Monday, November 16, 2009

Part 32 - the last entry?

I didn't realize that I was lucky enough to get three-extra pages in my last section - I guess we thought of them as a bonus for not getting to be first when we were dividing things up next to the dumpster at Manhattan Mini Storage.

I just finished reading the last line a few minutes ago and am still in mild shock. It ended in such an anticlimactic whimper that I turned the page looking for more text. I thought I had mixed up the pages for at least five minutes. My section was extra dog-eared and in the process having to restack them I dropped the eight pages on the floor, so after reading page 169, the final page, I really thought I had accidentally dropped a 170 under my chair, or misfiled it between 165 and 166. But no. It ended with Matt and Rowan going to breakfast. Just like that, it was over. I became unexpectedly choked up when I realized that I'd actually finished. I didn't anticipate any sentiment whatsoever but now I am significantly teary. The last time I cried over a non-family death was during “The English Patient” years ago...and even then I was sufficiently whiskeyed-up to attribute the crying to my altered state. Now, with the clarity of ten minutes of hindsight, I'm realizing “The Greenhouse” unfolded over a very transitional time in my life. Since it started, I've been married and laid off. You've gone from New York to Hong Kong to New York...and soon to Hong Kong again. And it began on a hot, early summer day and it ends in the cold November rain, much like Axel Rose's break-up with Stephanie Seymour. I know the project isn't over, but the center of it is, the bridge to that slice of time is. I almost don't have the energy to tell you what happens at the end… it's so much more flaccid than I imagined. I wanted the conclusion to match its personal significance, I guess. It reminds me, though it's far less grave, of the night my grandfather died. My mother collapsed to her knees when she got the news on the phone. It was a Thursday night and we were watching Family Ties on television. The show kept going as we grieved and I became more angry that the laugh track kept playing than sad that my grandfather had died. It seemed so disrespectful and the jokes became unbearably formulaic. For the first time I realized that the world would beat on implacably in spite of anyone's need for a moment of stillness.

So, anyway, Reshevsky lived long enough with a gunshot wound to call in the Feds. Rowan finds him bleeding from the abdomen. There are some good dragged-streaks-of-coagulated-blood descriptions in the section. It actually gets a bit gory. Reshevsky admits his jealousy in dying breaths and then begs Rowan to put him out of his misery by handing him the cyanide tablet. He takes it. He dies. I was quite moved at this point, too.

So the gig was that Kee got Lucy hooked on heroin on purpose to make her more manipulable. I guess Lucy and her greenhouse were perfectly legit at one point, and she went derelict only after the junk took hold. Cater did some work for the "organization" in Guatemala...we never learn for sure but are to expect that it's the CIA. He recommended Chao for a job infiltrating the greenhouse crime ring, and, when he was killed, Cater felt a special responsibility to reenlist and avenge the death. Our two lovers wake in bed, schmaltz-talking (this part was nearly unbearable), calling each other "honey" and caressing and caressing and caressing. No sex though. It made me remember an article I read by this conservative journalist named Shelby Steele in the WSJ a few years ago in which he brought up a point about how if a president was overheard using the word "nigger" on a golf course in 1960 it would've been considered a gaffe, but not an unforgivable or career threatening one. By the same token if Eisenhower were caught with a woman other than his wife on that same golf course, it would've been seen as an inexcusable demonstration of moral bankruptcy, and most likely career ending. Now it's reversed; pres can get blowjobs under his desk from interns, but wouldn't dare disparage a minority. This novel is very telling in those terms. There's no sex (this was written a few years before the summer of love) but there's plenty of off-color remarks about Chinese. If it were written today there'd be semen flying around the room but our gang would no doubt be a multi-cultural non-denominational crime syndicate.

Anyway, Cater and Rowan get hungry and go get breakfast. The end. (I end abruptly for you, too, can get the effect of page 169.) I will forever use page 169 as a metaphor for being underwhelmed by way of high expectations.

I'm sad. We must redeem this story. I won't let it be over.

I'm going to go sulk somewhere now. You know, on top of it all, I put my underwear on backwards this morning and it's all bunched up. I need to press reset.



Part 31 - the beginning of the end

I can't believe this is my last section - it seems like yesterday that I was sitting at home in Hong Kong in the middle of summer, opening up the first fresh pages of the manuscript... all bright eyed and bushy tailed in anticipation of the adventures Rowan would be taking us on. Who knew it would end here; stuck in a dank greenhouse, with a physically inept 24 year old heroine (oh, and heroin too).

No mice here - but I do have a nasty cold, and spent all of yesterday at home sleeping. At least Tony was around to entertain me in his union suit. We're both sick, and decided we would use our time to make homemade ginger beer. This is going to be my new enterprise - artisanal ginger beer. Definitely a luxury item, and thus if I can make my own, think of all the pennies I'll save!

Back to Rowan and her adventures. I was trying to think of a reason why you would want to get rid of your gardener by depositing his body in a mushroom patch - I wonder if anyone has done any research into the benefits of decaying human carcass as fertilizer, or if this was a common method of body disposal by any organized crime syndicate. Anyhow, as we begin my section, Lucy is requesting that she take a leave of absence to shoot up ('just a little lift'), which clearly irritates Kee. This leaves Kee, one of his Korean henchmen, with Rowan and Matt. Matt attempts to get Kee to turn himself in, apparently Matt has filed a report with his 'people' (who are these people? the government??) and they are onto Kee and Lucy's evil plot. This fails to scare Kee who is looking forward to killing Rowan and Matt and making them into fertilizer.

Just as the conversation between these two becomes almost too stifling and cliched to bear, a shot rings out! Who could it be? It's Reshevsky! He's alive! The clever bastard was only playing dead and of course wanted to come back to save his darling Rowan. Kee has two shots left, and Reshevsky has five... ah, mathematics comes to the rescue once again. Rowan is released and promptly flies to Matt's side to release the cords at his feet. A gun fight then breaks out between Kee and Reshevsky - Reshevsky fires the first two shots, the first of which kills the Korean guard, and the second of which misses Kee. Kee returns fire, and it seems as though this really is the end of dear old Reshevsky. More physical shenanigans ensue - Matt and Kee begin grappling (although Matt is still bound at the wrists, making him seem more of a lumbering rock). Keep in mind Rowan is not bound nor particularly physically injured, yet I think the extent of her participation is that of the helpless onlooker. You'd think she would have been able to find a rock or a garden rake to hurl at Kee. I'd like to think if I was ever in such a situation, I would have the presence of mind to do more than gape.

And her helplessness pays off. Matt is defeated by Kee (again mathematics must be used here - remember Kee has two free hands, and Matt has zero). Kee is now free to grab Rowan and aim his gun at her while Matt lies unconscious on the ground.... Is this to be Rowan's last few minutes? What will her last thoughts be? But no! Matt has only been playing dead and has managed to leap up and attempt to choke Kee. This dance of death continues until a great blaze of light illuminates everything. The cavalry has arrived, and somewhere a shot rings out resulting in a well timed gunshot to Kee's neck. I'm assuming these are the 'people' who Matt mentioned earlier. Whoever they are (the anti-commie brigade? a rival gardening party?), they've come to save the day, and have an ambulance with them.

So, I'm handing the last section over to you. Make it a good one.

