A lot of shifting around the old thoughts in my brain these last few days and still having trouble bringing them in for a coordinated landing. All the corners of my brain seem to be fighting for their own column inch, as they used to say in the 30’s films about the ink stained wretches of the newspaper game. Cue Howard Hawks.

Is anybody else here feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the new rules?

It all started today with mouthwash. I was trying to get my head aligned with sorting out my column inch problem, trying to pin down the precise, genuine thought that was first and foremost on my mind this morning at 7:27, the time of writer’s liftoff. As I stumbled into the bathroom – I brushed my teeth in the shower (is this getting a bit too personal?) and hadn’t yet rinsed with my mouthwash because Listerine Total Care Zero Alcohol tells you not to eat or drink for 20 minutes after gargling. I was busy doing a somewhat sloppy job with other morning chores when I said, Oh, times up, I better go back and gargle. Barbara was stepping out of the shower as I entered (and this is getting even more too personal) as I, in my preoccupied state, took a gulp of the Listerine straight from the bottle, and she said, “You’re drinking it right out of the bottle,” and I said, “I didn’t do that… I didn’t …oh, I don’t know if In did or not I didn’t notice…uh, yes I guess I did.” Caught!

Then I ran over to Trader Joe’s to get some eggs. As some of you may know if you’re over 60 they let you right in at 9 before the store officially opens. If you walk straight up to the front door filled with confidence, they’ll let you right in and hand you a red shopping cart and welcome you to the store. They even give you your choice of whether you want to have a black or brown store walking stick to assist you on your in-store journey.

Like Donald Trump coming down the ramp on Saturday, I resisted either and decided to make my way rapidly around the store on my own, with only the aid of my sanitized shopping cart providing additional balance assistance that I might require.

At the checkout counter, as I had learned from prior TJ shopping experiences, I made no attempt to place my items on the belt and waited behind the plexiglass. Suddenly, I spied the card reader standing alone and unprotected and available at the end of the counter just past the end of the plexiglass. “Ah,” I thought, “I shall be a good citizen and speed up the checkout process. I moved to tap the screen on the reader and was promptly ordered back behind the plexi. “I’m sorry,” I said with just a hint of genuine shame for my misstep. The Checkouter picked up on it immediately.

“We’re all in this together,” she said cheerily, but I could not completely forgive myself for my faux pas.

I moved on to the parking lot, where once again determined to be of help, I removed my groceries from the cart and reached out to pass it back to the TJ employees wiping down other carts. “Don’t give that to us. Return it to the cart corral – there at the end of the parking lot. Crestfallen, I did as I was told. Nothing major had happened, But I was left with the overriding sensation that I just am not able to meet with the demands of this brave new world we’re now inhabiting, and if I’m depressed by mouth wash, and plexiglass and shopping cart corrals. How are the people with real problems and handicaps, and hardships making it through?

I asked my friend Thornton Wilder for advice. This is what he said. He also told me it might be a bit too long, so if it occurred to me to cut any of it, I should. It didn’t, and I didn’t. Here it is from his play The Skin of Our Teeth.

SABINA: Mrs. Antrobus, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to go to the bonfire and celebrate the war’s end. And I hear they’re reopening the movie theater; we could all go.
MR. ANTROBUS: Well, Sabina, I haven’t seen any money for quite a while.
SABINA: Oh, you don’t need money. They’re taking anything you can give. And I have some . . . some . . . Mrs. Antrobus, promise you won’t tell anyone. It’s a little against the law. But I’ll give you some, too.
MR. ANTROBUS: What is it?
SABINA: I’ll give you some, too. Yesterday I picked up a lot of . . . of beef cubes!
[MRS. ANTROBUS turns & speaks calmly.] MRS. ANTROBUS: But, Sabina, you know you ought to give that in to the Center downtown. They know who needs them most.
SABINA: [Outburst.] Mrs. Antrobus, I didn’t make this war. I didn’t ask for it. And, in my opinion, after anybody’s gone through what we’ve gone through, they have a right to grab what they can find. You’re a very nice man, Mr. Antrobus, but you’d have got on better in the world if you’d realized that dog-eat-dog was the rule in the beginning and always will be. And most of all now.
[In tears.] Oh, the world’s an awful place, and you know it is. I used to think something could be done about it; but I know better now. I hate it. I hate it.
[She approaches slowly & takes some cubes from bag.] All right. All right. You can have them.
MR. ANTROBUS: Thank you, Sabina.
SABINA: Can I have . . . can I have one to go to the movies?
[MR. ANTROBUS, in silence, gives her one.] Thank you.
MR. ANTROBUS: Good night, Sabina.
SABINA: Mr. Antrobus, don’t mind what I say. I’m just an ordinary girl, you know what I mean. But you’re a very bright man, and of course you invented the alphabet and the wheel, and, my God, a lot of things . . . and if you’ve got any other plans, my God, don’t let me upset them. Only I’ve got to go to the movies. I mean my nerves can’t stand it. But if you have any ideas about improving the crazy old world, I’m really with you. I really am. Because it’s . . . it’s . . . Good night.
EXIT SABINA

I also started a new book. The author is a former professional sex worker and a filmmaker, who is the author of the novel Baise-Moi which she adapted for the screen and co-directed with the porn star Coralie Trinh Thi. Upon its release it became the first film to be banned in France in 28 years. It’s pretty interesting.

 

Jim Niesen

irondale

Author irondale

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