February 15th, 2011

I’m not even going to try to top Everett.  Think of this blog as being like a piñata without the bat and the blindfold, and filled only with the hard candies nobody wants.  The green ones.

First, thanks again to Everett for giving all of us such a memorable valentine.   I loved it and you did, too, obviously, and it was amazing to take two days off — days that will NOT be added on at the end of the year, thank you.  They were vacation days, and I enjoyed them immensely.

Second, yesterday something I wrote appeared on Erin Underwood’s wonderful blog, UNDERWORDS: Life, Literature, and Everything In-Between.  On certain occasions, Erin does what she calls the “one-word interview” in which she invites writers to submit brief bits on a theme.  Yesterday, naturally, the theme was love and the limit was 50 words.  I’m proud to say I’m up there with some seriously good writers: Charlaine Harris, Jodi Picoult, Paulo Coelho, Jamie Ford, Laura Griffin, and some others. I’m sure Erin wouldn’t mind if you bagged some of it for use on V-Day next year. It’s here, and if you like it, please leave Erin a note.

Was ecstatic to see Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” win the Grammy, especially after all the awards for Lady Antebellum.  I mean, “Need You Now” is a nice song, but three Grammies?  Puh-leeze. Ray LaMontagne should have won for “Beg, Steal, or Borrow.”   On the other hand “The Suburbs” was definitely (for me) the best album of 2010, and certainly the one I’ve listened to most.  Where the hell was Sara Barielles?  That girl needs new publicists.

Munyin and I have decided to go to the Edgars, so I’ll be reporting from time to time on all the trauma associated with getting her out the door.  And the, win or lose, I’ll let you know what the event is like, toward the end of April.

Remember this?  I’ve been thinking about it ever since I posted it.

When I first saw it, it made me feel really good.  But talk about a vanished world.

Nowadays, that kid wouldn’t be allowed outdoors without “adult supervision.”  He’d be arrested for fishing without a license.  The dog isn’t wearing a collar, so it would be hauled into the pound by animal control for not having its own license, and it would cost a fortune to get him or her out.  The raft would be condemned as too dangerous and destroyed by authorities.  The owner of the pond would have fenced it off to prevent access because otherwise, his insurance premiums would soar and he’d get sued by the kid’s parent if the kid fell in the water or got a splinter or stepped on a rusty nail in the raft.

“Experts” and “authorities” weighed in on all these things and we listened and made a lot of rules to prevent us from living so carelessly and maybe getting wet or stepping on a nail.  And yet we see a picture like this and sigh for the old, unimproved America.  On the other hand, look at how much safer we all feel.  I certainly feel safer.  Don’t you?

Well, now that I’ve cheered you all up, I can report that I broke all my own rules and am now on page 186 (out of 300) in my first edit on PULPED.  And, by and large, it’s holding up.

17 Responses to “STILL-LIFE SENTENCES, Day 138: Grab Bag”

  1. EverettK Says:

    You forgot that the kid would also be slathered in sun-screen, and would be wearing a big orange life-preserver.

    Glad to hear you and Munyin are going to the Edgars. You need to get out of the house once in a while and experience, first-hand, the wonders of Modern America! With luck, neither of you will get to enjoy a full-body cavity search at the airport, nor suffer from deep-vein thrombosis from sitting in a 20″ by 20″ by 4′ space for hours on end.

    Leave early and take the train. You could get a whole new novel written on the trip! 🙂

  2. Suzanna Says:

    Okay, green hard candy is certainly one of the worst candies ever to be jammed into a pinata but what about those jelly candies covered in granulated sugar and shaped like the segment of an orange? No matter the flavor these top my worst candy list. Sorry had to get that off my chest.

    I’m really happy you’re going to the Edgars. Keeping Munyin happy while you get ready to board the plane? A few suggestions from someone who also hates leaving her comfy corner of the world: Rent some Colin Firth movies and pack lots of healthy snacks for the plane ride, and when in doubt, offer dark chocolate! Looking forward to hearing about the great adventure.

  3. Tom Logan Says:

    Wrong again Tim. Some other seriously good writers were up there with you. I’m enjoying the blogs as much as the books AND I don’t have to wait for them to be Kindled! I buried my dog today out in the woods behind my house (my property). Just us, a pick and a shovel. It felt good, like the good old days when things were simpler. I understand what you’re saying. Thanks.

