Sunday, July 31, 2011

She'd probably get a Rover, ha! ha! ha!

There are many things in life I don't do.

I don't use the phrase "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."*

I don't cheer and break into applause when somebody drops a plate in a restaurant.

I don't work out people's zodiac signs from their birthdays, partly because I don't know what the relevant dates are, but mainly because I think astrology is as big a load of crap** as the Republican canard*** that bloody rich people get into a snit and refuse to create jobs in the US because they don't get to keep proportionally more of their income than the rest of us.

Leila. photographed by Secundus
And I don't automatically recalculate dog's ages in human years. In fact, I don't even know the formula.

However, as should be abundantly obvious from this blog, I have no influence whatsoever on my children, and when I mentioned that the divine Leila (the Overbeast) is coming up to her fourth birthday, Tertius immediately did the mental arithmetic.

"In human years," he announces, "she's old enough to drive."

Now there's a disturbing concept.

*It's not merely the fact that it's a cliche. It's the fact that people who do still use it always do so with this smug, knowing smirk on their face, as if they'd just made it up themselves and as if it bestows them with some superiority. Ah, don't get me started.

**Kindly ignore the fact that I wrote a mystery that used the signs of the zodiac as the murderer's code. I am large, I contain multitudes.

***Not French for dog, as in canine. French for duck.

Friday, July 29, 2011

How green was my Vivaldi.

I'll admit it. I'm a nerd. I have about 700 CDs of classical music. (I say "about," because I've never counted them. I'm not that much of a nerd.)

They're sitting in a cabinet in their own nook in the living room, alphabetized by composer. (Okay, that raises the nerd quotient.)

Or they were. Noticing some odd regularities cropping up on one or two shelves, I look more closely. Tertius has apparently decided they look better if they're arranged by color, and he's made a start by grabbing all the London company recordings and shoving them on one shelf. (Britten's Britten, Dutoit's Ravel and Stravinsky, Ashkenazy's Sibelius, and Haitinck's Shostakovich, mainly, cheek by jowl in rough, twentieth-century familiarity.) It took an hour to fix. Which I quite enjoyed. (Yup, slap me on the ass and call me 'Nerdy.')

There is a literary precedent. In An Embarrassment of Corpses (okay, I used the word 'literary' pretty loosely there), I mentioned that my character Oliver arranges his books by color, on the grounds that you never forget the color of a book you've read. (I tested this theory on Primus recently, who got all seven volumes of the Harry Potter series right.) I'm not sure this works for recording labels, though.

It's not just me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's all about setting limits.

I mention that I need some energy from somewhere. A few minutes later, Tertius pops up and hands me an energy drink that he's concocted just for me. A kind, caring gesture from an eight-year-old that must, of course, be reinforced.

I take a sip. Fortunately I'd already dished out the praise. "What's in here?" I'm forced to ask, gasping.

"You didn't have any cranberry juice," he says. "So it's orange juice, apple juice,  lemon juice, and some of that vegetable stuff. And salt."

That almost explains the distinctive flavor. "Vegetable stuff?" I croak. We don't have any V-8's in the house.

"Yeah. I squeezed a lettuce into it."

"Did you try it?"


"Did you, er, like it?"

"Oh, yes."

"Then you can finish it," I said. Ha! Creative Parenting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'll buy that t-shirt.

Unexpected wisdom from Secundus, while touring The Container Store:

"Duct tape and Photoshop. Two things that make everything better."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Does she know me?

I bump into an old friend in the Patisserie, and we compare notes on how we're distributing our children for the summer. (Mine are with me at the time, camp finished for the day and squabbling over lemonades.)

"Still, you can't complain, can you?" she says brightly, as we part.

You can't? When did that become a rule?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Into the sixteenth minute.

Despite my tyranny, subterfuge, and downright lying, the boys do know that I have a car radio channel tuned to one of those stations with a playlist of just three recent releases. In a moment of gracious condescension, I accede to their clamors to switch from NPR to this setting, knowing the trip is mercilessly short. We get an autotuned Britney croaking something that won't be regarded as her best work.

"Britney Spears?" remarks ten-year-old Secundus. "Is she still alive?"

It's coming for you, Bieber.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just checking in.

Three more people asking for directions. The last one beckons me over and starts talking before I remove the earbuds. On the restart, he growls somewhat impatiently that he wants to get to the Yonkers Raceway. Yonkers Raceway is at least fifteen miles away, on the other side of the county. Come on man, you're not even trying. I suggest buying an atlas would be a good start.

The trees still hate me. I'm walking to the station yesterday morning when there's a slapping in the leaves above my head. I stop in my tracks, and a dead branch crashes to the sidewalk a foot or two in front of me. Was this because of that forsythia pruning incident? Because the Rye Public Works department made me do it.

Nice to see Tertius taking an interest in finances. He hands me a coupon that's he sketched for a billion dollars, with my name on it. "Buy yourself something pretty," he urges.

(How about Greece?)

Since my current retirement income strategy is hoping at least one of my three boys is going to be the next Bill Gates, I think this is a good sign.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If it's Wednesday, this must be Friday.

Two people today have ended their encounter with me by wishing me an enjoyable weekend.

It's Wednesday. (Isn't it?)

Monday, July 11, 2011

The first negative review.

