The widening gyre

On January 10, 2012 by Eden M. Kennedy

STRANGE NOISE UPDATE: After I posted yesterday, I went outside to have a look around Jackson’s window to see if there was any evidence of foul play from the outside of the building. Here is what I found!

1. A slight vertical shadow of dirt or something on the ledge below his window, and a smudge of something above it that could have been created by some sort of impact:

2. And in the bushes across the sidewalk, this:

I don’t know exactly what it’s composed of, of course, but it wasn’t like any other rock on the ground nearby. I took it in to work, just in case anyone knew anything about geology. My boss suggested putting it on the check-out counter with a little sign that said “Do you know what kind of rock this is?” but it got busy and I forgot. A Google image search for meteorites makes me think maybe I’m in the ballpark, but it’s still pure speculation. Thank you, everyone, for your interesting explanations for the many things that go bump in the night, I think we all need to catch up on our sleep.

SECOND THING UPDATE: Now that the holidays are over and everyone’s life sucks again, hardly anyone asked me “How are you?” at work yesterday, so when it did happen I was able to get closer to what exactly it is that bugs me about it. And then I did it to the guy checking my groceries at Vons! Oh my God, I was all, “HOW ARE YOU?” and he ducked his head and gave me this totally affectless “Fine, thanks” which clarified everything. My new theory is: “How are you?” is a totally bland, rote, inauthentic way of beginning an interaction with someone you don’t know, which is fine except that it throws up a barrier to any real further exchange between you. It can actually establish a polite distance between you, as opposed to the possible intimacy of a companionable (or even a purely functional) silence. So if I ask the check-out guy at Vons how he is, I could be doing it because I really don’t want to talk to him.

OR I might assume that he has hundreds of meaningless interactions during the day and (a) I think that must suck, or (b) I feel sympathy for my idea of a downtrodden, ignored check-out guy, even if that has nothing to do with who he is and is actually pretty patronizing, to assume he needs me to uplift his probably-fine existence, or (c) I don’t want to be another face in the mooing herd of people buying beer all day long, or (d) I don’t want to live through another thoughtless interaction with a stranger myself. And all this is going through my head, while the check-out guy at Vons is probably thinking, Organic produce is bullshit, or, I wonder if I’m going to get in trouble for coming back from my break ten minutes late? or This lady in front of me is smokin’ hot, I sure do like middle-aged white women with frizzy, graying hair.

LAST THING: It’s my birthday today, and if you’re feeling at all depressed about slowly becoming old and decrepit, you need to go here. It’s a long right-scrolling line of photos of white girls/ladies from the ages of 0 to 100. (The link for white boys/men is here.) If you start at 0 and watch as they all slowly fall apart, it can trigger some feelings of doom, BUT if you start at 100 and scroll left and watch everyone get younger, suddenly 70-year-olds look fucking fantastic. So being on the slippery slope to 50 feels A-OK today, folks.



38 Responses to “The widening gyre”

  • Happy birthday! Little known fact: tossing crazy meteorites at your kid’s window is God’s way of saying Happy Birthday, but sometimes he gets the date wrong.

  • Hmmmmm, “This lady in front of me is smokin’ hot, I sure do like middle-aged white women with frizzy, graying hair.” What is it about grocery stores? At least he didn’t talk to you about BULK OATMEAL! (Queue the wild puma sounds.)

    Happy Birthday you articulate, funny, health conscious writer, who loves animals and cares enough about the environment to buy in bulk and has low cholesterol.


  • Happy Birthday!

    I think part of what is irksome about “how are you” is hearing it too many times in a day, and if you hear if from people you see often, maybe they should know something else about you to talk about?

  • OH MY GOD that 101 women was depressing. So many of those women look like they’ve had a very rough life. Maybe I need to go backwards, as you suggested.

    Anyway, happy birthday from someone else on the slippery slope to 50.

  • Happy Birthday! Hope you have a great day!

    You sure you didn’t also find a note to go with that paperclip and rock? Maybe someone was trying to send a nasty gram & missed? Certainly not a nasty gram to Jackson (although you never know with 10 year olds these days) but to another window, thus the force with which the rock was thrown.

  • There was one woman from each of the older decades who really looked pretty damn good. Well, at least until 90. But, I’m afraid that I’m never going to have been that woman. Even run in reverse, I found it took too long to look better!

    Good part of aging? You don’t actually see yourself all the time.

  • Happy birthday to you! Your analysis of the phrase “How are you?” has broken my brain. From now on I’ll just go with, “What’s shakin’?” Surely nothing can go wrong there.

  • I think “How are you?” can actually be an act of aggression depending on who is asking in what circumstance. Like the time when I was perhaps a bit overlong en toilette at a baby shower where I was a single, babyless outcast and my former nemesis Debbie Faranelli (married and pregnant) knocked on the bathroom door and yelled, “Shannon, how are you?” To which I replied, “Fine, thanks, I just can’t shit is all!”

    Sigh. I’m going now to look at age page backwards, then off to pinch a loaf.

  • I like the meteorite explanation, but why would a paper clip be attached to it? I thought those were strictly a human invention. Maybe there’s something to that whole “parallel universe” theory after all.

  • I live in Texas and “How’s it goin’?” is a regular greeting here. It took me a while to get re-used to it after I’d live in California for a while. I hate the insincerity of it but now I’m used to treating it as though someone had just said “hello.”


  • Have we ruled out M80s? On the ledge maybe? However, that is a very cool looking rock. I’d go with dragging it to a geologist.

    As a Post-Goth I can verify that “How are you” is almost always hostile, even when I’ve been dressed to pacify the most xenophobic old granny in church. So I tend to reply with the most honest blurt, and that generally wakes others up and either breaks ice or makes them back away slowly, looking for the red button under the counter.