Part 30 - the end of a marathon and a decaying foot


It was strange digging into my box of manuscripts and taking the second-to-the-last one out to read. It finally feels like we're going to make it. This rivals my first marathon in terms of the sense of accomplishment. Holy shit, I just saw a mouse and almost had a heart attack. That's the first mouse I've ever seen in my studio. I think he or she came out when I turned the radio off to write, thinking it was safe to come nibble on some tubes of Prussian blue paint. Because both my parents leaped onto furniture whenever they saw a mouse, I'm forever scarred...and scared. I've never been able to shake my fear. Seeing your brawny father nearly wet his pants at the sight of a helpless golf ball-size rodent will change a man, you know?

So Rowan is cowering in the putrid mushroom bed when her foot slips out from under her. Trying to free herself she digs into the muck and finds a badly decayed human foot. So that's macabre. This causes Rowan to scream, which gives her location away. Within seconds she's surrounded by flashlights. The thugs drag her, still retching, into a room where Cater is being held captive. He has welts on his head and cigarette burns up his arm. For such a stylized and generally inert buildup, the details of torture and death have been quite convincing. Maybe Ms. Lamb has a sadistic side that she needed to let loose.

Apparently the jellied body parts are Ah Sing's, the "laid-off" greenhouse employee. I'll say. I wonder if he qualifies for unemployment. They are Communists after all. He should at least get a state funeral. The group then conducts what played out in my head as a clichéd prisoner/captor exchange, where a pointed gun and an inexcusably long explanation of the crook's motive lasts just long enough for the captors to escape...Cater suddenly looked like harmonica-era Bruce Willis to me. Only, our captors haven't escaped...yet. Wow, though, the blood thirst of Lucy. She seems REALLY anti-social now. All the words wasted by Lamb on her inner-psyche are now out the window; she's turned from disturbed, complex, reluctant crime syndicate leader to Jeff Daumer. I think she might make a pate out of Sing's foot. I'm surprised she doesn't have cats; people that crazy HAVE to have cats. Anyway, as she's waxing sadistic with Rowan and Matt, she admits to shooting and killing that's official. Our first real loss so far. I kinda liked that guy.

In an attempt to extract information from Matt, Lucy approaches Rowan to start the torture session. It seems they don't actually believe Rowan knows anything, but are using the couple's mutual love as leverage. This actually redeems the story a bit, because there was really no good reason for the network to be hatin' on Rowan.

Just as Lucy is about to tee off on Rowan, my section ends. I don't know if it was seeing the mouse or reading the story, but my blood's flowing.

Tell me more, Cee.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

part 29 - another field trip, the Immaculate Virgin and an axe

I can't believe this will be the second to last section I will have to convey to you - it's become quite a pleasant part of my week. Everything from re-reading your emails to me and trying to decipher your baseball analogies, to thumbing through the typewritten manuscript with the oddly frenetic red pen editing, has been very comforting. But I admit, these last few pages have been much more fun to read compared to the doldrums of the middle 80 pages where much of the joy I derived was from Rowan's eating habits (see entry re. grapefruit).

Yesterday's semi-surreal field trip has only cemented my feeling that I have absolutely no idea what is going on in this project. One minute we're trying to figure out how to make this into a book project; the next we're at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin on Staten Island, where happy orphans used to plant beans and cabbage on the farm in order to earn their keep. Every single person we met yesterday was like a character study from a Coen Brother's movie - from the pensioners at the diner counter to the blue haired secretary, and of course Bill D'Ambrosio. And you know what else I learned? Staten Island has some very well kept turf fields - nothing like the dust bowl where kids play football in my neighborhood park.

But back to Rowan. What on earth is the point of capturing her? Why would Aunt Lucy even invite her to Pleasant Plains in the first place? What information could she possibly have that would be worth disposing of a body for? Smart villains and heroin addictions clearly do not mix. How's that for a Public Service Announcement? 'She used to be a really good villain... really knew her stuff, could torture the hell out of anyone!... but now... all she wants to do is sit there and inject smack...'
We begin my section with her about to lunge for the axe. I am clueless as to why Reshevsky has suddenly decided to release her - are her feminine wiles that great? Regardless, Reshevsky has taken on the mannerisms of the most cliched Bond criminal (or is he now a hero?) by declaring his intentions to plunge the entire greenhouse into darkness 'with one movement!'. And with that, he throws the master switch, which is Rowan's cue to grab the axe and decapitate Kee. However, Kee has already pounced at Reshevsky and chaos ensues. Rowan is ineffective (what else is new) and only manages to slam the axe into a wall, so she flees through the dark greenhouse instead, hearing gunshots on her way out... It seems as though her count is a goner.

This section does finally let the author write some flowery (hah) prose comparing the texture of Kee's skin to the waxy feel of the unseen orchid petals that brush up against her.

Rowan is trapped in the greenhouse - unable to find a way out, with a variety of Asian henchmen (yes we make awesome henchmen - in fact I'm going to start up a business 'henchmen for rent') all out to get her while Kee and Aunty Lucy yell out orders. Unfortunately in the melee, she manages to crawl towards the poisonous plant wing, the wing with no door (cue more ominous scary music)! Oleanders make another appearance, as do some stinky fungi. Just as Rowan thinks she's safe though the stench of some noxious plant threatens to overcome her...

no rest for the weary.

part 28 - cold weekend, and a potassium cyanide tablet


No fair, you got the juciest five-page section yet. But I'll take it if it means we've finally turned the corner and the last thirty pages will be an unending string of car chases, knife fights, tipped fruit stands and boiling rabbits.

By the way, you know I feel your pain about the cold; I barely left the house this weekend. I felt crummy and still don't know if it was temperature provoked malaise or an actual bug, but whatever it was it led to an incredibly unproductive two days. And sorry for missing your open studio - that was one of my planned events. In spite of any amount of unbearably cold weather, I have to say that one should only wear UA gear if you can answer "yes" to two of the following, you: own a snowmobile and can do tricks on it, are a professional defensive back, have three boys under ten years old who need a masculine real-life role model to get them to stop watching wrestling on tv, watch Rock of Love with Brett Michaels, listen to Creed, have hit someone in the head with a beer bottle or given fist bumps in job interviews. I'm guessing "no," so I'd encourage you to go shopping for some gore-tex.

As you'd expect, the adventure continues in my section. Reshevsky proves a reluctant captor, dividing his time between guarding Rowan and professing his affection for her. I have to say, I agree with you about the strangeness of the unfolding action, but I do think it makes literal sense. The problem is not literally deciphering what's happening, but reconciling the innocuousness of Rowan's actions with the comparative severity of the consequences. I guess you could make the case that Rowan was paranoid and delusional but just happened to have her paranoid fears confirmed and then almost willed a reaction by telling Reshevsky and Cater. But I mean, c'mon, didn't one of them have to be involved? She's confessing to one-fourth of the staff. Imagine if you're a paranoid shut-in constantly thinking someone is going to break into your apartment and murder you and your family; you may sleep with an eye open for fifty years straight, confirming how nuts you are to everyone who knows you. But, out of the millions of those paranoids in the world, somewhere someone's delusional premonitions will eventually be confirmed when an axe-murderer breaks into their house, chopping them into stew meat. For 999,999 people, they'll have to end their lives thinking they might have been just a bunch of basket cases, but for that one, as the axe is coming down on his head, he's saying, "goddamit, I TOLD you so. Why wouldn't you listen to me!"

