Friday, July 07, 2017

The Quotidian got busted

 By Fred Owens
There was a dog in the bookstore yesterday

There was a dog in the bookstore yesterday. I was shocked beyond belief. A standard poodle on a leash in the history department. I avoided that aisle. I told the clerk about this and he said "We love dogs." And I said, "well, do you love picnics?" He said yes. "So you wouldn't mind if I spread out a blanket on the floor in the fiction aisle and ate my tuna fish sandwich with watermelon." He said they wouldn't allow a picnic. I said, well can I wash my hair in the your bathroom sink? He said no...... there's nothing wrong with washing my hair, right? but for some reason you just can't do it in a bookstore. ........ Same with goats, pizza delivery and car repair -- all good things but not appropriate for a bookstore...... Right -- he agreed with me ..... So can you tell that woman to remove her dog?
There was a dog in the bookstore...... Any good editor would call that a poor opening sentence with a very weak verb........ so shoot me.
The Language Resource Center
This February I got the idea to collect language dictionaries and start a Language Resource Center. There are at least 5,000 languages spoken in the world and I would collect all 5,000 dictionaries, plus grammars and phrase books and related texts. I would build shelves in Mabel's garage. That was the beauty of it -- because Mabel offered me her empty garage at no rent, It's clean and dry and free of mold -- a perfect place for 5,000 books, and right across the street.
What kind of work would I do at the Language Recourse Center? Well, I had not figured that out, and most of the work would take place online -- but I still wanted the books -- all lined up on shelves from Albanian to Zulu.
Who would pay for the books? I didn't have an answer to that. The only thing I had was a place to put them -- Mabel's garage.
Do you know how rare it is to find an empty, clean, rent-free garage in Santa Barbara?  I dreamed about having a table and two chairs and holding language tutoring sessions.
Well, it never happened. The Language Resource Center died. I just don't have the drive to go against the common judgment. I had no plan and no money, so that was that.
The Quotidian is Busted
I gave up on the novel. It was titled the Quotidian and I posted the first two sections on recent issues of Frog Hospital.

 I got a good head start with 8,000 words, but the world is in oversupply with novels.. I just couldn't sell it. I showed a few pages to a few friends and they tried to humor me. Sure, Fred, write another book, why not? What's it about, Fred?
I don't know what it's about, but I'll find out if I write it.

It will be like My Struggle, the Norwegian novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard. That was my inspiration. I couldn't say what his book is about, I just like reading it. So my novel would be like that -- reader friendly.

