Jerry Lewis alert!

Jerry Lewis is on Larry King Live on CNN tonight–in about thirty minutes, at 10 central time–to discuss his new book about his career with Dean Martin. Don’t miss it. Even if you weren’t a Lewis fan before, maybe you’ll become one. I always have hope.

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It’s too quiet–they’re up to something in there

Well, our Thanksgiving was pretty heinous.

The plan all along was to hold the get-together downtown at my cousin’s new loft or apartment or cubbyhole (whichever) at the Kirby Residences on Main in Dallas. My husband got up at six that morning feeling nauseated, which happens with diabetes sometimes when you aren’t keeping to your schedule (and haven’t been for several days, ahem.) He took a shower and then went to sit out on the back patio until eight, when he came inside and decided he probably wouldn’t be able to go. He wanted to go, but he just couldn’t. I was disappointed, but we had to leave by ten so as to get there at the same time as the others. The nausea went away, but he still felt crappy. We left him sitting on the back patio, forlornly cleaning leaves out of the tiny pond with one of those long-handled fish nets. He had his cell phone so I could call him.

We got there with no problems, but when we called upstairs on the cell to ask where we should park, the problems began. First, my cousin came downstairs to show me where to park. The parking meters were turned off, so you could park on the street, but there are also some perfectly fine parking lots that looked unattended (and I would not have minded parking and paying for a few hours). He had me pull up to the front door to unload all the food. We had volunteered to make all the food, because my aunt and uncle and cousins don’t have as much money (or so they say) as we do, and my mother has a big mouth. (It’s pretty painless for her to spend MY money, anyway–when we go to any store, my checkbook is the one that comes out, and I get her whatever she asks for with hubby’s paychecks; that’s how it is when a parent is retired on $600/mo Social Security and has made no other provisions for herself, and the medicines she takes plus her health insurance Part B and her car costs take that $600. She had already spent everything she got out of the sale of the house to us when she came to live with us. That’s all OK, but anyhow, I thought I was being somewhat generous to bring the stuff.) He didn’t want to unload the Karaoke machine that I had brought. It’s that little Singing Machine thing that I got last Christmas because I *used* to have friends who would have loved to play with it. He let me know that this crowd wouldn’t appreciate it. I realized he was right (especially since the younger generation had pretty much backed out by this time).

They all seemed irritated that I wasn’t going to unload the stuff out of the car and haul it in there myself, but they knew in advance that I wasn’t, and that I expected help . . . anyhow, my cousin did get the food “buckets” (several dishpans loaded with Tupperware full of food) out and told me to go parallel park across the street in a spot he had just noticed. No one took seriously my concern about the van possibly being vulnerable out there on the street, and perhaps I was just being paranoid, as expected.

Okay, well . . . a Ford Freestar van is longer than a compact car, which is what had just pulled out from in between a Jag and a yellow Hummer. I also have some visual infirmities caused by the beam of alpha particles that ran through the corner of my left eye during radiation therapy, and that means that I have problems with my peripheral vision in certain conditions of light. I don’t ever have to parallel park here in blessed Suburbia, either. But I figured, okay, I’ll give it a shot. First, though, I thought I’d try just driving in headfirst. Of course that didn’t work, so I got back out and pulled up parallel to the car in front (the Jag.) But when I did the prescribed stuff (turn sharply and back in, then turn sharply again), the car just didn’t fit. I did a little back-and-forth and then decided to pull out and try again. This time, though, a DART bus was behind me, and so I just went on to circle the block.

They’ve made half the streets one way, though, because there wasn’t enough throughput or something. So I got kind of, well, lost.

