Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's officially fall

Break out the pumpkin spice lattes and cinnamon-scented candles, kiddies, because it's always on Halloween when Autumn finally feels official to me.

Whenever it's this time of year, I always think back to my first fall in Boston. Back in New England seasons are seasons. More so than anywhere else I've been in the country. The winters are frigid and brutal, summers are best spent in sundresses, eating lobster on the Cape, and the most magnificent colored trees -- in bright reds and oranges and yellows -- dot the landscape when the leaves finally change and the season turns to fall. 

Back before I married D, when I was dating a different boyfriend whom I'd met three years earlier in California and was attempting to do the long distance thing with (future blog post on what I learned? I think so), these were the seasons, in all their truths, that I got to enjoy for a time. During this stint out East, I worked as a freelance reporter and one Saturday morning got to cover some energy policy event where Joe Kennedy II (son of RFK) was speaking. The event was out by Boston College, where the landscape is more suburban than city, and since I had no car I got to walk a ways from the last stop on the T line through the BC neighborhoods to my destination. 

This walk and this day is so vivid that to me it epitomizes fall. It had just rained a few hours earlier and the wet pavement smelled clean but metallic, like someone had washed a bunch of copper pennies. The sky was overcast and the still air felt crisp against my cheek like a newly starched dress shirt. Bright orange pumpkins sat on each porch I walked past. I wore a hounds tooth trench and boots, whose clip-clopping down the sidewalk cut the silence of the empty neighborhood.

I'm not sure why but ever since that day, I've always associated that moment in time with fall. So clearly that I can even see what my breath looked like with every exhale.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thank GOD today is Friday

This is how I feel:

P.S. If anyone would like to buy me this vintage Mercedes I would not be opposed to the idea.
All light and airy and polka-dotsy. Why? Because you're lookin' at a lady with a three-day weekend on her plate. I decided to take Monday off since I needed a nice pajama-clad day of R&R, but ALSO because Monday is November 1st...and you know what that means -- NaNoWrimo begins! (I will not give up on novel writing just because I have a 40-hour (50, with commute) workweek. Repeat 10 times daily.) I've got to hit the ground running with this third novel, which I don't want to give too much away about but will say is going to be awesome. So I'm devoting Monday to kicking off this book right. I am totes looking forward to 30 days and nights of literary abandon.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

If you like dogs...

Then you must read this. 

I found the saddest letter EVER that's been making the rounds on Craigslist for some time. It's an open letter from an animal shelter manager and it broke my heart! At lunch today I read it out loud to my husband and couldn't stop crying once I got to the end. (I'm much too sensitive for my own good, and yes I also cry in those SPCA commercials with Sarah McLaughlin music in the background.) Being the owner of a rescue dog and cat, this letter especially hit close to home and is exactly what people need who are so irritatingly particular about wanting a certain breed in a certain size or color or sex. It's a dog -- not a sweater!! And now, the letter:

Letter from a Shelter Manager

I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know.

That puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are “owner surrenders” or “strays”, that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.

The most common excuses I hear are; “We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving too that doesn’t allow pets? Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would”. How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? “We don’t have time for her”. Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! “She’s tearing up our yard”. How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her we know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good dog”.

Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door.

Those dogs just don’t get adopted. It doesn’t matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are.

If your dog doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long . Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down”.

First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room”, every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff”. Hopefully your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don’t just “go to sleep”, sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right?

I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.

I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tentative good news

No I didn't find a new job yet or anything, but this is is even better! My husband finally got a callback for an interview at one of the many firms he's applied to recently! (Inner squee is currently a few decibels off the auditory chart.)

I've always had mondo faith in his abilities. He's kicked butt in not only law school but life overall. His work ethic is superb -- the best I've ever seen -- but right now it's all about getting his foot in the door, which is the most frustrating part. Since he's turned down solid job offers for me to stay where we are near family and friends I've been even more of a cheerleader for him to soon find something in the area.

So while it's not a job offer, it's still an interview in this area -- where the legal field has been hit pretty hard -- and that counts for something. Most all listings he's seen are looking for lawyers with 3-5 years experience which obvi takes him out of the running, but this position was looking for someone with his level of experience. Finally! The clouds part and there are a few rays of hope in this godawful job market. He wants to be a corporate litigator and his resume is tailor-made to becoming one so I hope hope hope they're impressed enough and don't end up going with someone with a a bit more experience who's willing to work for the same salary. Because he's going to make a great litigator someday Mel Horowitz in Clueless. (Cher: "Daddy's a litigator. Those are the scariest kind of lawyer. Even Lucy, our maid, is terrified of him. And daddy's so good he gets $500 an hour to fight with people. But he fights with me for free because I'm his daughter.")

