There was a knock at the door today, and –

Well, no. Later.

You know
it’s going to be a good day when you’re making the bed, you shake the comforter, and a Zippo falls out. My favorite Zippo, too. I’d lost it a few weeks ago, and I knew where I’d last had it. And I knew I took a nap right afterwards. I figured it would show up. They usually do.

And you know it’s going to be a lousy day when you can’t get into the office computer to remotely upload your column. So you put it on a flash stick and head into the office. But your computer doesn’t want to mount the stick, because it’s Mac formatted. (Even though you never formatted it.) Well, there’s always a way out. You go to an office Mac, and call up the Java based emulator that lets you run the creaking, ugly nightmare of Windows in Internet Explorer. But the Mac is running System 9 – o, nostalgia; o days of impeachment and dot-com IPOs and the blissful end of history – and the emulator does not like System 9. For once, you’re siding with Windows. System 9 looks like something from a planet that had a mandatory right-angles law. So you go to a friend’s Mac, which has OSX. But it doesn’t have the necessary emulator component in the IE folders.

But! But! You can call up the file in Word and mail it via your web-based email. But! Your web-based email won’t let you in. It says your password is invalid. But! You can use his email. And so you send it to yourself, to your desk 20 feet away. All is well.

If you want to define this as “all.”

And why not. Too much unhappiness comes from defining “all” as broadly as possible. I find myself in the not-unusual position of rethinking all my “alls,” and wondering how much of what I want is predicated on old assumptions and modern habits. Some things are immovable – family, writing, Jasperwood. (That last one is negotiable, if it comes to that; it’s just sticks and stones, after all. But it is important to me; in a way it’s as much of a project as a novel, and I want Gnat to have memories of home innumerable and wonderful. Of course, a happy childhood doesn’t require exquisite door pulls and hand-hammered outlet plates. I’m not saying that her childhood will be happier because of the new light fixture. [No matter how much she loves it, which she does.] Happy kids recall the happiness. The love, the friends, the opportunities, the pets – be they long-lived dogs or short-term tenants or your flushable varieties – the holidays, the safety and security that comes from consistent parents who aren’t shouting at each other every night in a Marlboro-and-Michelob haze. On the other hand, I want her to grow up remembering this place as something special. I read the memoirs of the first kid who grew up in Jasperwood, and it was magic for him. He wrote about sitting on the steps, looking through the slats to the living room, watching his dad and uncle string wires around the ceiling so they could pull in that new-fangled Radio everyone was talking about. I find Gnat sitting on those steps some day, looking down, thinking. Maybe she can hear Rudy Vallee.

T-Ball ended tonight; they had a game. Our team won! Crushed the others! Gatorade over the coach! Well, no. They didn’t keep score, although Gnat was convinced they had lost; she didn’t catch any balls. I pointed out that no one caught any balls – and what’s more, she got a base hit, stole third, and made it to home plate. In the game of Gnat vs. The Unscorables, she was 1 – 0. I shot the game for the family movie, and finished up the footage tonight. It’s a rare month when I can finish the movie on the last day of the month. It’s all scored, titled, ready to burn. I watched it to look for spots to cut, and that’ll probably be the last time I ever see it until I have some sort of marathon This Is Your Life, Pal event prompted by either age or the tomb. I don’t do these things to watch over and over again, almost because they’re too fargin’ poignant to bear. They’re an admonition, really: this is how lucky you are. Don’t you dare waste a moment dissatisfied or ungrateful. You can’t live up to that sort of injunction, of course. So I make them for her. Some day she’ll get it. They’re all about her, but I’m behind the camera, in the editing room, unseen in every episode. They’re all about us, and if God forbid I vanish, she’ll get a sense of Us from the movies. Or so I hope.

So there’s that. Then there’s writing. I’ve been doing the same thing for many years. I want to do something else. Not something less or different, but something else. I think I know what that is, but it’s hard – not in terms of what it will demand, but it because it means upending this velvet groove. On one hand I like the idea of detonating everything, moving to Arizona and writing detective novels set in 1947 Minneapolis. On the other hand that’s not going to happen tomorrow or next month or next year. And what if I find myself sitting in a lawn chair staring at the desert, the radio chattering in the background, lemonade in my hand, thinking: eh. I’ll write tomorrow.

I have written a lot, anyway. What’s one day.

Well, it’s all you have, and they do add up.

So there’s that. Then there’s Jasperwood. The light fixture is in; it’s brilliant. It echoes a poster I had in 1983, actually. When I living at 718 45th st across from Ralph and Jerry’s in Dinkytown, I had two favorite poster: in my bathroom, a Parrish Mazda ad. (Back when Mazda meant a light bulb, not a car.) My favorite poster was a Metropolitan Museum Tiffany window. Most of the stuff that calls itself Tiffany is a little too precious for my tastes, but the real thing is lovely. This light is close to the real thing, and casts a beguiling pallete on the newly white walls.

So there’s that. And it’s all good. I would be highly remiss to call any of the contrusions I’m facing – most of which I cannot describe in any detail, alas; patience – as “problems.” They are, at worst, situations, and at best opportunities. A “problem” is taking fire when you’re in a helicopter heading off to rescue comrades. I was listening to Hewitt’s show today about the SEALs shot down in Afghanistan, and felt abashed for having anything on my mind by a song and a smile. These are the men who make my fat happy life possible, who will jump on a plane and go to Venus on behalf of people whose idea of sacrifice is taking a few minutes to sort the plastic from the glass on recycling night. Puts things in perspective.

Anyway. The doorbell rang tonight, and my wife answered. She traded the check and the coupon for a nice hot pizza.

I never have to worry about who’s at the door, or why they’ve come. My heart never leaps when the doorknocker falls; my stomach never flips when the phone rings.

I am a modern happy American. I have no idea.

Soldier’s Angels.


(I will be posting Monday the Fourth. Trust me: this one is going to be . . . something.)

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