Sunday, August 2, 2009

"I Could Be In Love With Almost Everyone"

"Almost" is operative. But even before a night spent sleeping in the dunes, I was feeling the spirit of Arthur Lee. I'd been reading Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece by Domenic Priore, the 60s LA music expert, and getting obsessed with having to hear some of his stuff again, so I spent $7 on downloads and burned a CD and then was late to pick up E. Our quick beach trip felt entirely and satisfyingly like getting dropped on Venus for one solar cycle, or at least into some parallel universe, not least because of snapshots such as midnight LED bocce and splashing up in the morning to see a small herd of ponies just standing around looking at the surf, followed by my favorite Libertarian candidate and his girl strolling by, eating watermelon. Tip: If you wave an LED frisbee at the ponies, they will leave your tent alone. "They hate LEDs," a veteran of the beach informed us.

Driving through the Eastern Shore and Cambridge got me working on a poem about Harriet Tubman. Could take a good long time. Best quote of the weekend, from E, from a story relating a conflict: "Is there some way to resolve this situation that doesn't involve yelling at me?" Oh, and I invented a new cocktail called the Via Ferrata: Rum, blueberry juice (for the wild blueberries growing out of the rocks), and limoncello (for Italy).

I got Smile at the little ad hoc storefront library in our neighborhood (while the big new library is being built), along with
In the Heart of the Canyon
by Elisabeth Hyde, which I crunched through in a few hours like it was a bag of chips eaten in a PMS frenzy, accompanied by a similar mix of pleasure, annoyance and lite self-loathing that usually accompanies said latter activity. It had gotten a pretty great review in the Times, so I was game, but a book that begins with a list of characters (which you really need to consult in the reading, because they start to sound alike) and ending with a list of travel companies--well, that's an interesting marketing tie-in. It's a sort of Grand Hotel approach to a Grand Canyon river rafting trip, delving shallowly into a collection of adventure tourists and their guides, their motivations and discoveries, which aren't too momentous. But it could have been worse, and at least it wasn't melodramatic about it all.

An "adventure" trip, even of a tamer variety, sure does bring out character and conflict; people are put through an intense and demanding experience mentally, physically and emotionally that hits many psychological triggers, all in a tightly compressed duration and constrained, privacy-challenged environment. The guides are especially interesting to me, as they're guides of this process as well as of the trip; at best, they can lead people through a challenging growth experience, and at worst, they have to wrangle some champion assholes. My brother had to do a lot of this when he guided sailing and snorkeling trips, in his former career. This book wasn't the one to work that dynamic, though it tried.

Oh, well, two days til the new Thomas Pynchon is out. It's about a private detective!

I have to go scratch mosquito bites now.

Photo: This portrait of Arthur Lee pops up in a lot of places, and I managed to find out who shot it: Ronnie Haran Mellen, but not much more. I prefer the more gothy/baroque Lee persona, but he looks so happy and healthy in this one, I couldn't resist.

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