THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #181

[These are all loves this week again. I’m tired of hating things. I don’t really hate anything anymore. Really I don’t. I’m not trying to be irksomely inspirational, I just don’t anymore. Multiple Sclerosis changed me.]

LOVE:

“The Painted Queen” ARC:

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This is inevitably going to be a mile long. You all are well aware of my passion for all Egyptological matters I’m sure. You know the background with the unexpected shop in Des Moines, the books I poured over, the early websites I scoured for information that were far too detailed for a fifth grader but I still found riveting. As I grew up, the passion never went out, never left me, but I must admit that it was a different temperature. As high school came and went, other things occupied my time. When I moved to Paris, I was lucky enough to have a pass into the Louvre and plenty of free time. So, in the cool French winter, as I eagerly awaited spring’s return, I found myself wandering endlessly through the Egyptian galleries of that marvelous museum. And my love came back as if it had never waned. I looked lovingly on statues of Ramses and stele. I stared longingly at hieroglyphic carvings and the remnants of Amarna. I was fascinated and in love and I knew that I had found something to propel me through life with satisfaction. I’m still learning to figure out what that is exactly, but I know that it’s my field. Back in America, for some reason, I remembered some books that I had once seen in the library. After a bit of sleuthing, I uncovered the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries. Reader, from that first book, I was swept away. The books are about a Victorian feminist who goes to Egypt on a whim and falls madly in love with the country and with the most infamous Egyptologist of the era. Over the course of many books and many decades, Amelia and Emerson go off on many multiple adventures usually involving ripped shirts and dead bodies. They go all over Egypt and all the sites are discussed at length. The writing is witty and hilarious and teaches the reader tons of information about archaeology, Egyptian culture, ancient Egyptian history, and the social issues of this time period. It’s all fabulous and I quickly fell head over heels in love with the author, Barbara Mertz (who uses the pen name Elizabeth Peters). When I learned that she was a trained Egyptologist with a degree from the highly respected University of Chicago, well that was it for me. I knew that I needed to do the same. So I wrote a lengthy letter telling Barbara that she had profoundly impacted my life. When I went to research the address to send it to, I read that she had died. I felt overwhelming loss. I was devastated for the longest time because I would never get to befriend Barbara. And I was sad because Amelia had been frozen. She would never come back to life in the pages of a book. Imagine my rapture, imagine my thrill, imagine my delight when word spread that there was an unfinished manuscript about Amelia! I literally think I died. There were dozens of publication dates, random news was released and then gone again, and finally it was announced that The Painted Queen would be published this summer. I squealed for hours. I was still shocked it was happening. I wish that I could have been the one to complete the manuscript, for writing and Egyptology are my raison d’être, but I’m not jumping down that rabbit hole right now. I couldn’t wait for the book, I couldn’t wait for it to be in my hands. On Facebook, there was a contest to win an advanced print, so of course I submitted an entry. I hoped I would win, but I heard nothing, then my devious mind got to whirling. If ARCs existed to give out in a contest…surely they existed elsewhere, right? So I launched eBay and within seconds found one copy for sale. It was in my basket and shipped to me in one breath. I was elated. A couple days later, the rushed package arrived on my door and I was in the presence of The Painted Queen nearly three months before it was to be sent to the bookshops. Of course I devoured it. Of course it was wonderful. Of course I wept. I shan’t say anything about the plot to you because I don’t want to give it away. I will leave with this marvelous quotation by the fabulous Egyptologist Salima Ikram who wrote the forward. “It is with great sadness that I bid farewell to the idea of enjoying any new adventures of the indomitable Amelia and Emerson, the ‘most brilliant archaeologist of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.’ However, I find comfort in knowing that I have the old stories to return to, and, no doubt, even if they are not being chronicled as before, Amelia continues to contend with another ruined shirt as she and Emerson embark on fresh adventures.” Damn it. I’m crying again.

