I thought you said you didn’t do “diary posts”?

by Yule Heibel on December 3, 2004

Yeah, I did, but it’s been that kind of week, and damn, I wanted to get a post in! It’s December already!

This afternoon I had some of the best samosas I’ve ever tasted. My neighbour’s mother, who was born and raised in East Africa, made them. Different from ordinary restaurant samosas because a) they were better because b) they were homemade and c) they were much more sophisticated and subtle in terms of filling and covering, which might be the East Africa influence.

I was just bathing the beastly dog (tomorrow I plan to cut his hair) when my neighbour called to say that she was bringing a batch over (she’s the pharmacist, btw, who hooked me up with Entex LA). The dog doesn’t like being bathed and gives me a hard time about it, and I wasn’t thinking very quickly when I answered the phone — I should have asked her to bring her mother, and her new baby (a daughter, after 3 sons). So I instead made her the first invitee for a planned Winter Solstice Open House party. Eeps. “Hostess anxiety” and I go together like hand in glove, but now I’ve done it. Can’t go back, invited the first group, now I need to make lists of more invitees, and think about food and music and booze …and god, I feel sick, it’s already December. Only 18 more days… Get crackin’!

I can’t wait for the Solstice, though. I’ve noticed that here on the West Coast, in northern latitudes, seasons need to be measured by light (its presence, its absence). While it ain’t warm, it’s not very cold, either — in fact, there’s sage blooming in my garden, and I see California lilac blooms and some rhododendrons are blooming now, too. Today I saw some kind of crabapple tree, obviously seriously deranged and confused, decorated with spindly but profuse blooms. Go figure. But what is unnerving in these parts — and this holds true in summer, too — is the plenitude of absence (winter) and presence (summer) of light. It has been so dully overcast for days on end lately that my outside motion detector lights go on at midday. (And yet these plants bloom! ) During the summer, it’s a reverse “problem”: the sunshine is so intense and lasts for so many hours in the day that one feels as though one’s eyelids have been removed.

What I’m learning is that life in temperate climates means you really do measure seasons by light. Back East, where it’s colder than hell in the winter, the December Solstice is nearly meaningless since real winter — really bitter cold temperatures and human feelings of being sick unto death of bare trees and grey ground — doesn’t even go into full gear until January and February and March. That’s when it’s really cold, colder than December ever gets, that’s when blizzards strike, and so what if the days are lengthening by minutes. It matters little to one’s frostbitten nose and toes. Here, however, you can really rejoice at the Winter Solstice. It won’t get colder, it will just start getting brighter again. And more stuff will bloom. By February, we’ll have daffodils. In the summer, meanwhile, just when you think you can’t stand another blinding day starting at an ungodly hour in the morning that’s too early even for birds (but of course they wake up anyway and make a racket) and ending god knows when at night, the Summer Solstice steps in by the end of June to let you know that the world will indeed get a bit shadier again. It’s nice. I like it. It’s just a different way of complaining about the weather, I guess, but it suits me more than complaining about the heat and humidity and bugs (summer) or shoveling snow brought by the last blizzard and noticing how nothing, but nothing is green (winter).

So, watch this:

On Wednesday, I went to the annual meet-and-greet for VIATec, Vancouver Island’s own Advanced Technology Centre, “a not-for-profit, industry-driven venture, which actively promotes and enhances the development of the advanced technology industry on Vancouver Island.” It was held in a ballroom at the downtown hotel we originally stayed in two years ago when we moved back here (they allow dogs). The husband is a member of VIATec, and he wanted to stop in for, well, for the meet-and-greet. As we stood by the buffet, he pointed out the people he knew.

My husband nudged me in the ribs gently; I managed not to spill my wine. “See that guy over there? The one in the suit?”
“The one that looks like a dead horse?”
“Yeah, yeah.” He pressed his lips together before continuing, and I wondered whether he caught a note of disrespect in my voice. “That’s Jim Sprightlybucket. He was the CEO of Flutchmutch before they managed to turf him out. They figured they needed someone with a bit more zip at the helm.”

