Saturday, December 31, 2005

We'll get 'em next year

If my body were a baseball team, this is the year we finished in the cellar. During spring training, only the most astute of sportswriters noticed the warning signs. The big guy down at the end of the bench, his cheek distended by a plug of tobacco, was a little surlier than usual, got up a little slower. The bats weren’t swinging as fast as they normally would that time of year. And the jokes, the horsing around in the locker room – well, it seemed a little forced, more out of habit than anything else.

Still, on paper we looked like we could have a shot – some decent numbers, a little power, a hot-corner hot-shot we picked up for some deadwood and a player to be named later, a guy with a curve that would leave his opponents spinning around so hard they’d be looking at the backs of their own heads. And there was our legacy. That legacy, those pretty pennants hanging from the rafters, luffing delicately in the spring breeze, those shining plaques mounted on the center field wall, lovingly polished once a week. Hell. We always had that to fall back on. And didn’t we turn it on hardest, didn’t it all come together when we were two, three games out, only a few weeks to go?

But only a couple months into regulation play we started going downhill. Our hardest-throwing starter went DL for the season with a torn rotator cuff. The hot-corner hot-dog, who’d posed for a Sports Illustrated cover with his ice-skater cutie, turned out to be a weenie at the plate. And the steroid scandal hit us hard. By June, the big guy just didn’t look as big as he used to.

After the All-Star break the real talk started – are these guys too old? Just a drain on a payroll that might do better with a bunch of young farm kids? And what about the manager? Yeah, maybe he’d won six, seven championships, but what had he done for us lately? The static on WFAN went crazy. Buy out the manager’s contract. Dump the batting coach. Dump the whole bunch of them and let the AA team finish out the season.

Oh, it was ugly. And ugly didn’t begin to describe the antics off the field. The hot-shot punched the batting coach in the locker room. The entire outfield was arrested following a drunken brawl. Details of the second-baseman’s affair and subsequent divorce from his uber-model wife was the page 1 story on the local tabloid every day for a week. The team was below .500 in September for the first time in fifteen years. For a while, the entire starting lineup was listed as day-by-day.

“I wish it were like Little League,” said one of the relief pitchers, one of the few who would even talk to the press anymore. “Then we could call the mercy rule and all go home.”

But mercy did come, as inevitably, inexorably, the last regulation game of what was to become known as the Season From Hell came to a close, with, ironically, a win in the fourteenth inning thanks to a walk-off homerun from the big guy who used to be bigger.

The limp was noticeable from the bleachers.

The guys had barely cleaned out their lockers when the rumors began. Which free-agents would sign with who, and who would merely be put out to pasture. Who they could get and what it would cost.

When the dust settled, one of the few guys still wearing the uniform was the manager. It had been like the blue-light special at K-Mart. But now, he had numbers. He had power. He had base speed. He had starters, relievers, and a guy out of the Dominican Republic it was said could pitch Mariano Rivera’s lights out.

During the press conference that followed, sportswriters and broadcasters from all over the country fired their questions. The manager sweated visibly under the hot lights.

“So do you think this is the team that’s going to get you the World Series in 2006?” a cub from one of the sports channels asked.

He gulped at his water. “Let’s not go crazy just yet. Let’s just call this a rebuilding year and leave it at that.”

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Help, Jane, stop this crazy thing....

As some of you know, part of my physical therapy routine involves a great deal of walking. But as the temperatures drop and the snow piles up, I'm stuck inside on the 'mill for more and more of my walks. It's aimed toward the sliding glass door on the porch, where even though the view is pretty, it's getting kind of old three times a day for 15-20 minutes at a time. Horse, tree, neighbor feeding horse, tree, sage green deck railing, squirrel, tree. I can't aim it toward the TV without majorly renovating the family room (a task that husband doesn't need to herniate a disk trying to tackle right now) and even if I did, I'm finding TV pretty useless these days. It's got a place for a magazine or book, but the danged top of the console vibrates when I go over 2.5 MPH or so, making me queasy. So I've thought about a few ways that I could make my walking time more interesting and maybe even productive:

