2005 Notebook: Weak XXXVI
gratuitous image
3 September 2005
No. 4,227 (cartoon)
I’m going out of my mind.

I wouldn’t want to be there either.

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4 September 2005
Becoming Captain Dampier
Steve became Captain Dampier yesterday when he launched his boat. And not just any boat, either.

First, it’s some sort of oceangoing cult vessel favored by Alaskan fish murderers. Second, it’s yellow. (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a yellow boat before.) Third, he built the craft himself our of plywood and epoxy resin.

We took it out for a spin on Sans Frisco Bay at great speed. I poured the new captain some Russian vodka and complimented him on his nautical prowess as we bounced over the waves.

I told him a story of being in the middle of the North Pacific on the Greenpeace boat. The skipper chugged on a big bottle of Lemon Hart rum (over seventy-five percent alcohol!), then opined, “Hell, anyone can drive a boat when they’re sober.” Having set the stage, I sang a sea shanty I composed for the auspicious occasion.

With a hai! hai! hai!
And a hee! hee! hee!
We will drink a lot of vodka
When we go to sea!

With a hai! hai! hai!
And a hee! hee! hee!
We did drink a lot of vodka
When we went to sea!

We toasted again, and made plans to slaughter very large fishes.

5 September 2005
Writing More Than Reading
I was surprised to get a call from Bennett today; I hadn’t heard from him in decades. The last time I worked with him, he arrogantly announced that his goal in life was to write more books than he read. And so, I cruelly asked him how many books he’d completed.

“Um, none yet,” Bennett replied. “I was working on a novel for years, but I’m pretty stuck.”

“Sorry to hear things aren’t going well,” I said, “It’s pretty ambitious to write more than you read.”

“Actually, things still look promising,” Bennett continued. “On the bright side, at least I haven’t read any books either.”

6 September 2005
Not in a Thousand Years
Holly walked into my lab laughing hysterically.

“You have to read this!” she said as she waved a small sheet of paper.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s the best rejection letter ever!” she giggled.

Here’s what she received from the Beijing Journal of Artistic Excellence.

    We have read your proposal with joyous delight. If we were to publish your work, however, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your inspired proposition, and to beg you a hundred times to overlook our ignorance and pusillanimity.

“That’s hilarious,” I agreed. “It sounds like the Chinese version of, ‘It’s not about you, it’s about me.’ ”

“Savor it,” Holly advised, “you shall not see its equal in a thousand years.”

“I certainly hope so,” I agreed as I opened a bottle of whisky to celebrate her failure.

7 September 2005
Brains Like Gardens
Marianne and I were talking about horrible things this afternoon, and so the conversation turned to poetry. And that’s when Marianne showed me a Mark Twain quote she’d penciled in her sketchbook.

    I have thought many times since that if poets when they get discouraged would blow their brains out, they could write very much better when they got well.

“Exactly!” I agree. “Brains are like gardens; they both need weeding.”

And with that I poured us each another gin and tonic.

8 September 2005
Hopelessly Good
I was walking down Valencia Street when I spotted a new eating hole, Taqueria Gringo. I was struck by the proprietor’s boast painted in red paint on the window, “Our burritos leave you nothing to hope for!”

I’ll never know; Taqueria Gringo was already out of business by the time I discovered it.

9 September 2005
The Professional Approach to Reviewing
I gave Veronica my copy of John Szarkowski: Photographer, a book I reviewed a few months ago. It was a thoughtless gift, occasioned by my unrealized desire to jettison everything that won’t fit in my travel bag. Veronica quite liked it, though, for reasons I could not have anticipated.

“It sounds like you could have written this,” Veronica said. She then read a couple of paragraphs aloud.

    I am immersed in a lethargy deeper and broader and more sticky textured and sweet smelling than any I have known before. I must even screw up my sense of purpose to go trout fishing, and the fishermen who hold salon at the Menard Lounge are beginning to whisper that I arrive on the stream in the middle of the afternoon, yawning, and that I have taken to wading the stream downstream, with the current, like the old men do. This last is a vicious libel; in truth I have been lying supine on the bank, watching the leaves unfold.

    ... A week or so ago ... I got a letter from [Helen Clapesattle,] formerly head of the U. of M. Press, [who said] that she hoped that I was now lying fallow, as I deserved. This put a whole new light on it, a respectable, almost shining light. So now when my fellow townsmen ask me if I am just loafing I cut them dead with my archest look and say not loafing, stupid; lying fallow ...

“Did you remember reading that when you reviewed it?” Veronica asked.

“I didn’t get around to reading that part,” I replied.

“What do you mean, you never read it?!” Veronica exclaimed.

“Only amateurs read the books they review,” I explained. “And anyway, it’s a picture book. I did look at all the photographs.”

Of well, at least she liked the book, if not my approach to reviewing it.

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©2005 David Glenn Rinehart