Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness Unless You Bow to Pele

Back at the hotel, I put my frosting in the fridge and burrow into my balcony like the ghost crabs that inhabit Hawaiian beaches. I’m both pale and a Cancer, so I can do this better than anyone. Working from my condo on the lip of Lake Erie the last year and a half has only honed this ability to second nature.

While waiting for Betty Crocker to chill, I read Rob Lowe’s “Love Life” and lament what merits four stars alongside David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs on Amazon these days. In fairness, the people who reviewed Lowe’s book are probably fans who watched him on “The West Wing” or “Parks and Recreation,” were curious about his Brat Pack days, or subscribe to People, US News, and TMZ mobile alerts. I.e., they were interested in gossip whereas I’m reading for style since I’ll be writing my own memoir once I figure out where to begin.

Like a narrated film, I can hear Lowe’s precise enunciations in my head as I read the first 150 pages, so he writes the same way he speaks (or as he’s always scripted to speak), which most people are incapable of doing well. But publisher Simon & Schuster should’ve corrected misplaced commas (“One day, in group therapy we turned our attention to our newest arrival at the facility.”), deleted clichés that prefaced stronger similes (“Like an elephant is sitting on my chest, like my throat is so tight and constricted that I can feel its tendons, like my eyes are 100 percent water, spilling out at will, down pathways on my face that have been dry for as long as I can think of.”), and swapped chapters to prevent repetitive imagery (“Among the problems will be other actors who don’t know their lines, too much sweat pouring from your prosthetic face, a flare in the lens, a ‘hair in the gate,’ a helicopter circling, a jet landing, a boom microphone in the shot, bystanders wandering by in the background and a guy who wants $5,000 to turn off his leaf blower” on the last page of one chapter and “At the most intense moment, sitting at her gravesite, I felt like I could hear every leaf blower in a fifty-mile radius …” on the first page of the next).

your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelionsToo often, Lowe relies on helping verbs to convey action. He claims he enjoyed “The Stand” before starring in Stephen King’s miniseries, but there’s no way he’s read “On Writing,” in which King says, “Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.” To illustrate his disdain for the part of speech writers use to bolster weak verbs, King continues, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day … fifty the day after that … and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.” I may need Claritin to make it through “Love Life” alive.

grammar nazi trapLike King, I know some readers are rolling their eyes and snarking at me for nitpicking. Then again, America has long embraced mediocrity over beauty and craftsmanship. If you can’t sing, we’ll autotune you. If you can’t act, we’ll give you a reality show. If you post articles on NBC, CNN, or any other news station’s website or Facebook page without proofreading them, we’ll overlook your mistakes and flame anyone who points them out. But Bishop T.D. Jakes has said, “Good leaders are great leaders because they pay attention to small details. They care about little things. That’s what separates good from great is little things.” And adverbs are one of those little things that editors get paid to catch.

Likewise, housekeepers earn a salary based on their ability to remove stray black hairs from the shower before a new guest arrives. Unfortunately, I have to point out a few oversights when a ponytailed Hawaiian woman in her early twenties knocks on my door. I can tell she wasn’t the one who overlooked them by the way she sneers and says, “Eew,” with the same girly inflection I said it with this morning as I attempted to wash my long blonde hair and shave in the cramped, bruise-bestowing shower stall.

When I come back in from the lanai long after she’s left, everything sparkles except for the corroded shower rod, the rust-stained ledge beneath the mirror, and the gecko, who’s trying his best to blend in with the bathroom wall but would probably wink at me each time I came in to pee if he had eyelids. Despite these defects, the oblong brick walls that remind me of K-12, and the prison cell door to my room that makes me feel like Jodi Arias awaiting lunch to be slid through the slot, I will miss Castle Mokihana’s view of the rolling waves, palm trees, pool, roosters, and sunrise when I move to Kauai Sands on Saturday.

A few Bible verses about doing your job and doing it well:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (Colossians 3:23)

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Proverbs 12:11)

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. (Proverbs 28:19)

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