"A friend asked yesterday if this blog is addressed to anyone in particular? I said yes– it’s a love letter to someone I haven’t met yet."
There's a nice moment in an early scene of the film SEVEN. I don't remember exactly how it goes but something like this: Morgan Freeman is about to leave the house for work. On his dresser carefully aligned next to each other are the things he carries in his pockets. A beautiful old pocketknife. A fountain pen. His wallet, etcetera. Just the way they are arranged shows you that each thing matters a lot to him and he clearly appreciates them all. Mundane objects but you can tell each one has its own specific weight in his life. When I first saw that scene I smiled because I have always played this game with myself when I try to whittle what I carry in my pockets down to a bare, absolute Zen minimum of necessary but special. I almost always fail. The same is true when packing a suitcase for a trip as I am doing today. The less stuff the better. Find the perfect bag and pack it with the perfect essentials and no more.
But "what if?" almost always sneaks into your head and you think what if it... rains and suddenly you're sure you have to take a raincoat. You arrive at the airport with a suitcase the size of a house and the Zen bag is only a whisper now in the back of your mind. But by God, you're ready for the hurricane!
Do we really need that extra sweater? No. Then take the one you love and let that suffice. Only one book, but the one you really want to read rather than three you've been meaning to get to. Sitting here, staring across the room at my growing bag, I'm reminded again that it is a good objective for us all to strive for-- knowing what your essentials are and taking only them along on the trip into the day or the unknown.
He made a mistake once. I don't even know if he knows it. He was standing on the banks of a river, listening to something on the other side, something he had never heard but had always known. But instead of crossing the river, he listened for as long as he could stand it and then turned his back and returned the way he had come. And he's never heard it again. He should have crossed that river.
"In Highland, New Guinea, now Papua, New Guinea a British district officer named James Taylor contacted a mountain village above three thousand feet, whose tribe had never seen any trace of the outside world. It was the 1930's. He described the courage of one villager. One day, on the airstrip hacked from the mountains near his village, this man cut vines and tied himself with them to the body of Taylor's airplane shortly before it took off. He explained calmly to his loved ones that, no matter what happened to him, he had to see where it came from."
"A breath is cooked air; we live in a constant simmering. There is a furnace in our cells, and when we breathe we pass the world through our bodies, brew it lightly, and turn it loose again, gently altered for having known us."
"We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swam up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead."
Here's a nice piece of trivia to use somewhere-- the national (and only) car made in Iran is called the Paykan. It is supposed to be one of the worst made, most gas consuming, polluting cars in the world. It's all plastic and badly recycled metal. I should put that in a book somewhere-- some ubermensch H'wood type is looking for the ultimate status symbol. He has a lightbulb moment where he realizes the perfect thing to do is find and import an unheard of new car literally no one in the world-- outside of Iran-- has. He owns the only Paykan in all of LaLa land and is consequently envied endlessly.
Walking past a store, I sense something more than see it in the window and turn to look. The place sells underwear. In the middle of the display is an electric yellow men's thong. It is such a bright canary yellow that these underpants could be used as a flare in dense fog to guide lost aircraft to the runway. I stand there staring and staring at it, wondering who the hell would buy this thing, wear it, and continue to regard themselves seriously.
A close friend sent me a wonderfully thoughtful present. One of her friends is a total music maniac who has the most eclectic taste on earth. He bought the first iPod that came out years ago, filled it with 1000 different songs, and then some time later when he grew tired of it, gave it to my pal. She kept it a while and now has passed it on to me. I've never heard of many of the artists and a lot of the music isn't my taste, but a lot is and a thousand songs is a thousand songs. A killer idea for someone you really care about and who shares your vision of the music universe-- buy an iPod (new or used), fill it with the music that matters to you, and then give it to someone who's important. Sharp gift.
"There are people we meet in life who miss being important to us by inches, days, or heartbeats. Another place or time or a different emotional frame of mind and we would willingly fall into their arms; gladly take up their challenge or invitation. But as it is, we encounter them when we are discontent or content and they are not. Whatever they are, we are not and vice versa. Two trains going in different directions that pass for a few powerful moments at full speed, blasting noise and wind but then they are gone. Whatever serious chemistry might have been possible if, isn't."
