Saturday, February 16, 2013

I have to make a terrible confession.

Me:  I see my cable bill is higher this month.  Of all my monthly bills, this is one of the highest except for the heating bill.

Cable Guy: Let me look at your bill and see where we can get it lower.

Me: Thank you.  Yes, I’d like it lower.

Cable Guy:  You already subscribe at the basic level the only thing I could do is downgrade family cable to econo but you’d give up a few channels. 

Me:  That’s ok.  I only watch a few channels anyway.  Channel Thirteen, PBS and maybe ABC and The History Channel also the Home and Garden Channel.  Which ones would I lose?

Cable Guy: Bravo, Animal Planet, Comedy Central, A&E, E,

Me: Here’s where I have to come clean.  I have to make a terrible confession.  I watch Bravo.  I watch some of the Housewives shows.

Cable Guy:  I know.  Me, too.  I watch the Housewives shows.

Me: Oh, you do?  What’s wrong with us?  Maybe I should stop watching for a week and then call you back and see if I can get along without Bravo.  It would probably be good for me.

Cable Guy:  Ok.  Or I could let you talk to a manager and maybe they could do something for you.

Me:  Ok.

Manager:  How can I help you?

Me:  I need to lower my cable bill to where it was because I just can’t pay another penny.  It’s my second biggest bill after the fuel bill.

Manager:  Le me see what I can do.  I see it’s 140.  I can get it down to 112. and give you free Showtime and Starz plus DVR capability.

Me:  You can get it down to 112 and I’m not going to lose anything and I’m going to get more channels? I can do that.  I really don’t need the DVR.  I wouldn’t know how to use it anyway.

Manager:  You have to take the whole deal.  That’s the way this promotion is packaged.  You’ll use it.   

Me.  Uh.  Ok. 

Manager:  Pay your bill and you’ll see the discount on your next bill.

Me.  Thank you. 

Blogger's Note:  I stopped watching Wheel of Fortune a long time ago but a recent "click-by" filled me with nostalgia. The puzzle category was: Artist and Song.  The puzzle had  I   -a-k the -in- by Johnny Cash.  I'll solve, said the contestant:  "I make the wine" by Johnny Cash.  Remember the woman who had  -ettisburg Address showing and guessed; The Bettysburg Address?  

Friday, February 15, 2013

120 square foot master bedroom

This morning I woke up in my 120 square foot master bedroom on my non-pillow topped Serta under my 250 thread count sheets with a ‘low fill power ‘ comforter.  I’ve watched enough HGTV to know that even first time homeowners barely out of their teens who have been living in her parents’ basement to save for a down payment demand a grand Master Bedroom with an en suite bathroom. My bathroom is not en suite (there’s barely a room and definitely not a suite).  My bathroom, at best, could be described as a Jack and Jill.  That means it’s meant to serve two bedrooms inhabited by  a boy and a girl whose parents named them Jack and Jill when those names were still usable. Even though there is no “master” in my house, I’m thinking I’ve settled and why didn’t I notice this before?

I made a list of the places I’ve lived and searched for the wrong turn I might have taken.
1. Three boarding schools.
2. Three  studio apartments in New York City steps from glam Fifth Avenue.  
3. Newly married I was “at home” at the north end of Park Avenue.  
4. As a new mother I nursed my newborn in the chauffeur’s cottage in shadowy, secretive estate-choked Mill Neck, L.I. 
5. As a middle-aged mother I yelled at my children in Lattingtown Harbor, L.I. within the old gated estate of J. P. Morgan’s lawyer, Mr. Guthrie.  
6. Presently, I live in the village of East Hampton, N.Y. one and a half miles from the Atlantic Ocean and sleep in the smallest bedroom I’ve ever had.

The most interesting house I lived in was at 3102 Cleveland Avenue, Washington, D.C. and had previously belonged to Truman’s V.P. Alben Barkley.  The Barkleys left a lot of government memorabilia in the basement that could probably make me a millionaire today but I think my Uncle Charlie threw it away.  Barkley died while giving a speech at Washington & Lee Univ. “I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than sit on the seats of the mighty,” he said and then collapsed.  I’m like Alben.  I have the residential mind-set of a peasant. I don’t want to sit in the seats of the mighty either.  Tracing the past shows me that I am most likely to choose a humble repair-needy dwelling in a great zip code.  

Recently I did some house refurbishing.  I painted the living room a medium gray and it looks sophisticated in a “An unexpected color can transform a summer cottage” way. I painted the outside soffits and fascias and trim and got new storm windows and new leaders and gutters.  It all looks as good as it will ever look unless I tear the house down and start anew.   Since I cut down the overbearing tree in the backyard, the sunlight streams in throughout the day but especially around three o’clock.  It is a cheerful, welcoming light that leaves nothing in shadow.   With the tree gone I will be able to have a vegetable garden for the first time in my life.  I could sleep in any room in the house.  I could make the living room my bedroom if I wanted.  I could sleep in a bedroom that occupies the entire gabled attic floor.  With the tree gone and my house all spiffed up and much of my stuff given away or thrown away, let’s see how I do in 2013.  I will probably own this house for the rest of my life.  It’s a good house with big fat water filled radiators that give off a mellow heat.  I can dry my clothes on them and sit on them when I come in from the cold.   I can walk to everything in the village and the railroad is a block away.  There’s a studio cottage in back that I occasionally rent out for the night or sleep in when my kids come to visit.  There’s a garage filled with all the stuff I took out of the basement.  (For some reason, the empty basement gives me confidence.)  This spring I will plant my  vegetable garden. I'll start turning over the soil as soon as the ground is soft.  Whatever psychological map led me to this house, it feels okay.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Just leave it to the subconscious

