Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Countdown to 2010

"My other vehicle is the Mahayana."

Oh kiddies, looks like I've gone and become a blogging cliche this holiday season aka "where the heck have I been"? Seven posts in one month? Abhorrent. But such is the way of life when you're back home and drama is on full broil in the family kitchen! And with that, let's get to it:

Banished am I from my parents' home. Well, maybe not I, but J is. Drama went down in true telenovela fashion a day before Christmas Eve. It was like some sick mashup of Terms of Endearment meets American Beauty. It was raw, coarse and -- had it been a reality show on A&E after some show like Hoarders or Intervention, perhaps titled "Life in the 'Burbs" -- it would have had the possibility of winning awards, I tell you. Don't want to divulge all the private deets but in short J ended up losing it and yelling at my mom after she and I got into an argument, J and I leave -- me crying -- with our luggage in hand, a complicated ballet of words were exchanged between he and my mother, and now my whole family doesn't want to see or speak to my husband. Joy.

The best part? It takes me about, oh, 0.5 seconds to get over anything. I forgive too easily. For my family? Not so much. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes months, even years, for them to allow J back into the home. And this is after J saw the err of his ways and apologized on Christmas Day. Didn't matter; damage had been done. Sigh. I wish there was a way to go back and erase these kind of things.

First night spent in exile: J's brother's bachelor pad. And by bachelor pad I mean a shack of a two-bedroom nearly condemned house near the beach that gives new meaning to the word "squalor." The kind of pad a bachelor rents when he has no plans of ever finding a girl (which is funny since J's bro does have a great girlfriend ... who I don't think has ever seen the place).

I suppose it wouldn't be that bad if the unfinished hardwood floors didn't have cracks in some areas where you could see all the way to the dirt foundation beneath and there wasn't 1.5 inches of dog hair covering the few filthy throw rugs in the place. Oh and also if it didn't smell like a giant sweaty foot and have a jagged bathroom entryway that's been cut through the laundry room wall, allowing you semi-privacy as you pee behind the black silk sheet that's been tacked up to resemble some sort of door sans lock. (The bathroom also has a surfeit of dead and living daddy long legs on counter tops and shower corners, along with a rickety panel window of which one of the panels has been broken and mask-taped with a square of cardboard that has also, curiously, been punched open, allowing that chilly ocean air in late-night when the tinkle fairies call.)

Ah, and to round it all out a peculiar hobbit of a man named Chip is the one renting the other room. Chip has no job, spends all day watching television in his room with his roommate's dog, Gonzo, and didn't seem at all embarrassed by the state of things in his house -- even the light orange patina of dried urine around the base of the toilet on the floor. Think Spike from Notting Hill. But bald and with a convicted felon's goatee, minus the British charm.

Basically I couldn't help but laugh and cry that first night as a refugee. But it got better the second night when we realized my mother-in-law had a foldout couch in her living room. The thought of taking another shower in flip-flops and lying awake terrified all night that a cricket or wolf spider would crawl across my face was a bit too much to handle. My brother-in-law -- who was visiting Disneyland all Xmas weekend with his girlfriend -- meant well, but I just. Couldn't. Do it.

So here I am, currently staying with my mother-in-law who is a true salt-of-the-earth hippie. Crammed into every corner of her one-bedroom apartment are hundreds of bottles of different oils to bring inner peace and harmony, along with tambourines, painted stones and stacks of books on meditation and spiritual growth. Next to two sink spouts and a shower faucet "Love & Gratitude" has been written in small letters on the walls. To remind her (and anyone who reads them) to think positive thoughts and live with an "attitude of gratitude" every day of life. At first I didn't get it, chalking it up to another hippie way of life (a way I've always wanted to follow), but it's actually grown on me. Love & gratitude, anyone?

Sometimes I find myself half-expecting John, Paul, Ringo and George to walk through the front door for a Hare Krishna sitar session. But instead I sit here analyzing the state of things as I drink ginger tea with "joy" and "possibility" oils (compliments of mother-in-law) in the absence of cable. I may finally be unleashing my inner hippie but Real Housewives of OC, oh how I've missed you.

Maybe this happened for a reason, I've thought, living in this den of meditation. Everyone (including my brother who points it out on a regular basis) knows how short my fuse is, how little people have to do to make me impatient or irritated. Sometimes I feel like Melvin Udall in As Good As it Gets. I know I need to learn to tamp down my irritation/anger/impatience. Perhaps sitting here quietly with coconut shell musical instruments, flower petals and painted stones, eating only raw foods and occasionally playing my mother-in-law's bongo drums is the way to do it.

I've been visiting my family every day or two. It's weird now, because they're normal again around me -- almost as if nothing happened. But then I realize J isn't at our dinner table and none of them want to see him right now and it makes me sad and frustrated. "Why can't you all just move on from it??" I want to yell. I loathe that giant pink elephant in the room. But I understand why it's there, and I know that everyone deals with these things in their own time. I just hope it doesn't take too long. After all, he's a part of my life permanently, so they'll have to forgive him sooner or later.

Of course, all this had to happen just before our family trip up to Sacramento for New Year's. You know, the one J was supposed to come on. Well I want to see my relatives up north and New Year's is a special holiday for my family, so he and I will be apart this year. I'm glad he has family down here to spend that time with so he won't be alone, but it looks like I won't be getting a New Year's kiss ... except maybe from Lola (yuck, fish breath, nevermind). I guess it's not that big of deal since post-college the holiday has lost its luster. With every year that passes it just seems more depressing, like time slipping away. (And we all know there are other, more important holidays anyway, like my absolute favorite: Valentine's Day. Missing that with J would be an utter travesty.)

So that's that. I hope all of you have a frabjous New Year's and I'll see you on the other side!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Brought to you by Chris "Christmas" Rodriguez:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Endless Summer Winter

To celebrate my brother's 24th birthday on Sunday (same day as my dad's), J took Alexander out to catch a few waves, brah. Of course I volunteered to be photographer for the morning so I tried to chronicle it as Point Break as I could:

Artsy shot (above) I snapped while J and Alex were still out in the water.

Artsy shot (above) I forced J to pose in.

In other news:

My dad took us up to UC Santa Cruz to check out a spectrometer he's building for the Lick Observatory. We had to get suited up before stepping into the sanitized engineering lab and hilarity ensued:

Learning how sausage is made, or dressing up as double helixes for a Halloween party?

My sister's puppy is getting on my last nerve. No, I do not think it's cute when you chew on the leg of my sweat pants, Moxie (if that's even your real name. I'm starting to think it's actually more along the lines of "Diablo," "Lucifer," or something like that. J's convinced your real name must be "poop machine.")

