One evening, then, a month ago, bathing my daughter in her blue plastic tub in the shower of our guest bathroom: she was cradling a large bar of soap, and singing sweet love songs to it for reasons that are unclear to me, and I was washing her feet. Then the door of the shower fell off of its hinges and shattered against the wall, raining several dozen pounds of broken glass all over us. With the fallen frame resting against my back, I told my daughter that everything was going to be fine; clearly believing me in spite of the lack of supporting evidence, and apparently on the theory that broken glass looks much like rock candy, she picked up a small piece, put it in her mouth, and started chewing. Do you have any idea what sort of sound that makes? And I had glass in my slippers, and in my hair, and in the space created between one’s trousers and one’s extreme lower back when one crouches down wearing loose-fitting jeans. It took perhaps four minutes to get my daughter out of the bath and into her pajamas and watching Shrek with my son (and do you remember the part where Robin Hood attempts to kidnap Princess Fiona? And that song they sing? Man, do I love that song) and another forty to get all of the glass cleaned out from under the washing machine that my wife and I, using a colorful Paracas-style tapestry and a potted plant, attempt to disguise as a huge, cubic, pointless table whenever guests come to visit, and gathered into bags and saved on the top of my closet to show the building supervisor when at some future point he would come and suggest (as in fact he did) that a fallen shower door really wasn’t such a big deal, and aside from an embarrassingly small, considering, cut on my back, and a missing shower door, there was absolutely no damage to report.
Two weeks later, six members of the building maintenance staff arrived with the new door. It looked fine. They crowded into our guest bathroom and hung the door. It looked good, hung. They gave one another enthusiastic thumbs up, and filed one by one out into the hallway, and asked me to sign the form saying that their labors had been satisfactorily completed, and the door fell off of its hinges again and shattered all over the floor again, much of the glass sliding under the washing machine, again.
Yesterday, six members of the building maintenance staff arrived with a still newer door. I was not home at the time. They hung it, and I imagine that they then gave one another enthusiastic thumbs up, and filed one by one out into the hallway, and asked the housekeeper to sign the form saying that their labors had been satisfactorily completed. The door has not yet fallen, but it is hung crooked, and does not close, and terrifies me. The building manager is coming to visit this afternoon. I very much hope he is prepared for the things I have to say.
As regards things not in my apartment: please attempt to imagine that in the attic of your home, eight large cats are being fed, and caressed, and well loved, and that they are very pleased, and that they attempt to express their pleasure using the loud, near-human sounds that cats sometimes manage to produce. Then, however, all eight cats simultaneously get their tails caught in an escalator. If you are in fact able to imagine all of the sounds involved in this scenario, then in terms of dialogue and singing there are few reasons for you to go to the Beijing Opera. There are many other reasons for going, however. The music is shimmery and fine, and the actors are well schooled and highly gifted in many areas, including acrobatics and mimicry. There is a great deal of good, mainly eunuch-based physical humor. The plots are perhaps no more or less coherent than the plots of all other operas everywhere, but the sets are intricate and gorgeous, as are the costumes; my favorite was that of the king of Yan, with his glowing floor-length beard, his flowing golden robe with its vast, cruel, jeweled shoulder pads, his multicolored and likewise cruelly jeweled headdress, which involved, among other things, apricot-sized red jade earpieces bearing footlong golden tassels, and a sort of amber-bead curtain not unlike the one your aunt once hung at the entrance to the dining room of her commune.