Friday, May 31, 2013

Burn the chair! Burn the chair!

This is a chairy tale, but a nasty one, a Grimm with a bad ending.

I hate office equipment. I wish I could type inside my head, make the words float out on to the page or even suspend themselves in mid-air like in Stephen Hall’s Raw Shark Texts. Instead I’m left with typing, which is as awkward now as it was in the class I took in high school. Imagine being a typing teacher all your life, trying to teach a bunch of sullen kids a boring skill on the “qwerty” keyboard. This incredible anachronism, still almost universally-used, was designed when the typewriter was first invented and was meant to slow typists down, because the only way to correct errors back then was to spit on the page or cut the typo out with a sabre.

So. The chair. My office chair always sucks, and I’ve been through a few of them. There is always something seriously wrong with them. For years I played musical chairs with my husband. “This thing is made of vinyl!” I’d complain in the summer, peeling my shorts-clad legs off the seat like Velcro. So I’d get his fabric-covered one for a while, the one with hard plastic arms that bored holes in my elbows. The proportions just weren’t right on this thing, so I ended up with backache and fatigue.

Not to mention eyestrain. Let’s get into eyestrain, shall we? Being an author, I’ve had to edit manuscripts. Back then anyway, we used a marked-up hard copy and a computer copy and sort of fixed one using the other. So I needed some sort of stand to hold my papers, double-wide, and still see my monitor.


I hunched and squinted as I tried to see the damn monitor, jacked up abnormally high to make it just visible while I shuffled papers.  I got used to agony in my lower back, the price of my art, perhaps. The truth is, I just didn’t know how else to do it.

“This thing is a piece of shit!” I’d cry in the winter, as the cold plastic froze my arms to my sides. So once again we went through the old switcheroo.

This latest chair, a garage salvage with a nest of spiders living under it, created more problems. I began to slide down farther and farther on my spine, at the same time hunching forward because I couldn’t see my monitor at all. “Why do you do that?” my husband would ask. “I need my paper stand.” “Why?” “I might need to use it again.” “Why?”, and so on.

Another switch of chair. Finally, when my bizarre posture had actually given me medical problems, I decided I needed a Brand New Chair that would fix everything. Since we’re cheap, and since they had a nice selection at a good price, we went to Costco. Like the Three Bears, I had to sit in each one to see which of them was “just right”.

Amazingly, it was the second one I sat in. Like a first-class airplane seat (and how the hell would I know what THAT felt like? I’m guessing), it just cradled my body, but kept my back straight. The arm rests were lavishly padded to match the curve of forearm and wrist and hand.

I! Loved! That! Chair! I loved it in the morning, I loved it in the evening, I loved it –

Then I got it home.

My keyboard rests on a tray that pulls out. Keeps the dust off n’ stuff (supposedly, but in reality my keyboard is just as filthy as everyone else’s). Every time I pulled up to my keyboard, the deluxe first-class arms of this thing pushed the tray back in.

But it got worse. The new chair wouldn’t go down far enough. I almost felt like a little kid with her feet dangling up off the floor. I could not believe this. “WHY WON’T IT GO DOWN?” I screamed. “It’s as far down as it will go.” “This was designed for a six-foot man!” “Why didn’t you notice that at the store?”

I didn’t notice ANYTHING at the store. My ass noticed it felt good, that's all.

The deluxe padded arm-rests were worse than useless: they were a hindrance. You don’t sit back and lounge in an office chair. You work from it. You keyboard, you mouse, you do stuff. You roll it forward and back. (And that’s another thing. That big plastic mat-thingie underneath the chair just kept sliding all over the place. The casters made dents in it  that the chair kept falling back into, and they were about a mile back from my computer. My wrist was in agony, like a toothache. Everything was wrong.

“So (sarcastically), do you want another chair?”


He had groused and grumped about buying a proper plastic floor mat with those little teeth in it to grip the carpet, refusing to even consider it because it cost something like $40. 00. I kept trying to explain it to him, how the casters were cutting into the rug. “Then pull the plastic mat back,” he said. “I’d need to do it every five minutes.”

I like my chair, I really do, and if I had a circular saw, one of those things with teeth all around it, it would be no more. Right now my tray with my keyboard on it has a shelf sitting on it, an old shelf left over from one of those really tacky particle-board book cases. My monitor has one under it too, to jack it up at least an inch to make up for the fact that the chair is too high up and can’t be fixed.

Now I am nagging him to PLEASE let me get a proper mat so the thing won’t slither and slide all over hell’s-half-acre like Bambi on ice. He gets this squinched-up, disapproving look on his face (I can read his mind: “God, what a waste of money”), doesn’t even make eye contact with me because I know he does not understand my needs.

He complains all the time that I spend too much time at the computer. I have this little habit of writing. In my entire life, I have had maybe two people understand what I do, and my husband is not one of them. He thinks I play at it. Everyone thinks I play at it, that I pretend and delude myself that I’m “doing something”. So how can my back hurt, I wonder? If it isn’t even “work”? And why won’t I come out of that room and go to Costco with him to look at bulk sausages and stuff?

