Wednesday, December 29 2004
Ah, dinner parties. I was taking a nap early this evening when I was roused from my precious slumber by Gretchen announcing that in ten minutes we'd be going to the animal sanctuary for a dinner date with Kathy, another sanctuary activist named Robin, and the various husbands and boyfriends. I fit somewhere in that latter category and I'd completely forgotten about the dinner party.
Unfortunately, the provision of beverages had been left up to the couple containing a recovered alcoholic, and this meant that a run to Stewart's resulted in bottles of mildly-flavored water, a product I hope to never find myself buying. In the kitchen a nearly-vegan meal was being prepared, and luckily Gretchen was there to see to it that it had flavor by the time it made it to the dinner table. Among people who have given up meat in their diets, there's a disturbing tendency for some to think of food purely in terms of its nutritional value, in a manner similar to the way Christian fundamentalists think about sex. Happily, Gretchen is not one of those people. Most of the other people present tonight weren't that way either, but it's possible in the preparation of a single meal for even fairly hedonism-oriented cooks to sacrifice all in an effort to display their capacity for grim culinary austerity. I include the absence of wine as a part of the climate of abstemiousness, though it came from different origins.
At some point Kathy (our host) talked about her recent visit with her sister, with whom she has little in common except combinations of DNA base pairs. In her sister's house, she said, there's never a real conversation about anything. Discussions are limited to what distinguishes a Target from a Super Target. To stay fit, Kathy's sister walks several miles a day, but she always takes the exact same route through the neighborhood, taking note of when various people paint their houses or get new vehicles. In the many years of living in her gated community, she's never once visited the neighboring park (which features boardwalks and informational kiosks set amid acres and acres of wetlands), though in the same stretch of years she's been to Disney World fifteen times. Such people form a dense patina over this nation, and unfortunately many of them vote.
After we got home, Gretchen and I watched a DVD of the movie Dodgeball, a marvelous work of slapstick excess. It followed a fairly predictable story arc with regard to its major problem and that problem's solution, but the details along the way were wildly unpredictable and usually twisted in a way that maximized laughs. The best of these moments came at the end, when most movies (even great comedies like There's Something About Mary) wrap up the main love story with the cloying bow of predictable happily-ever-after ending. I was already groaning in anticipation when the predictable was twisted into a double-looped pretzel.
Later this evening I downloaded and watched various movie clips from the recent Indian Ocean tsunamis. (Some of the best stuff is available via KaZaA Lite.) There was something about this particular kind of natural disaster that drew me in and made me want to watch, sometimes the same amateur clip over and over again. The thing about these clips that most struck me was how tsunamis don't really look like natural disasters as they happen. The water comes up fast, but not fast like a collapsing building. There always seems to be time to get away if only the awestruck people would stop standing there and get themselves to higher ground. What could they be thinking, that there's a contract between the land and the sea and if they stand where the land has a right to be, they'll be safe? Even being caught by the raging current, dangerous though that might be, didn't always appear to be eminently fatal. In many cases one could still climb up a palm tree or onto a building and get a second chance to live. I suppose this is the reason that so many of the dead from this disaster were children.
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