Monday, July 22, 2013

Dog Days of Summer

     We are currently coming off a heat wave here in New York. “Wave” is just not the right word when you talk about heat. Wave makes me think of tropical beaches and breezes and this summer blast was so hot and stagnant, it felt like I was wearing Eli Manning’s New York Giants jersey after Manning had spent a game in it.

     Perhaps we should find a new term for a heat wave. I’d like to call it an “oven roaster” but that makes me think about chicken and I’ve sworn off all meat and wheat since January so that doesn’t cut it either. Any suggestions?

     I am digressing. That’s what the heat will do to you. I know I should have an air conditioner in my home office but I hate the way window units make you feel—all clammy and chilled, like a piece of lettuce that has spent too long in the refrigerator. Window units never cool evenly. I didn’t want to end up with one of those little old-lady sweaters slung over my shoulders while still having my bare thighs in shorts sticking to my chair. My chair, incidentally, is made of something called "leatherette," which bears as much resemblance to leather as Velveeta bears to cheese. The heat melted the back of my thighs to the seat with the result that every time I got up, I felt like Steve Carell getting a wax job in The Forty Year Old Virgin.

     The problem, I decided, was that I wasn’t drinking enough water. So I forced a liter down me with the result that when I moved, I felt like I had my own undertow. Not to mention that I couldn’t venture farther than my front lawn without needing a bathroom.

     My office quickly went from Hemingway-with-a-ceiling-fan-in-Key-West to Dante’s First Circle of Hell. My productivity went the same way. But this allowed me to perfect my theory of displaced creativity. It goes like this:

     The more time you have to create something, the less creating you will do and the more creative you will become in all your other endeavors. With heat levels rising, my work came to a standstill. But I found new ways to be creative without putting a single word to paper. I made a birthday card for my son that involved an entire evening of trying to format pictures of him to fit the scale of President Obama, the oval office couch, a flat screen TV and a leftover box of pepperoni pizza (the beginning to a bad joke, I fear). I delighted my daughter by turning cutup bananas smeared in peanut butter and dotted with blueberries into an impromptu game of Battleship. I turned baking powder, party balloons and yarn into lumpy-faced stress relievers (amazing what you can do with the crap lying around in your house). I watched the movie Adaptation about real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman wrestling with his neurosis and writer’s block while still managing to actually turn out a movie. (How come my neurosis isn’t as profitable as his?)

     At least I haven’t completely lost my mind, not like some of the people who call up my husband’s firehouse in the city. Recently, the firefighters there received a 911call from a gentleman who believed he was experiencing a heart attack and needed an FDNY ambulance to take him to the hospital.

     “Why do you think you are having a heart attack, Sir?” the fire department dispatcher asked him.

     “Because my chest hurts after running.”

     “So you were jogging?”

     “No. I was running from the police.”

     Maybe he decided that jail would be cooler than his apartment after all.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why Fast Isn't Always Better

     I'm coming up on 30 days with no word from any publishers on whether or not they want to take on my book. I'm trying to look on the bright side. Nobody has rejected me yet. The Fourth of July is coming up. People won't even be in the office the rest of the week. A lot of them will probably be out in the Hamptons or up in the Berkshires.  Do I really want an editor giving serious thought to my work with a Mai Tai in his or her hand? The kind with those little paper parasols?

     Damn right, I do!

     Scratch that. It isn't going to happen. So I will content myself with the realization that fast isn't always better. I'm reminded of last fall during Hurricane Sandy when my son was in Cambodia. Our phones and internet were out. We had no heat or hot water for two weeks. In the midst of the crisis, my husband received an email from our son at work. Here is the entire (and I do mean ENTIRE) message:

     In Cambodia   Ill   Call Later

     Our son? Half way around the world and so ill he can barely type out a message? We didn't even have a working phone to reach him on. There were gas lines everywhere. I wasn't sure I had enough fuel in my car to drive to JFK airport, let alone figure out how to get a flight to Phnom Penh (and yes, I had to look up the spelling. And no, I didn't have internet access to do it).

     We finally managed to get through to his college in California. I was sure he was already being evacuated to an ICU at the best hospital in Honolulu. But when I spoke to the director stateside, he told me none of the students had reported being ill. I insisted they try their direct contacts in Cambodia. A day later, word came back that our son was fine.

     When we had phone service again, I chewed my son out royally for worrying us like that.
     "I never said I was ill," he insisted.

     I reread him his text message.

     "Sorry. I dashed it off quickly. Forgot the punctuation."

     The message should have read:  In Cambodia. I'll call later.

     (Thank God he's not planning on becoming a copy editor when he graduates!)

     So--I will be patient--sort of. Failing that, make my Mai Tai a double and stick in two parasols...