The Future Is Unclear

•September 2, 2014 • 2 Comments

Apparently there is not enough money in the world (except, perhaps, a young rich tech worker’s world) to prepare one for growing old and – possibly – being in some sort of decent care system.  I just finished reading Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant: a Memoir, and am VERY concerned for my (possibly) infirm future.  And who will remind Mr. Halfstory about the importance of portion control?  Let’s just assume a few things:

a) the offspring will suck all our money with college, emergency loans and baby/teen issues;

b) the government collapses and we all have to live in portable yerts – a disaster for those of us have never even taken our kids camping;

c) Halfstory and I outwit our anxieties – quite a feat – and live until we are 95, an ugly premise at best, given our current ailments;

d) Social Security becomes a folktale;

e) our children despise us because they have achieved the ability to read our thoughts (see “suck up all our money on college,” above) and have left us to the care of underpaid strangers;

Actually, forget it.  Having recently sent The Son off to college, I have been forced to mature, and recognize several issues:

a) it is unlikely he will clean the shared bathroom, despite all the supplies I sent with him;

b) it’s not time – yet – to turn his room into a tiki bar;

c) can someone invent a candy necklace that has on its string: antibiotics, vitamin C tablets, condoms and antihistamines all interspersed (shout-out to you, here, Annette);

d) the time with your children is FAR shorter than you think, so…that month before college when he/she is being a jerk?  Be tolerant;

e) with boys, communication via text is solid, and maybe your only choice.  When you’re at a party no one needs to know you’re conversing with your parents.

And all of the above has forced my Big Girl hand.  I.  Am.  An.  Adult.  Up until a year or so ago I would have the occasional stray thought, like “well, maybe I’ll be a (insert vocation here).”  Now I see I am there and must act accordingly, including facing up to the Growing Old Challenge.  Everyday I say to myself (at least once): “what would an adult do in this situation?”  I even have a few specific friends whose names I put in place of the word “adult” (shout-out to you, Jenn).  Reading Chast’s book was the sly alarm clock.  Hopefully you have seen her numerous cartoons in The New Yorker.  If not, shame on you!  Her squiggly, intense, playful, insightful comics are right up there with modern philosophy.  In her memoir she relates the process of her parents living well into their 90s and her experience dealing with both her miserable childhood and taking care of them (she’s an only child).  Plus – bonus – it’s a graphic affair, so you get the visuals, too.  Don’t be afraid of graphic literature.  Research shows they call upon more facets of your brain than straight text.  So you can exercise your aging cells, too!  The book is hysterical, frightening, poignant, lovely and back to hysterical.  It’s what we all need as we approach Oldville.  My immediate response was to GIVE AWAY MOST OF MY STUFF.  And that is never a bad thing.

 

 

 

Disaster averted

•July 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Survival books are fascinating and I don’t know why.  Perhaps it’s a way of facing my worst fears – there are so many – and conquering them.  I read Bird Box, by Josh Malerman, recently, fluctuating between throwing it across the room and reading it in one sitting.  It’s a small, creepy little book, about a very young single mom raising two babies amid a frightening global alien crisis.  Strange creatures have taken over earth’s population, but only if people see them.  Obviously it takes a while to learn this but when people do it allows for endless survival scenarios: blindfolded humans living in communes, symbiotic relationships having been established as the only way to outlast whatever is in the sky; surviving by training yourself to do everything by sound, touch and – ultimately – trust.  It is also a quiet soliloquy on motherhood and what it means to be a “good” mother in horrific circumstances.  Much like The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, a book I loved and hated, it has similar and disturbing scenarios; not for the faint of heart or new moms, so don’t shove it into the baby shower gift with the giraffe onesie.  I would say the genre is horror – and I almost never dip into that pool – but I did like the authenticity of the book’s tiny details.  For instance, how would you teach babies not to open their eyes (because, in this book, it’s an absolute necessity) without being a monster?

