#GrownUp

img_1805

My mother wanted children for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons that stuck with me was that she wanted someone with whom to share children’s books.  She hit jackpot with her firstborn (my brother didn’t really like books or literature of any kind until college), and I was reading before kindergarten.  Every year at Christmas I got a stack of children’s literature; and the public library was always my favorite place to visit. My mother got me started with the greats:

  • Little House books;
  • Shel Silverstein poetry;
  • Tasha Tudor illustrations;
  • Winnie the Pooh;
  • Maurice Sendak’s illustrated version of The Nutcracker;
  • Little Golden Books;
  • The Velveteen Rabbit.

There were others, sure.  And then on my father’s side there was the slapstick of childhood in Warner Brother’s cartoons (he preferred them to Disney, but Disney was okay by him too if the film had actors he liked, such as Phil Harris or Jimmy Durante).

I inherited all of this, in addition to a pretty deep attachment to LEGOs, Harry Potter, and the legends of comic books and graphic novels.  I like Pixar movies.  If I could still go to story hour and not make the room uncomfortable, I would.  I love coloring books.

There are two worlds of whirling dervish right now on social media: Marie Kondo’s broadcasts of decluttering lives, and Bill Maher proclaiming that comics are something everyone should have outgrown at the age of 17 and a half.  Marie believes in ridding our lives of anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” including–gasp–books, if that’s the case. Maher doesn’t care if the comic books spark joy, get rid of them anyway and grow up. Read the adult stuff, he insists, like Dickens or Melville, etc.

I have to admit a couple of things here.  First, I haven’t seen the Marie Kondo episodes on Netflix; I’m a neat freak already and I imagine Kondo would just bore me.  I do watch Maher’s show Real Time, but I watch it more for the same reason that I occasionally pick up a copy of O Magazine; I like the contributors more than the host.  I could do without Bill (or Oprah), but I’m pretty impassioned about his show; without it I wouldn’t be aware of some of the stuff that I think it’s important that I should be aware of.  Some of that awareness is despicable, but some of it isn’t.  Do I agree with Maher on his take on comic books? Nope. Do I agree with all of his contributors? Nope. Do I cringe when he puts some of these contributors on? Oh yes.

But whether it’s Kondo or Maher or someone else, I think the lighting of the hair on fire based on disagreement could be discarded unless it could be presented as discourse.  If I ever get around to watching Kondo for fun some rainy afternoon, then I’m not planning on losing my mind when she says ditch some books; that’s just the piece of the pie I don’t need to take, and then I can drop and move on.  When Bill launched into this anti-comic tirade last Friday night, I wasn’t happy (it seemed like an over-simplification, but so does the “spark joy” argument and all of the arguments against Kondo and Maher), but that’s just the piece I don’t take with me.

When did the internet turn into self-help?  There’s nothing wrong with self-help, either, but goodness, did the folks watching any self-proclaimed subject matter expert really think they should have that complete authority?

Maybe we learn something from everything, albeit not always the intended lesson of the teacher.  Kondo’s whirlwind taught me that, and she meant to teach us all how to be neater.  Maher’s whirlwind is reinforcing something in my learning; I have often thought my failures have hatched in not following the well-intentioned and/or unasked advice of others, when I should consider the various contributors.  Maher’s ranting about comics during his editorial bits teach me how important all voices are, including my own.

I don’t need to yell at Kondo to “Leave my books alone!” or yell at Maher to “Leave my children’s literature alone!” I just need to shrug and read my books, be them Melville (which I love) or Winnie the Pooh (which I still love), or watch Ant-Man (which is still the laugh I need).  Keep talking, Kondo and Maher.  Someone’s nodding in agreement somewhere, and you’re the validation they need…but I’m good on my own, finding validation elsewhere.

Advertisements

#DearMrBradbury

Comic Con came to San Diego last weekend, and I have never been in San Diego during one. As a literary snob I'm not much on pop culture, particularly ad nauseum, but I kept my mind open in the beginning days of the con, enjoying the Greek chorus of Cartoon Network balloons:

And the Batmobile:

And, to be fair, half of these pop references came from literature; Congressional Representative John Lewis's graphic collection March, and handmaids, and pedicabs with chairs a la George RR Martin.

But by Day 4 I wanted the lot of the world gone, and got depressed by so many people, and calmly stayed in my apartment under the A/C fan and read and watched the entire first season of HBO's Insecure. I probably drank too much, which didn't help for the long term, but helped at the time.

I needed a game plan after that week, because if situational depression hits you, you need a game plan to deal with it. I write every day, and every day the writing is more of a drill than a process; sit down with a notebook the size of a bar of soap, spit 6 pages, go home. More of a nervous tick than a process, more of therapy than a process (which isn't bad as an approach to therapy, but still), and I realized there was no process.

So there's a new mission: Saturdays I write short fiction. I write a short story a week, like Mr. Bradbury recommended once, and the editing would come when that fiction muscle hits the wall. When the first drafts no longer become a process, then I build on the process. But there was no fiction before, and there shall be now.

The story came out scared and stilted but it's out, and next week there'll be another. I'll stack 'em up. I was so scared in the Midwest of rotting on the couch in bad winter and summer weather; and I lost all patience after Comic Con. If it's going to be hot and weird humidity, and if I have to struggle viciously with loneliness, then dammit…all this shall be to do what I love. I shall make up facts…and fashion them into stories…and tell all the fake news I want, but in a way revealing more truth than idiots in all the governments.

And, please, Lord, let me tell it "puddle-wonderful." ✨

*****

What I Have Been Reading Lately: So much, because, the library for free, and it's too hot and pricey to go out much, so a LOT of reading…How To Be Human, Lucky You, The Zookeeper's Wife, and, currently, Faithful by Alice Hoffman. I get through a lot of New Yorker issues.

What I Have Been Watching Lately: The Zookeeper's Wife, and, predictably, not as good as the book. Paterson over and over because it soothes me. Moneyball because I miss Aaron Sorkin dialogue. Insecure because it makes me laugh and I love her rhymes. Okja, and a documentary out of the Bay Area called What the Health. Cut back on a LOT of meat, eggs, and dairy because of that movie. No, I'm not vegan (I can't be that disciplined and love tasting as I do), but when I mindlessly snack it's mostly hummus, veggies, and fruit. I feel a lot better but I'm still waiting for my skin to clear.

And baseball…so…much…baseball. If you watch enough baseball nuances start to amaze you or crack you up. I was watching a broadcast of the Blue Jays/A's game in Toronto last Thursday and was having a hard time determining the strike zone by the ump's calls. I thought I was losing my mind until I realized that both batters and pitchers were getting frustrated as well. By the 5th inning the Blue Jays' manager had enough and started heckling the ump from the dugout, and then was promptly ejected. Rattled, the Blue Jays' pitcher started grousing to himself on the mound, so one pitch later the ump tossed him, too. The catcher came unglued because his manager and pitcher were ejected a pitch apart, so…yep, the catcher got tossed, too. The crew chief for the umps had to come over and stand by his home plate ump, but I hope the communication was something to the effect of "Cool it, will ya?"

Weird, but funny as all get-out to watch.

Sometimes a girl needs distractions; sometimes she needs any game plan to get up off the dirt.