Vacation: have to get away…

It’s August already. If I’m going to figure out some kind of summer break, I’d better get cracking. In March we were getting our hearts set on Nova Scotia by ferry, but that’s not going to happen. US residents aren’t even allowed in Canada at the moment. After all the time spent “resting”–not working much because all my shows and most of my students were canceled–I didn’t feel that I’d earned a vacation, but whether I’ve earned it or not, I need one. Just not quite certain of the form.

I’m not the biggest fan of beaches or hiking, at least not for more than a couple of hours at a time. Spa activities like massages and facials make me tense. Anything I do is going to have to be local: I lack the guts and budget to hop on a plane (or even a train).

I didn’t have a lot of formal vacations as a kid. Every couple of years my father would shoehorn the five of us and our books, toys, and suitcases into the car and drive from our home in Virginia to Texas, where my grandparents lived. Once we got to Dallas, it was too hot and bright for any activity but staying inside the house with the AC blasting, playing endless hands of canasta while my grandmother talked nonstop. At night, once the temperatures had declined to the low 90s, we went out for walks with my grandfather, but he had a heart condition, so we didn’t generally go far or fast.

The thing I enjoyed most about these vacations was the process of getting there. On the interstate, back when the posted speed limits could be as high as 85 MPH, our car rattled and shook like a roller coaster. It was fun to look up from my history book at the scenery, once we were off the interstate. Best of all, every night we would stay in a motel. Mostly these were the motels where you parked the car right outside your room, although every once in a while we had a room on an actual inside hallway. Motels full of the most wonderful things: coin-operated vibrating beds! ice machines! heavily chlorinated swimming pools!

My husband Dave grew up in Massachusetts. His family took vacations every year, mostly to the same campgrounds in New Hampshire or Cape Cod, sometimes to his grandparents’ place in Maine. There they would spend a couple of weeks doing vacation-land things: canoeing, hiking, mini golf, drive-in theaters, swimming. He remembers those days fondly, but we didn’t have much success in recreating them with Sonny. We did stay for a week in Cape Cod one year. It rained almost nonstop, although we did go to a drive-in movie one night and spent lots of time shopping in Wellfleet and Provincetown.

As a family traveling to new places and exploring them, especially cities, has been our favorite vacation strategy, and we’ve taken at least one or two trips most years. Plus all the weekends where we’ve gone on little road trips where the guiding principle is “what’s around that corner”?

My favorite is traveling to a new city, which feelsto me like opening a score. At first glance it’s a jumble of notes–streets, statues, houses, parks, docks, people, landscape, stores, buses, restaurants, museums. To make sense of them I set up base camp in the hotel, then get outside onto those strange streets, walking them, building structures in my head, adding detail and context and direction. Learning that music refreshes and organizes my brain.

I think, then, that a road trip may soothe the jumble in my head. This will probably be a small one, getting 50 miles away from home and hunting for intriguing corners. I’ll also take a small break from my weekend blogging–so, Dear Readers, I’ll see you in September. I hope you all have the chance for restful/restorative vacations before fall descends.

How about that upgrade?

The words I most dread to see on opening anything electronic: your device has been successfully updated. I’ve learned the hard way that updates can’t be ignored. With my last computer, I fell so far behind that at one point that I had to pay a bunch of money for the sneering staffers at our local computer store to get my machine running properly.

Even when I give my best effort to maintenance, I have something of a black thumb. Just ask the orchid in my living room. Placed in a bright but not sunny spot, fed one ice cube per week, just as the tag ordered, and it’s still shedding petals and drooping like a teenager in algebra class. That’s why I use the automatic updates function for all my houseplants…er, devices. The most required of me, theoretically, is an occasional reboot or closing a program or two. So why, after an update, is operating my device trickier? I have a theory…

********

…Corporate’s called another all-hands midnight meeting. Settings stands at the podium, taking attendance.

Gmail and Yahoo as always park themselves on opposite sides of the conference table. Gmail’s tie is crooked, his suit wrinkled. He knows he’s been letting too much junk through to Inbox, so many beautiful ladies and Nigerian princes offering favors. Already a couple of warnings in his file; he’s nervous he’s going to be in for another algorithm rehab. Yahoo, her hair and makeup on point, her pumps low and polished, wonders again why she’s still reporting to this schlub.

