Saturday, October 27, 2012

I can hyperlink

The Novice Approach

When I put out a boxed set of four titles, I thought I could just make a file with one book following the other separated by page breaks.  It seemed logical. I looked in the mirror and said: You are one smart cookie.  I announced this new project to my local group, The Indie Chicks, and the chicks weighed in with opinions and suggestions.   After about half an hour which is the time frame needed for hurtful truths to seep into my brain, I realized that I was a naive and ignorant slut.  A "boxed set" was not just an e-book with several titles.

The Slow Awakening
The first suggestion from an Indie Chick :  Don't name it "Boxed Set," stupid,  because it will get buried in all the other boxed sets. Call it Consuelo Saah Baehr's Boxed Set or something else.

The second suggestion:  Are you inserting a cover picture at the beginning of each book?  This makes it look more professional. (I hate it when people say something makes it look more professional because it  involves hiring a professional and receiving invoices.)

The third suggestion:  If you provide cover pictures of each book, you had better compress the image.  If your file is too big, you will get a bunch of one-star reviews from customers with cheap e-readers who can't access the entire file and will start cursing you and your stupid books.   I've attached a whole slew of crappy one-star reviews for you to read in case you think I'm being overly cautious. You do know how to insert and compress a picture in a doc file, don't you?  Huh?

The fourth suggestion:  If you provide a Table of Contents - and if you don't you're stupid - your Table of Contents should have hyperlinked titles so readers are able to click on a title and immediately get to the desired place instead of scrolling around and cursing you and your stupid books trying to find it.   In case you think I'm being overly cautious, here are some one-star reviews given for this reason.  You do know how to hyperlink, don't you? Huh?

The Hard Won Outcome - or sometimes Google and U-Tube are not the answer.
Inserting a picture in a word doc turned out to be easy. Use the "insert" prompt and select picture from the menu and then select "from file." This will take you to the list of pictures you have stored on your desktop or elsewhere and you can click on the selection and open.

Compressing a picture - or learning how to compress a picture turned out to be impossible because every version of WORD has different menu options and all of the instructions I found were for versions other than mine.  I could have right-clicked for three years and never seen a menu that offered the simple words "compress file."  Even my own toolbar "Help" option was so vague they might have said: "take two eggs and whip them until frothy" that's how un-helpful it was.  The cover pictures remain uncompressed. I think Calibre, my conversion program, compresses everything when it converts files.  I hope so.

The hyperlinking odyssey.  There are many Google pages of tutorials in hyperlinking and many of them give instructions on how to hyperlink sections in a doc file to the table of contents.   There is not a single tutorial that gives those instructions for my version of Word.  I tried for three days to hunt down a tutorial where I could recognize my particular menu options.  I did trial and error hoping to trick my Word program into doing what I needed.  I never got those lovely underlined blue words that spell hyperlinking success.  Last night, I got out of bed at midnight and tried again to find a way to hyperlink.  My boxed set was live on Amazon and although no one had bought it, there might be a sale at any time.  That poor soul would have a hard time navigating the titles.

At midnight, my google search took me to an Amazon kindle authors forum discussion and right there (God - he called himself Derek) posted a numbered tutorial on how he had achieved Table of Contents hyperlinking success and it perfectly matched my Word menu options.  I tried it, I did it, I achieved the blue underlined words and when clicked they took me to the intended spot.  I uploaded the file to see if it would retain its hyperlinking ability when it got to the Kindle and it did.  As Truman Capote said: "dizzy with happiness is no mere phrase."

One other small triumph:  Recently I uploaded all of my titles on the Kobo platform. Today I went there to see if there were any sales.  For almost a month it has said: 0 sales and $0.00 amount earned.  You are a loser. Today it said 2 sales, $4.18 earned and country of sale is New Zealand.  I love the internet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Consuelo Saah Baehr Library, Vol. 1 (boxed set)

That title sounds really pretentious but I don't mind. I have a friend who built a house and called it "The Library."  The main room looks like a library in a castle with shelves to the ceiling and rolling ladders. I've had to leave my sensitivities by the door because the internet is pretentious, the book jackets are flamboyant, the subject matter often frivolous but if you want to play the game you've got to get off that darn high horse and get your content out there.

