Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Man in the Tree, Fitbit Truce, Literary Crack

This week, Seattle was all abuzz because a man climbed into an 80-foot tall Sequoia on a median on Steward and 3rd, and refused to come down for a full 24 hours. Then, after they took to him jail, he refused to leave his cell to go to his court date. Clearly the man has some mental health challenges, and I wish him the best in getting the help that he needs. However, I admit that a part of me felt a deep affinity for his multiple refusals. Amidst a flurry of bribes involving everything from beer to food to even a kiss from a pretty lady, he simply refused to come down from that tree until he was good and ready. He set the terms, and stuck with them. I would like to refuse in a similar way. I would like to climb up into a big, ancient tree, find a comfy spot, and not come down until I damn well felt like it. I imagine I would want to sit in that tree for very a long time. Days, perhaps even a week. People could hold up offerings: Gum and fountain pens, snow globes, homemade jellies, thick novels about 19th-century London, ring pops, microbrews, fuzzy water, crossword puzzle books, treasure maps and peacock feathers. I would refuse it all. I would just sit, and rest, and listen to the wind, and feel the tree’s essential tree-ness, and close my eyes and be at peace. And then, when I was ready to re-join humanity again, I would unceremoniously climb back down, perhaps eat a peach, and continue on with my life. But not before I was good and ready.

It’s been a full week with the Fitbit experiment, and myself and the Fitbit have established a working, if uneasy, relationship. I’m probably going to stick with it, if nothing else because I enjoy being smugly astonished at the number of miles I actually walk each day during my routine activities (about five miles on average!) But I’ve given up on logging food. For one, those late-night salami sandwiches are none of the Fitbit’s business, and, all of their food listings involve pre-packaged meals, rather than food made from scratch. I’m fortunate to get a home-made meal almost every night of the week, but it’s almost impossible to accurately record the calorie count in their system because it only “knows” pre-packaged food brands. We’ll see how it goes. I’m still grumpily skeptical about it, but at least it motivates me to take the stairs to the second-floor bathroom at work for a little extra mileage.

A writing group friend recently lent me “Station Eleven”, which is by all accounts an amazing book. I was really excited about reading it, but so far I have to admit I am finding it a little bit slow and meandering. I’m not great with big, epic, multi-character novels. I tried about five times to finish “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”, and as much as I loved the subject matter, I just could not motivate myself to plow through it. It felt exhausting. I am hoping that a breakthrough comes soon for me in “Stations Eleven”. I’m probably struggling because I just read a suspense novel that was the literary equivalent of crack, and my brain is not ready to slow down long enough to take in long, beautiful passages. I want all of the excitement and none of the nuance. So this will be good reading hygiene for me.

--Kristen McHenry


Frank Moraes said...

Parts of that first paragraph read like a prose poem. I quite agree with you. I don't see what's wrong with climbing 80 feet up in a tree and hanging out. That seems like one of the most normal behaviors in the world. Thomas Szasz always said that what we define as insane is really just people not doing as society expects them. And philosophically, it is hard to counter that idea. As long as someone isn't hurting someone else, who are we to say that they are crazy? If we care, we put a net under him but otherwise leave him alone. I do like that they offered him a kiss from a pretty woman.

I haven't been around because my RSS feed got all screwed up and it is my lifeline to the world. Work is overwhelming. But at least I work with a bunch of great people. I'm also finishing up the 2nd edition of an old book that I got talked into publishing. And the publisher is on Human Growth Hormone and is using me as a punching bag. There is one request after another. Most recently, after 28 chapters were submitted (and typeset), I was told that I must provide 3-4 "call outs" (she means pull quotes but is too ignorant to know). So I provide them, even though they are not done by the writer -- that is editorial work. When she got them, she complained (I am not making this up) that they were inside quotation marks. Also, providing the quotes for each chapter was not good enough; they must come with exactly where in the chapter they go. I am certain that had I told her where in the chapter they should go, she would have complained. Anyway, I told her no. I'm waiting for the next 1000 word email telling me how terrible I am and threatening to cancel the book.

What's funny is that I am no longer writing for a living. I am now managing nine writers. One of the big things about the job is that I must make the writers feel good because we are worried about losing talent. I should have known not to agree to the re-publish of the book. When you are dealing with small presses, they pay crap and they treat you worse. There hasn't been a single complaint about the content of the book -- just how it is formatted. Anyway, I will be happy to be done with the book. Life is too short to deal with angry, small minded people.

So how is your life?

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