The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, March 04, 2004  

It’s Better to Be Back

Writers -- like everyone I suppose, though in the case of scribes, authors, essayists, and critics, the feelings tend to be more intense -- are either loved or hated.

As one who is definitely both loved and hated, I’ve decided it’s better to be loved, if only from afar. And so, while the “short break” I announced on Sunday endured a little longer than I thought, the hiatus might have lasted still longer had I not received a few (a very few) e-mails like this one, from reader M.P. of Ohio:

You don’t know how many people check your blog on a daily basis. (I don’t either, but I’m one of them and I miss your posts.) Hurry up and get acclimated, moved, find a nice coffee place, take the dog for a walk, and then write!

That’s very kind, and thank you, M.P., and, as you can see, I’m back. But a few clarifications are in order.

First, I have a rough idea of how many people visit Rittenhouse on a daily basis. (Actually, it’s more of a wild guess, but I’m probably not too far off, two standard deviations at best. Not bad, right?)

Second, I don’t drink coffee. Not anymore. Pointless personal revelation: I used to drink six to eight cups a day.

Third, assuming you meant I might go to a coffee house to write, well, that wouldn’t work. Although I do some of my non-blog-related work in longhand -- mostly note-taking, random thoughts, tandem thoughts (I’m not sure what that phrase means but it just popped into my head as I was writing this), humorous lines, conversations overheard, and, I really shouldn’t say this, some really pathetic attempts at poetry and lyrics -- I don’t own a laptop or notebook computer.

That technology void combined with my not drinking coffee might lead the nice people at Cosi or Starbucks to call the cops about “some skinny little cranky guy who’s, like, just sort of loitering here.”

Fourth, Mildred does not take walks. This became a problem when I lived in my previous apartment: It was out the door, do the business, head back inside. So far it is much the same here. Fortunately, the new house has a nice-sized private garden that she adores. Comically, as is her style, Mildred is content to wander through the ivy and among and over whatever that plant is that grows on the ground and looks like ivy but isn’t ivy or maybe it is. (Note to self: Ask rapacious-gardener friend C.K.) She’s happy to sit out there unattended. This is the persona known as “Wilderness Mildred.”

Fifth, yes, writing. I must do more writing, and soon and fast and now and all that, and beyond that which is in my head or which during the past week has been scribbled in steno pads and on index cards, those being the tools of my trade, at least as I practice it. Rest assured I will shortly be writing furiously, on the blog and off as, despite the ready availability of steno pads and index cards, my head is spinning.

Unpacking came first, however, and as you all know, this the most miserable task in the world. (If you don’t have to move, don’t. Stay where you are. Put down roots. Deep roots. Trust me on this one.) Okay, unpacking is probably not the most miserable task ever. Something like cleaning Port-a-Potties is definitely worse, I think. But unpacking ranks right up there, and I know you know what I mean.

By the way, what’s with that commercial where the woman exclaims, “Cleaning the bowl is the dirtiest job in the house!” It is? Listen, lady, I don’t know what’s going on in your bathrooms, but nothing like that is happening around here. (And try cleaning out the bottom of the milk cooler in your father’s supermarket some time. Now that is a dirty job.)

But I digress.

The unpacking continues to absorb my time and attention, as did, briefly, though thankfully, a visit on Monday from one of my brothers. He was in the Philadelphia area visiting relatives. Something about a confirmation, I think. One of my nephews maybe. But I wouldn’t know.

And, I must admit, I snuck in two early matinees: “Monster” (Rittenhouse Rating: 2 Rs) and “The Triplets of Belleville” (Rittenhouse Rating: 1 R).* Look, if I’m going to write a decent screenplay, and I already have two in the works, I need to see more movies. (At least that’s what my auteur mentor keeps telling me.)

As for acclimation, M.P., oh, yeah, I’m getting acclimated. If anyone was worried that I was going to end up in a flophouse or something (and frankly, for a while I included myself in that group), rest assured I am in a good place. If you’re ever in Philadelphia and would like to stop by and curl up with some wine or tea, or even coffee, and have a nice long chat under comfy blankets in front of the working fireplace in my bedroom, just let me know. (Of course, if you visit in July or August, maybe I’ll just color something on scrap paper and paste it to the bricks.)

Incredibly, given how low I recently sank, I’m now living in what is without doubt the most beautiful of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. No, not Rittenhouse Square. The prettier, more civilized, neighborhood. Besides, I blog in Atrios’s shadow every day; I don’t need live in it too.

Every once in a while I want to poke the Rittenhouse reader that arranged for this transition, just to see if he’s real. I keep looking over his shoulder for wings and above his head for a halo. I don’t see them, but I know they’re there.

It really is better to be loved, or at least liked, than to be hated.

And it’s good to be back.

*Note: Rittenhouse film and movie ratings are based on a scale of 0 to 4 Rs, with 4 Rs being the highest rating.

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