The listing of mental groceries.

All right then, yesterday — in a post that got a little whiny for my tastes, but well, I posted it, so we’re moving on now! — I said that I would be taking up my buddy Citizen E on his suggestion to do what I’m calling grocery listing. And so I shall.

Und zo:

Ah, writing! It’s a lovely profession, but honestly, what do I produce? Having never learned how to do anything that is, in fact, useful, it’s an unfortunate truth that, come the revolution, my children will likely starve. (I once said this to my mother and she glanced at me and deadpanned, “I don’t know. You’re a pretty fair cook.”)

So one often thinks of skills one wishes one had — either for post-revolution survival, or just because they’re awesome — and in fact, one continues to plan to someday learn how to do at least some of them.


Stuff I wish I knew how to do

  1. Play the electric guitar – by which I mean, slay with the electric guitar. Noodling around, not so much. But making thousands of ears bleed? Come ON, wouldn’t that be awesome?
  2. Knit – kind of an odd counterpoint to the ear bleeding thing, I’ll admit, but I am nothing if not an odd conflation of this and/or that (or, as I said over at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s place once: I contain multitudes, motherfucker!). It’s just kind of awesome that you can (as my Basement friend jemimapuddleduck recently put it) make a wearable piece of clothing out of a long piece of string. Plus which, unlike the ear bleeding thing, this is actually a productive activity, one which might be of practical use after the Tripods take over and my family and I become vagrants (The White Mountains? Anybody?).
  3. Carpentry – I love trees, I love wood, I kind of loved shop class (in spite of my teacher) and someone I love very much happens to be a cabinetmaker. He’s the father of my life-long best friend, and their house was always in some state of construction or deconstruction or reconstruction. The smell of the wood and the shavings, the beauty of the things that he could shape from what had started out pretty beautiful to begin with — it stuck with me. This and knitting? Someday, I will take a course.
  4. Turn a cartwheel – alas, I believe this one may have permanently passed me by.
  5. Time travel – ok, I know that this is not an actual skill, but man, there are dead people who I so wish I could meet, past events that I so wish I could experience first hand and — poof! Gone! Never to repeated! The circle of life sucks, what can I say.
  6. Speak Arabic – this one makes me a little testy because, in actuality, I took three years of Arabic at the University of Chicago as a graduate student. Three years! At one of best departments for Arabic study in America! But I didn’t get a chance/didn’t create a chance to use those skills, and they have withered and as far as I can tell died. A friend from those years used to say: “We know how to say ‘I am the President of Syria and that is my car’.” I can still say that.
  7. Fly a plane – just ’cause, dude! How cool are women pilots?
  8. Work in radio – I think (stress on the word “think”) that I would love to be a DJ, or producer, at a rock n’ roll station. There’s a possibility that the stupid shit that comes with any job, and the fact that many people in the world have execrable taste, could ruin music for me (it nearly did so when I worked briefly in PR for an Israeli record company), but I think that the freedom to revel in one of the things I love most in the world would overcome the other obstacles. Anyhow, it would surely be more fun than being an Israel/Palestine expert.

If I had these skills, come the revolution, I could: make clothes for the people, fly them out of harm’s way, radio to other survivors that we were safe (in Arabic, no less!), entertain and soothe them with my musical skills (provided that the electric grid was still functioning), help build new houses — or even travel back in time to prevent the steady slide into anarchy! Not sure how the cartwheeling fits in.


  1. Karin S.

     /  February 25, 2010

    Many of the things on your list would be on mine too–especially electric guitar. I have taken knitting classes though I lack the patience to get good at it. But I want to have a reason to shop at Chix with Stix! And I always look at that woodworking-classes ad in the Reader and think about investigating. As for work in radio, I deejayed at two stations in college. I wasn’t great, but it sure was fun!

  2. Lise

     /  February 25, 2010

    Images from The White Mountains come to me at the oddest times. It’s good to keep the story in mind because we all may need to head for the hills. In fact, maybe somebody should investigate whether the Tripods have already landed in Washington DC (perhaps under cover of Snowmaggedon?) and have taken over the Congress. Cuz they’re acting rather intolerably. But I digress. I *do* have marketable skills, even after the revolution, so between us, the kids will be fed. And short of the time travel, I’m pretty confident that you could pick up most if not all of these skills. I’m not sure about the cartwheel.

  3. sue swartz

     /  February 25, 2010

    Okay, the cartwheels… just because. One has to have an entertaining gift, a pure joy cause-I-want-to gift. Besides, you never know when you’ll have to keep some small children busy when they’re bored. A cartwheeling adult might do the trick.

  4. dmf

     /  February 25, 2010

    hey ee, not sure that you want to be posting about revolutions, arabic, and becoming a pilot on the e-ther these big-brother-days, good to see that you are writing here and still using actual words on twitter, shalom, dmf

  5. CitizenE

     /  February 28, 2010

    Saxophone; African music deejay; become an expert beachcomber. Learn how to stop obsessive thinking in its tracks; be kinder, wiser, funnier. In reverse order. Upside down and backwards.

  6. are you saying you never did cartwheels with me?? can’t believe that. love your list. think i should have one of my own and then really try to learn one of those skills. a listmaker i am..but i don’t have much follow through.

    hope you got my email. where are you living these days?

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