Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jumping the shark

Watching one of my new favorite shows last night, I got the feeling that this one, like so many others, has jumped the shark. And it’s only the 3rd season! I’m not sure the rest of the family agrees, but I think the series has reached a point in which the storyline has peaked. Up to this point, it’s been an amazing ride. But now it’s all downhill from here. I hate it when that happens.

I often wonder what it’s like to be a writer on a really good show, getting warm fuzzies from critics, fans and the blogosphere. Is there a moment while everyone is patting themselves on the back that they let down their guard and allow a ridiculously flawed idea to come into play, everyone too giddy with success to see it’s the beginning of the end? Is there one person who tries to talk the group out of it -- Bad choice! Not good! Does not compute! -- but gives up with a shrug and internal rationalization. After all, the checks are still coming in. So Fonzie jumps over a shark with a motorcycle. It could happen in real life. So David and Maddie finally had sex, but who else holds out that long in real life? So Mork & Mindy had a baby – okay, it was an old, overweight, creepy kind of baby, but everyone wants to procreate; it's a biological imperative. So Dr. Greene dies from a brain tumor, but we’re all gonna die eventually. Right? Right?

Thus begins the inevitable march toward cancellation.

Is life like this? Does there come a point when things peak and life as we know it reaches a climax? And if so, do I want to know if I've jumped the shark yet? Do I want to contemplate that it's all a downhill slide from where I'm standing?

Usually, I associate JTS in television shows with an event so bizarre that it's unbelievable. (Once again, I must mention Mork & Mindy's egg-hatched, elderly baby.) If the bizarre is a necessary characteristic, then I should be safe. I've gone through life without marrying my foster son, embezzling the life savings of an old lady, or befriending a serial killer who later on targets me as a victim. These things happen (trust me). On the other hand, I've married my beloved, had a couple of kids, gotten a master's, found a job in my profession. For many, this might be the high point.

Luckily, we all have a way of reinventing ourselves over the years. People change; they switch careers, move to a completely different area, give up on religion, take up a new religion, turn over a new leaf. Life isn't really like a television series, is it? It's more like a series of after-school specials.

And if you're lucky, they're really kind of boring at that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Too sexy for my cape

Move over Jake -- I’ve got a new crush! My sister’s got me watching a rather cheesy but quite sexy Lifetime series called Blood ties. In my mountains of spare time, I’ve been watching an episode here and there. The creepy thing is, the actor who plays vampire Henry is only 23 years old, about the age of one of my nephews. Salivating over gorgeous young men while the gray creeps into my hair -- is this what I've got to look forward to as I approach middle age?

There's something about a vampire, though. In my opinion, vampires are the sexiest of the supernatural baddies. Ever heard of paranormal romances? A whole crop of romance writers have seized hold of the vampire genre and turned the walking dead from villains into great but misunderstood guys looking for true and eternal love. Sure beats Nosferatu! Werewolves also crop up now and again as leading me, but I haven't yet run across a drop-dead gorgeous zombie or mummy. I can't imagine how a writer could turn a zombie into a sexy leading man: glazed eyes, cold skin and a penchant for human brains would be a turn off for most ladies.

One of the more interesting takes on vampirism came in a romance novel I skimmed that chalked the phenomena up to a genetic disorded passed down within families. These vampires didn't have any kind of paranormal powers, nor did they live forever, but they had to stay out of the sunlight and needed a fresh supply of blood every now and then. Something to do with their blood's inability to clot.

I wouldn't mind sharing a little of my blood with Henry, but I doubt it would revive him much. He'd probably just want to curl up with a good book, or watch a movie like Shaun of the dead. That is one hilarious zombie movie!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The grass isn't always greener

After fantasizing about what it might be like to leave the family life behind, I picked up a couple of books that kind of brought me back to reality: Naked on the page: the misadventures of my unmarried midlife, by Jane Ganahl, and, They call me Naughty Lola: personal ads from the London Review of Books, edited by David Rose.

At least I've been spared the late night, alcohol-induced despair of Jane: "You're getting old! You've had your last sex with your last boyfriend! You're fated to die alone, unloved, and your cats will gnaw on your corpse!" After two bad marriages and dating a slew of younger men, Jane pointed out the obvious: not every one is lucky enough to find somebody to love and who loves her back. In her San Francisco Chronicle column, she writes about her attempts to reconcile with the fact that her body is aging while her heart remains a hormonal teenager.

