Here’s a quick overview of what I’m looking at, reading, watching, drinking, thinking, selling, promoting, procuring, etc. etc. this week. If you care.
READING: Do you ever get your hands on what you think will be a good ghost/ horror story and want to be alone with it, underneath a blanket? You think, “I want to so scared I’m afraid to go to the bathroom by myself.” So you sit in the house, alone, with no sound on (TV, radio, dishwasher, clothes washer, etc.) and read?
That’s what I was hoping for with The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian, which a lot of people/reviews liked. Here’s an overview of the plot: a pilot crash lands a plane in a river and almost all the passengers die. He retires from being a pilot and moves his family (wife and twin daughters) to New Hampshire, to an old Victorian house with a disturbing past, so he can brood. There is a door in the basement that seems to go nowhere, only he can’t verify that because it’s nailed shut with 39 carriage bolts. That’s exactly the number of people who died on the plane!
Oh, all the horror constructs are there, people:
Victorian house with an icky past
Detail that may or may not have any significance (39 bolts)
I started reading. Plane crash. Move to house. Uh oh, a 12-year-old boy named Sawyer Dunmore committed suicide in the house a long time ago and he was a twin! Uh oh, the new family is having bad dreams.
If you’re a dog in Minnesota today, this is how you should dress before going out:
You may have already heard this, or perhaps noticed it yourself by looking at a calendar, but today is Leap Day.
Tonight I may put together a note detailing where I am today and where I hope to be 4 years from now. I would seal this up in an envelope with a $20 bill and then hide it away until the next Leap Day, in 2016.
Why would I do this? I tend to get a big charge out of reading my goals from a distance. They make me more sympathetic to my former self and all I was trying to do. I feel tenderness towards this woman from the past, almost as if it’s not me. Also, it would be interesting and telling to see how much of it comes to pass, how much falls by the wayside and how much I actually care about any of it.
The photo of the week is of our cat, Jones, sitting on the back of the couch looking either sleepy or pissed. Not sure which. It really can go either way with him.
Recently, I discovered running at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Yes, that beleaguered building is at least good for providing exercise to runners too cheap to join a gym. Besides, it’s much better, if you need to run inside, to have a circumference like that of the Dome’s instead of a smaller track.
At the Dome, if one runs along the outer edge, 2 laps around equals roughly 1 mile. At the gym I used to belong to, it was something like 10-12 laps per mile.
Running is supposed to be a somewhat zen activity. The rhythm of the running helps you leave your worries behind. Or maybe it’s that you don’t have time to think when you’re trying to breathe. The Dome’s repetitious scenery helps this along – soon enough you’re lost in the loop of identical beer stands, doorways, DiGiorno pizza stands, etc. You have to stay somewhat alert to note a return to your starting point and tick off another lap.
But, at least for me, running in a group of other runners makes it harder to think, well, nothing. I simply trade my worries for thoughts about the people running with me. I wonder a lot about them as I run. I divide them into categories. When I forgot my iPod the other night I was reduced to eavesdropping on their conversations.
I have uncharitable thoughts. Here are some:
I wonder if the guy who has the tattoo on the back of his calf of a man lifting a barbell over his head will one day regret it. Sure, that calf is nice and taut right now, making the weightlifter look appropriately muscled. But what if one day this man can no longer run? Or get much exercise? It would be sad to see the deflated weightlifter, a shell of his former self on a deflated calf.
I don’t like pairs of young women who plan weddings as they run. If this makes me a horrible, old bitch, well… guilty. I don’t want to hear, as they glide effortlessly past me, about how one’s thoughtless aunt said she should have her wedding in her hometown so that more family could attend. I don’t want to hear about party favors and fish vs. chicken vs. beef.
There are people for whom running is their entire lives. They even have “running crushes.” I heard a woman say, “Well, he was my first running crush.” She was very thin and had ropey calves. Her calves looked like Madonna’s arms.
I don’t believe in barefoot running unless one is at the beach. I don’t believe in barefoot running at the Dome. I don’t like the way Barefoot Runner Woman’s feet slap the ground, pounding away any arches she once had. The look on her face scares me. She’s in a place where the rest of us can’t follow.