Maybe that one is Rowan. Yeah, I can hear you in my ear saying she has more reasons than my uncle Doug to be paranoid, but still, you get the idea.

Reshevsky presents something of a monologue as he's standing over a bound Rowan. He rambles about having learned to be callous as a defense mechanism, and how Rowan's sweetness penetrated his armored exterior. And, alas, he cannot allow them to torture her for the little information she has. So he unties her and supplies her with an escape route. He mentions also that he will not do anything about Cater, who means "less than nothing" to him. Aware of what will happen to him when the brass finds out he let a captive escape, Reshevsky reveals a potassium cyanide tablet that he'll take if Kee tries to get all Michael Madsen on him. But before they can hatch the plan to free Rowan, Kee steps in and questions why Rowan's mouth is not gagged. Reshevsky stands up to Kee and they go back and forth throwing insults at each other, James Bond style. During the volley, Kee alludes to Lucy torturing Cater to get information out of him, and that they are ready to waterboard Rowan into spilling what she knows.

This is the problem: the lead up to this point has been so breezy that it is shocking to find that the gang is actually proceeding with plans to torture and murder the two agitators. It is also curious that Rowan was invited to the Greenhouse for a vacation, while a top, and not well kept, secret plan was going on in the backyard. It's not like Rowan was pulling any CSI maneuvers on the farm. She cried when her beans were limp and had 37 dollars in her pocket and she STILL uncovered their criminal network. John Wayne Gacy never hosted Tupperware parties. Maybe that's a problem stemming from trying to run a criminal empire while hooked on smack.

I found myself envisioning most of the events in this section as if they were from a scene in an early 90's Tom Berringer-style action movie. I think it was Shoot to Kill with Sidney Poitier, but am not totally sure. This was no-doubt cultivated by the conventional crime-movie plot details: bound prisoners, garrulous, philosophical captors, mid-escape surprises, etc.. And that had me recall the scene in Don DeLillo's White Noise where Jack and Murray go to visit the MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN in America and end up taking pictures of people taking pictures; agreeing as it were to be part of a "collective perception." How can you read something afresh when you already KNOW IT as a stereotype?

Anyway...the final scene involves Reshevsky trying to give hand signals to Rowan behind his back as he's negotiating with Kee. Something about the power switch and pointing to the nearby axe.....maybe Rowan will try to steal third base and end up getting offed by her Aunt in a rundown.

Only you can tell me if she does, Cee. (I'm watching the Yankees game while writing this, clearly)

Batter up.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Part 27 - a smackdown in Under Armour.

Oh Shane, my section is precious. I read it greedily over my bowl of morning oatmeal (oatmeal - not a luxury, but unfortunately I still don't find it particularly tasty), and would have laughed several times out loud, was it not for my mouthful of breakfast. And what a miserable morning it is; I had been looking forward to our field trip to Staten Island but standing around in a suburban wasteland in rainy 45 degree weather sounds terrible.

Which reminds me I need to buy some Under Armour leggings for my trek this upcoming January. I think we've bonded before over our hatred of cold weather and every additional year I spend away from subtropical climate, I am reminded that I am a creature of warmth.

None of what happens in my five pages makes sense, but I was so desperate for a change of pace - something other than the lovesick pining of a 24 year old girl - that every single delicious detail was savored, licked and swallowed whole.

Our Rowan awakes, groggy and in pain, finding herself gagged and tied at the wrists and ankles, in the shack where the generator is in the back of the Greenhouse. She finds a Korean gardener guarding her ... um, weren't they all supposed to Chinese gardeners? are we all interchangeable in 1960's America? And who else! It's Reshevsky! Dum dum dum de dum... ominous 'I knew it!' music plays... He barks at the gardener, telling him that the orders have changed, and he, Reshevsky is supposed to be in charge of the girl now. While this exchange takes place Rowan kicks herself for betraying herself to Reshevsky while simultaneously worrying about Matt. Was he being tortured? is he bound and gagged? is this supposed to turn into a weird erotic novel as I had proposed it would in the beginning?
Just as Rowan begins to worry about Matt she overhears Reshevsky imperiously tell the Korean to go tend to the other man with the questioning (and the Korean obeys, just as 'his peasant ancestors no doubt obeyed their Emperor').

Its interesting to note that Rowan never doubted that Matt was also in custody. If I suddenly found myself poisoned, gagged and held prisoner in a shack I have a feeling I would think everyone was in on the plot - but then again maybe I've never been in love with Matt Cater.

Reshevsky then proceeds to remove her gag and in the manner of the James Bond villain proceeds to tell her everything about the evil plot. What a wonderfully convenient plot device, especially as we only have 30 pages left in the novel. One tasty little morsel we discover is that Reshevsky wishes Kee would use scopolamine (a truth serum!) on Cater, rather than traditional pain.

Reshevsky, like all gentleman villains, of course confesses he thoroughly enjoyed Rowan's company, and considered her a real friend. And like all gentleman villains, he has a dark past which has forced him into his current role - apparently he dabbled in espionage (much like someone would perhaps dabble in recreational drugs?) when younger... he flippantly references some sort of 'treaty'. It was Rowan's aunt who found him, and manipulated him, which would be a fairly standard plot turn, if it not for the fact that Reshevsky reveals that her aunt is a heroin addict! A junkie! This was the cause of one of my near-breakfast accidents with the oatmeal.

Ah ha! it all comes together ... the found needle... her aunt's odd emotional turns... Could it be? Have her aunt and Kee been shipping heroin, or perhaps poppies, out of the greenhouse? Are they the modern Taliban?

It was that needle that Rowan found that made her aunt want to kill her (although exactly why Rowan needs to be tied up, and Matt tortured and interrogated is still beyond me - its not like Rowan had figured anything out). It seems like Kee and the aunt have a habit of eliminating characters though - Ah Sing's disappearance was credited to Kee, and in a crossed out section I'm able to make out that Milly's predecessor (who is that by the way?) also had a habit of 'listening at keyholes', thus necessitating an elimination.

Anyway, this is fun stuff. I'm looking forward to your next section. I have no clue how on earth Rowan's aunt, who is apparently a junkie gardener trying to smuggle things clandestinely from her greenhouse, would even bother with the trouble of killing Rowan.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Part 26 - Monopoly with Timothy Leary and Danielle Steele

Cee ditty,

So, just like that, after most of 24 chapters with barely a gasp's worth of real drama, the ice is broken...

I had little hope for my section when it picked up with the Count and Rowan playing an uncompetitive game of Monopoly. The second half of your final sentence "I would have..." by the way, is, "been even more amazed at the nonchalant ease of Reshevsky at the game." So that didn't bode well for a nail-bitey five pages. It looked to be going in the same direction as the last few sections: dialing up the dramatic tension and releasing the pressure uneventfully in a rambling interior monologue by our helpless protagonist. But not this time.

