Thursday, July 22, 2010

That Critical Eye

I don't consider myself a writer. I'm a critic, meaning I do not make things, I make comments and pass judgments on the things that others have worked hard to make such as brownies and novels. What right do I have to disparagingly describe a brownie as "chalky" or to say that a novel had too early a denouement - I have no right at all! I'm completely unqualified! Ain't this the tops?

No. And it ain't a bowl of cherries either. This is perhaps why I am critical: I want a big bowl of cherries. I want to leap around in it. And a toothsome, moist brownie that is reasonably priced, and a novel that captures me even unto the epilogue. I'm always looking for them. Sometimes I find them and then isn't life grand for that hour!

It's human nature, I think, to be critical, or we'd have no need for movie reviews, or to use a fine toothed comb to comb the "about me" sections of online dating services. Every guy would be as good as every other guy, every movie a series of car crashes that would be indistinguishable from every other car crash made in the long history of car crashes and flaming motorcycle pileups.

We want the best damn flaming motorcycle pileup. The job of the critic is to watch all of them and determine the best one, read a lot of novels so you don't have to, so you can just sit back, and eat the most delicious brownie.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hip Pouch: The New Old Fanny Pack

Recently I received the diagnosis of cervical arthritis (that's arthritis of the neck spine, people). The doctor raised his eyebrow at my gigantic backpack: "By the way," he said, "that's is not helping you. I said, "You are referring to Gargantua?"

How to carry my writerly implements? My Moleskine journal and fancy pens, books and magazines, changes of clothes for the kids, swim trunks in case of water or sprinkler park, and the environmentally conscious yet very heavy aluminum water bottles for continuous hydration? Not to mention the laptop.

The doctor said, "How about a fanny pack?" Then, noticing my face was now on the waxed and disinfected floor, he leveled the karate chop to chic, "They're available at Leather World in fashion colors, and in leather."

Leather World: a place when I was young I swore I would grow up never to be, and in front of a mirror assessing the damage to my figure of a large red fanny pack. The young European salesgirl had first pointed me to the fancy handbags, when I said, "No, no handbags. Encircling purses, please."
"What?" she said.
"Encircling purses, please?"
"You mean fanny pack?"
"Can we just agree to call them encircling purses, please? Or how about hip pouches?"
"Are you traveling abroad?" She asked.
"No," I said. But she seemed to need an explanation. "Cervical arthritis," I said.
She looked at me. "My neck," I said.

We exchanged blinks, and in them fleeting recognition: that one day she would be older, possibly with neck stiffness and that once I was once young and had a neck that swiveled smoothly as an office chair. That was nice. In a moment it was over. "Well, we in fact do have an array of hip pouches," she said.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Parenting in Public: What You Can't Say (But Wish You Could)

Scene: Saturday At The Crowded Water Park

Son, 5: Moooommmmyyyy, little Timmy won't share the slide with me!

Me and Little Timmy's Mom (in unison, in the sing-song, "this is a teachable moment" voice of modern parenting): Now, boys, what's the park for? The park is for sharing.

What You Can't Say (But Wish You Could): Son, come over here. Let me tell you something. Little Timmy's an asshole. Throw him from the slide, and remember the life lesson: sometimes you need to punch someone in the nose, to get justice.

Scene: Preschool Birthday Party Thrown By Showoffy Parents Who Have Hired A Balloon-Artist/And Or Pony, And/Or Flown In A Mime From Paris

Daughter, 3: (shrieking at the sight of the clown): Get me the fuck out of here.

Me (pretending to swoon, sickened): Where did you hear those words?! You're in a time-out forever young lady. Forever. Totally inappropriate. Also -- it's not a clown, honey, it's a mime, don't you know that?

The other parents (full of disdain): She doesn't know what a mime is? Haven't you taken her to Paris yet?


What You Can't Say (But Wish You Could): Let's get le fucking fuck out of here, honey, these people are robots, grab the pony. With desperate hand signals, we'll ask the mime if he wants a ride, too.