Kate here, on a rainy Monday, reporting on illicit pleasures. Periodically, because writers are supposed to craft credible characters who live in the real world, I tear my eyes from the screen, pull myself away from this chair, and take a look at what the rest of the world is up to.
Sometimes I check out Yahoo, which seems to think I’m interested in the latest bad acts by Hollywood characters I’ve never heard of. By the amazing acts and woeful missteps of famous athletes. Or I am targeted by “must watch” videos revealing the marvelous behaviors of awesomely cute pets. Honestly, Yahoo–except for my two sweet granddogs, Frances and Otis, I really don’t care about cute pets, or reality TV stars whose last names begin with K. Not even, though I once played high school basketball (back before I learned that I am short), in the sad story of some young man who may have blown his career by making a three-pointer in the wrong basket and then blowing out his knee.
A visit to Facebook is often illuminating. Someone has posted a picture of those old drive-in movie speakers, and says it’s an age test. If we know what they are, then that will definitely date us. Another writer, likely as irritated as I’ve sometimes been by editors who correct our ungrammatical character’s grammar, has posted a sweet and witty response from Raymond Chandler, one which we all want to save in our “useful quotes” file for the day it is next needed. Chandler wrote:
“By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that …when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive.”
Sometimes I go and peruse flower porn, leafing through the stack of catalogs I haven’t been able to make myself throw out. I imagine gorgeous perennial gardens with nary a weed or a blade of grass marring their perfection, while sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and mumbling words like “persicaria” and “pulmonaria” and “adenophora,” all lovely plants with names that sound like diseases that should send one to the emergency room. Then I allow myself twenty minutes to dash out to my own far less than perfect garden. I pull a few weeds, I dig out the one too many feverfew that have survived ravages of winter rodents, I urge the hostas to reappear even as I fear that they have fallen victim, and rush back to my chair.
But on Sunday mornings, when I should be getting updated on real news, I indulge in a wicked pleasure. For a few minutes, as I’m enjoying my heart-healthy oatmeal with Atkins approved fruit, I read the New York Times Style section. Oh yes. Giant color ads of purses that cost more than my last advance. Angelina Jolie sitting on a boat somewhere in South Asia, looking yummy and rustic and clutching a purse large enough to hold most of her children. There are shoes with heels so high it would take arm candy in the form of at least two stalwart men and true to help me walk so I wouldn’t break my ankles. There is Modern Love, which makes me so grateful that I’ve been married to a good man for almost 34 yours. And last week, in a story so pathetic it made me glad I live in the realm of the imagination instead of the real world, there was a feature on the measures brides are resorting to to lose weight fast and look slim in their wedding gowns. There were pills, of course, and injections, and the great juice fast, in which, for only a few hundred bucks, you can have spicy lemonade and fresh-pressed nasty beet juice delivered to your door. But best of all, dear readers, in case beet juice is not your thing and you’re unembarrassed to be seen in public looking like you’ve just escaped from the ICU, there is the feeding tube diet.
That’s right. The feeding tube diet. For the slender sum of $1500 (more, perhaps, if you fly to Italy for this, instead of Florida), you can have a feeding tube inserted through your nose and spend two weeks…well, and here I’m stuck for a word, because it’s not exactly eating, or snorting…so I guess it’s “being fed” an 800 calorie diet. You will lose about ten pounds. Sigh.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron suggests writers have dates with them selves to refill the well and stimulate their creativity. And that’s just what I’ve been doing. Having had my weekly dose of insanity, acquisitiveness, greed (in the form of the retired president of Liberty Mutual and his $50 million dollar salary), and extreme narcissism in the form of the feeding tube diet, all components of the crimes we write about, I can go happily back to my keyboard, knowing that truth, indeed, IS stranger than fiction, and with a better understanding of why we’re all so happy to turn to fiction.