Settings sets the screen behind to a starry background, clicker ready to queue up the first slide. Thanks for coming, everyone. As you know from this morning’s memo, we are upgrading to Version 13.2. This should take anywhere from 70 seconds to four hours. I’m sure we will achieve even better synergy than we did last week with Version 13.15. Slide one: VERSION 13.2 in 42-point type, blotting out the stars. The attendees clap politely. Settings clicks to Agenda Item One.

Yahoo!

Yahoo starts. Could Gmail’s reckoning be here at last? “Yes, Ma’am?”

We’ll be locking you up until the operator reenters your password. Expect that you will have a volatile workload until she locates it.

Yahoo smiles through her disappointment. Gmail smirks at her. “Yes, Ma’am. Is this just for the files on this computer?”

Ha ha. No. You’ll be locked on the phone and iPad, too.

Settings turns her attention to the quiet, gray-haired lady in the back. Hoopla!

Hoopla puts down her library book with a sigh. “I was just at the good part.”

Just confirming that you will be shuffling bookmarks so that the operator will need to check at least 15 pages for her most recent stopping place.

“I’m on it!”

Oh, and make sure to do it more randomly this time. Last week, you just moved everything back one chapter. I expect a better work ethic from you.

Next up is Display, currently in night mode.

Settings approves. Keep yourself dimoh, and disable your controls, just for some extra fun, she tells him.

Systems moves briskly through the agenda items, all sixty-seven of them. Only Safari, engrossed in research about the latest conspiracy theory, misses Settings’ notes. It takes both Finder and Launchpad to wrestle him off the menu bar, but they finally manage it…

East-west tangent

Four months into the project to explore my town on foot, I’ve been backtracking a bit, revisiting favorite neighborhoods and catching some side streets I missed.  Saturday I returned to a development curled between Main Street and the highway.   The first pass was back in May.  Rain and hill-strained calves had led to a shorter walk than usual, and I’d skipped Army Street.  On Google maps, Army Street ended in a curious loop, rather like a bubble wand.  Intriguing.    

I parked behind the northernmost strip mall in town, the last before the exit to the highway.   The morning was overcast, temperature in the high 60s, with a breeze–almost chilly, a delight after a string of  horrible hot days.     

The neighborhood is built into the Blue Hills, which get their name due to looking blue from a sailor’s distance.  (That’s because they contain a lot of riebeckite, says Wikipedia.)   Large portions of the Blue Hills–much of the area just across the highway, in fact–have been designated parkland/nature preserve, and people swim, hike, bike, and even ski in them.        

I followed the central road east, going up a (mostly) gentle rise.  The hills’ contours here  been smoothed and graded for streets and houses. The highway noise blurred to something like ocean waves.   At the end of the central road I found Army Street.      

At first it was quite ordinary-looking.  Split-levels and small ranches, mostly.  Through the tree belt came silver flashes as pods of cars swam toward the city.    At the end of the street, at the loop, I found five McMansions in a semicircle.   It’s typical around here to find a grander, newer house or two on streets that dead-end (rather than terminate at another street).  The McMansions, all built in the 2000s, are larger than the average 1900s houses.  They almost universally feature a central front door beneath a large cathedral-style window (and sometimes a purely ornamental balcony), symmetrical sets of neat square windows upstairs and downstairs, and an attached two-car garage…  Some developer had managed to take another bite out of the Blue Hills.

But the center of the cul-de-sac contained a wonder: an island of wilderness.  Not huge, maybe 25 feet in diameter, but with big, climbable rocks, bushes, and trees, rising rather defiantly into the air.    I wished I could clamber up the rocks into the center, shinny up a tree, and see all the way to Boston.    

Definitely worth the revisit.

I turned west, took in a couple of new-to-me side streets, then came on Christy Lane, which I remembered…I wasn’t sure for what, though.   It was close to my car, so I took the street.  Memories flooded back.  In May it had been decorated end-to-end with sidewalk chalk,  down the middle of the street and spilling onto sidewalks and driveways.  Bright stars and butterflies, hearts and vines, messages of hope and encouragement and solidarity.  Signs in windows and on doors that echoed the words chalked on the street.  I’d never seen anything quite like it, and it made me feel happy.  

Christy Lane encompasses a single curving block.  Houses are set into the hill on the east side, with driveway-to-door stair-cased walks.  Houses on the west side of the street are on leveled ground.   It’s a street too old and too short for McMansions.  