While I’m running and thinking bad thoughts about Barefoot Runner Woman I start to think about Paula Deen. No, Paula Deen was not running at the Dome. But I found myself wishing that one of her legs would have to be removed due to gangrene from mismanaging her recently-announced diabetes. As I said, these are uncharitable thoughts that float up from nowhere, maybe due to the fact that running in a circle, even a very large circle, can get boring. I’m more than a bit annoyed that the woman who urged people to eat things like hamburgers on doughnuts now reveals she has diabetes and will profit from it due to a deal with Novo Nordisk, a drug manufacturer. Fuck you, Paula Deen.
There is an older man, with sliver hair, who is always running at the Dome. He runs without his shirt. He looks great for his age, for any age. But I wonder about people who need that kind of attention; who simply cannot run with a shirt on even at the Dome. I wonder how much better a runner I’d have to be, and how much trimmer, before I would dare run in a sports bra and no t-shirt. For no particular reason, I think of Roger Sterling from Mad Men every time he laps me.
A woman was jogging and talking on her cell phone at the same time. Not even exercise is a reason to “unplug” anymore. I think that’s sad. I don’t want to talk to anyone on the phone while I run. How would they understand me? Why would I care what they have to say? Unless they are calling to tell me I’ve come into a lot of money, I have no reason to talk to them. This woman who was running and talking on the phone… let’s just say she was not fit. She was heavy and she had to put a lot of effort into the entire thing, just to keep going. As I moved past her she gave up the running part, deciding that the conversation was more important.
A lot of people talk about work as they run and a lot of people have very boring work. And they are worried about very boring things at work. It sort of drives home the point to me that, unless you are a stuntman, I don’t want to hear the details of your work.
Running at the Dome continues until the end of March and then, presumably, we will all be set free on the streets and trails again for another season.
Reading – The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011; some amazing work in this volume and I’m only halfway through. Also, guiltily finished Beauty Disrupted by Carre Otis last night. Skimmed the last 50 pages when she was working on her Buddhism and having kids. The bottom line, at least in my mind, is that getting only a 9th grade education can really put a hamper on your options in life. I mean, hooray for you if you can be a model but that doesn’t mean you’re going to make good decisions. Oh, and Mickey Rourke is an asshole. But we knew that, right?
Watching – The Last Days of Disco (1998). After I got through watching this I was like, “OK, why didn’t anyone ever tell me about this movie?” For a few minutes, I was actually pissed. Then I realized that it was silly. Because no one can be your pop culture mentor. What I mean is, I really loved this film and wondered why it took me over then years to find it.
I’ve now seen all three of Whit Stillman’s movies, having watched Barcelona over the weekend when it was shitty and cold and I didn’t want to leave the house. Once you get into the rhythm of Stillman’s humor and sarcasm, it’s terrific. Of his three films, Last Days of Disco is definitely the best. I said this in an earlier post, but he finally has another movie coming out this year and I am greatly anticipating it.
Anticipating: I never thought I’d say this, but I want to go to Arkansas. The reason? I must see the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Yeah, the one built by the Walmart heiress. I’ve done a lot of reading about this, and seen some stories on TV and I think, yeah, I want to go. The combination of art and nature at that spot would be highly enjoyable. Zen-like, even.
I hit the photo jackpot the other day, finding an entire basket of color photos from various people’s albums. Color photos are harder to come across than black and white photos. I think this is because the black and white photos have probably reached the stage now where no one is left to claim a lot of them and they got released out into the world.
The back of this photo says:
“Boogie off to college (admittedly, the first word might not be “boogie” at all but something else – it’s tough writing to read) with Mom’s car for 1 week. Her bike was our grad present. I was sad seeing #7 leave. xxx Peg”
The time goes quickly, Peg. One minute you’re seeing your daughter off to college, the next minute your photo is in the hands of some weird woman in Minnesota.
Sweet grad present, though. I approve.
I’ll be sharing more photos soon.
This week I’ve been thinking of words and phrases I’m considering using more in daily speech. Here’s what I have so far:
“Better than pushing broom.” A statement to use when someone is complaining about something work-related. Example: “I hate having to sit in these meetings all afternoon.” “Hey, better than pushing broom.” I think this could get annoying pretty quickly though, if you’re the person always saying this. Especially if you don’t ever have to push broom yourself.