The Monopoly game is interrupted by an icy dinner in which Aunt Lucy urges Rowan to be prepared for her morning flight. "We wouldn't want to miss it, now, would we, dear?" Lucy warns. Rowan responds like an impudent teenager, "I imagine not." When I read this, I envisioned Rowan as Akayla Herzberg. Rowan bolts from dinner abruptly and goes upstairs to pack her belongings "with no pretense at efficiency." She packs like I do when returning from a beery trip to Barcelona; by hurriedly throwing everything in a single bag to sort it out at a later date. In the packing frenzy, Rowan's mind drifts, as it often does, toward thoughts of Cater's arms. She wonders if it would be better to cancel the 10 PM meeting with, the phones can't be trusted...and how sweet it'd be to be in his grasp one last time. Ahhhh, like a warm bath.

The passage that follows rivals Danielle Steele in its schmalziness. Rowan describes in maudlin detail her feelings of infatuation. She talks of "quickened heartbeats" and "shivering inside (changed by the editor to 'up and down') my spine" and "strange bonds of mutual acceptance..." Yuck! The whole monologue went down like a Richard Marx song. I hadn't squirmed in my seat so much since I went to see Beaches with Tracy Tapp in 10th grade. Without going to much sappy detail, we'll suffice it to say that Rowan harbors thoughts of a productive future with Matt 'the doctor' Cater.

After packing her things, Rowan heads downstairs to resume the Monopoly game in anticipation of her tryst with Matt. Rowan goes quiet and Reshevsky nervously chain smokes as the clock closes in on 10. Interestingly, Lamb initially writes, "[Reshevsky] smoked cigarette after cigarette only to impatiently stub each one out before ten puffs were taken." The editor takes the liberty of changing "five" to "ten," apparently realizing that ten puffs would come pretty close to getting through a cigarette and would therefor be unremarkable as a sign of nervousness.

Rowan finally decides to make her escape into the damp evening. Reshevsky covers her. She arrives to the copse of trees on the other side of the flagstone walk a little early and congratulates herself on her puncuality. Just then the bushes rustle. Rowan, as would be expected, assumes it's Cater. Just like that, a whistle goes off, dark figures surround her and a pair of rough hands grab her by the hair and yank her backward. She gasps in pain, kicks violently only to be subdued as a cold needle enters her bicep. She hears Cater calling for her, but not before consciousness yields to a field of rainbows and pinwheels...maybe Timothy Leary is the culprit.

Then all goes black...Maybe Rob Halford is the culprit.

We got a game. Don't go to bed yet, Cee.

Have at it..

Part 25 - roast duck and inaction

Holy crap - how on earth did I get stuck with the most boring 5 pages in the entire novel? No - I cannot offer you anything that will make your blood churn, your eyes widen, nor even anything to arouse any other part of you, despite the promise of the previous chapter's sensual dancing.

My section begins with our dear Rowan wandering down to the kitchen where she tries to engage Mrs.Chow in conversation, but duck roasting isn't particularly interesting to Rowan so she leaves. Actually what I would like to do is reconstruct a whole meal based on all the food items that are mentioned in the book. I don't feel as though I've learnt anything about poisonous plants yet, but have learnt so much about haute cuisine of the late 1960's. Until then, here's a video of Anthony Bourdain eating roast duck in Beijing:

Rowan then continues her meandering, and heads towards the greenhouse. There she bumps into workmen who are busy hauling pots of orchids about; 'Cattleyas Trianae' to be exact. It appears that her aunt is preparing for some large shipment to San Francisco (or so she says.... the complete lack of action thus far has made me imagine dark back stories and plot twists into every mundane detail.). It's at this point that her aunt tells her that she's had Kee arrange for a morning flight back to San Francisco for her! Hooray! Reshevsky (who is also in the greenhouse) gives Rowan the sign for 'all is okay' - the circling of the thumb and forefinger. I was going to w
rite the 'universal' sign for okay, but thanks to Wikipedia, I've been put straight. Do not make that sign in Turkey or Venezuala as you will be referring to the anus of a homosexual man. Unless you were maybe looking for one, in which case, you're all set.

So there we have it - Rowan's biggest problem has now been solved, thanks to Reshevsky's persuasive ways. Her aunt has bought her a ticket back to San Francisco for her. That's it. No more mention of the Reds, or of odd glass syringes and poisonous plants. All Rowan has to occupy herself with is this upcoming meeting with Matt Cater.

The last paragraph of my section becomes surreal - the author begins to com
ment on the complete lack of action going on in the novel. This insertion of an external evaluation of the lack of momentum of the plot is the first I've seen so far. The author has Rowan and Reshevsky converse about how they should spend their rest of the day. Should they play bridge? No - apparently Reshevsky thinks its an appalling game. They will play Monopoly instead! And that is what they did - for the next FIVE hours.My section does end with the sentence 'if I had known during the game what I found out soon after, I would have....'.

so you're up. give me something to work with other than images of consommes and roast duck.

Part 24 - a non Eureka moment, a breathless young woman and gyrating dancing

Cee Mak,

Unfortunately, Reshevsky's Eureka moment is a bit of a dud, more of a Topeka moment. Problem is, like much of the story so far, there is no clear danger or restriction to have to plan around, which tends to remove the potential for creative subterfuge. I keep having to ask myself what the conflict is, and my amazement doesn't cease whenever I realize that it is simply that her aunt won't let her go home. Meanwhile she's going to discotheques with a Russian count until the wee hours. Kee isn't tailing them with a gun; no one's threatening her family; there's been no horse heads found in her bed.

Reshevsky's plan is, get this, to leave the breathless young woman A MESSAGE. Yes, do that, leave a message, Rowan. So she leaves a message that Cater should meet her at 10 P.M. Reshevsky's great idea is his choosing of a spot that would not be conspicuous: their house. Because she is staying there and no one will get suspicious. That's the clever idea! If Rowan lives through this, I'll bet she ends up dying in five years while viewing the end of Planet of the Apes when Charlton Heston happens upon the Statue of Liberty - it'll be too much of a mindfuck for her and "boom" her heart will shoot out her nose.

In the process of enlisting Reshevsky, Rowan ends up divulging some details about her situation to him, the indiscretion of which only hits her the next morning. That's because Rowan is shitfaced. Her and the Count go to a dance club filled with "oddly gyrating young men and women," which Reshevsky has a "degenerate urge to enjoy." Typical Russian Count, geez, they're all the same. Afterwards, Rowan passes out in the car (I think this is a reflex when returning to Staten Island) and wakes the next morning with dry mouth and no memory of disrobing. This part I could truly relate to.

The next morning, Millie approaches Rowan and secretively tells her that she's been instructed not to speak to her. When this happens Rowan notes that "Reshevsky is "one of them." For a moment I was very surprised, feeling that I had missed a crucial detail. And, actually, I still don't know how Millie not being able to talk to Rowan implicates Reshevsky. Do you know? For a few short pages I thought we had a real plot twist, but towards the end of my section Rowan reconsiders the circumstances, and comes to believe the restriction could be part of a "general plan" that would not necessarily suggest the Count's involvement in a conspiracy. Would SOMEONE just do something decisive, already! I need hands in blenders, bodies in bags, "paws" in car grills. Give me some action, pleeease. I'm a slow-movie kind of guy; I sat through "Windwalker," viewed "The English Patient" twice in one night on and even got through a half an hour of Andy Warhol's, "Empire," before giving up, but EVERYONE has limits.

