Don’t Die

The new-new bartender warmly greeted a bunch of her friends an hour ago — two women and one guy, and things seemed casual and friendly. Then the thin girl with the large breasts arrived. His attention shifted to her, and so did mine. Anorexic Boob-Job Girl, I dubbed her. I started composing an episode about her charms, but then I looked closer. Her upper arms are about the size of my wrists, and I have my mother’s wrists. What I started to write as a joke is in fact a horror, and while I admired her I was shoveling dirt on her grave.

She is anorexic boob-job girl. I’m looking at someone committing one of the most horrific slow suicides imaginable, and I haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it. It’s an American impulse, I suppose, thinking that there is a solution, and that I am the guy to apply it. I feel guilty, now, thinking “Dang! She’s hot!” when I first saw her, before I saw what wasn’t there.

I don’t know what to say to anyone reading this who is shooting for weight zero. Don’t? Stop? You’re beautiful now, just as you are, and no number on a scale will ever change that? There is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before.

Except maybe don’t die. Don’t die. We need you on this side, sensitive and frightened, honest and hurt. In this big brutal world, we need you more than ever.

I need you. I need to believe that you exist. I need to hope that I can meet you someday, by chance, and you’ll never know that I was the guy who wrote this, and I’ll never know that this helped you, but we’ll bump someday, on the A train in New York or the tram in Prague, just by accident, a little embarrassing incident, something minor we’ll chuckle over for the rest of our time, and we will both discover happiness. Chances are it won’t be me you bump, but some other lonely soul. That doesn’t matter, but it won’t happen if you’re dead.

Words, words, words. Useless futile hopeless words. Sinuous vipers that twist themselves to the tune of the piper. In the end, they are nothing, but they are all I have. Words, and when a life is at stake I know just how useless words can be. There is nothing I can say, nothing I can write, that will stop the woman in front of me from killing herself. There’s nothing I can do to stop anyone from starving herself to death, except ask. Please, don’t. For me. I use the smoke as an excuse, but I can’t get away with crying in a crowded bar too often.

Selling Soap – This is How Stupid I Am

Apparently, the director for this commercial is slower than most. On day two of shooting, a van came and picked me up at my house and got me to the set at 7:15. At 3:30 I still had yet to be used. I sat and read near the little space heater in the room where the food was.

Sitting near me was a pretty woman, bundled up and sitting directly in front of the heater, reading a worn, cloth-bound book. It looked like literature. As other people were called onto the set occasionally, she never budged. She wasn’t wearing a lab coat, so I figured she wasn’t in the cast, but she didn’t appear to be part of the crew, either. After a while I figured out that she was the set medic. She didn’t speak much English, and she seemed a little shy when people came to ask for cold medicine or whatnot. Occasionally something amusing would happen nearby and we would exchange a chuckle. I tried to think of some way to broach a conversation with her, when we had so few words in common.

Eventually my name was called and I limped out onto the set. My shoes had given me a blister on my heel the day before. False alarm; I limped back to the waiting room. She looked up from her book and I shrugged and rolled my eyes and she smiled. I returned to my book, wondering what I could say to her. A while later the call came again, I limped back out, false alarm, and back I went. Smiles exchanged, back to the books.

Some of you, by now, may have already caught on. Let’s review the salient points:

  • There was a pretty woman sitting a few feet away from me for hours and hours
  • She reads old books
  • I wanted to talk to her
  • She was bored
  • She was a nurse
  • I was injured
  • It is her job to help injured people

You see it? The subtle opportunity I missed? To not only talk to her, but to get some relief for my heel as it bled into my sock?

Man, I’m stupid. I wonder, now, if I would have thought to ask for help if the nurse had been a toothless old man.


“For your deliction” might more awkwardly and less precisely be phrased “to be enjoyed by you as a delicacy”, or “for you to find to be delicious”. “For your indulgence” is a common enough phrase, but there are different nuances that leave the substitute inadequate. I’m not indulging you. Deliction is about the simple pleasure of a moment, and has none of the decadence implied by indulgence. I’m not asking for your indulgence, either. If you don’t find this delicious, blow me. “For your delight” is closer, but less tasty.

The closest standing word in Mr. Oxford’s American Dictionary is “delict”, a legal term, a noun, something about breaking laws. Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas (“The Empire”), its author, flunkies, hangers-on, sycophants, functionaries, yes-men, no-men, toadies, and armies of brain-hungry zombies do not condone or encourage any legal misdeeds by using the word “deliction” in the “What’s New” section above.


Selling Soap – The Books I Read

I knew I’d have a lot of time on my hands on set, so with bleary eyes I surveyed the small stack of books awaiting my attention. On this first day of shooting More Booze Than Blood by Sean Meagher joined The Art of the Novel, a collection of essays by Milan Kundera, in my backpack.