MS Walk:

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Multiple Sclerosis is a dumb disease. We have hashed out the reasons why a great many times, so I won’t get into it again and bore your to tears. I have come to terms with it, in my way, the way it is now. Who knows what will happen in the future? I certainly don’t, but I don’t like to dwell on speculation. It’s of absolutely no use to me or anybody else. But still, it’s good to be prepared for the worst should it come, even though you should never let it control you. I just had my most recent checkup with my neurologists, and everything was as good as it can be. I’m pleased by that, and I hope it will remain that way for the rest of my life. But onto the major subject, the MS Walk. It’s been going on for years, which I didn’t realize. I think I knew vaguely of it, but the size of the event was a shock. There were so many people at the walk wearing orange and with witty slogans and tears. There were several drug companies hawking their wares. Well not really, they were just giving out branded objects, and I am a massive fan of my Copaxone water bottle. The walk began, and I was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. I could walk to the moon if I could, you know? Walking is one of my simple pleasures. I walked and it was over, and then I stood by the end, and something happened. A woman crossed the line with a great struggle, her face was scrunched in a combination of effort and pain, and something inside of me was profoundly changed. She and I shared a disease, but I realized then for the first time just how lucky I am. I could have lost leg function — I still might — and I could have lost my vision or lived with brain fog or chronic fatigue. I don’t. I live my life much the way I did before I was diagnosed. The only difference is popping a handful of pills in the morning. That’s it. My life is really not affected in any profound or significant way. I still go crawling through tombs. I still go for lengthy walks. I still garden. I still write and read. I still cook elaborate meals. I still live my life. But that lady at the walk doesn’t. Though I don’t know her, I know that her existence had completely changed from what it used to be. She is not the woman she once was. And it was no choice of her own. And I got to profoundly and deeply thinking. What would ever happen to me if suddenly I was unable to walk unassisted? What would I do? Who would I be and what would I become? I would struggle endlessly if that were to befall me. I hope it never does. And so the MS Walk left me with a deep feeling of tragic melancholy, but I am ever so thankful that it opened up my eyes. I think frequently now of how lucky I am. I truly am.

“Feud” Finale:

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What is this, the third time I’ve discussed Feud? Probably. I just can’t get over it, reader. I can’t stop thinking about it. I shan’t rehash why since you can read the installment from a couple weeks back where I gushed endlessly. But now I’ve seen the final episode, and I will keep this fabulous program in my mind for the rest of my living days. The production value was sensational, the writing was delicious, the editing was fabulous, and the acting was top notch. If Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon don’t both receive both Emmy nominations and wins for their performances of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, I will be screaming into the void for the rest of my life. When I first heard of the show, I thought it was ludicrous. When I first learned that Jessica was playing Joan, I thought it was ludicrous. When I first heard the premise of the series, I thought it was ludicrous. My doubts were the only ludicrous thing, reader. I rant about Ryan Murphy to anybody that dares listen to me. I just want so much from him. His main failing in my eyes is that he has such decadent and wonderful ideas, and he brings them to life, but he gets so wrapped up in his mind that he rarely finishes a show satisfactorily. That is the great curse of the American Horror Story franchise. Each year it veritably teems with possibilities that are never fully realized. Thank God and Allah and the Buddha and Oprah and Beyoncé that this did not happen to Feud. The finale was one of the most satisfactory and brilliant and beautiful pieces of television I have ever seen.

Truly, reader, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and watch it before you finish my little post. I’m not even going to mention how fabulous it was that they did Trog. I still can’t believe that was a thing I witnessed with my own eyes. That was a frequent refrain while I watched every episode. What I do want to discuss is a scene where Joan was having a hallucination. This was shortly before her death, and she rose from her bed, surprised to find music and chatter and clinking glasses coming from her sitting room. She made her way down the hall as thunder and lightning boom and flash and finds old friends sitting there in the prime of their lives. They were both dead or old. They had wonderful conversations, they had fun, they discussed their pain, and Joan was transformed into the woman of her glory days. Then Bette enters the scene and she and Joan make up. It’s gorgeous. Then Joan snaps out of it and she is again an elderly woman with long grey hair and only days from death. I nearly wept every tear I had in my body. The last scene of the series was phenomenal and I feel so lucky that this happened. Good job, Ryan Murphy. I know you read this. Comment below. Let’s have lunch.