The truth is you don't need money or a plan to write a novel, you just need to bang it out on the laptop. Put in a few hundred hours at off intervals and bingo! you got a book.
But it's a lonely journey, with a lot of headwind, going against the common herd.
More Ideas
The great thing about my fabulous imagination it that I get lots of ideas. I get more ideas before breakfast than most people have in a week.  Most ideas go nowhere, so you toss them out, and you don't let that bother you. You don't sigh and lament and think your little scheme went to never-never land. Let it go. A new plan will take its place, and sooner or later you find one that has traction -- an idea with traction and power. Zoom! Off you go!
On the Beach
(Stealing the title from Nevil Shute's wonderful book)
Laurie and I took a walk on the beach last week. The world did not come to an end, like it does in Nevil Shute's, but we had a good time.
One of those damn flies is buzzing around my head. They fly near your ears and make a horrible sound. I hate them.
It was foggy this morning. We went for an early walk on the Douglas Preserve. This is an ocean front park on the Mesa in Santa Barbara. The actor Kirk Douglas and his family donated the money to buy the preserve and keep it natural so they get their name on it. Good people. We parked at Hendry’s Beach. We took the winding path through the forest and up  to the Mesa – a bit of heavy breathing on that climb. At the top we walked across grassland on dusty paths.
Everybody is out walking their dog in the morning. “The morning dog walkers are different than the evening dog walkers. I think I like them better,” I told Laurie.
She said, “Maybe you just feel more friendly in the morning.”
I  have stopped wearing my broad-brim straw hat on these walks. For some reason it makes dogs get mad at me. How is that fair? I said to her, “I have the right to wear the hat I choose. I can send a note to every dog owner in Santa Barbara and tell them to tell their dogs to act friendly to me and my hat. I can win this argument. It wouldn’t be my fault if a dog started barking in my face because of my hat… But I give up. I’m going to wear my baseball hat and the dogs will like me better.”
Then I felt grateful and squeezed her hand, thinking my biggest problem is I’m wearing the wrong hat. I should be so lucky.
We came to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean, where the giant Monterey Cypress fell over.
“It got old and it died,” I said. “Maybe it was the drought that killed it.”
We climbed up on the dead branches of the old tree and sat down on a bare limb to look out over the broad expanse of ocean. It was not windy – we usually go in the afternoon and that’s when the wind blows, but mornings are calm.
“…. It’s too foggy. You can’t see San Miguel Island,” I said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Look over there at those humps.” She pointed to the horizon to the right of Santa Rosa Island.
“You can’t see any humps. You just know it is there, so you just think you can see it.”
“No, I can see the low humps. It’s San Miguel.”
My own theory is that they tow the islands much further out in the ocean on foggy days, so you can’t see them because they aren’t there. And they tow them back in later, back to where you usually see them.
Laurie has never seen a floating island, but I have seen them. In northern Wisconsin, on the Chippewa Flowage where we used to go on vacation when we were kids. You get floating logs and debris and they last so long in the lake water that seeds sprout and trees begin to grow. 
The trees begin to grow on the floating debris, ten and fifteen feet tall,  then the wind catches them and you have this rare sight of drifting half-acre islands covered with small trees, drifting across the lake.
I have told Laurie about this. I am with her six years now. I am running out of new stories to tell her. We’re getting into repeats. I don’t know what to do about that. She’s heard all my jokes.  But old age is on our side. Pretty soon we’ll be forgetting the stories as fast as we tell them. Endless reruns.
We sat on the branches of the huge old dead Monterey Cypress and looked at the waves and then began walking again along the path which borders the cliff, underneath towering eucalyptus and pine trees. We came to the edge of the Douglas Preserve and then walked through the neighborhood for several blocks, past the little garden where we could easily steal strawberries, past the over grown yard that hasn’t been pruned or tended in thirty years, past the expensive landscape-designed front garden with carefully chosen granite stones, past the old yellow boat parked in the driveway on a trailer.
You don’t see yellow boats too often. Boats tends to be blue or green.
“But the Taxi Dancer is yellow,” Laurie said. The Taxi Dancer is the queen of the sailing fleet in Santa Barbara Harbor. The fastest and biggest sail boat. It’s yellow. So there you have it.
We came to the Mesa Lane stairs going back down to the beach, a thousand steps, twenty flights, down and down, holding the railing, watching one foot after another, down to the sand and the lowering tide.
The waves come easy on Mesa Lane Beach, washing up on the sand.  Surging around the rocks, the molten rocks thrown from the cliff top by a giant baby having a tantrum, scattered here and there. We saw two surfers and one seal bobbing its seal head just past the surf line.
The tide was low so the beach was wide. On a high tide there is no beach here to speak of  -- just a narrow sandy strip between the cliff and the ocean. It kind of makes me nervous to sit right under the cliff.
“You never know when the giant baby is going to throw another rock,” I said. “It could happen anytime in the next hundred years, or in a second from now.”
“Do you think we would hear a warning sound – a creaking and cracking?”
Maybe. Better to keep walking and look out over the ocean. You see birds, seagulls going here and there, wheeling and diving. You see black cormorants racing – they fly fast. And the World War II bombers come rumbling in. I mean the pelicans. Stately, serene, lords of the ocean.
“I think they’re just showing off the way they skim so low over the waves,” I said. “Have you ever seen one catch a wing and crash into a wave?”
“I never have seen that, but I’m still looking.”
Pelicans are the biggest, cormorants are the fastest, and seagulls are the smartest. But not the nicest. Seagulls are not kind to each other. You throw out a piece of bread on the sand and they come dashing and fighting and stealing from each other.
Why don’t the seagulls share the food? Why don’t they take turns? Or give to the oldest and weakest. No, it’s just the seagull bullies who chase everybody else away and hog all the food.
“I’m going to teach the seagulls to share. It’s the kind of a thing people do in California,” I said.
“Maybe," she said.
“We could ask the Governor to charter a commission, Teaching Seagulls to Share.”
It’s a good half-mile from the Mesa Lane steps back to Hendry’s beach where the creek flows in and makes a small lagoon. They have a popular seafood restaurant right there, a place to dip your ceviche and watch the waves crash. We have never eaten there – too expensive.
They turned the water off on the outdoor public showers  -- a water conservation measure because of the drought.
“I don’t like that. They shouldn’t turn the water off. It’s bad for morale. Moms take their little kids to the beach and the toddlers play for hours. There is nobody happier than a small kid at a beach in California. But when you take them home you need to wash off the sand. You need the shower. That’s what I think.”
“But it saves water,” Laurie said.
“Better to stop watering the lawn instead. But leave the showers running. In California we need to feel good. Suffering is bad. Getting sand in your car is bad.”
We sat for a while on the benches in front of the restaurant, to watch the surfers and the birds.
“I want to come down here late at night sometime. I think they turn the waves off at night when no one is looking, and then turn them on again in the morning. Why waste a wave if no one is looking and no one is surfing,” I said to Laurie.
“Maybe,” she replied.

thank you for reading this,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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