1. Augment the belt to include potholes, broken paving stones, and fake horse manure so I’ll feel like I’m walking outdoors.
2. Hang one of those giant Starbucks oatmeal-raisin cookies just beyond my reach. Maybe this time…..
3. Hire some of the neighbor's kids to perform staged readings from Hamlet, Spamalot or the Vagina Monologues.
4. Hook it up to our home heating system. More calories burned equals more BTUs and less propane. I must have at least burned enough energy to cover the cost of the electricity used and the electrician who came to install the dedicated 20 amp circuit. Use money saved for giant Starbucks oatmeal-raisin cookies.
5. Two words: roller skates!
6. Get a second treadmill so husband and I can race to the window! Winner gets giant Starbucks oatmeal-raisin cookies. Or, better yet, gets to stop.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Happy birthday, dude!

Today is my younger nephew’s thirteen birthday. As it’s an aunt’s privilege to spoil the kids rotten with junk food, take them places their parents don’t approve of, and tell embarrassing tales from their younger youth, I feel it’s my duty to share the following story:

My husband and I like to attend air shows (let’s just say that my husband (a fighter pilot in his dreams) LOVES to go to air shows. I like most of the acts well enough to tag along, collecting material for future novels). He’d been looking forward to the time when my two older nephews would be old enough go with us (that’s to say, when my brother and his ex would allow us to take them and they would be old enough to tolerate long car rides, crowds, porta-potties and the sound of screaming jet engines).

This happened a few years back, the show was at an airport only an hour and a half away, and we thought that the timing would be perfect. Older nephew, then 11, was and still is a pretty mellow dude, and didn’t mind the trip. Didn’t mind the heat, and was more than ready to feel the earth shake beneath his feet.

The younger one was 9 at the time, and let me preface this by saying that he is a smart, talented, responsible and adorable kid, but he was, shall we say, a tad cranky from the moment we got into the car to the moment we pulled into the airport. It was too hot. The trip was too long. He’d forgotten his sunglasses and the sun hurt his eyes. Again he was too hot. And he was hungry.

And for him, the day never got any better. Even though we bought him sunglasses, frozen lemonade, bottled water, fried dough, souvenir handbooks. While his brother and my husband elbowed their way to the flight line with their cameras, the younger one (I could sympathize; we share the same fair skin and aversion to the heat) curled into a grumpy heap on his camp chair, nursing his third frozen lemonade. And with every request he made, I could feel my husband’s patience (usually quite good with the kids) growing thinner, and thinner, and thinner.

Finally it snapped.

“How long is this supposed to last?” my nephew said.

Husband said through his teeth, “It’s going to be going on all day and we told you that from the start and we bought you everything you asked for and I’m not made of money and if you don’t like it you can go sit in the car.”

There was no more complaining for a while.

As promised, the ground shook. Jets took off straight up from the ground, swirling dust all around us. Wing walkers kept their balance against tiny poles on tiny biplanes. Jets whose names I couldn’t remember (husband knows not only what they are called but could identify them out of the sky including the manufacturer and the history of the design) screamed overhead, doing stultifying maneuvers, made arcs up through the clouds as gracefully as diving birds.

OK, I like air shows a little.

Then, with the last poetic overpass, the show was over.

We started packing up to go.

“You mean it’s over already?” my younger nephew said.

Let me say this again. Younger nephew (like his brother) is an adorable kid. With a sweet smile and big brown eyes. And I’m sure this has saved his bacon many, many times. Still, a vein atop my husband’s head began to throb.

Then we left, and even though we usually wait for the crowd to thin out, the traffic back to the highway was still murderous. Younger nephew’s complaints kept coming. Why is the traffic so heavy and when are we going to get home and I’m hungry! Also weighing on me (and I’m sure it was weighing on my husband) was that we’d agreed not only to take them to the show for the day but pick up a pizza and have them sleep over our house that night.

