I'm Watching Too Much TV

Over halfway through September. I can’t wait. I’m still stuck here in these dog days, maybe all of us are. My sentences are too long. I hear this from readers. On spell-check now I’m getting “Fragment.” I’m hitting “Ignore Rule” right now. Got HBO on in background. Starsky & Hutch, the movie with, you know, that guy. And the other guy.

Gotta start looking for apartment this weekend. Made phone calls. Went to one. How come there’s always a respectable-looking, elderly Asian couple looking much more eligible? I should go during the week, but it’s a weekend thing. Right?

Studio. Mission Hills. $750. Okay. Call. “You that guy…?”

Yeah. It’s a garage.

“Hey! Thank God for Friday, right?” Right.

National City. One bedroom. $800. Means trolley. Kids every Friday. Oh yeah, I might have a roommate. See what he thinks. Good guy. Old, like me. I’ve got too many books. Is there such a thing? Yep.

Gabriel García Márquez wrote a whole book, The Autumn of the Patriarch. One sentence. Maybe 80,000 words.

This is getting painful. My teeth hurt and I’m getting splinters somehow.

A World Fantasy Award–winning author, Richard Bowes, once told me my style was “like an infant examining his toes and fingers.” Loved the image if not the criticism.

Let’s see, looking for an apartment, and the words Mission Hills bring me back to my old house on Curlew Street, the one my wife and I bought when we made the final move out here. It looked like the Addams Family house. That was my joke at the time. My friend Gerry, Rick Bowes’s brother, called it “the Edifice Complex. Buy a house in California, fix it up, then get divorced.” Hilarious. Whoever bought it painted it a very nice lime-green, I guess you’d call it. I’m writing them a letter.

Apropos of nothing (this, I’m told, is what columnists do), there is a urologist in Arkansas named John Brizzolara. I wrote him a letter and he didn’t answer. I called his receptionist and she laughed, told me, “He figures you’re from the bad side of the family.” Okay.

I’ve got a lot of mosquitoes in the backyard where I’m living. I’m a hypochondriac, and I keep thinking about the West Nile virus and malaria. I’ve killed dozens, leaving bloody smears on the walls. I keep finding them and wiping them down, like Monk in that TV show. I’m going to call 888-551-INFO, this mosquito hotline. I require new and more ingenious methods, like mosquito-eating fish in the toilet bowl, maybe.

I’m watching too much TV. Well, not actually watching it. I’ve just got it on too much. It’s like a lava lamp for me. I tell myself it helps me think, but really, it is distracting at times. I find myself having imaginary conversations with actors I’ve never met, like Timothy Hutton and Tony Shalhoub. “Hey, I loved you in Turk 182 and The Dark Half,” or “That line of yours in Barton Fink was great, man. ‘Throw a rock in here and you’ll hit a writer. Do me a favor, Fink, and throw it hard!’ That was great, Tony. You got robbed at the Oscars.” Is this a common thing? I don’t do it out loud.

I should call my friend Cosmo. His mother was ill in Illinois last time we spoke but was getting better. Hey, Cosmo, by the time you read this we will probably have spoken, but I said a prayer just now, which got me thinking....

This is like one of my son’s ideas: What if God is constantly editing our experience and erasing memories so that we’re never quite positive that He exists. He does this intentionally in order to create, if not doubt, a certain creative tension in man’s universe, without which nothing. This can’t be an original idea. Maybe the French Jesuit Teilhard said something like it. Philip K. Dick certainly hit on something similar and repeatedly, just not in those words. I actually called up the Specialist in the middle of the night recently and told her, “I’ve got the Secret of the Universe. Want it?” She’s a great sport and said, “Sure.” Not much else except, “I don’t even know how the can opener works.” Maybe that was another time.

Actually, I have to meet the Specialist now. At Whole Foods. I’m more in the mood for some Half Foods, but I’ve got to eat something. Their butterscotch tapioca is like crack cocaine. My other friend Rick says that. Not the fantasy writer.

How do you hit “Ignore Rule” and keep it ignoring the rules?

Any suggestions?

Any landlords out there?

I’ve got a job.

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I read Autumn of the Patriarchs and I enjoyed it. Can you name any other book in which a character is given an inguinal hernia on purpose? Regarding the style, my guess is that Marquez did not want any of it excerpted in a college anthology. :-) But, seriously, although I read it 25 years ago, I do seem to remember a couple of periods, which means that each sentence was about 100 pages long. I thought it was great.

Hey, John, have you ever listened to the full five minutes of the guitar solo on Free Bird? Gawd, it is awesome!! :-)

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