Rinse, Lather, Repeat

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I had a lighter topic to talk about today, but that was before I saw a movie tonight with my husband that I hadn’t seen since it came out years ago.

In this story, a woman was dragged down a street in the middle of the day into a church, stripped and beat to death with roofing tiles. Then her body was torn apart and set on fire.

Even though that event could have easily taken place today, anywhere in the world and for whatever reason—or lack of reason–it happened over 1,600 years ago in Alexandria, Egypt around 415 CE.

Touted in smithsonianmag.com as “one of the last great thinkers of ancient Alexandria and one of the first women to teach mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy”, Hypatia,  daughter of mathematician and astronomer Theon, was also a “pagan who spoke publicly about Neoplatonism, a non-Christian philosophy.”

This stance, along with her association with Alexandria’s governor, Orestes, would in time lead to her death.

And although the 2009 film Agora (aɡərə/noun: in ancient Greece, a public open space used for assemblies and markets) was visually pleasing and ultimately entertaining (for one thing, Rachel Weisz, the star, was young and beautiful, where the real Hypatia would probably have been in her 50s or 60s at the time of her death–a death greatly sanitized in the movie version) it was still accompanied by a mounting sense of dread and disbelief  (for me) as  ignorance, fanaticism and escalating violence unfolded between the Christians and the pagans and later the Christians and the Jews.

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In the wake of the synagogue shootings that just happened in Pittsburgh, the movie’s depiction of the consequences of rigid intolerance was like fingernails across a blackboard.  In that moment, it felt like nothing had changed and like nothing was ever going to change.

I mean, they’re old themes. We know these themes. How often have these familiar themes have played out before: the fear of/destruction of self-empowerment and self-determination.

The impregnation of society with a simmering blind aggression blatantly absent of empathy or love.

Calculating “leaders” spewing negative rhetoric intended to electrify and enrage the masses.

The aggravated mobs dancing obediently at the ends of their puppet strings, foaming at the mouth.

At some point I realized watching Agora and turning on the nightly news were basically one in the same. I felt like I’d climbed into the TV set, into the movie, into 1,600 years ago, then taken two steps forward right back into 2018.

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Like my last post about The Wall, an invisible force appearing out of nowhere to trap a woman alone in the Austrian Alps, Hypatia’s story could be and is anyone’s story. Symbolically, I could be dragged through the street in broad daylight, stripped, humiliated, you could be stoned to death, dismembered, and those parts of us set on fire in order to disappear us completely from the world. Because 1600 years ago, and now, and probably in some repeating loop far into the unseen ages, rage and anger, bolstered by ignorance and self-righteousness, are more easily accessible and more immediately gratifying than reason, compassion and clemency.

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The Wall Between Us

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One of the strangest but most compelling stories I’ve read recently was the 1963 novel The Wall by Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer.

When it was first published, critics ignored Ms. Haushofer’s latest offering, but 15 years later (about 8 years after the author had passed away) she was rediscovered by feminists and the antinuclear movement. The novel has since been translated into 18 languages and sold 1 million copies. It was made into a movie in 2012 which I’ve been unsuccessful in streaming as of yet.

Simply put, a woman accompanying her cousin and her cousin’s husband to the Austrian mountains to stay in a hunting lodge over the weekend wakes the next morning to find the couple, who had driven to town for dinner, haven’t returned.

A chilling discovery awaits her when, later, she sets out to find them. As she and her cousin’s dog Lynx walk down the winding mountain pass heading for the village, she  suddenly walks into something. That she can’t see. An invisible force. An invisible wall which separates her from the rest of the valley.

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Still in shock, she doubles back, hiking in the opposite direction, and then along the boundary of the wall, leading her to the distant cottage of an elderly man she spies in the distance.

Initial excitement leads to a cold horror when she realizes, as she watches him, crouched down before the stream that runs before his cottage, his hand cupped as if to take a drink, that the drink will never come, because the man has been frozen, mid-movement, and never in any subsequent observations will he ever move from that position again.

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Everything that you can imagine would happen after that does happen: the woman (whose name we never learn) still numb, realizes that although something unnatural has happened and she appears alone in the world (except Lynx, a stray cat, and later a cow) she is, in fact, still alive and must survive. She starts, succumbs to debilitating depression, re-calibrates, starts again.

I found it interesting that although the author wrote in emotional detail and depth about the “divide” between mothers and daughters (which many have said the physical wall in the novel is a symbol of) she actually had two sons and no daughters in real life.

