Friday, May 25, 2012

Making Life a Breeze

"What the hell is this crap," is not the way most book reviews begin. But it's the response doled out in no uncertain terms by the person for whom my latest book was written. It's really more of a booklet, an easy read, inspired by those helpful household handbooks with their wellspring of tips, shortcuts, and prudent advice. Aside from the occasional resourceful Aborigine, it’s a rare person who manages to get along without them. The most frequently used books on my bookshelf are helpful manuals, authored with the intent to make life easy as pie. There’s even my old "Boy Scout Handbook," with its Morse code, smoke signals, fire starting, and snake bite treatments, standing by, ready to be mobilized in case of an emergency. Should society suffer a breakdown in electronic communications, I'll be ready, johnny-on-the-spot, handbook in hand, on call, as director of smoke signals, deciphering and dispatching important messages for the betterment of mankind.

In the spirit of those authors of handbooks who have gone before me, I embarked on an enthusiastic manual for living comfortably and getting along together under the roof that covers our house. I call it "Tips for Making Life a Breeze Around Here." Meredith Baxter-Birney may never star in a movie-of-the-week derived from the work, but it’s an ambitious, though small book, with plenty of easy-to-follow directions. Its intent is to offer guidelines that bring harmony to an otherwise discordant living arrangement. According to Dollar-Store-Dave, the unheralded literary critic who's opinions flow freely for the price of an uplifting beverage, some of the most intriguing chapter headings are:

--Stop doing that.
--What’s the deal with that funny-smellin’ soap.
--Where’s the scissors.
--Cutting lemons: slice or wedge.
--Where's the tape.
--The protocol of the last cookie.
--Does "I got dibs" really count for anything.
--Why do I get all the jobs that involve crawling under stuff.
--Why is the phrase "way to go" always directed towards me.
--Are you still mad.
--There's no need to strip-search the meter-reader.
--Your pillow smells like pigeons.
--Why is that in the garbage.
--This is a perfectly good shirt.
--Pants are sometimes an option.

The chapters speak for themselves; it's a recipe for living in veritable connubial bliss, but when presented to the woman who signed up for this carnival ride, it was met with the type of disdain normally reserved for finding a centipede in a seldom-used corner of the broom closet (which, incidentally, is the heading of another chapter on tidiness).

"What the hell is this crap," were the exact words spoken before tossing the book in the trashcan (completely overlooking the chapter, "Why is That in the Garbage," which clearly emphasizes the concept of thinking twice before discarding unique or otherwise valuable items). She says the title of her book will be "Who Died and Left You in Charge of Crap." Again, with the word "crap," (making me think she barely skimmed the chapter on annoying, repetitive descriptors).

Rummaging through the trash to retrieve the only copy of  "Tips for Making Life a Breeze Around Here," it dawned on me how Aldous Huxley and George Orwell must have felt when their books were banned, burned, discounted, and discarded. It's an elite group whose ranks I've inauspiciously joined, and following their exalted paths, offers hope that history will vindicate me, and "Tips for Making Life a Breeze Around Here" will rise from its desecration. It's almost intoxicating to anticipate the hoopla when Banned Books Week rolls around, and the cautionary reminders at libraries across the country feature a display of Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn," along with the newest addition to the list, "Tips for Making Life a Breeze Around Here."
But, to quote an old ants-in-the-pants adage, "The waiting is the hardest part."