“Why you gotta front?” Reviving this from the 90’s, when Wheezer asked this question with great aplomb. I still think it has relevance today. Maybe more so. I’d like to go on Facebook and put under a lot of “stories,” this exact question. “Why you gotta front? We know your life ain’t that great.”
“Don’t just sit there biting your beard.” A good put-down to hipster guys, especially, but not limited to, those who live in Williamsburg. Means – don’t just sit there, judging, but doing nothing.
Rinky dink. Saying something is rinky dink is still, to me, an exact and devastating putdown. No one wants to be accused of being small time. Right up there as dismissing someone as boring.
Hatchet job. I find a lot of delight in saying someone did a hatchet job on something or someone.
Jinking. I learned this word by looking over Keith’s shoulder while we were on a plane and he was reading a Tom Clancy “novel.” That’s his thing – he reads Tom Clancy when he flies. I no longer question. Well, I do when I look over and see the word “jinking,” which apparently describes something a plane does. Shaking? Listing to starboard? I’m not sure. But it’s fun to say and can describe any number of movements. Works well with cats.
Escape-uate. This is Keith’s but I like it. “Let’s escape-uate.” A cross between “escape” and “evacuate.” To use when a situation or place is bad news.
The Weekly Round-up
Reading: OK, so I’m reading The Puppy Diaries by Jill Abramson of the New York Times. And loving it. I remember so much about my own days asÂ frustrated human with puppy. It’s a very fast read. Also reading Best Nonrequired Reading 2011.
Watching: I tried to watch, in all earnestness, Uncle Sam Magoo, a cartoon from 1970.
It is supposed to be about… I guess the history of America. It is beyond terrible. As in, you start out laughing, thinking it’s going to be a great time, and end up stewing about everything that’s wrong with this country. First it glosses over our entire history with American Indians, high- kicks its way through the Revolutionary War and then reverts to a song and drawings to “Illustrate” the Civil War, with no mention of slavery at all.
Keith and I decided the only way one could possibly enjoy it was if one were high on nutmeg.
Also, along with the rest of America, watching Downton Abbey.
Doing: I’m on page 150 of the second draft of my book. I do five pages a day because that is all I can stand. One day I did 8 pages. That was a major day. It is hard work. And lonely. But sometimes I make myself laugh out loud. I have no idea why I’m writing short sentences as if I’m Hemingway.
Anticipating going to seeing the performanc ofÂ Dirty Girls Come Clean, by Freshwater Theatre, in Northeast Minneapolis (Nimbus Theater) on Friday night. Should be fun. Karaoke party afterwards!
This is one of my favorite works of art at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It’s “Santos Dumont – The Father of Aviation II,” 2009, by Kehinde Wiley. Until recently it hung in the Baroque Gallery among other works depicting the go-to subject matter of the Old Masters – religious figures and scenes. It was stunning to see “Santos Dumont” side-by-side with these paintings because the poses of the two figures evoke that of religious paintings from times gone by and yet it’s a thoroughly modern painting in tone.
I enjoy going to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts because it’s a place to unplug. You wander about, looking at art and making what you will of it. No need to Facebook it or tweet about it.
I’ve been thinking about Twitter a lot lately. The thing about Twitter is that it is such an ephemeral medium until the moment you die. Then, if you are a Twitter user,Â it can suddenly define you. Your last tweet encapsulates you. It’s your last message to the world and, sort of, what you stood for.
This scares me a lot. It could go horribly wrong. What if your last tweet was something like:
Ya first Tatt …Oooweee #unforgettablefeelings
Hey 🙂 who has a science exam tommorrow?? I do and im gonna fail!!!!
You know who got lucky with this? Heavy D. His last tweet, before dying of a blood clot, was “Be Inspired!” I believe that the “I” was indeed capitalized. Be Inspired. How inspirational! And so we remember him as an artist, as someone who broke through boundaries and enriched our lives with “Now That We Found Love.”
His last tweet could have easily been something like, “H8 waiting in line at Arby’s.”
Then what would we have thought?