In May, I remember feeling united with my fellow New Englanders in the fight against Covid-19, convinced that with some shared sacrifices things would sort out in just a few months.  We’d already been through almost two months of shutdown, so an end was surely in sight.   In August, the pavement on Christy Lane was black and bare.  The signs were gone from doors and lawns.  I wondered if rain had washed away the drawings, or if it had been too hot to have children out drawing on the pavement.   The summer flowers bloomed vibrantly and the air was sweet with the promise of rain, but my mood flagged as I walked past the neat, still houses.      

Then I rounded the bend and saw letters at the mouth of the lane.  A reminder writ big, the first thing residents must see when coming home.   The last thing I would see before going home.   “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the words said, ringed by hearts, flowers, vines and stars.    I want to see change in the world, but the future is so blank and bleary I can’t seem to fix on a vision.   Christy Lane hasn’t given up; maybe that resolute optimism can sharpen my eyes.  

Adulting

On Sunday, Sonny and his girlfriend Lisa held their weekly Facetime session.   I knew they were going to discuss apartments.  They always talk about apartments—their plan is to move in together, and they’ve been researching apartments since January.   This conversation, though, would be more substantial:  Sonny has finally accumulated two months’ worth of pay stubs from his job, as required on most apartment applications!  (Lisa already had hit the pay stubs requirement.)  That meant that an application for a move-in as early as September was now possible.

I had helped research some one-bedroom possibilities for September.  One-bedrooms here start around $1500/month and go up from there.  We had found several possibilities, and Sonny had sent the links to Lisa.

At the beginning of the summer, Sonny asked us how we felt about him moving out.  Did we want him to wait for a while, or was it okay if he left sooner?

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” said my husband Dave, “but if you moved out tomorrow, we would be ecstatic.”

Sonny grinned.

“As long as you could afford it,” I said.

We went over the numbers with Sonny and determined he’d be able to manage an apartment, although things would be tight.   He has no student or car debt, he’s still on our health insurance, and right now he’s on our phone bill as well.   His bank account is pretty healthy, as he’s been saving for an apartment for close to a year.     

By the time we were Sonny’s age, both Dave and I were on our own.   Separately, of course—we wouldn’t meet for a few years, as Dave lived in Massachusetts and I lived in Illinois—but we were living in apartments, working, paying our rent and other bills, etc.  As the young-uns would say, we were “adulting.”    We had long had a dream that Sonny would be able to support himself and live independently.

Adulting as the Millennials use the term combines wistfulness and sarcasm.   Gen Xers and Boomers, carrying on the tradition of parents and grandparents the world over, paint succeeding generations as whiny, entitled, childish, demanding.   In defense, Millennials often note that despite the complaints, they’re adulting away: paying bills, doing chores, moving out of their parents’ place, etc.     

I agree with Millennials that it’s harder to adult in the 2020s than it was in the 1980s and ‘90s.  College produces way more debt, and rents and other expenses—health insurance, car insurance—continue to rise much faster than wages.    My first post-college apartment, a large studio in a decent neighborhood in Chicago, cost $250/month, heat included.    My college debt, at $75/month, was far from crippling.   

Way back at the beginning of the pandemic, before things were shut down,  Lisa and Sonny had toured their dream unit in an apartment complex a couple of miles away from our house.   Lisa’s frustration has grown visibly over the summer as the dream apartment was rented, then other units became available and were rented before she and Sonny were ready to apply.    I hoped she was happy with the possibilities Sonny and I had found.     

A couple of hours later I found Sonny in the living room, watching an old MST3K episode.  “How did it go?” I asked.  “Did Lisa like any of the apartments?”  

His face was set and sad.  “Lisa said she talked to her aunt, and they realized she can’t afford it.  Her car insurance and student loan payments are too high.”  Like Sonny, she is a college graduate; like Sonny, she has a degree in an industry, music, which has been killed by COVID.  Like Sonny, due to an economy that’s gone sideways, Lisa is stuck working at a near-minimum-wage job.

My heart sank.  This would be hard for them to process.  Sonny and Lisa are both on the spectrum, where expectations and routines can get set firmly, so managing disappointment can be tough.

“So for now you’re going to put the apartment on hold?”  I ask.

“For a while.  Not forever.”

We make plans to talk more about when an apartment can be possible on Sunday, during Facetime.    I’m glad that Sonny and Lisa aren’t going to give up on their dream.   They’ll just plan a little farther out.  There are lots of ways to adult.

 

The unbearable thought

I just got my first hair cut in six months.   Three stylists, widely spaced chairs, and only a couple of customers.  My stylist did a great job at negotiating around the mask straps when working at the hair near my ears.    I complimented her and then we traded mask-scoffer stories.

I’m out for a morning walk and at least six people pass me, none of them wearing masks, which I get, but also none of them moving over to the other side of the sidewalk.   And several made a point of greeting me.  Freaked me out.  

“They probably figured it was fine because it was outdoors and you were wearing a mask,” said the stylist.

That doesn’t do anything to protect me from them!   

“When people are outdoors they think the wind blows the germs away.”  Then she told me about going to a park over the weekend and seeing two teams of kids playing baseball.    “None of the kids in masks, which I understand.  But the parents were bunched in the stands, and maybe one of them was wearing a mask.  Ridiculous.”

Nobody wants to think of themselves as Typhoid Mary.

Mary Mallon emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1884.  She was 15, and at first she worked as a housemaid.  Eventually she made her way to the much better paid position of cook (more than twice the salary).  By 1900 she was working for some of the wealthiest households in New York.   Mary must have been a good cook.  Even though she often changed jobs, leaving whenever disease broke out in one of her households—without giving notice or leaving a forwarding address—she kept getting hired by bankers and lawyers and other upper crusties.

Last week, I visited an ATM in one of those standalone booths.   A guy—mid 50s, white hair, vigorous—came out of the booth.  No mask.  He held the door for me and said, loudly, “Hi, how are you doing today?”   I mumbled an answer and slipped past him,  into the booth where this man had been exhaling whatever germs he may have for some minutes, a booth where the air is stale and still.      

Mary Mallon, soon to be known as Typhoid Mary, was always convinced that she was fleeing disease, not spreading it. The idea of healthy carriers was nascent in the early twentieth century, and the germ theory of disease was also relatively new.   Tracked down and accused by the investigator George Soper, she denied the possibility and ran him off with a carving fork.  Soper persisted, and in 1907, Mary was arrested and forcibly tested for typhoid, then quarantined on North Brother Island for almost three years.

After a lengthy, slow decline in cases, down to 19 active, my town added 24 new cases in eight days, as of August 8.   This is necessary but frightening information.  We have 68 dead and more than 800 resolved cases, and now we’ve almost doubled the actives.  And I keep seeing more people without masks.  (Not in stores.  You have to be masked up to enter a store under state law. )  But outside: way more people without masks.   Maybe not surprising, given the heat wave we’ve had.

Mary felt healthy.   She didn’t trust the test results of the doctors and never changed her opinion that the people in her households were getting sick because of contaminated water or bad food.   Nevertheless, she spent nearly three years in quarantine.  In 1910, in order to be released, she agreed not to work as a cook.  She tried, taking the pay cut and working for a while as a laundress.  Within a couple of years, though, she returned to being a cook, using false names like Mary Brown and spreading sickness.   That’s how they tracked her, following the typhoid cases.  In 1915, she was was returned to quarantine on North Brother Island and spent the rest of her life there, dying in 1938.

Mary never accepted that she infected anyone.  She never believed she needed treatment.   The doctors couldn’t convince her.   We tend to think Typhoid Mary is lying here, that she kept working as a cook because she just didn’t care.   At a minimum, she infected 122 people with typhoid fever, with five of those infections proving fatal.  The actual numbers are probably much higher.   My hunch is that it was just too terrible to accept the doctors’ verdict that she was the source of so much sickness and death.   And maybe, doctors being the way they are, nobody bothered to explain things to her.  Nobody wants to be Typhoid Mary.    

On my way home from the haircut, the back of my neck feels delightfully cool.  I’ve wanted a trim for so long.  Even though it’s probably mildly risky to sit in the salon, masked, for a half hour, I needed this—that’s one of the reasons I laid down a 40% tip for the stylist, sheer gratitude.  There they are, my own rationalizations: I needed it, it’s only moderately risky, I’m paying extra.   Just like those of the people who refuse to wear masks because it’s too painful to acknowledge the possibility that they could be a death vector.    So easy to find mental workarounds involving inaccurate tests and political ploys, to assert that people will know if they’re sick, that that the virus is no big deal for many.  Also we can’t ignore what we all know:  people still have to make the rent.

I don’t know how the doctors tried to convince Typhoid Mary to change her ways and whether she could respond to the information with dignity.  It doesn’t seem that she was offered much help with her bills.   Officials today need to figure out how to get all of us potential Typhoid Marys doing the right things without shame, and without wrecking our finances.    I don’t know how they’ll do it—they don’t seem to be trying hard, in some places—but it needs doing.

