So I go away for a week vacation and what happens?
James Brown dies. Gerald Ford dies. Julia Roberts announces (oh joy!) that she's pregnant again. Dave loses his cell phone.
All my blogger data--my username, my password--disappeared from my mental harddrive.
I just spent over 30 minutes trying to retrieve it. Somehow, I got it into my head that I was an "old blogger," not a "beta blogger." That's because I already have blogger's blank spots, a kind of early senility.
But here I am again. Sigh. Obviously, it finally clicked that I didn't need to 'switch' to the new blogger because I was already there. Duh. And then my information worked in the boxes.
I'm still bummed about the missing cell phone. Not that the cell phone was any great shakes--as phones go, it's the "old phone" that weighs at least a pound. (Remember those first cell phones from the 80s that weighed 5 pounds and were the size of a water bottle?) I'm worried that someone found it rolling around the plane to Providence and thought, hm, free calling to Costa Rica. Andale!
Like the time when, in high school in Mexico City, we discovered that the pay phone outside the principal's office was broken in a groovey way--you could call anywhere on it, for any length of time, and it didn't charge. People lined up to call their friends in Switzerland, Peru, Argentina; some of us had lived all over the world, so the possibilities were endless. It's not that we were pining to speak to these far flung friends and relatives; it was the lure of the "free." Most of us, I think, were pretty "good" (aside from the guys who liked to hold lit cigarette lighters underneath their unsuspecting friends' Levis at lunch, or the date rapers) but the broken phone was an attractive nuisance. It took the Powers that Be (certainly not the principal, Mr. Dingman, a nice but entirely ineffectual man we called Dingbat) at least two weeks to cop to the problem, maybe after someone used it to call in a bomb threat to get out of a math test.
We called Dave's phone a few times, hoping to hear it ring from a pair of pants, or a coat, or the bottom of Jen's closet. Nope. It rang the requisite 8 times before the message came on: "The party you have called has left the vehicle, traveled beyond the service area, or...."
Jen says she's going to think optimistically. The phone is in some dumpster somewhere. It's just a matter of getting a new one.
I like to think it's rolling around under a plane seat and that when we called, twice, it fizzed on the radar screen.
Over the vacation, I read a fun Neil Gaiman novel, Anansi Boys. I liked American Gods quite a bit, and Anansi Boys is just as witty. Gaiman's sense of humor is dry, and sharp, like certain excellent white wines. I found myself chuckling and sometimes laughing out loud, but didn't feel the need to share everything aloud with Dave (or whoever else would listen)--the way I do with Neil Sedaris. Perhaps Gaiman's prose is solid enough, his wit grounded in a flavorful theosophy (wrong word?), to stand alone; I don't have to share it in order to validate the experience. Also, I wanted to hog it to myself.
I also read Dickens' Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket of the Hearth. All of the novels and novellas were instructive, in some way, shape or form. I've decided, though, that I prefer the musical Oliver! (one of my childhood favorites) to the novel. Both are cloying and sentimental, but Oliver! is shorter and you can sing along. Most of the time, I wanted to smack Oliver Twist with a two by four for his incredible idiocy. Every time he walked alone out of the house, he got pinched by some evil doer. He should have learned his lesson: always travel accompanied by an adult. The Christmas Carol is always fun, and relatively (as far as Dickens goes) brief. I like the idea of ghosts, the ability to revise the future by reviewing the past, and the main character's comeuppance. The Chimes was just weird. Most of the time I spent trying to figure out just what was happening (lots of innuendo and double speak about fallen women, you see) and then not caring what was happening as I skimmed the surface. Too many exclams! Always a bad sign in Dickens! And an intrusive narrator! Blimey. Finally, The Cricket was an interesting turn-about surprise ending story, the kind that O. Henry later popularized as a "snapper."
Now I'm in the middle of The Best American Mystery Stories, edited by Scott Turow. Excellent so far; none of the stories has been a dud. (Some might be a bit formulaic in their moves, but isn't that what we want from mystery stories, after all? At least for me, a good part of a mystery's pleasure is in following old paths with new characters, or following new paths with old friends.) Andrew M., former student and now JVC volunteer in Philly, complained once (or twice or three times) that most of the Best American Short Stories were spotty at best, and that the "genre" edition BAMS was always a cracking good read. "What's up with that?" he wanted to know. When we try to be literary, we usually lose quite a few of our audience. At least Dickens knew his readers; he can't help it if they've moved on.
I have yet to read Pynchon's new tome--it's very fat. I'll get to that next.
Happy New Year to everyone!