There's a funny passage at the end of my section:

Rowan asks Kee where Reshevsky is: "He is in the Greenhouse with Mrs. Dickson today," said the Chinese.

It's been a while since I could call someone "the Chinese" and not have to regret it.

I was watching Gilligan's Island the other day - remember I'm jobless - and something occurred to me. When I watched G.I. as a kid, I anticipated them getting rescued on every show, until, of course, Gilligan would forget to fasten something and the S.S. Minnow would sink in the lagoon. It wasn't until I was 11 or 12 that I began to see the show from a structural perspective, realizing that for the show to be sustainable as a revenue generator, the crew had to remain marooned indefinitely (it was only after the show was cancelled that they finally escape that somehow involved the Harlem Globetrotters.) When I realized this, G.I. stopped being interesting to me. It was a moment of enlightenment. Similarly, to this day I can't stand Liam Neeson because, around the time I stopped watching G.I., I saw him on a talk show and realized that the entire interview was scripted. I lost my media virginity to Liam Neeson and Bob Denver. So that sucks.

But about the Greenhouse; to enjoy reading it I think I have to channel my inner 10 year old that could watch Scooby Doo or read Hardy Boys all day and feel completely enveloped by the world they created. The Mystery of the Chinese Junk seemed exotic and dangerous with all the Chinese boats, smugglers and New York harbors. A few years ago I tried to read it again for nostalgia and realized that it is essentially the same as every other HB book. But when I was eight it didn't matter, all l I needed was a secure plot scaffold to hang various settings and details. The Arctic Patrol Mystery put me in Reykjavik; the Mystery of the Aztec Warrior transported me to Mexico. While the Clock Ticked put a clock I guess, but it was awesome.

If I could read the Greenhouse as a 9 year old, I think it would be quite intriguing.

Now, if Reshevsky's in on it and there's actually some action going down, I'll hit my next section like a 25 year old.

Give me something good, Cee.


Part 23 - porcupines and a Eureka moment

Its now my turn to be off the radar for a while. We're heading up to the Adirondacks for a 5 day camping trip in the High Peaks region. So, not so much booze-soaked, as say sweat and dirt covered, and probably craving an ice cold beer by day 2. Hopefully I'll see a couple of porcupines. Have I mention I'm now obsessed with trying to find real porcupines? Growing up in Hong Kong the extent of my exposure to animals was the occasional field trip to a 'farm', and coming across cows (which are amazing climbers by the way) when hiking.And speak of cows and Hong Kong, I came across this wonderfully cute story about a woman trying to save wild cows:

Your note passing story reminded me of the elaborately constructed systems children concoct for themselves - how everything seemed to be so important, and every step so critical to some final, indeterminate goal. I think I was too much of a conscientious (a word that I'm pretty sure was on most of my school reports) student to pass notes, but I have this awesome memory of building this complicated structure out of rulers, pencils, books etc with the guy who sat
next to me in 3rd grade, so that we could borrow each others erasers/ color pencils/ pencil sharpener, without ever reaching over and using our hands - some type of Fischl-Weiss device.
Regarding the private/ public nature of this blog and this project in general, I often wonder how much of has to do with the nature of typing onto a computer versus say, having to hand-write all our correspondance. I'm going to demand that one of our correspondances be done via snail mail. It'll be an interesting comparison.
But even beyond the mechanics of how this project is done, the whole nature of this project is really about us inserting ourselves into what should have been a discarded, private manuscript. We've given ourselves carte blanche to freely comment (and criticize) this foetal manuscript, snidely projecting our own memories and re-enactments on this proto-book.
But hell, how awesome the ride has been.

Anyway, speaking of rides.... as we begin my section, Kee is is driving Reshevsky and our Rowan down Third Avenue to some club, where throngs of decadent young people undulate to music, and Reshevsky has some table reserved for him with champagne (sounds like a typical night at one of those terrible Meatpacking bars). Rowan is clearly very happy to have her champagne flute constantly refilled, and as the night continues, she finds Reshevsky's company more and more enjoyable, and the decadence of the club more acceptable. It's wonderful how alcohol affects all people the same regardless of what decade they live in . Under the guise of going to use the ladies room, she finds a phone that is shielded from Reshevsky and dials the number that supposedly is Matt Cater's. Unfortunately some breathless sounding young woman answers who is unable to tell Rowan where Matt is, or when he'll be back. And dear old Rowan, manages to even feel jealous for this unknown woman who may simply be his answering service.

Back at the table, she promptly BURSTS into tears in front of Reshevsky and is unable to calm herself down. She then proceeds to break down and after some cursory prodding by Reshevsky, she breaks down and tells him that her aunt won't let her leave, there's some sort of unsavoury business abound and Matt had promised he would help. Reshevsky remains icily calm, and insists that he will try to help her. And as luck would have it, at the very bottom of my last page, he has a Eureka moment - snaps his fingers and says ....

You're up. Don't let me down. I must know what Reshevsky's brilliant plan is.

Part 22 - back from Portland, high school flashbacks and fancy French food


Sorry to be off the radar for a few days. I went to Portland, Oregon and, well aware of the social (read: booze-soaked) nature of my trip, thought better of taking any sections of the manuscript with me.

I had a really interesting flashback while writing my last entry that I forgot to mention. This whole
process reminded me of how I used to exchange notes with a girl in high-school. Her name was/is Tobi Wilson. I tried to contact her to see if she saved any of them, but no luck. I remember trying to make these correspondences multi-media works of art, with lists and drawings and gossip and all kinds of ephemera stuck to them. I think I blocked it out of my mind for a long time because it's a bit emasculating to imagine myself passing fastidiously decorated notes around to girls I wasn't intimate with, but as I thought about it longer, I realized such feelings of embarrassment are just layers of affectation I've accumulated since I was 15. I think I was so natural then that it's humiliating to think of how I acted. I picture myself as a chimpanzee in front a crowd of onlooking families at a zoo with a giant erection, and completely unselfconscious. It begs the question whether socialization makes you better or worse. Kind of a Hobbes/Locke
conundrum, I guess.

I'll post the notes if Ms. Wilson provides them.

It was only after a friend of mine read the blog that the private nature of the correspondence resonated with me. I've been writing pretty much willy-nilly and uninhibited, then this guy mentioned something I wrote, and it hit me that I was doing less-editing that I do for say my Brooklyn Rail reviews, which I have to say I pour over with a lot of scrutiny. I recognized it was how I wrote when I was 15....and then I considered what I would do if everyone I knew right now got a hold of my notes from 1991 and how different that is than what I'm doing with this manuscript of the Greenhouse. Hmmmm...

These thoughts are especially true in sections like my most recent, because, though most of this book exists in the public record, the edited section feel very private. The one time my editorial notes were actually reprinted in an art review, I was mortified...though it says a lot that people couldn't distinguish them from art speak. But it still felt like a breach of privacy for some reason.

So to the plot...

Like I said, a lot of it's crossed out; it looks like some kind of pre 9/11 security briefing that was redacted. Lucky for my nosey nature, red colored pencil is semi transparent and most of it is still legible.