At that time, we had twin beds in our guest room, and when they stayed over, the two boys took turns choosing who got which bed (the one closest to the wall was the preferred one) but they’d forgotten whose turn it was to choose. So the older nephew, employing the principal of squatters rights, calmly staked his claim by putting his stuff on the inside bed. This made the younger one crazy. He yelled. He pleaded. Apparently this didn't bring about the desired results, so he came to get me.

“He took the good bed! It’s not even his turn!”

I admit I was getting a little tired of arbitrating the skirmishes myself. Tiredly, I said, “You’re just going to have to work this one out for yourselves. If not, I’ll send your uncle in.”

And my 9-year-old nephew looked up at me with those melting-chocolate eyes. “You do it,” he said. “I think my uncle’s had enough of me for today.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Practical solutions for real-life problems

Since I ordered a lumbar support for my compromised lower spine about a year ago from the Solutions people, I’ve been receiving three catalogs a month ever since. They promised “Products that make life easier,” with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. Then I received a new catalog- Problem Solvers – which claims to offer “practical solutions for everyday living.” I get two of those a month, and have yet to order a thing. I don’t know, I keep looking through these catalogs, and while their offerings are amusing and somewhat practical, they continue to ignore the most-desired items. Here’s what I’d like to see (inventors out there, take note):

1. A non-electric blanket that accommodates changes in your body temperature. Breathes when you’re hot-flashing, keeps you warm when you’re cold. Please, come up with this one and menopausal women everywhere will add your bust to Mount Rushmore.

2. A remote that will mute either politician or rap music at 100 yards. Better yet, it should emit a mild electrical shock. May be adjusted for Republican, Democrat or Country/Western for a small additional charge.

3. Prescription vials (for households with no children or pets with outstanding manual dexterity) that pop open like Tic Tac boxes. No more fumbling to open your painkillers at two in the morning or hunting for the cap underneath the nightstand.

4. An answering machine that can be programmed to leave specific messages for people you don’t want to talk to. Program in the undesirable number, and they can hear something like, “The number you have called has been disconnected,” or, combine with #2 above and have it emit a mild electrical shock.

5. Flummoxed by voting machines? Make your pick on this special single-use cell phone, just like American Idol!

6. Telescoping grooming devices for places you can’t reach. This will be especially appreciated by anyone who has seen my legs in the last nine months.

7. These catalogs, and others, now offer a revelation in women’s casual clothing: a tank top with a built-in bra: no straps to fall out, no lumps or seams to show. Well, that’s just great. But they’ve left out something major. Anyone who has shopped for women’s pants in the last year may have noticed that the jeans no longer reach the waist. It can’t be a denim shortage; boy’s jeans contain enough fabric to fit an elephant. Problem is that the jeans stop but the underwear keeps on going. (or at least any type of underwear you can wear all day while still smiling) And unless every time you bend or reach you want to share with the world that it was a leopard-print or polka-dot kind of day, or where you buy your skivvies, this continues to be a problem. Why can’t jeans be designed around this same concept? Built-in underpants with Velcro attachments. Even Brittney would buy them.

8. Can’t anyone design a car with a built-in beverage holder large enough to hold a grande latte? (But then again…asking that your car to be designed around your addiction is probably a sign that you should be in some kind of 12-step program.)

Good luck to all. But I’m sure I’ll be duct-taping a dowel to a disposable razor very, very shortly. The guys who use the whirlpool at the Y will thank me.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Nothing left but the crying...

I always get a bit melancholic this time of year. The twinkling magic of the holidays behind me, New Year’s Eve not quite close enough to plan the night’s wardrobe. In my less-responsible years, I surfed through this week oblivious, stretching out the celebration and pouring shots of Bailey’s or Amaretto into my evening decaf, sleeping late and watching stupid TV in my pajamas, going to the mall by day and the movies by night. But as I got older I developed another ritual: tidying up all loose ends. It was a kind of superstition with me. Some people made resolutions. Some partied the time away. I filled my days with errands: picking up the dry-cleaning, returning the library books, paying bills. Like some bad juju from the existing year would come back to bite me if I still had somebody’s lasagna pan in my house, if I’d left a coat at the tailors’ to be mended or a necklace at a jeweler’s to be repaired or hadn’t balanced my checkbook.