To all but those two people, ANYTHING would be better than doing what I do, the waste of time. Even having books out is futile, isn’t it? Some sort of Hemingway fantasy? (And didn’t Hemingway end up shooting himself in the head?). Why do you need a special chair, for God’s sake, and a plastic floor mat with little dit-dots on it so the chair won’t buck and heave under you like a wild horse?

I threw my keyboard at the wall once, so that the underside is secured with masking tape. I have slammed innumerable mice, and thrown a few, which is satisfying because the cover pops off and the battery goes flying across the room. I can’t throw a chair, can’t lift the thing, would like to throw a husband but he is rooted seventeen feet into the ground. Not getting it. 

While I sit there mousing and hurting. Mousing and hurting.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rock, Liz, and other oddments

Use-ta be, you had a junk drawer, or a bunch of old photos rattling around in a shoe box. They could be from any era, but usually all mixed up. Now we have files, but they are no less mysterious.

For obvious reasons, or reasons which should-all be obvious to you-all by now (just look up, stupid!), many of my junk-drawer/catchall photos are of Harold Lloyd. These have a magic that is surreal and dreamlike, in and of another era. What was it like to be there "in the flesh"?

A few aren't Harold. This must have been scanned out of a book. It's Bob Dylan and his first great love, Suze Rotolo, about whom he wrote "Girl from the North Country", "Boots of Spanish Leather" and "Ballad in Plain D". They seem to be made of pure mist. Hard to believe the dessicated old leather saddle that is Dylan ever looked like this.

A few blank greeting cards popped up. Since they were too pretty to send, I kept them.

To think you could once get a FREE (While They Last) Harold Lloyd doll at the Piggly Wiggly! 

These two, later to marry forever, remind me of salt 'n pepper. They just belong together. Both have a surreal, doll-like quality about them.

And speaking of misty surrealism. . . 

Where did I GET these things?

A splendid Wesley Dennis painting of Misty of Chincoteague (who was a real pony!)

Harold meets the Woman at the Well.

This charming French poster for an early Lloyd film (called, I think, I Do) is notable for the bracketed word after his name: "Lui", his nickname in Europe, loosely translated as "him" (you know who I mean, THAT guy!). Imagine such ready identification, closer than Chaplin.

Compare and contrast! I just found this a minute ago and had to include it. What's that strange thing behind Harold, an oven or something? Couldn't be a TV. Note how they left it out of the poster, but included his right hand which was out of sight in the photo (due to his prosthetic glove, which always looked sort of weird).

D'yall need to have this one explained to you?

Didn't think so.

Everybody says don't (Harold Lloyd-style)

Everybody says don't
Everybody says don't
Everybody says don't, it isn't right,
Don't, it isn't nice.

Everybody says don't
Everybody says don't
Everybody says don't walk on the grass,
Don't disturb the peace,
Don't skate on the ice.

Well I say do, I say,
Walk on the grass, it was meant to feel.
I say, sail, 
Tilt at the windmill
And if you fail you fail.

Everybody says don't
Everybody says don't
Everybody says don't get out of line
When they say that then, maybe it's a sign
Nine times out of ten,
Baby you're doing just fine.

Make just a ripple, come on be brave
This time a ripple, next time a wave
Sometimes you have to start small,
Climbing the tiniest wall -
Maybe you're going to fall
But it is better than not starting at all.

Everybody says no, stop,
Mustn't rock the boat, mustn't touch a thing

Everybody says don't
Everybody says wait
Everybody says can't fight city hall
Can't upset the cart
Can't laugh at the King.

Well, I say do, I say,
Laugh at the King, or he'll make you cry
Lose your poise
Fall if you have to, but come on, make a noise!

Everybody says don't
Everybody says can't

Everybody says wait around for miracles
That's the way the world is made

I insist on miracles
If you do them, miracles, nothing to them
I say don't...

Don't be afraid!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ford and Duffy, Ford and Duffy

PREFACE. For those of you who aren't Canadian. . .


Cuz then you don't have to hear about 
these two hulking politicians
who are always up to no good. 

Do they live in a parallel universe
where fat guys are always in trouble?

Makes me think I'm seeing double. . . 


Look over yonder! What do you see?

These two could almost be brothers.
But they seem to be lacking in brotherly love -
The truth is, they're both just mothers. 

(Do I hear a song coming on?)

Ford and Duffy, Ford and Duffy
When they lie to us they make us huffy,

Duff’s like Rob’s twin brother:
You can’t have one without the other

Ford and Duffy, large and fluffy
Now the voters have all had enough, see!

Always in the papers
We're sick to death of all their capers

Duff has his hand in the cookie jar,
And Ford puffs away on his pipe

No scale can weigh theft and arrogance,
It's such a load of tripe!

Don't you know your freedom's ending,
What's that shadow that you see descending?

It’s the law’s big hammer -
You’ll soon be living in the slammer!