Monthly Archives: May 2015

Infinite Jest/Infinite Summer

I may be taking my life into my hands but I have committed to reading David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus, Infinite Jest, this summer. My writers workshop, of which I have spoken often, has set aside 13 Tuesday nights for discussion of this monster piece of work. Over 1000 deeply packed pages of absurdity, comedy, mayhem, and madness, it offers a wonderful view into the mind of one of the best writers (if not the best) of the last thirty years. The young man who will be leading this group, well, it’s his third year in a row doing it, and he re-reads the book every year.

I have bitten the bullet and bought the book in paperback. Wallace has written a number of footnotes (yes, I know it’s fiction) on the order of nearly 400, some of which it is necessary to read to get the full scope of the book. Some of them cover many pages. Should I have my head examined, having undertaken this absurd challenge? I will still be reading for my regular workshops, presenting at one or two, and managing the space of our workshop. I also hope to get a book out by fall, though I have my doubts that it is feasible.

It is a terrible state to be in, to have to choose between reading friends’ work, writing, and reading this huge volume. And don’t forget the Red Sox. Infinite Jest is not a book you can read when the count is 3 and 2 with 2 out and runners in scoring position.

So if I don’t post too often this summer, you will know it is because I have bitten off more than I can chew. And that hasn’t happened n a long time!

Red Sox and other musings

When I was 3 years old, my father told me the Red Sox were my team. Now I’m sure he said that because of the screams I emitted every morning that there was not  a clean pair of red socks in my sock drawer. He was watching the Yankees play this other team, and he pointed at them for me. I of course didn’t believe him and wandered over to our big clunker of a tv. Since this was long before color tv, the only way to accept they were the Red Sox was to see their name spelled out on a shirt. I finally got the chance and scoffed to my father that they spelled socks wrong, and couldn’t be my team. I’m still a grammar nazi.

Flash forward about thirteen years. My father had died four years earlier and we moved shortly thereafter to Northampton, MA, where my mother was to take up the job of science librarian for Smith College. The summer I was 15, all of my friends were already 16 and could get real jobs. The laws were much more strict in those days, and I spent the summer babysitting. After putting the kids down for their naps, I prepared to watch tv for an hour or so. In those days there were only three channels and they were analog. I had the choice of watching either of two soap operas or the Red Sox. It didn’t take me long to become an addict, and when I tell you the year, those who know your baseball history will understand when I say it was the year of The Impossible Dream. My new found best buddies went to the World Series that year and lost in the 7th game. My heart was not broken yet. My boys had done something marvelous and it was enough.

Now as I make my way through another baseball year where my team on paper looks bonzer, but the application to real life lets all the human foibles appear, I must be strong. I will continue to watch even the most excruciating games, because in any game they may breakout. After all, last weekend they played two very good games and came out satisfactorily ahead. Not so much today. It is hard to stay motivated to write or knit when this state of affairs exists. There is a tremendous bright spot in the reawakening of Mike Napoli. Xander Bogaerts is beginning to hit again, and well. Mooky Betts continues to shine, and Dustin Pedroia is again challenging all comers as the league MVP. I have not given up.

Which gets me to the next point, not baseball related (but watch our for flying metaphors). I have felt in a slump writing wise for the last few weeks, one might almost say the doldrums. Part of the problem is my bad luck in finding another apartment. It appears that four cats scare off even the most open-minded landlords. My four cats are less destructive than any one small dog, perchance a chihuahua. They are not noisy (with the one exception where they knocked over my vacuum cleaner, managing to turn it on). That day was the noisiest and my downstairs neighbor simply thought I was doing a large spring cleaning. Instead my cats went neurotic that day. Not that you could see any difference.

Today I wrote 2,000 words. I don’t know if they’re any good, but the ideas conveyed in them are good, and I’ll worry about getting them into shape at some later date. And the breakthrough may have come with the knowledge I conveyed in my last post, that there is the hope of subsidized housing in the future. Perhaps it is freudian, but I mistyped the word as sunsidized, which may even be better!

Apartments and me

The apartment saga has just gotten silly. The only apartments left to rent cost in the area of $1100+ and are way outside my means. The difficulty in renting is, of course, my four cats. People say two are okay, but four is too many. How do they know that? The worst I can say about having four (other than the expense) is that four cats  chasing one fly are funnier than only two.

But I got some strangely positive news this past week, and not something I ever expected. I am now sufficiently poor that I qualify for subsidized senior housing. Unfortunately, there’s an 18-36 month wait, depending on which facility I want to enter. There are some that are fantastic, but they’re of course the longer wait. And I can’t find it in me to hope that the older persons fail enough to need to go into higher care facilities. So I sit and wait.

Of course, the problem with being this poor is that any success if and when I ever publish may make me ineligible for the subsidized housing. Every silver lining has a touch of gray! Publication of anything is off until the end of the summer at the earliest. I am currently finishing an unrelated book to the one I’ve been touting, but I am also (don’t faint) actually starting to rewrite Fantastical Times. So who knows? I may publish next fall, and I may not.

Apartments and books and other things.

