I’m a bit fried, and this is lame, and promise I will do better tomorrow. I say that not having written a word. Let me now prove myself right.

At the office, looking out over the same view that made my heart feel like an old pumice stone last winter. Now it’s sunny and bright and frivolous. Oh, how I miss the gravity of March. A man can get things done in the winter.

Just kidding. (Somewhat. It’s pathetic, I know.) I’m looking at the same batch of fake flowers, the same tented card that informs me how Starbucks is brewed (proudly), the same small display that likewise defines the Luxury (Crème Caramel Latte. Luxury. It’s so you. Oh, bugger off) and the same shelf of knick-knacks. I’m sure I’ve done something important since I was staring out this window in the sleet-lashed times, but I can’t recall just what, exactly.

As mentioned before, this is a hellish week for deadlines, and that means there’s no satisfaction in finishing anything, just dull relief. One down, three to go. At least Gnat took a nap this morning – she got up too early, and needed a brief recharge for the first time in three years or so. I woke her up before lunch; she sat on the edge of her bed, yawned and stretched like a cartoon character, then murmured “I liked how you woke me up.” Something about the morning made her feel warm and content and happy in a fashion that's unique to the latter years of early childhood. Emotions are more sophisticated, but still pure. The other day, for example,   she got a goodbye card from a student teacher, and she was touched: “It’s very precious,” she said, solemnly. “I will treasure it forever.”

You know that moment in Star Trek 2: Wrath O’ Khaaaaaan? Spock gives Bones the neck-pinch, leans over the doc’s  boneless body, does a quick & dirty mind-meld and says: remember. He implants something that cannot be forgotten, not with the passage of time or breaking of hearts.

I wish I knew that trick.

Well, that’s why there’s camcorders.

Took a break from watching “24,” because the Tivo recorded “Silence of the Lambs.” Watching Ted Levine’s ultra-creepy little dance wherein he stows his tackle to simulate a female naughty bits, I had to wonder: did he know this was the role that would be mentioned first in his inevitable obituary? There’s so much raw ick dripping off his “Silence” performance you wonder his agent winced when the film was a hit. Man, he’s toast now.  Hopkins had that awful intelligence, keen and creepy, but he had reserve, even as he was cracking someone’s head open. Poor Ted, never loveable, might have thought he was done. But apparently not; he’s gotten lots of work since.

Speaking of 24’s third season: I put this in spoiler type, so highlight to read.

I was relieved to see them (the great omnipotent THEM that runs these shows, I mean) kill off Nina Myers. Unless her head is coming back next season, grafted to the shoulders of Sherry Palmer. And she died right: gasping, wheedling and lying in the basement, plugged by a remorseless victim of her interminable perfidy. I did wonder how he would justify that to the boss. "So, Jack, she was wounded, probably shot in the lung, on her back at gunpoint, her weapon out of reach, and you decided that it would be better for all concerned if you just put three slugs in her right there instead of kicking the gun away? Normally I’d blame it on the smack, but weren’t you motivated a bit by revenge, perhaps? Oh – nevermind, the virus is loose. Listen up, everyone! Forget this season had anything to do with Mexico! That was just the head fake! Now we have to find a way to put a computer jockey in direct peril, so I want everyone to type really fast and have the results on my desk in three minutes! Because I am Ryan Chappelle, the hard-ass boss in the Paul Simon body!"

I do love that show, but it was nice to take a break.

Okay, I’m done here. Time to go home and see if G. Burly has been laboring away on the Oak Island Water Feature. No one showed yesterday, and no one had come today by 1:30, so I don’t exactly expect the thing to be finished.

He was indeed on the site. He did some additional inspection, and guess what he found? That’s right! He found a leak! That’s in addition to the other leak. This one is a fast one, and he thinks it’s the reason the pit drains with such speed. He patched it, and wants to give it 24 hours to cure, which means they can start back up on Thursday, at the earliest, which would be six weeks after they first showed up to fix the leaks.  Six. Weeks. In Year. Two. On a project that I was told would take Five. Days.

But he’s serious about getting it right; I trust him on that.

“I’m as frustrated as you are,” he said as we looked at the project.

“Well,” I said slowly, “I believe you’re frustrated, but I think I have the edge on that one.” I gestured at the pile of rock and dirt. “This is what I look at out the window every day, after all.”

I meant this:



I spoke too soon yesterday. We did not go with the orange-mango infuser at the Mall.

I know, I know: but I seemed so certain of myself. What would make a man turn around on such a crucial issue? You feel lied to, I suppose. Well, at the Mall we stopped at Yankee Candle (“Trading on an unexamined association between flinty Northeasterners and flammable wax-divots since 1989”) and I found the scent I had sought for a while: the scent of my wife’s brother’s guest house in Arizona. It just said “vacation” and “clean desert” to me, that’s all. I bought the infuser and plugged it in when we got home.

Ahh yes. That’s the smell.

After a while I dialed it down. After an hour I dialed it down to Minimum. At the end of the night I took it out and put it away.

Why? What happened? I hadn’t counted on the scent depending on context, that’s what. It smelled nothing like Arizona, of course. It just smelled like a place where I was on vacation, and wasn’t working every morning and every night on six different projects.
When I was in AZ, nothing was due at noon, and nothing was due at midnight, my twin daily deadlines. I could sit outside and read in the sun. I could take a walk, by God. I walked to a shopping nexus 30 blocks away, and took no laptop, no camera, nothing at all; I just walked. Freed! Freed of everything, including the constant state of parental readiness and observation that’s characterized my head since 2000. Once I arrived at my destination I walked around some more, comparing the grocery store with the one back home; then I walked back 30 blocks along the blasted grassless road. I think I took a nap, listening to the plosh of water in the courtyard fountain. Then everyone came back and we had supper somewhere. The evening ended with conversation, kids playing, a glass of wine, then a book before turning in.

This sounds normal, but it’s completely abnormal for me. I never unplug and I never unwind until midnight, and even then my relaxation has a routine. Thou shalt have one snack-size bag of popcorn, but not untilst thoust hast done thine pushups! Thou mayst concludeth the evening cigar, but woe to him to ligtheth one anew after the toll of the midnight bell!

I am a prisoner of routine. I built the cell. I have the keys. But I like the cell. The days when I grip the bars and wish for release, I can feel the door swing out, and have to pretend it’s latched shut. It’s all my fault, and of all the problems one can have, it reminds me of my excellent fortune. But that’s what the smell of the Guest-House Infuser turned out to be:  freedom. More accurately, freedom from my life of unbelievable freedom.

In this context, the aroma is wrong. It annoys me now. It’s like a song they played every night at the cantina on a Mexican vacation – you can’t go back home and play it nightly, expecting the same big-hearted happy satisfaction you felt when the sun dropped down and the soft warm wind promised another tropical night. That’s just pathetic.

So I removed the infuser from the socket and put it away. Replaced it with a spare apple-scented bulb I have in storage. I’m not in the desert and there aren’t mountains outside and it will be bone-crackingly cold in five months and this is where we are.

And it’s a good place to be.

PS the apple-scented one turned out to be apple-cinnamon, which connotes autumn. I removed it. Tomorrow we’re going back to the Mall anyway. Might as well get the orange-mango, as planned. Life is easy; it's the details that confound.

PPS New movie today, but don't watch it. Really. Help me save my bandwidth. Okay, watch it, but you're warned - it's about a building lobby. Woo-hoo! And now to work.


  c. j. lileks 2006. Email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.