I finally saw The Road. And it sucked. It wasn't a terrible movie, and I didn't hate it, but the book is just better. No failure on Viggo Mortenson's part, I love him as an actor and the guy can definitely pull off looking hot in a beard (Lord of the Rings, anyone?), but The Road is one of those books that doesn't adapt perfectly to screen, and so I think the blame lies on the screenwriters who fell short of making it their own.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Weekly highlights

The last week and a half has flown by out here in California, but so far the highlights have included:

Witnessing WWIII between my mother and sister over some comment that was taken out of context.
The conflict lasted 3 days (yes, 3 days). And it's still resonating into today, though now they are at least acknowledging each others' presence. Usually I'm the one who's at the heart of these kind of spats so to instead be a spectator is fabulous. And so insightful.

my family's exchanges when they don't know I'm around. Since the living room/kitchen/front door/etc. are all on the upper level of our house (our home is built on a hill), all drama occurs on this upstairs stage -- which makes the staircase leading up to it the perfect vantage point for any and all overhearing. The last few nights I've settled in on the bottom step with my laptop, typing furiously to keep up with the comedy that ensues upstairs. It's almost Royal Tenenbaums-esque and would be great fodder for a future book. The thing is practically writing itself so far. Creepy, or brilliant? Not quite sure yet.

My sister's puppy Moxie pooped on her lap in the car as we ate frozen yogurt in a shopping parking lot. Her subsequent freak-out was priceless! And it happened to come right at the end of a tiff we had so it was the ultimate retribution and I got the last laugh. Well, at least Moxie did. Good times.

Okay, maybe that wasn't my last laugh of the day.
That same night my sister checked her bank statement online and saw that the frozen yogurt shop had accidentally charged her $90 for her $3 yogurt. Moral of the story: Check your account often.

I got a callback interview this week for a part-time college English teacher position I applied to in Virginia. Pros: The gig pays $35-$45 per hour and wouldn't have taken much of my time since writing is my priority. Cons: They wanted to interview me on Friday (as in the day after tomorrow). I asked if we could reschedule for after January 14th when I'd be back in town but they have to fill all positions for the semester by January 4th. Sigh. They said they'd keep my application on file, though, in case someone drops out. *hoping someone drops out*

My dad is turning 60 this weekend and what better way to celebrate than with a new scientific finding? He (along with his team of scientists) were in the news yesterday for discovering two "super-Earths" orbiting two nearby Sun-like stars. My dad has been a planet hunter for decades and designed the HiRes Spectrometer for the Keck Telescopes in Hawaii in the late '90s, so I'm very proud of him and hope this makes his birthday extra special. (Lord knows the flannel pajamas I bought him as a bday present pale in comparison.)

I'm almost done with my nanowrimo book. I'm currently on page 270 and I think I've got about three more chapters left. Chugging along to the finish line, kiddies. I absolutely have to finish this thing by New Year's Eve or else I will punch myself in the face and dub myself a failure.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Literary truths: Hemingway

"Call me Pappy."

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Stache stigma

This looks like a job for the Schick Quattro. Or Cinco.

As I was doing research for one of my books a few days ago, J and I got into a discussion about the stigma specifically associated with Adolf Hitler over other sinister leaders in history (Joseph Stalin, anyone?).

Most of my research right now is centered around Germany and Poland during WWII, a handful of high-ranking commanders in the Third Reich and details of concentration camps in that region. And I'd been happy with my description of a certain real-life commander in my story until I came across an obscure, grainy picture of him last week that looked nothing like my description. Since it's fiction I'm keeping my description regardless (the actual picture looks more like my childhood orthodontist Dr. Fehrman, who, with his neon-green-framed reading glasses -- this was 1992, people -- and southern drawl, was not scary-looking in the slightest). But it got us to thinking ...

J: "Would Hitler look evil if he wasn't so well known?"
Me: "If he wasn't Hitler? No, he'd just be another German guy with a bad '30s haircut."
J: "Maybe it would even be acceptable to have that mustache today. But not anymore. It's funny that the 'Hitler mustache' has such a stigma, but other mustaches do not. Like with Stalin -- no one picks on guys with thick 'staches, calling them 'Stalin 'staches.' Stalin's 'stache is like the 'stache to end all 'staches. So thick and luxurious. Puts Burt Reynolds to shame. But that little square patch? It's totally unacceptable."

(After a long pause)

J: "I wonder what it is about Hitler that anything remotely connected to him is now taboo while other just as reprehensible people in history have not had that effect?"
Me: "Because people recognize his face more? If you showed a picture of Stalin to someone our age today they most likely won't even know who he is. Everyone knows what Hitler looks like, but I doubt people would recognize a Stalin or Lenin."
J: "What about Saddam though?"
Me: "Saddam is recent, within our time. He's not historical yet."
J: "Right but he was also pretty horrible and no one harps on 'Saddam 'staches.' It is weird . . . Hitler is so untouchable. Most would argue that Stalin was actually worse then Hitler. Stalin systematically killed millions of his own people."
Me: "True. I mean, wasn't he doing just as horrible things if not worse like making lampshades out of people's skin? And those were his OWN people."
J: "They estimate that his regime killed 3-60 million Russians. Some were social minorities who lived in Russia."
Me: "Ah, gypsies. I read that Hitler gassed gypsies too. Why all the gypsy hate?"
J: "All that damn belly dancing. Gives rise to extremist hatred."
Me: "Like that that 'woman fight' in From Russia With Love?"
J: "Effing finger cymbals make my blood boil."
Me: "HAHAHAHHAHA. (Pause.) I think more than anything though you're right about Hitler's 'stache. If someone even accidentally cut theirs in the reminiscent shape of it all of a sudden "You look like Hitler." And if you don't shave it stat, then you must be a Hitler lover."
J: "Exactly. What if I just happen to look good with a square patch on my upper lip? I would be shafted. Or what if you have a deformity on your philtrum and only a square patch can cover it?"
Me: "Point taken."

J's mustachioed tangents aside, the overarching question here still stands: Why is that with Hitler/anything remotely resembling him there is this crushing taboo (aside from the obvious reasons), but with others just as evil if not more so (like Stalin, Lenin, Saddam) the same stigma isn't as intense?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

'Tis the season

I woke up this afternoon this morning to find the first snowfall of the year here in DC was out in full effect (or as full as it gets 'round these parts). Perfect timing since I'd been wanting J to head down to Pentagon Row shopping center with me to watch the "artificial snowfall" they do nightly at 7pm. The real stuff is just better.

Earlier today the snowflakes were giant and fluffy ("Like someone had blown up a bunch of poodles and their fluff was falling from the sky," J says) and there was just enough powder on the ground to elicit Charlie Brown eyes and Snoopy dances outside, con scarves.

Also in time for the season was our first holiday party of the month, thrown by J's professor. About 15 of us convened on the soiree last night and there was much eating and imbibing of spirits. Personally I was delighted at how many celebrity-look-alikes were there (I'm notoriously skilled at playing the celebrity-look-alike game, be warned if I ever meet you in person) and to my delight there were many to postulate on. My favorites included a spitting image of David Eggers (meets a dash of Rob Lowe) and an all-around Woody Allen (in facial resemblance, mannerisms and voice. It was incredible, and nearly twice I had to stop myself not to ask how it must have been directing Annie Hall). All in all we had a great time and I got to meet many interesting people. Who knew lawyers could be so down-to-earth and jovial?