Damn sure I don’t want any ghosts from 2005 still lurking in my house come January 1.

So I’ve started early. And this morning I started with the mother lode: three cartons of personal items my boss found in my office, packaged up and dropped in my car the day we had lunch last week.

Fortified with a hearty breakfast and extra vitamins, I opened the first box. The contents seemed harmless enough - the typical things a professional woman might hide in her desk drawer: one of those invisible shoe-shine sponges for touch ups after a walk through the gravel parking lot or the dusty factory floor, a lint roller for that quick roll-over before being called downstairs to give a presentation, sun block for those spontaneous lunchtime strolls, a can of Static Guard, miscellaneous female unmentionables and for some reason, a package of birthday candles (hey, you never know when an unlit birthday cake might fly by your office).

No problem, I thought, I can handle this. I kept what was still useful and chucked the rest. But it was the second carton that did me in. After opening the flap I realized in one visual grab that this one contained the personal mementos – the company coffee mug that I'd designed, the little do-dads and toys that went on and around my computer and shelves. Every item had a story. There was the gargoyle statuette our 17-year-old intern, Erik, had named “Irving,” which had broken its toe when he fell from the top of the computer onto the keyboard. He became our mascot the summer Erik and I worked together to create our company’s first web site. The summer he turned me on to Propellerhead and found a new respect for me when I told him I was a huge Brian Eno fan. There were the various penguin statuettes and beanie babies people had given me throughout the years. The Louis Prima and Rhapsody in Blue CDs I played on my computer when I came in to do extra work on Saturday mornings. And the hardest of all, the business card holder and the stack of business cards for the position that no longer existed.

Which made it all too real that I’m never coming back.

Perhaps I’ll leave the third box for later. Like, never.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

...and to all a good night...

Face it…there is just no hiding a 5’5’’, 130 lb Sephartic-looking Jewish man in a Santa Claus suit, no way, no how. And if I saw one taking a flight with me, I’d be very suspicious of that fat belly.

But several Christmas eves ago, one of Santa’s most patient elves (who did some decent justice to the elf-tights, if she does say so herself), packed the guy into the rented suit, pillows and all, packed us into the Jeep (Note for the future: it is not good to drive a Jeep with a giant pillow stuck inside your shirt. Of course, Santa and his faithful elf failed to anticipate this) and drove to his best customer’s house, where we were to park quietly in the back, then scamper up the stairs (holding my jingle bells silent) while their 4-year-old grandson Alex was being distracted by the fake reindeer prints his grandpa had made on the roof, then hide in a back bedroom until we got the signal (Note to self, elf: less bling on the elf-suit next time). As we waited…and waited (cripes, kids were getting harder and harder to fake out these days), sweating in our velvet duds, “Santa” grumbled what on Earth had possessed us to agree to this gig.

“I’m Jewish, for chrissakes,” he said.

“So was Jesus,” I reminded him. And then I reminded my husband, a freelance illustrator, how much this customer had contributed to our current lifestyle.

“You’ve got a point,” he said.

Finally we got the signal.

Santa let out his breath, fluffed his belly and straighted his beard. “All right.”

I scampered out, jingle all the way, made a big show of opening up a fake parchment, cleared my voice and introduced His Eminenence S. Claus in my best squeaky elf imitation (which sounded pretty much like Elmo) He did a pretty good “ho, ho, ho,” handed the goggle-eyed kid a bag of toys and then we beat it out of there before too many questions could be asked, like, why don’t we leave up the chimney and can I pet the reindeer and why does Santa have a black beard underneath his white one?

“You think he bought it?” I asked, as we clambored back into the General Motors sleigh, peeling off clothing as we went.

