Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Official Reason I Have Not Been Posting

Tonight I was at a birthday party and got the question, "Hey, why haven't you blogged?" It was my friend's mom who I'd forgotten had been a regular visitor...

When I started this blog, almost two years ago, I'd already been thinking about it for at least that long. One of the reasons I hesitated is that I didn't want to be one of those people who just stopped posting. It was one of my main peeves in a reading blogs. So I made an effort to post every five or six days. And I did that for the good part of those two years.

Then I stopped. I've turned into one of those people.

But with good reason. I have stopped because I am working on my manuscript. Truly. I'm more than half way through my fourth draft and with the new job eating away at formerly unlimited free time (not that I'm complaining about having a steady income...) I honestly do not have the head space to do both right now.

So if you've been one of the lovely people who continue to check in on me, I will return.

...especially when Oscar season begins...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thoughts While Driving...

So it's been a while. I know that.

And I miss it, the blogging, but quite frankly it's boring to talk about. However, I am surprised to find myself stopping short of writing every time I think of something. Of course much of it has to do with starting the new job. And I'm happy to yield my creative energies in that direction for a little while. But at some point I'm sure to find myself chomping at the bit.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts that have not quite made it into full-blown explorations.

- The other night I was driving home and came across the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". I laughed because I can remember thinking, as a kid, that the Devil totally won that competition. Listening now, it's clear that the Devil's piece was heavily reliant upon his back up band and all he really does is screech the bow menacingly back and forth across the strings. On the other hand, it was the 1970s I felt Johnny's solo seemed very old-fashioned-y hillbilly cornpone. It is now quite obvious that Johnny was the more technically adept fiddle player.

- Likewise, I heard Duran Duran and was reminded of another time when I was sure of what I believed, only to laugh now. I was at a slumber party for a youth organization I was involved in. The age range of the girls in attendance was eleven to sixteen, which makes for an interesting mix, but I was in the younger girl group and we simply thought it was cool that the older girls still (if somewhat begrudgingly) wanted to hang around with us. Anyway, we were watching Friday Night Videos (the poor man's MTV) and Hungry Like the Wolf came on. We were enthralled. Toward the end of the video there is a very explicit scene of a couple kissing, with prevalent tongue action. One of my friends let out an "Eww" and a few of us responded in kind. Looking over at the couch, I caught the eye of one of the sixteen year olds who, with arms folded, half rolled her eyes and said, "In a few years you'll like all of it and it'll all be just fine..."

- I bought a new car, which means I said goodbye to the Jeep. I kind of feel bad since at the end it was more like a good riddance (what with the gummy mess of tape from the roof stuck to my arm all day long and the miserably hot summer with no A/C). But there will be some day when I will miss it - the howdy-do waves from young men, the ease in parallel parking (okay, so I will admit I have not yet grown comfortable doing this in the new Nissan...) the general hipness it seemed to evoke in perfect strangers. But alas, when I gathered my last stray CD from it's crumb-covered floor and swung the door shut, I felt pretty satisfied.

- I am off on another adventure, leaving tomorrow to meet up with friends from graduate school in Vail, and remembering that I went out almost a year ago to help the friend with said house prepare it for ski season. I am eager to return to the lush countryside of Colorado and stand in awe of its vast beauty.

Okay, so that wasn't so hard. Now I've just got to find a way to sustain it...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Ficus That Loves Me

While moving into my apartment in Grandview in the fall of 1996, I was out at one of the big box stores, buying light bulbs or returning the wrong size window blinds (or something equally errand-y), when I impulse-bought a small potted ficus tree.

I knew nothing of plants. Even having grown up the daughter of an avid gardener, my knowledge and experience was embarrassingly low. Still, something compelled me and I heaved it into my cart filled with items for my new place.

Over the years, I've bought other plants, a spider plant here, an adopted aloe plant there. But they never lasted. The cat ate one, another simply refused to grow roots and could be lifted in and out of the pot at will, and another required more water than I could consistently remember to provide. But ficus has thrived.

It survived my time at COSI (where I worked 18-hour days for two solid months and once left glass from a shattered ceiling fan on my bedroom floor for four days). It survived the move to my home where I placed it in the middle of the large picture window, with the same sun it received in the apartment. At Christmas, I adorn it with a single strand of lights and top it with a Santa hat left over from college.

What I love most about the tree is it's gentle forgiveness. It doesn't require me to work for its reward. When I remember to prune it back, tiny leaves grow in and impress me; when I don't, it doesn't punish me. The other day, my friend Brooke, while waiting on me to go for a walk, wondered allowed if maybe the pot was too small. It took me a week and a half of thinking about it, purchasing (and then returning) a pot way too big, and inquiring about the right type of potting soil, but I finally got the plant settled into it's new digs.

Tonight I spread out newspaper and carefully went about my first-ever plant transplant. I've seen my mother perform dozens of these over the years and never once considered its point beyond an obligated task. But it felt good to do something for my ficus. A long over-due thank you of sorts.

Makes me consider getting another plant. But I probably won't anytime soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Running to Stand Still

In a few hours a mini-van filled with writers will arrive in my driveway and swoop me away for a long weekend of reading and writing and generalized mixture of comraderie and solitude.

I've been looking forward to it all week. Well, longer than that, but the anticipation has ramped up considerably in tandem with a busy schedule full of unknowns.

It's no secret that I've been looking for consistent work for quite some time. For my whole adult life it sometimes seems, but, of course that's not quite an accurate perspective, just how I feel in the moment. However, in the past week, I've been in the early first-interview stages of three opportunites with great potential. As I've been busy juggling all of the proverbial balls and exhausting myself with the "what if" game, I've been itching to get my butt in on a porch swing and comb over comments from my manuscript.

The retreat place is a large former "hunting cabin" set up with a large living space and several small rooms with single beds and sinks. There is a large kitchen and dining area for leisurely meals, and, best of all, that sprawling back porch overlooking a creek. Last year we spent most of our time on that porch; quite a sight, all those open laptops among the trees.

But first I need to finish my lengthy to-do list...

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Domestic Life of Actors

Last night I had the great fortune to score free "media tickets" for the touring show of Wicked, seated in the same section as local celebs like Colleen Marshall and Jym Ghanahl (my first real "press perk"). I had written an article for (614) in which I interviewed one of the actors, Justin Brill who plays the Munchkin-turned-Tin-Man, Boq, so I was excited to place headshot with a live person. I'd spoken to him on the phone about a month ago, where he was at home in Manhattan.

Between scenes of the show at the Ohio, I started to wonder how Brill might be enjoying Columbus so far. Which got me to thinking about the lives of actors, or really, the unconventional life of the professional artist.

When I 23 I spent one year in up-state New York working as a literary apprentice at a regional theater. While I had grown up being involved in drama and earned a bachelor's degree in theater, this was my first exposure to people who made their living in the arts. Most of our actors had moved to New York City to pursue acting only to end up spending months and months out of the year at various cities in the Midwest. This because all of the regional theaters from all over the country (not to mention the various touring groups) all audition in NYC.

So these actors, some in their 20s but most in their 30s and 40s, took up residence in a block of apartments rented by the theater and did their best to maintain their version of "daily life" on the road. Because I was young, I was only able to see them through a veil of idealized envy. They were, after all, getting paid for things me and my friends were doing for free to fill the balance of the monotonous job-job. They were all so cool, haning out each night in the cabaret after shows, drinking wine, smoking, telling amusing stories about their minor celebrity encounters in the business. They had a worldy wisdom that was intoxicating.