In my recent divesting mania I came upon an old tattered unknown book that has been waiting for discovery in an attic nook for twenty years:  The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol.  I turned to a page with the corner turned down and decided to share what it said.
 I offer this excerpt because it made sense to me. I believe that the worn and dog-eared playbook we stuck in our subconscious has been the blueprint for our lives but the good news is, we can still edit, add to it and hit publish at any time. 

“Desire is the generating power of all human action and without it no one can get very far.  The keener, the more urgent the desire, the sooner the consummation.  So you must start out with desire, keeping in mind with the magic of believing you can obtain what you picture in your mind’s eye.
So let’s get down to the mechanics.  Secure three or four index cards.  In a private room, sit down and ask yourself what you desire above everything else.  When the answer comes and you are certain that it is your uppermost desire, then at the top of one card write a word picture of it.  One or two words may be sufficient - a job, a better job, more money, a home of your own (or something small).  Then on each card duplicate the word picture on the original card.  Place the cards in your wallet, beside your bed, on the bathroom mirror, on your desk.  The idea is to enable you to mentally picture at all hours of the day.  Just before sleep and upon arising are important moments of thoughts.  The more you can visualize the desire, the speedier the materialization. 
You need not concern yourself with how the results are to come.  Just leave it to the subconscious mind which has its own ways of making contacts and opening doors and avenues that you may never have thought of.  You will receive assistance from the most unexpected sources.  You will find that ideas useful in the accomplishment of your program will come at the most unexpected times.  You may be suddenly struck with an idea of seeing a person you have never seen before.  You may get the idea of writing a letter or making a telephone call.  Whatever the idea is, follow it.”

Note:  If you decide to give it a try, do not, I repeat do not, talk about it. Also, don’t make a big deal out of the process or the outcome. Many of you might quibble with the word ‘magic.’  On the first page, the author (who was a financial editor at a big Los Angeles newspaper, says this:  “I realized that I had run across something workable but didn’t consider it then, neither do I now, as mystical except in the sense that it is unknown to the majority of people.”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Scary fairytales also known as love stories.

Internet presence is unpredictable.  Lately, Viking/ Penguin has been sending me some of their books to review.  I have no idea how this came my way but I feel all professorial/uppity about it.   This month, they sent me Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr. and a book of short stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.

When I looked at the first page of Currie’s book I was standing in the doorway between the sunroom and the kitchen munching a piece of bacon. (Yes, I bought bacon, I cooked bacon, I ate bacon.)  Janet Maslin (N.Y.Times) had said of Mr. Currie “pays no heed to ordinary narrative convention” and I thought, Oh, good, something innovative with no traceable narrative thread; just what I need to take my mind off my weight.

The other review book they sent was from Russia's acclaimed contemporary  fiction writer Ludmilla Petrushevskaya  (referred to henceforth as LP) whose previous collection of short stories was titled:  There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby.”  I had the follow up:  There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband And He Hanged Himself. I knew this was the book I wanted to review.  First of all - get this - the subtitle is “Love Stories.”

 If nothing else, these titles parsed out in fairytale language send the message that we’re going to find out some truth about human nature and there’s going to be no fairytale about it.  That’s the purpose of good fiction and LP doesn’t disappoint.  It’s the opposite of the horrid sentimentality that imprisons some popular American fiction (except for Jennifer Egan and a few others).  Petrushevskaya is telegraphing, we’re dark, so what?  Get over it but let’s look at it.  Let’s look at it in an allegorical way so you won’t be freaked out.

The stories are short.  They are about society’s losers who are trying to get a foothold in love.  They are narrated simply without much dialogue and without any emotional prompting by the author.   Here’s what happened, I don’t care how you feel about it.  They are set in Russia where privacy and a place to live are everyday difficulties.  Lovers are homely or they have diabetes and they live with their mothers.  Existences are mostly meager. If one is foolishly daydreaming of the return of a one-night stand it is less hurtful than the eventual breakdown of a real romance. 

American Beauty comes to mind.  And a fabulous film The Details that is so dark, so true, so beguiling that we breathe a sigh of relief that our black marks are small.

The Goddess Parka, one of the more optimistic stories ends in a hook-up that barely happens and only through very fragile connections  - but isn’t that always the way? LC uses supernatural intervention with as much ease as she uses the macabre because she’s a humanist at heart although the nightmarish aspect of some of the stories makes us blink, look away and ponder a minute.  

Despite its Russian origins and the literary tradition that produced Dostoyevsky, the stories are easy to read and leave us with a lot to mull over.