Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Sort of Stuff You Think About

I was walking from my Saturday morning breakfast spot to the office this morning and was thinking how nice it would be to write a post. You know how these blogs are: they require a fairly steady diet of words all strung together into sentences that then coagulate themselves into paragraphs or else they shrivel up in a hurry . . . and no one wants to see that. The Schprock Report itself has been nearly placed in an iron lung several times. One time the last rites were said over it. So I thought, as I walked up Huntington Ave. and took a left onto Mass. Ave., it was high time I wrote something. But what?

And then, as I walked, my mind drifted. My mind drifts a lot. I was called absent-minded when I was a kid, and even these days I often have to summon all my reserves to pull things into focus. Here’s a case in point: I’m in the office ostensibly to work, but what am I doing? I’m stringing words together into sentences! And I’m a slow writer, too, so let’s see how much real work I get done today.

It was Oscar Wilde, by the way, who said, “Work: the curse of the drinking class.” What a great philosopher he was.

So then I decided to keep strict mental note of what I was thinking and report on it. Lots of words and sentences there, boy. And, doubtless, there are many people in Blogland eager to find out just what goes on in this highly-developed brain of mine — 4, maybe 5 of them. Let’s take a look, shall we?

OK, here’s what I mainly thought about as I walked to my office, and this is something I think about a lot: women. You see, I believe I have been given a great gift, an ability I acquired somewhere in my 30s. There really ought to be a word for my gift, but I don’t believe there is. If I were required to coin a term for it, right here on the spot, I suppose it would be something like this: beauty-seeker. Or maybe beauty-discoverer. I’ll explain how it works.

I can find beauty in nearly every woman. It’s true. The obviously beautiful women, the ones you see every day sashaying up and down Newbury Street with a studied unconsciousness of their beauty, as if they have no idea how many heads are being turned in their perfume-scented wake, that’s kid’s stuff. Anybody can see that kind of beauty. Hell, when you come right down to it, half of them are composed of ordinary raw material enhanced by cosmetics, hair styling and expensive clothing anyway. But what I’m talking about are the ones who don’t turn heads, who often go by unnoticed.

Almost every woman has something going for her. It could be youth or nice skin; maybe it’s fine eyes or a big smile, a certain way of walking or an eccentric way of dressing, an attitude, a characteristic facial expression, a pleasing meekness or disarming outrageousness, and so on. Look hard and you’ll see. And it’s fun to take older women and mentally deduce from what you see how they might have looked when they were younger and in the fullest flower of their outward charms. Every one of them is beautiful when you do that; I swear to God they all are.

I worked in a department store called Caldor when I was in high school. There was a girl working there, several years older than me, who could not be called pretty. No matter what she could have done with her hair or make-up or clothing, she just was not pretty (here’s a secret, by the way: I’m no Cary Grant myself). But what a sense of humor she had! What a personality! She was sarcastic as hell, but in a personable way, and the breakroom was a better place with her in it. Everything she said was funny. And then one day it hit me: I was attracted to her! The scales had dropped from my eyes, so to speak. And then I thought: how the hell did that happen? Was there some mistake? But it never went any further than that because she had a boyfriend as it turned out, the head of cashiers actually, who everybody thought was destined for greater things even though he looked like a shaved gorilla. Still, what a revelation!

While we’re on the subject of women, would you like to know which race or ethnicity or nationality or what have you can claim the highest incidences of beautiful women? I’m talking the easy-to-spot kind of beautiful women — would you like to know? And this is coming from someone who freely acknowledges that every race, color or creed has beautiful women to their credit — truly, when it comes to ogling women, I am not prejudiced in the least. Here’s the verdict: the Italians. They have the most beautiful women.

How do I know? I went to Rome once and every woman I saw was beautiful! The fashionable way they dressed, how they styled their shining black hair, their perfect olive complexions . . . and the way they spoke Italian! How could I help but be smitten? Let me tell you, it’s true that Italian is the most musical of languages, and Italian spoken in a female voice is a siren song that will never leave you. I have no idea what they say, it could be about buying bread at the local store or how to eviscerate a fish or the dirtiest joke you ever heard, it doesn’t matter. Italy has the market cornered on beautiful women. I’ve forgotten all about the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum and the Vatican. But the women . . . they stay with me.

And what is the second most musical language to listen to? French, of course. But don’t go to Paris to look at the women. Sorry — I went there expecting to see a bunch of Claudette Colberts and Leslie Carons, but no, mighty slim pickings as it turned out. Boston outranks Paris in that respect. But they’ve got a pretty cool tower and arch and art museum and all that stuff. And here’s something: people were nice to us, even though I’m the most obvious American you ever saw. How about that?

