A writer whose work and career I admire very much has a book coming out October 1st, tomorrow. She’ll be reading from it at Powell’s books, and signing its beautiful copies. And she’s done the most brilliant and generous thing to excite people about it, she’s invited a number of other writers to join her and write their own things about her rich and dynamic subject: Julia Child.
It was a smart plan because now we’re all obsessed with Julia again, as well as the wonderful book before it’s even come out. It’s also generous of her to let some of us participate, because her subject is juicy, and ripe.
Each chapter of the book is a different rule that Julia lived by. So Karen asked each of us to choose a rule, and read the chapter, and I chose #3: Learn to be Amused.
The chapter itself, is not entirely amusing. In fact, it leads off with amusement and then breaks your heart. But that’s the whole point. Life is heartbreaking. There’s no dodging it. Find amusement. You don’t need to have the life you want, to love the life you have.
I am smack in the middle of brand new heartbreak myself, so it’s tricky this whole amused thing. Heartbreak’s relentless, and a stalker, but love and laughter are, too. And amusement is right on their tail. (So, right now, is a fly. He’s flying in squares right around me and won’t fly away. I don’t find him amusing.)
Last night my roommates and I watched To Catch a Thief for about the 300th time. One of my roommates is 12, the other is 14. This is a comfort film for us because there was another point some years back when life was not at all how I wanted it. My then-husband, now ex-husband, had left our home leaving me with one big life I didn’t want on my hands. I found myself alone, in our once dream house, roaming the grounds in the middles of nights in dramatic long dresses like a clumsy tragic mess.
It was a house I knew I would lose, and I had sweet small children who had no sense of what lay ahead. But we refused to be bothered with that. We found amusement. I introduced them to Hitchcock and we watched almost the entire ouevre. (A very amusing word!)
We watched Rear Window and North by Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much and Birds and Strangers on a Train, and we spotted the Macguffen’s and cameos and by the way, Alfred is a guy who I think was easily amused.
These were our last days of disco and we went out in style. We held pool parties all day, crowded the fire pit at night. We threw Hitchcock into the projector and beamed him up on the outdoor screen or on the big wall of the small guest house, even in the middle of the day if that seemed like fun.
And voila. Now instead of remembering the disaster of that summer — the fear, the anxiety, heartbreak — we can watch To Catch a Thief and remember our creaky little popcorn popper and Cary Grant’s infectious charm. The technicolor marvel of the French Riveria in a cool dark room in the middle of a hot day.
Today I bought a Dutch oven. The act itself was unremarkable. I live in a suburb, it lacks charm. It’s certainly not Cary Grant. The stores are big and dull, so there’s nothing particularly amusing or exciting or unique about any one purchase of anything. I bought a 6 quart, red, cast iron Dutch oven for $59.99, and then for lunch I made chicken stew that turned out not very great. I overcooked the chicken, for one thing, and I don’t expect anyone to eat much of it though the broth did come out nice – the point is, I was amused.
I am taking stock today (no pun intended) just a little bit so I’ll remember that amusement is here, all the time. I am now not only a divorced woman, a woman who is divorced — something still hard for me to say even years after the fact — but now have the matter of a post-divorce failed relationship, too. A very difficult one. Someone special, someone I feel lost without. I’m wondering now, how do we ever get it right? This isn’t the life I wanted, or the one I thought I’d be living today.
And yet also it is. I am delighted with my red Dutch oven — why on earth have I never had one? And the cutting and the mincing and the chopping and braising while listening to the government shut down on the radio and watching the dog eat a fly … all of this amused me.
The roommate who is 12 is a girl and when she picked her volleyball out of the yard yesterday, it came with three baby slugs. She took pictures, and then we named our loitering moth “Karl.” Here is a baby slug.
There’s no photo of Karl.
But here is Cary Grant working crossword puzzles in a soup bowl. (Thank you, Anthony O. DiFalco!)
Because Karen is so generous, I think I’ll be here all week. Blogging about amusement.
Go to her reading tomorrow night at Powell’s in Portland (unless you live in Japan) and buy her wonderful book!
Plus, try the veal; veal is always amusing.