No kidding, I thought. You could tell Victoria is a government town by all the suits at this gathering. This is not the way things would look in Cambridge or in Palo Alto, although the male-female ratio was about the same, i.e., terribly lopsided in favour of men. And it was also predominantly — and I mean predominantly — Caucasian. When Alan Low (the mayor of Victoria) arrived, the Asian quota instantly increased by 100%. I’m not kidding. In Vancouver, a high tech gathering like this would not be so firmly held by the Anglo-Irish-Scots contingent, but, well, we’re on an island. And it shows. Even turfing Mr. Sprightlybuckets out won’t help much. You can’t get far flogging a dead horse.

I retreated to the mezzanine (it was closer to the bar) to watch the dense swirl of men below. From my vantage point, I could survey everyone, and this made me feel really comfortable. Mingling with the others made me uncomfortable. I only knew one other person, a member of VIATec’s board, but he was swamped by young techies (there were, lo!, a number of young techies there — not everyone was old or in a suit …or dead, which is about the same thing, given the venue), besieged by a constantly reemerging group of two or three who moved toward him in waves as soon as the previous group finally moved on. So I stayed on the mezzanine and just watched. My husband went back down to mingle, leaving me comfortably installed on my regal perch. I wondered how long it would take before some guy would chat me up. For the occasion, I had changed from my usual size 4 Calvin Klein jeans into my black leather pants, nice and tight, and a silver and black lam


Shelley December 5, 2004 at 11:09 am

Will you think less of me for saying that I really enjoyed your ‘diary’ post?

Yule Heibel December 5, 2004 at 3:41 pm

Aw, thanks, Shelley! I figured I needed to get away from being so “topic heavy” for a bit. On the other hand, my brand of sarcasm might go down like a brick balloon in some milieus, ha-ha. Well, if it’s any consolation, becoming perimenopausal (and the “gorging season,” Thanksgiving to xmas and beyond) has meant that those jeans are sometimes uncomfortably tight and that it isn’t as easy anymore to look like a stick. The metabolism is slowing down. (Damn it!)

I also learned something from this entry, which I guess shows that diaries or journals can be good self-exploration aids. I started by writing about my insecurities (“hostess anxiety,” social klutzyness, discomfort at mingling) and move seamlessly to being rather smug when I (tongue-in-cheek) fall back on my, uh, looks (which are nonetheless ephemeral insofar as even I am aging [gasp] and getting a bit fatter). This is interesting (to me at any rate) because the way I look was always taken as “proof” of certain abilities — in school for example, that I must be able to play basketball, or, later, that I must be some of kind of super-secure snoot by virtue of my clothing size or height or hair colour. But I stunk at basketball and I was never comfortable as any kind of poster girl for anything. And so, when emotional push comes to shove, I use my exterior attributes, which in the past others used unfairly to “size me up,” as a weapon in social situations that I perceive as punishing or uncomfortable. In those situations, I either send The Body out there if I’m feeling extrovert enough, or, if I feel introvert, I use The Body to intimidate others. At any rate, the mental acuity suffers.

I bet a lot of people do this, men and women. The many shapes and sizes of social anxiety!

maria December 5, 2004 at 8:37 pm

Yule, I hope you don’t mind my seconding Shelley here with saying that I, too, enjoyed the “diary” post. Your “diary” post is never just that anyway (whatever ‘that’ is…), because it is always as much about the world as it is about your “diary” or personal event. What I am trying to say is that even if you think of it as just a “diary” post, for us the readers, it’s like reading a good story in which, after each paragraph we are asking “and then what happened…?”

It sounds as if you didn’t need to ‘weaponize’ your bodice, since you were already in full armor, which afforded you a particular advantage from which to take in (and out, if you will) that whole great white scene….

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