26 April 2013

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

I’ve been lying awake since about midnight (it’s two now), thinking about how if I win the Pillsbury Bake-Off it will probably ruin our lives. But still, it would be nice to be able to take a year off work and try to write something long. That’s my only idea. Something long. Why not? It sounds so grown up. Also, something about other people. Should have been a journalist. Oops.

And thinking about starting an artsy-fartsy—or perhaps just fartsy—online magazine so I could read things by my friends. I don’t think the right people write. My pals mostly turned out to be more readers than writers. I feel like giving them homework.

I was also wondering—is there such a thing as a Jewish voice? I’m talking about the physical voice, the timbre, not an accent or mannerism. I can think of three Jewish guys I know with memorably resonant speaking voices. They probably only sound similar to each other in my mind because I know they’re Jewish, and all this is probably faintly racist. One is my childhood doctor, Louis Netzer, and then there’s Marvin Mudrick the great teacher and writer, and there’s also this lawyer I know, Don Heller, a decent guy and a frighteningly good attorney. All teachers and lawyers should have such voices, effortlessly audible and wonderfully easy and rich.

But still, the notion of a Jewish voice must be nonsense, and let’s hope that only at two in the morning will I try to draw conclusions from a sample of three, gaily casting aside all my other Jewish friends who sound so boring and ordinary. I think I just like the idea of ethnic differences existing and being preserved, mostly in talk and food, but even physical differences. It gives the world more texture. And I like the way voices are right where the mind meets the body. If any of my three guys had been saying stupid shit, I’d like their voices a lot less.

But this reminds me of how, when listening to the radio, you think without knowing you’re thinking it that you can tell who’s black. Sometimes you can. But mostly not. And of the tendency to generalize, so that I think of my little blue eyes as “my tiny Norwegian eyes” because the grandma I got them from was Norwegian.

But back to how winning the Bake-Off would ruin our lives. With money comes choice. And with choice comes decisions, and anyone who has stood in the toothpaste aisle for fifteen minutes trying to figure out what’s more important–whitening, breath-freshening, cavity-fighting or gingivitis-preventing knows what I’m talking about. Deciding things is a lot of work. And it creates this expectation that making the right choice will somehow change your life for the better. Who needs the pressure?

Also, I would be tempted to quit my job, and I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t end well. I don’t exactly like working, but how would I get away from Enzo and Teresa if I didn’t work? And I do sort of like it. You have routine, and like a tiny toddler, I love routine. And you also talk to lots of people you would never otherwise talk to.

But more than that, I think man is the problem-solving animal, and I mean practical problems—food/shelter/clothing. If you don’t have that to solve, if you don’t have to work, you’re left with all your attention on impractical problems, like why you aren’t happier. I know why I’m not happy. I’m working. I’m not supposed to be happy. If I could do pretty much what I pleased with my time, it would be my own fault that I’m almost always faintly discontent. (I hope it goes without saying that anyone with kids has more than enough practical problems to keep life going in the way I think it should. They kick your ass.)

More night thoughts–why not cardamom in the crust of my hazelnut cheesecake for the Bake-Off? And should it be cheesecake bars in a standard Pyrex or proper cheesecake in a springform pan? And what about frosting? Why shouldn’t cheesecake have frosting? But of course I would have to use Pillsbury frosting, which is probably a petroleum product.

By the way, I’m going to be away from internet for the next two days, so no online diary. I just mention it so that my mom doesn’t send out a search partay.