Downtown Des Moines HyVee:

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In the days of my youth, there was a fabulous gourmet grocery store near Jordan Creek Town Center. I can’t recall the name. It was filled with imported foods and nibbles of the highest quality. I was absolutely obsessed with egg noodles that came from the Black Forest in Germany — I’m still hunting for something to replace them. I loved this sushi rice that came in little pearls. Still can’t find it anywhere else. And most blissfully, I was deeply in love with Tŷ Nant water which is unreasonably good. It tastes like water, but it feels like silk as it runs over your tongue. Back in those days, though, the epicurean craze hadn’t quite hit Des Moines, so the grocery store folded. Over the following decade, it did arrive and now it’s possible to find a hugely expensive meal that is the size of a nickel and covered in some absurd foam. Cocktails cost an arm and a leg and there are almost too many farm-to-table restaurants to choose from. A good grocery store like the one that lived in my memories surrounded by angelic halo could probably sustain itself. We have one called Gateway Market, but absurdly, the grocery store of my dreams — that isn’t ALDI — turns out to be HyVee. If you don’t have them in your local area, these aren’t exceptional grocery stores, they’re nice enough but they’re aren’t Whole Foods. Maybe they’re a step above the Piggly Wiggly. Lolz, reader, they’re nicer than that. Anyway, downtown Des Moines hasn’t had a grocery store in forever. Not one in my living memory, but that’s probably because shopping malls and suburban sprawl tolled a death knell for downtown. It’s back with a vengeance, though, and it is one of the places to BE. Tapping into a necessary market, HyVee opened a gorgeous little shop where a parking lot used to be. I didn’t know what to expect when I first went inside, but I hardly expected it to be like that grocery store of my childhood. Wonderful things were every which way. There was fresh made pasta, which I of course bought. There were ancient grain breads, which I of course bought. There were imported flavored butters, which I of course bought. There was impossible-to-find alkaline charcoal water, which I of course bought. There was everything. It was fabulous. The wine aisle was lovely, but I didn’t buy anything since Winking Owl merlot costs less than three dollars at ALDI, and it’s flawless. I had the greatest time. I’ll be back. I’ll buy all the breads.

DMACC’s Glorious Conclusion:

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Readers, when you open the next installment of this blog series, I will finally have an Associate’s Degree. It’s years and years late, which I do kind of regret, but I don’t regret any of the experiences that have made me who I am. If I had gone to university right after high school, I’d probably be depressed and hating my job. I don’t even know what I would have gone to college for. That’s why I didn’t go. And because I was rebelling against the system… I’m glad that I became a baker. I’m glad I went to pastry school. I’m glad I became a Parisian and a citizen of the world. I’m glad I was anorexic for Tyra Banks. I’m glad I met my family in California. I’m glad I had time to create this blog. I’m glad I had time to write increasingly less shitty novels. I’m glad I read in copious amounts. I’m glad I developed a neurological disease. I’m glad that I’ve crawled through innumerable tombs and explored bat-infested temples. I’m glad I lived as a vagrant in Vintimiglia. I’m glad that I went to four One Direction concerts. I’m glad I stayed at the Chateau Marmont and the Drake and the Old Cataract and The Negresco and the Winter Palace and the Palais de la Méditerranée. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t had these life experiences, and I really like being me, so I have no regrets about delaying my college entrance. I think I’ll look more attractive getting my degree now than I would have then, so there’s that. So after nearly three years, I’m done with my two-year degree. I have a couple tests and a project to do and I’m free. I still need to apply to a bigger university to get my bachelor’s in whatever it is I do. Probably education. But, in the dead of the night, when I’m unable to sleep as I think of all the wonderful opportunities to be had in this glorious world, I think of the Sorbonne and the University of Chicago and UCLA and being an Egyptologist and spending my life looking at pottery bits and translating hieroglyphs and publishing books of a scholarly nature that very few will buy. Who knows what the future holds? I’m glad I don’t. But I am glad that my DMACC career is in its final few days.

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