Well, hello there you few, you happy few. How the heck are you? Since last we spoke, I've been doing my best to Participate in Life, which is not to say that I'm not also watching a great deal of television. Today is apparently National Book Day, so this evening I will endeavor to keep forging ahead with Zadie Smith's NW, with which I was making excellent progress after a rocky start (I'll be honest, the first section very nearly compelled me to abandon the whole thing, but the advent of the second section hailed a different prose style and my hope was renewed), until I happened upon some AMC series on Netflix called "Hell on Wheels," which I have subsequently been watching in back-to-back episodes. It is about laying the railroad across the country post-Civil War. Racial tensions! Frontier prostitutes! Backroom deals! [Understandably] Hostile Indians! There's a lot going on, but mostly what's going on is a--can I just say this? Sullying my refined reputation?--a ridiculously hot actor. I'd never heard of him, but Anson Mount, you are making me rethink my stance on beards. (Apparently, I'm not the only one to swoon, as evidenced by the fact that this even exists.)
Ahem. What was I saying?
Right. Participating in Life. I've had some cocktails. I had a dinner guest for whom I produced an actual balanced meal. I went to a lecture on climate change, the most encouraging aspect of which was that the scientist presenting was very visibly pregnant, leading me to believe she must see some cause for optimism that I somehow missed.
I've also been to quite a lot of movies at the Roxie because my very clever friend Elliot Lavine has programmed the hell out of this year's Pre-Code Festival. My favorites were Shanghai Express and Lady Killer. In the first, Marlene Dietrich spends a lot of time leaning in the doorways of railway cars smoldering silently while being perfectly lit. In no way do I resemble Marlene Dietrich, but I couldn't help feeling that if I could spend my life in black and white being perfectly lit, I too might be rather beautiful. I do need to work on my posture, admittedly, and learn to hold a silence for a long, long time. And maybe smoke. But I do think there's something to this theory. In the second film, I discovered that James Cagney circa 1933 was quite appealing in a wise-cracking upstart kind of way. Among many, many snappy comebacks this was my favorite:
Former criminal associate: So you're rubbing noses with movie stars now?
Our hero, now a big Hollywood success: Well, call it noses if you like.
All the movies are lousy with that kind of banter. I swoon. Here's a bit from Night World:
Woman: Why you all fall for that broad is beyond me.
Man: Not beyond you, baby. Behind you. By about ten years.
In other press-stopping news, I've been back to the gym. And--lo--I did swim. I know. We've been here before, but this time maybe I'll stick to it? Maybe? When I showed up and handed my card to the check-in guy, I told him to be careful, that the scanner might explode or something since I had not actually been there in A YEAR. Let's just not talk about the money. In any case, I have now been twice. Twice in one week, mind you. I plan to go tomorrow too. Look out, world. The hallmarks of "fitness" including sore shoulders and "I can't stop sneezing because chlorine makes me allergic to my own arm" are almost back!
In that I have never met Anson Mount, there has also been a small flurry of internet strangers, about which I haven't a great deal to say except this. There is a period before you go out with someone the first time when you wonder if this is a person who will come to matter to you. Whether, unbeknownst to you now, this first meeting will be something you'll look back on as a moment when your whole life changed. And mostly, that's not what happens, but it could. It could.