“It is hard for a writer to call an editor great, because it is natural for him to think of the editor as a writer manqu
Archives for August 1, 2006
Racing to get out of town last week, I neglected to leave word that I was going. Sorry about that. It was my fourth annual sojourn to the utterly involving, continually surprising, and most excellently populated National Puzzler’s League convention, this year held in San Antonio, where the heat outside is smothering and the AC inside is headsplitting. Despite climatic challenges, I had a more than wonderful time.
Having arrived back home yesterday, I am faced with a back-breaking beginning of the work week, which was kicked off with a three-hour meeting today and more accumulated emails than I could count or, certainly, answer. After work I went to break the cat out of kitty jail, otherwise known as boarding at the veterinarian’s. Anyone one who knows her will attest that this is one ridiculously gorgeous cat, a long-haired butterscotch tabby with golden eyes. Well, after five days at the vet’s, being brought out in her kitty caddy, she looked every bit like Bill the Cat–grizzled, askew, and pretty much demented. By now she’s close to normal again, and we both need some sleep in a comfortable place. More blogging later this week.
“A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer
I boarded a train for Connecticut at Penn Station last Friday afternoon to embark on a long weekend of playgoing. A half-hour later the engine failed, and we crawled back to the station to get a new one. I arrived in Hartford three hours late, having spent the preceding five hours sitting in a jam-packed Amtrak car without benefit of air conditioning.
From that moment on, things started going wrong, and kept going wrong. I presented myself at a rental-car counter in a suburban mall the following morning–and spent fifteen increasingly frustrating minutes waiting for a clerk to materialize. The overworked, well-meaning clerk considerately upgraded me to a convertible–and by the time I got where I was going, I had a nice rosy sunburn. I went looking for lunch in Lenox, Massachusetts, home of Shakespeare & Company–and discovered that there is nowhere to park within the city limits on Saturday afternoons. (No, I’m not exaggerating for a laugh. When I say nowhere, I mean nowhere.) I showed up for a matinee of The Merry Wives of Windsor that I’d mistakenly thought was supposed to start at two o’clock–and found out from the friendly young lady at the box office that it actually started at three.
When I awoke the next day and realized that I had begun the lengthy, exasperating process of passing a kidney stone, it occurred to me for the first time that I might possibly be in a Philadelphia. Anyone familiar with the one-act plays of David Ives will know what I’m talking about, and tremble with awestruck sympathy. In The Philadelphia Ives describes with sadistic relish the kind of day in which “no matter what you ask for, you can’t get it.” This unhappy circumstance, a character explains, is a metaphysical state of mind known as “being in a Philadelphia.” Had I fallen all unknowing into such a dire condition? I nervously swallowed a handful of Tylenol, drove north to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown–and saw as I approached the museum grounds that hundreds of children were playing on the front lawn. It was Family Day. Now I knew: I was in a Philadelphia.
Once I accepted my fate and prepared for the worst, I wondered if perhaps I might only be in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where you get half of what you ask for. Yes, the Clark was jammed–but admission is free on Family Day, and The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings, the show I’d come to see,
was every bit as eye-popping as its reviews had promised. Yes, I spent the evening sitting under the Hudson Valley Shakepeare Festival tent, watching the company perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream in ninety-degree weather as I squirmed in discomfort–but I got a good dinner beforehand, and the kidney stone exited my person after the show without further incident. Yes, the air conditioner in my hotel room was on the blink–but the staff of the Hudson House Inn installed a new window unit while I was watching the play, and thereafter I slept deeply and well. Yes, I’d seen three Shakespeare plays in thirty hours–but seeing Merry Wives, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet back to back is its own reward.
I arose on Monday, breakfasted on a sunny porch overlooking the Hudson River, and drove back to Connecticut along green country roads, certain that I was on my way out of the suburbs of David Ives’ metaphysical city of frustration. Only time will tell, but as of Tuesday morning, I haven’t experienced any further disasters or half-disasters. On the other hand, I’ve still got to write my review, the country home where I’m staying this week has yet to install a high-speed connection to the Internet, and it’s going to be even hotter than it was last week….
Regarding Mel Gibson’s drunken encounter with a Malibu cop, Christopher Hitchens nailed it:
One does not abruptly decide, between the first and second vodka, or the ticks of the indicator of velocity, that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are valid after all.
Here endeth the lesson.