That image up there somehow sums up what I've felt all week, somehow. I can't be more specific than that. I picked up the image last week as toothy joys were taking hold. Read into it what you like. I'm still thinking about it.
Today was the first day off the Vicodin, and hence full of minor miseries as the body readjusted to normalcy. That word, by the way, was tossed around as an example of Harding’s cluelessness - a “return to normalcy” might have made sense to the boobs, but it wasn’t a word. Actually, it was, but the derision that followed its rhetorical deployment probably killed it. The only other usage that seems to persist - barely - is the fine term “Creeping Normalcy,” defined as the boiling-frogs-in-the-pot idea. Things change incrementally, you get used to something being different, and then you don’t notice when the next change is really different from what came before. Also called “life,” I guess. The person who popularized the term used the deforestation of Easter Island as an example, but perhaps it’s easier to adapt to New Normals when A) the king is making everyone cut down the trees and does the same with the heads of anyone who disagrees, and B) the lifespan is about 35.
Creeping Normalcy around Jasperwood is rare, as I described last night. The new bathroom color is invigorating; I love it. The changes in tint to the ceiling between the wooden beams is a hue, I believe, that only wifely retinas can detect. Otherwise change is slow. The trees grow - nothing dates a photo of the place more than the wall of evergreens on the south side, or the size of the birches, mere twigs when we came here and now tall as the rim of the chimney.
But. I don’t know how to explain this, exactly. Something changed last week. Between the onset of Christmas and the end of the troublesome role of Tooth #30, something changed. For good or ill I’m not sure. I’m not so hackneyed a writer as to invest malevolence or inertia into the hunk of calcium pried from my head; it’s not like I’m a New Man. If I started robbing banks or took up with a circus, and was a fictional character written by an acclaimed author whose magical sensibility had reinvigorated the American novel, according to Oprah, yes, it would be the tooth. It would make us rethink our relationship with our teeth in a stunning new way, perhaps, but more likely the author would be vague about the actual qualities of the tooth and its impact on its owner. So the reviews could look like this:
Is the tooth an It when it hurts, and Me when it doesn’t? Do we really own teeth, or are they parts of us we choose to identify as “the other” so it’s easier to dispose of them? Are they a metaphor for children or friends? What if each tooth contained an element of personality, and once removed, the person was changed forever? While the author is coy about these questions, the fact that he named his novel “Tooth #30” suggests he believes society has yet to have a full conversation about the relationship between teeth and self.
I should actually write that. The extraction of #30 turns the protagonist into someone whose new self conforms to all the proper models of enlightened modern behavior. The soul is in the heart, but restraint is in the tonsils, self-doubt is in the appendix, and wisdom is in the teeth. A series of ordinary operations turns a man, over the course of his life, into a real popular go-getter who grasps the zeitgeist, sees the slime trail of Creeping Normalcy, and has himself a good old time. As they used to say. Before that had connotations of a grizzly dude in the corner with a fiddle and warm lime punch and complex dances designed to channel sexual energy into a matrix of formal routine.
Anyway, no more Vicodin and the painters came. I was so laid out by the physical rigors of shuddering off the damned pills that I took a two-hour nap, and was awakened only when my daughter came through the door and said I’M HOME! Stumbled downstairs. The painter said:
“Boy, you live like you’re still in college.”
“My wife says the same thing.” I wanted to note that he’d been listening to 70s rock on the radio all day, but I let it go.
I suppose I am. In college I would be up until 1 AM writing a column. Which is what I am doing tonight. Can’t imagine why I ought to feel ashamed about that. Writing isn’t 9-5. Nothing I’ve ever loved was 9-5.
Sometimes I find screen grabs and scans whose purpose seems to evaporated. I have a folder called LIFE 1938. The contents fix a moment in their popular culture that reaches back to the previous century, and still has connections to the next one. These come from a page of Faces in the News Life gave the nation every week.
Ann Corio, stripper? Yes, they had sex workers as celebs in '38, too. Probably not anything about her . . . oh. Wikipedia.
Ann Corio (November 29, 1909 – March 1, 1999) was a prominent American burlesque ecdysiast and actress. Unlike others in her profession, Ann Corio did not have a stage name.