And what then of this so-called book, you gloriously talented English god-among-men, I hear you cry, referring of course to this blog's namesake, the third book in the Oliver Swithin series.

Well, it was finished. Some time ago. The trouble was, it was much too long, necessitating an unplanned round of revisions to try to lose 30,000 words. But with all the disciplined cuts -- including self-indulgent moments of whimsy, irrelevant jokes, and a whole slice of sub-plot -- I only eliminated half of that target. So once more unto the breach . . .  (Starting by ousting every adverb, said he cuttingly.)

Anyway, when Secundus was praising a kid's author for a wam-bam opening, I thought I'd try him on the first paragraph of This Private Plot, which currently reads:

“The odd thing about a banana,” Oliver Swithin mused as he chased the naked policewoman across the moonlit field, “is not that it’s an excellent source of potassium, but that everybody seems to know it is.”

"Do you think you'd want to read on?" I asked.

"Nah," he said. "It sounds like a documentary about bananas."

Hey, I'd read that. I like bananas.

P.S. Best mystery opening lines ever

Runner-up: Raymond Chandler, from the short story "Red Wind."
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot, dry, Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that, every booze party ends in a fight. Meek, little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.
Winner: Charlaine Harris, Dead Over Heels
My bodyguard was mowing the yard wearing her pink bikini when the man fell from the sky.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When your doctor says "Hmmm . . . interesting."

They say that the definition of a bore is someone who, when you ask them how they are, tells you. Prepare to be bored.

It all started several weeks ago. I was assembling new beds for the boys, and I must have spent a lot of time with all my weight pressing into my left knee. The next day, it was swollen and puffy. But I know what this is -- it's bursitis, also known as "Roofer's knee" or "Clergyman's knee" or especially "Housemaid's knee." If it's like the goose-egg I got on my elbow when I fell flat on the ice in January, it'll just go away with a bit of rest and elevation.
Housemaid's knee, housemaid's knee
It's plain to see it's house maid's knee.
No rest and elevation around this place. The knee goes down, but the fluid seems to descend down my shin, causing bruising on my foot, spots on my shins, and puffiness around my ankle. Again, I give it time. But I complain about my condition to my friend Gina, and she emails back with a jeremiad on the risks of unchecked puffiness, which could be the dreaded cellulitis. I check cellulitis on the internet. Here's my advice: Don't check cellulitis on the internet. Or at least stop before you get to the bit about flesh-eating bacteria. This terrifies me into going to the doctor the next day.
Cellulitis, cellulitis
What if my plight is cellulitis?
Next day -- the last day I put up a post on this blog -- I wake with an excrutiating pain in my ear and the sound of fluid in my ear canal. Has the feared cellulitis spread? Because it's the last day of school and I have to be back to pick up two of the boys by lunchtime, I go to the Urgent Care Center as soon as it opens. "I have a pain in my ankle and in my ear, and I want to know if they're connected" I cry. The doctor looks at me strangely, but orders an x-ray of my ankle and ultrasound of my leg. No break, no clots. Should get better on its own. But here are two types of antibiotics for the ear infection -- otitis externa, aka "Swimmer's ear."
Swimmer's ear, swimmer's ear
What we have here is swimmer's ear.
Next day, the leg gets better. The ear gets worse. Constant pain, living from Tylenol to Tylenol, side of the face hugely swollen and tender, loss of hearing. And then these spots start breaking out on my face, near my ear. I also start running temperatures of 102. I suffer for the weekend, but take myself off to my regular doctor on Monday. By now, the spots have spread across my face, scalp, and upper body, and I suspect an allergy to one of the medications . . . but which? (It's like a mystery story.)
Hives, hives, hives, hives
Antiobiotics save lives, but did they give me hives?
And that's when Dr. C says "Hmmm. Interesting." I tell him I don't want to be interesting. He says sorry and mutters things about hospital stays pumping me with anti-viral drips. Instead, he sends me to an infectious diseases specialist, Dr F. Who also says "Interesting." Because what I have is . . . chickenpox.
Chickenpox, chickenpox
Both the docs think chickenpox.
So Dr. F gives me some antivirals for the chickenpox and takes a swab of my ear, which isn't getting better, despite my reaching the end of the antiobiotics. I go home, unable to tell whether it's the pox or the ear that's responsible for a range of debilitating symptoms, mainly a desire to do nothing lay flat on my bed and stare at the ceiling for days. (No difference there from normal life, but I usually call that "research." I should add that all this happens while I'm generally in charge of the boys, now on summer break, since the mem-sahib is at an offsite for much of the week. The boys are safe, having had their chickenpox jabs. I let them watch the extended, uncut Lord of the Rings trilogy and stomp off to bed till it's over.)

But the pox halts and then recedes (messily) over several days, the swelling of the face goes down, the fevers desist. The ear is still bloody painful and my hearing remains muffled. And then Dr. F calls. The results of the swab came back -- I have a MRSA infection (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which means the antiobiotics haven't been doing all they should.
Could it get any worser? It's a MRSA
So on to the more powerful antibiotics. Early days, but I think they're working. What's next, bubonic plague? Throg's neck? Spock's brain?

This post isn't supposed to be funny. It's a blatant bid for sympathy in a cruel and unfeeling world. But while I need a hug, don't get too close -- I may be catching.