I found another apartment that I really like and saw it last Wednesday. The landlord and I had a long talk in which I was totally honest with him. First, I told him that my current landlord is making scurrilous comments about me, my cats, and our respective cleanliness. His comments have cost me two apartments, but this one is in many respects the best. So then I told the landlord that I had 4 cats, which is true. He blanched. I then did my best to settle his concerns, but knew it was a stretch. We had a very nice conversation, and I left with minimal hope. He kept refreshing his ad on Craig’s List to bring it closer to the front, so I emailed him and indicated that I would give a nonrefundable deposit for the cats. Not having heard anything, I called him on Monday, and he indicated that he had not rejected me as a tenant, but wanted to show it for a few more days. I am now hedging my bets.

I go to look at two more apartments this week by Saturday. If one of those comes through, I will give him one more chance, and then go with the bird in the hand. Assuming I can stand one of the apartments.

Books are also problematic. I was planning to publish my book Fantastical Trips very soon. I have had a change of heart. It is not up to snuff. There may still be a story there, but this is not the writing with which to tell it. I had been letting it sit this month, planning on workshopping it one last time the first week in June. During the first couple of weeks of this month, I have been happily pottering away at another story I started last September. It had about 60 thousand words in it, and I wondered if it could be wrestled into something. I reread it, and immediately wrote the next 2500 words in the story. It is a much better written tale than Fantastical Trips, with better characterizations, better action, and a more devious plot. It needs work, but I will finish it in the next two weeks. I will go back, add more description, and send it off to beta readers. I have therefore cancelled the workshop on Fantastical Trips, and put it away. For how long? No idea. My heart says it’s dead, but my head says I can resurrect it.

Therefore, in the next month or so, I may have to change the complete look of this blog. The working title of the current WIP is Wandering Ways, which is descriptive of the story, but not a very exciting title. This is something I will have to think on, especially in redesigning the blog. But I have determined one thing from all of this. I want to write. I am learning the craft slowly. I cannot rush to publication with an inadequate piece of work, just for the sake of being a published author. But I also have to have faith that the stories I tell will find a home somewhere. I just hope it’s not in short stories!

But I must be mindful of one thing. I am now a month to month tenant in my current apartment. The landlord (the guy who lies about me) can evict me without cause with sixty days notice. It is a sword hanging over me.

Didn’t get the apartment!

The apartment I last wrote about also did not come through. It appears my current landlord is giving me bad reviews, I suspect in an effort to keep me. But this hardly seems fair, does it? He tells me that all he says is that my rent has always been paid on time, and that there have been no complaints against me. What do you think? This is the second apartment I have lost in two weeks. And both the new landlords had my current landlord’s phone number. Is it as fishy to you as it is to me?

I Found an Apartment!!!

I will be moving the first week of june to a lovely apartment with two major drawbacks and so many good points that they outweigh the bad. There is no parking and no laundry. BUT you should see the storage in this apartment. What is the biggest complaint about small apartments? No place to put anything. This is a very high ceilinged apartment. Think of your average kitchen with cupboards on the bottom and cupboards above the counters. Imagine a second tier of cupboards above the first above the counters. Yup, I have that much storage in the kitchen.

In the bedroom, I looked in the closet and didn’t see a dowel for holding hanging clothes. WTF? The landlord asked me to look to my left (my natural political bent) and there it was, front to back. It is as long as the bar in my current closet. What it gives is the floor room for my two dressers, and two lovely shelves above the dressers for sweaters to stay fluffy. The shelves will even allow me to rotate out the long sleeved shirts for summer, and the t-shirts for winter.

But wait, there’s more. There’s an opening further along the wall into an odd shaped closet, L-shaped in fact. The bottom bar of the L goes under the staircase outside the apartment, so that it is low ceilinged. But there is room in that closet for a number of the large plastic bins one can buy at discount stores all over the country. I can get organized! I can find a home for miscellaneous stuff I’m not ready to get rid of yet.  I have a place to put cat boxes!

I intend to move on June 5, so I may be incommunicado for a few days around then. And the landlord is cool with four cats! I’m in heaven.

Apartment Hunting Redux

The saga of looking for a new apartment continues. The rub, as I fully expected, is my four cats. My current landlord allows them, so I may be stuck for another year or two, and I may find myself away at the Burlington Writers Workshop space on Church Street much of the time if a horde of college students arrive downstairs. But the hunt is still on and who knows what lurks in the offing?

I’ve put feelers out for a couple of studio (or efficiency) apartments but they are not my first choice. One thing I realized, looking at the small apartment that I wanted but did not get, was how much junk I have and how hard it would be to fit it into a small space. I was pleasantly surprised to find on Friday a one bedroom with study that was almost within my means. The fact that it also had a washer and dryer did much to obviate the cost, but the clincher was that heat is included. As I am sure you can understand, living in the north country makes that a Big Deal. Unfortunately, there were over forty of us responding, and I am not holding my breath.

But now, I have seen a much better bargain. A place that would save me $125 a month in rent, and over double the size of my current apartment, with a washer and dryer to be shared with the homeowners and an in-ground backyard pool, right outside the front door of the apartment. I am sure the competition will be fierce, but I will try to be as charming as I can, and maybe I’ll get lucky. Or, as a friend said about all the others, they were not meant to be. Maybe this one is.