Saturday, May 22, 2004

The salmon of no return

I'm home and exhausted.

For nine days I changed every diaper but one (when I was at the emergency dental clinic). I prepared and administered every meal, except the one where my aunt spoonfed Helena two and a half bowls of jello ("It's only water." — umm, what about the pouch of fine crystals you poured into the bowl?). I alternately read to, sat with, rocked, and sang to Helena till she fell asleep, on average an hour and a half past her usual bedtime. I was there when she was up an at 'em every morning at ten to six.

I ensured Helena's pleasant disposition for the better part of a seven-and-a-half-hour train journey, each way, with only the last half hour a steady stream of desperate wailing. I was armed with activity toys but none captured Helena's attention like the safety information card. Once she found her train legs she amassed quite a collection of these from neighbouring seat pouches.

My tooth no longer feels like a gaping chasm, pulsating outward against an imaginary restraint jacket of dental floss. There's a huge lump on my jaw. Now it just feels like the tooth is locked in a vise, with the screw tightened every couple of hours.

I'm looking forward to having a root canal this week because Helena will stay with my mother-in-law for a night. I'll read a chapter or two at the dentist's office. Then I'll come home and sleep guilt-free. Pain-inspired, drug-induced sleep. Guilt-free.

All in all, our trip was rather pleasant. It's just my tooth has coloured everything a little cranky.

It so happened that the Niagara Folk Arts Festival got under way last weekend. (Do organizers have any idea how hideous the website is?) That brought on a flood of memories of our respective childhoods and formative years. We determined to attend the Polish open house for old times' sake, for a drink, maybe see some familiar faces, but mostly to show off Helena. Sadly, we arrived after the dance performances (we're told they were sluggish). The crowd was less a crowd than a collection of sad and weird-looking old people. At least the bar was open (we didn't bother staying long enough to enjoy it, however). A local shop had some wares on display; my sister bought a DVD.

We settled in one evening to watch U Pana Boga za Piecem. Once I got past the speed of their banter, the accents, and the regional dialect, it was kind of funny.

Here's something odd. A mother asks the priest if it's OK for her daughter to wear a white wedding dress. The daughter is obviously with child. The priest allows it, commenting that at least the daughter didn't succumb to the greater sin of contraception. I thought that was pretty funny. But the odd thing is I don't know if that was meant to be a joke. Were the moviemakers moralizing or mocking? That's the problem with knowing a second language — you can never fully know it when you are removed form its sociocultural context.

Last night J-F and I tuned into The WB's Superstar USA. "The best singers were sent home while a gang of hopefuls, with more guts than talent, were chosen." J-F's been dreaming of this program since we saw the very first episode of American Idol. The only good reason to watch that show, after all, was to see people make complete fools of themselves in the audition. J-F's in heaven. Can so many people really not hear how awful they sound and still be so cocky? Such ignorance deserves our mockery, says he.

Have I mentioned that I believe in the interconnectedness of all things? I shouldn't be surprised to find mention of Douglas Adams everywhere in recent days, on the anniversary of his death. I shouldn't be surprised that just a day later I am unable to find any of those references. I shouldn't be surprised that The Salmon of Doubt was destined to be my vacation reading.

The book itself was enjoyable, a collection of essays and some work in progress, sensibly divided into three sections: Life, The Universe, and Everything. I saw another aspect of the man who was inadvertently responsible for my drinking about five too many pangalactic gargleblasters on my 20th birthday. I got to know that he was a bit of a computer geek and science guy, and even this was entertaining.

The thing that really made me wing through all the essay stuff (many previously published but never before collected in one volume) was the promise of another Dirk Gently adventure. There were only a few chapters, a number of which Adams would likely have reworked, and no resolution. (Weirdly, the plot reminds of Paul Auster's work.)

My favourite sentence: "Silent Mexicans moved over impossibly perfect lawns."

No doubting salmon here.

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