Saturday, November 5, 2011

Disappointment Gradually Turns into Satisfaction

Start with a disappointing morning, finding out that Andy Rooney died at 92, not long after retiring from 60 Minutes, which makes me stop short of wanting to write the five books I have in mind thus far, because if I don't, then I'll live forever. Rooney did absolutely what he wanted to do in his life, and having left it, he left.

A few times, I had the idle notion of writing a letter to him to express my appreciation for his work, for inspiring me to become a writer and teaching me about writing style when I was 11, when I tried to write like him and found that I couldn't. He may have appreciated such a letter, but I always got the impression from him that though he was happy with his life's work, he never really wanted such praise. However, I intend to write to his children, including Brian Rooney, who is based in Los Angeles, to tell them of what their father did for me through his books.

Because our regular groomer is seven months pregnant and her doctor told her to rest from this point prior to giving birth, we went to a place called Precious Pets a little after 10 this morning, dropping off Tigger and Kitty, and being told that they could be picked up between 3 and 4, which turned out not to be the case, because, as Mom explained later, they called earlier, wondering when Tigger and Kitty were going to be picked up. One person told us one thing when we dropped the dogs off, and another person told Mom something else when they called, but no matter, because the groomers there did a phenomenal job. Tigger and Kitty didn't even have to be brushed when they got back. They were completely free of extraneous hair.

My disappointing morning wasn't only because of learning that Andy Rooney had died. Yesterday, I started reading All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers by Larry McMurtry, which was published in 1972. I like McMurtry because when he describes a situation, a character trait, an insecurity, he shows it. You are right inside that character's head, their body, experiencing their developments vividly. That's true of Danny Deck in this novel, whose novel will be published, who has a girlfriend who wants a baby, and a lusty next-door neighbor, and all of this could be interesting if it hadn't been so ponderous. McMurtry has Danny thinking about everything, turning over in his mind every single feeling he's having for pages and pages. It was interesting to me because of Danny's encounters at a pool party, but reading more this morning, I couldn't stand it. And worse than that, I hadn't gone with my first instinct last night, ditching it when I was watching The Ed Sullivan Comedy Special from PBS more than I was reading. I also didn't bring with me Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, which I was thinking about before we left the house. Remember, kids, especially those bibliophiles: If you're going out, and you're reading a book that isn't quite working, yet you want to stick it out for a few more pages, bring a backup book.

I was in a gloomy mood because of this, compounded by stopping at Edwards Valencia 12 for me to get a ticket for Tower Heist, which I wanted to see because of Eddie Murphy doing again what he should have been doing all these years, and Alan Alda, who I've always liked. I thought of going to the noon showing, the first one of the day, but Mom said 2:30 might be better, because we could go to the Target on the other side of the valley, then go somewhere for lunch, and then I could go to the movies.

My thinking is that we were right there, it was a little after 11, and I wouldn't have minded waiting until 12:30, despite the fact that I didn't have a book with me anymore. Certainly the noon showing would be the least crowded, and I could get exactly the seat I wanted: First row in the middle, the one with the quarter-wall in front of it that I could put my feet on. (Fortunately, I got it at the 2:30 showing, standing right next to that theater a little after 1:30)

(As I write this, CBS 2 here in Los Angeles, not having any other programming after football on a Saturday night, is showing Heaven Can Wait starring Warren Beatty. I've no complaints, since it's a good movie, but it's very, very unusual to see this at any time, let alone in the barren TV desert of Saturday night. Good thinking, whoever decided this.)

So 2:30 it was, and I wasn't happy when we got to Target in Golden Valley. I could have gone to the movie, and been done earlier in the day than when the 2:30 showing would have let me out. But gloomy moods soon improve, especially on a Saturday, and so it was that when we were looking in the $1 section near the entrance at that Target, I found a wall calendar of comics from The Argyle Sweater, which were very funny, especially a doctor telling one pinata that the one in the hospital bed will make it, but suffered such a severe beating.

Later in Target, looking at the books, I thought of maybe buying a book, just to read while I was waiting for Tower Heist to start. Nothing. And I still complain that Target took out Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain too fast, which I had almost entirely read there, save for 30 pages that I had intended to finish the next time I was at Target back in June. Gone.

