Weekending: game night

This weekend I flew to Chicago with only one small carry-on bag. Like a hobo! I was practicing for my month in Paris this summer, for which I intend to pack three dresses, two pairs of shoes, mascara, lip balm, my laptop, iPad, camera, and 30 pairs of underwear. I wonder how the French feel about panties in the trash. Or are panties considered recyclable items? The sort of query le googleh was invented for.

It went okay (Chicago). I didn't lose anything valuable because I didn't take anything valuable (ho ho ho, APART FROM MY PERSON), and Chips picked me up via the cell phone lot system just like she promised. It's exceptionally clever, this system. I would like to recommend it to my parents the next time I go to Wisconsin, but since they own only one cell phone and every time it's needed it is either A) at home, B) in the other car, C) turned off, or D) not charged, this seems like a plan that's destined to backfire. And considering my mom took three wrong turns within the first 20 minutes of picking me up at Easter, I hesitate to add another line item to that brain tax.

I'm practicing eliminating unnecessary words from my posts this week. Whittle to essentials = carry-on. (This might work like Braille for you the reader.)

Now let's try the next paragraph with no punctuation and see where we come out Chips and Salsa and I ate lunch at RJ Grunt's in Lincoln Park which is just down the bike path from where I used to live in Lakeview and while we were standing outside in the sunny but cold breeze waiting for a table she got a phone call with sad news and I'm starting to doubt people will invite me to things anymore because every time I go away for the weekend it seems to end in somebody dying somewhere which is also HUBRIS and please see "topper" below.

On the plane I read the latest issue of The Paris Review, which is the purest plane reading because it's both compact and dense with content and makes you look super smart to strangers (ho ho ho, LIKE MY PERSON). One of the interviews was with nonfiction writer John McPhee (who prefers the term "factual writing" to "creative nonfiction") and the other was with Ray Bradbury, and they are shall we say antipodean on whether or not writing can be taught. McPhee says "writing teaches writing," which is the kind of thing you'll hear from a man who teaches writing at Princeton, as McPhee does, but that "it seems like a pointless exercise if you're trying to teach somebody to write the way you do." (He also has lovely things to say about Peter Benchley and former New Yorker editors William Shawn and Robert Bingham.) Bradbury says college is "a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don't. They have prejudices." It's not clear how he knows this, since he didn't go to college, but somebody on the inside must've talked. Whereas libraries, he says, have no biases: "I discovered that the library is the real school." They both have a lot to say about libraries.

I loved this from Bradbury:

I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing. If you behave every day of your life to the top of your genetics, what can you do? Test it. Find out. You don’t know—you haven’t done it yet. You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes.

I also finished Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, and the most important thing I learned is that like Gretchen, I am both a conversationalist know-it-all and topper, but thank goodness not a deflator. The Know-it-all: "Here is everything I know about this subject you just mentioned and did not invite me to comment on and/or lecture about." The Topper: "Wow, if you think that was bad, just wait till you hear this!" And for the sake of convenience, the Deflator, which I am not: "That thing you just mentioned you love and are excited about? That's stupid and this other thing is better than that."

Gross, right? I hope I don't do that last thing.

Magic 8 Ball says: Concentrate and ask again.

What else happened?

I took a pre-party nap in Chips' office on her full-size Aerobed, which is in many sad ways more comfortable than my own real mattress, and when I awoke I performed a dramatic reading for her from the Flowers in the Attic entry in Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. I could have sworn I committed the relevant details of that book to memory decades ago, but the ol' gearshift apparently got gunked up along the way by the gritty sands of time. So I segued into my Petals on the Wind thesis, with plot points culled from a surprisingly robust Wikipedia entry. Here are the awesomest:

  1. He commits suicide in his hospital bed when he learns he will never dance again. Cathy, though guilt-ridden, is free.
  2. Corinne is not tried for murder, because she is deemed unfit to stand trial, she screams whenever Cathy visits, which causes the nurses to have only Chris to visit her, however, Corinne keeps up the facade of being insane, because she believes that Chris will tell Cathy, and that she would then be tried for murder.

Context would only kill it for you.

After that we watched Salsa chop mangoes and make the guacamole, and finally Mrs. Smith arrived with the Old Man and then CV and Rich and Stretch and Big Tony, and it was just like the old days again, with too much food and too many people talking too loudly all at the same time and shouting out dubious answers to Catch Phrase: Music Edition ("Mix It Up") and Taboo! which gets harder and harder to play as we get older and older and the type on those little cards gets smaller and smaller. We are Alice in Wonderland growing in both directions at once with that game.

Thank you, friends, for inviting me to the party no matter where it is or where we are. You are all still insane. This is good news!