Sunday, May 18, 2008

Clearing Out: A Meditation on Method

I am magnetic. Those who know me well will understand the truth of this statement and how it works on so very many levels. For instance, just as my Marketing Padawan has a newfound penchant for attracting rogue staplers into his cubicle, so do I draw various and sundry articles into my house. By which I mean, principally, paper. Stacks and stacks of paper.

The epicenter of this storm is the home office, which wouldn’t matter except that it doubles as the dining room table. At some point during the course of my current project, for reasons that remain unknown to me, I became unable to work in the second-floor room designated for the purpose of writing, and so I relocated to the downstairs. My work, and my piles, moved with me. New ones sprang up.

There are writers who take to these newfangled “software programs” that outline and measure and monitor and chart. No. I am a writer who needs to see what’s in my head from time to time, see something tangible in space, and that means notes; and notes mean print-outs, scraps, notebooks, envelopes, receipts, ticket stubs, and any other reasonably flat surfaces across which I can drag a rollerball pen. For a time I would work on the backs of large desk-calendar sheets I’d bring home from the office once the month had passed. These have their piles, too.

In addition, living with a house rabbit for 10 years teaches you certain lessons about clutter, nonattachment, and the ultimate futility of maintaining the hygienic standards of polite society. (To this day I cannot allow myself to place scripts, books, magazines, or other potentially valuable chewables on the lowest shelves of a bookcase; Mr. J worked his way through, among other things, Latin, organic chemistry, the Riverside Shakespeare, and pathological diseases, as well as the Star Wars Soundtrack Anthology box set. You learn.)

Jenifer claims that I have a fondness for piles and, moreover (my mother’s protests notwithstanding), that I was raised this way. I deny this, of course (that I like piles, not that I produce them industriously), but I do admit to an offhand comment I made about a ramshackle building we passed on a recent country walk. This may have strengthened her position.

You see, I am drawn to the weird places in between residences; the run-down sheds, barns, springhouses, and other auxiliary buildings whose purpose or ownership has long been forgotten; the mysterious and quite possibly toxic industrial sites; the overgrown service stations; in short, the forlorn brickyards of the soul.

And yet, lest you get entirely the wrong idea about me, I also have a penchant for a very particular and exacting kind of order, the kind that insists upon storing a complete set of original (1978–1985) Star Wars action figures in paper-towel-lined cigar boxes. (I am sure you can imagine the horror, the horror when Jenifer took it upon herself to shake the box until the lid burst open and the action figures tumbled forth and the blasters and lightsabers and gimer sticks scattered to the Four Winds and . . . it was horrible.)

Which brings us to my Terrible Purpose of late: cleaning up the house. This news won’t come as a surprise to most, as it is a reasonable thing to do with a Baby on the way. And while the effort won’t quite match the scale of the Great Purge of ’06, it can nonetheless be quite a task for someone with a Bento box for a brain.

Cleaning up folks can understand, get behind. You need to make room for The Baby. And this means nursery and crib and all the other Baby Accoutrement one could ever hope for.


There will be no crib, no nursery, no stroller, no plastic toys, precious few (cloth) diapers (the better to practice elimination communication), and instead only the finest in organic, Fair Trade, shade-grown, carbon-negative, biodynamic objets d’art animated only by wind, sun, and imagination. You can imagine how even the most innocent of conversations quickly becomes a tricky rhetorical situation. It’s easy enough to answer the How’s the New Job Going line of questioning, but the Are You Getting Ready for Baby version is an altogether different challenge question. I daren’t make mention of the aforementioned desirable qualities, or answer inquiries directly and honestly, unless I wish to subject myself to social outlawry. Occasionally, of course, I am caught in a moment of weakness, at which point the conversant exhibits a dramatic facial spasm, tries to stifle it, fails, smiles, sputters, and then peruses with Terminator-like precision the palette of available reactions, which are usually limited to eyerolling, backpedaling, and general flabbergastering. At least that’s been the process so far.

Thus, when it comes to clearing out my stuff, my papers, I am taking an old Icelandic perspective, that character does not determine fate, that traversing the poles of Order and Chaos has less to do with individual ability than with simply What Is. You could say that getting rid of my papers is not for the acquisition of stuff but to better invite the further disorder with which the Baby will bless us. Some sacrifices are required, after all.

But you didn’t it hear it from me. I’m just going through my papers, my endless reams of papers, and that’s not likely to change, I fear, until the day Gullinkambi calls.

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Blogger Brett said...

I cry foul at your scabrous pilferage of my random label appension.
klutter king B

11:28 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Then gather your hazel poles, lad, and we shall go to the island, you and I, and test our strength.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Mainline Mom said...

The other day I offered Jenifer a bunch of my leftover winter baby clothes that Alex was only an hour later I realized they could be completely the wrong gender type clothing. And of course none of it would be the organic, fair trade type stuff...but it would be all recycled, much of it used by several different babies, since I buy most of my stuff second hand.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Mainline Mom: Jenifer mentioned that, and we are very grateful! Keep in mind that I am prone more to hyperbole than actual axe-grinding, and that we won't know the baby's sex, much less its gender, until the stork arrives.

P.S. Nice new pic!

11:39 AM  
Anonymous jenifer said...

that is, we don't mind cross-dressing. :D

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Careful with NO plastic toys. You might just make the kid desire more later on. Get him/her/it one or two, just to show how lame they are compared to the much better sticks, leaves, and rocks...

6:41 PM  
Blogger Brett said...

Nah. I think I'll just lurk in your neighborhood and clip you with my Buick when you cross the street one day.

Meanwhile, if you ban all plastic toys you cut your kid off from LEGO, Wiffle™ balls, and Frisbees (not to mention all the sure to be wicked awesome action figures from my [odd historical action adventure].

Vex me not.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Brett, you would drive a Buick.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

When your piles beget piles and begin to form a loose social structure . . . seek help.

As for the baby, I'm beginning a book chronicling the development of your child entitled: How Ryan and Jen Managed to Raise a Republican Against All Odds.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Oh, and that publication will be preceded by my other book: Tom Crymes' Input/Output Method of Child Rearing. Sure to be an international best seller (I'm starting a grass-roots campaign to establish English as the world-wide common language so I don't have to bother with translations).

10:27 AM  
Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Well, it won't be a book. More of a pamphlet (maybe even a leaflet) comprising mostly of (if not entirely of) my response to your other post). And it won't be a best seller because it will be available free of charge in most bathroom stalls.

Hope that clears up any confusion.

Now back to your regularly scheduled internet ranting.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Brett said...

"Buick" is among the top three inherently comic auto brands.

The other two are "Nash" and "Yugo."

11:13 PM  

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