Factoids, Absurdity, & All That Cuteness

You learn something new every day, and on this trip to California to visit my brother and his family, I learned that March 29 would have been my father’s birthday.

It seems bizarre to admit I am 33 years old and didn’t know that. But there’s no accounting for the random information I learn on these trips I’ve taken with my mother over the years.

She shared that factoid with me shortly after I convinced her to pose in this selfie with me:

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My mother had never been in a selfie before, and I told her, don’t worry, I was in my first selfie just a few weeks ago, and they’re easy-peasy once you get over the whole narcissistic-taking-pictures-of-yourself thing.

I took like, twenty selfies of us right after we boarded the train. What can I say? My mom is very cute and I’ve always liked taking pictures of her. She has a sweet, fragile nature, and I always see this part of her in photos.

We boarded the train in Grand Junction, Colorado, and my mom wanted to spend the night playing a card game with me, wherein she selects a card and asks me the question printed on it, such as, “If you could pick any famous person to travel with, who would it be, and why?”

Me: “Does the question specify whether living or dead?”

Mom: “No. Either, I guess.”

Me: (thinking, thinking, thinking…) “Jon Stewart! Because he’s sweet and funny and I’d laugh the whole time.”

My mom chose Carl Sagan, who she remembered from guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as “a short, fascinating guy, who always had interesting things to say.”

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So our answers are kind of similar, as I’m pretty sure I’m at least six inches taller than Jon Stewart, but definitely think of him as “a fascinating guy, who always has interesting things to say.”

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Sometimes I think any woman who loves The Daily Show has some kind of crush on Jon Stewart. Cause man, the sheer cuteness of being as smart as he is… Devastation Factor 11.

But alas, I didn’t want to play this travel-question card game all night. I wanted to read Catch-22 and Rainbow Rowell’s first published novel (an adult novel, published in 2011)– Attachments.

At first, I found both books equally agonizing to read. Attachments suffers from an unfortunate beginning, as neither one of the two main characters drew me in for a long, long time.

And Catch-22, after beginning with the enticing promise that I might get to read about gay love, dissolved into a scattered narrative illustrating the various absurdities of the world, from government ineptitude (especially as it concerns the military) to the nature of fear and brutality. Couple that with a misogynist tone (unavoidable, as the novel was written by a man and published in 1961) and the disappearance of that delightful chaplain Yossarian fell in love with at first sight, and the reading was hard work to plow through.

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But I read on.

Attachments turned a corner and became more enjoyable. But Catch-22 just became more agonizing. The entire book is supposed to be humorous, but I am also someone who struggled to read Kafka’s The Trial, and Catch-22 is Joseph Heller’s Kafka-esque critique of the Korean War, which he set during WWII, and published during Vietnam.

So there’s a lot of mental juggling going on to read it. As well as the fact that a scattered, diffuse narrative isn’t exactly my thing, along with irony communicated in sentence reversals and meaning-negations, Catch-22 is not the breeziest novel to get through.

So I try to channel myself into the mindset of an 18-year-old boy circa 1968 (when the book was most popular), reading this novel in between protests on the Washington Mall, yelling those, “Hey, hey, LBJ!” invectives and holding up anti-war signs and projecting anger and disgust at the absurd Trip through Stupid that was the Vietnam War. (Though I would never spit at returning combat soldiers, or call them baby-killers, because that is just wrong.)

In Catch-22, Yossarian is a bombardier, which is the position Joseph Heller served in during WWII. And anyone who drops bombs from airplanes… there’s no telling who they have killed.

It’s a lot of horror to live with.

But the horror of war doesn’t really come across in the novel (at least, not in the first 100 pages I’ve read). Like I said, this story is focusing on the absurdity of war in a Kafka-esque manner, and written to be very humorous, very bitterly ironic. It’s not at all like reading The Things They Carried or A Long Way Gone.

And I don’t know if people compare Catch-22 to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass, but I can definitely say that Catch-22 reminds me of the versions of Alice in Wonderland I’ve seen on stage, with the constant absurdity and craziness going on.

So I finally took a break from Catch-22 and went back to reading Attachments.

By the mid-way point of Attachments, I was addicted. The book begins with three adults who are all passive losers: one is a married woman whose husband wants a baby (she does not want a child, but will have one anyway), one woman is in a long-term relationship with a self-absorbed musician who will never propose (and the woman desperately wants a husband and children), and one is a 28-year-old man living with his mother and still coping with getting dumped by his high school girlfriend.

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All three of these principal characters seemed like they were in their mid- to late-thirties to me, not their twenties. At least, that was how they felt in the first half of the book. As I gradually warmed to the story, I tried harder to convince my brain that the characters were all in their twenties. I mostly succeeded.

By the midway point, the characters stop being so passive and start to express some agency in their lives, which was when I fell in love with Lincoln and Beth and their story. Rainbow Rowell’s amazing talents are here in this book, just not quite in the same abundance as Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Rowell needed more time to build up steam with this novel, but I still found the story lovely and satisfying and beautiful.

I was so sad when I ran out of pages to read. Rowell had me so hooked by the end. I was total putty by then, unhappy doing anything else but reading more about Lincoln and Beth.

Then I had to return to reading Catch-22.

Erg.

I tried.

But I gave up and sat daydreaming, which is what I do best. Tiggers bounce, and I daydream.

And now I’ve been in Modesto, California for two and a half days, hanging out with this little bundle of giggles and smiles:

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I also spent time with Elana’s parents…

I think I might have a picture of them somewhere…

amidst all the baby photos…

ah yes, here they are:

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My handsome little bro, Dale, and his beautiful wife, Jessica. Here they are in front of the building where Dale works in Modesto.

But seriously– yawn, right? Cause how can they possibly compare with THIS–

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Those cheeks! That lil face! All that CUTENESS!!!!!!!

It’s been a fun few days with the baby, especially watching her play and baby-talk with all her burbling cooing noises. Elana makes a lot of cute sounds. Dale and Jessica are truly amazing parents, so smart and super-loving that they really are a Very Big Deal, the kind of awesome parents I wish every child could grow up with.

In a few hours, I’ll be back on the train… with my copy of Catch-22… and no Elana…

Erg.

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