As I pick up, James Kee, Reshevsky and our young heroine are dumped into lower Manhattan at Battery Park. They move at a snail's pace up the west
side (how about that for realism), until Reshevsky gets impatient and jumps out of the car, escorting Rowan the last few blocks to Chez Whateveritis.

When they arrive they take a table for two and order a bottle of Graves '62, which from very basic Google-research, is apparently a classic. Reshevksy peacocks his "gastronomic pedantry" as Rowan stews about where in the joint the phone is. Because of her preoccupation, she apparently throws manners and decorum to the wind and acts, according to the Count as a "greedy little girl."

I love how in 1970 all the good food consisted of standard dishes named after a creator or a point of origin. For dinner Reshevsky had Oiseaux De Veux and Rowan picked nervously at a sole almondine. And they shared crepes suzette for dessert. I was thinking about all the throw back dishes: lobster themador, bananas foster, clams casino, etc. etc. How funny what a prescription it was. So far from clam foam with freeze-dried sweetbreads with bruised rhubarb ragout. Clearly all my knowledge of these dishes comes from Fletch...and clearly I shouldn't become a chef.

Anyway, Rowan slips off to the ladies room and realizes the phone is within eyeshot and cannot make the call without giving herself away. Yoo hoo, use your cell phone sistah!!! I don't know what just happened.

The scene ends, not with a major plot twist, but with Rowan deeply offending Reshevsky by suggesting that he's wasting his life being used as a social pawn. Reshevsky proceeds to excoriate her with all the class you'd expect from a count, which inspires a sulky interior monologue that lingers until the last sentence in my five-page section. Sorry, Cee, I wanted to give you so much more than crepes suzette and sulks.

Oh well.

batter up,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Part 21 - classy French restaurant, swinging discotheques and more of those overbearing pinkos


After the slow build up of the past few sections, I keep on hoping that my five pages will be the one to break the tension. James Kee will throw something at Rowan; someone will have sex; grapefruits will be smashed against walls... Something to clear the humidity and heat from the air. But no. It's another interminable look into our Rowan's inner psyche. Oh thank god I'm not 24 anymore. I hope to God I wasn't so inane. The girl spent half an hour in a 'reverie while drying her hair'. Dreaming about Matt Cater's arms or something.

My section opens with Rowan packing alone and trying to will her way out of her situation, much like a small child would hope that if she thought about things hard enough, they really would come true. And I agree about reading the crossed out portions of text; as well as not being allowed insight into Rowan's grapefruit cutting skills we are also not allowed to find out what she had for lunch after packing (it was consomme and a salad - notice I refuse to use the accent?). She has another unpleasant encounter with James Kee, whose "quintessential Oriental reserve" continues to make her feel uncomfortable. He passive-agressively attacks her about her friendship with Milly the housemaid, who was as you may remember, injured by the mysterious glass needle. This of course puts Rowan's panties in a twist - her letter to her fiance! It's with Milly! And by the way, is this a current fiancee or a former fiancee?

Rowan waits anxiously for Milly to return from her lunch break in order to see if she was stopped by James on her way out. In fact nothing of the kind seemed to have happened - Milly went out for lunch with her mysterious boyfriend (who drives a battered panel truck), and is all giggly upon her return; mission letter-delivery accomplished. Operation sex-up Milly-the-maid accomplished as well, it seems.

I do think we should keep up the field trips though - I have a feeling that the expedition Reshevsky takes her on this momentuous evening will be a fun one to replicate. It's decided! Instead of my usual weekend brooklyn-based debauchery, I will instead demand that my man take me to some frou-frou French restaurant followed by a visit to a discotheque. And the name of this restaurant must be 'Chez Giselle'.

Unfortunately for Rowan though, James is the designated driver and chaperone for the evening, leading Rowan to contemplate whether this was a deliberate ploy on her aunt's part to spy on her... Frankly I'm disappointed with my five pages. Again none of the relevant questions were answered, and for someone who is desperate to get out of her aunt's house, she seems to be quite happy to go on elaborate excursions with Reshevsky, a man who she is supposed to feel mild repulsion for. Oh to be twenty-four again.... trapped in your aunt's house and the subject of an elaborate smuggling scheme concocted by Chinese Reds....

Monday, August 31, 2009

part 20 - Thirty Eight Dollars and Seven Cents


I agree, the terror mechanics are a little underengineered. The book keeps telling us that there's danger and terror and plotting and evil, but if you really think about it, Rowan's stay at Pleasant Valley Farms is less menacing than any of the art fairs I did with the gallery...okay, bad example. Less menacing than most of my vacations with my friends; she hasn't even landed in the ER yet. Someone did die, though, I guess that's somewhat traumatic. But since Chao's death, there's not much to suggest that Rowan is in any significant danger. What would a bunch of Communist Chinese smugglers want from a sexy 24 year old bird of a girl who gets paralyzed whenever Lucy furrows her brow anyway?

Even if Rowan did want to leave, it appears that she's a little cash poor to do so. She has thirty-eight dollars and seven cents in her purse. I'm not Chuck Schwab, and it isn't 1972, but I think it's a bad sign, when asked how much money one has, to provide that figure in any denomination smaller than a country's primary unit of currency. And, given her activities over the past week at PPF, one wonders where and how she spent the money that would've gotten her a plane ticket back to San Fran. I haven't noticed many financial temptations along the way so far - if she only brought fifty bucks to the farm as it appears may have been the case, maybe she deserves to be made the bitch of a bunch of Red Chinese poison plant smugglers.

Rowan's solution for liberating herself from the farm is to write a secret letter to her fiancée requesting he purchase her a plane ticket (BTW, I know how to type an accent aigu only from representing Nicola López at CGFA...what a treasure chest of knowledge I came away with.) His name is/was Ted, but the editor crossed out that tidbit as superfluous. This brings up another interesting note about this project and how the transparency of the editing has changed the way we process the text. I assume you've probably read most of the out-stricken sections of the manuscript. It seems to me that whenever Lamb tries to provide any kind of description that isn't immediately relevant, it gets taken out of the book by the editor. For instance, a whole section of part 20 is removed that describes how Lucy sections and eats a grapefruit half. Sure, this isn't relevant to the plot, but it is indirectly, as Lucy's psychological complexion and manner add texture to the story. Perhaps the editor would let her get away with flourishes of detail if the nuts and bolts of the story had more integrity. I'm reading that book by James Wood, "How Fiction Works," and he talks about how Flaubert was a genius at confusing habitual detail with dynamic detail. Flaubert wrote as if the narrator's (author's) remarks were passive and arbitrary when he was actually subtly shaping the structure of novel without the reader feeling manipulated. Wood talks about how this tendency is one of the defining qualities of modern fiction. This is obviously part of what makes the Greenhouse so cartooney; because we aren't allowed to see how the hands of the characters section their grapefruits, or how they spend the moments between the moments. Except, that is, for the one scene at Reshevsky's apartment, where some of the details slipped by Lamb's literary goal keeper. That's why I liked it. More grapefruit, I say!

The next day Rowan lights a ciggy and, as she snuffs it out, she notices that the glass and needle she placed next to the ashtray are gone. Can you imagine a naive, virginal heroine in a pulpy crime novel today being a smoker? Reds and Marlboro Reds, even the Cincinnati Reds, aren't what they were in 1972 (they went to the World Series that year, I think.) We must be in Western Civilization's blue period...