    My most frequent answers to it are: 1) Awake. (This is friendly and generally gains immediate smiles and sympathy.) 2) I’m here. (puzzlement) 3) As well as could be expected. (?) 4) Two sticks short of a bundle. (red button) 5) Verticle. (blank. Pause. Smile.) 6) Contagious. (!!) 7) PEACHY (menacing smile.) (!!!) (8) Hot. Don’t you think? (I like this since it has duplicitous interpretations). (Works best in California.)

    I’m going to the 100 and backward site now. I actually try to do that whenever I meet an old person that looks odd. It’s a way to feel the innocence lost, in a fun, puzzle-solving way.

  • P.S. I put an 8 and a ), not a smiley face, in my post.

  • Happy birthday! May you fist pump like a burly trucker and eat cake like a diabetic aiming for a coma.

  • I didn’t post an answer before, but since you brought it up yet again….

    Only you are responsible for how you feel, what you say, and why you say it. You are not responsible for what someone says to you or why they say it.

    So – trying to figure out WHY or What It Is That They Really Mean when someone says “how are you” is kinda futile. No matter what their motivation is, your response is up to you. Decide how much you do or don’t want to share and then follow through. If you don’t want to tell this person how you are, give the standard brush-off “I’m fine, thanks” and move on. This (instead of any smart remark or non-response) is no skin off of your back, socially acceptable, and no one’s feelings get hurt in the transaction. If you want to really tell them how you are: “menstruating, watch your ass” or “kinda blah” or “fantastic! I had sex this morning” or whatever – then share away.

    In the long run, getting upset about why people who don’t know you and you suspect couldn’t really give a shit are asking how you are is an exercise in futility, because I kinda doubt anything you say in response is going to cure people of this habit. So acknowledge that it is going to happen and roll with it. You’ll be a happier person for having one less thing to be pissed off about. And you never know – they may really care how your day is going. Its been known to happen.

    BTW – happy birthday! I hope you are having a fantastic day – and I really mean it.

    • But I’m not trying to figure out what other people are thinking, I’m trying to figure out what’s behind what I’M thinking.

      Other people can suck it.

      How are you, Bob?

      • I guess I jumped to the conclusion that your inability to pin down why you react as you do was because you couldn’t tell why people were asking you in the first place.

        Some of what I said still stands, though – you get to decide how you feel about being asked how you are. Maybe the why portion is too difficult, instead just decide on how you do want to feel about it and set about to make that happen instead.

        Or: (in my best emily latella voice) never mind.

        P.S. I am muddling along just fine, thank you for asking.

  • Happy birthday! That 101 women thing made me glad I’m not Danish.

  • As a former checkout counter lady, I always appreciated hearing ‘how are you?’ (Of course, I always do and kind of cocked my head at that post, because I didn’t know that people might not like that, like ever.) Mostly, because sooo many people ignored me entirely when they came through the line, which sucks. But then when someone WOULD really want to talk, it would suck enough of my brain RAM that I’d get all slow and awkward at my job. Talking idly about how either of us was or the weather or whatever was totally the ticket.

    Also, if a meteorite hit your house, that would be completely awesome. Is it significantly heavier than your average rock? Meteorites have a lot of iron and are very dense. So I’ve heard… (will show the pic to my geologist husband)

  • So happy birthday! Have a bit of wine and a favorite meal. You’ve earned it by gliding through another year successfully.
    I do think that people could care less how I’m doing. The greeting is a way of acknowledging I’m in their space. My general way of dealing with it is to toss off a smart-ass remark to get their attention, then go on my way. “Not dead yet” often gives people pause.
    I would like it if people actually cared and wanted to know how I am. This is a crowded world and all we seem to really want is space to be.

  • Woman 91 made me laugh. Man 98 made me happy. Thank you for those links :)

    And meteorite? Holy shit! Never would have thought of that.

  • Happy birthday, Eden! I mean that, sincerely.

    My sister was diagnosed with Stage III cancer just before Christmas, so everyone who has asked me, “How are you?” since then, gets a longer answer than they were bargaining for. I’m not kidding.

  • Happy birthday! I had lunch with my best friend from fetal age today and she (also) looks great. Women our age are effin’ goddesses, I say (now there’s an answer to ‘how are you?’ for ya: just say ‘I am a goddess. Bow down before me.’).

  • Happy birthday! If I make it to May 1st, I’ll turn the big 5-0. Feel as if I’m finally hitting my stride, actually.

  • **oh IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!!! hAPPY bIRTHDAY eDEN. oOOPs.**::hiccup::

  • Happy birthday to you! I love the link, but I find it interesting that no women (save one) appear to turn gray before the age of 64.

    A faithful, more-salt-than-pepper, 43-year old reader.

  • Happy birthday sort of feels like an annual version of how are you. Nevertheless, I hope your day is so happy you’ll wonder if someone slipped something in your latte.

  • Happy Birthday! and I think it was a meteorite…which has to mean something fantastic right? Did you look around for a bigger hole in the ground? Maybe the universe delivered you a young hot Superman for your Birthday? Thor perhaps? Wishing you a very awesome year with good things!

  • Happy Birthday!
    also, charcoal briquette?

  • Have you been able to ascertain Nicola Tesla’s whereabouts at the time of the explosion? (Oh, that’s right, dead. Never mind).

    Also, happy birthday.

  • A belated happy birthday to you, Mrs. Kennedy!

  • Hope your birthday was fantastic!

  • Happy Birthday to you!

    Jan. 10 is my birthday too.

    Today I learned one of my favorite bloggers and one of my favorite co-workers and I share the same birthday. I really like Capricorns.

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