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The latest silliness to appear in the pages of the The New York Times is covered in a story by David Kocieniewski, "After $12,000, There's Even Room to Park the Car." It's about cluttered garages and the professionals who tidy them up. Peter Walsh, a cable TV celebrity organizer, talks of "an orgy of consumption" and "acknowledges that he is a lonely voice calling for a new era of American asceticism."

More and more, I regard Pascal's attribution of human misery to the inability to sit quietly in a room* as the most ruefully useful bit of wisdom that has come down to me. Everyone I know is running in some sort of rat race, deluged by unwanted mail, distracted by the glamour of celebrity, and overbooked by too many phone calls. Sitting quietly in a room, engaged, presumably, in prayer - now, that's asceticism.

I sit in a room most of the time, but I am not quiet. I fidget horribly. When the phone rings; I bring up FreeCell at once. I follow tangents on Google. For example, I finally got round to finding out about donating books to the Housing Works Used Books Café. (They don't make it terribly easy.) That's what I would have in my garage if I had a garage: books. In fact, if I had a garage, I would turn it into a regular library, with aisles of stacks. That would be the end of my book problem. Or the end of one book problem. My library catalogue is in sorry shape at the moment. I wonder if part-time librarians pay house calls.**

There is an image of the act of writing in my mind that, sadly, fails completely to correspond to the reality of writing. In my dreams, I write with a quill pen at a very steady pace, the words flowing out of me onto the page in a river of calligraphy. In reality, my hand screams with fatigue if I have to do more than sign my name. And I am always "trying things out" - sketching sentences that I wouldn't bother with if there'd be any trouble to getting rid of them. For some reason or other, I don't read at my desk (it's a matter of chairs, I think), and that slows me down.

I'm as guilty as anybody of having 'way too much stuff. Getting rid of bits of it gives me enormous pleasure. Christmas, I feel, ought to become a celebration of subtraction: become more Christ-like by unloading things. I've been getting rid of a lot of CDs. Sort of. I make copies on a high-speed copier, and put them in a wallet from Staples, together with a two-sided photocopy of pertinent liner material. Then I give the originals to Ms NOLA. This opens up shelf space for more CDs.

Yesterday was to have been spent in the kitchen - where even celebrity organizer Peter Walsh would be stumped - preparing a Monday-night dinner, but neither Miss G nor Ms NOLA could make it, and I quickly settled on the steak-frites menu that was a regular in the days before Ms NOLA. I came back from Agata & Valentina with not only tonight's fixings but also the ingredients of a ragù that I've developed over the years and which came to mind the other day when George at Quality of the Light described a dish that came to him, he claims, in a dream.

When I got home, I thought, "I'll just dash out something about those crazy neat garages and then I'll unpack the groceries. It's a good thing that I put the bag out on the balcony, though, because it was several hours before I did the unpacking.

Where was I?

* If only I could find this in my Modern Library dual-language edition!

** It's amazing that I even found my copy of Pascal.


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steak frites sounds delicious! can i show up one night and we can pretend it is the days before I met M le Neveu?

I am excited to listen to "Parsifal" and will comment later after getting some lunch. Being sick winds me up with things to say and little energy with which to say them.

I am a kottke.org micropatron

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