Over coffee my mother-in-law asked me for advice about toenails. Specifically, she went into details about my father-in-law’s toenail issue, which I will not go into because not only do I never want to hear about that stuff, neither should anyone, unless you have a cheaply framed medical degree hanging behind your desk.
I shook my head in fear, claimed ignorance, dumped my coffee out, and went back to my Donna Leon mystery, Beastly Things. I love Donna Leon. Despite grisly murders and soul-sucking corruption in Venice, her books featuring Guido Brunetti are palate cleansers after thought-provoking non-fiction, or too much perusal/disgust of the op-ed page. The reader can go to Venice, walk alongside the canals with Brunetti, participate in lively discussions with his intellectual wife and children, and ingest cappuccinos and homemade pasta midday. Leon’s prose follows the same cadence as her descriptions of Italian meals: well-paced, lush and authentic. For the hard-core mystery fan who requires neat endings and justice served, you may need to look elsewhere. Police work is messy and complex in Brunetti’s world, and while he always pegs the culprit, the end isn’t always just. In other words, come for the mystery but come back for Venice.
Ramona took this snap at the International Orange exhibit at Fort Point:
Several artists – I want to say 10 – interpreted international orange (the color of the Golden Gate Bridge, celebrating this year its 75th anniversary) and installed their pieces within rooms at Fort Point. It’s windswept a la Manderley, with ghosts and shadows of soldiers roaming around, or so I imagined. Perfect place for such an exhibit, as I’ve always thought artists would welcome restless ghosts and all their troubled stories. My textile conservator friend suggested we take the girls there and I said, “oh yeah, sure,” thinking, “god I hope there’s a coffee cart.” But she’s always right about these things. It was an adventure! The exhibit was profoundly creative: everything from crepe dresses to enormous pinhole cameras, to fake orange-themed gifts shops and tapestries woven to emulate orange fog. All while the bay crashed around outside and knocked us over while we climbed the weird and creepy metal stairs. And what is it about seeing an old army surgeon’s quarters that makes you shiver and relieved there really is a coffee cart not too far away?
Last week the girls and I helped out my folks with their great-grandson, who, through the ever changing kaleidoscope that is my family, stays with them four days and nights every week. The other part of the week he is with his grandmother (my sister) but that is an even longer and more colorful tale. Anyway, my step-dad, who is mostly helpful, was busy watching a blonde “newscaster” on Fox news, eating beef jerky out of a bag while my mom chased Monkey Boy around the house. Monkey Boy does not like naps. He eluded us for awhile but in the end we cornered him, shoved his stuffed dog into his arms and plunked him into the crib. This took all of us. Ramona and Yvette, exhausted from 12-1/2 minutes of focused childcare, also plunked down and dove into their books. My mom and I exchanged carefully chosen family gossip, and after she drifted off to yell at my step-dad, I searched in my car for the book I’d picked up from a used shelf and was hesitant to begin, Wife 22, by Melanie Gideon, mostly because I smelled modern romance and was already feeling resentful. Not even sure why I bought, really; even the cover irritated me. But I was hooked! Using all current media (Twitter, Facebook, e-mail), and some oldies (prose, playwriting), Gideon tells the story of Alice Buckle, a twenty-year wife, adrift but hopeful, wondering what happened to her life, her marriage, wondering if her son is gay, if her daughter is harboring destructive secrets and if she really should be flirting with someone she’s never met, and if her husband will ever be employed again. Sounds like several throwaway (and overdone) premises, but Gideon writes with depth and humor. She manages to be poignant without getting goopy and sentimental. And that is no small feat. My crabby old soul bought the romance fully packaged, even though she tidied up the messes a bit too neatly. But, as someone who has a full wardrobe of loose strings, mental and otherwise, it felt kind of satisfying.