Monday, April 25, 2011

Cold Turkey

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I have kicked the online shopping monkey and can devote all my computer time now to writing the thriller, answering my emails and playing mah jongg. The bad news is that my credit card is no good.

Not only is my credit card no good, the online account I used to use to look at what was going on with it has been scrubbed. I can't access it. My ID and password are okay, but the account has ceased to exist. But, as I said, this is very exciting. Think of the hours I'll now have to write, play mah jongg, do housework, eat, and go to the gym. Not necessarily in that order.

This all started on Saturday afternoon. The phone rang, and it was a robot from my credit card company hinting darkly at questionable charges that might have been placed on my account. I was offered a number of choices, one of which was to forget the whole thing, roll over, and go back to sleep. It sounded too sinister for that, so I held out for choice number four, which was to speak to a live human. The human was very helpful. Someone had tried to use my credit card number to reserve a room in a cheap motel somewhere in the U.K., she said.

"Nope," I said. "Not me." She said that was what they figured, since whoever tried it had used an address different from mine. The charge had been denied. Still she told me to destroy my credit card and wait till they sent me a new one.

Hey, at least I'm home. The same thing happened three years ago when I was at Malice. I had no way to pay the hotel bill until I discovered a branch of our bank across the street from the convention hotel where I was able to score some cash. We are so vulnerable in the modern day. At any moment credit card failure can strike, leaving one stranded between endeavors like a losing musical-chairs player stranded between chairs.

So now to return to my work in progress. Or my game of mah jongg. Too bad; there are some really cute dresses on the Nieman-Marcus site.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fashion World -- Can You Find Perspecitve There?

Reese Witherspoon has famously -- infamously? -- suggested in an interview in the May issue of Vogue magazine that people who love fashion often lack perspective. The blogosphere is in an uproar over this; Ms. Witherspoon has been denounced by some as an ingrate. You say this in a Vogue interview? When they're putting you on the cover? But the fact is that she's right. And the fashionistas aren't alone in this. Almost everybody lacks perspective nowadays.

Last week I stumbled onto a long discussion on a West Coast guy's blog about building things. He invited people to comment on what they were building. Not one of them boasted about building anything the country needs, or the world needs, unless you count the families some of them said they were building, or their gardens, or new parts of their houses. One young woman said she was building her brand. Her brand. The world holds its breath.

I like fashion. I'm pretty sure I lack perspective, although I'm also pretty sure I know the difference between my navel and the universe. Fashion -- pretty people in pretty clothes -- is one of those things, like music, that can distract the mind from the grimmer realities of life. And who doesn't need something like that? Who can bear, after all, to have perfectly clear perspective?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not Blogging Today. Working on Book.

Instead of throwing together my usual fevered stew of random observations I'm taking the day off to go and look at the Lambertville Free Public Library up close. I'm trying to write a scary thriller set in that building, an old mansion that used to belong to the first mayor of Lambertville. Doctor Lilly.

Much of the book takes place there. Being an old building, rumored to be haunted, it can be creepy at times. I'll tell you the title of the book later. Here are the first few paragraphs. They scared the children's librarian:

On the night when I first discovered Thora in the library, I thought I was alone. All the lights in the building were out but the one in my office. The old building was quiet except for the creak of the heating system, the slow tick of my office clock, the far-off scurrying of mice, and the hiss of freezing rain falling on the crust of the snow piled up outside.

I never believed the stories about the Wetherford Public Library being haunted, even though they say a man was found dead of an overdose in a bathtub upstairs, back before I was born, back before the borough took the Beasley mansion for taxes and turned it into a library, way back in the days when some slumlord rented it out for apartments. No haunts had ever troubled me in my years as library director.

And yet, a sound like someone moving around in the reading room reminded me of the rumored haunt. Could someone besides me be in the library? Had the clerks left one of the doors unlocked again? I called out: "Is someone there?"

The noise stopped.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Perils of Air Travel # 468

We left town last weekend and went to Florida. We're back home now, for you house burglars thinking of hitting our house, where the Doberman is always hungry for new flesh and there isn't anything to steal anyway. But on Saturday we flew to Orlando from the Philadelphia airport. At the Philadelphia airport I experienced a new thrill.

I've been getting the treatment from the TSA folks for some years now, ever since I became an old lady and thus one of the softer targets. (Hey, you haven't seen a soft target until you've watched them make a two-year-old baby take off his little white shoes to be sure he hasn't filled them with explosives.) Back in the days before everybody had to take his shoes off they used to select, oh, I don't know, every seventh person, or every helpless-looking old lady, to demand a look at that person's stocking feet. I was always it.

But this time, in a Saturday-morning mob scene of families bound for Disney World, as I put my Macbook in the tray and piled my shoes, outer garments, and one-quart plastic bag on top of it, a very cross TSA lady came and told me the Macbook had to go all by itself in a separate tray.

So, okay. I put the Macbook in a separate tray and pushed my stuff onto the rollers of the x-ray machine. A fellow beckoned to me to walk through the metal detector, and then I was required to go and stand in a box with marks where I was supposed to put my feet.

As I stood there, wondering idly whether I was being bombarded with radiation, another fellow told me that I had been randomly selected to have my laptop inspected. "Now what?" I thought to myself. Well, you know what they say, they do things differently every time to keep the terrorists off balance.

I was allowed to step out of the box. The same cranky TSA agent who had told me to put my Macbook in its own tray was returning from visiting some gizmo or other with a Macbook in her hand. "Here's your laptop," she said, and put it in a tray by itself.

I picked it up. Something didn't feel quite right. I looked at the x-ray machine, and here came an identical Macbook in its own tray. I had a feeling that the one in my hand wasn't mine. I held it up and said, rather loudly, "Is this someone else's Macbook?" None of the other travelers expressed interest. The TSA guy manning the second box said, "Just put it back in the tray."

I did this, and picked up the Macbook that had just come out of the x-ray machine, booting it up to make sure it had the wallpaper I put on it last week, Hokusai's Great Wave. Slow of wit as I am, I didn't think much about this strange mixup until I got off the plane in Orlando, when I suddenly thought, "I could have lost the Macbook," and got all goose bumps. Another day has gone by, and now I'm thinking how very queer it was that no one else seemed to want to claim the other Macbook, how very queer it was that the TSA folks wanted me to shut up about it and go away. Hmm.

Now I have a sticker on my Macbook that says Melbourne Beach, so that I will know it immediately from all the other Macbooks. I'm working on a story about Arab terrorists getting my Macbook, opening it up, muttering, "Where are the plans from Hassan?" in their heathen tongue, while I try to figure out what happened to the manuscript of my work in progress and what is all this foreign gobbledegook on my laptop.