With that disclaimer, I have decided to create a "boxed set" of four titles for the modest price of $4.50. If bought separately, the books would cost $9.00.  My talented daughter created a gorgeous cover showing the spines of the books and we used the over-the-top cover of "Thinner Thighs In Thirty Years," (my Kindle Single), as the cover for the set.  I stayed up half the night figuring out how to insert the book covers before each title and compress them. The instructions for compressing a file are almost impossible to follow and I finally gave up and just inserted the covers in their original size.  My royalty will be lower because of the increased file size but at some point, I decided to let it go.

I'm relating this vignette because it is an instance where I took action before the Christmas season and tried a new marketing maneuver.  I was proactive - something that was not previously in my nature.  I've learned a lot from my on line community - a generous inventive group of people who help each other without hesitation.   D.D. Scott is the person who put me on to boxed sets.  D.D. divulges everything about her publishing experience down to how much she earns on each of her titles and at each retailer.  She will give you detailed instructions on how she created her audio books, how much it cost and how much she earns from them. She divulges everything.

The group I belong to is called The Indie Chicks.  The Chicks live all over the world but a simple request post from one of us will rouse the rest out of their nests in a matter of minutes.

I'll let you know how it goes with Consuelo Saah Baehr Library, vol.1.  I'm thinking when someone gifts a Kindle they will want to fill it with books and perhaps a boxed set.  If you can think of a better title, please give it to me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Hello...are you there?" "Yes."

I've been neglecting this title and today I decided to showcase Nothing to Lose with an excerpt.  The Times Literary Supplement review had this charming line: "Pert, pithy and very New York.  Full of the admirable offhand observations of an unfooled eye."  It's available for the Nook and the Kindle.
(set up:  At the worst possible time in her life, April has to deal with a blind date sent by a friend who is riding high on the upwardly mobile elevator)
One night in late summer, the telephone rang and a voice April had never heard, high but self-assured, asked if she was April Taylor.
“My name is Bob Waller.”  There was a moment of silence.  “I’m calling at Sylvie’s suggestion.  I’m recently separated and she said you were in the same boat.”  Again a long silence that she didn’t feel obligated to fill. “Hello…are you there?”
“Yes.”  Another silence.
“Well, are you?”
“Am I what?”
“In the same boat?”
She had a vivid picture of herself and Bob Waller in a flimsy rowboat, in the middle of the ocean, wearing business clothes.  Yet she felt no responsibility to be friendly and helpful.  Sylvie had no idea how fat she’d become.  This man would show up at her door and faint.  What could she tell him: I’m very fat, can you take it?  “I guess,” she finally answered Bob Waller.
“I have a little boy who spends the weekends with me.  How about you?”
“How about me what?”
“Do you have children?”  He asked hopefully.  He would be disappointed if she were any less emotionally stranded than he.
This made him thoughtful and silent.  So what?  He was the one who wanted to row out of the harbor of loneliness into the port of togetherness. She considered offering him this metaphor but decided against it because she could feel herself seething with anger.  Why?  What did she have against this stranger?
“Well…uh, I was wondering if maybe we could go out or something.” Her slow, dim-witted delivery had appealed to him.  She could hear the eagerness in his voice.
“I don’t know.”  She wound the telephone cord around her wrist.
“I know it’ll be awkward, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
You don’t have to start with me.  “How long have you been separated?”
“Three months.”
“That recent?”  It was just something to say but he took it as a criticism.
“You think that’s too recent?  It seems kind of long to me.  How long have you been separated?”
“I’m divorced.  I’ve been divorced for seven months but I haven’t been living with my husband for a year.”
Long silence.  “Well, what do you think?  You think we can go out and see what turns up?  Come on, it’ll be good for you.  I know it’ll be good for me.”
“I’m not in such great shape.”
“Who is?”
“It’s been a long time.  Don’t expect much.”
“I won’t.”
“I mean really don’t expect much.  Dating is the last thing on my mind….Look, if you just want someone to talk to, we can talk on the phone.”
“Stop worrying.  It’ll be all right.  We’re two adults, two battered souls. We know what the score is.”
For a moment she wanted to accept.  He was patient and kind.  “All right.”
“Sylvie said you were a lot of fun.”  He waited for her to confirm this. “Are you a lot of fun?”
“Oh, sure.  A laugh a minute.”
“ So how about tomorrow night?”
She gave him the address and hung up.  Right away she was sorry she’d said yes.  Which one did she hate more, Sylvie or Bob Waller?  Why did Sylvie still consider her a friend?  They hadn’t seen each other for almost two years.  Sylvie, with all her reversible clothes from Talbot’s, was a stranger.  Now she was going out with a stranger, as a favor to another stranger.  He would fall down the stairs and kill himself when he saw her.  It would serve them both right.
After the call, she was starving.  She opened a can of Old El Paso tamales.  She was crazy for the taste of corn.  Doritos, Fritos, all those corn-y snacks were high on her list.  The tamales were standing erect in their cornhusk envelopes, five stiff soldiers.  She fished one out, shook off the sauce and ate it in two bites.  Bits of reddish fat clung to her fingers and she decided to heat the rest.  When she finished the tamales, she wished there were more and debated whether it was worth going out to get another couple of cans.  No.  Her ribs hurt, something new that had cropped up.  There was a bursting, wrenching pain that began when she sat on a soft chair or slept on her side.  She got up to bind herself with a scarf and stubbed her toe.  She cursed, brushed her teeth twice to get rid of the sauce taste that clung to her mouth and went to bed.
That night she dreamt she had a new apartment in an Art Deco building.  She kept finding new hidden spaces that she hadn’t been aware of before.  The apartment was empty and she was anticipating the fun of furnishing it from scratch when she noticed a huge, old couch, hogging almost all the space.

