|NOVEMBER 1999 Part 3|
|Its Monday night, the night that has meant COLUMN for the last nine years. And it means column tonight, and since Im half way done with a dispirited effort - whats in the news? Nothing. Robert Reich endorses Bradley! Oh, thats a big story. This was announced in the news as though FDR had clawed his way out of the the grave and endorsed Dollar Bill. Be assured that millions of men did not pour from the factory gates, waving their spanners and cheering the news; no wavering moderate put down his newspaper with a resolute expression and thought if Reichs for Bradley, thats enough it for me. Robert Reich is irrelevant. In any other year, the headline Reich Endorses Bradley would have the news value of Canadian Typewriter Ribbon Production Declines Slightly. So Im not going there. If I still lived in DC, this would be a topic for a brief afternoon conversation, or perhaps post-work drink conversation. This sort of thing matters in DC, but even there it doesnt matter much. A Reich endorsement is to DC what a Zsa Zsa Gabor arrest is to Hollywood. Just something to talk about. Gossip.
Not that we talked about these things much when I was in DC; most post-work bar time expositions were centered on the standard triumvirate of work, sex, and pop art - movies, music, books, etc. Of all the things I miss about DC - and the list grows as the years pass - I might just miss those post-work drinks the most, because Id never done that before and havent done it since. There was a bar downstairs in the bureau. At a certain hour - six, usually - one of the members of the office fraternity would indicate it was time to adjourn, either by cocking an eyebrow or simply pointing down. They poured stern drinks. There was usually a crowd - loud, back-slappy lawyers or happy hack journalists from other bureaus. At those times 2000 Penn - the big multi-purpose office/shopping complex where I worked - was a manageable microcosm of DC, and I liked it there. I felt at home in that building. I knew where everything was. My friends were there. I miss it -
But only because its over, and only because all the things that made that particular time miserable are over as well. Im free to look back and make my peace with that time, enjoy particular recollections, but I keep running up against the fact that it was the most protracted period of dispossession I have ever experienced, with occasional glories; like a fireworks display at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.
Today sped by with no particular events to commemorate its passing - warmer than it should be, fifteen degrees higher. The tree on the boulevard still has half its leaves, although theyre utterly dead - pages in a lost language. I went to work and did some work and walked around downtown; made supper and napped. The house has its winter rhythms now; when Jasper comes home from his evening walk, he wants to play inside, not outside. Night falls fast and hard and no one comments on it anymore. Driving home afterwork consists of bobbing and weaving in a river of red taillights; when you pass a car and look at the driver, you see a black silhouette. A cigarette coal. No more. We have the meter of winter but not the text, the rhyme but not the words. Its as if weve all decided that winter wont come, after all. As if winter lost our address.
Back to work. More, of course, tomorrow.
11-17-99 Ordinary day, as I usually say. Fifteen degrees warmer than normal, which is now ordinary. I had Bold Turkey Manwiches for lunch. I had Bold Turkey Manwiches for supper last night, but since there was much left over, well, lets eat the leftovers and be frugal. Save those pennies for the house remodelling. Went to work and stared with a dumb glazed expression at the screen for three hours, as usual. Did all the things I do to work up some inspiration - went to the library, read some magazines, walked around, had a cup of coffee, checked the web every 10 minutes (My new prediction: Warhol was wrong. In the future, everyone will be Mahir for 15 minutes.) (Mahir is about to make our newspaper, which is a sure sign his trajectory has peaked.) Talked to Crazy Andy, my old friend the Uke Mortgage Broker, and hung up feeling as though someone had fired a Gatling Gun straight into my ear . . . and then the column just flowed out, intact. I looked at it, and I saw that it was Good - or at least it Did Not Suck, which is the guiding rule - and I went home.
Had Bold Turkey Manwiches for supper. Sara came home early; she did not work out tonight, since the flu and/or cold, or a new variant, has fastened its claws on her. As usual this will result in no symptons beyond weariness - she gets a scratchy throat, sleeps, and fights it off. Id expect no less of someone who kickboxes three times a week. We all napped, except the dog, who sat on the steps and belched. Small, discrete, measured dog belches. Last time he gets Bold Turkey Manwiches.
The Shining was on TV the other night, which is to say it was censored, cropped, and chopped up by ads for Rockin Power Love CD compilations. It still managed to be effective. I dont think Ive seen the movie in 15 years, and I only caught the last half hour, which is unfair to myself and the film. I do remember that I was completely Kubrickated when I saw it the first time - those revolutionary Steadicam shots, the weird crashing Bartok music (and the speaker-blowing music from Walter Wendy), the enigmatic ending. Was Jack Nicholson always at the hotel? Had he been there since 21? Was that his granddad in the picture? Why was the man in the bear suit giving lap nookie to the fellow in the tux? Wasnt the bartender also Alexs social worker in Clockwork Orange? Watch out, Scatman Crothers! And, the biggest question of all: why did it require going to a mountain resort and spending time in evil isolation to make him take an axe to Shelley Duvall? Id have been tempted on day two of the marriage.
The portion I saw contained one of Stanleys nicest touches - fast lateral pans when Jack swung the axe at a door. The camera seemed carried along by the motion of the axe, and encouraging it at the same time. Relentless. Of course, this was instantly spoiled by the creepy, and now famous comic relief - Wendy? Im home. Heeeeres Johnny! Perhaps that was the birth of the quip-ready maniac, and we didnt know it.
