In Which The Elevator Incident Appears Unexpectedly

9 August 2003

We're out of brown sugar.

I made bomber bars yesterday, see, and I used the last of the brown sugar in them. And now I'm not sure that I should buy more. I've been trying to come up with what I use it for besides bombers and stuffed peaches and other baked goods, which can be replaced by other, non-brown-sugar-requiring baked goods if necessary. So far, I'm thinking I can just wait until we move to buy more brown sugar.

Mark thinks this is silly. He gestured at all the books and asked what kind of significant effect a new bag of brown sugar will have on our moving efforts compared to all those books. But my theory is that we're not getting rid of all the books, so we can do whatever is reasonable to make other moving burdens lighter. Including not moving brown sugar if we don't have to. It's not that I'm not buying anything: we're getting long-grain rice at the store next time we go, and Kraft dinner, and perishables, at the very least. But if we can avoid moving two pounds of brown sugar on top of everything else, that seems reasonable to me. If we need it for something in particular, I'll buy it, and until then, we'll cope without it.

It's too soon to be truly cleaning out the cupboards. I know it is. But the little things, the baby steps...well, they comfort me. Too soon to pack boxes, not too soon to ponder what to make with the wild rice.

So it turns out that I'm a Midwestern writer. We already knew that in an emotional sense, but this article is talking about an entirely different kind of Midwestern writing (the kind, say, that takes place in the universe as we know it), and it quotes Jonis Agee as saying, "If Southern writing is defined by its connection to loss, then Midwestern writing is defined by its connection to the land and a sense of openness."

Ummm...yep. Not so much with my previous stuff (on the land thing, I mean), but in the Not The Moose Book for sure. This is a land-y book. A connection-to-land book. (I'm not sure that I buy the idea that this is unique to Midwestern writing or universal to Midwestern writing, but what the heck. It sure sounded familiar.)

Got a lot done on the book last night. Evidently the key was to kind of poke at the theme of it, and then some scenes fell into place and I got them written down and it was good. Good to the tune of an additional 3K, after what I'd already done yesterday. That's nothing to sneeze at, and it brings the book up to 749 manuscript pages. (I am more than geek enough to enjoy that number, the digit followed by its square.)

That's kind of longish. Definitely on the long side. And you may want to ask me, M'ris, how long is this book going to be? That's a good question, and it calls to mind my high school advisor and a little adventure we all had in the elevator. (No, really, it's topical. I'll get there.)

See, my high school was experimenting with double-block scheduling. (Which was stupid compared to mods -- but we couldn't be like Westside -- but I digress.) To see how it would go, they had a couple weeks of our normal classes done on a double-block schedule for the length of a regular school day. That left some extra time (that probably wouldn't have been there if they had gone to double-blocking permanently), so they extended our Advisement (homeroom with mixed ages) period from 10 minutes to half an hour.

And we were bored. Bored, bored, bored. That boredom extended to our advisor, Mr. Morrissey. We had a tradition in Morrissey's Advisement, where he would take new freshmen downstairs (one floor) in the elevator and then stop the elevator halfway up and open the door so that we could sign our names on the concrete with the rest of Morrissey's Advisement from years past. Called "elevator field trip." It was far enough into the year that we freshmen had already had our elevator field-trip, but in our mass double-block-induced boredom, someone (I believe it was a very energetic person named Jeremy, but I could be wrong -- Scott, do you remember?) said, "Let's take another elevator field trip!" And we all piled in the elevator. Sixteen of us and Mr. Morrissey. The elevator went down just fine. It was more than happy to go down. The doors opened, we waved at the people on the bottom floor, the doors shut. We didn't try to stop it in the middle, was not so happy going up. And stopped. And the doors wouldn't open.

This was a very small elevator. We were not a very small Advisement.

So we pulled the elevator alarm, and people assumed it was a joke and didn't come for awhile. We yelled for help. They realized it wasn't a joke. The principal, Martha Bruckner -- and may I take this moment to say, that woman was a piece of work -- came to the elevator while the janitors were trying to get the equipment to fix it. "Who's in there?" she asked. "John Morrissey," our advisor shouted back. "How many students are with you?" she asked. There was a pause. "More than four," said Mr. Morrissey. The janitors got the door open, and as we climbed out of the elevator, Dr. Bruckner counted us with a stony expression on her face. More than four. Well, yes.

And that's exactly how I feel about finishing up this book, that sheepish tone. How many pages do I have yet to write? Er, well. More than four. You can count them as they come out, but please don't give me that look. I have a nice outline that tells me what's left for me to do, but I have very little sense of the correlation between outline and page or word count at this stage. So I'm just writing and writing and letting the book be the book. And I'll edit it later, almost certainly cutting and almost certainly adding. This will not be a short book, certainly, but I'm not entirely sure how long it'll end up being. Other than "kinda." And "longer than anything else I've ever written."

But I've left "longer than anything else I've ever written" in the dust long ago, so I'm not even worrying about that any more. It's just another milestone on the way.

(I admit, it is a bit daunting to look at my ream of paper and think, "I couldn't even print out the rough draft so far on that." But I don't do that often.)

I did decide that Burning the Ice was not my sort of thing, at least not this weekend, so I picked up David's copy of Umberto Eco's Travels in Hyperreality. I spent too much time on my own book to finish Eco's, but it's an interesting essay collection. Sometimes I found myself Being Tolerant as he rambled on, but that was all right. And it'll be all right more today.

Plans for today include the ever-thrilling dusting, one more step away from squalor. Rah. Also I'll be working on "Heart-Shaped Hole" and maybe the book, reading more Eco, maybe doing a few things from next week's scary, scary list. It really is scary scary scary. I mean, I've had worse, but that's the thing: I will have worse, and soon, the more so if I don't handle next week's scary list in its entirety. I know that some of this stuff can be postponed for awhile, but...yeah. Well. We'll see.

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