The Death Panel

August 16, 2009 § Leave a comment

jwdiehlHawaiiHawaiian Cemetery, J.W. Diehl

Sit down, dear lady, sit down.

You have trouble sitting? How old are you?

That is very, very old.

You’re older than Nancy Pelosi! Doesn’t that make you feel old? Do you have many cats? A car that makes funny noises, but only you hear them? Do your grandchildren walk right through you at family functions, tangling up  your nerves like wet spaghetti?

I see. You’ve never had children, and you’re retired, no pets. You don’t drive. You wouldn’t need much in the grave now, would you? We can spare a blanket. They have pills so that you won’t notice when the dirt is piled on top. Only two, though, we need to save some for the other septuagenarians. 70 is the new 99! Yes, we can!

You don’t have to worry about your mortgage anymore, or all those jury duty notices you stuck in the kitchen drawer. The plots are free. Isn’t it something that a sprained ankle can get you so much? Used to be an ace bandage, five minutes with the doctor: now you get personal, red-carpet service and a gently used pine coffin! Complete with the latest issue of The New York Times! Some call us socialists, but we like to think we’re being neighborly. Soon you’ll have Internet access and cable.

You’d prefer to not to be connected after death? You don’t want to hear Keith and Rachel, dear little Anderson? You don’t want to tweet all your demented, frail, wobbly, healthcare-gobbling sexagenarian friends?

America needs more like you. Michelle and I are going to pray you get on the waiting list for Heaven. Every year, they take a few who haven’t been to Harvard, according to Rahm. No, I don’t know what happens to Jews after death. Nobody does, not even Jews. That’s why they’re so active all the time.

And yes—since you ask—it’s true Rahm said Satan has a Sarah Palin pinup calendar. But don’t make too much out of that. I think they’re actually going to put her in Limbo with all the unbaptized babies. Just for laughs, you know. God has a wicked sense of humor. Rahm told me—well, never mind. Goodnight, dear lady, goodnight, goodnight.

Readers and Writers

March 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

Edvard Munch, Girl Kindling Stove

Edvard Munch, Girl Kindling Stove

My sister bought me a Kindle for my birthday! I had just decided to stop buying books—as well as chocolate, fruit other than apples and bananas, and Perrier. I was going to do what my brother suggested and live on spaghetti and spam. Start watching more TV.

But she bought me a Kindle so I’ll have to download a few books, right? The Kindle will be perfect for all those airplane trips I can’t afford to take anymore. I have a few books on my iphone, mostly Dickens, but I hardly ever read my phone. I use it to take pictures. Which reminds me—another iphone app I’ve thought of: you rub the screen a few times and then aim it at your pile of gathered kindling and it starts a fire. It will come in handy when we’re all living in the National Parks, hiding from the reckless hordes of starving immigrants besieging our shores. Yeah, I know we’ve probably got ten years before the world’s coastal cities disappear and things get ugly. Still, it’s good to be ready.


A writer friend of mine who fought in Vietnam recently wrote a novel about that war and sent it to his agent. His agent asked him to set it in Iraq. I guess the idea is if your book is on Iraq you can go on Jon Stewart and Charlie Rose, and what could be finer than that (unless you’re Jim Cramer)?

I think he should write a novel about a squadron of young recruits being sent to Iraq, entering a time warp after the plane collides with some very old geese, and ending up in Vietnam, circa 1966.
“Man, this is some weird desert.”
“Desert’s supposed to be sand, right?”
“Probably the whole country isn’t desert. You know, like Arizona isn’t the whole U.S. This is just like Lousiana.”
“I been to Louisiana. This ain’t Louisiana.”
“How come our guys all have their guns pointed at us?”
“They sure look funny.”
“They’ve all got fucking antique guns, that’s why.”
“Fucking Bush.”

Okay, now you see it has to be a TV show. Hogan’s Heroes meets Gilligan’s Island. The present-day guys finally figure out what’s going on and try to explain that the war is over, that we lost, that there was no point to the whole mess anyway and the best idea would be to sneak over to Iraq and kill Saddam while he’s still a young thug (though others have different ideas on who should be killed).

The Vietnam-era soldiers, annoyed by being asked whether they’ve killed any babies yet and where their ear collection is, spike the newbies’ drinks with hallucinogens and send them out to find what the old soldiers keep referring to as ‘IUDs’, except for stuttering Jeremy from Fresno who has an eidetic memory for Internet porn, and is kept in camp to spend his evenings describing every video he’s ever seen in minute detail. Viewers love the way his stuttering disappears when the sex gets hot, and the way the Vietnam-era guys smack him every time he says, “iphone.”

Late Night

January 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

I just watched Stephen Colbert interview Philippe Petit and realized again how brilliant he is as a comic interviewer. Put him with any person with a sense of humor, no matter how different than his own, or how ordinary (like the “sex preacher” of last night) and he connects and charms them. He makes it look easy but it’s one of the most difficult things, to be at the same time so funny and so sensitive to the other person. Think of what you’re used to seeing—comic and straight man, whether the straight man is the interviewer or interviewee. Colbert collaborates. Without a net.

I wrote six pages of my novel today. Back in the groove. Finishing it by April is doable if I give up exercising and cleaning the apartment, avoid drinking and illness and don’t go out much during the week.

But tomorrow I’ll walk in the snow. Thursday do laundry.

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