After I had children I became a little crazy.  All right, I became a little crazier.  I went into each complicated situation (deemed “complicated”: plane trips, Mr, Halfstory’s long business trips, any drive over 2 hours, nights spent with Grammy, far away field trips when I wasn’t the driver, panicky feeling after watching the news, and, sadly, that terrifying 25 minutes after vaccinations).  I calmed down eventually but all of that left me with a keen and mostly unhealthy attitude toward everyday life.  “How will I get out of this windowless office building with all of my toddlers if there is sudden global anarchy?”  “That man looks sketchy.  Can the children and I outrun him if he whips out a knife?”  Actually, that last one happened to me when I was pregnant with the girls.  It was pre-everyone-having-a-cell-phone, The Son was in a stroller, and I was walking both dogs.  I was also larger than a house party, and therefore had no wheels.  Fortunately I was on a busy street, drivers saw him and honked until they scared him away, and my dogs were finally a deterrent.  For several long minutes, however, I pictured my giant body wrestling that rusty knife out of his hands.

Anyway, if you liked The Road, or liked Room, by Emma Donoghue, try the weird bird book.

The Son was ugly sick this weekend, his fever rocketing up just shy of 104 degrees; I saw no less than 3 doctors in one day, one of them in the ER, where they got his fever down and managed to take verbal swipes at those “other brilliant doctors” who didn’t think to give him certain drugs.  I even got yelled at by a doctor I’d never met when I refused his instructions to to to the ER (he couldn’t fit me in his schedule that day); my last experience in the ER consisted of three professionals glancing at me and then recommending Pepcid.  Of course, I had to eat my hat on that one; The Son was so delirious and paranoid about his bodily “vibrations” I had to shove him in the car and speed up to the ER anyway.  I do trip on the catty stuff amongst medical professionals, similar to when you get a new dentist and they peer inside your mouth, aghast at the foreign scaffolding some other poor grunt has constructed  Notesto dentists everywhere: invest in aromatherapy – your patients will love you – and please someone invent the silent drill.  Hundreds of years of dentistry and this has not yet been addressed?  You’re not pulling teeth on a pirate ship, you know?

All that aside, we did have several nice moments.  In the City, at the 450 Sutter medical building, there is great pharmacy on the 7th floor.  The doors open right into the hallway, and are flanked by two old wooden benches, where, it appears, generations have sat down with their tiny cups of water and taken their medicine.  The pharmacists are young (at least when we were there) and are playing hip-hop but on the counter are plates of carefully cut homemade brownies, just in case you need to take your awful meds with food.  I’m not one to embrace food on open counters but we were in dire straits.  They even non-dusty, brown apothecary jars lined up on the back counter, and a curious assortment of food, which , based on my experience growing with my Nana, is probably very handy for their clientele.

Later at home, after cleaning up the house bomb that explodes when an 18-year-old boy is sick, we managed to tolerate the Giants implosion, mostly because we were all gnawing on popsicles.  The Son, in rare I-feel-better euphoria, announced he was going to “handle the laundry apolocalypse” in his room.  Survival is good luck indeed.

 

At the edge of the state

•July 23, 2014 • 1 Comment
This is a relationship that works, a la Ricky and Lucy.

This is a relationship that works, a la Ricky and Lucy.

 

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California team’s stands

 

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Guam Seawalkers’ stands

 

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Cute but would NOT want to see this coming at me in a river.

 

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LeBec, CA, Holiday Inn Express, top of the Grapevine. Really tired of tiny bottles of hair conditioner that just made my hair even frizzier.

 

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Look closely at the sign. No pandas were viewed, because of the blatant bait-and-switch.  Mom doesn’t do snakes.

 

I put the photos in first because, well, I could not figure out how to move them down.  The story begins with Yvette and I traveling to San Diego for, a) my Uncle Pete’s funeral, and b) Yvette’s softball tournament in San Diego, quickly moved to Chula Vista because we were immediately bounced down to the Loser’s Bracket (Copper!) after pool play; errors cost you, my friend.  It is far too boring to go into but suffice it to say if you get relegated you are in a community park (field 3, to be exact) where there are either no stall doors in the ladies’ bathrooms or there are vinyl shower curtains.  I do not know which situation was better: bringing a buddy to be the door or hoping the breeze wouldn’t sweep through the lavatories.

That said, Chula Vista and neighboring Bonita were nice surprises.  We dined locally on carne asada fries and in Donny’s Cafe, the only real coffee – with heft – in town.  I really wanted to purchase a paint horse advertised via a crayoned sign but I couldn’t fit him into my Prius.  I was very impressed by the shiny new library and dance studio advertising “pilates and flamenco;” it says  something about a community when the library is as new as the police station.  And, for the record, I get flipped off at least twice a month in Marin by angry mommies and weekend-warrior dads; in the San Diego area, I never did.  There is the possibility, of course, I didn’t notice, so intent was I on overcoming my phobia of driving on super-tall freeways.

