Oldie-but-goodie: Stuff I wish I knew how to do.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next in the blogosphere, so in the meantime I’m running some old posts that I particularly enjoyed writing.

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.

*6/22/11 update: Since first writing this post, I actually tried to make this one a reality. I applied for an internship at NPR, and after a very encouraging phone conversation and one of the best interviews of my life, at which we were already talking about me meeting a particular producer and what days/hours I would be working, they never called me back. Sigh. Perhaps one is the kiss of death…?


  1. Deborah the Closet Monster

     /  June 22, 2011

    2 – One of my girlfriends keeps offering me to learn how to knit. I think my enthusiasm (not currently non-existent, I’ll have you know!) would’ve been greater had I thought of it as making “a wearable piece of clothing out of a long piece of string.” Said friend is actually making me a Cthulhu hat to match the one she made for my son a couple weeks back, which seems like it ought have been incentive enough!

    6 – I lived in Japan for a year and a half. I reached the point where I was speaking passable Japanese, but then I practiced not at all after I returned to the States. A couple years after I returned, I tried conversing with some Japanese ladies at a grocery store to find it was all gone. My son’s babbling occasionally contains words that remind me of my days in the Japanese schools (“dame” = don’t; “baka” = idiot — bearing in mind I was not the utterer of the latter!) but other than that? History and mystery. D’oh.

  2. I love your blog. I hope you keep it up in some form or another.

    I’m in sympathy with you on the cartwheel thing. 🙂 I was the only girl in the playground who couldn’t do it.

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9GRKxQfbYI it’s not too late to slay with your electric guitar skills! Kristin Hersh is closer to your age than mine I think…

    I’d love to learn how to work with wood too.

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