When I can’t think of what to write, I sometimes write about writing.
Math teacher Mr. Mirobito – named “Bito Bug” by my fellow sixth graders at Trinity School in Manhattan in 1975 – would punish his student transgressors (Loud Talkers, The Disobedient, Homework Shirkers) by requiring them to write a 500-word essay about the inside of a ping pong ball. This was supposed to be excruciating, but there were some, of course, who found it quite fanciful.
Now, looking back, I think it could potentially be an interesting exercise, not that I would want to go against Bito Bug and incur his wrath with this assignment. Bito Bug, by the way, was also the name we gave to the creations we made of plastic drink cups at lunch, tearing up their lips and bending the slats frontwards and backwards, making fascinating looking insects that crawled across the 8-foot folding tables of the lunchroom. As a further aside, when you Google “Bito Bug,” you’ll find only the pedigree for a thoroughbred with this moniker in his name.
But, back to the subject, which you perhaps so innocently happened upon when you came to this blog, surfing tags on pearl snap shirts, Phoebe Cates, All Souls Unitarian Church, Point O’ Woods, or Puglia Restaurant’s very own – and quite awesome – Jorge Buccio. I am quite intrigued by the inside of the ping pong ball proposition. Only as a momentary mental exercise, mind you. Lest you think that I will launch into an expose on same, I will remind you that I went to Trinity with soon-to-become professional wordsmiths who went on to write jokes for Arsenio Hall and movies for Pixar. For these luminaries, the punishment became Golden Globe-winning screenplays. I’ll leave the task to them.
Here’s a writing topic: J.K. Rowling. The first billionaire author, and one of five self-made female billionaires. That’s a lot more interesting than the inside of a ping pong ball. Carter wants me to start reading the Harry Potter series so we can discuss them, and I will of course acquiesce, because anything to encourage his literary interests, I will do. But I can’t say that this series is top of my list.
I am finishing Anne Lamott’s “Grace (Eventually),” which I am enjoying very much, though I do not agree at turns with her politics or stances on social issues, and though I find her snipes occasionally to be gratuitous. But I saw her at Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago as part of her tour for the book’s release in paperback. It was pouring rain, the kind of rain that takes out the crease from your newly pressed grey slacks in the course of one street crossing and makes you pi#*ed off that you don’t travel door to door by car anymore as the more civilized if less-well-read suburbanites do. And I barely got a seat with three hundred of my closest friends on the fourth floor of B&N’s Union Square store. But there mounted the stage Anne Lamott, my hero (“heroine”?) – my writing hero, anyway – who proceeded to be as candid and funny and winsome and inviting as I have heard a speaker before. As I stood in the line waiting for a quick hello and signature, I watched the couple in front of me gripe at Ann Coulter‘s book to their right, stacked five wide in the Current Events section. The woman fingered the title, “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d be Republicans,” and tsk‘ed at her lover. Can you believe this crap? she practically screamed at her boyfriend, whose eyes lingered at the book’s cover. And yet, she had no rejoinder to the blonde in the slinky black dress, silently taunting them from eye level.
Of course, I didn’t buy Lamott’s new book that night. I am too cheap, and I had brought with me the copy that Karen gave me for Valentine’s Day. But I wished I had brought also my copy of “Bird by Bird,” which the Lovely K had bought for me two summers ago. I wanted to thank her more. I wanted to encourage her more, which I hope I did, by saying, “I hope you keep on writing and writing.” What I really wanted to say was, “Keep on telling the truth.”
For even when her politics tick me off, even when Ann Coulter has the hair thing going on and Anne Lamott does not, I am grateful that Lamott is telling the truth: about her perspective, about her struggles, about her joy, about her faith.