Thursday, March 27, 2008

Small victories

I couldn't but smile; the ginger Mazda crossing north into Washington by the dawn's early light, the Columbia shimmering amber and rose. It's 7:15 and the family is on the road. They said it was impossible, they taunted the vanity of the proposition, they mocked and they jeered - but here we are. A flicker of existential accomplishment amid the night of fickle destiny.

Americans tend to take pride in success, because achievement is considered a result of individual effort and not, for example, a lucky break, or symptomatic of an essentially loaded and corrupt system, which is the more usual British interpretation. In common with Islamists, they lean towards an essentially causal and intentionalist interpretation of events that removes luck from the equation and constitutes Destiny in terms of Divine Providence. Therefore, if you are rich and successful it is either because you have worked very hard (secular view), or because you jolly well deserve it (post-ascetic protestantism). Conversely, if you are not, it is because you are a lazy bum, or morally derelict to such an extent that even Jesus has abandoned you. Over here, luck is a lady and capricious Fate is right up there with feng shui on the list of quaint and faintly decadent superstitions.

In any case, I celebrated my achievement in the best way possible, with breakfast at a diner. I took the special: a thick slice of ham (read gammon), two eggs over medium (fried upside-down until the yokes are just slightly runny) and two slices of French toast (bread dipped in a thin egg-rich pancake-like batter and shallow fried, usually served with maple syrup) . Plus much of Rachel and Ethan's leftovers and about six cups of decaf. Then on to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, where we rendezvoused (if that is actually a word) with the in-laws for an Easter Egg hunt. To be perfectly honest with you, not a lot of actual hunting was required in the under-3s section: a superfluity of fluorescent plastic eggs had been scattered liberally across the meadow for the littl'ns amusement.

I'm not really one for time-sensitive travel arrangements and the semi-annual schlep up to Seattle is preceded by several days of morbid anticipation of the awfulness of it all. Nevertheless I always seem to end up having a good time. People tend to find cynics irritating at best, and no doubt I am, yet I am quite certain that my consistently dire expectations of everything serve me very well indeed, in that I am constantly surprised and often immeasurably delighted by any number of fairly mediocre events which nevertheless succeed in surpassing my frankly catastrophic forecasts. Perhaps cynicism, in common with hubris, is one of those traits that benefits the possessor at the cost of everyone around them.

I'm the firestarter, twisted firestarter!

Ethan hands off an egg to daddy.

Left: Auntie Rachel coaches Katrina in the arts of egg decoration.
Right: My munchkin nephew Max hordes his pile of dayglo eggs.


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