Thursday, February 17, 2005

Who is John Galt?

I’ve been at the CliffsNotes Online again. I’m still on the A page, just finished tearing through Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, that constant classic which pits blind socialism agains blatant capitalism, and I fully understand neither despite reading a lot about them. It was so provoking I checked out the full version and tried that, too. And after so much seriousness, I think this would be a good time to drag out Winnie the Pooh or Little Women or any one of James Herriot’s unequaled series about his years as a veterinary in English farm country. This is a time for the small, tattered paperback of poetry whose front cover is missing to expose a page full of Grandma’s neat, loopy cursive, a jumbled log of dates and locations where the book saw active duty decades ago. I am apt to get dreadfully sentimental about the pretty verses on its browning pages and the ornate silhouettes to accompany each. She gave the well-worn book to me long after she quit teaching, when it was fifty-one years old and I was about fourteen, I think, too old for a book of childrens’ poetry by today’s standards... and yet it’s always been one of my favorite objects. There should be someone in every woman’s life who will always, always see her as a little girl.

It’s not surprising that I’m thinking of Grandma when there’s comfort needed, even though it’s not her that’s in a hospital bed tonight. It’s Dad, who abruptly quit breathing this morning after telling Mom she’d better go to town without him because he was “just so weak.” He’s alright now, hooked up to myriad monitors in the ICU. He has emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and who knows what-all-else, but it just doesn’t seem fair. He turned sixty-two the first of this month and that seems so young to me. But he lived hard while the living was good and it’s funny to hear him talk about other people who did like he wasn’t one of them. People he knew as young adults up in mountain towns and out on urban Arizona drag strips, whose organs are failing them one by one, and it’s no surprise to him because “so-and-so drank like a fish,” or “ol’ what’s-his-name smoked like a chimney.” We saw an ad on TV for Willie Nelson’s greatest hits and I remarked how much he’s aged (didn’t it always seem like he was a hundred years old, though?) and Dad said “well it’s no wonder. That son-of-a-gun, he and Waylon Jennings, they gave a concert down there in Phoenix and I worked the lights for the stage crew, and when they pulled away in their limo the ground was so thick with whiskey bottles and cigarette butts you couldn’t see the grass.” And maybe that’s the difference. Dad’s lucky enough to have seen the grass, and the desert sands, and mountains and pines and palms and lakes and snowy, jagged peaks from the seat of a snowmobile or the back of a mule or the soft-smelling leather of a convertible going a smooth ninety-eight up the tar in the sun. He’s owned more cars in his lifetime than most people ever dream about and had more than a few beers off the beaten path.

My big sister and I will go visit him tomorrow. We’ll take all six big chocolate lab puppies to take his mind off his troubles and believe me, nothing does it better.

I’m nursing a nasty cold and cursing my lack of productivity, for if Ayn Rand is right and productivity is a virtue, then I’m seriously lacking, and I dislike lacking virtue of any kind.

I have to say something just a little sentimental just now. I take heart in how often my phone has rung tonight. Though sick and grumpy and somewhat distressed, I am cheered that I am not alone. It's one of the nicest things about these trying days.

And I have a quick question. Is it going backwards if you have the title for your novel but not a plot? Because that's what I do. I wonder if there's a use for great title writers. Probably not.


Blogger Shepcat said...

Whenever anyone mentions Atlas Shrugged, I always feel compelled to remark that I hated, hated, hated that book. With the heat of a nova. A 50-page radio address? Are you freaking kidding me?

Clocking in at about 1,050 pages, with some of the smallest type I've ever read, the book took me 10 months to read. (At one point I actually had to stop and read another, shorter book, just to give my mind a rest.) Not for nothing, but I'm pretty sure I could edit that sumbitch down to 650 pages and you'd never even miss the other 400.

On a more serious note, your father has my best wishes for comfort and rest. My own father is 63, and yes, it does seem a young age considering some of the health issues men of their generation are dealing with now.

February 18, 2005 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Libby said...

I've never had the urge to read that book, but I love your idea of browsing through Cliff Notes online. That's funny and cool.
My thoughts are with you and your dad. I hope he recovers quickly. Take care. :)

February 19, 2005 at 6:34 AM  
Blogger femaleatlarge said...

Best wishes to you and your dad. I hope he gets well soon.
As far as titles go, I usually come up with the title first, too, but generally can't think of a plot to go with it. I'm seriously considering making a list of my unused titles and auctioning them off on e-bay.
"Do I hear a dollar? 50 cents? Anybody? Anybody?"

February 23, 2005 at 10:11 AM  

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