Other famous last tweets include:
“Green” by Dan Wheldon, the Indy 500 champ who died in a wreck
“My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!” by Elizabeth Taylor
A photo of himself drinking with friends tweeted by Ryan Dunn from Jackass just hours before dying in an auto wreck.
“… Stuck in the plane on the runway. You can always count on US Air.” by Billy Mays, the infomercial king, after the tires of the plane he was on blew out during landing. Cause of death was heart disease (the silent killer).
“oinka oinka oinka why you awake” on Amy Winehouse’s official Twitter feed. True fans are quick to point out that it was NOT her personal account. Still, baffling.
What to do about this? Treat every tweet as if it could be your last? You see people on Twitter taking this approach with their goodness. Their tweets are things like, “Good Morning Twitter Friends!!! What can I help you with today??” One imagines them sliding into their chair with a headset on, like a customer service representative.
Or they spend their time diligently pounding out tweets that are quotes from Gandhi or the Buddha or even Mark Twain.
While I can’t imagine becoming a Twitter Do-Gooder, my tweets are far from what I’d like to be my lasting legacy. Let’s take a look at some of my recent activity:
James Cameron is like, “Yeah, I can do anything I want. Anything at all. So I’m going to spend my time making this old movie of mine 3D.”
Walgreens called me while I was in Walgreens. Whoa.
“Disappointment is a beautiful woman reading Ayn Rand.” From the short story “A Bridge Under Water” by Tom Bissell. Two thumbs waaaaay up.
Hey, MN friends. I’m looking outside and I can see. It is not dark out. It is 4:57. We will win this
Here’s something that’s not boring: Handmade Ryan Gosling. bit.ly/txiHlB
I agree with my sister, the phrase “skill set” has to go in 2012. If you define yourself by one “set” of “skills,” you are boring.
Actually, while a single tweet could be embarrassing when trying to sum up a life, it turns out that a decent eulogy could be written from just a handful of tweets. For example:
“Rebecca was a person charmed by the little things in life. Once, she got a call from Walgreen’s automated call system regarding her prescription while she was in Walgreens picking up said prescription. Her mind was blown! She was determined to make it through the harsh Minnesota winters, she found Ryan Gosling and crafting to be two things that made life worth living and she loved her sister. While she, like many of us, found the ways successful filmmakers like James Cameron choose to squander their time confusing, she took comfort in good short stories.”
Done and done. Note to my loved ones – feel free to use this should I die within the next few weeks or even months.
Reading: Finished Just Kids by Patti Smith (Yes, it’s as great as everyone says it is) and Sleepwalk With Me by Mike Birbiglia (going to see him on Feb. 13th at the Guthrie Theater). Next up: a titillating memoir by Carre Otis (she of modeling, Mickey Rourke, heroin fame) called Beauty, Disrupted. I got this book from the library and I had to wait months, yes, months to get it. Shows you what people really want to read.
Watching: I just watched, for the first time, Metropolitan by Whit Stillman. It’s about some preppy college students who are home for Christmas break and making the rounds of the Christmas balls (I’m not sure this kind of thing actually happens anymore. The Christmas deb balls, I mean). Whit has definitely been one of my cultural blind spots. He’s custom-made for me and yet I was only marginally aware of his existence until a few weeks ago. I think this is what keeps art and culture exciting – who’s out there that you don’t know about yet?
I really liked this film, once I got used the stiff line delivery. In some ways it felt like a play.Â I need to watch it a second time, now that I’ve got the hang of it. I put his other two films, The Last Days of Disco and Barcelona on my Netflix queue. Well, Barcelona is available for streaming but not The Last Days of Disco because that would make it much too easy on me. Metropolitan is available for streaming, then Disco is not and Barcelona is.
Just to make it tough for you to see the man’s entire 3-film catalog.
Then I found out that he has a new film (his last one came out in 1998), which will screen at Sundance (or I may have just made that up) and will be released in April. It’s called Damsels in Distress. So look out for that if you’re a Stillman fan. Or quick watch his other three films and become a fan. Become superfan, if you want.
Listening: I believe Tom Petty is having a moment with me right now. Also, the Elvis song “It’s Now or Never.” And Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m stuck in the past, people.
