I’ve blogged about my oh-sh** moments in the past. See The Worst Interview of All Time. Personally, I think real-life bloopers empower novelists. Every time we go oops, we take one step closer toward the mental anguish of our characters, right?
But ‘tis the season. Time to move on. Sort of.
Here’s the thing. Every year during Hallowmas—that crazy time between Halloween and Christmas when retailers declare open season on our wallets—stuff happens. With all the rush, rush, rushing and the egg, egg, eggnogging, something always goes wrong. If anything, ’tis the season for oh-sh** moments IMHO. This year I kicked off the holidays with another one of mine:
An ethical dilemma no less.
Let me set the stage. Mary and I have some new friends in Narragansett. I’ll call the couple Husband and Wife, in part to offer them anonymity and in part because J.R. Moehringer uses this function technique to name a few characters in Sutton. (Great book and the perfect Christmas gift, especially if you need something last minute. But I digress.) To celebrate the season and cement our growing friendship, Husband, Wife, Mary and I went out to dinner at the Matunuck Oyster Bar.
The restaurant, as you might guess, is known for fish. But I opted for Sausage Bolognese. It was cold outside. I had bicycled that day. The weather and the workout seemed like reasonable excuses to eat sausage and pasta rather than something from the bay.
The Oyster House was neither dark, nor particularly bright. It was comfortable. And the evening was perfect, warm laughter in the room, Mary and me drinking a decent bottle of wine with new friends. Somebody in our group ordered oysters. Most days, those mollusks are freakin’ ugly. But that night they looked spectacular on the platter, fresh, briny, evocative of the sea and that classic paragraph from Hemingway:
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
But, again, I digress.
There we were, the four of us, sitting and eating and enjoying each other’s company, when something on Husband’s sleeve caught my eye. Like I said before, the room was neither dark nor bright, the light just enough to toy with my eyes which are feeling a little more wear and tear every year. I squinted and, much to my horror, identified the object as a remnant from some philistine’s Sausage Bolognese.
That philistine was me. I was the only one who ordered the dish, both at our table and the ones surrounding us. The errant Bolognese, about the size of a small button, had lodged above Husband’s right elbow. He was sitting to my left. The sausage looked like a third eye on his white shirt, winking every so often to remind me that with all the yak, yak, yakking, I had somehow spewed Bolognese on a neighbor and our new friend.
In milliseconds that could have been a lifetime, I cycled through my choices:
I was lost in this personal reverie of choices when Mary began calling my name. “Norb, Norb, why are you so quiet?”
What would you do?
I’ll be back on New Year’s Eve, right here in this post, to tell you what happened, how I handled the situation with Husband and Wife. And if somebody makes a particularly pithy observation, I’ll send him/her a free copy of The Gods of Greenwich.
Happy holidays to all.
Who likes audiobooks as much as I do?
When I was a stockbroker, braving my way through Manhattan’s kiss-and-yell traffic every morning, I listened to books on tape all the time. Hemingway, Irving, Wolfe–I grew to love cabbies giving me the finger. Jaywalkers thumbing their noses were no problem. And angry cops, the officers were a piece of cake.
It’s easy to wave a friendly goodbye when you’re concentrating on the latest from James Lee Burke and Will Patton. Bring on the detours, the flat tires, and the traffic snarls up and down the West Side Highway. There’s no experience better than listening to someone read you a story.
Now as a writer, I have grown to appreciate–make that really appreciate–the narrators who turn books into entertainment that outshines most of Hollywood’s new offerings. When’s the last time you lost yourself in one of those comic-book action movies that monopolize theater marquees?
I had the pleasure of working with “audie-winning” Robert Fass, who narrated The Gods of Greenwich. He is meticulous, in the best possible way, and drew on his travels through Iceland just to get the accent right for my novel.
Here’s a film clip from Robert, and me, about National Audiobook Month:
One last thing. No tribute to books on tape is complete without a mention of the American Foundation for the Blind (“AFB”). The AFB was the first organization to record books on time; they have given all of us a gift that far exceeds their mission to expand possibilities for those with vision loss.