Monday, October 4, 2010

God, I Love October

I’ve just come upstairs from watching what I think must be the worst half of NFL football I’ve ever seen. The Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler, couldn’t seem to embrace the concept that if he kept holding on to the ball too long, he was going to keep getting sacked, as he was approximately 25 times while I was watching. The Bears were gaining an average of 7.6 centimenters per offensive play, so you’d have imagined that the New York Giants would be making them wish they’d never been born, but the half ended with their leading only by a field goal.

When things aren’t going well for the Giants, those of us watching on TV are treated to endless shots of their head coach, Tom Coughlin, squinting murderously, exuding disgust from every pore, and I’ve finally realized of whom he reminds me — the “chef” at Ted’s Rancho Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway who hated me on sight when I worked there as a 17-year-old busboy, and who did everything in his meager power to make my life miserable.

Both teams are wearing a lot of shocking pink — shocking pink chin straps, gloves, sweat bands, caps, and even towels. The idea, one of the announcers finally remembered to mention, was to Increase Awareness of Breast Cancer, but I’d venture to guess that not a single person attending or watching an NFL game all day hadn’t heard of the disease already. In my own case, I became more aware only of how poorly shocking pink goes with almost anything.

During the endless commercials, I was reminded that America’s biggest breweries regard me as having the mentality of a not-terribly-bright 11-year-old. Their supposition is that I will want to rush out and get myself a six-lack of Coors, for instance, because the mountains depicted on the can turn a different color when the can is chilled to a certain low temperature. Awe-some! Alternatively, I might opt for a rival brand of lager-flavored soda pop, Miller Lite, because of thrilling new Vortex Bottle, with “specially designed” grooves inside the neck. Awe-some!

On the other hand, I saw a Geico commercial that actually made me laugh aloud, as I’d earlier laughed aloud at the one with Abraham Lincoln admitting to his wife that her dress really did make her butt look bigger. In this one, a little piggy, being given a lift by a smoldering soccer mom, does indeed squeal, “Whee whee whee,” all the way home. I was reminded of one of my favorite bumper stickers ever — What if the hokey-pokey really is what it’s all about?

And I just remembered something else I really loved about this gorgeous, chilly weekend, with its bright blue skies and spectacular sunsets, and the tops of some of my favorite trees offering sneak previews of the spectacular colors they’ll soon have turned. It has been at least 72 hours since I’ve heard anything by Tom Petty, and it isn’t as though I haven’t been to the gym.

I’ve customarily told new acquaintances who’ve revealed themselves never to have seen The Sopranos that I envy them because they have a whole world of pleasure to experience. I feel the same way about the novelist Scott Spencer, in whom I, foolishly, have never been very interested by virtue of his having written a book on which a Brooke Shields movie (Endless Love) was based. My foolishness has this huge dividend, though: I can now look forward to gorging on the man’s glorious fiction, as I’m doing now. Consider this, about an upwardly mobile black couple, from A Ship Made of Paper:

Iris understand that Hampton, when he needs her, feels vulnerable and somehow trapped beneath the ice of his dignity. Often, he will cover his own desires with a protective irony…He visits the pleasures of her body like a tourist who behave on vacation in a way he never would dream of at home. And like the tourist who raves about the island hospitality, there is, in Hampton’s adoration of her, a bit of colonial condescension.

In Mr. Spencer’s fiction, you rarely go longer than a paragraph without encountering a perception so acute and so gorgeously expressed as to make you want to stop and re-read it. The realization that I have virtually his whole oeuvre ahead fills me with delight.

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