* The Wednesday Outlook is a weekly feature on Not Shallow. In the past, it became something of a “hit-or-miss” affair but in 2012 it will make a strong resurgence. It generally features a photo that has nothing to do with anything else tin the post, a mini-essay and a round-up of what I’m reading, watching, listening to, doing, going to do or eating. Past Wednesday Outlooks may be found here if you’ve got the time and inclination.
This is where the magic happens… or doesn’t happen, as the case may be. My corner of the world.
You’ll never guess who I woke up thinking about this morning. No, I mean, you really won’t guess. It’s not anyone currently on Dancing With The Stars. No, not Oprah. Not Steve Guttenberg.
Dunkleman was on the first season of American Idol. He was Ryan Seacrest’s co-host. It seems strange now that they thought the job required two hosts. Maybe it was a season-long tryout. “Look, we can’t decided between the two of you so consider this season sort of a cage match to the death.”
[Click here for a photo of just how orange Ryan Seacrest was during Season 1.]
I watched that first season of American Idol and what I remember, more than any of the performances, etc., was Brian Dunkleman’s disappointed face. Or his angry face. Simon Cowle would do his Simon Shit and Dunkleman’s jaw would clench up and twitch, trying to hold it all inside.
Here is what it has to say about the situation on Wikipedia:
In appearances on The Howard Stern Show, he had insisted that he intended to leave Idol to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and acting, but in 2008, Dunkleman admitted to Stern that leaving the show was a mistake. Dunkleman conceded that he experienced several months of depression, and also still harbored resentment against current show host Ryan Seacrest, but has come to terms with his situation. Stern has compared Dunkleman to Pete Best of The Beatles and several other famous celebrities who chose to leave (or were forced to leave) successful show business careers, only to wind up as has-beens. Dunkleman good-naturedly put up with the ribbing from the Stern crew, but insisted he was happy with his current life.
Wow, Pete Best of The Beatles? Harsh.
Dunkleman still does stand-up comedy in L.A.
I recently saw a profile of Ryan Seacrest on CBS Sunday Morning and what I concluded after watching it was this: if you show up for things and work relentlessly, it sometimes does not matter if you have the personality of a shoebox. It really doesn’t. I mean, if you were a painter or a sculptor it would matter if you had no inherent talent, but not if you’re hosting New Year’s Eve broadcasts or producing meaningless reality TV shows.
In the interview, Seacrest denied the gay rumors and defended his relationship with Julianne Hough but I’ve read enough volumes of Hollywood Babylon to understand the concept of a career-boosting beard. He needs her and she definitely needs him. I wonder if there is some secret Hollywood Gay/Straight Relationship Broker you can call who then puts the word out.
“Trust me, I’ve done all the big ones. I lured in Katie Holmes for Tom Cruise- that was a coup. My first gig was Kelly Preston and John Travolta. My only mistake was Liza Minnelli and David Gest – that guy just can’t keep the closet door latched, if you know what I mean.”
In other news:
Reading: Just finished My Korean Deli, a memoir about a family who buys… uh… a deli. In Brooklyn. It was funny and also had a lot to say about the outlook and worldview of first generation immigrants and their children versus Protestant/Waspy people who’ve been here for awhile (the author is a Waspy Protestant whose ancestors landed in Plymouth and he married a Korean woman whose parents immigrated to the U.S.).
Which reminds me of a strange run-in I had in front of a hardware store while working on a freelance writing assignment. I started talking to a guy who I thought could be useful for my assignment but a few minutes in it became clear that he was insane. Here is a sampling of hisÂ thoughts:
Him: I miss 1962. That was the perfect year to live in Minneapolis. Everything was clean and beautiful and perfect and there were no immigrants.
Me: How old were you in 1962?
Me: How do you remember 1962.
Him: Because I have a photographic memory! Where’s my landlord? He’ll tell you. I remember everything that ever happened to me.
[Landlord was shopping in the store, so unavailable to verify photographic memory.]
Him: I can say whatever I want because I’m part Native American. But I’m also English, Scottish and Welch. My people were not immigrants, they were pioneers. There’s a difference.
Me: How much Native American are you? Like, an eighth?
Him: One sixty-fourth. But it still counts. The problem with immigrants today is that they are opportunists. They just want to make money.