  4. micael hallinan Says:

    The Emmys made me feel really out of it; which ofcoarse I am. I tuned in just in time to see somebody I didn’t know introduce a group i’d never heard of. Rivoting. I dont mean to undermine you,Tim, but if this blog is the best you can do -bring back Everett. Your bro micael

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Well, I’m here. (Short pause for cheers and applause.)

    Everett — it’s THREE DAYS on the train — I just checked. And my guess is that the coffee is undrinkable, the foor id inedible, and the bunks are unsleepable. Persuade me otherwise, or tell me where to look, because I’d LOVE to fly only in one direction.

    Thanks, Sooz, for reminding me of those beastly little sugar-dipped “orange” sections. Probably full of cow hoof as a setting agent, and a yutz taste. Great tips for the flight.

    Hi, Tom, and thanks for the shift in perspective. Also happy you’re enjoying the blog, which is more than I can say for my own brother. Give it back to Everett, indeed. Sorry about your dog, but you’re lucky you didn’t have to have the STATE pick her up. Things certainly were simpler, and there was nobody forcing restaurants to tell us what was wrong with what we were eating, either. Honest to Christ, it’s enough to make a conservative out of me.

    Hey, micael, why WOULDN’T the Grammys (not Emmys) make you feel out of it. The last record you liked was Esquirita. And you have a wood-burning computer. Luddite.

  6. Suzanna Says:

    Just in case Everett gets you to reconsider the train…my father in law thought it would be kinda romantic to take a sleeper train across country. After about 24 hours of being woken up every four hours by people knocking on his door to sell him stuff to eat and drink he gave up and flew the rest of the way.

  7. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I’m guessing if you get away from cities, there are still some places that look as delightful as that picture. the Edgars should be very exciting. Hopefully, it won’t be too awful getting there. What was dinnertime like at your house when you were kids, Tim, or did you save it up for adulthood? Just kidding…

  8. Munyin Says:

    Sana: Love your suggestions about keeping me a happy camper while traveling to N.Y. But I have an iBook G4 which is kind of heavy for DVD’s. Tim has me leaning towards MacAir which would need an external hard drive to play DVD’s so that’s kind of awkward. Maybe I need to buy a tiny DVD player so I can play Colin Firth movies–even the ABBA one. Any thoughts on DVD players on Apple or anything else?

  9. Debbi Says:


    FWIW, I’ve taken the sleeper train from Portland OR to Denver (2 nights) and, while the coffee won’t win awards, the food is pretty good, actually. Edible even. And I’d recommend going with the larger cabin, instead of the economy-sized one. It’s not bad, just really small. Like a closet with windows. 🙂

  10. Beth Says:

    Continuing in my role as outsider, I will address the comments of those who don’t have children.

    Everett, yes, we do slather them with sunscreen so that in their middle years they won’t be like my husband and my brother, boys who left the house after breakfast and returned in time for dinner. In exchange for those sunscreen free days, they spend an inordinate amount of time at the skin surgeons office having pre-cancerous and cancerous growths and lesion removed.

    Tom, I assume you have enough property to not have to be concerned about children playing in dirt over a decomposing body. Kids are exposed to more than enough contaminates when they attend schools that have been built over chemical dump sites.

    Tim, dogs without collars and tags may well get picked up by a dog catcher and without anything identifying the dog it would likely be euthanized. It is easier to get a tag from the vet than explain to kids that their dog is never coming home.

    When I was growing up, there was a pond that wasn’t fenced in and the kids loved swimming there because it was forbidden; life guards are such a drag. Three kids I went to school with drowned in that pond over a period of then years.

    I am sure everyone is aware of the Amber Alert system. It was not created because some politician wanted to attract some extra money. Children disappear across this country everyday, never to be found. Most are dead within a short time after disappearing; some are kept alive in circumstances that are such that they may be better off dead.

    I didn’t grow up rich; we were solidly working class. Everyone could tell this easily because, in my neighborhood, the houses were filled with kids. There were six in my family but we were small. The people two doors down had thirteen. Kids traveled in packs, they were never alone. My kids grew up in a somewhat more affluent neighborhood. When both of my daughters were young there were no children their ages in the neighborhood. There was no one around for them to play with. When my son was six, there were seven boys his age in the neighborhood. The group could ride their bikes around because they weren’t alone. Circumstances change and then so do the rules parents impose.