Anyhoo it goes without saying that the reason I'm really giddy about this interview is that it means I might be one step closer to quitting! Don't want to jinx it but To Whom It May Concern Up There: For once let my husband roll a 7 or an 11 with this opportunity. Mama wants a new Buick.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Highs and lows, Oct. 24th edition


This week I got a letter from some retirement fund account, informing me of a balance I didn't even know I had in an account I didn't even know I'd started. Apparently I'd signed up for automatic deposits in a retirement account through my old job on the East Coast and when I left that job over two years ago I closed out all accounts except this one. (I guess I forgot?) So I've got $1,000 just waiting to be claimed! It was a pleasant surprise, like finding a dollar in an old jeans pocket -- but better. I think I'll use part of it soon to fund a weekend getaway in Napa with my husband, since we've been talking about taking said trip for a while.


The federal building where my husband works went into temporarily lock-down for an hour or so last week when a suspicious package was found on one of the first floors. He texted me while I was at work, letting me know what had happened, and I didn't think anything of it since these kind of things happen all the time (right??). But then he stopped responding to my text messages for a while and I had a mini inward freakout moment at my desk. 

Visions of the federal building blowing up with my husband on the 17th floor crossed my mind and I was about ready to leave and inspect the area myself (since I work four blocks away), but then he texted me back (turned out the package was nothing) and all was well again. But for those few long minutes, everything went into slow motion for me (ok, so I have an overactive imagination) and the terrifying thought of no longer having my husband to wake up next to, watch movies with, go on long walks with, talk to and just laugh with truly freaked me out. Is there such thing as loving someone too much? Because after 3+ years of marriage I'm still intoxicated by his presence. I love this, but it makes little things like suspicious packages seem much more dire than they actually are.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Typical Thursday

Wow. Today was totes an emotionally draining day at work -- but for once it didn't have anything to do with me! w00t!! I don't even know where to start, but since I don't want to divulge too many details on this here blog, I'll just say one of my coworkers had a major meltdown in the office today. Like, Brad Goreski-style mah-JOR. She caved under pressure, plain and simple, and I was caught in the middle as mid-level management. Draaamaaa.

Which means I spent most of my day trying to calm her down and get her to stop sobbing. Hard to do when she and I never really got along in the first place, but I guess this comes with the territory. (By the way, have I said that I officially despise managing people? I feel like I'm a cross between an air-flight controller, standing out on the tarmac waving my two orange flags at incoming jets, and a babysitter dealing with teenagers who are theoretically old enough to stay "home alone" but whose parents don't trust them to behave.)

Though I don't like seeing anyone cry at work, in some sick, twisted way I was happy to see someone else miserable in our office. Especially her, since she has been the source of most of my problems since I started (refer to blog post #1). Karma's a bitch, I wanted to say. I know, totally wretched of me, right? I was both disturbed and pleased. Totally sick.

I left work needing a cocktail or three. Badly. But when I got home I was elated: I found out my old car I'd donated to the SPCA here had just sold. It netted the SPCA a donation from me of $1,000, and they sent me a thank you letter for the gift. I'm not big on donations right now (since I'm still getting my life financially set up), but it felt SO GOOD to give something to a cause that's close to my heart (my little dog is a rescue pup). Could I have sold the car myself and probably gotten more? Of course. But I didn't need the money after I bought my new car and figured I'd give the old one to a charity that actually needed the money.

"There are dogs and cats in that SPCA that will live longer because of our donation," my husband said, as he handed me the letter. And I couldn't help but smile, because I hoped he was right. 

So yeah maybe it felt good to watch that chick suffer today, but this letter proves that I'm not all bad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In search of trabajo

So I've officially decided to start looking for another job. 

I told myself I'd stick it out, that it wasn't worth hopping to another job out of frustration since whenever my husband finds his dream job we'll have a better idea of where we're going to settle down and I don't want to have to skip out on two employers in a one-year period, but JESUS. After today I don't even care anymore. 

Long story short: I was having a fine day until my boss, L, decided to confront me in the most childish, passive aggressive way about something that wasn't even that big of a deal. Seriously. Everything is so informal there (to the point of being annoying) that the one time L fails to inform me that something IS actually going to be more formal than 99% of everything else we do, I get chastised. Well, sitting at my desk at 5pm, packing up the last of my things in my purse and listening to L act like an overgrown child, I was about ready to tell him (excuse my French but it's greatly necessary) to go fuck himself. 

But I didn't. Instead I suppressed it like a good little worker bee. On my short walk to the metro I told myself to not let it ruin my day. Then I boarded the metro car with my husband, who apparently had a good day because of some legal-briefing-whatever he had worked on. Being the gray cloud I was I told him that's great, and that maybe someday he'd actually get paid to do that stuff instead of talking about it for free. Ouch. Soo, he was silent looking at job listings on his smartphone the whole ride home, while my anger turned more to sadness, and yes, I was that girl sitting near the window, crying the whole way home with big dark sunglasses on. I need to get a freaking grip.