Me: What’s wrong with that? Everyone likes money.
Him: They should do that in their own countries.
Me: Maybe their own countries won’t allow them to.
Him: Well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?
Then landlord appeared, saving me. Insane man toddled off to Great Harvest Bread for a free piece of bread.
Watching: Not nearly enough. Just finished watching all seasons of Arrested Development (ready and waiting for the new stuff, guys!) and also went to see 50/50, aka The Hipster Terms of Endearment. It was funny, well-acted, blah blah blah, but ultimately hyped too much. Poor storyline and use of the talented Dallas Bryce Howard as Evil Girlfriend Who Bails When She Feels Overwhelmed By Boyfriend’s Cancer. They really should have just outfitted her with devil ears, tail and pitchfork.
This is what people in Wisconsin do for fun – make X-Wing Fighters.
I had a great 4th of July. My family went out on the ol’ party barge and went swimming in a sandy, shallow part of Lake Poygan so my five-year-old nephew could stand up and join in the fun of throwing water-soaked foam balls at each other while he yelled, ‘I will ruin you!” The kid has a good aim.
Today I woke up to endless coverage of the Casey Anthony verdict of not guilty. The Today Show devoted their entire broadcast to it, going from interviewing one of the lead prosecutors, Jeff Ashton (who seemed like a very intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken guy) to Casey’s ex-fiance (super bitter, as is understandable, but he certainly dodged a bullet not actually marrying her) to Star Jones as they analyzed WHAT WENT WRONG.
Oh, and then there was their “mothers are outraged” angle, talking to two mothers with no personal stake in the case who went to Orlando to hear the verdict read. As in, one of them got on a plane and flew there just to hear the verdict. Wow, was she disappointed. These women were not very coherent.
When you see the circus that springs up around cases like this, it’s not hard to believe that there are people like Casey Anthony in the world. One report had her saying she plans to get pregnant as soon as she’s free.
But as everyone is pissing their pants and moaning, let’s all remember the story of O.J. Simpson. Although he will never serve a single day in prison for the murder of Nicole Simpson, he is in prison (serving a nine-year sentence for his role in an armed confrontation in Las Vegas).
This is because people like O.J. and Casey Anthony don’t go back out into the world and suddenly lead good lives. In Casey Anthony’s case, she has no education, a ruptured relationship with her parents, who were supporting her and her child before the murder, and few prospects for making money unless it’s related to the case.
So she’ll sell her story and get millions of dollars. But this will only make a terrible situation completely unmanageable. She will surround herself with bad people, spend all her money (or someone will steal it from her in the guise of “managing” it), get involved in relationships that break apart, get into drugs, alcohol, etc. She’ll probably make some bad porn.
And then she’ll get caught for doing something nefarious and end up back in court. And eventually people won’t care so much about her case or her story because the circus will move on to the next O.J./Casey/Michael Jackson/Anna Nicole spectacle.
So it’s about biding our time, people. And not pulling out our hair that “justice wasn’t served” for that little girl. She was doomed from the moment she was born to a mother who is surely a sociopath and an absentee father who may or may not (as the Anthony family claims) have died in a car crash.
The true injustice will be if she does have more children. What we should be praying for is not “Justice for Caylee” but birth control for Casey.
OK, now I’ll climb down off my soapbox…
Reading:Bossypants by Tina Fey and Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron
Watching:Breaking Bad Season 3, yo! This is one of the best shows on TV. I’m trying to catch up before season 4 premieres on July 17th.
Anticipating: A bike ride from Minneapolis to Stillwater.
The Buddha is serene even in the most difficult of circumstances:
Like, for example, being trapped in a crate. OK, so this truck has been in my neighborhood for months now with a beautiful Buddha statue crated up in it.
I’ve been walking past it since at least February. Originally I thought they must be waiting for spring so they can place it somewhere outside. Nope. Still a crated Buddha. At some point I would feel horrible aboutÂ leaving it in there so long but the Buddha doesn’t seem to mind. He sits calmly, patiently waiting. I’m sure he’s living in the moment, not all caught up in what the future may hold for him.
This morning I saw that there was a note stuck in the door handle of the truck (you can see it in the truck photo). It said, “Wanna sell your statue?” and then there was a phone number.