Anyway, as much as I love the snow I'll have to get my fill of it today since I'm off to California tomorrow! I won't be back 'round these parts till mid-January. In the interim I look forward to spending time with my family and friends, partaking in truckloads of authentic Mexican food, possibly surfing with J and having many beach bonfires. (Yes, my life up until three years ago was more Gidget than Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde.)

I'll be taking Lola and J will be joining me 10 days later, Moneypenny in tow, after he's finished with finals. A huge thank you (again) goes out to "Jude" for the free airplane tickets he sent our way, easing our financial stress 10-fold. Big thanks also goes out to one of my readers, Maritzainca, who just UPS-ed me a bottle of Pinot Noir for the holidays from a winery where she works in Northern California.

Ooooh, sparkly!

Maritza's a fellow UCSB-er who I met through twitter/blogging not that long ago. She no longer has a blog, but is thinking about starting one (hopefully) soon. I love my readers! Thanks again Maritza!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back in my day...

Hello? Hello?? Is this thing on?...

I can't shake the feeling that something's different.

These bones aren't as agile as they used to be, as evidenced last night when I slid to the passenger side of our car to let J drive home and nearly took out the lower vertebrae in my back. (Thanks goes to either the gear shift or the e-brake for being the culprit, I'm not sure.) Either way, not long ago I could perform such a maneuver with masterful ease, gliding my lithe figure over the center console like a svelte ballerina in a Balanchine production of "The Nutcracker." Mind you, I'm not obese now or remotely close to it, but for some reason these endeavors are harder. More dangerous. Now I can't even hop on the kitchen counter with one knee to reach a top shelf without losing my balance and knocking my (later badly bruised) shin into the dishwasher, nearly taking down the lower two shelves with me.

As much as I joke about being Blanche Devereaux am I, in fact, becoming Blanche Devereaux? I'm only 27. (Insert exasperation.)

Okay, so maybe I still have a few years till I'll need to be researching (subtle) face-lifts and reserving tables for early-bird specials, but the consciousness of my age and my place in the world has become much more palpable. Maybe it's a by-product of hitting your late-20s, I don't know. All I know is birthdays aren't as fun as they used to be and kids these days -- they're listening to the dangdest things. (In my time we listened to Dr. Dre's The Chronic, blissfully unaware of any offense in the lyrical artistry. This was back when Snoop Dogg was actually known for his musical prowess -- "Gin and juice," anyone? -- not for parodying himself on some Mtv dating show.)

Also back in my day: We used the phone to make actual -- gasp! -- phone calls when we wanted to chat with friends, *143 meant "I love you," and the entire world didn't:
  • know about your relationship status (Single and over 30? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.)
  • see those last five parties you acted stupid at (Single, over 30, and still playing beer pong? Game over.)
  • know who you were friends with
  • measure how many "friends" you had
  • automatically got to know what you did for a living
  • know where you lived
  • send you those annoying app invites ("NO!!!! I do not want to play some weird bastardized variant of Scrabble called Frabble with you," my brother says.)
  • try to act like your mother ("With the feeds on the right saying 'you haven't spoken with so and so in a while....why don't you send them a message and make their day?' It actually has the audacity to suggest new friends for me," my brother adds again.)
All because there was. no. Facebook. Or Perez Hilton. (Imagine how different our view of Marilyn Monroe would be had twitter/blogging been around back in the day.)

I started thinking about all this after a conversation I had with my good friend yesterday ...

Me: How was your thanksgiving?
Friend: Good, the fam part was a bit blah, but overall the whole weekend was really good. How was your Thanksgiving.
Me: I had a little too much to drink and ended up passed out snoring on the couch after my third glass of rum w/ lime, how was yours? I ate wayyy too much food. Why was the fam part blah?
Friend: I dunno. It just didn't feel the same this year. It's weird, nothing feels as it should this year.
Me: How come?
Friend: It just doesn't. You don't feel that way?
Me: Kind of, but only around my birthday. For some reason it's really palpable then.
Friend: Yeah especially on my birthday but also this whole year. I dunno, I feel kinda numb in a way.
Me: It's the whole getting older probably. I feel like aging is an ailment, like arthritis, or diabetes.
Friend: Haha, I hope that's not the case.

Me neither, "Friend," me neither...

So what is that numb feeling? Is it an ailment? Or is it just disillusionment with how we perceived our ripe years before 30 were going to be? And what did we expect? Because I've got no regrets -- I've had lots of fun and embarked on many fun and sometimes wild adventures. Is it a lack of money, perhaps, to partake and dabble properly in the wide swathe of what "today" has to offer? Maybe. It's no secret living on a budget sucks and I'm sorry but anyone who says they're okay with being poor is just lying to themselves and trying to make the best out of their situation (which is commendable at best).

I know that age is just a number, and growing old is largely a state of mind (that is, if your arthritis doesn't get the best of you), so what gives? I don't have arthritis ... yet *stops mid-crack of knuckles*. Is it the canyon of a disparity between our generation and the one before us, what with all Facebooking and Myspacing and twittering and blogging that has by and large changed the way we consume/date/interact/stalk? I miss the days when only Wall Street Gordon Gecko-types had cell phones (massive ones, at that), and those phones were actually used for calling, not texting. The only computers we had were the ones where the screens doubled as boat anchors and had only one font/picture color: green, which made playing Oregon Trail that much cooler. There were no apps tipping off your whereabouts to the general public that is your current 567-friend list and privacy was a right, not a privilege.

Don't get me wrong. I love technology; heck, I love Google. I ask myself everyday what people did before it was invented -- then I remind myself that I was one of those people. It's no doubt an exciting time in our history as a people: in the last 20 years alone the innovative boom in gadgets and science has been amazing.

I blog, I twitter, I facebook. So I'm connected and just as guilty as the rest (though I refuse to get a blackberry or touchscreen or anything other than a normal cell phone for normal calls.) But is it possible with all this connectivity that we're actually more unconnected now? More jaded, more cynical? Or is this feeling simply what growing older is all about?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble, gobble...

While our turkey is cooking and I'm enjoying a James Bond marathon on SciFi, eggnog and rum in hand, I wanted to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays besides Valentine's Day (yes Valentine's Day) and this year it's even more special since it'll be the last one I'll have to spend in Washington DC! (Insert uproarious applause here.) I suppose it's too early to reflect on 2009 just yet -- that sort of thing comes with New Year's -- but in the spirit of cliche here's what I'm thankful for:
  • Even through the hard times J and I can still laugh, at ourselves and at each other.
  • My family, friends, Lola and MoneyPenny.
  • That I'm healthy and all the people I care about are healthy too. (Well, except for my good friend John, who contracted a gnarly jungle parasite on a recent hike to some hallowed waterfall in Hawaii, but he's on a penicillin regiment now so no worries. He won't become a Discovery Channel statistic after all.)
  • Lou "The Dentures" Dobbs finally left CNN, and hopefully television for good. Immigrants everywhere (legal or otherwise) breath a collective sigh of relief.
  • Chipotle.
  • That J wakes up to make me cappuccinos and breakfast on the weekends.
  • I won Nanowrimo. (w00t!)
  • That Facebook finally lets you hide those annoying girls from high school certain peoples' updates so you don't have to hear about how they're pregnant again with their second/third kid, or how cute it is when their baby burps/sleeps/walks/crawls/takes a poo. The sad truth is I never cared about you back then, and therefore could care even less about your baby's current bowel movements.
  • That my sister graduated college and is back up in the Bay Area -- for good. Also that my bro is considering staying in the area for college. Love them. Us three musketeers together are a force to be reckoned with.
  • That even though money has been incredibly tight these last few months, and sometimes the idea of it gets me down, most of the time it's an afterthought. I'm writing everyday and for me that's enough. (Although owning a villa in Tuscany and/or a vintage 1963 230SL convertible Mercedes does have its perks...)
  • The dollar menu at McDonald's. For those few times a month when we treat ourselves out to a night on the town.
I'm curious: What are you thankful for this year?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nanowrimo Update: Week 3

Well, I did it. 50,000 words in four three weeks. I guess the only way to sum up how I feel is ...