So to salvage what sanity I have left, I'm going to bite the bullet and see what I can find on the job boards. Hilariously enough, retail is not out of the question (says the girls with two degrees that swore she'd never work retail again after college). At first I didn't want to look for just any job since I didn't want to deal with my parents' (and everyone else's) judgment about my choices, but anything is better than now and I need to work on making MYSELF happy. Not anyone else.  As long as I can make enough to cover our rent/car payments/credit card bills/food/utilities, then I will be happy. I love clothes and shoes just as much as the next girl but I can do without new things all the time if it means never having to go back to that awful joke of a workplace again.

So far most of the Craigslist openings I've seen in this area are for dentist's offices. Random? I have no experience with anything dental-related, and it looks like they want some dental office experience for even their front-desk peeps. Sigh. Too bad, since the pay is pretty good, but oh well. The job search continues...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One of the worst situations of all time

Okay, maybe it could be worse, but I'm currently sitting holed up in my bedroom while my husband and his lug-headed best friend are out in the living room, which they've somehow taken over, playing video games.  Call me crazy or selfish or whatever, but how how the hell did this happen? One minute my husband is telling me over lunch today that his best friend Doug is planning to pick us up from the metro stop after work to take us home since he'd "forgotten something." The next minute I find myself in hell.

What was it Doug had forgotten? A video game console. No biggie, I figured he'd pick it up, have a glass of wine perhaps, and leave. I mean, it is Tuesday night after all and Millionaire Matchmaker is premiering this evening. My plan for the night was to laze around in my negligee and laugh at all of Patti Stanger's bad jokes on Bravo while drinking Two-Buck Chuck out of the bottle. Instead I found myself sitting on the couch net to Doug, his sweaty hands clutching his gaming controller, his tongue sticking out of his half-open mouth in intense concentration, as he and my husband played something that sounded like we were sitting on the sidelines of a battle in Kuwait.

Three hours later? Same thing. I asked politely if we could do something else, but all I get are the token "Yeah, five more minutes" responses that lead nowhere. And what am I supposed to do? Blow up at husband for ruining my night and taking over out living room with Doug? He's check-mated me into submission by having company over like this, and he knows it. Sigh. In the meantime I've moved to the bedroom to get away from the obnoxious shooting sounds and I hope Doug goes home soon. Not that I don't like him, but I CAN'T STAND VIDEO GAMES! They are SUCH a waste of time! (And I know, it's not like anything on Bravo is that much more productive, but something about video games irritates the flip out of me!) 

Right about now I'd love to put on my trannie pumps and clomp all over my husband's stupid video game discs, cackling with glee each time my 4-inch heel punctures the glossy surfaces. But such things are better left to the imagination, I suppose.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thoughts on the Mad Men Season 4 finale

 SPOILER ALERT! I've dished (below) my favorite moments from the Mad Men Season 4 finale, "Tomorrowland," that aired last night. For those that hate spoilers, you've been warned...

The finale was incredible. I wouldn't say it was the best of the four finales, but it definitely ranked in my top 2 (the first being the Season 3 finale, when Don and Betty separated, he left Sterling Coop to hang his own shingle in the Time Life Building and moved to an apartment in the Village).

On Don and Megan:

Okay, so the marriage proposal was rushed, I'll give you that, but for some reason I really wanted it to happen! Especially when Don and Megan first arrived in California and were standing by the pool, he in his fedora/sports blazer ensemble, and she behind him, in that classic dress, holding baby Gene. They were the picture perfect couple, like one of those couples out of an old TWA vacation ad, and at one point I actually said out loud: "Oh my god, they belong together." And the way Megan handled the whole milkshake situation at the diner was so cute, so unlike Betty, that even Don was shocked. I had a feeling Megan was going to play a bigger part in Don's life after Sally fell in the office and Megan was the one who picked her up. (P.S.: The actress who plays Megan? Gorgeous! She reminds me of an anime version of Jackie O.)

Anyway, I think Don had come to a crossroads in the finale of having to choose which path he wanted his life to take: The honest, Dick Whitman path with Faye, or the I'm-going-to-continue-living-the-lie, cookie cutter life as Don with Megan. His choice was so telling, and definitely answered the season's theme: Who is Don Draper? Or did it? The man who proposed to Megan was definitely not Dick or Don...who had he become? 
Whoever he was I think Faye was spot-on when, as she was being dumped by Don on the phone, told him that he "only likes beginnings." This, coming from the same woman who accurately predicted he'd be married within a year. Don's overeager zeal for being "in love" with Megan almost seemed to mimic his boyish enthusiasm for Betty in the flashback where he first told Anna he had met a girl he wanted to marry. Again, is this all pointing to a bad breakup with Megan down the road?

