Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Traditional Value...

Hello Friends.

The summer before my final year of university, I realized I was short a pesky elective credit and took a course. As I recall I chose Anthropology, not because of a particular interest in any culture, but because it was all that was offered. It was one of those truncated summer courses where instead of going twice a week over a normal semester, you spend a few hours a day in class Monday to Friday for three weeks or something. I always meant to remember and enjoy this interesting class, but instead I forgot all the boring shit that guy said. I remember sucking back a large coffee in the back of the lecture theatre every single day. The prof who ran the course had spent a number of years in Bali studying the...Balinese, I guess? He was interesting enough but had that habit some eager speakers have of letting spittle collect in the mouth and then sucking it back while taking a breath. I wish this blog were like one of those obnoxious straight-to-camera YouTube things just so I could demonstrate what I mean. Like, he'd go, "One thing about culture in Bali is that while they value traditional expression of prayer through dance sskskkkskskskksk that wasn't the limit of their liturgical offerings."

Anyway, one of the things that does stick with me from Anthro 100 is the rather obvious notion that a culture is, at least in part, defined by its traditions. The Brits have High Tea, for instance, the Spanish enjoy a mid-afternoon siesta, and I'm sure if you trace my boyfriend's lineage back far enough, you'll find pioneer settlers who would tell their partners ten innocuous things while they're trying to fall asleep.

Traditions aren't exclusive to entire cultures, though. Traditions can be unique to families, couples, even individuals. And I'd hate to think that, generations from now, some professor will be attempting to explain how I lived in 2013 and he'll say, "Well, we know he had a pizza gut sskkkskskksksk but he observed no traditions that we could uncover."

Dream: Start a tradition.

Goal: Achievable. Really the only thing one must do to have a tradition is to repeat an action on a consistent and regular basis. Plus, a tradition could really anchor me in a satisfying way. I don't work 9-5 anymore and so don't always eat at home, wake up or go to bed at the same time, or even have a weekend any different from a weekday. I'm not complaining about that (this week), but I do feel that imposing some structure in my messy life would be prudent.

Plan: Pick a tradition to...tradit. Some options:

Cocktail hour. I remember both of my grandmothers enjoying a drink every day. This is not to say they were lushes, far from it, but they were from the generation where the workday ended with a tumbler with ice and some delicious contents. I remember from childhood the clinking of ice cubes in Grandma K's gin and tonic, or the maraschino cherry drowning in amber liquid at the bottom of Grandma O's Manhattan. I can't stomach gin or vermouth, though, so my daily libation would have to be a cocktail of my own creation like a Spicy Puke (1 oz Bailey's, shot of tobasco, three green or pink mini-marshmallows) or a 7th Grade Slumber Party (1 oz Sourpuss, tsp lime jello, issue of Tiger Beat magazine) and that kind of robs the tradition of it's classiness. Plus, in spite of my interest in our loud neighbours, and the fact that I can't stop complaining of foot pain, I'm not an old lady. I'm a young person, and probably haven't earned the right to toast my "accomplishments" at the end of the day. I'd also be far less likely to enjoy just one drink and four 7th Grade Slumber Parties in a row is actually called an Anne Hathaway because you become babbling, incoherent, insufferable, and convinced you'd look cute with shorter hair.

The news. I'd be so well-informed and worldly if I could just make a tradition of watching a proper newscast every day. Jon turns on the CBC News Network whenever he's home for lunch, and if I'm home with him, I invariably put my headphones on or play on my laptop, like a sullen teen. Because there's really no best-case scenario with the news, is there? It's either round-the-clock horrific like the news cycle after the Sandy Hook shootings. Sidebar: I can't even deal with the Sandy Hook tragedy and it's news aftermath. Instead of interviewing traumatized five year-olds, wouldn't it have been something if CNN, HLN, etc, went dark for an hour? You know, out of respect? For twenty dead children? If they just put a graphic that said, "This is the worst of times. Children shouldn't die at school. Hug your kids, if you have them. We'll be back to sicken you at 5." Anyway, it's either extremely upsetting or boring as shit! For instance, the other day, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their General Manager, Brian Burke. No reason was given at the press conference, so the newscaster just kept repeating that he had been fired, then cutting to a picture, then saying he'd been fired, then showing a clip from the press conference, then saying he'd bee fired, then showing him in a Leafs jersey, giving a thumbs up. Over and over and over again. Nothing against Brian Burke, his vocal opposition to homophobia in sports is refreshing and admirable, but there's no reason to stretch this non-story into an hour of yakkin'. The point is, if I have to choose between bloody or boring, I choose neither.

Reading. I love a good book and I do read all the time, but it's usually on the train to work or in a coffee shop or something. At the moment I'm slogging through People Who Eat Darkness, a disturbing if overly thorough true story about a British girl living in Tokyo who goes missing after possibly encountering a possible sex pervert who possibly dismembered her. It was recommended to me as similar to In Cold Blood, which I loved, which also recounts a true story of a brutal crime, but the guy who wrote Darkness is no Truman Capote and I just want to find out how this girl died so I can read the new Garfield treasury. But did you know you're not supposed to read in bed? I always, always used to read in bed, but apparently that deeply ingrained habit contributes to insomnia, a condition from which I occasionally suffer, so I've cut it out. The bed is supposed to be exclusively for sleeping and sex, no tv, no laptop, and no reading. Occasionally, then, I'll bring a book out to the couch in our living room (which does play host to our laptop and television), but sitting on the couch reading just feels weird, like I'm waiting for a bus or something. I guess I need a chair dedicated to reading. My friend Lewis has that, under a good lamp, beside a wall that's a bookshelf. Are you jealous of my friend Lewis? You shouldn't be. The same apartment has a bathroom so small that you can't pee standing up because the sink jams into your back.

Maybe you can't really plan a tradition, because then it's a chore. I suppose the best traditions I know are the deeply personal ones that just happen. I have dear friends with two kids and a third on the way, and every night, they tuck their girls in with a song. I don't know what the song is, or if it changes from night to night, and I know Mom and Dad aren't singers, particularly, but that's not what it's about, you know? It's about love and family and those things that make your family unique and special and amazing in its own way. For now, without a schedule and without kids to wreck that schedule, I guess my tradition would be the Thursday days I spend thinking about what I might blog about, then writing some crap down on Thursday nights, either before or after I catch Parks & Recreation. That might not be very cultured but skkskskskssk it's all I can offer.

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