As you may have heard, I recently shared a stage with Augusten Burroughs as he passed through Durham on a book tour, and a surprising number of commenters from this very blog showed up. They flew and drove from various distant parts of the colonies, and what do you know: people you’ve never laid eyes upon in your life are precisely as good as you think they are, if not better. Funny you can find anywhere – you can find funny in any Morality Free Zone. Earnest is also easy, because as long as you behave earnestly you can toss honesty out the window. (If you think I’m wrong, corner an Earnest Type and really push against their convictions. In response you won’t get the results of deep soul-searching, believe me. You’ll get a wide-eyed, “But you know I mean well, I always try to do the right thing,” and then the conversation will be OVER.) All the human characteristics that can be manufactured: sweetness, patience, solicitude, tattoos, hair, and attention span – these are not Of Which I Speak. Goodness is singular. Consider how many friends or acquaintances you’ve known who have been the sole good person in a family, or in the building where they work, or in their church. The majority of the Good don’t even know how far apart they stand. I’m looking at you, Shanna: if you want to know why I laughed so hard in the lobby of the Inn when you revealed how cranky you felt? Because, Hello Goodness. I’ve personally had my fill of the type who live according to the code of “What Makes Me Appear To Be A Good Person,” and I’ve come to the conclusion that if THAT’S how an individual rolls? He or she might be a liar, might be psychotic, could be murderously vicious, could be merely confused, maybe is actually good: I don’t care, and I’m not sticking around to sort it out. Life’s too short. I’ll take Sher, thanks, who is better than you can possibly imagine, and in so many different ways I do NOT deserve to know her. Show me a person like Caryl – whose generosity I won’t begin to reveal here (trust me: it’s staggering) – who, when a Stranger I didn’t care for came over and started asking questions, allowed me to rid the group of said Stranger by telling her Caryl was a prostitute I met online, and I had no idea who anyone else was. Not only allowed it, Caryl didn’t blink. Just picked up the ball and ran with it. From Lightning Bug Mollie to Kathleen and Maureen and everyone else – I won’t keep singling you all out in case you’re in the Witness Protection Program, and I’m not referring to Girl from the Ghetto, unless I AM – you are among a group of strangers you can trust. I don’t trust anyone based on surface cues, I doubt I need point that out. Name a category meant to confer immediate trustworthiness and you’re also naming the place criminals go to hide. That’s been the case for a good . . . 6,000 years or so. You’re a Christian, you say? Yeah, Judas Iscariot was an apostle. You only eat organic food from the Temple of the Free Range Fowl? Okey-doke. In Mooreland virtually everyone raised the cow, killed the cow standing face-to-face with it, did the butchering and the wrapping in brown paper, stacked the meat in the chest freezer, and no one thought twice when a father beat the crap out of his son for failing to put “sir” at the end of a very short sentence. In a world that routinely glorifies the cynical, no one gets a free pass from me, and I’m telling you: these are good people. I don’t know how they all wound up in the same place, but I’m thinking they might have little magnets hidden in their pouches. What a mystery. To those who came: I’ll never forget how many sacrifices you made to be here – it meant the world to me. Being present is the better part of friendship, and it’s compassionate and true-blue, and you can be sure I noticed. My gratitude to you is immense.
Here are some things making me unbearably cranky; unbearable to ME, I don’t want to know how other people feel about my crankiness or I’ll just get worse, thanks.
* Writing a book that includes a chapter on the figure of Jesus – in literary, historical, or religious renderings – is a terrible, terrible idea. In a lifetime of Wow, SO Stupid inclinations (and I include going all the way to the TOP of that tree, as well as taking up every dare; every event that included the phrase “upside-down”; and yes, Bethy, stopping that random stranger and forcing him to drive us to Market Square Arena because it was too far to walk), THIS takes the Stupid prize.
