Monday, August 27, 2007

Grown Men Crying

As I type these words, each one is underlined in red. Why each word is underlined in red I have no idea. How I can prevent each word from being underlined in red, I do not know. What I do know is that I am on the verge of a temper tantrum of epic proportions. And as always, my anger, rage, and fury are directed against myself. How can I be so incredibly, unbelievably stupid as not to know how to stop every word--except, significantly, for "I"--from being underlined in red?
I of course went to "View" and clicked on "Reveal Codes," which shows exactly what is being done in careful detail. But is there anything there… anything …to indicate that each word is being underlined in red? Well, of course there isn't.

I have rebooted my computer in the naive belief that when everything came back up, whatever is causing the underlinings would disappear.

Did it? (If your answer is "Yes," you must be even more naive than I am.)

What does it matter that each word is underlined in red…a marking, incidentally, which normally only appear to indicate a misspelled word. Perhaps every word I have typed has been misspelled. But checking my dictionary for the spelling of the word "to" I see that by all accounts, it is spelled correctly. But I digress (oh, now there's a news flash!). So if the words are not misspelled…and I am suddenly comforted by the idea that if I do misspell a word, I will have no way of knowing, since they're ALL underlined in red.…what is the problem? What did I do to create the problem?

Countless times, I have somehow (I never, ever know how) struck a wrong key and all hell has broken loose, and I assume this is one of those instances. I know I did something wrong. I know that the solution is so astoundingly simple that, should I ever find it, I will feel like even more of an idiot than I already feel.

Utter frustration results in tears of utter rage and utter confusion and utter…what's the word I'm looking for? Ah, yes…frustration. I feel my chest filling up with them, but of course I cannot actually let them out, much as I might want to. Real men don't cry. No, they don't! That's what adults hammer into male children from the minute they are old enough to understand what is being said to them. And would grown-ups lie to a child? So I do not cry. Instead, my chest becomes a pressure cooker with the rage turning the tears to steam and the little indicator moving steadily further into the red zone until I at times fear for what might happen if I cannot control it.

And every word I have typed is underlined in red.

I just went back to "View" and "Reveal Codes" thinking that just because it didn't help last time, it might help this time. I noted a little icon called "Graphics" had a check mark in front of it. I clicked it to remove it, sure that I had solved the problem. I had not.

I am a writer. I write books. Each book has tens of thousands of words and I must resign myself to the fact that from this moment on, every single one of those tens of thousands of words will be underlined in red, and I will never be able to know when I have actually misspelled a word, and my ears will ring with the sound of the computer gods' laughter.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Beauty Postponed

As so often happens, yesterday afternoon I realized I had not yet written today’s blog, and set out to do so post-haste. I chose the topic of “Beauty”, a subject of great interest to me, but with which I have had little direct personal contact. I got about two thirds through it and, upon reading what I’d written, realized I must have been channeling one of the lesser Victorian romance writers. I found it ponderous, pontifical, and florid to the point of embarrassment. It eminated the distinct scent of talcum powder.

So I decided to hold off on it for a while, which was probably a good idea. However, having done so, that left me with no blog for today. I went to bed thinking—I am nothing if not an optimist—that I would whip one out this morning when I got up.

The only problem I find in “whipping one out” is that it quite often tends to read as though I had done just that. Plus the fact that I awoke at 4:15, probably anticipating the arrival today of my friend Gary, who is moving to Chicago and will be living in my building, and could not go back to sleep, leaving me a bit groggy when I did crawl out of bed around six. And it is now, as I type, 6:56.

But since you are so kind as to take your valuable time to stop by, you have every right to expect to find something when you do. This is, I grant you, not much of an entry, and probably one of the shortest I’ve ever done, but I do hope it might tide you over until Friday, when I promise I’ll try to have something a tad more substantial.

Thanks for bearing with me.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back

Monday, August 13, 2007

C'est Moi!

Louis XIV is credited with saying “L’etat, C’est Moi!”, though I can’t prove it, being preoccupied at the time with standing in a 300-year-long line waiting my turn to be born. But I’ve not only shared but greatly expanded on Louis’ sentiment. Like small children, I am firmly convinced I am not merely “the state” but that the universe revolves around me. What keeps me from being totally insufferable (I hope), is that the zenith of my ego has always been offset by a nadir of self loathing.

Despite unconditional love from my parents and family, I grew up with the absolute certainty that I was a complete failure as a human being and (thanks to church and Sunday school) “an abomination in the eyes of God”—don’t ‘cha just love religion?—and the fact that I have always demanded a form of perfection from myself that nobody could possibly come even close to attaining.

When it came to anything involving physical skill, grace, or coordination, I failed miserably. All I had to do was look around at everyone else, who seemed to move through life effortlessly and with the grace I so longed for and never had. As a result, if I could not do something well, I would not do it at all. I never quite grasped the concept of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If I tried it and it didn’t work, put one more mark in the “self loathing” column.