Who’s a good genius-spotter? Anybody? I’m not. I’ll give you a perfect example: I’ve read Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, and, just recently, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. If it were up to me, no way in hell would I have ever pronounced both of those works classic literature. I would have merely said, these are two clumsily written books that both took an awfully long time to say something their authors hoped would come off as profound. I read Moby Dick 10 or 12 years ago when I had a terrible cold, so maybe I wasn’t much in the mood to like anything, but I read it knowing that Melville first intended it to be a travel book and then someone suggested he make it a novel instead. So what I think happened was, he finished the travel book, afterward wrote the novel, and then shuffled the chapters of each together like you would two decks of differently-backed cards. It was about as integrated as stitching the left half of a tuxedo onto the right half of a leisure suit. The critics at the time didn’t like it, and I’ll admit I would have been right there with them. And, as far as Heart of Darkness goes, I believe Conrad used up every word beginning with “in-” and “un-” in the English language: incomprehensible, unfathomable, inscrutable, incalculable, unimaginable, etc., etc. Again, even though I’ve been told it’s genius, it looks like a short book the author worked very, very, very hard on, which in turn made reading it not an easy task at all.

So there you have it: I’m a philistine. As if you didn’t already know.

While we’re on the subject of the arts, if they ever make a musical out of Rocky, I propose this title: Cut Me, Mick! I’d buy tickets to that.

And speaking of movies, my wife, Daughter Number 2 and I saw Walk the Line last night. Great movie, loved it. Joaquin Phoenix didn’t try too hard to sound like Johnny Cash, which was just as well. I watched it thinking, well, the facts are probably pretty much straight, but I’ll bet none of this happened exactly the way they showed it. Johnny Cash’s descent into drug addiction must have been tawdry as hell most days, just something you wanted to ignore if you knew him. But here’s a prediction: Johnny Cash CDs and biographies will fly off the shelves, and rightly so. There was something about him you couldn’t resist, he had that indefinable “it.” He was the coolest-looking ugly man I ever saw, singing with the coolest-sounding off-key voice I ever heard. No one can learn to be Johnny Cash; you can only be him or not be him.

The first record of a popular song I ever bought with my own money, by the way, was a 45 of A Boy Named Sue. It’s still one of my all-time favorite songs. In fact, it’s one of the very few songs I know the lyrics to.

The very first record of any kind I ever bought with my own money was Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast. I wore it out.

I bought that record when I was 10. I’ll turn 50 in February — February 18, to be precise. I believe many of the people who read this blog aren’t very close to turning 50. Do you want to know what it feels like? I’ll tell you: not bad. Physically, I don’t feel much different from how I felt in my 20s (of course, I exercise and sort of watch what I eat, which helps), but I appreciate the level of life skills I have now. I’m a lot calmer and more patient than I used to be. I take the bumps and bruises of life so much better than I did when I was younger. And get this: often I have myself convinced I’m still young! I’m not kidding — every now and again I forget I’m nearly 50. I’ve still got a bounce to my step and I can work pretty hard when I need to. You should have seen me raking leaves last weekend: not bad for an old guy. But the mirror doesn’t lie. That’s a 50-year-old head looking back at me all right. Oh well. Any time now that mid-life crisis should kick in.

Well, that’s about all of what I thought of on my way to the office. Heavy, huh?


Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

That's some view of the inside of your mind there! Whoa!

Oddly enough I just re-read Heart of Darkness recently, and found particularly the opening section on the Thames to be, well, absolutely captivating. Seriously. On Moby Dick, yeah, I remember it was really unpopular when it came out - it took decades to take off didn't it? Anyway, odd.

I like women too. :D

11:29 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

In my opinion, what would have helped Heart of Darkness out immensely would have been breaking it up into more paragraphs! Whole sections of dialogue were just lumped together into single, huge paragraphs, which didn't make for easy reading. Also, speaking of that Thames part, it seemed difficult to believe that Marlow's narrative could have held the attention of the sort of characters you'd find working the boats.

There was one line about life Conrad wrote I'd love to quote if I had the book with me. It was worth reading the whole thing just for that one line. I won't even try to paraphrase it; I'll dig it up and quote it verbatim later. It was right up there with Macbeth's "life is a tale told by an idiot…" speech.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

I'm not sure that the dense phrasing is entirely out of place as late 19th Century writing hadn't yet gone through the paring down process that led to the sparse prose of, say, Hemmingway; the subclause, use of the semicolon and comma, and generally far lengthier sentence and paragraph construction was, as I'm sure you're fully aware, at that time, considered very much the proper style.


