Sunday afternoon, Lake Michigan. Sitting on some rocks with Kimbo and Laura.
There is a family a few feet away. Three little ones, two boys, one girl. Their mothers in tow. Suddenly:
LITTLE GIRL: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGAHGAHAGHAGAHHHHHHAAHAGAieieieiei!
Her mother rapidly begins to remove the t-shirt the little girl has over her bathing suit; the little girl’s head becomes briefly entangled.
LITTLE GIRL: GoooooooUDHKJSFKHGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
US: Man, what gives?
The mother looks at the t-shirt.
The mother looks at us, because at this point, we are openly staring; we are all but poised to flee to the lady lifeguard who keeps walking past us, doggedly surveying the water for drownings and et cetera, to beg her for sweet mercy.
MOTHER: There is a bug–
[Here she gestures with her hands, making a circle shape with her fingers the size of a buttermilk pancake]
MOTHER: I will GET RID OF THIS BUG.
[She has a slight accent, which makes her sound worldly-wise as she says this, like: I stormed the embassy in ’92 and the government had placed an embargo on shoe imports and on my feet I wore the leaves of a banana tree and a length of twine and in my heart I wore My People]
She walks down to the edge of the water and starts hurling the shirt into it, over and over.
I kid you not: We see whatEVER was in that shirt landing on the sand. Yards away, we see it. A bug? You’d better hope, and I’d better hope, that it was a bug, because if it wasn’t, that means that someone has successfully bio-engineered a creature which is a cross between a stag beetle, a Gatling gun, and a bald eagle, and they put it in Lake Michigan, and it’s only a matter of time before you turn on the tap to fill the kettle with water to make your cup of Darjeeling-Oolong- what-have-you and GACK.
When the mother comes back, the shirt is a wet, ragged version of its former self.
ME: [joking, but not really.] Was it a crustacean?
MOTHER: [excitedly] Yes, perhaps a crustacean!
[She widens her eyes, bares her teeth, and curls her hands into claws to imitate what it was that she saw in the t-shirt.]
US: [reflexively recoil]
Shortly thereafter, they packed up their goods, and–with well-wishes all around–they departed.
I think we all knew that we had experienced something very special.
Bought chocolate pudding cups this weekend. Sure did.
So here’s something I haven’t really done, so much, in this blog-o’-mine. Katie sent me an e-mail, talking about what she called her
Top Five Desert Island Books
I’ve been having a few exchanges on this subject, lately; not necessarily about books of the Desert Island variety, but your general Hey! It’s Summer And Apparently That Means Book Lists For Beach Reading, For People Who Go To The Beach And Read Books Also Simultaneously Too.
I basically know what my favorite books are. My top five-ish, even.
So then I was like, “Well, why not share them?”
I mean, when O Magazine and the New York Times both tell me what I, as a woman, should be reading this summer, what I should be pulling out of my artfully distressed straw tote, and I dutifully read the linked excerpt, NYT, and it reads like a pink-heeled lobotomy*–well, you know, uprise! I’ll make my own listy!
*Please note: Sometimes a pink-heeled lobotomy is exactly what you need
1. Bleak House–Charles Dickens
So, so, sososososososo good and many-colored and peopled with amazing peoples and funny and sad and triumphant and weird. A man spontaneously combusts. Also, smallpox! Also: Love.
2. Middlemarch–George Eliot
George Eliot may have the pseudonym of a man, but she’s all lady. She writes with sonar radar accuracy about the psychological viewpoint of women from any old era–then-era, now-era, you name it. I’m always all, “I HEAR that, Dorothea Brooke” or “Can I get a WITNESS, Maggie Tulliver” or “You keep on LOVING him, Dinah Morris”. My only problem with George Eliot is that she writes The Perfect Woman and then unerringly pairs her with a man comically unworthy of her amazing-ness. It’s exactly like Charles Dickens, but in reverse. What’s the good word on this tendency? Can we get some equality up in here? [Sorry about saying “up in here” just then.] Anywho, “Middlemarch” wraps itself around your heart valves in a hurry. Class commentary and forbidden love. So fine.
3. The God of Small Things–Arundhati Roy
This book heart-cracked me. It is covered in magical adjective vines. Please read it. It is too precious to say more.
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–Mark to the Twain
Do I really need to explain why this is one of my all time favorites? Also, I wanna be a river boat captain, circa This Book. It is a true and cherished dream. But that would involve a time machine, and time machines are tooooo tempting!
5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek–Annie Dillard
I quoted this book to everyone I knew for six months. They hated me. “Please stop talking to me about the reproductive system of a bumblebee”, they would say, but I would not, because they needed to know. This book melted me down in a straight-up steel forge. When I start thinking about things like the circulatory systems of maple trees, I understand that, ultimately, I have this book to blame. It is beautiful and nature and God and praying mantises.
You have your honorable mentions, too, when you make your little lists; like Waiting for the Barbarians and Winter’s Tale, which have writing, both, to burst the heart, and millions of others too numerous to mention, like Claire Messud is a really good writer, and then David Copperfield is soooo lovely and…
Oh, shut up.
Hey, did you-all see that Farrah Fawcett and Ayn Rand were buddies, after a certain fashion, and that Ayn Rand wanted Farrah Fawcett to PLAY DAGNY TAGGART in a potential TV movie of “Atlas Shrugged“ ? Do you know how totally super weird that is? I’m getting the weirds just thinking about this.
Dagny Taggart should probably be played by Angelina Jolie, push comes to shove.
You’re never gonna hear me say that again.
It wasn’t the life I would have wanted,
had I known what sort of life I did want,
as if anyone ever knew; though I
did know. Everyone had her shadow life,
her should-have life, the life she should have had,
all those thoughts sharp-sharking into her soul,
all those doodles on the skin of the day.
The shame, that this had been and this had not,
could-should, kowtowing to the life of should,
the shock, let’s say, of seeing it had passed,
the chagrin, let’s say, the savage chagrin
that this was what it was, et cetera,
who did I think I was, et cetera,
the queen of Sheba in her shantytown,
or Shirley in her temple (such a doll)
or Scheherezade waking to the day–
not Sylvia, not the sylvan huntress.
The whole shebang was a shambles, hello,
shanghaiing my wishes, shout it out, shout,
those stories of what was and never was,
love, voyage, give me succor–sugar–suck–
hushing the heart and shushing the senses.
Hello, day, shake the sheets out, wake the day.
(As I said this, I was choking up.)
The challenge of cheerfulness–hello, charm–
charade and charm, chameleon, cameo.
I saw the dawn and fell into a hush.