“Who cares,” he said. “I just want to get out of this suit.”

We did this for a couple of years, because after that I’m sure that Alex no longer believed in Santa, and our presence would only result in many sessions of therapy for the kid in his adulthood.

But it was kind of…sort of…fun. The look on his face brought me right back to my childhood, when I had the same sort of wonder, when adults were magic and infallible, and it might make perfect sense that some fat guy hauled by reindeer could land on my roof and come down the chimney.

I hope that somewhere inside each adult, a spark of that child lives on.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fiction Friday

This is from the first chapter of my will-see-the-light-of-day-sometime-soon novel "Goldberg Variations." This excerpt was published in an issue of New England Writers Network a couple years back. Hope you like it.


With my union-allotted mid-morning break drawing to a close, I watched the last of one of my niftier smoke rings dissolve into the miasma of the Los Angeles basin. The act made me feel oddly magnanimous, having freed these poor trapped molecules of carbon monoxide so they could rendezvous with the mother ship. Like I was the only one who knew that they were truly alive, like that elephant in the Dr. Seuss book who found a universe in a dandelion. If I weren’t so hung over I probably would have remembered the elephant’s name.


No, I pondered, working the now-exhausted butt underneath one Ferragamo slide while idly contemplating the well-developed torso on one of the grips. The elephant’s name wasn’t “Catering.” And that wasn’t my name, either, though certain parties in Hollywood seemed to think so. One of them appeared to be heading in my direction.

“You there! Catering!”

Barking at me was the producer’s Napoleonic spawn, a rough draft of a man with a Rolex rip-off and bad plugs. I sighed and looked at my watch. I had three minutes until I had to smile and dish out designer coffee and Krispy Kremes, so I ignored him. I was in no mood to salute this asshole’s flag a second early than required by my contract.

“Jesus, are you deaf?” he said.

My name wasn’t Jesus, either, and I was also pretty sure that while Jesus might have been a victim of a simple misunderstanding, his problems ran a little deeper than a hearing aide could have solved.

Little Producer Man opened his mouth a fourth time, bent on haranguing me further, no doubt, and would probably have kept haranguing me until I acknowledged his pathetic overprivileged existence, so I gave him a little smile and pointed to my chest. As if it were just a matter of not having heard him over the bustle and clatter of the back-end of a movie set.

“Yeah, you,” he said. “Cappuccino. Trailer three. Nonfat milk. Don’t screw it up.”

“I’m not going in there.” That was an assistant’s job. Besides, the last coffee jock who’d gone into Anastasia Cole’s trailer had exited wearing the cappuccino. Whole milk. Extra cinnamon. Then kept on walking. If either he or Miss Silicone Tits thought that a slew of forgettable teen horror flicks and one Oscar nomination—for supporting actress, in a slow year—earned her the right to swat the worker bees, then they both had another thing coming. I didn’t care that my teenaged nephew adored her and had seen all of her movies, some twice. Suddenly I wished I was a coffee jock—just so I could march into her trailer with a cup of tea and see how she damned well liked it.

The heir-apparent let out a long sigh. “OK. What’s it worth to you?”

“Excuse me?”

He pulled out his wallet. “Ten bucks?”

Ten bucks? I saw what that snot-nosed pisher drove onto the set. My parents hadn’t paid as much for their bed and breakfast. “Fifty. But if she throws it at me, I’m walking too. And I’ll take the entire catering unit with me.”
I had no authority to do so, but I’d been working with guys like this for years. It seemed like a safe bet that beyond his own imagined influence, he didn’t have a clue who was responsible for what.

A vein on his forehead bulged. “Christ. You’re as bad as the agents. Anastasia won’t do the nude scene, the other producers are that close to backing out and now the catering girl is shaking me down for a lousy cup of coffee.”

I straightened my spine, which probably didn’t make me any taller than my usual five-foot-five, sans moussed curls and impractical footwear, but made me feel more intimidating. “What did you call me?”

