"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Friday, February 20, 2009

World Gone Wild

Is the world going crazy? A mentally deranged woman keeps a male chimpanzee (APE) as a "pet" and when he goes berserk and tears her friend's face off, she blames her friend for having a different hairdo? She eats with this animal, shares her wine with him and pops Xanex with him, bathes with him, and sleeps with him and God knows what else she was alluding to doing with him in one of her many bizarre interviews.

Then there is the Octo-Woman. Six children under the age of eight weren’t enough for her. Unmarried, no job, living with her parents who have both now flown the coop, she says she is "blessed" to have eight more babies. Blessed? Babies are not puppies for God's sake. Can you imagine the daily hospital bill alone? Who is going to feed, clothe and take care of these fourteen children? She has a publicist and is hoping for a book deal. What?? Wouldn’t I and the hundreds of other writers supporting themselves with jobs they dislike while they plug away at their computer every chance they get, love a book deal? What an insult. Is she also hoping for a photo exclusive or a movie deal, a tell-all on Oprah or her own reality TV show? Or,as rumor now has it, will she succumb to the million dollar offer to do a porno? Should we be surprised by this? The whole thing was initiated as a publicity stunt, but does anybody care what the nutso’s story is? I’d just like the doctor who implanted eight embryos in a woman her age with her personal and financial situation to be prosecuted and the babies to be given up for adoption to families who aren't out to exploit them.

Then there’s Joe the Plumber who actually does have a book deal if he can get someone to write it for him. He is, after all, busy with his Middle East peace keeping mission and his Capitol Hill policy speeches and his radio talk show blitz. Maybe he can fill in for Rush Limbaugh who fell off the deep end the day after the election, ranting and raving ever since. Can you just envision the man behind the microphone, foaming at the mouth and popping pills, as he spits his hate-filled invective over the airwaves? I have to believe he is on the fringe with his message, so why do so many radio stations carry him? Because he’s a cheap way to fill air space? It’s not that he’s bad for the democrats. He’s bad for America.

How cheap are we? Is there a crazy connection between Simian love and Octo-woman, Joe the Plumber and Limbaugh? Are we not the laughing stock of the world as we fall to our knees and prostitute ourselves for a “story”?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tazing

Tazing is the newest tool being used by police officers to subdue miscreants, or just those hard of hearing or perhaps of less than stellar IQ. Bums and derelicts and so forth. Tazers are the American counterpart to the English bobby's nightstick. But I wonder . . . is tazing done offhand and with little forethought because unlike a gun, it isn't generally fatal and can thus be utilized without dire consequences and sleepless nights? I work with a fellow who has a friend who says he uses his tazer all the time, at least once a day. He's a little guy and so would-be criminals and brash back-alley hoods don't take him seriously when he tells them to do something. He says he only tells them once and then . . . zap. They're jerking on the ground, cracking their head on the sidewalk, bleeding and pleading for mercy. Zap.



He shaved his head when he went to the police academy. He keeps it shaved. He worked hard to get a permanent position on a respectable force. His mother is proud of him. He deals with prostitutes and drunks and addicts, but every night it's the same trailer park, the same street corner, and the same party story. There's no making a difference because there's no money for rehabiltation or for education for those who fell through the cracks. He works weekends and holidays. He works on his birthday and on his mother's birthday. He works on everybody's birthday, and he keeps seeing the same people caught up in the same vicious cycle of criminal behavior. But now he has a tazer.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Writer in Winter

I was saddened this morning to read of John Updike's death. He wrote with eloquence and wit. He talked to America, of our foibles and imperfections. He talked of what we were afraid to talk about. I'm sad because I had just read an article in a magazine by him where he lamented the critical comparisons of his current writing to that of his prose when he was a cocky young man with untold stories. His own worse enemy was his younger self. "An aging writer, he said, "wonders if he has lost the ability to visualize a completed work in all its vast spatial relations. He should have in mind a provocative beginning and an ending which feels inevitable. Instead, he fears to discovers upon arrival that the threads have failed to knit. The leap of faith with which every narrative begins has landed him not on a far safe shore but in the middle of the drink.”

When he was young, the words would jump from his fingertips and string themselves together in an uplifting cadence, words that under anybody else's direction wouldn't belong together. For instance, when he wrote that "the pleasure of masturbation was as dense as an ingot of gold" you felt that and saw that more clearly than you ever would in a movie. And maybe this serves as a good example of why a book is always better than a movie. He wrote that in his later years the words didn't come as easily, and by the time he'd looked up the "right" word the rhythm and syntax of the thought he was shaping up was lost.

This article made me wish I'd started writing when I was twenty instead of discovering my passion when I was forty. What if I run out of words before I publish my first book? Thumbing through my thesaurus shamefaced and outmoded?

Farewell John Updyke. You will live forever on the bookshelves of the world. And I don’t know if your last book is your best, as you'd hoped, but I can guarantee you that it is better than what most of us could compose in our youth.


I'm on page 259 of my current novel and still haven't run out of words. Alas, my characters are headstrong and locked in their prejudices as they attempt to navigate the cultural disparity that surrounds them. I'm trying to make them behave and resolve their separation issues, and their conflict with a chemical farmer (the polite word is "conventional" but I like to call it what it is), while climate change hovers over their heads like an albatross. Will I land in the drink along with them? Will my protagonist's obsession with the daughter of a migrant worker reach fruition before she realizes that the place for her is Canada with her Indian mother and outlaw brother? Time is running out and now he's off to the Upper Peninsula to rescue a friend who is but a hair's breadth away from enlisting in the United States Army for bonus money and a new uniform with a backwards flag sewn on the sleeve and the promise of state-of-the-art weaponry and a license to kill. Young men are always drawn to combat and in tough economic times the Army is a recruiting juggernaut.

I don't have a strict writing regimen as some do. I don't make myself write ten pages a day. Some days I do nothing but rewrite and commiserate. Some days I write one paragraph, but when I turn my computer off and dial the heat down, it is a keeper. Some days I can write six pages of meaningful dialogue and beautiful sentences, and I take them to bed with me. But most days everything I write is shit. And we empty the garbage every night.

But today is Sunday and I don't have to go to work so I have high hopes. Oh, right, it's Super Bowl Sunday and we have a party to go to and people to visit and social obligations. Oh, how I long for a cabin in the woods where no one can find me.