What I began to realize was a sort of fast-track emotional existence. Relationships of all kinds seemed to come quickly and easily. And then they were gone and on to the next gig. In some ways, this seemed exciting, something I found it difficult to grasp as I collected addresses and intended sincere continuations of my connections.

What I didn't realize until many years later was the inherent complexity of their lives. Many were divorced, a few had children that required much coordinating to either see or have with them. For them, there was no coming home at the end of the day and settling into a couch with a loved one or putting children to bed.

In my Wicked phone interview with Brill, he mentioned having just gotten married. "How does that work?" I asked, perhaps a little too pessimistically. "We're lucky," he said. "My wife happens to be the dance captain of this particular tour. That almost never happens."

I've seen many people who make it work, who manage to work out the tedious details to manage the conventions that ground them while that urgently pursue the passions they need in order to function properly in the world. All without the promise that any of it will pay off in any sort of tangible way.

But I thank them. From the bottom of my music-loving, theatre-appreciating, film-obsessed heart.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Old School Ode #8 - The Significance of Rick Springfield on the Development of the 12 Year Old Girl in 1982

I do not have air conditioning in my Jeep. Luckily, I have my Dad's spare truck parked in my driveway for those days when rolled-down windows and bundled-up hair will just not cut it.

That vehicle has a tape deck. As much as I like the radio, I can only go so long before I feel the need to control what I am listening to. So I've taken to rummaging through my box of abandoned cassettes in my basement.

Which is how I've come to be listening to Rick Springfield's "Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet" almost non-stop for the past week.

To go on about how Springfield was a huge star in 1982 would be a redundant waste of time. Even those who don't care could not argue this point. What intrigues me now, however, is just how spot-on Springfield was in appealing to an almost exclusively prepubescent female audience, given he was in his thirties at the height of his popularity. One could argue this is creepy, but I'd like to try to give Springfield the benefit of a thorough consideration.

Let's start with the album cover of Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet:

I won't say it looks like something a twelve year old girl could pull off, but it absolutely appeals almost exclusively to that demographic. Anyone who ever picked up a Teen Beat in 1982 knew that Springfield had a dog named Ron. That he loved this dog enough to put him on one album cover (Working Class Dog) is one thing, but to bring him back and be humbled enough to eagerly play man-servant to said dog? That's altogether something else. Throw in the pink and the poodles and the silly posturing, you're not going to win over the Van Halen crowd.

I would imagine all teen idol types are under some sort of pressure to consistently appeal to the throngs of screaming girls. But unlike the guys in the Beatles who longed (rightfully so) to shed their teenybopper image, or George Michael's hidden-in-plain-sight homosexuality, Springfield's songs seemed a genuine expression of his inner landscape. I would imagine it might have been confusing as an artist to recognize a common maturity level between he and his audience, but he never seemed to fight this or condescend.

Springfield uses the terms "girl" a lot to describe the women in his songs. This might be offensive if he didn't also seem to refer to himself as a "boy." He has a song called "How Do You Talk To Girls" that is almost embarrassingly earnest in its longing to understand the opposite sex. How he manages to not sound like an emotionally stunted man-boy is astonishing.

Likewise, there is a song called "April 24, 1981" the title referring simply to the date of his father's death. The song is short, perhaps not even a minute, and the lyrics are simple

I know all your life you've wondered / About that step we all take alone / How far does the spirit travel on a journey / You must surely be near heaven / And it thrills me to the bone / To know Daddy knows the great Unknown.

Girls all over the world, girls who had never known one bit of loss in their lives, collectively wept over this song. While I had my musical crushes (forever having to point out Johnathon Cain from the Teen Beat centerfold Journey posters...) I was never the overt screamer. But there was something about Springfield that made it easy to fall for him. He appealed to many types of girls - the quiet, the pretty, nerdy, even the tough girls. At my school there were a trio of girls who were known for their allegiance to wearing black t-shirts featuring the icons of rock - Rush, the Doors and Ozzy - who were hard-core Rick devotees.

Perhaps I am overlooking the obvious charge that Springfield's songs were better than everyone gave him credit for. Should they be compared to even the pantheon of classic pop songs? Probably not, but as I strain to listen to my almost thirty-year-old thinly worn tape, I realize how easy it is to simply soak in the songs that I am not listening to for simply sentimental reasons.

I saw Springfield in concert when I was thirteen, fourteen, and twenty-seven. Going to the latter show, I worried that I had become like those middle-aged ladies you hear about going to see Tom Jones. But it was a huge crowd of all kinds of people - women as well as men, suburbanites and urban hipsters alike - all hovering around thirty at the time, all there to celebrate what we loved about Rick Springfield.

And he seemed genuinely proud that we'd finally come of age...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

CAPA Summer Movie Series: The Love Affair Continues...

If I am remembering correctly, last year, I had at least a couple posts professing my profound love for the Summer Movie Series that takes place at the Ohio Theater.

Every year, when I pick up the flyer (that I promptly tape to the door in my home office) I immediately scour the list, picking out about ten films I'd really like to see. I eventually had to learn to accept the fact that schedule conflicts and unforeseen circumstances would ultimately get in the way.

Setting the bar low (at one showing per summer) I learned I could congratulate myself if I exceeded that. Last year I saw three - The Day the Earth Stood Still, South Pacific, and Wings, the latter taking its place as my favorite CAPA Summer Movie Series viewing of all time (which is saying a lot considering I saw Gone With the Wind in 1980 when Columbus experienced a minor earthquake that shook the one-ton chandelier above our heads...)

See - for that post...

I am proud to report that this year, I have well exceeded my minimal expectations with my fifth show last night. There are four more left, and I have plans to see two of them next week. Usually, my desire to be "cultured" is thwarted by my default "middlebrow" tastes. But I have come to recently appreciate art produced before my lifetime.

I will wait until the series is over before I comment individually on each movie. But, so far, there has not been a dud in the bunch.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Palms Up!

Ten years ago, I was involved in a car accident that broke my arm in two places and required plates and screws. After a follow-up surgery almost a year later, considerable scar tissue built up, causing an unusual disability in my right hand.

I could not turn my right hand palm up.

Which you wouldn't think would be that big of a deal. And, all things considered, it's not. However, not being able to put my hand in that position often caused pain because some ancient muscle memory would suddenly want to turn in a way it couldn't. I also couldn't lift certain things because I couldn't get my hand up underneath something like, say, a table. Or when people say, "Put out your arms" and then load them up with things. I couldn't do that (but I can hardly complain about the "Sorry, I can't help you carry that heavy load," I was kinda glad to see my heavy-lifting days behind me...)

Anyway, the other day I was driving and noticed that I was gripping the steering wheel from below, something I have not been able to do for ten years. At first, I thought it was a fluke, that I was in some position where I'd always had range of motion. Once I got to my destination, I stood next to my car and flipped my palms up. It worked. I did it again, then again with increasing excitement (not realizing until late how ridiculous I must have looked to passing traffic.)

A week later, I am still intrigued by this latest, literal, breakthrough. I believe what has happened is that some of the scar tissue that had caused the hindrance has, after all of this time, broken up enough to allow me range of motion. I'm fairly certain of this as I can hear an accompanying crunching sound while flailing my hands about.

I'm sure there is some kind of metaphor that could go along with this, about some balance between acceptance and perseverance or the like. I'm just happy for the improvement.

Until I start getting calls to help people move...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Considering the Guinea Pig

While I recently crossed the country for a pet-sitting gig, watching after a charmingly dim dog and a pair of low-maintenance cats, I'm not what one would call a "pet person." Perhaps this is due to the notion of how much energy it takes to raise one consistently drilled into my brain by my mother.