The character does speak about mothers and children in general, though, emotional states and levels and misunderstanding bordering on not even caring and stagnation and becoming a person you don’t even recognize anymore, suggesting that motherhood, at least on one level, for her, was not the joyous and life-affirming experience others have claimed.

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Also, although the mystery is never uncovered of what has actually happened, I understand the antinuclear movement’s attraction to this story.

Although a nuclear holocaust would not be able to explain the presence of an invisible wall or the frozen man who will never drink the water from his hand, we come to understand that nuclear war or alien invasion or anything else along those lines are more or less interchangeable. Any situation smiting the world that suddenly and violently would be symbolic of the unnatural, the unorganic, the unempathetic, anti-earth and anti-humanity.

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In today’s climate surrounding women’s issues, especially after the Senate hearings on Thursday with Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, I think many activists would deeply identify with this story, especially the ending, in regards to women often being under-appreciated, overlooked, and ignored, wherein after a year of careful, introspective, nurturing survival, a ragged, half-insane man appears out of nowhere, immediately axes the bull, then kills Lynx as the dog attacks the interloper.

As Julian Roman Polsler, the director of the movie version states: I do believe the novel, and the film based upon the novel, gets at something of the human condition that no other work of fiction does—the truth of yourself when you are the last remaining member of the human race.

So, yeah, the activists would be interested, but this story could obviously be about any of us and what we’d have to face if left only with ourselves. I think the human condition includes a symbolic wall of sorts that’s always between us in varying degrees; between cultures, between sexes, between experiences, between beliefs.

But if a real wall materialized, an invisible wall corralling us into some small part of the world and disappearing almost everyone else, the lives we’ve lived—our authentic lives, not lives spun from faulty memories, rationalizations, or self-delusion—would paint that experience truthfully and accordingly.

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Now, that’s a great ending!

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One of my favorite movies of all time and favorite endings of a movie is No Country For Old Men. Probably because it’s based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy who happens to be one of my favorite authors of all time.

First of all, can’t believe it was 11 years ago already. I just had to go look up some deets and saw the release date: 2007. It feels like it was 5, maybe 6 years ago, 7 tops. But no. 11 years ago.  I had a completely different  life 11 years ago. Didn’t you?

Anyway, one of the reasons I liked the movie is a reason that became more important to me once I got past the age of around 35: most of the characters are *real adults.*

Okay, yeah, the title gives it away that at least a few *old men* will be in the story. But, still, when, exactly, did the trend start of casting young’uns for everything in movies? 23-year-olds with several advanced degrees and expertise in myriad subjects, world travelers who, before 30, built bridges in third-world countries, re-constructed dams, reverse-engineered alien spacecraft?

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No Country for Old Men was one of the first times I realized that Josh Brolin was a pretty good actor. Check him out in True Grit and the more recent Sicario. All of the performances stand out in this movie, though, in my opinion, including the chilling and emotionless Chigurh, the laid-back subtlety of Woody Harrelson, and, of course, the beauty of Tommy Lee Jones’ restrained Midwestern angst.

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Do you ever notice overwhelming music arrangements blasting your ears off during exciting movie moments? When Josh Brolin’s character is fleeing the sinister Chigurh at one point, engaged in a run and gun in the deserted streets of a sleeping town, there’s no sound but that of their labored breathing, and their footsteps, and, of course, gunfire, all of which amplified the fear and anxiety without a pounding soundtrack.

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But to the ending, to the ending. It’s not even a real spoiler, ‘cause I’m not talking about the pivotal situations that happen before the actual ending. But Tommy Lee Jones, recounting two dreams he had about his father to his wife, describes being in the mountains and riding on horseback, as if they were back in olden times.

He says, “When he rode past, I seen he was carryin’ fire in a horn the way people used to do, and I could see the horn from the light inside of it – about the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin’ on ahead and he was fixin’ to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold. And I knew that whenever I got there, he’d be there. And then I woke up.”

Aside from the inherent poetry of the monologue, richly symbolic, I love everything about that scene: the light through the window, his expression, his unhurried delivery. It holds on Mr. Jones’ lined, sad face for a moment or two, then cuts to black.

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There are some others. But I haven’t seen too many movies, before or after, with the balls to end that way.

 

 

 

Apathy, Evolution and Idiocracy Walk Into A Bar…

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So I was trying to read a book the other day that I had downloaded from the internet, but I had to stop because of the typos, homophones, run-on sentences and comma splices.