And now with that out of the way, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, kiddies. While I may have technically won Nanowrimo, I'm still not finished with the book. It'll probably end more between 70k to 75k words, so I still have a bit of a ways to go, but nothing I couldn't whip out in the next week or two.

What I learned in Week 3:
  • Mark Twain once said, "Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer." It's the truth. I don't think all adverbs are the devil's work -- a good adverb has its place like a guilty pleasure reality show on TLC ("Say Yes to the Dress", anyone?) -- but many are redundant and often weaken what you're trying to say.
  • I'm not the kind of writer -- well, not yet -- that does well listening to just any music when I'm typing. I envy those that can listen to disco while composing. Anything with words (at least for now) distracts me because I start singing along, reminiscing about what memories the tune dredges up, etc. (So Uncle Rico of me.) But silence can get tedious, so I've found an in-between. Big band from the '30s and '40s. I know what you're thinking but it's not just for your grandparents. My favorite iTunes channel at the moment is KCEA, and when I'm not listening to big band, then I'm listening to Bossa Nova cocktail lounge music from the '60s. Swingin'! My favorite station is Illinois Street Lounge. It's like iTunes' version of a good stiff Tanqueray martini, to be enjoyed at any time of day.
  • Coffee is still your friend, but sometimes a glass of red does wonders.
  • The closer you get to the finish line (aka 50,000 words), the lazier you become. Which is bad. Especially when you're ahead and know you've got some extra time. Keep at it, Grasshopper. The truth is there is no finish line.
* - Though I use these photos in jest I have nothing against Tom Cruise, even when he was going through his ... phase. I adore him, especially when he: flies fighter jets, sleeps with prostitutes who steal his parents' glass egg, gets tied up in a corrupt law firm, is an arrogant sports agent, or becomes a samurai. Love him.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everybody Wang-Chung tonight

"My favorite color is magenta." -- Valley Girl, best '80s movie of all time

So good news -- I got offered a freelance writing gig! This is amahzing (per Rachel Zoe), and lit.rully couldn't come at a better time. Lately J and I have given new meaning to the words "frugal living." Quite embarrassing, some of the lengths we've gone to recently, but he made me promise to never mention nor blog about our little escapades, and so they shall go unnamed. Sometimes we don't know whether to laugh or cry in the throes of our absurdity. Thankfully we can still laugh.

I don't want to reveal who I'll be freelancing for yet, but it's a news site for stock market investors, which means I'll be writing financial news articles, profiling publicly-traded companies, the broader stock market, etc. It basically sounds exactly like what I was writing on at my last job, except this time I'll be able to do all my writing in my fluffy pink bathrobe at home. Score.

My contact there is a good friend, and he also made it sound like they might have a need for a freelance editor soon. Double score. It's nothing close to what I was making at the job I left, but it's more than what most publications pay nowadays for "latest headline" articles and, well, money is money, right?

So, pros to taking the job:
  • Don't have to deal with annoying co-workers in an office. Oh there were a few gems I worked with at my last job, but most irritated the hell out of me...and the rest of my office. Back then I savored in the days when I could telecommute and not deal with the petty office drama.
  • I can take the work as I want it and not for eight fixed hours per day (which I wouldn't do anyway, as financial news writing is not a priority right now).
  • Will keep my portfolio updated with current clips.
  • Did I mention the fuzzy pink bathrobe? Yeah, it's even more appealing when it's pouring/snowing outside and I get to watch everyone else trudge to the apartment shuttle on their way to work. Muwahaha.
  • I love following the stock market, and I love investing in stocks. Sometimes, though, writing about finance can get a little stale (especially if mutual funds are involved). At my last job I was given lots of artistic license to be as creative as I wanted in my writing, but I'm not sure if they'll like that at this new gig. Then again, we need money. Bad. I think I can throw my qualms out the window for some pocket change. At least it's still writing and I get a byline, and not, say, ghostwriting/marketing/PR, which is what my last position quickly turned into.
You heard it here first. Now go celebrate and Wang-Chung for me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Encouragement for the frustrated writer

Keep at it, wildcat. If you do (and you're lucky), you might some day give an interview like this:

It would be payment enough. Just make sure to write your novel in an "obsolete vernacular," wear an eccentric cowboy hat and silently stare off into space a lot when people are waiting for your response.

Writers like Cormac McCarthy Eli Cash never fail to warm the cockles of my heart.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nanowrimo Update: Week 2


My clip this week for Nanowrimo has slowed a bit compared with Week 1, but I'm still ahead of schedule by about 9,600 words.

What I learned in Week 2:
  • If you're going to write at a coffee shop, make sure said coffee shop does not play ear-piercing, annoying music that miraculously even masks (gasp) the continual grind of coffee beans behind the barista counter. If I wanted to experiment writing at the clurb I would have just lugged my laptop to the nearest Coco Bongo and ordered a red bull vodka, thankyouverymuch. If you're like me and cannot tune out The Noise easily, perhaps it's best to remain hunched Gollum-like over your solitary desk at home, sporadically talking to yourself to fill the silence.
  • That being said, red bull vodka coffee is still your friend.
  • No matter how appealing those Golden Girls reruns sound, no matter how tired/bored/uninspired/drunk/arthritic you are -- keep writing! Was Rome built in a day? No. Was it built in 30? Quite possibly, and procrastination was definitely not one of the building blocks. I'm continuously amazed this month at how much I'm capable of writing daily, even on the off days where I feel like pulling my hair out, hurtling my laptop across the room in frustration, or just "taking a break" for an entire weekend watching old movies on TCM. Taking breaks (within reason, i.e., an hour or two) is permissible; giving up is not. Understanding this will set you free.
  • Aside from accomplishing stellar daily word counts, also amazing is how much time you actually have during the day once your writing is finished. Procrastination, as accommodating as it feels in the moment, does nothing in the long term. The sooner I finish my self-imposed daily word count, the sooner I can click my laptop closed and go enjoy a glass of red wine with J, stress-free. No word count hanging over my head.
Word count breakdown by day:

Nov. 6 (Friday): 2,533
Nov. 7 (Saturday): 1,994
Nov. 8 (Sunday): 2,648
Nov. 9 (Monday): 3,122
Nov. 10 (Tuesday): 2,205
Nov. 11 (Wednesday): 2,993
Nov. 12 (Thursday): 3,219
Nov. 13 (Friday): Currently in progress

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Living like an artist, Part 2

When you're on a tight budget, there are two areas in your life you pray don't go down the pooper: Cars and computers. If anything goes even remotely wrong in either of these two areas, nine times out of ten you end up on the verge of tears, standing across from some smug mechanic/smug IT guy who's obviously getting sick pleasure out of telling you how expensive the repair costs will be.