Either out of nervousness or momentary blindness, or because he was still in shock from having his wife walk out on him, Bob Waller didn’t show by word or expression that there was anything unusual in his blind date. She wore a silk shirtwaist in size 20 with a self-sash that she considered leaving off.  It was colored in what the fashion world called ice cream stripes.  At the last minute she added hoop earrings.  She had blow-dried her hair into a careless, no-part disarray of waves and curls.  Her green eyes looked restless and feverish because of a light tan acquired on the previous weekend.  If you didn’t stray below the neck, she looked pretty.
He appeared to have planned and timed the evening and picked her up at 7:00 for a 7:30 dinner reservation at a restaurant on the West Side. As they walked along 34th street looking for a cab, she realized he was trying to look at her when he thought she wasn’t looking at him.  But that was crazy.  She was an expert in pretending not to be looking when she knew people were looking at her.
She found Bob Waller handsome in a babyish way, with round cheeks, round eyes and a heavy, labored gait that didn’t go with his slim, tall body. She said as little as possible, waiting for the more relaxed atmosphere of a dimly lit restaurant to get acquainted.
The Café Lyon was small and narrow and cozy, accommodating about twenty tables.  “They serve everything on one plate here.  Very unpretentious,” he said with the proprietary air of a longtime customer. “The food’s terrific.  I always drink the house wine.  It’s Sebastiani.  See that woman, she’s the manager.  The French make good businesswomen. Tough as nails, but very proud.  They use the best ingredients and if you complain they get annoyed.
“How do you know?  Did you complain?”
“Me?  No, I love everything.  There was a man who sent back a lamb chop because it was too pink and she had a fit.  He said he had asked for it medium and she said that was medium, and in any case, the meat was choice and the chop would be ruined if it was put back in the fire.  It would be dry and tasteless.  Then she said a lot of other angry things in French to the waiter.”
“What happened to the idea that the customer is always right?”
“Oh, she was right.  Don’t you think?”
“No.  The man should have walked out.  And maybe tossed the lamp chop around a little.”
He was disappointed and she saw him reassessing the evening. Might she throw something around?  She made a conciliatory gesture. “Why don’t you tell me about your marriage?”  After all, he was spending good money to take her to dinner.
He perked up at once and motioned the waiter and asked for some white wine while they decided what to order.  “Is white all right?”
As the waiter was leaving, he changed his mind.  “Uh…make that a vodka gimlet.”  The waiter looked questioningly to April.
“I’ll stick with the wine,” she said.
“My wife was a very pretty woman, he said by way of a preamble. “She was the sort of person who had to always be going someplace where she could put her prettiness to work.  You know what I mean?”  April did and nodded.  He had described his wife very concisely.  “Well, after a while, a marriage settles in.  You can’t always be going places.  Anyway, she became restless. Very restless.  She used to tap her fingernails on any surface.  Tap, tap, tap, while she was waiting for the bacon to cook for my son and me or while she was waiting to add the softener to the wash cycle. Tap, tap, tap.  She was very edgy, but I never dreamed she would leave. She walked out…just like Joanna Kramer.”
“Joanna Kramer?”
“Yes.  Ted Kramer’s wife.  You know the movie Kramer vs. Kramer? Well, it was just like that with me.  I could be Ted Kramer except that my wife took the kid with her. Also, I’m not in advertising.  Also, I’m not the Class A jerk that Ted Kramer was.  I didn’t neglect my wife or work long hours, but it was the same basic situation.  I married a girl who was too pretty for me and she got restless.  There was no place for her to put her prettiness to work and she was afraid it would all be gone and she’d have nothing to show for it.”
April was surprised at her lack of sympathy.  “What was your wife’s name?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Why do you ask everything in that suspicious tone of voice?  It’s not information I can sell or anything like that.  I just want to picture the woman you’re talking about.  This callous, adventurous woman.  Is it Ramona Waller? Or Elizabeth Waller or Cynthia?  It helps to know.”  Actually, she thought Mrs. Waller was smart and brave.
“Ooooo, Samantha.”  She bobbed her head up and down as if she now understood everything.  “There were a few years where everyone was naming their girls Samantha after Katherine Hepburn’s role in some movie. Her parents must have been high-class.”  Why had she said that?  She really didn’t think that.
“Yes.  Yes, they were.”  He was appreciative of her deductive powers.
