life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


as a little child

courtesy of Jeff |

Once when I was seven or eight or nine, my parents had me sleep in my baby sister's room on Christmas Eve. Maybe it was my idea. Either way, we kids were to be together on that most special of nights, perhaps for solidarity, as we weren't allowed to leave the room until morning. At that point in my life (as with most of my childhood), my official best friend was the cat, so she was included as well. I'm sure I had picked out and wrapped at least one present for her and left it under the tree--a present she would brush by indifferently as she slinked under the branches to drink from the base. I hope I had picked out a present for my sister as well, but I'm less certain about that.

Back then, in the early '90s, the cat and I were at the outset of a years-long struggle over sleeping arrangements. I wanted her to spend the night curled up on my bed with me, which she sometimes did, but usually she roamed in and out and all over. This Christmas Eve we had to be together, though--a family--so when she took off after an hour or two, I followed her downstairs. When I appeared in the basement doorway around midnight, my parents looked surprised. The light was on and they were wrapping presents. When they saw me and hustled me back to bed, I seem to remember an added measure of urgency, as though I had really caught them off-guard, but maybe that's just hindsight. I didn't think anything of it, and we never spoke of the matter again. I'm not sure to what degree I believed in Santa at the time, but this potentially traumatic incident didn't affect it either way. Why wouldn't they be wrapping presents at night?

That might have been the year I got a Magic 8-ball and an LA Dodgers hat. I didn't care about the team, but my friend Andrew had the hat, and I thought it was cool. I told Santa I wanted those things, and I also told my parents. When I received them on Christmas morning, I didn't have to know the source. I didn't want to.

A few years later, we got an artificial tree, and we had to put a bowl of water underneath it, because the cat expected a drink. Around this time, almost every year, my parents started telling me the same thing: "you're growing up now, so you probably won't get as many presents this year." They said that when I graduated high school, got back from Russia, and got married, though I never noticed a sharp decline. Some boxes were always marked "from Santa" and some were explicity from my parents, and though the distinction was fuzzy, it was always respected. In fact, it still is. For all I know, some obese old saint will stumble out of the fireplace later tonight and leave everything I need. It's never been proven otherwise to me, and that's how I like it. I still don't want to know. My parents' silence on the matter may be their all-time greatest Christmas gift to me, to allow me to be more innocent than I am, at least for one morning a year.

Before bed tonight, I gathered a few little things and placed them in a stocking for Adam: a pacifier, a pair of blue baby shoes that belonged to me, and a piece of ribbon and a paper cup, which he'll like more than his educational toys from Barnes & Noble. I thought for sure that this year, the first year of fatherhood, the unmagical truth would finally be exposed, but it hasn't been yet. Even though I filled my son's stocking, I will never know for sure who filled mine. Some boxes will say "from Santa" and we'll smile knowingly. And I'll thank my parents, but not for the presents.


in defense of Utah

courtesy of Jeff |

Listen up, because there's a good chance I'm never going to say this again in public.

Utah is a cool place.

And you thought you knew me. This all started Sunday afternoon during a leisurely Sunday drive Sarah and I took through the south end of the Salt Lake Valley, rolling between mountains, temples, and new housing developments. As we began our return to her parents' house, the conversation turned to a familiar topic: the question of where to spend our lives together.

Sarah moved to Utah when she was eight, and loves it as one should love her home. I came in college, not intending to stay long, but after five years, I became softened by something that often skirts cursory conversations about the Beehive State: nuanced reality.

You see, for me, growing up near the state but not in it, Utahns were the annoying neighbors and perpetual joke-butts. Stereotypes, of course, ran rampant. Since before I can remember, it's been a place constantly derided by friends, family, and others who have spent many years there and elsewhere. I myself even participated in this action on occasion, tossing the term "Utard" around more than I'm comfortable admitting now.

(For a full and proper context, please see my landmark June 2009 posting "Striving to Improve Idaho/Utah Relations.")

Actually, many people jab at Utah from inside and out, but it's important to note that nearly 100 percent of the derision is directed solely at its residents. No one really speaks ill of Utah's cities, which tend to be clean and modern, or its natural wonder, which is extraordinary. A hefty portion of the derision comes from Mormons from other states, but that's not the issue here.

The issue is this. I live a couple states away now, and when I tell people I'm from Idaho, I get a wide variety of reactions--potatoes, skiing, fishing, neo-Nazis, BSU football, hicks, corn (for those confusing it with Iowa)--and this is good. Variety and reality, out of which a friendly conversation may ensue. But try to tell someone you've come from Utah, and the initial reaction is the same every single time. It's remarkable. All 2.8 million people, including the 1.2 million who are active Mormons and the 1.6 million who are not, are painted with the exact same brush. I've watched it countless times--in a split-second, the person looks you up and down and almost nods a little, then gives a distinct look that says they immediately know everything about you. Say no more. You're from Utah. I've heard about you.

The easy answer, of course, is to not let this bother me. First of all, I'm not from Utah, and secondly, the majority of Utahns don't seem to let the profiling and essential condescension hinder their ridiculously high quality of life. Who knows if we'll ever move back here or not, but if we decide to, I might have to do a little maturing in order to fit in, considering my upbringing.

That, and I'd have to stop using my turn signal. Zing! I'm sorry, I know. Sort of sends a mixed message about the place.

Well, hey.


talking, but with revision

courtesy of Jeff |

By now, you must have noticed it. Of course you have. This blog, you've said, doesn't have a theme, a brand, an essence. It's alternately witty and sappy, trivial and overblown, and pretty much every entry is too long. If you hadn't noticed it, don't feel bad. I noticed it a long time ago, but I never did anything about it. That's probably worse.

Why is it that we blog, again? Remind me. For me, maybe my writing voice is the voice I wish was my speaking voice. Maybe it's because I no longer keep a journal. Maybe I just want to be heard. But some of the world's most annoying people are those who just want to be heard. Yes, it's not the most ignoble of desires, but it spawns some bad stuff. Either way, there are something like 13 million blogs out there (made it up), so no one's really getting heard anyway.

I remember remarking to my friend Blaine once in an Indian restaurant in a gas station that I thought that writing, for me, represented the most likely opportunity for me to make a real "mark on the world" or something like that. I'm pretty sure I still believe that, but I don't know if I care anymore. Writing for me, I think, represents the thing that makes me feel the best, the most productive. That's what it is. And when someone might stumble in the door and read it on accident, it forces some degree of accountability.

This next three weeks might represent the longest vacation I'll have until I retire, assuming I find a job someday. So here's this: I'm going to do my best to write here at least two or three times a week until winter quarter starts and we'll see what comes out of it. Maybe I'll figure out why it is I do this, and what form future postings might take. It might suck for a bit (see "Searching for Teen Wolf" or this entry), but I have hope for a brighter future.