When I was a child, I was one of those kids who visited the elderly neighbors on a regular basis, finding some sort of specific comfort in the alien nature of their ancient knick-knacks and seemingly constant viewing of Lawrence Welk. And they had dogs, of the appropriately low-key variety. I loved these dogs and would have sworn at the time that they loved me, although looking back I can see how my exuberance (and tendency to want to dress them or cart them around in a wagon) was surely only tolerated.

I did, for a few months, have the only pet of my childhood, a hamster named Hammy (I know, an embarrassingly common name coming from such a creative child...) I pawed at that thing constantly, taking him out into the backyard, plopping him into the basket of my bicycle, wheeling at top speed down the alley while he poked his head out of the top, gripping on for dear life. It never once occurred to me what I might do if he suddenly jumped or flew out.

Anyway, I am reminded of all of this because I agree to pet-sit for my friend's daughter's guinea pig.

So Cookie and I have been co-habitating since Wednesday evening. She requires even less care than I had initially thought (which I'll admit was minimal), but her presence makes it impossible for me not to consider the life of a guinea pig.

If you don't already know, they don't seem to do much.

At first, I thought it was because they live in such tiny cages. That maybe they would somehow, with more space, be inclined to run and frolic.

But this doesn't seem to be the case.

So I went to the research. According to Wikipedia, "their strongest problem-solving strategy is motion. While guinea pigs can jump small obstacles, they are poor climbers, and are not particularly agile. They startle extremely easily, and will either freeze in place for long periods of time or run for cover with rapid, rapid, darting motions when they sense danger."

Yep. That seems to be more Cookie's style, perpetually darting into her purple plastic igloo whenever I enter the room. Which I find unfortunate, but it's not like I'm out to become some sort of rodent-whisperer. It would be nice to know that this animal had a pleasant visit, but essentially job is to make sure the pets aren't injured or die while their owners are out of town. Which is why I guess they make good pets for young children. That, and they're awfully cute.

Still, knowing it just sits there for hours upon hours, staring out into the cage from her igloo, kinda freaks me out...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Afraid of the Sea

Corine Bailey Rae is a singer-songwriter who had a couple of modest hits from her eponymous debut record that came out in 2006. The first was a simple acoustic "Like a Star" that she performed at the 2007 Grammys in an elegant cocktail dress and no shoes, perched on a stool with only a guitar for accompaniment. The second was a old-school R&B-inspired "Put Your Records On" that ended up in the background of a lot of films and television episodes that year.

So I've been a fan.

When I heard she was releasing a follow-up disc entitled The Sea, I was rightfully excited. Until I learned it was heavily influenced by the recent death of her husband, who had died of an accidental drug overdose. Whoa, I thought. That's certainly not going to be light and playful like the others. I was intrigued, but not ready.

A few weeks passed and I was gearing up for a road trip and in need of some new, unfamiliar music. I browsed iTunes and came across The Sea. I downloaded it. In my car, I listened to the first few bars of the first track, got impatient because it didn't sound like the other, and moved on to something else. Truth is, I was scared of subject matter. I thought to myself, do I really want to risk interrupting my emotionally-neutral driving jag absorbing the artistic fallout of someone else's grief. The answer was no. And so I opted for the other music I'd recently downloaded - the Kinks, Kelly Clarkson, John Mayer, and the Black Keys. Talented folk, but nothing seemingly pre-loaded about listening.

Which got me thinking about my own manuscript.

I'll admit, as proud as I am of my progress, and as much as I feel mine is an important tale to tell, I constantly feel like I dance around uncomfortably when someone who doesn't know me asks (usually prompted by my open laptop at a bar or coffee shop) "So what's your manuscript about?" Explaining that my brother died and that it is an exploration into, not only that, but my family's response to the untimely or unusual illness in our family, usually grinds the once-light conversation to a frosty halt. It doesn't help when I over compensate by attempting to explain that it is also about the bonds of family and friendship and love, and also contains a fair amount of humor and pop culture references.

Which it does, but really, the light (or enlightening) exchange they may have been looking for is gone. Not quite like chatting it up with the person behind you in line at the grocery store, only to have them tell you they've had an abortion (this revealed before you've placed the last items of your cart onto the conveyor), but there is a considerable, immediate weight to the exchange that I cannot escape.

Getting back to the Corinne Bailey Rae, I was out pulling weeds in my yard the other day, listening to my iPod on shuffle, when an unfamiliar song came up. Usually when this happens, it means the song is one of those "duds" from an album download and causes me to bump it to the next offering. But this song, from the very beginning was this sultry tune undercut with a funky beat, and heavy on the B12 organ. A perfect new-but-sounds-old song.

I put down my trimmers, pulled off my gloves and checked to see how something so good could have gotten onto my iPod without my knowledge. It was "The Blackest Lily" by Rae, a track from "The Sea." It was then that I had done the same thing to her piece of art that I pre-accuse potential readers of doing to mine, assuming it will be too raw or heartbreaking to take. And perhaps it is. Perhaps my whole effort will end up being little more than an extended therapeutic exercise.

But I hope not.

In the meantime, I've openly re-examined Rae's "The Sea." I'm still not a fan of the opening track, and I don't love it in the same way I did her debut. But I'm no longer scared of entering into it based on my pre-conceived notions of how I think someone who has lost a spouse to drug abuse might approach a piece of art.

And I've been jamming out constantly to "The Blackest Lily" despite the fact that I have no idea what it means...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can Art Save Us?

So it's been a while since I've blogged.

And I've missed it.

More than I could have imagined.

What's been more interesting is the notion of how not writing for a few days has made me kinda, well, crazy. Perhaps more unsettled and discombobulated more than anything, but still. It's been kinda like what I imagine it means for someone to go off their meds. I don't mean to diminish the affect of medication for serious psychological issues, but it doesn't feel too far off on some level. I get all weepy and feel sorry for myself and don't want to go places and generally am not so fun to be around... Which is unfortunate for everyone (including me) because on my better days, I'm a pretty happy, insightful gal.

So why haven't I been writing? A couple of reasons. One, I just finished another draft of my manuscript and felt the need to take a mental rest while I wait for comments from a few smart readers. Also, I've been feeling the need to ramp up my job search considerably, endlessly combing the bowels of the internet for opportunities that match my unusual experience and skill set. Not that I think this is a bad idea, and it certainly has reduced my stress-level in that area. However, at the end of the day, the tangible outcome is difficult to qualify. I come to believe that halting the writing process is the more "responsible" thing to do, that it is something that I can come back to once I get myself "settled."

What I fail to realize, again and again, is just how unsettled I become. Ah, the irony. And it always takes me more than a few days of flailing to realize the source of my unrest. Part of me refuses to believe that something as simple as a post about a common pop song, or the edit of a sublimely perfect word, or 500 words on a local happening, or even an in-depth email can keep the existential what's-it-all-mean / why-bother-when-there's-so-much suffering dogs at bay.

Oh, but how it does.

Which gets me thinking about the emotional lives of those who chose to surround themselves with art. Growing up, I often found much peace in simply being among my family and watching TV, or listening to records with my brother, or even the endless hours spent bonding with friends playing pool in my basement and watching music videos. As an adult, I am pleased to be considerably more active, but I'll admit I will refuse to pull a single weed in my yard or walk a single step around the park without my iPod firmly attached to my hip. I find it difficult to read a book without marking a passage and transcribing it in my journal. The other night I forced myself to go to the Ohio Theater to see Some Like it Hot, and left the place postively gleeful.