My mother had the cell phone in her pocket. I knew I was supposed to be on Main near Akard, but that’s not where I was. My endocrine system (damaged as it is) knows how to put out a gallon or two of go-power, though, so I got pretty overheated as I considered the arrogance of those who would have me drop off the dinner and then just send me off to park and find my way back. I mean, free catering, sure, but I need to know that in advance. I thought briefly of just driving home, but knew that Mama would freak out, and since she has a heart condition (left bundle branch block and that old leftover CHF that’s controlled by drugs), I thought that would be bad. I followed a guy who seemed to know where he was going down a side road and found the way back. Turning on Main, I spied a fellow pulling out of a space at the corner–which meant nobody behind me, and I could drive right in. That’s what I did. Even though I was a couple of blocks away from his building, and I wasn’t sure which direction it was.

But I was pretty upset, and I had decided to just go home and watch TV with hubby and the dog. I needed to tell my mother this, though. Guess what? They have phone booths downtown, but no pay phones. So I just started walking down the mostly-deserted street shouting, “I’m going home!”

I tell you what, the homeless got out of MY way. “Here comes some crazy suburban b*&$^, and she is CRAZY.” They withdrew into their nooks and crannies and scurried into various shelters. One poor man with a white cane tapped frantically in all directions to make sure he wasn’t headed into the street but was getting out of my path (no worries, I dodged him). Soon enough (it must not have been TOO many seconds) I spotted my mother, wringing her hands, and my cousin. They were standing in front of a building about a block away. I approached at full volume, giving the indication that I was heading back to sanity and if she wanted to go with me, she should get her butt back to the car.

Sorry, guys, but that’s what a panic attack can cause. I think that the combination of suddenly being surrounded by those tall buildings and a lot of traffic AND the frustration of being told I’d just have to go parallel park where THEY thought I should rather than allowing me to find a spot that I felt comfortable getting into (and remember, this is a newish car, and I didn’t want to rip a hole in a Jag with it) caused the freakout. My mother was having a panic attack from claustrophobia because the building lobby was small, and she knew she couldn’t get into the elevator after that, so she was pretty disturbed. I got her back to the car while she was telling my cousin that they should just go ahead and enjoy everything. We’d stop by Luby’s, the cafeteria that stayed open, and eat. (Recall that by this time I had provided the silverware, tablecloth, plates, and the food. We didn’t have anything at home to eat.)

Cousin went away. Mama told me that her heart was just thudding. That’s scary, because part of the problem with LBBB is that the electrical system is messed up, the one that keeps your heart beating . . . I already felt guilty. I was too stressed to drive, so I was waiting for a bit of calm to settle before I left. Of course I am the bad guy in all of this. I am the evil one. Still, I provided the food, so I’d actually done what I committed to do. Mama said she didn’t feel like going up in that anthill now anyhow. She decided that she’d better call my aunt and uncle immediately and “apologize for not coming up.”

Of course they persuaded her that we just HAD to come on up or else they’d be SO upset. I called hubby to tell him we’d arrived safely (he was still feeling nauseated and lying on the floor with the dog, watching anime, so I let him think we were happy and told him I’d bring him more 7UP on my way back) and we made our way back to the building. My cousin and his dad (my uncle, as you already knew!) met us and showed us the front staircase. It’s marble and curving. Mama tried a couple of steps and said it was too slick. She didn’t want to lose her footing. It looked kind of scary to me, as well. But I knew there had to be a set of back stairs or fire stairs. They took us around to that, and it was just like every staircase in a hospital or doctors’ building or skyscraper–much wider, with handrails, etc. Since my cousin had an electronic key, we knew we could get in the second floor door, so we didn’t have any problem. Although I’m sure he’ll be telling his neighbors for weeks that he had to take us up “the back way.”

Man, are those apartments small. My cousin had gone around to his neighbors to borrow folding chairs and a couple of office chairs (the rolling chairs that you have at your desk), so there were just enough places to sit (he doesn’t even have a sofa.) My mother enjoyed waiting on everybody and helping to clean up, talking all the while. I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving food, so I mostly stirred stuff around on my plate and smiled and nodded. This family is pretty dysfunctional, so everyone pretended that they weren’t offended at me or whatever. Much of the talk was about how my cousin’s place was SO TINY and HOW COULD HE LIVE DOWN HERE WITH THOSE HOMELESS PEOPLE and HE NEEDS FURNITURE–THIS IS CRAZY and ALL YOU CAN SEE OUT THE WINDOWS IS THAT BUILDING ACROSS THE STREET and DOESN’T HE EVER DUST THIS PLACE and WHEN IS HE GETTING MARRIED. My cousin doesn’t date women and is happy being the footloose bachelor, and since he’s 33, I don’t think he’s going to change any time soon. However, everyone present was age 70 or older except for me and my cousin (his twin sister had a kidney stone and so she and her husband couldn’t attend), and they have a certain worldview that they cling to. Whatever makes them happy. I did play the piano for a bit, which seemed to please them.

