Tuesday, January 13, 2009
A Lazy Shade of Winter
About a year ago, during a shopping mall lunch with my then fourteen-year-old niece, the child suddenly shifted focus from her plate of rapidly congealing lo mien to ask, “Aunt Moi? What is it that you do for a living again?”
I explained to her that I was a writer.
She paused for a second, looked down at the bag holding the latest Stephen King novel I had allowed her to purchase earlier that day, and said, “You mean like him?”
“No, honey,” I replied. “If I were a writer like him, you and I wouldn’t be sitting here eating crap Chinese food and drinking flat Diet Coke.”
We’d be at the Four Seasons in Manhattan quaffing caviar and Cosmos. Or, rather, I’d be at the Four Seasons. The niece would be in boarding school.
Of course, it’s not that bad, writing for a living. It’s just that I didn’t want to glamorize the profession, because I’m hoping my niece ends up doing what any smart kid in this day and age should do upon exiting high school and that is study to become a doctor, lawyer, or computer programmer. A rock star would be good, too.
So, yes, there are advantages to my chosen vocation. Like the unassailable fact that regardless of laughable pay and chop happy editors, writing for a living is like having the universe hand you a never-expiring hall pass to life.
Which means that on any given day, if we writers so choose, we can shower, put on clean clothing, hoist ourselves out from behind our computers and go out into the world, in the middle of the day, while everyone else is slogging it out in cubicles breathing re-conditioned air and counting down the minutes to lunch. And if, like me, you are also a person who regularly likes to go out into the world alone (all the better to focus on the perfume samples at Sephora)? Bonus.
Yesterday was one of those bonus days, filled not just with things I had to do, but with things I wanted to do. Like, first and foremost, stop off at the local Barnes and Noble to see which writers are currently snagging Random House contracts regardless of talent and to purchase the entire three seasons of the dearly departed series, Deadwood. Because not only are S.B. and I major fans of anything related to the history of the American West, we are now in the middle of that mid-winter wasteland known as television re-run season. After fourteen bazillion years of marriage, it is, trust Moi, tres importante to have a set schedule of shared television shows.
Any of y'all ever been to Deadwood, South Dakota? Highly storied place. Not that you'd know it, visiting there today. S.B. and I certainly were not impressed, and I don't think it was just because our visit fell on the day after we’d just finished three excruciating pitches up Devil’s Tower before being forced down by rain. Yes, we were as bruised and battered on the inside as we were on the outside, but, even worse, we'd timed the whole trip to unknowingly coincide with the week before the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Not only were we dismayed to discover that Deadwood is mostly one long-ass tourist-trappy mainstreet, but on that particular occasion it was also teeming with sun-soaked hoards of doctors, lawyers, and stock brokers slumming it for the duration. All wearing ass-less chaps, no less. Shiver. Biker chic is SO not Moi.
Back to Barnes and Noble. As I stood in line behind a half dozen other patiently waiting purchasers, I got to wondering: just who in the heck are all these Middle of the Day People who, for some reason, seem to have all the time in the world to peruse the book, DVD, and CD racks at their local bookshop at 10:23 on a Monday morning?
Were they, like Moi, side-stepping a looming 1,000-word feature article on their region’s new septic tank regulations or were they here for other reasons? Like, retirement? I looked around. Only one gentleman seemed old enough. On the dole? Not with that amount of stuff clutched in their arms. Independently wealthy? Not unless pilled fleece has suddenly become the uniform of trust fund babies everywhere and, besides, all those folks hang out up in Santa Fe anyway.
No, all these Middle of the Day People seemed, in fact, to belong to a distinctive category of mid-thirties male all bound by the singular inability to pronounce the sibilant “s” and whose DVD purchase of the day is not the latest teen sex comedy or newly released Saw anthology, but the lone, discount bin copy of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In other words, when not cruising the stacks at the ol' B&N? These guys are at home. In their parent's basement. Writing computer code for the next Dungeons and Dragons.
Enough of that.
Tomorrow: why men should never, ever, and I mean EVER, accompany women on shopping trips.