He got right up in my face. “Catering. Girl. No power.” He pointed to himself. “Producer. Power. Get the difference?”

I smiled sweetly at him. “Thank you for clearing that up for me. Now let me give you some advice. When Daddy makes you drive to McDonald’s to pick up dinner for the crew, don’t forget the french fries. Makes the union guys pissy.”

Then I turned and started toward my car. Forcing a cool, confident walk-away so he wouldn’t see that I was having a quiet nervous breakdown over what I’d just done. This crappy movie was probably going straight to video, but I needed this job bad. In the thirteen years since little Frankie Goldberg left the East Coast and the comfort of my mother’s brisket, the career as a famous movie star hadn’t panned out. Nor had I been doing very well as a fair-to-middling stand-up comedian. The only marketable skill I had left was a knack for cooking in large quantities, and at the moment I couldn’t afford to put my job on the line just to make a point. I had bills coming due, the Barracuda was on its last cylinder, and I owed my sister and her current husband, at her last accounting, six hundred and thirty two dollars and fifteen cents.

It was the fifteen cents that bothered me the most.

“All right,” he said. “Fifty. And I’ll talk to her first.”

I let out my breath. “Nonfat milk, you said?”

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Politically incorrect holiday announcement


There, sue me, I said it. Christmas. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Jesus, and God.

As an agnostic Unitarian Jew, the media think I should be taking to the streets with a pitchfork over the use of these words in public. But I could care less what you call the holiday (as long as it involves cookies and presents). I don’t cringe when I see an evergreen decorated with twinkling lights. I don’t flood with outrage if I’m sent a card with “Merry Christmas” written inside. (Frankly, I’m pleased to be thought of at all) And a jolly fat man in a red velvet suit, while a little disturbing when you think about it, especially how many children he visits in just one night, it does not strike me with as much fear as say, Michael Jackson does.

But I realize that I’m in an infinitesimally small minority. I had no right to demand the word “God” be struck from the Pledge of Allegiance (in school I merely omitted the word and nobody noticed) And I have no right to tell Christians they can’t have a living nativity scene in the center of town.

As long as the sheep don’t crap on my lawn, I’m OK with it.

Besides, Winter Solstice was being celebrated long before Jesus picked up his first hammer. The holiday was co-opted by Christians so that the Pagans, already lighting candles and drunk on mead, would barely notice the change in the carol librettos.

Happy Generic Winter Holiday of your choice. And don’t forget the cookies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Wonder Woman is Dead

Had lunch with my ex-boss today, at a fancy French place, the one where the waiters put on fake accents and then say things like “dude” to each other when they think the customers aren’t listening. The food is good, though. I hadn’t seen her since my last day (when she threw me a party…hey, here’s your coffee and croissants…now get out) It took me a long time to stop being angry with her, to realize that she didn’t want to fire me, it was the President’s command, and that she’s just a nice person stuck in a bad situation. When she let me go, the Director of Human Resources (Who came up with this title? Are we desks? Chairs? Computers with arms sticking out of them, drinking coffee?) by her side, I thought for sure she’d lined up someone to take my place. After all, the main gist of my ousting was that I could no longer put in the hours that she needed to get the work done, the official story that I was stepping aside to let her acquire the personnel that she required.

And with nothing to lose, I asked her over salade foue and carrot and dill soup how my replacement was doing. Why wouldn’t she have hired someone by now? I walked out of there for the last time at the beginning of October. For all I knew, someone was waiting to step behind my Mac the moment my car pulled out of the lot.

“Oh.” She looked tired as she casually buttered a slice of bread. “We haven’t hired anyone.”

Turns out she farmed out my work among various freelancers. I didn’t know whether to feel insulted that I was ditched just because management couldn’t show the board of directors that (gasp) they had essentially a part-time person on the books or flattered that it took so many people to cover my responsibilities.

But why should I be flattered? Isn’t it kind of ridiculous that any single job would require the work of three people? Why did I feel like I had to stay until all hours, when the guy down the hall, who still has a job as far as I know, felt no compunction about leaving at exactly five o’clock every single day?