Occasionally, I am suspicious. Surely this kind of delight can be achieved in other ways - human contact, comes to mind. And I have plenty of that in my life. Perhaps art "is" human contact, only delayed. Someone you've never met has a particular talent and has an experience. She writes a song about that experience, sitting alone in a room. Months later, an assembled team of highly skilled professionals have thier own experience crafting those songs into an album. A year later, a thousand miles away, one of those songs is chosen as a prom theme. Fifteen years later, that songwriter grows cynical and fades into obscurity. Until a filmmaker with a bit of a buzz, who hated the prom-song, but played the B-side over and over during his parents' divorce, offers the singer a chance to score a small but personal film that goes on to become the sleeper hit of a particular generation and inspires someone to write a book.

And on and on...

Of course, much of the above is high-level delusion. But I think smaller scales of that delusion is what keeps writers, painters, actors, musicians, and other creative people afloat. And sane. Until they decide they need to ditch it all in the name of responsibility. Not that being responsible isn't admirable. God knows irresponsible artists tend to turn into miserable dependents. And I know how lucky I am for the circumstances and advantages that allow me this kind of wandering existence without resorting to desperate measures. I just know for myself, when I get into a focused surge of needing to move into a new stage of my life, it is my creative side that often suffers most.

I just wish I'd keep forgetting this reality again and again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Surfacing... or, perhaps, Blah Blah Blahblog...

After six weeks or so of a break, I'm anxious to get back to emerging into my world of pop culture musings random observations.

I hope.

I've spent this time off working extraordinarily hard on a third draft of a manuscript I'd hoped to have been completed, but am not quite there. I am pretty proud nonetheless. My brain is truly jello but hope that means I've mined my noggin of some riches.

We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm on my way to Louisville (the place where I attended graduate school) to cheer on some friends who are completing their final leg of their own Master's Degree journey.

BTW - CAPA came out with their summer movie series list early this year. There are some goodies, including Singing in the Rain, a couple of Buster Keaton shorts, and Some Like it Hot.

I'll definitely hit the ground running with those when I get back.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Blog Hiatus?

When I originally signed myself up to blog (after thinking about it for a few years and, instead, getting others interested in blogging), what made me hesitate for so long was my own disappointment in reading blogs that just kinda "stopped." I felt duped. Here I'd been invested, on-board, if you will, with the writer, willing to engage in whatever came along.

Having this blog has been important to my growth as a writer.

My goal has always been to update every five days. Lately, I've been falling short. For good reason. I'm about half-way through a third draft of a full-length manuscript. What initially started as a look inside my experience of having lost my brother, is beginning to morph into a broader "family's response to illness." Despite the heavy themes, there is a healthy dose of humor and a, perhaps inevitable, pop-culture thread.

So I've decided to let myself off the hook for a bit with the blog, in order to put my head where it wants to be.

And hope to return soon-ish...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Things I Learned About LA While in LA

Two weeks ago, I went out to LA on a sort of favor/job/adventure combo I couldn't pass up. It was a great opportunity to get some work done on my manuscript (which I did, despite the close proximity to cable, and my tendency to get sucked into it...) At the same time, I got to experience a particular sort of culture foreign to my daily life without feeling like I was merely a "tourist."

Turns out, I really love going into a completely new environment all alone. Despite an inevitable loneliness that eventually creeps in, there is a jolt of satisfaction that comes with getting acclimated. Every time I try to figure out my "tendencies," I've found them to often to be contradictory. Adaptive as I am to change, I am also highly grounded in the repetition of routine

What happens, then, when I find myself drawn with excitement to a new territory, is I spend an accelerated amount of energy getting myself settled. I become hyper-aware of my surroundings. Part of this is out of a feeling of safety, knowing, for instance, keys locked inside a car 1000 miles away from home becomes a much bigger issue than merely in the grocery store parking lot in one's own neighborhood. Another reason is the perpetual ticking clock. Knowing I might not pass this way again, I ever-aware of wasting my time (except, as noted, when it comes to the taunts of free cable... I'm not proud...)

So, while in LA, I bought a map, found a local coffee shop, and got to work. I was staying in a modest, yet hip (read, not extravagant yet not scary) neighborhood called Los Feliz. For anyone who remembers the movie Swingers, it was where the Derby, The Dresden Room, and much of the apartment scenes were shot. It also happens to only be a few miles from Hollywood Blvd and the Sunset Strip. Because I didn't want to be driving around and going into places alone at night (and because the sun didn't hit the glass front of the house I was staying until the late afternoon and tended to be cold in the morning) I'd do most of my "sight seeing" during the day.

Here's what I discovered:

- At any given time, you can find one of the following bands playing on an LA radio station - The Doors, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, or Red Hot Chili Peppers.

- Skinny jeans and retro black plastic frame glasses don't seem to be going out of style anytime soon.

- Celebrity awareness is heightened. Even though I didn't spot a single celebrity, I felt constantly aware there were famous people everywhere, doing ordinary, everyday things. Now I understand why those first couple of pages of US magazine where Tobey Maguire is shown buying coffee are so popular. I never quite understood, and I'm not particularly proud of it, but there is a certainly an inertia to the culture that permeates the city.

- 1967 is alive and well in LA. I went to Venice Beach one afternoon and saw a sea of RVs awash with psychedelic markings. I find it interesting that in the 80s, Hippies had gone from being a youth-culture thing to being an amusing stereotype. You'd think that area, then would shift and become some epitome of "the last generation," like guys with tube socks and mullets and girls in pinstripe jeans and neon tops. But no. It's the 1960s forever at Venice Beach, baby.

- "Landmarks" aren't nearly as impressive as you'd think. The Capital Records building (which graces the cover of much of their product) is teeny and Chateau Marmont is disappointingly close to a McDonald's. I did manage to take a tour of the Kodak Theater (where the Oscars are held.) It was awesome. In a place where the souvenir shops still trade heavily in cheesey Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, it was really nice to see elegant photographs of some of the understated winners. The auditorium was under construction (Cirque du Soleil was digging a fifty-foot hole into the stage for their upcoming ten-year stay), but we did get to go out on into a box and walk through the hallway where the recipients go right after they win. That was cool...

I'm sure there are plenty of "non-industry" sites to indulge here in the City of Angels, but I'm afraid they will have to wait until my next jaunt out West. Or perhaps I'll next find myself with an opportunity to "help out" somewhere in Connecticut. I hear it's lovely there...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cheater Post from LA

I'd planned on shooting off some occasional updates from my West Coast adventure, but I've managed to develop a bit of a groove in in working on my manuscript and don't want to interrupt that...

Once I got over my initial hyper-alert state - making sure I didn't lock myself out of the house, or lose the animals, or flip the car driving up vertical surfaces, making sure I avoided sketchy areas of town - I've managed to settle into a bit of a routine. I've managed to find my way around the local "strip" (remember the Dresden Room and the Derby from Swingers? That area.) I get some writing started and people-watch. I've also been taking little mini-drives to get acclimated. I've been up and down the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Blvd. While it make seem less than the "LA experience," to see these places at 10:00 in the morning, but it's not like I'm about to hang out at the Whiskey A-Go-Go at night by myself. Being in early I avoid the risk of getting run down by Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears...

The afternoon is when the sun comes in the brightest through the windows, a good time to get settled in a chair.

Oh, I did find out that the Kodak Theater (the one where the Oscars take place) have a tour. Cheesey as the other tourist-y stuff can be, I cannot miss that one.

Okay, so maybe not the cheater post I'd originally thought, but perhaps less organized than I'd intended...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Learning to Embrace My Ridiculous Life

I'm sure I am not alone in my struggle in trying to balance a life anchored in practical responsibility but fueled by passionate adventure. The slightest shift toward either extreme can instantly throw me into a state of pre-occupation of determining what level is right for me.

