I'm thinking of writing a book about a guy named Tom who teaches at a fictional SUNY school. I have a notebook of unhelpful ideas from my first attempt back in March. For example a tiresome description of a local diner that is astonishingly similar to every other description of a local diner: "The waitress has dyed hair and a leathery nicotined face and a croaky voice and a nasal local accent." God help me from including such a witless and sodden stereotype in anything.

I have become a jill-of-all-trades, including taking minutes at a meeting of the local biodiesel cooperative, designing a website for a local retailer, and dogsitting an elderly black lab for five days. This last was a life-changing experience--since the dog can't see I talked to him constantly so he'd know where I was. He is a large and happy and slow fellow whose blank eyes and furry girth gradually convinced me that he is a tranquil bodhisattva dog here on earth to teach the simultaneous value and futility of life. During our walks I told him my plans and my concerns. I wondered what he was thinking. Does he remember the green fields and dead ducks of puppyhood? Does blindness and slowness bother or frustrate him? Does he live simply in each moment, listening to HBO, lumbering downstairs for a walk, smelling clumps of grass and marking them with pee, standing in the brook to cool his belly, rolling in the grass growling, then back upstairs for more lying in the living room? I should spend time with elderly persons of my own species.

In fact I have been obsessed with human mortality and the trials of existence since leaving Boston. Fortunately I have a good store of Woody Allen movies to help me interpret my angst. For example, Alvy Singer's joke in Annie Hall:

Two elderly women are at a Catskill Mountain resort. And one of 'em says: 'Boy, the food in this place is really terrible.' The other one says: 'Yeah, I know. And such small portions.' Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.

And in Love and Death Sonja counsels:

Natasha, to love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But, then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down.

No comments: