22 October 2008

Coming up next:

"There are too many cliffhangers in our lives."

Mark and I were nestled on the couch after dinner, watching "the Funnies" -- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report -- when he blurted this out, half-joking, half-sighing.

The cliffhanger -- that juicy storytelling device that entranced Shahrz─üd's king, and today keeps TV viewers from "changing the dial" (or at least we try, we TV writers) -- supposedly got its moniker from Thomas Hardy's 1873 serial novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes. Chapters were published monthly, and to ensure readers picked up the next copy, he once left the hero literally hanging on a cliff. The technique was used extensively in the serial films of the silent era, most notably the 1914 blockbuster The Perils of Pauline -- every episode of which would end with the poor heroine Pearl White trapped with a villain (usually a pirate or a savage, i.e. Native American) promising death. Then at the beginning of the next episode she would somehow escape, then get trapped again, then escape again, get trapped, escape... etc. Poor woman, but apparently she was quite resourceful.

No doubt cliffhangers are fun to watch. Our hearts race, our knuckles whiten, we cringe in our seats -- and when the danger is past, we fly high on our hero or heroine's courage and oh, how it's incredible to be alive!

Maybe we even use some of that induced adrenaline to tackle our own lives, get through our own cliffhangers (those of us without that thrill-seeking gene). Because life, being unpredictable, is full of them. What will my next job be? Will the store be a hit? Will I ever get pregnant? Will my dad win the Green Card Lottery? Will Mark ever find the time to get his hair cut? And -- more so these days, on everyone's minds -- can I pay the rent on time? Will I ever get to retire? Will Obama really win the presidency -- and if he does, will he manage to live up to even half of his supporters' expectations?

Today, our main cliffhanger happens to be: will The Curious Palate pass the LADBS inspection? If it does -- the greenlight will launch us into the home stretch to the big open; the final construction, the hanging of all the lights, the installation of the dishwasher and other plumbing-related equipment, ALL hinges on one man's approval. If he doesn't...

To be continued...

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