Friday, November 8, 2002

Marlénè and the Blustery Day

So the storm season seems to be upon us, and everyone is freaking out all over the place, forgetting how to drive, how to walk, and how to dress. Grandmother posed a question this morning that I think bears repeating... in response to all of the people who do stupid things on difficult freeways under cautionary conditions, "are these the same people over and over again, or are these all new people moving to California every day?"

For an example she cited a young man who was interviewed by one of the TV "news" correspondents who had been posted at one of the most storm-affected sites in the Bay Area, Highway 17 (which runs through mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz, one of the most dangerous roads in the State)... he apparently was trying to drive 70 mph up a steep grade in a Volkswagen. Before he reached the top of the hill, his tires lost purchase on the road and he spun out all the way back down the hill and into a ditch. Personally, if I had done something so spectacularly foolish, I wouldn't be caught dead giving an interview on television about it... I would be hiding in my car hoping it would explode in a mercifully fatal fireball, as is proper.

There are also those people who live on the Russian River, whose houses get washed downstream every time we have a good rainy season... do they keep rebuilding in the same spot, in the idiotic hope that the river will never rise again, or are these all new people every time? Are they too stupid to realize that rivers tend to overflow, not to mention the fact that they change course regularly, and that building a house right next to one is a really bad idea? Grandmother believes (and I agree) that people who build houses next to oft-overflowing rivers deserve whatever they get (same as the people who build their houses on the sides of muddy hills, or who live in friable pine forests... do they believe that they're safe? Nobody is safe from Nature).

But I understand how people get nutty in this kind of weather... the wind makes me very uneasy, and the humidity in between bursts of rain makes me uneasy, and the little flashes of lightning make me very uneasy. So I am staying indoors as much as possible (though I usually stay indoors on nice days, too) and refraining from driving any more than is absolutely necessary... because between the people driving ten miles an hour from terror of the weather and the people driving fifty miles an hour despite the weather, along with the weather itself, the roads aren't safe or sane at all. But what I can do without is this sense of surprise, as if people had never lived through storms before. Perhaps because I have lived in the same place most of my life, I am not as surprised by the weather of Northern California the same as people from other, more predictably-weathered places might be. One simply learns to expect the unexpected here.

I think most of the alarm, however, is generated by the news stations in the area. One of these days people are going to figure out that the media overblows everything in order to be dramatic, that the "news" has become a form of back-door entertainment that masquerades as a serious source of much-needed information. I asked my Grandmother what benefit she thinks she derives from watching the news... what benefit does she derive from knowing all the terrible things that happen in the world, things that are only reported if they are horrible enough to catch the attention of the masses? She thinks it's imperative that one know what is going on in the world around one, but she doesn't see that the newspapers and stations don't impart that information - they only tell you of the dramatic and emotional things that go on around one. Big waste of time, if you ask me. Of course, nobody did.

For me, though, this uneasiness with the weather has been exacerbated today by the fact that I slept very poorly last night, having made the blunder of going to bed angry. I am angry at the work-people I am usually angry with (the evil Department Chair people, the Napoleon, and the rest of the Membership), and I am angry at my computer (which I have spent more time trying to fix than actually using, and in which I am disappointed in exact ratio to how exited I was when I first got it). I'm even a little bit angry with the book I finished last night, Stephen Fry's latest novel Revenge. I found the book beautifully written, with a character with whom I identified immediately and almost painfully ("floppy-haired innocence" being one of the most evocative phrases I've ever read in my life). I'm not sure why I felt so angry about it when it ended... I didn't find the ending very satisfactory (there was no redemption, which is what I look for in an ending, along with resolution), but then so many novels end unsatisfactorily that one would think I'd be used to it by now. I know from my own experience that it is often more difficult to end a story than to start one, and I can often tell the exact moment where the author just gives up and lets things rumble to a close rather than try to squeeze some meaning out of the resolution itself.

So having finished this book angrily, and given up on fixing my computer angrily, I got angrily in to bed and started reliving all of the things I wished I'd been able to say at the meeting yesterday... how badly I wanted to call one of our members a "vicious, idle cunt" (she is, but it would be unprofessional to say so) and how badly I wanted to accuse the Napoleon of using that vicious, idle cunt to undermine the president, not to gain her seat but simply to feel more powerful in himself (but of course I can't prove it, so I must belt up). How badly I wanted to take hold of these people and shake them by the lapels, screaming into their faces "Don't you people have anything more important you could be doing with your time? You're overpaid and underworked and need to get a fucking grip on reality! You sit here bitching and moaning about irrelevant things and unnecessary concessions when you make double the average American salary and aren't dying in the streets of a third-world county. You people are teachers, for chrissakes, and you're wasting your time and and the community's by being a bunch of fucking pussy-babies!"

I visualize myself in the role of Avenging Goddess, as portrayed by Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck, slowly making my way down the room and smiting the evildoer with flashing eyes, distended nostrils, and well-enunciated streams of invective that will leave them cowering in awe and shame at my feet. And as fun as this is to visualize, it's not conducive to slipping into the dreamy slumbers. I should have taken the time out to meditate and pray and hand over all this anger, but I didn't... I just let it boil and slosh and keep me awake. And when I wasn't thinking about that, I thought about the horrible things that were done to the protagonist in the novel, and the horrible things he did in retribution; if not that, I thought about the fragility of youth and beauty and the criminality of wasting or marring them; and when not that, I fumed about how much fun I am not having with my new computer and how I perhaps should have spent more money at the onset instead of trying to get something cheaply.

So now I'm a little tired. But I have a nice three-day weekend ahead, without any major claims on my time, so I think I may be able to get some much-needed rest along with hopefully achieving some necessary household activities like laundry and room-cleaning. Or, if I can get that damned computer running properly, I might just start a new novel. One of the bonus outcomes of being angry with a novel I read is that it inspires me to write something better.

And I've been thinking about retraining myself to write in the third person instead of the first... I have always created a character to be and then wrote everything through him. I have attempted to work in the third person, but I always had difficulty nailing down my own role as narrator... who, exactly, am I as a narrator, and how much can my personality intrude into my narrative style? When writing in the first person, it is easy to know where to focus and how the narrator ought to react to something... the personality of the first-person narrator is part of the story; but on the other hand, the first-person narrator can't know what's going on in other rooms and other situations and other characters' minds unless one engages in a lot of expositional dialogue. So I think for the sake of honesty, I need to learn the third-person style better so that I can report what's really happening with the protagonist, rather than relying on the protagonist himself to correctly interpret his own actions and feelings... for if he could do that, he wouldn't be getting into the messes that are required to set up conflict and resolution and redemption.

Well, anyway, I will be giving that some thought. I guess I'd better go do some filing and stuff... I had intended to update my membership database with the national affiliate, but the national database is offline today so I can't. That leaves filing. On the other hand, the file room isn't heated, and it's a bit too chilly to stand on cement and handle steel cabinets for very long. Maybe I'll just sit here and do nothing. Or I will think. Or write. Or something.

Until next time... XOXO

No comments:

Post a Comment