I was so glad to get to exit a few hours later. I wanted to get back on the road before dark. I couldn’t take the same route OUT of downtown as I took coming in, because the street is one way, so I ended up touring Deep Ellum and turning around at the entrance to Fair Park. If you know Dallas, that’s south, and I needed to go north. I got on Gaston and we had a tour of the east side of the world, going around White Rock Lake. Didn’t bother us, as we knew we’d eventually hit one of the big roads. A lot of places had their Christmas lights up already, so it was interesting. We finally got on Northwest Highway and headed west, passing by Keller’s Drive-In (a famous landmark that has recently reopened) and the neighborhood my parents lived in when I was born (on Fenton Drive off of NW Hwy). I used the secret back way to get on Greenville, and we were back in Richardson in no time.

But we were exhausted. I only got the karaoke machine out of the van last night. And there was a jar of pickles that had rolled out of our dishpans. The pickles didn’t seem any the worse for all the travel and hadn’t leaked.

Next year, we’re staying home. If there’s another time I volunteer to host, I’m going to invite a different crowd. But that won’t be until I have the house cleaned up. Might be a few years.

Anyhow . . . my other aunt came through her surgery, but is still pretty much doped up and doesn’t make much sense when we talk to her on the phone. She referred to her glass of water as “my vodka,” which may have been a witticism. But more worrisome is her insistence that my uncle, her husband, is outside, but the nurses won’t let him in. The problem is that my uncle passed into the next world some years ago. I don’t doubt that he *is* calling her to join him, in fact coaxing her, since he knows she’s feeble and that she hates it. But she said she isn’t ready to go yet, so we’re staying positive. We will be going back up there (about 60 miles away in a small town north of us) later this week to help her settle in at home.

Kristi (my other cousin’s wife who had the breast surgery) ended up in surgery for four hours because they did reconstructive surgery as well. She had to have a unit of blood and woke up nauseated from the anaesthetic, but she’s supposed to go home tomorrow. Their daughter couldn’t come to the hospital because she and her baby have a stomach virus. Aaughh! They’re in Denton, so that meant more travel.

I still haven’t heard anything from any of the editors or agents who have my partials and manuscripts. I did find a rejection letter that I got in August that says my PLOT bogged down near the end of the book and wasn’t as strong as other manuscripts they were considering, which reinforces my belief that there’s something about the plot that bugs them rather than it being a matter of the prose. We’ve talked here before about tightening up prose and doing various things to the writing itself, but I maintain that although I could continue to tweak that forever, it isn’t really the problem. If only it were so simple.

I’ve begun praying that the desire to publish a book be taken away from me. I think I would be so much happier if I just didn’t care, and it’s time that I gave up this crazy plan to publish. There is the problem of this creative drive, but I’ve channeled it into music before and could do that again. Playing the piano has a similar drawback in that you are there by yourself plink, plink, plinking away for no audience and seemingly for no reason, but I was thinking that at least I could teach, which would be an outlet with some benefit to others. Helping beginners express themselves through music would be a good thing. So many kids get 61-key digital keyboards for Christmas and want to learn a few tunes . . . it might be more fulfilling than just typing for oneself. Would have to be, in fact.

