I’d Rather Be A Nose Spray Than A Cockroach… Or Would I?

I just ordered a couple of things on Amazon. A book that’s not available anywhere else; and nose spray that is more than fifty percent less than what it is at the Whole Food market (another place I try and avoid). Otherwise and most of the time, I’m at the local bookstore and the local drugstore or the Farmer’s Market, paying my several dollars more, because honestly, if we all keep supporting the BIG A, there won’t be any more stores. They have already killed off the bookstores and the careers of thousands of writers. And we have ourselves to thank because we want to save a few dollars. Furthermore, there won’t be any more stores of any kind if we keep on with this madness. We will be a nation of villages surrounded by warehouses.

Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis, Cockroach, Mary Marcus, Mary Marcus Fiction, Fiction, Southern Writers, Writing, AmWritingLast summer, when my husband, Henry and I were staying back east, I broke the final taboo and became a PRIME member, there were so many things we needed for that two months and local prices were more of a rip off than usual. At least it seemed that way. It was so seductive. Especially when the bargain price merchandise appeared as if by magic, overnight, on the truck. The interregnum period between the pushing of the button and Henry’s bark when the truck drove up and the stuff arrived, seemed mere hours. It was magic.

I guess I should mention that last summer, in the weeks after my second novel Lavina was published, I was wild to promote. I was writing everyone and their baby sister asking them if they wanted me to appear at their book clubs. If you know me, you know I hate to ask for anything at all. Nor do I like to stand up in front of strangers. I did a signing, I did everything it seemed but wear a freaking sandwich board with the Sienna color wash of the novel.

And needless to say, I checked my Amazon reviews, everyday, sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes twice, three times. Those stars are very vexing little things. I liked them as a child, back when there was no Amazon. Though I never garnered that many of them then either. I was restless, unhappy and read novels at night instead of studying. This summer I did not garner star hood on Amazon either. Furthermore, I was outraged when a fifteen year old kid who had written and asked me for the book he couldn’t afford to send him one and I schlepped to the post office to oblige him—thanked me by giving Lavina, three stars: WTF?

Then I started getting those little messages in my Inbox. We’d like you to rate your recent purchase of Nose Better Nose Spray. How many stars?

Please rate your recent purchase of the six-pack of Coobie Sports Bras. How many stars? Please rate your recent purchase of bug spray. Olive oil. I stopped looking at my Amazon reviews at that point. Because the truth is, I’m not a nose spray or a six-pack of sports bras. Still less, a container of bug spray. One’s choice of brassieres are very telling. But not alas a reflection of one’s intellect. You are what you spray on your body, and of course you are what you read. But it’s not the same experience. And shouldn’t be judged through an identical lens –one devised to promote sales. Nothing more. Nothing less.

FYI: The kind of nose spray I favor received 144 mostly five star reviews on Amazon. The olive oil and the bug spray received even more. The bras (I found them too hot and over padded) also received thousands of stars.

Who Nose better?

Just now I did a search and found out, one of my all time favorite pieces of literature, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (who by the way has a website, one that eerily replies if you join it). His masterpiece, in the edition I own garnered 50 Reviews, only 54% of which were Five Stars. The bug spray beat him way out. Not to mention the Coobie bras.

The sequel to the dirty grey book, one I didn’t read garnered over thirty-two thousand reviews.

The question remains: if someone resembling Robert DeNiro in a black velvet cape and little horns appeared suddenly beside me (and raised a gloved hand that stopped Henry from barking) to offer me one million stars on Amazon for Lavina, and another million for the The New Me… in exchange for my soul… what would I do?


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The Yay Word

When did grown-ups starting saying, writing, using the YAY word? Yay as in “You’re coming to town? YAY! We’re going over to so and so’s house for dinner, YAY!

Mary Marcus, Yay, Words, Yay Word, Yay Pineapple, Yay drawing, drawing, Southern Writer, Southern Fiction, Baby BoomerLet’s have sushi YAY!

I’m having an 85th birthday party for myself, and I’m not even senile. YAY!

Your daughter is having a baby YAY. You’re having a baby YAY. My daughter is having a baby, YAY!

Didn’t YAY used to be the provenance of children jumping up and down in the playground. Or going down a scary slide. YAY! You did it. Yay, you caught that ball.

What does it mean that practically every grownup I know punctuates events far from victorious with the Y word? We’re becoming a society of onomatopoeliacs.

According to the Urban Dictionary, YAY is “used as an exclamation of pleasure, approval, elation, or victory.” It’s also slang for cocaine, mostly in the Bay Area. I live in Los Angeles. I’m not sure what it’s called here, though I used to know what to call it in New York.

All these YAYs are giving me pseudo-linguistic saturation, not to mention ADHD. Even my own current novel seems to be popping up on the screen, how many stars would you give Lavina, Five of course. Five stars. YAY!

Think of this as you’re finding things online that bring you elation or pleasure: Every time you look up anything at all, whatever you look for is yours forever after, as long as you have a web browser and a credit card. Just use your secret password (as in open sesame) and type in a few numbers, and all your wishes and desires can come true.

You can find a hook up, a la all those millions of people on Ashley Madison. You can find a high colonic practitioner within five miles of where you live. You can find your high school sweetheart and prowl how many complaints your chiropractor/shrink/Dermatologist/ acupuncturist/drug dealer has received. YAY for the Internet.

YAY is also, as I mentioned and as I’ve discovered from my intense research on Urban Dictionary, a synonym for cocaine. Am I just paranoid or will my yay searches target me as a potential drug dealer? or user?