Enter my hoopty, a tomato-red 2000 Hyundai Accent. It's come to my attention that we need new tires as the tread looks to have worn down to the slickness of a Brody Jenner pickup line. I pointed it out to J and he agreed, which means I nearly had a hernia when I saw how expensive these suckers were.

The only alternative I can think of to buying new tires would be attaching on snow chains to my old tires for year-round driving fun, which would -- if nothing else -- definitely give them the teeth they need to take street corners at 70mph. Then again, I imagine the clink, clink, clink on asphalt through downtown Washington, DC in the three seasons that don't have snow would just attract unnecessary attention. Not for the type of whip I'd want to ghostride, at least.

Unlike swapping in a subpar replacement for a coffee filter, me thinks we have no other option than to scrounge for coupons and bite the theoretical bullet. Unless any of you all have creative ways to bandage the problem. Otherwise, new tires it is.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let's start the week off right

Must keep the momentum going through November, people (currently at 20k words), so here's the theme for this week (be prepared to dance):

GOLDFRAPP - Ride A White Horse (rUmPeLsTiLtSkIn)

rUmPeLsTiLtSkIn | MySpace Video

A few quick thoughts:

- I die for her
- Why is this song so infectious?
- The world would be a better, more peaceful place if we each had four choreographed men in tightie whities dancing backup for us.
- I am so making a toilet paper roll microphone.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Nanowrimo Update: Week 1

Just as I suspected. If Billy S. could write a classic in one fortnight, imagine
the possibilities in 30...

Week 1 was a success. Though I missed the first day of writing because I was in transit from NYC back to DC, I made up for it in the following days and have been a writing fool ever since. I'm currently at 12,529 words, or 25% of the way there.

What I've learned in Week 1 of Nanowrimo:

1.) 50,000 words in 30 days is surprisingly less painful than I thought it would be. According to the Nano Gods we're supposed to write 1,667 words per day to be on track. The idea of it seemed daunting, and I'll admit that I was quite intimidated in the final weeks of October in anticipation for the race to begin. I didn't know what to expect as this was my first time. Would I have time to blog at all? Bathe? Read? Keep up with the Kardashians? Usually I write at my own pace and I don't -- by any means -- crank out pages like a robot unless I've been hit by my muse (who, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to Olivia Newton John in Xanadu). But I knew that for the month of November I'd have to turn into a writing machine. I would eat words for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why? Because I need to win. It's in my blood and I won't accept anything less. (A word of caution: You do not want to play dodgeball with me.)

2.) Ok, so 50,000 words will be as easy as cherry pie. (Watch, now I've jinxed myself.) Word count aside, the hardest part for me is going to be finishing my story, making sure it's got a beginning, middle and end by November 30th and not just a beginning and middle in 50k. I would still be dubbed a "winner" by the Nano folk, but to me that's not winning -- I would be left with a half-finished 1st draft. According to agents a 50,000 word manuscript isn't even a novel, it's more a novella and I've got a sneaking feeling that to wrap up my story it's going to take more than 50k word anyway. Hence why I'm writing as if my keyboard is a bed of hot coals. Must keep moving phalanges!

3.) Coffee is your friend.

4.) An outline is the golden ticket. I don't know how people finish a somewhat cohesive 50,000-word first draft in one month without having an outline. Though I'm past 200 pages on my first book, I can now see why it's been a lot more slow-going than my Nano manuscript. I didn't really outline that first book, and it's costing me. Not to say that it's crap, but it makes it harder to focus, stay on track and crank out pages when you're meandering through your storyline, feeling out which direction to go. With my Nano book I had a 10-page outline I'd worked on in October in anticipation of "staying focused." This outline is my Godsend. Could I write a Nano book without one? Yes, but it would be more scattered and all over the place and make it easier to take frequent breaks to catch up on Project Runway or bake cookies or churn my own butter or do anything other than work on my story.

Word count breakdown by day:

Nov. 1 (Sunday): 0
Nov. 2 (Monday): 3,778
Nov. 3 (Tuesday): 3,407
Nov. 4 (Wednesday): 2,473
Nov. 5 (Thursday): 2,871
Nov. 6 (Friday): Currently in progress

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween in NYC, or How I spent more money than I should have and stopped worrying about it (at least for the weekend)

Did someone lose a button? Anyone?

Got back from Manhattan on Sunday night and had a fabulous time. Since I'm on a NaNoWriMo kick and don't have a lot of time to post, here's a rundown of what we saw/did:
  • Times Square
  • Empire State building - There was nothing more I wanted than to kiss J at the top of the Empire State building. So many countless movies and films have captured the top of this hallowed building so perfectly. Remember that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel pretend to be aliens up there to scare tourists? Or An Affair to Remember when Deborah Kerr is supposed to meet Cary Grant at the top? I'm not even going to mention Sleepless in Seattle. Anyway, it turns out it's $40/person to enjoy the view. Pass! I kissed him in front of the entrance instead for free. There will be many more opportunities to go to the top when we aren't sacrificing grocery money to do so.
  • Bryant Park
  • Les Halles - The French restaurant Tony Bourdain was head chef at for years before his No Reservations fame. *Heart flutters* Love him. To me he will always bear an uncanny resemblance to Marcello Mastroianni. Well, a very tan Marcello. With many more wrinkles. And a former heroin addiction. Moving on ...
  • Rockafeller Center
  • Had a pumpkin spice latte at the giant Macy's on 34th Street
  • Madison Avenue - No Don Draper sighting. Sigh. I'm such a tourist.
  • New York Public Library - Me with camera in hand: "Suh-weeet. Do you remember the scene in The Day After Tomorrow where the wave came crashing down the street toward the front of this very marble lobby?" J: "No, but I'm sure once we get home you will find the DVD and show me." Me: "Wow, you know me all too well, my love. All too well..."
  • Dinner at Momofuku in Greenwich Village on Friday night - Tres expensive -- dinner for five was over $200 and $12 cocktails did abound -- but the food was excellent. Have you ever had fried Brussels sprouts in fish sauce vinaigrette, mint and delfino? Didn't think so.
  • World Trade Center ground zero - It goes without saying it was a sad 10 minutes we spent here, but on the upside a man with a Guatemalan flute was playing an instrumental rendition of the BeeGees' "More than a Woman" across the street. Score.
  • Chinatown - We were looking for good Chinese food and Panda Express has just not been cutting it lately (I don't care how good their orange chicken is). We found what we were looking for in this little hole-in-the-wall noodle place just off Canal St. I had sweet and sour chicken with wantons in noodle soup. I don't think I need to even point out that it was amazing.
  • Halloween in Soho - My friends and I went to three separate parties for a night of general debauchery.
  • NY Marathon in Central Park - Hot damn, those people (to quote the unnamed man in the cafe who sees Forrest Gump run by after his leg brace falls off) were "running fools." I was highly impressed. We had a prime view near the 24-mile mark. If I ever made it to 24 miles (I'm laughing out loud at the hilarious absurdity of that scenario) I would definitely be puking up a lung. Or two.
  • The Met
Oh and I took a picture or a hundred:

Me in Times Square. I felt like I was in the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, except there was no twirling or hat throwing.

