Normalcy Is Back In Effect

Kage Baker approved of normalcy. For a given value of normalcy, anyway. A value mostly exclusive to her household, and not in particular alignment with anyone else’s definition.

On the other hand, she felt strongly that other people ought to identify their own version of what was normal, and stick to it. It would make people happier, she felt, and maybe even promote peace. Especially the versions of those whose idea of “normal” included defining it for other folks – and applying same by force. If those people could be taught to be happy in the privacy of their own homes and leave the rest of the world alone, they – and the world – would be a much nicer place.

She figured that in most of the cases, this would actually be easier for the frantic would-be enforcers of a lowest-common-denomination “normalcy”. Think of the energy expended by people like Glenn Beck, and that lady down the street who demands to see the plastic poop bags being carried by every dog-owner who passes her porch. Consider the wear and tear on their nervous systems; contemplate the damage done by their blood bouncing more and more anxiously against their capillary walls! People don’t seem to die of apoplexy as much as they used to, but that’s no excuse for Society to ignore the needs of those still prone to the ailment.

There’s a guy on my block who sneaks out carefully after dark to edge his neighbor’s lawns. That’s because none of us apparently do it the way it’s supposed to be done. Those of us converting to drought-conscious xeriscaping are giving him even more problems … it’s hard to edge gravel or Hottentot fig. And of course, he only comes out at night, so as to minimize the chances someone will come out and offer to insert his damned edger in an anatomically awkward place … which tactic would work better if he didn’t use a loud gas-operated machine. Imagine how much easier his life would be if he could learn how to be content with his own “normal” lawn!

Another neighbor is growing more and more strident about the local wildlife. Here on the edges of the San Fernando Valley, Griffith Park and the LA River, we have a broader and more diverse ecology than pugs, Chihuahuas and house cats. The mere sight of skunks, possums and raccoons is upsetting her. The bob cats, pumas and coyotes are driving her to a dangerous peak of terror. She doesn’t even care for deer! You have to pity someone who is afraid of Bambi. I don’t think anyone has had the heart to tell her how close the bears are getting – but I really think some mild re-education on what constitutes “normal” wildlife would help her peace of mind; and discourage her from hiring bounty-hunters.

These sorts of contretemps are why Kage preferred to live at some distance from her human neighbors. Living in the Hollywood Hills for her first 40 years established an unusually cosmopolitan view of what is normal … and how privacy and common courtesy help keep it all smooth and pleasant. None of Kage’s habits were especially peculiar. For a writer … but she needed more total silence than most households produce; ours was thus one given to long periods of utter quiet while Kage wrote. At the same time (sometimes literally) Kage needed specific music input: soundtracks for the stories. Hence, in our house, listening to, say, A Pilgrim’s Progress  or the 1812 Overture, over and over for 8 hours at a time was – well, normal.

So was ice cream for dinner, midnight Chinese food picnics, lighting the entire house with candles (guests sometimes had difficulties in the bathroom, but most adapted well) and getting boxes of armour pieces via UPS. Having the neighbors call the cops when they observed us carrying life-sized wooden statues wrapped in Turkish rugs up the stairs. Accidentally dying the back stairs orange with gallons of onion peel in hot water. Having an armed encampment of swordsmen in the back garden.

We put up with situation comedy soundtracks, football games, drunken quarrels, the perfume of burnt dinners, evictions, break-ups. fornication, and blood feuds from the neighbors. On the few occasions we had any – we did go to considerable lengths not to, and spent less than 5 years of our adult lives in apartment buildings. But normalcy, Dear Readers, comes in all flavours, after all.

So today, the world is pretty much back to normal. Robin Williams was accompanied into immortality by Lauren Bacall – what a ferry ride that must have been! – and the airways are full of praise and scandal for them both. Ms. Bacall is being remembered for exactly ONE line of dialogue from a lifetime of stardom. Mr. Williams is being castigated by conservative talk show hosts, and mourned by gorillas.

Yep, all normal around here.