Tuesday, April 21, 2015
|My Poppa playing for my daughter long ago|
I should be doing laundry and packing for tomorrow’s early flight to Michigan. At least I should be planning what to launder and pack.
My Michigan family says that spring has sprung. I hear it in their voices.
So I picture spring as I remember it: tender baby leaves, spongy fragrant earth, soft fuzzy buds, daffodils, forsythia, lilac, the sweet smell of newness and hope...) Sneakers, light jackets and T-shirts.
But a check of the forecast says that my Michigan family is delirious. Their beastly winter has left them untrustworthy in their relief, unreliable.
Or, it might be my recollection of spring that’s faulty. Maybe spring has always had frozen strands of winter woven through it. Maybe those last wintery bits are essential for making the springy parts even sweeter. So, sweaters still? Scarves and gloves?
But I’m not packing yet: I’m bracing.
A trip home is no longer an easy thing. My father will still be dead when I get there. In fact, he’ll be considerably more dead there than he is here, especially when he won’t wrestle up from his chair to greet me at the door.
And my mom will not have recovered from the cruel process of aging. She used to say it was like a sinking ship, one thing after another goes overboard. Short term memory, names, hearing...
She doesn’t say that anymore.
But the things I need to brace for are the things I can’t brace for, the things I don’t see coming, until they’ve mowed me flat. Like a couple weeks ago when I blithely attended a classical music concert.
You’d think I would have suspected that my first time hearing an orchestra tune up on a darkened stage would be tough. After a life-time of my dad's concerts, it seems stunningly stupid of me not to have anticipated the pain.
But there it is. The things we see coming, and the things we don’t. How do you pack for such a trip?
Thursday, April 9, 2015
We think of writers working on novels, articles, Pulitzer acceptance speeches and shopping lists, when in reality the bulk of a writer’s writing time is spent in the careful composition of the rarely discussed Nag-o-Gram™. Perhaps the time has come to examine this secret, slightly shameful, yet utterly professional art form.
We all know roommate / family-member nagging, which is essentially reminding someone who if they --
1. Really loved you.
2. Really cared about your wishes.
3. Had been paying the least bit of attention, or,
4. Weren’t lazy-assed turds --
Would not need reminding.
Professional nagging, however, can not be articulated satisfactorily by sighing, eye-rolling, or even whining. Nor can the writer pen a pithy, anonymous, passive-aggressive note to attach to the laundry hamper or empty milk carton.
No. If the person who requires nagging holds the writer's precarious career in the palm of her hand, the writer can’t just dash off the petulant, ‘When are you going to read my fucking manuscript all ready? Isn’t that your god-damn job?’ and expect a productive reply.
No matter how many times the agent or editor or publicist has failed to come through as promised, the writer can't afford to scold or demand. The writer's task is to remain likable, non-critical, entertaining, grateful, publishable -- in essence F-U-N to work with.
Thus, the writer can spend days crafting the offhand, friendly, reminder that she has been waiting, unable to blink or swallow since last Tuesday.
And if the initial nag-o-gram garners no response, the second one poses double the challenge to the writer's skills. How many times can she pretend to be asking after the health of the editor's cat?
And the third in a series of nags? Fourth? Straining the writer’s wits and tricks.
No wonder some agents and editors posthumously publish their writers' correspondences. They are probably the most desperate, delicately wrought and inventive work of the writer's career.
Surely those in power see through the writers' wily attempts.
Maybe they get together and have a good laugh, comparing them.
“HA! Here’s a good one!” they say. “It’s the sick kitty again!!!”