On Betty: 

I just about DIED when Betty sat in that dark kitchen, applying her makeup then quickly picking up that lone box to pretend it was an accident she was there when Don stepped through the door. I KNEW she was going to want him back. And I loved the look on her face when he confessed he was engaged and she knew that door to their old life was closing. I felt sorry for her but my pity was eclipsed with the tyrannical way she fired Carla in the beginning, over a simple goodbye between Glen and Sally. Betty has increasingly taken on a scorned attitude toward Glen as if she were his wronged ex-girlfriend, and it seems that because she can't "have" him (in a non-sexual way, of course) she wants no one else (including Sally) to either. It's kind of creepy and, in a way, strikes me as almost pedophiliac. Don't you think? 
Meanwhile I love watching Betty and Henry fall further down the rabbit hole of their quickly dissolving marriage. Even Henry was incredulous at how cold Betty was with Carla, and how she wouldn't even write Carla a letter of recommendation. The woman had practically raised her kids from birth. Either Betty has completely become a one-dimensional villain or she is way more effed up than any of us give her credit for. Props to Henry for hitting the bottle -- if I was married to Betty I'd probably develop a drinking problem too.

On Joan: 

I wondered a few weeks ago if Joan had decided to keep the baby a few weeks ago, and I'm glad to see that she had. I expected Greg to get blown up in his medical tent right after he got off the phone with Joan, but I guess we'll have to wait till next season for that to happen. Everyone assumes he'll die in Vietnam (as do I), but wouldn't it be interesting to see him come back with severe PTSD and no legs, then watch Joan have to deal with that? It would be straight up Lieutenant Dan, yet fascinating to watch play out. We'll see.

Where do you think the next season will start? Don's wedding? Post-wedding? Megan pregnant with their first? Don and Megan splitting up before the wedding? Henry and Betty already divorced? Sally in the early stages of becoming Fred Savage's older hippie sister from The Wonder Years
I can't wait!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Highs and lows, Oct. 17th edition


I visited a used bookstore over the weekend and found a first-edition printing of "Sons and Lovers" by D.H. Lawrence. SCORE. For an antique-obsessed girl, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I spied its cracked leather binding near the end of a dusty old bookshelf. The first thing I did when I pulled it off the shelf? Opened to somewhere in the middle, buried my nose into the pages and took one long, slow inhale. It smelled delightful, like time (if time had a smell):

Even better, when I opened to the first page (above) it had been signed by one of its many owners, with a date of 1923. Someone, about 90 years ago, read this exact copy and left her mark on it. Amazing! I wonder who she was? How old was she when she wrote her name on the title page? What ever happened to her? What compelled her to sign this copy on that December 21st? How was her Christmas spent a few days later? With family and friends, or all alone? All unanswerable questions, but the possibilities are endless and fascinating. I've tried Googling her, but nothing...


We're not anywhere near purchasing our first home (whenever that may be), but I did have my eye on one I noticed was for sale a few weeks ago. It's an original 1959 Eichler that I grew somewhat obsessed with, driving by and marveling at its mid-century mod lines even though I knew it wasn't a reality for us anytime soon. But still, I tortured myself and went on coveting until the other day when I coasted by and saw that the "For Sale" out front was gone. The house was officially off the market. It's not the end of the world but I'm a little bummed out. Yet what did I expect? That the house would still be for sale in about two years when we'd be ready to buy? Perhaps. It would have been oh-so-cool to live in an Eichler abode: 

I'll just have to wait till another goes on sale in my area. Hopefully I'll be ready next time!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Jet Set

Sometimes I wish I could be living a different life. Yes, we're playing that game. The grass is always greener, so on and so forth. Usually I look to a character (or characters) in a television show, movie, book, or once in a while even a real-life celebrity and their real-life life. (My envy for the latter, though, is few and far between -- there's nothing more tragic than a terrible life hidden beneath the glaring lights of the paparazzi's cameras.) 

But on days like today when I'm feeling especially wistful and in need of a new life, I wish I was part of the Jet Set in the Season 2 Mad Men episodes set in California:
Don and Joy (above and below)

The jet set are basically a group of rich Europeans who are essentially hobos. They're rich and cultured enough to easily jet around the world from place to place without consequence, never tied fully to any one identity, indulging in sex, food, cocktails, conversation, and new faces at every destination. To me they depict freedom. Their world is intoxicating, where every whim is followed and every craving met. They're colorful and eccentric but at the same time suave and sophisticated. They're well-to-do nomads, meandering the globe in exotic locales -- Marrakesh, Paris, Monaco, Palm Springs -- and opposing all other boundaries along the way.

Jet setter, Joy, who's on her way to Palm Springs, invites Don along though he is a stranger. Don declines, but Joy responds with: "Why would you deny yourself something you want?" (He, of course, follows right away.) 

I'd love to be a nomad like that, giving in to everything I want and nothing I need. I wonder what it would feel like. Would it get old after a while? Would it be so intoxicating that I could never go back to being "normal?" And what is "normal" really? It's such a subjective term. Why can't being a jet setter be "normal?"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fear and loathing in November

I'm both excited and so-anxious-I-could-puke over the fact that November is right around the corner. Why? Because it's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is, like, only the coolest thing ever. Sears. It's like a global literary movement that makes you feel like you're part of something, well, important. It really is "30 days and nights of literary abandon."

