The Good Life

Two Christmases ago, I received a Kindle.

I love it … reservedly.

A Kindle or other e-reader, including my wife’s iPad, is a delightful medium for reading a novel.

Moreover, it has spiritual powers that speed up doctor and hospital laboratory appointments, car-repair waits and associated time-consumers.

Dubious?

I visit with a doctor at least quarterly, and have blood levels checked as frequently. I am in car repair places three or four times a year. I have even seen a Kindle magically dissolve a stopped-dead-in-traffic interlude along Interstate 80.

I have done comparative time studies. Now, granted, these are subjective and infrequent. But here are the results:

Doctor’s office: Without Kindle, 15-minute wait to get into examination room, another 20-minute wait to see doctor. With Kindle, 5-minute wait to get into exam room, 10-minute (or shorter) wait to see doctor.

Hospital laboratory: In DuBois and in Brookville, without Kindle, 10-minute wait for registration, 15-minute wait to get into blood-sucking chair … Oops! Did I say “blood-sucking”? Hey, the technicians are superb and the process is virtually painless. It is my lifelong abhorrence of needles, born out of a burst appendix and monthlong hospitalization at age 10, that conjures up images of vampires.

Routine auto or tire work: Without Kindle, half-hour to 45-minute wait. With Kindle, 20-minute wait.

I-80 delays: Without Kindle, up to an hour. With Kindle, never longer than 10 minutes before traffic is moving, sometimes at a crawl, but nonetheless, moving.

I do not know how the people at Amazon conveyed those powers to a hand-held e-reader, but that happens. Every time I take the Kindle along, the wait is shorter than I thought it would be. Without the Kindle … wait, wait, wait some more.

There is a spiritual reason for this.

No, it is not related to God.

I am convinced that some lesser spirit, perhaps an unwinged angel (See “It’s a Wonderful Life”) or a leftover Loki from Norse mythology, tracks my interest in whatever it is that I happen to be reading on the Kindle.

Many books are much more interesting than other books.

So this spirit weighs my interest, and stretches or compresses time depending on how eager I am to continue to read what is in the Kindle. If I am fascinated, hanging onto every plot twist, thumb-flicking pages at warp speed, I hear, “We are ready for you now” within a few pages.

If I am reading a hard-to-read book, just the opposite occurs.

Most recently, I read Kenneth M. Pollack’s “Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy.”

Ugh.

Oh, the book is important. It is well written and cogently thought out.

But it is weighty. Gloomy. Frightening. Unsettling.

While waiting, I could read for half-hours at a time.

Just previously, I read the hilarious “The Dogs of Luck: Comic Confessions from Warren, Pa., Corporate America and Family Life,” written by fellow Warrenite William Kenly.

Kenly and I walked the same streets and engaged in some of the same Boy Scout misadventures as youngsters. Later, we both moved to other places, experienced marriages, parenthood and divorce. Kenly is wickedly funny as well as thought-provoking. I loved his book.

“Mr. Bonavita, we are ready for you now.”

Sometimes, they said it even before the Kindle had fully opened up.

I know not how this happens. But it does happen.

Another Kindle thing happens, too.

If you put it into the back pocket of your shorts or slacks and then sit on a hard chair, the Kindle cracks, splits, dies.

Aside from that, I like it – for straightforward reading.

But for heavily annotated books such as Pollack’s “Unthinkable,” the Kindle is limited.

See KINDLE, Page A9

Kindle

From Page A8

With a regular book, I can read through the text while keeping a finger or a bookmark right on the footnotes section that corresponds to the text. Since footnotes in a book like this can themselves consume several pages and be interesting in themselves, I like to flip back and forth.

That is nearly impossible in a Kindle. The best I can do is to keep a pen and paper handy, write down the chapter and number of interesting footnotes, and skip to them at the ends of specific chapters.

So I still buy print copies, especially of biographies of grand and glorious characters in history, e.g., Winston Churchill, George Washington.

But, sadly, the “We are ready for you now” mantra never seems to come sooner if I lug a printed book along with me to an appointment. Riveting or obtuse, the wait time does not appear to change.

