Monday, December 8, 2008

The Poetics of Gilligan's Isle, or What To Do in an Empty House

On days like today when C heads to Seattle and I've got the house entirely to myself for a long swath of sure time, the house takes on the nearly spectral quality of a childhood "sick" house.

As a child I handled time off from school for illness much in the way I do now. Through sometimes Herculean effort I would stomach the classroom through the worst of illnesses to save the off days for the idylls and focus of the empty house. It never seemed particularly beneficial to be at home when sick, when one could coast through a school day napping at the back of a classroom.

On a healthy day when staying home, my heart would race as I drummed up my symptoms, though my mother never made any kind of motion to probe the veracity of my statements. There was no hand to the forehead in search of fever, no offering of pills for migraine. This was very much in keeping with my lame duck childhood. Once the second set of children had been born, there was little - right or wrong - I could do to receive notice; I was simply to ride out the rest of my term.

Those days off from school were often not so different than a day at school, just with less hair brushing and social anxiety. While in school, most classes found me with a book (usually novel) concealed in my lap. At home, once I'd gotten over the marvel of not having to compete for the remote control, I would watch the requisite hour of Gilligan's Island (back-to-back episodes of sandy hi-jinx) or MTV before returning to whatever I was reading. Sometimes I thrilled in the excitement of reading while the TV was on, something that was generally frowned on by my energy-conscious (read: miserly) stepfather. He did not believe attention could adequately be paid to both TV and book and therefore either lamp or TV should be snuffed. I also took long, luxurious showers when I was home alone, resting in the knowledge that there would be no fist on the door five minutes in. Sometimes I stayed under the stream until the hot water ran out entirely.

Those days were never long enough. This was when I learned what time was and how I'd never have enough of it. I constructed great plans for the day: TV watching and the long shower, baking cookies from found ingredients (so what if there was no flour when there was pancake mix), the slow rifle through mother's drawers (I'd had a friend discover she was adopted this way, and was always looking for the papers that said I wasn't really hers), a few hours of painting, of reading. Then as now things always had to be cut.

Today I want to finish Zizek's _The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity_, I want to read more of Kathleen Rooney's _Oneiromance_, which I'm taking my time with, beautiful book that it is. I want to map the next chapter of my book, work some on the administrative side of things (submissions), think about revisions of the Parallax essay, take a bath, finish work for the day, start on dinner, the Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale with Fig Balsamic Reduction I promised.

I've taken the bath and now this is nearly done, regrettably, the only other guarantee is work. I've just watched too much TV (an hour of toggling between CNN and Modern Marvels). What do kids watch these days if there's no Gilligan's Island on regular rotation? I hate to think of reruns of Full House or Roseanne bringing up this generation's ill children.

I meant to write about the Poetics of Erasure exhibit, wrong turns, and good conversation with strangers. This will have to wait.

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