FYI, homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently: see, sea, peek, peak. And comma splices are commas used where a period should be.

And believe me, I only know this because it’s my job to know. But I actually had to look up the definition of comma splice AND homophone a few years ago because I had forgotten (never knew?) the technical names for: commas used as periods and words that sound the same but aren’t the same.

When I got into a discussion with someone about the increasing amount of errors going unchecked, especially in self-published books, but even in traditionally published content, she had to agree with me that, yeah, they’re there.

Oh, and one more thing.

Nobody seems to care!

Because when we both checked out the reviews this same book was getting on Goodreads, it was only receiving the highest of marks: 4s and 5s across the board!

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Okay, I admit I may be a grammar junkie. I probably care more than most people. But I also know that everyone makes mistakes, including moi, of course. And I’m not so bad that I can’t look the other way when a book is sprinkled with typos and run-on sentences that aren’t getting in the way of the reading.

However, consider this: the thought process can be interrupted, by, bad punctuation two and wrong words that you can’t just blink aweigh. See? Wasn’t that annoying, those inappropriate commas? And the brain stutters: Two? Aweigh? Oh, too, away!

And then the rhythm, the reading spell is broken.

Here’s a scary thought. At work, where I do captioning for the hearing impaired, it is my literal job to spell and punctuate correctly.

In the past, captioning companies have always prided themselves on almost 100% accuracy. But lately, I’d say the past five years or so, because there are so many other little companies out there now underbidding prices, we apparently no longer have the actual time to be 100% accurate.

Just like the FDA permits certain levels of “contaminants” in hot dogs (no, don’t even think about what they are; don’t even go there!), many captioning companies now allow a certain percentage of typos, run-on sentences,  and other similar errors in order to “get the work out” at a faster rate. Special attention is paid to proper names, however, which must be accurately spelled. But that’s about it.

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My mind keeps going back to the book stuffed full of errors and the fact that people keep scoring it highly, regardless. And I looked in a lot of those reviews which don’t even mention the errors. I could understand a review that said it loved the story and the characters so much that even the spelling and grammar mistakes didn’t bother them that much.

But again: nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care!

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In Idiocracy, the future is run by a population of morons. In fact, when Luke Wilson’s character Joe wakes up from being frozen, he discovers that the spoken language has… “deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, Valley girl, inner-city slang and various grunts. Joe was able to understand them, but when he spoke in an ordinary voice he sounded pompous and faggy to them.”

Although cheesy and cheap, Idiocracy has hilarious moments and great prescience about where our IQs are going.

But then again, hasn’t stuff like that always happened? My husband told me that when he’d wear sweater vests or listen to rock and roll in his childhood neighborhood of East New York, the complaint from African-Americans would often be that he was “acting white.”

And language is always changing, adapting, evolving… isn’t it? Maybe Idiocracy’s prediction is too dark and dire. Maybe the downward spiral of the written (and, like, you, like, know, spoken) language does not herald the end of anything.

Isn’t language spelling and punctuation arbitrary anyway something someone made up one day when vocalizations were translated into a group of sounds that were recognized and transferred into a symbol that everybody accepted as the stand-in for that sound and that’s how written language came about I mean so mabee thoze simballs r chanjing and all that uthur stuff lik peeryods and cahmuhs and cahmunly axceptd rools r chanjing too

Just like “The Force”, “bling”, “Big Brother”, “baby mama”, “ghost” (in the sense of abruptly cutting all communication with someone) “woo-woo” and very recently “nothing burger” and “fake news”, to name a few, have been added to the lexicon or become part of our daily consciousness, maybe abbreviations, cyber slang, and texting shorthand like IDK or AFK and C U later and Omg what R U doing 2day don’t spell the end.

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The rise of white nationalism, a woman on the freeway putting her RV on “cruise control” and then going into the back to make a sandwich, the advice to “don’t believe what you see and hear”, the apparent need for public signs that say “Fire is hot” in front of a fire pit and “Do not breathe under water” in front of a large container of water (https://www.ranker.com/list/signs-that-humanity-is-devolving/nathandavidson), reality TV, kidnapping immigrant children and saying that’s okay, Meghan Markle’s dress size, people who fall off cliffs while taking selfies…all of these things aside, maybe the decline of language and communication is simply a natural evolution, leading to untold growth and creativity,  holistic, universal empathy, and ultimate sublime transcendence…

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Mouth of Madness

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Once, a long time ago, I had a really weird dream about alien abduction.