So I’m not the only one who has become impatient. Now the drama deepens as I wonder if the owner will, indeed, sell the statue. For how much? It’s very large. I would imagine it’s worth quite a bit. Where did they get it? When I took the pictures I stared up at the house. Nothing stirring at 9:30 in the morning, all the windows are covered with colorful sheets. Huh.
For some reason the truck makes me think of a Buddhist Sanford from the TV show Sanford & Son, driving around the neighborhood collecting junk in a very zen way. This makes me happy. Would he say, “Ooh, Lamont, this is the big one. It’s the big one but it’s OK. Pain is unavoidable but suffering is optional!”
If you don’t know anything about Sanford & Son, that joke is totally lost on you.
I think more people need the Buddha in their lives, caged or otherwise. I’ve had some weird run-ins with strangers this past week that have reminded me how lonely people are and how desperate they are to assert their worldview onto others so as to make everything OK.
The first encounter involved a man at a resale/antique shop. I was browsing around, as I’ve been known to do, and he was looking at the Coach bags the store sells. Now, whether these bags are really Coach is anyone’s guess – I have no interest in expensive purses, real or fake. But he was obsessed with them. He kept asking all the women in the store if women in general are still “into Coach.”
I wandered off to the back of the store but it wasn’t long before he caught up with me and asked me my opinion of Coach bags. I said I had no opinion. Then he started this litany:
“Look at all this crap in here. It’s sad. It’s really sad. Why even have a store like this? All this stuff should just be on eBay. You know what kind of people sell stuff at a store like this? Hoarders. You know what that is? I had a hoarder across the street from me, filled up his entire house and bought another one and filled that up. I called the city on him. I did. It’s just sad.”
In the middle of this oration, he let out a big fart and then continued talking, as if nothing unusual had happened. If that had been me, I would have at least had the presence of mind to flee in embarrassment but not this guy. He kept talking, telling me how everything in there was overpriced crap.
Now, I do wonder why I didn’t say to him, “And yet you’re here, aren’t you?”
Later, I wondered about why it was so important to this person to leave his home, seek out this store and then berate it to another customer who was just browsing around on a summer morning, for Christ’s sake. And I think it’s because people often want to spread their unhappiness around. They are also looking for some kind of recognition that, yes, the world does suck and it’s not just them. Except, yeah, it’s them. It’s each one of us who sets out to spread unhappiness to other people, like a plant trying to scatter it’s spores.
Encounter Number Two: Keith and I were walking home from a neighborhood cafe having a discussion about whether or not it is useful, in 2011, to learn Latin. As we were preparing to cross the street, a bus pulled up and a woman got off. She cross the street with us and then proceeded to walk, very slowly, ahead of us down the sidewalk. At some point I realized that she was eavesdropping on our conversation but I didn’t really mind. I would do that, too.
Then, when we had to turn off onto our street she stopped and said, “Excuse me but I’ve been listening to your conversation and I just wanted to say that Latin in very useful. It’s the root for most Western languages. My mother and I went to Europe and even though neither of us spoke another language, she was able to read and puzzle out a lot of things because she studied Latin.”
We were kind of unsure about whether we should stop walking and take up this debate. She was standing there looking at us so I said, “But it’s not conversational. That’s my point. Who can you talk to if you speak Latin?”
“Other people who speak Latin,” she said.
Does that not make my point? No one speaks Latin anymore! So if you go to Mexico or France, hooray that you can speak Latin but try asking for the bathroom. Would you stand there saying, in Latin, “Does anyone around here speak Latin?” I said as much to her and then turned around to keep walking and she stood on the street corner and shouted something at us.
Shouted at us! Over our conversation that she listened to without being invited in! And she was wearing Birkenstock sandals and carrying a bag from Michael’s craft store that probably contained yarn for some knitting project she would complete while listening to MPR. Only in South Minneapolis.
But she had to be right. Even if nothing was at stake, she had to shout some opinion at us. Did she think that we would come back and say, “You’re right. We were soooo wrong about Latin.”