“But how can you compare your life to a movie?  Kramer vs. Kramer was full of shit.  Just good old Hollywood craperoo.”  She knew that was not herself talking.  It was Don.  She was talking and behaving like Don.
“Why do you say that?”  He was startled by her language.
“Why do I say that?  Because there’s no way Dustin Hoffman could have a kid that looked like the kid in the movie.  Even with a mother like Meryl Streep.  And, for another thing, he was too frenetic.  The first fifteen minutes of that movie, where he tries to make French toast and does everything wrong…how could you believe anything after that?  I was glad she left him.”
Bob Waller looked at her in a funny way.  As if she might be glad his wife had left him, too.  As if he were taking out the enemy instead of someone who could offer him succor.  Fortunately, the waiter showed up and they ordered the food.
“My quarrel with Ted Kramer was that he treated Joanna like a piece of furniture.  He marries this gorgeous superior person and then expects her to be satisfied to wash his socks.”
“That’s not too hard to understand,” said April.  “My husband thought I was born to wash his socks, and you know what?  I did, too.  My husband was perfect. A perfect person.”  Right after she said that, she realized for the first time that Harald was not perfect.  That she might not even choose him again even if she could.  This sudden reversal so engaged her, she wanted to stop talking and think about it.  Bob Waller looked bored.  He didn’t want to hear about her marriage.
“Look,” he said, pointing to the end of the bar where the lady manager was sitting on a stool, “that man.  I think he’s her boyfriend.  When he shows up, she shuts up.”  The man was leafing through the receipts in a surly way.
“Maybe he’s the manager.”
“No.  He might own it, but she runs the show.”
There was nothing for her to say.  He seemed to get a second wind and told her about his childhood.  He had been an altar boy at St. Thomas the Apostle Church.  He was originally from Boston.  Boylston Street. Georgetown University was his college.  Then, he, too, was at the end of his vivaciousness and looked nervously around the small room.  Their food came and they ate it.  April said it was delicious.  She was tired of acting like Don.
“Where do you work?” she asked.  A guarded look came over his face, as if she was going to show up at his office and call him sweetie.  It was true.  When you were fat, people expected underhanded behavior.  If you were capable of being fat, you were capable of anything.
Her feet were beginning to tingle, as were parts of her thighs.  Of late, she had been losing sensation in different parts of her body, as if sections were going to sleep or the blood supply couldn’t penetrate all the fat.  When she thought her circulation was about to give up, she became alarmed. She bought a detailed body atlas put out by Hammond, the map people, so she could see how it all worked.  She often studied it, tracing her own blood out of the heart, into the lungs, back to the heart, out the arteries, to the capillaries where the nutrients were extracted, drained by the veins and then, the used, tired blood going back to the heart to be replenished again. It was the used, tired blood part that got her.  Was it too used and too tired to take the journey again?
The ice cream had separated in her dish.  Bob Waller looked tired. Little beads of perspiration had formed on his upper lip.  There was a pointlessness to the evening that gave her a headache.  She felt more sorry for him than for herself.  Did he know as an altar boy in Boston that his life would take such a turn?  As he was learning his ethics from the Jesuits, did he suspect he would have to cope with the faithless Samantha and then attempt to lift the leaden stone of rejection off his chest by calling a faceless stranger connected to him by the fragile thread of coincidence and Sylvie Straight, nee Beck?  Sylvie, who now wore wraparound skirts and short-sleeve cotton lisle shirts with repeating patterns of strawberries or smiling frogs, who had been elected treasurer of the Episcopal Women of Ardsley, New York.  Oy vey.
She decided to go to the bathroom.  It would give her legs and feet something to do.  It would give Bob Waller some privacy to fall apart and it would give her a chance to pee, which she badly needed to do.
The bathroom was small and not altogether clean The door had a hook latch that rattled when anyone walked by.  She looked for a place to hang her pocketbook and finally placed it in the sink.  She sat down on the toilet.  Immediately there was a loud snapping sound.  My god, what was that?  The seat had broken.  She jumped, startled and the sudden release of pressure on the seat made the two pieces come together again catching the flesh of her under thigh.  Now the pieces seemed cemented together with the glue of her blood and skin.  Some blood began to collect on the dirty white tile floor.  She let out a cry of pain and fear.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One of those frozen, hectic instants that you just know has a whole happy life attached