"I'm a little concerned but...make it work."

My friends' adorable dog Frank. And his lip.

"Exits are located on either end of the aircraft."

Ah, there's my pilot.

Me, J and my good friend Sedona riding the subway. The whole time I was in NYC I didn't touch one subway pole. Instead, I clinged to J's arm as he held on the for the both of us.

This cup. No words except where I can buy a lifetime supply?

Being all artsy at the Met.

J at the Dupont Circle metro stop on our way back home.

For only being there a total of 2 days and 2 nights I would say we saw the bulk of what NYC had to offer. Wish we had more time (and more money!) but we'll definitely visit many times in our life. It is the inspiration for Mad Men, after all. I mean, c'mon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stewardesses and scribes

This year J and I decided we're going to be a Pan Am airline pilot and stewardess from the 1960s for Halloween. Very Catch Me If You Can. At first I was going to buy my costume, but after doing some research I balked at the prices I saw online -- 50 bones for a shiny and ill-fitting polyester sheath?! Please. I'd rather spend that $50 on something I've wanted forever but couldn't justify the purchase of, say this.

Anyway, I went to the fabric store, spent a whopping $13 total on materials and set to work making my costume. I used some artistic license in terms of the costume's conception (i.e., though the Pan Am stewardess of yore were much more stylish than today's flight attendants, they still wore conservative electric blue pencil suits).

Cute, but such is life in Technicolor. Unfortunately we have to deal with modern-day lighting here, people.

So I decided my kind of Pan Am stewardess would wear a white cap-sleeved blouse tucked into a high-waisted electric blue mini skirt, complete with blue pillbox hat, neckerchief, and signature logo patch pinned to chest. Here are my finished pieces:

I can't take credit for the belt (from an old shirt I bought at Forever 21), but the skirt (above) turned out better than I expected.

This is the best I could do with the patch. Kept super-gluing my fingers together by accident so finally just stopped fussing over it.

I'm most happy about the pillbox hat I made from felt (above).Yes, the last time I worked with felt was 1st grade when I ended up eating half my film roll container of paste. But that was another time. I followed Humble Bumble B's video tutorial on ThreadBanger for this design, then added the three white buttons as a detail to tie the whole costume together.

For J's costume he'll be wearing his navy blue suit that he already owns (tricky, tricky, we know), and pilot's hat and pin that we bought for about $10 total at the Halloween store.

We're going up to Manhattan for the weekend to visit one of my good friends and her husband. They just moved into a new apartment very near Central Park and we can't wait to see them. Apparently I've been told we'll be attending a "Liquor Treat" party on Saturday night (costumes required), which already sounds fun. Revelry will undoubtedly ensue. J's never been to NYC, so let's also hope he doesn't get any ideas about finding a legal job there after our weekend jaunt up north.

In other news the animals will be staying here, but I couldn't resist taking hilarious pictures of them in costume:

A disgruntled Lola.

An oblivious Moneypenny.


And finally, NaNoWriMo is almost upon us! Are any of you kiddies going to partake in November's thirty days and nights of literary abandon? If you have no clue what I'm talking about go here, but if you're a participant you can find me under the username "TildonKatz". (As a Mad Men fan you should get that reference. Period.)

I'm pretty much done with the outline for the book I plan to write in November. It's about an ex-Nazi doctor who flees to Buenos Aires after WWII to start a new life as a cab driver under an assumed identity. Riveting, isn't it? Will he overcome his prejudices? Find redemption? Be caught and extradited? Can we ever really "start all over" in our lives, or do our pasts eternally haunt us? All will come to fruition in November in what I've tentatively titled "In the Hall of the Mountain King." Obviously I'll probably be blogging less next month (50,000 words in 30 days scares even me), but I'll keep you updated. The nearly finished manuscript for my first book will be going into a drawer and not looked at till Dec. 1st.

What are you dressing up as for Halloween?

Monday, October 26, 2009

The hookah smoking caterpillar

Hope you kiddies had a delightful weekend. Mine kicked off Friday at a hookah party with a bunch of ostentatious windbags and ended Sunday night swathed in scraps of cerulean blue, reading one of Thomas Friedman's latest articles.

Perhaps we should back up.

J's friend "Sam" invited us over to his place on Friday night for a fun-filled few hours of cocktails and social smoking through a shared tube. Yummy.

"Hey guys, I just ordered Mojito-flavored tobacco, are you in?" he asked giggling over the phone, a remix of Britney's "Circus" blaring in the background from his pink iPod. Love this guy to death, but there is no way in hell he is straight. We've all discussed in depth and think the only person who doesn't know is his girlfriend who's currently living with him. Poor little lamb. It's quite obvious, we're all just waiting for her to some day find out.

Anyway, I'm not one to turn down mojito-flavored anything, so we trotted over and got to meet all of Sam's friends who also, as it turned out, delighted in tropical tastes as much as I did. After the martinis were poured and the hookah was lit, we began ruminating on our college years, current jobs and everything in between.

"I never knew mojito-flavor of this existed," I said in a cottony tone as the smoke poured from my lips. I passed the hookah tube to J and sipped my third glass of wine. The others around me nodded, inebriated grins on their faces.

"Oh I have strawberry daiquiri flavor too!!!" Sam squealed, getting up to find his little store-bought baggie of paradise. I squealed along with him, as did two of the guys to my right, and as he got the new flavor ready I turned to the boys who'd just shared in my strawberry daiquiri excitement.

"Soooo...." I said, "How do you two lovelies know Sam and his girlfriend?"

"Oh, he used to live with them in college," the fatter one said, pointing to his thinner boyfriend.

"Really?" My interest was piqued. The tone of his voice was a little ... off. Perhaps some ill-fated love-triangle had transpired back then?

"Yeah," the thin one said, sitting cross-legged across the table from Sam, his girlfriend, and their fourth cocktails. "I knew [Sam's girlfriend], and that's how I got to know Sam. It was ...," he paused, "Interesting." He sat picking at the table leg, avoiding eye contact with Sam, a weird look on his face. Tension. Drama. Something obvi went down betwixt these boys in college and it was so juicy you might as well have ordered it tar-tar. The others -- minus Sam's girlfriend, of course -- picked up on the subtly, but I wasn't going to prod. Not with her there.