My Uncle was buried in Miramar where the U.S. Army gave my Aunty Inez “Taps” and a very carefully and respectfully folded flag.  His ashes arrived via a carriage and draft horse.  It was solemn and appropriate, and everyone behaved as Uncle would have expected and appreciated.  The Knights of Columbus were in attendance with purple helmets and robes.  I loved seeing the numerous cousins and counting the nationality combos: Irish/Puerto Rican; Irish/Filipino/Nicaraguan; Irish/Filipino/Hungarian Jew/Scottish; Swedish/Irish/Filipino; Mexican/Filipino/Irish; some French and Dutch thrown in via second and third marriages, and Chinese in absentia.

After the frustrating softball losses and the realization we were staying in the McMarriott, we had lunch with The Aunties, where Reuben sandwiches and Budweisers were ordered, at around 12:15.  The Aunties are 87 and 89.

Let me explain the photos: the cool thing about softball tournaments are the unexpected teams.  For instance, the Guam Seawalkers showed up, with fan-carrying parents and lots of enthusiasm.  The Maui Pearls were there, as well as teams from Montana and Colorado.  If you get dropped down to the Loser’s bracket, you can still win something, but they punish you for being lame; you can only play one game a day and are often playing up to 5 games on your final day, only to be banished to the local Pizza Hut for dinner before your 9-hour drive home, sweaty, maybe disappointed, and counting quarters.  As one Arizona mom put it, “Wait, you mean you’re driving 8 hours and you’re still in your own state?!”

Back to the McMarriott.  Nice employees.  Large and beautiful Indian wedding sharing the hotel, which meant a lot of men smoking around the pool area late at night.  The pool was so close to the freeway I could see the commuters’ lunches as they sped to work.  Complimentary breakfast with mystery sausage and eggs (“Yeggs,” as Mr. Halfstory calls them).

Yvette and I loved the San Diego Zoo, however, and we are not huge zoo fans.  We got to witness a 5-year-old spitting on a camel, and the subsequent excellent parenting.  “Whoa, buddy ,whatcha doing?  Congratulations.  You just bought yourself a time out.”   The camel was really close and friendly and, thankfully, the kid missed.  We also enjoyed the slap fight between grizzly siblings out of the corners of our eyes, and spent a good hour trying to circle back and find them; we empathize with that action.  The highlights were the names.  Match the exotic animal with their names:

a) Polar Bear

b) Sumatran Orangutan

c) almost completely extinct Tasmanian Devil

###

1) Conrad

2) Debbie

3) Karen

Through all of this I was still on Prednisone, battling the Great Lip Swelling of 2014 and mopping up hot flashes and trying to read the map app and follow the 107 freeways it takes to get anywhere in southern California.  Thankfully, Yvette is not only a mean hitter but she is a good travel companion, in that we can yell at each other and still be all right watching any lousy Nicolas Cage movie that pops up on TNT, all while eating free hotel cookies.

I bought an iPod version of The Luminaries; I was immediately riveted and befuddled.  I kept having to start over!  I am still working on it but it may take some walking miles.  It is very well-written and fascinating, but you may need extended beach time to dive in.  I did finish The Untold, by Courtney Collins, a novel set in Australia, about a female outlaw and her attempts to evade capture after she murders her abusive husband.  Collins has a masterful touch with folkloric tone and it was stark and gritty enough to remind me of 3:10 to Yuma.  It’s not for everyone but if you want a modern tale hiatus, it’s a fine choice.

 

 

Road tripping

•July 7, 2014 • 1 Comment
I did.

I like hotels that give you explicit directions.

 