I've gone nuts over Jennifer Egan. I want to share some of her smartness with you from her novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad

Jennifer:  One of those frozen, hectic instants that you just know has a whole happy life attached. 

Consuelo:  I do know. I've seen many of those moments and I think:  "Oooh, happy life attached."   

Jennifer: “I felt no shame whatsoever in these activities, because I understood what almost no one else seemed to grasp: that there was only an infinitesimal difference, a difference so small that it barely existed except as a figment of the human imagination, between working in a tall green glass building on Park Avenue and collecting litter in a park.  In fact, there may have been no difference at all.

Consuelo: This seems harder to believe but I believe it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Michelle-Barack E-mail Diaries Part II

The Michelle/Barack E-mail Diaries Part II

The correspondence between Michelle - Barack, their inner circle and me continues and will soon  be collected and published as  a handbook on how to enjoy an intimate friendship with all of it’s emotional benefits without actually meeting the person.

I thought after I fell asleep at the wheel and allowed Barack to zone out during his first debate, (he had specifically asked me to have his back) I would be persona non grata on his BFF list but not one day later, I received a note. We were still OK although “stand with me” had replaced “have my back” as if to say, “hey lazybones, you can stand, can’t you?”  

I have the distinct feeling that Barack and Michelle have lowered their expectations of me. They’ve asked me every which way to come and have dinner with them.  The deterioration is obvious in the phrasing of the sequential invitations' subject lines.