"How very Three's Company..." was all I could think to say, inhaling the strawberry daiquiri goodness and trying to think of a way to change the subject. "Wow, this is like a tropical paradise in my mouth," I said blowing the smoke aside. We couldn't stop laughing, though now without being five glasses of red deep, it's not as funny anymore. Strange how that happens. ;)

Then they all started on about their jobs. Let me preface what I'm about to say with one thing: There's a fine line between speaking about yourself modestly and sounding like a pretentious snob. I can't stand the latter. So, after listening to them try to "out-job" and "out-cool" one another this is all I wanted to say:

"Look, it's one thing to have a job. That's awesome, we get it, you all have jobs when most qualified people your age (22-28) can't even get an interview, much less a job offer. I guess this in someway gives you the right to smugly point out that you're a star for even having one ... or something. But just because you have a job doesn't validate your existence. Congratulations. You've rescinded yourself to accepting your mediocre mid-tier position which you complain about hating but use anyway as a fragile tent pole in your superiority complex . But here's the thing: None of you are doing anything that's really that important. Most of us don't, so really, you've got nothing to feel so goddamn pretentious about. You're not saving lives, or changing laws or finding cures or educating those who need to learn or anything even remotely close to making any sort of difference. The fact is you're all replaceable, and you don't even see it. Or maybe you do, and that's why you feel the need to be so self-aggrandizing. To make up for that bleak realization you have hidden somewhere that it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Phonies."

Whew. Someone get me another drink. "Ok, Holden Caulfield," J would call me later during the car ride home. But at the party I just sat smiling, nodding at them. "Really," I said, listening to Sam's girlfriend talk about her love affair with her inbox. At least the girl was getting action somewhere. "You don't say."

I know, you're probably thinking "Get over yourself Crystal, like you're doing anything that amazing or important." Never said I was, and that's why I don't chatter on at parties like an insipid fool who's accomplished something incredible. Working on it. Most of us are. Thomas Jefferson once said "Don't talk about what you have done or what you are going to do." Basically, just do it. Actions speak louder than words.

So last night I was working on my Pan Am stewardess costume for Halloween (hence the cerulean blue), when I took a break and read one of Thomas Friedman's latest columns. In it he discussed how "just having a job" these days doesn't cut it anymore, it doesn't set you ahead of the pack. You need to be a thinker, be entrepreneurial, bring something extra to your job.

"In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore," he wrote. "It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top."

I guess that's my point. What chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry did they bring to their jobs? None. Going through the daily motions alone was enough to inflate their egos and in someway be brag-worthy. If this had been Alice in Wonderland I would have puffed my mojito smoke and asked in a breathy voice "Whooo ... are ... you?" Instead I simply listened quietly and smiled along from my mushroom.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My faith in humanity has been restored

Something completely miraculous happened to me about three weeks ago. I call it miraculous because I haven't viewed that many random acts of kindness in my lifetime and therefore had begun to believe that people are generally self-interested. Until three weeks ago.

Earlier this year J and I flew out to San Diego for my sister's graduation. It was a packed flight and we were seated at complete opposite ends of the plane, he in the back near the toilets and screaming babies (haha), me up nearer to first-class where I belong. As I took my seat I made some joke about packing into these planes like sardines to the guy next to me. He laughed, and for the next four and half hours we had one long, uninterrupted conversation about, well, everything. Let's call him Jude, for privacy's sake.

Jude looked to be in his 30s and couldn't have avoided me even if he wanted to since he had the window seat (muwahaha). We talked nonstop about our spouses, lives, careers and dreams. I told him I'd just quit my job to pursue writing books and he was so enthusiastic. It was an amazing, deep conversation and a refreshing reminder that the stranger sitting next to you could very well be a great friend if you just lean over and start asking questions (which I do because I'm nosy and like hearing other people's stories). In the midst of our conversation we lost track of time and were both startled when the pilot came on the intercom announcing we were already descending into San Diego. It felt like only 30 minutes had gone by.

Needless to say we exchanged LinkedIn information (how very 2009 of us), but after introducing Jude to J near the baggage carousel and saying goodbye I sadly thought that would be the last I'd hear from him. Such is the usual way of life. Until I received an email from him three weeks ago. Apparently he'd read the last few posts of my blog, saw the bad news about J's no-offer with the Newport Beach firm and our subsequent tightening of the money belt and offered help ... in the form of two round-trip tickets back to California for the holidays using all the extra airline miles he had.

Wow. At first I thought he was just being nice, and politely said I couldn't take them, but after a few emails back and forth he insisted and said his miles would expire unused anyway if I didn't (he travels a ton for business so had a stockpile of them). How could I refuse? I said okay, sent him the exact travel dates we wanted and the next day we had confirmation of two round-trip tickets to the Bay Area for December/January sitting in my inbox.

I was and still am floored, and continuously thanking God that this happened when it did. No one outside of my family has ever offered me such a generous gift before, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude. How do you repay someone you've known for all of 5 hours for going out of their way to make your life easier? Especially at a time when J and I were nauseous about having to put the nearly $2,000 worth of holiday travels onto our credit card in an effort to conserve cash. Yes, Jude essentially gave us a $2,ooo present.
Christmas has come early to Crystal and J's household.

At any other point in my life I'd overnight Jude a bottle of Dom or Veuve Clicquot and profusely thank him in an annoying accompanied note, but right now all I can do is thank him through email and it just doesn't cut it. Sigh. More than the monetary gift I'm thankful because I feel like my faith in humanity has been restored, you know? Like people CAN actually be genuinely kind without being self-interested. It's refreshing and humbling and I'll never forget this. I've already promised myself to someday do something similar when I have the means of doing so. N
ot to get all "Delilah after Dark" on you, but kindness is contagious.

So as a joke I told him I'd send him a personally signed copy of my book when it's official and he replied "absolutely."

"Happy to help... looking forward to you two accomplishing great things... for some reason I just feel it. Never stop dreaming," he wrote.

With this gesture, I don't think I ever will.

Monday, October 19, 2009

WIP Update

Update: I'm about 2/3 of the way finished with my book. *raises power fist in camaraderie-like gesture to fighter jet gliding by as I speed down tarmac on motorcycle with "Danger Zone" playing in background.* I'm temporarily calling it Untitled -- snazzy, no? -- as I've been unimpressed with the titles I've thought of so far (and probably will be till I'm completely finished and can study it as a whole). Nevertheless Untitled is going well.

When I talk to friends and family on the phone, they inevitably ask me how many pages I've written so far. An answer to that is as easy as cherry pie. Second inevitable question is "how long will it be?" I wish I knew. Projected word count eludes me like a George Clooney con Vespa sighting in Como. (Apparently he vacations there or some tripe like that, but whenever I'm there I see no such evidence. Sigh.)

I originally thought my book would be about 65k words. Once I started writing I realized that projection was ludicrously inadequate, so I upped it to 70k, then 75k, and now I'm projecting 85,000 words total ... but that'll likely go up to 95k to 100k. Which is fine. From what I've found an official novel is between 60,000 and 100,000 words.