Tea at the clubhouse

Saturday’s in charge, so they do chores.

“Busy work,” snarls Friday as he balances a teetering pile of boxes outside the clubhouse to the recycling bin.  He should be glad of the exercise–his gut is pushing uncomfortably into his belt–but his head is still pounding.    Saturday glances his way, so he moves a little faster.  She jots a note on her clipboard.  The mask over her mouth and nose makes it hard to read her expression, but Friday knows she won’t let herself or any of them quit until the to-dos are done.

The recycling bin’s already half full.  The Days get lots of packages, more than before.  Friday clears out the styrofoam and plastic packing materials and breaks each box into strips.  Out of Saturday’s sightline, he can take his time.  He could use the box cutter, but it’s more satisfying to rip the cardboard.  His hangovers feel worse, now that there’s nowhere to go, but steam to blow.   He wants a better regret than eating the full rack of ribs, drinking too much craft beer, and dozing off during a Bourne marathon.

In the final box, underneath masses of crumpled paper he feels something solid.   What the heck?

Sunday’s making a pot of tea for a break.  Real tea based on an online tutorial.  Her siblings hadn’t been enthusiastic about crowding the kitchen counter with yet another gadget, but Sunday ordered an electric kettle anyway, along with a teapot and cozy.   Cozy like yoga pants, which she lives in these days.   No more brunches or gym visits.  Back in the day she said she’d be happy for a life spent in yoga pants, and she feels bound by those words.

Saturday fuels her days with iced coffee, and Monday has already had a couple of espressos this morning, but Sunday’s sure they’ll still want a break from vacuuming and dusting and all the rest.  Wednesday and Friday will eat anything she puts in front of them, as long as there are no visible vegetables.   Tuesday will want sugar, and Thursday will be curious, at the least.

The electric kettle takes forever to heat the water to the desired temperature, but Sunday tries to be patient.  She packs loose tea into the tea ball and warms the teapot before setting the tea to steep.  What a lot of steps this involves, compared to a teabag.   She dumps cookies on a tray and sets mugs on the kitchen island, taking one of the six stools surrounding it.

The timer shrills.  “Tea time!”

Monday stacks two cookies and pours herself a tiny cup.  She’s lost weight over the past few  months, always worried about what the workweek has in store.   Her bangs are crooked–she cut them herself, and her flip-flops are peeling.  From the ankles through forehead, though, she is all business, her blouse pressed, her makeup done.   “Oh, you got the chocolate this time?”

“It was literally the only box on the shelf,” says Saturday, sanitizing her hands. “You never know what’s going to be in stock.”

“Chocolate’s my favorite,” says Wednesday, dribbling crumbs.

Saturday takes a cookie, no tea, and retreats a safe distance from her siblings before she pulls down her mask.

Wednesday swipes another cookie; he’s already had three.  He hopes Monday and Sunday keep sniping at each other.  Boss babes, the both of them.  He wouldn’t mind seeing them get into a bigger dustup.  Even if it didn’t clear the air it might make life more interesting for a bit.  And Wednesday is so bored.

Thursday sniffs suspiciously at the tea and turns up her delicate nose.  She twitches her whiskers and jumps to the floor.

“Should you let her on the counter?” asks Tuesday.    She pushes her hair–frizzed in the humid summer air, roots growing out–behind her ears.   A little tea has splashed from the cup to the saucer to her blouse, joining a couple of other unnoticed stains.

“She’s still our sister,” says Sunday.

“Look what I found!” Friday, too excited to bother about tea or cookies, plops his discovery onto the center of the island.

“Not too close to the food!” warns Sunday, but they all crowd round regardless.   Even Saturday moves in for a closer look.

It’s a picture of them from New Year’s Eve, 2019, blown up to 11 x 14, in a silver frame.  There’s a whole week of holiday between Christmas and New Year’s, so everybody’s dressed up.

The clubhouse is filled with streamers, banners, and balloons and packed with their friends.  There are the Months, eating their way through the hors d’oeuvres, plus some AM pals of Saturday’s and Sunday’s (this was back when Saturday had more to do on her day than chores and risky shopping).  There’s that PM that Friday was so crazy about for a while…Off to the left, there are the Seconds, in perfect harmony, counting down the final bits of the year.