However, the day perked up when I learned that Mom wanted to go to Wienerschnitzel for lunch. A pastrami sandwich and "Ultimate Chili Cheese Fries" do wonders for me, and they did yet again. This particular order of chili cheese fries felt particularly weighty, and there was the sour cream, as expected, and the diced onions and tomatoes, so maybe it was the sour cream, or maybe there was more cheese on it than there had been in previous times.

Tower Heist was funny, but it felt like shallow entertainment, which was probably its intent. Something to laugh at and move on, but I wish more movies were made during the year that stick, that have a little more to them. Tea Leoni had nothing to do beyond looking hardened. It was nice to see Ben Stiller get a movie that suits him, where he doesn't play the one who's humiliated all the time. He was strong in this, and, since it was filmed entirely in New York, got to employ a slight accent. It was very enjoyable to see Eddie Murphy back as what he should have been all this time, but it doesn't seem like he'll go back into that full force like he did in the '80s. This is a more modulated Eddie Murphy, and in fact, he's only part of the ensemble here, not as big as the trailers have been playing him up. Gabourey Sidibe was very, very good, and I always like seeing Alan Alda (This was the first of his three-picture deal with Universal, which has Wanderlust with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston next (The trailer was released recently), and whatever comes after that), who is able to go from playing presidential candidate Senator Arnold Vinick on The West Wing to a genuine bad guy in this one. And he doesn't change much. There's vocal inflections and facial expressions he relies on, but not to a great degree. It takes very little for Vinick not to be there anymore and I'm always impressed.

After the movie, what to do next? I called Mom, Dad and then Meridith, who was the only one who answered her phone, and she said they were at Walmart Supercenter. That takes a while, and after I left the movie theater, I thought about going to the mall, to Puzzle Zoo to see not only if they still had the Beavis and Butt-Head bobbleheads, but also if they had anything else interesting, maybe figurines of Groucho Marx or Mark Twain, like they had of Mark Twain some time last year, when I bought one.

But why the mall? I'd been there many times already. I needed to do something useful with my time. I needed to go to Barnes & Noble, to find a copy of Medium Raw and finish the last 30 pages. I called Meridith, told her I was going to walk to Barnes & Noble, and 20 minutes later, I went searching for Medium Raw. I found it with Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits, took a copy and went to the movie books section, since there was a chair right in front of it. I sat down, and finally finished reading Medium Raw. Unlike other books I still have to continue reading, that I likely won't see again until I have a Henderson library card, I remembered exactly where I left off in Medium Raw, because it was so good, so entertaining, so detailed in the writing and yet still so fast-paced.

By this time, I'd forgotten the slight disappointment I felt with Tower Heist. Finishing Medium Raw had been far more worthwhile, yet for Alan Alda and bits of Eddie Murphy's old schtick, I didn't feel like I had wasted $9.50. And Meridith had not only put Kitchen Confidential in the car for me, and All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers in the Goodwill box at home, she also wrote on an index card what I had gotten in the mail: A few book packages, and a bookmark I had ordered that was made from the side of the VHS box for The Breakfast Club (There's a seller on Artfire who makes bookmarks out of old 35mm film and the sides of tape boxes: I got home, and found out that inside two of the book packages were Living Out Loud and Loud and Clear, two books of Anna Quindlen's columns, as well as How Reading Changed My Life, also by Quindlen, which I had read last year, but before I knew who Quindlen was.

There was also a box from McSweeney's, containing Maps and Legends, Michael Chabon's first book of essays, Fever Chart by Tom Cotter, and The Better of McSweeney's, Vol. 2, which had been offered for free alongside other books being offered the same way, by putting in the promo code "BETTER" upon checkout, all part of a massive sale McSweeney's is having to try to encourage customers to start early on their Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and whatever else shopping.

Oh, and in another package, A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter, which I had read excerpts of in Buried in Books: A Reader's Anthology by Julie Rugg. So in a stack right now are Maps and Legends, A Pound of Paper, and Living Out Loud. I still want to read Kitchen Confidential next, after reading the short How Reading Changed My Life, but it now has some formidable competition.

Such are the hardships of being a bibliophile. Such are the wonderful results, from a day beginning with disappointment that becomes quietly satisfying, exactly how I like it.

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