taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Instead of a regular Good Humor man, my neighborhood has Ice Cream Joe. Ice Cream Joe drives a wildly hand-painted Chevy van, all primary colors in insane swirls, as though a bunch of ten-year-olds painted it. And his van doesn't play a song--he actually has bells that he rings by hand. All of this endears me to him.

Joe has two main places he hangs out--in front of the neighborhood ice cream shop, and in front of the neighborhood pool. You never know when he's going to show up (he's clearly a man who keeps his own schedule) and you never know what kind of mood he'll be in (paranoid? angry? intoxicated? He's appeared to be all three in the past.) But when he shows up, the children gather immediately, trained to hear the retro sound of his tuneless sleighbells. He has an enormous selection: firecrackers, lick-a-color, snocones, cookies-n-cream, SpongeBobs, Power Puff Popsicles, ChocoTacos. We always get Firecrackers.

Anyway, Joe is always worried that other ice-cream establishments are taking his business away--actually, that they're actively trying to destroy him. This, mind you, despite the fact that he ONLY parks in front of an ice cream shop and in front of the ice cream concession at the pool.

But Joe doesn't seem to understand that, being transient, he has an inherent advantage over the sedentary ice cream places.

Children like the mystery of the ice cream truck, they like never knowing when it'll show up. Who cares about ice cream if it's always available? It's only interesting if you have to hurry to catch it, if you have to say "MOMOMOMOMOMOM! I need a dollar RIGHT NOW! NOW, Mom , NOW! Hurry!" and hop up and down really fast on both feet. It's only interesting if the ice cream might, at any moment disappear.

But Joe doesn't see it this way. To his mind, they're out to get him--the disaffected teenage scoopers at the ice cream shop, and the disaffected teenage lifeguards at the pool. Today he told us how the pool people were out to get him. "There's this fat kid!" he exclaimed. "And he was running around saying 'Ice cream Joe, we're gonna put you out of business!' Little fat kid! They're trying to GET me! But I'm not outta business yet, am I?" There was a hint of desperation in his voice, as though this little fat kid might actually be able to take away his liveliehood. I thought, as I paid for my Firecrackers, that Joe was being a little histrionic.

But when I went back to my pool chair, there was this little fat kid sitting next to me. His sister was bouncing up and down and saying "MOM! I need a dollar RIGHT NOW! Ice Cream Joe is here!" And her little fat brother said laconically, "Don't pay Ice Cream Joe for that! He's a ripoff. You can buy ten of those popsicles at the grocery store for less money!" His sister looked at him like he was crazy. And I thought, that's the kid! Maybe he really is out to get Ice Cream Joe!

What sinister forces must be at work in that child--in the world--that anyone would want Ice Cream Joe to disappear? Maybe his truck is too individual. Maybe his schedule is too irregular. Maybe this little fat kid is the devil's minion, working hard to turn us all into hopeless automatons, eating ice cream only at scheduled times and from a non-mobile establishment!

I hope it's not true. I hope Ice Cream Joe can survive this onslaught of conformity and hostility. I hope he goes on ringing those bells and showing up maybe every other day, at irregular times. We need popsicles.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Everything’s becoming more and more mine—waste a night, there it goes, no one to blame but myself; run ten miles, feel the pain, no one to blame but myself. At the same time: behave well, go to sleep on time, wake up feeling good-hey I did that, no one else, I can take the credit. This responsibility is new to me, or at least the perception of it. I can’t really believe that the way in which I affect my own world is not at all mystical but pragmatic. How boring! How utterly true.

So I guess it is, after all, really up to me. What I make of my life, How I choose to spend my time. This should be an obvious thing, right, at thirty? But no! Of course it’s not, this is me, Claire. I should be able to smoke a pack of cigarettes and not feel it—do anything and not feel it—I’m above the law. But now it seems really clear that my time is limited—not in the helpless, shit-I’m –actually-gona-die way of my twenties but really, what am I going to spend this time doing? meditating over candles??? dreaming big dreams? No, possibly getting some sleep and gardening? That’s more like it, in a way.