I’m saving a seat for Consuelo.
We’re picking up the airfare.
Some grub with POTUS? (in case I was a “Grizzly Adams” and didn’t cotton to fancy talk,)  their recent request was titled:  Some Grub With Potus?”  You, President Obama, a table, chair, and some grub.  They spelled it out for me.
Finally, as if I needed them to draw me a picture, they drew me a picture. The seating arrangement. As in what the heck is wrong with you?  Don’t you get it?

Jeremy Bird, someone I’ve not heard from has written to ask me to make a difference in the battleground states.  It sounds as if he wants me to dig a foxhole in rural Ohio and lie in wait for some hapless citizen to stroll by, yank him in and say howdy, stranger. Jim Messina continued the battle lingo just before the vice presidential debate.  Whatever happens at the vice presidential debate tonight, we need to respond quickly and forcefully. As soon as VP Biden walks off that stage, we need to be ready to fire all cylinders.  I thought maybe I should buy a gun or at least a baseball bat because there might be a rumble right here on Newtown Lane.

The following e-mail was meant to bolster my self-esteem in case I didn’t feel important enough to have the president’s back, stand with him and be the primary lynchpin  of his political success.  Look, Consuelo, these normal, middle-class people also have the president’s back.

5 beekeepers in Oregon and Pennsylvania
177 Photographers in Ohio
660 bartenders in New York
2 Air Traffic controllers in Montana
25 dog walkers in Virginia
126 bus drivers in Texas

This list is eye-opening on two counts.  I don’t know why Virginia, a state that I always thought was somewhat rural, needs so many dog walkers and why the heck are there so many photographers in Ohio?

On Oct. 12 I received this horrifying e-mail:  Here is your online giving history.
Most recent donation was $0

It looks like you haven’t made an online donation to the campaign yet.  If you were waiting for the last minute, you’re pretty much there.  The president is counting on people like you.  Really?  With my dismal giving record and my lack of energy to go fight in the battleground states, why is the President counting on people like me? He has a better shot with the 177 photographers in Ohio.

Oct. 12  as if to assuage my guilt for the big goose egg donation, the president wrote to confide.  Consuelo -- How about Joe last night?  If you’re as proud of him as I am, let’s do what needs to be done. (What? Call the men in the white suits?) I thought the president was cringing on the couch just as I was while Mr. Biden kept laughing and generally acting all aggressive and goofy. I thought he was going to say, How about Joe last night?  Did he look as scary to you as he did to me?I know we’ve asked a lot of you over the last 18 months.  Yes, you have especially asking me to keep up with those dog walkers in Virginia.

When I saw an e-mail from Joe Biden, I was afraid to open it.  I expected a big clown to come out of the computer and pretend punch me in the face.  Joe didn’t open his message with Consuelo or Friend.  He said: Hey
Then he asked me to remember one thing:  the debate wasn’t about him or Congressman Ryan.  No? I thought it was just about you.  So if you’re standing with Barack and me like we’re standing with you.  I looked around to make sure he wasn’t really in the room because frankly, I’m a bit afraid of Joe.

Kate Doehring  wrote and said, “Pack your bags, we’re going to Pennsylvania.”
And she meant it.  A very nice man on a video also told me to pack my bags.

Bill Clinton doesn’t fool around with pleasantries and folksy salutations.   I hope you’ll pay attention, Consuelo was how he began. I was barely awake but I slapped myself into alertness to listen to Bill.  

Ann Marie Habershaw wrote and said, I’ve got to be honest.  Uh. Oh.  I don’t care who wins this last dinner with Barack, she said.  Sure this dinner will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll tell you grandkids about. but  frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.  She didn’t say that last part but I kept thinking of Mammy and Scarlet and Rhett.

Whenever the e-mail is from Joe Biden, I become afraid. This one said “Look, you’ve really got to get involved here” Yikes.  They had read my statistics and sent Joe after me.
On the same day, Rufus Gilford wrote:  If you want to wake up on November 7th to four more years of President Obama and not the alternative.  You’ve waited until the last month to own a piece of this campaign. Uh Oh.  They know.