I'm still a relative newbie when it comes to NaNoWriMo, having only participated last year when I first found out about it. And last November I rocked it. The contest calls for writing 50,000 words in one month and I wrote 10,000 MORE than that, just because I wanted to prove my awesomeness to myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. My thinking was that if I could that, then I could practically do anything -- at least in the writing realm. I'm still proud of winning and writing (what I believe to be) 60,000  above-par words in one month. I worked hard for those hours, stayed up many late nights in a row, wrote through dinners and breakfasts. It was amazing and intoxicating. I was drunk off the written word and the story arcs I came up with it.

But now, this year, I'm more hesitant than I was before. This time I have a full-time job, one that takes 11 hours out of each of my weekdays (if we're counting commuting time here). And this is where my current anxiety comes in; if I do NaNoWriMo, I want to be in it to win it. My husband laughs that there's really no ramifications to losing, but I disagree. To lose at NaNoWriMo, for me, would be to admit that my day job has gotten the best of me. That it's taken away the one thing I love to do -- to write.

In essence, to lose at NaNo would be to embrace defeat, to throw in the towel and let conventionality reign supreme in my life. And I don't want to be that girl. The one who's got a trillion excuses as to why I couldn't do NaNoWriMo, or, if I got as far as entering (which I have), I don't want to be that person who then has a panoply of reasons why I couldn't finish. "I was too tired from work," "There was a Rachel Zoe marathon on," "My husband wanted to take a long weekend with me."  Excuses. All of them. They will only tell me that I simply didn't work hard enough. That I didn't want it that bad. Which is BS. I want it so bad I can taste it.

Which leads me to wonder: What compels one to do that one thing they love so much? Sure I love other things -- reading, dancing (was looking into flamenco classes today), classic films, poodles, etc. -- but what is it about writing that would make me actually take on the maddening endeavor of stressing to create and cram 50,000 well-crafted words, the skeleton of a novel, into 3 weekends and the 4 or so hours I have every weeknight after work? I'm not sure, all I know is that writing is cathartic for me. Little known fact about yours truly: I also do charcoal sketching. Which I love, but writing allows me to express myself more than any method I've tried. It's a release, it's satisfying. I'm curious to you all out there: How do you express yourself? Food? Fashion design? Tango?

Last week when people were betting on who would win the Nobel Prize for literature, a top contender was novelist, post-colonial theorist and social activist, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who's currently a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the UC Irvine. Apparently, according to The Guardian, he began writing in English, but following his arrest and imprisonment without charge at a maximum security Prison in Kenya after the performance of his critical play I Will Marry When I Want in 1977, he made the decision to work in his mother tongue, Gikuyu. He then wrote the novel The Devil on the Cross on toilet paper during his time in prison. He wrote a novel on toilet paper, people. That's incredible. I've never read any of Thiong'o's work, but simply hearing that fact is such an inspiration. It shows how much this person loves their craft, and what lengths they'd take to practice it. It's that primal urge to create. (By the way, Thiong'o lost the Nobel to Mario Vargas Llosa, who himself is very deserving of the prize.)

So yes, I am reticent. I don't know how this November will turn out, but I know that I entered and I. Must. Win. If this Thiong'o fellow (and countless others) can hunker down and write a novel on toilet paper, then surely I can punch out 50,000 words on my laptop...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day: Important in 1492 and 2010

Though today was a federal holiday, I had to work. (Herein is where you pity me for being plagued by something that I admit is trite.) The fact that I had to work today saddened me last week, but that sadness turned to anger over the weekend, and finally culminated on the metro ride in today when -- though I looked half asleep, my lids heavy and my mouth agape during the early morning ride -- it transformed into full-fledged fury.

Everyone I knew had the goddamn day off. Why couldn't I? It was about time I had a three-day weekend and this would have been perfect. Especially since I could have stayed home with my husband reading books all day and eating bags of candy corn in my pajamas. 

Not that I feel entitled to having the day off, but it should be noted that I did ask my boss for it off early last week. Boss Man's answer? No. Why? Because BOSS MAN was taking it off. And this is after Boss Man had had one day off each week for the past month. I know, I get it, he's the boss man so he can do whatever the hell he wants, but the way he said no, without any flexibility, was abrasive. It's not like I was asking to be blessed by the Pope, I just wanted a simple day off. But stupid me. I failed to see that Boss Man always comes first here because he makes the schedule and that's just the way it is. Guess I'm supposed to get used to it?

My question is how does one ever get used to this? To me it's ridiculous that some person who holds some arbitrary title (and this applies to anyone out there, in any position) has the authority to tell you what you can and can't do with NINE HOURS of your day, five days a week. It's ludicrous and laugh-worthy when you break the issue down to its fundamental parts. There's something highly unsettling in the realization that someone, literally, owns your life. 