And I thought I’d given up on this illusion that I was Wonder Woman. Long after the leotard began to chafe, the magic bracelets broke, the cape got stuck in the subway door, I still can’t seem give up on this idea that I could have done it all.

You know what? I can’t. I won’t. Even Wonder Woman, when she taxied the invisible jet into the hangar every night, still had to go home and make dinner and put the laundry away.

Let them fill the job any way they want. I’ve got a eulogy to write.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Are we there yet?

The hardest thing I’ve found about fiction, even harder than when someone slaps the whole manuscript back at me and hesitates before saying, with doleful gaze, “this was very hard for you to write, wasn’t it?” is knowing when it’s done.

I’m facing two levels of “done” right now. One manuscript I’m preparing either to self-publish (if once I do the pro and con list and discover that I do have the energy to hawk about 1000 copies myself, start a marketing list, call every writing contact I’ve ever made, travel to all the book stores in my area obsequiously asking for shelf space and a chance to do a reading for the one or two people who made it in from the cold and usually only for the cappuccino…) or go back to the agent route (certainly all 134 of them have all forgotten my name since I tried to push out my first ever manuscript clearly before it was ready to see the light of day…).

The other is a first draft of a new novel. (My working title of which was, for a short time, "three fairly interesting characters with potential in search of a plot.") Because of a serious injury and various other life events, I’d had to shelve this book twice: once very close to its inception and then about three-quarters of the way through the story. The first shelving was due to NaNoMo (not a Polynesian diety but a very cool and crazy event called National Novel Writing Month. Your challenge is to write an entire novel in the month of November (no previous outlining allowed!)) I made the challenge, woke up at 5 every day to put in my required words per day, then had a stress meltdown the following month. The second hiatus was unplanned and devastating, but now I’m back on a tear with it (now "three characters I’m completely smitten with and a plot that some days feels like I’ve got a tiger by the tail") I’m almost done with the first draft…I think.

The oddest thing about this novel (as if the others haven’t been odd) is that the first scene that popped into my head was the ending. The female protagonist fallen from her pedestal, and her husband, who’d wronged her six ways to Sunday all through the book, now contrite and coming back to her, under the auspices of only wanting to get his 10” Calphalon omelet pan. (you’ve had those days, haven’t you?)

But, as it usually does, in the interim, everything changed. Hence, the need for a new stopping place. My husband the artist (and sometime line editor), said that a painting requires two people to complete it: the artist, and someone to wrestle the brush out of the artist’s hand before he screws it up (this I’ve seen after countless 3 AM dashes to the studio to “just change one more thing.”)

So off I go, hoping I won’t need anyone to wrestle me off my keyboard before this becomes “Three characters who used to be interesting who are now overwritten and are dragging their feet through a plot that some agent has seen a dozen times before.”

But that’s what second drafts are for. And thirds, and fourths, and…

Sunday, December 18, 2005

It's hip to be square

My nephew, 14 going on 43, walks into my brother's house wearing his collar straight up.

"Dude," I say, cringing as if he'd just blasted a Mag-lite in my face. "Put that thing down."

"Why?" He shrugs his shoulders. "It's cool."

"Not in the eighties it wasn't." And I get the eye-roll which translates to mean the eighteen-eighties. "In the eighties, only the preps dressed like that and it was kind of a joke. Like whale pants and Flock of Seagulls haircuts."

"Whale what?"

As he stared at me wondering if he had been adopted, I started speculating on what other dorky things might come back. I longed to troll over to the high school and see a bunch of cheerleaders in black cat-eye glasses taped in the middle, Famolare wave platforms and gauchos. Football players in flood pants and plaid shirts, unbuttoned to reveal white Fruit of the Looms.

Oh, but life would never be that sweet.

"Some shirts even got 'pop the top' written on 'em," he says.

Now that's cool. But wearing that in my high school probably would have gotten me stuffed inside a gym locker.