As though hit by a blast from a giant hair dryer, my hometown of Somerville is melting. The snow is first to go, but I can’t help but notice how much of the infrastructure is crumbling, too. Roads, for example, which have developed some truly impressive potholes. The front steps of our apartment building, which have buckled under the weight of the snow. Sidewalks. Small dogs that have been stuck in snowdrifts for months, surviving only because batty old ladies bring them kibble whenever the constant blinding snowstorm abates. I do believe that ice may be all that’s keeping some of this stuff together. (Especially the dogs, who have adjusted to their new existence and would be traumatized by release.)
My guess is that this summer will be at least as ridiculously overwrought as this winter has been. Some junk science and a horde of squalling liberal fascists suggest that we now live on a planet of constant meteorological opera. But, as Nostrodamus once said, that’s bullshit. What is opera to me? I don’t even speak Italian.
In other news, today I pick up our first farm share of…THE SPRING. It will include beets and carrots and rosemary and apples and a bunch of other stuff that I will cram into the slow cooker tonight while I read another book for Sidekicks, write another article for ForeWord, whip up a library-themed article for to enter a competition, finally catch up on my work for No Flying No Tights, and blast into the upper atmosphere with the sheer power of my awesome. And, of course, I’ll catalog about a million books before all that. No biggie.
It always seemed like a minor miracle that I’d made it onto the bus, even though I typically showed up twenty minutes before ETA and it normally arrived half an hour late. Squished into a window seat with my backpack and whatever gear I’d decided to haul along that day, I’d watch the empty glass hut right where I’d just been standing outside, half expecting to see myself still waiting there, oblivious to the presence of the bus. Eventually, the noise of the giant metal engine would rise with shuddering effort, straining against inertia like a bull against a yoke. The view outside the window would slowly begin to scroll away. It would accelerate until it was just a rhythm of telephone poles zipping past, each embedded in a humanless rural landscape. The effect was almost abstract. The poles framed stretches of flat green – cornfields – and high, dark, shadowed green – stands of trees. Every once in a while, when we passed a house, a riot of color broke the pattern like crayon on a wall.
The rumble of the bus’s engine was dangerously gentle and quieting. Over an hour and a half of rolling, hilly country roads and the maternal back-and-forth swaying of the bus in motion, I fought sleep and frequently lost. I’d find myself jarred back to wakefulness by infrequent, apparently random stops to pick up people who waited outside of abandoned garages and veterinarians’ offices. These interruptions in our journey always occurred in a location so surrounded by forest and devoid of habitation that I wondered if the new passengers were just living in the woods. How did they know that a bus would stop outside of the old weigh station at the corner of Route 5 and Stanton Road? How did the bus know that someone would be there, eager dollars clutched in hand, waiting to be installed in a seat and transported away from the middle of this blank green nowhere and borne off to a place that might or might not prove more useful to their purposes?
I would leave the bus when it arrived in my home city, clumping heavily down the corrugated steps and squeezing my enormous backpack out through the narrow door. I never quite believed I’d pulled the miracle off until I was back in my tiny, bedbug-infested white rented room on Petit Street. With the door shut, I’d collapse on my specked bed among the hidden hordes of parasites. Only then did I allow myself to relax, to shake, to sob with the certainty that today I would miss my ride home.
Despite everything else that happened, I never did.
In preparation for the assured failure of my New Year’s resolutions, I am performing a death-defying NaNoWriMo this year. As I did last year. I like to pregame my holiday distraction rituals. This time, I’ve given myself a bit more of a margin for success by doing up a novel that I’ve already started to write.
Its working title is “God is a Rubber Ducky.” I sincerely hope that I’ll think of a better one before the whole thing is through. It’s about how God accidentally incarnates as a rubber duck because he’s too out of touch to realize that it’s not the real thing. As a result, he gets a front-row seat to the reactions of Earth inhabitants to his Heavenly policies. Yes, I might be on a God kick at the moment. What can I say? He’s a bastard but he’s a damn funny bastard. Like Archie Bunker. In addition, I’m a lifelong recovering Catholic who is kind of thrilled that a giant perfect man isn’t hanging out in the sky, itemizing my mistakes. THAT is why God gets to be a rubber ducky in my story.