On July 4th The Son and I pulled into Veterans Home in Yountville and found ourselves momentarily speechless.  “Whoa,” he finally said.  Before us was a Field of Dreams baseball diamond, complete with ivy-covered outfield walls and a 40-year-old (I’m guessing here) cruddy double bathroom labeled “Visitors” and “Home.”  His team had several games scheduled here and the boys, who had always looked large and confident on their home fields, were suddenly dwarfed and – for a short while – hushed by the dusty and broken history of the place and, I hope, by the veterans in their wheelchairs who were there to watch every single game that day.   We have many servicemen and servicewomen in our family and it occurred to me I did not think of them often enough.  The vets I met on this day guffawed over every error and muffed play but also cheered for both teams.  One younger veteran was selling homegrown zucchini out of his backpack.  He scared me a little.  The facility had been improved to make a clear and safe path for all the motorized wheelchairs.  There was decent coffee, a hot dog roller and souvenir programs with photocopied rosters and a list of major league players who’d played in the Joe DiMaggio League. (Tony Gwynn! C.C. Sabathia!)  The vets were crafty fellows; they were selling those mimeographed programs at a hefty profit.  I respectfully asked about the price of the t-shirts and had to shimmy out of a “deal” for two XLs and twenty raffle tickets.  And at the top of the 7th inning, I did NOT win the $10 sandwich coupon from the local market.  Watching a ballgame there was especially poignant because my 89-year-old Uncle Pete died a few weeks ago, and he had been a serviceman, Army, stationed for a long time at Mare Island, and one of the few constant father figures in my family’s life.  He and Aunty Inez were married 67 years.  Growing up, my poor mom dragged us to their saltbox house in Vallejo almost every weekend so she could see her sister while all ten kids basically tortured each other.  The boys took turns trying to trick me and my other girl cousin into wandering out to the wash house in the backyard, where Aunty Inez did laundry.  “Don’t be scared,” they would say, “there’s no ghosts out there, only Duke and he won’t do anything.”  My brothers were snapped up in rollaway beds to play “Meet the Press,” (the cousins’ idea; they always got to watch more tv than we did), while the girl cousins kneaded Filipino/Irish potato rolls with Aunty Inez.

Post Napa Valley we headed out to Stockton where Yvette had a softball tournament.  I’d woken up that morning with a recurring facial swelling – sounds more gruesome than it is – so I ran to retrieve my Prednisone from the car, not looking forward to a day feeling like a caffeinated squirrel.  But hey, I looked forward to room service that evening; one glass of red wine delivered to your room goes a long way in the delta.  America, where wine, guns and steroids are 100% accessible, but birth control?  Not so much anymore.

The hotel highlight was seeing the contestants from the Baton Twirling National Championship arrive in our hotel.  Leggy young girls rolled in their costumes while their moms marched in, excited but puzzled they’d flown all the way to California to land in Stockton.  I wanted to tell them about the wines from Livermore and Lodi, but I’m not sure they were listening.  One sassy New York mom said to me in the elevator, “I told my mother, ‘well if you never hear from me again, I did find a nice church.'”  We exchanged a few words about teens on the way to college and split up at the pool, where five contestants in tiny, tiny shorts were throwing batons in the air and giggling.  I do like Hiltons.  They are the tofu of hotels, quietly absorbing whatever crazy flavor/foibles you’re bringing and offering you free soap and fluffy pillows.

So, if you’re road tripping anytime soon, here are a few reading suggestions: Tim Cahill (hilarious travel writer), Michael Lewis (no explanation necessary, and I love him, but his statistics alone will help you drift off in an unfamiliar bed), Where Nobody Knows Your Name, Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein, any and all the local papers (one of my favorite things to do and always a great source for local activities and restaurants, because let’s face it, key lime pie in the hotel lobby is $9.50 and terrible), Eudora Welty, the queen of southern writing and always worth a visit, and maybe a little Sandra Cisneros, Zadie Smith or Pablo Neruda just to keep it lively and thoughtful.  And if you’re not ready for a book commitment, pack a Smithsonian or Outside Magazine.

 

Thieves on the island

•June 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Mr. Halfstory has keen organization skills and yet, when I came home from physical therapy to get ready for The Son’s high school graduation, he was napping and The Son was just starting a new game on MLB The Show 2014.  It was 4:10pm.  Graduate arrival: 5:00pm.  Shower status: bone dry.  Now, I’m an easy date – no makeup required and I had visualized my outfit, which comprised of whatever was unwrinkled and made me look 40 (my new target age).  Halfstory had promised to clean the house for the assortment of relatives showing up post-graduation and had made good on most of it.  By this I mean he had, a) cleaned out the storage room, and b) flipped on a game and wiped down all surfaces with counter spray.  The storage room stuff was on the driveway, a la Sanford & Son.  When I clean I start with the bathrooms, because, upon arriving, every guest will examine the soap dish and towel situation and immediately pass judgement.  My mother taught me this important lesson.  Then I tackle the ongoing laundry crisis, which involves moving the pile(s) from the couch to our bed so we can pretend to fold it while watching tv.   Or else I just stuff everything into the closet and hope to find clean undergarments.  When summer arrives I get a better handle on things and the kids help out more consistently.  Or, to be truthful, they respond to my multiple requests before I throw all the technology into the cactus garden.