When I landed a new job back in November, my life swung wildly toward the former. I was completely fine with this, as I'd been flailing, vocationally, for quite some time. But perhaps my attraction to this new job was too broad. I awoke each day, continually fascinated by the thrill of prepping for my day (did I mention it had been a while since I'd had regular, day-to-day employment...)

I found comfort in preparing my lunch, in filling up my messenger bag, in having just enough time to check my email before I left for the day. I reveled in my 3.9 mile drive, that there was exactly enough time to go to the gym and back during lunch. I liked that I had managed to develop "work relationships" beyond my small department so quickly - with the shipping/receiving guy and the HR lady. The use of a MacBook Pro that I could take home with me each night and over the weekend was a lovely perk.

There is nothing wrong with any of these fascinations, I know. However, none of this had anything to do with the job that I was hired to do. Not that I think this is why I lost my job. What happened was not my fault. However, I am willing to accept that the universe might just be nudging me out of a professional career in marketing... The jury is still out on that.

Where does that leave me? For now, I'm attempting to embrace the "adventure" side. Not that I don't do this, but I'm rarely able to do so without some significant justification, trepidation, and more than a hint of misplaced guilt and fear.

So when a friend from graduate school offered to fly me out to LA to pet set for eleven days while she is out of the country, I said, "Hell Yea." This is not to say that I plan to set up a bi-coastal doggie daycare or anything. But I do plan to take a copy of my manuscript and see if the sun and surf (did I mention she lives on the beach...) will stir up some inspiration.

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the Winner Is...

The good news is, I won't have to boycott the Oscars. The bad news is, my attempts at tipping the scale in Meryl Streep's honor were not successful.

This year's show itself was quite impressive, dare I state "one of the absolute best in recent history?" Despite the nominees and the general atmosphere surrounding event, the show itself can be hit or miss depending on who is producing. This year's producer was a keeper, indeed, and should serve as a model for future broadcasts.

The most impressive feat? An across-the-board elimination of all the eye-roll-inducing show fat. The worst offender, the Irving J. Thalberg award? Gone! Never mentioned. I would apologize to all of the Irving J. Thalberg fans out there if I believed there were any. I don't mean to dismiss the accomplishments of anyone who managed any sort of artist longevity out there, but seriously, if someone like me had to wikipedia this man and the person receiving the award, does it really belong in the last half hour of the show, between the Best Actor and Actress awards?

Whew. I've been waiting years to get that off my chest...

As for the dance numbers that are such easy targets, they were finally done right. I don't know how, but the opening number with Neil Patrick Harris and a cast of a couple hundred dancers managed to be both elegant and jaunty and lavish and precise all at the same time. And the decision to cut the live performances of each Best Song nominee and replace it with a dance montage to all of the nominated scores? Genius. Who knew you could break dance to the score of Avatar?

The fashion? Perfect. Lots of silvers and golds. Nothing too wacky. No yellow. Old-time elegance that seemed new. My favorite dress? Demi Moore.

And my favorite element, the speeches, didn't disappoint. Yes, there were the ramblers, the starstruck. (On a side note, my advice to future nominees, even if you think you will not win, prepare something. It's only a few minutes and it will be the clip they play when you die.) The first great line was by the co-writer of the Best Song who thanked his wife and said, "I love you more than rainbows, Baby." Awesome. And the guy who won Best Animated short said it took him six years to make the short, adding, "I hope to make a feature and come back in 36 years."

James Taylor singing the Beatles' "In My Life" during the In Memoriam? Perfection. As was the tribute to John Hughes.

I even (or, I guess, especially) loved the tribute to Horror. When I'd first heard about it, I was skeptical. I took is as another desperate attempt to appeal to a younger audience. Which it was, but the desperation fell away and a new generation of Academy Award fans was conceived.

The pairing up Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin was just as good as everyone suspected they would be. I hope they keep that going for many years.

The only negative thing I can say is, I was disappointed there were no surprises. Perhaps the day of the Oscar night surprise winner (the Halle Barry or Marissa Tomei or other underdog) is over. Perhaps this is simply a result of too much media exposure. I don't know. But I will miss it.

Oh, and did anyone notice they brought back the, "And the winner is..." which had been formally replaced by the PC-laden "And the Oscar goes to..." I think that's a good sign. Of what I don't know, but it feels supremely right...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Afternoon!

In about five hours, I will be sitting on the couch in my parent's living room, a piece of Domino's pizza in hand, waiting to hear the orchestra open the 82nd Academy Awards.

I've been a fan since before I was old enough to keep myself awake to see the whole broadcast (God knows I tried.) Since my enthusiasms for the show are so tightly woven into my family, I don't think any of us knew how we would proceed once my brother passed away three years ago. I skipped that first one altogether, as it was only a few weeks after the funeral. The next year, I think we were all pleasantly surprised after our initial reluctance. Last year was a blur, I had prepared by watching films, but when it came right down to it, I laid on the couch and drifted in and out of sleep.

But not this year.

This year, I am fully in. And I have preferences.

To begin, I will offer this update on the result of my Meryl-Streep-a-thon, my gimmick for this year. How did I do? Pretty well, I think, considering the sheer volume of films to consider and some availability hurdles.

Streep has made 42 films. Before my quest, I'd seen 19. I then watched 18 (that includes a re-watching of 3 films I hadn't seen for many years.) Not bad for four weeks. My favorite? Probably Sophie's Choice. You could say that was an easy answer, given it is considered her very finest performance. However, I had avoided the film for so many years, thinking it was too heavy to even watch, but found myself caught up in so many awesome elements.

The River Wild was another I was surprised to like. I knew it was an action/adventure show, but it hadn't gotten a lot of notice beyond that. But the script is tight, the tension taut throughout. Totally worth putting in your Netflix. I would also recommend Silkwood (still holds up), Postcards from the Edge (my personal favorite), One True Thing, Angels in America (where she outdoes even herself by playing an elderly rabbi and Ethel Rossenberg), Adaptation, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, and It's Complicated.

What I would not recommend are: Falling in Love (bottom of the heap, uninteresting 1980s romance with Robert Dinero), Defending Your Life (Albert Brooks is a whiny boob and ends up with Streep anyway), Before and After (the kid from the Terminator does his best James Dean and makes you want to punch him in the face...on the plus side, Liam Neeson plays Streep's firey artist husband...), and Rendition (great cinematography, but a totally predictable post 9/11 political "drama.")

So I'm hoping that this effort has created some kind of karmic push in Streep's honor tonight.

As for the other films, while I was not thrilled by the addition of five more films into the Best Picture category (I will concede if anyone can convince me this was anything but a PR move...), I did manage to see eight of them. My favorite? Inglourious Basterds. I can't believe it has gotten no attention. It is a superb film, and completely worthy. However, I will not submit to the who will/who should debates. It is a peeve of mine. I believe that if you favor a particular film, you should stand by it, and that's what I'm doing. In the mean time, I will not be upset if any of the other front-runners win.

Except for the Blind Side. I will say, for the record, that if The Blind Side wins for Best Picture, I will stop watching the Academy Awards altogether...

Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adaptation Part 2

So I'm into my third week of being home during the day. Not that it took much adjusting - I've been home during the day, on and off, for the better part of two years.

I am, however, getting much better at it.

I'm hoping that doesn't mean that I am slipping blissfully into a slothful existence. In the meantime, it is the awareness of a rationalized shift in perspective that I am enjoying right now.

