Some things don’t sit right
This close to midnight
You’re someone else in this light (ooh, oh oh)
Stand in the kitchen
Attempting to fix this
So I try to listen to you, you, you
You’re gonna say something you don’t mean
So just before you take it too far, I’ll hold my ears, say “La da da di da”
Your empty words made for hurting me
So just before you take it too far, hold my ears say “La da da di da”
– Lennon Stella
Are you old enough to remember Woody Allen’s best film, “Annie Hall”? The movie came out in 1977. I was stuck in grad school then, Jimmy Carter became president, Apple Computer was incorporated. And get this – the world’s first PC, the Commodore PET, was shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago (no, I was too busy to attend). Perhaps most amazingly that year, snow actually fell in Miami. That had never happened before and yep, it was January so there you go.
In my mind, though, the best thing about 1977 was the release of Woody Allen’s amazing “Annie Hall,” a film that remains as funny and poignant as it was forty-four years ago. Diane Keeton’s Annie Hall character wore those way cool clothes out of left field and was Allen’s former lover trying to make it as a night club singer. Her utterance of la di da alone is worth watching this multiple Academy Award winning film. She said it when she was nervous, a cute emphasis of her lovable kookiness. The expression actually goes back to the 1880’s, but I digress.
Good ole Merriam-Webster defines the term (snobbishly!) as “affectedly or pretentiously elegant or refined in manners or tastes.” I always fall back on often delightfully silly Annie Hall and her ditzy manner, epitomized in this very old expression. So there, you Webster wienies!
I often think my little Lhatese puppy Jodi is the summit of silliness, an energetic (phew baby!) four pound white puff ball/spitfire who constantly looks to play (often rough house) when not eating or sleeping. As I write these words, she’s yanking on my socks and nibbling my fingers and toes. Hearing a crunching noise, I ask her ‘hey, what the heck is that?’ for the millionth time. Lo and behold, it’s a brass screw. I toss it into the collection of other flotsam and jetsam she’s found all over the place. This makes three of these screws now, so maybe my friends are right, I do have a few loose ones after all.
When not screwing (ahem) around with Jodi, the lure of really good detective stories and murder mysteries still pulls at my inner fiction guy. Harlan Coben, Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly top my list. Their imaginations and attention to forensic details woven through machine gun fire dialogue keep me riveted. Partly because it’s instructive to learn something about how detectives think, investigate crimes and spar with the bad guys. And partly because it’s just plain entertaining. To excerpt a tiny sample from Coben’s “The Woods,”
Muse hated the woods. She loved sports but hated the supposedly great outdoors. She hated bugs and fishing and wading and taking hikes and rare antique finds and dirt and general posts and lures and prize pigs and 4-H fairs and everything else she considered ‘rural.’
Loren Muse is a diminutive fireplug of an investigator who works for Paul Copeland, the embattled county prosecutor in someplace called New Jersey. He’s a single dad with political and legal thorns digging into him; she serves as his alter ego. The type of gal who might just say “la di da” to Copeland when his anguish and compartmentalized brain risk sinking an investigation. Or his aspirational career in politics. She knows she must often break through his psychological defenses and reel him in. Use some humor along with occasional confrontation.
I finished The Woods one morning with a sinking stomach. No way to spend the rest of the day so I took the girls outside for a romp on the dock. The trees were slathered with green buds, their leaves wrestling the thirty-five miles per hour spring wind. This high wind business, almost perpetual over the last many months, was getting under my skin. Some quick research on big cities via Google, a la di da haven for those with too much time on their hands, revealed that no, Chicago (the “windy city,” eh?) is actually out blown by Boston by an average of two mph. In fact, we reign – often with rain—as the windiest big city in the country. Yikes.
I sat on a bench overlooking the choppy harbor and watched as little Jodi, my personal white tornado, immediately hopped over to four construction workers on their lunch break. We got to talking. They work for Veterans Scaffolding, all seasoned pros with the ruddy outdoorsy complexions you’d expect. Talk about a la di da desert, their company provides a wide range of services including building maintenance and mast repairs for the US Navy. They travel to worksites across Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey. It’s not for the faint of heart, at least if you hate heights. But they all got a kick out of my tiny goodwill ambassador. Four tough guys pretty nearly having an Annie Hall moment.
No, life for most of us is not an unending streak of light hearted, flippant, silly or joyful moments and experiences. Far from it. But one thing I’ve learned over the years, often rather the hard way, is that they lie all around us. Like a bon bon box of goodies scattered about. Or, sticking with food, let’s imagine that you think your life has gone in the soup. Maybe, just maybe, we can search together for a noodle, carrot, peas, little chunk of chicken. And maybe the broth is way too hot and it’s burning your tail off. But wait a few minutes and… lo and behold, it will cool down. Ah, physics.
Charlotte Bronte, she of Jane Eyre fame back in 1847, said it better than I could: “A depressing and difficult passage has prefaced every page I have turned in life.”
I like to keep her in mind, and of course Annie Hall, when things get tough. There must be a chocolate around here someplace, right? La di da, la di da.