Monday, June 1, 2015

Perspective Adjustment

Paint Guy vs Me

Is it weird that I’m starting to know all the paint counter employees at Lowe’s-es and Home Depots in a ten-mile radius? Today I got my least fave. I brought in actual paint chips (chips of paint I scraped off our peeling baseboards) and asked them to please match. This dude (the manager) calls me to look at their computer monitor while his underling stands slack-jawed and listens to this conversation:

Him: We can’t create a perfect match. It’s .56 off.

Me: Point five six? How off is that?

Him: [Very obviously refraining from rolling his eyes at my stupidity] It’s point five six. So there’s point one, point two, point three, point four, and then point five six.

(Also, he has extreme halitosis. This is how I remember I’ve had unsatisfactory dealings with him before–I remember not his face, but the smell of his breath at three feet away.)

Me: [Considering the fact that, in his mind, these fractions represent something–something he can see in his mind very clearly. And he’s the kind of person who thinks, because he can clearly see the thing that was beaten into his brain during Lowe’s Paint Manager training, I should be able to see it, too. But I can’t, because I’m stupid, and probably because I’m a woman. This is all sort of interesting to me, but not uncommon and not surprising and not worth getting into right now, so I’m not going to say “You’re just telling me numbers. I understand that point five is bigger than point one,” etc., etc.]
So… Is point five six like half a shade, or a whole shade? Is it visible to the naked eye?

Him: Oh, yeah. Are you trying to match something? People will be able to see the difference.

Me: And that’s the best you can do? You can’t make a match at all?

Him: No. UNLESS….

Me: ?

Him: Unless you want to go [waves at paint chips all around us] look at these paint chips and try to find one that matches.

Me: You’re saying you can’t match it from this sample, but if I find a paint chip that matches the sample, you can match that?

Him: [Obviously satisfied he’s finally gotten through to my stupid brain] Yes.

It takes me five seconds to look at the various Glidden whites and see that mine is a violet white. It takes me five more seconds to decide between the closest two violet whites. It takes me ten seconds to walk around with a bit of the sample on top of the paint chip, checking it in various lights afforded by Lowe’s and imagining the paint chip in semi-gloss form. I like doing this. I love colors and paint chips and matching and imagining. I think about the guy who worked at the Home Depot near my old house, who is the only person I’ve ever met who’s more obsessed with paint colors than me. He seemed like he had Asperger’s, the one time I worked with him. I couldn’t tell if he got pleasure from deciding on colors or not. But I had the impression he respected me. I wonder how he’s doing. I miss him.

I take my selected paint chip (“Pegasus”) to the counter and Halitosis Point Five says, “Did you find one?” in a supercilious tone that indicates he knows I picked the wrong color. It occurs to me that it’s probably a liability issue for him. He doesn’t want to make me a color and have me come back later, bitching and wanting to return the custom-made and therefore un-name-able and therefore probably un-re-sell-able paint. Maybe that’s happened to him a few times in the past and he’s learned it’s easier to force the customer to pick a paint chip. He’s probably not a bad person. He has no way of knowing I’m not a bad person, who would ask for custom paint and then return it and try to get him in trouble. I guess I can’t blame him.

As I’m waiting for my quart of semi-gloss Pegasus, another customer walks up and asks the Paint Underling, “If I bring in a paint chip, can y’all match it?”

She says, “Uh huh. We can match anything.”

I refrain from commenting. I focus on the poster board this paint department has prepared with handwritten labels. It’s the four exact colors of the Texans’ logo. (Or is it? Within how many tenths of a mystery unit are these reds and blue a match?)

I receive my paint can and walk to the cash registers, happy I had an excuse to look at paint chips today.

Duality of Dog Ownership

I am either the best dog owner, because I walk my dog three times a day, or I’m the worst dog owner, because I can’t train him to go to the bathroom in our backyard, and I yell at him about it.

I’m either a responsible dog owner, because I carefully monitor my dog during our walks, baggie in pocket, to ensure he only pees/poops on mailbox stems and plants no one would touch with their hands… or I’m an abusive dog owner, because when my tiny but wiry and willful terrier pulls very hard on his leash, I sometimes tug the leash hard enough to yank him off balance, making him flip in the grass. And then I sigh angrily and move on (now that I know for certain the flipping in the grass doesn’t hurt him). (Because it’s happened often enough, horribly.)

Likewise, I worry about him running, half blind and half deaf, into the street and getting hit by a car. I worry about it so much, it makes me angry when he tries to do so, and I spank him. And he can tell, the few times he still tries to dart into the street, that I’m about to spank him for it, and he throws himself on the ground and makes a sad, abused, beseeching face that shows me what a monster I am. And I feel ashamed of it. But I spank him, usually, anyway.