For example, on the day that I lost my job, I was twenty minutes away from leaving the building to purchase a new car. I'd managed to stash some funds away, done a lot of online research, spent a few Saturdays test driving small 4WD vehicles in the mass snow (that was quite a lot of fun), solicited the opinion of some smart folk, and made my mind up. Much as I had loved my Jeep, I was dead sick of it. The back seat wobbled when I drove because I could never quite get it put back into place by myself. I could constantly hear the flap, flap, flapping of loose electrical tape that I'd used to try to secure a rip in the canvas top. And the thing was filthy. But I did nothing to ease my low-level irritation, because I was trading the damn thing in anyway...

Needless to say, I did not buy a new car. That Friday, however, was that one day when the sun came out long make us believe Spring might not be too far off... I deliberately left my hat and gloves behind and headed out on a mission. I stopped by the Jeep dealership and watched while a wirey little guy wrestled my back seat into submission. I stopped by the local hardware store, asked the resident old guy his advice on adhesive tape, and proceeded to fix my canvas top in the parking lot. Then I drove to the car wash, careful to point out the delicate areas that should avoid the powerwash wand.

All in all, I'm glad for the ability to make the best of things. Although I'm sure the loud noises and perpetually skipping CD player are eventually going to get to me. Hopefully by then, I'll have a new plan.

Friday, February 26, 2010


A bit of a break from my Oscar-prep-Meryl-Streep-a-thon (only in blogging about it, though. My viewing numbers are growing as I continue my homage...)

So much has happened since I last posted. Well, actually, just one big thing happened, unexpectedly, that has thrown me off course, temporarily.

After almost three months at the first permanent-track job I've held in many, many years, I was unexpectedly let go. While I'm willing to reveal the details on an individual level, I don't wish to go into it in this forum. Like many others in this economy, I will say, I didn't see it coming (letting out a actual gasp when ushered into a conference room and given the news.)

I was still reveling in the glow of consistency - the steady paycheck, the making of my lunch, the daily exchange with co-workers. Despite my tendency to flail (or, perhaps because of it) I do find great comfort in routine. At the same time, I also have the tendency to make the best of things. Sometimes I wonder if I haven't perpetuated a kind of existence where I am continually making the best of things rather than gracefully avoiding certain circumstances.

I don't know.

What I do know is, that with every end to a job or position or contract, I have experienced an at-home saturation of influences combined with a hyper-focused clean and purge of my home, and this time is no exception. Given that I am a writer heavily influenced by pop-culture, I should expect this. However, the acceleration and depth is a surprise every time. Of course time and energy have a lot to do with it. There is something almost gleefully subversive to me about impulsively abandoning the organizing of my Christmas decorations to go see a movie at noon on Tuesday.

I cannot say I am any more certain on what's next. But I am less anxious about it. And apparently very open to music, movie and book reccomendations.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Countdown to Oscar - More Meryl

Out of Africa was my brother's favorite movie of all time. For a long time I felt kinda guilty for not having ever seen it.

Now that I've watched it, I'm reminded why I'd been avoiding it.

As part of my Meryl-Streep-a-thon, I've been watching as many Streep films as I can get, one-at-a-time through NetFlix. I was looking forward to Out of Africa, mostly because I was pleasantly surprised by how "modern" Sophie's Choice seemed. I was in that mode to absorb an epitome-of-an-Oscar-film-film.

Or so I thought.

I really enjoyed the first 45 minutes. I was enraptured by lush landscape and beauty of Streep and Robert Redford. Then I plateaued and forced myself through the remaining hour and fifty-one minutes.

Wow, is it loooooonnnnnnggg.

I mean looooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnggg.

Like I mentioned with Kramer vs Kramer, part of it has to do with an acceleration of culture. Not to be condescending or argue for the hyper-cutting style better. It's just, we as an audience can grasp things more quickly. Or, more accurately, we are growing less tolerant of scenes where characters walk to their cars, get in the car, start and drive the car, get out and walk to where they're going. Unless there is a reason (the audience needs a breather after a tense scene.)

And I was under the impression that it was this great love story. My take (SPOILER ALERT) is, Streep's character gets dumped by her womanizing lover, only to enter into a marriage of convenience (she has money, he has a title) with another womanizer. The guy uses her money to turn what should have been a working farm into a coffee plantation which is doomed from the start. He takes off to God-knows-where right away, leaving her in charge of a whole staff whom she can't really afford, and infects her with syphilis. Eventually, she falls for Robert Redford, another womanizer who comes and goes as he pleases. They have some nice times, and yes he washes her hair, but mostly she's upset with him for not committing and he's upset with her for telling him what to do. Oh yeah, then he dies. And not in some dramatic, deathbed reveal, but in a "by the way, he crashed his plane."

I am glad I did not see this movie while my brother was still alive. I would surely have ruined it for him, much like I try hard to ruin Gandhi and Chariots of Fire.

But, once again, Meryl Streep is brilliant.

Next in the Queue, Falling in Love with Robert Dinero.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Countdown to Oscar: Best Choice

To summarize the last post, in the past couple of years I have come up my own leading-up-to-the-Academy-Awards list of movies to see before the broadcast, usually centered around a theme. One year, it was all of the Best Picture winners I had not seen. This year, since I’m certain Meryl Streep will win Best Actress for Julie & Julie, I plan to see as many Streep films as I can before Oscar night.

Once I discovered I’ve seen most of them from the 2000s, and a fair number of others, I went back to the beginning of her career, the late seventies. So far, I have two under my belt. I watched Kramer vs Kramer over the weekend. She was as good as I remembered, but the film seemed very dated. Having to consider “the times” can get very tedious and borders on pandering. But it is true of this film. Kramer was one of the first critically acclaimed films whose main subject matter was divorce. While it deals with it skillfully, there’s very little that cannot be predicted at this point. Also, for only being 91 minutes, it drags.

But Streep is so raw as Joanna Kramer, a woman who, seems to have it together – just the right clothes, hairstyle, a smart elegance – until you realize she is so overwhelmed by her own sadness that she can hardly open her mouth without looking like she could cry. Not many actresses could pull this off without making you roll your eyes or want to throw up on yourself.

Because the films on my list are not easily accessible at Blockbuster anymore (I’m not judging, just stating a fact) I have to rely on NetFlix (which continually adds to my quality of life in ways I could not have predicted.) Yesterday Sophie’s Choice showed up in my mailbox.

I cannot say I’ve been looking forward to watching this. I’d not exactly been dreading, I simply knew it would be a vast understatement to call this film “heavy.” The only scene I’ve ever scene was the scene, you know, the choice. For a long time, I assumed I’d been duped by being shown that clip (probably during a segment of Charlie Rose with Streep as the guest), like being told the secret in the Crying Game or knowing that Thelma & Louise drive off the cliff at the end of the Thelma & Louise. Also, Sophie’s Choice had very few other Oscar nominations, so I figured it was a showcase of Streep’s acting ability only.

Not so.

This movie is a lovely, albeit haunting, film that truly stands up today in terms of pacing and nuance. Kevin Kline’s turn as Sophie’s charming but unpredictable and menacing lover kept the tension taut throughout the first half, until he disappears. And Peter MacNichol, probably best known as "The Biscuit" from Ally McBeal, plays the narrator, the innocent who is befriended by unstable the couple and quickly falls for them and gets sucked into their drama.

Then comes the flood. Even though we have since seen skillfully crafted Holocaust films, there is a fair amount in this film that still holds up and manages to surprise and horrify.

Up next, Out of Africa.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Countdown to Oscar: Meryl Streep-a-thon

There are few people I have to inform of my longtime Academy Awards enthusiasms. In fact, I often feel the need to tone down my interest in order to avoid appearing like a complete freak. There is nothing more embarrassing than to wax on and on about one's passions, only to find the person on the receiving end either doesn’t care, or, worse yet, treats you as they would a special needs child who wants confirmation on their interest in Legos.

