Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ramblin', Ramblin', Ramblin' 2

 It’s been about two months since my last blog because I’ve been huddled over a book that was giving me a lot of trouble as the deadline grew closer and closer.  It was a new writing experience for me — they all are, but this one called for me to write in a way I’d never written before — and it tripped me up.  I finally finished the book last Tuesday in a writing marathon that lasted all day and all night, and all of Wednesday morning.  Then I couldn't sleep, no matter how much I wanted to.  I finally managed to drift off around three o'clock on Thursday morning.  I learned an invaluable lesson from the experience:  I’M TOO DAMNED OLD TO DO THAT ANYMORE!  I always feel a bit adrift after a project, a little anchorless until I start the next one.  But this time, I’ve felt exhausted and it’s taken me a few days to start feeling human again.

Since the last blog, I’ve jotted down some observations and thoughts for the specific purpose of including in another “Ramblin’, Ramblin’, Ramblin’” post.  Here are a few of them.

Is it just me, or are people losing all awareness of their surroundings?  Every time I go shopping, it seems that everyone in the store is completely unaware of everyone else in the store.  Everyone seems to think they’re the only person in the building, as if they’re Michael Jackson and the grocery store closed down and evacuated all its customers just so they could shop alone and undisturbed.

We live in a small town on the outskirts of a Walmart.  It’s the closest store to our house, and because Dawn and I tend to keep weird hours, the fact that it’s open 24 hours a day makes it convenient, even though I have nothing but poisonous hatred for that store.  But hating Walmart is like hating the weather.  It’s pointless.  It just gets you worked up for no good reason.

Every time I go into that store — although to be fair, it happens in every store these days — I feel like I’m invisible.  Everyone is in a bubble that separates them from everyone else.  People seem blissfully oblivious to the fact that THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE STORE!

I’m serious, if you aren’t careful, they will maim or even kill you while they’re looking for the Gold Bond medicated powder — and it doesn’t even have to be on sale!  I don’t care if you’re dressed like Bozo the Clown, they cannot see you.  No, scratch that — they will not see you!  I’ve been struck by carts and slammed into by people, and most of them don’t even acknowledge that I’m there after we’ve collided.  And you know those electronic carts they provide for handicapped people?  Those things are a fucking menace!  Don’t get me started.

But it’s not the store.  It’s the people.  We’ve become so isolated in our own custom-designed personal bubbles that we remain completely isolated even in a busy grocery store, or any crowd of people.  We’re shutting each other out.  Doors are slamming and locking, windows are being shuttered.  Facebook and Twitter give us the illusion of interaction and human contact, but they’re empty substitutes.  It’s as if we’re trying to forget each other.

When I was a kid, there seemed to be only one expert consulted by talk show hosts and news programs, one woman who would discuss relationships and sex and marital problems seriously and then yuck it up with Paul Lynde and Rose Marie on The Hollywood Squares.  She was everywhere, giving calm, reasoned advice, citing experts in various fields to back up that advice.  Dr. Joyce Brothers died on May 13 at the age of 85, and it made me feel old because, since the announcement of her death, I’ve encountered people who’d never heard of her, who didn’t know who she was.

Dr. Brothers had been out of the spotlight for a long time.  Then she showed up in some commercial and I remembered how ubiquitous she used to be.  She had the most soothing voice and manner and was always unfailingly polite and respectful to those around her when she appeared on talk show panels.  She was the first of the TV psychologists to openly discuss things like abortion, breast cancer, and homosexuality, topics that previously had been taboo on television.  She never shamed or bullied anyone on TV and expressed only interest and concern for others.

That’s why she’d disappeared for so long.  She’d become obsolete.  Today’s media advice-givers are largely assholes.  Why?  Because to become a recognized figure in the media today, it seems you have to be an asshole or no one will pay attention to you.  I’m of the opinion that people like “Dr.” Phil and “Dr.” Laura should be publicly flogged.  I think things like the stocks should be brought back for people like Dr. Drew Pinsky, who stopped being a doctor of any kind long, long ago and has been nothing but a media whore for years.

Dr. Joyce Brothers was the butt of a lot of jokes because she was everywhere.  It was often said that she would attend the opening of an envelope.  She enjoyed her celebrity, no doubt about it, but she took her position as a source of advice and information very seriously.  She kept up with the latest research and always turned to a long list of experts in various fields for her source material.  I’m sure she was horrified by the likes of the lumbering bully, “Dr.” Phil or that simpering exploiter of addicts, Dr. Drew.  She was a class act.  Her passing is more than just the loss of an intelligent, gentle woman who always had a helpful word for everyone.  It also marks the passing of people in the media that we could respect, look up to, and admire.  Now all we’ve got are assholes.

I’m reading a book called Hard Bite by a woman who writes under the pseudonym Anonymous-9.  I haven’t enjoyed a new novel this much in a long time.  It’s dark and funny and gritty and shocking, and the writing is tight and compelling, and I don’t look forward to reading the last page because I'm going to hate to see it end.

Hard Bite is about Dean Drayhart, a paralyzed, wheelchair-bound hit-and-run victim who has devoted his life to killing hit-and-run drivers.  But because of his condition, he can’t do it himself.  He needs help.  That’s where his adorable but deadly capuchin monkey Sid comes in.  No, you didn't misread that sentence.  Sid the monkey is the killer.

It’s doubtful that you’ve read a book quite like Hard Bite and I recommend that you read it now so you'll be ready for Anonymous-9's followup.  She's a fiercely original and witty writer and I look forward to reading more of her work.


  1. Very true musings on the invisibility that occurs when we shop. Perhaps that explains why people shop at Wal-mart is such unkempt conditions. Maybe they feel, and possibly rightly so, that no one will see them. Some of them I do see and wish I hadn't.
    Hard Bite sounds wonderful! I'll have to check it out.

    Jim Goad

  2. You may be on to something, Jim. Thanks for commenting. My blog posts don't always read like an old fart complaining on a porch swing. Heh-heh.

  3. Ray, thank you so much for this rave endorsement of HARD BITE. It means a tremendous amount from a pro like you who has devoted his life to words and is accomplished as hell. I'm about to send all my pals the link! Also, regarding the rest of your post, I know exactly what you are talking about. Here is Los Angeles, it's the worst. Finally, Paul Lynde was my absolute favorite. He was so funny and pithy--a comic like no other. RIP Paul.