“Oh I remember…this was the one we had framed for the picture wall,” says Sunday.  “Didn’t Wednesday send it off?”

“I think Tuesday did it.”

“Back in January!” says Tuesday.

Everyone looks so happy!  Thursday in sequins, smiling over her champagne, Friday in a tuxedo, his arm around that PM.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, their arms locked, Saturday with her nails done and her hair in a French twist, Sunday in a modestly shocking dress, not even thinking about the resolutions.

The Days drink their tea and complain:  delivery times these days, shocking, you never know when your order’s going to arrive.  Tracking numbers just set up unreasonable expectations.  Also they wonder how the picture got overlooked in that week’s packages.

Thursday knows, but she’ll never tell.  She gets into every box, clawing at the edges, wiggling inside, finding a shelter within the gray present.

 


Author’s note: This blog was inspired by a writing prompt from Reedsyprompts (blog.reedsy.com).

Poor Amanda…

My novel keeps getting stuck.  I go confidently for a few pages and then for no apparent reason I’m firing off in every direction and all movement ceases.   It reminds me of trying to make a left turn in my mom’s Ford Pinto while I was learning to drive a stick.  Each limb had one simple function—clutch, gas, steer, shifter—but coordination there was none.  Yet again I’d be waving angry drivers around me as I sat, stalled, in the middle of the intersection.   Although my novel isn’t bursting without warning into flames, as so many Pintos tended to, neither has it clicked into gear.

I can bull through with a few forced words every day.   Or start at a different point in the story and worry about the transitions later.  Or rewrite with some tweaks.  Or give up, start a new project.   Giving up often seemed the right thing to do with the Pinto, especially when I’d park it somewhere for an hour and come back to find the engine wouldn’t turn over.

 I’ve gone with the rewrite with tweaks strategy for now.  Tweak number one is to change from a first-person point of view (POV) to a multiple third-person POV.  

Sorry, Amanda.    

Amanda is my central character.  She’s almost 15,  caught up in two worlds that she doesn’t yet understand.   Amanda’s head is an interesting place, but it’s also sometimes a sulky and blinkered teenage hellhole.   I like it there, but sometimes I suspect my readers could use a break.  There are also important things happening that she doesn’t know about that we need to see.      

There are no hard and fast rules for POV; it just has to work with the story.  Third person POV is maybe the most flexible since there are so many varieties.  Omniscient third-person where the narrator knows all gives a sense of space and grandeur.  Single or multiple third-person viewpoints, especially rotating ones where the characters know and interact with each other, can make for a story that is fascinating and kaleidoscopic.    

Only a few writers (in my opinion) have mastered the art of fictional second-person POV.  A lot of us are chicken to try it.  “You” fiction is tough to manage, as its tone can recall the urgent hectoring of an advertiser or parent…you need these sunglasses…you don’t want to spoil your dinner… It’s easy to turn off the reader.            

Good old first-person POV, as I’ve been using in this blog and in my book, has an immediacy and draw.  It’s fun spending time inside someone’s head.  The drawbacks of second-person don’t seem to apply to first-person accounts,  maybe because we’re constantly talking to others, all of us using “I,” so it’s easier to process a first person narrative I as talking to us, not directing us.  However, there’s always the danger of the reader starting to feel stuck with this person, as well as the question of whether the central character needs to be the I-narrator.      

Detective fiction has wrestled with this issue, with interesting results.   (My story isn’t a detective one, but there are puzzles to be solved, so there are commonalities.). The writers who’ve created master detectives—those who have a superior command of logic, deduction, psychology, etc.—almost always chose first person narrators who are not the grand detective.   They are nosy friends (Hastings, Dr. Watson), employees (Archie Goodwin), or people who happen to be involved in the case.    These I-narrators can be avatars for the reader.  They indiscriminately note the details, true clues and red herrings, and opine on the suspects and the case.  They study the great detective and require him to explain his conclusions.   In another kind of detective story, more noirish, first person detective is a good choice because solving the puzzle is relatively incidental; more important are the perils and quirks of the investigation and the character of the detective as she navigates the dangers.

The proof will be in the prose.   I’ve started the third-person rewrite, and things are moving.   As to direction, we’ll have to see.  When the Pinto would fail to start from its parking place, all was not lost.  If the car could be push-started—say, by releasing the parking brake and letting it drift down a hill—once a little momentum built up, a turn of the key would set the engine purring into life and then the Pinto would go along fabulously to wherever I chose.   For a while.