So I try to avoid coming off that way, but it doesn’t always work. Even my toned-down knowledge often dwarfs that of the average movie-goer. For example, starting in January, I mark my calendar for the day when the awards are announced (this year, February 2nd) and eagerly check the for the nominations to be posted…

Which is not to say I’m always enthusiastic. I have not yet fully reconciled the part of me that is rational and understands that the movie business (and the television network business) is, after all, a business, and the other part of me who believes the artistic achievement should not be compromised.

For example, am I excited about the fact that there are now ten nominees for Best Picture? No, I am not. I might be if I didn’t think the decision wasn't exclusively motivated by the promotion of less worthy, more profitable film. My opinion is, if people only want to make money, there are far more exclusively lucrative industries to go into (pharmaceuticals or Tween clothing come to mind...)

Still, I will try to see as many of the nominated films as I stomach (except the Blindside. I will not see this. I don’t care how many people cried in the theater, I’m not yet convinced that anything happens that I cannot predict… I will whole-heatedly apologize if someone can prove that I am wrong…)

In addition to seeing the films nominated, I have in the past, also included some other kind of “at home” Oscar-homage-activity. This year, it will be to view as many Meryl Streep films as I can before the March 7th broadbcast. Although she has been nominated sixteen times for an academy award (winning one of each – best supporting and best actress) she has not taken home the award home since 1982. I will go ahead and say, confidently, she will win this year for her portrayal of Julie and Julia.

In honor, I’ve set up a list of her movies that I either haven’t seen, or don’t have much recall. Since they are no longer readily available at Blockbuster, I’ve put several in my Netfilx queue.

1. Kramer Vs. Kramer

2. Sophie’s Choice

3. Falling in Love

4. Out of Africa

5. Heartburn

6. Ironweed

7. Before and After

I’m already halfway through Kramer Vs. Kramer. Even though she’s only appeared in approximately seven minutes of the film so far, her portrayal is devastatingly deep.

Meryl Streep may very well save this year’s Oscars for me.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Slow Down Fast Talkin Woman

Two years ago, I did a Guest DJ stint on CD101, Columbus’ alternative rock station. The premise is a simple one – listeners are invited to email in a list of 12 songs. If your list is picked, you get to spend an hour in the CD101 studios with the afternoon DJ, Lesley James, while she plays your songs and asks you questions about the songs you selected

The whole thing is pretty idiot-proof, I was brought into the studio literally five minutes before I went on the air. The DJ pointed to a chair and a microphone, and promptly excused herself to go to the restroom.

I almost crapped my pants at the notion she might not return and I’d be stuck there by myself. “Ummm, hello Columbus?”

Obviously, she knew better than I and made it back in plenty of time. The hour was pretty uneventful. I was uncharacteristically quiet, mostly because I feared I would ramble and lose my point. So I was probably pretty boring, but I’ll admit I walked out of the studio with an incredible buzz of merely having my list picked.

When I heard that QFM96, the classic rock station offered the same sort of thing – “Ultimate Album Side,” I gave it a shot. Q-FM started out as straight-up rock station back in the late 70s and has only morphed into a “classic” rock station only because they have seemingly just stopped playing anything new past about 1989.

I’d consider the music of Q-FM to be “working class rock” – a blend of songs best imagined hearing through a paint-splattered boombox duct-taped to an industrial stool, or perhaps from the car speaker of a beat-up Mazda RX-7 while playing volleyball at a high school reunion picnic (given you, like me, went to high school at an Midwest, urban high school.) Petty and Chrissy, AC/DC and Queen.

Still, I wanted to mix it up a little, personalize it. So I picked my five deliberately chosen songs: “You Better You Bet” by the Who, “Straight On” by Heart, “Little Dreamer” by Van Halen, “You Better Run” by Pat Benetar, and “Goodbye to Romance” by Ozzy. I sent my email. I forgot about it.

Then I got a call from the DJ, made arrangements to pre-record (which, I’ll admit, I was a bit bummed I didn’t get to go into the studio, but got over when the guy told me for the third time how much he liked my list. I’m such a sucker…

I was on the air this past Friday. What amused me the most, was the sheer number of strip club advertisements that bookended the segment. Then again, who did I think the demographic was going to be tuning into a classic rock station at 9:00 on a Friday night?

The revelation I made (or rather, confirmation) was just how freaking fast I talk. Of course, this should surprise no one who has ever spoken to me.

Still. My god. I could barely understand me.

I was talking to my friend Bridgett about this, and wondering just how in the world she manages to continually listen to me without great difficulty. She explained, in her signature sensitivity, that it wasn’t that bad, but that, if she was honest, there were times when she felt like she was functioning like one of those CNN correspondents who have a delay in their earpiece. “I can usually grasp everything you’re saying,” she went on to explain, “but it sometimes takes me a minute or two to absorb everything.”

I’m forty. I’m not likely to make any lasting changes in my speech patterns. The best I can manage is when I’m doing a public reading of my writing. I deliberately slow way down because I know information will get lost. But it feels un-natural. It feels....... like......... I’m….tal-king.....…like…………………….this.

But I can’t wait to send in another list and do it again. The cute DJ told me I should.

And I totally believed him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I'm not sure when I first started wearing rings.

I wore a class ring in high school, with my name engraved on one side and a music note on the other. After that, I can remember a college neighbor teasing me about the spoon ring I wore. We had a on-going fake-antagonistic debate over who was correct. His theory was spoon rings were for children. My counter was, just because a girl in his third grade class happened to wear a spoon ring, didn't make them the exclusive realm of child-wear. Didn't children also wear shirts and belts? I don't think we ever came to a consensus, mostly because everyone we tried to have side with us simply didn't care. I don't remember when I stopped wearing the spoon ring; I probably lost it.

I may have mentioned I have a history of losing things...

Anyway. While still in college, I bought myself an opal ring (my birthstone) with money my parents gave me for my twenty-first birthday. It was a beautiful, modest ring I picked out specifically at Service Merchandise because of the two stripes of blueish purple in one of the two stones. I loved this ring. When my friend Jen told me soaking the stone in olive oil would keep the stone from drying out, it became one of our rituals when I went to visit she and her husband up in Cleveland. I'd walk in the door, she'd pour a small amount into a dish and I'd drop my ring in, retrieving it before I left on Sunday.

When I turned thirty, my Aunt Jo gave me one of my grandmother's rings. This ring and the 21st birthday ring were the only "sentimental" rings I've ever owned. When I lost both of them for several weeks, it upset me so much, that I once I found them, I placed them in my jewelry box until I could get over the stress of having lost them. This hasn't happened yet.

Which lead me to purchasing cheap, over-sized silver rings, usually from Kohl's or Target, sometimes from a street vendor at an art fair or while on vacation. It often takes several weeks for me to discover if one doesn't fit properly, or snags on things, or simply doesn't look right. Then I simply abandon the ring and eat the ten dollars.

Sometimes I worry that I wear too many rings, that I'm in danger of becoming "crazy ring lady." But I've decided if I keep it down to five, that seems reasonable. At least to me. Why does this concern me? Because I hate to admit I allowed a piece of men's jewelry to heavy influence my feelings about someone I dated. It wasn't the only factor that lead to my ending the relationship, but I would be lying if I said I could see myself easily getting past it.

One morning in church, a neighbor came with her grandson, who cuddled up next to me. I instinctively outstretched my palm toward him. He put his hand in mine and I gave it a playful little jaunty squeeze. The service had started so he leaned in and whispered, "Your rings are kinda hurting me a lot."