This morning we were home!  The girls were not playing in Stockton or Salinas; they were instead sleeping off two depressing softball losses from the day before.  The Son was buried and asleep under cheese stick wrappers and sweatshirts, coins scattered over his floor from the jeans piled up, fireman-style.  Halfstory was face down on his pillow while I searched in the laundry “system” for something clean and my size.  “Thieves,” he mumbled from the bed.  “They’re thieves.  They take our clothes, our money, sometimes our dignity, and my food.”

If you find something clean to wear and have a moment to read a summer book, try The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin.  It’s the Three Bears version of a good book: not too hot, not too cold, but just right.  Fikry owns a bookstore on an island catering to summer visitors and a small local population.  His life is rewritten when, one day, he comes across a toddler abandoned in his store.  At times airy and breezy, the book also handles complicated family relationships seamlessly, although, in my experience, families don’t sort things out as nimbly and amicably as Zevin does here.  But I don’t want that from a summer book.  I want to believe all the weirdness and perhaps-that-person-should-be-on-medication issues in a family can be summed up with hearty and honest conversations.  That said, the characters are wonderfully fallible and likable.  The earnest little girl reminded me of The Son, the original baby curmudgeon, now 18, who wears a plaid robe over his cereal bowl every morning and who often takes time to change out of his sports watch to the dress watch we gave him for graduation.

Kaui Hart Hemmings has a new book out, but I dipped into The Descendants, because my brother John (Keoni!) lived in Hawaii for years and said it was good.  Years ago when we lived together he taught me the word “sycophant.”  I can’t remember why but because we lived together in a tiny studio and we were both single for overlapping years, we ended up having some dumb, nonsensical adventures that only we continue to find amusing.   Growing up he always drank all the milk and would bribe me to go get him deviled ham in the can.  (Are they still wrapped in paper?  Why?)  One morning I got up early and refilled the empty milk carton with water.  I watched him pour water all over his Frosted Flakes and then I had  to run very fast.

I am always fascinated by women who can write from the male point of view (and vice versa).  It is incredibly sticky to do that; I’ve tried.  Hemmings does this very well.  Her protagonist, Matt King, has a wife in a coma, a cantankerous and post-rehab 18-year-old daughter and a precocious 10-year-old daughter as well.  They live in Hawaii on royal – inherited – land.  The family is messy and unpredictable, the dialogue is spot-on and Matt goes through all of this with a slouchy, shell-shocked attitude that sharpens as he gets to know his children.  Parents will appreciate Matt’s dad efforts. Non-parents will trip on how Hawaii plays its own role in his choices.  Check it out.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

•March 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Thirty seconds after Mr. Halfstory said, “you did a good job handling all the mood swings while I was gone,” Temper #2 flared up on the floor below us, like those fires that quickly engulf entire forests.  Within half an hour Yvette and I had covered six priority topics, eaten two or three slices of chocolate banana bread (ok, that was only me), lobbed a few threats, wiped away stress tears and I personally had snatched my pillow off my bed and said I was sleeping downstairs.  Halfstory lay very still on his side, hoping sleep would clobber him into insensitivity.  His shoulder massage contraption, plugged into the 40-foot-long orange extension cord snaking around the bed perimeter hummed, raising my irritation level, but only for a minute.  Poor Big Bacon Bringer did have an important early meeting.  I had a brief flashback of my step-dad – sweet guy that he is – turning around to address my complaint about our VW bug and how it seemed to be smoking from the back seat.  “It’s hauls your ass to school, doesn’t it?”  he yelled more than once, over the high gurgly whine of the engine.  I’ve reflected more than once that as little as my parents wanted to hear about my emotions, my generation of parents hears about nothing but emotions, via our ongoing encouragement to communicate.  This is good, of course, but sometimes I find I have to cut them off and say the thing that irritated me the most when my mom would say it: “It’s going to be fine.”  “What does that mean?  I don’t believe you!”  I would silently wonder.  Back then it seemed to me a big stinking lie about which I needed to worry.  This explains a lot, now.  So, clad in my faux-leopard-fur robe and seeking peace, I tried to channel (a):

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while Mr. Halfstory was channeling (b):

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He won.

