July 8, 2011
Where I am, where I’ve been, and remembering a book
I have not meant to take such a long break from blogging. I wish I could say I’ve been accomplishing something immense and impressive, but I have not been. I’ve been job hunting, resume-updating, and finally filing for unemployment, thinking, cleaning my apartment, getting ready for an upcoming dance tour, and doing a lot of coffee shop sitting and reading.
Now I’m sort of out in the country, just outside the village of Pawling, New York. It’s about two hours away from Grand Central Station by train, and a world away in other respects. I’m dogsitting for a very sweet Australian shepherd named Patches, who, true to his sheepdog breeding, will not let me go anywhere alone, even just to the kitchen for another cup of tea. He enjoys Parmesan cheese on his food, understands mostly words that start with ‘b,’ and doesn’t understand why we would go outside for any reason–like reading by the pond or pulling weeds in the garden–other than playing frisbee.
It’s raining softly outside while fireflies wink over the grass, which I just stood outside on the porch watching for a while. The humidity is nearly tangible, and the entire small world of this little community is a deep twilight blue-gray color. I’m writing and listening to the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After. I’ve determined that it’s actually impossible to get anything else done with the TV on in the background (I’m way too visually-oriented)…I’ve probably watched more ludicrous television this week alone than I have in the entirety of the last 8 or 10 years (My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Intervention, House, The Matrix Reloaded) and remembered why I do not have and do not want one in my apartment. Actually, I’m semi-seriously developing a hypothesis that depression is so rampant these days because American television is depressing…I swear, even the commercials for anti-depressants are depressing in their absurdity, to say nothing of the commercials for household cleaning products.
I see deer and rabbits in the yard almost every day, and get almost no usable cell phone signal. I realize how much I miss seeing stars.
I’ve made cupcakes and given myself a very unfortunate and painful sunburn across my lower back while out working in the garden. I didn’t think to put sunscreen where there was a gap between my jeans and tank top when I was leaning over.
I’ve become certain, from the distinctly purposeful-sounding rustling and crinkling sounds, that there’s some kind of small nocturnal creature making a home in some stacked grocery bags of junk in my corner of the living room. The dog is not roused to do anything about this situation for me. And I don’t just move away, because this is the only place in the house where I can pick up a wi-fi signal.
And I’m wondering out of nowhere if anyone else remembers a certain children’s book.
I remember this book from the year I was in 3rd grade, or maybe 4th, but I’m sure the book was much older than that. It was on the classroom bookshelf, and I was totally entranced with it. I read it over and over again. And yet cannot remember the name of it.
It was told in the style of a series of fables, about a very wise old legal adviser in the Japanese royal court. People brought seemingly impossible cases to him, and like Solomon, he always had the fair and clever solution. One case was about a wiseguy trying to circumvent a progressive tax law that taxed people based on the number of doors their homes contained by building a house with only windows. One was about a court servant who accidentally broke a priceless vase, for which the normal penalty would be death since she couldn’t hope to repay the cost with all the money that she’d ever earn in her life, and one, my favorite, was about a poor man who lived above a noodle shop. He was starving, but said that as he ate his plain white rice every night, he felt like he was eating a more substantial meal because he enjoyed the smells of the cooking from below so much, they flavored his own meal. So the noodle shop guy wanted to charge him for the food he hadn’t eaten, since he claimed he had enjoyed it just as much as if he had.
I don’t even remember the actual resolution of any of the cases. I don’t remember the title of the book or the author. Googling “children’s book wise old japanese guy” gets me nowhere. So for my blog friends and pen pals old and young, a crowdsource question: Does anyone else recall this book?