David Axelrod, who has never e-mailed me before said:  Consuelo, I’ll be blunt.  I thought he was going to say: “you’ve gained weight and your house could use a good vacuuming”. I couldn’t continue reading.  When someone says, I’ll be blunt, feelings are going to get hurt. He closed with a line, I could not understand unless it was said in a Western movie.  We need to keep fighting and get the back of the guy who’s got ours.  Thanks, Let’s keep this up.  David. 
I thought ...what?  Should I clean the house, buy a gun, lock the door?  What David?  Keep what up?

Stephanie Cuttler sent me a anniversary video showing Michelle and Barack  in younger days kissing and nuzzling. There was a shot of a very young Potus feeding Michelle ice cream.  It was nice and the music was nice.

Yohannes Abraham wrote to tell me that 16,999 people named Consuelo were already registered to vote.   They asked me to get my family and friends registered.  So much for feeling special. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Like everyone else, I am being tortured to death."

Change One Thing is the name of a book you don’t have to read.  The title tells you everything.  Oh, you mean if I brush my teeth starting right to left instead of left to right, all the molecules in my makeup will shift and start a domino sequence and I’ll be a different person with different experiences and nothing will be the same in this dusty overheated house?

Yep. That’s pretty much it.

Hmmm.  I could almost buy that idea because I believe in causality.  If you do something different, your inner dopey baby sits up and fusses for a long time but finally it gives up and goes to sleep.

Here’s the thing about change:  it’s shy and shrinks back.  You won’t notice anything unless you keep a detailed diary and track your behavior.  One day, you are living a different life and it seems natural not some seismic personal restructuring like St. Paul experienced on the Damascus Road.

Does change automatically outpicture your wish list?  If you’re like me you won’t remember what you wished for yesterday.  It’s hard to decide what you want unless it’s specific like a better respiratory experience or a working light at the top of the basement stairs. Before I got up this morning I tried to dig up what I really wanted and could not come up with anything.  Maybe a new mattress. Maybe you'd like a different state of mind, I coaxed.  No, I like my muddled state of mind.  It clears up once in a while. Maybe more success?  No, I'm sick of success. 

There was a line in a poem by Carl Sandberg that used to be my favorite. “I’m a sucker for things the way they are. Now I know that’s a mean thing to say, Carl. You have to fight thoughts like that.  I’m not an ingénue anymore.  The sentiment sounds ironic and fey but it’s time to park the irony at the door and look at your life circumstances with grown up convictions and grown up expectations. Really?

Another snippet of poetry that stuck to me like a barnacle and became my mantra for a few years: “Like everyone else I am being tortured to death.” This thought might have some traction if we believe that life’s entire struggle for everyone is overcoming childhood.  Or even before childhood - at the distribution of the dna that made our future  a done deal.

Today, as I sit writing this post, I choose to believe that life as a struggle is an irrelevant idea.  Struggle” is just another word.  Start brushing your teeth from a different starting point and see if anything happens.

Hey, as I’m about to close I realize that one year ago I wouldn’t have parted with irony for all the happiness in the world.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's the big deal about truth?

Two mental things happened today that were weird.  Very early in the morning I had a desire to be near an old friend that I had lost for many years and now only contact through Facebook.  We had been copywriters together at Grey Advertising.  We had written copy for Hamilton Watches, Bostonian Shoes and some British fabric company.  We were both newly married and joked about how we had to adjust our personalities when we went home to our new husbands.  After being tough and smart all day we had to go home and be soft and dumb.  I went to my friend’s Facebook page and read through her recent posts.  I looked at a recent picture of her and felt such a strong affection that it almost made me cry.

Later in the day, I was reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad - a book that is unlike anything else I’ve ever read in it’s ability to hone in on the absolute truth of a situation without making a big deal about it.  It is a book that instructs: truth changes from moment to moment and you have to be alert if you want to take advantage of noticing it. 

Then I asked myself, what’s the big deal about truth, why is it so important?
There are many who say, I can’t stand a liar.  I won’t tolerate lying.  I’ve never felt that way although Jennifer Egan finally taught me this morning why truth is important.  Truth is the only reliable comfort we have. 
I’m not talking about the “I didn’t take the money, I didn’t eat the cookie,” kind of truth.  Jennifer Egan’s truth is sudden, powerful and presents only to those paying attention.

