Fall 05 Backyard

Around ten last night the winter made its first move. The winds started up, and I don’t mean the occasional gust. I mean a wind that does not stop or admit to variation, a wind that comes in like a mile-wide army column that advances without cease. By morning it had busted two light bulbs in the gazebo, knocked a table lamp over, thrown a few of Gnat’s items to the other side of the yard, convinced a few tree limbs on the ledge to jump and get it over with, and huddled all the leaves in the corner of the lot. That’s fine; that’s November. What I don’t like is the way the wind flensed the leaves off most of the trees. It’s been a gorgeous fall, and the longer the leaves stay, the more you remember summer; the longer you have to remember summer, the shorter the distance between today and spring.

The winds kept at it all night. The house was cold in the morning, the annual reminder that you’re done with the Comfy Seasons. Hello cool bathroom tiles, shivering as you get out of the shower, artic blasts when you fetch the mail, chilly drafts from the fireplace like the ghosts of dead fires. You are, perhaps, three weeks away from sensations you have utterly forgotten, like snow on your bare shin as your foot sinks into a drift. Shrewish wind searing your eyeballs. The needle in the ear when you turn a corner and there’s winter gale waiting.

Ah well. There are compensations; today I went to Target, bundled up in the big blue jacket I’ve never worn (spring sale, Gap, 80% off), and lo: all the Christmas holiday ornaments are up. (I promise not to go on a Christmas v. holiday rant this year. And by “rant” of course I mean “bringing the subject up with mild rue,” which is invariably interpreted as a rant by otiose ocicat fanciers) It felt apt, but only because it was cold outside; if we’d had another soft warm day it would have seemed bizarre and wrong. Get those angels away from me! Stop with the fargin’ Peanuts skating music! You’ll have an entire month to bleed that memory white. But today it seemed right. For a minute. Then I heard the whirring of the motorized snowmen, sound like the death rattle of very small robot lizards, and I left the seasonal aisle. Made my purchases with great speed, since I didn’t have Gnat along, and came here – the Coffee Shop with wifi. While I’ve been writing, a handyman for the mall has strung lights around the thin trunks of the trees planted last summer. Festive. The tree is waving back and forth in the wind, as if it wants to claw the lights off but cannot, in its panic, decide where to begin.

So I’m just going to sit here by the sunset and look out the window and listen to John Barry scores, because I can. Because the NPR interview was not scheduled for today, as it turns out, and because I wrote the wrong column this morning, which means I had to write another, and this puts me ahead of the game. Wrote a revised Joe last night too, so I’ll put that up.

This may be the last Christmas that Hello Kitty and the Care Bears make an appearance on the tree, I think. Only a few years away from severed Hillary Duff heads hanging from a branch, probably.

Incidentally, I was checking my spelling on otiose, and I dropped it into a dictionary program that still had “Brogan” in the search field, and the two combined to form a new word: broganotious

I don’t know what that means, but it has to be good. Broganotious, man! Totally full of broganosity.


Wife is out with the flu. Not death’s-door stuff, or even death’s-front-yard, but she’s in the trough. Gnat is bouncing around as usual. I am fine, but lazy. Did little of note this evening but bang out another column, tweak the Joe addition and watch some of the “Clone Wars” animated DVD. A little goes a long way. Gnat stole into my room at one point, and said “is that Star Wars?” I said that it was, and wondered how she could tell – the cartoon was running in a small window in the corner of the screen. She pointed to a glowing green line. “Light saver,” she said, with diffident confidence. “Where’s Yoda?”

“He’ll be along later.”

“Okay,” and she skipped out of the room.

Then some real excitement: archiving all the family DVDs movies. Oh joy. Media degrade, you know. It’s time to take a half-decade of work and save the discs in compacted freeze-dried forms that can later be reconstituted, like Sea-Monkeys. It was so much easier when you had to carry your life around in your head. Makes you wonder whether it’s the ability to fix the past in place that makes the past seem so important. Before photos and movies and audio recordings, the past was buried as the day was reborn; you moved forward, and you traveled lightly. Now we’re all Marley’s ghost, albeit with our chains and lockboxes made from today’s lighter metals.

You know, I’ve had an essay cooking in the back of my head for a year or two. One of the reasons I haven’t said much about, you know, Things Today, is that play-by-play seems rather pointless these days. I’ve been hesitant to say boo about the French situation, since I actually think this is not Pure Undistilled Jihad-O-Rama, but something more complex; I mean, just because there’s an economic underclass aspect to it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have religious roots, but just because it does have religious roots doesn’t mean it’s not a blend of ethno-cultural identity politics mixed with racism and economics. Which doesn’t mean it’s not, etc. You can go on all day and settle nothing; meanwhile, cars burn. We are dealing with a Gordian Wad here. At least with a knot you can see the individual strands.

Of course, what seems complex and muddled to us is very clear to the rioters. They have the West’s number, and it’s pi: endlessly irresolute.

But! That’s another day. Now it’s time to rejoin “Lost,” the only show so fan-savvy it actually includes a shark. Will someone jump over it this week? Tune in.

New Joe, by which I mean rewritten. Old version here; new version here. Two more chapters to fix, and then it’s off to the agent. Have a good day, and I’ll see you on Friday.