* I know – I do, I swear – I know that save one other Crank who comments on this very blog – I alone was horrified by the Susan Boyle video, and because it continues to be covered everywhere, in all the news sources I typically read, every day, I grow increasingly crankified. Robert, especially you, angel – I understand what you told me and I respect why you were moved by it, I do. But I’ll skip what I saw and what I said to John, after I regained the use of my jaw. Just look at the Times headline, “Unlikely Singer Becomes YouTube Sensation.” NOT “Singer Becomes Unlikely YouTube Sensation,” and if you think the New York Times doesn’t know what they’re doing when they write a headline? Sure they don’t. It’s elementary, Haven, who doesn’t know there’s a 1:1 connection, dictated by reality itself and supported by the laws of logic, stating that Talent is the sole province of 14-year-olds surgically manufactured for sexual attractiveness? Duh. And Susan Boyle broke through all that, reminded us of our better selves, did she? That would explain the article the next day, about how she must constantly fend off offers for “make-overs” and advice for self-improvement through fashion and cosmetics; our Better Selves love her so much we’ll do it for free! In the past few days, an article appeared in the Huffington Post – finally – by a crank who said he supposes we’ll have to rethink our position on ugly people having no value whatsoever. What a pain in the ass THAT will be. I’ll have to give it to Simon Cowell though – really, bravo, Mr. Machiavelli of popular culture. He currently OWNS the Lie Factory, and he’s made it profitable for himself for years, even as the industry itself nosedived and went up in flames. He’s so smart he saw someone who didn’t fit the Lie and used her to make himself look like The Hero Who Stopped Lying For Just A Minute. “Let’s take a couple minutes before she walks onstage to edit so she REALLY looks the fool, yes? Play it up from every angle, I even want the Three Stooges-like score in the background. And NO REAL BRITS in the reaction, hear me? Only the pretty people we had shipped over from the Hollywood division – they’re in the cages marked Extras and Walk-Ons – fill the front rows with them, I want their orthodontia in the money shot.” Well-played, y’all. And Susan Boyle, god bless her dear heart. I hope she means it when she says all she wants to do is sing, I really do. Because when this moment’s over, and it will be very very soon, she’ll still be able to. To her friends and neighbors. In her tiny village in Scotland.
* Another way of looking at that video is this: live television exists and perishes by seconds on a clock. Time isn’t just money, it’s everything (of course, everything is money but stick with me). The column in the newspaper, the page or portion of a page in magazines, air-time in radio and television: all are known as “real estate.” Start to finish the Boyle video is seven minutes – a lot of real estate – and the producers heavily tilted the clock toward the build-up, rather than the performance, then gave as much real estate to the reaction as to the song. Make of that what you will.
* Did I NOT confess to the cranky up front?
* If you are one of the 2,000 people who have sent e-mail I haven’t answered, it’s not because I don’t love you, it’s because I haven’t read them, either. The larger the number in my in-box the more panicked I become, a situation that is NOT assuaged by writing about Jesus, nor by my old friend, popular music. In fact, I don’t know where to begin with the e-mail problem. Does one start with the most recent, or the most egregiously late?
* Please discuss: Miss Madonna was thrown from a horse again – the second time in four years. Horses People, explain why a trained rider being thrown from a trained horse is unusual. Those familiar with the Hamptons, explain why the paparazzi scenario is highly unlikely. Everyone else, could we suggest another animal for her to ride, like something closer to the ground and more fitting to her personality?
* For the record, there are things I am not mad about: Obama, who is extraordinarily well-suited for his job. Cake. My children, who – how curious is this? – share the bizarre trait of finding my worst moods the most amusing. My friend Dean, who three days ago had an exchange with Jerry Lewis at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi, one of the most sublimely hilarious exchanges in the history of humanity. THANK YOU, Dean, thank you VERY much. Everyone who sent me the link to Barbie Turns 50 on SNL, even when I used to be happy I was never SO happy. But later? Angelina and Madonna on Weekend Update? As all who live near me can attest, I was hysterical for days and days. The real pay-off for not watching television is that your friends will winnow all the crap away and give you just the bright, shining bestness.
* Less crank-inducing than fascinating, a few days ago I saw an article about four people being sentenced to prison time for piracy, and I automatically assumed they were actual pirates. It took me a whole paragraph to understand they were guilty of trademark piracy, which is just so tired and five years ago. There are real pirates again; online file sharing is trifling and crappity by comparison. The ship’s captain from Vermont who offered himself as a hostage in exchange for his passengers and crew? Now there is a hero. He did exactly what a captain is supposed to do. We should all send him candy and free health insurance.
* The Chinese have a vast army of trained dolphins, who rose up against the Somali gangster-ships and shared the bejesus out of the pirates. They are men with AK-47s who don’t fear the wrath of U.S. Navy SEALs, they routinely terrorize other Somalis by driving their Range Rovers up to the door of the home where the young woman they plan to abduct is living, and they are quite, quite high. The whole operation is conducted by warlords who make Dick Cheney look like your kindly granddaddy, and those dolphins made them scream REVERSE! in the manner my daughter calls Pink Frilly Dress. I’m wildly enamored of this turn of events, although I do understand that China has trained fighter dolphins and we do not, and this is bound to cause rampant paranoia among a certain group of people, I know you know who I’m talking about. DOLPHINS.
Blog Babies who traveled here: thank you, thank you. You are what love can do. I have to go back to that awful, awful book – NO COMMENTS ABOUT THE BOOK, I can’t take it, even encouragement is ghastly at this point – and will post again as soon as I’m mad about enough YouTube videos. In the meantime, look at all that I gave you to work with!! Take it and run!!