Blog Archives - THE CATASTROPHIZER
 
I have been swallowed by school and sunlessness, so this post will be especially furry and fatuous.

When I have been swallowed by unpleasant things, I sometimes find myself committing very small acts of defiance in order to prove that I will ultimately be indigestible (I will pursue this analogy no further).

I have been surrounded by books balanced on other books balanced on empty bags of chips. Recently, I decided to salvage old pairs of earrings by redecorating them in odd and unpromising ways, so my coffee table is covered in jewelry and foam brushes and mod podge. My cat knocked over some books the other night, and I have not yet reshelved them.

So the other day, I decided to damn well take a little pride in my appearance and actually remove the cat hair from my pants before going across the street to the Loblaws. I got my little sticky rolling thing, and after some sticking and rolling, my pants were BEAUTIFUL. I left the room to get something, and when I returned, this is what I found:
And here's another angle (from which he look even more smug):
And the worst of it was, I wasn't even all that irritated. It's like I thought the fact that he'd sat on my newly hairless pants was further proof of his resourcefulness and precocity. I said things like, "You're a terrible boy," in the most sickeningly encouraging and indulgent voice, and then he went to sleep on my pants, and I didn't move them until the next day because I thought he might want to sleep on them some more.



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It's very tempting, when you're alone on Valentine's Day, to turn to your cat and say, "You're all the Valentine I need," before reading stories in the paper about elderly people who've loved one another since high school and then weeping quietly about how your old high-school boyfriends would probably think you've grown bitter and plump, and how people actually in high school would think you're implausibly old.

And because Valentine's Day is kind of like Facebook en-holidayed, it's also easy to spend the day firmly believing that every other person IN THE WORLD is happily married, gainfully employed, and totally and completely appreciated.

When I'm inclined to dwell on how my Valentine spent most of the afternoon ignoring me and staring raptly at a pigeon (and how I spent most of the afternoon staring raptly at him staring raptly at the pigeon), I remember a Simon and Garfunkel song my father drew my attention to when I was a child and he was teaching me about how people were unfathomable and appearances were deceiving:


Richard Cory

They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town,
With political connections to spread his wealth around.
Born into society, a banker's only child,
He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I'm living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes:
Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show.
And the rumor of his parties and the orgies on his yacht!
Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he's got.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I'm living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch,
And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much,
So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read:
"Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head."

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I'm living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

Obviously I'm about to make the message of this song apply to self-pitying 30-somethings on Valentine's Day instead of poverty-stricken factory workers.

I'm sure many people are happy and in love and not taking each other for granted and weathering misfortune together with cheerfulness and understanding. But many people are also getting dressed up and going out for dinner with people they resent or overlook or compare unfavourably to the younger, thinner, happier-looking people at the next table. And many of those younger, thinner, happier-looking people are wondering where the passion went and when their boyfriend/girlfriend got so fat and depressed.

I highly recommend feeling better about one's own life by learning to fear the worst about everyone else's.


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Many years ago, I lived in Kingston, Ontario, and spent much of my time trying to reconcile myself to that fact. I was desperate for street scenes that did not involve:

1) Queen's undergraduates in blackface

2) Queen's undergraduates setting things on fire, or

3) a man in a wheelchair being left outside his house on his own by his swearing wife, heaving himself out of his wheelchair, pulling himself toward his front door, and then screaming "Fuck off, you fucking faggot" in response to a pedestrian's offer of help.

So it was with relief and gratitude that one day I saw a beaming white-haired couple straight out of a plan-your-own-will commercial walking hand in hand toward me. They were clearly loving, caring people who proved that relationships endure, that old age can be wonderful, and that not everyone in Kingston wanted to comment unfavourably on how I had a lesbian haircut.

And just as I moved aside to let the adorable elderly people shuffle by lovingly, a car drove past us playing some hip hop, and the old man turned to his companion and said something stupendously racist.

I was reminded of this while riding the subway the other night. A kind-faced white octogenarian wearing a sweater vest struck up a conversation with a young black man who had up to that point been generously allowing us all to listen to very loud hip hop through his earphones. The older gentleman was absolutely not saying anything racist, so I allowed myself to relax into a sense of how wonderful, reaffirming, humane moments really can happen and the world is not all about bigots and worrying about the flu.

The young man had been to a Raptors game, and the old man wanted to talk about that, and I looked indulgently on, and then the old man got a little more insistent about something, and then he hissed, "What I'm saying is that they need a power forward. That's why I'm saying." And the young guy was reserved and polite, and the old man got more worked up, and it was extremely tense, and then it was my stop.

There should be a word for situations that promise initially to be inspiring and life-affirming and then turn out to be unpleasant; there should also, I suppose, be a word for situations that promise
initially to be inspiring and life-affirming and then turn out to be unpleasant--but at least don't turn out to be surprisingly racist.




POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you're not entertained, fair enough.