During a safari in the novel, there is a scene between a quiet, reflective boy and his regular comatose successful father.  At eleven years old, Rolph knows two clear things about himself.  He belongs to his father. And his father belongs to him. When I read that line, I had a mental parade of some relationships.  Huh! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

“breakfast specials only till 11 a.m. No eggceptions.”

One of my children told me to stop blogging about what I see on television and on Yahoo and get out of the house and look around at the world.  I considered this idea and took a walk up my street to fill the requirement.  Here’s my thinking: whatever is going on in the world in a macro sense, is probably going on in my street

I chose a house on this street twenty years ago because I no longer coveted residential seclusion.  I wanted a house in town where I could walk to the supermarket and the railway station and hear and see people walking by and hear them arguing or simply talking outside my window.  I wanted to see the soggy week-enders lugging their backpacks and cases from the railway station at the end of the block.  I wanted to see the runners and bikers and new mothers and fathers walking back and forth to the playground.   Living in the village was not a destination then.

When I moved here my street was known as the workingman’s block.  We had people who worked for the village or for the small airport. There were local carpenters, plumbers, volunteer firemen, landscapers.  The woman next door drove the school bus.   The man on the other side was on the police force.  The houses were medium or small. Some had porches.  Everyone did his own lawn work. When I went out to cut my lawn with a hand mower, anybody walking by would plead to do it for me because they considered the hand mower quaint and possibly they considered me quaint.

My first few years, I rented my garage to a lawyer who liked to take the train and then walk to my house, pick up his car and drive home.  I liked him because he was a very poor driver and couldn’t back out of the driveway.  He always turned the car around on the back lawn.   He was polite enough not to mention the big hole in the roof of the garage.  My kids used to watch him from inside and say:  “Look at that guy, he can’t even back out.” 

I also rented a little studio cottage in back to a couple that worked on a yacht moored nearby.  The man who owned the yacht bought the cottage a better refrigerator and a better television and paid up front in full.  He was in the garment business and once offered to get me a coat.  Every summer for several years, the yacht people came back.  The lawyer also came back.  I thought, look, at me.  I’m so freaking resourceful, I have a little rental conglomerate going on here on my 0 .16 acre.

Several houses on my block served as illegal dormitories for the men who worked on lawns and gardens of the large estates along Lily Pond Lane.  At the end of the block was a deli named Buckets where you could get the best egg sandwiches for two bucks and a sign that said:  “breakfast specials only till 11 a.m. and no eggceptions.”   Their lobster salad had 85 percent lobster meat and was 15.00 per pound unlike the other food stores where it was $50. a pound.  There was a greengrocer around the corner and I made specialties that the owner sold.  I liked selling my food although I almost lost money because the ingredients were expensive. 

This was a time in my life where I stopped writing except for putting down crazy dreams and trying to figure out what they meant.

Okay, here’s the part where I relate my block to the rest of the world.  After 9-11 or thereabouts, everyone decided they didn’t want to be all alone out in the woods.  They wanted to live in town and walk to Starbucks and Citarella and the Coach store and the movie theater.  The houses on my block were sold off and knocked down or rebuilt into large complicated houses with crazy rooflines and sophisticated sprinkler systems and suffocating privacy plantings.  The new people wanted to live in town but they wanted seclusion.  There was constant noise from the landscapers who took care of the new houses.  There was noise from the huge air conditioners. 

There is one house that I consider the house of the future.  It has one bedroom, one bath a pool, a pool house and double privacy plantings:  there is a row of evergreens and then a second row of hedges.  The house is only one story and is almost hidden from view even though it is just a few feet from the road.  I went into this house when it was for sale and realized how perfect it is for a very rich person who is scared of the world and the possibility of sudden violence.  The materials, the amenities, the appliances and the furnishings are the best that can be had.  It is manageable space that needs little care and little commitment and nobody can see you.