I wouldn’t want to take any beginners who intended a serious classical career on the piano, though; I’m talking about taking a few dilettantes who would like to mess with electronic keyboards and learn to play from a lead sheet or play simple tunes (possibly by rote at first, since the process of learning to read from the Grand Staff would take some time and they would want quick results). There are so many serious piano teachers that I’d be able to refer the ones who had larger goals to someone appropriate. If they don’t have a piano and are just playing with a keyboard, though, I think it would be fun for them to have a group class and learn a little bit about playing pieces. Then, if they want to go further, I’d give them some info about finding a serious teacher.

However, I’ll have to think about that some more. It’d take quite a bit of planning, and we’d need someplace for the class to meet.

It’s all just a way to avoid cleaning the house, anyhow.

Oh, and I did hit the 60K mark in the novel I started for NaNo. I didn’t sign up on the NaNo page or do anything official. I don’t care if I get the icon or not. Actually, I think it’s kind of silly for people to make such a big deal out of the icons or what-have-you. It doesn’t mean anything one way or another. But if you didn’t finish and you would like a “didn’t win” icon, the_red_shoes has them. Those icons are much cuter than the “winning” icons, anyway.

Hope your holidays were happier!

Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Count your blessings . . . name them one by one.

Or just enjoy the Macy’s parade on TV. Wish I could just sit and watch, but I’ll be feeding the crowd with what I cooked tonight. Turkey is already done and just staying warm and getting basted. My mother is doing some kind of magic on it so it doesn’t dry out, magic involving aluminum foil and one of those really big eyedroppers. I hate cooking–it’s slave labor. But anyhow, they wanted a traditional feast, and that’s what they’re getting!

My aunt came through surgery OK today . . . the doctor looked at that bump/lump on my mother’s tongue and said we’d keep an eye on it and if it isn’t gone by Dec. 8th, he’ll send her to an ENT to get it removed for biopsy . . . my cousin Steve’s wife Kris is having breast surgery on Monday. But aside from all of these health concerns, everything’s happy-beans around here. Have the Karaoke machine loaded with show tunes in case they decide to sing. I am long-suffering when it comes to family and selected friends.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and “stuffed” day!

Yes, Universe, you have our attention now

Just when you think you’ve got it licked . . . you find a lump.

Actually, my mother found a lump. A bump. On the side/end of her tongue, of all places. It doesn’t hurt. It looks like just a little . . . white bump or zit. When I poked around the ‘net, it looked more like the pictures of cancer than of anything else, and of course she smoked for 1000 years and had colon cancer years ago, so she’s terrified. (She was recently ranting about how she outlived her money, and now she is yelling about how she isn’t finished yet. It’s kind of endearing and terrifying at the same time.) So, naturally, the first thing she said was to put her on the Internet Good Thinks & Prayers chain.

There really isn’t such a chain, per se, but I do get regular requests from various people on the ‘net, and I request good thinks from them as well, so that’s what we call it. She asks for your prayers and positive thoughts.

All prayers and Good Thinks, therefore, requested for Jodie. Naturally this is “discovered” suddenly at 7 PM on Friday night before a holiday week. We can’t get in to see her doctor (or any doctor) until sometime Monday, if they’ll see her over lunch or on standby. So we might as well relax. Except of course she can’t.

I really don’t know WHAT it is, but anyhow, please keep a positive thought for her. I don’t have a bad feeling about it, but she needs a Valium. *sheepish look*

Thanks so much, in advance! (It’s probably nothing . . . := new mantra)

My cousin’s sister-in-law Kris (who isn’t, I suppose, a direct relative of mine, but still is in our extended family) has also found a lump . . . in her breast. At first they weren’t too worried and waited a week to schedule a sonogram. Now this morning they’ve said they don’t like the sonogram and it has “threads” attached, and are doing a biopsy next week. She is sitting at the table zombie-like, waiting. It seems so unfair, because last year she had the gastric bypass and went through so much so she could lose weight. Ack! Our neighbor had a scary fall in the bathtub earlier, and his grandson came screaming to our door for help. We sent for the paramedics. He didn’t have to go to the hospital, but he has a nasty goose egg on his forehead. Did I mention my uncle took a slight tumble as well, and is a bit shaken? When you’re 72 and have osteoporosis, you shouldn’t fall down.