She came up with a stage show called This Was Burlesque, for which she as the announcer and guiding spirit. It looks dreadful:
I heartily recommend you watch this one-minute clip from the old Joe Franklin show - there’s a couple of archetypes you don’t see anymore. It’s the young coldly smarmy Jersey guy and the earnest corduroy’d cable-access film-critic:
Opie Pope Read, to be exact. He’d die in 1939. “Read was little read after his death. ‘He wrote something that everybody read but nobody remembers,’ critic Shirley M. Mundt observed.” And that’s from a page put up in his honor. You can read a 1905 edition of his work here, if you want yards and yards of dialect humor.
Wonder what his pun was. The words "son of" may have passed his lips.
Now this lady. Take money, leisure, plain looks and a middling intellect, add booze, and BANG!
And therein hangs a tale. The newspapers are correct; she plugged mater. After the fired once, press reports said, her mother “remonstrated with her daughter, telling her to be more careful.” Then she tried to take the gun away, and was shot. That’s all there was the to the stor.y
. . . But the fascination of romantic chivalry was too great for even Ohioans when they came up against the case of Louise Campbell, granddaughter of the Youngstown Steel king, who shot and killed her mother at a Christmas party. And so yesterday the coroner's jury sitting in the question decreed that Mrs. Campbell came to her death by "an unavoidable accident."
That was what Miss Campbell herself claimed. Nevertheless, she herself testified that she shot out a candle in the drawing room of her house to attract attention, and that her mother was killed as she attempted to seize the gun away from her. And that sort of thing has not been, we believe, the general view of the law as to what constitutes "an unavoidable accident."
Nor has the defense that the lady was probably soused ever been accepted as a valid one under the law. The case, therefore seems to be a plain one of romantic chivalry. But Ohio overlooked one thing to make its stand perfect. "Unavoidable accident" is, after all, pretty weak. It should have called it that other thing, self-defense.
Old Man Campbell would no doubt be disgusted by his descendants, as all flinty industrialists are supposed to be. He built the Youngstown Sheet and Tube company up from nothing, and almost took over Bethlehem. Back in the days when the country had Steel Wars. Stroked out in ’33 and never saw the sordid trial.
The old world was walking around giving a convincing appearance of life, even though it was dead and dead forever:
Heirs to vanished thrones. The stuff of Hollywood romances, I suppose. The Duchess and the Prince! Play-acting at the lives of nobility even though revolution and war would sweep their kind from the map.
When you look at her bio, though, one line does pop out:
Finally, Kira married Louis Ferdinand of Prussia in 1938. Louis Ferdinand worked with the underground against the Nazis, and, in the later years of the war, the couple was arrested and imprisoned at Dachau concentration camp, where they were rescued by American troops in 1945.
Now, that's a citation needed, apparently - her husband's bio makes no mention of that - but if it's true, there is a movie there. Even if it isn't.
She lived life to the fullest, it seems:
In later years, Kira was disappointed when her eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm, renounced his rights to the title and married a commoner.She also paid little heed to her health, putting on weight and suffering from high blood pressure in her fifties. She was in good spirits on a visit to her brother Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia at Saint-Briac in September 1967, where she ate well and dumped several spoonfuls of sugar into her coffee, commenting, "God forbid I should eat anything healthy!"
That night, she suffered a heart attack and soon died.
She also testified that Anastasia was a fake. Yes, I think there's a movie there.
On the same page:
The Brooklyn Eagle covered the basket delivery, and called her "The Forgotten Girl." That had a particular resonance. "The Forgotten Man" was one of the standout sequences in "Golddiggers of 1933," bemoaning the men who had fought in WW1, come home, built skyscrapers, and were now forgotten as the Depression took hold.
The next page has an ad:
Why, it’s Lukat D. Zobtechst, one of the intellectual founders of the Permanent Collection of Imperament Art! Or so I named him in oh, 1998 or so when that site first went up. It was a salad oil ad. George said hello to anyone who showed up with cash and an endorsement, I suspect. He was a restauranteur, but also a radio figure, one of those Men Who Cook But Aren’t You Know All Ooo-La-La Frenchy About It. He had a newspaper column. The Guy Fieri of his day without the ability to write or the class, I guess.
Another cheerful guy everyone knew:
Yes, Paul Whiteman. I’m sure the ghost of Gershwin was really, really happy Paul used the phrase “Rhapsody in Blue” to describe razor blades. As the ad points out, Whiteman could get snippy if a clerk fobbed off some inferior brand:
Sloppy kid clerks today. Don't listen. Not like the clerks we used to have, I tell you. Those kids were on the ball.
There's your snapshot of 1938. Now, if you wish for more of the past - and why not? There's a big addition to Motels. Ohhhklahoma! where the wind goes whipping up your skirt, or however that goes.