I’d love to get high like the old days, but I’ve grown up now and left those childish things behind. SIGH. That’s another overused onomatopoeia. SIGH.

What does this have to do with YAY? A lot, I think.

Most of us so called grown ups (myself included) have been dressing like children for years. I guess it’s not really surprising that now we are talking like children as well. When I was growing up, children dressed like children, and adults did the same. Not that is was a better world; in many ways it was a worse world. But at least some things were clear. Now everyone is running around in gym clothes and sneakers. And not just in California where nobody dresses, it’s happening in New York, in London, all over the world, there’s not much difference between the everyday attire of eight year olds and eighty year olds, except for fancy dress (as in let’s play dress up!)

Peter Pan, Alligator, Gif, Alligator, Mary Marcus, Southern Fiction, Yay Word, Happy Animal, Happy

Don’t even get me started on emoticons. Another seductive childish new habit that has no literary value, no education or study required for understanding. In short, related to yay, without even having to spell it out. It’s like a secret code made from cartoon characters.

We are being robbed and are robbing ourselves of articulate speech when we say the yay word, when an “isn’t that just wonderful!” or “a marvelous!” or a even a “dynamite!” would do just as well and convey more nuance of emotion.

As for the emoticon frenzy, when I discovered them, I found myself sending entire text messages with rows of high heels. A writer, who is meant to be in search of le mot juste, not le emoticon juste.

I’m going to stop the use of both at once.

No Yay Sayers.
No emoticons.

At least I’m going to try.

It’s over. YAY!



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Heat Wave

For weeks now it’s been unrelentingly hot. Even four miles from the water it’s hot. The pavement is hot. If you don’t put up your heat shade your car is fusion temperature. Unless you have AC (which thank God we do) anything but cold food is out of the question.  The people are hot. The trees are hot (some of them are exploding for lack of water) I’m seriously thinking of getting Henry a sunhat.

Henry in a sunhat

It also seems to me the drought has increased the number of homeless people, why, I don’t really know. It’s only an observation.  But there are homeless people everywhere, sunburned and hot. And listless. But everybody is hot and listless, why should the less well nourished and housed members of the race be an exception?

I had parked the car on 7th near the 7-Eleven in Santa Monica, where some developer is going to tear down one of the old pre war buildings with the cool terrazzo entryway and wedding cake decorations on the front, and build yet another Italianate live and work zone with a cappuccino joint and a gym inside and charge eight zillion dollars a month in rent. Henry and I were walking on the shady side of the street when I saw him: him and his cart of possessions which included piles of clothing tied in neat piles close together, and huddled inside those belonging a dog, about the size of Henry.

The homeless man was wearing sunglasses and so was I. His face was covered in a full black coat of beard. The only parts of his face you could see were the little places of cheek at the bottom of his glasses.

I am for the record, afraid of fleas, lice, bad smells, a hand suddenly reaching out to get me, and many other things as well. I generally don’t give to male homeless individuals because I don’t want to get that close, females are a different story.

But the homeless man (who on second glance) appeared to be someone about my son’s age, wasn’t asking for money. I snuggled Henry’s leash closer and walked by.  Was it the sight of the homeless dog that made me dig in my wallet when I was by then at the corner? No doubt. I didn’t have much cash, five singles, which I knew I could hand over without touching flesh. It was a skill I developed years ago and why other than the fact that I’m generous by nature, don’t give coins, because to give coins, you have to touch the palm.

I went back. Handed the bearded person the cash and he smiled. A big white smile with good teeth. His little dog smiled too.

Thanks, he said. I said, “My pleasure! And better luck!” He didn’t bless me as I’m often blessed, especially by one old woman who works the Farmer’s Market on Saturday whom I haven’t seen lately. (Do I hope she’s still alive, I don’t really know.)

He said, “My dog is happy to play with your dog!”

But I snuggled Henry’s leash up and said the truth, “Henry’s a little skittish. I don’t want him to scare your dog.”

“Hey, I get it,” the homeless lad with the thick beard said.

I knew he got it, that I didn’t want to touch him, his dog, or anything within ten feet of him. But he said it cheerfully, without making me feel guilty. He was glad to have a few bucks.  He did not judge my motives. I wished I did not automatically assume he had communicable scourges to impart.

I walked away. I thought of a night many years before when my son’s Sunday school class had gone to a homeless shelter to bring dinner one really cold night. The nights here haven’t been that cold in a long time.

We had brought on instructions, these long sheets of pre cooked frozen lasagna. And the parents were busy setting the sheets out.

It was my son who noticed that the parents and the kids were setting out frozen slabs of lasagna, not bothering to use the restaurant style ovens that were right behind us. He pointed this out, and the Sunday school teacher and some of the parents put the frozen pizza slabs in the oven.

Then one of the homeless men spoke up. “Most of the time they expect us to eat frozen lasagna!”

My son had noticed before anyone else. And I was proud of him. If it still often shocks me that he is running for office as a republican, at least he’s a compassionate republican. I continued walking slowly in the heat with Henry.

I wasn’t so proud of myself, refusing to let Henry play with the homeless dog, just because I am afraid of homeless dogs, as I am of homeless people.

A typical bleeding heart liberal, that’s me. On account of my son, I’m now a registered republican, with any luck, I’ll learn compassion.

When they tear down that nice old building, I’m guessing a lot of old time tenants are going to be out of luck. I hope that young man with his dog keeps his good teeth, and gets himself and his furry friend off the street.

How exactly does one get off the street?

I have no idea.

I’m not so proud of that either.

Henry in a Sunhat, drawn by the wonderful Aimee Levy.

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