10.08.2006

Ordinary Strange

Earlier this week I was thinking about the stories I write, trying to come up with something like an artist's statement that characterizes my writerly preoccupations. I didn't spend too much time thinking about it, but the phrase I came up with to describe what I am drawn to write about was "ordinary strange," which I suppose could also be translated as extraordinary ordinary, or somesuch.

And then this morning I was working on a piece of flash that involved how J.C. and I have to open our back door. The knob is forever loosening, so we have to gentle it in this certain way in order to keep from pulling the knob out of the door...

And then just a few minutes ago I was closing the garage door, which has been malfunctioning ever since I bumped one of the "eyes" with the hot-water heater I was discarding last week. Basically, the door stops closing about a foot too soon, then I have to restart the thing as if I'm opening it, stop it again, and hold down on the button to try to get it to close all the way...

And it kind of occurred to me that these small things--the way we have to open our back door or the way I have to close the garage door--are examples, metaphorically, of the ordinary strange, or the extraordinary ordinary, whichever you prefer. I mean, I don't think about the door handle or how I have to go about closing the garage door on a daily basis, because these little rituals have become a part of my daily habits. But if someone were to view them from the outside, they might think these things are a little odd. And poor D., he's always pulling off the door handle and looking at me like he's just broken it, with this look of terrible guilt on his face.

So this is a call to my four or five readers out there: What about your daily routine is extraordinarily ordinary? I'm looking for things that could at some point find their way into a story, so if you're willing to share, the stranger, the better.
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And speaking of ordinary strange: I just attended a wedding reception at my old Latin and Greek professor's house, and when I arrived he served me what I thought was champagne with raspberries. The stuff had an odd taste to it though, that I was guessing wasn't coming from only the fruit. It was good--excellent, even, but I couldn't put my tongue on what I was tasting.

Eventually, I made my way over to the drinks table and discovered that he'd been adding some kind of currant schnapps to the champagne, in addition to the raspberries. I know it probably sounds odd, but the currants and the champagne...it's definitely worth a try. It's sweet, but not jaw-achingly so.
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One more thing: I was working on that piece of flash on a large index card, on which I wrote not only the notes for the story but also my shopping lists for this morning's trips to Target and Aldi. I set down the list at Target while I was using my debit card, and I thought to myself, "Don't leave that list there. If somebody reads those notes they'll most likely think you're crazy." And then the woman handed me the receipt, and I picked up my bags, and thanked her, and I left the index card on the counter.

I'm sure it's in the trash by now, but here's a snippet of what the woman read on the card before she threw it away:

She wants to get out the door in a way that is stylish but not overly dramatic. [Metaphor.] A gesture: Purse?...A pair of shoes?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Until last week, I had a laser mouse at work that needed a little tickle on its underside to get moving sometimes. Dozens of times a day, I instinctually raised the mouse with my right hand, moved my left hand off the keyboard, and swiftly scratched the mouse's belly with my left index finger-- all within a second or two.

Then an editor saw me doing it and gave me a look like I was picking my nose in public or something.

I have a new mouse now.

fringes said...

I really want to answer your question, but there is nothing extraordinarily ordinary that I do daily except convince myself it's not my day to die. I've done that since seventh grade.

Lisa said...

I don't know if this is in your ordinary strange category or not -- I think it's just garden-variety OCD -- when I wash my face, I have to rinse it at least 25 times (don't ask). And when I drink glasses of water, the number of swallows has to end on a two-digit number that, if you add the numbers together, makes an odd number (for the size of glass I usually use, this number is 12).

OK, now that I've read what I just wrote, I see that it is in fact just OCD, not really what you were talking about. I think there's a lot of ordinary strange stuff involving doors. We have to hold the handle of our back door and pull it tight while turning the key, in order to lock it. And I have to bang my hip against our heavy front door while turning the lock, or it won't close enough to lock. Depending on the humidity level, sometimes I have to bang my hip against the door quite a few times before the lock turns!

A non-door one: We have those pleated, fabric-like shades on the windows. When I pull one open, one side of the shade is invariably higher than the other, so I'm always having to separate the strings (there are three), figure out which two go to one hand and which one goes to the other, and even it out by pulling up the lower side. Then I pull all the strings to the right, to lock the shade in place. When I let go, the one side often sags again, and I have to repeat the process (accompanied, this time, by epithets like "you f*cking son of a bitch!").

Re: Your champagne drink. Sounds like a variation on a kir royale, made with black currant liqueur and champagne. I love those! Oh, actually, I just read the wiki on kir royale, and apparently if you use raspberry liqueur, it's called a kir imperial.

Is there any prize for longest comment on this blog, by the way?

Chad Simpson said...

Thanks for contributing, anony-mouse.

Fringes, I don't know if it's extraordinarily ordinary to recite that little mantra each day but it certainly is odd. Do you ever worry about what will happen if you forget to say it?

Lisa, I agree: you're definitely talking about OCD, but your response was interesting nonetheless. And I do think you deserve a prize for its sheer length. I'll try to come up with something.

fringes said...

Oh, it's not a mantra. There is nothing I do that contains any type of routine required by repetitious recitation. I simply wake up wondering if this is the day and, by 3 p.m. when nothing has happened, I decide it's not. I go to bed wondering if this is the night, and when I wake up, I figure that it wasn't. But by that time, I'm again wondering if this is the day. Crazy habit, but we're all crazy, remember? I'm not too concerned about it.

Heather said...

I think our house embodies the concept of ordinary strange fairly well--the old former duplex that's only started its return to a single family dwelling. Now that interior work has been halted fora year, I hardly notice the oddness I live with till someone comes by. The side-by-side front doors, one used, one not. The upstairs kitchen (unusable) and the downstairs one. The downstairs bath that's mostly unusable--really more a tool closet with a toilet. The upstairs bath was literally half-finished for a few months, complete with paint and tiles halfway down the middle of the room, while the other half was bare to the plaster and the subfloor, that finished half rushed so we could actually move in and be able to bathe. Perhaps the best part is the dual front staircases, though. We know not to use the "old" set, since the ceiling is too low at the top and you'd hit your head.