I was in a huge warehouse space with a large crowd of people. We were all being held there somehow. Not restrained. Just…kept inside the warehouse into which we’d been corralled and were waiting around for…something to happen.

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Somehow I became aware that aliens were about to transport us out of there or do something else, and in fear, rage, and a sense of helplessness, I started yelling, “Are we gonna just stand here and let them do whatever they want? What are we doing?! Let’s get out of here!”

A stampede toward the door ensued, and then we were all running pell-mell down a hill while strange airships chased us in the air overhead.

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I remember the dream vividly, which is odd, because I generally don’t recall my dreams at all, much less ones that I had almost a decade ago.

So what am I talking about? The fact that I’ve been abducted by aliens probably? Or I’ve witnessed some kind of alien activity and been brainwashed to forget it?

No! I’m talking about the fact that out of the feeling of helplessness, frustration, fear, and anger, I wrote a paranormal comedy called Day for Night wherein the protagonist turns to supernatural means in order to “fight” an alien threat. That came out in 2016. (Cover redesign pending!)

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Now, two years later, I’ve finally finished the sequel. It’s not out yet. I still have to tweak it then send it to the publisher. Yeah, it’s light, yeah, it’s chick-lity, yeah, it’s comedy. But it’s mine! And it’s done!

And it did not take two years write. Oh, no. I had a wonderful case of writer’s block for well over a year that had me shackled and gagged in a dark basement until I finally made my heroic escape.

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I had no time to write the sequel, actually. I basically wrote it one chapter at a time on any Saturday that I could manage it over many, many months. Anytime “real life” encroached and I missed a Saturday, a sense of loss and an ever-increasing panic would consume me as if I had lost my child at a carnival or I’d woken from a nap to find everyone in the world gone.

After all: not a vampire. Not gonna live forever.

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And as far as the process of writing goes, it would be great if it was like floating in a rainbow, surrounded by ponies and fudge brownies and friendly dolphins.

But writing, when you’re even able to write, is like being in the mouth of madness: never satisfied, never good, never complete, never right, never ready, never strong, never worthy. Until the poles switch, and before it switches back to dull and wrong and rough and cheesy, it’s worthy and strong and ready and right and bold and fine and good.

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ART IMITATES LIFE PREDICTS FUTURE

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It’s strange to think that when “The Handmaid’s Tale” came out in the ‘80s, it seemed like a fantastical story, far away from reality. Sure, anything is possible. After all, who would have thought anyone would be capable of the cruel horrors of chattel slavery? And yet, that’s how this country was built.

But to go as far as a theocratic far right takeover of the country resulting in the legalized kidnapping and rape of women, legalized torture and murder of anyone not deemed “fit” for Gilead, the new society? Come on! It’s the stuff of nightmares, nothing more! Right?

When White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was compared at the Press Correspondents dinner to Aunt Lydia, the fanatical mistress of the Red Center in charge of indoctrinating the Handmaids, she didn’t even crack a smile.

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You want to say come on, Sarah, lighten up! But how can you say that to someone who, for example, said:

“The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”

— PolitiFact National on Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

 I’m sorry–say what now?

It’s a little scary that her father’s a Christian minister and she’s a Christian but she stands there day after day reading her script and vomiting out gibberish like the above deluded fantasy. Because that’s exactly what the folk are like who take over America in “Handmaid’s Tale.” All you hear are people spewing their God stuff all over the place–Blessed day. May the Lord open. Under His eye—while they continue to kidnap, rape, torture and murder everyone around them.

Hey, folks, the Orange One is bad. But don’t forget who’s waiting in the shadows like a white-haired Nosferati to step in the minute D.T. takes a fall: Mike Pence. Remember him? Remember the guy who can’t be alone in a room with a woman who isn’t his wife?

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What in the name of God does that even mean? I shudder to think! But I shudder even more to think of someone like HIM running the country, the quiet future Gileadean in the background who’s probably been writing up his secret manifesto for The New America since day one in the White House.

Another sign that “Handmaid’s Tale” is eerily timely now: Remember the guy that gunned down a bunch of people in Santa Barbara? What about the more recent guy in Toronto who ran a crowd of pedestrians over with his van? Santa Barbara guy didn’t call himself what’s known as an “incel,” but he did admit to failure in attracting women and did spew a lot of hatred  toward them because of it.

The guy in Toronto, however, DID label himself an incel. Here’s the definition:

Incels are members of an online subculture[1][2] who define themselves as being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one and are therefore forced into involuntary celibacy.