Naughty Lola, on the other hand, featured ads composed by men and women who, I assume, have decided to embrace and underscore their single status, using their writing skills to compete with other lonely hearts in a quest to add a little ruthless truth to advertising.

This ad may not be the best lonely heart in the world, nor its author the best-smelling. That's all I have to say. Man. 37. Box no. 7654.

Love is strange -- wait 'til you see my feet. F. 34, wide-fitting Scholl's. Box no. 5973.

Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self-pity, middle-aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible. Box no. 8623.

Blah, blah, whatever. Indifferent woman. Go ahead and write. Box no. 3253. Like I care.

I started off reading these with amusement, enjoying the creativity and humor. But, increasingly, they began to depress me. So, to chase the blues away, I decided to come up with my own ad, in case I ever need to use it. Which I hope is never.

Like rollercoasters? Me too! I'll take you on the emotional rollercoaster ride of your life, with highs and lows that defy description. Prone to uncontrollable weeping in the shower, manic bursts of project planning, and arguments that last for days. F. Box 3808.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rainstorm fantasies

"I am just going outside and may be some time."
-- Captain L.E.G. Oates

I came very close to going outside last night, and, instead of heading into a blizzard, making for the center of yet another rainstorm. The mad dash to the last day of school year and relentless rainstorms are driving all of us a little crazy.

On Saturday, I put nearly 80 miles on the car while delivering the boys to youth group meetings, a piano competition, 3 soccer games, and a birthday party. In the middle of all that, I had to go to my sister's baby shower. (Thanks, Saint, for covering the last soccer game for me!) I collapsed into bed at 8:30 and was still dragging the next morning. How I envied the boys their youthful energies.

Last night I spent some time with Sport. He's learning some new piano pieces, and is easily frustrated when he gets new music. He expects to be able to play them in minutes, and doesn't seem to realize that his teacher has been giving him music that is more challenging. No matter how calm I try to be, he tests my patience every time. I know he's got an artistic temperament, but it's all I can do not to smack him on the back of the head when he's mouthing off.

Sometimes I fantasize about getting in my car and just driving away. I know I'll never do it, but it helps break up the routine. At first, I imagine getting a little cabin somewhere in the west (Arizona? Colorado?) where I hunker down and write the Great American Novel. I learn to cook on an outdoor fire and experiment with peyote. I learn the names of all the constellations and end up with a pet wolf named Charley.

Then, inevitably, my imagination starts to work overtime. Soon, I'm being harassed by a psychotic stalker who wants not only my manuscript and Charley's hide, but a couple of my internal organs as well. After spending some time trying to figure out how I'd escape from his torture shack, I'm usually glad to get back to the normalcy of my own hectic life.

Travelling to exotic places in a quest for fame and adventure can exact a very high price, as Captain Oates found out. Still, I wouldn't mind a trip to Las Vegas every once in awhile.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

In memory

How do you eulogize someone you don't know?

SO's cousin tried to kill himself yesterday. He very nearly succeeded; he's more than halfway there, anyway. Hooked up to life support, brain dead, his body waits in the hospital for the family to gather, for the machines to be turned off. He is 27 years old.

I've met him only once, many years ago, when he was a child of 5 or 6. The memory is a fuzzy one, of a tow-headed boy launching himself off some place high (a table top? a stair landing?) and onto my brother-in-law, who gasps and grabs at his neck. The two go down onto the floor, wrestling. Eddie was a tough little kid, harrassed by older twin brothers into learning how to fight dirty and watch his back.

He took a gun and shot himself in the garage of his mother's home.

I don't know any details as to what led him to it. All I keep imagining is his mother rushing through the door, seeing the blood, smelling the gunpowder, unable to process the images in front of her, finding that her son is still breathing, shock hitting her in the stomach like a two by four, the call for an ambulance, the interminable wait, hands pressed to the wound, desperate measures.

The call came this morning, letting family know of the circumstances, asking for prayers. Underneath our eyelashes, we watch our boys as they get ready for school. Fear and sorrow and loss and grief.

Oh God, please...