I cracked open my book, Runner, by Patrick Lee, my chosen palate cleanser after The Goldfinch.  Expecting a Lee Child-ish thriller, I was surprised to find it kind of, well, creepy.  And I mean that in a good way.  It is a thriller with lots of twists, betrayals and implausible fights with weapons that suddenly appear and everyone knows how to operate.  Sam Dryden is ex-everything (Special Ops, etc.) and therefore equipped to manage the flight of Rachel, a 12-year-old girl he literally runs into early one morning.  She’s running from some kind of evil.  The mystery is finding out how insidious it is…and from where it originates.   Lee has an unusual way of keeping Sam in the background, almost just a catalyst, for the action and the mystery, except to reveal his tragic family history.  But that drives the story, too.  Usually with this kind of book, it’s all about what a bad-ass the protagonist is, and his inevitable choice to be a loner.  Not so much here.   Creep and all, it’s a timely brushstroke on thought control and privacy, with some cool genetic science thrown in.

Take no notice of the girl wearing pleated brown plaid

•February 16, 2014 • 2 Comments

We moved to San Ramon when I was 16; for 2 years I commuted to my small Catholic high school in San Francisco.  My mom and I would be dropped off – rather unceremoniously – around 7:00 am every morning on Market Street while my step-dad – early shift – went to work.  Market Street was much more navigable then: fewer aggressive vagrants, less brazen street crime.  But it was seedy and my mom and I might as well have had targets painted on us, me with my brown plaid uniform skirt (pleated!) and she with fashionable high heels and a purse crammed with credit cards.  I think that’s why I got a job at the Market Street Wendy’s: just to have some place to go for an hour and a half before school.  How we would have embraced a Peet’s or a Starbuck’s!  But this was before email or cell phones; modern cafes were scarce.  Nice Asian ladies working prep shifts in restaurants would often take pity on us and serve us tepid coffee.  Sometimes my scary boss at Wendy’s would let my mom in for their faux-java swill while she lambasted me about my bad tomato-chopping attitude.  (This could be the reason I hate making salads.  If there is a potluck situation I immediately assign the salad choice to someone else.  So much wasted chopping time when I could be rolling out cookie dough.)

My employment history continued along a similar vein for several years, mostly because of my commute.  You may ask why I didn’t just transfer to a sparkly new high school in the East Bay.  Let’s do some calculations.  Current high school: 300 students, all girls.  Social status at current high school: invisible but comfortable, which means I never got asked to any dances but I also avoided getting beaten up by local derby-jacket-wearing cholas, a victory in itself.  I put this solidly in the win column.  Plus, I’d figured out my hair situation by then (finally departing the Chaka Khan train) and I had smart friends who didn’t know how to put on make-up either and were willing to occasionally discuss the hazards of nervous sweat.  Potential high school: 1,200 students, half boys.  OK to stop right there; I’m sure you get my drift.  There was social failure staring at me, waiting to grab hold of my Class of 1980 sweater!  Also, I wasn’t as smart as the nuns thought; I didn’t care to have that exposed by 1,199 other kids.  The nice Asian ladies were easier to fool.

All of this brings me to the book I finally finished after half a century: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.  I read The Secret History, which I remember liking, although it was a bit like viewing an interesting art house movie, in that I saw it but didn’t really understand it.  The Goldfinch is a remarkable and long-winded journey.  Tartt is a tortuous kind of writer; her prose is so yummy and chewy you can’t help but stick with it.  I found, though, she used her protagonist Theo like a literary tease.  I rooted for him while being absolutely disappointed in him.  I slapped my forehead over his decisions and applauded his insight.  For as long as it took me to read this book I felt like I’d raised Theo myself.  So much happens to this painting and to this boy I cannot go into detail; read the front jacket flap.  If you like minute detail on art, drug-addiction, unrequited love, absolute parental love, child abuse, refurbishing antiques and seedy Russians, you will love this book.  I was riveted.  That said, I have penned a short letter to the author:

Dear Ms. Tartt,

I have enclosed the contact details for a good friend who is also, conveniently, an editor.  She will guide your hand as you delete all the unnecessary details about Theo’s junkie odor to Pippa’s luminous pallor, to name a few.  You will then have yourself a modern classic which, clearly, is your goal.  Keep up the good work!  Go Mets!

Sincerely,

Alice Townsend

 
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