Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jail Time

My home is a colorful cocoon, one I love dearly. Masses of books are piled randomly in just about any space large enough to hold a stack. For example, the stack in the corner includes tomes on etiquette, Sufism, humor and social commentary, not to mention various speculative fiction, food writing and the occasional mystery. Just as time can restore virginity to some people, age has gifted me with forgetfulness, which makes old books new again.

I’ve been confined to barracks since I sprained my ankle. Sounds like an ideal vacation, doesn’t it? I’m chewing through my damaged leg to get out. Don’t get me wrong, the DVD we watched yesterday (the 1965 version of “Ten Little Indians”) was great. There’s another red Netflix envelope waiting like a grab bag. Whatever it is will either be something I want to see or something I ought to see. And I have all this lovely time to contemplate, to work on anything I want. But…

Somehow my ankle is connected to my brain. They both stopped working at the same time. Forget writing the Great American Movie Treatment. I can’t seem to write a joke, or even a clever tweet.

On the plus side, I finished the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle, the most difficult of the week. Don’t tell anyone that I had to google “Ancient city on the Vire”, though. That’s cheating.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Fall Of Autumn

My first broken bone was in my foot. Ah, youth. I hobbled around for a day or two before doing anything about it. Yes it hurt, but I didn’t know it was a bad hurt (i.e. requiring repair), only a severe one (i.e. fucking ouch). I’ve since broken the other foot along with a few random bits and pieces, but that was then. Let’s talk about now.

You should have seen my laughably ridiculous pratfall in a parking lot yesterday. I felt my ankle wrench, but over half an hour passed before it resisted holding my weight. Nice to know I can still be na├»ve. I honestly didn’t think I was injured.

Now I’m stumping around the house with a cane, feeling stupid. Staying off a body part while it mends is a matter of scheduling. Knock wood, I have time to heal. What I lack is the temperament. It’s embarrassing to admit that I’m bored, even though there are words to type and books to read. Languishing in front of a monitor is only pleasant when it’s by choice.

The trick is to control the whining, which I hope to do as soon as I finish this. It’s been over a decade since I wasn’t properly ambulatory, but I once had the knack, I just have to remember how. That, and wait for it to be over.

With my foot bound in an ancient ace bandage, propped up on a little green pillow with tassels on my desk, I’m either hypochondriac enough or paranoid enough to worry that my muscles will atrophy in three days. Maybe I should give up and learn needlepoint.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Snuff Enough

For a while now, I’ve been considering writing about murder -- specifically, murder mysteries. I adore them. I like old witty English ones and gritty noir. I inherited and read my father’s collection of 60s-80s arrogant male asshole detective fiction. I have not one but two favorite Dutch mystery authors; I wish the second had as good a translator as the first. Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

Murder is by definition violent, catastrophic and tragic. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about fictional mysteries. They can be Marx Brothers level funny, or as complex as chess. The structure of a mystery is similar to science fiction/fantasy in its lack of realism. Come on, a real witness to violence wouldn’t calmly remember the clock or that the spoons were upside down.

Let me tell you what happened. I was reading at the gym. A friend asked what it was. I showed him the cover, Ngaio Marsh, circa 1966. He scoffed. He said that reading mysteries was the same thing as watching a snuff film. That’s a quote, and he meant it. He angrily brushed aside my talk of puzzles and metaphor, and denied the separation between death and fiction. I gave up arguing with him after a while.

Now I can’t stop imagining Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher talking to the press about police progress in the latest urban atrocity, or David Suchet mincing around the scene of a drive-by. Insert the goofiest TV detective you can remember into today’s headlines. It might mitigate the tragedy for an instant.

Some stories are just stories. It’s reality that bites. Elementary, my dear Watson.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Comedy Of Two Tails

Or: Cat People, Come Back Later

The beloved Big Dog is with us for a meager couple of weeks. I wish he could stay longer. He’s about 100 pounds (give or take) of gorgeous good-natured sincerity. He’s always right there, just in case you need some help with that. He walks like Scooby Doo runs. We love this beast.

Our Jonah is 25 pounds; half corgi, half dachshund. Please visualize the size difference.

Now you have to understand that adorable little Jonah is the self-appointed boss, king, hierophant, Ruler of the Universe. The Big Dog is fine with that. More than fine, really, he seems to enjoy being bossed around. It’s a happy match. It’s also a funny one.

Last night there was a difference of opinion about a toy. The Big Dog thought he was going to play with it. Jonah corrected him. So the Big Dog went to Robert for belly rubs. Jonah couldn’t permit that. Since Jonah is half herding-breed, he herded the Big Dog out of the room entirely. The Big Dog is four times Jonah’s size but he never had a chance.

Absolute power may corrupt, but it also has bad manners. I confiscated the toy.

Bam! The opponents became a team. Jonah on one side played cute, the Big Dog on the other played dumb. Hero and sidekick worked together in perfect unison to get me to drop the toy. It’s on top of the refrigerator right now. I’ll take it down later, for the next episode of Big Dog and Little Dictator. Pinky and the Brain have nothing on these guys.

You can friend Jonah on Facebook. He's Jonah D. Mann, because Jonah is da Man.!/profile.php?id=1265278016

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I know someone who wanted to be a lawyer, not in vitro, but shortly after breathing independently. Robert wanted to be a whale. It’s a funny story, but not mine to tell. Ask him.

Me? I wanted not to be afraid anymore.

It was an adolescent thing. Before that I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Even in adolescence I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Hell, I’d still like to be a ballet dancer. But by age thirteen I was 5’8”, busty and ungainly, so it was never an option. Then I just wanted not to be afraid. At least that’s how I phrased it to myself at the time. In retrospect, I think I wanted to be strong.

Over time timidity was replaced by hesitance. This in turn became recklessness. Survival bred confidence, which grew into strength. The process took about ten years. Imagine achieving your heart’s desire in your 20s – and being aware of it, which I was. I’ve never been ambitious. Ask anyone who has worked with me. Instead, I’ve been happy, knock on wood. I value that.

Oh sure, I have monstrously bad moods which can last for days and infect the innocents around me. I’m not a particularly nice person, but I try to be gracious. I care about people. To my credit, I keep the lessons I’ve learned, and I try to wear my scars with wisdom rather than pride. Sometimes I succeed. It’s enough.

Let’s talk about you. What path did you start on, and where have the branches taken you? Are you an astronaut, a poet or a cowgirl? Did you crave a moment in the spotlight, and did you ever get it?

Imagine what you would say to the younger you, if you could. I think the best would be: “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”

Monday, August 2, 2010


It’s so tempting to blog what my Loud Neighbors do. Not that it’s particularly interesting. Believe me, it’s not, that’s why I don’t. This afternoon, when I finally managed to focus and start being productive, I heard Grandpa outside yelling for the boys to get out of the “pool” (an above-ground bathtub-esque construction) and pick up the yard because their father was coming home to take them to get haircuts.

Their reply: “That’s stupid.”

When I’m in public, I’m painfully aware of who can hear me. Not that it ever matters. No one gives a damn about whatever personal saga I’m relating to my patient and generous friends. But I do try to watch what I’m saying --- in public. Sure, I’ve been guilty of the occasional, “So what happened when they lanced it?” faux conversation in elevators. Who hasn’t? I’m talking about in general. Usually I pay attention.

Maybe that’s why I’m so appalled by my neighbors. The parents as well as the children prefer yelling to talking. Although they eschew profanity for the most part, their favorite words include “liar”, “cheater” and “stupid”. Still, they’re kind to their dog, which is significant.