"She knew he possessed a quality few males do. It was an instinctive thing that most of the men who had it didn't even know was there. Yet it was the most formidable part of their arsenal: They made you feel totally comfortable when you were together with them. On the street, in bed, having lunch, having sex, having a laugh, a walk or whatever-- it didn't matter. You breathed normally with them. You didn't feel any need to put on airs or puff out your chest or pretend to be someone you weren't. Yes, this fellow wanted to be in your pants, but he also wanted to be in your head and hang around together sharing the day. You felt that whenever you were with him. You were certain that you were exactly where he wanted to be at that moment. The things you said or did genuinely interested him."
I have ten minutes before the late afternoon meeting. I'm tired and realize the best thing I can do is get a cup of strong coffee to lift me out of the 4 pm doldrums. I go into a nearby cafe and standing at the counter, order a cappucino. The place is crowded. A woman comes up to the counter next to me and orders a double espresso. I look at her out of the corner of my eye. She is dark and nice looking. Another furtive glance and I see she is expensively dressed in muted browns and grays. Chic. Our coffees come at the same time and mine is a little too dark. Looking down the counter, I see a pitcher of cream on the other side of the woman. I ask if I could have it. With a very badly deformed hand, she slowly pushes it towards me. It takes a long time to arrive and I can't help looking at the hand as it pushes. Inside I'm saying stop it, don't look at her hand. Finally I pull my eyes away from the hand and up to her face. She's sort of smiling but for the life of me I cannot figure out what kind of smile it is.
"All of the refrigerator magnets of the New Age have a kernel of truth to them."
My favorite story of the week:
CRANBERRY, Pa. - The would-be robber wanted to inspire fear, but his choice of a Disney character mask to conceal his features provoked only giggles from a convenience store clerk.
Cranberry police said a clerk at Gordon's Mini Market burst into laughter when the person wearing a Pluto mask walked into the store about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday. The clerk was laughing so hard he didn't comply with the robber's demand to turn over the cash register money — so the frustrated robber left the store, police said.
Police Sgt. Dave Kovach said the clerk's response was ill-advised and dangerous, even if it foiled the robbery.
"Pluto could have been a strung-out heroin addict," Kovach said. "You never know."
Pluto drove away in a car, but not before the clerk noticed that he was 6-foot-2 and appeared to be white under the mask. Police believe he's about 20 years old and weighs about 170 pounds.
from a friend in England's e-mail:
...the great difference between Yanks and Brits is that American believe that life is serious but not hopeless...whereas the English believe that life is hopeless, but not serious
Two quotes from ZORBA THE GREEK by Kazantzakis:
"Life is trouble," Zorba continued. "Death, no. To live-- do you know what that means? To undo your belt and look for trouble!"
"Have you noticed, Boss, everything good in this world is an invention of the Devil? Pretty women, roast suckling pig, wine-- the Devil made them all!
God made monks, fasting, chamomile tea and ugly women... ugh!"
In front of a large supermarket an old woman is talking very seriously to a Golden Retriever which is tied up there. As I'm walking towards them I think it is her dog and she is scolding it for something. But as I pass and hear what she is saying, I realize she is only keeping the dog company until its master comes out of the store.
I heard this story a long time ago from someone who lied too much, but it's such a good one that lie or not, it's worth retelling. He knew a man who was the most conflicted human being he had ever met. The man was very gay, very ugly, very Latin looking (he was from Brazil), a cross dresser, and a now and then male prostitute. He had two hobbies that he was devoted to-- photography and Claudia Schiffer. He always carried a cheap point and shoot camera with him and incessantly took pictures of chic looking women. He taped these pictures to his mirror at home and tried to recreate the different looks whenever he dressed as a woman. Most often he tried to make himself look like his idol, Claudia Schiffer. This attempt was pretty impossible because he was short, dark, ugly, a man, etcetera. And as we know, Claudia is very tall, very blond, very pretty, etcetera. But that didn't stop him from trying.