As one article in Vox says, many of these men are just sad and lonely, suffering from extreme social anxiety or deep depression.

But many incels have a much more sinister, and specific, worldview — one that the Southern Poverty Law Center sees as part of a dangerous trend toward male radicalization online. These incels post obsessively about so-called “Chads,” meaning sexually successful and attractive men, and “Stacys,” attractive, promiscuous women who sleep with the Chads. Both are positioned as unattainable.

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It’s this embrace of helplessness, of their certainty of their own sexual doom, that makes the more extreme incel communities so dangerous. They see the world through the lens of entitlement: They are owed sex but cannot have it because women are shallow. This manifests in a deep and profound hatred for women as a group, which shows up on a very brief scan of some of the more extreme incel communities.

Ben Marx in TheStranger says this about feminism’s impact on men:

The thing that I do not see anyone pointing out is that there has been a change in social norms in the last 50 years that have impacted our mating habits. Many millennials think that it is always sexual harassment to compliment a woman on her looks or even to buy a woman a drink. How can a relationship even get off the ground when men are inhibited from saying or doing these things even places such as a singles bar? So, I think that feminism can be blamed to a degree. Because it has changed the rules of the game to the point where some men do not know what the right move is anymore.

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I completely agree with Mr. Marx on the detours feminism has taken, especially recently. What are men supposed to do? Feminism has mutated into something beyond the concepts of equal pay and stay-at-home-dads. Men are simply not allowed to act like men anymore. And I’m not saying sure, go ahead, pat me on the ass whenever you want. But I AM saying it’s okay to pull my chair out. It’s okay to say my dress is pretty. And unless a woman’s been pumping HEAVY iron in the gym and is REALLY strong, it’s okay for men to mostly be firemen. That’s okay with me. I don’t take offense to things that make sense.

And not to undermine the pain and suffering of women who have endured and survived terrible situations where #metoo is concerned, I do think a lot of the public melee surrounding all the “sins” of men, past and present, has been a gigantic witch hunt. Al Franken? Come on! Not saying he was right. Just saying…think of all the shit you’ve done in your life. How innocent are you? Franken wasn’t even in politics when most of that crap happened!

Regardless of all this, though, the incels obviously aren’t owed anything by either the women they’re unable to attract or the government that they think should be providing them with wives. Yeah. Not kidding. They believe it. And, coincidentally, the focus of a recent episode in “Handmaid” was young girls being married off to men they’d never met before.

Who cares? you might say. It’s a fringe group, don’t worry. But, man, do they sound like the creators of Gilead in “Handmaid’s Tale.” All it takes is for a sentiment to exist: that’s enough. Then a fringe becomes a crowd becomes a philosophy becomes a following becomes a movement becomes a belief becomes Gilead. Becomes “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Not possible? This is America? Too many “good” people, “smart” people outnumber those full of hate? Well, I gotta tell you. I’ve heard that before. So don’t sleep too easy. I won’t.

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CATS, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN & KARMA

Karma: destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.

I find karma very confusing. Simply put, it’s supposed to be a cause and effect thing. The masters paint it as a pool of water, and if you toss in a tiny pebble, you get tiny ripples back. If you heave in a brick…well, you can imagine. Big splash, big noise, big waves…

That makes sense to me. I guess we’re supposed to live our lives only tossing in pebbles whenever possible, in order to keep the resulting ripples down, and probably throwing in nothing at all is even better.

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Although you may need to maybe hurl a brick or slab of concrete in once in a while as a humanitarian gesture, because pebbles won’t do it.

Like I’d say Richard Painter’s lobbing pretty big boulders into the pool all the time as he shouts his outrage to the stars regarding the insane clown posse that’s taken over the White House these days.

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Because sometimes silence or indifference or inaction equals death.

On a smaller scale, here’s a few things that happened to me recently.

They’re tiny but left a semi-large question mark in their wake.

Incident number one:

We’re always really careful when getting in and out of our car. My husband and I hate when dings show up in our doors or somewhere along the side of the car, and we’re very careful not to do it to other people.

So one day when parked in a public garage on a slight incline, I opened the door, it started to slip, due to gravity, from my fingers, and I lurched after it, my fingers stretching. In a movie it would be that typical scene where important papers fall and one begins kiting away in the wind, and you’re running after it and reaching for it but it’s always yanked away, just out of your reach.