    As for protecting them, absolutely. There were three people in the world I would die for; I had a responsibility to them to keep them safe until they were old enough to take care of themselves.

    So, I will now crawl back under my rock.

  11. EverettK Says:

    Beth: I (we 🙂 ) have raised two kids, so I know whereof you speak, and to a large extent I agree with you.

    My point of disagreement is this: in modern American society, ANY risk is too much of a risk. We protect our kids from everything we can possibly think of. As you say, we have “a responsibility to them to keep them safe until they [are] old enough to take care of themselves.” Unfortunately (for us, as parents), we also have a responsibility to teach them to fend for themselves, and that’s where all too many parents today fall down on the job (and hurt their kids). Those are two opposing responsibilities, like a two-dimensional spectrum, and if you err too far one way, many kids never learn how to take care of themselves and certainly never learn how to deal with dangerous situations. If you err too much the other way, too many kids will die or be maimed before they grow up and learn to take care of themselves. Today, in my opinion, American society (generalization alert!) as a whole is leaning WAY too far towards safety “at all costs” and not paying nearly enough attention to teaching kids how to safely take care of themselves, depending instead on society itself being safe and taking care of them.

    As in all things, balance.

  12. Laren Bright Says:

    I think you’re wrong about the photo, Tim. It’s obviously in the Ozarks or on some hidden part of the Mississippi in the deep South where the burning issue is, if you get a divorce, are you still cousins.

  13. Suzanna Says:

    Hi, Munyin

    I e mailed you my suggestions for some travel viewing suggestions. Hope it’s helpful.

  14. Larissa Says:

    Great comments on here today! Phew! And, Tim, thank you for advocating against green candy and Suzanna-I despise those fake orange things too! I’m going to start a coalition against gross candy! 😀

    That’s what we need to protect kids from-gross candy that uses whale blubber instead of regular food!

  15. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, everybody —

    Zana/Everett, I don’t think the train is in our future, especially if I have to sit next to someone who’s watching “Mamma Mia.” Life is far, far too short.

    I think Beth is right from her perspective and I’m right from mine. I may not have had kids, but I was one, and my brothers and I grew up in places (Maryland, the southern hills of San Fernando Valley) where there were woods with creeks and rolling hills, and we could leave the house on a summer morning and not be back until dinner. We learned what it was like to be on our own, we learned how beautiful and even magical nature was, we learned what could hurt us or even kill us. The only kid we ever knew who got killed in all those long year was killed in an automobile. In the frenzy of protection, we’ve sealed ALL kids away from those kinds of experiences while at the same time giving them a world in which they can die by overdose, drive-by shooting, gang violence, guns at school. We’ve raised the most lethally allergic generation in the history of the world, and that’s just going to get worse and worse as we seal our kids away from the natural world. You know who doesn’t get food allergies? Kids who are raised in country, and especially, farm, environments. (Great long piece on this in THE NEW YORKER a few weeks back.)

    Childhood these days is hermetically sealed because of adults’ anxieties, and I think it’s terrible that a whole spectrum of childhood experience has been lost — and relplaced by a world that’s actually much more dangerous. That’s what I meant when I asked whether people felt safer.

  16. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    And Beth, I don’t think of you an an outsider. I think of you as one of those people who drops in every now and then and raises the sanity average. I’d miss you fiercely if you stopped coming around.

  17. Suzanna Says:

    I was a nervous nelly when it came to our one and only precious girl. I still am even though she’s 18 and lives 4 states away.

    The experience of being a parent makes you hyper aware of how quickly bad things can happen to your kids. Must be a primal instinct, that is if you’re an aware, conscious parent.

    Thankfully my anxiety about all the messed up things that could happen to her has not permanently damaged my girl. At least not that I can tell. She is confident, a risk taker in the best way possible, sensible, and well, it’s still hard not to worry about her sometimes.

    Even in an urban setting she had experiences as a child that allowed her to get out into nature, just not alone until much later. So even though she didn’t have the Jane Goodall childhood experience of wandering around for hours on end outside by herself, I would have loved it if she could have, it didn’t seem to do her any harm to limit how soon she could experience her personal freedom.

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