I know a lot of people who think pets are like children. Once you get a pet, they say, you’ve made a commitment for life. Only evil, horrible assholes get tired of pets or give pets away or euthanize pets for biting their children.

I know a lot of people (who came here from other countries, usually) who believe animals are either food or employees/slaves. It’s almost immoral and certainly ridiculous to keep animals in one’s home for the purpose of decoration or affection, buying them food and getting nothing useful in return.

Between these two perspectives, I have a reasonably clear (?) vision of myself as a middle-class American woman who’s lucky enough to have time and money for indoor, full-time, named/registered/immunized pets. I’m very lucky to have the luxury, emotionally, to angst over my relationship with these pets and their emotions. “If that’s the worst thing you have to worry about…” my dad would say.

I grew up making pets out of strays and feeding them table scraps. Watching them give birth to litters on piles of dirty clothing in my closet.

I’ve lived in houses whose owners didn’t allow animals inside, from whose back doors I’d venture, out into fields, with bones in my hands, to buy a little wordless companionship.

I’m a good person because I sleep with my dog curled against me all night.

I’m a bad person because I typed a blog entry trying to excuse my sins. Used my writing skills not to make money, but to persuade you certain parts of me outweigh the others.

Posted in Aspergers, consumerism, culture, dogs, hating, neighbors, obessions, psychobabble, stories on 06/01/2015 01:04 pm

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I am still a blogger at heart.

Hello, readers.

Next week my two-year term as Houston’s (first) poet laureate ends, when city officials take the laurel wreath off my head and put it on my successor’s. When I get home from that ceremony, I’ll make a pot of coffee, put on my reading glasses, fire up my […] Continue Reading…

Posted in writing on 05/13/2015 11:32 am

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dipping Deeper Into Consumer Culture, Maybe

I finally got sucked into the Amazon Prime mind meld. In case you don’t know, Amazon Prime is a service where you pay $79 a year and have access free two-day shipping for about 75% of the goods Amazon sells. (Plus a Netflix-like streaming service, plus a Pandora-like music […] Continue Reading…

Posted in consumerism, culture, domestic, psychobabble, trauma on 07/24/2014 11:36 am

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Things I did today that, as recently as a year ago, I would’ve sworn never to be caught dead doing, ever:

1. Dressed myself in workout gear, knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t work out today.

2. Decided to lie in the grass with my husband for an hour instead […] Continue Reading…

Posted in domestic, getting older, married life on 03/30/2014 07:57 pm

Friday, November 1, 2013

Idee Fixe

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of after-school and summer time at a non-profit arts organization-type place called MECA. I took dance and voice lessons there, performed in their performances, ate whatever free food they had lying around, etc. As you may imagine, MECA attracted all […] Continue Reading…

Posted in culture, fantasies, getting older, obessions, superstition, writing on 11/01/2013 03:15 pm

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Status Check

We recently moved and our not-unhappy lives have become 100 times better. Which is good.

I’m not working on any books right now. Which is… good. I think.

The launch party for my newest book is going to be September 19 at the Julia Ideson building near the downtown Houston […] Continue Reading…

Posted in Uncategorized on 08/15/2013 01:10 pm

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Like Hammer Time but with Less Cardio, It’s Galley Time!

Arte Publico Press has issued the galleys for my upcoming poetry book, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners (September 2013!).

This book’s release is similar emotionally, for me, to that of the first book I wrote, which was a short prose collection, because:

1. It’s made up of small works, […] Continue Reading…

Posted in books, cats, domestic, insects, writing on 07/02/2013 09:17 am

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Answers to Important Questions Posted by Readers

Not because I don’t know how to unlock my own Word Press blog comments, but because they deserved their own entry! The following questions come from Mr. Nikita and Elvira Mistress of Felinity, two of Houston’s apparently few cat bloggers.

How many cats do you have? Are they poets, too?

I […] Continue Reading…

Posted in books, cats, writing on 05/15/2013 07:05 pm

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blogger’s Guilt

Hey, everybody.

So, over the past year or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging and its evolution and about “online brands” (for want of a not-annoying phrase). For various reasons, I decided to pull back on how much personal writing I put online, such as on this […] Continue Reading…

Posted in books, getting older, obessions, reminiscing, writing on 05/15/2013 06:32 pm

Monday, April 8, 2013

Things You Do When You Get Older

Now that I’ve reached my forties and the hyper-awareness that my life is more than half done, I have all new hobbies and interests. Some of these are activities that used to bewilder me, back when I was in my twenties and I’d see 40-somethings obsess over things I […] Continue Reading…

Posted in Uncategorized on 04/08/2013 09:05 am