evaluate his poor life choices. Natasha loses her shit because to a 16 year-old a year is a long time, but to a pervy old prince and his dad it’s not. Andrei is also working on the new civil government following an agreement between Napoleon and “the sovereign,” who is a total snack and the whole country Stans him.

Ok that’s all I can tell you. Stay tuned for the second installment of this blog post: WAP pages 497-884.