I know that everyone has a price, a sum of money where all dignity could be easily swept aside, but my salary -- though high -- is not even close to the level that would make me happily complacent with this circus. But this is what we (yes, I'm plural now) have to deal with while husband continues looking for work. 

So when Boss Man told me I couldn't have Monday off because HE was taking Monday off, I countered right away with wanting the following day (tomorrow) off. Which he had no answer for since who in their right mind would ask for a Tuesday of all days off to make up for a Monday? Me, that's who. Then he granted my wish to have tomorrow off, possibly because of the maniacal look in my eyes. 

Ask...and you shall receive?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Highs and lows, Oct. 10th edition


This week was pretty uneventful, but the weekend was fantastique. It shall hereby be known as The Weekend of the Dinner Party. Saturday night my whole family gathered at my grandmother's to celebrate that good news I mentioned before. I brought over a bottle of Veuve and we spent hours laughing and talking over hors d'oeuvres and dinner, wine and champagne. It was all very Italian (though I have no Italian in my family line), but the weather was beautiful and it made for an excellent backyard soiree. Good food, good conversation, good people. Then Sunday night my friends and I had an informal dinner of wings and beer at B's house. We got to see B's new engagement ring and see all her pictures of Europe, and I hope she liked the bottle of Moet that my husband and I bought as an engagement present for those two crazy lovebirds. 

As you can see I'm a sucker for celebrations. (Whether or not there's something to actually celebrate.) And I'm really getting into this whole "dinner party" thing. Does that mean I'm getting older? Wiser? Barhopping no longer appeals to me (and stopped appealing to me a couple years ago. I much prefer heading over to a friends' home with a bottle of wine and dessert, or have people meet at my place for a (hopefully) gourmet meal.

ANYWAY, my other highs were a couple highlights from spending way too much money this weekend:

The coolest cheese spreaders EVER from Sur La Table. Let the wine and cheese parties commence.

Friday morning my husband and I were walking up the metro stairs to get to the street level when I saw cops up near the top of the steps, roping off part of the with police tape. Mind you, we work in a REALLY seedy area of this city that shall be deemed Anonymous. In this part of town it's a normal occurrence to witness homeless people vomiting on sidewalks in the middle of the afternoon, or watch homeless women relieve themselves in walkways in broad daylight. So.

"Oh god, someone probably just died on the steps or something," I said, motioning up at the police tape.  Once on street level we pass the area the police had cordoned off....and there was a gigantic pile of diarrhea on the top step. HUMAN diarrhea. I had to force myself not to throw up. The police had the guy (who was so beyond homeless, his bare feet looked like they hadn't seen a pair of shoes in a while, they were all calloused and gangrened) in a gurney chair next to the disgusting mess. I think what happened was that the guy had dropped trou and sat on the top step to go, as though it were a toilet, and now I'm permanently scarred with the mental image of seeing the aftermath.

Stupid job, putting me in these stupid situations daily on my way into work. I'm never, ever going to walk on those part of the steps again. ...Not like it matters, I'm sure that's happened on every single step of that Godforsaken metro stop. Ugh.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Soundtrack to my life: "Beginnings" - Chicago

As cliche as it sounds, music has always played a profound part in my growth as a person. I'm not married to any genre or style, but throughout my life there have been pivotal songs that defined special moments in time for me. These are the songs that transport me back to that certain day, week, month, or year. I hope to compile these moments over time with their respective songs, as a love letter to the music that made it all possible.

"Beginnings" - Chicago

 It was late May, 2010.

Graduation was just around the corner for my husband, who was days away from wrapping up his third and final year of law school. We had been living in a rat hole of an apartment high-rise called "The Enclave" which had the humor to dub itself a "luxury dwelling," though the puddles of dog urine in our elevators and the period stain anonymously left one night on a chair in the lobby would have suggested otherwise.

Our time in Washington DC was rapidly coming to a close after months of enduring frigid temps in the winter, and humid, sticky South Pacific summers. I yearned to be back on the West Coast, to feel the cold Pacific Ocean on my feet, to return to myself. We - me especially - were tired of living in the DC metro area, moving like middle class vagrants from suburb to suburb once each of our short-term apartment leases were up. I wanted California. For three years I had complained about the people, the attitudes, the weather, the hunger for power and the unwarranted aggression from the general public, until finally, one day that last May there, I realized that it was all going to be over soon.

I was happy, sure, but a small part of me knew that no matter how much I professed to hating it, my husband was right. Someday I was going to look back and remember good times through law school and DC. Except I didn't need a "someday" to realize it. The  epiphany hit me one particular late night, as I sat in our tiny kitchen, my face peering out of the darkness into the blue light of my laptop as I worked on finishing my second novel.

I was both overjoyed for the future, of the move and the possibilities that came with it, but I was sad as well, as though our time there, as long and tedious as it had seemed to me, was actually quite short. That all it had signified was another chapter in my life that was swiftly coming to a close, that I would never get those years back again. I wasn't sure whether to mourn this fact or embrace it.