I went about removing them one by one and offered my hand again, which accepted. "How's that?" I asked.

"Good," he replied, and went about fishing my rings up up off the pew, one by one with a pencil and spinning them around.

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Year of Blogging

From the first few blogs I'd ever read, I figured it to be a good medium for me.

Still, I resisted.

I couldn't really decide what I wanted the blog to be, I only knew what I didn't want it to be. I didn't want to have a rant blog. Like an episode of Surreal Life or Lawrence Welk, if I came across one I got sucked in and then chastise myself for blowing the whole hour I could have been doing anything, anything but watching Surreal Life or Lawrence Welk. I am embarrassed to admit I have, more than once, copy-and-pasted the body of a long rant and word-counted it. One thousand words on getting cut off in traffic, I think. Seriously, what can be sadder than that? Perhaps word-counting a blog post...

I also didn't want to get caught up in being too heavily pop-culture-y either. While it is true that I am more than a bit of a pop culture geek, I could foresee a forced obligation to spiral deeper and deeper into subjects I might only have a passing interest in. I didn't want to, say, start gathering more and more obscure information on the Oscars, because I happened to mention that I know all of the Best Picture Oscar winners from the year I was born (which happens to be true, but has limitations of how interesting that can be...)

So I waited a couple years, and pressed my friend Dougie into starting his blog (the very popular I was able to gain a particular amount of pleasure from that.

Then I realized my underlying desire to write a blog was not going to go away. I deliberately did not link my name to it so that I might have an "out," while still leaving the door open for a professional website or blog if this one failed.

I've had 77 posts so far, an average of one every 4.7 days. One advantage is that it pushes me to write on a deadline, which ups my general productivity level. It also allows me an outlet to explore little nuggets of ideas that I can sometimes build up in my head to proportions undeserving of the actual idea. It allows me to tell the difference, almost right away, between those ideas that deserve some headspace, and those that should just fade away.

But I've enjoyed it and look forward to seeing what this next round brings.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Thanks... You Always Know What I Like"

Today is my brother's birthday. It is the third one since his passing; he would have been forty-three. The sting is significantly less than the previous years, for which makes me feel equally grateful and guilty.

One of the things I miss most (after being with him, of course), is picking out his present. For years, it has always been a book, movie, or CD. The CDs became more difficult, as he had everything, and didn't tend to like much new music (if there was a 24 hour Sinatra station, he would have tuned in and never changed the channel, except maybe to listen to Sting.)

In an effort to re-calibrate my gift-giving instincts, I would occasionally ask Kip to give a sort of status on what I already knew he liked. This is how I found out he'd over-saturated himself in Civil War titles and was backing off. In the last few years of his life, he's developed an interest in WWI, because there was not a lot of written. He never tired of Watergate, the topic of his undergraduate thesis, and there was little of this out there too.

Kip wasn't just interested in history. Of course there was contemporary politics, which I could never get my head around because, beyond the radical big-mouths (the Rush's, the Ann Coulter's, and he had all of those...) he had the books of the people I not only didn't recognize, I couldn't even identify their general job titles, and it made me feel dumb.

The pop culture books were always an option. Kip loved biographies and the hefty coffeetable-esque books of photography. Books on the history of the Oscars, vintage movie star bios, or heady tomes on the affects of a particular generation thrilled him.

On his fortieth birthday, I told Kip I would throw him any kind of party he wished. He opted for a quiet, small group of family and friends. He came over early and I was so proud of my find, I made him open it before anyone got there. It was a book that I cannot readily access (I just spent more time than I would care to admit trying to track it down...) but it was about the year 1973. More specifically, it was an exploration of popular culture during the Watergate era. I didn't even mind that he did not help get ready for his party because he was engrossed.

My brother died nineteen days after that party. His death was a shock and yet he had been very ill for a number of years leading up it. I was grateful that he was in the midst of lingering birthday celebratory events during those weeks.

A week before he died, he sent me a thank you card. "Thanks for hosting my birthday party. I had a great time. And thanks for my book, you always know what I like."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Everyday Pleasures #3 - Making Lists

I love lists.

Having an ongoing list like having access to a constant supply of supreme satisfaction, doled out in teeny tiny doses throughout your whole life.

I suppose I've always made some sort of list as an adult - grocery, Saturday tasks, Christmas gifts to buy - but they were little more than torn pieces of paper shoved into a pocket and discarded. But it was at COSI, where the concept of multi-tasking took on a whole other dimension, where I was turned on to a whole new way of looking at list-making. I give credit to my friend Allen, who refuses to accept that credit because he picked it up from someone else.

The system is little more than adding a little box at the beginning of an item. When the item is completed, the box gets checked. If the task no longer exists, it gets crossed off. If the item is moved to another list, it gets shaded in. Even describing the act gives me a twinge of pleasure.

There are somethings I resist putting on the list - things I'm not sure I'm committed to doing, things that are difficult, things that cannot be easily reduced into a simple, note-worthy item. Sometimes, the only way to know how I feel about something is to jump in and add it, understanding the desire to add that check mark might just be the thing to put it over the edge.

This weekend, I had a deadline that I was resisting and, instead, went about "clearing out" the items on a lingering list. I used the fumes of that buzz to push through my resistance and got it done.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, and Other Cliches'

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for all those end of the year retrospective special editions of all the magazines I read. They are the issues I toss into the ever-growing crate of “keepsake magazines.” I see the collection as a sort of personal pop-culture time capsule. When I’m living in the nursing home, I expect to quite enjoy flipping through my vintage 1997s in search of an over-looked cinematic gem that will knock ‘em dead on movie night…

This year, we have added edition of looking back over the whole decade, which is both interesting and terrifying in a holy-shit-ten-more-years-have-zoomed-by kind of way, but amusing nonetheless.

Which got me to thinking about my own Year/Decade In Review.

Moments after I thought of this blog topic, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, who, like all the other news outlets, had compiled their own end-of-the-year commentary. This one, like, perhaps some of the others, although I haven’t seen them, was terrifically depressing.


It went through the whole inauguration of W, to 9/11, the Iraq War, the decent of the economy, through the burst housing bubble and rampant unemployment.

Which got me to thinking about my own decade, admittedly, influenced by the dark despair of the CBS coverage. What I came up was this – I was in a car accident on the eve of the new millennium, and spent the balance of the following year having physical therapy, a second surgery, and engaging in a three-year-long lawsuit. I held some of the most low-level jobs (often simultaneously) and spent several months unemployed. I watched my brother get sick, suffer, and ultimately die. I witnessed mother go into the hospital for a “routine hip replacement” and come out facing a lengthy recovery from a broken leg. Just before Thanksgiving, I saw the final collapse of a significant, decade-long, on-again-off-again-turned-fully-defined relationship I had a lot, emotionally, riding on.

This flash of immediate reflection, understandably, depressed the hell out of me. Until I realized I had been unduly influenced. Not that these things did not happen to me in the past decade, but so did these – I bought a house, earned my MFA, went to Paris and Barcelona (as well as many cool domestic cities), maintained my weight, deepened my already deep friendships with the arrival of their children, got published, engaged in some personally-enriching relationships with men, significantly deepened my relationships with my family, and started the first permanent/appropriate job I’ve had in many, many years.

As for the future, who’s to say. I do know that I am profoundly more aware of my own path than I ever was at thirty. Perhaps that is a function of aging, but I hope not. I am looking forward to doing more of the same, at least the good, positive stuff, but with more purpose.

As any good resolution-type statement would put it.