I know that it's easy to get lost in word counts and page numbers and at this stage these things aren't so important, but for me it's the only way to track my progress and keep good pace. I find pacing is key. Here's why:

When I was forced to take freshman PE in high school, running track was my least favorite activity. (All I wanted was to stroll languidly with my girlfriends and discuss important issues like boys and what where we were going to sit for lunch. "Rachel saw Cody kissing Summer next to the art room lockers. Pass it on." Things of that nature.) I wasn't nor will I ever be a runner, but back then I was more of an idealist than I am today. This would result in me sprinting the first lap like a sprightly racehorse, then staggering through the last three laps as I hyperventilated and finally lurched toward that Godforsaken finish line. I didn't want that to happen as I worked on my book. Neither did I want to casually amble the track four times, absentmindedly eating CornNuts and showing my friends how to moonwalk on the gravel, clocking in a 25-minute mile in the end. (I earned no "A" for effort on those particular days.) Let's just say I've come to recognize that pacing is important.

Where I currently stand: 65,000 words written, about 200 pages complete. When I first began writing Untitled I thought something insanely groovy would happen when I finally hit page 200. Like maybe I'd defy the laws of quantum physics and be hurled into an alternate universe where God would speak to me without the use of any psychotropic substances ... orrrr that I would simply hit 200 pages. J teases me lately with "Has God spoken to you yet?" No, no he hasn't, but the farther I get along in my manuscript the more enlightened I become. Why? Because, as Hemingway once said, "The first draft of anything is shit." (FYI: Hemingway also said "Write drunk; edit sober." Something to consider...)

Writing is the easy part, it's in the editing when the real work begins. True enlightenment will come when I press print, get my red pen "Jorge" (pronounced "Hor-hay") ready and start blasting out whole sections, rewriting chapters and fleshing out the vague ... and then have those around me critique it all. I'm happy at how far I've come (I've written a lot in my life but never this many words in one consecutive project) and it feels good to have an actual workable manuscript nearing completion, but the yellow brick road that lays ahead is fraught with months of editing that I can't wait to undertake. John Irving once said that "Half my life is an act of revision." I think the saucy minx had a point.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Your weekly cup of Zoe

"It's so weird to be back in LA." Rachel looks over at Brad (above). "I feel like you literally forgot your pants. I mean, and you have a linen tote bag ..."

Brad: "Hopefully this shoot is a Xanadu and not a Xanadon't."
Rachel, straight-faced and after a long pause: "Do you lie awake at night thinking of the worst jokes in the entire world?"
Brad: "No, they just come to me just before I say them. It's part of my gift."

"Perfume is the final step in getting dressed everyday. It's that perfect finishing touch." - Rachel, on the merits of perfume

"This smells too citrus-ey. I'd like a note of it, but not a whole song."
- Rachel on a potential fragrance

"I used to dunk myself in patchouli oil when I was in college." - Rachel being Rachel

A voicemail Brad leaves Rachel while she's in New York: "Hiiiii Rachel, it's Brad. I hope you're having a good time in New York with Taylor. I know you're probably super busy but I just wanted to let you know that my legs look really, really good in short shorts. Byeeee!"

"This shoot is a Xanadu story taking place in a gym and what we need is a big, hunky beefcake." - Brad, after he and Rachel are disappointed with the effeminate male models they've seen so far

"I really need to find the male equivalent of Jessica Stam."
- Rachel, frustrated

"You could've worn that in Paris, but you didn't get invited."
- Brad to Taylor

"Multi-colored, multi-fabric tranny heel. God knows what. It's absolutely all about the thigh high." - Rachel's final fashion advice for the season

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Suddenly, a dark cloud settled over first period...

"The goddamn pen is bluuuue."

A week ago J had a preliminary interview with the Bronx district attorney's office to be a DA. Yes, I just said the Bronx. After the interview (which he said went really well), J surprised me and said he wasn't going to send them his letters of rec like they'd requested.

Me: "What? You're nearly giving yourself an ulcer finding a job. Why wouldn't you pursue this?"

J: "Because though it'd be nice, I think I can do better. That and," he said with mild sarcasm, "I don't think it'd work if we became a bi-coastal couple. I'd miss you too much." (Note: I've told J that if he decides to reside on the East Coast post-graduation, I'll split my time between the East and West coast. Maybe throw in a little extended time in Italy for good measure. No biggie, but apparently it is.)

He looked at peace with his decision (well, as much as one can be who's job hunting with $200,000 in school debt looming over his head) until two nights ago, when we were working on our laptops at Starbucks and he got a call. It was the DA's office, wanting him for a callback interview. And his immediate response when they asked if he'd want to come up and interview with the panel was ..."Yes." Why, I don't know. He didn't even know himself, and kept wondering out loud why he'd said yes. All I could do was shake my head...."this is SO not something Don Draper would do," I thought to myself. J immediately regretted his snap response and said he'd call and cancel, but I told him no.

"Just do the call back. You don't know if you've got the job. Think hard about whether you want it when you get the actual job offer. Until then don't say no," I said, espousing my oft-sage advice. He agreed ... and promptly began looking for possible apartments in the Bronx, emailing me the listings. I couldn't help but laugh out loud across the table from him when I saw the damned things in my inbox.

"No, kemosabe, I won't be living in the Bronx. You'll be," I reminded him. (Insert sad J face here.) "I'm a freebird, I don't do the Bronx...or anything that's even remotely close to Yonkers."

Now I've never actually been to Yonkers or the Bronx, but they both remind me of a particularly vile DMX song I used to "bump" in my car during my high school years as I cruised through senior parking thinking I was cool long before I actually was. (It was very Michael Bolton listening to Tupac in Office Space). Anyway before the song starts there's a crass repartee between DMX and his "honey," in which he accuses her over the phone of feigning interesting in other males' appendages and philandering with some unnamed man in Yonkers (in so many words). It will forever be burned on my brain and is now what I associate Yonkers, the Bronx ... heck most of the NYC boroughs with.

After hearing my story and laughing in my face, J thought I was being "ridiculous," and so began sending me Manhattan apartment listings instead.

"I could take the train and commute," he reasoned.

I shook my head. "Did I not just tell you I was a freebird?! Freebirds don't live in Vuh-jin-ya, like we are now, and they don't live in Manhattan either." (Confession: I so wanted to live in Manhattan when I was 21 and still overly obsessed with Sex and the City. Not so much anymore, as my new obsession is all-things Easy Rider.)

"Take me back out West, honey child. I'll even live in LA or Reno if it means we're inching our way closer." Yes, you read that correctly. I'll admit the Reno comment was desperation speaking, but it didn't seem to matter since calling J "honey child" seemed to distract him from the imminent issue.

So J has come to one of the great crossroads in life (that is if he goes through with the second interview and gets the offer): Does he settle and get paid minor ducats at a thankless job, or does he take the risk of holding out and wait for a better opportunity? Too often I think we choose the first option because it's safer and more secure, but does it lend itself favorably in long-term career advancement, or is it simply sufficing as "a job"? Personally there have been times in my career where out of sheer impatience I began blindly applying to anything I was qualified for (within the journalism realm, of course), and jumped at the first offer that came my way. It worked out okay in the first year, but my happiness began to wane the second year -- even with a 15% raise and myriad perks.

I vote he waits for something better. Not just because of my fond memories of DMX and the Bronx, but for his overall happiness and well-being.
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