So far, I have a pretty bitchin’ beginning and a pretty awesome end, but getting from one to the other has been a bit of a trick. God’s immobile, you know, since rubber ducks are incapable of movement. The angels look for him but they either can’t find him or they “can’t find him”, if you know what I mean. He’s got to live through half a century of U.S. history without turning into a divine version of Forrest Gump. It’s going to have to get pretty weird.
Recently, I realized that my personal meterstick of success is whether or not you write. This is sort of a jarring epiphany. It explains too much too accurately. I voted for Obama because his book turned out to be a better story than Romney’s did. I think Atul Gawande is a great doctor because he happens to have written several books. He probably sucks as a surgeon, but what do I care? Everything I know about sawbones comes from the podcast. Gawande’s got books! And they’re pretty good! Sign me up for surgery, doc! Take anything that looks unused.
This attitude opens up a number of worrying vulnerabilities. Hell, I just elected for open-option surgery, and I’m not sure I wasn’t serious. Taking candy from babies doesn’t begin to describe it. If a hedge fund manager had a book, I’d probably hand over my life savings without batting an eyelash.
What I can’t decide is if this delusion is some kind of internal construct fabricated by my brain to convince me that I’m at the top of the social food chain. Probably. I must be an expert if I write so much. But the fallout is just not sustainable. I can’t go giving my wallet to every pickpocket with a Cracked article. Part of the problem being that I don’t have a wallet, having nothing to put within it viz the public service job and moonlit writing gig.
On the other hand, suppose I did have a wallet. We’re walking down the street, me and my wallet, having a great time together, when suddenly a hedge fund manager and a pickpocket spring out of the bushes. The pickpocket says, “give me your wallet! I have a Cracked article!” The hedge fund manager says, “no, give ME your wallet! My book is on the New York Times Bestselling Business Hardcover Nonfiction List!” Who do I give my wallet to? The hedge fund manager, obvs. He has more write-fu. His write-fu-ness overpowers the pickpocket, who leaves in shame.
Now suppose that I had written a New York Times bestselling book, too. The pickpocket has no chance even if he’s alone because my write-fu overcomes his. He slinks away, dejected. However, what of the hedge fund manager?
“My book is nonfiction! That takes technical expertise,” he growls.
“Well my book is about polka dotted dragons and requires imagination,” I retort.
“Mine’s read by adults!”
“I’ve got the teen market!”
“Mine’s about real problems!”
“Mine’s good for mental health!”
“My editor is better!”
“I publish on my merits and not my brand as a TV personality!”
At this, the hedge fund manager reels, his puffy, veiny red face approaching critical blood pressure levels. Soon, his eyes explode and he runs off, howling. My wallet and I, hopefully not too badly splattered, continue to walk down the street.
The only problem with this scenario is that I have not yet written a New York Times Besteller and therefore continue to be vulnerable to exploitation by other writers. I’ve decided that I need to repair this state of affairs as soon as possible. Meanwhile, however, I’ll need to be clever. I wonder what I’d need to pay Dennis LeHane to be my bodyguard.
Recently, I wrote a blog for my employer, Wilmington Memorial Library. I realized that it was growing by 100 pageviews per month, not because it was unique or stellar, but because I was posting every damn day. Yahtzee! Why am I not doing this in my very own life? I asked. Why am I not utilizing my writerly talents to absorb the adulation of the throbbing masses?
I could come up with no answer, so I decided to pick up on Strange Days again. As I have little to talk about at the moment, I will talk about music.
Right now, I am listening to Treats by Sleigh Bells. I fucking love Sleigh Bells and I don’t care what that says about my personality, taste, or prospects. I have a fiancee who loves me despite Sleigh Bells, a family who tolerates me even when I insist on liking Sleigh Bells, and readers like you who might even, possibly, also enjoy Sleigh Bells. Treats is currently my very favorite Sleigh Bells song. I don’t know why. I don’t care enough to navel-gaze about it. It’s just a hardcore song that makes me feel like a badass. Here’s the music video. Maybe you can figure it out.