Death Rattles in the New Year, part 3


As I said, it has been nearly a year now since this current laptop began its death throes —  when the screen would go blank, throwing up a solid blue nothingness while making that sickly little blipping noise.  It happened randomly and regularly for a good chunk of time.  With all due diligence, I emailed every single copy of every single thing I had ever written to myself, as back-up.  I read computer magazines, and user reviews, and chats, and everything I could get my hands on to begin the agonizing process of determining just which package of circuits and casings and keyboard positions and all that technical stuff that goes into a laptop computer was just right for me.  I went to stores and asked friends and accosted unsuspecting coffeehouse patrons, all in an effort to make the best possible determination about that most ephemeral and ethereal of traits – good writing juju.

“It just seems to me a perfect unwonder,”  J.D. Salinger wrote, “that writing’s almost never terrific fun.  If it’s not the hardest of the arts–I  think it is–it’s surely the most unnatural, and therefore the most wearying.  So unreliable, so uncertain.  Our instrument is a blank piece of paper–no strings, no frets, no keys, no reed, mouthpiece, nothing to do with the body whatever–God, the unnaturalness of it.  Always waiting for birth, every time we sit down to work.”

Birth!  EVERY TIME WE SIT DOWN TO WORK!!  Holy cow!!!

Clearly, the only thing to do was to keep my laptop until its very last electronic gasp.

Which is precisely why I am writing on it, still.


Thanks to my sister-in-law Karen for this quote.


Death Rattles in the New Year, part 2


My laptop computer is dying.  Actually, it has been dying over the course of a really long time.  This is an experience I have not had elsewhere in my life, this matter where something is dying, and this looming demise is known, and the whole business unfolds over an unpredictable, ebbing and flowing, torturously long period.  In my family of origin, it is customary to drop dead with no foreshadowing whatsoever; so much so that we joke that both of my grandmothers “lingered,” one having lived nearly 36 hours following her heart attack, and the other drawing out her life’s breath for a full seventy-two hours following her stroke.

The first two laptops that I wrote on were given to me by good friends.  I mentioned to my buddy Nina that I was thinking of buying one, as it would be really great to be able to write at one of the many, many places/activities I was forever hauling my kids around to, many of which were far enough away that it made no sense to do anything but sit there on my ass for the two, or three, hours while the child in question did their thing.  Irish dancing.  Swimming.  Youth Orchestra.  To name but a few.

Nina offered up her daughter’s old IBM ThinkPad, and my life was forever changed.  I loved it immediately.  Devotedly.

Irish Dancing was a club that neither I nor my daughter ever belonged to — which was our acknowledged desire going into it.  She had been to RiverDance and been enthralled enough with the whole hopping/jumping/drumming/fluting/tapping spectacle that she thought it would be a delicious hoot to give it a whirl.  And so I ended up once a week sitting in a giant, overheated kitchen/meeting room of a community center filled with, well, Irish parents and their innumerable children for whom this whole endeavor was a Calling and a Way of Life.  The wigs!  The costumes!  The SHOES!!  Turns out there is no limit whatsoever on how much fervent, devoted conversational attention these topics can carry.  It was a loud crowded sweaty scene; and though I could tell that this miraculous life-changing mini-computer seemed to be spewing out some indecipherable sound at totally random intervals, I couldn’t glean it and had no idea exactly what it was.


It wasn’t until waiting in the solemn library-grade quiet of the Youth Orchestra, with a roomful of Clasical Music Parents sipping lattes and reading WSJ,  NYT or managing their porlfolios, that the sound was discernible – yep, there were the Beastie Boys yelling out in all their glory,

“And say Oh my God that’s some funky shit.”



Death Rattles in the New Year


The first sign of my computer’s failing was nearly a year ago.  The screen would suddenly go blank, throwing up a solid blue nothingness while making a sickly little blipping noise.  My tech-savvy son said, “Yup. Hewlett-Packard’s are known for that.  It’s gonna die.”  Great.  A new computer.  Right when I had decided to format my two completed novels for e-publication.  And far more importantly, right when I had begun a new, third novel.

Anyone who writes will tell you that its success depends on a hair’s breath of “talent” (let’s say less than 1%), an abundance of grueling, persistent hard work (90%), and that the remaining >10% is a mystical amalgamation of caffeine, alcohol, the alignment of the stars, witchcraft, amulets, rituals, and the elusive ephemera called inspiration.  Most of us would argue that following our rituals extremely closely is the way in which we open the door for inspiration to find its way in.  And if it doesn’t; well, at least we are fully and happily caffeinated, sitting in our favorite spot, wearing our lucky slippers.


My point being that I am deeply, and profoundly, attached to my laptop computer.

And I am absolutely convinced that I will be unable to write a single word, let alone a decent sentence, let alone a multi-hundred page novel on some interloping, new, unfamiliar piece of machinery that I have NO BOND WITH.  Never mind that this particular HP laptop is actually my fourth laptop and the fifth computer on which I have written.  Never mind that the first draft of my first novel was written almost entirely on a desktop computer in a dark basement in the pre-dawn hours.  Never mind that, as my son and daughter feel compelled to point out to me on a regular basis, I don’t really need a laptop at all, since I never move the thing from its place on the table in my sun room.  Well, of course I never move it!  How else would I be able to sit in my lucky chair to write!!

This is NOT an area where we can blindly believe that the past will prove predictive of the future; in other words, the historical fact that I have adjusted to numerous different computers with relatively little difficulty CANNOT BE COUNTED UPON to foretell that it would be the same in some hypothetical, untested future with some hypothetical, untested electronic device that may simply have terribly bad juju.

WATCH FOR PART 2 of this story…coming soon.


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