13 November 2011

How Nerdy Am I?

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 11:03 am

It can get blustery here at the edge of the mountains. Yesterday was one of those days: warm, partly sunny, westerly winds 70+ miles per hour. More than once on my walk the wind stood me up and pushed me back a few steps. Grit was blowing in my eyes so I was tempted to walk backward, but I wanted to stay alert for any airborne tree branches or baby carriages that might be hurtling my way. The chain link fence around the baseball field was plastered with all manner of blasted detritus: dried leaves, cardboard fast-food containers, a long strip of danger tape carried off from some now-unmarked hazard. I tore off a segment of the tape as a souvenir and shoved it in my jacket pocket.

I made it home without incident. On the front porch the wind had pulled the plant pots right out from under their plants and carried the pots away, leaving the plants behind, root balls and all. Anne was standing in the kitchen talking to her mother on the phone, telling her about the wind. Watch this, I said to Anne. I showed her my strip of yellow tape, stepped back out onto the porch, and tossed the tape into the air. Anne looked at me quizzically when I came back inside. I threw caution to the wind, I told her.



  1. I don’t know why she puts up with you. It’s clear that you just recycled litter into more litter. When I read ‘cardboard food containers’, I wasn’t sure whether those were the kinds that go with the ‘papers’ or the milk-carton kinds that go with the cans and bottles, as in our recycling garbage bins. You might want to work on that…as enquiring minds are always making these new differences, you know.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 13 November 2011 @ 11:38 am

  2. The cardboard food containers are actually red herrings of course, but what I meant was the sort of container in which you might be served chicken and fries at KFC. I’ve now added a one-word clarification that might help. On the other end of the telephone line, Anne’s mother had an enquiring mind and wanted to know what hooey I was up to. So Ann told her. “Tell him ha ha ha” was my mother-in-law’s message to me. It turned out she really did laugh, no doubt in spite of herself.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 November 2011 @ 11:47 am

  3. Yes, you are good at the ‘tell him ha ha ha’ and the actual ‘thinking it’s funny’ combination.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 13 November 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  4. Then I threw back my head and cackled!


    Comment by Anne Doyle — 13 November 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  5. Yes you did lol at my lame joke. The entertainer appreciates an enthusiastic audience, even if it does encourage him to cook up even more buffoonery.

    I think I discovered where the caution strip blew away from. On one of my other walking routes I pass by a sapling, planted this spring and around which a rectangular protective perimeter had been established with four wooden stakes connected by, yes, yellow caution tape. I inspected it this morning, and a long segment of this perimeter tape is now missing. It bears the same message — alternating “caution” and “cuidado” — and is marked with the same “Empire” brand as the strip now entwined in the chain link fence at the ball field. The sapling is directly upwind from the ball field, maybe half a mile as the crow flies. That’s probably how it got to its landing place: up and over the trees and houses, over the roof of the high school, and onto the ball field. It’s downhill too, enhancing the likelihood of a successful fllight.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 November 2011 @ 11:27 am

  6. Good sleuthing.


    Comment by Anne Doyle — 14 November 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  7. And a damn good paragraph too. You’ve got a natural affinity for the Chandler style, I see more and more. Like inspecting the crime scene. I’d say the last sentence alone is not quite ‘literature’, since it goes outside the style. Not that you should change anything here, but just that I always like it when somebody can evoke Chandler’s Marlowe. Actually the problem with that last sentence is that it DOES sort of go into ‘nerdy’. But the rest of it ought to be something you should think about for the rest of that ‘Rik’s’ novel. Oh, use a LOT of it since you can do it. I know it’s called ‘Station Zero’, but I think that sign is great (but then I would.)

    Then send it to Christian, that’s one of your first stops that will make it easy to combine the creative and the promo. I don’t know what he’ll do, of course, but it does go along with some of the other authors’ fictions I’ve read there (but yours is better, more French, less Swiss.) He does have a few actual writers besides me, although maybe 5% as many as painters and other visual artists.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 14 November 2011 @ 12:43 pm

  8. Thanks, I like Raymond Chandler a lot. I tend not to think about my own style, but you and I have previously discussed the American journalistic style: Chandler had it, as did most of the noir practitioners, but he extended the clipped “just the facts ma’am” minimalism in a more lyric direction, which sets him apart as the best. I have no journalism background, but I’ve written a lot of scientific and technical reports that require a similar level of precision. I tend to drift off from the facts in the direction of dream or delirium, which perhaps is the Frenchness you mention. Agree about the last sentence being nerdy, but since the narrator of this account is also the main nerdy character it’s not so bad I don’t think. In fiction I tend to create somewhat nerdy characters while keeping the narrator’s voice more precise, aloof, sometimes delirious. This juxtaposition I admire particularly in Cormac McCarthy, whose narrator says things like this from the beginning of Blood Meridian:

    Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a last few wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost.

    …but then when his characters speak they say things like “I just got here,” or “Well,” or “Let’s hang the turd.” Chandler and McCarthy are both great writers. McCarthy begins his book with an epigraph from Paul Valery as follows:

    Your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irreversible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 November 2011 @ 1:31 pm

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