And so, because I was never able to be what I expected myself to be in the physical world in which we all live, I turned inward to books and to fantasy, where physicality was never a factor. To protect myself from the toxic effects of an astoundingly poor self image, I set about carefully constructing wondrous fantasies of the finest blocks of polished ego to save myself from utter destruction. If I could not fit into the real world, I’d build worlds of my own.

Yet to this day I am bemused by the degree to which I seek the approval of others. Again, like a small child, whenever I do something of which I am proud, I insist on running around to anyone who will listen, hoping they will think I truly am as wonderful as I would like to think myself as being—or at least not as bad.

Being able to escape into my own fantasy world through my writing has, I honestly feel, been my greatest personal accomplishment. And on those occasions that other people seem to enjoy the worlds I have created, and actually feel as comfortable in them as I do, I find the validation I have been seeking all my life.

To get a letter or email from a reader kind enough to tell me that they enjoy my books and/or the workings of my mind never fails to produce a sensation of mild euphoria and reassurance that perhaps I am not quite as alone as I sometimes think I am. It’s a nice feeling.

The universe may not in fact revolve around me, but like all my fantasies (and some of my assumptions) it is a harmless delusion from which even the realist in me can derive a degree of bemusement. I’ll take whatever small pleasures I can find. I would hope you might do the same.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

All in a Day's Work

My dear friend Gary has just retired from teaching and will be moving to Chicago with a week or so. One of his greatest concerns, expressed frequently and with all sincerity as the date of his retirement neared, was what he would possibly find to do with himself when he no longer had to be at school at the crack of dawn. I’ve done my best to assure him that it will not be a problem, and I think he’s coming to realize that even in the short time since his retirement became official.

I of course consider myself blessed by the fact that my “work” and my principle joy in life are the same: writing. As a result, my days fall into what I’m sure many people would consider a rut, but which I think of as a comfortable routine.

Up between 5:30 and 6, not through choice but simply because my body’s built-in alarm clock simply will not permit me to sleep any longer, though I truly wish it would.

Turn on the computer as I pass it on my way to the bathroom to let my cat, Crickett, out. (I keep here closed in the bathroom at night to prevent her from wandering back and forth across me while I sleep and, most bothersome of all, making frequent nose-to-nose inspections to make sure I am truly asleep and not dead.

Check e-mail, putter, sometimes panic-write a blog if it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday and I’ve somehow not prepared one the day before. Post the blog on the correct days, then turn on the Today Show at 7. (Some habits are indeed strange. Why NBC? Because I always watch NBC. And why do I always watch NBC? Because I always watch NBC. A rose is a rose is a rose.)

Put coffee on...another inexplicable habit, since I honestly am not crazy about coffee and never have been. I can’t remember when I’ve actually finished an entire cup, either at home or out. While waiting for the coffee, I use the same cup I used to pour water into the coffee maker to fill it 2/3 full of V8 juice (I eat shockingly few real vegetables, so this is my pathetic attempt at redemption). Coffee ready, V8 drunk, I wash the cup, put in my ruts-worth of half-and-half, sugar, and coffee, then take a chocolate covered donut from the refrigerator (I am expecting a not of appreciation from the Entemann’s Bakery’s Chocolate Covered Donut division, of which I must be their primary source of income, and it is they who provide the bulk of my calories for the morning).

A couple times a week, I join friends for coffee around 10:30 at a coffee shop about a mile and a half from my apartment, and the walk provides my daily exercise. Then home to write.

There are variations, of course, but basically that is it. Comes 5:30, it’s news time and then the remainder of the evening is usually TV…though finding something to watch in re-run season can be a challenge. I know I should probably read, but after spending most of the day writing, I really prefer to shut my mind off and just float along with the boob tube.

Looking this over, even I find it stupifyingly dull on the surface, until I remember my recent post on the fact that I am in effect more than one entity. Nearly everything mentioned above is totally in the purview of my body, which thereby frees my mind to do what it enjoys most…play in the magic land of words.

So while I am quite sure that my body’s daily routine would bore most people senseless, it represents to me a most equitable division of labor.

And now it is time for my body’s morning coffee and V8 and donut and Today Show while my mind gets ready to go out and play.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, August 03, 2007


If it seems I’m in something of a less-than-saintly mood of late, I can assure you it’s just a phase…a way for me to blow off a little steam, and I hope you’ll bear with me…it will pass soon. But let’s face it, my application for sainthood will never be approved. I have much too short an emotional fuse for it and sometimes startle even myself by going from my usual adorable, charming, sweet-natured self into a raging idiot spewing lava from every orifice in the blink of an eye.

Today offered a perfect example. Though my just-released book, The Dream Ender, is available on, its cover photo does not appear…after more than two weeks…under “Books: The Dream Ender.” Clicking on the title does take you to an information page on the book, which does show the cover.

