Perforated Lines (you can't resist 'em!)

qwerty is here! 
-- Wednesday, September 8, 1999 --



10:54 a.m. So, there you have it. Kids are all nicely tucked into school now, brand new schedules are unwrapped and examined, week is already almost half over. Furious fall is underway, even here in an official summery playground. Garbage has been picked up, all of it, and the mail is filling the box outside to overflowing. All systems are go, go, go. It's making me just a little bit nervous about tomorrow: 9/9/99 -- dare I put it in my header? -- sure. What's the worse thing that can happen? It's only a couple of numbers, right?

Meanwhile, I've gotten up early, I've gotten myself in here with only a side trip to water the needy greedy plants, because like babies and pets, they will not wait. They run on their own demanding wheels of time, not hours. Ha! You see! it's back. My brain has come back!

Today, I wanted to talk about professional jealousy and the surefire cure I've found for it. But, what kind of photo or drawing can I find to illustrate this? I've already put Marilynne's picture up, and it still has the power to blow me around a bit, and I haven't even been able to finish the story I've promised that will completely and for all time explain my actions in that quarter.

You see, first I need a comprehensive index, which I am, in fact, actually working on. But not just any index, no. It's got to be a Balki index with bells and whistles and glitter and popup surprises and dangly shiny things. And first there has to be the big announcement, and then the thousand handy pointers so you can find the thing. It's not ready yet. I will keep you informed.

12:11. After a suitable search, a little avoidance here, a quick rationalization there, a piece of toast to keep my strength up but not make me drowsy, compensatory behaviors all finished, I have found, at least, the perfect illustration. You're going to just have to trust me when I tell you that I'd already written the first two paragraphs (above) about plants and the mail before I landed on this conveniently scanned and cropped .gif of my pal Qwerty. Good old Qwerty. I'd already used his sunglasses to obscure the identity of a brilliant but shy person, and so the drawing was just lying around, you know, in a file I really should rename: Serendipity.

Back to the grind now. Back to my lesson on jealousy and its cure. I must first choke down some bitter bile. Be back in a sec.

12:30. Ok, I'm back. I've read the stupid newspaper article that was giving me so much trouble. There it was on the kitchen counter this morning, confront and center: a big color photo and the subhead that said: "Middle-Aged Writer Goes from a Trailer to Talk-Show Fame." Bah. Big photo of the lady in front of the trailer, with a big smile and a French manicure and nice rings and you just want to punch her in the face.

Ok. That's mean. But, you do want to put your coffee down right in the middle of her grin. Or flip the paper over and go on with your little, mediocre life. But no, it's a splinter in the happy pulp, and it's got to be dealt with.

The cure for professional jealousy is quite simple. Now, this might only work for people in the artistic professions, but you should extrapolate and try it in other fields of endeavor, if you're so inclined. It goes like this: say somebody is getting all the praise, all the attention, all the money. How unfair, you say. There will not be any left for me, you say. Here I am, struggling along, doing the Exact Same Thing, and does anybody see me? Notice my twinkly glory? Hey, I'm starving over here! Time is running out for me. Hellooo?

It can make you so mad. Phrases like these: "modest first printing of 6,800 copies into a bestseller with 750,000 in print." Or, if that doesn't float your goat, how about this: "$100,000 advance ... royalties could easily climb to more than $1.7 million." Off the chart, folks. I'm beginning to fibrillate now. Must regain composure.

The cure? Simple as pi. Read the material. If she's a writer, read what she has written, instead of her reviews. If she's a dancer, put down the program and watch her dance. She sings? Don't watch her on a talk show -- listen to her song. An actress? It's the performance that counts, not the box office or the front office or the take-home pay.

Go to the primary text. Read it as closely as you need to, until you know. Know what? Well, again it's quite simple. You'll know one of two things: either she's no good, no good at all, and you can feel sympathy for her shallow shelf, pity for her paucity. At the banquet table that is life, you'd rather not have her meager portion of talent, thank you very much.

Yeah, ok. That's easy enough. But what if she's good?

Well, your response is just as simple. If she's good, you will be won over. She will give you the same pleasure she obviously gave Oprah. You will feel the frisson she's sending through the medium of the moment. You will rejoice in the joy that she's brought into your life and you, too, will become a fan! Bravo good and talented person, you will say. If you can do it, so can we all. If there's hope for you, there's hope for me.

See? It's easy. Just open your closed fist of a heart and read the lines.*

* Here's a nifty feature of the internet: you can read a whole lot of first chapters online, including Mother of Pearl, which I'm not -- (Freudian) -- now going to search for. Ill let you know. Or, try it yourself -- I've got a batch of them on my own first chapter page.

Tomorrow? Woo. We'll see about that.


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