On the metro I slowly digested some of Kundera’s “Sixty-three Words”. That essay is dedicated to defining some of the words he uses and the particular meaning they have in the context of his work; it was inspired by horrific experiences Kundera has had when The Joke was translated from the original Czech. To quote Kundera directly: “In France, the translator rewrote the novel by ornamenting my style. In England, the publisher cut out all the reflective passages, eliminated the musicological chapters, changed the order of the parts, recomposed the novel.” Subsequent translations were based on one of these two, not the original Czech. It reminded me of my eariler episode in which I mention the copy editor for “Memory of a Thing that Never Was.” That was a very clean manuscript, but only if you accept my rambling style. A good translator has to have the courage to defy the traditions of the language to be stylistically faithful to the original work. To paraphrase Kundera: Critic: “That’s not how we say it in our language!” Kundera: “That’s not how we say it in Czech, either!”

I’ll discuss the substance of Kundera’s essays elsewhere, I think, or just practice dropping them into conversations when I’m playing the ex-pat writer game.

Once on location, dressed, and painted, I settled into “hurry up and wait” mode. I pulled out More Booze than Blood. I really, really liked this book. Meagher writes with balls, giving us a cast of characters broken, flawed, and unlikeable in every way, and makes us like them. We cringe and hope and want to smack them and say “Just stop it!” As the reader you see the waste, the futility, as everything slides towards violence, and they see it too. What unites these people is a sense that life is futile, stupid, insane, but there’s no sense worrying about it, because it’s not going to change no matter what you do. I was dog-tired on the metro home that night, but I knew I wasn’t going to go to bed until I finished the book. I almost missed my metro stop, I was so wrapped up. (Note that this book contains some sex, some violence, and a lot of profanity.)

Having said that, the subject of a copy editor comes up again. This book is self-published, and could really have benefitted from a good edit. Many times I got bumped out of the narrative by a distracting grammatical error. (Lay and lie are pretty much backwards throughout.) It’s a pity, but with a little attention from a friendly editor this book would be deserving of a lot of notice. If you like writing with balls, go out and buy lots of copies of this book so the next one can get the support it needs. If errors like that will prevent you from enjoying the work, buy lots of copies, don’t read them, and hope for a reprint later.

Day two of the shoot I didn’t pack the laptop, so I knew I would need even more reading material. I had no idea how right I was, as the day stretched on and on. I packed two more titles from my birthday plunder, Something Grand by John Flynn and Into the Forest by Jean Hegelund. I finished the Kundera on the van to the location, but there are parts of that I will need to go over again.

Something Grand is not in the style of Chandler, as I previously asserted. It is a series of shorts stories, most revolving around the theme of the hardships of the working poor, the impossibility of getting ahead and the passing of demons from one generation to the next. Many of the stories are very good, a couple of them hauntingly so, but others sag under the weight of too much imagery and metaphor — too much salad and not enough meat. I think there’s a school of thought these days that, much like you can’t overhop a beer, you can’t use too much imagery. There’s something for me to learn in that. There is a time for rich imagery and grand metaphor, but at some point you have to climb down into the muck with the poor SOB’s you’ve forced unwillingly into existence and make them work.

Into the Forest is, as I mentioned in a previous episode (after reading only the first paragraph), one of those books where you read the first paragraph and know you are in good hands. It is a very hopeful book about the end of western civilization, an eloquent back-to-nature piece that brings you to the mystical reconnection of mankind and nature gradually, and along the way touches on all that makes humanity grand and frail. I must confess there were parts that got too sentimental for me, but I’m not really a sentimental guy, you know? There are characters in my own writing who are far more sentimental than I am, but if there weren’t, my stories would be bleak, indeed.

Finally, having exhausted all the words I had at my disposal, I accepted from another extra a series of essays by James Baldwin, and read an interesting piece on his relationship with Norman Mailer. When he talked about his reaction when Mailer announced he was going to run for the mayor of New York, it had a strange echo with something Kundera said to me just that morning — that any public life the writer exposes undermines the work, and doing that is irresponsible to the art. Neither of them quite said it that way, and Baldwin might accuse me of putting words in his mouth, but in any case it is something for a blogger/writer to consider.

Consider, consider, consider… OK, done! On with the blog! Baldwin and Kundera would both consider me a hack anyway, though I prefer “storyteller”. (We’ll have to see if The Fish can change that.)

So, what have you read lately? There has been some of this theme stirring in the comments lately, but now I want to hear what you’ve finished reading lately and what you thought of it. What do you plan to read next and why? Am I being too shameless pandering for comments?

NOTE: If you use the above Amazon link to buy the book I get a kickback. It really was a good story.

Strč tinkerbell prst skrz

I saw this headline on and I find it aesthetically pleasing:

Zopakují Mighty Ducks jízdu zp?ed t?í let?

So, there’s one advantage to giving your team a silly name.