The book is better, but its so different that you cant compare the two. Unfortunately, I dont think of the book when I see The Shining now. I think of a Simpsons Halloween special. In fact when I was clicking last night and saw Shelley drag Jack across the kitchen floor, I thought: ahh, the Shinning.
11-18-99 Bought a new phone today to replace the much-reviled Microsoft Phone. It will be a pleasure to have a phone that doesnt need to be synced to the base everytime I reboot the PC, but Ill miss Voice-Announced Caller ID. Even though the voice mispronounced most of the names, it was still a nifty feature, and even though you had to be within hearing range to learn who was calling - as opposed to looking at a readout - it will be missed. I will not, however, miss the sound of my wife picking up the phone, discovering it doesnt work, and uttering an oath one might usually associate with a Cockney sailor.
Ive never shared the Boomer obsession with Nixon. He leaves me cold. I feel a certain obligation to explore his life and presidency, just to know more than I do, but his long clammy shadow always makes me turn away.
11-19-99 One AM. Column done, Almanac monologue written, Diner show in the can. A productive day. So why am I doing this? Decompression, I suppose; this doesnt count for anything. No money changes hands for this. It does not have the expectation one would hang on a product of The Major Media. While the overriding rule of Major Media efforts is ironclad - Suck Not - here I am free to blather and drone. About what? Why, the weather, of course. It was sixty one today, according to the TCF bank thermometer. Why banks feel compelled to tell us the temperature, I dont know. I can understand why they tell us the time, because time is money. (Although the penalties for being overdrawn on time are eventually much, much steeper.) I suppose they figure that as long as theyre giving us the time, might as well make room for times common-law spouse, the temp. Anyway, it was sixty-fargin-one today, which is about sixty degrees above the record low. Tomorrow they - the great unseen robed & priestly meteorological They - are calling for snow and scattered clamminess, but no one believes them. I told myself that this was it, this was the end, this was the last day. And Ive been saying that since September.
11-22-99 Crap, crap, junk. Crappe, as the French might say. Junque. I bought a big whomping home design program tonight so I could reconstruct the architects plans for Lileks Manor, and desuburbanify the details. They came over yesterday for another two-hour consultation, and some of their ideas were good; some gave me hives. This renovation has to respect the lines of the house; it cannot look like some flabby modern carbuncle hanging off the butt of the original construction. I want the rooms to flow, yes, but I do not want them to dribble. I want openness, but I want closedness, too. Theres not a line in this house, a beam, an arch, that doesnt serve some sort of structural purpose. This must carry over to the new part. So I went to CompUSA (Where your receipt is double-checked on the way out for no apparent reason) and purchased Broderbunds 5-CD home design kit. It handles landscapes, it does 3d designs with walkthroughs, and it has a special feature that lets you slap all these Real Actual products into the design, so you can get see what you want for materials, colors, etc. They think youll actually buy the products theyve included, but of course they were all smoking rocks of crack the size of prize-winning gourds when they believed that. Oh, yes: please let me launch my web browser and buy this lamp RIGHT NOW.
Well, it doesnt work. I rebuilt the drawings from the plans they left behind, and after watching them futz with their 3D home-design software, I knew how this thing worked. Huzzah: built the whole house without once looking at the manual. I thought things were getting peculiar when I couldnt save files under different names without getting odd error messages - the file name house.126.96.36.199.1PL/// is not a valid file name. Well, no kidding. Thats why Im saving it as house1.pl. I saved and saved and saved, only to discover it made multiple copies, none of which have distinct names. Thats a nifty trick.
After I finished the house, I went into the interior design function. I played around with it for half an hour, and got a warning: I havent saved in 30 minutes! Please Save! Why, I thought? In case the program crashed?
Well, okay. I hit save, only to discover that the program had frozen. In other words, the feature that told me to save lest the program crash had crashed the program.
I enjoyed the episode - the Temptation of Mulder, really. And as usual I think I know a little more than I did before, although about WHAT, I have no idea. It had CSM in it, and I always like him. I like him too much, in fact; he no longer says VILLANY to me. The only villain was That Bitch Diana, and I love to hiss at her - but more for her $cientology than her character. At the end I thought there was an actual kiss, but Sara made me rewind the tape. Lips to forehead. Oh, well.
Then we stayed up two more hours discussing the remodeling. Its fun, really. Its fun now. Itll be hell eventually.
Im still not certain why were doing this . . . right, right. Because we can. Tax write-offs. More room.
While the remodelers were discussing the plan, I heard Bolero on the radio in the next room, and for 17 minutes I tapped my fingers in the Bolero beat. Then an amazing piece of music came on, and I went to the kitchen and turned up the Bose - Thats Vertigo, I thought, and indeed it was. The Scene dAmour, byHerrman. An lovely piece of music, almost Mahlerian, if Gus had written for movies. (Some would say he did without knowing it.) I bought it this afternoon, and Im listening to it now. Its music to be a desperately unhappy middle-aged acrophobic Jimmy Stewart by.
Well, on to the web to visit the Broderbund home page, and see if I can find any answers. I doubt it.
The next cut on this Hitch disc is the main theme for Psycho. Here it comes . . . ah. Thats my mood to a T.