The needle-and glass-morsel does appear to be a key piece of information, but it seems as if, like many other seemingly significant events, to be simply getting batted around for it keeps getting dramatic close ups with evil music, but never amounts to anything. I wonder if it will ever have actual significance. Maybe the dropped keys, the needle and the first prowler will all come back around into some Usual Suspects-like crescendo of an ending. Imagine writing a whole book strung together with clichéd (accent aigu..SCORE!) images that only get deflected further into the novel and then dropped altogether. Call it an A.D.D. novel. Wouldn't that be a great act of neo-estrangement?

My section ends with Reshevsky insisting that he take Rowan out for an "opulent" evening of dining and nightclubbing. Here we go again. The social dynamic between these two seems to be the sole plot-propulsion system the Greenhouse has. It's kind of a Pepe Le Pew-fictional-activity-engine. After some of his by now characteristic flatter/badgering, Rowan submits to Nick's insistences. After capitulating she retires to her room to primp and en-route gives Millie the letter to mail to her ex-fiancée (accent aigu...SCORE AGAIN!!.)

Rowan then thinks to herself, as she often does, that she just needs to get through the evening and then things will be fine. Someday just won't come, will it?

You're up, Cee.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Part 19 - a rejection, some banana bread and a dangerous needle

hey there,

It's been a week of odd ups and downs. Wednesday's trip to the Tibetan Museum was a definite highlight and of course, trying to plan out when we can visit the author is a huge motivating factor, as well. Today's email from the Sculpture Center about our rejected proposal was a bigger downer than a toxic mixture of Quaalude tossed down with a big glass of red wine. Not that I see it as a death knell for this project - in fact this project probably has more steam than I realise - but I'm getting very sick of project proposals being returned to me because the pool of applicants in New York City is several hundred times the available slots. Oh well.

I decided instead of moping around my studio where it is probably about 95F right now, I would work in the comparative coolness of my apartment and bake some banana bread. The last time I was unemployed I also took to baking. So far I've made two different types of banana bread and zucchini bread. I wonder if Rowan bakes....

It's been an exciting day its been for our heroine. Before I delve into matters about Rowan, on a sidenote, I love that the organization are the Chinese Reds. What on earth is their motive? Are they trying to gain control of the poisonous plants in the greenhouse? Take over Staten Island for use as their headquarters, ridding the land of the lawn-mowing, semi-detached house owning, bourgeoisie? Replacing well manicured lawns with proletariat run farms? Interesting side note; Reshevsky is the descendent of Russian royalty, too. I have to remember that at the time of this book, the Cold War was still very much on everyone's mind. But seriously... why on earth is Rowan in danger? what the hell is her role in all of this?

As we begin my section we find Rowan in the shower (nothing steamy, however.) As she's exiting, she hears Milly the maid knocking, asking for a band-aid for a nasty cut on her finger, which was caused by a nasty piece of long broken glass while she was sweeping the aunt's bedroom. They recover the offending instrument - it's an odd thing - a piece of broken glass attached to a long hollow needle similar to other needles she had seen in the greenhouse (this is a key piece of information.)

At dinner that night, which is a large formal affair, leaving Rowan uncomfortable in her 'tube dress', her Aunt as usual barely pays any attention to Rowan, except for when Rowan remarks that it's a shame the servants don't have access to things like Band Aids to patch up bad cuts caused by errant pieces of glass needles. this gets her aunt's attention - she becomes simultaneously menacing and frightened. this is clearly important information for the dear Aunt, and she demands to know what Rowan did with the needle.

It's clear that Rowan's Aunt is not going to let Rowan leave to return to the Bay Area either; rebuffing her attempts to leave in the next day or two and telling her to be 'more patient' (more patient for what?) These actions leave Rowan speechless (as she so very frequently is) and frozen on the staircase.

Oh, and on a final note, I actually pick up steam when I come close to the end of a book. As a child I used to stay up way past my bedtime reading, just because I couldn't bear the thought of waiting another day to finished a book, almost as if the characters would run off into the distant nebulous ether without me, if I fell asleep before finishing the book.


Part 18 - baseball analogies and our field trip


I've never been good at finishing books. I wasn't a strong reader when I was young and my attention span was short. Getting through the last 10 percent of a book was always a bit of a struggle. I remember ticking and repeating sentences madly when trying to complete Dandelion Wine in the 9th grade. Mrs. Ruggles to this day probably has no idea how hard it was for me. I imagine it being kind of like the helplessness some people describe in dreams where they're being chased and their legs become too heavy to run away. It's amazing that in someone's own dream they can't summon the will to save themselves. What other force is there in one's head that is sabotaging their imaginary well-being? I have a version of this dream where I'm trying to hit a 3 -2 hanging curve ball over the left field fence to win a baseball game. I see the pitch perfectly, and I hit the ball on a line toward the bleachers, but every time the ball changes directions and falls like lead from the sky. As deep as can go into my subconscious I can't figure out why, or what, is causing this; I want this home run to occur, but there is a force I can't locate that wants something else.

It always confounds me why this happens. Why would humans have any instincts that are self-defeating?

My point is that, as we approach the end, it's actually getting harder to finish, even as I'm more curious and have more at stake. But the trip to the Tibetan Museum yesterday really helped. I think it may be good to do another field trip next week. Maybe we can go to 111th and Riverside drive.

Because we went to the Museum, I had a pre-dressed imaginary stage ready for the ensuing actions to take place on. And actions and bombshells there were. In fact, this section is dense enough to do a list instead of prose.

We learn:

The "organization" is a smuggling ring run by Chinese "Reds." Lamb actually typed "Communist" and the editor switched it to "Reds." How fascinating is that?Cater and Lucy have never had sex. Cater is merely arm candy for Lucy, who only desires the superficial trappings of a glamorous life, and sex, according to Cater would be too "real" for her.

Cater believes he has been "Shanghaied" by his own government.

Reshevksy thinks he ought to have been a scholar.

According to Cater, Rowan is in big danger and should leave the next day while Cater stays to clean up the mess and try to unensnare Lucy from the Pinko Chinese smuggling network.

And, last, we learn that love is in the air between Matt "The Doctor" Cater and Rowan "Laugh-In" Martin.

I hear church bells....if the Reds don't ring their bells first.

The scene ends with Reshesvky driving Rowan back to Pleasant Plains Farms. She is, for very good reason, withdrawn quiet and stewing about what will transpire over the next 48 hours.

So am I, Rowan, so am I.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Part 17 - shave ice, a gigolo and some kind of an 'organization'


It is quite magnificent news about locating and finding Antonia Lamb. And admittedly a giant relief that she is not:
a) angry that we scrounged through the trash to find this manuscript, and is of the litigious type (at least not yet...)
b) has attributed our collaborative project to some fortuitous meeting of the stars and moon
c) dead

Interviewing her would be a wonderful addition to our back and forth narrative. In fact, I'm already starting to imagine our conversations with her. What type of cookies would she offer us? She lives close to the wine country, so perhaps she would insist on introducing us to a particularly great chardonnay from a new winery in Napa? Or perhaps as an astrologer, we would also get a free astrology reading? (oh by the way, I'm a Saggitarean. I have no idea what you are) .Anyway, on this scorcher of a Monday morning, I'm sitting down to my heavily edited 5 pages. But before we begin, let me tell you how I've been dealing with the heat this week (my studio refuses to cool down below 85F). There's a new shave ice place on Smith and Sackett in Carroll Gardens, 10 blocks from my studio. For about 10 minutes while consuming this heap of sugary and icey goodness, my body is happy. I like how so many different places around the world have developed their own icey treats to deal with summer: from Malaysia to Japan, and Hawaii, and across the globe to Puerto Rico. Ice and sugar together appear to be a universal treat.