And so I stayed up all night, sitting in our little kitchen nook near our window, tapping out my novel as Chicago's "Beginnings" softly played on repeat for hours. My husband's labored breathing from our bed told me he'd fallen asleep hours ago, probably when the city lights on the horizon began shutting off until the color of the landscape matched the velvet canvas of night sky.

It was one of those nights when you watch the world through your 15th floor window and wonder who else out there must be going through a similar kind of change. I stayed up writing and watching out my window until the sun rose along with life on the landscape below. I had listened to "Beginnings" all night, grieving moments passed and anxiously anticipating the bright spots and memories that had yet to be made.

When morning came I had come to grips with it, that change was a part of life and that though the passing of time was sobering, no matter how helpless it made me feel every time I pack up to move on, it could be embraced as a positive. Change means I'm living a full life.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is this when I start obsessing over babies?

So I don't know when it happened exactly, but I want a baby. Badly. 

Is this what everyone was alluding to when only last year I'd remark that babies were cute and all but I couldn't picture myself actually having one, that I didn't want one that bad, to go through all that pain and suffering of stretched out belly skin (among other, er, stretched out things). Everyone would retort, "Just wait. Your baby gene will kick in soon and once it does you'll want one." And I'd fan them away, dismissing them over my glass of wine. "I'll pay for a surrogate," I'd say, and we'd all laugh.

But I guess they were right. The infamous "baby gene" hath entered my room and is quietly refusing to leave.

Not that I'm in ANY sort of right place in my life to have one. I know, I know, there's never a right time to have a baby, and I totally get that. There's also never a right time to drop a couple g's on a Burberry trench, but it happens. Really, though, now is just not the right time. For one I've in no way conquered the stress I feel daily from work. I would hate to transfer that kind of energy into the wee zygote I'd be carrying in my tummy. It just wouldn't be fair to her (yes, I've decided that my first will be a girl so I can dress her up in cute little outfits and read her Madeline books before bed). 

Aside from that, if I were to conceive soon, I couldn't imagine myself waddling in to work all swollen and gigantic, sitting upright in an office chair all day and running off to the bathroom to pee every 30 minutes. When I am pregnant I do not want to work. There I said it. Maybe that makes me backward or whatever, but I don't care. I want to live a stress-free, calm existence when I'm carrying, where my days will consist of prenatal yoga classes, pastry tastings at local French bakeries, reading novels on a blanket in a park, and lots of lots of quiet writing time at home, with my poodle at my feet and a warm mug of (decaf) tea on my desk. To me that would be perfect. This is the calm I want my baby to be born into.

Lastly, now is the not the right time because I don't have the right health insurance (which is another reason I'm peeved at my employer). Yes, I get full coverage, but I was misled to believe that it would actually be a benefit at work. Instead I'm paying nearly $400/month to cover my husband and I, which I think is absurd since we're both in our late-20s and have never had any health problems. I'm opting out of my employer's health coverage as soon as possible and going back to paying for private health insurance, which is much cheaper and covers everything I need...except maternity. 

So the onus then falls on my husband's health insurance, which he doesn't have...yet. But whatever job he lands (hopefully soon), will undoubtedly come with an excellent health package (as almost all the employers in his field offer). Oh and that's another thing. He actually needs a job. Yet two more reasons to wait.

Obviously our life as a married couple is in flux in terms of careers, and we need to get this sorted out before we're serious about any baby making. Plus I'm still very scared of how painful pregnancy could be. I'm terrified of needles and the like, and I'm scared that every step of labor is going to be worse than the last. Is it really that painful? Or is this what I'm led to believe watching marathons of "A Baby Story" on TLC? My fourth-grade teacher once told me that giving birth was like pulling your bottom lip up over your entire head. Um, ouch? That mental image has permanently scarred me. If I could I'd love to just fall asleep and wake up when it's all over. You better believe I'm a huge fan of the epidural. And I haven't even had kids yet.

I'm convinced one of the reasons my baby gene has kicked is because of my close girlfriend in Manhattan, S, who is pregnant with her first. S and I met in grad school a few years ago and have stayed close ever since. Earlier this year S quit her job at a prominent PR firm in NYC to focus on writing like me and start trying to conceive, which took a few months but finally happened. Now she's so happy, eating bagels all day and going to yoga, stealing away to Paris for a long weekend here or there with her husband, just enjoying her life and anticipating the arrival of her first child. I can practically hear her beaming 3,000 miles over the phone. 

I want that.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Highs and lows, Oct. 3rd edition


My family member becoming famous for his feat. It's still surreal and amazing, all at the same time, especially when I hear him on NPR. He is such an inspiration and a huge act to follow. I can only hope that one day I achieve so much notoriety from my hard-earned accomplishments.