Konrad was a definitely a wordy writer. Heart of Darkness certainly isn't plain English, with phrases that are, at times, tortuous. But still, through all that, I found it haunting and absorbing.

I'm can't wait to hear what the missing phrase is!

((I sent you an e-mail))

1:22 PM  
Blogger magnetbabe said...

I found you through Scott's blog and think your comments are hilarious. Anyway, if you want to see some beautiful women (and men!), go to Montreal. I am somewhat attractive (and modest...)and the people there made be feel like that female ogre from Shrek. Someone in a bar there told me that there were so many beautiful people there because the city was started by gorgeous prostitutes who got most of their business from sailors. I was a little drunk when I heard this and don't know if it's true. Anyway, interesting thoughts!

3:18 PM  
Blogger Chloe said...

You're in rare form, Mr. Schprock. As usual.

7:31 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

OK, here's that line from "Heart of Darkness" — not quite Shakespeare I admit, but I thought it was pretty good: "Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose."

Makes you want to sing "Everything is Beautiful" after reading that, right?

"Anyway, if you want to see some beautiful women (and men!), go to Montreal."

You're right, I'm sure. It's been a while since I've visited there, but the thing I remember the most about Montreal was how clean and orderly the city (and province) was. It made me want to learn French and move there.

"You're in rare form, Mr. Schprock. As usual."

Thank you, Chloe!

4:28 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

I'd be a fool to disagree with you since I am married to an Italian. She was born here and doesn't speak Italian, but I'm right there with you. I work with an Italian born woman too, and she has her own fashion sense, which really turns off another girl in the office, to which I reply, only to myself of course, Meow!!! Fffft! Fffft!

I too can see the beauty in almost any woman. Almost.

As for your literary observations: good for you. One man's genius is another man's fool. I have often thought the same thing in regards to works I have read.

I just wanted to point out that I loved this passage: ...then shuffled the chapters of each together like you would two decks of differently-backed cards. It was about as integrated as stitching the left half of a tuxedo onto the right half of a leisure suit.

7:43 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"As for your literary observations: good for you. One man's genius is another man's fool."

Not that I want to be accused of saying both books are worthless, but it wouldn't have been me to deem them literary classics.

7:59 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Most so-called classics I've read were, IMO, a complete waste of time. Just because an author owns a thesaurus doesn't mean their writing is any more profound.

It's like my grandmother's story of the pompous children's songs:

Propel, propel, propel your craft,
docilely down the solution,
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is but an illusion.

Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

8:35 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Propel, propel, propel your craft,
docilely down the solution,
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is but an illusion.

"Doesn't quite have the same ring to it."

I beg to disagree — it's got a beat you can dance to.

Did your grandmother have anything about the triumvirate of visually-impaired rodents?

9:05 AM  
Blogger :phil: said...

I have to agree that there is beauty in every woman. Anyone can see Nicole Kidman is beautiful, but a woman like Helen Mirren is just as beautiful in her own way. I am in NYC today and I am always amazed at how many beautiful women there are of all different nationalities, shapes and sizes there are. I myself have been told that I look like Ed Grimley from SNL but I don't really see it, well actually there have been a few times that I think that I do, but I also think that I do not. It's making me mental (I must say).
As far as 50 goes, I'm not too far behind you my friend. I turned 48 in September which is a good thing. So I'll be 78 when we do our century ride.

9:15 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"So I'll be 78 when we do our century ride."

Are you telling me that if I give you 30 years to do it, you can't pick up two measly years just to catch up with me age-wise? Come on, Phil, pick up the pace.

You know, I'm looking at your avatar and I gotta say, you do bear a faint resemblance to Ed Grimley. Hardly noticable, but there.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I actually didn't mind Heart of Darkness, but couldn't read more than two sentences of Moby Dick - what a bloody awful book. Ranks right up there with that most famous of short stories, The Lottery - which was so incredibly awful - please explain why we're all forced to read that crap!

And I love a man who can see beauty in every woman - from one who does not turn heads!

11:29 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"…The Lottery - which was so incredibly awful - please explain why we're all forced to read that crap!"

We had the double whammy in junior high: we read it and then had to watch a dramatization of it. Who was the old man? It was Mr. Brown or something, right? The guy who played Old Man Brown I would have liked to have thrown a rock at!

11:56 AM  
Blogger :phil: said...

I'm sure physically I'll be way ahead of you age wise. I may need either training wheels or training underwear. It Depends

2:54 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Phil, we could lake a little agreement right now to break that century ride up into 20 days. No one will ever have to know.

But no spiking your water bottle with Geritol. Banned substance, you know.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

"Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose."

4:27 PM  

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