Only with the Kindle do I seem to just get into the rhythm of a book, be it a light comedy or a heavy tome, when I am called upon to push the “Off” button.

And besides … it’s magic.

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.

The Good Life

Why should we care? It happened to “them,” not to us.

Besides, we have Christmas shopping to do.

The “news” is messy. Not pretty.

So why should we care?

Last week, I was reminded again that “them” often means “us.”

I got an email message from Tom Goodwill.

Tom’s father was Robert Goodwill.

Robert’s brother was Albert Goodwill.

Albert Goodwill’s daughter was Nancy Goodwill.

Nancy Goodwill married me. After 28 years, we divorced. Earlier this year, she died. Shortly after that, I wrote a column about her.

The column became searchable on the Internet.

Tom tickled a search engine, as he sometimes does, for “Goodwill.”

He saw the column, read it and wrote to tell me he thought I did a good job with it.

That’s nice. I was glad to hear from Tom Goodwill. I wish him well and hope nothing bad happens to him. Because of a family connection, he is “us.”

But I have no idea who Tom Goodwill is, what he does, where he lives.

Does he live in or near Ferguson, Mo.?

Is one of his relatives a police officer in New York City, where “I Can’t Breathe” is becoming as much an anthem of the 2010s as “Stop the War!” (in Vietnam) was for the 1960s?

Is a neighbor’s daughter wearing fatigues and sleeping in a tent near Kabul? Was a cousin caught in those California mudslides?

“Only connect.” That’s the epigram fronting E.M. Forster’s novel, “Howard’s End.” In college, I read the novel. On a test, I was asked to explain the epigram. I couldn’t, not at age 19. But this was a test, I needed to pass the course, and at age 19, you know everything there is to know. So I wrote some fatuous hogwash about “connectedness.” The professor bought it, or at least didn’t red-line it with “Hogwash!” written in the margin, as it should have been. I passed the course, but I had no concept of “connect.”

At age 19, our world is still small.

Of course, our world at age 19 is much larger than it is at birth. The most self-centered human beings are day-old babies, and why not? Babies can’t find food, or toilets, or water. They can kick and stretch and squall, and that’s all. Someone beyond their very small world needs to respond with milk, with clean diapers, with fruit juices.

Soon enough, we find out about rooms, then entire apartments or houses. Before school starts, we have discovered others’ homes, our own back yards, malls, churches and Wal-Mart.

School is our first smack-in-the-face introduction to “them.” If our family is poor, a classmate’s family is well off. If we are white, a classmate can be brown or yellow. If we are a firstborn, why, there are entire rooms filled with older children.

As we progress, “them” recedes and “us” broadens. We cheer for DuBois athletic teams, even though the players come from Penfield and Sykesville. We express satisfaction that Brookville’s girls did well in state-level competition because our DuBoisians played against “them,” making “them,” in this context, “us,” because their opponents were from faraway Allentown.

In college or military service, Allentown becomes “us” because it too is in Pennsylvania and we are in Texas or Riyadh.

We come back home, perhaps to ancestral home, perhaps to a place in another town or another state.

We work, or don’t. We earn more, or live off the dole. We marry, or move in together. We breed, or not.

Regardless, our world starts to shrink. The people who were “us” from Germany or Korea become “them” because we don’t see them every day. Sometimes, we retain shards of “us,” exclaiming, “I used to live there!” as we see the TV scenes of floods or fires, riots or blizzards. More often, though, we recede, even retreat, into our narrowing worlds of day-to-day routine and occasional ventures to beaches or mountains.

Tom Goodwill?

What is it to me if New Orleans sinks beneath a hurricane, or Fresno trembles while the earth splits open?

And those rioters, those protesters. When O.J. Simpson, who is black, was acquitted of murdering a white woman, even though he was clearly guilty, we didn’t riot. So we are better, aren’t we? Better than those people. Better than “them.”

But it could be that Tom Goodwill lives among “them.” Maybe his son plays basketball with one of “them.” Perhaps his daily commute takes him past “them.”

I never met Tom Goodwill, a relative of a relative of a relative of a …. “them”?