Or even worse, the opening scene of “It”, when the paper boat sweeps down into the gutter and the kid’s on his knees in the rain peering into that dark hole. And, no, he doesn’t reach into the storm drain to try to get it, but he’s leaning precariously forward, staring into that blackness when It suddenly appears, evil incarnate, heralding the end of his life.

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And that’s what kind of happened to me.

Except there was no paper boat, no rain, no monster. And I didn’t get yanked into a storm drain.

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No, instead–car door slipping, fingers reaching, reaching, close-up of fingertips swiping at the handle but missing by millimeters…and then bang! It thumped into the car next to me.

Exactly at the same time that It emerged from the darkness. Rounding the back of the car.

Or, in actuality, not a murderous alien monster but simply a woman.

She rounded the car just as my car door thumped into hers, and that was all she saw. Only that. Not the valiant effort beforehand. Only the epic fail afterwards.

As I yanked the door back, too late, and then also saw the woman a second later, I said something like, “Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” and was rewarded with, along with a super-loud, deafening silence, the nastiest look I think I’ve ever received in my life.

Nastier than the stuff the people in the back of the train were forced to eat every day in “Snow Piercer.”

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Nastier than the looks Melania gives Donald as she walks past him from her seat on the other side of Air Force One because there’s no way she can stand being in the same space with him.

If I went around banging doors willy-nilly and not giving two craps about other people and their cars, finally being caught in the act and getting a look like a loaded gun from someone would make sense, right?

Incident number two:

I ride my bike to work. It’s not very far, so don’t be impressed. I’d love to say I lived at the beach and rode to the Valley every day, but that would not only be absurd, it would be impossible. As it is, it’s just a few blocks.

But I DO ride on the sidewalk as often as I can, because I’ve had too many “close calls” in traffic, so it’s just not worth it to share the road with cars.

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When I get to parts of the sidewalk where people are actually walking (most sidewalks in L.A. are deserted, you understand, because everyone’s in their car, trying to run over pedestrians and bike riders) I always slow way down, often just stopping entirely to let them pass, or just ride behind them slowly until I have room to get by.

So the other day as I’m riding slowly by the bus stop, a petite woman holding the handle of a small suitcase on wheels turned around and screamed at me at the top of her lungs, “NO BICYCLES ON THE SIDEWALK!”

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She screamed this so loudly right in my ear as I passed that my immediate instinct was to leap off the bike and wallop her in the stomach. Then after that yell, “WHAT?”

You know, similar to that old joke about L.A. cops who empty their entire gun into someone and then yell, “Freeze!” afterwards.

If I hadn’t recognized seconds after the screaming started that she was probably homeless and mentally ill, I think there might have been an undignified cat fight at the bus stop that afternoon.

I know these are small examples, but I don’t get it.

Am I not tossing tiny pebbles into the pond?

What’s with these tsunamis coming back at me?

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The answer may lie with Christopher Walken, one of my favorite actors, who had this to say about cats:

“I like cats a lot. I’ve always liked cats. They’re great company. When they eat, they always leave a little bit at the bottom of the bowl. A dog will polish the bowl, but a cat always leaves a little bit. It’s like an offering.”

Have cats—and, indirectly, Christopher Walken—stumbled across the middle way? Have enthusiasm, but don’t overdo it. Be conscientious, but self-flagellation is so Middle Ages. Dogs are great, but they get over-excited. Existence is ineffable. Leave a little behind you for the hungry ghosts.

Thank you, Mr. Walken.

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THEY LIVE! (In Short Stories First)

I’m fascinated by the idea sometimes of writing a short story that gets made into a movie. Imagine working on something for a couple of weeks, a month max. You’re pretty happy with it. A magazine accepts it for publication. Then one thing leads to another and eventually you’re sitting in Mann’s Chinese Theater one […]

via They Live! (in short stories first) — Laughter Over Tears

Writing: The Art of War

Laughter Over Tears

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A Tale of Two Cities is apropos to what I want to say here. At least the first line, that is.

I think some of the best advice and worst advice my parents ever gave me was to say, “Keep one foot on the ground and one in the clouds.”

This was after they realized that my special interest in life was writing. Meaning that I wanted to be a writer. Which, I guess, must have been almost the same as me saying I wanted to ride bulls in the rodeo or apply to Clown College.

Gasp. Oh, God. Oh, no. We have one of those kids. Not Michael J. Fox from “Family Ties,” the savvy young Republican. The other kind. She’s going to suffer. She’s going to die a horrible death. Look at Poe. Look at John O’Brien. Look at Sylvia Plath.

No–wait a minute. Poe didn’t kill himself…

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