One day my friend met up with him for coffee. The man was so depressed about life and the way things were going for him in general that he was only wearing jeans, a jeans jacket and sneakers. Very un-fabulous and very unlike him. Over coffee, my friend tried to perk him up but to no avail. He was seriously down and no amount of encouragement could bring him up again. When it was time to go, the two walked out of the cafe in the center of Vienna's ritzy first district. Suddenly a long black limousine pulled up nearby. Men jumped out, obviously bodyguards, and rushed to open the back doors. First to climb out was the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld who, with his long white hair tied back in a ponytail and huge black sunglasses, was hard to mistake. Then out of the other side of the limo emerged-- Claudia Schiffer! She looked ten feet tall and far more beautiful in real life than any photo they had ever seen.
The man who would be Claudia literally screeched and began digging frantically in his bag for a camera to capture probably the greatest, most unexpected moment of his life. There she was-- ten feet away and a goddess in every way imaginable. He dug more and more frantically but no luck-- today he had forgotten to bring a camera. Lagerfeld and Ms. Schiffer were swept into a building and disappeared. Their black limo whooshed away.
The two men waited a long time outside that building but no dice-- they never saw her again.
I once knew someone whose job was to interview celebrities for a television station. A close friend of hers was nuts for the French actor Gerard Depardieu; a fan verging on an obsessive. She made this woman swear that if she was ever assigned to interview Depardieu, that her friend could come along. Sure enough it came to pass and the two women went to meet and interview the great man. They went to the hotel where he was staying and at precisely 10 am knocked on the door. A long time passed but nobody answered. Just as my friend was about to knock again, the door opened and there stood Depardieu, completely naked. He wasn't the least bit embarrassed and made no attempt to cover himself. In a nice friendly voice, he asked what he could do for them. The woman reminded him that they were scheduled to do an interview at ten and that's why they were there. All the time she talked, she was dying to turn around and see the reaction on her friend's face but didn't. Depardieu looked blankly at her a few moments and then it dawned on him that this was true. "Yeah yeah, of course. I'm sorry I forgot all about it. Come on in." Still not having seen her friend's face, she followed the actor into the lavish suite. He sat down on the couch, plopped a silk pillow over his groin and said "Okay. I'm ready. Let's begin."
"The world bribes you, threatens, and cajoles you. It wants you to betray your affections and your loyalties. I won't."
I recently met a best selling novelist who is well-known for doing John Grisham-like legal thrillers. Before becoming a writer he had been a defense attorney for many years. His specialty was representing accused murderers. In the course of our conversation, I asked if during any of the trials he had discovered that his clients were guilty. Or if they'd admitted their guilt to him off the record when he took their cases. Clearly amused by my question he said, "Almost all of them were guilty. Most admitted that to me from the git-go."
"A man's mistakes, his worst acts,
aren't out of character, as he'd like to think,
are not put on him by power or stress or too much to drink,
but are simply a worse self he consents to be."
"He had wanted to know her when she was old.
He couldn't wait to know her when, in years to come,
they would be solvent, sexually calmer, less like wildlife.
There was always, he thought, this pleasure ahead of him,
an ace of joy up his sleeve so he could say you can do anything to me,
take everything away, put me in prison, but I will know Alice Gull when we are old."
On a book tour of Poland a few years ago, a woman came up after a reading and said she'd like to meet for a drink later, etcetera. It was obvious what she was implying and of course I was flattered. When she had left, my interpreter angrily said, "She doesn't want to sleep with you; she wants to sleep with Carroll the writer." I said "True, but I know that guy pretty well. I brush his teeth every morning."
While we were talking I noticed something shimmery on her forehead. Looking closely, I saw that it was glitter. Reaching across the table, I touched it gently with my thumb, trying to brush it off. It was stubborn and didn't want to move so it took longer than I expected. She held very still, like a little girl having her shoes tied by her father.