Also this week, somehow, blissfully, I came to work on Monday and my computer refused to let me log on to our office network. It just did not recognize me after numerous failed log-in attempts (if this isn't a sign from someone upstairs that I don't belong there then I don't know what is). Normally these kind of computer issues would be an annoyance, but with tech support working all day on the problem, I couldn't do anything but surf the net on my personal smart phone, happily reading Mad Men recaps. This was completely fine with me, though I had to put on a face when my boss would mutter, "they still haven't fixed your computer yet?! It's been five hours now!" To which I'd retort, "Yeah!" and then, feigning frustration, "Geez...I wonder what's taking them so long so long..." (as I'd peruse $3,500 Ferragamo coats and television recaps from my beloved TV critic Alan Sepinwall on my phone). 

I was overjoyed; it was like this for the entire day. And there was really nothing I could do. All my work revolves around things being done on a computer, and there were no other available computers for me to jump on to temporarily, so my bosses were out of luck. Then, in what I assume was a stroke of good luck, I came in the following morning and my computer STILL wasn't working! Heaven!!! I was silently ecstatic in my office chair, happy to continue shopping online using my phone, but a couple hours later tech support finally managed to fix the problem (long, drawn-out sigh from me) and my mini-vaca was officially dunzo. 

I just wish that whatever happened could be replicated. Wouldn't that be fabulous? To figure out how to give my work comp a virus so this happens on a weekly basis? Though then I suppose my "weekly highs" here on this blog would be redundant (my high consistently being "work comp was on the fritz again!"). Oh, Desperation: you entice me so.


Well, my husband's grandfather accidentally shooting himself was no walk in the park. We have yet to hear about what services are going to be held. 

Also, on Saturday night my husband and I watched Splendor in the Grass. You know, the classic with Warren Beatty (swoon) and Natalie Wood playing Bud and Deannie, two high school lovers in rural Kansas just before the stock market crash of the late-'20s. Splendor in the Grass has always been one of my favorite films (Woods' performance in it was just breathtaking, not to mention it was Beatty's first feature film), but after the credits rolled my husband didn't seem that impressed. 

"That was interesting," he said, as though he'd just watched a sub-par documentary on the mating habits of houseflies in rural Oklahoma. 

"What do you mean?" I asked, piqued by his unenthusiasm.

"I don't know...the characters and writing just seemed...flat. It was like it was trying to be Gone with the Wind meets Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

I dramatically scoffed at this off-handed remark, though I also love both those films. 

"How can you say that?" I asked. "The characters were so rich and the writing? Right, the writing was flat. That's why Splendor in the Grass only won an Academy Award for best screenplay that year."

To which he had no response. Hopefully that remark put him in his place. Either that or he wasn't even listening as he padded away down the hall to brush his teeth for bed. Sigh.

Song of the week: 

"Please Don't Go" - KC and the Sunshine Band. (On Saturday my husband pleaded with me to "stop listening to that song on repeat." My response? "Never.")

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An important week

This week something crazy happened. 

Because this is an anonymous blog and I don't want to risk giving my identity away, all I will say is that a very close family member of mine ended up making global headlines for something they did. (Don't worry, no murder, genocide or ponzi scheme was involved. What they did was a good thing.)

So one minute they were my family and the next minute the entire world is reading about them, questioning their thought process, motives, claims, etc. It's completely insane. I've never had someone I grew up with become famous over night -- it's both thrilling and disappointing. Thrilling because they deserve every interview, front page, and award they get; disappointing because the media was never one to be unanimously accurate. 

Sure, outlets like the New York Times and Time Magazine wrote stunning, well-researched and accurate accounts of my family member. Many others, though, did not, even going as far to skew headlines into something my family member did not actually say. In these instances I can't help but think of Fellini's "paparazzo" in La Dolce Vita, who were so hungry for the next story or picture that they would go to great lengths to make it happen, even if it was a blatant lie.

Of course, following these cleverly twisted headlines are the masses of comment trolls, sometimes upwards of 7,000 comments on a single story (I actually saw this yesterday). People attacking my family member under the guise of anonymity, ripping into his intellect, his credentials and his reputation. I hate this part, but I suppose I should get used to it. There will always be nasty people out there who find great ease in expressing their ugly selves on some web forum or comment thread, hurling insults and barbs (which, to me, are cries out of their own insignificance). It's just hard to stomach when their insecurities and negativity and pathetic, underhanded comments are pointed at someone you care deeply about. 

But I guess that's what fame is all about. Taking the good with the bad, being proud of your accomplishment(s) and being confident in your abilities and talent. Kind of reminds me of Steve Jobs' parting comment in a personal email exchange he had with an Apple user who wrote to complain about the iPhone 4. After the iPhone user snipped back a few times at Jobs', saying that the iPhone was essentially a terrible product because a list of reasons, Jobs' responded (one last time) with:  

"Do you create anything, or just criticize others' work and belittle their motivations?" 

I think that says it all.