Having finally put Spring Semester away last week, I have a couple of weeks before taking up the cudgels for my customary summer courses. So here we are, and here we go.
My ongoing dental issues are, well, ongoing. This morning, an oral surgeon yanked two of my lower teeth, the site of a couple of root canals and various subsequent abscesses. So I’m home listening to mono mixes of the Beatles while a thing of gauze dangles from my lower lip like Bogart’s cigarette. I took a pain pill when I got home, in an effort to stay ahead of the local anesthetic’s departure., so if this blog turns into “May I mambo dogface to the banana patch,” attribute it to the fact that my grandmother would consider me a lightweight: “I took that much codeine for breakfast, dah-lin.” (To be fair, Granny probably would have considered Tallulah Bankhead a lightweight.)
It’s my hope that I’ll be able to get through this without looking like an extra from Hee Haw, but I guess we’ll see. There are several issues in play, including a lifetime of jaw clenching, a small lower jaw, and the fact that apparently I have the bite force of a Great White Shark. I’m not looking to come out of this with Erik Estrada teeth or anything, but neither do I want to sound like this guy:
Could be worse, though. As I sat in the waiting room this morning, an elderly lady was there with her daughter. The older lady asked me what the UK on my shirt was about. I told her it stood for “University of Kentucky.” (After all, not everyone follows college sports.) As the two of them conversed, I eavesdropped enough to figure out the daughter was showing her mom pictures of a recent family gathering:
“That’s [name.] She’s my first granddaughter, Mama.”
“But who’s that she’s sitting with?”
“That’s you, Mama.”
“That isn’t me.”
“Yes, it is. You wanted to hold her and we took the picture. It was Mother’s Day. I’ll print out the picture and we’ll put it in your room.”
“But who are those people?”
“That’s you and [name], Mama.”
“I think I’m too old to be here. I’m going to die soon, you know.”
“Now Mama, you always said you were going to live to be 140,” the daughter said, laughing.
“And how old am I now?”
And then the nurse called them back. I heard the older woman’s voice, then a nurse’s, rising in pitch at the end. I heard the daughter’s voice: “Dementia.”
A couple of minutes later, the younger woman — about my age — came back out. We were the only ones in the waiting room. “That has to be hard,” I said. She told me it was, and I heard the catch in her voice. Then I was called to the back. As I sat in the chair, waiting for the drugs to kick in, I heard the dentist say goodbye to the older woman.
“Goodbye,” she said. “Thanks for the pain.” So as I said, it could be worse. Much worse.
In better news, I agreed to write a short story for an anthology edited by a well-known editor in the field. That gives me a couple of stories to work on this summer, and I hope to bang out some more of the novel-in-progress while I’m at it.
But the part of it that interested me was from the editor’s announcement on the Book of Faces:
I submitted a list of 30 possible authors I had either already approached or who had expressed an interest in contributing as a result of my posting here and the publisher has highlighted 15 of these they firmly wish to feature in the book and commissioning letters have gone out to them.
Sure enough, I found such a letter in my e-mail this morning. Wait — the publisher had a list of possibilities, and they chose me? I’m startled, and honored.
A few days ago, I was having lunch with a graduating student who is himself a fine writer. He was a pitcher for the college’s baseball team, but his season was truncated by an injury. While he intends to try to pitch in graduate school (he has a couple of years of eligibility left), he said he’s beginning to acknowledge that he may never get to play professionally.
While I was never at that level athletically, I told him, I think I could relate as a musician. When I was younger, I entertained the notion of trying to make a living as a drummer. But (I told him), while my ambitions might be Cooperstown, my talent was (at best) Worcester. (Thanks to the late Robert B. Parker for the metaphor.)
However, I continued, I’ve come to realize over the years that as a writer, maybe I really can play in the big leagues. El Bee (whose memoir you really should have ordered already) told me I needed to stop thinking of myself as “the cheapest house on the nicest street,” that maybe I should recognize that I belong. (Always remember — my Metaphor Mixer has a “Puree” setting.) Making the cut for today’s anthology is exciting, and it’s confirmation that some folks think I’m worth having on the roster.
Likewise, my former student has gifts far beyond the ones that have served him on the field (even as those are not yet exhausted.) I have no doubt they will carry him a long way, and I look forward to his realization of those talents as well
To wrap things up for the post, I’ll share work from a couple of musicians who celebrated birthdays over the weekend. Robert Fripp, the driving force behind King Crimson, turned 75 on Sunday. Mr. Fripp is no stranger to the readers of this blog, but I thought I’d share a recent live recording of my favorite King Crimson song.
At the other end of the complexity/naivete scale, we have Jonathan Richman, who marked off three score and ten the other day. Richman’s work is often described with adjectives like “wide-eyed” and “childlike,” but it’s been said that genius is the ability to recollect childhood at will, so here you go.
See you soon!