Reading: Finished Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill, a book about Sara and Gerald Murphy and their time in France in the 1920s and 30s; currently reading Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss, which is an amazing graphic novel. I highly recommend reading it – it’s interesting but also beautiful and tragic, particularly the artwork that goes along with the story. The coolest thing: last night after reading it in bed I put it down, turned out the light and realized that the cover art glows in the dark!
Watching: While suffering through a recent bout of stomach flu, I watched many strange things. A show on PBS about a guy who hunts spiders and, when he finds them, breaks into a cold sweat. I watched a crew build a stone patio for a building show and realized how many steps there are to building a stone patio. I watched a documentary about screenwriters that reminded me of how shitty it can be to be a working screenwriter but at the same time its better than an office job. Or so they say.
Anticipating: Despite a lay-off do to aforementioned stomach flu, I’m going to run my first 5K this Sunday as part of the Twin Cities Pride Festival. The Rainbow Run starts at the Stone Arch Bridge and runs along the Pride parade route to Loring Park. I’ve never run an organized anything before except for track when I was in junior high and that experience kinda sucked. I’m hoping this will be much better. I’ll be the slow one at the end of all the runners. Then, that night, Derailleur rocks the Aster Cafe with two sets!
I started reading A Moveable Feast last night and it has set my brain on fire. First because I’ve had an idea for a series of funny shorts or “episodes” about Hemingway and Fitzgerald and I’m finding them to be just the sort of characters I imagined, with plenty of pathos and brilliance to play upon. But also because the book is quite the remedy for writing procrastination. Reading about Hemingway’s writing habits is both inspiring and guilt-inducing.
Of course, the world is a different place today than it was in 1920’s Paris but the fundamentals of getting writing done are the same. Have a routine. Have a ritual. Work just long enough that you accomplish good work for the day but quit when things are at an interesting point, giving you an impetus to show up at the page the next day. Then shut down that part of your brain and go about the business of living – go get a racing sheet, go to the cafes, get some exercise, look for good books to read and have a meal.
It sounds easy and decadent in a way – ah, the life of a writer in Paris. But underneath it all I suspect that it was a bit of a grind and plagued with self-doubt. This was before Hemingway had published a novel and was writing “journalism,” as he called it, and short stories. He read Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and supposedly was consumed with admiration and jealousy, knowing that he must attempt the same in order to move forward in his writing.
One a tiny scale, I’m having some of the same writer’s predicament. I don’t believe in writer’s block but I do believe in unhealthy, pathological procrastination and that’s what I’ve been experiencing. I’m within 20 pages of finishing a second draft of a screenplay that I believe to be good and interesting but I’ve stalled out. Every day I resolve to sit down with it and then find other things to do. Oh, the kitchen sink needs scrubbing. Time for a bike ride… For weeks I’ve told myself that it’s OK; that my subconscious is simply doing some “behind-the-scenes” work and it will all become clear soon enough but that’s a bunch of bullshit. Nothing will work itself out unless I sit there and stare at it, writing and deleting until something starts to stick.
I don’t know why I do this. I suspect it has a lot to do with the fear of failure. I already know that was was in my head when I started out is not what’s on the page and that’s a hard thing to reconcile. Why can’t the two match up? But that’s simply another fact of writing or any creative endeavor. They never match up. Or very rarely. Or maybe a scene or a page does and that’s all you get.
Often I’m puzzled by why people continue to revere Hemingway. Some of his writing leaves me not exactly cold but certainly cool. But A Moveable Feast allows a glimpse of vulnerability not often associated with him. Yes, he would stare out at the street and wonder if his stories would ever sell. Yes, he struggled daily with writing. But the heroic thing he did, more than the boxing, deep-sea fishing and African safaris was to show up, day after day, and keeping after it because it was simply his purpose in life.
Watching:The Larry Sanders show – started at Season 1 (1992) and moving along through the 85 episodes! Will probably break for third season of Breaking Bad, which came out on DVD on Tuesday.
Doing: Making a big collage and also screen printing a t-shirt (which will soon be featured on Not Shallow as part of 99 Projects). Also, taking a kettlebell class at Four Gates in Minneapolis – a relatively new studio with great instructors and a laid-back attitude.
Anticipating: Excited to see Midnight in Paris, the new Woody Allen film and to eat at Wise Acre Eatery in South Mpls!