Ok, back to Rowan: about half of my text has been crossed out and typed over - the intensity of the editing has become increasingly visible, most of which seem to involve the exchanges between Reshevsky and Rowan. It's a shame - I enjoy Reshevsky's snide comments, and the ineffective replies that Rowan insists on making.

Reshevsky opens my section by ringing the bell to the Tibetan Museum, where they are welcomed by a Mrs Carruthers, who seems to be an expert on the 'collection' as she will be giving a talk in the house in half an hour. She encourages Rowan to visit the garden first, while she leads Reshevsky to the library. The garden isn't described in much detail other than the stone animals that dot the landscape (5 elephants and some baboons). At the edge of the garden (separated from a steep drop by a wooden gate,) she is surpsied by Matt Cater. Ah ha! it's their long awaited meeting! I'm assuming that since this is where Matt was lying in wait for Rowan, this is the Tibetan Museum. (we should try to recreate this meeting on our Wednesday field trip... dibs, I'm not Rowan).

We are finally allowed some insight into the devellish plot that has been lurking in the background. It turns out Chao enlisted the help and trust of the caretaker (I'm assuming this means Mrs Carruthers), and by proxy this meant she was to trust Matt. And gasp! shock! horror! Chao was murdered! And Matt is his replacement! Apparently Matt had been doing some work for the 'organization' and they asked him to introduce Chao into Aunt Lucy's circle. Dear Rowan still cannot get her hang ups about the romantic connection between Matt and her aunt out of her head, prompting Matt to spell out to her that he is not romantically involved with her, but is merely an ornament - arm candy, as I believe the kids say today. Apparently after Chao was killed, Matt tried to leave town and untangle himself from Lucy, but she had other ideas, and apparently the 'organization' felt it was beneficial that Matt remain within her grasp. It's not made clear what on earth this 'organization' is, but Matt does make a comment where it indicates this organization is government related.

Dear Rowan, instead of asking salient questions such as 'what is this "organization" you speak of?', or 'why would anyone want to kill Chao?', accuses Matt of being a gigolo for his organization.

Apparently Lucy was not interested in love of the physical nature. Her previous marriage was to a man several times her own age, and she led a deadly dull life filled with plants and the such (although you would think such a marriage would lead you to affairs of the flesh.) My portion ends here. I eagerly await your next section... what on earth is this 'organization' that Matt belongs to? What do they want with Aunt Lucy and her plants?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Part 16 - chia pets and meeting the author

Yo, Cee.

I woke up this morning and ate some barbeque chicken from two nights ago. I made coffee, brushed my teeth and then drank the coffee I just made. I watered my Chia Obama that I found under the seat of a Penske truck I rented two weeks ago. I sopped up the water that ran over the tray on which Mr. Obama sits with two used tube socks. I watched five minutes of Sportscenter. I had another bite of chicken and thought to throw away some pulled pork from last week. I put on a shirt that I got as a gift for getting the New York Times. Hmmm, I think I forgot something I did this morning....oh yeah, between the fistfulls of cold chicken I CALLED ANTONIA LAMB!!!!
I think I was shaking when I pressed "call." The experience was indeed a lot like calling Carol Yake in 9th grade to go to a dance with me, only I wasn't wearing penny loafers and a blue and red striped Gant sweater I bought at Dillards. I did have to psych myself up to complete the task, though. The phone rang three times and I got her answering machine (not voicemail, but answering machine), which relieved me for a split second. I began leaving a jittery and fragmented message when a woman picked up the phone. Then I felt like I did when my dad made me call random people for a health care survey for his dissertation; like I had a hard five seconds to disarm her with my good intentions so she wouldn't hang up and slip away forever. Much like the dance with Carol Yake, there was little to actually be afraid of, except maybe for myself. She was a very gracious, intelligent, generous and spirited soul. I'm not very New Age about how I think of forces in the universe, but if I were, I'd have to say she had a good energy.
The only disappointment was that she was so easygoing and at peace with our project that we don't really have any kind of a wrenching, tragi-romantic conflict to resolve. There's no, the-book-reminds-her-of-her-darker-days-as-an-amphetamine-addicted-writer-living-on-the-Bowery, jive. There's no, you-snarky-little-shits-who-do-you-think-you-are-prying-into-someone-else's-life, biz. She simply would like very much to meet us and talk more about our project. Probably over Toll-House cookies; actually, maybe pot-brownies would be more like it. She said she's an astrologer and a musician in Mendocino, CA. In fact, her third book was finished in Peter Tork's (the Monkee) spare bedroom as he was participating in orgies downstairs. What is the right verb to couple with orgy?? Do you engage in them? Maybe conduct? She seems happy and centered, anyway. It ain't Henry Miller or Charles Bukowski, but it sure made me happy to meet with goodwill.

So that's a little bit awesome.

As for Pleasant Plains Farms, it's significantly less awesome. At least it is in Rowan's mind. Rowan (I should've asked Antonia about the Laugh-In thing. Shit!!) devises a ruse to leave dinner and go outside. Something about leaving her pocketbook in Reshevsky's car. She takes Reshevsky's keys and heads to the birch grove where Cater awaits. It's a lot of buildup for little action, though, as Rowan merely tells Cater that the Tibetan Museum date was postponed until tomorrow, and, as a result so is Cater's transmission of whatever he knows about the events of the past week. What does transpire, however, is a kiss between the two, initiated by MCAT (I'm calling him "the Doctor" from now on.) Rowan of course pulls some coquettish disapproval stuff on him, but you can tell she really wants him. If the way to a man's heart is through his own stomach, the way to a woman's is through another woman. Rowan seems like a really smart, reflective, but naive, volatile and lovesick type. She's the kind you don't want to spurn. The editor even wrote "this girl is a mental defective!!!" in the margin. For the most part this editor has been, fairly passive, sticking to issues of grammar for most of the story, jumping in with some style comments here and there. You know it says something when she/he offers unsolicited opinions on the mental faculties of the characters.
Just prior to the kiss, the Doctor dragged Rowan to the ground to avoid being spotted by the departing Braithwaites. Covered in mud and leaves from that incident, she was then whipped in the face by a branch leaving a mark on her cheek. She has also dropped the keys along the way. So, back from a simple trip to fetch a pocketbook, she looks as if she was kept against her will at Rick James's place for two weeks. She makes up a story about tripping and being too embarrassed to come back inside with the guests still around, but James Kee gives her the twice-over and seems very suspicious.

The next day Kee says to the Count that the keys weren't on the path between the house and the car. I'm guessing this comes back to haunt her.

Reshevsky and Rowan leave together in his car on their way to the Tibetan Museum in Staten Island...

Hoo-ray for finding Antonia!!!

Your turn, Cee.