What IS it with today?! We surrender! We give up! We’ll become a whatever-you-want. Just stop the zaps. We’re becoming quite jumpy.

Stress? What is this “stress”?

Miss Snark’s correspondent here is NOT me, cross my heart, honest injun, pinky swear. But it might as WELL be.
* * *
Why study music, one might ask, when we can have prerecorded, perfected, edited-so-no-clinkers-sound music piped into our ears 24/7/365? For self-expression. For self-discovery. To stave off arthritis. To keep the mind and body active as you grow and age. To piss off the neighbors who can hear your pounding through the open windows on spring afternoons. To upset people in your own household who hate classical music. If these reasons don’t do it for you. . . . The liner notes of a new Naxos American Music double-CD set tells all.

“In 1780 the American Revolution was at a particularly low point. […] During this dark spell, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, from Paris:

I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

If you used to clean your plate for the starving children in China, now you can play the piano to honor founding father John Adams. But all seriousness aside, his words still hold true now. We have to study war and politics so we can avoid having our system implode to the point at which nobody’s children and grandchildren can study whatever they want. And if we don’t exercise our rights, they may atrophy and desert us after all.
* * *
Oh, chickens can squawk and roosters may flutter
But who lays the eggs and churns up the butter?

The moon’s a balloon and I’m a poltroon

NaNo is almost half over. Maybe more. Can’t count days at this point.

I can’t tell any more whether my work is good, acceptable, or just grammatically correct (for the most part). Modernists said that there were objective standards for “good writing” (among other things) and that you could judge whether something is “good enough” or “great” in such a way that others would agree. Postmodernists (and especially Generation X and Generation Y) were taught to believe differently (in my estimation, judging from my experience.)

Postmodernists seem to believe (and I’m paraphrasing here, not trying to adhere to any official definition) that there’s no objective good or bad (“but thinking makes it so”), that whatever you feel in response to a work should be considered a personal reaction only. That anything you say about a work being good or bad is “only your opinion.” That there’s no objective criterion for anything. That you can’t agree on the 100 best films or novels because “it’s all just your opinion.” Even rubrics that specify grammar and spelling being correct, some say, are not useful for determining whether a work is “good” or not. “Random is good,” said one daughter of a friend of mine. “A structured plot is too predictable. I like the awkwardness in some writing, too. It keeps me from zoning out with boredom.”

I’ve always sided with the modernists. My teachers believed in science, rationality, and eloquence. They were all for the liberal arts, but they wanted good reasoning and plots without holes as well as cadenced prose. They said that perfect spelling and grammar was basic, and that you had to build your prose so that it charmed readers, so that they enjoyed the odd turns of phrase in your voice, and such that it kept them in “the vivid, continuous dream” that fiction should be. They believed they could judge a work and say with confidence, “This is good,” and be on the same page as others (especially others like themselves.)

But now I’m leaning toward postmodernism. I’m thinking of the extreme postmodernism of a work with footnotes that explain everything (David Foster Wallace and early Nicholson Baker fiction has these, and if you’ve read the work you’ll know why I say it’s postmodern.) _The Circus of Dr. Lao_ by Charles Finney has a glossary that’s positively postmodern at the end of the novel.
Postmodernism questions all authority and says that there may be no need for any authority. It says that there might be no objective good or bad. It’s all just There. It IS because it IS.

I’m certainly no authority on this. I’m simply saying that the more you know, the more difficult it becomes to tell whether you’re hitting the mark or just deluding yourself. If there is merit in simply enduring to pound the work out, then there’s merit in the output (as a faithful postmodernist might say.) How many calories does an hour of typing burn? I hope it balances out those cranberry-orange muffins.

Figured I might as well post the rest of that chapter from last time behind the LJ-CUT (if anyone’s reading it and has any comments, please feel free to make them–within reason–because I’m always interested in hearing y’all’s reactions.)
Continue reading “The moon’s a balloon and I’m a poltroon”