Charles Darwin got a lot of stomachaches and hated to sail because he was constantly seasick, I read this morning in Janet Browne’s biography Voyaging. Also, it’s possible that his father was a big fat sexual predator. I learn the last “fact” on a dyspeptic Web site that appears to be run by creationists aiming to bring the evolutionist down a peg or two. This leads me to wonder if, in addition to People and Teen People there might not be a market for a publication called Historic People that chronicles the lives of the rich and famous of the past.
“Be careful what you wish for,” my daughter’s teacher, Dick Nessen, tells the audience at the afternoon performance of The Bottle Imp, a play based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson. (Note for Historic People: a sidebar about Stevenson’s unusually close relationship with his mother, as part of a larger package of stories on the terrible relationship between tuberculosis and the arts?)
I try to apply this wisdom to my own life and find it kind of salutary. For instance, now that my novel has been out in the world for two days, I could be wishing that it become the next Lovely Bones or The Bridges of Madison County. The Bottle Imp seems to suggest, however, that if I were to wish that, and if it were to come true, I’d spend eternity in hell. Which I don’t want to do. On the other hand, on the way home from school, when I turn on the news and hear President Bush telling some reservists that the situation in Iraq is much better than we are being told it is, it occurs to me (and not for the first time, either) that the whole country is going to hell. In that case, why not wish, at least, for a BookSense 76 listing. Plus world peace.
Later in the day, on my computer, I find the following subject line on an e-mail message from Chuck Pezeshki, an engineering professor at Washington State University and an environmental activist whom I wrote about last year: “Well, I’m a convicted federal criminal now.” Turns out that he disregarded a barrier across a forest service road in order to take pictures of a recent fire, which he sent to every member of the Senate, to show that the Bush administration’s rationale for cutting down trees—that logging prevents forest fires—is infernally wishful. Turns out that the forest service didn’t like that.
Before I can call him to find out what’s going on, my friend Sara, who writes for the New York Times, phones to talk about Manny Ramirez. “He is misunderstood by the press,” she says. “He’s afraid the press will think he’s stupid. That’s why he won’t give interviews. He’s a really good guy. He’s the same guy he always was. All he cares about is baseball. That thing that happened a couple of months ago when he was sick and on the disabled list and he met that guy from the Yankees for a drink in the hotel bar was a complete misunderstanding. They were old friends.” I see her point. If I were writing, say, for the Boston Globe, and she were writing for the New York Times, and we were covering the same story but I wasn’t feeling well enough to write that day, we’d still probably meet for dinner, but not in the hotel restaurant, unless it served sushi.
I’m thinking, by the way, that there may be a misunderstanding between me and my car salesman friend Jonathan who has not called now in 24 hours, ever since I asked him the meaning of the word “holdover” with respect to new car sales, and he said he had no idea. As I remembered it from the last time I bought a car, it had something to do with the money the carmaker pays to the dealership for each car that it sells, meaning that even if you buy the car at cost, the dealer still makes money. Since Jonathan claimed ignorance, I logged on to an Internet car-buying site that promised live chat, in this case with someone named Susan O’Neil.
Sue: Can you tell me what a holdover is?Susan: That is something that the Accredited Dealer would have.Sue: How would it affect my new car purchase?Susan: You might purchase a 2003 vehicle even though the 2004 models would be at the dealership.Sue: I thought it was the money that the carmaker pays the dealer.Susan: For the effect of your purchase you would need to talk to the person who sold you your vehicle.Sue (offline): I think I miss Jonathan.
Scott Rosenberg, the managing editor of Salon, arrives at dinner time. We agree not to talk about the Associated Press report of the “departure” of the magazine’s CEO.
He does say, for the record, that “it’s not true that we’ve accrued an $83.6 million debt. We have no debt.”
And speaking of losses, what about those Red Sox?