So I wanted to write to Amazon to ask what could be done to put it up in both places. I found the well-hidden “Contact Us” button and was taken to the proper page, which requested my name and the nature of my wanting to contact them. I was given a number of options: questions about my order, questions about the status of my order, and several other order-related options. At the bottom is an option for “Other matters.” I clicked “Other matters” which presented me with a very attractive page on which I was asked for my name and my order number.

I do not have an order number. My question is not about an order. So I typed my problem in the indicated box anyway, and hit “Submit.” I was told that I had not provided the required information…meaning my order number…and therefore they could not allow me to post my message.

Instant Mt. St. Helens! How the devil can I write them about something other than an order? Simple. I can’t. And why? Because if I’m not writing them about an order, they could care less what my problem might be. Then why the hell offer an “Other matters” option when they totally refuse to acknowledge that there might be another matter?

At one time, businesses used to be there for the convenience of the customer. Now the customer is there only at the convenience of the business. Not only do they not give a hoot in hell about you (despite their infuriatingly hypocritical “Your call is very important to us” baloney), they do everything in their power to make sure that actually getting a response to a question not in their list of “Frequently Asked Questions”, is next to impossible, as it is to find a way to actually contact a human being. With many companies, it is not “next to impossible”: it simply can’t be done. If they do deign to have a customer service telephone line, they have A customer service telephone line. (“Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the next available representative. Your wait time is approximately 3 years, ten months, twenty-nine days, and fifteen minutes”)

I do not have a “land-line” phone; just my cell phone, and I buy blocks of minutes. No matter what business I call, I am treated to: “For English, press 1”—why should I have to press 1 for my own language in my own country? Which is followed by “For so-and-so, press 4; for such and such, press 5; for this and that, press 6…” ad infinitum. Some of them compound the fury by wanting to know if I would be interested in hearing all about their latest product or “service”, and all of which eats into my minutes and my money.

Perhaps it is just me. Maybe it’s the weather (it’s quite hot today). But I think it’s mainly that I do not like to be disregarded, ignored, insulted, summarily dismissed, or treated like pond scum, and that too few people who may agree with me just accept it as their due. It is not their due. It is not my due, and I’ll be damned if I will just shut up and take it if I have any option at all.

Consider this post an option.

Oh, and if you want to know what I really think, just ask.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

We Three

I was sitting here a moment ago having my afternoon cup of coffee and chocolate covered donut (one of my primary sources for calories) and found myself having to painfully pry my mouth open with my free hand far enough to get the thickness of the donut into my mouth. I was not happy, but Dorien found it very amusing. And in that small incident lies a partial explanation of just why there is a “Dorien and me.”

I have increasingly found myself to be a rather distinct trinity (hardly in the biblical sense, I assure you): physical, mental, and…well, Dorien, who both bridges and transcends the other two parts. Each part has its own distinct function. My physical “third” is solely concerned with maintenance and upkeep of the flesh, bone, muscles and organs. It doesn’t have the time or need to think much, but it has served all three of “us” amazingly well over lo, these many years.

The “mental” third is in charge of those aspects of daily existence not directly under the purview of basic body functioning, though it shares some responsibilities with my body such as eating and dressing and scratching where it itches. It tends to be unrealistically set on itself, and I am ashamed to admit that it is all too often dismissive and sometimes almost contemptuous of my body. It cannot or will not accept the notion that as my body ages, I simply cannot do those things I once did with such ease. (“Look!” my mind tells my body. “He can run: he can turn and lift his head; he can open his mouth wide enough to eat a double-decker hamburger! Why can’t you?”) My mind knows it is cruel and unfair to do so, but it can’t help itself. And my body just goes quietly about its business. It is well aware of what my bout with cancer did to it, and it grudgingly accepts it even though my mind will not. It knows I am lucky just to be alive.

And Dorien, bless him, remains removed from it all. Totally free of physical limitations or restraints, he can and does do anything or be anything or go anywhere he wishes. Dorien is everything my body and mind I want to be and am not. In his safekeeping I have entrusted the majority of my hopes and dreams, my faith and fantasies. It is Dorien who provides the imagination for my writing. It is Dorien who creates the stories—my body merely types them out. My mind…that part of it which is separate from Dorien…truly take great delight in watching what appears on the screen, and is often totally unprepared for what shows up there.

All three parts of me share great concern and infinite regret in the realization that while Dorien could, and I hope will, live forever, my body, again, is subject to all the laws of the physical world, and the years, however hard we fight, do take their toll. It is a battle we all must eventually lose, and my mind knows all too well that when my body dies, my mind, like the captain of a ship, must go down with it.

Death does not frighten me: it never has, for I know that, as I’ve said so often before, it is merely a return to the nothingness from which it emerged. But oh, the thought of everything I shall miss: the people, the sunrises, the fun, laughter and even sadness…everything that makes me human and alive….

So I constantly remind myself of what a marvelous gift life is, and to treasure every second I am given, for as long as I may have it.

May you do the same.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.