Saturday, December 30, 2006


The title of today's entry is "Last Year at This Time." It was after Christmas and before New Year's Eve, just like this year. Sunshine was way up in Kentucky, and I expected to see her only once more before she returned to México. I was back in town after Christmas, and had already stayed with a number of friends, once each. I'd sprung for a hotel for convenience already. My confidence in returning home for an extended period was at an all-time low. Was I an imposition on everyone? What right did I have to materialize for six weeks, expecting everyone else to accommodate me. Last Year at This Time, my closest friend was abroad and had loaned me her car. Last Year at This Time, I'd just spent the night in that car after other plans had faded away. I was dreading the next five weeks: how I was going to accomplish fitting back in? I could not visualize the future: the New Year's party around the corner, the convenient spare room I was to occupy. I didn't yet know that I was slipping easily back into routine with everyone here at home. Things would turn out to be relaxed, fun, and seemingly too brief at six weeks. I was only prepared for frustration, annoyance, and homesickness for Sunshine while I was home. I'm happy to say that things worked out better than that. This Year at This Time, I have none of these concerns. Possibly because I worked them through last year I have more overall faith in the matter. Either way, looking into the future--a party tonight, one on Sunday, and five more weeks of hanging-out with the people I love in the place I love--is in no way disheartening to me now. [Cavin]

Friday, December 29, 2006


Since it's turned out my internet access has indeed been sparse lately, I feel the need to post to this column whenever I happen to actually have some. Over the next few days, like the last few, there's a holiday with plenty of parties and socializing. I'm not sure I'll make it to this forum every day. Since I'm able to post now, I would be remiss if I didn't do so. While thinking this through earlier, I planned to come up with a worthwhile theme while taking my shower. I've taken showers in a number of different places over these last weeks (eight actually) and I'm still uncertain whether my continuing delight stems from the astounding variety of those experiences, the rejuvenation of showering after long winter nights of social visiting, or poking around in other people's toiletries. There's a predictably extensive array of scented gels, perishable conditioners, and sculpted soaps in the mostly feminine bathtubs I've stood in while doing this poking; the rooms themselves artfully decked with colored candles, stocked with magazines, and hung with fluffy guest towels. What interested me today, distracted me from conjuring a real post topic, was the sheer difference between these showers themselves. I fiddled with the handles in today's bathtub trying to comprehend the dramatically unrelated torque ratios of the hot and the cold taps. A few days ago, I was in a tub old enough to have four porcelain knobs, one of which was labeled "waste." Somewhat before that, I used a tub with exposed water pipes. These physical characteristics, the actual context of different showers, has proven as compelling as the vagaries of their content--those cakes and decorations or even the nature of the unsteadily-adjusted water itself. I quite forgot to imagine anything of interest otherwise. [Cavin]

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Some random thoughts about the last few days: Christmas was the same combination of nostalgia and familial reunion that it's supposed to be, the sort-of sad kind-of feeling that I was in over the last post not withstanding. I had a really nice time; and those true meanings of family relationships rather congeal when I'm only around a few months out of every year. This time I had to confront the fact that I may not be able to make it home for these holidays next year. Mostly, everyone has seemed surprised that I've made it home for them so far; but I'm a little torn up about it. The other day I got to feed my lovely goddaughter, BB, for the first time. There's just something about a baby, man, even at two o'clock in the morning. It's love at every first sight. Over last week, I've noticed that the old cell phone battery's a little outta whack, and I've ordered a new one. Recently I have been totally booked up with little social engagements featuring many of my favorite people in the whole world: I watched episode after episode of Venture Bros. with Ian, I ate spurious Mexican food with Mr. Beaver, and I've done a number of easy Monday New York Times crosswords with my mom at the deli. Tonight I drank semi-fine scotch and listened to music at Jenn.'s place. A number of people we were here and the evening devolved quickly into the kind of comedy that I really want to remember, repeat in snippets of conversation, for the rest of my life. Will I? I certainly hope so. Now the evening is done, late, over, and I’ve noticed that there's some free email signal to capitalize on, so I am writing this. [Cavin]

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas. This time of year makes me traditionally nostalgically moody, so today's topic is: Mill Housing. Mill housing communities were a product of a specific era. After World War II, GIs returned to rural hometowns, eager to participate in the new social incentives that had initially tempted them into the war. Meanwhile, domestic textile production was returning to civilian market pursuits after long military service as well. Men were expected to return to work while women laid down to deliver a baby boom. The best way to tempt newly returned soldiers off the family farm and into textile centers was to create affordable nuclear households in planned neighborhoods around the mills. Fields were leveled, grids were drawn, and little white clapboard and asbestos structures were parked like Monopoly pieces every forty-five feet throughout. My parents grew up in these neighborhoods, which lined the tracks from Charlotte to Durham. When I was young, these little white squares were the houses I visited every holiday. During the summers I would play in backyards that abutted six others. On Halloween I'd hold hands from house to house, trick-or-treating--sixty houses in a sixteen-block square. There's something sad about returning for holidays now. So many people have died--there was a time when I would play over there on the floor, in afternoon sunlight, and seven pairs of legs lined the furniture around me. But there's a still more personal, perhaps selfish, sadness I find pervasive: because I spent only the best times of my young life in mill houses, that's what I remember when I reminisce. Decorations, cakes, merry cheer--these are my only memories within those places. It's only possible to recall the missing things of my youth there, like ghosts of things that have gone away without dying. [Cavin]

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve! Or, you know, happy whatever holiday you may take pleasure in, on, or near today. A lot of people frown on others who prefer to be recognized for their esoteric tastes in denomination, but not me. If you celebrated Christmas Eve today, that's great (so did I) and I sincerely hope you had a good one of those. If you celebrated Gothic Romance Day yesterday, good for you (so did I) and I hope you felt bitterly and poetically estranged from your true love on some lonesome windswept moor. I suspect that a vast percentage of my viewing audience are celebrating Christmas Eve today while there were only two (including me) who celebrated Gothic Romance Day yesterday. There are, of course, other holidays filling-in the interstices between these extremes (like Chanukah, Alban Heruin, Yule, Festivus, Bangladeshi Victory Day, and the Birthday of the Louisiana Purchase); but here at Update Stuff we only know just enough to cover the following poles--the most- and least-popular holidays of this festive season, respectively. Christmas Eve: invented at least a thousand years ago, by ideological invaders, as the day before a heady concoction of ancient seasonal rites and the modern moral guidance; and Gothic Romance Day: invented about eleven years ago, by me, as a distillate of romantic love and B-horror monsters at the exact midpoint between Halloween and Valentine's Day on the 23rd of December. Christmas Eve is an important free-trade-theology holy day where children beg and moan to get their hands on at least one stuffed stocking before being forced to spend a sleepless night trapped alone in bed waiting for the following day. Gothic Romance Day is pretty much the same, only with a Betelgeuse-ian twang and then the very next day is only Christmas Eve, anyway. [Cavin]