But as I scan the day’s news headlines, I wonder. Could he live there? Or over there? Or is one of his loved ones out there?

I find that I actually do care. “Them” can be “us.”

Merry Christmas.

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.

The Good Life

I can’t act the part.

I have “acted,” most recently in a “ghost tour” scene as part of Brookville’s Victorian Christmas pageant. Karen Allgeier killed me – five times. We re-enacted the 10-minute snippet in Victorian costumery for group after group of ticket holders, about 125 people in all.

I “played” a doctor/hypnotist.

I made my voice sound deeper and more authoritatively “doctor-like.”

But I didn’t “act” in the sense of playing the part of someone different from me.

I didn’t have to. The acting was done by Karen, who is really good at being someone other than her normal friendly, chatty self. During our skit, she changed personalities when she was “hypnotized,” going from a flustered, sleep-deprived helpless woman to a fear-inspiring cold-blooded murderess.

I admire people who can convince an audience that they are someone else.

Probably my favorite area actor is Chris Taylor, a Brookville native and currently a teacher in the DuBois district. I have seen Chris transmogrify himself into a bloodthirsty barber and a sappy lovestruck male ingenue, sometimes with the added dimension of musical comedy. As plays begin, I mentally note, “That is Chris.” By mid-play, “Chris” fades, and I am seeing “Sweeney” or “Tevye” or whomever.

Other local actors and actresses can also do that.

I can’t.

I’m like John Wayne or Sylvester Pussycat. Wikipedia claims that John Wayne made 169 feature films in a half-century career. I have seen perhaps 60 of those films. Wayne was John Wayne in almost all of them. His costumes changed: Cowboy, sailor, farmer. But the Wayne drawl, the Wayne walk and the Wayne persona came through.

Ditto for Sylvester the “Putthycat.” Sylvester J. Pussycat Sr., the anthropomorphic slobbering star of Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoons, was himself in all 103 of his cartoons, vocalizing his sloppy lisp in relentlessly cheerful fashion.

Anthony Hopkins, on the other hand, can be chillingly menacing, as in Hannibal Lecter (“Silence of the Lambs”), majestically royal, as in “Richard I,” or darkly Presidential, as in “Nixon.”

He isn’t Hopkins. He is them. He becomes them.

I can alter my everyday persona to some extent, but only by emphasizing something I usually do anyway.

In last week’s Brookville pageant, I waved my arms and gestured wildly. But as friends constantly remind me, if someone bound my wrists behind my back, I probably could not talk in complete sentences. Hand gestures are part of me.

Heck, I even gesture while sitting by myself at a computer terminal, writing this column. When the story butts up against a “Where do I go from here?” moment, I stand up, walk around and “talk it out,” gesturing as I speak to the window, the mirror, the blank wall, the computer screen … anything.

God blessed me with a way with words, and with a fairly strong voice, easily enough projected to waft out from a theater stage through an audience, reaching the back rows without the electronic amplification used by today’s high school actors.

The auditorium of my old high school had good acoustics. The drama teachers of the 1950s were well-versed in the uses of diaphragm, lungs and overenunciated speech that enables voices to “project.” I learned some of that. I am still usually able to talk to a roomful of people even if the microphone goes on the fritz.

But I can’t be anyone except Denny. I just don’t have that talent.

I am occasionally dragooned into helping out a church or a community group by being a part of a play. I need to portray a character with a loud voice, a lot of gesturing, and a somewhat silly approach to life and living, i.e., me.

Once, I tried to be a menacing villain. It was disconcerting to the rest of the actors. When I glowered or growled, the audience laughed. The more menacing I attempted to be, the more tittering came from the spectators.

I can’t be heroic, either. I’m just not imposing. If I try to be heroic, the audience doesn’t laugh. Instead, people groan softly or politely sit through the uncomfortable experience of watching a person who is in over his head on that stage.

Art, it is said, imitates life. Some among us are talented enough to be able to shift the spectrum, and give us portrayals of people other than themselves.

I am grateful for those people. They have provided much entertainment and inspiration during my lifetime of attending plays, watching movies and TV, etc.

But I know my place.

“Thufferin’ Thuccotash!” That’s me.

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.